"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 25th Jan 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid-19: Five ways to avoid lockdown back pain
Millions of people are less physically active than they were before Covid-19. For those working from home, the morning walk to the bus stop has gone. Days on end can be spent hunched over a laptop without ever leaving the house. A survey of people working remotely, by Opinium for the charity Versus Arthritis, found 81% of respondents were experiencing some back, neck or shoulder pain. Almost half (48%) said they were less physically active than before the lockdown. Another study by the Institute for Employment Studies found 35% reporting new back pain while working from home. Physiotherapists and other back pain experts say those with serious or persistent problems should seek professional help, but there are things that many of us can do to help ourselves.
Six ways to stop burnout as working from home set to become 'new norm' for many
As much as some of us might miss the office, it’s definitely time to accept that working from home isn’t going anywhere. After three lockdowns, it’s easy to start feeling burnt out with working from home and dreading the morning ‘commute’ from your bed to your desk. To help keep things fresh, we've come up with six practical ways you can stop the burnout and keep your work/life balance in order – even when your work and your life are both stuck inside.
UK to quarantine visitors from nations with high COVID-19 risk, Daily Mail says
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is preparing to force travelers from countries where there is a high risk of COVID-19 to go into quarantine for 10 days after arriving in Britain, the Daily Mail reported on Saturday. Travelers from Brazil and South Africa, and neighbouring countries, will be met on arrival and escorted to hotels to quarantine, under plans being discussed by UK ministers, the Daily Mail said
Hygiene Helpers
Double-Masking: Why Two Masks Are the New Masks
Double-masking is a sensible and easy way to lower your risk, especially if circumstances require you to spend more time around others — like in a taxi, on a train or plane, or at an inauguration. Pete Buttigieg, the former presidential candidate and now the nominee for secretary of transportation, was spotted double-masking. It appears he was wearing a high-quality medical mask underneath a black cloth mask. His husband, Chasten, was sporting a similar double-masked look, but with a fashionable plaid cloth mask that coordinated with his winter scarf. We should all be thinking about the quality of our masks right now. New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge, and one in particular is cause for pressing concern in the United States because it’s so contagious and spreading fast. I wrote about the steps you can take to better protect yourself.
A proactive approach to fight SARS-CoV-2 in Germany and Europe
This paper develops a sustainable way to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. The strategy presented here aims to avoid new infections, deaths and more nationwide lockdowns. It consists of three core elements: First, a rapid reduction in the number of infections to zero. Second, the avoidance of transmissions/reintroduction of the virus into virus-free green zones through local travel restrictions, tests and quarantines. Third, rigorous outbreak management if new cases occur sporadically
Covid: Vaccinated people may spread virus, says Van-Tam
People who have received a Covid-19 vaccine could still pass the virus on to others and should continue following lockdown rules, England's deputy chief medical officer has warned. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam stressed that scientists "do not yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission". He said vaccines offer "hope" but infection rates must come down quickly. A further 32 vaccine sites are set to open across England this week. Prof Van-Tam said "no vaccine has ever been" 100% effective, so there is no guaranteed protection. It is possible to contract the virus in the two- to three-week period after receiving a jab, he said - and it is "better" to allow "at least three weeks" for an immune response to fully develop in older people.
Nurses call for higher-grade face masks to protect against new coronavirus strains
Nurse leaders calling for all NHS staff to be given the higher grade of PPE Royal College of Nursing wrote a letter to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) College said was aware that some NHS trusts are using higher grade face masks
COVID-19: Crowds at Heathrow Airport spark social distancing concerns
Crowds at Heathrow Airport have sparked "super spreader" concerns after pictures emerged of a packed departures hall with limited social distancing. Former British ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott posted a photo of Terminal 2 on Friday with the caption: "T2 Heathrow Friday afternoon. No ventilation. Long delays. Super spreading." Pictures and videos of huge queues for passport control have appeared on social media in recent days, despite international travel being largely banned. Britons are only allowed to go abroad for a small number of "legally permitted reasons" during lockdown, with arrivals requiring a negative coronavirus test from the past 72 hours before they are allowed entry.
Europe’s growing mask ask: Ditch the cloth ones for medical-grade coverings
Faced with new, more contagious, strains of the coronavirus and a winter surge in cases, European nations have begun to tighten mask regulations in the hope that they can slow the spread of the virus. Germany on Tuesday night made it mandatory for people riding on public transport or in supermarkets to wear medical style masks: either N95s, the Chinese or European equivalent KN95 or FFP2s, or a surgical mask. It follows a stricter regulation from the German state of Bavaria this week that required N95 equivalents in stores and on public transport. Austria will introduce the same measures from Monday.
