"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 12th Oct 2021

Isolation Tips
Virus czar ‘optimistic’ about COVID-19 decline, but says restrictions to remain
Falling coronavirus infection rates are an encouraging sign that a recent wave is coming to an end, national virus czar Salman Zarka said Monday, but warned against the country dropping its guard too soon. Zarka held a video press briefing in which he reviewed the declining coronavirus infections and plans to ease the quarantine regime for school children who are exposed to virus carriers. He said health officials are “optimistic that we are exiting the fourth wave” but cautioned, “we are not there yet.”
Indonesia cuts quarantine to 5 days as borders reopen further
Southeast Asia’s largest economy will allow arrivals from 18 countries and reduce the minimum quarantine period to five days, from eight previously, said Luhut Panjaitan, coordinating minister for maritime and investment affairs who’s overseeing the pandemic response. He didn’t specify which are the 18 countries. The country has gradually eased border restrictions, starting with the resumption of offshore visa applications and followed by the reopening of tourist spot Bali to foreign visitors this week. People’s mobility has started to bounce back as cinemas and gyms are reopened, with daily Covid-19 case and fatality numbers continuing to ease to the lowest since June 2020.
Sydney opens to vaccinated after 100-plus days of lockdown
Sydney hairdressers, gyms, cafés and bars reopened to fully vaccinated customers on Monday for the first time in more than 100 days after Australia’s largest city achieved a vaccination benchmark. Sydney planned to reopen on the Monday after 70% of the New South Wales state population aged 16 and older were fully vaccinated. By Monday, 73.5% of the target population was fully vaccinated and more than 90% have received at least one dose. Some businesses opened at midnight due to demand from people impatient to enjoy their freedom. More pandemic restrictions will be removed at the 80% benchmark, and New South Wales residents will be free to travel overseas for the first time since March last year.
Hygiene Helpers
WHO advises a third COVID shot for users of Chinese vaccines
The World Health Organisation recommended that people over 60 receive an additional dose of the shots made by Chinese vaccine makers Sinopharm and Sinovac, citing evidence in studies in Latin America that they perform less well over time. Observational data on Sinopharm and Sinovac shots “clearly showed that in older age groups ... the vaccine performs less well after two doses”, said Joachim Hombach on Monday (Tuesday AEDT) secretary of the independent panel of experts who held a five-day closed-door meeting last week.
COVID-19 vaccine trial participants to be offered additional doses
The government has announced the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants in England will be offered additional approved vaccine for international travel to countries which currently only accept vaccination records with approved for deployment COVID-19 jabs. Although the UK recognises those who are in COVID-19 vaccine trials as fully vaccinated for the purpose of certification, most other countries do not currently recognise clinical trial volunteers who have not had a vaccine that is approved for deployment. As such, the government will now offer these volunteers two additional doses of an approved vaccine, allowing them to gain the necessary certification status to travel abroad with more ease.
New Zealand makes COVID vaccines mandatory for doctors, teachers
New Zealand says it will soon require most of its healthcare workers and teachers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The new vaccine mandate, announced on Monday, compels doctors, pharmacists, community nurses and other healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by December. Teachers and other workers in the education sector must be fully vaccinated by January. “We can’t leave anything to chance so that’s why we are making it mandatory,” said Chris Hipkins, New Zealand’s education minister who is also in charge of the country’s COVID-19 response. ”It’s not an easy decision, but we need the people who work with vulnerable communities who haven’t yet been vaccinated to take this extra step,” he added.
Community Activities
Russian spy ‘stole Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine blueprint and used it to develop Sputnik jab’
Russian spies stole the blueprint for the Oxford/AstraZenecacoronavirus vaccine and used it to create their own Sputnik V jab, according to reports. UK security services have allegedly told ministers they now have solid proof an agent stole vital information from the pharmaceutical company, including the blueprint, according to The Sun. The late security minister James Brokenshire last year said Britain was “more than 95 per cent sure” Russian state-sponsored hackers had targeted the UK, US and Canada in attacks on drug companies.
