"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 5th May 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid-19: Care home residents can go on outdoor trips without isolating
Care home residents in England can now go on low-risk trips - such as to relatives' gardens or a local park - without having to self-isolate for 14 days when they return. It comes after some families say they have felt "powerless" because of "restrictive" visits. One woman said her mother had not been outdoors for more than 12 months and it would be "amazing" to take her outside. Campaigners now want the rule change to become law, rather than just guidance.
Fire-juggling at home? Lockdown easing a relief for Hungarian circus artists
After months of practising aerial acrobatics suspended from the ceiling in her tiny apartment in Budapest with only her cats for an audience, Hungarian circus artist Eszter Kovacs is relishing the prospect of performing in front of people again. With COVID-19 restrictions beginning to ease in Hungary, where 40% of the population are now vaccinated, outdoor shows in parks and at cafe terraces are now possible and hopes are rising for a vibrant summer of festivals and concerts. Kovacs, whose skills also include fire-juggling, maintained her fitness during lockdown through a daily regime of yoga, long walks and acrobatic exercises using two flexible hoops hanging from the ceiling of her 24-square-metre living space.
I am suffering from depression. How should I deal with Covid isolation?
When one tests positive for Covid-19, the first thing they are asked to do is isolate themselves. However, it is not easy to do so if the person is diagnosed with depression. IndiaToday.in got in touch with doctors to ask them what a person suffering from depression should do to deal with Covid isolation.
Hygiene Helpers
Weird and wonderful incentives encouraging people to get vaccinated
Scientists typically estimate that an inoculation rate of at least 70% is needed for herd immunity - where entire populations are protected against a disease. Some bodies and community groups have turned to a weird and wonderful range of incentives in order to get people jabbed. For instance, New Jersey has launched "Shot and a Beer", a scheme offering a free beer to those who get their first dose in May. To claim a drink, all they have to do is turn up to a participating brewery with their vaccination card.
Canada backing vaccine passports, health minister says
Canada looks set to back coronavirus ‘vaccine passports’ to allow residents to travel internationally, according to the country’s health minister. Patty Hajdu told CBC radio show “The House” the country would “absolutely” be taking part in such a programme and is in conversation with G7 nations about the rollout of a vaccine passport scheme. “Canadians need to be able to have the right kind of certification for international travel because, as we know, Canadians will want to travel internationally, and they will want to make sure they have the right credentials to do that from a vaccination perspective,” she said.
Unexpected places now offering COVID-19 vaccines
Seventy one fans got vaccinated during the Milwaukee Bucks vs. Brooklyn Nets basketball game Sunday, marking the latest effort by health departments to make COVID-19 vaccines convenient and even fun. The Bucks game vaccination pop-up, a partnership with the Milwaukee Public Health Department, was open to fans at least 16 years of age and is part of a series of mobile vaccination pop-ups the health department has hosted at community centers, churches, businesses and neighborhood events, according to Emily Tau, a health department spokesperson.
$100 as an Incentive to Get a Shot? Experiment Suggests It Can Pay Off.
What’s the best way to persuade the millions of Americans who are still unvaccinated against Covid-19 to get their shots? Reassuring public service announcements about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness have proliferated. But increasingly, people are realizing that it will take more than just information to sway the hesitant. In recent randomized survey experiments by the U.C.L.A. Covid-19 Health and Politics Project, two seemingly strong incentives have emerged. Roughly a third of the unvaccinated population said a cash payment would make them more likely to get a shot. Similarly large increases in willingness to take vaccines emerged for those who were asked about getting a vaccine if doing so meant they wouldn’t need to wear a mask or social-distance in public, compared with a group that was told it would still have to do those things.
Community Activities
Denmark to reopen further, but no rocking for Roskilde
Denmark announced plans to reopen schools and allow a range of indoor activities this week, but a cap on gatherings led to the cancellation of several summer music festivals, including the renowned Roskilde Festival. The Nordic country has avoided a third wave of COVID-19 with broad lockdown measures introduced in late December, which drove down daily infections from several thousand to between 500 and 800 in recent months. “Denmark needs to get back to normal as fast as possible, and it has to happen responsibly,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Tuesday.
