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Australia And New Zealand Rethinking ‘Covid Zero Strategy’ Amid Spreading Of Delta Variant 

Australia and New Zealand are rethinking their current Covid-19 strategies due to a surge in new cases caused by the spreading of the Delta variant. Initially both countries had strategies implemented that would bring the total number of cases down to zero before any type of social gatherings would be allowed, however, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently claimed that he believes it’s unlikely his country will ever return to zero cases. 

“Australia’s focus needs to shift to hospitalization rates rather than case numbers. The highly infectious nature of delta raised some pretty big questions about New Zealand’s approach of eliminating the disease,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

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In the beginning of the pandemic both Australia and New Zealand were advocates for the Covid Zero strategy. This meant that both nations closed their borders and implemented local guidelines to focus more on slowing down community-level transmission without having to worry about international visitors. 

This strategy was extremely successful, and prevented massive waves of new infections and deaths, like we saw here in the US. However, the spreading of the new delta variant has challenged this strategy greatly. In fact, Australia recently reported its highest number of daily infections for a second day straight. New Zealand is currently under the strictest lockdown measure that they’ve been in since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“With a virus that can be infectious within 24 hours of someone getting it, that does change the game a bit. With our Level Four lockdown, we are very well placed to be able to run it to ground, but we have to be prepared for the fact that we can’t do that every time there is one of these.”

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Hipkins explained that the Covid Zero strategy had worked wonderfully pre-delta, but now it’s looking like a less adequate way to combat the new variant. The spreading of this variant also has to do with the vaccination rates in both nations. 

In both New Zealand and Australia less than 30% of the population is fully vaccinated. Australia’s Morrison claims vaccination rates need to reach 70-80% of the eligible population before restrictions are lifted again. 

Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Morrison said rising cases “need not impact our plan to reopen, and reopen as soon as we can.”

“So while right now our national strategy is necessarily about suppressing the virus and vaccinating as many people as possible, a one-eyed focus on just case numbers overlooks the fact that less people are getting seriously ill, let alone dying.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently laid out a plan that would ease lockdown restrictions as the government speeds up its vaccination rollout. Their goal is to reopen their borders by 2022.

Manila Residents Overcrowd Vaccination Centers Ahead Of Two-Week Lockdown 

Residents in the Philippine capital of Manila are rushing to get their Covid-19 vaccines ahead of the weekend, as the nation announced they would be going under another two-week lockdown starting Friday evening. 

Manila is home to about 13 million residents. The nearby province Laguna, as well as the cities of Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro will also be placed under lockdown. The lockdown measures in general are predicted to cost the economy $4 billion.

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Residents will not be able to leave their homes except for essential shopping. Covid-19 cases have been on the rise in the Philippines since July. A majority of the spreading is due to the highly infectious Delta variant that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned is just as contagious as chickenpox. 

The Delta variant in general has already caused a slew of severe outbreaks across Southeast Asia, especially in countries with poor vaccination rates. So far, about 10% of the Philippines 108 million population is vaccinated. 

Mixed messaging from authorities has now led to crowds rushing vaccination sites this week to get their inoculations before lockdown. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that during the lockdown if an unvaccinated person leaves their home they will be escorted back by the police, but then clarified the next day that this would likely not be enforced. 

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However, that initial threat of police interaction caused many to want to get their vaccines to avoid police interaction when they might just be going to the store for their family. 

Back in June, Duterte threatened jail to individuals who refused to get vaccinated, so it makes sense that residents would want to rush to vaccine centers this week. 

The Department of Health urged the public not to believe in “fake news. Vaccinations will continue even under the hard lockdown in Metro Manila.”

The Philippines reported 8,127 new infections and 196 new deaths this Thursday, bringing the nation’s total to more than 1.6 million infections and 28,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Australia’s Covid-19 Delta Outbreak Worsening Despite Lockdown Measures 

Sydney, Australia is already debating extending their current lockdown as Australian health officials continue to report a daily rise in Covid-19 cases. These daily rises are specifically fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus that’s been spreading around the world. 

