"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 3rd Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
New Zealand says fall in COVID-19 cases shows Delta lockdown working
New Zealand reported a drop in new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, which authorities said was a sign that a nationwide lockdown was helping to limit spread of the infectious Delta variant.
Hygiene Helpers
Enforcing Vaccine Mandates Is Messy Business
U.S. companies of all sizes have enacted vaccine requirements for employees in recent weeks. They are finding that setting a policy is more straightforward than enforcing it. Questions and complications are popping up as employees and managers apply the new rules to once-routine business activities such as travel, trade shows, office socializing and interactions with vendors and clients, executives say. The consulting and accounting firm Deloitte LLP recently told employees they will need to be vaccinated to attend voluntary workshops and events at the firm’s leadership training facility near Dallas, called Deloitte University.
More than 500,000 children tested positive for Covid-19 in 3 weeks. Experts say school mask mandates are needed
US states that saw some of the country's worst Covid-19 case rates over the past week also reported the highest number of new vaccinations per capita, data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Tennessee, which reported the country's worst Covid-19 cases rate, had the sixth-best rate of new vaccinations per capita in the US over the past week. The state's hospitals are "under increasing strain from the highly contagious Delta variant," Tennessee's health department wrote on Twitter Thursday, adding in a statement that the strain was continuing to fuel an increase in infections.
Opinion | We Work at the A.C.L.U. Here’s What We Think About Vaccine Mandates.
Do vaccine mandates violate civil liberties? Some who have refused vaccination claim as much. We disagree. At the A.C.L.U., we are not shy about defending civil liberties, even when they are very unpopular. But we see no civil liberties problem with requiring Covid-19 vaccines in most circumstances. While the permissibility of requiring vaccines for particular diseases depends on several factors, when it comes to Covid-19, all considerations point in the same direction. The disease is highly transmissible, serious and often lethal; the vaccines are safe and effective; and crucially there is no equally effective alternative available to protect public health.
Vaccinations Mandatory for Barclays Staff in New York
Barclays Plc is the latest bank in the U.S. to keep unvaccinated staff at home for the time being. “As we continue inviting our colleagues back to our offices in New York, we made a decision to focus initially on those already vaccinated,” Barclays said in an emailed statement. Banks are bringing more staff back to their premises around the world after more than a year of working from home.
Draghi Says Italy Will Eventually Make Vaccine Compulsory
Italy will eventually make vaccination compulsory, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at a press conference in Rome on Thursday. Italy will also start administering a third vaccine shot from later this month, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said, adding that the campaign will start from those with a weak immune system. Speranza stressed that vaccination is already required for health workers, and that this requirement could be expanded to other groups.
What can employers do if workers avoid COVID-19 vaccines?
What can employers do if workers avoid COVID-19 vaccines? They can require vaccination and fire employees who don't comply, or take other actions such as withholding company perks or charging extra for health insurance. Businesses for months have been encouraging workers to get vaccinated, in some cases offering incentives like time off or gift cards. But more are taking a harder stance and requiring vaccinations for any remaining holdouts, a push that has gained momentum since Pfizer’s vaccine recently received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Coronavirus vaccine mandates are causing people to search for religious exemptions
The rules around religious exemptions for coronavirus vaccines vary widely, state by state, institution by institution. But experts on religious freedom court cases believe lawsuits will become more common as vaccine mandates become more prevalent. With no nationally consistent way of navigating religious exemptions, some churches have offered parishioners templates to download. Other leaders, however, have said they will not provide exemptions.
US university students face back-to-campus vaccine mandates
Legal precedent suggests that universities can mandate vaccinations, but not every COVID-19 vaccine has received full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, leaving a legal grey area.
