"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 27th Oct 2021

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong to tighten COVID-19 rules, seeks to open to China
Hong Kong will tighten COVID-19 restrictions despite a lack of local outbreaks to better align with China’s policies and increase chances of quarantine-free travel between the territory and mainland, leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday. It will step up contact tracing, such as requiring the use of its LeaveHomeSafe app in government premises to record the coming and going of visitors. It will also tighten quarantine rules to exempt only emergency workers or those in essential industries such as logistics. Currently, those exempt from quarantine include airline crew, banking and insurance executives, directors of public companies, as well as crew members on cargo and passenger ships, among others.
Hygiene Helpers
Opinion | Young Kids Should Get the Covid Vaccine. Here’s Why.
Vaccines to protect young children from Covid-19 are likely soon on their way. An advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to recommend that the agency authorize the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for those ages 5 to 11. Why do we need to vaccinate young children against Covid-19? It’s an understandable question. While many parents have anxiously awaited the opportunity to get their children vaccinated, others are hesitant. There are questions about side effects, as with any drug, especially considering the lower risk of severe disease for children with Covid-19 compared with that of adults. But just because Covid-19 is sickening and killing fewer children than adults does not mean that children are or have been free from risk.
Spurred on by COVID-19 onslaught, Romanians make up for lost vaccine time
As ambulance sirens continuously pierce the air of Romanian cities as they rush COVID-19 patients to already full hospitals, queues are starting to form at vaccination centres. Daily COVID-19 inoculation numbers have reached pandemic highs this month in the European Union's second-lowest vaccinated country, as Romanians respond to dramatic death rates and newly enforced restrictions. In the capital Bucharest, Elena Serban, a 51-year-old garment worker had postponed getting the vaccine because she did not have health problems that would have threatened her if she got infected. Now, she has done it for safety.
Vietnam to vaccinate children against COVID-19 from next month
Vietnam will begin inoculating children against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from next month, the health ministry said on Tuesday, as the Southeast Asian country begins reopening its schools following months of lockdown. Children aged 16 and 17 will be offered the shot with parental consent, initially "in the areas that had been under movement restrictions and densely populated areas where the infection risks are high," the ministry said in a statement. So far, just 22% of Vietnam's population of 98 million have been fully vaccinated, Average daily COVID-19 infections have fallen below 3,600 over the past week from almost 12,000 last month but schools in some areas, including in the capital Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City - an epicentre of the epidemic - remain closed.
Number of Washington workers getting shots continues to grow
The latest state and city of Seattle data shows the number of government workers getting vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to increase amid mandates. According to updated figures released by the Office of Financial Management, about 275 more Washington state employees have been verified as having gotten their shots since last week’s Oct. 18 deadline, The Seattle Times reported. Gov. Jay Inslee had ordered state and school employees, as well as hundreds of thousands of health care workers, to be fully vaccinated by that date or lose their jobs. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine imposed similar policies. The figures released Monday also show slightly fewer state workers left or were fired over the mandate than agencies had originally reported.
Community Activities
Thousands of Nicaraguans go to Honduras border for vaccines
Nearly 8,000 Nicaraguans received COVID-19 vaccines at two customs border crossings with neighboring Honduras in recent days, Honduran health authorities said on Monday, as supplies of the inoculations in Nicaragua have run low. Promoting the vaccines for Nicaraguans, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez wrote in a post on Twitter that "the solidarity and brotherhood of Hondurans crosses borders." He added that up to 500 doses were being given out daily to Nicaraguans. Honduran health authorities also pitched the cross-border assistance as a way to help beat back the risk of more infections at home.
New York City Inches Toward Covid-19 Becoming Endemic
Each wave of Covid-19 patients that has crashed through the doors of Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens has been more manageable than the last. In the spring of 2020 and the following winter, the hospital needed extra spaces to care for Covid-19 patients in need of oxygen and struggling to breathe. At the height of the Delta surge this summer and fall, Covid-19 patients didn’t fill its ICU. “We’re seeing it more as a chronic problem than as an immediate, huge pandemic problem like we were before,” said Mangala Narasimhan, a critical-care pulmonologist and director of critical-care services at Northwell Health, a large health system in the New York region that includes Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
Beijing Marathon postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19
The Beijing Marathon has been postponed indefinitely after Sunday's race was called off amid rising COVID-19 cases in China, the BBC quoted organisers as saying. Organisers said they were cancelling next weekend's race "in order to prevent the risk of the epidemic spreading (and) effectively protect the health and safety of the majority of runners, staff and residents," the BBC reported. The marathon was set to return this year after it was suspended in 2020 due to COVID-19. The Wuhan Marathon, which was due to be held last Sunday, was also called off with a new date yet to be determined.
