"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 24th May 2021

Isolation Tips
How to conquer loneliness and social isolation
Over the last year, we isolated from each other to avoid a potentially deadly virus. Sadly, however, many older people had plenty of practice with social isolation well before COVID-19 entered the lexicon. As we age, loneliness is a risk factor for physical and mental decline. Add anxiety and depression to the mix and you’re looking at the possibility of a shorter lifespan. “Prevention needs to be the mantra,” said Marc Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist at Miami Jewish Health in Miami. Taking proactive steps to combat loneliness engages the brain and raises the odds that you’ll tend to your personal needs—from maintaining good hygiene to taking your prescribed medications as directed.For starters, devise a plan to resist the pull of isolation. Realize that if you don’t do anything—if you wait around for others to contact you—you’re likely to perpetuate the status quo.
England pilots new support initiatives to boost self-isolating in higher COVID areas
New support initiatives will be piloted in nine areas of England with higher COVID rates, including from variants, as part of government efforts to boost testing and self-isolation, the health ministry said on Monday. The incidence of infections in Britain is still low but clusters of the Indian variant, believed to be more transmissible than the dominant Kent variant, are growing, and could derail plans to further ease lockdown measures. A total of 12 million pounds ($17 million) will be provided by government for accommodation for those in overcrowded households, social care support and communications assistance for those who don't have English as their first language, among other steps.
Hygiene Helpers
Get a Covid-19 vaccine in this town and you could win a live cow
A district of northern Thailand has launched a raffle campaign for its vaccinated residents to win a live cow per week for the rest of the year, in a bid to boost the local Covid-19 vaccination drive. From next month, one lucky vaccinated villager in the Mae Chaem district of Chiang Mai province will be randomly chosen every week to win a young cow worth about 10,000 baht ($318.78). The campaign, set to run for 24 weeks, has been met with enthusiasm in the town of 43,000 since it was announced earlier this week. "Our vaccine registration numbers have gone from hundreds to thousands in a couple of days," district chief Boonlue Thamtharanurak told Reuters. "The villagers love cows. Cows can be sold for cash."
Germany to ban travel from Britain over COVID-19 variant
Germany will ban travel from Britain starting Saturday due to concerns over a COVID-19 variant. Germany classified Britain as an "area of variant of concern," and banned travel into the country to prevent virus spread, a post on the German Embassy's website shows. "There are local outbreaks occurring again, including cases of more infectious variants such as the Indian variant at present," the post read. The Embassy noted exceptions to the ban for German citizens and persons remaining in the airport transit area while transferring from one flight to another.
Covid-19: Should all children get a vaccine?
Vaccinating children is routine and widely accepted - measles, mumps, polio, diphtheria, rotavirus, multiple strains of meningitis, whooping cough… the list goes on. All this starts from just a few weeks old. So, what about Covid-19? Some countries are cracking on - the US has already immunised around 600,000 children, aged between 12 and 15. It expects to have enough safety data to go even younger next year. The UK is rattling through the adults - who should all have been offered their first dose by the end of July - but has yet to come to a decision on children. There is a scientific question - will vaccinating children save lives? - which is complex as the answer may vary from country to country. There is also a moral and ethical dimension if doses destined for children would save more lives if they were given to health workers and vulnerable adults in other countries.
Community Activities
The silent helpers who relieve COVID-related distress
An estimated one in 10 people who contracted COVID-19 needed some form of additional help from NGOs operating behind the scenes. Their problems ranged from access to food and medicine, handling children with special needs and challenging behaviour, even assistance with pets and farm animals, to loneliness and the “simple need for more attention”, said Tanya Melillo, who leads the Public Health Response Team. Her team is responsible for gathering contacts of positive cases and looking for the source, but they found themselves facing other problems caused by the pandemic and stepped in to help. Melillo’s case management morphed into a more humanitarian role as the team reached out to patients with the collaboration of NGOs. She expressed gratitude towards the Foodbank Lifeline Foundation and SOS Malta, who also helped them check in on the elderly and deliver food and medicines.
COVID-19: Just 15 people test positive among nearly 60,000 who attended trial mass gatherings, figures show
Just 15 people tested positive for coronavirus among nearly 60,000 who attended trials of mass gatherings including the FA Cup final and the Brit Awards, official figures show. Nine large-scale events were staged as part of the government's plan to allow for the return of big crowds this summer. Those who attended were exempt from certain coronavirus rules, such as the rule-of-six.
