"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 15th Feb 2021

Isolation Tips
Children need screen time balance during days of virtual learning
As COVID-19 continues to spread, social distancing remains a reality for Americans, Linda Inmon, Cooperative Extension Program associate of the Family and Consumer Sciences for the University of Arkansas, said. Because of this, everyone’s screen time has greatly increased. “Some parents are understandably anxious about the amount of time their children are spending in front of the computer screen,” Inmon said. “They wonder how much screen time is too much. They also want to find ways to better manage their children’s habits when it comes to computers and telephones.” First and foremost, parents should not stress too much as they figure out how to solve the problem. They can sort out issues related to household screen time by following these tips
Coronavirus: Germans' mental health worse in second lockdown — study
People living in Germany are struggling with their mental health more during the current shutdown than they had during the first, according to interim research results published by Saarland University on Saturday. Researchers at the university have been monitoring 1,500 men and women for a year to measure the psychological and social consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The time period has spanned two lockdowns — the first in mid-March to mid-April 2020 and the second, which began in mid-December and is ongoing. Both lockdowns have seen much of public life curtailed, including the closures of schools, public institutions as well as shops and gastronomy businesses except for takeaway.
Covid-19: How England's hotel quarantine will differ from Australia's
England's rules on quarantine hotels for travellers arriving from Covid "red list" countries are less stringent than those enforced in Australia. The BBC has seen a copy of the government's official requirements for hotel operators ahead of the policy starting on Monday. It spells out the rules for handling travellers for 11 nights of quarantine. The UK government said its hotel quarantine measures were "in line with those in other countries". And it promised to update guidance for hotels "imminently".
Hygiene Helpers
COVID-19: Australia's Victoria state enters snap lockdown after coronavirus outbreak linked to quarantine hotels
A five-day lockdown is being imposed in Australia's Victoria state, barring spectators from the first few days of the Australian Open tennis tournament. A new COVID-19 cluster has been linked to a quarantine hotel in the state capital Melbourne, reaching 13 cases on Thursday and prompting authorities to take action. Around 6.5 million people went into lockdown at midnight, lasting until the same time on Wednesday, in a state which endured one of the world's strictest and longest lockdowns last year.
How AI and data models help governments fight Covid-19
A not-for-profit business group including IBM and Rolls-Royce is using AI and data models to help Europe fight Covid-19 and help prepare an economic recovery. As Covid-19 vaccines roll out, getting economies and societies back to normal after the worst of the pandemic has passed will depend on collaboration between industry and the public sector – and harnessing the power of data and technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI). These are among the reasons why IBM, Rolls-Royce, Microsoft and dozens of global companies recently founded Emergent Alliance − a not-for-profit collaboration specialising in data, analytics and technology. Last April, data scientists and AI experts at IBM (Data Science and AI Elite Team) and Rolls-Royce (R2 Data Labs) joined a team to work on a crucial pandemic-related challenge: how to get a more accurate and up-to-date regional picture of Covid-19 cases so as to help local authorities mount a more effective response to coronavirus outbreaks.
Double masking can block 92% of infectious particles, CDC says
Double masking can significantly improve protection, new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Researchers found that layering a cloth mask over a medical procedural mask, such as a disposable blue surgical mask, can block 92.5% of potentially infectious particles from escaping by creating a tighter fit and eliminating leakage. "These experimental data reinforce CDC's prior guidance that everyone 2 years of age or older should wear a mask when in public and around others in the home not living with you," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told a White House briefing.
Covid passports could deliver a 'summer of joy,' Denmark hopes
Like many countries around the world, Denmark is desperate to reopen the parts of its economy frozen by the pandemic. The kingdom of under six million people has become one of the most efficient vaccination distributors in Europe and aims to have offered its whole population a jab by June. But before that target is reached, there's pressure for life to get back to normal for Danes already inoculated and to open up borders for Covid-immune travelers from overseas. Morten Bødskov, Denmark's acting finance minister, last week raised the prospect of a so-called coronavirus passport being introduced by the end of the month. "Denmark is still hard hit by the corona pandemic," he said. "But there are parts of Danish society that need to move forward, and a business community that needs to be able to travel."
