"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 4th Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
‘Ugliest phase of my life’: How Covid is leaving a permanent scar on mental health of elders
“My body was falling apart, it was very weak, the feeling of fatigue was intense. I did wonder at some points whether I would survive this,” said 73-year-old Prabir Chakravorty as he recalled his 25-day isolation period after testing positive for Covid on April 26. With over 28 million cases of Covid reported in India alone, self-isolation and self-quarantine are crucial to minimise the spread and among the first recommendations to patients. However, the negative physical, psychological, and social effects of isolation are apparent among the elderly population, especially those suffering from pre-existing mental illness.
Overcoming loneliness during COVID-19 and onward
The World Health Organization (WHO) says although we need to stay apart physically, we need to connect with one another now more than ever. When feelings of loneliness happen too often, it can become chronic and have a negative impact on physical and emotional health. Since the start of the pandemic, Canadians — more specifically, seniors — have been feeling lonely. Becoming more social might sound hard at first, but if you’re retired, you may have more free time than you used to — and more opportunities to improve your social well-being. One key to overcoming feelings of loneliness is to think about ways you can start feeling connected to others. Consider the tips below to help you feel connected.
Hygiene Helpers
International covid vaccination passports 'still some way off'
An internationally agreed approach to Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine certification remains “some way off”, Matt Hancock has said. Speaking ahead of a G7 health ministers’ meeting, the Health Secretary told reporters: “Ultimately there are a number of countries around the world that have said they’re definitely going to have a requirement to be vaccinated in order to travel. “We’re making sure that here any Brit can see their vaccine status. “But we’re some way off having an internationally agreed approach for that. “It’s something we talk about and are discussing but there’s still a lot of work to do.” It comes amid s growing speculation that popular holiday islands could be added to the Government’s travel green list later today.
Coronavirus: Germany fights trade in fake Covid vaccine certificates
A German police force has set up a special team to combat a growing black market in forged vaccine certificates. Police in Cologne told the broadcaster ARD that fraudsters were communicating via an encrypted messenger service which makes investigations difficult. They are still trying to determine the scale of the problem nationally. Some people are duped into paying about €100 (£86; $122), then get nothing. Covid "passports" to ease travel are being rolled out now across the EU. Of the Covid vaccinations approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) all but one - the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) one - require two jabs, several weeks or months apart.
Covid-19: Positive tests for infections rise by 22 per cent in England
The number of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus in England has risen by 22 per cent to the highest level in six weeks, NHS Test and Trace data suggests. A total of 17,162 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the country at least once in the week to May 26. The weekly increase in positive test results brings the number of new infections to its highest since 14 April.
Slow to start, China steps up the pace on vaccination
In the span of just five days last month, China gave 100 million shots of its COVID-19 vaccines. After a slow start, it is now doing what virtually no other country in the world can: harnessing the power and all-encompassing reach of its one-party system and a maturing domestic vaccine industry to administer shots at a staggering pace. The rollout is far from perfect, including uneven distribution, but Chinese public health leaders now say they’re hoping to inoculate 80 percent of the population of 1.4 billion by the end of the year. As of Tuesday, China had given more than 680 million doses – with nearly half of those in May alone. China’s total is roughly a third of the 1.9 billion shots distributed globally, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.
COVID-19: Testing system could be 'overwhelmed' if more countries are added to the green travel list
The UK's testing system could be overwhelmed if holiday hotspots are added to the green travel list, according to an industry expert. Rory Boland, travel editor of Which?, has told Sky News "too many people are not getting their test back on time". The warning comes ahead of an expected review of the government's travel traffic light system later today. Holidaymakers returning to the UK from green locations are not required to self-isolate but they must take one post-arrival coronavirus test. Mr Boland said the testing system is struggling to meet demand as it is.
