"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 29th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
Sydney's unvaccinated warned of social isolation when COVID-19 lockdown ends
Sydney residents who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 risk being barred from various social activities even when they are freed from stay-at-home orders in December, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned. Under a roadmap to exit lockdown in Australia's biggest city, unvaccinated people are already subject to delays in freedoms that will be gradually granted to inoculated residents between Oct. 11 and Dec. 1. Berejiklian said people who choose not to be vaccinated could be barred entry to shops, restaurants and entertainment venues even after the state lifts all restrictions against them on Dec. 1.
Japan to lift emergency COVID-19 curbs, but gradually
Japan will lift a coronavirus state of emergency in all regions on Thursday for the first time in nearly six months, as the number of new cases and deaths falls and the strain on the medical system eases, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said. Daily cases have fallen nationwide from more than 25,000 last month to 1,128 on Monday, but the opening will be gradual with some curbs on restaurants and large-scale events staying in place for about a month.
Hygiene Helpers
Vaccine Mandate Leads Thousands of New York Health Workers to Get Vaccinated
When New York State officials issued a sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers in August, they expressed confidence that it would pressure reluctant doctors, nurses and support staff to get the shot. On Monday, as the deadline for vaccinations for about 600,000 nursing home and hospital workers arrived, it seemed that bet had proved to be at least partially correct. With just days or even hours to spare, thousands of health care workers got inoculated, according to health officials across the state.
Ford says U.S. salaried employees required to disclose COVID-19 vaccination status
Ford Motor Co became the second Detroit automaker to ask U.S. salaried employees to reveal their vaccination status against COVID-19 in a bid to comply with wider federal guidelines. Ford said salaried employees were required to submit their vaccination status against COVID-19 by Oct. 8 but the process was voluntary for its hourly employees represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. The automaker's move comes as the Biden administration pursues sweeping measures to increase vaccination coverage in the United States, while pushing large employers to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly
Brazil to give COVID-19 booster shots to people over 60 years old
Brazil will provide COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to all its people over 60-years-old, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on Tuesday. Queiroga said in a tweet that the decision comes in line with progress in the country's vaccination program. About 7 million Brazilians could get the booster shot under these conditions, he said. Brazil had already started giving booster shots to people over 70-years-old and healthcare workers. According to Health Ministry data, about 600,000 booster shots have been administered up to now.
COVID-19: Scotland delays enforcement of vaccine passport scheme
Scotland's new vaccine passport scheme for entry into nightclubs and large events will not be enforced until two weeks after it is introduced. From 5am on Friday, people going to venues open after midnight with alcohol, music and dancing will need proof they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said venues which fail to obey the new rules will not face punishment for another 17 days. Ms Sturgeon said she had made the change after listening to the "reasonable concerns of business".
New York can move forward with coronavirus vaccine mandate for school workers, judges say
A federal appeals court Monday made way for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) to implement a coronavirus vaccine mandate for all school employees, ruling against four educators who had sued to stop it. The court decision marks a major victory for the nation’s largest school system, which employs 150,000 people and educates over 1 million students in a city gutted by the coronavirus last year. Unlike most other cities, New York’s mandate does not allow employees to submit to regular testing as an alternative to getting a vaccine. The city’s mandate would have required all school employees to show proof of at least one shot by midnight Monday. But on Friday, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit issued an injunction temporarily halting the requirement.
