"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 5th Nov 2020

Isolation Tips
Covid: Nine ways England's lockdown is different from last time
In March, you could only meet others from outside your household in a very limited set of circumstances. Meeting another person socially wasn't allowed until May. This time, you can catch up with a friend in an outdoor public place, like a park or beach, as long as you socially distance and neither of you is self-isolating. And this time, children of pre-school age are not included in the two-person limit, so those looking after youngsters can still have social contact.
Hygiene Helpers
Face coverings: what should you look for in a homemade mask?
With face coverings now mandatory in enclosed spaces in the UK, many of us are having to get used to a whole new dress code. And choices are springing up everywhere - fancy a mask with your favourite photo on the front? How about matching your mask to your outfit? But when it comes to protecting others and ourselves, what should we look for in a home-made mask?
Coronavirus: Older children and teachers in England must wear face masks at school
All pupils and teachers at secondary schools in England must wear face masks in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, it has been announced. Under updated government guidance issued on Wednesday, staff and students in Year 7 and above have been told to wear face coverings in school communal spaces - outside of classrooms - where social distancing cannot be maintained. Face coverings had already been required for secondary school pupils within areas under Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions in England, with those local restrictions now to be replaced by the national measures.
Delivery timetable of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has slipped, UK official says
The timetable for delivery of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate has slipped and Britain will receive just 4 million doses of the shot this year, the head of the UK’s vaccine procurement programme said on Wednesday. In May, Britain agreed a deal for 100 million doses of the vaccine, developed by Oxford University and licensed to AstraZeneca, with 30 million doses estimated for delivery by September 2020. Oxford’s trial chief said earlier he was optimistic that late-stage trial results of its efficacy could be presented before the end of the year, and that doses of the shot are already being made.
Lockdown will be a letdown if we do not overhaul the test and trace system – it is time for a local approach
The Test and Trace system has repeatedly failed to deliver and a further lockdown will be a letdown unless that changes. Figures for the week ending 14 October show only 15 per cent of people getting results within 24 hours, down by half from the previous week; only 59.6 per cent close contacts of Covid-positive people identified; and of them, only 57.6 per cent reached. This contrasts with 94.8 per cent contacts reached of cases handled by local authority public health teams.
Tory-linked firm involved in testing failure given new £347m Covid contract
The UK government has awarded a new £347m Covid-19 testing contract to Randox, the Tory-linked private healthcare company whose testing kits had to be recalled over the summer because of concerns about contamination. The deal is a six-month extension of an existing contract and was agreed without other companies being invited to bid. It means the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has now approved transfers of nearly half a billion pounds in taxpayer funds to the Northern Ireland-based company since the pandemic began. Disclosed in a filing on a European contracts website, the award has prompted concerns about “cronyism” and calls for an independent inquiry into the £12bn spent so far on attempting to control the pandemic through the test-and-trace system.
Community Activities
Mass exodus of students is expected as lockdown starts
Students in cities across England could begin a mass exodus back to their families ahead of new lockdown measures coming into force on Thursday. Hilary Gyebi-Ababio, National Union of Students vice president for higher education, said students were "really wanting to go home". "There's a sense there could be a mass exodus," she told the BBC. It comes after Universities Minister Michelle Donelan urged students, in a letter on Monday, not to "rush home". Her message aimed to prevent these young people from travelling across the country to their families and potentially taking coronavirus with them, thus fuelling the pandemic.
Students looking ahead to teacher placements in `Covid classrooms'
Student teachers will face a very different experience to their predecessors this year when they undertake their first teaching practice in Covid classrooms. Here, two young trainees share their thoughts. A new generation of Northern Ireland's young teachers believes it will be uniquely equipped to take on the classrooms of tomorrow. As this year's student teachers head out to schools for their teaching practice, they'll face not only the challenges of those placements, but the added complications of the Covid classroom too.
Londoners hit the town one last time before new lockdown
Londoners shrugged off a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic and flocked to pubs and restaurants on Wednesday night, hours before the introduction of a new month-long lockdown across England. While the UK’s death toll from the coronavirus rose on Wednesday by 492, the most since mid-May, London’s Soho entertainment district was busy with revellers seeking one last night out before lockdown. People will be ordered to stay at home from 0001 GMT on Thursday to combat a surge in new infections that scientists say could, if unchecked, cause more deaths than a first wave that forced a three-month lockdown earlier this year.
