"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 10th Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong races to build isolation facilities as COVID cases surge
Hong Kong is rushing to build facilities for COVID-19 patients, with Reuters drone footage showing construction work in full swing after a temporary bridge linking the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen to the Asian financial hub opened at the weekend.
Hygiene Helpers
Hong Kong’s Covid-19 Death Rate Is the World’s Highest Because of Unvaccinated Elderly
Almost a year ago, Rio Ling decided to hold off on vaccinating his 86-year-old father against the coronavirus because he was more worried about possible side effects than the virus itself, given that Hong Kong had kept cases low under its “Zero-Covid” policy. By the time he gave the go-ahead in January, after the Omicron variant had broken through the city’s defenses, it was too late. A few hours after finally receiving the inoculation in late February, Mr. Ling’s dad, who has high blood pressure and dementia, tested positive for Covid-19. Half a million people over 70 weren’t vaccinated when Omicron began surging through the city. Like other places, Hong Kong gave its elderly priority to get their shots, but persistent fears about vaccine safety, fueled by local media reports about deaths following vaccinations, and Hong Kong’s low case count led many to delay.
Ignoring behavioral and social sciences undermines the U.S. response to Covid-19
The U.S. has bungled many of its efforts to rein in the Covid-19 pandemic. Francis S. Collins, the former director of the National Institutes of Health, perfectly captured the country’s fundamental flaw: “Maybe we underinvested in research on human behavior,” he said on PBS NewsHour. “I never imagined a year ago, when those vaccines were just proving to be fantastically safe and effective, that we would still have 60 million people who had not taken advantage of them because of misinformation and disinformation that somehow dominated all of the ways in which people were getting their answers.” In just 60 words, Collins captured the limitations of the nation’s biomedicine-centric coronavirus response strategy, which has grossly underutilized insights and expertise from the behavioral and social sciences that might have bolstered the likelihood that the country’s single best tool — effective vaccines — would achieve their potential to stop a highly contagious, rapidly evolving respiratory virus in its tracks.
Community Activities
Florida vaccine plan for children denounced as ‘irresponsible and reckless’
In a pronouncement which stunned experts on Monday, Florida’s controversial surgeon general Dr Joseph Ladapo said the state would be the first to “recommend against” Covid-19 vaccination for “healthy children”. The move followed two recent Covid-19 surges in which pediatric hospitalization was believed to be higher because of low vaccination rates among children. “It’s very generous to call it a recommendation, because recommendations come with supporting evidence and transparency,” said Saad B Omer, director of the Yale Institute of Global Health and professor of medicine in infectious diseases.
Having Covid-19 linked to risk of economic hardship, study suggests
People living in the UK’s most deprived areas are more likely to be infected with Covid-19, but research suggests this relationship is a two-way street: becoming infected also increases people’s risk of economic hardship, particularly if they develop long Covid. “We’ve shown that Covid has an impact on people’s ability to meet their basic household requirements – something that is only going to be exacerbated by the cost of living crisis which is happening at the same time,” said Adrian Martineau, a professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), who supervised the research. The findings have boosted calls for ministers to do more to support the growing number of working-age adults affected by the condition, which is also known as post-acute Covid syndrome (Pacs).
Working Remotely
Tokyo men's time on housework, child care unchanged amid pandemic, remote work: study
The time men spend on housework and child care has not changed much since before and after the coronavirus outbreak in Japan, even though working from home became more common among workers, a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has shown. In June 2021, when the Japanese capital was under a COVID-19 state of emergency, the metropolitan government asked a total of 5,000 women and men living in Tokyo online about how much time they spend on house chores and child care, as well as their remote work conditions. When the weekly average of time spent on housework and child care per day was tallied among 2,000 women and men who live with their spouses and preschool age children, women spent eight hours and 54 minutes, while men spent three hours and 34 minutes. Compared to a pre-coronavirus 2019 study, for women it was an increase of 20 minutes, while for men it was just a one-minute increase.
Workcations: The travel trend mixing work and play
We’ve been taught to keep work and play apart. Yet more of us are still taking workcations, years into the pandemic – and reaping the benefits. The trend could be here to stay. Last year, a whopping 85% of 3,000 Indian workers said in a poll that they took a workcation in 2021. Over a quarter of Canadian workers say they want to take one this year; in a global study of eight countries, 65% of 5,500 respondents say they plan to extend a work trip into a leisure one, or vice versa, in 2022.
