"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 14th Jan 2022

What we want to achieve

  • A reliable news source –- We search for stories that come from reliable sources. We're trying to create a disinformation bulwark, a wall built from a range of stories and perspectives that can help users see what is being written about Covid-19 around the world each day.
  • A trustworthy source –- By hand-picking stories a range of stories from reliable sources we aim to support COVID health literacy and decision making and not dictate what organizations or individuals should think or do in any fashion.
  • A logical presentation -– Our search tool scoops up news via APIs, expert analysts read the text and editors organise the stories in accessible and logical categories each day.
  • A useful compendium of stories –- We aim to maintain independence, integrity and accuracy - in the hope of creating a database of stories and information journalists and decision makers on all levels can use to help themselves better understand action options, advocate for smarter policies and communicate useful information.
  • A crowd-resourced platform –- after two years and more than 560 newsletters we are looking for contributers, donors and/or amplifiers  to ‘freshen-up’ this platform and  expand its reach and impact. 

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Isolation Tips
Norway Eases Measures as It Prepares to Live With Omicron Wave
Norway is scaling back some of its infection restrictions as it moves into a new phase of the pandemic. The omicron variant has pushed infection rates to records, and the country now needs to ready itself to tolerate living with the virus, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters on Thursday. It isn’t possible to stop an omicron-driven wave, but the likelihood of hospitalization is lower and vaccination provides good protection against serious sickness, he said.
England to cut minimum COVID self-isolation to five days
The minimum COVID-19 self-isolation period in England will be cut to five days from seven if someone tests negative twice, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Thursday, a move that could reduce staffing disruption in businesses and infrastructure. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has fuelled a spike in COVID-19 cases to record highs in Britain, and the surge has cause major disruption to the staffing of hospitals, schools and transport as staff have to self-isolate.
Hygiene Helpers
Why Cuba's extraordinary Covid vaccine success could provide the best hope for low-income countries
Cuba’s prestigious biotech sector has developed five different Covid vaccines to date, including Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus — all of which Cuba has said provide upwards of 90% protection against symptomatic Covid when administered in three doses. The country of roughly 11 million remains the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have produced a homegrown shot for Covid. The WHO’s potential approval of Cuba’s nationally produced Covid vaccines would carry “enormous significance” for low-income nations, John Kirk, professor emeritus at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, said
Community Activities
French teachers walk out of classrooms in strike over Covid strategy
French teachers have held one of the biggest education strikes in recent years, forcing the closure of hundreds of primary schools in protest at the government’s handling of Covid-19 measures in the education sector. Tens of thousands of teachers took part in the one-day strike. Trade unions said 75% of primary teachers walked out alongside 62% of secondary teachers. The education ministry gave much lower figures on Thursday morning, saying there was an average of 38.5% of teachers on strike in primary schools, and just under 24% in high schools. Teachers and education support staff joined a protest march through the centre of Paris to the education ministry, and others demonstrated in towns across France.
So long Toronto: COVID-19 pandemic hastens Canada's urban exodus
Canada's urban exodus picked up steam into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with tens of thousands of people leaving Toronto and Montreal for smaller cities or rural areas, official data showed on Thursday. More than 64,000 people left Toronto for other parts of Ontario from mid-2020 to mid-2021, up 14% from the previous 12-month period, according to Statistics Canada population estimates, with another 6,600 moving out of province.
Australian Open crowds capped at 50% capacity due to COVID
Crowds at the main Australian Open tennis stadiums will be capped at 50% capacity under updated COVID-19 restrictions, organisers said on Thursday, as authorities battle a surge of cases in Melbourne. Face masks will also be mandatory for all patrons, except when eating or drinking, and there will be density limits of one person per two square metres at indoor hospitality venues. Tennis Australia (TA) said the 50% cap only applied for ticket sales at the Rod Laver Arena centre court and the second show court Margaret Court Arena.
Working Remotely
Pandemic spurs new smart home products designed to boost your health and efficiency
Spending so much time working remotely over the past 22 months, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to note what’s unsatisfactory about systems and products around the home and to dream about technology that would make life better. Manufacturers got the message with a range of new or soon-to-be-introduced products. Here’s a look at a range of new smart products aimed at boosting comfort, convenience and energy efficiency in the home
Will remote work stick after the pandemic?
