"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 15th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid-19 hotel quarantine could last 'three or four years' in Australia
Covid-19 hotel quarantine could be in place for three or four years but Australians returning from overseas may be allowed to isolate at home by Christmas. Jane Halton, a former public servant who conducted a review of the quarantine system last year, said hotel quarantine could last even longer if a new Covid-19 variant evades vaccines. 'In three or four years' time I'll be quite surprised if we're using these kinds of arrangements unless for example there's a very nasty new variant,' she told ABC radio
Philippines to test localised lockdowns in capital region
The Philippines' capital region will exit wide-scale coronavirus restrictions from Thursday, as the government launches a pilot test of localised lockdowns, amid efforts to balance reopening the economy and containing the spread of the coronavirus.
Hygiene Helpers
Travel vaccine mandate could segregate society, experts warn
Experts have warned mandating vaccines for travel could be problematic and promote segregation, as the Federal Government prepares to trial vaccine passports for international travel. A new study published by the Medical Journal of Australia found mandatory vaccines must be backed by strong justification before being rolled out by the government. Championing the research, a string of leading health professionals found a general population mandate could cause resentment and mistrust in government and public health agencies.
Dutch expected to ease COVID-19 measures, introduce 'corona' pass
The Dutch government is expected to ease COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, mirroring other countries in Europe, and introduce a "corona" pass, showing proof of vaccinations, that will allow eating out and admission to cultural events. Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Cabinet is expected to lift social distancing requirements from Sept. 25. Likely remaining in place are a mask requirement for public transportation and schools, and a recommendation that people work from home when possible
New Zealand looks to boost COVID-19 vaccinations as new cases ease
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has asked New Zealanders to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as it was the only way to beat the spread of coronavirus and see curbs lifted in the biggest city of Auckland. Tuesday's 15 new infections in New Zealand were a drop from Monday's figure of 33, but about 1.7 million people will stay in lockdown in Auckland until next week, as the government battles to hold down a cluster of the highly infectious Delta variant. "The vaccine is the best tool we have in our toolbox and our ticket to greater freedom," Ardern told a news conference. "The more people who are vaccinated, the fewer restrictions you have to have."
Ukrainian government announces vaccine passports
The Ukrainian government has decided to introduced COVID-19 "vaccine passports" verifying citizens' vaccination status, the health ministry said. The passports will allow businesses such as cinemas, gyms, theatres and swimming pools to operate without social distancing requirements if all visitors and at least 80% of staff at the venues are at least partially vaccinated, the ministry said in a statement.
Community Activities
UK health secretary signals the end of PCR COVID-19 tests for travel
Britain's Health Secretary Sajid Javid signalled on Tuesday that a requirement for expensive PCR tests for COVID-19 for international travellers arriving in Britain would be dropped in favour of cheaper lateral-flow-tests. Asked by a lawmaker if lateral flow tests could be used for initial screening, with the small proportion of positive cases then needing a PCR test, Javid said: "I don't want to pre-empt the statement of my right honourable friend the transport secretary but I believe when he makes that statement that my honourable friend will be pleased."
‘The virus is painfully real’: vaccine hesitant people are dying – and their loved ones want the world to listen
Matt Wynter, a 42-year-old music agent from Leek, Staffordshire, was working out in his local gym in mid-August when he saw, to his great surprise, that his best friend, Marcus Birks, was on the television. He jumped off the elliptical trainer and listened carefully. The first thing he noticed was that Birks, who was also from Leek and a performer with the dance group Cappella, looked terrible. He was gasping for breath and his face was pale. “Marcus would never usually have gone on TV without having done his hair and had a shave,” Wynter says.
Conservative Colorado radio host and pastor dies from COVID-19 after railing against vaccines
The anti-vax radio host died on Monday after contracting COVID on September 1 He had called for his listeners to boycott the vaccines made by 'child killers' and was notorious for his ruthless stance against LGBT relations and abortions. In October 2020, Enyart filed a lawsuit against the state that reduced the number of people allowed at religious gatherings. Enyart said people have a 'God-given right to worship him, our creator, without the government interfering.' It comes days after Howard Stern mocked a slew of anti-vax radio hosts who died from Covid and described their deaths as 'really funny'
Asia’s Covid-19 Success Stories Warily Ponder Post-Vaccination Moves
Earlier this month, Singapore reached a Covid-19 milestone: The fully vaccinated portion of the population crossed 80%. But instead of moving ahead with a planned reopening pegged to the achievement, the government put on the brakes. That is because cases were rising to several hundred each day after an earlier relaxing of some restrictions, raising fears of a hospital-bed shortage.
Covid: Significant return to office could see ‘rapid’ rise in hospitalisations, Sage warns
It is “highly likely” that a decrease in the number of people working from home in the next couple of months would lead to a “rapid” rise in hospital admissions for Covid, scientific advisers to the government have warned. Millions of Britons have been heading back to the office this month, coinciding with the return of schools and universities. Last week, London saw its busiest morning rush-hour since the pandemic hit, with hundreds of thousands of journeys made across the city, according to official data. But modelling published on Tuesday by a sub-group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggests there is the “potential” for another large wave of hospitalisations in the coming months.
Working Remotely
Does Your Employer Trust You? Why Surveillance Is The Dark Underbelly Of Remote Work
With retail giant Amazon considering intensive monitoring of its customer service workers—down to the level of keyboard and mouse strokes—it seems that workplace surveillance is going mainstream. But why? Amazon’s confidential document cites security concerns as the impetus for this level of employee monitoring (and no doubt all of us who purchase from Amazon appreciate the effort to safeguard our personal data). But imagine the emotions of Amazon’s employees, who may soon face daily scrutiny of—literally—their every move.
