"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 18th Oct 2021

Isolation Tips
Melbourne to ease world's longest COVID-19 lockdowns as vaccinations rise
Melbourne, which has spent more time under COVID-19 lockdowns than any other city in the world, is set to lift its stay-at-home orders this week, officials said on Sunday. By Friday, when some curbs will be lifted, the Australian city of 5 million people will have been under six lockdowns totalling 262 days, or nearly nine months, since March 2020. Australian and other media say this is the longest in the world, exceeding a 234-day lockdown in Buenos Aires.
New Zealand faces growing calls for ‘circuit breaker’ Covid-19 lockdown
The nation of 5 million was largely virus-free until mid-August, when it was hit by an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant. Health ministry data shows cases have been concentrated among people from the indigenous Maori community, who are also the least likely to be vaccinated
Fully vaccinated travellers entering Malaysia to serve shorter quarantine period from Oct 18
Fully vaccinated travellers entering Malaysia will undergo a shorter quarantine period of seven days from Monday (Oct 18), Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Friday. They can serve their quarantine at home, if suitable, or at quarantine stations, said Ismail Sabri after a meeting of the Special Committee on COVID-19 Pandemic Management. “Travellers who are not vaccinated or have not been fully vaccinated will have to undergo 10 days’ quarantine at the quarantine station,” he said. The quarantine period for close contacts will also be reduced to seven days at home for those fully vaccinated. It will be 10 days for those unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
Hygiene Helpers
Wits extends deadline for comments on proposed compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations
The deadline for comments on the Wits University's proposed compulsory vaccination policy has been extended by a week. Spokesperson Shiron Patel said the deadline was extended to Friday 22 October, and that more than 300 comments had been received so far, mostly in favour of the policy. The university is proposing compulsory vaccination against Covid-19, unless in exceptional circumstances. "There are also meetings taking place with various constituencies, including other student groupings, residences, organised labour, professional and academic staff, administrative staff, suppliers and retailers, etc," Patel said.
Songkhla adopts stricter Covid screening
Authorities in Songkhla have toughened screening measures in areas adjacent to the three southernmost border provinces in hopes of bringing down stubbornly high rates of Covid-19 infections. People travelling from Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat will have to show proof of coronavirus vaccination, negative test results or other documents if they wish to enter Songkhla, governor Jetsada Jittarat said on Saturday. Songkhla on Saturday reported 621 new coronavirus cases, the third highest in the country behind Bangkok (1,077) and Yala (664). The new infections raised the cumulative provincial total to 39,296, with deaths at 171. The number of daily infections in Songkhla has been between 400 and 600 a day, which is partially a reflection of high levels of mass testing by health workers in many areas.
'Swab hubs' for arriving tourists
Bangkok is set to reopen to fully vaccinated international visitors next month with "swab hubs" being set up to test tourists upon their arrival in the capital. Bangkok governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang said that the government has laid down a policy to reopen the country on Nov 1 and precautions include testing and quarantine measures. As for the shortening of nighttime curfew hours starting on Saturday, City Hall will wait for an official announcement of the easing of virus curbs to be published in the Royal Gazette, Pol Gen Aswin said, adding that details regarding countdown events will then be discussed.
Italy Implements Tough Covid-19 Mandate for Workers, Prompting Protests
In one of the toughest anti-Covid-19 regimes in the Western world, Italy now requires all private and public sector workers to have a so-called green pass. The policy has kicked in amid unresolved questions on how it will be enforced and whether Italy will have enough testing kits to meet the expected surge in demand by millions of unvaccinated people who want to guarantee access to their workplace. The new requirement positions Italy, where 85% of people over the age of 12 have received at least one shot, as a test case for how hard Western countries can push their populations to get vaccinated.
Covid-19 Precautions Prompt Backlash on College Campuses
Life on college campuses is as close to pre-pandemic normalcy as it has been in 18 months, but as the semester progresses with few interruptions, some students are pushing back, calling the mitigation measures schools have imposed an overreach. Student complaints include objections to restrictions on their travel on and off campus, increased surveillance and what they consider erosion of civil liberties. Student-led petitions have prompted some schools to drop the use of location-tracking apps and requirements to wear sensors that monitor vital signs. At the core of their concerns is a fear that universities are constructing a bureaucracy designed to control a generation just coming of age.
