"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 1st Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
S.Korea eases curbs in first step toward 'living with COVID-19'
South Korea said on Friday it will drop all operating-hour curbs on restaurants and cafes and implement its first vaccine passport for high-risk venues such as gyms, saunas and bars, as it tries to "live with COVID-19". The first phase will go into effect on Monday and last for a month, officials said, with plans calling for all restrictions to be scrapped by February. "Beginning November 1, our community will take the first step of resuming our normal life," Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said at a televised government meeting. "However, we must be aware that this doesn't mean the fight against coronavirus is over, but a new beginning."
Hygiene Helpers
More NYC Workers Get Shots; Europe Starts Boosters: Virus Update
Vaccination rates among New York City’s police, fire and sanitation departments rose as workers faced possible suspension on Monday. The city is bracing for service gaps, with tens of thousands of essential public workers still not vaccinated under the mandate imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Vote, vaccinate and get vouchers: Government incentivises voter turnout
Voters who turnout to cast their ballot can also receive their Covid-19 vaccine and if they are over the age of 60, receive a R100 grocery voucher. Health Minister Joe Phaahla said in a media briefing on Friday that there would be 1 000 vaccination pop-ups at voting stations across the country. “We are very pleased with the partnership with which we've agreed on with the Independent Electoral Commission to vaccinate on election day. The sites will be set up in the voting precinct but outside the area demarcated strictly for voting so that the vaccination site will not interfere with the main purpose of the day,” he said. The vaccination pop-ups will mainly be set up in areas where the uptake of vaccination has not been very good up to now. The list of vaccination sites can be found on the SA Coronavirus website.
Denmark Will More Than Double Testing as Virus Numbers Rise
Denmark, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, will more than double its testing capacity after the number of virus infections has jumped in recent weeks. Denmark will increase so-called PCR tests to about 150,000 a day from currently 100,000 and will also re-introduce private quick-test facilities, which will be able handle about 100,000 tests daily, health authorities said in a statement on Friday.
Covid booster jabs offered a month earlier for UK care home residents
Care home residents and some vulnerable people will be able to get their Covid booster vaccine a month early, ministers have announced, in an effort to boost immunity during the winter. Currently the wait between second and third doses is six months, but medics will be able to decide to reduce it to five for care home residents and people who are housebound who are offered their flu jab at that point, so they can receive both vaccines together. For people who are about to receive immunosuppressive treatment that would hinder their immune system, the wait for a booster will be cut even further, to four months.
Community Activities
As COVID cases fall, Halloween brings more fun and less fear
Witches and warlocks, ghosts and ghouls can breathe a little easier this year: Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are generally on the decline, and trick-or-treaters can feel safer collecting candy. And while a new poll indicates Halloween participation is rebounding but still short of pre-pandemic levels, an industry trade group says people who are celebrating are driving record-level spooky spending this year. Sales of candy, costumes and décor are up at least 25% over last year and are predicted to set a new high, between $10 to $11 billion, said Aneisha McMillan, spokeswoman for the trade group Halloween and Costume Association.
Australia Covid-Zero Approach Changes as Borders, Travel Opens Up
Like many in Australia, Maherau Arona saw the coronavirus as a distant threat, at worst, long after it became a daily reality in most of the world. Following a month and a half of lockdown, the Sydney suburb where the 53-year-old social worker lives returned mostly to normal in May 2020. Protected by a hermetically sealed border, people there and in the rest of the country lived for the next year largely as they had before Covid-19. They could holiday on the beaches of Byron Bay and Noosa, pack into pubs and cafes, and even see Hamilton onstage. Few were in a hurry to get vaccinated, and the national government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, didn’t seem to view distributing shots as urgent. While there were some setbacks, including a surge of cases that threw Melbourne into a lengthy second lockdown, Australians essentially skipped the trauma that was transforming societies elsewhere.
Working Remotely
People with disabilities still face barriers finding work during the pandemic—here's how companies can help
For nearly 20 months, debates about the future of work have dominated meetings and Twitter feeds as the coronavirus pandemic upended every aspect of our jobs from commutes to office dress codes. These conversations continue to influence companies’ return-to-office plans and their remote work policies. But despite the pandemic taking a disproportionate toll on their job prospects and well-being, people with disabilities continue to be left out of many of these critical conversations.
