"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 11th Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
Coronavirus: Women struggling with more anxiety and loneliness than men
Women are suffering from more anxiety and loneliness than men as a result of the pandemic, which has hit their well-being hard, latest data by the Office for National Statistics revealed. The study said women were more likely to be furloughed, and consistently spent more time on unpaid childcare and unpaid household work throughout the pandemic. But women are trying to remain positive through it all. Trudy Simmons, founder of The Daisy Chain Group, which provides mentoring for women entrepreneurs, noted that "it's been an anxious and overwhelming twelve months for so many but as a community of women entrepreneurs, we have leant on each other for support, encouragement and that all-important motivation to keep going."
Women did nearly TWICE the amount of housework and childcare as men during the first Covid-19 lockdown, survey reveals
Researchers gathered housework and childcare data from UK men and women during the first lockdown last year. On average, women did nearly twice the amount of both chores as men.
Hygiene Helpers
Developing nations demand equal access to coronavirus vaccines
South Africa, India, and more than 100 other nations have called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines, saying they are being prevented from immunising their people. The two countries first made the appeal in October last year, calling on the WTO to waive provisions in a trade agreement governing intellectual property rights so medical products can be more easily accessed by developing nations. More than 100 nations have since joined the calls. Endorsing requests for a waiver, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this month: “If a temporary waiver to patents cannot be issued now, during these unprecedented times, when will be the right time?”
Vaccine passports 'long, complex, global dialogue,' expert says
As vaccines continue to roll out across the globe, conversations surrounding “vaccine passports” or any other kind of government-issued papers used to show a person has been inoculated against COVID-19 are ramping up. Israel has already rolled out a vaccine passport, and while questions remain about its security several European countries have followed suit and expressed they are considering implementing their own. Canada has also mulled the prospect of vaccine passports, with federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu saying conversations are “very live” with G7 partners.
Covid-19: NHS Test and Trace 'no clear impact' despite £37bn budget
The impact of NHS Test and Trace is still unclear - despite the UK government setting aside £37bn for it over two years, MPs are warning. The Public Accounts Committee said it was set up on the basis it would help prevent future lockdowns - but since its creation there had been two more. It said the spending was "unimaginable" and warned the taxpayer could not be treated like an "ATM machine". But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the MPs' report "defies logic".
Community Activities
How virtual fitness classes are providing much-needed community right now
Among the (many) mental health challenges of a year-long pandemic is the loneliness and isolation of social distancing — and digital fitness platforms have emerged as a way for people to find meaningful connection with others. “COVID-19 altered the way people spend their time. We are no longer commuting to large offices, meeting friends for happy hour or interacting at special events,” said Kinsey Livingston, vice president of partnerships at ClassPass. “For many people, physical activity and connectedness top the list of our mental health needs, and we are turning to virtual, outdoor and distanced studio workouts as a healthy coping mechanism for pandemic stress.” Fitness has always had a strong community aspect, but being able to tap into this connection digitally has been a lifesaver for many.
COVID-19: Wales to prioritise homeless for jabs during coronavirus vaccine rollout
Homeless people in Wales will be prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine as they are more likely to have an underlying health problem, the Welsh government has said. Health Minister Vaughan Gething said this includes rough sleepers, those in emergency accommodation, and people who were recently homeless and are now in supported accommodation. Mr Gething, who was speaking during a Welsh government coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, said those people will now be part of priority group six in the country's vaccine roll-out.
Facebook to tackle coronavirus vaccine misinformation
Facebook is launching a media literacy campaign to tackle the spread of false information about the coronavirus vaccine. It follows vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi last month telling Sky News the government was battling a "tsunami of disinformation" around the jabs as well as the coronavirus pandemic itself. Facebook previously announced that it would be banning proven false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, but warned it would "not be able to start enforcing these policies overnight".
A look at the Covid-19 disinformation pushed by China and Russia
CNN's John Avlon looks back at the disinformation around Covid-19, as the US reaches the milestone of one year into the pandemic.
Michigan vaccine hunters and angels help seniors find coronavirus vaccine appointments
Trying to find a coronavirus vaccine appointment for her elderly family members was like firing a blind shot in the dark, said Elizabeth Griem. “I’m in my 30′s, I could only imagine what it would be like as someone (who is) 80 trying to navigate that,” Griem said. After sorting out vaccines for her father and father in-law, Griem met Katie Monaghan and began helping more seniors find vaccines. Monaghan noticed vaccine hunter Facebook groups popping up in other states, so she decided to start some in Michigan. Vaccine hunting is a national trend taking place mostly on Facebook where people find coronavirus vaccines and crowdsource information about them
Working Remotely
Remote work needs to be regulated 'quickly', EU presidency says
Portugal’s deputy secretary of state for labour, Miguel Cabrita, urged EU countries on Tuesday (9 March) to move fast with plans to regulate remote working, saying quick action will maximise opportunities and minimise risks. Speaking at a high-level conference on the future of work organised by Portugal’s EU Presidency, Cabrita stressed the importance of finding a balance between opportunities and risks of remote working. He defended the need “to move quickly towards regulation of this model that is no longer new,” but which has become widespread due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Passive collaboration is essential to remote work's long-term success
Technology like high-quality video conferencing and the cloud have been integral in making remote work possible. But we don’t yet have a complete substitute for in-person work because we continue to lack tooling in one critical area: passive collaboration. While active collaboration (which is the lion’s share) can happen over virtual meetings and emails, we haven’t fully solved for enabling the types of serendipitous conversations and chance connections that often power our biggest innovations and serve as the cornerstone of passive collaboration.
