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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 8th Jul 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai back on alert as China battles COVID outbreaks
Millions of people in Shanghai queued for a third day of mass COVID-19 testing on Thursday as authorities in several Chinese cities scrambled to stamp out new outbreaks that have rekindled worries about growth in the world's second-largest economy. Unless local officials succeed in preventing the virus from spreading, they could be compelled to invoke prolonged, major restrictions on residents' movement, under China's "dynamic zero COVID" strategy.
Hong Kong's Hotel Quarantine System Buckles Under China Demand
The non-resident rule has also prompted Chinese travelers to use Hong Kong as a gateway to the mainland, where international flight connections are scarce as President Xi Jinping tries to shut out the virus. Monthly mainland Chinese arrivals at Hong Kong airport jumped nearly 11,000% between April and June to 30,222 -- accounting for one-third of airport passengers last month. In that environment, travelers are struggling to book quarantine rooms, scalpers are entering the market and properties have raised their own prices. Foreign business chambers last month told the Liaison Office, Beijing’s main body overseeing Hong Kong, the city must end quarantine to remain a finance hub, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.
Fresh COVID-19 Outbreaks Put Millions Under Lockdown in China
Article reports that tens of millions of people were under lockdown across China on Wednesday and businesses in a major tourist city were forced to close as fresh COVID-19 clusters sparked fears of wider restrictions. Chinese health authorities have reported more than 300 infections in the historic northern city of Xian, home to the Terracotta Army, with new clusters found in Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere. The outbreaks and official response have dashed hopes that China would move away from the strict virus curbs seen earlier this year, when its hardline zero-COVID policy saw tens of millions forced to stay home for weeks.
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 under restrictions with no one allowed to exit or enter. Authorities reported 146 new infections on Wednesday taking the total to more than 1,000 cases since mid-June. More than 14,000 people are in quarantine as the city battles to contain its biggest outbreak since the pandemic began. Macau had largely been COVID-free since an outbreak in October 2021.
Hygiene Helpers
Brii Bio introduces Covid-19 combination therapy in China
Brii Biosciences and TSB Therapeutics have commercially launched a long-acting neutralising antibody therapy combination, amubarvimab/romlusevimab, for Covid-19 in China. The two non-competing SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal neutralising antibodies, amubarvimab and romlusevimab are obtained from convalesced Covid-19 patients. The company developed these antibodies in partnership with Tsinghua University and the 3rd People’s Hospital of Shenzhen.
Exothera to support process development of Turkish company's COVID-19 vaccine
Turkey based Vaccizone has chosen Belgian CDMO, Exothera, to fast-track process development of its COVID-19 vaccine for European clinical trials.
Covid-19: Bristol hospital trust brings back mask wearing
In Bristol, a city hospital trust has re-introduced mask-wearing after a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases. North Bristol NHS Trust, which runs Southmead Hospital, says the measure applies to staff, patients and visitors in clinical areas. Two Gloucestershire Hospitals have also re-introduced masks for visitors, as have health boards that operate in Somerset and Wiltshire. The latest UK figures show an estimated 2.3 million people have the virus.
Hospital trusts bring face masks back after Covid cases rise
Face masks have been reintroduced at some hospitals in Derbyshire after a spike in Covid patients. Mandatory face masks were dropped in non-clinical areas at the Royal Derby and Chesterfield hospitals last month. However, they have now been brought back by the two trusts that run the hospitals. There are 111 Covid-19 patients at the Royal Derby Hospital - one in intensive care - and 44 patients with Covid at Chesterfield Royal Hospital.
Australia expands fourth COVID dose rollout amid fresh Omicron threat
Australia said on Thursday it would expand the rollout of the fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines from next week as it battles a steady rise in hospital admissions fuelled by the highly transmissible new Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5. The new subvariants have now become the dominant coronavirus strains in several countries, with pandemic experts warning they could lead to more hospitalisations and deaths because they spread more quickly than other coronavirus variants.
New Covid variants threaten China’s mRNA vaccine hopes
China is making progress in efforts to develop a homegrown messenger RNA Covid-19 vaccine, but experts warn that it risks being outpaced by rapid mutations of the Omicron coronavirus variant. Beijing’s refusal to approve foreign jabs, and the limited effectiveness of the more traditional inactivated vaccines available from domestic companies, mean an mRNA vaccine is widely seen as essential to any shift away from President Xi Jinping’s economically costly zero-Covid policy.
