"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 9th Feb 2022

Isolation Tips
Malaysia COVID-19 panel recommends full border reopening in March
Malaysia's coronavirus recovery council on Tuesday said it has recommended a full reopening of borders as early as March 1 without mandatory quarantine for travellers, as part of plans to accelerate economic recovery. The Southeast Asian nation has shut its borders since March 2020 and froze the entry of foreign workers to try to contain novel coronavirus outbreaks. The recommendation comes as neighbours waive quarantine requirements to attract vaccinated tourists, including Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.
China locks down southern city as omicron variant surges
China has ordered inhabitants of the southern city of Baise to stay home and suspended transportation links amid a surge in COVID-19 cases at least partly linked to the omicron variant. Classes have been suspended, non-essential businesses closed and mass testing of residents ordered. Restaurants are only permitted to serve take-out. Traffic lights have been switched to red only to remind drivers to stay home. As of Tuesday, 135 cases had been reported in the city — at least two of them found to be omicron, health authorities said.
Hong Kong Curbs Private Gatherings With Tightest Covid Rules Yet
Hong Kong will limit gatherings in private homes for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began, in an attempt to keep residents from socializing as it fights an outbreak that risks dashing its strategy of keeping out the virus long term. The city will limit multi-household gatherings on private premises to two families starting Thursday, but authorities won’t go door-to-door to check if the rule is being followed. It will also restrict public gatherings to two people, down from four currently, and expand the list of venues where entry is limited to those who are vaccinated to shopping malls, food markets and hair salons. “Now given this severe epidemic, I hope the public will accept that we have to go back to the most stringent level,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.
Hygiene Helpers
New York considers making outdoor dining a permanent fixture
The New York City Council held a hearing on Tuesday to consider a plan to make sidewalk dining - first allowed in 2020 as a temporary measure to help blunt economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic - part of the new normal. The plan to give permanent status to thousands of "streateries" outside of restaurants and bars has the support of Mayor Eric Adams and the New York Hospitality Alliance, an industry association. Opponents say outside dining has created unsanitary conditions, helped draw more rats to sidewalks, drawn noise complaints in some neighborhoods and reduced the number of available parking spaces.
Community Activities
5G and QAnon: how conspiracy theorists steered Canada’s anti-vaccine trucker protest
The brazen occupation of Ottawa came as a result of unprecedented coordination between various anti-vaccine and anti-government organizations and activists, and has been seized on by similar groups around the world. It may herald the revenge of the anti-vaxxers. The so-called “freedom convoy” – which departed for Ottawa on 23 January – was the brainchild of James Bauder, an admitted conspiracy theorist who has endorsed the QAnon movement and called Covid-19 “the biggest political scam in history”. Bauder’s group, Canada Unity, contends that vaccine mandates and passports are illegal under Canada’s constitution, the Nuremberg Code and a host of other international conventions.
IBM Employees' Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Continue to Go Unanswered
According to Against Federal Mandates, an action committee started by IBM employees who oppose IBM's vaccine mandate, on February 1st, IBM revoked badge access to all worksites and client sites for all unvaccinated employees and employees who did not submit their vaccine status. IBM also stated that it will allow those who work from home to continue to do so, at least temporarily. As IBM continues its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, US IBM employees opposed to the mandate still have unanswered questions
New Zealand protesters block streets outside parliament
Hundreds of people protesting vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions blocked streets outside New Zealand's parliament on Tuesday with trucks and campervans, inspired by similar demonstrations in Canada. The "convoy for freedom" protesters arrived from all corners of New Zealand and gathered outside the parliament building in the capital Wellington, called the Beehive, ahead of the first speech for the year by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Working Remotely
Right to disconnect and less monitoring key to better remote work
Enterprises and governments should place clear limits on invasive workplace surveillance and support workers’ “right to disconnect” to reduce the negative physical and mental health impacts of digitally enabled remote working practices, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). In their joint technical brief on healthy and safe teleworking, the WHO and ILO said that although the increasing use of various digital technologies to support remote working has the potential to improve the work-life balance, promote flexible working hours and reduce time spent commuting, the negative impacts can be significant without proper planning and implementation.
