"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 6th May 2021

Isolation Tips
Could you have ‘Covid-19 anxiety syndrome’? 7 tips for coping
After more than a year of restrictions and paranoia about the killer virus in our midst, it’s only natural that people are still feeling a little anxious about Covid-19. But some people aren’t just a little anxious – new research suggests one in five may have ‘Covid-19 anxiety syndrome’, where they’re locked into a state of continuous anxiety and fear of contracting the virus. The research, by London South Bank University ( LSBU ) found one in five of 286 UK-based survey participants scored highly on the Covid-19 anxiety syndrome scale in February and used forms of coping such as a constant attention to threat, worry, avoidance and excessive checkin
Health bosses’ advice to tackle lockdown loneliness and anxiety
In England, health bosses have said it’s “ok to take small steps” if you’re anxious about heading out after lockdown restrictions are lifted. The Campaign to End Loneliness has also warned that those particularly affected by lockdown and left feeling lonely could be left behind. A recent ONS study between October 2020 to February 2021 put North and North East Lincolnshire among the places with the highest rates of reported loneliness.
Hygiene Helpers
UK pledges £29m more to fast-track vaccines against Covid variants
The UK government is pledging extra money to fast-track vaccines in an effort to stay “one step ahead” of coronavirus variants. The multimillion-pound investment in testing facilities at Porton Down in Wiltshire would help to “future-proof” the country, said the health secretary, Matt Hancock. The government is pledging an additional £29.3m, on top of £19.7m already promised. Scientists at the Porton Down research laboratory test blood samples to monitor the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines. Current testing capacity is 700 tests a week, but it is increasing to 1,500 by January 2022.
Third coronavirus vaccine could be offered to people over 50 before winter
A third jab could be offered to those over 50 before winter in bid to stop the threat of coronavirus in the UK by Christmas, it is understood. People could receive a vaccine specifically modified to tackle new variants of the Covid, or a third shot of the three vaccines already in use. That’s according to the Times, which said trials of these two options are under way and being supervised by England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
White House to shift COVID-19 vaccine to states with more need
COVID-19 vaccine doses allocated to a U.S. state but left unordered will become available to other states under a policy shift aimed at delivering vaccines to where they are most in demand, the White House said on Tuesday. Vaccines have been allocated state by state based on population - a formula the Biden administration held to even as some states such as Michigan saw increases in coronavirus infections.
Community Activities
How an NHS Covid-19 vaccine scam showed me just how credible today’s fraudsters have become
Earlier this year, I got a text message. It made me leap out of my chair. “Wow!”, I told my family, “I’ve just been invited to get my Covid jab!” Then I felt a twinge of suspicion: I wasn’t in the elderly or clinically vulnerable bracket. Following the link to ‘book my jab’ took me to a website with spot-on NHS branding, but also clumsy language and spelling errors. The fraudsters had goofed – never annoy a grammar pedant. By the time I reached the stage of being asked for my bank details, the penny had dropped. But I only figured it out as I went along. This was a uniquely Covid-flavoured con, one I had never come across before. Initially it hooked me, dangling the bait of a vaccine I look forward to receiving.
‘She needs me’: The COVID positive carers on India’s front line
April 21, 2021 was an ordinary night at Sushila’s* house in Nagpur in western India’s Maharashtra state. In the bathroom, a bucket filled up with hot water in preparation for the 93-year-old’s sponge bath; in the kitchen, her night-time beverage – a pot of milk – boiled on the stove, nearly spilling over; and in the bedroom, her blood-pressure medicines were laid out neatly on the bedside table. Bindu*, the professional caregiver who sees to Sushila through the night, navigated the two-bedroomed house with familiarity, as she tended to the elderly woman she fondly calls Ajji Bai (meaning Grandmother-Madam in Marathi).
Ghaziabad society launches free meal service for Covid-19 patients in home isolation
As high-rises in the national capital region become Covid-19 containment zones, apartment dwellers at a society in Ghaziabad have come up with an initiative to provide free home-cooked meals to patients in home isolation. A group of residents of Ghaziabad's Crossings Republik have undertaken the initiative with a view to keeping the Covid-19 positive persons indoors so that the chain of transmission could be broken. Shobhit Chitransh, Ujjwal Mishra, Sunjeet Malik, and Sharad Bhardwaj are among the good Samaritans who have taken care of meals for around 250 families in home isolation in their society.
Global economy rests on cutting vaccine inequity: US trade chief
United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai says that making vaccines more widely available throughout the world is needed to end the coronavirus pandemic and foster economic recovery. In remarks to a Council of the Americas conference on Tuesday, Tai said the world had made real strides towards ending the pandemic but that a lot of work lies ahead. “That includes making the vaccine widely available and addressing the global inequity in vaccine access,” she said. “This is not just a public health requirement. Our economic recovery depends on it.” Tai is due to discuss demands from developing countries for a World Trade Organization (WTO) waiver of intellectual property rights on coronavirus vaccines during a WTO General Council meeting later this week.