"Like old times again" as Greece re-opens bars and restaurants
Greece allowed restaurants and bars to open from Monday as it took a further step towards easing coronavirus restrictions ahead of the planned start of the tourist season on May 15. Six months after the government reimposed lockdown measures in the face of a second wave of the pandemic, the chance to return to bars and tavernas was like a small step towards normality for many enjoying warm Easter weather. "When they brought me the glass of water, I thought, 'its like old times again'. It's great," said Grigoris Kirlidis as he sat at a cafe in Athens.
India halts cricket league as coronavirus cases cross 20 million
India halted its hugely popular cricket league on Tuesday as COVID-19 infections surged past 20 million in the world’s second-most populous country and the opposition leader said a nationwide lockdown was now the only way out. Cricket officials suspended the money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) as the pandemic spirals out of control, with the country adding 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the first 10 million.
Sheffield charity’s hunt for dual language students to boost its anti-loneliness work
A Sheffield charity hopes multi-lingual students will sign-up as volunteers to help cut loneliness amongst older people in the city. George Joseph is one of a handful of students from Sheffield Volunteering – University of Sheffield, Students’ Union – to have already signed up to Sheffield Church’s Council for Community Care’s ‘Good Neighbour Scheme’, which matches volunteers with isolated, older residents. The 23-year-old’s ability to speak Malayalam as well as English means he could in the future be matched to an older person whose alternative first language means they are even more isolated within their community.
Virus cases plunge and LA, San Francisco come back to life
When Angeleno Wine Co. reopened its tasting room, co-owner Amy Luftig Viste teared up seeing old friends reunited for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic had shuttered so many businesses that it left major cities looking like ghost towns. Even with limited capacity, animated conversations flowed from the tables set among barrels of aging wine and echoed off the brick walls of the winery hidden in an industrial section on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles. “It felt like the winery had come alive again,” Luftig Viste said Sunday, the day after it reopened after being closed all but two weeks over the past 13 months. The din in the small space is destined to get louder when capacity is allowed to double to 50% as Los Angeles and San Francisco lead the way toward a broader reopening of California businesses.
In Europe, Gibraltar offers glimpse of post-pandemic life
“It’s really liberating,” said Samuel Calvente, a Gibraltar hotel worker, when asked how it feels to be mask-free outdoors. “Having that mask on all the time was claustrophobic and stressful, particularly because this is a hot, humid place in summer. Wearing a face mask in 40-degree heat when you’re sweating away is extremely unpleasant.” Weeks ago, Fabian Picardo, the chief minister of the tiny British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, announced that with a hugely advanced vaccination programme, for the first time in nine months, there were zero active COVID-19 cases among Gibraltar’s resident population – as continues to be the case – and that some of the most stringent public health measures, such as wearing face masks outside, could finally be lifted. A world-leading total of 85 percent of Gibraltar’s population is now vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as all of its 15,000 foreign workers.
Income inequality tied to more COVID-19 cases, deaths
A study yesterday in JAMA Network Open identifies an association between US county-level income inequality and higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death in summer 2020. The ecological cohort study, by Stanford University researchers, analyzed coronavirus case and death data from Johns Hopkins University on 3,220 counties in 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC, from Mar 1, 2020, to Feb 28, 2021. County income data, obtained mostly from the 2014 through 2018 American Community Survey, were used to estimate the Gini coefficient, which measures unequal income. Coefficient scores range from 0 to 1, with 0 representing perfect income equality and 1 representing perfect income inequality, in which one person earns all the income.
Rickshaw ‘ambulance’ offers free oxygen to India’s COVID patients
When Indian auto-rickshaw driver Mohammad Javed Khan saw people carrying their coronavirus-stricken parents to hospitals on their backs as they were too poor to afford an ambulance, he knew he had to help. Khan, a 34-year-old driver in the central Indian city of Bhopal, sold his wife’s jewellery and converted his three-wheeled vehicle into a small ambulance, fitting it out with an oxygen cylinder, an oximeter to measure oxygen levels in the blood, and other medical supplies.
