Protection against the virus: Bundeswehr checks compulsory corona vaccination

Dhe Bundeswehr is about to make a decision on expanding compulsory vaccinations to include protection against the coronavirus. An examination is in progress, confirmed a spokesman for the defense ministry of the German press agency. Currently, “a decision is being prepared as to whether and when the vaccination against Sars-CoV-2 can be included in the portfolio of vaccinations for which the Bundeswehr is subject to tolerance”. The magazine “Spiegel” reported in December that the general physician had recommended the Bundeswehr to include vaccination against the virus in the so-called basic vaccination protection for all soldiers.

From the military’s point of view, vaccination protection has proven its worth, especially when it comes to immunizing contingents for foreign missions. “Due to the special conditions of the close coexistence in the operations and also in communal accommodation in Germany, soldiers per se are exposed to a relatively higher risk of infection than other population groups,” said the spokesman. “That is why vaccinations in the Bundeswehr are always aimed at protecting the community and the individual at the same time, and the obligation to tolerate is an important instrument for achieving the necessary vaccination rates for herd immunity.”

The ministry also points out that the new vaccines against Sars-CoV-2 were approved in Germany quickly, but no less thoroughly than other vaccines that were introduced. “In order to achieve this level of security, the emergency approval procedure was deliberately avoided in Germany. The Sars-CoV-2 vaccines meet all the requirements for drug safety and effectiveness. “The federal government excludes a general corona vaccination obligation and also a special one for nursing staff or the health care system.

In the Bundeswehr, the obligation to tolerate vaccination and preventive measures was introduced a few years ago. The principle of proportionality must be observed, especially with a view to possible side effects of the vaccination. If there are serious complications, claims under pension law arise. However: if vaccinations are refused, there is a risk of “legal consequences”.

The Soldiers Act provides the basis for this. “The soldier only has to tolerate medical measures against his will if they 1. serve to prevent or combat communicable diseases or 2. serve to determine his ability to serve or employ”, it says in paragraph 17a. And: “If the soldier refuses a reasonable medical measure and his ability to work or work is impaired as a result, he can be denied care. A medical measure which is associated with a considerable risk to life or health is not reasonable. “

The Armed Forces Commissioner Eva Högl believes that it is right to check whether soldiers are required to be vaccinated against corona. “Here, however, you have to proceed sensitively: After all, it is not even clear whether the vaccination protects against passing on the virus,” said the SPD politician on Friday to the German press agency. “That is why I mainly rely on the individual soldiers’ sense of responsibility: the more they voluntarily get vaccinated, the better.”

Högl recalled that soldiers have a duty to maintain their health. “According to the Soldiers Act, they can already be required to have vaccinations, for example when deployed abroad. In this respect, their basic right to physical integrity is restricted, ”she said. “It is therefore right to specifically examine compulsory vaccination for the new vaccines against corona.”


Becomes endemic and harmless: model predicts Sars-CoV-2 future

Becomes endemic and harmless
Model predicts Sars-CoV-2 future

Reports of vaccination failures and virus mutations are worrying in the corona pandemic. The prediction of a research team about the future of the Covid-19 pathogen, on the other hand, is a small ray of hope. If the virus develops like its relatives, it will remain, but it will lose its horror.

Nobody can say with certainty what life with Sars-CoV-2 will look like in the future. It is likely that numerous serious Covid 19 diseases and deaths from the virus will still occur worldwide. But now researchers from the USA have presented a study result in which they give the all-clear.

Jennie Lavine’s team from Emory University in Atlanta has made a series of model calculations for the future development of Sars-CoV-2. Based on their results, the researchers assume that Sars-CoV-2 will also develop into an endemic pathogen, i.e. one that then only occurs in certain regions. According to the infectiologist Lavine, Sars-CoV-2 is safe for mankind in the long term. The researchers even go one step further in their statements, which were published in the specialist magazine “Science”: They consider it possible that Covid-19 vaccinations could be unnecessary in the future.

Small children in particular become infected

To develop their model, the research team used the immunological and epidemiological data of the four known human coronaviruses. They are scientifically named NL63, 229E, OC43 and HKU1. All four pathogens repeatedly cause epidemics in different regions of the world, which mainly involve children between the ages of three and five. However, these infectious diseases, as well as Covid-19 in this age group, rarely show severe courses or complications, and the mortality rate is very low.

It is already known that there is only a short, complete immunity after infection with one of the four known coronaviruses. According to a publication from 2009, one can be infected again with the coronavirus 229E after one year, because after this time there is a decrease in the antibodies formed. A comparable development is also indicated for infection with Sars-CoV-2. However, according to the results of the investigation, a new infection with 229E resulted in a shortened virus excretion. In addition, the subjects showed no symptoms.

