"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 17th May 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai says lockdown to ease as virus spread mostly ends
Most of Shanghai has stopped the spread of the coronavirus in the community and fewer than 1 million people remain under strict lockdown, authorities said Monday, as the city moves toward reopening and economic data showed the gloomy impact of China’s “zero-COVID” policy. Vice Mayor Zong Ming said 15 out of Shanghai’s 16 districts had eliminated virus transmission among those not already in quarantine. “The epidemic in our city is under effective control. Prevention measures have achieved incremental success,” Zong said at a news briefing.
Hygiene Helpers
We need a definitive exit from our Covid-19 pandemic. Here’s the roadmap
As the virus accelerates its evolution, the humans capitulate. For two and a half years, the virus has been outrunning our response, getting progressively more and more transmissible, reaching a level of infectiousness that few pathogens have ever attained. Instead of taking a stance of getting ahead of the virus, and out-smarting it, people have succumbed. In recent months, we experienced a striking jump in transmissibility when the Omicron (BA.1) variant became dominant with at least a three-fold increase in reproductive number beyond Delta. Despite the hope that this might be reaching the upper limit of the virus’s spread ability, we quickly transitioned to a BA.2 wave with at least another jump of about 30% transmissibility, and now we are heading, in the United States, to a dominant subvariant known as BA.2.12.1, which is another 25% more transmissible than BA.2 and already accounting for close to 50% of new cases.
Covid-19 news: Just 7 per cent of 5 to 11-year-olds in England jabbed
Six weeks into the vaccine roll-out for this age group, fewer than one in 10 children aged 5 to 11 have received their first dose. The 7 per cent figure compares with the 24 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds in England who received a first dose in the six weeks after they became eligible for the vaccine in September 2021. Children rarely become seriously ill with SARS-CoV-2 virus, however, testing positive can disrupt their schooling or put them at risk of long covid. Speaking of 5 to 11 year olds, Russell Viner at University College London told The Guardian: “It’s a vaccination that probably isn’t particularly beneficial for this age group. “However, it has a very, very good safety profile. And given that we remain in a pandemic, there’s an argument that for individual parents, the balance of risks would appear to be towards vaccination.”
Detroit Three automakers reinstate mask mandate at some Michigan facilities
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler parent Stellantis are reinstating a requirement that employees wear masks in southeastern Michigan where there are high levels of COVID-19. The Detroit Three automakers said in early March they would allow auto workers to stop wearing masks at workplaces where U.S. health officials said it was safe to do so
New York City Officials Say People Should Wear Masks Inside Again
New York City officials are recommending residents wear masks in indoor public spaces amid climbing Covid-19 cases in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan issued the advisory Monday, requesting New Yorkers over the age of two years old wear masks in indoor public spaces such as grocery stores and offices.
Community Activities
Children less active after Covid-19 restrictions eased, study finds
Activity levels among children fell below national guidelines after Covid-19 restrictions eased, a study finds. A university of Bristol study found by the end of 2021, less than a third were meeting the recommended guidelines of 60 minutes of physical activity daily. The findings showed children in England aged between 10 and 11 were doing eight minutes less activity than before 2021. Researchers said it "highlights a greater need" to work with families, and schools to get children active.
Long Covid Symptoms Often Include Crushing Fatigue. Here’s How to Cope.
New studies offer clues about who may be more susceptible to long Covid, a term for lingering Covid-19 symptoms. WSJ breaks down the science of long Covid and the state of treatment
Working Remotely
Let them eat cheese… working from home is here to stay
The post-pandemic office is entirely different from how it was before. Teleconferencing and technology have collided with cultural shifts, and people want to better integrate their work self with the rest of their life. There is evidence that new working patterns which give workers agency, flexibility and a mix of in-office social time with self-managed, less monitored work is productive. Professor Nicholas Bloom of Stanford showed in a study of 16,000 workers that productivity can rise by as much as 13% on this basis. Data from Ipsos consistently shows that across all demographics flexibility to work differently is desirable, with 65% saying they are more productive when they work flexibly.
Why do employers still not trust people to work from home?
