|

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 31st May 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai declares lockdown end from June 1 after two months
Shanghai on Monday announced an end to its two-month long COVID-19 lockdown, allowing the vast majority of people in China's largest city to leave their homes and drive their cars from Wednesday. The news brought an outpouring of relief, joy and some wariness from exhausted residents. "I'm so emotional that I'm going to cry," said one Weibo user. Most of the city's 25 million residents have been confined to their homes for almost all of the lockdown which began on April 1, with curbs only slightly relaxing in recent weeks to allow some to go out for short periods of time.
N. Korea moves to soften curbs amid doubts over COVID counts
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials discussed revising stringent anti-epidemic restrictions during a meeting Sunday, state media reported, as they maintained a widely disputed claim that the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak is slowing. The discussion at the North’s Politburo meeting suggests it will soon relax a set of draconian curbs imposed after its admission of the omicron outbreak this month out of concern about its food and economic situations. Kim and other Politburo members “made a positive evaluation of the pandemic situation being controlled and improved across the country,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.
Beijing, Shanghai ease COVID restrictions as outbreaks fade
Shoppers returned to the malls of Beijing on Sunday as the Chinese capital relaxed pandemic restrictions after declaring a small but persistent COVID-19 outbreak effectively under control. A partial reopening of stores and offices in Beijing was welcomed by a weary populace and struggling shopkeepers eager for life to return to normal. Coupled with a gradual easing of restrictions in Shanghai, it signaled that the worst is over in the twin outbreaks in China’s most prominent cities. The lockdowns and other restrictions under China’s “zero-COVID” strategy have increasingly frustrated residents as they see other countries ease up and re-open their borders. Some have resisted and staged protests at apartment complexes and university dormitories, in an authoritarian country where people think twice about speaking out publicly because of possible repercussions.
Hygiene Helpers
Why Africa's first Covid vaccine factory struggles to find customers
The signing of a licensing deal late last year for South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare to bottle and sell the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine across Africa was hailed as a lifeline for a continent that lost out in the rush for jabs early in the pandemic. But six months later, the factory is on the brink of closure because of lack of demand. In South Africa, only 5 per cent of people have received a booster shot and just under a third of the 60mn population are double vaccinated. It is part of a broader trend across Africa that helps to explain why the future of the continent’s biggest vaccine manufacturing plant is in doubt.
Taiwan to set up 6 COVID-19 vaccination sites for children aged 5-11
Taiwan's six special municipalities will each set up a large-scale walk-in vaccination site where COVID-19 vaccine shots for children aged 5-11 will be administered starting June 1, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday. In order to ensure children acquire immunity against COVID-19 as soon as possible, the CECC has worked together with the municipal governments of Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung to set up walk-in vaccination sites for children. The sites are located at Taipei Liberty Square, New Taipei Banqiao Station, Taoyuan Arena, Taichung National Museum of Natural Science, Tainan Public Library, and Kaohsiung Exhibition Center, according to the CECC.
Nasal COVID-19 vaccines help the body prepare for infection right where it starts—in your nose and throat
Imagine inhaling just a few drops of liquid or mist to get protected from COVID-19. That is the idea behind nasal COVID-19 vaccines, and they have been getting a lot of attention recently as a spray or liquid. These nasal vaccines would be based on the same technology as normal vaccines given by injection. But as Mayuresh Abhyankar, a University of Virginia researcher who studies infectious diseases and works on nasal vaccines, explains, vaccinating someone right where the coronavirus is likely to start its attack comes with many immunological benefits.
CT chest scans reveal fewer cases of pneumonia in breakthrough COVID-19 infections
CT chest scans in patients with breakthrough COVID-19 infections show lower levels of pneumonia compared to scans of unvaccinated patients. A significantly higher proportion of CT chest scans in fully vaccinated patients who experience a breakthrough infection showed no signs of pneumonia during their stay in hospital, according to a study by Korean researchers. COVID-19 vaccination across the globe has led to a protection against both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 as well as severe disease, hospitalisation and death. Although a CT chest scan has been described as an indispensable diagnostic tool in COVID-19, no studies have reported on using this imaging modality to examine the features associated with breakthrough infections that are generally less severe.
Paxlovid Becomes Household Name for Covid-19 Patients
Pfizer’s antiviral drug, called Paxlovid, totaled more than 412,000 prescriptions through May 6, compared with about 110,000 prescriptions of molnupiravir, an antiviral from Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, according to drug-data firm Iqvia Holdings Inc. Both pills were cleared for use in high-risk individuals early in the course of their disease in December by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to keep people from becoming hospitalized.
Community Activities
North Korea Calls Covid Vaccines "Immortal Potion Of Love" From Kim Jong Un: Report
As North Korea finally began its COVID-19 vaccination programme, the nation's supreme leader Kim Jong Un declared that the coronavirus jabs are an “immortal potion of love” gifted by him. According to Daily Star, the North Korean leader made the bizarre claims through loudspeakers playing through vehicles at vaccination sites. Responding to its recent Covid outbreak, North Korea started rolling out the vaccines. However, so far, the Covid jabs are only reserved for soldiers working on national construction projects.
