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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 28th Jun 2022

Hygiene Helpers
Should you get a COVID-19 booster shot now or wait until fall? Two immunologists help weigh the options
While COVID-19 vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, it has become clear that the protection offered by the current vaccines wanes over time. This necessitates the use of booster shots that are safe and effective in enhancing the immune response against the virus and extending protection. But when to get a first or second booster, and which shot to choose, are open questions. Many people find themselves unsure whether to wait on new, updated formulations of the COVID-19 vaccines or to mix and match combinations of the original vaccine strains. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, uses its knob-shaped spike protein to gain entry into cells and to cause infection. Each of the existing and upcoming vaccines relies on emulating the spike protein to trigger the immune response. However, each vaccine type presents the spike protein to the immune system in different ways.
Children to get free flu vaccines, second Covid-19 booster eligibility expanded
Health Minister Andrew Little said the government was expanding access to the flu vaccine after noticing an increase in pre-schoolers hospitalised with the illness. "We're making free flu shots available to another 800,000 New Zealanders, including children, more of whom are having to go to hospital," Little said. "Free flu shots are already available for everyone over the age of 65 and those at risk of becoming seriously ill or who have underlying conditions. "This season we ordered 40 per cent more vaccines. We've already seen more than one million New Zealanders get a flu shot, but with significant pressure on our health system we're ramping up efforts to get as many people vaccinated as possible."
Kuwait mulls optional fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine
Kuwait is expected to soon introduce an optional fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine. According to local newspapers, the Ministry of Health is set to make an official statement on the availability of the fourth dose of the vaccine. The fourth dose, in accordance with regulations, will be provided to groups most vulnerable to infection, who are suffering from chronic diseases, elderly. The dose will be for those who wish to be vaccinated. The booster dose is given to avoid complications when infected. It is important to follow precautionary measures and continue to adhere to health instructionsm, the ministry reminded. The government in May announced the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Travellers to the country are no longer needed to take a PCR test or provide proof of vaccination.
More free COVID-19 rapid tests for kids to be handed out in July
The government will provide more free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests in July for children under the age of 7 years, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday. Starting July 1, families with children born on or after Sept. 2, 2015 will be eligible to collect the free tests at any of the approximately 5,000 designated pharmacies participating in the government's rapid test rationing program. Five free rapid tests will be allocated for each child in the under-7 age category, the CECC said, adding that parents must show the child's health insurance (NHI) card at the pharmacy. In the first round of free test distribution in June, some 780,000 families with children under the age of 7 years received free rapid test kits, accounting for 60 percent of the eligible age group, according to the CECC.
Covid-19: Hong Kong extends social distancing rules to July 13, as experts call for border restrictions to be eased
Hong Kong’s current social distancing rules will be extended until July 13, the government has announced. “In view of the latest epidemic trend and given that the effective period of the measures in the coming cycle will span to the next government term, having consulted the Chief Executive-elect’s Office and with its consent, the Government decided to extend the existing social distancing measures for 14 days with effect from June 30,” the government said in a press release on Monday.
Casino hub Macau launches third round of COVID testing as infections rise
Macau launched a third round of mandatory COVID-19 testing for its more than 600,000 residents on Monday, in a push to curb a rise in infections in the world's biggest gambling hub. Authorities in Macau have locked down multiple buildings and put more than 5,000 people in quarantine in the past few days, the city's government said. Health authorities said 38 new COVID cases were recorded on Sunday, taking the total number of infections to 299 in the latest outbreak.
Pakistan orders masks on domestic flights as COVID numbers rise
Pakistan’s aviation regulator has made masks mandatory on domestic flights given a gradual rise in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country, it said a statement. The order comes a day after Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, reported that its COVID-19 positivity ratio, or the rate of positive cases out of all tests conducted, rose to 21% compared with a national rate of 2.8%. "With immediate effect, mask wearing will be mandatory onboard domestic flights,” the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said in the statement late on Sunday.
