"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 12th Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
Austrian Covid Hotspot to Impose Lockdown for Unvaccinated
The Austrian region with the highest coronavirus infection rate plans to impose a lockdown for unvaccinated people, as worsening outbreaks force authorities across central Europe to seek stronger incentives to get inoculated. Upper Austrians who haven’t taken the vaccine will only be allowed to leave home for work and to buy everyday goods from Monday, several newspapers said Thursday, citing state leader Thomas Stelzer. The national Covid task force has also recommended a similar measure for Salzburg.
Denmark to impose COVID-19 isolation for travellers from Singapore
Denmark will impose self-isolation requirements on travellers from Singapore, its embassy in the city-state said on Thursday, following a surge in COVID-19 infections. Singapore was removed this week from a European Union list of non-EU countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted. "Singapore is now considered a high risk country for travel to Europe," the embassy of Denmark in Singapore posted on Facebook.
Dutch consider new partial lockdown as coronavirus cases hit record
The Dutch government on Thursday was considering whether to impose Western Europe's first partial lockdown since the summer, as new coronavirus cases jumped to the highest level since the start of the pandemic. A surge in infections that started when social distancing measures were lifted late September has put pressure on hospitals throughout the country, forcing them to scale back regular care to treat COVID-19 patients. New coronavirus infections in the country of 17.5 million have roughly doubled in the last week and hit a record of around 16,300 in 24 hours on Thursday.
Hygiene Helpers
Diabetes problem makes Africa more vulernable to COVID-19 death, says WHO
Death rates from COVID-19 infections are much higher in patients with diabetes in Africa, where the number of people with diabetes is growing rapidly, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. A WHO analysis of data from 13 African countries found a 10.2% case fatality rate in COVID-19 patients with diabetes, compared with 2.5% for COVID-19 patients overall. "COVID-19 is delivering a clear message: fighting the diabetes epidemic in Africa is in many ways as critical as the battle against the current pandemic," said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement.
Unvaccinated should reflect on their duty to society, Merkel says
People who are still not vaccinated as the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic takes hold in Germany must understand they have a duty to the rest of society to protect others, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.
LAPD Union's Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate Challenge Rejected by Judge
The union representing Los Angeles Police Department officers failed to win a court order blocking a mandate that all city workers be vaccinated against Covid-19. California Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff on Wednesday denied the union’s request for a temporary restraining order on the mandate, which sets a Dec. 18 deadline for vaccination. The judge didn’t give a reason for denying the union’s request for a temporary restraining order. The union will get another shot at blocking the mandate at a Dec. 12 hearing before Beckloff on its request for preliminary injunction. A group of LAPD officers was also previously denied a restraining order in federal court.
Thousands of care home staff to lose their jobs as mandatory COVID-19 vaccine deadline passes
As of Friday, all care home workers in England must have been double jabbed, unless they are medically exempt, and the latest NHS figures show more than 60,000 staff have not been recorded as fully vaccinated as of 31 October.
Ukraine to impose mandatory COVID-19 shots for doctors, municipal workers
Ukraine's health ministry has proposed expanding the list of occupations for which COVID-19 vaccinations will be compulsory to cover medical personnel and municipal employees, it said on Thursday. The government already obliges teachers and employees of state institutions and local governments to receive vaccinations, without which they face being suspended from work. The new list of roles that will require vaccination will include medical staff, municipal workers and employees of municipal companies, health minister Viktor Lyashko said.
Community Activities
Unified approach needed to deal with COVID-19, says AirAsia Group CEO
Governments around the world need to look at unified approaches to managing COVID-19, the Group Chief Executive of Malaysian budget airline AirAsia Group Bhd Tony Fernandes said at the APEC CEO Summit. Fernandes said leaders in the Asia-Pacific region were being "over-sensitive" with COVID-19 and needed to be braver and more standardised in dealing with the pandemic.
Covid-19 vaccine brings hope for refugees in Uganda’s remote north
On the streets of Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda, the wheels of a boda boda motorcycle taxi stir up red dust as the driver manoeuvres slowly through the settlement, music blaring from a loudspeaker strapped to the back of his bike. The driver is a mobile messenger with the speaker broadcasting information about the Covid-19 vaccine, intended to persuade the camp’s residents to get the jab. Home to around a quarter of a million refugees from South Sudan, Bidi Bidi settlement in northern Uganda is one of the world’s largest refugee camps.