43,000 in UK may have received false negative Covid-19 test results
British health officials said on Friday that 43,000 people may have been wrongly told they do not have the coronavirus because of problems at a private laboratory. The UK Health Security Agency said the Immensa Health Clinic Ltd. lab in Wolverhampton, central England, has been suspended from processing swabs after the false negatives. Will Welfare, the agency’s public health incident director, said it was working “to determine the laboratory technical issues” behind the inaccurate tests.
Community Activities
Brazil pandemic probe to recommend Bolsonaro face 11 criminal charges, senator says
A Brazilian Senate probe into the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will recommend in its final report due next week that President Jair Bolsonaro face 11 criminal charges, the senator leading the inquiry said on Friday, though it remains highly unlikely that he will face a trial on any such charges.
We cannot continue to ignore the COVID childcare crisis
The world is facing a global care crisis that we must address urgently. When children live in unstable family environments or lose crucial family bonds at an early age, it can have irreversible consequences on the rest of their lives. We see it when we meet children like eight-month-old Aleksander* and his 10-year-old sister Natalyia, who both live in Ukraine. Tragically, they recently lost their mother who was raising them as a single parent. Local child protection authorities put them in the care of their father, Ivan. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ivan lost his job and also found himself unable to adequately provide for the children. The pandemic exacerbated the suffering of children like Alexander and Natalyia all over the world.
Opinion | The Unvaccinated May Not Be Who You Think
Reality has refuted dire predictions about how Americans would respond to vaccine mandates. In a poll in September, 72 percent of the unvaccinated said they would quit if forced to be vaccinated for work. There were news articles warning of mass resignations. When large employers, school districts, and hospital systems did finally mandate vaccines, people subject to mandates got vaccinated, overwhelmingly. After United Airlines mandated vaccines, there were only 232 holdouts among 67,000 employees. Among about 10,000 employees in state-operated health care facilities in North Carolina, only 16 were fired for noncompliance.
Horse race marks Sydney's emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown
Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia's biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination. Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest in Sydney, Australia's richest turf horse race, and the country's most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2. New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.
They Resisted Getting Vaccinated. Here’s Why They Changed Their Minds.
Mandates have prompted a surge in vaccinations among those who had held out. Some report feeling relief; others, anguish and resentment. The uptick in vaccinations has contributed, experts say, to a flattening of the virus curve in New York City, where the numbers of new infections and hospitalizations have been falling — a trend across the United States as well. Yet with winter approaching, public health experts are watching closely for yet another rise in infections. New York’s vaccination rate is higher than that of the country as a whole, with two out of every three residents fully inoculated. Still, about one million adult New Yorkers have not gotten at least one vaccine dose.
Working Remotely
Employers must adopt remote work, reduce barriers to counter labour shortage: HR specialist
As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts how some workplaces operate, a Halifax human resources specialist thinks employers will have to adapt to the situation to handle increasing labour shortages across Canada. Statistics Canada's latest job vacancy data shows the labour shortage is widespread across the country in several sectors. At the top is the accommodation and food services industry at 12.7 per cent. "Look at all the pundits and experts, no one thinks this is going to go away soon," Gerald Walsh, an HR specialist at Halifax's Gerald Walsh Associates, said. "The passage of time just won't fix this problem, this shortage of labour. Employers are going to have to get a lot more innovative in attracting workers. Everyone falls toward money or financial incentives."
Covid Forces Video Game Makers to Rethink Remote Work
Like many industries, especially in the creative and entertainment fields, game production had an entrenched office culture pre-pandemic, where artists, writers and engineers collaborated in person to produce visually stunning content. The hours were often long and the lifestyle grueling. People complained, but not much changed. Then Covid-induced lockdowns forced a rethink in the video game business, which is slowly conceding that a way of life long considered sacrosanct could see some advantages with change. The pandemic initially significantly hampered the production of video games as developers struggled to get accustomed to inferior equipment and lagging VPNs at home, leading to widespread delays in releases. But companies adapted, buying new computers and improving their infrastructure so creatives and programmers could transfer large files more quickly. Now many video game makers say they’re just as productive as they were before the global shutdown in March 2020, even those who have not yet returned to their offices. Studies have shown that once companies can properly support their production pipelines, remote work makes people even more efficient.
Flexibility has emerged as central ingredient of the post-pandemic workplace
As companies prepare their return-to-work plans, employers and employees must include in the equation the unique mental health benefits offered by each work style. Any and all plans are weighed against the health risk. But although the pandemic has proven that some workplaces can successfully function remotely, some workers, nonetheless, still crave the collaboration and socializing that comes from reporting to an office. Other workers never want to return to commuting and enjoy being able to do a load of laundry between meetings. If there’s one conclusion that can be drawn thus far about the post-pandemic workplace, one size does not fit all and flexibility is key.
