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DAILY DOSE: Waves of Covid-19 are rolling around the world; UK government exploring effectiveness of Wegovy.

Researchers predict China will experience a COVID-19 infection cycle every six months due to the lifting of restrictions and dominance of highly infectious variants, with a risk of new variants emerging. The current surge is primarily due to a subvariant of Omicron, XBB.1.5, which could infect up to 65 million people per week by the end of June. Despite China vaccinating over 90% of its population, immunity is waning and XBB can evade vaccine and prior infection protection. Minor waves are also appearing in other parts of the world. Antibodies from previous Omicron variants can provide approximately four months of protection against XBB1 strains. As infection cycles continue, surveillance of emerging variants is crucial. Meanwhile, major Chinese cities are administering a quadrivalent COVID-19 booster designed to offer broad protection, including against the XBB variant.

The Biden administration is contesting a judge’s order that could eliminate health insurance requirements for coverage of cost-free HIV-prevention drugs, cancer screenings, and other preventive care. The order, which concerns Obamacare, was on hold as it was being appealed. The administration fears that implementing the order could threaten preventive care for about 150 million insured people. The law’s challengers argue that insurers and employers providing health coverage would not risk prosecution by dropping preventive coverage before the case’s resolution. The order by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor is based on his ruling that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, being made of volunteers, cannot enforce recommendations without violating the Constitution’s Appointment Clause. The administration agrees to O’Connor’s ruling enforcement for the Texas plaintiffs who filed suit, but opposes its nationwide application.

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The UK government is launching a £40 million pilot program to investigate the use of Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drug, Wegovy, outside specialist services, despite an unclear market launch due to supply issues. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended Wegovy for adults with weight-related conditions and a BMI of 35 within the NHS’s specialist weight management scheme. The pilot aims to reduce hospital pressure and cut NHS waiting lists, as obesity, a leading cause of severe health conditions, costs the NHS £6.5 billion annually. The pilot will also examine the potential use of Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, currently a diabetes medication expected to be approved for obesity treatment. The initiative will test the drugs’ safe prescription by general practitioners and how the NHS can provide community or digital support. The pilot could open up access to tens of thousands more potential patients.

Elon Musk revealed that during his recent trip to China, he discussed artificial intelligence (AI) risks and regulation with senior Chinese officials. The Tesla and Twitter CEO said China will be initiating AI regulations, although he did not provide specifics. His comments came during a livestreamed Twitter discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr, a Democratic presidential hopeful. China’s upcoming AI legislation likely includes a draft law requiring new AI products to pass a security assessment reflecting “core socialist values” before release. Amid global concerns over AI’s potential for misuse, the draft also bans content promoting “terrorist propaganda”, “ethnic hatred”, or anything disruptive to social order. Musk, who has significant business interests in China, described his meetings there as “very promising”, expressing full confidence in the Chinese market.

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

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