"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th Apr 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai's COVID lockdown drags into 4th week, fears flicker Beijing could be next
Shanghai fences up COVID-hit areas, fuelling fresh outcry By Investing.com UKShanghai further tightens Covid restrictions after weeks of strict lockdownThe GuardianNerves Fray, Frustration Grows in Shanghai's Lockdown PurgatoryU.S. News & World ReportNerves fray, frustration grows in Shanghai's COVID-19 lockdown purgatoryCNAView Full coverage on Google News
Beijing locks down some areas as COVID-19 cases mount
Beijing will conduct mass testing of most of its 21 million people, authorities announced Monday, as a new COVID-19 outbreak sparked stockpiling of food by residents worried about the possibility of a Shanghai-style lockdown. The Chinese capital began mass testing people in one of its 16 districts where most of the new cases have been found. The city also imposed lockdowns on individual residential buildings and one section of the city. Late in the day, health officials said the testing would be expanded Tuesday to all but five outlying districts. While only 70 cases have been found since the outbreak surfaced Friday, authorities have rolled out strict measures under China’s “zero-COVID” approach to try to prevent a further spread of the virus. Some residents worked from home and many stocked up on food as a safeguard against the possibility that they could be confined indoors, as has happened in multiple cities, including the financial hub of Shanghai.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19: Karnataka to make wearing masks mandatory again
Karnataka Health Department on Monday said that wearing facemasks is mandatory as a preventive step to control the surge of Covid-19 cases.
Millions of COVID-19 shots set to go to waste, as vaccine rollout slows
While top U.S. health officials are urging some Americans to get yet another coronavirus booster shot, local health departments across the country are grappling with a growing dilemma -- how to address a declining demand for vaccines, while minimizing the waste of unused millions of doses currently in state stockpiles and at risk of expiring. Since the emergency use authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. last winter, federal data shows that states received a staggering 720 million doses, and more than 570 million of those shots have been administered.
Can you use an expired at-home Covid-19 test?
Rapid antigen Covid-19 tests, better known as home tests, have become more common in households across the country as supplies have increased. These tests are designed to give you results in less than 30 minutes from the comfort of your own home. But if you have several boxes of them stored away, perhaps left over from winter's Omicron surge or from the federal program that sends up to eight free tests to US households, you might wonder whether they're safe and accurate to use beyond the expiration date on the package.
Americans back flexible approach on masks, but eager to move on from COVID-Reuters/Ipsos
Most Americans support a flexible approach to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, with cities reimposing mask mandates when cases surge, even as a growing number are eager to get on with their lives, a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Friday found. The results of the two-day poll illustrate the balancing act facing U.S. officials - particularly President Joe Biden's Democrats - as they navigate a health crisis that will not go away. Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults - including 83% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans - said cities and states should impose mask mandates for indoor public places if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in their area, the poll found.
Beijing's biggest district begins COVID mass testing
Beijing residents snapped up food and other supplies as the city's biggest district began mass COVID-19 testing of all residents on Monday, prompting fears of a Shanghai-style lockdown after dozens of cases in the capital in recent days. Authorities in Chaoyang, home to 3.45 million people, late on Sunday ordered residents and those who work there to be tested three times this week as Beijing warned the virus had "stealthily" spread in the city for about a week before being detected.
Community Activities
Shanghai's Covid Experience May Affect How the Rest of China Sees the Pandemic
In recent days, the censorship machine within WeChat has come out. Last weekend, its biggest guns were aimed at a short six-minute clip called the “Voices of April.” It was a simple video showing the city skyline, with audio snippets of officials’ comments at press conferences and residents’ pleas for help. It seems to have touched on a sore subject: the overstretched Shanghai public health system. However, it was not something so sensational it deserved instantaneous censorship. When my friends tried to circumvent WeChat’s censor and share the video via various cloud services, their links were quickly blocked. By Saturday afternoon, people became so frustrated they started posting the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical Les Miserables. That got censored, too. But the word was out. And it matters that it is out in Shanghai. The city is not Xian, or northeastern Jilin province where local governments could just bury discontent. Shanghai is China’s commercial and cultural hub; its 25 million residents include native Shanghainese and more than 10 million from all over China. These are constantly in touch with their hometowns.
Eid al-Fitr events return to Birmingham after Covid-19 restrictions lifted
Large-scale celebrations at the end of Ramadan are returning to Birmingham after a two-year break caused by the pandemic. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and fasting. Before Covid-19 restrictions, an event in Birmingham's Small Heath park was among the largest in Europe, regularly attracting more than 60,000 people. It returns at the beginning of May, albeit with a reduced 20,000 capacity, with public health measures in place. Celebrations will also be held at Edgbaston Stadium for the first time. "Eid is a joyous occasion, where Muslims come together to celebrate, spend time with family and worship as a community," project manager Saleem Ahmed said.
