"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 14th Jul 2021

Isolation Tips
COVID-19: PM's easing of England's restrictions is 'irresponsible', BMA says
Boris Johnson's decision to press ahead with easing coronavirus restrictions in England is "irresponsible", senior doctors have said - although a government minister has admitted COVID rules could return this winter. The prime minister announced on Monday that most of the last remaining restrictions in England would be axed from 19 July. This was despite modelling showing that there could be 1,000 to 2,000 hospital admissions per day, with deaths reaching between 100 and 200 per day by mid-August, when the peak of the current wave is expected.
Hygiene Helpers
‘Mixed advice’ driving Covid vaccine hesitancy in pregnant UK women
Pregnant women are being given dangerously mixed messaging from health professionals, with figures suggesting a “very high” vaccine hesitancy among the vulnerable group, according to campaigners. Three-quarters of pregnant women in the UK feel anxious about the easing of coronavirus restrictions with many saying the move is like “another lockdown” for expectant mothers, according to a survey of about 9,000 pregnant women by campaigning group Pregnant Then Screwed.
Greece and France join Italy in making Covid-19 shots mandatory for health workers, telling the unvaccinated they won't get paid
As Europe struggles with a rising number of coronavirus cases caused by the Delta variant, several countries are making vaccinations compulsory for health care workers, and some leaders are even considering making shots mandatory for all. France and Greece both announced new vaccine requirements on Monday, following in the footsteps of Italy, which made vaccinations compulsory for health employees in April. The UK government, which is pushing ahead with its unlocking plan despite strong warnings from experts, has previously said it will mandate shots for care home staff from October.
COVID-19: Train and bus operators will no longer enforce mask wearing in England from 19 July
Train and bus operators will not require passengers to wear face masks on services in England from 19 July, industry bodies have confirmed. The government has left it up to transport companies to decide whether they wish to enforce the wearing of face coverings, giving them the power to turn customers away for not wearing a mask. But only airlines, such as Ryanair, British Airways, and easyJet, and the Eurostar service will continue to require face masks from Monday. Train, bus and coach operators have said that, in the absence of government legislation enforcing masks, they will not require travellers to continue wearing face coverings.
Germany won't make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory - Merkel
Germany will not make vaccination against COVID-19 compulsory, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday, adding that ensuring more Germans get vaccinated, sticking to distancing rules and testing should help prevent a fourth wave. "We have no intention of going down this road," Merkel said during a news conference. "There will be no compulsory vaccination."
Masks to remain mandatory on London transport after national rule easing
Masks will remain mandatory on London's public transport network after July 19, the city's mayor said on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government plans to lift most COVID-19 restrictions from that date in England despite rising cases. The public will be expected, rather than compelled by law, to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces across the country from next week, as rules decided upon by the Conservative administration are eased
The decline in Covid-19 preceded vaccines. But we need jabs to finish the job
Following patterns from previous pandemics, the precipitous decline in new cases of Covid-19 started well before a meaningful number of people had been vaccinated. To be sure, coronavirus vaccines are a remarkable accomplishment. But even a vaccine that’s 95% effective can’t take full credit if it is introduced on the back of a naturally receding epidemic. Timing is everything. There are two ways to develop immunity: natural infection and vaccination. The best explanation for declining rates of Covid-19 appears to be previous infections, which vary considerably from state to state. Individuals with confirmed Covid-19 diagnoses are only the tip of the iceberg. Although estimates vary, the most recent study from the National Institutes of Health suggests that about five people were infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, for each person with a confirmed case
Community Activities
‘Increasingly hostile incidents’ target London vaccine workers
A number of “increasingly hostile incidents” targeting London vaccine workers were revealed on Tuesday as the capital’s jabs roll-out slowed alarmingly. Mayor Sadiq Khan and the capital’s top doctor, Vin Diwakar, warned a “zero tolerance” approach would be taken as concerns grew about the threats and abuse being hurled at staff at the frontline of the jabs roll-out. Last month the Standard revealed that anti-vax campaigners had been targeting vaccine buses attempting to deliver jabs to “hard to reach” communities on housing estates, prompting councils to provide security guards.
