"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 1st Jul 2022

Isolation Tips
COVID restrictions ease in Shanghai as case numbers drop
Shanghai is moving to allow in-person dining and reopening its Disney Resort theme park as domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19 in China’s largest city remain at zero following a more than two-month lockdown. Chinese officials hail their hardline “zero-COVID” policy for stemming the growth of cases and deaths from the virus, despite the enormous cost to the Chinese economy and international supply chains reliant on China’s manufacturing and shipping abilities that have been thrown askew. China has repeatedly defended the policy and indications are it will maintain “zero-COVID” at least through the spring of 2023, when President Xi Jinping is expected to be installed for a third five-year term as head of the world’s second-largest economy and a rising competitor to the United States in the Indo-Pacific region. In remarks carried by the official Xinhua News Agency, Xi on Wednesday said China’s policies against the virus have “protected people’s lives and health to the greatest extent.”
Hygiene Helpers
COVID-19 boosters recommended for the fall, Canada's vaccine advisory body says
People at high risk of severe disease from COVID-19 infection should be offered a booster shot this fall, regardless of how many boosters they've previously received, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said on Wednesday. That group includes everyone age 65 and older, NACI's updated guidance said. Everyone else — age 12 to 64 — "may be offered" the additional doses in the fall, NACI said. NACI said it will provide recommendations on the type of booster to be given when evidence about multivalent vaccines — which prime the body's defences against multiple variants, including Omicron and its subvariants — becomes available. "Manufacturers are working on new COVID-19 vaccines, including multivalent vaccines and vaccines specifically targeting VOCs [variants of concern], although their exact characteristics and timing of availability in Canada are not yet known," NACI said
Covid-19: Canada outperformed comparable nations in pandemic response, study reports
Canada performed better than the majority of G10 countries in its response to the first two years of the covid-19 pandemic, a study has concluded. A paper published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal concluded that Canadians were better vaccinated than comparable western countries, with fewer infections, fewer covid deaths, and lower mortality from all causes. Researchers from the University of Toronto, some of whom are members of Ontario’s covid-19 science advisory board, linked the country’s lower death rate to the persistence of its social restrictions and the relative lack of antivaccine sentiment. The study compared responses from the 11 countries in the G10, comprising Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. Japan was an extreme outlier, with by far the fewest deaths and infections despite having the oldest population and imposing the mildest restrictions.
US FDA wants COVID boosters targeting Omicron BA.4, BA.5 subvariants
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers change the design of their booster shots beginning this fall to include components tailored to combat the currently dominant Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the coronavirus. If authorized, the changes would mark the first major retooling of COVID vaccines, but also could slow their rollout as the FDA has recommended a design somewhat different from what the companies had already tested and started producing.
NYC to Offer Pfizer's Covid Drug at Mobile Test-to-Treat Sites
New York City will start offering Pfizer Inc.’s Covid antiviral Paxlovid at “first of its kind” mobile test-to-treat sites across the city, providing immediate treatment for those who test positive for the virus. Initially, mobile sites will be stationed outside of pharmacies in Inwood, South Ozone Park and the East Bronx, and will expand to 30 locations by the end of July, Manhattan’s Borough President Mark Levine said on Twitter Thursday. People who test positive for Covid and qualify for Paxlovid will be able to get a prescription on-the-spot, which they can take to a nearby pharmacy to pick up the drug. By the end of the summer, officials plan to bypass pharmacies entirely, offering Paxlovid directly through the mobile sites.
Community Activities
China summer railway travel expected to rebound as COVID curbs ease
As China loosens its months-long COVID-19 curbs, railway travel is expected to see an uptick in passengers just in time for the summer transport season, which starts on July 1. By Aug. 31, the number of passenger trips on China's railway network is expected to reach 520 million, and 10 million on peak days. The national railway is also opening new stations such as the Xiangwan section of the Zhengzhou-Chongqing high-speed railway, the Puzheng section of the Jizheng high-speed railway, the Heruo Railway, and the Beijing Fengtai Station.
