"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 5th May 2022

Isolation Tips
Beijing Halts Public Transport As China Continues To Fight Covid
Dozens of metro stations and bus routes in Beijing have been shut down as COVID continues to spread and millions of residents in Shanghai still remain under strict lockdown even after more than a month. China's capital city Beijing has shut more than 40 subway stations, about a tenth of the network, and 158 bus routes, service providers said. Most of the suspended stations and routes are in the Chaoyang district, the epicentre of Beijing's outbreak, reported The Express Tribune. Beijing is also resorting to mass testing. Twelve out of 16 Beijing districts were conducting the second of three rounds of tests this week, having done three mass screenings last week.
Beijing reopens mass isolation centre in fight against Covid
Beijing has reopened a mass isolation centre as authorities seek to contain an outbreak of Covid-19 in the city. The Xiaotangshan Fangcai hospital, which holds at least 1,200 beds and testing facilities, was first opened during the 2003 Sars epidemic, and used again in early 2020 to treat Covid patients. Its reopening signals a ramp up in efforts by China’s capital to manage the rising number of cases without going into a city-wide lockdown. On Wednesday, China reported 5,489 cases, including 353 symptomatic. Most (4,982) were in Shanghai, which has been under a weeks-long lockdown sparking widespread complaints and protests over food shortages and overzealous enforcement. Beijing reported 46 symptomatic cases and five asymptomatic on Wednesday, bringing the city’s total since the start of its Omicron outbreak to about 400.
Hygiene Helpers
U.S. CDC says travelers should still wear masks on airplanes
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday recommended travelers continue to wear masks in airplanes, trains and airports despite a judge's April 18 order declaring the 14-month-old transportation mask mandate unlawful. The CDC said it based its recommendation on current COVID-19 conditions and spread as well as the protective value of masks.
Hong Kong to Open Up as Shanghai, Beijing Stick to China's Covid Zero Plan
Article reports that as Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Beijing stick ever more closely to Covid Zero principles, no matter the economic cost, Hong Kong is methodically moving toward opening up to the rest of the world. On Tuesday, the government brought forward a plan to ease social distancing rules, allowing people to go mask-free when exercising outdoors and doubling the maximum number of diners per table to eight. That came two days after Hong Kong ended a two-year ban on visits by all non-residents and eased some restrictions on inbound flights. The moves reflect a broader push by influential figures in the city to focus on retaining Hong Kong’s appeal as an international financial hub, particularly as President Xi Jinping’s rigid Covid Zero strategy leaves little prospect of opening the land border with the mainland.
Three new Covid Omicron subvariants detected in Australia
Three new Omicron subvariants have reached Australia and health authorities say people who contract the virus should wait three months before getting their next Covid-19 vaccination. Assoc Prof Stuart Turville from the University of New South Wales’ Kirby Institute says Omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 have been detected in the country. Authorities are warning this winter season is likely to see a spike in Covid-19 cases and flu as restrictions which have suppressed the circulation of both viruses are phased out.
Community Activities
China censors more economists after critical takes on zero-Covid
More outspoken economists and prominent investors are being silenced on social media in China as Beijing tightens its grip on online speech amid mounting economic pressure and growing controversies surrounding its zero-Covid policy. The public accounts of Hong Hao, who was head of research at Bank of Communications (Bocom) International Holdings were removed from both WeChat and the Twitter-like Weibo service on Saturday. Hong had more than 3 million followers on Weibo. It was unclear which red line the economist had crossed.
Fewer than 1 in 5 US parents say they'll get Covid-19 vaccines for kids under 5 as soon as they can, survey finds
US children under 5 are getting closer to authorized Covid-19 vaccines, but most parents may be reluctant to actually get them when they become available, a new survey found. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's Vaccine Monitor survey, published Wednesday, only 18% of parents of children under 5 said they would vaccinate their child against Covid-19 as soon as a vaccine was available.
