"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 14th Nov 2022

Isolation Tips
Visiting curbs at hospitals, residential care homes to be extended 2 weeks due to COVID-19 situation
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will extend current visiting restrictions at all hospital wards and residential care homes for two weeks until Nov 23. This is to relieve pressure on hospitals and homes and to protect vulnerable patients and residents, said the ministry in a press release on Wednesday (Nov 9).
China’s manufacturing hub Guangzhou partially locked down as Covid outbreak widens
China's southern metropolis of Guangzhou has locked down a third district, as authorities rush to stamp out a widening Covid outbreak and avoid activating the kind of citywide lockdown that devastated Shanghai earlier this year.
Hygiene Helpers
French medics say face masks are needed again, especially on transport
The French Académie de Médecine states that masks would protect against Covid, seasonal flu and bronchiolitis but stopped short of saying they should be ‘mandatory’
New York is becoming an 'emerging hotspot' for the XBB family of COVID variants that hit Singapore, as BQ closes in on U.S. dominance
A wave of infections involving an extremely immune-evasive COVID strain that started spreading in New York and recently reached California is about to engulf the rest of the U.S., according to a report from federal health officials released Friday. Two variants of the BQ strain are projected to comprise 35% of U.S. infections, according to a COVID forecast from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That puts the variant family just slightly behind BA.5, which still led U.S. cases on Friday, at an estimated 39%.
Covid infections fall across UK for first time in nearly three months
Covid-19 infections have fallen in all four UK countries for the first time in nearly three months, official figures show, while the number of people hospitalised continues to fall. The news provides fresh evidence the latest wave of the virus has peaked, while health experts have praised the autumn booster campaign for helping to prevent high levels of serious illness. “It is hugely encouraging that Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations are still in decline across the UK. This goes to show how effective the vaccine programme continues to be and we thank everyone who has come forward for their latest vaccination so far,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, the director of public health programmes at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Africa CDC Saving Lives and Livelihoods Initiative Expands Implementation in Southern Africa – Africa CDC
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and Mastercard Foundation today rolled out a large-scale, multi-country COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Southern Africa under the Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative. The Saving Lives and Livelihood is a $1.5 billion partnership between the Mastercard Foundation and the Africa CDC designed to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for nearly 65 million people, enable vaccine delivery and administration to vaccinate millions more, develop a workforce to support continental vaccine manufacturing, and strengthen the Africa CDC. To date, the Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative has enabled over 6 million people in Africa to access COVID-19 vaccines, while helping to accelerate vaccine uptake in countries facing the risk of mass vaccine expiration.
Three quarters of UK long COVID sufferers working less -survey
More than three quarters of British people who have suffered persistent ill health following a COVID-19 infection have had to cut back or change the work they do, according to a survey on the impact of long COVID published on Wednesday. The survey of 1,002 people, conducted by market research company Censuswide in October for recruitment website Indeed, adds to signs that long COVID continues to be a factor behind widespread labour shortages in Britain.
Community Activities
Covid's Drag on the Workforce Proves Persistent. 'It Sets Us Back.'
Researchers say the virus is having a persistent effect, keeping millions out of work and reducing the productivity and hours of millions more, disrupting business operations and raising costs. In the average month this year, nearly 630,000 more workers missed at least a week of work because of illness than in the years before the pandemic, according to Labor Department data. That is a reduction in workers equal to about 0.4 percent of the labor force, a significant amount in a tight labor market. That share is up about 0.1 percentage point from the same period last year, the data show. “That may sound tiny, but having that persistent difference over a period of two-and-a-half years is a big deal,” said Jason Faberman, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
North Macedonia to pardon violators of pandemic measures
North Macedonia is planning to pardon more than 1,200 people who face prison sentences because they have failed to pay fines for violating restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice Minister Nikola Tupancheski said the criminal court in the capital of Skopje has proposed the amnesty, noting that there’s not enough room in jails for those people. “People who violated the COVID-19 measures were usually fined, as our criminal code stipulates. We are talking about more than 1,200 people for whom, if they do not pay the fine, in a short time the punishment will be transformed into a prison sentence,” Tupancheski said. He said the criminal court’s amnesty proposal has been passed on to North Macedonia’s parliament.
