"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 27th May 2021

Isolation Tips
Vaccines minister confirms self-isolation won't end on 21 June for fully vaccinated
In England, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed that fully vaccinated people will likely still need to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone with Covid once all restrictions are removed on 21 June. Zahawi told MPs today that “even if you have had two doses of either vaccine – and I have had this in my own family – you can still contract Covid, and therefore you should be isolating and quarantining”.
Hygiene Helpers
UAE mandates COVID-19 vaccines for live events
The United Arab Emirates said vaccinations against COVID-19 will be mandatory for people attending all "live events" from June 6, as the country pushes a vaccination campaign which has consistently been one of the fastest in the world. The policy applies to all sports, cultural, social, arts exhibition, activities and events, a spokeswoman for the ministry of health said late on Tuesday. Attendees must also present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken at least 48 hours before the event.
On the road to Recovery—the world's biggest covid-19 treatment trial
When it comes to covid-19 therapeutics, the UK is the world leader, spearheaded by the largest, most successful trial in the world. Chris Stokel-Walker looks at Recovery, and why it has proved hard to replicate elsewhere It’s hard to overestimate the impact of the Recovery trial. In just one year, it’s thought to have saved up to a million lives worldwide. Its finding that the low cost steroid dexamethasone reduces death from covid-19 by up to one third is arguably the major drug discovery in covid treatments so far. Hatched on a London bus ride on 9 March 2020,2 Recovery quickly became—and remains—the largest covid-19 treatment trial in the world, with nearly 40 000 patients enrolled at 181 sites globally, helping to shape the treatment of patients worldwide during a live and ever-changing pandemic.
Aussie rules: Melbourne fans to get tested amid COVID scare
Thousands of Australian Rules football fans have been told to self-isolate and get tested for coronavirus after a spectator later confirmed to have COVID-19 was found to have attended a match in Melbourne and the city raced to avoid another lockdown. Australia’s second-biggest city is scrambling to contain the latest outbreak, with 15 cases identified so far. The state of Victoria has already tightened curbs on gatherings and ordered people to wear masks indoors and on public transport until June 4. New Zealand has also suspended its quarantine-free travel arrangement with the state.
Community Activities
Coronavirus vaccine conspiracy leaflets packed with 'disturbing' claims are circulating in Bristol
Pamphlets packed with "disturbing" claims about the coronavirus vaccine are being spread in parts of Bristol. One recipient posted a picture of the leaflet on social media platform Reddit yesterday (Tuesday, May 25), and said they were being handed out along Stapleton Road in Easton. Others reported receiving copies posted through their letterboxes, while another said they had been distributed in their workplace at a Fishponds pub. Headlined 'the mark of the beast 666', the pages and pages of text urge people not to get jabbed, voicing outlandish conspiracy theories about nanotechnology, 5G, a "media hoax" and "gene editing technology". It makes references to the Bible and false claims that the vaccine roll-out is a ploy by "Freemasons who worship Satan" to seize control of people, warning that anyone who takes it will "go to hell". Leaflets making similar claims have been reported elsewhere in the UK during the pandemic, though it is not clear which person or group is behind those circulating in Bristol.
Covid-19 time limit on indoor dining makes no sense, say publicans
Imposing a 105-minute limit on customers dining indoors makes “no sense” and will encourage pub crawls, bar and restaurant owners have said. It is understood that guidelines for indoor dining, due to be published today, will say that there will be no time limit on outdoor dining, but customers will only be able to dine indoors for an hour and 45 minutes. One-metre distancing will be put in place between tables, with a limit of six people per booking, for both indoors and outdoors.
COVID-19: Risk of death in Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities higher in second wave, new data says
Mortality rates for people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds in England increased during the second COVID-19 wave, while other ethnic groups saw a drop in relative risk compared to white Britons, new figures suggest. Most people from ethnically diverse backgrounds remained at higher risk of death involving COVID-19 compared to white Britons, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). However, the mortality rate changed between the first and second wave.
