"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 28th Apr 2022

Isolation Tips
Financial lobby group urges Shanghai to ease COVID rules for staff stuck in offices
A leading lobby group for global financial services firms has urged Shanghai authorities to let hundreds of exhausted staff go home after a month-long strict COVID-19 lockdown that has kept them in office buildings. The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) in a letter dated April 26 urged the authorities to let financial firms rotate staff who need to work from offices.
Beijing enforces lockdowns, expands COVID-19 mass testing
Police and new fencing restricted who could leave a locked-down area in Beijing on Tuesday as authorities in the Chinese capital stepped up efforts to prevent a major COVID-19 outbreak like the one that has all but shut down the city of Shanghai. People lined up for throat swabs across much of Beijing as mass testing was expanded to 11 of the city’s 16 districts. Another 22 cases were found in the last 24 hours, Beijing health officials said at a late afternoon news conference, bringing the total to 92 since the outbreak was discovered five days ago. That is tiny in comparison to Shanghai, where the number of cases has topped 500,000 and at least 190 people have died. No deaths have been reported from the still-nascent outbreak in Beijing.
Hygiene Helpers
Turkey ready to lift all COVID-19 measures, Erdogan says
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey is ready to lift all measures against the coronavirus, adding that mask wearing will no longer be obligatory indoors. Speaking after the final meeting of the advisory science council, Erdogan said masks will still be mandated on public transport and in medical institutions until daily new cases drop below 1,000. Turkey had previously lifted the requirement to wear masks outdoors and in indoor areas with good ventilation.
Malaysia to lift more COVID curbs, eases mask mandate
Malaysia will ease more COVID-19 curbs from the start of next month, including lifting restrictions on those who are not vaccinated against the coronavirus and scrapping the need to wear masks outdoors, its health minister said. The Southeast Asian nation has seen some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the region, but infection surges have since subsided amid a ramped up vaccination programme. Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Wednesday people will now be able to enter public premises regardless of their vaccination status, except those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or unvaccinated travellers undergoing quarantine.
China's Hangzhou, Home to Alibaba, to Start Mass Covid Testing
The Chinese city of Hangzhou, home to tech giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., will start mass testing for Covid-19, while cases in Shanghai fell for a fifth day. The testing drive will cover most of Hangzhou’s downtown area, with 10,000 free test sites to be set up, the municipal government said in a statement late Wednesday. It urged residents to get tested every 48 hours. Just a short train ride from Shanghai, the city of around 12 million people is home to a small but notable network of tech companies, including games maker NetEase Inc. and video-surveillance product company Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co.
England Covid-19 Cases: 70% of Country Has Been Infected
Around seven in 10 people in England are likely to have had coronavirus since the early months of the pandemic, new figures suggest. An estimated 38.5 million people in private households - or 70.7% of the population - have had at least one infection since the end of April 2020. The figures have been compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using data from its long-running Covid-19 infection survey. The survey began in England on April 27 2020, which means the estimates do not cover most of the initial wave of the virus that began in early March.
EU estimates up to 80% of population has had COVID
The European Commission said that between 60% and 80% of the EU population was estimated to have been infected with COVID-19, as the bloc enters a post-emergency phase in which mass reporting of cases was no longer necessary. In preparing for this less acute phase, European Union governments should ramp up COVID-19 immunisations of children, the bloc's executive body said, signallingit was considering plans to develop antivirals.
Japan to limit scope of fourth jabs to older people and those at higher risk
In Japan, the health ministry adopted a plan Wednesday to limit eligibility for fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines to those age 60 or over, as well as those who are age 18 or over with underlying conditions. Arrangements for fourth doses, positioned as part of a publicly funded emergency vaccination program, are aimed at preventing people from developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Under the program, those age 60 or older will be obliged to make efforts to receive fourth vaccine shots.
Australians urged to get flu shots as Covid deaths rise and winter sets in
Australians have been urged to get their flu vaccinations to help hospitals cope in the months ahead as they deal with a rise in Covid-19 cases, and as some states experience double-digit daily death tolls. At least 42 coronavirus deaths were recorded on Wednesday in Australia, with 10 in New South Wales, 13 in Victoria, 10 in Western Australia and nine in Queensland. There were 4,027 Covid deaths nationally in the first quarter of 2022, data from the Actuaries Institute shows, including 1,668 in January, 1,520 in February and 839 in March. So far in April there have been 770 deaths.
Hangzhou Starts Mass Covid Tests; Shanghai Cases Drop
The Chinese city of Hangzhou, home to tech giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., will start mass testing for Covid-19, while cases in Shanghai fell for a fifth day. The testing drive will cover most of Hangzhou’s downtown area, with 10,000 free test sites to be set up, the municipal government said in a statement late Wednesday. It urged residents to get tested every 48 hours. Just a short train ride from Shanghai, the city of around 12 million people is home to a small but notable network of tech companies, including games maker NetEase Inc. and video-surveillance product company Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co.
