"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Aug 2022

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong Reopens Major Covid Site as Cases Hit Four-Month High
Hong Kong will reopen one of its biggest Covid-19 isolation facilities as case numbers hit the highest in more than four months, putting strain on the hospital system and sparking uncertainty around whether the city can further ease virus policies. Officials will have an additional 200 beds at Asia World Expo starting next week, with 100 health care workers to staff the facility, Lau Ka-hin, chief manager of quality and standards at the Hospital Authority, said at a briefing on Friday. It’s part of a new stage of Covid management to alleviate pressure on the health-care system. Non-emergency services at hospitals will also be further reduced in order to free up beds and manpower, he said.
Hygiene Helpers
Singapore to end most rules on masks indoors as Covid-19 wave eases
Singapore will scrap rules for wearing masks in most indoor settings as the country moves further toward casting off all its pandemic-era curbs. Masks will only be required on public transport and healthcare facilities like hospitals and nursing homes after the easing, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his annual National Day Rally speech on Sunday. Details will be released later, he said. The masking requirement is one of the last few virus curbs in the Southeast Asian city-state after authorities lifted most rules including limits on gatherings, and testing for incoming vaccinated travelers. Outdoor masks were made optional earlier this year as part of a pivot toward a strategy of living with Covid-19.
‘Covid is over’ idea may threaten booster uptake in England, scientists warn
The prevailing idea that “Covid is over” may jeopardise England’s autumn booster programme, scientists have said, warning mixed messages about the threat of the disease could reduce the uptake of jabs. The booster campaign is set to begin on 5 September, with the new dual-variant Covid vaccine from Moderna among those to be administered. However, with England ditching other Covid measures such as mass testing, and using terms such as “post-pandemic recovery”, experts have raised concerns that many of those eligible may not come forward for their vaccination. “I think it’s very likely we will see a lower uptake for the autumn Covid-19 vaccine boosters than for the first two vaccinations,” said Azeem Majeed, a GP in west London and professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London.
Is Thailand’s booster program losing race against fast-mutating COVID?
Thanks to constant mutations, the COVID-19 virus is still several steps ahead of vaccine developers. While researchers have managed to develop vaccines that are effective against the original strain of the new coronavirus and major variants like Delta, global mass vaccination efforts have failed to halt the raging pandemic. This is because the virus continues to evolve, spawning new mutations that evade the defences of currently available vaccines. As a result, the global infection rate remains at nearly one million confirmed COVID-19 cases per day, with thousands of deaths. Since the pandemic began, COVID-19 has claimed some 6.45 million lives across the world.
WHO recommends second COVID-19 booster for highest-risk groups
The World Health Organization’s immunization advisory group Thursday recommended a second COVID-19 vaccine booster for older people, health care workers, and people at high risk of developing severe disease. The advice mirrors that given by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which have called for second boosters to be given to people aged 60 and over, as well as those with medical conditions. The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) is recommending the extra jab in older people; health care workers; pregnant people; those with conditions that cause them to be immune-compromised and both people with comorbidities that put them at higher risk for severe disease.
Covid-19 testing Northern Ireland: Changes as those with symptoms no longer advised to test
Changes to Covid-19 testing for those with symptoms in Northern Ireland are set to come into force on Monday. It has been announced that most people in the general population with symptoms of coronavirus will no longer be advised to take a lateral flow test from August 22. Free lateral flow tests will no longer be available for this purpose, a move in line with the Test, Trace and Protect Transition plan published in March 2022. It aims to make testing more proportionate and targeted to protect the most vulnerable.
Community Activities
More than 20 Chinese universities postpone new semester to stop COVID-19
More than 20 colleges and universities across China have moved to postpone the starting dates of the new semester, in a move that public health experts say is necessary to stop the spread of the COVID-19, as many places across the country are combating sporadic outbreaks. Due to the serious and complex epidemic situation across the nation, some universities and colleges in municipalities and provinces, including Beijing, Northwest China's Shaanxi, East China's Fujian, South China's Hainan, Northeast China's Liaoning and Jilin provinces, have decided to put off the start of the new semester.
Working Remotely
How to Cowork Remotely With Friends—or Strangers
Working remotely from home is now far more common than it used to be. That brings with it plenty of advantages, but also a few challenges, such as the need to stay motivated and on task when there are no colleagues around and so many distractions just a click away. To try and tackle this problem, some people are turning to strangers on the internet—strangers who will sit with them, connected over a video call, while both parties study or work or do whatever needs to be done. It may sound like a bizarre solution at first, but it works better than you might think. It adds a low level of accountability without much additional effort.
