"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 12th May 2021

Isolation Tips
Health experts: Vaccinated people can relax about their Covid-19 risk
White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said he will not go into restaurants or movie theaters, even though he’s vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccinated people should continue masking up indoors and avoiding large gatherings. News outlets have reported on “breakthrough infections” of Covid-19 among the fully vaccinated. All of this can make it seem like getting vaccinated may not be enough to liberate people from the fear of getting sick and the precautions they’ve taken to avoid the coronavirus in the past year. So I posed a question to experts I’ve talked to throughout the pandemic about Covid-related precautions: How worried are you about your personal safety after getting vaccinated? They were nearly unanimous in their response: They’re no longer worried much, if at all, about their personal risk of getting Covid-19. Several spoke of going into restaurants and movie theaters now that they’re vaccinated, socializing with friends and family, and having older relatives visit for extended periods.
Hygiene Helpers
Clock is ticking for EU vaccine certificates as summer looms
As strict lockdowns are loosened across Europe and many EU citizens dream about holidays in the sun, the 27-nation bloc has yet to agree on how to quickly implement a virus certificate scheme to boost summer travel and tourism. European affairs ministers gathered Tuesday in Brussels to assess progress in discussions with European lawmakers. A deal between the Parliament and EU countries is required in May to ensure the system will be up and running by the end of June, but several sticking points remain.
NHS app to be used as 'coronavirus vaccine passport' for holidaymakers from Monday
Holidaymakers who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be able to “prove” their status to other countries from Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, as limited international travel resumes. The minister confirmed that people in England who travel abroad will be able to use the reworked NHS app to demonstrate they are fully vaccinated when the ban on overseas leisure travel is lifted on Monday, May 17.
Medicare requires nursing homes to report COVID vaccinations
Medicare will require nursing homes to report COVID-19 vaccination rates for residents and staff, the government said Tuesday. Officials hope to nudge facilities to keep giving shots as the worst ravages of the pandemic ease but the danger of a rebound still lurks. “We’re hoping to drive increased vaccination rates among residents and staff, as well as transparency for residents and their families,” Dr. Lee Fleisher, chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told The Associated Press. Medicare’s move to sustain the pace of vaccinations comes as an initial effort to get shots to nursing homes across the country has wound down.
Community Activities
One Good Thing: 98-year-old hosts virtual woman's group
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the Levis Jewish Community Center last year, 98-year-old Trudy Berlin sprang into action to keep her weekly women’s group active. For Berlin, who began hosting “The Ladies Room” at the JCC’s Sandler Center in 2000, the show needed to go on. So with a little help from Stephanie Owitz, the Boca Raton, Florida, center’s director of arts, culture and learning, the show went virtual. “When the pandemic hit, of course, she was very disappointed we were shutting down the JCC,” Owitz said. Then, the center decided to make some classes, including Berlin’s, available on Zoom
COVID-19: Hugs, indoor pints and friends at home as most of Scotland moved to level 2 of restrictions
Nicola Sturgeon has announced a relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions from 17 May in most of Scotland - with hugs for loved ones allowed again. The first minister moved most of the country down from Level 3 to Level 2, which means up to six people from three households can socialise indoors in a private home. And for the Scottish islands there was even better news. Ms Sturgeon said there, the situation was so under control that "we are able to ease restrictions there more quickly than we will do on the mainland".
Foreigners return to Mount Everest as Nepal battles second COVID-19 wave
Foreigners climbed Mount Everest for the first time since Nepal’s government reopened the mountain after it was shut last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite recent coronavirus cases at its base camp. Thirty-eight climbers including ten Bahraini and two British mountaineers climbed the world's highest mountain on Tuesday, according to hiking companies. It comes as a few climbers were evacuated from the Everest base camp in April after they fell sick with COVID-19 symptoms as Nepal battles a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections.
Covid-19: Global Justice Now activists protest outside AstraZeneca in Cambridge, calling for ‘People’s Vaccine’
Activists have blocked the entrance to an AstraZeneca building in Cambridge where its AGM is taking place and hung a banner demanding that its Covid-19 jab becomes a “People’s Vaccine’. Police made four arrests at the demonstration in Hills Road, held by Global Justice Now, which is demanding that the Cambridge-headquartered biopharmaceutical company openly licenses its Covid-19 vaccine and commits to sharing the technology and know-how with the World Health Organization (WHO).
