"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 13th May 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid Support Buddies launch to tackle loneliness and give support
A new county-wide Covid Support Buddy scheme is being launched by local charity Community Action Suffolk (CAS). The project, funded by Suffolk County Council, will develop a network of specialist "Buddies" to help people impacted by Covid-19. If people need to self-isolate, a buddy could help with tasks such as shopping or dog-walking or just make contact to reduce loneliness. The aim is for existing community groups to add a Covid-Support buddy to their ranks, supported by the Covid Support Development Officers at CAS
Hygiene Helpers
French lawmakers approve COVID 'health pass' at second attempt
France's National Assembly approved on Wednesday the creation of a COVID-19 "health pass" that people can use to attend sports events, festivals and theme parks with large crowds, a hotly contested government measure to help safely re-open the economy. The health pass, which will come into effect from June 9, will provide proof that a person has either been vaccinated against the coronavirus, holds a recent negative PCR test, or is recovering from COVID-19 and therefore has natural antibodies. The proposal was initially shot down in the lower house on Tuesday evening over fears it would impinge on civil freedoms
Community Activities
COVID-19 pet boom has veterinarians backlogged, burned out
During the gloomiest stretches of the pandemic, Dr. Diona Krahn’s veterinary clinic has been a puppy fest, overrun with new four-legged patients. Typically, she’d get three or four new puppies a week, but between shelter adoptions and private purchases, the 2020 COVID-19 pet boom brought five to seven new clients a day to her practice in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many are first-time pet owners. Like many veterinarians across the country, she’s also been seeing more sick animals. To meet the demand, vets interviewed by The Associated Press have extended hours, hired additional staff and refused to take new patients, and they still can’t keep up. Burnout and fatigue are such a concern that some practices are hiring counselors to support their weary staffs. “Everyone is working beyond capacity at this point,” said Krahn, who added evening hours last year.
Anti-Maskers Ready to Start Masking—To Protect Themselves From the Vaccinated
A conspiracy ripping through the anti-vax world may finally drive some anti-maskers to do the unthinkable: wear a mask and keep their distance. The conspiracy—which comes in several shapes and sizes—more or less says the vaccinated will “shed” certain proteins onto the unvaccinated who will then suffer adverse effects. The main worry is the “shedding” will cause irregular menstruation, infertility, and miscarriages. The entirely baseless idea is a key cog in a larger conspiracy that COVID-19 was a ploy to depopulate the world, and the vaccine is what will cull the masses.
Uber And Lyft Will Give Free Rides To COVID-19 Vaccination Spots, White House Says
Anyone needing a ride to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot will be able to get a free trip from the ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber, the White House announced Tuesday, in the latest push to encourage Americans to get vaccinated. "The feature will launch in the next two weeks and run until July 4," the White House said. People who want to use the program would need to select a vaccination site near them and then redeem the companies' offer of a free ride. The two ride-sharing firms will promote the offer in their apps. The initiative is a new facet of President Biden's push to ensure 70% of all U.S. adults get at least one vaccine shot by July 4.
'Want the COVID-19 vaccine? Have a U.S. visa?' Latinos travel north for the shot
"Want the COVID-19 vaccine? Have a U.S. visa? Contact us," reads a travel agency advertisement, offering deals to Mexicans to fly to the United States to get inoculated. From Mexico to far-flung Argentina, thousands of Latin Americans are booking flights to the United States to take advantage of one of the world's most successful vaccination campaigns, as rollouts in their own countries sputter. Latin America is one of the regions worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with the death toll set to pass 1 million this month, and many do not want to wait any longer for their turn to get vaccinated. Some people are going it alone, while others have tapped travel agencies, which have responded by offering packages that arrange the vaccine appointment, flights, hotel stay and even offer extras such as city and shopping tours.
Covid pandemic should serve as ‘Chernobyl moment’ for global health reform, international experts say
The Covid-19 crisis should serve as a “Chernobyl moment” for global pandemic preparedness, triggering a series of actions to speed the end of this pandemic and to ensure it’s the last of its kind the world ever faces, according to a report from an international panel of experts. The report by the panel, which was established at the behest of member states of the World Health Organization, calls on wealthy countries with Covid vaccine to share their supplies in large volumes and quickly, with 1 billion doses donated by September and another 1 billion by the end of the year. The report calls for swift negotiations to lift intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines — and an automatic waiver if the negotiations fail to deliver within three months.
