"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Sep 2020

Isolation Tips
'She was left with no one': how UK mental health deteriorated during Covid
When Lily Gardiner’s sister took her own life at the end of July, Gardiner was left feeling as though her sister’s mental health struggles and death had gone unnoticed during the pandemic. The loss is even harder for Gardiner (not her real name) to bear, given that in February her sister’s life seemed back on track. After she experienced paranoid delusions and was sectioned in 2019, she had been discharged, was on medication and had regular support from mental health services. That disappeared when lockdown set in.
Hygiene Helpers
Coronavirus: Medical and science experts outline four ways we can help beat COVID-19
England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance have outlined four ways to beat coronavirus as we head into winter. The pair reiterated some key public health messages amid fears the virus could spiral out of control and result in 49,000 cases a day by mid-October. The four ways include limiting the spread, limiting social contact and following self-isolation guidelines.
As more local lockdowns begin, the hard truth is there's no return to 'normal'
As a scientist, I’m often asked what to do and what not to do, and how to cope in this new uncertain world. Here is my advice on how best to enjoy life and get as much normality back while being a responsible citizen. My main advice is to get outside as much as possible when seeing other people. Research has shown that 97% of “super-spreading” events occur indoors, and that outdoor transmission is minimal. If an indoor setting is poorly ventilated, crowded and no one is wearing face coverings, it is best to avoid it. The upshot is that non-essential shops, outdoor hospitality and public transport look relatively safe with the use of face coverings. Now is the time to avoid non-essential travel and to visit nearby parks, and support your local businesses.
France’s vaccine hesitancy hangs over coronavirus response
As governments are putting their hopes on a vaccine to stop the coronavirus — and restart the economy — one country might face more difficulties than others. France has one of the lowest vaccine confidence rates in the world, according to a Lancet study published earlier this month. French people who are hesitant about vaccines shouldn’t be dismissed as kooky conspiracy theorists who rant about Bill Gates and 5G all day, experts say — at least not all of them. But vaccine skeptics represent a sizable chunk of the French public, big enough to hinder a vaccination campaign when a vaccine against the coronavirus will be on the market.
Community Activities
Favourite Aussie summer hot spots about to get even more crowded
Just 13 weeks out from Christmas, Australians are planning family holidays not just domestically, but without leaving their own state borders. And some of Australia's most popular destinations could become even more crowded this summer, as Aussies close out their year from hell with much-needed local breaks.
India's Taj Mahal gets first visitors even as coronavirus infections climb
India reopened its famed monument to love, the Taj Mahal, with the first visitors trickling in on Monday, as authorities reported 86,961 new coronavirus infections, with no signs of a peak yet. A Chinese national and a visitor from Delhi were among the first to step into the white marble tomb built by a 17th-century Mughal emperor for his wife when it opened at sunrise, ending six months of closure. Daily visitor numbers have been capped at 5,000, versus an average of 20,000 before the pandemic. Tickets are only being sold online, with fewer than 300 bought on the first day.
China’s Attempt to Steer Covid Narrative in TV Drama Backfires
Backlash against a new Chinese television drama about its fight against Covid-19 underscores the challenges facing Beijing as it attempts to steer the narrative about its handling of the pandemic. Eight episodes of the propaganda series “Heroes in Harm’s Way” have aired since Thursday on state broadcaster China Central Television, and were criticized on Chinese social media. That included calls for the 14-episode series to be pulled from the air, with people saying it minimized women’s contributions to containing the virus and failed to reflect the hardship endured by medical workers.
Dash for bigger homes pushes up September asking prices, Rightmove says
Surging activity in Britain’s housing market nudged up asking prices for homes in September, as buyers sought larger properties following the coronavirus lockdown, a survey showed on Monday. Property website Rightmove estimated there were almost 40% more sales moving through the pipeline than a year ago, chiming with other surveys that show a post-lockdown surge in the market, helped by a temporary cut in property tax. Rightmove said asking prices rose 0.2% in September, reversing August’s decline. The national average asking price now stands at 319,996 pounds ($415,642), up 5.0% on a year ago.
