"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 10th May 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai tightens lockdown to hit zero-COVID goal by late May
Shanghai is tightening its already strict COVID-19 lockdown in a fresh push to eliminate infections outside quarantined areas of China's biggest city by late this month, people familiar with the matter said. Curbs will likely vary across the city's 16 districts as some have already hit the target, but the people said movement curbs will generally remain until the end of May due to fears of a rebound, despite recently falling case numbers in the country's worst coronavirus outbreak.
Hygiene Helpers
Affordable Covid drugs kept out of reach by sluggish WTO
There is still a long way to go before South Africa and other developing countries can manufacture Covid vaccines and treatments quickly and without paying the huge charges demanded by the big US and European drug companies. Last week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced that the 180-member trade forum had taken a step towards a patent waiver that would allow developing countries to make the drugs they need – including vaccines, tests, and treatments – for as long as five years, without payments to pharma giants such as Pfizer. The EU, India, South Africa and the US, known as the Quad, claimed to have come to an agreement on the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (Trips) waiver proposal, with China also expected to vote in favour.
How Hong Kong's vaccination missteps led to the world's highest covid-19 death rate
Hong Kong’s strict guidelines on social distancing and its restrictions on travel ensured months of low infection rates for covid-19, until the omicron variant hit the city in February 2022. Before that, Hong Kong had reported 212 deaths related to covid-19; around 9000 people have since died from the virus in the city’s fifth wave of infection. As of late April, more than 70% of deaths were in patients aged 80 or older, 73% of whom were unvaccinated. The hospital system has been overwhelmed, with patients occupying hospital beds in parking lots, bodies kept in hospital corridors and in patient rooms, and morgues overflowing. This is despite vaccines being readily available in the city since February 2021. Hong Kong had procured enough doses of the Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines for its population of seven million, and both vaccines were made available at community vaccination centres and private clinics across the city within weeks of the rollout. Older citizens were given priority access to vaccination.
Community Activities
Covid: Learning to live with the virus in the UK
The latest survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a continued fall in Covid 19 infections from a recent peak in April in the UK. The arrival of summer means more people will congregate outdoors at lower risk to themselves. But the return of people from holidays to work and study after summer holidays, and the onset of cooler autumnal weather could create conditions for another uptick in infections. More immediately, new strains of the Omicron variant could cause problems. The BA.2 version has proved more transmissible than BA.1.
Once a zero-Covid poster child, Taiwan learns to live with the virus
Once a poster child for the success of zero-Covid, Taiwan is now dealing with an “Omicron tsunami”. In response – and in stark contrast to regional neighbours – health authorities have decided zero-Covid is no match for the new variant and have flipped the switch to “living with the virus”. “It is the right decision, and it’s also the decision we had to make,” says Dr Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s former vice-president and professor of epidemiology. Taiwan closed itself off in early 2020, and employed a regime of stringent contact tracing, social restrictions and personal hygiene measures which it kept even as vaccines and antivirals were developed. It defeated an outbreak of the Alpha strain and another of Delta in 2021. But after the highly virulent Omicron began affecting countries in November and December, Chen says he and other scholars advised the government to start shifting towards living with the virus.
Laos reopens to tourists and other visitors from abroad
The landlocked Southeast Asian nation of Laos reopened to tourists and other visitors on Monday, more than two years after it imposed tight restrictions to fight the coronavirus. Thipphakone Chanthavongsa, head of the government’s agency for controlling COVID-19, announced on Saturday the reopening date, the last in a three-phase plan, state news agency KPL reported. She said vaccination certificates or virus tests will still be required for Lao citizens and foreigners entering the country.
Working Remotely
Remote Work Doesn’t Negatively Affect Productivity
A research team from the Texas A&M University School of Public Health found that employee and company resiliency may be enhanced through the opportunity for employees to work remotely during natural disasters and other events that cause workplace displacement.
Many Germans still work from home despite end of COVID requirement - Ifo
The proportion of German people working from home fell only slightly in April, according to a survey published on Monday, despite the country lifting remote-working requirements brought into force to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ifo economic institute said its survey of 9,000 companies showed 24.9% of German employees worked from home at least part of the time in April, compared with 27.6% the previous month. “This means the number of people working from home remains at a high level following the abolition of the remote-working obligation on March 20,” said Jean-Victor Alipour, an Ifo expert on working from home.
