"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 28th Jul 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid-19: Relief at the lifting of restrictions from a widow who spent lockdown alone
Earl Sewell was one of the first to die with coronavirus in Birmingham. His widow, Jean, spoke about being plunged into lockdown almost straight after his death, and her relief restrictions are being lifted. Earl Sewell died on 16 March 2020, just as England was realising the ferociousness of the pandemic. His family, who had visited him in hospital just before his death, had to isolate immediately, leaving them facing challenges they could not have expected.
Hygiene Helpers
White House considering requiring federal employees to get Covid vaccines or submit to regular testing
President Joe Biden has confirmed to reporters that the White House is considering a requirement that all federal workers receive a Covid-19 vaccine or submit to regular mandatory testing. The president made the remarks on Tuesday when asked if a requirement that all federal employees, a number that tops 4.2 million when including the armed forces and Postal Service according to a recent report using data from federal agencies, would be required to get the vaccine. “That’s under consideration right now”, the president said.
White House reporters to wear masks in briefing room again
White House reporters will be wearing masks in the briefing room again, the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) told members on Tuesday. The mask requirement for the White House press pool is reimposed for all indoor spaces at the White House. It follows guidance that White House staff will also be wearing masks again indoors.
VA requires COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday became the first major federal agency to require health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines, as the aggressive delta variant spreads across the nation and some communities report troubling increases in hospitalizations among unvaccinated people. The VA’s move came on a day when nearly 60 leading medical and health care organizations issued a call for health care facilities to require their workers to get vaccinated. No federal law stands in the way of employers requiring vaccinations, but like mask mandates, the issue has been politicized in a society that’s divided on matters of public health.
Bhutan fully vaccinates 90% of eligible adults within a week
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90% of its eligible adult population within just seven days, its health ministry said Tuesday. The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on July 20 in a mass drive that has been hailed by UNICEF as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.” In April, Bhutan grabbed headlines when its government said it had inoculated around the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose in under two weeks after India donated 550,000 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine. But the country faced a shortage for months after India, a major supplier of the AstraZeneca shot, halted exports as it scrambled to meet a rising demand at home as infections surged.
Workers exempted from Covid-19 self-isolation to include binmen, vets and tax collectors
The list of professions that no longer have to follow self-isolation rules has been expanded to include rubbish collectors, vets and tax collectors in an attempt to limit disruption caused by the “pingdemic”. A pilot study has suggested that only one in 145 workers who come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus go on to contract it themselves.
CDC reverses course on indoor masks in some parts of US
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging. Citing new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. The new guidance follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that have been especially bad in the South. The country is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Nearly 60 medical groups including American Medical Association sign joint statement calling on employers to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for healthcare workers
In a joint statement on Monday, 57 medical groups called on employers to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all health care workers. The groups say that requiring health workers to get vaccinated will protect patients as well as vulnerable groups like the immunocompromised. Houston Methodist was the first health system to make vaccines mandatory earlier this year and has since been joined by dozens of others. Daily vaccinations have fallen to less than 500,000 per day while daily cases have increased by 291% in three weeks from 13,305 to 52,116
Community Activities
A vaccine-skeptic dad died from COVID-19, realizing too late that he should have got the shot, his doctor said
A 34-year-old dad who avoided COVID-19 vaccines later died of the illness. His doctor said that he wanted to 'turn back time' and get jabbed he became seriously ill. Around 70% of the UK has been fully vaccinated, and vaccine hesitancy is rare, official data shows.
As Virus Cases Rise, Another Contagion Spreads Among the Vaccinated: Anger
As coronavirus cases resurge across the country, many inoculated Americans are losing patience with vaccine holdouts who, they say, are neglecting a civic duty or clinging to conspiracy theories and misinformation even as new patients arrive in emergency rooms and the nation renews mask advisories. The country seemed to be exiting the pandemic; barely a month ago, a sense of celebration was palpable. Now many of the vaccinated fear for their unvaccinated children and worry that they are at risk themselves for breakthrough infections.
Working Remotely
COVID-19 reality shows it works to work from home. Make it last beyond the pandemic.
As a deadly virus swept across the nation last year, a vast and unanticipated social experiment was launched. Well more than half of American workers tried to see whether they could work just as effectively from home. Early indications show that it was not only a success, but there's even evidence productivity was actually boosted. It was nothing short of transformative for the American workplace, shattering timeworn notions that a business is a business only if people travel from miles in every direction to gather in one physical location because, well, that's the way it has always been done.