Coronavirus: cautious Italians return to football stadiums | News
A thousand fans will be allowed into Italian football stadiums for top-flight games this month, marking a cautious return to normality in Europe’s first coronavirus hotspot. The move is significant, given that a Champions League match hosted by Atalanta in Bergamo in February was blamed for helping to trigger northern Italy’s devastating outbreak.
Working Remotely
Belfast named best UK city to work from home
Remote working has become the new normal in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and it has been proven to be a largely successful experiment in many cases, with perks for both employees and employers. There are some areas of the UK that it works particularly well, including Belfast, Birmingham and Nottingham. A survey carried out by specialist banner printing company instantprint revealed the best and worst cities for working remotely based on a number of key factors, including internet speed, property size and price, rent costs and the cost of living, with Belfast, Birmingham and Nottingham coming out on top.
With remote work flexibility, some people opt to relocate ahead of their retirement
If you are thinking of relocating when you retire, there are several things to consider before you make the move. One of them may now be whether you should do it before you leave the workforce. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans are working remotely — and may be for some time to come. Several companies have added the option for employees to work from home for the rest of their career, including Twitter, which has said its employees can keep working from home “forever.”
Business Travel’s Fresh Start in the New World of Remote Working
As well as giving employees more flexibility and freedom, business travel also gets a makeover in the next phase of remote working. But that nirvana is still a way off because even after coronavirus, companies will be need to be clinical in their transition to remote working. That’s according to Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab. Speaking at the Skift Global Forum opening event on Monday, he said the software services company wrote the “playbook” on distributed workforces, several months before the pandemic began.
Flexible working set to take hold like never before
There have been plenty of weighty predictions about the lasting transformations taking place because of the Covid-19 pandemic, with much speculation about the future balance between office and home-based working. A study by the Financial Times found that many employers are planning to keep the majority of their staff working remotely until at least early next year. In a similar exercise, the BBC recently questioned 50 of the UK’s largest employers about their intentions for staff
Apple CEO Impressed by Remote Work, Sees Permanent Changes
Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said he’s been impressed by employees’ ability to operate remotely and predicted that some new work habits will remain after the pandemic. During an interview at The Atlantic Festival on Monday, Cook said Apple created products including new Apple Watches and iPads that are launching on time this year, despite the need for most employees to work away from the office due to Covid-19.
Office working was already on the way out, Covid-19 has just hastened its end
When future social historians look back at the second half of the 20th century, they might well conceptualise it as the era of the office, immortalised in the lounge-suit and long-lunch lifestyles of Mad Men. They will also note that even if the pandemic and great lockdown of 2020 accelerated its final demise, that the office ecosystem had been on life-support for more than a decade already; sustained in part by nostalgia and in part by those who remain heavily invested in it. That includes the human resources managers who peddle the myth of open-plan productivity; the restaurants, laundrettes and other services which rely on office traffic, and those whose pension and assets are locked into what they assumed was always going to be a safe bet—real estate and services in the wealthiest parts of town.
Virtual Classrooms
School discipline enters new realm with online learning
Teachers know how to quiet a classroom. Good ones do, anyway. Counting to three, a sharp clap of the hands or a withering glare are all proven methods for getting most students to settle down. Sometimes a song or a smile does the trick. This school year, with millions of students learning via Zoom and other online platforms, some teachers have added a tech weapon to their calming arsenal: mute all. It has become the button of choice for teachers who want to muzzle mayhem and get on with instruction. Blocking out the disruptive noise, the teachers say, makes it easier for them to focus on the work and teach a lesson without having to stop to respond to arguments between students, bathroom break requests and class clown commentary.
