"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 13th Jul 2022

Isolation Tips
Macau starts lockdown, as HK mulls health code app
Macau casino shares yesterday plunged as the Chinese territory embarked on a week-long lockdown to curb its worst COVID-19 outbreak, while neighboring Hong Kong said it was mulling a mainland-style health code system. Share prices of six gaming conglomerates — Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment, SJM Holdings, Melco International, MGM China and Wynn Macau — fell by between 6 and nearly 9 percent in yesterday morning trade. It is the first casino lockdown in more than two years, overriding a previous deal between the industry and the Macau government that only those found with infections would need to close temporarily.
China Covid News: Anger in Shanghai on Fears of New Lockdown
Tension is spreading through Shanghai as residents watch the Covid-19 caseload tick higher, fueling fears they’re headed back into lockdown little more than five weeks after exiting a bruising two-month ordeal. The city reported 59 new infections for Monday, the fourth day in a row case numbers have held above 50. The sharp rise from single digits about a week ago follows the detection of the more contagious BA.5 sub-strain of the omicron variant, which has triggered two additional rounds of mass testing between Tuesday and Thursday this week across nine of the financial hub’s 16 districts, as well as other areas where cases have been found.
H.K. May Loosen Quarantine by November, Health Chief Tells SCMP
“Is nothing required any more? I think that would be a bit tough,” Lo said in the interview. “At least PCR testing is needed. But does quarantine have to be confined to a fixed location?” He floated a scenario where arrivals could be subject to PCR testing and prohibited from attending high-risk venues like bars. The city is also planning a China-like health code system to manage social distancing. A yellow code will allow people to go to work but prohibit them from high-risk places like aged-care homes or venues where masks are removed.
Hygiene Helpers
Hopes of Covid-19 Reprieve Fade as BA.5 Subvariant Takes Over
Covid-19 is circulating widely as the BA.5 Omicron subvariant elevates the risk of reinfections and rising case counts, spoiling chances for a summer reprieve from the pandemic across much of the U.S. Covid-19 levels are high in a fifth of U.S. counties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s metric based on case and hospital data, a share that has been mostly rising since mid-April. BA.5 is estimated to represent nearly two in three recent U.S. cases that are averaging just more than 100,000 a day, CDC data show. The true number of infections may be roughly six times as high, some virus experts said, in part because so many people are using at-home tests that state health departments largely don’t track.
Omicron subvariants threaten COVID-19 resurgence across US
Health officials are once again raising the alarm about the threat of a resurgence of COVID-19 infections across the country, as concerns grow about the new omicron subvariant, BA.5, which is now the dominant viral strain in the U.S. The BA.5 variant, first detected in South Africa earlier this year, is currently estimated to account for more than half -- 53.6% -- of all new COVID-19 cases in the states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.5 appears to have a growth advantage over the original omicron variant, according to the World Health Organization, and scientists are closely monitoring the increase in reported cases observed in many countries across the globe.
White House to prioritize vaccine boosters, testing to combat Omicron subvariant
The White House said on Tuesday it will ensure Americans continue to have easy access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and testing to contain the fast-spreading Omicron BA.5 subvariant that now makes up a majority of U.S. cases. Health officials say there are indications the subvariant might be better at escaping immunity, including from prior infections. BA.5 is estimated to account for 65% of the coronavirus variants circulating in the United States as of last week, said Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Italy to start administering second COVID booster to over-60s
Italy will soon start its campaign to administer a second COVID-19 booster to everyone aged over 60, the health minister said on Monday, after receiving a green light from European Union health agencies. The European recommendation came on Monday amid a new rise in infections and hospitalisations across Europe and was expected to facilitate national decisions to speed up vaccination campaigns, which have been slowing in recent months. Health Minister Roberto Speranza said the government had already given the go-ahead to Italy's 20 regional administrations to start the second booster campaign, after the approval of national medicine agency AIFA.
China tells local governments to drop COVID tests on some goods
China's health authority said on Tuesday that local governments no longer need to test some imported goods for the coronavirus, in a move aimed at reducing the cost of its strict COVID-19 prevention measures. China began testing the packaging of chilled and frozen food imports for the virus in June 2020, after a cluster of infections among workers at a wholesale food market in Beijing. Six months later, Beijing also advised testing on ambient products too, even as scientists said the risk of coronavirus infection through contact with contaminated surfaces was low.
