"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 5th Apr 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai Extends Lockdown as City Tests Its 25 Million Residents for Covid
Shanghai extended lockdown measures as it concluded a day of testing of all 25 million of its residents for Covid-19 Monday, aided by thousands of medical workers who arrived over the weekend from across the country. Late Monday, which was meant to be the final day of lockdown, the municipal government said the lockdown would continue until after the authorities finished evaluating the situation, including reviewing the results of the mass-testing effort. It said by evening, it was nearly done with the citywide testing. Shanghai had planned a two-phase lockdown, in which half the city’s residents would be confined to their homes at a time, depending on which side of the Huangpu River they lived. The first four-day lockdown of residents to the east and south of the river was to have ended Friday. The second stage was due to end at 3 a.m. Tuesday.
Hygiene Helpers
China Variants and Omicron XE Put Fresh Focus on Covid Mutations
The disclosure of new Covid variants emerging in China and the rise of a potentially more transmissible strain in the U.K. has recast the spotlight on the ongoing risk of the virus, even as health experts say there’s no reason to panic. The World Health Organization said a hybrid of two omicron strains -- BA.1 and BA.2 -- that was first detected in the U.K. and dubbed XE could be the most transmissible variant yet. It is estimated to spread 10% more easily than BA.2, which itself was more transmissible than the original omicron famous for its ease of penetration. Meanwhile in China, which is experiencing its biggest outbreak since Wuhan, authorities have disclosed two novel omicron subvariants that don’t match any existing sequences. It’s unclear if the infections were one-off events of little significance, or if they may be a sign of problems ahead.
More than 8 million people reject offer of Covid-19 booster despite record infections
More than eight million people have turned down the offer of a booster vaccine against Covid-19 despite the UK’s infection rate hitting its highest ever level last week. The Government is under pressure to ramp up its efforts to persuade more people to come forward for a third jab, at the same time as encouraging over-75s to accept a second booster. On Monday NHS England will start vaccinating children aged five to 11 with some centres fitted out with games and pets to make young children feel comfortable.
Sweden to offer fourth COVID vaccine jab to people aged 65 and above
Sweden will give a fourth shot of COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 65 and above to boost their defences against the disease, the health agency said on Monday. "For people aged 65 and over, it is now four months since the previous vaccine dose, and the protective effect of the vaccine diminishes over time," the Health Agency said in a statement. Sweden had previously offered a fourth jab to people aged 80 or older.
Community Activities
EasyJet cancels 100 flights due to Covid absences
British travellers are facing Easter holiday disruption after airlines cancelled more than 120 flights and Eurotunnel warned of three hour delays. Easyjet and British Airways blamed staff absences from Covid for cancellations, while Eurotunnel said a broken down train caused delays. Some schools have broken up for Easter - the first holiday since the end of the pandemic travel restrictions. That's led to rising demand and frustration for holidaymakers. Flight cancellations were down to a combination of factors which had come together in "a perfect storm", Simon Calder, travel correspondent at The Independent, told the BBC. "We have got very high levels of Covid in the nation and that is affecting the transport industry. But there are also more underlying problems which go back to the start of Covid," he said.
Covid-19: Vaccine passes gone by midnight – but businesses can keep using them
Four months after becoming the entry key to many events, bars and restaurants, gyms, hairdressers, sports and faith-based gatherings, vaccines passes will soon be optional for hosts. My Vaccine Pass – brought in as part of the Government's Covid-19 protection framework – will no longer be required from 11.59pm Monday, although businesses will still be able to use the system if they want. Those supplying basic needs, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, public transport, schools and health services, were exempt, but were a legal requirement for many other close-proximity businesses. Also from 11.59pm Monday, some government vaccine mandates for workers will be removed. Those still covered include health and disability sector workers, including aged-care workers, along with prison staff and border and MIQ workers.
