"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 24th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
Australians find silver lining in lockdowns as wealth booms
Australians are finding a silver lining to lockdowns as super-cheap credit lifts the value of homes and shares to record highs, a windfall of wealth that gives consumers the means to spend big once restrictions ease. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics out on Thursday showed net household wealth surged A$735 billion ($531.48 billion) in the June quarter to A$13.3 trillion, or A$522,032 for every man, woman and child. "Aussie households have never been wealthier," said Ryan Felsman, a senior economist at CommSec.
Ukraine tightens coronavirus lockdown curbs
Ukraine tightened coronavirus lockdown curbs on Thursday, restricting large events and occupancy at gyms, cinemas and cultural sites, after a recent steady increase in new infections. Ukraine imposed a nationwide "yellow" code after cases dropped over the summer, allowing it to lift lockdown restrictions. This week, however, the government extended a state of emergency that allows authorities to impose curbs until year-end to rein in infections. The health ministry has said it plans compulsory coronavirus vaccinations for those in occupations such as teaching and employment in state institutions and local governments.
Hygiene Helpers
Does My Mask Protect Me if Nobody Else Is Wearing One?
There is also plenty of evidence showing that masks protect the wearer even when others around them are mask-free. The amount of protection depends on the quality of the mask and how well it fits. During a hotel outbreak in Switzerland, for instance, several employees and a guest who tested positive for the coronavirus were wearing only face shields (with no masks); those who wore masks were not infected. And a Tennessee study found that communities with mask mandates had lower hospitalization rates than areas where masks weren’t required.
Covid-19 Vaccines Can Be Updated for the Delta Variant. Here’s How.
Scientists are working to develop shots that would target the Delta variant specifically. The mRNA platform behind some vaccines might make this process relatively straightforward, according to Matthew Johnson, senior director of product development at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. Vaccines work by exposing the body to a harmless version or portion of a virus. This teaches our immune systems to recognize and fight the real virus if our bodies become infected with it. The mRNA-based vaccines developed for Covid-19—including the two made by Moderna Inc. and by Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE —rely on the outer spike proteins of the new coronavirus to prime our immune defenses. Spike proteins stud the outer surface of the virus and help it latch onto and infect healthy cells.
The Vaccinated Aren't ‘Just as Likely’ to Spread COVID
For many fully vaccinated Americans, the Delta surge spoiled what should’ve been a glorious summer. Those who had cast their masks aside months ago were asked to dust them off. Many are still taking no chances. Some have even returned to all the same precautions they took before getting their shots, including avoiding the company of other fully vaccinated people.
Aged care staff sacked in regional Australia for refusing to get Covid-19 vaccination
Aged care facilities struggling after exodus of anti-vaxxers are forced out. All staff must be fully vaccinated in order to work with the vulnerable group. Outstretched regional homes are particularly under pressure from the new rules
Japan to double COVID-19 vaccine donations to other countries to 60 mln doses
Japan plans to give other countries 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday, doubling the target from the previous pledge of 30 million doses. "Today, I am pleased to announce that, with additional contributions, Japan will provide up to approximately 60 million doses of vaccine in total," Suga said in a pre-recorded video message at the U.S.-hosted Global COVID-19 Summit.
Community Activities
England’s Covid travel rules spark outrage around the world
England’s Covid travel rules and refusal to recognise vaccines administered across huge swaths of the world have sparked outrage and bewilderment across Latin America, Africa and south Asia, with critics denouncing what they called an illogical and discriminatory policy. The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, described England’s rules, unveiled last Friday, as “a new simplified system for international travel”. “The purpose is to make it easier for people to travel,” Shapps said. But in many parts of the world there is anger and frustration at the government’s decision to recognise only vaccinations given in a select group of countries.
PM Morrison says Melbourne anti-lockdown protesters should be 'ashamed' for actions at war memorial
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called the actions of protestors on Wednesday at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance “disgusting.” More than 200 people were arrested after an intense stand-off between protestors and police at the war memorial. Two police officers were also struck in the head with bottles while one was admitted to hospital with chest pains.
The World Is at War With Covid. Covid Is Winning.
So when vaccine developers were figuring out how to produce billions of Covid-19 vaccine shots as quickly as possible, they decided to use an alternative: disposable bioreactor bags. At first, it was a win-win. The bags are quicker and cheaper to make than the tanks, and using them can shave precious hours off manufacturing times because they don’t have to be cleaned and sterilized after each use. But before long, even this innovation became an obstacle in the quest to end the Covid pandemic. First, larger vaccine makers bought up many more bags than they could use, leaving smaller vaccine makers with no recourse and potential manufacturing sites underutilized. Then as the vaccination campaign wore on, supplies began drying up altogether. Only a few companies make the bags, and they have little incentive to ramp up their manufacturing efforts because there’s no telling how long the uptick in demand will last.