Working Remotely
No, working from home should not mean a pay cut
The pandemic has proven widespread working from home does not reduce productivity and potentially reduces costs for both employer and employee, so it would be a free kick for employers if they could also reduce their wages bill. In Australia, cutting pay for remote working is still little more than an idea that is being floated in various reports and surveys, but it’s already becoming reality in the United States. Australian labour laws prevent companies from imposing a pay cut unilaterally – though they can require regular attendance at an office unless a public health order stipulates otherwise. However, employment lawyers say location-based pay could be introduced for new employees by writing it into their contracts.
More law firms use 'virtual internships' to recruit summer associates
Digital internships for undergraduates and J.D. students are catching on as law firm summer associate recruiting tools that can help build a firm's "brand awareness." Eight major U.S. firms now offer “virtual internships” through Forage, an online platform that provides simulated work experiences that employers can use to connect with and evaluate potential future hires. Online training program participants complete real-world legal tasks in specific practice areas and receive feedback, while getting an idea of day-to-day life at the law firm sponsor.
Remote Workers Fear Missing Out on Promotions
Some 60 percent of remote workers fear that working from home could hinder their career development. As firms continue with hybrid working arrangements, employers risk making decisions about promotions and development based on who they see most often, rather than who is best for the job. Questionmark, the online assessment provider, warns employers to ensure managers are given the right tools, training and data they need to make fair decisions, and avoid unconscious bias, which may take many forms. "Proximity bias" is an unconscious tendency to favor those who we see regularly.
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual exchange: What are students signing up for?
Many students are drawn to culturally immersive experiences that support their personal growth and academic performance. Offering students the chance to study abroad is an integral part of how many post-secondary programs have developed globally responsive curriculum. Virtual exchanges are technology-based, classroom-to-classroom programs that connect students located in different geographical locations to develop intercultural and project-based learning. While virtual exchanges have been implemented for at least three decades now, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged many practitioners and administrators in different academic disciplines to build online global partnerships.
Many Latinos chose virtual learning for children to minimize health risks to family
Many Latino families chose virtual learning for their children instead of returning to the classroom last fall in an effort to minimize health risks and protect vulnerable family members from COVID-19, according to a new study from a Rice University sociologist. Julia Szabo said Hispanic families in her study regularly had to put themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19, usually due to work obligations. As a result, Hispanic parents who were unwilling to introduce any unnecessary threats to their families often saw virtual learning as a way to lower their risk.
Public Policies
Australia drugs regulator approves booster doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
Australia's drugs regulator on Wednesday provisionally approved a booster dose of Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine for people above 18 years old as first-dose vaccination levels in the country's adult population neared 90%. The booster dose can be administered at least six months after the second shot, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said in a statement. Further advice on the use of booster shots will be provided to the federal government soon by the country's vaccination technical advisory group, TGA said.
Exclusive: African Union to buy up to 110 million Moderna vaccines -officials
The African Union (AU) intends to buy up to 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc in an arrangement brokered in part by the White House, which will defer delivery of some doses intended for the United States to facilitate the deal, officials told Reuters. The AU's doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15 million arriving before the end of 2021, 35 million in the first quarter of next year and up to 60 million in the second quarter. "This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately," AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said in an email. "We urge other vaccine producing countries to follow the lead of the (U.S. government) and give us similar access to buy this and other vaccines."
U.S. FDA advisers weigh Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children
An expert panel on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to recommend the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorize the Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and BioNTech SE COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, saying the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks. An authorization for that age group would be would be an important regulatory step toward reaching about 28 million children for inoculation, most of them back in school for in-person learning. The vaccine could be available to the younger age group as soon as next week. The FDA is not obligated to follow the advice of its outside experts, but usually does. The vote was 17 in favor with one abstention.
