"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 6th Apr 2021

Isolation Tips
UK to ease restrictions to allow care home residents two visitors
Britain will allow care home residents in England two visitors later this month, giving some grandparents the chance to meet their grandchildren for the first time, the government said on Saturday. To stop COVID-19 being spread in care homes which were badly hit during the initial outbreak of the disease last year, the government imposed tight restrictions on access during the latest strict lockdown which began in January. Last month, measures were eased to allow each care home resident one indoor visitor, and from April 12, this will be doubled. Parents will be allowed to bring babies and very young children, allowing some people the chance to meet the newest members of their family for the first time.
Covid: Many students say their mental health is worse due to pandemic
Almost two-thirds of university students in the UK say their mental health is worse because of the Covid pandemic, a survey suggests. The Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) report says ministers must "take heed" of the poll as restrictions ease. A total of 56% are not expecting any more face-to-face teaching in this academic year, but 66% of them are living in their student accommodation. The Department for Education has given £70 million to help students in need. Although school pupils across the UK have now returned to their classrooms, and other restrictions imposed because of the pandemic are being eased, university students are still mainly being taught online.
Hygiene Helpers
Everyone in England to be offered twice-weekly Covid tests, PM to say
Boris Johnson is to unveil a plan for routine, universal Covid-19 tests as a means to ease England out of lockdown, as the government faced a renewed backlash over the idea of app-based “passports” to permit people entry into crowded places and events. Six months after Johnson unveiled plans for “Operation Moonshot”, a £100bn mass testing scheme that never delivered on its stated aim of preventing another lockdown, all people in England will be offered two Covid tests a week from Friday. The prime minister is to announce the rollout of the lateral flow tests at a press conference on Monday afternoon, at which he will also outline a programme of trial events for mass gatherings, as well as proposals for potentially restarting foreign travel.
UK to pilot use of coronavirus passports at upcoming large gatherings
The United Kingdom is reportedly planning to test “coronavirus status certifications” in the next few weeks to determine whether or not people can return to mass gatherings such as concerts, sporting events and nightclubs. The Associated Press reports that the trials will collect evidence on how different factors affecting events such as ventilation and social distancing could allow large events to resume, citing British authorities. People who attend such events in April and May will need to be tested for the coronavirus before and after attending. British officials are also looking into COVID-19 passports that will show whether or not a person has been vaccinated, has recently received a COVID-19 test or has some form of immunity to the virus either from illness or immunization, the AP reports
Austria to give Czech Republic 30,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine
Austria will provide the Czech Republic with 30,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said on Friday in what it called a display of solidarity after it felt the European Union did not do enough to help its neighbour. After days of negotiations, EU ambassadors on Thursday agreed to change the bloc’s vaccine distribution system for 10 million BioNTech-Pfizer doses due to be delivered in the second quarter, so needier countries could receive more. Of those 10 million doses, 2.85 million so-called “solidarity vaccines” will be shared between five countries - Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia.
CDC issues next phase of guidance to cruise ship industry
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention on Friday issued new guidance to the cruise ship industry, including the need for COVID-19 vaccinations, a necessary step before passenger voyages can resume. The new technical instructions, the first update since October, include increasing from weekly to daily reporting frequency of COVID-19 cases and illnesses and implementing routine testing of all crew based on a ship’s COVID-19 status and establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel. “COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations,” the CDC said.
Coronavirus Testing Declines May Mask the Spread in Some States
Declines in coronavirus testing in many states in the South and the Great Plains are making it harder to know just how widely the virus may be spreading in those states, even as restrictions are lifted and residents ease back into daily life, experts say. States in both regions are reporting few new cases relative to their population, compared with harder-hit states like Michigan or New York. But they are also testing far fewer people. Kansas, for example, is now testing about 60 people a day for every 100,000 in population, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and Alabama only a bit
Fully vaccinated people can travel safely again, CDC says
Add travel to the activities vaccinated Americans can safely enjoy again, according to new U.S. guidance issued Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward. Still, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged caution and said she would “advocate against general travel overall” given the rising number of infections. “If you are vaccinated, it is lower risk,” she said.
Community Activities
COVID-19: Pope Francis pays surprise visit to Vatican vaccine centre for homeless people
Pope Francis visited the Vatican's vaccination centre for the poor and homeless on Good Friday. Francis, 84, surprised doctors, nurses, charity workers and those getting their jabs when he arrived at the pop-up clinic. The makeshift centre has been set up in the Vatican audience hall to give free vaccines to homeless people or those in need.