‘We won’t be bouncing back’ – the unsettling truth about the big reopening
If we had to close down again,” says Andrew Lloyd Webber, “we couldn’t survive.” Webber is staging his new musical Cinderella, with book by Oscar-winner Emerald Fennell, in a full-capacity theatre in July, having already delayed its premiere twice. He has mortgaged his house in London and will be selling one of his seven theatres. “It cost £1m a month to keep them dark,” he says. “You can’t just lock them up and throw away the key. I don’t run the theatres for profit and there wasn’t a reserve.” Across the UK, the arts are reawakening after over 14 months of unprecedented disruption. As venues reopen – dates differ across the nations, though 17 May is a key date in Scotland and England – there will be much to celebrate, and many delights in store for audiences. But the pandemic hit culture and entertainment more severely than any other part of the economy, including hospitality, throwing fresh light on already deep inequalities.
Working Remotely
COVID-19: Boris Johnson aims to end work from home guidance from 21 June
People in England should no longer be advised to work from home after 21 June provided the country remains "on track" in the fight against coronavirus, Boris Johnson has told MPs. The prime minister told the House of Commons on Wednesday it was his "intention" to end the work from home guidance in less than six weeks' time. And Mr Johnson predicted the "dynamism" of England's cities could return "remarkably quickly" once workers return to offices
How Hybrid Remote Work Improves Diversity And Inclusion
Fewer than 20% of employees who currently work remotely want to return to the pre-pandemic model of commuting to work every day. Employees want flexibility to decide when it makes sense to go to the office. Research also shows employees are more productive when they have to option to work remotely. But for some employees, remote work is about much more than flexibility and productivity. It is about the ability to work at all. Requiring employees to physically commute to an office excludes many people from jobs they are capable and willing to perform. The option to work remotely is not just good for employees. It is a major step toward creating more inclusive organizations.
How to lead a team you've never actually met
Remote working comes with many benefits, but starting a new managerial position entirely online can be tricky. With most interactions carried out over Zoom, Teams or on Slack, there are no face-to-face meetings, no coffee runs to get to know people better, and no opportunities to ask quick questions in person. “The challenges in leading a team who are managed remotely can be achieving rapport, getting a true understanding of their working styles and transparency of issues, as well as managing time zones, deadlines and complexity,” says careers, business and HR expert Laura Trendall Morrison
Concern employers could monitor remote workers' mouse clicks per minute
Concern has been raised that remote workers could be forced to accept technology that monitors the number of mouse clicks they make in a minute. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has warned artificial intelligence tools could also be used to track the amount of time spent on social media. In a submission to the Department of Employment on the introduction of the right to request remote working, the ICTU urged the Government to develop clear guidance on how employers can monitor employees working remotely.
Virtual Classrooms
'Cold and sterile': Outcry arising among educators over disengaging distance learning
Many teachers and guidance counsellors are feeling like they are lacking motivation and simply trying to survive and get through the pandemic. "School culture is non-existent," declared one longtime educator, who asked to remain anonymous because teachers' contracts don't allow them to make comments on the school board. "Little or no chance to interact with other students leads to very little positive cultural development. The teacher student relationship has been affected the most," the guidance counsellor told yorkregion.com. He worries that schools switching back and forth have caused major problems -- issues ranging from lack of student participation, to poor and inconsistent internet service, to an alarming trend of more students working full-time jobs and disengaging from their studies.
Analysis: As schools begin to reopen, some are developing all-virtual options to meet students' diverse needs. Here are 6 examples
Teaching to the middle has historically been the approach taken by many schools nationwide, where a one-size-fits-all model is the norm and students must figure out how to fit in or fail. When COVID-19 hit and schools quickly pivoted to distance learning, challenges and disparities — many already present but ignored — were revealed for teachers, parents and students. Yet, as the pandemic raged on, some students actually thrived in this at-home learning environment. Who are these students, and why are they flourishing? What can we learn from them?
Public Policies
Coronavirus UK: Could spread of Indian variant jeopardise plans to ease lockdown?
Indian strain is now dominant in four local authorities in England, surveillance data show. Hotspots Bolton and neighbouring Blackburn with Darwen are now also seeing infections start to rise. But Public Health England has only launched surge testing in Bolton to root out cases of the strain. SAGE minutes reveal scientists fear it may be even more infectious than the Kent variant. Early reports suggest, however, that the current vaccines will still work against it and prevent disaster
TRIPS waiver: US support is a major step but no guarantee of COVID-19 vaccine equity
In a momentous shift, the US recently agreed to support a waiver of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The waiver would suspend intellectual property rights, such as patents and trademarks, on products required to fight COVID-19 for the duration of the pandemic. Until the announcement, the US, alongside the European Union, Norway, Canada, Australia, the UK, Switzerland, Brazil and Japan, had been steadfast in their position that stringent patent protection is key to vaccine supply and the global effort to tackle COVID-19. But proponents of the waiver argued that the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights was key to achieving vaccine equity and global health security. India and South Africa, with the support of over 100 countries, have been passionately making this case from inside the WTO since October 2020
Vaccination progress 'could be reversed unless UK shares surplus vaccines'
The UK could face a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections from mutations of the virus which causes the disease unless more is done to get vaccines shared out across the globe, a charity has warned. Unicef UK estimated that Britain could give away 20% of its projected available stock and still meet its target to give all adults their first dose of vaccine by the end of July. The charity warned that the success of the vaccination programme in the UK could be “reversed” if supply is not shared. Concerns have been raised that while the virus rages in other parts of the world there is more chance for new variants to emerge.
