" Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 10th Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
Thailand introduces 'yacht quarantine' in tourism revival bid
Travellers to Thailand will be able to spend mandatory two-week Covid-19 quarantine on a yacht. The Bangkok government hopes that the new initiative will bring 1.8 billion baht (£42 million) in yacht tourism revenue. The initiative is aimed at reviving the country’s struggling tourism industry, which was hit hard by the pandemic.
State to indemnify quarantine hotels against Covid-19 related legal action
Hotels used for the new mandatory quarantine regime will be indemnified from any legal actions taken by people who catch Covid-19 on the premises under a scheme approved by Cabinet on Tuesday. Under the plans which were brought to Cabinet by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, the State will indemnify hotel providers and subcontractors working on site for risks that don’t form part of their normal business operations. The Irish Times understands that hotels will be indemnified from any legal actions taken by people staying at the facility who catch Covid-19 on the premises.
'We knew so little': the young film-makers who captured early quarantine life
While New York plunged into survival mode, the three aspiring documentarians, all involved with the youth film-making program DCTV Youth Media, picked up their cameras. Their short films, collected along with two others in HBO’s Covid Diaries NYC, observe the dizzying freefall days of early quarantine, from the corrosive fear of sending off loved ones to frontline jobs to the toll of isolation, the family strain of sudden unemployment to the summer’s electric charge of protests for racial justice. The six-minute films are all the more impressive in their brevity, each memorializing, in casual, stripped-down fashion, an individual thread of the generational catastrophe spinning through New York.
Hygiene Helpers
Fully vaccinated people can gather without masks, CDC says
Fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to long-awaited guidance from federal health officials. The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way — in a single household — with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the guidance Monday. The guidance is designed to address a growing demand, as more adults have been getting vaccinated and wondering if it gives them greater freedom to visit family members, travel, or do other things like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world last year.
China launches ‘virus passport’
China has launched a health certificate programme for Chinese citizens travelling internationally, one of the first countries in the world to issue a “virus passport”. The digital certificate, which shows a user’s vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens via a programme on Chinese social media platform WeChat that was launched on Monday. The certificate is being rolled out “to help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel”, a foreign ministry spokesman said. The certificate, which is also available in paper form, is currently only for use by Chinese citizens and is not yet mandatory.
UK lawmakers say COVID-19 test and trace system yet to prove its worth
England’s COVID-19 test and trace system has not yet proven its worth as there is little evidence of its overall effectiveness, the British parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said on Wednesday, decrying the “unimaginable” costs of the programme. The vast amounts spent on England’s test and trace system and its limited impact has drawn criticism, with opposition politicians calling for it to be run by the state-run health service. The Public Accounts Committee said that Test and Trace had cost 23 billion pounds ($32 billion) so far but had not achieved a key goal of avoiding a cycle of national lockdowns. “Despite the unimaginable resources thrown at this project Test and Trace cannot point to a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic,” chair of the committee, opposition Labour party lawmaker Meg Hillier said.
Community Activities
Coronavirus vaccine bots: A force for good or agents of chaos?
Amateurs have been setting up automated bots to scan the websites of clinics in search of new appointment information before posting their findings on social media - a practice known as “web scraping” - which is proving popular with grateful Twitter users relieved to have had their attention drawn to an open slot on behalf of an elderly relative. South Jersey-resident Benjamin Shover tweeted his thanks to Vaccine Bot NJ, built by local software engineer Kenneth Hsu, on 23 February after securing an appointment for his father, writing: “THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I GOT MY DAD AN APPOINTMENT! THANK YOU SO MUCH!”
