"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 13th Apr 2021

Isolation Tips
Pets eased children's loneliness in Covid lockdown
Family pets help children better manage feelings of stress and loneliness, which have been greatly exacerbated by virtual schooling as a result of the pandemic, shows a new survey. According to UNICEF, at least one in seven children — or 332 million globally — has lived under nationwide stay-at-home policies for at least nine months since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, putting their mental health and well-being at risk. The Mars Petcare survey of parents reveals that more than eight in 10 parents found that their family pet helped their child feel less lonely during lockdown, with more than three-quarters feeling that day-to-day interactions with their cat or dog reduced their child's stress and anxiety.
What Covid-19 Taught Us About the High Cost of Isolation
If we didn’t know it or believe it before the pandemic, the hard reality is now unavoidable: Social isolation cripples and it kills. As a doctor I knew the science of social isolation before the pandemic. But the pandemic has opened our eyes to the tragic consequences of loneliness in a way that was impossible before. Now, as life slowly returns to normal, let’s not close our eyes to what we’ve learned. Let’s acknowledge that despite our best efforts and technology, there is a missing element to living life by text, phone and video chat that must be illuminated and studied. And let’s make sure to take the lessons of the past year and apply them to our post-pandemic world.
Hygiene Helpers
WHO: Growing COVID-19 surge hits critical point
Top officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) said today that COVID-19 cases have climbed for the seventh week in a row, warning that masks, distancing, and other measures are needed to give vaccines a chance to reduce transmission. At a briefing today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said last week marked the fourth highest COVID total in a single week, despite the fact that 780 million doses of vaccine have been given across the globe. "Make no mistake, vaccines are a vital and powerful tool," Tedros said. "But they are not the only tool."
Strong support for coronavirus vaccine passports
Most Britons back vaccine passports if they mean the end of social distancing, polling for The Times suggests. A survey showed strong support for Covid status certificates in every setting except shops, though a significant minority would be reluctant to visit pubs and restaurants if they had to show one, suggesting a threat to hospitality revenues if they were introduced.
NHS Covid-19 app update delayed after breaking Google and Apple privacy rules
A planned update to the NHS Covid-19 smartphone app has been delayed after the introduction of a new feature is understood to have broken Google and Apple's privacy rules. The UK government was planning to update the app in England and Wales last Thursday (8 April) with software to enable users to upload a list of all their venue check-ins if they subsequently caught coronavirus. But this goes against the rules set by Apple and Google, which explicitly state that their joint Exposure Notifications System used within the app must “not share location data from the user’s device with the Public Health Authority, Apple, or Google”.
Community Activities
100 Covid Community Champions helping Somerset stay safe
A major milestone has been reached with more than 100 trained Covid Champions now in place to help people in Somerset stay up to date with the Covid-19 latest advice. The Covid Community Champion Network has been going from strength to strength since it was first launched in October. There are now just over 100 trained Champions across Somerset, sharing messages about Covid-19 and how to stay healthy, happy and safe with their friends, family and work colleagues.
Czech COVID-19 daily tally lowest since September as pupils return to classroom
The Czech Republic reported its lowest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases since September on Monday, the same day a six-month state of emergency expired and many pupils return to the classroom. The central European country was badly hit by the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Czech government managed to slow the spread of infections by imposing its toughest lockdown yet. Students in grades 1-5 were set to return to school on Monday and restrictions on movement eased with people allowed once more to travel outside their home districts.
Dutch tourists trade lockdown at home for confinement in Greek resort
Almost 200 Dutch tourists traded lockdown in the Netherlands for eight days of voluntary confinement in a Greek beach resort, as part of a test to see if safe holidays can be arranged during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m very excited,” said Amy Smulders, 25, a graphic designer who travelled with her sister, beaming beneath her face mask as she waited for her luggage on Rhodes island on Monday. “It feels very strange to be here, but (I’m) really excited to go on holiday.” For 399 euros ($475) each, participants will have “all-inclusive” access to the pool, restaurants and other facilities of the Mitsis Grand Hotel Beach, but nothing else.
US colleges divided over requiring student vaccinations
U.S. colleges hoping for a return to normalcy next fall are weighing how far they should go in urging students to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including whether they should — or legally can — require it. Universities including Rutgers, Brown, Cornell and Northeastern recently told students they must get vaccinated before returning to campus next fall. They hope to achieve herd immunity on campus, which they say would allow them to loosen spacing restrictions in classrooms and dorms. But some colleges are leaving the decision to students, and others believe they can’t legally require vaccinations. At Virginia Tech, officials determined that they can’t because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only allowed the emergency use of the vaccines and hasn’t given them its full approval.