Biden launches community corps to boost COVID vaccinations
The Biden administration is unveiling a coalition of community, religious and celebrity partners to promote COVID-19 shots as it seeks to overcome vaccine hesitancy
International travel: Will I be able to go on holiday abroad this summer?
Under England’s roadmap for easing Covid-19 restrictions, which Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday was on track, the earliest that foreign holidays could be permitted is May 17. The government’s Global Travel Taskforce will provide a report later this week on how international leisure travel can resume. Boris Johnson said the government will set out “well before May 17th what we think is reasonable”. He added: “I know that people watching will want to know exactly what they can do from May 17th but we’re not there yet.
‘Divisive and discriminatory’: UK MPs to oppose COVID passports
More than 70 legislators, including 41 MPs from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party, have said they would oppose so-called vaccine passports in a rare show of cross-party unity in the United Kingdom. The UK, like several other countries, is considering making such certificates mandatory to help to open the economy as it starts lifting COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Many still hesitate to get vaccine, but reluctance is easing
So few people came for COVID-19 vaccinations in one county in North Carolina that hospitals there now allow anyone 16 or older to get a shot, regardless of where they live. Get a shot, get a free doughnut, the governor said. Alabama, which has the nation’s lowest vaccination rate and a county where only 7% of residents are fully vaccinated, launched a campaign to convince people the shots are safe. Doctors and pastors joined the effort. On the national level, the Biden administration this week launched a “We Can Do This” campaign to encourage holdouts to get vaccinated against the virus that has claimed over 550,000 lives in the U.S.
Over 70 pct of S. Koreans Willing to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine Shots: Poll
Over 7 out of 10 South Koreans are willing to receive coronavirus vaccine shots, a poll showed Friday. In a survey on 1,000 people aged 18 and above conducted on Wednesday and Thursday by Gallup Korea, 71 percent said they would like to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Among them, 50 percent said they will “definitely” receive vaccine shots. Only 23 percent were not willing to join the nationwide inoculation campaign, with 8 percent of them saying they will “never” get vaccinated. Compared with the pollster’s similar survey carried out from Feb. 23-25, just before the vaccine rollout kicked off here, the rate of those who said they will “definitely” or “never” receive vaccine shots rose by 2 percentage points and 3 percentage points, respectively. By age bracket, those in their 20s were evenly divided on the matter, with 49 percent showing eagerness toward coronavirus vaccination and the other 49 percent not.
Working Remotely
‘Our Rural Future’ includes firm commitments on remote work which could transform countryside
In Ireland, the Government has committed to introduce legislation this year to provide employees with the right to request remote work, and to mandate public sector employers, colleges, and other public bodies to move to 20% home and remote working this year, as part of the new Our Rural Future plan. Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys said: “The move to remote working, underpinned by the rollout of the National Broadband Plan has the potential to transform rural Ireland like never before. “It will allow people to work from their own local communities, revitalise our town centres, reduce commuting times, lower transport emissions and most importantly, improve the quality of life of our people.”
Hostility and harassment against women and minorities increased with remote work during the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a major shift in workplaces with many working from home, but that caused another shift: an increase in harassment and hostility toward women and minorities. Project Include, a nonprofit that analyzes the tech industry, surveyed 3,000 people on how workplaces have changed, and found an increase in harassment and hostility, harmful work expectations, and anxiety. "These harms draw from systemic issues of injustice and inequity, but also from specific outcomes of COVID-19, and they affect all workplaces, large and small, in all sectors, around the world," the report said. Remote work has created its own set of problems and amplified long-standing ones in the workplace, the report said, adding that "harassment and hostility are taking new forms since the pandemic."
Six in 10 Gen Z workers struggling in remote environment
While the pandemic’s work-from-home experience has gone smoothly for some workers, Gen Z employees are at risk and need re-energizing, a new report cautions. The past year has been uniquely disruptive for Gen Z workers, some of whom kicked off their career amid the pandemic and are struggling more than workers of other age groups, according to Microsoft’s recently released Work Trend Index, which included thoughts from 30,000 global workers. About 60% of Gen Z workers said they’re surviving or struggling, as opposed to thriving. Among new employees at a company for less than a year, 64% are surviving or struggling. The share of Gen Z workers who love remote work and have no issues with it is less than 15%, another recent survey found.