Community Activities
More children across northern Lincolnshire plugging into virtual learning thanks to laptop donations
In Grimsby, families struggling with their children's home learning have been given a helping hand by businesses and charitable groups. Phillips 66 Humber Refinery at Killingholme has donated 100 laptops and software worth £45,000 to local schools in support of pupils' home learning. The donation came after Grimsby Live highlighted how some families with five children only had one device for virtual learning during the latest lockdown.
Police detain 100 in Amsterdam after protest over lockdown, curfew
Rioters looted stores, set fires and clashed with police in several Dutch cities on Sunday, resulting in more than 240 arrests, police and Dutch media reported. The unrest came on the second day of new, tougher coronavirus restrictions, including a night curfew, which had prompted demonstrations. Police used water cannon, dogs and mounted officers to disperse a protest in central Amsterdam on Sunday afternoon, witnesses said. Nearly 200 people, some of them throwing stones and fireworks, were detained in the city, police said.
Help With Vaccination Push Comes From Unexpected Businesses
Amazon wrote to President Biden on Thursday offering to assist with communication and technology. Microsoft is opening up its largely empty office campus as a vaccination center as part of a broader partnership with the State of Washington. Starbucks is assigning workers from its operations and analytics departments to help design vaccination sites, donating the labor to the same state while continuing to pay employees. While some retailers and pharmacy chains have been directly involved in the rollout of coronavirus vaccinations, more surprising is the number of companies that have offered help despite having little to do with health care. What these companies do have are vast national footprints, significant manpower, huge distribution warehouses and, in some cases, empty office buildings. And they have the money to spare for a public service effort that could boost both their public image and their bottom line.
How does fake news of 5G and COVID-19 spread worldwide?
A recent study finds misinformation on the new coronavirus spreads differently across various countries. However, there was a consistent misunderstanding of 5G technology. Among the search topics examined, the myth around 5G having links to COVID-19 was the one that spread fastest. Dispelling myths and encouraging people to fact-check sources could help build trust with the public.
Phnom Penh yoga fans return to mat after lockdown - with a beer
For some, a post-lockdown group activity that combines exercise with alcohol may seem like the ideal coronavirus stress-buster - though yoga purists should probably avoid Phnom Penh’s TwoBirds Craft Beer brewery while it’s taking place. The brewery’s yoga classes, resumed after a six-week lockdown across Cambodia - which has officially recorded not a single COVID death - was lifted on Jan. 1, combine holding a pose with clutching a beer, and they’re attracting devotees. “I have more fun with beer yoga. It’s not as serious as traditional yoga,” said Sreyline Bacha, 25, as she reached for a beer glass, wobbling just a little to maintain her balance in a pose.
Portugal holds presidential election as COVID-19 cases spiral
Portuguese voters - largely confined to their homes due to a strict COVID-19 lockdown - will pick a new president on Sunday, but many fear going to the polls could worsen a surge in coronavirus cases and low turnout is expected. The country of 10 million people, which fared better than others in the first wave of the pandemic, now has the world’s highest seven-day rolling average of new cases and deaths per capita. Authorities reported a record daily toll of 274 deaths and more than 15,300 new cases on Saturday. “It wouldn’t have been a problem to wait another month. Exceptional times call for exceptional measures,” said Lisbon resident Miguel Goncalves, 55.
India’s female health workers on rural front line get COVID shot
Jyoti Bhambure is usually the one dispensing medicine – this week she was at the receiving end, among the first in India’s million-strong force of women health workers to win a COVID-19 vaccine. Dressed in a bright green sari with a gold border, Bhambure visited the small, rural hospital in western India at the time allotted and said the jab had lifted a weight off her shoulders. “I no longer fear the coronavirus,” said Bhambure, after getting her initial dose on Tuesday, one of the first tranche of front line workers to win protection in the pandemic. “We handle children and interact with mothers,” she said. “So I am glad I am vaccinated. I have no fear left in my mind.” India has suffered 152,000 deaths due to the virus and has prioritised about 30 million front-line workers in the first phase of an inoculation drive that began on January 16.
Brits 'jumping Covid vaccine queue as NHS appointment links shared on WhatsApp'
Britons are jumping Covid-19 vaccine queues by signing up through NHS appointment links shared on WhatsApp and social media, it is reported. It means ineligible people are being given jabs which should go to the UK's most vulnerable residents and health workers thanks to an IT loophole. The links are part of Swiftqueue's online booking system which is being used by some NHS trusts, an investigation by the Evening Standard found. It said there is evidence that people who are not on a priority list have used the portal to get Covid-19 jabs in east London and parts of the north.