PNG caught between COVID and vaccine
International concerns are mounting as COVID-19 continues to sweep through unvaccinated Papua New Guinea (PNG) where, according to Our World in Data website, only 1.7 percent of its population has been fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate remains abysmally low, despite adequate vaccine supplies and aid from the Australian government and international organisations such as the Red Cross. The slow take up has been in part due to poor government messaging and the proliferation of misinformation on social media via mobile phones. “There is a lot of misinformation around circulating largely from social media,” Jane Holden, Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority acting CEO, told Al Jazeera.
Working Remotely
Pandemic benefited workers with disabilities in surprising ways
One happy surprise during the coronavirus pandemic is how technology and flexible thinking enabled many workplaces and workers to stay connected and productive even outside a traditional office setting. This swift, widespread overhaul came as a bit of a slap-in-the-face to unemployed and underemployed workers with disabilities who had been fighting for workplace accommodations for years under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Employers everywhere were suddenly embracing remote work, flexible hours, wellness and mental health support, and other accommodations that had been deemed too burdensome and impractical before the pandemic.
Hybrid Working Could Widen Gap in Career Progression, BOE Official Says
The Bank of England’s Catherine Mann said that the hybrid model of work could widen the gender gap by opening “two tracks” -- those in the office and people who remain at home. Being seen in person is an important way for people to build careers and working remotely makes that visibility more difficult, Mann said at a virtual meeting about women working in finance. She added that the pandemic left more women at home because of child-care issues.
After Portugal, which countries in Europe are improving post-COVID remote working laws?
The majority of businesses wouldn’t have survived COVID-19 without the aid of remote digital infrastructure. Now, questions are being raised about the laws businesses should abide by to accommodate flexible working, given its popularity in some industries. On November 5, Portuguese lawmakers passed a new remote working law which gives workers new entitlements. Among the most significant details of the new labour law, employers will be banned from contacting their employees after work hours and will also need to provide expenses incurred by home working, including increased electricity and internet bills.
Virtual Classrooms
Covid-19: Online teaching suggested for unvaccinated teachers as mandate deadline looms
In New Zealand, teachers who are unvaccinated against Covid-19 could remain in a virtual classroom educating pupils whose parents aren’t ready to send them back to school. That’s just one of the ideas to have come across the desk of Cambridge East Primary School principal Hamish Fenemor,​ who is also the immediate past president of the Waikato Principals’ Association. Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced children in years 1-8 will return to school part time and students in years 9 and 10 will go back full time on November 17.
3 strategies for virtual student-centered learning
When secondary educators plunged into emergency online teaching in March 2020, they faced a slew of challenges. Among those challenges was the lack of student engagement after the novelty of logging in from home in pajamas wore off. The best classrooms build a sense of community, offer opportunities for growth, provide varying entry points for students to engage, and place an emphasis on interactive, collaborative, and student-centered learning. How to do this in a virtual space requires proactive relationship building, creative energy to pre-plan, and a sense of humor especially when the technology fails.
The School in the Cloud - Virtual learning as an opportunity
What does the future of education look like in a wired world? In this film, Indian education expert Sugata Mitra conducts an experiment. In an Indian village, he builds a school that only exists virtually, in the cloud.
Public Policies
UK to add China's Sinovac, India's Covaxin to approved vaccine list
Britain said it would recognise COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organization's Emergency Use Listing later this month, adding China's Sinovac, Sinopharm and India's Covaxin to the country's approved list of vaccines for inbound travellers. The changes, which come into force from Nov. 22, will benefit fully vaccinated people from countries including the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and India.
Judge overrules Texas governor's ban on mask mandates in schools
A federal judge overruled Texas Governor Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates in schools, clearing the path for districts to issue their own rules. Judge Lee Yeakel of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled the governor's order violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark 1990 federal law that includes protections for students with special needs. In his ruling, Yeakel said the executive order put children with disabilities at risk. "The spread of COVID-19 poses an even greater risk for children with special health needs," the judge said in the order. "Children with certain underlying conditions who contract COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to a hospital and the hospital's intensive-care unit."
EU regulator backs COVID-19 drugs from Regeneron-Roche, Celltrion
Europe's drug regulator has recommended two COVID-19 antibody therapies - one from American-Swiss partners Regeneron-Roche and another from South Korea's Celltrion, as the region builds up its defence against surging cases. Approval by the European Commission would mark the first for any COVID-19 treatment on the continent since Gilead's remdesivir last year. Reuters reported earlier this week that the European Medicines Agency's (EMA) endorsement of the two drugs was imminent.
