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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 8th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong relaxes Covid quarantine rules for travellers from mainland China
Hong Kong will allow people from mainland China to visit without having to face its quarantine procedures in the city’s first serious relaxation of its strict Covid-19 entry requirements for tourists. But critics of the Hong Kong government’s quarantine policies, which will begin on September 15, said it was another sign the Asian financial centre was prioritising a travel bubble with mainland China over the international links important to executives living in the city.
Sweden to lift most remaining restrictions this month
Sweden will push ahead with easing Covid-19 restrictions at the end of this month, removing most curbs and limits on public venues such as restaurants, theatres and stadiums, the government said. With most adults vaccinated, Sweden has gradually eased some restrictions during a summer lull in the pandemic. While it has seen infections mount in recent weeks amid the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant, deaths from the disease have remained low.
Philippines defers new COVID-19 plan, maintains capital curbs
The Philippines capital region will remain under the second strictest coronavirus containment measures, a senior official said on Tuesday, despite a day earlier announcing a relaxation of curbs to spur business activity. Imposition of the more relaxed "general community quarantine" in Metro Manila has been deferred, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said, without giving a reason.
Hygiene Helpers
How to protect children under 12 from Covid-19, according to Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci says there's an important step adults can take to protect children who are too young to be vaccinated against Covid-19. "The way you protect children who, because of their age, cannot get vaccinated yet is to surround the children -- be it friends, family, school teachers, personnel in the school -- surround the children with vaccinated people," the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN on Sunday.
Covid-19 Testing Is Keeping Some Students in School and Out of Quarantine
Some schools are trying a new plan to keep students safely in the classroom: Rather than quarantining children who have an in-school contact with a positive case, they are testing them. A lot. The method keeps children in school after exposure to a classmate or teacher who tested positive for Covid-19 if they test negative at least every other day. Known as test-to-stay, the approach is a higher transmission risk than keeping exposed students at home, but some public-health experts and educators say the trade-off is worth it to avoid missed days in class.
Israel's Covid Surge Shows the World What's Coming Next
Epidemiologists say cases among the over 30s are already declining thanks to the boosters and restrictions on bars and restaurants to the fully vaccinated. The highest rate of new cases in recent weeks is among children under the age of 12, according to Ran Balicer, chair of the expert advisory panel to the government. There’s also a record level of testing. “Waning immunity is a real challenge that every country needs to prepare a contingency plan to tackle,” said Balicer, who is also chief innovation officer for Israeli health maintenance organization Clalit. The data coming from Israel in the coming weeks will allow the world to assess the efficacy of the booster shot program, he said.
Community Activities
U.K. Is Among First Western Nations to Increase Taxes to Cover Covid-19 Costs
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tuesday announced tax increases to support the country’s state-funded National Health Service as it struggles to manage a backlog of millions of patients in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the announcement, Mr. Johnson is renouncing an election pledge not to raise payroll taxes, a move that sparked criticism from within his own Conservative Party and underscored the pressure the pandemic has put on governments to find funding for social services stretched by Covid-19 and aging populations.
Scepticism and fraud hamper Covid vaccine take-up rates in Romania and Bulgaria
Vaccine scepticism is helping to keep Romania and Bulgaria’s Covid-19 vaccination rates the lowest in the EU, exposing the union’s poorest nations to higher risks amid a fourth wave of the pandemic fuelled by the contagious Delta coronavirus variant. Fraud is adding to official frustration in Romania over take-up rates, with instances of doctors allowing people to go without jabs while still issuing them with certificates that help to make it easier to work and travel.
Covid US: Anti-vaxx Georgia councilman urges conservatives to get jabbed after hospitalisation
Jim Sells, 71, urged people not to take the COVID-19 vaccine before he was hit with a bout of the virus that left hospitalized for more than two weeks. Sells is now pushing for others in his community to get vaccinated to ease pressure on the state's hospital system. More than 96% of Georgia ICU beds are currently occupied as the state sees a surge of virus cases. Only 35% of residents of Sells' county are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 60% are totally unvaccinated
Vietnamese man jailed for five years for spreading COVID-19 to eight people, one who died
Vietnam has jailed a man for five years for breaking strict COVID-19 quarantine rules and spreading the virus to others, state media is reporting. Le Van Tri, 28, was convicted of "spreading dangerous infectious diseases" at a one-day trial in the People's Court of the southern province of Ca Mau, the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.