Brazil’s most vulnerable communities face COVID food crisis
Coronavirus is spreading and the death toll is mounting — but what most worries the leaders of Brazil’s isolated and vulnerable communities is how on earth to feed people now that the government has pulled their main emergency aid. Ivone Rocha is cofounder of Semeando Amor (Sowing Love), a non-profit that distributes basic staples to some of the very poorest people in Rio das Pedras, one of Rio de Janeiro’s many favelas. For most of last year, they had received a decent government stipend to survive the pandemic, but that all ended with 2020, unleashing a frenzy of favela requests for food. “People here have no jobs,” Rocha told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. “Now the aid has ended. My God, what will happen?” It was April when Congress first passed a bill that established the monthly $600 real ($112) stipend — a little over half the country’s minimum wage — pledging to tide people over for three months during the pandemic.
UK imams, influencers counter COVID vaccine misinformation
Imams across the United Kingdom are helping a drive to dispel coronavirus misinformation, using Friday sermons and their influential standing within Muslim communities to argue that COVID-19 vaccines are safe. Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) which is leading a campaign to reassure its faithful, is among those publicly advocating that the inoculations are compatible with Islamic practices. “We are confident that the two vaccines that have been used in the UK, Oxford Astra-Zeneca and Pfizer, are permissible from an Islamic perspective,” he told the AFP news agency. “The hesitancy, the anxiety (and) concern is driven by misinformation, conspiracy theories, fake news and rumours.”
Covid-19 long-haulers want you to know that they're still not okay
Ten months have passed since Suzanne Hughes first fell ill. Before March 2020, the 56-year-old would go for long walks along the Welsh coast and spend hours tending to her garden. Now she feels lucky if she manages to walk more than a couple of minutes from her front door. “I can only do 30 per cent of what I’d like to do,” Hughes says. Even small exertions require a trade-off between what she wants to achieve now and how she’ll be feeling hours later. “Everything I do, I have to think, ‘What is this going to do to me? What’s the payback?’” Although we are still deep within the darkest days of the pandemic, with almost six per cent of the UK population already vaccinated against Covid-19 it is becoming possible to imagine life beyond the pandemic. In the coming months many of us will return to lives no longer dominated by a virus that has already taken so much from us. Covid-19 long haulers may never get that luxury.
Use 'Order Local' to help your favourite takeaway - and businesses can sign up for free
Businesses across the UK are once again facing a battle to survive - and once again we are here to help support them. For the third time, our Order Local campaign is relaunching to put independent businesses - particularly the hardest-hit retail and hospitality sectors - in touch with as many customers as possible. All business owners need to do is list themselves in the form below, or here, if they’re still open for delivery or collection and their services will be publicised for free in our interactive search tool to potential customers in their area.
Working Remotely
Government spent €3.7m to set up staff working from home
In Ireland, Government Departments have spent €3.7m on equipment for staff working remotely from home during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show. Hundreds of computers, telephones and furniture have been purchased for employees who have been unable to remain in their offices throughout the country due to Covid-19 restrictions. Figures obtained by the Sunday Independent show the efforts made by the Government to facilitate thousands of staff from March last year, including spending €500,000 on 693 laptops, 340 mobile phones and 133 webcams for the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, headed up by Simon Harris.
Can Brazil's remote workers thrive outside big cities?
The pandemic has led many to swap urban living and working for more rural environments. But what happens when you try to do it in a developing nation? Reports are emerging across the globe of workers shifting from big cities to smaller hubs as Covid-19 normalises remote work. Most attention has focused on the US or Europe, where smaller cities generally have the facilities to welcome new residents and allow them to work while enjoying a better environment. Yet in Brazil and other developing countries, the reality of such a move can be far from a simple transition to an easier lifestyle. Smaller cities often lack basic infrastructure to accommodate the new arrivals, making for a complicated adjustment.
Remote work is here to stay in Ontario — but only for some
The shift to remote work has been among the most dramatic changes for businesses since the onset of the pandemic, and amidst a provincewide lockdown and rising case counts, the end is likely a long way off. The enduring impact of this shift, however, is likely overstated. It’s true that flexible work arrangements have the potential to improve productivity and employee satisfaction, as well as better accommodate working parents and caregivers, all of which will be critical to Ontario’s long-term economic recovery. However, ask any newly remote worker, and they’ll tell you that the honeymoon period has largely ended as Zoom fatigue sets in, the line between work and leisure erodes, and the lack of social and creative interactions with colleagues hampers morale. Many industries and business models don’t lend themselves to fully remote work, either.
Productivity improved with remote working - survey
More than half of Irish business leaders say productivity has improved with remote working, a new survey shows, but it also reveals that company cultures may be negatively impacted by the shift towards working from home. The survey from technology company Expleo reveals that 89% of Irish business and IT leaders in Ireland said productivity had improved or stayed the same while working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic. 52% noted an improvement in productivity, while 37% reported a maintenance of productivity levels. Only 11% of respondents said productivity had declined due to remote working.
