"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 17th Oct 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai Lockdown Fears Back as China Covid Cases Rise Before Party Congress
China is stepping up efforts to contain Covid-19 outbreaks ahead of the Party Congress, with national cases climbing to the highest in almost two months and concerns about widening lockdowns rippling across the financial hub of Shanghai. The country reported 1,878 cases for Sunday, the highest since Aug. 20, as the week-long National Day holiday saw cases flare among returning travelers. Shanghai posted 34 new local infections, the most in almost three months, with two infections found outside of its quarantine system.
Hygiene Helpers
Novavax says COVID booster dose shows benefit against Omicron variants
Novavax Inc said on Wednesday data from studies in adults and adolescents showed that the booster dose of its COVID vaccine produced robust antibodies against several Omicron variants, including BA.1, BA.2 and BA.5. The data was from two studies - a late-stage study evaluating the booster in adults and adolescents who had received Novavax primary vaccination and another study testing it in those aged 18 to 49 who had received primary series of Novavax vaccine or other authorized or approved vaccines.
FDA authorizes COVID omicron boosters for kids 5 and up
Moderna’s vaccine was authorized for use at least two months after completion of primary or booster vaccination in children down to six years of age, according to a statement Wednesday from the US Food and Drug Administration. The Pfizer shot can be given at least two months after primary or booster vaccination in children as young as five. While updated booster shots have already been authorized for use in children and adults from the age of 12 and up, uptake of the shots has been slow. Primary vaccinations of children have also gone slowly as parents have seen the risk of infection as low. “Since children have gone back to school in person and people are resuming pre-pandemic behaviors and activities, there is the potential for increased risk of exposure to the virus that causes Covid-19,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
Singapore to Ease More Covid Curbs, Step Up Vaccination Program
Singapore will step up its vaccination program as it further eases its Covid-related curbs, lifting restrictions on non-vaccinated individuals in restaurants and other venues. The Ministry of Health said it will fully lift its vaccine-differentiated safe management measures, effective Oct. 10. That means the restrictions will no longer be applied in eateries, nightlife establishments and at large events with more than 500 attendees. Singapore’s steady removal of its Covid curbs has helped solidify its role as a major Asian financial center, capitalizing on Hong Kong’s relative slowness to reopen. In a sign of the relative appeal of the two cities, Singapore’s population rose 3.4% in June from a year earlier, while Hong Kong’s shrank 1.6%.
BioNTech plants research and production flag in Australia
The company’s latest move? A strategic partnership in the Land Down Under. Friday, the German biotech unveiled a deal with the Australian state of Victoria to prop up a new mRNA research and innovation center to bolster investigation of new meds “from discovery to delivery.” BioNTech will also throw in one of its "BioNTainer" mobile manufacturing facilities in Victoria’s capital of Melbourne for end-to-end clinical production of mRNA products and candidates, the company said in a release. Housed in shipping containers, BioNTainer modular factories are kitted out to produce vaccines from start to finish. Beyond Australia, the company recently advanced plans to kick off a BioNTainer-focused mRNA vaccine manufacturing initiative in Africa.
From BQ.1.1 to XBB and beyond: How the splintering of Omicron variants could shape Covid's next phase
The United States is in a (relative) Covid-19 lull, with cases and hospitalizations falling as the wave driven by the BA.5 lineage of the Omicron variant recedes. But as if we needed a portent of an anticipated fall and winter wave, Covid is on the rise in some European countries. What’s different, at least for now, is that there’s not one variant pushing the wave. Rather, scientists are tracking a bevy of new forms of Omicron, which are jockeying with each other as they compete to become the next dominant strain. Scientists are monitoring more than 300 sublineages of Omicron, World Health Organization officials said this week. To get a sense of what’s happening right now with the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, STAT spoke with Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London.
Community Activities
As China doubles down on ‘zero-COVID’, some have had enough
A few months ago, a box was left outside the door of 34-year-old Yu Ting Xu’s* apartment in Beijing. Inside, there was an electronic monitoring wristband and a demand that she wear the wristband at all times as part of the fight against COVID-19 in her residential area. While telling her story over a video call, Yu shuffles about in the background. When she returns to her screen, she is holding up the wristband, which looks like a smartwatch but has a plain white plastic surface instead of a display.
Construction Contracts Unworkable; Defense Costs Blow-Out
Infrastructure construction contracts signed before the pandemic have become widely unworkable because of the surging cost of labor and materials, supply-chain blockages and difficulties in securing manpower, according to builder Webuild. The firm is wrestling with a 2019 agreement with the Australian government to construct the country’s largest hydroelectric power station for A$5.1 billion. The Snowy 2.0 project has come to highlight the challenges of completing large-scale projects on terms that were struck before Covid-19, and before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Working Remotely
The novelty of remote work wears off for job seekers as a new mentality takes over
Over the past two-plus years, employees have been drawn to remote work like a moth to a flame. But as the dust settles, the novelty of wearing pajamas all day has worn off for some job seekers.
You’re going back to the office. Your boss isn’t.