Covid-19: Public debate is needed to decide how UK will live with SARS-CoV-2, says ethics collaborative
As the UK eases its covid-19 restrictions, and the initial two-dose vaccination rollout nears its end, more radical forms of public engagement will be essential when resolving the difficult questions about how the country will live with SARS-CoV-2, the UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator collaborative has said. As part of the collaborative, researchers from the universities of Oxford, Bristol, Edinburgh, and University College London considered some of the challenging ethical questions that the pandemic has raised. The accelerator has been funded by £1.4m from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of the rapid response to covid of UK Research and Innovation, the non-departmental government body that directs research and innovation funding. The pandemic has resulted in 130 000 covid-19 deaths in the UK and three million worldwide. Many people have also been affected by long covid.
South Tyneside to use £500,000 recruiting 'Community Champions' to protect against Covid
A fresh call has been made for ‘Covid Community Champions’ to help keep at-risk groups safe from coronavirus in South Tyneside. More than £500,000 has already been secured by South Tyneside Council to fund the scheme which aims to tackle misinformation around the virus. The community champions provide up-to-date, accurate health information to help people correctly follow Government guidance as the world begins to open up. Working in partnership with the third sector and local voluntary sector umbrella organisation, Inspire South Tyneside, some funds have already been allocated to charities and groups to carry out communications with at-risk groups.
'Tackling loneliness' - Wildlife Trust's £880k plan for coronavirus recovery
A project designed to fight the isolation and loneliness caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has been announced today, after Morecambe Bay was awarded £880,000 in funding raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Around 400 people experiencing poor mental health will be prescribed nature by GPs and other health care professionals. People referred to the project will spend time surrounded by the natural beauty of Morecambe Bay, with growing evidence showing that more time in nature helps improve mental health.
Experts question Olympic COVID readiness, ask WHO to weigh in
A group of infectious disease experts yesterday raised concerns about several gaps in the International Olympic Committee's (IOC's) COVID-19 protocols, and they called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to convene an emergency committee to weigh the risks and make recommendations for the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. If a WHO emergency committee takes up the issue, it would mark the second time in recent years that international experts have tackled the safety of the Summer Games. In 2016, a WHO emergency committee weighed in on the Zika threat to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, saying that the event—by comparison, a relatively modest mosquito-borne outbreak—posed a very low threat.
Why India’s doctors are furious over yoga guru Ramdev’s remarks
Doctors fighting a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus in India are furious over “insulting and insensitive” remarks made by a yoga guru and businessman, with their union serving a defamation notice and demanding an “apology within 15 days”. “Allopathy is a stupid and bankrupt science. First Chloroquine failed, then Remdesivir failed, then their antibiotics failed, then steroids, now a ban has been imposed on plasma therapy. Now they are prescribing Fabiflu which too has failed,” Ram Kisan Yadav, aka Baba Ramdev, told his followers last week.
Working Remotely
If You Thought Working From Home Was Messy, Here Comes Hybrid Work
It took months for bosses and employees to adjust to working remotely in the pandemic. The next era of work might be even more messy. Companies are laying down new rules and setting expectations for hybrid work as some workers come back in and others remain out of office. At JPMorgan Chase JPM -0.01% & Co., employees on some teams can schedule work-from-home days, but not on Mondays or Fridays. At Salesforce.com Inc. offices that have reopened, Thursdays are proving to be the most popular in-office day, creating high demand for meeting rooms and collaboration spaces, and prompting the company to rethink its office design.
The Unintended Consequences Of The Hybrid-Work Model
The prevailing return-to-work hybrid model could turn to unintended disastrous consequences. Google, Microsoft, Citigroup and Ford Motors represent the gamut of companies that are offering employees the opportunity to work two or three days a week in the office, but also provide for a substantial amount of people solely working remotely. This balance, after over a year of working at home, seems reasonable. It's a comfortable segue back into the new normal. There’s a strong chance that serious problems will quickly emerge. Here are just some of the time bombs both management and staff need to navigate when returning to work at an office setting or continuing at home.
New network of remote working hubs a ‘game-changer for rural Ireland’
In Ireland, plans to establish a national network of more than 400 remote working hubs are well advanced, with the State-backed initiative expected to launch next week. Responding to questions in the Dáil earlier this week, Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys said over 300 hubs have been surveyed for possible inclusion in the network, with at least 40 expected to be included at the time of the launch on Monday next. More than 100 hubs are expected to be on board by the end of 2021.