Tasmanian MP backs petition questioning COVID-19 masks and vaccinations
A Tasmanian government MP has come under fire for making a "concerning" decision to sponsor a petition to State Parliament containing vaccine-related misinformation. Liberal backbencher John Tucker has sponsored a petition to State Parliament that claims vaccine and mask mandates imposed by the government he is a member of "have not stopped the spread or mitigated the risks of contracting COVID-19 in Tasmania". It also argues that, "there is increasing public concern that vaccinations and masking are unsafe," and calls on the Tasmanian government to lift all vaccination mandates and end mask requirements in schools, medical clinics and transport.
Queensland's frontline workers begin series of legal challenges to COVID-19 vaccine mandate
The first of several civil cases, brought on by dozens of Queensland frontline workers who are challenging their COVID-19 vaccine mandates, including police officers and paramedics, has begun in Brisbane. More than 70 Queensland Police Service (QPS) and Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) staff who have refused to comply with their employer's directives, are testing the legality of the policies in the Supreme Court, arguing they are unjust or an improper exercise of power. Some of the applicants, made up of three groups, have also claimed that similar directions made by the state's Chief Health Officer last year breached human rights laws, but that matter will be heard at a later date alongside other similar legal challenges.
Why some Hongkongers are still shunning Covid-19 vaccines
May 31 vaccine pass deadline means only those with three jabs or suitable exemption will be allowed entry to most venues citywide. Firm belief in personal freedoms, fear of side effects remain key hurdles for inoculation drive.
Increase in depression and anxiety rates in the U.K. identified during COVID-19 lockdowns
Though many studies have been conducted over the last two years, both during and after coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) restrictions were implemented, the long-term effects of these events remain unclear. A new study published on the preprint server medRxiv* discusses changes in the prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and their association with individual and environmental factors.
Wary of foreign 'bad manners', Japan cautiously eases borders to aid tourism
Japan's easing of a two-year ban on foreign tourists seeks to balance the enormous economic importance of tourism with concerns that travellers would trigger a COVID outbreak, insiders say. Under the decision, Japan will allow in a limited number of foreign tourists on package tours starting June 10. Last week a few "test tours", mainly of overseas travel agents, started to arrive. Relaxing some of the world's strictest pandemic border measures required months of pressure from travel and tourism executives, three insiders told Reuters, describing both the government's fears of public backlash if infections spiked and the industry's concerns of an economic wipeout.
India to provide scholarships, counselling to those orphaned by COVID-19
India's federal government will provide educational scholarships, mental health counselling and health insurance to children who have been orphaned by the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday. "For those who have lost a loved one to coronavirus, the change it has brought to their lives is so difficult," Modi said during an online event as he announced government benefits for minor children who have lost both parents to COVID-19.
Working Remotely
One third of workers willing to change job for remote work, survey finds
Researchers from the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission have revealed that almost one third of workers are willing to move to a new job to secure their remote working preferences. The findings are from the third annual National Remote Working Survey. The survey gathered responses from more than 8,400 employees, in late April and early May, on their current experience of remote working
Cisco highlights massive upside of working from home
Cisco has delivered the second major study in a week by a US gamechanger underlining the huge benefits of people being allowed to work from home. Employees say hybrid work makes them happier and more productive and calls for more to be done to make it more inclusive. In a nutshell, Cisco says that hybrid working has helped improve employee wellbeing, work-life balance and performance across the UK.
Americans who work from home are getting more productive
People who work remotely are reporting being more productive than they were early on in the pandemic, according to data from Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom. Bloom, who’s been studying remote work since before it was cool, has teamed up with other academics from the University of Chicago, ITAM, and MIT since May 2020, to conduct a huge ongoing survey about employees’ work arrangements and attitudes toward remote work. In April, people who worked remotely at least some of the time reported being about 9 percent more efficient working from home than they were working from the office. That’s up from 5 percent in the summer of 2020.
Online education and the mental health of faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan | Scientific Reports
While the negative impact of the pandemic on students’ mental health has been studied around the world, very little is known about the mental health of faculty and staff. This research aims to examine mental health among Japanese faculty members who taught online courses during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recruited 537 university faculty members and assessed their mental health using the World Health Organization-Five Well-Being Index (WHO-5), both retrospectively (during the academic year before the onset of the pandemic) and during the pandemic.
Virtual Classrooms
Curriculum narrowing in wake of pandemic, find inspectors
Scottish schools are dedicating more time to literacy, numeracy and wellbeing as they emerge from the pandemic - but "in a few cases" this has been to the detriment of other subjects, finds a new review by school inspectors. According to the review, it was more difficult to develop practical skills during periods of remote learning because "teachers faced challenges in directly observing young people demonstrating their skills in practical science and drama" and pupils did not always have "access to appropriate resources, materials and equipment".
Public Policies
WHO says will begin Covid-19 vaccination drive in Afghanistan from June
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it will begin its Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Afghanistan from June. According to the global health body, the campaign will cover 34 provinces and target more than 5 million people aged 18 years and above, TOLO News reported. WHO figures have revealed that as of May 22, a total of 6,118,557 vaccine doses against the virus have been administered in Afghanistan. Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, the war-torn nation has reported a total of 179,835 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 7,699 deaths.
