"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 27th May 2022

Isolation Tips
COVID-hit Shanghai heads for lockdown exit but China still lost in economic gloom
Pandemic-hit Shanghai, China's financial hub, unveiled more post-lockdown plans on Thursday as it moves towards a return to normalcy, but a nationwide economic recovery is still a distance away, heightening a sense of urgency for more support. China's biggest city by economic output has suffered from the lockdown imposed in early April. Other cities not under lockdown but still hemmed in by COVID curbs, including Beijing, have also struggled, with the highly transmissible Omicron provoking stronger responses from health authorities this year.
Hygiene Helpers
Newcastle's QuantuMDx Group launches rapid COVID-19 and flu test
A life sciences firm has unveiled new technology it says can identify COVID-19, flu and respiratory illnesses in minutes. Newcastle-based QuantuMDx Group says its Q-POC equipment provides “differential diagnosis” and will enable “rapid triage and effective treatment strategies, particularly in at-risk groups of patients”. Bosses say it will help identify co-infection earlier, which will shorten treatment and patient hospital stays, with test results returned in 35 minutes. Jonathan O’Halloran, chief executive [pictured above], said: “The recent COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for rapid, high-quality PCR panels to accurately diagnose infectious diseases, and so I am pleased to announce the launch of this new respiratory panel. “With the coming winter likely to bring parallel pressure from these viruses, on-demand rapid accurate PCR testing has the potential to provide clinicians with an optimum solution for respiratory infection control.
Covid-19 Deaths Hover Near Lows, but Older Americans at Risk Even With Boosters
Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. are hovering near the lowest levels since the pandemic hit, showing how a population with built-up immune protection is less at risk of severe outcomes even as another wave of infections flows through the country. The nearly 300 deaths reported daily are again more concentrated among older people, underscoring hazards for the more vulnerable while the overall population appears less at risk. Particularly vulnerable people, such as those who are older and immunocompromised, will likely always have some risk of death from a Covid-19 infection, doctors and public-health experts said. Increasing booster rates and access to treatments, in addition to taking certain precautions, can help lower the threat presented by the virus, they said.
Children urged to come forward for Covid booster trial in these ten areas
Children aged between 12 and 15 are being urged to volunteer for a new study exploring different options for a third Covid booster vaccine. The University of Oxford-led Com-COV 3 study aims to recruit 380 volunteers across 10 UK sites, including Oxford's Churchill Hospital. Those taking part will need to have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, at least three months before joining. Researchers will then deliver a third dose as part of the study.
How important is the COVID-19 booster shot for 5-to-11-year-olds? 5 questions answered
COVID-19 case numbers are rising again in the U.S. – including among children. In mid-May 2022, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine for U.S. children ages 5 to 11, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed by recommending a booster shot for this age group. Naturally, many parents are wondering about the importance and safety of a booster shot for their school-age children. Debbie-Ann Shirley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Virginia, answers some common questions about COVID-19 and booster shots in kids that she hears in her practice and explains the research behind why booster shots are recommended for children ages 5 to 11.
Long COVID affects more older adults; shots don’t prevent it
New U.S. research on long COVID-19 provides fresh evidence that it can happen even after breakthrough infections in vaccinated people, and that older adults face higher risks for the long-term effects. In a study of veterans published Wednesday, about one-third who had breakthrough infections showed signs of long COVID. A separate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that up to a year after an initial coronavirus infection, 1 in 4 adults aged 65 and older had at least one potential long COVID health problem, compared with 1 in 5 younger adults. Long COVID refers to any of more than two dozens symptoms that linger, recur or first appear at least one month after a coronavirus infection. These can affect all parts of the body and may include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog and blood clots.
Community Activities
Spain's Covid booster jab entry requirement for all holidaymakers explained
Brits holidaying in Spain could need Covid boosters to enter the sunny travel hotspot this summer. Jabbed travellers can bypass testing with the right proof of vaccination on hand. It comes as the country opened its doors to non-vaccinated travellers to the first time ever since the pandemic began. The changing rules is indicative of the times as countries relax some restrictions to boost travel while sometimes maintaining key rules on jabs. For example, tourists entering the UK don't need a vaccine certificate, but British citizens have been warned to meet Spanish authorities' validity period requirements. The Foreign Office has advised Brits exactly when they'll need a booster to enter Spain.
Latino and Indigenous Mexican farm-working communities face high risk of COVID-19
Although everyone has been affected by COVID-19 and the pandemic it spawned, not all populations have been affected equally. In the United States, for example, COVID-19 cases and death rates have been disproportionately high in Latino and Indigenous populations. To understand how determinants of health affect perceptions of the coronavirus, its spread, and decision making around COVID-19 testing and vaccination in vulnerable populations, a team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, conducted a study in the Eastern Coachella Valley region of inland Southern California, home to Latino and Indigenous Mexican farm-working communities. Led by Ann Cheney, an associate professor of social medicine, population, and public health in the School of Medicine, the team reports in BMC Public Health that these immigrant populations are vulnerable to inequalities that increase their risk of COVID-19 exposure, morbidity, and mortality.
