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Australia flu season gives U.S. insights of what to expect

Health experts say they don’t expect the coronavirus to slow down flu vaccine production in the U.S. and actually are anticipating producing more vaccines for the upcoming season. What’s more, preliminary data out of Australia, where the flu season is underway, shows an increase in vaccinations, despite lockdown measures due to COVID-19. The surprising assessment…

Australia flu season gives U.S. insights of what to expect

Health experts say they don’t expect the coronavirus to slow down flu vaccine production in the U.S. and actually are anticipating producing more vaccines for the upcoming season.

What’s more, preliminary data out of Australia, where the flu season is underway, shows an increase in vaccinations, despite lockdown measures due to COVID-19.

The surprising assessment about the upcoming flu season comes as the medical community is focusing on devising a vaccine or cure for the coronavirus, which has hampered food supply chains, shut down transportation and manufacturing industries, and closed universities conducting various types of research over the past two months.

Still, manufacturers expect to produce more than 188 million doses of the flu vaccine for this season, compared to 175 million doses last season, according to Litjen Tan, chief strategy officer of the Immunization Action Coalition, a nonprofit that distributes information about vaccines and the diseases they prevent.

“The reason they increased supply was because of the anticipating impact of COVID,” Mr. Tan said. “I think they really bumped it up because we really want to get the flu off the table this year. We really want to get people protected so that when COVID-19 resurges we’re not going to have flu as a competing factor for health care but also as a competing factor for diagnosis since symptoms are pretty similar.”

In Australia, about 62% of the population has received a flu vaccination this year, compared to 41% last year, Mr. Tan said, citing provisional numbers.

The flu season in Australia spans from April to October, usually peaking in August. For the U.S., flu activity begins to increase in October and most often peaks between December and February.

Since the vast majority of flu vaccines are manufactured with eggs, efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 should not impact vaccine production for influenza, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

The coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. appeared during the tail end of the flu season, and there have been a handful of reports of patients being infected with both flu and COVID-19 at the same time, Dr. Schaffner said.

“What we anticipate is that there will likely be a double-barreled respiratory virus season with both flu and COVID-19, more or less simultaneously active,” Dr. Schaffner said. “And of course, the two of them resemble each other in clinical presentation, which will lead to a lot of confusion and concern both on the part of the public and providers.”

Influenza and COVID-19 share many symptoms, including fever, chills, muscle aches and cough, which tends to be dry with the coronavirus. Other COVID-19 symptoms: shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, loss of taste and smell.

The coronavirus has infected more than 1.6 million people and killed more than 97,000 in the U.S. as of Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker.

Last season, the flu sickened between 39 million to 56 million people, hospitalized 410,000 to 740,000 and killed 24,000 to 62,000 in the U.S., federal estimates show.

The estimated fatality rate for COVID-19 is between 3% and 4%, while the mortality rate for influenza is usually below 0.1%.

While manufacturers expect to produce more flu vaccine doses this year, infectious disease experts worry it might be more difficult to get a flu shot due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Distribution may be an issue given that people usually go to their doctors’ offices so a lot will depend on the ability to go to your physicians’ offices in the fall when we start administering the vaccine. It will be difficult to have big efforts where you have big clinics where people go and get their flu shots,” said Dr. Sandro Cinti, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

He added that it’s important to push people to get the flu vaccine to prevent influenza and to lessen confusion over whether a respiratory illness is the flu or COVID-19 while freeing up the health care system more to respond to coronavirus cases.

While Dr. Cinti thinks people will be able to visit most doctors’ offices to get flu shots, he said there might be more barriers such as booking an appointment when physicians are trying to avoid full waiting rooms.

People might rely more on drive-through and curbside clinics to get their flu shots this season, Mr. Tan said.

“If there were ever a year to get vaccinated against the flu, this is it,” Dr. Schaffner said, adding he hopes COVID-19 ends up being a seasonal illness so that people can get a break from the viral infection.

Health officials recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every season.

Flu vaccine production in the U.S. began in the spring after the influenza strains were selected by the World Health Organization.

The three virus strains for the 2020-2021 flu season are an A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus; an A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus; and a B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus.

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Australia reports deadliest day of coronavirus pandemic: Live |NationalTribune.com

Australia has reported the deadliest day of the pandemic with 25 fatalities from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours and 282 new cases in the state of Victoria, according to the government on Monday. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday postponed the general election by four weeks to October 17 but ruled…

Australia reports deadliest day of coronavirus pandemic: Live |NationalTribune.com

Australia has reported the deadliest day of the pandemic with 25 fatalities from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours and 282 new cases in the state of Victoria, according to the government on Monday.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday postponed the general election by four weeks to October 17 but ruled out delaying it any further, as the country tackles a new outbreak of the coronavirus.
 The United States has surpassed 170,000 coronavirus deaths, according to the latest Johns Hopkins University tally, as health officials express concerns about COVID-19 complicating the fall flu season. More than 5.4 million people in the US have been infected, while 1.8 million have recovered.

Lebanon has registered a record daily number of coronavirus infections, with 439 people contracting the virus and six fatalities, bringing the total to 8,881 cases and 103 deaths.

