Health News Roundup: Leading WHO advisers call for ‘realistic’ COVID data from China at key meeting; U.S. FDA allows abortion pills to be sold at retail pharmacies and more

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Leading scientists advising the World Health Organization said they wanted a “more realistic picture” about the COVID-19 situation from China’s top experts at a key meeting on Tuesday as worries grow about the rapid spread of the virus.

The WHO has invited Chinese scientists to a virtual closed meeting with its technical advisory group on viral evolution on Tuesday, to present data on which variants are circulating in the country. It is not open to the public or media.

U.S. FDA allows abortion pills to be sold at retail pharmacies

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow retail pharmacies to offer abortion pills in the United States for the first time, the agency said on Tuesday, even as more states seek to ban medication abortion. The regulatory change will potentially expand abortion access as President Joe Biden’s administration wrestles with how best to protect abortion rights after they were sharply curtailed by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade ruling and the state bans that followed.

EU offers China free vaccines as COVID-19 infections surge

The European Union has offered free COVID-19 vaccines to China, the EU executive said on Tuesday, as infections there surged following Beijing’s relaxation of its “zero-COVID” policies. China has not responded to the offer yet, a spokesperson for the European Commission told journalists at a regular briefing. He did not specify the amount of vaccines the EU was offering or their manufacturers.

Malawi delays reopening schools as cholera cases surge

Malawi has delayed the opening of public schools in the southern African country’s two major cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, the health minister said Monday, to try to slow down a surge in cholera deaths. The total number of cases and deaths has accelerated to 17,824 and 595 respectively since cases were first reported in March, with the mortality rate increasing to 3.34 per cent, according to the Health Ministry.

South Korea to require COVID tests for Hong Kong, Macau travellers

South Korea’s health authorities said on Tuesday it will impose mandatory COVID-19 tests on travellers from Hong Kong and Macau, after Beijing’s decision to lift stringent zero-COVID policies. Effective Jan. 7, travellers from Hong Kong and Macau would be required to submit a negative result from a PCR test, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

China urges ‘final victory’ over COVID as global concern mounts over spread

Global health officials tried to determine the facts of China’s raging COVID-19 outbreak and how to prevent a further spread as the government’s mouthpiece newspaper on Wednesday rallied citizens for a “final victory” over the virus. China’s axing of its stringent anti-virus controls last month has unleashed COVID on a 1.4 billion population that has little natural immunity having been shielded from the virus since it emerged in its Wuhan city three years ago.

U.S. Postal Service can continue to deliver prescription abortion medication – DOJ

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) can continue to deliver prescription abortion medication despite a June 2022 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a landmark abortion rights decision, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. The department’s Office of Legal Counsel said in an opinion sought by USPS that the mailing of mifepristone and misoprostol, commonly used to terminate pregnancies, did not violate an 1873 law known as the Comstock Act.

Factbox-Countries mandate COVID tests for China travellers, EU to discuss

Authorities around the world are imposing or considering curbs on travellers from China as COVID-19 cases there surge following its relaxation of “zero-COVID” rules. China has rejected criticism of its COVID data. PLACES IMPOSING CURBS

New Zealand won’t require Chinese arrivals to show COVID-19 test

The New Zealand government said on Wednesday it would not require travellers from China to produce a negative COVID-19 test, bucking a trend that has seen a number of nations implement such measures as cases surge in China. New Zealand’s COVID-19 minister, Ayesha Verrall, said in a statement that a public health risk assessment had concluded visitors from China would not contribute significantly to the number of cases in the country.

Most EU countries back COVID pre-departure testing for flights from China

Most European Union countries favour introducing pre-departure COVID testing for travellers from China, the European Commission said on Tuesday, as Beijing plans to lift travel restrictions on its citizens despite a wave of COVID infections. The common EU approach emerged after a meeting on Tuesday of the Health Security Committee, an EU advisory body of national health experts from the EU-s 27 countries and chaired by the Commission.

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