New South Wales state reported 112 new cases of Covid-19 despite the fact that Sydney, the country’s largest city, is currently entering its third week of lockdown. Case numbers have been reaching record highs every day. New infections luckily dropped slightly this Sunday, from 45 to 34. 

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State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the “progress of that figure in coming days would determine whether Sydney’s lockdown would be extended. That’s the number we need to get as close to zero as possible. It is really up to us. The health expert advice will be based on what those numbers look like. I can’t be clearer than that.”

Total infections in this particular outbreak are reaching 700. 63 individuals are currently hospitalized while 18 are in intensive care. 

Lockdown measures in Sydney include school closures, stay-at-home orders, and of course mask mandates and social distancing procedures anywhere essential workers are present. Many small business owners are worried about the economic impact of another lockdown if the government doesn’t provide any economic assistance. 

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Australia was able to previously contain their Covid-19 flare-ups with strict lockdowns, speedy contact tracing efforts, and social distancing rules. The nation has experienced 31,200 cases and 911 deaths since the pandemic began. 

Only 11% of Australia’s adult population of 20.5 million have been fully vaccinated. Critics believe a lack of communication with the public and vaccine shortages in general have led to the outbreak the nation is currently enduring. 

Federal health guidance in Australia currently recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine be restricted to individuals over the age of 60 while the Pfizer vaccine is limited to individuals between the age of 40 and 60. 

In New South Wales, vaccine centers and pharmacies will be able to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 40. The state government also claimed they would be opening a vaccination hub in western Sydney, which is the epicenter of the outbreak.

UK Covid-19 Restrictions To Be Extended Due To Spreading Of Delta Strain 

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a delay of the next phase of England’s Covid-19 recovery and reopening efforts this week. According to reports from the British media, England will likely delay entering into the next phase of their reopening by four weeks amid a surge of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus which was initially discovered in India. 

Originally, restrictions were due to be lifted on June 21st. These restrictions included the use of face masks, limiting the number of individuals who can meet indoors and outdoors, and what time establishments like nightclubs and bars can close. Reports suggest that the UK could be waiting until July 19th for any of these restrictions to be lifted or modified. 

Currently indoor gatherings are to be limited to six people indoors at a time and 30 people outdoors. People are being advised to continue to work from home whenever possible. 

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Public Health England, a group that has been compiling pandemic data for the UK, has reported this week that 42,323 new cases of the Delta variant have been recorded throughout the country, this is a 240% increase when compared to the amount of cases reported in the previous week. 

So far more than 70 million vaccine doses have been administered throughout the UK, and around 80% of the nation has received at least one dose. However, Public Health England reported that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were only 33% effective against the delta variant after a single show. 

Johnson told the media that he was prepared to continue lockdown and remain cautious when it comes to future reopenings. When it is eventually implemented, the fourth (and final) stage of the UK government’s “roadmap” of lockdown will allow for greater social gatherings to occur with less restrictions in terms of facial coverings and social distancing. 

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So far, all three of the government’s previous reopening stages have worked out to plan, so this delay in reopening as an extra precaution is being relatively well received, especially now that more England residents are receiving their vaccines. 

Investors and economic leaders aren’t too worried about the delays in reopenings either, especially considering it’s only set to last another month. 

“Leisure companies could be worst affected by any delay to lockdown easing in England as it will require a continuation of the social distancing rules, meaning pubs and restaurants can’t operate at full capacity,” said Russ Mould, investment director at British stockbroker AJ Bell.

“However, investors don’t seem too bothered by the risk, perhaps because speculation points to a mere four-week delay, albeit during a seasonally busy time.”

Only time will tell how long these delays will last, but the government is remaining positive that the UK will return to a greater sense of normalcy this summer.

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India Surpasses 100,000 New Covid-19 Cases In A Single Day 

India reported a record-breaking number of new Covid-19 cases this week, surpassing more than 100,000 cases in a single day; this makes India the second country after the United States to report more than 100,000 cases in a given day. 

