"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 12th Feb 2021

Isolation Tips
Working from home boredom: how to cope with monotony
Here’s how to break up your daily routine if you’re finding working from home monotonous, according to an expert. Although you’ve probably dealt with boredom at some point or other before the pandemic, this kind of sustained monotony can be detrimental to your mental health. It’s one of the reasons why so many people are feeling unmotivated, lethargic and experiencing low mood at the moment. Without the stimulation of ‘normal’ life to keep you going, its understandable if you’re hitting a wall. Within Covid-19 restrictions, there are a number of things you can do to break up the day and make your current arrangement seem more exciting (many of which don’t involve more screen time).
CDC: people who have received two Covid-19 vaccine doses can skip quarantine
People who have received the full course of Covid-19 vaccines can skip the standard 14-day quarantine after exposure to someone with the infection as long as they remain asymptomatic, US public health officials advised. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late on Wednesday the vaccines have been shown to prevent symptomatic Covid-19, thought to play a greater role in the transmission of the virus than asymptomatic disease. “Individual and societal benefits of avoiding unnecessary quarantine may outweigh the potential but unknown risk of transmission (among vaccinated individuals),” the CDC said.
You’re not lazy — Why you need to stop feeling guilty in lockdown, according to an expert
Retailers are calling for more financial support from the government after the UK’s Covid lockdowns in 2020 cost £22bn in lost non-food sales. The high street was hit by its biggest fall in sales for non-food stores on record – down 24% – as footfall decreased by two-fifths, according to data from the trade body the British Retail Consortium (BRC). While many retailers continued to sell online, that did not make up for sales lost from shops. Profits were also affected by the cost of setting up and operating home delivery systems.
Quarantine hotel chaos as booking website crashes minutes after launching
In the UK, the government's plan to quarantine international arrivals in hotels has today been thrown into chaos as its booking website crashed minutes into its launch, while travellers were not allowed to reserve rooms for the first two days. Arrivals from a 'red list' of 33 countries - who will only be allowed to fly into one of five airports - will be expected pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 full days (11 nights) in designated hotels from Monday. Those who attempt to evade quarantine by providing false information face a fine of up to £10,000, and up to 10 years in prison, while those who do not book a hotel place before arriving in England face a £4,000 fine. But as the booking website for the scheme was launched, searches at Birmingham, Glasgow and Heathrow airports showed they weren't 'any applicable hotels' for passengers to stay in.
Hygiene Helpers
Ministers to discuss vaccine certificates for international travel
Ministers are set to discuss plans on Friday for vaccination and test certificates to ease international travel after lockdown is lifted. But the discussion will not involve "vaccine passports" to prove immunity at venues in the UK. Instead, it will focus on how Britain can co-operate with the international system expected to be introduced eventually to facilitate journeys between different countries. A source said proposals were at a very early stage, and any scheme is not expected to be put into effect for some time.
C.D.C. Urges Better Masking for Increased Virus Protection
Wearing a mask — any mask — reduces the risk of infection with the coronavirus, but wearing a more tightly fitted surgical mask, or layering a cloth mask atop a surgical mask, can vastly increase protections to the wearer and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday. New research by the agency shows that transmission of the virus can be reduced by up to 96.5 percent if both an infected individual and an uninfected individual wear tightly fitted surgical masks or a cloth-and-surgical-mask combination.
Community Activities
Indigenous leaders warn of missionaries turning Amazon villages against vaccines
Medical teams working to immunize Brazil’s remote indigenous villages against the coronavirus have encountered fierce resistance in some communities where evangelical missionaries are stoking fears of the vaccine, say tribal leaders and advocates. On the São Francisco reservation in the state of Amazonas, Jamamadi villagers sent health workers packing with bows and arrows when they visited by helicopter this month, said Claudemir da Silva, an Apurinã leader representing indigenous communities on the Purus river, a tributary of the Xingú. “It’s not happening in all villages, just in those that have missionaries or evangelical chapels where pastors are convincing the people not to receive the vaccine, that they will turn into an alligator and other crazy ideas,” he said by phone.
France is seeing a baby bust nine months after its first covid lockdown
When France confined more than 64 million people under one of the world's strictest coronavirus lockdowns last spring, there was widespread speculation that a baby boom would follow. Nine months on, though, instead of a boom, France is witnessing a sharp decline in births. Economic uncertainty, social stress and in some cases anxieties about the virus itself appear to have prompted families to abandon or postpone plans to have a baby. The number of babies born at the Saint-Denis hospital plummeted by about 20 percent between mid-December and mid-January and is expected to remain below 2020 levels for at least the first half of the year. While the coronavirus wards were hives of activity last week, lights in the maternity ward were dimmed and the corridors empty.
