"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 23rd Nov 2020

Isolation Tips
How to measure your child's progress during virtual learning
Blackboard out, laptop screens on and turning to online assignments- children, along with their parents have got accustomed to a new learning pattern in these past six or seven months. While it may have been an initial struggle for many, virtual classes and education is the way to go for many younger kids, with most schools still being shut off due to COVID fear.
Hygiene Helpers
Britons ‘to receive freedom passes if they pass two Covid tests a week’
Britons could be given special 'freedom passes' if they test negative for coronavirus twice a week. Passholders would have to show that they have been regularly tested with an electronic form, it has been reported. The pass, which could take the form of a QR code, would allow holders to live a relatively normal life. Boris Johnson is said to be set to unveil the scheme on Monday when he launches the Government's Covid Winter Plan.
More States Offer Covid-19 Contact-Tracing Apps, But Adoption Is Uneven
Covid-19 contact-tracing apps from Apple Inc. and Google are coming to more states, along with evidence that they can help slow infections as long as enough people use them. Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., have recently adopted the “exposure notification” technology the companies built into their smartphone operating systems—Big Tech’s most significant contribution to the fight against Covid-19. California, and other states are piloting the technology and could release it soon.
Wisconsin governor renews mask mandate despite court challenge as pandemic worsens
Wisconsin’s governor on Friday extended a statewide mask mandate despite a legal challenge from conservatives, renewing an emergency health order requiring face coverings in public spaces to curb an alarming surge in COVID-19 infections.
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.
Community Activities
Wealthy nations urged to give portion of Covid vaccine as 'humanitarian buffer'
Public health groups are lobbying countries to commit a portion of their Covid-19 vaccine supplies to a “humanitarian buffer” that would be used to inoculate people living in rebel-held territories, those in asylum-seeker camps and others unlikely to receive vaccinations from their governments. The emergency stockpile is intended to act as a safety net to ensure the global effort to end the Covid-19 pandemic is not sabotaged by governments using vaccines as bargaining chip with restive populations, or simply denying it to some marginalised groups. “In Syria there are a lot of internally displaced people who might end up in areas not controlled by the government, or they might be considered to be anti-government or pro-revolution,” said Alain Alsalhani, a vaccine pharmacist who works with Médecins Sans Frontières.
Unions call for frontline UK workers to be prioritised for Covid vaccine
Unions have called for key frontline workers to be granted priority access to an approved Covid vaccine after they were omitted from the list of those who should receive it first. The unions, representing more than 1.8 million employees, say that by prioritising only the elderly and health and social care workers, the distribution plan fails to protect other key workers with increased risk of exposure. Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, said: “It is absolutely correct that social care staff and health workers receive the vaccine at an early stage so they are protected and are not at risk of inadvertently transmitting the virus.
'People need mountains': Swiss ski resorts buck Alpine lockdowns
Blue skies over the Matterhorn drew skiers and snowboarders to Zermatt on Saturday, as well as police to break up crowds, as Switzerland’s modest coronavirus restrictions allowed near-normal operations while other Alpine resorts keep their lifts shut. France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even the high-altitude lifts that could be running this early in the winter to remain closed for now in the hope that all resorts can benefit at peak-season, if and when the infection rate slows. Switzerland, despite being a second-wave coronavirus hotspot with 5,000 infections a day and mounting deaths, is hoping that a middle way of social distancing, limits on gatherings and mask-wearing on lifts can prop up pillars of the economy such as tourism without fuelling the pandemic.
Christmas in lockdown preferred by UK public over new restrictions in January
Most of the public would rather have a locked-down Christmas than have a new lockdown imposed in January, a new poll suggests. With the government considering the extent to which restrictions should be lifted to limit the impact on Christmas family gatherings, the latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that the public opted for a locked-down Christmas over new January restrictions by a margin of 54% to 33%. This split is almost identical across all party groups and demographics, with older voters in particular preferring to lock down over Christmas rather than in January. There was also strong support for banning people from posting conspiracy theories about the vaccine online, with 64% supporting the idea.
