"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 2nd Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
St David's Day launch for new Gwynedd service to combat loneliness
A new virtual support service is being introduced in Wales. The new bilingual virtual befriending service, developed by Eryri Co-Operative Cyf, is available for people living in Gwynedd and aims to help those impacted by loneliness and isolation, who're socially excluded from their communities. E-Sgwrs/E-Chat has been developed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic as a way of reaching out and communicating with people that have been affected. The team will offer regular contact (weekly, fortnightly, or monthly as required) through a virtual chat so that the individual can see the person they are talking to, thus providing a friendly face whom they can trust to make a difference in their lives.
Covid: How many people get self-isolation payments?
About two-thirds of people in England and Wales trying to access the £500 self-isolation support payment are being rejected, according to figures obtained by BBC Reality Check. The government announced the payment in September, saying it would "ensure that those on low incomes are able to self-isolate without worry about their finances". It estimated just under 4 million people would be eligible. The government's scientific advisors, Sage, have warned repeatedly that concerns over money could lead to people breaking the rules on self-isolation
Hygiene Helpers
Expert Views - What role for vaccine passports in coronavirus fight?
As the rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 gathers pace, countries from Sweden to Israel are exploring how certificates and passports could help reopen economies by identifying those protected against the virus. But a push for identity proofs and digital certificates risks excluding poorer and vulnerable groups from vaccine passports and the benefits that come with them, rights experts warn. The Thomson Reuters Foundation spoke to business executives, researchers and advocates about what role vaccine passports should play in the global fight against the pandemic.
'Covid-killing' remote working pods to revive town centres
The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has left many of the UK’s high streets with an increasing number of empty retail spaces. These vacant buildings could get a new lease of life from Space Republic, which is proposing to install self-contained, self-cleaning office ‘pod’ spaces that use ultraviolet light to kill coronavirus in empty shops. Billed as a “safe, private workspace for the work-from-anywhere generation”, the sealed work stations, called Pluto work pods, would be put inside defunct high-street chains, pubs, hotels and shopping centres, so that people living locally could walk or cycle to get to them. Anyone can hire a pod for a two-hour concentration session in a safe environment where they can plug in devices for focus-friendly solo working.
Community Activities
Charity issues plea for volunteers amid spike in loneliness and isolation in Aberdeen
A north-east charity in Scotland has issued a plea seeking volunteers who can bring hope and joy to people’s lives. As part of their new befriending service, Aberdeen based TLC are calling on those in the surrounding area to step up and help support others. Starting in April, it is hoped that members of the community can help alleviate the loneliness and isolation being felt by many during the pandemic. Through their outreach work into communities across the city, the charity has witnessed a spike in people finding their physical, emotional and mental health in decline.
Food boxes 'only way to defeat Covid in lockdown' say Isle of Dogs volunteers
In England, a “mega food distribution” to beat isolation is being run by volunteers on the Isle of Dogs to reach households in lockdown. Members of the Island Network of voluntary groups were out at the weekend taking food packs to those staying indoors, including the elderly, disabled and anyone in poverty. The volunteers are also planning to distribute packs today, Monday, March 1, to primary schools in the area to be given to the most needy.
Working Remotely
How to build trust when everyone is working separately
A lack of trust is one of the key contributors to a toxic workplace. Often, it begins with managers and leaders and trickles down to the rest of the team, leading to problems with productivity, engagement, wellbeing and morale. Unfortunately, research suggests mistrust is a major issue affecting workers, especially those working from home. In January, a Catalyst survey of more than 1,700 full-time employees in five countries in Europe, including the UK, found only 46% of employees in Europe report feeling “often or always” trusted at work. Employers may see spying on their staff as a safety measure to ensure people are productive when working remotely, but research shows a culture of distrust actually undermines productivity. So what can leaders do to build trust when employees are working from home?
The Impact Of The Remote Workforce
Work from home has become business as usual. Not even a year ago, working remotely was an opportunity for just a small percentage of the workforce. The change was inevitable. While the pandemic imposed the WFH economy, it was going to happen anyway. Over time, businesses would have realized that technology enables this capability. Excluding factory jobs, restaurants, grocery stores, retail and other businesses that require people to be on location, many companies are finding the change is not as painful as they may have thought. While a 100% WFH workforce may not be for every company, the number of companies that will adapt to a percentage of their workforce going remote will have greater impact beyond the company, its employees and its customers.
Working from home turns out not to be the dream we were sold
Homeworking is all the rage. Apparently, we’ll all be at it permanently. So proclaim lifestyle gurus and HR consultants. Many make a profession out of talking as if only professional work exists, forgetting that only a third of working adults are working entirely from home even in this lockdown. The gurus aren’t just predicting that working from home is here to stay, they’re also prophesying that it’ll be great and cheap. Not only will commuting costs disappear, homeworking will make housing cheaper, as not living near the office will mean everyone is paying small-town rents while earning city-centre salaries. Back in the real world, new research shows that homeworking households actually spent about 7-10% more on housing compared with similar non-remote households in the same region. Why? Homeworkers need more space so have bigger houses.
