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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 4th Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
Top Sage expert Jeremy Farrar quits amid ‘concerning’ Covid-19 rates
Sir Jeremy Farrar has revealed he quit the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) last month, warning of “concerning high levels of transmission” in Britain and vowing to focus on his role as a clinical scientist. The director of the Wellcome Trust was a leading member of the government’s Covid-19 advisory body during the pandemic. He was reportedly pushing for ministers to enforce a so-called “vaccine plus” strategy that includes measures such as mask wearing, ventilation and continued testing, according to Sky News. However, the government has so far declined to enforce stricter measures – which it refers to as plan B – and is sticking with its current, more relaxed guidance.
Hygiene Helpers
Some Parents Rush to Get Covid-19 Vaccines for Young Kids
Younger children began to get vaccinated against Covid-19, adding to the nation’s defenses against a pandemic that has upended learning and life for kids across three school years. Some hospitals and pediatrician’s offices started giving shots to children between the ages of 5 and 11 on Wednesday, a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended use of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s vaccine for that age group. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized a two-dose regimen of the vaccine, in a smaller dosage and different packaging than that used on adults.
Canadian employers shed unvaccinated workers, labor lawyers in demand
Canadian employers are firing or putting on unpaid leave thousands of workers who refused to get COVID-19 shots, squeezing an already tight labor market and raising prospects of potentially disruptive legal challenges. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised vaccine mandates as a central part of his successful campaign for re-election in September, setting a precedent that has spread from the public to the private sector.
Netherlands reintroduces face masks to curb spike in COVID-19 cases
The Dutch government on Tuesday decided to re-impose measures aimed at slowing the latest spike in COVID-19 infections, including the wearing of face masks, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. The use of a "corona pass", showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative coronavirus test, will be broadened as of Nov. 6 to public places including museums, gyms and outdoor terraces.
COVID: Face masks compulsory again in some French schools next week
Face masks will again become compulsory from next week for French school kids in 39 regional departments where the COVID-19 virus has been ramping up, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday. French health authorities reported 7,360 daily new COVID-19 infections on October 30, the first time the tally has topped 7,000 since Sept 21
Unvaccinated Greeks will need a negative COVID test to access services
Unvaccinated Greeks will need to show a negative COVID-19 test to access state services, banks, restaurants and retail shops as cases hit a new daily record on Tuesday, health authorities said. Greece reported 6,700 new coronavirus infections in the preceding 24 hours on Tuesday, breaking a previous single-day record of 5,449 that was recorded on Monday. This took the total infections to 754,451 since the pandemic broke out last year. Some 16,050 people have died of the COVID-19 disease so far in Greece.
Mandates. A well-organized campaign. No politics. How Puerto Rico’s vaccine drive turned into a success
The leader of the Puerto Rico National Guard was still dealing with the aftermath of a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that displaced thousands of residents in January 2020 when island officials began hearing reports of people falling ill from the new coronavirus. Once again, they turned to Guard Adjutant General José J. Reyes. Much of Reyes’ 37-year career has been in emergency response mode — from 9/11 to the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017 to the earthquake — but he sees all of those events as preparation for this one: helping to plan the island’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy and oversee its rollout.
Community Activities
Analysis: Wide array of opponents prepare to fight Biden vaccine mandate
The country's first national COVID-19 vaccine mandate, expected to be unveiled by the Biden administration this week, is likely to unleash a frenzied legal battle that will hinge on a rarely used law and questions over federal power and authority over healthcare. States, companies, trade groups, civil liberty advocates and religious organizations are expected to rush to court with demands to stop the mandate in its tracks. Two dozen Republican state attorneys general have already vowed to use "every legal option" to fight the mandate and 40 Republican lawmakers said on Wednesday they were preparing their own challenge.
