"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 2nd Dec 2020

Isolation Tips
Businesses must ensure that working from home does not equate to working in isolation warns YFM head of growth
When lockdown first brought a necessity to work at home many employees welcomed the opportunity to simplify their working day and support their families as they adjusted to a new normal, but as working from home moves into the long-term, for many businesses there is a risk that some of the workforce becomes isolated and less engaged, leading to health and well-being issues and a fall-off in productivity, according to Victor Christou, partner and head of growth at YFM Equity Partners (YFM).
Hygiene Helpers
Germany says coronavirus vaccine will be safe
The same rigorous approval standards are being applied to the coronavirus vaccine candidates as for other medicines, Germany’s science minister has said, adding that any approved jab will be voluntary. Anja Karliczek said the key to gaining widespread public support for the immunisation is ensuring the same standards are applied across the board. Authorities will educate the public about any possible side effects that could occur after vaccination, including headaches, localised pain and fever. Vaccination against the virus will not be mandatory, Ms Karliczek said. The rapid pace of the vaccines’ development is down to huge efforts by scientists, as well as early funding and experience from previous vaccines, Marylyn Addo, a doctor at Hamburg's UKE hospital who is working in vaccine trials, said.
Covid-19: Students tested before travelling home
The mass testing of university students for Covid-19, so they can go home for the Christmas break, has started in Canterbury. Those testing negative will be able to use the "travel window" between 3 and 9 December. Two tests must be taken 72 hours apart. "We're trying to ensure the safety of students returning to their families and not presenting a risk to them" said Simon Gwynne of Canterbury Christchurch University. The testing centre set up at the university will be open from 10:00 to 18:00 GMT every day until 8 December, with 900 students booked in on the first day. Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 must isolate for 10 days, with a community buddy system making sure they are looked after.
Coronavirus: Netherlands makes face masks mandatory indoors
The Netherlands has made it compulsory to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus. The country is one of the last in Europe to introduce such a measure. The rule will apply to those over the age of 13 in public buildings such as shops, railway stations and hairdressers from Tuesday. The Netherlands has been one of the countries worst affected by Europe's second wave of Covid-19. It broke daily case records throughout October, and the number of new confirmed infections in the country of 17 million has remained fairly stable at about 5,000 a day for several weeks.
Masked Indian comic superhero fights Covid-19 fear
India's first female comic superhero Priya, a gang-rape survivor who earlier campaigned against rape, acid attack and sex trafficking, is back to fight disinformation around the Covid-19 pandemic. In Priya's Mask, due to be launched on 2 December, the comic crusader joins hands with Jiya, the "Burka Avenger", a popular character from a Pakistani cartoon show, as the two go about trying to tackle the pandemic - and also the "infodemic", a major proliferation in fake news surrounding the coronavirus. With more than 9.4 million infections and 137,000 deaths, India has the second highest caseload globally. A strict nationwide lockdown that was imposed on 21 March delayed the spread for a while, but infections grew rapidly - and continue to do so - since restrictions were relaxed.
Community Activities
Europe's schools still open, still relatively safe, through covid-19 second wave
When European schools reopened their classrooms in the spring, after the first wave of the coronavirus had crested, some parents expressed concern their children were being used as “guinea pigs” in a dangerous experiment. But to the extent that European schools have acted as laboratories for the world, the findings eight months later are largely positive. Most of Europe kept schools open even during a worst-on-the-planet second wave of infections this fall. And still, schools appear to be relatively safe environments, public health officials say. As long as they adhered to a now-established set of precautions — mask-wearing, hand-washing, ventilation — schools are thought to have played only a limited role in accelerating coronavirus transmission in Europe.
Working Remotely
Hawaii Seeks Remote Workers To Ride Out The Pandemic In Paradise
Understandably, we tend to focus and obsess over all of the depressing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. There have been, however, many positive developments. The virus outbreak has forced us to rethink and reimagine how things can be once the crisis subsides. The work-from-home movement is one of the upside benefits. The ability to shave off a couple of hours of commuting, being able to spend more quality time with your family and not having the boss looking over your shoulder was a godsend for many people.
