"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Oct 2020

Isolation Tips
Covid: Lockdown had 'major impact' on mental health
Lockdown had a major impact on the UK's mental health, including increased rates of suicidal thoughts, according to new research. The study, led by the University of Glasgow, examined the effects of Covid-19 during the height of the pandemic. Certain groups are said to be particularly at risk, including young people and women. The Department of Health in England said it was increasing investment in mental health services.
A lockdown with insufficient financial support is the worst of both worlds
Greater Manchester will enter tier three, but without agreement on the extent of the region’s financial support package, while Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield will enter tier three on Saturday (24 October). Although the gap between the British government and Greater Manchester is small in cash terms at £5m – an essentially meaningless sum in the context of government spending – the difference is large because of what the two sides want to spend it on. Andy Burnham wants to be able to top up the furlough scheme to its current level of 80 per cent. The Conservative government, particularly the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, want to avoid having to resume the furlough scheme at a nationwide level.
Suicidal thoughts increased among UK population during lockdown, study finds
One in 10 people had experienced suicidal thoughts by the end of the first six weeks of lockdown, according to new research. The study, which looked at three “waves” of lockdown between March 31 and May 11, found the restrictions had a major impact on the UK population’s mental health. It found young people, women, those from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds and individuals with pre-existing mental health problems reported the worst mental health outcomes in the initial phase of the national restrictions. The research, led by the University of Glasgow, found suicidal thoughts increased over the first six weeks of lockdown, with one in 10 people reporting them (9.8%) by the end of this period.
newsGP - Pandemic's mental health impact on young people a 'national crisis'
One in two. That is the number of young people that were unable to carry out their daily activities due to a decline in wellbeing, up from two in five in 2018. That is among the findings from headspace’s 2020 National Youth Mental Health Survey of more than 1000 Australians aged 12–25. Conducted between 25 May and 21 June, when much of the country was in or emerging from enforced lockdown restrictions, the research has confirmed concerns over the pandemic’s impact on the wellbeing and mental health of young Australians. The survey found that psychological distress among young people remains high, with one-third (34%) reporting high or very high levels of distress, particularly among 15–17-year-old young men, at 29% up from 20% in 2018.
Hygiene Helpers
Friendly skies: App would help travellers comply with COVID tests
A public-interest foundation is testing a smartphone app that could make it easier for international airline passengers to securely show they have complied with COVID-19 testing requirements. It is an attempt to help get people back to flying after the pandemic sent global air travel down by 92 percent. The Switzerland-based Commons Project Foundation was conducting a test Wednesday of its CommonPass digital health pass on United Airlines Flight 15 from London’s Heathrow to Newark Liberty International Airport, using volunteers carrying the app on their smartphones. Officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Customs and Border Protection were observing the test.
CDC updates its guidelines for close Covid-19 contact after prison guard gets infected
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its definition of a close contact with a Covid-19 patient to include multiple, brief exposures, after a Vermont prison worker appears to have been infected that way, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday. The new definition includes exposures adding up to a total of 15 minutes spent six feet or closer to an infected person. Previously, the CDC defined a close contact as 15 minutes of continuous exposure to an infected individual. The agency changed the definition after a report from Vermont of a corrections officer who became infected after several brief interactions with coronavirus-positive inmates -- none of them lasting 15 minutes, but adding up over time.