Little Bay Primary and Infant begins classes with satellite Internet service
Grade six students at Little Bay Primary and Infant School in Westmoreland were able last week to begin preparation for the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), thanks to satellite Internet service provided by ReadyTV. Little Bay is one of 101 rural schools expected to access the service in time for the official start of classes on October 5. Principal Keron King couldn't be happier, pointing out that the service will ensure that children can continue their education at a time when there has been disruption in traditional classroom learning due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. He noted that in addition to facilitating teacher-student interaction outside of the classroom, it creates a digital space for children to work and connect “given the fact that we are living in a global village”.
Getting Covid-19 Changed This New York City Family’s Outlook on Virtual Learning
Najib Craig, 16, is among the 46% of New York City students who won’t be going back into classrooms when part-time in-person instruction begins Oct. 1. That number has shot up from 26% in August, according to data released Monday by the city’s Department of Education. Najib’s family’s experience with coronavirus played a major role in his parents’ decision. It all started in March, when Najib’s father, Rikers Island corrections officer Albert Craig, was sitting in a chair in the prison and was overcome by a dizzying fog and a sudden weakness that made the diabetic believe his blood sugar was severely high. Later at home in Brooklyn, he developed a middle-of-the-night fever and headache, and was diagnosed with coronavirus within days. As he lay watching the city’s coronavirus death toll rise, the quarantined 53-year-old Mr. Craig was overcome with a potent fear: that he would spread the virus to his wife and three children.
The unexpected benefits of virtual education
Collaborating online might prepare students with the skills needed for modern careers. A growing category of jobs will require employees to work in geographically dispersed, virtual teams. Many students may have enough maturity, focus and self-discipline to learn digitally.
COVID-19 increases cause Kewaunee schools to go to all virtual classes
The Kewaunee School District became the latest in Wisconsin to implement all virtual learning after a growing wave of positive tests for the COVID-19 virus in the past week. This comes after the number of cases among students increased from three to 12 in the last couple days of last week, according to a letter sent to parents of Kewaunee students, and cases among staff rose from three to five, along with seven staffers in quarantine as of Monday. Also, a second teacher and a support staff member in the Luxemburg-Casco School District tested positive last week, which sent a total of 64 students in three primary school classes into quarantine.
Students at Milton Keynes-based school to learn remotely after teachers are told to self-isolate
Stantonbury International School has had multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the school meaning that Years 7, 8, and 9 are currently closed. The remainder of the school was previously open to Year 10, 11, and Sixth Form. But from today (21/9) a high number of teachers have been advised by Public Health England to self-isolate. This means that students in Year 10 and Year 11 must now learn remotely until the end of the month. "We are unable to teach the year groups that we have safely," said Alison Ramsey, Headteacher.
Positive COVID-19 case at Battle Mountain High School sends 55 to remote learning
A student at Battle Mountain High School has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting five staff members and 50 students to transition to remote learning. Eagle County Schools, in a news release, said there is no current outbreak, just the single case. The student was last at the high school on Tuesday, Sept. 15, and followed face covering and social distancing guidelines. Eagle County Public Health is investigating the case and advised the school district to transition staff and students who were in the same classroom as the student who tested positive to remote learning beginning Monday.
Public Policies
'Landmark moment': 156 countries agree to Covid vaccine allocation deal
A coalition of 156 countries has agreed a “landmark” deal to enable the rapid and equitable global distribution of any new coronavirus vaccines to 3% of participating countries’ populations, to protect vulnerable healthcare systems, frontline health workers and those in social care settings. The Covid-19 vaccine allocation plan – co-led by the World Health Organization and known as Covax – has been set up to ensure that the research, purchase and distribution of any new vaccine is shared equally between the world’s richest countries and those in the developing world. Sixty-four higher income economies have already joined Covax, which includes commitments from 35 economies as well as the European commission, which will procure doses on behalf of the 27 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland, with 38 more expected to join in the coming days.