Op-Ed: Work life will never be the same. We need some in-person days and some remote
Working from home surged twelvefold between 2017-2018 and May 2020. The pandemic is the biggest shock to American working life since the shift to military production during World War II. Employees are driving this revolution. Surveys of 50,000 workers across the country find they want to work from home 2.5 days a week on average after the pandemic. Employees working from home frequently tell me how they enjoy the freedom of being able to go to the gym or see the dentist during a week day, making up the work time in the evenings or on weekends. I enjoy the ability to pick up my kids from school on work-from-home days. Employees with young children are the most likely to want to work from home.
Brazil Authorizes Remote Work Visas
Brazil’s government is encouraging travelers to become “digital nomads” by working remotely in the South American nation. A measure passed January 24 by the country’s National Immigration Council of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security authorizes one-year visas and residency permits, an Embratur spokesman said Monday. In a program mirroring other remote-work plans that emerged following the pandemic outbreak, Brazilian visitors “may work for foreign employers while staying in Brazil, with no formal employment registered in the country” under the new policy.
Virtual Classrooms
TCEA 2022: Online Learning Success Starts with a Strong Foundation
Teachers have come a long way since March 2020, when many were thrown unprepared into the remote learning world. But instructional technology consultant and author Lindy Hockenbary says there’s still a lot more teachers can learn about online learning success. At this year’s in-person TCEA 2022 conference in Dallas, the A Teacher’s Guide to Online Learning author used her session, titled “The Recipe for K–12 Online Learning Success,” to share with teachers, instructional technologists and other educators how to cook up a satisfying online learning experience.
School's Out: Mental Health and Virtual Learning
It has been nearly two years since the coronavirus disease was declared a pandemic. Social distancing measures have led to school closures in many countries around the world, and repeated follow-up measures have led to a large degree of inconsistency in the delivery of education for many children. In the Americas alone, schools remained closed for more than 41 weeks. One year into the pandemic, nearly 50% of students worldwide were still facing partial or complete closures of school. Although many students were able to navigate these circumstances with and even saw an improvement in their mental health status, a significant number were unable to do so.
Public Policies
U.S. CDC stands by K-12 school masking guidance as states relax rules –Walensky
With COVID-19 cases still high nationwide, "now is not the moment" to drop mask mandates in schools and other public places, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Reuters on Tuesday. Her comments follow announcements by officials in New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, California and Oregon that they plan to lift indoor mask mandates for K-12 public schools and other indoor spaces in coming weeks, seeking a return to normalcy as infections spurred by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus ebb. "I know people are interested in taking masks off. I too am interested. That would be one marker that we have much of the pandemic behind us," Walenksy said in an interview.
Vietnam receives Vero-Cell COVID-19 vaccine donated by China
The Ministry of National Defence received 300,000 doses of Vero-Cell COVID-19 vaccine presented by the Ministry of National Defence of China at a ceremony held at Noi Bai International Airport on February 8. Addressing the event, Chinese Ambassador to Vietnam Xiong Bo said that the vaccine donation aims to help the army and people of Vietnam overcome COVID-19, which demonstrates the sentiments of the Chinese military in particular and Chinese Government in general to the military and people of Vietnam. On behalf of the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defence, Deputy Defence Minister Sen. Lieut. Gen. Hoang Xuan Chien, thanked the Chinese side for the gift which he said is evidence of the friendly neighbourliness and solidarity between the two countries and two militaries in particular.
Global COVID response program 'running on fumes' amid budget shortfall
A global initiative to get COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines to poorer nations has only received 5% of the donations sought to deliver on its aims this year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and other aid groups. The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator budgeted $23.4 billion for its efforts from October 2021 to September 2022, of which it hoped $16.8 billion would come in the form of grants from richer countries.
