"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 17th Jun 2022

Isolation Tips
Beijing declares initial COVID victory as bar-linked surge eases
The city of Beijing on Thursday declared an initial victory in its latest battle with COVID-19 after testing millions of people and quarantining thousands in the past week to stem an outbreak prolonged by a sudden wave of cases linked to a bar. The flare-up at the popular Heaven Supermarket Bar known for its cheap liquor and rowdy nights emerged just days after the Chinese capital started to lift widespread curbs. Restrictions had been in place for around a month in Beijing to tackle a broader outbreak that began in late April. The surge since June 9 is very modest by global standards, with a total of 351 cases found so far, but reflects how challenging it is, with the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, for China to make a success out of its strategy of stamping out each cluster of cases as soon as it materialises. "After eight days of hard fighting and the concerted efforts of Beijing residents in the battle, the swift and decisive measures have shown their effect," Beijing city government spokesperson Xu Hejian said.
Hygiene Helpers
More South Australians now able to test for different viruses at COVID drive-through sites
More vulnerable South Australians will now be able to test for 12 different viruses, such as influenza, alongside their COVID-19 tests. The test can detect a dozen viruses including COVID, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus. Flu cases are skyrocketing in SA. The multi-virus tests take about 24 hours to process SA Pathology has doubled its multi-virus testing from 500 to 1,000 a day to support doctors to give early diagnosis and treatment to at-risk patients. Tests are available at drive-through testing clinics and at private pathologies with a GP referral, which can also be obtained via telehealth. Health Minister Chris Picton said multi-virus testing has been available since the start of the pandemic, but spiking flu cases have prompted health authorities to provide more testing.
China top Covid-19 fighter calls for all-in-one data portal like Europe’s EpiPulse
Two-and-a-half years after China's first Covid-19 cases, leading epidemiologist Liang Wannian has proposed the setting up of an EU-like integrated monitoring and early reporting system for a speedy response to future outbreaks. The current data collection process is "complex and fragmented", said Liang, head of China's Covid-19 response team, as he called for the different monitoring systems to be rolled into an all-in-one network. This would cover not only human health data but also animal farm and waste water monitoring inputs, to help identify novel pathogens and provide seamless access to data on a single platform.
WHO: COVID-19 deaths rise, reversing a 5-week decline
After five weeks of declining coronavirus deaths, the number of fatalities reported globally increased by 4% last week, according to the World Health Organization. In its weekly assessment of the pandemic issued on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said there were 8,700 COVID-19 deaths last week, with a 21% jump in the Americas and a 17% increase in the Western Pacific. WHO said coronavirus cases continued to fall, with about 3.2 million new cases reported last week, extending a decline in COVID-19 infections since the peak in January. Still, there were significant spikes of infection in some regions, with the Middle East and Southeast Asia reporting increases of 58% and 33% respectively.
Shanghai orders mass COVID testing each weekend until end-July
Shanghai will require all of its 16 districts to organise mass COVID testing for residents every weekend until the end of July, a city official said on Wednesday. Zhao Dandan said that said that all districts will organise "community screenings" each weekend. Should a district find any community transmission during the week, it will be required to conduct a full screening during which all residents will be subjected to "closed management" movement restrictions until testing is over, he added.
Community Activities
Is there a new Covid wave? How many cases there are in the UK and why there are concerns over new variant
Covid infections have shot up by 47 per cent this month, prompting fears the UK is embarking on its third wave of the year. Daily symptomatic infections have increased by 53,943, from 114,030 on 1 June to 167,973 on Tuesday, according to the latest figures from the ZOE Covid study app. The four-day weekend of Platinum Jubilee celebrations kicked off on 2 June, so much of the rise has been put down to street parties and other events held across the country to mark the occasion. But the post-Jubilee increase was expected to peak at about 150,000 cases a day before dropping a bit and stabilising. Instead, numbers have carried on going up, with substantial daily increases in recent days. It is entirely possible that cases could soon peak and begin to fall, but there are growing fears we are in the early stages of a new wave driven by the new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
Working Remotely
24 essentials to help you work remotely outside
Taking your work outdoors offers numerous benefits — recent research from the scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology found the change of scenery enhanced test subjects’ cognition, mood and creativity. Sitting outside also provided respondents with a greater sense of freedom and autonomy, which ultimately helped boost work productivity and enjoyment. While working outside comes with its own set of challenges — you’ll need to be prepared for inclement weather and low device battery, for example — you can easily set up a practical workstation that makes you look forward to tearing through your to-do list. Whether you’re working in your backyard, in your favorite café’s patio or at the park, here are 24 essentials to help you work outdoors.
65% of remote working UK staff are less likely to take sick leave
New research has revealed that two-thirds (65%) of UK employees said they are less likely to take sick leave when working remotely. HR software provider Breathe conducted a survey across 1,264 UK small to medium sized enterprise (SME) employees, looking into the current state of wellbeing among them and asking a range of questions covering sick leave, mental health and remote working. The data revealed that among those who felt unwell but did not take sick leave, 32% could not financially afford to take time off work, 25% were too busy to take time off and 20% felt pressured to work through it.
Virtual Classrooms
The Parents Keeping Their Children in Pod Schools
Parents throughout the US sought out micro-schools and pod teaching through the pandemic’s first academic year, seeking a way for their children to socialize maskless and escape the confines of virtual learning. Many children later returned to public school, but parents who were especially resistant to masks began to see these alternatives as their only option. Then, in early March, Governor Phil Murphy lifted the statewide mandate—and yet this cluster of pods and micro-schools remained. Months of shared anger at schools had fostered solidarity among parents. That anger didn’t dissipate after mandates were lifted; it merely changed shape and direction.
