"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 1st Feb 2022

Isolation Tips
Beijing seals off several communities over two cases of Covid-19
Beijing officials have sealed off several residential communities north of the city centre after two cases of Covid-19 were found as the Chinese capital prepares to host the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Friday. Another 34 cases were confirmed among athletes and others who have come for the Games, the organising committee said. In all, 211 people have tested positive among more than 8,000 who had arrived by the end of Saturday. They include a Swedish cross-country skier and a snowboarder from Slovenia. Everyone coming for the Olympics is being isolated from the general public for the duration of their stay in China to try to prevent cross-infection.
Hygiene Helpers
England plans to revoke mandatory COVID jabs for health workers
The British government plans to revoke its decision to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for health workers in England after warnings that an already-stretched service could face serious staff shortages. The policy would have required employees in the state-run National Health Service and social care workers to be fully vaccinated by April 1. This means they would have to receive their first shot this week to meet that deadline.
Australia offers aged care labour incentive amid COVID crisis
Australia's federal government will offer extra payments to aged care staff as over 1,200 nursing homes deal with COVID-19 outbreaks that have caused hundreds of deaths of elderly residents this year and staff shortages. There is growing concern over the impact of the Omicron variant outbreak on elderly Australians living in residential care homes, as the pandemic in the wider community peaks. On Sunday, 31 out of 52 deaths from the virus reported by New South Wales, were aged care residents.
Clinics in Moscow now offering Sputnik M vaccines to 12-17s
The Russian capital on Monday has started offering a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine to children in the 12-17 age group amid the country’s biggest infection surge yet due to the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant.
Community Activities
Thailand Ready for Rush of Tourists With Quarantine-Free Visas
Thailand expects to welcome hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers a month with the kickoff of a quarantine-free visa program that’s set to serve as a model for tourism-reliant countries balancing safe border reopenings with economic revival. Starting Tuesday, visitors of any nationality can apply for quarantine-free entry into Thailand, provided they are fully vaccinated. The government expects between 200,000 and 300,000 travelers to take advantage of the so-called Test & Go program in February alone, with the numbers expected to swell in the following months.
Spotify to link COVID content to facts after ‘misinformation’ row
Music streaming company Spotify says it will start guiding listeners of podcasts discussing COVID-19 to facts about the pandemic, after artists, including Neil Young, pulled their songs from the platform in anger at alleged misinformation. In a post on Sunday, Spotify Chief Executive Daniel Ek laid out more transparent platform rules given the backlash stirred up by Young after the tech giant declined to get rid of episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience, which has been criticised for spreading virus misinformation.
Omicron Pushes Health Authorities Toward Learning to Live With Covid-19
The Omicron variant spreads so quickly and generally causes such a mild form of illness among vaccinated populations that countries are tolerating greater Covid-19 outbreaks, willingly letting infections balloon to levels that not long ago would have been treated as public-health crises. From different starting points, authorities in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific are moving in the same direction, offering a glimpse into a future in which Covid-19 becomes accepted as a fact of everyday life, like seasonal flu. Health officials everywhere, many for the first time, are forgoing some of the sharpest tools they have to combat Omicron—even as infections soar. They are accepting the virus like never before to minimize disruptions to economies, education and everyday life.
Indonesia says Bali to reopen to foreign travellers, again
Indonesia's holiday island of Bali will start welcoming back travellers from all countries from later this week, officials said on Monday, more than three months after announcing it was open to selected nationalities. Though Bali officially opened to visitors from China, New Zealand, and Japan among other countries in mid October, there has since been no direct flights, Tourism minister Sandiaga Uno told a briefing. The reopening follows similar announcements by Thailand and the Philippines, which put quarantine waivers on hold in December over initial uncertainty about vaccine efficacy against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
F1 to Mandate Covid-19 Vaccines for All Staff
Formula One staff must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 under new FIA rules. The policy drawn up by the sport’s governing body will be written into the regulations for the new season and will apply to all drivers, teams, media and hospitality guests. It is expected that no exemptions will be granted. The sport hopes the rule will avoid a repeat of the Novak Djokovic fiasco which overshadowed the build-up to this month’s Australian Open. All of the grid’s current drivers are understood to be vaccinated. An F1 spokesperson said: “Formula One management will require all travelling personnel to be fully vaccinated and will not request exemptions.”
