"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th Sep 2022

Isolation Tips
Coronavirus: China sticks to zero-Covid as management failures and misery mount
Public apologies from government officials in China for mishandled duties are extraordinarily rare events. After all, career success is largely determined by their supervisors, not by the people they serve. But since the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping across China, public admissions of failures have become more frequent. From food shortages to denied hospital access for sick people or pregnant women during lockdowns, from the eastern financial hub of Shanghai to Lhasa in Tibet, several local government officials have claimed deep remorse for their blunders. In the latest case, officials from the Guiyang municipal government bowed to say sorry for the deaths of 27 people on a bus that had been making an early morning journey to a remote quarantine facility.
Hong Kong Won't Return to Zero Covid Cases as City Weighs Easing
A Hong Kong health official said the Asian financial hub is unlikely to again see a day without any Covid-19 infections after keeping the virus largely at bay for the first two years of the pandemic. While cases won’t return to zero -- a feat the city managed for most of last year due to some of the world’s strictest quarantine policies -- the daily tally is likely to continue its downward trend, health official Albert Au said at a briefing on Thursday. “We expect coronavirus will linger in the community and will have certain transmissions,” he said. “Before the fifth wave, we could do Covid Zero. After the fifth wave, this is not necessarily feasible.”
Hong Kong Reaches Consensus on Ending Hotel Quarantine
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee and his officials have reached a consensus on ending mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals, the South China Morning Post reported. The government plans to replace it with seven-day home monitoring, according to the report, citing unidentified people. The new arrangements would be announced after thorough preparation by government agencies, the report added.
Hygiene Helpers
Some People Are Finally Getting Their First Dose of a Covid-19 Vaccine
All together, the seven-day average for adults getting first shots each day ranged between roughly 15,000 and 18,000 in late August, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data can overestimate first-shot recipients, because there are times where the agency can’t link follow-up shots, including boosters, to people who received an initial series. The same effect can lead to an undercount of booster shots, according to the CDC. People who recently got the first jab cited a range of reasons. Some said they were ordered to do so, such as to start a new job or travel for a vacation. Others waited until a vaccine using a more-traditional technology, instead of the newer mRNA versions, became available. Some went ahead after getting sick with Covid-19, or after a family member vouched that the shots worked.
Community Activities
China's Anti-COVID Policies in Tibet Trigger Resentment, Rare Online Outcry
The harsh COVID-19 containment restrictions China is imposing across Tibet are leading to public resentment in the capital of Lhasa, where residents who have tested positive are being quarantined in empty stadiums, schools, warehouses and unfinished buildings. Beijing's actions in Tibet reflect the draconian "zero-covid" policy of President Xi Jinping that has caused discontent and even protests in major cities such as Shanghai and Chengdu. Social media videos from Lhasa show people waiting to be bused at night to an estimated 20 makeshift quarantine camps. For Lhasa residents the "midnight bus" represents their fears of what they may find once they arrive at crowded and locked quarantine sites.
Covid-19: China reopens borders to medical students, but problems remain
Medical students from India who have been studying in China have been heartened by the decision to allow them to return to resume their studies in person, although they admit that many obstacles remain including exorbitant air fares and “zero covid” policies. The Chinese government updated its visa policies for international students on 22 August, allowing them to return. China’s borders were sealed off to international travellers in January 2020, shortly after covid-19 struck. More than 23 000 Indian students and 28 000 Pakistani students are thought to be affected by pandemic quarantines and unable to return to China even after two years. The decision by the Chinese government to start issuing visas to international students comes after months of unrest for Indian medical students in particular.
Covid-19 Unemployment Fraud May Have Topped $45 Billion, Watchdog Estimates
Criminals potentially stole an estimated $45.6 billion by making fraudulent unemployment insurance claims meant for people laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic, a government watchdog said. The new tally is nearly three times last summer’s estimate of over $16 billion in fraudulent payments. More than half of the potential fraud identified between March 2020 and April 2022 stemmed from individuals filing for benefits in multiple states. Fraudsters also used the Social Security numbers of people who were dead or in prison, as well as suspicious email addresses, the Labor Department’s inspector general’s office said in a report released Thursday. More than 1,000 people have been charged with crimes involving unemployment insurance fraud since March 2020, the report said.