Virtual Classrooms
The Technology 202: Coronavirus relief bill includes $7.6 billion to target the 'homework gap'
The coronavirus relief bill expected to get the final green light today in Congress sets aside $7.6 billion to help students and teachers get online, in an ambitious effort to address the “homework gap.” The pandemic exacerbated long-running inequality in access to the Internet throughout the United States. The funding will allow elementary schools, high schools and libraries to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, and routers for students, and also fund the Internet service that those devices use. It will be distributed through the FCC’s E-rate program, which has long helped schools and libraries obtain affordable Internet access.
Love in Music offers virtual instrumental music classes
Since October of last year, the Love in Music Santa Ana Branch has been holding virtual music lessons every week. Love in Music, a nonprofit public charity organization based in Southern California, has been providing children from under-served families with free music education for nearly 14 years. The organization’s high school volunteers teach children the basics of their instruments and foster their love for classical music. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Love in Music has had to put traditional in-person classes on hold and move lessons online for the 2020-21 season. Despite this drastic shift, both students and teachers have continued to make the most of their resources and demonstrate their dedication to music.
Public Policies
South Korea to Prioritize Coronavirus Vaccines for Olympic Athletes
South Korea will prioritize vaccinating Olympic athletes before they travel to Japan for the Tokyo Games this summer. The Korean Sport and Olympic Committee confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that South Korea is making an exception for the athletes and allowing them to skip vaccine priority. Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is available to health care workers and staff and residents of nursing facilities. The general public will not be able to receive the vaccine until July.
Morocco, Kenya approve Russian coronavirus vaccine for use - RDIF
Morocco and Kenya have approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for use against the new coronavirus, Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said on Wednesday. The fund, which is promoting the vaccine globally, said that 48 countries had now approved Sputnik V for use.
European Commission says Pfizer and BioNTech to supply 4 million more coronavirus vaccine doses
The European Commission said Wednesday that Pfizer and BioNTech will provide 4 million more doses of their coronavirus vaccine in the next two weeks. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the doses are on top of planned dose deliveries. Regions like Tyrol in Austria, Nice and Moselle in France, Bolzano in Italy and some parts of Bavaria and Saxony in Germany have seen rising infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks, the European Commission said.
Montenegro appeals to EU, NATO for medical staff to help it fight COVID-19
Montenegro appealed to the European Union and NATO to send it medical workers to help exhausted health services battle a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic in the tiny Adriatic nation, its leading newspaper reported on Wednesday. So far 1,902 people in the ex-Yugoslav republic of 620,000 have died from COVID-19 while 80,803 have contracted the respiratory disease. On Tuesday it reported 612 new infections, bringing the total of those currently ill to 9,063. Montenegro, a member of NATO and candidate to join the EU, began inoculating its population with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine on Feb. 20 but has struggled to contain COVID-19 contagion
Portugal approves AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for over-65s
Portugal’s health authority said on Wednesday it had approved the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for those aged over 65 as new studies revealed its effectiveness in preventing infection and lowering hospitalisations among elderly people. The decision means that all people aged over 18 can now receive the shot, the DGS authority said, after it was approved for those under 65 in late January. Portugal, a nation of just over 10 million people, faced a tough battle against the pandemic in January, but the number of daily infections and fatalities has dropped sharply since then.
UNICEF chief: $1 billion more needed for COVAX COVID-19 vaccine rollout
The United Nations’ children’s fund on Wednesday urged countries to contribute more money to help poor countries access coronavirus vaccines, saying around $1 billion was needed. UNICEF, the world’s single largest vaccine buyer, is part of the World Health Organization-backed COVAX programme to supply COVID-19 shots to emerging economies. “We have been asking the world for more funding ... for UNICEF and our distribution to countries we still need about $1 billion,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said at a virtual event organised by Dubai’s World Government Summit.