Working Remotely
Why a tax on remote workers is disconnected thinking
Surveying his new life working from home, a friend who does something I don’t understand in the City put it quite simply. “A week before the first lockdown I would have told anyone who asked that I couldn’t possibly do my job from home,” he said. “Two weeks in and I knew I was never going back to the office full time again.” He sent an email to his boss listing the pros and cons. The pros were many and detailed, reflecting on his improved mental health, the joy of not catching the 05.47, his happier marriage, his kids remembering they had a dad and his renewed enthusiasm for whatever it is that he does. The only con: the coffee wasn’t as good. I imagine
Why remote work may be hardest on junior employees
We're eight months into corporate America’s great work-from-home experiment, and it hasn't gone quite the way business leaders expected. Their scattered workforces, even in the midst of a stressful pandemic while shouldering extra burdens like childcare, have been remarkably productive. Of course, that doesn't mean the period has been easy on employees, and leaders have also been surprised by what parts of their workforce remote work has been hardest on.
DEBATE: Are fears about remote working’s damage to Britain’s creative potential overblown?
Are fears about remote working’s damage to Britain’s creative potential overblown? Kristine Dahl Steidel, vice president EUC EMEA at VMware, says YES. The future of work has arrived in the form of distributed workforces, and businesses should not be using this as an excuse for stagnant growth. The facts speak for themselves: new research shows that remote working is not putting businesses at a disadvantage in cultivating creativity or productivity. In fact, three quarters of UK decision-makers surveyed believe that innovation is now coming from more places in the organisation, while 29 per cent have seen increases in employee productivity thanks to digital work solutions.
Young people embrace remote working — from the beach
When Beth Cammack booked a fortnight in Fuerteventura, departing in early September, it was meant to be two weeks in the sunshine. “I just wanted to get away from England for a break,” she said. However, once she settled into life in the Canary Islands she decided to stay, first delaying her flight home, then cancelling it. “It’s just so much better than the UK at the moment and the sun shines every day,” she said. “I can do most of my work from here so I can split my time between that and surfing. It was a no-brainer.”
Do you work remotely? This program could pay you $10,000 to do so from Tulsa
Are you working remotely but bored and ready to start a new chapter in life, or simply tired of paying a lot in rent for a small apartment? If so, Tulsa Remote will pay you $10,000 to move to Oklahoma. The program wants to attract "talented and energetic people" to Tulsa who care about making a difference in their local community, spokeswoman Katie Bullock told CNN. Funded by George Kaiser Family Foundation, the program launched in 2018 and has so far received more than 20,000 applications from people all over the world looking for a new place to call home.
Home working fails to boost productivity, says Bank of England policymaker Jonathan Haskel
Remote working is leading to longer hours and could result in jobs being moved abroad, a member of Bank of England’s rate-setting committee has said. Jonathan Haskel, an external member of the Bank’s monetary policy committee, told The Times that the shift towards home working was unlikely to last as most companies had not found it to be productive. Professor Haskel, an economist at Imperial College Business School in London, said he was sceptical about claims that remote working could boost productivity, which is key to unlocking wage growth and higher living standards. Businesses may experience higher levels of output when employees work from home, but he said that the Bank had found “credible evidence that people are working longer hours”.
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual learning can work but requires time and professional training, experts say
While some parents are imploring school systems to return students to classrooms, experts argue that the sudden disruption to traditional schooling provides teachers a unique opportunity to educate in new ways. But it will require time, expansion of broadband internet and long-term investment in professional development for educators. Trying to recreate the old model of learning, which was developed in the late 19th century, into remote instruction “is like cramming a square peg into a round hole. It’s just not compatible,” Ryan Schaaf, an assistant professor at Notre Dame of Maryland University, told state lawmakers during a virtual education briefing Thursday afternoon.
