"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 8th Feb 2022

Isolation Tips
Omicron forces S. Korea to end GPS monitoring, some checkups
South Korea will no longer use GPS monitoring to enforce quarantines and will also end daily checkup calls to low-risk coronavirus patients as a fast-developing omicron surge overwhelms health and government workers. The speed of transmissions has made it impossible to maintain a tight and proactive medical response, Jeong Eun-kyeong, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said Monday. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 38,691 new cases of the virus, a nine-fold increase from the levels seen in mid-January, when omicron became the country’s dominant strain. Jeong said the country may see daily jumps of 130,000 or 170,000 by late February.
Indonesia to tighten COVID-19 curbs as infections climb
Indonesia will tighten social restrictions in Jakarta and Bali, as well as in two other cities on Java island, in a bid to contain a spike in coronavirus infections, a senior cabinet minister said on Monday. Separately, the transport ministry clarified that overseas tourists would still be able to enter the country through the capital Jakarta, after the ministry indicated otherwise in a statement issued on Sunday. It earlier said foreign tourists and Indonesians returning from holidays abroad would be temporarily banned from flying into Jakarta, as a further precaution against COVID-19.
China locks down city on Vietnam border as COVID-19 cases rise
Authorities in China’s southwestern city of Baise ordered residents to stay at home from Monday, February 7, and avoid unnecessary travel as they enforced curbs that are among the toughest in the nation’s tool-box to fight rising local infections of COVID-19. The outbreak in Baise, which has a population of about 3.6 million and borders Vietnam, is tiny by global standards, but the curbs, including a ban on non-essential trips in and out, follow a national guideline to quickly contain any flare-ups.The effort takes on extra urgency during the staging of the Winter Olympics, which began on Friday and run until February 20, as well as a busy travel season for the Lunar New Year holiday.
Hygiene Helpers
These COVID vaccines will get you into Australia when the international border reopens
With the countdown now on in Australia until the international border reopens to everyone for the first time since 2020, no doubt some people are starting to make travel plans. The only rule that's different this time around is you need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccines used in other countries can be quite different to the ones in Australia, and only certain jabs are recognised by the government for entry into the country. Here's which ones will get you past passport control.
With superheroes and puppets, Philippines boosts child vaccination drive
Ironman, Captain America, puppeteers and performers on stilts entertained children at a vaccination centre in the Philippines on Monday, part of a drive to boost its COVID-19 inoculation campaign among its youngest citizens. Artists made swords and models from balloons as "superheroes" posed for pictures with children age 5 to 11 after they received their shots in the capital Manila. The Philippines has vaccinated about half of its 110-million population, but many areas outside urban centres are still lagging far behind, complicating efforts to suppress fresh outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.
Australia to open borders to vaccinated travelers on Feb. 21
Australia will open its borders to all vaccinated tourists and business travelers from Feb. 21 in a further relaxation of pandemic restrictions announced Monday. Australia imposed some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions on its citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 to prevent them from bringing COVID-19 home. When the border restrictions were relaxed in November in response to an increasing vaccination rate among the Australian population, international students and skilled migrants were prioritized over tourists in being welcomed back to Australia.
Germany eyes easing COVID rules; pharmacies to offer shots
The German government is working on plans to relax coronavirus restrictions after the peak in new cases has passed, likely by the end of February. Unlike some of its European neighbors, Germany still has many pandemic restrictions in place that exclude unvaccinated people from restaurants, public venues and some stores. “Perspectives for opening are being developed,” government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann told reporters Monday in Berlin. She said the measures would be discussed at a meeting of federal and state officials on Feb. 16, but would only take effect when authorities can be sure that Germany’s health system won’t be overwhelmed.