Family lockdown activities for half-term: chosen by readers
Guardian readers share their tips for family lockdown activites. Travelling the world one dinner at a time is proving popular, but readers also have outdoor ideas involving oaks, fairies and common-or-garden weeds
Working Remotely
Canada could see a 'rural boom' as remote work becomes permanent, study finds
Get a comfy desk chair — remote work is probably here to stay. Long after the pandemic is over, employees at flexible workplaces could see more opportunities to work from home, sparking a potential decline in urban living and a “rural boom” instead, says the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In a report released Thursday, the think tank based out of Ryerson University identified virtual workspaces as one of the most enduring changes to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, with implications for how people find work and where they choose to live.
Another Remote-Work Year Looms as Office-Reopening Plans Are Delayed
One of the hardest questions for American corporations to answer: When should offices reopen? From Silicon Valley to Tennessee to Pennsylvania, high hopes that a rapid vaccine rollout in early 2021 would send millions of workers back into offices by spring have been scuttled. Many companies are pushing workplace return dates to September—and beyond—or refusing to commit to specific dates, telling employees it will be a wait-and-see remote-work year. The delays span industries.
'HQs are finished': the future of remote work after Covid-19
Millions of people around the world found themselves thrust into a new way of working as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020. Suddenly, kitchen tables, spare bedrooms and even couches and beds became workspaces as employees became used to a new way of doing there jobs. There are positives like not having to commute and negatives, like Zoom fatigue. But as the vaccine programme rolls out and many of us start to hope of a return to normal, the question over remote working remains a puzzling one. Will people want to return to offices or are they happy WFH?
'Safety is very lax': staff tell of being forced into the office during UK's third lockdown
One in five employees are going into the workplace for part or all of their working week despite being able to do their job from home, according to a poll from the Trades Union Congress (TUC). We spoke to people who say their employers have been breaking Covid guidance by asking them to return to offices unnecessarily. None would agree to be named publicly for fear of losing their job. Thomas worked from home throughout the first lockdown but in September he was called back to his office. He was one of several staff who voiced concerns about spreading the virus. “Around September they asked HR to brief us on what would happen when we went back to the office. A lot of people on these calls said they were anxious and that they didn’t want to run the risk of catching anything.”
Virtual Classrooms
Teachers On The Push To Return To The Classroom
President Biden wants to reopen schools across the country within his first 100 days in office and has already signed executive actions to free up funding and increase personal protective equipment and testing for school districts. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to release new guidelines about how schools can reopen safely. And on Wednesday, Chicago's teachers' union agreed to restart in-person classes in a deal that includes COVID-19 vaccine priority to teachers and staff who are returning to school buildings. Across the country, teachers are beginning to face the reality of returning to their classrooms in person and all that comes with it
Seeds of Literacy needs more tutors to handle influx of students in virtual classroom
As children in Ohio are starting the process of moving back to in-person learning, hundreds of adult students are working towards their own education goals through Seeds of Literacy’s virtual classroom. Staff members there said they desperately need more volunteer tutors to step up and help out. “We made YouTube videos of our lessons. And that was all effective, and now we're able to meet in Zoom, use Zoom breakout rooms for one-on-one lessons with students, so that's been very helpful.” Seeds are looking for more tutors like Cook to teach the basic adult education seeds students need to get their GED or just to simply better themselves.
Public Policies
Biden says US faces ‘national emergency’ amid vaccine shortage
President Joe Biden said that the United States is facing a “national emergency” in the coronavirus pandemic and his administration is working to supply enough COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate 300 million Americans. “We’re in a national emergency,” said Biden, wearing a mask during remarks to scientists at the National Institutes of Health just outside Washington, DC on Thursday. “This will be one of the most difficult operational challenges we have ever undertaken as a nation. It’s going to take time,” Biden said. The US is on pace to exceed Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office, with more than 26 million shots delivered in his first three weeks. The 300 million doses would be delivered by the end of the US summer, Biden said. “We’re now on track to have enough supply for 300 million Americans by the end of July,” he announced. Biden said the US coronavirus death toll is likely to reach 500,000 next month. He urged Americans to wear masks as a “patriotic duty” to prevent the spread.
