"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 11th Oct 2021

Isolation Tips
As Sydney readies to exit lockdown, doctors fret re-opening is moving too fast
Australian doctors warned a too-rapid easing of COVID-19 curbs in Sydney could put pressure on health systems and risk lives, as the city prepares for key restrictions to be relaxed next week after more than 100 days in lockdown. Stay-at-home orders are due to be lifted on Monday after New South Wales state this week hit its 70% target of full vaccination for its adult population, and owners of restaurants and other public venues are now scrambling to arrange supplies and staffing. While an easing of restrictions on travel for Sydneysiders outside of their local government areas had previously been flagged, authorities on Thursday also decided to bump up permitted limits for home gatherings, weddings and funerals - earning the ire of the Australian Medical Association (AMA).
Coronavirus: as Australia plans border reopening, stranded citizens wait with anxiety, trepidation
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged to ease strict controls on overseas citizens returning home within weeks and to cut quarantine for those who have been vaccinated to seven days at home – rather than 14 at a hotel But with promises of being able to return home for Christmas 2020 still ringing in their ears, many stranded Australians dare not hope the ordeal is over,
Hygiene Helpers
Singapore expands quarantine-free travel, eyes COVID-19 'new normal'
Singapore is opening its borders to more countries for quarantine-free travel as the city-state seeks to rebuild its status as an international aviation hub, and prepares to reach a "new normal" to live with COVID-19. From Oct. 19 fully vaccinated people from eight countries, including Britain, France, Spain and the United States, will be able to enter the island without quarantining if they pass their COVID-19 tests, the government said on Saturday. The announcement marks a major step in Singapore's strategy to resume international links.
The coronavirus pandemic is far from over
The goal for all countries is to make it to the blue section of the chart and stay there. Countries and territories in this section have reported no new cases for four weeks in a row. Currently, that is the case for five out of 188 countries and territories. How has the COVID-19 trend evolved over the past weeks? The situation has deteriorated slightly: 65 countries have reported more cases in the past two weeks compared with the previous 14 days. What is the current COVID-19 trend in my country? Based on the newly reported case numbers — which can reflect local outbreaks as well as the countrywide spread — in the past 28 days, countries and territories classify as follows:
NSW hits ‘impressive’ vaccination target as 580 new Covid cases recorded
Almost 90 per cent of eligible NSW residents have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. The state is expected to reach the milestone within the next two days. Premier Dominic Perrottet applauded NSW residents coming forward for their jabs. However, he said some Sydney postcodes were languishing at less than 50 per cent double-dose rates. “Vaccination is incredibly important. We know it keeps people safe, particularly those in vulnerable communities,” Mr Perrottet said. “To be in a position as we come close to a 90 per cent first-dose vaccination rate is impressive.”
Boosters, employer mandates drive increase in US vaccines
The number of Americans getting COVID-19 vaccines has steadily increased to a three-month high as seniors and people with medical conditions seek boosters, and government and employer mandates push more workers to take their first doses.
Nearly 2million over-50s have yet to first Covid vaccine, despite booster drive kicking off already
As many as 2million people over the age of 50 in England still haven't had a single Covid vaccine, official figures suggest. MailOnline's analysis of NHS vaccination data means about one in 10 of those who were prioritised in the jab rollout still haven't come forward. Up to 127,288 over-80s remain unvaccinated, despite the programme opening to them as the very first age group last December. Age is the one of the biggest single risk factors for Covid. Yet, the analysis shows there are as many as 249,727 un-jabbed people in their 70s in England.
Community Activities
Moderna, Racing for Profits, Keeps Covid Vaccine Out of Reach of Poor
Moderna, whose coronavirus vaccine appears to be the world’s best defense against Covid-19, has been supplying its shots almost exclusively to wealthy nations, keeping poorer countries waiting and earning billions in profit. After developing a breakthrough vaccine with the financial and scientific support of the U.S. government, Moderna has shipped a greater share of its doses to wealthy countries than any other vaccine manufacturer, according to Airfinity, a data firm that tracks vaccine shipments. About one million doses of Moderna’s vaccine have gone to countries that the World Bank classifies as low income. By contrast, 8.4 million Pfizer doses and about 25 million single-shot Johnson & Johnson doses have gone to those countries.