Scale of Covid-19 catastrophe could have been prevented if WHO had sounded the alarm sooner and world leaders had not 'dithered' with their response, pandemic panel concludes
Covid pandemic could have been prevented, international panel of experts says 'Toxic cocktail' of dithering and poor global coordination meant disease was allowed to span the globe, infecting at least 160million people to date. Finger of blame pointed at WHO for failing to raise the alarm sooner, and 'science denying' world leaders for failing to take threat seriously. To end the pandemic, wealthy countries need to provide 1billion vaccines to poorest nations by September and 2billion more by year's end, experts add
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces Covid-19 public inquiry
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday announced an inquiry next year into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic that is likely to focus on why the United Kingdom suffered Europe's worst death toll and was so slow initially to impose a lockdown. Johnson and his ministers have admitted there are lessons to be learned from the worst public health crisis in decades, but point to the United Kingdom's swift vaccine rollout as evidence that there were also successes.
Bahrain authorizes emergency use of one-shot Sputnik-Light COVID-19 vaccine
Bahrain authorized on Tuesday the emergency use of Russia's one-shot Sputnik-Light COVID-19 vaccine, state news agency (BNA) said. It is the sixth vaccine Bahrain has authorized. It has previously authorized China's Sinopharm, Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine, AstraZeneca's COVISHIELD, the J&J vaccine, and Sputnik.
Covid-19: Speed and statutory powers are crucial for any public inquiry to have a real impact
More than a year after the UK went into its first lockdown – and 18 months since the first suspected Covid-19 cases in the country – the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated a time frame for the start of a “full, proper” public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic. It is something that has been called for consistently by friends and families of those who have died from the virus but only referred to in vague promises made by Boris Johnson. After months of insisting the time was not right to launch a widescale probe into possible mistakes or misjudgements made in Government, the Prime Minister has now committed to setting up the inquiry within the new session of Parliament.
COVID-19: Minister says 'we can't rule anything out' on potential for restrictions in virus hotspots
A cabinet minister has told Sky News the government "can't rule anything out" when it comes to the possibility of local coronavirus restrictions in areas that have seen cases rise sharply. Sky News analysis has found there are 28 local authority areas in England, four in Northern Ireland and two in Scotland that have COVID-19 case rates twice the national average.
Taiwan tightens restrictions after new domestic COVID cases
Taiwan's government on Tuesday tightened rules on public gatherings after reporting six new domestic COVID-19 cases with no clear source of infection, a rare rise on the island which has kept the pandemic well under control. Taiwan largely closed its borders early on in the pandemic and has a robust contact tracing and quarantine system, meaning its low case numbers - 1,210 infections to date including 12 deaths - have allowed life to carry on more or less as normal.
Maldives bans travel from South Asia as COVID cases soar
Rich Indians can no longer escape their country’s raging pandemic by holidaying in the Maldives, after the island paradise said it would ban travel from South Asia as it battles a surge in COVID-19 infections. The Indian Ocean holiday destination southwest of India reopened its tourist resorts in July last year after halting international flights for more than three months at the start of the pandemic.
Maintaining Services
Moderna says it has signed deal with Australia to supply 25m doses of Covid vaccine
Australians will have another vaccine option after the pharmaceutical company Moderna announced it has signed a deal with the federal government to provide 25m doses of its mRNA-based vaccine to the nation. The announcement was made overnight in a press release and has not yet been formally endorsed by the federal government. It is also subject to regulatory approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, but Moderna says it will lodge a submission shortly. The company says 10m doses could arrive in Australia by the end of the year and a further 15m would arrive in 2022.