Connectivity headaches as students adjust to virtual learning
As Nigeria navigates through a devastating pandemic strike and striking lecturers adamant about returning to the classroom, Mojisola Alabi requires no rocket science to realise she will need an extra year to wrap up her Mass Communication programme at the University of Lagos. “I am supposed to be on industrial training now,’ gripes the 300 Level student, ‘but that will have to wait till next year again because higher institutions are still on strike.” The budding broadcast journalist isn’t the only one nursing her frustration. Several millions of youths scattered across the nation’s 174 universities, 134 polytechnics and monotechnics, and 220 colleges of education are watching helplessly as their lives continue in a tailspin until the coronavirus strikes ebb and the federal government reaches a compromise with striking lecturers.
Public Policies
First Americans could get COVID-19 vaccine by December 11, top health official says
The first Americans could receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as 24 hours after the FDA grants approval, which would kick off the largest inoculation campaign in U.S. history starting in mid-December. "Within 24 hours from the approval, the vaccine will be moving and located in the areas where each state will have told us where they want the vaccine doses," Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser for the government's "Operation Warp Speed" vaccine program, told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Covid rampages across US, unifying a splintered nation as cases surge
The virus is on the rise so uniformly across the vast landmass of the US, that records are being shattered daily. Chris McGreal in Kansas City, Kenya Evelyn in Milwaukee, Vivian Ho in Oakland and Adam Gabbatt and Ed Pilkington in New York. The Disunited States of America are united once more. After a brutal election that exacerbated bitter partisan divisions and left the country feeling as though it had been torn in two, it has at last been thrown back together. For all the wrong reasons. The great leveler is coronavirus. Covid-19 is rampaging across the US as though it were on a personal mission to unify the splintered nation in an unfolding catastrophe. Of the 50 states of the Union, all but one – isolated Hawaii – is seeing alarming surges in new cases. The virus is on the rise so uniformly across the vast landmass of the US, that records are being shattered daily.
Covid-19 vaccine not to be compulsory, says Health Secretary
The Scottish Government has outlined its distribution plan for an inoculation to the virus, with hopes it could be available in the first week of December. However, Ms Freeman told the BBC there would be a public information campaign put in place to dispel any concerns held about the vaccine rather than making them mandatory.
South Australia emerges carefully from COVID-19 outbreak
South Australia was on track on Saturday to end its hard COVID-19 lockdown three days early, recording only one new infection, while other states marked weeks of no new cases or deaths related to the novel coronavirus. The lockdown, which kept people in South Australia at home and the majority of businesses shut, was imposed earlier this week after false information provided to contact tracers by a man who tested positive raised fears of mass infections. The lockdown, planned for six days, was to be lifted as of Sunday, although a range of measures were to remain to limit big crowds
Portugal to ban domestic travel, close schools around national holidays
Portugal is to ban domestic travel and close schools around two upcoming holidays in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus ahead of Christmas, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said on Saturday. Travel between municipalities will be banned from 11 p.m. on Nov. 27 to 5 a.m. on Dec. 2, and then again from 11 p.m. on Dec. 4 to 5 a.m. on Dec. 9, to prevent movement around national holidays on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8. Schools will close on the Mondays before both holidays, while businesses must close early. Employers are being encouraged to give workers the day off in order to minimise travel activity. “We continue to have a very high number of cases which is a threat to our health,” Costa told a press conference. “We must persist to not only halt that growth rate but invert it.”
France to start easing lockdown rules in three steps, government spokesman says
France will start easing coronavirus lockdown rules in coming weeks, carrying out the process in three stages so as to avoid a new flareup in the pandemic, the government said on Sunday. On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron will give a speech to the nation about the virus situation and may announce a partial relaxation of restrictions which have been in place since Oct. 30. “Emmanuel Macron will give prospects over several weeks, especially on how we adjust our strategy. What is at stake is adapting lockdown rules as the health situation improves while avoiding a new flare up in the epidemic,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Le Journal Du Dimanche. “There will be three steps to (lockdown) easing in view of the health situation and of risks tied to some businesses: a first step around Dec. 1, then before the year-end holidays, and then from January 2021,” Attal added.
