"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 11th Feb 2021

Isolation Tips
Australia tennis chief urges strict quarantine for Tokyo Olympics
Making the Olympics safe from coronavirus will be difficult for Tokyo without stiff quarantine measures that will also inspire athletes and spectators with the confidence to attend events, Australia’s top tennis official said on Wednesday. The Japanese capital is expected to welcome 11,000 athletes at the end of July, when it holds the summer Games postponed from last year because of the virus, but is not currently considering wholesale quarantine for them. Speaking on the sidelines of the Australian Open, the first major Grand Slam event to host crowds, the chief executive of Tennis Australia said his experience of organising the contest suggested the Olympics needed rigorous quarantine measures.
Hygiene Helpers
CDC study finds two masks are better than one vs. COVID-19
US government researchers have found wearing two masks was better than one when preventing the spread of Covid-19, according to a Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. In a lab experiment, two artificial heads were placed six feet from each other and studied on how many coronavirus-sized particles were expelled and inhalled while wearing a variety of face coverings. Researchers found that wearing one mask, either cloth or surgical, prevented 40 per cent of incoming droplets from being breathed in. When adding a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask, 80 per cent of incoming droplets were stopped.
Feds focus on mask upgrades, COVID-19 vaccine sites
Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing the fit of face masks—both cloth and surgical—can significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission, by as much as 96.5% if both infected and uninfected people wear them properly. "What we know now is everyone needs to be wearing a mask when they are in public or inside with people from outside their households," said Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC during a press briefing today.
Covid-19: Sports equipment presents 'low risk'
The risk of coronavirus transmission from sharing sports equipment is "lower than once thought", a study suggests. Researchers, led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, applied live virus particles to nine types of sports equipment and a control material. They concluded it "seems unlikely" that sports balls and accessories are a major cause for transmission. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last June that cricket balls are a "natural vector" of coronavirus. The Strike study found the virus was least transferrable on absorbent materials like cricket gloves and tennis balls, compared with non-porous equipment like racing saddles and rugby balls.
Community Activities
Nearly a third of US adults say they definitely or probably will not get a COVID-19 vaccine
Nearly one-third of U.S. adults say they are not likely to get a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available to them, a new poll suggests. Conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the report found that 67 percent of Americans plan to get vaccine or have already done so. However, 15 percent are certain they will not get the jab and 17 percent said they probably will not. Many expressed doubts about the vaccine's safety and effectiveness, suggesting that substantial skepticism persists more than a month and a half into the U.S. vaccination drive that has encountered few side effects.
Facebook and YouTube ban ‘Planet Lockdown’ film filled with coronavirus falsehoods, after it was shared by millions
While thousands of families grieved the loss of loved ones and the United States’ coronavirus death toll surpassed 350,000 in early January and continued to rise, a film parroting false claims about the pandemic began to spread to millions of social media users. The video, called “Planet Lockdown,” racked up more than 20 million views and engagements, according to the social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, in late December and January. It went largely unnoticed by the social media platforms playing host to the misinformation until the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America published a detailed accounting of the film’s spread on Monday.
Working Remotely
How Your Boss Can Use Your Remote-Work Tools to Spy on You
In the past, we’ve covered the dos and don’ts of using your work computer for personal business (in short: don’t). But as companies expand their use of remote-work software, there are increasing concerns about what kinds of data bosses can access through such tools. Some of these fears are overblown. But depending on the software your company uses and the type of work you do, some of your activity could be exposed. And privacy concerns aren’t the only worry, as employers are also starting to use the data extracted from these tools to gauge productivity. To what purpose depends on the type of work you do—and whom you do it for.
13 tips to make working from home easier
We have been WFH for almost a year now, and many of us may never go back to the office full-time ever again. So the property team have assembled some tips and tricks from the world of design so you can improve your posture without denting your style. From orthopedic chairs to scented candles, and rising desks to colours that can boost your creativity, here are our tips and tricks to make working from home more productive, quieter — and more bearable.
