"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 15th Apr 2021

Isolation Tips
Loneliness is rampant. A simple call, or hug, may be a cure
Rampant loneliness existed long before COVID-19, and experts believe it’s now worse. Evidence suggests it can damage health and shorten lives as much as obesity and smoking. In addition to psychological distress, some studies suggest loneliness may cause physical changes including inflammation and elevated stress hormones that may tighten blood vessels and increase blood pressure. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who has called loneliness a public health crisis, points out that much of the world including the U.S. ’’was struggling with remarkably high levels of loneliness before COVID-19.” “The pandemic has shed new light on this struggle and reminded us of an unmistakable truth: we need each other,” he said in an emailed statement.
Young People Hit Hardest By Loneliness And Depression During Covid-19
Loneliness can be a risk factor in a range of health issues, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and domestic abuse. All problems that are unsurprisingly increasing as we continue to remain isolated during the pandemic. However it would appear that one demographic is feeling the effects of isolation more than others. A CDC online survey indicates that young people between the ages of 18-24 are more likely to suffer mental health problems during the pandemic than any age group. According to this survey, 63% of young people are suffering significant symptoms of anxiety or depression. Weissbourd and his team argue that tackling loneliness and associated mental health issues would require a “robust social infrastructure” and suggests that key social and cultural institutions including workplaces, schools and colleges, and religious and secular community organizations, can be far more intentional and systematic about connecting us to each other through events and initiatives.
Farmers turn to technology as pandemic increases social isolation
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a rise in social isolation and loss of community engagement among farmers, while a significant majority want online buying and selling in the marts to continue post-pandemic, a major report on the sector shows.
Brain fog: how trauma, uncertainty and isolation have affected our minds and memory
Before the pandemic, psychoanalyst Josh Cohen’s patients might come into his consulting room, lie down on the couch and talk about the traffic or the weather, or the rude person on the tube. Now they appear on his computer screen and tell him about brain fog. They talk with urgency of feeling unable to concentrate in meetings, to read, to follow intricately plotted television programmes. “There’s this sense of debilitation, of losing ordinary facility with everyday life; a forgetfulness and a kind of deskilling,” says Cohen, author of the self-help book How to Live. What to Do. Although restrictions are now easing across the UK, with greater freedom to circulate and socialise, he says lockdown for many of us has been “a contraction of life, and an almost parallel contraction of mental capacity”.
Beware the ‘last mile, first smile’ syndrome when we near the end of the Covid-19 pandemic
As frontline health care workers emerge from the work that has consumed them since March 2020, they will be shading their eyes to accommodate to the optimistic sunlight of a post-Covid world. For many doctors, nurses, and other frontline health care workers, this transition may be challenging in ways that might expose them to profound risk of burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide. Fighting Covid-19 day in and day out, being exposed to the danger of infection and worrying about bringing the virus home; the psychological trauma and moral injury sustained while treating patients who died alone with health care workers playing the role of family members; having to prioritize care while balancing a shortage of medical gear, time, and attention — all of these can induce a heavy emotional toll. Transitioning medical teams into the post-Covid-19 era needs to be planned, supported, and done with the precision of a delicate surgical procedure
Hygiene Helpers
African Union seeks to boost vaccine-making with 5 new centres
The African Union (AU) has announced the launch of a partnership to manufacture vaccines at five research centres to be built on the continent within the next 15 years. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which helps run the global COVAX coronavirus vaccine-sharing programme with the public-private alliance Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), signed a memorandum of understanding to boost African vaccine research and development as well as manufacturing. The five centres will be located in the north, south, east, west and centre of Africa over the next 10-15 years, according to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an AU agency. “Trusted partnership will be critical in advancing the vaccine manufacturing agenda on the continent,” he said on Tuesday after a two-day virtual meeting. “The partnership with CEPI symbolises cooperation and collaboration to help respond to infectious disease threats and ensure Africa’s health security.”
Chelsea and Westminster NHS trust is set to tell staff that Covid jabs are compulsory as it calls on workers who have turned down vaccines to change their minds
Letter will go out to all of the trust's 6,000 staff shortly to inform them of change Pfizer's jab has cut emergency admissions by three quarters in elderly people Ministers are also pushing for jabs to become mandatory for care home staff.
COVID-19: Yes, prime minister, lockdown is driving down coronavirus cases - but vaccines are helping too
As with pretty much everything else about COVID-19, uncertainties abound. It's hard to be sure with any level of precision how much of an impact one or another intervention has made during the coronavirus pandemic. Even having said that, it's pretty clear that of all the interventions during COVID-19, few have been as powerful as nationwide lockdowns.
