"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 25th Apr 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai tightens city’s lockdown in ‘societal zero-Covid’ pursuit
Shanghai added 17,629 new cases in the previous 24 hours, 4.7 per cent fewer than a day earlier, according to data released on Friday. Symptomatic cases fell 26.7 per cent to 1,931, in the biggest one-day decline since March 1, while 11 patients died
Shanghai Covid Cases Bounce Back as Strict Lockdown Persists
Shanghai reported higher Covid-19 cases and deaths on Friday, following five straight daily declines, as the city vows to step up lockdown enforcement to stamp out community spread in China’s worst virus outbreak. There were 23,370 new local infections reported in the financial hub Friday, compared with 17,629 cases the day before, the Shanghai Health Commission said Saturday morning. The city is entering its fourth week of strict lockdown since April 1, while people living in the eastern part or neighborhoods with earlier reported cases have been confined to their apartments for even longer. Frustration among residents has been building due to lack of access to food or medical care, moldy government rations, and the location of quarantine centers.
COVID rules are winding back, but some Australians are still locking down
Cities around Australia are again heaving with life. Masks are off, vaccine mandates are being wound back, capacity limits are a thing of the past and close contact rules are at their most relaxed for more than two years. "I think it's fantastic for everyone that can partake in it and feels comfortable to do so," said Victorian man Stephen Feitsma. "I wish I could, that we could do the same." Mr Feitsma spoke to the ABC from his home on Melbourne's Mornington Peninsula, where he has spent almost all of his time for the last two years in a bid to avoid being exposed to COVID-19.
Thailand ends mandatory quarantine for vaccinated visitors
Visitors to Thailand who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer need to undergo any test or quarantine on arrival starting May 1, a measure the authorities hope will help rejuvenate the country’s lucrative tourism industry. “Many countries have already eased their restrictions,” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Friday. “We are a country that relies on the tourism industry, especially during these times. This will help move the economy forward.” Under the new rules announced by the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, unvaccinated travelers will still have to provide proof of negative results from a RT-PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. All visitors still must register with an online “Thailand Pass” system and provide proof of health insurance with coverage of at least $10,000 for COVID-19 treatment.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19 Restrictions in Israel: Indoor Mask Mandate Dropped
Israel has lifted an indoor mask mandate in place for nearly a year as the country’s new cases of coronavirus continue to drop. The end of the masking requirement took effect Saturday night. Masks remain mandatory in hospitals, elderly care facilities and on international flights. Israel has seen new cases of COVID-19 drop since the peak of the latest wave of infections in January. Serious cases of coronavirus have plummeted from a high of over 1,200 during the omicron variant outbreak to around 200. Since the start of the pandemic two years ago, Israel has recorded over 4 million cases of coronavirus and at least 10,658 deaths — over one-fifth of them since January, according to the Health Ministry
People who live, work in Beijing's Chaoyang will have to take 3 COVID tests in coming week
Beijing's Chaoyang district will require people who live and work in the district to undergo three coronavirus tests this coming week, the city government of Beijing said on Sunday. Chaoyang is the biggest district in Beijing and is home to 3.45 million people. The city government's requirement comes after Beijing reported 22 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.
No Covid tests on arrival for vaccinated travellers from May 1
The Test & Go process for foreign arrivals will be terminated at the end of the month and vaccinated travellers will be only advised to do self-antigen tests for Covid-19 from May 1, to stimulate tourism and the economy, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday. "Tourism is recovering and antigen tests will be more convenient and faster for visitors," Gen Prayut said after chairing a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) at Government House. "Many countries are relaxing travel restrictions significantly and our country depends considerably on tourism to support our economy," the prime minister said.
Mask mandates return to US college campuses as cases rise
The final weeks of the college school year have been disrupted yet again by COVID-19 as universities bring back mask mandates, switch to online classes and scale back large gatherings in response to upticks in coronavirus infections. Colleges in Washington, D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Texas have reimposed a range of virus measures, with Howard University moving to remote learning amid a surge in cases in the nation’s capital. This is the third straight academic year that has been upended by COVID-19, meaning soon-to-be seniors have yet to experience a normal college year.
Mask Mandate Is Gone, but Turbulence Remains for Airlines, Fliers
For two years, masks were a fraught issue for airlines, comforting some passengers, angering others and making flight attendants into enforcers. Now, the masks are gone—but the friction is set to continue. Airlines are hopeful that easing mask rules will tamp down on in-flight conflicts, after a federal judge in Florida this week struck down the Biden administration’s Covid-19 mask mandate for public transportation. The Justice Department has said it would appeal that decision, but in the meantime, the mandate isn’t being enforced and U.S. carriers have said masks are optional for passengers and staff. It has also left airlines to decide what to do with thousands of passengers who broke mask rules during the pandemic, and earned bans. United Airlines Holdings Inc. President Brett Hart said the Chicago-based airline is getting back in touch with people who were banned from United flights over the course of the pandemic.