California to lift most COVID-19 limits, freeing up businesses
California will lift most remaining crowd-capacity limits and physical distancing requirements related to COVID-19 on June 15, proceeding to fully reopen its economy as the pandemic abates and vaccination rates rise, health officials said on Friday. The new policy will end California's complicated, color-coded system of tiered restrictions, imposed on a county-by-county basis last August. California, the most populous U.S. state with some 40 million people, was the first to impose statewide stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closures in March 2020 as the pandemic began to take hold.
France urges citizens to keep a lid on post-lockdown euphoria
French officials urged citizens not to let down their guard against COVID-19, after some people responded to the easing of restrictions by staging street parties late into the night. Starting on Wednesday, cafes and restaurants were allowed to serve customers in outside areas, and the nightly curfew was pushed back by two hours, to 9:00 pm (1900 GMT). In the city of Rennes, 350 km (217 miles) west of Paris, a large crowd of people danced around a bonfire in a central square after the 9:00 p.m. curfew fell on Wednesday evening, video footage posted on social media showed.
Workers struggle with COVID-19 mask guidance
Across the U.S., restaurant, retail, and grocery store workers are struggling to handle shifting mask guidance 1 week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said fully vaccinated Americans no longer have to wear masks in most indoor settings. In the week since the CDC’s announcement, Kroger, Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy's, Costco, Home Depot, Trader Joe’s, and Target have all said vaccinated customers can ditch masks in states without mask mandates in place, according to the Associated Press. However, workers interviewed said they do not trust patrons to be honest about vaccination status. Workers wearing masks describe being yelled at, cussed at, and berated for wearing facial coverings
Breaking evangelical resistance to coronavirus vaccines will be hard
Evangelicals make up one quarter of the United States population and they are the Americans least likely to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Even as the Biden administration works fervently to overcome vaccine hesitancy and some in the evangelical community like Franklin Graham, son of legendary preacher Billy Graham, pledge to help them, they face a daunting task. The hurdle: For many evangelicals, the vaccine, and proof that you have had it, are tools of the Antichrist.
Why Covax, the fund to vaccinate the world, is struggling
Early on in the pandemic, global health experts envisioned a nightmare scenario: Covid-19 vaccines are created, but they go almost exclusively to rich countries that can afford to buy them. People in poorer countries are left to get sick and die. To prevent this, the experts set up an international initiative called Covax, designed to make sure every country in the world gets access to vaccines regardless of its ability to pay. In the fall of 2020, Covax set a clear goal: Buy 2 billion doses and make them available to nations in need before the end of 2021. But we’re now nearly five months into the year, and Covax has delivered just over 68 million doses. In other words, it’s only 3.4 percent of the way to its goal.
Working Remotely
Bosses Still Aren’t Sure Remote Workers Have ‘Hustle’
More than a year into America’s great work-from-home experiment, many companies have hailed it largely as a success. So why do some bosses think remote workers aren’t as committed as office dwellers? Recent remarks of numerous chief executives suggest the culture of workplace face time remains alive and well. At The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit this month, JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said remote work doesn’t work well “for those who want to hustle.” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has called it “an aberration that we are going to correct as soon as possible.” Companies with largely remote workforces aren’t the norm. Research suggests remote workers lag behind office-dwellers in some kinds of career advancement Many bosses said they want people in the office—and thus prize workers who feel the same—because they worry about losing the creativity and spontaneous collaboration that comes with physical proximity.
What will be the result of the remote work experiment?
Working from home seemed like a fanciful notion in 2018, but little did we know that many of us would take part in the ultimate remote working experiment in 2020 because of a global pandemic. The question now is, what will be the results of that experiment? We can gain some insights from a home working experiment carried out at the largest online travel agency in China, formerly called Ctrip, in 2013.
What if Remote Work Didn’t Mean Working from Home?
Professional authors are, in some sense, the original work-from-home knowledge workers. As we approach a post-pandemic world in which telecommuting will be more common, we might observe with concern how far these writers are willing to go to escape having to work in their actual homes. The retreat to eccentric near-home workplaces has been a common experience during the pandemic, and we’ve learned that performing useful cognitive work is a fragile endeavor, one in which environment matters. Here’s my proposal: organizations that allow remote work should not only encourage these employees to find professional spaces near (but distinct from) their homes—they should also directly subsidize these cognitive escapes.
