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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 20th Jun 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai surprise: How I survived 70 days confinement in the world's strictest Covid lockdown
When I left a Covid-ravaged Hong Kong, I was in search of a sanctuary. It was early March and the city was in the throes of the biggest coronavirus outbreak per capita in the world. Little could I have known as I boarded the plane that my cunning escape plan would take me from the frying pan into the fire; that as I landed in Shanghai I would be swapping the world's biggest outbreak for the "world's strictest lockdown" -- and 70 days of enforced confinement. Still less could I have foreseen that, after serving three weeks of government-mandated quarantine on arrival, my housing compound would be hermetically sealed for a further 49 days straight, or that my mom and I would catch Covid, or that I would be carted off for a further spell of isolation at one of the government's notorious "fangcang" camps.
China turns Winter Olympics villages into quarantine camps to stamp out new COVID-19 outbreaks, report says
Villages that housed athletes at the Beijing Winter Games being used as COVID-19 quarantine camps. Hundreds have been sent to Olympic villages after an outbreak in Beijing's entertainment district. Olympic villages offer ideal infrastructure for quarantine, the Financial Times reported.
Hygiene Helpers
German health minister pushes fourth COVID shot ahead of autumn wave
There will not be another attempt to make COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory, said German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, while making the case for more people to get a second booster shot. Anyone who is often in contact with others and wants to protect themselves and others should consider a fourth shot, regardless of age, said Lauterbach. Some 80% of Germany's over-60s have not had their fourth COVID-19 shot, he added.
Over-75s urged to get Covid booster jab as cases rise
Over-75s and people at high risk have been urged to get a Covid booster vaccine, amid warnings of a new wave of infections in Scotland. The spring booster jab is available until 30 June to everyone in the older age group and people over 12 if they have a weakened immune system. About a third of Scots in the immunosuppressed group have not yet come forward for an additional vaccine. Latest data estimates that around one in 30 people in Scotland has Covid. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 176,900 people have the virus - about 3.36% of the population.
Canada seeing rise in COVID-19 subvariants. Could this lead to a summer surge?
Canada is seeing an increase in several fast-spreading COVID-19 variants that have been fuelling new outbreaks in the United States and Europe, Canada’s top doctors said Friday. The BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the virus, which are subvariants of Omicron, have been detected in Canada since May, and the BA.2.12 subvariant has been showing growth in the country since March. On Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, made note of the rise in the number of these cases in the country and said that these subvariants have “demonstrated a growth advantage and additional immune escape” over Omicron and other strains of the virus. “COVID-19 has shown us over the past few years that there may be more surprises ahead,” Tam said during the briefing.
How Japan achieved one of the worlds lowest Covid-19 death rates
Article reports that Japan’s Covid-19 death rate is the lowest among the world’s wealthiest nations, with health experts pointing to continued mask wearing, extensive vaccination and an already healthy population as the core factors behind its success. The population has continued to adhere to basic infection control measures, including avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated venues, as other parts of the world grapple with pandemic fatigue. And Japan’s measures have been bolstered by a robust vaccination program and free medical care
Can China revive its COVID-hit economy?
The Chinese government has announced a 33-point stimulus plan to put the economy back on track. China has been the biggest source of global economic growth for the past 20 years. And it has long defied predictions it would soon hit a wall. But, strict COVID lockdowns, a crackdown on tech companies and a real estate slump are challenging the world’s second-largest economy’s expansion. Many financial institutions predict growth will fall well short of Beijing’s target of about 5.5 percent this year, for the first time in decades. Elsewhere, the United Kingdom plans to scrap parts of the post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union. But, can it do so? And how will businesses be affected?
The covid waves continue to come
We are just over five months into 2022 and have already seen two record highs of coronavirus infection in England, with population prevalence peaking at 7% in early January (omicron BA.1) and 8% in late March (omicron BA.2).1 After eight weeks of declining prevalence, infections have started to increase again with the rise of yet another set of omicron variants. Instead of just one new variant, we currently have four: BA.2.12.1 (dominant in the US), BA.4 and BA.5 (dominant in South Africa), and BA.5.1 (dominant in Portugal). Together, these four variants became dominant in England in early June,2 and it looks as if BA.5 and BA.5.1 will likely win out to become the overall dominant variants.3 So what does this mean for the shorter and longer term? In the short term, we will see another wave of infections here, likely peaking at the end of June/early July. South Africa’s BA.4/5 wave has now passed, with fewer hospital admissions and deaths than in their BA.1 wave in December.