Virtual Classrooms
For Some Black Students, Remote Learning Has Offered A Chance To Thrive
In the U.S., middle school is tough for just about everyone, but for Black students like Josh, school can be even harder. That's because, in addition to learning algebra and coping with social awkwardness, they're often navigating an educational system that historically hasn't supported them. In Oregon, where Josh lives, Black students have lower graduation rates. They're also less likely to be identified as "talented and gifted." All that can take a toll on kids. But for some students like Josh, remote learning during the pandemic has offered an escape.
Online learning is not a compromise — it's the future
The pandemic has forced universities to completely reshape their delivery of learning and teaching. But this shift gives us the opportunity to take stock and reassess fundamental assumptions about how students learn and how universities should teach. There are undoubtedly huge positives to on-campus, face-to-face learning. For certain areas of study, such as dentistry or music, “hands-on” learning is essential. However, we are beginning to understand how to forge and preserve this connection online. Throughout the pandemic online learning has frequently been compared with face-to-face. We need to reframe this debate. It’s not a question of which is better: it’s about what is best for you.
5 tips for successful virtual learning, according to a local academic
If you were already a virtual student or had experience working remotely, moving the majority of your activities online has likely been challenging. Here are five tips for virtual learning: Prepare your mind for virtual learning; Decompress from virtual learning; Start a reviewing routine; Take good notes; Protect your eyes
Public Policies
Colombia becomes first in Americas to get vaccines through COVAX
The Pan American Health Organization says United Nations-backed programme will boost COVID vaccine access in hard-hit Latin America. Colombia has become the first country in the Americas to receive a shipment of coronavirus vaccines through the United Nations-backed COVAX programme, receiving 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday. The shipment’s arrival in the capital, Bogota, came a few days after the anniversary of the first COVID-19 case in Latin America.
Global COVID-19 infections up for first time in seven weeks, WHO says
“We need to have a stern warning for all of us: that this virus will rebound if we let it,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO technical lead for COVID-19, told a briefing. “And we cannot let it.” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the rise in cases was “disappointing but not surprising” and urged countries not to relax measures to fight the disease. It was too early for countries to rely solely on vaccination programmes and abandon other measures, he said: “If countries rely solely on vaccines, they are making a mistake. Basic public health measures remain the foundation of the response.”
Israeli Supreme Court bans unlimited COVID-19 mobile phone tracking
Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday banned the government from sweeping use of mobile phone tracking of coronavirus carriers, calling the measure a grave infraction of civil liberties.Used on and off since March 2020 in efforts to curb the pandemic, the Shin Bet counter-terrorism agency’s surveillance technology matched carriers’ locations against other mobile phones nearby to determine with whom they came into contact. From the outset, civil rights groups had mounted court challenges over privacy concerns while lawmakers cast doubt about the efficacy of the contact-tracing tool
Amid scramble for COVID-19 vaccine, Latin America turns to Russia
As Bolivia struggled late last year to secure deals with large drug firms to supply COVID-19 vaccines, the incoming president, Luis Arce, turned to Russia for help. By the end of December, Bolivia clinched its first major COVID-19 vaccine deal, with enough shots for some 20% of the population. The first Sputnik V doses arrived in the country in late January, just as virus cases were spiking. Bolivia’s reliance on Moscow underscores how governments across the region have turned to Russia’s Sputnik V drug amid fears of being left behind in the global scramble for vaccines.
Finland declares state of emergency as COVID-19 cases rise
The Finnish government declared a state of emergency on Monday due to rising COVID-19 infections, a step that would allow the Nordic country to shutter restaurants and to impose other measures to blunt the pandemic. The decision comes as new variants contribute to a sharp rise in infections in the country, which has already closed its borders. The state of emergency would also allow the government to further shut schools and limit movement between regions. “The government sees it necessary that we all have fewer contacts,” Prime Minster Sanna Marin told a news conference. “Everyone now has the opportunity to impact how the spring and summer will turn out.”
Uzbekistan approves Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccine
Uzbekistan’s government has approved a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biofarmaceutical for use in the Central Asian nation, the Uzbek ministry of innovation said on Monday. Uzbekistan has taken part in stage III trials of the vaccine known as ZF2001.
Czechs tighten COVID lockdown, seek more tests for factory workers
The Czech Republic, battling the world’s worst surge in COVID-19 infections, deployed more police officers and soldiers on Monday to help enforce new lockdown measures that seek to confine people mostly to their home districts. Prime Minister Andrej Babis has said the healthcare system faces collapse without the new restrictions due to a record number of patients in a serious condition. The country of 10.7 million has recorded the highest per capita infection rate in the world over the last week, according to the Our World in Data website, 11 times higher than neighbouring Germany.
