"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 4th Apr 2022

Isolation Tips
Taiwan says new COVID cases won't affect re-opening plans
A recent rise in Taiwan's domestic COVID-19 cases will not affect plans to gradually re-open as hardly any of the new infections have caused serious illness, Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Sunday. Unlike large parts of the rest of the world, Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control due to strict and early control measures, including an efficient contact and tracing system and largely closing its borders. In the first quarter of this year Taiwan reported 1,266 domestic cases, and only one death, though the government has been on alert as infections spiked over the past week or so, while remaining at comparatively low numbers, with 183 new cases on Sunday.
Shanghai asks entire city to self-test for COVID as frustration grows
Shanghai on Sunday ordered its 26 million residents to undergo two more rounds of tests for COVID-19 as public anger grows over how authorities in China's most populous city are tackling a record coronavirus surge. Residents should self-test on Sunday using antigen kits and report any positive results, Shanghai government officials told a news conference, while a nucleic acid test would be conducted citywide on Monday. "The main task is to completely eliminate risk points and to cut off the chain of transmission so that we can curb the spread of the epidemic as soon as possible," said Wu Qianyu, an inspector from Shanghai Municipal Health Commission.
Italy ends COVID-19 state of emergency, curbs to be lifted gradually
Italy on Friday began to phase out its COVID-19 restrictions, ending a state of emergency public authorities declared more than two years ago that allowed it to bypass bureaucracy and swiftly impose rules via decrees. The state of emergency was introduced on Jan. 31, 2020, but Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government announced plans in March to return to normal after deciding not to extend it. read more It officially ended on Thursday. "A new phase is beginning ... This does not mean that the pandemic is over. There is no 'off' button that magically makes the virus disappear," Health Minister Roberto Speranza told the newspaper la Repubblica.
Hygiene Helpers
I Just Had Covid. Should I Wait to Get Boosted?
I'm over 50, triple-vaxxed with Moderna and I had Covid-19 in late February. Should I get a booster shot now or wait three or four months? The booster-timing game is one a lot of us have been playing. I’ve had friends tell me they’ve delayed getting boosters not just after a case of Covid, but also to lessen their risk of catching the virus before a big vacation or a wedding. It’s just the latest iteration of pandemic-risk roulette. We’re all trying to figure out how to get the most bang out of our booster. This past week, the Food and Drug Administration gave the green light for an additional booster — a fourth shot — for those over age 50. But many Americans still haven’t gotten their first booster shot — or any shot. If you’ve had Covid since January or February, says Jessica Justman, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at Columbia University Medical Center, it makes sense to hold off on a booster, no matter how old you are.
Covid experts call for return of free tests as UK cases hit new high
Covid has hit an all-time high across the UK, with almost 5 million people – one in 13 of the population – estimated to have the virus, according to the most recent official data, prompting experts to call for the return of free testing. The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) came on the day the government ended free rapid tests for most people in England and as tens of thousands of people were hoping to embark on Easter holidays. Many will have to pay for a test to find out if they are infected, whether they are symptomatic or not. While UK hospitalisations and deaths are also rising, these are not in line with the spike in infections, and scientists said they expect levels to fall sharply again in April and May.
NYC to keep school mask rule for kids aged 2 to 4 in place
With COVID-19 cases rising once again, New York City is keeping a mask mandate for children under 5 in place and will appeal a judge’s ruling that struck it down, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday. City health officials are recommending that everyone cover their faces in indoor public settings and will continue to require masks for children aged 2 to 4 in schools and daycare centers, Adams said. Adams had said previously that the mask mandate for young children would be lifted on April 4 if coronavirus numbers remained low. New York City is now averaging just under 1,300 new cases of COVID-19 per day, more than twice the number on the average day in early March.
Community Activities
Man in Germany Gets 90 Covid Shots to Sell Forged Passes
A 60-year-old man allegedly had himself vaccinated against COVID-19 dozens of times in Germany in order to sell forged vaccination cards with real vaccine batch numbers to people not wanting to get vaccinated themselves. The man from the eastern Germany city of Magdeburg, whose name was not released in line with German privacy rules, is said to have received up to 90 shots against COVID-19 at vaccination centers in the eastern state of Saxony for months until criminal police caught him this month, the German news agency dpa reported Sunday. The suspect was not detained but is under investigation for unauthorized issuance of vaccination cards and document forgery, dpa reported.
Indonesia greets Ramadan with mass prayer as COVID curbs ease
The world's largest Muslim-majority nation of Indonesia welcomed the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan with a mass prayer at Jakarta's grand mosque on Saturday, with plateauing coronavirus cases allowing for eased restrictions this year. Thousands gathered after dusk at Istiqlal mosque in the Indonesian capital to join the Tarawih prayer, special prayers performed only during the month of Ramadan, donning masks and using check-in apps to take part in the event. For the past two years Indonesia has grappled with one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in Asia, but this Ramadan, traditionally a time of community, reflection and prayer, cases have eased enough to allow for mass gatherings.
