"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 6th Jul 2022

Isolation Tips
Macau locks down landmark Lisboa hotel after COVID cases found
Macau has locked down one of the city's most famous hotels, the Grand Lisboa, after more than a dozen COVID-19 cases were found there on Tuesday, with infections spreading rapidly in the world's biggest gambling hub. At least 16 other buildings across the special Chinese administrative region are also locked down with no one allowed to exit or enter. The authorities have placed more than 13,000 people under quarantine orders as the city battles to contain its biggest outbreak since the pandemic began.
Hong Kong considers shorter COVID quarantine for travellers -Lee
Hong Kong will look into shortening COVID-19 quarantine requirements for travellers, while still aiming to curb the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, the city's new leader John Lee said on Tuesday. Lee spoke at his first weekly news conference as the city's chief executive after being sworn in on Friday by China's President Xi Jinping following celebrations marking 25 years since the former British colony's return to Chinese rule.
Hygiene Helpers
South Australia pushes federal government to reduce restrictions on COVID-19 antivirals
COVID-19 antivirals can only be prescribed to certain groups of people. SA's Health Minister wants doctors to be more free to decide who gets them. A surge in COVID-19 cases is expected throughout Australia this winter
JCVI chief calls for mandatory masks in hospitals amid Covid surge
It would be “sensible” for hospitals to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing, the chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said, as several trusts in England and Wales announced the move. When NHS rules on wearing masks in England were dropped on 10 June, local health bodies were given the power to draft their own policies. Their guidance, however, is no longer legally enforceable. Figures from NHS England show there were about 10,658 patients hospitalised with coronavirus on Monday. Infections have doubled in a fortnight across England – with about 1,000 patients being admitted with the virus each day.
Atagi considers fourth Covid vaccine doses as Omicron subvariants drive surge in cases
Australia’s independent expert advisory group on vaccines is meeting to discuss fourth Covid-19 booster doses, as Omicron subvariants drive a rise in infections, leading some premiers to urge people to wear masks more widely. The BA.4 and BA.5 strains of Omicron are becoming the dominant strains of Covid-19 in Australia, overtaking the BA.2 strain. A preliminary analysis estimates BA.4 and BA.5 to be about 36% more infectious than BA.2. This infectiousness is driving a new wave of disease, however, there is no indication the variants are more severe. While Covid-19 vaccines do protect well against severe disease and death from the variants, they do not appear to be as effective at stopping infection and symptoms when it comes to the BA.4 and BA.5 strains.
Covid-19: Further vaccinations likely in Northern Ireland in autumn
Some groups of people are likely to be offered further Covid-19 vaccinations this autumn, Northern Ireland's chief scientific advisor has said. Prof Ian Young said it would apply to vulnerable people and those aged over 65, while health and social care workers would also be offered it. The most recent population survey estimated that one in 25 people in Northern Ireland had Covid. The current wave is being driven by the ba4 and ba5 variants of the virus. Speaking to BBC News NI's Talkback programme, Prof Young said that past vaccines continued to provide protection against severe illness. "Unfortunately, however, with the new variant, ba4 and ba5, people can become re-infected with those, even when they've been vaccinated," he said.
China's Shanghai announces two new rounds of mass COVID testing
The city of Shanghai on Tuesday announced two new rounds of mass COVID-19 testing of most of its 25 million residents over a three-day period, citing the need to trace infections linked to an outbreak at a karaoke lounge. The city government said on its official WeChat account that all residents in nine of the city's 16 districts would be tested twice from Tuesday to Thursday. People in parts of three other districts would also have to undergo tests.
Ireland sees 'extensive' autumn COVID-19 vaccine campaign -deputy PM
Ireland expects to run an extensive vaccine drive against COVID-19 and flu ahead of a potentially worrying winter surge that could lead to the reimposition of mask wearing in certain settings, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday. Ireland dropped all COVID-19 curbs earlier this year after having one of Europe's toughest lockdown regimes. While infections are on the rise again, Varadkar said the current wave seemed to be peaking and the number of hospitalised patients was expected to start falling in the next two to three weeks.
