"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 25th Jan 2022

Isolation Tips
Diplomats at Beijing Olympics Risk 21 Days in Quarantine
China warned foreign diplomats attending the Winter Olympics opening ceremony they could face 21 days in quarantine if they are deemed close contacts of positive cases in the audience. The notice, sent to diplomatic missions and seen by Bloomberg News, came amid a long list of measures that attendees must comply with to attend the Feb. 4 event. They included avoiding parties, meals with friends or even elevator chitchat, along with regular Covid-19 tests and travel restrictions.
Hygiene Helpers
WHO chief says world at 'critical juncture' in COVID pandemic
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that it was dangerous to assume the Omicron variant would herald the end of COVID-19's acutest phase, exhorting nations to stay focused to beat the pandemic. "It’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant and that we are in the end game," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO executive board meeting of the two-year pandemic that has killed nearly 6 million people. "On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge."
Europe could be headed for pandemic 'endgame': WHO
The Omicron variant has moved the Covid-19 pandemic into a new phase and could bring it to an end in Europe, the WHO Europe director said Sunday. "It's plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame," Hans Kluge told AFP in an interview, adding that Omicron could infect 60 percent of Europeans by March. Once the current surge of Omicron sweeping across Europe subsides, "there will be for quite some weeks and months a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection, and also lowering seasonality". "We anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before Covid-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back," Kluge said. Top US scientist Anthony Fauci expressed similar optimism on Sunday, telling ABC News talk show "This Week" that with Covid-19 cases coming down "rather sharply" in parts of the United States, "things are looking good".
Thailand Offers 4th Covid Shot in Tourist Spots Before Borders Reopen
Thailand is ramping up the rollout of fourth Covid-19 shots to residents in its tourism-dependent regions as the nation gears up for border reopening next month. Authorities are offering AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines in Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi and seven other provinces to those who have received their third dose at least three months ago, the health ministry said. The Southeast Asian nation has already administered more than 800,000 fourth doses, mostly to healthcare workers and those in high-risk groups, official data showed.
France bars unvaccinated from restaurants, sports venues
People who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer allowed in France’s restaurants, bars, tourist sites and sports venues unless they recently recovered from the virus. The new law came into effect Monday requiring a “vaccine pass” that is central to the government’s anti-virus strategy. France is registering Europe’s highest-ever daily coronavirus infection numbers, and hospitals are continuing to fill up with virus patients, though the number of people in intensive care units has dropped in recent days.
Community Activities
Protesters hurl stones at police in Guadeloupe COVID unrest
Protesters attacked police with stones in the early hours of Monday as police moved in to clear out some blockades on Guadeloupe, the authority on the French Caribbean island said, amid ongoing protests against COVID-19 protocols. The Guadeloupe authority said police had been attacked at the Riviere-des-Peres part of the island as they tried to clear out roads that had been blockaded.
Beijing Tests Shoppers Buying Fever Drugs Before Winter Olympics
China’s capital is requiring anyone who buys commonly available anti-fever medicine to undergo Covid-19 testing, as authorities try to root out undetected virus infections without locking down the country’s most important city and host of next week’s Winter Olympics. Beijing residents who purchase antipyretics, antivirals and drugs that target coughs and sore throats will get an alert on the mobile app China uses for contact tracing and which is frequently checked to allow entry to public venues. The buyer will then need to take a Covid test within 72 hours or face movement restrictions
Truckers fighting government vaccine mandate march to Canadian capital
A convoy of truckers started their march from Vancouver on Sunday to the Canadian capital city of Ottawa protesting the government's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers, which the industry says would create driver shortages and fuel inflation. Canada imposed the vaccine mandate for the trucking industry from Jan. 15, under which unvaccinated Canadian truckers re-entering Canada from the United States must get tested for COVID-19 and quarantine themselves.
Some Hong Kong civil servants, bankers to work from home as COVID spreads
Hong Kong has told some civil servants to work from home from Tuesday, and some banks have given similar instructions to staff following a spate of COVID-19 infections in the Asian financial hub a week before the busy Lunar New Year holiday. Health authorities said there were 109 new cases on Monday, out of which 98 were locally transmitted and five were untraceable. Daily cases hit an 18-month high of 140 on Sunday, fuelled by an outbreak in a congested public housing estate.