Vaccine passports linked to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in UK and Israel
A new study from Imperial College London has found a link between COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and a perceived lack of free will over vaccine passports. The findings, taken from surveys of 1,358 people across the UK and Israel – two highly vaccinated countries – found that people who feel their sense of autonomy, or free will, is unmet by government incentives like vaccine passports are less likely to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Community Activities
'Mass-scale misinformation' to blame for Covid vaccine hesitancy, says Prince Harry – video
Prince Harry gave a speech about Covid vaccine hesitancy in a virtual appearance at the GQ Men of the Year awards, where he presented a prize to Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, Prof Catherine Green and the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
Australia Covid-19: Remote Indigenous communities refusing vaccination as many fear it is a hoax
Covid vaccination rates below 20 per cent in many remote indigenous areas SA Health deputy chief executive Don Frater says misinformation is the cause Fringe Christian groups and hoax claims common in Indigenous settlements
Misuse of COVID funds alleged as Filipino health workers protest
Allegations of misuse of COVID-19 funds have emerged in the Philippines, prompting anger among healthcare workers, who protested in the Philippine capital to demand the release of unpaid benefits as they battle another surge in cases due to the Delta variant. Protesters wearing protective medical gear gathered on Wednesday at the Department of Health (DOH) and held placards demanding their risk allowances, hazard pay and the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
Working Remotely
Turning off your camera for video meetings makes you more productive and less tired, according to psychologists
If you’ve spent too many remote meetings staring unproductively at the glazed-over expressions of your coworkers, a new study has a solution for you: Just keep your camera off next time. It sounds counterintuitive that turning off your camera leads to more productive meetings, but that’s what researchers from the University of Arizona Eller College of Management recently found during a four-week experiment. Taking away video freed people up to stop concentrating on their own faces, and instead focus more on the content of the meetings, according to the study’s authors.
UBS CEO Says Staff Who Don't Want Vaccine Can Work From Home
UBS staff who don’t wish to receive a vaccine against the coronavirus can apply to work from home, Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers said, signaling a flexible approach on a topic that’s disrupting banks’ effort to get workers back to their desks. “We have 25,000 employees alone in the U.S. and thousands more in Singapore and Hong Kong, and every country has a different legal framework around what you can and can’t make mandatory” with respect to vaccines, Hamers said at the Swiss Economic Forum in Interlaken. “The pandemic has delivered solutions to manage the risk of carrying the virus and passing it to your colleagues, and that is to work from home.”
Northern Ireland bosses 'get cold feet over remote working': survey
Bosses in Northern Ireland are becoming less enthusiastic about home working as they rediscover the benefits of the office, according to a report. The Global CEO Outlook by business advisory firm KPMG said there had been a “significant decline” in the numbers of chief executives here who were planning to downsize their office space. And overall, bosses on this side of the border were less likely than those in the Republic to have employees working remotely for more than two days a week.
After Almost Two Years Of Working Remotely, It Will Be Nearly Impossible To Demand People To Return To The Office
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an email to his employees, “We are welcoming back tens of thousands of Googlers on a voluntary basis.” Pichai added, “We’ll extend our global voluntary return-to-office policy through January 10, 2022.” The date has been pushed back from a prior deadline. Similarly, Apple once again pushed back its timeline for requiring its employees to return to work. The tech giant told its worldwide workforce that they won’t be required to return to their respective offices until January—or even later. The decision was based upon concerns over the sudden surge of the Delta variant.
Virtual Classrooms
Schools reopening in India despite fears from some parents
More students in India will be able to step inside a classroom for the first time in nearly 18 months, as authorities gave the green light to partially reopen more schools despite apprehension from some parents and signs that infections are picking up again. Schools and colleges in at least six more states are reopening in a gradual manner with health measures in place throughout September
French children are back to school, wearing masks
Twelve million children in France went back to school Thursday for the new academic year, wearing face masks as part of rules aimed at slowing down the spread of the coronavirus in the country. In France as in other European countries, many fear the end of the summer break will see a new surge in COVID-19 infections fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. French media cite the example of Scotland and Germany where reports of new cases increased after schools reopened. France is one among countries around the world that have maintained the highest rate of in-person classes during the COVID-19 crisis.