New Zealand scientists say UK’s ‘awful experiment’ on Covid will threaten the country
Scientists in New Zealand have expressed concern at Britain’s unlocking of Covid restrictions, describing it as an “awful experiment.” On Monday Boris Johnson announced plans to scrap a number of coronavirus lockdown measures on July 19, including ditching social distancing and dropping the legal requirement to wear a face mask.
Analysis: Ministers shift responsibility for fighting coronavirus to the public
The government today passed the baton for fighting coronavirus to the public, as Boris Johnson confirmed that the last of the emergency Covid restrictions would be lifted from next week. After 16 months of government-imposed curbs on our everyday life, it appears the government has decided that enough is enough and that it’s time for it to depart the pitch, mid-game, as a summer wave of infection builds. Johnson’s message was simple. It is up to each and every one of us to look out not just for ourselves but for each other, because the government has now returned to the idea of herd immunity as the only way out of the pandemic.
When and how will we know if we need Covid-19 booster shots?
There’s a lot we don’t yet know about the data behind Pfizer and BioNTech’s renewed push to change their two-shot Covid vaccination series to a three-shot regimen. But as various factions bicker about whether a third shot is going to be needed, one thing is certain: The final decision will not rest with the companies. Public health officials, not pharmaceutical executives, will be making the final call on when and whether booster shots will be needed. Pfizer and other manufacturers will surely try to push for approvals; Moderna is already testing a Delta-variant-specific booster. Depending on how their conversations go with vaccine regulators at the FDA, companies may apply for a change to their emergency use authorizations
Deaths from Covid-19 remain low despite cases soaring ahead of lockdown finally lifting
Coronavirus deaths in England and Wales remain low despite soaring cases, new data shows. A further 109 Covid deaths have been recorded across England and Wales between June 26 and July 2, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures. Although this is a slight increase on the week before, it is still a low figure when compared to the sharp spike in cases. Over the same period more than 150,000 new Covid infections were recorded across the UK. ONS data showed that the number of deaths recorded in the latest week in England and Wales was actually lower than the five-year average.
Tennessee fires official Michelle Fiscus because of coronavirus vaccination guidance
Tennessee fired its top immunization official Monday, the official said, in retaliation for her attempts to let teenagers choose whether to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. Michelle Fiscus said she was fired from her job as director of immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health on Monday afternoon as retaliation for the department’s efforts to vaccinate teenagers against the coronavirus, a plan that angered several state lawmakers.
Philippine vaccine hesitancy drops as safety concerns ebb, poll shows
The number of Filipinos willing to get inoculated against the coronavirus rose to 43% in June from just 16% in February, an opinion poll showed on Monday, as concerns over the safety of vaccines eased. The Pulse Asia survey of 2,400 respondents took place from June 7 to 16, more than three months after the Philippines began its vaccination drive on March 1. So far, nearly 9.7 million people have been given at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 3.5 million have been fully vaccinated, about 3.2 % of the 110 population.
Working Remotely
One in five Scottish financial services firms favours fully remote working amid Covid future
A survey of nearly 200 Scotland-based financial services employees across banking, capital markets and insurance found that 21 per cent of workers would prefer to work entirely from home once a full return to office is possible amid the relaxing of coronavirus restrictions. The vast majority (70 per cent) said that they would prefer to work just two days a week or less in the office. Just 5 per cent would favour a return to five days a week in the office, according to the study by Accenture.
Why Some People Should Stop Working Remotely And Start Returning To The Office
For some workers, it makes sense to go back to the office. It seems that a majority of people want to remain working remotely. If that works best for them, that’s great—and they should continue to do it. Returning to a headquarters is not for everyone, but there are solid career-enhancing reasons to go back to an office setting. For young adults, going to the office has positive social benefits. You will meet new people. Make friends and build a network of alliances that could help you throughout your career.
Work from home fuelling cyber attacks, says global financial watchdog
Financial firms may need to bolster their defences in the face of rocketing cyber attacks after employees began working from home, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) said on Tuesday. The FSB, which coordinates financial rules for the G20 group of nations, said remote working since economies went into lockdown to fight COVID-19 opened up new possibilities for cyber attacks. Working from home is expected to stay in some form across the financial services industry and beyond. "Most cyber frameworks did not envisage a scenario of near-universal remote working and the exploitation of such a situation by cyber threat actors," the FSB said in a report to G20 ministers and central banks.
