"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 31st Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
Switzerland Mask Mandate: Last Covid Restrictions Dropped to Return to Normal
Switzerland is lifting the remaining pandemic-related restrictions, pushing ahead with a plan to return to normal life after two years. A mask mandate on public transport and in health-care facilities will be abandoned as of April 1, the Swiss government said Wednesday. People who test positive will also no longer have to adhere to a five-day isolation period. The move comes after the more transmissible BA.2 subvariant of omicron led to a resurgence of cases across Europe, though authorities have shrugged off the increase as it has had a less severe impact on hospitals. Switzerland had already scrapped most of its safety measures in February, including a work-from-home recommendation and the need for Covid-documentation to enter the country.
Shanghai expands COVID lockdown as new daily cases surge by a third
Authorities began locking down some western areas of Shanghai two days ahead of schedule, as new COVID-19 cases in China's most populous city jumped by a third despite stringent measures already in place to try to stop the virus spreading. Home to 26 million people, China's financial hub is in the third day of a lockdown officials are imposing by dividing the city roughly along the Huangpu River, splitting the historic centre west of the river from the eastern financial and industrial district of Pudong to allow for staggered mass tests.
Hygiene Helpers
CDC: If you got J&J's vaccine and booster, consider an mRNA shot now
The nearly 17 million Americans who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine are less protected against serious illness and hospitalizations than those who got the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots, according to federal data released Tuesday. The latest data suggest Johnson & Johnson recipients should get a booster with one of the messenger RNA vaccines, if they haven’t already done so — and even consider a second messenger RNA booster for the greatest protection. The data come from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that analyzed the results of mix-and-match vaccine-and-booster combinations during a four-month period when the highly transmissible omicron variant was dominant.
Who is eligible for fourth Covid vaccine in Scotland? How to book 'spring booster' jab
A second Covid booster dose is now being offered to high risk groups of people across Scotland. Coronavirus infection can be more serious for those who are older as well as those with a weakened immune system, meaning it is important to ensure protection levels remain high. To help ensure this, a fourth dose of the vaccine is being offered as a precaution to those who are deemed to be at higher risk. This dose - which is a second booster - is being given to reduce your risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus, requiring hospital treatment or even dying if you become ill with coronavirus.
Decline of testing, sequencing could hinder search for future COVID-19 variants, experts warn
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, disease surveillance efforts that rely on testing and variant sequencing have been critical tools in the global efforts to fight the virus. Without these tools, experts said, the spread of COVID-19 could have been exponentially greater, potentially resulting in many more deaths. "Testing and sequencing have been critical to understanding where the virus is and how it is evolving. This is critical information for response and mitigation efforts," Dr. Rebecca Katz, professor and director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University, told ABC News. Surveillance tools have helped health officials make important recommendations throughout the pandemic -- including the decision to green light booster doses for extra protection, and decision to pull back on some monoclonal antibody treatments authorized for COVID-19, following concerns that it was not effective against certain variants.
Covid-19: Americans who are over 50 or immunocompromised are advised to have second booster
Second booster doses against covid-19 for Americans aged over 50 and for certain immunocompromised people aged over 12, using either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine, may become available as early as later this week after they were authorised in the US. The new recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)1 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2 come as the BA.2 omicron variant spreads rapidly in the US and is responsible for about 55% of new infections. The variant seems to be more contagious but does not cause more severe infections. Peter Marks, director of the CDC’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said on 29 March, “Current evidence suggests some waning of protection over time against serious outcomes from covid-19 in older and immunocompromised individuals. Based on an analysis of emerging data, a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna covid-19 vaccine could help increase protection levels for these high risk individuals
EU health ministers call for common approach to 2nd boosters for elderly
European health ministers urged the bloc's executive on Tuesday to back a fourth COVID-19 shot for people over the age of 60 to boost immunity in the absence of vaccines that specifically protect against the Omicron variant. Pointing to data from Israel, minister Karl Lauterbach said a recommendation was "urgently necessary" to reduce the risk of death from an infection. He raised the issue at a meeting of health ministers in Brussels on Tuesday and said most of them supported the idea of harmonising European vaccination strategies
UK says healthcare workers, vulnerable will still get free COVID tests
Britain said on Tuesday that healthcare workers, social care staff and the most vulnerable will still get COVID-19 tests without any charge when it ends free testing for the general public next month. When he announced all coronavirus restrictions would be scrapped in February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said free tests would end on April 1, saying the country could not afford their cost
Community Activities
'We demand an explanation!' Shanghai residents vent COVID lockdown irritation
Frustrated and locked down, residents of Shanghai have taken to social media to vent, questioning the practicality of persisting with China's zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19 in its most populous city. In the home to 26 million people, videos and images of crowded quarantine centres were shared as authorities extended lockdown from the east of the city to parts of the west, posting calls for help with medical treatment and purchasing food. One video widely shared on Chinese social media featured an angry exchange between a group of patients and hazmat suit-clad healthcare workers at the vast Shanghai World Expo Center - temporarily converted into a giant quarantine facility.
