Britain warns of difficult winter with flu, COVID-19

Medical staff wears PPE on a ward for COVID-19 patients at King's College Hospital in south east London on Dec 21, 2021. (VICTORIA JONES / PA VIA AP)

LONDON / MOSCOW / MAPUTO / LJUBLJANA – British health officials on Wednesday warned that increased circulation of flu and a resurgence in COVID-19 could lead to a difficult winter that increases pressure on the already stretched National Health Service (NHS).

Warnings over a possible "twindemic" of COVID-19 and flu have been issued each winter since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, but COVID restrictions that limited social contact have meant flu levels stayed low.

However, the government ended coronavirus restrictions earlier this year, meaning that social contact rates have returned to near pre-pandemic norms while immunity to flu is relatively low.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that given the risk it was important those eligible took up vaccines against COVID-19 and flu.

"There are strong indications we could be facing the threat of widely circulating flu, lower levels of natural immunity due to less exposure over the last three winters and an increase in COVID-19 circulating," said Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA.

After falling over the summer, there are signs that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are starting to tick up, and Hopkins said lots of variants currently circulating could evade the immune response to some extent.

Around 33 million people are eligible for a free flu vaccine this year, and 26 million are eligible for a COVID-19 booster. The elderly and clinically vulnerable are eligible for both, and young children can get flu shots.

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A man disinfects the hallway of a hotel against COVID-19 in Pemba, Mozambique on May 22, 2021. (JOHN WESSELS / AFP)


The Mozambican Health Ministry launched Tuesday the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 among adolescents aged 12 to 17 nationwide.

First dose vaccination will last until Oct 11 and take place in schools, markets, and bus terminals, among other places with a dense population through mobile brigades, according to a statement released by the ministry.

This is the country's fourth phase of mass vaccination against COVID-19 since the priority groups started to receive the jabs as early as March last year.

Mozambique has reportedly vaccinated 15.4 million people against the coronavirus disease, which equals 96.6 percent of the target population.

The country currently has 85 active COVID-19 cases, and one patient hospitalized, according to the ministry's latest update.

People wait to undergo a free rapid antigen test for the coronavirus disease at a testing center in the GUM, State Department store in Moscow on Jan 31, 2022. (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)


Russia recorded 36,605 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, taking the national tally to 20,869,714, the official monitoring and response center said Tuesday, with the national death toll up by 101 to 386,943.

Meanwhile, Moscow reported 2,089 new cases, taking its total caseload to 3,184,950.

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In this file photo taken on Jan 25, 2021,
teachers wait in line to receive COVID-19 tests at the Exhibition and Convention Centre in Ljubljana, Slovenia. (ZELJKO STEVANIC / XINHUA)


The number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Slovenia jumped to 3,878 on Monday, the highest daily tally since March 28, the country's National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) said on Tuesday.

The Monday tally soared from 762 on Sunday, the institute said on its website.

Slovenia, though battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, abolished all anti-virus measures at the end of May after daily cases had gradually fallen from an all-time high of 24,258 cases on Feb 1.

Earlier this month, the Slovenian government called upon all citizens aged above 60 or with chronic diseases to get a booster vaccine free of charge. 

While masks remained obligatory in health institutions, pharmacies and elderly care centers, the government also recommended using masks in public spaces.

The US Food and Drug Administration building is shown on Dec 10, 2020 in Silver Spring, Maryland. (MANUEL BALCE CENETA / AP)

United States

The US Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday it will now review only a small number of emergency use authorization requests for COVID-19 tests that are likely to have a significant benefit to public health, including fulfilling an unmet need.

The agency is revising its COVID-19 test policy in light of the current manufacturing status and number of cases, it said, adding companies seeking EUA for their COVID tests will have to now apply for the agency's traditional premarket review process.

"Taking into account the current status of manufacturing capacity and consumer access…shifting to traditional premarket review would best meet the public health needs at the current stage of the COVID-19 public health emergency," FDA official Jeff Shuren said in a statement.

Last week, federal investigators found that the regulator's decision to accept all EUA requests in the early months of the pandemic resulted in some 'problematic tests on the market' and recommended the FDA revise its EUA policies for the tests.

To date, more than 430 distinct COVID-19 tests have been issued EUAs. The FDA did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment on the status of these tests after Tuesday's policy revision.