New Zealand gang leaders unite to urge community to get Covid shots
Seven New Zealand gang leaders, representing four of the country’s most well-known street gangs, have joined forces in a video urging their communities to get vaccinated, in a concept that was conjured up by a government minister. The video was commissioned by the minister for Maori development, Willie Jackson, after a discussion with gang leaders, who then provided footage that was edited by Jackson’s son, Hikurangi, the Herald reported. In the four-minute video, Denis O’Reilly, who joined the Black Power gang aged 19, says he had “taken a few shots” in his time, including the two shots against Covid-19, and he is asking his community “to do the same”
Ukrainians protest vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases soar
More than a thousand people blocked several streets in the center of the Ukrainian capital Wednesday, protesting against COVID-19 vaccine certificates and state-imposed restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus. The protesters, mostly women and young people, didn’t wear masks and held up signs reading “Say No to COVID Passports”, “Say No to COVID Genocide” in front of the Ukrainian parliament building in Kyiv. The rally comes in response to restrictions that require teachers, government employees and other workers to get fully vaccinated by Nov. 8 or have their salaries suspended.
Working Remotely
Office employees fear ‘proximity bias’ while working from home will harm career progression
Many UK workers have been told they can have flexible arrangements, meaning they have a bit more control over when to go into work and when to stay at home. While within their rights to work from a home desk, thousands of office employees fear a ‘proximity bias’ is stacked against them, according to new research from LinkedIn. There’s pressure to be seen in office, as almost three quarters of the Brits surveyed believe working from home will negatively impact their careers
The new perk your employees want is alone time
In the era of remote work, what kinds of perks should employers be offering to their employees? The answer is simple: Let them do their jobs well, go home, and give them the space they need to build their own lives outside of work. Companies like Dropbox are doing away with the traditional workweek, implementing nonlinear workdays that allow employees to work around a three- to four-hour period where everyone is expected to be online and available for meetings—and then flex their days as they see fit. There are powerful changes that emerge as a result of nonlinear workdays. They limit the number of meetings within an organization by compressing collaboration time into fewer hours: a welcome change.
Irish remote working company in expansion mode
Boundless, an Irish company that provides remote working compliance services, expects to be live in 45 countries by the end of next year as demand for its solutions continues to soar. The start-up, which was founded by Dee Coakley, Emily Castles and Eamon Leonard in 2019, has been experiencing significant growth as working patterns continue to change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Boundless is focused on removing barriers to allow teams to scale internationally, allowing companies to employ anyone, anywhere by handling multi-country payroll and compliance with local tax and employment regulations
Virtual Classrooms
DepEd, US Peace Corps train 1,000 teachers on distance learning materials
In the Philippines, a series of virtual training on using newly developed distance learning materials was conducted by the US Peace Corps and the Department of Education.The collaboration sought to develop and validate learning activity sheets before training educators can use them and before these can be distributed to students in indigenous communities, geographically isolated areas and some of the most resource-challenged communities in the Philippines.
Ministry trains 700 educators weekly to boost online learning
In Cambodia, since the end of September, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has trained 3,292 teachers from secondary resource schools and network schools on how to manage distance learning to run online classes in a high-quality and efficient manner. The ministry said on November 1 that it continues to train over 700 teachers each week on remote teaching skills.
Public Policies
Court Rules Against Religious Exemption for New York Healthcare Workers’ Vaccine Mandate
A federal appellate court sided with New York officials Friday and removed a temporary injunction that had allowed healthcare workers to seek religious exemptions to the state’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate. Three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled against plaintiffs in two cases brought by healthcare workers who said New York’s mandate violated their Christian beliefs. The state required all workers in hospitals and nursing homes to receive at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine by Sept. 27 or face termination. Similar cases have been brought challenging vaccination mandates in other states, and legal experts have said the questions they raise could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Saudi approves Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for age group 5-11
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority said on Wednesday it had given its approval to use Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for those between five and eleven years of age. The authority added in a statement its decision was "based on data provided by the company, which showed the vaccine met the special regulatory requirements".