Beijing mandates COVID vaccines to enter some public spaces
The Chinese capital has issued a mandate requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before they can enter some public spaces including gyms, museums and libraries, drawing concern from city residents over the sudden policy announcement and its impact on their daily lives. The health app that shows a person’s latest PCR test results has been updated to make it easier to also access their vaccination status, according to Li Ang, a spokesperson for Beijing’s municipal health commission.
Community Activities
Study finds growing Covid vaccine acceptance across world
Covid-19 vaccine acceptance across the world increased by about 4 per cent between 2020 and 2021, according to a new study whose findings could help improve the coverage of future immunisation drives. The research, published in Nature Communications, studied Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy globally in June 2021 in over 23,000 individuals across 23 countries. Researchers, including those from City University of New York in the US, found that more than three-quarters of respondents reported vaccine acceptance, up from 71.5 per cent the previous year.
Norwegian Cruise scraps COVID testing for select voyages
Passengers boarding Norwegian Cruise Line ships won't have to take COVID-19 tests from next month unless required by local law, the U.S. cruise operator said on Wednesday as the crucial summer sailing season gathers steam. Cruises setting sail from the United States, Canada or Greece's Piraeus will still require pre-cruise COVID testing, and all of the company's guests aged 12 and above have to be fully vaccinated.
Hong Kong Suspends Its Covid Flight Ban Policy
Hong Kong will stop banning routes for airlines that bring in too many passengers with Covid-19, suspending a policy that has been heavily criticized by businesses and travelers for snarling plans and leaving people stranded. The flight ban was one of many strict Covid-control policies that have left the Asian financial center more isolated from a world that is moving on from pandemic restrictions. Other travel-deterring controls including long hotel quarantines and tough testing requirements for boarding flights will remain in place, but the suspension of the flight ban beginning Thursday removes a hurdle.
Working Remotely
Netherlands Poised to Make Work-From-Home a Legal Right
As U.S. companies struggle to entice workers back to offices, the Dutch parliament approved legislation to establish home working as a legal right, setting the Netherlands up to be one of the first countries to enshrine such flexibility in law. The legislation was adopted by the lower house of the Dutch parliament Tuesday, and will now head to the Senate for final approval. Under current Dutch law, employers may reject workers’ requests to work from home without giving a reason. The new legislation forces employers to consider such requests and give a reason if denying them.
The key to managing new era of work: Trust your people
Rolls-Royce North America chairman, CEO and president of defense Tom Bell says the pandemic transformed the way he thinks about work. It’s no longer a place, but an activity. As such, leaders must turn to their workers to navigate this new era, he says. “Suspend your disbelief just a little bit, and ask your people how they could be best productive,” Bell said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Our people will have great answers for us if we just trust them.”
Right to seek remote work must be extended, committee says
In Ireland, employees should be able to make a request to work remotely without being required to have at least 26 weeks of service in their job, an Oireachtas committee has recommended. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment has said the grounds upon which an employer can refuse a request under the Government’s draft remote working Bill are “cumbersome” and should also be revisited.
Virtual Classrooms
Secondary school teachers' use of online formative assessment during COVID‐19 lockdown: Experiences and lessons learned
During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, teachers had to shift their teaching and assessment to online. Formative assessment (FA) can help teachers to engage, guide and monitor students' (online) learning. However, more knowledge is needed of how teachers could use the full FA process online. Results showed that many teachers implemented new FA strategies and adopted, more often than in their face-to-face practice, all the five phases of the FA process in an aligned matter in online FA. Teachers indicated opportunities in stimulating student engagement and guiding and monitoring student learning more at an individual level in the online FA process, but also experienced challenges, mainly in lack of interaction online.
GCSE and A level pupils able to join virtual classes from all areas of Wales
GCSE and A level students in every part of Wales will be able to join classes by video link from next year, the Welsh Government has announced. The e-sgol programme lets GCSE and A level pupils join classes at other schools via video link. It will increase the number of GCSE and A/AS-level options available for pupils, especially for those at smaller, rural schools, widening access to a greater range of subjects. E-sgol, as it is known, also aims to broaden the subjects available to study through the medium of Welsh.
Public Policies
'All-in-one' coronavirus vaccine gets backing from CEPI
A new type of vaccine - which could provide broad protection against a variety of SARS-like betacoronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 variants - has received backing of up to $30m from CEPI.