Biden launches community corps to boost COVID vaccinations
Seeking to overcome vaccine hesitancy, the Biden administration on Thursday stepped up its outreach efforts to skeptical Americans, launching a coalition of community, religious and celebrity partners to promote COVID-19 shots in hard-hit communities. The administration’s “We Can Do This” campaign features television and social media ads, but it also relies on a community corps of public health, athletic, faith and other groups to spread the word about the safety and efficacy of the three approved vaccines.
Working Remotely
Is Remote Work Getting Stale? Here's How to Freshen It Up
For many years, remote work was an amenity. It was something startups and young companies offered as a way to attract top-flight talent and stand out in a crowded job market. Now? Remote work is an expectation that is transcending the traditional at-home setup. Just look at Hyatt’s “Office for the Day” package as evidence of this shift. The hotel chain offers workers a refreshing opportunity to change their scenery and work in a way that benefits their well-being. But better remote working isn’t just about being able to afford a private beach — it’s about subtly shifting your environment to boost your mood and creativity.
Why Too Much Work From Home Could Be Bad For Your Career
There is a darker side to working from home and there’s a lot you’ll miss—and you may limit or damage your career growth. For one thing, you may be struggling with social isolation. A global study by Columbia University looked at the experiences of 226,638 people across North America, Europe and Asia. It found incidences of depression and anxiety across all regions. These are linked to the deterioration of relationships and the distancing we’ve had to endure. Work is a place where we can connect and enjoy relationships with colleagues, so it’s been tough to be away. And there are plenty of other reasons working from home may not be your best bet for your career or your happiness or fulfillment.
Virtual Classrooms
Kids are returning to classrooms. But what will happen to those who stay at home?
As children across the country return to classrooms this spring, greeted by principals and teachers with air hugs, fist-pumping dances and “Welcome Back” videos, many students have chosen to remain just where they’ve been all school year: sitting in front of their computers at home. But those students who are continuing with virtual learning have found that the remote experience is suddenly different in ways both big and small. It is one more instance in which the pandemic is siloing students into varied and sometimes unequal methods of instruction. The difficulties experienced by some virtual learners are setting off alarm bells in households and administrative offices alike, as parents and school officials plan for the fall and ponder how the online experience should fit in.
Public Policies
Africa must expand vaccine production, leaders say
Africa must expand vaccine manufacturing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and future health emergencies, including by forging partnerships to boost expertise and investment, continental leaders and international health officials said on Monday. Africa has struggled to acquire coronavirus vaccines and imports the vast majority of its medicines and medical equipment, leaving it at the mercy of overseas supplies. Its mainly poor nations are falling behind in the global coronavirus vaccination race with under 13 million doses administered so far to the continent’s 1.3 billion people, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said last week. World Trade Organization director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said it was “morally unconscionable and a serious economic hit” that just 1.1 per 100 Africans had received a vaccine while in North America the rate was over 40 per 100.
Covid-19: India needs its own version of Operation Warp Speed
A report in The Economic Times says that Bharat Biotech is working on a plan to increase its monthly production capacity of the Covaxin vaccine from the current 5 million doses to 12 million doses. Serum Institute, which manufactures Covishield, is reported to be working on a similar plan. The arrival of vaccines against Covid-19 in less than a year after the first case was officially reported is on account of an extraordinary collaboration between public authorities and private companies. One measure which encapsulates this collaboration is the US government’s Operation Warp Speed, launched in May 2020, to shorten the timelines for vaccine development by providing upfront capital to spread the financial risk. Both the EU and UK have done something similar.
G7 must spend £22bn to vaccinate the world against Covid-19, says Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown has called for the G7 group of nations to commit £22 billion a year to a “Herculean” global coronavirus vaccination programme. The former prime minister said that Britain should provide up to £1.3 billion of the total to ensure yearly vaccinations for lower-income countries until the pandemic no longer results in deaths. Writing in The Guardian, Brown called for the mass vaccination of the world to be the primary focus of the G7 summit, which starts on June 11 in Cornwall.
Covid-19: Stay home order lifted in NI as restrictions ease
Northern Ireland's stay-at-home order has been lifted after being in place for more than three months, as further Covid lockdown restrictions ease. People have been told to "stay local" and continue to work from home where they can. Ten people from two households can meet up in private gardens and non-essential shops can resume click-and-collect. All pupils in Northern Ireland also returned to school on Monday for the first time since Christmas. Northern Ireland is the last part of the UK to lift its stay-at-home rule, which came into effect in January, in a bid to suppress a large rise in cases of coronavirus.
