"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 12th Apr 2021

Isolation Tips
'Lockdown loneliness' in Reading revealed
A third of people in Reading who say the coronavirus pandemic has affected their well-being put it down to “lockdown loneliness”, new figures suggest. Mental health charities have called for people's mental health and wellbeing to be made a priority in the recovery from Covid-19. Tom Madders, director of campaigns at mental health charity YoungMinds, said young people have experienced loneliness and isolation as Covid-19 has limited their social lives, education, or led to job losses. “It’s important that young people know where to go to get support for their mental health if they are struggling and that they can access help as soon as they need it,” he added.
Students crushed by stress, depression are back in class. Here’s how schools are meeting their needs
Americans of all ages say the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health, but the trend has been especially pronounced among young people. The rate of children ages 11 through 17 who were screened last year for anxiety and depression was 9% higher than it was in 2019, according to a Mental Health America report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows the number of children sent to emergency rooms for mental health conditions skyrocketed from April to October last year. For high schoolers, the biggest stressors have been the sense of disconnect from friends and loved ones and difficulties focusing on school or work, according to survey data by YouthTruth. But the mental health challenges won't magically disappear once students trickle back into school buildings.
Hygiene Helpers
Stalled at first jab: Vaccine shortages hit poor countries
As many as 60 countries, including some of the world’s poorest, might be stalled at the first shots of their coronavirus vaccinations because nearly all deliveries through the global program intended to help them are blocked until as late as June. COVAX, the global initiative to provide vaccines to countries lacking the clout to negotiate for scarce supplies on their own, has in the past week shipped more than 25,000 doses to low-income countries only twice on any given day. Deliveries have all but halted since Monday. During the past two weeks, according to data compiled daily by UNICEF fewer than 2 million COVAX doses in total were cleared for shipment to 92 countries in the developing world — the same amount injected in Britain alone. On Friday, the head of the World Health Organization slammed the “shocking imbalance" in global COVID-19 vaccination. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said that while one in four people in rich countries had received a vaccine, only one in 500 people in poorer countries had gotten a dose.
Vaccine-hunting volunteers help Americans score COVID jabs
Armies of online volunteers have taken it upon themselves to help total strangers navigate myriad COVID-19 vaccine scheduling systems in the United States. It’s admirable, vital work — as well as a symbol of the country’s sometimes chaotic vaccination campaign.
China's response to COVID-19: a chance for collaboration
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China's strategy was built on active case finding and case management with identification and quarantine of close contacts, as well as risk-based lifting of restrictions. Chinese authorities aim to test each suspected case and all close contacts of those infected. After three COVID-19 cases were identified in October, 2020, in Qingdao, a pooled testing approach coordinated by the government with the cooperation of residents enabled 10·9 million people—almost the entire population of the city—to be tested within 5 days. Although few COVID-19 cases have been reported, people are generally adhering to non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as avoiding large gatherings. After the government urged people to abandon travel plans, and with local governments imposing strict quarantine measures, there was a 70% drop in the number of passenger trips across the country in the 2 weeks leading up to the Chinese Lunar New Year this year, compared with the same period in 2019. China's public health measures, as well as the public's compliance, largely owing to high trust in the government, have contributed to the effective response. Elements of China's approach, such as those that involve monitoring citizens’ whereabouts, might not be countenanced in many western countries. However, China's domestic successes in controlling COVID-19 stand in contrast with outcomes elsewhere, and other countries should learn what public health lessons they can.
The pandemic has demonstrated the collective power of doctors speaking up
During the pandemic, doctors came together to push for political change. We must continue to use our newfound voice, says Samantha Batt-Rawden. This time last year the UK’s covid situation was in freefall, with our prime minister hospitalised by the virus, intensive care beds filling up, and the number of deaths rising sharply. As we fought to save lives, the spectre of what had happened in Italy weighed heavily on all of us. It was every intensivist’s worst fear: that we might have to ration care if our resources became overwhelmed. Despite all they had faced, our Italian colleagues had taken the time to reach out to the intensive care community in the UK. In February 2020 I had sat in on Zoom calls and listened to their stark warnings about what would come to pass if the UK did not act quickly. We were a few weeks behind Italy, we heard. In that moment, the UK had a brief window of opportunity to prevent the scale of loss of life seen elsewhere. This was an opportunity we would let slip right through our fingers.
