"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 15th Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
Austria brings back COVID-19 lockdown, this time for the unvaccinated
Austria is the first European country to reinstate the same restrictions on daily movements that applied during national lockdowns before vaccines were rolled out, though this time they only affect a minority of the population. "We are not taking this step lightly but it is necessary," Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told a news conference announcing the new measure, under which the unvaccinated can only leave their homes for a limited number of reasons like going to work or shopping for essentials.
Philippines Keeps Loose Virus Curbs in Capital Region
The Philippines is keeping its loose coronavirus restrictions in the Manila capital region until Nov. 30 as daily cases decline and vaccination picks up. The capital, which accounts for a third of economic output, will remain under Alert Level 2, the second-lowest under a five-tiered system, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement on Saturday. Provinces near Metro Manila will also be under the same level. Relaxed restrictions on public movement have been in placed since Nov. 5, and minors have been allowed in indoor establishments. Under Alert Level 2, indoor restaurants, gyms and cinemas can operate at half capacity, while outdoor establishments can open at 70% capacity.
Dutch Are Back to Partial Lockdown After Record Infections
The Netherlands is entering another lockdown after coronavirus infections hit records in recent days, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. “We have a very difficult message tonight combined with drastic measures,” Rutte said at a press conference in The Hague on Friday. The country will enter a partial lockdown with bars and restaurants that need to shut down effective from Saturday 8 p.m. local time, Rutte added. Non-essential shops must close at 6 p.m. He strongly urged people to work from home as much as possible while there also will be a limit to invite a maximum amount of 4 people to socialize at home. The package will be reviewed Dec. 3, Rutte said.
Hygiene Helpers
Morocco plans additional airport COVID testing amid Europe surge
Morocco will conduct rapid COVID-19 tests to passengers arriving in its airports and ports, and will deny access to any visitor with a positive result, the government said on Saturday. The measure, which strengthens an existing requirement of a negative PCR test 48 hours before departure, aims to protect the country amid a surge of cases in Europe, the government said in a statement. Travelers with positive test must be returned at the cost of the airline that brought them into the country, unless they have a permanent residency document, it said.
Biden vaccine rules are boosting first-time COVID-19 shots - White House
U.S. President Joe Biden's vaccine requirements are prompting more Americans to get COVID-19 shots, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday. "In the past week, we’re averaging nearly 300,000 first shots" per day for people aged 12 and over, Psaki said, up from less than 250,000 first shots per day in mid-July, before Biden first discussed vaccine requirements. Biden announced on Sept. 9 vaccination mandates for workers at federal contractors and said workers at big private employers need to be vaccinated or tested.
Community Activities
Covid-19 Vaccines Are Now Reaching Poor Countries, but Not People’s Arms
After months of severe shortages, Covid-19 vaccine supplies for the world’s poorest nations are finally ramping up. But many countries say they will struggle to get them into people’s arms, as they grapple with the potential delivery of more vaccines in the coming weeks than they have received so far this year. Authorities lack funds to conduct public awareness campaigns and set up more vaccination sites, including the necessary fridges and freezers to store the shots. Misinformation and low case numbers have also left many in poor countries skeptical of the shots. Just 4.2% of people in low-income countries have received a first dose. Across Africa, only 6.3% of people are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data, a project based at Oxford University.
Disease center urges Germans to cancel or avoid big events
Germany's disease control center is calling for people to cancel or avoid large events and to reduce their contacts as the country's coronavirus infection rate hits the latest in a string of new highs. The center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that Germany's infection rate climbed to 263.7 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days, up from 249.1 the previous day. Germany reported 48,640 new cases Friday, a day after the daily total topped 50,000 for the first time. Another 191 COVID-19 deaths brought Germany's total in the pandemic so far to 97,389.
Can at-home COVID-19 tests make holiday gatherings safer?
