"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 21st Oct 2021

Isolation Tips
Russia Orders People Not to Go to Work as Covid-19 Deaths Mount
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered people to stay off work for at least a week while Latvia has introduced a monthlong Covid-19 lockdown as deaths climb, driving renewed fears of another wave of infections as winter sets in. Mr. Putin signed a decree Wednesday approving a period of nonworking days, as the government calls them, beginning Oct. 30 and stretching to Nov. 7 to encourage people to stay home and slow the spread of the virus. Regional governments where infection rates are especially virulent can speed up or prolong the measures, with employers continuing to pay their staffs as they stay home. Latvia, which until recently had outperformed other European countries in containing the virus, on Monday announced a slate of strict measures, including a nationwide 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and closures of schools and nonessential retail after the seven-day average of deaths in the tiny Baltic state more than doubled last week.
Singapore extends COVID-19 curbs for a month as cases spike
Singapore will extend its social curbs to contain the spread of COVID-19 for around a month in order to ease the pressure on the healthcare system, the government said on Wednesday. The city-state in late September reimposed curbs that include limiting social interactions and dining out to two people in order to slow virus transmission. However, daily cases have continued to rise and hit a record 3,994 on Tuesday. While Singapore has vaccinated more than 80% of its 5.45 million population, asymptomatic or mild cases have been rising steadily, spreading the virus and mounting pressure on hospitals and medical staff.
Hygiene Helpers
U.S. workers face layoffs as U.S COVID-19 vaccine mandates kick in
Thousands of unvaccinated workers across the United States are facing potential job losses as a growing number of states, cities and private companies start to enforce mandates for inoculation against COVID-19. In the latest high-profile example, Washington State University (WSU) fired its head football coach and four of his assistants on Monday for failing to comply with the state's vaccine requirement. The coach, Nick Rolovich, had applied for a religious exemption from the mandate earlier this month.
Canada to require COVID-19 vaccinations for federal lawmakers, some MPs to miss out
Canada's House of Commons will require all 338 lawmakers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when they return to work next month, potentially locking out some members of parliament from the official opposition Conservatives. Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau narrowly won re-election last month, saying he would insist on vaccine mandates for federal workers, people traveling domestically, and his own candidates.
All Australians to be offered Covid-19 booster jabs - as nation reaches 70% double dose rate
Mr Hunt would not confirm whether or not Australians will need to prove they've had a third jab in order to travel internationally. 'I will follow medical advice on that and I won't speculate on passports. That is very much medical question with the science to flow over the coming months,' he said. It comes as Australia achieves the 'key milestone' of a 70 per cent double vaccination rate in over 16s. Professor Kelly said he would wait for further scientific advice before deciding the timeframe between second and third doses.
Serbia introduces COVID-19 passes for indoor cafes and restaurants
Serbia will make a COVID-19 "health pass" mandatory for access to restaurants, cafes and bars in the evenings, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said on Wednesday, as the country struggles with persistently high numbers of coronavirus infections. As of Oct. 23, people who want to visit indoor cafes, hotels and restaurants after 10 p.m., will need to show a pass - a digital or paper certificate showing someone has been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from the virus. Serbia, which has a population of 6.7 million, is struggling with a daily average of around 6,000 cases of COVID-19. So far, it has reported over 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,214 deaths.
Bulgaria makes COVID 'health pass' obligatory for leisure activities
Bulgaria will make a COVID-19 "Green Certificate" mandatory for indoor access to restaurants, cinemas, gyms and shopping malls, the health minister said on Tuesday, as the country struggles with a rising number of coronavirus infections. The health pass - a digital or paper certificate showing someone has been vaccinated, tested negative or recently recovered from the virus - was originally conceived to ease travel among European Union states. As of Oct. 21, people who want to visit indoor public spaces including cafes, hotels, concert halls, museums and swimming pools should show such a health pass, interim Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov told reporters
Melbourne welcomes vaccinated Sydney residents without quarantine
Travel restrictions between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's largest cities, eased on Wednesday as Victoria opened its borders to fully vaccinated residents from New South Wales amid a rapid rise in immunisation levels. With cases trending lower in New South Wales, including Sydney, residents will be allowed quarantine-free entry into Victoria for the first time in more than three months. Travellers from Melbourne who wish to enter Sydney, however, must undergo a two-week home quarantine.
NYC requiring vaccine for cops, firefighters, city workers
New York City will require its entire municipal workforce to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, an ultimatum that ensures a fight with some unions representing employees, including police officers and firefighters, who have refused the shots. The Democrat gave approximately 46,000 unvaccinated city employees until Nov. 1 to get their first vaccine dose, and he offered an incentive: City workers who get a shot by Oct. 29 at a city-run vaccination site will get an extra $500 in their paycheck. “My job as your mayor is to keep this city safe, keep this city healthy. And vaccination is the way,” he said.
