"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 27th Jun 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai’s Covid Lockdown Legacy: Confusion, Despair, Departure
Elizabeth Liu began to sob at the dinner table one evening in late March. She had just returned from the daily Covid-19 test that was the only time her family could leave their 10th-floor Shanghai apartment. That was when Mrs. Liu realized that the mental toll of living under China’s zero-Covid policies had become unbearable. It was also when she and her Singaporean husband agreed that by year’s end, they would leave the city where they’d met and which is the only home their four children—aged two to 12—have known. “It had just been building, this sense of anxiety and stress,” said the 39-year-old Texan, who moved to China in 2005 and Shanghai two years later. “It got to the point where I just thought: I want to get on a plane and I don’t care who comes with me.”
Hygiene Helpers
Thais 'willing' to wear masks in public
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed satisfaction over news that most Thais are voluntarily wearing masks for protection against Covid-19 despite the mask mandate being lifted on Thursday. Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, government spokesman, on Saturday said the PM expressed concern about the health of the public as coronavirus infection risks remained. The Department of Disease Control (DDC) recommends that people with underlying conditions, the elderly and pregnant women who have yet to get boosters keep wearing masks.
Coronavirus work from home warning as spring boosters 'drop off'
Coronavirus has been branded ‘concerning’ again in Manchester amid soaring case numbers ‘across all ages’, according to public health chiefs. The rise comes as there has been a significant ‘dropoff’ of eligible people coming forward to get spring Covid-19 vaccination booster jabs. The health bosses warned that people should work from home and children should stay at home from school if they have symptoms to prevent the spread. Greater Manchester doctors have also sounded alarms that another Covid wave could be hitting the region, saying 'next Covid wave inbound? Staff, patients, colleagues, friends, family, neighbours all succumbing again'.
Argentines not too keen on taking Covid-19 booster shots
Argentine health authorities have reported that. although the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet, fewer people showed up for their boosted dose of vaccine, due to a false low-risk perception which makes coverage not sufficient. While over 82% of the population has taken a full two-shot scheme, additional jabs have been skipped persistently despite the increase in the number of cases during May. Scientists insist these injections are the best way to prevent infection, severe symptoms, and possible death. “The low compliance of the population to get the fourth dose has a lot to do with the messages that have been installed in relation to covid during these last months.
Expert on why you need your covid booster jab now to keep safe this winter
England’s leading NHS medic is urging those eligible for a spring booster but yet to come forward to take up the offer as soon as possible as a quarter of a million reminders go out before the end of the month. The largest and fastest vaccination programme in NHS history has now invited everyone eligible for a spring booster and more than four in five people have already had their jab. The NHS has invited more than five million people in total to get their spring booster in line with JCVI guidance as part of the world-leading NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme. It is urging anyone yet to come forward for a spring dose to do so as soon as practically possible. More than four million people and around 86% of those aged 75 and over have already had their spring dose. Those who are eligible include older adult care home residents, people aged 75 and over and those who are immunosuppressed.
UK prepares to include over-50s in autumn Covid booster campaign
The UK government is getting ready to roll out Covid-19 booster jabs to all adults aged over 50, in a broader autumn campaign than its vaccine advisers had previously suggested. Under provisional guidance issued last month, only care home residents, the over-65s, frontline health and social workers and vulnerable younger people would be eligible for the next round of vaccines. But Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, told the Financial Times that he had asked his team “to be ready for it to be over-50s and above."
Some Chinese cities relax COVID testing mandates
Several Chinese cities have scrapped or relaxed their COVID-19 testing mandates after China emerged from its worst regional outbreaks, with officials told not to cause too much disruption to people's lives while staying vigilant about the virus.
Covid Resurgence Across UK, Europe Driven by Omicron Subvariants
Covid infection rates are rising again in the UK and across much of Europe, driven by newer versions of the omicron variant, amid concerns that another wave will disrupt businesses and add to pressure on health systems. In England, the estimated number of people testing positive for Covid-19 climbed to almost 1.4 million -- about 1 in 40 people -- in the week ending June 18, according to an Office for National Statistics report published Friday. That compares with around 1 in 50 people in the prior week. In Scotland, the estimate in the latest week increased to around 1 in 20 people.
Community Activities
Bereaved May Take Legal Action Against UK Over Covid Inquiry Delay
Bereaved families have warned they may take legal action against the Government over delays to starting the coronavirus public inquiry. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group is considering bringing a judicial review over the failure to provide a setting up date for the inquiry into the Government's handling of the pandemic. They say this leaves the inquiry in "limbo", more than six months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Baroness Hallett to chair the probe in December 2021. The PM has previously said the inquiry would start in spring 2022, but its terms of reference have not yet been published, nor a setting-up date specified. The group says the delay could cost lives, as it slows down how quickly lessons can be learned, and is worried key evidence could be tampered with or destroyed.
