"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 23rd Feb 2022

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong to Shut Schools to Fight Omicron; Foreigners Rush to Leave
Within hours of the city’s top official saying late Tuesday that schools would be closed and turned into response centers to tackle a surge in the Covid-19 Omicron variant, a rush occurred among foreign residents to find a way out of the city. Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision to shift the summer holidays forward several months to start in March—repurposing schools as testing, vaccination and isolation centers—caught educators and parents off guard. Some foreign workers immediately tried to book their families on flights out of the city as soon as possible. They took to WhatsApp messaging groups and other social-media platforms to discuss how to get out, with hundreds of posts inquiring about flight options and chartering planes amid sharply reduced commercial schedules in and out of the city. Heads of international schools sent hastily composed emails to parents and staffers saying that they would meet with the city’s education department Wednesday to try to mitigate the situation. One urged parents not to act hastily.
Hygiene Helpers
Coronavirus booster Scotland: Scots over-75s and the most vulnerable to receive fourth Covid vaccine dose
Appointments for the spring booster dose will be offered to those aged 75 and over, as will as those living in care homes for older people, and those aged 12 and above who are immunosuppressed. The vaccinations will be given at least 24 weeks after their most recent jag, with the first appointments to take place in the second week of March
Hong Kong confirms over 7,500 Covid-19 cases, vaccine pass to launch in days
Hong Kong is expected to tighten Covid-19 social-distancing rules further as it prepares to launch a so-called vaccine pass on Thursday limiting entry to venues based on inoculation status. As infection numbers continued to climb on Monday, reaching a new record of more than 7,500 cases, an 11-month-old baby became the city’s youngest coronavirus-related fatality, the third such death of young children in the past fortnight. On the social-distancing front, all restaurants would be limited to just two diners per table, unlike currently where some venues could have up to four people seated together, the Post learned.
Europe entry requirements: EU to scrap Covid tests for fully vaccinated with uniform travel rules by Easter
Covid tests for fully vaccinated arrivals are to be scrapped across the EU in time for the Easter holidays. As part of a new protocol, approved by the European Council on Tuesday 22 February, unvaccinated children aged six to 17 will also be allowed to enter any EU country with proof of a pre-departure PCR test. Unvaccinated adults who can provide proof of a recent Covid infection within the past 180 days may also enter, although they may be required to test before arrival.
Covid-19: Rethink end to free Covid tests, Naomi Long urges
It is "crucial" the government rethinks its decision to end free Covid-19 testing in England from April, Northern Ireland's justice minister has said. Naomi Long said it was important that people are supported financially to test and self-isolate if required.
Community Activities
In Hong Kong's All-Out Fight Against Covid, Singapore Is Winning
In pursuit of a tough Covid Zero strategy to fight its worst ever coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong is ceding ground to Singapore, a rival Asian financial and transport hub that’s been easing pandemic-linked restrictions to get its economy back on track. Key data compiled by Bloomberg Economics economists Tamara Mast Henderson and Eric Zhu show that some businesses, weary of stringent quarantine rules and the inability to travel freely, have been shifting to Singapore. The analysts have cut their economic growth forecast for Hong Kong by 0.6 percentage point to 1.4% this year, and expect Singapore’s gross domestic product to grow 4.7%
Convoy Leader Denied Bail as Canadian Officials Warn of Unrest
Canadian banks froze about C$7.8 million ($6.1 million) in just over 200 accounts under emergency powers meant to end protests in Ottawa and at key border crossings, a government official said Tuesday. The new tally was revealed in testimony to lawmakers examining Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to invoke the country’s Emergencies Act to end a three-week occupation of the nation’s capital. Trudeau and his ministers have said the measures announced last week are meant to cut off funding to protest leaders and to pressure trucking companies to prevent their semis from being used again in blockades. Ottawa’s downtown core was cleared out over the weekend, but dozens of trucks remain gathered at encampments outside the city.
Protester drives at New Zealand police as cordon tightens
One protester drove a car toward a New Zealand police line, narrowly avoiding officers, while other protesters sprayed officers with a stinging substance, police said Tuesday, as they tightened a cordon around a convoy that has been camped outside Parliament for two weeks. The clashes in the capital of Wellington came a day after police reported that some of the protesters had thrown human feces at them.
Canada's parliament approves Trudeau's emergency powers
Canada's parliament on Monday backed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to invoke rarely-used emergency powers to end pandemic-related protests that have blocked streets in the capital Ottawa for more than three weeks. The Emergencies Act was approved in parliament by 185 to 151, with the minority Liberal government getting support from left-leaning New Democrats. The special measures, announced by Trudeau a week ago, have been deemed unnecessary and an abuse of power by some opposition politicians.