Australians over 30 to be offered fourth dose of Covid vaccine
Australians over 30 will be offered a fourth dose of Covid vaccine from Monday, as health authorities battle a winter wave of Omicron cases. An additional booster shot for people aged over 50 has been “highly recommended” by Australia’s technical advisory group on immunisation, Atagi, but the federal government is still urging millions of eligible Australians who have not yet had their third dose to roll up their sleeves. Atagi has also called for greater use of face masks, warning more vaccine doses may only play a “limited” role in reducing hospital admissions and case numbers.
Africa CDC says it has signed MOU with Pfizer for COVID pill
Africa's top public health body said on Thursday it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Pfizer for countries on the continent to receive supplies of the Paxlovid pill to treat COVID-19. Data from a mid-to-late stage study in November last year showed the antiviral medication was nearly 90% effective in preventing hospitalisations and deaths compared to a placebo, in adults at high risk of severe illness.
COVID-19: New wave of Omicron mutations spreading across Europe, EU Medicines Agency warns
A new wave of Covid-19 is sweeping across Europe driven by Omicron mutations, an EU Medicines Agency official has warned. Head of vaccines at the agency, Marco Cavaleri, has said "the increase in transmission among older age groups is starting to translate into severe disease". The increase in the number of people testing positive is being driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 mutations of the Omicron variant. In April, the EMA advised people aged over 80 to get a second vaccine booster. Now, they recommend people aged between 60-79 and medically vulnerable of any age to get the booster.
Beijing Rolls Out China’s First Ever Covid Vaccine Mandate
The city will require live performances, entertainment venues such as movie theaters, museums and gyms, as well as training and tutoring locations, to restrict entry to people who are vaccinated, Li Ang, deputy director at the Beijing Municipal Health Commission, told reporters at a briefing Wednesday. The requirement will also apply to medical staff, people working in community service operations, home furnishing operators, express delivery providers and conference attendees. They’ll need to have received a booster shot to continue as normal, Li said. There will be exemptions for people who don’t qualify for vaccination.
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. The diversion of resources into what China calls its 'zero-COVID' approach to contain and eliminate the virus forced the hospital to suspend many services it relied upon for revenue, sealing its financial failure.
Australia's Covid hospital admissions at highest level since summer
Covid hospital admissions have reached their highest level since early February when Australia’s health system faced great pressure at the end of the first Omicron wave. The surge has prompted calls from leading epidemiologists and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) for stronger mask mandates, with concerns there are double the number of infections silently spreading through the community than official figures suggest. The national total of hospital admissions reached 3,781 on Wednesday, up from 3,740 on Tuesday and 3,511 on Monday – the highest numbers have been since 8 February. The nation is recording on average 33,000 cases each day.
NHS staff criticise ‘incomprehensible’ scrapping of special Covid leave
Covid-related absences had been fully paid for all NHS workers, regardless of their length of service. However from July 7 staff terms and conditions in coronavirus workforce guidance will be withdrawn, meaning the immediate end to sick pay for new episodes of Covid-19 sickness, according to the Royal College of Nursing, and access to special leave for the purposes of self-isolation will also be withdrawn.
Healthcare Innovations
COVID-19 vaccination with bacterial peptide conjugated to receptor-binding domain elicits potent immune response
In a recent study published in the iScience journal, researchers assessed the efficiency of immunization with a bacterial peptide conjugated to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) receptor-binding domain against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Overall, the study findings showed that the CPD-RBD vaccination elicited a potent immune response and also protected against the severe symptoms associated with COVID-19.
COVID-19 and brain damage explained
The authors suggested that antibody-triggered cytotoxicity targeting the endothelial cells probably led to neuroinflammation, vascular leakage, platelet aggregation, and neuronal damage. Overall, the study findings illustrated that immune complexes accompanying complement activation damaging the microvasculature were the primary cause of blood-brain barrier collapse, microthromboses, perivascular inflammation, and neuronal damage in SARS-CoV-2 patients. The authors proposed that these events largely influenced the neurological symptoms found in acute COVID-19 and probably in long-COVID. Importantly, the current findings indicated the need for therapeutic modalities targeting the development of the immune complex.
Wastewater study technique finds virus variants sooner; many patients are using meds affected by Paxlovid
With just a very small amount of raw sewage and a new analysis technique, researchers can determine the genetic mixture of SARS-CoV-2 variants in the community and detect new variants up to 14 days before they start showing up on patients' nasal swabs, according to a new report. Tests of a new method for wastewater genomic surveillance at the University of California, San Diego campus from November 2020 to September 2021 detected the Epsilon, Alpha and Delta variants "earlier and more consistently than clinical samples, and identified multiple instances of virus spread" that were not detected with traditional monitoring, researchers reported on Thursday in Nature.