"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 30th Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
Google is giving Brits incorrect Covid-19 advice
Google shows incorrect answers to queries on self isolation, investigation says Users have been told they don't have to self-isolate when the NHS says they do Google is reportedly fixing the problem after a request from the UK government
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19: The countries that have mandatory vaccination for health workers
What would you do to keep your job? It’s a question that healthcare workers in Texas were confronted with in April, when local hospital network Houston Methodist required its staff to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. Nearly 25 000 employees dutifully lined up to be protected against covid-19, and to protect their patients. More than 150 didn’t, and have since either been sacked or resigned. A court case brought by one of the employees, a former nurse, was dismissed by a district court judge, but the case raised questions about requiring vaccination using products that have not been fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.2 The employee, meanwhile, has appealed the ruling. What was once a hypothetical question is now a real one, and not just in the US. Businesses around the world are considering making coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for workers (Morgan Stanley and the publisher Bloomsbury are two major companies to have already made the move). And those on the frontlines of the pandemic are no different.
Delta variant: LA recommends indoor masks regardless of vaccination status
Monday’s recommendation by the LA county health department comes as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that Delta variants are now responsible for about one in every five new infections across the US. LA county health officials noted that “fully vaccinated people appear to be well protected from infections with Delta variants”. But the department suggests that people wear masks when inside grocery or retail stores, as well as theaters and family entertainment centers and workplaces when people’s vaccination statuses are not known.
Opinion | Vaccine Mandates Are Needed in the U.S.
The mRNA vaccines, made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, will likely get full approval for use from the Food and Drug Administration soon, which may be necessary for broader vaccine mandates. Although the vaccines are already known to be safe and effective, after being given to hundreds of millions of people, with full approval, more groups will begin mandating that their employees get vaccinated. It’s unlikely the United States can overcome the pandemic without such actions.
S.Korean companies offer employees COVID-19 vaccines at work
South Korea's large manufacturing employers have received permission from the country's health authorities to administer COVID-19 vaccines at in-house clinics, hoping to speed up inoculation of their employees. The inoculation plans come amid the South Korean government's push to ramp up vaccinations after a slow start. South Korea has inoculated 15.3 million people, or about 30% of its population, with at least one dose since it began administering vaccines in February. Affiliates of the country's biggest conglomerate Samsung Group, including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), Samsung Display and Samsung SDI Co Ltd (005930.KS), plan to offer vaccine doses to employees at work next month
Cambridge hospital’s mask upgrade appears to eliminate Covid risk to staff
An NHS hospital that upgraded the type of face masks used by staff on Covid-19 wards recorded a dramatic fall of up to 100% in hospital-acquired coronavirus infections among those workers, research shows. Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge upgraded the masks from fluid-resistant surgical masks (FRSMs) to filtering face piece 3 (FFP3) respirators, with the change made in late December in response to its own staff testing data. Public Health England (PHE) had, until recently, recommended that healthcare workers caring for Covid-19 patients should use FRSMs as respiratory protective equipment.
Poland considers obligatory COVID-19 jabs for health workers
Poland could make vaccinations obligatory for some people at high risk from COVID-19 to help fend off a potential new surge of infections from August, the health minister said on Tuesday. The country of around 38 million has fully vaccinated 12.8 million people, but authorities have warned of problems with convincing those not yet vaccinated to get a jab. "Unfortunately we have the impression that we have reached a certain ceiling - it is hard to convince those who are unconvinced because all the arguments and other types of actions have already been taken," Adam Niedzielski told Catholic radio station Radio Plus.
Community Activities
Fearing COVID, struggling Malawian women forgo prenatal care
Prenatal services at the health clinic were free, but the motorcycle taxi fare cost more than Monica Maxwell could afford. Just four weeks before delivering her baby, she cobbled together 1,400 kwacha ($1.75) for the 50-kilometer (31-mile) round trip. It was only her third visit -- fewer than her first two pregnancies. The money she made selling tomatoes at the local market dried up due to the pandemic. Her husband’s income selling goat meat also dwindled. “It was the most difficult period of our lives. We had no money for our daily survival,” Maxwell, 31, said as she waited outside with other women to be seen by a medical midwife. “Mostly we stayed home.” In a country where hospitals are so bare that women are expected to bring their own razor blades for cutting their babies’ umbilical cords, the deepening poverty brought on by the pandemic is further imperiling women’s lives.
