"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 15th Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong rules out tightening COVID curbs for now as death toll soars
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Monday there were no plans to tighten strict social distancing measures as the Chinese-ruled territory battles to contain a coronavirus surge that has submerged its health system amid soaring deaths. Lam said there was limited room to tighten further, with the global financial hub already having put in place the strictest measures since the pandemic started. Gatherings of more than two people are banned, most venues are shut - including schools - and masks are compulsory everywhere, even when exercising outdoors.
Lockdowns Spread Across China as Race to Contain Covid-19 Outbreak Intensifies
Fallout from China’s race to halt its worsening coronavirus outbreak is growing as authorities order lockdowns and other restrictions across more of the country. All 24 million residents of northeastern Jilin province, which borders Russia and North Korea, were locked down on Monday, the first time since Covid-19 was first detected two years ago in Wuhan that such restrictions have been imposed on an entire province. Shenzhen city began a weeklong lockdown on Monday, closing public transport, nonessential businesses and schools, while companies in Shanghai began shutting down over the weekend.
Hygiene Helpers
How Australia's Swift Bid to Crush Covid Saved Lives
When the world was confronted with the coronavirus in early 2020, Australia responded hard and fast with what would be—at first—one of the most successful efforts to combat the pandemic. On this episode of Storylines, we recount how Australia leveraged its geography and strict travel rules to quickly become an example for holding Covid-19 at bay. But a lack of diligence on the vaccine front coupled with the arrival of the delta variant would upend this Covid-zero strategy.
Novavax's COVID vaccine rollout in EU off to a slow start
Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Novavax has been underwhelming in the EU's main countries in the early rollout, so far undermining hopes that it could convince vaccine sceptics to get a shot. Over 85% of adults in the 27-country EU bloc have received at least one dose and nearly two-thirds of them have also had a booster, but tens of millions remain unvaccinated. The Novavax vaccine, the latest to receive the EU regulators' approval under the trade name of Nuvaxovid, was expected to persuade some sceptics because it is based on a more conventional technology than the other four vaccines authorised so far in the EU.
Covid-19 vaccination teams to visit ‘all Hong Kong care homes by Friday’
Covid-19 vaccination teams will visit all care facilities in Hong Kong by Friday in a bid to push inoculation among the elderly, while at-home jabs will also be offered to residents with mobility issues, the city’s civil service chief has said. Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, who is responsible for the local vaccination campaign, said on Sunday that 52 per cent of residents at 1,096 elderly care homes had received at least one vaccine dose.
Lack of Covid-19 testing and reporting worries Kiwi vaccinators
In New Zealand, Iwi collective Te Ranga Tupua says the reason Whanganui, Rangitīkei, South Taranaki and the Waimarino regions have not seen an explosion in Covid-19 cases could be down to people "going bush". Te Ranga Tupua has been sending mobile clinics into the least vaccinated areas of the four regions since early December in an effort to lift Māori vaccination rates. But now it's raising concerns that people are either not getting tests or failing to report rapid antigen test (RAT) results.
Australians told to get boosters amid COVID threat from new Omicron strain
Australian authorities warned the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots could unleash a new wave of infections amid the threat from the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus strain. Australia battled record cases and hospitalisation rates during the initial Omicron wave, but they have steadied over the past six weeks. Most states have been easing social distancing rules, with mask requirements being rolled back at indoor venues and businesses asking staff to return to offices.