Covid-19 Australia: Cops swarm Melbourne synagogue after 100 worshippers celebrate Jewish New Year
Significant Covid breaches occurred at a gathering in Ripponlea, Melbourne Gathering dispersed by Victorian police after fiery confrontations. People in two buildings understood to have gathered for Jewish New Year. Police blocked roads surrounding buildings on Glen Eira Avenue, Ripponlea. Victoria recorded 246 Covid-19 cases on Tuesday and remains in lockdown
Working Remotely
Gen Z are the most uncomfortable returning to the office
When it comes to heading back to the office this fall, some workers are getting a reprieve as companies postpone return-to-work plans or switch to hybrid setups that allow for more remote work. And that’s likely a relief to many Gen Z employees, those ages 18 to 24, who say they’re uncomfortable heading back into the office. Although the youngest generation is potentially less prone than older workers to life-threatening COVID-19 infections, Gen Z is the group most likely to say they're uncomfortable returning to work fully in-person, according to a recent survey from the Harris Poll.
Deutsche Bank Calls End of Honeymoon Phase With Remote Work
Deutsche Bank is calling the end of the honeymoon phase for employees’ relationship with remote work. A growing number of workers report feeling isolated from colleagues, Deutsche Bank said in a report to clients. Workers are increasingly likely to develop musculoskeletal problems due to inadequate remote-work setups. Nearly 40% of workers in the U.S. say they feel exhausted after a full week of virtual meetings. Even so, a proprietary survey conducted by the firm showed people expect to continue working from home two to three days a week once the coronavirus pandemic is no longer deemed a threat.
Return to Office: Delays by Apple and Google Accomplish Nothing
The planned autumn 2021 return to the office is being delayed. Until January, purportedly. That’s when Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet subsidiary Google, Microsoft and some other major employers of knowledge workers now say they expect people back at their desks, 22 months after sending everybody home at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the current high U.S. levels of Covid cases, hospitalizations and in some places deaths, it’s understandable that companies don’t want to do a big return-to-office right now. Less clear is why they all thought early fall would be such a great time for RTO in the first place, or why they think the coast will be so much clearer in January.
Virtual Classrooms
What young kids say worked - and didn’t work - for them during virtual learning
A Ph.D. student in learning sciences and a math education researcher who believes that young children are perceptive, reflective and brilliant, embarked on a project to collect children’s stories of schooling during the pandemic. 'Throughout 2020, I talked to 30 children, ages 5-8, across gender, race and ethnicity, enrolled in public and private, urban and suburban schools throughout the Chicago area, about their recent school experiences. The focus of our conversations was on their math learning specifically, but the takeaways are much broader. Children’s stories of what they missed about being physically in school, and what they didn’t, painted a complex picture of joy and frustration, relief and stress.'
How a communications app has helped digitise education in Nepal
The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns have caused one of the biggest disruptions for formal education in Nepal. As the pandemic grew, the Nepali government attempted to digitise education by providing educational classes on radio and television but virtual classrooms turned out to be the most effective means to continue learning. InGrails, a software company, started Veda as a communications app to connect educational institutions with students and parents back in 2015. Today, the software solution provides the backbone for digital education for more than 700 schools (with 1.2 million regular users) across Nepal.
Northwest Arkansas demands for virtual learning options continue to grow
The covid-19 pandemic has changed education, leading some Northwest Arkansas school districts to permanently expand the virtual learning options they offer, administrators say. Districts featured a variety of in-person, virtual and blended learning opportunities for the 2020-21 school year to help mitigate the spread of the covid-19 virus, administrators said. Schools are fully open for traditional, in-person learning this school year, yet administrators note enrollment in virtual learning options is surpassing pre-pandemic numbers. Administrators say families choose virtual education for a variety of reasons, with the covid-19 pandemic being just one of them.
Public Policies
South America's Least-Vaccinated Country Gets First Covax Shots
Venezuela received the first shipment of vaccines against Covid-19 purchased through the World Health Organization-sponsored Covax program after months of delays and payment issues hindered the country’s inoculation plan. The shipment of 693,600 Sinovac Biotech Ltd. shots arrived early Tuesday, the Pan American Health Organization said in statement on its website. The country is due to receive a total of 12 million doses through Covax, PAHO said. The first shipment was expected to arrive by the end of July but was delayed for reasons not publicly disclosed. In June, some government payments to Covax were temporarily blocked by banks, the government said at the time.
Profitable Australian companies urged to repay government Covid support
Some of Australia’s biggest companies are under pressure to repay billions of dollars of Covid-19 support provided under a scheme after it emerged that they had made money during the pandemic. The A$98bn (US$73bn) JobKeeper programme was introduced to help companies retain staff during the country’s coronavirus-induced lockdowns. But Australia’s Parliamentary Budget Office in July released data showing that in its first three months of operation, about A$12.5bn went to businesses that were largely unaffected by the pandemic.