Worldwide coronavirus cases surpassed 21.59 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, while more than 13.59 million people have recovered. At least 773,000 people have died.
Here are the latest updates:
Monday, August 17
01:15 GMT – Mexico’s coronavirus cases rise to 522,162, deaths to 56,757
Mexico’s health ministry has reported 4,448 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 214 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 522,162 cases and 56,757 deaths as of the end of Sunday, according to Reuters news agency.
The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
01:00 GMT – China reports 22 new coronavirus cases in mainland
China reported on Monday 22 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for August 16, compared with 19 cases a day earlier, Reuters news agency reported quoting the National Health Commission.
All of the new infections were imported cases, the agency said in a statement. There were no new deaths.
China also reported 37 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 16 a day earlier.
As of August 16, mainland China had a total of 84,849 confirmed coronavirus cases, it said. China’s death toll from the coronavirus remained unchanged at 4,634.
00:50 GMT – Evo Morales’ sister dies in Bolivia due to COVID-19
Esther Morales, the 70-year-old sister of former Bolivian President Evo Morales, has died of COVID-19, AP news agency reported quoting a statement from the exiled leader.
“She was like my mother,” wrote Morales on social media. He was forced to resign last year after an election marred by irregularities.
Morales, who is in Argentina, faces sedition and other charges if he returns to Bolivia. He blamed “racism and political persecution” for preventing him from visiting his sister in a hospital in Oruro, southeast of La Paz.
In the last two weeks, supporters of Morales’ party set up nationwide blockades to protest the recent postponement of elections as Bolivia struggles with the coronavirus pandemic.
00:08 GMT – Australia reports deadliest day of pandemic
Australia has reported the deadliest day of the pandemic with 25 fatalities from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours and 282 new cases in the state of Victoria, according to the government.
The previous record for Australia was 21 deaths in one day.
00:05 GMT – Mexico president says vaccine expected to be ready early next year
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has announced that a COVID-19 vaccine could be available in the country and throughout Latin America by the first quarter of 2021. 
In a video posted on social media on Sunday, Obrador said Mexico has reached a deal with Argentina’s AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company to produce a vaccine for distribution throughout Latin America.
Mexico has recorded more than 517,000 coronavirus cases and more than 56,500 deaths – the third-highest in the world next to the US and Brazil.
00:01 GMT – Lebanon registers new daily record of coronavirus infections
Lebanon has registered a record daily number of coronavirus infections, with 439 people contracting the virus and six fatalities.
The new infections bring to 8,881 the total number of people reported infected in the small country of just more than five million. Some 103 have died because of COVID-19.
The latest development comes as the country continues to grapple with the aftermath of the Beirut explosion that killed more than 200 people and injured about 6,000 others.
Lebanon’s health sector has been challenged by the pandemic that hit amid a deepening economic crisis. The blast that hit in Beirut’s centre knocked out at least three hospitals in the capital and greatly increased pressure on those still operating.
__________________________________________________________________
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 
For all the key developments from yesterday, August 16, go here.
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Australia sees biggest rise in coronavirus deaths: Live updates |NationalTribune.com

The Australian state of Victoria reported 19 deaths overnight as it battles a resurgence of the virus in Melbourne. Nearly 200 doctors in India have died after contracting COVID-19, the India Medical Association reported. At least 19.7 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 729,000 have died. More than…

Australia sees biggest rise in coronavirus deaths: Live updates |NationalTribune.com

The Australian state of Victoria reported 19 deaths overnight as it battles a resurgence of the virus in Melbourne.

Nearly 200 doctors in India have died after contracting COVID-19, the India Medical Association reported.
At least 19.7 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 729,000 have died. More than 12 million have recovered.
Here are the latest updates:
Monday, August 10
03:15 GMT – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 436 to 216,327
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 436 to 216,327, Reuters news agency reported on Monday quoting data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.
The reported death toll rose by one to 9,197, the tally showed.
02:45 GMT – Manila to distribute one million face masks to help contain pandemic

The Philippine economy took a major hit amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the government reporting a 16.5 percent drop in the GDP in the second quarter of this year [Francis R Malasig/EPA]