COVID-19: New surge testing after more South Africa variant cases detected
Surge testing is being introduced in more areas of England after a few more cases of the coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa were detected. The testing will be deployed in: Middlesbrough within the TS7 postcode - Areas in Walsall - Specific areas in the RG26 postcode in Hampshire - People in these areas are strongly encouraged to take a COVID test this week, whether or not they have symptoms.
UK social distancing rules could remain until autumn
Social distancing norms in Britain could remain until the autumn under plans being considered by ministers, The Times newspaper reported on Friday. The government's roadmap out of lockdown assumes people will have to wear masks and remain a metre apart of each other for months, the newspaper reported here. Scientists believed the restrictions may need to go on until the end of the year, according to the report.
Late April or May before lockdown eases with month of low cases needed before change
Level 5 restrictions will not be eased until very low Covid-19 case numbers are sustained for up to four weeks, according to multiple senior Government sources. Such a scenario could see the wider reopening of society, beyond schools and construction, pushed back until late April or early May. The concept of a “pause”, where no easing takes place until numbers stay at a consistent level for a few weeks, is used in New Zealand and Australia and is viewed favourably by a number of Ministers as an effective indicator that it is safe to lift restrictions. The “cautious and conservative” approach enunciated by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in recent days is now widely accepted across all three Government parties. Ministers including the Taoiseach have accepted mistakes were made before Christmas, when measures were relaxed too early .
Community Activities
COVID-19: All restrictions must be lifted by end of April, lockdown-sceptic MPs tell Johnson
A group of lockdown-sceptic MPs has told Boris Johnson that coronavirus restrictions must be fully lifted by the end of April. In a letter to the prime minister, the COVID Recovery Group said there will be "no justification" for restrictions to remain once all over-50s have been offered a jab. The CRG described reopening England's schools on 8 March as a "national priority" that must be achieved, and said pubs and restaurants should be allowed to open in a COVID-secure way by Easter. More than 60 Conservative backbenchers are said to have backed the letter, which demands that Mr Johnson commits to a timetable for exiting lockdown.
Challenges to Covid-19 Lockdowns Have Been Mostly Losing in Court
When the owners of four Albuquerque trampoline parks sued New Mexico’s governor for pandemic-related shutdowns that almost bankrupted them, they argued it wasn’t fair that they had to close when tanning salons, guided balloon tours and ice-skating rinks stayed open. The argument got nowhere with U.S. District Judge James Browning. “The Court will not recognize a new fundamental right to operate a trampoline facility,” he wrote in a Feb. 8 ruling, upholding the closures. The decision was the latest in a long line of defeats for businesses and individuals challenging lockdown rules and state emergency measures intended to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Together, the roughly 300 civil liberties lawsuits related to Covid-19 represent the most significant test in more than a century of the emergency powers of state governors and the scope of liberty in dire times.
The show goes on in Madrid as cultural life continues despite pandemic
Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house is busy preparing its latest productions in what at any time would be an ambitious season. With Spain battling some of Europe’s worst coronavirus infection rates, its plans are all the more remarkable. The Real’s premiere of a production of Wagner’s four hour-long Siegfried takes place on Saturday while two other operas with largely foreign casts — Bellini’s Norma and Britten’s Peter Grimes — will be staged this month. The performances are part of a flurry of artistic activity that has continued in the Spanish capital despite the pandemic, as Madrid gives its answer to the question: how much should cultural life be closed down to keep the virus in check?
New Covid-19 outbreaks in China reopen pet owners’ wounds, but public pressure eases some lockdown restrictions
During early pandemic quarantines, many pet owners in China were forced to leave their pets alone at home or send them into the wild. Following public pressure, Daxing district in Beijing adjusted measures to allow pets to be moved to hotels with their owners.
