"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th 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 increase the pressure on the city’s medical system. The financial hub reported 7,884 new Covid cases Wednesday, the highest number since the end of March and up from fewer than 5,000 a month ago. Increasing hospitalizations have put pressure on the health-care system, prompting hospitals to scale back non-emergency services and spurring the reopening of community isolation facilities. Expanding virus-related restrictions would be seen as a step back for the international city, which has struggled to balance reopening its borders with mainland China’s conservative approach to the virus, known as Covid Zero.
Chinese State Media Defend Covid Zero, Warn Against 'Lying Flat'
China’s state media defended the country’s increasingly costly zero tolerance approach to Covid-19, saying inactivity from “lying flat” would be disastrous, as outbreaks in its tourism hotspots abate. The dynamic Covid Zero method created a safe and stable environment for China’s development and brings greater certainty to the world economy, the State Council-affiliated newspaper Economic Daily said in a column on Thursday. The recent damage to the country’s growth stems from Covid itself, not measures to contain it, the paper said.
Hygiene Helpers
Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccines 73 Percent Protective in Under 5s
The Pfizer modified COVID-19 vaccine for use in children younger than 5 years was 73 percent effective in shielding them from infection during the omicron surge this spring, company data released Tuesday show. The specially formulated doses for America’s youngest children were approved for distribution in June, although the American Academy of Pediatrics says uptake has been low. Just 6 percent of children younger than 5 years had gotten immunized by mid-August, the group said. At the time of approval, the only studies supporting their use in small children were based on levels of antibodies triggered by the shots. The new data show that the Pfizer vaccine does appear to protect young children well against symptomatic COVID-19.
COVID Has Set Back Childhood Immunizations Worldwide
Thanks to COVID vaccines, more people were immunized in 2021 than in any other year in history. Yet that same year, with tragic irony, more children ended up at risk of highly preventable infectious diseases than before the pandemic began. This is because of what the World Health Organization and UNICEF have described as the largest backslide in childhood vaccinations in three decades. It means that, for the second year in a row after 2019, at a time when the COVID pandemic has focused the world’s attention on the need for vaccination, the number of children missing out on basic vaccines has increased. This is particularly the case in lower-income countries. Given the enormous toll COVID is having on the world’s poorest economies, an overall decline in childhood vaccinations is not unexpected. But we can’t let these numbers slip further.
Covid-19 testing for people without symptoms to be ‘paused’
Covid-19 testing among NHS and care home staff with no symptoms in England is to be “paused” at the end of August, officials have announced. The Department of Health and Social Care said the decision to stop all “asymptomatic testing” comes as cases of the virus continue to fall. But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said nurses “must continue to have access to free testing and high-quality personal protective equipment”.
Community Activities
Taxi and private-hire drivers surprised at change in mask-wearing rule, worried about Covid-19 transmission
In Singapore, in an advisory on its Facebook page, the Land Transport Authority encouraged drivers and passengers to continue wearing masks to protect one another. Ride-hailing operators Gojek and Grab echoed this call, saying drivers and passengers should mask up if they feel unwell. Grab also advised its drivers to wind down windows to improve ventilation if passengers are agreeable. However, drivers interviewed felt that many passengers will not heed this call.
House panel: Trump sought to pressure FDA on covid vaccines, treatment
Trump officials repeatedly stalled the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to extend safety studies of coronavirus vaccines in fall 2020, as President Donald Trump pressed the agency for a faster timeline so the vaccines could be authorized before Election Day, according to emails, text messages and interviews by a congressional panel probing the pandemic response. White House officials such as trade adviser Peter Navarro and outside allies such as TV host and physician Mehmet Oz also pressed federal officials in 2020 to authorize the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, with Navarro and a deputy working behind the scenes to have a hospital craft a request to the FDA for widespread access to the debunked therapy touted by Trump, the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis concluded in a report released Wednesday.
China reopens to Japanese students after long COVID break
The Chinese government will soon start accepting Japanese international students after a two-and-a-half year pause caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese embassy in Japan has made visas for long-term overseas study in China available for applications as of Tuesday. Prospective students are expected to be allowed to sit in university classes after undergoing 10 days of isolation and health observation upon entry. This change, which would encourage exchange among the younger generation, appears to be a move to ease bilateral tensions ahead of next month's 50th anniversary of the two countries normalizing diplomatic relations.
Covid: Qantas says pandemic 'existential crisis' is over
The national carriers of Australia and New Zealand say that the worst of the coronavirus crisis is now behind them, even as they posted annual losses for a third year in a row. Qantas says it is seeing demand increase "with the existential crisis posed by the pandemic now over". Air New Zealand says it has also experienced "a very strong recovery in bookings and revenues" since March.
