"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 30th Dec 2021

Isolation Tips
'Just want to go home': China's Xian in COVID lockdown for 7th day
A lockdown of 13 million people in the Chinese city of Xian entered its seventh day on Wednesday, with many unable to leave their residential compounds and relying on deliveries of necessities as new COVID-19 infections persisted. Xian reported 151 domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms for Tuesday, or nearly all of the 152 cases nationwide, bringing the total number of local Xian cases to nearly 1,000 during the Dec. 9-28 period. No cases of the Omicron variant have been announced in the city so far.
CDC cuts isolation time for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases to 5 days
U.S. health authorities on Monday shortened the recommended isolation time for Americans with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to five days from the previous guidance of 10 days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said the asymptomatic people after isolation should follow five days of wearing a mask when around others. It also recommended a five-day quarantine for those exposed to the virus who are unvaccinated or are over six months out from their second mRNA dose or more than two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and not yet boosted. The quarantine period should be followed by strict mask use for an additional five days.
Hygiene Helpers
UK's Johnson warns of hospital risk for unvaccinated
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Wednesday that the overwhelming majority of patients ending up in intensive care with COVID-19 had not received their booster vaccine, as he urged people to get their jabs. Johnson, on a visit to a vaccine centre, said he had been told by some doctors that up to 90% of patients with COVID-19 in intensive care had not received their booster vaccines. "I'm sorry to say this, but the overwhelming majority of people who are currently ending up in intensive care in our hospitals are people who are not boosted," he said. "I've talked to doctors who say the numbers are running up to 90% of people in intensive care."
COVID-19: Fresh vaccine booster drive launched amid continued rise in coronavirus cases
A fresh booster jab drive has been launched by the NHS in an effort to protect more people from the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. Another 650,000 text messages and 50,000 letters will be sent in the coming days to those people who are yet to get their third vaccine dose, asking them to have a "jabby new year". Millions were contacted earlier in the week with a similar message, encouraging people to book their boosters as soon as possible.
More Covid-19 Vaccines Are Reaching Poorer Nations, but Slowly
Vaccine makers have delivered more Covid-19 shots to the world’s poorest nations in recent months, but wealthy countries are still receiving a disproportionate share. The unequal distribution, global health experts say, has hampered efforts to move past the pandemic and allowed new variants like Omicron to emerge. High-income nations, which include the U.S. and are home to a sixth of the world’s population, have received nearly half of all 5.9 billion doses made by the four major Western vaccine makers, according to healthcare data company Airfinity.
Community Activities
CDC Investigating 86 Cruise Ships With Covid-19 Cases
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating or monitoring 86 cruise ships with reported Covid-19 cases on board, according to a list posted on its website Tuesday, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads around the world. The CDC investigates a ship if there are one or more reported Covid-19 cases among the crew or if cases reported account for at least 0.10% of total passengers in the past seven days. For a ship with 6,500 passengers, that would mean seven cases would trigger an investigation. As part of the investigation, the CDC works with the cruise ship to lower transmission and ensure medical resources on board aren’t overwhelmed, according to the agency. It also gathers additional information such as case exposure histories, vaccination rates and details about close contacts.
Working Remotely
Can Remote Work Be Sustained? Minding The Gaps In Hybrid Workplaces
It’s clear that organizations built on forward-looking corporate cultures are ready to sustain, on a permanent basis, hybrid workplaces that provide for both remote work as well as in-office experiences. The question is, are more rigid organizations ready for this kind of model? It seems many may be seeing the light, a recent Google Workspace survey of 1,244 managers and employees and associated research project, conducted with Economist Impact finds. In the wake of the great office work dispersal, three in four executives and employees in the Google survey believe that hybrid and flexible work is here to stay.
Virtual Classrooms
Newfoundland and Labrador schools switch to online learning as COVID-19 cases surge
Public school students in Newfoundland and Labrador will return from the holiday break to remote learning starting Monday, as the province, like the rest of the Atlantic region, battles a surge in COVID-19 cases. Premier Andrew Furey announced the change on Wednesday, one day after Nova Scotia extended the holiday break for students in that province by one week in order to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
Public Policies
Biden confirms end of Omicron travel
US President Joe Biden has formally ordered an end to travel restrictions on eight southern African countries imposed last month to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, saying that the curbs are “no longer necessary to protect the public health”. Biden issued a proclamation on Tuesday repealing the restrictions on travel into the United States from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
WHO's Tedros concerned about 'tsunami of cases' from COVID-19 variants
The simultaneous circulation of the Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus is creating a "tsunami of cases", World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing on Wednesday. "Delta and Omicrom are now twin threats driving up cases to record numbers, leading to spikes in hospitalisation and deaths," said Tedros. "I am highly concerned that Omicron, being highly transmissible and spreading at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases."