Covid-19: Unlocking options 'limited' by jab passport delay
In Northern Ireland, a delay by the executive in agreeing a Covid-19 vaccine certification policy has "significantly limited" the options for easing restrictions, the health minister has said. In a letter to the first and deputy first ministers, Robin Swann said he was frustrated by the lack of progress. He asked as a "matter of urgency" that the Executive Office brings forward a paper "without further delay". He said people would lose out if that did not happen. The absence of vaccine certification could leave them disadvantaged "when they travel to neighbouring jurisdictions where such schemes are mandatory", he said
People in the Northeast could prevent a Covid-19 surge like the one in the South by following these measures, Fauci says
As weather grows colder and children spend more time in school, a surge of Covid-19 cases like the one in the South could be in store for the Northeast, but it is not too late to get ahead of it, Dr. Anthony Fauci said. "It is within our power, and within our grasp, to prevent that from occurring," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Monday. The way to do it, he said, is by utilizing mitigation measures such as wearing masks indoors and in schools, as well as increasing vaccination rates. The idea of vaccine mandates for schools and businesses has sparked debate through much of the country, but with the spread of the Delta variant, more leaders are adopting such methods.
Community Activities
Boris Johnson meets with members of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families group for first time... 18 months after first death to the virus was recorded in UK
Boris Johnson is meeting a group of families bereaved by coronavirus - more than a year after he first promised to do so - with the PM to be told by campaigners: 'If we'd been listened to - other lives might have been spared'. The Prime Minister held a private meeting with members of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group in the Downing Street garden this afternoon, with each person attending carrying an A4 photo of the loved-one they lost. Families have asked for it to take place outdoors with social distancing and said they would tell Mr Johnson how their loved ones caught the virus and died, and repeat their calls for a public inquiry to start.
How Covid Misinformation Created a Run on Ivermectin
For months, the veterinary center in West Point, Miss., had watched its supplies of the drug dwindle. Dr. Karen Emerson, the veterinarian who owns the hospital, started the year with one 500-milliliter bottle of ivermectin, which she uses to kill parasites in dogs, chickens and other patients. But as the bottle emptied and her staff tried to find more, they were able to obtain only a 50-milliliter vial. Everyone else told them: None available. So Dr. Emerson began rationing the medicine to give to snakes and other exotic animals for which she had no other deworming treatment. She told dog owners to pay for a more available replacement drug that can cost seven times as much.
South Africa, Oxfam call for fairer trade rules in response to pandemic
South Africa's president and the head of Oxfam heaped pressure on World Trade Organization members and manufacturers to allow fairer access to COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday, including through a waiver on intellectual property rights. At a WTO public event on trade and COVID-19 also attended by German vaccine maker BioNTech, Cyril Ramaphosa said a waiver on patents was needed to save millions of lives during the pandemic,
For many families, the countdown has begun to coronavirus vaccines for younger children
For almost a year, Whitney Kuhn has been trying to escape the grip of long-haul symptoms after contracting covid-19. And she has not stopped worrying about how to protect her 10-year-old son, Tyler, from the illness she experienced. She has been too anxious to go on family vacations, visit relatives for the holidays or even take Tyler to the grocery store. She has pulled him from basketball — his favorite sport — and other extracurriculars. And when he had to return to school, she could only hope his classmates wore their masks the right way.
Connecticut doctor's license suspended for providing blank, signed Covid-19 exemption forms, health department says
A Connecticut doctor's state physician and surgeon license has been suspended for providing blank, signed exemption forms related to the Covid-19 vaccine, Covid testing, general vaccines and medical opposition to wearing facial masks, the state Department of Public Health said. Connecticut's Medical Examining Board suspended the license through a unanimous decision last week, the department said in a news release. Retired physician Sue Mcintosh of Durham, who is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, was giving signed forms to people without physically meeting them or examining them, the department said. She would provide the exemption forms to anyone who provided a self-addressed stamped envelope requesting one, they said.
Covid-19 may stay with us forever
The major problem is that the rise of more infectious strains of Sars-CoV-2 have quashed hopes of herd immunity, even in countries with high vaccine uptake. Scientists such as Francois Balloux, who directs the UCL Genetics Institute, say that this outcome was inevitable as soon as Covid-19 became a truly global pandemic. “I believe the opportunity for global eradication was gone very, very early in the pandemic,” says Balloux. “You can eliminate it locally, but as long as there’s a focus somewhere in the world, whether that’s Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, it will eventually come back. As of February 2020, it was clear that elimination would not be possible.”