Working Remotely
Working Remotely Expected To Continue After Coronavirus Pandemic Is Over
Millions started working from home when the coronavirus forced the closure of office buildings in March of this year, and it looks like the trend will continue even after the pandemic is over. In a recent survey from Cisco, 87% of remote workers said they want the option to keep working from home. Several major corporations, including Twitter, Facebook, Slack, Microsoft, and Zillow, are offering many of their employees the ability to do their jobs at home permanently.
COVID-19: Benefit and challenges when working remotely
It is expected that there will be greater demand for flexible working as the economy reopens post-COVID-19. A recent report commissioned by Vodafone looked at the economic impact of six regional working hubs. When the results were extrapolated for the country as a whole, it estimated the national economic impact at €312m, with 5,200 direct staff employed and 3,640 jobs indirectly supported.
Lockdown Scotland: All the Glasgow cafes, restaurants and bars you can work remotely from
As we are getting used to the new restrictions in Glasgow, many of us are getting a bit too used to our working-from-home set up. With some people in the city entering their 8th or 9th month of home working, joggies and juggling childcare or desk arrangements have become the norm. At the same time, many restaurants, bars and cafés are also rebranding into spaces where people can work remotely in.
Shift to remote working likely to become more permanent – study
Companies are facing the prospect of an increasingly flexible workforce in the future as the shift to remote working is likely to become more permanent, a study from Microsoft has found. The Future of Work report, which questioned business leaders and employees across the spectrum of Irish businesses, discovered companies believe 45 per cent of employees will continue to work remotely, while employees expect to spend up to a third of their time outside the office. “Almost every business leader cited the importance of changing their organisation’s way of working to become innovative and flexible,” said Aisling Curtis, commercial director with Microsoft Ireland. “That’s the theme that goes through the whole way. If you think about it, we are in a 200-year model of a nine-to-five, commuting either side of it, that now has been turned upside down with the onset of Covid.”
Virtual Classrooms
Huge virtual careers festival to launch
More than 1,400 students will get the chance to take part in the first ever virtual careers festival of its kind, thanks to an educational trust in Telford.
Commentary: Virtual learning was a better option for some students even before the pandemic
As educators are well into the school year, the national debate about the efficacy of online learning continues. Now, though, the stakes are higher. As the economy emerges from the current health crisis, an educated and motivated workforce will be needed to fuel its recovery. Education is not one-size-fits-all, and for many students, online education may be a perfect fit. Educators who embrace the creative use of the online modality may find that they can now accommodate a surprising number of students who are high achievers, even if they don’t fit the traditional mold.
Months into virtual learning, parents become more involved with their children's education
There is no denying that online education has taken a toll on children and parents. But it has also given many parents an opportunity to understand their children’s learning process better and be more engaged in their overall development.
'A real teaching opportunity': Elementary virtual schools overcome challenges
The three Cs — communication, collaboration and community — have been added to the three Rs — reading, writing and arithmetic — as keywords you’ll hear from many of the educators teaching or overseeing the elementary virtual schools in Kingston. “We’re really trying to mimic what’s happening in our schools,” Dan Finn, Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board’s elementary virtual school principal, said. “One of the challenges we have, and we’re looking at ways to do this, is how do you build community in an online environment, and I think that’s something we’re looking for and our parents are asking for. “Normally, friendships are often built on the recess yard or at lunchtime, during those less formal opportunities where students just get together. That’s something we’re looking for to provide students the opportunities to make friendships and relationships with each other.”
Public Policies
UK parliament approves month-long COVID-19 lockdown for England
British politicians approved a month-long lockdown in England, voting in favour of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to try to prevent COVID-19 running out of control and overwhelming health services. Johnson insisted that the looming new coronavirus lockdown would end “automatically” in four weeks, as he tried to placate party critics over the spiralling economic fallout.