'If you switch off, people think you're lazy': demands grow for a right to disconnect from work
EU research shows the numbers who went to full-time WFH mode rocketed from 5% in 2019 to almost 40% last spring. By July, 48% of respondents to a survey conducted by Eurofound said they worked wholly or partly from home. This seismic shift in office life has brought about another social change, it has blurred the work-life boundary beyond recognition. Digital technologies had already eroded the difference for many people but Covid put the always-on culture into overdrive. WFH has clear pluses beyond comfortable clothes including greater workday flexibility, less time spent commuting and quality of life available outside cities. But the downside doesn’t just involve Zoom fatigue: many people find they are working harder and longer.
European office workers don’t expect to return before summer
European office workers’ expectations about when they will be able to go back to their desks after the pandemic have slipped to the summer, according to a survey, as office return dates have been further delayed. Despite the coronavirus vaccination programme and lockdown restrictions, workers in five European countries including the UK now expect to work from home until June instead of April
Not every remote work meeting needs video, says business professor
Just because many Canadians are working remotely doesn't mean all their professional interactions require a video call. Often a ring on the phone or email will suffice, says Tsedal Neeley. The Harvard Business School professor, and author of Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere, says that with the pandemic pushing workers to home offices, video conferencing platforms like Zoom have been "overused" for work communication. Taking a more balanced approach — like communicating complex information by email instead of meeting, for example — can be better for employees, she says.
10 Best Work-From-Home Cities In The U.S. (The Top Place Will Surprise You)
While the concept of remote work has taken off during the pandemic, it isn’t a brand-new idea. Between 2005 to 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work, and today—according to Statista—11.2% of Americans are working from home, which is up from 5.7% of people working remotely in 2019. And we’re getting use to it—22% of workers say they’d like to work from home permanently. So what are the best places in the United States to work remotely? PCMag, a leading technology trade publication, released a report yesterday ranking the best work-from-home cities for 2021. And it’s not just big cities: The list also includes suburbs and small towns.
The remote working revolution
Working from Home now has an acronym (WFH) and the desktop revolution is creating new office habits. For many, it has been liberating; for most it has presented a fresh set of challenges including creating boundaries between professional and personal life and navigating domestic distractions such as stray pets and children wandering into the Zoom field of vision. A study by Stanford University demonstrated that WFH raises productivity, reduces absenteeism and decreases employee attrition but companies have to maintain their culture: the corporate DNA that is ingrained by personal contact and example.
Virtual Classrooms
Learning remotely at Wey Valley Academy in Weymouth
Students at Wey Valley Academy in Weymouth are getting stuck in with their online learning, despite the challenges faced by young people during this lockdown. Since returning to their studies in January, students have attended live lessons in a bid to recreate the classroom and keep their learning on track. Teachers at Wey Valley are delivering online lessons using Microsoft Teams. It means that students can access their expert teachers, continue to ask questions and discuss complex ideas together. Student engagement is excellent with attendance above the national average.
Public Policies
Single dose of Pfizer vaccine shows signs of success in UK
Official data from the UK’s vaccination campaign show that a single dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab offers good protection against Covid-19, boosting the government’s approach of extending the gap between doses. Although not enough evidence is available to draw definitive conclusions about the impact of the vaccination campaign on deaths and hospitalisations, several people with access to government data said indications showed it was reducing cases in the groups prioritised to receive the jab.
Bahrain authorises Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use - Bahrain TV
Bahrain has authorised Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, Bahrain TV’s twitter account said on Wednesday. Bahrain already uses the Pfizer/BioNTech, vaccine, one manufactured by Chinese state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
European Union admits errors in coronavirus vaccine rollout, 'deeply regrets' decision on export curbs
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has acknowledged failings in the EU's approval and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. She was speaking to MEPs in the European Parliament following criticism of the slow rollout of vaccines and a plan to curb exports that initially sought to set up a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, causing an outcry in London and Dublin. "And yet it is a fact that we are not today where we want to be in the fight against the virus," she said. "We were late with the approval. We were too optimistic on mass production. And perhaps we were also too certain that the orders would actually be delivered on time."
COVID-19: Boris Johnson says 'we'll have to get used to idea' of autumn booster jabs
The prime minister has raised the prospect of people getting a coronavirus vaccine "booster" jab in the autumn. Boris Johnson said the move would likely be required as the UK battles the emergence of new variants of COVID-19. "I think we're going to have to get used to the idea of vaccinating and then revaccinating in the autumn, as we come to face these new variants," he told the Commons during PMQs. Mr Johnson said a deal with pharmaceutical firm CureVac for 50 million doses would help in developing vaccines to respond "at scale to new variants of the virus".
