"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 24th Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
HEE launches virtual training for NHS on loneliness and social isolation
A new e-learning resource has been developed by Health Education England (HEE) in collaboration with Public Health England and the Campaign to End Loneliness. It is intended to provide information to help health and care staff to recognise people who may be at risk from loneliness and social isolation and to understand the potential negative outcomes for health. The resource includes training on “handling conversations and interactions” with people at risk, said HEE in a statement.
Covid: Parents concerned about impact of isolation on learning
Pupils are facing "huge" disruption to their learning in Greater Manchester and Cheshire due to spikes in Covid-19 cases in schools, parents have said. More than 170,000 pupils are self-isolating across England, with thousands in the North West areas. One mother said providing home learning was "really difficult", while another said remote lessons were a "poor substitute for being in the classroom". Head teacher Simon Kidwell said schools "urgently need a plan for September". The two areas have some of the highest Covid infection rates in England and have seen thousands of pupils needing to self-isolate due to sharp rises caused by the Delta variant.
Hygiene Helpers
Half of Spaniards vaccinated with one dose, mask rules eased
Spain has vaccinated half of its 47 million population with at least one dose and nearly 32%, or over 15 million people, have been fully inoculated, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. With a record 680,540 people receiving a vaccine over the past 24 hours, Spain has already administered nearly 37.6 million doses, putting it on track to reaching the government goal of fully vaccinating 70% of the population by late August.
Pukkelpop urges young people to get Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine
Belgian festival Pukkelpop has called on young people to register to get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, which all adults, including those under the age of 41, can volunteer for in Brussels and Flanders. On its Instagram account, the festival put out a message to those younger than 41 who “would like to get vaccinated quickly” to sign up for one shot with Johnson & Johnson. “There are many syringes available this week and we believe it is to everyone’s advantage to come to Pukkelpop fully vaccinated,” Pukkelpop spokesperson spokesman Frederik Luyten told De Standaard.
Colleges split on coronavirus vaccine mandates
Indiana University, a flagship institution in a staunchly Republican state, will require its more than 100,000 students and employees to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as it turns the page on a strange pandemic school year. “This is saving lives, it’s as simple as that,” said university President Michael A. McRobbie. “And it will enable us to have a normal fall semester.” Purdue University, also prominent in Indiana, is strongly encouraging vaccination for students and employees but avoiding mandates. A campaign for personal choice and responsibility, Purdue President Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said, will get better public health results than requirements that “might come across as ham-handed and dictatorial.” Two public universities, two divergent approaches, one race to a common goal: Maximize vaccination before college students return for the fall.
Swiss accelerate reopening, allow large events with 'COVID certificates'
Switzerland will allow large events topping 10,000 people starting on Saturday, provided attendees have so-called COVID certificates showing they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative. The plan, announced on Wednesday, puts Switzerland at Europe's vanguard of back-to-normal efforts and aligns with the country's "lockdown light" strategy, balancing economic protections with pandemic-related health measures. Mask-wearing outdoors will no longer be required, restaurant seating will be unlimited and discos can re-open their doors, with no masks required for people with COVID certificates.
AstraZeneca vaccine effective against COVID-19 variants identified in India
COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech, alliance remain broadly effective against Delta and Kappa variants of the COVID-19 causing virus, which were first identified in India, according to a scientific study, underpinning a continued push to deliver the shots. The study by Oxford University researchers, published in the journal Cell, investigated the ability of antibodies in the blood from people, who were vaccinated with the two-shot regimens, to neutralize the highly contagious Delta and Kappa variants, a statement said.
CDC: Nearly every adult COVID-19 death is now "entirely preventable"
Adult deaths from COVID-19 are "at this point entirely preventable" thanks to vaccines, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during a White House coronavirus briefing on Tuesday. Why it matters: Deaths from the virus have dramatically decreased since their peak in early 2021, but the U.S. is still currently reporting an average of more than 200 deaths every day, though the numbers could increase as the B.1.617.2 (or Delta) variant of the virus becomes the dominant strain in the country.
Community Activities
Britain will not demand climate talks delegates be vaccinated against COVID-19
Britain will not require delegates attending November's international climate conference in Glasgow to have been vaccinated against COVID-19, an official responsible for organising the event said on Wednesday. Britain will strongly recommend that delegates are vaccinated but it will not be a mandatory requirement, Rosalyn Eales, Chief Operating Officer of the COP26 conference, told a group of lawmakers. Climate and health experts have said poorer nations struggling to access COVID-19 vaccines could find sending delegates to an in-person meeting difficult.
