"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 18th Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
Europe Fights Winter Covid Surge With New Restrictions for Unvaccinated
It’s getting harder to be a vaccine holdout in Europe and continue with life as usual. As governments battle another wave of the outbreak, new restrictions are being introduced, many aimed at the unvaccinated. That’s adding to the pressure on those who’ve resisted the shot so far. Germany is proposing to limit access to the workplace to people who are inoculated, recovered or provide a negative test, and those who have refused shots are increasingly banned from cafes and hairdressers. The country, which has seen a surge in cases, has a vaccination rate below that of Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Austrian COVID cases hit record on third day of lockdown for unvaccinated
Austrian coronavirus infections hit a new daily record on Wednesday, the third day of a lockdown for those not fully vaccinated aimed at halting the surge. Roughly 65% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against the virus, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Austria also has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 925 per 100,000 people. Soaring infections across Europe as winter approaches are prompting governments to consider reintroducing unpopular lockdowns.
Hygiene Helpers
Stormont ministers approve use of mandatory Covid vaccine passports
Mandatory vaccine passports are set to be introduced in Northern Ireland after Stormont ministers voted by a majority to support the move. The PA news agency understands DUP ministers opposed Health Minister Robin Swann’s proposal at the Executive meeting on Wednesday. However, the other four Executive parties – Sinn Fein SDLP, Alliance and Mr Swann’s UUP – backed the move. Mr Swann wants to see enforceable Covid certification in operation across a range of hospitality settings from December 13.
Swedish health agency backtracks on reduced COVID testing
Sweden's Public Health Agency said on Wednesday it would reverse a widely-criticized decision to stop recommending testing for people who are fully vaccinated but show symptoms of COVID-19. COVID-19 testing in Sweden has fallen by some 35% after the health agency announced in October that people displaying symptoms no longer needed to get tested if they were fully vaccinated against the virus. "The Public Health Agency has decided to recommend that the regions offer testing to everyone who is 6 years and older who gets symptoms that may be COVID-19," it said in a statement.
Sweden to introduce COVID vaccine passes for indoors events
The Swedish government plans to introduce a requirement for COVID-19 vaccine passes at indoor events where more than 100 people attend, a step recommended by health officials warning of a rising tide of infections in coming weeks. Infection rates have soared across large swaths of Europe in recent weeks and while Sweden - hard hit at times earlier in the pandemic - has yet to record a similar surge, healthy agency modelling suggests infections will reach a peak in mid-December. The centre-left government was preparing a bill to be put forward to parliament with the aim to having the vaccination passes in effect from Dec. 1, Health Minister Lena Hallengren said.
White House: 10% of kids have been vaccinated in 1st 2 weeks
The White House says about 10% of eligible kids aged 5 to 11 have received a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine since its approval for their age group two weeks ago. At least 2.6 million kids have received a shot, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday, with 1.7 million doses administered in the last week alone, roughly double the pace of the first week after approval. It’s more than three times faster than the rate adults were vaccinated at the start of the nation’s vaccination campaign 11 months ago. Zients said there are now 30,000 locations across for kids to get a shot, up from 20,000 last week, and that the administration expects the pace of pediatric shots to pick up in the coming days.
Community Activities
Mulled wine only for vaccinated at some German Christmas markets
At the Christmas market on Hamburg's main square this year, only revellers who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently recovered will be able to indulge in steaming hot mulled wine and candied almonds or gingerbread under festive fairy lights. The unvaccinated will still be able to peruse the bottle-green stalls selling handicrafts, listen to carols, ride on the merry-go-round or admire the nativity scenes.
Working Remotely
Germany Pushes Work From Home to Counter Europe’s Covid Surge
Germany’s likely next ruling coalition is pushing ahead with tougher measures to tackle record increases in coronavirus cases, including requiring companies to let employees work from home where possible. The proposed law also in some cases limits access to the workplace to people who are vaccinated, recovered or provide a negative test, according to parliamentary documents published Wednesday. The Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats aim to use their Bundestag majority to get it through the lower house of parliament on Thursday. “The current pandemic situation in Germany is dramatic,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told a conference of municipal leaders on Wednesday. “The fourth wave is hitting our country with full force.”
Why Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky Thinks the Home Is the Future of Travel
As recently as the 1800s, the home was everything—where Americans worked, and slept, and cooked, and ate, and raised children, and worshipped. For most people, there was no commute; there was no office, or factory. Then, in the past 150 years, the industrialized world drew sharp lines between life, work, and leisure. It was a period of divergence rather than convergence. Home, work, and hotel meant three different places. But we’re going back to the past. “Travel, life, and work are blurring together again,” Airbnb’s chief executive, Brian Chesky, says. He believes the home-rental company is seeing firsthand a new kind of travel habit becoming mainstream, in which work time is leaking into vacation weekends and vacation weekends are leaking into the workweek. It is the rise of the work-vacation: the workcation.
37% employees feel more connected with colleagues while working remotely
At least 61 per cent employees do not feel isolated while working remotely, while 37 per cent of remote workers manage to communicate even better with their colleagues this way, a report said on Wednesday. According to Kaspersky, the extensive use of non-corporate communication services enables better connections but increases the level of risk from unmonitored IT resources.
Virtual Classrooms
Students speak out: What they will miss about distance learning
Students in the Philippines listed down the things that they will miss about distance learning after the pandemic task force approves limited face-to-face classes in higher education institutions under Alerts Level 1, 2 and 3.
Public Policies
Philippines approves emergency use of Novavax COVID-19 vaccine
The Philippines has approved the emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine by Novavax Inc, its food and drug agency chief said on Wednesday, the ninth vaccine approved in the Southeast Asian country. The nanoparticle vaccine, under the brand name Covovax, will be manufactured by Serum Institute of India, and is approved for use on adults 18 and above, the agency's chief Rolando Enrique Domingo told a public briefing. Covovax, which had efficacy of 89.7% in clinical trials, will be administered in two doses not less than 21 days apart, Domingo added.