COVID-19: Report shows despite UK's vaccine success massive mistakes were made
The UK's independent inquiry into COVID-19 is due to launch in Spring 2022. Until then, this parliamentary report is the best assessment we are likely to get into the government's pandemic response. And putting aside the success of the vaccine and former health secretary Matt Hancock's "100,000 tests target", the cross-party committee's conclusions are damning. The government's initial "fatalistic" approach was "a serious early error". The test, trace and isolate system was "often chaotic" and "ultimately failed". Thousands of care home deaths "could have been avoided".
Covid vaccine: Why these US workers won't get jabbed
Joe Biden has been urging US employers to issue ultimatums to their staff: get vaccinated, or lose your job. The president says he will soon bring in a mandate that requires all healthcare workers to have had the jab, and has urged states to do the same with teachers. In Concord, New Hampshire, it is striking to see some of those attending a large protest against vaccine mandates wearing hospital scrubs. Leah Cushman is prepared to lose her nursing job rather than get vaccinated. "My beliefs are religious. I believe that my creator endowed me with an immune system that protects me, and if I get sick, that's an act of God.
Jeremy Vine ‘unnerved’ after home targeted by anti-vaccine protesters
The television and radio presenter Jeremy Vine has said he was unnerved after anti-vaccine protesters targeted his home. Vine tweeted that the group tried to serve what it called an “anti-vaxx writ” while he was out, instead giving it to his wife. The BBC and Channel 5 broadcaster said the group was angry at the BBC’s reporting on the issue of coronavirus vaccines, adding: “They were polite, for which I’m grateful, but coming to my home on a Sunday? And I’m a little unnerved by the heavy breathing too.”
Romania remains vaccine sceptical despite surge in COVID-19 cases
In leafy Romanian villages surrounding the capital Bucharest, few people realise one person has died from COVID-19 every six minutes in the country during the first 10 days of October, and vaccine scepticism remains high. These villages have some of the highest COVID-19 infection numbers and lowest vaccination rates in the country, which is being ravaged by the fourth wave of the pandemic, with ambulances queuing outside hospitals filled to the brim. Daily transmission numbers are rising across Central and Eastern European states, and Romania is experiencing record case and death rates as it grapples with the European Union's second-lowest vaccination rate.
Malaysia and Singapore ease international travel restrictions in pivot to living with Covid
Singapore and Malaysia have each revealed plans to start reopening their borders as the Southeast Asian neighbors move away from their zero-Covid strategies toward living with the virus. Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Sunday the country would end its domestic and international travel restrictions for fully vaccinated residents from Monday, after reaching its target of full inoculation for 90% of the adult population. It comes one day after Singapore added eight new countries to its vaccinated and quarantine-free travel lanes -- the most significant easing of travel restrictions since borders shut last March.
Working Remotely
Amazon to take team-wise approach on remote work policy
Amazon.com will let individual teams decide for how many days corporate employees would be expected to work from office in a week, CEO Andy Jassy said in a message to employees. Earlier, Amazon's policy required for employees to return to office from Jan. 3 for at least three days a week. In his message that was posted on Amazon's blog, Jassy said the company's corporate employees will be permitted to work up to four weeks per year fully remotely from any location within the country of employment.
How to Establish Successful Hybrid Working for Your Employees
As employers search for the right work arrangements after months or more spent largely remote, employees are making it clear they overwhelmingly prefer hybrid scenarios. In a recent Institute for Business Value survey of more than 14,000 people around the world, one in four employees said they were planning to change companies in 2021, citing the need for a more flexible work schedule or location as a top reason. Given such strong sentiment, it's easy to see how a well-conceived "work from anywhere" option could soon become a competitive advantage for employers. Establishing hybrid working may seem daunting, but there are a handful of steps any company can take to improve the infrastructure and operations of hybrid work that will make for a more successful transition.
How to get a promotion when working remotely
As many of us grapple with how, when, and if we should return to the office, there is another question you may be considering: Is it possible to get a promotion or even a new job if you continue to work remotely? Dorie Clark, an author and professor of business at Duke and Columbia, and a contributor for the Harvard Business Review and Fast Company, says if you are in the position to make a decision about if you will return to the office, the first step is understanding what the culture of your company is turning into. According to Clark, the most important consideration in advancing your career is building and maintaining relationships. That looks a little different in a hybrid or remote work situation.