Bulgaria to ease coronavirus restrictions as cases drop
Bulgaria plans to lift the obligatory COVID-19 "green certificate" for entry to restaurants, shopping malls and other public venues from March 20 as coronavirus infections ease, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said. The health pass - a digital or paper certificate showing someone has been vaccinated, tested negative or recently recovered from the virus - was made obligatory for most indoor spaces in Bulgaria last October. Its introduction has prompted a series of protests in the European Union's least vaccinated member state, angering bar and restaurant owners and anti-vaccine activists.
Ugandans would face fines, jail for refusing COVID jab under new law
Uganda plans to impose fines on people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who fail to pay could be sent to prison under a new public health law which lawmakers are scrutinising, parliament said on Tuesday. Although the East African country started administering COVID-19 jabs nearly a year ago, only about 16 million jabs have been administered in a population of 45 million, with officials blaming widespread reluctance for the low coverage. Parliament's house health committee has begun scrutinising Public Health (Amendment) Bill 2021 which seeks to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory.
Working Remotely
Flex office spaces become a respite from working at home, commuting long distances
Many companies are experimenting with remote working as the disruptions of the pandemic reach the two-year milestone, says Scott Watson, managing partner of acquisitions and leasing at Crown Realty Partners in Toronto. Nine of Crown’s 34 office buildings in Toronto and Ottawa include co-working office centres. While there wasn’t any growth in co-working early in the pandemic, Crown is now seeing increased interest in suburban touchdown spaces where employees can work remotely and avoid commutes to a downtown head office.
Women, people of color happier working from home
As companies reopen offices, who goes back and who stays home could determine the trajectory of workers' careers. Women and people of color are generally happier working from home and are likelier than their white male colleagues to want to continue teleworking, according to a new Harris Poll survey of professional workers across the U.S. A hybrid workplace has the potential to become an inequitable workplace, as in-office workers have more contact with managers and executives — while those who stay home fall out of sight and out of mind.
What Your Gen Z Colleagues Wish You Knew
Generation Z is getting antsy at work. Nearly two-thirds of job seekers born in the late 1990s into the early 2010s have switched industries or are considering doing so, according to a recent LinkedIn survey. What’s making them leave when they are only just getting started? A key undercurrent seems to be the lack of mentoring and access to seasoned management because they’re working remotely. To better understand where employers are failing, we talked to one young worker who recently switched jobs. Theirs is a cautionary tale for organizations everywhere, and points to how some basic, everyday management tactics can make a difference.
Virtual Classrooms
Education ministry boosts efforts to support online education as more schools adapt
In Japan, the education ministry is stepping up the establishment of online learning environments for public elementary and junior high schools as the coronavirus pandemic continues. A Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology project to provide a tablet computer to each student was completed within the 2020 school year, which ended in March 2021, three years ahead of schedule, enabling schools to adopt staggered attendance and online classes if a COVID-19 state of emergency or similar restrictions are introduced.
Public Policies
U.S. Supreme Court rejects challenge to Maine COVID-19 vaccine mandate
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away a challenge to Maine's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, rebuffing for the second time a group of plaintiffs who sought a religious exemption. The justices rejected a request made on behalf of unnamed plaintiffs identifying themselves as Maine healthcare workers who objected to the vaccinations on religious grounds. The court in November rejected an emergency request by the same plaintiffs seeking to prevent Maine from enforcing the mandate against them. They are represented by a Christian legal advocacy group.
Moscow, Baku working on Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in Azerbaijan
Moscow and Baku are working on the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in Azerbaijan, Trend reports with reference to Russian media. This is stated in the documents prepared for the talks between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. 'In 2021, 220,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine were delivered at the request of the Azerbaijani side. It is scheduled to deliver extra 80,000 doses. No new applications have been received. The organization of vaccine production in the country is being worked out,' said the document.
COVID vaccine for kids: Approval granted to COVID vaccine Corbevax for children between 12-18 years; here
India's first indigenously developed protein sub-unit COVID-19 Vaccine Corbevax is India’s first indigenously developed protein sub-unit COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been developed by Biological E. Limited in collaboration with Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development (Texas Children’s CVD) and Baylor College of Medicine (Baylor) in Houston, Texas. "CORBEVAX is a “recombinant protein sub-unit” vaccine, developed from a component of the spike protein on the virus’s surface, which helps the body build the immune response against the virus. The vaccine has the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) protein as an antigen, and also an optimum adjuvant consisting of Dynavax (DVAX) CpG 1018 and alum," Biological E Limited has said.
Covid-19: Most restrictions to be ended by Irish government
Almost all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in the Republic of Ireland are set to end from Monday. At a cabinet meeting the three government parties backed a plan to end measures including mandatory mask wearing in most settings. It follows a recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), which will also be abolished. Physical distancing measures in schools will also end, while testing and tracing will be scaled back. Masks in schools, retail settings and on public transport will be voluntary. However, masks will still be required in health care settings.