Govt slams 'Pfizer jab is a killer' claim
The government has condemned a claim that the Pfizer mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, being offered to students aged 12-17 as part of the plan to reopen schools in November, will have fatal consequences for all recipients within two years. In a message spread via the Line app by several teenage groups campaigning against the Pfizer vaccination programme for young people, it was claimed the vaccine was a tool for committing genocide against young people as they would eventually die within two years if injected with the vaccine, said Dr Chawetsan Namwat, director of the Emergency Health Hazard and Disease Control Division. This claim is believed to have fuelled fears among the parents of many students who appear reluctant to give their consent to have their children vaccinated, he said.
San Francisco to welcome cruise ships after 19-month hiatus
Cruise ships are returning to San Francisco after a 19-month hiatus brought on by the pandemic in what’s sure to be a boost to the city’s economy, the mayor announced Friday. The Majestic Princess will sail into the port of San Francisco Monday, the first cruise ship to dock in the San Francisco Bay Area since March 2020 when the Grand Princess captured the world’s attention and made the coronavirus real to millions in the United States. The ship was carrying people infected with the coronavirus, and thousands of passengers aboard were quarantined as the ship idled off the California coast. The port of San Francisco, home to the Bay Area’s only passenger cruise terminal, expects to welcome 21 cruise ships through the remainder of the year.
The Pandemic’s Toll on Women’s Careers
For all the change brought on by the pandemic, women in white-collar roles still made strides at nearly every level of U.S. companies last year, a comprehensive new study shows. The proportion of women in the corporate workforce didn’t decline significantly last year, and the number of women holding some senior roles increased, according to data from the 2021 Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org. But the report also found that women are experiencing higher rates of burnout than men, and are questioning whether they want to remain with their companies and on their existing career paths. Lareina Yee, a senior partner at McKinsey who previously served as the firm’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Rachel Thomas, Lean In’s co-founder and CEO, spoke separately with the Journal about some of the takeaways from this year’s report. Here are edited excerpts of the conversations.
Give Asian youth a voice to decide their post-pandemic future
Like many of her generation, Pauline Mandrilla, a 23-year-old civil engineer from Manila, suddenly found herself jobless when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Mandrilla felt like a statistic, as she joined the ranks of some 22 per cent of unemployed Philippine youth affected by the pandemic’s economic fallout. “During the onset of the pandemic, we were placed in a no-work, no-pay situation,” Mandrilla recalled. “My previous job heavily relied on my being physically present on a construction site, but because of the quarantine restrictions, which halted public transportation in my region, I couldn’t go to work.”
Working Remotely
The UK cities that rejected calls to ‘get back to the office’ despite Covid restrictions easing
Despite Government overtures, the end of the summer break did not signal a mass return to the office for the UK, renewing concerns about the future of city centres. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged workers to “get back to work in the normal way”, warning them that if they continue to work from home, “you’re going to be gossiped about and you’re going to lose out”. Those responsible for running Britain’s city centres had been waiting anxiously to see data for September. There were hopes that, after Covid restrictions were relaxed and the summer holidays were over, commuting patterns might start approaching pre-pandemic normality. One month on, statistics from Google indicates that this has not happened.
ACCA calls for remote working fund for SMEs
In Ireland, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is calling on the Government to introduce a remote working fund for SMEs in Budget 2022, to support small businesses in adopting a remote working model for employees. As employers adopt a hybrid working model post-pandemic, the ACCA said additional costs associated with purchasing equipment, technology, and cyber security protection to support their staff to work remotely will put "considerable strain" on SME's financial resources. It said both the Government’s new remote working legislation along with the uplift in tax credits for remote workers, which is expected to be part of the budget, will help transform the new hybrid working environment.
Remote Workers Can Live Anywhere. These Cities (and Small Towns) Are Luring Them With Perks.
Shara Gaona didn’t know much about Topeka when the pandemic struck. But the remote-working United Airlines analyst, untethered from her Chicago office, decided to move to the Kansas capital and collect $10,000 in local government incentives. Topeka is on a growing list of locations—from Bemidji, Minn., to the state of West Virginia—dangling incentives to entice remote workers. Many companies are offering office-free jobs, and some workers are willing to relocate for cash, cheaper housing or other perks.
Imagining the Hybrid College Campus
The pandemic undoubtedly inflicted real pain on higher education during the past year, but it also brought about clarity for what’s next. Much has already been written about how Covid-19 forced schools to accelerate their blending of in-person and online learning. While this abrupt shift created significant challenges, this hybrid model will in the long run greatly enhance the classroom experience. New digital tools, for instance, can help educators better assess student engagement, thus providing instructors with a clear road map for how to refine and improve their courses and teaching methods.
