"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
Portugal reimposes rules as COVID-19 cases rise
Portugal, which has one of the world's highest rates of vaccination against COVID-19, announced it would reimpose restrictions to stop a surge in cases, ordering all passengers flying into the country to show a negative test certificate on arrival. "It doesn't matter how successful the vaccination was, we must be aware we are entering a phase of greater risk," Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference on Thursday. "We have seen significant growth (in cases) in the EU and Portugal is not an island," he added.
Czechs shut bars and restaurants early, hoping to avoid COVID lockdown
The Czech government on Thursday ordered bars and clubs to close at 10 p.m. and banned Christmas markets in an attempt to stem one of the world's highest coronavirus infection rates. The new restrictions also include a maximum attendance of 1,000 people at culture and sports events, stopping short of the sweeping lockdowns in neighbouring Austria and Slovakia, where infection rates are even higher. Just hours after the new restrictions were announced, the presidential office said President Milos Zeman was taken to hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus, although local media reported he showed no symptoms.
Italy tightens screws on COVID unvaccinated, extends shot mandate
Italy on Wednesday tightened the screws on people unwilling to take an anti-COVID vaccine, sharply restricting access to an array of services and making vaccines mandatory for a wider group of public sector workers. Italy acted as much of Europe is increasing restrictions to try to grapple with a new wave of the pandemic. Under the Italian measures, which will come into force from Dec. 6, unvaccinated people will not be able to enter venues such as cinemas, restaurants and sports events, Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government said in a statement
Slovakia follows Austria into lockdown amid record surge in COVID cases
Slovakia's government followed the example of neighbouring Austria on Wednesday and ordered a two-week lockdown to quell the world's fastest rise in COVID-19 cases as the number of people sick in hospital reached a critical level and vaccination levels remain low. Restaurants and non-essential shops will close as part of the measures and movement will be limited to trips for essential shopping, work, school or medical visits, along with walks in nature, government officials said.
Hygiene Helpers
UK public urged to get Covid booster by 11 December if eligible to avoid waning immunity
Ministers are urging millions of Britons to get their Covid booster jab by 11 December to ensure they have “very high protection against Covid by Christmas Day” as new evidence shows the risk of infection increases with the time since the second dose. The fresh warning comes after cases broke records in parts of Europe on Wednesday, with the continent once again the centre of a pandemic that has prompted new restrictions. About 16 million people have had a booster vaccine or a third dose across the UK. Everyone aged 40 and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable are eligible to get a booster six months after their second jab. “If you’re yet to get your first, second or booster dose, please do come forward for the jab as soon as possible,” said Maggie Throup, the vaccines minister.
Australia will face a new wave of Covid-19 unless booster shot rates skyrocket, expert warns
Australia will face a new wave of COVID-19 cases similar to that currently being seen in Europe unless booster shot rates dramatically increase, a leading epidemiologist has warned. It comes as several European nations have reimposed restrictions and lockdowns after a spike in infections as the continent heads into winter. While case numbers were reducing in Australia as vaccination levels increase, infectious diseases expert Professor Raina MacIntyre said the country should heed the COVID situation overseas to avoid an identical situation next year.
France extends COVID-19 booster shots to all adults
France said on Thursday it would make COVID-19 booster shots available to all adults, toughen rules on wearing face masks and ramp up health pass checks as it seeks to curb a fifth wave of infections that risks undermining its economic recovery. The number of infections is doubling every 11 days in France but officials said there was no need to follow Austria's example of reimposing a lockdown. Health Minister Olivier Veran said anyone aged 18 or over would be eligible for booster shots and that the period between full vaccination and the booster jabs would be shortened to five months from six.
Portugal expands booster shots as COVID-19 cases rise
Portugal, one of the world's most vaccinated nations, will give COVID-19 booster shots to a quarter of its population by the end of January, the health secretary said on Wednesday, as authorities try to stop a recent surge in infections. The number of cases in Portugal reached a four-month daily high of 3,773 on Wednesday. Deaths, however, remain far below January levels, when the country faced its toughest battle against COVID-19, and the infection rate is far lower than in most of Western Europe.
EU proposes booster jabs for 2022 travel as COVID cases soar
European Union residents will need to have COVID-19 vaccine booster jabs if they want to travel to another country in the bloc next summer free of tests or quarantines, the European Commission proposed on Thursday. The EU executive also proposed accepting all vaccines approved by the World Health Organization for travel purposes, which would allow non-essential travel to the EU from outside the bloc for people vaccinated with Chinese shots and vaccines made in India. The Commission wants to harmonise rules across the 27 EU nations to allow free movement, a cornerstone of the European Union, but is facing new restrictions as cases break records in Europe and many EU countries roll out booster doses.