Coronavirus survives on skin five times longer than flu, Japan study finds
The coronavirus remains active on human skin for nine hours, Japanese researchers have found, in a discovery they said showed the need for frequent hand washing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The pathogen that causes the flu survives on human skin for about 1.8 hours by comparison, said the study published this month in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal. “The nine-hour survival of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus strain that causes COVID-19) on human skin may increase the risk of contact transmission in comparison with IAV (influenza A virus), thus accelerating the pandemic,” it said. The research team tested skin collected from autopsy specimens, about one day after death. Both the coronavirus and the flu virus are inactivated within 15 seconds by applying ethanol, which is used in hand sanitizers
Community Activities
Sir David Attenborough says Covid-19 is 'threat to environment'
Sir David Attenborough said the Covid-19 pandemic was a threat to the environment as politicians deal with the crisis instead of climate change. The naturalist and broadcaster expressed his fears to environmental activist Greta Thunberg at a virtual wildlife film festival in Bristol. The 94-year-old said Thunberg had given the world hope by energising young people to fight for the environment. The teenager also praised Sir David's new film A Life On Our Planet. Sir David said several international climate conferences had been cancelled because of Covid-19. "I am worried that people will take their eyes off the environmental issue because of the immediate problems they have on Covid-19," he said.
U of T alumni design AI platform to gauge student understanding in virtual classrooms
A new software platform, created by two University of Toronto alumni, aims to make virtual classrooms more functional by providing real-time feedback and specific insights into how student understanding of mathematics is changing. Last March, Nived Kollanthara, an alumnus of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, was living in New York City, where he volunteered part-time at a shelter, helping kids with their math homework. When the pandemic hit, he realized right away the impact it would have. “The kids I work with need extra, individual attention to help them succeed in the classroom,” Kollanthara says. “I was worried about how they would be getting that in a remote environment.” Kollanthara spoke with teachers and learned that one of the first things that gets lost in virtual learning is real-time feedback, which provides a window into student understanding.
Research to understand COVID-19 spread on public transport
A major scientific study has been launched to understand the risks of COVID-19 transmission on buses and trains - and to identify the best measures to control it. Led by the University of Leeds and with support from the Department for Transport and several transport organisations, the investigation will involve taking air and surface samples on parts of the transport network to measure background levels of the coronavirus. The researchers will develop detailed simulations of the way the virus could potentially spread through airflow, from touching contaminated surfaces and from being close to someone infected with the virus.
Socioeconomic factors drive COVID risks for minorities - UK govt report
The increased risk to ethnic minorities from COVID-19 is largely driven by factors such as living circumstances and profession and not the genetics of different groups or structural racism, a report into racial disparities from the pandemic has found. Several studies have shown a disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minorities, and the British government in June promised further work to look into the causes of the disparities. But the dynamics of whether certain groups are more likely to contract the virus to start with due to external factors, or are more susceptible to it once exposed, have been unclear.
Working Remotely
Hybrid and remote work leadership tips from the experts
One of the most impactful legacies of the pandemic will be the massive shift from the traditional workplace to virtual work models. Many workers were forced, seemingly overnight, from their corporate offices to work-from-home situations. While temporary at first, for many it has become a permanent part of operations. A recent survey by research firm Gartner, Inc. revealed that 82% of company leaders intend to implement hybrid work models going forward. My company has been operating with a full-fledged work-from-home team and hybrid work employees for over six years. In that time, we have made the Inc. 5000 list two times in a row. What can we tell you about what we’ve learned? Managing work-from-home, remote work and hybrid employees requires several unique skills, techniques and tools that may be unfamiliar to the traditional workplace leader. We’ll share the top ones with you now.
Remote working: 'If any group can deal with it, graduates can'
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the workplace as we know it. But as businesses move away from traditional office environments, those beginning their careers have have shown admirable resilience
How Remote Working Affects Your Mental Health
Seven months and seemingly a lifetime ago, as the news of the coronavirus pandemic was first spreading in the United States, so too was a wave of concern in the therapeutic world. How would clients get the care they needed if they could not access it in-person? How would providers be able to respond and offer the necessary support if offices were to close?
Employees work an extra 26 hours a month when remote
Only months ago, a growing number of businesses were experimenting with or adopting a four-day workweek, but remote work policies imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have pivoted this trend in the opposite direction. Full-time employees are working an extra 26 hours a month when remote, adding nearly an extra day of work to the week, according to a new report from Owl Labs, a video conferencing technology company. The increase in work hours may be due to employees needing more time to adapt to new changes businesses have made in response to the pandemic, says Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs. Having the workplace always available — as employees work right in their house — is also blurring the lines between work and home, possibly adding to their hours worked.