Community Activities
Covid-19: Ethnic minority staff felt “vulnerable” during pandemic, says senior leader
Healthcare workers from ethnic minority groups have felt “vulnerable” and uncared for during the covid pandemic, with some reporting that managers hid personal protective equipment from them and refused to carry out the required risk assessments, a senior nurse has said. Speaking at the NHS Race and Health Observatory conference at BMA House on 7 July, Felicia Kwaku, chair of the Chief Nursing Officers Black and Minority Ethnic Strategic Advisory Group, shared some findings from her discussions with thousands of ethnic minority staff since April 2020. “This is the stark reality of what some staff went through. Some died in their rooms on their own because of social distancing. Some couldn’t get to the phone because they were so hypoxic, so they died alone,” she said. “If you were a nurse or midwife who was new to the country, you didn’t have a lot of the networks, so it was very isolating.”
Covid rules as thousands told not to take tests even if they have symptoms
As Covid-19 infections continue to rise across the UK, millions of people are thought to currently be infected with the virus. New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that almost 4% of the English population had tested positive for coronavirus at the end of June, with higher figures (4.93%, 5.36%, and 5.94%) in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, respectively. The number of hospital admissions is also increasing amid new BA.4 and BA.5 covid variants. And there are no longer any restrictions around the virus in the UK, and as we learn to live with covid.
Working Remotely
Some Companies Are Going Remote—and Upgrading to New Offices
CentralReach’s new home offers some encouraging news for office-building owners, who have worried that the rise of remote work might lead some companies to cut costs by dumping most or all work space. Many companies are finding they prefer a mix. But CentralReach’s new headquarters signals other challenges for property owners. Companies are largely shunning older buildings and usually need less space overall. Even though CentralReach’s new office will be larger than the one it is leaving, the company is hiring more staff and anticipates it will ultimately have less space per employee.
New study reveals benefits of hybrid working for disabled workers but some fear choice between health and career progression
Eighty-five per cent of disabled workers in the UK say they are more productive working from home, new research by the Work Foundation reveals. In a survey of hundreds of disabled workers across the UK, 80% agree remote working would either be essential or very important when looking for a new job, and 66% ideally want to work remotely 80 - 100% of the time. Seventy per cent say that not being allowed to work remotely would negatively impact their health, but most fear remote working will damage their career progression.
Virtual Classrooms
Remote possibilities: Successful strategies for virtual teaching and learning
Virtual learning is making its presence known--here's how emerging edtech tools are making room for innovation. In this episode of Innovations in Education, hosted by Kevin Hogan: 3 ways telepresence robots are impacting learning; How to ensure digital equity in online testing; Blended and hybrid learning–the future of education.
Classrooms after Covid: The impact of the pandemic on children's mental health
Covid had a profound impact on schools and children – from lost learning to mental health and child development – that we are only beginning to understand. Schools did not have an easy pandemic. Closed for months, reopened and closed again, two years of learning and development were hugely disrupted. Many children struggled to adapt to remote learning and days couped up at home. Exams were cancelled. The impact on children has been profound. Schools were already struggling to cope with a huge rise in mental health issues – experts say it has now become a crisis. Yet to those working within them, these challenges do not seem to be appreciated.
Public Policies
Xi Jinping's Covid-Zero Policy Meets Red Line at Vaccine Mandates
China’s first attempt at a vaccine mandate was abruptly scrapped last week within days of being announced by municipal officials in Beijing. The plan to stop people entering public venues without proof of vaccination sparked an outcry online, with Chinese social media users calling it an illegal cap on their freedoms and questioning how effective the vaccines were against immune-evasive variants. Vaccine mandates have emerged as a surprise red line for the ruling Communist Party, which up until a few years ago controlled citizens’ reproductive rights through its one child-policy and is steaming ahead with other controversial virus curbs, such as widespread tracking of individuals through their phones, mass testing and border curbs.
U.S. orders 3.2 million doses of Novavax COVID vaccine
The U.S. government will get 3.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Novavax Inc once the shot has been authorized by the regulators, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the company said on Monday. The shot will be made available for free in the country after it gets authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendation.
WHO Chief Warns of Rising Infections, Deaths From New Covid Wave
The World Health Organization urged governments and health care systems to take steps to curb Covid-19 transmission as a fresh wave of infections moves across Europe and the US. Sub-variants of the omicron strain are lifting case numbers and leading to further fatalities, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. Tedros, as the head of the WHO is known, recommended the revival of protocols like mask-wearing to stop the spread. “New waves of the virus demonstrate that Covid-19 is nowhere near over,” Tedros said, adding that he is “concerned about a rising trend of deaths.