Working from home more popular in the UK than anywhere else in Europe, data shows
While Britons have mostly ditched mask-wearing, social distancing and other Covid-19 precautions, analysis by i shows the UK has maintained higher levels of remote work than most of Europe. One aspect that may be among the most important, but is also hard to quantify, is the social acceptability of working from home. The government has publicly generally encouraged people to return to the office when Covid rates are low. However, the high levels of office avoidance and busy cafes and pubs may suggest that working remotely is more acceptable in the UK than in the rest of Europe
Virtual Classrooms
UK business schools set to heavily invest in edtech innovation following Covid-19 pandemic
Three quarters (75%) of Business School leaders say that their Schools are now using virtual classrooms – an increase from 51% at the end of 2020, according to the AMBA & BGA Education Technology Report. This report, based on a survey of 171 Business School leaders worldwide, tells the story of edtech in 2020 and 2021. In so doing, it reveals how Business Schools turned a crisis into an opportunity. Following a year in which Business Schools were pushed into enhancing their investments in edtech by the Covid-19 pandemic and associated restrictions, 84% of participants to this survey have indicated that they want their Business School to retain the new technology that has been introduced.
Nearly half of teenagers said the pandemic had a negative impact on their academics.
The pandemic has become the signature feature of high school for this cohort of adolescents. The forced isolation and lockdowns wrought havoc on teenage lives and shaped them in ways they will never forget. Against this backdrop, some teens struggled in school, many of them managing virtual classes with teachers who were learning on the fly. Students who were lucky enough to return to in-person classes still had to contend with being quarantined or having their schools shut down. But amid this doom and gloom, there was a silver lining: Some students actually liked remote learning. They preferred being home, or having the flexibility, or feeling less frantic about college. Students who felt chronically overscheduled finally had time to stop and breathe. For some, that space allowed them time to figure out who they were.
Kids who learned remotely felt they 'mattered less' than peers studying in-person, study suggests
A study of Canadian students suggests that children who learned remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic reported they felt they ‘mattered less’ than their peers who studied in-person. The researchers wrote that attention has been paid to the efficacy of online learning on the reduction of virus spread, its impact on learning loss and mental health, but not much consideration has been made to the social and emotional implications of the teaching approach for elementary and secondary students.
Public Policies
G20 rome leaders’ declaration
We, the Leaders of the G20, met in Rome on October 30th and 31st, to address today’s most pressing global challenges and to converge upon common efforts to recover better from the COVID-19 crisis and enable sustainable and inclusive growth in our Countries and across the world. As the premier forum for international economic cooperation, we are committed to overcoming the global health and economic crisis stemming from the pandemic, which has affected billions of lives, dramatically hampered progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and disrupted global supply chains and international mobility. With this in mind, we express our profound gratitude to the health and care professionals, frontline workers, international organizations and scientific community for their relentless efforts to cope with COVID-19.
G20 wants 70% of world vaccinated by mid-2022, sets up pandemic task force
Finance and health ministers from the world's 20 biggest economies (G20) said on Friday they would take steps to ensure 70% of the world's population is vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-2022 and created a task force to fight future pandemics. They could not reach agreement on a separate financing facility proposed by the United States and Indonesia, but said the task force would explore options for mobilising funds to boost pandemic preparedness, prevention and response.
No crowd surfing, orderly queues: Ireland lays down new COVID-19 rules
Crowd surfing will not be permitted at concerts in Ireland and nightclub goers must form a socially distanced queue to buy drinks, under new guidelines issued by the government for recently reopened venues. Irish nightclubs opened their doors for the first time since March 2020 last weekend, while theatres and concert venues also returned to full capacity as the government lifted most curbs that had made up one of Europe's toughest lockdown regimes.
Brazil senators back criminal charges against Bolsonaro
Brazilian Senate commission approved a damning report on Tuesday that recommends criminal charges be brought against President Jair Bolsonaro, including crimes against humanity, for his Covid policies. Seven of the panel's 11 senators voted to endorse the text – presented last week after a six-month investigation into Brazil's pandemic response – which also calls for the indictment of 77 other people, including several ministers and three of Bolsonaro's children. The nearly 1,200-page report also urges Brazil's Supreme Court to suspend the far-right leader's access to his accounts on social media platforms YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for falsely alleging that Covid-19 vaccines were linked to AIDS.
Seniors 70 and older, front-line health workers, people who got 2 AZ doses can be offered boosters, NACI says
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending COVID-19 booster shots for all adults 80 years of age and older, and is also opening the door for certain other groups who may be at increased risk of lowered protection over time since their initial vaccinations. "Populations at highest risk of waning protection following their primary series and at highest risk of severe COVID-19 illness should be offered a booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after completing their primary series," NACI's new guidance released Friday said, noting that seniors 80 years and older "should" be offered a booster shot.
First COVID-19 shot for young kids could get U.S. FDA authorization on Friday
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE coronavirus vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years, making it the first COVID-19 shot for young children in the United States. The shot will not be immediately available to the age group. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to advise on how the shot should be administered, which will be decided after a group of outside advisers discuss the plan on Tuesday.
U.S. Supreme Court rejects religious challenge to Maine vaccine mandate
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday turned away healthcare workers seeking a religious exemption to Maine's COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the latest battle over vaccination to reach the justices. The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, rejected a request made by nine unnamed plaintiffs who identified themselves as healthcare workers who object to receiving the shots on religious grounds. The court previously rejected challenges to vaccine mandates in New York and Indiana, though those cases did not involve religious objections. The justices were divided, with three conservative members saying they would have granted the request.