Community Activities
Ireland's St. Patrick's Day parade returns after three-year COVID absence
Ireland will celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a parade through the streets of Dublin for the first time in three years next month - and organisers hope the green-festooned festivities will energise a tourism sector hammered by a tough lockdown regime. The March 17 public holiday, celebrated in towns and villages across the country, was one of the first big events to be cancelled in 2020, shortly before the economy was shutdown for the first time to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The government dropped almost all COVID-19 curbs last month, backed by one of Europe's highest uptake of booster vaccines. The remaining restrictions such as mask-wearing are set to end later this month. "Our national day sends the message out loud and clear – Ireland is open again for tourism and we cannot wait to roll out the "green carpet" and welcome visitors from near and far," Tourism Minister Catherine Martin said in a statement.
Ottawa declares state of emergency over COVID-19 protests
The mayor of Canada’s capital declared a state of emergency Sunday and a former U.S. ambassador to Canada said groups in the U.S. must stop interfering in the domestic affairs of America’s neighbor as protesters opposed to COVID-19 restrictions continued to paralyze Ottawa’s downtown. Mayor Jim Watson said the declaration highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government. It gives the city some additional powers around procurement and how it delivers services, which could help purchase equipment required by frontline workers and first responders. Thousands of protesters descended in Ottawa again on the weekend, joining a hundred who remained since last weekend. Residents of Ottawa are furious at the nonstop blaring of horns, traffic disruption and harassment and fear no end is in sight after the police chief called it a “siege” that he could not manage.
Hong Kong residents raid supermarket shelves as COVID surge disrupts supplies
Hong Kong residents crowded supermarkets and neighbourhood fresh food markets on Monday to stock up on vegetables, noodles and other necessities after a record number of COVID-19 infections in the city and transport disruptions at the border with mainland China. The city of 7.5 million people reported a record 614 coronavirus cases on Monday, in the biggest test yet for the Chinese territory's zero-COVID strategy.
Working Remotely
The perils of ‘onboarding’ in a world of hybrid work
During this time of historically high worker turnover, getting new hires settled in quickly is critical. “Poor onboarding is costly,” says Becky Frankiewicz, Chicago-based president of ManpowerGroup North America, a multinational staffing company. “If it doesn’t make a new person feel welcome and clear on their role as part of the culture, then people will vote with their skills and take new offers.” Kristin Barry, director of hiring analytics at Gallup, says employees still have the same needs, whether online or off. “What’s different about the pandemic is the mode of experiencing those things”. New staff are always trying to figure out “what do we believe in around here”, Barry says, adding that “before they could do some of that sleuthing on their own, they could view the way people interact, when they gather and what happens, and could deduce the answer to some questions”. Now companies have to be more “intentional” about how they convey such messages, she says.
Data scientists say that remote working is here to stay
The rise of digital nomads, freelancers, and remote workers has spurred the growth of co-working spaces. The sector is filling a void created by the flexibilization of work during the pandemic, which has led to more people working remotely. Around 4.5 million Americans left their jobs in November last year in the face of the “Great Resignation,” citing being overworked, underpaid, lacking benefits, and preferring to work from home or remotely. For many workers, the idea of working remotely is a dream come true. However, many employers resist the change, insisting that employees return to the office. This could change as data scientists project that remote working is here to stay.
Virtual Classrooms
UK parliament launches online SEND sessions
Set to launch in April 2022, the UK Parliament Education and Engagement team have announced a new free online SEND workshop aimed at young learners aged 7-25. The workshop will involve sensory-based digital sessions. During the online class, students will use their senses to explore Parliament, find out who works there, and explore what they do. A poem will form the basis of the workshop, which will guide the students using rhyme, repetition and actions around the building.
President Speaks: Stop asking whether online learning is 'worth it.' Start focusing on how it helps working adults.
Don Kilburn is the CEO of UMass Online, the online arm of the University of Massachusetts.He writes: "I hope we are, particularly in light of recent events, well past the stage where the value of online learning as a modality is in any doubt. Yes, there can be a stupefying spectrum of quality of online learning programs, ranging from the shoddy to the world class, but that same spectrum applies to face-to-face learning. Rather than engaging in a conversation about whether online learning is "worth it," we need a more evolved debate that examines the nuances of strong online programs and how we can make them work better for today's students, particularly those already in the workforce."
