"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th Apr 2021

Isolation Tips
Self-Compassion Is Key To Survive Working From Home
As the world moved en-masse to remote working as a result of Covid-19 there was initial bonhomie of a world stripped clean of the much-unloved aspects of working life, such as the commute and the open-office distractions. Over a year on, however, and the sheen is beginning to wear off, with people suffering from burnout, an eroding work-life balance, and isolation as social contact with one's peers is restricted to Zoom socials. New research from York University suggests that the key to coping with remote working is to exhibit high levels of self-compassion. The researchers specifically looked at how the loneliness that is almost an endemic part of remote working life at the moment might impact not only our mental health but also our behavior at work.
COVID-19 took mental health to a dark place. The healing work starts now
The coronavirus pandemic has wrought mental health havoc across the world. "As the pandemic struck, there was a large and immediate decline in mental health in many countries worldwide," reads the 2021 World Happiness Report. Mental health improved after the initial shock but, the report cautions, "a significant proportion of people had mental health [in 2020] that was persistently and significantly lower than before COVID-19." In the US, 42% of respondents to a CDC survey in December reported anxiety or depression symptoms, an increase of over 200% from the 2019 average. In the UK, 31% of respondents to a September study reported depression severe enough to justify "high-intensity psychological support." One positive sign is that online therapy sessions done through tools like Zoom have become far more common. It's not just that people have gone from the therapist chair to the lounge room, but rather "underserved and underrepresented" groups that normally shun in-person therapy feel comfortable opting for e-therapy done in their own home
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19: India arrivals begin UK hotel quarantine
The first people to arrive in the UK from India since the country was placed on the travel "red list" have entered hotel quarantine. British and Irish nationals and those with residency rights must isolate in approved accommodation for 10 days after rules changed overnight. India has seen a second wave of infections, with shortages of medical oxygen leaving some patients untreated. Some British Asians have spoken of the trauma of witnessing India's surge. Meeta Joshi, from Guildford, Surrey, described how she has lost nine close relatives and friends in India in the past week - four due to Covid.
Brazilians are not showing up for their second COVID vaccination
Brazil’s COVID-19 vaccination programme is being put at risk by people failing to show up for their second shot, with 1.5 million people missing appointments for the follow-up dose needed to maximise protection, according to the Health Ministry. Specialists say that is particularly concerning after a recent real-world study from Chile found that the Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine, which has accounted for some 80 percent of Brazil’s program, is just 16 percent effective after one shot.
California's public universities to require COVID-19 vaccine
Two of the nation’s largest university systems say they intend to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff on University of California and California State University campuses this fall. Several U.S. colleges and universities hoping to get back to normal campus life after months of online learning also have said they plan to make the vaccination mandatory. But Thursday’s joint announcement from the 10-campus University of California and the 23-campus California State University is the largest of its kind in American higher education. The CSU system in the nation’s biggest four-year college system, with about 485,000 students and tens of thousands of staff, while the UC system has more than 280,000 students.
Community Activities
TikTok: 'My nan has helped me get millions of views'
Lewis Leigh and his grandma Nanny Phyllis have become an unlikely social media sensation on TikTok. The pair, from Merthyr Tydfil, may have over half a century between them but together their dance videos have racked up millions of views and gained fans all around the world. Phyllis, 76, says their lockdown exploits have given her a new lease of life after the death of her husband and have brought grandma and grandson even closer together.
Covid spread as overcrowding doubles among private renters in England
The proportion of private renters living in overcrowded homes has doubled during the pandemic, adding to concerns that living conditions helped the virus spread, particularly among ethnic minorities. Figures out last week from the English Housing Survey’s household resilience study found that the proportion in November and December last year was 15%, up from 7% a year earlier. That means more than one in seven private renters are enduring overcrowding, compared with only one in 50 homeowners. Overcrowded housing is believed to be linked to higher rates of coronavirus infection because it makes social distancing and self-isolation harder. Research last year by the Health Foundation and University College London’s Institute of Health Equity pointed to a relationship between overcrowding and Covid death rates.