Slow to start, China now vaccinating at a staggering pace
In the span of just five days last month, China gave out 100 million shots of its COVID-19 vaccines. After a slow start, China is now doing what virtually no other country in the world can: leveraging the power and all-encompassing reach of its one-party system and a maturing domestic vaccine industry to administer shots at a staggering pace. The rollout is far from perfect, including uneven distribution, but Chinese public health leaders now say they’re hoping to inoculate 80% of the population of 1.4 billion by the end of the year. As of Wednesday, China had given out more than 704 million doses — with nearly half of those in May alone. China’s total is roughly a third of the 1.9 billion shots distributed globally, according to Our World in Data
Greece rolls out ‘long-awaited’ mass vaccine campaign to refugees
Greece is launching a mass vaccination campaign for refugees, months after the first shots were rolled out to the wider population in early January. Starting Thursday, vaccinations will be offered to people living in refugee camps on the islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos. Those on the remaining island camps and the mainland will be offered the shots next week. Athens plans to inoculate more than 11,000 people living in refugee camps on the Greek islands against the coronavirus. According to the UNHCR, there are 91,945 recognised refugees in the country.
Washington vaccination lottery: cash prize, tuition, flights
Washington is the latest state to offer prizes to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announcing a series of giveaways that includes lottery drawings totaling $2 million, college tuition assistance, airline tickets and game systems. The incentive program, called “Shot of a Lifetime,” applies to those who start the vaccination process this month as well as residents who are already vaccinated. Washington joins several other states — including California, New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon — that have already created lotteries in hopes of increasing the pace of vaccination, which has slowed in recent weeks. “This is a very, very common-sense investment to save lives,” Inslee said at a news conference announcing the incentives.
Vaccinated or not, California workers may keep masks on
Major California businesses expressed frustration Thursday with proposed rules by state workplace regulators that would only allow workers to go maskless if everyone in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The workplace rules could remain in place into early next year even though coronavirus cases have fallen dramatically in the state after a severe winter spike and as more people get vaccinated. That contrasts with the state’s plan to fully reopen in less than two weeks and do away with virtually all mask and social distancing requirements for vaccinated people.
Community Activities
Rabbit holes of information on social media ‘make users less willing to get jab’
People who use social media to obtain information are less willing to receive a coronavirus vaccine due to the “rabbit holes” of hesitancy they find themselves stuck in, according to a study. Researchers from the universities of Oxford and Southampton said some users see content suggestions “aligned with their fears”, creating an “echo chamber” effect, naming video-sharing website YouTube as a particular concern. Recommendations appear based on a person’s viewing history.
Brazilians bang pots in protest as 2,500 more die of COVID-19
Pot-banging protests have erupted across several cities in Brazil as President Jair Bolsonaro addressed the nation, just days after protesters took to the streets over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed almost half a million people in the country. The last few days have been rocky for the right-wing leader, whose popularity had already been flagging amid persistently high daily COVID-19 deaths and cases.
Indian doctors protest herbal treatments being touted for COVID-19
As India struggles with one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks, thousands of doctors across the nation fighting to save patients amid shortages of oxygen, medicine, and vaccines wore black armbands yesterday to call for the arrest of India's most popular yoga televangelist. Baba Ramdev, founder of a traditional medicine empire, is peddling unproven herbal pills and yoga cures for COVID-19, while calling modern drugs “stupid" and blaming the country’s hundreds of thousands of coronavirus deaths on modern medicine. But far from being fringe, Ramdev has close ties to India’s Hindu nationalist government and has enjoyed the support of the health minister. Since the pandemic began last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been aggressively promoting Ayurveda—a traditional system of medicine with deep links to Hinduism that originated 5,000 years ago and is still widely practiced by hundreds of millions of Indians. Ayurveda uses plant-derived products, yoga, diet, and behaviour changes to treat the mind and body, and is included in India’s official COVID-19 management protocol as a prevention and cure for the pandemic.
UK to remove Portugal from safe travel list in blow for airlines - BBC
Britain removed Portugal from its quarantine-free travel list on Thursday, essentially shutting down the UK's international leisure market just weeks after it reopened and sparking outrage from embattled airlines. The industry questioned why British people could not travel when the country had some of the highest vaccine rates in the world. Portugal said the decision lacked logic. Airports demanded a cash lifeline. Transport minister Grant Shapps said however that coronavirus variants had been detected in Portugal, forcing the UK to shut off the one big European holiday destination it had sanctioned and prioritise its national reopening instead.