Partial immunity makes vaccinations unnecessary

Lavine’s team therefore assumes that people acquire lifelong partial immunity through their first coronavirus infection. This could even be strengthened by further infections. It is therefore conceivable that only a few elderly people actually develop it. But it is also conceivable that older people could become infected with coronaviruses, not notice anything and pass the virus on to children. According to Lavine, neither the early onset of the disease nor the high rate of infection in infants and children can be explained without the involvement of older people.

Following this logic, the research team assumes that Sars-CoV-2 will also become an endemic pathogen. In this case, the vaccinations that have just started could be discontinued worldwide in a few years. The acquired partial immunity in the older population group would only rarely lead to severe courses and deaths. Children, on the other hand, need the infection in order to build up partial immunity. However, if the first infection in children would also result in serious illnesses, these would have to be protected by a vaccination.


How Corona differs from crocodiles

When one could have wished for something – a moderate wish within the realm of realistic possibilities – then maybe that Sars-CoV-2 behaves evolutionarily similar to what we know from crocodiles. These reptiles have hardly changed in terms of their basic body structure since the early Jurassic 200 million years ago, and that with a very clear wealth of variants: There are only 24 species. Ridiculously few, then, compared to dinosaurs or the scaled lizards living today, which each come in around 10,000 species.

A study in “Communications Biology” has recently examined the background to this evolutionary constancy on the basis of a phylogenetic model: According to this, crocodiles have developed very little over long periods of time, measured by their body size. Apparently they had reached such an efficient and versatile development status that major adjustments were only necessary if they were really necessary due to changes in their environment, e.g. climatic type.

For the crocodiles and our getting along with them, that’s probably good news. Sars-CoV-2 was also initially not thought to be excessively susceptible to mutations: half the rate of change as the flu virus, a quarter as strong as the HI virus, these were the experts’ assessments based on genetic sequencing data. “As long as almost everyone on the planet is susceptible, there is probably little evolutionary pressure to adapt to the virus to develop better transferability,” read “Nature” in September. In the meantime we unfortunately know better and have to realize that the virus has probably wasted its chance to become the crocodile in the virus spectrum.

There is still speculation about the origins of the mutations. But one thing is clear: where there are many infected people, there are many mutations. And in fact, one can hardly imagine which crocodile monsters would populate the earth today if there had been anywhere near as many crocodiles as Sars-CoV-2 particles in the history of the earth.


Reason for renewed infection ?: Another corona mutation causes concern

Reason for renewed infection?
Another corona mutation causes concern

From Kai Stoppel

A variant of Sars-CoV-2 that previously appeared in South Africa is also being detected for the first time in Germany. It has the same mutation as the B.1.1.7 virus discovered in the UK. But there is one other mutation that worries researchers.

New variants of Sars-CoV-2 have appeared in various places around the world in the past few weeks: not only in Great Britain, but also in South Africa and Brazil. They appear to be more contagious than the original virus – and all of them carry the N501Y mutation. Researchers suspect that it enables the new variants to dock better with human cells. The British line is believed to be up to 70 percent more contagious than its predecessor. Another mutation worries researchers – it only occurs in variants from South Africa and Brazil.

The variant with the name 501Y.V2 (or line B.1.351), which appeared for the first time in South Africa, has already replaced other variants in the country. According to experts, this could be due to the N501Y mutation – it chemically changes the spike protein of the virus, which could make it easier for the pathogen to bind to human cells. “It increases the stickiness, if you will,” British molecular oncologist Lawrence Young told the Telegraph.

The N501Y mutation alone would be cause for concern. But the variant from South Africa, like several variants from Brazil, shows another genetic change that recently came into focus: E484K. This mutation also changes the pathogen’s spike protein. While a possibly higher transferability through the N501Y mutation is already a problem, the E484K mutation could have other serious consequences.

Antibodies “no longer work well”

“There are first indications and data here that this could lead to antibodies that neutralize this mutation no longer being able to take hold so well,” said the Frankfurt virologist Sandra Ciesek in the latest NDR podcast about E484K. What fuels these concerns: In an experiment in Italy, researchers in the laboratory were able to provoke the same genetic change in Sars-CoV-2. By subjecting the virus to the pressure of antibodies from someone who had recovered from Covid-19.

After the virus was initially pushed back, it mutated after some time under the immune pressure in order to evade the access of the antibodies, the researchers write in a preprint. Among other things, the E484K mutation developed after 73 days. “We see exactly the same mutation in a virus that originated in a country where we know that there is already something like background immunity in South Africa,” commented the Berlin virologist Christian Drosten on the NDR podcast. “You have to take that seriously.”