Virtual Classrooms
After Covid, will digital learning be the new normal?
Will schools continue their digitally enhanced approach, post-pandemic? Investors certainly think so. Global investment of venture capital in edtech more than doubled from $7bn in 2019 to a record $16.1bn in 2020, according to market intelligence consultancy HolonIQ. Others too believe the shift will be permanent. “Covid has given an impetus to schools to adopt, roll out and use more of the functionality of edtech tools,” says Hannah Owen, of the Nesta innovation foundation. “It’s likely, and optimal, that we’ll move to blended models, where remote and digital platforms support in-person classroom teaching, and contribute to minimising teacher workload.” Many school leaders are concerned that more tech-based teaching may add to the relative advantages already enjoyed by wealthier pupils. Research by the Sutton Trust found, for example, that 30% of middle-class pupils were doing live or recorded online lessons at least once per school day, compared to 16% of working-class pupils. Those at private schools were more than twice as likely to do so than those at state schools.
Teacher turns her dining room into classroom for virtual lessons
Lockdown means many people are creating make-shift offices at home, but one Barnard Castle teacher has gone a step further by turning her dining room into an early years’ classroom. Nic Linsley has recreated her classroom environment in her dining room, which now has dinosaur bunting, phonic visual aids and reading materials so remote lelessons have a resemblance to normality. She said: “It is only the first week but all the parents have been so supportive. We are trying to make lessons as practical as possible so that the children are not sat in front of screens all the time. Having all the visual aids helps the children so they still feel like they are in a classroom.”
Public Policies
Italy to take legal action on COVID vaccine delays to get doses
Italy will take legal action and step up pressure in Brussels against Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca over delays in deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines with a view to securing agreed supplies, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Sunday. The aim was to get the companies to meet the vaccine volumes they had promised and not to seek compensation, Di Maio said on RAI state television. “This is a European contract that Pfizer and AstraZeneca are not respecting and so for this reason we will take legal action... We are working so our vaccine plan programme does not change,” he said.
Coronavirus vaccine delays halt Pfizer jabs in parts of Europe
Vaccinations in parts of Europe are being held up and in some cases halted because of a cut in deliveries of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine. Germany's most populous state and several regions in Italy have suspended first jabs, while vaccinations for medics in Madrid have been stopped too. The US pharmaceutical firm has had to cut deliveries temporarily while cases in many European countries surge. Germany has reached 50,000 Covid deaths and Spain has seen record infections. Italy and Poland have threatened to take legal action in response to the reduction in vaccines. Pfizer said last week it was delaying shipments for the next few weeks because of work to increase capacity at its Belgian processing plant. The EU has ordered 600 million doses from Pfizer and has also authorised the Moderna vaccine.
COVID-19: China orders millions in Beijing to get tested after three new cases
Millions of people in Beijing are being tested for COVID-19 after the Chinese capital recorded three new cases on Friday. Provinces around the country have also been ordered to prepare mass quarantine facilities. Mainland China has a current total of 1,960 officially confirmed cases, but the government is going to extraordinary lengths to stop limited outbreaks turning into a second wave.
Hong Kong orders thousands to stay home in 2-day COVID-19 lockdown
Thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down Saturday (Jan 23) in an unprecedented move to contain a worsening outbreak in the city, authorities said. The order bans anyone inside multiple housing blocks within the neighbourhood of Jordan in Kowloon from leaving their apartment unless they can show a negative test. Officials said they planned to test everyone inside the designated zone within 48 hours "in order to achieve the goal of zero cases in the district". The government said in a statement there are 70 buildings in the "restricted area".
German minister warns against relaxing COVID-19 measures too soon
Germany’s coronavirus infection numbers are encouraging but remain too high, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, dampening expectations that restrictions to curb the spread of the virus could be lifted. Spahn told a news conference that new, more transmissible strains of the virus made it imperative to reduce case numbers further. “It’s like an antibiotic: if you stop too early, stop too soon, resistance can develop,” he said. “We don’t want to be accused of having relaxed too soon.” Germany, in lockdown since early November, reported over 800 deaths and almost 18,000 new infections on Friday. The 7-day incidence fell to 115 cases per 100,000, its lowest since Nov. 1.
Northern Ireland extends COVID-19 lockdown to March 5
The British region of Northern Ireland on Thursday extended its COVID-19 lockdown for an additional four weeks to March 5 and its deputy first minister said the measures might have to be extended again. Northern Ireland introduced a six-week lockdown on Dec. 26, closing schools, non-essential shops, bars and restaurants. “It’s an additional four weeks and there may well be something beyond that,” Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill told a press briefing.