New habits are sticking—and economists have gathered the data to prove it. Take remote work. Jose Maria Barrero of the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México presented results from research with Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University and Steven Davis of the University of Chicago. Since May 2020 the economists have conducted a monthly survey that, among other things, asks Americans about their plans to work remotely. A year ago, the results suggested that remote work would account for 20% of full-time hours after the pandemic. Over the past year, however, remote work has gained favour. Based on the survey results from December, the researchers reckon that 28% of hours might ultimately be worked from home. Employees who were once undecided now say they might sometimes work from home
Remote work is a saving grace — and can increase productivity
Before the pandemic, working from the comfort of one’s home was a pipe dream for most people. But that’s changing. Apple, for example, recently announced its plan to implement a hybrid work program beginning Feb. 1, 2022. Apple’s remote-friendly plan isn’t particularly radical — in fact, it’s conservative compared to some other companies today. The companies behind Wikipedia, GitLab, WordPress, and PwC all have embraced work-from-anywhere policies. If the COVID-19 pandemic had any silver lining, it was that it proved the massive transition to remote work is both feasible and desirable.
Fewer US remote workers feel comfortable returning to office
As Omicron infections surge across the United States, a weekly survey shows American workers are growing more uneasy about the prospect of returning to the office. Morning Consult’s weekly tracker of US adults who usually work from an office but have gone remote during the coronavirus pandemic found that 43 percent said on January 6 that they would feel uncomfortable returning to the office. That compares with 35 percent from the previous week and marks the highest reading since September. In a sign of just how reluctant workers are becoming about upping stakes from their home offices to work in person with office peers, more than half of those surveyed last week – 55 percent – said they would consider quitting their jobs before returning to the office.
Virtual Classrooms
Creating an engaged digital learning space: Not just a pandemic necessity
Educators can do more to support online students in the post-pandemic hybrid learning climate, says chief operating officer at ViewSonic Bonny Cheng: "Given the often ad hoc nature of hybrid learning during the pandemic, some might have the impression that hybrid learning is a second-best option compared to in-person learning. Modern digital learning tools, when properly implemented, can bridge the gap between in-class and remote learning. This new approach to education will also open up new opportunities to teach more broadly."
Omicron Continues To ‘Significantly Impact’ In-Person Learning As 2 More Philly Schools Go Virtual To Bring Total Over 100
The number of Philadelphia schools switching to virtual learning this week is now over 100. Two more schools have joined the growing list because of the COVID-19 surge brought upon by the omicron variant. Right now, a total of 101 schools are virtual.
Public Policies
French Senate approves latest COVID measures and vaccine pass
The French Senate approved on Thursday the government's latest measures to tackle the COVID-19 virus, including a vaccine pass, which has encountered some opposition among the public after President Emmanuel Macron's harsh criticism of the unvaccinated. The Senate backed the COVID measures and legislation for a COVID vaccine pass by 249 in favour, versus 63 against. The legislation had already been approved earlier this month by France's lower house of parliament.
U.S. Supreme Court blocks Biden vaccine-or-test policy for large businesses
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses - a policy the conservative justices deemed an improper imposition on the lives and health of many Americans - while endorsing a separate federal vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities. Biden voiced disappointment with the conservative-majority court's decision to halt his administration's rule requiring vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests for employees at businesses with at least 100 employees. Biden said it now is up to states and employers to decide whether to require workers "to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated."
Swissmedic temporarily approves Regkirona COVID-19 treatment
Swiss drugs regulator Swissmedic said on Thursday it had granted temporary approval to Regkirona, antibody medicine that can be used for the treatment of COVID-19 in adults. Swissmedic said the applicant did not submit any information on its efficacy against the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Regkirona, which contains the active substance regdanvimab, can be used to treat adult COVID patients if oxygen therapy or hospitalisation is not required, and there is a high risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19.
