"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 14th Apr 2021

Isolation Tips
Lockdown loneliness: How Fife mum’s Covid-safe group helped new parents beat the baby blues
In Scotland, a Fife mum struggling with lockdown loneliness has formed a new group to help other parents in the same situation. Kiri Stone gave birth to baby Tove in March last year, just a week before lockdown was imposed. Baby groups suddenly stopped and socialising with friends was banned, leaving Kiri feeling isolated. The first-time mum decided to take matters into her own hands and began looking at Covid-safe ways to meet other people with babies once restrictions eased. And within weeks, she launched Wild Fife Babies and Bairns which meets outdoors for socially-distanced walks. The group has proved immensely popular and now has a waiting list of people who want to join.
New Catalent sponsorship kicks Town foundation's loneliness support scheme up a notch
The community foundation funded by Swindon Town Football Club is tackling loneliness with the help of sponsorship from Catalent. STFC's charitable arm launched the Tackling Loneliness Together initiative in summer along with 72 other English Football League clubs. So far, more than 600 people aged 60 and above have been contacted over the phone and through socially-distanced doorstep visits to provide a bit of friendship and social contact during the months of lockdowns and shielding.
COVID-19: Lockdown is main reason for drop in coronavirus cases and deaths - not vaccinations, says Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has warned that the reduction in coronavirus infections, hospitalisations and deaths "has not been achieved" by the rollout of COVID vaccines. The prime minister, speaking the day after the latest easing of lockdown restrictions, instead said it was the national shutdown that had been "overwhelmingly important" in driving down COVID rates.
Hygiene Helpers
Third wave of Covid-19 could still lead to 50,000 UK deaths despite vaccine success, JCVI adviser warns
There could still be a “big third wave” of Covid-19 in the UK leading to tens of thousands of deaths, despite the success of the vaccination programme, a senior scientist has warned. Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that advises the Government on its immunisation plan, said even a small percentage of the population not getting their jab it could lead to the virus spreading. And he said it was still important to retain social distancing measures while the remaining age groups were waiting to be immunised, in order to avoid up to 50,000 more deaths.
Opinion | Coronavirus Variants Don’t Need to Be Scary
Five variants have now been proved guilty, as shown by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s designation “variants of concern.” They are B.1.1.7 (first identified in Britain), B.1.351 (first found in South Africa), P.1 (identified in Brazil) and two more recent variants found in California and New York. Each has fewer than two dozen notable mutations, many of which are in the virus’s spike protein, which binds to our cells and is the vaccines’ principal target. Some mutations enhance the virus’s ability to bind to the cells lining our upper airway, while others interfere with our bodies’ capacity to mount a full immune response.
VAX Live: Concert to help get 27m medical workers vaccinated
Backed by an international concert hosted by Selena Gomez and headlined by Jennifer Lopez, Global Citizen is unveiling an ambitious campaign to help medical workers in the world’s poorest countries quickly receive COVID-19 vaccines. The anti-poverty organisation is announcing the musical event – VAX Live: The Concert to Reunite the World – with a goal of enlisting corporations and philanthropists to raise $22bn for global vaccinations. The concert, which airs on May 8 on US TV channels ABC, CBS and FOX as well as on iHeartMedia radio stations and YouTube, will also showcase the Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder, J Balvin and H.E.R. The acts will be recorded at SoFi Stadium in the western US city, Los Angeles, California. Ahead of the event, Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, highlighted the magnitude of the problem his organisation aims to address. “There are 27 million healthcare workers globally who don’t have access to the vaccine,” Evans told The Associated Press. “I’m 38 years old, and it’s not ethical for me to have access to the vaccine before these heroic first responders and community health workers. So we need governments to start urgently donating those doses.”
Vaccine passport discussions should prioritize fairness over economics, ethicist says
The issue of vaccine passports is one rife with the potential for discrimination, and should be approached with a focus on fairness above the economic benefits, says one bioethicist. “(Passports) have the potential to make the inequities that we're seeing from COVID even worse because we know that people who are the hardest hit by COVID are actually the least likely to be vaccinated in some cases at this point in time,” University of Toronto researcher Alison Thompson told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday. “We want to make really sure that vaccine access has been equitable and that it's been not just accessible, but that we have actually reached those communities that need it the most.”
Apple and Google block update of Covid-19 app in England and Wales
An update for the Covid-19 app used in England and Wales has been blocked by Apple and Google, after they found that it breached privacy rules set out in the agreement with the government. The update would have meant that users who tested positive for Covid-19 would be asked to upload details of venues they had checked into recently. But according to people briefed on the decision, the companies did not make the update available for download from app stores at the allotted time last week — which was designed to coincide with the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England this week.