Death of the 9-5 job? Working from home during lockdown was so successful that the tradition of an eight-hour day five days a week will come to an end, report claims
The traditional nine to five will come to an end in 2021, a new report has claimed Workers will find a pattern that combines personal and professional lifestyles Report, titled Zoomsday Predictions, written by the author Marian Salzman
Virtual Classrooms
Busy parents, bad equipment and a lack of internet meant 'many children did not do' the remote work they were set during the coronavirus crisis, says Ofsted as it warns the ...
Ofsted annual report says education 'losses have been significant' during Covid It warned 'lost learning' by pupils will be 'reflected in widening attainment gaps' It highlighted flaws in remote learning because 'many children did not do' work
Virtual Learning Boosted Well-being for Some Students, Study Finds
The potential detrimental implications of the COVID-19 shutdowns have dominated headlines since social distancing precautions were first instated. Thus far, mental health-oriented research paints a more complex picture of the varying implications of the stay-at-home measures on children. The impact on mental health and well-being appears to be highly dependent upon place, resources, and various other factors. A recent survey study by Emily Widnall and colleagues involving secondary students in South West England was conducted to evaluate “the impacts of COVID-19 and the resultant lockdown on adolescent mental health and wellbeing, social connections, and social media activity.” The results, described in a report released by the NIHR School for Public Health Research, reflect nuance in the implications of COVID-19 and highlight some of the positive implications for wellbeing experienced by many students following the implementation of disease containment precautions.
Putting the ‘virtual’ in virtual learning: SFU instructors create immersive classroom using virtual reality
Simon Fraser University professor Jeremy Turner has bright pink hair and can fly across his classroom, and some of his students look like animal-human hybrids. All of this is possible because Turner teaches in a virtual reality classroom. “It has that immersive feel to it,” Turner said. He wears a virtual reality headset and uses a platform called Tivoli Cloud VR, which allows him to move around in the virtual environment, using an avatar. His students can choose where they sit, converse with each other, and even choose their own avatars. "I actually forget that I’m teaching inside of a cartoon and that I’m actually teaching a real physical class, that’s how it feels to me,” Turner said.
Distance learning not working? Here are strategies to try.
When virtual school began in August, Brandi McPherson initially followed the remote-learning guidelines from her 13-year-old daughter’s school. “They told the kids to sit at a desk or table and leave the cameras on all day,” she said. “Classes are taught from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in 45-minute blocks with five-minute breaks.” It was too much for Tanner, a seventh-grader in the Northridge area of Los Angeles, who is twice exceptional — she is gifted and struggles with ADHD and generalized anxiety disorder.
Public Policies
Austria set to bow to pressure on Covid risk with ski holiday ban
Austria’s government appears to have bowed to pressure from Germany, France and Italy and will ban skiing holidays over the Christmas break in an attempt to control the coronavirus pandemic, Austrian media is reporting. The decision, expected to be officially announced on Wednesday, follows heated disagreements between Berlin and Vienna. On Tuesday morning, Austria’s tourist minister accused the German government of interfering in its domestic affairs after Angela Merkel said she had wanted a ban on skiing holidays. The chancellor secured the backing of the Italian and French governments as well as the leaders of the 16 German states.
Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be the first to get coronavirus vaccines, CDC advisory group says
The first doses of a coronavirus vaccine should be given to an estimated 21 million health-care workers and 3 million residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, a federal advisory panel recommended Tuesday afternoon. These groups were deemed the highest priority by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, because the vaccine will initially be in extremely short supply after it is cleared by federal regulators. Health-care personnel are a top priority because of their exposure to the virus and their critical role of keeping the nation’s hospitals and clinics functioning. Residents and employees of long-term care facilities were prioritized because they account for nearly 40 percent of deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
EU Commission to authorise COVID-19 vaccines days after regulatory approval
The European Commission is likely to give the final authorisation for the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines days after the EU drug regulator approves them, a spokesman for the EU executive said on Tuesday. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said earlier on Tuesday it planned to decide whether to approve the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech by Dec 29, and by Jan. 12 on the shot being developed by Moderna. “It’s probably a matter of days. The goal is to do it rapidly,” the spokesman told a news conference, adding the exact date depended on the EMA’s possible authorisations.