India to start vaccinating 12- to 14-year-olds against COVID-19
India will start administering COVID-19 vaccinations to 12- to 14-year-olds from March 16, the country's health ministry said on Monday, as schools reopen across the country with standard restrictions amid a significant fall in cases. The government also decided to remove the condition of co-morbidity for people above 60 years to receive a booster shot, the ministry said
Community Activities
War in Ukraine could make the Covid-19 pandemic worse, WHO says
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Sunday it is concerned the war in Ukraine could worsen the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is trying to do more to limit the spread of infectious diseases. Cases in the region are down from the previous week, but there's significant risk there will be more severe disease and death due to low vaccination rates in Ukraine, as well as among the more than two million who've fled the country to surrounding areas, regions also with low vaccination rates. Ukraine's Covid-19 vaccination rate is around 34%, while neighboring Moldova's is around 29%, according to Our World In Data. There have been a total of 791,021 new cases of Covid-19 and 8,012 new deaths in Ukraine and in surrounding countries between March 3 and 9, a WHO situation report published Sunday said. "Unfortunately, this virus will take opportunities to continue to spread," said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead on Covid-19, during a Wednesday news briefing. "
Coronavirus Daily: A Rural-Urban Vaccine Divide in the US
In President Joe Biden’s National Covid-19 Preparedness Plan there’s a glaring omission: efforts to improve on high levels of vaccine hesitancy in rural parts of the U.S. First-dose vaccination coverage is about 59% for people in rural areas compared with 75% for those in urban areas, according to a recent government study, and that disparity has more than doubled since April 2021. Overall, more than 65% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. The divide is particularly stark among children and teenagers who need parental consent to get vaccinated. Only about 15% of children ages 5-11 have been vaccinated in rural areas, compared with 31% in urban areas.
Working Remotely
7 ways to ease the transition from remote to hybrid work
Make no mistake: the office is still important, it’s just no longer for routine daily tasks. It’s instead ideal for things like creative collaboration, team building, and career advancement. So, for the good of both your business and your workers, you need to find ways to evolve your office so that it becomes a destination of choice that your employees want to be a part of and will make the occasional trip for. Here are seven things you need to address to get your employees coming back.
Pandemic fuels demand for courses on remote leadership
Leading teams remotely was part of the curriculum at many business school MBA programmes before the coronavirus pandemic, but it has gained new relevance in an age when teams can be working from home or from the office in the same city, meeting only via Zoom calls and WhatsApp messages. Research last year by business school accreditation body the Graduate Management Admission Council found that the subject now scored more highly than other areas of study for prospective MBA students — 57 per cent of those interviewed said leadership and change management training was a must-have in their ideal degree course, more than the 49 per cent who felt entrepreneurship teaching was essential.
Blue-sky thinking: new rules allow digital nomads to work in the sun
The pandemic locked us down, but at the same time freed many workers from the confines of the office. A new breed of digital nomads emerged – people who took their laptops, jumped on planes and set up shop in some of the most beautiful parts of the world. And with them have come schemes to make it easier for them to stay for months on end. Barbados was one of the first countries to formalise arrangements with its “welcome stamp”, launched in June 2020. The schemes all run in a fairly similar fashion: workers pay to apply and get the right to stay in the country while working for an employer based elsewhere.
Virtual Classrooms
Hawaii schools to receive $72 million in federal funds for online learning
More than $72 million in federal COVID-19 assistance funds has been awarded to Hawaii public schools, and a handful of charter and private schools, to help close the “digital equity” gap suffered by students who don’t have a way to connect to the internet at home.
Flexibility of virtual learning prompts some post-secondary students to pursue more online studies
Most Canadian post-secondary students experienced virtual learning of some sort during the pandemic. Although many were not fans, its greater flexibility and accessibility is prompting some students to seek out virtual classes and forcing universities to rethink how they structure online degrees, including science courses that depend on in-person laboratories, practicums, co-ops and residences.
Public Policies
Philippines FDA grants approval to Sinovac's paediatric Covid-19 vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to Chinese firm Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, for use in paediatric individuals, CNN Philippines reported. According to the approval, the vaccine is intended for immunisation of children aged six years and above against Covid-19. Pharmaceutical consortium IP Biotech Group aided in the initial delivery of the private sector-procured Sinovac vaccines. Philippine News Agency (PNA) quoted IP Biotech Group chairman Enrique Gonzales as saying in a statement: “Making this vaccine available to the younger age segment is a game-changer protecting the country’s youth and preserving recent gains in controlling the pandemic. This will also ensure greater access and vaccine equity for the Philippines.”
Covid-19: Countries in the Americas are warned not to lower their guard
Covid-19 is on the retreat across the American continents but it is too early for the region to let its guard down, warned the Pan American Health Organisation, the World Health Organization’s regional office for the Americas, on 9 March. Reported cases of covid-19 fell by 26% in the past week and deaths by nearly 19%, as the omicron wave of infections tailed off. But ongoing transmission and future variants could expose the region’s public health priorities once more, said PAHO’s director, Carissa Etienne. A total of 2.6 million people have died from covid-19 in the Americas, the highest number of any region of the world and almost half of the global total, despite being home to only 13% of its population. “This is a tragedy of enormous proportions, and its effects will be felt for years to come,” said Etienne on the second anniversary of the pandemic. Patchy vaccination coverage has left countries vulnerable to current and future variants of SARS-CoV-2. Around 248 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are yet to receive a single dose of a covid vaccine, with vaccination rates particularly low in hard-to-reach rural areas.
Maintaining Services
Covid-19 Outbreak Shuts Down Some China Factories, Including Apple Supplier
A surge in Covid-19 cases led Chinese manufacturing hubs Shenzhen and Changchun to lock down in recent days, halting production at many electronics and auto factories in the latest threat to the world’s battered supply chain. A number of manufacturers including Foxconn, Technology Group, a major assembler of Apple Inc.’s AAPL, iPhones, said they were halting operations in Shenzhen in compliance with the local government’s policy. The government placed the city into lockdown for at least a week and said everyone in the city would have to undergo three rounds of testing after 86 new cases of domestic Covid-19 infections were detected Sunday.
U.S. seeks to expand Trump-era COVID data collection under CDC
The Biden administration wants to expand a federal COVID-19 tracking system created during the pandemic to provide a more detailed view of how respiratory and other infectious diseases are affecting patients and hospital resources, according to a draft of proposed rules reviewed by Reuters. The plan would build upon a hospital data collection system designed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Trump administration. Management of the program was transferred last month to HHS's lead public health agency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Healthcare Innovations
Serious Covid Linked to Higher Risk of Depression Months Later
Serious Covid-19 was linked to a higher risk of depression and anxiety months later in a large study, adding to a growing body of data showing the impact the disease can have on mental health. People who were bedridden for at least seven days were about 60% more likely to experience symptoms of depression, according to the study, published in The Lancet Public Health. That contrasts with those who had Covid but weren’t bedridden, who were less likely to experience depression and anxiety than people who never had the disease at all. The study “suggests that mental health effects aren’t equal for all Covid-19 patients,” said Unnur Anna Valdimarsdottir, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Iceland who helped lead the research.
Covid-19 vaccine ‘reduces infections in children’ – study
A single dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine can reduce infections among children, a new study suggests. And if a child gets Covid-19 after being vaccinated they are “likely to have a milder disease”, researchers from King’s College London and ZOE Ltd said. While the Covid-19 vaccines have been shown to ward off serious disease and death, questions have arisen over their ability to reduce the spread of infections. The latest study examined the effectiveness of a single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine in children.
'Deltacron,' the Delta-Omicron hybrid COVID variant, appears to be in the US, according to a new study
The so-called Deltacron COVID variant appears to be present in the U.S., with two cases identified by a California lab since January, according to a new study published Saturday to research site medRxiv. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control–affiliated lab Helix, based in San Mateo, Calif., found two unique cases of Delta-Omicron hybrids when sequencing nearly 30,000 positive COVID samples obtained from U.S. individuals between November and February, according to the study, published to a preprint server for health sciences papers that haven't yet been peer reviewed, cofounded by Yale University and The British Medical Journal. The Delta-Omicron hybrids—SARS-CoV-2 genomes with features of both Delta and Omicron variants of COVID, known as recombinants—are rare, according to the study, which added that there is no evidence such mutations spread more easily than the highly transmissible Omicron.