NYC Public School Enrollment Drops as Pandemic Exodus Continues
New York City is continuing to bleed students in its public school system even as pandemic restrictions are lifted. Enrollment in the largest school district in the US is down 1.8% in 2022 from a year ago, representing 16,000 students in 3K through 12th grade, according to preliminary estimates released Monday by the city’s Department of Education. The drop marks the continuation of a years-long trend that rapidly accelerated during Covid lockdowns and remote schooling. The exodus has begun to slow, though, and this year’s dip is the smallest decline since the onset of the pandemic. Public schools have lost nearly 100,000 pupils, or about 10% of enrollment since the 2019-2020 school year, the data show. The data includes the 7,000 kids that officials have said enrolled in public schools amid an influx of migrants from Central and South America.
Working Remotely
Musk tells Twitter staff remote working will end
Elon Musk has told Twitter staff that remote working will end and "difficult times" lie ahead, according to reports. In an email to staff, the owner of the social media firm said workers would be expected in the office for at least 40 hours a week, Bloomberg reported. Mr Musk added that there was "no way to sugar coat the message" that the slowing global economy was going to hit Twitter's advertising revenues.
Ecuador is launching a digital nomad visa, offering low cost of living and good quality of life
Ecuador has launched a new digital nomad visa, promising remote workers “low cost of living” and “authentic experiences.” The South American country is best known for its high mountains, deep rainforests, and the biodiverse Galápagos islands. Thanks to a new visa, would-be digital nomads will have plenty of time to explore these stunning attractions.
Remote work and the pursuit of equality
The shift to remote working in March 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has raised many questions on the future of work. A new report looks at who has benefited from remote and hybrid work models and what organizations and governments can do to ensure those currently disadvantaged by the current models can also benefit.
Virtual Classrooms
We need to reverse the global learning crisis before it derails a generation of children
Opinion piece by David Malpass, president of the World Bank Group, in which he argues that while schools were closed during the pandemic, students made none of the usual learning gains, despite attempts with remote learning. As many as 70% of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income economies can’t read and understand a basic text – what's called “learning poverty.” An expanded academic calendar, teaching based on instructional needs and funding education, can help recover learning losses.
Educause ’22: Stanford Reflects on 2 Years of Remote Learning
Educators from Stanford University shared lessons from their campus’ overall experiences with remote learning, including student struggles and academic innovations, at the virtual Educause Annual Conference last week.
School’s out: Is remote learning damaging our kids’ education?
Covid may have accelerated the trend to shift learning online, but not everyone is convinced it’s the right move.
Public Policies
China to ‘Unswervingly’ Keep to Covid Zero Policy, Dashing Hopes
China will “unswervingly” adhere to its current Covid controls as the country faces increasingly serious outbreaks, health officials said, damping hopes that Beijing will ease its stringent policies that have put cities and factories under prolonged lockdowns. “Previous practices have proved that our prevention and control plans and a series of strategic measures are completely correct,” Hu Xiang, an official at National Health Commission’s disease prevention and control bureau, said at a briefing Saturday. “The policies are also the most economical and effective.”
China's Xi, out of COVID bubble, faces changed world at G-20
After a lengthy absence from major international gatherings, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is leaving his country’s COVID-19 bubble and venturing abroad next week into a dramatically changed world marked by rising confrontation. Xi will attend the G-20 meeting of industrial and emerging market nations in Indonesia followed by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand. He will meet individually with other leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday in their first in-person talks since Biden took office in January 2021. The Chinese leader has relied mainly on speeches by video to deliver China’s message at the U.N. and other forums since 2020. The period has seen a sharp deterioration in China’s relations with the West over the COVID-19 pandemic, a crackdown on civil rights in Hong Kong, military threats against Taiwan and Beijing’s tacit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
WHO reports 90% drop in global COVID-19 deaths since February
The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that there has been a 90% drop in global COVID-19 deaths since February, which he called a "cause for optimism" but still urged "caution" amid the ongoing pandemic. "Just over 9,400 COVID-19 deaths were reported to WHO last week -- almost 90% less than in February of this year, when weekly deaths topped 75,000," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual press briefing from the U.N. agency's Geneva headquarters. "We have come a long way, and this is definitely cause for optimism, but we continue to call on all governments, communities and individuals to remain vigilant," he added. "Almost 10,000 deaths a week is 10,000 too many, for a disease that can be prevented and treated."
AstraZeneca drops submission to US regulators for Covid-19 vaccine approval
AstraZeneca has abandoned its submission for US regulatory approval for the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with Oxford university, almost two years after it was initially approved in the UK and Europe. Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, said the company had decided to focus its regulatory team’s efforts on areas with larger unmet medical need, pointing to 19 regulatory approvals since the last earnings call. “We have decided to withdraw application in the United States simply because the US marketplace is well supplied and in fact, the demand for vaccine in the US and elsewhere in the world is declining,” he said.