COVID-19: People in France 'should wear masks again on public transport' as new coronavirus wave hits nation
People in France should wear masks again in crowded areas, particularly if they are on public transport, to help tackle a new COVID-19 wave, according to the country's health minister. The increase in coronavirus cases is being fuelled by new variants, with 17,601 fresh infections over the past 24 hours - the highest Monday figure since 18 April. It comes as the number of people in England's hospitals who have tested positive for COVID jumped by more than a third in a week.
Covid-booster response hope for most vulnerable
More than a million vulnerable people could improve their protection against Covid by taking a short break from medication after a booster jab, a trial suggests. It found stopping the common immune-suppressing drug methotrexate for two weeks doubled spike antibody levels for up to 12 weeks. Some people experienced disease flare-ups but no impact on quality of life. Research is needed to find out if a similar approach works for other drugs. Patients should always consult their doctor or specialist hospital team before pausing their medication, scientists writing in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine said.
Community Activities
Covid-19: UK makes first payments to compensate injury or death from vaccines
The first compensation payments in the UK have been made to families who have been bereaved, or to people who have been injured, as a result of a covid-19 vaccine. Vikki Spit from Cumbria is believed to be the first person to receive compensation, after her 48 year old partner, Zion, became ill eight days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. Zion, a former rock singer, died at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle in May 2021. A handful of other people have received payments in the past few days under the government’s vaccine damage payment scheme (VDPS), which pays out up to a maximum of £120 000 (€140 000; $150 000). Sarah Moore, a partner at the Hausfeld law firm, which is representing people seeking compensation, told The BMJ it was an important moment. “While the VDPS payments are very modest in amount, and will do very little to alleviate the financial difficulties with which many families are now struggling as a consequence of injury or bereavement, the fact of payment for some will mark a moment of vindication in that it is the clearest statement yet, by the government, that in some rare instances the covid-19 vaccines have caused very significant injury or death.”
Bereaved may take legal action against Government over coronavirus inquiry delay
Bereaved families have warned they may take legal action against the Government over delays to starting the coronavirus public inquiry. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group is considering bringing a judicial review over the failure to provide a setting up date for the inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic. They say this leaves the inquiry in "limbo", more than six months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Baroness Hallett to chair the probe in December 2021.
Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29
Shanghai will gradually resume dining-in at restaurants from June 29 in low-risk areas and areas without any community-level spread of COVID-19 during the previous week,a Shanghai government official said on Sunday. The Chinese econonic hub lifted a two month city-wide lockdown on June 1, but many establishments have remained unable to offer indoor dining since mid-March. Shanghai reported no new locally transmitted cases - either symptomatic or asymptomatic - for June 24 and June 25.
Working Remotely
If employees want to work from home, managers should let them or risk losing top money-making talent
As the stock market contracts and the tech industry likely faces a downturn and belt-tightening, there’s some predictable chatter that employees working from home or hybrid may suffer. But any leader who penalizes or rolls back flexible work policies at this moment is making a massive mistake. In uncertain times, you need to keep top talent — nowadays that means providing flexibility not only in where people work, but when.
Virtual Classrooms
Warnings of mental health crisis among ‘Covid generation’ of students
The pandemic has had a lasting legacy on the mental health of the “Covid generation” of students, exacerbating rates of anxiety, depression and self-harm and resulting in a “significant rise” in young people struggling at university, experts have said. UK universities have reported that more students are experiencing mental health problems in the aftermath of the pandemic, and that this is expected to continue with the cohort arriving in September, whose school experience was heavily disrupted by the pandemic. The president of the National Union of Students, Larissa Kennedy, said she was “deeply concerned” by the student mental health crisis, which was “getting worse”, with NUS research suggesting “the majority of students are burdened by anxiety”.
How to create digital training that will engage your learners
After surveying over 2,000 learners on their expectations from learning, this article delves into the findings and offers practical advice on what digital formats can be used and most importantly when to use them. How can you use interactive elements to bring the learning to life? When does scenario-based learning help engage your audience?
