"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 23rd Mar 2021
UK less anxious but more lonely than a year ago, a study into the emotional impact of lockdown reveals
The UK will emerge from lockdown a less anxious but more lonely nation according to a landmark study which paints a mixed picture of the pandemic’s deep emotional impact on adults. Anxiety about the pandemic has become less common, falling from 62 per cent of those surveyed in March 2020 to 42 per cent in February 2021. However, loneliness has become much more common, increasing from 10 per cent of those surveyed in March last year to 26 per cent last month. Feelings of loneliness have not returned to their pre-lockdown levels at any point over the past year, including when most restrictions were lifted over the summer.
Scots report rise in loneliness levels rise as Covid anxiety decreases
Feelings of loneliness and hopelessness have increased among Scottish adults in the past year, new research has found. There was also a rise in the number of people who thought about suicide, according to the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic study. Researchers found that feelings of loneliness have become much more common over the past year, increasing from 11% of those surveyed in March last year to 29% in February this year. However anxiety about the pandemic has fallen, from 64% in March last year to 44% last month.
Data will drive the recovery from covid-19
While the current focus on the NHS is rightly on its heroic efforts in the fight against covid-19, we’re also witnessing dramatic progress made in its use of data. In the past year, the NHS has built advanced epidemiological models in days, generated new data to track new cohorts of patients within weeks, and rapidly produced daily reports on progress that have been used by thousands of staff to make daily decisions in response to the pandemic. By quickly acting on the insight from this data, from redirecting staff to building new capacity, acute demand has been managed and real differences made to the quality of care delivered. This shows that the health service can be an agile data-led organisation, able to apply insight to make informed decisions for patients and staff. Even amid the current storm, data has made a difference. Progress that would previously have taken years has been achieved in weeks, and obstacles to collecting and sharing information that have plagued the system for years have been overcome. The task now is to build on those successes and make sure the NHS has the tools to meet the new challenges ahead.
COVID long-haulers speak about living with brain fog, rancid smells and crushing fatigue
In February, the NIH announced a four-year, $1.15 billion dollar initiative to study what causes long COVID, but even before the initiative was put forth, clinics were springing up around the country to research and treat the growing number of long-haul patients. Health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have also drawn connections between long COVID and myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, which is characterized by symptoms like fatigue and brain fog and can be triggered by infectious diseases like mononucleosis, Lyme disease and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Dr. Sara Martin is working to get one such initiative off the ground. The Adult Post-Acute COVID clinic at Vanderbilt University, which launched this week, brings together specialists from internal medicine, infectious disease, pulmonology, cardiology, ophthalmology, psychology, physical medicine, ear, nose and throat, speech pathology and neurology.
Lessons from a year of lockdown: UK regional leaders on how their communities have tackled the Covid pandemic
Wales has forged its own route through the coronavirus crisis following its first case in Swansea on 28 February last year and its first case of community transmission in Caerphilly less than a fortnight later. A poll last month found that people in Wales overwhelmingly think the First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Welsh Government, which has imposed an unprecedented series of “made in Wales” measures, has handled the crisis better than Boris Johnson and the UK Government. While the death rate in both countries was similar at the peak in January this year, it was at its biggest gap in February between the two nations since March 2020 at 272.2 deaths per 100,000 in Wales compared with 393.2 in England.
COVID-19: The patriarchal pandemic
From Argentina to Malaysia and Sudan to the United Kingdom to the United States, there has been a surge in reports of violence against women. To be sure, there are more opportunities for domestic violence when people are confined to domestic space. And yet the pandemic has disproportionately affected women in other ways, as well. In numerous countries, females are overly represented in industries, such as hospitality and food services, that have suffered high job losses.
Covid One Year On: Charities 'blessed' with community spirit
Throughout North Somerset, community-led initiatives have been launched during the pandemic, each with the goal of supporting people. Nailsea Community Group, formerly Nailsea Covid Support Group, has evolved from a band of neighbours helping each other with their shopping to close to 200 volunteers. Vice-chairman Jules Richardson estimates that more than 11,000 people combined have used the groups delivery service. Clevedon Foodbank experienced a rapid rise in the number of residents reliant on its services during 2020 compared to previous years which eventually led to the creation of Yatton Foodbank. Trustee, Alison Kember, told the Times: "Usually we help around 2,000 to 3,000 people but the number surpassed 5,000 last year.
Major employers scrap plans to cut back on offices - KPMG
Most major global companies no longer plan to reduce their use of office space after the coronavirus pandemic, though few expect business to return to normal this year, a survey by accountants KPMG showed on Tuesday.
Hybrid remote and office working could revive local economies
A hybrid model of remote and office working is here to stay and policymakers should harness it to turbocharge plans for regeneration and regional growth, according to a report. Researchers at Legal & General and Demos said that the upheaval in working practices caused by the pandemic had created a new emphasis on the areas around people’s homes, where workers will be spending more time and money in future. This has created opportunities for parts of the country, particularly rural areas, which have traditionally struggled to attract businesses and workers. However, it also has the potential to create new inequalities between those areas that attract homeworkers and those that do not. City centres, once a magnet for office workers, also face new challenges.