Virtual Classrooms
We're back to school, but should we go back to business as normal?
Remote learning tools have been used since before the emergence of COVID-19, particularly for alternative provision and SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) students, but there’s now an urgent need for local authorities and educators to consider how the benefits of these platforms can be extended to all students in mainstream education, regardless of their background. Although students and teachers are happy to be back in the classroom, there’s a risk that the positive lessons from remote learning might be lost if there’s not consideration of what has worked, and what has not, during the past year.
Public Policies
British employers call for economic transformation after COVID-19
British employers called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday to overhaul regulation and tax rules to help them meet the challenges of Brexit, the post-pandemic recovery and preparing for a net-zero carbon economy. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said 2021 should be a turning point for economic policy to break the pattern of weak productivity that has weighed on growth for more than a decade. "This country will never have a greater opportunity to transform our economy and society," CBI Director-General Tony Danker said. "This is the moment where we have a genuine chance to make big bets on how the UK economy will grow and compete."
AstraZeneca chief admits UK got ‘priority’ access to coronavirus vaccine
The U.K. received preferential access to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot revealed, while defending the jab and saying that it "has a future." Soriot told the Financial Times that the British government was guaranteed priority supplies as part of a return-for-investment agreement with the University of Oxford, which developed the vaccine. Soriot said that deal had been struck before AstraZeneca teamed up with the university to manufacture and distribute the jab on the international market. “Of course when you do something like this as a government, you don’t do it for free,” he said. “What you want in return, and it’s fair enough, is priority.”
New COVID-19 cases plummet to lowest levels since last June
New coronavirus cases across the United States have tumbled to rates not seen in more than 11 months, sparking optimism that vaccination campaigns are stemming both severe COVID-19 cases and the spread of the virus. As cases, hospitalizations and deaths steadily dropped this week, pre-pandemic life in America has largely resumed. Hugs and unmasked crowds returned to the White House a Mardi Gras-style parade marched through Alabama s port city of Mobile and even states that have stuck to pandemic-related restrictions readied to drop them. However, health experts also cautioned that not enough Americans have been vaccinated to completely extinguish the virus, leaving the potential for new variants that could extend the pandemic.
Japan approves more COVID-19 vaccines, expands state of emergency
Japan expanded a state of emergency to cover the southern island of Okinawa on Friday, as authorities approved two more coronavirus vaccines to speed a lagging inoculation campaign. The newly approved vaccines, from Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca PLC, will join the one co-developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE in a vaccination drive that began in mid-February.
Norway to ease COVID-19 restrictions further next week
Norway will allow larger groups of people to meet from next week and let most bars and restaurants serve alcohol up to midnight as it takes its next major step in unwinding COVID-19 curbs, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Friday. The capital Oslo and its surrounding region will also relax some of its stricter localised restrictions, allowing gyms, cinemas, theatres and restaurants to reopen and children to resume indoor sports, authorities added. "We're ending the social lockdown of Oslo that has lasted since early November," city council chief Raymond Johansen told a news conference.
New pledges at global summit target COVID vaccine gap
At the G20 Global Health Summit in Italy today, world leaders and drug companies announced major commitments to boost the supply of COVID vaccine for low- and middle-income countries, but stopped short of endorsing a full waiver of vaccine patent rights. So far, about 1.59 billion vaccine doses have been given worldwide, about 84% of it deployed in higher-income countries, according to the New York Times. The summit today, hosted by the European Commission and Italy, comes as the vaccine gap becomes more acute, with supplies expected from India delayed due to the country's catastrophic surge.
Argentina announces 'circuit-breaker' lockdown as pandemic rages
Argentina will tighten pandemic lockdown measures to combat a severe second COVID-19 wave, President Alberto Fernandez said on Thursday, underscoring concern as daily cases and deaths have broken records over the last week. The strict "circuit-breaker" measures will come into force on Saturday and last until May 31. They include school and non-essential commerce closures and the banning of social, religious and sporting events in the nation of 45 million people.
