"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 23rd Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
Austria re-enters COVID-19 lockdown as cases soar again in Europe
The German health minister has warned citizens that they would be either “vaccinated, cured or dead” from COVID-19 by the end of winter as several European countries impose restrictions amid surging infections. “Probably by the end of this winter, as is sometimes cynically said, pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, cured or dead,” Jens Spahn said, as he urged more Germans to get the jab. As intensive care beds fill up fast, Germany’s worst-hit regions have ordered new shutdowns, including the closure of Christmas markets. In regions with high hospitalisation rates, the unvaccinated will be barred from public spaces like cinemas, gyms and indoor dining. Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany’s current COVID restrictions, including barring the unvaccinated from certain public spaces “are not enough”.
Singapore health minister says return to strict COVID-19 curbs a last resort
A return to stricter COVID-19 curbs in Singapore will be a "last resort", Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday, as the city-state partially eased limits on social gatherings and dining out under its calibrated reopening approach. Ong also said the international travel and tourism hub would continue to open "travel lanes" with more countries for vaccinated visitors. Singapore is gradually granting small groups of vaccinated people increased liberties, resuming in-person business events and permitting quarantine-free travel from select countries as it ramps up its vaccine booster programme. "I feel it's important to do it this way, because it minimizes the chance of us having to backpedal too frequently," Ong told Reuters in an interview on Monday for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.
New Zealand to end tough COVID curbs, adopt new virus-fighting system
New Zealand will adopt a new system of living with the coronavirus virus from Dec. 3, which will end tough restrictions and allow businesses to operate in its biggest city, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday. New Zealand remained largely COVID-19 free until August but has been unable to beat an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant, forcing Ardern to abandon an elimination strategy and switch to treating the virus as endemic.
Hygiene Helpers
Official: More than 90% of fed workers got shots by deadline
More than 90% of federal workers received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday’s deadline set by President Joe Biden. Biden announced in September that more than 3.5 million federal workers were required to undergo vaccination, with no option to get regularly tested instead, unless they secured an approved medical or religious exemption. A U.S. official said the vast majority of federal workers are fully vaccinated, and that a smaller number have pending or approved exceptions to the mandate. In all, more than 95% of federal workers are in compliance with the Biden mandate, the official said, either by being vaccinated or having requested an exemption. Workers who are not in compliance are set to begin a “counseling” process that could ultimately result in their termination if they don’t get a shot or secure an approved exception to vaccination.
Covid in Kenya: Unvaccinated to be barred from basic services
Kenyans will be barred from bars, restaurants and public transport from 21 December if they are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe says. The measures are aimed at increasing the rate of vaccinations ahead of the festive season. Less than 10% of the population is currently vaccinated - about 6.4 million people. This gives more 20 million adults in Kenya just a month to get vaccinated. The AstraZenaca vaccines is the most commonly used vaccine in Kenya and the two doses required to be fully vaccinated are supposed to be given at least six weeks apart.
EU wants to harmonize validity period of vaccination certificate
The European Commission aims to harmonize the duration of the validity of the COVID-19 vaccination certificate, including the effects of booster shots, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Monday, amid record infection numbers in some EU states. "I fully agree with the urgency, and this is why the European Commission is working with the utmost urgency to strengthen the coordination of free movement, including the length of validity and the role of boosters in the vaccination campaign," she told European lawmakers in Strasbourg
How COVID shots for kids help prevent dangerous new variants
Cadell Walker rushed to get her 9-year-old daughter Solome vaccinated against COVID-19 — not just to protect her but to help stop the coronavirus from spreading and spawning even more dangerous variants. “Love thy neighbor is something that we really do believe, and we want to be good community members and want to model that thinking for our daughter,” said the 40-year-old Louisville mom, who recently took Solome to a local middle school for her shot. “The only way to really beat COVID is for all of us collectively to work together for the greater good.” Scientists agree. Each infection — whether in an adult in Yemen or a kid in Kentucky — gives the virus another opportunity to mutate. Protecting a new, large chunk of the population anywhere in the world limits those opportunities.
Community Activities
Angry COVID-19 protesters hurl abuse at WA Premier
Flanked by police, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan had to be led to safety after he was subjected to a barrage of personal insults while leaving a town hall meeting yesterday. COVID-19 protesters demonstrating against the vaccine surrounded the premier at an engagement in Eaton, south of Perth, hurling abuse and chants of "dog" at Mr McGowan. The premier said the protesters, who claimed they were not anti-vaxxers but pro-choice, will only strengthen his resolve. Dozens of protesters waving the Australian red ensign - a red version of the Australian flag adopted by anti-government groups - could be seen on video rushing towards a convoy of government cars. Yesterday's demonstrations are the latest in a spate of protests and threats targeting the premier, whose office has confirmed no one was harmed in yesterday's encounter. Protesters have reportedly issued death and rape threats to Mr McGowan's staff members.
