"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 11th Feb 2022

Isolation Tips
S.Korea turns to self-treatment as Omicron fuels COVID surge
South Korea said on Thursday patients with mild coronavirus symptoms will have to treat themselves, aiming to free up medical resources for more serious cases, as new infections hit a fresh high because of the fast spreading Omicron variant. South Korea has largely been a COVID-19 mitigation success story, thanks to aggressive testing and tracing, social distancing and mask wearing. But as the highly infectious but less deadly Omicron variant began spreading, the government this month started to shift its strategy away from testing and tracing and towards self-monitoring, diagnosis and at-home treatment.
Hygiene Helpers
Unions and scientists claim Boris is moving 'too far, too soon'
Mr Johnson has declared that all coronavirus rules including self-isolation set to go from end of the month. Unison boss warned 'Covid risks haven't disappeared' and the PM's plans are 'going too far, ​way too soon.' And SAGE member said No10's scientists haven't discussed the move, cautioning that they bring 'dangers.' A top epidemiologist warned relaxing curbs is a 'political type of statement rather than a scientific one.' YouGov poll shows 75% believe self-isolation requirement should be in place for at least the next few months Nicola Sturgeon's may now extend emergency Covid curbs until September - but will axe masks in classrooms
Global coronavirus vaccine rollout: Half the world is now fully vaccinated
About a year after wealthier nations began rolling out coronavirus vaccines, more than half the world’s population has been fully vaccinated — a logistical feat without precedent in human history. But the global rollout remains uneven, with poor countries reporting much lower vaccination rates than rich countries. Public health experts have been warning that vaccine inequity is helping prolong the pandemic, as the focus of those seeking to speed up global vaccine coverage begins to shift from resolving a shortfall of supply to distributing doses and persuading people to get them.
Sweden stops mass COVID-19 PCR testing as symptomatic people are urged to stay home
Sweden has halted wide-scale testing for COVID-19 even among people showing symptoms of an infection, putting an end to the mobile city-square tent sites, drive-in swab centres and home-delivered tests. The move puts the Scandinavian nation at odds with most of Europe, but some experts say it could become the norm as costly testing yields fewer benefits with the easily transmissible but milder Omicron variant.
New York eases COVID-19 rules, Massachusetts to drop school mask mandate
The governors of New York and Massachusetts announced on Wednesday that they would end certain mask mandates in their states, joining a growing list of U.S. state leaders planning to lift face-covering rules as the latest COVID-19 surge eases. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said her state would stop requiring people to wear a mask or prove they had received a COVID-19 vaccine when entering most indoor public places, starting on Thursday, thanks to a decrease in COVID cases and hospitalizations.
Community Activities
US urges Canada to use federal powers to end bridge blockade
The Biden administration urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government Thursday to use its federal powers to end the truck blockade by Canadians protesting the country’s COVID-19 restrictions, as the bumper-to-bumper demonstration forced auto plants on both sides of the border to shut down or scale back production. For the fourth straight day, scores of truckers taking part in what they dubbed the Freedom Convoy blocked the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, disrupting the flow of auto parts and other products between the two countries. The White House said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke with their Canadian counterparts and urged them to help resolve the standoff.
Paris police authority bans ‘freedom convoy’ Covid protests
“Freedom convoys” of motorists that have set off from half a dozen French cities in protest against the country’s coronavirus restrictions will not be allowed to enter Paris, the capital’s police authority has said. “The stated objective of these demonstrations is to ‘block the capital’ by preventing road traffic from circulating in order to further their demands … from Friday, before moving on to Brussels on Monday,” the authority said. “Because of the risk to public order, these protests will be banned from 11 to 14 February,” it said, adding the penalties for blocking public roads included two years in prison, a fine of €4,500 and a three-year driving ban.
Brussels bans 'freedom convoy' protesting COVID curbs from entry
Brussels authorities have banned a pan-European "freedom convoy" of motorists protesting COVID-19 restrictions from entering the Belgian capital, the regional government said in a statement on Thursday. The convoy was expected to arrive at the home of European Union institutions and NATO on Monday. Authorities in Paris had earlier banned the convoy. Protesters set out from southern France on Wednesday in what they called a "freedom convoy" that will converge on Paris and Brussels to demand an end to COVID-19 restrictions, inspired by demonstrators who have gridlocked the Canadian capital Ottawa.
Africa transitioning out of pandemic phase of COVID, says WHO
Africa is transitioning out of the pandemic phase of the COVID-19 outbreak and moving towards a situation where it will be managing the virus over the long term, the head of the World Health Organization on the continent said. "I believe that we are transitioning from the pandemic phase and we will now need to manage the presence of this virus in the long term," Dr Matshidiso Moeti told a regular online media briefing. "The pandemic is moving into a different phase ... We think that we're moving now, especially with the vaccination expected to increase, into what might become a kind of endemic living with the virus," she said.