Working Remotely
How has remote working provided a jobs boost for young workers?
As another University year begins, research by Bright Network, a platform connecting graduates to employers, has highlighted how the pandemic and remote working has opened up new career opportunities and better social mobility for graduates in regions around the UK. Remote working has enabled graduates to accept employment opportunities in areas they were perhaps unable to access or afford in the past, with almost a third of young people accepting jobs they couldn’t before, because of a long commute to the office, and almost a quarter (24%) of graduates saying the main benefit of working remotely is flexibility in where they live. The research shows the opportunity for universities and government to capitalise on remote working as a way to level up the UK and improve social mobility for young people
Virtual Classrooms
Data shows drop in work covered via remote- learning by deprived children compared to affluent kids
In England, children in schools serving the most disadvantaged pupils covered fewer learning materials when studying at home than their peers in schools with more affluent intakes, an analysis suggests. The difference between remote and in-class learning during the pandemic was 'particularly acute' at schools with a higher proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. Remote learners at these schools covered a smaller fraction of in-class learning materials than remote learners at schools in less deprived areas.
Asynchronous Learning Gains Popularity Following Pandemic Education Adjustments
A year and a half of online and hybrid learning showed the nation that there is more than one way to learn. Many students found that online education suited their learning style and opted to stick with it even after classrooms reopened their doors. Virtual-only schools saw a rise in admissions, and traditional schools created their own permanently virtual options. With this shift to distance learning came an additional insight: School doesn’t need to be in session for eight hours a day, from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. In a poll of K–12 educators in August, a majority of respondents said that self-paced or asynchronous learning was the No. 1 element they would like to see carried into the classroom this school year. Students, too, have lauded the benefits of asynchronous learning
Bullying, racism and being 'different': Why some families are opting for remote learning regardless of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has provoked a public debate about the value of learning online for elementary school students. Much of this dialog has been negative, with a focus on the experiences that children are missing by not being a part of in-person classrooms. While this year's version of online learning must be contextualized as "emergency remote teaching,", a study found that many still found advantages to this format. Specifically, some students found the lack of bullying, peer pressure and social anxiety were a welcomed change that allowed them to better focus on learning.
Public Policies
Novavax applies to WHO for emergency listing of COVID-19 vaccine
Novavax and its partner Serum Institute of India have applied to the World Health Organization for an emergency use listing of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine, potentially clearing the way for the shot to ship to many poorer countries, the company said on Thursday. Novavax has been prioritizing regulatory submissions to low- and middle-income countries after falling behind in the race for authorization in the United States and Europe, which have already vaccinated most of their residents.
Coronavirus Vaccine Inequity a Focus at UN General Assembly
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni are set to address the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday. Access to COVID-19 vaccines has been one of the major topics of the annual meeting in New York and is likely to be one of the most discussed again Thursday as leaders from African nations make up a large portion of the day’s list of speakers. While some countries such as the United States have had vaccine doses widely available to their populations for months, other countries have struggled to access COVID-19 vaccine supplies.
FDA authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine booster for older Americans and those at high risk of illness
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shot for people 65 and older and adults at risk of severe illness, an effort to bolster protection for the most vulnerable Americans against the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus. In addition to older Americans, boosters should be made available to people 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe illness from the coronavirus and those “whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure” to the virus puts them at high risk of serious complications from the disease caused by the virus, the agency said.
New Zealand's Ardern says lockdowns can end with high vaccine uptake
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday the country should aim for a 90%-plus rate of inoculation, and could drop strict coronavirus lockdown measures once enough people were vaccinated.
U.K. Eases Covid Travel Rules for COP26 Climate Conference
The U.K. has relaxed Covid-related travel restrictions for people attending the international climate conference in Glasgow that’s now less than six weeks away. Minister-level officials from so-called red list countries, along with two staffers, won’t be required to spend time in quarantine when they arrive for the COP26 conference, according to updated travel requirements. That’s a change from an earlier stance that required visitors from the high risk, red-list countries to spend five days in isolation.
