"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 1st Feb 2021

Isolation Tips
Martin Lewis urges everyone to claim £124 for working from home
In England, those who are working from home are being encouraged to go online and claim up to £124 they are entitled to. The advice comes from Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis who has explained that money is available to home workers even if they have worked from home for only one day since last April. Many people have been unable to return to their offices due to the pandemic and could be missing out on Government cash. The available money is a reduction in the amount of income tax a person pays, and is designed to help those who work from home with their overheads
Hygiene Helpers
Everyday Covid mistakes we are all still making
Covid-19 infections in the UK are reducing but remain stubbornly high, despite a month of lockdown measures. So could we be doing more as individuals to curb transmission of the virus? A virologist, a psychologist and a public health expert share their views on some of the Covid-19 mistakes that we are all still making.
U.S. Labor Department issues COVID-19 workplace safety guidance
The guidance issued by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines key measures for limiting the coronavirus’ spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene and routine cleaning. But the guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations.
Community Activities
More Brazil protests against Bolsonaro’s COVID-19 response
Protesters in Brazil rallied for the second straight weekend in multiple cities to demand the resignation of President Jair Bolsonaro for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two hundred people protested on Sunday in Brasilia, the capital, holding signs and banners reading, “Bolsonaro Out” and “Impeachment Now”, while a procession of cars honked their horns in support. Other demonstrations were also held in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Hungarians protest against lockdown measures despite gathering ban
Restaurant workers were among hundreds of people protesting against coronavirus lockdown measures on Sunday in Budapest, and at least 100 restaurants planned to re-open even as the government threatened them with heavy fines. Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has said it could only start easing the measures if the number of coronavirus cases falls sharply, or if large numbers of Hungarians are inoculated. Hungary became first in the EU this week to sign a deal for Russia’s Sputnik V COVID vaccine and Chinese Sinopharm’s vaccine. nL1N2K40FS. Current lockdown measures include a night curfew and closing secondary schools, and all restaurants and cafes, except for takeaway meals.
Australian Open to be allowed 30,000 fans a day
The Australian Open will be allowed to admit up to 30,000 fans a day, around 50% of the usual attendance, when the Grand Slam gets underway on Feb. 8, Victoria state sports minister Martin Pakula said on Saturday. The limit will be reduced to 25,000 over the last five days of the tournament when there are fewer matches, but Pakula said the announcement would ensure some of the biggest crowds for a sporting event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’ll mean that over the 14 days, we will have up to 390,000 people here at Melbourne Park and that’s about 50% of the average over the last three years,” he told reporters at the venue for the tournament.
Working Remotely
More Older Americans Stay on the Job. Working From Home Helps
The pandemic is extending the trend of older Americans working longer -- and giving up long commutes is part of the reason. Today, roughly 1 in 5 adults aged 65 and older remain on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the mid 1980s, the ratio was closer to 1 in 10. Although the number of older workers dipped in the initial stages of the pandemic along with employment overall, it has since rebounded and anecdotal evidence suggests working from home has helped.
Essential Lessons Businesses Have Learned During The Pandemic
The pandemic has caused all kinds of shifts in the business world – from the way people work to how companies run their businesses. In many ways it has accelerated advancements that we wouldn’t have expected to occur in a relatively short period of time. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest changes made and lessons learned by businesses during this time of turmoil.
Never Want To Go Back To The Office? Here's Where You Should Work
The past year has proven that employees can be just as, if not more, productive working from home as they are working in the office. Now, some employers are moving to capitalize on that realization, making the switch remote work permanent. Roughly half of U.S. professionals believe their companies will allow them to telecommute at least part of the time after the pandemic, according to LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index. That percentage is even higher in industries including tech (73%), finance (67%) and media (59%), that see flexible work as the future. Here is a guide to the companies adopting remote or hybrid work models for the long run.
Virtual Classrooms
Chicago parents say remote learning isn’t working and want their voices heard in a city still grappling with a plan
As the Chicago teachers union and the school district continue to argue over reopening terms for in-person instruction, parents have organized to express frustration with the standoff and make their voices heard. For weeks, the district — third largest in the nation — and union have gone back and forth over what should be done. The union contends that not all schools have been given proper equipment or ventilation, and it wants an agreed-upon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health metric, among other things. It also said teachers and staff should be able to work remotely, voluntarily coming to work in person, until they receive the vaccine.