UK police to contact 50 over Downing Street lockdown parties
More than 50 people believed to have attended lockdown parties at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Downing Street will be contacted by police to explain their involvement, officers said on Wednesday, as they considered widening their investigation. A statement from the Metropolitan Police said officers would start contacting people from the end of this week, asking them to complete a document with formal legal status on the events that have left Johnson facing the gravest crisis of his premiership. Police are investigating 12 gatherings held at Johnson's office and residence after an internal inquiry found his staff had enjoyed alcohol-fuelled parties in Downing Street.
‘Move on’: New Zealand police break up Wellington trucker protest
Scuffles broke out and some 120 people were arrested in New Zealand on Thursday as police began forcefully removing a protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic measures outside the parliament building in Wellington. Inspired by the trucker demonstrations in Canada, protesters began blocking streets in the capital with trucks, cars and motorbikes on Tuesday, pitching their tents outside parliament.
Working Remotely
Almost 80 per cent of business leaders expect remote working post-Covid, say IoD
An Institute of Directors survey of almost 700 business leaders in January 2022 has shown that around 8 out of 10 organisations plan to adopt remote working in the long-term. The research found that over a quarter (27%) of directors expect their organisations to be fully flexible, with the use of remote working being down to the individual staff member, and a further 39% intend to shift towards one to four days of remote working per week. An additional 13% reported their organisation moving entirely to remote working, while just 16% are not planning to introduce any form of remote working. The IoD also found that business leaders were split on whether working from home was more or less productive.
Remote & Alternative Work Arrangements - Strategies for Success and Reducing Risk
Remote work during COVID-19 wasn’t and isn’t a fad. Many companies have swiftly adapted and shifted to this landscape by reassessing their capabilities, building and leveraging infrastructure, and using cost savings to provide their employees with a better, more flexible work experience. Leveraging advancements in technology has given companies more choices in how they operate and where their employees work. Employers have seen that work at scale is achievable with alternative work arrangements, and workers have benefited from being home, feeling safer during the COVID pandemic, and not having to commute.
Most company directors expect remote working to continue and many find more gets done, report suggests
Most business leaders plan to keep remote working arrangements in place, often feeling staff were more productive, new research suggests. A survey of 700 business leaders found that more than one in four expect their organisation to be fully flexible, leaving it down to individual employees where they want to be based. Two in five respondents to the Institute of Directors (IoD) poll said they planned to allow one to four days of remote working a week. Only about one in six directors said they were not planning to have any form of remote working.
How can I get the best out of staff who are working remotely?
Remote or hybrid working patterns have become common during the pandemic but research has shown that more than two thirds of managers have not been trained on how best to manage their reports remotely. Here are three tips to help you to get the best out of your colleagues.
Virtual Classrooms
Four Tips To Increase Student Engagement In Hybrid Learning
One of the most common complaints from teachers and parents is that it is difficult to engage with students remotely. Educators constantly worry that students’ attention will wander, and they may slack off during school hours. Therefore, it is important that the education experience is the same for all students regardless of their location, whether they are learning from the classroom or attending the lessons remotely. Here are four tips on how educational institutes can get the most out of their hybrid education setup
How to work with Forage to implement virtual internships
In January 2020, the University of Westminster embarked on a new work-based and placement learning (WBPL) project with the aim of embedding employability across all undergraduate courses. The aim is to enable all undergraduates to gain valuable employability skills that will help them prepare for a competitive job market. With the onset of Covid-19, we needed to find quick and innovative ways to be able to move WBPL online so our students could gain these vital employability skills.
Public Policies
US plans to roll out initial 10 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for children under 5 after FDA authorization, CDC document says
If the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine receives emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for children 6 months to 5 years old, the tentative plan is to roll out about 10 million vaccine doses initially, according to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document posted online. The document, an updated pediatric Covid-19 vaccination planning guide, notes that "planning is for a sequenced rollout involving an initial total of approximately 10 million doses" and that providers and facilities that have ordered doses "must be able to receive vaccine shipment on Monday February 21."
EU to provide €125mn to help Covid vaccine distribution in Africa
The EU is giving €125mn to support Covid-19 vaccine distribution in Africa after the international Covax programme said a shortage of syringes and medical equipment was slowing efforts to vaccinate the world’s poorest people. Countries across Africa have been plagued by vaccine shortages. Public health experts have warned that the uneven rollout of vaccines could lead to new coronavirus variants emerging in areas where fewer people have been vaccinated.
Japan Health Ministry committee approves Pfizer oral COVID-19 drug
A Japanese Health Ministry committee has approved the oral COVID-19 drug made by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc , the ministry said in a statement on Friday. Jiji news agency later reported that Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto had formally approved the drug, a move that officials had said they expected would take place in mid-February. Pfizer applied for approval in January.
