"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 14th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
South Africa loosens COVID curbs as third wave eases
South Africa will ease COVID-19 restrictions and shorten its nationwide curfew from Monday after a decline in infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address. Authorities will also extend the hours of alcohol sales, the president said, further relaxing restrictions introduced in June to combat a third wave of cases caused by the Delta variant. "While the third wave is not yet over, we have seen a sustained decline in infections across the country over the last few weeks," Ramaphosa said.
Vietnam's biggest city to keep virus curbs, flight resumption sought
Vietnam's coronavirus outbreak epicentre Ho Chi Minh City will extend its restrictions, state media reported on Monday, as the capital Hanoi and several provinces sought an easing of curbs and the aviation authority proposed domestic flights resume.
COVID lockdowns only used as last resort, says UK PM's spokesman
Britain's government will only introduce a new COVID-19 lockdown as a last resort, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, after the country's health minister signalled he did not expect to see them used again. "The ability to do that is retained as you would expect, but it would only be done in a last resort and as I said we are in a very different position thanks to the strength of our vaccination programme than where we were when it was necessary to take those steps previously," the spokesman told reporters.
New Zealand keeps Auckland in strict lockdown to beat Delta
New Zealand extended a strict lockdown in its largest city on Monday, requiring 1.7 million people living in Auckland to remain indoors for at least another week to snuff out small outbreaks of the highly infectious Delta variant of coronavirus. Health authorities recorded 33 new cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 on Monday, all in Auckland, which was higher than 23 and 20 cases reported over the weekend.
Hygiene Helpers
Slovenia tightens access to indoor spaces due to COVID-19
Slovenia will, from this week, require that all people who enter indoor spaces, with few exceptions, be vaccinated against COVID-19 or show negative tests unless they have had the disease in the previous six months,
Manulife Joins Banks With Vaccine Mandate for Canadian Employees
Manulife Financial Corp. will require employees in Canada to provide proof of their vaccination status by the end of October and will force unvaccinated staff to undergo regular Covid-19 testing before they work in its offices. Employees who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons must provide a note from a licensed health care professional, Manulife Canada Chief Executive Officer Mike Doughty said in a memo Monday. Those refusing the shots for religious reasons must make a written attestation.
Even the Swiss Are Tightening the Screws on the Unvaccinated
Switzerland, which has stood out among European neighbors for its generally more laissez-faire approach to the pandemic, is joining the ranks of countries now increasing pressure on the unvaccinated. With hospitals filling up and inoculations lagging the rest of Western Europe, the government is doing what just a few weeks ago one of its members termed “bizarre” by requiring vaccine certificates for public activities. As of Monday, residents of one of the world’s wealthiest countries will have to show passes to enter restaurants, cinemas and fitness centers. They must attest to having been jabbed, tested or recovered from the virus.
More than half of Americans support vaccine mandates for workplaces, classrooms and sporting events
Americans have grown more supportive of coronavirus vaccine mandates for workers, students, and in everyday public life, according to a new CNN poll. The shift comes amid renewed worries about the pandemic and a continued partisan divide over the efforts to combat it. The public is split about evenly, 51% to 49%, on whether requiring proof of vaccination for everyday activities is an acceptable way to increase the vaccination rate, or an unacceptable infringement on personal rights. But there's greater backing for requiring vaccines in many specific instances. More than half of Americans now say they support requiring vaccinations for office workers returning to the workplace (54%), students attending in-person classes (55%) and patrons attending sporting events or concerts (55%), although fewer (41%) support requiring vaccinations for a shopper to enter a grocery store.
Australia's NSW state says coronavirus vaccination pace slows
The government of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) said the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations had slowed as first-dose coverage neared 80% and urged the unvaccinated to get shots soon or risk missing out on freedoms when curbs ease. Premier Gladys Berejiklian has promised to relax some restrictions for the state's 8 million residents once two-dose vaccination rates hit 70%, expected to be around the middle of next month. So far, about 46% of the state's adult population has been fully vaccinated, above the national average of 42%. "For those of you who choose not to be vaccinated, that is your choice, but don't expect to do everything that vaccinated people do when we hit 80%," Berejiklian said
Australia Plans Digital Border Pass for Vaccinated Travelers
Australia is developing a digital border pass to show the vaccination status of travelers in a step toward further reopening its international border. The government awarded Accenture Plc the tender to deliver the pass that will replace the current Covid-19 travel declaration form and incoming passenger card. It “will support the safe re-opening of Australia’s international borders” Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said in a statement.