Virtual Classrooms
NSW parents and teachers brace themselves for online learning
Term three begins today in New South Wales, and schools in greater Sydney are scrambling to deliver their classes online, as the COVID outbreak forces most kids to learn from home. But while Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she hopes online learning will only be a one-week event, many fear students will be in a virtual classroom for far longer.
How one-to-one online learning will disrupt the education industry
Last April, a World Economic Forum report suggested 1.2 billion children, globally, had to attend virtual classrooms due to the pandemic. Whilst the UK saw its students move to an online learning system, reports of the loss of learning, particularly by children studying in the public school system, raised concerns. In another report, the NFER stated how students from poorer backgrounds struggled more than their economically well-off counterparts. The report noted the average learning loss for poorer students was 46% greater than a year earlier.
Researchers are looking for parents of autistic children for Covid-19 school study
University College London (UCL) is looking for 1,500 parents of autistic children and children with learning difficulties for a big Government-funded study into the effect of Covid-19 on their education. The researchers will investigate the educational experiences of children aged five to 15 across the UK with neurodevelopmental conditions (NDCs) in the past year. Study leader Dr Vaso Totsika, said: “While everyone is debating longer days and extra tuition, let’s take a moment to talk about the elephant in the room.” Dr Totsika, associate professor in intellectual developmental disability at UCL, was referring to the disproportionately high detrimental effects of Covid-19 on the 1.3 million children with NCDs, which she says is not being properly addressed
Public Policies
UAE sends 500,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to Tunisia
A plane carrying 500,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses, donated by the UAE to help curb the spread of the virus, has arrived in Tunisia. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, ordered the donation of half a million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Tunisia. The country is battling to contain a second wave of infections, with several countries in the region pledging aid.
Moldova gets 500,000 doses of J&J's COVID-19 vaccine from U.S. - State Dept
The United States has sent 500,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine to Moldova as part of Washington's coronavirus diplomacy to send surplus shots overseas to help fight the global pandemic, the U.S. Department of State said on Tuesday. "I’m pleased to announce the donation of 500,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Moldova. This delivery furthers the U.S. commitment to defeating the global COVID-19 pandemic and helping Moldova," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a post on Twitter alongside pictures of the shipments. The COVID-19 pandemic has battered the economy of tiny ex-Soviet republic, which has 3.5 million people and is one of Europe's poorest nations.
COVAX signs deal for 550 million Chinese Covid-19 vaccines amid questions over efficacy
COVAX has signed agreements with two Chinese pharmaceutical companies to buy more than half a billion of their Covid-19 vaccines by the first half of next year, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) announced Monday. Under the agreements, Chinese vaccine makers Sinopharm and Sinovac will begin to make 110 million doses immediately available, according to a news release from Gavi, a public-private global health partnership that is co-leading COVAX, a worldwide initiative aimed at distributing vaccines to countries regardless of wealth. The agreements came at a time when "the Delta variant is posing a rising risk to health systems," Gavi said in the statement.
Thailand approves $1.3 bln measures to ease impact of COVID-19 lockdown
Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday approved 42 billion baht ($1.29 billion) of relief measures to help businesses and workers affected by the latest coronavirus restrictions as the country deals with its biggest outbreak so far. The measures included compensation for businesses and utility subsidies, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement. The lockdown began on Monday in the capital Bangkok and nine provinces.
Living with COVID-19: Israel changes strategy as Delta variant hits
Masks back on indoors in Israel. Delta variant has driven up infections Israel following "soft suppression" strategy. Aims for minimum disruption to daily life
Malaysia seeks to beef up health system as Delta variant rages
Malaysia on Tuesday announced new measures to support its ailing public health system as the country saw another record daily rise in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the highly infectious Delta variant. The Southeast Asian country reported 11,079 new infections on Tuesday, the third daily record seen in the past week, and 125 new deaths. The surge comes even as Malaysia ramped up its vaccination programme and imposed stricter lockdown measures over the past month.
