"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 25th Feb 2022

Isolation Tips
COVID-19: All remaining coronavirus restrictions lifted in England
People in England who test positive for COVID are no longer legally required to self-isolate. From today, all remaining restrictions have been replaced by the government's "living with COVID plan". This comes just days after guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing was scrapped.
Singapore Halts Easing of Virus Restrictions as Covid Cases Surge
Singapore will push back plans to ease limits on home gatherings and other pandemic curbs as a resurgent Covid-19 outbreak tests the country’s pivot to living with the virus. The plans to ease and simplify some virus rules in phases, originally due to happen on Feb. 25 and March 4, will be delayed, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health on Thursday. This is because of the current surge in daily cases and the extensive work needed to go through detailed rules that have accumulated across different settings over the past two years, it said.
Hygiene Helpers
Hong Kong rolls out vaccine passport and tighter COVID measures
Hong Kong rolls out a vaccine passport on Thursday that requires people aged 12 and above to have at least one COVID-19 vaccination and also tightened restrictions in a city that already has some of the most stringent rules in the world. Residents will have to show their vaccine record to access venues including supermarkets, malls and restaurants. They will also have to wear masks for all outdoor exercise and will not be allowed to remove masks to eat or drink on public transport
Swiss to donate up to 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses
Switzerland will donate up to 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to other countries by the middle of this year, having secured more than enough to cover its own population of around 8.7 million, the government said on Wednesday. Around 34 million doses of vaccine will be available to Switzerland in 2022 - 20 million in the first half of the year and 14 million in the second, the cabinet said.
Covid-19: what’s the evidence for vaccinating kids?
When the announcement came last week that all children aged five to 11 in England will be offered a Covid vaccine, emphasis was placed on parental decision-making. But with factors to consider including disease severity, transmission, long Covid and vaccine side-effects, for many parents and guardians this may not be an easy choice. Ian Sample speaks to Prof Adam Finn about how the evidence stacks up, and what parents should be thinking about when deciding whether to vaccinate their five- to 11-year-olds against Covid-19
Colombia will not require face masks outdoors in areas with 70% COVID vaccination
Colombia's government will no longer require the use of face masks outdoors in areas where more than 70% of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, President Ivan Duque said. The move is a further softening of measures adopted by the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as well as an incentive for people to get vaccinated. Colombia is aiming to vaccinate at least 80% of its 50 million inhabitants
Community Activities
Google drops coronavirus vaccine requirement for US office workers
In a major update to Covid-19 protocols, Google will no longer mandate vaccines as a condition of employment for US workers. "Based on current conditions in the Bay Area, we're pleased that our employees who choose to come in now have the ability to access more onsite spaces and services to work and connect with colleagues," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to CNET. "We are giving employees who welcome the chance to come into the office the option to do that wherever we safely can, while allowing those who aren't ready to keep working from home."
Anti-Covid vaccine mandate protesters chase New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern outside school
A group of shouting protesters have chased the New Zealand prime minister’s van down a driveway as she visited a Christchurch primary school, amid tensions over increasingly volatile anti-vaccine mandate protests. Jacinda Ardern, who was visiting a primary school in Christchurch, was met by a crowd of people shouting “shame on you” and “traitor”. Some held signs saying that the prime minister would be “put on trial” and “held responsible”, and one man brandished a fabricated arrest warrant – references to conspiracy theories that a cohort of world leaders and powerful people are secretly using vaccines to commit a genocide, and would soon be put on trial and hanged for treason. Police officers formed a barrier to allow the prime minister to pass through.
US truckers planning pandemic protest to begin heading to DC
Modelled after recent trucker protests in Canada, truck drivers in the United States are planning on setting off on a massive cross-country drive towards Washington, DC to protest against coronavirus restrictions. Organisers of the “People’s Convoy” say they want to “jumpstart the economy” and reopen the country. Their 11-day trek that is estimated to be 4,000km (2,500 miles) long will approach the Beltway – which encircles the US capital – on March 5 “but will not be going into DC proper”, according to a statement. Separate truck convoys have been planned through online forums with names like the People’s Convoy and the American Truckers Freedom Fund – all with different starting points, departure dates and routes. Some are scheduled to arrive in time for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, though others may arrive afterwards.
Working Remotely
How remote working could be changing children’s futures
Parents have worked in front of children for centuries. But as the pandemic has radically altered how we work, ushering in remote set-ups for many employees, some parents are finding their work habits increasingly on display in front of their children in a new way. Research has already shown that adults’ attitudes and practises can influence a child’s relationship with how they work in the future as well as how they develop – so now, when many working parents aren’t in offices as before, could these effects be exacerbated? Experts say increased exposure to work can have downsides both for children’s development as well as how they perceive the role of a job in a parent’s life. But there may be hidden upsides, too – and things parents can do to amplify the good over the bad.