The ‘Great Reshuffling’ Is Shifting Wealth to the Exurbs
White collar workers are trading their expensive lives in the nation’s most densely populated areas for cheaper, greener pastures. Online real estate company Zillow Group ZG calls it the “Great Reshuffling.” These moves will reshape transportation, real estate and an emerging fixture of American life: the exurb. Fringe outlying communities of major metropolitan regions were prized for their extreme privacy or more affordable housing before the pandemic, but were typically much less wealthy than the denser cities and affluent suburbs they surrounded
Russia says people can decline its vaccine. But for many, they'll get fired if they do
If you ask the Kremlin whether Covid-19 vaccination in Russia is voluntary, its officials will tell you it is. Yet authorities in Moscow have put together a policy that essentially gives people in public-facing roles little choice but to get their shots. Faced with stubbornly low vaccination rates, Moscow authorities announced just over a week ago that at least 60% of staff in service industries -- spanning everything from catering to housing and transport -- must get vaccinated with at least one shot by July 15. "Vaccination remains voluntary," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. But while Peskov says someone can refuse a vaccine, they just might lose their livelihood for doing so.
Ireland might demand a vaccine to drink inside pubs and restaurants
Ireland said on Tuesday it will restrict indoor drinking and eating in bars and restaurants to those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or who have previously been infected by it due to concerns about the Delta variant. The country joins a handful of places in Europe to introduce the measure, including Austria, Denmark and Israel, while Moscow has brought in similar restrictions. Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin, who announced a general slowdown of the easing of public health restrictions, said that health officials told him they thought that the variant made indoor hospitality too dangerous for the unvaccinated.
Aussie Rules teams flee COVID outbreaks, rugby league crowds banned
Four Australian Football League (AFL) teams are set to base themselves in Melbourne as COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns across the country play havoc with the competition's schedule. The Gold Coast Suns and Brisbane Lions were booked on a charter plane for Melbourne to beat a snap three-day lockdown starting late on Tuesday in Brisbane and surrounds. Perth-based teams Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles are also heading to Melbourne after authorities in Western Australia state locked down Perth after new cases of COVID-19
As cases, deaths soar in Russia, why are vaccination rates low?
“The vaccine is being perfected on us. I don’t want to be a guinea pig,” Kulchina, a grandmother, told Al Jazeera. Instead, she tries to stay away from people. She lives in seclusion in her summer house outside Moscow planting zucchini, raspberries and flowers, binge-watching TV series or spending hours on the phone with her friends – most of whom are also hesitant about the vaccine. A staggering 62 percent of Russians do not want to get vaccinated, and 56 percent are not afraid of getting the virus, according to a survey by the Levada Center pollster conducted in April.
Working Remotely
Remote Work May Shift 835,000 Jobs Out of London, Report Says
Central London could lose as many as 835,000 jobs in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, with employees in service industries increasingly able to work remotely and flexibly, according to research by a consulting firm. The firm looked at 13 London boroughs plus the City of London, finding that many workers in the services sector are likely to be able to do their jobs outside the office. That could lead to a shift in where people choose to live.
Uber to let office staff work up to half their time from anywhere -source
Uber Technologies will let employees work half their hours from wherever they want as part of its revamped return-to-office strategy, the transport app company plans to announce on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter. In one of the most flexible policies offered yet by a big U.S. tech company as the COVID-19 pandemic eases, Uber plans to say that those working in offices need to spend at least 50% of their time there. But unlike many other companies the policy does not mean at least three days per week in the office, the source said. Instead, workers can show up five days one week and zero the next.
Some 52% Of Employees Prefer Hybrid Work Models: How To Overcome The Challenge
In the US, 52% of employees said they would like their organization to adopt more flexible hybrid work models and work as per McKinsey research. Are organizations ready to accept the challenge? How can leaders overcome these issues to continue driving productivity, collaboration, and innovation? Current company cultures tend to favor employees who work onsite, and the skills required to lead in a face-to-face may not be the same in a remote or hybrid work model. Now that employees have tasted the sweet remote work for a long period, it is hard to accept an entirely onsite working model, given that they have seen how much time and resources are saved by working from home.
'Great Resignation' gains steam as return-to-work plans take effect
The pandemic has caused a lot of people to reevaluate, particularly when it comes to work. After spending more than a year at home, some don’t want to go back to commuting, preferring the flexibility of remote work at least a few days a week. Others are simply burned out from logging long hours while also balancing child care and remote school, sometimes all at once. And nearly all employees are ready to see what else is out there. In what’s been dubbed the “Great Resignation,” a whopping 95% of workers are now considering changing jobs, and 92% are even willing to switch industries to find the right position, according to a recent report by jobs site Monster.com.
‘Companies need to keep checking in with their staff’
Keeping people safe is part and parcel of an employer’s obligations. Ensuring a sense of wellbeing is important too. More than a year into the pandemic, the challenges of remote working are starting to show.
