"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 13th May 2022

Isolation Tips
North Korea 'isolates and treats' 187,000 people for fever after reporting its first Covid-19 cases
North Korea has treated 187,000 people for fever after the country reported its first Covid cases. The state-run news agency KCNA said 'up to 187,800 people are being isolated and treated' and six people who were sick with fever had died, including one who tested positive for the Omicron variant. The report added: 'A fever whose cause couldn't be identified explosively spread nationwide from late April.' North Korea on Thursday confirmed its first-ever case of Covid-19, with state media calling it a 'severe national emergency incident' after more than two years of keeping the pandemic at bay. KCNA said samples taken from patients sick with fever in Pyongyang on Sunday were 'consistent with' the virus' highly transmissible Omicron variant. The country's top officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, held a crisis politburo meeting to discuss the outbreak and announced they would implement a 'maximum emergency' virus control system.
North Korea confirms 1st COVID outbreak, Kim orders lockdown
North Korea imposed a nationwide lockdown Thursday to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak after holding for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world. The outbreak forced leader Kim Jong Un to wear a mask in public, likely for the first time since the start of the pandemic, but the scale of transmissions inside North Korea wasn’t immediately known. A failure to slow infections could have serious consequences because the country has a poor health care system and its 26 million people are believed to be mostly unvaccinated. Some experts say North Korea, by its rare admission of an outbreak, may be seeking outside aid.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19 deaths in the United States: Reinforcing the notion of ‘two Americas’
The notion of Covid-19 causing two Americas was on many minds in the summer of 2021. The Washington Post and LA Times both wrote about it; Dr. Anthony Fauci mentioned it in an interview. One America had high demand for Covid-19 vaccines, the other had widespread vaccine hesitancy and opposition to mask and vaccine mandates. This narrative helped shape the understanding of what happened as well as what the country should be doing now to control the pandemic. But Covid has been dividing the nation since the start of the pandemic. Our recent analysis of Covid-19 deaths by region, published in PLoS One, supports the two Americas idea.
U.S. will share COVID-19 vaccine technology, Biden tells global summit,
The United States will share technologies used to make COVID-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization and is working to expand rapid testing and antiviral treatments for hard-to-reach populations, President Joe Biden said on Thursday. Speaking at the second global COVID-19 summit, Biden called on Congress to provide additional funds so that the U.S. may contribute more to the global pandemic response. "We are making available health technologies that are owned by the United States government, including stabilized spike protein that is used in many COVID-19 vaccines," Biden said in his opening speech.
Community Activities
COVID-19: Around 60,000 NHS workers living with PTSD after battling the pandemic
An estimated 60,000 NHS workers are believed to be living with post-traumatic stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research. NHS Charities Together also found nine in 10 workers (90%) say it will take them years to recover. Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters (73%) have expressed concerns about their colleagues leaving the workforce due to poor mental health. Neal Ashurst, an operating department practitioner, was redeployed during the pandemic, switching from anaesthetics to a critical care unit. He told Sky News he had felt "incredibly apprehensive" initially as it meant significant changes from his usual role which he found "very daunting"
UK police recommend more than 100 fines for Downing Street lockdown breaches
British police said on Thursday they had now made more than 100 referrals for fines as part of their investigation into lockdown rule-breaking at gatherings held in Downing Street during the COVID-19 pandemic. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised for receiving a fine in April for breaking lockdown rules by attending a gathering in his office to celebrate his birthday, but has refused to resign over it.
Working Remotely
Venice woos foreign remote workers in pivot away from tourism
Pérez González is one of 16 Spanish, French and Greek employees of the IT company Cisco who have relocated to Venice in a pilot project run by the US company and Ca’ Foscari. Every day he picks a place to work from four locations offered by Cisco, including a 15th-century palazzo, meaning his commute is a short walk through Venetian architecture and canals. Gianmatteo Manghi, chief executive of Cisco Italy, said: “Covid made us realise we could work remotely and increase productivity and we imagine companies will start to attract staff by offering them a month a year in a beautiful city.”
