"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 16th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
Sydney nightly curfew to end as COVID-19 vaccinations hit fresh milestone
A curfew imposed on more than two million people in the 12 Sydney suburbs hardest hit by the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant will end on Wednesday night, authorities said, stopping short of easing more lockdown restrictions. Officials said first-dose COVID-19 vaccination levels have reached 80% of the New South Wales (NSW) adult population, while the dual-dose rate in Sydney's home state stands at 48% now. That's above the national average of 43%, but well below the 70% level that will trigger the easing of other curbs first imposed three months ago. Authorities expect to achieve the 70% rate around the middle of next month, and plans to relax more restrictions once it has climbed to 80%.
China imposes local lockdowns as COVID-19 cases surge
China tightened lockdowns and increased orders for mass testing in cities along its east coast Wednesday amid the latest surge in COVID-19 cases. Checks have been set up in toll stations around the city of Putian in Fujian province, with a dozen of them closed entirely. The nearby cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou have also restricted travel as the delta variant spreads through the region. The National Health Commission on Wednesday said an additional 50 cases had been diagnosed in various parts of Fujian, most of them in the Putian region.
Hygiene Helpers
Pope urges COVID inoculations, says vaccines are humanity's friends
Pope Francis said on Wednesday he was puzzled why so many people, including some cardinals in Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, have refused to get inoculated against COVID-19. "It is a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines," he said aboard the plane returning from Slovakia, responding to a question from a reporter about the reasons for vaccine hesitancy. "As children (we were vaccinated) for measles, polio. All the children were vaccinated and no one said anything," he said.
Fed regional banks mandate COVID-19 shots for employees
The U.S. Federal Reserve in Washington and the regional Fed banks will now require all of their nearly 23,000 employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Philadelphia Fed informed its staff of the new mandate in a memo on Wednesday, making it the last of the 12 regional Fed banks to make vaccination a requirement of employment. The Fed Board in Washington will also require its employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30, a spokesperson for the U.S. central bank told Reuters on Wednesday.
New US immigrants required to get coronavirus vaccine, USCIS says
The United States will require new immigrants to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as part of its routine medical examination, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Tuesday. The measure goes into effect on Oct. 1. Most people applying to become a permanent resident in the United States are required to receive the immigration medical examination “to show they are free from any conditions that would render them inadmissible under the health-related grounds,” according to USCIS. The announcement comes after the Biden administration last week unveiled a sweeping set of vaccination mandates, requiring federal employees to get immunized against the coronavirus, and ordering businesses with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations or weekly testing
WHO aims for 30 percent of needed Africa COVID jabs by February
The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners have said they hope to provide Africa with about 30 percent of the COVID-19 vaccines the continent needs by February, badly missing the 60 percent vaccination coverage goal that African leaders had once hoped for this year. Out of 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world so far, only 2 percent have been in Africa.
Community Activities
Conservative radio host who swore off Covid-19 vaccine dies after contracting virus, co-host says
Conservative radio host Pastor Robert "Bob" Enyart, who swore off Covid-19 vaccines, has died from complications due to the virus, his co-host announced on social media. "It comes with an extremely heavy heart that my close friend and co-host of Real Science Radio has lost his battle with Covid," said co-host Fred Williams on Facebook. In October, Enyart won a lawsuit against the state of Colorado over its Covid-19 restrictions, CNN has reported. In a phone call with CNN following the ruling, Enyart said, "We have a right, even an obligation to worship him (God), and that's without government interference."
Malaysia's germ-busting clown finds new role in pandemic
When the coronavirus pandemic struck Malaysia, Shaharul Hisam Baharudin, like many others working closely with people, soon lost his work as an entertainer who juggled and sometimes dressed up as a clown. But rather than give up, the 43-year-old from Taiping, in western Malaysia found a new way of using his skills - disinfecting people's homes while wearing his clown's outfit. For his new role, he adapted the smoke machine he had used at parties to become a disinfection device, while providing some extra cheer by entertaining children in his clown outfit, completed by a surgical mask with a painted-on red nose and smile.
Working Remotely
ECB to Work Remotely Through January Amid Delta Disruption
The European Central Bank will let its employees work remotely until early next year, the latest sign that the delta variant of the coronavirus is derailing the return to the office around the world. The “default solution is remote working, still today, and probably until the end of January, and then we will see,” ECB President Christine Lagarde said on “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” on Bloomberg Television. Major corporations and institutions like the International Monetary Fund have been forced to delay returns to the office after the delta variant of the coronavirus caused infections to rise.
Virtual Classrooms
What Will Online Learning Look Like in 10 Years? Zoom Has Some Ideas
This week at Zoom’s annual conference, Zoomtopia, a trio of education-focused Zoom employees speculated wildly about what hybrid Zoom learning might look like 10 years from now, given the warp speed advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning expected.
Behind the Curtains of Virtual Classrooms Across Nations
India Currents spoke to teachers to understand the challenges they have been facing since being forced into online classrooms in April 2020. While parents have been raising concerns and the government is busy formulating rules and policies on online teaching, the teaching fraternity has been stoically reinventing and upgrading themselves, notwithstanding personal hardships. “First of all, the pandemic forced us, teachers, into technology. It was very difficult – especially for the senior ones – to take that path, but there was no choice,” says Mohua Gupta, primary school teacher, BD Memorial International School, Kolkata, India.
Tips on how to create a successful Virtual Learning Environment
There is much in the public domain about the projected growth of the online learning or e-learning market globally. Across both the education and workplace learning sectors, there has been a significant adoption of online learning over the last decade and increased understanding of the benefits a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) can provide in learning retention rates, learner engagement and efficiency in delivery. The pandemic has only accelerated this pace of adoption and many organisations and education institutions now recognise that success is much more than simply having a VLE (also termed a learning management system, LMS or e-learning platform), but that “the challenge lies in how the platform is being used, rather than the technology itself”.