Covid-19: Berlin brings in tough new rules as cases soar
Authorities in Berlin will reimpose tighter coronavirus restrictions, which will deny unvaccinated people access to indoor restaurants, bars, gyms and hairdressers. The city-wide rules, known as ‘2G’ in Germany, will only allow doubled jabbed residents or those who have proof they have immunity from coronavirus, to access indoor facilities and venues. In comes in a bid to curb “the rising number of coronavirus cases and the increasing pressure on intensive care units”, Berlin’s senate said on Wednesday evening.
India could approve Covid pill in matter of days
Antiviral drug Molnupiravir, used for treating mild to moderate Covid-19 infections, is set to enter the Indian markets within days, an official confirmed on Wednesday. Manufactured by US drug companies Merck, Sharp and Dohme, Molnupiravir is among the first proven drugs to effectively treat the viral contagion and was originally developed to treat flu. It can be taken as a pill instead of injection or intravenous administration. It could likely enter the Indian pharmaceutical markets “within days” after receiving Emergency Use Authorisation, Dr Ram Vishwakarma,
Ten states sue Biden administration over COVID-19 vaccine mandate for U.S. health workers
Ten Republican state attorneys general sued on Wednesday to stop the Biden administration's requirement that millions of U.S. health workers get vaccinated against the coronavirus, saying it would worsen staff shortages. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, said last Thursday he will enforce the mandate starting Jan. 4. The attorneys general of Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire jointly filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis.
Israel pandemic advisory panel backs COVID vaccine for young children
Israel's pandemic advisory board on Wednesday backed administering Pfizer's and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to children age 5-11, health officials said, as a fourth wave of infections subsides nationwide. The Health Ministry is widely expected to accept the panel's recommendation and begin rolling out the shots this month. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization of the vaccine for the age group at a 10-microgram dose.
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine patent dispute headed to court, U.S. NIH head says
U.S. National Institutes of Health scientists played "a major role" in developing Moderna Inc's (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine and the agency intends to defend its claim as co-owner of patents on the shot, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told Reuters on Wednesday. In a story first reported by the New York Times on Tuesday, Moderna excluded three NIH scientists as co-inventors of a central patent for the company's multibillion-dollar COVID-19 vaccine in its application filed in July.
Merck inks yet another $1B-plus supply deal for COVID pill, this time with Japan
Merck & Co.'s positive data for oral COVID-19 antiviral molnupiravir continue to pay off in a big way. Wednesday, just a day after unveiling a $1 billion sale order to the U.S., the company disclosed another major supply deal. Japan has agreed to pay Merck and partner Ridgeback Therapeutics $1.2 billion for 1.6 million courses of the drug, or $750 per course. The deal is contingent on the antiviral winning an authorization or approval from Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency. The deal comes a day after Merck said the U.S. government agreed to purchase another 1.4 million courses of the drug for $1 billion. Together with an earlier purchase, the order brings the United States' total supply purchase to 3.1 million courses at a cost of $2.2 billion.
Maintaining Services
Ellume's COVID-19 home test recall most serious, FDA says
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classified the recall of Ellume's over-the-counter COVID-19 home test as Class 1, the most serious type of recall, after the Australian diagnostic test maker removed some of its tests from the market last month. Ellume had cited higher-than-acceptable false positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 as the reason for the recall. A 'false positive' indicates that a person has the virus when they actually do not.
Chinese city Dalian halts frozen food trade after COVID-19 cases
Chinese port city Dalian has ordered all businesses handling imported chilled and frozen foods to suspend operations after an outbreak of COVID-19 that began last week. The city on China's northeast coast has reported more than 80 COVID-19 cases over the past week, with the first in a warehouse worker in the Zhuanghe area of the city on Nov. 4. Local authorities issued the order on Monday, state-backed newspaper Global Times reported on Thursday.
Moderna offers COVID-19 shot at $7 to African Union - Africa CDC head
Moderna Inc has offered to sell its COVID-19 vaccines to the African Union at $7 a shot, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control John Nkengasong said on Thursday, half the price paid by the United States earlier in the year. It is also a substantial discount to what other buyers like the European Union have agreed this year, part of a broader trend for drugmakers to sell at lower prices to lower income countries. "I am happy to say that a dose of the Moderna vaccine will be $7. That is what is being offered to us," Nkengasong told a weekly virtual media briefing.
