"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 12th Apr 2022

Isolation Tips
Debate over COVID-19 close contact isolation as Australia faces peak of Omicron BA.2 wave
As Australia moves into winter, changes to restrictions are up for discussion as governments try to strike the balance between living with COVID-19 and protecting the community. Advice from the Commonwealth's peak chief public health panel, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), has suggested close contact isolation should come to an end soon. Most jurisdictions have issued exemptions for close contacts in critical workforces to ensure essential services can continue, but some are now questioning the need for asymptomatic close contacts to spend a week in isolation.
Shanghai eases lockdown in some areas despite record COVID infections
China's financial centre of Shanghai started easing its lockdown in some areas on Monday despite reporting a record of more than 25,000 new COVID-19 infections, as authorities sought to get the city moving again after more than two weeks. Pressure has been mounting on authorities in China's most populous city, and one of its wealthiest, from residents growing increasingly frustrated as the curbs dragged on, leaving some struggling to find enough food and medicine. City officials announced on Monday morning that they were grouping residential units into three risk categories as a step towards allowing "appropriate activity" by those in neighbourhoods with no positive cases during a two-week stretch, adding that district authorities would publish further details.
Guangzhou closes to most arrivals as China’s outbreak grows
The manufacturing hub of Guangzhou closed itself to most arrivals Monday as China battles a major COVID-19 surge in its big eastern cities.Shanghai has taken the brunt of the rise, with another 26,087 cases announced on Monday, only 914 of which showed symptoms. The city of 26 million is under a tight lockdown, with many residents confined to their homes for up to three weeks and concerns growing over the effect on the economy of China’s largest city. The financial hub has seen international events canceled because of the crackdown, and local football club Shanghai Port has been forced to withdraw from the Asian Champions League because travel restrictions prevented it from attending games in Thailand.
Hygiene Helpers
This invisible Covid-19 mitigation measure is finally getting the attention it deserves
Two-plus years into the Covid-19 pandemic, you probably know the basics of protection: vaccines, boosters, proper handwashing and masks. But one of the most powerful tools against the coronavirus is one that experts believe is just starting to get the attention it deserves: ventilation.
Which Cities Have Mask Mandates? Philadelphia Reinstates Indoor Requirement
Philadelphia’s return to a masking mandate is unlikely to catch on in other U.S. cities, highlighting a split among public health officials over how to contain future outbreaks of the virus. The City of Brotherly Love will make masks a requirement again in indoor settings starting on April 18, but Philadelphia is unique in breaking from guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC shifted its recommendations earlier this year to emphasize hospitalizations over case counts, with universal masking only suggested at its highest risk level. The change has allowed many local government officials to continue reopening and relax restrictions even as the virus rebounds across some parts of the country, since hospitalizations remain low in most places. Indeed, by the CDC’s measurements, Philadelphia County remains low-risk. But the city made a commitment when it lifted mask mandates that it would reinstate them if another wave hit.
U.S. seeks to resume enforcing federal employee vaccine mandate
The U.S. Justice Department on Monday asked a federal appeals court to allow the Biden administration to resume enforcing a federal employee vaccine mandate that had been blocked by a lower-court judge in January. A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Thursday reinstated President Joe Biden's executive order mandating that federal civilian employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Japan's Low-Key Covid Campaign Is More Sustainable Than China's All-Out Efforts
Shanghai is locked down and some of its residents are running out of food. As China battles its largest-ever Covid outbreak, the discourse swings between two extremes: The country must accept Covid Zero and sporadic, disruptive lockdowns; or it must live with the virus western-style — and endure all deaths that ensue. For Chinese authorities, the former may no longer work but the latter is unacceptable. But there’s an alternative: China should look to what can be learned from its neighbor Japan. Japan conducted a largely low-tech, unshowy campaign against the virus and rarely makes the list of top-performing countries. Yet among the 38 OECD members, only one has seen fewer deaths per capita than Japan — and that’s New Zealand, a nation that endured some of the world’s strictest lockdowns
Community Activities
States of Covid Performance
More than two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s time to draw some conclusions about government policy and results. The most comprehensive comparative study we’ve seen to date was published last week as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), and it deserves wide attention. The authors are University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan and Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity. They compare Covid outcomes in the 50 states and District of Columbia based on three variables: the economy, education and mortality. It’s a revealing study that belies much of the conventional medical and media wisdom during the pandemic, especially in its first year when severe lockdowns were described as the best, and the only moral, policy.
The BA.2 Variant Is Spreading. Do You Need to Worry?
You’re going to the movies and eating indoors. Your kid stopped wearing a mask to school; you no longer wear one to work. After two years of Covid precautions, you finally feel normal again. Well, mostly. BA.2—a subvariant of the Omicron variant that tore through the U.S. this winter—is spreading. It’s now the dominant variant throughout the country and has triggered recent surges in Europe. If you live somewhere where local statistics suggest cases are rising but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map still shades your county low-risk green, it can be tough to figure out what to do. So, do you need to worry? When? And how do you know what to look for?