Maharashtra is reported as the worst affected state, with hospitals being completely overrun by sick patients. The state is also known as India’s richest, and has reported more than 57,000 cases overnight. The country’s daily infection rates have been on the rise since February, and most experts credit that to the slew of new variants, along with the easing of multiple restrictions from authorities; many citizens have stopped wearing masks and distancing themselves from one another. 

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The nation counted 103,558 new infections in a single day, giving India a total of 12.6 million cases; the highest after both the US and Brazil. The death rate in India is one of the lowest in the world for its size, with a total of 165,101 deaths. 

Overall though, India has recorded the most number of infections in the past week anywhere in the world. Some epidemiologists blame this rise on new virus variants completely. “The new variant, or variants of concern, probably explains a lot of it, rather than a simplistic explanation of behavior,” said Rajib Dasgupta, head of the Centre of Social Medicine & Community Health in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Subhash Salunke, a former WHO official who advises Maharashtra on its COVID-19 strategy, claimed that “India has found hundreds of cases of the virus variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. Cases in the state will continue to rise for a couple of weeks and the only way out is by vaccinating all adults. If we start doing this, by the end of April we will see a downward trend.” 

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India is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, and has already injected more than 77 million doses into residents at home since they began distributing the vaccine back in January. The amount of Covid-19 vaccinations per capita occurring, however, is lower than a lot of other countries; including China which has a larger population and a larger amount of individuals vaccinated.

India is currently only vaccinating people over the age of 45, including all health and frontline workers who at this point are thought to be all vaccinated. Officials recently discussed increasing the amount of vaccinations being distributed and exported within the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the press about these efforts over the weekend as well. 

“It was highlighted that all the efforts are underway to secure adequate quantities of vaccines to meet the rising domestic requirements as well as to meet the genuine needs of other countries.”

Health ministers are also condemning the multiple election rallies that have been occurring throughout the nation that have gained crowds of tens of thousands of mask-less people. It’s reported that Maharashtra will begin closing its shopping malls, theaters, bars, restaurants, and places of worship this week and will work to impose a complete lockdown by the end of the week, especially in smaller cities.

Europe Facing Another Easter Full Of Covid Restrictions

Despite the rollout of multiple vaccines, European nations are about to endure another holiday weekend full of restrictions to combat the spreading of Covid-19 and its variants.

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Random Lockdown Purchases That Have Actually Improved People’s Lives 

Many have been turning to retail therapy to help cope with the past year in lockdown. Now that vaccines are being distributed throughout the world, many are ready to get back to their normal day-to-day lives, however, they also are realizing their lockdown purchases have proven to be quite useful, and will likely continue to be as the pandemic comes to a slow end. Here’s a list of some of the most unusually popular purchases of the past year in quarantine: 

Treadmill: Starting on a relatively basic level, many individuals have taken their time at home to finally focus on their physical health and get into a solid exercise routine. Treadmill’s have always been one of the most popular pieces of at-home exercise equipment because they’re easy to use and can provide one of the best cardio workouts, and the past year has proven that. Especially when the weather got colder and we all were really stuck indoors, many found purchasing a treadmill or other fitness equipment helped keep their minds occupied at home. 

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Electric Bike: Along those same lines many have been turning to electronic bikes to cope with colder weather. Pelaton’s have been rising in popularity due to the fact that they provide personal trainers and scheduled classes to help keep clients motivated and on a steady schedule. 

Furry Friends: For those living alone especially, adopting a new pet has been one of the most popular purchases within the past year. Something that’s important for all new pet owners to remember is that our furry friends have no idea what the past year has actually been like for us, so as we start to get back to normal and enter into the real world again, remember to transition your animal the same way you transition yourself back into normalcy. You are your pets whole world, and your absence does and will impact them emotionally, so be there for them. 

Bread maker: Many were obsessed with making bread in the beginning of the pandemic, and for some, they discovered a real talent for baking. Bread makers in general have risen in popularity immensely within the past year because they’re easy to use, and don’t take up a lot of space, so anyone can have fresh, ready-to-eat bread on any given day. 

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Motorhome: For those with the financial ability to do so, purchasing a motorhome has been the perfect way to continue to vacation in a world where you need to stay separated from everyone, not to mention one of the safest. With thousands of campsites and trailer parks throughout the nation, a motorhome has been the perfect addition for any traveler. 

