"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Jun 2022

Isolation Tips
Macau hotel locked down after COVID case, 700 people to be quarantined-media
A hotel and casino resort in the world's biggest gambling hub of Macau was locked down by authorities with 700 people inside on Tuesday due to a coronavirus infection outbreak on the property, local broadcaster TDM reported. The lockdown comes as the Chinese special administrative region carries out a two-day mass testing of its more than 600,000 population after dozens of locally transmitted coronavirus cases were discovered over the weekend.
Hygiene Helpers
Wrist-worn trackers can detect Covid before symptoms, study finds
Health trackers worn on the wrist could be used to spot Covid-19 days before any symptoms appear, according to researchers. Growing numbers of people worldwide use the devices to monitor changes in skin temperature, heart and breathing rates. Now a new study shows that this data could be combined with artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose Covid-19 even before the first tell-tale signs of the disease appear. “Wearable sensor technology can enable Covid-19 detection during the presymptomatic period,” the researchers concluded. The findings were published in the journal BMJ Open. The discovery could lead to health trackers being adapted with AI to detect Covid-19 early, simply by spotting basic physiological changes.
Indonesia Tightens Screening at Large Events as Covid Cases Rise
Indonesia is tightening guidelines around organizing large-scale events to minimize the spread of Covid-19 virus as new cases increased to a two-month high. Participants should be fully vaccinated in order to attend events involving 1,000 people or more, while unvaccinated children are discouraged from joining, Covid-19 Task Force Spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said in a briefing Tuesday. The new directive takes effect immediately, and a regulation detailing all the measures will be issued shortly. “The rise in infections is unavoidable as people’s mobility increases, regardless of the variants,” Adisasmito said.
'Should all Koreans receive 4th Covid-19 vaccine shot?'
The quarantine authorities are considering expanding the fourth Covid-19 vaccine shots to all people based on domestic quarantine situations and research results at home and abroad, officials said Tuesday. "If the immunity level falls quickly, a virus resurge can also come quickly. However, we could put off the resurge depending on the immunity level," said Lim Sook-young, a senior official at the Central Disease Control Headquarters (CDCH). "I think the strategy for vaccination is very important." In preparation for strains that may become prevalent in the second half of the year, the government will respond and prepare by focusing on how to implement vaccination, inject therapeutic agents at the right time, and develop strategies to strengthen surveillance for new variants, Lim added. The authorities confirmed a positive antibody rate of 94.9 percent through a survey but expected the immune effect to decline in the fall, making additional vaccination inevitable.
U.S. to begin vaccinating young children against covid
Eighteen months after a New York nurse received the first U.S. coronavirus vaccination, immunizations became available Tuesday for about 19 million children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, the last group of Americans to be afforded that protection. Pediatricians, drugstores, hospitals and community vaccination centers began to administer first doses of two vaccines to children: the Pfizer-BioNTech product to children ages 6 months through 4 years; and the Moderna vaccine to children 6 months through 5 years old.
Afrigen, Univercells Team Up to Develop African Covid Vaccine
South African biotech company Afrigen Biologics will work with a Belgian partner to develop the first African-owned Covid-19 shot as part of a broader effort to reduce the continent’s reliance on other regions for vaccines. Afrigen and the Univercells Group aim to build on expertise developed through the World Health Organization’s messenger RNA vaccine hub, the companies said in a statement Tuesday. Afrigen, based in Cape Town, said it’s working to facilitate the production of mRNA vaccines at more than 15 manufacturing sites in low- and middle-income nations across the world. Africa, which imports about 99% of all the shots it needs, was left far behind wealthier nations in securing shots during the pandemic with manufacturing concentrated in just a handful of countries. The partners said they’ll seek to develop vaccines that are cheaper to produce and easier to store and distribute in rural and remote locations where few people have been vaccinated.
Ainos COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test Receives Approval for Sale in Taiwan
Ainos, Inc. a diversified medtech company focused on the development of novel point-of-care testing, low-dose interferon therapeutics, and synthetic RNA-driven preventative medicine, today announced that the Company has begun marketing the Ainos SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Self-Test (“COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test Kit” or “the Test”) under an Emergency Use Authorization (“EUA”) issued by the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (“TFDA”) on June 13, 2022 to Taiwan Carbon Nano Technology Corporation (“TCNT”), the manufacturer and product co-developer of the Test in conjunction with Ainos. Ainos is the exclusive master sales and marketing agent for the COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test Kit.
