COVID-19

China slams US intel report on Wuhan Covid origin

The report came after US President Joe Biden ordered a “definitive” investigation into whether the virus jumped from animals to humans or if it originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.The intel assessment, which was delivered to the White House this week and is expected to be declassified within days, left the question unanswered, according to two US officials quoted by The Washington Post.Throughout the 90-day investigation, US officials warned that they might not find a “smoking gun” as China’s was unwilling to co-operate and refused to hand over lab records.Chinese slammed the report on Wednesday, saying the US was using the origin to suppress other countries and that investigators should look at the virus lab in Maryland, near Washington DC.“The United States says it lacks information from China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at his daily press conference, according to the state-run China News service quoted by the Post. “I can tell the United States that this is just an excuse to cover up the failure of its intelligence in origin tracing.”Fu Cong, head of the foreign ministry’s arms control department, urged the WHO to visit the US military bio lab Fort Detrick, which is along with the Wuhan is one of the world’s leading virus research laboratories.“If (the US) want to baselessly accuse China, they better be prepared to accept a counter-attack from China,” Cong told reporters.“If the US thinks China is guilty, they need to come up with evidence to prove that China is guilty. You don’t blame a victim for not providing information to incriminate himself.” CHINA CLAIMS DELTA VARIANT CURBEDWhile suggesting Covid-19 may have emerged in a US laboratory, China has also claimed there have been no new domestic coronavirus cases after putting the country into targeted lockdowns to curb its latest outbreak.The latest surge began in mid-July when cleaners at a Nanjing airport tested positive, is the most severe since Covid-19 first surfaced in the central city of Wuhan.Over a thousand people have been infected across dozens of cities. But Communist authorities reacted with swift localised lockdowns, travel restrictions and mass testing of neighbourhoods with infections as part of their “zero case” approach to the pandemic, which has virtually sealed off China’s borders but allowed the economy to rebound.New domestic infections have been falling for over two weeks. On Monday, National Health Commission data showed local infections returned to zero after a five week battle.Meanwhile health experts are attempting to shore up confidence in the country’s vaccination drive with leading virologist Zhong Nanshan saying “effective herd immunity” is on the horizon once over 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated — a target likely achieved by year-end.KANYE’S COVID JAB PUSH Kanye West fans do not have to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to attend his album listening party in Chicago but they will have the chance to get injabbed on site.A spokesperson for Soldier Field, the football stadium at which the Chicago native’s event will be held, told TMZ that there will be more than 1,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson and recently FDA-approved Pfizer vaccines on-hand at the venue for any fans who choose to roll up their sleeves, Page Six reported. This is not the first venue to offer Covid vaccines at an event for the 44-year-old rapper.On August 6, West livestreamed the highly anticipated album for thousands of fans at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the second time, where they also had the opportunity to receive a Covid vaccine.However, according to Billboard, only four of the more than 40,000 attendees opted to get the shot.JAPAN EXPANDS VIRUS EMERGENCY AS PARALYMPICS BEGINElsewhere, Japan’s government on Wednesday local time decided to extend a virus state of emergency to eight more regions, a day after the Paralympic opening ceremony, as rising infections put hospitals under pressure.The step comes with summer school holidays ending and top infection experts suggesting delaying the start of classes to reduce contagion risks.The country has been recording more than 20,000 new cases a day in recent weeks as the more infectious Delta variant spreads.In urban areas like Tokyo, patients in serious condition have been left waiting for hours or travelling long distances in ambulances to find available hospital beds.“The number of new cases has continued to hit record highs nationwide,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told ministers and government officials as he announced the expansion.NED-1370-Coronavirus symptoms comparisonUS OFFICIALLY APPROVES PFIZER COVID VACCINEIn the US, meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid shot, triggering a new wave of vaccine mandates as the Delta variant batters the country.Around 52 per cent of the American population is fully vaccinated, but health authorities have hit a wall of vaccine hesitant people, impeding the national campaign.In a televised address, US President Joe Biden called FDA approval the “gold standard” in evidence.“Today I’m calling on … more companies in the private sector to step up with vaccine requirements that will reach millions more people,” he said.Pfizer’s vaccine, which will now be marketed under its brand name Comirnaty, is the first to receive full approval.More than 200 million Pfizer shots have already been administered under an emergency use authorisation (EUA) that was granted on December 11, 2020.The decision to fully approve it among people aged 16 and up was based on updated data from the drug’s clinical trial involving more than 40,000 people, which found the vaccine 91 per cent effective in preventing Covid.The FDA tracked data from 12,000 vaccine recipients six months out from their vaccine series.Most commonly reported side effects were mild and included pain and swelling at the injection site as well as headache, chills and fever.MILITARY, NYC ANNOUNCES MANDATESThe full approval was seen as a pre-curser to the US introducing vaccination mandates. Shortly after the announcement, the country’s military said it would mandate the vaccine, and a slew of private businesses and universities are expected to follow.New York City also said it would require all its department of education employees to receive at least one dose of vaccine by September 27, without the option for regular testing instead.The vaccine remains available under emergency use authorisation to children aged 12 to 15, but because it has now been fully approved, physicians may prescribe it to children under 12 if they believe it will be beneficial.But Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock recommended against so called “off-label” use in younger children until clinical trials report their data, which is expected later this year.“We need to get the information and data on usage in younger children — they are not just small adults,” she told reporters, emphasising that knowing the correct dosage for this group was key.

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