Bangladesh orders lockdown in Rohingya camps as COVID-19 cases jump
Bangladesh ordered a strict lockdown in five camps that are home to nearly 100,000 Rohingya refugees following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the world’s largest refugee settlement this week, government officials said on Friday. Nearly a million Rohingya refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar live in 34 sprawling camps in southeastern Bangladesh, and campaigners have warned that the crowded conditions make it difficult to stem the virus’s spread. Cases in the camps have stayed relatively low since the pandemic began, but test results on Wednesday and Thursday showed a higher rate of transmission, said government official Shamsud Douza. On Thursday, 45 out of 247 tests were positive.
China Is Winning the Race to Vaccinate the World, for Now
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a devastating public-health catastrophe the world over. For China, it’s also provided an unprecedented geopolitical opportunity. After it got the outbreak under control, and with world leaders distracted by their own countries’ health struggles, it was able to use the chaos of the pandemic to step up political crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Other nations cried foul, but China persisted. Perhaps most important, early exports of its rapidly developed vaccines have provided Beijing with a potent diplomatic calling card in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. And as the global death toll mounts, Chinese officials get to brag about their virus-fighting success around the world even as they gain greater access and influence in far-flung capitals.
Maintaining Services
Australia Can Get Enough Pfizer Doses by End-2021: Sun-Herald
Australia’s government is promising enough Pfizer Inc. vaccines to have all Australians vaccinated by the end of 2021, the Sun-Herald newspaper reported. Two million Pfizer doses are expected to be available in Australia each week from the beginning of October, which would mean all who are keen can get their two shots by the end of the year, the paper said, citing the Australian Medical Association. Health Minister Greg Hunt told the paper that 4.5 million Pfizer doses will arrive by the end of June, and there will be 7 million doses expected in both the third and fourth quarters. He added that people should not delay getting their shots as there are AstraZeneca Plc vaccines available now for Australians above 50.
Moderna, Novavax to produce more COVID-19 vaccines in S.Korea
Moderna Inc and Novavax Inc entered into a deal with the South Korean government to manufacture their COVID-19 vaccines, as the country has been under pressure to secure more and faster deliveries of U.S.-made vaccines. Saturday's agreements with the U.S. drugmakers came a day after U.S. President Joe Biden said that he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in had agreed on a comprehensive partnership on COVID-19 vaccines and that the United States would provide vaccinations for 550,000 South Korean soldiers
Covid Vaccination Campaign Off To Strong Start Among Young Teens, With Almost 2 Million Getting Jab
Since federal regulators began allowing younger teenagers to receive Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine last week, about 1.87 million Americans ages 12 to 15 have already gotten at least their first shot, as U.S. vaccination efforts pivot from higher-risk groups to adolescents and hesitant adults.
Covid: Scotland and Wales send urgent supplies to India
Life-saving medical equipment has been flown to India from Scotland and Wales to help the country deal with its Covid-19 crisis. The Scottish government provided 100 oxygen concentrators and 40 Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) ventilators which arrived on Friday. The Welsh government sent 638 oxygen concentrators and 351 ventilators which arrived earlier this week. The operation is being funded by the Foreign Office. The devices can be used in hospitals, intensive care wards or other locations and are ideally suited to treat Covid-19 patients when there are constraints on the medical gas infrastructure supply.
Healthcare Innovations
CDC Ramps Up Research on Highly Contagious Variant from India
Federal Health officials are ramping up their surveillance of the highly transmissible Covid-19 variant first identified in India as experts warn that under-vaccinated areas in the U.S. could become hot spots for the mutation. While U.S. cases attributed to the B.1.617 variant currently sit below 1%, the growth rate remains unclear due to the small sample size. Meanwhile, one science group said the strain could be as much as 50% more transmissible than B.1.1.7, the variant that emerged from the U.K. That mutation was first seen in the U.S. in late December, and is now dominant nationally.
Two COVID shots effective against India variant - English health body
A double dose of COVID-19 vaccines is almost as effective against the fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus first identified in India as it is against Britain’s dominant strain, English health officials said on Saturday. Britain's health minister said the data was groundbreaking and he was increasingly hopeful that the government would be able to lift more COVID restrictions next month. A study by Public Health England found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant two weeks after the second dose.
COVID-19: New study examines monoclonal antibodies
Antibodies fight infection, and the body produces them naturally, but it is possible to introduce antibodies into the body artificially. A new study suggests that the monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab may effectively reduce the chance of hospitalization and death in people with a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Use of bamlanivimab treatment was associated with a decrease in hospitalization and mortality, especially among adults over 65 years.