Working Remotely
How to gain visibility when you're working from home
Being in the right place at the right time can lead to some unexpected career advancing moments. You might be making a coffee at the same time as your boss in the office kitchen, which leads to being asked to take on a new project. Or, if you work alongside your manager and they take note of your hard work, it can really help when it comes to promotions and pay rises. When you’re working from home, however, it can be easy to miss out on these opportunities. Although remote working can come with a huge number of benefits, working from home can feel like working in a void. So how can you get yourself noticed, without being physically in the office? Being proactive can help increase your chances of gaining recognition – leading to more opportunities for professional development.
Remote living has eroded our empathy and executives must find a way to understand their staff - CityAM : CityAM
It is difficult to count what we have lost during the pandemic. We’ve lost jobs, loved ones, incomes and our social lives. Living and working remotely has also meant we are losing our empathy for colleagues. This is especially true of business leaders and executives who need to be able to understand the problems their employees are grappling with as we leave lockdown. In order to understand the customers and people they are serving, business leaders need to be able to understand their staff. There is a huge array of experience just waiting to be tapped into to create a more empathetic work environment. Some communities are more tight-knit than others and have had better support systems throughout lockdown. Younger workers may have been more isolated and need more help and encouragement returning to the office.
Virtual Classrooms
Many children with autism struggling with virtual learning
While many of the London area’s 100,000 school kids face challenges learning from home, amid a two-week shutdown of the area’s two major school systems because of COVID-19’s third-wave flare-up, the fallout of not being in school can be especially tough for children with autism. A recent study by the Hospital for Sick Children found children with autism reported the highest rates of depression, irritability and hyperactivity, as well as a reduced attention span, among students affected by the pandemic. Sick Kids researchers have concluded the changes could be due to greater online learning challenges, a reduction in home care and disruption to normal routines
Several St. Louis-Area School Districts Will Keep Online Learning After Pandemic Ends
Thousands of Missouri students likely will continue to learn online from their homes next school year — and after — by choice, as virtual school becomes a permanent option after the pandemic subsides. Several school districts in the St. Louis region are making their online programs permanent for children as early as kindergarten in an effort to offer more flexibility and choice. But some critics worry the isolation could have negative social and emotional effects on kids. With no COVID-19 vaccine yet approved for children under age 16, school administrators say it’s highly likely some amount of virtual learning will be necessary next school year. But they also say their online schools are here to stay.
Public Policies
Venezuela gets 80000 more Sputnik V vaccine doses as COVID-19 cases surge
Venezuela received a new shipment of some 80,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, officials said on Saturday, as COVID-19 cases surged and opposition lawmakers criticized the government's vaccine rollout. The shipment brings the total number of vaccines that Venezuela has received to 880,000, Health Minister Carlos Alvarado said. He said the government would focus on inoculating healthcare workers and the elderly with the new shipments. Venezuela has also inoculated public officials, firefighters, civil protection personnel and oxygen distribution workers.
S.Korea signs with Pfizer for additional 40 mln COVID-19 vaccine doses
South Korea said on Saturday it signed a contract with Pfizer Inc to purchase an additional 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine amid fears of spiking infections at home. That brings the current amount of Pfizer vaccines to 66 million doses, it said in a statement. It added that it had secured a total 192 million doses of vaccines, including those from Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca PLC, Johnson & Johnson's and Novavax. "The government has acquired COVID-19 vaccines large enough to vaccinate approximately 100 million people...(which) is double the entire population of South Korea," Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol told a briefing. "(The government) will make all out efforts to achieve its promise to vaccinate 12 million people by end of June and achieve herd immunity by November," he said.
