"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 9th Jul 2021

Isolation Tips
WHO warns of ‘epidemiological stupidity’ of early Covid reopening
As England moves towards an anticipated “big bang” lifting of coronavirus restrictions on 19 July, a senior World Health Organization official has warned countries to lift their Covid-19 restrictions slowly so as “not to lose the gains that [they] have made”. The comments from the UN global health body’s head of emergencies, Mike Ryan, were not aimed directly at Boris Johnson’s much-trumpeted reopening. However, they will be interpreted as grist to the mill of those health experts who have been arguing that England is moving too fast at a time when infections are surging.
Hygiene Helpers
Mass infection is not an option: we must do more to protect our young
As the third wave of the pandemic takes hold across England, the UK Government plans to further re-open the nation. Implicit in this decision is the acceptance that infections will surge, but that this does not matter because vaccines have “broken the link between infection and mortality”.1 On July 19, 2021—branded as Freedom Day—almost all restrictions are set to end. We believe this decision is dangerous and premature.
Covid-19: Amber list quarantine for fully vaccinated to end on 19 July
Fully vaccinated UK residents arriving in England from amber travel list destinations will no longer have to quarantine from 19 July. They will, however, still need to pay for Covid tests before and after their return, the transport secretary said. Grant Shapps told MPs that under-18s returning from amber list places would also be exempt from quarantine. Travel industry leaders said the change was a "positive step" but called for the amber list to be expanded.
Community Activities
Missouri governor doesn't want door-to-door vaccine help
Federal officials are pushing back after Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said he doesn’t want government employees going door-to-door in his state to urge people to get vaccinated, even as a COVID-19 outbreak overwhelms some hospitals. Missouri asked for help last week from newly formed federal “surge response” teams as it combats an influx of cases that public health officials are blaming on fast-spreading delta variant and deep-seated concerns about the vaccine. After President Joe Biden mentioned the possibility of door-to-door promotion of the vaccine, Parson tweeted: “I have directed our health department to let the federal government know that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri!”
Rural India sinks deeper into debt as COVID wipes out work
Interviews with 75 households in a cluster of villages in Uttar Pradesh state show household incomes have slumped nearly 75 percent on average. Heavy debt and low income in the countryside will hold back any economic recovery the government is trying to make and also dent private savings and investment for longer than expected, economists say. “It will have a huge impact and prolong the recovery process. Private consumption and investments both will be hurt. There is merit in finding ways to put money in the hands of the people,” said NR Bhanumurthy, economist and vice chancellor at Bengaluru-based BR Ambedkar School of Economics.
Olympics bans spectators after Tokyo declares COVID-19 emergency
The Olympics will take place without spectators in host city Tokyo, organisers said on Thursday, as a resurgent coronavirus forced Japan to declare a state of emergency in the capital that will run throughout the event. Although widely expected, the move marked a sharp turnabout from just weeks ago, when organisers said they aimed to hold the global sporting showpiece with some spectators, and all but robs the July 23 to Aug. 8 Games of their last vestige of pomp and public spectacle. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said it was essential to prevent Tokyo, where the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant was spreading, from becoming the source of another wave of infections.
Is COVID coming home? England at risk from Euro 2020 euphoria
England awaits first major soccer final for 55 years. Young, mainly male, adults spread COVID during Euro 2020. Issue extends outside stadiums to bars and pubs Politicians urge prudent celebrations as Italy eyes final
Working Remotely
Japan Tobacco to Allow Remote Work Part-Time in Post-Covid Revamp
Japan Tobacco International is offering its worldwide staff the option to spend more time away from the workplace, the latest multinational to adopt a more flexible approach in the wake of the pandemic. The Geneva-based company’s employees will be able to work as much as half of their time remotely each month, the maker of Camel and Winston cigarettes said. Other measures include being able to work as many as 10 days from abroad.
Forcing employees to return to the office? Prepare to face the consequences
Employees do not have to be together in an office five days a week to do their jobs well. In fact, given the global nature of many businesses today, it was already common before the coronavirus pandemic for employees to work a day or two outside the office. The pandemic has only strengthened the urgency for companies to adapt: We should not be forcing people back into the office. And with cases of the Delta variant rapidly multiplying, futuring-proofing your hybrid workforce is the prudent thing to do.
Google exec will reportedly keep working remote, opposes it for staff
A senior Google executive has caused uproar at the company after reportedly moving to New Zealand to work remotely despite opposing remote work for the company's lower-ranking employees. Urs Hölzle, Google's senior vice president for technical infrastructure, told staff on June 29 that he's headed to New Zealand for a year to work remotely, according to reporting published Thursday in CNET. His move has fed claims of special treatment and a double standard in the company's stance towards remote work. He strongly opposed remote work for Google employees who didn't have a certain seniority level or wouldn't be assigned to an office, a resigning employee told CNET.
