"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 7th Nov 2022

Isolation Tips
Macau reimposes COVID curbs as China loosens visa rules for gambling hub
Macau authorities reinstated tough COVID-19 curbs including locking down a major casino over the weekend after a handful of cases were detected, even as China announced a loosening of visa rules for visitors to the world's biggest gambling hub. Authorities locked down the MGM Cotai casino resort owned by MGM China on Sunday, with staff and guests ordered to stay inside until Nov. 1. More than 1,500 people are sealed inside the property, the government said on Monday.
Chinese cities clamp down on COVID as cases rise before winter season
Officials in Chinese cities and provinces across the country are pulling no punches in stamping out sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks as winter nears, quickly closing venues and enforcing longer temporary lockdowns on millions of people. Cases in mainland China hit 2,898 on Sunday, topping 2,000 for a second straight day and pressuring the country's controversial zero-COVID policy, which has hamstrung the economy and exasperated its citizens.
Hygiene Helpers
COVID variants BQ.1/BQ.1.1 make up 35% of U.S. cases
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday estimated that Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 accounted for about 35% of coronavirus cases in the country in the week ending Nov.5 compared with 23.2% in the previous week. The subvariants made up nearly 9% of total cases in the week of Oct. 15 and their proportion has been rising steadily among circulating cases since then. The two variants are descendants of Omicron's BA.5 subvariant and have been spreading rapidly in Europe.
China posts 6-month high COVID count as it sticks with strategy
China on Sunday reported its highest number of new COVID-19 infections in six months, a day after health officials said they were sticking with strict coronavirus curbs, likely disappointing recent investor hopes for an easing. China recorded 4,420 new locally transmitted COVID-19 infections on Saturday, the National Health Commission said, the most since May 6 and compared up from 3,659 new local cases a day earlier.
New Covid variants are circulating. What do we know and will the Omicron-specific booster be effective?
Despite driving an increase in cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says XBB and BQ.1 are not different enough from each other, or from other Omicron lineages, to warrant labelling them new variants of concern. Variants of concern are those that show increased transmissibility, virulence or change in clinical disease, and a decreased effectiveness of public health and social measures. XBB and BQ.1 are subvariants of Omicron, which continues to be a variant of concern. Examining global data available to date, WHO said there is early evidence that there is a higher risk of Covid-19 reinfection from XBB and BQ.1 compared to other circulating Omicron subvariants. However, cases of reinfection appear to be largely occurring in those previously infected with pre-Omicron strains, such as Delta, WHO says.
Community Activities
The Beijing Marathon Returns, With Some Covid-Zero Conditions
The Beijing marathon is back. Probably. No one will really be certain until the starting gun goes off on Nov. 6. The race, once one of the world’s top city marathons, has been on hiatus for two years, and with China sticking to its Covid-Zero policies, the marathon’s return has been marked with delays and uncertainty. Runners didn’t even know if they’d be competing until results of the entrance lottery were announced a week ago. “Even though there’s a short time to prepare, and my condition may not be as good as before, it’s good for it to be held,” said Tao Zhan, 49, an office worker who started running marathons six years ago and broke the three-hour mark in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. “This is very good news for runners.”
China COVID curbs hit iPhone output, shut Shanghai Disney
China's COVID-19 curbs forced the temporary closure of Disney's Shanghai resort on Monday, while production of Apple Inc iPhones at a major contract manufacturing facility could drop by 30% in November due to coronavirus restrictions, a source told Reuters. In Zhengzhou, a Foxconn plant that makes iPhones and employs about 200,000 people has been rocked by discontent over stringent measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, with numerous staff fleeing the facility, prompting nearby cities to draw up plans to isolate migrant workers returning to their home towns.
Working Remotely
The refugees able to work remotely for firms around the world
YaganKar was set up in Canada in 2018 by Afghani migrant Jamshid Hashimi, to create remote work opportunities for skilled Afghans both inside and outside of their home country. Described as a talent platform, it links Afghani freelancers with would-be employers around the world.