Covid Vaccines for Kids Are Dividing Divorced Parents
In late 2021, Adele Grote, a divorced mother of two in Minneapolis, took her children to a vaccination clinic at the Mall of America. But when her 13-year-old daughter called her father to let him know they were getting the shot, Ms. Grote knew they would have to leave without it. Just over a quarter of children between ages 5 and 11 in the United States are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database; among older kids, ages 12 to 17, the rate is 59 percent. For parents who have yet to vaccinate their children, the reasons for hesitation vary.
Vaccine hesitancy: What causes it, what can change it? - study
In the time since the coronavirus vaccine has been made available to the public, there have been many instances of hesitancy, reluctance, and even refusal to be vaccinated. A new study published by the Israel Journal of Health Policy Research has examined this phenomenon and discovered that there are several distinct phases of vaccine hesitancy, all presenting in different ways. The peer-reviewed study entitled “Understanding the phases of vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic” examines the distinct categories under which vaccine-hesitant people fall and the way in which socio-economic background, circumstances, and the changing phases of the pandemic itself have affected the reluctance some show when it comes to the vaccine.
Hong Kong university entrance exams ‘to go ahead as scheduled’ as coronavirus infections continue to fall
Special centres will be set up at the Hong Kong government’s isolation facility at Penny’s Bay for university entrance exam candidates who are close contacts of Covid-19 patients or infected themselves, with the annual assessments scheduled to start from April 22. Education authorities on Monday said candidates who chose to sit the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams at the special centres would then have to remain at the facility for a full stint in quarantine, which lasts at least seven days, depending on their vaccination status
Working Remotely
Welsh Government in Bid to Boost Remote Working
Pandemic lockdowns heralded a new era of remote working. And the shift looks set to remain a key aspect of the UK’s workplace culture as many workers prove reluctant to give up the positive benefits of ditching the commute and businesses discover the upside of reduced costs and access to an increased talent pool. The Welsh Government is now pushing to lock in these benefits with its new Remote Working Strategy, which outlines the government’s ambition to achieve 30% of the Welsh workforce working at, or near, home during this Senedd term.
WFH forever? Two years into a work-from-home revolution, some may never return to the office
More than 60 per cent of jobs can't be done from home. For the millions of frontline workers who need to physically be somewhere to complete their work, things won't change much. However, the Productivity Commission, the government's think tank, found that about 35 per cent of jobs have aspects that allow them to be done at home. These jobs tend to be better paid, more likely to be full-time, and the workers tend to be female. As our economy continues to evolve, that percentage is likely to expand.
Remote work vs office life: Lots of experiments and no easy answers
With some people returning to work in the office and others continuing to log in from home, managers will need to create a hybrid workplace that successfully blends in-person collaboration and remote working to keep everyone happy and productive. Three executives at the recent DTX Tech Predictions Mini Summit explained how their companies are using a range of tools and techniques to build the workplace of the future.
Virtual Classrooms
More Brits would rather learn online than in-person
Given the choice, more people prefer to learn new skills and knowledge online – and most likely alone – than alongside other people. That’s according to new virtual learning research, commissioned by learning management system provider Digits, which reveals that watching online videos and taking part in online courses are now the most popular learning methods in the UK. On average, over one in four of the 2,000 people polled say they most enjoy learning via videos and courses on the internet (29% and 28% respectively), while face-to-face options, such as in-person classes with others present and one-to-one tutoring, were favoured by less than one in four people (23% and 19% respectively).
Public Policies
Senate Reaches Deal on Covid Funding That Leaves Out Global Aid
Senate Democrats and Republicans have struck a deal to provide $10 billion for coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics after Democrats dropped a last-minute attempt to include global vaccination funds in the bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who had been leading negotiations on the package, announced the agreement Monday. It meets GOP demands that any new Covid-19 funds be paid for with unspent funds from earlier pandemic relief packages. The bill would provide far less money than the $22.5 billion that President Joe Biden sought early last month, though lawmakers widely expect another infusion will be needed, especially if a new variant of the disease spreads.