In Spain, patients with serious conditions left out of AstraZeneca early vaccination
The Covid vaccine made by AstraZeneca will for now only be administered to essential workers in Spain, including teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and members of the armed forces – but not supermarket workers. Although the treatment has been approved by European authorities for anyone over the age of 18, the Spanish government is taking a conservative approach: first it ruled out people over 80 years of age, then it further reduced the target group to those under 55. And on Tuesday, a committee of experts advising the National Healthcare System established that individuals under 55 with certain pre-existing medical conditions will also be left out, at least during the initial phase.
New Zealand to inoculate high-risk people first as COVID-19 vaccine gets full approval
New Zealand will first administer COVID-19 vaccines to quarantine personnel, front line health workers and airline staff, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said, as the government formally approved its use on Wednesday. New Zealand’s medicines regulator last week provisionally approved the use of the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech. “Now we’ve reached the crucial stage of approval for the first vaccine, we are in a much better position to start having a conversation with New Zealanders about how we plan to proceed,” Hipkins said in a statement. Authorities expect the Pfizer vaccine to arrive in the country by end-March but they had expressed concerns about export curbs.
Greek premier orders full lockdown in Athens after surge in coronavirus cases
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday announced a full lockdown in the capital Athens and the surrounding region to curb a resurgence in coronavirus cases and ease pressure on badly stretched health services. The new restrictions in the Athens region, where half of Greece’s population of 11 million lives, include closing non-essential shops and schools from Feb. 11 until the end of the month, Mitsotakis said in a televised address. “I will not hide: In the next two months, restrictions may be imposed and lifted depending on the level of alarm,” he said after chairing an emergency meeting with ministers and health experts. “But this is also the last mile towards freedom.” Authorities registered 1,526 infections on Tuesday, more than double the number recorded a day earlier - half of them in the wider Athens area, with COVID-19 related deaths reaching 6,017 since the coronavirus was first detected.
'The best shield': Peru launches inoculation drive with Sinopharm vaccine
Peru launched its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Tuesday with newly arrived doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine, as the South American country struggles to control a fierce second wave of infections that has forced a lockdown in the capital, Lima. Peruvian President Francisco Sagasti was vaccinated later in the day and urged vaccine skeptics to get inoculated. A survey by Ipsos Peru last month showed 48% of Peruvians would refuse to be vaccinated, citing fears of side effects.
Sweden registers 4,070 new COVID-19 cases, 138 deaths on Wednesday
Sweden, which has spurned a lockdown throughout the pandemic, registered 4,070 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, Health Agency statistics showed. The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 138 new deaths, taking the total to 12,326. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and weeks. Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours, but lower than several European countries that opted for lockdowns.
WHO advisors recommend AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for emergency use
The World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine advisory group today recommended the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for emergency use, a key development that clears the way for lower- and middle-income countries to receive their first deliveries from the COVAX program. In other global developments, the WHO said in a weekly update that overall cases and deaths show more signs of decline, a promising development, though cases are rising in some nations and more countries are reporting the detection of variant SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
Maintaining Services
Barack Obama makes direct appeal to Black Americans to get coronavirus vaccine
Former President Barack Obama took to Twitter Tuesday to urge Americans - especially Black Americans - to get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as they are eligible. Mr Obama addressed misinformation about the vaccine, and asked Americans to trust the science behind the drugs. "There is a lot of disinformation out there, but here’s the truth: You should get a Covid vaccine as soon as it's available to you. It could save your life—or a loved one’s," Mr Obama wrote on the tweet. His tweet included a link to a New York Times opinion piece that included 60 Black health experts warning Americans about vaccine disinformation and the importance of the drugs in the fight against the coronavirus.