Bored Of Your WFH Space? Here’s How To Give It A Proper Refresh
Working remotely comes with a load of pros (no long dreary commute being a major one), but if your work setup at home isn’t right, it can have a serious impact on your mood and productivity, not to mention job satisfaction. Perhaps your home office felt like a dream at first, but is now as messy and uninspiring as the actual office. Whether it’s overly cramped thanks to a lack of storage, bland and boring because you’ve run out of steam, or causing you actual physical pain, it’s time to make some changes. The good news is that some simple buys, from a healthy houseplant to the right desk chair, can make all the difference – and needn’t cost a lot either.
HR expert calls on bosses to address 'silent bullying culture' in remote working
Nicky Jolley, founder and managing director of HR2day in Darlington is calling for employers in the North East to ensure that remote working isn’t causing a ‘silent bullying culture’ in their business. Research conducted by The Law Society for Mental Health Awareness Week found that since remote working became more prolific during 2020, incidences of bullying, harassment and dysfunctional relationships were going unnoticed by bosses. Newer employees were less likely to feel comfortable reporting remote bullying and harassment, because they did not feel they knew their managers well enough, having not established themselves face-to-face.
Virtual Classrooms
Gamification Of EdTech: Virtual Learning On The Road To The Metaverse
Increasingly, as 76% of U.S. kids play video games weekly, educators are looking to video games as a solution. The gamification of remote learning is moving to the next level through immersive virtual reality (VR) content, which is already used to train employees in construction, motor and aviation industries. Exciting game-based elements can entrance students with their variations of accessibility and creative communities. Instead of watching a lecture, students learning in video game-type simulations gain exposure to the emerging metaverse of connected online worlds.
Public Policies
Trump officials and meat industry blocked life-saving Covid controls, investigation finds
Trump officials “collaborated” with the meatpacking industry to downplay the threat of Covid to plant workers and block public health measures which could have saved lives, a damning new investigation has found. Internal documents reviewed by the congressional select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis reveal how industry representatives lobbied government officials to stifle “pesky” health departments from imposing evidence-based safety measures to curtail the virus spreading – and tried to obscure worker deaths from these authorities. At least 59,000 workers at five of the largest meatpacking companies – Tyson Foods, JBS USA Holdings, Smithfield Foods, Cargill and National Beef Packing Company which are the subject of the congressional inquiry – contracted Covid in the first year of the pandemic, of whom at least 269 died.
Report criticizes meat industry, USDA response to pandemic
During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meat processing industry worked closely with political appointees in the Trump administration to stave off health restrictions and keep slaughterhouses open even as the virus spread rapidly among workers, according to a congressional report released Thursday. The report by the House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said meat companies pushed to keep their plants open even though they knew workers were at high risk of catching the coronavirus. The lobbying led to health and labor officials watering down their recommendations for the industry and culminated in an executive order President Donald Trump issued in spring 2020 designating meat plants as critical infrastructure that needed to remain open.
Maintaining Services
Number of Covid-19 hospital patients in England lowest since Christmas
The number of people with Covid-19 in hospital in England has fallen to its lowest level since last Christmas, new figures show. A total of 7,034 patients were in hospital as of 8am on May 11, down 21% week-on-week, according to NHS England. This is the lowest figure since December 21 2021, when it stood at 6,902. It was in late December that patient numbers started to rise sharply, driven by the spread of the original Omicron variant of coronavirus. They peaked at 17,120 on January 10 2022, then fell back – only to rise again due to the subsequent wave of infections caused by Omicron BA.2, hitting a slightly lower peak of 16,600 on April 7. Numbers have been dropping for the past month, with all regions of England now showing a steady decline. In south-east England, they have fallen to levels last seen in mid-October 2021. The trend reflects the large drop in the prevalence of the virus in recent weeks, as reported by the Office for National Statistics in its regular infection survey.
WHO: COVID-19 falling everywhere, except Americas and Africa
The number of new coronavirus cases reported worldwide has continued to fall except in the Americas and Africa, the World Health Organization said in its latest assessment of the pandemic. The decline comes as Europe marked a COVID-19 death milestone: 2 million on the continent. In its weekly pandemic report released late Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said about 3.5 million new cases and more than 25,000 deaths were reported globally, which respectively represent decreases of 12% and 25%.