S.Korea's GL Rapha certified to produce Sputnik COVID-19 vaccines
South Korean biotech firm GL Rapha has secured regulatory approval from Russia to produce and market the Sputnik family of coronavirus vaccines, the company and Russian sovereign fund RDIF said on Tuesday. The certification paves the way for the first overseas production of the shot to ease a supply shortage and allows GL Rapha to carry out the full production cycle, as opposed to other foreign manufacturers that rely on Russian-supplied ingredients. "This is the first time a foreign production partner of RDIF obtains a Russian GMP (good manufacturing practice) certificate," the two said in a joint statement.
France says it has ordered 50000 doses of Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill
France has ordered 50,000 doses of Merck & Co's (MRK.N) experimental COVID-19 antiviral drug for adults, the country's health minister Olivier Veran told a hearing at the French Senate on Tuesday. "France positioned itself very early in pre-ordering. France ordered 50,000 doses of the drug," Veran told lawmakers about molnupiravir, which is Merck & Co's experimental antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 ailments. Governments around the world are preparing to ensure they can cope any pick-up in the COVID virus as the winter season approaches in the northern hemisphere.
BioNTech to work with Senegal, Rwanda to make mRNA vaccines
Senegal and Rwanda have signed an agreement with German company BioNTech for the construction of its first start-to-finish factories to make messenger RNA vaccines in Africa. BioNTech, which developed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, said Tuesday that construction will start in mid-2022. It is working with the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, and the Rwandan government, a statement said. “State-of-the-art facilities like this will be life-savers and game-changers for Africa and could lead to millions of cutting-edge vaccines being made for Africans, by Africans in Africa,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Africa.
Maintaining Services
Pediatric Covid Hospital Visits Plunge in U.S. as Schools Reopen
Hospital admissions are declining sharply among U.S. children with Covid-19, even more than adults, quieting concerns for now that the return to school could trigger a major uptick in viral transmission. Daily pediatric admissions with confirmed Covid have fallen 56% since the end of August to an average of about 0.2 per 100,000, according to Department of Health and Human Services data. Among adults, new admissions fell 54% to 2.1 per 100,000 in the same period, the data show.
Denmark’s Covid Contamination Rate Rises After Restrictions End
Denmark, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, has registered a rise in Covid-19 cases with several key indicators showing that the virus has accelerated in the past month. The reproductive rate of the virus, known as the R rate, is now 1.2, up from 1 a week ago, which means the virus is spreading, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke tweeted on Tuesday.
Becton Dickinson begins selling new at-home rapid COVID-19 test
Becton Dickinson and Co has partnered with Amazon.com Inc to begin shipment of a new at-home rapid COVID-19 test that can confirm results using an entirely automated smartphone app. The BD Veritor At-Home COVID-19 Test, which was authorized by U.S. regulators in August, also automatically reports results to federal and state public health authorities. "One of the unique things about this test is that it's really the very first test to actually have an interpreted digital result," said Dave Hickey, president of Becton Dickinson's life sciences business.
Healthcare Innovations
Moderna Data Shows Covid-19 Vaccine Produced Strong Immune Response in 6- to 11-Year-Olds
Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine was generally safe and induced the desired immune responses in children ages 6 to 11 in a clinical trial, according to the company. The Cambridge, Mass., company said Monday that it would submit the results to health regulators in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere in seeking authorization to widen the use of its shots to include this younger age group. The company announced the interim data in a press release, and results haven’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Moderna’s vaccine is currently authorized for use in adults 18 years and older in the U.S.
Pfizer Says Lower-Dose Vaccine for Small Kids Could Also Work for Big Kids
Pfizer Inc.’s lower-dose Covid-19 vaccine for kids under 12 appears to offer protection across the board, company officials said, and the drug giant may look into offering lower doses for teens who now get the adult dose. A scientific advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration is deliberating Tuesday on whether to recommend the vaccine, which Pfizer makes with partner BioNTech SE, for 5- to 11-year-olds. If cleared by regulators, it would make a Covid-19 vaccine available to all school-age children for the first time. The proposed pediatric dose is 10 micrograms, or a third of the adult Pfizer dose everyone 12 and older currently receives.