Shanghai Disneyland theme park re-opens after three-month closure
More than a thousand visitors streamed in on Thursday as Walt Disney Co's Shanghai Disney Resort theme park opened after a closure of three months, with face masks and social distancing the order of the day. The park shut on March 21 as cases rose in the Chinese business hub, leading to a two-month-long citywide lockdown that eased on June 1. Just over a week later, the resort began opening some areas, with the theme park the last to re-open.
China's factory, service sectors shake off 3 months of lockdown pain
China's factory and service sectors snapped three months of activity decline in June, business surveys showed on Thursday, as authorities lifted a strict COVID lockdown in Shanghai, reviving output and consumer spending. The official manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 50.2 in June from 49.6 in May, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said. That slightly missed the forecast for 50.5 in a Reuters poll but rose above the 50-point mark that separates contraction from growth for the first time since February.
Working Remotely
The six big things we've learned about hybrid work so far
As many countries have eased pandemic-era restrictions, enabling employees to resume in-person work, the choice for many companies has been a hybrid set-up: a combination of in-office and remote days. Although it’s true a small number of companies have pivoted to entirely distributed models, an overwhelming number of bosses have called for their employees to start spending at least some time back at their desks. As a result, we’re starting to learn what hybrid work actually means – at least to some extent. We’re past the point at which hybrid work was a fuzzy concept, and now have both research and worker experiences to understand more about what it means for people to work in hybrid environments, as well as what works and doesn’t.
Return-to-the-office mandates are creating inequities for some workers
Employers across the United States are mandating employees return to the workplace after more than two years of letting them work from home during the pandemic. Some workers say return-to-work mandates may not only cause stress but potentially harm them. Some say remote work has allowed them to thrive, be efficient and have access to more job opportunities. But office mandates have reintroduced old problems to the future of work, exacerbating inequities related to health conditions, disabilities and discrimination, they say. And some companies have rolled out what workers say are inconsistent and inefficient policies.
With Digital Nomad Visa Programs Everywhere, Remote Working Is the New WFH Trend
In the new world of work, there’s a new type of employee: The business-leisure traveler. It’s the latest attempt to find a happy medium between working arrangements like Airbnb Inc.’s — where staff can work anywhere, anytime — and those at companies like Tesla Inc., whose chief executive officer Elon Musk tweeted that unless employees turn up in the office, “we will assume you have resigned.”
Virtual Classrooms
These students say virtual learning makes the transition to high school, university much harder
From disrupted exams to learning new studying habits, many students say they have lacked any sort of consistency with school since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, the transitional years — the move from Grade 8 to high school or Grade 12 to post-secondary studies — already brings the fear of the unknown. So CBC News spoke to some of those students about how the educational changes brought on by the pandemic have shaped and shifted these milestone years.
Online learning: What next for higher education after COVID-19?
Higher education institutions worldwide faced challenges when switching to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the experience highlighted how online learning could make education more engaging and accessible for many students. Lecturers and teachers should embrace the opportunities offered by digital distance learning to revolutionize education for the better.
Public Policies
Pfizer asks for formal U.S. approval of oral COVID treatment Paxlovid
Pfizer Inc said on Thursday it is seeking full U.S. approval for its oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, which is currently available under an emergency use authorization (EUA). Pfizer said it submitted a New Drug Application for Paxlovid to the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of COVID-19 in vaccinated and unvaccinated people at high risk of progression to severe illness.
Israeli health officials green light COVID vaccinations for young children
All members of the health ministry's expert advisory board agreed that the vaccine is safe for children under the age of five, though some experts cautioned that only those with underlying health conditions should be vaccinated
S.Korea authorises AstraZeneca COVID therapy Evusheld for vulnerable people
South Korea on Thursday authorised AstraZeneca PLC's antibody-based therapy for preventing COVID-19 infection in people with a poor immune response, increasing its options as it works to ease the pandemic burden on the healthcare system. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety granted emergency use authorisation for 20,000 doses of Evusheld for individuals aged 12 years and older who have not been exposed to the coronavirus.
