"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 25th Oct 2021

Isolation Tips
Austria Threatens New Lockdown for Unvaccinated as Cases Spike
Austria has laid out a framework for potential new lockdown measures to apply only to unvaccinated people, as Covid-19 inoculations lag and cases rise sharply. “I will do everything I can to ensure that the health system in this country does not reach its limit and is not overloaded because we have too many procrastinators,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said in a statement Saturday. If the number of Covid patients in intensive care units hits 500, or 25% of the country’s capacity, unvaccinated people would be barred from hotels and restaurants. If ICU capacity reaches one-third, or 600 units, a lockdown would go into effect for the unvaccinated, who would only be allowed to leave their homes for certain reasons.
Hygiene Helpers
Vaccines alone will not end pandemic, warns WHO
The World Health Organization has warned that the vaccine alone will not be able to lift the world out of the pandemic. WHO Spokesperson Margaret Harris told Times Radio that the problem is focusing on one thing and that the vaccine isn't going to get us out of this. "We really have to do other measures," she said. Ms Harris said people "have got to be serious about not crowding". "We have still got to be looking at wearing the masks, when you're indoors particularly," she said. She added that the rest of the world must be vaccinated to stop new Covid variants from developing.
Singapore to Limit Workplace Access for Unvaccinated People
Singapore is set to restrict access to the workplace for those who are unvaccinated from January unless they test negative daily as part of plans to resume normal activities in the pandemic.
Gottlieb says kids could start getting COVID-19 vaccine as soon November 4-5
Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb predicted Sunday on "Face the Nation" that the Biden administration could begin rolling out COVID-19 vaccines for children as soon as November 4, right after panel of Centers for Disease Control panel will decide whether to grant emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. Gottlieb said the Biden administration is making the effort to push the vaccine directly into pediatricians' offices. Pfizer, which Gottlieb is on the board, is developing a small tray that carries 10 vials at a time and a storage container that is small enough for small-to-medium sized pediatrician's office to stock the vaccine and deliver it.
Vaccine passport: Provinces issuing proof for travel
In Canada, instead of issuing a singular federal national COVID-19 vaccine passport, the federal government says that each province and territory will be responsible for issuing a “standardized pan-Canadian” vaccine passport that Canadians can use when travelling. The proposed system means that, as is currently the case, provincial vaccine credentials will continue to be the main way that Canadians will have to show their vaccination status. Each province's system is supposed to have a “common” look and feel, with the expectation that by next month all Canadians will have access to their vaccine credentials from their province or territory, as proof of vaccination will soon be needed in order to board a plane or train in this country.
Calls for home COVID vaccinations drive for highly vulnerable before Australia opens up
In Australia, people unable to leave home for health reasons urgently need a simple way to book COVID vaccinations amid concerns vulnerable people are falling through the cracks, experts say. Disability Advocacy Network Australia chief executive Mary Mallett said, for people who could not leave home to get a shot, vaccines were "all the more essential" because their conditions often put them at higher risk. In September, People With Disability Australia and another 60 organisations penned an open letter demanding people with disabilities be prioritised for home vaccines.
The Unlikely Outsiders Who Won the Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine
Uğur Şahin and Stéphane Bancel were long underestimated by investors and scientists. But when Covid-19 threatened the globe, these two unknowns had a solution.
Tunisia imposes COVID-19 vaccine pass on Tunisians and all foreign visitors
Tunisia is imposing COVID-19 vaccine passes on Tunisians and all foreign visitors, a presidential decree showed on Friday. Officials, employees and users are required to show a card proving inoculation against the coronavirus to access public and private administrations, according to the decree. The pass will also be required to enter cafes, restaurants, hotels and tourist establishments, it said. The decree showed that the jobs of employees who did not receive vaccination in the public and private sectors will be suspended until the vaccine pass is presented.
Community Activities
Endemic Covid-19 Has Arrived in Portugal. This Is What It Looks Like.
Close to 100% of people over the age of 50 have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Portuguese government. For those between the ages of 25 and 49 it is 95% and from 12 to 17 it is 88%. Some 89% of Portugal’s entire population of 10 million has had at least one vaccine dose, not far behind the rate in the world-leading United Arab Emirates, compared with 65% in the U.S. and 73% in the U.K., according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data. Portugal has been averaging six deaths a day for the past month, compared with almost 300 at the peak in January. Adjusted for population, the current rate equates to about 200 in the U.S. The deaths plunged to one or two a day in May and June before rising to 20 in July. The number of new daily recorded infections and hospitalizations has been trending down since the summer. The country is now averaging about 750 new cases a day, compared with almost 13,000 in January. There are about 320 people hospitalized, down from almost 6,700 at the peak
Working Remotely
Working from home: 90% of disabled workers want to continue remotely when Covid pandemic eases, survey finds
Ninety per cent of disabled employees want to continue working from home once the Covid crisis eases, according to a new survey. Nine out of 10 office workers surveyed by YouGov for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) want to work from home for the foreseeable future, with many fighting for the right before the pandemic began. Twenty six per cent of the 2003 workers polled said flexible working had improved their mental health, while 40 per cent said it had reduced their tiredness and fatigue. Nearly two-thirds – 63 per cent – said that it gave them greater control over their working hours. More than one in five – 21 per cent – said that working from home had helped them better manage their caring responsibilities.