Community Activities
Hundreds protest against Bulgaria's COVID health pass
Hundreds of anti-vaccine protesters joined some political leaders in Sofia on Wednesday to demonstrate against Bulgaria's decision to make a COVID-19 "Green Certificate" mandatory for access to restaurants, theatres and shopping malls. The interim health ministry announced the move on Tuesday to try to slow a surge in infections and deaths in the European Union's least vaccinated country.
Restricting travel over vaccine type could be discrimination, PAHO warns
Countries should grant entry to vaccinated travelers regardless of which shot they received to prevent discrimination and facilitate business, a top official of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday. With vaccination rates on the rise, countries are facing fresh questions about how to contain the spread of COVID-19 while easing pandemic travel restrictions. The United States last week said it would reopen the land border with Mexico - the busiest in the world - but only allow people who have been inoculated with vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO), leaving out two shots heavily used in Mexico - Russia's Sputnik V and one from China's Cansino Biologic
They take an oath to do no harm, but these doctors are spreading misinformation about the Covid vaccine
She was a frequent guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show -- an Ivy League-educated OB-GYN who often spoke about women's health and holistic medicine. She was a media darling, and in 2013 made Reader's Digest's annual list of 100 most trusted people in America. If you go to Dr. Christiane Northrup's Facebook page, her posts dispensing advice on health and aging to her 558,000 followers seem consistent with that persona of several years ago. But Northrup also uses her Facebook page to direct followers to Telegram, where another side of her is apparent. Here, on this platform with lax moderation, lies a miasma of misinformation and conspiracy theories. "Best Explanation I've Seen About Why the Covid Jabs Are Killer Shots," reads one post that she shared.
Working Remotely
Article: Remote work and online learning can spread the opportunity of economic recovery: Raghav Gupta, Coursera
Today, there are three broad trends that are at play. Firstly, remote work is not going away after the pandemic and we will see more and more hybrid work being adopted. Secondly, as skills change due to digitization and technology, all working professionals like us need to learn these new skills. The pandemic has forced everybody to get used to online learning. All of this is opening new opportunities for individuals irrespective of where they are located. And for the company, the reverse is also true. It does not need to limit the talent that it wants to attract within one hour of its offices. The entire region becomes its talent pool. Thus remote work and online learning can spread the opportunity of economic recovery of the country a lot.
Most businesses are wrong: Hybrid and remote work are better for innovation, not worse
Fear of losing their innovative edge pushes many leaders to reject hybrid and virtual work arrangements. Yet extensive research shows that hybrid and remote teams can gain an innovation advantage and outcompete in-person teams by adopting best practices for innovation, such as virtual brainstorming. What explains this discrepancy between leadership beliefs and scientific evidence?
Virtual Classrooms
Is the Metaverse Finally Emerging?
The web is constantly evolving. Emerging now is a more immersive 3-D environment that features augmented reality, virtual reality and persistent connections. It is called the metaverse, and it may transform online learning. Where will higher education be located in the emerging metaverse? Will colleges and universities host their own “islands” of campuses? Will virtual megamalls of storefronts offer certificates and certifications hosted by a plethora of institutions? Will your institution be represented -- welcoming virtual students from around the real word to engage in 3-D learning around the clock? It is important that colleges and universities discuss the opportunities now.
Online learning platforms 'may become graduate talent brokers'
Corporations are increasingly keen on hiring learners straight from online learning platforms, edX business head claims.
Public Policies
As U.K. Covid Cases Surge, Israel Offers Lesson in Boosters
As Covid-19 cases soar again in the U.K., officials could look to a country that’s moved past a similar crisis for a possible roadmap. The search for answers in Israel may be useful, health experts say, because both countries were among the fastest in the world with their vaccination programs, yet were similarly quick to lift lockdown restrictions. And just as Israel experienced a spike in cases in June, so the U.K. is now, having just reported the biggest single daily jump in infections in three months. Israel’s response to its renewed outbreak was to roll out an aggressive booster program, a decision that appears to have quelled the worst of the outbreak within weeks.
U.K. Rules Out Another Lockdown Even With Cases on the Rise
The U.K. will not yet be bringing back restrictions to help curb Covid cases, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said, despite a surge in infections and a rise in hospitalizations and deaths. Javid put the onus on the general public to get vaccinated and behave responsibly, such as by wearing masks in crowded spaces, to avoid the need for further restrictive measures in the winter. He made the plea as he warned that new daily virus cases could rise to 100,000.
