Health News Roundup: France set to reduce COVID variant sequencing capacity -France Inter radio; China's health officials exchange views with WHO on COVID-19 and more – Devdiscourse

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
France set to reduce COVID variant sequencing capacity -France Inter radio
France is set to reduce from next week its capacity to carry out sequencing of COVID-19 infections, just as the epidemic is soaring in China and the European Union asked member states to step up sequencing, France Inter radio said on Friday. From Dec. 31, six out of the eight sequencing platforms that have been conducting COVID surveillance for the French Health Ministry would stop doing so, France Inter said.
China’s health officials exchange views with WHO on COVID-19
Senior Chinese health officials exchanged views with the World Health Organization on Friday on the new coronavirus via a video conference, China’s National Health Commission said in a statement. Both sides exchanged views on the current epidemic situation, medical treatment, vaccination and other technical matters, the Chinese health authority said, adding that more technical exchanges would be held.
Rural residents worry for elderly as COVID rips across China
In a busy village clinic in Lezhi county in southwest China’s Sichuan province on Thursday, 59-year-old Yang waited anxiously as her husband received an intravenous drip in the adjacent room. For more than a week he has had a fever, chills, a cough, and other COVID-like symptoms, she said, like millions of other Chinese caught in a coronavirus wave after authorities dismantled zero-COVID policies this month.
China grants conditional approval for Merck’s COVID treatment
China has granted conditional approval for the import of Merck’s COVID-19 treatment Molnupiravir, China’s medical products regulator said on Friday. Molnupiravir, developed by Merck which is also known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, is approved to be used in adult patients who have mild to medium COVID infection and a high risk of progressing to severe cases, according to China’s National Medical Products Administration.
COVID travel curbs against Chinese visitors ‘discriminatory’- state media
Chinese state-media have railed against the growing number of foreign governments imposing COVID tests on travellers from China, calling the measures “discriminatory.” Having kept its borders all but shut for three years, imposing a strict regime of lockdowns and relentless testing, Beijing abruptly reversed course toward living with the virus on Dec. 7, and infections have spread rapidly in recent weeks.
World Health Organization needs more information on China COVID situation – Tedros
The World Health Organization needs more information to assess the latest surge in infections in China, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. COVID infections have risen across China this month after Beijing dismantled its zero-COVID policies including regular PCR testing on its population.
Pandemic curbs linked to early start to Europe’s winter flu season
Pandemic restrictions that hampered the circulation of viruses other than COVID-19 could be behind the unseasonably early upsurge in respiratory infections in Europe this winter that the festive break could prolong, scientists say. Apart from COVID-19, regulations to curb movement and social interaction limited the transmission of viruses that typically cause most infections during the colder, winter months, including influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).
Factbox-Spain, Malaysia add to restrictions on travellers from China
Authorities around the world are imposing or considering curbs on travellers from China as COVID-19 case there surge following its relaxation of “zero-COVID” rules. They cite a lack of information from China on variants and are concerned about a wave of infections. China has rejected criticism of its COVID data and said it expects future mutations to be potentially more transmissible but less severe.
Indian maker of cough syrup linked to Uzbekistan deaths halts production
The Indian maker of a cough syrup that was linked to the death of 19 children in Uzbekistan has halted production of all medicines after an inspection by the drug regulator, India’s health minister and the company said on Friday. Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said investigations were continuing, and production was suspended at the Marion Biotech unit in Noida, outside Delhi, while a senior executive for the firm said they were awaiting reports following the inspection.
EU urges more checks for COVID variants given surge in China
The European Union should consider immediately scaling up genomic sequencing of COVID-19 infections and monitoring of waste water, including from airports, to detect any new variants given the virus surge in China, the bloc’s health chief said. In a letter to health ministers of the EU’s 27 members, Stella Kyriakides said the bloc should be “very vigilant” as China lifted travel restrictions on Jan. 8 as reliable epidemiological and testing data for China were quite scarce.
(With inputs from agencies.)
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