"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th May 2022

Isolation Tips
Tightening COVID net, Beijing issues punishments and stark warnings
China's COVID-hit capital Beijing further tightened its dragnet on the virus with zero community transmission the target, punishing workplaces that flout rules or circumvent curbs and imploring residents to police their own movements. Since late April, the city of 22 million has wrestled with dozens of new cases a day. While these have been mostly in quarantine areas, a handful have been found in the community at large, illustrating the challenge the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant poses even to the world's most stringent pandemic containment policies. With Shanghai, China's business and commercial hub, and numerous other giant cities also shackled by partial lockdowns or other curbs, the zero-COVID approach remains the government's focus despite the damage it has done to the world's second-biggest economy and global supply chains.
Hygiene Helpers
Vaccines bring optimism as COVID cases soar in South America
After a reprieve of months, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are surging in the southern tip of South America. But officials in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay hope high vaccination rates mean this latest wave will not be as deadly as previous ones. At the same time, there is concern that many people are not ready to once again take on the prevention measures that authorities say are needed to ensure cases remain manageable. Cases have been steadily increasing for weeks, largely fueled by the BA.2 version of the omicron variant. In Chile, the number of weekly confirmed cases more than doubled by late May when compared to the beginning of the month. In Argentina, cases rose 146 percent in the same period, while in Uruguay, the increase was almost 200 percent.
COVID nasal sprays could offer advantages over traditional vaccines – a virologist explains how they work
As new waves of omicron infections continue to hit around the world, it’s becoming clearer that COVID is here to stay. As such, in the years to come, vaccination – both first courses and booster doses – will likely remain necessary to brace global communities against the worst health outcomes wrought by the virus. But what if the current crop of vaccines could be improved? Recent advances in vaccine technology and delivery systems suggest there could be gains to be made. In particular, scientists are working on vaccines that activate your “mucosal” immune system, which may be better able to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
French health body backs new COVID vaccine booster campaign for this autumn
France's Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) health authority recommended preparing for a new vaccination campaign this autumn to give people aged 65 and older, and those with special health risks or conditions, access to a COVID-19 "booster" jab. The French government typically follows the recommendations of the country's health authority body.
High-risk people eligible for second Covid booster vaccine under new Australian guidelines
People with medical conditions or disabilities that increase the risk of severe Covid-19 will be eligible for a fourth vaccine dose after updated advice by Australian health authorities. From 30 May about 1.5 million more people aged 16 to 64 will be eligible for the fourth dose, the interim health minister, Katy Gallagher, announced on Wednesday. However, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi) has not given the green light for healthy people who do not have a risk factor for severe disease to receive a second booster. This includes healthcare workers and pregnant women who do not have other risk factors.
Community Activities
NGOs urge Biden to push for changes to WTO's COVID waiver text
Oxfam America, Partners in Health and other civil society groups urged U.S. President Joe Biden to press for changes in a draft agreement on waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, underscoring divisions over the current text.In a letter sent to Biden on Monday, and viewed by Reuters, the groups said an "outcome document" reached after months of discussions between the main parties - the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa - fell short of his "righteous goal" of removing IP barriers for COVID vaccines.
Hemmed in by COVID curbs, Beijingers seek respite in urban outdoors
On a hot, sunny day, children and adults splashed in the cool run-off of the Yongding River in a park on the western outskirts of Beijing, a city under near-lockdown in China's head-on battle with COVID-19. While gatherings are discouraged and many parks in the sprawling city of 22 million are shut, Beijingers - like others across China with limited travel options - have taken up outdoor pursuits such as camping and picnicking after more than two years of strict and often claustrophobic pandemic curbs.
Manhattan return-to-office plans face persistent headwinds over COVID, safety
Efforts by financial firms and others to bring workers back to Manhattan offices more than two years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic face persistent headwinds, consultants said, with commuters still worrying about COVID-19 as well as safety. New York has lagged others major markets in the percentage of employees regularly working in the office, in part because of high usage rates of public transportation and COVID concerns, said David Lewis, chief executive of HR consultant firm OperationsInc, which works with several firms in the financial sector.