Indian home-grown COVID-19 shot wins WHO emergency use approval
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that it has granted approval for Indian drugmaker Bharat Biotech's home-grown COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use listing, paving the way for it to be accepted as a valid vaccine in many poor countries. The WHO tweeted that its technical advisory group had ruled that benefits of the shot, known as Covaxin, significantly outweighed the risks and that it met WHO standards for protection against COVID-19.
Factbox: Countries rush to buy Merck experimental COVID-19 pill
Merck has signed eight deals to sell more than a total of 2 million courses of its experimental COVID-19 pill molnupiravir to governments around the world as countries scramble to tame the virus. It has applied for approval in the United States and said it can make 10 million courses in 2021. Last week the company reached a deal with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool that will allow more companies to manufacture generic versions of the pill with a royalty-free license applying to 105 low- and middle-income countries. So far Merck has agreed to license the drug to several India-based generic drugmakers.
Hong Kong to launch COVID-19 booster campaign from next week
Hong Kong will roll out booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines from next week, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Wednesday, as authorities ramp up efforts to convince Beijing to allow crossborder travel to mainland China. The vaccination campaign in the global financial hub has lagged many other developed economies, with about 65% of the eligible population fully vaccinated with shots from either China's Sinovac, or Germany's BioNTech
Maintaining Services
COVID-19 has retreated across the Americas, regional health agency says
COVID-19 deaths and infections have declined across the Americas for the 8th consecutive week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, warning that a very high percentage of hospitalized cases now are unvaccinated people. In North America, all three countries reported drops in weekly cases and deaths, and there has been a notable decline in hospitalizations in the United States and Canada, PAHO said, with similar declines in South and Central America.
France reports more than 10000 new COVID cases for 1st time in two months
French health authorities reported 10,050 daily new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, the first time the tally has topped 10,000 since Sept 14. In another sign the virus is ramping up again, hospitalisations for the disease are up by 84, at 6,764, a rise unseen since Sept 6. The cumulative total of new cases now stands at 7.18 million. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care rose by 5 in 24 hours to 1,096 and by 58 over a week.
Biden says vaccines for children will be available at about 20000 locations
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday there will be enough COVID-19 vaccines by next week for children and these shots will be available at about 20,000 locations around the country. The United States has started administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, the latest group to become eligible for the shots that provide protection against the illness.
Covid cases are surging in countries such as Romania and China – and scientists say the UK can learn from them
Countries around the world are reintroducing measures such as mask-wearing and work-from-home orders to curb a surge in Covid cases, which experts say the UK should also be doing instead of relying on vaccines alone. The Netherlands became one of the first countries in western Europe to bring back masks, while Russia said an order for people not to go to work for a week from 30 October could be extended after it reported a record 1,178 Covid daily deaths on Tuesday. China’s zero-Covid policy has allowed it to quickly quell local outbreaks but not stop them entirely, while increased cases in Romania and Ireland has seen authorities reimpose or extend measures for several weeks.
S.Korean teens drive up COVID-19 cases ahead of full school reopening
South Korea said on Wednesday it would ramp up COVID-19 testing at schools after a sharp rise of infections among children, weeks ahead of a plan to fully reopen schools nationwide. The surge comes as new social distancing rules aimed at a phased return to normal came into effect on Monday as a part of the country's plan to gradually move toward living with COVID-19 on the back of high vaccination rates.
U.S. begins effort to vaccinate young children against COVID-19
Seven-year-old Gael Coreas stuck out his left arm fearlessly to receive his first COVID-19 shot at a health clinic in the nation's capital on Wednesday, wincing briefly as cameras flashed to capture the moment. Coreas was in the first cohort of young children to be inoculated as the United States on Wednesday began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, the latest group to become eligible for the shots that provide protection against the illness to recipients and those around them.