Virtual Classrooms
COVID-19: Online learning and the homework gap in the US
America’s K-12 students are returning to classrooms this fall after 18 months of virtual learning at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some students who lacked the home internet connectivity needed to finish schoolwork during this time – an experience often called the “homework gap” – may continue to feel the effects this school year. Research carried out by Pew Research Center highlights how a lack of internet connectivity and digital skills negatively affected K-12 students' ability to complete school work at home. Research shows these problems were faced by families of different incomes, race and location. One-quarter of Black teens said they were at least sometimes unable to complete their homework due to a lack of digital access, including 13% who said this happened to them often.
Public Policies
Latvia Declares Three-Month Covid State of Emergency
The Latvian government declared a three-month state of emergency after coronavirus infections hit a record and hospitalizations rose, the country’s public broadcaster reported. The state of emergency will start on Oct. 11, and will mandate vaccinations for public sector workers, restrictions on retail and bars and push more people to work from home. Latvia recorded a record 1,752 new Covid cases on Thursday, with more than 700 in the hospital.
Iceland Joins Nordic Peers in Halting Moderna Covid Vaccinations
Iceland is joining its Nordic peers in halting inoculations with Moderna Inc.’s Spikevax shot on concern over side effects. The Moderna jab, which has mostly been used in Iceland for second doses, won’t be used until more information over its safety has been collected, the chief epidemiologist said on Friday. Sweden, Denmark and Finland have this week suspended the jabs for younger people because of the risk of heart inflammation as a potential side effect. Norway said men under 30 should consider choosing the Pfizer Inc.’s and BioNTech SE’s rival vaccine, and the other Nordic nations also recommended that as an alternative. Both vaccinations use messenger RNA technology to prompt an immune reaction.
Brazil has lined up 350 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for 2022, Health Minster says
Brazil's Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on Friday the country has already acquired, or is in advanced talks to secure, around 350 million vaccine doses for 2022. Queiroga said that although Sinovac's Coronavac vaccine was not currently part of plans for the national campaign next year, it could be incorporated if it receives full approval from Brazil's health regulator.
India set to reopen for foreign travellers from 15 October
India will reopen to tourism from October 15, the government said, after more than a year of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Foreign nationals will be able to apply for a visa for the first time since March 2020, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed a strict lockdown in response to the pandemic. “After considering various inputs, the MHA (home ministry) has decided to begin granting fresh Tourist Visas for foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from 15 October, 2021,” the home ministry said in a statement on 7 October. It added that foreigners traveling to India via commercial flights will be able to enter on fresh tourist visas starting November 15, 2021. The home ministry has said all COVID-19 protocols “should be adhered to
U.S. will accept WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines for international visitors
The United States will accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late on Friday. On Sept. 20, the White House announced the United States in November would lift travel restrictions on air travelers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil and most of Europe who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It did not specify then which vaccines would be accepted. A CDC spokeswoman told Reuters Friday, "Six vaccines that are FDA authorized/approved or listed for emergency use by WHO will meet the criteria for travel to the U.S."
Maintaining Services
Italy widens COVID-19 vaccine booster campaign to frail and over 60s
Italy has decided to provide a booster shot of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to frail people regardless of their age as well as people aged 60 and over, the health ministry said on Friday. The booster dose would be available on condition that at least six months have passed since people completed their primary vaccination cycle, the ministry said in a statement. The European Union's drugs regulator said on Monday people with weakened immune systems should get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna but left it to member states to decide if the wider population should have a booster
Wasted COVID vaccine doses in Louisiana swell to 224,000
Louisiana’s problem of wasted COVID-19 vaccine shots continues to balloon, with about 224,000 doses thrown out across the state as health providers can’t find enough residents willing to roll up their sleeves. The number of trashed doses has nearly tripled since the end of July, even as Louisiana grappled with a fourth, deadly surge of the coronavirus pandemic during that time that led to increased interest in the vaccines. The latest data provided to The Associated Press by the Louisiana Department of Health showed 223,918 doses of the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been thrown out.
