"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 13th Nov 2020

Isolation Tips
Call for ‘designated visitors’ to tackle coronavirus care home loneliness
Care home providers and relatives today called on the Government to urgently allow each resident to have a “designated visitor” to help tackle “heartbreaking loneliness”. The plan would mean that each resident has at least one designated visitor who, like care home staff, would be tested for Covid-19 weekly and wear protective PPE, allowing them to make regular visits safely. This would alleviate the isolation of residents, some of whom have been denied visits for nine months. The Government agreed to pilot the approach in October but there are claims it is dragging its feet.
Pandemic and lockdown fuelled domestic violence, new study confirms
Australia’s pandemic and lockdown fuelled a significant rise in domestic violence, according to a new study published yesterday by the Australian Institute of Criminology. Researchers explored the relationship between social isolation, time spent at home, financial stress and domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic – with some startling results. The paper found that most women who were victims had not experienced violence by their partner prior to the pandemic, for example. Of those who had, two-thirds experienced further violence during this period.
Hygiene Helpers
Pharma companies must open their books on the funding agreements for covid-19 vaccines
Recently, the Financial Times reported that there is an important limitation to pharmaceutical corporation AstraZeneca’s not-for-profit promises on the production of their covid-19 vaccine. With hundreds of other vaccines under development, supported by an exceptional level of public funding, this is a cause for concern. Pharmaceutical corporations must open their books, make all funding and licensing agreements public, and substantiate any no-profit claims with data. We know that pharma does not tend to share this information willingly, so it is time for governments to take charge, demand transparency, and put their commitments to equitable access of covid-19 vaccines into action. As someone working on innovation and access to healthcare issues for Médecins Sans Frontières, an international medical humanitarian organisation, and a person living with cystic fibrosis who is at high risk of severe covid-19, we can see how groundbreaking a safe, effective, and affordable covid-19 vaccine would be in our joint global journey towards normality.
How China claimed victory over the coronavirus
Millions have been tested in response to recent outbreaks and Chinese infections are well below many other countries. Lockdowns and mass testing are China’s main weapons in the fight against the pandemic
Where COVID lurks: Restaurants and gyms are behind infection surge and where you're most likely to catch virus, while malls, convenience stores and pharmacies are all low-risk, cell phone tracking data suggests
A computer model analyzed 10 cities and looked at where people go during the day, how long they stay and the occupancy. It found most COVID-19 occur at 'superspreader' sites, such as coffee shops, full-service restaurants and gyms Keeping department stores, convenience stores, gas stations and pharmacies open contributed relatively few additional infections. Next, they created trade off charts to determine how limited occupancy could reduce infection risk. In Chicago, reopening at 100% occupancy would lead to nearly 3.5 million cases but a 20% occupancy cap would only lead to about 500,000 new infections. In Los Angeles, full capacity would lead to more than three million new cases but limiting occupancy reduce the number of infections by 75%
Spanish government to reduce sales tax on face masks from 21% to 4%
Spain will reduce the rate of sales tax on face masks from 21% to 4%, said the government on Wednesday. Finance Minister and government spokesperson María Jesús Montero said in Congress yesterday that the Cabinet will approve a decree next week reducing the value added tax (VAT) on these products, which are mandatory in public spaces for everyone aged six and above. The compulsory use of face masks has been in place for months, as Spain continues to struggle to curb the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, the number of reported single-day fatalities reached 411, a number unseen since the days of the full lockdown in the spring.
Spain will require a negative COVID test for residents of high-risk countries starting Nov. 23
Travellers bound for Spain from countries considered high-risk areas for the coronavirus will be asked to provide proof of a negative test to visit the European country, authorities said Wednesday. Starting Nov. 23, travellers to Spain will be required to submit a negative test result from within 72 hours prior to their planned departure. They will be able to do so via the internet, a smartphone application, or with a document before boarding a plane or boat. The proof of being virus-free before traveling will come on top of the temperature checks performed on arriving passengers at Spain’s airports and ports. The measure will apply to countries designated as “high risk.”
COVID-19: Test and Trace still missing four in 10 contacts of those who tested positive
Test and Trace reached 60.4% of contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus in the week ending 4 November, latest figures show. This is slightly up on the previous week's figure of 59.9%, making it one of the lowest rates since the scheme began. Figures also show that 149,253 people tested positive for coronavirus at least once in England in the same week - the highest weekly number since the system was launched in May, and an 8% increase on the previous week.