New Austrian anti-lockdown party seeking more seats after election coup
A new Austrian political party that opposes lockdowns, compulsory mask-wearing and other coronavirus restrictions hopes to spread across the country after surprisingly securing seats in one of Austria's nine provincial parliaments on Sunday. People Freedom Fundamental Rights (MFG), a newly created party that campaigned online and with a tour of bars and restaurants, stunned many observers by securing 6.2% of the vote in Upper Austria's election on Sunday, above the 4% threshold required to enter the provincial parliament. The province of Upper Austria, home to Linz, the country's third-biggest city, and bordering Germany and the Czech Republic, is home to much of Austria's heavy industry.
Working Remotely
Tech companies keep asking employees to take pay cuts to work remotely, but workers are rejecting the idea they should be paid differently based on where they live
In a hyper-competitive job market that favors specialized workers like those focused on technology, it is shortsighted for companies to consider cutting salaries of those who want to make permanent remote work arrangements prompted by COVID-19. But a new Dice survey finds that one in 10 technologists say they have been asked to take a pay cut if they don't plan to return to the office. Facebook and Twitter have reportedly reduced salaries for employees who've moved to less expensive areas, and Google is considering a similar plan. On the flip side, Reddit and Zillow are among employers encouraging workplace flexibility, and a separate Dice survey found that 28% of companies have increased salaries to attract technologists from high cost-of-living tech hubs.
Japan telecom NTT eyes remote work as norm for all 320,000 employees
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. said it is considering allowing all 320,000 employees of the telecom giant group to work remotely as the norm and abolishing job relocations, in a drastic shake-up of its management style for a post-coronavirus society.
Is Going to the Office a Broken Way of Working?
A technology entrepreneur named Chris Herd posted a thread on Twitter. “I spoke to 10 x Billion $ companies who canceled return to the office due to the delta variant,” he began. “A few predictions on what else is going to happen.” His first salvo was titled “Office Death,” and claimed that “by the time people can return to the office a lot of companies will no longer have space to return to.” In Herd’s vision, which he calls a remote-first strategy, relevant teams gather less frequently—he suggests once a month as a good interval—in varying locations that suit the work that’s being done. Because these meetings are relatively infrequent, there’s no need for employees to live in the same region.
Personality Predicts Adjustment to Remote Work
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a debate about whether workers are happier and more productive at home or in the office. A recent study examined changes in job outcomes during the transition to remote work. Two personality traits, extroversion and conscientiousness, predicted decreasing performance and lower well-being over time.
Virtual Classrooms
The post-pandemic future of college? It's on campus and online.
Across America, students are back on campus and online at the same time. They like having the choice. For many, education is defined less by the mode of instruction than by how well it meets their needs. Despite the hoopla this fall over the return to campus, what was considered a normal academic routine at many colleges and universities is gone. In its place is emerging a remarkable blend of teaching methods that are face-to-face, online or a hybrid of the two. This trend, born of necessity earlier in the pandemic, may outlast it.
Public Policies
Yemen uses UN speech to call for more COVID-19 vaccines
The top diplomat of Yemen s internationally recognized government said Monday his conflict-torn country needs millions more coronavirus vaccines to ensure some of the world's poorest are not left behind. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak said the roughly 1 million doses Yemen was given are not enough to vaccinate even the most vulnerable portions of its population. Yemen has a long way to go toward vaccinating the majority of its some 30 million people, most of whom are facing multiple humanitarian crises, including poverty, hunger and poor access to adequately run hospitals. Yemen’s government has received just roughly 500,000 doses so far this year through the COVAX initiative, and the rest through direct donations from other countries. “These amounts are still not enough to cover the targeted groups,” Bin Mubarak said. “We hope that the donating countries will contribute to increasing the number of vaccines so that no one is left behind.”
