"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 5th Jan 2022

Isolation Tips
Lockdown of Chinese City Leaves 13 Million Stranded
A week and a half into one of the biggest pandemic lockdowns in China, residents of Xi’an voiced desperation online about challenges in getting food and medical care. China’s Covid-19 count remains low in comparison with other countries, hovering at around 100 a day. In the past few days, about 90% of cases have been in Xi’an, the city of terracotta-warrior fame in China’s northwest, which has confirmed 1,758 total Covid-19 infections since Dec. 9, a high number for China. Most of the cases have been mild, officials said. No deaths related to Covid-19 have been reported anywhere in China in the past 11 months, including Xi’an.
Delhi imposes weekend curfew as COVID cases multiply, chief minister tests positive
Authorities in India's capital Delhi on Tuesday ordered people to stay home over coming weekends, with COVID-19 cases quadrupling in a week. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the most senior elected official in the capital's administration, was one of the 37,379 new COVID-19 cases reported in India in the space of 24 hours. Kejriwal, who announced his infection the day after addressing an election rally without a mask, is among scores of political leaders - including Prime Minister Narendra Modi - holding events across India in front of large crowds.
Hygiene Helpers
50-second Covid test designed for use in schools and airports submitted to UK regulator for approval
A 50-second Covid-19 test that has been designed for use in schools, airports and at entertainment events has been submitted to the UK’s medicines regulator for approval, i has learned. The testing device, which is portable and around the size of a desktop-computer, is able to detect Covid infected particles in saliva samples in under a minute, according to creator Kidod Science and Technology. The firm claims it can provide results comparable to a PCR test and that it could be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) within weeks.
Parents can now register children aged five to 11 for Covid-19 vaccine
Parents can now register children aged five to 11 for Covid-19 vaccines, with the rollout set to begin imminently. Registration can be done online, and parents will receive a text message confirming their appointment. The HSE has urged the public to consider bringing their children forward for vaccination. “Clinical trials showed that this vaccine was highly effective at preventing Covid-19 in children,” a statement said.
Covid-19 testing system to remain under pressure for weeks, health official says
The Covid-19 testing system in Ireland is expected to remain under major pressure in the coming days, a senior health official has said. The comment comes as one teaching union has called for a re-think on the full reopening of schools, ahead of a meeting with Education Minister Norma Foley. The Government’s party leaders will on Tuesday discuss the ongoing Covid-19 situation.
South Korea court exempts private schools from vaccine passes
A South Korean court ordered that private educational facilities, including cram schools, should be temporarily excluded from government COVID-19 vaccine pass mandates, the health ministry said on Tuesday. The injunction is one of the first legal obstacles to South Korea's vaccine mandates, which require passes or testing for entry to facilities including restaurants, cafes, gyms, and bars, as well as privately-run schools. A Seoul administrative court ruled that the mandate at private education facilities such as tuition centres, libraries and study cafes should be blocked while it considers a legal challenge filed against the Ministry of Health by federations of private education and parents' groups, the ministry said.
France vows to go ahead with vaccine pass despite parliamentary glitch
French government officials on Tuesday vowed to enact by mid-January as planned a law to block unvaccinated people from hospitality venues, despite the legislation hitting a procedural hitch in parliament overnight. "January 15 remains our goal," for the law coming into force, European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told LCI television. Until now France has enforced a COVID-19 health pass, which means in order to get into restaurants, cafes or cinemas or board trains, people need to either show a fresh negative test, or proof of vaccination. The legislation will remove the option of showing a negative test, effectively barring unvaccinated people from hospitality venues or trains.
Israeli study finds fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose boosts antibodies five-fold, PM says
A fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine boosts antibodies five-fold a week after the shot is administered, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday, citing preliminary findings of an Israeli study. "A week into the fourth dose, we know to a higher degree of certainty that the fourth dose is safe," Bennett said at Sheba Medical Center, which is giving second booster shots in a trial among its staff amid a nationwide surge in Omicron variant infections. "The second piece of news: We know that a week after administration of a fourth dose, we see a five-fold increase in the number of antibodies in the vaccinated person," he told reporters.
