"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Oct 2021

Isolation Tips
Singapore extends restrictions after reporting highest single-day Covid-19 deaths
Singapore will extend its Covid-19 restrictions for another month after the city-state reported 18 new deaths from the disease on Wednesday, its highest number of the pandemic. In a news release Thursday, Singapore's Ministry of Health said current measures would be extended to November 21, to help contain case numbers, which rose by more than 3,800 on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, given the continuing pressures on our healthcare system, more time is needed for the situation to stabilise," the ministry said in its statement, adding hospitals were braced for "a sustained, heavy patient load." "(The ministry) is doing whatever we can to support and bolster the hospitals," the statement said.
Latvia is first country to reimpose lockdown in Europe’s new Covid wave
Latvia has announced a month-long Covid-19 lockdown after an unprecedented surge in infections, becoming the first country in Europe to reimpose far-reaching restrictions amid a new wave of cases in countries across the continent. The Baltic country has one of the highest rates of new Covid cases relative to population in the world, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after successfully keeping the virus at bay for months. “Our health system is in danger … The only way out of this crisis is to get vaccinated,” the prime minister, Krišjānis Kariņš, said on Monday evening at an emergency government meeting. He said the country’s low vaccination rate was to blame for the surge in hospital admissions.
Parts of northern China brace for more COVID-19 lockdowns and curbs
Parts of northern China are bracing for more COVID-19 curbs as a wave of cases raises concerns of a broader outbreak, with three areas enforcing lockdowns, some schools halting classes, and an aerospace firm delaying work on a rocket project. China reported 13 new domestically transmitted cases for Oct. 20, bringing the total number since Oct. 16 to 42, data from the National Health Commission (NHC) showed on Thursday.
Moscow to reintroduce lockdown measures from Oct. 28 to combat COVID-19 case surge
Moscow will reintroduce lockdown measures from Oct. 28 to combat surging COVID-19 cases, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Thursday, with all shops, bars and restaurants due to close, except those selling essential goods, such as supermarkets and pharmacies. President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday approved a nationwide week-long workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 and said regional leaders could introduce other measures at their discretion. Russia reported a record daily high of both coronavirus-related deaths and new COVID-19 infections on Thursday.
Melbourne readies to exit world's longest COVID-19 lockdown
Millions in Melbourne are readying to come out of the world's longest COVID-19 lockdown later on Thursday even as cases hover near record levels, with pubs, restaurants and cafes rushing to restock supplies before opening their doors. Since early August, residents in Australia's second-largest city have been in lockdown - their sixth during the pandemic - to quell an outbreak fuelled by the highly infectious Delta strain.
Hygiene Helpers
Relying on Covid vaccines won't be enough - face masks will help us cope in a difficult winter
With Covid-19 controls, it can feel like déjà vu, all over again. Covid-19 cases are on the rise, and the UK now has one of the highest rates in the world. Stress on the NHS is of real concern to many, resulting in calls from health chiefs for increased restrictions. The recent news that a sub-type of the delta variant appears to be spreading across England is a reminder that evolution may move the goalposts yet again, even though this particular sub-type does not appear to cause more serious disease and is not at this point considered a variant of concern. Adding to those concerns is considerable uncertainty regarding the possible impact that seasonal influenza and other respiratory infections may have on hospitals. A combination of even moderate levels of Covid-19 hospitalisations plus flu could result in a very difficult winter indeed. On the other hand, the impact of Covid-19 measures themselves means that the demands for a return to normalcy are strong, with re-implementation of any measures needing to be considered in light of the difficult trade-offs.
Covid-19 Herd Immunity Proves Elusive in U.K.
The U.K., in an experiment watched by the world, lifted most Covid-19 restrictions in the summer, wagering that immunity from vaccinations and prior infections would keep the virus at bay. Three months later, the British experience shows that, in the face of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, herd immunity is elusive. Covid-19 cases and deaths have risen in recent weeks as winter has begun to close in. The bottom line: Reliance on immunity, which is imperfect to begin with and wanes over time, doesn’t guarantee a quick victory over Delta. Lifting restrictions “was done on the hope that the vaccinations and natural immunity were going to win pretty quickly,” said Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London. “What it’s shown is that that alone doesn’t work.”
Feature: Pakistani experts call for safety measures adherence, aggressive vaccination drive to beat back COVID-19
Talha Hashmi, a medical practitioner at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital in Rawalpindi, has spent comparatively quiet and peaceful days at his workplace as fears of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic subside in Pakistan with a substantial decrease in the number of new daily infections recently. Hashmi said there were times when he was working extra hours and night shifts in the isolation ward of the hospital reserved for COVID-19 patients after the outbreak. "It was extremely challenging for us (healthcare workers). It was not only the deadly virus we were fighting, but also the fear and anxiety surrounding the disease as health experts were not sure how it behaves exactly due to its novelty... and there was no vaccine, inciting severe panic among people." "Hospitals were overwhelmed with coronavirus patients throughout the country. There was a chaotic situation. At one point, my hospital even stopped taking more patients due to the unavailability of beds and shortage of oxygen. Turning down patients who needed urgent medical assistance was the most painful and unforgettable moment of my life," Hashmi said.
