"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 20th Nov 2020

Isolation Tips
Here’s seven tips to become a more sustainable UoB student in isolation
During the first national coronavirus lockdown, vital environmental changes occurred and triggered a huge surge of hope for the recovery of the planet’s ecosystems. Although it was amazing to see nature re-claiming the environment, its important to continue doing our bit for the planet outside of simply staying at home and not using our cars as much. Earlier in the year, people gathered in Birmingham City Centre to protest against climate change – and in January this year the UK’s first citizens climate change assembly was held in Birmingham with Sir David Attenborough making an appearance. Unfortunately, some of these things aren’t currently feasible, but there are still a number of ways to do your bit. Here is a list of seven tips to being a sustainable student, particularly during isolation…
Hygiene Helpers
Lockdowns could be avoided if 95% of people wore masks, says WHO
Lockdowns could be avoided if everyone followed health measures such as wearing masks, the World Health Organization's top Europe official said at a Thursday news briefing. WHO Europe's Regional Director Hans Kluge stressed that lockdowns should be a "last resort," and urged the public to follow guidance to help to prevent deaths. He said that if 95% of people wore masks, instead of the current 60%, "lockdowns would not be needed" -- although he added that mask use was not a "panacea" and needed to be combined with other measures. "If we all do our share, lockdowns are avoidable," Kluge said.
Covid-19: St Andrews University to roll out free tests for students before Christmas
St Andrews University students will be offered free Covid-19 tests before they head home to visit family at Christmas. People without symptoms, will be able to get a test whether or not they plan to leave St Andrews over the festive break. They will be voluntary but students have been strongly advised to take them as young people are more likely to have no symptoms, even if they have the virus. The university plans to open a testing centre it its own sports centre by November 30. Students will be offered a lateral-flow test, which involves taking a swab from the mouth and nose in a process that takes just a few minutes. Results will be received within 24 hours.
Robin Swann aims to push for an 'ambitious' mass Covid-19 testing programme
The Health Minister has said Northern Ireland should push for a mass testing system as seen in Liverpool, but warned such an ambitious plan would take time. Speaking at a Stormont health briefing on Wednesday, Robin Swann said he had already raised the issue with Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Mr Swann added that rapid progress on a Covid-19 vaccine could bring hope by the spring, but further restrictions before Christmas would still be inevitable. It comes as the Department of Health confirmed a further 11 Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland, bringing the total to 889.
A gym trainer exposed 50 athletes to Covid-19, but no one else got sick because of a ventilation redesign
A Virginia gym owner thought she had a nightmare scenario on her hands when she learned that 50 athletes were potentially exposed to Covid-19 particles by one of the gym's coaches. But not a single member ended up contracting the virus, thanks to the extra safety precautions and ventilation measures she put in place. Velvet Minnick, 44, is the owner and head coach at 460 Fitness in Blacksburg, Virginia. Like many gym owners across the nation, she was forced to shut down the facility in March due to coronavirus. They rented out equipment and held Zoom classes, but it wasn't long before members were burned out. As the state entered Phase 2 of reopening in June, Minnick was allowed to have athletes back inside her facility. She knew one member, however, who could help her get people back while keeping them safe.
Social connections with COVID-19–affected areas increase compliance with mobility restrictions
We study the role of social connections in compliance of U.S. households with mobility restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, using aggregated and anonymized Facebook data on social connections and mobile phone data for measuring social distancing at the county level. Relative to the average restriction efficacy, a county with one-SD more social connections with China and Italy—the first countries with major COVID-19 outbreaks—has a nearly 50% higher compliance with mobility restrictions. By contrast, social connections of counties with less-educated populations, a higher Trump vote share, and a higher fraction of climate change deniers show decreased compliance with mobility restrictions. Our analysis suggests that social connections are conduits of information about the pandemic and an economically important factor affecting compliance with, and impact of, mobility restrictions.