Singapore Phases Out the Use of a Controversial Covid Contact Tracing App
Singapore will move away from a key Covid-19 contact tracing app that previously attracted controversy due to government disclosures about its use for criminal investigations, but retain the data under a previously passed law. The health ministry on Friday said most venues will no longer require the public to check in using the TraceTogether program from April 26, a mobile application and device used by authorities for identifying the close contacts and locations visited by infected persons.
Philadelphia Lifts Indoor Mask Mandate
Philadelphia lifted its citywide indoor mask mandate just days after becoming the first major U.S. city to reimpose such a requirement, officials said. Officials lifted the mandate Friday after the city’s Board of Health voted Thursday evening to rescind it, citing improvements in local Covid-19 data. The city also said it is changing how it looks at metrics such as new Covid-19 cases, that triggered the reinstatement of the mask mandate this month. It would no longer use the system of responses that imposed various measures such as mask mandates based on data. Officials said strong recommendations are adequate at this stage of the pandemic for changing people’s behavior.
Community Activities
Shanghai, China Covid Lockdown: Residents Complain Online
Chinese internet users rallied to outwit government censors on a video documenting weeks of lockdown in Shanghai, flooding social media feeds as frustration continued to escalate over strict Covid Zero rules. The six-minute video titled “The Sound of April” was posted on Friday and soon got censored as it went viral. Chinese Wechat users then uploaded the film from different accounts and in various forms including upside-down and mirrored versions until late night, as newly-uploaded clips were also removed. The film, on a slowly-moving frame of overhead shots of the city in black-and-white, spliced in sound clips from government press briefings, voice call recordings seeking medical help and information transparency, hungry and frustrated residents chanting in unison for government rations, and chats between neighbors and ordinary people helping each other out.
Rio's Carnival parade returns after long pandemic hiatus
Colorful floats and flamboyant dancers are delighting tens of thousands jammed into Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Sambadrome, putting on a delayed Carnival celebration after the pandemic halted the dazzling displays. Rio de Janeiro’s top samba schools began strutting their stuff late Friday, which was the first evening of the two-night spectacle. Ketula Melo, 38, a muse in the Imperatriz Leopoldinense school dressed as the Iemanja deity of Afro-Brazilian religions, was thrilled to be back at the Sambadrome. “These two years were horrible. Now we can be happy again,” Melo said as she was about to enter Friday night wearing a black and white costume made of shells that barely covered her body.
Rise in Hong Kong suicides during Covid should spark action
In late February, the number of suicides in Hong Kong began to rise; at the peak on March 23, four people committed suicide every day on a seven-day rolling average basis. Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, director of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, noted that if the trend continued, the number of suicide cases this year could hit 1,400, exceeding the historical peak during the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic 19 years ago when 1,264 people, or 18.8 per 100,000 people, took their own lives. A government survey in 2010-13 estimated that one in seven Hongkongers aged 16 to 75 suffers from anxiety, depression or other mood disorders. Ageing can also have a negative impact on mental health.
Judge who fired employee for not getting vaccinated did not abuse power - ruling
A bankruptcy judge who fired an employee who was denied a religious exemption from a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement did not engage in discrimination or an abuse of power, a federal appeals court judge ruled. Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Michael Chagares in a newly released opinion dismissed a complaint the ex-employee filed with the Judicial Council of the 3rd Circuit in a rare judicial misconduct case over a federal court employee vaccine requirement. The decision is dated Feb. 22 but was only released this week. As is typical with cases filed under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, the ruling did not identify the complainant, judge or even court to which it pertains.
Portugal becomes first EU country to give fast-track entry to Britons since Brexit in move that could spark a 'domino effect'
Is seen as bid to lure Britons away from rival destinations such as Spain and Italy British passports must now be checked manually, increasing waiting times But passport e-gate lanes were set up for Britons at Portugal airports this week
Working Remotely
Hybrid and remote working require a shift from managing to leading
Frans Campher, CEO of Integral Leadership Dynamics, says companies are only beginning to realise the scope of the challenges posed by hybrid working and that the consequences, good and bad, won’t really become apparent for another two years. In the meantime those that want to thrive will need to transform from organisations that manage people to organisations that lead them. “What’s not going to work is managers who feel they have to control the heck out of everything, and who see hybrid as a loss of control,” he says.
Remote working is a 'mixed bag' for employee well-being and productivity, study finds
Adapting remote and hybrid work policies to employees' specific work-life situations can result in increased well-being and productivity, but many employees are stuck in an increasing number of low-quality meetings when working remotely, according to a new study.
How HR should be involved in developing strong virtual leadership
Hybrid working has unsettled workplaces: there’s a mess of policies and practices, issues of trust and engagement. It’s been the same story over the past 20 years – with the setting up of global virtual teams and the response to the pandemic emergency, HR teams have taken a back seat: they have preferred to support managers as and when needed, watched situations emerge rather than take a clear stance and actively working with the business to develop strong virtual leadership strategy and culture. HR has an essential proactive role to play in developing strategies so that leaders are proactively shaping their future collaboration; where they are leading the use of technology instead of being led by it.
Virtual Classrooms
What Happens to the Right to Education, Online?