Three in five Australian GPs say vaccine rollout changes among biggest Covid challenges
Almost three out of five GPs reported managing patient expectations about vaccinations to be one of the most challenging issues of the pandemic, with multiple changes to vaccine eligibility requirements leaving many people confused and overwhelmed, the president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Karen Price, said. In her foreword to the college’s Health of the Nation report, published on Thursday, Price said: “Unfortunately, some of these patients took their frustrations out on general practice staff”. “Differing eligibility requirements across jurisdictions added to the strain.”
More people are getting boosters than new Covid-19 vaccinations. And others could soon become eligible for an additional shot
The number of people in the US looking to boost their Covid-19 vaccinations has surpassed the tally of those looking to begin them as booster doses from more drug makers may soon be available. There are 1.3 times as many boosters administered each day compared with first shots, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. And the number could grow, as the CDC's vaccine advisory committee prepares to meet Thursday to discuss booster doses for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as well as mixing and matching boosters and original doses among the drug makers.
Community Activities
Covid: Nicola Sturgeon urged to challenge UK Gov's vaccine 'selfishness'
Nicola Sturgeon has a “duty” to challenge the UK Government over its “staggeringly selfish” stance on providing coronavirus vaccines to poorer nations, campaigners have said. Scottish members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance made the plea to the First Minister as global leaders, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, prepare to take part in the G20 summit in Rome. A new report for the organisation claims that of 1.8 billion Covid vaccine doses that have been promised by richer nations, only 261 million jabs – 14% – have actually been delivered. The Dose of Reality report also said the UK Government had taken 500,000 doses from the Covax programme, a worldwide initiative aimed at ensuring fair access to vaccination.
Only 14% of promised Covid vaccine doses reach poorest nations
Only one in seven Covid vaccine doses promised to the world’s poorest countries have been delivered, a report reveals. Of 1.8bn doses pledged by wealthy nations, just 261m (14%) have arrived in low-income countries, according to the analysis by the People’s Vaccinealliance, a coalition of groups that includes Oxfam, ActionAid and Amnesty International. Nearly a year after vaccines first became available, only 1.3% of people living in the poorest parts of the world are fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated players face being barred after AFL issues Covid-19 jab mandate
All AFL and AFLW players will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by mid-February or they will be barred from playing and training. The AFL has released its long-awaited vaccination policy, with clubs to ultimately determine action on staff who do not receive the jab. If players do not have a medical exemption, there will be options to transfer them to the inactive list, pay them no less than 25% of their contracted salary, or agree to part ways. The AFL’s vaccination schedule will be rolled out across three stages, but all players will be required to have the jab eventually.
WHO estimate: 115,000 health workers have died from Covid-19, as calls for vaccine access grow
Some 115,000 health care workers died from Covid-19 from January 2020 to May of this year, according to a new World Health Organization estimate, as the agency pushed once again for efforts to address vaccine inequity. Globally, 2 in 5 health care workers are fully vaccinated, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing Thursday. But, he added, “that average masks huge differences across regions and economic groupings.” In most high-income countries, more than 80% of health care workers are fully vaccinated, Tedros said. But in Africa, the rate is less than 1 in 10. “The backbone of every health system is its workforce — the people who deliver the services on which we rely at some point in our lives,” Tedros said. “The pandemic is a powerful demonstration of just how much we rely on health workers and how vulnerable we all are when the people who protect our health are themselves unprotected.”
Brazil’s Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity over COVID
A Brazilian Senate report has recommended pursuing crimes against humanity and other charges against President Jair Bolsonaro over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 66-year-old leader quickly rejected the accusations on Wednesday, insisting that he was “guilty of nothing”. More than 600,000 people in Brazil have died from COVID-19, the second-highest death toll in the world after the United States. The decision to proceed with the charges will depend on Brazil’s prosecutor-general, a Bolsonaro appointee and ally. Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the threat of COVID-19 and touted misinformation and unproven treatments while ignoring international health guidelines on mask use and public activity.
Working Remotely
Rural digital hubs popular among remote workers
The way people work has radically changed during the course of the pandemic, with thousands of people working from home, and many living in remote areas working from shared space in rural digital hubs. But for some time, large employers in bigger industrial and technological companies have been working on strategies about how they will work in the future, harvesting the lessons, both beneficial and negative, they have learned from the pandemic. Rural digital hubs have provided huge advantages for remote workers living in remote areas where broadband services are not up to the speeds required to work and communicate successfully.