EU plays catch-up on vaccines and hails its export programme
My Covid-19 vaccine moment came suddenly — and sooner than I had expected. On Friday April 30, Brussels authorities opened online bookings to my age group. The following Tuesday I went for my first shot at a military hospital on the Belgian capital’s outskirts. After months of reporting on the EU immunisation drive, it felt odd finally to be living it. My visit highlights how the 27-member bloc’s inoculation campaign has stepped up a gear after initially falling well behind the UK and US. “It was all very theoretical for such a long period of time,” says Alastair Rabagliati, another just-jabbed British resident of Brussels who, like me, was born in 1974. “I was expecting to be on the waiting list for a while — yet suddenly I was making an appointment for a slot three days later.”
Hospitals in tourist-haven Costa Rica in 'serious' phase as Covid-19 cases surge
Hospitals in the Central American nation of Costa Rica are running out of space for COVID-19 patients amid a new wave of infections, the president of the national doctors' union said on Tuesday. The sharp rise in coronavirus infections has led to calls for a fresh lockdown by doctors, potentially dealing another blow to businesses, especially in the tourism sector, which were hoping for an influx of American and European tourists.
Emotional 'First Aid Kit' Gives Tips for Doctors on COVID Front Line
Retired GP Dr Lesley Morrison is offering emotional coping tips to help clinicians on the COVID-19 front line in her new book The Wellbeing Toolkit for Doctors that's being published next month. Dr Morrison says she's been thinking of writing it for years, based on her experiences as a GP in Hackney, London, the Scottish Borders, and as a tutor at Edinburgh University. The project was accelerated by her knowledge of the struggles doctors were facing on the COVID front line. "There are times when you may feel overwhelmed, when it seems that you're unable to do anything useful to help the person sitting in front of you," Dr Morrison acknowledges. "But there are nearly always ways in which you can reclaim some control."
Healthcare Innovations
CDC Advisers Back Use of Pfizer-BioNTech Shot in Adolescents
Children ages 12 to 15 years old can safely take the Covid-19 vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, U.S. health officials said, opening an important new phase of the U.S. immunization effort. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 14 to 0, with one recusal, on Wednesday to support the two-dose vaccine’s emergency authorization after it was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky adopted the recommendation after the vote, according to a statement from the agency.
China Sinovac Shot Seen Highly Effective in Real World Study
Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine is wiping out Covid-19 among health workers in Indonesia, an encouraging sign for the dozens of developing countries reliant on the controversial Chinese shot, which performed far worse than western vaccines in clinical trials. Indonesia tracked 128,290 health workers in capital city Jakarta from January to March and found that the vaccine protected 98% of them from death and 96% from hospitalization as soon as seven days after the second dose, Pandji Dhewantara, a Health Ministry official who oversaw the study, said in a Wednesday press conference.
COVID Variants and a Third Wave: Scientists Warn Government Is 'Sleepwalking into Disaster'
The Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) has warned that, if the Government fails to contain new Coronavirus variants of concern, it could lead to a third wave of the pandemic three times as large as the second wave, documents released this week reveal. If this occurs, it could necessitate a third lockdown despite the success of the vaccine programme. Several top scientists have also warned that the new Indian variant could already have become the dominant form of COVID-19 in Britain, with the potential to cause infections in spite of vaccinations. According to Professor Ravindra Gupta, of the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, the Indian variant “likely will cause infections despite vaccination and we don’t know how big that problem will be”. Despite these sober warnings, newspapers such as The Times and Daily Mail have obfuscated SAGE’s analysis by selectively reporting its new scientific findings and omitting to inform readers of the huge risks and uncertainties posed by new variants.
Late-stage trial of Chinese mRNA Covid-19 vaccine to begin in Mexico
Mexican foreign minister says 6,000 people will take part in phase 3 trial of experimental drug made by Walvax Biotechnology from May 30. It is the first shot developed in China using the same technology as the Pfizer and Moderna jabs
Scientists race to study variants in India as cases explode
A potentially worrisome variant of the coronavirus detected in India may spread more easily. But the country is behind in doing the kind of testing needed to track it and understand it better. On Monday, the World Health Organization designated the new version of the virus a “variant of concern” based on preliminary research, alongside those that were first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil but have spread to other countries. “We need much more information about this virus variant,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19. “We need more sequencing, targeted sequencing to be done and to be shared in India and elsewhere so that we know how much of this virus is circulating.”
Study: 80% of hospital COVID patients have neurologic complications
Eight of 10 hospitalized COVID-19 patients developed neurologic complications and were six times more likely than their peers to die, according to early results from a global study published yesterday in JAMA Network Open. Many of the conditions were mild to moderate, but half of the patients had altered brain function or structure, and almost one in five were in a coma. Led by University of Pittsburgh researchers for the Global Consortium Study of Neurologic Dysfunction in COVID-19, the study involved 3,744 hospitalized adult COVID-19 patients at 28 centers in 13 countries from March to October 2020.