Australia drops vaccine goal after AstraZeneca advice change
Australia has abandoned its target of vaccinating nearly all the country’s 26 million people against COVID-19 by the end of 2021 after medical authorities changed their advice on vaccine use for the under-50s. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would not set any new target for administering all first doses. “The Government has also not set, nor has any plans to set any new targets for completing first doses,” Morrison wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday. “While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved. Australia’s vaccination programme was built about the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but regulators adopted a more cautionary approach after a tiny number of cases of rare blood clots were found mainly among younger people who received the jab.
UN chief urges wealth tax of those who profited during COVID
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared Monday that the world’s failure to unite on tackling COVID-19 created wide inequalities, and he called for urgent action including a wealth tax to help finance the global recovery from the coronavirus. The U.N. chief said latest reports indicate that “there has been a $5 trillion surge in the wealth of the world’s richest in the past year” of the pandemic. He urged governments “to consider a solidarity or wealth tax on those who have profited during the pandemic, to reduce extreme inequalities.” Guterres’ call followed an appeal in October by U.N. World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley to the more than 2,000 billionaires in the world, with a combined net worth of $8 trillion, to open their bank accounts. He warned in November that 2021 would be worse than 2020, and without billions of dollars “we are going to have famines of biblical proportions in 2021.”
Indian panel gives emergency approval for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine: sources
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An expert panel of India’s drugs regulator has recommended emergency use approval of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, two sources said on Monday, which could make it the nation’s third to be approved as infections surge ...
Dutch lockdown measures remain until at least April 28, ANP says
The Dutch government on Sunday dashed hopes of an early easing of lockdown, saying a night-time curfew and other restrictions would remain until at least April 28 as daily infections rose to a two-week high. Earlier the government had said they were looking at easing restrictions on April 21 by lifting the curfew and allowing bars and restaurants to welcome guests in outdoor spaces. But a government spokesman told ANP news agency they would move back the easing of measures by at least one week.
Maintaining Services
J&J begins COVID-19 vaccine supplies to EU, 50 million doses expected in second quarter: lawmaker
Johnson & Johnson on Monday began delivering its COVID-19 single-dose vaccine to EU countries, European Union officials and the company said. The company had initially planned to start its deliveries at the beginning of April, but delayed the rollout due to production issues. "The first doses are leaving warehouses for member states today," a European Commission spokesman told a news conference on Monday. "Johnson & Johnson begins vaccine shipments to the EU today. Very good news," said Peter Liese, an EU lawmaker from the same party as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Under-50s to be called up for Covid-19 vaccines in England as Moderna jab arrives to boost national rollout
Under-50s in England will be called up for Covid-19 vaccines as soon as Tuesday as the Government prepares to declare victory in its aim to protect all vulnerable people by mid-April. The Moderna vaccine is also likely to become available in England this week for the first time, after being rolled out in Scotland and Wales last week. More than 32m people have had their first dose of a jab – more than the estimated number who were due to be included in phase one of the vaccine rollout, which covers everyone aged 50 or over, health and care workers and people with an underlying condition which makes them more vulnerable to Covid-19.
South 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.
Lockdown restrictions ease as vaccine for under 50s could begin soon
Pub gardens and restaurants with outdoor dining have opened as further lockdown restrictions were eased on Monday. From April 12 shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, gyms and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens were allowed to reopen. Most outdoor attractions, such as zoos and theme parks, can reopen, and funerals can continue with up to 30 people, and the numbers able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise from six to 15. It comes as vaccines for under 50s in England could begin imminently as the deadline to offer the jab to highest risk group approaches.
Walgreens Expands Covid-19 Vaccines To 49 States
Walgreens has expanded its Covid-19 vaccination efforts to more than 7,000 stores in 49 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. The expansion announced Monday comes as the Biden administration ramps up the number of doses sent to states while increasing The government said last week that Covid certificates “could play a role in reducing social-distancing requirements”. Any final decision is months off, so pubs and restaurants will initially open with distancing rules in place such as people from different groups staying at least one metre apart. Polling by YouGov last week found that 61 per cent said they backed certificates being introduced if it allowed
Spain will use Janssen Covid-19 vaccine for the 70-79 age group
Spain will be receiving its first shipment of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines “first thing on Wednesday,” Health Minister Carolina Darias announced today. The government is expecting to get 300,000 doses of the one-shot treatment, making it the equivalent of twice as many doses of the other Covid-19 vaccines currently used in Spain: Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca. Darias also stated on Monday that the first group in line for the vaccine will be people between 70 and 79 years of age. According to the latest Health Ministry report, 13.3% of the population in the 70-to-79 age bracket has had at least one dose of the three vaccines now being used in Spain. But changing criteria over the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have created a paradoxical situation.