Battle to control South African Covid-19 variant in London
Londoners were today urged to get tested for Covid-19 to protect the city from the South African variant as surge testing was extended to a third borough. Residents in a “targeted area” within SE16 in Southwark are being urged to get a test after a case of the mutation was detected there. Additional testing sites, some of them mobile, are also being rolled out in Wandsworth and Lambeth where dozens of cases of the SA variant virus have been identified. Health chiefs believe the SA mutation may be more resistant to vaccines but the jabs, including the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna inoculations which have been approved in the UK, are thought to still offer significant protection against severe disease.
200 tourists, 1 isolated resort: a lockdown test
Almost 200 Dutch tourists arrived on the Greek island of Rhodes on Monday to trade lockdown in the Netherlands for eight days of voluntary confinement in a Greek holiday resort, as part of a test to see if safe holidays can be arranged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vaccine tourism: Why are people crossing borders for a jab?
One Saturday morning in late March, Milicia Praca and her roommate grabbed their passports and a bag of crisps and drove towards the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Republic of Serbia. They were keen to accomplish an important task – enter Serbia, pull up their sleeves, and get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Community Activities
Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy: Not helpful to 'lump people together' under BAME, says public health expert
Tackling Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in minority ethnic communities in Scotland is not helped by grouping people together under the Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) umbrella, a public health expert has said.
‘Super-spreader’: Over 1,000 COVID positive at India’s Kumbh Mela
More than 1,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus at the site of a major Hindu festival in India in two days, officials said, as huge crowds of mostly maskless devotees descend on the Ganges River in the northern Uttarakhand state. The virus was detected in the city of Haridwar, which lies along the river where the weeks-long Kumbh Mela, or the pitcher festival, is being observed, officials said. Of some 50,000 samples taken from people in Haridwar, 408 tested positive on Monday and 594 on Tuesday, the Uttarakhand government said.
It's time to reward our Covid-19 heroes
In Wales, community has garnered a new sense of importance over the past year. Local businesses have taken priority, neighbourly support thrives within every street, and community spirit has carried us through our darkest days. Emotionally, financially, physically and socially, there are community heroes who have dedicated hours upon hours to helping others, and this year's South Wales Evening Post Community Awards will celebrate them. On Thursday, April 29, the South Wales Evening Post Community Awards will be streamed virtually so that we can both support our community and keep everyone safe, too.
Working Remotely
How remote working post pandemic could benefit disabled employees
When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the UK, figures showed that disabled people had been hit particularly hard. A survey by UK disability charity Leonard Cheshire Trust painted a grim picture in September 2020, revealing that 71 per cent of disabled employees had been adversely affected by the pandemic. And one in five employers said they would be less likely to hire someone with a disability.
What inspired digital nomads to flee America’s big cities may spur legions of remote workers to do the same
As remote workers of all ages contemplate their futures – and as some offices and schools start to reopen – many Americans are asking hard questions about whether they wish to return to their old lives, and what they’re willing to sacrifice or endure in the years to come. Even before the pandemic, there were people asking whether office life jibed with their aspirations. We spent years studying “digital nomads” – workers who had left behind their homes, cities and most of their possessions to embark on what they call “location independent” lives. Our research taught us several important lessons about the conditions that push workers away from offices and major metropolitan areas, pulling them toward new lifestyles.
We need to stop confusing home-working with days off
For home-workers, last year has been a blur of Zoom calls, late night emails and backache from being hunched over kitchen table laptops. Yet despite this, the prevailing view of remote working as an excuse to kick back and get stuck into daytime TV. Recently, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced criticism for suggesting people "have had quite a few days off" during the pandemic, as the government pushed for workers to prepare to get back to their workplaces. Tactlessness aside, the problem is that this simply isn’t true. Multiple studies have found that during the pandemic, remote workers are spending longer at their desks than before the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, the average length of time an employee spends working from home in the UK has increased by more than two hours a day since the coronavirus crisis, according to data from the business support company NordVPN Teams
4 things you need to know about the future of hybrid and remote work
The post-pandemic workplace is going to look a lot different. Mostly, there will be fewer people in the office. As more Americans get vaccinated, companies are starting to think about what their reopening plans might look like. Some employers, like Spotify and TIAA have decided to invest in hybrid work models, giving employees the flexibility to work from the office, their homes, or another location. Insider compiled a guide with the four most important things to know about the future of hybrid work.
