"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 30th Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid jab: One dose in care homes gives 'substantial' protection
A single dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine was effective at stopping 62% of coronavirus infections in care homes, a study has found. A team at University College London (UCL) looked at data from 10,000 adults in England with an average age of 86. The research also suggested those who did catch the virus after vaccination may be less infectious. "Our data suggests that both vaccines are effective in frail, older adults," said UCL's Dr Maddie Shrotri. The study analysed coronavirus test-result data for 10,412 long-term residents, all aged over 65, at 310 care homes.
Hygiene Helpers
Fauci says new surge in COVID-19 cases has three main causes
Travel, new variants and premature rollbacks of public health restrictions are all contributing factors to the uptick in new COVID-19 cases. Anthony Fauci told CBS that only with more vaccinations can public health measures be safely relaxed.
Biden faces calls to break COVID-19 vaccine patents. Would that boost global supply?
Some lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to suspend patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help boost supply in other countries. And last week, they took a shot at pitching the idea to White House officials. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a request to review proposals for breaking COVID-19 drug and vaccine patents, the White House held a meeting last week, CNBC reports, citing people familiar with the situation. The prevailing view among supporters is that “we’re not safe until the world is safe," one source told CNBC. The United States has administered more than 143 million coronavirus vaccine doses, while some countries have yet to start vaccinations.
The Biden administration is developing a national coronavirus 'vaccine passport' scheme for Americans
The Biden administration is working on a vaccine passport program that would allow people to prove they have received a coronavirus vaccination, in order to enter venues which have been closed due to social distancing requirements, such as offices or movie theatres. Five officials, who spoke anonymously, told the Post that the White House is pushing efforts by federal agencies and private companies to develop the scheme. Vaccine passports have been widely touted around the world as a way for various industries to start returning to normal whilst minimising the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and could be an entry requirement for anything from sports arenas, music venues, or restaurants, to international travel.
Tech 24 - Covid-19: A closer look at the EU's Digital Green Certificate
The Digital Green Certificate is just a fancy term for vaccination pass. It will show proof that a person has either been vaccinated against Covid-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from the disease. It will be free of charge and will rely on a QR code to ensure security and authenticity of the certificate. However, some 68 percent of French people oppose this vaccination pass, as they see it as threatening their privacy. Peter O'Brien tells us more about how French people are very attached to their freedom of speech and movement. This comes as a social media challenge dubbed "L for Liberty" has been launched in the French capital to ensure individual freedom is preserved.
UK ministers weigh Covid certificates for offices
UK ministers are drawing up plans to let employers use Covid-19 certificates for staff working in office buildings once most people are vaccinated later in the year, according to officials and industry figures. The move comes after 12 months of remote working for most white-collar workers in the UK, with chancellor Rishi Sunak among those emphasising the benefits of people working closely with colleagues in person. Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested pub landlords could look to restrict customers if they do not have proof of either vaccination, antibodies or a recent test for Covid-19.
Community Activities
Survey Finds COVID-19 Vaccination Hesitancy Remains Unchanged
Daily national surveys by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) show that although COVID-19 vaccine uptake has increased, the proportion of vaccine-hesitant adults has remained unchanged. The concerns about adverse effects (AEs) remain high, especially among females, Black adults, and those with an eligible health condition, according to the study. “Prior research by the CDC has found that Black and Hispanic adults are the least likely to receive the annual flu vaccine each year,” said Alex Reinhart, assistant teaching professor in CMU's Department of Statistics & Data Science and a member of the Delphi Research Group, in a press release. “Our survey suggests that COVID vaccine hesitancy follows a similar trend.”
‘There’s a sense of community’ – how a west Cork town became Ireland’s first rural remote-working hub
Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen is proof that any business can be run from rural Ireland with the right connectivity. The west Cork town launched the country’s first rural remote-working hub in 2016 after local entrepreneurs decided they were sick of seeing students leave for college and never return. When Vodafone and the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) came together to make Skibbereen Ireland’s first gigabit broadband town, it set in motion a rural revival that exceeded all expectations.
Covid: Ethnic jab gap 'not due to area or education'
Where people live, how poor that area is and their level of education explains only a fraction of the difference in Covid vaccination rates between ethnic groups, the Office for National Statistics has concluded. The ONS highlighted higher vaccination hesitancy among some ethnic groups. White people were the most and people of black African ethnicity were the least likely to have had a jab. But location, education and health accounted for just 30% of this gap.