COVID-19 boosters and building trust among UK minority ethnic communities
Ethnic disparities in COVID-19 persist, with increased rates of infection, severe disease, and death among people from minority ethnic groups.1, 2, 3, 4, 5 COVID-19 vaccination rates also remain lowest in these communities compared with white people in the UK. Among people older than 18 years, the proportion who have had three COVID-19 vaccinations in England in March, 2022, was lowest among Black Caribbean (38%), Black African (45%), and Pakistani (45%) ethnic groups.1 These disparities are likely to be attributed to the intersection of key social determinants, including socioeconomic factors such as deprivation, overcrowding, and working patterns and conditions, alongside discrimination and structural violence in the health-care system and society.
COVID-19: 55% of early pandemic survivors still symptomatic 2 years on
The first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019Trusted Source. It has now been over two years since the beginning of the outbreak connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. Since then, many COVID-19 survivors have reported lingering health issues or symptoms that suddenly appear months and even a year after the initial infection. It is important to note that these patients experienced COVID-19 before vaccines were developed against SARS-CoV-2. A recent study looked into the current conditions of COVID-19 patients from Wuhan two years later.
South Africa COVID vaccine hesitancy due to side-effect fears- survey
Fears over the possible side effects and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines have been the main drivers of hesitancy among thousands of South Africans, a government-backed online survey showed on Thursday.
Analysis: Britain's shrunken workforce hampers COVID recovery
Britain's economy regained its pre-COVID size late last year, but in one crucial way it has not recovered: there are 400,000 fewer workers than at the start of the pandemic. This stands in contrast to most other big, rich economies where the labour force has recovered more, and adds to the Bank of England's inflation worries after surging energy prices and other bottlenecks pushed it to a 40-year high. The central bank fears a tight labour market will limit the economy's growth potential and put fresh upward pressure on wages, making it harder to bring inflation back to its target.
Unwanted, Teen Pregnancies Rose During Covid Pandemic
All day long, kids stream in and out of the Tiffany-blue front door at Project Elimu, the premier ballet school in Kibera, a vibrant, low-income community in Nairobi, Kenya. But not all of the school’s visitors are dancers. Some, like 18-year-old Esther, are in acute distress, facing abuse at home or struggling with early pregnancy and parenthood. Esther is one data point in a wave of girls who became pregnant during the pandemic. According to the UNFPA, the United Nation’s sexual and reproductive healthy agency, some 1.4 million women and girls became pregnant unintentionally as a result of contraception interruptions in the first year of the pandemic alone.
Working Remotely
How Airbnb settled on a permanent remote work strategy
Airbnb is among a group of companies that has eschewed the hybrid approach in favor of a permanent remote strategy. Here's how the company arrived at the decision and how it's affected recruitment.
Workers in the office feel less connected compared to those working at home
CEOs hellbent on getting workers back in the office say that being physically together boosts connectivity. Turns out that’s not the case. Only one in six people feel strongly connected at work, with on-site employees the least connected of all, according to a study from consulting firm Accenture. Some 22 per cent of fully remote workers say they feel “not connected,” while the share for those in the office is nearly double.
How To Stay Connected To Your Team While Working Remotely
Clearly, remote work is here to stay. Not only does it give employers more hiring options, but it also benefits employees. Research from Owl Labs found that remote and hybrid employees were 22% happier than workers in an onsite office environment and stayed in their jobs longer. Also, remote workers had less stress, more focus and were more productive than when they were onsite. As it turns out, working remotely benefits employees both mentally and physically. However, remote work still has its challenges. It can be difficult to maintain consistent communication with your team, which can increase feelings of loneliness and isolation. Yet strong work relationships are essential to stay productive and boost morale.
Virtual Classrooms
Parents' evening: should they happen in-person or remotely?
As with so many aspects of school life, headteachers were forced to move parents' evenings online during the coronavirus pandemic. But while teaching and learning is now back to in-person delivery, many schools are weighing up whether to return to in-person parents' evenings or keep them virtual. Here, two teachers discuss the pros and cons of each approach, and look at what leaders need to consider when making the decision.
Virtual learning apps tracked and shared kids' data and online activities with advertisers, report says
Millions of students who participated in virtual learning during the Covid-19 pandemic had their personal data and online behaviors tracked by educational apps and websites without their consent and in many cases shared with third-party advertising technology companies, a new report has found. Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy organization, this week published the findings of an investigation conducted from March 2021 to August 2021 that looked into the educational services, including online learning tools, used by students all over the world when school districts shifted to remote learning.