7% of Israel’s serious COVID cases had three vaccine shots
Some 7% of Israel’s serious and critical COVID-19 cases were vaccinated with three shots of the coronavirus vaccine, according to data released Friday morning by the Health Ministry. However, the number of new daily cases is declining and the government voted to roll out the Green Class outline in several green cities on Sunday to help keep children out of isolation. “I cannot say that 7% is a lot,” Health Minister Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash told The Jerusalem Post. “The vaccine, even the third shot, does not work at 100%. It is 95% effective.”
COVID-19: Calls for stronger safety measures in schools amid pupil infection surge
Education unions have called for the reintroduction of extra safety measures in schools after official estimates showed around 270,000 secondary pupils had COVID-19 last week. The demand for action came as an expert warned about the level of coronavirus circulating among older children. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that around one in 15 children in school years 7 to 11 in England are estimated to have had COVID-19 in the week to 2 October. This was the highest positivity rate for any age group and up from one in 20 during the previous seven-day period.
Russians flock to Serbia for Western-made COVID-19 vaccines
When Russian regulators approved the country's own coronavirus vaccine, it was a moment of national pride, and the Pavlov family was among those who rushed to take the injection. But international health authorities have not yet given their blessing to the Sputnik V shot. So when the family from Rostov-on-Don wanted to visit the West, they looked for a vaccine that would allow them to travel freely — a quest that brought them to Serbia, where hundreds of Russian citizens have flocked in recent weeks to receive Western-approved COVID-19 shots.
Pfizer shots offered to Novavax trial volunteers so they can travel
Britain announced that it will offer new vaccinations to thousands of people who volunteered for trials of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine, which hasn’t yet been approved for use in any country. About 15,000 people in Britain got Novavax shots as part of a clinical trial. While Britain recognises them as vaccinated, most countries don’t, meaning they can’t travel. Britain’s health department said on Friday that more than 15,000 participants would be given two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The government says it plans to expand the offer to about 6000 British participants in trials of other vaccines that also haven’t been approved for use. Britain has appealed to other members of the Group of 20 nations to classify clinical trial volunteers as vaccinated, but most haven’t done so.
More organ transplant centers require patients to get Covid-19 vaccine or bumped down waitlist
A Colorado kidney transplant candidate who was bumped to inactive status for failing to get a covid-19 vaccine has become the most public example of an argument roiling the nation's more than 250 organ transplant centers. Across the country, growing numbers of transplant programs have chosen to either bar patients who refuse to take the widely available covid vaccines from receiving transplants, or give them lower priority on crowded organ waitlists. Other programs, however, say they plan no such restrictions — for now.
Healthcare Innovations
Novel vaccine strategy protects mice from COVID-19 and 4 related coronaviruses
The three marketed COVID-19 shots have validated the effectiveness of two vaccination technologies, mRNA and viral vector delivery. But the vaccines—from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—only protect against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that sparked the pandemic. So a team of researchers in Japan set out to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine in the hopes of preventing future pandemics. Scientists at Osaka University engineered antibodies that prevented SARS-CoV-2 from infecting healthy cells in mice, they reported in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. They were also effective against SARS-CoV-1, which caused a small outbreak in the early 2000s, and three coronaviruses found in pangolins and bats, they said. The experimental vaccination approach exploits the biology of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which shuttles the virus into human cells by binding to a cell surface receptor called ACE2. The spike protein’s receptor-binding domain has a “head” region that facilitates that binding as well as a “core” region. While the head of each type of coronavirus is distinctive, the core regions are virtually identical.
Pregnant women with symptomatic COVID-19 have an increased risk of emergency deliveries
Pregnant women who contract symptomatic cases of COVID-19 are much more likely to suffer emergency complications or have babies who need intensive care, a new study suggests. Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, looked at more than 100 mothers-to-be who were diagnosed with the virus. More than half of pregnant women who developed symptoms had emergency deliveries compared to about four in 10 women without symptoms. Additionally, babies born to symptomatic mothers were more likely to need respiratory support or be admitted to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
Two Indian drugmakers to end trials of generic Merck pill for moderate COVID-19
Two Indian drugmakers have requested permission to end late-stage trials of their generic versions of Merck & Co's promising experimental oral antiviral drug molnupiravir to treat moderate COVID-19, a week after Merck said its own trial had succeeded for mild-to-moderate patients. Merck earlier this year suspended its own development of molnupiravir as a treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients since many of them have reached a phase of the disease that is too late for an antiviral drug to provide much help.