" Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 2nd Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
Mental health of mothers more negatively affected by Covid school closures than fathers, research finds
Researchers have found that mothers experienced worse mental health while schools were closed during lockdown. Meanwhile, there was no impact on the mental well-being of fathers. Research by the University of Essex’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, in conjunction with the universities of Surrey and Birmingham, found that the mental health of mothers suffered as schools were forced to shut. In addition to their day jobs, women were tasked with childcare and homeschooling during this time, which led mothers of pre-teen children to feel more lonely, lose confidence and have difficulty sleeping.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19 Australia: Qantas offers unlimited travel as incentive to get coronavirus vaccine
Qantas offering added incentive for Australians to roll up sleeves for Covid jab 10 lucky families will win unlimited travel for year, plus free accommodation Called on other companies to follow airline's lead to bolster vaccination efforts
Testing for Covid-19: How S'pore is raising its game with DIY test kits, wastewater sampling and more
A variety of Covid-19 tests - with the latest being over-the-counter test kits - are now under Singapore’s belt, allowing fast, extensive, easy and accurate tests to be conducted as the nation raises its game to fight the virus. Here's a look at the different tests. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR) Swab test from the nose or back of throat, or from sputum. Looks for genetic sequences of Covid-19.
Covid-19 vaccines burnt as shelf-life complicates global rollout
Inefficiencies in the global distribution of vaccines and the relatively short shelf-life of the leading jabs have meant that doses have arrived in some countries too late for the shots to be used. The southern African nation of Malawi publicly burnt almost 20,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine last month, despite having one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world. The shots had been marked with an expiry date of April 13 and, although the manufacturer said it would be safe to use the jabs for another three months, the government feared damaging fragile vaccine confidence by administering expired jabs.
Alaska offers vaccinations for airport arrivals
Alaska has begun offering coronavirus vaccinations at airports in a move that had been expected for the start of the summer travel season. The state health department said that as of Tuesday, vaccine eligibility has been expanded to include anyone in Alaska who is at least 12 years old, including visitors from other states or countries. Prior eligibility was for those who live or work in Alaska. Vaccines will be offered outside the areas secured by the federal Transportation Security Administration at airports in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. The health department says plans call for the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to have available all three vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S., including the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Community Activities
Turkey eases COVID-19 measures, partly re-opens restaurants
Turkey further eased measures meant to curb coronavirus infections on Monday including partially lifting a weekend lockdown and opening restaurants to a limited number of guests. President Tayyip Erdogan said the lighter measures, in response to falling cases, would go into effect Tuesday. Under the new rules, nationwide daily curfews are delayed by an hour to 10 p.m. Erdogan lifted virtually all social restrictions in March but backtracked in April when daily cases soared above 60,000, making Turkey briefly second globally. A partial lockdown was imposed from the end of April to May 17.
Roma mistrust in governments is an obstacle to COVID-19 recovery
As countries across Europe race each other to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19 in the hopes of controlling the spread of the deadly virus and restoring some sense of normality, there is a danger that our already vulnerable and marginalised Roma communities will fall through the cracks. There are more than 12 million Roma in Europe, making up the continent’s largest minority. In some European countries, such as Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria, Roma comprise almost 10 percent of the population. Therefore, if Europe is to defeat COVID-19, it is essential for Roma communities to take up the vaccine.
COVID-19: Major shopping centre forced to close as anti-lockdown protest causes 'significant disruption'
Anti-lockdown protesters caused one of the UK's biggest shopping centres to close early on Saturday after forcing their way inside. Demonstrators clashed with police as they pushed to get into Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush, west London. Officers started forming a protective line around the centre at about 4.30pm as the protest became heated and police were seen using batons to keep demonstrators back. Some still managed to force their way into the building and footage shows crowds standing on tables and chanting "What do you want? Freedom! When do you want it? Now!"
Working Remotely
Remote work unlocks new talent markets for Ottawa employers
By now it’s clear remote work isn’t going away, even once the global pandemic is over and it’s safe for everyone to return to the office. While this shift opens a raft of questions for employers and their current staff, it also opens new opportunities for companies grappling with the city’s long-felt tight talent market. Ottawa companies are hiring employees who live outside the National Capital Region to work remotely as a way of addressing a skills shortage in the city. But abandoning a long-held mindset that an employee must live in the same region as their employer is raising new questions for companies.
