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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 12th May 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai Covid Spread Damps Prospect of Easing China Lockdown Curbs
Shanghai continued to find Covid-19 cases in the community Wednesday, damping prospects for an easing of a punishing lockdown that has hampered business activity and confined millions of people to their homes for more than a month. Shanghai reported a total of 1,449 new Covid cases for Wednesday, down slightly from 1,487 on Tuesday. While the daily total has steadily fallen, two cases were found in the community Wednesday, CCTV reported, after none were detected on Tuesday. Shanghai officials have said that three days of zero community transmission is required before they can start to ease restrictions.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid: EU lifts face mask requirement for air travel as pandemic ebbs
The European Union will no longer require masks to be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, authorities said.
Lifting zero-Covid policies in China could risk 1.6m deaths, says study
The lifting of zero-Covid policies in China would see a “tsunami” of infections and almost 1.6 million deaths, a study claims, citing in part China’s low vaccination rate of elderly residents. China’s government remains committed to a zero-Covid policy, employing resource intensive mass testing and case surveillance, and enforcing lockdowns, strict quarantine and isolation. A speech last week by the president, Xi Jinping, reaffirmed the commitment, despite the challenge posed by the Omicron variant which has already overwhelmed other countries’ zero-Covid policies. The peer reviewed study by Shanghai’s Fudan University, published in the Nature journal, said a decision by Chinese authorities to lift such measures could see more than 112 million symptomatic cases of Covid-19, five million hospitalisations, and 1.55 million deaths.
Failure to address a global surplus of COVID vaccines raises the risk of new variants emerging, health experts warn
The world finds itself awash in COVID-19 vaccines, but governments can’t get them into arms fast enough, as hesitancy and logistical hurdles threaten to indefinitely extend the pandemic. Advocates for widespread inoculation say participants at the second global COVID-19 summit need to come up with a plan to shift focus from producing vaccines to administering shots. They warn that failure raises the risk of new variants arising, potentially with the ability to evade vaccine immunity and spark yet another wave of infections and deaths.
Some with positive rapid test results to be counted as COVID-19 cases
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Wednesday released more details on a new policy that will allow certain individuals in Taiwan who receive a positive result from a COVID-19 rapid antigen test to be counted as a confirmed case without having to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Previously, all individuals in Taiwan were only listed as a COVID-19 case after a positive PCR test result. The new policy, which will be launched Thursday, applies only to people who are following the "3+4" isolation protocol for close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19, as well as travelers who are in quarantine after arriving in Taiwan, the CECC said.
WHO: Subvariants fueling COVID rises in more than 50 countries
At a briefing today, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, the WHO's director-general, said the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are driving South Africa's surge, with the BA.2 subvariant dominant across the world and COVID-19 cases rising in more than 50 nations. Relatively high population immunity from vaccination or previous infection are so far keeping hospitalizations and deaths at a lower levels than previous surges. "But this is not guaranteed for places where vaccination coverage is low." He said South African scientists are pushing more vaccination to blunt the impact of the next pandemic wave. Along with saving lives and protecting health systems, immunization has the potential to minimize long COVID, which can be devastating for individuals, communities, and economies, Tedros added.
The ‘five pandemics’ driving 1 million U.S. Covid deaths
Officially, the U.S. will almost certainly reach an awful milestone in the next two weeks: its one millionth recorded Covid-19 death. In reality, this milestone was likely unofficially crossed days or weeks ago, and we’ll never know the exact toll or the identity of the pandemic’s actual millionth victim. Nor are humans well-equipped to fully grasp loss on this scale, let alone the magnitude of a global toll estimated to be as high as 14.9 million. One way to start understanding how a country as advanced as the U.S. lost so many people is to look at the ocean of public health data that was gathered as 1 million individual tragedies rippled through civic life.
Community Activities
Johns Hopkins students ask for online exams after covid spike
A late-semester spike in coronavirus cases at Johns Hopkins University, spurred by recent social events, has some students pleading for the option to take exams online. After many months of strict health protocols at Hopkins, the campus in Baltimore has seen more than 500 cases in the past week and, according to its online dashboard, had filled all available isolation housing. The spike shocked some students because of the school’s international reputation in public health and its early and enduring warnings about the dangers of the pandemic.
Working Remotely
Apple employees reject return to on site work in open letter
A group of Apple employees collectively calling themselves “Apple Together” has released an open letter to executives criticizing the company’s Hybrid Work Pilot program for what they perceive as its inflexibility. Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a memo in March requiring all employees to work on-site two days a week from May 2 and three days a week by May 23. In the letter, the employees explained that their “vision of the future of work is growing further and further apart from that of Apple’s executive team.”
Virtual Classrooms
Game-Based Learning Prepares K–12 Students for a Digital Future
As educators seek tools for online environments, one of the solutions they’re increasingly turning to is game-based learning. One of the best ways for students to learn is through play, and growing up in a digital world, they are already playing video games outside the classroom. Bringing learning to students in a format with which they’re already familiar can help K–12 educators deliver important lessons. Video games can be used to teach students about the complex problems in the modern world, and they can teach students how to be better prepared for the future.
Public Policies
China calls WHO chief 'irresponsible' for saying zero-COVID strategy 'not sustainable'
China hit back on Wednesday against what it called "irresponsible" comments by the head of the World Health Organization, who described the country's uncompromising and increasingly painful "zero COVID" policy as "not sustainable." The policy has placed hundreds of millions of people across dozens of cities under various degrees of movement restrictions, most dramatically in Shanghai, causing significant economic damage in China and beyond and fuelling wide-spread frustration.