Thai PM takes delivery of 3.2 million Pfizer vaccines donated by France; Covid-19 cases still registering above 24,000 in country
The French ambassador to Thailand on Monday handed over 3.2 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha. Ambassador Thierry Mathou met Prayut at Government House on Monday morning to formally hand over the vaccine shipment donated to Thailand by France. After the meeting, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkrongchana said Prayut thanked France for the donation and lauded the envoy for helping coordinate close bilateral ties.
Biological E to get mRNA technology from WHO to produce Covid vaccines
In a mkaoCity-based vaccine maker Biological E. Limited on Monday said the company was selected as a recipient of mRNA technology to produce COVID-19 vaccines from the World Health Organisation. A press release from BE Limited said the WHO's Advisory Committee on Vaccine Product Development (ACPDV) selected the firm after examining a number of proposals from India, as a recipient of mRNA (ribonucleic acid) technology from the global health body's technology transfer hub.
Low number of Covid cases now as India chose right vaccine: Serum CEO
Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla on Monday said the low number of COVID-19 cases at the moment was because the country chose the right vaccine. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 'Alternate Fuel Conclave', he said the fourth wave, if at all it occurs, will hopefully be mild. Speaking on the booster dose, he said, "About the booster dose, we have appealed to the government, because everyone who needs to travel, needs the booster dose. They (government) are having internal discussions and a policy on booster dose may be announced soon."
Maintaining Services
China joins race to build a better Covid-19 vaccine with circRNA tech
China has joined the race to build a better Covid-19 vaccine using engineered circular RNA, a form of biotechnology that scientists hope can lead to cheaper and more effective shots. A group of scientists from Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing have been testing a circular RNA (circRNA) vaccine candidate targeting the tip of the coronavirus’s spike protein, which the virus uses to dock with the body’s receptors and cause infection. The team have released a preprint paper of the results of laboratory tests and animal trials and the study is being reviewed by scientific journal Cell. Companies and scientists are exploring the vaccine potential in transforming linear RNA into a circular shape.
How to book a Covid vaccine for children with 5 to 11-year-olds now eligible
The Covid-19 vaccine is being extended to children aged between 5 and 11, giving five million more Britons access to the jab. It comes with case numbers across the UK extremely high, due to the spread of the highly infectious BA.2 offshoot of the Omicron variant. The children will be given a dose of Pfizer a third of the size of that given to those aged 12 and over. There will be a follow-up jab 12 weeks later. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation approved the jab for under-12s in February, but the NHS has been prioritising fourth doses for the clinically vulnerable and over-75s.
Covid had devastating toll on poor and low-income communities in US
The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on poor and low-income communities across America is laid bare in a new report released on Monday that concludes that while the virus did not discriminate between rich and poor, society and government did. As the US draws close to the terrible landmark of 1 million deaths from coronavirus, the glaringly disproportionate human toll that has been exacted is exposed by the Poor People’s Pandemic Report. Based on a data analysis of more than 3,000 counties across the US, it finds that people in poorer counties have died overall at almost twice the rate of those in richer counties. Looking at the most deadly surges of the virus, the disparity in death rates grows even more pronounced.
COVID-19: Despite the end of free testing, the virus is stronger than ever
You'd be forgiven for thinking the COVID pandemic was on its way out. But today's data show that, from the virus' perspective at least, it's stronger than ever. On the same day free COVID testing comes to an end in England, infection levels have reached the highest ever recorded.
Healthcare Innovations
Gilead's remdesivir fails to show benefit in European trial; no fetus risk seen with first trimester vaccination
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. Two promising drugs for COVID-19 fail to deliver. Two drugs that looked like promising treatments for COVID-19 in preliminary studies - remdesivir for hospitalized patients and camostat for patients who are not seriously ill - failed to show a benefit in those groups in randomized controlled trials, researchers reported in two separate papers.