Save Our Summer: UK pilots and cabin crew issue travel sector rescue plea
British pilots, cabin crew, travel agents and other workers are urging politicians to save the summer holiday season by reopening routes abroad or risk destroying tens of thousands of jobs as companies fail. Workers from the travel industry demonstrated across Britain on Wednesday. Protesters outside parliament held banners saying “Speak up for travel” as pilots and air stewardesses from British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic lined up in full uniform, to highlight the threat to their jobs from the government’s strict rules. England is expected to re-open from a third COVID-19 lockdown in July but the travel sector remains effectively shut, with the government advising against travel except to a handful of destinations.
‘No zero risk’: UK move to increase Wembley fans questioned
The British government faced accusations of mixed messaging Wednesday that could threaten its plan to fully lift lockdown restrictions in England next month after it decided to allow more than 60,000 people inside Wembley Stadium for the latter stages of soccer’s European Championship. Following a request from UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, to allow more fans inside the London stadium for the semifinals on July 6 and 7 and the final on July 11, Britain agreed to increase Wembley’s 90,000-seat capacity to 75%. That will make the three matches the largest gatherings at a sporting event since the coronavirus pandemic took root in the country in March 2020. In contrast, only around 20,000 people were inside the stadium on Tuesday night when England beat the Czech Republic 1-0.
Covid gender gap widens as cases surge in Scotland
A Covid cases gender gap has opened up as the total number testing positive in the past 24 hours hit nearly 3,000. On Wednesday five new deaths were reported, and 2,969 cases recorded - the highest daily number since the start of mass testing. In recent days about two thirds of cases in the 15 to 44 age range have been male. Behaviour expert Prof Stephen Reicher has suggested that men meeting up to watch Euro 2020 is behind the rise. National Clinical Director Prof Jason Leitch said he believed indoor socialising was the main factor, though not necessarily linked to football.
Working Remotely
Remote work doesn’t prevent innovation, experts say
People who study the issue say there is no evidence that working in person is essential for creativity and collaboration. It may even hurt innovation, they say, because the demand for doing office work at a prescribed time and place is a big reason the American workplace has been inhospitable for many people. “That’s led to a lot of the outcomes we see in the modern office environment — long hours, burnout, the lack of representation — because that office culture is set up for the advantage of the few, not the many,” said Dan Spaulding, chief people officer at Zillow
Virtual Classrooms
Why higher education must evolve to support the hybrid workplace
The global pandemic has impacted all corners of society, but higher education has faced one of the biggest overhauls in its history. Above all, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for universities to offer a consistent learning environment between the campus and those accessing lessons remotely to ensure future success and resilience. Once achieved, this will enable universities to prepare the next generation of talent for a hybrid world of work, that will no doubt be in place by the time they enter the workforce
The Pandemic Accelerated Online Learning, But It Also Exposed Its Inequalities
We talk to Gen.T honourees Anna Alejo, an education consultant for the World Bank, and Henry Motte-Munoz, the founder of Edukasyon.com, about how the pandemic has impacted education. “Virtual learning has great potential, but it is crucial that this does not result in learners being left behind,” says Alejo. She has noticed widening disparities, saying that “students in disadvantaged contexts are more likely to encounter challenges, and this may lead to a worsening of performance among those who were already behind even before the pandemic had begun.” In less developed nations, there is danger that a move towards more online learning could in fact widen the learning gap
Virtual training helps middle schoolers hone social skills
Middle school, a time when children's brains are undergoing significant development, is often also a time of new challenges in navigating the social world. Recent research from the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas demonstrates the power of combining a virtual platform with live coaching to help students enhance their social skills and confidence in a low-risk environment. In this study, BrainHealth researchers partnered with low-income public middle schools in Dallas. Teachers recommended 90 students to participate in virtual training sessions via questionnaires, testing their ability to accurately identify students who are struggling socially. Importantly, participation was not limited to students with a clinical diagnosis.
Public Policies
Nearly every new Covid-19 death is now entirely preventable, CDC director says
The dangerous Delta variant poses a risk as the United States works to ease out of the Covid-19 pandemic, but experts say the nation has the tools needed to overcome the threat -- if the public takes advantage of them. "Covid-19 vaccines are available for everyone ages 12 and up," US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday at a White House briefing. "They are nearly 100% effective against severe disease and death -- meaning nearly every death due to Covid-19 is particularly tragic, because nearly every death, especially among adults, due to Covid-19 is at this point entirely preventable." Those still dying from Covid-19 in the US are "overwhelmingly" unvaccinated, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.