Research suggests that remote working is aggravating secondary stressors which are causing people to feel burned out more than ever before
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the world earlier this year, everything had to be shut down for security measures. Work and study from home became the new norm, especially the work-from-home trend received a lot of appreciation from many people because it alleviated some major stress-causing issues. Commuting, conveyance problems, going to the office daily at a fixed time, dress code, and all such issues that used to be quite tedious for many people around the globe were suddenly gone because of the new set-up and routine. Some tech giants like Twitter, Spotify, Shopify, etc. had even announced that if their employees are more comfortable with this new routine, they can continue working remotely even after the pandemic.
How much does remote working impact on productivity?
Employers expect to move about 44% of workers to work from home during the pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2020. But 78% of business leaders think hybrid and home-working will have a negative impact on productivity. Those working from home face mental health and well-being challenges, including childcare pressures and digital connectivity.
How to get along with your boss while working remotely
There's one person at work you need to have a good relationship with for the sake of your career: your boss. But not all of us do. And working remotely could cause additional strain to an already-tense relationship. "If the conflict is around work, then working remotely may actually make things worse or at best, create a certain amount of confusion," said Marie McIntyre, a career coach in Atlanta and author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." If you found your boss to be annoying, working separately might actually improve the relationship. A change in work settings could also be a good opportunity to redefine your relationship with your boss. Here's how to get started:
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual learning poses unique challenges for Arizona’s 148,000 students in special ed programs
Many Arizona schools stuck with virtual instruction this fall as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, but for the 148,000 children who take part in special education programs, the new online environment can be a particular challenge. When school started back in August, June Krafft was busy at home running from room to room, making sure her two young sons kept focused on their schoolwork. James, 3, and Christopher, 5, both attend Kingswood Elementary School in Surprise, in the preschool and kindergarten programs. The brothers, Krafft said, are on the autism spectrum. Christopher also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and has been taking medication for it since he was 4. Before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, a specialist came to Krafft’s home for about 40 hours a week.
Spurred by COVID-19, African schools innovate to close learning gap
In rural Sierra Leone, teenagers tuned into solar-powered radios for their lessons, while Kenyan students texted a code to receive free learning guides on their phones. As COVID-19 shut Africa’s schools, governments and charities rushed to make learning accessible to millions of pupils without internet or even electricity, sparking innovations that could keep children learning long after the pandemic has passed. “The situation... pushed all the governments and education ministries to think in a different way,” said Elena Locatelli, an advisor on education in emergencies at the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF. In a matter of months, officials set up distance-learning programmes, often via TV and radio, while charities and start-ups distributed devices and materials to supplement them.
Public Policies
Greece reports new peak in COVID-19 cases
Greece on Wednesday reported 865 new cases of COVID-19, a new peak since an outbreak in late February, and authorities announced a regional lockdown of a northern district. Authorities declared the northern region of Kastoria on an elevated risk,
Brazil's Bolsonaro rejects Chinese vaccine against COVID-19
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro overruled his own health minister on Wednesday, rejecting the announced purchase of 46 million doses of CoronaVac, a potential vaccine against COVID-19 being tested in Sao Paulo state. Health minister Eduardo Pazuello announced the purchase on Tuesday alongside Sao Paulo’s Gov. João Doria, a foe of Bolsonaro’s whose state government is participating in the vaccine’s development. The cost of the acquisition was estimated at 2 billion Brazilian reals ($360 million). “The Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig,” Bolsonaro said on his social media channels, adding that the shot made by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac is yet to finish its testing phase — which is true of all potential vaccines. “My decision is to not purchase such a vaccine.”
