"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 7th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
Emergency covid-19 mental health pop-up clinics set up in Sydney
Ten new pop-up mental health clinics have opened to assist NSW residents. Most are in the hard-hit western Sydney suburbs ravaged by coronavirus. Anyone in distress can seek advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14)
Covid-19: Ireland takes next step in easing of restrictions
Ireland will continue with a major easing of Covid-19 restrictions on Monday, with live music returning and larger crowds allowed at indoor venues. The Irish Government confirmed last week that it would be embarking on a phased easing of Covid-19 restrictions, which will eventually see the removal of the vast majority of public health regulations by the end of October. The numbers permitted to attend outdoor sports events increases from Monday, while restrictions on indoor venues will be eased, with larger crowds permitted.
Hygiene Helpers
COVID: Doctor calls for 12-year-olds to be allowed to overrule parents on coronavirus vaccine
Some children as young as 12 should be allowed to overrule their parents on whether they have the COVID vaccine, a senior doctor has said. Dr David Strain, a clinical lead for COVID services, told Sky News he believed there were 12-year-olds "mature enough" to decide to have the coronavirus jab without the consent of their legal guardians. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said parental consent will be required if the government decides that all 12 to 15-year-olds should be offered the jab
Telstra joins Qantas and Virgin planning to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for its staff Australia
Telstra has joined Qantas and Virgin Airlines in mandating coronavirus vaccines for all staff, with a cut-off date before employment termination. The telecommunications giant sent a memo to its 28,960 staff members on Monday morning saying frontline workers must have had their first jab by October 15th and their second by November 15th or face having their contracts torn up. The mandate refers to the 8,300 staff members who work instore and as technicians who regularly come face-to-face with their customers
New Zealand COVID-19 cases steady ahead of decision on easing curbs
New Zealand reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 for a third day in a row on Monday, ahead of a decision on whether coronavirus restrictions would be eased in most of the country. All new cases were in Auckland, the epicentre of the current outbreak, and took the total number of infections to 821. The government is set to decide on Monday whether coronavirus restrictions enforced in the country will be eased
Community Activities
Fake COVID-19 vaccine passports for sale online
Fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates are being sold online for hundreds of dollars. One user on the encrypted message app, Telegram, told 9News he was selling counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination certificates for $500 in Bitcoin. He even produced a dummy version of the document, which was close to the real thing
Singapore opens Covid-19 travel bubble with Germany
Singapore is about to allow quarantine-free travel from Germany after vaccinating 80 per cent of its population in a taste of what's to come for Australians when the international borders finally open. The so-called 'vaccinated travel lane' will begin on Wednesday for fully jabbed travellers, but excludes under 12s for whom there are no approved vaccines. Instead of quarantining for 14 days, arrivals will have to get tested when they land in Singapore and isolate at home or in a hotel until their negative result.
Working Remotely
Bosses turn to ‘tattleware’ to keep tabs on employees working from home
Remote surveillance software like Sneek, also known as “tattleware” or “bossware”, represented something of a niche market pre-Covid. But that all changed in March 2020, as employers scrambled to pull together work-from-home policies out of thin air. In April last year, Google queries for “remote monitoring” were up 212% year-on-year; by April this year, they’d continued to surge by another 243%. These software programs give bosses a mix of options for monitoring workers’ online activity and assessing their productivity: from screenshotting employees’ screens to logging their keystrokes and tracking their browsing. Employers are also reportedly drawing on in-house IT departments to monitor emails for flagged phrases at an increased rate compared with before the pandemic.
UK workers on returning to the office: ‘No point if I end up doing video calls’
Workers in the UK have gradually been returning to offices in recent weeks, after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions. While many firms have adopted a flexible arrangement that combines remote and office work each week, many others have called their employees back full time. For some, it is a welcome return to normality, but others have raised concerns about their health and working conditions.
Virtual Classrooms
With first week of school done, parents and lawmakers continue to press D.C. mayor for a virtual option
With the first week of school completed, parents and elected officials in D.C. are still ramping up calls to for the mayor to allow more families to opt in to virtual learning. They say they are anxious about children who are not vaccinated against the coronavirus learning in school buildings that are operating at full capacity and that the city’s recently eased health guidance for schools — which aligns with CDC recommendations — make little sense as the virus’s more contagious delta variant continues to drive an uptick in cases. It’s a shift from last year, when the District’s plans to offer in-person learning changed repeatedly because of public pressure from parents and teachers.