Remote working causing six-out-of-ten parents to suffer burnout | theHRD
Research reveals that 59 per cent of working parents have experienced burnout in 2022, increasing their stress levels and frustration at work. The survey of more than 2,000 UK SME employees highlighted how working parents are pulling off the ultimate balancing act. Excluding partner support, nearly half (47 per cent) of surveyed working parents said they never had childcare support at home, while 45 per cent had help occasionally, and only seven per cent said they always had help available.
Virtual Classrooms
CPS expands access to remote learning: 'For kids who are high risk ... this is a very good option'
Alaina is a student in the Virtual Academy, the remote-learning option Chicago Public Schools introduced in August for “medically fragile” students as the district returned to full-time, in-person learning for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. CPS recently announced it is relaxing the academy’s admission guidelines for the fall and increasing access to advanced coursework. The Tribune spoke with parents of four children enrolled in the academy this year. They shared differing experiences, but each said they were grateful for the program because they were able to limit exposure to the coronavirus.
Virtual learning or hybrid learning: How do we choose?
With a more flexible workforce and the popularity of hybrid working comes a need for L&D practitioners to meet the learning requirements of those working in home, remote and office settings. The challenge we now have is knowing when it is appropriate to go virtual and when we choose hybrid. More and more clients and employers are asking if training sessions can accommodate both ‘on the Zoom’ (other platforms are available) and ‘in the room’, without considering the impact or fear behind that question!
Khan Academy: the maths teacher with 135 million pupils
The Khan Academy now has more than 135 million registered users in 190 countries and operates in 51 languages. It offers thousands of free video tutorials and exercises to anybody with an internet connection. At the start of the pandemic, when schools closed around the world, the number of minutes spent learning on the website tripled almost overnight from 30 million to 85 million a day.
Public Policies
WHO, Gavi not planning COVID vaccine buys from S.Africa's Aspen
The World Health Organization (WHO) and its COVID-19 vaccine partner Gavi have no immediate plans to buy shots made by Aspen Pharmacare, the two bodies said, dealing a blow to Africa's efforts to develop its own vaccine production capacity.
FDA sets limits on the use of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in US
The FDA has limited the authorized use of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine to individuals 18 years of age and older who cannot access other approved COVID-19 shots for various reasons.
Taiwan receives 1.85 million Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine doses
Taiwan received all of the 1.85 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses for people 12 years and older it had ordered this year on Monday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said. The 1,857,960 vaccine doses will expire on Oct. 4, and adolescents aged 12-17 who need a booster shot will be given priority to receive the vaccine, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said at the CECC press briefing
Maintaining Services
Pandemic pushes Spanish workers out of the shadows
For decades, a cash-filled envelope - or "sobre" - was how hundreds of thousands of Spaniards working without legal contracts in tourism, agriculture or construction collected their salaries. COVID-19, however, may finally be putting paid to the "sobre", economic data and workers' experiences suggest - accelerating a six-year-long crackdown in Spain on the shadow economy and providing a welcome boost to the country's public finances.
Aptiv Shanghai plant suspends some shipments after COVID cases - sources
Aptiv stopped shipping over the weekend some parts from a Shanghai plant that supplies Tesla Inc and General Motors Co after COVID-19 infections were found among its workers, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday. The suspension of shipments from Aptiv could represent a setback to Tesla, which had planned to bring output in Shanghai back to the levels before the city locked down to control a wave of infections and forced a shutdown through much of April.
China's April exports slow, imports unchanged amid expanding virus curbs
Article reports that China's export growth slowed to single digits, the weakest in almost two years, while imports barely changed in April as tighter and wider COVID-19 curbs halted factory production and crimped domestic demand, adding to wider economic woes. Exports in dollar terms grew 3.9% in April from a year earlier, dropping sharply from the 14.7% growth reported in March although slightly better than analysts' forecast of 3.2%. It was the slowest pace since June 2020. Imports were broadly stable year-on-year, improving slightly from a 0.1% fall in March and a bit better than the 3.0% contraction tipped by the Reuters poll.