Indonesia approves J&J, Cansino COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use
Indonesia has approved the single-dose COVID-19 vaccines produced by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, part of Johnson & Johnson, and China's CanSino Biological Inc for emergency use, the country's food and drug agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
Malaysia will start treating Covid as 'endemic' around end-October, trade minister says
Malaysia will start treating Covid-19 as an endemic disease around the end of October, said International Trade and Industry Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali. More than 75% of Malaysia’s adult population is expected to be fully vaccinated by then, said Azmin. Malaysia’s Southeast Asian neighbors including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have also experienced a resurgence in Covid cases caused by the more transmissible delta variant.
After Moderna contamination mess, Takeda strikes deal with Japan to supply Novavax COVID-19 vaccines
As Moderna faces questions about contaminants found in its COVID-19 vaccines in Japan, the company’s distribution partner in the country, Takeda, is moving forward on its plans with another COVID vaccine developer. On Monday, Takeda said the Japanese government has agreed to purchase 150 million doses of the Novavax shot that it will produce. Takeda and Novavax previously struck a licensing and production deal covering the country. The Novavax shot remains in development, and the partners aim to start the rollout in Japan early next year. The government's purchasing agreement is subject to regulatory approvals.
Maintaining Services
Covid-19: 'Without the vaccine we would have been on our knees'
BBC News NI is given access to Belfast City Hospital's intensive care unit, where a consultant warns the system is "one step from chaos". Seven patients had Covid-19 - six of the men and women in their 20s, 40s and early 60s were unvaccinated. One of them was double-jabbed. "Without the vaccine we would have been on our knees weeks ago," Dr Gardiner said
Queensland records no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, more vaccinations encouraged
Queensland has recorded zero new cases of COVID-19 as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stepped up the state government's push to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Ms Palaszczuk said 53.33 per cent of eligible Queenslanders have had their first dose of the COVID vaccine and 34.75 per cent of eligible Queenslanders are fully vaccinated — both rates below the national average. The Premier said the government would be sending Queenslanders text messages with important vaccine information
In Vietnam’s COVID epicentre, ‘everyone is struggling to survive’
Home to nine million people, Ho Chi Minh City has been under a total lockdown since August 23, with residents forbidden from leaving their homes even to shop for food. With the restrictions set to last until September 15, newly elected Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has ordered mass testing for the city’s residents and deployed soldiers to enforce the stay at home orders and help with the delivery of food. But despite the strict measures, the number of infections continue to rise in Ho Chi Minh City and more than 200 people are dying every day. On Monday, the city reported more than 7,000 new cases and 233 deaths, rising from a caseload of 5,889 a week ago.
Healthcare Innovations
EMA begins analysis of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 booster shot data
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has commenced evaluation of an application submitted by Pfizer and BioNTech seeking an update to conditional marketing authorization (CMA) for the use of a booster shot of their Covid-19 vaccine, Comirnaty. A messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine, Comirnaty was granted a CMA by the European Commission in December last year. The third or booster shot is intended to be administered six months after the second dose in individuals aged 16 years or above, Pfizer noted.
Japan picks three COVID-19 drug candidates to get research funds
Japan has selected three candidates for COVID-19 treatments to receive subsidies for clinical trials, the health ministry said on Tuesday. The drugs are AstraZeneca Plc's antibody treatment AZD7442, Shionogi & Co's protease inhibitor S-217622, and Fujifilm Holding Corp's antiviral favipiravir, known commercially as Avigan.
New Studies Find Evidence Of 'Superhuman' Immunity To COVID-19 In Some Individuals
Some scientists have called it "superhuman immunity" or "bulletproof." But immunologist Shane Crotty prefers "hybrid immunity." "Overall, hybrid immunity to SARS-CoV-2 appears to be impressively potent," Crotty wrote in commentary in Science back in June. No matter what you call it, this type of immunity offers much-needed good news in what seems like an endless array of bad news regarding COVID-19. Over the past several months, a series of studies has found that some people mount an extraordinarily powerful immune response against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.
COVID-19: release approved vaccines for trials of new ones
Scientists must develop the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines now, if the world is to meet the challenge of SARS-CoV-2 variants and reduce vaccine inequity by increasing global supply. This can be done only if comparator COVID-19 vaccines — those that have already been approved — are available to support clinical trials. Such comparator vaccines are almost impossible to secure; governments, developers and manufacturers must find a solution to unlock supplies. So far, COVID-19 vaccines have received approval on the basis of data from unvaccinated participants in placebo-controlled efficacy trials. These trials become increasingly difficult to carry out as the number of people who are immunized rises. Comparator vaccines, essentially replacing placebos, are therefore needed for trials that assess whether new candidate vaccines provide comparable levels of protection, including against emerging variants.