Coronavirus: in Wuhan, a Lunar New Year rush to pay tribute to Covid-19’s victims
Early on Friday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, shops in the central Chinese city of Wuhan were selling out of chrysanthemums as residents bought them to take to the grave or home of a deceased family member. Throughout Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, it is a tradition to visit the household of a person who has died in the last lunar year to offer flowers and burn incense soon after midnight. This year, demand for the flowers for shao qing xiang or “burning incense” was particularly high, with many residents buying the yellow and white chrysanthemums to remember those who died from the coronavirus.
‘No One Is Safe Until Everyone Is Safe’ – Vaccine Rollout Misses Key People
Homeless people, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and some people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are among those struggling to get a coronavirus jab even when they’re entitled to one. The UK’s coronavirus vaccination rollout is being hailed as a rare pandemic success with the NHS on target to hit its goal of immunising 15m of the most vulnerable people by next week. But people are falling through the gaps because they face barriers to accessing healthcare. Experts say many of the people being missed out in the vaccine rollout are already at greater risk of health inequalities and have cautioned that until all communities in the population are reached with the vaccine, coronavirus cases will “keep creeping back”. Charities and campaigners say the easiest route for people to be called for a coronavirus vaccine is by being called for one by their GP. But those with an unstable immigration status are often too terrified of registering with a GP or seeking medical care as they fear they might get reported to the Home Office and deported.
This COVID-vaccine designer is tackling vaccine hesitancy — in churches and on Twitter
Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), is one of the scientists who in early 2020 helped to develop an mRNA-based vaccine for COVID-19. Developed in collaboration with biotech firm Moderna of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the vaccine is now being distributed across the United States and elsewhere. And Corbett is taking on another challenge: tempering vaccine hesitancy by talking about COVID-19 science in communities of colour. Corbett is one of many Black scientists and doctors who are doing this outreach, often virtually, in their free time. Researchers say it’s necessary to make scientific knowledge accessible in public forums, to ease health disparities.
Working Remotely
Working from home a boost to mental health
In Australia, employers are being urged not to force staff back into the office too soon, as new research shows the mental health benefits of working remotely. As many workers approach the 12-month anniversary of working from home, Margo Lydon, the CEO of workplace mental health organisation SuperFriend, which commissioned the study, said businesses should not pressure workers to return to the office too soon, with clear evidence that remote working had improved connectedness and mental health. The pandemic and resulting shift to remote working had brought business leaders and their staff closer, she said.
Remote Work Culture Is Struggling—Here Are 5 Ways To Save It
Offices have been mostly remote for almost a year now. And while the vaccine gives us hope for a return to semi-normalcy, some things will be changed forever. Employees will no longer be required to be in offices. Even for companies that do eventually return to their offices, you’ll see WFH options on the table for a long time to come. Like it or not, the workplace has changed—and the companies that thrive will be the ones that stop fighting it and lean into it. One of the biggest question marks for companies right now is around workplace culture. Team sports leagues and outings to the local bar have been replaced with virtual game nights and virtual happy hours, and for companies that are actively hiring, there will be an increasing number of employees who have never met in person. So how can you, as a leader, set the tone for an adaptable workplace culture that maintains its authenticity and allows for team members to adjust to the evolution of work? It’s not easy, but here are some tips to make it work for you.
Majority of US workforce continues to work remotely amid coronavirus: poll
A majority of the United States workforce is continuing to work remotely all of the time or part-time as the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, according to a new Gallup poll. Almost 56 percent of workers surveyed reported that they were working remotely in January. That number was just 2 percentage points down from the 58 percent of workers who reported working from home in the previous four months, Gallup reported.
Why we should be allowed to request remote working from day one
Despite the obvious challenges of working from home during a pandemic, from childcare to setting up a bedroom desk in a flatshare, research suggests many people want to continue remote working in the future. A survey of 1,000 people by Eskenzi PR and OnePoll found that 91% of the general working population would like to continue to work from home, whereas only 9% would want to work in the office full-time. Hybrid working is also set to be a popular choice too, with over a third of people wanting to work from home for half of the week. Although the pandemic has normalised remote working, UK workers still face challenges when it comes to requesting flexible working.