Community Activities
DeSantis threatens cities with fines for vaccine mandates
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday threatened local governments with $5,000 fines per violation for requiring their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus that has overrun hospitals and killed tens of thousands across the state. Local municipalities, such as Orange County and the city of Gainesville, potentially face millions of dollars in cumulative fines for implementing a requirement that their employees get a COVID-19 vaccine, the Republican governor said. “We are not going to let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate,” DeSantis said at a news conference outside Gainesville. “You don’t just cast aside people who have been serving faithfully over this issue, over what is basically a personal choice on their individual health.”
Yoga, organic food and misinformation: Wellness influencers are taking the anti-vaccine movement mainstream
For many, the term “misinformation” conjures up images of conspiracy-theory chat forums and Russian bots. But an alarming amount of it is reaching audiences in the health and wellness realms. Many social media influencers who focus on natural remedies, holistic health and new age spirituality have been sharing posts and videos questioning the wisdom of vaccinating against the coronavirus. Public health experts say widespread vaccine hesitancy increases the threat of the virus mutating and helps keep the pandemic raging.
Ivermectin frenzy: the advocates, anti-vaxxers and telehealth companies driving demand
Health authorities have warned there’s no proof for Ivermectin’s value in treating Covid-19. Still groups are touting the drug as the way out of the pandemic
Nicaragua gov’t squeezes doctors, talk of ‘health terrorism’
Other countries have lured doctors out of retirement, pushed medical students to the front lines and buoyed medical personnel exhausted by COVID-19 cases, but in Nicaragua doctors have been harassed, threatened and sometimes forced into exile for questioning official handling of the pandemic. Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is also the first lady, has accused doctors of “health terrorism” and of spreading “false outlooks and news” by reporting that COVID-19 has been far more widespread than officials acknowledge.
Working Remotely
U.K. Office Revival Speeds Up With More Workers Back at Desks
There is increasing evidence that Britain’s cities are returning to normal. Employees entering offices in major U.K. cities rose last week to 90% of pre-Covid levels from 58% a week earlier, according to data from Metrikus, which installs sensors in office buildings to measure occupancy rates. The City of London seems markedly busier than even two weeks ago, with streets more crowded and workers flocking to pubs. The question remains whether the trend will continue, with many companies and employees now embracing hybrid working, and with the risk that variants could yet derail a recovery.
Study Shows People Want To Keep Working Remotely Because Of Pets, Naps And Watching TV: There's Also A Deeper Reason
A new study of remote workers conducted by Digital.com reveals the main reasons why people want to continue working from home. They run the gamut. Some seem obvious, while other rationales will surprise you. They include pets, naps and exercising, watching TV, listening to music and podcasts, but also worries about looks, bad commutes, missing family and friends
Who should return to the office?
The pandemic forced many companies into the future of work. Remote and hybrid workplaces were inevitable, but rather than slowly and deliberately arriving there in 10 or 15 years, many were forced into it amid a global crisis. But we are no longer in triage mode. As millions navigate what this next phase of work looks like, it’s time to be much more thoughtful and intentional than we were back in March 2020. For the first episode of the new season, I talked to longtime Fast Company contributor, Gwen Moran. Moran has been writing about the future of work, remote work, return to office, and all things Work Life for decades.
Don't Want to Return to Work After COVID? How to Negotiate Working Remotely
Whether you're currently scheduled to return to the office later this year or sometime in 2022, going back won't be easy, and those that felt hopeful at the end of 2020 may now be dreading looming office deadlines. A May survey conducted by the Harris Poll indicated that as many as 40% of employees indicated they'd prefer to work from home indefinitely, and that figure is likely growing as variants spread and vaccine models change this fall. For those experiencing anxiety about the return to work, mental health specialists say it's a completely normal and expected way to feel. Having reduced control over your own life is a hallmark symptom of anxiety, explains Charmain F. Jackman, Ph.D., founder and CEO of InnoPsych
Virtual Classrooms
Online learning falls short in Covid era
Even before Covid, online learning was touted as an opportunity for all students, who could access pools of knowledge and information. How come the platform touted to be the future of education for all has turned into such an unsatisfactory experience for many? The problem is not confined to Thailand. Other countries have found a way to solve the problem such as lending computers at home or paying extra money for families to afford online education. Others provide tailor-made home visits to help students or create community centres for students with fewer means to study. These solutions have not taken hold in Thailand.