Huge study suggests remote work creates silos, changes communication
People working from home in the pandemic spoke less frequently with colleagues outside their team and took longer to engage with new hires, compared to when they worked in the office before COVID-19, a study suggests. People did, however, spend more time communicating, and therefore built stronger connections with their immediate team members. The study looked at the communication habits of 61,000 Microsoft staff while the company was working remotely during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virtual Classrooms
Many of the changes wrought by the pandemic helped the disabled. They're not ready to give them up
Some disabled people say they're hesitant about going back in person and want to keep virtual services that began during the pandemic. But the practicality of whether that's possible remains uncertain, and other disabled people say they want to return to in person activities. Changes to which virtual services are offered also impact local schools. People with disabilities are among those whose households have the lowest incomes, and many students lacked the technology and access to participate in virtual learning. For example, a lack of closed captioning or interpreters continues to be a problem, and screens are not always useful for the visually impaired. But despite the challenges, "virtual life is generally positive for people who have mobility issues because it alleviates the stress that can come with traveling," said Rachel London, executive director of the MDDC.
Public Policies
How Science in India Became a 'Political Weapon' Under Modi
The forecast was mathematically based, government-approved and deeply, tragically wrong. In September 2020, eight months before a deadly Covid-19 second wave struck India, government-appointed scientists downplayed the possibility of a new outbreak. Previous infections and early lockdown efforts had tamed the spread, the scientists wrote in a study that was widely covered by the Indian news media after it was released last year. The results dovetailed neatly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two main goals: restart India’s stricken economy and kick off campaigning for his party in state elections that coming spring.
England Unveils Winter Covid Strategy
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced a plan on Tuesday to offer all those age 50 and older a booster vaccine as part of a winter coronavirus strategy — plunging Britain into a growing debate over whether lower-income countries should get shots first. The prime minister is taking the step to try to prevent a new surge in cases from overwhelming the National Health Service, and to avoid another lockdown in a country wearied by the pandemic and earlier measures that included some of the strictest restrictions in the world.
WHO Says India May Resume Covid-19 Vaccines to Africa This Year
The World Health Organization said talks are underway with India for a resumption of Covid-19 vaccine exports to African countries following a pause during a deadly wave of infections earlier this year. “Be assured the conversation is ongoing, be assured that supply will restart this year,” Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO official, said at a briefing Tuesday. “We are hoping we can get assurance it can start even faster than later this year and in the coming weeks.”
Covid: Sajid Javid unveils winter plan to tackle coronavirus
The health secretary has unveiled the government's plan for tackling Covid during autumn and winter in England. Sajid Javid said it included offering booster jabs to those most at risk from the virus and maximising uptake among those who have not yet had the vaccine. Ministers have also prepared a "Plan B" if measures are needed to prevent "unsustainable pressure" on the NHS. This could include compulsory face coverings in certain settings and asking people to work from home. But "more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort", the government's winter plan says.
Biden gathers support for global pandemic summit
Yesterday, President Biden invited world leaders to a virtual summit on ending the pandemic, with a goal of vaccinating at least 70% of the world by next September, according to the Washington Post. At a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing today, health officials—including several from African groups—welcomed the partnership, but said there are urgent steps countries can take now to free up more vaccine doses for countries that don't have enough access.
U.S. to buy 1.4 mln additional doses of Regeneron's COVID-19 therapy
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Tuesday the U.S. government will buy 1.4 million additional doses of its COVID-19 antibody cocktail, REGEN-COV. The cocktail, a combination of antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab, was authorized in November for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
WHO-backed vaccine hub for Africa to copy Moderna COVID-19 shot
Efforts to develop an African base for COVID-19 vaccine production will focus on trying to replicate Moderna’s shot, but a lack of progress in talks with the US company mean the project will take time, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has said. The drive to produce vaccines in Africa is designed to help more developing countries access COVID-19 shots after rich nations bought up most of this year’s supply.
Maintaining Services
Schools will need vaccine mandates for in-person classes to last, expert says
As kids return for a new school year and Covid-19 cases rise among younger age groups, vaccine mandates in schools may become the only way forward, a vaccine expert said. "So far, we've not seen a lot of Covid vaccine mandates, even for the teenagers," vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Peter Hotez told CNN. "It's gonna have to happen if we're going to get kids through the school year." Cases have risen "exponentially" among children, with the weekly count of 243,373 new cases showing about a 240% increase compared with the week of July 22-29, data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows.
UK recommends COVID-19 booster shots for over 50s
The U.K. said it will offer a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to everyone over age 50 and other vulnerable people after an an expert panel said the boosters were needed to protect against waning immunity this winter. Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers that the government had accepted the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization and would start offering booster shots next week. The World Health Organization has asked wealthy nations to delay booster shots until every country has vaccinated at least 40% of their populations.
A conversation with Bill Gates on how public health has fared in the midst of the pandemic
The foundation’s 2021 Goalkeepers report, published late Monday, shows an additional 10 million children around the globe didn’t get key childhood vaccines this past year, because of public health service disruptions. Another 31 million people were pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic. And employment among women is expected to remain 13 million jobs lower around the world this year than it was in 2019.
Healthcare Innovations
83% of stem cell recipients produce antibodies after 2 COVID-19 vaccine doses
Stem cell transplant recipients with cancers like leukemia had an antibody response rate of 83% to the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, with almost two-thirds having very strong responses, an observational, single-center study today in JAMA Network Open finds. Researchers from Nantes University Hospital in France studied 117 coronavirus-naïve adults who received a donor stem cell transplant for the treatment of hematologic cancer and were given two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from Jan 20 to Apr 17. The median interval between the two doses was 22 days.