Bed: Now that we’ve all been spending an obscene amount of time at home, many have realized that our furniture is not exactly up to our liking. Beds in general have risen immensely in popularity due to the fact that many are realizing they haven’t upgraded their sleeping set up in a while, and what better time to do so then when we all are forced to stay home in bed anyway? 

Projector: On Amazon projectors range from $200-$500 depending on the size, but many people have been buying them to do socially distanced movie nights in their backyard. For others, they’re realizing that buying a projector and displaying it on a blank wall is the perfect solution to buying a large entertainment system without completely breaking the bank. 

Living Alone In Lockdown: How To Keep Yourself Healthy And Occupied At Home 

In November 2020, the Office for National Statistics released findings that showed levels of loneliness had climbed to record levels within the past year of the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings showed that 8% of adults were feeling “always or often lonely,” and 16-29-year-olds were twice as likely to experience those same feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. 

Even individuals who were previously living by themselves have claimed that this pandemic has forced them to rethink their entire way of life. Some experts claim that long-term social isolation is as bad for your health as 15 cigarettes a day; obviously this is in reference to complete and total isolation, however, being trapped in your home with nothing but a smartphone to show you the outside world is anything but healthy.

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Many individuals living alone have also found themselves in the unlucky position of being unemployed due to the decline in economies throughout the world as well. The combination of complete solitude and lack of employment is leaving individuals to get trapped in their own heads, and being in the middle of a deadly global pandemic is causing those inner voices to become much louder. 

Brenda is a 71-year-old UK resident who lives by herself. She recently spoke with the media about how the pandemic and its isolation has given a lot of people the opportunity to self-reflect, which doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. 

“I’m not the sort of person who thinks about dying, but I suddenly found myself wanting to clear my papers and get rid of clutter, as it wouldn’t be fair on my daughters if I passed. All the things I’d ignored by surrounding myself with others came to the front of my mind,” she explained as she broke down how a lot of us have also lost the ability to interact with each other because of this pandemic.

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“What I found odd, having been very sociable before, was that you almost lose the art of it. A friend turned 70 last summer and her daughter threw a party; 15 people were allowed. I really looked forward to it but on the day I felt strange. I always liked living by myself, but total isolation from society is a different thing altogether. As the year wore on I missed people terribly and fell into some real slumps.”

Lonely people are much more likely to turn to negative vices, like drinking and smoking, when left in complete isolation. The addition of a deadly virus spreading around the world has many individuals caring less about their health when it should have the opposite effect. Experts claim the best way to combat this is creating a daily schedule for yourself that allows you time to explore your creative side and pick up some new hobbies. 

Many individuals have turned to things like baking bread, painting, knitting, puzzles, running, etc. to pass the time and better their lives while stuck inside. Doing activities that stimulate your body, mind, and spirit and keep you engaged are the best for combatting these negative feelings. 

One of the most important things to remember, however, is to really listen to yourself and your feelings. No one should ever feel alone, even if they’re living on the top of a hill thousands of miles away from everyone. Take care of your body and mind, and look into online therapy options if you think talking out your thoughts will help you move past them. Many of us have been focusing on keeping our bodies healthy throughout this pandemic due to the virus, but don’t forget that mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more important. Treat yourself kindly, and never be afraid to ask for help.

Governor Gavin Newsom To Lift Covid-19 Stay-At-Home Orders In California 

Despite California being one of the most infected Covid-19 hot spots of the entire world, Governor Gavin Newsom is announcing this week that he will lift all regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders for the state. This means establishments that promote close contact such as restaurants, gyms, and bars, will be able to reopen in certain counties. 

All counties in the state will return to the colored tier system that applies local risk levels based on case numbers and rates of positive test results. Most counties are expected to go into the “widespread” risk tier, which “permits hair salons to offer limited services indoors, but restricts many other nonessential indoor business operations. The change is expected to take effect immediately after Newsom’s announcement this Monday,” according to the Los Angeles Times. 