Maintaining Services
Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine offered to Ayrshire children aged 12 to 15 as NHS tackles Covid cases
Schoolkids in Ayrshire are now being offered the Covid-19 vaccine. Youngsters aged 12 to 15 can receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation following a decision by Scottish Ministers to accept advice from the four UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs). Children should either attend a local drop-in vaccination clinic from today or await appointment details to arrive by post. Appointed clinics for this age group will begin on Wednesday. NHS Ayrshire & Arran's Public Health Director, Lynne McNiven, said: “The roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine to all young people aged 12-15 marks a significant milestone in the vaccination programme.
Alaska, overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, adopts crisis standards for hospitals
Alaska, which led most U.S. states in coronavirus vaccinations months ago, took the drastic step on Wednesday of imposing crisis-care standards for its entire hospital system, declaring that a crushing surge in COVID-19 patients has forced rationing of strained medical resources.
Healthcare Innovations
EU drugs regulator says to decide on Pfizer vaccine booster in early October
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) aims to decide in early October whether to endorse a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech, COVID-19 vaccine to be given half a year after the initial two-shot course, saying breakthrough infections added some urgency to its review. "The outcome of this evaluation is expected in early October, unless supplementary information is needed," EMA's head of vaccines strategy, Marco Cavaleri, told a press briefing on Thursday. Cavaleri's statement confirmed a Reuters report earlier in the day on EMA's expected review time on the matter
Coronavirus unlikely to become more deadly because it’s run out of ‘places to go’, says Oxford jab creator
Covid is unlikely to mutate into a deadlier, vaccine-evading, variant because it’s run out of “places to go” , the creator of the Oxford jab has said. Dame Sarah Gilbert said coronavirus is likely to become less severe in its effects. Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine webinar on Wednesday, she said: “We normally see that viruses become less virulent as they circulate more easily and there is no reason to think we will have a more virulent version of Sars-CoV-2.” Dame Sarah said that some variations were to be expected but predicted that coronavirus would eventually become like the flu virus, saying: “What tends to happen over time is there’s just a slow drift, that’s what happens with flu viruses. You see small changes accumulating over a period of time and then we have the opportunity to react to that.”
Oxford researchers find Llama antibodies have “significant potential” as potent Covid-19 treatment
A unique type of tiny antibody produced by llamas could provide a new frontline treatment against Covid-19 that can be taken by patients as a simple nasal spray. Research led by scientists at the Rosalind Franklin Institute in Oxford has shown that nanobodies – a smaller, simple form of antibody generated by llamas and camels – can effectively target the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. They found that short chains of the molecules, which can be produced in large quantities in the laboratory, significantly reduced signs of the Covid-19 disease when administered to infected animals. The nanobodies, which bind tightly to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, neutralising it in cell culture, could provide a cheaper and easier to use alternative to human antibodies taken from patients who have recovered from Covid-19.
Covid-19: Abnormalities in the womb detected among pregnant women even after they tested negative
Analysis of 115 women in the UK, Canada and France who gave birth over the last 18 months showed far more physical abnormalities in the placenta than doctors would expect to see in a pre-2020 pregnancy. The pandemic is taking a physical toll on pregnant women – even if they do not catch Covid-19, a small international study suggests. Analysis of 115 women in the UK, Canada and France who gave birth over the last 18 months showed far more physical abnormalities in the placenta than doctors would expect to see in a pre-pandemic pregnancy. Rates of problems with the placenta, the baby’s support system in the womb, tripled among expectant mothers with Covid-19 but doubled even among those who tested negative, suggesting the changes can be caused by the sheer stress of the pandemic as well as the virus itself.
Heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccine: Are boys at higher risk?
A new, non-peer-reviewed study concluded that healthy boys aged 12–17 years had a higher hospitalization rate due to heart inflammation after their second mRNA COVID-19 vaccination than the expected hospitalization rate for COVID-19 in that age group. A non-peer-reviewed study reports on scientific research that other experts in the field have not evaluated before publication; it should not guide clinical decision-making. In the case of this paper, there are several issues with the data that the researchers used, which limits the accuracy and applicability of the study’s findings. A CDC analysis of reports of heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccines is currently under review at a major peer-reviewed journal.
4DMedical lung imagery sheds more light on 'long COVID' effects
The scans by 4DMedical allow physicians to detect areas of high and low lung ventilation using existing equipment in hospitals, said founder and Chief Executive Andreas Fouras. The 'four dimensions' refers to the scan's ability to measure the phases of breath as it passes into and out of the lungs. "It takes a short video sequence. We use about 20 seconds worth of video sequence of the patient just breathing naturally," said Fouras. "From that video sequence, we're able to mathematically calculate the motion and then the airflow everywhere around the lungs."