"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 14th Apr 2022

Isolation Tips
China Flirts With Shorter Quarantines for Overseas Arrivals Amid Shanghai Covid Outbreak
China is moving tentatively forward with a plan to test shortened quarantines for international arrivals as it seeks to gradually open up and ease the economic damage wrought by strict Covid-19 control policies, even as the country’s financial capital struggles to contain a major outbreak. International travelers arriving in eight pilot cities will be subject to 10 days of quarantine in a designated facility, followed by seven days of self monitoring at home, according to a copy of a document issued by China’s cabinet, the State Council, that has circulated widely on Chinese social media and was verified by people who have seen the original.
Shanghai releases more from virus observation amid lockdown
Shanghai released 6,000 more people from the central facilities where they were under medical observation to guard against the coronavirus, the government said Wednesday, though the lockdown of most of China’s largest city was continuing in its third week. About 6.6 million people in the city of 25 million were allowed to leave their homes Tuesday, but some were restricted to their own neighborhoods. Some housing compounds also appeared to still be keeping residents locked inside, and no further lifting of restrictions was apparent Wednesday. Officials warn that Shanghai still doesn’t have its latest surge in cases of the omicron variant under control, despite its “zero-tolerance” approach that has seen some residents confined to their homes for three weeks or longer.
Hygiene Helpers
Vaccines have halved Italy's COVID-19 death toll, study shows
Vaccines against COVID-19 have roughly halved the death toll from the disease in Italy, preventing some 150,000 fatalities and 8 million cases last year, the National Health Institute (ISS) estimated on Wednesday. The ISS study, which ran from the start of 2021 until the end of January this year, concluded the inoculation campaign also prevented more than 500,000 hospitalisations and over 55,000 admissions to intensive care. Italy has registered 161,032 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world.
Transportation Mask Mandate to Be Extended 15 Days
Passengers will be required to wear masks on airplanes and other forms of transportation through May 3 as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looks to evaluate whether rising Covid-19 case numbers will lead to more hospitalizations, the CDC said. The Transportation Security Administration’s directive requiring masks was set to expire after April 18 but is being extended another 15 days. The recent rise in newly reported Covid-19 cases in parts of the country, fueled by the Omicron BA.2 variant, has complicated efforts to topple one of the most visible and persistent remnants of pandemic restrictions. The extension will give additional time for the CDC to learn more about BA.2, the latest Covid-19 variant, and make an informed decision, the CDC said. Since early April, there have been increases in the seven-day moving average of cases in the U.S. and the extension will help the CDC assess the potential impact of the uptick on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and healthcare-system capacity, the CDC said.
Study finds a consistent temporal association between mask use and COVID-19 vaccination status
The CRP study was carried out from April 2020 to June 2021 and is a prospective, multi-site cohort syndromic COVID-19 surveillance study of participants from ten healthcare settings in the mid-Atlantic and south-eastern USA. Participants were contacted via email or text and provided with surveys regarding their exposure to COVID-19, any COVID-19-related symptoms, and mask use. “Yes,” “No,” or “No interactions” were used to report the participant’s mask use. The study inclusion criteria consisted of: 18 years or older, enrolled by December 2020, and daily surveys needed to be completed ≥ 5 times a month. In this study, for a participant to be considered vaccinated, they needed to have received at least one dose of vaccine by August 31st, 2021.
COVID-19: Shanghai firefighters use drones to deliver medicine to people in lockdown
Amid a lockdown in China's most populous city, firefighters have used drones to deliver medicines to people in contactless fashion. Around 25,000 new cases were reported in the city on Monday.
The CDC’s new Covid-19 guidelines are facing their first test
In late February, the CDC made big changes to its recommendations for monitoring and responding to Covid-19 surges. Now, as US cases are once more on the rise, these recommendations face their first test. But how will we know if they are working? The hard truth, several public health experts tell Vox, is that determining whether they are effective will be difficult. Even in the best-case scenario, where institutions follow the guidelines and the latest wave recedes, it would be hard to prove that the CDC’s framework deserves the credit.
Community Activities
Delta Air Lines drops surcharge for unvaccinated employees
Delta Air Lines has dropped a $200 per month surcharge that it had been levying against unvaccinated employees who were on the company’s health plan. “We have dropped as of this month the additional insurance surcharge given the fact that we really do believe that the pandemic has moved to a seasonal virus,” CEO Ed Bastian said on a call Wednesday with analysts and reporters. “Any employees that haven’t been vaccinated will not be paying extra insurance costs going forward.” U.S. airlines tried different approaches to get employees vaccinated against COVID-19, including a mandate by United Airlines, which ended up dismissing about 200 employees. Delta was the only one to impose an insurance surcharge, and it credited the move with helping get more than 90% of its U.S.-based workers vaccinated.
COVID-19: Emotions released as New Zealand eases border restrictions for first time in two years
Border restrictions for New Zealand have eased, with residents, visa holders and Australians now able to enter quarantine-free after two years. Other travellers will be allowed easy access from next month.
