"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 7th Feb 2022

Isolation Tips
Russia eases COVID restrictions as daily cases hit record
Russia will ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions from Sunday, the consumer health watchdog announced on Saturday, despite reporting a record daily number of cases as the Omicron variant spreads across the country. The number of daily infections has been surging since January. But the highly transmissible Omicron variant has not led to a significant increase in deaths, and the Kremlin has recently dismissed concerns about the risk of new lockdowns. According to the latest order from the consumer health watchdog, from Sunday people will no longer need to self-isolate after contacting those infected with COVID-19.
Hygiene Helpers
Booster campaign stalls as ‘partygate’ undermines trust in official advice
The Covid booster campaign has stalled, and declining trust in the prime minister is part of the problem, say scientists. Only 26,875 people in England had a third dose or booster on 1 February, the latest complete figures available, and 6 million people are at least six weeks overdue for their shot. Behavioural scientists, including government advisers, and public health leaders say the huge drop in take-up in just one month is fuelled by the widespread belief that Boris Johnson flouted his own Covid rules. Although Omicron is less deadly than previous variants, it remains a significant health risk to the estimated 5.1 million unvaccinated people aged over 12 in the UK, and the rolling seven-day average of deaths in Britain is above 240.
Community Activities
Misinformation and distrust: behind Bolivia’s low Covid vaccination rates
South America, once the region most afflicted by the pandemic, is now the most vaccinated in the world. But this turnaround doesn’t extend to Bolivia, where roughly half the population is yet to receive a single dose – even though the state has had all the vaccines it needs since October. As it stands, 45% of the population has received two doses, and a further 12% have had a single dose. Less than 7% have received a booster dose. Data leaked from the Ministry of Health before Christmas gave a more detailed snapshot, revealing huge variations between municipalities. In general, departmental capitals had high levels of vaccination. Smaller cities were doing less well. But in many rural municipalities, particularly in the altiplano, less than 30% of the adult population had received a dose.
GoFundMe Boots Canada Trucker Fundraiser Opposing Vaccine Rules
GoFundMe has removed a fundraiser for Canadian truckers opposing vaccine mandates from its platform, saying the campaign violates terms prohibiting the promotion of violence. Protesters have occupied the streets of the Canadian capital, Ottawa, for nearly a week, demonstrating against Canadian and U.S. laws requiring truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Donations to “Freedom Convoy 2022” on GoFundMe surpassed more than C$10 million ($7.8 million) earlier this week.
Poor Countries Affected by Covid Worst, Facing Pandemic Debt Crunch
The pandemic has taken its heaviest toll in some of the world’s poorest countries. Indebted governments from Latin America to Africa spent money they didn’t have to shore up rickety health systems and provide a safety net for citizens, pushing their finances further into the red. Creditor nations helped them by suspending debt repayments and lending them more. Now those waivers have ended and global borrowing costs are on the rise, raising the risk of disorderly defaults.
Working Remotely
The Great Reshuffle: Companies are reinventing rules as employees seek remote work, flexible hours and life beyond work
Millions of Americans are quitting their jobs and rethinking what they want when it comes to work and work-life balance. Companies are responding, meeting their employees’ needs in areas like remote work, flexible hours, four-day workweeks, compensation and more. This story is part of a series looking at the “Great Reshuffle” and the shift in workplace culture that is taking place right now.
3 New Studies End Debate Over Effectiveness Of Hybrid And Remote Work
The debate over remote and hybrid work continues to grow. Some companies resisted, and iron-fisted leaders pulled the old hat trick (“It’s your job to work hard and deal with stress, so grin and bear it.”), arguing against the concept of remote work. Others cited productivity concerns and tactical problems that limited a supervisor’s ability to observe and coach employees. A handful of business leaders pushed back. Josh Feast, CEO of Cognito Corporation, argued that supervisors could find innovative ways to connect with and manage workers from afar “by ensuring their colleagues feel heard and know they are not alone. Exhibiting heightened sensitivity to emotional intelligence—particularly in a time where physical isolation has become a necessity—is vital.” Alice Hricak, managing principal of corporate interiors at Perkins and Will, said working from home showcases new approaches and debunks old ideas that it leads to low productivity, less visibility and little opportunity for collaboration.