Covid inquiry into government's handling of pandemic could start in days
The long-awaited statutory inquiry into how Boris Johnson’s Government handled the Covid pandemic is expected to begin next month, i has learnt. While public hearings of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry are not due to start until next year, its chairman, Baroness Hallett, is ready to formally start work as soon as the Prime Minister approves her request to update the terms of reference. Downing Street sources said this response was likely to come in June – meaning the work could begin as early as this week.
Covid-19: Partygate makes a mockery of the sacrifices made and the losses endured
Almost all of us reading about the tawdry details of “partygate” will have specific memories from the past two years to put the revelry at No. 10 Downing Street into sombre context. Sue Gray’s long awaited report, released last week, detailed the drunken parties and people staggering out in the early hours, the vomit and hangovers, the splashed red wine and empties stacked up outside the door, the karaoke machine, the rudeness to the cleaners, the messages that make it abundantly clear (if proof was needed) that the partygoers knew they were breaking laws they themselves had drawn up. Families separated, funerals missed, partners unable to be present at the birth of their child, children unable to be present at the death of their parent, loneliness, social isolation, depression, anxiety—all the inevitable consequences of following rules laid down for the collective good. I have some of these memories myself, but as the co-founder of John’s Campaign—which was set up to campaign on behalf of the rights of people living with dementia—I have also heard the stories and witnessed the pain and trauma of a particular group of people who suffered greatly during the pandemic, whose health was harmed, whose hearts were broken, and in some cases, whose lives ended because of the rules drawn up under the pandemic.
CDC Plans to Stop Reporting Suspected Covid Cases to Ease Burden
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to simplify the Covid-19 hospital data it collects as the demands of the pandemic evolve and some assembled information has become outdated or redundant. The agency is likely to stop collecting data from hospitals on suspected Covid cases that haven’t been confirmed by tests, for example, and may also wind down federal reporting from rehabilitation and mental health facilities that aren’t major intake points for virus cases, according to a draft of the plan that was viewed by Bloomberg News.
Maintaining Services
FTSE 100 CEOs Salaries Rebound to Pre-Covid Levels in 2021
Top UK bosses are earning as much as they were before the pandemic after pay packages rebounded from a Covid-driven lull. Overall pay for chief executive officers in the FTSE 100 rose to a median average of £3.6 million ($4.6 million) in 2021, according to research by Deloitte LLP. The revival in higher pay packages was spurred by an increase in annual bonuses and stronger incentives for staff.
China donates 10 mln COVID-19 vaccine doses to Myanmar
The Chinese embassy handed them over to Myanmar's Ministry of Health at the Yangon International Airport on Sunday. The China-donated COVID-19 vaccines and syringes arrived in Myanmar in separate batches starting from May 18 to May 29. China has been continuously providing medical supplies to Myanmar in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, and has helped Myanmar in filling and packing COVID-19 vaccines to boost the country's vaccination rate, Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai said at the handover ceremony.
Healthcare Innovations
Online education and the mental health of faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan | Scientific Reports
While the negative impact of the pandemic on students’ mental health has been studied around the world, very little is known about the mental health of faculty and staff. This research aims to examine mental health among Japanese faculty members who taught online courses during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recruited 537 university faculty members and assessed their mental health using the World Health Organization-Five Well-Being Index (WHO-5), both retrospectively (during the academic year before the onset of the pandemic) and during the pandemic.
Fourth COVID-19 vaccination effectiveness drops after 10 weeksHospital Healthcare Europe
A fourth COVID-19 vaccination’s effectiveness against infection drops after only 10 weeks but remains high against severe disease. A fourth COVID-19 vaccination dose offers greater protection against infection than three doses but this effectiveness quickly wanes within 10 weeks but is maintained against more severe disease. This was the key finding of a retrospective analysis by Israeli researchers. The use of a third COVID-19 vaccination is more effective at protecting individuals against severe COVID-19-related outcomes in comparison to only two doses. Nevertheless, it is also becoming clear that in the presence of COVID-19 variants such as Omicron, the relative protection against infection even from three doses wanes over time. For instance, in one study, the effectiveness of a third COVID-19 vaccine, waned from 53.4% a month after vaccination to 16.5% three months later.
Launch of Scenario Hub projecting future COVID-19 health impact
A new online modelling hub launched today, the European COVID-19 Scenario Hub, will present modelling projections on how the COVID-19 pandemic may evolve in terms of cases, hospitalisations and deaths. It will serve as a resource for Member States in their pandemic planning and inform decisions aimed at minimising the expected burden caused by COVID-19 under different scenarios. The hub is developed and run by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in co-operation with the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID) at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). “The Scenario Hub will help inform public health preparedness and anticipatory action as Europe transitions into new phases of the pandemic” said Andrea Ammon, ECDC Director. “It will also play a key role in supporting ECDC's risk analysis, assessment of public health advice and strategic planning.”