"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 1st Apr 2022

Isolation Tips
Covid-19: Lockdowns spread in China as omicron tests “zero covid” strategy
The force of the omicron BA.2 variant this week met the immovable object that is China’s zero covid policy as Shanghai locked down amid the country’s worst outbreak since early 2020. World oil prices fell and Indian drug manufacturers warned of ingredient shortages as the city responsible for 4% of China’s gross domestic product posted record case numbers on 30 March. About 9 million residents of Pudong, the eastern half of Shanghai, have been locked down since 28 March. Bridges across the Huangpu River are closed. On the other bank, roughly 15 million people in the west of the city, centred around Puxi, were to begin a lockdown on 1 April as Pudong reopened. But many western districts were locked down two days early as city authorities released figures showing a continued steep rise in cases. In Puxi, a robot patrolled the streets, announcing the new schedule. In Pudong, residents were warned that drones with facial recognition technology would identify those illegally outdoors. A new lockdown was also imposed on 30 March in Xuzhou, a city of three million in Jiangsu province.
Shanghai to expand lockdown to most residents as COVID cases rise
Shanghai is set to put the vast majority of its residents under COVID lockdown from Friday, as it expands curbs to include the western half of the city and extends restrictions in the east where people have already been forced to stay home since Monday. The Chinese commercial hub, home to 26 million people, is on the fourth day of a 10-day lockdown that was to cover the city in two phases, with first the east and then the west entering lockdowns of five days each. The stay-at-home measure in the financial and industrial districts in the east began on Monday and was due to lifted at 5 a.m. on Friday. However, the city government late on Thursday said it would lift the curbs in stages instead.
Germany plans to relax COVID quarantine rules as cases soar
Germany plans to end mandatory quarantine for most people who catch COVID-19, the health ministry proposed on Thursday, as numbers isolating with the infection top four million. Under the existing rules, people with COVID must quarantine for at least seven days. But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wants to change that to a voluntary five days of self-isolation with the recommendation of a COVID test at the end of that period, proposals seen by Reuters showed.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19 news: Omicron's reinfection risk 10 times higher than delta's
In the UK, the risk of being reinfected with SARS-CoV-2 virus is 10 times higher with omicron than delta. The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Covid-19 Infection Survey estimates the number of reinfections that occurred in the UK between July 2020 and 20 March 2022. From 20 December 2021 to 20 March 2022, when omicron was the dominant variant, the risk of reinfection was about 10 times greater than when delta dominated, defined as mid-May 2021 to 19 December. Reinfection definitions vary. The ONS defines it as a positive PCR test result after a number of negative results, following an initial infection. The specific number of negative results required between infections depends on when the reinfection occurred, as definitions have changed over time. Covid-19 immunity, whether naturally acquired or via vaccines, wanes over time, leaving people more vulnerable to reinfection. Omicron has also evolved to better evade immunity.
German panel recommends booster for recipients of 4 vaccines
Germany’s independent vaccination advisory panel is recommending a booster shot with a messenger RNA vaccine for people who have had a full course of four Chinese, Indian and Russian COVID-19 vaccines that aren’t currently approved for use in the European Union. In a draft recommendation Thursday, the panel, known by its German acronym STIKO, said the advice applies to people given a full course and also a booster of the Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, the Indian-made Covaxin and Russia’s Sputnik V.
Community Activities
Groups urge Biden to reject potential WTO 'concept' on COVID-19 vaccine barriers
Doctors without Borders, Oxfam America, Amnesty International and other top civil society groups on Wednesday urged US President Joe Biden to reject a potential deal on COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organization. In a letter, the groups called the proposal a "rehash" of a European Union position that fell far short of the rights waiver Biden backed in May 2021 to speed vaccines to developing countries.
COVID-19: How can I get lateral flow tests from Friday and how much do they cost?
In England, the majority of people who want to be tested for COVID-19 will have to pay for their own lateral flow tests from this Friday under new plans put forward by ministers. The government has announced who will be eligible for free tests when free universal testing in England comes to an end. People have been discouraged from ordering packs of lateral flow tests (LFTs) from the government website in a last-minute scramble to get hold of them by 1 April.
U.S. CDC scraps COVID warning for cruise travel after 2 years
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday removed its COVID-19 notice against cruise travel, around two years after introducing a warning scale showing the level of coronavirus transmission risk on cruise ships. The move offers a shot of hope to major U.S. cruise operators such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise that have struggled to bring in revenue since the pandemic started.