Virtual Classrooms
How to support students in virtual learning environments
The mass migration to virtual learning that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic led to a profound change in student learning. While it presented many challenges, it also created opportunities for documenting responses. Two researchers from the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) gathered student perspectives on the move to remote learning to determine best practices going forward. Based on their research, Humphrey and Wiles developed a list of recommendations for instructors to support students in virtual learning environments
Public Policies
India seeks vaccine boost with Russian jab deal as Covid cases soar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government touted India as “the pharmacy of the world” not long ago as it exported more than 60m locally made doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus jab globally. But with ailing Covid-19 patients overwhelming hospitals in Mumbai, New Delhi and other big cities, the government is scrambling to secure more vaccines for domestic use. Indian drug regulators on Monday granted emergency approval to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, as daily confirmed Covid-19 infections hit a record high of 185,000. The agreement paved the way both for local production and potential imports of the vaccine.
Romania suspends use of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine pending EU probe
The first shipment of 60,000 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived in Romania on Wednesday. Pending the conclusion of an investigation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for possible blood clot risk, the vaccines will be stored in a warehouse, the National Coordinating Committee for Vaccination Activities against COVID-19 (CNCAV) said. In the U.S., six blood clot cases have been reported among more than seven million people who received the shot. This batch entered Romania via its land border with Hungary one day after the American pharmaceutical company said on Tuesday it had suspended the rollout of its vaccine in the European Union (EU). Under its contract, Johnson & Johnson had committed to delivering 55 million vaccine doses to the EU by the end of June. The first vaccine shipments reached the EU states on Monday, but the U.S. company has since suspended further deliveries. Under the initial contract, Romania is to receive another 100,000 doses this month, 518,400 doses in May and 1.6 million in June.
Covid-19 vaccines: Denmark becomes first country to stop using Oxford/AstraZeneca jab entirely
Denmark has become the first country to entirely cease using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine following its possible link to very rare cases of blood clots. The decision, which removes the jab from Denmark’s vaccination scheme, will push back completion of the country’s vaccine rollout from July 25 to early August. Results of investigations into the blood clots “showed real and serious side effects,” according to Soren Brostrom, head of the Danish Health Authority. “Based on an overall consideration, we have therefore chosen to continue the vaccination programme for all target groups without this vaccine.”
Colombian capital to hold another weekend lockdown
Colombia's capital Bogota will repeat a three-day lockdown this weekend in a bid to slow coronavirus infections, Mayor Claudia Lopez said on Tuesday. A similar lockdown last weekend has helped slow the transmission of the disease, Lopez said in a press conference. People should stay home on Friday through Sunday, she added, and limits on when people can shop based on their ID number will continue. Intensive care units in Bogota have an occupancy rate of 76%, less than other cities like Medellin, which has also imposed quarantine measures. Officials will evaluate again next week whether to extend the lockdown measures, Lopes said. Colombia has reported more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases, as well as 66,000 deaths. It has administered more than 3.1 million vaccines doses, including more than 600,000 in Bogota.
Maharashtra imposes 15-day lockdown to slow COVID-19 spread
India’s richest state, Maharashtra, will be under lockdown from Wednesday night for 15 days to slow rising coronavirus infections, its chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Tuesday. Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai and the country’s most industrial state, has been the country’s worst hit state, accounting for about a quarter of its 13.5 million cases.
Greece to lift quarantine rule for more travelers from next week: official
Greece plans to lift quarantine restrictions from next week for travelers from the European Union and five other countries who have been vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19, a senior government official said on Wednesday. Last month, the country lifted a one-week quarantine rule for Israeli travellers who have been inoculated and test negative. Greece, which emerged from a decade-long financial crisis before the pandemic last year, has said it will open its tourism sector, a key growth driver for its economy, from the middle of May.
Ukrainian capital Kyiv extends strict lockdown until April 30 - mayor
The Ukrainian capital Kyiv will stay in strict lockdown until April 30 as the daily number of new coronavirus cases and coronavirus-related deaths continues to climb despite tight restrictions imposed in March, the mayor said on Wednesday. “We have no other choice, otherwise the medical system will not cope with such a number of patients, otherwise there will be even more deaths,” mayor Vitali Klitschko told a televised briefing. Earlier, in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Kyiv limited its public transport services, closed schools and kindergartens, theatres and shopping centres, and banned spectators from sporting events. It allowed cafes and restaurants to provide only takeaway food, and recommended that all state employees to work from home. However, Kyiv continues leading other regions with about 1,500 new coronavirus cases and over 40 coronavirus related deaths registered daily.