Companies Cutting Office Space Predict Long-Term Savings
Companies expect to reap millions of dollars in savings in the years ahead as they scale back on office space after the coronavirus pandemic emptied workplaces around the country. However, some are paying in the short term for their decision to downsize. Finance chiefs have spent months weighing the costs and benefits associated with getting rid of unused office space as businesses consider whether to return to the office. While companies such as Facebook are allowing some employees to work from home permanently, others are asking most of them to spend a few days a week in the office. A third group of businesses—among them Goldman Sachs —is asking employees to come back to the office full time.
Virtual Classrooms
Universities to defy government advice and keep online learning
Lectures will be online at most selective universities next year despite the education secretary’s declaration that they can return to in-person teaching, a survey for The Times has found. Nearly all Russell Group institutions said that they would adopt “blended learning” in the academic year starting this autumn, with a mixture of face-to-face and virtual teaching. Undergraduates will pay £9,250 a year in fees. Most universities said that they hoped to provide in-person contact for small groups, tutorials, seminars and lab work but either omitted to mention lectures or said that these would take place online.
New research center to explore future of online learning
The U.S. Department of Education is investing $10 million in a research center to explore what strategies teachers can use or digital tools to offer to help college students better manage online learning.
Public Policies
U.S. to send 500,000 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses to Uruguay
The United States will ship 500,000 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to Uruguay on Thursday, the White House said, amid a wider distribution to Latin American nations this week. The shipments are part of President Joe Biden's commitment to share 80 million vaccines from the U.S. domestic supply with countries around the world. "Today we ship 500,000 doses of Pfizer to Uruguay," White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said in a Twitter post.
EU could discuss joint recognition of COVID-19 vaccine certificates with Russia -TASS
The European Union has proposed to Russia that they discuss the potential joint recognition of their COVID-19 vaccination certificates, TASS news agency cited the bloc's ambassador to Moscow as saying. Russia has approved four vaccines, none of which have been approved by the European Union. Moscow has not authorized any foreign vaccines for use. TASS quoted EU Ambassador Markus Ederer as saying the 27-nation bloc has digital certificates allowing its citizens to travel freely within the EU, as well as a law that envisages the possibility of recognising other similar certificates.
Coronavirus vaccine to be made mandatory for disability support workers in Australia
In Australia, disability support workers may soon be forced to get vaccinated against coronavirus if they want to keep their jobs. The compulsory jab policy has been recommended by a panel of health experts and will be debated at a national cabinet meeting on Friday. The proposed mandate follows a similar order imposed on aged care workers, who must receive at least one dose by mid-September to remain employed in the industry.
Amid fresh virus surge, Africa sets out to save itself on vaccines procurement
Let down by wealthy countries, Africa is pinning its hopes on its own coronavirus vaccine deals. And for once, the man who is usually delivering dire predictions about Africa's fight against the pandemic actually seems optimistic. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, delivered some good news this week: Africa is expecting the first vaccine doses from the sizable deal secured through the AU's African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) to start arriving in the next two to three weeks. But he’s still cautious, almost as if his optimism may jinx things. The delivery follows the June announcement by the AU and the World Bank of a partnership that would allow AVATT to deliver up to 400 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
How Delta variant forced Israel to rethink its Covid strategy
For much of this year Israel has been hailed as a resounding Covid-19 success story. It rolled out one of the world’s fastest vaccination drives, reopened its economy and jettisoned all remaining lockdown restrictions last month. Now rising infection rates, driven by the more infectious Delta variant, have forced the Israeli government to reintroduce restrictions for the first time since January. While hospitalisation rates remain low, Israel has chosen a cautious approach. Israelis again have to wear masks inside and on public transport. Testing sites have been reopened. Multiple other curbs, including stricter quarantine for travellers and greater testing of children, are expected to be introduced. Israel may even bring back the “green pass”, which allowed greater freedom for vaccinated people.
Maintaining Services
Delta variant is 'Covid-19 on steroids,' expert says, with cases increasing in nearly half of US states
Twenty-four states have seen an uptick of at least 10% in Covid-19 cases over the past week, Johns Hopkins University data shows, as health experts and the federal government keep pressing for more people to get vaccinated. The rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has only ratcheted up the pressure. That variant, first identified in India, accounted for 51.7% of all new Covid-19 infections in the country over the two weeks that ended Saturday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated.
Indonesia's surge in COVID-19 cases spreads to coal mining areas
Indonesia's biggest coal-producing province of East Kalimantan has recorded a spike in coronavirus cases, with miners among those infected, but so far there has been no disruption to coal operations, a local official said. The Southeast Asian country is the world's biggest thermal coal exporter and has been riding a boom in prices powered by strong demand from countries such as China, South Korea and Japan.