Scotland's strong adoption of hybrid working 'could give economy multi-million-pound boost'
On average, Scottish employees now want to work 2.8 days a week from home – a rise of 254 per cent compared with before the pandemic, and above the UK-wide figure of 2.35, according to a Virgin Media O2 Business study with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). Additionally, Scottish respondents said they enjoyed an additional 1.7 hours of leisure time a day on average when working remotely, which scaled up equals 442 hours a year or almost 20 extra days. The research also found that of those employees who indicated a willingness to relocate thanks to remote working, Scotland could see an influx of 238,000 workers.
Virtual Classrooms
Teachers Are Transferring Their New Virtual Teaching Skills to In-Person Instruction
One big result of the pandemic is that it is spurring many schools to embrace technology in deeper and more sustained ways than ever before. What’s driving that momentum? To begin with, digital learning devices have become way more common in classrooms and students’ homes, thanks in part to billions of dollars in federal relief funds. Nearly half of the educators—49 percent—identified improved access to laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets as a major boost to their expanded use of education technology in the classroom, according to an EdWeek Research Center survey. Almost as many teachers, principals, and district leaders—46 percent—said teachers’ new facility with technology has been highly beneficial for teaching and learning.
Unis 'should capitalise on knowledge gained from their online learning experience'
COVID-19 restrictions required universities to move their classes online. It was a tremendous – although difficult – learning experience for all involved in this shift. As restrictions have been lifted, universities are moving back to in-person teaching. With campuses getting busy again, it may look like nothing has changed. Universities would be wise, though, to reflect on lessons learned during the pandemic. They should capitalise on knowledge gained from their online learning experience. Universities should continue to encourage and help lecturers to be creative and flexible in how they design their courses and interact with their students
Public Policies
WHO lays out plan for COVID vaccines to tackle new variants
The World Health Organization (WHO) technical advisory group on COVID-19 vaccines today weighed in on potential updates to COVID-19 vaccines in light of emerging variants such as Omicron, outlining different options and what data are needed to guide new strategies. In other developments, countries experiencing later Omicron surges—especially in Asia—continue to report cases at or near record daily highs. And, in the United States, weekly pediatric COVID-19 cases dropped below 100,000, part of a 6-week decline from the Omicron peak in children.
PH gets more than 1 million doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
The Philippines received another shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine – more than 1 million doses – on Wednesday, the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 said. The delivery is composed of 128,700 Pfizer vaccine doses for 12 years old and above, and 1,056,000 doses of reformulated Pfizer vaccine for minors aged 5 to 11. All in all, 1,184,700 doses of Pfizer’s anti-coronavirus vaccine were delivered to the Philippines on Wednesday night.
Altamira Therapeutics Receives Approval to Commence Clinical Trial Evaluating Bentrio in the Treatment of COVID-19
Altamira Therapeutics Ltd. a company dedicated to developing therapeutics that address important unmet medical needs, today announced that its affiliate, Altamira Medica, has received the necessary approvals to initiate a clinical investigation of Bentrio™ in COVID-19 patients (the “COVAMID” study). COVAMID is a randomized, placebo controlled clinical trial to evaluate the ability of Bentrio™ nasal spray to reduce the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in the nose, alleviate COVID-19 signs and symptoms, and decrease the frequency of COVID-19 related hospital admissions.
Janssen and Aspen enter deal to manufacture Covid-19 vaccine in Africa
Janssen Pharmaceuticals of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has concluded an agreement with South Africa based company Aspen to manufacture and distribute Covid-19 vaccines in Africa. The companies intend to boost Covid-19 inoculation rates in Africa through this alliance. Under the deal, J&J will provide Covid-19 vaccine drug substance to Aspen, which will manufacture and make the finished vaccines available under its own brand name Aspenovax. The vaccines will be provided to all 55 Member States of the African Union (AU), as well as crucial multilateral entities that back the Covid-19 inoculation campaign in Africa, including the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and the COVAX Facility.
Austria says it is putting its COVID-19 vaccine mandate on ice
Austria is suspending its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, its ministers for health and constitutional affairs said on Wednesday, six days before fines for breaches were due to start being imposed. The measure, the most sweeping in the European Union as it applied to all adults with few exceptions, has been in effect since Feb. 5, but enforcement was only due to begin on March 15.
German govt produces new legal framework for pandemic rules
The German government introduced a legal framework for pandemic regulations and rules Wednesday. Most of the country’s current coronavirus restrictions are set to end by March 20. The country’s health and justice ministers said if German lawmakers pass the framework, the country’s 16 state legislatures could adopt the new “hot spot” measures if virus cases rise again in certain regions, if hospitals are at risk of becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, or if new virus variants start spreading. The regulations cover matters such as mask requirements, social distancing, and requiring proof of vaccination, recovery of the illness or negative tests to be able to participate in certain parts of public life.
