"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 8th Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
Action needed now to avoid lockdown, say German state leaders
Germany's COVID-19 situation is entering a very difficult period with rising numbers of intensive care patients, health minister Jens Spahn said, as German state leaders warned the country may need a new lockdown unless it takes urgent action. Spahn said he had agreed with regional health ministers that in future everyone should be offered a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine six months after receiving their previous injection. "This should become the norm, not the exception," Spahn said at a news conference on Friday.
Hygiene Helpers
Healthy buildings can help stop Covid-19 spread and boost worker productivity
Healthy buildings have become the latest enticement to bring employees back into the office, and the first step is to make sure ventilation systems are working the way they are supposed to. Improving indoor air quality in offices could add as much as $20 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to estimates from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “I don’t think business people realize the power of buildings to not only keep people safe from disease but to lead to better performance,” said Joseph G. Allen, Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health associate professor.
Community Activities
States Sue to Stop Biden’s Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate
More than half of U.S. states are suing to stop the Biden administration from implementing new rules that require employers with more than 100 workers to ensure their employees are vaccinated against Covid-19 or get a weekly test. The states’ attorneys general, who filed multiple lawsuits in various courts Friday, said they were suing because the federal government doesn’t have the authority to issue the requirements. They say the issue should be left to states. “States have been leading the fight against COVID-19 from the start of the pandemic,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, said Friday. “It is too late to impose a federal standard now that we have already developed systems and strategies that are tailored for our specific needs.”
Working Remotely
Department of Health staff to work remotely as Covid-19 case numbers remain high
In Ireland, the Department of Health has told staff that they are to work from home indefinitely unless otherwise directed. There had been a requirement for staff to attend offices for one day a week but sources say that this has now been suspended indefinitely. A notice sent to staff says that due to the department's leadership role in pandemic response, staff are to work remotely unless told otherwise by a member of staff at Principal Officer or Management Board level. Attendance in offices is discouraged, and any attendance should be in line with HSA guidance.
51% of employees in Saudi Arabia complain of increased workload since switching to remote working
Fifty-one percent of employees in Saudi Arabia have reported an increase in workload since switching to remote working, according to a recent survey by Kaspersky. Eighteen percent of the respondents said their workload has significantly increased, 35 percent did not notice a volume change, and only 9 percent noted a decrease in the scope of work due to new working conditions. Fifty-eight percent of employees said they do not feel exhausted at the end of the day while working remotely. Interestingly, 41 percent reported having more energy working from home, the survey showed.
Virtual Classrooms
We cannot allow remote learning to create undereducated students
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how vital and valuable technology is to education. It’s also shown how far we still have to go in leveraging that technology to improve learning and prepare students for college and beyond. When the pandemic shuttered schools across the country and sent tens of millions of students home, many institutions quickly shifted to remote teaching to prevent catastrophic learning loss. While necessary, this stopgap solution had an inherent flaw: Few teachers were actually prepared for the transition to online instruction, particularly in K-12.
Covid: How remote learning changed during pandemic
The way that teaching and learning patterns have shifted over the course of the Covid pandemic has been revealed by new analysis of Oak National Academy data by researchers at SchoolDash. In September, Oak National's research revealed that deprivation levels had affected the online classroom's impact, as in the most deprived IDACI (Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index) areas, only 69.4 per cent accessed lessons by a computer, whereas 78 per cent in the top quintile did. SchoolDash has now looked into how the Oak National Academy online classroom was used by pupils and teachers over the course of the pandemic.
Court order reinstates distance learning for disabled students
In California, State officials must act immediately to provide distance learning that is comparable to last year for students with disabilities and also adequate to their overall needs, a judge has ordered. The court finding, in the form of a temporary restraining order issued Thursday, will provide immediate relief for 15 students — with several dozen others that could follow — but there are broad implications for students across California. The practices at issue arise from Assembly Bill 130, which put in place rules meant to ensure that school districts provided and prioritized in-person instruction for all students this fall after the pandemic resulted in campus closures the previous year.
NorthCap University launches smart classrooms to optimise virtual learning experience
NorthCap University in Gurugram, Haryana has launched state-of-the-art smart classrooms fully equipped with digital technology to optimise the learning experience of students who are struggling with online education. These smart classrooms will replicate a physical classroom in a virtual model, thus enabling students to attend virtual interactive lectures from anywhere in the world in a simulated classroom environment. It also enables the faculty to deliver lectures in hybrid mode in a classroom-like ambience.
Public Policies
UK to roll out COVID-19 antiviral drug trial this month -Health Security Agency
Britain will start to roll out Merck's molnupiravir COVID-19 antiviral pill through a drug trial later this month, Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at the UK Health Security Agency said on Sunday. Last week Britain became the first country in the world to approve the potentially game-changing COVID-19 antiviral pill, jointly developed by U.S.-based Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. The government said in October it had secured 480,000 courses of the Merck drug, as well as 250,000 courses of an antiviral pill developed by Pfizer Inc
Costa Rica issues COVID-19 vaccine requirement for children
Costa Rican children aged five and up must get COVID-19 vaccinations, according to a new health ministry mandate, making the Central American country one of the first to adopt such a requirement for kids. The move would add COVID-19 to a list of other infectious diseases in which vaccines for children have for years been required, including for polio and smallpox. "Our basic vaccination scheme has made it possible to subdue many of the viruses that cause suffering and health consequences and even fatalities in the underage population," Health Minister Daniel Salas said in a statement issued on Friday,
Britain allows early booking of booster shots to speed up rollout
Britain's health ministry on Saturday said it would open up bookings for booster shots a month before people were eligible to receive the shots to help speed up the rollout ahead of the challenging winter months. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is relying on booster doses as a major plank of his plan to avoid lockdown this winter through COVID-19 vaccines rather than social distancing rules or mask mandates, but has been criticised for a slow start to the programme. Around 3 in 5 eligible over-50s have had booster shots in England, with more than 9 million people getting booster doses in Britain overall so far.