Remote work might solve the family care crisis for immigrants
Emma Zang, PhD, is an assistant professor of sociology at Yale University. She writes: "For immigrant workers whose aging parents live abroad, the feasibility of working remotely will provide more opportunities to travel home, which, in turn, will allow them to more fully participate in the affairs of their family while maintaining their professional options. In fact, I know many fellow immigrants who have moved back to their native homes to be with family while continuing work in the U.S. We see this pattern within the U.S. as well: people moving back to smaller cities to reunite with family, thanks to remote work. This trend also has been happening worldwide — Eastern Europe, for example, has experienced an influx of returning workers, driven in great part by those telecommuting abroad."
Where does return to offices stand after Covid spike?
In Ireland, the full return to offices has been delayed until next spring leaving many employees and businesses adrift trying to navigate through the changed plan. So where does the Government policy on return to workplaces stand now and what about the right to request remote working? Before the recent spike in cases, the official advice was for employees to return to the workplace on a "phased and staggered basis" from 20 September. Employers have spent lots of money and time investing in the return to work, while also developing hybrid work policies to facilitate the move to remote working where possible.
Walmart touts 'flexible' work, asks employees to return to the office
Walmart asked its corporate associates to return to the office next month, saying in a note to employees "there is no substitution for being in the offices together." The note, posted on the company's website, stated that associates who work in the company's campus offices will return on November 8 as part of a "new, more flexible way of working" after operating remotely for most of the coronavirus pandemic. Walmart's return to in-person working will vary by area, a company spokesperson told Insider in an email. Walmart's Global Tech team will continue working remotely, while expectations for other associates will vary.
Virtual Classrooms
63% of students claim online learning platforms helped them reduce stress while studying from home
A survey conducted on World Mental Health Day aimed to gain in-depth insights into how students manage their stress and other mental health concerns. The findings point at the fact that a majority (75%) of students have noted mental health changes during the COVID-induced study from home period. At the same time school performance and preparation emerged as one of the key contributors to students’ stress and anxiety. 71% of students reported that this near-immediate transition and the following months have impacted their mental health. Meanwhile, respite did come from online learning platforms that positively impacted student’s mental health by allowing them to supplement their school lessons with further clarity on concepts and help with homework. A significant (63%) have mentioned that online learning platforms have helped reduce stress during their study from home.
High schoolers, educators decry split focus of hybrid learning model
Ontario school districts using the hybrid model of simultaneous instruction this year say it's the way to keep remote learners connected to familiar teachers and their regular school communities. It also allows for greater flexibility if sudden shifts between in-person and remote learning are required. However, the model — which some boards adopted to address the ongoing provincial mandate requiring them to offer virtual learning — continues to draw fierce criticism from students, parents, educators and more, who blast its sustained use this year as unacceptable at this point of the pandemic.
Public Policies
New variant? No masks? Here's what's driving the U.K.'s Covid surge
What a difference three months can make. On July 19, Britons celebrated as England marked "Freedom Day," seeing a near-full lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths were relatively low, even if cases continued to rise, and the country's vaccination rollout was largely lauded as a success internationally. On Thursday, there were more than 50,000 infections recorded in the U.K. in a single day — the highest daily count since mid-July and a higher number than reported in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal combined. The country also saw 115 deaths, with Tuesday marking a daily death toll of 223 people — the highest since March.
Singapore PM Lee rules out indefinite Covid-19 lockdown
Singapore cannot go into an indefinite lockdown and stand still, but also cannot “simply let go and let things rip”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said. "We have to travel this road to get to living safely with Covid-19. We want to get there with as few casualties as possible,” Lee said in a Facebook post on Saturday. Singapore’s multi-ministry task force announced on Saturday a slew of measures for the effective opening up of the affluent city-state. These include requiring vaccination for all staff returning to the workplace from Jan 1, 2022, as well as adding China's Sinovac to the national vaccination programme and expanding the home recovery scheme to certain pregnant women, The Straits Times newspaper reported. The task force is co-chaired by Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
Sinovac added to S'pore national vaccination programme: 5 questions about the vaccine answered
The Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine will be included in the national vaccination programme to cater to individuals aged 18 years and above who are unable or unwilling to take the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines. The Ministry of Health said that three doses of the Sinovac vaccine will be required for a person to be considered fully vaccinated. The second dose should be taken 28 days after the first dose, while the third dose should be taken 90 days after the second dose.