Working Remotely
The Future of Work Isn't Fancy Tech. It's Remote Work and Smarter Management
The days of every employee working full time in a shared office are gone, and workers know it. Eighty percent of workers in a survey from Citrix and OnePoll said it was important they be able to do their jobs from anywhere. Hybrid work also benefits companies, leading to a 35 percent reduction in quit rates with zero impact on performance or promotions. Remote work has become such a mainstay that recruiters now see any "We're coming back to the office!" announcement as an invitation to poach that company's engineers. This shift to remote and hybrid work represents an opportunity for business leaders to learn how to effectively manage a distributed workforce, and it's not through more awful Zoom calls or sneaking tattleware onto employee laptops.
74% of employees would join a company only if they can work remotely or hybrid: Mercer's 2022 study
Upskilling and reskilling of the workforce are the two biggest priorities for India Inc's chief executives this year, reveals Mercer's 2022 Global Talent trends study. Talent acquisition, employee engagement, sickness and productivity are other key concerns while employees are looking for a flexible work environment as at least 74% of those surveyed said they will join an organisation only if they can work remotely or in a hybrid engagement. More than half of HR leaders cite flexibility as a key lever for sourcing, attracting and retaining a diverse talent pool and a similar majority believe that they can build cultures and practices that are adaptive by design to cater to a flexible model.
Virtual Classrooms
Biden Administration Awards Nearly $77 Million to Expand Internet Access for Dozens of Tribes
The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded 19 grants as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. The grants, totaling nearly $77 million, are being awarded in 10 states, and will fund internet use and adoption projects to improve healthcare, workforce development, education, housing, and social services in tribal communities.
Remote learning continues to affect student outcomes – study
Three-in-five (64%) Australian parents say their kids have been seriously impacted by continued disruptions due to COVID-19, new research shows. According to the latest data captured within the Real Education Report 2022, the past two years have left more than half (51%) parents feeling their children have fallen significantly behind academically and are struggling to catch up. In addition, 46% of parents also feel the constant disruptions will also lead to long-term impacts on their academic progress and job prospects.
Study offers insight into how remote learning impacts motivation of school students
Over 40% of parents of primary school students and 38% of parents of secondary school students felt their child found remote learning 'difficult' or 'very difficult', according to new data from the Schools Infection Survey (SIS). 'Struggling with motivation' was reported as the main barrier to learning at home by 39% of primary school pupils' parents, 44% of secondary school pupils' parents and 55% of secondary school students themselves. The main concern for teachers about providing remote education was a lack of engagement from pupils (69% in primary and 74% in secondary).
Public Policies
Main negotiators reach 'outcome' on COVID vaccine IP waiver, WTO says
The four main parties to negotiations on an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines have prepared an "outcome document" for approval by the broader membership, the WTO said on Tuesday, with its chief hoping for a final deal by June. WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has made vaccine equity her top priority since taking office in 2021, has been working for months to broker a compromise between the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa to break an 18-month-long impasse.
Maintaining Services
China's Big Pledges Set to Test Covid-Weary Markets in Reopening
Article reports that Chinese markets will return to action Thursday after a three-day break, putting to test whether Beijing has done enough to convince investors that strict Covid lockdowns won’t hamper efforts to boost economic growth and pledges to go gentle on Big Tech are genuine. Stocks may come under pressure following losses in Hong Kong shares earlier this week, a reversal of Friday’s rally after Chinese leaders vowed to spur a faltering economy and signaled a softening stance toward private enterprise. Economic pessimism means the yuan will likely continue to struggle and bonds may be supported, although the outcome of a key Federal Reserve meeting Wednesday also will help shape their directions.
Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Siouxsie Wiles - what we know about BA.4 and BA.5 variants
BA.4 and BA.5 are responsible for a new wave of Covid-19 cases in South Africa. At least one of them has arrived on our shores. So what does the science tell us about these new Omicron variants? While most countries are winding down their testing and sequencing efforts, South Africa has been doing an absolutely stellar job of detecting new Covid-19 virus variants. It was the country that first identified the three original Omicron lineages (BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3) back in November last year. Once other countries started to look, they found Omicron everywhere. BA.1 started the initial global Omicron wave, followed by the more infectious BA.2. In South Africa they only had one large BA.1 wave. Here in New Zealand, BA.1 and BA.2 arrived and seeded into the community very close together, so we had both at the same time – though BA.2 became the dominant lineage. BA.3 never really took off anywhere.
Taiwan's Foxconn says no change to production in China's COVID-hit Zhengzhou
Major Taiwanese Apple Inc supplier Foxconn said on Wednesday that it is continuing production in China's Zhengzhou, which announced on Tuesday it would impose new COVID-19-related movement curbs for May 4-10. "Our park has maintained production unchanged," it said in a statement, referring to the industrial area where its facilities are located in the central Chinese city.
Healthcare Innovations
Severe Covid May Lower Survivor's IQ By 10 Points, Study Finds
Severe Covid-19 may cause long-lasting cognitive impairment, similar to how much brainpower 70-year-olds typically have lost compared to age 50, a new study found, adding to preliminary evidence that infections may inhibit survivors’ intellectual capabilities. The study of 46 patients, who were assessed six to ten months after being hospitalized, showed slower and less accurate responses than what was expected for their age and demographic profile. Those patients who required ventilators and organ support scored even worse. The effect was sudden, as it was the equivalent of aging 20 years intellectually within the span of a few months. The impairment is equivalent to losing about 10 IQ points, said co-author Adam Hampshire, a professor of restorative neurosciences at Imperial College London, in an interview.
Covid-19 worsens asthma in children, finds study
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine , looked at almost 49,000 unvaccinated patients in total, and identified multiple predictors of more severe Covid-19 and worse outcomes in them compared to vaccinated individuals. It found that evidence of heart muscle damage (myocardial injury) at the time of admission to hospital was associated with a nine-fold increase in likelihood of death. Patients found to have such heart issues also had higher chances of developing other complications, including severe lung failure (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and acute kidney injury, and required higher rates of intensive care admission and invasive mechanical ventilation.
Unvaccinated individuals with heart problems up to 9 times more likely to die or suffer serious complications from COVID-19
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have combined evidence from 110 previous Covid-19 studies and found that unvaccinated individuals who contract the virus when they already have high blood pressure, diabetes or major heart damage are up to nine times more likely to suffer serious outcomes - including death, lung failure, admission to intensive care and kidney problems.
Covid-19: Remdesivir has “small effect” against death or progression to ventilation, WHO trial finds
Remdesivir has no significant effect on patients with covid-19 who are already being ventilated but has a small effect against death or progression to ventilation among other patients admitted to hospital, the World Health Organization’s Solidarity trial has found.1 This appears to be a change from findings reported in February 2021, when preliminary trial data suggested that remdesivir “had little or no effect on patients admitted to hospital with covid-19.”2 The Solidarity trial recruited over 14 000 patients from 454 hospitals across 35 countries between March 2020 and January 2021, of which over 8000 were allocated 1:1 to remdesivir (10 daily infusions) or control (no drug). The updated results, published in the Lancet, reported that overall 14.5% (602 of 4146) of patients assigned to remdesivir died compared with 15.6% (643 of 4129) assigned to the control group (mortality rate ratio 0.91, 95% confidence interval 0.82 to 1.02, P=0.12).
Patterns in Olfactory Injury Among Patients Who Died From COVID-19
Article reports that among patients who died with COVID-19 infection, more severe axon pathology, axon losses, and microvasculopathy were found in the olfactory tissue than in those who died without COVID-19 infection, suggesting COVID-19 olfactory dysfunction may be permanent. These are the findings of a postmortem study published in JAMA Neurology. SARS-CoV-2 is associated with a range of symptoms with the most common nonrespiratory symptom presenting as olfactory dysfunction. As the pandemic is still recent, it remains unclear how long COVID-19 symptoms may persist.