Remote working laws should include the ‘right to disconnect’, say experts
Plans by the Government to draft new laws giving employees the right to ask to work remotely should also include the ‘right to disconnect’, legal experts from Trinity College Dublin have said. In a new report, experts from TCD’s Covid-19 Law and Human Rights Observatory, said a new statutory code of practice on the ‘right to disconnect’ introduced earlier this year does not protect employees against the working culture of “constant availability”. The report, ‘A Right to Disconnect: Irish and European Legal Perspectives’, found that existing laws are “insufficient” to protect employees and recommends that the ‘right to disconnect’ is enshrined in binding legislation that includes a definition of ‘working’ and ‘leisure’ time.
Four Ways to Keep Working From Home When the Boss Wants You Back
As offices reopen, some companies are letting workers decide when—or whether—to return. A recent CBS News poll showed that 60% of employees want to keep working remotely, at least part time. But doing so can lead to anxiety: If you’re not in the office every day, will it start to become an issue? We asked experts for advice on how to ensure that a hybrid arrangement can continue to benefit you—and be valuable to bosses. Manage perceptions. “As a prospective member of the hybrid workplace, you want to distinguish between actual hours in the office and perception of presence and engagement,” says Alexandra Samuel, co-author of Remote, Inc.: How to Thrive at Work … Wherever You Are. “They’re different things.” Samuel suggests spending 10 or 15 minutes answering important messages first thing in the morning, while your colleagues are starting their commute. “That extends the workday and can shorten feedback cycles and make people value you as somebody who’s out of the office,” she says. “It also creates the perception that you’re always working, always responsive.”
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual learners and the impending security risks they face
The pandemic has left behind a level on uncertainty for many, and for students in particular. Schools, colleges and universities were forced to close for extended periods of time. Physical contact hours were replaced with virtual learning, while the university aspirations of many are now in question as institutions are making fewer offers as a result of budgetary constraints. Video meetings and collaboration platforms have been a lifeline over the past year, but this has made educational institutions vulnerable to the rising cybersecurity threat landscape. A single data breach costs £3.1 million on average. The impacts from the pandemic have meant that education facilities cannot afford the severe financial and reputational repercussions from a successful ransomware attack. Students’ learning environments must remain productive both on and offline, as a matter of priority.
Public Policies
Vietnam's 'very dangerous' new hybrid variant may be fueling Asia's worst outbreak so far
Vietnam has suspended international flights from today into its capital, Hanoi, and commercial hub, Ho Chi Minh City, as it tries to control a suspected new hybrid coronavirus variant that it fears is fanning the Southeast Asian nation’s worst outbreak of the pandemic. China has also tightened its border security as its neighbour, once considered a pandemic success story, now plans to test all 13 million residents of Ho Chi Minh City and tighten social distancing measures. Vietnam’s plight follows a now familiar pattern of Covid-19 surges across Asia - most alarmingly in countries like Singapore, Laos, Thailand and Taiwan that were praised for beating the virus in 2020, only to be caught out by a global vaccine shortage as new variants ricocheted back from coronavirus hotspots. On Saturday, the Vietnamese authorities revealed they had discovered a “very dangerous” new coronavirus variant that combined mutations first found in India and the UK, and which spreads quickly by air.
Moderna starts application for full U.S. approval of COVID-19 vaccine
Moderna Inc on Tuesday filed for full U.S. approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for adults, the second drugmaker to do so after Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech sought full clearance for their vaccine last month. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization (EUA) allowed use of the vaccines during the pandemic, based on a minimum number of infections among the trial population and two months of safety data for vaccine recipients. Full approval for the vaccines, based on six months of trial data, could be an important step in allaying vaccine hesitancy in the United States and other nations.
UK must vaccinate the world to save lives at home - MPs
Boris Johnson has a "moral duty" to share some of the UK's coronavirus vaccines with developing nations to prevent a "humanitarian disaster" say MPs and peers. In a letter, they urge the PM to show "global leadership" ahead of the G7 summit by pledging to donate one dose abroad for each one given in the UK. There is concern new variants could prolong the UK's lockdown restrictions. Ministers say the UK was one of the earliest vaccination donors. Vaccines are being administered across the world under an international scheme known as Covax, to try and stop the coronavirus pandemic, but the global situation remains vastly uneven.