Public Policies
EU to Return Millions of Doses of J&J’s Covid-19 Vaccine Imported From Africa
The European Union will return to Africa millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine that it received from a plant in South Africa, following criticism by health activists that the bloc was taking away shots from a continent that has the lowest immunization rate in the world. Strive Masiyiwa, who heads the African Union’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, said the decision to return the shots produced at Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. was made at a meeting between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last week. As part of the deal, the EU will also not take doses from the Aspen plant it was expecting in September, Mr. Masiyiwa said.
FDA Weighing Dose of Moderna Covid-19 Booster
The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to authorize a lower dose of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine for boosters than the dose given in the first two shots, people familiar with the deliberations said. Moderna said Wednesday it is asking the FDA to authorize a 50 microgram dose, half the dosage of the first two shots. Some in the government are leaning toward authorizing the 100 microgram dose, the people said, because of concerns a lower-dose booster might not offer a durable enough boost to counter fast-changing variants of Covid-19.
EU Authorities Steer Away From Wide Use of Covid Booster Shots
European Union health authorities said there’s no urgent need for widespread use of Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, though people with weakened immune systems should be offered a third dose. The priority now should be to vaccinate the roughly one-third of Europe’s adults who aren’t fully inoculated, the European Medicines Agency said on Thursday, citing a report by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Older and frail people, particularly those in care homes, could also be given an extra dose, the agency said.
Kosovo to destroy 133,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines
The Kosovo government decided to destroy 133,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines over their expired date of use as the country faces a sharp rise in the coronavirus death rate. The vaccines that will be destroyed were part of a donation from Norway with August 31 seen as an expiration date. The decision to destroy vaccines triggered criticism, with some people calling for the resignation of the health minister on the health ministry's Facebook page.
Sputnik Adrift: Lessons From Russia's Covid-19 Vaccine Stumble
Russia claimed victory in the Covid-19 vaccine race a year ago, but is still waiting to reap the glory. At home, hesitancy means only about one in four Russians is fully inoculated and the pace of vaccination has slowed even as deaths hover around daily records. Abroad, production hiccups have hampered deliveries to countries such as Argentina. Over the entire enterprise hangs a long list of unanswered questions. There’s still time for Moscow to secure a measure of success and help a vaccine-starved, variant-afflicted world as well. Every shot is needed. But first the Kremlin needs to recognize the benefits of vaccine glasnost.
North Korea rejects offer of nearly 3 million Sinovac COVID-19 shots
North Korea has rejected roughly three million COVID-19 vaccine doses of China's Sinovac, saying they should be sent to severely affected countries, the UNICEF said. The isolated country's public ministry pointed to the limited global supply for vaccines and continuing virus surges elsewhere, according to the UN children's agency that manages the supply for the COVAX scheme for lower-income nations. So far, North Korea has not reported any COVID-19 cases and has imposed strict anti-virus measures, including border closures and domestic travel curbs.
Maintaining Services
Hawaii Struggles With an Oxygen Shortage
The authorities in Hawaii are struggling to transport tanks of oxygen from the mainland as the state’s hospitals grow increasingly strained by new coronavirus infections. Medical authorities are asking people to postpone elective surgeries and the state’s 223 I.C.U. beds have dwindled to 16 available, said Hilton R. Raethel, the president and chief executive of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “The most critical point for Hawaii that we’ve experienced during this entire pandemic is right now,” he said.
Norway to Offer Teens Single Covid Shot as Reopening Is Delayed
Norway will offer children down to 12 years of age a single vaccine dose and delay removing remaining restrictions, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a press conference. Infections in Norway, which has topped Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking for last two months, are currently at a record high after most restrictions were lifted. While hospitalizations are rising, they have been kept in check by the vaccination of more than 70% of adults.