Thousands rally in LA to oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates
Thousands of people including truckers and firefighters from across the country gathered Sunday outside Los Angeles City Hall to protest vaccination mandates designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. The crowd gathered at Grand Park to hear speakers and performers, while big-rig trucks from the “People’s Convoy” were parked on nearby streets. Members of the convoy jammed traffic during a Washington, D.C., protest earlier this year. The peaceful crowd gathered to hear speakers and singers and was similar to a rally held at the same spot last year and to others staged around the country. California battled a deadly winter coronavirus surge linked to the omicron variant but began easing masking and vaccination requirements this year as caseloads and hospitalization rates fell, which public health officials largely attributed to widespread vaccination and other safety measures.
Working Remotely
The simmering tension between remote and in-office workers
As pandemic restrictions end, more and more companies are calling employees back to the office – yet the rules are not universal for all workers. Some bosses are allowing exceptions for individuals or particular groups of workers – moves hard to explain in the return-to-office world. While mandating certain behaviours from most employees, they’re allowing others to retain special arrangements. But with some employees across an organisation working with very different attendance rules, tensions are beginning bubble to the surface, impacting workplace dynamics.
Still Working From Home? These Practical Products Will Help Keep You Sane
At least half of UK workers are still working remotely at least some of the time, according to a YouGov study, and the novelty has well and truly worn off. Working from home has some incredible perks, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with a few issues. Who would have thought working from your sofa could feel so exhausting? But there are plenty of simple remedies to remove the stress, boost productivity and keep your mindset in check. The right products can really help.
Virtual Classrooms
Even in a virtual classroom, preschoolers can gain reading skills
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools nationwide, students of all ages — from high-schoolers in Advanced Placement classes to preschoolers getting the hang of the ABCs — shifted to remote learning on a screen. And while learning to read in an online setting may seem a tall order, a new study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences finds that children can develop key reading skills in a virtual classroom with other students. Researchers say their “Reading Camp” program demonstrates not only the effectiveness of the approach, but also the potential to reach larger numbers of students remotely, by necessity or by choice.
Public Policies
Boris Johnson Rejects NHS UK New Covid Restrictions Request
Boris Johnson rejected calls from National Health Service officials for new measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, saying hospital data don’t justify shifting from the U.K. plan for “living with Covid.” The NHS Confederation over the weekend demanded a “revamp” of the strategy to ease pressure on hospitals, which the organization said are struggling to deal with “critically high demand for emergency care.” It also accused the government of abandoning “any interest in Covid whatsoever.” More than 20,000 patients are currently in the hospital with Covid-19, the most since February 2021. That’s hampering NHS efforts to reduce waiting times that soared during the pandemic, according to the confederation.
Catalonia's Hipra Covid-19 vaccine could be on the market by June
The Covid-19 vaccine made by Catalan pharmaceutical company Hipra, which was found to generate more antibodies than the Pfizer jab, could be placed on the market by late May or early June, Spain's science minister Diana Morant said on Monday in an interview with public broadcaster TV3. The European Medicines Agency is currently conducting a rolling review of the protein-based vaccine that is intended to be used as a booster for adults who have already been fully vaccinated with other jabs. "Hipra is an example of a successful public-private partnership," Morant said. The Spanish government allocated €18 million towards its development. "We wish Hipra a lot of success with their vaccine that has many advantages over others that we've already been inoculated with," she added.
Moderna and Rovi Pharma recall Covid-19 vaccine doses
Moderna and Rovi Pharma have recalled a batch of 764,900 doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, Spikevax. The move comes after a foreign body was detected in one of the vials from the batch produced at Rovi’s contract manufacturing site in Spain. The company noted that the contaminated vial was punctured and was not used for administration to people. Moderna’s marketing authorisation holders Moderna Biotech Spain and Rovi were informed of the issue through a complaint on the product from an inoculation centre in Málaga, Spain.
Japan cancels a third of contracted Astrazeneca vaccine purchase
Japan has cancelled the purchase of about 40 million Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses it agreed to buy last year, a health ministry official said in parliament on Monday. The contract allowed the government to cancel a portion of the supply if it was unneeded, the official said in response to lawmakers' questioning. Japan had originally agreed to buy 120 million of the shots, with the bulk made domestically by Daiichi Sankyo and other local partners.
Germany agrees deal with CureVac, GSK for mRNA vaccines until 2029
Germany has signed a contract with CureVac and its British partner GlaxoSmithKline for domestically produced mRNA vaccines to bolster supplies in case of public health emergencies, the German biotech firm said on Monday. The five-year contract allows for production of up to 80 million doses at short notice until 2029, CureVac said, adding that those doses could be for the remainder of the current pandemic or future outbreaks.
China labels U.S. concerns over COVID regulations 'groundless accusations'
China's foreign ministry expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with the United States late on Saturday after it raised concerns over China's coronavirus control measures. The U.S. State Department said on Friday that non-emergency staff at its Shanghai consulate and families of U.S. employees could leave due to a surge in COVID cases and coronavirus restrictions in the city. "We express strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the groundless accusations against China's pandemic prevention policy from the U.S. in its statement, and have lodged solemn representations," foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a statement.
