"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th Jan 2022

Isolation Tips
Norway scraps coronavirus quarantines
Norway will end its system of mandatory COVID-19 quarantines for non-vaccinated travellers and close contacts of infected persons, replacing it instead with a daily test regime, the government announced on Monday. Under the current rules, anyone arriving in Norway from an area with a quarantine obligation and who cannot show proof of vaccination, or having undergone COVID-19, needs to quarantine for at least three days. Close contacts of infected people are required to quarantine for 10 days.
Japan doubles areas under COVID curbs as cases set records
Japan expanded regions subject to tighter coronavirus curbs to cover 70% of the country on Tuesday, as the government tried to counter a record wave of COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant. The measures, already in force in 16 prefectures, will take effect in a further 18 including the western prefectures of Kyoto and Osaka and remain in place until the middle of next month. Nationwide cases rose above 60,000 for the first time since the pandemic began, a tally by broadcaster Fuji TV showed on Tuesday, with the capital, Tokyo, posting 12,813 new cases while the region of Osaka reported 8,612, both records.
Hygiene Helpers
Vaccines will always be our best weapon against Covid – here’s how to deploy them
Since the pandemic began almost two years ago, the monster that is Covid-19 has visited every corner of Earth, killing more than 5.5 million people. But we have fought back with astounding speed and vigour, and the situation today is very different from that in early 2020. Ten billion vaccine doses will have been administered worldwide by early February. The Covax scheme has delivered 1bn vaccines to lower-income countries. As a result, global daily deaths from the virus are at their lowest point in more than a year. So, is the monster slain? No. Covid-19 will not just disappear. Only one human infectious disease has been eradicated from the planet – smallpox – and that took nearly 200 years. Polio is near to extinction, but it has taken a 70-year campaign.
Does the world need more COVID-19 vaccines? These companies think there's still room for improvement
The ultimate COVID-19 vaccine will be able to tackle all emerging coronavirus strains, easy to store and quick to manufacture. And yes, there's still time for the stragglers who were beaten to the punch by Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna—at least according to the companies still trying to get in line. Not to mention, just 60% of the world has been vaccinated, according to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data database. The rates are higher in richer regions like the U.S. and EU, while the need is great in less developed nations. But the window to contribute to the vaccine fight is closing. A new report from Morningstar sees demand for boosters remaining heavy in 2022 but dissipating over 2023. If a company isn't already filing for authorization, they'd better get on it. Jean-Francois Toussaint, Ph.D., head of research and development for Sanofi Pasteur, said 20 billion doses of existing vaccines are expected to be available this year. So where does that leave remaining companies, like Toussaint’s, that have shots in the pipeline?
Community Activities
‘Putting lives at risk’: Bulgaria referred to rights body over Covid vaccine rollout
Bulgaria’s government has been accused of negligence for failing to prioritise over-65s and people with pre-existing health conditions in its Covid vaccine rollout, in a case that exposes the low uptake of jabs in one of the EU’s poorest member states. The Open Society Foundations (OSF) charitable group said it was filing a formal complaint to the human-rights-focused Council of Europe, alleging that Bulgaria’s government had put lives at risk, possibly leading to thousands of avoidable deaths.
Florida Gov Ron DeSantis Touts Covid Monoclonal Antibody Treatments FDA Stopped
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he would consider suing the federal government to allow use of two monoclonal antibody therapies for Covid-19, after the Food and Drug Administration halted their use and said they don’t work against the omicron variant. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said DeSantis’s position was “crazy” when the government was still supplying the potentially life-saving treatment -- just not the specific brands found to be ineffective. The FDA said Monday that it was rescinding authorization for the Eli Lilly & Co. and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. monoclonal antibody treatments in the U.S. because they aren’t effective against omicron, which has become overwhelmingly dominant in all regions of the country, including Florida.
Croatia's conservative party initiates COVID certificate referendum
Croatia's conservative Most party handed 82 boxes of papers in to parliament on Monday carrying the signatures of 410,533 people calling on the government to hold a referendum on whether to abolish COVID-19 certificates. The government must check the signatures, and if they are found to be valid, the date for a referendum can be set. Croatia has one of the European Union's lowest vaccination rates, with around 55% of its population inoculated against COVID-19, ahead of only Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia.
Spain breaks up COVID passport forgery ring
Spanish police said on Tuesday they had detained seven suspected members of an international criminal gang that created and sold forged COVID-19 passports and negative tests. The Spanish arm of the ring, which advertised its services on "anti-vax" instant message groups, fraudulently added at least 1,600 people to the national vaccination register with the help of health workers, the investigation found.
Hong Kong Push for Covid Zero Creates a Labor Shortage
Domestic helpers — cooks, cleaners and nannies in one — are in high demand, but a system that favors employers has some fearing they’ll be jobless if they seek higher wages.
