"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 11th Jan 2021

Isolation Tips
Five tips to get reading again if you’ve struggled during the pandemic
Like many people, you may have resolved this New Year to read more in 2021 and spend less time on your screens. And now you may be wondering how to find the time to do it, especially in lockdown conditions, with different time constraints and anxieties pressing on us. One solution is to go with shorter bursts of reading. Our Summer 2020 pop-up project, Ten-Minute Book Club, was a selection of ten excerpts from free literary texts, drawn from a wide range of writing in English globally. Based on our larger project, LitHits, each week the book club presented a 10-minute excerpt framed by an introduction from an expert in the field and suggestions for free further reading. We found that the top two things people responded to were the core idea of brevity and the quality and diversity of the literature.
Lockdown 3.0: an opportunity to join up thinking
As we embark on what may be the very early stages of Lockdown 3.0, our fears for the future are made darker both by a real uncertainty about the course of the next few months and by the knowledge that it did not have to be like this. It is tempting to attribute such comment to hindsight, but in fact we have been led by a government which has egregiously disregarded what is actually little more than common sense. A health emergency of this potential scale required a strategic and systems-based approach from the start. This approach should have led early on to the production of a coherent plan with clear purpose. It should throughout have shown itself nimble to adapt in real time to new circumstances and to new knowledge.
Hygiene Helpers
Rapid Covid testing across England will help identify symptomless carriers
Rapid testing to find symptomless carriers of Covid-19 is to be launched in England this week. The aim of the programme is to identify some of the tens of thousands of infected people who are unwittingly spreading the virus across the country. The dramatic escalation of the programme – which uses detectors known as lateral flow devices – comes as Covid death rates have continued to soar and hospitals have reported alarming numbers of patients needing intensive care.
Nurse catches Covid three weeks after getting Pfizer vaccine
A nurse in Wales caught Covid three weeks after getting the vaccine, prompting warnings from experts that it takes time for immunity to build up. The nurse, who has been working for the Hywel Dda University Health Board area, said that she contracted the virus while waiting for the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech jab. Deputy Chief Executive of Hywel Dda health board, Dr Philip Kloer, said that while a Covid vaccine ‘reduces your chance of suffering’ from the virus, no vaccine is ever 100% effective.
Australia scrambles to block coronavirus variant; travellers must show negative test
Travellers to Australia will have to show a negative Covid-19 test before they can get on their plane, the prime minister said on Friday (Jan 8), as the city of Brisbane went into lockdown after the discovery of a case of a virulent new coronavirus variant. The more than 2 million residents of Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, will be barred from leaving their homes for anything but essential business for three days from Friday evening after a worker at a quarantine hotel tested positive for the new variant, which was first detected in Britain. Australia has detected several cases of the variant but this was the first one to appear outside the quarantine system.
Israel's Covid vaccine rollout is the fastest in the world — here are some lessons for the rest of us
While the U.S. and Europe attempt to ramp up their own Covid vaccination drives, Israel is outpacing them all. Israel’s vaccination drive began on Dec. 19, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the first person to be vaccinated in the country. Priority has been given to people aged over 60, health care workers and anyone clinically vulnerable — reported to make up around a quarter of its 9 million population.
SAGE warns people must still wear masks AFTER getting Covid vaccine
SPI-B, a sub-group of SAGE, warned some people would stop obeying rules. They said it was crucial that Government told people to continue to be strict. There is no proof that the vaccine will stop people from spreading the virus. Trials only looked at whether the jabs could prevent severe Covid-19
Queen and Prince Philip get Covid vaccine at Windsor Castle
In England, the Queen and Prince Philip have both received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccinations, Buckingham Palace has confirmed. The royal couple were given the jab by a doctor from the Royal Household at Windsor Castle, where they are both isolating. The Queen, 94, and the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, both meet the Government age guidelines for those who should be given the vaccine. Some 1.3 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a Covid vaccine, according to the government.
Covid-19: Act like you've got the virus, government urges
People in England are being told to act like they have got Covid as part of a government advertising campaign aimed at tackling the rise in infections. Boris Johnson said the public should "stay at home" and not get complacent. On Friday 1,325 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test were recorded in the UK - the highest daily figure yet - along with 68,053 new cases. Government sources say there is likely to be more focus from police on enforcing rather than explaining rules. "With over 1,000 people dying yesterday it's more important than ever everyone sticks to rules," a source told the BBC.
