"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 29th Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
I tested positive for Covid-19 twice in two cities. The responses were vastly different
Pauline Lockwood is a Senior News Editor for CNN, based at the network's Asia-​Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong. She writes: "As someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 in both Britain and Hong Kong, I've experienced the worst of both worlds. In one, I fell victim to the complete failure to check the disease's spread, and in the other I got caught up in a zealous system intended to completely eradicate Covid-19. The pandemic's true tragedy is that the virus has killed nearly four million people worldwide, but it has also come with widespread repercussions. After undergoing four quarantines, the one when I actually had Covid-19 was the least traumatic. For me, pandemic measures have been far harder to deal with than the disease itself."
Hygiene Helpers
Nigeria adds South Africa to its COVID-19 'red list' for arriving travellers
Nigeria is adding South Africa to its "red list" of countries for which there are stringent restrictions for arriving passengers, officials said during a briefing on Monday.
New Zealand considers mandatory masks, scanning amid COVID Delta variant concerns
New Zealand is considering making masks compulsory at high alert levels as well as compulsory scanning of QR codes to boost contact tracing in efforts to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday. New Zealand halted quarantine-free travel with neighbouring Australia last week as an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant triggered a lockdown in Sydney and renewed restrictions elsewhere. It also extended the COVID-19 alert level 2 in the capital Wellington until Tuesday, as authorities said there was still a risk that an Australian tourist who tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting the city last weekend had infected others
Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon adviser urges parents to get kids vaccinated
A top covid advisor to Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government has urged parents in Scotland and the rest of the UK to vaccinate their children as soon as possible. Professor Devi Sridhar of Edinburgh University was asked about the concerns parents may feel about vaccinating their child as the country works to give all of their adult population a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Looking to other countries such as the United States and Israel, she noted that giving the vaccine to those who are at school will be a vital next step in terms of controlling transmission.
As variant rises, vaccine plan targets ‘movable middle’
Thrown off-stride to reach its COVID-19 vaccination goal, the Biden administration is sending A-list officials across the country, devising ads for niche markets and enlisting community organizers to persuade unvaccinated people to get a shot. The strategy has the trappings of a political campaign, complete with data crunching to identify groups that can be won over. But the message is about public health, not ideology. The focus is a group health officials term the “movable middle” — some 55 million unvaccinated adults seen as persuadable, many of them under 30. “We’re not just going to do the mass vaccination sites,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “It’s door to door. It’s mobile clinics. We’re doing vaccinations at church, the PTA meeting, the barber shop, the grocery store.”
Greece offers cash reward to boost vaccination rates in young people
Greece will offer young people a cash reward for receiving their first shot against COVID-19 as part of a government drive to boost vaccination rates ahead of the summer holiday season. Greece weathered the first wave of the pandemic fairly well but was forced to impose a second lockdown in November to deal with a resurgence in cases which overwhelmed its public health system. With coronavirus cases easing, the country ended the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors last week. Effective on Monday, fully vaccinated Greeks can also go to work or to gyms without the need of self-tests.
Tourism-dependent Portugal to quarantine unvaccinated Britons
British visitors to Portugal must quarantine for 14 days from Monday if they are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Portuguese government said. The new rule, in place until at least July 11, follows a surge in cases in Portugal to levels last seen in February, when it was under a strict lockdown. Positive cases have also risen in Britain but its vaccination roll-out has been faster. Britons arriving by air, land or sea must show proof they are fully vaccinated or self-isolate for 14 days at home or at a place indicated by health authorities, the government said in a statement late on Sunday.
Australia steps up vaccine push to stem COVID-19 outbreak
Australia decided on Monday to make vaccinations mandatory for high-risk aged-care workers and employees in quarantine hotels after a surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide. Prime Minister Scott Morrison met state and territory leaders to discuss the situation, with more than 20 million Australians -- about 80% of the population -- under some form of lockdown or coronavirus-related restrictions. Five of Australia's eight states and territories have been hit by outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant, and leaks from hotel quarantine have been widely blamed for the increase in infections.