Returning to the Office Sparks Anxiety and Dread for Some
A year after the pandemic abruptly forced tens of millions of people to start working from home, disrupting family lives and derailing careers, employers are now getting ready to bring workers back to offices. But for some people the prospect of returning to their desks is provoking anxiety, dread and even panic, rather than relief. Amy C. Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor who studies human interaction, has been advising financial firms, consumer products businesses and universities. She said many executives were spooked that they’ll lose their best people if they are not flexible. But she said some managers might now be going too far. Teams need to get together to get stuff done.
Year-round sunshine, pool days and zero taxes: How to move to Dubai and work remotely for a year
As global business and travel hubs remain largely closed off to the masses, Dubai is making entry easier than ever for international visitors. The glitzy city, as well as the United Arab Emirates as a whole, has for years been opening up its once-strict residency and tourist visa rules, but has accelerated its changes in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, the country announced a UAE-wide remote working visa program (similar to one announced in Dubai in October), in a bid to attract a growing global pool of digital nomads as temporary working-from-home situations become more permanent.
Virtual Classrooms
How COVID distance learning hurt California English learners
More than 1.1 million students in California, nearly 20%, are considered English learners. By almost every measure of academic success — graduation rates, college preparation, dropout rates, state standards — these students rank among the lowest-achieving groups. And that was before pandemic-forced campus closures. One year later, this massive population of students is at great risk of intractable educational loss, experts said. “It’s an educational pandemic,” said Martha Hernandez, director of Californians Together, a nonprofit that advocates for English learners. “We already had issues of an achievement gap, opportunity gaps, lack of access, lack of equity. Now that’s just exacerbated, and it will be a huge challenge. It will have a big impact for many, many years.”
Public Policies
India's richest state says to impose new COVID-19 restrictions, weekend lockdown
India’s richest state, Maharashtra, announced stringent COVID-19 restrictions from Monday, after a rapid rise in infections now accounting for more than half the country’s daily new cases. An industrialist who attended a meeting with the chief minister before the curbs were announced quoted him as saying that “the situation is grim and there could be shortage of hospital beds, doctors and oxygen cylinders”. He declined to be named, but the comments echo those of government and health officials to Indian media about the situation in the state, which includes the crowded financial capital Mumbai.
Ontario hastily reverses reopening as new variants usher in a third wave of Covid cases
Lisa Salamon-Switzman, an emergency room doctor in Toronto, had already worked through two deadly surges of the coronavirus pandemic when a new batch of patients recently began arriving that left her unsettled because of their low oxygen levels – and their age. “They’re younger than what we saw earlier and they don’t really understand how sick they are,” she said of patients who are in their 40s and 50s. “And now it’s become this huge, huge wave.” Doctors and epidemiologists in Canada’s most populous province have been warning for weeks that the loosening of restrictions, a lack of sick pay for essential workers –and the arrival of infectious new coronavirus variants would usher in a devastating third wave.
UK ministers plan traffic light system to unlock foreign travel
Ministers will on Thursday hammer out a framework for reopening Britain’s overseas travel sector, as chancellor Rishi Sunak insisted the country was “in a good position to recover strongly” from the Covid-19 crisis. Travel industry and Whitehall officials expect Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, will back a “traffic light” approach to restarting foreign travel, depending on infection rates and the prevalence of Covid-19 variants in overseas destinations. May 17 has been named as the “earliest date” for foreign travel; aviation sector executives hope Israel and Iceland will be among early holiday destinations on a “green list”, with the US not far behind.
98pc of Pakistanis to get free coronavirus vaccine, says Fawad
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday announced that 98 per cent of the population will get free coronavirus vaccines, ARY News reported. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad today, Fawad Chaudhry said that the people can also get themselves vaccinated from private hospitals. The federal government has fixed the price of CanSino, the coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Chian, at Rs4,225 per dose, the minister said, adding that people needed to get only one shot of the vaccine. Responding to a question, Fawad Chaudhry, “The Russian vaccine’s price cannot be determined at the moment, as the matter of setting its rate is currently underway in court.”
Fears of low turnout as Bulgarians prepare to vote in pandemic
With days until Sunday’s parliamentary elections, Bulgaria on Wednesday registered 5,176 daily COVID-19 cases – a record since the start of the pandemic. Despite high infection rates and a strained healthcare system, the Bulgarian government has decided to go forward with the vote. But with a growing number of people in hospital and home quarantine, questions have emerged about how they will be able to vote. The government has tasked the municipalities with organising mobile polling stations to accommodate these voters. Local authorities have said, however, that very few people have sent the required forms to request this option and therefore, few mobile polling stations will be made available. As a result, many of the 120,000 people under quarantine and the nearly 10,000 in hospital may be unable to cast their vote.