Can at-home COVID-19 tests make holiday gatherings safer? Yes, combined with vaccination, home test kits for COVID-19 can add a layer of safety and reassurance by providing on-the-spot results during this second year of pandemic holidays. “We will be using rapid tests to doublecheck everybody before we gather together,” says Dr. Emily Volk, president of the College of American Pathologists, who is planning a holiday meal with six vaccinated family members. “We’ll be doing it as they come in the door.” Home kits are not as accurate as the PCR tests done in hospitals and at testing sites, Volk says. But they have the advantage of giving results within minutes instead of days.
Working Remotely
Want to keep tabs on your working-from-home staff? Resist the urge
As the pandemic (hopefully) recedes, many workers are coming back to work but the smartest companies have learned that, to attract and retain the best people, a work-from-home option needs to be on the table. During the pandemic we were scrambling just to keep things going. But now we’re implementing policies that many feel should have supervisory controls. And many business owners, large and small, are asking themselves a question: is it time to monitor what our people are actually doing when they’re not working in the office? A growing number of companies, as they’re implementing new work-from-home benefits, are also incorporating remote monitoring software to keep an eye on their employees’ behavior.
Eighteen months on, staff give thumbs up to work from home
Eighteen months is ample time for people to decide whether they prefer working from home or commuting to office every day. And in India, the verdict is out: pulse surveys conducted by many IT, ITeS, and financial services companies prior to chalking out a back-to-work plan has revealed that most people – parents to even young millennials – are keen on working remotely. Work from home is clearly gaining more ground by the day. To cater to the increasing demand for a flexible working environment, LinkedIn recently launched tools to help job seekers highlight flexible work preferences and also learn about workplace policies.
Women warned home working may harm their careers
Women who work mostly from home risk seeing their careers stall now workers are returning to the office in large numbers, according to Bank of England (BoE) economist Catherine Mann. She said office interaction was vital to advance in companies, but many women were still tied to home working. Ms Mann said it was a particular issue for mothers facing school disruptions and difficulty accessing childcare.
Virtual Classrooms
Pandemic first graders are way behind in reading. Experts say they may take years to catch up.
In classrooms across the U.S., the first months of school this fall have laid bare what many in education feared: Students are way behind in skills they should have mastered already. Children in early elementary school have had their most formative first few years of education disrupted by the pandemic, years when they learn basic math and reading skills and important social-emotional skills, like how to get along with peers and follow routines in a classroom. While experts say it’s likely these students will catch up in many skills, the stakes are especially high around reading. Research
Public Policies
Bahrain authorizes AstraZeneca's anti-COVID drug for emergency use
Bahrain has approved the emergency use of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) anti-COVID drug Evusheld, the state news agency reported on Sunday. Bahrain has become the first country to authorize the drug, which will be limited to adults who suffer from immunodeficiency or who are taking immunosuppressants, as well as individuals with occupations that put them at risk of transmission, the news agency said.
Brazil's top court rules that companies can require employee vaccination
Brazil's Supreme Court on Friday suspended a government order that prevented companies from requiring employees to provide proof that they have been vaccinate against COVID-19 and stopped dismissals of those not immunized. Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic, has criticized vaccine passports required in other countries. Brazil has suffered the second-deadliest coronavirus pandemic outside of the United States. Justice Luis Roberto Barroso said the pandemic had killed 610,000 Brazilians and it was reasonable to surmise that the presence of unvaccinated employees poses a threat to the health of the others.
As Merkel urges unvaccinated to reconsider, German army prepares to step in
Three German state health ministers urged parties negotiating to form a new government to prolong states' power to implement stricter pandemic measures such as lockdowns or school closures as the country's seven-day COVID incidence rate hit record highs. The number of people per 100,000 infected last week rose to 277.4, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed on Saturday, and has risen to over 500 in some regions of the country. The head of Germany's largest doctors association Marburger Bund told German media group Funke Mediengruppe that overburdened intensive care units may need to move patients between regions to find beds in coming weeks.