Ontario step closer to reopening plan as COVID-19 stay-at-home order set to end
Nearly two months after the Ontario government enacted a provincewide stay-at-home order in response to the third wave of COVID-19, it is set to be rescinded on June 2 as health-care indicators continue to show improvement. However, despite the end of the order, the so-called emergency brake (similar to the grey lockdown restrictions under Ontario’s old colour-coded COVID-19 response framework) imposed on a variety of sectors, including businesses, will remain in place until the province moves into the first phase of the reopening plan, which is on track to happen in mid-June.
Philippines extends COVID-19 curbs in capital, ban on inbound travel from several countries
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday prolonged partial coronavirus curbs in the capital and nearby provinces until mid-June to contain infections that have been decreasing since hitting a peak in April. Religious gathering remain capped at 30% of venue capacity while dining in restaurants can operate at 20% in the capital region, an urban sprawl of 16 cities that is home to at least 13 million people, and nearby provinces. Non-essential travels will remain prohibited.
COVID-19: France tightens restrictions on foreign travellers due to fears of Indian variant
France has tightened restrictions on foreign travellers in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus variant first identified in India. The new rules come into effect today and include: • Entry to France limited to EU nationals, French residents, and those travelling for essential purposes • Permitted travellers must test negative for COVID-19 before leaving their departure country • They must also isolate for seven days after they arrive in France • They must sign a declaration saying they do not have COVID symptoms and that they are not aware of having been in contact with someone who has the virus in the 14 days before their journey
China administered total of 661.47 mln doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of May 31
China administered about 22.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines on May 31, bringing the total number of doses administered to 661.47 million, data from the National Health Commission said on Tuesday.
South Korea says J&J's COVID-19 shots fully taken up
South Korea closed its first phase of reservations for Johnson and Johnson (JNJ.N) COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday as military personnel signed up for all 800,000 shots on offer, the government said. South Korea received one million doses of the vaccine this week after the United States almost doubled a pledge made during President Moon Jae-in's first summit with U.S. President Joe Biden last month. Authorities designated the vaccine for military-related personnel, including reserve forces and the civil defence corps, as well as people planning overseas business trips or diplomatic missions. Around 3.7 million people are eligible to receive the single-dose vaccine and a total of 800,000 had signed up in less than 16 hours since reservations began
Thai COVID-19 vaccine rollout will go ahead on time - minister
Thailand's health minister on Tuesday sought to reassure the public that a mass-immunisation programme would start as planned next week, amid anxiety over vaccine supplies and no relent in its deadliest COVID-19 outbreak yet. Thailand is struggling to contain its current, most severe outbreak and authorities have been scrambling to secure vaccines from more manufacturers, accompanied by mixed messages about how the mass vaccinations will be carried out. "On June 7 there will be vaccine for everyone, those that already have appointments for the vaccine will get it as scheduled," Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said
Consider global shortages before giving COVID-19 shots to teens, EU body says
European Union countries should take account of global shortages of COVID-19 vaccines before rolling out shots for adolescents, the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Tuesday. Last week, the EU drugs regulator authorised Pfizer and partner BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12. Its previous guidance was for adults aged 16 and above. The ECDC - echoing World Health Organization (WHO) calls to delay inoculations of young adults in rich nations - said in a report that vaccinating adolescents should be a priority only when they are at high risk of developing serious coronavirus symptoms
Ireland to phase out some COVID-19 fiscal supports, extend others
Ireland will begin to gradually phase out temporary coronavirus-related jobless payments later this year while maintaining other income and business supports as the economy fully reopens, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said on Tuesday. Ireland is emerging from its third and longest lockdown having had one the strictest regimes in Europe for the last 15 months, leaving more than 300,000 people who lost their jobs claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). Local media reported that the PUP, which is paid out at a higher rate than regular jobless benefits, would be reduced from September and withdrawn by February 2022.
Empty streets and malls as Malaysia locks down
Malaysia began a two-week national lockdown on Tuesday, with police checkpoints on road junctions around the capital Kuala Lumpur as authorities tackle a wave of COVID-19 infections that has hit record levels in recent weeks. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin called it a "total lockdown", though essential services are allowed and some factories can operate with a reduced workforce. The latest outbreak has been more severe, partly due to highly transmissible variants. It has also strained the health service, prompting some in the capital to question whether enough has been done.
