Health News Roundup: Italy records 178,000 excess deaths during COVID pandemic; Ukraine needs humanitarian corridor for medicines to reach hospitals, health minister says and more – Devdiscourse

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
Italy records 178,000 excess deaths during COVID pandemic
Italy has recorded some 178,000 excess deaths, mostly attributable to COVID-19, during the coronavirus pandemic, the National Statistics Office (ISTAT) and National Health Institute (ISS) said in a report on Wednesday. The excess death figure, measured to the end of January 2022, calculates the difference between the total deaths from all causes since the start of the pandemic and the expected trend based on the 2015-2019 average.
Ukraine needs humanitarian corridor for medicines to reach hospitals, health minister says
Ukraine is facing problems distributing medicines to pharmacies and hospitals due to the Russian invasion and wants to establish a humanitarian corridor for them, Health Minister Oleh Lyashko said on Wednesday. Lyashko also raised the issue of supplying medical oxygen to coronavirus patients, but added that there were still enough stocks for the moment.
New Zealand’s parliament protest ends with clashes, arrests
New Zealand police on Wednesday ended an anti-vaccine mandate protest that had disrupted the capital for the past three weeks, dismantling an encampment outside parliament, towing away vehicles and arresting dozens. Several fires broke out among tents just metres from the parliament building, sending up billows of smoke before being doused by police, a Reuters witness said, as officers tried to clear the grounds.
FDA warns against use of certain unauthorized COVID antigen tests
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday warned people against the use of unauthorized versions of certain COVID-19 rapid antigen tests currently being marketed in the United States. These tests have not been authorized, cleared or approved by the FDA for distribution or use in the United States, the health agency said, adding that they may show false results.
Japan set to extend COVID curbs as hospitals battle infections
Japan prepared on Wednesday to extend infection controls in some regions amid high numbers of hospital patients hit by the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The central government has received requests from five prefectures, including Osaka and Kyoto in western Japan, to extend measures set to expire on Sunday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.
India’s output, exports of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine at risk due to Ukraine crisis
India’s production and exports of Russia’s Sputnik COVID-19 vaccines are expected to slow further following U.S. sanctions on Russia’s sovereign wealth fund that promotes the shot globally, three Indian pharmaceutical industry sources told Reuters. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) had billed India as one of Sputnik’s biggest production hubs and markets, though local sales have stagnated at 1.2 million doses out of 1.8 billion doses of various vaccines administered in the country.
Hong Kong urges calm as residents fret over COVID measures
Any decision to impose a COVID-19 lockdown in Hong Kong will take into account the global financial hub’s status and ensure basic needs, the government said on Wednesday, urging anxious residents who thronged supermarkets this week to stay calm. Authorities reported a new daily record of 55,353 new infections, with 117 deaths in the Chinese-ruled city. Infections have surged more than 500 times from about 100 cases a day at the beginning of February.
Two years after world’s biggest lockdown, India surges back to normal life
Almost two years after India went into the world’s biggest lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, students headed back to school in Maharashtra state on Wednesday, a sign of normal life resuming as infection rates fall. India’s daily coronavirus infections rose by less than 10,000 for a third straight day on Wednesday, a level last seen in late December before the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, data from the health ministry showed.
Fitbit recalls over 1 million of its Ionic smartwatches on burn hazard worries
Google-owned fitness tracker maker Fitbit has recalled over a million of its Ionic smartwatches following reports of burn injuries from overheating batteries, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said on Wednesday. Fitbit said it had received “a very limited number” of injury reports and the total number of the smartwatches recalled was less than 0.01% of units sold.
Biden announces new COVID initiative that gives Americans free pills
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday said his administration has launched a new initiative that will allow Americans to get tested for COVID-19 at a pharmacy and immediately receive free pills if they test positive. “We’re launching the “Test to Treat” initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they’re positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot, at no cost,” Biden said during his State of the Union speech.
(With inputs from agencies.)
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