Virtual Classrooms
Mexico university designs classrooms for post-pandemic hybrid classes
With intelligent spaces that allow students to interact and feel they are in a classroom, Mexico’s Monterrey Institute of Technology has resumed hybrid classes after almost a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the health emergency, the university implemented a program of Hybrid Simultaneous In-Person Remote classes, known as HPRS, with cutting edge technology so that students taking virtual classes can interact with their professors in real time as if they were present in the classroom. The director of academic services at Tec de Monterrey’s Guadalajara campus, Veronica Rangel, told EFE on Tuesday that they had created the learning system using educational platforms with audio and video technology.
Public Policies
France will impose self isolation for people coming from UK
France on Wednesday declared a mandatory quarantine period for people coming from Britain, due to the increasing prevalence there of a highly contagious coronavirus variant first detected in India. France follows Austria, which said on Tuesday it was banning direct flights and tourist visits from Britain, and Germany, which said on Friday that anyone entering from the UK would have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival.
Belgium restricts use of J&J coronavirus vaccine to over-41s after death
Belgium Wednesday said it would no longer give people aged 41 and younger Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after the death of a woman. The health ministry said the woman died on May 21 after being admitted to hospital with severe thrombosis and platelet deficiency — rare side effects the European Medicines Agency has previously said could be linked to the vaccine following analysis of cases in the U.S. Belgium has asked the EMA to evaluate whether the vaccine was linked to the death of the woman, who received the vaccine through her employer, reported Reuters.
Zambian president bans campaign rallies to stem COVID-19 spread
Zambian President Edgar Lungu on Wednesday banned campaign rallies ahead of elections scheduled for Aug. 12, saying large gatherings risked spreading the COVID-19 virus. Lungu, a lawyer, is pitted against economist Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), whom he narrowly beat in the 2016 elections. Zambia, Africa’s no.2 copper producer, is the grips of an economic crisis after it failed to make payment of a coupon on one of its dollar bonds in November, dragging it into sovereign default.
Maldives imposes strict curbs as COVID-19 cases spike
The Maldives will restrict movement from Wednesday to curb a surge in coronavirus infections that is putting pressure on the island's healthcare facilities, officials said. People will be allowed out for a few hours each day for essential supplies and a strict curfew will be in place from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. (0300 GMT) the next day, the Health Protection Agency said.
EU seeks huge fine for AstraZeneca vaccine delays
A lawyer for the European Union asked a Brussels court on Wednesday to impose a large fine on AstraZeneca (AZN.L) for its delays in delivering COVID-19 vaccines to the EU. The lawyer said the EU was seeking 10 euros for each day of delay for each dose as compensation for AstraZeneca's non-compliance with the EU contract. The lawyer said the EU was also seeking 10 million euros as penalties for AstraZeneca for each breach of the contract that the judge may decide.
WHO asked to review spiked Italy report, whistleblower case
Whistleblower protection groups urged the World Health Organization on Wednesday to launch an independent review into the case of an Italian researcher who reported being pressured to falsify data in a now-spiked WHO report into Italy’s coronavirus response. The groups, including Transparency International, Whistleblowing International Network and some 30 other public health and anti-corruption groups, sent an open letter to the president of the World Health Assembly. The assembly, WHO’s highest decision-making body, is made up of all WHO member states and is meeting this week. In the letter, the signatories called for the U.N. agency to commit to reforming its whistleblowing protection policy. They said the Italian researcher, Dr. Francesco Zambon, had suffered retaliatory treatment for having reported the incident within WHO’s internal ethics system.
In excoriating account, Cummings slams UK PM’s COVID response
Dominic Cummings, former chief adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has said the United Kingdom failed in the COVID-19 crisis and has fallen “disastrously short” of standards during the pandemic. In a blistering attack on the government he once served, Cummings on Wednesday told legislators investigating the UK’s response that some ministers and officials went on vacation in February last year – when the virus was raging across the country – as he called for the health secretary to be fired. Cummings said the government “was not operating on a war footing on this in February in any way, shape or form”, adding that “lots of people were literally skiing”. “The truth is that senior ministers, senior officials, senior advisers like me, fell disastrously short of the standards that the public has a right to expect of its government in a crisis like this,” Cummings said.