Here's Why Your Kid Suddenly Clams Up On Camera During Virtual Learning
Hiccups during online learning are to be expected: Dropped internet, slow apps, and frozen screens are all tech issues that come with this new territory. But tech issues are nothing compared to a kindergartener who refuses to speak on camera. Understanding why your kid gets shy and clams up during virtual learning can help ease frustrations, experts say. "'Stage fright' is a common feeling among children when they are expected to give a presentation at school, compete in a sporting event, or perform in a recital. So it's only natural that children may experience similar feelings with cameras on during the virtual school year," Kelly Beck, certified child life specialist (CCLS) with Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, tells Romper.
The racial disparities over who is returning to D.C. classrooms puts equity spotlight on reopening plan
Washington D.C. schools are set to reopen this week for the first time in nearly a year, with schools in wealthier wards at maximum capacity while seats remain empty in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, because families there have opted in high numbers to stay home and continue with virtual learning. The partial reopening is a relief to families of all incomes, but the mismatch across the city has teachers and parents questioning whether the city should be pouring resources during the pandemic into an in-person learning program that White students are disproportionately enrolling in. Across the country, Black and Hispanic communities have been hit hardest by the virus, and many of these families have told their school districts they do not feel safe sending their children back to school buildings
Keeping Your Students Engaged in the Virtual Classroom
During the current times of social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning has become more commonplace. As such, educational institutions, teachers, and other entities in the industry have been doing their best to transition classes online. However, it’s no secret that it’s harder to pay attention to a computer screen than to in-person lectures. There are plenty of distractors that can cause students to lose focus. Educators need innovative approaches that can keep students engaged until the day ends.
Public Policies
Philippines to Receive 5.6 Million Vaccine Doses This Quarter
The Philippine government said at least 5.6 million coronavirus vaccine doses produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca Plc are expected to arrive in the country within the first quarter. The country will receive a total of 9.4 million doses from the two pharmaceutical makers by the second quarter, it said in an emailed statement Sunday, citing a letter from Aurelia Nguyen, managing director of the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative.
World Bank Pledges US$12 Billion For Africa's Vaccine Purchase - OpEd
The World Bank has expressed readiness to commit US$12 billion as concessional loans to assist African countries access foreign vaccines. During a virtual meeting on the Africa COVID-19 Vaccine Financing and Deployment Strategy, the World Bank informed that the emergency vaccine financing projects in Africa, including Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Niger, Mozambique, Tunisia, Eswatini and Cabo Verde. The funds are available now, and for most African countries, the financing would be on grant or highly concessional terms, adding, IFC is working to mobilize financing for vaccine production and therapeutics focused on developing countries.
EU offers UK ‘reassurances’ over vaccine supply after Irish border row
The EU has moved to assure Britain that vaccine exports into the country won’t be stopped by the bloc’s new trade restrictions, British Trade Secretary Liz Truss said. “We have received reassurance from the European Union that those contracts will not be disrupted,” Truss told Sky News on Sunday. “Vaccine protectionism is fundamentally problematic,” she later told BBC presenter Andrew Marr, reiterating that the U.K. government has “had reassurances about our contracted supply” coming from the EU.
Germany is already ordering vaccines for 2022, minister says
Germany is ordering vaccines for 2022 in case regular or booster doses are needed to keep the population immune against variants of COVID-19, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Saturday, amid growing frustration in Europe at the slow pace of vaccination. Speaking at an online town hall of healthcare workers, Spahn defended the progress made on procuring and administering vaccines, saying 2.3 million of Germany’s 83 million people had already received a dose. European governments have faced criticism over supply and production bottlenecks as vaccine makers AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna have all announced cuts to delivery volumes just as they were expected to ramp up production
Macron defends decision not to order third lockdown as third wave spreads
President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to hold off on a third lockdown on Saturday, telling the public he had faith in their ability to rein in COVID-19 with less severe curbs even as a third wave spreads and the vaccine rollout falters. From Sunday, France will close it borders to all but essential travel to and from countries outside the European Union, while people arriving from within the bloc will have to show a negative test. Large shopping malls will be shut and police patrols increased to enforce a 6 p.m. curfew. But Macron has stopped short of ordering a new daytime lockdown, saying he wants to see first if other measures will be enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
EU rejects Astrazeneca’s compromise offer over Covid-19 vaccine
The European Union has rejected an offer from Astrazeneca of eight million more doses, with the European Commission chief insisting that the company honour its existing “binding contract”. Details of an intended compromise in the row between Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical firm and the bloc over a sudden cut to Covid vaccine supplies emerged today. An EU official said that the cuts, blamed on production problems at a Belgian plant, would mean only 31 million doses being delivered in the period to the end of March, a 60 per cent reduction. It is a major blow for the bloc’s 27 member countries, which are already lagging behind the vaccination campaigns in Israel, Britain and the United States.