Spain's Rovi to make ingredients for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine
Contract drugmaker Rovi is to make active ingredients for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, extending an existing agreement to bottle the vaccine using ingredients brought in from Switzerland.
COVID-19: Hundreds of thousands of shuttered sites reopening across England as lockdown eases
All across England shutters are rattling open, beer is foaming into pint glasses and tills are ringing. For the first time in months, many businesses that have been shut are able - subject to a variety of restrictions - to serve their customers again. From the snip-snip of hair salons to the splash of swimming pools hundreds of thousands of venues that have stood silent are welcoming people back.
Venezuela to produce Cuban COVID vaccine: Maduro
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro says the country has signed a deal to produce two million doses per month of a Cuban coronavirus vaccine, adding that his government also managed to secure funds to fully pay for COVID jabs via COVAX, a global sharing mechanism. “We’ve signed an agreement to produce in our laboratories… two million vaccines a month of the Abdala vaccine… for August, September, approximately,” Maduro said on Sunday in a television address, referring to one the four vaccines that are being developed by Cuba.
With variants spreading, Eli Lilly cuts solo COVID-19 antibody out of its U.S. supply deal
After lab testing found Eli Lilly's solo COVID-19 antibody couldn't match its combo against emerging coronavirus variants, the feds stopped using it in several states where one variant was running rampant. Now, Lilly has stopped supplying bamlanivimab as a solo therapy to the U.S. completely. Under a revised supply deal with the government, Lilly's combo therapy—which pairs bamlanivimab with another new antibody, etesevimab—will be the only option on tap. The modified agreement will cancel the 350,865 doses of bamlanivimab that were supposed to be delivered by the end of March, Lilly said.
Healthcare Innovations
China's Sinovac vaccine is 50.7% effective against COVID-19, just reaching the threshold to be a vaccine worth using, a major trial showed
In a rare admission of the weakness of Chinese coronavirus vaccines, the country’s top disease-control official says their effectiveness is low and the government is considering mixing them to get a boost. Chinese vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates,” said the director of the China Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, at a conference Saturday in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
Common asthma medicine can speed up Covid-19 recovery by three days – study
A cheap and widely available asthma medicine can speed up the recovery of people with coronavirus who have not been admitted to hospital, new research suggests. Budesonide – an inhaler drug sold under the brand name Pulmicort – is used around the world to treat asthma and COPD, but an Oxford University trial found it can also be used at home to reduce Covid-19 recovery time by an average of three days in those with a heightened risk from the disease. The corticosteroid is safe and is effective during the early stages of coronavirus infection, according to the study.
Previous COVID-19 may cut risk of reinfection 84%
People who had COVID-19 had an 84% lower risk of becoming reinfected and a 93% lower risk of symptomatic infection during 7 months of follow-up, according to findings from a large, multicenter study published late last week in The Lancet. The prospective cohort SARS-CoV-2 Immunity and Reinfection Evaluation (SIREN) study, by Public Health England Colindale researchers, involved 25,661 workers at public hospitals throughout England who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 every 2 to 4 weeks and antibodies at enrollment and every 4 weeks. Volunteers also completed questionnaires on symptoms and exposures every 2 weeks. Of the 25,661 participants, 32.3% were assigned to the baseline positive (possibly or probably previously infected) group, and 67.7% were assigned to the negative group. Of the 8,278 positive participants, 91.2% had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies at study enrollment, while 7.0% were negative for antibodies but had a previously positive antibody and/or coronavirus test, and 1.8% had tested positive for COVID-19 but didn't have linked antibody data
Regeneron eyes prevention nod for COVID-19 antibody cocktail with simpler injection
Regeneron’s Roche-partnered COVID-19 antibody cocktail, already authorized to thwart disease progression in sick patients, has come up with new data showing it can prevent the disease altogether at a lower dose in healthy people.
Regeneron says antibody cocktail prevented Covid when given as simple injection, not an IV
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said Monday that a single administration of its monoclonal antibody cocktail reduced the risk that volunteers exposed to Covid-19 would develop the disease by 81%. The study enrolled 1,500 healthy volunteers, each of whom shared a home with someone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and randomized them to receive a single dose of its antibody treatment, given subcutaneously as four shots, or placebo. After 29 days, 11 patients in the treatment group developed Covid-19 compared to 59 on placebo. And for the subjects who got Covid-19 despite treatment, their symptoms resolved after one week, compared to three weeks for those on placebo. In 204 patients who had already tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the study’s outset, the injection reduced their chances of progressing to symptomatic Covid-19 by 31%.