Pfizer/BioNTech submit initial data on Covid-19 vaccine for people ages 5 to 11 to FDA, but aren't seeking EUA yet
Pfizer and BioNTech said Tuesday they have submitted Covid-19 vaccine data on children ages 5 to 11 to the US Food and Drug Administration for initial review, but are not yet seeking emergency use authorization. A formal submission to request EUA for the vaccine is expected to follow in the coming weeks, the companies said in a statement. Submissions to the European Medicines Agency and other regulatory authorities are also planned, they said. This is the first submission of data to the FDA for a Covid-19 vaccine for younger children. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for people age 16 and older and has an EUA for people ages 12 to 15.
Cuba begins commercial exports of its COVID-19 vaccines
Cuba has begun commercial exports of its homegrown COVID-19 vaccines, sending shipments of the three-dose Abdala vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel announced the arrival of vaccines in Vietnam on his Twitter feed on Sunday. The official Cubadebate news website said the shipment included 900,000 doses bought by Hanoi and 150,000 more donated by Cuba. Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited Cuba last week and toured the laboratory that produces the vaccine, announcing an agreement to buy at least five million doses. As two of the last five Communist countries in the world, Cuba and Vietnam have maintained longstanding ties.
Ireland to donate 335,500 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Uganda
Ireland is to donate 335,500 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Uganda, it has been announced. This donation is in addition to the one million Covid-19 vaccines that Ireland has already committed to donate via Covax, which aims to guarantee fair and equitable vaccine access for every country in the world. Along with this donation of vaccines to Uganda, Ireland is also donating all of the consumables needed to support the administration of 335,500 doses (plus a consumables contingency).
Maintaining Services
Behind Israel’s Swift Rollout of Covid-19 Vaccine Boosters
In late July, dozens of Israeli scientists and government health officials were locked in a marathon video call where they examined new data indicating that the effectiveness of the Covid vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE was waning. Infections from the new Delta variant were increasing, and growing numbers of people were falling seriously ill, even those who had had both shots of the vaccine. Lives were potentially on the line. Within days of the midnight vote that decided to distribute a third shot, the first of millions of booster shots were administered, months before the U.S. or any other country would take the same step. “It was a really tough discussion,” said epidemiologist Gili Regev-Yochay, who presented key research on the effectiveness of booster shots. “[But] it was a decision that was reached essentially with one voice.”
Defying Delta: Back to school goes better than feared
School for children in many nations has been underway for more than a month and fears the Delta coronavirus variant would derail in-person learning have largely proven unfounded. In a dozen countries with high vaccination rates in Asia, Europe and the United States, case rates that surged in August have mostly fallen back, according to local data and officials. The jury is out on how much this is due to seasonal factors amid a global decline in cases, and how much it is linked to vaccinations and other preventative measures. Public health experts say they will continue to watch for signs of an increase in cases as winter approaches.
Egypt allows immediate COVID-19 vaccination amid fourth wave
Egypt is now providing immediate COVID-19 vaccinations at youth centres across the country without prior online registration, a step aimed at encouraging vaccinations and relieving pressure on hospitals and health units amid a fourth wave of infections. Nearly 270 youth centres are now open for citizens to get the vaccines, the health ministry said, bringing the total number of vaccination sites across the country to 1,100. The move is part of the "Together We Are Assured" campaign, launched by the health ministry in mid-September, that allows citizens to register and receive vaccinations immediately after complaints of a large time difference between the two steps.
Hospitals fear staffing shortages as vaccine deadlines loom
Hospitals and nursing homes around the U.S. are bracing for worsening staff shortages as state deadlines arrive for health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. With ultimatums taking effect this week in states like New York, California, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the fear is that some employees will quit or let themselves be fired or suspended rather than get the vaccine. “How this is going to play out, we don’t know. We are concerned about how it will exacerbate an already quite serious staffing problem,” said California Hospital Association spokesperson Jan Emerson-Shea, adding that the organization “absolutely” supports the state’s vaccination requirement.