The ticking time bomb inside the new world of work
Once the Covid crisis eases, the working week will be pleasantly transformed for millions of employees into an agreeable mix of a few days in the office and a few at home. Or so I thought until last week, when I spoke to Nicholas Bloom, an award-winning British economist at Stanford University whose eye-grabbing research on working from home began years before the pandemic. His latest co-authored study, based on months of surveys of 22,500 Americans up until December, suggests homeworking is indeed here to stay. Workers and companies alike have found it is better than expected. Both have sunk money into the equipment needed for it ($600 for the average worker). The “shirking from home” stigma has faded. No one wants to go back to grim five-day office commutes.
Virtual Classrooms
How remote learning is creating virtual field trips
Even though people aren’t traveling as much as they used to, virtual trips have come to offer an alternative, allowing students to explore the world from home. Marisa LaScala is the parenting and relationships editor with Good Housekeeping. She said online field trips offer the perfect combination of education and fun. There are plenty of options to satisfy young curious minds.
The pandemic’s psychological toll on our children
Katie Peterson has two perspectives when it comes to seeing the psychological toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on children. In the evaluations her Eastern Michigan University graduate psychology students are doing for children with learning disabilities, she’s seeing an increase in the number of referrals for teenagers who think they might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As the mother of a 15-year-old boy with special needs, she’s seeing her son’s frustration in not having face-to-face interactions with peers and his struggles to focus while learning from a screen.
Shaftesbury School trials virtual reality course with students
A new type of classroom with a technology focus could be the future of education, with a school in Shaftesbury now leading the way forward as a testing site. Back in October Shaftesbury School launched the ‘Future Classroom’, which transformed the traditional learning environment into a futuristic space with touch screens, a green screen, augmented reality and more. Last week new virtual reality software was introduced to the school, making it the only establishment in Europe testing this particular kit.
Public Policies
Japan Health Ministry says it has approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine
Japan’s Health Ministry said on Sunday it has officially approved Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine, the first such approval in the country as it steps up efforts to tame a third wave of infections in the run-up to the Summer Olympic Games. The move had been widely expected after a government panel recommended approval on Friday, at which point Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said Japan would give its final approval as soon as possible. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said vaccinations will begin from the middle of next week, starting with some 10,000 health workers. The government hopes to secure enough supplies for the whole populace - some 126 million people - by mid-year.
China hits back after US expresses 'deep concerns' over WHO Covid-19 report
China has fired back at the US over allegations from the White House that Beijing withheld some information about the coronavirus outbreak from World Health Organization investigators. The White House on Saturday called on China to make data from the earliest days of the Covid-19 outbreak available, saying it had “deep concerns” about the way the findings of the WHO’s Covid-19 report were communicated. China responded with a statement from its Washington embassy on Sunday, saying the US had already gravely damaged international cooperation on Covid-19 and was now “pointing fingers at other countries who have been faithfully supporting the WHO and at the WHO itself”.
Serbia donates Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to North Macedonia
Serbia on Sunday donated a first batch of 8,000 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to North Macedonia, which is yet to deliver its first jabs. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev attended a border checkpoint handover ceremony of the shipment, praising friendship between the two neighboring Balkan states. Serbia, a country of 7 million, has so far vaccinated some 600,000 people, mainly with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine and Russian Sputnik V, and to a lesser extent with the Pfizer jab. The country has been one of the most successful in Europe in terms of how fast it has rolled out the vaccine among its population. By contrast, North Macedonia, like most of other Western Balkan countries, has not yet secured a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine for its population of 2.1 million.