Community Activities
Joe Wicks: How to watch PE lessons during lockdown
Joe Wicks is relaunching his live "PE lessons" on Monday as the UK enters the second week of another national lockdown. The fitness coach and author, also known as The Body Coach, created the weekly online exercise sessions in March when the UK went into lockdown for the first time as a way of keeping children fit while schools were closed. The workouts were hugely popular, with one having helped Wicks achieve a Guinness World Record as nearly a million people tuned in live to watch. Wicks also used the popularity of classes as an opportunity to raise money for the NHS, with £580,000 donated through his online workouts.
COVID-19: Ad campaign launched with plea to public as fears grow over lockdown compliance
A new public awareness campaign has been launched, urging people to "stay at home" in an attempt to encourage the public to comply with lockdown rules. It comes amid growing fears that people have not been observing social distancing rules, as case numbers surge, hospitals become swamped and deaths continue to rise. On Friday, a record 68,053 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK and one in 50 people in England are now thought to have coronavirus, according to the Office for National Statistics.
COVID-19 lockdown fines reviewed in Derbyshire after women 'treated like criminals' over country walk
A police force is to review its lockdown fines after being criticised by two women who "thought someone had been murdered" due to the "heavy-handed" response to what they thought was a legal walk. Jessica Allen told Sky News she and her friend Eliza Moore travelled in separate cars to make the five-mile journey from their home town in Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire, to Foremark Reservoir, just across the county border in Derbyshire, on Wednesday.
COVID-19: Lockdown mobility data shows people have become accustomed to bending the rules
Transport app Citymapper tracks how many people plan journeys in London, Manchester, and Birmingham. It doesn't track car trips but it captures everything else. According to its data, journeys during the first lockdown fell to less than 10% of pre-pandemic levels, and stayed that way for days. This time round however, things are slightly different. Movement has fallen since the lockdown was announced, but it isn't down to the levels of March and April. Instead, mobility fell to a little under 20% of pre-pandemic levels.
Car owners told not to miss MOT despite Covid lockdown
Car owners in the UK have been told to make sure they do not miss their MOT, even if they are not currently able to use their vehicle. During the first national coronavirus lockdown in 2020, the need for the annual checks was put on hold and drivers whose certificates were due to expire before 31 July were given a six-month extension. However, the government has declared that MOT and servicing centres are an essential service and remain open for business during the current lockdown. Its guidance explains that tests should be booked as usual, but those who are isolating, shielding or have Covid-19 symptoms must not travel to an MOT centre. There are separate procedures for Northern Ireland.
Working Remotely
Working from home: The smarter, healthier way to do it
Vaccine or not, once we are out of lockdown most people who can work from home want to continue doing so – just not all the time, according to a recent Central Statistics Office survey. More than six in 10 would like a mix of home and office. But the real challenge in 2021 is to move past the basics and figure out how to make your professional interactions productive, respectful and yes, sometimes even meaningful.
Study reveals working from home negatively impacts mental health as more than 50 percent feel isolated
Health professionals are urging people across Lancashire to look after their mental health as the country enters the latest national lockdown. The past nine months have been difficult and there are many who have struggled with poor mental health due to the changes we've had to face. The advice comes at the same time as a study conducted by remote building company Wildgoose, found the mental health of workers across the country was being negatively impacted due to working from home. To help with maintaining good mental health during the latest national lockdown therefore, Dr Andy Knox has provided seven basic tips that if followed each day, could be used to improve your mental health
How to claim £125 tax back if you've had to work from home during Covid pandemic
Millions of people who have had to work from home in England due to the coronavirus pandemic could be entitled to £125 back from the tax man. A little known 'working from home' tax rule means anyone who has been told to work from home during the pandemic can claim financial relief, up to the value of £125, to spend on bills and other home working essentials. And you only need to have worked from home for one day to be able to claim the rebate from HMRC, reports The Mirror.