Study: Vaccine protects most cancer patients from COVID, but risk remains higher for patients with blood cancers
Using the nation’s largest COVID-19 data resource, a researcher at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center found the COVID-19 vaccine protected most cancer patients from getting COVID. However, patients with certain types of cancer have a higher and widely varied risk of breakthrough COVID infections after receiving the COVID vaccine. Jing Su, PhD, assistant professor in the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Biostatistics was the lead investigator for the study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. He is also the core associate director of real-world data for the cancer center’s Biostatistics and Data Management Core. Su led a team of 13 investigators from 10 research institutes across the country to analyze data from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) at the National Institutes of Health, including another researcher at IU School of Medicine, Xiaochun Li, PhD, a professor of biostatistics and health data sciences.
COVID-19 vaccine not associated with birth defects detectable on ultrasound
The exclusion of pregnant patients in initial COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials left many patients and doctors wondering how the vaccine might affect pregnant patients and their unborn babies. A new Northwestern Medicine study has found the vaccine is not associated with birth defects that are detectable on ultrasound. “This is yet another important piece of data that helps bridge the chasm that was left when pregnant individuals were excluded from those initial vaccine trials,” said corresponding author Dr. Emily Miller, chief of obstetrics at Northwestern Medicine and assistant professor of maternal fetal medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The study will be published April 4 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
COVID-19 led to unprecedented decline in global life expectancy
The COVID-19 pandemic reduced the world’s life expectancy by about 2 years, according to recent estimates published in Population and Development Review. “Since 1950, annual declines of that magnitude had only been observed on rare occasions, such as Cambodia in the 1970s, Rwanda in the 1990s, and possibly some sub-Saharan African nations at the peak of the AIDS pandemic,” wrote Patrick Heuveline, a professor of sociology and the associate director of the California Center for Population Research at UCLA.
UK Covid symptoms list expanded with nine more signs of illness
The official list of Covid-19 symptoms on the NHS has been extended to cover nine new symptoms, including sore throat, fatigue and headache. They join the three symptoms of a fever, a new and persistent cough, and a loss or change in taste or smell, according to nhs.uk. Extending the list may help reduce infections by helping people detect whether they may have Covid; however, it coincides with the end of the offer of free universal Covid-19 tests to help people confirm whether they have the virus. Covid infection levels have hit a record high in the UK, with almost 5 million people estimated to be infected.
Roche says U.S. FDA grants priority review to Actemra for COVID-19
Roche said on Monday the U.S. Food and Drug administration granted priority review to its Actemra/RoActemra for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalised adults. "If approved, Actemra/RoActemra would be the first U.S. FDA-approved immunomodulator for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalised patients," Roche said in a statement, adding that more than 1 million people hospitalised with COVID-19 had been treated with Actemra/RoActemra worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic.
New Covid-19 variant Omicron XE found in the UK which is a cross mutation of the BA.1 and BA.2 strains
Health experts have confirmed that a new variant of Coronavirus has been found in the United Kingdom. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have said that they are looking at the XE variant - which is a cross mutation of the BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron strains that recently swarmed the nation. The new variant is what is technically known as a 'recombinant' according to professionals, however the UKHSA are reported saying that it's too early to know whether it is more transmissible than the previous versions of the virus - reports Wales Online. The officials say that 637 cases of XE have been detected in England alone as of March 22, which would make it a mere fraction of the tens of thousands of total cases being reported daily at the time of writing, The Independent has reported.
CanSinoBIO's mRNA COVID vaccine candidate cleared for trials in China
Chinese vaccine developer CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO) said on Monday its potential COVID-19 vaccine using the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology has been approved by China's medical products regulator to enter clinical trials. Unlike other major countries, China is yet to approve any foreign-made mRNA vaccines such as that produced by U.S.-German duo Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and BioNTech SE . With around 88% of its 1.4 billion population already vaccinated, China is trailing several domestically developed mRNA vaccine candidates, including one candidate that is being tested in a large, Phase 3 clinical trial.