Goldman Sachs Will End Covid Vaccination Requirements in Its New York Office
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will drop vaccination requirements for staff at its New York City office, as the waning pandemic prompts Wall Street banks eager for employees to return to their desks to scrap remaining restrictions. The bank will end the requirement beginning Tuesday Nov. 1, according to a memo to staff seen by Bloomberg News. It follows the announcement by New York City Mayor Eric Adams that the city will no longer mandate that private employers require all of their workers to be vaccinated for Covid-19. Goldman Sachs had previously removed vaccine requirements in other US locations
Zero-COVID policy has cost Hong Kong its aviation hub status - IATA
Hong Kong has lost its position as a global aviation hub due to China's zero-COVID policy, the head of airlines group IATA said on Wednesday, warning the industry's recovery from the pandemic would be slowed if Beijing continued its restrictions next year. Attending an International Air Transport Association (IATA) conference in the Qatari capital Doha, IATA Director General Willie Walsh said China's zero-COVID policy had "devastated" Hong Kong and hit airline Cathay Pacific hard.
What Good Leadership Looks Like Now vs. Pre-Covid
Just as in the first study, among the 20 traits that Korn Ferry tested, “tolerance of ambiguity” had the strongest positive correlation this time with the Drucker Institute’s best-scoring companies. “Trust,” “risk-taking” and adaptability” all remained in the top five, as well. Given how deep-seated traits tend to be, this isn’t surprising. “It’s not that leaders have changed their spots,” says Stephen Lams, the vice president of data and analytics at the Korn Ferry Institute.
Working Remotely
Hybrid working may hold back women’s careers, say managers
The shift towards hybrid working could be holding back women’s career progression, as research suggests employers are overlooking people who spend more time working from home. Experts have raised concerns that the post-Covid return to work is entrenching the gender pay and promotion gap, with employers failing to monitor its impact or properly design jobs for hybrid and remote working. This especially affects women, who are more likely to choose flexible hours or work from home for childcare reasons.
China's Digital Nomads Trade Mega-Cities for Backpacker Havens
After a hard day’s work, programmer Richard Hao powers down his laptop in a cafe overlooking Dali’s picturesque lake and drinks in the view. Like a growing number of digital nomads in China, he’s turned his back on big-city living and moved to the tourist hub in Yunnan province, famed for its snowcapped mountains, ancient temples and pagodas.
Virtual Classrooms
Pulling Distance Learning Tools Into In-Person Classes
We embark on academic year 2022–23 and a seeming return to normal. Yet we are not the same coming back—there are students who had to finish college online, those who had to start college online and those who have experienced college only online. If last year’s kindergarteners remember their remote year, those memories will be part of the graduating Class of 2039. Faculty members also are not the same, even those of us who teach in art and media fields. The “online model” may have changed our teaching forever—and for the better.
How remote learning provided graduates with skills for future careers
In March 2020 Ireland was about to go into lockdown and universities, colleges and schools were forced to shift their education delivery to a mostly unfamiliar online format. For the next year and a half students could only attend virtual classes, access study materials from afar and collaborate on projects from a distance. We asked Orla Bannon, director of careers at Trinity College Dublin, about how the pandemic may have equipped students with new skills and how they might make themselves more employable.
Public Policies
PM agrees to lift pandemic border measures, source says
The federal government has decided to drop the vaccination requirement for people entering Canada, end random COVID-19 testing at airports and make the use of the ArriveCan app optional by the end of this month, a senior government source told CBC News. Earlier this week, sources told CBC that Ottawa was leaning toward ending the measures but a final decision hadn't been made because it was awaiting the approval of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The current COVID-19 Emergency Order-in-Council relating to border measures was set to expire on Sept. 30. The government had the option of extending the measures. The government is expected to make an official announcement on Monday, the source said.
US Seeks to Secure Medical Supply Chain in Covid-19 Fight
The Biden administration will help set up a clearinghouse of medical supplies with other nations to fight Covid-19, and will expand a “test-to-treat” program in 10 countries to distribute therapeutic drugs, a senior State Department official said. Countries that back the Global Action Plan on Covid-19 will pledge to create a mechanism to secure and distribute the goods -- such as masks and oxygen -- and raw materials required to combat a pandemic, according to the official, who asked not to be identified discussing plans that still aren’t public.