Dutch temporarily halt AstraZeneca shots for under-60s
The Dutch government said Friday it is temporarily halting AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccinations for people under 60 following reports of very small number of people suffering unusual blood clots after receiving the shot. The Dutch decision comes three days after authorities in Germany also stopped using the AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the under-60s, citing fresh concerns over unusual blood clots reported in a tiny number of those who received the shots. Earlier Friday, a Dutch organization that monitors vaccine side effects said it had received five reports of blood clots with low blood plate counts following vaccinations. All the cases occurred between seven and 10 days after the vaccinations and all the people affected were women aged between 25 and 65 years.
Panama approves Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine -Russian RDIF fund
Panama has approved Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for use against COVID-19, becoming the 59th country to do so, Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund said on Thursday.
South African health regulator approves J&J's COVID-19 vaccine
South Africa's health regulator has approved Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for large-scale deliveries of the shot the government has put at the heart of its immunisation plans. The conditional approval by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) comes less than four months after it started a "rolling review" of the J&J vaccine, which has been administered to healthcare workers since mid-February in a research study. J&J aims to supply the country with 31 million doses of its single-dose vaccine, with 2.8 million doses being made available in the second quarter, it said in a statement announcing the approval.
France Enacting National Lockdown After Covid Spike
France will go under another nationwide lockdown starting on Saturday, President Emmanuel Macron said, closing down schools for in-person learning nationwide and restricting travel to within 10 kilometers (about six miles) of residents’ homes right as many in the country were planning to celebrate the Easter holiday.
Maintaining Services
England to open shops, gyms and outdoor pubs, PM Johnson says
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday a planned reopening of the economy would take place next week, with the opening of all shops, gyms, hairdressers and outdoor hospitality areas in England. With the vaccine programme rolling out rapidly across the UK and infection numbers falling, Johnson said England would proceed to Stage 2 of his roadmap out of lockdown from April 12. Johnson said he would go to the pub himself for a pint. People should continue to work from home when they could and minimise domestic travel, the government said. It also confirmed that the government was looking at a COVID-status certification system, or vaccine passport, to help reopen larger events.
Covid in Scotland: Hairdressers and homeware shops reopen
Hairdressers, homeware shops and garden centres are reopening in Scotland as Covid restrictions on the economy have eased. Non-essential click-and-collect services are also allowed to resume. They are the latest lockdown measures to be relaxed after the Scottish government lifted its "stay at home" rule on Friday. Other businesses reopening include key cutting, mobility equipment, baby equipment and electrical repairs. Deputy First Minister John Swinney urged people to remember the virus is still circulating and to continue following the rules.
Teesside firm that will produce Novavax coronavirus vaccine in new £7.9 million partnership
The company making the new Novavax coronavirus vaccine on Teesside has signed a partnership worth nearly £8 million to improve the development of medicines for a range of diseases. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, which is producing doses of the Covid jab at its facilities in Billingham, will partner with the universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and York to boost the development of biological drugs used to treat conditions such as cancer, haemophilia and arthritis. The £7.9 million collaboration, announced today by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, will involve 'state of the art tools and synthetic biology' to refine the production of biological drugs from cells and increase their cost-effectiveness.
California to allow indoor gatherings as virus cases plummet
California on Friday cleared the way for people to attend indoor concerts, theater performances and NBA games for the first time in more than a year as the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in the state nears a record low. State officials won’t require testing or proof of vaccination for some of those events, but they do limit the number of people allowed to attend. Events that do require testing and vaccinations will be allowed to have more paying customers than those that don’t. Only people who live in California can attend these live performances.
Turkey begins administering Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 shots
Turkey has so far delivered nearly 16.6 million doses of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, including two shots each for about 7.1 million people and one shot each so far for about 2.4 million people. The rollout has so far included those over 60 years of age, health personnel and other priority groups. A total of 2.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have arrived in Turkey, with that number expected to reach 4.5 million in the coming days, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday.