Germany braces for extension of lockdown month into December
Germany will have to extend its measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic until Dec. 20, according to senior politicians and a draft proposal obtained by Reuters on Sunday. Germany imposed a month-long “lockdown-lite” from Nov. 2 to contain a second wave of the virus that is sweeping much of Europe, but infection numbers have not declined. “Everything points to the fact that the current restrictions must be extended for some time beyond Nov. 30,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told Bild am Sonntag (BamS). Bars and restaurants are closed, but schools and shops remain open. Private gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households and the draft proposal says that number would be reduced to five.
California enacts nighttime curfew as COVID-19 cases spike
California enacts a nighttime curfew Saturday as spiking coronavirus cases threaten to swamp health care systems and the state's largest county warned that an even more drastic lockdown could be imminent. The newest restrictions require people not on essential errands to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Dec. 21, with a possible extension if rapidly worsening trends don’t improve. People will be allowed to shop for groceries, pick up food and even walk their dogs. Authorities say the focus is on keeping people from social mixing and drinking — the kinds of activities that are blamed for causing COVID-19 infections to soar after dipping only a few months ago. Dr. Mark Cullen, an infectious disease expert who recently retired from Stanford University, said the underlying goal is based on a reasonable interpretation of data.
Covid-19: Hong Kong-Singapore travel corridor postponed
The launch of a travel corridor between Hong Kong and Singapore has been postponed for two weeks amid a surge of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong. The deal was due to kick in on Sunday, allowing passengers to fly both ways without the need to self-isolate. The decision is a blow to attempts by the two financial hubs to revive their battered travel sectors. Hong Kong reported 43 new infections on Saturday, the highest daily toll in nearly three months. The number includes 13 cases with unknown transmission sources, raising fears the local outbreak could get out of control.
Iran tightens COVID-19 restrictions, but some streets still busy
Iran introduced tougher restrictions on Saturday to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel curbs, but state media reported widespread flouting of the rules. “Tehran streets are crowded despite the restrictions,” state TV said on Saturday morning. It said some non-essential businesses were open, but later showed mostly empty streets and shuttered shops. The semi-official ISNA news agency posted photos of crammed metro trains with the hashtag “Coronavirus kills.” Other media sites posted photos of packed buses.
Covid-19: Sweden now has a higher infection rate than France or UK
Sweden today recorded some 393 daily cases of Covid-19 per million people This far surpasses 337 per million seen in Britain and 324 per million in France Nation has seen hospital admissions for Covid-19 patients double each week
Covid restrictions: Doctors call for Rule of Six to be scrapped after lockdown ends in England
Doctors have called for the Rule of Six to be scrapped when the England-wide lockdown is lifted in December, and instead replaced with older restrictions that allow only two households to meet. The British Medical Association (BMA) said the previous tiered system was “inconsistent” and did not contain the spread of the virus, and warned the rules must be revised before the national lockdown ends.
Italy approves latest stimulus package to help pandemic-hit business
Italy’s government has approved a new package worth around 10 billion euros ($11.9 billion) to support businesses hit by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Under the measures approved late on Friday, Rome will immediately offer 1.95 billion euros in grants to coronavirus-hit businesses and food aid for the poor. The government is also preparing an additional 8 billion euros to beef up aid schemes already in place. On Friday, the health ministry reported 37,242 new coronavirus infections and 699 deaths, as the country struggles to curb a resurgence of cases and fatalities which are stretching its health service to breaking point.
South Australia says man's 'lie' caused coronavirus lockdown as harsh curbs eased
South Australia’s drastic six-day coronavirus lockdown was triggered by a “lie” to contact tracers from a man who tested positive and restrictions across the state are set to be lifted much sooner than first planned, authorities said on Friday.
NHS to start giving Covid-19 vaccine to under-50s by end of January, leaked papers say
The NHS is planning to roll out the coronavirus vaccine to under 50s by the end of January, it has been reported. Under the plan every adult in England who wants to would have been vaccinated by early April. Two Covid vaccines have already been proven to be effective but still need to pass safety tests before they are rolled out to the public. And a third, produced by Oxford/AstraZeneca, this week reported good news about its effectiveness among the elderly. As healthcare is devolved the NHS services in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be creating their own plans.