Why We Are Covid Broke
Washington dysfunction is so comprehensive, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start. So there is usefulness in a recent White House missive to Congress—which in a few short pages neatly sums up the dishonesty and malpractice of today’s Beltway. “Dear Madame Speaker,” begins the March 15 letter, devoted to the topic of Covid poverty. “We are notifying you of the following actions necessitated by the lack of critical funding.” Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and White House Covid coordinator Jeffrey Zients explain that unless Congress supplies tens of billions more in taxpayer dollars, the federal government will no longer be able to “secure sufficient booster doses,” will end “the purchase of monoclonal antibody treatments,” will halt “critical testing,” and will scale back “preventive treatments for the immunocompromised.”
Meta no longer requiring COVID booster shots for staff in U.S. offices
Facebook-owner Meta is no longer requiring employees to have COVID-19 boosters to enter its offices in the United States, a company spokesperson said on Friday. The social media company previously said that all workers returning to the office would have to present proof of their booster jabs, while the company monitored the Omicron variant situation. "We updated our requirements in early March to align with CDC guidance, and now COVID-19 boosters are no longer required for entry, though strongly recommended. The primary vaccination requirement (1- or 2-shot series) remains in place," said Meta spokesperson Tracy Clayton.
U.S. to end COVID order blocking asylum seekers at border with Mexico
The United States will end a sweeping, pandemic-related expulsion policy that has effectively closed down the U.S. asylum system at the border with Mexico, U.S. health officials said on Friday, arguing it was no longer needed to protect public health. The Title 42 order will remain in effect until May 23 to allow border officials time to prepare for its termination and to ramp up COVID-19 vaccines for arriving migrants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a 30-page order.
COVID weighing less and less on the U.S. job market
The coronavirus pandemic's grip on the U.S. job market notably loosened in March, two years after a state of emergency was declared, as the number of people homebound by COVID-19 concerns hit a new low and fewer people reported having to work remotely. In all, the government's benchmark monthly nonfarm payrolls report out Friday showed that by several metrics - including the total number of unemployed dropping below 6 million and a 3.6% unemployment rate - the U.S. job market had all but recovered from the devastating hit delivered in the first two months of the pandemic when 22 million people were thrown out of work
Working Remotely
Work-from-home tech you deserve to pep up your temporary office
Working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t have to be a dreary, dawn-to-dusk task if you have the right environment to work in. We take a look at gadgets that can help you work better, or bring cheer to your day.
Italy's new law is good news for remote workers and digital nomads
Digital nomads will finally have a place in Italy, lawmakers have confirmed after months of speculation. The new visa for remote workers was approved and signed into law on 28 March, ending concerns that it was cut from a draft of the decree seen in January. The news has, understandably, caused a buzz among the growing ranks of professionals who have untethered themselves from office-based jobs during the pandemic. Where better to balance life online with getting out onto the gorgeous piazzas, hills or azure coasts of Italy?
Remote work steadily declines in US, but some resist return to office
At the height of the pandemic lockdowns in May 2020, more than one-third of U.S. workers were doing their jobs at least partly from home, shifting perceptions of workplace flexibility. Ever since, the share of workers telecommuting because of COVID-19 has steadily declined, falling to 22.7% of the workforce in February 2021 and 10% last month. Now those numbers appear likely to dip lower. But return-to-office plans have been met with skepticism from people who say working from home improves productivity and mental health. Some workers of color said telecommuting enabled them to avoid insensitive comments they faced in the office.
Virtual Classrooms
Student group work: how to improve engagement online
Online learning can leave students feeling lonely, disengaged and unmotivated. Because they do not attend classes in person on campus, they can lack a sense of belonging and do not readily identify with their university. Often they have never met their instructors in person and may never have visited the campus. Incorporating group activities into online college coursework can help increase engagement and a sense of belonging. With group work, online students collaborate to complete short assignments or long-term projects, all the while interacting with each other on a more personal level.
Emergency remote teaching and the learning loss that came from it; Were Mass. educators properly trained to t
The pandemic disrupted classrooms across the US. A McKinsey study discovered that K-12 students are currently, on average, five months behind in their expected mathematics levels and four months behind in their expected reading levels. MCAS scores from 2019 and 2021 — the MCAS wasn’t offered in 2020 due to the pandemic — showed a decline in almost every grade level across Massachusetts. Professionals attribute the decline in test scores to the state-wide switch to emergency remote teaching during the 2020-2021 school year. “Drops were seen all over the commonwealth of Massachusetts including in our wealthier suburbs,” commissioner Jeffrey Riley said during a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting where the scores were unveiled. “These are drops we haven’t seen in decades.”
