"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 29th Oct 2021

Isolation Tips
Moscow locks down as Russian COVID-19 deaths surge to new highs
The Russian capital brought in its strictest COVID-19 related lockdown measures in more than a year on Thursday as nationwide one-day pandemic deaths and infections hit new highs amid slow vaccination take-up across the world's biggest country. Moscow's partial lockdown, in which only essential shops like pharmacies and supermarkets are allowed to remain open and schools and state kindergartens are shut, comes ahead of a week-long nationwide workplace shutdown from Oct. 30
Hygiene Helpers
Israel Needs More Jabs, Tourist Safeguards to Avoid Fifth Covid Wave
Israel must do more to break down vaccine resistance and implement tougher safeguards as foreign tourists start returning next month, or risk a fifth Covid-19 wave, public health experts are warning. The increasingly urgent calls will be closely monitored worldwide as Israel has often been ahead of the curve in handling the coronavirus, from sweeping restrictions and vaccine programs to renewed outbreaks as its economy reopened. It’s in the vanguard again with the world’s first widespread booster program, which dramatically brought down a surge in cases generated by the delta variant, but it’s being warned of another critical juncture ahead.
EU gives go-ahead to NHS Covid pass as proof of full vaccination
All remaining countries on England’s travel “red list” will be removed and vaccines from at least a dozen more countries are to be recognised, ministers are expected to announce in a significant opening up of borders. The move, which the Guardian understands was signed off at a meeting on Thursday afternoon, means no passengers arriving in England will have to quarantine in a hotel at a cost of more than £2,000. However, the red list system will not be abandoned entirely, and countries may be added again in future if concerning new variants emerge.
News Corp Australia to introduce Covid vaccine mandate for staff
News Corp Australia will not allow anyone who is not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter its buildings next year, joining other big employers including Coles, the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas that have mandated vaccines for staff. Nine Entertainment, publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, is expected to unveil a similar vaccination mandate for its workplaces by 1 December. The News Corp ban on the non-vaccinated will apply to its Holt Street, Surry Hills headquarters, as well as state-based newspapers across the country, Sky News Australia and Foxtel.
White House signals flexibility over Dec. 8 vaccine deadline
The Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccination deadline will not require immediate action on the part of employers against unvaccinated employees when it comes into force on Dec. 8, the White House coronavirus response coordinator said on Wednesday. Some lawyers previously interpreted President Joe Biden's Sept. 9 executive order and subsequent White House guidance requiring all covered federal contractor employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8 unless they got a religious or medical exemption.
Hungary to require COVID-19 vaccinations at state institutions
Hungary's government will require employees at state institutions to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after a jump in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff told a briefing on Thursday. Gergely Gulyas also said that private company employers will also be empowered to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for employees if they believe that is necessary and mask wearing will be mandatory on public transport from November 1.
As ‘test to stay’ gears up nationwide, Massachusetts’ ‘rocky’ rollout raises questions
Massachusetts is drawing praise and even imitation for its “test-to-stay” approach to keep kids in school during the Covid-19 pandemic. But the realities of the policy’s implementation have been less than rosy, overburdening school nurses and requiring the National Guard be sent in to counter personnel shortages. Test to stay allows students to attend in-person classes and partake in extracurricular activities provided they test negative every day — an option aimed at keeping more kids in class, more often. In other states, many schools are choosing to quarantine all students who come into close contact with someone who tests positive, which has amounted to tens of thousands of missed days of school for people who have not been infected with the virus. The approach has been heralded as a “success” and a “simple solution.” This month, there are even some indications that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will endorse test to stay. On Oct. 13, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a press briefing that the agency was working with states to evaluate test to stay as a “promising potential new strategy for schools,” and that guidance would be forthcoming.
Beijing city mandates COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for some workers
Beijing city is demanding a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot for some key workers, making it the first key Chinese metropolis to publicly articulate a booster mandate, as the country combats a fresh outbreak caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant. Having vaccinated about 76% of its 1.41 billion population with complete doses as of Oct. 23, China is pushing eligible people to get an additional injection, in a bid to strengthen immunity. Key workers for construction sites, including cooks, security guards and cleaning personnel, can only be hired if they have received a booster dose, Ding Sheng, vice director at Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said on Thursday.
Community Activities
Covid Vaccination Rates: How Black Doctors Increased Shots in Philadelphia
Earlier this year, Philadelphia’s partnership with the student-led group Philly Fighting Covid Inc. abandoned testing sites in Black neighborhoods. It seemed like the latest affront in a long legacy of racism that has fueled distrust in the medical system, dating back to the infamous Tuskegee experiments in the 1930s. But Philadelphia, after a slow start, is closing out the year with one of the highest Black vaccination rates in a major U.S. city. In Philadelphia, 54% of Black citizens are now vaccinated. That puts it at the top of a group of the country’s 10 most Black cities, with populations of 500,000 or more and with Black people making up anywhere from 77% to 28% of the population. (The country’s second-largest city, Los Angeles, has vaccinated 55% of its Black residents, but they’re just 8% of the population.)