Senate to take up $500 billion COVID-19 stimulus package as relief talks continue
The Senate failed Wednesday to pass a $500 billion COVID-19 aid package as negotiations drag on less than two weeks before Election Day. The bill would have given a federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits, sent $100 billion to schools and allocated funding for testing and vaccine development. The vote was 51-44, short of the 60 votes required to allow the legislation to move forward. Nearly all Democrats opposed it over concerns that more money was needed to combat the virus and help Americans. The bill's $500 billion price tag was far less than the roughly $1.8 trillion package the White House offered and the $2.2 trillion package Democrats backed. The two parties have spent months attempting to find a bipartisan agreement for one last batch of coronavirus relief before the election.
Sunak scraps three-year spending review to focus on Covid-19
Rishi Sunak has cancelled the UK government’s three-year spending review for the rest of parliament to allow Treasury ministers more time to focus on coping with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The chancellor said he would set out a one-year spending plan that would focus entirely on dealing with the budgeting needs of departments and the devolved governments during the pandemic. The move is a blow to Boris Johnson’s ambition to reclaim the economic agenda with an upbeat outlook for the UK and the government’s investment plans once the coronavirus has been brought under control.
'We'll see more local lockdowns in Germany': Experts warn of tough measures as Covid-19 cases rise
The first local lockdown in the autumn coronavirus resurgence was announced in southern Bavaria this week. Is it likely that more districts will follow? The popular alpine beauty spot of Berchtesgadener Land went into lockdown on Tuesday afternoon for two weeks after cases of coronavirus shot up. But politicians, health experts and district representatives believe that similar measures may be necessary elsewhere in Germany as Covid-19 numbers continue to go up. How tough the measures are depends on the incidence of infection and the ability of health authorities to contain it, said federal Health Minister Jens Spahn of the Christian Democrats (CDU) on broadcaster ZDF. If numbers spiral out of control, "this may indeed lead to appropriate measures in other areas at local and regional level," said Spahn.
Is Italy Headed For Another Coronavirus Lockdown?
As Italy’s daily coronavirus cases continue to pass the 10,000 mark, the unwelcome prospect of another lockdown may be on the cards for some regions. The northern region of Lombardy is already leaning towards lockdown with an evening curfew while the southern region of Campania has closed schools until the end of the month. Other regions are also looking at heightening restrictions.
Spanish government mulling curfews to tackle Covid-19 resurgence
The Spanish government announced that was considering fresh curfews to tackle a resurgence in the number of new curfews to tackle a resurgence in the number of new cases. Addressing the media here on Tuesday, Health Minister Salvador Illa said that imposing a curfew on Madrid, and in some other parts of the country, would require invoking a State of Emergency
Czech government to impose lockdown
The Czech Republic will go into lockdown mode again to try and contain the coronavirus, the government announced Wednesday. "From October 22 at 6 a.m. [until November 3 at 11:59 p.m.], free movement of the population will be prohibited, with a few exceptions," it said on Twitter, adding that these include "travel necessary to work, to visit family, to purchase basic necessities, to see a doctor or the authorities." In addition, non-essential shops will have to close from Thursday, "with exceptions similar to those during the spring measures," such as grocery stores and pharmacies, the government said.
Coronavirus: France considers extending COVID state of emergency until mid-February
France's government is considering extending its state of emergency until 16 February next year. Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal also said several more regions of the country will enter red-alert status, meaning they will see curfews imposed. The proposed new end date to the health state of emergency means 9pm to 6am curfews already in place in France's biggest cities could be extended.
Pakistan coronavirus mortality rate increases by 140 per cent, govt warns new lockdown
Pakistan's top body, which oversees response to the coronavirus pandemic, on Wednesday warned that strict measures, including lockdown, could be initiated to contain the infection if people don't stop violating government guidelines, as the country's COVID-19 mortality rate increased by 140 per cent compared to past few weeks. "The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) is closely monitoring the situation. If there is no improvement in SOPs compliance observed, NCOC will have no choice but to revert to strict measures leading to re-closures of services," the body said in a statement on Wednesday. During a special session of the NCOC to monitor an increase in cases, the body led by Minister for Planning Asad Umar was informed that there is a clear resurgence of the virus while deaths are also increasing. All chief secretaries were directed to "strictly implement" standard operating procedures (SOPs), Geo TV reported, citing the statement.
