"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 24th Aug 2022

Isolation Tips
China reopens the door to foreign students after 2 years of Covid lockouts
Students with valid residence permits will be able to re-enter the country from Wednesday, according to notices at various embassies. Decision only applies to long-term academic study and not to vocational courses
Chinese tourists stranded in Tibet as coronavirus cases in China reach three-month high
The Tibetan local government says more than 4,000 tourists are stranded in the region. The outbreak in the south-west province is spreading across China, inlcuding to Shanghai. Coronavirus cases numbers in China are at a three-month high
Hygiene Helpers
Scientists show close link between clinical cases of COVID-19 and viral loads in wastewater
Scientists show that there is a close association between clinical cases of COVID-19 and viral loads in wastewater, with the viral loads picking up to two days before the cases were detected. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics were held during July 21 and September 21, 2021, a time when the incidence and spread of COVID-19 was prevalent. Thus, a rigorous and multi-pronged testing approach was enacted in order to limit the spread of the virus while allowing the Games to proceed. A team lead by Associate Professor Masaaki Kitajima at Hokkaido University has shown the association between SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in wastewater and cases reported at the Olympic and Paralympic Village.
Masks not needed in most situations as S'pore becomes Covid-19 resilient: Experts
After going through two Covid-19 Omicron waves without its healthcare system being overwhelmed, Singapore is ready to move to the next phase, where indoor mask wearing is no longer mandatory except on public transport and in hospitals, experts said. Singapore handled the Omicron waves successfully without having to reimpose strict measures, noted Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. "The first Omicron wave, earlier in the year, still had some restrictions in place, and we managed to avoid the healthcare system being overwhelmed. In the second, which is ebbing away now, we managed to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system with almost no restrictions except indoor mask wearing. Thus, we are ready to move to the next phase," he said.
Pfizer COVID shots appear 73% effective in children under 5
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was 73% effective in protecting children younger than 5 as omicron spread in the spring, the company announced Tuesday. Vaccinations for babies, toddlers and preschoolers opened in the U.S. in June after months of delay. Only about 6% of youngsters ages 6 months through 4 years had gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-August, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Health authorities authorized tot-sized vaccine doses made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech based on a study showing they were safe and produced high levels of virus-fighting antibodies. But there was only preliminary data on how that translated into effectiveness against symptomatic COVID-19.
Vaccine fatigue is real. These experts say messaging on COVID boosters should be clear
COVID-19 vaccines aimed at both the original strain and Omicron variants are expected in Canada this fall. But messaging on booster doses has been mixed across the country. Some experts like virologist Angela Rasmussen recommend getting the first available booster, while others like Manitoba's Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin say his province will wait to open up fourth doses for all adults until new bivalent vaccines are approved.
New South Australian COVID-19 modelling shows next wave of cases coming in November
There have been fewer than 1,000 new COVID-19 each day in South Australia A new wave is expected in November. The Health Minister says the modelling does not take into account any new variants
Struggling with brain fog after a COVID-19 infection? You're not alone, experts say
COVID-19 is linked to an increased risk of developing brain fog and dementia after an infection, according to a recent medical study. More than 596 million COVID-19 cases have been recorded globally — including nearly 10 million in Australia — and many of the long-term impacts are yet to be seen. However, the recent study helps shed light on the risk of neurological disorders after an infection. Here's what we know about brain fog and how COVID-19 affects your brain.
What do we know about covid-19 vaccines in under 5s?
It took a year for covid-19 vaccines to be tested and approved for use in children. As countries now reach out to the youngest age group, David Cox reports on the evidence for their effectiveness and deployment. On 18 June 2022, regulators in the US voted to authorise the rollout of Pfizer and Moderna’s covid-19 vaccines to children under the age of 5, meaning that the jabs will now be available to an estimated 20 million babies and toddlers.1 The decision sees the US join Argentina, Bahrain, Chile, China, Cuba, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela in offering covid-19 vaccines to the youngest age category. Regulators in Europe are predicted to follow in the coming weeks.
Community Activities
People less willing to comply with Covid-19 rules, or listen to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern according to Government survey
New Zealanders are complying less with Covid-19 rules as people's attention shifts to issues like the cost of living, according to research from the Government's own Covid survey. The survey shows a significant drop off in the willingness of people to trust the Prime Minister as the main source of truth about the pandemic. People remain confident in their ability to identify misinformation, and twice as many people use mainstream media for Covid information as use social media. At least every eight weeks, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet receives a survey of how New Zealanders feel about Covid-19. It looks at how much people are willing to comply with health rules and whether they trust health messaging on the virus, along with broader health messaging.