What science journalism can't tell us about Covid-19 deaths
In the first piece of science journalism I ever wrote, I compared deciphering the effects of climate change to baking a cake. I was a college sophomore. This was homework. We were to read a study and then find an analogy for it, transforming what we found dizzying and technical into something easily imaginable. In my hands, an existential threat became dessert. I don’t remember exactly why I thought that computer models showing possible futures for an ocean inlet were best conveyed through recipes and increments of butter. But I do remember what (I think) the professor wanted us to remember: When an idea is hard to grasp — too big, too small, too abstruse, too abstract — liken it to something else. It’s so fundamental it’s almost a cliché, so prevalent it’s almost unnoticeable. We describe genes as blueprints, receptors and viruses as locks and keys. We take the measure of galaxies in celestial football fields.
Panic buying in Beijing as district starts mass COVID testing
Beijing residents snapped up food and other supplies as the city's biggest district began mass COVID-19 testing of all residents on Monday, prompting fears of a Shanghai-style lockdown after dozens of cases in the capital in recent days. Authorities in Chaoyang, home to 3.45 million people, late on Sunday ordered residents and those who work there to be tested three times this week as Beijing warned the virus had "stealthily" spread in the city for about a week before being detected.
OCA confident Asian Games will go ahead in September - official
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has requested an update from Beijing on the COVID-19 situation in China but remains confident the Asian Games will go ahead in Hangzhou in September, a senior official at the body told Reuters on Monday. The 19th edition of the multi-sports Games, second in size only to the Summer Olympics, is scheduled to take place from Sept. 10-25 in the capital of Zhejiang province, some 175 kilometres southwest of Shanghai. A media report last week quoted the OCA's director-general as saying that there was a possibility the Games would have to be postponed because of the month-long COVID-19 lockdown in China's financial capital
Working Remotely
71% of UK workers say work-from-home platforms cause distractions and mistakes
Far from solving the UK productivity and Great Resignation crisis – new research reveals that the overuse of collaboration tools like Teams and Zoom during the pandemic has led UK workers to make more mistakes, with younger age workers reporting these tools make them feel disengaged from their company and colleagues.
Don't Want To Go Back to the Office? Your Boss Might Cut You a Deal
The coronavirus pandemic introduced millions of Americans to the concept of working from home—and many are no longer keen on returning to the office full time. A Pew Research Center study released in February found that 61 percent of employees who were working from home were doing so by choice, rather than because their office had not reopened. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the majority were doing their job remotely because they had no other option. Some companies have also welcomed the shift in working practices to remote or hybrid models.
Survey asks people if they would relocate or change job in order to work remotely
Two years on from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers at NUI Galway have launched their latest bid to capture people’s experiences of remote working and their preferences heading into the future. The National Remote Working Survey for 2022 will be the third such annual survey undertaken since 2020 and the first since the lifting of restrictions which could have paved the way for a mass return to the office earlier this year. Professor Alma McCarthy, who co-leads the project, said that the way we work “has changed dramatically” since the pandemic and it is “timely to capture the trends, preferences and career choice impacts two years on”.
Virtual Classrooms
Free virtual production learning platform launched at NAB
On April 24, 2022, Zero Density announces the launch of a new online learning platform for creators of real-time broadcast graphics and virtual sets, “Zero Density Academy.” Featuring more than 50 in-depth video lessons, Zero Density Academy enables broadcasters to learn future-proof skills and earn a globally recognized certification — all for free.
More Canberra schools expected to go to remote learning in Term 2 as winter looms
More schools in Canberra are expected to switch to remote learning in Term 2 as all education systems brace for a winter COVID-19 wave. ACT public schools will have the toughest regulations when school returns, as Canberra's non-government schools and NSW schools loosen their restrictions.
Public Policies
Lockdown gatherings report is 'excoriating' for UK's Johnson-The Times
An independent report into lockdown gatherings held at Boris Johnson's Downing Street office and residence is "excoriating" for the British prime minister and will make things "incredibly difficult" for him, the Times said. Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, has been tasked with investigating the events and whether they broke lockdown rules set by Johnson. The publication of her report has been put on hold until the police complete their own inquiry.
North Korea: COVAX scraps the reclusive country's vaccine allocations
As mask mandates and social distancing requirements lift around the world, North Korea remains one of two countries that have not administered any coronavirus vaccines, with no sign of how it can ever begin to reopen despite a brewing humanitarian crisis for its people. The vaccines that were allocated for North Korea through a United Nations-backed global vaccination effort are no longer available, officials said this month, after Pyongyang repeatedly rejected the initiative’s offers of millions of doses. North Korea, already one of the most closed societies in the world, remains in a strict pandemic lockdown and has shuttered its borders except to a minimal level of trade with China, with grave implications for the health and food security of its population.