Time for the ethical management of COVID-19 vaccines
The ethical distribution of life-saving medical and public health interventions to vulnerable groups has often been overlooked. Valuation of life linked to an individual's country of origin, the pharmaceutical industry's prioritisation of profit, the exploitation of vulnerable groups in clinical trials, and the resulting hesitancy towards drugs and vaccines have, among other factors, made the human right to health unattainable for many people. The COVID-19 pandemic presents itself as an opportunity to reverse this long-standing trajectory of unethical practices in global health. By ensuring the ethical inclusion of vulnerable groups in the vaccine development process and making a safe, effective vaccine accessible to all, pharmaceutical companies, governments, and international organisations can usher in a new era of global health that relies solely on ethical decision making.
Working Remotely
Boston Prepares for a Glimpse of Remote Work as the New Normal
Boston companies won’t go “back to normal” after the lifting of pandemic lock-downs, the city’s acting mayor said. The comments come on the eve of a report, due this week, about the lasting effects of the shift to remote work in Boston. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has also been seeking a sense of how the rapid rise of remote work will affect local life, calling for study of potential effects on everything from transportation to taxes. Janey said some remote work will be permanent, challenging the city to attract people for other reasons.
How To Get Noticed Working Remotely When Almost Everyone Returned To The Office
A recent study showing the results of working from home during the time period between 2011 and 2020 offers some insights, including the unpleasant fact that remote workers faced a number of challenges that their in-office co-workers didn’t have to contend with. People who mainly worked from home were less than half as likely to be promoted. Around 38% remote workers didn’t receive a bonus. Telecommuters put in six hours of unpaid overtime on average per week in 2020 and homeworkers worked well into the evening. With these statistics in mind, you need to be thoughtful and strategic with your approach to working.
'I'm putting my entire life on hold': How workers are grappling with Covid burnout
Burnout has officially been defined as a workplace hazard for several years now, and the pandemic has only made it worse. People are more stressed out about their job security, taking on more responsibilities, working longer hours and having trouble finding meaning in anything in the 14th month of the pandemic. Somewhat ironically, Kristin Moss thinks more shared screen time with her colleagues would stave off her own burnout. The 29-year-old has been working her PR job from home in Toronto for over a year. She feels disconnected from her colleagues due to endless email threads and would like to have more face-to-face interaction.
Virtual Classrooms
‘I Used to Like School’: An 11-Year-Old’s Struggle With Pandemic Learning
By one estimate, three million students across the US, roughly the school-age population of Florida, stopped going to classes, virtual or in person, after the pandemic began. A disproportionate number of those disengaged students are lower-income Black, Latino and Native American children who have struggled to keep up in classrooms that are partly or fully remote, for reasons ranging from poor internet service to needing to support their families by working or caring for siblings. Many are homeless or English language learners. Others whose parents work outside the home have struggled in the absence of adult supervision.
'Extremely troubling': Ontario teachers' unions slam province for considering permanent online learning option
Ontario teachers’ unions are sounding the alarm after the provincial government announced its holding consultations on whether or not to make online learning options a permanent choice for families once the pandemic ends. Union leaders and parents voiced their concerns during a news conference on Wednesday, saying the plans will undermine Ontario's publically funded education system and will harm students. “Their plan to make online classes permanent means a student could go from Kindergarten to Grade 12 without ever setting foot inside a school,” Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), told reporters.
'There's only so much we can do': Virtual learning is taking a toll on kids
More than a year after COVID-19 pushed education online, teachers and students have worked to find their rhythm, though it hasn't come without difficulties. Many people have encountered issues with productivity and an array of mental and physical side effects that have hampered their daily lives. Online exhaustion has caused migraines, heightened anxiety and self-consciousness for many online learners, as Stanford University’s Jeremy Bailenson and Jeff Hancock have learned over the last year. The two psychologists-turned-communications professors published the first comprehensive study exploring the causes of "Zoom fatigue" last month after observing strange behaviors from their ten-year-old daughters.
Public Policies
Egypt to close stores, restaurants early for 2 weeks to curb COVID-19
The closing hours of Egyptian stores, malls and restaurants will be brought forward to 9pm (1900 GMT) to help contain the coronavirus for two weeks from Thursday, straddling the last days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Eid celebrations, the prime minister said on Wednesday. Large gatherings and concerts will be banned over the same period and beaches and parks will be shut between May 12-16, Mostafa Madbouly said.