Virtual Classrooms
Colleges Innovate to Support At-Risk Students, Inside and Outside the Classroom
Colleges are paying special attention to first-generation and low-income students and to those from historically marginalized communities, using data analytics to identify students at risk of dropping out. Access to broadband and computers is, of course, an essential factor in student success. As the pandemic forced institutions to go fully or partially online, it put a spotlight on at-risk students, especially low-income students who lacked devices, computers and internet access. In response, many institutions beefed up campus Wi-Fi and offered laptop lending programs
College students report issues with distance learning
College age students reported issues with distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, including trouble concentrating, limited access to technology, food insecurity, and mental health issues, according to researchers. Christian Athnasian, AB, a research intern at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, worked with fellow interns on a project led by research mentor Ruth Milanaik, DO, also of Cohen Children’s, who presented the research at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition.
Public Policies
Covid response ‘one of UK’s worst ever public health failures’
Britain’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic was one of the worst public health failures in UK history, with ministers and scientists taking a “fatalistic” approach that exacerbated the death toll, a landmark inquiry has found. “Groupthink”, evidence of British exceptionalism and a deliberately “slow and gradualist” approach meant the UK fared “significantly worse” than other countries, according to the 151-page “Coronavirus: lessons learned to date” report led by two former Conservative ministers. The crisis exposed “major deficiencies in the machinery of government”, with public bodies unable to share vital information and scientific advice impaired by a lack of transparency, input from international experts and meaningful challenge. Despite being one of the first countries to develop a test for Covid in January 2020, the UK “squandered” its lead and “converted it into one of permanent crisis”. The consequences were profound, the report says. “For a country with a world-class expertise in data analysis, to face the biggest health crisis in 100 years with virtually no data to analyse was an almost unimaginable setback.”
Coronavirus: Moderna has no plans to share its Covid-19 vaccine recipe
Moderna has no plans to share the recipe for its Covid-19 vaccine because executives have concluded that scaling up the company’s own production is the best way to increase the global supply, the company’s chairman said Monday. In an interview with Associated Press, Noubar Afeyan also reiterated a pledge Moderna made a year ago not to enforce patent infringement on anyone else making a coronavirus vaccine during the pandemic. “We didn’t have to do that,” Afeyan said. “We think that was the responsible thing to do.” He added: “We want that to be helping the world.” The United Nations health agency has pressed US-based Moderna to share its vaccine formula. Afeyan said the company analysed whether it would be better to share the messenger RNA technology and determined that it could expand production and deliver billions of additional doses in 2022.
Religious Exemptions to Vaccine Mandates Tested in New York Case
Thousands of New York healthcare workers are in limbo as a federal judge considers whether the state’s vaccination mandate must accommodate requests for religious exemptions, in a case that could guide similar policies in other states. As written, New York’s vaccine mandate applies to all people who work in hospitals and nursing homes, and doesn’t allow healthcare employees to opt out with weekly testing. Starting last week, people were forced to choose between getting the shot and keeping their jobs. There were provisions for medical exemptions but not exemptions based on religious beliefs. Thousands of healthcare workers who refused vaccinations lost their jobs around the state when the mandate took effect, prompting hospitals to cancel elective surgeries and close operating rooms and outpatient clinics. Many nursing homes have stopped admitting new patients.
Merck seeks first U.S. authorization for COVID-19 pill
Merck & Co Inc said on Monday it has applied for U.S. emergency use authorization for its drug to treat mild-to-moderate patients of COVID-19, putting it on course to become the first oral antiviral medication for the disease. An authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could help change clinical management of COVID-19 as the pill can be taken at home. The treatment, molnupiravir, cut the rate of hospitalization and death by 50% in a trial of mild-to-moderately ill patients who had at least one risk factor for the disease, according to data released earlier this month.
Maintaining Services
1 in 5 critically ill coronavirus patients is pregnant, unvaccinated, England says
Unvaccinated pregnant women account for nearly 20 percent of the most critically ill coronavirus patients requiring lifesaving care in England in recent months, according to the country’s National Health Service. “Since July, one in five covid patients receiving treatment through a special lung-bypass machine were expectant mums who have not had their first jab,” the NHS said in a statement Monday. Out of all women between the ages of 16 and 49 being treated with a therapy called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation — used only when a patient’s lungs are so damaged by the virus that a ventilator cannot maintain oxygen levels — pregnant women make up almost a third, up from just 6 percent at the start of the pandemic.