COVID Discord group helps Indians find oxygen, answers, and community
Arnab Biswas first noticed the cries for help on Instagram. In mid-April, the 25-year-old started re-sharing stories of people looking for life-saving resources to fight COVID, like ventilators and oxygen cylinders, in his home country of India. However, being an Instagram intermediary soon became unmanageable as requests flooded in. So he turned to Discord, a group chat service, to connect people who had essentials with those with COVID or trying to save people suffering from the disease. He found a better digital solution to an ever-growing problem as COVID cases rose precipitously during India's deadly second COVID wave, resources dwindled, and misinformation flourished. Now, less than two months later, the chat group called "COVID Fighters (India)" has attracted more than 12,000 members throughout the country.
Indonesia cancels Hajj again amid concerns over COVID
Indonesia has cancelled the Hajj pilgrimage for people in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation for a second year in a row, due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. For many Indonesians, the pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime event, with an average wait time of 20 years due to a quota system. “Due to the pandemic and for the safety of the pilgrims, the government has decided that this year it won’t allow Indonesian pilgrims to go again,” the minister of religious affairs, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, said in a statement on Thursday. Yaqut said Saudi Arabia had not opened access to the Hajj.
The World Should Learn From India’s Covid-19 Cataclysm
In cities at least, India’s nightmarish second wave of Covid-19 finally seems to be ebbing. Delhi has brought its test positivity rate below 2% for the first time in two months. The pandemic’s scars won’t be easily erased, however — and they should be a warning to other developing nations. Those countries must learn from India’s experience if they don’t want to repeat it. The first and most obvious lesson is to avoid overconfidence. A relatively small change in how transmissible the novel coronavirus is can have large, non-linear effects on how fast it spreads. That means strategies that kept the pandemic at bay in 2020 won’t necessarily work in 2021. As new variants emerge, health authorities might need to lock down more firmly and in a more targeted fashion to remain safe.
Working Remotely
Calls for policy to help remote workers strike a balance between home and work life
The government has been urged to introduce a policy to help remote workers strike a better balance between work and home commitments. The British Chambers of Commerce, the Mental Health Foundation and trade union Prospect have all joined the conversation, with the latter calling for a ban on out-of-hours emails. Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, believes a more sensible, agile working model would provide welcome flexibility for businesses and individuals alike.
The empty office: what we lose when we work from home
In the summer of 2020, Daniel Beunza, a Spanish social scientist, organised a stream of video calls with a dozen senior bankers in the US and Europe. Beunza wanted to know how they had run a trading desk while working from home. Did finance require flesh-and-blood humans? Beunza had studied bank trading floors for two decades, and had noticed a paradox. Digital technologies had entered finance in the late 20th century, pushing markets into cyberspace and enabling most financial work to be done outside the office – in theory. But the digital revolution had not caused banks’ offices and trading rooms to disappear. “The tendency is the reverse,” Bob said. “Banks are building bigger and bigger trading rooms.” Why? Beunza had spent years watching financiers like Bob to find the answer. Now, during lockdown, many executives and HR departments found themselves dealing with the same issue: what is gained and what is lost when everyone is working from home?
Employees looking to quit post-pandemic? Here's how to keep them.
Just as the country is opening back up, and companies are figuring out plans to return workers to the office, at least some of the time, they have a new worry on the horizon: a talent drain. A recent survey done by Morning Consult on behalf of Prudential polled 2,000 adults working full-time. It found that 87% of American workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue working remotely at least one day a week, post-pandemic. Among all workers, 68% say a hybrid workplace model is best. But here’s the kicker: 42% of current remote workers say if their employer doesn’t continue to offer remote work options long-term, they’ll look for a job at a company that does. To avoid this wave of departures, companies need to rethink not only how they operate in a post-pandemic world, but what it’s going to take to attract and retain the best talent.
