"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 24th Aug 2020

Isolation Tips
Give students hope amid coronavirus mental health crisis, experts urge
The suicides of some year 11 and 12 students have prompted mental health experts to warn that Australia must act quickly to counteract a growing sense of hopelessness among HSC students. Parents and teachers are increasingly worried about the welfare of senior students as their rites of passage are cancelled, the job market shrinks and the tertiary education sector faces a financial crisis due the coronavirus pandemic.
Covid-19 crisis hits hard for the elderly
Elderly people have suffered the most from the massive employment contraction during the economic crisis, although more will be working beyond retirement age, according to an online forum. People aged 60 and over who are still working made up one-third of the workforce last year and 60 percent of them ran their own micro-businesses without employees, said Chalermpol Jamjan, a lecturer at the Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University. Many retirees remain dependent on income they earn from being employed. Only after they reach the age of 70 will they rely more, if not entirely, on money from their children or those close to them.
Hygiene Helpers
Children over 12 should wear face masks to combat Covid, says WHO
The World Health Organization says children aged 12 and over should wear masks to help tackle the pandemic. Masks should be worn when 1-metre distancing cannot be guaranteed and there is widespread transmission, it advised. It is the first time the WHO has issued guidance on masks for children and comes less than two weeks before pupils in England return to school. Although a small number of schools – including James Gillespie’s high school in Edinburgh and Eaton Mill primary school in Milton Keynes – have said they will require children to wear masks, the government says that masks are “not recommended” for primary or secondary school children.
UK's cheap food could fuel Covid-19 spread, says WHO envoy
Britain’s demand for cheap food could be fuelling the spread of the coronavirus in factories, a leading health expert has warned, as analysis shows nearly 1,500 cases across the UK. Cramped conditions in some factories and in low-paid workers’ homes, spurred by the UK’s desire for cheaply produced food, may have driven infection rates in the sector, according to David Nabarro, a World Health Organization special envoy on Covid-19. In the early stages of the pandemic, the UK avoided the scale of Covid-19 outbreaks seen in meat factories and other food processing plants in countries such as the US. But a Guardian analysis suggests that reported UK outbreaks of the disease are now increasing in frequency, with examples of cases spreading into the wider community.
Coronavirus: Teachers have duty of care beyond school gates, top PHE scientist says
Teachers have been warned that they are spreading Covid-19 after a leading government scientist said they were far more likely to transmit the virus than children. New research from Public Health England revealed that two thirds of outbreaks arose from staff-to-staff transmission, or staff-to-pupil. In June the number of schools open was between 20,500 and 23,400, with pupil numbers increasing from 475,000 to 1,646,000. In June and last month 200 children and staff were affected by the illness. Over the same period 25,470 cases were recorded across England as a whole. Thirty outbreaks, defined as two or more linked cases in one school, were recorded between the start of June and the end of last month.
Germany COVID concerts: Experiment to study virus transmission
Scientists in Germany have held three pop concerts to study the risk of virus transmission during large events. The mass experiment, staged with nearly 2,000 people in the city of Leipzig, comes at a time the country has banned all such gatherings until at least the end of October.
Socialising pushes Spain’s Covid-19 rate far above rest of Europe
Coronavirus is spreading far faster in Spain than in the rest of Europe, confronting the country with a race against time to bring the outbreak under control before the return to school and work next month following the holiday season. Figures published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, an EU agency, on Friday indicated that in the previous 14 days Spain had reported about 145 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 of population. Apart from Malta, no other European country had a ratio above 100, and the Spanish figures compare with ratios of 51 in France and 21 in the UK. In three districts of Madrid, the Spanish region with most cases, the equivalent ratio is above 400 and in one it is almost 600. On Friday, the regional government of Madrid urged people in the worst-affected areas to stay at home.
