"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 6th May 2022

Isolation Tips
In Covid-19 Battle, Taiwan Finds Alternative to Chinese-Style Lockdowns
Two of the last governments on earth to stick with zero-Covid policy are separated by only 100 miles of water. As both contend with Omicron outbreaks, the distance between their approaches to the virus is expanding rapidly. In China, government authorities have imposed full or partial lockdowns on dozens of cities, home to hundreds of millions of people, in a frantic bid to suffocate multiplying infection clusters. In Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing claims just off the coast of China’s Fujian province, the government has responded to its own Omicron outbreak by phasing out contact-tracing, reducing quarantine times and rolling out a campaign to soothe public concerns about the virus.
Hygiene Helpers
New York City could bring back Covid mask mandate, vaccine checks if hospitals come under pressure
New York City could bring back mask mandates and proof of vaccination status to go to restaurants, bars and other venues if Covid hospitalizations rise to a concerning level, according to the city’s top health official. The city increased its Covid alert level from low to medium earlier this week as infections surpassed a rate of 200 per 100,000 people, driven by the more contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant. For now, health officials are asking residents to exercise increased caution by voluntarily masking indoors and getting tested before and after gatherings. However, Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said New York might reinstate mandatory masking and vaccine checks if the city raises its Covid alert level to high.
Western Australia could hit fresh COVID-19 peak as AMA remains nervous over removal of mask mandate
After Western Australia removed almost all of its COVID-19 rules last week, yesterday's new peak of 9,782 daily cases was pretty much expected. And with case numbers tending to be higher on Thursdays, it's possible today's tally will be another record. The Chief Health Officer warned this would likely happen, and it was a consequence of easing restrictions accepted by both Premier Mark McGowan and the Health Minister, Amber-Jade Sanderson. Asked about the rise yesterday, Ms Sanderson reiterated the key statistics are hospitalisations and intensive care admissions, which have remained relatively consistent.
Does the World Still Need New Covid-19 Vaccines?
Our mandate remains to develop the best tools to prevent the emergence of new variants of concern and control the health and socioeconomic fallout from new surges. The decision by representatives of the African region to establish a network of six mRNA technology hubs10 is a sign that countries and regions are motivated to build local and regional capacity and expand self-sufficiency not only in planning and participating in key clinical trials but also in designing and manufacturing vaccines to better meet the needs of their populations during pandemic threats. Such technology hubs will need to embrace technologies beyond the mRNA approach.
Community Activities
China to fight comments, actions denying its COVID response policy -state media
China will fight any comments and actions that distort, doubt or deny the country's COVID-19 response policy, state television reported on Thursday, after a meeting of the country's highest decision-making body. Relaxing COVID controls will lead to large-scale infections, state television reported, following the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party's politburo, adding that China will step up research into and its defence against virus mutations, and will avoid one-size-fit-all policies.
Working Remotely
Law firm says employees can work from home full-time – but only if they take a 20% pay cut
A U.K. law firm has decided to offer its employees the option of working from home full-time, but on the condition that they take a 20% pay cut. The London-headquartered law firm Stephenson Harwood has also offered its employees the option of a hybrid model, working up to two days remotely for the same salary. A spokesperson for Stephenson Harwood said this was “consistent with the approach taken by many City law firms.”
Remote Work 2 Years Later: What We've Learned
The 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index reported that 50% of mid-level managers said their companies are making plans to return to in-person work five days a week in the year ahead, but 52% of employees are considering going hybrid or remote. Tech companies have delayed return-to-office dates many times over, but more solid plans are being enacted this spring. All eyes are on the big four—Amazon, Apple, Google, and Meta (Facebook)—as smaller companies look to take cues from their moves.
Virtual Classrooms
The Conversation About Quality in Online Learning: Key Podcast
This week’s episode of The Key, Inside Higher Ed’s news and analysis podcast, explores the special report, “The Evolving Conversation About Quality in Online Learning.” The report explores a wide range of issues around the current and future state of technology-enabled learning to try to help administrators and faculty members prepare to deliver high-quality virtual instruction, however it fits into their institutional missions. Lori Williams, president and CEO of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), discusses the report and its implications for colleges, professors and policy makers. Williams discusses how the pandemic has changed perceptions and practices around online education and how to judge quality in virtual learning, among other topics.
Writing Effective Recommendations for Remote Students
Many students have been struggling to request and secure letters of recommendation during the pandemic. They may be unsure how to ask for letters at the best of times, and with COVID and less face-to-face contact, they have faced even more barriers. This situation will only become more difficult when the faculty members whom students feel they know best refuse to provide letters and/or recommend they reach out to someone else. Just as faculty members have updated their practices to become effective remote teachers, they can rethink how to approach letters of recommendation and references for remote students.