Working Remotely
Is remote working fuelling a loneliness epidemic? | theHRD
With the four-day working week being trialled across 70 British companies and 3,300 workers, and calls for more hybrid and flexible working opportunities, the one method that doesn’t appear to be operating as well as we’d thought is full-time remote work. Amid growing concerns about loneliness in remote workers, it is also proving to be a real threat to work-life balance and contributing to a lack of trust between managers and employees.
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.
Toronto board expects 4,800 students in virtual learning in September
The kickoff to the new school year is just weeks away, and about 4800 students attending Toronto District School Board (TDSB) have opted for virtual classrooms, starting in September.
Nearly 80 percent of parents say they became more interested in kids’ education during virtual learning: study
Seventy-nine percent of parents say they became more interested in how their child was being educated during the pandemic, when the process went largely virtual, according to a new survey. The survey, conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, similarly found that 84 percent of parents agreed they learned more about how their child was educated during pandemic at-home education, and 78 percent said they became more involved in their child’s education because of what they saw.
Public Policies
UK leadership candidate Sunak attacks COVID lockdown response
Former finance minister Rishi Sunak, one of two candidates vying to be Britain's next premier, criticised the way outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson handled the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it had been a mistake to "empower" scientists and that the downsides of lockdowns were suppressed.
Covid-19 booster vaccine now available for over-50s in Ireland
The second Covid-19 booster jab is now available for all people aged over 50 in Ireland. The HSE confirmed that appointments can now be made by anyone within the age bracket online. The jabs are provided at participating pharmacies,
Thai FDA approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months -5 years
COVID-19 vaccine in vials with maroon caps, developed by Pfizer, are now approved for use in children aged 6 months to 5 years, with 3 injections of 3µg per dose. The vaccine is 80.3% effective at preventing COVID-19. Secretary-General of Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) Dr. Paisarn Dunkum said yesterday (Wednesday) that, on August 23rd, the TFDA subcommittee considering the registration of modern pharmacopoeia for humans, as a vaccine against the virus which causes COVID-19, approved the expansion of the use of Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine to include children aged 6 months to 5 years.
Maintaining Services
Autumn Covid booster jabs: Who is eligible in Wales and how to book?
The autumn coronavirus booster vaccination programme is starting in Wales, with the first jabs being administered on September 1. The roll-out is designed to give extra protection to those who are at increased risk of serious illness if they contract the disease. The Welsh Government says it will also help protect the NHS over winter 2022-23, by easing pressure on the service.
Twitter labeled factual information about covid-19 as misinformation
Over the past week, Twitter has flagged dozens of tweets with factual information about covid-19 as misinformation and in some cases has suspended the accounts of doctors, scientists, and patient advocates in response to their posts warning people about the illness’s dangers. Many of the tweets have since had the misinformation labels removed, and the suspended accounts have been restored. But the episode has shaken many scientific and medical professionals, who say Twitter is a key way they try to publicize the continuing risk of covid to a population that has grown weary of more than two years of shifting claims about the illness. In interviews with The Post, Twitter acknowledged the problem. The company removed the labels and restored the accounts after queries about 10 specific tweets and accounts.
Healthcare Innovations
Paxlovid reduces risk of COVID-19 death by 81%, Clalit study shows
A study by Clalit Health Services on the success of treating at-risk COVID-19 patients with the anti-viral drug Paxlovid has shown an impressive 81% reduction in the risk of death from complications of the virus and a 73% decrease in hospitalizations among those aged 65 and older, compared to a control group who did not want to take the medication. Generically known as nirmatrelvir/ritonavir, the oral protease inhibitor was granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2021. It was authorized for treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in people aged 12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kilograms with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 testing, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death. It should be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms.
Nirmatrelvir Use and Severe Covid-19 Outcomes during the Omicron Surge | NEJM
A total of 109,254 patients met the eligibility criteria, of whom 3902 (4%) received nirmatrelvir during the study period. Among patients 65 years of age or older, the rate of hospitalization due to Covid-19 was 14.7 cases per 100,000 person-days among treated patients as compared with 58.9 cases per 100,000 person-days among untreated patients (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.27; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.15 to 0.49). The adjusted hazard ratio for death due to Covid-19 was 0.21 (95% CI, 0.05 to 0.82). Among patients 40 to 64 years of age, the rate of hospitalization due to Covid-19 was 15.2 cases per 100,000 person-days among treated patients and 15.8 cases per 100,000 person-days among untreated patients (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.35 to 1.58). The adjusted hazard ratio for death due to Covid-19 was 1.32 (95% CI, 0.16 to 10.75).
Severe COVID-19 increases risk of future cardiovascular events
To date, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has infected over 603 million individuals and claimed more than 6.4 million lives worldwide. About 30% of COVID-19 survivors continue to experience a wide range of persistent symptoms for several weeks since their initial diagnosis. This condition is commonly referred to as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC) or “long COVID.”