Lawmakers introduce bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal with uncertain future in Congress
In the U.S., negotiations restarted Tuesday and lawmakers introduced coronavirus relief proposals in the latest effort to break the logjam and reach a deal in the few remaining weeks a divided Congress has left in session. The day started with a bipartisan group of lawmakers introducing a roughly $908 billion proposal intended as a temporary package that would run until April. It ended with two additional proposals, one offered privately by Democratic leaders to Republicans and a third that Republicans have approved with the White House and could be voted on by the Senate.
Bolivia's new government is encouraging people to take toxic bleach as a cure for COVID-19, a victory for a months-long disinformation campaign
Bolivia's new health minister, Edgar Pozo, at a press conference Sunday said consuming toxic bleach chlorine dioxide as a COVID-19 treatment is now permitted. It has no medical value and is potentially deadly if consumed, according to medical authorities including the FDA and WHO. Despite this, a determined campaign by advocates of the substance, also called Miracle Mineral Solution, persuaded many to take it. Business Insider previously reported how lawmakers in Bolivia embraced the substance despite warnings from the nation's own health ministry. But last month the old government lost power, allowing the newly-installed Pozo to effectively overturn that advice.
Top US politician refuses to bring in lockdown or other Covid rules saying he wants to leave people alone
One of America’s most powerful politicians has refused to enact fresh lockdown measures after saying he wants to leave people alone to make responsible choices. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – who has the final say on the Sunshine State’s coronavirus rules – said Monday that he will not be enacting any lockdown measures, edicts which require people to wear masks in public, or school closures. DeSantis, one of President Trump’s staunchest allies, told a press conference: ‘No lockdowns, no fines, no school closures.’ He previously lifted all rules, including a 50% capacity limit in bars and restaurants, in September.
UK leader touts local virus rules but pubs are in distress
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged lawmakers to vote Tuesday for a new set of coronavirus restrictions in England, saying the country must “hold our nerve” until vaccines are approved and distributed. England’s current four-week national lockdown ends at midnight, and the government plans to replace it starting Wednesday with a three-tier regional system based on the severity of the outbreak in different parts of the country.
Ireland eases out of second lockdown
Some non-essential retail and other businesses are reopening to the public as Ireland eases out of its second lockdown. A Government decision to lift Level 5 restrictions will also see the hair and beauty industry and gyms and leisure centres open their doors after six weeks of closures. Restaurants and pubs that serve food will remain shut until Friday in line with the Government’s plans to reopen on a phased basis. As Covid-19 restrictions ease country-wide, health chiefs have issued warnings not to gather in crowded areas.
Tomelloso: Battered in first wave, Spanish town emerges scarred but safer
Although Spain was struggling with one of Europe's most deadly outbreaks, Tomelloso was particularly hard-hit, losing almost one percent of its 36,000 residents in the first wave. During the second wave, it has been a completely different story, with the figures significantly lower, although memories of the earlier nightmare remain all too fresh. "Around 300 people were buried in the local cemetery" in the first wave, Mayor Inmaculada Jimenez told AFP. Every day, they were burying 10, 11 or 12 people, it was incredibly hard." These days, as Spain and Europe grapple with a second wave, Tomelloso has stayed well out of the headlines, with just 13 deaths between May and September.
Spain appeals for Covid 'common sense' after shopping crowd scenes
The Spanish government has called on people to behave responsibly and use their “common sense” after pictures over the weekend showed the streets of Madrid and other big cities heaving with crowds despite the country’s ongoing struggle with the second wave of the coronavirus. Spain has been in a state of emergency since the end of October and is subject to an overnight curfew. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has asked people to drastically curtail their social lives and limit their movements for the common good. However, a combination of Black Friday, seasonal shopping and the switching on of Christmas lights appears to have brought large numbers of people out on to the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Málaga over the weekend.