Germany’s top virologist doesn't envisage a second national lockdown
Another Germany-wide coronavirus lockdown is unlikely to happen, according to country’s most prominent virologist. Christian Drosten, the professor who spearheaded coronavirus-test development at Berlin’s Charité Hospital, told the German Press Agency even if the coronavirus situation in Germany worsens, another lockdown like the strict one in spring this year is not inevitable. "You don't always need a Germany-wide or regional lockdown because we already know some things better," said Drosten. However, he believes that some areas of work and personal life could face new restrictions, adding that Germany should not think it will escape a rise in infections like other EU countries.
China keeps guard up with travel warning
China is keeping its guard up ahead of the biggest holiday season since it largely brought the coronavirus outbreak under control. China has asked its 1.4 billion residents to avoid unnecessary travel abroad during the week-long national holiday starting on Oct 1, which will be a major test of the country's ability to prevent a renewed outbreak of Covid-19. Large parts of the country went into lockdown during the Lunar New Year holiday, but weak domestic consumption is expected to rebound during the so-called Golden Week, usually the peak season for tourism and entertainment industries.
Covid-19: UK could face 50,000 cases a day by October without action - Vallance
The UK could see 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October without further action, the government's chief scientific adviser has warned. Sir Patrick Vallance said that would be expected to lead to about "200-plus deaths per day" a month after that. It comes as the PM prepares to chair a Cobra emergency committee meeting on Tuesday morning, then make a statement in the House of Commons. On Monday, a further 4,368 daily cases were reported in the UK, up from 3,899. A further 11 people have also died within 28 days of a positive test, although these figures tend to be lower over the weekend and on Mondays due to reporting delays. Speaking at Downing Street alongside chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick stressed the figures given were not a prediction, but added: "At the moment we think the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.
Coronavirus restrictions are extended across NI
Covid-19 restrictions are to be extended to all of Northern Ireland from 18:00 BST on Tuesday, the Stormont Executive has announced. There will be no mixing of households indoors with some exceptions, and no more than six people from two households can meet in a garden. The move followed an urgent meeting of the Executive on Monday afternoon. In the last seven days, more than 1,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland. First Minister Arlene Foster said "this is not a return to lockdown", but "doing nothing is not an option". She added: "The restrictions are limited and we are in a better place than at the height of the pandemic."
UK in 'last chance saloon' to avoid second lockdown amid warning coronavirus restrictions 'may last up to six months'
The UK is said to be in the "last chance saloon" to avoid new coronavirus lockdown restrictions amid warnings the measures could last up to six months. Boris Johnson is expected to give the UK one final chance to prove it can follow the existing rules and avoid a second lockdown, the Telegraph reports. The Prime Minister is expected to set out new measures in a press conference as early as Tuesday after a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases across the UK.
Coronavirus: Demonstrations in Madrid ahead of Monday's tough new lockdown measures
Protesters have taken to the streets of Madrid to demonstrate against strict new lockdown measures which have come into force. Thousands of men, women and children rallied in the southern districts of the Spanish capital.
Unlock 4: Fresh Covid-19 restrictions imposed in these cities
Several state and local administrations have reimposed restrictions in the view of the increasing number of Covid-19 cases even as the country is in the last leg on Unlock 4, which began from September 1. Here is a complete list of cities/districts which are under restrictions in September. Some restrictions have been freshly imposed while some have been just extended.
Parts of South Wales put under local lockdown after surge in coronavirus cases
Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport and Blaenau Gwent will be placed under a local lockdown from 6pm on Tuesday following an increase in coronavirus cases, the Welsh Government has announced. Wales' health minister Vaughan Gething said many of the coronavirus cases had been linked to people socialising indoors without physical distancing.
Universities are braced for a new wave of coronavirus in the absence of a credible action plan
Government must establish reliable mass testing, ensure all students can learn remotely, and protect the financial future of Britain’s universities In a matter of weeks, more than two million students will take up their place at university. Many will travel the length of the country to do so, while local students will begin a daily commute between their home and place of study. This happens every year, and the Government will have known the challenges it presented months in advance, yet it has repeatedly failed to create a credible plan to allow staff and students to return to university safely.
