The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization’s European regional office have developed a tool to evaluate the public health effectiveness of contact tracing solutions, according to a statement issued yesterday.
The tool, described as an indicator framework, will provide countries with a standardized approach for evaluating their use of digital proximity tracing solutions. It will also assess the extent to which these solutions have aided national contact tracing strategies for COVID-19, an ECDC statement noted.
Countries have employed innovative technologies throughout the pandemic to support the implementation of public health and social measures. Digital proximity tracing, by using smartphones or other devices to capture anonymized interactions between individuals and which would then issue alerts, emerged as a new means of support for contact tracing programs.
“This new indicator framework offers countries a standardized approach to gather the evidence and assess the contribution that digital proximity tracing technology has made to large-scale contact tracing efforts for COVID-19. We anticipate that it will become an invaluable tool,” said Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat, director of the Division of Country Health Policies and Systems at WHO/Europe.
Vicky Lefevre, head of the ECDC Public Health Functions Unit, added that digital proximity tracing technology is a new tool for a new challenge, the COVID-19. It is vital to evaluate its public health effectiveness in order to understand how best to use this technology right now as well as for future pandemics.
Japan provides USD 8.6 million through IOM Sri Lanka and Maldives
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), in partnership with relevant ministries of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Government of Maldives (GoM) launched a regional project ‘Strengthening Capacity of Border Control for Responding to Infectious Diseases in Southwest Asia’ on 17 October 2022.
With a fund of USD 8.6 million, provided by the Government of Japan (GoJ), the project intends to strengthen overall border management capacities in Sri Lanka and the Republic of the Maldives to prevent the spread of infectious diseases that would otherwise impede the revitalization of human mobility.
The dramatic reduction in human mobility has been one of the most significant effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This had major economic and social impacts in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are heavily reliant upon income from international tourism, labour migration and business travel. The border closures and associated restrictions disrupted regular trade exchanges and impacted migration flows, as well as exposed border management agencies and cross-border communities to higher risks of infection.
Speaking on the timeliness of the project, H.E. MIZUKOSHI Hideaki, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka said that “as Sri Lanka has been actively attracting international tourists and expects to see an increase in the number of tourists in the future, strengthening border control capacity to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases and ensure the safety of staff and travellers is a very meaningful initiative that will contribute significantly to economic recovery from the current economic crisis and further economic growth in Sri Lanka, where tourism is one of the main industries.”
The component of the project focusing on Sri Lanka will improve safety and security, and support process efficiency at primary points of entry (PoEs) to ensure more effective preparedness and proactive response to potential public health emergencies due to infectious disease outbreaks.
Designed to enable secure and safe operations at PoEs to augur international travel, boost traveller confidence and prompt a return to pre-pandemic levels of cross-border mobility, the project will address gaps in passenger processing and health screening systems at PoEs through a combination of new technology, infrastructure, procedures, training, and renovation works. This will streamline the management of traveller information, reduce waiting times, implement contactless processes and procedures by border control personnel. The project will also institute infection prevention measures and emergency response modalities and guarantee the safe disposal of potentially hazardous medical waste at PoEs, resulting in a safe environment for staff, travellers and crew while reducing harmful environmental and health impacts. Travellers and other personnel working at the PoEs will be the main beneficiaries of this initiative, aside from the airport and seaport workers and officials.
“Designed on the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, this project is anchored to IOM’s strategy on Migration and Sustainable Development and will support Sri Lanka and the Maldives to respond to future disease outbreaks and health threats,” said Sarat Dash, Chief of Mission to IOM Sri Lanka and the Maldives. He added, “IOM will work closely with its host government partners to harness the development benefits of migration while ensuring a hassle-free and dignified process for international travellers, including the migrant population.”
Could Omicron BA.2.75 sub-variant lead to a new global COVID-19 wave?
A new sub-lineage of the Omicron variant known as BA.2.75, which was first detected in India, has raised concerns among health experts, Indian media reported.
BA.2.75, which is said to be a second generation sub-variant of Omicron BA.2, has an 18 percent growth advantage over other Omicron sub-variants currently circulating in India, The Indian Express reported.
Sub-lineages of Omicron have been the dominant strains circulating across the globe, with new mutations continuously evolving.
BA.2.75 could be behind recent COVID-19 surge in India
BA.2.75 has been detected in about 10 states in India, which has been witnessing a surge in new infections in the last month or so, according to Indian media.
In the last 10 days, the number of new cases in the country has been hovering in the 15,000-19,000 range, while the number in the past few months stayed below 3,000.
Dr. Rajesh Karyakarte, a microbiologist at Pune’s B J Medical College and head of Maharashtra’s genome sequencing effort, and scientists elsewhere in India, have picked up three sub-variants, BA.2.74, BA.2.75, and BA.2.76, as the possible drivers for the current surge, according to The Indian Express.