Startups, Investors Bet on Remote Work Future
Even as more employers signal an end to remote work, tech startups and their investors are betting that it is here to stay, offering a range of digital tools designed to support a permanent workforce outside of the office. And those bets appear to be paying off. Remotebase, a two-year-old San Mateo, Calif.- based startup that connects businesses with remote software engineers, is seeing revenue growth this year of up to 30% a month, co-founder and Chief Executive Qasim Salam said.
Virtual Classrooms
Is remote tutoring tech the solution to Europe’s ongoing teacher shortage?
One of the great challenges facing education across Europe is a lack of teachers. According to the latest EU data, 35 out of the 43 education systems across the bloc reported a shortage of teachers last year. It’s this problem that Vienna-based edtech company GoStudent is hoping to try to solve with its remote tutoring platform. “We are using technology to connect kids from all over the world with teachers that are also from all over the world,” said Felix Ohswald, the co-founder and CEO.
University orders all of its students back to campus after haunting image exposed the reality of student life in 2022
A top university has decided to pull the plug on students learning exclusively from home, making it compulsory to front up to campus lectures and tutorials. Sydney University will wind up remote learning and teaching next year after three years of online classes. Vice Chancellor at the university Mark Scott said patchy video platforms meant the college can not provide quality education.
Opinion: A Positive Future for Remote Teaching and Learning
Education leaders learned valuable lessons from synchronous and asynchronous learning and should examine everything that was accomplished during that rushed push toward remote learning. As Forbes magazine reports, remote work certainly seems to be here to stay in some form in the business world, so our education system needs to help prepare students for a future in which virtual workplaces are a reality. In a recent study by Future Forum, collaboration was found to be the main reason for resuming face-to-face work environments
Public Policies
Chinese officials signal no change to 'zero-COVID' policy
Chinese health officials are giving no indication of any relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions following several days of speculation that the government was considering changes to a “zero-COVID” approach that has stymied economic growth and disrupted daily life
Sweden against giving EU-approved COVID jab to under-30s
The EU-approved COVID-19 vaccine Nuvaxovid should not be administered to people aged 30, and below due to increased health risks posed by it, the Swedish Public Health Agency announced this week. Nuvaxovid was the fifth COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the EU. After initially approving the vaccine for people aged 18 and over, the Public Health Agency announced on Tuesday that the vaccine presented a danger for people aged 30 and below as it increases the risk of heart muscle inflammation and pericarditis – more commonly known as heart muscle inflammation and pericardial effusion – even though the risk remains “very low”. “We are monitoring the situation closely and awaiting more data. But anyone who is younger and has recently been vaccinated with Nuvaxovid need not be concerned.
China Agrees to Approve BioNTech's Covid-19 Vaccine for Foreigners, German Chancellor Says
China agreed to approve BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccines for foreign residents, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Beijing on Friday, in what would mark the first approval of an mRNA vaccine for Covid-19 for use in China. Mr. Scholz and Chinese leader Xi Jinping also discussed a pathway for approving the BioNTech vaccine for the broader population in China, Mr. Scholz said in a news conference, suggesting that regulators at the European Medicines Agency would be involved. “There will be an acceleration of the approval process; that’s been promised to me,” Mr. Scholz told German journalists in a question-and-answer session afterward. He said that Europe would speed up applications made by Chinese companies.
Covid inquiry promises to cover key Welsh issues
The UK Covid public inquiry will do all it can to ensure all issues the people of Wales want covered are investigated, its chair has said.Baroness Hallett made the pledge as it was revealed the inquiry will hold public hearings in Wales next autumn.
Covid: Boris Johnson WhatsApp messages requested by inquiry
The Covid public inquiry has asked to see Boris Johnson's WhatsApp messages during his time as prime minister as part of its probe into decision-making. Counsel for the inquiry, Hugo Keith KC, said the messages had been requested alongside thousands of other documents. He said a major focus of this part of the inquiry was understanding how the "momentous" decisions to impose lockdowns and restrictions were taken. The revelations came as he set out the details of how this module will work. The inquiry is being broken down into different sections - or modules as they are being called.
