"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 9th Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid canvas: Chennai artist uses self-portraits to describe illness, isolation
When Bala Govind Kumar, a 25-year-old visual artist, contracted Covid-19 and had to be quarantined, he decided to use his skills for self-portraits, conveying what he was going through. Bala, who works as an assistant art director to a production designer, tested positive for Covid-19 in April and was in home isolation. This was when he began recording himself, and used the videos for his portraits. Bala says he wanted to unburden himself of his pain and hence channeled his negative emotions into art. The pictures he produced during this period describe his experience of isolation and illness.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid vaccine: Over-25s trying to book jab on NHS website told they’re not eligible
In England, young people have been clamouring to book their Covid-19 vaccines with 1,600 appointments made each minute since the Government expanded the eligibility criteria. Contradicting concerns about vaccine scepticism among young adults, nearly half a million appointment slots were reserved in the five hours after 25 to 29-year-olds officially became eligible for their jabs, according to NHS England. Inundated with what was described by NHS bosses as a “Glastonbury-style rush”, in five hours the National Booking Service had 2.5 times the number of total appointments made on Monday. But some young people faced lengthy waits or technical difficulties because of the demand.
Over one million EU citizens have Covid-19 certificate
More than one million Europeans have received the new EU Covid-19 health certificate being rolled out to unlock travel within the bloc, the European Commission has said. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders announced the figure to the European Parliament ahead of a vote to enshrine the document in law in time for the continent's all-important summer tourism season. It is expected to be passed by a big majority after agreement between MEPs and the European Union's 27 member states on details, with the vote result known early tomorrow.
Washington State Allows Free Joints for Covid Jabs
As part of its strategy to vaccinate more of its population, Washington State will allow adults to claim a free marijuana joint when they receive a Covid-19 vaccination shot. The state’s liquor and cannabis board announced on Monday that the promotion, called “Joints for Jabs,” was effective immediately and would run through July 12. The board said it would allow participating marijuana retailers to provide customers who are 21 or older with a prerolled joint at their stores when they received their first or second dose at an active vaccine clinic. The promotion applies only to joints, not to other products like edibles. So far in Washington, 58 percent of people have received at least one dose, and 49 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.
Covid vaccines: Unicef asks G7 countries to donate now or risk wasting jabs
Millions of Covid vaccines could be wasted if rich countries send large amounts of leftover doses to poorer nations in one go, Unicef has warned. The charity said there needed to be a steady supply throughout the year because poor countries do not have resources to use them all at once. The UK and others have promised to donate their surplus doses - but they have been asked to give more earlier. Stars including Billie Eilish and David Beckham are backing Unicef's plea. The celebrities have signed a letter to the G7 group of rich countries - including the UK - asking them to donate 20% of their vaccines by August.
Japan Will Begin Rolling Out Its Vaccine Passport This Summer
Japan plans to issue Covid-19 vaccination certificates to citizens traveling abroad this summer, Nikkei Asia reported today. The initiative will begin with a paper version of the certificate and roll out later this year with a smartphone solution based on the European Union’s Digital Covid Certificate, which just launched. “Other countries are doing it, so Japan will have to consider it, too,” Taro Kono, the country’s vaccine czar, told the Japanese parliament in late April when announcing the government’s plans for a vaccine verification system. The digital Covid app would make it easier for those vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel internationally by scanning QR codes at airports before boarding flights or when entering the country. Along with vaccine verification, the app will also include results from PCR and antigen tests.
Community Activities
Mastercard Foundation donates $1.3 billion to boost Africa’s coronavirus response
The Mastercard Foundation announced a $1.3 billion donation on Tuesday to boost Africa’s response to the coronavirus, which public health experts hailed as a significant step to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest people. “Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent,” Reeta Roy, the foundation’s chief executive, said in a statement. “This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent.” The funding, which will be distributed over three years in partnership with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is intended to help acquire vaccines for more than 50 million of the continent’s 1.3 billion people, improve its vaccine manufacturing and delivery system, and strengthen public health institutions.
COVID-19: Greater Manchester and Lancashire residents told to minimise travel as variant cases rise
Greater Manchester and Lancashire are to receive a "strengthened package of support" to tackle a rise in the Delta coronavirus variant, Matt Hancock has announced - with residents told to minimise travel. Addressing the Commons, the health secretary said: "I can tell the House that today, working with local authorities, we are providing a strengthened package of support based on what is working in Bolton to help Greater Manchester and Lancashire tackle the rise in the Delta variant that we are seeing there."