Vaccine tips and tricks: a start-up industry helps Americans find a shot
The US has now delivered first doses of a coronavirus vaccine to 21 per cent of its adult population, making it the sixth fastest Covid-19 vaccine programme in the world. On Saturday the country administered a record 2.9m shots, the White House announced on Monday. But the rollout has been patchy, with states, local health departments, individual clinics and private pharmacy chains all running their own systems. On top of this, many states are now allowing anyone with an underlying condition to claim a vaccine — a group that can account for as much as 60 per cent of the population. So many people are now eligible for so few doses that people are doing anything they can to secure highly sought-after appointments. Some are lining up for 12 hours outside supermarkets to secure unclaimed vaccines; others are tapping up networks of friendly pharmacists and nurses to find out when appointments become available; some are monitoring registration websites throughout the day and night.
More than 100 vaccine hesitant people have now had coronavirus jab - after being contacted in mother tongue
In Manchester, more than 100 people who had previously refused or ignored the coronavirus vaccine offer have now had the jab - after being contacted in their mother tongue. A multilingual team called dozens of people of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in south Manchester to answer questions and “debunk vaccination myths”. The volunteers rang people identified by GPs at Ladybarn Group Practice, Al-Shifa Medical Centre and David Medical centre to discuss specific concerns. As a result, 110 people had their vaccinations at Chancellors Hotel, in Fallowfield, where more multilingual staff and translated materials were available
Corby wellbeing programme helped by £31,000 boost from Loneliness and Isolation Fund
A Corby community-led arts consortium will be able to give their wellbeing programme a shot in the arm to help those suffering from isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Made With Many’s Corby arts programme has received a £31,000 boost for creative projects from the government’s Loneliness and Isolation Fund, to allow it to reach more people with their cultural and creative activities.
Working Remotely
7 best co-working spaces for remote work in Tokyo
Whether you’re working remotely, running a side hustle, or just need somewhere professional to sit down with a client or a report, there are plenty of co-working spaces in Tokyo. The competitive nature of the industry means these shared offices are smartly laid-out, modern and well-maintained, equipped with plenty of electrical outlets and fast wifi, while also offering their respective unique membership perks like free drinks or private booths. So forget the stress of café-hopping and worrying about wifi connections – set up shop in one of these tranquil, professional environments in the city instead.
Remote Workers Are Making Permanent Moves. What Happens When Offices Reopen?
With millions of Americans suddenly working remotely, some took the unprecedented opportunity to shift their lives in a new direction — crossing their fingers that when it's safe to go back to the office, they won't have to. David Lewis is the CEO of OperationsInc, an HR consulting firm in Connecticut. Many of his clients have seen employees suddenly move out of state, and they've just rolled with it. "It wasn't frowned upon as much as it probably would have been prior to COVID — and now I think that day of reckoning is coming," he says. He predicts that more than half of companies that can allow remote work will continue to, at least part time. And companies should think hard before being heavy-handed in ordering people back to the office from wherever they are now, he says.
Pandemic sends almost half EU employees into remote working
The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that almost half of the working population in the European Union (EU) were fully or partially working remotely in July, up from around 10% before the pandemic crisis, according to Eurofound. This new labour reality, accelerated by the pandemic, will be under discussion on Tuesday at a high-level conference on the future of work entitled “Remote Working: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities” held remotely as part of the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU.
The pandemic forced a massive remote-work experiment. Now comes the hard part
The pandemic has forced a large segment of the global workforce to go through a remote-work experiment on a scale never seen before -- and a lot has changed in the last 12 months. The boundary between our work and our personal lives has become blurred. Working at the kitchen table has become common and, for parents, juggling virtual school while trying to hit work deadlines has become a daily challenge. We've learned many lessons as a result: meetings aren't always necessary, working a standard eight-hour shift may not be the best schedule for everyone, sitting at a desk doesn't always mean you're being productive and perhaps, you miss your coworkers more than you thought you would. Now that more people are getting vaccinated and kids are going back to school, things appear as if they might get back to "normal," but the workplace as we knew it may be forever changed.
Virtual Classrooms
Delhi Government To Introduce Virtual Model Of Education; Chief Minister Says ‘Dream Project’
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Tuesday announced the government’s plans to introduce a first-of-its-kind “virtual model of education”. The initiative is an outcome of education going online over the last year in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. Sisodia said the “unique experiment” would make education accessible to students in any part of the country, or even globe. “The Delhi government has decided to introduce a new category of schools in Delhi, the Virtual Delhi Model School, that is, a school that will not have four walls or a building, but there would be children, teachers, learning, examinations and assessments, and studies shall be completed. It will be a unique experiment in itself, and will probably be the first virtual school in the world."