The naturally occurring E484K mutation in the virus from South Africa may come “from immunocompromised patients whose immune systems find it more difficult to suppress infections,” said bioinformatician Houriiyah Tegally of the AFP news agency. In these people – the hosts – the virus can multiply much better. Due to the widespread prevalence of AIDS and tuberculosis, many people in South Africa are immunocompromised.

Ineffective against vaccines?

But what consequences could the E484K mutation have for the course of the pandemic? According to US biologist Jason McLellan, these and other genetic changes may have an impact on the effectiveness of vaccines – as well as on immune protection from previous Covid-19 infections, he told the journal Nature. From the point of view of virologist Ciesek, there could be an “unfavorable combination” of mutations in the virus variant from South Africa – which on the one hand could make it more contagious and on the other hand less sensitive to antibodies.

In another experiment, US researchers had also found that E484K enables the virus to significantly reduce the effect of antibodies in recovering cells, as they write in their preprint. Researchers from Brazil show what consequences this could have in another preprint. In it you describe the case of someone 45-year-olds who were infected again with Sars-CoV-2 several months after surviving Covid-19 disease. The second time she got sick even more seriously. The pathogen was one of the new coronavirus variants, which also had the E484K mutation.

However, there is also reason to hope: In the experiments in Italy, the coronavirus with the E484K mutation was less resistant to the antibodies of other people who had recovered. And when it comes to the effectiveness of vaccinations, experts emphasize that the immune response stimulated by vaccines is complex – it consists of antibodies that attack different parts of the spike protein. Other parts of the immune system are also involved, such as T cells. It is unclear whether mutations like E484K are sufficient to make the virus resistant to complex body defenses.

Biontech / Pfizer are taking precautions

Still, vaccine manufacturers are warned. Biontech has already announced that it will be able to develop a new vaccine that works against mutated versions within six weeks if necessary. Further tests should also clarify whether the vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer is also effective against viruses with the E484K mutation. After all: According to a recent Preprint can the vaccine Successfully neutralize BNT162b2 viruses with the N501Y mutation. According to its own statement, the US company Moderna is also testing its corona vaccine for its effectiveness against mutated corona viruses.

According to the World Health Organization, the virus variant with the E484K mutation has now been detected in 20 countries worldwide. This also includes Germany, where an infection with the mutation from South Africa was reported by the Stuttgart Ministry of Social Affairs.


Why Remdesivir doesn’t turn the coronavirus off completely

New research explains why the drug is rather weak

Remdesivir is the first drug against Covid-19 to be approved subject to conditions in Europe. The active ingredient is supposed to suppress the rapid multiplication of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen in human cells by stopping the viral copying machine, the RNA polymerase. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen and the University of Würzburg have now clarified why Remdesivir disrupts the viral polymerase during copying, but does not completely inhibit it.

The Covid-19 drug Remdesivir (purple) is incorporated into the new RNA chain during the copying process and suppresses the duplication of the Corona genome.

© Hauke ​​Hillen, Goran Kokic and Patrick Cramer / Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry

“After complicated investigations, we come to a simple conclusion,” says Max Planck Director Patrick Cramer. “Remdesivir hinders the work of the polymerase, but only after some delay. And the drug doesn’t completely stop the enzyme. ”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Cramer’s team at the MPI for Biophysical Chemistry clarified how the coronavirus doubles its RNA genome – a real mammoth task for the pathogen. Because the virus RNA consists of a chain of around 30,000 RNA building blocks and is therefore particularly long.

To elucidate the mechanism of action of Remdesivir, Cramer’s team worked with Claudia Höbartner’s group, which produced special RNA molecules for structural and functional studies. “Remdesivir has a similar structure to RNA building blocks,” explains Höbartner, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Würzburg. The polymerase can be misled by this and builds the substance into the growing RNA chain.

Pause instead of blocking

After remdesivir had been incorporated into the virus genome, the researchers examined the polymerase-RNA complexes using biochemical methods and cryo-electron microscopy. As they found out, the copying process pauses exactly when the RNA chain has been extended by three more RNA building blocks after the incorporation of Remdesivir. “The polymerase no longer allows a fourth building block. This is due to only two atoms in the structure of Remdesivir, which get caught in a certain point on the polymerase. However, Remdesivir does not completely block RNA production. The polymerase often continues to work after an error has been corrected, ”explains Goran Kokic, research assistant in Cramer’s laboratory. Together with the other first authors of the study, Hauke ​​Hillen, Dimitry Tegunov, Christian Dienemann and Florian Seitz, he carried out the decisive experiments that are now in the science journal Nature Communications were published.