Greece lifts more lockdown curbs, to open highschools on Feb. 1
Greece will loosen some lockdown restrictions on Feb. 1, letting high schools reopen for the first time in more than two months after signs that the spread of COVID-19 infections has stabilised, officials said on Friday. The country, in lockdown since early November due to a spike in infections, has seen pressure on its public health system ease with infections receding. It reopened primary schools and kindergartens earlier this month.
Norway's capital tightens lockdown to combat more contagious virus variant
Norway’s capital Oslo and nine neighboring municipalities imposed some of their toughest lockdown measures yet on Saturday after an outbreak of a more contagious coronavirus variant, first identified in Britain. Shopping centres and other non-essential stores will be closed from noon, for the first time in the pandemic, and will not reopen until Feb. 1 at the earliest, the government announced. Shops selling food will remain open, along with pharmacies and petrol stations. Organised sports activities will be halted, restaurants must close and schools must rely more on remote learning, while households have been asked not to have any visitors at home.
EU hit by delay to Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine delivery
AstraZeneca has warned EU countries to expect significant shortfalls to early deliveries of its coronavirus vaccine, in a fresh blow to the rollout of the bloc’s immunisation programme, European officials have said. The EU was expecting 100m doses of the jab in the first quarter of the year. But people with knowledge of the discussions said the company may fail to deliver even half that amount, although they stressed that final figures had not been established. AstraZeneca insisted there was no “scheduled delay” to the start of shipments of its vaccines, but said “initial volumes” would “be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain”. “We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the EU, as we continue to ramp up production volumes,” the company said, adding that the change in expected volumes did not affect the UK
Britain to discuss tighter travel restrictions
British ministers are to discuss on Monday further tightening travel restrictions, the BBC reported on Saturday, adding that people arriving in the country could be required to quarantine in hotels. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a news conference on Friday that the UK may need to implement further measures to protect its borders from new variants of COVID-19. Britain’s current restrictions ban most international travel while new rules introduced earlier in January require a negative coronavirus test before departure for most people arriving, as well as a period of quarantine.
Why did the world's pandemic warning system fail when COVID hit?
The World Health Organization (WHO) sounded its highest alarm on 30 January 2020 — a declaration called a ‘public health emergency of international concern’, or PHEIC, signalling that a pandemic might be imminent. Few countries heeded the WHO’s call for testing, tracing and social distancing to curb the coronavirus. By mid-March, it had spread around the world. Now, health officials and researchers are evaluating why the organization’s warning system failed and how to overhaul it. Many say the organization should have declared a PHEIC about a week earlier than it did. But the largest failing, researchers agree, is that so many countries ignored it. “The biggest issue to me is that for six to eight weeks after the PHEIC declaration, countries, except for in Asia, sat on their hands,” says Joanne Liu, a former president of Médecins Sans Frontiérs (also known as Doctors without Borders), who serves on an independent panel tasked with assessing and improving the WHO’s alarm system. World health officials are evaluating potential improvements to the system during the WHO's executive board meeting, being held 18–26 January. Talks will continue in advance of the annual World Health Assembly in May, when any changes would occur. Some of the proposals include modifying the PHEIC alarm to have colour-coded warning levels, and having countries sign on to a new treaty on preparing for pandemics.
South Africa paying more than double EU price for Oxford vaccine
South Africa will have to buy doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine at a price nearly 2.5 times higher than most European countries, the country’s health ministry has said. The African continent’s worst virus-hit country has ordered at least 1.5m shots of the vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII), expected in January and February. A senior health official on Thursday told AFP those doses would cost $5.25 (€4.32) each – nearly two and a half times the amount paid by most European countries. European Union members will pay $2.16 (€1.78) for AstraZeneca’s shots, according to information leaked by a Belgian minister on Twitter.
Belgium sees large initial shortfall of AstraZeneca vaccine
Belgium will receive less than half the number of COVID-19 vaccines it had expected from AstraZeneca in the first quarter, the country’s vaccine taskforce said on Saturday. Belgium had been expecting 1.5 million doses of the vaccine, which has still to be approved, by March, but would instead get around 650,000 doses. Reuters reported on Friday that AstraZeneca had informed European Union officials it would cut deliveries of the vaccine by 60% to a total 31 million doses in the first quarter due to production problems. Belgium had been expecting 1.5 million doses of the vaccine, which has still to be approved, by March, but would instead get around 650,000 doses. Reuters reported on Friday that AstraZeneca had informed European Union officials it would cut deliveries of the vaccine by 60% to a total 31 million doses in the first quarter due to production problems. The EU has a deal to purchase at least 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, with an option for an additional 100 million. The EU drug regulator is due to decide on approving the vaccine on Jan. 29.