Bristol professor says coronavirus vaccine roll-out should not just focus on age
The roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine should not solely prioritise people by age, a Bristol expert has argued. Gabriel Scally says there needs to be "more discussion" before the government finalises the priority list, outlining who should be at the front of the queue once a COVID-19 vaccine is ready. Speaking in a virtual meeting of the Independent SAGE committee of scientists this afternoon (Friday, November 20), he suggested people's professions and the prevalence of coronavirus in their neighbourhoods should also be considered.
Dr Fauci allays Covid vaccine development speed concerns, reiterates public health measures – video
Dr Anthony Fauci speaks at the coronavirus task force press briefing, marking his first appearance at the White House podium in months. The infectious disease expert has moved to allay concerns about the speed with which the coronavirus vaccine has been developed, and implored Americans to continue basic public health measures until it is rolled out
Coronavirus vaccines: Will any countries get left out?
Early results indicate that at least two vaccines are highly effective, several others have reached late-stage trials, and many more are at some stage of development. None of these vaccines have been approved yet, but that hasn't stopped countries purchasing doses in advance. A key research centre in the US - Duke University in North Carolina - is trying to keep tabs on all the deals being done. It estimates that 6.4 billion doses of potential vaccines have already been bought, and another 3.2 billion are either under negotiation or reserved as "optional expansions of existing deals". The process of advance purchasing is well established in the pharmaceutical industry, as it can help to incentivise the development of products and fund trials, according to Clare Wenham, assistant professor of global health policy at the London School of Economics.
Covid-19: Gulf emerging between government and health officials over ending lockdown
Cabinet members have expressed their annoyance at their own public health officials over the “stalling” in the progress in reducing the cases of Covid-19. A fresh gulf is emerging between political leaders and medics over the road out of lockdown in two weeks’ time with ministers expressing annoyance at the lack of progress. Ministers have said that the basis of introducing the level 5 lockdown for six weeks was to get the daily cases of the virus below 100, and that is being undermined by the stubborn refusal of the numbers to drop. The Department of Health was notified of 429 confirmed cases of the coronavirus last night.
India’s coronavirus cases top nine million mark
India’s total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began crossed the nine million mark on Friday. Nevertheless, the country’s new daily cases have seen a steady decline for weeks now and the total number of cases represents 0.6% of India’s 1.3 billion population. The health ministry reported 45,882 new infections and 584 fatalities in the past 24 hours on Friday. The death toll since the pandemic began is more than 132,000.
Coronavirus: Northern Ireland to enter tougher two-week lockdown as hospitals face being ‘overwhelmed within weeks’
Northern Ireland will shut non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants for two weeks from November 27 to save the health service from becoming swamped. The country was poised to emerge from a limited circuit-breaker lockdown until the number of infections rose to worrying levels. Close-contact services and cafes can open this Friday as planned but will have to close again next Friday, while other hospitality sectors like pubs and licensed restaurants will remain closed throughout, Stormont ministers said.
EU regulator ‘hopeful’ about coronavirus vaccine approval by year-end
Amid rising cases and second-wave lockdowns, Europe might have a coronavirus vaccine authorized to use before the end of 2020. Speaking during POLITICO’s Health Care Summit Wednesday, the head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Emer Cooke, said she’s “hopeful” that the agency will have an opinion about whether to authorize a coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech by the end of the year. Cooke’s comments followed breaking news that the companies found their vaccine to be 95 percent effective after completing a full review of their ongoing large-scale Phase 3 clinical trial.
Covid-19 news: NHS drafts plan to vaccinate adults in England by April
A draft of NHS England’s plan for the roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine aims for widespread vaccination of all willing adults in England by early April, if sufficient doses and other crucial supplies are available. Under NHS England’s draft covid-19 vaccine deployment programme, which was outlined in a leaked document dated 13 November seen by HSJ, most doses of the potential vaccine would be administered between early January and mid-March, at a rate of between 4 and 5 million each week.