Community Activities
Emotional toll of COVID-19 on health workers is vast, varied
In the US study, a team led by Duke University researchers surveyed 1,344 HCWs in 2020 about their emotional state before the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. They recruited HCWs via email and social media from Apr 24 to May 30 (phase 1) and Oct 24 to Nov 30 (phase 2). In phase 1 involved 335 survey respondents of whom 32.6% were 35 to 44 years old, 86% were women, and 87.8% were White. Phase 2 included 1,009 participants, of whom 38.1% were aged 35 to 44, 90.5% were women, and 93.7% were White. Respondents included nurses, physicians, advanced practice practitioners, and chaplains. The HCWs reported emotions related to changes in family, social life, and occupational function. They expressed fear of contracting COVID-19 and spreading the infection to family and friends, stigmatization, short-staffing, and inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Europe’s Christmas markets warily open as COVID cases rise
The holiday tree is towering over the main square in this central German city, the chestnuts and sugared almonds are roasted, and kids are clambering aboard the merry-go-round just like they did before the pandemic. But a surge in coronavirus infections has left an uneasy feeling hanging over Frankfurt’s Christmas market. To savor a mug of mulled wine — an uncomplicated rite of winter in pre-pandemic times — masked customers must pass through a one-way entrance to a fenced-off wine hut, stopping at the hand sanitizer station. Elsewhere, security officers check vaccination certificates before letting customers head for the steaming sausages and kebabs. Despite the pandemic inconveniences, stall owners selling ornaments, roasted chestnuts and other holiday-themed items in Frankfurt and other European cities are relieved to be open at all for their first Christmas market in two years, especially with new restrictions taking effect in Germany, Austria and other countries as COVID-19 infections hit record highs
Working Remotely
The Pros and Cons of Continuing To Work Remotely Post-Pandemic
Even when it's safe to go back to an office, many predict that working from home and more flexible options will remain the norm. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that at least 25%-30% of the U.S. workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. Large companies like Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have already announced more flexible permanent policies. On top of meeting employee demand, it makes sense for employers on a number of fronts.
Man travels the world while working – and now lets his entire business do the same
The idea of working remotely abroad has catapulted into the mainstream since the pandemic. But one man from Belgium was living this ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle long before March 2020. Six years ago, Andy Stofferis decided that day-to-day life in his hometown wasn’t serving him anymore, so he packed up his things and started travelling to destinations around the world – while still working full-time. His company has now expanded and all his employees are working remotely as fellow digital nomads around the world, or are freelancing from their hometowns.
Virtual Classrooms
How innovation is smashing digital learning barriers
A year ago, Unicef announced that more than one billion children were at risk of falling behind academically due to school closures in response to Covid-19. Education institutions have since adapted, deploying technology that enables teachers and pupils to continue to connect outside of the classroom, further accelerating the positive impact technology has played in education over the last few decades. With the reopening of schools, educational establishments are building on the digital foundations they have laid, helping to address the concerns raised in the Unicef report, such as lack of access to personal computers and technology that facilitates home-based learning.
Mumbai: Hybrid education mode ‘not working’ for online students
In Mumbai, with schools requesting the state to make attendance in physical classrooms compulsory, students attending virtual classes from home are complaining about being “left out” by teachers when hybrid lessons are in progress. “With classes going hybrid, students attending online are feeling left out during interactive sessions. Teachers are not adequately trained to handle in-person and virtual students at the same time,” said the principal of a Sion school.
Public Policies
Israel labels 7 African countries ‘red’ as new variant stokes worry
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday evening ordered that several countries in southern Africa be labeled “red,” heavily restricting entry from them following the emergence of a new, highly mutable coronavirus variant in South Africa, South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Eswatini were added to the list of countries from which foreigners are barred entry to Israel. The list had been empty for some six weeks, as no country met the Health Ministry’s criteria. Israelis returning to the country, including those fully vaccinated, from any of the countries now considered “red” will be required to isolate at a state-run hotel for a week and will be released after receiving two negative PCR virus tests, Bennett said in a statement.