The three sub-variants have more than nine changes in the spike protein, and are expected to outnumber the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants, which were the most common until a few weeks ago, according to Karyakarte’s team.
Besides India, the strain has also been reported by several other countries, including Japan, Germany, the UK, Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, according to data from Nextstrain, an open-source platform of global pathogen genome data.
Does it cause more severe disease?
So far, there is no evidence to suggest that the BA.2.75 leads to a more severe form of infection, although scientists are at a very early stage to know about it.
Evidence on its transmissibility and immune evasiveness is also still preliminary and emerging, according to a statement from New Zealand’s Ministry of Health on Tuesday.
Why are health experts concerned?
While there is not much known about the new strain, health experts have raised concerns about it.
In a series of tweets, Dr. Shay Fleishon from the Central Virology Laboratory at Sheba Medical Center in Israel, said the sub-variant may be “alarming because it may imply a trend to come.”
He explained that in recent months, there has been a trend of second-generation variants based on Omicron sub-lineages BA.1, BA.2, BA.3, BA.4, and BA.5.
He said until now the second-generation variants have only been found in a few cases within one region. But BA.2.75 has spread to multiple regions, the first of its kind to do so.
The BA.2.75 variant has new mutations in the spike protein, of which G446S and R493Q are of particular concern, as they give the variant the ability to evade several antibodies, dnaindia.com reported, citing unnamed experts.
This means it can infect people who have been vaccinated, or have been infected previously, the report said.
Research reveals that the R493Q mutation increases the strain’s ability to attach to ACE2, the protein that the COVID-19 virus uses to enter cells, according to the report.
Chinese experts caution against over-disinfection for COVID-19
Chinese health experts have cautioned against inappropriate disinfection practices to curb the spread of COVID-19, and called for minimizing the impact on people’s regular life when conducting necessary disinfection.
“We should avoid blind or excessive disinfection, and make it targeted. Disinfection is only necessary when the virus transmission can be cut off this way,” said Zhang Liubo, chief disinfection specialist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
“If we have multiple methods to block the spread of the virus, we can choose the safest, most effective, economical and convenient one. Disinfection is one of the available options,” he added.
For example, items not touched by the infected people in their homes can be sealed off and left unattended for a period of time, instead of getting disinfectant sprayed on them, according to Zhang.
During the battle against the latest Omicron wave in China, there have been media reports and online complaints about some questionable disinfecting approaches, such as workers in protective gear spraying disinfectant all over someone’s home.
Is indoor disinfection necessary?
In accordance with China’s Law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, places and items contaminated by infectious disease pathogens should be strictly disinfected, said Lei Zhenglong, deputy head of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control at the National Health Commission.
Disinfection of places that may have been contaminated by the coronavirus, such as the living areas of the infected people, has played an important role in ensuring the safety of the environment, he said.
Zhang further explained that after the infected people were relocated to other places, there might still be living virus on the objects or in the environment that have been contaminated, which need to be sanitized.
Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether there still exist living virus in the contaminated environment, because how long the virus can survive on the surfaces of objects is associated with a lot of factors, including the characteristics of the virus, the viral load, the temperature, humidity and the intensity of sunlight in the environment, he said.
Previous studies have shown that the novel coronavirus can live for two to three days on environmental surfaces, and even up to 28 days under certain conditions.
It is also possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, both Chinese and foreign health authorities like the U.S. CDC have said.
Terminal disinfection of the contaminated places can ensure that the environment and the objects are free of living virus. Therefore, indoor disinfection of infected people’s homes is one of the effective measures to prevent against the virus transmission among family members.
Safe and effective disinfection stressed
Although proper disinfection of the contaminated environment is necessary, Lei pointed out that there have been problems in the disinfection practices in some places, like inadequate communication with the affected residents and improper operations.
It’s necessary to strengthen the training of proper disinfection procedures, as well as the supervision of the disinfection process, he said.
When organizing indoor disinfection of someone’s home, local health authorities should strictly follow relative technical specifications and procedures, and keep the residents informed about the whole process, so that they can understand and support the disinfection work, he added.
People should choose safe and effective disinfectants and disinfecting methods, Zhang said, adding that different methods should be adopted for different items and materials.
They should also protect the valuables and minimize the damage to the objects inside some’s home when conducting the disinfection work, he noted.
President announces a mega project to establish Island Council Secretariats in fifty islands within the year
Maldives stresses lack of funds for sustainable food
President rejects legislature to postpone Majlis election
Gov’t says 90% of prior fishing projects stopped
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Maldives mark a significant increase in Chinese arrivals
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Elections Commission grants approval to form Maldives Solidarity Party.
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Hiyaa flats- pigeon coops, negative stereotyping and lobbying.
President Abdulla Yameen officially calls for the removal of Indian military personnel in the Maldives.
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