South Korea extends use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 65 and over
South Korea will extend vaccination for people aged 65 years and older with AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to ramp up its immunisation drive, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting on Thursday. The country has been rolling out the vaccine since the last week of February, beginning with the elderly and health workers, but had excluded more than 370,000 over-65s in nursing homes citing a lack of clinical trial data on the age group. Real-world data from Britain has now shown AstraZeneca and Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines are both more than 80% effective in preventing hospitalisations in over-80s after one shot. “Vaccination had been postponed to those aged 65 and over due to lack of evidence to determine the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but recently, data to prove its efficacy for the elderly has been released in the UK,” Chung said.
Mexico to rely heavily on Chinese vaccines
Mexico announced a huge bet on Chinese vaccines Tuesday, without making public any information about their efficacy. Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the Mexican government has signed agreements for 12 million doses of the yet-unapproved Sinopharm vaccine and increased to a total of 20 million doses its contracts for the Coronavac dose made by China’s Sinovac. Deliveries of Sinovac have already started, with the full 20 million doses expected by July. The Sinopharm vaccines are to be delivered between March and June.
Australia unveils $928 million coronavirus support package to revive airlines, tourism
The Australian government unveiled a A$1.2 billion ($928 million) tourism support package on Thursday, aimed at boosting local travel while international routes remain closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The government will subsidise 800,000 tickets on domestic flights to 13 destinations around the country that mostly rely on international tourists, and offer cheap loans to small tourism operators. “Our tourism businesses don’t want to rely on government support forever, they want their tourists back,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. “This package, combined with our vaccine roll-out ... is the bridge that will help get them back to normal trading.” The government will subsidise 800,000 tickets on domestic flights to 13 destinations around the country that mostly rely on international tourists, and offer cheap loans to small tourism operators.
'It's an atomic bomb': Scientists warn that Brazil's Covid catastrophe threatens to drag out the pandemic worldwide as the variant that emerged there and can reinfect people spreads around the globe
Brazil's P1 variant is now dominant there, has caused a second wave even worse than the hard-hit country's first and has put the health care system on the brink The variant is thought to be 1.4 to 2.2 times more transmissible than older variants and has reinfected people who already had COVID-19 in Brazil. Control measures and vaccinations are shoddy in Brazil, where 2,000 people died of COVID-19 yesterday. Experts compare the out-of-control situation in Brazil to 'an atomic bomb' As long Brazil or other countries have uncontrolled spread, variants could keep emerging and triggering new Covid waves around the world
Maintaining Services
Restaurants are big beneficiaries of COVID-19 relief bill
The bill calls for grants equal to the amount of restaurants’ revenue losses, up to a maximum of $10 million per company and $5 million per location. Eligible companies cannot own more than 20 locations, and they can’t be publicly traded. The bill sets aside $5 billion for the smallest restaurants, those whose annual revenue is $500,000 or less. Industry groups welcomed the grants. The National Restaurant Association, an industry organization, noted that the Senate added $3.6 billion to the $25 billion allocated in the original House bill. While the $28.6 billion in the bill was only about a tenth of the amount of money the industry has lost during the pandemic, the restaurant group sees it as a win. “It’s going to keep doors open. The smallest and hardest hit are going to get the help they’ve needed the most,” said Sean Kennedy, an executive vice president at the group.
Germany sees up to 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses per week in June
Germany expects up to 10 million doses of coronavirus vaccine per week in June, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, but not as soon as next month. “In this first quarter we will get the expected and agreed deliveries, even a little more. For the second quarter, the delivery volumes will then grow steadily and it is important to have realistic expectations,” said spokesman Steffen Seibert. “A figure of 10 million doses per week, which is sometimes discussed, is certainly not something we will reach in April, but rather in June,” he added.
Pakistan begins vaccine campaign to protect over-60s from coronavirus
Pakistan has started vaccinating people who are 60 years old or above to protect them from Covid-19 amid a steady increase in cases and fatalities from the disease. Pakistan is currently using China’s Sinopharm vaccine, which was donated to it by Beijing last month. Pakistan hopes to start receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine this month under the World Health Organisation’s Covax Facility. Authorities say Pakistan will receive 17 million doses of coronavirus vaccines under the scheme from March to June
COVID-19: Fears undocumented migrants in UK may shun coronavirus vaccine over data-sharing worries
An estimated 1.2 million undocumented migrants live in the UK, and many of them could be put off being vaccinated due to worries about the NHS passing on their details to the police. Their suspicions stem from a data-sharing policy between the NHS and the Home Office to establish if a visitor to the UK is chargeable for healthcare they receive. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says it has made it clear to NHS trusts that patients undergoing vaccination, testing and treatment for coronavirus only are not subject to Home Office status checks. The 'Take The COVID-19 Vaccine' campaign is urging the government to create a public awareness initiative to highlight this. "The government's current policy is the right one," says campaign founder Kawsar Zaman. "But the practicalities of it don't work. There isn't a strategy in terms of a public information campaign to encourage them."
