"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 16th Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
Mitigating Covid’s unequal impact on the workforce’s mental health
When the Covid crisis hit in March 2020, many claimed the virus didn’t discriminate but, as the pandemic has swept over the nation, it’s clear the impact is being felt differently. Nuffield Health’s recent white paper, for example, discusses how several societal groups are at greater risk of experiencing mental ill-health in the wake of Covid. However, the situation marks an opportunity to bring about permanent positive change. So how can businesses make sure their mental health support offering is relevant and accessible to address the challenges now and in the future?
Mid and East Antrim network’s new tackling loneliness campaign
In Northern Ireland, a new seven-week awareness campaign to help combat isolation in the community has been launched by the Mid and East Antrim (MEA) Loneliness Network. The network is a collaboration of organisations committed to addressing vulnerabilities in people of all ages and from all walks of life. The initiative comes when the impact of loneliness has been more widely felt right across society during the Covid-19 crisis with the British Red Cross recently calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to develop a cross-departmental strategy to tackle the problem.
Campaign to tackle loneliness in Staffordshire launches
The new ‘Let’s Beat Loneliness Together’ campaign by Staffordshire County Council will help raise awareness of the issue and promote the services available to those affected by it. The campaign will also support those individuals or volunteers who want to do something themselves to help reduce loneliness in their local community. A residents survey carried out by the county council in January 2021 about the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted that loneliness over the past twelve months and the restrictions was a concern for many. 80% of those questioned said that not seeing wider family and friends was an issue and 55% said they felt concerned about vulnerable family and friends.
Covid singles are supposedly lonely and miserable. But some of us are thriving instead
Bella DePaulo is the author of “Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After”. She writes: "I’m single. I always have been. I also live alone. Because of the pandemic, I have not stepped foot in a restaurant or even a grocery store for nearly a year. Apparently, I am supposed to be suffering." "I fully acknowledge that for some single people, the pandemic has been a miserable experience (as it also has for many couples and families). But I am not one of them. Sure, I miss meeting my friends at restaurants and movie theaters and meandering through crowded farmers markets, and I would love to go get my own damned groceries. I have also lost a substantial chunk of income. But in other ways, I am doing fine, and nothing about the pandemic, not even after all this time, has made me yearn to be coupled or to even live with other humans."
Hygiene Helpers
For the first time in decades, vaccines are having a moment. Will it last?
Rupali Limaye got her first dose of Covid-19 vaccine a couple of weeks ago. “I bawled,” she admitted without the slightest hint of embarrassment. It so happens that Limaye is a staunch proponent of vaccination; she works at the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University. But her reaction is not uncommon. Talk to anyone working in or volunteering at Covid vaccination clinics, and you’ll hear tales about the joy, the relief, the shedding of the cloak of dread that has weighed people down during our difficult period of pandemic isolation. “I don’t think many people felt grateful for vaccines before Covid,” Ruth Karron, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Immunization Research, told STAT. “I think it is a reset.”
Covid-19 pandemic: Trump urged to encourage supporters to get jabs
The top US infectious disease expert says it would be "a game-changer" if ex-President Donald Trump encouraged Republicans to get the Covid vaccine. "It will make all the difference in the world," Dr Anthony Fauci told Fox News Sunday. "He's a very widely popular person among Republicans." A recent US opinion poll showed as many as 49% of Republican male supporters did not want to get vaccinated. Mr Trump last month said "everybody, go get your shot" at a conservative forum. It was the first time he publicly encouraged Americans to do so. He has not commented on the issue since then.
Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine faced EMA manufacturing concerns ahead of emergency nod: report
About a month before Pfizer and BioNTech won an emergency nod for their COVID-19 vaccine in Europe, regulators raised flags about lower-than-expected levels of intact mRNA in commercial batches, the BMJ reports. The European Medicines Agency outlined “a significant difference" in the RNA in clinical batches and the proposed commercial batches, according to information leaked from an EMA cyberattack in December, which the BMJ subsequently reviewed. While the production issue has since been resolved—and Pfizer's vaccine has since won approval in Europe—the leaks show the “complexities of quality assurance” for mRNA vaccines, especially with regards to RNA instability, the BMJ said. It’s an issue that affects all mRNA developers, including Moderna and CureVac. That instability is the reason for the shots’ frigid cold chain requirements and the need to encapsulate mRNA in lipid nanoparticles, BMJ said.
How TikTok is helping demystify the science around Covid-19
The researcher has become a sensation on our platform with more than 212,500 followers; her videos have amassed nearly three million likes. In them, Dr Blakney shows how the vaccines are actually made and tested in the lab, she demystifies the science around the coronavirus and debunks myths about the vaccine’s risks and effectiveness – sometimes involving a dance challenge simultaneously, and often with addictively catchy soundtracks that make learning about vaccines a seat-dancing experience.