Covid-19 guidance changes announced for universities and colleges
The Welsh Government has formally removed the Infection Control Framework for Higher and Further Education institutions from today. The change will bring higher and further education into line with the wider public health guidance followed by businesses, employers and event organisers. The advice covers control measures that could be implemented to reduce the risk of transmission of the most common communicable diseases, including Coronavirus, flu and norovirus.
Chaos at Apple supplier shows strains of Shanghai COVID lockdown
Quanta Shanghai Manufacturing City would seem like an ideal site to implement China's "closed-loop" management system to prevent the spread of COVID that requires staff to live and work on-site in a secure bubble. Sprawled over land the size of 20 football fields, the campus houses factories, living quarters for 40,000 workers, some living 12 per room, and even a supermarket. But as COVID-19 breeched Quanta's defences, the system broke down into chaos. Videos posted online showed more than a hundred Quanta workers physically overwhelming security guards in hazmat suits and vaulting over factory gates to escape being trapped inside the factory amid rumours that workers on the floor that day tested positive for COVID.
Healthcare Innovations
Vaccine to stop Covid transmission should now be top priority, says leading UK scientist
It is questionable how much longer current Covid-19 vaccines will be used as they have largely done their job in preventing mass deaths, and scientists should focus on developing a vaccine that stops transmission of the virus, according to leading scientist Sir John Bell. The huge success of Covid vaccines in countries able to get them has led to sharp declines in deaths and severe disease from the virus, even though the latest Covid variant, Omicron, has spread rapidly. “We need a new vaccine to stop transmissions and there are lots of interesting ideas,” said Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a former member of the UK vaccine taskforce who has worked on the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid jab.
Nasal vaccines may be the next generation of protection against COVID
Current vaccines are great at stopping severe disease. But people can still catch COVID-19, even after two, three or more shots. Researchers hope a different delivery system will make for a vaccine that is better at preventing transmission and infections. By putting the vaccine directly into the nose, it might prevent the virus from taking hold in the mucus membranes, where it first enters the body. Studies are still underway to prove whether this approach will work. And even if it does, the vaccines are likely to take another year to become widely available.
Knowledge about COVID-19, vaccination influences vaccine uptake in pregnancy
Pregnant patients who had more knowledge about COVID-19 and immunization were more likely to get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, according to a study presented here. However, researchers emphasized that it is also incumbent on providers to improve vaccine uptake and increase acceptance. While Eva Agasse acknowledged that informing patients is vital to encourage vaccination, how clinicians present themselves is also important.
Oral COVID-19 Vaccine Protects Host, Slows Transmission in Hamsters
The available COVID-19 vaccines have been called the biggest scientific accomplishment of the century and a modern miracle. But that hasn’t stopped scientists from working on making improvements. To that end, a new study presents promising data on a COVID-19 vaccine that is designed to be taken as a pill. Moreover, the vaccine not only protects the host, but also decreases the airborne spread of the virus to other close contacts. The experiments, done in a hamster model that mimics human exposures, demonstrated the potential of a COVID vaccine that works through the mucosal tissue to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus, limiting infections and the spread of active virus in airborne particles.
Study investigates the cause of lymphopenia as seen in COVID-19 patients
In a recent study posted to the Research Square preprint server, researchers explored the underlying mechanism resulting in thymic atrophy and subsequent lymphopenia in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. Previous studies have reported dysregulated T cell function and lymphopenia in COVID-19 patients. However, the literature does not shed light on immunological and pathological alterations in thymus post-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection.
3 COVID vaccine doses appear to protect against Omicron subvariants
Three new studies report on COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness (VE) and antibody responses to Omicron, with one from Sweden finding a drop in two-dose VE against severe disease after the transition from the BA.1 to the BA.2 subvariant but three-dose protection remaining above 80% against severe disease. Also, a study from Hong Kong shows good antibody response against BA.2 after three doses, and one from the United States finds that nursing home patients who received a third dose had a 47% lower risk of Omicron infection.