Fauci says changing definition of fully vaccinated to include boosters is 'on the table' | TheHill
Top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said changing the definition of what qualifies a person as fully vaccinated to include a booster shot is “on the table.” "Right now, officially, fully vaccinated equals two shots of the mRNA and one shot of the J&J, but without a doubt that could change," Fauci said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference, Reuters reported. "That's on the table for discussion,” he added. The consideration comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that booster shots can be given to anyone above the age of 18. "We'd like to get as many people who were originally vaccinated with the first regimen boosted," Fauci said, adding he hopes to see an “overwhelming majority” get the booster shot. Proof of full vaccination has been required by many venues across the country and in some major cities has been required for dining in at restaurants.
Health minister suggests fourth vaccine dose amid rising fears of fifth COVID wave
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Wednesday that Israelis may need to get a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose at some point if cases climb again, as the country’s top coronavirus official warned that the country may already be seeing the start of a fifth infection wave. “It’s not unreasonable [to think] we’ll need a fourth vaccine,” said Horowitz in an interview with Channel 12, after Health Ministry data indicated that 9 percent of the new cases diagnosed Tuesday had received the third booster dose. Most concerns, however, have revolved not around triply-vaccinated adults, but children who have yet to be vaccinated. Israel began giving shots to kids as young as 5 this week, amid signs pointing to increasing infection rates among kids.
Turkey's domestic COVID-19 vaccine applies for emergency authorisation
Turkey's domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, Turkovac, has applied for emergency authorisation, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday, adding he hoped the shot would be available for use by year-end. Speaking at his ministry's budget debate in parliament, Koca said work on Turkovac was nearing completion, and added the shot would mark the first Phase III clinical research project to be fully carried out by Turkey. "I would like to share a piece of good news for our people: our domestic inactive COVID-19 vaccine Turkovac has applied for emergency authorisation as of today," Koca said.
EU regulator gives go-ahead to first COVID shot for 5-11 year olds
The EU's drug regulator approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11 on Thursday, paving the way for them to be given a first shot as Europe struggles with a surge in cases. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, approved for European Union use in teenagers between 12 and 17 years old since May, be given as an injection in the upper arm in two 10 microgram doses, three weeks apart. Adult doses contain 30 micrograms.
Australia to deploy police, military to Solomon Islands as protests spread
Australia will deploy more than 100 police and military personnel to aid the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, as protesters in the Pacific Island nation defied a curfew to protest for a second consecutive day. Morrison said Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had requested Australian assistance, which Canberra's national security committee quickly approved. Australia will send 23 police officers immediately to assist with riot control, Morrison said, with a further 50 personnel to enforce security at critical infrastructure.
Louisiana spends $27M and counting on vaccine outreach work
Trying to boost one of the nation’s lowest coronavirus vaccination rates, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has spent $27 million and counting on incentive programs, community door-knocking and advertising in hopes of persuading people to get the shot. The Louisiana Department of Health’s vaccine outreach costs continue to grow weekly and are entirely federally financed. The work began in November 2020, according to the agency, and has reached a spending pace of about $2 million a month on its paid media campaign alone. The state has sought to chip away at immunization hesitancy with TV, radio and digital advertising, direct mail to homes, telephone town hall meetings, billboards and a hotline to answer vaccine-related questions. Local organizations have been hired to make phone calls, show up at local events and walk neighborhoods promoting the vaccine benefits.
Maintaining Services
Logistical challenges hampering Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drives
As deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa finally pick up, many nations are struggling with the logistics of accelerating their inoculation campaigns, the head of Africa’s disease control body said on Thursday.
Europe Health Agency, in Shift, Urges Faster Covid-19 Booster Rollout as Cases Surge
The head of the European Union’s public-health agency recommended governments accelerate their campaigns to roll out Covid-19 booster shots as case numbers rise rapidly across parts of the bloc. Andrea Ammon, head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said on Wednesday that Covid-19 boosters should be offered to everyone over 18 years old, six months after they were first fully vaccinated, with priority given to those ages 40 and older. The ECDC’s recommendations aren’t binding on the governments of EU states, but they help shape health policy. Previously, the agency said boosters weren’t urgent except for the frail and people with compromised immune systems.
Healthcare Innovations
Africa Health Body Investigates New Covid Variant in South Africa
African health authorities plan to hold talks with their South African counterparts next week about a new coronavirus variant that has been found in the country. Data on the new variant is currently being analyzed and more information will be released after the meeting, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong said in a virtual briefing on Thursday. A new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations has emerged, with cases reported in Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong, the Independent reported earlier. The B.1.1529, or so-called Botswana variant, is an offshoot of another variant called B.1.1., the London-based newspaper said.