India is facing a double health threat this winter: pollution and the pandemic
A familiar scene is taking place in northern India. Vast fields burn, flames engulfing bare stalks of already-harvested crops. Billowing smoke travels across state borders. In towns and cities, the air is thick with yellow haze. Stubble burning, the practice of intentionally setting fire to cultivated fields to prepare the land for its next crop, is one of the chief drivers of India's so-called annual pollution season, which begins each winter. It is especially bad in cities like the capital New Delhi, where smog from the burning crop fields, vehicular emissions, power plants, construction sites, and smoke from Diwali firecrackers combine to create a toxic cloud that lingers until spring.
What South Africans must do to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19 infections
South Africa’s stringent lockdown earlier this year may have saved lives by containing the spread of COVID-19. New COVID-19 infections have been declining and lockdown restrictions relaxed. But this has triggered fears of a new wave of infections. Several countries have experienced a spike in infections following the easing of harsh lockdown measures. These include South Korea, Canada, Spain and the UK. Health systems are once again becoming overwhelmed, and countries have resorted to stringent lockdown measures once again. The new round has been characterised by increases in cases – mostly driven by infections among younger groups – but not necessarily increased deaths.
Jacinda Ardern landslide is a vote for COVID-19 competence
For governments facing a growing wave of coronavirus cases as fall turns to winter, there’s a stark lesson in Saturday’s stunning election victory for New Zealand’s incumbent Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: Voters really want their governments to suppress the pandemic. A landslide victory means Ardern could govern with the first outright majority since her country adopted proportional representation in the 1990s, with her Labour party on track to win the largest share of the vote in 70 years. “The argument is strong for countries adopting a so-called zero-COVID strategy” like that in New Zealand, a team of authors in Singapore, Hong Kong, the U.K. and Norway argued in medical journal The Lancet last month.
Why is Ireland choosing a 'seesaw' approach to tackling Covid-19?
Taoiseach Micheal Martin on Monday night confirmed the entire country will move to Level 5 of Covid-19 restrictions for six weeks from Thursday onwards in a bid to tackle a spike in cases. He then stated that Ireland strategy’s will involve working to “suppress the virus when it is growing” and reopening “as much of our society and economy as possible when it is safe to do so”. “Until we have a safe vaccine, we must continue in that pattern. This is the reality in the rest of the world and it is unfortunately the reality here,” Martin said. Although not named as such by government, some people have been critical of this so-called ‘seesaw’ approach that has been signposted as Ireland’s path through the pandemic. Martin said it is “the core responsibility” of the government “to protect lives and to protect public health, while also protecting livelihoods and supporting the wider economy and society”.
Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon reveals five levels of lockdown will be applied in Scotland over winter
Nicola Sturgeon has outlined what the system will be when the new strategy for tacking coronavirus takes effect in 12 days time. She confirmed there will be a five-tier system of different levels of intervention which could be applied across the country or in different health board or council areas. The First Minister said Scotland will have two more levels in addition to those in place in England.
What NZ can learn from Taiwan about pandemic preparedness
New Zealand’s approach to the Covid-19 pandemic won international acclaim after measures such as border closures, widespread testing and initiating a historic nationwide lockdown helped eliminate the deadly virus from within our midst. But it’s the proactive stance adopted by another island nation some 9000 kilometres away that has been singled out as the “most effective and least disruptive of any country” in the world. Taiwan’s pandemic response is lauded in a study involving Otago University researchers in Wellington published in The Lancet Regional Health: Western Pacific medical journal on Wednesday night.