After Covid-19 Lockdowns, Children Struggle to Rekindle Close Friendships
Children need to share experiences such as school lunchtimes, sports practices and hanging out for close friendships to thrive. Those things went away during the pandemic. Months into virtual school last year, Elyssa Katz witnessed her son Noah, age 9, start to lose interest in his best friend. Since the two couldn’t see each other as often, it was harder for them to keep in touch; she worried he felt lonely without his go-to friend by his side. However their next playdate was awkward and they had forgotten how to play together
Virtual classrooms need to be more imaginative: Sudha Murthy
Author and Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, Sudha Murthy feels that the virtual classes being held by schools need an overhaul in order to make them more interesting, and children more receptive. “What we are witnessing right now is just a ‘translation’ of a physical classroom into a virtual one, something which is not working at all. We need to improvise and use our imagination to ensure that children receive what is being taught and do not get bored,” she explains. A committee comprising child psychologists, education experts and sociologists needs to come together to devise a teaching methodology
Home learning experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a monumental blow to the education of English school children. Over the past 18 months, English school pupils experienced two long periods of nationwide school closures. Even when schools were open outside these periods, in-school provision was hampered by social distancing protocols, staff shortages and self-isolation. There is growing evidence that disruption during the pandemic has undermined children’s education and increased inequalities between those from disadvantaged backgrounds and their better-off peers. The findings of this report can help shape policies aimed at helping students ‘catch up’ as schools return to more familiar modes of education delivery, as well as ensuring appropriate access to education in a likely future of continued disruption because of self-isolation
Public Policies
Government plans October firebreak lockdown if Covid hospital admissions remain high
The Government has drawn up plans for an October “firebreak” Covid lockdown should hospitalisations continue at their current level and threaten to overload the NHS, a senior Government scientist has told i. The member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the UK is about to enter “an extended peak” of infections and hospitalisations, which are in danger of pushing the NHS beyond breaking point and could force the Government to re-introduce restrictions over the school half term period at the end of next month.
Chilean health regulator approves CoronaVac use among children over age 6
The Chilean health regulator on Monday approved the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd for use in children over 6 years of age, allowing more people to be included in the country's rapid inoculation campaign.
Brazil suspends use of millions of doses of China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine
Brazil’s health regulator suspended the use of just over 12.1 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinovac after learning that vials containing the shots were filled at an unauthorized production base. The suspension is for 90 days as an investigation is carried out, said Anvisa, the regulator, which announced the decision in a statement Saturday. The Butantan Institute, a Sao Paulo biomedical center that has partnered with Sinovac to fill the vaccine for local usage, notified Anvisa about the irregularity the prior day, the agency said.
Philippines plans new COVID-19 lockdown strategy to help economy
The Philippines will relax some COVID-19 restrictions in the Manila region from Wednesday and also intends to outline plans to shift to smaller, localised lockdowns to support the economy, the presidential spokesperson said. The moves come despite the Southeast Asian country reporting record infection numbers as it battles the Delta variant. The government believed localised COVID-19 restrictions would be more effective in controlling outbreaks without constraining mobility and business activity too much, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told a briefing.
Europe Denmark cancels tender for domestic coronavirus vaccine production
Denmark has cancelled its previously announced plans for a public tender to establish a national COVID-19 vaccine production facility as it bets on a vaccine already under development by a Danish firm, the Business Ministry said on Monday. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced in April that Denmark aimed to produce COVID-19 mRNA-vaccines by 2022, and that a tendering process would be initiated within a few weeks.
NHS ‘ready to go’ with Covid jab booster programme, says vaccines minister
The NHS’s vaccine booster programme is “ready to go” and only waiting for scientists to sign off on plans for third jabs, the vaccines minister has said. Speaking in the House of Commons, Nadhim Zahawi, said getting booster vaccines into people’s arms would be a major part of ending the pandemic for good.
Rich countries to have 1.2bn surplus COVID vaccine doses
Wealthy countries could potentially have a surplus of more than one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses available by the end of the year that are not designated as donations to poorer nations, according to a new analysis. Vaccine stock in Western countries has reached 500 million doses this month, with 360 million not earmarked for donations, according to new research. By the end of the year, these countries will have a potential of 1.2 billion surplus vaccine shots, with the overwhelming majority – 1.06 billion – not marked for donations, it said.
