"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 25th Aug 2022

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong Could Tighten Social Distancing Restrictions If Covid Cases Worsen
Hong Kong health officials said tighter social distancing restrictions could be considered if rising Covid-19 cases worsen the pressure on the city’s health system. The city reported 7,884 new Covid-19 cases Wednesday, the highest number since the end of March. Increased hospitalizations have put pressure on the health-care system, prompting hospitals to scale back non-emergency services and the reopening of community isolation facilities. Expanding virus curbs would be seen as a step back for Asia’s financial hub, which has struggled to balance reopening its borders with mainland China and the rest of the world.
Japan to ease COVID-19 border controls from Sept. 7
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced plans to ease border controls from early September by eliminating requirements for pre-departure COVID-19 tests for travelers who have received at least three vaccine doses, and he will also consider increasing daily entry caps as soon as next month. Japan, which has imposed some of the toughest border measures for the coronavirus, currently requires negative PCR test results within 72 hours of departure for all entrants, a practice that has been criticized as cumbersome.
Hygiene Helpers
UK Scraps Covid Tests for Asymptomatic as Cases Continue to Fall
The UK National Health Service said it will pause Covid-19 testing of staff without any outward symptoms as new infections decline and the country seeks to live with the virus. Asymptomatic staff testing, once considered a core component of the NHS’s pandemic infection prevention and control guidance, will be paused in most health-care settings, the UK Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement Wednesday. Routine asymptomatic testing will also be suspended in parts of the prison estate, some places of detention, and certain domestic abuse and homelessness settings, it said.
COVID-19: Booster vaccine shots for kids aged 5 to 11 in fourth quarter of the year
The Ministry of Health (MOH) added in a media release on Wednesday (24 August) that the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has also extended its authorisation of Moderna's Spikevax vaccine to very young children aged between six months and five years old. "A decision on the recommendation for vaccination of this age group is expected soon. If approved, we will time it together with the booster exercise for children aged 5 to 11, and administer them at the same centres for the convenience of parents," the ministry said in the media release. MOH will be setting up five dedicated vaccination centres across the island to administer booster doses for these children. Details will be announced at a later date.
Covid 19: How many lives did NZ's pandemic response save?
A new analysis has shown how New Zealand's pandemic response left it with one of the lowest rates of excess mortality in the world – sparing it the thousands of extra deaths seen even in "elimination" countries like Taiwan and Australia. But the Otago University public health experts who crunched the data say that, with the Zero-Covid era now well behind us, there's much more the Government could be doing to keep Kiwis safer. It comes as the Ministry of Health announced another 17 virus-related deaths today, and 3140 new Covid-19 cases.
Singapore to drop most indoor mask requirements next week
Singapore will do away with requirements to wear masks indoors starting Aug. 29, as the country sees its COVID-19 situation stabilise further, the health minister said on Wednesday. For the first time in more than two years, people in the Southeast Asian city-state will no longer be required to wear masks indoors except on public transport and in high-risk settings like healthcare facilities. The health ministry also updated rules for non-vaccinated travellers, dropping a 7-day quarantine requirement starting next week.
Parents urged to take children for their Covid jabs before school returns
Along with new shoes, pencil cases and PE kits, parents across Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire are being advised to put the Covid-19 vaccine at the top of their children’s back-to-school to-do list. Schools across the region will start to return after the summer holidays next week, and mums and dads are being urged to make sure their child is protected against coronavirus before heading back to class.
Covid-19 Booster Campaign Is Expected to Launch Next Month
The Biden administration has completed plans for a fall Covid-19 booster campaign that would launch in September with 175 million updated vaccine doses provided to states, pharmacies and other vaccination sites. The administration is procuring the doses, which drugmakers are updating to target the newest versions of the virus. The administration has also informed states, pharmacies and other entities they can begin preordering now through the end of August, according to the administration’s fall vaccination planning guide. Vaccines would be shipped immediately following an expected authorization by federal drug regulators, who still must review and sign off on the shots, and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which still must review the data and sign off on administering the shots.
Community Activities
Pandemic sets back fight against poverty in Asia by at least 2 years
The Covid-19 pandemic has set back the fight against poverty in Asia and the Pacific by at least 2 years, and many in the region will likely find it harder than before to escape poverty, according to a report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The region's economic growth this year is expected to reduce extreme poverty—defined as living off less than $1.90 a day—to a level that would have been achieved in 2020 had the pandemic not happened, according to Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2022, released today. Data simulations also show that people in the region with lower pre-pandemic levels of social mobility—the ability to escape poverty—may experience longer-lasting setbacks.