Virtual Classrooms
Learning setbacks coming into focus with new testing results
The scores from the first U.S. standardized tests taken during the pandemic are offering an early glimpse of just how far students have fallen behind, with some states reporting that the turbulent year has reversed years of academic progress. Texas education officials offered a grim report Monday as the state became one of the first to release full results from its spring exams. The percentage of students reading at their grade level slid to the lowest levels since 2017, while math scores plummeted to their lowest point since 2013. In total, about 800,000 additional students are now behind their grade level in math, the state said.
COVID-19: Virtual camp set up for disadvantaged children
Unable to hold an in-person summer camp this year, a doctoral student has designed a virtual camp where disadvantaged students can not just learn about, but also practice biology, music, programming and more, free of charge. Born in Taichung’s remote Sinshe District, Chou Chiao-chi knows what it is like to lack certain resources and the time to use them.To help students experiencing similar conditions, she spends most summers holding summer camps for disadvantaged children. Many might view the shift to online classes this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak as a blow, but Chou saw an opportunity. “This is a chance to expand the multicultural knowledge of young people in remote areas,” she said.
Brooklyn Teacher Who Made His Own Remote Learning Site Wins $25K
A Brooklyn teacher who built an entire website to help his special education students learn remotely during the coronavirus crisis has won $25,000 for his "teaching excellence," organizers announced this week. Andrew Chiapetta, who teaches second grade at Carroll Gardens' Brooklyn New School, was one of five teachers chosen this year for the FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence top prize, which is awarded to one educator who went above and beyond in each of the five boroughs. Chiapetta's prize comes after he used his self-taught coding skills to build a virtual classroom that is now used by the entire grade. His prize includes $25,000 cash and a $10,000 award for his school.
How can speech recognition technology support children's learning?
The last 12 months have changed the world in a way that we could never have predicted, and no one can attest to this more than schools. While it was expected that e-learning would play an important role in education in the future, it was completely unexpected that it would replace classroom teaching across the world so soon. Because of this, video conferencing has become an essential tool for teaching, whether delivered through language apps,  virtual tutoring,  video conferencing  tools, or  online learning software.
Public Policies
Brazil's Bolsonaro under fire after vaccine deal allegations
Accusations that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro turned a blind eye to possible corruption in a deal to purchase coronavirus vaccines have heightened threats to his presidency, including a move to recommend slapping him with a criminal charge. The claims have added impetus to the opposition’s impeachment drive and left the Brazilian leader’s allies in Congress evaluating the costs of their support.
India's Cipla gets regulator nod to import Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine
Indian drugmaker Cipla has received regulatory approval to distribute partner Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine in the country, a senior government official said on Tuesday, clearing the way for the shot to be imported. Moderna's vaccine will be the fourth shot authorized for use in India, after AstraZeneca and partner Serum Institute of India's Covishield, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Sputnik V developed by Russia's Gamaleya Institute. "Our vaccine basket is now richer by this addition," government official Vinod Kumar Paul said at a news briefing on Tuesday, adding the government remained in talks with Pfizer over the drugmaker's vaccine.
US to send 2.5m doses of Moderna coronavirus vaccine to Pakistan
The Biden administration is shipping 2 million doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine to Peru and 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Pakistan, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday. "Thanks to the President’s commitment to playing a leading role in ending the pandemic everywhere, 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will begin to ship to Peru from the United States, and 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will ship to Pakistan," Psaki said. The White House earlier this month laid out a plan for the United States to donate 80 million surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world by the end of June.
Indonesia's COVID-19 situation nears 'catastrophe' - Red Cross
Oxygen prices in Indonesia’s capital had more than doubled and some suppliers reported shortages on Tuesday after a surge in COVID-19 cases that prompted the Red Cross to warn of a coronavirus “catastrophe” in Southeast Asia’s biggest country. Indonesia has announced record daily COVID-19 infections of more than 20,000 in recent days, in a new wave fueled by the emergence of highly transmissible virus variants and increased mobility after the Muslim fasting month. With hospitals filling up in the capital, Jakarta, and patients being turned away, some people sought to secure oxygen for infected family members at home. The price for a tank of oxygen had jumped to $140 from the usual $50, suppliers said.
Malaysia PM announces $36 bn aid package amid extended lockdown
Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday announced a 150 billion ringgit ($36.22 billion) aid package, including cash aid and wage subsidies, a day after extending a nationwide lockdown indefinitely to tackle a stubborn COVID-19 outbreak. Lockdown measures originally set to end on Monday would not be eased until daily reported cases fell below 4,000, the state news agency reported on Sunday, citing Muhyiddin. On Monday, Malaysia reported 5,218 new infections, bringing total cases to 739,266, including 5,001 deaths.