Public Policies
Dutch PM Rutte: Netherlands to ease COVID-19 restrictions
The Dutch government on Tuesday announced they are easing COVID-19 restrictions and will introduce a "corona" pass showing proof of vaccination to go to bars, restaurants, clubs or cultural events. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said most social distancing requirements will be dropped from Sept. 25.
Single-Dose Sputnik Light Approved For Phase 3 Bridging Trials In India
The single-dose COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik Light received approval from the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) today to conduct phase 3 bridging trials in India.Last year, Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy's Laboratories had partnered with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to conduct phase 3 trials of the vaccine. After the company submitted safety, immunogenicity and efficacy data, the SEC granted permission for conducting the trials in India, a statement by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation said.
U.S. buys additional doses of Eli Lilly, Regeneron COVID-19 therapy
Eli Lilly and Company said on Wednesday the U.S. government bought 388,000 additional doses of its COVID-19 antibody therapy, as infections surge due to the fast-spreading Delta variant. The news comes after Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said late on Tuesday the U.S. government was buying 1.4 million additional doses of its COVID-19 antibody cocktail, REGEN-COV.
Covid-19: Government lays out its “plan B” to protect NHS this winter
Ministers will reintroduce a range of precautionary measures against covid-19 this autumn and winter if a further surge in cases threatens to overwhelm the NHS. The government’s plan,1 published on 14 September, sets out what it calls a “plan B for England” that it will initiate if data suggest the NHS is likely to come under unsustainable pressure during the coming months. Measures would include introducing mandatory vaccine certification in specific settings, bringing back the legal requirement to wear face coverings in some settings, and advising people to work from home if they are able to. The government said it was committed to taking “whatever action is necessary” to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed but said stricter economic and social restrictions such as lockdowns would only be considered as “a last resort.”
EU pledges 200 million vaccine doses to low-income nations
The European Union’s top official said Wednesday that ramping up COVID-19 vaccinations around the world was the bloc’s No. 1 priority right now and committed another 200 million vaccine doses to Africa and low-income nations. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used her State of the European Union speech on Wednesday to announce the new donation that will be fully delivered by the middle of next year and comes on top of 250 million vaccine doses already pledged.
Maintaining Services
Montana's Largest Hospital Nears 'Crisis Standards of Care' Rationing Over Covid
Montana’s largest hospital is considering crisis standards of care procedures that grant authority to decide who receives life-saving treatment, the Billings Gazette reported Wednesday. Intensive care unit capacity at Billings Clinic is at 150% as Covid-19 rages, the newspaper said. “If it comes to a point where we have to make those incredibly [difficult] life or death situations, we will have an objective team that will be available to provide council and make those decisions,” said Laurie Smith, chief nursing officer.
Covid-19: Close-contact pupils 'should not be sent home from school'
In Northern Ireland, schools should not send pupils home as close contacts or ask them to self-isolate, according to guidance to principals from the Department of Education (DE). It said schools should not identify close contacts unless asked to do so by the Public Health Agency (PHA). The PHA took over responsibility for contact tracing in schools on Friday. The move brings Northern Ireland into line with the approach taken in England, Scotland and Wales.
Unvaccinated French health care workers face suspension
Health care workers in France face suspension from their jobs starting Wednesday if they haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19. With as many as 300,000 workers still not vaccinated, some hospitals fear staff shortages will add to their strain. Vaccines are now compulsory for medical care, home care and emergency workers in France, and Wednesday is the deadline for such staff to have had at least one shot. Failing that, they face having pay suspended or not being able to work. But a top court has forbidden staff to be fired outright.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid USA: Babies could be given low-dose of Pfizer's jab this winter
Pfizer seeking approval to jab kids aged six months to five years by this winter. Timeline will depend on findings of in-house trials of vaccines on young children. Pfizer's jab already being used for over-12s in majority of countries in the West.
Booster Dose Slashes Rates of Covid Infection in Israeli Study
A third dose of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE Covid vaccine can dramatically reduce rates of Covid-related illness in people 60 and older, according to data from a short-term study in Israel. Starting 12 days after the extra dose, confirmed infection rates were 11 times lower in the booster group compared with a group that got the standard two doses, the analysis released Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine found. Rates of severe illness were almost 20 times lower in the booster group.
Pfizer (PFE) Says Covid-19 Vaccine Efficacy Erodes Over Time
Pfizer Inc. said that data from the U.S. and Israel suggest that the efficacy of its Covid-19 vaccine wanes over time, and that a booster dose was safe and effective at warding off the virus and new variants. The company detailed the data in a presentation it will deliver to a meeting of outside advisers to the Food and Drug Administration on Friday. The panel is expected to make recommendations for whether more Americans should receive booster shots.
Covid-19: Boys are more at risk of myocarditis after vaccination than of hospital admission for covid
The risk of 12-15 year old healthy boys experiencing cardiac adverse events such as myocarditis after their second dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is around four times adolescents’ risk of being admitted to hospital as a result of infection with SARS-CoV-2, a preprint study has found. The retrospective study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, used the US vaccine adverse reporting system (VAERS) to identify the rate of post-vaccination myocarditis among 12-15 and 16-17 year olds between January and June 2021 after the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The researchers concluded that the rate of cardiac adverse events after the second dose exceeded the expected rate of 120 day covid-19 hospital admission at both a moderate (August 2021) and a high (January 2021) incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.