Public Policies
UK PM Johnson to set out COVID-19 booster strategy under winter plan
Britain will roll out COVID-19 booster shots for the most vulnerable and elderly as part of his coronavirus strategy for the winter months. Johnson's government has already indicated it will scrap plans for vaccine passports to be required to get into nightclubs, end some of its emergency COVID powers and use lockdowns only as a last resort.
UK Canceling $1.7 Billion Vaccine Contract With Valneva Is a Bizarre Rug-Pull
The U.K. had poured millions of pounds into Valneva’s Scottish factory, secured an extra 40 million vaccine doses on top of the 60 million it had already agreed to buy, and boasted about the vaccine’s potential as a booster in the autumn. The fact that Valneva was headquartered in France, whose vaccine rollout was off to a dire start and where zero doses had been procured, was the ultimate punchline. Now the U.K. seems to have shot itself in the foot, rather than in the arm. The government is abruptly canceling its supply contract, having found Valneva in breach of its obligations without specifying how — something Valneva is contesting, though without giving more details.
Republican backlash against Biden’s Covid vaccine mandate grows
The political sparring match over Joe Biden’s new vaccine mandate continued on Sunday with one Republican governor blasting the measure as “counterproductive” and the White House insisting it was necessary to end the coronavirus pandemic.
Iraq receives over 100,000 coronavirus vaccine doses
Iraq has received a donation of more than 100,000 AstraZeneca doses against Covid-19 from Italy via vaccine-sharing facility Covax. More than four million people in Iraq, or around 10 percent of its 40 million inhabitants, have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab, according to the health ministry. Healthcare workers say they are battling not just the coronavirus but also widespread scepticism over vaccines, as a result of misinformation and public mistrust in the state.
Covid-19: Work-from-home guidance and face masks could be brought back in winter
Guidance to work from home and the mandatory use of face masks are likely to be retained as options in the Covid winter plan due to be set out by Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister will tell the nation on Tuesday how the country can learn to live with the virus, underlining how vaccinations will be a central part of the response to coronavirus in the coming months. Covid laws that are no longer required will be ditched and plans for vaccine passports for nightclubs and other large crowd venues have been shelved. The travel traffic lights system is also expected to be scrapped and PCR tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers.
UK scraps Covid-19 vaccine deal with French firm Valneva
French vaccine maker Valneva says the UK government has scrapped a deal for its Covid-19 vaccine. The UK had about 100 million doses on order, after it increased its request by 40 million in February. The firm said that the UK government served notice over allegations of a breach of the agreement, which it "strenuously denies". The government said the decision would have no impact on vaccine supply in the UK. "The comments from the company will not have any impact on our vaccine supply and did not form any part of our vaccine rollout in autumn and winter," a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Pfizer Supplies Jordan, Lebanon With Covid Vaccines for Refugees
Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE are donating hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 vaccine doses to Jordan and Lebanon as a part of a broader push to aid refugees during the pandemic. On Monday, 100,000 doses of the companies’ coronavirus vaccine arrived at the coastal Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport. There, the donated doses are being loaded into UPS trucks and delivered to nearby warehouses at the Rafic Hariri Hospital, the largest Lebanese public hospital located on the outskirts of Beirut.
UK OKs vaccines for 12 year olds, aims to avoid lockdowns
Britain decided Monday to follow other countries in offering coronavirus vaccines to children 12 and up, as the government gambled that expanded vaccination and mild tweaks to social behavior can avert the need for lockdowns in the winter. Vaccinations for children and booster shots for at-risk adults are expected to be part of a “tool kit” to control COVID-19 infections this fall and winter that Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to announce Tuesday. On Monday, the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland recommended that children ages 12 to 15 be given a single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, despite the government’s vaccine advisors saying this month that the step would have only marginal health benefits.
Australia buys additional 1 mln doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine
Australia has purchased an additional 1 million doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine from the European Union, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, as the country accelerates its inoculation programme to fight record high infections. The purchase is a boost for Australia's A$2 trillion ($1.5 trillion) economy, which is at risk of slipping into its second recession in as many years as a result of lockdowns of the country's two most populous cities, Sydney and Melbourne
Maintaining Services
Family: Man turned away by dozens of COVID-filled hospitals
As hundreds of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients filled Alabama intensive care units, hospital staff in north Alabama contacted 43 hospitals in three states to find a specialty cardiac ICU bed for Ray Martin DeMonia, his family wrote in his obituary. The Cullman man was finally transferred to Meridian, Mississippi, about 170 miles (274 kilometers) away. That is where the 73-year-old antiques dealer died Sept. 1 because of the cardiac event he suffered. Now, his family is making a plea. “In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non-COVID related emergencies,” his obituary read.
