"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 23rd Jul 2021

Isolation Tips
Pets And Pet Owners Face Separation Anxiety As Workers Return To The Office
The phenomenon of the pandemic pet was one of few positive triumphs of 2020. Demand for pets surged. Americans, working from home or furloughed, sought out animal companionship. Some shelters struggled to keep up with it. For many workers, though, the cozy days of remote working are coming to an end. And separation anxiety looms. Over 30% of owners have sought advice from veterinarians on making the transition to in-person work easier for their pets, according to a March survey from Banfield Pet Hospital. Upon returning to the office, 68% of Gen Z owners and 42% of millennials plan to hire dog walkers or reserve spots in doggy day cares.
Hygiene Helpers
Ignoring ventilation is the great unspoken error of our government’s Covid-19 strategy
The initial message of hand-washing and face-touching just kind of stuck – but evidence shows that it’s ventilation, ventilation, ventilation that really matters
How worried should vaccinated people be of Covid-19 breakthrough infections?
Coronavirus infections are on the rise again in the United States. CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen explains how the dominant Delta variant impacts those who have been vaccinated and what precautions they should take.
Greece extends mandatory regular testing for unvaccinated tourism staff
Greece said on Thursday all unvaccinated restaurant and tourism workers nationwide must undergo regular COVID-19 tests, extending an obligation that previously applied only on some popular holiday islands as case numbers have continued to climb. After a disastrous year in 2020 where global travel evaporated, Greece lifted most restrictions and has been hoping for at least a partial revival of its crucial tourist industry over the summer.
COVID-19: Minister suggests other 'crowded' venues where vaccine passports could be introduced
Vaccine passports could be introduced for sporting and business events, music venues and festivals in addition to nightclubs, a minister has suggested, but people will not have to prove their COVID status to access schools and universities. Making a statement to MPs in the Commons, Nadhim Zahawi said those former events are the ones that ministers are "most concerned about" when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.
One in seven Covid-19 cases not reached through Test and Trace in latest week
One in seven people transferred to the Test and Trace system after testing positive for Covid-19 were not reached in the latest week, new figures show. It is the largest proportion not reached since October last year and comes as the number of people testing positive rose to its highest total for nearly six months. Some 14.2% of people transferred to Test and Trace in England in the week ending July 14 were not reached, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
More than 600,000 people told to isolate by NHS Covid-19 app
More than 600,000 people using the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales were sent self-isolation alerts in the week between 8 and 15 July. Data shows 618,903 alerts were sent - a 17% rise from the previous week. There are complaints from businesses that the alerts are causing serious staff shortages and affecting services. However some fully-vaccinated key workers will be exempt from self-isolating if they are pinged by the app as a close contact of a positive case. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told the BBC a “very narrow” list of jobs would be released today.
UK to launch daily COVID tests in food sector to tackle 'pingdemic'
Daily tests to replace self-isolation for 'pinged' workers. Testing sites to be set up at distribution centres this week. Supermarkets have warned of shortages on limited lines. Named workers from other key services will not have to isolate
Proven ways to boost Covid-19 vaccination: mandates plus nudges
The United States is approaching a plateau in vaccination rates at a perilous moment as the highly transmissible Delta variant has become the dominant strain. It’s time to get serious about vaccination. If we have a checkerboard of communities across America without adequate uptake of Covid-19 vaccines, we will never stem the pandemic. Evidence-based tools can make us all safer and more secure by making vaccination the default choice in Americans’ everyday lives — in schools, businesses, and hospitals. Behavioral science research shows the power of nudges to make the healthier and safer choice easier and the risky choice harder. Nudges also operate by showing vaccine-hesitant individuals that their peers are getting the jab.
Community Activities
Facebook and YouTube are still full of covid misinformation
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all banned harmful covid-related misinformation as the pandemic took hold throughout the world. But the false claims are still proliferating. On YouTube, the accounts of six out of 12 anti-vaccine activists identified by the Center for Countering Digital Hate as being responsible for creating more than half the anti-vaccine content shared on social media are easily searchable and still posting videos. On Facebook, researchers at the left-leaning advocacy group Avaaz ran an experiment in June in an effort to show how anti-vaccine material gets pushed to people. Two new accounts it set up were recommended 109 pages containing anti-vaccine information in just two days.