Community Activities
Feature: Italian museums regain popularity despite coronavirus
Earlier this week, the daily newspaper La Stampa reported that despite a small trickle of tourists in Italy this summer, many museums are reaching capacity at peak hours and must turn people away. Rome's much-heralded exhibit marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Renaissance master Raphael is staying open until midnight until it closes Aug. 30, in order to maximize the number of visitors they can let in. Florence's Uffizi Gallery, the Brera Museum in Milan, and Turin's Egyptian Museum are among those that have reported robust ticket sales in recent weeks. "We sold a little more than 20,000 tickets in the first two weeks of August," Christian Greco, director of the Egyptian Museum, told Xinhua. "That's a little less than two-thirds of the 32,000 tickets we sold in the same period last year, but considering the coronavirus restrictions and the lack of tourists, we're very happy with the result."
Asia’s El Chapo has Covid-19 to thank as Australia’s drug habit booms
The coronavirus pandemic has sent demand and prices for illicit drugs booming in Australia, where local production is limited. Criminal gangs such as the triad-linked ‘The Company’ are cashing in and taking advantage while authorities are busy with the health emergency
Working Remotely
Aviva trialling part-time home working for staff in latest sign that workers may never return to office full-time following coronavirus lockdown
Aviva is trialling part-time home working for staff in the latest sign that workers may never return to the office full-time following the Covid-19 lockdown. The insurance giant has said it will start testing out how to combine home and office working when some of its staff begin returning to its offices in September. Its pilot will take place over the next few months.
Three-quarters of Britain’s workforce say remote working has positively impacted culture
The events of recent months have positively impacted workplace culture across Britain with 73% describing it as positive in the current climate and 38% saying it has actively improved since they transitioned to remote working, according to a report from UK-based tech-for-good developer, Culture Shift. As half of the UK’s workforce transitioned to remote working earlier this year,[i] organisations were thrust into the spotlight with many standing by to see if they were able to make the transition seamlessly without detrimental impact on their culture. The same report also uncovered that more than one-third (36%) said working from home has boosted their productivity, while more than 28% said working from home has had a positive impact on their mental health and 45% are dreading going back to the workplace.
You can apply to live and work on the Caribbean island of Anguilla for up to a year - Insider
The Caribbean island of Anguilla is now accepting online applications for visitors. Travelers whose applications are accepted could stay on Anguilla for up to a year and work remotely from the warm-weather destination. The 35-square-mile island was named Travel + Leisure's best island for 2020 across the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Bermuda, four years in a row. Since March, Anguilla has reported three positive coronavirus cases and zero deaths, and the CDC has listed it as having a "very low" COVID-19 risk.
Many Companies Planned to Reopen Offices After Labor Day. With Coronavirus Still Around, They’re Rethinking That.
This summer, executives at health-care-technology firm Epic Systems announced a plan: Most of the 9,500 employees at its 1,000-acre campus in Wisconsin would be expected back in the office in September. The company, like many others, says its employees do their best work when they can collaborate in the same space. But blowback to the mandate was swift. Employees expressed fears about safety and spreading the new coronavirus. Local health officials questioned the move. So Epic joined legions of other companies making late-in-the-game changes to office-reopening plans, saying this month that staffers could work from home at least through the new year.
Remote working leaves office landlords facing worst crunch since 2008
London office vacancy rates are forecast to hit their highest level since the financial crisis next year as companies shrink their headquarters in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In the City, vacancies are forecast to rise from 6.5% this year to 7.2% next year, before peaking at 8% in 2022, according to the estate agency Savills. That compares with a peak of 10.4% during the financial crisis.
Virtual Classrooms
COVID-19 and the Class of 2021: Pensacola seniors reflect on unprecedented year ahead
On her first day of kindergarten in 2008, Devina Hall sat behind a little desk and posed with a playful expression as a photographer snapped her photo for the News Journal. Now 17, Hall once again has her photo in the News Journal. Only this time, it's ahead of the first day of her senior year at Pensacola High School. Looking ahead to the first day of school, Hall told the News Journal last week that she — like many seniors going into the first day of their last year of high school during a pandemic — feels similarly to how she did on her first day of kindergarten: a little fearful. "I'm scared some people might not be wearing their masks. Some people have been out of town and come here, and they won’t tell you," Hall said. "Some people just don’t care like that.”