Working Remotely
Zoom CEO: My advice for remote workers who are on video meetings all day
Eric S. Yuan is the founder and CEO of Zoom. He writes: "As with everything in life, moderation is critical, and when Zoom was founded 10 years ago, the intent was never to replace in-person interactions altogether. After all, the pandemic has shown how fatigue, especially video meeting fatigue, can impact productivity, job satisfaction and work-life balance. That's why leaders must find ways to make meetings more manageable as employees continue to work remotely. Here are some of my own practices to limit strain from a high volume of video conference meetings"
Sticking with remote work? Businesses are betting on it
U.S. businesses have been spending more on technology than on bricks and mortar for more than a decade now, but the trend has accelerated during the pandemic, one more sign that working from home is here to stay. Accelerated by the pandemic, the divergence between the two types of business spending is here to stay, says Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom. "This is the surge in (work-from-home) which is leading firms to spend heavily on connectivity," Bloom said. He and colleagues have been surveying 5,000 U.S. residents monthly, and found that from May to December about half of paid work hours were done from home.
Virtual Classrooms
Some Black parents say remote learning gives racism reprieve
As schools reopen across the US, Black students have been less likely than white students to enroll in in-person learning — a trend attributed to factors including concerns about the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color, a lack of trust that their schools are equipped to keep children safe, and the large numbers of students of color in urban districts that have been slower to reopen classrooms. But many Black parents are finding another benefit to remote learning: being better able to shield their children from racism in classrooms
Harris Poll finds 82% of parents have a greater appreciation for teachers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically disrupted the education system for all involved: teachers, students and their parents. Learning modalities have mostly shifted online and remote learning has become commonplace. As part of recognizing Teacher Appreciation Week, May 3-7, University of Phoenix commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct a survey of more than 2,000 Americans to better understand their perceptions of the education systems’ shift to online learning for K-12 students, and the job teachers and administrators have done, since the pandemic began. The online survey found that 82% of parents of K-12 virtual learners polled said they have a greater appreciation of the work teachers do to teach K-12 now than they did before the pandemic. Americans polled also agree (81%) that teachers have done the best they can to teach children under the unprecedented circumstances.
Ontario will continue to offer option for virtual learning next year
Parents and students in Ontario will continue to be offered the option of virtual learning next year, officials confirmed as they outlined their education funding allotments for the 2021-22 year. Speaking on background at a technical briefing Tuesday, officials said that school boards will be required to continue offering virtual learning next year and promised to release more details at a later date. It is unclear when parents will have to make decisions on whether their children will begin school in September in-person or remotely.
Forget everything you think you know about online engagement
During the seismic shift to online and blended formats that we’ve all attended to, much of the focus has been on technological capabilities and solutions. Within this, even finer focus has been placed on online behaviours as a way of understanding student engagement. However, lessons from cyberpsychology may be central here. To explain a little, cyberpsychology focuses on the psychological experiences of our interactions with new technology and the internet and seems to be entirely relevant to many discussions about online learning.
Public Policies
EU delivers vaccine jabs to Balkans after China and Russia
The European Union started delivering EU-funded coronavirus vaccines Tuesday to the Balkans, a region that wants to join the 27-nation bloc but where China and Russia have already been making political gains by supplying the much-needed shots. The European Commission last month announced that 651,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses will be delivered to Serbia, Bosnia, North Macedonia, Montenegro Albania and Kosovo in weekly instalments from May to August. The vaccines are funded from a 70 million euro package ($85 million) adopted by the Commission in December.
Should pharmaceutical companies be compelled to waive their coronavirus vaccine patents?
The campaign to compel pharmaceutical companies to temporarily lift their coronavirus vaccine patents is gathering pace – and apparently making some progress. The momentum behind the campaign to remove intellectual property restrictions on Covid vaccines is growing. But would such a move really help defeat the pandemic more quickly?