NYPD Has 10000 Unvaccinated Officers as Mandate Deadline Approaches
Nearly a third of New York Police Department cops are unvaccinated against Covid-19 ahead of the city’s Friday deadline. The Police Benevolent Association, which represents 24,000 cops in the most populous U.S. city, said 10,000 of the roughly 35,000 uniformed NYPD officers have not gotten the shot. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio eliminated the test-out option and said all city employees must receive their first vaccine dose by Oct. 29 or face unpaid leave. The union is fighting the mandate in court, but a judge has refused to block it in the meantime. It’s not clear what effect the drop in staff will have on the operations of the nation’s largest police force, but de Blasio on Thursday sought to assure New Yorkers they will be safe.
Working Remotely
Most Canadians want to keep flexible workplace, but many worry remote work will hinder career: survey
Canadians are eager to make remote work part of their post-pandemic lives, but many are concerned that being away from the office will limit their career opportunities, according to a new study. In a survey conducted by Angus Reid for Cisco Canada, nearly half of the 1,012 respondents — 46 per cent — expect those who go back to in-person work will have more opportunities for career growth than those who continue to work remotely. That concern is even more pronounced among younger employees, with 56 per cent of those in the 18-34 age range worried about the impact on their career.
What do US job seekers want? Higher pay and remote work
Thanks to the massive disruptions wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, workers in the United States are in the best position in decades to pick and choose the jobs they want. And increasingly, they’re interested in working for employers who are offering fatter paycheques and opportunities to work remotely. That’s the finding of the inaugural Relative Job Seeker Interest metric from job-hunting site Indeed. The metric, which captures the kind of positions workers are looking at, reveals the kind of businesses that are falling out of favour – and in favour – with job hunters.
Remote-first work is taking over the rich world
Most office workers remain steadfastly “remote-first”, spending most of their paid time out of the office. Even though a large share of people have little choice but to physically go to work, 40% of all American working hours are still now spent at home. In mid-October American offices were just over a third full, suggest data from Kastle Systems, a security firm. From Turin to Tokyo, commercial areas of cities remain substantially quieter, compared with pre-covid norms, than residential ones. Economists are trying to work out what all this means for productivity.
Virtual Classrooms
The upside to long-term online teaching: one size seldom fits all
Lawrence Tubb, headmaster at Minerva’s Virtual Academy, writes about the various reasons why online teaching works for some children: "Speaking from experience, most children that choose to be educated online do so because traditional school simply doesn’t work for them. We are all aware of the need to nurture every child individually and when it comes to elements such as pace of learning, speed of attainment and of course mental wellbeing, there are a number of grey areas."
Public Policies
New Zealand to start easing COVID-19 border restrictions
New Zealand said on Thursday it would ease coronavirus border restrictions that have been in place since March 2020, and move to a system of home isolation for fully vaccinated overseas arrivals from early next year. The country was the among the first to shut down its borders in response to the pandemic last year, and has retained these tough border restrictions - leaving many expatriate citizens and residents stranded for months.
UK reports 43941 more COVID-19 cases, 207 further deaths
Britain on Wednesday reported 43,941 more cases of COVID-19 and 207 further deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official data.
WHO, partners seek $23.4 bln for new COVID-19 war chest
The World Health Organization (WHO) and other aid groups on Thursday appealed to leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies to fund a $23.4 billion plan to bring COVID-19 vaccines, tests and drugs to poorer countries in the next 12 months. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Group of 20, whose leaders are meeting in Rome at the weekend, had the political and financial power needed to end the pandemic by funding the plan, which he said could save five million lives. The latest update of the so-called Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), until September 2022, is expected to include use of an experimental oral antiviral pill made by Merck & Co (MRK.N) for treating mild and moderate cases
Pfizer gets U.S. contract for 50 mln COVID-19 vaccine doses for kids
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said on Thursday they expect to deliver 50 million more doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. government by April-end, as the country prepares to vaccinate children. The move comes after a panel of outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted on Tuesday to recommend its authorization for the vaccine in children aged 5 to 11. The agency's decision on the vaccine for the age group is awaited. If authorized and subsequently recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) advisory panel, the companies said they expect to then begin shipping the vaccine immediately, in 10 microgram pediatric doses, as directed by the U.S. government.
Maintaining Services
India's Optimus Pharma seeks approval to produce generic Merck COVID-19 pill
Indian bulk drugs manufacturer Optimus Pharma is seeking domestic regulatory approval to produce a generic version of Merck & Co's oral COVID-19 treatment molnupiravir, the company's top executive told Reuters on Thursday. If granted emergency use approval, the company could scale up production to 80 million capsules a month and is targeting a price of 40 cents per capsule, said D. Srinivasa Reddy, managing director at the Hyderabad-based company.
