"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 6th Jul 2021

Isolation Tips
COVID-19: Care home visits will not 'completely go back to normal' following the final stage of lockdown easing, says minister
Care home visits will not "completely go back to normal" after the final stage of England's roadmap out of COVID restrictions, a minister has said. Social care minister Helen Whately said the country is "on track" to ease restrictions on 19 July in line with the government's plan but warned that there will still have to be "some precautions" around care homes.
Hygiene Helpers
Opinion | How Do Risks of Covid Vaccination Compare to Covid-19 for Kids?
The world got lucky: The toll of Covid-19 on young people and children has been much lower than it has been for adults. But in part because of that lower toll, some parents are on the fence about getting their school-age children and teens vaccinated. As reports of side effects from vaccination emerge, the risks from vaccines can seem greater than those posed by the coronavirus. However, it still makes sense — indeed, it is crucial — to vaccinate young people against Covid-19. This remains true even when we consider the worst possible outcomes from vaccination.
Johnson makes masks voluntary in landmark shift from ‘government diktat to personal responsibility’
All social distancing and mask-wearing rules will be abolished in England as Prime Minister Boris Johnson gambles that his world-leading vaccine rollout will blunt the impact of an impending surge of new infections. Announcing a landmark shift from “government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility”, Johnson said vaccines offered Britain the chance to fundamentally alter how it treats the pandemic.
Ivory Coast sends mobile clinics to speed up COVID vaccinations
Ivory Coast began sending mobile clinics on Monday to markets and other busy areas in its main city Abidjan in an effort to turbocharge the vaccination campaign against COVID-19. After administering fewer than 800,000 doses since vaccinations began in March - enough for a single dose for just 3% of the population - Ivorian health authorities are now aiming to inoculate a million people in Abidjan over the next 10 days.
Test and trace check-in no longer required under new proposals for businesses
Bars and pubs will no longer need customers to sign into venues using the Test and Trace app and restrictions on how many people can meet will end, the Government has announced. New guidance published by the Government, due to come into effect from July 19 will also see all settings allowed to reopen, including nightclubs and karaoke bars. Limits on social contact of six people or two households indoors, along with 30 people outdoors will also be scrapped and Covid-secure restrictions including table service can end.
Community Activities
Nightclubs and mass events to reopen on July 19 with no cap on attendance
Organisers of highly anticipated large events including festivals and the Premier League will be left to decide their Covid policy themselves - including whether to ask for certification
Majority of Russians Still Not Ready for Covid-19 Vaccination – Poll
A majority of Russian (54%) are still not ready to get vaccinated against the coronavirus despite a mounting surge driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, according to an independent poll published Monday. Russia set new records for coronavirus deaths for five consecutive days from June 29-July 3 as infections reached levels not seen since the peak of the country’s second wave in early January. The spread of the Delta variant, which Moscow officials say accounts for 90% of the city’s cases, has prompted several Russian regions to order compulsory vaccination for certain workers.
Vaccinate or repent, Russian church says amid hundreds of daily COVID-19 deaths
Russia's powerful Orthodox Church admonished people refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, calling them sinners who would have to atone for the rest of their lives, as the country reported another jump in new infections and deaths. The church urged all its faithful to be inoculated as another 24,353 new COVID-19 cases were registered on Monday, including 6,557 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,635,294. The government coronavirus task force said 654 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 138,579.
Staging Euro 2020 semis and final in London is 'recipe for disaster.' Is football -- and Covid-19 spike -- coming home?
Coronavirus cases in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East rose by 10% last week, World Health Organization Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge told a press briefing in Copenhagen on Thursday. A 10-week decline in the number of Covid-19 cases in the 53-country region "has come to an end" Kluge said, with rising cases driven by increased socializing, travel, gatherings and easing of restrictions. Kluge said the situation and was "rapidly evolving" and warned that the Delta variant -- first identified in India -- is spreading at a fast pace, resulting in increased hospitalizations and deaths.
Sparse showing at Sydney's beaches during COVID-19 lockdown
Residents are allowed outside for exercise and recreation. In the winter sunshine, joggers exercised on the boardwalk and others walked on the beach. Later in the day, more people were seen at Coogee Beach, singly or in small groups. Sydney went into lockdown on June 26 as authorities in New South Wales (NSW) state tried to contain a fast-spreading outbreak of the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant in Australia's largest city.