New Zealand locks down Auckland after 3 new local COVID-19 cases
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday announced a three-day lockdown in the country’s biggest city Auckland, after three COVID-19 cases emerged, the first local infections since late January. Level 3 restrictions will require everyone to stay home except for essential shopping and essential work, Ardern said, repeating the strict approach the country has taken over the past year in virtually eliminating the pandemic. “We have stamped out the virus before and we will do it again,” Ardern told a news conference. New Zealand, which had gone more than two months without local infections before the January case, is to start inoculating its 5 million people against the new coronavirus on Feb. 20, receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier than anticipated.
First Australian vaccines to arrive this week
Australia’s first shipment of Pfizer vaccines will arrive in the country later this week in a high-security operation, with the first vaccinations to begin within days after arrival. Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed that about 80,000 doses of the first Pfizer vaccines would be exported from Belgium this week where they will arrive in Australia by the end of the week under tight security and be taken to a central distribution point. The Therapeutic Good Administration will then complete final testing of the vaccines to ensure quality before doses are distributed around the country on a per head of population basis. They’ll be taken to hospital hubs and directly to aged care centres, with hospitals told to be ready to administer the first jabs from February 22
All hypotheses on Covid-19 origins still being investigated, says WHO boss
The World Health Organization says it has not ruled out any theory on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, despite one top official earlier this week appearing to dismiss the idea it had escaped from a laboratory. Speaking at a briefing on Friday, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said a summary report from the organization’s team sent to Wuhan to investigate the origins of the virus should be published next week, with a full report coming soon after. But he confirmed that while the scientists made progress in understanding the circumstances around the outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, more work was needed on all of the potential routes the virus may have taken into the human population.
Germany to close borders to Czech Republic and parts of Austria in fight against new Covid variants
Germany is planning to close its borders with the Czech Republic and part of Austria as it tries to keep outbreaks of the more infectious UK coronavirus variant at bay. Travellers from these countries are likely to face a near total ban on entry to Germany, similar to the rules Berlin has already imposed on Britain, Ireland and Portugal. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is worried that the arrival of highly contagious mutant strains of the virus could undo her country’s progress in bringing down the infection rate, which has fallen by two thirds since Christmas.
Italy tightens virus curbs as variant fears rise
Italy on Friday extended a domestic travel ban and tightened restrictions in four regions amid rising concern about the spread of more infectious coronavirus variants. In one of its final acts in office, outgoing prime minister Giuseppe Conte's cabinet renewed until February 25 a ban on travelling between regions that had been due to expire on Monday, a spokesman said. The regions of Abruzzo, Liguria, Tuscany and the autonomous province of Trentino were also moved up to the medium-risk "orange" category from Sunday, meaning that bars, restaurants and museums will be shut. The rest of Italy remains "yellow", with bars and restaurants open until 6:00 pm except for takeaway service, but with a nationwide night curfew.
Greece extends lockdown to more regions to contain COVID-19 pandemic
Greece on Friday extended the full lockdown imposed on metropolitan Athens earlier this week to more regions of the country in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 infections, the deputy civil protection minister said. Effective on Saturday the region of Achaia in the northwest of the Peloponnese peninsula as well as Euboea, Greece’s second-largest island after Crete, will be in lockdown until Feb. 22 at least, authorities said. This means schools, hair salons and non-essential retail shops will close. “The epidemiological picture countrywide shows a steady deterioration,” Vana Papaevangelou, a member of the committee of infectious disease experts advising the government, told a news briefing.
Covaxin not finding international takers even when supplied free of cost by India
According to sources, of the 64.7 lakh Covid vaccine doses that have been sent out by India pro bono as part, only 2 lakh are doses of India’s Covaxin. The rest are doses of Serum Institute's Covishield.
Maintaining Services
Israel plans to reopen restaurants in March, restart tourism with Cyprus
Israel plans to reopen restaurants around March 9 and restart tourism with Cyprus as part of a gradual return to normality thanks to a COVID-19 vaccination campaign, officials said on Sunday. With more than 41% of Israelis having received at least one shot of Pfizer Inc’s vaccine, Israel has said it will partially reopen hotels and gyms on Feb. 23 to those fully inoculated or deemed immune after recovering from COVID-19. To gain entry, these beneficiaries would have to present a “Green Pass”, displayed on a Health Ministry app linked to their medical files. The app’s rollout is due this week.