Working Remotely
Employers more open to part-time working post-Covid-19, report finds
The furlough scheme brought in by the Government during the Covid-19 pandemic did not just save millions of people from unemployment and economic hardship, but may have had a lasting effect on the ways in which their employers allow them to work in the future, according to a new report out today (25 May). Introduced in March 2020, and further modified in July that year to allow for a part-time furlough option, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) enabled organisations to reclaim up to 80% of the wage costs of employees that could not work during the pandemic. Successful in avoiding mass redundancies during a time of crisis, new research from Cranfield School of Management and the CBI has found the scheme may also have ongoing benefits, by increasing employer openness to and knowledge of how to facilitate part-time working.
Is the ‘remote work window’ about to close?
The newfound flexibility many workers experienced amid the pandemic has made an indelible mark. The ability to better balance work and life as well as ditch the commute has been a hugely positive side effect of a chaotic time – and now, millions of employees refuse to go back. Consequently, demand for jobs that offer at least some element of remote working has soared
UK firms more open to flexible working, study finds
The majority of companies have become more flexible about employees working from home after the coronavirus pandemic reshaped the world of work. Employers in the UK are more open to facilitate part-time working and other forms of flexible working as viable options for their business, a study by Cranfield School of Management and CBI Economics found. Figures showed that the furlough scheme, which enabled firms to bring staff back to work on a part-time basis and furloughed the remainder of the time, has changed firms’ perceptions around working practices.
UAE jobs: employees prefer hybrid and remote working models
Nearly 90 per cent of UAE employees want to work either in a hybrid or fully remote working model in the future, according to a survey by California-based technology company Cisco. Offering flexibility to employees is also key for companies to attract and retain talent in a post-Covid-19 working environment, with 61 per cent of UAE professionals saying they would be less likely to look for a new role if given the opportunity to work either remotely or in the office only one or two days a week, Cisco said
Virtual Classrooms
Online Learning Can Help Minimize Racism and Ableism In and Out of the Classroom
As pandemic restrictions continue to ease, many colleges and universities are looking to ramp up their on-campus classes and activities. However, it seems that many marginalized students would like to stay remote. In fact, 68 percent of Black students and 60 percent of Hispanic students feel positive about online learning, and the transition to virtual learning has offered some students with disabilities new educational modalities. Of course, every college student is different, and online learning won’t impact everyone in the same way. But the virtual classroom presents its own unique benefits — and challenges — for racially diverse and disabled students.
Virtual learning compromised kids' privacy and security
There was also a cybersecurity consequence to virtual learning during the pandemic. The distance learning apps that schools used frequently scooped up reams of information about students, dramatically undermining their privacy and security, an international investigation has found. The apps grabbed personal information, including locations, and tracked the online behavior of millions of students
Public Policies
Pfizer to sell all its patented drugs at nonprofit price in low-income countries
Pfizer Inc will make all of its patented medicines including COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid and big-selling breast cancer drug Ibrance available at a not-for-profit price to 45 of the world's poorest countries, the drugmaker said on Wednesday. These countries lack good access to innovative treatments. It can take four to seven years longer for new treatments to become available in low-income countries, according to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, if they become available at all.
Nigeria receives 4.4 million doses of J&J COVID vaccine from Spain
Nigeria has received 4.4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from Spain, a government official said on Tuesday. Nigeria has already received 2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from Finland, Greece and Slovenia with more expected from EU countries. Faisal Shuaib, head of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said Nigeria wanted to vaccinate 70% of its population. It was far off the target but Spain's donation would help, he said.
Maintaining Services
Covid Lockdown Costs Shanghai Its China Currency Trading Crown
The fallout of China’s Covid Zero policy is starting to show in Shanghai’s financial markets, with the city losing its top currency trading hub title for the first time. Shanghai handled fewer currency deals than Beijing in April, to rank second among China’s 36 provinces and municipalities, according to the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. The decline points to another consequence of strict lockdowns and may serve as a case study for the possible implications of movement curbs in major Chinese cities, including Beijing, as Covid cases climb. Traders volunteering to stay in the office, sleeping on trading floors, did little keep up currency volumes. Settlement and sales by banks for their clients, dropped 30% from March to $61.8 billion. That’s 15% of the national tally, compared with a steady share of around 20% before the lockdown, as per data going back to 2019.
