"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 28th Jan 2022

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong to cut quarantine for arrivals to 14 days from next month
Hong Kong will cut quarantine for arriving travellers to 14 days from 21 starting Feb. 5, leader Carrie Lam said on Thursday, a move that follows intense lobbying from finance executives and diplomats who said the measure was hurting competitiveness. Tough coronavirus rules have made Hong Kong one of the world's most isolated cities, with flights down as much as 90%. Residents returning from more than 160 countries have been required to quarantine for 21 days in designated hotels will now have to spend 14 days in a hotel, followed by seven days of self-monitoring, with further details to be announced.
Denmark becomes first EU country to scrap all COVID-19 restrictions
Denmark is to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions, with Omicron hospital admissions and deaths remaining stable and high rates of vaccination. “Tonight we can ... find the smile again. We have incredibly good news, we can now remove the last coronavirus restrictions in Denmark,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference, following recommendations from the Epidemic Commission and with all the main political parties’ support. The last restrictions will be dropped on February 1. The announcement comes as a new subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, is gaining a foothold in Denmark and driving infections up, with 46,000 new COVID-19 cases recorded on Wednesday.
Finland moves up planned easing of COVID restrictions
Finland will begin gradually easing COVID-19 restrictions from Feb. 1 instead of mid-February as initially planned as the burden on its hospitals eases, the government said late on Thursday. On Jan. 18, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Finland would begin scaling back restrictions from mid-February, but signs of stabilization in the infection rate caused by the Omicron variant of the virus led the government to alter its plan. "The burden on intensive care units has taken a turn in a better direction," Finland's minister for health and social affairs Hanna Sarkkinen told reporters.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid vaccines for 5 to 11-year-olds set to start by next Monday but parents criticise lack of guidance
The official roll-out of Covid jabs for vulnerable five to 11-year-olds is set to start by next Monday but parents have complained about a lack of information. NHS England told i that the roll-out would begin by the end of the month but refused to specify a date. Paediatric doses are still unavailable across England,despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommending them for vulnerable five to 11-year-olds or those living with someone who is immunosuppressed.
Vaccine mandate to kick in for first wave of health workers
Health care workers in about half the states face a Thursday deadline to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine under a Biden administration mandate that will be rolled out across the rest of the country in the coming weeks. While the requirement is welcomed by some, others fear it will worsen already serious staff shortages if employees quit rather than comply. And in some Republican-led states that have taken a stand against vaccine mandates, hospitals and nursing homes could find themselves caught between conflicting state and federal demands. “We would like to see staff vaccinated. We think that it’s the safest option for residents, which is our biggest concern,” said Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a St. Louis County, Missouri, nonprofit that works on behalf of nursing home residents.
Hospitals are denying transplants for patients who aren’t vaccinated against Covid, with backing from ethicists
Boston hospital’s denial of a heart transplant to a man who is unvaccinated for Covid-19 has generated national attention, but experts say mandating vaccines is in keeping with other long-standing requirements that patients have to meet to receive an organ — including getting other shots. In this case, Brigham and Women’s Hospital dropped a 31-year-old man named DJ Ferguson from its transplant waitlist, his family said. Ferguson was concerned about side effects and the speed with which the vaccines were developed, his mother told WCVB. This is not the first such case to make headlines. Last year, both the Cleveland Clinic and University of Colorado Hospital refused to perform organ transplants for recipients who hadn’t been vaccinated.
Community Activities
Greece allows music in bars and restaurants again as COVID cases ease
Greece will allow music in restaurants and bars again and extend their operating hours as it lifts some of the restrictions imposed last month now that coronavirus infections and the pressure on hospitals are easing, authorities said on Thursday. The country last month forced bars, nightclubs and restaurants to close at midnight, with no standing customers and no music, following a surge of cases over the Christmas holidays due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant. "We have decided to scale back the restrictions, taking into consideration the course of the pandemic in terms of cases which have been declining in recent weeks," Health Minister Thanos Plevris said in a televised statement.