This Irish start-up is helping firms avoid the pitfalls of work-from-anywhere policies
As more employees settle into remote work for the longer term, companies are faced with a great deal of complexity around tax and compliance with employment laws. The option for remote work is evolving from being a perk to a must-have option in recruiting talent. A recent report found an increasing number of professionals leaving their jobs if they haven’t been offered the option to work remotely. It means more possibilities for professionals, especially in the tech industry, to choose where they work and in turn, more pressure on companies to be nimble and responsive to workers’ demands and the responsibilities that brings.
Work-From-Anywhere Perks Give Silicon Valley a New Edge in Talent War
Since the pandemic spurred leading tech companies to embrace “work from anywhere” policies, that advantage is fading fast. Now that a software engineer or marketing guru can work from a creekside cabin while still pulling down big bucks from Facebook or Salesforce, smaller firms far from the coasts are feeling the pinch. For online interior-design startup Havenly, landing new hires now means competing with companies all over the country, and hanging onto talent has been harder than ever. At one point, even members of Havenly’s executive team were a flight risk.
Virtual Classrooms
Dubai: University students create AI tool to boost online education
Eyebrow raising, eyelid tightening, and mouth dimpling are facial expressions that indicate the highest level of a student’s engagement. Students at a Dubai university have created a tool using artificial intelligence (AI) for increasing the effectiveness of online education, which will come handy amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic. Learners at Murdoch University Dubai under the mentorship of their faculty have created a prototype AI tool that could hold the key to enhancing the delivery and effectiveness of virtual learning.
Technology-based learning during Covid-19: A revolution in education or missed opportunity?
Africa is no stranger to disruptions in face-to-face teaching and learning. From protests like #feesmustfall, to natural disasters, and pandemics. The severity of the Covid-19 Pandemic’s impact, however, has taken all by surprise. Forcing institutions and schools to think fast and adjust at record speeds, this pandemic has shifted the delivery of education from face-to-face to virtual. This reactive state was dubbed ‘Emergency Remote Teaching.’ The consequence of this global state of education has been a dramatic shift from instructors teaching in class or in blended learning scenarios, to a mostly distance or online education. The rapid shift was, unfortunately, not as seamless as many would have hoped and many, including digital education professionals were challenged by the prolonged experience
Homeschooling is drawing many more Black and Asian families
As the new school year approaches in the U.S., millions of parents are eager to deliver their children back to teachers and put remote schooling — which wrought anger, frustration and financial turmoil for parents who needed to return to work — behind them. But for other parents, particularly parents of color, the pandemic and last summer’s national reckoning over race prompted them to pull their children from traditional schools entirely, moves that helped fuel an explosion in popularity of home schooling.
Want to Make Virtual Learning Work? Get Parents Involved in Meaningful Ways
For years, the biggest players in teaching and learning were students, teachers, and instructional materials. But with the pandemic and the resulting explosion in online learning, another key group has emerged: Parents. In fact, students can learn just as much virtually—if not more—than they would have in a typical, in-person school year, if they are given access to high-quality content and have support from a parent or caregiver, according to a report released July 27 by the Center for Public Research and Leadership at Columbia University.
Public Policies
IMF warns of growing poverty, unrest and geopolitical tensions
The IMF warns of a global economic recovery where ‘poor get poorer and social unrest and geopolitical tensions grow’.
Uzbekistan to receive 3 million doses of coronavirus vaccine from U.S.
Some 3 million doses of Moderna coronavirus vaccine will be airlifted to Uzbekistan on July 29 in the framework of COVAX program. These doses of the Moderna vaccine were donated by the United States, the Embassy of Uzbekistan said. According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, Moderna vaccine may prevent contraction of COVID-19. Its efficacy rate is more than 94%. Vaccine is administered in persons above 18 years in 2 doses with one-month interval. Moderna vaccine is stored at regular fridge temperature making it easy to distribute it across all regions of Uzbekistan.