Majority agree to flexible working arrangements: poll
In Ireland, women, younger people and the lower paid are strongly in favour of more flexible working arrangements according to a poll carried out on behalf of the Labour Party. In a survey carried out by Ireland Thinks, 71% of respondents agreed that employees who can work remotely should have the right to do so. Some 81% of women, compared to 63% of men, agreed that workers should have the right to more flexible work.
The 20 jobs most likely to let you WFA – work from anywhere
Cosmopolitan journalists got in touch with anonymous employee review site Glassdoor to compile a list of jobs with the most opportunities to WFA – work from anywhere. This list is ranked by the number of remote job openings – the percentage below basically indicates the number of people with the job title who have the ability to work remotely, AKA from anywhere in the world that takes their fancy.
Virtual Classrooms
How technology is improving student engagement at home and in the classroom
The education sector has witnessed a drastic transformation over the past two years as blended learning has become the norm. Classrooms have needed the right technology to support this, providing remote learners with an experience that replicates in person teaching as closely as possible. Needs from teachers and students have evolved, and expectations of what can be achieved with technology are higher than ever. Now, educators are looking to invest in technology that not only allows teaching and learning to continue, but technology that helps to keep students engaged in new and creative ways, regardless of where they’re working
Public Policies
EMA backs Pfizer COVID booster for teens, Moderna shot for ages 6-11
The European Union's health regulator on Thursday backed giving a booster shot of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to adolescents aged 12 and over, as well as the expanded use of Moderna's shot in children ages six to 11. The recommendations by the European Medicine Agency's (EMA) Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use will be followed by final decisions by the European Commission. The moves come after several EU countries already started to offer booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to teens.
ConserV Bioscience pan-coronavirus project has been awarded UK Aid funding by the UK Vaccine Network, delivered by Innovate UK
ConserV Bioscience Limited (“ConserV”), a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing vaccines that protect against endemic and emergent infectious diseases, has been awarded UK Aid funding to advance development of its pan-coronavirus vaccine candidate, UNICOR-v. The project was selected by the UK Vaccine Network (UKVN) for the award under the competition “Vaccines for epidemic diseases: Readiness for clinical development and regulatory submission.” This is one of twenty-two projects funded by the Department of Health and Social Care as part of the UKVN, a UK Aid programme to develop vaccines for diseases with epidemic potential in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). ConserV specialises in identifying broadly protective antigens for highly mutable viruses. The grant will fund preclinical development of an intra-dermal formulation of UNICOR-v, which consists of twelve antigens from conserved regions of internal viral proteins that include clusters of reactive T-cell epitopes for multiple human leukocyte antigens (HLAs)
Time between Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines can be up to 8 weeks for some people, updated CDC guidance says
The interval between first and second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines may be as long as eight weeks for certain people, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in vaccine guidance updated Tuesday.
AstraZeneca signs deal with Canada for 100000 doses of COVID drug
AstraZeneca plc signed an agreement with Canada for 100,000 doses of its antibody therapy for prevention of COVID-19 in some high-risk patients, the country's government said on Wednesday. AstraZeneca's Evusheld is under review by Health Canada for use as a preventive treatment against the disease in those who are immunocompromised. "While vaccines provide excellent protection, people who are immunocompromised may need additional protection against COVID-19," said Canadian health minister Jean-Yves Duclos.
Italy will exit COVID state of emergency on March 31, Draghi says
The Italian government will end the COVID-19 state of emergency on March 31, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday, promising a gradual return to normal after more than two years of the health crisis. Coronavirus cases and deaths have receded in recent weeks and the government has come under pressure from businesses and some political parties to roll back the restrictions that have been progressively introduced since early 2020.
Japan to accept J&J COVID vaccine for border entry next month
Japan said on Thursday international travellers showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson shot would be allowed in and be eligible for a shorter time in quarantine when border controls are eased next month. The J&J shot, which has not been approved in Japan, will join a list of three other shots that have been approved by regulators as sufficient for non-residents to enter, after a nearly two-year ban on such travellers.
Hong Kong turns to emergency powers for China help in COVID surge
Hong Kong has invoked emergency powers so that doctors and nurses from mainland China can join its efforts to fight what it said was a “dire epidemic situation” as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus sweeps across the densely-populated territory. Authorities on Thursday morning reported 8,674 new cases, nearly all of them locally acquired. “Hong Kong is now facing a very dire epidemic situation, which continues to deteriorate rapidly,” the government said in explaining its need for the emergency powers. The outbreak is expected to “continue to escalate exponentially and go beyond the epidemic control capacity” of the territory’s administration, meaning “Hong Kong’s healthcare system, manpower, anti-epidemic facilities and resources, etc will soon be insufficient to handle the huge number of newly confirmed cases detected every day”. The Chinese territory is one of the world’s most densely-populated places with many families living in tiny high-rise apartments that make it impossible for people to isolate themselves. It has been hit hard by the Omicron wave, which slipped through the defences of its stringent quarantines and contact tracing that had kept the virus at bay since the pandemic began two years ago.