U.S. stops AstraZeneca vaccine production at Baltimore plant
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Saturday stopped a Baltimore manufacturing plant that ruined 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine from making another vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, the New York Times reported on Saturday. The administration has put Johnson & Johnson in charge of the troubled manufacturing plant, the report said. The U.S. Health and Human Services’ extraordinary step will render the Emergent BioSolutions facility solely devoted to making the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, and is meant to avoid future mix-ups, according to the report, which cites two senior federal health officials.
Sinovac aims to pump out 2B COVID-19 vaccine doses a year, courtesy of third production line
As COVID-19 vaccines rack up authorizations and roll out across the globe, the manufacturing push has taken center stage. Now, one of the key players supplying shots to China and other countries is touting a major production boost. China's Sinovac Biotech has built capacity to crank out 2 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac per year, thanks to a third production line that's now operational and completing commercial runs, the company said Thursday. Sinovac says it has delivered some 200 million doses of its vaccine to more than 20 countries. The company estimates more than 100 million doses have been administered in vaccination campaigns around the world. The shot boasts an emergency authorization or conditional marketing approval in more than 30 countries, including Turkey, Mexico and Indonesia, Sinovac says. China approved the vaccine for use in the general public on February 6,
Healthcare Innovations
UK regulator finds total of 30 blood clots from 18 million people given the AstraZeneca vaccine
Seven people in Britain died of a blood clot on the brain after having an AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines out of 18.1million does, the MHRA has revealed as it insists there is no evidence of a link between the two. It has also emerged that young people are up to 35 times more likely to die of Covid than to develop the type of brain blood clot that European officials fear could be caused by AstraZeneca's jab, figures suggest. German medics have seen one case of CVST - a type of rare brain blood clot that can cause strokes - in every 90,000 people to receive the vaccine, and say that is higher than expected. It is equal to a rate of 0.0012 per cent.
Doctors put ‘on alert’ for blood-clotting syndrome after seven UK deaths following AstraZeneca vaccine
Doctors have been issued with new advice to help them spot a rare blood-clotting disorder that may be linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, as the UK’s medicines regulator confirms seven deaths. The British Society for Haematology decided to act after some experts became concerned at the number of cases of blood clotting linked to a rare syndrome known as thrombocytopenia. It said doctors needed to be “on alert” for the condition and what to look for, how to treat it and how to report cases so the data can be properly collated. Thrombocytopenia involves patients having abnormally low numbers of platelet cells in their blood. Platelets help blood to clot after an injury.
Coronavirus live news: Pfizer vaccine has 100% efficacy against South African variant in small trial
Two shots of the Pfizer vaccine produce high levels of protective antibodies in people 80 and over, according to the largest independent study yet into older people’s immune responses to the jab. Blood tests on 100 people aged 80- to 96-years-old found that 98% produced strong antibody responses after two doses of the vaccine given three weeks apart. After the second shot, antibody levels more than tripled. The findings, released in a preprint that has yet to be peer-reviewed, will boost confidence that the Pfizer vaccine can be highly effective against Covid even in older people who tend to generate far weaker immune responses to both vaccines and natural infections. But it is unclear what the findings mean for the UK where second shots of vaccine are given up to three months after the first.
Antibody responses to the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine in individuals previously infected with SARS-CoV-2
In a cohort of BNT162b2 (Pfizer–BioNTech) mRNA vaccine recipients (n = 1,090), we observed that spike-specific IgG antibody levels and ACE2 antibody binding inhibition responses elicited by a single vaccine dose in individuals with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (n = 35) were similar to those seen after two doses of vaccine in individuals without prior infection (n = 228). Post-vaccine symptoms were more prominent for those with prior infection after the first dose, but symptomology was similar between groups after the second dose.
Finnish coronavirus vaccine study shows sharp drop in hospitalisations
Coronavirus vaccinations in Finland reduced the number of severe Covid-19 cases requiring hospitalisation by an average of 74 percent in people aged over 70 and by an average of 84 percent in at-risk groups, according to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), which published preliminary results of a study on the matter on Wednesday. The study compared the likelihood of hospitalisation for coronavirus in vaccinated and non-vaccinated patients. The results largely reflect the efficacy of a single dose of the vaccine, as only 10 percent of the study's participants had received a second dose during the study period. "Estimates of vaccine efficacy are in line with results internationally. Four weeks after receiving the first dose of the vaccine, efficacy was 78 percent in Israel, 81 percent in Scotland and 71-80 percent in England," said Tuija Leino, head of the immunisation programme at THL.