Public Policies
Legal challenge underway over Covid vaccine rollout for children
A judicial review of the Government's vaccine rollout for children aged 5-11 has begun today at the High Court in Wellington. A group of parents - all of whom have name suppression - are seeking a judicial review on the basis that the provisional consent process for the children's vaccine was flawed and illegal. They claim the Government cut corners in its decision to expand the rollout to children and ignored concerns about the adverse side effects of the vaccine.
Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine conditionally registered in South Africa
China's Sinovac Biotech said on Saturday that South Africa's health products regulator has granted conditional registration to its coronavirus vaccine CoronaVac for people aged 18 and above.
Maintaining Services
COVID-19's sixth wave hits Palestinian Territories
In a press statement sent to The New Arab, the ministry said it reported more than 1,000 new cases infected with the deadly coronavirus in the West Bank in a single day. The Ramallah-based Palestinian Health Ministry announced on Monday that the sixth wave of the coronavirus has hit the region. In a press statement sent to The New Arab, the ministry said it reported more than 1,000 new cases infected with the deadly coronavirus in the West Bank in a single day. Mai al-Kaila, the health minister, expressed her concerns about the current health situation, urging the public to immediately receive booster vaccinations and abide by precautionary and preventive measures. The Palestinian minister warned that its ministry may call on local authorities to impose several strict measures to curb the virus's spread.
Peru facing fourth wave of COVID-19: government
Peru's government on Sunday declared that a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections had begun to hit the country, which has one of the highest mortality rates from the virus in the world. "We are currently in a fourth wave, as we have seen the increase (of cases)... in different provinces of our country, such as Junin, Arequipa, Cusco and the capital," Health Minister Jorge Lopez told local broadcaster RPP radio. According to official figures, infections increased from 1,800 per week at the beginning of the month to more than 11,000 in the last week.
US Covid-19 vaccine rollout for under-fives must overcome hesitancy
For some American families, it was a much-anticipated and badly needed victory: Covid vaccines for children under five began rolling out in the US last week. “I’ve already been waiting a year and a half since I got my first dose, and that’s been intolerable,” says Dr Roby Bhattacharyya, an infectious diseases doctor at Massachusetts general hospital and parent of a four-year-old who received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday. But others still have questions as America’s problem with vaccine hesitancy has not gone away. Less than one in five families want to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible, while the majority say they want to “wait and see” first. Only 18% of parents plan to have their children under five vaccinated right away, while 38% want to see how the vaccine rollout goes, according to an April survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Another 11% say they will only get their kids vaccinated if they are required to, while 27% say they definitely won’t do it
Healthcare Innovations
Epstein-Barr may play a role in some long COVID; coronavirus can impair blood sugar processing by organs
Among 280 patients with SARS-CoV-2 infections, including 208 with long COVID, researchers found that at four months after diagnosis, fatigue and problems with thinking and reasoning were more common in study participants with immune cells in their blood showing signs of recent EBV reactivation. These signs of reactivation were not linked with other long COVID findings such as gastrointestinal or heart and lung problems, however. And EBV itself was not found in patients' blood, which suggests any reactivation likely is transient and happens during acute COVID-19, Dr. Timothy Henrich of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues reported on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
Pfizer and BioNTech share positive results for Omicron-adapted COVID-19 vaccine
Pfizer and BioNTech have shared positive results from a phase 2/3 trial of two Omicron-adapted COVID-19 vaccine candidates. The data shows that a booster dose of both Omicron-adapted vaccines gave a considerably higher immune response against Omicron BA.1, compared to Pfizer/BioNTech’s current COVID-19 vaccine. The phase 2/3 trial involved 1,234 participants aged 56 and older. One month after receiving a booster dose, the Omicron-adapted monovalent candidates significantly increased protection against Omicron BA.1, showing a 13.5 and 19.6-fold increase above pre-booster dose levels. One vaccine is monovalent and the other is bivalent, made up from a combination of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and a vaccine candidate designed to target the spike protein of the Omicron BA.1 variant.