Community Activities
China Knocks on People’s Doors to Speed Up Domestic Covid-19 Vaccination
A year after Covid-19 swept through China, the virus is under control. Now authorities have to motivate a population that feels little urgency to get vaccinated by using a mix of social pressure, incentives, education and coercion. While surveys show vaccine acceptance remains high, the motivation to go out and get inoculated is lagging in the world’s second-largest economy given low infection rates. China’s public health officials say the aim is to get 40% of the population vaccinated by summer. With the country administering more than 4.5 million shots a day in the past week, 161 million had been given by the end of Friday, according to the National Health Commission. Oxford University data-tracking project Our World in Data said about 11% of China’s population had received at least one dose.
Irish photographer takes lockdown portraits of families at home during pandemic
Ireland has been under strict lockdown for much of the past year, with people largely confined to their households for months at a time. Medjber normally photographs top music acts and festivals. When Ireland was first ordered into lockdown in March 2020, her work also went on pause and Medjber said she remembered an idea she'd had years before while walking around Dublin of using people's illuminated windows to frame them. "When lockdown hit. I suddenly realized that ‘God, everybody across Ireland is at home right now.' I remembered the idea I had years ago, and I thought now it has relevance. Now it means something." Medjber first set herself the goal of doing just 16 homes, enough for an Instagram post. After she posted them though, Ireland’s main national newspaper The Irish Times published the images on its front page, and she was flooded with requests from people asking her to photograph them.
UK’s Sikh community prepares for second Vaisakhi under lockdown
Half a million British-Sikhs are preparing to mark the Vaisakhi festival under coronavirus lockdown restrictions for the second year running. Harmeet Singh, general secretary of Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Southall, said: “This Vaisakhi will remind us that the virtues Guru Gobind Singh Ji instilled in the Khalsa are more important than ever. During the pandemic, Sikhs across the world have shown their compassion and commitment by serving their local communities with langar – free kitchens – serving anyone and everyone, regardless of their background, recognising humanity’s oneness. Volunteers have shown immense courage, working to feed those on the front line."
Wrexham’s MP launches campaign to celebrate local ‘Covid Community Champions’
Wrexham’s MP has launched a campaign to celebrate those in the town and the surrounding area that have given back to the community during the Covid-19 pandemic. Sarah Atherton MP is encouraging everyone across Wrexham to take part and celebrate the town’s ‘Covid Community Champions’. This can include anyone from an NHS worker or care worker, a teacher, someone who started a community group during the pandemic, or anyone who has been an inspiration to others during the past year.
Pandemic, hunger force thousands into sex work in Mexico
Hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic have forced former sex workers in Mexico back into the trade years after they left, made it more dangerous and reduced some to having sex in cars or on sidewalks for lack of available hotels. Claudia, who like most of the sex workers interviewed asked to be identified only by her first name, had stopped working the streets a decade ago after she married one of her former clients. But when her husband lost his job early in the pandemic, the couple fell four months behind on rent for their apartment. The only solution Claudia saw was to go back to working the streets.
One of Britain’s youngest Imams is leading Covid community efforts
One of Britain’s youngest Imams is supporting community efforts in south west London during the Covid-19 pandemic. Adeel Shah, 26, is part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Mr Shah said: “The reason we’re doing this is because Islam teaches us to help our neighbours and to play our part in society.” Since March last year, the Ahmadiyya community has delivered 673,000 pieces of PPE on behalf of the government and 10,036 food packages to front line workers. Using a hotline, the Ahmadiyya community assisted vulnerable people with errands and emotional support. The effort helped 21,407 households.
Covid-19: a disaster five years in the making
The covid-19 pandemic is not a one-off extraordinary event but the culmination of a five year unravelling of progress in global health, writes Peter Hotez. We live in extraordinary times in global health. Through two decades of the United Nations’ millennium and sustainable development goals, the number of childhood deaths from measles and some other vaccine preventable infections has fallen by as much as 87%.1 The launch and support of global vaccination programmes through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and mass treatment programmes for HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases have produced enormous global health gains.1 We are also moving towards the elimination of neglected tropical diseases including onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, scabies, yaws, and trachoma, with major falls in the incidence of AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. The benefits of these successes go beyond public health to reduced poverty through improvements in productivity, child development, and maternal-fetal outcomes. Global security has also been strengthened. Over the past 5-6 years, however, we have seen abrupt reversals in these developments leading to the emergence or re-emergence of both vaccine preventable diseases and neglected infections in multiple areas of the world. And that’s before the onset of covid-19. Humanity is able to make tremendous gains against global disease like never before—but we have allowed those gains to unravel. The novel coronavirus has shown us the consequences of this.
Working Remotely
I'm a CEO who allowed my remote employees to set their own working hours. We're way more productive and much happier as a result.