Public Policies
Japan starts 4th COVID vaccine shots for seniors, at-risk groups
Japan began offering fourth coronavirus vaccine shots Wednesday to older people, and those with underlying medical conditions. People eligible for fourth inoculations are those aged 60 and older as well as individuals between 18 and 59 with chronic health conditions, such as respiratory illnesses or heart conditions, or at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms if infected with the coronavirus, according to the health ministry. The ministry suggests people receive the booster shots at least five months after receiving their third inoculation. The majority of seniors began getting third shots in January, meaning that the fourth round of shots is expected to be in full swing from June onward.
US making COVID antiviral drug more available at test sites
The White House on Thursday announced more steps to make the antiviral treatment Paxlovid more accessible across the U.S. as it projects COVID-19 infections will continue to spread over the summer travel season. The nation’s first federally backed test-to-treat site is opening Thursday in Rhode Island, providing patients with immediate access to the drug once they test positive. More federally supported sites are set to open in the coming weeks in Massachusetts and New York City, both hit by a marked rise in infections. Next week, the U.S. will send authorized federal prescribers to several Minnesota-run testing sites, turning them into test-to-treat locations. Federal regulators have also sent clearer guidance to physicians to help them determine how to manage Paxlovid’s interactions with other drugs, with an eye toward helping prescribers find ways to get the life-saving medication to more patients.
Maintaining Services
Japan starts 4th COVID vaccine shots for seniors, at-risk groups
Japan began offering fourth coronavirus vaccine shots Wednesday to older people, and those with underlying medical conditions. People eligible for fourth inoculations are those aged 60 and older as well as individuals between 18 and 59 with chronic health conditions, such as respiratory illnesses or heart conditions, or at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms if infected with the coronavirus, according to the health ministry. The ministry suggests people receive the booster shots at least five months after receiving their third inoculation. The majority of seniors began getting third shots in January, meaning that the fourth round of shots is expected to be in full swing from June onward.
Hospitals are exploring a way to pay for uninsured Covid-19 care
The federal health department shut down a program that paid hospitals and clinics for caring for uninsured Covid-19 patients, but some hospitals are now eyeing a backdoor option to get those costs paid for. Throughout much of the pandemic, the costs of testing, vaccinating, and treating uninsured patients were mostly funneled to a multi-billion-dollar program run by the Health Resources and Services Administration, but that program ran out of money and shut down in April. The program paid out more than $1 billion per month, which means its closure was a big hit for some facilities that serve large numbers of uninsured patients.
Healthcare Innovations
Mucosal COVID vaccine candidate powerfully protective in macaques
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is capable of infecting people of any age. Although COVID-19 is often mild in young children relative to adults, thousands of children have been admitted to hospitals in the United States (US) owing to SARS-CoV-2 infection, with around one-third of them having no prior medical issues. Over 800 US children aged 0 to 11 years have died from COVID-19, and during the 2021/2022 fall/winter SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the US, children constituted more than 25% of COVID-19 cases. Moreover, COVID-19 rarely produces a multisystem inflammatory disease in children (MIS-C).
Long COVID risk falls only slightly after vaccination, huge study shows
Vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 lowers the risk of long COVID after infection by only about 15%, according to a study of more than 13 million people1. That’s the largest cohort that has yet been used to examine how much vaccines protect against the condition, but it is unlikely to end the uncertainty. Long COVID — illness that persists for weeks or months after infection with SARS-CoV-2 — has proved difficult to study, not least because the array of symptoms makes it hard to define. Even finding out how common it is has been challenging. Some studies2,3 have suggested that it occurs in as many as 30% of people infected with the virus. But a November study4 of about 4.5 million people treated at US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals suggests that the number is 7% overall and lower than that for those who were not hospitalized.
Multi-inflammatory index predicts mortality in critically ill COVID-19 patients
A multi-inflammatory index (MII) biomarker have been shown to have good predictive power for mortality among COVID-19 patients admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU). This was the main finding of a study by a team of Turkish researchers.
COVID-19: Amyloids could explain blood clots, neurological symptoms
The cause of the many mysterious and lingering symptoms brought on by SARS-CoV-2 infection, or COVID-19, has remained a hard-to-solve puzzle for scientists. Researchers have been looking into various systems in the body in an effort to find answers. A sometimes controversial area of study has been micro clots in people with long COVID, caused by fibrin, which is a substance that contributes to coagulation. This has made both the immune system and circulatory system interesting candidates for further study. A recent study, published in the Journal of American Chemical Society, has provided a suggested mechanism to explain why some people develop complicated COVID-19 symptoms after infection.