French rush to get vaccinated after president’s warning
More than 1 million people in France made vaccine appointments in less than a day, according to figures released Tuesday, after the president cranked up pressure on everyone to get vaccinated to save the summer vacation season and the French economy. Some bristled at President Emmanuel Macron’s admonition to “get vaccinated!” immediately, but many people signed up for shots, accepting that getting injected was the only way to return to some semblance of pre-pandemic life.
WHO director-general slams notion of Covid-19 vaccine booster doses given global health needs
The director-general of the World Health Organization issued a stinging rebuke to Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers focused on developing — and selling — Covid-19 vaccine booster shots to high-income countries, saying they should focus instead on providing vaccine to nations that have had little access to first doses. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ statement came four days after Pfizer said it has data to support its repeated claim that a third dose of its vaccine will be needed to keep protection levels high. He also singled out Moderna, which, like Pfizer, is developing updated vaccines targeted at variants. “We’re making conscious choices right now not to protect those in most need,” Tedros said in Geneva.
The world will not exit Covid-19 pandemic without booster shots, vaccine developer says
The world will not get the Covid-19 pandemic under control without using booster shots for messenger RNA vaccines, one of the key figures involved in the development of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine said Tuesday. Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, insisted booster shots are going to be necessary, despite caution from some experts. “At the end of the day it really matters that we get this pandemic under control. And we will not get it under control without boosting. That’s my strong opinion,” Sahin said.
State of emergency begins in host city Tokyo as Games near
Olympic host city Tokyo entered a new state of emergency on Monday, less than two weeks before the Games begin amid worries about whether the measures can stem a rise in COVID-19 cases. Organisers last week announced that spectators would be banned from nearly all venues. Spectators from abroad were already banned months ago, and officials are now asking residents to watch the Games on TV to keep the movement of people, which could spread contagion, to a minimum.
Politics, health collided in Taiwan's tortured BioNTech vaccine talks
As talks for Taiwan to access BioNTech SE's COVID-19 vaccine via two major Taiwanese companies reached a head last week, the German firm's Chinese sales agent put forward a template contract seeking access to Taiwanese medical records. The clause sparked alarm, as such a requirement would be anathema for Taiwan's government, long wary of Beijing's attempts at influence over the democratic island, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Global COVID Cases Up for 4th Consecutive Week, WHO Says
The World Health Organization reported Monday that COVID-19 cases rose globally for the fourth consecutive week and that the number of deaths rose after 10 weeks of declines — driven by the highly contagious delta variant, which was first detected in India. The delta variant has now been reported in more than 104 countries. At the agency's Monday briefing from its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said all but one of the organization's six global regions had seen an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Maintaining Services
Long Lines Form for Russia's Third Coronavirus Vaccine in Moscow
Long lines formed outside Moscow vaccination sites over the weekend as demand for Russia’s third registered coronavirus jab outstripped supply and caused yet another shortage of the jab. Videos published to social media showed Muscovites lining up outside a dozen vaccination sites where authorities had shipped around 850 doses of CoviVac each. Moscow City Hall, which had previously suspended CoviVac vaccinations due to shortages on June 22 and June 28, announced that it ran out of doses on Sunday.
Serbia to become first country in Europe to produce China-developed COVID-19 vaccine
Serbia will become the first country in Europe to produce China-developed inactivated COVID-19 vaccines as the country has reached an agreement with Sinopharm, the Chinese company announced Tuesday. The production line in Serbia will be able to deliver about three million doses of vaccines per month and is set to produce 10 million doses of Sinopharm's inactivated vaccine, according to the announcement. The first batch of the doses will be provided to the local Serbian market to help the country fight against the epidemic, according to the announcement.
COVID-19: Why no one should feel especially comfortable with this genuine new wave of infections
Every other time COVID-19 infection rates were as high as this, and heading up at the rate they are now, this government, tried to put the epidemiological brakes on, but this time it's different, as lockdown easing will go ahead as planned.
Experts warn Jersey Covid cases could reach 500 per day by next week
Stage 7 of Jersey's reconnection plan will not go ahead as scheduled for 15 July, working from home is to return and masks are advised once again. The announcement has been made following a sharp rise in the number of Covid cases in the island. Experts are warning case numbers could reach 500 per day by this time next week. At a press conference this afternoon (13 July) officials announced their objective is to slow the rate of infection and reduce levels of isolation, which is impacting on individuals, and consequently businesses are having to close.