Community Activities
Covid-19: Government faces legal action over contract for antibody tests
The non-profit organisation the Good Law Project has been given the go ahead to mount a High Court challenge to the UK government’s decision to award contracts to Abingdon Health to produce rapid antibody tests for covid-19. The Department of Health and Social Care for England bought a million lateral flow test kits from the UK Rapid Testing Consortium, a group of manufacturers led by Abingdon Health and assembled by John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and the government’s life sciences adviser. The contract, which was awarded without competitive tender, included a provision for the government to buy more kits if the test was approved for home use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency by a specified date. But the approval was not forthcoming, and England’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced in January that the government was moving to a different procurement strategy.
Ramadan 2021: Muslims can get Covid-19 jab without breaking fast, Manchester’s public health chief confirms
Muslims are being advised that they can take the Covid-19 vaccine during Ramadan without breaking fast. Taking a coronavirus test, either PCR (polymerase chain reaction) or lateral flow test (LFT), is also safe during this time, Manchester’s public health chief has added. The month of Ramadan is marked by acts of devotion, including completely abstaining from eating or drinking between dawn and sunset. Islamic scholars, working in partnership with the Muslim Council of Britain, have shared messages of reassurance to worshipers confirming that getting the Covid-19 vaccine during Ramadan is permitted.
Befriending service could be the answer for lonely residents
Isolated or lonely over 50s – or even younger residents – could find the support they are looking for through the Powys Befriending Service. Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) has seen an increased demand for the service it runs to maintain social networks for the county’s older residents during the coronavirus pandemic, but in a surprising twist it has also helped younger generations as well. Those who have asked for more support have been referred to PAVO’s Powys Befriending Service, but it is only able to help those who are aged 50 or older. So, to solve this problem, isolated or lonely younger residents have been asked to volunteer and make phone calls to older residents.
COVAX reaches over 100 economies, 42 days after first international delivery
More than one hundred economies have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX. The milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on February 24th. COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers, AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII). Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment. Despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimising their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.
Working Remotely
Employees Balk at End to Remote Work: 'Going Back to the Office Is Stupid"
As the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations accelerates and states loosen restrictions, employers have slowly begun calling their employees back to the workplace, with the pace expected to pick up sharply over the next few months. But what might have been a hopeful sign that life is returning to normalcy has instead become a source of friction as some workers push back. They are fearful of getting infected, worried about how to care for kids still learning remotely and resisting going back to the 9-to-5 in-office grind after tasting the flexibility of working from home.
On the home front: Remote work may widen inequality in Canada
As millions of Canadians embark on a second year of working from home in the pandemic, a new survey reveals that the advantages it offers are spread unevenly throughout the workforce. A majority report a mostly positive view of remote work but many grapple with the stress of juggling work and family life or worry that working from home will negatively affect their careers. More than three out of five people say working from home is easier than they expected, with the same number liking it better and find it less stressful than doing so at their usual workplace.
Office manager denied remote working because boss 'knew what was best for her' wins £60k at tribunal
An office manager was discriminated against after she was told she was not allowed to work remotely from her son’s hospital bedside as he underwent treatment for cancer, a tribunal has ruled. The Leeds employment tribunal found that Lorraine Hodgson, who worked for Martin Design Associates until her resignation in July 2019, was directly discriminated against on the grounds of sex and was constructively unfairly dismissed after her boss denied her remote working request in part because of “his belief that he knew best for the claimant”.
Give remote workers right to disconnect, urges union
In the UK, employees who work from home should have the ‘right to disconnect’, a union has told the government as a survey reveals a third find it difficult to fully switch off from work. According to Prospect, two-thirds of remote workers want to see a new “right to disconnect” enshrined in law. It has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, urging him to launch a consultation on such a right in advance of the Employment Bill, which is expected to be covered in May’s Queen’s Speech.
Virtual Classrooms
New virtual learning rules could keep TN students from participating in sports, activities
The Tennessee State Board of Education is considering changes to next school year that would require districts to have a separate online school for virtual learning. Students at the online school would not be allowed to participate in sports or activities through in-person schools, but homeschooled students still can. The online schools could have their own graduations, proms, and other traditions. Virtual students would not be a part of those traditions for the local school near them. The changes could prove challenging for students vying for scholarships through sports, music, and more.
Public Policies
Stalled Pfizer deal clouds Israel's hopes of swift herd immunity
A bid to secure more Pfizer/BioNTech doses for Israel’s world-beating vaccination drive has become mired in political squabbles, just as its leaders saw the coveted prize of “herd immunity” as within reach. Although more than half the population has been inoculated, Israel may not be able to keep up the momentum of the roll out. Paralysed by repeated elections and political infighting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s caretaker government has been unable to push through a deal for additional doses.