Jesper Schultz is the CEO and cofounder of BasicOps, a San Francisco-based task and project management system. During the pandemic, he allowed his small team to adjust their preferred working hours. Schultz says the flexibility encourages workers to prioritize their own wellness and be more motivated and productive while working.
10 Solutions For Remote Workers To Maintain Balance And Mitigate Work/Home Clashes
After more than a year into the pandemic, the remote workforce still struggles to find a healthy work/life balance. After all, when you work in your personal space, instead of your usual professional environment, it’s only natural that the two clash. Unless you have water tight boundaries, distractions can easily disrupt your productivity. Here are 10 ways to hold the line between work and home responsibilities so conflict doesn’t crumble your balance and impede your productivity
Is Remote Work Here to Stay?
Prior to the pandemic, about 5 million Americans worked remotely. But COVID-19 forced U.S. employers to allow telework on a massive scale, resulting in an estimated 75 million people working from home over the past year. Some experts say there’s no going back now that both employers and workers have learned that telework can be effective. Companies are now trying to figure out how a post-pandemic workforce will operate. That could entail a hybrid model where some people are in the office most of the time, some primarily telework and others do a mix of the two.
Virtual Classrooms
Thousands of Michigan students will get free WiFi hotspots and internet for remote learning
With most Michigan schools still conducting some form of remote learning due to COVID-19, the internet has become an essential component of getting a quality education. But not every family can afford it. Thousands of Michigan students like those at Godfrey-Lee still continue to grapple with remote learning challenges due to unreliable internet connect, even a full year into COVID-19 pandemic learning. But a donation from AT&T and nonprofit Connected Nation seeks to help close the nation’s digital divide by providing thousands of at-risk students with free mobile hotspots and internet connectivity to help with remote learning.
‘It feels so real’: Madison College brings virtual reality into the classroom
Students and families have become all too familiar with the phrase “remote learning” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learning through virtual reality is not so common, but for many students at Madison College, it might soon become the norm. Madison College is bringing VR technology into several different programs. Bill Ballo, part of the Academic Technology Wing, said one of the biggest benefits is that teachers can see students learn, think and react in real time, even if they are not physically in the classroom.
Public Policies
S.Korea to resume wider use of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, exclude people under 30
South Korean authorities said on Sunday they will move ahead with a coronavirus vaccination drive this week, after deciding to continue using AstraZeneca PLC's vaccine for all eligible people 30 years old or over. South Korea on Wednesday suspended providing the AstraZeneca shot to people under 60 as Europe reviewed cases of blood clotting in adults. People under 30 will still be excluded from the vaccinations resuming on Monday because the benefits of the shot do not outweigh the risks for that age group, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a statement. Three vaccinated people in South Korea are reported to have developed blood clots, with one case determined to be correlated to the vaccine, Choi Eun-hwa, chair of the Korea Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices, told a briefing.
Italy eases COVID-19 curbs as infections decline, but deaths still high
Lockdown measures will be eased from Monday in six Italian regions, the health ministry ruled on Friday, even as the nationwide daily death toll remains well above 400.
Iran orders 10-day shutdown amid fourth wave of coronavirus pandemic
Iran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country on Saturday to curb the spread of a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported. The lockdown affects 23 of the country’s 31 provinces, health ministry spokesman Alireza Raisi said. Businesses, schools, theatres and sports facilities have been forced to shut and gatherings are banned during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that begins on Wednesday. Iran’s coronavirus cases have surpassed 2 million with a new daily average of over 20,000 infections over the past week, according to the health ministry. It has reported more than 64,000 fatalities. “Unfortunately, today we have entered a fourth wave,” President Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks. He blamed the surge foremost on the variant that first emerged in the UK which spread to Iran earlier this year from neighbouring Iraq.
France to extend gap between mRNA vaccine shots, minister says
France will lengthen the period between the first and second shots of mRNA anti-COVID vaccines to six weeks from four weeks as of April 14 to accelerate the inoculation campaign, Health Minister Olivier Veran told the JDD newspaper on Sunday.
Moldova to buy 400,000 doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine
Moldova will buy 400,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac coronavirus vaccine, the health ministry said in a statement on Friday. Moldova and neighboring Ukraine, two of Europe's poorest countries, have lagged behind the rest of the continent in the scramble for vaccines and welcomed donations from friendly governments. COVID-19 has killed 5,307 people in Moldova, a country of 3.5 million, which declared a state of emergency last week to give the government more powers to fight the pandemic. Moldova launched its vaccination drive after receiving AstraZeneca doses from neighboring Romania as humanitarian aid at the end of February. The country then became the first in Europe to receive doses from the global COVAX scheme for poor nations last month.