South African firm says it may close its COVID vaccine plant
The first factory to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Africa says it has not received enough orders and may stop production within weeks, in what a senior World Health Organization official described Thursday as a “failure” in efforts to achieve vaccine equity. South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare said that it cannot let its large-scale sterile manufacturing facilities sit idle, and will return instead to making anesthetics. At the outset of the COVID pandemic, the company shifted its production and achieved capacity to produce more than 200 million doses annually of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “It was widely hailed as a great achievement for Africa, a game-changer for the continent. But it has not been followed up with orders. We have not received any orders from the big multilateral agencies,” Stavros Nicolaou, senior executive for strategic trade development at Aspen Pharmacare, told The Associated Press Thursday.
Healthcare Innovations
Symptoms linger two years for some; inflammatory protein patterns may provide long COVID clues
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. COVID-19 symptoms still afflict many two years later Half of the COVID-19 patients discharged from a Chinese hospital in early 2020 still have at least one symptom two years later, a new study shows. Overall, regardless of initial disease severity, the 2,469 COVID-19 survivors in the study had improvements in physical and mental health over time. Nearly 90% of those who were employed returned to their jobs within two years.
Severe COVID, similar illnesses may raise risk for psychiatric disorders
A new study shows that the more than 32,000 survivors of severe COVID-19 and more than 16,000 survivors of other severe respiratory infections studied in England were at significantly higher risk than the general population for new anxiety disorders, dementia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and new neuropsychiatric drug prescriptions in the first year after hospital release. In the observational study, published today in JAMA Psychiatry, a team led by University of Oxford researchers analyzed data from all 8.38 million adults registered in national databases from Jan 24, 2020, to Jul 7, 2021.
More than half of early Covid-19 patients at one hospital had symptoms two years later, study finds
Even two years after their initial infection, the majority of people who were hospitalized with Covid-19 early in the pandemic had lingering symptoms, according to a new study that may be one of the longest and largest on record to follow people with long Covid. The study, published Wednesday in The Lancet, found that 55% of patients still had at least one Covid-19 symptom two years later. That was actually an improvement from six months after infection, when 68% had symptoms.
Researchers recommend kidney transplant recipients continue getting COVID-19 vaccinations
Although COVID-19 vaccines lower the risk of infection among kidney transplant recipients, breakthrough infections can occur, and researchers recommend patients continue to receive boosters when available. “The SARS-CoV-2 messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines have shown high clinical efficacy in preventing COVID-19 in the immunocompetent population,” Ivan Zahradka, MD, from the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in the Czech Republic, and colleagues wrote. They added, “However, data about the effectiveness of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are conflicting, and to what extent the two doses of an mRNA vaccine protect [kidney transplant recipients] KTRs from COVID-19 is unclear.”
Study finds cancer patients with COVID-19 at greater risk of hospitalisation and death
Cancer patients with COVID-19 have a greater risk of both hospitalisation and death following infection compared with those without the disease Cancer patients with COVID-19 have been found to be at a greater risk of hospitalisation and 30-day all-cause mortality compared to those without the disease according to the results of a study by a US team from Texas. The presence of cancer has become a recognised factor that is associated with a higher risk for severe outcomes in those infected with COVID-19 and which is largely due to the presence of a compromised immune system. During the early course of the pandemic, studies observed that a higher proportion of cancer patients infected with COVID-19 were both hospitalised and subsequently died, compared to those without the disease.
Covid-19 inquiry to look at impact of pandemic on mental health and young people
A public inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic and its handling will now include the impact of the pandemic on mental health, and on children and young people. It will also look into collaboration between the central government and regional government, including devolved administrations. The chairwoman of the inquiry has also proposed changes to also look at support for victims of domestic abuse, first contact with the NHS, including 111 and 999 services, care in the home, and regulatory control. The updated remit was confirmed in the updated terms of reference published today.