Vaxzevria receives full Marketing Authorisation in the EU for the prevention of COVID-19
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria (ChAdOx1-S [Recombinant]), has been granted full Marketing Authorisation (MA) in the European Union (EU). Vaxzevria was originally granted a conditional Marketing Authorisation (cMA) due to the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic. As there continues to be sufficient evidence of safety and efficacy confirming the benefits of Vaxzevria, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has now granted a full MA. This decision follows positive recommendation for a full MA by The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the EMA. The MA covers the use of Vaxzevria in both a primary vaccination series, and as both a heterologous (with an approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccine) or homologous (all the same vaccine) third dose booster. Iskra Reic, Executive Vice President, Vaccines and Immune Therapies, AstraZeneca, said: “The move from conditional to full marketing authorisation for Vaxzevria is an important confirmation by the EMA of the safety and efficacy of Vaxzevria, demonstrating that the benefits continue to outweigh the potential risks. Vaxzevria is estimated to have helped save over six million lives in the first year of vaccination, which reflects the strength of the evidence showing Vaxzevria’s protection against severe disease and death caused by COVID-19.”
Maintaining Services
China to make 'substantial' COVID policy changes soon - ex-govt expert
China will make substantial changes to its "dynamic-zero" COVID-19 policy in coming months, a former Chinese disease control official told a conference hosted by Citi on Friday, according to a recording of the session heard by Reuters. Separately, three sources familiar with the matter said China may soon further shorten quarantine requirements for inbound travellers. Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention who has remained outspoken on China's COVID fight, said the conditions for China opening up were "accumulating", citing new vaccines and progress the country had made in antiviral drug research.
‘Vaccine apathy’ slowing down London’s Covid booster rollout
Vaccine “apathy” is slowing down the rollout of London's Covid-19 booster jab, a top health professor has warned, as figures revealed that the capital continues to lag behind other regions on vaccination. Just over a third (33.2 per cent) of people aged 50 and over had received their autumn booster jab in London as of October 26, by far the lowest proportion in England. In comparison, over half of adults aged over 50 in the South West had received their booster. London was at least ten per cent behind every other region, according to Government statistics. Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, warned that patients were displaying signs of “vaccine apathy” and had complained they have “already had enough” Covid-19 jabs.
Healthcare Innovations
Could a nose spray a day keep COVID away?
During the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anne Moscona didn’t feel safe going to a restaurant or catching a flight. And she wished she could feel confident that she could see her immunocompromised relatives without inadvertently spreading the novel coronavirus to them. All this made her work personal: for the past decade, Moscona, a molecular virologist, had been hunting for compounds that could stop viruses in their tracks, before the pathogens infect even a single cell in a person’s body. Now Moscona, at Columbia University in New York City, and her colleagues have homed in on a compound that might foil SARS-CoV-2. Even better, it’s simply sprayed up the nose — no needle required1.
'A silent killer' -- COVID-19 shown to trigger inflammation in the brain
Research led by The University of Queensland has found COVID-19 activates the same inflammatory response in the brain as Parkinson's disease. The discovery identified a potential future risk for neurodegenerative conditions in people who've had COVID-19, but also a possible treatment. The UQ team was led by Professor Trent Woodruff and Dr Eduardo Albornoz Balmaceda from UQ's School of Biomedical Sciences, and virologists from the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. "We studied the effect of the virus on the brain's immune cells, 'microglia' which are the key cells involved in the progression of brain diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's," Professor Woodruff said.
China rolls out first inhalable COVID vaccine
In what is believed to be a world first, China's commerical capital of Shanghai this week introduced a new type of COVID-19 vaccine that is inhaled rather than administered via injection. Chinese regulators approved the vaccine, produced by Chinese pharmaceutical firm CanSino Biologics, for use as a booster in September. And now the first people are starting to receive the vaccine, which is inhaled via the mouth from a vessel that looks like a take-out coffee cup with a short mouthpiece.