From scarcity to abundance: US faces calls to share vaccines
Victor Guevara knows people his age have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in many countries. His own relatives in Houston have been inoculated. But the 72-year-old Honduran lawyer, like so many others in his country, is still waiting. And increasingly, he is wondering why the United States is not doing more to help, particularly as the American vaccine supply begins to outpace demand and doses that have been approved for use elsewhere in the world, but not in the U.S., sit idle. “We live in a state of defenselessness on every level,” Guevara said of the situation in his Central American homeland. Honduras has obtained a paltry 59,000 vaccine doses for its 10 million people. Similar gaps in vaccine access are found across Africa, where just 36 million doses have been acquired for the continent’s 1.3 billion people, as well as in parts of Asia.
1bn COVID jabs given globally – but over half in just 3 countries
More than one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, according to a tally, with more than half given in just three countries. At least 1,002,938,540 doses had been administered in 207 countries and territories by 17:45 GMT on Saturday, less than five months after the first mass inoculation programmes began to be rolled out, AFP news agency said, citing figures from official sources. The milestone was reached as a daily record of more than 893,000 coronavirus infections cases were registered worldwide on Saturday, primarily due to an alarming surge of the virus in India. Fifty-eight percent of the vaccine doses have been administered in three countries: the United States with 225.6 million doses; China with 216.1 million doses; and India with 138.4 million.
Cambodia closes markets to curb COVID-19, thousands plead for food
Cambodia closed all markets in the capital Phnom Penh on Saturday to contain a surge in coronavirus infections and thousands of families pleaded to the government for food as a two-week lockdown continued. Cambodia also reported a daily record of 10 new coronavirus deaths on Saturday, its health ministry said, as infections spike following an outbreak first detected in late February.
WHO, Macron denounce vaccine inequity as COVAX scheme marks first year
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has repeatedly denounced inequities in vaccine distribution and urged wealthier countries to share excess doses to help inoculate health workers in low-income countries. More than 3 million people have died in the pandemic worldwide. "Nearly 900 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 81% have gone to high- or upper middle-income countries, while low-income countries have received just 0.3%," Tedros said about the ACT (Access to COVID-19 Tools) Accelerator set up a year ago. He told a briefing he was concerned about the rising caseload in India.
Coronavirus: WHO urges African nations to keep expired vaccines
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged African countries not to destroy Covid-19 vaccines that may have passed their expiry date. Countries have been told to keep hold of them and wait for further guidance. The appeal comes after Malawi and South Sudan said they would destroy more than 70,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab because they expired in mid-April. But the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) said it had been assured the doses were safe to use. Many vaccines can be used up to 36 months after manufacture, but because Covid-19 jabs are so new there is not enough data to prove their effectiveness over longer periods.
EU to shortly sign world's largest vaccine deal with Pfizer
The European Commission said it expects to seal the world’s biggest vaccine supply deal within days, securing up to 1.8 billion doses of Pfizer’s (PFE.N) COVID-19 vaccine for the next few years as a debate rages over unfair access to shots for the world’s poorest people. The vaccines from the U.S. drugmaker and its German partner BioNTech would be delivered over 2021-2023, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to Pfizer's vaccine plant in Puurs, Belgium. The agreement, which is to include 900 million optional doses, would be enough to inoculate the 450 million EU population for two years and comes as the bloc seeks to shore up long-term supplies.
US to resume J&J COVID vaccinations despite rare clot risk
U.S. health officials lifted an 11-day pause on COVID-19 vaccinations using Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot on Friday, after scientific advisers decided its benefits outweigh a rare risk of blood clot. The government uncovered 15 vaccine recipients who developed a highly unusual kind of blood clot out of nearly 8 million people given the J&J shot. All were women, most under age 50. Three died, and seven remain hospitalized. But ultimately, federal health officials decided that J&J’s one-and-done vaccine is critical to fight the pandemic — and that the small clot risk could be handled with warnings to help younger women decide if they should use that shot or an alternative.