Greek government prepares more curbs to contain COVID-19 spread
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to announce new restrictions to curb a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, government officials said on Wednesday. Greece has reported fewer cases than most European countries but the number of infections has been gradually increasing since early October, prompting it to reimpose restrictions.
Covid-19: Scott Morrison buys 50 million doses of two more vaccines
The federal government has previously signed deals to buy two Covid vaccines Now Scott Morrison has signed two more agreements with vaccine companies Deals are for 40m doses from Novavax and 10million from Pfizer/BioNTec The government hopes to roll out a vaccine around Australia early next year
NI can access furlough scheme if lockdown needed, says PM
Northern Ireland can access the Government’s furlough scheme if it has to introduce lockdown measures at a different time from England, Boris Johnson said. The Prime Minister told MPs the NHS faced an “existential threat” from Covid-19. The South Eastern Health Trust, which includes the Ulster Hospital, said it had the highest number of Covid positive patients to date and was operating at 111% capacity.
Italy opts for ‘flexible’ lockdown to stem coronavirus
Rome announced late Tuesday night new restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but stopped short of a full lockdown, according to the news agency ANSA. The measures include a national curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., as well as piecemeal regional lockdowns based on the local epidemiological situation. While Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had already made public the broad outlines of the new health measures at the start of the week, the government has now officially signed the full text of the new law.
Spain under pressure to impose virus lockdown
With coronavirus infections rising, Spain's central government was under pressure Wednesday to follow the example of other European nations and impose a new national shutdown. The country has the second-highest caseload in the European Union after France. It has recorded more than 1.2 million cases so far and 36,495 deaths, including 18,669 new infections and 238 new deaths reported by the health ministry on Tuesday. More worryingly, pressure on hospitals is increasing with nearly a third of all hospital intensive care unit beds, 29 percent, occupied by Covid-19 patients.
India's Covid-19 crisis likely under control by early 2021, say experts
India has passed the peak number of Covid-19 infections and, if current trends continue, should see a dramatic decrease in cases by February 2021, according to a panel of experts. The coronavirus epidemic in India may already have peaked and, if the use of masks and physical distancing measures continue to be effective at the current level, the epidemic will most likely have run its course by February next year, a government-appointed committee of scientists has said. These are the findings of a study carried out by a seven-member expert panel on the future course of the pandemic, research commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology. “Without a lockdown, the number of deaths in India would have overwhelmed the system within a very short timeframe, and would have eventually passed 2.6 million,” said M. Vidyasagar of the Indian Institute of Technology, chairman of the committee.
After shunning lockdowns, Sweden now says its coronavirus situation is 'very serious'
Sweden says a maximum of eight people will now be allowed to dine together at restaurants or cafes, as the country faces a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and deaths. "We see that the situation is heading in the wrong direction - the situation is very serious," Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told a press conference on Tuesday. He added that more patients were being treated in intensive care units for severe cases of COVID-19, and it was likely that fatalities would rise. One in five patients receiving intensive care was a COVID-19 patient, added Lena Hallengren, Sweden's minister of health and social affairs.
Lithuania to enter three-week COVID lockdown on Saturday
Lithuania’s government on Wednesday declared a three-week lockdown starting on Nov.7, to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus which has accelerated in recent weeks in the Baltic nation. Lithuania, which imposed a two-month lockdown in March, reported 639 new cases on Wednesday, three times more than the 205 daily cases reported on Oct. 20, bringing the total number of cases to 18,092 with 182 deaths. Europe has seen a second wave of COVID-19 infections with many countries, including France, Britain and Germany opting for new lockdowns.
Netherlands poised to tighten curbs to slow second COVID-19 wave
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday ordered extra lockdown measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Netherlands, and said the government is also considering curfews and school closures. The new measures, which include a ban on public meetings of more than two people not in the same family, were imposed amidsigns the epidemic had reached a second peak. Rutte said the government was strongly recommending that people not travel abroad for holidays until mid-January. “The number of new cases is falling, but not quickly enough,” Rutte said in a televised press conference. The new measures go into effect on Wednesday for two weeks.