Rule of six and weddings resume as millions take step out of lockdown
Friends and families will be reunited from today as England takes a second major step out of lockdown. Two households or groups of up to six can socialise in parks and gardens once more, while outdoor sports facilities can reopen and small weddings can resume. Weddings will be limited to six people, including the couple, for at least two weeks until April 12, when 15 guests will be allowed. Boris Johnson urged Brits to take caution as Covid cases continue to rise across Europe, amid fears the new variants could trigger another UK wave despite more than 30 million receiving a jab.
London street theatre company offers doorstep performances from singers and dancers in lockdown
Street Theatre provides range of performances for people on their doorsteps Singers and dancers put on five-minute-long shows outside homes for just £30 Set up to support the performing arts as theatres remain closed until May 17
Working Remotely
Ireland looks to pubs, derelict buildings to boost remote working outside cities
Ireland will turn vacant buildings in rural towns into remote working hubs and examine whether pubs could be used as workspaces during quiet afternoons in a bid to encourage more people to live outside big cities. Describing the pandemic-driven move towards remote working as a potential “game-changer” for struggling towns and villages, the government plans to establish a network of 400 remote working hubs as part of a five-year rural development policy. Local authorities will be given funding to add vacant properties to the network and ministers committed to exploring whether tax incentives and grants could be offered to employers and employees to encourage more rural remote working.
87% domestic businesses considering flexible remote working models: Report
As countries around the world grappled with lockdowns, people rapidly adopted remote work and video conferencing solutions. Through the swift and effective implementation of remote work, businesses were able to save both money and jobs that may have been lost as a result of the pandemic. According to a BCG-Zoom report, while 47 per cent of businesses surveyed in India expect a third of their employees to work remotely after the pandemic, a whopping 93 per cent agreed that video conferencing tools will continue to be essential beyond the pandemic.
Most remote workers reject monitoring software, study finds
A majority of remote workers have said they would not choose a job where their employer used software to track their work, a new survey has found. About six in ten (59%) of those asked did not want to work for any company trying to use software that could spy on them, with only just over a third saying it was acceptable if used to comply with regulations. “Our study sends a clear message – employees in all sectors strongly oppose the use of monitoring software in their homes, even if employers claim that it is required for regulatory compliance,” said Vivek Dodd, founder of training provider Skillcast, which commissioned the research.
FTSE 100 firms share latest London office plans following WFH year, with many set to embrace flexible working
The Evening Standard last summer contacted FTSE 100 firms to get an insight into how many UK-based office workers they have, how many were still working from home or were back in the office, and what plans there were for having most people back in. Since then many people have continued to do their jobs outside of HQs, and companies are looking at what office space they may or may not want when lockdown rules ease. This month this paper did another survey, asking firms on London’s blue-chip index about the size of their offices in the capital and how important or less important offices in the capital will be post-pandemic.
Virtual Classrooms
Digital Education Center To Allow Virtual Learning Indefinitely
In Maryland, to help accommodate students who have discovered throughout the coronavirus pandemic that they actually learn better virtually from home, the Howard County Public School System will be creating a Digital Education Center. The Digital Education Center is intended to function as an additional, separate, full-time kindergarten through 12th grade virtual center, which will continue to operate even after fully in-person learning resumes across the district, explained HCPSS Superintendent Michael Martirano during a recent work session.
How parents are climbing the virtual academic curve with child-led learning methodologies
Traditional education underwent monumental changes from the time the pandemic closed schools a year ago. Amidst such challenging times, there were parents who saw it as an opportunity to bring about a change in their approach to parenting. They climbed the virtual learning curve with child-led learning methodologies, homeschooling techniques and other alternative learning methods. As an educator, Chennai-based Vaishali BK has seen a growing interest among parents in homeschooling/child-led learning during the past one year.
Public Policies
Philippines sees 10,000 new COVID-19 cases as tight curbs return to capital
The Philippine passed the 10,000 mark for new daily coronavirus infections for the first time on Monday and put its capital region back on one of its toughest levels of lockdown, to try to tackle a spike in cases that is testing its healthcare capacity. Manila and surrounding provinces were put back under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the highest tier in its containment protocols, for the first time since May 2020 to try to quell the surge in cases, despite inroads late last year towards controlling its epidemic. The country recorded 10,016 new infections on Monday, bringing the overall tally to 731,894, with deaths at 13,186, one of the highest caseloads in Asia.