Venezuelan government and opposition begin talks on vaccine financing
Venezuelan government officials and opposition leaders have met to discuss buying coronavirus vaccines through the COVAX program using cash frozen in the United States by economic sanctions, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday. Opposition leader Juan Guaido last week said that Venezuelan funds controlled by the U.S. Treasury Department could be used to pay for vaccines. The cash-strapped government of President Nicolas Maduro has signed up for COVAX, co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide vaccines globally, but has not made the associated payments. The meeting marks a step forward in what will likely be a long process requiring that U.S. authorities approve the use of the funds, as well as the completion of a vaccination roll-out plan for crisis-stricken Venezuela.
Manitoba agrees to purchase 2M doses of Providence Therapeutics coronavirus vaccine
The Manitoba government has committed to buy two million doses of a made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccine currently under clinical trial. Premier Brian Pallister announced the purchase of the Providence Therapeutics COVID-19 vaccine at a Thursday morning press conference. “With today’s announcement we’re taking a big step … to creating a secure, stable supply of Canadian-made COVID vaccines,” Pallister said. A human trial for the prospective vaccine was started in Toronto in late January. In a release Jan. 26 Providence said the vaccine, dubbed PTX-COVID19-B, is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, and is the first fully-made in Canada vaccine to reach the human clinical trial stage.
Bolivia signs deal with China´s Sinopharm for coronavirus vaccine
Bolivia said on Thursday it had inked an agreement with China´s Sinopharm locking in an initial supply of half a million doses of the company´s vaccine against coronavirus by the end of February. Bolivian President Luis Arce said China’s President Xi Jinping had agreed to sell Bolivia 400,000 doses and had donated another 100,000 doses to the South American nation, among the poorest in the region. Bolivia has been rocked by political and social upheaval since contested elections in 2019 saw longtime president Evo Morales leave office. It has lagged behind wealthier regional neighbors in securing bilateral vaccine supply deals. The Andean nation has since signed agreements with Russia for its Sputnik V vaccine and India’s Serum Institute for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot. It has also signed a deal with the World Health Organization-backed COVAX initiative.
When will kids be able to get COVID-19 vaccines?
Students as young as first grade might be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by September, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted in an interview published by ProPublica on Thursday. Fauci cited clinical trials now underway in the U.S. from vaccine developers Pfizer and Moderna to test the safety and efficacy of the doses in children. He had said previously that the Food and Drug Administration might allow for vaccinations in American children "by the time we get to the late spring and early summer." So far, except for a handful of errors, the nationwide vaccine rollout has not included children.
Government ordered to investigate link between PPE shortages and NHS COVID-19 deaths
A report by the House of Commons public accounts committee (PAC) highlighted concerns among frontline staff that guidance did not specify a high enough level of PPE to properly protect them against infection, while some supplies were substandard or insect-infected. Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff were more likely to report experiencing PPE shortages or feeling pressured to work without adequate protection - over twice as many BAME doctors reported experiencing PPE shortages compared with white colleagues. The BMA has urged the government to learn from ‘these terrible shortcomings’ and listen to the experiences of frontline workers during the first wave of the pandemic to ensure that healthcare workers are properly protected in the future.
Merkel Defends Extension of Germany COVID-19 Lockdown
German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday defended her decision to extend the nation’s COVID-19 lockdown, saying the variant strains of the virus pose a threat and she does not want to make the mistakes that led to a second surge last year. Following a meeting Wednesday with Germany’s 16 state governors, Merkel announced they agreed to extend the current COVID-19 lockdown - due to expire Sunday - to March 7. Speaking to the Bundestag - the lower house of the German parliament – Merkel said they did not act fast enough in 2020 to prevent a second surge in infections late in the year, and as health officials now warn about the spread of more virulent variant COVID-19 strains in the country, she said they need to learn from their mistakes.
CDC alters COVID-19 quarantine guidance for vaccine recipients
If you have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and are exposed to someone with the virus, you no longer have to quarantine for 14 days as long as you remain free of symptoms, according to new recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because the vaccines prevent symptomatic COVID-19 infections, and symptomatic people are thought to be more contagious, the CDC said the risk of unnecessary quarantine outweighs the potential unknown risk of transmission among vaccinated people.