Charity awarded funding to help over 50s living in Northumberland to prepare for a Covid reset
Age UK, based in Ashington, Northumberland has received funding from The National Lottery Community Fund to run a new project that will help older people in the county get back to a 'new normal' way of life. The 12-month project, 'A time to live – Covid reset and beyond,' will focus on supporting older individuals as the region begins to return to normal times following the coronavirus pandemic. The project will provide a range of activities, exercise classes, befriending services, practical and bereavement support.
Ghosts in the machine: Malicious bots spread COVID untruths
Malicious bots, or automated software that simulates human activity on social media platforms, are the primary drivers of COVID-19 misinformation, spreading myths and seeding public health distrust exponentially faster than human users could, suggests a study published yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine. Led by University of California at San Diego (UCSD) researchers, a team analyzed a sample of roughly 300,000 posts on heavily bot-influenced public Facebook groups to measure how quickly the posts' links were shared. When multiple accounts share links within seconds of each other, it is a sign of bot accounts controlled by a computer program that coordinates their operations. The researchers found that the most heavily bot-influenced Facebook groups shared identical links within, on average, 4.28 seconds, versus 4.35 hours for the least-influenced groups. Heavily influenced groups were considered those that hosted identical links at least five times, with at least half of them posted within 10 seconds.
Red Cross to provide emergency support to thousands in Myanmar
The Myanmar Red Cross has said it was stepping up emergency support to hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the upheaval resulting from the military coup on February 1. The organisation, part of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), estimates about 236,000 people across Myanmar are facing worsening poverty and in urgent need of food relief and cash assistance, it said on Tuesday.
Working Remotely
Workplace Harassment in the Age of Remote Work
Last spring, as offices closed across the country and kitchen tables became desks, contemplating the possible upsides of the new professional conundrum felt like a means of survival. There was much tumult, and there were many questions. Among them: Once we all became boxes on Zoom or text bubbles in a chat, and once we were physically separated from colleagues and clients, would incidents of workplace harassment drop? That flame quickly went dark.
Why you should work outdoors to liven up your remote workday
Approximately 5 million American workers worked remotely before COVID-19. These numbers quickly rose during the pandemic, and they haven’t slowed down. Global Workplace Analytics forecasts that 25% to 30% of the workforce will work remotely multiple days per week by the end of 2021. This means about one in four Americans would be able to enjoy the benefits of working from home. Up until now, I’ve been working remotely as a freelance writer for seven years. As someone who’s not new to working from home, I’ve come to realize that while this arrangement can be highly productive, it isn’t without its downsides. Sometimes remote working can be highly monotonous, which leads to a drop-off in efficiency, inspiration, and creative energy. However, I’ve learned that taking work outside can be the simple shift in scenery that reboots one’s productivity.
8 Travelers on What to Know About Working Remotely Abroad
The pandemic gave millions of people who had never worked outside of an office building a taste of the digital nomad lifestyle. But what’s it like working remotely, by choice? We put the call out through social media, and heard back from hundreds of remote workers. Freedom, flexibility, and autonomy were their top lures; others were just happy to kill their commute. Many remote workers noted that they’re more productive now than they ever were in a traditional office setting; others missed QT with their cubemates. As we sifted through everyone’s experiences, it quickly became evident that remote work is not without obstacles: Digital nomads bemoaned the lack of consistent Wi-Fi, juggling of time zones, anxieties about work performance, and myriad headaches of visas and taxes. But by and large, most were stoked to be working remotely, and hopeful for a future where jobs go to the best candidate—not just the best candidate in a particular place.
Virtual Classrooms
Here’s how one Philly school kept kids engaged through a long year of virtual learning
This pandemic year has been tough for educators and students alike. But for many Philadelphia schools, which function as lifelines in their communities and largely have not had children back inside buildings for most of the year, keeping connections with families has been especially crucial. That the school succeeded in a corner of the city once overrun with virus cases and despite broad concern that vulnerable children might slip through the cracks amid the chaos is even more remarkable. Sending a large fuzzy mascot through North Philadelphia is just one of the things William Dick Elementary teachers and staff did this past year to help the school’s 450 students and their families survive a year of virtual learning.
Ontario students are up to 3 months behind in their learning due to COVID-19 lockdowns: Science Table
Ontario public school students are likely two to three months behind in their learning because of school closures brought on by COVID-19, leading to life-long losses in their expected earnings as adults if efforts aren’t made to bring them up to speed, says a new analysis by the COVID-19 Science Table. Citing research from the U.S., Holland and the UK, epidemiologists advising the Ontario government say that pupils are anywhere from 1.6 to 3.3 months behind where they would have been academically if in-person learning was not shut because of COVID-19 starting last March.