New Jersey hospital system fires 6 workers who failed to get vaccinated against coronavirus
A half-dozen senior health-care workers who refused to comply with a New Jersey hospital system’s coronavirus vaccine mandate have been fired, the latest example of a company taking action against those who push back against vaccine policies. RWJBarnabas Health, the largest health-care system in the state, said in May that all team members at the supervisory level or above would be required to complete their course of coronavirus vaccinations no later than June 30. The idea was they would set an example for other staff members, and the state’s residents, in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.
COVID-19: Iceland warns against stockpiling as Tesco, Sainsbury's, and Co-op experience shortages amid 'pingdemic'
Customers at Sainsbury's have been warned its stores "might not always have" the products they want while Tesco was understood to be experiencing "temporary low availability across a small number of products".
YouTube pulls Jair Bolsonaro videos for Covid-19 misinformation
YouTube has removed videos from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s channel for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, becoming the latest tech giant to pull his statements about the pandemic. YouTube said in a press release the decision was taken “after careful review” and without consideration for Bolsonaro’s job or political ideology. The far-right former army captain, who has overseen the world’s second deadliest outbreak, has won widespread criticism for railing against lockdowns, touting unproven cures, sowing vaccine doubts and shunning masks.
Thousands descend on UK music festival amid rise in COVID cases
Thousands of people poured into the grounds of the Latitude music festival in eastern England on Thursday, one of the biggest gatherings since most coronavirus restrictions were lifted earlier this week. The four-day festival, expected to attract around 40,000 people, comes as COVID-19 cases across the country broadly rise. Music lovers arriving on a balmy summer's day had to show they had been vaccinated twice or tested negative for the disease.
UK ‘pingdemic’ raises fears of food shortages
The United Kingdom’s supermarkets, wholesalers and hauliers are struggling to ensure stable food and fuel supplies after an official health app told hundreds of thousands of workers to isolate themselves after contact with someone with COVID-19. On Thursday, newspapers carried front-page pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets, while shoppers also took to social media to highlight shortages of certain products in stores across the country.
Working Remotely
More than 100 digital hubs nationwide benefit from €8.8m fund for remote working
More than 117 digital hubs across Ireland have benefitted from an €8.8m fund to encourage remote working. People hoping to work from home in Kerry got the lions share of the funding with almost €750,000 going to hubs in the county. More than half a million went to projects in Donegal while digital hubs in Cork, Limerick and Tipperary received more than €400,000 from the Connected Hubs Fund.
Remote working: Do we need a legal right to disconnect?
The past 18 months have shown us that when it comes to disaster planning for business the biggest risk for many isn’t, surprisingly, something like a global pandemic, but the strength and integrity of their IT systems. The majority of businesses could not have survived the pandemic without remote working – and we have seen a rapid increase in the digitalisation of office working as a consequence. Studies show home-working increased by 30 per cent throughout lockdown. But while remote working and the use of more technology to support it has brought obvious benefits, it has also exacerbated a long-recognised problem: the so-called ‘always on’ culture. We are now starting to see demands for a legal framework.
How to keep working remotely when the boss orders everyone back in the office
For months, employers with remote workforces and their teleworking employees have been preparing their arguments for what the post-pandemic workplace should look like. Employers who want everyone back at the workplace argue that employees are more engaged, more efficient and more collaborative in the office. But teleworking employees who have adapted to online collaboration, and who find they have more mental energy without office distractions and draining commutes, aren’t necessarily buying those reasons. And with coronavirus variants threatening another surge in infection rates, safety is still a major concern.
Virtual Classrooms
Scaling use of tech in learning at all levels can no longer wait
Before the pandemic, Uganda grappled with low-quality education characterized by low levels of staffing, poor infrastructure, high rate of teacher–pupil absenteeism thus leading to low literacy, numeracy, and high levels of school dropout. The school closures have therefore added to the burden of the already frail systems by disrupting learning and widening structural inequalities. While children from affluent families and a few in urban areas have leveraged technology in learning as they have access to the internet and can afford to pay for virtual tutors, for others, the situation is bleak.