US COVID deaths could have been ‘decreased substantially’
The White House coronavirus task force coordinator under former President Donald Trump says she believes the COVID-19 death toll in the country would have been “decreased substantially” had the previous government responded more effectively in the early days of the outbreak. Dr Deborah Birx said that while the initial surge in March last year caught health officials off guard, better messaging and coordination from the government could have reduced the number of deaths later
Younger Brazilians Are Dying From Covid in an Alarming New Shift
Staggering under its worst period of the pandemic, with daily records of caseloads and deaths, Brazil is facing a daunting development: a rising number of deaths among the young. So far this month, according to government data, about 2,030 Brazilians aged 30 to 39 have died from Covid, more than double the number recorded in January. Among those in their 40s, there have been 4,150 fatalities in March, up from 1,823 in January, and for those 20-29, deaths jumped to 505 from 242. “Before, the risk factor to dying from Covid-19 was being older, having some co-morbidity,” said Domingos Alves, a professor of medicine who’s part of the national monitoring group. “Now, the risk is being Brazilian.”
Maintaining Services
Plea from doctors as Paris hospitals overrun with Covid patients
Hospitals in the Paris region are so overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients they will soon have to select those most deserving of intensive care, doctors say. Forty-one heads of intensive care, crisis units and other services involved in the pandemic issued the warning in an open letter in the Journal du Dimanche as President Macron continued to reject calls from health professionals and the opposition for tougher measures to curb a raging third wave. Hospital resources are unable to keep pace with the pressure of new patients and within a fortnight will have to resort to “disaster medicine” practised in national emergencies as the peak approaches, the doctors wrote. “We already know that our capacity to offer care will be overwhelmed.
COVID-19: UK hits 30 million first coronavirus vaccine doses - 57% of all adults
More than 30 million people in the UK have now had a first COVID vaccine dose. Government figures show 30,151,287 have had a first dose - around 57% of all UK adults - after 650,000 were administered on Saturday. A total of 3,527,481 people have had two doses - 6% of adults. Ministers remain confident that all over-50s will have been offered a first dose by 15 April. The government aims to offer all adults a jab by the end of July.
Moderna says shipped 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to United States
(Reuters) - Moderna Inc said on Monday it has shipped 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the United States, of which 88 million have been delivered to date in the first quarter of 2021. The company expects to meet its promise of delivering the ...
Vaccination rates for over-70s ‘markedly lower’ amongst certain groups – ONS
Older people from black African backgrounds are more than seven times as likely as white British people to have not received a coronavirus vaccine, official analysis suggests. Vaccination rates in England up to March 11 were markedly lower in the over-70s who identify as black African and black Caribbean Muslim and disabled, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is the first time the ONS has published analysis on vaccination rates in older people broken down by age, sex, ethnicity, religious affiliation, disability and deprivation.
Covid: Wales will prioritise second jabs in vaccine supply slowdown
Second Covid vaccine doses will be prioritised during the expected supply slowdown of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, Wales' chief pharmacist has said. Covid vaccine supplies are set to be delayed by in April and Wales expects to have 250,000 fewer Oxford-AstraZeneca jab doses. Andrew Evans said Wales' overall position was good with more than 13% of the population fully vaccinated. Mr Evans said the shipping delay will not affect Wales hitting its targets. He said Wales aims to vaccinate its priority groups by mid-April and offer all adults a jab by the end of July.
Russia Trumpets Coronavirus Vaccine Exports, While Quietly Importing Doses
Russia has lauded with much fanfare the arrival of its homegrown vaccine, Sputnik V, in Latin America and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe, calling it a solution to shortages around the world. It has been less vocal, though, about one country that is also importing the vaccine: Russia. The Russian government has contracted out the manufacture of Sputnik V to a South Korean company that has already sent the vaccine to Russia, and plans to do the same with a company from India. While the scale of the imports is impossible to gauge because of nondisclosure agreements, they undermine some of the narrative Russia has proudly presented about its role in the pandemic as an exporter of vaccines to needy countries.