Water cannon, tear gas at COVID-19 protests in Brussels
Police fired water cannons and thick clouds of tear gas Sunday in Brussels to disperse people protesting COVID-19 vaccinations and government restrictions that aim to curb the fast-spreading omicron variant. Police said the protest in the Belgian capital drew an estimated 50,000 people, some traveling from France, Germany and other countries to take part. Protesters yelled “Liberty!” as they marched and some had violent confrontations with police. Video showed black-clad protesters attacking a building used by the European Union’s diplomatic service, hurling projectiles at its entrance and smashing windows.
Protesters March in Washington Against Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates
Protesters rallied in Washington DC Sunday against government mandates for Covid-19 vaccinations, a sign of the challenges for public-health officials looking for ways to persuade more Americans to get the shots. Protesters marched along the National Mall and gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, despite cold temperatures. The organizers said they would be protesting mandates, not vaccines themselves.
Working Remotely
Personality, not age, determines engagement while working remotely, new study reveals
The myth that age determines remote working success has been busted by new research from Thomas International. The study- released as offices open up again but with many organisations continuing to follow a hybrid model – initially found that over-40s are 28% more likely to get lost in their work compared with their millennial counterparts. Over-40s are also 24% more likely to feel good about what they’re doing when working remotely, the study found. However it also suggests that other factors associated with older generations, such as enhanced financial freedom, better homeworking space, and increased job confidence, may be responsible for higher levels of engagement in remote working.
Remote working: Bill will require employers to have written policy on working from home
In Ireland, employers will have to publish a written policy on the right for employees to work remotely, according to proposed new legislation to be discussed by Ministers on Tuesday. It will set out a framework whereby an employer can either approve or reject a request to work remotely from an employee. The WRC will also provide protections for employees against being penalised for remote working.
Virtual Classrooms
What Is the Flipped Classroom Approach in K–12?
Armed with more educational technology and the professional development to meaningfully use it, more educators in K–12 are considering the flipped-classroom approach. At the onset of the pandemic, schools found ways to make virtual learning work. They rolled out one-to-one device programs and made investments in educational technology. Educators learned to use new tools and found new ways of bringing content to students. With the technology barrier broken down, some educators took the opportunity to shift their methodology to a flipped-classroom approach. Others, who already employed this model, found that it made the transition to and from remote learning easier on students
What Have We Learned About Remote Learning?
A child clinical neuropsychologist interviewed more than 50 students with attention, learning, and social-emotional difficulties about their experiences with remote learning during the pandemic. These interviews provided an anecdotal glimpse into strategies that worked and those that contributed to some of the dismal results in the spring of 2020.
Public Policies
Belgium OKs 4th vaccine shot for immunocompromised people
Belgium's health ministers have approved a recommendation to use a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine to better protect people with a weakened immune system against the virus. Christie Morreale, the minister for public health in the federal government, said Monday that she and her regional counterparts have greenlighted the proposal made by the country's health council. Morreale did not give a date for the start of the program. About 77% of Belgium's nearly 11.5 million people are now fully vaccinated, and some 6.3 million Belgians have received a booster dose
England to drop COVID travel test demand, PM Johnson says
Fully vaccinated travellers arriving in Britain will no longer have to take a COVID-19 test, transport minister Grant Shapps said on Monday, as the government sets out plans to move beyond restrictions and live with the virus. Currently, vaccinated people arriving in Britain are required to take a lateral flow test within 2 days of arriving. At times, the government has previously also required all passengers to take tests before departing for Britain.
There is an urgent need to make WHO financially fit for purpose
The failure to invest in pandemic preparedness, response and, more generally, in the health of all people has been the most glaring symptom of the world’s ailing approach to investing in global public health, and universal health coverage, for decades. The G20 leaders meeting in Rome last year doubled down but failed to do enough to address the inadequacies in funding the work needed to protect the world from pandemics, and in particular in the financing of the World Health Organization (WHO) to deliver on its broad – and ever-growing – mandate to act as the world’s leading authority on global health.
U.S. FDA limits use of Regeneron, Lilly COVID-19 antibody treatments
The U.S. health regulator revised on Monday the emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 antibody treatments from Regeneron (REGN.O) and Eli Lilly (LLY.N) to limit their use, as the drugs are unlikely to work against the Omicron coronavirus variant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the treatments are currently not cleared for use in any U.S. states or territories, but may be authorized in certain regions if they work against potential new variants.