Public Policies
Senators Eye $10 Billion Covid-19 Deal Ahead of Possible Resurgence
Senators are looking to close a deal this coming week to reappropriate roughly $10 billion to pay for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, with lawmakers saying they need to act quickly ahead of a possible resurgence of the pandemic. A bipartisan group of senators has sought to give the Biden administration some of what it has requested to address future variants of Covid-19 and secure a domestic supply of tests, vaccines and treatments in coming months, as well as send vaccines abroad. Negotiators are looking at pandemic-related funds that Congress has previously passed that remain unspent, after Republicans resisted new outlays and many Democrats rejected a previous deal involving $15.6 billion in repurposed funding.
WHO Suspends Procurement, Supply of Bharat Biotech Covid Vaccine
The World Health Organization suspended procurement and supply of Covaxin, a Covid-19 vaccine made by Bharat Biotech International Ltd., citing issues following an inspection at the company’s facilities. The Indian vaccine maker has committed to address deficiencies in good manufacturing practices and is developing a corrective and preventive action plan, the World Health Organization said, without specifying when the suspension will be lifted. It recommended countries which have received the vaccine to “take actions as appropriate.” The World Health Organization granted emergency use authorization to the vaccine co-developed by India’s medical research agency and the local manufacturer in November. It said the suspension doesn’t change the vaccine’s risk assessment, and data indicates it is effective and no safety concerns exist.
Maintaining Services
China's farmers face fertiliser crunch as COVID measures hamper deliveries
China's COVID-19 curbs are disrupting the supply of fertiliser to the country's northeastern bread basket just a month away from spring planting, threatening this year's corn and soybean crops if not resolved soon. Farmers typically have fertiliser prepared in early April before applying to fields later in the month during planting. But China's worst outbreak of COVID since the pandemic began two years ago have triggered strict controls on movement of people and goods, sharply slowing deliveries. Fertiliser producers, dealers, analysts and associations said rules requiring truck drivers to take COVID tests every 24 hours, a need to obtain special passes to deliver goods and factory suspensions due to local COVID cases are all contributing to tight supplies.
Rising Covid infections pile pressure on hospitals
Surging coronavirus infections are putting hospitals across the UK under mounting pressure and undermining efforts to get on top of waiting lists more than two years after the start of the pandemic. Several NHS trusts across England have been forced to declare critical incidents in recent weeks as the number of Covid-19 cases has increased. Ambulance services are reporting widespread delays at hospitals and in reaching those dialling 999.
‘One per cent of UK population’ newly infected with Covid-19 every day
Around one in every 100 people in the UK is likely to have been newly infected with Covid-19 per day during the current surge of the virus, figures suggest. Infections are estimated to have climbed as high as 657,300 every day by March 16, according to new modelling published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is the equivalent of roughly 1% of the population. It is also more than double the number of daily infections that were occurring at the end of February. The figures suggest that by mid-March the virus was circulating at levels higher even than those reached during the Omicron-led surge at the start of the year.
Number of COVID patients in US hospitals reaches record low
COVID-19 hospitalization numbers have plunged to their lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic, offering a much needed break to health care workers and patients alike following the omicron surge. The number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus has fallen more than 90% in more than two months, and some hospitals are going days without a single COVID-19 patient in the ICU for the first time since early 2020. The freed up beds are expected to help U.S. hospitals retain exhausted staff, treat non-COVID-19 patients more quickly and cut down on inflated costs. More family members can visit loved ones. And doctors hope to see a correction to the slide in pediatric visits, yearly checkups and cancer screenings.
Healthcare Innovations
Two Chinese mRNA Covid Vaccines Move Toward Clinical Trials
A Chinese company said it’s received approval to start clinical trials of a Covid-19 vaccine based on mRNA technology, while local media reported that another domestic company has applied to start a similar trial. CSPC Pharmaceutical Group Ltd. has been approved by China’s medical product regulator to begin a trial of an COVID-19 vaccine named “SYS6006,” it said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. The company said pre-clinical studies demonstrated the vaccine can help neutralize against the omicron variant of coronavirus. It does not need to be stored at below-freezing temperatures, the company said. China has inoculated the majority of its population using domestically-made coronavirus vaccines based on older inactivated virus technology, but authorities have not approved any based on mRNA outside the cities of Hong Kong and Macau.
Vaccination after COVID improves immunity; ivermectin fails in major trial
Vaccination after COVID-19 improves immunity. Although people who recover from COVID-19 usually gain some immune defenses against reinfection, they get additional protection from vaccines, especially against severe disease, according to two studies published on Thursday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.