Covid-19: Government faces legal action over £75m contract for antibody tests
Legal action has been launched over the UK government’s award of a £75m (€84m; $99m) contract for one million antibody tests to a business consortium, alleging that the deal unlawfully bypassed safeguards protecting taxpayers’ money. Judicial review proceedings issued on 11 November by the Good Law Project, a not-for-profit legal organisation, say that the government was actively involved in setting up the UK Rapid Test Consortium and gave it £10m to buy components to manufacture testing kits. The contract to purchase the AbC-19 Rapid Tests was signed without a public tender and without evaluating the accuracy of the tests, the action says. This, the Good Law Project claim argues, raises serious concerns about the maladministration of public funds. A study1 published in The BMJ this week questions the accuracy of the AbC-19 test and suggests that, if used in real life settings, the test would result in a large number of false positive results. These conclusions contrast with an earlier (not yet peer reviewed) study suggesting that the test gave no false positive results.
Community Activities
Families make the dash across SA to be re-united with loved ones in Western Australia
Campers and caravans are on the move in South Australia as the WA hard border is set to come down early on Saturday morning. For some families, it's been an emotional trek to reunite with their loved ones. Newcastle couple Pete and Kim Mackie haven't seen their children and grandchildren in Perth for 11 months, and said they've skipped the sightseeing through South Australia to take the direct route to be with their family.
Germany’s protests against coronavirus restrictions are becoming increasingly radical
Around 9:30 on a quiet Sunday morning late last month, a crudely made explosive device went off with a small bang and a flash in central Berlin near the building of an association of German scientific institutes. A note found nearby demanded the end to coronavirus restrictions. Just a few hours earlier, molotov cocktails had been tossed at the front of the Robert Koch Institute, the German federal agency responsible for controlling the virus. The incidents come against the backdrop of a growing violent undercurrent at large-scale street demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions, including one attended by 20,000 people Saturday in Leipzig. The developments point to an increasingly radicalized movement of virus skeptics in Germany, embraced by the country’s far-right extremist groups and energized by global conspiracy theories, notably those put forth by the U.S.-born QAnon movement.
Gates Foundation adds $70 million more funding for COVID vaccines for poor
The Gates Foundation added another $70 million of funding on Thursday to global efforts to develop and distribute vaccines and treatments against the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it hoped other international donors would now also pledge more. An extra $50 million will go to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) led by the GAVI vaccine alliance, the foundation said, and another $20 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) which is co-funding development of several COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
Boosting Psychological, Social Well-Being Could Play Role In Countering Conspiracy Theories, Misinformation About COVID-19, Opinion Piece Says
To counter conspiracy theories, boost well-being - Aleksandra Cichocka, political psychologist at the University of Kent and affiliate of the Nicolaus Copernicus University....“…[T]hose who believe conspiracy theories are less likely than those who don’t to comply with public health measures. The World Health Organization has called on countries to manage the spread of false information. But how? … [The Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories] concludes that it is easier to spread them than to refute them. Correcting entrenched beliefs is very difficult. So it is better to prevent falsehoods taking root than to try to weed them out. That means looking beyond their content and the platforms and algorithms that fuel their spread. We need to examine what makes people susceptible. … The COVID-19 pandemic created a perfect storm for vulnerability to conspiracy narratives. Uncertainty and anxiety are high. Lockdown and social distancing bring isolation.
Working Remotely
Work-from-home perks will outlast COVID-19. What this means
Before the pandemic, software engineer Allen Dantes commuted every day from his apartment in Mar Vista to the Playa Vista headquarters of ChowNow, about four miles away. The online food ordering platform sent employees home in March until further notice, leaving Dantes, 27, to work from the small two-bedroom apartment he shared with his girlfriend. A few weeks ago, they moved into a 1,500-square-foot three-bedroom, two-bathroom Craftsman they bought for $415,000.
Would You Change Jobs To Ensure Permanent Remote Working? Over Half Say Yes.