Virtual Classrooms
Ottawa's public school board will offer virtual classes in the fall
Ottawa's public school board will offer virtual learning for a third straight school year in the fall. The Ottawa Carleton District School Board says it will offer in-person learning, along with the "Ottawa-Carleton Virtual School" for the 2022-23 school year. The virtual learning community is made up of Kindergarten to Grade 12 students across the board, engaged in 300 minutes of remote classes each day.
Gamification in virtual education
Living in a world with technological advances that are difficult to keep up with has seemingly created a rift between old school and new school - making for an interesting discussion around the impact it has on the education sector, globally, and in South Africa. With so much opportunity for online learning available today, and the various platforms offering a vast variety of virtual learning content, it is impossible to look past the impact of online gaming.
Public Policies
Ottawa Declares Emergency as Protests Spin 'Out of Control'
Canada’s capital declared a state of emergency Sunday as police struggled to rein in ongoing protests against vaccine mandates. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who declared the emergency, said in a statement that the increasingly rowdy demonstrations posed a “serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents.” Hundreds of trucks continued to occupy the downtown area near Canada’s parliament with no sign that the protesters planned to leave. The protests started in reaction to Canadian and U.S. laws that went into effect in January, requiring truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated. They have since morphed into a rally against Covid restrictions more broadly.
Maintaining Services
No large fluctuations in Olympics COVID cases expected, organisers say
A sharp drop in COVID-19 cases on Feb. 5 among Beijing Olympics-related personnel was due to fewer arrivals at the airport and organisers said on Sunday that they did not expect any more large fluctuations in infection numbers. China detected 10 new COVID cases among Olympic Games-related personnel on Feb. 5, the organising committee of the Games said. That was down from Feb. 4's 45 cases - the second highest daily tally since arrivals commenced last month.
Health minister on gatherings, vaccine mandates and the end of masks in South Africa
In a media briefing on Friday (4 February), Phaahla said this is in line with previous trends, with vaccinations still seen as the country’s best form of protection. He added that the country could see an increase in cases earlier than expected should they be driven by a new Covid variant. South Africa has seen a plateau in the decline of new Covid-19 cases in the last two weeks, with an increase in infections reported in the Free State, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Phaahla said this plateau can be linked to the opening of schools, with more people under 20 testing positive in recent weeks. It is also possible that increased movement after the December holidays has also contributed.
Healthcare Innovations
Three COVID-19 vaccine-infection combinations create quality antibodies
Three encounters with the coronavirus spike protein from varying infection-vaccine combinations grant the immune system a high-quality (and not just high quantity) antibody response, according to a newly published study written by scientists who tracked the antibodies of vaccinated and recovered individuals for two years. The scientists - Prof. Ulrike Protzer, Director of the Institute of Virology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM, Prof. Percy Knolle, Professor of Molecular Immunology at TUM, and Prof. Oliver Keppler (Max von Pettenkofer Institute and Gene Center Munich at LMU) - published their findings online in the peer-reviewed Nature Medicine journal on January 28.
COVID: What we know so far about the Omicron subvariant BA.2
As the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues its frenetic spread around the world, a new subvariant has been detected in dozens of countries. Omicron was first reported by South Africa in November and has since replaced the Delta variant in most countries as the most prevalent strain. The dominant form of Omicron, known as BA.1, continues to account for the vast majority of confirmed new COVID-19 infections globally, but another subvariant, known as BA.2, has begun to outcompete it in some places. Some early studies have shown BA.2 appears to be more transmissible than the dominant BA.1 subvariant – leading scientists to ramp up their investigations. The strain is being closely watched in countries including Denmark, India and Nepal where it has become dominant, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).