U.S. to convene foreign ministers on COVID-19 next week, pledges to talk vaccine equity
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday he would convene a virtual meeting of foreign ministers from around the globe to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic next week, pledging to work to address global inequalities in access to vaccines. "Despite progress in worldwide vaccination, we are not where we need to be," Blinken said in a statement announcing the meeting on Nov. 10.
S.Korea to purchase 70000 courses of new Pfizer COVID-19 pill
South Korea has agreed to buy 70,000 courses of Pfizer Inc's experimental antiviral COVID-19 pill, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Saturday. Pfizer on Friday said trial results showed that its Paxlovid pill reduced by 89% the risk of hospitalization or death in patients at high risk of severe illness within three days of the onset of coronavirus symptoms. South Korea has already signed agreements to secure 200,000 courses of Merck & Co Inc's COVID-19 treatment.
Spain donates 326,400 Covid-19 vaccines to Ivory Coast
The first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines that Spain has donated to a sub-Saharan African country arrived on Thursday in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, which is also known as Côte d’Ivoire. The delivery contained 326,400 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19, along with another 98,400 shots of the same medication donated by Finland and 7,200 from Iceland. The donations are part of the public-private initiative Covax, which seeks to ensure that lower-income countries are not left behind in the global vaccination drive to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Malta to offer COVID-19 booster shots to all its population
Malta will offer COVID-19 booster shots to all of its population after a recent increase in cases, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Friday. Malta has the highest number of vaccinated people in the European Union, with 94% of the people having been fully vaccinated. However, minister Fearne told a press conference that it was clear that the effectiveness of the vaccines was waning after health authorities said the country recorded 40 new cases of the virus on Friday, the highest in six weeks.
Latvia allows businesses to fire the unvaccinated
The Latvian parliament on Thursday allowed businesses to fire workers who refuse to either get a COVID-19 vaccine or transfer to remote work, as the country battles one of the worst COVID-19 waves in European Union. About 61% of Latvian adults are fully vaccinated, less than the European Union average of 75%. The country was the first in EU to return to a lockdown this autumn as COVID-19 cases spiked, and has asked other EU members for medical help as makeshift COVID-19 facilities are installed in halls and garages of its hospitals
AIIB to continue vaccine funding for developing nations in 2022
China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will continue to finance developing countries acquire COVID-19 vaccines, a senior executive said on Thursday. Last year, AIIB had set up a funding facility to help public and private sectors fight the pandemic. The investment bank has approved 42 projects amounting to over $10.3 billion, as of Nov. 5. Its Crisis Recovery Facility has up to $13 billion allocated to support AIIB members and clients in withstanding economic and health impacts of the health crisis.
Maintaining Services
U.S. braces for surge of vaccinated international travelers
The United States is expecting a flood of international visitors crossing its borders by air and by land on Monday after lifting travel restrictions for much of the world's population first imposed in early 2020 to address the spread of COVID-19. United Airlines is expecting about 50% more total international inbound passengers Monday compared to last Monday when it had about 20,000. And Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian has warned travelers should be prepared for initial long lines.
Sydney to further ease COVID-19 curbs on Monday as vaccinations pick up
Australia's largest city of Sydney will further ease social distancing curbs on Monday, a month after emerging from a coronavirus lockdown that lasted nearly 100 days, as close to 90% of people have got both doses of vaccine, officials said. Although limited to people who are fully inoculated, the relaxation in the state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, lifts limits on house guests or outdoor gatherings, among other measures. "We're leading the nation out of the pandemic," said state premier Dominic Perrottet, as he called for a "final push" to reach, and even surpass, a milestone of 95% vaccinations.
New Zealand's daily coronavirus cases cross 200 for first time in pandemic
New Zealand's 206 new daily community infections on Saturday carried it past the double-hundred mark for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, as the nation scrambles to vaccinate its population of 5 million. The most populous city of Auckland, which reported 200 of the new cases, has lived under COVID-19 curbs for nearly three months as it battles an outbreak of the infectious Delta variant, although restrictions are expected to ease on Monday
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer Says Covid-19 Pill Is 89% Effective in Preliminary Assessment
Pfizer Inc. said a preliminary look at study results found that its experimental pill was highly effective at preventing people at high risk of severe Covid-19 from needing hospitalization or dying, the latest encouraging performance for an early virus treatment. The company’s drug cut the risk of hospitalization or death in study subjects with mild to moderate Covid-19 by about 89% if they took the pill within three days of diagnosis, Pfizer said Friday. The drug, called Paxlovid, was also found to be generally safe and well-tolerated in the early look at ongoing study results, the company said.
COVID-19 vaccines more protective than 'natural' immunity
A previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 vaccination can provide immunity and protection against future illness. A new study has compared the level of immunity afforded by a previous infection with the protection provided by a COVID-19 vaccine. The results suggest that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are around five times more effective at preventing hospitalization than a previous infection.
Gene linked to doubling risk of COVID-19 death found by UK scientists
British scientists have identified a version of a gene that may be associated with double the risk of lung failure from COVID-19, a finding that provides new insights into why some people are more susceptible than othersto severe illness and which opens possibilities for targeted medicine. The high-risk genetic variant is in a chromosome region that is also tied to double the risk of death in COVID-19 patients under age 60. Around 60% of people with South Asian ancestry carry the high-risk version of the gene, researchers at Oxford University said on Friday, adding the discovery may partly explain the high number of deaths seen in some British communities, and the devastation wrought by COVID-19 in the Indian subcontinent.