The coronavirus pandemic has hurt the U.S. seafood industry due to a precipitous fall in imports and exports and a drop in catch of some species.
Those are the findings of a group of scientists who sought to quantify the damage of the pandemic on America’s seafood business, which has also suffered in part because of its reliance on restaurant sales. Consumer demand for seafood at restaurants dropped by more than 70% during the early months of the pandemic, according to the scientists, who published their findings recently in the scientific journal Fish and Fisheries.
Imports fell about 37% and exports about 43% over the first nine months of the year compared to 2019, the study said. The economic impact has been felt most severely in states that rely heavily on the seafood sector, such as Maine, Alaska and Louisiana, said Easton White, a University of Vermont biologist and the study’s lead author.
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom for the industry, as seafood delivery and home cooking have helped businesses weather the pandemic, White said. The industry will be in a better position to rebound after the pandemic if domestic consumers take more of an interest in fresh seafood, he said.
“Shifting to these local markets is something that could be really helpful for recovery purposes,” White said. “The way forward is to focus on shortening the supply chain a little bit.”
The study found that Alaska’s catch of halibut, a high-value fish, declined by 40% compared to the previous year through June. Statistics for many U.S. fisheries won’t be available until next year, but those findings dovetail with what many fishermen are seeing on the water.
Maine’s catch of monkfish has dried up because of the lack of access to foreign markets such as Korea, said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.
“The prices just went so low, they couldn’t build a business doing that this year,” Martens said.
The study confirms what members of the seafood industry have been hearing for months, said Kyle Foley, senior program manager for the seafood program at Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Foley, who was not involved in the study, said the findings make clear that the seafood industry needs more help from the federal government.
The federal government allocated $300 million in CARES Act dollars to the seafood industry in May. The government announced $16 billion for farmers and ranchers that same month.
“It helps to make the case for why there’s a need for more relief, which I think is our industry’s biggest concern across the supply chain in seafood,” Foley said.
The study concludes that “only time will tell the full extent of COVID-19 on US fishing and seafood industries.” Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute in McLean, Virginia, said the short-term findings reflect the difficulties the industry has experienced this year.
“The closure of restaurant dinning has had a disproportionate effect on seafood and a pivot to retail has not made up for all of the lost sales,” Gibbons said.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO), said “there is now real hope” that vaccines will play an essential part in helping end the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WHO Chief’s remarks came up on Monday after drugmaker AstraZeneca said its COVID-19 vaccine, developed with Oxford University, was up to 90 percent effective.
Tedros said the significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated, reports UN News.
Noting that no vaccine in history has been developed as rapidly, the WHO chief said that the scientific community had set “a new standard for vaccine development” and now the international community must set “a new standard for access”.
“The urgency with which vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly”, he spelled out, warning of a real risk that the poorest, and most vulnerable will be “trampled in the stampede” to get inoculated.
Tedros explained that it was against this backdrop that WHO and its partners had established the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator back in April.
“The ACT Accelerator has supported the fastest, most coordinated and successful global effort in history to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics,” he said.
He said that currently 50 diagnostics are under evaluation; rapid antigen diagnostics are now available for low- and middle-income countries; while life-saving treatments are being rolled out and new medicines tested.
Moreover, 187 countries are taking part in the COVAX facility, to collaborate on the procurement and rollout of vaccines, “ensuring the best possible prices, volumes and timing for all countries”, he said.
Despite the excellent progress, Tedros said that “only a fundamental change in funding and approach will realise the full promise of the ACT Accelerator”.
He revealed that $4.3 billion is still needed to support mass procurement and delivery, tests and treatments this year and another $23.8 billion would will be required in 2021.
“This isn’t charity, it’s the fastest and smartest way to end the pandemic and drive the global economic recovery,” he stressed.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), if medical solutions can be made available faster and more widely, they could lead to a cumulative increase in global income of almost $9 trillion by the end of 2025.
“The real question is not whether the world can afford to share vaccines and other tools; it’s whether it can afford not to,” Tedros said.
China has reported new coronavirus cases in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin as it seeks to prevent small outbreaks from becoming larger ones.
The National Health Commission said Tuesday that there were two new locally spread cases in the previous 24-hour period, one in each city. It also reported 20 cases among people who had arrived from overseas.
In Shanghai, the mass testing of 17,719 workers at the city’s Pudong aiport found one infection, a Fedex employee. Everyone else tested negative.
Three UPS workers at the airport have also tested positive in recent days, along with the wife of one of them. In all, Shanghai has reported eight non-imported cases since Friday.
In Tianjin, where 2.3 million people had been tested as of Monday, the city reported one case in a person who developed symptoms after testing positive earlier. China does not include people without symptoms in its confirmed case count.
To date, the health commission has recorded 86,464 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is working with more than 350 partners, including major airlines, shipping lines and logistics associations from around the world, to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to over 92 countries, as soon as doses become available, the agency said on Monday.
Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF Supply Division, highlighted the importance of the partnership to ensure capacity for the massive undertaking.
"As work continues to develop COVID-19 vaccines, UNICEF is stepping up efforts with airlines, freight operators, shipping lines and other logistics associations to deliver life-saving vaccines as quickly and safely as possible," she said.
"This invaluable collaboration will go a long way to ensure that enough transport capacity is in place for this historic and mammoth operation. We need all hands on deck as we get ready to deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses, syringes and more personal protective equipment to protect front line workers around the globe," the UNICEF official added.
To kick-start preparations, UNICEF along with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) briefed major global airlines last week on the expected capacity requirements and discussed ways to transport close to 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine doses next year. This is in addition to the 1 billion syringes that need to be transported by sea-freight.
In the coming weeks, UNICEF is also assessing existing transport capacity to identify gaps and future requirements, said the agency.
"The procurement, delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is anticipated to be the largest and fastest such operation ever undertaken," it added.
UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and deliver vaccines from manufacturers that have agreements with the COVAX Facility. In collaboration with PAHO, UNICEF will coordinate the purchase and delivery for 92 low- and lower middle-income economies as quickly and securely as possible.
The efforts build on UNICEF's longstanding efforts with the logistics industry to transport supplies around the world despite restrictions related to the pandemic. Since January, it has delivered over 190 million U.S. dollars worth of COVID-19 supplies such as masks, gowns, oxygen concentrators and diagnostic test kits to support countries as they respond to the pandemic.
As the largest single purchaser of vaccines in the world, UNICEF normally procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.
This unparalleled expertise includes the coordination of thousands of shipments with various cold chain requirements, making the UN agency an expert in supply chain management of temperature-controlled products, which is especially needed during this historic undertaking.
AstraZeneca said Monday that late stage trials of its COVID-19 vaccine developed with Oxford University were “highly effective” in preventing disease.
The results are based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine, AstraZeneca said.
“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives. Excitingly that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator for the trial.
The trial looked at two different dosing regimens — a half dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month apart was 90% effective. A second regimen using two full doses one month apart was 62% effective. The combined results showed an average efficacy rate of 70%.
“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said. “Furthermore, the vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available, supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval.”
Two other drugmakers, Pfizer and Moderna, last week reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing that their COVID-19 vaccines were almost 95% effective.