Macau steps up COVID testing as infections surge
Macau kicked off a new round of COVID-19 testing for its more than 600,000 residents on Monday, as officials in the world's biggest gambling hub raced to limit spiralling infections in the city's worst outbreak since the pandemic began. All residents face three rounds of tests this week, in addition to rapid antigen tests, as Monday's 68 new infections took the tally in the former Portuguese colony to 852 since the middle of June. About 12,000 people are in quarantine.
Community Activities
Oxford University Takes Aim at Future Pandemics After Covid Vaccine
The University of Oxford, one of the first to cross the finish line with a Covid-19 vaccine, is shifting its focus to health threats that could trigger the next pandemic. Oxford’s Pandemic Sciences Institute, launched Tuesday, aims to reduce the risks posed by infectious diseases by improving data collection, strengthening surveillance and helping to create vaccines and other countermeasures. Oxford said the organization will seek to learn from the response to Covid and take advantage of the university’s research and global partnerships. But it will have to bring in additional funds to carry out its mission.
Moshe Feiglin: Those under 30 need to avoid COVID-19 vaccine like fire
Former MK Moshe Feiglin, who is currently running for the Likud primaries, told KAN Radio on Tuesday morning that anyone under 30 years old should avoid the coronavirus vaccine "like fire." "We are horrified by the shtuyot (nonsense) that were said by someone with no understanding or knowledge on the topic," the Health Ministry tweeted in response. "It's unfortunate that a man without any professional backing is handing out suggestions based on knee-jerk instincts or delusions while going directly against existing medical knowledge and international studies on the subject, not to mention the instructions of every international organization."
One million set to perform Hajj as COVID-19 restrictions ease
After a two-year absence, international pilgrims will perform the yearly Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia for the first time starting Wednesday, after previously being restricted amid the kingdom’s battle to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Some one million people are expected to be in attendance in the holy city of Mecca in Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) for the start of the five-day ritual – a large jump from last year when only 60,000 pilgrims were permitted. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic’s early waves and before vaccines were available, about 10,000 were selected.
The Health Risks of Getting Covid-19 a Second (or Third) Time
Covid-19 reinfections can bring some new risks of serious medical problems, hospitalization and death, a new study has found. Protection provided by vaccines and prior infection has greatly improved Covid outcomes since the pandemic’s early days, and reinfections are typically less severe than initial ones. Yet each new infection carries a risk of medical problems, including hospitalization, death and long Covid, according to preliminary data from a study of patients in the Veterans Affairs health system. This is a timely finding, doctors say, as more-infectious Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 proliferate and are expected to make reinfections more common.
US seeks 250000 mentors, tutors to address pandemic learning loss
The Biden administration on Tuesday will launch a new effort to recruit 250,000 mentors and tutors to help students who have fallen back in their learning during the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said. The program, which will be led by AmeriCorps and the Department of Education along with other service organizations, will seek to get adults to fill the roles over the next three years. Students on average are two to four months behind in reading and math as a result of the pandemic, a White House official said. The program is intended to help address that deficit. "Research shows that high quality tutors and mentors positively impact student achievement, well-being, and overall success," the White House said in a statement.
Many won’t rely on virtual options after COVID: AP-NORC poll
Many Americans don’t expect to rely on the digital services that became commonplace during the pandemic after COVID-19 subsides, according to a new poll, even as many think it’s a good thing if those options remain available in the future. Close to half or more of U.S. adults say they are not likely to attend virtual activities, receive virtual health care, have groceries delivered or use curbside pickup after the coronavirus pandemic is over, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Less than 3 in 10 say they’re very likely to use any of those options at least some of the time. Still, close to half also say it would be a good thing if virtual options for health care, for community events and for activities like fitness classes or religious services continue after the pandemic.