Maintaining Services
Vaccine distribution is creating a new kind of vaccine inequality
As vaccine shipments finally surge into poorer countries, the world is in danger of trading in one form of vaccine inequality for another, with disparities in access replaced by disparities in the ability to distribute them on the ground. After a trying period of vaccine hoarding by wealthy countries, the last 40 days of 2021 saw more doses shipped to countries in need through the U.N.-backed Covax program than in the rest of last year combined, according to the World Health Organization’s vaccine director. But distribution campaigns on the ground can take months to ramp up, even in rich nations, and a host of developing countries now receiving shipments are facing a combination of rollout challenges.
UK to begin testing Merck's COVID pill for hospitalised patients
British scientists will begin testing Merck (MRK.N) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics' antiviral pill molnupiravir as a possible treatment for patients hospitalised with COVID-19, amid the worldwide spread of the Omicron variant. The pill is approved in Britain for use in people with mild to moderate COVID-19, but it is not known whether it would work in patients hospitalised with severe illness, researchers of the RECOVERY trial said on Monday. The study will compare 800 mg doses of molnupiravir, given twice daily for five days, with standard care for adult patients in hospitals because of COVID-19.
Rich countries' access to foreign nurses during Omicron raises ethical concerns, group says
The Omicron-fuelled wave of COVID-19 infections has led wealthy countries to intensify their recruitment of nurses from poorer parts of the world, worsening dire staffing shortages in overstretched workforces there, the International Council of Nurses said. Sickness, burnout and staff departures amid surging Omicron cases have driven absentee rates to levels not yet seen during the two-year pandemic, said Howard Catton, CEO of the Geneva-based group that represents 27 million nurses and 130 national organisations. To plug the gap, Western countries have responded by hiring army personnel as well as volunteers and retirees but many have also stepped up international recruitment as part of a trend that is worsening health inequity, he continued.
Healthcare Innovations
Increase in the Incidence of type 1 diabetes in children during the Covid-19 pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more children and adolescents newly developed type 1 diabetes than in previous years. This is shown by a recent study of the DZD, the University of Giessen and the University of Ulm with co-authors from other centers in Germany, based on the data of the multicenter German Diabetes Prospective Follow-up Registry (DPV*). The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of type 1 diabetes in children and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany in comparison to previous years. For this purpose, the researchers recorded the children and adolescents aged between six months and under 18 years newly diagnosed in Germany for the period from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021
‘Stealth Omicron’: Everything we know about new ‘under investigation’ Covid-19 strain BA.2
Health chiefs have revealed they are officially monitoring a new version of Covid-19 – which has been nicknamed “stealth Omicron”. The UK Health Security Agency has marked BA.2 a “variant under investigation” – one level below a “variant of concern” – after early data suggested it may be both more transmissible and better able to evade vaccines than previous strains of the killer virus. It is a sub-lineage of the original Omicron – BA.1 – but appears to have certain differences that may make it both faster at spreading and harder to detect. According to the World Health Organisation, it is now probably outpacing the earlier strain with some 8,000 cases identified in more than 40 countries, including the US, India, Germany and Australia.
Fourth COVID vaccine shot raises resistance to serious illness for over-60s: Israel
A fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine given to people over 60 in Israel made them three times more resistant to serious illness than thrice-vaccinated people in the same age group, Israel's Health Ministry said on Sunday. The ministry also said the fourth dose, or second booster, made people over 60 twice as resistant to infection than those in the age group who received three shots of the vaccine. A preliminary study published by Israel's Sheba medical centre last Monday found that the fourth shot increases antibodies to even higher levels than the third but "probably" not to the point that it could completely fend off the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Sinovac regimen gets strong boost from Pfizer, AstraZeneca or J&J COVID shots - study
Article reports that a third booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson increases antibody levels significantly in those who have previously received two doses of Sinovac's CoronaVac shot, a study has found. The study found that CoronaVac received the strongest boost from a viral vector or RNA shot, including against the Delta and Omicron coronavirus variants, researchers from Brazil and Oxford University said on Monday. China-based Sinovac's vaccine uses an inactivated version of a coronavirus strain that was isolated from a patient in China
Researchers find genetic link to COVID-19-induced loss of smell and taste
A new study suggests there is a genetic factor that increases the odds of someone losing their sense of smell or taste after getting COVID-19. Researchers analyzed data from close to 70,000 people for the study. Although more research is needed, the study’s findings might help scientists better understand why some people who contract the virus lose one or both senses.