Pop-up ‘coronabikes’ test German love of order
Berlin’s 10 “coronabikes” are part of a private sector mass-testing infrastructure that has sprung up in pop-up tents, cafes, night clubs and shisha bars across Germany over the last three months, in a speedy fashion at odds with Germany’s reputation for fastidious bureaucracy. A number of high-profile cases of fraud, and enduring questions over the accuracy of antigen (also known as lateral-flow) tests, have prompted criticism of health minister Jens Spahn’s scheme for triggering a free-market free-for-all, something Die Welt newspaper called a “testing gold-rush”. “It’s an absurd system, and very atypical for Germany”, said Matthias Orth, of the Institute of Laboratory Medicine at Stuttgart’s Marienhospital. Earlier this year, Germany’s disease control agency reported that one commonly used antigen test – which only detects Covid-19 cases on days the viral load is highest – had missed 61% of asymptomatic infections at the emergency ward of a Stuttgart’s Katharinenhospital clinic.
Working Remotely
Remote workers suffered most mental distress during pandemic, report claims
Working from home during the pandemic has led to increased levels of mental distress and isolation, according to new research. The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) found that those who lived alone and worked from home suffered the most, but also suggested that people that lived with others experienced similar feelings of loneliness. A lack of interaction between colleagues and a blurring of the lines of work and life were cited as the main reasons in the study, with a lack of new experiences and face-to-face interactions thought to be contributing to increased mental distress for home workers.
Credit Suisse Plans 'Maximum Flexibility' Remote Work Model
Credit Suisse said it’s planning to introduce a work model that gives the bank employees in Switzerland “maximum flexibility,” joining global peers in making remote working arrangements more permanent. The approximately 13,000 employees of the universal bank in Switzerland will, depending on their role, be able to decide with their teams and line managers how much of their time they want to spend outside the office and which days to be in, according to a statement from the bank
These are the best cities globally for remote working
The Australian city of Melbourne has been found to be the best city globally for remote working, according to a ranking by on-demand housing platform Nestpick. Melbourne scored highly on livability factors such as safety, health care, culture and leisure activities, as well as its remote working infrastructure. It was also just one of 10 cities in Nestpick’s rankings to offer a “digital nomad” visa — a specific visa or equivalent document allowing self-employed and foreign-employed remote workers to enter and work in the country.
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual School & Equity: Why Online Classes Challenge Kids With Autism
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in 54 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder by age 8. People on the spectrum persistently have difficulty communicating and interacting with others and are prone to restrictive or repetitive behavior. Online learning, with impersonal factors such as having to watch a small screen and not having a teacher present, amplified the problem during the pandemic. The Autism Research Institute, in San Diego, recommended several actions to take with students on the spectrum who had to switch to online learning. They included explaining the situation to the child doing the learning, creating reasonable expectations, setting a schedule, involving the entire family and setting up support that relates to online learning.
New report aims to improve VR use in healthcare education
A new report that could help improve how immersive technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are used in healthcare education and training has been published with significant input from the University of Huddersfield. The report argues for greater standardisation of how to use immersive technologies in healthcare training and education. As Professor Peebles explains, "It's about developing a set of principles and guidelines for the use of immersive technology in medical treatment. Immersive technology is becoming increasingly popular and, as the technology is advancing, it's becoming clear that there is great potential to make training more accessible and effective."
Public Policies
Local lockdowns could still be imposed after Covid 'freedom day' if new variants emerge
Local lockdowns could still be imposed in England after the so-called Covid “freedom day”, Sajid Javid has revealed. Ministers will retain laws that allow local authorities to shut down businesses, prohibit certain events, or close outdoor public spaces “in case of a local breakout” or in case a new dangerous variant emerges, the Health Secretary told MPs. “We will be keeping in place contingency measures, particularly for local authorities, the so-called No.3 regulations, at least until the end of September, in case those powers are needed in the case of a local breakout,” Mr Javid told the Commons.
Iran, facing another virus surge, reimposes restrictions and focuses on homegrown vaccines
Iran on Sunday reimposed coronavirus restrictions amid fears that a fifth wave of the virus driven by the delta variant could overrun the country’s health-care system, already battered by U.S. sanctions and the region’s worst cycle of outbreaks. The latest surge comes as Iran has struggled to import vaccines, prompting the country’s leaders to double down on researching and developing its homegrown vaccines.
Ghana plans to issue Africa’s first social bonds with $2B sale
Ghana would be pioneering social bonds in Africa, seizing on an instrument that’s boomed since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ukraine approves Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine
Ukraine has approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, the health ministry said on Monday.
Leaked memo raises Thai concern about Sinovac vaccine's efficacy
A leaked health ministry document has prompted calls in Thailand for medical staff inoculated against COVID-19 to be given a booster of an mRNA vaccine, after it included a comment that such a move could dent public confidence in Sinovac Biotech's vaccine. The internal memo, which included various opinions, was reported by local media and shared widely on social media. It was confirmed by Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul as being authentic.