White House says J&J COVID-19 shot shipments to be low until U.S. vaccine plant cleared by regulators
Johnson & Johnson will ship relatively few COVID-19 shots around the United States until it receives regulatory clearance for a large vaccine plant in Baltimore that has struggled to meet quality control standards, a top White House Health official said on a Friday press conference. J&J is working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to resolve the issues holding up authorization, said Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator. Once J&J receives authorization for its Baltimore facility, it expects to start shipping 8 million doses per week towards the end of April, Zients said, adding J&J remains on track to deliver around 100 million shots by the end of May.
Merkel sets out plan to take control of Germany’s Covid response
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, plans to take control over the Covid-19 response from federal states to impose restrictions on regions with high numbers of new infections, as the head of the country’s disease control agency said Germany needed a two- to four-week lockdown to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. “Germany is in the middle of a third wave, so the federal government and the states have agreed to add to the national legislation,” a spokesperson for the German chancellor told reporters on Friday. “The aim here is to create uniform national rules,” she added, explaining that a change to the country’s pandemic law would likely be put before cabinet on Tuesday next week.
Maintaining Services
Thailand's capital plans 10,000 field-hospital beds as COVID-19 spikes
Thailand plans to install 10,000 field-hospital beds in Bangkok, a health official said on Saturday, as the country strains to cope with a third wave of COVID-19 infections. At least a dozen hospitals in the capital said they had stopped testing for the coronavirus as of Friday due to a lack of kits or capacity. Hospitals are reluctant to test because they must admit people if they test positive, authorities say. “We aim to increase (field) hospital beds to 10,000 in no time, which should give the public confidence that we can still contain this round of outbreak,” Suksan Kittisupakorn, director-general of Thailand’s Medical Service Department, told reporters.
COVID-19: Twice-weekly lateral flow coronavirus tests now available for free in England
Everyone in England can now get twice-weekly COVID tests for free under a new effort to keep the journey out of lockdown on track. Ministers hope regular use of the rapid lateral flow tests will become a habit and help keep cases low as the economy reopens. The tests will be available from locations such as pharmacies, workplaces and community spaces - and can also be ordered for home delivery.
Airlines warn the cost of Covid tests will stop people going abroad
Airlines have called for the competition watchdog to investigate the price of Covid tests for travel, with the travel industry warning that the PCR tests required by government will in effect block most international holidays this year. Global airline body Iata called on the UK Competition and Markets Authority to launch an inquiry, as separate research showed that travelers had to pay twice as much for PCR tests in the UK as they do in much of Europe. The report from the government’s ‘global travel taskforce’ published on Friday said travel could be opened up from 17 May but that individuals would require three PCR tests to holiday even in the safest, “green-light” states – leading to immediate warnings that the cost would prohibit most people from going abroad.
A&E ‘swamped’ with patients seeking help for mild Covid jab side-effects
People who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine are seeking help at A&E despite having only mild side-effects such as headaches, in the wake of the controversy over whether the jab causes blood clots. Emergency medicine doctors in England told the Health Service Journal that a growing but unspecified number of people who were anxious after having the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab were coming to A&E units, some apparently after being advised to do so by a GP. Dr Katherine Henderson, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, confirmed the trend to the Guardian.
Healthcare Innovations
Women report more side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine than men. Health experts explain why.
Reports of COVID-19 vaccine side effects support what many have anecdotally observed: women shoulder the bigger burden. Among nearly 7,000 reports processed through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) from Dec. 14 to Jan. 13, more than 79% of them came from women. The most frequently reported side effects were headache, fatigue and dizziness. Women also are more likely than men to experience some of the vaccine’s more unusual side effects, such as an itchy red rash that appears at the injection site commonly known as COVID arm or Moderna arm, as about 95% of the reactions occur with the Moderna vaccine. Overall, women account for 77% of the Moderna vaccine’s reported side effects.
Sinovac data show no major side effects on elderly —DOST exec
A Department of Science and Technology (DOST) official said Thursday that the use of Chinese pharmaceutical firm's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine on senior citizens showed no significant side effects in the age group. Montoya, DOST Philippine Council for Health Research Development executive director, also told "Dobol B TV" that if there are any side effects, these are well-tolerated by the senior citizens. However, he said the usual side effects exhibited by senior citizens after inoculation with Sinovac include slight fever, swelling on the injection site, and flu, among others.