Dutch PM Rutte extends pandemic lockdown as infections rise
The Dutch government on Tuesday extended most pandemic lockdown restrictions including a nighttime curfew as Prime Minister Mark Rutte cited rising COVID-19 infection rates and hospitals near capacity. “We have to see daily hospitalizations falling, then we’ll be over the peak of the third wave,” Rutte said at a press conference in The Hague. He said hopes that some measures could be eased on April 21 had proved illusory and they must remain in place until April 28 at the earliest. Current measures in the Netherlands, which has seen 1.3 million coronavirus cases and more than 16,700 deaths, include the first nighttime curfew since World War Two and a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.
Europe won't renew AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine contracts next year: report
Amid delivery delays and concerns over rare but serious blood clots for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shots, European officials are looking elsewhere for next year's supply. The European Commission has opted against renewing its vaccine contracts with AstraZeneca and J&J once they expire at the end of the year, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed source from the Italian health ministry. Reuters also picked up the story. Both shots have come under scrutiny over rare but serious cases of blood clots in people who had received the vaccines, prompting several countries to halt use of the AZ shot while the European Medicines Agency completed a follow-up safety review. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has struggled to meet the delivery targets it originally laid out, while J&J just this week said it would delay its vaccine rollout in the bloc over safety concerns.
Mumbai imposes strict virus restrictions as infections surge
The teeming metropolis of Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, the Indian state worst hit by the pandemic, face stricter restrictions for 15 days starting Wednesday in an effort to stem the surge of coronavirus infections. Top state officials stressed that the closure of most industries, businesses, public places and limits on the movement of people didn’t constitute a lockdown. Last year, a sudden, harsh, nationwide lockdown left millions jobless overnight. Stranded in cities with no income or food, thousands of migrant workers walked on highways to get home. Since then, state leaders have repeatedly stressed that another lockdown wasn’t on the cards.
EU throws weight behind Pfizer-BioNTech and new technology
In a stinging rebuke to pharma giant AstraZeneca Wednesday, the European Union announced plans to negotiate a massive contract extension for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine insisting the 27-nation bloc had to go with companies that had shown their value in the pandemic. “We need to focus on technologies that have proven their worth,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She also announced that America’s Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech would provide the EU with an extra 50 million doses in the 2nd quarter of this year, making up for faltering deliveries of AstraZeneca.
Maintaining Services
COVID-19: Most European countries should be on 'green' travel list next month, says easyJet boss
Easyjet's boss said he expected popular destinations such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal to be on the government's "green" list when foreign travel resumes next month. Foreign holidays will be subject to a traffic light system if they resume as hoped on 17 May, with some experts expecting the lowest-risk list of countries could be limited to the likes of Iceland, Malta and Israel. But easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said he expected all major European nations would be among "green" destinations meaning travellers will not need to self-isolate on their return.
Covid-19 cases in healthcare staff fell dramatically after vaccines – Government
The percentage of positive cases of Covid-19 among healthcare workers has fallen dramatically since the State’s vaccination programme began, the Government has said. The figure has fallen from 10 per cent of all cases in December, down to just two per cent in the latest 14-day report. A senior official at the Department of an Taoiseach Elizabeth Canavan told a media briefing on Covid-19 at Government Buildings that other metrics also showed a positive downward trend.
Sweden pauses plans for J&J COVID-19 vaccinations, awaits review
Sweden's Health Agency said on Wednesday it would pause plans to start vaccinations using Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine following reports of rare blood clots similar to those reported for the AstraZeneca shot. The Health Agency said in a statement it would not start the vaccinations and await the findings of a review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The vaccine has not yet been used in Sweden though a first batch of 31,000 doses has arrived in the country.
France says to administer J&J COVID-19 vaccine as planned, Spanish, Dutch wait
France will use Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine as planned despite its suspension in the United States, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, adding France had received a first shipment of 200,000 doses. "The doses, which arrived earlier this week, are being shipped to city general practitioners and to chemists," government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters. France expects to receive 600,000 doses of the J&J vaccine by the end of the month, according to health ministry data.
Australia returns to 'war footing' amid COVID-19 vaccine turmoil
Australia’s national cabinet will begin meeting twice a week from Monday, marking a return to a “war footing” in the country’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic amid turmoil in its national vaccination programme. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday the return to more frequent meetings of the group of federal and state government leaders was necessary to address “serious challenges” caused by patchy international vaccine supplies and changing medical advice. “This is a complex task and there are problems with the programme that we need to solve to ensure more Australians can be vaccinated safely and more quickly,” Morrison said in a statement.