Community Activities
Australia to push ahead with reopening amid record COVID-19 cases
Australia's government said the milder impact of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 meant the country could push ahead with plans to reopen the economy even as new infections hit a record of more than 37,000 and the number of people hospitalised rose. Record daily case numbers were reported on Monday in the states of Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, as well as the Australian Capital Territory. In New South Wales, there were 20,794 cases, higher than Sunday's figure but below the daily record of 22,577 set on Saturday, with testing numbers lower over the New Year's holiday weekend.
Texas Sues U.S. to Block Vaccine Requirement for National Guard
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sued the Biden administration Tuesday, seeking to halt a requirement that National Guard members be vaccinated against Covid-19. Earlier in the day, Mr. Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Military Department, ordering it not to force Texas Guardsmen to receive vaccines. “Unless President Biden federalizes the Texas National Guard…he is not your commander-in-chief,” the letter said. “I will not tolerate efforts to compel receipt of a Covid-19 vaccine.” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III ordered in August that all service members be vaccinated for Covid-19, saying that healthy forces are necessary for a national defense.
Working Remotely
60% of the Romanian Millennials and earliest Gen Zs prefer working remotely with flexible hours no more than twice a week
Six out of ten (60%) Romanian Millennials and earliest members of Gen Z prefer a working arrangement that allows them to work from various locations, including home, during flexible hours, according to the latest edition of Deloitte Central Europe (CE) First Steps into the Labour Market report. This trend is also seen in the other CE countries, where 50% of the respondents prefer a similar working model. By contrast, only 5% of the Romanian respondents and 10% of the CE respondents prefer the traditional model of working in an office for fixed hours.
Virtual Classrooms
‘It’s really disappointing’: Ontario parents, teachers brace for virtual learning
Students, parents and teachers in Ontario are bracing for another stint of virtual education after the province announced Monday that schools would not reopen to in-person classes for at least two weeks due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Premier Doug Ford announced the shift to remote learning less than a week after his government insisted in-person classes would resume after only a two-day delay.
Public Policies
FDA clears Pfizer, BioNTech COVID booster for younger teens
The FDA has authorised the first COVID-19 booster vaccine for teenagers in the 12 to 15 age group, giving the okay for wider use of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Comirnaty shot as it tries to keep the Omicron variant under control. The US regulator has also reduced the time between completion of the first two doses of Comirnaty and a third dose to five months from six as a wave of new COVID-19 cases caused by Omicron has started washing over the country. That’s still longer than some other countries, including the UK which has pared down the time between the second and third doses to three months. The number of new COVID-19 cases in the US has doubled in the last few days to an average of around 418,000 a day, according to Reuters, while figures suggest there were more than a million new cases in the country yesterday, the highest number recorded since the start of the pandemic.
Hong Kong to expand 'vaccine bubble' from Feb. 24 to combat COVID-19 spread
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the government will expand a "vaccine bubble" from Feb. 24 to include venues such as gyms, cinemas and libraries as the city steps up its fight against the spread of coronavirus. Only vaccinated people would be allowed into those venues. Lam was speaking at a weekly press conference a day after health authorities confirmed a fifth case of Omicron in the local community.
WHO sees more evidence that Omicron causes milder symptoms
More evidence is emerging that the Omicron coronavirus variant is affecting the upper respiratory tract, causing milder symptoms than previous variants and resulting in a "decoupling" in some places between soaring case numbers and low death rates, a World Health Organization official said on Tuesday. "We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that Omicron is infecting the upper part of the body. Unlike other ones, the lungs who would be causing severe pneumonia," WHO Incident Manager Abdi Mahamud told Geneva-based journalists.
