"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 13th Jun 2022

Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19 vaccine in prison: a not-to-be-missed opportunity to promote access to vaccination in adolescents
Covid-19 vaccination campaigns for adolescents have been taking place in many countries for some months. The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunisation have called for vaccine prioritisation within countries to take into account the needs of those groups that, due to underlying social, ethnic, geographic, or biomedical factors, are at greater risk of getting infected or suffering most severe consequences from covid-19. Since the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is considerably higher in prisons and detention facilities than elsewhere, adolescents who are detained in juvenile institutions should be prioritised for vaccination. Detained adolescents often come from marginalised groups of society with a considerable burden of ill health rooted in poverty and discrimination, and with limited access to healthcare. The benefits of vaccinating adolescents in juvenile institutions include the direct benefits to their health and the indirect benefit of reducing onward transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within the prison community, including among prison staff, and in the community they belong. Furthermore, the implementation of the covid-19 vaccine in juvenile institutions is essential to upholding the principle of equity of care and to guarantee the right to health for those deprived of liberty, leaving no one behind
US lifts COVID-19 test requirement for international travel
The Biden administration is lifting its requirement that international air travelers to the U.S. take a COVID-19 test within a day before boarding their flights, easing one of the last remaining government mandates meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus .
Capacity limits, COVID-19 tests no longer needed at nightlife establishments from Jun 14
Nightlife establishments with dancing among patrons will no longer be subjected to a capacity limit from Jun 14. Patrons will also no longer need to obtain a negative antigen rapid test (ART) result to enter the venue, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (Jun 10), adding that this move will "rationalise the rules" for nightspots with other social settings. However, vaccination-differentiated safe management measures will continue to apply, with operators still required to conduct such checks to ensure that only fully-vaccinated people enter these settings. Enforcement officers may carry out random checks to ensure that operators comply, said MOH.
People aged 50 and above may get second COVID-19 booster at vaccination centres with mRNA shots: MOH
People aged 50 to 59 who want to get their second COVID-19 booster shot may do so from Friday (Jun 10) by walking into any vaccination centre offering mRNA vaccines, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). This is an expansion from the 60-79 age group that the ministry previously offered second booster shots to. The expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination has since assessed that people aged 50 to 59 who wish to take their second booster may also do so about five months after their first booster shot. “This is in view of data indicating that the risk of severe COVID-19 increases in the age group of 50 to 59 as well,” said MOH. "This is also around the age when chronic diseases start to set in."
Covid infections on the rise in England and Northern Ireland
The UK may be entering its third wave of coronavirus this year, researchers warn, as official figures show infections are on the rise again in England and Northern Ireland. The Office for National Statistics said its latest analysis of swabs from households across Britain revealed a mixed picture with a “small increase” in positive tests in England and Northern Ireland, while the trend in Wales and Scotland remained unclear. The ONS data, which give the most reliable picture of the state of the UK outbreak, suggest that the steady fall in infections over recent months may have gone into reverse as cases are driven up by the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.
Community Activities
Covid Testing No Longer Need for Flying. Airlines May Not Be Ready
Airlines have been petitioning for months to ease a pandemic-era restriction on arrivals from abroad. Now that the White House has lifted mandatory Covid testing for inbound passengers, the industry may rue having its collective wish granted just ahead of the busiest time of year for travel. As of June 12, travelers by air will join those at land ports of entry in no longer needing to submit negative Covid test results. That rule has depressed traffic and delayed a recovery for long-haul international service, airline lobbyists and the U.S. Travel Association have told the Biden administration repeatedly. But no more mandatory tests may presage an upswell in demand the industry is ill-prepared to handle. The situation in Europe -- where mandatory testing was abandoned as early as January in the UK -- isn’t encouraging.
COVID-19: How long-term smell loss can impact daily life
Recent studies show that 12-18 months after getting COVID-19, up to 46% of people are still experiencing a clinical reduction in their sense of smell. But what are the impacts of long-term smell loss on everyday life? Issues can include challenges with food safety, weight, relationships and mental health, according to a neuroscientist. Smell training can improve olfactory functions over time.
Preventing another Covid-19: Ugandan lab leads hunt for zoonotic diseases
On the shores of Lake Edward, near Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a renovated building houses a research laboratory capable of handling serious diseases such as anthrax. This building is the newest front in the hunt for zoonotic diseases and is at the forefront of a growing research movement that focuses on east Africa and other infection hotspots. The recent emergence of Covid-19 and monkeypox, both of which jumped from animals to humans, have been a reminder of the power that such diseases have to reshape our world, and the importance of early identification and genomic sequencing to help stop their spread.
Working Remotely
City of London Offices Still Not as Busy as Before Omicron
City of London workers are yet to return to the financial heartland in numbers seen before the spread of the omicron variant. About 60% to 70% of City employees are back at their desks, according to data compiled by Google, which tracks the movements of some of its users. That’s less than the 75% commuting prior to the omicron wave taking hold in late 2021. Businesses pushing for a return to the office continue to meet resistance from employees enjoying a better work-life balance as a result of not having to travel in every day. Almost 80% of London-based staff working remotely at least once a week say the experience has been good for them, according to a report published on Wednesday by the Policy Institute at King’s College London.