As Omicron ebbs, England revives Plan A: living with COVID
After an uncomfortable but relatively brief return to coronavirus restrictions triggered by the Omicron variant, England is going back to "Plan A" - learning to live with a disease that is probably here to stay. The bet is that booster jabs, antiviral pills and Omicron's lower severity will enable the government to manage outbreaks of a virus that cannot be shut out. Other countries equally keen to unshackle business and personal freedom will be watching. Work-from-home guidance ended last week, and measures such as mask mandates and COVID passes, also introduced in England last month, lapsed on Thursday, returning the rules to where they were last July.
Anti-vaccine Canada truckers roll toward Ottawa, praised by Tesla's Musk
Canadian truck drivers determined to shut down central Ottawa over a federal government vaccine mandate rolled across the country toward the capital on Thursday, boosted by praise from Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk. The protesters are unhappy that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has imposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers. Industry officials say 90% of drivers traversing the U.S. frontier are inoculated but a minority have refused, saying the mandate contravenes personal freedom.
Working Remotely
These companies decided to go fully remote -- permanently
As the pandemic heads into yet another year, companies are still grappling with uncertainty in the workplace. Many have attempted to reopen their offices, only to be stymied by new variants or outbreaks that necessitated yet another shutdown or a delayed re-opening. So some businesses are removing the guesswork altogether by deciding to remain fully remote -- permanently. Here's what happened when these companies decided to pivot to remote work full-time.
Spain digital nomad visa: the new remote working hotspots
Spain’s plans for a digital nomad visa are expected to be announced in the next couple of months. As part of the country’s recent Startup Act, foreign nationals working remotely for non-Spanish companies will be permitted to live in the country without needing a full work visa. The draft law for the visa must now go to parliament, where it needs a majority to be passed - this could take until spring.
Yes, You Can Find a Mentor While Working Remotely
Remote and hybrid work has upended many traditional mentorship arrangements, leaving up-and-comers in search of more seasoned professionals to learn from and help their career climb. In the absence of in-person mentoring opportunities, people in their 20s and 30s are going online to pitch themselves as remote mentees, sometimes engaging in behavior once considered gauche, such as sending cold-call emails and sliding into the social-media DMs of stars in their field. They risk not hearing back. Some prominent professionals might be wary of online messages from people they have neither met nor heard of. A number of mentees who have sought mentorship this way say they have caught the attention of people they admire because, well, everyone is online now.
What workers need to know before permanently working remotely
Remote work is a growing — and in some cases, permanent — reality for employees across the nation, and many workers have been embracing the flexibility to work from home during the pandemic. But be aware: Legal ramifications and workplace pitfalls could be abundant if you aren’t careful. As first-time remote workers settle into this new style of work, they may want to consider familiarizing themselves with a few issues that may arise.
Virtual Classrooms
Parents Protest End of Virtual Learning Option for K-6 Students in Prince George's
The virtual learning option for Prince George’s County Public Schools students in kindergarten through sixth grade is coming to an end Friday, but many parents are not OK with the return to in-person learning and held a demonstration in protest. About 12,000 K-6 students enrolled in the virtual education program at the beginning of the school year.
These 3 charts show the global growth in online learning
The number of students accessing its online courses now exceeds pre-pandemic levels, a leading global online learning platform reports. Following the COVID-19-induced shift to remote working, people are increasingly looking to digital learning to develop the skills to navigate today’s constantly evolving world of work.
Public Policies
EU drug regulator OKs Pfizer COVID pill for high-risk patients
The European Union's drug regulator on Thursday gave the green light to Pfizer Inc's antiviral COVID-19 pill for treating adults at risk of severe illness, as the region scrambles to boost its arsenal to fight the Omicron variant. The endorsement by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for a conditional approval, if followed as usual by the European Commission, allows EU member states to deploy the drug after the regulator gave guidance for its emergency use late last year. Italy, Germany and Belgium are among a handful of EU countries that have bought the drug, branded as Paxlovid.