Fauci on COVID conspiracy theories: ‘What we’re dealing with now is just a distortion of reality’
Anthony Fauci, who on Monday announced that he is leaving the Biden administration, pushed back on conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic hours later, calling the claims “a distortion of reality.” “What we’re dealing with now is just a distortion of reality, conspiracy theories which don’t make any sense at all pushing back on sound public health measures, making it look like trying to save lives is encroaching on people’s freedom,” Fauci said on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” False claims and criticisms, particularly about the origins of the COVID-19 virus, Fauci said, “impeded a proper response to a public health challenge” and continue to interfere with addressing public health issues.
WA police officer Ben Falconer loses legal challenge against COVID-19 vaccine mandate
Ben Falconer lost his legal case against WA's vaccine mandate. The judge found the measure was justified in a pandemic. He said the vaccine mandate was supported by experts
The Covid-19 Financial Crisis That Wasn't
The sudden realization in mid-March 2020 that Covid-19 was going to be a once-in-a-century pandemic created the kind of disruption that financial crises are made of. Pundits predicted an unprecedented triple shock: lockdowns would decimate demand, travel bans would devastate supply, and the “dash for cash” would freeze financial activity. Stock markets plunged and bond yields jumped. But despite the disastrous human toll and the inevitable economic downturn, the financial crisis didn’t happen. To understand what went right, our research team at the Yale Program on Financial Stability compiled a database of some 9,000 government actions in 180 countries. The lessons: Go big, go early, and prepare for next time.
Anti-mandate protesters converge on New Zealand Parliament
About 2,000 protesters upset with the government’s pandemic response converged Tuesday on New Zealand’s Parliament — but there was no repeat of the occupation six months ago in which protesters camped on Parliament grounds for more than three weeks. Many of the protesters said they had no intention of trying to stay. And police ensured a repeat was unlikely by closing streets, erecting barricades and banning protesters from bringing structures onto Parliament’s grounds. The previous protest created significant disruptions in the capital and ended in chaos as retreating protesters set fire to tents and hurled rocks at police. This time there was also a counter-protest, with several hundred people gathering in front of Parliament as the main march entered the grounds. The two sides shouted insults but a line of police officers kept them physically separated.
Working Remotely
Remote working ‘hurt research collaborations’
The first study of its kind estimated that a lack of in-person interactions have hampered innovation as academics spoke only to those they knew already.
Apple's remote work struggles suggest there's no going back on working from home
Efforts by CEOs to push workers back to the office are failing, as it's becoming increasingly clear that the world of strictly in-office work is gone. Some employees at Apple are pushing back against an order from CEO Tim Cook to return to the office three days a week starting next month, the FT reports. Cook wants to hang on to the "in-person collaboration essential to our culture," according to the report.
Virtual Classrooms
5 strategies for rebuilding student engagement after COVID-19
The past two years have offered ample evidence of the impact remote learning has on students. Virtual education systems kept schools running safely during the early days of the pandemic, reduced bullying in some cases, and gave many students a new sense of autonomy. But as we returned to classrooms, other effects became apparent. While remote, students missed hands-on learning opportunities and time to bond with peers.
Students experience less stress in online courses: study
Many students across the globe had to transition between taking lessons in lecture halls to their living rooms in the COVID-19 pandemic. This drastic change in environment prompted questions about differences in the learning experience. Among them: does the body feel less stress in a virtual classroom as opposed to a physical one? The answer could be yes, according to a small study measuring heart rate and cortisol levels in students' saliva, which found that medical students were physiologically more relaxed in an online lecture rather than an in-person one.
Public Policies
Pfizer and BioNTech seek FDA EUA for Omicron-based Covid-19 vaccine
Pfizer and BioNTech have filed an application seeking Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a booster dosage of an Omicron BA.4/BA.5-adapted bivalent vaccine for Covid-19 in people aged 12 years and above. The submission comes after the regulatory agency provided guidance to incorporate clinical findings of the bivalent Omicron BA.1-adapted vaccine. The FDA also sought the vaccine’s pre-clinical and manufacturing data for addressing the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ evolution.