The rate of Covid-19 cases is dropping nationally but rising in these 5 states
The big picture for Covid-19 in the US is looking a little brighter as new infections and hospitalizations decline. "That's the good news. And hopefully it's going to continue to go in that trajectory downward," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "But we just have to be careful we don't prematurely declare victory in many respects. We still have around 68 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated that have not yet gotten vaccinated," Fauci said Sunday. "If you look at the history of the surges and the diminutions in the cases over a period of time, they can bounce back."
Healthcare Innovations
French study of over 22m people finds vaccines cut severe Covid risk by 90%
Vaccination reduces the risk of dying or being hospitalised with Covid-19 by 90%, a French study of 22.6 million people over the age of 50 has found. The research published on Monday also found that vaccines appear to protect against the worst effects of the most prevalent virus strain, the Delta variant. “This means that those who are vaccinated are nine times less at risk of being hospitalised or dying from Covid-19 than those who have not been vaccinated,” the epidemiologist Mahmoud Zureik, who oversaw the research, told Agence France-Presse. The study – the largest of its kind so far – was carried out by Epi-Phare a scientific group set up by France’s health system, its national health insurance fund, l’Assurance Maladie (CNAM), and the country’s ANSM medicines agency.
AstraZeneca antibody cocktail trials show it can halve risk of severe disease, prevent, treat Covid
AstraZeneca's antibody drug cut the risk of severe Covid-19 by at least 50% in a late stage study, the company announced on Monday. The injection, called AZD7442, contains two different antibodies developed from the the blood of people who previously contracted Covid-19. It's the drug first of its kind shown to both prevent and treat Covid-19 in late-stage trials, the company said in a press release. The company has already requested Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to use AZD7442 to prevent Covid-19, after late-stage trial results in August showed it reduced the risk of Covid-19 with symptoms by 77%.
WHO experts back booster jabs for people with weak immune systems
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday recommended that immunocompromised people be given an additional dose of Covid-19 vaccine, due to their higher risk of breakthrough infections after standard immunisation. The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunisation said the additional dose should be offered “as part of an extended primary series since these individuals are less likely to respond adequately to vaccination following a standard primary vaccine series and are at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease”. WHO vaccine director Kate O’Brien, referring to people with lower immunity due to other conditions, told a news briefing: “The recommendation is for a third vaccination, an additional vaccination in the primary series and again that is based on the evidence showing that the immunogenicity and evidence on breakthrough infections is highly disproportionately represented by those people.”
New Clues Emerge About Whether Vaccines Can Help Fight Long Covid
Millions of people suffer from symptoms of long Covid, doctors estimate. Now, early research is offering some clues about whether vaccinations might help. When the vaccines first came out, some people who had suffered from debilitating symptoms for months after their initial Covid-19 infections told their doctors they felt better after getting vaccinated. The response intrigued scientists. Now, emerging research suggests that vaccines may help reduce symptoms in some people. Other recent research indicates that vaccination can reduce the likelihood of developing long-term Covid-19 symptoms in the first place.
Brii Biosciences files EUA with US FDA for Covid-19 combination therapy
Brii Biosciences has filled an emergency use authorization (EUA) application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its combination therapy, BRII-196/BRII-198, to treat Covid-19 patients. BRII-196/BRII-198 is a SARS-CoV-2 neutralising monoclonal antibody combination therapy, which is intended to treat non-hospitalised Covid-19 patients at high risk of clinical progression to severe disease. The EUA submission is based on the positive Phase III results obtained from the ACTIV-2 clinical trial that was announced in August.
INOVIO Gets Approval To Conduct Phase 3 Trial Of COVID-19 DNA Vaccine Candidate,INO-4800 In Colombia
INOVIO said Monday that it has received authorization from Colombia's INVIMA to conduct the phase 3 segment of the company's global Phase 2/3 trial, INNOVATE in Colombia, for INO-4800, its DNA vaccine candidate for COVID-19. The company noted that it is working with partner Advaccine Biopharmaceuticals Suzhou Co., Ltd. on the INNOVATE Phase 3 segment in multiple countries, with a focus on countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.