Australia is paying hundreds of millions to AstraZeneca for COVID-19 vaccines. But the deal is a 'national security' secret
The Australian government's entire vaccine supply agreement with AstraZeneca is being withheld from public release on the grounds it poses a "real and substantial risk" to national security if it were released. Gavin Hayman, the executive director of global advocacy group Open Contracting, said Australia's blanket suppression of the deal was striking and at odds with other nations. "There is no merit in using a national security argument for keeping the vaccine contract hidden from public sight," he said. "In fact, national security is best served by building public trust in the entire vaccination program. We think publishing the contract with a clear explanation of its key terms can contribute to that."
Norway delays full reopening over Delta COVID-19 variant
Norway announced the easing of some COVID-19 restrictions on Monday but delayed the final phase of reopening the economy until the end of this month at the earliest because of concerns about the Delta coronavirus variant. Measures that will remain include bars and restaurants being limited to table service, limits of 20 people on gatherings in private homes, and restrictions on adult recreational sports.
Maintaining Services
Morocco's Sothema to produce China's Sinopharm vaccine
Moroccan pharmaceutical firm Sothema will soon start production of 5 million doses a month of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in the North African country, state news agency MAP reported on Monday. The announcement was made at a ceremony chaired by King Mohammed VI during which the Moroccan government, Sinopharm and Sothema, whose formal name is Société Thérapeutique Marocaine, also signed deals to produce the vaccine in Morocco, which has a population of about 36 million.
Indonesia seeks more oxygen for COVID-19 sick amid shortage
Parts of Indonesia lack oxygen supplies as the number of critically ill COVID-19 patients who need it increases, the nation's pandemic response leader said Monday, after dozens of sick people died at a public hospital that ran out of its central supply. “Due to an increase of three to four times the amount (of oxygen) needed, the distribution has been hampered,” said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister. The government is asking oxygen producers to dedicate their full supply to medical needs and will import it if needed, Pandjaitan said at the virtual news conference.
'Call of duty': Indonesian bikers brave COVID-19 surge to escort ambulances
Indonesian volunteer biker Sebastian Dwiyantoro and his team have been particularly busy helping ambulances navigate heavy traffic in Jakarta's satellite city of Depok to get COVID-19 patients to hospital as infections soar in the country. The volunteers ride motorbikes in front of the ambulances, the deafening noise of the sirens behind them, freeing up space and stopping other cars to make way for ambulances carrying the sick to medical facilities or corpses to graveyards. Indonesia has been reporting more than 20,000 new cases and over 400 deaths per day over the past week as the spread of the more contagious Delta variant accelerated infections and strained the country's healthcare sector
Vaccination for people aged 18-34 opens at more than 800 pharmacies
Vaccinations against Covid-19 for people aged between 18 and 34 begin on Monday in Ireland, as more than 800 pharmacies across the country begin administering the one-shot Janssen/Johnson & Johnson jab. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) recently changed its advice to allow people aged under 40 to receive the J&J and AstraZeneca shots as the State seeks to widen the vaccine rollout amid concern about the spread of the Delta variant. The news comes as the limit is removed on the number of people who can visit a private home together if they are all fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the previous 9 months.
Healthcare Innovations
Israel sees drop in Pfizer vaccine protection against infections
Israel reported on Monday a decrease in the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in preventing infections and symptomatic illness but said it remained highly effective in preventing serious illness. The decline coincided with the spread of the Delta variant and the end of social distancing restrictions in Israel. Vaccine effectiveness in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease fell to 64% since June 6, the Health Ministry said. At the same time the vaccine was 93% effective in preventing hospitalizations and serious illness from the coronavirus.
Lambda variant: What is the new strain of Covid detected in the UK?
The Lambda variant - known to scientists as C.37 - was first identified in Peru and has been detected in samples dating back to as early as December 2020. Since then it has become the dominant variant in the South American country, where it accounts for more than 80 per cent of new infections. It has now been detected in at least 26 countries, including the UK. So should we be concerned? The World Health Organisation designated the Lambda variant as a variant of interest on 14 June.
COVID-19: UK seeing 'COVID Mexican wave' as virus spreads from west to east, says expert
The UK is seeing its "own form of a COVID Mexican wave" as infections move from the west of the country to the east, a leading symptoms researcher has said. Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of the ZOE COVID symptom study, said areas in the west which have been worst affected are now seeing lower rates, suggesting they have reached the peak of infections. However, London, the South East, East Anglia and eastern parts of the country are seeing cases increase, according to data from his study.
Scientists identify natural SARS-CoV-2 super immunity against 23 variants
A team of international scientists has recently identified ultrapotent anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) antibodies from convalescent donors. The antibodies are capable of neutralizing a wide range of SARS-CoV-2 variants even at sub-nanomolar concentrations. In addition, the combinations of these antibodies reduce the risk of generating escape mutants in vitro. The study is published in the journal Science.