UK scientists urge higher uptake of Covid boosters among elderly
Around a fifth of people aged 75 and over in England have yet to have a fourth Covid jab, data suggests, leading to calls for a renewed push for vaccination of the vulnerable amid rising infections and hospitalisations. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in the week ending 11 June an estimated one in 50 people in England had Covid – about 1.13 million people – a rise from 1 in 70 the week before. Upticks have also been seen in the rest of the UK, while hospitalisations are also rising. The resurgence is thought to be down to a rise in Omicron variants including BA.4 and BA.5, although scientists say other factors may also be at play, including a return to pre-pandemic behaviour, and waning immunity.
Community Activities
COVID-19: Brits to have first access to vaccines and treatments when new science super-centre opens
US pharmaceutical firm Moderna is to establish a global clinical trials base in the UK, which it says will endorse the country as a science superpower - and future-proof it against emerging health threats.
RMI's COVID-19 vaccine partnership with Acacium proves a success
The joint aim of the companies was to provide vaccines to vulnerable communities Remote Medical International (RMI) – which specialises in protecting the health of workers in diverse areas across the world – partnered with healthcare solutions company Acacium Group to provide vaccinations in areas of notable need during 2021-22. Their joint aim was to deliver mobile vaccination and COVID-19 test processing units throughout the Midlands and South East of the UK during the pandemic. The companies delivered mobile-testing with a results turnaround time of less than three hours and, throughout the course of their deployment, processed in the excess of 200,000 tests
U.S. factories pop up to make medical gloves, spurred by pandemic
Rising from a muddy field on the outskirts of the small town of Fayette, Alabama is a bricks-and-mortar symbol of the global COVID pandemic: A new glove factory. When completed in 2024 the complex, owned by Japan’s SHOWA Glove Co will be able to produce about 3 billion medical-grade nitrile gloves a year from its dozen massive new, five-stories-tall, automated assembly lines. That may seem like a lot but is only a small slice of the over 100 billion consumed in the United States annually.
Twitter Accounts Hyped Company Seeking Covid Vaccine Trials
A network of Twitter accounts pushed messages to boost the share price of a biotech company as it sought approval to run a clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine, according to research provided to Bloomberg News. The tweets promoted stock for Ocugen Inc., which is based in Malvern, Pennsylvania, at rates well above market value, according to research by Alethea Group, a startup that tracks disinformation. The company’s share price nearly doubled in a little more than a week. The findings suggest a coordinated social media effort to sway interest in an otherwise little known medical technology company, according to Lisa Kaplan, Alethea Group’s founder and chief executive officer.
Working Remotely
Remote working is here to stay: what businesses must now consider
Businesses quickly implemented remote work policies to regulate employees’ productivity and adherence to their terms of employment. More than two years down the line, with the national state of disaster now over and Covid reaching endemic status, how do businesses and employees navigate the changed world of work? Dr Richard Malkin, chief executive officer of Workforce Healthcare, says: “Remote work is definitely here to stay. Employers are still encouraged to have staff on rotation and working remotely to reduce numbers in offices and minimise risk.
GitLab CEO: ‘Remote work is just work’
Spring 2022 was slated to be a big season for workplaces. After two years of false starts, it seemed as though companies across every industry had set their sights on this season as the time to return to the office. Or, as some are calling it, the return to work. But from where I’m standing, I don’t think there ever was a time when we stopped working. Employees haven’t just been biding time and treading water since they were sent home in early 2020—they’ve been working harder than ever
Virtual Classrooms
Students call for better pandemic teaching methods and learning materials
Students from Uganda, Zimbabwe and Brazil have won the 2022 FT/World Bank blog competition on how to improve education during the pandemic. Most students argued that online learning was no substitute for face-to-face interaction in schools, but some also highlighted the benefits of technology and called on policymakers to be more flexible and explore combining the best elements of both approaches. Many cited the damaging effects of lockdowns on mental health, the inability of online learning to provide a substitute for the social aspects of studying and the “digital divide” of poor internet access in many regions and countries around the world.
Michelle McIlveen announces qualification arrangements for next academic year
In Ireland, education minister Michelle McIlveen said arrangements for next year’s qualifications will "acknowledge the unprecedented disruption our education system has faced" due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, students had to rely on teacher-assessed grades as the pandemic led to the closure of schools and pupils moved to remote learning. This year marked the first time in three years that pupils have sat A-levels, AS levels and GSCEs. However, several courses were amended to allow for the continued loss of time in the classroom.