Africa wants to produce a coronavirus vaccine — and Big Pharma’s not happy
Africa is poised to make a bold move that could turn around its fortunes in coronavirus vaccine manufacturing — taking the continent from import dependence to self-sufficient production of life-saving jabs for coronavirus, TB and maybe even one day for HIV. Two manufacturers are establishing an mRNA vaccine technology-transfer hub at the tip of the continent that could let it produce its own vaccines, on its own terms. It's a way to address just how exposed countries are if they don’t have their own vaccine manufacturing capacity. Africa imports about 99 percent of routine immunizations — and is the least vaccinated against coronavirus in the world.
Covid-19: Irish vaccine programme to include 12-15-year-olds
The Covid-19 vaccination programme in the Republic of Ireland is to be extended to include 12 to 15 year-olds. The recommendation was made to the Irish government by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). Earlier, Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin said there would be further advice from the NIAC on the matter. He said it represented a "significant opening up" of the vaccination programme to younger people. Mr Martin said it had been a "very effective" programme to date and the government wanted to encourage "heightened participation" among the remaining age groups.
Greece recommends COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 12-15
Greece said on Monday children aged 12-15 could be vaccinated against COVID-19 with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna shots, extending the inoculations of adolescents that was begun this month as infections continue to rise. The head of Greece's vaccination committee, Maria Theodoridou, said including younger teenagers in the programme would help protect vulnerable youngsters and relatives and prepare the way for a return to school in September.
Federal law doesn't prohibit Covid-19 vaccine requirements, Justice Department says
Justice Department lawyers have determined that federal law doesn't prohibit public agencies and private businesses from requiring Covid-19 vaccines -- even if the vaccines have only emergency use authorization, according to an opinion posted online Monday. The opinion from the department's Office of Legal Counsel paves the way for more federal agencies and businesses to require vaccinations.
Argentina signs deal with Pfizer for 20 mln COVID-19 vaccine doses, minister says
Argentina's government has signed a deal with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc to acquire 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered this year, Health Minister Carla Vizzotti told reporters on Tuesday. The agreement comes after Argentina modified at the beginning of the month the law regulating purchases of vaccines against COVID-19 to be able to access the doses of U.S. companies. Those companies had been reluctant to sign with the South American country under previous regulations.
Vietnam companies agree COVID-19 vaccine tech transfer with Japan's Shionogi - media
Vietnamese firms AIC and Vabiotech have signed a deal with Japan's Shionogi & Co to produce COVID-19 vaccines based on recombinant DNA protein technology, a health ministry official told local media outlet VnExpress on Tuesday. After successfully containing the virus for much of the pandemic, Vietnam has been facing record daily surges of infections since an outbreak which emerged in late April.
Can Tasmania continue on its coronavirus-free trajectory?
Tasmania hasn't had an active case of COVID-19 in the community since May 6 last year. While the virus runs rampant through the country's biggest population centres, Tasmania's coronavirus-free count has quietly ticked over the 400-day mark. But how has the island state achieved this? Has Tasmania remained coronavirus-free for so long due to good luck, or good management?
COVID: Bhutan fully vaccinates 90 percent of adults within a week
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90 percent of its eligible adult population within just seven days, after receiving vaccines via foreign donations, its health ministry has said. The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on July 20 in a mass drive that has been hailed by UNICEF as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic”.
Maintaining Services
Some people are seeking out a second dose of Covid-19 vaccine after getting J&J shot
Jason Gallagher, an infectious disease pharmacist in Philadelphia had gotten the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine through a clinical trial in November, but this summer he didn't like the direction Covid-19 cases were taking due to variants. "Come June, I started to get nervous about this Delta variant spreading and had some travel plans," said Gallagher, a clinical professor at Temple University School of Pharmacy. So, Gallagher decided to get a dose of a different mRNA vaccine, even though he was already considered fully protected with his single dose of the J&J vaccine.
Supply issues to delay Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shipments, S.Korea says
Moderna said on Tuesday its COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing partners outside the United States are facing delays due to laboratory testing operations that have occurred in the past few days, slowing the supply of the shot to these markets. The vaccine maker's comments come after South Korean health officials said earlier in the day that Moderna has delayed its late-July vaccine shipment schedule for the country to August due to supply problems
Catholic church turns pastoral care centre in Jakarta into COVID-19 ward
The Catholic Church has converted a pastoral centre in Jakarta into an isolation ward to care for COVID-19 patients in the Indonesian capital as it battles an devastating second wave of the pandemic that has overrun hospitals.