Schools start with quarantines, confusion and a lack of coronavirus details for many parents
Quarantines, closures: Confusion reigns as schools reopen - Frightening calls from the school nurse. Waiting in vain for word from school officials. Canceled sports practices. Marching bands in quarantine. For countless families across the country, the school year is opening in disarray and confusion, with coronavirus outbreaks triggering sudden closings, mass quarantines and deep anxiety among parents.
Miami professors’ living rooms now classrooms under coronavirus threat
Nearly 20,000 Miami University students are now learning online instead in classrooms in response to the coronavirus threat. For Associate Professor Jeff Kuznekoff, that means big changes for his living room. Kuznekoff, a communications instructor, has a infant boy at home and decided to take a safer option for his family of teaching from home rather than in his usual classroom.
How coronavirus crisis reinvented online learning as a necessity
Pandemic has led to a regional surge in education-technology startups in the Middle East. Governments regionwide have launched initiatives to support remote learning and working
Keeping students safe in Denver area schools as coronavirus lurks is a delicate dance
It’s been less than a week since a handful of school districts in the metro area began the delicate dance of bringing children back to the classroom amid a global coronavirus pandemic that has to date infected approximately 55,000 people in Colorado. Against that backdrop comes the grim recognition that this may be a routine too difficult to choreograph and too complex to execute in the long run, as COVID-19 outbreaks at schools around the country — including last week’s positive COVID-19 test of a teacher in a Westminster school and infections of two students at a Fort Lupton high school — force education officials to reverse course and send kids back home to learn online.
Covid-19: UAE students prefer digital learning to classrooms
Things are different this year, as majority of students and parents are opting for virtual learning over on-site learning. And the shopping list for those who choose classroom learning also will see some difference with hand sanitisers, masks and gloves being the new entries to back-to-school purchase list. According to a recent Khaleej Times poll, 61.45 per cent of the students prefer e-learning while 38.55 per cent of pupils want to opt for in-school classes. A survey conducted by the Ministry of Education among parents also showed similar results with 59 per cent supporting distance learning in the first term of the new academic year.
Gwinnett schools to bring some students back to classrooms next week
Under a phased plan, some students will begin returning to school to Wednesday. At a Board of Education meeting Thursday, many teachers voiced objections to in-person classes while Gwinnett County still has a high COVID-19 case rate. They say it isn’t safe or healthy for them —or their students. “We can admit that digital learning is not an ideal learning environment,” Everton Blair, the only board member to voice opposition to the reopening plan, said at the meeting. “But even if half of [students] show up, it’s impossible for them to social distance on buses and social distance in the classroom.”
Public Policies
Greed and Destruction: COVID-19 Isn't Slowing the Demolition of the Amazon
The Coronavirus pandemic has been used as an opportunity to further strip away protections for the Amazon and the rights of its indigenous people. Bolsonaro’s administration has encouraged the cutting down of forests on private properties and public lands – in defiance of Brazil’s ‘Forest Code’ law and the ‘Soy Moratorium Agreement’, which bans the clearing of forests for soy production. “The Government has also dismantled a series of environmental protections meant to stop illegal deforestation in conservation areas and indigenous peoples’ lands who are staunch protectors of the country’s forests,” observed the Federal University of Minas Gerais in July.
Revealed: Emergency plans to protect UK if second coronavirus spike coincides with no-deal Brexit
Emergency plans drawn up by the government to protect the UK if a second coronavirus spike coincides with a no-deal Brexit have been revealed. A Cabinet Office "reasonable worst-case scenario" document, dated July 2020, has been leaked to The Sun newspaper. A government spokeswoman said it "reflects a responsible government ensuring we are ready for all eventualities".
Trump administration classifies teachers essential workers during pandemic
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday classified teachers as essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic as the Trump administration presses schools nationwide to bring students back to class. The move comes as a Reuters tally showed that new COVID-19 infections have fallen for four weeks in a row in Texas and Florida. The Homeland Security department’s guidance on teachers marks the latest salvo in a political dispute over the best way to educate America’s schoolchildren until a vaccine can be found for COVID-19. The teachers’ unions have threatened to strike or sue if members are told to go back to class.