Maintaining Services
Travel Nurses Make Twice as Much as They Did Pre-Covid-19
Hospitals and lawmakers are pressing the Biden administration to review federal pandemic-relief programs that they say have distorted pay rates for travel nurses. Many nurses are making twice what they did before the pandemic or more on assignments at hospitals paying top dollar to fill big holes in their workforces. Some hospitals are using federal Covid-19 relief funds to cover part of the difference between rates for travel nurses and staff salaries. Health-industry trade groups and some members of Congress say staffing agencies matching workers with hospitals are capitalizing on a tight labor market, as many nurses have left during the pandemic, often because of burnout and fatigue.
They knocked on strangers' doors and persuaded naysayers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are their tips
When Armani Nightengale waited in the car last March to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at Chicago's United Center, her husband was more nervous than she was. Over the next couple of weeks, he carefully checked her arm to make sure nothing looked wrong. Then, the conversation shifted to when he would get the shot. That's when things got more "combative," Nightengale said, as she began asking why he was reluctant, especially given that they had three young children. Her husband, on the other hand, felt unsure about how signing up for the vaccine would affect his immigration status.
Social Media Is Wired to Spread Misinformation on Covid-19 and Everything Else
The right and left may not agree on what constitutes misinformation, but both would like to see less of it on social media. And as the world faces the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the threat medical misinformation poses to public health remains real. Companies like Twitter and Facebook have a stake in cleaning up their platforms — without relying on censoring or fact-checking. Censoring can engender distrust when social media companies expunge posts or delete accounts without explanation. It can even raise the profile of those who’ve been “canceled.” And fact-checking isn’t a good solution for complex scientific concepts. That’s because science is not a set of immutable facts, but a system of inquiry that constructs provisional theories based on imperfect data.
Quarter of UK employers cite long COVID as driving absences - survey
A quarter of British employers have cited long COVID as a main cause of long-term sickness absences, a survey by a professional body found on Tuesday, adding that it raised questions over how workers with the condition were being supported in their jobs. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading a strategy for the country to live with COVID, lifting restrictions as booster shots and the lower severity of the Omicron variant weaken the link between cases and death.
N. Korea increases virus budget after partial border opening
North Korea plans to increase its government spending on pandemic measures by one-third this year to carry out leader Kim Jong Un’s calls for a more “advanced and people-oriented” virus response, state media said Tuesday. The budget plans were passed during a session of Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp parliament on Sunday and Monday, which came weeks after the North tentatively restarted its railroad freight traffic with China following two years of extreme border closures and economic decay. Kim had hinted at broader changes to the country’s pandemic response during a political conference in December, when he called for a transition toward advanced anti-virus measures based on a “scientific foundation.”
Healthcare Innovations
New conditions common 1 to 5 months after positive COVID test
A cohort study of Americans tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection shows that new-onset shortness of breath, heart rhythm abnormalities, and type 2 diabetes were more common 31 to 150 days after testing positive for COVID-19 than among those with negative results. The research was published today in JAMA Network Open. A team led by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers examined new signs and symptoms among 144,768 nonhospitalized and 23,933 hospitalized people 20 years and older with a positive COVID-19 test, and 1,227,510 nonhospitalized people with a negative test. Among the 338,024 people younger than 20 years, 25,327 nonhospitalized and 1,338 hospitalized people tested positive, and 260,660 nonhospitalized and 50,699 hospitalized patients had a negative test result.
MRNA COVID-19 Vaccines are Safe for Cancer Patients: Study
Cancer patients may not experience more complications with COVID-19 vaccines. mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 are safe for people with cancer as they are for cancer-free individuals. Researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center tracked short-term side effects from more than 1,753 recipients of the Pfizer BNT162b2 vaccine. They found no other reactions for patients undergoing active cancer treatment or who had completed treatment. The results come from the in-person, phone, and online surveys given to people who received two doses of the mRNA vaccine, three weeks apart, between February 16 and May 15, 2021.