U.S. families plan big holiday celebrations with COVID-19 shots in arms
Tanya Primiani will host 12 people around a long Thanksgiving table in her Silver Spring, Maryland home on Thursday, a boisterous scene she looks forward to welcoming after the COVID-19 pandemic limited the size of last year's gathering. Her parents are coming from Montreal, driving across the recently reopened U.S.-Canada border. Her sons, ages 7 and 10, have gotten their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations, and all the other guests are fully vaccinated against the virus
Clashes break out in Brussels in protests over coronavirus restrictions
Police and protesters clashed in the streets of Brussels on Sunday in demonstrations over government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions, with police firing water cannon and tear gas at demonstrators throwing rocks and smoke bombs, witnesses said. About 35,000 people took part in demonstrations, police said, which began peacefully before violence broke out. Protesters wearing black hoods threw stones at police as they advanced with water cannon at the main junction in front of the European Union Commission headquarters, Reuters journalists said.
Dutch COVID riots ‘pure violence’ by ‘idiots’: PM Rutte
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has criticised three nights of riots over anti-COVID measures, calling the unrest “pure violence” by “idiots” and vowed to prosecute those responsible. The riots in several cities around the country since Friday were “violence under the guise of protest”, the prime minister said. He added he would always defend the right to protest, but “I will never accept is that idiots use pure violence against people … who keep this country safe,” he told Dutch media.
Working Remotely
Workers want a flexible future at work. What do employers want?
Across Canada, employers are trying to map out what's best for their organizations in a post-pandemic era, in terms of how they'll structure their working arrangements going forward and how that will affect employees. Yet employers are under pressure to embrace a more flexible future, and it seems some larger organizations are listening. At Microsoft Canada, there's an expectation the future will be different for its more than 4,000 Canadian employees. "We believe extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace," Microsoft spokesperson Lisa Gibson told CBC News
7 Ways to Acknowledge Employees in a Virtual World
In a physical setting, managers are able to see employees, which may prompt the realization that they haven't interacted with that individual in a while. But working remotely, that doesn't happen as naturally. In both physical and online settings, leaders, managers and HR professionals need to be cognizant and mindful about providing feedback regularly and consistently in a variety of ways. There are some easy tips to make sure you are always creating an environment where your employees feel appreciated.
Virtual Classrooms
Remote learning led to lower K-12 test scores in some U.S. states, especially for math, study finds
The coronavirus pandemic forced schools to pivot to virtual learning in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, but new research shows how remote learning hurt some students' academic performance. According to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), remote learning caused significant declines in test scores in English language arts and math compared to schools with more in-person learning.
Public Policies
U.S. issues 'Do Not Travel' COVID-19 warning for Germany, Denmark
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department on Monday advised against travel to Germany and Denmark because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in those countries. The CDC elevated its travel recommendation to "Level Four: Very High" for the two European countries, telling Americans they should avoid travel there, while the State Department issued parallel "Do Not Travel" advisories for both countries.
EU considers booster doses of J&J's COVID-19 vaccine
The European Medicines Agency says it is evaluating whether to authorize booster doses of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine. In a statement Monday, the EU drug regulator said it was considering an application from J&J to recommend booster doses of the J&J vaccine for adults 18 and over, at least two months after they were first immunized. Amid an explosive surge of new coronavirus infections across Europe the EMA said it expected to make a decision on this within weeks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to J&J booster doses in October, both for people who initially received the J&J and vaccine and for people who got immunized with other vaccines.
Baidu in partnership with Sanofi to use its algorithm in mRNA vaccine, therapy development
Chinese tech giant Baidu Inc said on Monday it has licensed its algorithm for messenger RNA (mRNA) sequence to Sanofi SA for use in designing vaccine and therapeutic products, entering its first such commercial deal with a major global drugmaker. Sanofi had been one of the world's biggest vaccine makers before the pandemic, but the French firm was beaten by rivals BioNTech /Pfizer) and Moderna in developing mRNA shots against COVID-19. read more Sanofi stopped trials of its own mRNA COVID-19 shot in September, and is instead focusing on efforts with GlaxoSmithKline to bring another COVID-19 vaccine candidate to market based on the more conventional protein-based approach.