Denmark plans to cull its mink population after coronavirus mutation spreads to humans
Denmark will cull its mink population of up to 17 million after a mutation of the coronavirus found in the animals spread to humans, the prime minister said on Wednesday. Health authorities found virus strains in humans and in mink which showed decreased sensitivity against antibodies, potentially lowering the efficacy of future vaccines, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said. “We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well,” Frederiksen told a news conference.
Maintaining Services
Covid-19 drive to clear hospital beds left some of those discharged with unmet needs and no support
The drive to rapidly clear hospital beds at the start of the pandemic left some of those discharged unsupported with unmet care needs, research has found. More than four in five of those discharged between March and August 2020 (82%) did not receive a follow-up visit and assessment at home, with 18% of this group reporting an unmet care need, found a survey of 352 patients and 177 carers of people discharged during this time. Almost half (45%) of disabled respondents to the survey by Healthwatch and the British Red Cross reported unmet needs following their discharge, as did 20% of those with long-term conditions. Issues reported by those with unmet needs included problems accessing aids and equipment, a lack of consideration of their home situation and being unsure how to manage their conditions.
Lloyds and John Lewis axe thousands of jobs on eve of second lockdown
More than 3,000 jobs are being cut after a number of big employers launched redundancy plans on the eve of the second national lockdown in England. They include 1,070 job losses at Lloyds Banking Group, as well as 1,068 roles at Do & Co, an Austrian catering company operating at Heathrow airport, according to Unite, Britain’s biggest union which has hit out against the plans.
Covid-19: NHS in England moves to highest alert level
The NHS in England has been placed on its highest alert level, bosses have announced. The move by NHS England means staff can be moved around the country, while patients may be sent to other regions for treatment if Covid threatens to overwhelm local services. Health bosses said they were seriously concerned, adding the NHS was facing a "very difficult winter". But they said they hoped lockdown would help avoid major disruption. Evidence presented at a press briefing in London suggested hospitals could take a maximum of 20,000 Covid patients before other services, such as routine surgery, would be disrupted. Hospitals are currently treating just over 10,000 patients - and are expected to get close to the 20,000-mark in the coming weeks, given the infection levels seen recently.
Nearly one-third of all intensive care beds in Spain occupied by coronavirus patients
A third of Spain’s intensive care unit (ICU) beds are now occupied by coronavirus patients, according to the latest report on the pandemic supplied on Tuesday by the Health Ministry. In total, 2,754 people are receiving intensive care treatment for Covid-19, 104 more than on Monday, and with 531 more admissions than discharges. Since the pandemic took hold in March, a total of 15,898 patients have needed ICU treatment for the coronavirus.
France ups its lockdown police patrols
France reinstated a one-month national lockdown on Friday (October 30) to try and contain the resurgence of the pandemic. Movement is restricted to 1 kilometre from one's residence, with exceptions for reasons such as work that cannot be done from home, family obligations and medical visits. Patrol commander Gilles Foliard said lockdown rules were generally being followed, but that they would be more strict in asking people to show certificates if they were traveling outside the 1-km zone. Violators faced an initial fine of 135 euros, and three violations over 30 days could be penalised by a 3750 euro fine and 6 months' imprisonment.
Australia's Victoria reports no COVID-19 cases for fifth straight day
Australia's coronavirus hot spot of Victoria state on Wednesday reported zero COVID-19 cases for the fifth straight day as states began easing regional border restrictions, raising prospects of a faster return to normal. South Australia on Tuesday said it would reopen its border with Victoria in two weeks, while the country's most populous state of New South Wales is expected to take a decision on border restrictions later in the day. Victoria last week ago allowed restaurants and cafes in state capital Melbourne - home to 5 million people - to reopen after more than three months under a stringent lockdown but gatherings remain under tight control.
Will Melbourne ever be the same again post COVID lockdown?
Will Melbourne bounce back once it has conquered the coronavirus pandemic, or will COVID-19 leave lasting scars on the city, just as the virus appears to do on many of the people who survive it? On Wednesday, Victoria recorded its fifth straight day of no new cases of coronavirus and no deaths after Melburnians spent their first weekend out of lockdown. The pressure is now on for economic recovery, with businesses and the city hoping that people will now be confident to head back into the CBD.