Virtual Classrooms
Special Ed Students Have Been 'Left Out' From Distance Learning in Hawaii
In Hawaii, the DOE established a statewide distance learning program for students whose parents wanted to keep them home due to the pandemic, but it has limited seats, not to mention few accommodations for kids with disabilities. Special education students receive specialized services based on their Individualized Education Programs, such as counseling, or physical, occupational or speech therapy.
Active learning tools improve the learning outcomes, scientific attitude, and critical thinking in higher education: Experiences in an online course during the COVID‐19 pandemic
Active teaching methodologies have been placed as a hope for changing education at different levels, transiting from passive lecture-centered to student-centered learning. With the health measures of social distance, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a strong shift to remote education. A study concluded that engagement provided by active learning methods can improve performance both in hard and soft skills. Students' participation seems to be more relevant when activities require the interaction of information, prediction, and reasoning, such as open-ended questions and design of research projects.
This Virtual Classroom Company Made Millions During The Pandemic While Students Languished
The coronavirus pandemic turned the American education system upside down last year, shuttering classrooms, leaving students isolated and adrift, and sending school officials scrambling for virtual solutions. But it was a boon for the many private companies that helped schools move their operations online. Among the winners was the company that several students said left them hanging: Edgenuity. During the first year of the pandemic, the Arizona-based software company added more than 500 public school districts to its client list and inked contracts totaling at least $145 million. Thanks to prepandemic acquisitions and rising demand during the crisis, Edgenuity nearly doubled what it pulled in from the public sector the year before. Some parents were satisfied with the education their children received through Edgenuity, and some districts appreciated the safe alternative to in-person learning amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. But at scores of schools around the country, the solution Edgenuity provided came at a high cost to students’ education, according to a BuzzFeed News investigation based on a review of hundreds of pages of court and school district documents and interviews with more than 50 people.
Public Policies
Will New Covid Treatments Be as Elusive for Poor Countries as Vaccines?
Nearly a year after the first Covid-19 vaccination campaigns began, the vast majority of the shots have gone to people in wealthy nations, with no clear path toward resolving the disparity. News this month that an antiviral medication had proved effective against the coronavirus in a large clinical trial has brought new hope of a turning point in the pandemic: a not-too-distant future when a simple pill could keep infected people from dying or falling severely ill. The drug, molnupiravir, made by Merck, is easy to distribute and can be taken at home. The trial results showed it halved the risk of hospitalization and death among high-risk people early in their infections.
Fourteen U.S. state attorneys general press Facebook on vaccine disinformation
The attorneys general of 14 U.S. states sent a letter to Facebook Inc (FB.O) Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg asking if the top disseminators of vaccine disinformation on the platform received special treatment from the company. The line of inquiry was generated after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen used internal documents to disclose that the social media platform has built a system that exempts high-profile users from some or all of its rules. In the letter, which was sent on Wednesday, the 14 Democratic attorneys general said they are "extremely concerned" with recent reports that Facebook maintained lists of members who have received special treatment, and want to know if the "Disinformation Dozen" were part of those lists.
Second J&J COVID shot gets expert backing; FDA looking at lowering age for Pfizer booster
Outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday unanimously recommended the agency authorize a second shot of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine for all recipients of the one-dose inoculation. The agency is also considering lowering the recommended age for booster shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to people as young as 40, FDA official Dr. Peter Marks told the advisory panel. The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee backed the shots for all J&J recipients aged 18 and older at least two months after their first dose.
Biden Administration Renews Support for the WTO
During a speech in Geneva, Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, affirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting the World Trade Organization but said the intergovernmental organization needed reform.
Expert panel recommends approving Covaxin for kids
The central drug regulator’s expert panel has recommended granting marketing authorisation with certain conditions to Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for restricted emergency use in children and adolescents in the age group of 2 to 18 years old.
Maintaining Services
Slightly more than half of migrant workers in Jurong dorm vaccinated or have verified status, says MOM
Fifty-five per cent of the migrant workers at Westlite Jalan Tukang dormitory have verified their vaccination status or have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Saturday (Oct 16), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said. The remaining 45 per cent are pending verification or have yet to receive a Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR) or World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing Procedure (WHO EUL) vaccine, said MOM in a statement on Saturday. The two PSAR-approved vaccines are the ones made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. These are also among the WHO EUL vaccines, which include AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Covishield.