WHO Africa’s 1st woman leader helps continent fight COVID
People stand when Dr. Matshidiso Moeti enters a room at the World Health Organization’s Africa headquarters in Republic of Congo. Small in stature, big in presence, Moeti is the first woman to lead WHO’s regional Africa office, the capstone of her trailblazing career in which she has overcome discrimination in apartheid South Africa to become one of the world’s top health administrators. Moeti is facing her toughest challenge: helping Africa respond to the coronavirus pandemic as the continent trails the rest of the world in testing and vaccination efforts. She has become one of the world’s most compelling voices urging better consideration of Africa’s people — especially women, who’ve in many ways been hit hardest by COVID.
Maintaining Services
U.S. leaning toward ending COVID-era expulsions of migrants at Mexico border - sources
President Joe Biden's administration is leaning toward ending a COVID-era order that has blocked more than a million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter, a major policy shift that would restore the U.S. asylum system but could provoke backlash from Republicans. A third official said the policy was being actively debated and a decision could come within weeks, though the outcome was not yet clear. All three requested anonymity to provide details on internal conversations. The discussions, which have not been previously reported, were prompted by recent U.S. court decisions that complicate the implementation of the so-called "Title 42" border order coupled with major moves by U.S. public health officials to loosen pandemic restrictions across the United States, the officials said
First Covid-19 case arrives in Aiutaki
The case is an Aitutaki resident, and the person is isolating at home. Household contacts are currently being identified and are asked to quarantine. Like Rarotonga, the population on Aitutaki is highly vaccinated and Prime Minister Mark Brown said they are prepared for this. Over the weekend 24 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total number to 130. R-A-T tests will be used to diagnose new cases in the Cook islands as is occurring in New Zealand. No additional PCR test will be required except for clinical reasons.
Shanghai steps up defences against wave of asymptomatic COVID cases
The Chinese financial hub of Shanghai is moving quickly to halt the spread of COVID-19 amid a rising wave of local symptomless cases, testing tens of thousands of people, delaying dozens of concerts and exhibitions and shutting some public venues. Shanghai reported 62 domestically transmitted asymptomatic infections for Tuesday, the seventh consecutive day of increases in such cases, official data showed on Wednesday. That was the highest daily count for the city since China started in late March 2020 to classify symptomless infections separately from confirmed cases.
Healthcare Innovations
'Variant-proof' Covid vaccine created in UK
A British “variant-proof” vaccine has received tens of millions of pounds of funding in the hope it may provide more durable protection against Sars-Cov2 — and against coronaviruses that don’t even exist yet. Boris Johnson hailed the technology as part of the “next generation of vaccines” as he opened a conference in London held by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
Pfizer Starts Testing Its Covid-19 Pill in Children
Pfizer Inc. has begun studying its Covid-19 pill in children under 18 years old who are at high risk of developing severe disease. The study will evaluate whether the five-day treatment Paxlovid, which is in use among people 12 years and older, can also keep children who are newly infected by the coronavirus out of the hospital, Pfizer said Wednesday. The first child enrolled in the study on Monday. Pfizer expects results by the end of the year, said Annaliesa Anderson, who leads the company’s Paxlovid research. Should results from the pediatric study prove positive, the antiviral would be the first Covid-19 pill for children under 12 years and an especially important remedy for those with underlying health conditions who cannot be vaccinated or whose parents don’t want them to get shots.
Variant that combines Delta and Omicron identified; dogs sniff out virus with high accuracy
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. "Deltacron" with genes of Delta and Omicron found Hybrid versions of the coronavirus that combine genes from the Delta and Omicron variants - dubbed "Deltacron" - have been identified in at least 17 patients in the United States and Europe, researchers said. Because there have been so few confirmed cases, it is too soon to know whether Deltacron infections will be very transmissible or cause severe disease, said Philippe Colson of IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseille, France, lead author of a report posted on Tuesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review. His team described three patients in France infected with a version of SARS-CoV-2 that combines the spike protein from an Omicron variant with the "body" of a Delta variant.
Study reveals some brain changes, even in mild COVID-19
Adult COVID-19 survivors—even those with mild illness—who underwent scans showed changes in brain structure beyond that expected from normal aging, including in areas tied to smell and memory, according to a UK study published yesterday in Nature. University of Oxford investigators administered cognitive tests to and scanned the brains of 785 visitors to the UK Biobank imaging centers two times an average of 38 months apart. Of the 785 participants, 401 (51%) were diagnosed as having COVID-19 between their scans, from March 2020 to April 2021. The remaining 384 participants were age- and sex-matched controls. Patients were aged 51 to 81 years.
Most mRNA COVID vaccine adverse events mild, transient
The vast majority of adverse events (92%) recorded after people received the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines during the first 6 months of the US vaccine rollout were mild and transient, according to an observational study published yesterday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.