Philippines approves emergency use of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine
The Philippines' food and drug agency approved on Wednesday the emergency use of U.S. drugmaker Moderna Inc's (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine in the Southeast Asian nation. The known and potential benefits of Moderna outweighed the known and potential risks, Food and Drug Administration chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said during an online forum, adding it would be administered to individuals aged 18 and above.
Malaysia imposes restrictions in capital as virus cases rise
Malaysia on Wednesday imposed movement restrictions in the capital Kuala Lumpur due to a rising number of COVID-19 infections, adding to lockdowns that have been implemented across the country. The capital will be subjected to some lockdown measures from Friday for two weeks, including a ban on social activities, dining indoors, and inter-district travel, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement. Several parts of the surrounding Selangor state, Malaysia's richest region, will also go into lockdown later this week.
Canada authorizes Pfizer vaccine for age 12 and older
Canadian health officials said Wednesday they have become the first to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for ages as young as 12. Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser at Health Canada, confirmed the decision for ages 12 to 15 and said it will help children return to a normal life. Canada is the first country to authorize Pfizer for that age group. The U.S. and the European Union are also reviewing it. The vaccine was previously authorized for anyone 16 or older. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine for young people by next week, setting up shots for many before the beginning of the next school year. The announcement comes barely a month after the company found that its shot, which is already authorized for those age 16 and older, also provided protection for the younger group.
Biden administration commits to waiving vaccine patent protections
The Biden administration supports temporarily lifting intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines and will move forward with international discussions to waive them, its top trade negotiator said on Wednesday. “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.
Biden move on vaccine IP 'monumental moment' in COVID-19 fight -WHO chief
The head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday that U.S. President Joe Biden's plan to back a proposed waiver on intellectual property rights to boost global vaccine production was a "monumental moment in the fight against #COVID-19." Biden earlier on Wednesday threw his support behind a proposed World Trade Organization waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, bowing to mounting pressure from U.S. Democratic lawmakers and more than 100 other countries.
Maintaining Services
HSE staff who refuse Covid-19 vaccines may be redeployed under new proposals
Healthcare staff who refuse to be vaccinated face redeployment under proposals being examined by the Health Service Executive. Staff who fail to confirm they are vaccinated could be moved out of patient contact depending on the outcome of a risk assessment, under proposals being finalised. Healthcare workers who are not vaccinated could escape being redeployed if they cannot be replaced due to staff shortages or specialised qualifications, but there are no plans to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for healthcare staff. Last month, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) proposed a phased approach to healthcare workers who opt not to take the Covid-19 vaccine, starting with the provision of information, one-to-one conversations, testing and additional PPE.
Egypt to close stores, restaurants early for 2 weeks to curb COVID-19
The closing hours of Egyptian stores, malls and restaurants will be brought forward to 9pm (1900 GMT) to help contain the coronavirus for two weeks from Thursday, straddling the last days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Eid celebrations, the prime minister said on Wednesday. Large gatherings and concerts will be banned over the same period and beaches and parks will be shut between May 12-16, Mostafa Madbouly said.
Australia's most populous state reports first COVID-19 case in more than a month
Australia's most populous state reported its first locally acquired coronavirus infection in more than a month on Wednesday, with health authorities working to track down the source and the variant involved. The first local infection in southeastern New South Wales since March 31 strengthens prospects for a resumption of social distancing curbs, many of which had been eased as cases dwindled. Although Australia has largely eradicated COVID-19, a man in his 50s with no known links to hotels used to quarantine people who have arrived from overseas tested positive on Tuesday, the state's health ministry said in a statement.
COVID’s US toll projected to drop sharply by the end of July
Teams of experts are projecting COVID-19′s toll on the U.S. will fall sharply by the end of July, according to research released by the government Wednesday. But they also warn that a “substantial increase” in hospitalizations and deaths is possible if unvaccinated people do not follow basic precautions such as wearing a mask and keeping their distance from others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paper included projections from six research groups. Their assignment was to predict the course of the U.S. epidemic between now and September under different scenarios, depending on how the vaccination drive proceeds and how people behave. Mainly, it’s good news. Even under scenarios involving disappointing vaccination rates, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are expected to drop dramatically by the end of July and continue to fall afterward.
Eli Lilly faces employee complaints, FDA troubles at factory making COVID-19 drug: report
Quality control problems have already plagued one COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer in Baltimore, Maryland. Now, it appears they’re threatening to trip up a major pandemic therapeutic supplier as well. Eli Lilly employees have accused an executive at the drugmaker’s Branchburg, New Jersey, manufacturing site of altering FDA-required documents in an effort to downplay serious quality control problems, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing internal complaint documents and a source familiar with the matter. The complaint, dated April 8, said the executive tasked with quality controls rewrote findings from Lilly’s technical experts at the facility, which produces doses of the company’s COVID-19 antibody treatment bamlanivimab, in order to make them look more favorable, according to the report.