Paris catwalk shows to reopen in July after long COVID closure
Parisian catwalks reopen in July as the French government unwinds coronavirus lockdown measures, allowing live fashions show to resume, in fashion industry body announced on Tuesday. The annual Haute Couture Week will take place from July 5 to July 8 and fashion houses will be allowed to organise live shows and presentations, according to a statement from the French fashion industry body “Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode” on Tuesday. Depending on how the pandemic progresses, physical shows would be allowed to welcome guests, in line with government guidance on public events, it said.
Eat out, work out, see a film: Belgium to ease lockdown
Belgium plans to ease nearly all lockdown measures from June 9 provided the country's vaccination campaign keeps up its momentum and the number of people in intensive care units remains under 500, the government said on Tuesday. The plans to reopen mark a turnaround for Belgium, home to NATO and the European Union headquarters. It has one of the world's highest per capita death rates from COVID-19, but its vaccination drive is now among the most efficient in the bloc. "The more people are vaccinated, the faster we will get our freedom back," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference.
Hong Kong drops ‘discriminatory’ vaccine plan for foreign workers
Hong Kong has scrapped a plan to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for foreign domestic workers after the Philippines and labour groups criticised the proposal as discriminatory. Still, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, on Tuesday ordered another round of mandatory testing for all foreign domestic helpers as a “precaution” against more infectious variants of the coronavirus. Labour groups representing domestic workers also said they felt they were being singled out, noting that the families they worked for – as well as locals working in environments such as care homes – were not required to get vaccinated.
Amazon, Salesforce execs weigh in on how tech can help with Covid — and how it can’t
For all the progress on Covid-19, we are still far from a post-pandemic world. “If you’re living on Planet Earth, I assure you the pandemic is not over,” Geeta Nayyar, executive medical director of Salesforce, said at the 2021 STAT Health Tech summit on Tuesday. “India and Brazil are great examples of the forest still being on fire. When we don’t go to help our fellow global neighbors, we can rest assured that the fire is spreading.” Everyone has an obligation to help, but tech companies in particular can have a huge, international impact on the response to Covid-19, she said. Together with Vin Gupta, chief medical officer for Amazon’s Covid-19 response, Nayyar outlined how health tech is well-suited to pitch in on the pandemic response, and also pointed to areas where the industry has to step back.
NHS keyworkers fighting battle against COVID-19 go head-to-head for charity fundraiser
Frontline NHS workers from two Derbyshire GP practices are in a head-to-head fitness battle raising funds for end-of-life charity Treetops Hospice. More than 130 members of staff from Park Medical and Overdale surgeries – including those who helped prepare Derby Arena ahead of their mass Covid vaccination programme – are walking, jogging and cycling a total of 8,187 miles; the equivalent number of miles between Derby and Tokyo, where the postponed Olympic Games is set to take place.
Across faiths, US volunteers mobilize for India crisis
Volunteers at Hindu temples, Muslim groups and Sikh relief organizations across the United States are mobilizing to support India as the world’s second most populous country struggles to handle a devastating surge of the coronavirus. From coast to coast, faith groups tied to the Indian diaspora have collected hundreds of oxygen concentrators and electrical transformers to ship to overwhelmed hospitals, raised millions for everything from food to firewood for funeral pyres and gathered in prayer for spiritual support for the Asian nation.
Ethnic groups step in as Myanmar’s COVID response falls apart
As Myanmar’s national COVID-19 response collapses following a February 1 military coup, one ethnic armed organisation in the country’s north has quietly vaccinated 20,000 people in areas it governs, with support from across the border in China. The vaccines, produced by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, were supplied and administered with assistance from the Red Cross Society of China, a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The KIO is one of approximately 20 ethnic armed organisations operating along Myanmar’s borders with China, Thailand and India. Several of them have run their own COVID-19 responses from early on in the pandemic. Although the turmoil and intensifying civil war since the coup have disrupted their efforts, the KIO and Karen National Union (KNU), two of the country’s most well-established ethnic armed organisations, told Al Jazeera that they were continuing as much as possible
Working Remotely
We've reached a pivotal point for mental health at work – let's not turn back
During the pandemic, about four in 10 adults in the US reported symptoms of anxiety of depressive disorder, up from one in 10 who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019. Now, more than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, not only because of Covid, but because the stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help. It is up to us as company leaders to take charge, to lead by example and provide tools to support our employees. So how can employers help? Every employee’s journey will be different.
