"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 11th Aug 2022

Isolation Tips
Coronavirus: Hong Kong firms, schools urged to provide separate eating spaces for ‘amber code’ holders under eased quarantine rules
Health secretary says restaurant staff can discuss arrangements with bosses while education chief notes schools have basic pandemic guidelines to follow. Respiratory medicine expert warns that allowing those with amber codes into crowded venues may increase the chance of a superspreader event.
Hygiene Helpers
Australian state to hand out free masks to curb COVID-19 transmission
Authorities of the Australian state of Victoria have announced that free masks will be handed out to the community to curb the COVID-19 transmission. More than 3 million free N95 and KN95 masks would be given to the community through state-run testing sites and community health services across the state the next four to six weeks, said the announcement of the Victorian government on Tuesday. Every person that presents for either a free rapid antigen or PCR test will receive one box of 10 N95 masks, along with instructions on how best to wear them to reduce transmission.
Govt nod to Corbevax as precaution dose for adults vaccinated with Covaxin, Covishield
This means that those who have received Covishield or Covaxin as their first or second dose can take Corbevax as the third booster shot, officials said. According to the protocol until now, the third dose had to be the same vaccine that was used for the first and second doses.
Germany likely to impose mask mandate if Covid-19 spreads in winter
Germany is likely to introduce an indoor mask mandate if there is a significant increase in the number of cases of Covid-19 in the upcoming autumn and winter months, health ministers said at a meeting, though they differed over possible exemptions. The federal and state health ministers discussed draft legislation aiming to update regulations for dealing with the pandemic, dpa news agency reported. "It is clear that mandatory masks indoors should be the rule in the event of a tense pandemic situation," said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. Last week, Lauterbach and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann presented new coronavirus measures that would go into effect in the autumn.
People vaccinated against Covid share common symptom after testing positive
While it may be widely known that common symptoms of Covid include fatigue, a sore throat, and headaches, there is another widespread symptom being cited among sufferers. According to data gathered by the ZOE Health Study app, diarrhoea is a common symptom of Covid for vaccinated Britons. “It usually lasts for an average of two to three days, but can last up to seven days in adults,” the ZOE team said. The data found this symptom has become less prevalent with each variant, as nearly a third of adults aged over 35 reported having diarrhoea during the Alpha wave, while just one in five said they experienced it during the Omicron and Delta waves. The people who experienced it during the latter two waves had been vaccinated either twice or had also received their booster jab.
Community Activities
Commuting in, DIY out: UK’s new ‘new normal’ after end of Covid controls
Britain’s love for green fingers and blackened thumbs during the first Covid lockdown has since evaporated as people again find a “new normal” after the ending of restrictions, a survey suggests. The amount of time people spent gardening and doing DIY soared in March and April 2020, with people spending 40 minutes a day improving their homes and gardens compared with just 15 minutes in 2014-15. But it plummeted back to 20 minutes a day in March 2022, Office for National Statistics data shows. Lockdown lie-ins are also a thing of the past, with people sleeping 30 minutes less than they did in early 2020, while the amount of time people spend watching television and streaming is down by 34 minutes on average.
Working Remotely
Working from home? Here's how to make work friends anyway
According to a study by JobSage, remote workers have an average of 33% fewer work friends than those who work in an office setting, while two in three people have worked in a remote office where they never made any friends. According to another study, we are all craving work friends more than ever. In fact, according to BetterUp Labs, more than half of employees would sacrifice some of their income if it meant making stronger connections at work. With more and more people working from home, how can we all prioritise making workplace friendships?
Work-From-Home Jobs Haven’t Made Things Easier for Women
Women have gained all the perks that come with flexibility during this pandemic, but they have also become one-woman safety nets.
Half of businesses look to metaverse to facilitate hybrid working
Employers across the UK are leveraging the metaverse to help bring the office to workers’ living rooms, as they respond to the demand for hybrid working. A new study suggests that half of all organisations are now exploring the possibility of launching an online office space for their staff.
Virtual Classrooms
A New Era of Schooling: What Is The Future of Remote Learning?