Community Activities
Snape Maltings to host virtual tea dance to combat isolation during lockdown
The organisation which runs Snape Maltings is staging popular virtual tea dances to help bring some normality back to people’s lives during the coronavirus crisis - and tackle social isolation. Tea dances at Snape Maltings have been hugely popular, becoming valued by residents of East Suffolk care homes, their carers and people of all ages for the opportunity to socialise in a warm, welcoming environment and enjoy music, dancing, tea and cake. This year, bringing people together in a physical venue is not possible - so instead, Britten Pears Arts is planning a virtual version of the Tea Dance, taking place on Tuesday, December 8 at 2pm.
To beat Covid-19 will take far more than a new vaccine
We are entering a new phase of Covid-19 as interim data, first from Pfizer and BioNTech, and then Moderna, show promise of a safe and effective vaccine. More candidates are expected to follow — Sanofi has two vaccines in trials. One, a collaboration with GSK, is based on our flu vaccine and data from phase 1 and 2 studies will come shortly. The second is a messenger RNA vaccine similar in approach to Pfizer and Moderna. But, having a vaccine is only one facet in the complicated war to contain the virus.Distribution is perhaps the biggest hurdle. Vaccines are not interchangeable and ensuring that individuals get two doses, if required, of the same vaccine is critical. There may also be issues with safeguarding potency. Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines need to be stored at minus 20C and about minus 70C respectively, and used within five or 30 days of being refrigerated. Pharmaceutical companies are rushing to develop transportable cold storage containers and logistics companies are building freezer farms. Mass vaccination clinics, such as the UK’s repurposed Nightingale hospitals, could help distribution in cities.
How China crushed coronavirus
Hong Wei returned to his hometown of Luoyang in Henan province for the Spring Festival in early February. It took a few days for the gateway of his residential compound to be cordoned off, signalling that only residents should enter. For Hong, this was just the first sign of the mass mobilisation of people that has characterised China’s remarkably successful response to the coronavirus pandemic. Hong’s uncle had already stocked up on all the ingredients to serve roast meat, braised fish and soup at his restaurant ready for what is usually his most lucrative period, but once state media began telling people to stay at home, he voluntarily closed his restaurant
Covid could change our tolerance of flu deaths
Another, more lethal seasonal risk is the flu — in a bad year, as many as 25,000 people die from the virus in England alone. Yet this year, thanks in large part to lockdowns, flu cases are way down across the world and are likely to stay that way. That’s because the habits we’ve adopted to limit the spread of coronavirus — handwashing, mask-wearing and distancing — are effective for other respiratory pathogens too. “The measures we’re taking are enough to essentially eliminate flu,” says David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University. A study by the US Centers for Disease Control has found huge falls in flu activity both in the southern hemisphere’s winter and in the US summer season.
Northern authorities will 'not hesitate' to block anti-vax Covid-19 conspiracy theorists who could 'cost lives'
Councils across the north-east and Highlands have promised to police their public-facing online channels to avoid myths being spread and “threatening public safety”. The Grampian and Highland health boards have also urged responsible social media use during the pandemic, warning their comments sections will be monitored. Glasgow City Council hit out at the so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’ on Tuesday, promising to block those making “false and dangerous claims” which could “cost lives”. The P&J has sought assurances from northern authorities that similarly robust action would be taken to ensure key public health information can be distilled from the sea of coronavirus fearmongering online.
Working Remotely
Covid-19 shift to remote working adds to Earth’s growing e-waste problem
The uptick in remote working-related IT kit purchases caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has sparked concerns over how enterprises are planning to deal with the increase in electronic waste (e-waste) these deployments may cause.
Flexible vs remote working: why understanding the difference between the two is so important
Although the majority of us probably didn’t have ‘adapt to a whole new way of working’ on our to-do lists for 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to change our approach. Gone are the days when our 9-5 was dominated by office chat and rounds of tea – in 2020, a combination of makeshift desks, daily Zoom calls and endless emails has become our ‘new normal’.
4 Powerful Ways To Improve Creative Collaboration When Working Remotely
The pandemic changed the way we work almost overnight. Offices went dark as employees switched to remote work, and teams had to find new ways to collaborate. Research shows that telecommuting can make us more productive when faced with creative tasks, but being stuck at home indefinitely can leave us feeling uninspired. Working as a team on creative projects is even more difficult. According to a recent report, collaboration is one of remote employees’ top challenges. Brainstorming via Slack and Zoom just isn’t the same as bouncing ideas around in the office. But just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean creative collaboration has to suffer. You just need some fresh ideas for working together while apart.