The pandemic has proved not only can people work from home, but they can do so effectively. So why is the topic of trusting employees to do a good job while WFH still dominating conversation? Dr John Blakey, founder of The Trusted Executive Foundation – which helps CEOs create a new standard of leadership defined by trustworthiness – says it’s all down to old-fashioned ways of working, and leaders unable to let go.
Virtual Classrooms
Robust Technology Supports Higher Education Cybersecurity Training Programs
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs in information security will grow by 31 percent by 2029. To address both current and expected workforce shortages, higher education is ramping up its offerings, with cybersecurity exploding as an academic discipline. It takes robust technology to support learning, both in person and remotely, in this tech-centric field of study.
How Could Universities Use the Metaverse in the Future?
Implementing virtual reality into education could have a positive impact for students and the social aspect of school and university. Over the past few years, remote learning has become a key issue for students. With the World Economic Forum reporting that registrations for online courses shot to 92 million in 2021. However, learning over video calls can have an effect on students’ engagement, as reported by Ofqual. This could mean by improving the online environment in which students learn, the social and creative element of the Metaverse could change how students learn and interact positively
Public Policies
China's economy cools sharply in April as lockdowns bite
China's retail and factory activity fell sharply in April as wide COVID-19 lockdowns confined workers and consumers to their homes and severely disrupted supply chains, casting a long shadow over the outlook for the world's second-largest economy. Full or partial lockdowns were imposed in major centres across the country in March and April, including the most populous city Shanghai, hitting production and consumption and heightening risks for those parts of the global economy heavily dependent on China.
FDA Authorizes Nonprescription Test for Covid-19, Flu and RSV
The Food and Drug Administration authorized the first nonprescription test that can detect Covid-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The test, developed by Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, can be sold directly to consumers online or at retail. A person can collect a nasal-swab sample themselves before sending the sample to Labcorp for analysis. The test, called the Labcorp Seasonal Respiratory Virus RT-PCR DTC Test, searches for and amplifies the genetic materials of multiple viruses to figure out which one a person might be harboring.
FDA declines to authorize common antidepressant as COVID treatment
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has decided not to authorize the antidepressant fluvoxamine to treat COVID-19, saying that the data has not shown the drug to be an effective therapeutic for fighting the virus. "Based on the review of available scientific evidence, the FDA has determined that the data are insufficient to conclude that fluvoxamine may be effective in the treatment of nonhospitalized patients with COVID-19 to prevent progression to severe disease and/or hospitalization," the agency said in a document published on Monday.
Covid-19 pushed 55 mn Africans into extreme poverty in 2020: UN Report
The disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic pushed an estimated 55 million Africans into extreme poverty in 2020 and reversed more than two decades of poverty reduction in Africa, said a report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The report with the theme "Fight against poverty and vulnerability in Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic", was issued by the ECA during the 54th session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
EC to terminate Covid-19 vaccine deal with Valneva
The European Commission (EC) has informed Valneva of its plan to terminate the advance purchase agreement (APA) for the latter’s inactivated whole-virus Covid-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001. The details were communicated by the EC through a notice to the company. An adjuvanted vaccine candidate, VLA2001 is for active immunisation of at-risk people to avert carriage and symptomatic Covid-19 infection. It comprises inactivated whole virus particles of the SARS-CoV-2 virus with increased S-protein density and two adjuvants, alum and Dynavax Technologies’ CpG 1018.
Pfizer, BioNTech amend Covid-19 vaccine supply deal with EC
Pfizer and BioNTech have amended the supply agreement with the European Commission (EC) to rephase the delivery schedules of their Covid-19 vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is based on the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology of BioNTech. Under the deal, the initial contractual supply schedules for the vaccine will be updated to rephase the supplies to support the vaccination programmes of EC and its member states.
Kim Jong-un calls in the army to respond to North Korea’s Covid-19 crisis
Kim Jong-un has criticised North Korea’s pandemic response and ordered the army to help distribute medicine, state media said Monday, as the country said 50 people had died since first reporting an outbreak of Covid-19. More than one million people have been sickened by what Pyongyang is referring to as “fever”, state media said, despite Kim ordering nationwide lockdowns in a bid to slow the spread of disease through the unvaccinated population. After two years denying North Korea had any cases of Covid-19, last week officials confirmed that there had been a Covid outbreak in the country.