Millions sign petitions urging the U.S. to back a WTO proposal for greater Covid-19 vaccine access
More than two million petitions were sent to the White House in hopes of convincing the Biden administration to support a proposal that would temporarily waive trade agreement provisions in a bid to widen access to Covid-19 vaccines in low and middle-income countries. The effort was promoted by several U.S. lawmakers and dozens of advocacy groups amid ongoing controversy over the proposal, which was introduced last fall at the World Trade Organization. Since then, however, the effort has stalled amid push back by the pharmaceutical industry and some wealthy nations, including the U.S., over concerns that intellectual property rights will be compromised.
Lawmakers urge Biden to back 'moral' patent waiver to speed vaccine access
U.S. lawmakers and nonprofit groups on Friday heaped pressure on the Biden administration to back a temporary patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines to help poor countries contain the pandemic. The groups delivered a petition signed by two million people, adding to separate letters already sent to U.S. President Joe Biden by a group of senators, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, nearly 100 members of the House and 60 former heads of state and 100 Nobel Prize winners. Senator Bernie Sanders said it was also in the United States' own interest to ensure as many people were vaccinated as quickly as possible, to limit the chance of virus mutations that could prompt further U.S. lockdowns. But he also appealed to Biden's desire to rebuild U.S. credibility in the world.
France's Macron plans to donate 500000 COVID vaccine shots
"Now the time has come to share," said Macron at a virtual event organised by the World Health Organization. "We will continue to receive more and more vaccines. We have sufficient means to step up our solidarity by donating doses." He called the current global distribution of vaccines "unacceptable", adding that one in six Europeans had been vaccinated versus around 1 in 100 in Africa. The 500,000 doses would be sent between now and mid-June, he said. He did not specify which vaccines these would be but said they would come from a range of suppliers and not only AstraZeneca.
Opinion | W.H.O.'s Dr. Tedros: Covid Vaccine Promises Must Be Kept
Almost one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered around the world, and yet the weekly number of cases hit a record high last week, and deaths are climbing, on pace to eclipse 2020’s grim tally. How can this be? Weren’t vaccines supposed to douse the flames of the pandemic? Yes, and they are. But here’s the thing about an inferno: If you hose only one part of it, the rest will keep burning. Many countries all over the world are facing a severe crisis, with high transmission and intensive care units overflowing with patients and running short on essential supplies, like oxygen. Why is this happening? For several reasons: The rise of more transmissible variants, the inconsistent application and premature easing of public health measures like mask mandates and physical distancing, populations that are understandably weary of adhering to those measures and the inequitable distribution of vaccines.
Maintaining Services
India virus patients suffocate amid oxygen shortage in surge
Indian authorities scrambled Saturday to get oxygen tanks to hospitals where COVID-19 patients were suffocating amid the world’s worst coronavirus surge, as the government came under increasing criticism for what doctors said was its negligence in the face of a foreseeable public health disaster. For the third day in a row, India set a global daily record of new infections. The 346,786 confirmed cases over the past day brought India’s total to more than 16 million, behind only the United States. The Health Ministry reported another 2,624 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing India’s COVID-19 fatalities to 189,544. Experts say even those figures are likely an undercount.
Europe reopens but virus patients still overwhelm ICU teams
Cradling the head of the deeply sedated COVID-19 patient like a precious jewel in his hands, Dr. Alexy Tran Dinh steered his intensive-care nurses through the delicate process of rolling the woman off her stomach and onto her back, guiding the team like a dance instructor. They moved only on Tran Dinh’s count, in unison and with extreme care, because the unconscious patient could die within minutes should they inadvertently rip the breathing tube from her mouth. “One, two and three — onto the side,” the doctor instructed. His next order quickly followed: “Onto the back.” “Perfect,” he concluded when the move was done.