Canada's new COVID-19 epicenters are more remote, less vaccinated and less resourced
Canada's coronavirus epicenters are shifting from dense urban zones to more rural or remote areas that have lower vaccination rates and fewer public health resources. Some of those areas were spared in earlier waves of the pandemic and are now forced to contend with a widely spreading virulent strain of the coronavirus with fewer options at their disposal to deal with the surge. Canada has high overall vaccination rates but pockets of hesitancy allow the virus to spread.
Beijing city imposes COVID restrictions on conferences, events
Authorities in Beijing city imposed new curbs on conferences and events after confirming on Thursday six locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, including individuals who had attended conferences in person in the city. Beijing city has reported fewer than 50 COVID-19 local symptomatic infections in the current outbreak that led to over 1,000 local cases since mid-October, but has taken tough measures to block potential routes of further transmission under China's zero-tolerance policy. The city is also the host of the Winter Olympics in February.
Nepal to vaccinate all adults by mid-April: Health minister
Nepal will obtain enough vaccines to immunise all adults against COVID-19 by mid-April and is focusing on getting doses into remote mountainous areas of the Himalayan nation, says the health minister. The government will hire workers and set up vaccination centres to meet the target, Health Minister Birod Khatiwada told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday. “We are going to meet our target or even exceed our goal because we are already getting enough vaccines,” said Khatiwada, who was appointed last month. “We are going to hire more health workers so they are able to reach all remote corners of the country and set up new vaccine centres to reach all the population.” Nepal’s immunisation campaign began in January with vaccines donated by neighbouring India but stalled when India faced a devastating surge of COVID-19 and halted vaccine exports.
Healthcare Innovations
India's Covaxin 77.8% Effective Against Covid in Lancet Study
Covaxin, a vaccine developed by India’s government medical research agency and Bharat Biotech International Ltd., was found to have a 77.8% efficacy rate against symptomatic Covid-19 in a long-awaited analysis published in The Lancet. Covaxin, which uses traditional, inactivated-virus technology, “induces a robust antibody response” two weeks after two doses are given, The Lancet said in a statement. No severe-vaccine-related deaths or adverse events were recorded during a randomized trial involving 24,419 participants aged 18-97 years between Nov. 2020 and May 2021 in India, the medical journal said.
UK researchers identify T-cell targets for future COVID vaccines
British researchers said on Wednesday they had identified proteins in the coronavirus that are recognised by T-cells of people who are exposed to the virus but resist infection, possibly providing a new target for vaccine developers. Immunity against COVID-19 is a complex picture, and while there is evidence of waning antibody levels six months after vaccination, T-cells are also believed to play a vital role in providing protection. The University College London (UCL) researchers examined 731 health workers in two London hospitals during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and found that many had not tested positive despite likely exposure to the original coronavirus.
Israeli 'wargame' sees kids suffering vaccine-resistant COVID strain
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and senior aides holed up in a nuclear command bunker on Thursday to simulate an outbreak of a vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant to which children are vulnerable, describing such an eventuality as "the next war". Israel would brief foreign leaders next week on the findings of the drill, he said, citing Britain's Boris Johnson as among counterparts with whom he is in contact. Bennett said that, to enhance the challenge of the one-day exercise, he had been kept unaware of specific scenarios of an imagined 10-week crisis that starts over the December holidays.
Sleep apnea linked to COVID-19 outcomes
Sleep apnea tied to severe COVID-19 - The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is higher in people with obstructive sleep apnea and other breathing problems that cause oxygen levels to drop during sleep, researchers say. They tracked 5,402 adults with these problems and found that roughly a third of them eventually tested posted for the coronavirus. While periodic episodes of not-breathing while asleep - leading to low oxygen levels, or hypoxia - did not increase people's chances of being infected, sleep-related hypoxia did increase infected patients' odds of needing to be hospitalized or dying from COVID-19, Drs. Cinthya Pena Orbea and Reena Mehra of the Cleveland Clinic and colleagues reported on Wednesday in JAMA Network Open. It is not clear if treatments that improve sleep apnea, such as CPAP machines that push air into patients' airways during sleep, would also reduce the risk of severe COVID-19, said Pena Orbea and Mehra.
Covid-19: Researcher blows the whistle on data integrity issues in Pfizer’s vaccine trial
Revelations of poor practices at a contract research company helping to carry out Pfizer’s pivotal covid-19 vaccine trial raise questions about data integrity and regulatory oversight. A regional director who was employed at the research organisation Ventavia Research Group has told The BMJ that the company falsified data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained vaccinators, and was slow to follow up on adverse events reported in Pfizer’s pivotal phase III trial.