China Eases Zero-Covid Rules as Economic Toll and Frustrations Mount
China eased pandemic controls on Friday, as the country’s leaders seek to lessen the pain of a stringent zero-Covid policy that has exacted a heavy economic toll and stoked rising public resentment. The newly appointed Politburo Standing Committee of the nation’s top leaders, in one of its first major decisions, set out new rules to “optimize and adjust” the policy to minimize its impact on economic growth and people’s lives, as well as further open the country’s borders to foreign visitors, according to a release Friday by the National Health Commission. The new guidance shortened the mandatory quarantine time for inbound travelers and for those identified as close contacts, but notably didn’t declare an end to policies intended to completely vanquish Covid, insisting that the country “firmly stick to the dynamic zero-Covid policy.”
Sanofi, GSK score late win with EU COVID booster approval
Sanofi said on Thursday it won European Union approval for its COVID-19 vaccine booster, jointly made with British partner GSK, after a drawn-out development effort that saw the pair fall behind now-dominant vaccine suppliers. The shot with the brand name VidPrevtyn Beta can be given to people who have already had a primary course of vaccination from other approved shots, the French drugmaker and the European Medicines Agency said in separate statements.
U.S. COVID public health emergency to stay in place
The United States will keep in place the public health emergency status of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing millions of Americans to still receive free tests, vaccines and treatments, two Biden administration officials said on Friday. The possibility of a winter surge in COVID cases and the need for more time to transition out of the public health emergency to a private market were two factors that contributed to the decision not to end the emergency status in January, one of the officials said.
U.S. Supreme Court's Sotomayor rejects challenge to N.Y. COVID vaccine mandate
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday rejected a bid to prevent New York City from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers against a group teachers, firefighters and others who challenged the policy. The justice denied an emergency request, received by the court on Nov. 4, to block the policy by individual municipal workers, as well as a group called New Yorkers For Religious Liberty, while their appeal of lower court decisions siding with the city proceeds.
European regulator recommends Pfizer's Omicron booster for children
Pfizer Inc and its partner BioNTech said on Thursday the EU health regulator has recommended authorising the use of their bivalent COVID-19 shot as a booster in children aged 5 through 11. The Omicron-tailored vaccine is already authorised by the European Commission for individuals aged 12 years and above. The updated bivalent booster shot targets the original coronavirus strain as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of Omicron.
UK approves Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID booster targeting Omicron BA.4/5
Britain's health regulator on Wednesday approved the country's first two-pronged COVID-19 booster targeting the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants and the original coronavirus strain. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech was approved for use as a booster in people 12 years and older after it was found to meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards.
Maintaining Services
Africa CDC commends China over partnership in vaccine manufacturing
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Friday commended China for partnering with African countries in the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines on the continent. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the acting director of Africa CDC, said the partnership with countries such as Egypt, Algeria and Morocco has provided the continent with alternative sources of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly at the height of the pandemic in the middle of 2021.
Healthcare Innovations
COVID-19 and diabetes — where are we now?
At the same time, evidence for a connection of COVID-19 with new-onset T2D appears more robust. Surveys of electronic patient records suggest an overall increased risk of new-onset DM up to 12 weeks post infection3, an increased likelihood of being prescribed insulin within 91 days of COVID-19 diagnosis3 and an excess burden of incident diabetes and hyperglycaemia (where > 77% were stratified as T2D) at 12-month follow up4. If and when glycaemic control is re-established after recovery from COVID-19 in those patients remains unclear. In some cohorts, glucose control had improved in 63–79% of patients 6 months after recovery5,8 and improved in 41–79% of patients 10 months after recovery5,6. Up to 56% of patients remained hyperglycaemic6. A separate cohort of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with dysglycaemia during acute infection displayed reversion to physiological glycaemic control in the post-acute phase in a 7 month follow-up9.
Novavax says Omicron shot shows strong immune response as second booster
Vaccine maker Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) said on Tuesday its COVID-19 shot retooled against the Omicron BA.1 variant showed a strong immune response as the fourth dose and met the main goal of strain change in a late-stage study. Data showed the shot, NVX-CoV2515, produced 1.6 times the amount of neutralizing antibodies in people who had previously not been exposed to COVID-19 compared to Novavax's original coronavirus vaccine.
Repeat COVID is riskier than first infection, study finds
The risk of death, hospitalization and serious health issues from COVID-19 jumps significantly with reinfection compared with a first bout with the virus, regardless of vaccination status, a study published on Thursday suggests. "Reinfection with COVID-19 increases the risk of both acute outcomes and long COVID," said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "This was evident in unvaccinated, vaccinated and boosted people."