We have seen how the pandemic not only amplified existing inequalities in access to education through school closures and disrupted teaching, but also altered the nature of the learning experience. In March 2020, UNESCO reported that 87% of the world’s school children had been affected by COVID-19-related school closures and cessation of learning, signalling a major rupture in education. In May 2021, Human Rights Watch called for governments to devote serious attention and resources to ameliorate, mitigate, and correct the long-standing inequalities in education systems that have been highlighted and exacerbated during the pandemic. Added to that, the camera is believed to have induced a whole new level of anxiety among ill-prepared teachers and learners, and exacerbated privacy violations, even as the question of the efficacy of a digitised education process remains unsatisfactorily answered
Virtual STEM learning programs ramped up during the pandemic
The chasm of need for creative virtual learning experiences grew during the pandemic, especially in STEM classroom activities. Some organizations stepped up with programs to fill this learning gap that existed before schools went online and will continue to exist after kids are back in the classroom. “Many schools simply don’t have the resources to augment classroom instruction with valuable hands-on, experiential alternatives,” says Sarah Buhayar, Pacific Science Center board member and a director at the Gates Foundation.
COVID changed the way colleges prepare future teachers
As COVID-19 brought winds of change in K-12 education, schooling of future teachers shifted, as well. Colleges of education in Oklahoma say they modified the way they prepare students for a career in education during the pandemic era. Readying future educators to teach virtually is the foremost adjustment, said Jon Pedersen, dean of Oklahoma State University’s College of Education and Human Sciences.
Public Policies
Biden admin to promote availability of COVID antiviral pill
President Joe Biden and his administration want Americans and their doctors to know that the country has an ample supply of the life-saving COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid and that it no longer needs to be rationed. First approved in December, supply of the Pfizer regimen was initially very limited, but as COVID-19 cases across the country have fallen and manufacturing has increased it is now far more abundant. The White House is now moving to raise awareness of the pill and taking steps to make it easier to access. Paxlovid, when administered within five days of symptoms appearing, has been proven to bring about 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.
EU regulator backs using Pfizer COVID shot as booster after other vaccines
A European Medicines Agency (EMA) committee on Friday recommended approving the use of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, as a booster for adults who have previously been inoculated with other vaccines. The recommendation from Europe's drug regulator comes days after global COVID-19 cases surpassed 500 million, according to a Reuters tally, as the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron surges in many countries. Some European countries are now seeing a slower uptick in new cases, or even a decline, but the region is still reporting over 1 million cases about every two days, according to the Reuters tally published on Thursday
Polish health minister upbeat on Moderna vaccine talks
Poland can reach a compromise with Moderna on increasing the flexibility of COVID-19 vaccine contracts, the health minister said on Friday, striking an upbeat tone after after initial talks with the U.S. pharmaceutical company. Poland has said it will not will not take or pay for more doses of COVID-19 vaccine under the European Union's supply contract as it already has sufficient doses, potentially setting the stage for a legal battle with manufacturers. The country has seen lower vaccine uptake than many other European countries and is seeing its public finances stretched by the effects of the war in neighbouring Ukraine, which has resulted in 2.9 million refugees entering Poland.
‘Best therapeutic choice’: WHO backs Pfizer’s COVID antiviral
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has given its backing to Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment for COVID-19 after studies showed the antiviral pill reduced the risk of high-risk patients being admitted to hospital by 85 percent. The WHO announced on Thursday it was making a “strong recommendation” for the use of Paxlovid – a combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir – for people with mild and moderate COVID-19 but at risk of hospital admission, calling it the “best therapeutic choice for high-risk patients to date”.
Maintaining Services
Beijing on alert after COVID-19 cases discovered in school
Beijing is on alert after 10 middle school students tested positive for COVID-19, in what city officials said was an initial round of testing. City officials suspended classes in the school for a week following the positive test results on Friday. The Chinese capital also reported four other confirmed cases that day that were counted separately. Mainland China reported 24,326 new community-transmitted infections on Saturday, with the vast majority of them asymptomatic cases in Shanghai, where enforcement of a strict “zero-COVID” strategy has drawn global attention. China has doubled down on the approach even in face of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
NYC Suspends School Staff for Allegedly Using Fake Vaccine IDs
The New York City Department of Education suspended about 70 employees for allegedly using fake vaccination cards, the teachers’ union said. The department placed the employees on unpaid leave with benefits, effective April 25, and the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District and law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident. “Fraudulent vaccination cards are not only illegal, they also undermine the best line of protection our schools have against Covid-19 – universal adult vaccination,” said Nathaniel Styer, a spokesperson for the DOE. It wasn’t immediately clear how the department discovered the alleged fake cards.
Healthcare Innovations
Long Covid May Be Result of Coronavirus Persisting in Feces
Covid-19 patients can harbor the coronavirus in their feces for months after infection, researchers found, stoking concern that its persistence can aggravate the immune system and cause long Covid symptoms. In the largest study tracking SARS-CoV-2 RNA in feces and Covid symptoms, scientists at California’s Stanford University found that about half of infected patients shed traces of the virus in their waste in the week after infection and almost 4% patients still emit them seven months later.