FDA authorizes Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine for teens
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday cleared Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in children 12 to 17 years old, giving adolescents a third option to prevent COVID-19 as they return to school. The agency’s decision comes a month after the FDA authorized the shot for adults and more than a year after teenagers became eligible for the messenger RNA shots from Pfizer and, later, Moderna. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on the FDA’s decision Monday.
US CDC announces major changes after criticism of its responses to covid-19 and monkeypox
The US national public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will make major changes to its structure and systems in the light of a review of its emergency response to the covid-19 pandemic. Announcing the changes on 17 August, Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, admitted that the agency had failed in its responses to covid-19 and monkeypox. She said that the proposed changes would strengthen and speed the CDC’s response to public health threats and improve its communications. “For 75 years CDC and public health have been preparing for covid-19, and in our big moments, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” she said. “As a long time admirer of this agency and a champion for public health, I want us all to do better, and it starts with CDC leading the way.” The CDC has been criticised for releasing a flawed test early in the covid-19 pandemic that delayed accurate reporting of cases; confusing advice about social distancing, masking, and vaccinations; and poor communications. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, also criticised the CDC’s response to the monkeypox outbreak for being slow and having problems with testing and vaccination
Mexico to protest to U.N. over missing COVAX vaccines
Mexico will file a complaint to the United Nations over the failure to deliver vaccines against COVID-19 that the government bought under a program backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday. Mexico was owed $75 million, Lopez Obrador said, for COVID-19 vaccines meant to be supplied under COVAX, which was established by WHO during the pandemic to help distribute vaccines equitably across the world.
Thai cabinet approves 18.4 billion baht for NHSO COVID-19 medical expenses
The Thai cabinet approved an 18.447 billion baht budget for the National Health Security Office (NHSO) to cover medical expenses, medication, vaccines and equipment used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients between April 1st and May 15th. The NHSO has played a key role in arranging for COVID-19 patients to be treated in hospitals or in home isolation free of charge until they recover.
Maintaining Services
47% Of U.S. Adults Took An At-Home COVID-19 Test In The Past 3 Months, Survey Reveals
Despite the recent ease of COVID-19 restrictions, nearly half of U.S. adults (47%) say they took an at-home COVID-19 test at some point in the past three months after feeling sick, according to new data from the Forbes Health-Ipsos Monthly Health Tracker survey. Additionally, of the 1,120 U.S. adults polled between August 16 and 17, 65% stayed home or away from people they don’t live with if they felt ill, 44% isolated from people inside their household and 27% took a PCR COVID-19 test from a doctor or testing site. (Respondents could choose multiple answers.) If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough, fever or chills, or just want peace of mind when traveling and gathering with others, there are many testing avenues available.
China says COVID has exacerbated decline in births, marriages
China's National Health Commission said COVID-19 has contributed to the decline in the country's marriage and birth rates that has accelerated in recent years due to the high costs of education and child-rearing. Many women are continuing to delay their plans to marry or have children, it said, adding that rapid economic and social developments have led to "profound changes". Young people relocating to urban areas, more time spent on education and high-pressure working environments have also played their part, it added.
Healthcare Innovations
Study reveals safety of COVID mRNA vaccines for patients with heart failure
COVID mRNA vaccines are associated with a decreased risk of death in patients with heart failure, according to research presented at ESC Congress 2022. The study also found that the vaccines were not associated with an increased risk of worsening heart failure, venous thromboembolism or myocarditis in heart failure patients.
Incidence of type 2 diabetes in youth increased during COVID-19 pandemic
The onset of type 2 diabetes (T2D) among the youth is rising globally. In fact, a 5% increase in its incidence was reported by the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study from 2002 to 2012 in the United States, while its incidence nearly doubled between 2001 and 2017. The Treatment Options for T2D in Youth (TODAY) study has shown that such an increase can lead to rapid β-cell failure, along with the early onset of numerous complications in approximately half of the youth with T2D in the U.S.
Pfizer's COVID vaccine 73.2% effective in kids under 5, new data shows
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech's vaccine was 73.2% effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 6 months through 4 years, new data from the companies showed on Tuesday, two months after the U.S. rollout of the shots began for that age group. The Pfizer-BioNTech, vaccine was authorized for children under 5 years of age in June, based on data that showed the vaccine generated a similar immune response as in older age groups