Japan to donate 1 mln AstraZeneca vaccines to the Philippines
The Philippines will receive one million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines next month provided by Japan, its ambassador to the Southeast Asian nation said on Tuesday. "We are working double time so this donation reaches Philippine shores without delay," the ambassador posted on his official Twitter account posted. The vaccines will be delivered on July 8.
Maintaining Services
Mexico suggests tweaked border restrictions with U.S. as vaccinations advance
Mexico's foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday the Mexican government had suggested to U.S. counterparts that travel restrictions on their shared border should change as vaccination programs advance. Restrictions on non-essential travel over the U.S.-Mexico border were first imposed in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and have been extended in 30-day increments.
Royal Caribbean cruises out of Florida to require unvaccinated passengers buy travel insurance
Royal Caribbean cruises departing from Florida are requiring unvaccinated passengers above the age of 12 to buy travel insurance for medical and travel costs that could occur if they get COVID-19. The company announced on Tuesday unvaccinated passengers must get $25,000 in medical expense insurance and $50,000 insurance for quarantine and medical evacuation costs. The insurance is required for cruises that leave from Florida from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31. The policy will not apply to people who booked their cruises between March 19 and Monday.
Israel may have to throw away nearly 1 million COVID vaccines
In Israel, the Health Ministry will destroy at least 800,000 expiring coronavirus vaccine doses if no buyers are found for them in the next two weeks, according to a report Monday. The doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines, set to expire at the end of July, are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the Kan public broadcaster. Israel’s search for a taker for the shots come as many countries are expanding their vaccination drives to combat the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has sent case numbers in some places soaring.
Sanofi to invest 400 million euros in a mRNA vaccines facility
Sanofi will invest about 400 million euros ($476 million) annually in research and development of next-generation vaccines using mRNA technologies, which proved their efficiency in the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 jabs. Sanofi added on Tuesday that its "mRNA Center of Excellence" will bring together around 400 employees based at existing sites close to Lyon in southern France and in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is expected to produce a minimum of six clinical candidates by 2025. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA technologies demonstrated potential to deliver new vaccines faster than ever before", said Jean-Francois Toussaint, global head of R&D at Sanofi Pasteur, the company's vaccines division.
As infections rise, Cuban doctors fan out to encourage COVID jabs
There is a health clinic on every corner in Havana, each with a family doctor and nurse. Over the last weeks, these health workers have been out visiting their patients in the Cuban capital, from the solares – warren-like buildings where whole families live in single rooms – to smarter apartments in crumbling art deco buildings where memories of wealth still show in grand windows looking out over the Florida Straits. They have been telling residents the coronavirus vaccine has arrived and giving out appointments for jabs. This scene has been repeated across the city, and – so long as there are enough syringes to administer doses – will soon be repeated across the country.
Healthcare Innovations
Cuba begins coronavirus vaccine trials on children
Cuba has begun testing its Soberana 2 coronavirus candidate vaccine on children ages three to 18 years, the government said this week. State-run television broadcast video of children receiving their first of three doses on Monday after adolescents were vaccinated last week. Soberana 2 is awaiting final stage trial results after its producer the Finlay Institute reported a 62% efficacy rate after two of three shots, the final one a booster called Soberana Plus.
Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective in children as young as three – Lancet study
CoronaVac, the COVID-19 jab developed in China by Sinovac Biotech, was found to be safe and effective in children and adolescents, according to a study published in leading medical journal The Lancet. Two doses of the vaccine, given 28 days apart, produce a strong antibody response among those aged between three and 17. Chinese researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, controlled phase 1/2 clinical trial in Zanhuang County, China. The vaccine was given to more than 500 healthy children and adolescents, 96 percent of whom developed Sars-CoV-2 antibodies.
Rare heart inflammation linked to Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines is six times more likely to occur after second shot - but is still a less than one-in-100,000 side effect ...
In early 2021, 23 military service members experienced myocarditis - heart inflammation - after getting their shots, a DoD study found. Out of those 23, 20 patients experienced inflammation after their second dose. The U.S. military has administered over 2.8 million shots, making the risk of this side effect about 0.0008% or less than one in 100,000. Researchers say this study and others show a likely connection between heart inflammation and the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, requiring more research
COVID-19: 'Mix and match' jabs study finds combination of Oxford and Pfizer vaccines creates robust immune response
People who have been double-dosed with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could have a stronger immune response if they were given a different jab as a booster, a leading scientist has said. Professor Matthew Snape from the Oxford Vaccine Group said the "mix and match" approach may result in additional protection against coronavirus. He made the comments following the results of a clinical trial comparing the current UK strategy of giving two doses of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines against a combination of the two jabs.