Australia's Victoria state calls for patience on end of COVID-19 lockdown
Australia's Victoria state authorities said on Tuesday that it was still unclear whether a snap one-week lockdown to contain a fresh COVID-19 outbreak would end as planned on Thursday night, as the state grapples with a growing virus outbreak. Australia's second-most populous state was plunged into the lockdown on May 27 after the state reported its first locally transmitted cases in nearly three months early last week, forcing its near seven million residents to remain home except for essential business.
Ecuador launches 100-day vaccine plan, president recognizes challenges
Ecuador this week launched a plan to vaccinate 9 million people against the novel coronavirus in 100 days, part of recently installed President Guillermo Lasso's plan to revive the economy by battling the pandemic. Lasso recognized that the country needed to acquire further doses from overseas in order to reach that goal, and said the government was in talks with Russia over the purchase of some 18 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. "All of our logistical effort will be successful once we have vaccines," Lasso said while presenting the plan. "It is urgent, and we depend on the provision of vaccines from abroad."
Brazilian court demands Bolsonaro provide info on Copa America
A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has given President Jair Bolsonaro five days to submit information regarding the government’s last-minute decision to host the Copa America football tournament despite the nation’s ongoing struggles with COVID-19. The demand by Ricardo Lewandowski came in response to a suit filed by the opposition Workers’ Party, which objected to hosting the tournament given the current public health situation in Brazil and plunged the fate of Latin America’s biggest sporting event into uncertainty once more.
Government faces legal challenge over ‘unlawful’ suppression of Covid data in schools
Public Health England (PHE) has been accused of acting “unlawfully” by withholding data on the spread of the Indian variant in schools. In a pre-action letter sent to the government body, advocacy group the Citizens and AWO, a data rights firm, claim that PHE “surrendered its independent judgement” to Boris Johnson. The allegation comes following reports that PHE had been preparing to publish the data on 13 May, but faced pressure not to from the prime minister’s office.
WHO approves Sinovac COVID shot in second Chinese milestone
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday it has approved a COVID-19 vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech (SVA.O) for emergency use listing, paving the way for a second Chinese shot to be used in poor countries. A WHO emergency listing is a signal to national regulators of a product's safety and efficacy and will allow the Sinovac shot to be included in COVAX, the global programme providing vaccines mainly for poor countries, which faces major supply problems due to curbs on Indian exports. The WHO's independent panel of experts said in a statement it recommended Sinovac's vaccine for adults over 18. There was no upper age limit as data suggested it is likely to have a protective effect in older people.
WHO renames COVID-19 variants with Greek letters to avoid stigma
Coronavirus variants are to be known by letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid misreporting and stigmatising nations where they were first detected, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced. The new system applies to variants of concern – the most troubling of which four are in circulation – and the second-level variants of interest being tracked. “While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting,” the WHO said in a statement. “As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory.”
Maintaining Services
People in Wales to be offered third Covid 'booster' jab as part of trial
People in one part of Wales are set to take part in a new clinical trial to receive a third 'booster' coronavirus vaccine. Volunteers who are over the age of 30, have already had both Covid jabs and live within a 50-mile radius of Wrexham are needed for the world-first research study. The COV-Boost study, which is being run at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, is taking place at 18 sites in the UK and will involve 2,886 volunteers. The trial is looking at seven different Covid-19 vaccines as potential boosters given at least 10 to 12 weeks after their second dose. Volunteers could receive a different brand to the one they were originally vaccinated with.
Covid-19: Irish pharmacies to administer vaccines in June
Pharmacies in the Republic of Ireland are to play a role in Covid-19 vaccinations from early June, the Irish health minister has said. Stephen Donnelly told the Seanad (Irish parliament) the move would be "particularly important in areas further away from vaccination centres". Mr Donnelly said people aged 40 to 44 will be able to register for their jabs from Wednesday, RTÉ reports. A total of 2.7m jabs have now been administered in the Republic. That means that half of the adult population has now had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Moderna partners with Thermo Fisher to scale up COVID-19 vaccine production
Moderna Inc said on Tuesday it had entered into an agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific for manufacturing and packaging its COVID-19 vaccine, as the U.S. vaccine maker looks to scale up production. Under the terms, Moderna said Thermo Fisher's commercial manufacturing site in Greenville, North Carolina will be used to provide fill/finish manufacturing services and supply packaging for hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine. "The addition of Thermo Fisher to our network will support our efforts to scale up our manufacturing ability," Moderna's chief technical operations and quality officer, Juan Andres, said in a statement.