Family doctors advocate for more coronavirus vaccines, say it will reduce hesitancy
Family doctors play a big role in reducing coronavirus vaccine hesitancy, especially for those who are used to being vaccinated there, said Dr. Pamela Rockwell. Rockwell, who has practiced for more than 20 years, said family physicians are already answering patient questions about the coronavirus vaccine and are ready to help. “Whether I’m doing virtual medicine now or in person medicine, I am able to answer their questions and there hasn’t been a single patient that has not been sort of convinced,” said Rockwell, who currently practices through the University of Michigan health system. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 75% of people would be very likely to get the coronavirus vaccine from their doctor and 38% chose this as their most preferred vaccination site
Serbia vaccinates thousands of foreigners against COVID-19
Serbia has vaccinated thousands of citizens from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Croatia against COVID-19 during the weekend. On Saturday, 9,600 vaccinations were administered to foreigners from the region in the capital Belgrade, Nikola Nikodijevic, the president of Belgrade city council, told Serbian cable TV Vesti.
Hungary first in European Union for vaccinations, and deaths
Hungary has vaccinated more of its population than any other country in the European Union, according to figures from an EU agency, but it continues to be one of the world’s worst in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita. The Central European country has given at least a first dose of a vaccine to 21.6% of its population, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, just ahead of the small island nation of Malta and surpassing the 27-member bloc’s average of 12.3%. But Hungary’s high vaccination rate, a product of a procurement strategy that secured doses from China and Russia in addition to those provided by the EU, has been unable to slow a surge in the pandemic that has given it the highest two-week mortality rate per capita in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.
UAE to manufacture Chinese COVID vaccine in Abu Dhabi
A new factory in Abu Dhabi will start manufacturing Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine later this year. The production will be under a joint venture between the Chinese pharmaceutical giant and Abu Dhabi-based technology company Group 42 (G42).
Healthcare Innovations
Risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from newly-infected individuals with documented previous infection or vaccination
Direct evidence of the impact of vaccination on the risk of transmission is only available from one study, a large register-based household transmission study from Scotland. This study suggests that vaccination of a household member reduces the risk of infection in susceptible household members by at least 30%. There is evidence that vaccination significantly reduces viral load and symptomatic/asymptomatic infections in vaccinated individuals, which could translate into reduced transmission, although the vaccine efficacy varies by vaccine product and target group. In light of this fact, the total number of infections is expected to decrease significantly as vaccination coverage increases, provided that there is a match between the vaccine strains and the circulating virus strains. This will lead to decreased transmission overall. Follow-up periods for vaccinated persons are not yet sufficiently long enough to draw conclusions on the duration of protection against infection long-term. Antibody titres in vaccinated individuals peak at 3−4 weeks following vaccination. Many of the vaccine efficacy studies were carried out before the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 VOCs. In studies that address the variants, there is limited preliminary evidence of reduced vaccine efficacy, in particular for B.1.351 and possibly also for P.1.
COVID-19 vaccines found to be highly effective in real-world CDC study
The U.S. government’s first look at the real-world use of COVID-19 vaccines found their effectiveness was nearly as robust as it was in controlled studies. The two vaccines available since December — Pfizer and Moderna — were highly effective at 90% after two doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday. In testing, the vaccines were about 95% effective in preventing COVID-19. “This is very reassuring news,” said the CDC’s Mark Thompson, the study’s lead author. “We have a vaccine that’s working very well.”
WHO draft report says animals likely source of COVID-19
A joint World Health Organization-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press. The findings offer little new insight into how the virus first emerged and leave many questions unanswered. But the report does provide more detail on the reasoning behind the researchers’ conclusions. The team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis — a speculative theory that was promoted by former U.S. President Donald Trump among others. It also said the role played by a seafood market where human cases were first identified was uncertain.
COVID-19 antibodies appear to ward off B117 better than B1351
COVID-19 survivors and those vaccinated against coronavirus appear able to fight off infection with the B117 SARS-CoV-2 variant but may not have the same level of protection against the B1351 variant, according to two new studies. In the first study, published late last week in Nature Medicine, researchers at Institut Pasteur in Paris isolated infectious B117, the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and B1351, first discovered in South Africa, from the nasal swabs of symptomatic COVID-19 patients. Like some other emerging variants, B117 and B1351 are more infectious than previously dominant varieties, leading to fears that they could evade natural and vaccine-induced immunity.