Are you ready for another year of working from home? How to avoid 2020 mistakes, ensure better balance – and avoid burnout
Flexible working, which combines remote working with office life, is predicted to become the new normal in the future. This means that many homeworkers might need to rethink their current set-ups and consider whether working from home is as rewarding and productive as it could be for them. What’s clear is that not everybody feels the same way and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for homeworkers. The CSO’s Social Impact of Covid-19 November survey reflects this disparity of experiences, where 27.3pc of respondents said they were finding working from home more difficult; 37pc said it was getting easier and 35.6pc said there was no difference as time went on. In its favour, working remotely has many well-known benefits and is associated with higher job satisfaction as well as offering greater flexibility.
‘Vulnerable and violated’: Remote working sexual harassment exacerbated since spring lockdown, poll finds
In the UK, a quarter of women suffering sexual harassment while working from home say the misconduct was exacerbated after the government announced a lockdown in March and more time was spent online working remotely, new data shows. Online sexual harassment has surged as the pandemic forced people to work from home – with perpetrators finding new ways to abuse their victims via technology. Exclusive polling carried out for The Independent by Rights of Women, the leading sexual harassment advice line, found almost half of women being subjected to workplace sexual harassment now say it is taking place remotely, while more than four in ten victims say they experienced either some or all of the misconduct online.
How To Land A Promotion While Working Remotely
Vaccines are being distributed as you read this sentence, but the pandemic is far from over. We can expect at least several more months of “business as unusual” before things go back to nearly normal, but that doesn’t mean putting your ambitions on hold. To prevent the pandemic from sabotaging your career goals, focus on these four steps: Build relationships with clients; Look out for your co-workers; Talk with your manager about growth opportunities; Focus on professional development outside of work
Virtual Classrooms
COVID-19: Children of working poor hit hardest by remote learning, as schools struggle to meet demand
A survey by Teacher Tapp seen exclusively by Sky News shows that primary schools in England have faced higher demands for children to attend than secondary schools. And this has increased dramatically during the latest lockdown. This week 80% of primary schools said more than 5% of their children were attending compared to 28% of secondary schools. Some schools are seeing over half their students coming in. The prime minister told the Commons that over 600,000 devices have been provided to schools since the pandemic - but many head teachers are still reporting a huge shortfall in the numbers needed, with Ofcom estimating 1.5 million children are without digital devices on which they can learn.
Covid in Scotland: Pupils face disparities in remote learning
Live-streamed lessons will not be offered to all children in Scotland when the new school terms begins on Monday, according to BBC research. Plans for remote learning during the latest lockdown reveal big disparities between Scotland's 32 councils. Many say live online lessons will be part of a mix of different learning tools offered to pupils but some have ruled it out. The Scottish government said a uniform approach would be "counterproductive". Instead the decision on the best approach has been left to individual schools and teachers.
Saskatchewan post-secondary students concerned over missed experiences from virtual learning
Student unions from three of Saskatchewan’s largest post-secondary institutions are concerned about how much students are getting out of their classes through virtual learning. Institutions have adjusted since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March and students applaud the changes made to keep staff, faculty and their peers safe. However, they only see learning virtually as a part-time solution and believe they’re missing something with courses taking place from living rooms and kitchens instead of classrooms and laboratories.
Teachers are on the front lines with students in the coronavirus pandemic
With the rise of COVID-19 cases, teachers are taking on this front-line fight as they continue to cultivate their learning about teaching online and in hybrid contexts and their strategies for managing risks in schools. As teachers continue to teach in both physical classrooms and online, the uncertainties around the pandemic continue. If COVID-19 has any bright silver lining, it has made the public vitally aware of children’s socio-emotional needs and the critical and growing role of teachers as heroes in the pandemic.
'I've nothing left to give': parents on home schooling in lockdown
After the government decided to announce a new lockdown in England and close schools to most pupils, parents have been juggling working and home schooling once more. From practical issues such as broadband and printing, to concerns surrounding mental health, four parents spoke about how they have been coping this last week.
Public Policies
Jordan approves emergency use of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine
The country hopes to start its vaccination campaign in the coming days, with around 200,000 people having registered for inoculation. China’s Sinopharm says its vaccine is 79 per cent effective
Biden Plans Coronavirus Vaccination Blitz After Inauguration
In a sharp break with the Trump administration, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. intends to release nearly all available doses of the coronavirus vaccine soon after he is inaugurated, rather than hold back millions of vials to guarantee second doses will be available. The decision is part of an aggressive effort to “to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” the Biden transition team said on Friday. The vaccination plan, to be formally unveiled next week, also will include federally run vaccination sites in places like high school gyms and sports stadiums, and mobile units to reach high-risk populations.