Apple Employees Will Return To The Office Three Days A Week Starting In September
Apple employees will be asked to return to the office from early-September for a minimum of three days a week, according to an internal memo seen by The Verge. While Apple was quick to embrace full-time remote working as a result of the pandemic, it looks like this flexibility will soon be coming to an end. Tim Cook has told staff that, starting September, most employees will be asked to come in to the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, with the option of working remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays. Teams that need to work in-person will return four to five days a week, according to the email. “For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other,” Cook said. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”
Public Policies
Africa faces ‘rising threat’ of a COVID third wave: WHO
Healthcare systems across Africa are “far from ready” to cope with a fresh surge of coronavirus infections, with vaccine deliveries at a near standstill and cases surging in many countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned. “Many African hospitals and clinics are still far from ready to cope with a huge rise in critically ill patients,” WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said on Thursday. “The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising,” she added in a virtual briefing. Africa has officially registered more than 4.8 million cases and 130,000 deaths, according to the WHO, representing 2.9 percent of global cases and 3.7 percent of deaths. According to a survey conducted by the WHO in May, the essential health facilities and personnel required to manage critically ill COVID-19 patients are grossly inadequate in many African countries.
Greece to offer COVID-19 vaccines to neighbouring countries - spokeswoman
Greece will supply its northern neighbours Albania and North Macedonia with 40,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, the country's spokeswoman said on Thursday. "Greece, in coordination with the European Commission, as most European countries do for their neighbours, will offer vaccines...20,000 doses to North Macedonia and 20,000 to Albania," Aristotelia Peloni told a news conference.
COVID-19: Vietnamese government sends mass texts to citizens asking for cash to fund vaccine programme
Vietnam is asking members of the public to donate money that can be used to buy, import, research and produce COVID-19 vaccines. The country is currently being hit by its biggest coronavirus outbreak so far, with nearly 60% of its infections recorded in the past month. And the government has now sent mass text messages to citizens requesting financial contributions to a £777m special fund for the COVID vaccination programme. It comes as the country announced Russia had agreed to provide it with 20 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine this year.
Taiwan health ministry to get $2.9 billion boost to fight COVID-19
Taiwan's health ministry will receive an extra T$79.2 billion ($2.87 billion) in spending to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including buying vaccines, the government said on Thursday, detailing a stimulus package approved this week. Taiwan's parliament approved on Monday an extra T$420 billion in spending to help the economy deal with the virus' impact, as the island curbs business activity to counter a spike in domestic infections
Hong Kong authorises COVID-19 vaccine for 12-year-olds and above
Hong Kong will open its COVID-19 vaccine scheme to children aged 12 and above for the first time, the government said on Thursday, as it pursues a broader campaign across the city to incentivise its 7.5 million residents to get vaccinated. Children of that age group will be able to get Germany's BioNTech vaccine, but residents still have to be older than 18 to receive China's Sinovac shot. The Chinese special administrative region started its COVID-19 vaccination programme in February but only around 14% of the population have been fully vaccinated.
Sweden failed to protect elderly from COVID, parliament panel says
Sweden's centre-left minority government, which neverordered a COVID-19 lockdown and relied instead mostly on voluntary curbs, failed in several aspects of its handling of the pandemic, parliament's constitutional committee said on Thursday. The government was slow to put in place a testing and tracing system, failed to protect of the elderly and there was a lack of clear lines of responsibility between national and local authorities, the committee said. It did not comment on Sweden's controversial no-lockdown strategy.
Biden outlines plan to quickly share 25 mln COVID-19 vaccines with world
The White House laid out a plan for the United States to share 25 million surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world, with the first shots shipping as soon as Thursday, and said it would ease other countries’ access to U.S.-made supplies for vaccine production. President Joe Biden said the United States would give the vaccines without expectation of political favors in return. The dose shipments are the first of some 80 million COVID-19 vaccines that Biden has pledged to provide internationally this month as concern grows about the huge disparity in vaccination rates between advanced economies and developing countries.
France donates 184000 AstraZeneca doses to Senegal via COVAX
France has donated 184,000 doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to Senegal through the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, the programme's sponsors said in a statement on Thursday. This is the second batch of COVID-19 vaccines Senegal has received through the global scheme, after an initial 324,000 AstraZeneca doses arrived in March. The arrival of the latest batch is timely. Senegal's supply of vaccines is running low just as thousands of people are due for their second jabs. Most of the country's 16 million citizens have yet to receive a first dose.