An NFT of a Covid-19 Vaccine Heads to Auction
A nonfungible token, or NFT, showcasing the molecular technology of the mRNA vaccine used to fight Covid-19, will be auctioned at Christie’s online next month to raise money for future medical research. The 3-D digital work is designed by the University of Pennsylvania and Drew Weissman, a doctor whose research helped create mRNA vaccines. The one-minute visual work also comes with a storyboard that explains how mRNA vaccines work to fight the Covid-19 virus; copies of original mRNA patent documents owned by the University of Pennsylvania; and an original letter from Weissman, director of Vaccine Research at The Perelman School of Medicine at the university. mRNA, short for messenger ribonucleic acid, is a single-stranded molecule of RNA that corresponds to the genetic sequence of a gene. Unlike traditional vaccines, which use a weakened or inactive germ to trigger an immune response, mRNA vaccines are designed to teach the body to create a protein that triggers the immune response.
London's Prime Shopping Street Has a Case of Long Covid
Regent Street, London’s premier shopping thoroughfare, is struggling to shake off the lingering effects of Covid-19. Store vacancy levels, at a record 12%, are almost twice what they were at the end of 2019, while asking rents for the best space on the street have fallen by more than 30% during the pandemic, according to Savills Plc. Shoppers who stroll along the curving avenue, passing through Oxford Circus and Piccadilly in London’s West End, may notice the absence of familiar brands. J Crew, Brooks Brothers, Desigual and Zara Home all closed stores during the two years of on-again off-again lockdowns that battered brick-and-mortar retailers and accelerated a shift to online shopping.
China's Economy Improves in June From Lockdown-Induced Slump
China’s economy showed some improvement in June as Covid restrictions were gradually eased, although the recovery remains muted. That’s the outlook based on Bloomberg’s aggregate index of eight early indicators for this month. The overall gauge returned to the neutral level after deteriorating for two straight months.
Covid-19 ‘magic mirror’ reflects widening fissures in Chinese society
“Covid-19 is a magic mirror that reveals the monster within” was a popular saying in China in the early days of the pandemic. It was used by the Chinese foreign ministry in reference to the United States to suggest that Covid-19 had uncovered America’s long-standing social problems. Whoever coined the saying was certainly very astute. But I wonder how many people in China at the time realised that one day the mirror could be turned on themselves. What would they see? What demons might be revealed? I have lived in China all my life. I am part of a generation that has seen outstanding improvements in this society. It seemed to us that things could only get better, and if there were any challenges along the way, there was nothing that we as a country could not get through by working together.
Latin America's kids slid into education black hole during pandemic
In Bolivia's highland city La Paz, Maribel Sanchez's children spent much of the last two years huddling over a small smartphone screen to attend online classes amid a lengthy lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The two boys, aged 11 and eight, frequently missed lessons when their timetables collided as the family had no computer. Bolivian school children only finally returned to in-person classes in March this year, many still not full time. The story is echoed around the region from Mexico to Brazil. Latin American has one of the worst records of school closures globally, according to a World Bank report, which shows children here faced almost 60 weeks of fully or partially closed schools between March 2020 and March this year. That's behind only South Asia and twice the level of Europe, Central and East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa or the Pacific. In North America there were long partial closures, but just seven weeks of full closures versus 29 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Working Remotely
Yelp closes three US offices, says remote work is its future
Yelp is closing three of its U.S. offices after finding most of its employees prefer to work remotely. In a blog post Thursday, Yelp Co-Founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said the company will close its offices in New York, Washington and Chicago on July 29. The online review and reservation company also plans to downsize its office in Phoenix. The offices the company is closing were its most “consistently underutilized," with only about 2% of workspaces in use each week, Stoppelman said.
Home working could make up to a fifth of London office space redundant
As much as a fifth of office space in London and south-east England may not be required in the post-pandemic world of work as employees spend less time at their desks, according to a property survey. The new workplace flexibility being offered to staff by their employers could leave office blocks empty across Britain’s towns and cities, the real estate consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) found in its latest office market report, as companies cut back on the amount of space they rent.
Is working from home a legal right? Two Dutch lawmakers say it should be
The ability to work from home after the pandemic has become a hotly debated topic in the U.S., with many office workers clamoring to hold on to their newfound flexibility and some CEOs remaining staunchly in favor of a return to offices. But other countries are taking steps to enshrine working from home as a permanent legal right. Two lawmakers in the Netherlands are planning to submit a proposal to the Dutch Parliament to begin treating remote work as a legal right for citizens, before legislators leave for summer recess on July 3, Bloomberg reported.
Virtual Classrooms
Students look back on COVID warped school year: ‘It was this feeling of finality’
The final bell is about to ring at the end of a topsy-turvy school year warped by the COVID-19 crisis. Many Canadian students cautiously returned to class this fall under strict pandemic protocols, such as mandatory masking and social distancing. As younger kids became eligible for vaccination late last year, it seemed like schools were settling into new routines. That was soon upended by the rampant spread of the Omicron variant, which saw some provinces extend winter breaks or switch to remote learning.