Government ordered to release Covid lockdown impact assessments after refusing to make documents public
The government has been ordered to publish its assessments on the impact of national lockdowns and Covid restrictions after resisting making them public, The Independent can reveal. Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) officials drew up documents predicting how changing coronavirus rules would affect different groups but they have so far been kept secret. The Liberty human rights group requested the equality impact assessments under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, but was refused and told releasing them would “not be in the public interest”.
AstraZeneca Plans to Start Selling Covid-19 Vaccines at Profit
AstraZeneca PLC said it would start pricing its Covid-19 vaccine to make it profitable, ending a period in which it had pledged to roll out the shots at cost during the pandemic. The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant said it would shift away from a nonprofit approach to the vaccine starting in 2022, signing new contracts that will allow it to make money off the shot. The company expects some earnings contribution from new orders in the fourth quarter of this year. The company said the shot generated $1.05 billion in revenue in the third quarter.
Ten EU Nations Causing 'Very High Concern' Over Covid
Ten countries in the 27-member European Union face a Covid situation of "very high concern", the bloc's diseases agency said Friday, warning the pandemic was worsening across the continent. "The overall epidemiological situation... was characterised by a high and rapidly increasing overall case notification rate and a low but slowly increasing death rate," the European Centre for Disease Control said. "Case notification rates, death rates, and hospital and ICU admissions are all forecast to increase over the next two weeks." In its latest weekly risk assessment, the agency listed 10 EU countries in its highest category of concern -- Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
Maintaining Services
As the U.S. Races to Vaccinate Kids Against Covid-19, Some Countries Hold Back
The U.S. is at the forefront of the race to vaccinate young children. Many governments elsewhere are treading more cautiously. In Mexico, the president says he won’t be held hostage by vaccine makers and there are no plans to inoculate under-18s except those at risk. In many parts of Africa, rollouts are going so slowly that vaccinating children is a distant ambition. Some governments are waiting to see how the campaign in the U.S. goes before moving ahead. The U.S., where children between 5 and 11 are getting shots for the first time this month, isn’t alone: Children as young as 3 are being vaccinated in countries such as Colombia, Argentina and China.
More than 10,000 COVID-19 booster breakthroughs - cause for concern?
The Pfizer vaccines were not evaluated for preventing infection, but rather symptomatic or severe disease and death. And when it comes to these statistics at least for now, the vaccines seem to be doing their job. The percentage of people testing positive for the virus has declined from an aveage of more than 5% to just 0.56%. And hospitalisations have gone down too, hitting only 200 people on Friday with 20% of the patients in only a mild condition.
German Vaccines Lag, Cases Spike, With Troops on Standby to Help
Germany is being battered by a fourth Covid wave, with low vaccination rates in its eastern states a big reason the virus has regained a foothold. The four regions registering the lowest vaccination rates -- Saxony, Thuringia, Brandenburg, and Saxony-Anhalt -- are all in the formerly communist East. No state in eastern Germany has an inoculation level that exceeds the nationwide rate of 67.5% fully vaccinated, with the exception of once-divided Berlin, according to health ministry data. Germany’s military will put as many as 12,000 troops on standby to help overburdened health clinics and to speed the rollout of booster vaccines, Der Spiegel reported Saturday
Japan adding more hospital beds in plan for next virus surge
The Japanese government’s preparations for the next virus surge include adding thousands more hospital beds to avoid a situation like last summer when many COVID-19 patients were forced to stay home, even while dependent on oxygen deliveries. Even though Japan has a reasonable health insurance system and the world’s largest number of beds per capita, COVID-19 patients were admitted to only a fraction of the beds, mostly at public, university and major private hospitals. The government has provided subsidies to lure more hospitals to treat such patients, but progress is slow, triggering calls for tougher measures in an emergency.