US drop in vaccine demand has some places turning down doses
Louisiana has stopped asking the federal government for its full allotment of COVID-19 vaccine. About three-quarters of Kansas counties have turned down new shipments of the vaccine at least once over the past month. And in Mississippi, officials asked the federal government to ship vials in smaller packages so they don’t go to waste. As the supply of coronavirus vaccine doses in the U.S. outpaces demand, some places around the country are finding there’s such little interest in the shots, they need to turn down shipments. “It is kind of stalling. Some people just don’t want it,” said Stacey Hileman, a nurse with the health department in rural Kansas’ Decatur County, where less than a third of the county’s 2,900 residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
Oxygen packing plant in Brazil hit by explosion
An industrial plant dedicated to oxygen packing in the city of Fortaleza, in Brazil's northeastern region, exploded on Saturday, leaving four people injured, local media reported. Industrial gas maker White Martins, owner of the plant, said in a statement that production of oxygen in the region has not been affected, as the unit was dedicated to packing the gas. The company, which is investigating the causes for the incident, said it is looking for alternative places to fill the oxygen cylinders.
COVID-19: Indian doctors forced to beg for oxygen as hospitals buckle under record coronavirus surge
The Indian health system is buckling under the strain of an ever-worsening coronavirus pandemic - with hospitals now being forced to beg for oxygen. The government is putting oxygen tankers on special express trains across the country to help save COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe. India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, has confirmed 16 million coronavirus cases - second only to the United States.
Covid-19: Delhi hospitals run out of oxygen supplies
At least two hospitals in the Indian capital of Delhi are running out of oxygen, amid a healthcare crisis gripping several states. A number of people have died while waiting for oxygen supplies, and the majority of intensive care beds in Delhi hospitals are full. India is in the grips of a second wave of Covid infections. It has close to 16 million confirmed infections and registered a record number of cases on Thursday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to hold meetings with the chief ministers of affected states and oxygen manufacturers on Friday. In a tweet labelled "SOS" sent out on Friday morning, Max Healthcare said it had been waiting for expected fresh supplies for more than seven hours at two hospitals. It has 700 patients admitted at the two facilities.
Weekly Covid infections drop by a fifth despite easing of lockdown
Coronavirus infections fell by a fifth last week, even though the UK took one of its biggest steps out of lockdown yet. Hospitality venues and non-essential shops were allowed to open on April 12. Since then, Brits have flocked to restaurants and bars and enjoyed their new freedoms to meet friends in groups of six or between two households. Despite this, coronavirus cases have dropped to below 100,000 for the first time since the week ending on September 10. Some 90,000 people in England had the virus in the week to April 16 – down a fifth from the 112,600 cases the week before, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Brazil’s ‘rapid and violent’ Covid variant devastates Latin America
As a coronavirus variant traced to the Brazilian Amazon marauded through Peru’s coastal capital last month, Rommel Heredia raced to his local hospital to seek help for his brother, mother and father. “I said goodbye and promised I’d come back to take them home,” said the 47-year-old PE teacher, his voice muffled by two black masks pulled tightly over his face. Heredia was unable to fulfil his pledge. Three days later, his 52-year-old brother, Juan Carlos, died as he waited for a bed in intensive care at the Rebagliati public hospital in Lima. The next day he lost his 80-year-old mother, Vilma, who suffered a fatal brain inflammation doctors blamed on Covid-19. Four days later his father, Jorge, passed away.
AstraZeneca vaccines sent to Mexico from Baltimore plant safe - deputy health minister
Millions of doses of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine manufactured at a U.S. plant that had a contamination issue and then shipped to Mexico are safe and have been approved by two regulators, Mexico's deputy health minister said on Friday. The doses were sent to Mexico as part of an agreement with the administration of President Joe Biden for 2.7 million shots of AstraZeneca's vaccine to help supplement Mexico's vaccination campaign amid global delays and shortages. "They were produced in the Baltimore plant," Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez Gatell wrote on Twitter. "The product is safe and of quality, it was evaluated by the FDA and (health regulator) COFEPRIS."