Covid-19 Australia: NSW to hit 70 per cent single vaccine dose today
NSW is on track to hit 70 per cent single dose vaccinations on Thursday as Premier Gladys Berejiklian hints about what life will be like once residents are double-jabbed. Current modelling suggests NSW will reach that double vaccination target by October 21, whereby residents will finally be afforded freedoms to visit the pub, restaurants and stadium events. NSW is the first state in Australia to reach the 70 per cent first dose target and will likely be the first to reach the second dose target as well.
South African train brings COVID-19 vaccines closer to people
At Springs train station in South Africa's biggest city Johannesburg, Simphiwe Dyantyi and her partner wait their turn to board. But they are not going anywhere, instead they are getting COVID-19 jabs inside a stationary train. The initiative by South African state logistics firm Transnet is meant to bring vaccines closer to people and save them from travelling long distances as the government ramps up its COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Covid-19: UK will offer third vaccine dose to severely immunosuppressed people
The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that people with severely weakened immune systems should have a third vaccine dose as part of their primary vaccination schedule against covid-19. The third dose of either the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should be offered to people over age 12 who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of their first or second dose, including those with leukaemia, advanced HIV, or recent organ transplants. For 12-17 year olds the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is preferred. The JCVI is still deciding on the benefits of booster doses for the rest of the population and is awaiting further evidence to inform this decision.
Australian doctors warn of risks to hospitals once COVID-19 curbs ease
Australian doctors on Thursday warned the country's hospitals are not ready to cope with the government's reopening plans, even with higher vaccination rates, as some states prepare to move from a virus suppression strategy to living with COVID-19. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said the health system was in danger of being locked into a "permanent cycle of crisis" and has called for new modelling to check if staffing levels in hospitals can withstand an expected surge in cases when lockdown rules ease.
Healthcare Innovations
New Covid strain Mu lands in UK with 55 cases in England so far
A new Covid mutation has found its way to the UK with 55 cases identified in England so far. The new strain, called Mu, was first detected in South America and has been labelled a variant of interest by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Mu, or B.1.621, was first identified in Colombia and cases have been recorded in South America and various European countries. The WHO said the variant has mutations suggesting it could be more resistant to vaccines but that more studies would be needed to examine this further.
Pfizer launches later-stage study of pill to treat COVID-19
Pfizer on Wednesday announced that it had initiated a later-stage clinical trial for a pill that could potentially treat COVID-19. If proven to be safe and effective, the drug could fill an unmet need for a widespread, easier-to-use treatment, as opposed to an infusion like remdesivir, another treatment. Pfizer is beginning a trial that will enroll 1,140 participants, the company said.
JCVI advises booster COVID-19 jab for severely immunosuppressed
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that people with severely weakened immune systems should have a third vaccine dose as part of their primary COVID-19 vaccination schedule.
Coronavirus vaccines cut risk of long Covid, study finds
Being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 not only cuts the risk of catching it, but also of an infection turning into long Covid, research led by King's College London suggests. It shows that in the minority of people who get Covid despite two jabs, the odds of developing symptoms lasting longer than four weeks are cut by 50%. This is compared with people who are not vaccinated. So far, 78.9% of over-16s in the UK have had two doses of a Covid vaccine. Many people who get Covid recover within four weeks but some have symptoms that continue or develop for weeks and months after the initial infection - sometimes known as long Covid. It can happen after people experience even mild coronavirus symptoms.
Entos to commence Phase II Covid-19 vaccine trial in South Africa
Entos Pharmaceuticals has obtained approval from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) to commence a Phase II clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Covigenix VAX-001, in the country. Made using the Entos’ Fusogenix proteolipid vehicle (PLV) nucleic acid delivery platform, the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) vaccine encodes the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein. It also includes two genetic adjuvants to induce the innate and adaptive immune systems, offering efficient and long-term protection from Covid-19.
Moderna submits preliminary data to FDA for Covid-19 booster shot
Moderna has commenced its submission to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the assessment of a booster shot of its Covid-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, at the 50µg dose level. The company plans to make similar submissions to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), as well as other global regulatory agencies soon. In December last year, the FDA authorised the emergency use of this messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine for people aged 18 years or above.