Vaccines Turn Into Geopolitics in Europe’s Most Volatile Region
The coronavirus exposed lingering divisions in the Balkans, and now Europe’s most volatile region is once again cleaving along geopolitical and ethnic lines over efforts to get people vaccinated. The European Union has pledged to give six prospective members 70 million euros ($85 million) to buy Covid shots, but deliveries are facing delays. That’s empowered Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to leverage his links with China and traditional ally Russia into pledging vaccine donations to North Macedonia and to the ethnic Serbs in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The 18 million people who live in the western Balkans have been severely hit by coronavirus, with parts of former Yugoslavia recording among the world’s highest per-capita death rates. The fallout is threatening efforts to resolve lingering border disputes and risks pushing the region further away from the EU’s orbit as Russia and China extend their reach. Western Europe was already failing a place that’s synonymous with hardship and war, according to Zijad Becirovic, director of the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies in Ljubljana. The U.S., meanwhile, has gradually loosened political ties with the region since intervening in Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts in the 1990s
Maintaining Services
Coronavirus: Vaccine rationed to north amid national supply issues, reports say
Vaccine supplies sent to the North East and Yorkshire are to be rationed because the region is ahead of others in getting the coronavirus jab out, it has been reported. Deliveries to GP practices in the area – one of seven English NHS regions – will be halved from 200,000 doses to 100,000 next week, according to the Health Service Journal. It comes amid growing controversy that many over 80s in the south have still not been called for their innoculation, while GPs in the North East and Yorkshire are already starting to move onto lower age brackets. It is not clear if supplies will also be slashed to the patch’s hospitals and mass vaccination hubs – such as the Centre for Life in Newcastle – but, given it is GP practices that administer the majority of jabs, the known reduction will come as a major blow.
Covid vaccine: 'Over my dead body are we wasting a drop of this'
There was nervous anticipation at Saxonbury House surgery as doctors and staff prepared for their first coronavirus vaccination clinic last weekend. The seven surgeries that combined for the vaccination programme on the Sussex High Weald had been cautious, waiting for the national roll-out to be well under way before joining “wave six”. Then last Friday afternoon, the eve of their local V Day, months of careful planning were thrown up in the air. The white refrigerated van carrying their vaccines arrived as scheduled at Saxonbury House, Crowborough, around 2pm. The driver carefully unloaded the consignment and drove off. Mistakenly, however, he left two boxes of Pfizer vaccine rather than the one that had been promised and planned for.
Israel begins to give Covid jabs to teenagers
Over 2.5 million of Israel's nine-million-population have had first vaccine dose. The country's campaign is currently leading the global vaccination drive. Teenagers aged 16-18 are now being given the first dose, starting on Saturday Wednesday saw the country recorded its highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in a single day, with 10,213 cases and 101 deaths
Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine unit struggles to add new hires as holiday nears
A Beijing unit of Sinovac Biotech manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine said it is facing difficulties in finding staff to expand production because of surging local infections and the imminent Lunar New Year holiday. Eleven people living in the Daxing district of the capital, Beijing, where Sinovac Life Science is based, were confirmed as COVID-19 patients between Sunday and Wednesday, forcing authorities to seal up some residential compounds and launch a mass testing scheme. “Many people dare not go to Daxing district to apply for jobs, nor do people outside Beijing dare to come to the city to work,” said Ma Hongbo, recruitment manager of Sinovac Life Science, in an article published by the Beijing Talent Market News, backed by the city’s human resources authority.
Huge fire breaks out at Indian Covid vaccine maker contracted to produce Oxford jab
A huge fire has broken out at a plant being built in the world’s biggest vaccine maker, but it will not affect production of coronavirus vaccines, a source close to the firm said. The Serum Institute of India (SII), has been contracted to manufacture one billion vaccine doses developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca for India and many other low- and middle-income countries.
West Virginia touts COVID-19 vaccination success story as national rollout sputters
Even as President Joe Biden laments the nation’s sluggish COVID-19 immunization launch for a pace he calls “dismal,” West Virginia is touting its relative success in making the most of vaccine supplies it has received so far. Fewer than half of the nearly 38 million vaccine doses shipped to date by the federal government have actually made it into the arms of Americans, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Thursday. Some individual states have lagged behind with just a third or 40% of their vaccine allotments being administered as of Thursday, marking the one-year anniversary of the first locally transmitted COVID-19 case documented in the United States.
Healthcare Innovations
Australia regulator approves Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 for use
Australia's medical regulator has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use under a formal process, one of the first countries to complete a comprehensive approval, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday. The vaccine had been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration's (TGA) for Australians aged 16 years and over, Morrison told reporters, noting it was a year since the first coronavirus case was detected in the country. Vaccination of priority groups is expected to begin in late February, at 80,000 doses per week, Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters. Two doses will be required – at least 21 days apart, a government statement said. Australia will administer both doses of the vaccine at the recommended time.