Remote learning shows the power of the cloud to transform education
Using a range of cloud-based applications and tools, educators have delivered online lessons, set assignments, shared educational resources, marked assessments and communicated with both students and parents. “The pandemic has raised awareness of the vast range of digital options and materials available to support education, leading to an increase in innovation and specific tools,” says Jonathan Seaton, chief executive and co-founder of Twinkl Educational Publishing, an online academic publisher. However, a survey by the UK’s National Union of Students found shortcomings in this e-learning, with 38 per cent of student respondents saying they were unhappy with the quality of their online learning provisions and 27 per cent experiencing inadequate access to academic resources online.
Not working: More US moms dropped out in remote-school states
Women have dropped out of the U.S. workforce at a faster pace in states where most students are learning from home, risking a reversal of decades of gendered advancement. Before the pandemic, the participation rate of mothers in the labor force was about 18 percentage points lower than fathers’. From 2019 to 2020, the gap widened by 5 points in states offering mostly remote instruction, and shrunk less where traditional school continued, according to a paper slated to publish soon in Gender and Society, a peer-reviewed academic journal. “The fear in the pandemic, in the context of parenthood, was that the added care giving burden as a result of school and daycare closures was going to land primarily on women’s shoulders” said Caitlyn Collins, an assistant professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, and an author of the paper. “Unfortunately, that is exactly what research has found.”
Public Policies
Coronavirus: Israel celebrates 5 millionth coronavirus vaccination
Israel's leaders Monday celebrated the country's 5 millionth coronavirus vaccination on the same day the government began vaccinating Palestinian labourers who work in the country. The time lag has drawn international criticism and highlighted global disparities. There was no indication the two events were co-ordinated, but their split-screen quality offered a stark contrast between Israel's world-leading vaccination blitz and the plight of 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Progress in places like Israel, the United States and Britain has heightened concerns among human rights advocates of driving a wider gap between wealthy countries and those that can't afford pricey vaccination programs.
Swiss company to produce Russian Sputnik coronavirus vaccine in Italy
The Russian Direct Investment Fund is set to cooperate with Swiss-based Adienne Pharma & Biotech for Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine production in Italy, chief executive of RDIF Kirill Dmitriev said.
COVID-19: UK reports under 100 new coronavirus deaths for second day running
Another 65 coronavirus deaths have been recorded in the UK - the second day running that the number has been below 100. It compares to 82 posted on Sunday, which was the first time the tally had fallen to double figures since 9 October, when 79 fatalities were recorded. There have been another 4,712 confirmed coronavirus cases, compared to 5,177 on Sunday. It is the first time since 28 September that daily cases have been below 5,000, when 4,044 were recorded. The latest death and infection numbers are down on last Monday's totals of 104 and 5,455 respectively.
Covid-19 vaccines and stimulus plans will aid global growth, says OECD
The west’s leading economic thinktank has sharply upgraded its forecasts for global growth this year as a result of successful vaccine programmes and fresh stimulus packages to combat Covid-19. In an interim outlook, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said it expected the world economy to expand by 5.6% this year – up from 4.2% three months ago – and to recover the ground lost since the start of the pandemic by the middle of the year. Laurence Boone, the OECD chief economist, said: “The world economy is doing a bit better. Firms have adjusted and some countries have accelerated vaccinations and so are reopening their economies. I don’t want to sound overoptimistic because a lot of the predictions are based on the assumption that vaccination will accelerate and that the race between vaccines and the virus will be won by the vaccines.”