Maintaining Services
Maine planning for massive rollout of COVID-19 vaccines
When the trucks roll into Maine with the first batches of COVID-19 vaccine doses – perhaps as soon as mid-December – the state will need to overcome many logistical hurdles to bring the vaccines to pharmacies, doctors’ offices, hospitals, schools, fire halls and eventually the arms of patients. The mass vaccination effort will be a daunting operation, and planning for it has been underway for months. The pandemic has accelerated this fall, so getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible is a top priority for public health officials. Since the pandemic began last winter, more than 255,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19, including 174 in Maine.
Some Russian hospitals face shortages of COVID-19 drugs
Some Russian hospitals are experiencing serious shortages of drugs used to treat COVID-19 and cannot restock because of panic buying, high demand and problems with a new labelling system, officials, distributors and doctors said.
Polish malls to reopen, but PM warns against Christmas travel
Shopping centres will reopen in Poland in a week’s time, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Saturday, in a boost to retailers in the run-up to Christmas, but he added that the government was working on rules to limit travel. The government closed entertainment venues and some shops from Nov. 7 after a surge in COVID-19 cases, but infections have levelled off since then, allowing some loosening of restrictions. There is one condition: ... the discipline of every shop, mall, furniture store. If not, these stores will be closed,” Morawiecki told a news conference. “These decisions can save hundreds of thousands of jobs, which is why we are taking them,” he said.
Britain hopes Christmas can be saved as COVID cases flatten
Britain could ease stringent COVID-19 rules to allow families to gather for Christmas as signs indicate that coronavirus cases are starting to flatten as a result of current lockdowns, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday. The United Kingdom has the worst official COVID-19 death toll in Europe and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed some of the most stringent curbs in peacetime history in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus. But heading into the holiday season, the government faces a dilemma - to ease restrictions, with the risk of renewed spread of the disease and death, or to ban large get-togethers.“It of course won’t be like a normal Christmas, there will have to be rules in place,” Hancock told Sky News.
Trudeau warns Canada's hospitals could be swamped, Toronto to enter COVID-19 lockdown
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada’s hospital system could be overwhelmed by a possible quadrupling of new COVID-19 cases by year end as its biggest city Toronto prepared to impose a lockdown. Trudeau implored Canadians to stay home as much as possible as a second wave of the novel coronavirus rips across the country, forcing several of the 10 provinces to reimpose curbs on movement and businesses. Cases continue to spike and authorities complain some people are being more careless about taking precautions.
NHS assembles army of staff for mass coronavirus vaccinations
The NHS is bringing together an army of retired doctors, health visitors and physiotherapists to embark on the country’s biggest ever mass vaccination programme, the Guardian has learned. The extraordinary effort in England will also include district nurses and high street chemists alongside GPs in the drive to immunise 22 million vulnerable adults, followed by the rest of the population. NHS documents seen by the Guardian show the rollout will rely in part on “inexperienced staff” who will have undergone two hours of online training before starting work. The slides also reveal codenames for two of the most promising vaccines in development: the Pfizer/BioNTech version is called “Courageous” and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is known as “Talent”.
Covid vaccine: US military ready to deliver 40 million doses once FDA approves
A US general said the military is prepared to deliver Pfizer and Moderna's coronavirus vaccines as soon as they receive emergency use authorisation from the government. US General Gustave Perna, chief operations officer for Operation Warp Speed, told ABC News Friday that the military is ready to deliver millions of vaccine doses once the US Food and Drug Administration grants them emergency use authorisation. Pfizer submitted its vaccine to the US FDA today. Moderna will submit its vaccine later this month. The companies said they expect to produce 50 million doses in 2020 and up to 1.3bn doses by the end of 2021.
Families ‘can visit relatives in care homes at Christmas’ with roll out of rapid 30 minute coronavirus tests
A London council has vowed relatives will be able to see their loved one in care homes this Christmas as they started planning 30-minute on-the-spot Covid tests for families. Hammersmith and Fulham began borough-wide targeted coronavirus testing this week using the lateral flow swabs - piloted in Liverpool - which produce results in under an hour. The council, which is running the operation in conjunction with the Government, will initially test asymptomatic frontline workers in nursing homes and in GP practices, followed by school staff, social workers, people in sheltered homes and other key workers.