Working Remotely
Remote possibilities: seven tips to help you leave the office behind for good
With the world of employment changing like never before, many are increasingly finding that work is wherever you (and a trusty internet connection) are. Indeed, many small businesses are ditching their offices altogether. We asked some owners who’ve been there, done that, for their top tips on making fully remote working work.
Work from home Ireland legislation: New hubs pinpointed as remote work drive intensifies
The Irish Government is to identify locations for remote working hubs around the country as ministers meet to discuss legislation to make it a legal right for employees to request working remotely. The Irish Independent understands the Department of Enterprise is working with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in developing a new, national map which combines existing broadband hubs and childcare facilities across the country. The “mini census” will pinpoint communities which have good broadband and childcare facilities and may be suitable for new remote working hubs.
Virtual Classrooms
Johns Hopkins experts offer suggestions to address challenges of online learning for children with cancer
Thousands of schools transitioned to online learning in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time many children with cancer and other chronic health needs, as well as those with special education needs, faced significant challenges to learning online. An opinion paper by Johns Hopkins experts, published Jan. 4 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, highlights some of the issues faced by families and offers suggestions to move forward.
DC Students Stage Walkout For Safer Learning Under COVID-19
D.C. public school students walked out of schools Tuesday afternoon as part of a campaign to get the city’s school system to create safer learning conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the students’ demands are a virtual learning option for all students, safer meal times, deep cleanings of schools, and better COVID-19 data reporting.
Public Policies
Israeli panel recommends fourth Covid vaccine dose for all adults
Israel’s vaccine advisory panel has recommended a fourth dose of a Covid-19 shot for all adults, a world first, as the country battles a surge in infections driven by the Omicron coronavirus variant. The move follows research showing fourth doses doubled protection against symptomatic Covid-19 and increased protection against severe illness by three to five times, compared with three doses. Other countries, including the UK, US and Chile, have signed off on fourth doses for immunocompromised people, such as those living with HIV or certain transplant recipients, but have hesitated on launching a widescale second booster campaign.
Covid-19: Europe could be headed for pandemic “endgame,” says WHO region chief
The rapid spread of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 could see an end to the pandemic in Europe, with the variant likely to have infected 60% of people on the continent by March, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe has said. “It’s plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame,” Hans Kluge told Agence France-Presse on 23 January. Once the current wave subsides, he said, “there will be for some weeks and months a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity because of the infection, and also lowering seasonal risk.” “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.
Chile to purchase 2 million Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses
Chile, which already boasts one of the world's highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, has agreed to purchase 2 million vaccine doses from Moderna Inc, Chilean interim health minister Maria Teresa Valenzuela said on Monday. Chile has been hailed as a model for its response to the pandemic, relying mainly on vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and AstraZeneca for its inoculation program. "The agreement with Moderna is subject to approval by the Institute of Public Health, which will review the information on safety and efficacy in the coming weeks," said Valenzuela.
European Medicines Agency panel approves scaling up AstraZeneca COVID vaccine production
A panel of the European drug regulator on Monday approved scaling up manufacturing of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine. An existing manufacturing site operated by Universal Farma in Guadalajara, Spain, will add a second filling line for the vaccine, the European Medicines Agency's human medicines committee said in a statement. The scaling up is expected to support the continued supply of the vaccine, including for donations to third countries through COVAX.
South African corruption probe flags COVID contracts worth $137 million
South African investigators have flagged COVID-19 contracts worth around 2.1 billion rand ($137.12 million) for possible corruption and fraud, a report into corruption linked to the pandemic showed on Tuesday. President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the investigation into his government's coronavirus spending in 2020 following a spate of scandals that caused public outrage. Anger over corruption was one reason why the governing African National Congress last year recorded its worst-ever election result, with its share of the vote dropping below 50% in municipal polls
Maintaining Services
Novavax Covid-19 vaccine to be rolled out in Australia from next month
Australia’s health minister has announced that Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine will be rolled out across the country from February 21. The news comes just days after the Australian drugs regulator Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provisionally approved the jab,
Student nurses urged to have Covid-19 jab or risk ability to join register
Nursing students who have not been double vaccinated against Covid-19 by April will not be able to undertake clinical placements, risking their ability to complete their studies and join the register. New guidance published by Health Education England (HEE) on 21 January offers answers to frequently asked questions around what the upcoming change in vaccination rules will mean for the nursing student population. All patient-facing health and care workers in England, unless medically exempt, will be required to have two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by April, or they risk being redeployed or losing their jobs altogether. Unvaccinated staff and students will need to have had their first dose by 3 February in order to meet the requirements. In recent weeks, nursing leaders have called for the government’s new mandate to be delayed amid concerns over the impact it will have on the workforce.