'Double billing' loophole makes virtual school even harder for special-needs families
A number of families with special-needs students are caught in a government loophole and can't get in-home help as they try to navigate online-only learning with their children. In normal times, their children are in school, getting intensely personal help in small classrooms. But with many school systems across North Carolina, including the largest ones in the Triangle, holding online-only classes, that's happening through a computer screen now. In normal times, the families can get federally funded waivers to hire in-home help when their children aren't at school. But virtual learning counts as school, prohibiting parents from getting that help during school hours. Schools get federal funding for special-needs education, and in the U.S. government's eyes, spending tax dollars on in-home help during the school day counts as double dipping.
New Zealand ends all pandemic restrictions outside main city of Auckland
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday lifted all coronavirus restrictions across the country, except in second-wave hotspot Auckland, as the number of new infections slowed to a trickle. Some restrictions were also eased in Auckland to allow gatherings of up to 100 people, but the country’s biggest city needed more time before all curbs could be lifted, Ardern said. “Our actions collectively have managed to get the virus under control,” she told reporters in Auckland. “This was the centre of the outbreak and that’s why that caution is needed here.”
Vallance: Covid vaccine doses may be available for some by end of year
A few doses of an effective Covid vaccine may be available for use before the end of the year, Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser has said – but it is far more likely that any such breakthrough will happen during the first six months of 2021. Vallance, charged with delivering the good news at the end of the dire warnings from himself and Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said the UK was in a good position, with orders for vaccines from a range of companies. Whichever approach to a vaccine succeeds – there are four main technologies being employed in prototypes around the world – the government will be able to access one that works. But he was not able to say which one it would be or exactly when. “There is good progress being made,” Vallance said. “Many vaccines now have shown they generate an immune response of a type that ought to be protective, and several vaccines are in very late stage clinical testing, aiming to show that they are both effective and safe.
Maintaining Services
U.S. faces a smoldering COVID-19 pandemic nationwide as flu season starts
As the United States approaches the miserable mark of 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus, the pandemic is no longer focused on one or two epicenters. Instead it is smoldering across all states, raising fears that when colder weather forces more people inside, it could surpass the surge seen in the summer. The United States is losing on average over 800 people a day to the virus - compared with fewer than 15 a day on average in Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy and the United Kingdom. Although new cases are down about 50% from the peak in July, the United States is still reporting on average nearly 40,000 new infections a day - the highest number in the developed world.
Are German schools prepared for a winter lockdown?
Winter is coming, and with it the possibility of the next wave of corona infections. But Germany's schools ready for another lockdown - a return to stay-at-home learning and online-classes? Deutsche Welle visits one Berlin school to find out.
Madrid asks for Spanish army's help in battling coronavirus surge
Madrid’s regional government chief requested the army’s help on Monday in fighting the coronavirus surge in the Spanish capital where local authorities ordered a partial lockdown of some poorer districts, prompting protests. At the height of the first wave of the pandemic in March-April, Spain deployed thousands of troops to help civilian authorities contain the outbreak. A recent spike in infections, peaking at over 10,000 per day, took cumulative cases above 670,000 as of Monday, the highest in Western Europe, while the number of deaths from the COVID-19 respiratory disease in Spain stood at 30,663. “We need help from the army for disinfection...and to strengthen local police and law enforcement,” Isabel Diaz Ayuso told a news briefing after meeting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in an attempt to reduce contagion in Spain’s worst-hit region.
Hospitals in France and Spain are just three weeks from 'saturation'
French hospital cases have risen by 28 per cent in a month while Spain admitted more patients in the last four weeks than in the previous three months combined Hospitals in some areas such as Madrid and Marseille are reaching crisis levels Madrid called in the army as some parts of the city went into lockdown today But both countries have far greater hospital and ICU capacity than in the spring
Seoul schools resume in-person classes as South Korea coronavirus cases dip
Schools in the South Korean capital Seoul and nearby areas resumed in-person classes for the first time in almost a month on Monday after daily coronavirus cases dropped to the lowest levels since mid-August. Students returned to schools under a hybrid schedule of in-person and online classes to limit the number of people at schools at any given time. Students will attend in-person classes once or twice a week.