Pandemic teaching transitions back to classroom with lessons learned
The COVID-19 pandemic created numerous changes and challenges for many people. In the education field, teachers were asked to re-create lesson plans and student interactivity in a virtual realm, something many had never experienced. During the 180th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which will be held virtually June 8-10, Andrew Morrison, from Joliet Junior College, will reveal lessons learned by educators during remote teaching caused by the pandemic and what techniques they can use in the return to classroom instruction. Morrison said many adaptations for pandemic teaching likely will not transition to classroom, but he felt some, such as the use of online collaboration tools, should be retained to increase the equity of access to the course or to increase student engagement.
Public Policies
WHO's Tedros says COVID-19 vaccine inequity creates 'two-track pandemic'
Glaring COVID-19 vaccine inequality has created a "two-track pandemic" with Western countries protected and poorer nations still exposed, World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday, renewing pleas for shot donations. "Increasingly, we see a two-track pandemic," Tedros told reporters during a press conference from Geneva. "Six months since the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered, high-income countries have administered almost 44% of the world's doses. Low-income countries have administered just 0.4%. The most frustrating thing about this statistic is that it hasn't changed in months."
WTO panel considers easing protections on COVID-19 vaccines
Envoys from World Trade Organization member nations are taking up a proposal to ease patents and other intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines to help developing countries fight the pandemic, an idea backed by the Biden administration but opposed in other wealthy countries with strong pharmaceutical industries. On the table for a two-day meeting of a WTO panel opening Tuesday is a revised proposal presented by India and South Africa for a temporary IP waiver on coronavirus vaccines. The idea has drawn support from more than 60 countries, which now include the United States and China. Some European Union member states oppose the idea, and the EU on Friday offered an alternative proposal that relies on existing World Trade Organization rules.
New Zealand PM Ardern to take first dose of COVID-19 vaccine next week
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that she would get her first COVID-19 shot at the end of next week, as the country prepared to receive another 1 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. "For me, it's been important that I allow those in the most at risk group... to be prioritised," Ardern said in a news conference. "I'm choosing to be vaccinated at this point in order to play my role in demonstrating that I consider it to be absolutely safe and also really critical to keep others safe," she said.
Ontario to loosen COVID-19 restrictions starting June 11, ahead of schedule
Ontario will loosen COVID-19 restrictions starting June 11, three days ahead of schedule, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday, as infection rates continue to drift lower after a punishing third wave while vaccinations pick up pace. The province will enter step one of its reopening plan, allowing non-essential retail to operate at 15% capacity, outdoor dining with a maximum of four people per table, and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people to take place. Canada's most populous province entered a lockdown in April as a variant-driven third wave of COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm hospitals
Maintaining Services
Taiwan’s Covid-19 outbreak spreads to chip companies
The spread of Covid-19 into Taiwan’s electronics factories is threatening to delay semiconductor shipments, according to companies and analysts, raising the prospect of renewed disruption to an industry gripped by a global shortage. The country, viewed as a linchpin in the world’s chip supply chain, is suffering from its first large coronavirus outbreak. It has come against a backdrop of escalating warnings about the depth of the semiconductor shortage, which has hit everything from cars to consumer electronics.
Carnival to require first passengers to have COVID-19 vaccines when its cruises restart in July
Carnival Cruise Line will require passengers on its first sailings in July out of Galveston, Texas, to be vaccinated for COVID-19. If the policy remains in effect for Carnival's upcoming sailings out Port Canaveral and other Florida ports, it would put the cruise giant at odds with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The governor opposes the system of requiring so-called "vaccine passports," and has filed legal action against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention related to the federal agency's requirements for a return to sailing.
Thailand begins mass Covid-19 vaccine rollout using shots made by royal-owned company
Thailand began its mass Covid vaccination program Monday, following criticism of delays and concerns over health authorities relying on AstraZeneca shots produced by a company owned by the country's king. The Southeast Asian nation is battling a third coronavirus wave with the highest number of daily cases and deaths reported since the start of the pandemic, raising public concerns of adequate access to vaccines. On Tuesday, Thailand reported 2,662 new Covid-19 cases and 28 deaths, according to its Covid-19 task force (CCSA). Thailand plans to administer 6 million shots in June using the AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines
NHS and social care staff burnout at an emergency level - report
NHS and care staff in England are so burnt out that it has become an "emergency" and risks the future of the health service, MPs have warned. A highly critical report said workers were exhausted and overstretched because of staff shortages. It said the problems existed before the pandemic - although coronavirus has worsened the pressures. Doctors' and nursing unions welcomed the report, saying it highlighted the stress and anxiety facing staff. It has already been well documented that the NHS is short of staff.