‘They were laughing at us’: Covid families’ fury at revelations in Sue Gray report
In Britain, families bereaved by Covid-19 have said they are “sickened” by the revelations in Sue Gray’s Partygate report, and have accused Boris Johnson and his staff of “laughing at us”. A group of 4,000 families who lost loved ones from Covid-19 have hit out at the prime minister after his government was guilty of “a serious failure” to abide by the “standards expected of the entire British population”
Platinum Jubilee celebrations could increase Covid infections by 50 per cent in summer spike, scientists warn
Covid infections will jump by up to 50 per cent following the Jubilee celebrations after falling by two-thirds in the past two months, leading scientists have warned. New symptomatic infections have tumbled from a record 349,011 a day on 31 March to an estimated 117,136 cases today – with cases relatively stable over the past fortnight, according to the ZOE Covid study app. But Professor Tim Spector, who runs the ZOE app, believes greater social mixing over the extended bank holiday weekend, alongside waning immunity, will see infections rise sharply from their current level of 1 in 37 people across the UK.
Healthcare Innovations
New Study Shows Vaccination Reduces Long Covid Risk, But Modestly
Vaccination reduces your risk of developing long Covid, but not by much on average, new research suggests. A Veterans Affairs study out Wednesday found that vaccinated people with breakthrough Covid-19 infections had a 15% reduction in experiencing persistent or new symptoms and health conditions up to six months after infection compared with those who were unvaccinated and got Covid.
Heart-Failure Drug Used to Treat Long Covid Symptoms
More than 200 symptoms can afflict those dealing with the aftereffects of Covid-19. An emerging approach to treating one of them—heart palpitations—highlights the successes scientists are having in addressing the symptoms, even if it may take years to understand how they’re caused. About 11% of coronavirus patients report experiencing palpitations or an increased heart rate, according to a meta-analysis of long-Covid studies published in the journal Scientific Reports in August. The symptoms are suggestive of a broader condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, which affects more than 24 million Americans—a number that’s growing because of Covid. POTS is more prevalent among women of childbearing age; often coincides with lightheadedness, brain fog, and gastric upset; and can eventually lead to chronic fatigue.
Covid survivors face double risk of getting lung blood clots, CDC study warns
Survivors of Covid-19 have twice the risk of developing a blood clot in the lungs or a respiratory condition, according to a new study by the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Published on Tuesday, the study by the US government body said adults aged between 18 and 64 years have an increased risk of developing pulmonary embolism – a clot in an artery of the lung – or other respiratory conditions like chronic cough or shortness of breath. One in five Covid survivors in this age range and one in four survivors over the age of 65 years have experienced “at least one incident condition that might be attributable to the previous infection”, it said.
Persistent multiple organ damage noted with COVID-19
A multicenter Scottish study reveals persistent multisystem abnormalities among 159 COVID-19 patients 28 to 60 days after release from the hospital, including cardio-renal inflammation, diminished lung function, worse quality of life, and poor outcomes. In the study, published yesterday in Nature Medicine, a team led by University of Glasgow researchers collected serial blood biomarkers and patient-reported outcomes and performed digital electrocardiography, chest computed tomography (CT) with pulmonary and coronary angiography, and cardio-renal (heart-kidney) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the hospital and 28 to 60 days later. For longer-term outcomes, the researchers accessed electronic health records.
Women twice as likely to suffer from long Covid, study suggests
Women are more than twice as likely as men to suffer from long Covid, according to the largest study of the condition to date, which found a history of autoimmune disease or depression also increased the likelihood of experiencing symptoms. The study by genetic testing company 23andMe surveyed more than 100,000 people who had Covid-19, about a quarter of whom reported having experienced long Covid — where symptoms such as breathing problems, fatigue and brain fog last for more than 12 weeks. Some 7,000 of these had been formally diagnosed.