Why employees don't want to return to the office
The reasons the return to the office isn’t working out are numerous. Bosses and employees have different understandings of what the office is for, and after more than two years of working remotely, everyone has developed their own varied expectations about how best to spend their time. As more and more knowledge workers return to the office, their experience at work — their ability to focus, their stress levels, their level of satisfaction at work — has deteriorated. That’s a liability for their employers, as the rates of job openings and quits are near record highs for professional and business services, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Third of UK workers experience tech issues working remotely
New research has revealed that a third of UK office workers experience problems with their workplace technology which, on average, can take over three days to be replaced. What does this mean for already struggling IT departments when 8 in 10 people in the UK agree that flexible working is here to stay? Simply put, this means that IT departments need to get smart about how they support their workforce
Virtual Classrooms
Colleges 'reinventing' virtual student exchange
Rather than repeating other institutions’ mistakes, universities should embrace established ‘modalities’ for collaborative online international learning – and appreciate it as more than a Covid stopgap.
Public Policies
Waive Pharma's Vaccine Rights? What That Would Mean: QuickTake
The world’s top trade ministers will soon determine the fate of a World Trade Organization proposal to water down intellectual property protections for makers of Covid-19 vaccines. The accord as proposed is supported by the European Union, though its other original backers are not quite on board with it. It has also met fierce opposition from both public interest groups and the pharmaceutical industry who are urging nations to reject it.
U.S. FDA staff says Moderna COVID vaccine effective and safe for children
U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff reviewers on Friday said Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine appears safe and effective for use in children aged 6 months to 17 years old as a committee of scientists will meet next week to vote on whether to recommend the regulator authorize the vaccine in children. The FDA's reviewers said in briefing documents published on Friday evening that the vaccine had generated a similar immune response in the children than that observed in adults in previous trials.
Covid-19: Unusable PPE worth £4bn will be burned, says spending watchdog
The parliamentary watchdog on public spending has accused the Department of Health and Social Care for England of wasting £4bn of taxpayers’ money on unusable personal protective equipment in the first year of the covid-19 pandemic and of planning to burn much of it to “generate power.” The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee made the claim in its report on the Department of Health and Social Care’s accounts for 2020-21, the first year of the pandemic. The report paints a damning picture of the fallout from the government’s rush to compete with the rest of the world to procure PPE, bypassing the usual due diligence in its race to secure supplies. Of £12bn spent on PPE, £4bn was spent on items that failed to meet NHS standards and have remained unused, the report said.
Maintaining Services
Canada to suspend random COVID testing to reduce airport wait times
Canada is suspending random COVID-19 testing at all its airports for the rest of June to ease the long wait times that travelers have encountered in recent weeks, a government statement said on Friday. The random testing will be discontinued from Saturday and will resume "off-site" on July 1, the statement said. Random testing was blamed by some industry officials for lengthening already long wait times at airports. Toronto's Pearson airport has had planes stuck at gates and hours-long security lines because of staffing shortages.
Ontario planning COVID-19 boosters for fall, most mask mandates ending Saturday
After years of daily COVID-19 data reporting from the province, Public Health Ontario (PHO) is moving to a weekly reporting system. In a news release issued late Friday afternoon, the province announced the change comes into effect as of June 11. Ontario will publish the latest COVID-19 data each Thursday, starting on June 16. "PHO will continue to monitor trends and determine if any additional changes to reporting are needed, including to frequency and content, in the coming weeks and months," the statement reads. Data will still be available through the province's Open Data Catalog, it notes, but it will not be on the provincial website.
Healthcare Innovations
EU drug regulator: mRNA COVID vaccines do not cause absence of menstruation
Available data suggest that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines do not cause an absence of menstruation, the European Union's health regulator concluded on Friday. The assessment was prompted by reports of menstrual disorders after receiving one or two shots of either the Moderna (MRNA.O) or the Pfizer-BioNTech (PFE.N)(22UAy.DE) vaccines. Menstrual disorders can occur due to a range of reasons, including underlying medical conditions as well as stress and tiredness. Health authorities have highlighted that cases have also been reported following COVID-19 infection.
Risk of myocarditis and pericarditis after the COVID-19 mRNA vaccination in the USA: a cohort study in claims databases
An increased risk of myocarditis or pericarditis was observed after COVID-19 mRNA vaccination and was highest in men aged 18–25 years after a second dose of the vaccine. However, the incidence was rare. These results do not indicate a statistically significant risk difference between mRNA-1273 and BNT162b2, but it should not be ruled out that a difference might exist. Our study results, along with the benefit–risk profile, continue to support vaccination using either of the two mRNA vaccines.
'More work' to be done': Key takeaways from the WHO report on origins of the Covid-19 pandemic
Current data suggests a zoonotic origin of SARS-CoV-2 -- which means the virus originated in animals and jumped to humans. The most closely genetically related viruses were found to be beta coronaviruses identified in bats in China and Laos, according to SAGO. "However, so far neither the virus progenitors nor the natural/intermediate hosts or spill-over event to humans have been identified," the report said. The group pointed to published surveys of animals sold at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, where the virus was first identified. Between 2017 and 2019, the survey showed that several species known to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, such as racoon dogs and red foxes, were present in the market. But those animals were not sampled in the studies presented to the team by invited Chinese scientists. SAGO said further information about studies into the testing of these animals, as well as tracing back to source farms and serologic investigations into people who farmed and sold or traded the animals have been requested.