COVID-19: UK approves use of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine and orders 10 million more doses
The Moderna vaccine has become the third coronavirus jab to be approved for use in the UK - with an additional 10 million doses ordered. The US-based company's vaccine was shown to have 94% efficacy against COVID-19 in final trials. Seven million doses had already been ordered by the UK government with a further 10 million expected to follow - but it will likely not become available until March.
UPDATE 1-French city of Marseille gets tougher curfew as new COVID-19 variant discovered
France has imposed a stricter evening curfew in Marseille after authorities said the new variant of the COVID-19 virus initially found in the UK had been discovered in the Mediterranean city. Marseille joined other French cities such as Strasbourg and Dijon in having its curfew moved forward to 6 p.m. from 8 p.m., and running through to 6 a.m. the following morning. The stricter Marseille measures will start on Sunday evening. The move came as COVID-19 related deaths and cases increased in France, which has the world's seventh-highest death toll from the coronavirus. There were 20,177 new, confirmed COVID cases in the last 24 hours and roughly 170 more deaths.
WHO-led COVAX initiative secures contracts of 2 bln doses of COVID-19 vaccines: Tedros
COVAX, an international initiative for COVID-19 vaccines led by the World Health Organization (WHO), has secured contracts of 2 billion doses of vaccines, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.
Greece extends some COVID lockdown curbs until Jan. 18
Health authorities reported 721 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and 49 related deaths, bringing the respective totals since the first coronavirus case was detected in February last year to 143,494 and 5,195. Greece earlier extended restrictions on international travellers arriving in Greece by two weeks.
Cyprus goes into new lockdown from January 10 as COVID surges
Cyprus will introduce a new lockdown to quell rising COVID-19 infections from Jan. 10, its health minister said on Friday, the country’s second since the start of the pandemic. Retail businesses such as hairdressers, beauty parlours and large department stores will shut until Jan. 31, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told a news conference. People will be allowed to leave home just twice a day for specific reasons such as buying groceries or medicines and taking exercise, while a current curfew banning movement from 2100 to 0500 daily will remain in force.
Coronavirus digest: London declares major incident over soaring cases
In Britain, London mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a major incident, warning that hospitals across the capital could struggle to cope with new infections linked to a new strain. "The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically," Khan said in a statement, calling for more support and action from the central UK government. "We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point." The number of patients in the capital's hospitals has grown by 27% in the last week and the number on ventilators has increased by 42%. Britain on Friday reported 1,325 news deaths from the coronavirus — its highest daily tally since the pandemic began. The last record of 1,224 was reported in April.
China to provide COVID-19 vaccines free of charge
China will provide COVID-19 vaccines free of charge once they become available to the general public, government authorities said on Saturday. National Health Commission official Zheng Zhongwei said that while manufacturing and transport of vaccines have costs, the government can provide vaccines for free to individuals.
First Minister advises people to be 'cautious' even after having Covid vaccine
The coronavirus vaccine roll-out is well under way right across the UK which offers a ‘brighter futuer’ for 2021. However the UK finds itself under lockdown rules, with First Minister Mark Drakeford extending restrictions in Wales for a further three-weeks. At the Welsh Government press conference on January 8, he told the nation that the vaccine roll-out is under way and he ‘shares’ the Prime Ministers ambitions of vaccinating the top four priority groups by mid-February. However stressed this is dependant on the programme and vaccine supplies.
Cuba to collaborate with Iran on coronavirus vaccine
Communist-run Cuba said late on Friday it had signed an accord with Iran to transfer the technology for its most advanced coronavirus vaccine candidate and carry out last-stage clinical trials of the shot in the Islamic Republic. The allies are both under fierce U.S. sanctions that exempt medicine yet often put foreign pharmaceutical companies off trading with them and as such they seek to be self-reliant. Both are also strapped for cash. Iran launched human trials of its first domestic COVID-19 vaccine candidate late last month, while Cuba has four candidates currently in human trials. Once its most advanced candidate, Soberana (Sovereign) 2, has completed Phase II trials which started on Dec. 22, it will be tested in Phase III trials in around 150,000 people in Havana, officials have said.