Cyprus Orthodox archbishop suspends 12 unvaccinated priests
The head of Cyprus’ Orthodox Christian Church said Sunday that he will suspend a dozen priests from his diocese because they refused to heed his call to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Archbishop Chrystostomos II told state broadcaster CyBC that most of the priests are also theologians who have swayed some of the faithful not to get vaccinated. The archbishop called the insubordination “unheard of” and warned that the suspensions could be extended to six months or lead to the priests being defrocked. He suggested that some of the unvaccinated priests may be emboldened to defy him because of his frail health. Archbishop Chrysostomos has been vocal in his support for vaccinations for all the faithful and the Church’s highest decision making body, the Holy Synod, has issued a clear appeal in favor of vaccination.
Ottawa police investigating some anti vaccine protesters
Police in Canada’s capital said Sunday they are investigating possible criminal charges after anti-vaccine protesters urinated on the National War Memorial, danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and used the statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox to display an anti-vaccine statement. Thousands of protesters gathered in Ottawa Saturday to protest vaccine mandates, masks and lockdowns. Some travelled in truck convoys and parked on the streets around Parliament Hill, blocking traffic. Many remained on Sunday. Ottawa Police said officers are also investigating threatening behavior to police and others. “Several criminal investigations are underway in relation the desecration of the National War Memorial/Terry Fox statue,” Ottawa police said.
Working Remotely
Tokyo's Population Declines for First Time in 26 Years With Remote-Work Trend
Tokyo’s population shrank last year for the first time in a quarter century, as more businesses turned to remote work amid the pandemic. Japan has been trying for years to revive its regional economies and stop Tokyo from gobbling up more and more of the nation’s shrinking population. Now, the coronavirus appears to have done what no government policy could: stem the flow of people into the crowded city. As the pandemic heads into its third year, shifting attitudes about remote work are one reason for the change.
Is your job at risk? The roles most likely to be moved out of the UK due to remote working
Remote working could cost swathes of Britons their jobs as firms look to move roles outside the UK, recruiters have warned. With companies "struggling to coax workers back into the office", there is "much less downside to offshoring" than there was before the pandemic, according to Randstad, one of the world's largest recruiting companies. The firm told Sky News growing wage demands are "emboldening some global employers to move jobs to low-cost centres".
What Local Teams Can Learn From Global Teams About Working Remotely
Long before the pandemic, global teams faced time, distance, and communication barriers that they had to overcome in order to collaborate as a team. Since 2020, the world has irreversibly changed. As global teams augment their long-standing practices for remote collaboration with newer and better tricks, local teams that have much less experience collaborating remotely can learn a lot from them.
Virtual Classrooms
New Glasgow 'virtual school' for kids who can't make it to the classroom
A new school has been launched in Glasgow for children who can’t attend lessons in person. ‘Glasgow’s virtual school’ teaches pupils who are unable to go to class, including vulnerable kids, patients in hospital, children in care and those struggling with mental health problems. With 25 staff the virtual school works with hundreds of children annually - supporting their education and health and well-being.
Does virtual learning achieve fairer outcomes for students?
The growth of digital education and the rising numbers of online schools across the UK has certainly made learning more accessible and more personalised for students today. Gone are the days when being home schooled meant learning in isolation. Children can now learn virtually with peers and via live lessons. They can socialise both virtually and in-person during meetups. They can attend school assemblies, events and after school clubs. Most importantly, they access the entire GCSE and A-level syllabus, all from the comfort of their home and from anywhere in the world. Exposure to digital learning also means students can learn at their own pace, obtain ‘in the moment’ feedback and take more responsibility for their overall education. The question is, does online learning lead to fairer outcomes for all pupils?
