"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 10th Feb 2022

Isolation Tips
COVID-19: Boris Johnson announces final restrictions including self-isolation could end a month earlier than planned
Boris Johnson has said he plans to remove all remaining coronavirus restrictions in England a month early. "Providing the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions, including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive, a full month early," the prime minister told MPs. The current regulations were due to expire on 24 March.
Japan to extend COVID-19 curbs for 13 regions by three weeks
Japanese Prime Minister said on Wednesday that the government would extend COVID-19 restrictions in Tokyo and 12 prefectures by three weeks as the Omicron variant continued to spread. Japan has been breaking daily records for coronavirus cases and deaths amid a surge in infections driven by the Omicron variant. It will add one more prefecture to the list of regions facing quasi-emergency measures, including restrictions on the business hours of eateries, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.
UAE to lift gradually COVID-related restrictions - state news agency
The United Arab Emirates will gradually lift restrictions imposed to check the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the number of infections and hospitalisations has gone down, the state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday. Venues will be allowed to function at maximum capacity by mid-February, it said, citing the National Emergency Crisis Management Authority.
"Beginning of the end": upbeat Poland cuts COVID isolation
An end to the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight, the Polish health minister said on Wednesday, as he announced a cut to the isolation period for people infected with the coronavirus and looser quarantine rules. Poland saw record daily case numbers as recently as two weeks ago, but with infections falling and the effects of Omicron appearing to be milder than previous variants, authorities believe the time is right for a lighter touch. "We are dealing with the beginning of the end of the pandemic," Adam Niedzielski told a news conference. "In February, declines in infections should be relatively large."
Czech PM says could lift most COVID measures from March
The Czech Republic aims to increase the number of people allowed at public events in the coming weeks, with expectations that from March nearly all COVID-19 restrictions could be lifted, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Wednesday. The central European country of 10.7 million has faced its highest rates of COVID-19 so far since late January, but although the number of hospitalisations has climbed, the number of patients is well below previous peaks. From Thursday, the government is going ahead with previously announced plans to allow the unvaccinated back into restaurants and other venues as infections start to ebb.
Hygiene Helpers
New York Gov. Hochul lifts her mask mandate for most indoor public places
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday her state will end its mandate requiring people to wear a mask or prove they have received a COVID-19 vaccine when they are inside most indoor public places, starting on Thursday.
Community Activities
Canada's Covid-19 trucker protests go global
A trucker protest that has clogged the streets of the Canadian capital for weeks has spread to cities across the world, and impeded access to the busiest land crossing between the United States and Canada as drivers and their supporters demonstrate against vaccine mandates and pandemic control measures. The so-called "Freedom Convoy" began at the end of January in Ottawa as an objection to a vaccine mandate requiring truckers entering Canada to either be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine requirements, Paula Newton and Travis Caldwell report. Other protesters then joined to rail against mask mandates, lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings and other Covid-19 preventative measures. The protests, which have seen demonstrators leave trucks idling on roads, have infuriated politicians and business owners, with some in downtown Ottawa complaining about financial losses. "Individuals are trying to blockade our economy, our democracy, and our fellow citizens' daily lives. It has to stop," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in parliament on Monday, the same day the Ambassador Bridge, which runs across the border between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, was obstructed by demonstrators.
New Covid surge batters Afghanistan's crumbling health care
Only five hospitals in Afghanistan still offer COVID-19 treatment, with 33 others having been forced to close in recent months for lack of doctors, medicines and even heat. This comes as the economically devastated nation is hit by a steep rise in the number of reported coronavirus cases. At Kabul’s only COVID-19 treatment hospital, staff can only heat the building at night because of lack of fuel, even as winter temperatures drop below freezing during the day. Patients are bundled under heavy blankets. Its director, Dr. Mohammed Gul Liwal, said they need everything from oxygen to medicine supplies. The facility, called the Afghan Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, has 100 beds. The COVID-19 ward is almost always full as the virus rages. Before late January, the hospital was getting one or two new coronavirus patients a day. In the past two weeks, 10 to 12 new patients have been admitted daily, Liwal said.
Working Remotely
How virtual fashion can shake up the remote work dress code
Stow those shapeless sad-sack sweatpants. Meh to normcore avatars on Microsoft Mesh. Imagine showing up to your next virtual meeting, in a kinetic, digitally-rendered top that conveys your mood and personality? What sounds like zany science fiction is, in fact, already happening. Fashion-forward social media influencers are snapping up ready-to-wear virtual pants and tops (price range: $30 to $700) to augment their on-screen avatars. As more companies follow Microsoft and Meta into the metaverse, fashion designers like Gala Marija Vrbanic are getting in on the enormous possibilities for self-expression.
How to Work Remotely From Another Country: A Brief Guide
Whether you're a professional with part-time remote-work privileges or a full-time digital nomad, plenty of places and companies are eager to cater to your wanderlust. If a shorter trip free from guesswork is all that time allows, then booking a longer stay at a hotel may be the path of least resistance even if it costs a bit more. Globally, many hotels have rolled out “workation” promotions. If you would prefer to work on-the-go for more than a month, and whip up your own meals from time to time, consider subscribing to an accommodation service. What about travelers who are perhaps a bit more independent and have an open-ended itinerary? Several nations now grant remote-working visas good for as long as a year.