France Suspects Russian Role in Campaign to Discredit Pfizer Vaccine
French counterintelligence authorities are investigating whether the Russian government was behind an attempt to pay high-profile health and science bloggers to sow public doubts about the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, a French security official said. Several French bloggers said publicly they received emails in recent days from a person claiming to work for a marketing firm called Fazze. The emails, some of which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, offered to pay the bloggers to make videos on YouTube, Instagram and other platforms criticizing the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, which has been the most widely used vaccine in France. One blogger told French TV he was offered €2,050 (about $2,500) for a video.
Maintaining Services
Department for Education was ‘unprepared’ for Covid-19 challenges, parliamentary committee finds
The Department for Education (DfE) “had no plan” and was unprepared for the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, a parliamentary committee has found. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that children had “very unequal experiences” during the end of the last academic year, as it explored the DfE’s response to Covid-19 in England’s first lockdown.
Healthcare Innovations
German researchers tie cold viruses used to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to rare blood clot risk
German researchers on Wednesday said that based on laboratory research, they believed they have found the cause of the rare but serious blood clotting events among some people who received COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson. The researchers, in a study not yet reviewed by experts, said COVID-19 vaccines that employ adenovirus vectors - cold viruses used to deliver vaccine material - send some of their payload into the nucleus of cells, where some of the instructions for making coronavirus proteins can be misread. The resulting proteins could potentially trigger blood clot disorders in a small number of recipients, they suggest.
Three-quarters of adults have Covid-19 antibodies, data suggests
More than three-quarters of adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are estimated to have Covid antibodies, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS data suggest 75.9 per cent of adults in England have antibodies as of the week beginning May 3. Coronavirus antibodies occur when someone has had the virus in the past, or has been vaccinated. In Wales, an estimated 76.6 per cent have antibodies and 75 per cent of adults in Northern Ireland are estimated to have antibodies.
Covid-19: Variants are spreading in countries with low vaccination rates
With new daily covid-19 cases in steep decline across Europe and North America, and now falling in India, the curve of global daily mortality is trending downwards. But the virus continues to flare up, most recently in Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam—countries often cited as models of pandemic control. Taiwan’s covid-19 death toll has more than doubled in one week—to 23 deaths in all. Having recorded just 135 locally acquired infections in the entire pandemic up to 14 May, Taiwan has since detected over 4000 cases as the country’s atrophied testing system struggles to keep up with new suspected cases. Covid testing had largely been abandoned even in cases of fever, such was the disease’s rarity in Taiwan. Case numbers have also surged in parts of South America, where mortality has been on a different scale of magnitude. Argentina has the world’s highest per capita death rate, having seen 493 deaths a day on average over the past week, or 10.8 deaths per million people per day, compared with 9.4 in Colombia, 8.8 in Brazil, and 1.6 in the US. Argentina’s toll this week was proportionally higher than the worst week seen in Colombia, Peru, or the US, though less deadly than the worst weeks in Brazil, Hungary, or the UK.
Mild, asymptomatic COVID-19 cases may be as infectious as severe ones
Only 8% of more than 25,000 German COVID-19 patients had high viral loads, one-third of whom were presymptomatic, asymptomatic, or mildly symptomatic, according to a study published yesterday in Science. High viral loads suggest greater infectiousness. Led by researchers from the Charite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin, the study involved measuring SARS-CoV-2 viral loads and estimating probability of virus cell culture isolation in 25,381 coronavirus patients, 24% of whom were identified at testing facilities, 38% of whom were hospitalized, and 6% of whom were infected with the B117 variant first seen in the United Kingdom.
U.S. FDA gives emergency use approval for GSK-Vir COVID-19 antibody drug
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave an emergency use authorization to the antibody treatment developed by Vir Biotechnology (VIR.O) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) for treating mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in people aged 12 years and older.
Patients with mild cases of COVID-19 still have antibodies 11 months after infection and may even have lifelong protection, study suggests
A new study looked at blood samples from 77 patients who previously had mild cases of COVID-19. Antibody levels dropped within the first few months of infection, but could be found up to 11 months after some patients first tested positive. Of 18 patients who gave bone marrow samples, 15 had plasma cells secreting antibodies seven to eight months later and five did 11 months later. The researchers say the findings suggest that those with mild infections could have lifelong protection