Macron: AstraZeneca vaccine seems ‘quasi-ineffective’ on older people
French President Emmanual Macron said Friday the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine appeared to be "quasi-ineffective" on people older than 65 — just hours before the EU's drugs regulator approved it for use on all adults. "The real problem on AstraZeneca is that it doesn’t work the way we were expecting it to," Macron told a group of reporters, including POLITICO, in Paris. "We’re waiting for the EMA [European Medicines Agency] results, but today everything points to thinking it is quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older." Later in the day, the EMA gave the vaccine the green light. It said: "There are not yet enough results in older participants (over 55 years old) to provide a figure for how well the vaccine will work in this group. However, protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines; as there is reliable information on safety in this population, EMA’s scientific experts considered that the vaccine can be used in older adults."
Algeria starts COVID-19 vaccination drive with Russian shots
Algeria launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign Saturday in the city where the country s first COVID-19 case was confirmed in March. The North African nation is using Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine, and a 65-year-old retiree received the first shot at a hospital in Blida, a city about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the capital, Algiers Health authorities were on hand for the event. “All measures have been taken to ensure a good rollout of the vaccination campaign on the national territory,” Health Minister Abderrahmane Benbouzid said. Vaccines will get administered in all regions of the country starting Sunday with health care workers, elderly adults and other vulnerable populations.
Covid-19: France closes borders to most non-EU travel
France has imposed new Covid-19 border restrictions, but has once again resisted a new nationwide lockdown. All but essential travel from outside the EU has been banned, while testing requirements on travellers from within the EU has been tightened. PM Jean Castex said France's night curfew would be more tightly enforced and large shopping centres would close. But the measures were seen as mild and favouring the economy. Some doctors fear they will not curb infections.
Portugal curbs travel, extends lockdown in face of world's worst virus surge
Portugal extended a nationwide lockdown until mid-February and announced curbs on international travel on Thursday, as Prime Minister Antonio Costa accepted blame for the world’s worst coronavirus surge, with hospitals on the verge of being overrun. With a population of 10 million, Portugal reported a record 303 COVID-19 deaths and 16,432 new cases, and now has the world’s highest per capita seven-day averages of both new cases and deaths. “The number of deaths is growing at an unimaginable pace,” said Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as he addressed the nation in a prime-time speech. “The pressure is extreme...we need to act quickly and drastically.”
Contract between European Commission and AstraZeneca
Following the renewed request from the European Commission on 27 January 2021, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has agreed to publish the redacted contract signed between the two parties on 27 August 2020. The Commission welcomes the company's commitment towards more transparency in its participation in the rollout of the EU Vaccines Strategy. Transparency and accountability are important to help build the trust of European citizens and to make sure that they can rely on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines purchased at the EU level. The Commission hopes to be able to publish all contracts under the Advance Purchase Agreements in the near future.
EU regulators give nod to AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for emergency use
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for emergency use in European Union (EU) countries, which came with more details about efficacy, which is about 60%, with the vaccine showing good impact against severe disease. The approval shed more light on findings from phase 3 clinical trials in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa and comes amid a row between EU officials and the company over supply contracts, which followed an announcement from the company that its supply would be less than expected.
Study finds that Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro carried out an ‘institutional strategy to spread the coronavirus’
The grimmest timeline in the history of public health in Brazil emerges from an investigation of directives issued by the government of President Jair Messias Bolsonaro relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a common effort undertaken since March 2020, the Center for Research and Studies in Public Health Law (CEPEDISA) of the Public Health College (FSP) of the University of São Paulo (USP) and Conectas Direitos Humanos, one of the most respected justice organizations of Latin America, have collected and scrutinized federal and state regulations relating to the novel coronavirus, producing a brief titled Rights in the Pandemic – Mapping and Analysis of the Legal Rules in Response to Covid-19 in Brazil. On January 21, they put out a special edition making a strong statement: “Our research has revealed the existence of an institutional strategy to spread the virus, promoted by the Brazilian government under the leadership of the President of the Republic.”
Norway to gradually ease capital's COVID-19 lockdown from February 3
The Norwegian government will gradually loosen the capital region’s coronavirus lockdown, allowing some shops and recreational activities to reopen from Feb. 3 onwards, Health Minister Bent Hoeie said on Saturday. The outbreak of a more contagious variant of COVID-19, first identified in Britain, had prompted the introduction of stricter measures on Jan. 23, including the closure of all non-essential stores in and around Oslo for the first time in the pandemic. “Infections are going down continuously in Norway and we now have a better overview over the outbreak and spread,” Hoeie told a news conference.
