The US federal government is running out of funds to provide Americans, especially those who are uninsured, with Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, as the country’s progress achieved over the last two years in the fight against Covid-19 is now threatened by Congress’s failure to fund the continuing coronavirus response effort, reported The New York Times.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) unveiled a new strategic plan last week that lays out a path toward ending the global emergency of Covid-19. In its third strategic preparedness and response plan on Covid-19, the WHO acknowledged the pandemic remains an acute global crisis but charted a path to end the global emergency if key measures are implemented rapidly.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorised a second Covid-19 booster shot for people aged 50 and older, but several public health experts said younger, healthier members of that group don’t necessarily need a fourth shot as soon as they become eligible. “This is one of those where I don’t think anyone needs to race,” Richard Besser, former acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told NBC’s TODAY show. “This is one of those things where people should think thoughtfully.”
The FDA’s authorisation, announced and promptly followed by new CDC guidance, allows anyone 50 and older to seek a fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine at least four months after their initial booster. Immunocompromised people, for whom a three-shot regimen is considered the primary vaccination series, can seek a second booster as well.
As the coronavirus pandemic moves into what the White House hopes is a “new normal,” the Biden administration has introduced covid.gov, a federal website meant to help Americans who are infected with the virus find the treatment they need quickly and at no cost. “This website is part of our effort – our continued and ongoing effort – to make sure that people have what they need to deal with Covid as we move into potentially the next phase of this disease,” the White House said.
This new phase, aimed at helping the United States transition to “living with the virus,” has four main goals: protecting against and treating Covid-19, preparing for new variants, avoiding shutdowns and fighting the virus abroad, according to the White House announcement.
The CDC dropped cruise voyages from its list of coronavirus travel health notices, the latest barrier to fall for an industry seeking a semblance of pre-pandemic norms. Cruise lines still require passengers to be vaccinated and test negative before boarding.
The CDC issues its notices “to alert travellers and other audiences to health threats around the world,” ranking destinations between Levels 1 and 4 based on the number and trajectory of new cases. It had included notices for cruise ships since March 2020, when cruise lines stopped sailing from US waters for more than a year.
“CDC’s decision to remove the travel health notice for cruise travel was based on the current state of the pandemic and overall decreases in Covid-19 cases onboard cruise ships over the past several weeks,” The Washington Post quoted CDC spokesman David Daigle as saying in an email.
Fewer Americans were receiving regular unemployment benefits than at any time in more than five decades, government data said Thursday, in a confirmation of the tightness of the US job market. The Labour Department said seasonally adjusted insured unemployment came in at 1.307 million in the week ended March 19, the lowest figure since the week of December 27, 1969, when it was 1.304 million.
The number underscored how strongly the labor market had recovered after unemployment spiked to levels not seen since the Great Depression when Covid-19 broke out two years ago.
After dropping to its own five-decade low in the week ended March 19, the data said the number of new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 14,000 last week to 202,000, seasonally adjusted, slightly above analysts’ forecasts.
Nancy Vanden Houten of Oxford Economics said she didn’t expect the overall number of people receiving aid to increase, given how strong job growth has been in recent months.
New claims will also stay low, she said in an analysis, because “employers, who continue to struggle to attract and retain workers, are likely to keep layoffs to a minimum.”
With input from Xinhua and AFP