In vaccine-sceptic Ukraine, one spa town bucks trend
Ukraine is battling record COVID-19 deaths and low vaccine uptake but the spa town of Morshyn is an exception. In Morshyn, 74% of 3,439 adult residents are double vaccinated, more than triple the national average, and currently only three people have been hospitalised with COVID-19. The town, which gives its name to a popular mineral water brand, has come to national attention at a time when hospitals in Ukrainian cities are filling up with COVID-19 patients and the country had to import medical oxygen from Poland.
Healthcare Innovations
Antibodies in breast milk provide extra benefit to babies; vaccine protection varies among immunocompromised
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that have yet to be certified by peer review. Mothers' COVID-19 antibodies provide unexpected benefit. COVID-19 antibodies passed from infected mothers to their breastfeeding newborns provide more benefit to the baby than researchers expected to see, according to a report published on Wednesday in JAMA Network Open.
JCVI failed to back youth Covid jabs despite favourable modelling
The government’s independent vaccine advisers recommended against Covid shots for healthy teenagers despite considering evidence that the jabs would reduce infections, hospitalisations and some deaths in the age group. Modelling reviewed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in June showed that fully vaccinating 80% of 12- to 17-year-olds would lead to “large reductions” in infections and a “substantial reduction” in hospitalisations in the age group. The modelling from the University of Warwick was considered alongside calculations from Public Health England that found vaccinating healthy young people in an overlapping age group – those aged 15 to 19 – could reduce intensive care admissions and prevent two deaths per million in the teenagers receiving the shots.
Covid-19 virus does not infect human brain cells, new study suggests
The virus that causes Covid-19 does not infect human brain cells, according to a study published in the journal Cell. The findings will raise hopes that the damage caused by Sars-CoV-2 might be more superficial and reversible than previously feared. The study contradicts earlier research that suggested the virus infects neurons in the membrane that lines the upper recesses of the nose. This membrane, called the olfactory mucosa, is where the virus first lands when it is inhaled. Within it are olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), which are responsible for initiating smell sensations. They are tightly entwined with a kind of support cell called sustentacular cells.
Sputnik Light produces strong level of antibodies against COVID-19 - early-stage trial
Russia's one-dose Sputnik Light vaccine had a good safety profile and induced strong immune responses especially in people who had already encountered COVID-19, according to the results of phase I and II trials published in The Lancet medical journal. The vaccine, a single-dose version of the two-dose Sputnik V vaccine unveiled last year, has already entered later phases of studies and is widely used in Russia, but the publication of the early research in a top Western journal is a milestone as Russia moves towards making Sputnik Light its main vaccine for export.
College football didn't fuel COVID-19 spread among players, study suggests
COVID-19 didn't appear to spread efficiently within and among teams competing in the fall 2020 Southeastern Conference (SEC) college football season, finds an observational study published late last week in JAMA Network Open. The study, led by a Texas A&M University researcher, analyzed close contacts (within 6 feet) among opposing players during official games and COVID-19 athlete testing data from Sep 26 to Dec 19, 2020. At that time, cases were surging, but the more transmissible Delta (B1617.2) SARS-CoV-2 variant had not yet been identified in the United States. This may limit the findings' generalizability to pandemic phases since the emergence of Delta.
Vaccine plus previous infection may offer enhanced COVID-19 protection
Two new studies in JAMA find that COVID-19 survivors who receive two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines may have stronger protection against coronavirus infection, one detailing much lower breakthrough infection rates in previously infected Qataris and one describing higher spike antibody levels among recovered US healthcare workers (HCWs). Breakthrough cases 65% to 82% lower in previously infected. Led by Cornell University researchers in Qatar, the first study involved following 1,531,736 Qataris starting 14 days after receipt of the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Dec 21, 2020, to Sep 19, 2021. The country weathered two COVID-19 surges with the Alpha (B117) and Beta (B1351) variants from January to June 2021. Community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta (B1617.2) variant was identified at the end of March, and the strain became dominant by summer.