COVID-19: Brisbane in three-day lockdown over case of new variant first identified in UK
Brisbane has entered a three-day lockdown after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was diagnosed with the COVID-19 variant first identified in the UK. Australia's third largest city - and its surrounding areas - will also see the introduction of compulsory face masks for the first time, the Queensland state government said. Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said: "We know that that strain is 70% more infectious and we know the extreme difficulty that the UK has had in controlling their outbreak due to that strain.
Maintaining Services
Second doses of first coronavirus vaccine happening now
As states try to broaden the reach of their coronavirus vaccination campaigns and navigate uncertain supply chains, many of the first people to receive their shots are just now completing the final act of immunity, the second dose, which boosts the efficacy of both available US vaccines to about 95 percent. Many health care workers and others at high risk who had the Pfizer shots in mid December lined up for their "booster" shot this week, due to be given 21 days after the initial dose.
Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes double in a fortnight as care sector is biggest source of infection clusters
The number of apparent Covid-19 outbreaks inside care homes has more than doubled in a fortnight with the care sector now the largest source of multi-infection incidents once again, according to official data. Public Health England figures show that in the week to 3 January, there were 749 “acute respiratory infection incidents” in care homes across the UK, up from 480 the week before and 364 in the week before that. The incidents are defined as two or more confirmed or suspected cases of a respiratory illness such as Covid-19 or flu, and a large majority were confirmed to involve Covid-19 through virus testing.
NHS England plans to vaccinate all frontline staff against COVID-19 in next few weeks
NHS England said on Friday it had made plans to vaccinate all frontline staff against COVID-19 in the next few weeks following the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Nikita Kanani, the Nation Health Service medical director for primary care, said the vaccine will be administered to “all health and social care staff” by mid-February.
COVID-19 In Butler County: Hospitals Adjusting On Fly After State Announces New Vaccine Distribution Plan
This is the fourth version of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan in Pennsylvania. While things change, local health systems are rolling with the punches. “Many people are ready, many people perceive their risk. They’ve been riding this out for a long time and have been careful for a long time,” said Dr. David Rottinghaus, the chief medical officer at Butler Health System. Dr. Rottinghaus said Butler Health System was tasked with vaccinating the county’s 1A Phase. “We distributed almost 1,000 in the last 3 days. We are pretty far down the road in tier 1A,” Rottinghaus said.
Over 9 million COVID-19 vaccine shots given in China, health officials say
China has administered over 9 million shots of COVID-19 vaccine since Dec 15 to people deemed at high risk of contracting the disease, senior health officials said on Saturday. As vaccine production ramps up,
DGCA issues guidelines for Airlines to transport COVID-19 vaccines
India's civil aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has issued guidelines to airlines and other aircraft operators for transportation of Covid-19 vaccines. "All scheduled operators who have been currently authorized to carry dangerous goods may carry COVID19 vaccine packed in dry ice, meeting the regulatory requirements," DGCA said in a circular. "Non-scheduled operators, including aircraft engaged in general aviation, that are required to participate in the carriage of COVID 19 vaccines packed in dry ice shall seek specific approval before commencing such operations," it added. Covid-19 vaccination in India is expected to start in the next few days, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said yesterday, adding that the union government has requested the stakeholders in the process to help in its smooth rollout.
Coronavirus Vaccine Demand Has Health Officials Turning to Eventbrite
In the early stages of a global push to distribute the coronavirus vaccine to those who need it most — a process that has, so far, managed to be both hectic and slow — some health officials have turned to an unexpected tool: the ticketing website Eventbrite. Before the pandemic, the platform was a place to book tickets to performances, art shows or pub crawls. Now, public health officials are using it to schedule vaccination appointments. Mai Miller, 48, of Merritt Island, Fla., scoured Eventbrite last week in search of a slot for her mother. She scrolled through pages of dates and times, repeatedly refreshing the site and hunting for booking buttons that were blue, signaling availability. She found a few, but she couldn’t seem to click on them quickly enough. “It was just a scramble,” she said. “Like musical chairs with 20 chairs and 4,000 people.”