US daily COVID-19 death toll below 1,000 for first time in months
For the first time in nearly three and a half months, the United States has recorded fewer than 1,000 deaths in a day from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the last 24 hours, 749 people died from the coronavirus, far below the peak of 4,473 deaths recorded on January 12, according to the data. The daily US death toll has not been below the 1,000 mark since November 29, when 822 people died in a 24-hour period. The US has recorded more than 29 million infections and 525,000 deaths since the pandemic began, the most in both metrics of any country in the world. However, last week, it also became the top country in terms of administered vaccines.
Exclusive: Quad nations meeting to announce financing to boost India vaccine output - U.S. official
A first ever leaders’ meeting of the Quad group of countries on Friday plans to announce financing agreements to support an increase in manufacturing capacity for coronavirus vaccines in India, a senior U.S administration official told Reuters. The financing agreements will be between the United States, Japan and others and focus particularly on companies and institutions in India manufacturing vaccines for American drugmakers Novavax Inc and Johnson & Johnson, the official, who did not want to be identified by name, said. The aim of the initiative by the Quad, which groups the United States, India, Japan and Australia, would be to reduce manufacturing backlogs, speed vaccination, and defeat some coronavirus mutations, the official said.
‘Justifiably unhappy’: Bosnia FM slams lack of COVAX vaccines
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s foreign minister has voiced anger over the fact that her country has yet to receive any of the promised vaccines from the European Union-backed COVAX scheme, saying Bosnians are “justifiably unhappy”. “We expect COVAX to fulfil its contractual obligations,” Bosnian foreign minister Bisera Turkovic told a news conference during a visit to the German capital, Berlin on Tuesday. he said Bosnia had met its obligations and paid for more than 1.2 million doses through the international COVAX scheme, a global vaccine-sharing effort, but “not a single dose” has arrived to date. “Our citizens are justifiably unhappy,” Turkovic told reporters, speaking alongside German foreign minister Heiko Maas. “Every day counts. We’re talking about people’s lives,” she said, in remarks translated to German.
Maintaining Services
Greece gives green light for tourists from May 14: Holiday hotspot will reopen to international visitors who are vaccinated or can show proof of a negative Covid test, minister says
Greece plan to reopen to Brits from mid-May if they have negative Covid test. Greece will reopen borders on May 14, three days before Brits can travel abroad. The Greek tourism minister also said tourists will be subject to random tests
Legal action threat over decision not to give police vaccine priority
Police federation bosses are threatening legal action over the government's decision not to give vaccine priority to officers. The Greater Manchester Police Federation says 11.8 per cent of the workforce has tested positive for Covid-19 during the pandemic, compared with 6 per cent of the general UK population. The numbers demonstrate how officers are at more risk of getting coronavirus as a result of their job, the Fed argues. Now the GMP Fed has put out an explosive statement making clear the level of anger felt by staff over the decision. GMP Federation Health & Safety Lead Phil Thomasson says it is seeking legal advice over whether the Government is breaching its 'duty of care' to employees under Health and Safety legislation.
Coronavirus vaccine opens to Manitobans 80 and over, First Nations 60 and over
Manitobans 80 years and over, and First Nations people 60 years and over, are now eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccines. Along with the new age eligibility, the province also says spouses and members of the same household who are eligible for shots can now schedule their vaccination appointments at the same time, provided both meet the current eligibility criteria.
Advocates Fight Covid-19 Vaccine Concerns Among Agricultural Workers
Community health workers are working across the U.S. to reach some of the millions of Latinos laboring on farms and in meatpacking and poultry plants, a group that is at once among the most vulnerable to Covid-19 and yet more reluctant than others to get vaccinated. The health workers are battling a deluge of vaccine misinformation spread among agricultural workers’ friends and family as well as in churches and on social media. The health workers point to Facebook , in particular, saying posts often discourage the shots by amplifying widespread distrust of immigration authorities or exploiting religious beliefs. The health workers’ efforts may be crucial to bringing a swift end to the pandemic, given the spread of the virus in this community. Scientists warn that any delay in vaccinations could give rise to variants that are more transmissible, lethal or resistant to existing vaccines. California has given priority to food and agricultural workers for early doses.