EXCLUSIVE Novavax plans to ship COVID-19 vaccines to Europe from late 2021 - EU source
Novavax (NVAX.O) has told the European Union it plans to begin delivering its COVID-19 vaccine to the bloc towards the end of this year, new guidance that could lead to a formal contract being signed as early as this week, an EU official told Reuters. A deal would see Novavax supply a total of up to 200 million doses of the vaccine, providing the EU with booster shots to help contain the coronavirus and potentially guard against new variants, according to the official, who has direct knowledge of the discussions.
Spain to let regions decide COVID-19 restrictions from May 9
Spain's regions must seek judicial authorisation for the most restrictive COVID-19 measures once a national state of emergency ends next week, the government said on Tuesday, setting the stage for a potentially chaotic transition. The six-month emergency decree, which provides a legal framework for a nationwide 11 p.m. curfew and other measures that limit fundamental civil liberties, expires on Sunday. Regional authorities, which already have a high degree of autonomy in setting their pandemic response, will still be able to dictate business opening hours and occupancy rates. But they will only be able to impose curfews, lockdowns and caps on gatherings in the home with approval from local courts, Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said.
Poland tightens quarantine rules after cases of Indian COVID-19 variant
People travelling to Poland from Brazil, India and South Africa will have to quarantine, the Polish health minister said on Tuesday, as he announced cases of a COVID-19 variant first detected in India in the Warsaw and Katowice areas. The outbreaks poses a fresh risk to Poland just as it starts to emerge from a highly damaging third wave of the pandemic. "In the case of Brazil, India and South Africa, people travelling from these locations will automatically have to quarantine without the possibility of getting an exception due to a test," Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told a news conference.
Eli Lilly to supply 400000 tablets of its COVID-19 treatment to India
Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N) said on Tuesday it would supply 400,000 tablets of its COVID-19 treatment, to be used with Gilead's remdesivir, to the Indian government as the country fights a raging pandemic that has morgues and hospitals overflowing. With 3.45 million active cases, India recorded 357,229 new infections over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose 3,449 for a toll of 222,408, health ministry data showed. Experts say actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher, however. The drugmaker said it will work urgently to increase the supply multifold over the coming weeks.
German cabinet passes decree to ease COVID-19 curbs for vaccinated
Germany's cabinet agreed on Tuesday to ease restrictions on people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said, in the first step towards restoring the rights of citizens. Lambrecht said the curbs, introduced to contain infections and prevent the health system from becoming overburdened, must be relaxed once they can no longer be justified. "If the risk of virus transmission is greatly reduced in fully vaccinated and recovered people, this must be taken into account in the measures. We have now implemented this," she said. Around 8% of Germany's population has received two doses of the vaccine and more than 28% a first.
Trinidad and Tobago tightens lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge
Trinidad and Tobago said on Monday it was tightening lockdown restrictions for three weeks starting at midnight as the number of new COVID-19 cases hits record highs and the Caribbean twin-island nation faces a potential shortage of hospital beds. Prime Minister Keith Rowley said that under the new restrictions, only businesses deemed essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies and financial services would remain open, for reduced hours, in addition to the key energy and manufacturing sectors.
White House aims to give 70% of American adults at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose by July 4
The Biden administration on Tuesday set a new goal for the ongoing U.S. Covid-19 vaccination campaign: giving at least one shot to 70% of the adult population by July 4. To reach that goal, Biden’s team said he will expand walk-up vaccinations at pharmacies and vaccination sites, open additional mobile vaccination units, and accelerate a public-relations campaign aimed at boosting vaccine confidence. The announcement comes as the pace of the U.S. vaccination effort has nosedived. As of mid-April, the country was administering just under 3.4 million vaccine doses each day. As of Tuesday, the rate had dropped to just under 2.3 million.
What are the global implications of India’s second COVID wave?
India is witnessing the worst phase of the pandemic while the WHO says a highly infectious Indian variant of the virus has already spread to 17 countries. India has reported 357,229 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours – the 13th straight day of more than 300,000 infections – taking its overall tally to more than 20 million. Deaths rose 3,449 for a toll of 222,408, health ministry data showed on Tuesday. However, medical experts say the real numbers across the country of 1.35 billion may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally.