'Care needed' after getting Covid vaccine
People who have had Covid vaccines are being warned to still take care. Vaccination has been shown to prevent severe infection, so even if people do catch the virus, they would be protected from getting seriously ill. The call comes as an NHS nurse working for the Hywel Dda University Health Board area said she contracted Covid-19 while waiting for her second dose. The health board said while the vaccine "reduces your chance of suffering", "no vaccine is 100% effective". The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which started being rolled out in the UK last month, offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 after a second dose.
Some school staff will be prioritised for coronavirus vaccine
Special school staff, an those working in colleges providing intimate care, as well as at risk staff will be prioritised for the coronavirus vaccine along with care workers. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which advises UK health departments on immunisation, agreed certain special school staff should be classed as care workers and that at risk school and college staff should also be prioritised. Headteachers, including Chris Britten, head of Ysgol y Deri special school in Penarth, have been pressing for school staff to be prioritised after health workers and vulnerable groups.
How Restaurants Have Weathered the Pandemic
Nearly 40,000 restaurants in the state have been shuttered since last year, with California leading in the number of restaurant closures in the nation, according to the latest figures released by Yelp. In every corner of the state, loan payouts have been exhausted and state unemployment programs are stymied by bureaucratic delays. A survey by the California Restaurant Association, the group that challenged Los Angeles’s outdoor dining ban in court, found that 60 percent of restaurants that received federal loans said they would most likely run out of money by the summer. It also estimated that since March, between 900,000 and one million restaurant workers have either been laid off or furloughed. The $900 billion stimulus package Congress passed in December would give struggling small businesses another chance to apply for loans.
North Wales Police Federation rep says officers should get Covid vaccine 'as a priority'
A North Wales Police Federation rep has said officers should get the Covid vaccine as a priority. More than 9,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to change the fact that police are not on the priority list to be immunised for Covid-19. Police forces across the UK are currently experiencing high sickness rates as officers face a greater risk of contracting the virus due to the public facing nature of their jobs. Mark Jones, general secretary of the North Wales Police Federation, said his colleagues had even been spat at by offenders, raising the potential for them to catch the coronavirus even further.
Healthcare Innovations
Hong Kong fourth wave: sewage tests for coronavirus to be expanded, aim for ‘gold standard’
Pilot scheme by HKU experts helped uncover nine infections in two blocks. Mandatory testing will be triggered if sewage checks reveal two consecutive positive results or two positives over three days
Covid-19: Breastfeeding women can have vaccine after guidance turnaround
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has revised its guidance so that pregnant and breastfeeding women can receive the covid-19 vaccine. Writing in BMJ Opinion, Helen Hare, an acute medicine trainee, and Kate Womersley, an academic foundation trainee, said that the change had come after strong pressure from campaigners, clinicians, and some of the women affected. The MHRA had previously recommended that breastfeeding women should not be given the vaccine, which Hare and Womersley said had been interpreted by NHS trusts as a blanket ban. But on 30 December the agency said that women who were breastfeeding could be given both the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
Oxford/AstraZeneca to submit coronavirus vaccine for EU approval next week
The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca will submit their jointly-produced coronavirus vaccine to the European Medicines Agency next week — with a decision on approval for use across the bloc expected by the end of January. The EMA already has the drug-makers' phase 3 data as part of a rolling review, but the vaccine producers are yet to hand a formal submission for conditional marketing authorization from the EU regulator. "Possible conclusion — end of [January], depending on data and evaluation progress," the agency tweeted. The Commission would need to rubber stamp a recommendation from the EMA.
China's COVID-19 vaccine found capable of neutralizing UK strain
China's COVID-19 vaccine is found capable of neutralizing the new strain of the novel coronavirus that was reported to be behind the rise in transmission of the disease in parts of the United Kingdom, senior health official said on Saturday. Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, said China's scientific community is paying close attention to the new variant and its effect on current vaccines as reports indicated that the new strain had arrived in China via imported cases. Scientists from the Institute of Laboratory Animal Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangdong province are already working on the issue, Zeng said during a news briefing held by the State Council Information Office.
Scientists create first computational model of entire virus responsible for COVID-19
Researchers at the University of Chicago have created the first usable computational model of the entire virus responsible for COVID-19—and they are making this model widely available to help advance research during the pandemic. "If you can understand how a virus works, that's the first step towards stopping it," said Prof. Gregory Voth, whose team created the model published in Biophysical Journal. "Each thing you know about the virus's life cycle and composition is a vulnerability point where you can hit it."
