Six things you need to know about Covid today as Pfizer is to roll out 50 million doses of its coronavirus pill | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


Here are the morning headlines for Wednesday, November 17 as pharmaceutical company Pfizer asks US regulators to authorise its Covid pill after it was shown to cut hospitalisation or death by nearly 90% among newly-infected high risk patients.

Experts around the world see the oral medications as an invaluable addition to vaccines in the fight to end the pandemic. Pfizer has said it will deliver 180,000 courses of its Paxlovid pill this year and at least 50 million by next year.

Yesterday, it announced a deal with the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) to sub-license production for supply in 95 low and middle income nations covering around 53% of the world’s population.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong’s Disneyland will be closed today to allow staff to take compulsory Covid-19 tests after authorities found one person who visited the theme park over the weekend was infected with the coronavirus.

And in New Zealand , domestic borders around New Zealand’s largest city Auckland will reopen from December 15 for fully vaccinated people and those with negative COVID-19 test results, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday.

Police in Austria have begun carrying out routine checks on commuters this week to ensure compliance with a nationwide “lockdown for the unvaccinated”, as the Alpine country tries to get on top of one of the most rapidly rising infection rates in Europe.

The restrictions, which came into effect on Monday morning, will affect almost two million Austrian citizens aged 12 and older who have so far not been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Of those, the 356,000 people who have been vaccinated only once can be released from lockdown if they show a negative PCR test.

Those who are found to be in breach of the rules face fines between €500 and €3,600.

Tomorrow, Germany’s parliament is due to vote on a new legal framework for coronavirus restrictions drawn up by the parties that are expected to form the country’s next coalition government.

Those plans are reportedly being beefed up to allow tougher contact restrictions than originally planned. The country now has 303 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days.

Read more: You can read more health stories here

New restrictions being reviewed in Ireland

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister has proposed that Covid-19 passports become mandatory in the region from December 13.

Robin Swann wants fellow Stormont ministers to agree to his proposals for Covid certification in a range of settings at an Executive meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

An accompanying modelling paper from health officials will also warn Executive ministers that passports may not be enough to suppress rapidly increasing Covid case numbers, which have surged 23% in a week, and that “more severe restrictions” may need to be considered in mid-December to avoid hospitals being overwhelmed.

According to the PA news agency, Mr Swann is proposing that passports are used to gain entry to nightclubs, hospitality premises that serve food and or drink, cinemas, theatres and conferences halls.

Covid certificates would also be needed to access indoor events with 500 or more attendees where some or all of the audience is not normally seated.

They would be required for outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees where some or all of the audience is not normally seated.

They would also be mandatory at all events of 10,000 or more attendees whether the audience is seated or not.

Mr Swann is proposing that regulations needed for the law change come into effect on November 29, with a 14-day grace period prior to becoming enforceable on December 13.

Latest infection rate in Wales

A further two people have died with coronavirus in Wales according to the latest figures from Public Health Wales.

New figures published on Tuesday, November 16 show the total number of Covid-related deaths in Wales now stands at 6,297. The places in Wales with the lowest Covid rates

There were also 1,921 new positive cases recorded in the latest update bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 477,295.

The latest seven-day infection rate across Wales, based on the cases for every 100,000 people (for the seven days up to November 11) now stands at 491.5 – a rise from the 482.1 reported on Monday. Last Thursday, the seven-day infection rate went down below 500 for the first time since early October. For more health-related content please go here.

The local authority with the highest infection rate in Wales is Vale of Glamorgan with 649.8 cases per 100,000 population over seven days, closely followed by Gwynedd with 604.5 and Torfaen with 586.4. Cases for your area here.

Covid had ‘catastrophic effect’ on arts and culture sector

The arts, culture and heritage sectors suffered a 60% decline in output due to the pandemic restrictions with a “catastrophic effect” on the lives of those involved, particularly freelancers, according to a new report.

Around 55% of jobs – 450,000 people – were furloughed in the sector, which was second only to hospitality and well above the national average of 16%, according to the study commissioned by the University of Sheffield.

More than 80,000 claims were made under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) by people in the arts, culture and heritage sector and output in the sector saw a real terms decline of around one third from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020, it found.