Blood clots linked to AstraZeneca vaccine stem from rare antibody reaction
Two reports published Friday in a leading medical journal help to explain how AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine can, in rare cases, cause serious and sometimes fatal blood clots. Scientific teams from Germany and Norway found that people who developed the clots after vaccination had produced antibodies that activated their platelets, a blood component involved in clotting. The new reports add extensive details to what the researchers have already stated publicly about the blood disorder. Why the rare reaction occurred is not known. Younger people appear more susceptible than older ones, but researchers say no preexisting health conditions are known to predispose people to the problem, so there is no way to tell if an individual is at high risk. Reports of the clots have already led a number of countries to limit AstraZeneca’s vaccine to older people, or to stop using it entirely. The cases have dealt a crushing blow to global efforts to halt the pandemic, because the AstraZeneca shot — easy to store and relatively cheap — has been a mainstay of vaccination programs in more than 100 countries.
Studies suggest link between blood clots, AstraZeneca COVID vaccine
Two studies today in the New England Journal of Medicine describe 11 patients in Austria and Germany and 5 in Norway who developed an unusual blood clotting disorder after receiving their first dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine. The first study, led by researchers at the Institute for Immunology and Transfusion Medicine in Greifswald, Germany, involved 11 patients who had abnormal blood clots or thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts) 5 to 16 days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. One patient had a fatal intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), while nine had cerebral venous thrombosis (blood clots in the brain), three had splanchnic vein thrombosis (blood clots in abdominal veins), three had a pulmonary embolism (blockage in a lung artery caused by blood clots), and four had other types of blood clots. Six patients, in addition to the patient with fatal intracranial hemorrhage, died.
Reports detail high COVID-19 burden in Native Americans
During the pandemic, Native Americans have had 2.2 times greater COVID-19 case incidence and almost quadruple the death rate of White people in Montana, according to a study today in Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). A separate MMWR report looked at COVID-19 cases and response on a 10,000-member tribal reservation in Montana, while a third detailed control efforts taken on a North Dakota reservation. All three research teams suggest that Native American populations are disproportionately vulnerable during the pandemic and benefit from COVID-19 mitigations.
COVID-19: Study finds link with brain, mental health conditions
A study suggests that in the United States in 2020, around a third of COVID-19 survivors were diagnosed with a neurological or mental health condition within 6 months of their COVID-19 diagnoses. Anxiety and mood disorders were the most common diagnoses. Neurological conditions, such as stroke and dementia, occurred less often but were more common among people with severe COVID-19. The overall effect of these disorders, many of which are chronic, may be substantial for health and social care systems due to the scale of the pandemic.
Brazil finds new virus variant combining 18 mutations
Scientists in Brazil have discovered a new variant of coronavirus that combines 18 mutations, rubbing salt in the wound of the South American epicenter. The new strain from Belo Horizonte city "has characteristics in common with the variants that were already circulating in Brazil but it also has new characteristics," Virologist Renato Santana from the Federal University of Minas Gerais told local daily G1 on Wednesday. "It is as if these variants were evolving," Santana said, adding the new variant includes the same genes modified by Brazil's Manaus, known as P1, British and South African variant. Noting that it is early to assess whether the new strain more transmissible or deadly, he said that it has mutations in common with variants that are already associated with a higher risk of death. The new super variant made headlines at a critical time when Brazil registered record-high single-day COVID-19 deaths with more than 4,000.
Sunlight linked with lower Covid-19 deaths, study suggests
Increased exposure to sunlight has been linked to a lower risk of dying from Covid-19, an observational study has suggested. People living in sunnier areas, with the highest level of exposure to UVA rays, are associated with fewer deaths from coronavirus compared with those with lower levels, experts from the University of Edinburgh said. The study compared all recorded deaths from Covid-19 in the continental US from January to April 2020 with UV levels for 2,474 US counties for the same time period.
How dangerous is India’s ‘double mutant’ COVID-19 variant?
In late March, India’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), a division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, announced that a new variant – dubbed a “double mutant” – had been identified in samples of saliva taken from people in Maharashtra, Delhi and Punjab. This comes on the back of a month that has seen a surge in cases of COVID-19 across India, with many states re-imposing curfews, restrictions and lockdown measures. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare says this new “double mutant” variant has not been found in sufficient numbers to account for the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country. That, rather, is thought to be due to large public gatherings such as weddings, the opening of cinema halls and gyms, as well as large political rallies in West Bengal where elections are due to be held soon. Nevertheless, it is a “variant of concern” (VOC) and is being closely monitored. The genome sequencing carried out by a consortium of 10 labs in India, called the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), has identified two important mutations in the new variant, giving it the unfortunate title of “double mutant”.