South Africa Health Regulatory Body Approves Serum Institute of India's Covid-19 Vaccine
South Africa Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Friday announced that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has granted approval to Serum Institute of India (SII) to supply COVID-19 vaccine to the country. The approval by the health regulatory body comes amidst growing public concern that the 1.5 million vaccine doses to be shipped to South Africa in the next few weeks have not been approved yet. “We will, in the next coming days, engage with the public in order to give an update on the progress of the first batch of the vaccines that we committed would be received in the first quarter," Mkhize said.
ConserV Bioscience to develop ‘broad-spectrum’ coronavirus vaccine
UK biotech company ConserV Bioscience will collaborate on the development of a broad-spectrum coronavirus vaccine with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The vaccine has been designed to enable broad-spectrum protection against coronavirus pathogens originating from humans and animals, including MERS, SARS and SARS-CoV-2. The vaccine candidate consists of conserved immunoreactive regions from external and internal coronavirus proteins encoded in messenger RNA (mRNA). LLNL will use its proprietary nanolipoprotein particle (NLP) technology to formulate the mRNA constructs prior to injections.
The Coronavirus Kills Mink. They May Get a Vaccine.
At least two American companies, as well as Russian researchers, are working on coronavirus vaccines for mink. The animals have grown sick and died in large numbers from the virus, which they have also passed back to people in mutated form. Zoetis, a large veterinary pharmaceutical company in New Jersey with more than $6 billion in annual revenue in 2019, and Medgene Labs, a small company with about 35 employees that is based in South Dakota, are both testing vaccines in mink. They are seeking licensing of their products from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both companies said their vaccine technologies are generally similar to the one used by Novovax for a human vaccine, which is in late-stage trials. That system involves making insect cells produce the spike protein on the coronavirus, which is then attached to a harmless virus that enters into the body’s cells and trains the immune system to be ready for the real thing.
Dr. Fauci says one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be approved in two weeks
Latest data shows case counts fall in 43 states and District of Columbia, according to COVID Tracking Project. Hospitalizations also on the decline in 24 states as experts say lockdowns and behavior are yielding fruit. But public health officials warn that case counts may surge as new variant of COVID-19 circulates in the US There were nearly 189,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday nationwide; 116,264 Americans are hospitalized. The COVID-19 death count remains high as the number of fatalities recorded on Friday was 3,655. Since the start of the pandemic, 414,117 Americans have died of COVID-19 with 24.8 million people infected Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Friday he believes a new coronavirus vaccine is two weeks away from FDA approval. Single-dose shot developed by Johnson & Johnson is in final phases of clinical trials with data expected soon
CDC says 2nd coronavirus vaccine shot may be scheduled up to 6 weeks later
People who have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine can schedule their second shot up to six weeks later if they are not able to get one in the recommended time frame, according to updated guidance this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency also said that in “exceptional situations,” patients may switch from one of the authorized vaccines to the other between the first and second doses. The recommended interval between doses is three weeks for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and four weeks for Moderna’s.
Covid-19: Scientists challenge 'flawed' lateral flow tests report
A group of experienced scientists has issued a statement supporting the use of lateral flow tests in the battle against Covid. They say the rapid devices have identified 27,000 infected people in the UK who would not otherwise have had to self-isolate. The findings of a recent report suggested the tests were inaccurate and potentially harmful. But the scientists say that report was flawed and confused. Signatories to the statement include Prof Calum Semple, professor of outbreak medicine and child health, from the University of Liverpool, Prof Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, and Dr Susan Hopkins, interim chief medical adviser from Public Health England.
Covid-19: UK variant 'may be more deadly' but nation's R number drops
We already knew that the Covid-19 variant first discovered in south-east England was more transmissible, but now - speaking at a Downing Street briefing - Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed it may also "be associated with a higher degree of mortality". On how much more deadly the UK strain might be, the UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said if the old variant might lead to the deaths of 10 in 1,000 men in their 60s who caught the virus, the new variant might kill 13 or 14 in 1,000. However, he added: "There's a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it."
Israel finds single dose gives high resistance
A single shot of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine produces a robust antibody response within weeks, according to Israeli data that could help inform whether scarce global supplies can be stretched by delaying second doses. At the Rambam Health Care Campus in northern Israel, 91 per cent of the 1,800 doctors and nurses that received the two dose vaccine showed a major presence of antibodies 21 days after their first shot, before receiving the second dose, according to Michael Halberthal, chief executive of the hospital. A further 2 per cent showed a moderate presence of antibodies. “If 93 per cent had a major response three weeks after the first injection, this raises a good question, that you might rather be using the first injection on more people” said Dr Halberthal. At the Sheba Medical Center, similar serological tests at different intervals showed at least 50 per cent of staff with a level of antibodies “above the cut-off point” two weeks after the first jab, said Arnon Afek, the associate director-general of the hospital chain.