Alaska Becomes First U.S. State to Open COVID-19 Vaccinations to Anyone Age 16 and Older
Alaska is leading the U.S. in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, with anyone age 16 or older that lives or works in the state now able to get vaccinated. "This historic step is yet another nationwide first for Alaska, but it should come as no surprise," Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a statement on Tuesday. "Since day one, your response to the pandemic has been hands-down the best in the nation. I couldn't be prouder of Alaska's response." There are currently three COVID vaccines that have been FDA approved: Pfizer and Moderna, which each require two doses, and Johnson & Johnson, a single-dose vaccine that is currently being rolled out. Pfizer is available to anyone 16 and older in Alaska, while Moderna and J & J are available to anyone 18 and older in the state.
We got rid of Covid-19 in the Faroe Islands through competence – and luck
The government decided early on that rather than influencing behaviour by making laws, we would instead issue recommendations, says Barour a Steig Nielsen, prime minister of the Faroe Islands. "In some ways, our response to Covid-19 followed the same map as other countries: testing, contact tracing, lockdowns, public health campaigns and a reorganisation of our health sector. But, in other respects, our approach was unique. Unlike most other governments, we decided early on that we wanted to influence the behaviour of our citizens by issuing recommendations – not by making laws."
Covid-19: False test results 'ruining' return to school
Children in England are being unfairly punished by the insistence they must abide by "incorrect" positive results from rapid Covid tests, experts say. Reports have emerged of pupils having to isolate after testing positive at school using the on-the-spot checks - only for a more reliable follow-up lab-based PCR test to find them negative. Parents said it was "ruining" the return to school. Rapid tests at home or in workplaces can be overruled by a lab test. But the government has insisted this cannot happen for tests done in school - although it has been unable to explain why.
EU gets extra vaccine doses to tackle virus border clusters
The European Union’s executive arm has secured an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for an extra 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to fight a worrying surge of coronavirus clusters that are prompting the bloc’s nations to impose border restrictions. The European Commission said Wednesday that the deal will help “tackle coronavirus hot spots” and facilitate free border movement. The extra doses, to be delivered in the next two weeks, come in addition to previously planned vaccine deliveries.
Healthcare Innovations
Valo, ImmunoScape identify peptides for coronavirus vaccine development
Valo Therapeutics (Valo TX) has partnered with ImmunoScape to identify immunogenic peptides for pan-coronavirus vaccine development. The detected conserved peptide sequences will be applied to adenoviruses to address efficacy problems with existing vaccines against novel Covid-19 variants. Valo Therapeutics’ PeptiVAX platform offers a flexible and quick approach to address variants by coating the adenovirus with the associated clinical-grade target peptides instead of re-engineering and producing an entirely new viral vector. Applying these peptides to adenovectors using PeptiVAX can generate robust T-cell responses against the selected antigens.
Vaccine economics: how Covid-19 will disrupt the vaccine market
The FT explains the business models behind vaccines and asks if the Covid-19 pandemic will fundamentally change the vaccine market. This short documentary features global experts including Bill Gates, the CEOs of Moderna and Gavi, and the lead scientist behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
Eli Lilly's combo therapy for COVID-19 cuts serious illness and death in large study
Eli Lilly and Co said on Wednesday that its combination antibody therapy to fight COVID-19 reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 87% in a study of more than 750 high-risk COVID-19 patients. It is the second large, late-stage study to show that combination therapy of two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, is effective at treating mild to moderate cases of COVID-19. The previous study, which published data in January, used a higher dose of the drugs and reduced risk of hospitalization by 70%.
Death rate 64% higher with B117 COVID variant, study finds
The 28-day risk of death for the B117 COVID-19 variant was 64% higher than for previously circulating strains in people older than 30 years, a UK study finds. The study, led by University of Exeter researchers and published today in BMJ, involved community-based testing and death data from 54,906 matched pairs of participants who tested positive for COVID-19 from Oct 1, 2020, to Jan 29, 2021. Of the 109,812 total participants, 367 (0.3%) died. Of the 54,906 participants infected with B117, 227 (0.4%) died, compared with 141 (0.3%) infected with other strains.
Eli Lilly COVID-19 antibody combo aces study, cutting hospitalizations and deaths by a whopping 87%
Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody combo already boasts an FDA authorization for patients at a high risk of developing severe disease, but now the company has even stronger data backing the duo. In trial data released Wednesday, the company said its bamlanivimab-etesevimab duo slashed the risk of hospitalization and death by a whopping 87% versus placebo. Investigators tested a combination of 700 mg of bamlanivimab and 1400 mg of etesevimab in a trial comprising 769 patients total. It's the starkest reduction in hospitalizations and deaths for a COVID-19 therapeutic seen so far, and in a “fairly sizable” sample size, Lilly’s COVID-19 therapeutics platform leader Janelle Sabo said in an interview.