The world's now scrambling for dry ice. It's just one headache in getting coronavirus vaccines where they need to go
Vaccines like to be kept cool, none more so than the Pfizer candidate for Covid-19, which has to be deep-frozen. And that's going to be an issue for developing countries -- and for rural areas in the developed world. The "cold chain" is just one of the challenges in distributing vaccines worldwide. There are plenty of others: decisions about priority populations and databases to keep track of who's received what vaccine, where and when. Additionally, different vaccines may have more or less efficacy with different population groups; and governments will need PR campaigns to persuade people that vaccines are safe.
Toronto is under a 28-day COVID-19 lockdown starting Monday. Here’s what that means
With the risk of overwhelming hospitals in red zones with COVID-19 patients now imminent, Premier Doug Ford is moving Toronto into a 28-day lockdown along with Peel Region. The new measures will return the city to an experience similar to the earlier days of the pandemic with widespread closures. In Toronto, here is what that means as far as closures and new limitations as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 23:
Covid-19: A 'step forward' in vaccine roll-out plans and infections levelling off
The UK government has formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to assess the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, one of the frontrunners in the race for a coronavirus cure. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was "another important step forward" and that, if approved, it would be available across the NHS for free across all of the UK. He said the UK has contributed more than any other country towards researching a vaccine, something he said the country should be proud of. It follows Pfizer and BioNTech seeking emergency authorisation for the vaccine in the US.
Health staff, care homes and over 80s to get Covid vaccine first
Frontline health workers, care home residents and staff and over 80s will be first to get a coronavirus vaccine in Scotland. Next in line will be over 65s and younger people with underlying health conditions likely to badly affected by the virus. More than one million people in Scotland could be vaccinated by the end of January, the health secretary Jeane Freeman told parliament on Thursday. Everyone aged over 18 – around 4.4m people – will eventually be offered the protection from Covid-19, with rollout possibly starting from the first week of December if a vaccine is approved by then.
Healthcare Innovations
Remdesivir: don't use drug Trump took for Covid-19, WHO says
Remdesivir, one of the drugs Donald Trump took when he developed Covid-19, should not be used in hospitals because there is no evidence it works, the World Health Organization has advised. The US president was an enthusiastic proponent of the drug, to the point where he boasted in July that he had bought up the world’s entire stock for Americans. The WHO’s guidelines committee, however, has said Covid patients may be better off without it. The WHO issued what it calls a “living guideline”, which can be updated as evidence comes in, largely as a result of a Solidarity trial it led in several countries. Solidarity allocated patients randomly to several drugs including remdesivir and found that those who took it were no more likely to survive severe Covid than those who did not.
Experimental drug given to Trump to treat covid-19 wins FDA clearance
The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday granted emergency authorization to the experimental antibody treatment given to President Trump last month when he developed covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The drug, made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, is designed to prevent infected people from developing severe illness. Instead of waiting for the body to develop its own protective immune response, the drug imitates the body’s natural defenses. It is the second drug of this type — called a monoclonal antibody — to be cleared for treating covid-19. The FDA authorized Eli Lilly & Co.’s drug on Nov. 9.
Why the race to find Covid-19 vaccines is far from over
While everyone celebrated this month’s news that not one but two experimental vaccines against Covid-19 have proved at least 90% effective at preventing disease in late-stage clinical trials, research into understanding how the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, interacts with the human immune system never paused. There are plenty of questions still to answer about the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines: how well will they protect the elderly, for example, and how long for? Which aspects of the immune response that they elicit are protective and which aren’t? Can even better results be achieved, with vaccines that target different parts of the immune system?