The report said that activities including cinema, performing arts, museums and historical sites were the worst-hit, while others, including computer games, software, book publishing, TV broadcasting and libraries, were less badly affected.

The university’s study focused on the impact of the pandemic on the cultural industries in South Yorkshire, but put this in the context of the wider national picture.

Its focus on South Yorkshire revealed the huge impact the lockdowns have had on freelancers.

Easing of Covid restrictions likely to lead to rise in bloodstream infections

A rise in antibiotic-resistant bloodstream infections is likely as pandemic restrictions ease, experts have warned.

Drug-resistant bloodstream infections fell in 2020 for the first time since 2016, but they are likely to rise again when restrictions are dropped, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

The Government agency said the number of this type of infections fell in 2020 for the first time since 2016, but still remain at a higher level than they were six years ago.

Due to reductions in social mixing, enhanced hand hygiene and fewer people in hospital, the number of these infections fell from 65,583 in 2019 in England to 55,384 in 2020.

But the proportion of bloodstream infections which are resistant to some antibiotics increased in the same period, meaning a rise in these infections is likely as people mix freely again.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said: “AMR (antimicrobial resistance) has been described as a hidden pandemic and it’s important that we do not come out of Covid-19 and enter into another crisis.

“It is likely that Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 including enhanced infection, prevention and control measures also played a part in driving down antibiotic resistance and prescribing.

“While these measures were severe, serious antibiotic-resistant infections will rise once again if we don’t act responsibly and that can be as simple as regular and thorough handwashing.

Cyber attacks on the UK hit new record – with Covid vaccine research prime target

Britain’s cyber security agency had to tackle a record 777 cyber incidents over the past year, with coronavirus vaccine research a prime target for attack.

The National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, said a number of the incidents were linked to hostile states, including Russia and China.

This included a global hacking campaign, blamed on Russia’s foreign intelligence service, which impacted the US government most significantly.

The so-called SolarWinds breach is regarded as “one of the most serious cyber intrusions of recent times”, the NCSC said in its annual review.

Another major incident, linked to a Chinese state-backed actor, involved an attack on Microsoft.

Sir Jeremy Fleming, the director of GCHQ, described them both in the review as “two of the most serious global cyber incidents we’ve seen in recent years”.

The NCSC said China was a “highly sophisticated” operator in cyberspace with “increasing ambition to project its influence beyond its borders” and a proven interest in the UK’s commercial secrets.

“How China evolves in the next decade will probably be the single biggest driver of the UK’s future cyber security,” it said in the 88-page document.

In a foreword to the review, Sir Jeremy warned: “We can see technology leadership is shifting eastwards. The key technology we will rely on for future prosperity and security won’t necessarily have democratic values at its core. We will work with partners around the world to help the UK and allies face this moment of reckoning.”

The total number of incidents the NCSC had to respond to over the past 12 months was up from 723 the previous year.

Swansea cinema refuses to ask customers for pass

A cinema manager has refused to obey the Covid pass law, claiming it is an “infringement of our human rights”.

Since Monday, people must show an NHS Covid pass in Wales to legally enter cinemas, theatres and concert halls. But Cinema & Co in Swansea will not be implementing the scheme, branding it “nonsensical” and “unnecessary”. Instead, it vowed to “take a stand” against the new measures claiming they are “discriminatory and unlawful”.

The Welsh government said the law was to “keep us all safe”, adding that it was down to local authorities to enforce the rules.

Anna Redfern, who manages the independent 56-seat cinema, said the “unlawful” law was “a total infringement of our human rights”.

She said: “There are businesses that are skirting around the rules, people aren’t using them appropriately and the sheer knowledge that you have to have one of these is putting people off.

“People don’t want to come for this reason and this is why I wanted to say something and take a stand.”

“Businesses are living in fear of losing their livelihoods and I’m in the exact same position, I didn’t want to pretend to comply anymore out of fear.”

Ms Redfern, who used to be a children’s rights worker, said she was “very aware of our rights” and wanted “everyone to be welcome” at the cinema.

In a Facebook post, she noted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states “all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

She said the Welsh government had “discriminated against those exercising their right to bodily autonomy”.

“Covid passes do not give freedom, they take it away.”

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