5 Ways To Make Remote Working Your New And Better Normal
The pandemic has changed so much about our lives, including how we work. COVID-19 forced companies to switch to remote working quickly, but as more and more people work from home for more extended periods, many believe it will become the new normal for the way work gets done. A study by global digital consultancy Publicis Sapient found that remote workers want the flexibility to work from home in some capacity even after offices reopen. Close to 40% of US respondents said they'd prefer to work remotely full-time, and only 16% said they would want to go into the office every day.
Union calls for more public holidays, increased remote working and four-day week
Trade union Fórsa is calling for more public holidays, an increase in remote working and the introduction of a four-day working week. Reduced working time is better for business, workers, women and the environment, it said. Ireland’s largest public sector union is calling for pilot projects to explore the feasibility of a four-day working week without loss of pay or productivity. Speaking at the Fórsa biennial conference today, the union’s vice-president Eugene Gargan said automation and other new technologies were set to erode “vast volumes” of routine work.
Managers are much more positive about flexible working and staff working from home since the pandemic - says new study.
Managers are much more positive about their staff working from home and working flexibly since lockdown says a new study undertaken jointly by the Equal Parenting Project at the University of Birmingham and the Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance at the University of Kent.
What does a growing need for remote working mean for the NHS?
The coronavirus pandemic has brought in a remote working revolution in the NHS, which brings with it new challenges and opportunities. An HSJ webinar, supported by IBM, explored this key issue. When David Probert reflects on how the pandemic has changed his organisation’s approach to remote working, he doesn’t hold back. “From a clinical perspective, I would be as bold as to say we’ve probably squashed 10 years of digital transformation into about three months.”
Virtual Classrooms
COVID-19 Is Forever Changing How Students Experience Libraries
There’s a ritual that kicks off every new quarter in Michelle Luhtala’s library at New Canaan High School, one where English teachers send a gaggle of students through her doors to pick a new batch of books. It looked different when the campus reopened in mid-October, when she had students select their books through an online portal to be delivered to their classrooms the next day. “We can’t have kids pluck books off the shelves,” says Luhtala, the library department chair for her Connecticut school and an expert in emerging library technology. “Typically droves of kids come down and get fresh books, and it’s a whole time for exchange and fun and conversation about what they read, and having to do that virtually is not nearly as fun as it is in person.”
Addressing the Demands of Virtual University Classrooms
For some students and professors, the loss of in-person contact has disrupted higher education and the experiences that often accompany it. #“I have found that distance learning is riddled with challenges,” said senior Sophia Jaimes, a psychology major at Marymount University. “Personally, I am very much a student who learns best when I am in a learning environment with a teacher who I can ask immediate questions to. When I have to use Zoom I find myself often being distracted or, at times, feeling awkward to talk on Zoom since I may not know my peers.” As Marymount and other universities and colleges prepare for all-remote learning after Thanksgiving, students and professors are pondering the ways in which academics will be affected. Linda McKenna Gulyn, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Marymount, has written a paper that addresses some of the problems that her colleagues and students might be experiencing in the uncharted territory of virtual campuses. #“Colleges and universities are faced with the need to adapt and evolve without a script,” said Linda Gulyn, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Marymount University in Arlington. “Hundreds of experienced and highly regarded professors feel like clunky beginners as they redesign and deliver their courses online.”
Closing the digital divide for all NC students
Significant numbers of students have had challenges connecting to their virtual classrooms. Our students should be zooming. But instead, many are losing. Today, almost 17 million school-age students do not have access to high-speed home internet. One-third of Hispanic and African American households do not have access to high-speed internet at home, and 17% of Hispanic and African American households do not have a computer. There is a practical fix to this. Public school systems could provide each student with a computer or tablet. Internet providers could expand their low-cost and no-cost internet offerings.