Australia's slow vaccination, locked borders eclipse early virus success
Last year, when much of the world was in coronavirus lockdown, Australia was successfully hosting international cricket matches and tennis tournaments in front of packed crowds in a show of what post-pandemic life could look like. But in recent weeks, new virus outbreaks, a chaotic vaccine rollout and a tightening of already strict curbs on international travel have rapidly reversed those fortunes. As crowds in London watch Wimbledon and the Euro Cup football finals, Australians confront new disappointments, with the Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix cancelled and holiday plans scuppered. Unlike last year, business and consumer tolerance for the restrictions and uncertainty is quickly evaporating as Australians witness other countries reopen
Delta COVID variant surges in Asia, casts shadow on Olympics
Indonesia's daily COVID-19 cases jumped to a new record level today, with Thailand and South Korea also reporting record highs. Rising virus activity has also forced Japanese officials to order a state of emergency for the Tokyo area and a spectator ban for Olympic events. Meanwhile, the world's death total from the virus topped 4 million today, with just over one-third of all fatalities from three countries: the United States, Brazil, and India. Global cases topped 185 million, rising to 185,350,264, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.
Australia says Pfizer to expand COVID-19 vaccine supply amid Sydney outbreak
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said Pfizer will increase COVID-19 vaccine delivery to about one million doses a week from July 19, more than tripling shipments, as Sydney battles its worst outbreak of this year. As many as 4.5 million Pfizer Inc doses that were expected to arrive in September will become available next month, Morrison said.
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer to seek OK for 3rd vaccine dose; shots still protect
Pfizer is about to seek U.S. authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, saying Thursday that another shot within 12 months could dramatically boost immunity and maybe help ward off the latest worrisome coronavirus mutant. Research from multiple countries shows the Pfizer shot and other widely used COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against the highly contagious delta variant, which is spreading rapidly around the world and now accounts for most new U.S. infections.
Cuba says second COVID-19 vaccine Soberana 2 boasts 91.2% efficacy
Cuba said on Thursday its two-shot Soberana 2 vaccine, delivered with a booster called Soberana Plus, had proven 91.2% effective in late stage clinical trials against the coronavirus, following similar news about its Abdala vaccine. The announcement came from state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma, which oversees the Finlay Institute, the maker of Soberana 2, and the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the producer of Abdala. Last month, Abdala was found to have a 92.28% efficacy
Covid infection can lead to erectile dysfunction, scientists warn
The inflammation of blood vessels that typically takes place during a Coronavirus infection may limit the blood flow to the penis, leading to erectile disfunction, scientists have said. According to Dr Ryan Berglund, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, warned she has seen a jump in patients with erectile problems only after they had contracted Covid-19. “The blood vessels that can become inflamed could cause an obstructive phenomenon and negatively impact the ability to get erections,” he told several US media outlets. “I would suggests young people to get their vaccinations. If they want to have sex better get the vaccine,” Berglund added.
Sinovac’s Vaccine Found Inferior to Pfizer Shot in Chile Study
Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine was less potent than Pfizer Inc.’s shot at stopping Covid-19 in Chile where the two shots were used simultaneously, the first real-world analysis comparing a China-made inoculation against an mRNA has found. Researchers found CoronaVac was 66% effective in preventing Covid-19 among fully vaccinated adults, versus 93% for the jab made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE. The inactivated inoculation, given to more than 10 million Chileans, was slightly less effective in preventing hospitalization and deaths than the mRNA vaccine, which was administered to fewer than half a million people, according to the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Study highlights need for full Covid vaccination to protect against Delta variant
A new study published Thursday in Nature adds new detail about the dominant variant, analyzing how well Delta, in a lab dish, was able to evade monoclonal antibody drugs such as bamlamivimab and natural antibodies made in our bodies after infection or vaccination. Looking at both kinds of antibodies in blood drawn from 162 patients and how they reacted to Delta, researchers from the Institut Pasteur in France found lower protection against the variant than against three other variants also notable for how easily they spread from person to person. “This is an important study for confirming the immune evasiveness property of Delta, which is a feature that adds to its enhanced transmissibility, making it the most formidable version of the virus to date,” Eric Topol, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told STAT. “No surprises, but further characterization of the variant, which reinforces why it is so challenging.”
BioNTech/Pfizer plan to trial Delta variant vaccine in August
Pfizer and BioNTech are preparing to start clinical trials of a version of their Covid-19 vaccine targeting the Delta variant next month, amid fears that existing jabs will offer less protection against the infectious strain spreading quickly across much of the world. The drugmakers were developing an updated version of their existing vaccine that would be made using the lineage of the Delta variant, Pfizer said on Thursday. Pfizer and BioNTech are in discussions with the US medicine regulator to finalise their clinical trial plans and expect to begin studies in August.
Roche, Sanofi arthritis drugs score WHO backing for severe COVID-19, but agency echoes calls for lower prices
The World Health Organization has recommended Roche's Actemra and Sanofi/Regeneron's Kevzara, along with corticosteroids, for use in patients with severe COVID-19. The WHO also called on manufacturers of the drugs to cut prices and make them more accessible.