Sweden cuts recommended gap between second and third COVID shot
Sweden will cut the recommended time interval between the second and third COVID vaccine shot to five months from six, the health agency said on Wednesday. The decision will affect people between the age of 18 and 64. People above 65 were already eligible to get their booster shot five months after the second. Children aged 12 to 17 will still have to wait six months.
Senegal authorizes COVID-19 booster shots, vaccines for children
Senegal has authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children over 12 and booster shots for adults, the health ministry said on Thursday, as vaccine hesitancy complicates its fight against rising infections from the Omicron variant. The booster dose will initially be aimed at people identified as vulnerable to severe illness, the health ministry said in a Twitter post on Thursday that included a ministry letter dated Jan. 11.
AstraZeneca sells another half-million doses of its COVID-19 antibody combo to the US
Order up. Shortly after topping off supplies of COVID-19 drugs from Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, the U.S. has asked for a second helping of AstraZeneca’s antibody combo. The government has purchased an additional 500,000 doses of AZ’s long-acting antibody cocktail Evusheld, or tixagevimab plus cilgavimab. That comes on top of 700,000 doses the U.S. already ordered, for a total supply of 1.2 million, the British drugmaker said Wednesday. AstraZeneca plans to complete the entire delivery within the first quarter of 2022. Unlike the COVID-19 antibody drugs from Eli Lilly, Regeneron and GlaxoSmithKline-Vir Biotechnology, AstraZeneca’s therapeutic is authorized for prevention before exposure to the virus. Specifically, the FDA in December authorized Evusheld in people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems, either from a medical condition or the use of immunosuppressive medications. People with a history of severe reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are also eligible to receive the therapeutic.
Maintaining Services
NHS leaders call for delay to mandatory Covid vaccine law
The most senior nurses and midwives in England have called for the government to delay its deadline for all NHS staff to be vaccinated against Covid, over fears it could “backfire”. From 1 April 2022 all NHS staff will be required by law to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, meaning all those who have yet to have a first dose will need to have it by February. The government has previously predicted the NHS could lose up to 73,000 staff following the jab deadline and, in an assessment published in December, warned patient care could be impacted.
Hundreds of Millions of Covid Vaccine Doses Risk Going to Waste
Hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses purchased by wealthy countries are at risk of going to waste, a new analysis shows, while large parts of the world remain unprotected amid the spread of the omicron variant. About 240 million doses purchased by the U.S., U.K., Japan, Canada and the European Union are expected to go unused and expire by March, London-based analytics firm Airfinity Ltd. said Thursday in a report. The number of potentially wasted doses could climb to 500 million by that point if other countries receiving donated doses don’t have enough time to administer them, it said. “Even after successful booster rollouts, there are surplus doses available that risk going to waste if not shared very soon,” Rasmus Bech Hansen,
Britain's Next cuts sick pay for unvaccinated staff forced to self-isolate
British fashion retailer Next has cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who must self-isolate due to exposure to COVID-19, it said on Thursday. "It's highly emotive but we have to balance the needs of the business with those of workers and shareholders," said a spokesperson for the group. He said unvaccinated workers who test positive will still receive Next's full rate of sick pay. Next's move follows a similar one by furniture retailer Ikea.
Analysis: India's new COVID-19 rules aim to free up resources but carry risks
India has eased its COVID-19 rules on testing, quarantine and hospital admissions in a bid to free up resources for its neediest people, a strategy hailed by experts even though it carries the risk of a heavy undercount of infections and deaths. The moves will offer a breathing space for healthcare facilities, often overstretched in a far-flung nation of 1.4 billion, as they battle a 33-fold surge in infections over the past month from the highly contagious Omicron variant.
First new COVID-19 tests to arrive in schools week of Jan. 24 - White House
U.S. schools should receive the first additional COVID-19 rapid tests being made available by the federal government in about two weeks, a White House official said, as Washington races to keep classes open amid a record-setting Omicron surge. The new tests must be ordered through state governments, but the White House is also making available lab capacity to support five million monthly PCR tests that schools can order themselves if their states are not being helpful, the official said. Those should arrive in seven to 10 days.