House bound: NI firms considering remote working model beyond Covid
It is now a year since office-based businesses began working from home just before the first national lockdown, bringing a huge lifestyle change for us all virtually overnight. Employees and companies are now asking how long will this continue, and is there any going back to the way we were. It seems not, with one business leader adamant that things will never be the same again. Liberty Insurance and its subsidiary Hughes Insurance have said that its 400 staff in Northern Ireland will be working remotely from now on, and outsourcing giant Capita — which has 1,500 staff here — has said the same about workers in their call centres.
UAE: How remote work visas will help expats, employers
Expatriate business leaders in the UAE have called the cabinet ruling a breath of fresh air for corporations. The Federal Cabinet has approved a new system allowing professionals to reside in the country while working remotely for employers abroad, a scheme Dubai launched by itself in October.
Holyrood could keep some remote working after Covid, says Presiding Officer
Remote working procedures brought in to help Holyrood adapt to Covid-19 could remain in place after the pandemic has come to an end, even though they are “suboptimal” to normal sittings, the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer has said. Ken Macintosh said he had been “pleased and relieved” by how the parliament had adapted its working practices after the virus struck. Those changes have seen some business, including committee meetings and questions to ministers, take place entirely remotely, with MSPs appearing from their living rooms, studies and kitchens.
Report recommends manager training to ensure women working remotely aren't ignored
The growing number of vaccinated Americans has propelled discussions of returning to the office. But a recent report warns women’s careers could suffer further damage unless managers prepare to support those interested in hybrid arrangements. Compared to six months ago, 48% of women have become less interested in returning to the physical workplace full-time, according to Perceptyx’s report, which polled more than 1,000 U.S. workers.
'This is the future': 16 new virtual public schools approved in past year to operate in Iowa; pandemic speeds growth
Since March of last year, the Iowa Department of Education has approved 14 new virtual public schools. But many say the pandemic only accelerated a trend toward online school that has been growing for decades. This school year may have unearthed a new understanding of virtual learning for many Iowa families that hadn't tried it before — and the possibility that more students will learn online next fall in one of the 16 virtual schools that have received state approval in the past 12 months.
Students, teachers and parents climb the virtual learning curve
A year after schools statewide were forced to close their doors by a rampant virus, teachers and students alike have learned a ton about how to do online learning. Yet while studies have shown substantial learning loss during the pandemic, especially for students of color, local leaders expect some virtual learning will be with us for a while even as the vaccine reduces the toll of COVID-19 and more students return to classrooms. Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler recently emailed parents that the district will continue to offer Rockford Virtual next school year, citing “very positive” feedback from parents.
US trials find AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine safe and effective
The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca was 79 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic illness in a large trial in the United States, Chile and Peru, the company said on Monday, paving the way for it to apply for US approval. The vaccine was 100 per cent effective against severe or critical disease and hospitalisation and was safe, the drugmaker said on Monday, releasing results of the late-stage human trial study of more than 32,000 volunteers across all age groups. The data will give credence to the British shot after results from earlier, separate late-stage studies raised questions about the robustness of the data.
Mauritius approves Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine - Russian RDIF fund
Mauritius has approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for use against COVID-19, becoming the 55th country to do so, Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said on Monday.
Greece orders private doctors to join COVID-19 battle
Greece’s health minister is requisitioning the services of private sector doctors from certain specialties in the wider Athens region to help fight a renewed surge in coronavirus infections that is straining hospitals to their limits
Covid-19: Miami Beach imposes curfew for spring break
Huge crowds gather as Florida's governor says state is open, despite local authorities imposing restrictions
Hungary approves new Chinese vaccine, and CoviShield for emergency use
Hungary is the first European Union (EU) country to approve for emergency use China’s CanSino Biologics coronavirus vaccine and CoviShield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca shot, the Hungarian surgeon general said on Monday. New infections are surging in Hungary in a third wave of the pandemic, even as vaccine import and usage rates are among the highest in the EU with the country using Chinese and Russian vaccines as well as Western ones. If both new vaccines are also approved for mass use by the National Health Centre, Hungary will have seven sources to procure vaccines from. It was unclear when and in what quantity Hungary planned to deploy the newly authorised vaccines, or how it planned to buy them.
Doctors in Hungary urge volunteers to join overwhelmed COVID-19 wards
An appeal went out on Monday for volunteers to join hospital staff treating coronavirus patients in northwestern Hungary, as doctors said COVID-19 wards were overwhelmed, with the pressure only set to mount during the next few weeks. New infections are surging in Hungary, hard-hit by the third wave of the pandemic, despite vaccination rates at the top of European Union nations, as a proportion of population. Hungary was the first nation in the bloc to buy and use Chinese or Russian vaccines, as it said shipments from Western suppliers lagged.