Covax: Ivory Coast and Ghana begin mass Covid vaccination rollouts
African countries are starting mass Covid inoculation drives using vaccines supplied through a scheme set up to share doses fairly with poorer nations. Ivory Coast is one of the first to benefit from the UN-backed Covax distribution initiative, with injections beginning on Monday. Ghana is also launching its vaccination drive this week. Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday became the first to receive a coronavirus vaccine through the scheme. Mr Akufo-Addo urged people to get inoculated and not to believe conspiracy theories casting doubt on the programme, which will see some 600,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine rolled out nationwide on Tuesday.
COVID-19: New West Bank lockdown as Palestinians face surge of coronavirus cases
A new lockdown has been imposed across the West Bank as Palestinians face a fresh surge of coronavirus cases and a continued wait for a proper vaccine rollout. The Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced the 12-day shutdown late on Saturday and blamed it on the struggle to get vaccines delivered to the territory. In the last 24 hours there have been 910 new cases and five deaths in the West Bank.
Zimbabwe eases COVID-19 lockdown as infections decline
Zimbabwe on Monday eased a coronavirus lockdown and overnight curfew imposed in January by allowing businesses to fully re-open after the rate of new infections slowed in the last two weeks. The news comes a day after neighbouring country South Africa eased restrictions to allow liquor sales under normal trading time and shortened curfew hours from midnight to 4 a.m., as cases in the country fell after a new coronavirus variant led to widespread infections in December and January.
Hungarian PM receives Chinese vaccine as govt ramps up rollout
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been vaccinated with a coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm, Orban announced on his official Facebook page on Sunday as the country tries to accelerate its vaccination programme. Hungary on Wednesday became the first European Union member to start inoculating people with Sinopharm shots after rolling out Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine as well, even though neither has been granted approval for emergency use by the bloc.
Norway's capital tightens lockdown to fight faster virus spread
Norway’s capital Oslo will tighten lockdown measures to combat a sharp rise in coronavirus infections linked to a more contagious variant, the city’s governing mayor said on Sunday. The variant, which was first identified in Britain, started spreading in Oslo in January and now accounts for 50-70% of infections, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said on Saturday. On Friday, Oslo registered a daily record of 245 new coronavirus infections. “We have to tighten the measures,” Raymond Johansen, the governing mayor of Oslo, told a news conference.
Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala promotes vaccine equity on day one at WTO
The new head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) called Monday for a “technology transfer” when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and urged member nations to reach a deal to reduce overfishing after years of fruitless talks as she laid out her top priorities after taking office. Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian economist and former government minister, donned a mask and doled out welcoming elbow bumps as she took up her job at WTO headquarters on the banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Still, she immediately set about trying to change the organisation’s culture.
Patently unfair: Can waivers help solve COVID vaccine inequality?
The World Trade Organization (WTO) General Council gathered virtually on Monday for the first of two days of talks amid increasing calls from civil society, states and nongovernmental actors to temporarily waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines and other coronavirus-related medical products. Endorsing a waiver on Friday, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “If not now, when?”
Maintaining Services
Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine to start shipping soon, but early supply could be uneven
Health care providers will begin receiving the first 3.9 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s newly authorized Covid-19 vaccine as early as Tuesday morning, though supply will be uneven in the coming weeks, senior Biden administration officials said. The first shipments account for the entirety of J&J’s current inventory. Officials expect another 16 million doses to be available by the end of March, though J&J told the federal government that the doses will be delivered mostly toward the second half of the month. “We do not expect any additional deliveries next week and we expect deliveries to be uneven during the weeks of March. We’re getting doses out the door as soon as they’re available to ensure vaccines get into the arms as quickly as possible,” one senior administration official said.
Nigeria begins registering residents for COVID-19 vaccinations
Nigeria launched on online registration portal for COVID-19 vaccinations, its primary healthcare agency said on Monday, the day before the first doses are expected to arrive for its 200 million people. Nigeria is expecting 3.92 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to land on Tuesday. It will be the third West African country to take delivery under the COVAX scheme, after Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid-19 pandemic pushing fragile countries toward 'catastrophe' as cases and deaths go 'chronically underreported'
Released by the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) coalition, which is a collection of the UK’s leading aid agencies, the report finds the pandemic has worsened the humanitarian situation in states such as Syria, Yemen and South Sudan – with aid workers on the ground saying they expect it to deteriorate further in the coming months. The report covers six of the world’s most fragile states, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, while also reviewing the situation in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. It also claims virus detection is being hampered by “minimal testing” as well as stigma and fear – with Afghanistan carrying out just 400 tests per day for a population of 40 million in November.
COVID meta-analysis: No benefit from convalescent plasma
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled studies concludes that use of convalescent plasma in COVID-19 patients doesn't appear to improve survival or clinical status, shorten hospital stays, or reduce the need for mechanical ventilation. Led by researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland and published late last week in JAMA, the study found that the risk ratio (RR) for death in the four peer-reviewed, published trials involving 1,060 coronavirus patients was 0.93 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.63 to 1.38; absolute risk difference, -1.21% (95% CI, -5.29% to 2.88%). The death rate in patients who received convalescent plasma was 11.6%, compared with 12.7% in controls.