NYC rolling out 2 virtual learning programs with aim to turn them into fully remote schools by 2023
New York City is rolling out two virtual learning programs for high schoolers — with the aim to turn them into full-blown remote schools by 2023. The new initiative, called “A School Without Walls,” will offer hybrid and virtual learning for 200 rising ninth graders this fall. Officials described the program as moving “beyond the classroom,” giving students more freedom and flexibility to earn a high school diploma.
Public Policies
Advice on fourth COVID shot for many Australians may be delayed
Australia’s vaccine advisory panel is considering delaying a recommendation that more people get a fourth COVID booster shot until a better Omicron-targeting vaccine is available. Omicron sub-variants, including BA.4 and BA.5, are fast becoming the dominant COVID-19 variants in Australia and there is growing concern the sublineages are becoming more effective at reinfecting people.
How Serious is Monkeypox? WHO Says Not Global Emergency
The World Health Organization opted against calling the recent monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. The outbreak is “clearly an evolving threat,” the WHO said in a statement Saturday, though it doesn’t constitute an international public health emergency “at this moment.” An emergency committee convened on Thursday to discuss the outbreak. “What makes the current outbreak especially concerning is the rapid, continuing spread into new countries and regions and the risk of further, sustained transmission into vulnerable populations including people that are immunocompromised, pregnant women and children,” according to the statement. “It requires our collective attention and coordinated action now to stop the further spread of monkeypox virus.
European Commission grants marketing authorisation to Valneva's COVID-19 shot
French drugmaker Valneva's COVID-19 vaccine has received marketing authorisation from the European Commission (EC) for use as a primary vaccination in people from 18 to 50 years of age, the company said on Friday. The marketing authorisation will cover the European Union's member states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. "Now that we have received this full marketing authorization, we hope that the EC and its member states will place orders that reflect this demand," Valneva CEO Thomas Lingelback said in a statement.
Maintaining Services
Shanghai businesses struggle to get back on their feet after Covid-19 lockdown
SHANGHAI - Weeks after emerging from a two-month lockdown, Shanghai's small and medium businesses have a lot of catching up to do. But some are still wary about ordering workers back to the office, fearing that the emergence of a Covid-19 cluster would result in lengthy quarantines and more business disruptions.
Hong Kong’s Struggle to Lure Bankers Dims Its Role as a Global Finance Hub
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament was for years a highlight on Asia’s networking calendar for global bankers and their clients. Now, organizers are pushing for a downsized version of the event this fall, reflecting the challenge the city faces to maintain its status as Asia’s leading financial hub. The Hong Kong Rugby Union is still waiting for government approval for its proposed “closed loop” for the 16 teams and support staff, modeled on the system used at the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this year that sealed off athletes and other participants from the public, said Robbie McRobbie, its chief executive. With seven days of quarantine for all arrivals, organizers are resigned to holding this year’s tournament while missing the thousands of overseas visitors who in years past thronged the three-day event, which coincided with major business conferences and meetings.
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer’s Omicron-Targeting Covid-19 Vaccines Generate Stronger Immune Response
Federal health authorities are trying to decide whether to stick with the current shots for a fall vaccination campaign or use a tweaked version. Studies have found that the current vaccines don’t work as well against Omicron as they did against earlier strains. “Based on these data, we believe we have two very strong Omicron-modified candidates that elicit a substantially higher immune response against Omicron than we’ve seen to date,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said. The study didn’t measure whether and how well the shots reduced the risk of Covid-19. Pfizer and BioNTech announced the results by news release. The findings haven’t been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Omicron is the most recent strain of the virus to come to predominate in the U.S. and many other countries.
GSK announces that COVID-19 vaccine candidate is effective at preventing Omicron infection
The Europen companies GSK and Sanofi have partnered for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate that is 72% effective at preventing infection from the Omicron variant. The companies are hoping their shot can join the Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax vaccines in becoming available for the long-term fight against Covid. It comes as U.S. regulators face widespread criticism after the controversial approval of jabs for children six months to four year old. It comes as Covid case figures have stabilized at 99,984 per day in the U.S., but deaths have jumped 20% over the past week to 385 daily
The next COVID booster shots will likely be updated for Omicron
COVID-19 vaccines this fall are likely to be based on the Omicron variant of the coronavirus rather than the original strain, although some experts suggest they may only offer significant benefits for older and immunocompromised people. Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax have been testing vaccines based on the first BA.1 Omicron variant that became dominant last winter, driving a massive surge in infections. On Wednesday, Moderna said its updated vaccine worked well against more recent Omicron subvariants, and that it was moving forward with plans to ask regulators for approval. Vaccines that can bridge the gap between the original version of coronavirus and the Omicron variant would likely be “far, far better” for the fall, according to Trevor Bedford, a biologist at the University of Washington who has closely tracked mutations of the SARS-coV-2 virus.
Global impact of the first year of COVID-19 vaccination: a mathematical modelling study
COVID-19 vaccination has substantially altered the course of the pandemic, saving tens of millions of lives globally. However, inadequate access to vaccines in low-income countries has limited the impact in these settings, reinforcing the need for global vaccine equity and coverage.