COVID-19: Halve the gap between vaccine doses, senior doctors urge
Public Health England (PHE) officials are resisting senior doctors' calls to halve the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The British Medical Association (BMA) has said the gap between doses being given to patients should be cut from 12 weeks to six. But officials at PHE have said it is essential to protect as many people as possible to prevent the coronavirus getting "the upper hand" over the healthcare service. The World Health Organisation has recommended that the gap should be a maximum of six weeks - but the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has opted to delay a second Pfizer dose for up to 12 weeks, to ensure more people get the first jab sooner.
Israeli Covid chief's claim single vaccine dose less effective 'inaccurate'
Israel’s health ministry has moved to row back on comments by the country’s coronavirus tsar, who suggested single doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine had not given as much protection against the disease as had been hoped. The remarks by Nachman Ash, reported first in the Israeli media earlier this week, drew widespread attention for appearing to suggest that the vaccine was less effective than expected after a single dose had been administered as the country recorded record cases and extended its lockdown earlier this week. As experts in the UK questioned whether it was too soon to make such a judgement, the Israeli health ministry pushed back, saying that the comments were inaccurate and had been taken out of context.
Covid: Delaying second dose of vaccine increases risk of new resistant strain, Sage papers reveal
Delaying doses of coronavirus inoculations will increase the chances of a vaccine-resistant strain of Covid-19 emerging, government scientists have warned. In new reports, released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), experts also warned that resistant new variants were a “realistic possibility” driven by the virus reacting to increasing levels of natural immunity among the population. The government’s decision to delay the second dose of vaccines to 12 weeks rather than three, to try and give more people some protection from the virus, has sparked anger among frontline health workers who fear they are being left at increased risk from infections. There have also been suggestions from Israel, that have yet to be fully validated, that the protection from a first dose could be far less than originally thought.
Coronavirus: Children do NOT play a key role in spread, study says
German researchers enrolled nearly 2,500 parents and their children in a study Found three times as many adults had coronavirus antibodies than children Data also shows a previously infected adult and an uninfected child was 4.3 times more common than a previously infected child and an uninfected parent
UK COVID-19 variant may carry higher risk of death but data limited - journalist cites advisory group
The COVID-19 variant identified in England last month could carry a higher risk of causing death although data is limited, according to one of the government's scientific advisory groups, ITV political editor Robert Peston said on Twitter on Friday.
Colchicine reduces the risk of COVID-19-related complications
The Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) announced today that the COLCORONA clinical trial has provided clinically persuasive results of colchicine’s efficacy to treat COVID-19. The study results have shown that colchicine has reduced by 21% the risk of death or hospitalizations in patients with COVID-19 compared to placebo. This result obtained for the global study population of 4488 patients approached statistical significance
SARS-CoV-2 needs cholesterol to invade cells and form mega cells
People taking cholesterol-lowering drugs may fare better than others if they catch the novel coronavirus. A new study hints at why: the virus relies on the fatty molecule to get past the cell's protective membrane. o cause COVID-19, the SARS-CoV-2 virus must force its way into people's cells—and it needs an accomplice. Cholesterol, the waxy compound better known for clogging arteries, helps the virus open cells up and slip inside, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Clifford Brangwynne's lab reports.
Denmark is sequencing all coronavirus samples and has an alarming view of the U.K. variant
Like a speeding car whose brake lines have been cut, the coronavirus variant first spotted in Britain is spreading at an alarming rate and isn’t responding to established ways of slowing the pandemic, according to Danish scientists who have one of the world’s best views into the new, more contagious strain. Cases involving the variant are increasing 70 percent a week in Denmark, despite a strict lockdown, according to Denmark’s State Serum Institute, a government agency that tracks diseases and advises health policy. “We’re losing some of the tools that we have to control the epidemic,” said Tyra Grove Krause, scientific director of the institute, which this past week began sequencing every positive coronavirus test to check for mutations.
Covid-19 news: UK variant may be 30 per cent more deadly
Preliminary evidence indicates the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus first identified in the UK may additionally be more deadly, UK prime minister Boris Johnson told a press briefing on Friday. The government was briefed by researchers in the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, who are assessing the data on the variant, which appears to be about 30 per cent more deadly. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and at Imperial College London who analysed data on the new variant concluded it is between 29 and 36 per cent more lethal, whereas researchers at the University of Exeter put the figure at 91 per cent. The UK’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said the evidence on lethality “is not yet strong”, adding: “but it is obviously a concern”.