As Covid rules ease, virus surges globally

Even as covid restrictions ease around the world, allowing unvaccinated US travelers to enter France for example, covid rates appear to be rising in many places. And White House officials have raised concerns about a “mass” migration event that could be triggered at the Mexican border.

Axios: Biden officials fear ‘mass migration event’ if COVID border policies end

US intelligence officials are privately bracing for a massive influx of more than 170,000 migrants to the Mexican border if COVID-era policies that allow instant deportations during the public health emergency end, Axios told sources with direct knowledge of the discussions. The ongoing response includes a newly created – and previously unreported “Southwest Border Coordination Center (SBCC)” – essentially a war room to coordinate an interagency response. (Swan and Knight, 3/17)

The Washington Post: Unvaccinated Americans can travel to France under eased travel restrictions

France has moved the United States into a low-risk category in its international travel restrictions, making it much easier for Americans who are not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to enter. The European country has added the United States to its “green” list, which indicates “negligible or moderate circulation of the virus, with no emerging variants of concern”, according to the Interior Ministry. (Diller, 3/16)

AP: Canada to drop COVID testing for vaccinated visitors: official

Canada will no longer require pre-arrival COVID-19 testing for vaccinated travelers beginning April 1. A senior government official confirmed the change on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity due to lack of permission to speak publicly ahead of the announcement this week. (Gilles, 3/16)

Covid cases are rising around the world –

Reuters: WHO says global rise in COVID cases is just ‘tip of the iceberg’

Figures showing a global rise in COVID-19 cases could herald a much bigger problem, as some countries are also reporting declining testing rates, the WHO said on Tuesday, warning nations to remain vigilant against the virus. After more than a month of decline, COVID cases began to rise around the world last week, the WHO said, with lockdowns in Asia and China’s Jilin province struggling to contain an outbreak. (Rigby and Mishra, 3/17)

Bloomberg: Germany’s Covid cases hit record high with restrictions set to expire

Germany recorded a record number of new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, pushing the infection rate to a new high for the sixth straight day and sounding the alarm ahead of plans to lift nearly all remaining curbs this weekend -end. Chancellor Olaf Scholz is due to hold talks with regional leaders on pandemic strategy later on Thursday, with Russia’s war on Ukraine also on the agenda. While there is little appetite to reimpose nationwide restrictions as long as hospitalization rates remain under control, some of the 16 state premiers are unhappy with the rapid pace of unfolding. The lower house of parliament is due to approve the measures to ease the legislation on Friday. (Rogers, 3/17)

Bloomberg: How South Korea beats Covid despite 600,000 new cases a day

South Korea has reached two seemingly contradictory pandemic milestones: It recorded more than 600,000 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, most of the world. At the same time, the country has one of the lowest virus death rates in the world. While anywhere else a surge of infection of this magnitude would signal an out-of-control outbreak that would soon be followed by a spike in deaths, in South Korea – which is roughly the size of Indiana – the picture is more complex. . (Cha, 3/17)

The Wall Street Journal: China’s new Covid wave hits ‘quarantine insurance’ sellers

In a country where someone who inadvertently comes across a patient with Covid-19 can instantly put an entire apartment complex on lockdown for 14 days or more, Chinese insurers last year began offering what they called a “quarantine insurance” – lock yourself in, get paid. Now, as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus rapidly spreads across the country, overwhelmed insurers are disconnecting products. (Cheng, 03/16)

In other world developments –

Reuters: Britain approves AstraZeneca’s antibody-based COVID therapy

Britain’s medicines regulator has approved AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) antibody-based COVID-19 treatment for adults with a weak immune response, marking a major milestone in the fight against the pandemic as infections rise at globally amid the spread of the Omicron variant. The decision to grant approval for the treatment was endorsed by the government’s independent scientific advisory body after reviewing the evidence, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said on Thursday. (3/17)

Bloomberg: Medicago Covid Shot faces WHO rejection over company’s tobacco ties

Medicago Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine is set to become the first Western vaccine to be rejected by the World Health Organization, due to the company’s ties to cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc. its Canadian biopharmaceutical company’s prequalification application for the Covifenz vaccine was not accepted, according to the WHO’s guidance document dated March 2. This means the WHO is unlikely to approve the vaccine for emergency use, which would also prevent it from accessing the Covax Global Vaccine Sharing Center. (Gretler, 3/16)

Axios: WHO chief: Ethiopian Tigray facing a “catastrophic” health crisis

The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday warned of the growing and “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, saying: “There is nowhere on earth where health millions of people is more at risk”. As world leaders focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine and the growing refugee crisis in Europe, United Nations bodies and humanitarian groups are urging nations not to forget other crises around the world. Fighting broke out in the Tigray region of Ethiopia in November 2020. Since then, the war between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and Ethiopian forces and their Eritrean allies has escalated, leading to what the UN has described as a de facto blockade of aid to Tigray. The conflict has also spread to neighboring regions. (Gottbrath, 3/16)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.