Department of Education reveals distance-learning options amid pandemic
In Hawaii, the state Department of Education on Wednesday unveiled a list of about 100 schools offering a distance-learning option for parents uneasy about sending their child to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the department said it will team up with some complex areas where demand is low to provide a distance-learning option, but spots for students will be limited.
Public Policies
Chile approves emergency use of Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine
Chile's Institute of Public Health approved emergency use of the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine against COVID-19, joining the country's already massive inoculation program, the institute said in a statement. One of the institute's experts voted against the approval, and two abstained, asking for more information about the efficacy of the formula developed by Russia's Gamaleya Institute. Five members of the committee convened by the institute voted for approval.
EU has shipped tiny percentage of planned COVID-19 shot donations - document
* EU has donated less than 4 mln COVID-19 vaccines so far - document * 160 mln shots to be shared in total. * EU nations sharing almost exclusively AstraZeneca doses. * Doses shared so far were sent mostly to former colonies. * EU says on track to donate 200 mln this year
U.S. donates 3 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to Vietnam
The U.S. government will send 3 million more doses of the Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam on Thursday, bringing total donations to the Southeast Asian country to 5 million, a White House official said. The next batch of shots is due to arrive in Vietnam this weekend as the country battles its worst coronavirus outbreak of the pandemic.
China rejects WHO plan for study of COVID-19 origin
China rejected on Thursday a World Health Organization (WHO) plan for a second phase of an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, which includes the hypothesis it could have escaped from a Chinese laboratory, a top health official said. The WHO this month proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities
Ireland to wait a few weeks before reopening economy further
Ireland will wait a few weeks before considering easing COVID-19 restrictions beyond Monday's planned resumption of indoor dining and drinking in restaurants and bars, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday. Ireland has been gradually unwinding its third and longest lockdown and earlier this month delayed plans to allow indoor service in pubs and restaurants for the first time this year due to concerns about the COVID-19 Delta variant.
As Indonesia mulls easing lockdown, WHO urges tougher restrictions
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday urged Indonesia to implement a stricter and wider lockdown to combat surging COVID-19 infections and deaths, just days after the country's president flagged the easing of restrictions. Indonesia has become one of the epicentres of the global pandemic in recent weeks, with positive COVID-19 cases leaping fivefold in the past five weeks. This week, daily deaths hit record highs over 1,400, among the highest tolls in the world.
The government relies on Boris Johnson’s infectious optimism – but good cheer alone cannot sustain it
Boris Johnson’s approach to tackling Covid-19 has been remarkably consistent: his objective is to keep society as open as the National Health Service will allow. When pressure on the health service eases, so too must restrictions. When healthcare capacity starts to collapse, down come the shutters again. But having a single aim isn’t the same as having a consistent strategy. Like Johnson’s own instincts, the government has veered in many different directions. Matt Hancock, the Prime Minister’s first health secretary, wanted to keep the country as locked down as possible until science beat back the disease. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, argued for looser restrictions and a less generous support scheme for businesses and individuals, creating the ideal conditions for the virus to spread.
Israelis to receive Moderna COVID vaccine beginning August
Health funds will be able to place orders for the Moderna vaccine, which will then be made available to Israelis over the age of 18. Starting July 28, health funds will be able to place orders for the Moderna vaccine, which will then be made available to eligible Israelis beginning August 1, according to a letter sent by the Health Ministry to the health funds. At that point, the Pfizer vaccine will only be administered to those under the age of 18, for whom the Moderna vaccine is not yet approved, and for people who are waiting on their second dose.
Maintaining Services
Thailand to join COVAX, acknowledging low vaccine supply
The head of Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute apologized Wednesday for the country’s slow and inadequate rollout of coronavirus vaccines, promising it will join the U.N.-backed COVAX program to receive supplies from its pool of donated vaccines next year. Thailand is battling a punishing coronavirus surge that is pushing new cases and deaths to record highs nearly every day. There is fear that the numbers will get much worse because the government failed to secure significant vaccine supplies in advance of the onslaught.