French oxygen giant diverts supply to India’s slammed hospitals
French gas giant Air Liquide SA is diverting oxygen supplies for industrial clients in India to hospitals as the country is overwhelmed by a surge in Covid-19 patients. Air Liquide is sending most of its liquid oxygen output to the health-care sector and is looking to import additional supplies from the Middle East, Executive Vice-President Francois Jackow said Friday. Demand for medical oxygen in India has soared roughly 10-fold, or by more than 50% of the country’s total production capacity, he said.
The next big COVID-19 bottleneck? A shortage of trained vaccine workers, experts say
COVID-19 has put global manufacturing supply chains through the wringer: First, there were fears of a glass vial shortage; then, concerns cropped up about hold ups on plastic bags used to grow vaccine cells. Now, executives at a suite of COVID-19 heavyweights are raising flags about another pandemic resource in scarcity: people. When Moderna last week revealed that its COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to countries like the U.K. and Canada would come in light, the mRNA player blamed the squeeze on limited “human and material resources." During a Friday summit on the pandemic vaccine scale-up, the biotech's CEO Stéphane Bancel offered some additional context: “The bottleneck right now is people.” While Moderna handles the bulk of its manufacturing work in the U.S., the company's European supply chain depends upon Swiss CDMO Lonza, which has struggled to hire on enough specialized personnel for its vaccine production push, the chief executive said.
EU states begin using single-dose J&J Covid vaccine
EU member states are starting to administer Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine after Europe’s drug regulator this week backed the single-dose shot, with several expected to impose age restrictions, as with the AstraZeneca jab. Spain’s regional health authorities began using the shot on Thursday for people aged 70 to 79, two days after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced a possible link to a rare clotting disorder but stressed the shot’s benefits outweighed the risks. Nearly 150,000 doses arrived in Spain last week but were stored in a warehouse as the vaccine’s barely-begun European rollout was paused while agencies reviewed eight cases of the rare brain blood clots, with a low blood platelet count, in the US.
Healthcare Innovations
With OK from experts, some states resume use of J&J vaccine
With a green light from federal health officials, many states resumed use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on Saturday. Among the venues where it was being deployed: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Among the other states ordering or recommending a resumption, along with Indiana, were Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Those moves came swiftly after U.S. health officials said Friday evening that they were lifting an 11-day pause on vaccinations using the J&J vaccine. During the pause, scientific advisers decided the vaccine’s benefits outweigh a rare risk of blood clot. “The state of New York will resume administration of this vaccine at all of our state-run sites effective immediately,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Saturday morning.
‘AstraZeneca jab gives significant benefit against hospital admission’
The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine provides a “significant benefit” in avoiding hospital admission across all age groups, the European Medicines Regulator (EMA) has said. Overall, the benefits of the jab continue to outweigh the risks of rare blood clots, and benefits increase in older age groups and in areas with higher levels of coronavirus infection, the regulator said. The EMA said its human medicines committee (CHMP) had analysed available data on the vaccine to put the risk of rare blood clots into context of benefits for different age groups and different rates of infection.
Studies: COVID linked to poor maternal, neonatal outcomes
COVID-19 during pregnancy is tied to dramatically higher rates of maternal death, preeclampsia, preterm birth, and infection and severe outcomes in newborns, according to two new studies. In the first study, published yesterday in JAMA Pediatrics, a team led by University of Oxford researchers studied 2,130 pregnant women age 18 and older and their newborns at 43 institutions in 18 countries from March to October 2020, as part of the observational INTERCOVID Multinational Cohort Study. For each woman who tested positive for COVID-19 before delivery, two unmatched, uninfected women were enrolled at any stage of pregnancy or delivery.
Vaccines Are Effective Against the New York Variant, Studies Find
For weeks, New Yorkers have witnessed the alarming rise of a homegrown variant of the coronavirus that has kept the number of cases in the city stubbornly high. City officials have repeatedly warned that the variant may be more contagious and may dodge the immune response. On that second point, at least, they can now breathe easier: Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will effectively prevent serious illness and death from the variant, two independent studies suggest. Antibodies stimulated by those vaccines are only slightly less potent at controlling the variant than the original form of the virus, both studies found.