COVID-19: Boris Johnson says case for tier system is 'compelling' and promises £1,000 payment for 'wet pubs'
Boris Johnson has said there is a "compelling case" for further coronavirus restrictions - as he promised pubs which do not serve food a one-off payment of £1,000 in December. Pubs which only sell drinks, or "wet pubs", will be unable to open if they are in Tier 2 or Tier 3 areas under the new system of restrictions from tomorrow. The prime minister made the announcement after saying the hospitality sector has been hit disproportionately hard in the pandemic.
Merkel urges Germans to be careful or risk third coronavirus wave
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that Germany could face a third wave of coronavirus infections if citizens are careless in the coming weeks. Germany’s number of new infections has stabilized at a high level since a partial lockdown was imposed on Nov 2. to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections. But officials have said that progress was still fragile. “We’ll have to be very, very careful during the winter,” Merkel said in a virtual panel discussion with police officers. “Otherwise we’ll end up directly in the next wave.”
COVID-19 will increase humanitarian needs in 2021: UN
The coronavirus pandemic is pushing the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance to new highs, according to the United Nations, dramatically increasing the ranks of extreme poverty in just one year. One in 33 people will need aid to meet basic needs like food, water and sanitation in 2021, an increase of 40 percent from this year, the UN said on Tuesday in its Global Humanitarian Overview 2021. That translates to 235 million people worldwide, with concentrations in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia, it said.
Maintaining Services
How USA has become one giant hotspot: 1,172 Americans are now dying each day - an 80% increase in just one month - while hospitalizations soar to a record 96,000
A new map from an internal federal government brief shows that 48 US states and the District of Columbia are marked as 'sustained hotspots' of coronavirus Only two states on the map, dated November 29 and labeled 'not for distribution', did not fall in this category, which were Hawaii and Rhode Island. Another map from the brief also revealed the incidence rate of COVID-19 across the country is 336 cases per 100,000 people, up from 322 cases per 100,000 two weeks prior Most US counties on the map had incidence rates of either 200-499 new cases per 100,000 or 500+ new cases per 100,000. It comes as the US hit a grim new record of 96,039 coronavirus hospitalizations across the nation. Hospitals in several states are beyond capacity with health officials blaming 'COVID fatigue' and travel that occurred over Thanksgiving
Major study shows how many of us followed the rules for lockdown two
A quarter of people have found it harder to follow rules during the UK’s second lockdown, citing bad weather, feeling worn out and a sense of unfairness, a study has found. Some 24% of people are finding the second lockdown harder, 24% said the rules are easier to follow now and 48% said they are coping about the same, according to King’s College London (KCL) research. The majority (82%) said they are being just as careful or more careful now about obeying the rules.
Dublin has shopping fever as Ireland ends second virus lockdown
Dublin thronged with face-masked Christmas shoppers on Tuesday as Ireland ended a second partial coronavirus lockdown, allowing non-essential retail to resume after six weeks of tough restrictions. Dozens queued for the mid-morning reopening of upmarket department store Brown Thomas, festooned with seasonal decorations in the epicentre of the capital's shopping district. Amidst tables of designer handbags one customer confided in staff that she had taken the morning off work to shop.
Europe Keeps Schools Open, not Restaurants, Unlike U.S. cities
As a second lockdown appeared inevitable amid skyrocketing coronavirus infections, the scientists advising the French government in October warned that keeping students in their classrooms meant it would take longer to tame the surge. The government kept the schools open anyway, even as the country became an epicenter of the second wave of the coronavirus in Europe. French leaders decided that they would try to subdue the surge, while also trying to minimize economic and academic damage by keeping children learning where they do it best: in school. Five weeks into a second nationwide lockdown, France, like much of Europe, has proved that it is possible to bring the rate of known infections down, even with schools open. It is a lesson that has been taken up late in the United States
One quarter of Britons found the second national lockdown harder to follow
More than a quarter of Britons found it harder to follow the second lockdown compared to the first, a survey has revealed. The most common reasons for struggling were feeling fatigued by Covid restrictions, a belief measures were unjust and bad weather restricting people from going outside and seeing friends and family. Experts feared that 'lockdown fatigue' would mean many Brits would defy the second shutdown and see loved ones anyway. But King's College London scientists found a 'remarkable resilience' in the British public, with 82 per cent still following the rules to the best of their abilities.