Maintaining Services
First batch of coronavirus vaccines due to arrive in South Africa
South Africa, the continent’s worst COVID-hit country, is due to receive its first batch of coronavirus vaccines on Monday. Initially scheduled for the end of January, the first one million shots of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine produced in India will be used to inoculate healthcare workers over the next three months. The second batch of 500,000 jabs is scheduled to arrive later in February. Despite criticism from opposition parties and medical experts that the procurement process of the vaccine has taken too long, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize has called the arrival of the vaccines from the Serum Institute of India “a massive achievement of unprecedented proportions”. Once the consignment has undergone quality checks, which are going to take between 10 and 14 days, the country will begin its long-awaited, three-phase immunisation campaign. Following the inoculation of front-line healthcare workers, other high-risk groups such as the elderly, people with comorbidities and essential workers such as minibus drivers, police and teachers are going to receive their shot. The third phase targets everyone else above the age of 18.
Israel to give some coronavirus vaccines to Palestinians
Israel has agreed to transfer 5,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians to immunize front-line medical workers Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz s office announced Sunday. It was the first time that Israel has confirmed the transfer of vaccines to the Palestinians, who lag far behind Israel's aggressive vaccination campaign and have not yet received any vaccines. The World Health Organization has raised concerns about the disparity between Israel and Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and international human rights groups and U.N. experts have said Israel is responsible for the well being of Palestinians in these areas.
Pakistan battles tsunami of Covid-19 patients with few vaccines in sight
Keeping vigil outside the hospital ward in Karachi, Daniyal Ameen watched his father breathing through a ventilator via a live video link from the intensive care unit (ICU). He came every day to see his father, 73-year-old Muhammad Ameen, as he spent weeks on oxygen battling Covid-19. The video link was set up at the private South City Hospital in Karachi to enable relatives to feel closer to their loved ones in the ICU, as visits inside that facility are prohibited. The screen is the closest Ameen has come to seeing his father for about 18 months. The 33-year-old flew back to Pakistan from his home in Melbourne, Australia, when his dad was hospitalized. "Seeing him on a screen like that was pretty traumatizing for me," said Ameen. "We told him that yes, I am here, and I want to see him healthy and smiling back again." But Ameen's father didn't survive. Instead, he became one of thousands of Pakistanis to die from the virus.
When Covid-19 vaccines are about to expire, health care workers must scramble to make sure they are used
Mechanical breakdowns. Bad weather. Expiration deadlines. The earliest phases of Covid-19 vaccine distribution in some instances have left doctors, nurses, and health officials scrambling to inoculate Americans. In the worst cases, valuable doses have been wasted or thrown out. However, quick thinking by practitioners mixed with a bit of luck have found them administering vaccines in unique circumstances. On Thursday night, after a freezer containing vaccine doses malfunctioned in Seattle, a nearby hospital had less than nine hours to administer more than 800 vaccinations before they spoiled. Vaccines from Pfizer-BioTech and Moderna require certain low temperatures for storage and have a limited shelf life when exposed to room temperature.
Failed freezer forced overnight dash to give out more than 1,600 doses of coronavirus vaccine
The last shots were given at about 3.45am, out on the street, with literally no time to spare. All night, staff and volunteers with Seattle's Swedish Health Services had been rushing to administer hundreds of doses of the coronavirus vaccine set to expire early in the morning after a freezer malfunction. Finally, they had only a few dozen shots left and about 15 minutes to get them into people's arms. "We were literally like . . .who can get people here? People started texting and calling and we were just counting down," said Kevin Brooks, the chief operating officer of Swedish, who helped coordinate everything at their clinic at Seattle University. "Thirty-seven. Thirty-five. Thirty-three . . . People were showing up and running down the hall."
Bolivian doctors demand lockdown as COVID surge threatens health service 'collapse'
Bolivian doctors are demanding a nationwide lockdown and threatening to stop taking in new patients as a surge in COVID-19 cases, which they say is killing an average of one medic per day, strains hospitals to breaking point. New daily coronavirus infections in the Andean country, which received its first batch of Russian Sputnik V vaccines on Thursday, hit a single-day record of 2,866 this week and deaths attributed to the epidemic climbed above 10,000. “At the rate we are going, there will be a total collapse,” said Ricardo Landivar, a director of the La Paz Medical College. “... We are going to have patients dying in the streets without being able to be treated by medical staff.”
Canadian airlines to cancel Mexico, Caribbean flights amid vaccine shortfall
Canada’s major airlines have agreed to suspend all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean for three months starting on Sunday as the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout suffered another setback, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday. All airline passengers arriving from abroad will also be required to take a mandatory COVID-19 test at the airport and wait in a hotel for up to three days at their own expense until the results arrive, Trudeau said. “Now is just not the time to be flying,” the prime minister told reporters. Trudeau also said Moderna Inc’s next delivery would be almost a quarter smaller than expected.