The coronavirus pandemic shifted the once-steady ground of higher education. Where there once existed classrooms and communal meeting spaces on campus, there were suddenly Zoom calls, breakout rooms and emails aplenty. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of undergraduate students enrolled in at least one remote learning (also called distance education) course was 97% higher in 2020 than before the pandemic in fall 2019 (11.8 million vs. 6 million). The number of undergraduate students exclusively enrolled in distance education courses was 186% higher in 2020 than in 2019 (7 million vs. 2.4 million).
Public Policies
WHO: COVID-19 deaths fall overall by 9%, infections stable
The number of coronavirus deaths fell by 9% in the last week while new cases remained relatively stable, according to the latest weekly pandemic report released by the World Health Organization Wednesday. The U.N. health agency said there were more than 14,000 COVID-19 deaths in the last week and nearly 7 million new infections. The Western Pacific reported a 30% jump in cases while Africa reported a 46% drop. Cases also fell by more than 20% in the Americas and the Middle East. The number of new deaths rose by 19% in the Middle East, while dropping by more than 70% in Africa, 15% in Europe and 10% in the Americas. The WHO said that the omicron subvariant BA.5 remains dominant globally, accounting for nearly 70% of all virus sequences shared with the world's biggest publicly available virus database. The agency said other omicron subvariants, including BA.4 and BA.2, appear to be decreasing in prevalence as BA.5 takes over.
Maintaining Services
Pharmacies, GPs at odds over antivirals
A push to allow access to COVID-19 treatments without a prescription could jeopardise patient safety, the general practitioners body warns. There are two oral antivirals available in Australia, and while early treatment is critical to lessen the effects of the virus, access is restricted. All Australians over 70 and those over 50 at risk of severe disease from COVID-19 are eligible to access the treatments, with patients requiring a prescription from a GP or a nurse practitioner.
Californians are staying infected with the coronavirus for a long time. Here’s why
Health officials recommend that anyone infected with the coronavirus isolate for at least five days. But for many, that timeline is becoming overly optimistic. The isolation period, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened in December from 10 days to five, is more a starting point than a hard-and-fast rule in California. According to the state Department of Public Health, exiting isolation after five days requires a negative result from a rapid test on or after the fifth day following the onset of symptoms or first positive test — a step not included in federal guidelines. But many people don’t start testing negative that early. “If your test turns out to be positive after five days, don’t be upset because the majority of people still test positive until at least Day 7, to Day 10 even,” Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said during a briefing Thursday. “So that’s the majority. That’s the norm.” The isolation period, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened in December from 10 days to five, is more a starting point than a hard-and-fast rule in California. According to the state Department of Public Health, exiting isolation after five days requires a negative result from a rapid test on or after the fifth day following the onset of symptoms or first positive test — a step not included in federal guidelines.
Pharmacies to get £15 per consultation in pilot to tackle COVID-19 jab fears
Reported COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is “high for some groups in Tower Hamlets” and “significant numbers of residents remain unvaccinated”, the borough’s council revealed in the service specification. As of May 1, just 68% of those eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Tower Hamlets had received a first dose, with 61.7% of that group opting to have a second dose. Just 40.1% of those eligible have had a booster dose. “Evidence clearly indicates that patients value talking directly to a trusted health professional when considering whether or not to have a COVID-19 vaccine,” Tower Hamlets Council acknowledged. “Community pharmacists in Tower Hamlets are well placed to provide that support”.
Vaccine and drug development boosted by new CSIRO lab
Australia’s national science agency will open the doors of a new $23.1 million national vaccine and drug laboratory in Melbourne on Thursday, after six years of planning and delays. The CSIRO National Vaccine and Therapeutics Lab, based in the south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Clayton, is designed to help turn vaccine and drug candidates into products that can be manufactured onshore in large quantities for clinical trials and will be available for use by companies and researchers around the country.
Covid-19 Northern Ireland: Expert 'optimistic' autumn wave can be avoided
A leading immunology expert believes high Omicron infection rates should protect the general population against an autumn wave of Covid — unless a new variant emerges. Professor of Experimental Immunology, Kingston Mills, has also said it would be a mistake to offer vaccine booster doses before an updated, and more effective vaccine, becomes available in Europe over the coming months. During the most recent study week between July 14–July 20, the Department of Health estimated that 113,400 people in Northern Ireland had Covid-19 — around 1 in 16 people. In the week ending July 29, the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) reported 22 Covid-related deaths, taking the total to 4,774 since the pandemic began.