Community Activities
Amish put faith in God's will and herd immunity over vaccine
When health care leaders in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country began laying out a strategy to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, they knew it would be a tough sell with the Amish, who tend to be wary of preventive shots and government intervention. Early on, they posted flyers at farm supply stores and at auctions where the Amish sell handmade furniture and quilts. They sought advice from members of the deeply religious and conservative sect, who told them not to be pushy. And they asked three newspapers widely read by the Amish to publish ads promoting the vaccine. Two refused. By May, two rural vaccination clinics had opened at a fire station and a social services center, both familiar places to the Amish in Lancaster County. During the first six weeks, 400 people showed up. Only 12 were Amish.
COVID-19: More than 50 arrested for string of offences after thousands attend illegal rave in Steyning, West Sussex
More than 50 people were arrested after police shut down an illegal rave attended by thousands in the South Downs. Police were called to the "large unlicensed music event" in fields near the town of Steyning in West Sussex during the early hours of Sunday. As many as 2,000 people, most of whom had travelled from outside the area, were at the event, despite coronavirus rules banning gatherings of more than 30 people. Eight people were identified as potential organisers of the rave and arrested, while sound equipment was seized, Sussex Police said.
Covid-19: Crowds flee Dhaka ahead of strict Bangladesh lockdown
Crowds have flocked to Dhaka's ferry terminals for a second day to get out of the city before a strict national lockdown comes into force. For seven days from Thursday, no one in Bangladesh will be allowed to leave their homes unless in an emergency. As a result, people are fleeing the busy capital city for their homes in towns and villages. Covid cases in the country have surged, many linked to the Delta variant first identified in neighbouring India. The latest wave of the virus in Bangladesh began about six weeks ago. On 15 May there were 261 new cases and 22 deaths reported. On Friday there were 5,869 new cases and 108 deaths - the country's second-highest daily death toll of the whole pandemic.
Show must go on, say dancing protesters urging Britain to fully reopen
Hundreds of people danced and blew whistles in time to dance music on the streets of central London on Sunday, part of a protest against coronavirus restrictions that have pummelled the entertainment industry, particularly nightclubs. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to remove the remaining restrictions on July 19 after being forced to postpone a reopening this month. But Save Our Scene, a campaign group for the music and hospitality sectors that organised the protest, says lockdown curbs should end immediately.
Working Remotely
Varadkar urges employers to make remote working bigger part of life after Covid
In Ireland, the Tanaiste has called on employers to make remote working a much bigger part of life after Covid-19. Leo Varadkar said the Government does not want to see working “drift” back to the way it was before the pandemic, and wants future arrangements to be based on “personal choice”.He made the comments as he launched the #MakingRemoteWork campaign at Government Buildings in Dublin on Monday.
This Company Is Redefining Remote Workspaces
Sticking to remote work where one’s spare bedroom becomes the backdrop to important business meetings is becoming quite passe. So, a new company has arisen which offers a compromise between the isolation of remote safety and the indulgence of immersive luxury within the realm of remote safety. FlOasis is a booking platform that will allow workers to perform their tasks from practically anywhere by connecting consumers (in this case, workers who are tired of working out of their homes) with local, domestic and international destinations for the ultimate in bleisure (a combination of business and leisure).
Factors that will help make remote and hybrid work for parents
Prior to 2020, only 4% of U.S. employers enabled 40% of their workforce to primarily work from home. That’s despite the fact that flexible work arrangements (FWA) have been studied since W.K. Kellogg Co. deviated its staffing schedules in the 1930s. Common sentiment held that remote working practices helped most parents manage work and life; however, as we’ve seen with COVID-19, this was not always the case. Sixty percent of U.S. families have at least one child under age 18 and are dual-income households. We sought to explore the personal side of the parent experience and wonder how working parents forged through the new work territory to find success? Does remote work work for most parents?
Remote working v the office: four company bosses have their say
The global pandemic and lockdown restrictions forced many UK businesses to move employees to remote working, practically overnight. Four company bosses speak about the upsides and downsides of working from home versus the traditional office-based model as they consider what the future might look like for their businesses and staff.