Moscow restricts visits to bars, restaurants to curb COVID-19 wave
Moscow's mayor ordered bars and restaurants to serve people only if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or had had an infection indicating immunity - one of the Russian capital's toughest steps to fight the pandemic since last year's lockdown. The Kremlin has blamed a renewed wave of infections over the last two weeks on the Delta variant and the slow pace of its vaccination programme even though four domestically-produced vaccines have been approved for use.
Delta Plus: India issues alert over new Covid 'variant of concern'
India has issued an alert over a new variant of concern called Delta Plus that is believed to be more transmissible than the original Delta Covid strain. The country's health ministry said 16 cases of the variant - a mutation of B.1.617.2, which was first detected in India - were found in the state of Maharashtra on Tuesday. Federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told a news conference that Delta Plus is more transmissible than the original Delta Covid-19 strain. The health ministry also warned it could be less susceptible to vaccines and that it may be better at binding to receptors on people's lungs.
New Zealand brings back curbs in Wellington after COVID scare from Sydney visitor
Australia's largest city of Sydney re-introduced "soft touch" COVID-19 curbs on Wednesday to contain a widening outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant, mandating masks in offices while neighbouring states closed their borders. New Zealand raised the alert level in its capital of Wellington over exposure concerns after an Australian tourist tested positive for the virus upon returning to Sydney from a weekend visit to the neighbouring nation.
Morgan Stanley says unvaccinated staff and clients not welcome
Morgan Stanley says staff and clients will not be allowed to enter the bank’s New York offices if they are not fully vaccinated, making it the latest in a line of Wall Street firms to delay the return of unvaccinated employees. Employees, clients, and visitors will be required to attest to being fully vaccinated in order to access the bank’s offices in New York City and Westchester in the US state of New York, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters late Tuesday. Those who are not fully vaccinated will need to work remotely, the source added. The policy, outlined in an internal memo, is one of the most restrictive issued by a major US bank so far. The firm said the goal is to help create a normal office environment, without a need for face masks and physical distancing.
Maintaining Services
More than 150 Houston hospital workers resign or are fired for refusing to have Covid-19 vaccine
More than 150 employees at a Houston hospital resigned or were fired Tuesday after they refused to follow a hospital policy requiring they get vaccinated against Covid-19. A spokesperson for the hospital, Houston Methodist Baytown, said that among 200 employees who were told they needed to be vaccinated by June 7 or face a two-week suspension, 153 either resigned or were terminated. The departures came after a judge dismissed an employee lawsuit over the vaccine requirement.
WHO cites concerns about Russian Sputnik V plant, which says issues resolved
The World Health Organization said its review of how Russia produces the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine had found some issues with the filling of vials at one plant, which said it had since addressed all of the WHO's concerns. The Sputnik V shot, widely used in Russia and approved for use in over 60 countries, is undergoing a review by the WHO and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Their approval could open up new markets for the shot, especially in Europe.
Novartis aims to bottle more than 50 mln doses of BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in 2021
Novartis aims to help manufacture more than 50 million doses of BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 at its Stein, Switzerland fill-and-finish facility, the Swiss drugmaker said, after the European Union's drug regulator approved the bottling plant.
COVID-19: Machine that can 'sniff out' coronavirus particles in the air goes on trial in North East
A revolutionary new system which can detect COVID-19 particles in the air is being trialled in the North East. Its developers say it could help provide early warning of the spread of COVID-19 or other viruses, enabling a more rapid response to potential outbreaks. Two units, which are about the size of an office printer, are now in situ at Teesside International Airport and at a primary school.
NHS alarm over rise in number of UK Covid patients on ventilators
NHS bosses have sounded the alarm over the number of people on ventilators in hospital in the UK, which has risen over the past week. The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said the number of Covid patients in hospital on ventilation beds had increased by 41% in the last week to 227, which she said was a strong indication Covid was having an impact on health services. Cordery told BBC Breakfast: “Trusts on the frontline are really coming under huge pressure ... they have plans in place to tackle the backlog, but with more Covid cases and demand for emergency care going up, that’s really challenging.”
Israel faces fresh Covid surge and calls for teens to be jabbed as even fully vaccinated catch Delta
Israel recorded 125 new cases on Monday - the most cases per day since April New cases come as Israel rolled back nearly all of its coronavirus restrictions Nearly a third of the new cases recorded in the past week have been found in vaccinated people, with many of the new infections being the delta variant More than 55 percent of Israel's population - some 5.2 million people - have received both doses of the vaccine
Michigan confirms 25 cases of COVID-19's highly contagious delta variant
The news is good when it comes to coronavirus in Michigan and most of the U.S. — as case rates continue to fall, the percentage of positive tests drops to the lowest point since the start of the pandemic and hospitalizations and deaths from the virus dwindle. The country is headed for a "bright summer. Prayerfully, a summer of joy," President Joe Biden said at a Friday news conference. But he said he is still concerned about people who haven't been vaccinated and their risk as a more contagious — and potentially more deadly — variant gains a bigger foothold in the U.S. Called the delta variant, this strain originated in India and swept through that nation in April and May, causing a massive surge in cases and thousands of deaths. Since then, it has spread to more than 80 countries, including the U.S., and pushed the United Kingdom to extend coronavirus restrictions as case rates climbed.