‘Pupils feel attendance doesn’t matter following lockdown online learning’
In England, pupils feel they do not need to be in school because of the remote learning provided during national lockdowns, which is driving poor attendance, the education watchdog has found. In a report published on Monday, Ofsted said that, in secondary schools in particular, “it appears that the provision of remote education during national lockdowns has negatively affected some pupils’ perceptions of the need to be in school”. Some parents also expect that online learning will be provided for their children if they go on holiday during term time, Ofsted found.
Public Policies
India approves Russia’s one-shot Sputnik Light Covid vaccine
India’s government has approved Russia’s single-shot Sputnik Light vaccine, making it the ninth Covid-19 jab available in the country. In a statement shared on Twitter, India’s federal health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said: “DCGI [Drugs Controller General of India] has granted emergency use permission to Single-dose Sputnik Light Covid-19 vaccine in India.” “This is the 9th #Covid19 vaccine in the country. This will further strengthen the nation’s collective fight against the pandemic,” he added.
Approval of COVID vaccine made in South Africa could take 3 years, WHO says
The mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine produced at the World Health Organization-backed vaccine hub in South Africa could take up to three years to get approval if companies do not share their technology and data, a WHO official said on Friday. The WHO-backed tech transfer hub in South Africa was set up in June to give poorer nations the know-how to produce COVID-19 vaccines, after market leaders of the mRNA COVID vaccine, Pfizer , BioNTech and Moderna, declined a WHO request to share their technology and expertise. Martin Friede, coordinator of the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research, said if companies with approved COVID vaccines or late stage clinical data shared their technology and data with the consortium, the vaccine produced in South Africa could be approved in 12 to 18 months.
Nigeria receives 2 million doses of J&J COVID vaccine from EU countries
Nigeria has received 2 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine from Finland, Greece and Slovenia, with more EU donations set to arrive in the coming weeks, government officials said on Monday. The delivery is part of a donation pledge by the European Union to African countries via the COVAX initiative launched by the World Health Organization in 2020 to distribute vaccines to some of the world's poorest people.
South African regulator approves Sinopharm COVID vaccine
South Africa's health regulator said on Monday it had approved a COVID-19 vaccine from China's Sinopharm, although a senior health official said the government was not planning to procure doses for now. South Africa, the country worst-hit by the pandemic in Africa in terms of reported COVID-19 infections and deaths, has used the Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson shots in its vaccination campaig
Maintaining Services
Philippines shifts election battle to social media as COVID-19 curbs campaigning
Campaigning for the Philippines' general election gets underway officially on Tuesday, with COVID-19 curtailing the traditional fanfare and big rallies and turning the focus to social media as the key battleground for the May 9 contest. As with the 2016 polls that catapulted Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency, social media will be crucial in the three-month election buildup, while platforms will be under pressure to combat the rampant misinformation that has intensified in the Philippines in recent years, driving hate campaigns and deepening social divisions.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid vaccine: Women having IVF urged to get jabbed as data shows it won’t harm fertility
Leading fertility specialists are urging women having IVF to get vaccinated citing overwhelming evidence that the vaccine is safe for those trying to conceive. IVF doctors told i “mixed messages” and a lack of public messaging at the start of the vaccine rollout had caused concern and anxiety for some patients hoping to get pregnant. The British Fertility Society (BFS) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) say women having IVF should get vaccinated, with research showing that vaccines do not affect fertility or ovarian reserve.
University of Oxford to evaluate repurposed antiviral drugs for Covid-19
The University of Oxford in the UK has announced the launch of a research partnership to analyse the repurposing of existing anti-viral drugs for the treatment of Covid-19. Funded by the Medical Research Council and led by Queen’s University Belfast, this $2.16m (£1.6m) project will have specialists from Queen’s, the University of Liverpool and the University of Oxford. As part of the project, the team will quickly detect the new combination of drugs that could effectively treat Covid-19 by using a data-guided approach. Antiviral therapies are specifically utilised for treating viral infections by destroying or preventing the virus growth. In the initial stage, this project will analyse 138 drugs with recognised antiviral activity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.