Working Remotely
Plan aims for 20% remote working for civil service
In Ireland, the government has announced a plan that will allow workers in the civil service to apply for a minimum of 20% remote working. The 'Blended Working Framework' will allow employees to request remote working arrangements and seek a review if their application is refused. Access to blended working will not be an automatic entitlement, regardless of any previous remote working arrangement during the Covid-19 pandemic. Civil Service employers are being encouraged to support and facilitate access to blended working wherever practicable.
Government hails ‘major shift’ on remote working for civil servants
In Ireland, tens of thousands of civil servants will now be able to work remotely at least some of the time. The Government has hailed the move as a “major shift” in working arrangements for around 40,000 civil servants, which will see officials able to work from home at least 20% of the time. It also partly formalises many of the remote-working reforms ushered in overnight by the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago.
Virtual Classrooms
Organisations harness the power of learning to support families in their communities
This year’s Family Learning Award shortlist, shows how organisations are using imaginative, innovative and inclusive ways to deliver learning opportunities which help families in their communities. The awards, organised by education charity Campaign for Learning, celebrate learning activities that supported families during lockdown and beyond and supported health and wellbeing. As to be expected, some of the top priorities for organisations were focused around the significant changes to how learning is delivered beyond the pandemic, keeping families connected, boosting mental health and ensuring everyone can access opportunities to learn.
DfE warned over 'unrealistic' remote learning guidance
In England, updated government guidance on remote learning for schools has been criticised as "unrealistic" and "a distraction" by heads and teaching profession leaders. The non-statutory guidance, published this week, sets out expectations over how schools should "deliver high-quality remote education" when in-person teaching is not possible. Its suggestion that schools should consider "securing appropriate internet connectivity solutions where possible" has been described as a "huge demand".
Public Policies
FDA grants Pfizer/BioNTech expanded EUA for an additional COVID-19 vaccine booster
Pfizer/BioNTech have been given an expanded emergency use authorisation (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its COVID-19 vaccine. This allows the vaccine to be given to adults ages 50 years and older as a second booster. Eligible adults can have had any authorised COVID-19 vaccine as their first booster. A second booster dose has also authorised for those aged 12 years and older who are immunocompromised, and have had a first booster dose of any authorised COVID-19 vaccine. The second booster should be given at least four months after the initial booster and could potentially restore antibody levels and improve protection in older people. It is the same formulation and strength as previous Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses. The companies’ vaccine already has EUA authorisation for use as a single booster for those aged 12 and older who have already had two doses of the vaccine. Those aged 18 and older could have received any approved COVID-19 vaccines for their initial two doses.
Health Ministry provides coronavirus vaccine to refugees using UNHCR certificate
In Egypt, the Ministry of Health and Population announced that they will provide the coronavirus vaccines to refugees and asylum seekers through medical teams without registering on the ministry’s website, pointing out that the vaccination can be obtained with a passport or a UNHCR certificate. The ministry pointed out, in an official statement, that coronavirus vaccines were available at several metro stations. The Ministry added it targets vaccinating 70 percent of citizens by the end of June to reach herd immunity, so that coronavirus precautionary measures could be eased.
EMA starts review of Sanofi-GSK COVID vaccine application
The European Union's drug regulator has started reviewing Sanofi and its British partner GlaxoSmithKline's application seeking conditional authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine, the agency said on Wednesday. The drugmakers had earlier said that they would seek regulatory approval for their COVID-19 vaccine to be used as a booster as well as a standalone two-dose shot. In support of the companies' application, the final data package comprising a late-stage trial of the vaccine and another trial testing it as a booster was submitted to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on March 29, the drugmakers said in an email to Reuters.
Maintaining Services
Rokote Laboratories selects Exothera for GMP manufacturing of its second-generation coronavirus vaccine FINCoVac 2.0.
Rokote Laboratories Finland Ltd., a vaccine development company focussing on a second-generation COVID-19 vaccine, and Exothera S.A. will collaborate to bring the intranasal coronavirus vaccine FINCoVac 2.0 to clinical Phase I/II trials. Exothera will finetune the industrialization of the FINCOVAC 2.0 process and manufacture clinical material for Phase I/II trials. FINCoVac 2.0 is designed to address the most critical current coronavirus variants and it is based on adenoviral vector gene transfer technology. The FINCoVac vaccine is designed to program the nasopharyngeal cells to produce an immune response-inducing modified SARS-CoV-2-viral spike protein. FINCoVac 2.0 represents an easy-to-administer booster for those who are already fully vaccinated with other coronavirus vaccines.