Covid-19 news: Just 64 per cent are self-isolating in England
Self-isolation rate dropped from 80 per cent to 64 per cent after the legal requirement changed to guidance. Fewer than two-thirds of people who test positive for covid-19 in England are choosing to self-isolate, according to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey. Using the NHS Test and Trace database, 1369 adults in England who tested positive for covid-19 before 24 February, when the legal requirement to self-isolate was dropped, were asked about their behaviour while infected. They were interviewed between 28 February and 8 March, when self-isolation was advised but not legally required. Fewer than two-thirds (64 per cent) said they fully self-isolated, compared with 80 per cent in a similar survey last month.
Boris should ‘hang his head in shame and quit’ relatives of Covid dead say
Bereaved relatives tearfully called on Boris Johnson to ‘hold his head in shame’ and resign over lockdown-breaking parties in Whitehall. They called for the Prime Minister to stand down as they led a silent procession to Downing Street for coronavirus victims. Hundreds of grief-stricken families gathered at the National Covid Memorial Wall in London on Tuesday to mark its first anniversary and pay tribute to those they lost during the pandemic. Those attending, joined by politicians including Labour MP Afzal Khan and shadow health minister Rosena Allin-Khan, then walked to No 10 to hand in a petition to make the mural permanent.
Working Remotely
Amid Covid surge in Ireland, employers urged to assess if it's safer for staff to work from home
Thousands of employers are being urged to assess if their workers would be safer working from home or wearing a face mask in the office as Ireland battles with a highly infectious form of Covid-19. The new guidelines are issued by CIPD Ireland, the representative body for human resources professionals, with 6,000 private and public employers. The Government signalled there will be no return to official mandatory restrictions despite the spread of the rampant BA2 form of Omicron but there are calls for “leadership” on Covid-19 issues.
Could a move overseas save you from the UK's cost of living crisis?
A fifth of all UK workers are now considering moving overseas to work remotely in a bid to swerve the increasing cost of living in Britain. One study out this week suggests more than six in every 10 workers are now considering working remotely from another country, with reasons ranging from the weather to lost faith in government and, most common, the rising price of life in the UK. The research of more than 2,000 full-time workers by benefits platform Perkbox, is backed by a further study of more than 500 UK business leaders who say they “aren’t against” the shift to remote working.
Virtual Classrooms
The challenges of large hybrid lecture courses (opinion)
Sarah Marsden Greene is a lecturer in economics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She writes: "The COVID-19 pandemic has forced monumental and continually shifting changes to the way we teach college students. As the spring 2022 semester has rolled along amid pressure from virus variants, part of me is still processing the fall 2021 semester. It was a semester in which the private four-year college where I teach economics courses faced the challenge of turning the tide of instruction modality from COVID-imposed online to in person. It was a transitional time, with most students returning to residential living, while a very few were not. In-person learning was no longer a modality deemed too risky but was practically a requirement, as in pre-COVID semesters. A rigorous approval process was in force for those students seeking remote learning, with many being flatly denied and forced to withdraw for the semester. Only a very few were approved for remote learning. The COVID-era of accommodating students in their many varied situations had ended as of fall 2021. As an instructor, part of my understanding for this hard-line approach is to prevent disgruntled parents from complaining that they are paying for room and board while their students are not attending class and, in the worst case, commencing lawsuits over tuition charged for online classes."
Why we should let online elementary students lead
The role of elementary teachers has never been more important, especially as kindergarten through fifth grade students today are facing more change than ever before–from the effects of the pandemic to social media and stressful current events being right at their fingertips. According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the annual average learning gain for Kindergarten through second grade students is higher than at any time during a child’s years in school. This is why we both decided to become elementary school teachers–to make a positive impact in children’s lives during such a critical time of development and growth. While it is essential for students to understand and master their learning in elementary school, it is also important that students develop confidence, feel ownership over their work, and become passionate about learning
Covid closures still affecting 400 million pupils - Unicef
Schools in 23 countries, with 405 million pupils, are still partially or fully closed because of Covid, the United Nations Children's Fund says. The charity, Unicef, estimates 147 million children have missed at least half of their in-person schooling. Some vulnerable children, especially girls, have not returned to those schools that have reopened. Unicef executive director Catherine Russell says children are "the hidden casualties of the pandemic". While children have been less vulnerable to the most serious health effects of coronavirus, their lives have been turned upside down by the school closures of the pandemic.