Poland to make COVID booster shots available to all adults
Poland is planning to make third doses of the coronavirus vaccine available to all adults "over the next few weeks", Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday. "Those over 18 who had their last dose at least six months ago will be able to get another dose," Morawiecki said in a Facebook post. The country reported more than 5,000 daily new infections on Thursday for the first time since May amidst a surging fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. readies plan to vaccinate kids ages 5-11 against COVID-19
The Biden administration on Wednesday outlined its plan to vaccinate millions of U.S. children ages 5 to 11 as soon as the COVID-19 shot is authorized for them, readying doses and preparing locations ahead of the busy holiday season. Unlike the mass vaccination centers used in the initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the White House said it is working to set up clinics in more than 100 children's hospital systems nationwide as well as doctor's offices, pharmacies and potentially schools.
South African regulator rejects Russia's COVID-19 vaccine
The South African drug regulator has rejected the Russia -made coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, citing some safety concerns the manufacturer wasn't able to answer. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, or SAHPRA, said in a statement Tuesday that the request for Sputnik V to be authorized could “not be approved at this time,” referring to past failed HIV vaccines that used a similar technology. A late-stage study published in the journal Lancet last year in more than 20,000 participants found that Sputnik V was safe and about 91% effective in preventing people from becoming severely ill with COVID-19.
Senegal logs zero new COVID-19 cases for first time since pandemic began
Senegal recorded zero new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday for the first time since the pandemic began, the health ministry said. The West African country had its worst wave of coronavirus in July, when it was recording more than 1,000 new cases a day. The health ministry has registered 73,875 cases and 1,873 deaths since the outbreak began. Sixteen patients are still under treatment, the ministry said. Senegal has been seen as a positive example of a country managing COVID-19 well despite limited resources.
Senate report recommends Bolsonaro face murder charge over handling of Covid-19
A draft report by lawmakers in Brazil has recommended that president Jair Bolsonaro be indicted on criminal charges for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic that led to thousand of deaths. More than 600,000 people have died due to the coronavirus or related complications in Brazil since the beginning of the pandemic. The country has had the second-highest death toll in the world, second only to the US. The 1,200-page Senate draft report said that Mr Bolsonaro was “principally responsible for the government’s errors committed during the Covid-19 pandemic” and accused him of acting against the advice of the health ministry.
Covid-19 Vaccine for Kids Ages 5-11 to Be Given at Pediatric Offices, Schools Once Authorized
In a step to extend the reach of its Covid-19 vaccination drive, the Biden administration is preparing to distribute shots to children at doctors’ offices, pharmacies and schools should federal regulators clear the inoculations for kids ages 5-11. The Biden administration said it has procured enough doses to vaccinate the nation’s children and will begin shipping supplies if and when the shots are cleared for use. Officials aim to have a plan in place as soon as young children are eligible in hopes of getting as many as possible vaccinated quickly. Rates of hospitalization among children are higher than earlier in the pandemic due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, and public-health authorities plan to offer shots in settings more familiar for children than the mass sites used for many adults. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration this month seeking emergency authorization of their vaccine.
Maintaining Services
Gates Foundation to spend $120 mln to speed access to generics of Merck COVID-19 pill
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said on Wednesday it would spend up to $120 million to kick-start development of generic versions of Merck & Co's (MRK.N) oral COVID-19 treatment to help ensure lower-income countries have equal access to the drug. The aim is to reduce the gap between when wealthy countries have access to the antiviral medicine, molnupiravir, and when the rest of the world can benefit from it. "To end this pandemic, we need to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live in the world, has access to life-saving health products," Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, said in a statement
Waning vaccine immunity helping drive up UK infections, suggesting herd immunity unreachable, say scientists
Waning immunity from vaccines is a key cause of rising infections – but it is not the only factor, scientists say. The number of new Covid infections recorded in the past week has increased by 16 per cent against a backdrop of falling immunity among those who received their second jab a few months or longer ago. A growing number of studies have found that immunity begins to fall within a few months, although jabs continue to provide good protection, especially from more severe cases.
As COVID-19 engulfs Romania, funeral homes struggle to keep up
As an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 fatalities engulfs Romania, funeral home owner Sebastian Cocos is struggling to source coffins and keep up with a faster pace of burials. But for him, nothing brings home the scale of what is currently the world's deadliest epidemic more than the mourners who keep returning. "There were families who buried up to four people in two weeks, and that is not easy," he told Reuters. Based in the central city of Ploiesti, Cocos is also president of a national funeral home association.