COVID-19: North Korea set to reopen borders and resume trading with China
North Korea is poised to reopen its borders amid fears its fragile economy is on the brink of collapse following a strict two-year lockdown. Pyongyang has shown signs it will finally ease tough restrictions as it resumed freight train traffic into neighbouring China last week. Trade between the two nations - crucial to North Korea - is said to have slumped by 80% in 2020. And it plunged again by two-thirds between January and September last year after North Korea sealed off its borders, according to South Korean estimates.
Covid-19: Cuba will request WHO approval for homegrown vaccine
Cuban health officials have said that they will apply for World Health Organization approval for one of the country’s homegrown covid-19 vaccines, as they announced that they had secured funding to produce 200 million vaccine doses for low income countries. Cuba’s health regulator (CECMED) has approved the use of three of the country’s homegrown vaccines, which are exported to four countries, but none has been yet been approved by WHO.1 That should change this year, said Rolando Pérez Rodríguez, director of science and innovation at Cuba’s state run pharmaceutical conglomerate, BioCubaFarma. “We have formally requested the prequalification of one vaccine: Abdala,” Rodriguez told a press conference in Havana on 25 January. “We are in the final review of the documents, and it should be sent in the following days to the WHO.” The application for WHO approval of a second Cuban vaccine, Soberana 2, should be sent in the coming weeks and is also expected to gain authorisation for use this year, said Dagmar García Rivera at the Finlay Institute of Vaccines in Havana.
Sweden decides against recommending COVID vaccines for kids aged 5-12
Sweden has decided against recommending COVID vaccines for kids aged 5-11, the Health Agency said on Thursday, arguing that the benefits did not outweigh the risks. "With the knowledge we have today, with a low risk for serious disease for kids, we don't see any clear benefit with vaccinating them," Health Agency official Britta Bjorkholm told a news conference. She added that the decision could be revisited if the research changed or if a new variant changed the pandemic. Kids in high-risk groups can already get the vaccine.
Maintaining Services
COVID-19: Sainsbury's and Waitrose advise shoppers and staff to keep wearing face coverings
Supermarket chains Sainsbury's and Waitrose will be asking people to continue to wear a face covering in their stores when restrictions ease in England on Thursday. Mandatory wearing of face masks is being scrapped as part of the lifting of Plan B measures - with work from home guidance and COVID passports also being dropped. Sainsbury's told Sky News it will continue to have a number of safety measures in its stores in an effort to keep customers and staff safe. Its guidance will also apply to Argos and Habitat stores, which are part of the Sainsbury's business group. A spokesperson for Sainsbury's said: "Safety remains our highest priority.
Healthcare Innovations
Data reassuring on menstrual changes after Covid-19 vaccine, researchers find
Any menstrual changes after Covid-19 vaccination are short-lived and small compared with natural variation in normal cycles, according to an assessment of the latest evidence published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Many women have reported changes to their periods after vaccination. Two new observational studies on the issue provide reassuring data, said Dr Victoria Male, a reproductive specialist at Imperial College London. The first study drew on data from 3,959 Americans who logged at least six consecutive cycles on a tracking app. Of these, 2,403 were vaccinated while the remainder acted as a control group.
Despite U.S. cases decline, the country doesn't have 'control' of virus, Fauci says
On Wednesday, infections declined to an average of 601,302 in the seven-day average, and current hospitalization have leveled off to 148,710, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. These numbers do not indicate the country has “sufficient control,” a critical point the nation must reach so the virus doesn’t “dominate” our lives, Anthony S. Fauci said at a briefing by the White House covid-19 task force. Fauci said the nation can still reach some level of normalcy with effective tools, referring to vaccinations, boosters and antivirals. “That is not where we are at this point,” he said. “So we still have a way to go.”
Vaccination, infection may lower long Covid-19 symptoms: Study
People who have both been vaccinated and had Covid-19 are less likely to report fatigue and other health problems seen post Covid, than unvaccinated people, according to a study based in Israel. The study, not yet peer reviewed, showed that vaccinated people were no more likely to report symptoms than people who have never caught SARS-CoV-2, Nature reported.