Israel's Oramed gets Vietnam pre-order for 10 mln COVID-19 vaccine doses
Israel's Oramed Pharmaceuticals said on Wednesday its Oravax Medical unit signed a deal with Vietnam's Tan Thanh Holdings for the pre-order of 10 million doses of its oral COVID-19 vaccine that is in clinical trials. The agreement gives Tan Thanh, a drug distributor, the right to sell Oravax’s oral vaccine in development throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, Oramed said.
Germany Buys Pfizer's Covid Pill Amid Surging Omicron Cases
Germany is buying 1 million packs of Pfizer Inc.’s newly approved pill to treat Covid-19, securing supplies as infections from the fast-spreading omicron variant rise rapidly. The Paxlovid drug is “extremely promising” because it can help people who risk falling seriously ill, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told German news agency DPA. The country’s health authorities reported a total of 10,443 omicron cases as of Tuesday, a 43% jump from the previous day.
Maintaining Services
U.S. COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations 'comparatively' low despite Omicron surge, CDC director says
COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are "comparatively" low as the highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday as cases in the United States reached a record high. "In a few short weeks Omicron has rapidly increased across the country, and we expect will continue to circulate in the coming weeks. While cases have substantially increased from last week, hospitalizations and deaths remain comparatively low right now," she said, referring to overall cases.
In under-vaccinated Congo, fourth COVID-19 wave fills hospitals
At the St Joseph COVID Treatment Centre in Kinshasa, patients lie in ramshackle rooms breathing oxygen from old tanks. The clinic has 38 beds, and all but one are occupied. In a backyard littered with medical equipment, tents are needed to cope with the overflow. Democratic Republic of Congo is the least vaccinated country against COVID-19 in the world. Now a fourth wave of the coronavirus threatens to put greater pressure on its rickety health system than at any time during the pandemic. "We have experienced the three previous waves gradually, but in the fourth wave cases have jumped overnight," said Francois Kajingulu, the head of St Joseph. "On Monday we had 5-6 cases and on Saturday we went straight from 30 to 36."
New Omicron variant fills up children's hospitals
A five-fold increase in pediatric admissions in New York City this month. Close to double the numbers admitted in Washington, DC. And nationwide, on average, pediatric hospitalizations are up 48% in just the past week. The highly transmissible Omicron variant is teaming up with the busy holiday season to infect more children across the United States than ever before, and children's hospitals are bracing for it to get even worse. "I think we are going to see more numbers now than we have ever seen," Dr. Stanley Spinner, who is chief medical officer and vice president at Texas Children's Pediatrics & Urgent Care in Houston, told CNN.
COVID-19: PCR and lateral flow tests could 'run out' temporarily amid surge in demand, say health officials
Coronavirus tests could be temporarily unavailable to order due to "exceptionally high demand", the UK Health Security Agency has warned. Demand is surging as the more transmissible Omicron variant pushes cases numbers to record levels. Lateral flow and PCR tests were both unavailable for home delivery across the UK via the government website on Wednesday morning.
Healthcare Innovations
Postal Covid vaccine patch could provide alternative to jabs by delivering protection ‘like a plaster’
Scientists developing a Covid-19 vaccine skin patch say the invention could revolutionise the coronavirus immunisation process by delivering it to people through the post and allowing them to “vaccinate” themselves by simply sticking it on their skin. Experts at Lancaster University have developed a new Covid-19 vaccine which has shown highly promising results in animal trials and they are already working on a nasal spray method of delivery. However, researchers have revealed they are now developing a patch version of the same vaccine which will have exciting implications if it proves successful in trials and is approved.
Israeli hospital launches first test of second COVID-19 booster
An Israeli hospital administered fourth COVID-19 vaccine doses to a test group of health workers on Monday, in what it called the first major study into whether a second round of boosters will help contend with the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Results of the trial, likely to be closely watched internationally, will be submitted to Israel's Health Ministry in about two weeks, said a spokesperson for Sheba Medical Centre near Tel Aviv. Israel was the fastest country to roll out initial vaccinations a year ago, and became one of the first to launch a booster programme after observing that immunity waned over time
Omicron May Cut Delta Infections, South African Study Shows
Infection with the omicron coronavirus variant can also strengthen immunity against the earlier delta strain, reducing the risk of severe disease, according to a paper released by South African scientists. While omicron has been shown to be highly transmissible and can evade some antibodies, after two weeks of getting symptoms immunity to subsequent infections from the strain rose 14-fold, according to the authors led by Alex Sigal and Khadija Khan of the Durban, South Africa-based Africa Health Research Institute. A smaller improvement was found against delta, they said. “If we are lucky, omicron is less pathogenic, and this immunity will help push delta out,” said Sigal, who has previously found a two-dose course of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 shot as well as a previous infection may give stronger protection against omicron.