Taiwan orders Pfizer's COVID-19 pill as infections rise
Taiwan has ordered 700,000 units of Pfizer's anti-viral COVID-19 pill Paxlovid, its health minister said on Monday, amid a steady increase in the number of infections as the government pledges to gradually reopen its borders. Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to strict and early control measures. But daily infections have been rising in recent weeks, with 439 new cases reported on Monday, the second highest daily increase this year.
WHO says it is analysing two new Omicron COVID sub-variants
The World Health Organization said on Monday it is tracking a few dozen cases of two new sub-variants of the highly transmissible Omicron strain of the coronavirus to assess whether they are more infectious or dangerous. It has added BA.4 and BA.5, sister variants of the original BA.1 Omicron variant, to its list for monitoring. It is already tracking BA.1 and BA.2 - now globally dominant - as well as BA.1.1 and BA.3. The WHO said it had begun tracking them because of their "additional mutations that need to be further studied to understand their impact on immune escape potential".
Maintaining Services
Heathrow, Gatwick Flight Status: Dozens Canceled Over Staff Shortages
Dozens of UK flights were cancelled on Monday as airlines continue to struggle with staff shortages. British Airways axed at least 64 domestic or European flights to or from Heathrow. Affected UK routes were between the west London airport and Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle. Among the international routes affected were services to and from Berlin, Dublin, Geneva, Paris and Stockholm. British Airways said passengers were given advanced warning of the cancellations.
Battery Giant CATL Isolates Workers to Avoid Covid Shutdown
Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., the world’s biggest maker of electric-vehicle batteries, has implemented a so-called closed loop for workers at its main factory in China in a bid to avoid the kind of Covid-19 shutdowns hurting Tesla Inc. and Volkswagen AG. Workers will be shuttled between their dormitories and the factory in Ningde, where an outbreak of Covid cases has prompted the local government to tighten prevention and control measures, the company, better known as CATL, said in a statement Sunday. “To ensure market supply to the best of our capabilities, we have adopted strict grid management measures for the orderly operation of the Ningde production base,” the company said.
Covid-19: Hospital and ambulance services struggle with huge demand and staff illness
Hospitals and ambulance services in England are facing “extreme pressures” and a high volume of staff absences, forcing some to declare critical incidents and others to warn of 12 hour waits for patients in hospital emergency departments. Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital and South Central Ambulance Service both declared critical incidents on 6 April, with the hospital warning, “Our beds are full and our emergency department remains full with patients requiring admission . . . We are only able to treat patients with life threatening conditions and injuries.”1 The ambulance service reported a “large volume of calls being received throughout the day and into the night and increased challenges in releasing some of our ambulances from busy acute hospitals
GM develops continuity plan amid China's COVID-19 outbreak
General Motors Co said it has developed a global continuity plan with its partners and suppliers to mitigate the uncertainty faced by the auto industry following China's COVID-19 outbreak. The Detroit-based automaker said it was on track to launch more than 20 new and refreshed models in the world's biggest auto market despite the pandemic's impact. The COVID-19 curbs introduced in China to fight the worst outbreak in two years caused auto sales in the country to plunge in March, with automakers like Tesla Inc feeling the pain of limits on production.
Germany may have to junk 3 million COVID shots by late June
Germany’s health ministry said that the country may have to discard 3 million doses of expired COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June. Ministry spokesman Hanno Kautz told reporters in Berlin that “not many doses” have been destroyed so far, though he couldn’t give an exact figure. But Kautz said that “we have more vaccine available at the moment than is being used and than we can donate.” He added that the U.N.-backed program to distribute shots to poorer countries, COVAX, isn’t currently accepting donations.
India extends COVID-19 boosters to all adults; some must pay
India began offering booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults on Sunday but limited free shots at government centers to front-line workers and people over age 60. The doses, which India is calling a “precautionary” shot instead of a booster, are available to people nine months after they receive their second jab, the Health Ministry said in a statement Friday. Those outside the two priority categories will need to pay for the shots at privately run facilities, the ministry said.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid nasal spray could replace vaccine jabs as scientists rethink fight against virus
As the omicron variant of the coronavirus moved lightning-fast around the world, it revealed an unsettling truth. The virus had gained a stunning ability to infect people, jumping from one person’s nose to the next. Cases soared this winter, even among vaccinated people. That is leading scientists to rethink their strategy about the best way to fight future variants, by aiming for a higher level of protection: blocking infections altogether. If they succeed, the next vaccine could be a nasal spray. The original coronavirus shots proved remarkably versatile, protecting people from the worst outcomes of Covid-19.
Heart issues after COVID-19 uncommon in children and young adults, more research needed
Heart complications are uncommon, yet treatable for children and young adults after COVID-19 disease or SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association that details what has been learned about how to treat, manage and even prevent cardiovascular complications from the SARS-CoV-2 virus in youth. The statement published today in the Association's flagship journal Circulation. The latest data also indicate returning to sports and strenuous physical activities after heart symptoms resolve is safe, though additional screening may be considered for youth who experience more severe symptoms.