With ever rising cases in Covid-19 and remote work seemingly the norm for the forseeable future, it’s an open question whether this trend will continue once we are all permitted to return to our workplaces. The biggest U.S. tech giants of Google, Apple, Facebook etc. have all said yes to the newer ways of working, but what say the workers? It is uncontroversial to say some have loved the potential idea of working remotely permanently, while others have shown a little more apprehension. This piqued the interest of tech company Tehama, whose core "Desktop as a Service" (DaaS) business relies on prolonged industrial remote working. Tehama commissioned a questionnaire to ascertain the future of work patterns — Is this feasible? What extra demands would remote workers want from a company?
Staff Who Continue To Work Remotely Should Pay A “Privilege” Tax, Deutsche Bank Says
Employees who choose to continue working from home beyond the Covid-19 pandemic should be taxed to help support workers whose jobs are under threat, a new report from Deutsche Bank Research has suggested. The controversial “Konzept” report says that workers should be taxed 5% for each day that they choose to work remotely. Deutsche Bank argues this taxation is fair as remote workers are saving money and not paying into the system like those who have to go out to work. An average person would be no worse off if they paid this tax, the report claims, because by working remotely they save money on travel, food, and clothes. Deutsche Bank thematic strategist Luke Templeman said that a tax on remote workers had been needed for years but "Covid-19 has just made it obvious."
Remote work has built – rather than broken – trust among colleagues. Here’s how
Remote work has enabled us to have a new-found appreciation for the acquisition of skills and allowed us to witness manifestations of our shared values in a more transparent way.
Virtual Classrooms
Teachers in Pennsylvania demanding virtual learning as COVID-19 cases surge
The largest teachers union in Pennsylvania is demanding that school districts in nearly two dozen counties with the worst coronavirus outbreaks have students temporarily learn from home. State officials recommend virtual instruction in counties with a “substantial” level of community transmission. There are 23 such counties at present.
Ag in the classroom goes virtual
Ontario’s Agriculture In The Classroom program, called AgScape, delivered more than 600 lessons about agriculture and food to nearly 15,000 students in the province in 2019. That’s a whopping three times as many as 2018. And it certainly helps give more students factual, science-based insight into where their food comes from and how the multi-billion-dollar industry here works. “Teachers are hearing about us and asking for our services,” new executive director Taylor Selig said in an interview earlier this week. But surprisingly, requests for 200 more lessons went unfulfilled because this non-profit charity didn’t have the resources to deliver them.
How to manage kids’ attention during virtual learning (and prevent meltdowns)
For many families, the transition to virtual learning during the pandemic comes with some challenges. Students may be struggling to stay focused, resulting in distracted or unproductive behavior. To help resolve these issues, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt education innovators launched Family Room, a family-friendly online space that makes at-home learning more manageable for parents and students.
Distance learning is straining parent-teacher relationships
Renee Enyart, 28, was across the room from her sixth-grader when it happened. She glanced over and saw her daughter Emi, who was virtually attending science class at their home in Winter Haven, Fla., reaching for her laptop’s power cable. Suddenly, a sharp voice rang out from the speakers. “It was just an instant scolding: ‘I told you to look at the screen. You know what you’re supposed to be doing. I shouldn’t have to tell you guys,’ ” Enyart recalled.
Public Policies
South Korea in final talks over COVID-19 vaccines, seeks supplies for 60% population
South Korea is in final talks with global drugmakers including Pfizer Inc over potential coronavirus vaccines as it seeks to secure supplies to cover 60% of its population this year, health authorities said on Thursday. The government has allotted 172 billion won (116.57 million pounds) to purchase an initial 60 million doses to fend off persistent COVID-19 outbreaks that have pummelled Asia’s fourth-largest economy and upended daily life for its 52 million people. This week, Pfizer said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective amid a hastened global race to contain the pandemic which has killed more than 1 million people since it emerged in China late last year.
Covid-19 restrictions in NI extended for one more week
Covid-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland will be extended for one more week with a partial reopening of some sectors next Friday, in a compromise reached by the executive. A proposal from DUP Economy Minister Diane Dodds was supported by the Ulster Unionists and Alliance. Sinn Féin voted against the move and the SDLP abstained. It means close contact services and unlicensed premises can reopen on Friday, 20 November.
A national coronavirus lockdown would be 'the absolute last resort,' Democratic senator says
In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of President-Elect Joe Biden’s 12-person coronavirus task force, floated the idea of a four- to six-week lockdown to bring the coronavirus to heel. The virus that has killed around 250,000 people in the U.S. is on track to hit 150,000 new cases per day by the end of the week. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), in a separate interview with Yahoo Finance, said a lockdown would be “the absolute last resort” and suggested an array of priorities to fight the pandemic.