Understanding how remdesivir works opens up new opportunities for scientists to fight the virus. “Now that we know how Remdesivir inhibits corona polymerase, we can work on improving the substance and how it works. In addition, we want to search for new substances that will stop the viral copying machine, ”says Max Planck Director Cramer. “The vaccinations that have now started are essential to bring the pandemic under control. But we must continue to develop effective drugs that, in the event of infections, mitigate the course of Covid-19. “(Cr)


Positive is positive. Marcelo is infected, says pathologist

The President of the Republic will even be infected with the new coronavirus. When a PCR test to detect SARS-COV-2 is positive, there is no doubt. The negative result of Marcelo’s second test may have to do with the harvest.

Positive is positive. When a PCR test indicates the presence of SARS-COV-2, there is no room for doubt: “It is because the virus is there, there are no false positives, this is a myth,” says JN Mafalda Felgueiras, a clinical pathologist at a hospital of Greater Porto.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa tested positive in a PCR test, the result of which was known last Monday night. Just last night, the head of state did a second PCR test, this time performed by the National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge, and the result, released this Tuesday morning, was negative. It should also be noted that before the first PCR, the President of the Republic had done an (rapid) antigen test that was also negative.

Stressing that he did not see Marcelo’s positive test, and admitting that if there had been a technical problem it would have been repeated before the result was released, Mafalda Felgueiras points out an explanation for the antagonistic results: the low viral load of the President of the Republic.

“We are talking about a virus that affects the lower respiratory tract and is intermittently expelled into the upper tract,” he explains. When the viral load is low, there may be samples that catch the virus and others that do not, he adds.

Mafalda Felgueiras notes that, although the sensitivity of the test is very high (97% to 98%), the sensitivity of the sample (collected with the swab) is 75%. “Which means that there are 25% that escape us”, he concludes. And if they escape – it is not a mistake in the harvest and “the INSA methodology is the same as the others”, says the doctor – it is because the virus is not always in the upper respiratory tract.

The low viral load of the President of the Republic also explains the negative result of the rapid test. “These tests are only good in symptomatic patients, with high viral loads”, says the clinical pathologist.

Even if it is positive, the negative results bring good news. It is that with a low viral load, the head of state is not likely to have infected other people in the last hours.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who is in isolation in the residential wing of the Palace of Belém, will do a third PCR test to dispel doubts.

In Mafalda Felgueiras’ opinion “it doesn’t make any sense”. The repetition of tests in such a few hours does not follow clinical criteria and only serves to confuse public opinion, at a time when it is not desirable to discredit the tests, defends the expert.


Worrisome SARS-CoV-2 variant, really? | Press room

Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 attached to the cilia of human respiratory epithelial cell. © Manuel Rosa-Calatrava, INSERM; Olivier Terrier, CNRS; Andrés Pizzorno, Signia Therapeutics; Elisabeth Errazuriz-Cerda UCBL1 CIQLE. VirPath (International Center for Research in Infectiology U1111 Inserm – UMR 5308 CNRS – ENS Lyon – UCBL1). Colorized by Noa Rosa C.

The SARS-CoV-2 variant (VUI 202012/01 renamed VOC 202012/01) which has emerged rapidly since September from the south-east of England continues to raise many questions. In France, people carrying the variant have been identified in several cities including Marseille, Lille and Paris and the estimate of the number of cases is probably still underestimated. The variant has also already been detected in dozens of other countries.

To better understand the potential impact of mutations in the virus and the emergence of new variants, Detox Channel take stock and cut short the false information.

Please note: this text reflects the situation on January 11, 2021. As it is changing rapidly, new scientific data may become available after this date.

All viruses mutate: after infecting our cells, they multiply by making copies of themselves. This process is not perfect and the copies can contain “errors”: the famous mutations. The genetic material of the viral copies then differs from the genetic material of the original virus.

These mutations may have no consequences, or even have a negative effect on the virus. Others, however, may have an impact, for example, on the transmissibility of the virus or on the severity of the disease.

If the mutations promote the circulation of the virus (these mutations are said to be positively selected), then they lead to the implantation of the new variant, which can in just a few months become the dominant variant.

The whole issue of monitoring and sequencing circulating viruses (i.e. determining their genetic code) is not only to identify mutations quickly but also to seek to understand their potential effects on patients and on the dynamics of the epidemic. Since the start of the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 has already mutated many times and there are dozens of lineages of SARS-CoV-2, but these mutations have not had a major impact so far.

Identified in UK

A “variant” is an organism (here the SARS-CoV-2 virus) which is distinguished from the original virus by one or more mutations. On December 14, 2020, health authorities in the United Kingdom alerted the WHO to the emergence of the new variant, referred to as “SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01”. The latter first appeared in south-east London and is now the majority in the country. The exact causes of its emergence are still uncertain.