Covid means remote workers can live anywhere. So where's 'anywhere'?
In spring 2020, just as the first Covid-19 surge was peaking and businesses, schools, and whole countries were shutting down, a young couple named Elizabeth and Anton made a bold move. Little did they know it would put them in the vanguard of a pandemic-enabled geographic dispersion that demographers, economists, employers, developers and local governments are still figuring out. “Remote work is the biggest shift in the nature of work in decades,” says the University of Toronto’s Florida. “It gives some workers more flexibility. And in these cases it shifts the balance of power from companies to workers.” And, to various degrees, from New York to upper New England and the Hudson Valley, from the Bay Area to Boise and Billings. In this way, the world is becoming flatter; remote work is leveling the field of opportunity.
Virtual Classrooms
Navigating online education post-pandemic: advice for colleges
The landscape for digital learning has changed dramatically since Robert Ubell published Going Online in 2016: an explosion in outsourcing to online program managers, intensifying competition between would-be cheaters and technologies designed to thwart them -- oh, and a global pandemic that turned almost every student into an online learner and every professor into a technologist. In a new book, Staying Online: How to Navigate Digital Higher Education, Ubell, vice dean emeritus of online learning at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, brings together his writings in Inside Higher Ed and other publications about a wide range of topics.
Public Policies
Rise in Cases and Deaths Tests Britain’s Gamble on Few Virus Restrictions
For the last four months, Britain has run a grand epidemiological experiment, lifting virtually all coronavirus restrictions, even in the face of a high daily rate of infections. Its leaders justified the approach on the grounds that the country’s rapid rollout of vaccines had weakened the link between infection and serious illness. Now, with cases, hospital admissions and deaths all rising again; the effect of vaccines beginning to wear off; and winter looming, Britain’s strategy of learning to live with the virus is coming under its stiffest test yet. New cases surpassed 50,000 on Thursday, an 18 percent increase over the last week and the second time cases have broken that psychological barrier since July. The number of people admitted to hospitals rose 15.4 percent over the same period, reaching 959, while 115 people died of Covid-19, an increase of almost 11 percent.
India delivers 1 billion Covid vaccines, but millions are yet to receive a single dose
India has administered more than 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses, a remarkable feat just months after a second wave of infection killed thousands of people across the country. But as India celebrated passing the milestone on Thursday, some experts warned the pandemic threat was not over -- in a nation of 1.3 billion, millions of people are yet to receive any dose at all. So far, India has fully vaccinated just 30% of its adult population and given one dose to 74%, according to India's Ministry of Health on October 16. Those statistics don't include children under 18 who make up 41% of India's population and aren't yet eligible for the jab. But even as India races to fully vaccinate its adult population, the country is opening up and exporting millions of vaccine doses. On Friday, the first foreign tourists arrived in the country after an almost 18-month pause, and within the country millions are traveling to celebrate various festivals, with movement expected to increase in November during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights."
U.S. coronavirus vaccine donations reach 200 mln doses
The United States, under pressure to share its coronavirus vaccine supply with the rest of the world, has now donated 200 million doses to more than 100 countries, the White House announced on Thursday. President Joe Biden has faced some criticism from other world leaders for offering vaccine booster shots in the United States at a time when many people around the world have not received their first shot. In recent weeks, the United States has stepped up its donations. Biden told Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last week that the United States will make a one-time donation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union.
CDC Panel Endorses Moderna and J.&J. Boosters for Millions
In a sweeping victory for the Biden administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines for tens of millions of Americans. The decision follows an agency endorsement last month of booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and opens the door for many Americans to seek out a booster shot as early as Friday. The coronavirus vaccines “are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating Delta variant,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the C.D.C. said in a statement on Thursday night.
Maintaining Services
NHS Wales chief executive on Covid-19, winter, and whether restrictions could be reintroduced
The chief executive of the Welsh NHS has laid bare the significant challenges facing the health and social care system this winter. Dr Andrew Goodall, who is set to leave his role at the end of October, said the coming months could prove to be the most difficult in the careers of many frontline staff. His comments come following the publication of the NHS winter plan which focuses on protecting people against Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses while trying to cope with mounting demand for elective and emergency care. We sat down with Dr Goodall at the Welsh Government's offices in Cathays Park to talk about some of the biggest issues facing the Welsh NHS and how the plan will help.