The relationship between rank-and-file office workers and their bosses has never been equal. But remote work is creating a new kind of imbalance between certain people in leadership and their employees, and it’s stirring up resentment at work. Many managers — from middle management to the C-suite, depending on the workplace — are continuing to work remotely, but at the same time are calling their employees back to the office. Employees are getting angry and fighting back in the few ways they can: not showing up to the office or looking for work someplace else.
They Say Remote Work Is Bad For Employees, But Most Research Suggests Otherwise — A Behavioral Economist Explains.
They say remote and hybrid work is bad for employee mental wellbeing and leads to a sense of social isolation, meaninglessness and lack of work-life boundaries. So, we should all go back to office-centric work — or so many traditionalist business leaders and gurus would have us believe. The trouble with such articles (and studies) stems from a sneaky misdirection. They decry the negative impact of remote and hybrid work on wellbeing, yet they gloss over the damage to wellbeing caused by the alternative, namely office-centric work. That means the frustration of a long commute to the office, sitting at your desk in an often-uncomfortable and oppressive open office for 8 hours, having a sad desk lunch and unhealthy snacks and then even more frustration commuting back home.
Virtual Classrooms
Three Benefits Of Remote Learning For Every Generation
This is an exciting and unprecedented time for business professionals to invest in online learning experiences, not only for their own career advancements but for that of their employees, as well. More people than ever before are reevaluating how they spend their time, energy and hard-earned money. What better way to improve these areas than to invest in yourself with quality education or level up your career aspirations with new skills and knowledge?
Children could be sent home to work remotely again this winter, headteachers in Wales warn
Children could be sent home from school to work remotely again this winter with further waves of Covid expected this winter, headteachers are warning. Health bosses have forecast a Covid and flu "twindemic" and one of Wales' top doctors said "one of more waves" of Covid are expected in coming months.
Public Policies
Biden Administration Renews Covid-19's Emergency Status
The Biden administration extended the Covid-19 pandemic’s status as a public health emergency for another 90 days, preserving measures such as expanded Medicaid and higher payments to hospitals. The decision follows comments President Biden made in September describing the pandemic as over. Some Republican lawmakers said afterward that the administration should wind down its pandemic response and the emergency designation. The extension of the public-health emergency on Thursday was expected by officials and lawmakers from both parties. The administration has told states it would give them 60 days notice before letting the public-health emergency expire. Some state leaders have said recently that they hadn’t gotten any such heads-up.
Europe likely entering another COVID wave, says WHO and ECDC
Another wave of COVID-19 infections may have begun in Europe as cases begin to tick up across the region, the World Health Organization and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Wednesday. "Although we are not where we were one year ago, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is still not over," WHO's Europe director, Hans Kluge, and ECDC's director, Andrea Ammon, said in a joint statement.
Swiss drugs regulator approves one of Pfizer's COVID-19 booster shots
Swiss drugs regulator Swissmedic said on Monday it had temporarily approved Pfizer's COVID-19 booster shot targeting the original and BA.1 Omicron coronavirus variants. Swissmedic added that the data currently available to it was not yet sufficient to make a decision on Pfizer's bivalent booster vaccine targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.
Maintaining Services
Long COVID at 12 months persists at 18 months, study shows
Most patients with COVID-19 who have lingering symptoms at 12 months are likely to still have symptoms at 18 months, new data suggest. The findings are drawn from a large study of 33,281 people in Scotland who tested positive for the coronavirus. Most of the results are in line with those from earlier, smaller studies. Among a subset of 197 survivors of symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections who completed surveys at 12 months and 18 months, most reported lingering symptoms at both time points, researchers reported in Nature Communications.
World Faces New Threats From Fast-Mutating Omicron Variants
The subvariants known as BQ.1.1, BQ.1, BQ.1.3, BA.2.3.20 and XBB are among the fastest-spreading of the main omicron lineages. Based on UK data, the BQ variants, as well as BA.2.75.2 and BF.7 are the most concerning due to their growth advantage and immune evasiveness, the country’s health security agency said on Oct. 7. BF.7 has also been gaining ground in the US, where it accounted for 4.6% of Covid cases in the week ending Oct. 8, from 3.3% the week before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Atlanta-based agency noted BA4.6 was the most prevalent after BA.5, accounting for 13.6% of cases in the first week of October, from 12.7% the week before. In Bangladesh and Singapore, the XBB strain has been linked to a small surge in cases.
Healthcare Innovations
Scientists identify gene that may generate a higher immune response to Covid vaccine
Scientists have identified an immunity gene variant in people with strong responses to Covid-19 vaccines who were less likely to get breakthrough infections, a finding that could improve future shot design. Individuals carrying the specific gene version generated more antibodies against the coronavirus after receiving vaccines from AstraZeneca Plc or the alliance of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, according to the study published Thursday in the Nature Medicine journal. The same people were less likely than those with different versions of the same gene to get infected with Covid months later, the research found. .
AstraZeneca Nasal Spray Vaccine for Covid Fizzles in Small, Early Trial
AstraZeneca Plc’s ambitions for developing an easier formulation of its Covid-19 vaccine -- one that might help curb contagion as well -- suffered a setback Monday as the nasal spray failed in an early test. The spray vaccine didn’t elicit a strong immune response in the nasal mucosa tissue or in the rest of the body of volunteers, according to researchers at the University of Oxford. Astra shares fell less than 1% in London.