JPMorgan to bring all staff back to office in England -memo
JPMorgan will step up the return of all of its employees in England to working at least part of their week in its offices from June 21st, according to a memo seen by Reuters on Tuesday. The U.S. lender will still cap occupancy at 50% in its main London and Bournemouth hubs, it said, and the plans are dependent on there being no changes to government plans to ease remaining COVID-19 related restrictions.
Virtual Classrooms
With school likely to remain virtual for many students this year, focus should be on the fall: expert
Another school year will be coming to an end in less than two months, but it’s unlikely that children currently attending remotely in Ontario will be back in classrooms before summer, experts say. Students in Ontario have been attending classes virtually for more than a month, and provinces such as Manitoba and Alberta have announced recent shifts to remote learning as case numbers climb. Some of these closures have planned end dates, but Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday that while the situation will vary region to region, hard-hit areas such as Ontario will probably remain virtual through the end of the school year.
Virtual Classrooms: How One Teacher Is Connecting With Her 6th-Graders Via Zoom
Julie Welch starts each school day by heading down the stairs to her basement. Last summer, she turned her guest room into a classroom for the La Crosse School District’s Coulee Region Virtual Academy, an online charter school created as an alternative to in-person classes this year. Welch checks email and opens the day’s online lessons for her 6th grade class before starting their morning meeting on Zoom. “Just like if we were in person when kids arrive, we start the day in a circle, greeting each other and just kind of doing that check in, like ‘Hey, how are you doing? What’s new? What do you have to share?’” Welch said. For some of her more self-sufficient students, Welch said the 30-minute meeting may be the only time she sees them for the day.
Public Policies
EU has exported about 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Sefcovic says
The European Union has exported about 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said in a tweet. “While we’re open to discussing new solidarity proposals, our priority is to ramp up the EU vaccine production + to see others unblocking exports of vaccines and their components,”he added in the tweet. In April, Reuters reported that the European Union has exported about 37 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines than it has shared out among its own 27 countries, according to two sources that cited figures from the bloc’s data.
British PM Johnson rules out accelerating end of COVID-19 restrictions
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday appeared to rule out bringing forward the end of COVID-19 restrictions in England, saying that the success of the roadmap out of England's COVID-19 lockdown depended on leaving space stages. Asked if he might bring forward a June 21 date for the final stage of his roadmap out of lockdown, Johnson said: "I think it's very important that we should proceed cautiously." "The secret of the success that we've had so far I think it's been that we have been guided by the data and we've given time to see the effect of each successive stage on the roadmap."
Brazilian President Allocates More Than $1 Billion To Produce COVID-19 Vaccines
Brazil, one of the worst-hit countries in the world by the pandemic, is directing more than $1 billion toward the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the country's far-right president announced Monday, Reuters reported. President Jair Bolsonaro, who has criticized lockdown measures and has told Brazilians to "stop whining" about the deadly virus, said about $1.05 billion will be spent on the inoculation effort. The announcement comes amid an investigation into Bolsonaro's role in his government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, which has killed more than 421,000 people to date — the second highest number of fatalities in the world.
Telangana announces 10-day lockdown due to COVID-19 from May 12
Telangana will lock itself down for a period of 10 days starting tomorrow. The state government has decided to put curbs in place from May 12 to curtail further spread of the second wave, an official release said. There was also a decision taken to invite global tenders for procuring Covid vaccines.
New Outbreaks Prompt Return to Restrictions in Taiwan, Singapore
Taiwan announced limits on crowds, following Singapore’s move to restrict foreign workers, in a wave of new restrictions in Asian countries trying to stamp out small outbreaks after months of keeping Covid-19 contained. The new curbs prompted fears that economic growth could stall out, leading to stock sell-offs in both countries this week. Low vaccination rates in both countries are contributing to concerns that their populations could be vulnerable if faster-spreading variants take hold. In Taiwan, indoor gatherings will be limited to fewer than 100 people and outdoor events capped at 500 for the next four weeks, Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control said in a statement Tuesday. It’s the first time the island has tightened anti-Covid measures since it began easing curbs mid-last year, and comes after the government reported seven new cases in the community and four in travelers from overseas.