Russia to roll out COVID-19 vaccine in global tests, including Saudi Arabia
Kirill Dmitriev, the Russian businessman who has led the development of the vaccine, said that the Kingdom would be one of the nations to trial the treatment The Sputnik V vaccine has already been administered to a number of Russians, including the daughter of President Vladimir Putin
The Latest: S Korea orders nationwide pandemic restrictions
South Korea is banning large gatherings, shutting nightspots and churches and removing fans from professional sports nationwide in an attempt to slow a resurgence of coronavirus infections
Maintaining Services
Australia's mental health funding has surged after coronavirus – so why is it so difficult to get help?
Many people are being forced to wait for weeks or months, with ‘far more people needing support than there are people to provide them’
Over 40 Berlin schools report Covid-19 cases a fortnight after reopening
Coronavirus cases have been reported by at least 41 schools in Berlin, barely two weeks after the German capital’s 825 schools reopened. Cases are rising across Europe, including in Spain, which registered 66,905 in the past two weeks, resulting in the continent’s highest 14-day infection rate and warnings over the risk of a new wave of deaths. The Berlin experience echoes that in some states in the US, including Georgia, and in Israel, which have recorded clusters tied to schools. According to reports in Berlin, all age groups have been affected, including in elementary schools, high schools and trade schools. Berlin was one of the first places in Germany to reopen its schools after the summer holidays.
Coronavirus: Schools let down by lack of 'plan B', says union
More staff, extra teaching space and greater clarity on what to do if there is a spike in cases is needed for schools to reopen safely, the UK's largest teaching union has said. The National Education Union (NEU) accused the government of letting down pupils, teachers and parents by failing to have a "plan B" if infections rise. The UK's four chief medical officers have insisted it is safe to return. The education secretary said ministers were doing "everything we can" to help. Millions of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to return to school in the coming days and weeks. In Scotland, schools have already reopened
Shortage of 6,000 public buses puts UK’s school return at risk
Ministers have privately warned of a shortage of 6,000 public buses needed to get children to school in England next week for the autumn term and have urged coach companies to fill the gap. Low passenger numbers during the pandemic have led some bus companies, particularly in rural areas, to reduce services, while social distancing requirements on public transport mean that there will be lower capacity on such services. Fears that many of the 750,000 children who travel to school by public buses will not be able to make it to classrooms were raised at a meeting chaired by Charlotte Vere, the transport minister.
How Britain’s Covid-19 panic buyers triggered a tinned food renaissance
It started with tinned tomatoes, symbolically stripped from supermarket shelves in the panic-buying frenzy of the early days of the pandemic. But lockdown has led to a wider renaissance of canned food as shoppers have embraced staples from spam and corned beef to beans, pulses and fish, all enjoying a popularity not seen since the rationing of the second world war.
As Colleges Move Classes Online, Families Rebel Against the Cost
Schools face rising demands for tuition rebates, increased aid and leaves of absence as students ask if college is becoming “glorified Skype.”
Healthcare Innovations
Doctors issue warning over 'rushed' coronavirus vaccine which may have 'dangerous' side-effects
Australians could face being banned from work or travelling for refusing jab Doctors warn the government not to make the 'rushed' vaccine compulsory More than 100 vaccine candidates studied worldwide, at least 10 in clinical trials
Coronavirus vaccine to go on sale in December, claims China
China's coronavirus vaccine will be available to buy in December, the company developing it has said. The state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group Corporation said the vaccine is currently undergoing its third and final trial. Two shots of the vaccine will cost less than 1,000 yuan (about £110) and will be completely effective, company president Liu Jingzhen said.
China approves human testing for coronavirus vaccine grown in insect cells
China has approved human testing for a potential coronavirus vaccine cultivated within insect cells, local government in the southwestern city of Chengdu said on Saturday. China is in a global race to develop cost-effective vaccines to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. Using insect cells to grow proteins for the coronavirus vaccine - a first in China - could speed up large-scale production, the city government of Chengdu said in a notice on social media WeChat. The vaccine, developed by West China Hospital of Sichuan University in Chengdu, has received approval from the National Medical Products Administration to enter a clinical trial, the notice said.