NHS plans for annual coronavirus vaccinations
The NHS is planning a mass campaign of booster jabs against new variants of coronavirus as early as the autumn, in what the vaccines minister suggested would become an annual effort to prevent Covid-19 as the virus keeps mutating. High-street pharmacists and retired doctors who were not enlisted in the first phase of the vaccination programme could be involved in the effort to protect the UK against new strains, according to people familiar with the logistics. Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the government was expecting annual inoculations to take place every autumn in much the same way as flu prevention, adding: “Where you look at what variant of virus is spreading around the world, you rapidly produce a variant of vaccine, and then begin to vaccinate and protect the nation.”
Teva Is in Discussions to Help Make Covid-19 Vaccines, CEO Says
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. is in talks with Covid-19 vaccine makers about helping to produce and distribute shots as demand rises for immunizations. The generic drug giant is offering to dedicate its manufacturing capacity in the U.S., Europe and beyond to aid with mass-immunization efforts geared at combating the pandemic, Chief Executive Officer Kare Schultz said Wednesday. “We have a large, worldwide network of manufacturing capabilities,” from creating underlying drug substances to putting solutions into sterile vials, known as the fill-finish process, he said in an interview. “There are a limited number of facilities that can do this kind of manufacturing, and it takes time to build them.”
Covid-19: Care homes 'given only 10% of required PPE', and pubs plead for opening date
Care home staff were not given personal protective equipment (PPE) early in the pandemic because the government prioritised the NHS, MPs have said. The Commons Public Accounts Committee said care homes received only a fraction of the PPE needed. Between March and July 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care provided NHS trusts with 1.9 billion items of PPE, the equivalent to 80% of estimated need. The adult social care sector was given 331 million items - just 10% of its need. At the same time, about 25,000 patients were discharged to care homes from hospitals without being tested for Covid-19. Last month, our political editor Laura Kuenssberg interviewed a care home owner who said Covid "hit the home like a missile" last year.
Schools are safe to reopen next month if rest of country remains locked down, say scientists
A “cautious” reopening of schools from March 8 can be done without sparking another wave of Covid-19, researchers said today. The findings raise hope that Boris Johnson will be able to proceed with an easing of the lockdown from next month. The Prime Minister is due to set out his roadmap on February 22, with the reopening of schools said to be a priority. Experts from University College London, Oxford university and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say there is “tentative evidence” that it will be safe to start reopening schools, with the best option being to start with primary schools and secondary pupils in exam years.
AstraZeneca agrees German manufacturing deal to fill vaccine gap
AstraZeneca has enlisted German drug manufacturer IDT Biologika to help boost production of its Covid-19 vaccine and tackle supply shortages in Europe. Relations between the EU and AstraZeneca deteriorated after the pharma group announced last month that it would fall far short on its promise to deliver the bloc at least 100m doses of the vaccine, developed with Oxford university, in the first quarter. AstraZeneca has since revised its first-quarter delivery forecast up from 31m to 40m doses, and announced that it would expand manufacturing capacity in Europe.
BioNTech gets rolling with mRNA production at former Novartis site in Marburg
BioNTech, under pressure with its COVID-19 vaccine partner Pfizer to manufacture as many doses as possible this year, has started production at a former Novartis site it acquired in Germany. The drugmaker has started making messenger RNA at the site, kicking off the manufacturing process for its Pfizer-partnered COVID-19 vaccine. BioNTech expects to produce up to 250 million doses of its vaccine there in the first half of 2021, and up to 750 million doses annually when the site is fully online. The first vaccines produced there will be ready in early April, BioNTech said.
Japan to discard millions of Pfizer vaccine doses because it has wrong syringes
Millions of people in Japan will not receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine as planned due to a shortage of specialist syringes – an oversight that could frustrate the country’s inoculation programme. Standard syringes in use in Japan are unable to extract the sixth and final dose from each vial manufactured by the US drugmaker, according to the health minister, Norihisa Tamura. Japan has secured 144m shots of the Pfizer vaccine – enough for 72 million people – on the assumption that each vial contained six doses.
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could reduce Covid-19 viral load - what it means
New data gathered by researchers in Israel suggests that the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine is reducing the viral load of the virus. Israel has already vaccinated around one in three residents, after beginning its vaccine deployment program on 20 December. According to a paper which was published on Monday (8 Feb), positive test results of patients aged 60 and over had up to 60 per cent smaller viral loads on the swab, compared to the 40 to 59 age group. The paper explains that this is because, by this point, at least 14 days have passed since more than 75 per cent of the over-60s age group received their first dose, in comparison to the 25 per cent of 40 to 60 year olds.