Public Policies
IP is no barrier to COVID vaccine access, says industry -
While proponents argue waiving IP on COVID-19 vaccines would better enable low- and middle-income countries to inoculate their populations, the pharma industry has called the proposals “unnecessary and harmful to innovation”. Proposals to waive COVID-19 product patents have been described as “political posturing” and an “answer to a problem that does not exist”. The Quad compromise, a World Health Organization plan which would, if enacted, release members from granting or enforcing COVID-19 vaccine patents, was discussed at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) last week. But the pharmaceutical industry has said the move could “undermine innovation and industry’s ability to partner, invest at risk, and respond quickly to future pandemics”.
Maintaining Services
U.S. COVID vaccines start to roll out for young children
The United States has begun distributing COVID vaccines for children as young as six months around the country, and availability of the shots will improve in the coming days, according to White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. U.S. regulators authorized Moderna Inc's two-dose vaccine for children aged six months to five years and the Pfizer-BioNTech three-shot regimen for children aged six months to four years late last week.
U.S. COVID vaccine rollout for young children will pick up pace
The United States has begun distributing COVID vaccines for children as young as six months around the country, and availability of the shots will improve in the coming days, according to White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. U.S. regulators authorized Moderna Inc's (MRNA.O) two-dose vaccine for children aged six months to five years and the Pfizer (PFE.N)-BioNTech (22UAy.DE) three-shot regimen for children aged six months to four years late last week.
Covid surges across Europe as experts warn not let guard down
Multiple European countries are experiencing a significant surge in new Covid-19 infections, as experts warn that with almost all restrictions lifted and booster take-up often low, cases could soar throughout the summer leading to more deaths. According to the Our World in Data scientific aggregator, the rolling seven-day average of confirmed new cases per million inhabitants is on the rise in countries including Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark. Portugal has experienced the most dramatic wave, with infections per million remaining at a seven-day average of 2,043 on Monday – the second highest new case rate in the world, although down somewhat from an early June high of 2,878.
Covid hospitalisations in England up 24 per cent from last week
Coronavirus hospitalisations in England have surged by almost 25 per cent in the last week, as cases spread like wildfire once more across the globe. New figures released by the NHS this week highlight 5,726 beds occupied by Covid patients as of 20 June, up from 4,602 on the previous Monday. The spike in cases represents a 24 per cent increase in England, as the virus once more rears its ahead around the world. There was also a major spike in cases following the Platinum Jubilee half term break, and as the weather heats up, and Brits enjoy more socialising.
Healthcare Innovations
After maternal COVID vaccination, infants have persistent anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies at 3 months
A recent article published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases assessed the kinetics of anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antibodies derived from mothers among infants in association with the timing of prenatal SARS-CoV-2 vaccination.
New Covid vaccine which protects against Omicron variant could be in the UK by autumn
Older British people and medical workers may be given a new version of the Covid-19 vaccine this year which is tailor-made to protect against the Omicron variant. Ministers hope that the next generation of jabs made both by Pfizer and Moderna will be ready in time for autumn, when a new round of vaccines will be administered to certain groups. Over-65s, vulnerable people below that age, and frontline health and care workers are due to be invited for another vaccination to top up their immunity levels.
Paxlovid of no benefit to low risk patients with COVID-19
Paxlovid is of no benefit to patients at a low risk of either being hospitalised or death after infection with COVID-19. According to the results of a press release from the manufacturer, Pfizer, paxlovid does not benefit patients who are either unvaccinated or vaccinated and who are deemed not at a high risk of severe complications such as hospitalisation or death if infected with COVID-19. Paxlovid is a protease inhibitor antiviral therapy against COVID-19 and was developed to be taken orally, at the first sign of infection or at first awareness of an exposure. The early use of the drug could therefore help patients avoid severe illness and which might lead to hospitalisation or death, or avoid disease development following contact with an infected individual.
Some Omicron sub-variants escaping antibodies from Sinopharm shot, Chinese study says
A small Chinese study detailed in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal showed neutralising antibodies against some Omicron sub-variants were largely undetectable after two doses of a Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, with a booster shot only partly restoring them. The study comes as China, which has approved only locally developed COVID shots including the Sinopharm vaccine, strives to improve vaccination rates, maintaining a "dynamic zero COVID" policy aimed at eradicate all outbreaks while many countries have adopted an approach of learning to live with the virus