Community Activities
Working Remotely
Is remote work worse for wellbeing than people think?
Remote work has been heralded as a solution to some of the problems of our fast-paced, pre-pandemic lifestyles. For many, it’s meant the opportunity to spend more time with their children, or use time that they would have previously wasted commuting pursuing more fulfilling hobbies. But new research into remote work and wellbeing has shown mixed results – in Microsoft’s 2022 New Future of Work Report, researchers found that although remote work can improve job satisfaction, it can also lead to employees feeling “socially isolated, guilty and trying to overcompensate”.
Keeping Remote Work In Perspective
As workers, employers, and analysts try to understand the pandemic-induced increase in working from home, there’s a vigorous debate on remote work with economists like Adam Ozimek, Matthew Kahn, and Nicholas Bloom arguing the data show a major change. Although we don’t know the long term implications of these trends, some popular commentators may be going too far, too fast.
How Work-From-Home Setups Have Changed
“Investing in a future that’s uncertain is tough,” said Dr. Emily Anhalt, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of the mental health start-up Coa. “If you want to go back to the office, and you don’t want to stay home, there’s less of a chance you’ll drop money on a fancy background.” Even Dr. Anhalt said she was hesitant to give up on the notion that any day or month she might be returning to her prepandemic routine: “I didn’t really take the time to grieve the life I was living before,” she said. “Getting to see my patients in person, getting to see their body language.”
Virtual Classrooms
Goa to introduce 'virtual classrooms' across the state
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Friday said that the state is preparing to introduce 'virtual classrooms' in all schools, so that one good teacher can teach students across the state. While launching the class 7th regular curriculum teachers handbook under the Coding and Robotics Education in Schools (CARES), Sawant said that about 435 aided and non-aided schools in Goa will get such virtual classrooms.
Ontario school boards set virtual learning plans for 2022-23 year as interest drops
School boards across Ontario are nailing down virtual learning plans for the upcoming school year and some are finding that programming is challenging to offer, with significantly lower student interest. The province requires boards to offer remote learning as an option for the new school year, as is has for previous pandemic school years. But enrolment has declined each year, and not all boards are able to offer a full virtual school option.
Public Policies
WTO Approves Vaccine-Patent Waiver to Help Combat Covid Pandemic
Article reports that the World Trade Organization approved a politically important deal Friday to water down intellectual property restrictions for the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines after an almost two-year effort involving scores of high-level meetings and much political arm twisting. During the early morning hours in Geneva, WTO ministers approved a package of agreements that included the vaccine patent waiver, which Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala previously said was necessary to end the “morally unacceptable” inequity of access to Covid-19 vaccines. The WTO’s last-minute deal -- secured after an all-night negotiating session in Geneva -- is an important victory for Okonjo-Iweala, the former head of Gavi - the vaccine alliance, who actively stumped for the accord during her first year as the WTO’s top trade official.
CDC Recommends Covid-19 Vaccines for Young Children
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that children as young as 6 months receive newly authorized Covid-19 shots, the final step to making the vaccines available. The CDC said Saturday that the young children should receive either the two-dose series from Moderna Inc. or the three-dose series made by Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE. As soon as Monday, children under 5 years, who haven’t been able to get vaccinated during the pandemic, could start getting inoculated. “Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against Covid-19. We know millions of parents and care givers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said.
Boris Johnson breaks promise to deliver 100 million Covid vaccines to poor countries
The government has broken its promise to deliver 100 million surplus Covid vaccines to poor countries, after sharply cutting international aid spending. At a G7 meeting in June last year, Boris Johnson pledged to send the vaccines to developing countries within a year to help close the global vaccine gap and “vaccinate the world”. But a year later the government has delivered barely a third of the number of promised jabs, with just 36.5 million deployed as of the end of May – a deficit of 63.5 million doses. Figures published by the government also show that ministers have effectively charged developing countries for the leftover jabs by deducting them from existing aid, and even added a mark-up on the UK’s original purchase price.