Two Europes: Low vaccine rates in east overwhelm ICUs
Around 72% of adults in the 27-nation European Union have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but a stubbornly low uptake of the shots in some eastern EU nations now risks overwhelming hospitals amid a surge of infections due to the more contagious delta variant. Bulgaria and Romania are lagging dramatically behind as the EU’s two least-vaccinated nations, with just 22% and 33% of their adult populations fully inoculated. Rapidly increasing new infections have forced authorities to tighten virus restrictions in the two countries, while other EU nations such as France, Spain, Denmark and Portugal have all exceeded 80% vaccine coverage and eased restrictions.
Healthcare Innovations
COVID-19: One in 10 secondary school pupils with coronavirus suffered ongoing symptoms, ONS research finds
More than one in 10 secondary school students and over a third of school staff who have had COVID-19 have suffered ongoing symptoms, new research has found. Staff and pupils commonly reported weakness and tiredness, while staff were more likely to experience shortness of breath, according to a small study of schools in England. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 35.7% of staff and 12.3% of students, who previously tested positive for COVID-19, reported experiencing ongoing symptoms more than a month after contracting the virus.
Pfizer submits data for COVID-19 vaccine use in younger kids
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE on Tuesday submitted initial trial data for their COVID-19 vaccine in 5-11 year olds and said they would make a formal request to U.S. regulators for emergency use in the coming weeks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said earlier this month it would look to complete its data review for this age group as quickly as possible, likely in a matter of weeks rather than months. That could mean an authorization of the shot for children by the end of October, sources have told Reuters.
India allows Serum Institute to enrol 7-11 year olds in COVID-19 vaccine trial
India's drug regulator on Tuesday allowed vaccine maker Serum Institute to enrol kids aged 7-11 years for its trial of U.S. drugmaker Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine, as the country prepares to protect children from the novel coronavirus. The South Asian nation has already administered more than 870 million doses to adults among its population of nearly 1.4 billion.
Early data shows ButanVac vaccine induces potent immune response
Developed by the Sao Paulo-based Butantan Biological Institute, the ButanVac coronavirus vaccine showed " an acceptable safety profile and potent immunogenicity" in clinical trials held in Thailand. The study showed that there were "no vaccine-related serious adverse events." The vaccine is also being tested in Brazil and Vietnam, but trial data from the two countries have not been made available so far.
Pfizer Submits Favorable Initial Data To The FDA On Kids' COVID-19 Vaccine Trial
Pfizer and BioNTech are another step closer to seeking authorization for young children to receive the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine, submitting data to the Food and Drug Administration that shows a "robust" antibody response and "favorable" safety outcomes in kids ages 5 to 11 who received the two-dose regimen in clinical trials. The companies plan to submit a formal request for emergency-use authorization of the vaccine for that age range "in the coming weeks," they said Tuesday. News of the data submission comes a week after Pfizer announced promising results from the trials, which have been closely watched by parents eager to protect their children from the coronavirus. COVID-19 has now killed more than 690,000 people in the U.S., with millions more sickened by the disease.
COVID-19: Younger children 'more hesitant than older teenagers to get jabbed' as researchers call for better vaccine messaging
The findings by researchers at the University of Oxford, University College London (UCL) and the University of Cambridge follow the government's confirmation earlier this month it would widen the vaccination programme to all 12 to 15-year-olds. More than 27,000 students in England, aged between nine and 18, took part in the survey which showed that 50% were willing to have a coronavirus vaccination, 37% were undecided while 13% wanted to opt out. Just over a third (36%) of nine-year-olds were willing to have a jab, compared with 51% of 13-year-olds and 78% of 17-year-olds.
Smokers up to 80% more likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid, study says
Smokers are 60%-80% more likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and also more likely to die from the disease, data suggests. A study, which pooled observational and genetic data on smoking and Covid-19 to strengthen the evidence base, contradicts research published at the start of the pandemic suggesting that smoking might help to protect against the virus. This was later retracted after it was discovered that some of the paper’s authors had financial links to the tobacco industry.