(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Experts call Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy unsustainable
With thousands of people locked down in tiny apartments, government quarantine centres filling up and many businesses shuttered, Hong Kong is scrambling to sustain a zero-COVID policy that has turned one of the world’s most densely packed cities into one of the most isolated.
Flights out of the international airport are down about 90%, over 8,000 people are locked down in government quarantine facilities and a congested housing block, while 900,000 students have been shut out of schools since the start of this week. Doctors say the curbs are taking an increasingly heavy toll of people’s mental health.
Sweden decides not to back COVID vaccines for those aged 5 to 11
Sweden has decided against recommending COVID vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, the Health Agency said, arguing that the benefits did not outweigh the risks.
The decision could be revisited if research changed or a new variant changed the pandemic, however. Children in high-risk groups can already get the vaccine.
U.S. health agency has ‘persistent deficiencies’ in crisis response -watchdog
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has “persistent deficiencies” in its ability to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, the U.S. congressional watchdog warned in a report on Thursday, citing concerns spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As an example, the GAO said, it had warned about shortages of COVID-19 tests beginning in September 2020 and then recommended in January last year that HHS develop a comprehensive national testing strategy.
In a May 2021 response, HHS told the watchdog it would provide a document stating its plans. “However, to date, HHS has not provided this document,” the GAO report added.
Paris hospitals chief sparks debate on whether unvaccinated patients should pay for treatment
The head of the Paris hospitals system has set off a fierce debate by questioning whether people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue to have their treatment covered by public health insurance.
Paris AP-HP hospitals system chief Martin Hirsch said he raised the issue because health costs are exploding and the irresponsible behaviour of some should not jeopardise the availability of the system for everyone else.
France’s universal healthcare system covers fully all treatment of COVID-19 patients who end up in intensive care, at a cost of about 3,000 euros ($3,340) per day, typically for a week to 10 days.
WHO examines accusations official abused staff, leaked vaccine data
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is looking into allegations that a regional director in Asia bullied staff, used racist language and leaked sensitive vaccine data to Japan, accusations the official denies.
In a statement provided by the WHO, Takeshi Kasai, the Manila-based director of the Western Pacific region, acknowledged being “hard on staff”, but rejected charges of racism or that he shared confidential information with Japan.
He wrote that he was considering how to improve his management style and the work environment.
(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)