French hospitals to move into crisis mode from Thursday: newspaper
France’s Health Ministry has asked regional health agencies and hospitals to enter “crisis organisation” to prepare for a possible surge in coronavirus cases as a result of highly contagious variants, Le Journal Du Dimanche reported. The move, which would echo measures taken in March and November when France went into lockdown, involves increasing the number of hospital beds available, delaying non-urgent surgery and mobilising all medical staff resources. “This crisis organisation must be implemented in each region, regardless of the level of hospital stress and must be operational from Thursday Feb. 18,” the DGS health authority said
AstraZeneca teams with IDT Biologika to speed coronavirus vaccine output in EU
AstraZeneca is teaming up with German CDMO IDT Biologika to quickly speed output of finished COVID-19 vaccine doses. And their pact doesn't stop with this pandemic. To address Europe's "immediate vaccination needs during the pandemic," the companies agreed to work together to speed output of finished AZ doses by the second quarter of this year, AstraZeneca said Wednesday. Their newly expanded deal has a broader goal as well—helping secure "Europe’s future vaccine supply independence" through combined investments in new capacity at IDT Biologika's Dessau, Germany, manufacturing site.
Some foreign nationals are getting coronavirus vaccines in the United States
One of Mexico’s best-known TV hosts sat in a car, masked, looking straight ahead while a needle was plunged into his bare upper arm. Juan Jose “Pepillo” Origel was the latest Mexican national to get the coronavirus vaccine — by coming to the United States. “Vaccinated! Thank you #USA how sad that my country didn’t provide me with this security!!!” the 72-year-old star tweeted in Spanish on Jan. 23, along with a photo of his inoculation in the parking lot of the Miami zoo. Mexican social media users immediately savaged Origel, protesting that his ability to fly to the United States for the vaccine crystallized their nation’s vast inequities. About the same time, Florida health leaders, concerned that out-of-state residents and foreign nationals were flying in for precious doses of scarce coronavirus vaccine, moved to restrict access to people who live in the state full- or part-time.
How India is delivering the coronavirus vaccine to its remotest villages
Vast distances, guerrilla warfare and vaccine hesitancy are just some of the hurdles India must overcome to vaccinate its 1.4 billion people against the coronavirus. Devjyot Ghoshal and Danish Siddiqui follow a feat of co-ordination as a vaccine makes a 1,700km journey to a rural health worker
After failing to deliver, AstraZeneca rethinks EU coronavirus vaccine supply chain
AstraZeneca is scrambling to find more manufacturers to produce its coronavirus vaccine in Europe after the drugmaker’s bet on a limited number of sites fell short. By the end of January, only one continental plant — located in Seneffe in Belgium — was authorized to manufacture the drug substance for the vaccine coveted by governments across Europe, alongside two sites in the U.K. and U.S. After announcing the company would be unable to deliver nearly two-thirds of the 100 million doses it promised the EU by the end of March, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot initially pointed the finger at the Belgian plant, now owned by U.S. company Thermo Fisher Scientific.
Pentagon approves 20 more COVID-19 vaccination teams
The Pentagon has approved the deployment of 20 more military vaccination teams that will be prepared to go out to communities around the country putting the department on pace to deploy as many as 19,000 troops if the 100 planned teams are realized. The troop number is almost double what federal authorities initially thought would be needed. Chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's latest approval brings the number of COVID-19 vaccination teams so far authorized to 25, with a total of roughly 4,700 service members. He said the teams, which largely involve active duty forces, are being approved in a phased approach, based on the needs of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
New ‘do not resuscitate’ orders imposed on Covid-19 patients with learning difficulties
People with learning disabilities have been given do not resuscitate orders during the second wave of the pandemic, in spite of widespread condemnation of the practice last year and an urgent investigation by the care watchdog. Mencap said it had received reports in January from people with learning disabilities that they had been told they would not be resuscitated if they were taken ill with Covid-19. The Care Quality Commission said in December that inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices had caused potentially avoidable deaths last year
Covid-19 pandemic: Warning vaccine roll-out risks prolonging crisis
The Covid-19 pandemic is unlikely to end unless poorer countries can access vaccines, scientists writing in medical journal the Lancet have warned. Unprecedented numbers of doses are needed, the article says, but poorer countries lack funds and richer countries have snapped up supplies. The experts want to see production ramped up and doses priced affordably. It is the latest warning that so-called "vaccine nationalism" is putting lives at risk. At last year's UN General Assembly, Secretary-General António Guterres called the practice - when countries sign deals to inoculate their own populations ahead of others - "unfair" and "self-defeating".