Europe scrambles as J&J vaccine delay deals another blow
European countries diverged Wednesday on whether they would push ahead with giving their residents Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of very rare blood clots in a handful of recipients in the United States. While some European Union members put the vaccine on hold as recommended by the American company, Poland, France and Hungary said they would go ahead and administer the doses that had arrived as the EU’s 27 nations face continuing pressure to speed up their immunization drives. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, distributed in Europe by its subsidiary Janssen, is a key part of Europe’s vaccination campaign, which has been criticized as sluggish. Of the four vaccines currently approved for use in the EU, J&J’s is the only one that requires a single dose to be fully effective. That makes it ideal for hard-to-reach, vulnerable groups, such as those who are homeless or migrant workers.
Healthcare Innovations
COVID-19: Mix and match vaccine study extended to include Moderna and Novavax jabs
A study assessing the benefits of mixing and matching coronavirus vaccines has been extended to include the Moderna and Novavax jabs. The Com-Cov study, led by the University of Oxford, has been investigating the immune responses of volunteers given a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by the Pfizer jab - and vice versa.
Long-acting injectable medicine as potential route to COVID-19 therapy
Researchers from the University of Liverpool have shown the potential of repurposing an existing and cheap drug into a long-acting injectable therapy that could be used to treat COVID-19. In a paper published in the journal Nanoscale, researchers from the University's Center of Excellence for Long-acting Therapeutics (CELT) demonstrate the nanoparticle formulation of niclosamide, a highly insoluble drug compound, as a scalable long-acting injectable antiviral candidate.
Filter that is able to remove Covid-19 from blood given emergency approval in US
A Pentagon-funded agency has developed a filter that is able to remove the Coronavirus from blood cells when linked to a dialysis machine. After around 300 critically ill Covid-19 patients made a full recovery following treatment with the filter, the FDA has approved the method for emergency use, according to multiple media reports. Moreover, scientists at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) have also developed a microchip that can detect Covid-19 when inserted under the skin.
Exercise may strongly protect against poor COVID-19 outcomes
Regular physical activity may substantially reduce the risk of COVID-19–related hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and death, suggests an observational study of nearly 50,000 people published yesterday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Kaiser Permanente Southern California researchers led the retrospective study, which involved linking the self-reported physical activity levels of 48,440 adult patients who had at least three exercise vital sign measurements in the 2 years preceding the pandemic to their risk of severe coronavirus outcomes. Used at every outpatient visit at Kaiser Permanente since 2009, exercise vital sign measurements include average number of days a week of moderate to strenuous exercise and duration of that exercise. The patients, who were diagnosed as having COVID-19 from Jan 1 to Oct 21, 2020, reported their physical activity as consistently inactive (0 to 10 minutes a week), some activity (11 to 149 minutes), or consistently meeting guidelines (more than 150 minutes).
Israeli mask which ‘gives 99 percent virus safety’ gets European lab approval
An Israeli start-up behind an anti-viral mask shown to neutralise 99 percent of coronavirus has received European verification. Special coating on Sonovia’s state-of-the-art technology has been verified by VisMederi Textyle in Italy, a pharmaceutical company based in Tuscany, with the same testing showing it is equally effective at neutralising flu, as well as Covid-19.
Sinovac vaccine effective against virus variants in Brazil; efficacy rises if injection interval is more than 21 days
China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine has 50.7 percent efficacy and has proved to be effective against the variants known as P1 and P2 that are prevalent in Brazil, latest data showed. Moreover, the Sinovac vaccine's efficacy rate can climb to 62.3 percent with an interval of more than 21 days between doses rather than 14 days. The findings appear in the latest report released on Sunday by Sao Paulo's state-owned Butantan Institute, which tested and produced Sinovac's COVID-19 inactivated vaccine named CoronaVac. The report released specific and comprehensive data on late-stage trials in Brazil. This is the most detailed statistical report on a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine.
Astrazeneca vaccine risk prompts Australian government to recommend Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for under 50
The Australian government is recommending that Australians under 50 take the Pfizer Inc. COVID-19 vaccine due to the risk of rare blood clots associated with Astrazeneca plc’s COVID-19 vaccine (ChAdOx1-S). The move jeopardizes Australia’s vaccine rollout as it had planned for the majority of Australians to receive the Astrazeneca vaccine, which is being locally manufactured by CSL Ltd. During a press conference announcing the local manufacture of the vaccine in March, officials were gloating about what a fabulous job the country had done in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it looks as if it is falling behind on vaccinating its citizens, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that essentially “all bets are off” on whether Australians will be vaccinated by the end of the year. Previously, he had said that all Australians would be vaccinated by October.