Japan to Restore Visa-Free Travel From Oct. 11 as Covid Pandemic Recedes
Japan will abolish a slew of Covid border controls from Oct. 11, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in New York, in a move that looks set to revive the tourism industry. Individual visitors will be allowed to enter, and Japan will reinstate visa waivers, Kishida said at a news conference Thursday morning in New York. The cap on daily arrivals in Japan will also be ended, he said. Later in the day, at the New York Stock Exchange, Kishida said Japan “will relax border control measures to be on par with the US,” spurring applause from the audience.
Pfizer to supply up to 6 mln COVID pill courses for lower income countries
Pfizer Inc said on Thursday it would supply up to 6 million courses of its COVID-19 antiviral treatment to NGO Global Fund for low- and middle-income countries that seeks to address worldwide disparities in COVID response. The company said Paxlovid treatment courses will be available for procurement through Global Fund's COVID-19 Response Mechanism to 132 low- and middle-income countries this year, subject to local regulatory clearances.
U.S. delivers over 25 mln COVID boosters; Moderna's shot in limited supply
The United States government has sent out over 25 million of the updated COVID-19 booster shots, mostly from Pfizer/BioNTech, as production of the Moderna shot continues to ramp up, a federal health agency said on Tuesday. Some U.S. pharmacies like CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance also reported on Tuesday that government supply of Moderna's updated shot remains limited, causing appointments for the product to vary across the country.
AstraZeneca's Evusheld Gets EU Nod to Help Prevent Severe Covid
The European Union has recommended the use of AstraZeneca Plc’s Evusheld for treating Covid-19, and given the nod to another drug co-developed with Sanofi for preventing respiratory infection from a common virus in young children. Astra’s antibody cocktail Evusheld had already got the green light from authorities across the world to prevent Covid-19 for people with weakened immune systems. Now, it also has a positive recommendation from an expert panel under the European Medicines Agency for the drug to treat adults and adolescents at risk of progressing to severe Covid.
Moderna Gives WHO's mRNA Hub Some Help, Pfizer Snubs Request
Moderna Inc. has allowed its Covid-19 vaccine to be used in a World Health Organization effort to develop mRNA shots that would increase production and access for poor countries. Afrigen Biologics & Vaccines, a South African biotechnology company working with the WHO, has used the Moderna vaccine in comparison studies in mice to test the effectiveness of its own shots, said Petro Terblanche, Afrigen’s managing director.
Singapore approves Moderna's first bivalent Covid-19 booster jab
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on Wednesday granted interim authorisation for the use of Moderna's Spikevax bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which targets both the original Sars-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron BA.1 variant. The bivalent vaccine has been authorised for use as a booster for people aged 18 and above who have already received their primary series vaccination. HSA did not say when the new vaccine will be made available here. However, in a media release, Moderna said it is working with HSA and the Government to make its bivalent vaccine “available to people in Singapore during September”.
Maintaining Services
Covid: First rise in infections in UK since July
Covid infection rates have increased in the UK for the first time since the middle of July, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). One in 70 tested positive, with the largest rise in secondary school children in the week to 14 September. Infections increased in England and Wales while rates fell in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The ONS says it will closely monitor the data to see the impact of schools returning over the coming weeks. Infections rose by 5% in the most recent period covered by the survey, although the total number testing positive is still close to its lowest point of the year. Booster jabs are now being offered to the most vulnerable, to help protection over the winter.
U.S. CDC expects Omicron COVID boosters for kids by mid-October
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects COVID-19 vaccine boosters targeting circulating variants of the virus to be available for children aged 5-11 years by mid-October. The CDC said in a document released on Tuesday that it expects to make a recommendation in early- to mid-October on the use of the new bivalent vaccines in the group, if they are authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Healthcare Innovations
Asia to Roll Out First Inhaled and Nasal-Spray Covid Vaccines
A new generation of Covid-19 vaccines that can be inhaled or sprayed up the nose—instead of taken by injection—will begin rolling out in Asia, though just how effective they are remains to be seen. Regulators in China and India have greenlighted distribution of vaccines delivered through the mouth or nose, a delivery that scientists say holds the promise of more potent protection against Covid-19 by better reducing infections and preventing the disease’s spread among vaccinated people because they work in the nose and lungs where transmission first happens. Existing vaccines have succeeded in reducing symptomatic disease and severe illness, but have fallen short when it comes to preventing mild infections or transmission.