Principal’s Desk: ‘Virtual teaching can not replace classroom teaching’
“It is a supplement to classroom teaching and not a substitute to in-person teaching. The virtual classroom cannot replace the traditional classroom because it is by its very essence or nature is not completely ‘real’.”
‘Remote Learning Is Not Working’: Shutdown Hurts Children, Parents Say
Laura Espinoza took an hourlong subway ride on Thursday morning from her Brooklyn neighborhood to City Hall, where she joined several dozen families gathered to protest Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to shut down the nation’s largest school system as virus cases have surged across the city. Ms. Espinoza has 6-year-old twins, both of whom have disabilities. They were attending school five days a week, a rarity for city students, but now they will have classes at home indefinitely. “They don’t adapt to change quickly, all this back and forth has not been good for them,” Ms. Espinoza said. She added that remote instruction is also taking a toll on her 15-year-old daughter.
Commissioner Indicates Virtual Learning Will Still be an Option in 2021
Parents and school districts in Central Florida are feeling some relief after waiting months for a decision from the state about how kids will be learning next year. While we still don't have a final decision, State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran gave some signs at Wednesday's State Board of Education meeting for those who want virtual hybrid learning options to continue. Orange County mom Kristine Harris said although her kids are already attending school in person, she’s still been waiting anxiously to know whether all kids will going back to brick and mortar schools next year. “Wondering what’s happening and stressing, it’s not fair for us to have to worry about that,” she said.
Public Policies
California orders nightly COVID-19 curfew on gatherings, non-essential activities
California’s governor on Thursday ordered a curfew placed on all indoor social gatherings and non-essential activities outside the home across most of the state in a major escalation of measures to curb an alarming surge in coronavirus infections. The limited stay-at-home restrictions will go into effect from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. each day, starting Saturday night and ending the morning of Dec. 21, covering 41 counties representing over 94% of the state’s population, Governor Gavin Newsom said. “The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the measure.
Stop talking about a ‘national lockdown.' It won’t happen, and it is a distraction.
A national lockdown is not going to happen in the United States. Every time it’s brought up, it distracts attention from practical public health measures that can work to control covid-19. I understand that a “shutdown” or “lockdown” is a convenient shorthand to describe restrictions that states have recently put into place. This week, Washington state closed bars and restaurants for indoor dining and prohibited indoor social gatherings for people in different households. Michigan closed casinos and movie theaters and ended in-person classes for colleges and high schools. And as of Thursday, New York City’s public schools are returning to all-remote instruction. But let’s get our terminology right: These restrictions are not lockdowns. A lockdown is what the Chinese government imposed in February, forcing people to remain in their homes and preventing 780 million people from traveling city to city. A broader definition of lockdown could also include the stay-at-home orders most states instituted in March.
Christmas Covid relaxation to be the same UK-wide
The Scottish Government is working with other UK administrations on a "four nations approach" to easing restrictions to allow families to meet up over the festive period, the First Minister told MSPs.
Optimism in Germany over Covid-19 trends
US president-elect Joe Biden has said he will not order a nationwide shutdown to fight the Covid-19 pandemic despite a surge in cases. States and cities across the United States have been imposing their own restrictions, including home confinement, the closure of indoor dining and a limit on gatherings as infections soar across the country. "There's no circumstance which I can see that would require total national shutdown. I think that would be counterproductive," Mr Biden, who takes office on 20 January, told reporters.
French PM says lockdown to be eased gradually, after ‘mistakes’ of first wave
France's second lockdown is to be eased progressively, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex, who says the first Covid-19 confinement measures were lifted too quickly in May. In order to avoid more "stop and go" measures, the next phase in getting France back in business will involve continued restrictions and closures in some sectors. President Emmanuel Macron is due to address the nation next week about easing the lockdown. The format and date of the presidential address have yet to be decided. While several statistical indicators suggest grounds for optimism, with even Health Minister Olivier Véran saying the peak of the second wave of infections has passed, many government members have stressed that the second lockdown will have to be brought to an end gradually.