Czech Republic: What’s behind world’s worst COVID infection rate?
With a population of 10.7 million and about 1.4 million COVID cases to date, the Czech Republic has the highest per capita infection rate in the world. Its death toll – a grim 22,000 people – is also concerning. On March 1, Prime Minister Andrej Babis introduced the strictest lockdown so far. People are banned from travelling within the country, between districts, and cannot visit one another. All retailers, except essential shops such as supermarkets, are closed. The surge in cases comes as the so-called Kent-variant, a highly infectious strain first discovered in the UK, makes it way through the country, pushing Czech hospitals and the economy to the brink of collapse. Leading expert in viral sequencing, Jan Pačes from the Academy of Sciences, talks to Al Jazeera about the severity of the pandemic and calls on the government to take stricter precautions.
Community Activities
To help people find Covid-19 vaccines, Facebook debuts new features
Facebook is rolling out a handful of new tools on its platforms to help people get vaccinated against Covid-19. The tech giant, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, announced on Monday that it will use its platforms to help assist users in learning more about Covid-19 vaccines, including where and when they can get vaccinated. "Now that many countries are moving towards vaccinations for all adults, we're working on tools to make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated as well," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in prepared remarks posted to the social media platform on Monday.
Hungarian far-right party protests lockdown
Demonstrators in Hungary’s capital broke a ban on public gatherings on Monday to demand an end to the country’s lockdown restrictions, even as a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations sweeps the country. The demonstration was organized by a far-right party, Mi Hazank Mozgalom (Our Homeland Movement), and joined by some 1,000 people. The group broke through a police cordon and marched to Hungary’s parliament in central Budapest. They demanded an end to pandemic restrictions that have been in effect for more than four months and have placed a heavy burden on the country’s economy.
Facebook to label vaccine posts to combat COVID-19 misinfo
Facebook is adding informational labels to posts about vaccines as it expands efforts to counter COVID-19-related misinformation flourishing on its platforms. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post Monday that labels will contain “credible information” about the vaccines from the World Health Organization. They will be in English and five other languages, with more languages added in coming weeks. “For example, we’re adding a label on posts that discuss the safety of COVID-19 vaccines that notes COVID-19 vaccines go through tests for safety and effectiveness before they’re approved,” Zuckerberg said.
Community projects to help Lewisham recover from Covid-19
Community projects that will help Lewisham recover from the Covid-19 pandemic will be able to bid for community infrastructure levy (CIL) funding from May this year. Councils can apply a levy to developments in the borough – the money is to mitigate their impact and goes towards improving local infrastructure. An open call for projects is set to be launched in mid to late May of this year and will run for eight to ten weeks.
Exclusive: Regular booster vaccines are the future in battle with COVID-19 virus, top genome expert says
Regular booster vaccines against the novel coronavirus will be needed because of mutations that make it more transmissible and better able to evade human immunity, the head of Britain’s effort to sequence the virus’s genomes told Reuters. Sharon Peacock, who heads COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) which has sequenced nearly half of all the novel coronavirus genomes so far mapped globally, said international cooperation was needed in the “cat and mouse” battle with the virus. “We have to appreciate that we were always going to have to have booster doses; immunity to coronavirus doesn’t last forever,” Peacock told Reuters at the non-profit Wellcome Sanger Institute’s 55-acre campus outside Cambridge.
Addiction and behavioral health care workers should have access to Covid-19 testing and vaccines
At the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. government and private organizations rushed to support health care workers — and rightfully so — with massive ramp-ups in making available personal protective equipment and testing supplies to ensure that frontline workers had the resources they needed to keep themselves, their patients, and their families as safe as possible. These providers have been now been given priority to get the Covid-19 vaccines that are being rolled out across the country. But one group of health care workers has been excluded from these efforts: those who work in behavioral health and addiction treatment centers.
Working Remotely
Government policy on remote working could hurt flexibility and deter investment
Melanie Crowley is head of employment law at Mason, Hayes & Curran. She comments: "Balancing employment rights with international competitiveness is a key task of any government. That balance seems badly askew in the Government’s National Remote Work Strategy published recently. There are two key cornerstones to the Government’s strategy – the intention to legislate for the right to request remote working and the intention to issue a code of practice around the right to disconnect."
'I don't have to choose between lifestyle and career.' How remote work changed these people's lives
It's been a year since companies across the globe sent employees home to work as the pandemic spread. While many businesses were forced to shut down permanently, remote work enabled others to survive, and even thrive in some cases. As a result, many employers have decided to offer more flexibility when it comes to where and when their employees work. Andrew Hewitt, a senior analyst at market research firm Forrester, expects about 60% of companies to offer a hybrid work model, while 10% will be fully remote. And while working from home comes with its fair share of challenges, it's also provided some workers the opportunity to make some life-changing decisions.