Turkey said to consider a return to some coronavirus curbs
Turkey is considering re-imposing some measures to stem rising coronavirus cases such as stay-home orders for younger and older people or even weekend lockdowns, but will avoid hurting the economic recovery, a senior official said. The official, who requested anonymity, said the total number of COVID-19 cases is about five times that reported in the government’s daily tally - echoing concerns by Turkey’s top medical association and opposition lawmakers. Health ministry officials were not immediately available to comment. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has warned about the uptick in numbers and urged Turks to abide by nationwide distancing and mask rules, which are subject to fines.
More of northern England put into highest COVID-19 lockdown tier
South Yorkshire in northern England will move into the very high lockdown tier on Saturday to tackle rising levels of COVID-19 infections, the mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis said on Wednesday. The area has agreed a funding package worth 41 million pounds ($53.5 million) to support businesses that will have to close and for additional public health measures. Regions in the north of England have been most severely affected by the second wave of COVID-19. South Yorkshire will join Liverpool and Lancashire in the highest tier. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he would impose the same measures in Manchester after failing to agree a support package with local leaders.
Number of Covid deaths in Britain could have been HALVED by imposing lockdown earlier, report claims
Professor Andrew Harvey said lockdown on March 19 would have halved deaths This suggests between 21,900 and 29,400 deaths could have been avoided His calculations support those of Professor Neil Ferguson in June A lockdown on March 23 is considered a key failure of the Government They had been given predictions of 500,000 deaths nine days before lockdown
Maintaining Services
US is nearing 'rapid acceleration' of Covid-19 cases, expert warns, as daily infections hit about 60,000
With the number of people with Covid-19 being admitted to hospitals rising, several states are looking at their supply of beds. On Wednesday, an overflow medical facility set up at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis received its first patient. "We are thankful to have this facility available to Wisconsinites and our hospitals, but also saddened that this is where Wisconsin is at today," Gov. Tony Evers said. "Folks, please stay home. Help us protect our communities from this highly contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals." The facility will take patients who meet specific criteria, and doctors and nurses there can give remdesivir and oxygen treatment, according to the governor's statement.
Why the second wave of Covid-19 appears to be less lethal
While coronavirus infections have been surging again across Europe since late summer, the chances of surviving the respiratory disease seem to have improved from the first phase of the outbreak. The number of Covid-19 patients ill enough to go to hospital has risen less steeply — and mortality more slowly still, according to an FT analysis. Health services are not overwhelmed as they would have been if severe disease had followed infection in the way it did between March and April. “In western Europe, pretty much every country including the UK is still seeing a much smaller per capita death rate in this second wave than in the first one during the spring,” said Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.
COVID-19: U.S. Northeast states discourage travel; California rebuffs theme parks
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Tuesday urged their residents to not travel between the three states as the U.S. Northeast sees a rise in COVID-19 cases, while California said major theme parks including Disneyland would not be opening anytime soon.
Urgent appeal for plasma donations from Covid-19 survivors
People from Greater Manchester who have had the coronavirus are being urged to register as blood plasma donors to save lives. They can donate their antibody-rich plasma which could help those who are seriously ill with Covid-19 to survive. Around 1,700 donations have been made in Manchester so far, at the donor centre in Norfolk House and Plymouth Grove. People can register as online donors. Around 70 people have received transfusions of plasma at hospitals in Greater Manchester since the treatment began in April. NHS Blood and Transplant is collecting blood plasma for coronavirus treatment - known as convalescent plasma - around the country. The neutralising antibodies in the plasma could stop the virus spreading.
Inmates locked up for 23 hours due to Covid is ‘dangerous’ warns chief of prisons
Inmates locked up for 23 hours due to Covid is ‘dangerous’ warns chief of prisons. In an interview with BBC Newsnight, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clark, said keeping inmates in their cells for such lengthy periods under Covid restrictions impacted on their mental health. While the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) claims the move to reduce the spread of the virus has led to a drop in violence and self harm, Clark disagrees claiming the argument is “shallow”. He said self harm was in fact on the rise in women’s prisons.