This variant is distinguished from the reference strain by 23 mutations, 17 of which affect the nature of essential proteins. These are nucleotide substitutions[1] (organic molecules that form the basis of DNA) and deletions of nucleotides[2]. Some of these mutations are found in the virus’s Spike protein, which serves as an attachment point to attach to our cells and infect them. While the effect of this new combination of mutations has not yet been characterized, some of them have been studied individually in the past. In particular, they could affect the transmission of the virus, its ability to replicate or even its antigenicity (its ability to be recognized by the immune system).

The clinical data collected so far would confirm that this variant has an increased transmission capacity (50 to 70% greater than “classic” SARS-Cov-2) without significant modification of its virulence. The low number of identified reinfections does not allow conclusions to be drawn on the efficiency of the cross-immune response between this variant and the previous viruses.

To accumulate scientific knowledge on the variant

As it stands, the researchers assume that mutations in the Spike protein would not significantly modify its ability to be recognized by the immune system; the vaccines currently distributed would therefore remain effective. Laboratory data will however have to confirm this hypothesis. It will also be necessary to verify the impact of these mutations on the capacity of young children to be infected by the variant and to transmit it, which could modify the place that we currently give them in the viral circulation.

In addition, researchers have pointed out that one of the local deletions in the gene encoding the Spike protein causes an abnormality in certain RT-PCR tests (Thermofisher test). However, the tests currently on the market detect several regions of the viral genome (RT-PCR multiplex) so that currently, there is no worry about diagnostic tests.

Scientists are very cautious about this new variant, considering that it is above all necessary to continue to accumulate knowledge on the subject, to limit its distribution in populations by early detection and isolation of carriers, and to increase the capacities of sequencing in order to better define the level of circulation of this new strain. It is also necessary to be interested in other external factors which could explain the strongest transmission of the variant at this time of the year (climate more favorable to the transmission, gatherings and end of year celebrations…).

Another variant was also identified in South Africa on December 18, 2020, referred to as “variant 501Y.V2”. It also has mutations in the Spike protein. Preliminary studies indicate that it quickly became dominant in the country – it reportedly emerged last August – and is likely more transmissible and associated with a higher salivary viral load. Again, there is no data to support the idea that it would cause more severe forms of Covid-19.

Strengthen sequencing and collaboration between researchers

In order to better follow the evolution and the diffusion of these variants in the population as well as their clinical impact, it is very important to put in place a robust virus surveillance and sequencing strategy. This must be accompanied by very rapid availability of the sequences on international databases with free access, with all the associated data (sex, age, date and place of sampling, etc.). As a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates, it is about having a proactive approach to monitor how SARS-CoV-2 mutates and better control the epidemic.

To track these mutations, scientists rely on high-throughput sequencing technologies to decrypt the entire SARS-CoV-2 genome. These technologies, developed for the sequencing of the human genome, make it possible to obtain a large number of data in order to finely characterize the viral genome. They are more precise and more efficient than the “ancestral” sequencing technique called the Sanger method (named after its inventor). These “high throughput” techniques, although they are quite cumbersome and expensive, are necessary in the case of this new coronavirus due to the very large size of its genome (around 30,000 nucleotides; by way of comparison, HIV has a genome of just over 9,000 nucleotides).

This work must therefore be based on close collaboration between virologists and bioinformaticians in order to be able to analyze and organize in a coherent manner the very large amount of data that comes from sequencing of the entire SARS-CoV-2 genome, then from identify any mutations.

In this context, another tool has shown its usefulness during this pandemic: GISAID, the platform for collecting and analyzing SARS-CoV-2 sequence data. Originally set up to collect and analyze influenza virus sequences, GISAID allows researchers to quickly access more than 130,000 complete virus sequences from 122 countries. This platform is therefore very important for monitoring developments in SARS-CoV-2 and the pandemic. Exchanging information via this database on mutations of interest allows scientists to better anticipate the emergence of variants potentially having an impact on the trajectory of the epidemic and on the course of the disease.

Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 will continue to mutate and in the coming months, other variants could potentially emerge.

They could be looked for by scientists, for example when we identify a focus where the circulation of the virus seems to be faster or if the disease changes clinical presentation. This research could in parallel be based on a more random analysis by more systematically sequencing hospital strains, city strains, in patients and non-symptomatic carriers and by respecting a relevant territorial grid.

[1] Replacements of nucleotide by another

[2] Removal of one or more nucleotides from the genetic code of the virus

Text written with the support of Vincent Maréchal, professor of virology and researcher at the Saint Antoine Research Center (Inserm / Sorbonne University) and Anne Goffard, virologist at the Lille Infection and Immunity Center (Inserm / University of Lille / Institut Pastor of Lille / Lille University Hospital)


China allows entry of research team

More than a year after the first death, the search for the exact origin of the corona pandemic can begin. To date, there have been many question marks about the first outbreak of the virus in China.