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Los Angeles County has become a national/international hotbed of the coronavirus. Hospitals have been completely overwhelmed by patients, Southern California is reporting close to 0% availability in ICU beds. In less than a month more than 5,000 people have died of Covid-19 in LA County alone. 

Outdoor dining bans and stay-at-home orders, however, have been widely opposed due to the economic impact of having so many local businesses shut down indefinitely. However, critics then just raised the point that the government should be bailing out those businesses and placing every American’s health and safety as the top priority. 

The stay-at-home orders were initially enforced in the beginning of December in an effort to reduce the amount of stress hospitals were under as case numbers continued to rise exponentially due to the holidays. Once ICU beds have a capacity of over 15%, certain regional shutdowns can be lifted, according to Newsom’s office. 

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However, earlier this month Newsom lifted the orders for the Greater Sacramento region despite daily reports of available ICU beds never approaching even close to the 15% threshold which was thought to be a state requirement for lifting the restrictions. 

The Bay area has reported a 23.4% ICU bed capacity, and has on the other hand remained under the stay-at-home order due to a four-week projection of a decrease in hospital bed availability for the area. As of this Saturday Southern California showed literally no ICU availability, and the San Joaquin Valley region reported a 1.3% capacity. These numbers were released two days ago, and Newsom is still moving forward with lifting some of the state’s restrictions. 

Health officials are also expressing major concern over a new and potentially more contagious variant of the virus that has been detected in California. One of the newer variants is thought to be 50% more transmissible than the already extremely contagious standard Covid-19 virus that we’ve been fighting for the past ten months. 

Two weeks ago certain officials were in talks to close down the state’s malls and outdoor gyms, however, no action was taken, and those establishments continue to stay open. Only time will tell if more federal action from the Biden administration is taken to give these states the opportunity to recover.

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China Is Building Massive Covid-19 Quarantine Camps For 4,000 Infected Residents

China is in the middle of building a massive quarantine camp that can house more than 4,000 individuals after a Covid-19 outbreak this month left tens of millions of residents under strict lockdown. 

The quarantine camp itself is located on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang, the capital of the Hebei province which surrounds the country’s capital of Beijing. China for the most part has been successful in containing the spread of the virus, and has even been able to return to some sense of normalcy within the past few months. However, a sudden rise in cases that appeared before the Lunar New Year had officials worried for the future of the pandemic. 

The Lunar New Year in China is the country’s most important festival that occurs every year. During it, hundreds of millions of individuals from all over the world typically travel to China to visit their family and celebrate. The country went on strict lockdown following the week-long festivities. 

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Officials in Shijiazhuang, where the outbreak is centered, have begun mass testing citizens and enforcing strict lockdowns as they’ve done in the past to contain the spread. Entire villages were forced to move to centralized quarantine facilities as an extreme attempt to curb the spread of the virus. 

The new quarantine camps are meant to house close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 patients. Authorities will locate these individuals through contact tracing and then inform them that they have been in close contact with someone infected and need to quarantine at the camp to ensure that they aren’t spreading the virus any further. 

Originally the camps were only meant to house 3,000 people but has since been expanded to a capacity of 4,160 to deal with any new cases that appear. Authorities began initial construction on January 13th and the first section of the camp is now available for use. 

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Each room in the camp measures around 194 square feet and comes with an en suite bathroom, shower, desk, chair, bed, WiFi, and television set as well. The quarantine camps actually initially appeared as an idea in the beginning of the pandemic as a means of easing the pressure on hospitals who were becoming overwhelmed with patients.

China was able to set up temporary hospital’s that could house 1,000 individuals, which is what gave officials the confidence to set up this quarantine camp in a timely manner. The opening of the camp couldn’t have come at a better time for China either, as the nation reported 103 new cases and 58 asymptomatic infections across four different provinces. 

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 88,557, while the official death toll is 4,635, according to health officials. All 11 million residents of Shijiazhuang are now barred from leaving the city in accordance with the lockdown procedures the government is enforcing. More than 20,000 citizens have since been relocated to other quarantine sites as well as a preventive measure.