Pfizer asks for formal U.S. approval of oral COVID treatment Paxlovid
Pfizer Inc said on Thursday it is seeking full U.S. approval for its oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, which is currently available under an emergency use authorization (EUA). Pfizer said it submitted a New Drug Application for Paxlovid to the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of COVID-19 in vaccinated and unvaccinated people at high risk of progression to severe illness.
US buys 105 million COVID vaccine doses for fall campaign
U.S. health officials said Wednesday they have agreed to purchase another 105 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in anticipation of a fall booster campaign. The $3.2 billion deal announced by the Biden administration comes as federal scientists consider how to update the vaccines to better protect Americans from the rapidly evolving virus. Federal officials said the purchase agreement includes the option to purchase a total of 300 million doses, including a mix of doses for both adults and children. The first shots would be delivered by early fall, pending a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to authorize new versions of the shots. A decision is expected from the FDA in the coming days following a Tuesday meeting in which outside advisers recommended modifying the vaccines to better target the omicron variant.
Maintaining Services
Fair Pharma Scorecard shows industry has a long way to go for COVID-19 products
How has the pharma industry weighed human rights during its marketing of COVID-19 drugs and vaccines? That’s what the Pharmaceutical Accountability Foundation (PAF) sought to answer, and the results might not be what the industry wants to hear. For its Fair Pharma Scorecard project, PAF ranked 26 companies involved in selling COVID-19 drugs, vaccine and diagnostics based on their compliance with 19 human rights principles. Not one company complied with all the criteria, and most "still need to take big steps" to make their products accessible and affordable, PAF said. In general, PAF noticed a weariness toward knowledge sharing, iffy transparency levels and differences between various products at the same companies. For example, Pfizer's compliance with the criteria scored at 65% for its oral antiviral Paxlovid and 50% for its vaccine.
Parents of young kids feel 'left behind' as they await COVID-19 vaccine
Some Canadian parents say they've been left behind as they wait on Health Canada to authorize vaccines for children under five years old. "It's upsetting to see the whole world moving on and forgetting about all of the littles, basically," said Jaimie-Lyn Oldfield from Kingston, Ont. She said her family has made sacrifices to protect her nearly three-year-old daughter Rosslyn from contracting COVID-19. "We hardly see her grandparents," she said. "Everyone else got vaccinated and it's really disheartening and upsetting when they're like 'OK, we're going to remove all of these masking mandates.'"
At the current rate, SA will hit its Covid-19 vaccination target in about September 2028
Covid-19 vaccination levels are dropping fast, putting South Africa's herd immunity target well out of reach. People are reading the end of pandemic restrictions as a signal that vaccination is no longer required, say government monitors. On Wednesday, less than 6,000 people received a first jab. At that rate, it will take until just about September 2028 to reach the 67% coverage target. That is not counting getting people to show up for booster shots – or the continuing slowdown in the vaccination rate.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid Shots Worked Better for Obese Than Underweight in UK Study
People who are underweight or obese are most at risk of severe Covid, but a UK study found that two doses of vaccine still protect both groups well. The researchers, who focused on patients at the two extremes of the body mass index scale, found that the shots worked slightly better for those at the high end of the measure in a study published in medical journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology on Friday. The scientists used health records of more than 9 million patients from generalist practices in England taking part in the database QResearch. “Our findings provide further evidence that Covid-19 vaccines save lives for people of all sizes,” said Carmen Piernas, the study’s lead author and a lecturer at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.
Maternal deaths climbed 33% during COVID-19
Maternal deaths in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic increased 33%—and even higher in Black and Hispanic women—according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) published yesterday in a study in JAMA Network Open. That rate compares with an overall 22% COVID-related excess death rate during the study period, according to two researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) and Boston University (BU), who conducted the study. They defined maternal mortality as deaths during pregnancy or just after birth.