Photo series with 14 pictures

The coronavirus and its consequences have been determining world history for more than a year. The question of where the pathogen that was first discovered in Wuhan, China originally came from, remains unanswered.

Cooperation with Chinese researchers planned

After days of delay, Beijing has given the go-ahead to a World Health Organization (WHO) mission to research the origins of the coronavirus. The international experts can travel to China on Thursday, the national health commission announced on Monday. The WHO team will conduct its research in collaboration with Chinese scientists.

Photo series with 13 pictures

The WHO mission, which has been planned for months, is expected to last five to six weeks, with the experts having to remain in quarantine for the first two weeks. The scientists are to research the origin of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

First death a year ago

The first death from Covid-19 was reported on January 11, 2020. The 61-year-old man was regularly at the animal market in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan, which later gained notoriety for its role in the Corona tragedy.

Almost two million corona deaths worldwide later, the announcement is now to start the WHO mission in China.

Workers in protective suits at the Hankou train station: The Chinese government presents itself as the winner against the corona virus. (Source: Ng Han Guan / AP / dpa)

There is broad consensus that the world’s first known corona outbreak occurred at the end of 2019 on the animal market in Wuhan. It is believed that the virus passed from one species of bat to another species and from that species to humans.

The origin of the pandemic was not traced any further. There is evidence that the pandemic goes back even further – and conspiracy theories such as the virus came from a laboratory in Wuhan. You can see the claim by a Chinese virologist from September last year in the video above – or here.

Authorities in Wuhan tried to cover up the outbreak

Leading virologists say identifying the source of the pandemic is critical to early countering future outbreaks with measures such as hunting bans on certain animal species. The Chinese government reported infections with the novel coronavirus earlier than the SARS outbreak in 2002/2003 and at least published the gene sequence of SARS-CoV-2 on January 12, 2020.

However, the authorities in Wuhan first tried to cover up the outbreak. They later wasted valuable weeks fighting the virus by denying human-to-human transmission. The Chinese authorities named the Huanan market in Wuhan as the outbreak location early on. However, Chinese data from January 2020 show that some of the first infections could not be linked to the animal market.

Later, the People’s Republic swung around and spread theses that the virus originated in another country. China barely released any information on samples taken from animals and the environment that could help identify the true origin of the pandemic. Beijing is also sowing doubts that the virus even originated in China. Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently reiterated the view that “the pandemic likely began in several places around the world”.

Panic reaction at the beginning

Experts fear that in a panic reaction at the beginning of the corona outbreak, the authorities made important information disappear. They “didn’t do a great job” in the early stages, “says Peter Daszak, who heads the non-governmental organization EcoHealth Alliance, which specializes in infectious diseases.

Chinese President Xi Jinping: China presents itself as the winner over the corona virus.  (Source: imago images / Ju Peng / Xinhua)Chinese President Xi Jinping: China presents itself as the winner over the corona virus. (Source: Ju Peng / Xinhua / imago images)

Journalists and insiders who reported on the corona outbreak were also silenced. The government in Beijing might want to cover up mistakes in order to avoid a loss of reputation at home and abroad, says epidemiologist Daniel Lucey of Georgetown University in Washington. At the same time, the Chinese leadership is presenting itself as the winner in the fight against the virus.

“Not at all plausible”

Lucey finds the thesis of the Wuhan animal market as the place of origin of the corona pandemic “not at all plausible”. After all, SARS-CoV-2 had already spread quickly in Wuhan in December 2019. And it takes a virus of animal origin months, if not years, for the necessary mutations to become highly contagious from person to person.

Daszak also believes that scientists can find out which bat species SARS-CoV-2 originally occurred in and how it got to humans. From his point of view, the chances of this have even increased with the deselection of US President Donald Trump, who blamed Beijing for the pandemic with conspiracy theories and terms like “China virus” and thereby politicized the question of its origin.

Disease expert Diana Bell from the University of East Anglia in the UK is less confident. The search for the original host animals of SARS-CoV-2 is not so crucial either. For them the key is to renounce: “We have to stop the trade in wild animals for human consumption.”