Singapore Covid: Airline websites crash as borders set to open
Singapore's borders have effectively been closed for 21 months, so news that the rules will finally be relaxed has sent residents rushing for a ticket out. From 19 October, people will be able to travel freely from Singapore to ten countries around the world, without quarantine and with fewer swab tests, as long as they are vaccinated. By 15 November, one more country - South Korea - will be added to the list. "The cabin fever was just driving us crazy. There's no demarcation between leisure and work here," Low Ka Wei, a corporate communications executive, told the BBC.
India reopens for foreign tourists after 19 months as COVID ebbs
India has reopened to fully vaccinated foreign tourists travelling on chartered flights in the latest easing of its coronavirus restrictions as infection numbers decline. Foreign tourists on regular flights will be able to enter India starting from November 15, officials said on Friday. It is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists to enter the country since March 2020 when it imposed its first nationwide coronavirus lockdown. It is unclear whether arriving tourists will have to quarantine but they must be fully vaccinated and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight.
U.S. to lift restrictions Nov 8 for vaccinated foreign travelers
The White House on Friday will lift COVID-19 travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international visitors starting Nov. 8, ending historic restrictions that had barred much of the world from entering the United States for as long as 21 months. The unprecedented travel restrictions kept millions of visitors out of the United States from China, Canada, Mexico, India, Brazil, much of Europe and elsewhere; shrunk U.S. tourism; and hurt border community economies. They prevented many loved ones and foreign workers from reuniting with families.
Zimbabwe bars unvaccinated civil servants from work
Zimbabwe will bar unvaccinated government workers from reporting for duty from Monday as part of efforts to fight COVID-19, an official circular showed. The southern African country has, as of Oct. 14, recorded 4,655 COVID-19-related deaths from 132,251 infections since March 2020. Although the country was one of the first on the continent to vaccinate against COVID-19, less than 2.5 million people out of its 15 million population have been fully vaccinated.
U.S. will accept mixed doses of vaccines from international travellers
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Friday that it will accept mixed-dose coronavirus vaccines from international travelers, a boost to travelers from Canada and other places. The CDC said last week that it would accept any vaccine authorized for use by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization. "While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records," a CDC spokeswoman said.
Biden’s Moderna Vaccine Double-Cross
Moderna has already pledged 500 million doses to Covax, the World Health Organization-backed group distributing donated vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. But progressives want the White House to use the Defense Production Act (or other means) to make Moderna share its intellectual property with the world. In a letter to Dr. Kessler on Tuesday, 12 Democrats in Congress, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, asserted that the government may have the right to confiscate Moderna’s IP because it has received “huge sums of public funding from American taxpayers.” The feds have held Moderna “‘by the hand on a daily basis,’” they said.
Healthcare Innovations
CDC data: Unvaccinated 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated | TheHill
Unvaccinated people have an 11 times higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people, according to new data posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data run through August and are from 16 health departments representing about 30 percent of the U.S. population, the CDC said. In addition, the data show that unvaccinated people have a six times higher chance of testing positive for COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people do.
Studies show that mask-wearing reduces Covid-19 outbreaks in schools
New studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that US counties with masking policies in place in their schools have a lower risk of Covid-19 outbreaks compared to counties that do not have masking policies. The United States-based research assessed the impact of masking in schools on new Covid-19 cases in learners from kindergarten to grade 12 across the country. The CDC examined the difference between paediatric Covid-19 case rates in schools with and without school mask requirements. The researchers used data from 1 July to 4 September 2021. The researchers developed inclusion criteria that the schools had to meet to be part of the study. This included a valid school start date in districts with known school mask requirements, a uniform mask requirement for all learners and at least three weeks with seven full days of case data after the beginning of the school year.
New fungus stalks Covid-recovered
After mucormycosis (black fungus), another fungal infection has been detected in four Covid-recovered patients in Pune in the last three months, raising concerns among the health fraternity. Prabhakar* (66) complained of mild fever and severe lower back pain a month after recovering from COVID-19. He was initially treated conservatively with muscle relaxants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs without relief. An MRI scan revealed severe infection-led bone damage to the spinal disc spaces called spondylodiscitis. A bone biopsy and culture grew aspergillus species — a type of mold (fungus).
90,000 US Covid deaths could have been prevented by vaccines in 4 months, 2 leading nonprofits estimate
About 90,000 Covid-19 deaths in the US between June and September were preventable, two US nonprofits say. In September, 49,000 deaths could have been avoided if more adults got a Covid-19 shot, they said. The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Peterson Center on Healthcare cited a tracker that uses CDC data.