Three studies highlight low COVID risk of in-person school
In the first study, published today in Pediatrics, a team led by researchers at Duke University traced contacts of North Carolina students infected with COVID-19 in 11 school districts in the first 9 weeks of in-person instruction in the fall. In August 2020, 56 of 115 North Carolina school districts joined the ABC Science Collaborative to put in place specific public health measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission and share what they learn in the process. Superintendents reported primary and secondary cases by school and week of the quarter. The collaborative was developed by faculty at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
mRNA latecomer CureVac recruits Bayer to speed COVID-19 vaccine to market
Compared with Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership, which already have their COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use, CureVac seems a little late to the mRNA race. But now, the biotech has signed a Big Pharma teammate to help accelerate development, boost manufacturing and prep for a possible launch. CureVac partnered up with German compatriot Bayer on its COVID-19 vaccine, CVnCOV, which just entered phase 3 testing three weeks ago. No financial details were provided. The two companies aim to leverage Bayer's expertise and operations to supply “hundreds of millions” doses of the mRNA shot once it’s approved. Along the way, Bayer will help with clinical development, manufacturing, regulatory affairs and commercialization.
Roche's Actemra, Regeneron's Kevzara win U.K.'s favor in COVID-19 after study shows 24% drop in death risk
The question of whether seriously ill COVID-19 patients can benefit from anti-inflammatories like Roche’s Actemra and Sanofi and Regeneron’s Kevzara has dogged practitioners in the United States thanks to conflicting clinical trial results. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has reached a definitive answer on the two drugs, both of which are IL-6 inhibitors: They significantly reduce the risk of death in COVID-19 patients needing intensive care, and they should be used to ease the pressure hospitals are now facing as the coronavirus pandemic continues to intensify, the country’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) said Thursday. The recommendation came after data from an NIHR-sponsored study showed that Actemra and Kevzara can cut hospital stays for COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care by 10 days and can lower the risk of death by 24% in patients who receive either drug within a day of admission. That finding prompted the U.K. government to recommend to the National Health Service (NHS) that IL-6 inhibitors be rolled out for the treatment of COVID-19.
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine not affected by mutation seen in contagious coronavirus variant, study indicates
A mutation found in fast-spreading coronavirus variants does not negate the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, researchers reported late Thursday. The result is positive, if expected, evidence that existing vaccines will be able to withstand some mutations to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus without losing efficacy. But experts noted that this vaccine and others will still need to be tested against other mutations of concern, and that the new study only looked at one key mutation contained in the variants, not the full variants. “We’re working on that part now” in additional studies, Philip Dormitzer, Pfizer’s vice president and chief scientific officer of viral vaccines, told STAT.
Most patients hospitalized for Covid-19 still have symptoms six months later, China study finds
Three-quarters of Covid-19 patients still have at least one symptom six months after first falling ill, researchers who followed hospital patients in China reported Friday. The new findings suggest symptoms linger longer and in a higher proportion of patients than previously thought. The largest and longest analysis to date of post-Covid recovery also warns that some patients’ antibody levels fell sharply, raising concern that while waiting for a return to full health, they could be reinfected with the coronavirus. Almost two-thirds of the patients said they were still suffering from fatigue and muscle weakness, the researchers wrote in The Lancet. A little over a quarter had difficulty sleeping, and a little under a quarter experienced anxiety and depression. Overall, more women than men reported lingering symptoms, and people whose disease was more severe had poorer lung health. Their median age was 57.
Pfizer Says Its Covid Vaccine Works Against Key Mutation
Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Friday that their Covid vaccine is effective against one of the mutations present in the new contagious variants identified in Britain and South Africa. Independent experts said the findings were good news, but cautioned that each of those coronavirus variants has several other potentially dangerous mutations that have not yet been investigated. So it’s possible that one of those mutations affects how well the vaccine works. “It’s the first step in the right direction,” said Dr. John Brooks, the chief medical officer for the Centers for Disease Control Covid-19 emergency response. “I’m hoping that the additional work that comes out in the future will fall in line with that finding.”