RKI reports 24,694 new infections and 1083 further deaths

Corona Warn-App

An interpretation of the Corona numbers is currently difficult due to the holidays.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The German health authorities reported 24,694 new corona infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within one day. In addition, 1083 new deaths were recorded within 24 hours, as the RKI announced on Saturday morning. The high of 1,188 new deaths was reached on Friday. In the case of new infections registered within 24 hours, the highest value was reported on December 18, at 33,777 – but this contained 3500 late reports

An interpretation of the data remains difficult because around Christmas and the turn of the year corona cases were discovered, recorded and transmitted with a delay, according to the RKI. According to the Association of Accredited Laboratories in Medicine (ALM), the number of laboratory tests had fallen again over the turn of the year compared to Christmas week. Compared to the week before Christmas, the number has roughly halved in the past week.

The number of new infections reported to the health authorities within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (seven-day incidence) was 153.9 on Saturday morning. Its previous high was reached on December 22nd at 197.6. However, the differences between the federal states are enormous: Saxony had the highest incidences with 269.8 and Thuringia with 232.4. Bremen had the lowest value with 74.0. Because of the holidays, the weekly values ​​should also be assessed with caution.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the RKI has counted 1,891,581 detected infections with Sars-CoV-2 in Germany (as of January 9, 00:00). The total number of people who died with or with a proven infection with Sars-CoV-2 rose to 39,878. The RKI stated the number of people recovered to be around 1,511,800.

According to the RKI report on Saturday, the nationwide seven-day R-value was 1.17 (previous day: 1.09). This means that 100 infected people theoretically infect 117 more people. The value represents the occurrence of the infection 8 to 16 days ago. If it is below 1 for a long time, the infection process subsides. The RKI emphasized that the R-value may be underestimated because of the delays.

According to the RKI report on Thursday, the nationwide seven-day R-value was 0.92 (previous day: 0.83). This means that 100 infected people theoretically infect 92 more people. The value represents the occurrence of the infection 8 to 16 days ago. If it is below 1 for a long time, the infection process subsides. The RKI emphasized that the R-value may be underestimated because of the delays.

What is the RKI?

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is an independent higher federal authority. It is a public health facility and monitors the health of the entire population of Germany. Another central area of ​​the RKI is research; the institute is the central research facility of the Federal Republic of Germany.

President of the Robert Koch Institute has been Lothar H. Wieler since March 1, 2015, who has been the focus of reporting since the outbreak of the corona pandemic in Germany.

How does the RKI get the current corona numbers?

The Robert Koch Institute continuously records the current Covid-19 situation. It evaluates all information on the basis of current surveys and estimates the risk for the population in Germany. The RKI regularly announces the current number of corona cases in Germany.

The health authorities receive figures from all over Germany on new infections, recoveries or deaths and transmit them to the RKI. The offices must adhere to strict rules.

Covid-19 cases that meet the RKI case definition must be electronically transmitted by the responsible health department to the responsible state authority no later than the next working day.

From there, the information must be transmitted to the RKI no later than the next working day. This data may not contain the name, place of residence or contact details of the person concerned.

More: You can find the current developments in our news blog


“Still a very hard way to go”, warns the WHO

If we have indeed left 2020 behind us, the coronavirus for its part is still present, and expanding. The WHO warns that the start of the year will not be as serene as some might expect.

After a trying year, the arrival of 2021 was seen by many as the symbolic burial of what English speakers have dubbed the dumpster firefire of trash “) that was 2020. Despite this ritual passage, if certain habits will be modified and good resolutions adopted, the pandemic, she, continues to run its inexorable course ignoring the schedule. After a significant movement of people during the holidays, there is no doubt for theWHO that the start of the year could prove to be particularly difficult.

A not so serene start to the year

As can easily be seen from statistics, far from improving, the situation continues to deteriorate in many countries. In the United States, the numbers have exploded following the celebration of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, with a quarter of a million new infections reported every day. Japan to declare new state of emergency as country experiences third vague the most deadly. As for Europe, it is, with the Americas, the continent experiencing the worst upsurge in the world. virus. In France alone, nearly 3,000 deaths have been counted over the past week.

« Several countries are experiencing incredibly intense transmission », comments Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO pandemic management officer. « There are some really frightening numbers in terms of cases, hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units. And with the outcome of the family celebrations, she says, expect them to get even worse. ” We are starting to see it now and will see it in the coming weeks. In many countries, the situation will get worse before it gets better. »

« The cavalry arrives … »

The distribution of vaccines around the globe will undoubtedly be a crucial element in slowing down, and hopefully containing, the pandemic; But meanwhile, experts call on citizens to remain vigilant.

We still have three or six months of a very, very difficult path ahead of us. But we can do it.

« We still have three or six months of a very, very difficult path ahead of us. But we can do it Says Michael Ryan, WHO emergency officer. ” The cavalry arrives, the vaccines are coming, but, for most people in the world, they’re not there yet. “Caution therefore remains in order for several more months, admitting that a sufficiently large segment of the population agrees to be vaccinated.