Healthcare Innovations
Coronavirus: Canadian vaccine yields promising early results
The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) has announced positive early results from phase one trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate: COVAC-2. The results from the study show that the vaccine appears to be safe and “well tolerated,” according to a press release. The study, conducted by Canadian Centre for Vaccinology (CCfV), said that the most commonly reported side effects among those who received the vaccine were headaches and mild pain at the injection site.
Covid-19 news: Lasting symptoms common in young adults, study finds
More than half of people aged 16 to 30 who had mild covid-19 were still experiencing symptoms 6 months later, a small study in Bergen, Norway has found. Bjørn Blomberg at the University of Bergen and colleagues followed up with a group of 312 people who had covid-19 during the first wave of Norway’s epidemic, including 247 people who isolated at home during their illness and 65 people who were hospitalised. They found that after 6 months, 61 per cent of all people had persistent symptoms, commonly referred to as “long covid”.
Only 2% of patients who receive COVID-19 vaccine will develop 'Covid arm' skin condition
Few people who receive coronavirus vaccines will develop skin reactions as a side effect, a new study finds. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston looked at Americans who received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 shots. They found that only about two percent of people developed a rash, itching or another minor condition after their first dose also known as 'Covid arm.' The team noted that the conditions that appeared were all relatively minor, and should not be a deterrent to people getting vaccinated when it is available to them, and previous data shows that many of these conditions are harmless to people
Delta plus a Covid-19 'variant of concern' in India: Health ministry
In India, 16 of the 22 cases of Delta plus variant have been found in Ratnagiri and Jalgaon in Maharashtra and some in Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, health secretary Rajesh Bhushan announced in the briefing. He also said that the Delta plus variant has been found in the US, the UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China and Russia besides India. The health ministry issued the statement after Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) informed the officials that the Delta plus mutation has a number of characteristics including increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response. In the same briefing, the consortium apprised the government that it is now a 'variant of concern.'
Health: Tree pollen can carry COVID particles and may increase infection risk in crowded areas
Researchers from the University of Nicosia, Cyprus simulated a willow tree. They modelled how pollen grains spread out in a light breeze towards a crowd. In a breeze, pollen could pass through a crowd 44 feet from the tree in a minute. Given this, greater distancing might be called for in areas of high pollen levels
CDC advisory group says there is a 'likely link' between COVID-19 vaccines and rare heart inflammation in young adults after nearly 500 reported cases
An advisory group for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there is a 'likely link' between rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults and the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. In a presentation released on Wednesday, the COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Technical (VaST) Work Group discussed nearly 500 reports of the heart inflammation, known as myocarditis, in vaccinated adults under age 30. The group of doctors said the risk of myocarditis or pericarditis following vaccination with the mRNA-based shots in adolescents and young adults is notably higher after the second dose and in males
COVID-19: India reports new 'Delta plus' coronavirus variant of concern
India has reported a new "Delta plus" coronavirus variant of concern, officials have said. Sixteen cases of the variant, a mutation of B.1.617.2, were found in the state of Maharashtra on Tuesday, federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told a news conference. Delta plus is thought to be more transmissible than the original Delta variant, according to state officials who are increasing testing and local vaccination drives.
How Immunity Generated from COVID-19 Vaccines Differs from an Infection
A key issue as we move closer to ending the pandemic is determining more precisely how long people exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 virus, will make neutralizing antibodies against this dangerous coronavirus. Finding the answer is also potentially complicated with new SARS-CoV-2 “variants of concern” appearing around the world that could find ways to evade acquired immunity, increasing the chances of new outbreaks. Now, a new NIH-supported study shows that the answer to this question will vary based on how an individual’s antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were generated: over the course of a naturally acquired infection or from a COVID-19 vaccine. The new evidence shows that protective antibodies generated in response to an mRNA vaccine will target a broader range of SARS-CoV-2 variants carrying “single letter” changes in a key portion of their spike protein compared to antibodies acquired from an infection. These results add to evidence that people with acquired immunity may have differing levels of protection to emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. More importantly, the data provide further documentation that those who’ve had and recovered from a COVID-19 infection still stand to benefit from getting vaccinated.