Public Policies
FDA Limits Authorized Use of J&J's Covid-19 Vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration limited the use of the Covid-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson after reviewing the risk of life-threatening blood clots. The agency said Thursday that the J&J shot’s authorization was now only for adults for whom other shots aren’t available or medically appropriate, or who won’t take another vaccine. The FDA said it was making the move after confirming a total of 60 cases, including nine deaths, of the clotting condition known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, among the millions of people who got the J&J shot. The change will likely sharply scale back use of a vaccine that health authorities had once hoped would be a convenient option for many people, but has become a third choice for most people because of the emergence of the risk for the rare but life-threatening side effect.
A Covid vaccine waiver? WTO has a plan for that.
World Trade Organization officials have circulated a draft proposal that would temporarily waive intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines, paving the way for members to start discussing the plan. That will compel members, including the deal’s brokers, to signal whether they’ll support the divisive proposal. The deal, which emerged from talks among U.S., European, South African and Indian representatives, would temporarily ease patent restrictions on Covid-19 vaccines for developing countries that exported less than 10 percent of the world’s coronavirus vaccine doses in 2021.
Recent COVID-19 court cases show New Zealand's Bill of Rights Act is not as strong as some might wish
At the end of April, the High Court found the border quarantine (MIQ) system did work well to protect public health and many of the resulting restrictions on rights were justifiable. However, the court also found the allocation of space in MIQ through a virtual lobby system amounted to an unjustifiable limit on the right of New Zealand citizens to return because it did not prioritise citizens over non-citizens, and it did not prioritise on individual need or delays experienced. What we see in these cases is the New Zealand constitution in action, operating as a system of checks and balances to protect individuals from arbitrary interference by the state. As an aspect of that, the cases show the operation of the rule of law, which means any power exercised by the government has to be based on legal authority and that everyone is subject to the law, whether they are members of the public or politicians.
Africa CDC urges COVID-19 vaccine buyers to order from S.Africa's Aspen
Africa's top public health body urged all those purchasing COVID-19 vaccines for the continent to place orders with South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare, saying the market was key to developing vaccine manufacturing on the continent. The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was doing everything it could behind the scenes to prevent a situation where Aspen closes its facility due to a lack of orders.
Maintaining Services
Travel industry, airlines urge end to COVID testing to enter U.S.
Major U.S. airlines, business and travel groups and other companies urged the White House on Thursday to abandon COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers traveling to the United States. "Given the slow economic recovery of the business and international travel sectors, and in light of medical advancements and the improved public health metrics in the U.S., we encourage you to immediately remove the inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers," said the letter signed by American Airlines, Carnival Corp, Marriott International, Walt Disney Co's Disney Parks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Travel Association and others.
Spain's tourist arrivals jump 8-fold in March, edge toward pre-COVID levels
Spain received 4 million tourists in March, more than eight times as many as in the same month last year, after most pandemic-related restrictions were lifted, data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) showed on Thursday. Foreign tourists spent 5.07 billion euros ($5.37 billion) while on holiday in the country in March, up from a mere 544 million euros a year earlier, the data showed. "Spain closes this first quarter with good data on arrivals and tourist spending, a trend that we hope will intensify in the summer period," Tourist Minister Reyes Maroto said on her Twitter account.
COVID-hit Beijing returns to work after subdued Labour Day break
Beijing residents tentatively returned to work on Thursday after a muted five-day Labour Day holiday devoid of the usual trips across the country or lavish family dinners, as China pledged to fight any criticism of its uncompromising "zero-COVID" policy. The long break is usually one of the most lucrative times of the year for restaurants, hotels and other businesses in China. This year, travellers spent 43% less than in 2021, data showed on Thursday
S.Africa's Aspen to slash COVID vaccine capacity within 6 weeks if no orders - CEO
Aspen Pharmacare will switch about half of its COVID-19 vaccine production capacity onto other products if demand doesn't pick up within six weeks, its CEO warned, as South Africa's president and health officials urged more Africans to take up the shots. Aspen completed a deal in March to package, sell and distribute Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine in what was considered a game-changing moment for an under-vaccinated continent frustrated by sluggish Western handouts.
Healthcare Innovations
WHO Says 15 Million Have Died From Covid-19 Pandemic
The World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people had died from causes related to the coronavirus pandemic by the end of 2021, putting the toll from Covid-19 at nearly three times the number that had been officially recorded by countries. India suffered the highest toll of any country in the world, according to the report released Thursday, but most of the deaths have gone unrecorded. The 4.7 million people who had died in India by the end of last year, according to WHO estimates, was nearly 10 times the official tally at that time of 481,000 deaths. India’s count has risen to about 524,000 since then. The report, which was compiled by scientists from around the world, has sparked fierce resistance from India, where government officials have denounced the health agency’s methodology and objected to the release of the report.