Thailand Seeks Local Production Rights to Oxford’s Covid Vaccine
Thailand is looking to secure access to a Covid-19 vaccine candidate being developed by University of Oxford through an agreement which would give the Southeast Asian nation the technology rights for local production. “We’re in the process of finalizing our letter of intent to cooperate with the Oxford vaccine research team,” Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Friday. “Once that process is done, I’ll sign it right away.”
Argentina joins Chinese coronavirus vaccine trial, maker says
Argentina joined Peru, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates in approving Phase 3 clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), the company said late Friday. As China forges ahead in the global race to develop a vaccine to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and as cases within China dwindle, CNBG needs research participants from other countries for testing. Phase 3 trials, which usually involve several thousand participants, allow researchers to gather data on the efficacy of potential vaccines for final regulatory approvals. CNBG will partner with Argentina’s ELEA in the vaccine trial, the Chinese company said in a statement late Friday.
Peru, Morocco to test China Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 3 trial
Authorities in Peru and Morocco have approved Phase 3 clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), the company said late on Thursday on Chinese social media platform WeChat. Phase 3 trials, which usually involve several thousand participants, allow researchers to gather data on the efficacy of potential vaccines for final regulatory approvals. The experimental vaccine of CNBG, a unit of state-owned pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), has entered a Phase 3 trial in the United Arab Emirates that has already recruited 15,000 volunteers
Australia signs deal for Oxford University coronavirus vaccine as Scott Morrison vows to make it 'as mandatory as you can'
Australia has ordered 25 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford University, in partnership with pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, the country's prime minister has said. Scott Morrison promised to make the vaccine "as mandatory as you can" in an interview with Melbourne’s 3AW radio station,
Mexico exploring phase 3 trials of Russian coronavirus vaccine
Mexico told Moscow on Wednesday it would like to carry out phase 3 testing of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, as part of the Latin American country’s intensifying efforts to secure early supplies of an effective medicine to control the pandemic. After a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to Mexico, Viktor Koronelli, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter he had expressed interest in carrying out large scale human trials “to have the vaccine as soon as possible in Mexico.” Russia has already produced the first batch of its new vaccine, giving approval before trials that would normally involve thousands of participants. Such phase 3 trials are usually considered essential precursors for a vaccine to secure regulatory approval. The race to produce a vaccine has become a contest for influence and prestige among major powers, while developing economies are trying to ensure a fair distribution of the medicines.
Pifzer, BioNTech eye October approval for mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine
Pfizer and BioNTech have revealed additional data from a phase 1 study of two of its COVID-19 vaccine candidates, as well as their plans to potentially seek regulatory approval by October this year. At the beginning of July, Pfizer/BioNTech revealed early positive data from their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine programme. Those results demonstrated that one of the candidates, BNT162b1, generated promising dose-dependent immunogenicity. However, the companies somewhat surprised commentators when they announced that another candidate, BNT162b2, had been selected for a large-scale, phase 3 clinical trial. In additional data shared today, Pfizer/BioNTech posted the results from all 332 participants tested with the two mRNA-based candidates, BNT162b1 or BNT162b2, to clarify their decision
Blood Plasma Treatment for Covid-19 Now on Hold at F.D.A.
Last week, just as the Food and Drug Administration was preparing to issue an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a Covid-19 treatment, a group of top federal health officials including Dr. Francis S. Collins and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci intervened, arguing that emerging data on the treatment was too weak, according to two senior administration officials. The authorization is on hold for now as more data is reviewed, according to H. Clifford Lane, the clinical director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. An emergency approval could still be issued in the near future, he said. Donated by people who have survived the disease, antibody-rich plasma is considered safe. President Trump has hailed it as a “beautiful ingredient” in the veins of people who have survived Covid-19.
Brazil greenlights human trials for J&J's potential COVID-19 vaccine
Brazil approved on Tuesday human clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, the fourth candidate to trial in the Latin American country that has become key to the global race for a vaccine. Health regulator Anvisa said it had given the green light to the study which will see 6,000 people in Brazil volunteer to trial the vaccine contender of Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen. With the world's biggest coronavirus outbreak outside the United States, Brazil has become a hub for mass clinical trials of potential vaccines. Brazilian officials have vowed to start producing British and Chinese vaccines within a year, but experts warn it may take at least twice as long.