Public Policies
Opinion | Failing to fund the U.S. covid response bodes trouble for the entire world
Atul Gawande, who leads global health and is co-chair of the Covid-19 Task Force at the U.S. Agency for International Development, writes: "The global battle against covid-19 is not done. Instead, the challenge has changed. The lowest-income countries, where vaccinations have reached less than 15 percent of people, are now declining free vaccine supply because they don’t have the capacity to get shots in arms fast enough. We must therefore not just provide an arsenal; to protect our allies against future variants, we must also provide the support they need to ramp up their vaccination campaigns. That effort requires money, and despite generously funding our covid-19 response up to this point, Congress is now failing to provide the resources we need."
White House launches COVID.gov amid push for more funds, booster shots
The Biden administration on Wednesday launched a new website to provide a clearinghouse of information on COVID-19 as part of a continuing effort to prepare to live with the coronavirus. The launch of COVID.gov comes a day after U.S. health officials approves a second booster shot for Americans age 50 and older and those who are immunocompromised, two years after the start of the pandemic
France reports over 217000 new COVID-19 infections - health ministry
France on Tuesday reported 217,480 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, a level unseen since early February. 1,538 people are currently in intensive care units, France's health ministry said, 5 more than on Monday.
Pfizer, Moderna win over FDA for second round of COVID-19 boosters in older adults
Only two weeks after Pfizer and its partner BioNTech asked the agency for an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a second round of COVID-19 boosters in people 65 and older, the FDA has granted the nod. The new FDA authorization covers those who have already been boosted with any COVID vaccine and are either 50 and older or 12 and older if they are immunocompromised. At around the same time on Tuesday morning, Moderna said the FDA had granted its application for a second booster. The Moderna nod covers adults over 50 who have been boosted once, plus immunocompromised adults over 18. Moderna applied for a second booster on March 17.
Maintaining Services
U.K. Hospitalizations Rise After Covid Cases Edge Back Up
Covid-19 infections in the U.K. have edged back up following the easing of restrictions and rapid spread of a more-transmissible subvariant of omicron. In the U.K. more than 574,000 people have tested positive and about 15,530 hospitalized in the last week. Still, this wave may be close to peaking, according to Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance. While omicron has proven to be more mild in general compared to previous strains, it would be wrong to assume that the coronavirus will continue evolving into a less severe infection, Vallance told the Science and Technology parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
NYC Covid Cases Are Rising Again, Mostly Among Those 25 to 34
New York City Covid-19 cases are rising again, particularly among people 25 to 34 years old, according to city officials. The surge appears to be concentrated in Manhattan, the most vaccinated borough. In an unusual move, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene posted a warning on Twitter on Wednesday, saying they “strongly recommend” New Yorkers mask-up indoors and get booster shots. The warning came in contrast to the city’s Covid alert system, which identifies the Covid alert level as ‘low risk.’
Ghana to start producing own Covid-19 vaccines in January 2024
Ghana will start producing its own COVID-19 vaccines in January 2024, President Nana Akufo-Addo said on Wednesday in his State of the Nation Address in parliament. A National Vaccine Institute would be established to lay out a strategy for the West African country to begin the first phase of commercial production for the jabs, he said without providing further details. "A bill will shortly be brought to you, in this House, for your support and approval for the establishment of the National Vaccine Institute," he said. So far Ghana has fully vaccinated around 21.4% of its 30-million-odd inhabitants against coronavirus, according to Reuters data.
People with cancer ‘risk being left behind’ under new Covid-19 testing guidance
Some cancer patients are at risk of being “left behind” under new guidance which sets out who is eligible for free Covid-19 tests, a charity has warned. Macmillan Cancer Support said it was welcome that people with symptoms of Covid-19 who are vulnerable to the effects of the disease will still be eligible for free tests. But it urged minister to extend the offer of free testing to include immunocompromised people without symptoms.
Indonesia seeks longer shelf life donations as 19 mln COVID shots expired
Nineteen million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia's national stockpile have expired this year and 1.5 million more are set to expire next month, as donated shots arrive with a short shelf life, a health official said on Wednesday. Indonesia and many other developing nations are ramping up their vaccination campaign, aided by donations from wealthy countries, but they have been calling for donations with a longer shelf life.
Britain may be wasting nearly 3 billion pounds on COVID gear
Britain may be wasting nearly 3 billion pounds ($3.94 billion) on contracts for COVID-19 gear that have not given value for money, with millions spent each month storing unneeded and sometimes out-of-date kit, a watchdog said on Wednesday. The report by the parliament-supervised National Audit Office (NAO) will fuel opposition claims that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government was wasteful and nepotistic in its allocation of huge contracts during the two-year pandemic.
Healthcare Innovations
How Does Covid Affect Diabetes, the Brain and Long Covid?