India gov't seals deal for 300 mln Biological-E COVID-19 vaccine doses
India's government said on Thursday it has inked a deal with domestic vaccine maker Biological-E for 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for 15 billion rupees ($205.62 million). The vaccine, which is currently undergoing phase-3 clinical trials, will likely to be available in the next few months, the health ministry said in a statement.
Maintaining Services
AstraZeneca in talks to shift COVID-19 vaccine production to Catalent factory
AstraZeneca Plc is in talks with the U.S. government to shift production of its COVID-19 vaccine from a troubled Baltimore plant to a factory owned by Catalent Inc, the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The British drugmaker has been on the lookout for an alternative production site since the U.S. government stopped it from using Emergent BioSolutions Inc's Baltimore plant after workers accidentally contaminated a batch of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine with ingredients from AstraZeneca's that was also being produced at the time.
Nimble Irish restaurants head back to basics as epic lockdown ends
In October 2019, shortly after opening, chef Jordan Bailey's Aimsir restaurant in County Kildare won two Michelin stars. Ten months later he was selling lobster rolls and lamb kebabs from a camper van. Having been closed entirely to guests - like the rest of a hospitality industry emerging from Ireland's third COVID-19 lockdown - for all but four of the past 15 months, he had to innovate to survive. "It really kicked in a few weeks into lockdown when things were getting worse and worse and worse, that's when it got really scary and forced us to start thinking how can we keep Aimsir going?" said Bailey.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid-19: PPE guidance is upgraded as evidence of airborne transmission grows
More NHS staff caring for patients with suspected or confirmed covid-19 will have access to higher grade personal protective equipment (PPE), including FFP3 masks, under updated NHS guidance on covid-19 infection prevention and control. Issued this week, the updated guidance obliges NHS organisations to assess the risk that covid-19 poses to staff and to act to mitigate any risks, such as by providing higher grade PPE including FFP3 masks. These risk assessments should include evaluations of ventilation, operational capacity, and the prevalence of infections including new variants of concern in the local area. The guidance also provides updates on the use of valved respirators and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, advising that extended use of gowns must be minimised, with sessional use taking place only in areas where all patients have confirmed covid-19. The BMA, which has led calls for better PPE throughout the pandemic,2 described the updated guidance as “a step in the right direction.”
Prior COVID-19 infection reduces infection risk for 10 months -study
Previous COVID-19 infection substantially reduces the risk of a new infection for up to 10 months afterwards, according to a study of care home residents and staff by University College London (UCL) scientists. The study, published in The Lancet Healthy Longevity on Thursday, found that care home residents who had been previously infected with COVID-19 were approximately 85% less likely to be infected between October and February than those who had not been infected. For staff, those with a past infection were around 60% less likely to become infected again.
More evidence of frequent antibiotic use noted in COVID patients
Research published yesterday in The Lancet Microbe shows that COVID-19 patients in the United Kingdom in the first wave of the pandemic rarely had bacterial co-infections or secondary infections, yet frequently received antibiotics. The study by a team of UK researchers looked at data from more than 48,000 COVID-19 patients treated at 260 hospitals in England, Scotland, and Wales from Feb 6 through Jun 8, 2020, and found that only 13% had bacterial co-infections or secondary infections. But 85% received one or more antibiotics during their hospital stay, with broad-spectrum antibiotics used frequently, and more than a third received antibiotics for their illness before being hospitalized. While several retrospective studies and reviews on antibiotic use in COVID-19 patients have been conducted over the course of the pandemic, and similar findings of low co-infection and high antibiotic use reported, this is the first prospective study of the issue. The authors describe it as the most comprehensive analysis of its kind to date, providing microbiologic details on laboratory-confirmed co-infections and secondary infections in COVID-19 patients.
Dental workers found to be at increased COVID-19 risk
UK dental professionals were at heightened occupational risk for COVID-19 infection early in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an observational study yesterday in the Journal of Dental Research. A team led by University of Birmingham researchers obtained blood samples from 1,507 dentists, dental nurses, and dental hygienists in the Birmingham, England, region in June 2020. They found that 16.3% of participants had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, compared with an estimated 6% to 7% of the general population. Dental receptionists who don't have direct patient contact, however, were no more likely than community members to have coronavirus antibodies, at 6.3%.