The Never-Ending Covid Emergency
Why keep extending the emergency? One reason is that in March 2020 Congress barred states from kicking ineligible people off Medicaid rolls during the emergency in return for more federal funding. Medicaid enrollment has ballooned to 95 million—30% of Americans are now enrolled—from 71 million in December 2019. The emergency expands Medicaid in GOP states that opted out of the ObamaCare expansion. It is also a boon for insurers in states that pay per Medicaid participant. Hospitals and physician groups support extending the emergency because they worry that state Medicaid payments will decline if the federal fillip goes away.
Maintaining Services
What is the long-term protection against COVID-19?
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is known to cause many clinical manifestations. The protection conferred by prior infection or vaccination against infection over the long term is poorly understood. A new paper in Immunological Reviews describes the immunologic parameters associated with protection from COVID-19.
Moderna unveils positive data on new booster candidate
Just a few weeks after the FDA recommended that COVID-19 vaccine manufactures tweak their boosters to zero in on the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, Moderna has unveiled promising new data for its prospect. On Monday, the mRNA specialist said its omicron-containing bivalent booster elicited higher neutralizing antibody responses compared with the current booster. After one month, trial participants who received the bivalent booster had BA.4 and BA.5 neutralizing antibodies that were 1.69 times higher than those who received the original booster, the company said.
Long Covid Patients Leave UK to Seek Unproven Cures, Report Says
Thousands of UK patients with long Covid are leaving the country to seek expensive unproven treatments such as “blood washing” abroad, according to a report. Many travel to private clinics in Cyprus, Germany and Switzerland for apheresis -- a blood-filtering procedure -- and anti-clotting therapy, according to the investigation published Tuesday in the BMJ medical journal. One patient reported paying more than 50,000 euros ($50,185) for apheresis, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and an intravenous vitamin drip at a center in Cyprus and returning home with no improvement. Researchers are still puzzled as to the exact cause of long Covid, which can appear with vastly different effects in various groups of patients.
As New Zealand reopens, exodus worsens labour crunch
New Zealand's easing of its strict border curbs has triggered a rush of new departures among locals seeking fresh opportunities abroad, adding further pressure to the country's already tight employment market. A net 10,674 people left the country over the 12 months to May, according to government data released on Tuesday, extending a drain that ran over the past year and is expected to last until new immigrants arrive in greater numbers in 2023.
Covid cases set to hit new record as experts call for return of free testing and school air filtration systems
Covid cases are about to hit a new record after daily symptomatic infections reached 348,001 – just a few hundred below the previous high in March. Cases have more than tripled in the last six weeks, largely because of the new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which are much better at overcoming immunity built up from vaccinations and prior infections. But public and government behaviours are also playing a key role, with many acting as if the pandemic is over when that is far from the case, scientists say. This has enabled cases to soar from 114,030 on 1 June to 348,001 on Saturday 9 July – barely a thousand daily infections below the record 349,011 set on 31 March, according to the ZOE Covid study app.
Healthcare Innovations
Australia's CSIRO develops machine learning tool that spots emerging COVID-19 variants
CSIRO did not mention how they developed the AI tool called VariantSpark but it was used to analyse around 10,000 COVID-19 samples in a new study, whose findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal. The researchers worked with both Intel and ACT-based cloud system provider RONIN on the said study. According to a media release, VariantSpark can provide hourly updates, enabling the quick sharing of information with public health decision-makers and helping hospitals prepare for potential increases in admissions.
Nitric oxide boosts oxygen in pregnant women with COVID-19 pneumonia
Inhaled high-dose nitric oxide (INO200) safely shortened time on supplemental oxygen and hospital stays among pregnant women diagnosed as having severe bilateral COVID-19 pneumonia, suggests a new study led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers. COVID-19 pneumonia is an especially dire diagnosis for pregnant women because it can rapidly lower oxygen in the blood and body tissues, requiring hospital admission and cardiopulmonary support, first author Carlo Valsecchi, MD, said in an MGH news release. "Pregnant women are three times more likely to need intensive care unit admission, mechanical ventilation, or advanced life support, and four times more likely to die," he said. "They also face a greater risk of obstetric complications such as preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and stillbirth."
Development of a multiomics model for identification of predictive biomarkers for COVID-19 severity: a retrospective cohort study
COVID-19 is a multi-system disorder with high variability in clinical outcomes among patients who are admitted to hospital. Although some cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6 are believed to be associated with severity, there are no early biomarkers that can reliably predict patients who are more likely to have adverse outcomes. Thus, it is crucial to discover predictive markers of serious complications.