New Zealand records nearly a dozen new Covid-19 cases after eliminating virus — twice
Eleven fishermen have tested positive for coronavirus while quarantining in a New Zealand hotel, ending the country’s second extended streak of zero cases. The workers reportedly flew in from Moscow via Singapore on Friday, and are among 440 fishermen from Russia and Ukraine currently quarantining in Christchurch’s Sudima Hotel. All of the men are believed to have tested negative for the virus before leaving their countries. A further 14 cases from within the group are also now “under investigation”, the country’s Health Ministry has said. The 11 new cases were discovered during “routine” coronavirus testing and, as a result, the hotel was put into lockdown on Tuesday.
Cyberattacks on coronavirus vaccine projects confirmed in Japan
Some Japanese research institutions developing coronavirus vaccines have been hit by cyberattacks, apparently from China, in what are believed to be the first cases of their kind in the country, a U.S. information security firm said Monday. Amid an intensifying race to develop vaccines against COVID-19, those bodies have been targeted by attacks since April but no reports of information leaks have been made, according to CrowdStrike. The government’s National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity has urged drugmakers and research organizations to raise alert levels against such attempts to steal confidential information. The U.S. firm did not disclose the names of the targeted institutions, but said it suspects the attacks have been made by a Chinese hacker group, based on the techniques employed.
Healthcare Innovations
AstraZeneca, J&J could resume COVID vaccine trials this week
Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, said he expects the U.S. trials of vaccines made by AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson to restart as soon as this week. The two companies developing Covid-19 vaccines backed by Operation Warp Speed temporarily halted their trials because participants fell ill, slowing down the race for a shot to halt the pandemic. J&J paused its trial last week when a participant got sick. AstraZeneca’s trial paused last month after a woman in the U.K. study developed neurological symptoms and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has yet to clear the study to resume in the U.S.
Next up in hunt for COVID-19 vaccine: Testing shots in kids
The global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids is only just beginning — a lagging start that has some U.S. pediatricians worried they may not know if any shots work for young children in time for the next school year. Older adults may be most vulnerable to the coronavirus, but ending the pandemic will require vaccinating children, too. Last week, Pfizer Inc. received permission to test its vaccine in U.S. kids as young as 12, one of only a handful of attempts around the world to start exploring if any experimental shots being pushed for adults also can protect children. “I just figured the more people they have to do tests on, the quicker they can put out a vaccine and people can be safe and healthy,” said 16-year-old Katelyn Evans, who became the first teen to get an injection in the Pfizer study at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Multiple vaccine candidates are in final-stage studies in tens of thousands of adults, and scientists are hopeful that the next few months will bring evidence that at least some of them are safe and effective enough for widespread use.
Volunteer in Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trial has died, Brazil health authority says
Brazilian health authority Anvisa said on Wednesday that a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had died but added that the trial would continue. Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment "there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial." AstraZeneca declined to comment immediately. A source familiar with the matter told Reuters the trial would have been suspended if the volunteer who died had received the COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting the person was part of the control group that was given a meningitis jab.
COVID-19 vaccines will be stored in secret locations to prevent theft
Vaccine candidate Pfizer Inc. is among the vaccine makers that will have GPS software on shipments. The company is also planning to carry out fake shipments in dummy trucks in a bid to confuse any potential thieves. The safeguards are being put in place amid concerns that the highly-awaited vaccines could be stolen when being distributed. Health authorities fear criminal rings will try and steal the vaccine when it is being given to prioritized groups and before it is made publicly available. Moderna, another maker, says it has enhanced security as the leading candidates inch closer to having a vaccine
Japanese research team develops COVID-19 breath testing system
Tohoku University and precision equipment maker Shimadzu Corp. have jointly developed a system that checks exhaled breath to detect novel coronavirus infections. The testing accuracy of the system is about the same as the levels achieved by widely used polymerase chain reaction tests, according to a joint announcement by the university and Shimadzu on Friday. They aim to put the system into practical use within a few years after conducting clinical research for about six months. The system collects exhaled breath from testing subjects for five to 10 minutes to examine the water vapor contained in it.