Black Workers Seeing Above-Average Wage Gains After Pandemic Hit
After taking a bigger hit to employment at the start of the pandemic, US Black workers are now seeing above-average wage gains and moving into better-paying roles at higher rates than other groups, according to new research by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers. Many Black Americans benefited as the US labor market bounced back from the worst of the Covid-19 crisis in early 2020, when millions of people lost their jobs in a matter of weeks. During the recovery, some workers gained the leverage needed to switch jobs and ask for better wages, the researchers found.
COVID-19 pandemic fallout worse for women
Researchers from The University of Queensland have found the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia has had a greater financial and psychological impact on women than men. A study conducted by the UQ Business School shows women have experienced more significant impacts on their overall employment, hours of work, domestic labor and mental health and well-being.
Misinformation is a common thread between the COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS pandemics – with deadly consequences
Since health officials confirmed the first COVID-19 cases, misinformation has spread just as quickly as the virus. Social media may have made the amount, variety and speed of misinformation seem unprecedented, but COVID-19 isn’t the first pandemic where false and harmful information has set back public health. Misinformation altered how people trusted their governments and doctors during the 1918 influenza pandemic. It fueled the 19th century smallpox anti-vaccine movements through some of the same arguments as those currently used against the COVID-19 vaccine. What sets the COVID-19 pandemic apart, however, is the sheer magnitude of damaging disinformation put in circulation around the world. Data shows that regions and countries where disinformation thrived experienced more lethal pandemic waves despite vaccine availability.
China's jobless turn to car boot sales as COVID-hit economy stalls
Once considered too low-status for many, peddling wares on the street has made a comeback as people who lost their jobs or closed down their businesses seek new ways to make a living and work around China's relentless anti-COVID policies. Hospitality, tourism and after-school tutoring have been particularly hard hit.
Working Remotely
Why disconnection in remote work comes from unclear organisational values, not physical detachment
Steven Bartlett’s interview with Malcolm Gladwell in a recent episode of his podcast, The Diary of a CEO, sparked backlash from the digital nomad community and remote and hybrid workers alike, casting further light on the work from home debate. Contrary to Gladwell’s assertions, remote and hybrid work are not the issue at hand. The disconnect happens when employees are not onboarded into the company's mission and their values and therefore do not feel a sense of drive and belonging. Leaders should focus on onboarding new employees as thoroughly as possible, telling a compelling story about the mission of the organisation and encouraging new starters to seek connection.
Remote work gives UK counties new chance to become tech hubs
Ten counties in the UK could be home to a new generation of tech talent after the rise of remote work across the country, according to new research. With Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg suggesting that 50% of the company’s workforce could be working remotely by 2030, the strong likelihood is that other tech organisations will follow suit, meaning areas of the UK with a lower cost of living could become far more desirable for those wanting to escape city life.
Virtual Classrooms
‘We can fit education into our lives’: More kids learning at home
The number of Victorian children and teenagers being homeschooled has surged 44 per cent during the pandemic, new data shows, and more students are now choosing to study online. Educators say greater student confidence with online learning, teacher shortages and an increase in mental health issues among children have led to a continued rise in studying at home.
UK government provided almost two million laptops to students
The Department for Education (DfE), the UK government department responsible for the English education sector, has provided nearly two million electronic devices to children and young people to support their education. Parliament Street think tank observed the number of laptops, tablets and phones purchased by the DfE over the past three years, for staff, teachers, and students during the era of remote learning over the pandemic.
Public Policies
Singapore extends use of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for kids
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in Singapore has extended the authorisation of Moderna’s Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine via the Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR), for the prevention of COVID-19)in individuals 6 months to 5 years- administered as a course of two 25 microgram doses; 6 to 11 years- administered as a course of two 50 microgram doses; and 12 to 17 years- administered as a course of two 100 microgram doses. HSA has carefully considered the data from two clinical studies in children and adolescents, and assessed that the benefits outweighed the risks for use of Spikevax in individuals aged 6 months and above. In making this regulatory decision, HSA also consulted expert advice from the Medicines Advisory Committee and Panel of Infectious Diseases Experts. Safety data from the clinical studies also showed that adverse events in adolescents and children were similar to those reported in adults.