FDA paves way for COVID-19 vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late yesterday expanded the emergency authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to include 12- to 15-year-olds, paving the way for vaccinating a proportion of school-age children before the fall. "Today's action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic. Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations," said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, in a press release. The Pfizer vaccine had previously been approved for use in people ages 16 and up. The FDA said approximately 1.5 million children ages 11 to 17 have been infected with COVID-19 in the United States from Mar 1, 2020, through Apr 30, 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Maintaining Services
Coronavirus vaccine: Government-recommended 6 steps to monitor and report the vaccine side effects
While the second wave of coronavirus has hit the country badly, India is currently in the third phase of the vaccination. The government has recently permitted people above the age of 18 to get vaccinated as well. While the vaccination drive is going on in full swing, people are still hesitant to get vaccinated as several people are experiencing side effects like fever, headaches after getting vaccinated. To clarify more on the side effects of the vaccine and how there is nothing to be afraid of, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has listed six steps that can be used to monitor and report the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. As per the guidelines, the step 1 to step 3 is to be followed before the vaccination while step 5 to step 6 should be taken care of after getting the vaccination dose.
Edinburgh patients waiting 14 weeks for coronavirus vaccine amid warning over stocks
Some patients in Edinburgh are waiting up to 14 weeks to receive the second dose of their coronavirus vaccine, despite official Scottish Government guidance. Almost three million Scots have had their first jab of either the Pfizer, Moderna or Oxford/AstraZeneca inoculations against COVID-19. However, those waiting on the final jab have been subjected to delays due to clinics either being full or access to certain vaccine stock being unavailable. The Scottish Government’s vaccine deployment plan, published in January, stated the rollout was “predicated on ensuring everyone that receives the first dose will be able to receive their second dose in 12 weeks from the first dose.”
Healthcare Innovations
Those with mild COVID-19 seek more primary care than uninfected peers
Although nonhospitalized COVID-19 patients are at low risk for delayed complications, they visit their general practitioner or clinic more often than their uninfected peers in the 6 months after testing positive, finds a population-based study published yesterday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The study, led by researchers from the University of Southern Denmark, involved comparing 8,983 living, nonhospitalized COVID-19 patients with 80,894 Danish residents who tested negative for the virus from Feb 27 to May 31, 2020. Both groups were followed for 2 weeks to 6 months after testing.
New vaccine shows potential to protect from a variety of coronavirus infections
A potential new vaccine developed by members of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute has proven effective in protecting monkeys and mice from a variety of coronavirus infections -- including SARS-CoV-2 as well as the original SARS-CoV-1 and related bat coronaviruses that could potentially cause the next pandemic. The new vaccine, called a pan-coronavirus vaccine, triggers neutralizing antibodies via a nanoparticle. The nanoparticle is composed of the coronavirus part that allows it to bind to the body's cell receptors and is formulated with a chemical booster called an adjuvant. Success in primates is highly relevant to humans.
The Covid-19 Variant in India: What Scientists Know About the B.1.617 Strain
Scientists and public health officials are racing to understand the risk posed by a coronavirus variant known as B.1.617, which the World Health Organization on Monday designated a global “variant of concern.” The WHO says preliminary studies show the variant may spread more easily than other strains of the new coronavirus. Scientists and public-health experts are trying to better understand the role it is playing in the record-setting surge of Covid-19 cases that has overwhelmed India’s healthcare system in recent days—and what risk it poses to the rest of the world. India reported more than 366,000 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday. Here’s what we know so far about the B.1.617 variant.
WHO reviewing Seychelles COVID-19 data after fully vaccinated people test positive
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it was reviewing coronavirus data from Seychelles after the health ministry said more than a third of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week had been fully vaccinated. Both the ministry and the WHO stressed that the majority of those who tested positive had not been vaccinated or had only received one dose, that no one who had died had been fully vaccinated and that nearly all of those needing treatment for severe or critical cases were unvaccinated. But the WHO said it was closely following the situation in the Indian Ocean nation, which has a population of less than 100,000 and daily cases numbers in the low hundreds.
Vietnam seeks mRNA tech transfer amid COVID-19 vaccine supply issues
Vietnam is seeking the transfer of mRNA technology to domestically manufacture COVID-19 vaccines, state media reported on Tuesday, as officials warned of supply issues until the end of the year. "Given the currently limited supply to Vietnam, especially as the COVID-19 situation is showing complicated developments, the health ministry has met with a World Health Organization representative to facilitate the negotiations on transferring of mRNA technology," the Vietnam News Agency reported.