Covid Cancellations Hit Broadway as BA.2 Variant Spreads
Covid is wreaking havoc on stage, again. Broadway’s “Plaza Suite” has extended its run to allow for ticket rescheduling after stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick both tested positive. It was put on pause through April 13. “Americano” will resume April 18 and has set a new opening night for May 1. Performances of “At The Wedding” will resume April 18, with “Paradise Square” returning April 19. “A Strange Loop” pushed its opening to April 14. And “Heartland” canceled all remaining performances after Covid spread throughout its company.
Working Remotely
Return to the Office? Managers Shouldn’t Overstate the Benefits
Managers who would like remote workers to return to the office are frustrated. The winter Covid-19 pandemic surge is over, yet nine out of 10 people working remotely would like to continue to do so at least some of the time. Workers in the major U.S. cities say they plan to cut their time in the office by half from prepandemic levels and office occupancy rates remain low. To persuade more workers to return, a number of prominent executives have stepped up their critiques of work-from-home arrangements and doubled down on pro-office evangelism.
Majority of public sector workers want to keep flexible working, research shows
Three quarters of public sector workers would be more likely to stay in a job that allowed remote or hybrid working, a study has found. The report, published by the Open University and Public Sector Executive (PSE), said hybrid or remote working made organisations more attractive across the public sector, with 73 per cent of those polled saying they’d be more likely to stay in a job that offered this. This increased to nine out of 10 in the government and local authorities sector.
Only 10% of remote workers have claimed working from home relief
Over €171 million remains unclaimed by Irish taxpayers for Remote Working Relief alone over the last two years. Only 10 per cent of remote Irish workers have availed of this tax relief to date, according to tax-back specialists, Irish Tax Rebates. The Revenue Commissioners of Ireland have confirmed that only 58,157 claims have been received for working from home relief for 2021 at a value of €10.1 million, compared to 93,000 Working from Home claims in 2020 at a value of €13 million.
Virtual Classrooms
Is Tech Destroying Kids' Social Skills? Here's How Social-Emotional Learning Can Help
Technology’s effect on children’s social skills and well-being has caused a lot of hand-wringing over the years—and parents’ and educators’ concerns have only grown with the pandemic as students have done more socializing and learning on their digital devices. Social media, virtual learning, online gaming, and ubiquitous devices present new social challenges for kids. So, what social-emotional skills do they need to flourish in an increasingly tech-centric world, and are schools teaching them?
Will virtual teaching become the new normal in UK independent education?
New research suggests more than a quarter of independent school teachers in the UK would consider virtual teaching permanently. Specialist education insurer Ecclesiastical has released research which suggests 28% of independent school teachers in the UK would consider taking on a virtual role permanently in the future. The survey also found that a third of independent school teachers have seen an increase in virtual roles being advertised and two in five are more concerned about falling behind technological changes since the pandemic. Nine in 10 respondents said that their schools has invested in more technology since the pandemic.
Public Policies
Greece to lift most remaining coronavirus measures
Greece’s health minister announced Wednesday that most remaining coronavirus measures will be lifted over the next couple of months until the end of August, including the use of vaccine certificates for access to certain services and the mandatory use of masks indoors. Health Minister Thanos Plevris said the need for vaccine certificates or negative COVID-19 tests will be lifted from May 1 to Aug. 31, and would be re-evaluated on Sept. 1. The use of masks indoors will no longer be mandatory as of June 1
US renews COVID-19 public health emergency
The United States on Wednesday renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency, allowing millions of Americans to keep getting free tests, vaccines and treatments for at least three more months. The public health emergency was initially declared in January 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began. It has been renewed each quarter since and was due to expire on April 16. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a statement said it was extending the public health emergency and that it will give states 60 days notice prior to termination or expiration. This could be the last time HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra extends it, policy experts have said.
Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine Nuvaxovid gets conditional approval in Switzerland
Novavax said Swissmedic granted conditional marketing authorization to its COVID-19 vaccine Nuvaxovid for individuals 18 years of age and older.The company said
IMF board approves new trust to help members deal with climate change, pandemics
The International Monetary Fund's executive board on Wednesday approved creation of a new facility to help low-income and most middle-income countries deal with longer-term challenges such as climate change and pandemics. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva announced approval of the new Resilience and Sustainability Trust in a statement after the board meeting, and said it would take effect from May 1, with a goal of raising at least $45 billion. She said the trust would amplify the impact of last year's $650 billion allocation of IMF Special Drawing Rights by allowing richer members to channel their emergency reserves to allow vulnerable countries to address longer-term challenges that threatened their economic stability.
Maintaining Services
Diversifying supply chains from China 'probably good for everyone' -World Bank chief
Countries around the world are working to diversify their supply chains and reduce their dependence on China, which is "probably good for everyone," World Bank President David Malpass said on Tuesday. Malpass said cross-border trade would remain important to the global economy, and China - already the world's second largest economy and likely to become the largest - had a big role to play as both a consumer and producer of goods. But, speaking at an event in Warsaw, he said China also needed to be part of a value system shared by other countries in the global trading system, and added, "I don't know that that will happen."