France suspends all Brazil flights due to virus variants
France suspended all flights from Brazil on Tuesday amid mounting fears over the particularly contagious coronavirus variant that has been sweeping the South American country. Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the suspension to parliament. “We note that the situation is getting worse and so we have decided to suspend all flights between Brazil and France until further notice,” Castex said, drawing scattered applause from lawmakers. Although France has seen comparatively few known cases of the P.1 variant striking Brazil, the ravages it is causing in Latin America’s largest nation are increasingly raising alarm bells in France
India gets third coronavirus vaccine as DCGI approves Russias Sputnik V
India's drug regulator, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on Tuesday approved Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V for 'restricted use in emergency situations' in India. This was a day after the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) gave its thumbs up to the vaccine. Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy's Laboratories (DRL) has collaborated with the Russian health ministry to obtain regulatory approval for import of the vaccine in India.
Covid-19 in Scotland: Travel ban to be lifted from Friday
The Covid-19 restriction on travelling around Scotland are to be relaxed from Friday, while people are to be allowed to meet up in larger groups outdoors. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said measures were being eased earlier than planned to help people's mental health. People will be allowed to meet in groups of up to six adults from six households in outdoor settings. And they will be permitted to travel across Scotland to do so, as long as they do not stay overnight. Other restrictions are expected to be eased from 26 April - with premises including shops, gyms, pubs and restaurants due to reopen on a restricted basis.
AstraZeneca: Irish health body recommends vaccine restriction
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be limited to over-60s, the Republic of Ireland's National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has said. The body oversees the Covid-19 vaccine rollout programme in the Republic. It said that the vaccine's benefits may vary by age and that, as other vaccines are available, it has revised its vaccine recommendations, reports RTÉ. All AstraZeneca vaccination clinics planned for Tuesday should now be cancelled, it has also been advised.
Scotland to ease some COVID-19 restrictions early
Scotland will ease some lockdown restrictions for domestic travel and outdoor meetings earlier than expected, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday. She said people would be permitted to travel anywhere within Scotland to see family and friends for outdoor meetings from April 16, ten days earlier than planned, and those meetings could from then take place with six people from up to six households rather than four from two households.
WHO urges halt to sale of live wild animals in food markets
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for a halt to the sale of live wild mammals in food markets to prevent the emergence of new diseases. The WHO said on Tuesday that while traditional markets play a central role in providing food and livelihoods for large populations, banning the sale of live wild mammals could protect the health of market workers and shoppers alike. It said some of the earliest known cases of COVID-19 were linked to a wholesale traditional food market in Wuhan in China, with many of the initial patients stall owners, market employees or regular visitors to the market. The coronavirus’s origins more than a year ago have been the source of intense speculation, much of it centred around the likelihood that it was carried by bats and passed to humans through an intermediary species sold as food or medicine in traditional Chinese wet markets. The interim guidance was drawn up alongside the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Amid COVID surge, India fast-tracks approval for foreign vaccines
India will fast-track emergency approvals for COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorised by Western countries and Japan, paving the way for possible imports of Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Moderna shots. The move, which will drop the need for companies to do small, local safety trials for their vaccines before seeking emergency approval, came following the world’s biggest surge in cases in the country this month.
Maintaining Services
NHS patients to receive the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine from today, NHS says
NHS patients in England are to receive the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine from today, officials have confirmed. Professor Stephen Powis, medical director for NHS England, said the move “marks another milestone” in the Covid-19 vaccination programme. It is the third vaccine to be added to the NHS “armoury”, alongside the Covid-19 vaccines from Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer. The news comes as the Government confirmed that it has met its target of offering a Covid-19 vaccine to the highest priority groups by mid-April – those over the age of 50 and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Healthcare Innovations
UK trial on switching COVID-19 vaccines adds Moderna and Novavax shots
A UK study into using different COVID-19 vaccines in two-dose inoculations is being expanded to include shots made by Moderna and Novavax, researchers said on Wednesday. The trial, known as the Com-Cov study, was first launched in February to look at whether giving a first dose of one type of COVID-19 shot, and a second dose of another, elicits an immune response that is as good as using two doses of the same vaccine. The idea, said Matthew Snape, the Oxford University professor leading the trial, “is to explore whether the multiple COVID-19 vaccines that are available can be used more flexibly”.
Half of kids with inflammatory syndrome after COVID-19 have neurologic symptoms
Half of the children who developed the serious condition associated with COVID-19 called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) had neurologic symptoms or signs when they entered the hospital, according to preliminary research released today, April 13, 2021, that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 73rd Annual Meeting being held virtually April 17 to 22, 2021. Those symptoms included headaches, encephalopathy and hallucinations.