Malaysia to buy Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11
Malaysia said on Friday (Oct 29) it would proceed with the procurement of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children, following a United States expert panel's recommendation for the shot to be authorised for those aged five to 11. A panel of advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration voted on Tuesday to recommend the authorisation, saying the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks. The agency's decision is still pending. Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Twitter that other options, such as the vaccine made by China's Sinovac BioTech, would also be considered to ensure schools can reopen safely. About 62 per cent of teenagers aged between 12 and 17 in the South-east Asian country are fully vaccinated, government statistics showed on Friday.
Maintaining Services
Takeda eyeing early 2022 rollout of Novavax's COVID-19 shot in Japan - CEO
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, the Japanese partner for Novavax Inc's COVID-19 vaccine, is preparing to seek regulatory approval for a roll out in Japan early next year, its top executive said on Friday. Novavax delayed filing for U.S. approval to the end of this year, and Politico reported this month that the Maryland-based company has faced production and quality problems. The drugmaker filed for conditional authorisation to British regulators on Wednesday and with Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration on Friday
As vaccination mandate looms, New York prepares for shortage of firefighters, police
New York City officials on Friday were preparing for shortages of firefighters, police officers and other first responders as a showdown looms between the city and its unvaccinated uniformed workforce, who face a 5 p.m. deadline to be immunized. De Blasio, who announced the mandate nine days ago, said officials would manage any staffing gaps with overtime and schedule changes and by enlisting private ambulance companies to cover for the city's paramedics.
Singapore Turns F1 Pit Building Into Temporary Hospital for Covid Patients
Singapore’s large F1 pit building, normally used for the high-profile Grand Prix races that have been canceled a second year running due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is being converted into a medical facility for coronavirus patients, the Straits Times reported. The building has been identified as a suitable temporary venue because it has ready facilities and isn’t being used for F1 race activities, Ong Ling Lee, director of sports at the Singapore Tourism Board, told the Straits Times, adding that the place had been used for swab tests last year.
Moderna to supply 56.5 mln more doses of its COVID-19 shot to vaccine alliance GAVI
Moderna Inc announced a pact with the GAVI vaccine alliance to supply a further 56.5 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in the second quarter of next year to low- and middle-income countries. The vaccine maker said the doses will be in addition to an earlier commitment to supply 60 million doses in the second quarter of 2022 to GAVI, which co-leads the COVAX facility for equitable distribution of COVID-19 shots around the world. The COVAX facility, backed by the World Health Organization and GAVI, has delivered some 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than 140 low- and middle-income countries, but several countries run the risk of failing to meet WHO's target of 40% vaccination coverage by year-end
Healthcare Innovations
Needle-free vaccine patches coming soon, say researchers and makers
Effective vaccines, without a needle: Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers have doubled down on efforts to create patches that deliver life-saving drugs painlessly to the skin, a development that could revolutionise medicine. The technique could help save children's tears at doctors' offices, and help people who have a phobia of syringes. Beyond that, skin patches could assist with distribution efforts, because they don't have cold-chain requirements - and might even heighten vaccine efficacy. A new mouse study in the area, published in the journal Science Advances, showed promising results. The Australian-US team used patches measuring one square centimetre that were dotted with more than 5,000 microscopic spikes, "so tiny you can't actually see them," David Muller, a virologist at the University of Queensland and co-author of the paper, told AFP.
Study of Hospitalized Covid-19 Patients Shows Vaccination Is Better Guard Than Prior Infection
Covid-19 was over five times more common among hospitalized people who were unvaccinated and had a previous infection, compared with those who were fully vaccinated and hadn’t had Covid-19 before, a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. The report, released Friday and written by scientists from the federal agency as well as hospitals across the U.S., adds to the body of research suggesting that vaccines provide stronger protection against the coronavirus than prior-infection immunity. Research into immunity to Covid-19 has been limited in part by the short window of time in which the virus has been circulating and vaccines have been in use. Few clinical studies of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 have been conducted, compared with the more robust body of clinical research into the vaccines, making it hard to reach definitive conclusions about the nature of immunity provided by prior infection.
Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine Authorized for Young Children by FDA
The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. PFE 1.30% and BioNTech SE BNTX -1.85% was authorized for use in children as young as 5 years old, the first shot that federal health regulators have permitted for them in the U.S. The decision by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday for children age 5 to 11 paves the way for one of the last remaining groups in the U.S. to get vaccinated against Covid-19, probably starting within days. The shot works safely, the FDA said. Once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives its signoff, expected within days, the young children can begin getting their first dose. The children will be given two shots three weeks apart, the same schedule as adults and adolescents, although each shot will contain one-third of the dosage.