Public Policies
U.S. CDC warns against travel to Mexico, Brazil, Singapore over COVID-19
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday advised against travel to a dozen countries because of high rates of coronavirus infection, including Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Ecuador, Kosovo, Philippines and Paraguay. The CDC now lists nearly 130 countries and territories with COVID-19 cases as "Level Four: Very High." It also added Anguilla, French Guiana, Moldova and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to its highest level on Monday. The U.S. State Department also raised its travel advisory for Mexico and some of the other nations listed by the CDC to "Level 4: Do Not Travel."
Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine receives full FDA approval for Americans aged 18 and older
The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine has received full FDA approval for use in all U.S. adults. It is the second vaccine to receive full approval for use in America, joining Pfizer's shot. Approval only applies to the first two shots and the booster dose remains only available under emergency use orders. Without this approval, the jab would only be available under situations of emergency, but now it can be used even beyond the pandemic
Report slams lockdown parties by Boris Johnson and staff
Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized Monday after an inquiry found that Downing Street parties while Britain was in lockdown represented a “serious failure” to observe the standards expected of government or to heed the sacrifices made by millions of people during the pandemic. Johnson brushed off calls to quit over the “partygate” scandal, promising to reform the way his office is run and insisting that he and his government can be trusted. But he faced criticism from some of his own Conservative colleagues, who have the power to oust a leader some fear has become damaged goods. One Conservative lawmaker accused the prime minister of taking him for “a fool.” “I get it, and I will fix it,” Johnson said in Parliament after senior civil servant Sue Gray published interim findings on several gatherings in 2020 and 2021 while the U.K. was under government-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Taiwan tries hand at COVID diplomacy again with Somaliland vaccine gift
Article reports that Taiwan's gift of 150,000 doses of its domestically developed Medigen COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Somalia's breakaway Somaliland region, the Taiwanese foreign ministry said on Monday, part of the island's renewed pandemic diplomacy push. Taiwan has donated millions of face masks and other goods around the world in what the government has called the "Taiwan can help, Taiwan is helping" programme to show the island is a responsible member of the international community, despite being locked out of most global bodies because of China's objections.
Maintaining Services
China punishes cold-chain managers for 'obstructing' COVID prevention
Investigations into China's cold-chain sector have led to several managers, officials and business owners being punished for failing to meet COVID-19 prevention standards, the country's corruption watchdog said in a notice. The Beijing branch of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) accused several people involved in the cold storage business of management and supervisory failures when it came to controlling COVID-19. It accused one manager in an industrial park in southwest Beijing of "poor leadership and non-standard management that led to the spread of the epidemic".
Healthcare Innovations
The New Clues About Who Will Develop Long Covid
Asthma. Unhealthy gut bacteria. The presence of autoantibodies, usually associated with autoimmune conditions. These are among the risk factors identified in new studies as potentially making someone at greater risk of developing long Covid, a condition in which wide-ranging symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and racing heart rate persist months after an initial Covid-19 infection. The studies help advance scientists’ understanding of the biology behind long Covid, and provide clues to potential treatments. Patients with autoantibodies, for instance, might get relief from existing treatments for lupus, an autoimmune disease. The variety of reasons one person might get long Covid and another might not also reinforce scientists’ increasing belief that there won’t be a single cause or treatment for the condition.
Covid-Infected HIV Patient Developed Mutations, Study Shows
A South African woman suffering from inadequately treated HIV, and who harbored Covid-19 for nine months saw the respiratory virus develop at least 21 mutations while in her body, according to a study. Once the 22-year-old adhered to the anti-retroviral medication used to treat HIV and her immune system strengthened she was able to overcome the Covid-19 infection within six to nine weeks, the study, led by scientists from Stellenbosch and the University of KwaZulu-Natal showed. The research has not been peer reviewed.The study adds to evidence that Covid-19 may mutate rapidly when harbored by immunosuppressed individuals, such as those not taking medication to treat HIV, and this may lead to the development of new variants. The beta variant, which the patient in the study was infected with, was discovered in South Africa, as was omicron.