Covid-19: global vaccine production is a mess and shortages are down to more than just hoarding
In March 2021 drug manufacturers predicted that 12 billion doses of covid-19 vaccine, enough to fully immunise at least 70% of the world’s population, could be manufactured by the end of the year.1 That assessment was confirmed in September in a report by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations,2 though it also warned that “most doses in the production queue are already allocated” to high income countries. At the time of writing, only 1.3% of people in low income countries have received their jabs. Seventy countries have yet to vaccinate 10% of their populations, and 30 countries—including much of Africa—have vaccinated fewer than 2%.3 In Latin America, only one in four of the population has received a dose of covid vaccine.
Sixty million vaccine doses to be made on Teesside if regulator gives approval
Sixty million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine will be produced on Teesside if approval is given by the UK's medicine regulator. The manufacturer has submitted final data on the vaccine to the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) - and anticipates a "positive decision". If successful, it would mean all 60 million doses of the vaccine Britain has ordered would be produced by Fujifilm in Billingham. Stanley Erck, Novavax president, said: "This submission brings Novavax significantly closer to delivering millions of doses of the first protein-based Covid-19 vaccine, built on a proven, well-understood vaccine platform that demonstrated high efficacy against multiple strains of the coronavirus." According to the results of a phase three trial, announced in March, the jab offers 100% protection against severe disease, including all hospital admission and death.
India: over 100 million people fail to turn up for second Covid vaccine
More than 100 million Indians have not turned up for their second coronavirus vaccine dose, official data showed, raising concerns of a resurgence in the disease despite a relatively low infection rate. Apart from leaving these people at risk of catching Covid-19, their “vaccine truancy” endangers India’s target of inoculating all adults by 31 December, a target that is in any case unlikely to be met owing to the earlier shortage of vaccines at the start of the inoculation campaign. “We have seen this complacency with tuberculosis patients. They start taking the drugs and after a few weeks, they feel better so they stop even though they have to take them for six months,” said Bhavna Dewan, a health worker in Nainital. “It’s a similar mentality with the vaccine. I’m sure they feel one dose is enough because no one is falling ill.”
Exclusive: Tens of millions of J&J COVID-19 shots sit at Baltimore factory
An estimated 30 million to 50 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) COVID-19 vaccine made early this year sits idle in Emergent BioSolutions Inc's plant in Baltimore awaiting a green light from U.S. regulators to ship, two sources familiar with the matter said. Emergent, a contract drug manufacturer, is waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve release of those doses. The agency must still inspect and authorize the plant before Emergent can ship newly manufactured drug substance, one of the sources said.
EU set to produce over 3.5 billion COVID vaccine doses in 2022 - chief executive
The European Union will produce more than 3.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines next year, the head of the bloc's excutive, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said on Thursday. She added that the majority of these vaccines will be shipped abroad.
Healthcare Innovations
Delta Variant Is Spread by Vaccinated and Unvaccinated People Alike, Study Shows
People inoculated against Covid-19 are just as likely to spread the delta variant of the virus to contacts in their household as those who haven’t had shots, according to new research. In a yearlong study of 621 people in the U.K. with mild Covid-19, scientists found that their peak viral load was similar regardless of vaccination status, according to a paper published Thursday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal. The analysis also found that 25% of vaccinated household contacts still contracted the disease from an index case, while 38% of those who hadn’t had shots became infected.
WHO says seeks more data from Merck on COVID anti-viral, from Bharat on vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that it was seeking further data from Merck on its experimental new antiviral COVID-19 pill and hoped to issue guidance in coming weeks regarding its use for mild and moderate cases. "This is a drug that we are currently evaluating and we met with Merck on Friday to discuss data from their current clinical trials that are under way in other countries," WHO expert Maria van Kerkhove told a news conference where she was asked about Merck's molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
Most parents don't plan to vaccinate young children against Covid-19 right away, KFF survey finds
A Covid-19 vaccine could be available for little kids soon, and public health leaders say vaccinating them could help end the pandemic -- but only if parents actually get them vaccinated. A new survey suggests that's uncertain at best. The majority of parents say they will not get their younger children vaccinated right away, according to the survey published Thursday from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
90 per cent of people in Delhi have antibodies against Covid-19, says sero survey
More than 90 per cent of people in India’s capital city have developed antibodies against the coronavirus, according to a latest serological survey. A Delhi government official told the media: “We have found Covid antibodies in more than 90 per cent of the samples collected during the sixth round of the survey.” However, the official cautioned that “we cannot say Delhi has achieved herd immunity despite such a high level of seroprevalence.” Experts say this high level of seroprevalence indicates that Delhi might not suffer any devastating Covid waves anytime soon. But it all depends on whether any other variant of the virus emerges in the city, they cautioned.
Study: Nearly all severely allergic people tolerate COVID vaccines
While healthcare workers at a Boston healthcare system with severe allergies reported more reactions after receiving a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, nearly all were able to safely complete the series, according to an observational study yesterday in JAMA Network Open. Researchers at Mass General Brigham and Harvard Medical School mined the electronic health records of 52,998 employees, of whom 97.6% received both doses of vaccine, and 0.9% reported a history of high-risk allergy. The study period was Dec 14, 2020, to Feb 1, 2021. Participants completed a prevaccination allergy risk assessment and at least one postvaccination symptom survey during the 3 days after vaccination.