The year of the pandemic: a view from South Korea
In the global coronavirus pandemic, South Koreans should be dropping like flies. But they aren’t. Perched on the edge of China, the country is small, about the size of Indiana, though given that 70% of the land is uninhabitable, the realistic comparison is West Virginia. Packed into that space are 51 million people, the populations of Texas and Florida combined. The country should have been decimated after the first infected passenger off the three-hour flight from Wuhan, China, sneezed.
China expands its arsenal in COVID battle
Stringent monitoring of cold-chain food imports and the fine-tuning of lockdown and testing strategies are China's latest weapons in the battle against COVID-19 as the country braces for possible outbreaks this winter. While local transmission of the novel coronavirus has been under control for months, public health experts in China have highlighted the risk of new outbreaks linked to the virus hitching a ride on imports of frozen foods. As domestic life and production return to normal, experts have hailed local governments' efforts to replace blanket lockdowns and citywide tests with more targeted and economical measures to reduce disruption to socioeconomic development.
Coronavirus vaccines: China's Sinopharm claims it has given vaccine to nearly one million people
Sinopharm's chairman said there were no reports of 'serious adverse reactions' He said doses had been given out through China's emergency-use programme He boasted his firm 'is leading the world in all aspects' of coronavirus vaccines Comes after jabs from Pfizer and Moderna were revealed to be 95% effective Oxford University's jab is also found to be 'safe' in people of all ages by a study
Strict, six-day coronavirus lockdown begins in Australian state
One of Australia’s strictest lockdowns began on Thursday with outdoor gatherings, weddings, funerals, takeaway food all coming to a standstill as authorities try to stifle the latest flare-up of the novel coronavirus. Images on social media showed empty streets in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia state, on day one of the state-wide lockdown. Residents flocked to supermarkets to load up with supplies until late on Wednesday.The state, home to about 1.8 million people, has recorded 23 cases from the latest cluster. There were no new infections to report on Thursday while 3,200 close contacts of the infected were in quarantine, the state’s chief public health officer, Nicola Spurrier, said
Ukraine faces 'severe' coronavirus winter but no new lockdown measures, minister says
Ukraine faces a “very severe” period of COVID-19 cases but will not tighten lockdown restrictions because measures taken last week should stabilise the situation, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov told Reuters. The government on Saturday introduced a lockdown at weekends, closing or restricting most businesses except essential services such as grocery shops, pharmacies, hospitals and transport. A member of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s administration resigned over the decision, some mayors refused to comply with the government’s order and some business owners held protests.
Greece tightens lockdown in northern Greece as cases climb
Greece will shut one border crossing with Albania and conduct rapid COVID-19 tests on all visitors at its land borders, its government spokesman said on Thursday, as cases in northern Greece continue to rise unabated. Greece has seen a rapid rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks which forced it to impose a nationwide lockdown, its second this year. Its northern regions, including the city of Thessaloniki, have been hit the most. Visitors entering from land borders are already required to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test conducted at least 72 hours prior travel. Upon arrival, they will be re-tested by Greek authorities. The latest measures will come into effect on Friday morning at 0400 GMT, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, urging residents to also implement restrictions on movement.
Brussels warns Hungary on Russian Covid jab
Brussels has warned that Hungary would risk undermining public confidence in coronavirus vaccinations should it bypass the EU medicines regulator and roll out the Russian jab Budapest plans to trial. The European Commission said on Thursday mass Covid-19 inoculation would become “much harder” if citizens began to question a vaccine because it had not been approved as safe and effective. The comments highlight tensions over Budapest’s decision to run clinical trials next month of the Russian Sputnik V drug, which has not yet been assessed by the European Medicines Agency. While the Brussels statement did not mention Hungary or Sputnik V by name, no other EU member state has announced plans for such a radical move outside the bloc-wide vaccination programme overseen by the commission.