100,000 doses of Janssen’s COVID-19 delivered to Ukraine under COVAX initiative
A total of 100,000 doses of Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine – Ad26.COV2-S – have been delivered to Ukraine this month under the COVAX initiative, and distributed to 22 regions in the country by the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced. Additionally, more than 100 medical workers and trainers across Ukraine have been taught by WHO to conduct further training on the use of Ad26.COV2-S, and Ukrainian healthcare workers have received over 23,000 copies of guidance materials on the use of the vaccine. Ad26.COV2-S – also known as JNJ-78436735 or Jcovden – was approved for emergency use by WHO and registered in Ukraine in July 2021 for the vaccination of adults aged 18-years-old and over.
Bulgaria to treat COVID-19 as influenza – EURACTIV.com
Bulgaria will start considering COVID-19 as influenza and other respiratory viruses, Professor Radka Argirova announced after the expert group at the Ministry of Health meeting, which monitors the epidemic situation in the country. This approach, to be adopted as the school year starts in September, would mean that those infected with coronavirus and their contacts would not be subject to the mandatory quarantine. Spain was the first country in the EU to consider COVID-19 as seasonal flu at the end of March when the mandatory quarantine for the infected was lifted.
Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout flawed, audit finds
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine by Australia’s health department was “partly effective” but planning was slow and incomplete in the early stages, delivery to priority groups was flawed and it failed to meet targets, according to a review by the country’s National Audit Office. Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese said on Sunday that he would call an inquiry into the federal government’s wider response to the pandemic “as soon as practicable”. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) review, published last Wednesday, found that while the Department of Health and Aged Care undertook “largely appropriate” administration and logistics planning, that “initial planning was not timely”. It said that detailed planning with states and territories was not complete before the vaccine rollout commenced, and that it “underestimated the complexity of administering in-reach services to the aged care and disability sectors”. While 90% of the eligible population was vaccinated by the end of 2021, the planning and implementation of the vaccine rollout to priority groups “was not as effective” as for the population as a whole, the report said.
Maintaining Services
Over 2 Million Americans Aren't Working Due to Long Covid, Says Brookings
Between two million and four million Americans aren’t working due to the long-term effects of Covid-19, according to a new Brookings Institution report released Wednesday. The inability to work translates to roughly $170 billion a year in lost wages, the report estimates. It follows a January Brookings Institution report that estimated long Covid was potentially causing 15% of the country’s labor shortage. The report estimates that roughly 16 million Americans of working age—between 18 and 65—have long Covid, which most groups and doctors define as wide-ranging symptoms that persist for months following an infection and can include shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and neurocognitive issues.
China reopens doors for foreign students as pandemic concerns ease
China is easing its tight restrictions on visas after it largely suspended issuing them to foreign students and others more than two years ago at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The website of the Chinese Embassy in India said the updated procedures would take effect from Wednesday, without making a specific mention of vaccine requirements or proof of a negative test for the virus. China still requires those arriving from abroad be quarantined at a hotel or private home and proof of a negative test is required for entry to many public and commercial spaces.
Leaving no one behind in the fight against COVID-19
Domestic travel in Europe this summer is projected to fully return to 2019 levels, and many countries have been easing COVID-19 restrictions since spring. While this state of “normality” is a huge relief for many, it is a cause for greater concern among the immunocompromised community. COVID-19 continues to circulate, with infections increasing in many European countries — including Germany, France, Italy, Greece and Austria.
COVAX offers Mexico 10 mln COVID shots for kids after president protests delays
The United Nations-backed COVAX vaccine program has offered Mexico 10 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 shots for children after the country's president vowed to complain to the U.N. over delays, a senior Mexican official said on Tuesday. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador this week said Mexico was owed $75 million after it received less than half the 52 million vaccine doses it was allocated under the COVAX program, which aims to distribute shots equitably worldwide
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID shot 73.2% effective in kids under 5 - new data
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. An early analysis based on 10 symptomatic COVID-19 cases in the study had suggested a vaccine efficacy of 80.3%. But experts had warned that the data was preliminary due to a low number of symptomatic cases.
Covid Incubation Gets Shorter With Each New Variant, Study Shows
The longer a virus can replicate inside a person before causing symptoms, the harder it can be to stop because of the greater potential for the infected to unknowingly spread it far and wide. Among Covid-19’s pernicious features, its incubation period is longer than many other respiratory viral infections, including influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and rhinovirus. The good news is the interval between exposure and the development of symptoms appears to be narrowing. Scientists from Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing analyzed data from more than 140 studies to estimate the incubation period of Covid caused by different strains of SARS-CoV-2. It fell from an average of five days with an alpha infection to 3.42 days with omicron, according to a study published Monday in the journal JAMA Network Open