WHO calls on Pfizer to make its COVID pill more available
The head of the World Health Organization called on Pfizer to make its COVID-19 treatment more widely available in poorer countries, saying Tuesday that the pharmaceutical company’s deal allowing generic producers to make the drug was insufficient. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing that Pfizer’s treatment was still too expensive. He noted that most countries in Latin America had no access to Pfizer’s drug, Paxlovid, which has been shown to cut the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death by up to 90%. “We remain concerned that low- and middle-income countries remain unable to access antivirals,” Tedros said, The WHO chief warned that the unequal distribution of COVID-19 drugs could ultimately mirror the grossly disproportionate distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
Maintaining Services
Africa's COVID vaccine production line in jeopardy
A year ago, South Africa celebrated the opening of the continent's first COVID-19 vaccine production line. Now it's at risk of being shut down due to low demand. About 40% of adult South Africans are fully vaccinated. On the whole continent, just 15%. The World Health Organization has set a target of 70% coverage for all countries by June 2022. So far, only Mauritius and Seychelles reached that number in Africa. Most countries will likely miss it.
Emergent destroyed up to 400M COVID-19 vaccines, far more than previously known: report
Emergent's manufacturing setbacks forced the company to toss vaccine materials equivalent to nearly 400 million doses, according to a Tuesday report from the House of Representatives' Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. That's much more than the 85 million doses the company and U.S. officials previously disclosed, The Wall Street Journal reports. The report says Emergent had to toss 240 million doses in late 2020 and early 2021—before its COVID vaccine production issues became public knowledge. After Emergent's production pause in April 2021 through July 2021, the company tossed another 90 million doses. Expirations have forced the company to discard another 60 million doses, the report says.
How China's lockdowns are taking a toll on global companies
International brands are revealing the damage to their bottom lines from China's "zero Covid" policy, where tens of millions of people remain in lockdown and almost every major business has been disrupted. In recent weeks, dozens of mainland Chinese cities, including the financial hub of Shanghai, have been locked down as authorities work to stamp out the coronavirus. For industries ranging from Big Tech to consumer goods, that's destroying both supply and demand — and giving executives another major headache. Many companies had just run up millions, or billions, of dollars in losses due to the war in Ukraine, which led to a massive — and costly — corporate exodus from Russia.
Untapped Global Vaccine Stash Raises Risks of New Covid Variants
The world finds itself awash in Covid-19 vaccines, but governments can’t get them into arms fast enough, as hesitancy and logistical hurdles threaten to indefinitely extend the pandemic. Shots that were once rare are now piling up and even expiring, a problem on the agenda of a second global Covid-19 summit the US is co-hosting on Thursday. President Joe Biden kicked off the first summit eight months ago by announcing the US would donate another 500 million doses to the international vaccination campaign, nearly doubling its total pledge. But now, vaccine makers are idling production or face shutdowns as demand for shots wanes, even with the world still far from a target of inoculating 70% of humanity. Republicans in Congress have so far blocked additional funding for the US and international vaccination campaigns.
Lucid CEO concerned about chip supplies from China due to COVID-19
The chief executive of Lucid Group Inc on Wednesday expressed concern about chip supplies from China due to COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns, adding that the U.S. electric vehicle startup is taking measures to mitigate the impact. "My biggest concern probably is semiconductors from China and the impact of COVID in that part of the world," Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson said at a conference held by the Financial Times.
Telehealth aims to crack open Paxlovid’s prescription bottleneck
After months of shortages, pharmacies across the United States are being stocked with drugs to treat Covid-19. Now, the bottleneck has shifted to getting a prescription — and patients and public health agencies are looking to telehealth for help. Last week, Massachusetts launched free televisits for state residents who have tested positive for Covid-19, including home delivery of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s oral antiviral, if prescribed. New York City has filled more than 16,000 courses of the drug through its home delivery program, 2,100 of which started with a free telehealth visit with NYC Health + Hospitals. And a growing number of virtual care companies are promoting televisits as a first-line resource for patients who have tested positive, advertising against Google searches for “Paxlovid” and partnering with testing companies that route patients to their providers.
Healthcare Innovations
Half of Covid-hospitalised still symptomatic two years on, study finds
More than half of people hospitalised with Covid-19 still have at least one symptom two years after they were first infected, according to the longest follow-up study of its kind. While physical and mental health generally improve over time, the analysis suggests that coronavirus patients discharged from hospital still tend to experience poorer health and quality of life than the general population. The research was published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine. “Our findings indicate that for a certain proportion of hospitalised Covid-19 survivors, while they may have cleared the initial infection, more than two years is needed to recover fully,” said the lead author, Prof Bin Cao, of the in China.
First real-world data from Africa on immune response to AZ/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine
Scientists have released the first real-world data from Africa on the effectiveness of two doses of AstraZeneca/ChaAd0x-1 COVID-19 vaccination, showing that while protective against SARS-CoV-2, immunity against the delta and omicron variants was lower, even in the context of prior infection or infection after vaccination. In a pre-print—which has yet to be peer-reviewed—scientists from Nigeria and the U.K. analyzed data from 140 healthcare workers at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research and Federal Medical Center, Ebute Metta, and two private hospitals in Lagos. All participants had received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine administered between Jan and July 2021, with 12 weeks between doses.
Fourth Covid-19 vaccine provides stronger immunity than third dose, study reveals
A fourth Covid-19 vaccine offers stronger immunity protection, a recent study has found. The latest results from the Cov-boost trial, which ran at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, show that a fourth dose is “safe and boosts antibody levels - higher than that of a third dose”. A fourth dose of the vaccine has been offered as a spring booster to the most vulnerable people in the UK as a precautionary strategy.