Maintaining Services
These 10 jobs could disappear or decline because of COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis has upended the labor market like no other U.S. recession, wiping out 22.2 million jobs in early spring as states ordered business shutdowns. Since then, about 12 million have been recouped as restaurants and other outlets reopened and brought back furloughed workers.vWhile some of the remaining 10 million lost jobs are expected to return in coming months, many are likely to come back only after a vaccine is widely available next year. Still others may not return for several years, if ever, as the pandemic reshapes the economy, according to a new report by Glassdoor, the job posting and employee review site. “COVID is going to change the way we organize work and the way we spend,” says Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain.
Asylum seekers in the EU must be given access to new Covid-19 vaccines, UN says
Asylum-seekers in the EU should have equal access to promising Covid-19 vaccines, the head of the UN's migration agency told the European Parliament on Thursday. 'It is for the sake of their safety and well-being of the entire host communities' in the countries taking them in, said Antonio Vitorino, director general of the International Organisation for Migration. He was one of several high-profile speakers dialling in for a virtual conference organised by the European Parliament and Germany on migration and asylum in Europe
Finland and Norway Avoid Covid-19 Lockdowns but Keep the Virus At Bay
While the U.S. and Europe struggle to contain an autumn surge in coronavirus infections, two small nations are bucking the trend, keeping cases under control without stringent restrictions. In the north of Europe, Finland and Norway boast the West’s lowest rates of mortality linked to Covid-19 and a low incidence of coronavirus infections even though they have kept their economies and societies largely open while lockdowns returned to the continent. While Sweden has captured global attention with its refusal to adopt mandatory restrictions—a policy now being reversed in the face of spiraling infections and deaths—its two northern neighbors now stand out as the closest Western equivalents to Asian nations that have managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic.
Lockdown 2.0 Shows Europe’s Businesses Are Learning From the Pandemic
European small businesses that survived the first coronavirus lockdowns are getting creative to weather the second wave and the long-term fallout from the pandemic. Faced with the prospects of another recession and uncertainty over how long the crisis may last, firms are fighting to retain existing customers and hunting for new ones to stay afloat. Many have learned from the painful experience of the first lockdown to navigate some of the drastic long-term changes to work and consumer behavior brought about by the virus.
In Autumn in Paris, struggling shops get creative to survive
Toy store owner Marie Boudier is grateful November has been unusually mild in Paris this year - she’s trying to survive France’s second coronavirus lockdown by selling Lego sets and colouring books through her open front door. From behind a trestle table, Boudier has taken to handing over her orders without letting customers in, a makeshift measure replicated up and down her street and across France amid a minefield of dos and don’ts for stores deemed non-essential. “It’s not exactly clear to what extent we’re doing it right,” Boudier said, breaking away to show one shopper little bags of marbles.
Promise of season’s greetings as France lifts lockdown on Christmas trees
Florists in France have been given the green light to sell Christmas trees from Friday, in what many hope is a sign that the government is set to ease the Covid-19 lockdown and allow family celebrations to go ahead. Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said the sale of sapins de Noël was to be limited to outdoors, to allow social distancing. "Many places where Christmas trees can be sold are already open, such as supermarkets and DIY stores," he said. "But for florists, outside sales can also be organised." With the holiday season just around the corner, shop owners are keen on returning to business as usual.
French finance minister calls for postponement of Black Friday amid lockdown
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Wednesday called on supermarkets and on-line retailers to postpone the "Black Friday" sales shopping day due to take place on Nov. 27 as shops selling non-essential goods remained closed during lockdown.
SA police out on empty streets as state goes into first day of lockdown
The busy streets of Adelaide looked like a ghost town as South Australians woke up to their first day in lockdown. On Thursday morning, many chose to sleep in and remained indoors to keep cool as the mercury rose to 36C. Regular peak hour traffic heading into the CBD was nowhere to be seen. While the city was near-empty — with the exception of essential workers — SA Police officers hit the streets to hand out face masks to homeless people and essential workers that passed by. Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told ABC Radio additional patrols would be out over the next six days to ensure South Aussies were complying with the tough restrictions.
UK will set up dozens of mass vaccination centres as soon as vaccines are available - the Telegraph
Britain will set up dozens of mass vaccination centres to immunize people against coronavirus as soon as vaccines are available, the Telegraph reported. One of the first locations for administering Pfizer Inc vaccine from mid-December has been confirmed as being in Derby, the newspaper added.