How workplace bullying went remote
Bullying has long been an issue in workplaces, and encompasses a wide spectrum of behaviour, typically associated with in-person work. A familiar scenario might be a domineering boss publicly berating an employee to humiliate them, or a group of colleagues leaving the office for lunch together, deliberately leaving another behind. For some employees, remote work has provided relief and distance from the everyday distress of dealing with such incidents. Yet there is also evidence that, as companies have increasingly switched to remote and hybrid models, workplace bullying has not only continued but thrived, often in more subtle ways – especially as technology has opened new avenues for unkind behaviour.
Virtual Classrooms
How to build a great online foundation course
Online teaching often meets resistance, particularly when the student cohort is as diverse and unique as those in university bridging courses. We all know that the Covid-19 pandemic utterly disrupted the higher education system, but the forced opportunity it offered was to challenge our own thinking about bridging courses in the online space. This shift has yielded very positive results for our students.
Colorado district expands 'equity of opportunity' through remote classes
As school systems get into a more typical rhythm of in-person learning, some are holding onto or expanding aspects of remote learning that revealed unexpected benefits during the pandemic. The St. Vrain Valley School District in Longmont, Colorado, is launching a program that opens certain advanced courses to high school students, some of whom are taking the classes remotely. Michelle Bourgeois, St. Vrain Valley’s chief technology officer, said the ability to include students from different campuses remotely in the lessons is helping provide “equity of opportunity."
Public Policies
U.S. Won’t Pay For Covid-19 Shots Soon. Here’s How It Could Work
The Department of Health and Human Services will hold a meeting later this month to pave the way for insurers and patients to pay for Covid-19 vaccines, antiviral treatments and tests, according to the Wall Street Journal. Stakeholders from across the healthcare industry will take part in the planning meeting, during which representatives from pharmacy chains, state health departments and drug producers are expected to begin laying out how insurance coverage and reimbursement would work with the shift, along with industry regulations.
WHO recommends Valneva's COVID vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday recommended the use of French drugmaker Valneva's COVID-19 vaccine. The UN agency also recommended the use of a second booster dose for some individuals at high risk of severe disease. However, that does not constitute a general recommendation of vaccinating all adults, and is aimed at avoiding severe disease and death in populations at the highest risk, it said.
Canada OKs Pfizer COVID booster for kids 5-11, sees monkeypox cases slow
Canada's health ministry on Friday said it had authorized the use of Pfizer Inc's and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine as a booster for children five to 11 years old at least six months after receiving their initial two doses. The authorization for a booster shot was granted after a thorough, independent review of the vaccine, which "provides good protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death," the health ministry wrote on Twitter.
Maintaining Services
Thailand to Allow Foreign Tourists to Extend Stay as Covid Eases
Thailand will permit an extended length of stay for foreign tourists between October and March in a bid to support its economic recovery as pressures from Covid-19 ease. Foreigners from 18 territories coming to Thailand under the visa on arrival category will be allowed to double their length of stay for up to 30 days, Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for Thailand’s main Covid task force said on Friday. Those from more than 50 places that currently get 30 days will be able to stay for up to 45 days.
Covid-19 booster jabs to be rolled out in England from early September
Nurses will be offered a flu vaccination alongside a Covid-19 booster jab this autumn where possible, NHS England has said as it outlined details of the latest stage of the coronavirus vaccination programme. The autumn Covid-19 vaccination booster programme is to start in the week beginning 5 September, with care home residents and housebound people being given the jab by NHS staff. The National Booking Service will also open that week, allowing people aged over 75 and the most clinically vulnerable, to book a vaccination from 12 September. Individuals will be offered the new bivalent Moderna vaccine, which targets the original Covid-19 virus strain and the omicron variant, “where appropriate and subject to sufficient supply”
Healthcare Innovations
CureVac announces start of phase 1 trial of modified COVID-19 mRNA vaccine candidate
German-based mRNA company CureVac has announced the start of a phase 1 study of its modified COVID-19 mRNA vaccine candidate – CV0501 – administered as a booster dose to previous vaccination. Developed in collaboration with GSK, CV0501 is based on CureVac’s ‘second-generation mRNA backbone’ specifically designed to protect against the Omicron variant. Set to be conducted at clinical sites in the UK, the US, Australia and the Philippines, the dose-escalation study will enrol up to 180 healthy, COVID-19-vaccinated adults to evaluate the safety, reactogenicity and immunogenicity of a single booster dose of CV0501 in the dose range of 12μg to 50μg.
Serious adverse events rare after COVID-19 boosters in young kids
Data collected from two vaccine safety surveillance programs in the first 10 weeks of administration of third doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 to US children aged 5 to 11 years show that serious adverse events were rare. A related study in South Korea shows waning vaccine effectiveness (VE) in adolescents after two and three Pfizer doses but sufficient protection against critical illness. Most side effects mild. In the first study, published today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed adverse-event data from the agency's voluntary smart phone-based v-safe vaccine-monitoring program and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) from May 17 to Jul 31, 2022. VAERS is a passive vaccine surveillance system managed by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).