Maintaining Services
Africa CDC Urges Vaccine Donors to Stagger Deliveries of Shots
The African Union’s public health agency urged Covid-19 vaccine donors to help ensure that the distribution of shots is aligned with take-up so that all of them are used. “We have not asked them to pause the donations, but to coordinate with us so that the new donations arrive in a way so that countries can use them,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a webinar Thursday. “This is very different from saying don’t donate at all.”
Novavax starts shipping COVID vaccine to EU states
Novavax Inc said on Wednesday it had started shipping doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to European Union member states, with France, Austria and Germany expected to be the first to receive the shots in the coming days. Shipments of Nuvaxovid to additional EU member states from the company's Netherlands distribution center are expected to quickly follow, adding to the stockpile of the region as it struggles with a surge in infections due to the Omicron variant.
Healthcare Innovations
Most women still shunning Covid-19 vaccines in pregnancy, research shows
Most women are still shunning Covid-19 vaccines in pregnancy despite an increased chance of stillbirth, premature birth and risks to their own health, analysis shows. Data from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford shows 73% of Asian women, 86% of black women and 65% of white women were unvaccinated at the time of giving birth in October 2021. The charity Wellbeing of Women, which funded the study with the National Institute for Health Research, called for “urgent action” to address “stark racial and social inequalities” among pregnant women. The study found that severe Covid-19 infection in pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester, significantly increased the risk of giving birth early, having an induction or a Caesarean, having a stillborn baby or a baby that needed intensive care.
Fourth Sinopharm shot won’t boost protection against Omicron, study finds
Immunity wanes six months after three doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine are given, but a fourth shot will not provide more protection against the Omicron strain, a study has found. Researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou said their study suggested that “urgent use” of inactivated vaccines – like the Sinopharm one – as a fourth booster shot against variants of concern such as Omicron was “feasible but not ideal”. Recombinant spike protein or mRNA vaccines based on the variants of concern would be good alternatives for a fourth booster, they said. The study suggested that immune response could not be endlessly boosted and there would be a “turning point” after repeated vaccination.
Covid-19: Severe infection in pregnancy significantly increases risks, study shows
Severe covid-19 infection in pregnant women significantly increases the risk of harmful outcomes for mothers and babies, a study has found. The study, led by researchers at Oxford Population Health, examined data from the UK Obstetric Surveillance System,2 which holds records for the 1.1 million women who gave birth in UK hospitals between 1 March 2020 and 31 October 2021. Results, published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, show that in this period, 4436 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with confirmed covid-19 infection. Some 14% (616) had severe infection, 21% (917) had moderate infection, and 65% (2903) had mild infection. Marian Knight, Wellbeing of Women researcher and professor of maternal and child population health at the University of Oxford’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit and lead author, said, “Most women give birth safely and have healthy babies, but we know that pregnant women are at greater risk of developing severe covid-19 infection, particularly in the third trimester. This can lead to tragic outcomes, including premature birth and stillbirth.”
Omicron BA.2 sub-variant more infectious but no more severe - Africa CDC
The Omicron BA.2 sub-variant of COVID-19 appears to be more infectious than the original BA.1 sub-variant, but does not cause more severe disease, the head of Africa's top public health body said on Thursday citing data from South Africa. "South Africa is reporting that it is more transmissible than the BA.1 variant, but interestingly and very encouragingly the severity seems to be the same," said Dr John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. South Africa was one of the first countries to detect the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which has since swept around the globe and become dominant in most places.
CDC changes guidance and advises longer interval between vaccine doses
Some people getting Pfizer or Moderna Covid vaccines should consider waiting up to eight weeks between the first and second doses, instead of the three or four weeks previously recommended, US health officials said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday quietly changed its advice on spacing the shots. CDC officials said they were reacting to research showing that the longer interval can provide more enduring protection against the coronavirus. Research suggests that 12- to 64-year-olds – especially males ages 12 to 39 – can benefit from the longer spacing, the CDC said. They also say the longer wait may help diminish an already rare vaccination side effect: a form of heart inflammation seen in some young men.
MIS-C rare in COVID-vaccinated teens, study finds
Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is rare among 12- to 20-year-olds who have received COVID-19 vaccination, a study yesterday in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health suggests. The study was based on 9 months of follow-up data on US children and young adults ages 12 to 20 who had received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine from Dec 14, 2020, to Aug 31, 2021. Only 21 cases out of more than 21 million vaccinated adolescents developed the rare disorder, which mimics Kawasaki's, during the follow-up period. Fifteen of the 21 were diagnosed as having COVID-19 despite vaccination, while 6 developed MIS-C for unknown reasons. "Our results suggest that MIS-C cases following COVID-19 vaccination are rare and that the likelihood of developing MIS-C is much greater in children who are unvaccinated and get COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone aged 5 years and older in the United States for the prevention of COVID-19," said Anna R. Yousaf, MD, the lead author and a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a Lancet press release.