S.Africa's Aspen to halt COVID vaccine output as J&J orders dry up
South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare will stop making COVID-19 vaccines from the end of this month due to a lack of orders, a senior executive said, further undermining Africa's already meager capacity to produce doses. Aspen currently produces vaccines for Johnson & Johnson. In March, it struck a deal to produce, price, and sell its own-brand version of the shot for African markets.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid symptoms sufferers still have four months after catching virus revealed
Covid sufferers are still reporting common symptoms an average of four months after having caught the virus, a new study has found. Two hundred patients enrolled in the Covid-19 Neurological and Molecular Prospective Cohort Study in Georgia, or CONGA, to investigate the longer term impacts of the illness. Fatigue and headache were the two symptoms most participants reported having some four months after first testing positive. Muscle aches, cough, changes in smell and taste, fever, chills and nasal congestion were the next most frequently cited symptoms.
Study: Pfizer COVID vaccine efficacy wanes 27 days after dose 2 in teens
Article reports that a new study finds waning Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine protection against symptomatic infection in Brazilian and Scottish teens starting 27 days after the second dose amid the Delta and Omicron variant waves, but protection against severe illness was still strong at 98 days in Brazil. The study, published yesterday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, analyzed nationwide data from 503,776 COVID-19 tests of 2,948,538 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years from Sep 2, 2021, to Apr 19, 2022, in Brazil, and 127,168 tests of 404,673 adolescents from Aug 6, 2021, to Apr 19, 2022, in Scotland. Protection against severe illness, defined as hospitalization or death within 28 days, was estimated only in Brazil owing to the small number of such cases in Scotland.
Immunity for common cold coronaviruses may ward off severe covid-19
People with a stronger immune response to the coronaviruses that cause common cold-like symptoms may be better protected against covid-19, raising hopes that a pan-coronavirus vaccine could be achieved. Ricardo da Silva Antunes at La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California and his colleagues analysed blood samples collected from 32 people between 2016 and 2019, before covid-19 emerged. Multiple samples were taken from each person over six months to three years. The team wanted to see how the immune cells in these samples responded to four coronaviruses that cause common cold-like symptoms as well as the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, which emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019.
Bat coronaviruses silently infect tens of thousands of people each year, posing pandemic risk, study warns
There may be an average of over 65,000 cases of bat coronaviruses silently infecting people every year in Southeast Asia, according to a new study that could lead to new tools for improving preparedness against future pandemics. The flying mammals are known to host coronaviruses that may be transmitted to people, including SARS-related coronaviruses. Previous studies have suggested that transmission of these viruses to humans may be relatively common in some parts of the world. However, human-bat interactions are also known to vary across regions, influenced by a variety of social, ecological, and economic factors at individual and community scales. The research, published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, used a new framework to estimate and map the risk of potential SARS-related coronaviruses spreading from bats to humans in Southeast Asia.
Queensland researchers find overlap in pathology of long COVID and chronic fatigue syndrome
Griffith University researchers say their findings could help to treat those suffering from long COVID. A woman with chronic fatigue syndrome says she suffered a relapse in symptoms after contracting COVID earlier this year. AMA Queensland says the findings should be independently verified and that more funding for such research should be made available
MIT researchers develop an easy-to-use test to predict Covid-19 immunity
Most people in the United States have some degree of immune protection against Covid-19, either from vaccination, infection, or a combination of the two. But, just how much protection does any individual person have? MIT researchers have now developed an easy-to-use test that may be able to answer that question. Their test, which uses the same type of "lateral flow" technology as most rapid antigen tests for Covid-19, measures the level of neutralizing antibodies that target the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a blood sample. Easy access to this kind of test could help people determine what kind of precautions they should take against Covid infection, such as getting an additional booster shot, the researchers say. They have filed for a patent on the technology and are now hoping to partner with a diagnostic company that could manufacture the devices and seek FDA approval.