Mandatory COVID shots could deepen German nurse shortage, say care companies
As Germany gears up to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory in the healthcare sector, the industry fears that resistance among some workers will exacerbate staffing shortages and leave many families reliant on carers in the lurch. Around 90% of medical staff in Germany are vaccinated, compared to about 70% in the general population, but that still leaves hundreds of thousands not vaccinated. Institutions and families that are heavily reliant on workers from eastern Europe where vaccination rates are lower have particular reason to be worried, said Daniel Schloer, the owner of the SunaCare GmbH agency that matches German families with Polish carers looking for work abroad.
German firms fear supply chain pain from China's battle with Omicron
German companies doing business in China are worried the Omicron coronavirus variant will trigger more strict lockdown measures from Beijing that could exacerbate supply chain problems, the DIHK Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday. "The Chinese strategy with targeted lockdowns has been very efficient so far," Jens Hildebrandt, DIHK's executive board member in China, told Reuters in an interview. But the more contagious Omicron variant could challenge the zero-COVID approach by Chinese authorities, especially as more Chinese citizens will travel across the country due to the upcoming holiday season, Hildebrandt said.
Hospitals Ask Congress for $25 Billion Amid Omicron's Onslaught
Hospitals are asking Congress to give them another $25 billion and hand out all previously allotted funds to shore up facilities ravaged by the omicron outbreak. The money would pay for training and extra security as hospitals cope with staff shortages, higher costs and lost revenue, the American Hospital Association said in a letter to congressional leaders. “We are now in need of additional immediate support from Congress and the administration in order to continue standing strong and to be able to provide timely access to life-saving health care to your constituents,” AHA Executive Vice President Stacey Hughes wrote in a letter dated Jan. 20. “The current surge has impacted hospitals in ways not seen previously.”
Covid Outbreak Hits Australian Ship Heading to Virus-Free Tonga
Almost two dozen crew on board an Australian Navy ship on its way to provide relief to the Pacific island of Tonga have been diagnosed with coronavirus, potentially hampering aid efforts to the Covid-free nation. Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton said 23 personnel on the HMAS Adelaide had been infected, in an interview on Sky News on Tuesday. The ship left from Brisbane on Friday with a 600-strong crew as well as humanitarian and medical supplies to assist Tonga in the wake of a volcanic eruption.
Healthcare Innovations
Getting infected after getting Covid triggers 'super-immunity'
People who have been vaccinated and catch Covid have 'super immunity' Infection and vaccination in any order results in 10-times more Covid antibodies Findings suggest virus will become 'mostly mild' and bring about end of crisis
Covid-19: CoronaVac immunity is strongest after boosting with a different vaccine
A booster dose of a covid-19 jab other than CoronaVac significantly increased antibodies in those who had received two doses of the Chinese vaccine, a study funded by Brazil's Ministry of Health has found. A booster dose of Pfizer Biontech’s mRNA vaccine boosted antibody levels the most, followed by Oxford AstraZeneca, Janssen, and a third dose of CoronaVac. All booster vaccines were effective and safe, concluded the researchers at the University of Oxford, who co-led the study published in the Lancet. The findings will guide governments on how to boost their populations’ immunity in the face of the more infectious omicron variant. CoronaVac is manufactured by Chinese pharmaceutical Sinovac and is the world’s most administered coronavirus vaccine, making up two of the 10 billion vaccine doses given globally. A preprint study has found CoronaVac to be less effective than mRNA vaccines and that its effectiveness drops further against omicron,2 so the findings are a boost for the many countries in Africa, Latin America, and South-east Asia that rely on the vaccine.
Pfizer and BioNTech launch trial of Omicron-targeted COVID vaccine
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said they started a clinical trial to test a new version of their vaccine specifically designed to target the COVID-19 Omicron variant, which has eluded some of the protection provided by the original two-dose vaccine regimen. Banking on volunteers in the United States, the companies plan to test the immune response generated by the Omicron-based vaccine both as a three-shot regimen in unvaccinated people and as a booster shot for people who already received two doses of their original vaccine. They are also testing a fourth dose of the current vaccine against a fourth dose of the Omicron-based vaccine in people who received a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine three to six months earlier.
‘Nocebo effect’: two-thirds of Covid jab reactions not caused by vaccine, study suggests
More than two-thirds of the common side-effects people experience after a Covid jab can be attributed to a negative version of the placebo effect rather than the vaccine itself, researchers claim. Scientists in the US examined data from 12 clinical trials of Covid vaccines and found that the “nocebo effect” accounted for about 76% of all common adverse reactions after the first dose and nearly 52% after the second dose. The findings suggest that a substantial proportion of milder side-effects, such as headaches, short-term fatigue, and arm pain are not produced by the constituents of the vaccine, but by other factors thought to generate the nocebo response, including anxiety, expectation and misattributing various ailments to having had the jab.