Working Remotely
Americans Willing To Take 10% Pay Cut In Order To Work Remotely With Their Dogs
Nearly a quarter (23%) of dog owners said they would be willing to take a 10% pay cut if they could work remotely with their dog, according to a new Forbes Advisor survey of 2,000 employed American adults. Men (31%) were more likely than women (19%) to be OK with a salary reduction if it meant they could work remotely to be with their canine companion.
Post-COVID return to office: Some workers bring back reminders of home
According to “Why Working from Home Will Stick,” published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, only 82% of employees have come into the office as much as their employers desired, and 43% responded that the employers did not punish those who came in less frequently than required. Managers have two choices in these scenarios: not enforce the in-person work hours and appear weak, or enforce the work hours and anger employees, said researcher Nicholas Bloom, economics professor at Stanford University. He added that some workers don’t need to come in every day to get their jobs done and could be more productive at home.
Virtual Classrooms
Amazon launches free online learning resources to help during cost of living crisis
Working with some of the UK’s leading education content providers, Amazon launched Amazon Study, providing parents, carers, and teachers with access to a wide range of free, curriculum-linked maths and science resources to support children’s learning. New research from YouGov who surveyed 1000 UK parents and carers (who are involved in their child’s learning) on behalf of Amazon, found that while 45% enjoy being involved in their child’s learning, 29% find it stressful, and 20% find it difficult.
Public Policies
Health Ministry approves COVID-19 vaccine for infants
Health Ministry Director General Professor Nachman Ash has approved the administration of Moderna's Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccines for infants and children ages six months to five years. Though the approval applies to all children in the above age group, the Health Ministry has not issued a general recommendation for the vaccine. The vaccines were approved last month by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and later the same month by the Israeli Health Ministry's Staff for the Management of Pandemics.
Maintaining Services
COVID and bust: China's private health system hurt by tough coronavirus controls
On March 24, a court in the central Chinese city of Fuyang announced that a $1.5 billion hospital built just four years earlier had filed for bankruptcy because it was unable to pay its debts. For most of the last two years, the Fuyang Minsheng Hospital had been fully involved in mass coronavirus vaccination and testing programmes in the city, training almost 100 staff to perform throat swabs and setting up mobile vaccination facilities to go to schools and workplaces, at the order of city officials.
Covid-19: GPs are asked to opt into next vaccination phase this autumn
General practices that wish to continue giving covid booster vaccinations from September have until 14 July to sign up, NHS England has said. In guidance setting out expectations for the autumn booster campaign it also states that general practices choosing to provide vaccinations must have sufficient workforce capacity to keep delivering other services. The updated enhanced service—now “phase 5” of the vaccination campaign—will start on 1 September and will initially run to 31 March 2023, but it could be extended by as much as six months depending on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. GPs will continue to be paid £10.06 for each vaccine administered and £10 for each housebound patient.
Healthcare Innovations
Spectacular success of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines just a glimpse of their full potential
The "spectacular" success of mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine technology against SARS-CoV-2 provides "just a glimpse of their full potential", according to the authors of a Perspective published by the Medical Journal of Australia today. Asymptomatic individuals constitute 16–38% of the SARS-CoV-2 infected population which increases the difficulty of identifying infected individuals. The lack of convenient and sensitive tests to detect the virus in all individuals is continuing to limit global response to the pandemic. Predominantly, SARS-CoV-2 is detected through RT-PCR (real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) on swab samples collected from the nose and throat. However, these tests require long detection times, high costs, specialized equipment and medical personnel, and are not feasible in areas where resources are limited.
BA.5 Subvariant Drives Majority of Recent Covid-19 Cases
The highly contagious Omicron BA.5 subvariant has taken over as the dominant version of the virus causing new Covid-19 cases in the U.S., the latest federal data show. BA.5 represented nearly 54% of U.S. cases in the week ended July 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Tuesday. It surpassed BA.2.12.1, the version of Omicron partly responsible for a persistent springtime surge in cases, which is now estimated to represent closer to one in four cases. Another version known as BA.4, which is closely related to BA.5, and also ramped up recently, represents nearly 17% of cases, the CDC estimates.