The Daily Dose: South Korea teetering on the edge of a country-wide outbreak; FDA chief walks back comments (of course, he did)

South Korea’s struggles against the COVID-19 pandemic is on the verge of becoming a full-on crisis. After months of keeping SARS-CoV-2 under control, the virus appears to be sweeping across the country. Per South China Morning Post, “South Korea on Tuesday ordered schools and kindergartens in Seoul to resume online classes as authorities struggle to contain several coronavirus clusters.
There were 280 new infections confirmed on Tuesday, taking South Korea’s total to 17,945. The numbers are low in global terms but represent the country’s 12th consecutive day of triple-digit increases after several weeks with new cases in the 30s and 40s.” The country’s mini-outbreak shows how quickly conditions can go from undetectable baseline levels to outbreak status.

On the other hand, Japan appears to be making progress against the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases. According to the Japan Times, “The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Monday reported 95 new cases of the novel coronavirus, sharply lower after topping 200 cases in recent days. It was the first daily figure below 100 in Tokyo since July 8, when it reported 75 cases, according to the metropolitan government. The single-day figure, compared with 212 confirmed on Sunday, brought Tokyo’s cumulative total to 19,428.” It’s too soon to tell whether the country’s efforts will result in bringing down virus levels permanently.

The notion of lasting immunity to SARS-CoV-2 has taken a small blow. News from Hong Kong suggests a person has been reinfected after removing from CODID-19 months before. Per Science, “Scientists have found the first solid evidence that people can be reinfected with the virus that causes COVID-19. A new study shows a 33-year-old man who was treated at the hospital for a mild case in March harbored the virus again when he was tested at the Hong Kong airport after returning from Europe on 15 August, less than 5 months later.” It’s still too soon to tell whether this finding represents an outlier and whether vaccines will prefer lasting immunity.

Public health mirrors the inequalities present in the world. Even when it comes to a potential COVID-19 vaccine, the split between the have’s and have-not’s is becoming obvious. According to Nature, “Pre-orders are rolling in. By mid-August, the United States had secured 800 million doses of at least 6 vaccines in development, with an option to purchase around one billion more. The United Kingdom was the world’s highest per-capita buyer, with 340 million purchased: around 5 doses for each citizen. The European Union nations — which are buying vaccines as a group — and Japan have locked down hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines for themselves.” The trend is discouraging.

While we’re on the topic of discouraging, the politics that dictate the United States’ COVID-19 response continues to disappoint (and that’s putting mildly). No soon had Food and Drug Administration head Stephen Hahn stood next to President Trump as the announced the curative aspects of convalescent plasma and its emergency approval, only to see the FDA chief walk back his words once challenged by scientists. Hahn’s comments per the Associated Press, “‘I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction,’ Hahn tweeted.”

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

Sign up for Scientific Inquirer’s Steady State Newsletter for the week’s top stories, exclusive interviews, and weekly giveaways. Plenty of value added but without the tax.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: