"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
Link found between severe Covid-19 and long-term mental health problems
Serious Covid-19 illness appears to be linked to an increase in the risk of long-term adverse mental health effects, according to researchers from Scandinavia and the UK. They said it was the first study to look at long-term mental health implications for patients who were bedridden for more than a week following a diagnosis of Covid-19. Overall, most mental health symptoms among recovering Covid-19 subsided within two months after diagnosis, said the study authors in the journal The Lancet Public Health. But patients who were bedridden for seven days or more were more likely to experience depression and anxiety over the 16-month duration of the study, which involved data from six countries. This study was conducted by researchers from Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, and the UK.
Indonesia set to lift quarantine rules for overseas tourists
Indonesia will lift all quarantine requirements for overseas visitors entering the country, its tourism minister said Monday, two years after it imposed border restrictions due to COVID-19. Tourism and Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno told reporters that foreign tourists will still be required to have a negative PCR test before entering the country. Quarantine requirements will be lifted from Tuesday, he added. Indonesia had already implemented a two-week trial of quarantine-free travel in Bali, Batam and Bintan islands, where coronavirus numbers have been falling. The government is hoping the easing of travel restrictions will boost the number of foreign tourist this year to over 3 million.
Hong Kong eases quarantine amid angst over ‘zero COVID’ isolation
Hong Kong will scrap flight bans and reduce quarantine for arrivals, amid mounting frustration with a strict “zero COVID” policy that has turned the financial centre into one of the world’s most isolated cities. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday authorities will lift flight bans on nine countries including the United Kingdom and the United States and cut hotel quarantine for incoming travellers with a negative COVID-19 test result from 14 days to seven. Lam also said plans for compulsory COVID-19 testing for the entire city will be put on hold. The announcement comes days after Lam acknowledged that tolerance for the city’s pandemic strategy was “fading” among the general public and businesses.
Hygiene Helpers
With Covid cases surging across Australia will a fourth vaccine dose be required?
The government has yet to commit to a second booster rollout. However, it is expected older Australians will be the first to be eligible when it does begin. Earlier in March the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said advice from Australia’s vaccine advisory group was due by the end of the month on whether a fourth dose would be recommended for people aged 65 and over. Hunt said it was more likely than not a fourth dose would be needed for some groups of the population ahead of winter, when a spike in both Covid and flu infections is forecast.
Why China's Covid-Zero Policy Has Found Success While Hong Kong's Falters
Hong Kong appears to have accepted defeat. On Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam set out a blueprint for undoing the stringent social distancing measures and border curbs that severely curtailed residents’ daily lives for the past two years. Despite the government’s Covid-zero measures, 3.6 million of the city’s 7.3 million residents may have been infected. The statistic reflects badly on Hong Kong. But that doesn’t mean that the same policy in China has failed. To most of the world, there is a simple reason for why Hong Kong is a pandemic shambles: The territory is acting on guidance from Beijing. But the mainland has been far more clever and dynamic with the implementation of its Covid-zero agenda. While the territory has been reactive and prone to slapping down panicky measures, the mainland’s economically important metropolises, such as Shanghai and Shenzhen, have been efficient and resilient.
Community Activities
Charities call for annual Covid-19 memorial day in recognition of pandemic death toll
In the UK, charities are calling for an annual memorial day ahead of the second anniversary of lockdown this week as Covid cases and hospitalisations continue to rise. Marie Curie is among the charities taking part in a National Day of Reflection on Wednesday to support the millions of people who are grieving, and remembering the family, friends, neighbours and colleagues lost to the virus over the last two years. People can join a minute’s silence at noon or visit a local centre to see a “wall of reflection”, the charity said.
Doctors finding hurdles to using pills to treat COVID-19
High-risk COVID-19 patients now have new treatments they can take at home to stay out of the hospital — if doctors get the pills to them fast enough. Health systems around the country are rushing out same-day prescription deliveries. Some clinics have started testing and treating patients in one visit, an initiative that President Joe Biden's administration recently touted. The goal is to get patients started on either Pfizer’s Paxlovid tablets or Merck’s molnupiravir capsules within five days of symptoms appearing. That can prevent people with big health risks from growing sicker and filling up hospitals if another surge develops. But the tight deadline has highlighted several challenges. Some patients are delaying testing, thinking they just had a cold. Others have been unwilling or unable to try the new drugs.
Working Remotely
What if Working in Sweatpants Unleashed Your Superpowers?
What do we wear while working remotely? Whatever we want. Even as we are called back to the office, we might take some of our new sartorial selves with us. We’ve gone casual, yes—goodbye hard pants—and we’ve also gone weird, authentic and free. Forget dressing for the job you want—dress for the environment you’re in, says Erica Bailey, a doctoral student in organizational behavior at Columbia University and the lead author of a recent paper about remote work attire and productivity. The big reveal: wearing business attire didn’t consistently increase participants’ feelings of power. Throwing on comfies while working from home, however, boosted the workers’ feelings of authenticity and engagement, indicating that they were more immersed in their tasks and more present.
This CEO's Remote Work Policy Is Only 10 Words. It May Be the Best I've Ever Heard
As employers and business leaders everywhere grapple with employee preferences on remote work, they might take a page out of Gravity CEO Dan Price's playbook. When Price recently polled employees to find out where they wanted to work, only 7 percent said they prefer to work in the office. Thirty-one percent requested a work/home office hybrid solution. And a whopping 62 percent said they would prefer to work only from home. "Do whatever you want," Price said recently on Twitter. "As a CEO, what do I care?" Price then summed up his recommended policy in just 10 words: "If you get your work done, that's all that matters."
Surviving remotely: What impact did remote work have on employee psyche?
What impact did the massive and abrupt move to remote work have on the employee psyche? William Becker, associate professor of management in the Pamplin College of Business, attempts to answer this and related questions in his recently published research, "Surviving remotely: How job control and loneliness during a forced shift to remote work impacted employee work behaviors and well-being." Becker's paper investigates the impact of job control—or a person's ability to influence what happens in the work environment—and work-related loneliness on employee work behaviors and well-being during the massive and abrupt move to remote work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
International remote working here to stay | Ruth Holmes
KPMG International has released new insights on international remote-working practice as flexibility and hybrid working options become crucial to talent management and employee experience. Among the key takeaways is that rather than diminish the appetite for global mobility and international relocation, virtual and remote working practices can be dynamic tools for meeting employer and employee needs around talent attraction and retention, and boosting cross-border working.
Virtual Classrooms
Changing Classroom Paradigms Post-Covid
Mamta Saikia, Chief Executive Officer of Bharti Foundation, writes about the ways in which the pandemic has changed education in India: "we simply cannot go back to traditional teaching and learning processes. A lot has changed, and we have to rebuild our classroom strategies keeping in mind the way things have evolved."
Tasmania's education union calls for more support for teachers delivering virtual learning to COVID-impacted students
Teacher shortages in parts of Tasmania are making virtual learning impossible for children isolating at home due to COVID-19, the state's education union says. Children who are in the same household as an active case of COVID-19 are required to isolate for seven days from the date of the case diagnosis. This means that they are forced to do their education remotely, as is the case with children with COVID-19. Australian Education Union state president David Genford said these students needed the full learning support they deserved.
Public Policies
Beijing developed new Omicron vaccines to defend against China’s worst COVID outbreak in two years—but it still has no mRNA shots
China’s domestic vaccine makers have reportedly developed new COVID shots that can better protect against Omicron, as the country battles its worst coronavirus outbreak since 2020. But despite evidence that mRNA vaccines—like the Comirnaty vaccine produced by BioNTech—offer better protection against Omicron infection, China is still relying on traditional inactive vaccines to guard against COVID. “As we expedite development of an Omicron vaccine, we consistently make safety and efficacy our No. 1 priority,” Zheng Zhongwei, an official who oversees COVID vaccine development at the National Health Commission, said during a media briefing on Saturday.
Kenya aims to inoculate 19 mln adults against COVID-19 by June
Kenya has so far vaccinated 15.9 million adults against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health said on Monday in a report, putting the country on course to achieve its target of wholly vaccinating 70 percent of its adult population by June. According to the ministry, 7.9 million people are fully vaccinated with two doses. Kenya plans to fully vaccinate 19 million adults by mid-year and an entire adult population of 27 million people by the end of the year. The 7.9 million vaccinations mean the east African nation has achieved 42 percent of its target of vaccinating the 19 million adults, the ministry said in a statement. The ministry said the country's total vaccination of both adults and teenagers stood at 17.3 million. Out of the number, 8.96 million are partially vaccinated.
Moderna to supply additional 7 mln doses of COVID booster vaccine to Switzerland
Moderna has signed a new agreement with Switzerland for the supply of another seven million doses of its COVID-19 booster vaccine for delivery in 2023. The agreement also includes an option of seven million doses for delivery in 2023 and 2024. These doses are in addition to the seven million doses of booster vaccine that Switzerland previously secured.
South Korea to buy 10 million doses of SK Bioscience's COVID vaccine
South Korea has reached a deal to buy 10 million doses of the country's first experimental coronavirus vaccine, developed by SK Bioscience Co Ltd, authorities said on Monday. The South Korean company has since August conducted Phase 3 trials of its vaccine candidate, codenamed "GBP510", jointly developed with the University of Washington's Institute for Protein Design and aided by global drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). "They aim to secure formal approval in the first half of this year, and public distribution is expected to begin in the latter half," Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a briefing.
Why China Is Sticking With Its 'Covid Zero' Strategy
Two years ago, China was being lauded by the World Health Organization for its success in beating the coronavirus. But its insistence on adhering to a so-called Covid Zero policy is leaving it increasingly isolated as other countries, most of which suffered far worse outbreaks and higher death tolls, wean themselves off harsh countermeasures and return to a semblance of pre-pandemic life. Their populations have built up a large degree of protection through previous infections and more effective vaccines. Chinese officials have said vaccines alone aren’t enough and stringent curbs aimed at wiping out the virus are needed to avoid a health care calamity. But President Xi Jinping has pledged to try to reduce the economic impact of the longstanding strategy, which Hong Kong also follows.
Maintaining Services
India considers widening COVID booster effort to all adults, sources say
Article reports that India is considering making all adults eligible for booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine, two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Monday, as infections grow in some countries and some Indians find it hard to travel abroad without a third dose. Only frontline workers and those older than 60 are currently allowed to take booster doses in India, whether free in government centres or paid for in private hospitals. The government is debating whether to provide boosters to other groups for free, said one of the sources, who both sought anonymity as the government has yet to make a decision.
Spring Covid-19 booster campaign to get underway in a matter of weeks
Northern Ireland's spring Covid booster campaign is set to get underway within a matter of weeks. A further dose of the vaccine is to be made available to over 75s, immunosuppressed over the age of 12 and care home residents. Community pharmacies are due to administer the vaccine to care home residents, trusts will run clinics for immunocompromised patients and GP surgeries will run clinics for all patients over the age of 75. While appointments have not yet opened to the public, they are to coincide with the same timetable across the UK.
Healthcare Innovations
New Research Shows Higher Risk of Developing Diabetes After Covid-19 Infection
A large new study found that people who recovered from Covid-19 within the past year are 40% more likely to receive a new diagnosis of diabetes compared to those who weren’t infected. The increased risk translates into 1% of people who have had Covid-19 developing diabetes who otherwise wouldn’t have, the study’s author says, resulting in potentially millions of new cases world-wide. Most of the people with diabetes in the study, published online Monday in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, not Type 1. Some researchers say Covid-19 could also be triggering an entirely new type of diabetes in which certain cells mistakenly start to raise, rather than lower, blood sugar. The study adds to evidence showing an increased post-Covid-19 risk of cardiometabolic conditions, such as diabetes as well as heart and kidney complications. Normally when people think of long-term Covid-19 symptoms, they think of problems such as cognitive issues, fatigue or shortness of breath.
CDC studies show COVID-19 vaccines remained effective during omicron surge
Two new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show COVID-19 vaccines remained highly effective even during the omicron surge. They report vaccines still protected well against hospitalization, ventilation and death from COVID-19. At the peak of the omicron variant, data showed unvaccinated adults were 12 times more likely to be hospitalized.
Safety and antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccines in an older community
Clinical trials and population-based studies of COVID-19 vaccines reveal exceptional safety and short-term efficacy. While clinical trials included older people aged over 70 years, the COVID-19 mortality rate was higher, particularly in those with comorbid conditions. In Canada, the interval between two vaccine doses was extended to allow immunization of more people, which raised concerns regarding the efficacy of vaccines. While studies noted the benefits of extended duration, little is known about that in the older population.
Coronavirus may double severe complications in pregnancy
A Kaiser Permanente analysis of pregnant patients who tested positive for the coronavirus found more than double the risk of poor outcomes including preterm birth, venous thromboembolism (blood clot), and severe maternal morbidity, which includes conditions such as acute respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis. The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine on March 21. An analysis of records for 43,886 pregnant individuals during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic found that the 1,332 who had a coronavirus infection during pregnancy had more than double the risk of negative outcomes compared with individuals without the virus. “These findings add to the growing evidence that having COVID-19 during pregnancy raises risks of serious complications,” explained lead author Assiamira Ferrara, MD, PhD, a senior research scientist and associate director of the women’s and children health section in the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.
'Reassuring' data suggests Johnson & Johnson vaccine may still have a role to play against Covid-19
The US public and even some health experts may have underestimated the Covid-19 vaccine made by Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson, new data shows. And there's emerging evidence that it could still play an important role ahead. A study published Thursday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open found that the J&J vaccine remains durable and effective, even through the surge of cases caused by the Delta variant. It was 76% effective overall in preventing Covid-19 infections and 81% effective in preventing Covid-related hospitalizations. The study also showed that it provided lasting immunity at least six months after the shots.
COVID-19 Drug Targets Immune Aging, Enters Phase II
Severe COVID-19 infections are more likely in older people, which is likely due to a deterioration of the immune system over time. The need for the development of COVID-19 therapies, especially for aging populations, is of paramount importance. A new study investigated an oral drug that reverses multiple aspects of immune aging. In doing so, the drug effectively prevents death in a mouse model of COVID-19, suggesting that the medication could be used to protect the elderly patients who are at greatest risk. In the study, daily doses of BGE-175 (asapiprant) protected aged mice from a lethal dose of SARS-CoV-2.
Covid-19 news: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine treats covid for first time
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is thought to have helped an immunocompromised person clear the covid-19 virus. Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are thought to have cleared the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a person who first tested positive more than 7 months earlier. This is the first known time a covid-19 vaccine has been used to treat, rather than prevent, the infection. Ian Lester has the rare genetic disease Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, which weakens the immune system. Lester, 37, first tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in December 2020. His immune system was unable to fight off the infection naturally for at least 218 days. “Given the persistent positive PCR tests and impact on his health and mental health, we decided on a unique therapeutic approach,” said Stephen Jolles at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine in a statement. “We administered two doses of the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine, one month apart, and very quickly saw a strong antibody response, much stronger than had been induced by the prolonged natural infection.” Lester was confirmed to have cleared SARS-CoV-2 72 days after the first vaccine dose and 218 days after his infection was detected.
Sinovac COVID vaccine shows modest efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 infection in children 3 to 5 years
In a new study under consideration at a Nature Portfolio Journal and published on the preprint server Research Square*, researchers investigated the efficacy of CoronaVac, a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech, in children aged three to five years. The findings of this study reveal that a two-dose regimen of the vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19, whereas this vaccine regimen is modestly effective in preventing infection.