COVID-19: NHS hoping to drive coronavirus vaccine uptake by sending text messages and reminders
The NHS is hoping to drive the uptake of coronavirus vaccines by sending people text messages and reminders. Texts will now be sent to 40,000 unpaid carers and almost 400,000 people aged 55 and over. The messages will include a weblink so the person can reserve an appointment at one of more than 300 vaccination centres or pharmacies across England. If the move proves successful, younger people can expect to receive texts ahead of official NHS letters landing on doormats.
U.S. government to ship 18.5 million doses of COVID vaccine this week, White House says
The White House said on Tuesday that the government will distribute around 18.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week, fewer than last week because no new doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine are ready to be sent out. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news briefing that the U.S. government plans to distribute 15.8 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccine to states, tribes and territories, along with 2.7 million doses going to pharmacies. Last week, the U.S. government distributed over 21 million doses of all three vaccines. That included over 3.5 million doses of the newly authorized J&J vaccine.
Volunteers are key at vaccine sites. It pays off with a shot
When Seattle’s largest health care system got a mandate from Washington state to create a mass COVID-19 vaccination site, organizers knew that gathering enough volunteers would be almost as crucial as the vaccine itself. “We could not do this without volunteers,” said Renee Rassilyer-Bomers, chief quality officer for Swedish Health Services and head of its vaccination site at Seattle University. “The sheer volume and number of folks that we wanted to be able to serve and bring in requires … 320 individuals each day.” As states ramp up vaccination distribution in the fight against the coronavirus, volunteers are needed to do everything from direct traffic to check people in so vaccination sites run smoothly. In return for their work, they’re often given a shot. Many people who don’t yet qualify for a vaccine — including those who are young and healthy — have been volunteering in hopes of getting a dose they otherwise may not receive for months. Large vaccination clinics across the country have seen thousands trying to nab limited numbers of volunteer shifts.
Most adults in rich nations face long wait for vaccine, distributor warns
Kuehne+Nagel says production capacity is main limitation to supply of Covid-19 shots. Kuehne+Nagel is also distributing jabs for Covax, a programme backed by the World Health Organization that is providing vaccines free to dozens of developing countries. Kuehne+Nagel shipped the first batch of Covax vaccines — 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca shot — to Ghana in recent weeks. “I don’t want to talk about hearsay or the feedback we get, but I would not expect it to be realistic that more than 30-50 per cent of people [would be] vaccinated in the western world before summer next year,” Trefzger said. Two or three years was an “ambitious timeframe” to distribute doses to vaccinate a majority of those in poorer countries globally, he said.
Healthcare Innovations
Everything you need to know about China’s coronavirus vaccines
Move over, Sputnik. The next coronavirus vaccines really causing a stir in Europe are from China. Polish President Andrzej Duda jumped on the phone to ask his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for doses; the Czech Republic just placed an order; and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave China’s vaccines the biggest EU endorsement by getting one himself. European capitals, stuck in sluggish vaccination campaigns, are increasingly looking outside the EU for doses — and Beijing is happy to fill the void.
FDA Issues EUA for COVID-19 Diagnostic Test to Confirm Recent or Prior COVID-19 Infection
“People who have been unsure about a prior infection will now have another way to know if they had the virus,” said Chad Robins, chief executive officer of Adaptive Biotechnologies, in a press release. “The authorization of T-Detect COVID represents a true breakthrough for patients and a pivotal milestone for the diagnostic testing paradigm. We have proven that it is possible to read how T cells detect disease in the blood, and this is just the beginning of a pipeline of tests for many other indications.”
COVID-19: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shows promise against Brazil coronavirus variant in laboratory testing
The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was able to combat the Brazil variant of COVID-19, it has been revealed. Scientists tested the blood of people who had received the jab and found it fared well against a laboratory made version of the virus similar to the one first discovered in Brazil. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, could calm fears about the P.1 variant, which has been found to spread more quickly than other types of the coronavirus since it emerged in South America.