Namibia to suspend use of Russian COVID-19 vaccine - ministry
Namibia will suspend its rollout of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, its health ministry said on Saturday, days after the drugs regulator in neighbouring South Africa flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV. The Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said Namibia's decision was not based on any scientific evidence or research. South African regulator SAHPRA decided not to approve an emergency use application for Sputnik V for now because, it said, some studies suggested that administration of vaccines using the Adenovirus Type 5 vector - which Sputnik V does - was associated with higher susceptibility to HIV in men.
Maintaining Services
Romania revives COVID-19 restrictions as hospitals struggle
Dr Petruta Filip is working 100-hour weeks at a Bucharest hospital which, like hospitals throughout Romania, is struggling under an onslaught of COVID-19 patients in a country with worryingly low vaccination rates. The European Union country of around 19 million people has only 35 percent of its adults fully vaccinated compared with a European Union average of 74 percent. It is the second-least vaccinated nation in the 27-nation bloc. That is crippling Romania’s creaking healthcare system, which is also facing record-high death and infection numbers. Romania has reported more than 1.5 million cases of the coronavirus, including at least 44,000 deaths, since the pandemic began.
South African Paediatric Association welcomes Covid-19 vaccines opening to young teens
To vaccinate or not? That is the question that parents of children from the age of 12 upwards are asking, now that the youngsters are eligible for Covid-19 jabs. Dr Joe Phaahla, the minister of health announced on Friday that children aged between 12 and 17, will be able to get the one dose of the Pfizer vaccine from Wednesday. He said the decision was taken following recommendations from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC). “We believe that this will come in handy as the schools start their examinations, and for some that have already advanced towards concluding the academic year and studying to prepare for the next academic year,” he said. Those over the age of 18 get two shots of the Pfizer vaccine but the youngsters get a single jab as per recommendations from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).
Here's Why Developing Countries Can Make mRNA Covid Vaccines
Across the developing world, hundreds of millions of people are unable to get a vaccine to protect themselves from the ravages of Covid-19, and millions of them have already become infected and died. Depending on wealthy nations to donate billions of doses is not working, public health experts say. The solution, many now believe, is for the countries to do something that the big American mRNA vaccine makers say is not feasible: Manufacture the gold-standard mRNA shots themselves.
As Russia's COVID-19 toll surges, a Siberian hospital struggles to cope
The beds at the intensive care unit at this Siberian hospital rarely stay empty for long. Doctors at Hospital No. 2 in the Russian city of Biysk are having to cope with an unprecedented surge of coronavirus patients, many of whom are unvaccinated. Doctors at the hospital have to work up to three 24-hour shifts in a row. The work is much harder than during the first wave of the pandemic last year, deputy chief doctor Olga Kaurova said. "Last year we kept the numbers at 23-24 people. Today we have 65 people in intensive care," Kaurova told Tolk Channel, a local media outlet, on Wednesday. "Most of our patients in the ICU are not vaccinated."
Analysis: Vaccinated Singapore shows zero-COVID countries cost of reopening
Few are left to inoculate in wealthy Singapore after a vigorous campaign achieved a level of coverage envied by many nations battling the coronavirus pandemic, but a record surge in deaths and infections gives warning of risks that may still lie ahead. Despite mask mandates, strict social curbs and COVID-19 booster doses available for over a month, infections in the Asian city-state's latest outbreak, driven by the Delta variant, took the death toll to 280, up from 55 early in September. "Singapore may potentially experience two to three epidemic waves as measures are increasingly relaxed," said Alex Cook, a disease modelling expert at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer jab 90% effective in kids
The Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic disease among childen agred 5-to-11, the company said in a document released Friday, that put forward its case for authorisation. The new data was published on the website of the Food and Drug Administration, which has called an advisory panel of independent experts to meet Tuesday to vote on whether to green light the shot.
FDA says benefits outweigh risks for Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children
Scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Friday that the likely benefits of giving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to 5 to 11 year olds clearly outweigh the risks of rare cases of heart inflammation. Earlier on Friday, the vaccine makers said their shot showed 90.7% efficacy against the coronavirus in a clinical trial of children 5 to 11 years old.