'Caregivers are getting burned out by the pandemic': Labor shortages are taking a huge toll on nursing homes
The U.S. is experiencing one of its worst labor shortages in decades. It’s likely the reason why your pizza took longer than usual to get delivered or why your flight may have been canceled. And it’s also the reason why you’re probably going to have a tough time getting a friend or loved one into an assisted living facility or nursing home, and why you may be more concerned about a vulnerable family member currently residing in one. Since the beginning of the pandemic, some 221,000 people have left the industry. That amounts to a 14% drop in employment, according to a report published by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, trade organizations that collectively represent some 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country. Among all health-care sectors, nursing homes have lost the most jobs since before the pandemic, according to the report, which is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Experts optimistic Spain will avoid sixth coronavirus wave despite surge in cases across Europe
Despite the success of Spain’s Covid-19 vaccination drive – 88.9% of the over-12 population is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry – there are growing concerns about the delicate situation in many other European countries. Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, which have lower vaccination rates than Spain, on Thursday reported the highest daily number of coronavirus cases seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Fatalities for Covid-19 are also rising in these countries. The question many are asking now is if Spain is on the brink of a sixth wave.
No takers for second dose? Adopt the Singapore model
With many yet to take the second dose of vaccine even after completing the mandatory gap of 84 days after the first dose, health experts are clamouring for adopting the Singapore model where particllay vaccinated citizens are not allowed to visit public places.
Healthcare Innovations
Covaxin, India’s homegrown COVID jab, ‘highly efficacious’: Study
Covaxin, the first COVID-19 vaccine developed in India, is “highly efficacious” and presents no safety concerns, according to a study published in the medical journal Lancet. Covaxin gained emergency approval from the World Health Organization last week, the eighth jab to be given the green light by the health body. The vaccine has already been cleared for use in 17 countries. Known by the code BBV152, Covaxin is an inactivated virus-based COVID-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology. The WHO has described it as “extremely suitable for low- and middle-income countries due to easy storage requirements”. Some of the other approved vaccines must be stored at very low temperatures, which throws up logistical and cost problems.
The Valneva COVID-19 vaccine: Why it might be a game-changer
French pharmaceutical company Valneva is throwing its hat into the vaccine ring, but it has a vaccine with a difference. Rather than induce an immune response that targets just the spike protein of the coronavirus, the Valneva vaccine, also known as VLA2001, stimulates an immune response to the entire virus, and that might just give it an edge over its competitors. It is different in that it uses the tried and tested method of taking the whole of the coronavirus and inactivating it so that it can no longer cause illness. It then combines with an adjuvant, a substance that helps it enter human cells effectively.
WHO eyes meeting to set guidelines on COVID-19 pills
World Health Organization (WHO) officials said on Friday they were hoping to convene a meeting soon to set guidelines on the use of COVID-19 antiviral pills, saying they offered "very attractive" new prospects for clinical care. Britain became the first country to approve one of the potentially game-changing pills earlier this month. Janet Diaz, the WHO's top official for clinical care responses, said that a meeting of its guidelines development group would consider the question of COVID pills in a forthcoming meeting in three weeks. Another WHO official Mike Ryan said preliminary findings on the pills was "very, very welcome", adding that a "careful process" was not required before the therapies should be expanded more broadly.
GSK-Vir COVID-19 antibody works as shot in the arm as well as infusion
Britain's GSK and partner Vir said on Friday their antibody-based COVID-19 drug was shown in a trial to work as well when given as a shot in the arm awhen administered via the standard infusion, potentially offering more convenience. GSK said it would now speak to global regulators, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, about potential approval for the new method of administration, known as intramuscular injection, which can be carried out by family doctors and spare patients a trip to hospital.
An Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, described the current status of the pandemic in the United States as a “mixed bag” that is leaning more toward the positive than the negative. But there is still work to do, he said, including dealing with complicated factors such as vaccination rates, contagious variants of the virus and waning immunity to infection. In our conversation, Dr. Fauci weighed in on vaccine mandates, booster shots and the end of the pandemic. “Ultimately, all pandemics burn themselves out,” he told us, adding: “So you have a choice. Do you want it to burn itself out and kill a lot more people and make a lot more people sick? Or do you want to do something about it to prevent further deaths and further illness?”