Commenting on Britain’s near-record-high number of Covid cases, the U.K.’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said last Wednesday that we should expect seasonal peaks for the next few years, interspersed with new variants of SARS-CoV-2. As we move into the post-pandemic, living-with-the-virus era, more research is surfacing about the ways even mild Covid cases leave lingering effects on health in some people. Three conditions in particular are capturing scientists’ attention due to the large number of sufferers: increased rates of diabetes, neuropsychological problems, and the illness known as long Covid. Researchers have found associations between Covid infections and each of these issues, but we don’t know enough yet to establish causality. Bloomberg Opinion columnist Therese Raphael and Bloomberg Intelligence senior pharmaceutical analyst Sam Fazeli look at why the long tail of Covid is hard to pin down.
Never Had Covid? You May Hold Key To Beating the Virus
More than half of Americans may have never had Covid, according to U.S. government data, leaving scientists wondering whether those who’ve avoided the novel coronavirus might actually be immune to the virus altogether. This could offer new clues into how to attack Covid. At this stage in the pandemic, people may be immune due to vaccines, a past infection, or a combination of both. There’s also evidence that, in rare instances, some people may be Covid-immune without infection or vaccination at all.
CureVac and GSK Start Clinical Development of Second-Generation COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate, CV2CoV
CureVac N.V. a global biopharmaceutical company developing a new class of transformative medicines based on messenger ribonucleic acid ("mRNA"), today announced that the first participant was dosed in a Phase 1 study of COVID-19 second-generation mRNA vaccine candidate, CV2CoV, developed in collaboration with GSK. The clinical trial is expected to provide valuable data to further evaluate the performance of CureVac's second-generation mRNA backbone, which has the potential to be applied broadly in future vaccines against COVID-19 variants and other pathogens. A preclinical study of CV2CoV in cynomolgus macaques, published in Nature in November 2021, demonstrated rapid induction of higher antibody titers, better induction of immune memory and stronger protective efficacy of CV2CoV compared to CureVac's first-generation vaccine candidate, CVnCoV. The same study demonstrated comparable neutralizing antibody titers in animals fully vaccinated with either 12µg of CV2CoV or a 30µg standard dose of a licensed mRNA COVID-19 vaccine..
Preclinical investigation of intranasal adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine
The researchers observed antibodies against the S1 and NC antigens in all the animals except those controlled negatively. However, the serological responses varied significantly. Serum IgG titers were significantly elevated in mice receiving vaccines with N3 adjuvant and exhibited nearly a 10-fold increase, and increasing the concentration of anionic L3 to 2% resulted in comparable antibody titers. A similar trend was observed only after the second vaccination for IgA titers, nearly 10-fold higher than the first dose. Microneutralizing antibody titers differed variably across mice receiving different vaccine doses. Mice in groups 5 (1 µg dose + N3 adjuvant) and 6 (0.1 µg + N3 adjuvant) exhibited significantly higher antibody titers. At the same time, those with L3 adjuvants had higher antibody titers than the positive control group. All immunized mice produced IgA antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 antigens in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.
COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest children may be inching closer to authorization – a pediatrician explains how they're being tested
For some parents of young children, the wait for COVID-19 vaccines has been long and agonizing. Throughout 2021, vaccines against COVID-19 emerged as the most effective way to prevent severe forms of the disease. Vaccines are currently recommended for everyone 5 years and older in the United States but are not yet available for younger age groups. Though more rare in young children, severe disease leading to hospitalization and even death from COVID-19 can occur. Recent U.S. rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalization in those under 5 have been the highest on record, as a result of the surge in cases from the highly transmissible omicron variant.
BioNTech to expand trial programme for more anti-Omicron vaccine options
BioNTech has expanded an ongoing clinical trial programme to develop new vaccines and patterns of administration for better protection against the dominant Omicron coronavirus variant as it reported a profit boost from its first-generation shot. The enlargement of its trial programme with partner Pfizer, initially unveiled in January, comes as global COVID-19 cases are on the rise and protection against infection from its established Comirnaty vaccine has waned, though protection against severe disease remains. BioNtech boosted the number of participants in the trial - in which participants' blood will be monitored for immune responses - to 2,150 from the 1,420 announced in January.
Patients with both COVID-19 and influenza four times more likely to need ventilation support, study suggests
Patients infected with both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time are more than four times more likely to require ventilation support and more than twice as likely to die, compared with just having COVID-19, research published in the Lancet has suggested. The study was delivered as part of the International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infection Consortium’s Coronavirus Clinical Characterisation Consortium; the largest study to look at COVID-19 and other endemic respiratory viruses. The researchers examined the clinical outcomes of 212,466 patients co-infected with COVID-19 and either influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or an adenovirus, who were admitted to hospital in the UK between 6 February 2020 and 8 December 2021.