"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 30th May 2022

Isolation Tips
Beijing Says Outbreak Under Control as City Eases Movement Curbs
China’s capital Beijing will loosen mobility curbs in several districts from Sunday after authorities said its outbreak is under control, while total case numbers in the financial hub of Shanghai continued to decline. Most public transportation services including buses, subways and taxis will resume in three districts including Chaoyang, according to Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the Beijing city government. Shopping centers outside of controlled areas in the city will also be allowed to reopen with capacity limits on the number of people. Chaoyang is home to Beijing’s central business district, most foreign embassies and expatriates.
Shanghai takes baby steps towards ending COVID lockdown
Shanghai took more gradual steps on Friday towards lifting its COVID-19 lockdown while Beijing was investigating cases where its strict curbs were affecting other medical treatments as China soldiered on with its uneven exit from restrictions. The financial hub and the capital have been hot spots, with a harsh two-month lockdown to arrest a coronavirus spike in Shanghai and tight movement restrictions to stamp out a small but stubborn outbreak in Beijing.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19 and mRNA technology are helping Africa fix its vaccine problems
After the disastrous effect of vaccine nationalism on access in Africa, boosting local production is key to preventing a repeat in future pandemics. WHO’s new mRNA vaccine hub is at the forefront, report Emma Bryce and Sandy Ong In June 2021, the World Health Organization selected South African biotech company Afrigen to be part of the “hub” where mRNA technology—which underpins the most effective covid-19 vaccines—would be developed and shared with other lower and middle income countries.1 More than 15 manufacturers (“spokes”) have been named so far, almost half located in Africa.2 For the world’s second largest continent, by size and population, this initiative has come not a moment too soon. Africa uses one quarter of global vaccines but produces just 1%3—a shortage that left it wrong footed as covid-19 swept the globe and rich nations hoarded vaccine supplies.
North Korea tests rivers, air, garbage as anti-COVID efforts gather steam
North Korean health officials are testing rivers, lakes, the air and household wastewater and garbage for the coronavirus as the country intensifies its fight against its first outbreak, state media said on Friday. The isolated country has been in a heated battle against an unprecedented COVID wave since declaring a state of emergency and imposing a nationwide lockdown this month, fuelling concerns about a lack of vaccines, medical supplies and food shortages.
Nasal COVID-19 vaccines help the body prepare for infection right where it starts – in your nose and throat
Imagine inhaling just a few drops of liquid or mist to get protected from COVID-19. That is the idea behind nasal COVID-19 vaccines, and they have been getting a lot of attention recently as a spray or liquid. These nasal vaccines would be based on the same technology as normal vaccines given by injection. But as Mayuresh Abhyankar, a University of Virginia researcher who studies infectious diseases and works on nasal vaccines, explains, vaccinating someone right where the coronavirus is likely to start its attack comes with many immunological benefits.
Community Activities
The Best and Worst Places to Be in a World Divided Over Covid
Most of the world is now living alongside Covid-19, with the omicron variant penetrating parts of the globe that avoided the worst of the early pandemic, triggering record waves in places like New Zealand and Taiwan. In Europe and North America, while life has largely normalized, there’s still a constant stream of Covid fatalities—especially in the US and UK. The ability to open up with low levels of death is why Norway retains the No. 1 position in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking for a third month. A 91% vaccination rate in adults has helped the Nordic country keep its fatality rate low, despite a consistently circulating virus. Ireland comes in second in May, while Denmark overtakes the United Arab Emirates for third as it emerges from an omicron-fueled wave.
Virtual Classrooms
Distance learning: Just a stop-gap arrangement or a sustainable way of study
Schools and colleges across the country shifted to online mode during Covid as the enforcement of lockdown and social distancing rendered classroom teaching impractical. In all cases, parents were keen to safeguard their children against the virus and hence were not mentally prepared for the traditional classroom studies. The country was adapting to the innovation of distance learning (or eLearning as it is popularly called), But in effect it is online method of instruction while distance learning as previously known varies from the new evolving scenario. Online Classes or Distance Learning is in fact the new version of correspondence course. The new way of learning requires computer, smartphone, reliable internet connection, whereas in correspondence course an address(for sending study materials) was the only thing required. Online classes or distance learning has got an edge over correspondence learning as in this mode of education the teacher and students can interact simultaneously, by sitting at the comfort of their home/ preferred location and see each other.
