Almost three years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the Chinese city of Wuhan is again in partial lockdown, as it sticks with a strict zero-COVID policy to stem the current outbreak.
Roughly 800,000 people in one district of the city in central China have been ordered to stay at home until Sunday, Reuters reported. Wuhan counted about 20 to 25 new COVID cases a day this week, while China overall reported more than 1,000 new cases on Thursday. That was enough to trigger lockdowns or restrictions in other cities, including Xining in the northwest and Guangzhou in the south.
As of Oct. 24, 28 cities were implementing varying degrees of lockdown measures, with around 207.7 million people affected in regions responsible for around 25.6 trillion yuan ($3.55 trillion) of China’s gross domestic product, according to Nomura. That’s nearly a quarter of China’s 2021 economic output.
The World Health Organization’s weekly epidemiological update, meanwhile, shows cases and fatalities are still falling across the world. The global case tally was down 15% in the week through Oct. 23 from the previous week. The number of deaths fell 13% to just over 8,500.
The highest number of new weekly cases came from Germany at 498,787, followed by France, at 307,610; China at 285,348; and the U.S. at 255,116. Experts are expecting the winter months to bring a fresh wave of cases as people gather indoors in the colder weather.
As it has for some months, the WHO cautioned that the numbers may be undercounted, as many countries have pulled back on testing, resulting in fewer tests and fewer positive readings.
The BA.5 omicron subvariant remains dominant around the world, accounting for 77.1% of sequences forwarded to a centralized database, the agency said.
“BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5 and their various subvariants have in many cases acquired the same mutations at the same position, indicating convergent evolution,” said the WHO.
It explained that convergent evolution means the independent genetic adaptation of two or more different variants at the same genomic position, i.e., the same nucleotide or amino acid change is observed in multiple variants, with these variants not being direct descendants of each other.
“Areas of convergent evolution point to a potential role in the adaptation and further evolution of the virus,” said the update.
As of Oct. 25, the XBB and XBB.1 lineages have been detected in 35 countries. The two are BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 recombinants, which were found in 26 countries in last week’s report.
The BQ.1 and its lineages have been found in 65 countries. BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are BA.5 lineages and accounted for about 16.6% of new U.S. cases in the week through Oct. 22, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The two were barely registering just a few weeks ago and were included in BA.5 variant data. BQ.1 was first identified by researchers in early September and has been found in the U.K. and Germany, among other places. The CDC is updating the numbers every Friday.
The two are spreading fast in the New York region, which includes New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and accounted for almost 30% of new cases in the same week, CDC data shows.
In the U.S., known cases of COVID are continuing to ease and now stand at their lowest level since mid-April, although the true tally is likely higher given how many people overall are testing at home, where the data are not being collected.
The daily average for new cases stood at 37,615 on Wednesday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 4% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was flat at 26,792, while the daily average for deaths is down 5% to 361.
Other COVID-19 news you should know about:
• Qatar will drop most of its coronavirus restrictions beginning Nov. 1, just before it hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Associated Press reported. Qatar’s Health Ministry made the announcement Wednesday. In a statement, it said that PCR or rapid-antigen test results would not be required for those flying into the country. It also dropped a requirement to register for the country’s Ehteraz contract-tracing app. However, it’s mandatory to use the app to enter healthcare facilities in Qatar.
• Fourteen Mississippi residents have been arrested on criminal charges related to a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain government funds through a federal program for small businesses, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday, the AP reported separately. All are charged with conspiracy, illegal financial transactions and wire fraud by applying for loans through the Payroll Protection Program. The loans were dispersed by the U.S. Small Business Administration early on during the COVID pandemic to prevent businesses from failing.
China’s leader Xi Jinping opened the Communist Party congress in Beijing with a defense of his 10 years in power and a bid for a third five-year term. By staying in power, he would break succession norms established to prevent a return to a Mao-style dictatorship. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP
shares tumbled 6% Thursday after the diagnostics company said revenue in the third quarter of 2022 came in lower than expected as fewer people got PCR or antigen tests for COVID. Labcorp had earnings of $352.8 million, or $3.90 per share, in the third quarter of 2022, down from $587.3 million, or $6.05 per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Adjusted earnings per share were $4.68, against a FactSet consensus of $4.09. The company’s revenue was $3.6 billion for the quarter. That’s down from $4.0 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2021. The FactSet consensus was $3.9 billion.
Here’s what the numbers say:
The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 629.1 million on Thursday, while the death toll rose above 6.58 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 97.3 million cases and 1,069,449 fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 226.6 million people living in the U.S., equal to 68.2% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots. Just 111.4 million have had a booster, equal to 49.1% of the vaccinated population, and 26.8 million of those who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 40.6% of those who received a first booster.
So far, just 19.4 million Americans have had the updated COVID booster that targets the original virus and the omicron variants that have been dominant in the U.S. and around the world for months.