Shanghai seeks ‘societal zero COVID’ with rounds of testing
Shanghai city authorities said Wednesday they will start rounds of COVID-19 testing over the next few days to determine which neighborhoods can safely be allowed a limited amount of freedom of movement, as residents in Beijing watch carefully on word for whether the capital city will lock down. On Wednesday, China reported 14,222 new cases, the vast majority of which were asymptomatic. The country is battling its largest outbreak since the pandemic was first reported in Wuhan in late December 2019. Shanghai’s vice head of its health committee, Zhao Dandan, announced Wednesday that the city would begin another round of testing for city residents over the next few days to determine which districts were lower risk.
Community Activities
Covid Zero Criticism Is New Test for China Censorship
It began when state media accounts on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent, promoted the hashtag “The U.S. is the country with the largest human-rights deficit.” Tens of thousands of Chinese internet users turned the accusation around onto Beijing. They criticized not only China’s Covid response of strict stay-at-home orders and minimal financial support for households but also wider social problems: long working hours, high property prices, violence against women, and censorship itself. “Our doors are locked down. Our pets are killed. Our medical resources are wasted so that people with acute illness can’t be treated,” wrote one poster. “The American government is so horrible, I’m so lucky to be born in China,” read a typically ironic post.
Transparency urged to raise COVID-19 vaccine uptake
Issues around vaccine acceptance must be addressed alongside equity of access and logistics if the goal of vaccinating 70% of the world's population against COVID-19 is to be met, says a report by global health policy experts. Emerging causes of so-called "vaccine hesitancy," described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines," should be monitored continually in order to better understand the problem, according to the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP).
Dutch celebrate first King's Day holiday without COVID curbs since 2019
The city streets around the Netherlands streamed with festival-goers wearing orange on Wednesday in celebration of the national holiday King's Day in traditional fashion -- with music and open-air markets -- for the first time since 2019, without COVID-19 restrictions. King Willem-Alexander, who turns 55 on Wednesday and whom the holiday celebrates, was visiting the southern city of Maastricht with his family, keeping a promise that had been postponed for two years due to the pandemic. In Amsterdam, where Kings' Eve is a party comparable to New Year's Eve, the streets of the historic centre have been mobbed with tens of thousands of celebrants since late Tuesday.
Working Remotely
How the best companies to work for are thriving despite the Great Resignation
Caring about employees as people and being flexible to their needs has been key for companies on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list as they adapt to a new work culture thanks to the pandemic. Leaders from four of the companies who made this year’s list were joined by Michael Bush, chief executive officer at the Great Place to Work Institute, and Fortune CEO Alan Murray for a call to discuss best practices that helped them retain employees through the Great Resignation and other challenges.
'Bossware is coming for almost every worker': the software you might not realize is watching you
A survey last September of 1,250 US employers found 60% with remote employees are using work monitoring software of some type, most commonly to track web browsing and application use. And almost nine out of 10 of the companies said they had terminated workers after implementing monitoring software. The number and array of tools now on offer to continuously monitor employees’ digital activity and provide feedback to managers is remarkable.
Employers can make remote working a success by listening to research
Early in 2020, workers around the world were plunged into a new reality of remote working. In doing so, they also participated in a series of unexpected global experiments: social scientists have spent much of the past two years analysing what happens when face-to-face exchanges are replaced by online meetings. And their results are starting to come in. The pandemic has taught the world about hybrid working. Now, there’s growing evidence for employers to use when deciding about the future work environment.
Brainstorming on Zoom Hampers Creativity
For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant no more commutes, no more showering, no more putting on pants—just virtual meeting after virtual meeting. Some research shows this adjustment might not impact workplace productivity to any great degree. A new study, though, suggests otherwise. The research, published today in Nature, found that video calls, as opposed to in-person meetings, reduce creative collaboration and the generation of novel ideas. The results indicate that while the mental cogs keep running more or less smoothly when working remotely, group innovation might be hindered.
Virtual Classrooms
Reopening With Resilience: Lessons from remote learning during COVID-19 - Eastern and Southern Africa
The widespread school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the learning crisis for children living in Eastern and Southern Africa. The crisis has also shown the great need to develop resilient education systems that can provide learning when schools are forced to close. Understanding how to provide remote learning equitably utilizing multiple modalities and emphasizing low-tech solutions in Eastern and Southern Africa is critical given the great challenges facing the region in terms of electricity and connectivity access.
Public Policies
CDC Data Plan Is Too Vague, Lacks Deadlines, U.S. Watchdog Says
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s plan to modernize its data operations is too vague, lacks deadlines and doesn’t assign clear responsibility for completing the project, a government watchdog said in a report. The CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative was launched in 2020 as part of a broader push to overhaul the country’s public health information systems and improve capacity to respond to threats like Covid-19. While the pandemic pushed some of those efforts into high speed, the Government Accountability Office report said that the agency’s overall plan “does not articulate the specific actions, time frames, and allocation of roles and responsibilities needed to achieve its objectives.” And while the CDC has been given $1.1 billion to move ahead with its data plans, the agency had yet to fully lay out plans for spending the money, according to the GAO, the investigational arm of Congress.