Maintaining Services
South Korea to roll out Novavax COVID-19 vaccine next week
South Korea will begin offering Novavax Inc.'s COVID-19 vaccine at hospitals, nursing homes and public health centers next week, officials said, adding another tool to fight a fast-developing omicron surge. The country reported a record 54,122 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, a 12-fold increase from daily levels seen in mid-January, when omicron first became the country’s dominant strain. But officials are expressing cautious hope that the country’s high vaccination rate will prevent an explosion in serious illnesses and deaths. As of Thursday, 86% of South Koreans were fully vaccinated and 56% had received booster shots under a mass immunization program that has been mainly dependent on Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines.
Vietnam warns of hospitals strain as COVID-19 cases spike after holiday
Vietnam warned on Thursday that its healthcare system could become overloaded, after seeing a surge in new daily coronavirus infections following its week-long Lunar New Year holiday. The Southeast Asian country reported nearly 24,000 new cases on Wednesday, compared to about 15,000 per day in the week before the annual holiday, when millions of people travelled to their rural homes and to tourist hotspots. "Increased travelling will lead to the risk of more infections among the community, including the risk of spreading the Omicron variant," the health ministry said in a statement.
U.S. plans to roll out COVID-19 shots for children under 5 years in February
The U.S. government is planning to roll out COVID-19 shots for children under the age of 5 as soon as Feb. 21, according to a document from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering authorizing the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in the age group even though it did not meet a key target in a clinical trial of two- to four-year-olds.
Palestinian authorities step up COVID measures as hospitals fill up
Palestinian authorities have ramped up COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and warned that public indifference to their calls for masking and social distancing is hampering efforts to fight the pandemic. The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said the total number of active cases of COVID-19 in the two territories stood at 64,000 on Wednesday due to the highly infectious Omicron variant. "Three weeks ago we were recording up to 300 infections daily, but in the last few days we crossed the 11,000 mark," said Mahdi Rashed, director of health services in Ramallah. "It's clear this is a result of the Omicron variant spreading."
India's pandemic recovery is in awkward full swing
Article reports that India’s cities are bustling and economic growth is humming along once more, thanks to officials taking a pragmatic approach to managing the recent wave of Covid-19. It’s a sharp contrast to China’s rigid approach. Still, rising impatience from bond markets over the government’s debt hangover puts the giant emerging market on an awkward trudge back to normality.
Healthcare Innovations
Inhaled vaccine for COVID-19 protects against variants of concern
In a groundbreaking development toward curbing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, scientists have developed an innovative inhaled vaccine for COVID-19 that offers robust disease protection. Pioneered by a team at McMaster University, the innovative inhaled COVID-19 vaccine has been demonstrated to provide broad, long-lasting protection against the original strain of coronavirus and variants of concern (VOC). A study has signified that the revolutionary inhaled form of COVID-19 vaccine has substantial immune mechanisms and benefits due to being delivered directly into the respiratory tract compared to the standard method injection. The team’s research is published in the journal Cell
AZ halts development of Beta variant COVID-19 vaccine -
AstraZeneca confirmed today that it has discontinued clinical development of a follow-up to its COVID-19 vaccine Vaxzevria targeted at the Beta variant of the virus, which started development before the emergence of the Delta and Omicron strains. The new vaccine – codenamed AZD2816 – started phase 2/3 trials as a booster dose for people vaccinated with Vaxzevria or mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna last June, when Beta was still the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern. In its annual results statement, AZ said that it took the decision on the back of data showing that a third dose of Vaxzevria increased the immune response to new variants, including Omicron which is currently driving new COVID-19 cases around the world.
Coronavirus can destroy the placenta and lead to stillbirths
New research suggests the coronavirus can invade and destroy the placenta and lead to stillbirths in infected women. It’s an uncommon outcome for any pregnancy but women with COVID-19 face an elevated risk. Authorities believe vaccination can help prevent these cases. Researchers in 12 countries, including the United States, analyzed placental and autopsy tissue from 64 stillbirths and four newborns who died shortly after birth. The cases all involved unvaccinated women who had COVID-19 during their pregnancy. The study bolsters evidence from small case reports and it confirms that placenta damage rather than an infection of the fetus is the likely cause of many COVID-19-related stillbirths, said Dr. Jeffery Goldstein, a pathologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine
Novavax says COVID-19 shot 80% effective in adolescent study
Novavax Inc said its two-dose vaccine was 80% effective against COVID-19 in a late-stage trial testing the shot in teens aged 12 to 17 years. The trial involved 2,247 adolescents and took place between May and September last year when the Delta variant was the dominant strain in the United States. The vaccine was 82% effective against the variant. The U.S. biotech said it expects to submit applications to global regulators for the shot's use in adolescents during the first quarter.