South Africa to use J&J, Pfizer COVID vaccines, says Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa says country has secured 9 million Johnson & Johnson and 20 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses. South Africa has secured millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to fight a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that is dominant in the country, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa. During a televised annual state of the nation address, Ramaphosa said on Thursday the continent’s hardest-hit country had secured nine million doses of the yet-to-be approved J&J vaccine, of which 500,000 would arrive over the next four weeks so authorities could start vaccinating health workers. Another 20 million Pfizer doses have also been secured, he added, with deliveries expected to begin at the end of March.
Portugal Extends COVID-19 Lockdown as Overstretched Hospitals Struggle
Portugal extended on Thursday a nationwide lockdown until March 1 to tackle its worst surge of COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began as authorities scramble to relieve pressure on overstretched hospitals. The country of just over 10 million fared better than other nations in Europe in the first wave of the pandemic, but 2021 brought a devastating surge in infections and deaths, in part blamed on the rapid spread of the British variant of the virus and the easing of restrictions over Christmas.
Maintaining Services
Churches pair up with clinics to deliver coronavirus vaccine to those who need it most
Pastor Joseph Daniels folded his 6-foot-3-inch frame into the mobile coronavirus vaccine clinic outside Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in Southeast Washington on Wednesday and joked that he was no fan of needles. Before he knew it, a nurse wearing a face shield, a mask and gloves was applying a bandage to his upper arm. “Oh, okay,” he said. “That was easy.” Daniels was one of a handful of pastors, along with their spouses, who received a vaccination Wednesday morning as part of the city’s pilot program staging clinics at churches, part of an effort to combat vaccine hesitancy and improve access to the shots in hard-hit neighborhoods where vaccination rates are low
AstraZeneca Plans to Double Covid-19 Vaccine Output
AstraZeneca PLC said it was fixing problems with the manufacturing of its Covid-19 vaccine and expects to roughly double monthly production to 200 million doses by April, as it seeks to move past a rocky start to the shot’s rollout. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker reported strong full-year earnings and forecast increased 2021 earnings growth. The forecast doesn’t factor in sales of the pandemic vaccine it developed alongside the University of Oxford.
Over 100,000 people from Mumbai got Covid-19 vaccine shots
After vaccinating 5,707 beneficiaries on the 20th day of the vaccination drive, Mumbai crossed the milestone of 100,000 beneficiaries on Thursday. A total of 1,01,364 beneficiaries have been vaccinated in Mumbai since January 16, when the vaccination drive began. Of these, 85,034 are healthcare workers (HCWs) and 16,330 are frontline workers (FLWs). On Thursday, the turnout was 61%, but the average turnout over the past 20 days is over 70%.
Covid: Prisoners like 'caged animals' in lockdown jails
Prisoners in England's jails have been locked in their cells for more than 90% of the day to keep them safe from Covid-19, the prisons watchdog says. And the extra restrictions, which began in March, have led to a decline in their mental and physical health and a rise in drug taking and self-harm. "It's being imprisoned while you're in prison," one inmate told inspectors. Predictions up to 2,000 inmates would die in the pandemic in England and Wales without action have been avoided.
Germany to reinstate border controls over virus variant
The German government decided Thursday to temporarily reinstate border controls along its southeastern frontier after designating the Czech Republic and parts of Austria as “mutation areas" due to their high number of variant coronavirus cases, German news agency dpa reported. The temporary border controls and certain entry restrictions will start Sunday at midnight, dpa reported. Travelers coming from certain areas of Austria or the Czech Republic will have to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test in order to enter Germany a requirement that will present a hurdle for thousands of cross-border workers. It was not clear for how long the border controls would last.
NHS workforce ‘on its knees’ – without ‘recuperation’ burnt-out staff will leave, warn leaders
The Government is being urged to have an “honest” conversation with the public. The sustained and constant pressure of the pandemic has left the NHS workforce “on its knees” and burnt-out staff will look to leave unless action is taken, warn senior NHS leaders. In a letter sent to the Prime Minister on Monday by the NHS Confederation, senior leaders from all parts of the NHS have issued several stark warnings alongside calling for a period of “recuperation” before returning to normal operations. With around 4.46 million patients awaiting routine surgery and up to 20% of the UK population needing mental health support, the Government is being urged to be “honest” about what the NHS can realistically deliver in the coming months to years.