WHO panel backs use of Omicron-adapted vaccine as booster dose
A modified coronavirus vaccine that targets the Omicron variant can be administered as a booster dose to broaden immunity, a technical advisory group set up the World Health Organization said on Friday. Such a variant-adapted vaccine may benefit those who have already received the primary series of shots, the agency's panel on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition said, citing available data. The vaccines could be considered for use globally by the agency once they get emergency use authorization or an approval by a stringent national regulatory authority.
EU drugs watchdog begins review of Moderna's variant COVID vaccine
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) started a rolling review on Friday of a variant-adapted COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna (MRNA.O), as coronavirus cases linked to Omicron sub-variants see an uptick in the region. U.S.-based Moderna's so-called bivalent vaccine targets two strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind COVID, the original strain first identified in China, and the Omicron variant. Last week, Moderna said its bivalent vaccine produced a better immune response against Omicron than the original shot.
Swiss COVID-19 vaccine purchase plan fails to pass parliament
The Swiss parliament failed to finance the government's plan to buy COVID-19 vaccines in 2023, forcing the cabinet to try to renegotiate contracts with Moderna and Pfizer/Biontech, for millions of doses. With the two houses of parliament split over the funding request, budget rules required the adoption of the cheaper version of draft legislation, the SDA news agency said in a report posted on parliament's website.
Maintaining Services
Can We Develop a Covid-19 Vaccine That Lasts?
Though most vaccines take years to develop, the Covid shots now in use were created in record time—in a matter of months. For health authorities and a public desperate for tools to deal with the pandemic, their speedy arrival provided a huge lift, preventing hospitalizations and deaths while helping people to escape lockdowns and return to work, school and many other aspects of pre-Covid life. But the Covid vaccines don’t last nearly as long as shots given for other viral illnesses such as polio, mumps and hepatitis, which remain effective for years or decades. Even more worrisome to some scientists and public health officials, the current vaccines don’t fully protect against infections, which hurts their overall effectiveness and gives the virus an opportunity to mutate into more contagious and lethal strains.
West Australian aged care visitor limits expected to remain for some time, despite COVID-19 restrictions easing
Aged care visitor limits are among the last remaining COVID restrictions. Visitors are capped at two people each day, impacting larger families. A major aged care provider expects the limits will be in place for a while longer
COVID-19: Infections rise by nearly half a million in a week
COVID-19 cases have surged by nearly half in a week, official figures show. Last week, an estimated 1,415,600 people had coronavirus in the UK, up 425,800 or 43%. This is the highest estimate for infections since the start of May, but is still well below the record high of 4.9 million at the end of March. Cases rose in all four nations of the UK - and increased across all age groups. In England, around one in 50 people had the virus, according to the coronavirus infection survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Healthcare Innovations
Covid-19: Long covid risk is lower with omicron than delta, researchers find
The risk of developing long covid is lower among people with the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 than with delta, shows an analysis of self reported data to the UK ZOE covid app.Researchers from King’s College London looked at data logged by 56 003 adults who tested positive between 20 December 2021 and 9 March 2022, when the omicron variant was dominant. They compared these with 41 361 who tested positive between 1 June 2021 and 27 November 2021, when the delta variant was most common. Among the cases in the omicron period, 2501 people (4.5%) reported they had experienced long covid, defined as having new or ongoing symptoms four weeks or more after they had tested positive. This compared with 4469 (10.8%) of people in the delta period, according to the analysis, published as a letter in the Lancet.
Omicron less likely to cause long COVID, UK study says
The Omicron variant of coronavirus is less likely to cause long COVID than previous variants, according to the first peer-reviewed study of its kind from the United Kingdom. Researchers at King's College London, using data from the ZOE COVID Symptom study app, found the odds of developing long COVID after infection were 20% to 50% lower during the Omicron wave in the UK compared to Delta. The figure varied depending on the patient's age and the timing of their last vaccination.
Early Omicron infection unlikely to protect against current variants
People infected with the earliest version of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, first identified in South Africa in November, may be vulnerable to reinfection with later versions of Omicron even if they have been vaccinated and boosted, new findings suggest. Vaccinated patients with Omicron BA.1 breakthrough infections developed antibodies that could neutralize that virus plus the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, but the Omicron sublineages circulating now have mutations that allow them to evade those antibodies, researchers from China reported on Friday in Nature.