Novartis pitches in to help produce Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Only a day after Novartis said it was looking at offering its manufacturing network to the global COVID-19 fight, the company is joining forces with Pfizer and BioNTech to help produce mRNA vaccines. It's the latest example of an unlikely Big Pharma partnership spurred by the urgent need to defeat the pandemic. Novartis inked an initial agreement with BioNTech to allow the mRNA biotech use of Novartis' facility in Stein, Switzerland. The production will start in the second quarter, and the partners expect dose deliveries to begin in the third quarter. The Pfizer/BioNTech shot is one of only a few that have been approved in countries around the world, and in the early stages of the rollout, demand has greatly outstripped supply. Pfizer and BioNTech have been working to scale up their manufacturing network to deliver 2 billion doses this year, but the effort led to a temporary supply disruption in Europe earlier this month.
Portugal airlifts COVID patients to Madeira as hospitals near capacity
Ambulances under police escort rushed three intensive-care patients from overstretched Lisbon hospitals to a military base on Friday to be airlifted to the island of Madeira. As the number of patients in Portugal’s intensive care units hit record levels, the regional government in Madeira said it had 157 beds to spare and could take people in even though it is also experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases. Portugal’s hospital system is creaking under the pressure of the world’s worst surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita, blamed on a relaxation of rules around Christmas and the rapid spread of the coronavirus variant first detected in Britain.
Public back teachers getting half-term Covid jabs to re-open schools again
The public supports our bid to prioritise teachers for the Covid-19 vaccine in Phase 2 of the rollout, a poll revealed. Teachers topped the poll, which asked who should be next after the most vulnerable. Pressure is growing on Boris Johnson to get school staff vaccinated. In a poll by Ipsos MORI, 46% said school and nursery staff should come before healthy 60 to 69-year-olds, ahead of 42% for emergency service workers. Labour wants school staff vaccinated in the February half term to make it safer if pupils start to back from March 8. Keir Starmer said it was vital to avoid staff being off sick or isolating due to Covid-19. He said: “It’s likely to go back to the disruption we have in September and October.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid vaccines already having an effect on UK outbreak, research suggests
The UK’s mass vaccination rollout already appears to be having an easing effect on the Covid crisis, according to data. Research due to be published in days is set to provide evidence that Britons are receiving some protection from the virus. Though it is not yet clear if vaccines block transmission of the virus from one person to another, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said early data “indicate a vaccine effect from the first dose in both younger adults and in older adults over 80”.
Covid-19 Patients With Schizophrenia Might Be At A Higher Risk Of Death
A schizophrenia spectrum diagnosis could be at a higher risk of severe Covid-19 and might also face 2.7 times higher risk for mortality within 45 days of testing positive, according to the results of a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
Covid-19: Novavax vaccine shows 89% efficacy in UK trials
A new coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be 89% effective in large-scale UK trials. The Novavax jab is the first to show in trials that it is effective against the new virus variant found in the UK, the BBC's medical editor Fergus Walsh said. The UK has secured 60 million doses of the jab, which will be made in Stockton-on-Tees in north-east England. Meanwhile, a single-dose vaccine developed by Janssen is 66% effective, trial results have shown. Janssen, a company owned by Johnson & Johnson, is also investigating whether giving two doses will give either stronger or longer-lasting protection.
J&J vaccine shown to prevent 85% of COVID-19 hospital cases, deaths
Results from an international phase 3 trial of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine show it is overall 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19. The vaccine was 85% effective in preventing COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths. The vaccine has been a long-hoped for game-changer in the global fight against the pandemic because it requires only one dose, can be manufactured in billions of doses, and requires only standard refrigeration. "A one-shot vaccine is considered by the World Health Organization to be the best option in pandemic settings, enhancing access, distribution and compliance. Eighty-five percent efficacy in preventing severe COVID-19 disease and prevention of COVID-19-related medical interventions will potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from serious and fatal outcomes of COVID-19," said Paul Stoffels, MD, chief scientific officer for Johnson & Johnson, in a company news release.
COVID-19 antibodies transmit from moms to babies during pregnancy
SARS-CoV-2 antibodies transferred across the placenta in 87% of pregnant women who had COVID-19 at some point, suggesting that newborns of seropositive mothers may have some protection against the novel coronavirus at birth, according to a study today in JAMA Pediatrics. However, a second, unpublished study suggests that the maternal-infant antibody transfer is lower than expected.