EU, Germany expect Novavax deliveries to begin this week
The European Commission and the German government said on Monday they expect deliveries of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine Nuvaxovid to begin over the course of this week. Novavax's recombinant protein vaccine uses a more established technology than mRNA, the novel method behind the two most commonly used COVID-19 vaccines in Germany made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
Maintaining Services
Covid cost-cutting will put blinkers on our best Covid research
After a bruising two years in which the UK failed to prove its resilience to a pandemic, the government hopes to re-cast the nation as a scientific superpower: a country that has built on the lessons of the crisis to deliver better research, more precision healthcare, and a more streamlined pathway to new drugs and vaccines. But the government’s decision to substantially cut back on free Covid testing, as part of Boris Johnson’s “living with Covid” strategy, already threatens to undermine pioneering trials and coronavirus surveillance that are the envy of other nations. Together, they are crucial for understanding how drugs keep patients out of hospital, how immunity is holding up in vulnerable care homes and hospitals and how the epidemic is unfolding around us.
Parents of kids under 5 anxiously await coronavirus vaccine
In the US, parents of children younger than 5 say they feel forgotten and left behind, watching others reclaim normalcy while they stay home with kids who are too young to be vaccinated and have to quarantine when there is an exposure to the coronavirus at day care or school. Parents are now dealing with another twist in a two-year roller-coaster ride after a coronavirus vaccine for the youngest children was further delayed this month. The Food and Drug Administration said it would wait to make a decision on authorizing the vaccine until data on a third dose becomes available — opening up a host of new questions and concerns.
Britain to offer further COVID-19 boosters to elderly and immunosuppressed
Britain said it would offer further COVID-19 booster shots to the elderly, care home residents and immunosuppressed people as part of a plan to learn to live with the disease without legal restrictions. Britain's health minister Sajid Javid said he would accept the recommendation of the country's vaccine advisers, and said that all four nations of the United Kingdom would offer the extra shots.
State legislatures renew the push to roll back Covid-related public health measures
State legislators are mobilizing anew to roll back public health measures meant to contain the spread of Covid-19. They are introducing bills in both liberal and conservative states that target measures like vaccine and mask requirements, which have become political lightning rods throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Several state lawmakers are also pushing legislation that would prevent hospitals and nursing homes from restricting visitors during outbreaks. The legislative blitz comes on the heels of a similar push last year, when over half of U.S. states took some action to roll back public health powers
Healthcare Innovations
Covid-19: Mexico City gave ivermectin kits to people with covid in “unethical” experiment
The government of Mexico City handed out nearly 200 000 “ivermectin based kits” last year to people who had tested positive for covid-19, without telling them they were subjects in an experiment on the drug’s effectiveness. The results of that experiment were then written up by public officials in an article placed on popular US preprint server SocArXiv.1 It became one of site’s most viewed articles, claiming that ivermectin had reduced hospital admissions by 52-76%. But those officials have been under fire at home since SocArXiv withdrew the paper earlier this month, calling it “either very poor quality or else deliberately false and misleading.” Opposition deputies in Mexico City’s Congress demanded hearings and said they would bring legal action against the paper’s lead author, José Merino, head of the city’s Digital Agency for Public Innovation. Explaining the decision to withdraw the article—the first to be taken down by SocArXiv—the site’s steering committee wrote that it had responded “to a community groundswell beseeching us to act” in order “to prevent the paper from causing additional harm.”2
Reinfections with Omicron subvariants are rare, Danish study finds
Getting infected twice with two different Omicron coronavirus subvariants is possible, but rarely happens, a Danish study has found. In Denmark, a more infectious sublineage of the Omicron coronavirus variant known as BA.2 has quickly dethroned the "original" BA.1 variant, which is the most common worldwide, but it has remained unclear whether a person could get infected by both variants. A new study, led by researchers at Denmark's top infectious disease authority, Statens Serum Institut (SSI), shows that people infected with BA.1 can get infected with BA.2 shortly afterwards, but that it is a rare occurrence.
South Korea says Omicron COVID variant 75% less likely to kill than Delta strain
People infected with the Omicron coronavirus variant are nearly 75% less likely to develop serious illness or die than those who contract the Delta variant, real world data released on Monday by South Korea's health authorities showed. A study by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) of some 67,200 infections confirmed since December showed the Omicron variant's severity and death rates averaged 0.38% and 0.18%, respectively, compared with 1.4% and 0.7% for the Delta cases. The KDCA classed severe cases as people who were hospitalised in intensive care units.
Antibody triggered by Sinopharm COVID booster wanes after six months - study
Antibodies triggered by a third dose of Sinopharm's COVID-19 shot given to those who completed its primary two-dose regimen dropped sharply after six months, and a fourth shot did not significantly boost them against Omicron, a Chinese study showed. The study, published on Monday before peer-preview, said repeated immunisation using inactivated vaccines such as the Sinopharm shot as a fourth booster may not be ideal to further increase antibody response against Omicron.