Canadian university races former Chinese partner to make a COVID-19 booster
The federal government has trumpeted previous vaccine partnerships with a China-based company as one of the reasons why Canada was pinning its hopes on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from China early in the pandemic. But The Fifth Estate has reviewed those partnerships and found that a collaboration with McMaster University in Hamilton stalled years ago and never resulted in an approved vaccine anywhere in the world. That collaboration has been of little benefit to the university or Canada. Instead, both the company, CanSino Biologics, and McMaster are now independently racing to develop similar COVID-19 booster vaccines.
Covid-19: Lower vaccination rates partly explain higher death rates among minority ethnic groups
Death rates from covid-19 remain higher for most minority ethnic groups compared with people identifying as white British, and some of that disparity is because of their lower uptake of vaccinations, show data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Throughout the pandemic covid-19 mortality has been higher in most minority ethnic groups compared with white British people. Vahé Nafilyan, senior statistician at the ONS, said, “As already highlighted in our analyses of earlier periods, these differences in mortality are largely explained by sociodemographic and economic factors and health. For the first time, we show that the lower vaccination coverage in some ethnic groups also contributes to the elevated risk of covid-19 death, particularly in the black African and black Caribbean groups.”
Pfizer pushes to intervene in lawsuit seeking COVID vaccine information from FDA
Pfizer Inc wants to intervene in a Texas federal lawsuit seeking information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration used in licensing the company's COVID-19 vaccine, a litigation move that plaintiffs who are suing for the data say is premature. Pfizer's lawyers at DLA Piper told U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman on Jan. 21 it wanted a role in the proceedings to help the FDA avoid "inappropriately" disclosing trade secret and confidential commercial information.
Booster shots could cut Europe's COVID hospitalisations by up to 800000 -EU
Booster shots could reduce future hospitalisations in Europe by at least half a million, the European Union's public health agency said on Thursday, even as the Omicron variant spreads at an unprecedented pace. "The current uptake of a booster dose achieved by early January may reduce future Omicron hospital admissions by 500,000 - 800,000" in Europe, the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC) said. The figures cover the 27-nation EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Can COVID-19 vaccines help prevent long COVID?
Although most people make a full recovery from a COVID-19 infection, for some the symptoms can last weeks or even months, a condition known as long COVID. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), long COVID is defined as a condition that occurs in “individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually three months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis”. It is estimated that up to one in 10 people who get infected with SARS-Cov-2 will suffer symptoms of long COVID which may vary from mild to severe. A study carried out by the University of Washington put the incidence of long COVID even higher, showing up to 30 percent of those who tested positive for COVID-19 had symptoms months later
Pfizer, Moderna shots safe during in vitro fertilization; healthy gut bacteria may help prevent long COVID
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. mRNA vaccines safe during in vitro fertilization. COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA technology do not affect fertility outcomes during in-vitro fertilization (IVF), researchers have found. They compared rates of fertilization, pregnancy, and early miscarriage in IVF patients who had received two doses of the vaccines from Pfizer with BioNTech or Modernaor with those in unvaccinated patients
Moderna starts trial for Omicron-specific booster shot
Moderna Inc said it had started a mid-stage study, testing a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine specifically designed to target the Omicron coronavirus variant, a day after rival Pfizer Inc launched a similar trial. The company said while a third shot of its original coronavirus vaccine increased neutralizing antibodies against the variant at the lower dose, their levels declined six months after the booster dose was administered. However, neutralizing antibodies remained detectable in all participants, Moderna said.
Review: No role for convalescent plasma in most COVID hospital patients
A prospective meta-analysis of international randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of convalescent plasma for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients finds no clinical benefit in most cases. Convalescent plasma, considered an experimental treatment by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is donated by COVID-19 survivors in the hope that recipients with current infections benefit from the anti–SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. On Dec 28, 2021, the FDA restricted the use of convalescent plasma to patients with impaired immune systems.