UBS to let two-thirds of employees combine working from home with the office
UBS is planning to let up to two-thirds of its employees permanently combine working remotely with being in the office, in stark contrast to some Wall Street banks. A spokesperson for the Swiss investment bank said it was “committed to offering our employees the flexibility for hybrid working (a mix of working from the office and from home) where role, tasks and location allow.” “Hybrid work options will be introduced on a country-by-country basis, with timing dependent on the local pandemic situation,” they said.
Virtual Classrooms
New Mexico home schoolers drive drop in enrollment, funding
Home schooling nearly doubled in New Mexico last year as thousands of parents opted out of virtual learning programs offered in public schools. The unprecedented defection from the public school system is putting a strain on school budgets, which are rooted in student enrollment. Parents with the time and patience to school at home said they love the flexibility of home school and have learned how to give their children a more tailored education. The number of children registered with the state as home schoolers nearly doubled from around 8,800 before the pandemic to around 15,400 this past school year, according to Public Education Department data.
'Giving all kids a go' - Bridging gap between city and country in virtual learning
In Australia, a new Victorian Government online program is helping bridge the education gap between regional and metro students. The program will boost the ability of VCE teachers to deliver best practice virtual learning and teaching Post-COVID schools and students are more reliant on virtual learning so this program will assist teachers advance online education and learning
Virtual reality can help boost brain rhythms linked to learning and memory
A new discovery in rats shows that the brain responds differently in immersive virtual reality environments versus the real world. The finding could help scientists understand how the brain brings together sensory information from different sources to create a cohesive picture of the world around us. It could also pave the way for "virtual reality therapy" for learning and memory-related disorders ranging including ADHD, Autism, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and depression.
Ambitious tech project brings whole class virtual learning to Shropshire school
An ambitious project to enable whole class virtual learning at a small Shropshire school has become reality following the generous donation of 36 new iPads. Teachers and parents at Tibberton CE Primary School, near Newport, set about raising funds for the new devices earlier this term and thanks to the support of local businesses and others in the community they have reached their goal ahead of schedule. It means, from September, each child in class will have access to their own iPad and associated digital resources to support whole-class learning during lessons.
Public Policies
IMF says Africa urgently needs vaccines to halt repeated COVID waves
COVID-19 infections in Africa will likely exceed previous peaks within days, underscoring an urgent need to accelerate vaccine supplies and financing to the region, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Monday.
Spain, Malta and Portugal restrict non-vaccinated travellers
Portugal and Malta have introduced measures to restrict UK travellers who are not fully vaccinated. The Portuguese government says travellers will have to quarantine for 14 days unless they can prove they received their second vaccine dose a fortnight before arrival. Malta is also only allowing double-vaccinated people in from Wednesday. In Spain, UK travellers need to prove they are fully vaccinated, or provide a negative PCR test on arrival.
Colombia says to get 2.5 mln Janssen COVID shot donation from U.S.
Colombia said on Monday it will receive a U.S. donation of 2.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Janssen, the pharmaceutical unit of Johnson & Johnson
U.S. to donate 1 mln doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to Paraguay
The United States said on Monday it will donate one million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech, coronavirus vaccine to Paraguay, offering relief to the South American country whose immunization program is moving slowly amid a new wave of COVID-19 cases.
Cambodia receives another batch of China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine
A new batch of COVID-19 vaccine Cambodia purchased from China's pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech arrived in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, on Monday, the state-run National Television of Cambodia (TVK) reported. In its live broadcast on the vaccine's arrival at the Phnom Penh International Airport, TVK said Cambodia's acquisition of Sinovac vaccine was a testament to the close relations and cooperation between Cambodia and China. The Chinese Embassy in Cambodia confirmed the new arrival of the vaccine in a Facebook post, saying that the China-Cambodia joint COVID-19 fight has set a model for international cooperation.