Dr Reddy's to launch generic COVID-19 Merck drug at about 50 cents a pill
Indian drugmaker Dr Reddy's Laboratories Ltd will launch its generic version of Merck's antiviral COVID-19 pill, molnupiravir, and price it at 35 rupees per capsule, a company spokesperson said on Tuesday. The overall cost for a patient treated with a 5-day course of 40 capsules of the generic drug, to be sold under brand name 'Molflu', will come up to 1,400 rupees ($18.77). In comparison, the treatment with Merck's pill in the United States costs $700. "Molflu is expected to be available from early next week in pharmacies throughout (India) with particular focus on states with high caseload of COVID-19," the company spokesperson said.
Maintaining Services
More than 100,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in US for first time in nearly four months
More than 103,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, the first time the total has reached six figures in nearly four months, according to the latest data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Covid-19 hospitalizations reached a record high of more than 142,000 about a year ago, on January 14, 2021, and last topped 100,000 on September 11. The total fell to about 45,000 hospitalizations in early November, but increased steadily since then, and surged in the last week. Just last Monday, HHS reported 71,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations.
Australia regulator to review price hike in COVID-19 antigen tests
Australia's antitrust regulator said on Tuesday it has contacted suppliers of COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits to examine pricing pressures in the market, as calls grow louder for the government to make the tests free amid a severe shortage of the kits. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it will review information received from suppliers, retailers and the public to determine any potential misconduct. Australia approved more than a dozen rapid antigen test kits and a majority of them are from China.
Dutch to reopen schools despite high infection rates
The Netherlands, under a strict COVID-19 lockdown for the past two weeks, will reopen primary and secondary schools on Jan. 10 despite coronavirus infections remaining high, the government announced on Monday. The government stressed that hospital admissions were down considerably since the country went into a lockdown in December, which included schools closing a week earlier than planned for winter holidays. "This is good news for students and it's important for their development and their mental well-being that they can go to school," Education Minister Arie Slob said at a press conference.
UK government seeks to mitigate workforce disruption from Omicron
The British government has asked public sector managers to test their contingency plans against a worst-case scenario of 25% staff absence as part of efforts to minimise disruption from the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. With daily infection numbers at a record high and people who test positive required to self-isolate for at least seven days, the government expects businesses and public services to face disruption in the coming weeks, it said in a statement.
Spanish students to go back to school after Christmas break, despite Omicron
Students at Spanish schools and universities will return to class in-person when the new term begins on Jan. 10, the Health Minister said on Tuesday, ending speculation that record COVID-19 infections might trigger a return to distance learning. Cases have hit new highs since the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected. Omicron accounted for around 43% of cases in the week before Christmas, Spanish health authorities said on Monday. The nationwide infection rate as measured over the past 14 days rose to a new record of 2,433 cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday, a more than 10-fold increase since the beginning of December
Healthcare Innovations
Multivariant Covid-19 vaccine booster shows promise, early trial data suggests
A Covid vaccine booster aimed at tackling multiple variants shows promise in inducing a comprehensive immune response, early data suggests. The first results of a phase one trial, launched in Manchester in September 2021, reveal the jab has strong levels of neutralising antibodies. They are similar to approved mRNA vaccines (like Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna), but at up to a 10-fold lower dose in the first 10 individuals, the research indicates.
Covid Science: Virus leaves antibodies that may attack healthy tissues
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 has yet to be certified by peer review. Coronavirus leaves survivors with self-attacking antibodies Months after recovering from SARS-CoV-2 infection, survivors have elevated levels of antibodies that can mistakenly attack their own organs and tissues, even if they had not been severely ill, according to new findings.
COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy not linked to complications at birth -U.S. study
COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy was not associated with preterm delivery or underweight newborns, in a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday. Rates of preterm birth were 4.9% among more than 10,000 women who received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 7.0% for roughly 36,000 unvaccinated women, researchers said on Tuesday in The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The difference was not deemed to be statistically significant.