Biden gets second booster shot, pushes for more COVID funding
U.S. President Joe Biden rolled up his sleeve for a second COVID-19 booster shot on Wednesday as his administration rolled out efforts to help Americans live with the coronavirus, including a new website and a renewed push for vaccinations and funding. "If we fail to invest, we leave ourselves vulnerable if another wave hits," Biden said in remarks at the White House to launch COVID.gov, a clearinghouse of information aimed at helping people manage the virus as they seek a return to normalcy.
Global COVID cases ebb amid testing blind-spot worries
The world's COVID-19 cases dropped 14% last week, compared to the week before, with decreases seen across all of the WHO's regions. However, deaths rose 45%, primarily due to changes in how some countries define COVID deaths and retrospective adjustments from others. Overall, about 10 million cases were reported to the WHO last week. The five countries reporting the most cases were South Korea, Germany, Vietnam, France, and Italy. The WHO noted that recent case rises earlier this month occurred despite reduced testing in many countries, which it says is a sign that the virus is still circulating at very high levels. It warned that a decline in testing could lead to less robust data that makes it harder to track the virus and how it is spreading and evolving. The situation could impair how quickly countries can respond with targeted control measures to reduce hospitalizations and deaths. In its weekly report, the WHO said the Omicron variant makes up 99.5% of sequenced samples. Officials added that they're monitoring recombinant viruses, including a BA.1-BA.2 version that was first observed in the United Kingdom and appears to be about 10% more transmissible than the Omicron's BA.2 subvariant.
Healthcare Innovations
NIH begins clinical trial evaluating second COVID-19 booster shots in adults
A Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating various additional COVID-19 booster shots has begun enrolling adult participants in the United States. The trial aims to understand if different vaccine regimens—prototype and variant vaccines alone and in combinations—can broaden immune responses in adults who already have received a primary vaccination series and a first booster shot. The study, known as the COVID-19 Variant Immunologic Landscape (COVAIL) trial, is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.
Ivermectin ineffective at preventing COVID-19 in new, large study
A study published on Wednesday found the use of ivermectin to combat COVID-19 did not lead to reduced hospitalization. In Brazil, 3,515 people participated in a study where a group received ivermectin, a group received a placebo and another group received a different form of treatment for COVID-19. The study, posted in The New England Journal of Medicine, says the results concluded ivermectin does not lower the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization. “Treatment with ivermectin did not result in a lower incidence of medical admission to a hospital due to progression of Covid-19 or of prolonged emergency department observation among outpatients with an early diagnosis of Covid-19,” the study states.
Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine slashes pediatric hospitalization risk -U.S. study
Children ages 5 to 11 who received the Pfizer, BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were 68% less likely to be hospitalized during the Omicron wave in the United States than unvaccinated children, according to a study published on Wednesday. Adolescents aged 12-18 who received two shots of the vaccine were around 40% less likely to be hospitalized with the Omicron variant of the virus, the study led by scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Boston Children's Hospital found. It was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The risk of more serious outcomes, including need for mechanical breathing assistance or death, was nearly 80% lower for those who received the shots in that age group.
WHO says most likely scenario shows COVID severity will decrease over time
The World Health Organization on Wednesday released an updated plan for COVID-19, laying out three possible scenarios for how the pandemic will evolve this year. "Based on what we know now, the most likely scenario is that the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, but the severity of disease it causes reduces over time as immunity increases due to vaccination and infection," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing. However, the WHO head cautioned that periodic spikes in cases and deaths may occur as immunity wanes, which may require periodic boosting for vulnerable populations.
Analysis: Governments want COVID vaccine developers to aim higher in hunt for better shots
As governments prepare to live with COVID-19, some are questioning how much to rely on drugmakers to adapt vaccines to ward off future virus variants amid signs of tension between companies and regulators over the best approach, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Some vaccine experts say government agencies should fund and help develop a new generation of COVID shots, and seek innovation from smaller developers, as they did to identify current vaccines. "We have established a research infrastructure that could do this relatively reasonably rapidly if we primed the pump and created the same kind of plan for second-generation vaccines as we did for the first-generation vaccines," Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist who is overseeing U.S. government-backed COVID vaccine trials, told Reuters.