Covid-19: Health minister urges caution over easing restrictions
The health minister has advised the executive that Covid-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland should not be eased next week due to an increase in cases, BBC News NI understands. Ministers are currently meeting to decide whether some restrictions should be lifted.
Covid-19 hospital admissions in England highest since end of February
The number of hospital admissions in England of people with Covid-19 has climbed to its highest level for nearly five months. A total of 752 admissions were reported on July 19, NHS England figures show. This is up 21 per cent on the previous week, and is the highest daily number since February 25, according to analysis by the PA news agency. The total includes 197 admissions in north-east England and Yorkshire: up 40 per cent week-on-week and the highest daily number for this part of England since February 18. North-west England recorded 141 admissions on July 19: up 44 per cent week-on-week and the highest since February 23.
Toyota halts factories in Thailand as COVID hits supply chain
Japanese auto group Toyota Motor has halted operations at its three factories in Thailand as the country's delta-variant COVID epidemic disrupts the supply of key automobile parts. The closures underline how the pandemic is still putting the automobile supply chain under strain. The stoppage started from Wednesday (July 21) and will last at least until July 28, Nikkei has learned. Toyota said it will "assess the situation and decide" whether to resume operations from July 29.
Tokyo new virus cases near 2,000 a day before Olympics open
Tokyo hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, one day before the Olympics begin, as worries grow of a worsening of infections during the Games. Thursday’s 1,979 new cases are the highest since 2,044 were recorded on Jan. 15. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is determined to hold the Olympics, placed Tokyo under a state of emergency on July 12, but daily cases have sharply increased since then.
Death rates soar in Southeast Asia as virus wave spreads
Indonesia has converted nearly its entire oxygen production to medical use just to meet the demand from COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe. Overflowing hospitals in Malaysia had to resort to treating patients on the floor. And in Myanmar’s largest city, graveyard workers have been laboring day and night to keep up with the grim demand for new cremations and burials. Images of bodies burning in open-air pyres during the peak of the pandemic in India horrified the world in May, but in the last two weeks the three Southeast Asian nations have now all surpassed India’s peak per capita death rate as a new coronavirus wave, fueled by the virulent delta variant, tightens its grip on the region.
Healthcare Innovations
EU lists rare nerve disorder as side-effect of J&J COVID-19 vaccine
Europe's medicines regulator said on Thursday it had added a rare nerve-degenerating disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome, as a possible rare side effect from Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine after it reviewed 108 cases reported worldwide.
Covid shots: why the vaccinated are still at risk from coronavirus
Although vaccines provide a strong defense against severe illness caused by SARS-CoV-2, none fully protects against the infection, meaning many vaccinated people are still at risk of catching the virus and of transmitting it to other people. The more SARS-CoV-2 is circulating in a community, the higher the chance of infection.
UK scientists back Covid boosters as study finds post-jab falls in antibodies
Scientists have backed proposals for Covid boosters in the autumn after blood tests on hundreds of people revealed that protective antibodies can wane substantially within weeks of second vaccine shots being given. Falls in antibodies after vaccination are expected and do not necessarily mean people are more vulnerable to disease, but the researchers are concerned that if the declines persist the effectiveness of the vaccines may diminish. The UCL Virus Watch study found that antibodies generated by two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines started to wane as early as six weeks after the second shot, in some cases falling more than 50% over 10 weeks.
A spritz instead of a jab? Future COVID-19 vaccines may go up your nose.
The current batch of COVID-19 vaccines effectively prevents severe disease and death and offers substantial protection against the variants. But the authorised vaccines are not 100 percent effective at blocking all infections. To address this deficit, scientists are exploring new ways of delivering vaccines that yield stronger and more durable immunity against SARS-CoV-2. One promising approach might be to trade a jab in the arm for a spritz up the nose.
Two Pfizer, AstraZeneca doses work against Delta variant: study
Two doses of Pfizer or AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine are nearly as effective against the highly transmissible Delta coronavirus variant as they are against the previously dominant Alpha variant, according to a new study. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday showed the vaccines were highly effective against the Delta variant, now the dominant strain worldwide, provided a person had received two shots.