Healthcare Innovations
AstraZeneca expects COVID variant vaccine by mid to late 2021
AstraZeneca has said it expects to have a new version of its COVID-19 vaccine ready for use by mid to late 2021, responding to concerns about emerging variants of the disease that may be more transmissible or resistant to existing vaccines. The Anglo-Swedish company, which makes a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, said on Thursday that researchers began the work on the updates months ago when the new variants were first detected. “We’re moving fast and we’ve got a number of variant versions in the works that we will be picking from as we move into the clinic,” Mene Pangalos, head of biopharmaceuticals research for AstraZeneca, said on a conference call with reporters. The comments came as CEO Pascal Soriot defended the company’s efforts to develop and ramp up production of the shot amid criticism from the European Union and a preliminary study that raised concerns about the vaccine’s ability to combat a variant of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa.
Does the coronavirus vaccine work on Bristol's variant? This is what Public Health England says
Public Health England has shared a reassuring statement about Bristol's coronavirus variant in relation to vaccines. Several experts have raised doubts about the mutation present in this particular 'variant of concern', as experiments suggest it might make antibodies less effective in attacking the infection. Speaking to ITV last night (Wednesday, February 10), a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said the variant "may be able to re-infect people who’ve been previously infected or who’ve been previously vaccinated". However, Public Health England (PHE) remains optimistic about the efficacy of current vaccines - at least in the primary aim of preventing serious illness and death.Speaking to ITV last night (Wednesday, February 10), a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said the variant "may be able to re-infect people who’ve been previously infected or who’ve been previously vaccinated". However, Public Health England (PHE) remains optimistic about the efficacy of current vaccines - at least in the primary aim of preventing serious illness and death.
Roche arthritis drug reduces COVID-19 deaths in trial in hospitalised patients
Roche's arthritis drug tocilizumab cuts the risk of death among patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19, also shortening the time to recovery and reducing the need for mechanical ventilation, results of a large trial showed on Thursday.
Pfizer says it expects data on COVID-19 vaccines for children in 'early part of 2021'
Pfizer says it has completed enrollment of its clinical trial of 12-to-15 year olds and believes it will have data in 'the early part of 2021.' Moderna is still recruiting children for its trial if 12-to-18 year olds and says it expects to have preliminary data 'around mid-year 2021.' Neither company has yet started pediatric trials testing their coronavirus vaccines in those aged 11 and younger Dr Anthony Fauci says he believes children as young as first graders may be able to receive COVID-19 vaccines by the school year start in September. But pediatricians believe studies are moving too slowly and that not immunizing children threatens herd immunity and increases the risk of variants spreading
COVID-19 linked with new set of symptoms, according to study of over a million people
Chills, loss of appetite, headache and muscle aches could be a sign of COVID-19 infection, according to new findings. Based on swab tests and questionnaires taken from June up until last month as part of Imperial College London's REACT study of over one million people, those with the above symptoms were more likely to test positive for the virus. This is in addition to the "classic" symptoms of COVID-19 already included in NHS guidance, which are: - Fever - New persistent cough - Loss of sense of smell and/or taste
Bristol Covid-19 variant: Experts monitor new mutation
A new coronavirus variant found in Bristol may be able to infect people who have already had Covid-19 or who have been vaccinated. But experts said jabs will still protect against people becoming seriously ill with the disease. The Bristol variant contains the E484K mutation also found in the South African and Brazilian variants. Health officials in the city say getting as many people vaccinated as possible is key. The Bristol variant has been defined by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) as the Kent variant with the E484K mutation. Laboratory studies have shown that viruses with that mutation are able to escape human defences, making them more efficient at evading natural and vaccine-triggered immunity.
'More than 40% of people suffer trauma following Covid-19′
Many people suffer trauma with symptoms such as flashbacks after catching Covid-19, even if they did not require clinical assistance or hospitalisation, a study has found. The Imperial College London and University of Southampton study, published on Tuesday, looked at 13,049 people with experience of coronavirus.
Sewage samples show COVID-19 spreading fast in some French cities
Sewage samples from a new nationwide COVID-19 monitoring system show that in some French cities traces of coronavirus are spiking above levels seen during the second wave of the epidemic in the autumn. France's new "Obepine" network continuously samples city sewage in nearly 50 waste water stations and publishes charts that indicate the quantity of genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. For cities where data are available from spring 2020, the indicator charts show a strong correlation with charts of the number of positive cases and can give early warning signals. "In Lille, Marseille and Strasbourg we see a strong uptick, while in the Paris region the situation seems more under control," said Vincent Marechal, a Sorbonne university virology professor and co-founder of the Obepine network.