Covid-19: C.D.C. Urges Reopening of Schools With New Guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday urged that K-12 schools be reopened and offered a comprehensive science-based plan for doing so speedily, an effort to resolve an urgent debate roiling in communities across the nation. The new guidelines highlight the growing body of evidence that schools can openly safely if they put in effect layered mitigation measures. The agency said that even when students lived in communities with high transmission rates, elementary students could receive at least some in-person instruction safely — a finding echoed by an independent survey of 175 pediatric disease experts conducted by The Times. Middle and high school students, the agency said, could attend school safely at most lower levels of community transmission — or even at higher levels, if schools put into effect weekly testing of staff and students to identify asymptomatic infections.
Healthcare Innovations
Lifelong immunity hope for Covid-19 vaccine
Trials of coronavirus vaccines for children as young as five are set to begin within days, laying the groundwork for a childhood immunisation programme that could protect people from Covid-19 for most of their lives. AstraZeneca started recruiting British children for a paediatric trial, with the first vaccines to be given by the end of the month. Pfizer is close to beginning a similar global trial. If successful they could pave the way for a vaccine programme on the model of measles or polio, in which a series of jabs early in life provide immunity lasting decades. A booster programme might be needed for the elderly. Professor Sarah Gilbert, chief investigator on the Oxford team behind the AstraZeneca vaccine, believes such a programme could reduce the consequence of Covid infection for most healthy adults to those of a cold
COVID-19: Vaccines giving 67% protection after three weeks, large-scale research shows
One dose of a COVID-19 vaccine gives 67% protection after three weeks, a leading epidemiologist has said. Professor Tim Spector of King's College London, who runs the ZOE COVID-19 surveillance app, said data collected from 50,000 users vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca jab showed one dose gave 46% protection after two weeks, rising to 67% after three to six weeks. The app uses information submitted by more than four million users across the world to predict and track coronavirus infections across the UK and other countries
Under 0.1% of Pfizer double vaccinated got coronavirus
Fewer than 0.1% of individuals who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine contracted COVID-19, according to data released by Maccabi Healthcare Services. Vaccine effectiveness in Israel is now 93%. The Pfizer vaccine was proven to be 95% effective in its Phase III clinical trials. The report, relying on data tracked until February 11, showed that a week after 523,000 people had received their second shot, only 544 were nevertheless infected. “The data unequivocally prove that the vaccine is very effective and we have no doubt that it has saved the lives of many Israelis,” said Dr. Miri Mizrahi Reuveni, head of Maccabi’s health division.
Long COVID – we’ve been here before
Nearly a year on, it’s becoming accepted that long COVID is a serious problem. The Office for National Statistics said in December that an estimated one in five people testing positive for COVID-19 exhibit symptoms for five weeks or longer, with one in 10 exhibiting symptoms for 12 weeks or longer. Back in October, the NIHR published a dynamic themed review of evidence, which concluded that ‘ongoing COVID’ may be up to four syndromes, and that it can affect everyone, not just those who are hospitalised with the virus. This almost flurry of research into long COVID contrasts with the experience of many with ME/CFS, who often have felt ignored or misunderstood by the medical profession. But for some, the interest in long COVID is an opportunity to learn more about the longer-term consequences of viral infections – which could, in time, also benefit people with ME/CFS.