Trials For AstraZeneca's Covid-19 Treatment Set To Begin In UK
The UK will be the first country to begin clinical trials of a new coronavirus antibody treatment developed by drugs giant AstraZeneca aimed at people with a weakened immune system who cannot be vaccinated. A participant in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, will be the first in the world to receive the pharmaceutical company’s new “antibody cocktail” as part of the trial to test whether it will prevent Covid-19 for up to year. The clinical trial programme will recruit 5,000 participants, which includes 1,000 people from nine sites in the UK. The aim of the trial is to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a combination of two long-acting monoclonal antibodies – man-made proteins that act like natural human antibodies in the immune system.
Covid-19 carriers 'most infectious earlier on'
People are most likely to pass on coronavirus within the first five days of having symptoms, an extensive study suggests. The research indicates patients had the highest levels of virus early on in their illness and "live" virus, capable of replicating, was found up to nine days after symptoms began. UK scientists say their study emphasises early isolation is critical to stopping spread. The work appears in the Lancet Microbe.
Pfizer applies for emergency vaccine approval as U.S. cases reach new high
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Friday became the first companies to seek emergency authorization for a coronavirus vaccine in the United States, a landmark moment and a signal that a powerful tool to help control the pandemic could begin to be available by late December. Conditions around the country remain dire: The United States reported a record high of more than 196,000 new coronavirus cases on Friday and is likely to cross 12 million cases nationwide on Saturday, six days after surpassing 11 million.
Almost a million people have been given an experimental Chinese coronavirus vaccine, pharmaceutical giant claims
Almost a million people have been given an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Sinopharm as part of an emergency-use program authorized by Beijing, the Chinese pharmaceutical giant's chairman said. No serious adverse effects have been reported from vaccine recipients so far, Sinopharm said Wednesday in an article on social media platform WeChat, citing Chairman Liu Jingzhen. "In emergency use, we now have used it on nearly a million people. We have not received any reports of serious adverse reaction, and only a few have some mild symptoms," Liu said.
Covid: Jab for people who cannot be vaccinated trialled
A possible alternative to a vaccine, for people without functioning immune systems, is entering its final stage of trials. The injection was developed using antibodies - made by the immune system to fight infection - produced by a single Covid patient in the US. It is hoped it could provide at least six months' protection for patients who cannot receive vaccines. Trials involving 1,000 UK participants begin in Manchester on Saturday. A further 4,000 people are involved in the trial globally, which is being organised by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Participants will be given either an injection containing two different Covid-19 antibodies, which have been specially engineered to last longer in the body - or a placebo.
MMR jab could help protect people from coronavirus until a vaccine is ready, study finds
The MMR jab could be used to slow the spread of Covid-19 while Britons are gradually inoculated with vaccines being developed for the virus, a study suggests. Researchers have found that people who had had the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine as a child suffered far less severe symptoms of Covid – in many cases having mild symptoms or not symptoms at all. “The study found a statistically significant inverse relationship between the level of mumps antibodies and Covid-19. This indicates that there is a relationship that warrants further investigation,” said Professor David Hurley, of the University of Georgia. “If it has the ultimate benefit of preventing infection from Covid-19, preventing the spread of Covid-19, reducing the severity of it, or a combination of any or all of those, it is a very high reward low risk ratio intervention. It would be prudent to vaccinate [people of all ages],” he said.
A nasal spray that can protect against Covid-19 is now ‘ready for use in humans
A nasal spray that can provide effective protection against Covid-19 is now ready for use in humans, according to researchers. The spray has been developed by scientists at the University of Birmingham and is formulated using compounds already widely approved by regulatory bodies in the UK, Europe and the US.
Oxford vaccine produces strong response in older adults, early data reveals
Hopes have been raised that the UK could produce a successful coronavirus vaccine after data from the University of Oxford showed its jab provokes a strong immune response in older people. The ChAdOx1 nCov-2019 vaccine, developed with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, has been shown to trigger a robust immune response in healthy adults aged 56-69 and people over 70. Phase two data, published in The Lancet, suggests one of the groups most vulnerable to serious illness and death from Covid-19 could build immunity, researchers say.
Childhood vaccine linked to less severe COVID-19, cigarette smoke raises risk
The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.