Brazil vaccination pace slows as production issues halt second doses
A decrease in local COVID-19 vaccine production has slowed the pace of Brazil's inoculation drive and contributed to a growing number of people not taking their second doses, according to the latest data from the Fiocruz biomedical institute.
Australian court upholds ban on most international travel
An Australian court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to the federal government’s draconian power to prevent most citizens from leaving the country so that they don’t bring COVID-19 home. Australia is alone among developed democracies in preventing its citizens and permanent residents from leaving the country except in “exceptional circumstances” where they can demonstrate a “compelling reason.” Most Australians have been stranded in their island nation since March 2020 under a government emergency order made under the powerful Biosecurity Act. Libertarian group LibertyWorks argued before the full bench of the Federal Court in early May that Health Minister Greg Hunt did not have the power to legally enforce the travel ban that has prevented thousands of Australians from attending weddings and funerals, caring for dying relatives and meeting newborn babies.
Healthcare Innovations
Antibody from cold can neutralize COVID-19 and could lead to vaccine against all coronaviruses
A new study compared blood samples collected before the pandemic to those from people infected with COVID-19. Levels of an antibody generated by immune system cells called memory B cells were higher in the samples from the COVID-19 survivors. These antibodies circulate in the bloodstream for years and 'remember' diseases and are called back into action if the threat returns. Researchers say the findings could help scientists develop a vaccine or antibody treatment that protects against all coronaviruses
Scientists call on UK to speed up second Covid jabs as India variant spreads
Scientists are urging the government to speed up second doses of Covid vaccines and delay a decision on easing lockdown restrictions in England on 21 June in an effort to tackle the creeping spread of new cases. Data has shown the coronavirus variant first detected in India, known as B.1.617.2, is continuing to spread across England, and is thought to be driving a rise in cases. It is believed to be both more transmissible than the variant first detected in Kent, which previously dominated, and somewhat more resistant to Covid vaccines, particularly after one dose. The situation has led some scientists to warn the country is in the early stages of a third wave of coronavirus which, despite the vaccination programme, modelling suggests could lead to a rise in hospitalisations and deaths, and that full easing of restrictions in England in three weeks’ time should be reconsidered.
Canada panel says COVID-19 shots can be mixed, move could hit AstraZeneca
An official Canadian panel on Tuesday said people who received a first shot of AstraZeneca PLC's (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine can choose to receive a different shot for their second dose, dealing another potential blow to the pharmaceutical giant. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said one reason for the recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) was concern about rare and potentially fatal blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. "If it weren't for that, then probably one would progress with giving the same (vaccine) as a second dose," she said.
Israel sees probable link between Pfizer vaccine and small number of myocarditis cases
Israel’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday it found the small number of heart inflammation cases observed mainly in young men who received Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in Israel were likely linked to their vaccination. Pfizer has said it has not observed a higher rate of the condition, known as myocarditis, than would normally be expected in the general population. On Tuesday, it did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In Israel, 275 cases of myocarditis were reported between December 2020 and May 2021 among more than 5 million vaccinated people, the ministry said, in disclosing the findings of a study it commissioned to examine the matter
Britain seeks extra AstraZeneca shots to combat 'beta' COVID-19 variant
Britain is in talks with Oxford and AstraZeneca (AZN.L) for additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine that has been modified to better target the "beta" coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa, and it will fund trials of the shots. Britain has previously secured 100 million doses of the vaccine, developed at the University of Oxford and licenced to AstraZeneca, and the health ministry said the extra doses under discussion would be tailored to target the B.1.351 variant. South Africa put use of AstraZeneca's shot on hold in February after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the country's dominant variant, now known as "beta" under a new World Health Organization labelling system
Sinovac Biotech vaccine effective in controlling Covid-19, new study shows
The vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech was effective in controlling Covid-19 in a mass-inoculation study in a small Brazilian town after 75 per cent of adults were covered with a second shot, preliminary numbers show. The study carried out by the Sao Paulo state government in the small town of Serrana - population 45,000 - may offer clues for other developing nations on how much of the public needs to be vaccinated in order to begin moving past the pandemic that continues to wreak havoc in Latin America and beyond. While infection rates improved after first doses were administered, Covid-19 wasn’t properly controlled in the town until after a second shot was given. A complete study will be published soon.