US COVID cases drop another 30% as Africa surge continues
With the introduction of three effective COVID-19 vaccines, daily COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rapidly decline across the country, and new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that vaccines have been particularly beneficial for older Americans. During a White House briefing today, the last briefing run by COVID-19 pandemic response coordinator Andy Slavitt, who announced he was stepping down from his position today, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said for the second week in a row, daily case averages dropped by 30%, with a 7-day average of 13,277 cases
Healthcare Innovations
‘Black fungus’ new scare in India as second COVID wave ebbs
As a devastating second wave of COVID-19 ebbs with less than 100,000 new cases reported on Tuesday, India is now battling a new scare: Mucormycosis, commonly referred to as “black fungus”, is a rare fungal disease with a high mortality rate. On Monday, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the country had more than 28,000 cases of the fungal infection.
Pfizer to start large study to test COVID-19 vaccine in children below 12
Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday it will start a large study to test its COVID-19 vaccine in children below 12 and selected a dosing regime for the trial. The study will enroll up to 4,500 children at more than 90 clinical sites in the United States, Finland, Poland and Spain, the company said. Pfizer's vaccine has been authorized for use in children as young as 12 in Europe, the United States and Canada.
COVID-19 vaccine being tested on Sacramento children 5 to 11 years old
Some Sacramento kids will be part of a national clinical trial to test Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in those 5 to 11 years old. Kaiser Permanente Sacramento and Santa Clara locations will join the hospital's Vaccine Research Center in Oakland to enroll 75 kids in the national trial that aims to evaluate 4,
MCRI's BCG vaccine trial joins global race to better understand COVID-19 variants
An Australian-led study will investigate whether it's possible to predict who remains susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 variants after having COVID-19 or receiving a COVID-19-specific vaccine. The study will explore the immune response to COVID-19-specific vaccines in Brazilian healthcare workers to find biomarkers that indicate whether someone will be protected from - or remains at risk of - contracting COVID-19 if exposed to a variant. The research has received philanthropic funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is a sub-study of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute's (MCRI) study assessing if the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine can help protect against COVID-19.
Scientists identify Covid-19 ‘Mexican variant’ that’s already spread to Europe
A new variant of Covid-19 has been identified, originating in Mexico, that has already spread to Europe. This new strain appears to be highly contagious and already makes up 52.8% of the confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mexico. Known as T478K, or informally as the ‘Mexican variant’, it has yet to be given a name under the new WHO system. But scientists are alarmed at the rate of transmission.
Vegans ‘much less likely to get severe Covid-19’ than meat eaters, study suggests
People who enjoy a plant-based diet like vegetarians and vegans or take fish as their only source of meat are considerably less likely to contract severe Covid-19, a new study has found. According to the findings published in The BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health, which examined data from healthcare workers across six countries including the UK, vegetarians are 73 per cent less likely to be hit by coronavirus while self-declared pescatarians were 59 per cent less likely to become ill than those who eat red and white meat. Low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets appeared to be linked to an increased chance of contracting moderate to severe illness, though the findings were not statistically significant.
Aspirin does not improve survival in COVID-19 patients - UK study
Aspirin does not improve the chances of survival in severely ill COVID-19 patients, early results from one of Britain's biggest trials studying the commonly used painkiller and blood thinner showed on Tuesday. The scientists behind the trial, which is looking into a range of potential treatments for COVID-19, evaluated aspirin's effects on nearly 15,000 hospitalised patients infected with the novel coronavirus. Since the drug helps reduce blood clots in other diseases, it was tested in COVID-19 patients who are at a higher risk of clotting issues.
China to offer COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 3
China has approved the emergency use of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for those as young as three, the drugmaker confirmed on Tuesday (Jun 8), making it the first country to offer jabs to young children. Since the coronavirus first emerged in central China, Beijing has mostly managed to bring the country's outbreak under control, and has administered more than 777 million vaccine doses after a sluggish start. A spokesperson for Sinovac told AFP its vaccine had been approved for use on children.
No health issues in babies whose moms got flu vaccine while pregnant
Infants who were exposed to the flu vaccine in utero—meaning their mothers received the vaccine while pregnant—did not have an increased likelihood of adverse outcomes, according to a study today in JAMA. The study looked at more than 99% of live births during the 2010-11 to 2013-14 flu seasons in Nova Scotia, Canada. The World Health Organization began recommending that pregnant women be prioritized for flu vaccines in 2012 to help protect newborns as they face viruses with waning maternal antibodies and still-developing immune and pulmonary systems.
Now Moderna seeks approval to give its Covid vaccine to children in Europe: US firm follows footsteps of Pfizer and says its jab is up to 100% effective at blocking symptoms in teenagers
Moderna asks EU agency for permission to give jabs to 12 to 17 year olds. It follows the UK's decision to approve the Pfizer jab for over-12s. But experts have warned against vaccinating children ahead of at-risk groups in poorer countries