U.S. secures GSK-Vir COVID-19 antibody therapy doses worth $1 bln
The United States has signed contracts worth about $1 billion for doses of the antibody-based COVID-19 treatment from Britain's GSK and U.S.-based Vir Biotechnology, as countries seek to secure promising options beyond vaccines. The drugmakers said on Wednesday the U.S. orders bring the total number of doses to be supplied to more than 750,000 globally, without specifying how many doses of the treatment, sotrovimab, the U.S. government had signed up for.
GOP opposition to vaccine mandates extends far beyond Covid-19
Right-wing politicians’ resistance to vaccine mandates is extending far beyond Covid-19 immunizations, a startling new development that carries vast implications for the future of public health. In Idaho, a lawmaker introduced a bill that would define vaccine mandates — of any kind — as a form of assault. In Florida, a prominent state senator has called for a review of all vaccine requirements, including those for immunizations that have enjoyed wide public acceptance for decades, like polio and the measles, mumps, and rubella shot. And in Montana, the Republican governor recently signed into law a new bill that forbids businesses, including hospitals, from enforcing any vaccination requirements as a condition of employment.
Pfizer agrees to allow generic versions of its COVID pill
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has signed a deal enabling the production and supply of its experimental COVID anti-viral drug in dozens of lower- and middle-income countries. The agreement between the US company and the UN-backed international public health group Medical Patent Pool (MPP) would allow producers to manufacture and supply generic versions of the drug in 95 countries without the threat of patent infringement.
Maintaining Services
Spain Plans Booster Shots for Health Workers, Elderly as Covid Cases Rise
Spain will roll out Covid-19 booster shots to health workers and people older than 60, as the country seeks to contain a surge in infections that’s hitting across Europe. The move, which will be discussed with authorities in autonomous regions, aims to protect vulnerable groups, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday. He said the country’s high vaccination rates of about 80% has so far shielded the former hot spot from the worst of the latest wave of the pandemic. Spain’s 14-day average infection rate has climbed 67% in two weeks to 82 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, but it remains well below countries like Germany and Austria, where less than 70% of the people are vaccinated.
‘An absolute scandal’: UK threw away 600,000 vaccine doses after they passed expiry date
The UK threw away more than 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after the life-saving jabs were allowed to pass their expiry date, The Independent can reveal. In what has been described as an “absolute scandal”, the government failed to donate the doses to poorer countries struggling to access Covid vaccines – despite previous promises to redistribute supplies that were deemed surplus to requirements in the UK. The doses were no longer needed in Britain after the decision was made in May to stop offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to younger age groups because of concerns over rare blood clotting. This left an excess of vaccines, 604,400 of which eventually expired in August before being destroyed at the end of the month, according to data obtained by a Freedom of Information request. Labour said it was “staggering that such a colossal quantity of life-saving jabs were allowed to go to waste”, while Oxfam said it was “disgraceful” that doses were destroyed while health workers on the front line in poorer countries remained unprotected against Covid-19.
Biden administration seeks to boost Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing to increase global supply
The Biden administration is seeking to boost Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing to increase the global vaccine supply, particularly in developing nations, as the US continues its efforts to share more vaccines abroad. "We are prepared to offer vaccine manufacturers who have demonstrated the capability to make mRNA vaccines substantial government resources to help them expand their domestic infrastructure and capacity (such as facilities, equipment, staff, or training) in order to make an additional 1 billion doses of vaccine available per year," an administration official said. The official added, "In the short term, this would make a significant amount of Covid-19 vaccine doses available at cost for global use, and in the long term, it would help establish sustained domestic manufacturing capacity to rapidly produce vaccines for future threats. We hope companies will take us up on this plan to help get more people here at home and around the world vaccinated."
Healthcare Innovations
Atrial fibrillation significantly increases a person’s risk of serious complications and death from COVID-19
A new study from researchers at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City finds that patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia in adults, are at significantly higher risk to experience serious complications from COVID-19 illness. The study found that patients with a history of atrial fibrillation who have COVID-19 illness are not only more likely to need hospitalization, ICU and ventilator support, but nearly 62% more likely to suffer a major cardiovascular event, such as a heart failure hospitalization, and 40% more likely to die than individuals who don’t have a history of atrial fibrillation.
Could this gene double your risk of dying from COVID-19?
Soon after the pandemic began, we knew that certain groups of people are more at risk of dying from COVID-19 than others. It was immediately clear that those with specific underlying health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease were at increased risk, but slowly it became evident that certain ethnic groups were also being disproportionately affected. Social factors have played an important role in why these groups have been more affected than others, but genetics may also play a part. Scientists at Oxford University have now identified a version of a gene that may be associated with doubling the risk of respiratory failure from COVID, and it could go some way to explaining why people from particular backgrounds are more likely to die from the virus. The study’s authors said that their work identifying the gene was extremely difficult because it wasn’t merely the presence of the gene they were looking for, but whether it was switched “on”, making it more high risk.
Europe only region with increasing COVID deaths last week: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that Europe was the only region in the world where COVID-related deaths increased last week after a rise of 5 percent. In its weekly report on the pandemic issued on Tuesday, the WHO also said cases jumped 6 percent globally, driven by a rise in the Americas, Europe and Asia. WHO said COVID-19 deaths in all regions other than Europe remained stable or declined last week, totalling 50,000 worldwide. Of the 3.3 million new infections reported, 2.1 million came from Europe, it said. It was the seventh consecutive week that COVID-19 cases continued to mount across the 61 countries that WHO counts in its European region, which stretches through Russia to Central Asia.