Public Policies
COVID-era health funding extended by Anthony Albanese in first meeting of new national cabinet
$760 million more in COVID-era funding will be given to the states. The extended funding deal was given in recognition that the pandemic was continuing. National Cabinet also agreed to health network reforms to ease pressure on emergency departments.
WHO getting monkeypox tests for Africa, urges vaccine readiness
The World Health Organization (WHO) is in the process of procuring thousands of monkeypox tests for Africa but is not recommending mass vaccination at this stage, WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said on Thursday. She added that the continent should be prepared for vaccination should the need arise.
Swiss COVID-19 vaccine purchase plan fails to pass parliament
The Swiss parliament failed to finance the government's plan to buy COVID-19 vaccines in 2023, forcing the cabinet to try to renegotiate contracts with Moderna and Pfizer/Biontech for millions of doses. With the two houses of parliament split over the funding request, budget rules required the adoption of the cheaper version of draft legislation, the SDA news agency said in a report posted on parliament's website.
Florida didn't pre-order any COVID-19 vaccines for younger kids, DOH says
Officials from the Florida Department of Health said the state didn't pre-order any COVID-19 vaccines for kids under the age of 5. They say it's up to individual doctor's offices and pharmacies to make their own orders.
Valneva reaches settlement with Britain on COVID-19 vaccine deal termination
French drugmaker Valneva said on Wednesday it reached a settlement agreement with the British government linked to the termination of the supply agreement for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate VLA2001. Valneva said in September that it had received a termination notice from the British government of its COVID-19 vaccine supply deal, sending its shares plunging 35% that day. The settlement agreement resolves certain matters relating to the obligations of the company and the British government following the termination of the supply agreement, Valneva said.
FDA advisers endorse 1st COVID-19 shots for kids under 5
The first COVID-19 shots for U.S. infants, toddlers and preschoolers moved a step closer Wednesday. The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisers gave a thumbs-up to vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer for the littlest kids. The outside experts voted unanimously that the benefits of the shots outweigh any risks for children under 5 — that’s roughly 18 million youngsters. They are the last age group in the U.S. without access to COVID-19 vaccines and many parents have been anxious to protect their little children. If all the regulatory steps are cleared, shots should be available next week.
Maintaining Services
Trends are shifting, but Covid-19 and its effects are still not equitable
Through the many phases of the Covid-19 pandemic -- nearly a dozen variants, the introduction of vaccines, the dropping of prevention measures and more -- one thing has remained constant: The virus and its effects are not one-size-fits-all. Over the past few months, two unique trends have emerged: For the first time in the pandemic, Covid-19 case rates in the United States are higher among Asian people, and death rates are higher among White people than any other racial or ethnic group. These trends are a marked shift among groups that, data suggests, have tended to fare better overall during the pandemic. But there are critical limitations in federal data that mask persistent inequities, experts say.
Covid care home restrictions in Scotland caused harm, says report
Severe restrictions imposed on care home residents in Scotland during the Covid pandemic caused "harm and distress" and may have contributed to some deaths, academics have said. A 143-page report has been produced by Edinburgh Napier University. It had been commissioned by the independent inquiry into the country's handling of the pandemic. The report says that the legal basis for confining residents to their rooms and banning visitors was "unclear". And it said care home residents were arguably discriminated against compared to other citizens.
Healthcare Innovations
Pregnant Mothers in Mexico Saw Death Rates Surge During Height of Covid Pandemic
Vallejo is among the 2,240 mothers in Mexico who’ve died because of complications from their pregnancy since the pandemic began. When Covid-19 patients overwhelmed the health-care system, government leaders prioritized their care over that of expectant mothers, turning labor and delivery—and more broadly, women’s health—into an afterthought. Pregnancy-related death rates across the country spiked by more than 60% in the first year of the pandemic, an analysis published in the journal BMC Public Health shows. By the beginning of 2021, 81 women were dying for every 100,000 live births, based on government data, compared with 24 at the same time in 2019.
Researchers evaluate artemisinin for COVID-19 management
A study observed that artesunate-mefloquine displayed high anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity with approximately 72.1 ± 18.3% inhibition. Additionally, other ACTs such as artesunate-amodiaquine, artesunate-pyronaridine, artemether-lumefantrine, and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine also inhibited SARS-CoV-2 by 27.1 to 34.1%. This indicated that ACT drugs could be effectively used for COVID-19 treatment. Artesunate was also found to inhibit the production of interleukin-1B (IL-1B), IL-6, and IL-8. Since high IL-6 levels in COVID-19 patients have been attributed to the cytokine release syndrome, controlling the levels of IL-6 could potentially reduce the severity of COVID-19. Overall, the study revealed that A. annua, and artemisinin and its derivatives such as artemether and artesunate could potentially inhibit SARS-CoV-2. The researchers believe that Artemisia-based treatment options could be used to boost immunity and improve tolerance against viral infections such as COVID-19.
People who caught Covid in first wave get ‘no immune boost’ from Omicron
People who caught Covid during the first wave of the pandemic get no boost to their immune response if they subsequently catch Omicron, a study of triple vaccinated people reports. Experts say that while three doses of a Covid jab help to protect individuals against severe outcomes should they catch Omicron, previous infections can affect their immune response. “If you were infected during the first wave, then you can’t boost your immune response if you have an Omicron infection,” said Prof Rosemary Boyton, of Imperial College London, a co-author of the study. The team also found an Omicron infection offered little extra protection against catching the variant again. “When Omicron started flying around the country, people kept saying that’s OK, that will improve people’s immunity,” said Boyton. “What we’re saying is it’s not a good booster of immunity.”