Maintaining Services
Overwhelmed Morgues Belie U.S. Illusion of a Defanged Pandemic
The fast-spreading delta variant has flooded hospitals across the South. It’s killed more people in Florida and Louisiana than the darkest days of the pandemic winter, and left so many Covid-19 patients gasping for breath that some places face shortages of medical oxygen. This harsh reality, likely fueled by a failure to adequately vaccinate the most vulnerable, has undercut the best efforts of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Republican leaders to simply move past Covid.
Hundreds of health centres at risk of closure in Afghanistan - WHO
Hundreds of medical facilities in Afghanistan are at risk of imminent closure because the Western donors who finance them are barred from dealing with the new Taliban government, a World Health Organization official said on Monday. Around 90% of 2,300 health facilities across the country might have to close as soon as this week, the UN health agency's regional emergency director, Rick Brennan, told Reuters in an interview.
Covid: School attendance fines 'could be unlawful'
The government is facing mounting legal pressure over its decision to continue fining medically vulnerable families for poor school attendance during the pandemic. The Good Law Project has said that education secretary Gavin Williamson could be "in breach of the law" over the issue.
United States eclipses more than 1,500 COVID-19 deaths per day - the highest in six months
The United States eclipsed a 1,500 deaths per day average over the weekend, the first time that mark has been reached in six months. More than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized with the virus as well, and hospitalizations doubled in August when compared to July. Florida currently leads the nation with the most total deaths and deaths per 100,000 residents. Louisiana is struggling to handle its COVID-19 situation in the wake of Hurricane Ida
Covid-19: India school closures 'catastrophic' for poor students
The prolonged closure of schools in India has led to "catastrophic consequences" for poor children, according to a recent survey. Only 8% of the children sampled were studying online regularly and 37% were not studying at all, the survey found. Primary and upper-primary schools in India have been closed for 17 month to curb the spread of coronavirus. The survey, supervised by leading economists, spoke to 1,400 children across India in August. Researchers focused on households in relatively deprived villages and slums, where children generally attend government-run schools.
Pfizer COVID vaccines arrive in Australia under UK swap deal
Nearly half a million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Australia overnight, officials have said, the first batch of a swap deal with Britain that Australia is using to speed up its inoculation programme as it battles a surge in cases that has put more than half its 25 million population in lockdown.
Healthcare Innovations
Vaccination of young linked to downward Covid trend
The impact of vaccination among young people is driving optimism among senior Government figures and health chiefs that the level of Covid-19 infection in the country is on a downward trajectory. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said on Sunday night that the number of cases among 15-24 year olds had been “coming down significantly and coming down for quite a while”. He told The Irish Times that cases in these groups, “which were very, very high, have been falling markedly”.
India's Hetero gets emergency use nod to make Roche's COVID-19 drug
Indian drug developer Hetero said on Monday it has received emergency use approval from the country's health authorities to make a generic version of Roche Holding AG's COVID-19 drug.
Sinovac booster shot reverses drop in antibody activities against Delta-study
A booster dose of Sinovac Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine reversed a decline in antibody activities against the Delta variant, a study showed, easing some concerns about its longer-term immune response to the highly contagious strain of the virus. The study comes amid concerns about the Chinese vaccine's efficacy against Delta, which has become the dominant variant globally and is driving a surge in new infections even in the most vaccinated countries.
China’s Sinopharm seeks to develop its own mRNA Covid vaccine
Sinopharm is developing a homegrown messenger RNA inoculation for Covid-19, becoming one of the first big Chinese pharmaceutical groups to pursue the technology to combat the disease. The state-owned pharma group’s move comes as concerns grow over the efficacy of conventional inactivated virus vaccines, which have dominated the rollout in China. Certain studies have shown the jabs produce fewer antibodies compared with mRNA shots. Inactivated vaccines, such as Sinopharm’s existing Covid vaccine, use dead viral particles to produce an immune response, while mRNA jabs contain genetic instructions that tell cells to make viral proteins that prime the immune system.
EU watchdog studying data on Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster dose
Europe's medicines regulator said on Monday it was evaluating data on a booster dose for Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, to be given six months after the second dose in people 16 years of age and older.