Greater Darwin lockdown extended by 72 hours as NT records one new case of COVID-19
Darwin and its surrounds will remain in lockdown for an extra 72 hours as a result of the growing COVID-19 outbreak linked to a gold mine in the Northern Territory. The cluster has now grown to seven, after one new case was recorded since yesterday. The lockdown will remain in place for Darwin, Palmerston and the rural area until 1:00pm on Friday, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
Government failures still hamper our Covid-19 response
Sarah Boseley’s article on the Oxford vaccine story (The Oxford vaccine: the trials and tribulations of a world-saving jab, 26 June) was a huge missed opportunity to get to the real root cause of some of the vaccine’s challenges. Namely, the failure of the UK to invest in pandemic preparedness, specifically vaccine manufacturing, over many years. Prior to the pandemic, I had sought significant funding to prepare for a disease “X” (like Covid-19) and to develop the manufacturing capacity to produce trial vaccines – neither of which happened. If we had been properly prepared, and not had to make do with what we had in place while in the midst of a lockdown, we would have been much better able to respond. As it is, I am incredibly proud of what has been achieved with more than 500m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine distributed around the world on a not-for-profit basis.
COVID-19: Two-week lockdown imposed in Sydney as Australia battles 'new phase' of pandemic
Australians have been warned they face the most "serious crisis" in the COVID pandemic since last February/March as health officials battle to contain new outbreaks of the virus. Australia's COVID-19 committee is due to hold an emergency meeting on Monday over rising case numbers plus outbreaks of the Delta variant across the country. Authorities in New South Wales are warning coronavirus infections will increase "considerably" after the state recorded 18 new locally transmitted virus cases.
Delta COVID-19 variant sends even vaccinated nations back into lockdown
The delta variant of the coronavirus is sending Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh into some form of lockdown, along with parts of Portugal. Even Israel, where more than half of the population is vaccinated, is reimposing a mask mandate in enclosed public places. The variant, first discovered in India, has been identified in at least 85 countries and “is the most transmissible of the variants identified so far … and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated populations,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday. Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, on Saturday began a two-week lockdown because of the growing number of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Malaysia's COVID-19 lockdown to be extended - PM
Malaysia will extend a national lockdown beyond Monday to curb the spread of COVID-19, state news agency Bernama reported on Sunday, citing Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. Lockdown measures were set to end on Monday. But Muhyiddin said they will not be eased until daily cases fell below 4,000, Bernama said. Malaysia reported 5,803 cases on Saturday.
Maintaining Services
Vaccination rules begin at Moscow restaurants
Restaurants and cafes in Moscow on Monday began requesting that patrons provide proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test as the Russian capital faces a surge of new infections. According to a decision by city authorities last week, all Moscow restaurants, cafes and bars must only admit customers who have been vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months or can provide a negative coronavirus test from the previous 72 hours. As proof of vaccination for entering a restaurant, customers must visit a government website and get a QR code, a digital pattern designed to be read by a scanner
Hong Kong bans flights from ‘high risk’ UK to curb virus
Hong Kong will ban all passenger flights from the UK starting Thursday as it seeks to curb the spread of new variants of the coronavirus. In a Hong Kong government statement on Monday, the UK was classified as “extremely high risk“ because of the “recent rebound of the epidemic situation in the UK and the widespread Delta variant virus strain there”.
Anatomy of a health conundrum: The racial gap in vaccinations
The United States is awash in coronavirus vaccines, with free beer, plane tickets and million-dollar prizes dangled as inducements to persuade the reluctant to get a shot. Philadelphia is doling out $400,000 in giveaways. Despite that, a racial divide persists in the nation’s vaccination campaign, with federal figures showing counties with higher percentages of Black residents having some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. An examination of city and federal vaccination data and interviews with more than 20 researchers, doctors, health officials and residents in the nation’s sixth-largest city opens a window onto the missteps and misunderstandings, the legacy and loss that have fostered the disproportionate pain of death and disease in communities of color. Coronavirus immunizations are the latest iteration of the pandemic’s unequal burden.
Hong Kong to ban passenger flights from UK to curb virus
Hong Kong says it will ban all passenger flights from the U.K. starting Thursday as it seeks to curb the spread of new variants of the coronavirus. It said in a statement Monday that the U.K. has been classified as “extremely high risk“ because of the “recent rebound of the epidemic situation in the U.K. and the widespread delta variant virus strain there.” Under the classification, people who have stayed in the U.K. for more than two hours will be restricted from boarding passenger flights to Hong Kong.