Coronavirus: Care homes 'widely exposed' as COVID-19 'begins to move in'
Care homes are still "widely exposed" to coronavirus as it starts spreading within them again, a trade association boss has said. Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, said many of her members are "extremely concerned" at government guidance on how care homes should prepare for winter amid warnings of a COVID-19 second spike. She told Sky News the challenge they faced at the start of the pandemic "continues".
Healthcare Innovations
CDC develops new nasal swab to test for coronavirus and flu
Receiving a coronavirus and flu test may soon be a one-stop-shop. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed and approved a swab that will test for influenza A, influenza B, and the coronavirus all at the same time. The question now is supply, and whether or not testing sites will be able to use on a large scale. Dr. William Epperson, Tidelands Health director of primary care, says when they usually test for influenza, they swab the nose to get the sample to determine if it’s ‘A’ or ‘B.’ Epperson notes it’s uncomfortable and a bother to do the swab again for a COVID-19, so the CDC came up with the multiplex test to have one sample for everything.
What COVID-19 Does to the Heart
Last Monday, when I called the cardiologist Amy Kontorovich in the late morning, she apologized for sounding tired. “I’ve been in my lab infecting heart cells with SARS-CoV-2 since 6 a.m. this morning,” she said. That might seem like an odd experiment for a virus that spreads through the air, and primarily infects the lungs and airways. But SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, can also damage the heart. That much was clear in the early months of the pandemic, when some COVID-19 patients would be hospitalized with respiratory problems and die from heart failure. “Cardiologists have been thinking about this since March,” said Kontorovich, who is based at Mount Sinai. “Data have been trickling in.”
EXCLUSIVE-EU in early talks with Italy's ReiThera over potential vaccine supply deal -source
Italian biotech ReiThera is in early talks with the European Union about supplying the bloc with its potential COVID-19 vaccine, a source close to the company said, the latest attempt by Brussels to secure shots as the fight against the pandemic intensifies. The discussions come as Brussels seeks to raise more money to shore up supplies of potential inoculations amid concerns demand next year might exceed supply. The talks with ReiThera, which is developing a vaccine together with Germany's Leukocare and Belgium's Univercells, means the European Commission is now speaking with seven vaccine makers including Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N, Moderna MRNA.O, Pfizer PFE.N and CureVac CVAC.O about possible supply deals.
GSK to supply up to 300m doses of Covid vaccine
A drugs giant has signed an agreement with the European Commission (EC) for the supply of up to 300 million doses of a Covid vaccine, once the drug is approved. The vaccine candidate is based on technology used by pharmaceutical company Sanofi to produce an influenza vaccine, and adjuvant technology, used by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which has a factory on Harmire Road, in Barnard Castle. This final agreement confirms the announcement made on July 31 by both companies and marks a key milestone in protecting European populations against Covid-19.
Philippines expects to approve Covid vaccine Q2 2021
The Philippines’ purchase and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines can only be made starting the second quarter of 2021 as delays hit the review of possible candidates, an official said. This is a “practical and realistic timeline” as vaccines will go through registration then clinical trials for a number of months, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire says in a virtual briefing. The nation’s Food and Drug Administration has committed to cut the approval process by almost two weeks, she said. The government is still waiting for Russia’s Sputnik V clinical trial data for review, while the trial for potential Covid treatment Avigan, previously set to start Aug. 17, is also pending approval.
Coronavirus: Only one in 10 to be protected from COVID-19 in first year of vaccine use
Just one in 10 of the world's population is likely to be protected against COVID-19 in the first year of a vaccine being made available, experts have told Sky News. Analysis of global manufacturing capacity shows just two billion doses could be made in 2021, even if a vaccine was given the green light by safety regulators at the start of the year. But with seven of the nine prototype vaccines in late-stage clinical trials requiring two doses, that's likely to be enough to immunise only a little over 12% of the 7.8 billion people who need it.