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Coronavirus Update: WHO head censored in China after criticizing zero-COVID policy, and U.S. cases are now up 52% from two weeks ago

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The head of the World Health Organization is being censored on China’s internet after criticizing its zero-COVID policy for being unsustainable.

“When we talk about the zero-COVID strategy, we don’t think that it is sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters, CNN reported. 

“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts, and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable. … I think a shift will be very important,” he said.

Just last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he has no intention of ending his zero-COVID policy.

Separately, a peer-reviewed report from Shanghai’s Fudan University that wass published in the journal Nature on Tuesday found that China’s level of immunity is not strong enough to fight an uncontrolled omicron epidemic, which could cause a “tsunami” of 1.55 million deaths if the coronavirus were allowed to spread unchecked with that strain ascendant.

It comes as China faces criticism and anger from some locked-down citizens over the country’s approach to virus control, which has included a strict lockdown in Shanghai that led to food shortages.

“We find that the level of immunity induced by the March 2022 vaccination campaign would be insufficient to prevent an omicron wave that would result in exceeding critical-care capacity with a projected intensive-care-unit peak demand of 15.6 times the existing capacity and causing approximately 1.55 million deaths,” the study’s authors said.

The head of the World Health Organization called on China to rethink its strategy of trying to wipe out Covid-19 cases in the country, in a rare challenge of a member state’s domestic Covid policies. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

In the U.S., meanwhile, COVID cases are rising again driven by the BA.2 variant of omicron, and two subvariants that appear to be even more infectious. The two, named BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, were highlighted by health officials in New York state recently.

Read now: What is Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID antiviral drug, and how effective is it?

The U.S. is averaging 77,092 cases a day, up 52% from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times tracker. Cases are climbing in all but seven states and territories and have doubled in more than 10 vs. two weeks ago. Hawaii, Maine and Puerto Rico are seeing case counts that are at or ahead of the numbers seen during the delta wave last year.

The country is averaging 19,270 hospitalizations a day, up 19% from two weeks ago. The daily death toll has fallen below 400 to 365 on average, but the official count is expected to hit 1 million in the coming day or days.

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

As fourth doses of Covid vaccines roll out, some are questioning whether the general population needs them. At the center of this debate are mysterious T-cells. WSJ’s Daniela Hernandez explains T-cells’ role in Covid immunity and how they relate to antibodies. Illustration: Laura Kammermann

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• Microsoft
MSFT,
-3.32%

co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms, the Associated Press reported. Via Twitter, the billionaire philanthropist said he would isolate until he is again healthy. “I’m fortunate to be vaccinated and boosted and have access to testing and great medical care,” Gates wrote. The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the most influential private foundation in the world, with an endowment of about $65 billion.

• On the eve of the Second Global COVID-19 Summit to be co-hosted by the U.S., Senegal, Germany, Indonesia and Belize, COVID Gap, a collaborative led by Duke University, has issued an assessment of the progress toward commitments made at the first summit in September 2021 and found a mixed picture. Researchers found significant progress has been made on ensuring sufficient doses and adequate supplies of vaccines are available to all countries and on a call to action for a global ministerial health and finance board. But countries are off-track with targets for testing and ensuring that all low- and lower-middle-income countries can access intravenous therapeutics by end of 2021 and oral therapeutics in 2022.

See now:WHO says true COVID death toll is 15 million, far higher than the 6 million counted by Johns Hopkins

• The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of Eli Lilly
LLY,
+0.35%

and Inctye’s
INCY,
-2.93%

Olumiant for the treatment of certain adults who are hospitalized with COVID-19. The treatment, also called baricitinib, will be used for patients who require oxygen, noninvasive or invasive mechanical ventilation, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) with a recommended dose of 4 mg once daily for 14 days or until hospital discharge, whichever comes first. The treatment has been available in the U.S. under an emergency-use authorization since November 2020 for hospitalized pediatric patients aged 2 to less than 18 who require various degrees of oxygen support.

See now: Veru stock soars after FDA agrees COVID-19 treatment can be submitted for EUA application

• Executives at contract vaccine manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions
EBS,
-7.99%

 covered up quality-control problems that led to more than 400 million doses of coronavirus vaccines needing to be trashed, congressional investigators said in a report Tuesday, the AP reported. The number of destroyed doses was far higher than previously thought, and senior executives had been warned for years that its quality systems were deficient, according to the House committee report. “Despite major red flags at its vaccine manufacturing facility, Emergent’s executives swept these problems under the rug and continued to rake in taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat. The report said inexperienced staff and high turnover rates contributed to vaccine contamination.

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 518.8 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.26 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 82 million cases and 998,072 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 220.2 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 66.3% of the total population. But just 101.3 million are boosted, equal to 46% of the vaccinated population.

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