Virtual Classrooms
Malaysian student gives free gamification workshops to enliven virtual lessons
Like other schoolgoing children, teenager Sheldon Chong has been attending online classes throughout the pandemic and finds it mainly one-dimensional, without much interaction and engagement. So to make elearning more enjoyable, Chong decided to offer gamification workshops so that teachers and students can create games for virtual lessons. Gamification in education applies game elements to a learning environment. Chong, an award-winning game developer and digital illustrator, will be holding two 90-minute online workshops entitled, Create A Virtual 2D Game (for students) (Feb 10, 8.30pm) and Create A Gamified Virtual Classroom (for educators) (Feb 11, 8.30pm) for free.
15 Ways to Engage Your Students In-person, Online, and in Zoom
Marti Snyder, PhD, PMP, SPHR shares 15 strategies he uses most often in various formats - in-person, hybrid, and online - to engage students. Many of these strategies overlap and can be used regardless of delivery mode.
Cornish language has new learners after pandemic moves courses online
A rise in learning apps and online classes as well as a project in schools is behind an increase in the number of people learning the Cornish language. Pre-pandemic there were no apps or online courses for the language that had died out in the 18th Century. Now there are several apps including European Union funded Indylan - recently launched by Cornwall Council. Cornish language teachers said online courses had enabled a "huge rise" in demand.
Public Policies
Sweden declare pandemic over, despite warnings from scientists
Sweden scrapped almost all of its few pandemic restrictions on Wednesday and stopped most testing for COVID-19, even as the pressure on the healthcare systems remained high and some scientists begged for more patience in fighting the disease. Sweden's government, which throughout the pandemic has opted against lockdowns in favour of a voluntary approach, announced last week it would scrap the remaining restrictions - effectively declaring the pandemic over - as vaccines and the less severe Omicron variant have cushioned severe cases and deaths.
Exclusive: EU wants pandemic treaty to ban wildlife markets, reward virus detection
The European Union is pushing for a global deal aimed at preventing new pandemics that could include a ban on wildlife markets and incentives for countries to report new viruses or variants, an EU official told Reuters. International negotiators will meet for the first time on Wednesday to prepare talks for a potential treaty, said the official, who is not authorised to speak to media and so declined to be named. The aim is to reach a preliminary agreement by August.
Maintaining Services
Second doses of Covid-19 vaccine to be rolled out in Jersey secondary schools
In Jersey, second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered in secondary schools in a bid to boost the levels of vaccination in the community. From Friday 11 February, children will be able to receive their first, second and booster doses in a school setting. Letters and leaflets are being sent to parents of all eligible students aged 12-18 about the programme. Health officials hope the move will encourage a higher take-up of the vaccine, with figures showing only around half of 12-15 year olds have had their first dose.
Hospitals begin to limp out of the latest COVID-19 surge
As omicron numbers drop at Denver Health, Dr. Anuj Mehta is reminded of the scene in the 1980 comedy “The Blues Brothers” when John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd pile out of a battered car after a police chase. Suddenly, all the doors pop off the hinges, the front wheels fall off and smoke pours from the engine. “And that’s my fear,” said Mehta, a pulmonary and critical care physician. “I’m worried that as soon as we stop, everything’s just going to fall apart.” Across the U.S., the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has tumbled more than 28% over the past three weeks to about 105,000 on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the ebbing of the omicron surge has left in its wake postponed surgeries, exhausted staff members and uncertainty over whether this is the last big wave or whether another one lies ahead.
Healthcare Innovations
Discovery of Omicron in New York deer raises concern over possible new variants
The discovery of the Omicron variant in white-tailed deer in New York has raised concerns that the species, numbering 30 million in the United States, could become hosts of a new coronavirus strain, a lead researcher said. Blood and some nasal swab samples from 131 deer captured on New York's Staten Island revealed that nearly 15% had virus antibodies. The finding suggested that the animals had previous coronavirus infections and were vulnerable to repeated reinfections with new variants, researchers led by Pennsylvania State University scientists said.
Indonesia starts testing homegrown COVID vaccine on humans
Indonesia has begun testing a homegrown COVID-19 vaccine on humans after getting the green light from the drug regulator, as the country faces a rising wave of cases. Research on the “Merah Putih” (“Red White”) vaccine – named after the colours of the Indonesian national flag – is led by Airlangga University and Biotis Pharmaceutical Indonesia.
Serious illness, death more common in pregnant women with COVID-19
Pregnant COVID-19 patients are about 40% more likely to develop serious complications or die than their uninfected peers, suggests a study led by University of Utah Health researchers published in JAMA. The retrospective cohort study examined the outcomes of 41,104 women who delivered at 17 US hospitals from Mar 1 to Dec 31, 2020, following them up to Feb 11, 2021. Among the patients, 2,352 had COVID-19 and 11,752 did not.