Coronavirus UK: Now 70 rebel Tory MPs oppose lockdown extension
Covid Recovery Group has formed to oppose a third national lockdown after current one ends in December. The group initially formed with 50 Tory MPs, but is said to have grown to 70, with 25 more considering joining. It comes amid fears Britons could face more confusion when current lockdown comes to an end in December. Government is now looking again at Tier system and treating regions together rather than cities individually. New tougher Tier 4 for some regions that struggle to manage infection rates has been mooted for weeks
German health minister says it’s too early to tell if its partial Covid lockdown will be extended
It is “too early to say” whether Germany will extend its four-week partial lockdown, according to health minister Jens Spahn. “We need patience, actually, because the numbers of today actually are the infections that have taken place one week or more days ago,” Spahn told CNBC. “It will be the end of this week that we might see the results of the new lockdown light we have now,” he added.
Two weeks into new lockdown, France faces further restrictions as cases surge
French Prime Minister, Jean Castex will hold a press conference on Thursday evening, looking at the Covid-19 situation, two weeks after the latest lockdown regulations. With the number of infections continuing to rise, few commentators are optimistic that there'll be any relaxation of restrictions. Paris centrist newspaper Le Monde has asked the prime minister what he'll say at Thursday's press conference. "We'll see if we're in a position to relax or reinforce the current regulations,on the basis of the latest statistics" Castex said. But, while admitting that there was evidence of a slight slowdown in the number of French infections, he added that "this is certainly not the moment to lower our guard".
Is India heading towards another lockdown from December 1? PIB clarifies
As coronavirus cases are continuing to spike significantly in the country, there are a lot of rumours doing the rounds that the government might impose another lockdown in the country in December. It is to be noted that Britain has also announced Lockdown-2 after France to control the outbreak which is overwhelming the public health system. In fact, the second wave also started in India. Recently, AIIMS Delhi director Randeep Guleria warned that the second wave of coronavirus in India has begun. People should not leave the house unless absolutely necessary, he added. Guleria's statement came at a time when the number of corona patients is increasing significantly across the country
Bolsonaro's clash with Sao Paulo governor over the Chinese vaccine tainted with politics
Brazil’s national health regulator allowed clinical trials of a Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccine to resume on Wednesday, two days after suspending them in what critics called a decision tainted by politics. The regulatory agency, Anvisa, said it had now received more details on the nature of the adverse “incident” that led it to halt final stage trials of the CoronaVac vaccine, and had “sufficient information to allow vaccination to resume.” Public health officials had said the incident that led to the suspension – a volunteer recipient’s death, which police are investigating as a suicide – had no connection with the vaccine.
Biden COVID-19 adviser floats plan to pay for national lockdown lasting up to six weeks
A top health adviser to President-elect Joe Biden suggested that the nation is well-positioned financially to withstand a lockdown of more than a month in an effort to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. "When you look at the personal savings rate in this country, it's now gone from about 8 percent to over 22 percent. We have a big pool of money out there that we could borrow. The historic low interest rates by the federal government, we could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for our losses to small companies to medium sized companies, for city states, county governments. We could do all of that," said Michael Osterholm during a live event this week with Yahoo News.
Victoria zeroes in on last step out of lockdown
Victoria has again recorded no new cases of coronavirus and no further deaths, for the 13th day in a row. There are three active cases in the state and there were more than 20,000 tests processed in the last day, Health Minister Martin Foley said. "This extraordinary figure of over 20,000 shows Victorians want to stay safe and stay open by coming forward in such extraordinary numbers even with the slightest of symptoms. I would urge all Victorians to continue to do so." Mr Foley said.
New Zealand partially shuts central Auckland over mystery Covid case
Health authorities in New Zealand are partially shutting down the central city of Auckland on Friday, asking workers in the city to stay home as they try to trace how a student became infected with Covid-19. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are asking people who work in downtown Auckland to work from home tomorrow where possible,” Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins said. The number of workers in Auckland central business district instructed to stay home on Friday is 100,000. “If you must go into this area, please use masks and social distancing while health authorities continue work to trace the source of this infection.”