Covid News: Vaccines for Young Children Delayed by Incomplete Data, F.D.A. Official Says
The Food and Drug Administration has not yet cleared a coronavirus vaccine for children under 5 because the vaccine manufacturers have not finished their applications for authorization to distribute doses, a top official at the agency suggested on Tuesday. The official — Dr. Peter Marks, who oversees vaccine regulation for the F.D.A. — said the agency will release a schedule this week for outside expert review of vaccines for the nation’s 18 million children younger than 5. That is the only age group still not eligible for coronavirus vaccination. Despite growing pressure, including from Congress, the F.D.A. might not rule on whether to authorize a pediatric vaccine dose for that group until June, administration officials have said.
Court says UK's nursing home COVID-19 policy was illegal
A British court ruled Wednesday that the government’s decision to discharge hospital patients into nursing homes without testing them for COVID-19, which led to thousands of deaths early in the pandemic, was illegal. Two High Court judges said the policy from March and April 2020 was unlawful because it failed to take into account the infection risk that non-symptomatic carriers of the virus posed to older or vulnerable people. The judges said officials did not consider other options, including keeping such patients separate from other nursing home residents for a time as much as practically possible. “This was not a binary question – a choice between on the one hand doing nothing at all, and on the other hand requiring all newly admitted residents to be quarantined,” the judges said. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit by two women whose fathers died when the virus swept through the homes where they lived. Their lawyers said the decisions that allowed COVID-19 to spread among the elderly and vulnerable was “one of the most egregious and devastating policy failures in the modern era.”
New Zealand High Court finds quarantine allocation system infringed on rights
New Zealand's once lauded COVID-19 response took a hit on Wednesday, when a High Court judge ruled a system used to allocate places in border quarantine facilities infringed on some citizens' right to return home. Citizens looking to return had to either make emergency requests to the government or secure a spot in state quarantine facilities, called MIQ. Due to demand outstripping hotel rooms, a type of lottery system was introduced. It left tens of thousands of expatriate New Zealanders cut off from families back home. Critics called the system unfair, something that the judgement released Wednesday by High Court Justice Jillian Mallon agreed with. Mallon said restrictions preventing a person from being able to enter their country for three months couldn't be justified and evidence indicates at least some New Zealanders experienced unreasonable delays.
Maintaining Services
U.S. to widen COVID antiviral pill distribution
Pfizer's COVID-19 pill Paxlovid is packaged in Ascoli. U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is aiming to expand access to COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments like Pfizer Inc's Paxlovid by doubling the number of locations at which they are available, the White House said on Tuesday. Pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy program for distributing antiviral treatments will be able to order the free treatments directly from the U.S. government starting this week. Currently, pharmacies depend on states to obtain the pills. The government sends the treatments to select pharmacies, as well as directly to states and community centers. Under the current system, the treatments are available in around 20,000 locations. The administration expects to boost their direct distribution to more than 30,000 locations soon and reach 40,000 sites over the coming weeks, the White House said. "Treatments are really the next phase of this pandemic, where we have to make the treatments, these highly effective treatments, widely available," Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said in an interview on CNN. Demand for Paxlovid has been unexpectedly light due to complicated eligibility requirements, reduced COVID testing, and potential for drug interactions.
Satellite Data Show Extent of China's Crippling Lockdowns
Chinese port activity fell below levels seen during the first coronavirus outbreak in 2020 and construction has plummeted, satellite data show, suggesting official economic figures will likely worsen as Covid lockdowns spread. Satellite images are becoming an important real-time data tool to measure the impact of China’s worst coronavirus outbreak since 2020. Official numbers are released only monthly, and are increasingly coming under scrutiny as Beijing sticks to its ambitious growth target of about 5.5% even though its Covid Zero approach has forced major hubs like Shanghai to shut down. New York-based SpaceKnow, which tracks activity at more than 1,300 factories from space, said manufacturing output remained strong through the lockdowns in March and early April, although inventories are building up. That’s likely a sign of logistical snarls as coronavirus restrictions cause major disruptions and shortages of trucks able to move goods to ports and around the country.
Healthcare Innovations
Measles cases jump 79% in 2022 after COVID hit vaccination campaigns
Measles cases jumped by 79% in the first two months of this year compared to 2021, after COVID-19 and lockdowns disrupted child vaccination campaigns around the world, according to data from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). In January and February, there were 17,338 measles cases reported worldwide, up from 9,665 in the same period last year. Measles is a very contagious disease that can be particularly dangerous for young children and babies. It spreads more quickly than Ebola, flu or COVID-19.
More than half of Americans have had Covid, including three of four children
More than half of Americans show signs of a previous Covid-19 infection, including three out of every four children, according to a new report released on Tuesday. The findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) come after researchers examined blood samples from more than 200,000 Americans and looked for virus-fighting antibodies made from infections, not vaccines. They found that signs of past infection rose dramatically between December and February, when the more contagious Omicron variant surged through the US.