Tokyo COVID curbs declared illegal in "Kill Bill" restaurant case
Japan's "Kill Bill" restaurant operator prevailed in a court case on Monday that declared Tokyo's now defunct COVID-19 infection curbs were illegal. The orders, enacted in the capital during various states of emergency, included shortened operating hours and a ban on alcohol sales, though there was a compensating government subsidy. Businesses that didn't comply were subject to fines. Global-Dining Inc, which runs more than 40 restaurants, defied the restrictions, taking the city government to court over the matter.
Maintaining Services
Jersey's digital Covid vaccine certificates to show more doses and last longer
Jersey's digital Covid vaccine certificates have been upgraded. They will now show up to five doses rather than three and last for six months instead of one. The display has also been simplified for travel purposes to only include a single QR code showing the most recent vaccine.
Tesla delays plan to restore Shanghai output to pre-lockdown levels
Tesla Inc has delayed a plan to restore production at its Shanghai plant to levels before the city's COVID-19 lockdown by at least a week, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. The U.S. electric car maker originally aimed to increase output at its Shanghai plant to 2,600 cars a day from May 16, Reuters reported earlier this month citing another memo. But the latest memo said that it plans to stick to one shift for its Shanghai plant for the current week with a daily output of around 1,200 units. It also said that it would now aim to increase output to 2,600 units per day from May 23.
Omicron Is Turning Out to Be a Weak Vaccine
With each new variant, that period of protection keeps getting shorter. In the past few weeks, studies out of South Africa, the US, and China have revealed that Omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 are alarmingly good at escaping immunity from a previous Omicron infection. In practical terms, this means that for the large swath of the US population that was first infected with Covid over the winter, the post-infection honeymoon may be over. Those people might wonder how safe it is to travel, attend large gatherings and have dinner with vulnerable friends and relatives. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. “People want it to be, ‘Am I safe or not?,’” says Abraar Karan, an epidemiologist at Stanford University. But risk is a continuum.
Dalian iron ore rebounds on supply woes, easing of China COVID curbs
Chinese iron ore futures rose on Monday, supported by supply concerns and shrinking portside inventories of the steelmaking ingredient, while the easing of some COVID-19 curbs in the world's top steel producer also lifted trader sentiment. The most-traded September iron ore contract on China's Dalian Commodity Exchange ended daytime trade 3.9% higher at 834.50 yuan ($122.80) a tonne, after posting its biggest weekly loss in nearly three months on Friday.
North Korea Covid Surge Accelerates as Unvaccinated Population Keeps Working
North Korea reported its biggest daily surge in fever cases during a nationwide outbreak of Covid-19 but didn’t respond to a South Korean offer of vaccines even as the North’s leader Kim Jong Un berated officials for failing to contain the disease. At the inter-Korean border, people could be seen walking around villages on the northern side Monday without face masks and working in groups in fields during the rice planting season, showing how unvaccinated North Korea is far from a strict lockdown that some nations have used to stop the spread of Covid.
Healthcare Innovations
Coronavirus may be linked to cases of severe hepatitis in children
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. SARS-CoV-2 could be at root of mysterious hepatitis in kids. A chain of events possibly triggered by unrecognized infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could be causing the mysterious cases of severe hepatitis reported in hundreds of young children around the world, researchers suggest.
Coronavirus: How Omicron infection turbocharges vaccinated people’s immunity
People who are vaccinated and then get infected with Omicron may be primed to overcome a broad range of coronavirus variants, early research suggests. A pair of studies showed that infection produced even better immune responses than a booster shot in vaccinated patients. Teams from Covid-19 vaccine maker BioNTech SE and the University of Washington posted the results on preprint server bioRxiv in recent weeks. The findings offer a reassuring sign that the millions of vaccinated people who’ve caught Omicron probably won’t become seriously ill from another variant soon – even though the research needs to be confirmed, especially by real-world evidence.