Bangkok to convert disused train carriages into COVID-19 ward
Authorities in Thailand's capital Bangkok plan to convert 15 disused railway carriages into a 240-bed COVID-19 isolation ward for patients with less severe symptoms, the city's governing body said on Tuesday.
'Severe' Covid-19 cases surge in Tokyo during Olympics
Japan's prime minister on Tuesday said there were no plans to shut down the ongoing Olympics Games after a record number of new Covid-19 cases were recorded in the country's capital. “First of all, thanks to the restrictions on vehicles, and through measures such as remote-working, with the cooperation of the public, the flow of people has been decreasing," Yoshihide Suga said during a press conference. "Because the flow of people is decreasing, we’re not worried."
Tokyo’s daily Covid cases on track to hit all time high of more than 3,000 cases
Olympic host city Tokyo is on track to a record high of more than 3,000 coronavirus cases after the number of infections almost doubled in a day. Daily infections in the city, which has seen an influx of overseas visitors for the Games, reached 2,848 on Tuesday, official figures showed. The figure on Monday was 1,429. Now Tokyo is asking hospitals to raise the number of Covid beds to 6,406 by early next month from the current capacity of 5,967, to avoid people having to sleep on the floor or outside.
India says it will meet July target for domestic vaccine supply
India will meet its target of supplying more than half a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to states by the end of this month, the health ministry says but added that not all doses may be administered by then. The government told the country’s highest court last month that 516 million doses would be made available by the end of July, an important milestone for its goal of inoculating all of India’s estimated adult population of 944 million this year.
Healthcare Innovations
EU needs more than 70% vaccination coverage to stop variants, warns Belgian virologist
The European Union needs a vaccination coverage higher than 70% of adult population to stop the spread of new and highly transmissible COVID-19 variants, says Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst, warning the virus can "happily circulate" among the unvaccinated. "We have to reach a vaccination level that is higher than 70%, that is clear," Ranst told Euronews. "Against the original variant, the one that came from Wuhan, probably 70% would cut it. But then the British variant came, and then the Indian variant came, and they were much more infectious, which means you need a higher vaccination coverage to sort of counter this."
Covid-19 UK: SAGE expert says group left 'scratching head' over falling infections
Warwick University's modelling suggested Britain would be seeing around 60,000 cases a day at the moment. Covid cases fell for the sixth day in a row yesterday down to 24,950 boosting hope the third wave has peaked. Professor Sir Mark Walport, a member of SAGE, said the sharp drop off in Covid infections is 'quite surprising'
Covid-19 could cause lower intelligence in those who have had it, says study
Scientists say Covid-19 could have a negative effect on the intelligence of people admitted to hospital with the virus, according to a new study. Researchers found that people who had been hospitalised with Covid were more likely to get a lower score on the Great British Intelligence Test. The drop-off was even greater among those who had recovered from the virus after being put on a ventilator, according to the study, published in The Lancet, that analysed the results of 81,337 people who took the test between January and December 2020.
Antibodies from Sinovac's COVID-19 shot fade after about 6 months, booster helps - study
Antibodies triggered by Sinovac Biotech's (SVA.O) COVID-19 vaccine declined below a key threshold from around six months after a second dose for most recipients, but a third shot had a strong booster effect, a lab study showed. Chinese researchers reported the findings from a study of blood samples from healthy adults aged between 18-59 in a paper published on Sunday, which has not been peer reviewed
People told to shield eight times more likely to get Covid-19, study suggests
Researchers also said people deemed at moderate risk from the virus due to health conditions like diabetes were four times more likely to have confirmed infections than the low-risk group, and five times more likely to die following confirmed infection. The study, led by the University of Glasgow and published in the journal Scientific Reports, also showed that people aged 70 and over accounted for almost half (49.55%) of deaths in a Scottish health board.
Transplant patients' higher rate of COVID-19 breakthroughs boosts case for booster vaccines
Transplant physicians have worried for months that their patients might not be getting the protection they need from COVID-19 vaccines. Studies have already shown that many organ recipients don’t produce coronavirus-fighting antibodies even after two doses of the highly effective messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines—an indication their bodies are unable to mount a strong defense against SARS-CoV-2. A study out today indicates this lack of antibodies is indeed translating to a much higher risk of “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 among vaccinated transplant recipients.