Canada's Alberta province toughens COVID-19 restrictions
The Canadian province of Alberta will increase restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 as a third wave of the pandemic threatens to overwhelm the hospital system within weeks, Premier Jason Kenney said on Tuesday. Stricter measures include confining schools to online learning, ordering workplaces with COVID-19 outbreaks to close for 10 days, closing salons, allowing restaurants to offer takeout service only and reducing the number of people allowed at funerals and religious services.
Greece imposes coronavirus lockdown on Kalymnos island
A rise in coronavirus infections on the Greek island of Kalymnos prompted authorities to place it under lockdown on Tuesday, a day after restrictions were eased across the country. Restaurants and bars reopened in Greece after six months on Monday, as it took a further step towards easing restrictions ahead of the official opening of the tourism season on May 15.
Maintaining Services
Turkey still sees 30 mln tourists in 2021 if lockdown succeeds
Turkey will still expect to welcome 30 million arrivals this year, twice the number last year, if daily coronavirus cases fall below 5,000 after a lockdown ends on May 17, Tourism and Culture Minister Mehmet Ersoy said on Monday. "Turkey took much more drastic measures. We are already seeing that the number of cases is going down much faster in the last week. If our guess proves to be correct, the number of cases will go below 5000 by May 17," he said in a statement to Reuters. "As of June 1, we will open the tourist season and if we can reduce the number of daily cases below 5,000, we maintain our target of 30 million tourists this year," Ersoy added.
Moderna plans major expansion at Massachusetts manufacturing site to help boost COVID-19 vaccine supply
With plans to boost COVID-19 vaccine production into the billions of doses next year, Moderna is making major renovations at its Massachusetts manufacturing site that will more than double its size. The mRNA developer on Tuesday said it plans to renovate its manufacturing site in Norwood, Massachusetts, from “a production and lab space to an industrial technology center.” That means expanding the facility, from 300,000 square feet to roughly 650,000 square feet through the acquisition of another building located on the same campus. The expansion will boost Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine production capacity at the facility by 50%. That increased output is expected to come into play in late 2021 and early 2022, Moderna said. The latest renovations are part of the reasoning why Moderna recently accelerated its vaccine supply forecasts. The biotech announced late last week that it now expects to produce 800 million to 1 billion doses of its mRNA vaccine this year, with plans to grow production to 3 billion doses by 2022.
Healthcare Innovations
Antibody drug neutralizes virus variants in lab study; COVID-19 antibodies detectable 12 months after infection
An experimental monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 being developed by Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N) and AbCellera Biologics Inc (ABCL.O) can "potently" neutralize numerous coronavirus variants, including those first identified in the UK, Brazil, South Africa, California and New York, scientists have found in test tube experiments. The antibody - known as LY-CoV1404 or LY3853113 - works by attaching itself to a place on the virus that has shown few signs of mutating, which means the drug is likely to retain its effectiveness over time, the researchers said in a report posted on Friday on bioRxiv ahead of peer review.
Do people who have had COVID-19 need a second vaccine shot?
A new study suggests that there is a strong boost to the immunity of everyone who receives the first dose of an mRNA vaccine, including those who have previously had a SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, only people who have never had a SARS-CoV-2 infection appeared to benefit from the second dose. The scientists tracked not only antibody responses to vaccination but also the creation of memory B cells, which provide longer lasting immunity against infection. People who experienced particularly negative side effects from the vaccine — such as fever, headache, and muscle pain — had stronger immune responses.
People aged over 50 in Britain to be offered 3rd COVID vaccine shot in autumn -The Times
Everyone aged over 50 in Britain will be offered a third COVID-19 vaccination jab in the autumn in an attempt to eradicate the threat from the infection entirely by Christmas, The Times newspaper reported. Trials of two options are under way, supervised by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, the newspaper said. The first involves vaccines specifically modified to tackle new variants. The second is for a third shot of one of the three versions already in use: Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca or Moderna, the newspaper reported.