Vaccine made for South African Covid variant promising, says Moderna
An experimental vaccine targeted at the South African strain of Covid-19 has produced antibodies in laboratory mice, its maker said last night, offering an early sign that it could protect humans against the variant. Moderna is developing a vaccine to target the B.1.351 variant, which was discovered in South Africa, as well as a multivalent vaccine that combines its original vaccination with the South Africa-specific jab. The company is the first to produce a vaccine designed for the variant detected in South Africa and said its pre-clinical trials in mice for both jabs “improved neutralising titers”, meaning that antibodies detected in the blood increased. The multivalent vaccine would provide the broadest level of immunity, according to Moderna.
An Israeli study says a COVID-19 variant can still infect vaccinated people — here's what Fauci says the research means
A small Israeli study indicates that some of the new coronavirus variants may put people who have been vaccinated at higher risk of breakthrough infections, though U.S. health officials questioned some of the wording used in the preliminary research. These types of cases are called “breakthrough infections,” which occur when someone who has completed their COVID-19 vaccination later gets sick from the virus. The preprint, which was published Friday and has not been peer reviewed, gained attention over the weekend after it said that the B.1.351 variant was more likely to infect people in Israel who had been vaccinated with Pfizer Inc.’s PFE, +0.51% COVID-19 vaccine, compared with other strains of the virus.
Newborns of COVID-vaccinated moms may be protected from infection
Two new Israeli studies find that COVID-19 antibodies pass robustly from mothers to their infants in breast milk for 6 weeks after vaccination and that no infants breastfed by their coronavirus-positive mothers had evidence of infection. The first study, led by researchers from Shamir Medical Center in Zerifin, Israel, and published as a research letter yesterday in JAMA, involved 504 breast milk samples from a convenience sample of 84 healthcare workers who chose to be vaccinated against COVID-19 because of their occupational risk for COVID-19 infection. All participants received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine 21 days apart and were recruited through ads and social media from throughout Israel from Dec 23, 2020, to Jan 15, 2021. The women provided breast milk samples before they received the vaccine and then once a week for 6 weeks starting 2 weeks after the first dose, and completed weekly questionnaires.
Gilead nixes Veklury COVID-19 trial as vaccines roll out, more convenient drugs emerge for outpatients
Gilead Sciences has been exploring its antiviral remdesivir for COVID-19 in the outpatient setting, hoping to replicate the success seen in hospitalized patients. But as new treatments emerge, the company now thinks the drug, in its current form, simply doesn’t have a role to play outside hospitals. Gilead has decided to stop a phase 3 trial of remdesivir as an intravenous infusion in high-risk nonhospitalized patients with COVID-19, the company said Monday. The decision wasn’t about efficacy or safety but the “evolution of the COVID-19 landscape,” it said. In other words, Gilead no longer believes there’s a market for IV remdesivir, or Veklury, that requires administration in a healthcare facility for nonhospitalized patients. As vaccine rollouts ramp up, the overall need for COVID-19 treatments will further decline. The shrinking patient pool has likely also made it hard for Gilead to enroll patients in the new study. Veklury, in its current FDA-approved use for hospitalized patients, brought in sales of $1.94 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020 alone. But for 2021, Gilead’s projecting a total haul between $2 billion and $3 billion, depending on how the pandemic evolves.
Why would a Covid vaccine cause rare blood clots? Researchers have found clues
A week after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, a 37-year-old woman in Norway went to the emergency department with fever and persistent headaches. A CAT scan of her head showed a blood clot in blood vessels involved in draining the brain, but her levels of platelets, involved in clotting, were low. She was treated with platelet infusions and a blood thinner, but had a bleed in her brain the next day. She underwent surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain but died two days later. This is the side effect, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, that has caused a week of worries around the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca. On Tuesday, the U.S. government said that it had seen the same effect six times among the 6.8 million people given a dose of a similar vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, and that it recommended a pause on use of that vaccine “out of an abundance of caution,” while researchers investigated.
Corticosteroid shortens recovery time in COVID-19 patients treated in the community, early trial results show
Budesonide has been found to shorten recovery time in COVID-19 patients aged over 50 years who are being treated in the community, according to interim findings from the Platform Randomised Trial of Interventions Against COVID-19 in Older People (PRINCIPLE). According to the findings, early treatment with the inhaled corticosteroid shortened recovery time by a median of three days in patients with COVID-19 who were at higher risk of more severe illness, and were being treated at home and in other community settings. Inhaled budesonide was added to the PRINCIPLE trial on 28 November 2020, but recruitment stopped on 31 March 2021 after the trial steering committee decided that enough patients had been enrolled to be able to establish if the drug had a meaningful benefit on time to recovery.