Healthcare Innovations
Oxford COVID-19 trial will look at interim Phase III data after 53 infections: investigator
Oxford University will start an initial analysis of data from its late-stage trial of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with AstraZeneca after 53 infections among its volunteers, the study’s chief investigator said on Thursday. The Oxford Vaccine Group’s director, Andrew Pollard, said in a media briefing there were “lots of cases” of infections in its Phase III trial in Britain, Brazil and South Africa. The first two sets of interim data from vaccine trials from Pfizer and BioNTech last week and Moderna on Monday were released after more than 90 infections among volunteers. Pfizer had planned to publish initial data after about 60 infections, but it exceeded its target after the big jump in infections recently in the United States.
The known unknowns of T cell immunity to COVID-19
The broad clinical spectrum of COVID-19 indicates widespread intraindividual differences in the host immune defense against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The underlying cause of disease heterogeneity is probably multifactorial. However, a rapid early host response is likely critical to generate control of SARS-CoV-2 viremia before spread to the lower respiratory tract and onset of damaging hyperinflammation. In this regard, the literature is full of examples where functional T cell responses can provide early control of acute viral infections, including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV (1, 2). Although multiple studies have indicated that T cells play a role in the early immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and can generate a functional memory pool, there are still multiple unanswered questions in the field (Box 1). Here, we summarize and speculate on a specific set of questions related to T cell immunity against respiratory viral infections, with a focus on COVID-19 severity, immunity, long-term consequences, and vaccination
Covid-19 mink variants discovered in humans in seven countries
Seven countries are now reporting mink-related Sars-CoV-2 mutations in humans, according to new scientific analysis. The mutations are identified as Covid-19 mink variants as they have repeatedly been found in mink and now in humans as well. Uncertainty around the implications of the discovery of a Covid-19 mink variant in humans led Denmark, the world’s largest mink fur producer, to launch a nationwide cull earlier this month. The cull was sparked by research from Denmark’s public health body, the Statens Serum Institut (SSI), which showed that a mink variant called C5 was harder for antibodies to neutralise and posed a potential threat to vaccine efficacy.
Covid: Oxford vaccine shows 'encouraging' immune response in older adults
The Oxford coronavirus vaccine shows a strong immune response in adults in their 60s and 70s, raising hopes that it can protect age groups most at risk from the virus. Researchers say the Lancet phase two findings, based on 560 healthy adult volunteers, are "encouraging". They are also testing whether the vaccine stops people developing Covid-19 in larger, phase three trials. Early results from this crucial stage are expected in the coming weeks. Three vaccines - Pfizer-BioNTech, Sputnik and Moderna - have already reported good preliminary data from phase three trials, with one suggesting 94% of over-65s could be protected from Covid-19.
Anti-COVID-19 nasal spray 'ready for use in humans'
A nasal spray that can provide effective protection against the COVID-19 virus has been developed by researchers at the University of Birmingham, using materials already cleared for use in humans. A team in the University’s Healthcare Technologies Institute formulated the spray using compounds already widely approved by regulatory bodies in the UK, Europe and the US. The materials are already widely used in medical devices, medicines and even food products.
Arthritis drug offers hope for severely ill Covid patients
Scientists have found that a drug used to fight rheumatoid arthritis leads to significantly improved outcomes for severely ill Covid-19 patients, the latest breakthrough in the search for a potential treatment. Tocilizumab, an immunosuppressant drug, was found to be so effective in randomised controlled clinical trials involving 303 patients, that the researchers have been told to stop recruiting people to the “no treatment group”. It is the first immune-modulating drug found to have an effect on outcomes of hospitalised Covid-19 patients, adding to positive results from the cheap and plentiful steroid dexamethasone, and the antiviral drug remdesivir.
WHO advises against Gilead's remdesivir for all hospitalised COVID-19 patients
Gilead’s drug remdesivir is not recommended for patients hospitalised with COVID-19, regardless of how ill they are, as there is no evidence it improves survival or reduces the need for ventilation, a World Health Organization panel said on Friday.