Red Cross sounds alarm over Nepal's COVID-19 crisis
As neighboring India's massive surge continues, health groups warn of a similar situation evolving in Nepal, where the military is adding hospital beds and COVID-19 outbreaks have reached some Mount Everest base camps. The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly snapshot of the pandemic that Nepal's cases last week rose by a staggering 137%. Meanwhile, officials warned that parts of the Americas are still in the thick of the pandemic, with severe cases trending younger.
Iraq pushes vaccine rollout amid widespread apathy, distrust
Iraq’s vaccine roll-out had been faltering for weeks. Apathy, fear and rumors kept many from getting vaccinated despite a serious surge in coronavirus infections and calls by the government for people to register for shots. It took a populist Shiite cleric’s public endorsement of vaccinations — and images of him getting the shot last week — to turn things around. Hundreds of followers of Muqtada al-Sadr are now heading to clinics to follow his example, underscoring the power of sectarian loyalties in Iraq and deep mistrust of the state. “I was against the idea of being vaccinated. I was afraid, I didn’t believe in it,” said Manhil Alshabli, a 30-year-old Iraqi from the holy city of Najaf. “But all this has changed now.” “Seeing him getting the vaccine has motivated me,” said Alshabli, speaking by phone from Najaf where he and many other al-Sadr loyalists got their shots, Alshabli compared it to soldiers being energized when they see their leader on the front line.
Healthcare Innovations
WHO experts voice "very low confidence" in some Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine data
WHO experts have voiced "very low confidence" in data provided by Chinese state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm on its COVID-19 vaccine regarding the risk of serious side-effects in some patients, but overall confidence in its ability to prevent the disease, a document seen by Reuters shows. A World Health Organization spokesman said that the document on Sinopharm vaccine BBIBP-CorV was "one of many resources" on which recommendations are made, tentatively scheduled to be issued later this week. In Beijing, Sinopharm was not immediately reachable for comment outside working hours
India approves Roche/Regeneron antibody cocktail to treat COVID-19
India has given emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 antibody drug cocktail developed by Roche (ROG.S) and Regeneron (REGN.O), expanding its arsenal of drugs to battle a massive second wave of infections. The decision was taken based on data filed with the U.S. regulators and the scientific opinion of a European regulatory panel, Roche's India distribution partner for the drug, Cipla (CIPL.NS), said on Wednesday. The therapy is a cocktail of two antibodies Casirivimab and Imdevimab, which are synthetically manufactured copies of antibodies that the body produces after an infection.
S.Korea says AstraZeneca, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines 87% effective after first shot
Data by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) showed the Pfizer vaccine, jointly developed by BioNTech , was 89.7% effective in preventing infection at least two weeks after a first dose was given, while the AstraZeneca shot was 86.0% effective. Its analysis is based on more than 3.5 million people in South Korea aged 60 and older for two months from Feb. 26 and included 521,133 people who received a first dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca shot.
Tweaked Moderna vaccine ‘neutralises Covid variants in trials’
The first “tweaked” vaccine against the worrying coronavirus variants that emerged in South Africa and Brazil has successfully neutralised them in laboratory trials, the US company Moderna has said. The results of the small trial suggest that boosters against the variants will be feasible and could be rolled out this year to counter the threat from variants that have appeared around the world and are feared in some cases to be more transmissible or partially vaccine-resistant. Leading companies have been racing to produce adapted versions of their Covid vaccines. Pfizer/BioNTech, which has a similar mRNA vaccine to Moderna’s, and Oxford/AstraZeneca are also in the process of developing tweaked vaccines against the South African variant, B1351, and the Brazilian variant, P1, which appear to be the major threat to current immunisation programmes.
Booster shots rev up immune response to coronavirus variants, Moderna says
A booster shot of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine revs up the immune response against two worrying coronavirus variants, the company reported Wednesday. And a booster dose formulated specifically to match the B.1.351 variant first seen in South Africa was even more effective, Moderna said in a statement. Vaccine makers are trying to get out ahead of the new variants and the design of the new mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer make this easier than it would have been in the past. The genetic material used as the basis of the vaccines is made in a lab and the sequence is easily tweaked.
Novavax vaccine shows 51% efficacy against South African variant, study finds
Novavax Inc's COVID-19 vaccine had efficacy of 51% against infections caused by the South African variant among people who were HIV negative, and 43% in a group that included people who were HIV positive, according to a new analysis published on Wednesday. The variant, known as B.1.351, carries mutations that threaten the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, several studies have shown. Most vaccine makers, including Novavax, are testing versions of their vaccines to protect against emerging variants.