Coronaviruses linked to Covid-19 circulating in bats and pangolins in Southeast Asia, study finds
Coronaviruses similar to that which causes Covid-19 may be circulating in bats and pangolins in Southeast Asia, a study has found. In a breakthrough that provides clues for those investigating the origin of the pandemic, scientists said high levels of neutralising antibodies against coronaviruses were present in the animals in Thailand. A team from Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School found SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – neutralising antibodies in Rhinolophus bats in a Thai cave and in a pangolin at a wildlife checkpoint in the south of the country. The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, indicate more coronaviruses are likely to be discovered across Southeast Asia, which has a large and diverse bat population, the researchers said. Such viruses have now been found across a wide expanse measuring 4,800 km, from Japan and China to Thailand.
Study Links Four New Symptoms To Covid-19 Infection, Including Headaches And Loss Of Appetite
In a study of more than 1 million people in England between June 2020 and January 2021, researchers identified chills, loss of appetite, headaches and muscle aches as additional symptoms linked with having Covid-19. Some symptoms vary by age, with headaches most reported in children and teens (between 5-17 years old), who are less likely to report “classic” Covid-19 symptoms, and adults over 55 reporting appetite loss.
German anti-lockdown protests led to more coronavirus cases, study finds
Protests against the German government's coronavirus restrictions led to an increase in infections toward the end of the year, a study published on Tuesday has found. Since the summer, Germany has seen several major demonstrations against coronavirus measures, with participants often not respecting social-distancing and mask-wearing rules. The study, by the Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) and the Humboldt University of Berlin, looked at two rallies organized by the so-called Querdenken group in November 2020 — in Berlin, which attracted more than 10,000 people, and in Leipzig, which was attended by some 20,000 people.
Vaccine vs variant: Promising data in Israel's race to defeat pandemic
Israel’s swift vaccination rollout has made it the largest real-world study of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine. Results are trickling in, and they are promising. More than half of eligible Israelis - about 3.5 million people - have now been fully or partially vaccinated. Older and at-risk groups, the first to be inoculated, are seeing a dramatic drop in illnesses. Among the first fully-vaccinated group there was a 53% reduction in new cases, a 39% decline in hospitalizations and a 31% drop in severe illnesses from mid-January until Feb. 6, said Eran Segal, data scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.
Denmark says cases of more contagious British coronavirus variant on rise
The share of people infected with the more contagious coronavirus variant first identified in Britain is on the rise in Denmark, authorities reported on Wednesday, citing preliminary data. In the first week of February, 27% of positive cases analyzed for their genetic material were carrying the B117 variant, up from 20% the week before, the State Serum Institute (SSI) said in a report.
COVID deaths 3 times higher in nursing homes with more non-white residents
Residents of US nursing homes with more than 40% non-white residents died of COVID-19 at 3.3 times the rate of those of those with higher proportions of white residents, a study today in JAMA Network Open shows. Using the Nursing Home COVID-19 Public File from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, University of Chicago researchers found that nursing homes with the lowest shares of white residents reported a mean of 5.6 deaths, compared with 1.7 in those with the highest proportions, as of Sep 13, 2020.
Eli Lilly scores FDA nod for COVID-19 antibody cocktail, aims to make 1M doses by midyear
Two weeks after Eli Lilly unveiled data showing its COVID-19 antibody cocktail of bamlanivimab and etesevimab slashed the risk of death and hospitalization for high-risk patients, the cocktail has won its emergency FDA authorization. Tuesday, the FDA authorized the combo for patients who have mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 but are at high risk of progressing to severe disease. The company and its manufacturing partner Amgen aim to produce up to 1 million doses of the cocktail by the middle of the year. In the trial of more than 1,000 high-risk patients with newly diagnosed COVID-19, just 11 patients who received the bamlanivimab-etesevimab combo were hospitalized and none died. That compared with 36 hospitalizations and 10 deaths among placebo patients, which translates into a 70% reduction in the risk of a COVID-19 hospitalization or death.