Poorer nations dump millions of close-to-expiry COVID-19 vaccines - UNICEF
Poorer nations last month rejected more than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the global programme COVAX, mainly due to their rapid expiry date, a UNICEF official said on Thursday. The big figure shows the difficulties of vaccinating the world despite growing supplies of shots, with COVAX getting closer to delivering 1 billion doses to a total of nearly 150 countries. "More than a 100 million have been rejected just in December alone," Etleva Kadilli, director of Supply Division at U.N. agency UNICEF told lawmakers at the European Parliament. The main reason for rejection was the delivery of doses with a short shelf-life, she said.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid in Pregnancy Linked to Stillbirths and Newborn Deaths, Study Suggests
Women who have Covid-19 towards the end of their pregnancy are more vulnerable to stillbirths, newborn deaths and birth related complications, a new study suggests. The research also found that most complications occurred in women who were not vaccinated, with the majority (98%) of pregnant women with Covid-19 who were admitted to critical care being unvaccinated. The study, which included more than 87,000 women in Scotland, found that preterm births, stillbirths and newborn deaths were more common among women who had the virus 28 days or less before their delivery date, compared to background rates. All the women whose babies died had not been vaccinated against Covid-19 at the time of infection, though experts stressed that it is not possible to say if Covid-19 contributed directly to the deaths or preterm births as they did not have access to detailed clinical records for individual women.
How Does Covid Spread? Virus' Infection Capacity Weakens After 20 Minutes in Air
Coronavirus loses most of its ability to infect shortly after being exhaled and is less likely to be contagious at longer distances, a study from the University of Bristol’s Aerosol Research Centre showed. Researchers found that the virus loses 90% of its contagion capacity 20 minutes after becoming airborne and that most of that loss happens in the first five minutes of it reaching the air, according to the study, that simulates how the virus behaves after exhaling. With some countries opening the debate in Europe about an endemic phase to the virus, insights into the way the virus travels across the air will help guide containment measures.
AstraZeneca says early trial data indicates third dose helps against Omicron
AstraZeneca said that preliminary data from a trial showed that its COVID-19 shot, Vaxzevria, generated an increase in antibodies against the Omicron and other variants when given as a third booster dose. The increased response, also against the Delta variant, was seen in a blood analysis of people who were previously vaccinated with either Vaxzevria or an mRNA vaccine, the drugmaker said, adding that it would submit this data to regulators worldwide given the urgent need for boosters. read more
Long COVID brain fog found similar to 'chemo brain'; clip-on device shows promise in virus detection
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. Long COVID "brain fog" shares features with "chemo brain" The "brain fog" reported by some people after COVID-19 shows striking similarities to the condition known as "chemo brain" - the mental cloudiness some people experience during and after cancer treatment, according to new research.
Unvaccinated pregnant people are at higher risk for Covid complications and newborn deaths
Unvaccinated pregnant people who get Covid-19 are at much higher risk for complications from the disease and death of their babies than their vaccinated counterparts, according to a new study from Scotland. Authors of the population-level study, published Thursday in Nature Medicine, examined data from all pregnant people across Scotland between December 2020 and October 2021 that included information on Covid-19 vaccination status and infection. Almost all of the pregnant people who needed critical care for Covid-19 — 102 out of 104 overall — were unvaccinated. There were over 450 total fetal and newborn deaths that coincided with Covid-19 — all among unvaccinated mothers. “Vaccination in pregnancy is the safest and most effective way for pregnant women to protect themselves and their babies,” said Sarah Stock, an author of the study who is an obstetrician and maternal and fetal medicine specialist at the University of Edinburgh. “This advice needs to go out to partners and parents and grandparents and friends.”
Global study notes risk factors for uncommon severe COVID-19 in kids
A 10-country study of more than 3,000 children who tested positive for COVID-19 in emergency departments (EDs) finds that 3% went on to develop severe disease within 2 weeks, with risk factors being older age, having chronic conditions, and experiencing symptoms longer. The study was published yesterday in JAMA Network Open. An international group of scientists report that, among 3,221 children 17 years and younger studied in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Singapore, Spain, and the United States, 107 (3.3%) experienced severe outcomes within 2 weeks, and 4 (0.12%) died. Among children discharged home from the ED, the risk was much lower.