Activists urge Biden to push for intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines
Fifteen medical and human rights groups are urging U.S. President Joe Biden to get personally engaged in a long-running fight to enact an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization, calling his leadership "a moral necessity." Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Public Citizen and 11 other groups told Biden in a letter that an emergency waiver was urgently needed to combat the pandemic, noting that fewer than 7% of people in low-income countries had received a first COVID-19 shot and vaccines remained scarce.
Maintaining Services
Israel starts vaccinating young children as coronavirus cases rise
Israel began rolling out Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds on Monday hoping to beat down a recent rise in coronavirus infections. A fourth wave of infections that hit Israel in June began subsiding in September. But over the past two weeks the "R", or reproduction rate of the virus, that had remained below one for two months began climbing and has now crossed that threshold, indicating the virus could again be spreading exponentially. Daily cases have also crept up over the past few days, with half the confirmed infections presently among children age 11 and younger.
‘Supercharge booster vaccines,’ NHS boss Vin Diwakar pleads, as London cases rise
A health chief has called for the jabs race to be “supercharged” to get more people protected against Covid-19 as bookings for boosters were opened to those in their forties. Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director for the NHS in London, issued the appeal as official figures showed there have been 18,049 confirmed coronavirus cases in the capital in just four days. There were 4,536 announced yesterday and it is the first time since late July when daily totals have risen above 4,000 for four consecutive days. More than 1,489,000 Londoners have already had a booster, or third jab for some vulnerable groups, with uptake understood to be particularly high among people in their seventies and even higher among care home staff.
Revealed: Over 600 babies born premature and needing critical care to mothers hospitalised by Covid-19
More than 600 babies have been born prematurely and needing critical care to mothers hospitalised by Covid-19, The Independent can reveal — as women are warned they are up to three times more likely to have an early birth with the virus. The figures, which cover 17 months of the pandemic, prompted calls for the government to make pregnant women of all ages eligible for Covid-19 booster jabs. Concern about pregnant women avoiding the vaccine has pushed chief medical officer Chris Whitty to urge mothers-to-be to get fully jabbed, with take-up rates in this group as low as 15 per cent last month.
Hungarians line up for shots as COVID surges across Europe
People were lining up for COVID-19 shots outside Budapest's main hospitals on Monday as Hungary for the first time offered vaccinations without prior registration amid a surge in new infections. Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, accounting for half of global cases and deaths, and protests turned violent in the Netherlands and Belgium over the weekend over new curbs on movement. Austria entered its fourth national lockdown on Monday after tens of thousands marched against new restrictions. Germany is debating making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory.
Healthcare Innovations
Experimental chewing gum may reduce virus spread; Booster shot protection may be longer lasting
An experimental chewing gum containing a protein that "traps" coronavirus particles could limit the amount of virus in saliva and help curb transmission when infected people are talking, breathing or coughing, researchers believe. The gum contains copies of the ACE2 protein found on cell surfaces, which the virus uses as a gateway to break into cells and infect them. In test-tube experiments using saliva and swab samples from infected individuals, virus particles attached themselves to the ACE2 "receptors" in the chewing gum. As a result, the viral load in the samples fell by more than 95%, the research team from the University of Pennsylvania reported in Molecular Therapy. The gum feels and tastes like conventional chewing gum, can be stored for years at normal temperatures, and chewing it does not damage the ACE2 protein molecules, the researchers said. Using gum to reduce viral loads in saliva , they suggest, would add to the benefit of vaccines and would be particularly useful in countries where vaccines are not yet available or affordable.
‘Herd immunity’ more complex than reaching 70% vaccine rate, says Oregon health expert
With COVID cases declining and the vaccine rate reaching 73%, many Oregonians are wondering when they can drop their face masks. Health experts say: not until early next year, if not longer. The COVID-19 booster is now available to all adults in Oregon. The Oregon Health Authority made the announcement Saturday, a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced similar federal guidelines. The news comes after a weeks-long decline in COVID cases across the state. Case numbers are about half what they were at the peak of the Delta surge in September, and COVID-related hospitalizations are down to about 400 patients. By contrast, there were 1,178 COVID patients in Oregon on Sept. 1. Nonetheless, state health officials say there’s still a long road ahead.
Pfizer's Covid vaccine was 100% effective in kids in longer-term study
Pfizer and BioNTech announced Monday that their Covid-19 vaccine was 100% efficacious in preventing infections in 12- to 15-year-olds, measured from seven days to four months after administration of the second dose of the vaccine. The companies said the new data — a longer-term analysis of a Phase 3 trial conducted in 2,228 participants — will form the basis of an application to the Food and Drug Administration for an extension of their Covid-19 vaccine license to cover youths in the age group.