7 Virus Variants Found in U.S. Carrying the Same Mutation
In a study posted on Sunday, a team of researchers reported seven growing lineages of the novel coronavirus, spotted in states across the country. All of them have evolved a mutation in the same genetic letter. “There’s clearly something going on with this mutation,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport and a co-author of the new study. It’s unclear whether it makes the variants more contagious. But because the mutation appears in a gene that influences how the virus enters human cells, the scientists are highly suspicious. “I think there’s a clear signature of an evolutionary benefit,” Dr. Kamil said.
COVID-19: Previously-infected people only need one vaccine shot, say French experts
France's top health authority has recommended that people who've had coronavirus only get one vaccine dose. Those who have recovered from the virus have built an immune response similar to that brought on by a vaccine, said the High Authority of Health (HAS). It said a single shot would "play the role of reminding" the person's body how to fight the infection. The vaccines approved by the European Union - made by Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca - all stipulate two doses with a gap inbetween to achieve maximum protection.
Zinc, vitamin C show no effect for COVID-19 in small study
Consuming high doses of zinc and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was not associated with improvement in COVID-19 infections, according to a small study published today in JAMA Network Open. In a 214-person, open-label experiment with COVID outpatients in Ohio and Florida, those who received one or both supplements had similar symptom-reduction periods as those who received standard of care. Over the years, scientific studies have not conclusively shown that either supplement can help overcome illnesses such as the common cold. Since the pandemic began, however, both supplements have seen an increased market owing to people's belief that they can give the immune system a boost. The New York Times reported zinc sales of $134 million, and USA Today found that vitamin C sales reached $209 million during the first half of 2020, up 76% compared with 2019.
Oxford University to test COVID-19 vaccine response among children for first time
The University of Oxford has launched a study to assess the safety and immune response of the COVID-19 vaccine it has developed with AstraZeneca Plc in children for the first time, it said on Saturday. The new mid-stage trial will determine whether the vaccine is effective on people between the ages of 6 and 17, according to an emailed statement from the university. Around 300 volunteers will be enrolled and first inoculations are expected this month, Oxford said. The two-dose Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been hailed as a ‘vaccine for the world’ because it is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals.
It Turns Out Germany’s Anti-Lockdown Rallies Were Superspreader Events
Two anti-lockdown rallies attended by conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, and right-wing extremists from across Germany were "superspreader events" that resulted in up to 21,000 additional COVID infections in the lead-up to Christmas. That's the conclusion of a paper by researchers from Humboldt University of Berlin and the ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim, which examined the impact of COVID-19 deniers on coronavirus transmission rates.
Statins 'cut risk of Covid death': Study finds cholesterol drugs taken by eight million Britons reduce chance of dying to virus by 43% in hospital patients
Statins tackle 'bad' blood cholesterol and they are used by eight million Britons A study has now found giving statins to Covid patients can reduce death risk The study was a review of 12 other studies into the effectiveness of statins in cutting mortality from coronavirus
Israeli study finds 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases with Pfizer vaccine
Israel’s largest healthcare provider on Sunday reported a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of the Pfizer’s vaccine in the country’s biggest study to date. Health maintenance organization (HMO) Clalit, which covers more than half of all Israelis, said the same group was also 92% less likely to develop severe illness from the virus. The comparison was against a group of the same size, with matching medical histories, who had not received the vaccine.
Virus variant first detected in the U.K. has been deadlier, study confirms
Scientists had already determined that the variant of the novel coronavirus first detected in the fall in the United Kingdom — known as B.1.1.7. because of its molecular makeup — was probably 30 to 70 percent more transmissible than the typical version of the virus causing covid-19. They also knew, based on preliminary data, that the variant appeared to be relatively more deadly for the growing number of people catching it. U.K. scientists now say the variant is probably 30 to 70 percent more deadly, based on a follow-up study by the government released Friday that assessed a larger sample size of covid-19 patients and also found a higher rate of hospitalization.