Hospitals catch up with Covid-19 lockdown cancer backlog, Cancer Control Agency says
In New Zealand, the country's hospitals have caught up with the cancer backlog caused by the Covid-19 lockdown in March and April, Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency chief executive Diana Sarfati says. Diagnostic services and cancer screening programmes stopped during lockdown as the health service prepared for the pandemic, and the Cancer Society in June warned 400 people could die if hospitals didn’t act quickly. But unpublished figures for September show the number of people diagnosed with cancer mirrors that of last year, indicating hospitals have worked through the backlog, Sarfati said.
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer, Moderna Request Covid-19 Vaccine Authorization in Europe
Pfizer Inc. partner BioNTech and U.S. drugmaker Moderna Inc. both applied for their coronavirus vaccines to be approved in the European Union, the EU’s chief medicines regulator said Tuesday, with officials expected to make a decision on at least one of the vaccines by the end of the month. The announcement brings hope that the EU will soon be able to start vaccinating its 448 million people against a disease that has done some of its earliest and worst damage on the continent.
Covid-19: Lung damage 'identified' in study
Researchers made a mathematical model to find the daily disease growth rate European nations took 9 days to bring in lockdown from first death, on average In nine days, epidemic size grows by a factor of ten, the researchers say
Britain DID lockdown too late in March: UK's coronavirus epidemic grew five times more than the European average between first the Covid death and the start of lockdown, study ...
Researchers made a mathematical model to find the daily disease growth rate European nations took 9 days to bring in lockdown from first death, on average In nine days, epidemic size grows by a factor of ten, the researchers say
UEA study shows Chinese asymptomatic Covid-19 cases were not infectious
Researchers from Norwich have found a mass screening programme of more than 10 million people in the Chinese city of Wuhan identified 300 asymptomatic Covid-19 cases - but none were infectious. But the University of East Anglia scientists stressed the findings do not show people who have coronavirus, but no symptoms, cannot pass on the virus. Mass testing took place over two weeks at the end of May – after the city’s stringent lockdown was lifted in April. The study found no ‘viable’ virus in the asymptomatic cases and their close contacts did not test positive. Prof Fujian Song, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “The virus cultures indicated no viable virus in the identified asymptomatic cases. This means that these people were not likely to infect anyone else.”
Europe’s medical agency eyes safety of two COVID-19 vaccines
The European Medicines Agency has said it would convene a meeting on December 29 to decide if there is enough data about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for it to be approved. The agency also said on Tuesday it could decide as early as January 12 whether to approve an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna Inc.
Analysis: Could COVID knock out flu in Europe this winter?
As Europeans brace for a grim winter with the threat of rising COVID-19 infections, minimal numbers of flu cases recorded so far point to a possible silver lining. Data available for Europe since the beginning of October, when flu case numbers usually start to ramp up, mirror shallow figures seen in the Southern Hemisphere earlier this year and in the United States where the flu season has also just begun. Some doctors say a combination of lockdowns, mask wearing and handwashing appear to have hampered transmission of the flu, while warning that the data should be treated with caution because the peak of the season is weeks or even months away. According to Flu News Europe, a joint monitoring platform of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization which collects samples in 54 European regions, only one person was diagnosed with flu out of 4,433 sentinel tests during Sept. 28-Nov. 22.
Novavax expects delayed U.S. COVID-19 vaccine trial to start in coming weeks
Novavax Inc on Monday pushed back the start of a U.S.-based, late-stage trial for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine for the second time and now expects it to begin in the coming weeks instead of November. While the U.S. trial has been hampered by issues in scaling up the vaccine’s manufacturing, Novavax has a late-stage study underway in the UK which finished enrollment on Monday. Shares of the U.S.-based company were up 10% in late-afternoon trading. The U.S. trial delay was not meaningful and it could provide more information into Novavax’s “second-generation” vaccine that already lags behind larger rivals, said Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Charles Duncan.