Switzerland approves J&J COVID vaccine
Swiss regulators on Monday gave the green light to Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, after already authorising the jabs made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The Swissmedic regulatory authority said in a statement that it had authorised the use of the vaccine, which has the advantages of being a single-shot jab that can be stored with regular refrigeration rather than at ultra-cold temperatures. "Following a careful review of all the submitted documentation, Swissmedic has granted the 'COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen' temporary authorisation," it said.
Venezuela announces ‘radical quarantine’ amid coronavirus surge
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced two weeks of what he referred to as “radical quarantine”, leaving Holy Week celebrations suspended. “I announce that Holy Week this year will be again in radical quarantine. So we are going to have fourteen days, two weeks of radical quarantine,” he said on Sunday, referring to a period that will encompass the Christian holiday of Easter. About 88 percent of Venezuela’s 28.5 million people are Christian, the vast majority of whom are Catholic.
‘Grotesque’: Producers urged to overcome vaccine inequity
More producers of COVID-19 vaccines should follow AstraZeneca’s lead and license technology to other manufacturers, the World Health Organization chief said on Monday, as he described continuing vaccine inequity as “grotesque”. AstraZeneca’s shot, which new US data showed was safe and effective despite some countries suspending inoculations over health concerns, is being produced in various locations including South Korea’s SKBioScience and the Serum Institute in India.
WHO: Global coronavirus deaths rise for 1st time in 6 weeks
A top World Health Organization expert on the coronavirus pandemic said Monday the weekly global count of deaths from COVID-19 is rising again, a "worrying sign" after about six weeks of declines. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on COVID-19 at the U.N. health agency, said the growth followed a fifth straight week of confirmed cases increasing worldwide. She said the number of reported cases went up up in four of the WHO's six regions, though there were significant variations within each region. "In the last week, cases have increased by 8% percent," Van Kerkhove told reporters. "In Europe, that is 12%—and that's driven by several countries." The increase is due in part to the spread of a variant that first emerged in Britain and is now circulating in many other places, including eastern Europe, she said.
Covid-19: Primary pupils and years 12-14 return to school
In Northern Ireland, all primary school pupils and those in years 12 to 14 of post-primary returned to school on Monday. That follows a decision taken by the executive at its meeting on 16 March. Primary pupils in P4 to P7 join those in P1 to P3 who returned to school on 8 March. Pupils returning on Monday have not been in school since before Christmas, their second prolonged absence from the classroom in a year. They will attend school for at least a week before many schools begin Easter holidays.
German tourist industry warns of job losses from tighter pandemic lockdowns
The German tourist industry has warned of layoffs and bankruptices if authorities further tighten lockdowns meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus including by enforcing quarantine for those returning from holidays abroad. National and regional leaders meeting on Monday evening to decide the next round of measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic are mulling requiring quarantine for all returning travellers, not just those who were in high-risk areas.
New York lowers coronavirus vaccine eligibility age to 50
New York will join a handful of U.S. states that have lowered their eligibility age for coronavirus vaccines to 50, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday. The state, the country’s fourth most populous, had restricted eligibility to residents who are at least 60 years old, have pre-existing health conditions or are essential workers, especially those who come in contact with the public. “We are dropping the age and vaccinating more people,” Cuomo said at a church in Mount Vernon, New York, where he launched a campaign to encourage houses of worship to make themselves available as vaccination sites.
Taiwan kicks off COVID vaccination campaign with AstraZeneca jab
Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot on Monday, having volunteered to be first in line to underscore government confidence in the vaccine’s safety as the island began its inoculation campaign. “I have just finished getting the injection, there is no pain at the injection site, and there is no soreness of the body,” Su told reporters at National Taiwan University Hospital in central Taipei
The world’s first oral Covid-19 vaccine is being prepared for clinical trials - here's how it works
The world’s first oral Covid-19 vaccine is being prepared to enter Phase 1 clinical trials by an Israeli-American pharmaceutical company. Based on technology developed by Hadassah-University Medical Center, the joint venture between Premas Biotech and Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc will see the development of a novel oral Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine is based on ‘POD’ oral delivery technology developed by Oramed. This will allow the vaccine to orally administer a number of protein-based therapies, which would otherwise be delivered by injection.
COVID-19: Hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo may be associated with coronavirus, research suggests
Hearing loss and other auditory problems may be strongly linked to coronavirus, new research suggests. Scientists estimate 7.6% of people infected with COVID-19 experience hearing loss, while 14.8% suffer tinnitus. They also found the prevalence of vertigo was 7.2%. The researchers, from The University of Manchester and Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, compiled data from 24 studies that identified an association between coronavirus and auditory and vestibular problems. The vestibular system includes parts of the inner ear and brain that process the information involved with controlling balance and eye movements.
Vitamin D may prevent COVID, especially in Black patients
Higher levels of vitamin D than traditionally considered sufficient may help prevent COVID-19 infection—particularly in Black patients—or lead to less severe outcomes, two new US studies suggest.