Using Virtual Teachers to Fill Vacancies: Smart Solution or Big Mistake?
Those are the the pitches Proximity Learning and Elevate K12, rapidly growing for-profit companies that live-stream teachers into classrooms nationwide, make to districts struggling to find an algebra or physics instructor. The companies’ approach to virtual learning, they say, offers more than just help for districts in filling vacancies and the chance for teachers to set their own hours and work from anywhere: It provides a glimpse into the future of K-12 education. Staffing shortages and the desire to prepare kids for in-demand jobs will eventually propel many schools to offer a combination of face-to-face teachers and this new live-streaming model, said Shaily Baranwal, Elevate K12’s founder and CEO.
Public Policies
Cyprus gets rid of required COVID-19 tests for visitors
Travelers to Cyprus will no longer be required to show either a valid COVID-19 vaccination or a recovery certificate and won’t need to produce a negative recent COVID-19 test of June 1, the Cypriot government said Friday. The government also decided to abolish a requirement to wear face masks in all indoor areas in Cyprus as of June 1 with the exception of hospitals, nursing homes and other indoor medical facilities. Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said the decision to lift COVID-19 screening requirements at airports signals the tourism-reliant island nation is ready to return to normality.
First steps in reforming global health emergency rules agreed at WHO meeting
Countries have agreed to an initial U.S.-led push to reform of the rules around disease outbreaks, known as the International Health Regulations, after early opposition from Africa and others was overcome this week, sources told Reuters on Friday. The amendments, once confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) assembly, are one of a handful of concrete outcomes from a meeting seen as a once-in-a-generation chance for the U.N. health agency to strengthen its role following some 15 million deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reform sought by Washington and backed by others like Japan and the European Union is a first step in a broader reform of the IHR, which set out countries' legal obligations around disease outbreaks, expected to take up to two years.
North Korea stockpiled Chinese masks, vaccines before reporting COVID outbreak
In the months before it acknowledged its first official COVID-19 outbreak, North Korea suddenly imported millions of face masks, 1,000 ventilators, and possibly vaccines from China, trade data released by Beijing showed. Two weeks ago state media revealed the outbreak, fuelling concerns about a lack of vaccines, medical supplies and food shortages. Chinese data show that even before that announcement, the North had begun stocking up.
Swiss to destroy more than 620000 expired Moderna COVID doses
Switzerland will destroy more than 620,000 expired doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, health officials said on Friday, as demand for the shots drops dramatically. "It was consciously accepted that under certain circumstances too much vaccine was procured for Switzerland's needs," a spokesperson for the Federal Office of Public Heath said, confirming a report by broadcaster RTS. "The aim is to protect the population in Switzerland at all times with sufficient quantities of the most effective vaccines available."
UK ministerial code updated to set out possible sanctions for breaches
British ministers who breach the government's code of conduct will not be expected to resign, an official document published on Friday said with an updated version of the rule book setting out a range of alternative sanctions. Behaviour at the heart of government is under intense scrutiny after a series of scandals - including several illegal parties in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's offices during the COVID-19 lockdown. The policy paper, published alongside the latest version of the Ministerial Code, said it was "disproportionate to expect that any breach, however minor, should lead automatically to resignation or dismissal"
U.S. extends tariff exclusions on Chinese COVID-19 medical products
The U.S. Trade Representative's office on Friday said it extended tariff exclusions on Chinese-made medical products needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic for another six months, to Nov. 30. The exclusions from tariffs of up to 25% imposed by former President Donald Trump's administration were granted in 2020 and were subsequently extended, but were due to expire on May 31, USTR said. Products affected by the extension include face masks, surgical gloves, hospital gowns, and other related products and devices.
Maintaining Services
U.S. doctors reconsider Pfizer's Paxlovid for lower-risk COVID patients
Use of Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid spiked this week, but some doctors are reconsidering the pills for lower-risk patients after a U.S. public health agency warned that symptoms can recur after people complete a course of the drug, and that they should then isolate a second time. More quarantine time "is not a crowd-pleaser," Dr. Sandra Kemmerly, an infectious disease specialist at Ochsner Health in New Orleans, told Reuters. "For those people who really aren't at risk ... I would recommend that they not take it."