‘Vital’ at-home Covid pills could be given to vulnerable people this winter
Antiviral drugs that help to cut the risk of hospitalisation and death from Covid could be made available to vulnerable people this winter. It’s hoped the pills will be made available to the elderly and those with weakened immune systems who have recently tested positive for the virus or come into contact with an infected individual. Patients would take the drug at home, ideally before they fall ill. The antivirals, provided by Merck and Pfizer, have been secured in a government deal. But they will need to be approved for use by the UK’s medicines regulator before they are offered to patients via the NHS. Eddie Gray, chair of the antivirals taskforce, said the pills would help to support the NHS and the UK’s vaccination programme over the coming months, with infections and hospitalisations expected to further rise.
Premier League reveals 68% of players are fully vaccinated against Covid
The Premier League says that 68% of its players are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 after concerns over a lack of take-up. Estimates had earlier placed the number of double-jabbed players at less than 50%, with a number of managers, including Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp, calling on top-flight players to comply. The Premier League has released official figures for the first time, which show 81% have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The league said it would “continue to work with clubs to encourage vaccination among players and club staff”.
Tokyo aims to lift COVID-19 curbs on restaurants as cases fall - media
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is aiming to ease COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants next week as infections continue to decline, the Jiji news service said on Wednesday. The easing will be announced as early as Thursday and would apply to businesses that are certified as following anti-infection measures, Jiji reported, citing informed sources. Representatives for the Tokyo government did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters.
New Zealand's daily COVID-19 cases fall, some classrooms to reopen
Daily COVID-19 cases in New Zealand fell on Wednesday after a record jump the day before, with most infections still in Auckland as the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to affect the country's biggest city. Authorities reported 60 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, of which 56 were in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 2,158. There have been 28 deaths in total since the pandemic began and 43 people are currently hospitalised because of the virus.
Covid-19: More visits allowed to Northern Ireland care homes
Covid-19 visiting restrictions in care homes in Northern Ireland are being eased from Wednesday. Up to four people from no more than two households can now visit, with a maximum of four such visits per week allowed. However, the easing of restrictions may not fully apply if the care home has an active Covid-19 outbreak. The arrangements are set out in the Department of Health's Visiting With Care - A Pathway document. More clarity has been provided around visits from clergy, and further advice added around how residents can be facilitated to leave their care home.
Kenya Lifts COVID-19 Curfew as Infection Rates Ease, President Says | World News | US News
Kenya lifted a nationwide curfew on Wednesday that has been in place since March 2020 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced. The East African nation, which has a population of 54 million, has recorded 252,199 infections since the pandemic erupted and 5,233 COVID-19 deaths, health ministry data shows.
UK hospitals on the edge as government resists fresh COVID measures
Britain's health minister Sajid Javid on Wednesday resisted calls from doctors for a return of restrictions to halt a rising wave of COVID-19 infections, but gave a stark warning they would be brought back if people did not take up vaccination offers. Britain reported 223 new deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily figure since March, and cases are the highest in Europe, with nearly 50,000 new infections reported on Wednesday. The government's plan is to rely on vaccines and drugs to limit the impact of the virus this winter, instead of bringing in restrictions or any more lockdowns, having already shut the economy three times
Healthcare Innovations
NHS Chair Says Young May Be Infecting Old in U.K. Covid Surge
Amid concern that a new twist on the delta variant could be driving the current U.K. coronavirus surge, National Health Service chair David Prior said it’s more likely that school-aged children are infecting older people whose vaccine-induced immunity is on the wane. “It’s too early to say, but that’s what we think is the most likely explanation,” Prior said Tuesday evening in an interview at a Boston health conference. Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted on Sunday that “urgent research” was needed to determine if the new delta variant AY.4 -- which represents 8% of recently sequenced cases in the U.K. -- was more transmissible and better at evading immune defenses.
Trials find no benefit of interferon, colchicine in COVID hospital patients
New clinical trials detail the failure of two COVID-19 treatments—a combination of interferon beta-1a and remdesivir and the drug colchicine—to reduce death by 28 days, length of hospital stay, or risk of requiring invasive mechanical ventilation or dying in hospitalized adults.
Sex of the fetus influences the mother’s response to Covid-19 infection, new research shows
In two studies published Tuesday in Science Translational Medicine, the Boston-based research teams found that pregnant and lactating women mount robust antibody responses to both vaccination and infection. The encouraging data also came with some twists that offer intriguing new clues to one of the pandemic’s enduring mysteries: why Covid-19 hits male adults, children, and infants harder than females. “What’s striking here is that the mothers who are carrying male babies have much lower levels of antibodies to the coronavirus,” said Akiko Iwasaki, a virologist and immunologist at Yale University who was not involved in the study. “What’s interesting about that is it means that the sex of the baby can dictate how the mother responds to a viral infection.”