Finally, the recent mutations of the virus are also bearers of bad news, with two new variants plus contagious than their stem form (D614G). Fortunately, the severity of the disease does not appear to be affected by these changes and nothing seems to indicate that their circulation dangerously jeopardizes the effectiveness of the vaccines developed to date. There is therefore hope for this new year which is beginning, but victory will only be obtained at the cost of a collective effort!

Covid-19: what are the scenarios for 2021?

Article by Celine Deluzarche, published on January 5, 2021

L’emergence of coronavirus in January 2020 took the whole world by surprise. Duration of the’immunity, mode of transmission, contagiousness and side effects … Discoveries and mysteries have accumulated; theepidemic experiences mood swings that are difficult to anticipate. Between hope of the vaccination and fears of mutation, what can we hope for “year 2” of the Covid?

No one had seen the coronavirus pandemic coming and even less predicted its evolution in 2020. Many experts initially thought that it would be limited to Southeast Asia, like the previous one SRAS, then they explained to us that the virus would trigger tens of millions of deaths in a few months. None of this happened. It therefore appears difficult to make forecasts for next year. But, thanks to the extraordinarily rapid advances in science, a little more is still known about how this might play out in 2021.

Will vaccination make people forget the virus?

« Within a month, 2.25 million people will have been vaccinated [en Israël]. Once that’s done, we can get out of the coronavirus, reopen the economy, and do things that no other country in the world can do. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prophesies. Some countries, which have stepped up the pace by matter of vaccination, may well quickly achieve collective immunity allowing them to return to an almost normal life. According to an Italian study, 30,000 deaths will be prevented in 2021 in Italy thanks to vaccination if 80% of the population at risk are vaccinated.

Unfortunately, France risks coming out in the last of the epidemic, given its reluctance to vaccinate and the reluctance of its population who is the world’s most skeptical about vaccines. We should therefore probably expect to endure several more waves in France, as well as containments or curfews, and to have to remain masked for a good while.

A mutation of the virus?

This is the great fear of scientists: a mutation virus that would make the vaccine ineffective or more dangerous. The recent appearance of new virus variant in England, up to 70% more transmissible, thus led to the general containment of the country in December. But, so far, these mutations remain too minor to affect the effectiveness of the vaccine. Nevertheless, the risk is high: more than 300,000 mutations of the Sars-CoV-2 have been sequenced around the world and the more the virus circulates, the more likely it is to mutate to adapt to its host.

Not enough to panic vaccine manufacturers. ” We are able to deliver a new vaccine in six weeks », Thus affirms the head of BioNTech, the German laboratory which, with Pfizer, originated the first vaccine against Covid-19. Vaccine technology ARN messenger has, in fact, revolutionized the industry with a development in record time and an unparalleled efficiency compared to conventional vaccines.

More effective treatments?

More than a year after the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, we still do not have any really effective medicine to fight the infection, despite the 2,358 clinical tests currently in progress, depending on the site Covid-nma, led by Cochrane France. The antivirals tested during the Solidarity trial led by the WHO (remdesivir, lopinavir, interferon beta and hydroxychloroquine) have proven ineffective. No more news of the famous miracle drug from the Institut Pasteur. Le Regeneron, le cocktail d’antibody which was administered to Donald Trump, has shown some efficacy for patients hospitalized on oxygen. The track of the vitamin D has also been advanced.

« There will be no miracle cure ”, assured early September Thomas Cueni, Director General of IFPMA (International Federation of Producers and Pharmaceutical Organizations). ” We will need different treatments, aimed at different types of patient groups and at different stages of disease progression ».

What dynamics for the pandemic?

« The virus is circulating in France at a speed that even the most pessimistic forecasts had not anticipated “, Explained Emmanuel Macron on October 28 to justify the second confinement. Except that a few days later, before we could even see the effect of the latter, the curve flexed in an equally inexplicable way.

Many epidemiological models have been developed to try to predict the evolution of the epidemic, but the number of parameters is so high (compliance with barrier measures, effective reproduction rate, formation of clusters, proportion of asymptomatic, etc.) that all of them turned out to be quite ineffective. In March, the team of epidemiologist Neil Ferguson of theImperial College in London, predicted up to 500,000 deaths in France in the absence of containment measures. We can all the same cautiously advance some forecasts. Suppose, for example, that cold and humid weather plays an unfavorable role, which should lead to a slowdown in the circulation of the virus this summer, which will also be encouraged by the progress of vaccination campaigns.

« The virus is with us forever », Warned Catherine Smallwood, responsible for emergency situations at WHO-Europe, last November. The two dominant hypotheses are an eradication of the virus by vaccination or collective immunity, or even a trivialization of the virus which would become endemic like those of the common cold.

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