Walgreens COVID-19 test registration system left patient data unprotected - Recode
Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance's COVID-19 test registration system exposed data of potentially millions of people, including their phone numbers and email addresses, Recode reported on Monday.
NY hospital to pause baby deliveries after resignations over Covid-19 vaccine mandate
A hospital in upstate New York is "pausing" deliveries of babies because of the number of maternity unit employee resignations over the state's Covid-19 vaccination requirements, health officials say. Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, about 60 miles northeast of Syracuse, will stop deliveries after September 24, said Gerald Cayer, chief executive of the Lewis County Health System. "We are unable to safely staff the service after September 24. The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital. It is my hope that the Department of Health will work with us in support of pausing the service rather than closing the maternity department," Cayer said at a news conference Friday.
India worried about complacency over second dose of COVID-19 vaccine - sources
India is worried that growing complacency as COVID-19 infection rates and deaths decline could lead to people skipping their second vaccine shots, leaving communities vulnerable to the coronavirus, said two health experts briefed on the matter. India has administered more than 744 million vaccine doses - with 60% of its 944 million adults getting a first shot and 19% fully vaccinated with the required two shots. India has the most partly immunized people in the world, according to the Our World in Data website, mainly due to a long gap of between 12 and 16 weeks between doses, as prescribed by the government.
Covid-19 vaccine clinics open on Northern Ireland campuses
Walk-in clinics have been set up in universities and further education colleges in a bid to get more students vaccinated against Covid-19. The first of 60 clinics will open on Monday as part of the Department of Health's "jabbathon" drive. They will cover 30 campuses and offer first doses to students throughout September. About 72% of 18 to 29-year-olds in Northern Ireland have had at least one Covid vaccine dose. Nearly 88% of adults have received one dose and about 82% have been fully vaccinated.
School starts for 1 million NYC kids amid new vaccine rules
School started Monday for about a million New York City public school students in the nation’s largest experiment of in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The first day of school coincided with several milestones in the city’s pandemic recovery that hinge on vaccine mandates. Nearly all of the city’s 300,000 employees were required to be back in their workplaces, in person, Monday as the city ended remote work. Most will either need to be vaccinated, or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to remain in their jobs.
Bangladesh reopens schools after 18-month COVID shutdown
In a report last week, UNICEF warned that prolonged school closures during the COVID crisis accentuated “alarming inequities” for more than 430 million children in South Asia. “School closures in South Asia have forced hundreds of millions of children and their teachers to transition to remote learning in a region with low connectivity and device affordability,” UNICEF’s regional director, George Laryea-Adjei, said in a statement. “As a result, children have suffered enormous setbacks in their learning journey.”
Healthcare Innovations
COVID-19: Freedom Day was 'gamble' and has contributed to 40,000 hospital admissions, BMA says
More than 130,000 people in the UK have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began last year. The British Medical Association says the loosening of restrictions, notably England's so-called Freedom Day, was a "gamble" - contributing to more than 40,000 hospital admissions.
Fully vaccinated people account for 1.2% of England’s Covid-19 deaths
People who were fully vaccinated accounted for just 1.2% of all deaths involving Covid-19 in England in the first seven months of this year. The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), have been seized on as proof of the success of the vaccine programme. The figures show a total of 51,281 deaths involving Covid-19 in England between 2 January and 2 July, of which 38,964 were of unvaccinated people.
FDA vaccine regulators argue against Covid-19 vaccine boosters in new international review
A group of international experts — including, notably, two outgoing Food and Drug Administration vaccine regulators — argues in a new paper against offering Covid-19 vaccine boosters to the general population. The paper, published Monday in the Lancet, is based on a review of available data about the durability of vaccine protection. That it was co-authored by Marion Gruber and Phil Krause, two veteran FDA officials who have been leading the agency’s review of Covid-19 vaccine applications, amounts to a strikingly direct rebuff to the Biden administration as it lays plans for booster shots. Gruber and Krause announced last month they would be leaving the agency this fall.