Corporate New Zealand's quick to return to air travel providing massive boost to travel industry
Zoom may have been one of the buzzwords of 2020, but more and more New Zealand businesses are returning to a different kind of zooming: flying. Research from travel management company FCM Travel Solutions - which is part of the Flight Centre Travel Group - shows a staggering 56 percent of New Zealand businesses have employees and executives flying as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on internationally. That puts Aotearoa's rate six percent above the global average. Nick Queale, General Manager Flight Centre Corporate says FCM bookings show that after the first period of national lockdown and compared to the same time last year, travel bookings returned to 11 percent within one week, and 24 percent within five weeks.
Australia records one local COVID-19 case, New Zealand quarantine worker tests positive
Australia reported on Tuesday one locally acquired case of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, while New Zealand registered its first community transmissions in more than two weeks, after two workers at a quarantine facility tested positive. Australia's most populous state of New South Wales reported the single case, although it and northeastern Queensland state said there were six infections among people returning from overseas and in quarantine. The result means that the southeastern state of Victoria, the epicentre of Australia's outbreak, has now gone four days without any new infections detected. With infections curtailed, South Australia said it would reopen the border with Victoria in two weeks. Anyone travelling from Victoria will have to quarantine for two weeks after arrival, said South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.
Jordan suffers Covid surge after early success against virus
Rates of new Covid-19 cases in Jordan have risen to among the highest in the world a few months after the kingdom appeared to have eliminated community transmission of the virus and relaxed most public health restrictions. As recently as three months ago, Jordan was counted alongside New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam as a coronavirus success story, after going weeks without detecting infections in the community and registering just over 1,100 cases and 11 deaths as of late July. On Monday this week the country of 10 million people announced it had detected a daily record 5,877 cases – one of the highest per capita rates in the world – with more than 80,000 detected overall. Nearly 970 people have died.
Nearly 600 NHS staff are off work amid Covid outbreak at hospitals in Stoke and Stafford as six workers at trust test positive for coronavirus after sharing car without wearing masks
Nearly 600 NHS staff at hospitals in Stoke and Stafford are self-isolating. Trust reported nearly 1,000 staff are off sick amid the coronavirus pandemic. Six workers fell ill with Covid-19 after not wearing face masks in car share
Healthcare Innovations
Tiny air pollution rise linked to 11% more Covid-19 deaths – study
A small rise in people’s long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with an 11% increase in deaths from Covid-19, research has found. Another recent study suggests that 15% of all Covid-19 deaths around the world are attributable to dirty air. The available data only allows correlations to be established and further work is needed to confirm the connections, but the researchers said the evidence was now strong enough that levels of dirty air must be considered a key factor in handling coronavirus outbreaks. The new analysis is based on research reported by the Guardian in April, which has now been reviewed by independent scientists and published in a prominent journal. The consideration of additional data and more factors that may also influence Covid-19 death rates refined the rise in deaths from 15% down to 11%. Most scientists think it is very likely that air pollution increases the number and severity of Covid-19 cases. Breathing dirty air over years is already known to cause heart and lung disease, and these illnesses make coronavirus infections worse. Short-term exposure is also known to increase the risk of acute lung infections.
Scientists develop “ultrapotent” COVID-19 vaccine candidate
Scientists have developed vaccine candidate for COVID that produces “extremely high levels” of protective antibodies in animal models, an advance that may lead to a novel therapeutic to curb pandemic
COVID-19 tracker: Fosun pivots to BioNTech's 2nd shot for Chinese nod; AstraZeneca on track for 2020 data reveal
AstraZeneca fell short of its target to supply the U.K. with 30 million vaccine doses by September, the country's vaccine taskforce chief, Kate Bingham, said. Meanwhile, Russia's Sputnik V vaccine has reportedly hit manufacturing and quality control challenges. Singapore's Breathonix said its COVID-19 breathalyzer achieved at least 90% accuracy in an ongoing pilot study. Becton Dickinson scored a deal to provide millions of rapid antigen tests to the Netherlands. And the FDA on Tuesday warned that antigen tests could yield false positives if users fail to follow instructions closely. The worldwide case count passed 47.6 million Wednesday afternoon, with more than 1.2 million reported deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 dashboard.