German minister sees COVID-19 restrictions through winter
Germany’s health minister said on Thursday he expects restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic will continue through winter, with life unlikely to get back to normal in December or January even if infections fall. “I don’t see events with more than 10 or 15 people happening this winter,” Jens Spahn told RBB broadcaster. Germany reported 21,866 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 727,553 and jumping back above 20,000 after four days below that figure, while the death toll rose by 215 to 11,982, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s states are due to meet on Monday to review whether partial lockdown measures imposed on Nov. 2 have been enough to slow a steep rise in new infections that risks overwhelming hospitals.
Maintaining Services
U.S. govt partners with pharmacy chains to increase COVID-19 vaccine access
The U.S. government is partnering with regional pharmacy chains and independent community pharmacies to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines whenever they are made available, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday. The partnership will cover about 60% of pharmacies throughout the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. health agency said. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, CVS Health Corp, Walmart Inc, Kroger Co and Costco Wholesale Corp are among the companies that have so far agreed to participate, the U.S. agency said in a statement.
Italian hospitals face breaking point in fall virus surge
Dr. Luca Cabrini was certain his hospital in the heart of Lombardy‘s lake district would reach its breaking point caring for 300 COVID-19 patients. So far, virus patients fill 500 beds and counting. Italy, which shocked the world and itself when hospitals in the wealthy north were overwhelmed with coronavirus cases last spring, is again facing a systemic crisis, as confirmed positives pass the symbolic threshold of 1 million. “We are very close to not keeping up. I cannot say when we will reach the limit, but that day is not far off,” said Cabrini, who runs the intensive care ward at Varese’s Circolo hospital, the largest in the province of 1 million people northwest of Milan.
Catalonia’s bars and restaurants to remain closed 10 more days
On a day when the official death toll from Covid-19 in Spain exceeded 40,000 since the start of the pandemic, authorities in several parts of the country announced new restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. The Catalan government on Thursday announced that bars and restaurants across the region will remain closed for an additional 10-day period in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Food and drink establishments have been closed for a month, and will remain so at least until November 23. The measure has evidenced a division of opinion among the governing partners and it has also met with criticism from all affected sectors of the economy.
New survey shows more than half the French flout Covid-19 lockdown rules
The Ifop survey confirmed that the French are taking the second nationwide shutdown far less seriously than the first in March-April. It showed that 60 percent had flouted the rules at least once, either by giving a false reason for going out on their self-signed permission slip or by meeting up with family and friends. The figure was far higher than during the first lockdown when the proportion of rule-breakers stood at under 40 percent during the first six weeks.
New EU Travel Bans: Country By Country Covid-19 Restrictions As Europe Locks Down
In a week when most European countries saw hospitals reach near-saturation point, many nations had no choice but to implement lockdowns, curfews and new travel restrictions. The U.K. reached 50,000 deaths, many countries moved from implementing curfews to full lockdowns, Denmark and other countries restricted movement due to a Covid-19 outbreak in minks and many European countries entered red lists, meaning residents from those countries cannot travel without a negative PCR test.
As U.S. Breaks Hospitalization Records, N.Y. and Other States Add Restrictions
With coronavirus cases surging in New York and across the country, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that private indoor and outdoor gatherings statewide would be limited to 10 people and that gyms, bars and restaurants must close daily at 10 p.m. The restrictions will take effect Friday, and Mr. Cuomo said that local governments will be responsible for enforcing them. The limit on gatherings will apply to private homes. The curfew will apply only to bars and restaurants licensed by the state liquor authority, and restaurants can continue to provide takeout and delivery after 10 p.m., but only for food. Mr. Cuomo said that officials were moved to announce the new restrictions as they confronted an increase in cases.
Healthcare Innovations
Another Covid-19 breakthrough as researchers find inhaled multiple sclerosis drug proven to work
Just 13 per cent of patients given SNG001 fell ill enough to need intensive care. That was compared to 22 per cent of Covid patients who received a placebo. SNG001 uses naturally-occurring protein interferon beta which fights viruses
Asian people are more likely to get Covid-19 and die, study claims
Researchers combed through data of 18million people in 50 studies. They found higher risk of infection in Asian and black people compared to white. But only those of Asian ethnicity had higher odds of ICU or death. Although the study is the largest of its kind, it still leaves questions unanswered