WHO backs Paxlovid for high-risk COVID patients
Paxlovid is an oral SARS-CoV-2 protease inhibitor called nirmatrelvir that is given with a low dose of the HIV antiviral drug ritonavir, which can boost the level of protease inhibitors. The drug combo is designed to be given at the first sign of illness and is taken twice a day for 5 days. In December, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the drug for emergency use. In a statement, the WHO said it based the recommendation on new data from two randomized controlled trials that included 3,078 patients, which suggested that Paxlovid can cut the risk of hospitalization by 85% among high-risk groups. The WHO said its recommendation applies to those who are at highest risk for severe disease, such as those who are unvaccinated, older, or immunocompromised. It added that data showed benefits were negligible in lower-risk patients. However, the WHO aired concerns about two obstacles for rollout of the drug to low- and middle-income countries. One is access to early testing and diagnosis, since the drug needs to be given in the earlier stages of infection. The WHO pointed to data that suggest average daily testing rates in lower-income countries are one-eightieth that of higher-income countries.
Maintaining Services
World's Biggest Vaccine Maker Serum Halts Production Over Millions of Unused Doses
Serum Institute of India Ltd., the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and a key supplier of Covid-19 inoculations to developing countries, has stopped making fresh batches of shots after its stockpile grew to 200 million doses amid a global supply glut. “We have got 200 million doses of stock. We had to shut down production in December,” Serum’s chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla said at the India Economic Conclave organized by Times Network on Friday, saying he was worried about wastage if the shots expired. “I have even offered to give free donations to whoever wanted to take it.”
Vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infection and related hospitalization
In the present study, the researchers estimated the effectiveness of two and three doses of COVID-19 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variant infection and related hospitalization. The study population comprised Denmark residents aged 12 years or older in a time period where either the Alpha, Delta, or Omicron variants were dominant. The team included only the first SARS-CoV-2 positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test of a participant. They obtained information on all laboratory-confirmed positive reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) results from the Danish microbiology database (MiBa). COVID-19-related hospitalization was defined as a new hospital admission lasting at least 12 hours, occurring within two days prior to or 14 days after the diagnosis with either the SARS-CoV-2 Alpha, Delta, or Omicron variant infection.
Covid-19 data reporting is becoming less frequent, making trends harder to track
Many states are scaling back on how often they report key Covid-19 statistics, a shift that some experts worry might hinder efforts to mitigate outbreaks and negative effects of the coronavirus. A year ago, all 50 states were reporting new Covid-19 cases on a daily basis. But that has gradually trailed off. This week, Pennsylvania will be the latest state to switch from daily to weekly updates, leaving just six states that will still be reporting new Covid-19 cases every day of the week. About half of states now report just once a week, with Florida down to every two weeks.
China Covid Shock Sees Beijing Consider Risky Debt Option Again
China has signaled a willingness to allow local governments to increase off-balance sheet debt again after a crackdown in recent years to bring it under control. The People’s Bank of China said last week that banks should meet the “reasonable funding needs” of local government financing vehicles, or LGFVs, and not “blindly” suspend or withdraw loans from the companies. The measures were one of 23 listed by the central bank to help boost lending and support industries battered by Covid outbreaks and lockdowns. While Beijing still remains committed to debt control, the economy’s slump is forcing policy makers to ease up on some restrictions. To bolster growth, local governments have been instructed to boost investment in infrastructure, but since they face a cash crunch because of a property market slump, many will need financial help from LGFVs.
Healthcare Innovations
Effect of nations' COVID restrictions on mental health varied by type, group
An international team led by a Simon Fraser University researcher in Canada assessed the stringency of daily public health policies using the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker and psychological distress and life evaluations using the Imperial College London-YouGov COVID 19 Behaviour Tracker Global Survey. Respondents from 15 countries were tracked from Apr 27, 2020, to Jun 28, 2021, when most participants weren't fully vaccinated. They completed the four-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-4) and the single-question Cantril Ladder every 2 weeks. Included countries were Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The researchers also studied a subset of the Nordic countries, with Sweden following a mitigation strategy, and Denmark, Finland, and Norway adopting an elimination approach. Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea pursued a COVID-elimination strategy, while the remainder took a mitigation approach.
Unvaccinated people increase risk of COVID-19 infection among vaccinated: new study
Even with high immunization rates, unvaccinated people threaten the safety of people vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, suggests a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. “We’ve really tended to forget that we’re in a pandemic of a communicable disease, which means that our actions affect those around us,” Dr. David Fisman, the study’s coauthor and professor of epidemiology at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, told Global News.
Only 29% of UK Covid hospital patients recover within a year
Fewer than one in three people who have been hospitalised with Covid-19 have fully recovered a year after they succumbed to infection. That is the shock finding of a survey into the impact of long Covid in the UK. The team of scientists and doctors at Leicester University also found that women had poorer recovery rates than men after hospitalisation, while obesity was also likely to hinder a person’s prospects of health improvements. Among the symptoms reported by patients a year after their initial infection were fatigue, muscle pain, poor sleep and breathlessness. “Given that more than 750,000 people have been hospitalised in the UK with Covid-19 over the past two years, it is clear from our research that the legacy of this disease is going to be huge,” said Rachael Evans, one of the study’s authors.