Mexico plans vaccinations for more children, presses for COVAX doses
Mexico will vaccinate more children against COVID-19, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday, urging global health authorities to deliver the doses it had ordered for the purpose. Mexico last year began inoculating some at-risk children, and children with disabilities, but has so far held back from rolling out a broader vaccination program for minors. Lopez Obrador said he was awaiting doses under the COVAX program, run by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).
Fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine available in the NT, as testing rules ease for those recovering from the virus
In Australia, a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is now available to eligible Territorians, Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles has announced. The dose is recommended as an extra booster shot for vulnerable people who are at greatest risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.
Coronavirus: Pupil Covid absence rate falls to lowest level
In Northern Ireland, the number of school pupils absent due to Covid-19 has fallen to its lowest level of the 2021/22 school year. That is according to attendance data provided by schools and published by the Department of Education (DE). In the last full week before most schools broke up for Easter only 1 in every 200 pupils (0.5%) was off sick with Covid-19. However, pupil absences for other reasons are higher than they were pre-pandemic.
How accurate are COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, and when is the best time to use them?
Rapid antigen tests, better known as RATs, have become an important tool in Australia's arsenal against COVID-19. While PCR tests are still available, many of us have turned to rapid tests out of convenience or as part of a requirement to return to work or school. RATs can provide results within minutes, but they also have their limitations: they're less accurate, cost money (unlike PCRs, which are free), and can provide false negative or false positive results.
More Taiwan firms suspend production in China as COVID spreads
More than 30 Taiwan companies, many making electronics parts, said on Wednesday that government COVID-19 control measures in eastern China had led them to suspend production until at least next week, as disruption from the measures spreads. China has put Shanghai under a tight lockdown since late March and neighbouring Kunshan has also tightened curbs to control the country's biggest COVID-19 outbreak since the coronavirus was discovered in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan. Global companies, from mobile phone to chip makers, are highly dependent on China and Southeast Asia for production and have been diversifying their supply chains after the pandemic caused havoc.
Healthcare Innovations
CDC study highlights effectiveness of COVID-19 booster vaccination against reinfection and hospitalization
SARS-CoV-2, the causative pathogen of COVID-19 pandemic, is a deadly member of the human beta-coronavirus family. The virus has so far caused more than 497 million infections and 6.1 million deaths worldwide. Among various variants of SARS-CoV-2, the most recently emerged omicron variant has been found to have high immune evasion ability, leading to a global rise in breakthrough infections. There is real-world evidence indicating that previous SARS-CoV-2 infection could provide 90% protection against reinfection and related hospitalization. However, because of the immune evasion potency of the omicron variant, a considerable reduction in infection-mediated protection has been observed globally during the omicron-dominated wave. In the current study, the scientists have estimated the effectiveness of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines in providing protection against reinfection-related hospitalization among previously infected adult individuals.
Researchers developing Covid vaccine for immunocompromised people
A couple months before the pandemic started, Joseph Ford started experiencing a rash of pinpoint polka dots around his lips, ankles, and lower legs. They were itchy, inflamed, painful, and, for him, the first signs of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “Petechiae,” he explained. Just as he was starting to deal with that, Covid-19 changed the world. “Go home and stay there,” Ford, a 77-year-old retired librarian in Tumwater, Wash., recalled a physician telling him as Covid hollowed out society. “You won’t survive a Covid infection.” That advice has largely remained unchanged over the last two years for the millions who, like Ford, are immunocompromised and haven’t produced adequate — or any — antibodies from the Covid-19 vaccines. But researchers at the University Hospital Tübingen are designing a vaccine to elicit a deeper T cell response than the currently approved vaccines by targeting several key points on viral proteins — epitopes — that are good at stirring up immune T cells.
Convalescent plasma use reduces hospitalisation in unvaccinated COVID-19 patients
Convalescent plasma use in people unvaccinated against COVID-19 significantly reduced the need for hospitalisation due to disease progression, according to a US study. Convalescent plasma (CP) use in people unvaccinated against COVID-19 within 9 days of symptom onset, led to a significant reduction in the proportion of individuals requiring hospital admission due to disease progression. This was the conclusion of a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial by a multidisciplinary group of researchers from New York, US.
Nearly 86% of U.S. COVID caused by BA.2 Omicron subvariant -CDC
The BA.2 Omicron subvariant of the coronavirus is now responsible for 86% of U.S. COVID-19 cases and more than 90% of infections in the Northeast, according to data on Tuesday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COVID-19 infections have been back on the rise during the last few weeks, particularly in Northeast states such as New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, although overall cases have dropped sharply nationally since hitting record levels in January, according to data from the agency. A resurgence in COVID-19 cases in parts of Asia and Europe has raised concerns that another wave could follow in the United States, as has been the case with previous surges during the pandemic.