Manila’s mayor has announced that the capital city of the Philippines will distribute one million face masks to its residents, as part of the local government’s effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Mayor Franciso Moreno also said that the city is also allocating at least 200m pesos ($4m) to procure COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available.
The Philippines has almost 130,000 cases nationwide and over 2,200 deaths. Most of the cases and fatalities were reported in the Metro Manila area, which has a population of over 12 million.
A lockdown has been reimposed in Metro Manila and nearby provinces until August 18. The national government has been facing criticism over its response to the pandemic, forcing local governments to step up and adopt localised restrictions and policies. 
02:25 GMT – South Korea reports 28 new coronavirus cases
South Korea reported 28 new coronavirus cases on Monday, including 17 local infections raising the country’s total to 14,626.
Yonhap news agency quoted the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying that of the 17 local transmissions, 11 were reported in the capital, Seoul.
Meanwhile, a church in Goyang, north of Seoul, reported eight additional patients on Sunday, raising the total caseload to 24.
The were no new reported deahts, keeping the total fatalities at 305. Around 93 percent of the total cases have already recovered.
01:48 GMT – Venezuela’s Maduro extends coronavirus restrictions for 30 days
Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has announced the extension of the country’s state of alert for another 30 days, to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Maduro made the announcement as he said that 5,491 Venezuelan nationals who have recently returned to the country have tested positive of the coronavirus.
As of the end of Sunday, the country added 844 new cases, including 797 local infections and 47 imported cases, as well as eight deaths. Venezuel has reported almost 26,000 cases and 223 deaths so far.
01:15 GMT – Brazil reports more than 23,000 new coronavirus cases, 572 deaths
Brazil’s health ministry has reported 23,010 new cases of COVID-19, with 572 new fatalities, as the country continues to struggle with containing the spread of the deadly disease.
With the latest numbers, South America’s most populous nation now has more than 3 million cases, and over 2.3 million recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
The country’s death toll from COVID-19 has hit more than 101,000 – second only to the US.

Demonstrators in Sao Paulo protest against Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic last Friday [Andre Penner/AP]

01:00 GMT – China reports 49 new coronavirus cases in mainland
China reported on Monday 49 new coronavirus cases in the mainland as of the end of August 9, compared with 23 cases a day earlier, Reuters news agency said quoting the health authority.
The National Health Commission said in a statement 35 of the new infections were imported cases. There were no new deaths.
China also reported 31 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 11 a day earlier.
As of August 9, mainland China had a total of 84,668 confirmed coronavirus cases, it said.
China’s death toll from the coronavirus remained unchanged at 4,634.
00:15 GMT – Mexico reports 4,376 new COVID-19 cases, 292 new fatalities
Mexico’s health ministry reported on Sunday 4,376 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 292 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 480,278 cases and 52,298 deaths, according to Reuters News Agency.
Officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
Mexico has the third-highest coronavirus death tally globally, behind the United States and Brazil. 
00:05 GMT – Australia’s Victoria reports 322 new COVID-19 cases, 19 deaths
Australia reported a record number of daily coronavirus deaths on Monday, although the number of new infections in the country’s virus hot spot fell to a near two week low, according to Reuters news agency.
Officials in Victoria state, which is the epicentre of Australia’s second coronavirus wave, reported that 19 people died from the virus over the past 24 hours. With other states still to report daily new case and death numbers, that already marks the country’s biggest single day rise in fatalities.
In more positive news, Victoria officials also reported 322 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest number of single day new infections since July 29.
Australia has recorded about 21,000 COVID-19 cases, and 314 deaths, still far fewer than many other developed nations.
________________________________________________________________
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur. 
For all the key developments from yesterday, August 9, go here.
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Australia steps up Hong Kong action in wake of China security law |NationalTribune.com

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suspended the country’s extradition agreement with Hong Kong and extended visas for an estimated 10,000 Hong Kong people already in Australia because of concerns about the impact of the national security law that China imposed on the territory 10 days ago. Morrison said the extradition pact was being suspended because…

Australia steps up Hong Kong action in wake of China security law |NationalTribune.com

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has suspended the country’s extradition agreement with Hong Kong and extended visas for an estimated 10,000 Hong Kong people already in Australia because of concerns about the impact of the national security law that China imposed on the territory 10 days ago.
Morrison said the extradition pact was being suspended because the security legislation represents “a fundamental change in circumstance”.
The prime minister also said the visas of about 10,000 Hong Kong people already living in Australia would be extended by five years, and those on student or temporary work visas would be offered a pathway to permanent residency.
“There will be citizens of Hong Kong who may be looking to move elsewhere, to start a new life somewhere else,” Morrison said. It was not clear what Australia might offer to those people still in Hong Kong. 
‘Increased risk’
The national security law – which bans what China calls secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – was imposed on the eve of the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. The move followed months of protests, some of which turned violent, over perceived mainland encroachment into the autonomy and freedoms that were agreed under the so-called “one country, two systems” framework.

Protests on first day of Hong Kong’s new security laws

Taking to Twitter on Thursday morning, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the legislation “undermines” the principle of “one country, two systems”.
Her comment followed discussions with the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and New Zealand. Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign minister, later said the country was reviewing all its “relationship settings” with Hong Kong. 
The UK has already said it will give about three million Hong Kong people the right to live in the country and provide them with a pathway to citizenship. Canada is also said to be mulling higher immigration and has already suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. 

Today I spoke with 🇬🇧 🇨🇦 🇺🇸 🇳🇿 on global security, including concerns that the NSL imposed on #HongKong undermines One Country Two Systems & trust in international agreements. We will work together for human rights & freedoms @DominicRaab @SecPompeo @winstonpeters @FP_Champagne
— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) July 9, 2020

Australia is also making a pitch for international financial services, media, and consulting businesses to relocate and said it would offer incentives and visa packages for staff to help with any move.
“We want them to look to Australia, to come, to set up shop,” said acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge.
The country also updated its travel advisory for Hong Kong, which is currently home to about 100,000 Australians. 
The travel advice says Australians “may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds”.
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