JBS U.S. units to adopt pandemic response plans after COVID outbreaks
Subsidiaries of meat processor JBS USA LLC have agreed to implement infectious disease preparedness plans at seven U.S. plants, in the wake of a U.S. congressional report finding that the industry largely failed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among workers. The agreement was announced on Friday by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which said the companies will work with teams of outside experts to develop and implement new policies on engineering, ventilation, visitor screening, cleaning, and personal protective equipment.
Beijing city offers elderly COVID shot-related health insurance to ease hesitancy
China's capital is offering elderly residents state-backed insurance for "medical accidents" linked to COVID-19 shots to ease vaccination hesitancy among those most vulnerable, as Beijing ramps up inoculations during its worst outbreak. Chinese officials have pointed to relatively lower vaccination rates among the elderly as a key weakness in its "dynamic zero-COVID" strategy. The city of 22 million people had fully inoculated 97.7% of its adult residents as of September last year, but only 80.6% of people aged 60 and over had received their first dose by mid-April this year, according to city officials.
Healthcare Innovations
Previous COVID-19 or MIS-C does not protect kids from omicron, study finds
Research drawing on the national Overcoming COVID-19 study, led by Boston Children's Hospital, and the hospital's own Taking On COVID-19 Together Group provides evidence that children who previously had COVID-19 (or the inflammatory condition MIS-C) are not protected against the newer omicron variant. The researchers obtained blood samples from 62 children and adolescents hospitalized with severe COVID-19, 65 children and adolescents hospitalized with MIS-C, and 50 outpatients who had recovered from mild COVID-19. All the samples were taken during 2020 and early 2021, before the emergence of the omicron variant. The researchers obtained blood samples from 62 children and adolescents hospitalized with severe COVID-19, 65 children and adolescents hospitalized with MIS-C, and 50 outpatients who had recovered from mild COVID-19. All the samples were taken during 2020 and early 2021, before the emergence of the omicron variant.
Exploring antigenic traits of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants
SARS-CoV-2 mutants have emerged constantly throughout the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron BA.2 and BA.1 lineages appeared in late November 2021 in South Africa and harbor a substantial antigenic gap from prior SARS-CoV-2 variants and existing vaccine strains, yet a minor antigenic distance between each other. BA.4 and BA.5, the most recent SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutants to appear, were initially discovered in Southern Africa, where they are causing the present wave of SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, the Omicron BA.5 and BA.4 sublineage cases were elevating quickly in various European nations. BA.5 and BA.4 encode similar spike (S) proteins and are more closely associated with BA.2. They share multiple mutations with BA.2, including Δ69-70, F486V, and L452R, but neither has the Q493R alteration compared to BA.2.
Scientists identify ‘trigger molecule’ for Covid-related changes to smell
Scientists have identified the “trigger molecule” that makes pleasant aromas smell like burning rubbish or sewage in people whose sense of smell is disrupted by Covid. The loss of smell is a defining symptom of Covid-19, with about 18% of adults in the UK estimated to have been affected. Some people also experience disturbances in their sense of smell – a condition known as parosmia – but the biological basis for this has remained a mystery. Now scientists have identified a highly potent odour molecule that appears to be a trigger for the sense of disgust experienced by many of those with parosmia. The molecule, called 2-furanmethanethiol, found in coffee, was described by those with a normal sense of smell as being coffee- or popcorn-like, but those with parosmia typically described its scent as disgusting, repulsive or dirty.
Study: Lingering cough, fatigue more common in Omicron patients
Patients suffering from COVID-19 aftereffects were more likely to have persistent coughs and fatigue if they were infected with the Omicron variant instead of the Delta or other strains, a survey showed. The survey by the Tokyo metropolitan government was based largely on data collected from eight hospitals run by the metropolitan government or the Tokyo Metropolitan Health and Hospitals Corporation. These hospitals offer telephone consultations to patients experiencing long-term effects of COVID-19. The Tokyo Center for Infectious Disease Control and Prevention analyzed consultation records for 2,039 patients who tested positive for the Omicron variant between January and April.