Pharmacists call to be involved in Covid-19 booster vaccine rollout
The chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has said that there are no plans to extend the vaccine booster programme to the under-40s “any time soon”, but that it will go ahead for vulnerable groups. There was not any evidence about waning immunity for young people and that included healthcare workers, he said. The issue would remain under review by the National Immunisation Advisory committee (Niac). Speaking on he told RTÉ radio’s Today show Dr Holohan denied that he was “anti” antigen tests. “It’s not the test I dislike, it’s how it’s applied.” “Our nearest neighbours, the UK, are probably the most prolific users of antigen tests, and have the greatest challenge in terms of infection that the Western world has seen”, he said. Dr Holohan said he was particularly concerned about cases where parents were using the tests when they had symptomatic children and when there was a negative result they then sent the children to school.
Covid Scotland: Tenfold increase in vaccine wastage rate
In April, some 0.3 per cent of vaccine stock was wasted. This figure increased to 2.5 per cent in July, and 3.2 per cent in September. In total over 60,000 doses have been thrown away since April. This figure does not include wastage at GP surgeries or in vaccine clinical trials. The top reason for doses being discarded in September (46 per cent) was excess stock, meaning vaccinators coming to the end of a shift or job and having surplus vaccines, which cannot be used or returned to storage. The second most common reason was doses expiring (44 per cent). Some vaccine wastage is accepted as inevitable during a large-scale vaccine rollout, and the programme has so far kept below the Scottish Government target of 5 per cent wastage.
Schools should stay open as greatest risk of Covid transmission is in households, research finds
Despite Delta being more transmissible than earlier Covid-19 variants, in Australia few children and adolescents who get the virus have severe symptoms, and schools should only be closed under exceptional circumstances, a research analysis from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has found. However, the analysis reveals children and adolescents living with some pre-existing health conditions, including obesity, and those living in disadvantage, low socioeconomic communities or those with minority ethnic status have an increased risk of severe disease. The analysis also said ventilation is important and mental health surveillance is needed across both primary and secondary schools.
Opinion | Will Covid Really Change the Way We Work?
The U.S. economy is in the throes of what’s been called the Great Resignation: Workers are quitting their jobs at or near the highest levels on record since tracking began in 2001. The attrition is particularly acute in the hospitality sectors, but it isn’t limited to low-wage industries. As of August, more than 10 million jobs sat open, causing businesses to reduce their hours and change how they operate. As my colleague David Leonhardt has said, what the economy is now experiencing is not a labor shortage so much as it is a shortage of workers who are willing to accept the terms employers are used to offering them. “It’s like the whole country is in some kind of union renegotiation,” Betsey Stevenson, a University of Michigan economist who was an adviser to President Barack Obama, told The Times. “I don’t know who’s going to win in this bargaining that’s going on right now, but right now it seems like workers have the upper hand.”
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Booster Shot Was 95.6% Effective in Large Trial, Companies Say
A third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc.and BioNTech SE was found in a large study to be highly protective against symptomatic Covid-19, the companies said Thursday. Researchers found 109 cases of symptomatic Covid-19 among study subjects who received a placebo shot, compared with five cases in people who took the vaccine, resulting in 95.6% efficacy, the companies said. The additional dose was safe and tolerable, and consistent with what was known about the vaccine, the companies said. The study was carried out while the highly contagious Delta variant was prevalent, the companies said, suggesting the booster helps protect against the contagious strain.
Pfizer vaccine 90% effective in warding off COVID in adolescents
The Pfizer vaccine is highly effective against preventing coronavirus in adolescents, a new Israeli study published overnight Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine showed. The research, which focused on youth between the ages of 12 and 18, was carried out by Clalit Health Services. It found that the vaccine was 90% effective against warding off infection and 93% effective against stopping symptomatic infection on days seven to 21 after the second dose, even against the Delta variant.
EU decision on Russia's Sputnik V shot 'impossible' this year - source
The EU drug regulator is unlikely to decide whether to approve Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine until at least the first quarter of 2022 because some data needed for the review is still missing, a source with knowledge of the matter said. "An EMA decision by the end of the year is now absolutely impossible," the source said, referring to the European Medicines Agency. If the required data is received by the end of November, "then the regulators may well decide in the first quarter of next year", he said.
U.S. FDA clears Moderna, J&J COVID-19 boosters, backs use of different vaccine for boost
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, and said Americans can choose a different shot from their original inoculation as a booster. That means all three vaccines authorized in the United States can also be given as boosters to some groups. "The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease," acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement. She noted that data suggests vaccine effectiveness may wane over time in some fully vaccinated people.
UK adds nerve disorder as rare side-effect of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
The UK drug regulator added an extremely rare nerve-damaging disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), as a very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, updates on the agency's website showed on Thursday. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency's (MHRA) decision comes after the European medicines agency added GBS as a possible side-effect last month