UK megalab opens to process hundreds of thousands of Covid tests and identify new variants
The UK’s first testing megalab - which will process hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 samples every day - has opened as the “centrepiece” of the country’s future test and trace infrastructure, the government has said. The new Rosalind Franklin laboratory in Royal Leamington Spa will play a role in responding to new Covid variants of concern and future disease threats as part of plans to prevent another national lockdown. The facility is named after the British scientist who played a key role in the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA and in pioneering the use of X-ray diffraction.
Brits will need annual Covid vaccine booster as new variants emerge, experts warn
Millions of vulnerable Brits will likely need a Covid booster jab every year and it could be given at the same time as an annual flu shot, say experts. About 32 million people in England could receive their third coronavirus jabs from September in the next stage of the biggest vaccination programme in UK history. A British clinical trial - the first of its kind in the world - was launched to find out whether boosters are safe and effective in extending immune protection against coronavirus, and which vaccines could be used for third jabs.
Delta surge ‘could leave hundreds of thousands with long Covid’
The decision to lift England’s remaining Covid restrictions next Monday – even as cases of the Delta variant surge around the country – is expected to turbocharge the epidemic and push the nation into what one leading scientist called “uncharted territory” in terms of the numbers of people left suffering from long Covid. Ministers have been told to expect at least one to two million coronavirus infections in the coming weeks. And while the mass rollout of vaccines – which started with elderly and vulnerable people – will dramatically reduce the proportion who are hospitalised and die, the wave may leave hundreds of thousands of younger people with long-term health problems, researchers have said.
New COVID-19 cases up 94 percent in two weeks
The average number of new daily COVID-19 cases has increased 94 percent over the past two weeks, according to data from The New York Times, as worries over outbreaks climb nationwide. The U.S. recorded a seven-day average of more than 23,000 daily cases on Monday, almost doubling from the average two weeks ago, as less than half of the total population is fully vaccinated. Monday’s count of 32,105 newly confirmed cases pushed the seven-day average up from its Sunday level of more than 19,000 new cases — a 60 percent increase from two weeks prior.
In first, Thailand to mix Sinovac, AstraZeneca vaccine doses
Thailand used Sinovac vaccine for frontliners. AstraZeneca vaccine available since June. Delta variant on increase in Thailand. New curbs imposed around capital
Healthcare Innovations
J&J, AstraZeneca Explore Covid-19 Vaccine Modification in Response to Rare Blood Clots
Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca PLC and the University of Oxford, along with outside scientists, are conducting early-stage research into whether potential modifications of their Covid-19 vaccines could reduce or eliminate the risk of rare but serious blood clots associated with the shots, according to people close to the process. Fast-developing clues into how the clots form—driven in part by independent scientists in Europe, the U.S. and Canada—are boosting hopes of identifying the cause and possibly re-engineering AstraZeneca’s shot by next year, according to some of these people. It is too early to know whether either shot can be modified, or whether doing so would make commercial sense, these people say.
WHO warns against people mixing and matching COVID vaccines
The World Health Organization's chief scientist has advised individualsagainst mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers, saying such decisions should be left to public health authorities. "It's a little bit of a dangerous trend here," Soumya Swaminathan told an online briefing on Monday after a question about booster shots. "It will be a chaotic situation in countries if citizens start deciding when and who will be taking a second, a third and a fourth dose."
Guillain-Barre syndrome: FDA flags ‘small’ risk with J&J jab
United States regulators have added a new warning to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine about links to a rare and potentially dangerous neurological reaction. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the new warning on Monday, flagging reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome, an immune system disorder that can cause muscle weakness and occasionally paralysis. Health officials described the side effect as a “small possible risk” for those getting the shot.
Pfizer COVID vaccine shows 78% efficacy in pregnancy
Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were safe and 78% effective in preventing infection in pregnant women in a real-world study in Israel. Led by researchers at Maccabi Healthcare Services in Tel Aviv, the retrospective, observational study was published yesterday in JAMA. It involved analyzing data on 15,060 women in a pregnancy registry of a large, state-mandated healthcare system who were vaccinated with a first dose from Dec 19, 2020, to Feb 28, 2021.