Amid COVID dip, Pakistan to ease some flight restrictions
With active cases of the coronavirus continuing to drop in Pakistan, authorities say they have decided to ease incoming flight restrictions from several countries, including all the European countries, Canada, China and Malaysia. Direct flights from these countries will be allowed to operate at 40 percent of their full schedule of flights, a government document said, with the new regulations coming into effect on July 1.
Healthcare Innovations
Mix-match method boosts immune response of AstraZeneca jab: Study
A mixed schedule of vaccines where a shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is given four weeks after an AstraZeneca shot will produce better immune responses than giving another dose of AstraZeneca, according to a new study. The Oxford University study, called Com-COV, compared mixed two-dose schedules of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, and found that in any combination, they produced high concentrations of antibodies against the coronavirus spike protein.
Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines Are Likely to Produce Long-Lasting Immunity, Study Suggests
The vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna set off a persistent immune reaction in the body that may protect against the coronavirus for years, scientists reported on Monday. The findings add to growing evidence that most people immunized with the mRNA vaccines may not need boosters, so long as the virus and its variants do not evolve much beyond their current forms — which is not guaranteed. People who recovered from Covid-19 before being vaccinated may not need boosters even if the virus does make a significant transformation. “It’s a good sign for how durable our immunity is from this vaccine,” said Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis who led the study, which was published in the journal Nature.
Ivermectin for Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19 Infection
Moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin. Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease. The apparent safety and low cost suggest that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic globally.
Delta Covid variant may be edging race against vaccines
The transmission advantage of the Delta variant that is spreading at pace globally is a sign that the race between vaccination and the virus could tip in favour of the latter unless countries ramp up their immunisation campaigns and practise caution, scientists say. The variant, first detected in India, has been identified in at least 92 countries and is considered the “fittest” variant yet of the virus that causes Covid-19, with its enhanced ability to prey on the vulnerable – particularly in places with low vaccination rates. Research conducted in the UK, where the variant accounts for 99% of new Covid cases, suggests it is about 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which previously dominated. It may also be linked to a greater risk of hospitalisation and is somewhat more resistant to vaccines, particularly after one dose.
AZ doses first participants with COVID-19 variant vaccine
AstraZeneca (AZ) has announced that the first participants have been vaccinated as part of a Phase II/III trial testing a new COVID-19 variant vaccine – AZD2816. The trial, which is set to recruit approximately 2,250 participants, will administer AZD2816 to individuals who have been previously vaccinated with AZ’s authorised COVID-19 vaccine Vaxzevria or an mRNA vaccine, at least three months after their last dose.
COVID-19: Current vaccines may be less effective against Beta variant, says UK study
A study of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which cause COVID-19, suggests that current vaccines may be less effective against the Beta variant first identified in South Africa. Present on the surface of SARS-COV-2, spike proteins enable the virus to attach to and enter our cells, and all current vaccines are directed against them.
The hunt for a coronavirus super shot
As global vaccination campaigns race to stay ahead of new Covid-19 variants, pioneering scientists have set out to ease fears of another pandemic by developing a single shot to protect against coronaviruses past, present and future. Melanie Saville, director of vaccine research and development at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, is among those leading the charge, having issued a call for the creation of a vaccine that would be broadly protective against all betacoronaviruses and potentially any new strain “that might hop from animals to humans in the future”.
Why reports of COVID-19 infections after 2 vaccine doses aren't cause for alarm
A Toronto hospital recently announced an outbreak involving cases among people who'd received one or both vaccine doses. Back in May, nine cases of COVID-19 were reported in just one week among fully-vaccinated members of the New York Yankees baseball team and its staff. And across Canada, deaths from the illness have even been reported among individuals who've had two shots, including a senior in Manitoba in May and an elderly long-term care resident in Ontario a month later. But there are two key things to keep in mind about these "breakthrough infections." For one thing, they're rare — making up around 0.5 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases since vaccination efforts began, the latest Canadian data shows. And when post-vaccination infections do happen, they typically tend to be mild.