Virtual Classrooms
How the pandemic is reshaping education
The coronavirus pandemic upended almost every aspect of school at once. It was not just the move from classrooms to computer screens. It tested basic ideas about instruction, attendance, testing, funding, the role of technology and the human connections that hold it all together. A year later, a rethinking is underway, with a growing sense that some changes may last. “There may be an opportunity to reimagine what schools will look like,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told The Washington Post. “It’s always important we continue to think about how to evolve schooling so the kids get the most out of it.” Others in education see a similar opening. The pandemic pointed anew to glaring inequities of race, disability and income. Learning loss is getting new attention. Schools with poor ventilation systems are being slotted for upgrades. Teachers who made it through a crash course in teaching virtually are finding lessons that endure.
What does educational innovation look like in the post-Covid world?
There is a growing sense that education is on the cusp of significant change. Anthony Seldon’s book, The Fourth Education Revolution, offers a compelling vision for the ways in which artificial intelligence will transform our schools and universities, enabling a more personalised digital experience that will free up teacher time to focus on the emotional, social and physical development of our students. Seldon’s book was published in 2018, in that heady pre-Covid era in which Zoom and Teams were barely in our peripheral vision. Over the last decade, most schools have come a very long way to build capacity and develop expertise in digital learning; however, it has been the more recent and pressing necessities of Covid that will have a lasting and significant impact on education.
The Cost Of COVID: One Year In The Virtual Classroom
Teachers across Connecticut have started to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. And while vaccination brings a sense of hope, it doesn’t erase the traumas they and their students have experienced over the last year of teaching -- a time when many educators had to reinvent what it meant to be in school. “This is really one of the few professions where we’ve really turned around what we’ve done,” said Claudia Tenaglia, a middle school social studies teacher in Hartford. Tenaglia is one of the many educators across the world who were thrown into disarray when teaching went virtual. In Connecticut, the shift happened on March 15, 2020, when Gov. Ned Lamont ordered all schools around the state to shut down as the coronavirus threat grew. At that time, the shutdown was expected to last only two weeks. But it turned out to be just the start to a yearlong journey.
Public Policies
Exclusive: Mexico focuses vaccine loan request on U.S. stockpile of AstraZeneca doses
Portugal extended a ban on flights to and from Britain and Brazil by another two weeks on Monday to March 31, with only humanitarian and repatriation flights allowed, the interior ministry said in a statement. Direct commercial or private flights to and from the countries have been banned since January to limit the spread of novel coronavirus variants. As of March 7, passengers flying indirectly to Portugal from Britain or Brazil have also had to present a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours before departure and quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
Germany, Italy, France suspend AstraZeneca shots amid safety fears, disrupting EU vaccinations
Portugal extended a ban on flights to and from Britain and Brazil by another two weeks on Monday to March 31, with only humanitarian and repatriation flights allowed, the interior ministry said in a statement. Direct commercial or private flights to and from the countries have been banned since January to limit the spread of novel coronavirus variants. As of March 7, passengers flying indirectly to Portugal from Britain or Brazil have also had to present a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours before departure and quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
Most of Italy to shut down to tackle rising Covid-19 cases
The entire country will be put on lockdown for three days over the Easter weekend says Italy's leaders.
Covid-19: Government's failure to share data and face scrutiny have undermined response, say MPs
The UK government’s failure to share the data behind its decisions during the covid pandemic it likely to have undermined its response and placed a “needless strain on public confidence,” MPs have said in a damning report. The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee emphasised the importance of publishing the data used to justify policy decisions and accused the government of wilfully evading scrutiny. Looking to the next few months, the committee said the government must now provide “absolute clarity” on the data underpinning the easing of restrictions to “live up to the prime minister’s commitment to ‘data, not dates.’” The government must also stop “moving the goalposts” when it comes to lockdown and tiering decisions and should outline, in its response to this report, the range of data and information it would use to lift current and future lockdowns, the committee said.
Norway's capital introduces tightest restrictions of pandemic
Norway's capital will close all middle and high schools and limit visitors in private homes to two people until early April to fight the spread of the coronavirus, the Governing Mayor of Oslo said on Monday.
Brazil signs Pfizer deal for 100 million vaccine doses: source
Brazil has signed a deal with Pfizer Inc to purchase 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said on Monday. Brazilian officials have flagged their interest in a deal since President Jair Bolsonaro joined Pfizer executives on a video call last week, burying the hatchet after months of recriminations about stalled negotiations.
Thailand clears AstraZeneca use as potential side-effects divide Europe
Thailand will start using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday after a brief delay over safety concerns, officials said, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and cabinet members due to be first in line to get shots. Thailand was on Friday the first country outside of Europe to suspend use of the AstraZeneca shot, on which its mass vaccination campaign is heavily reliant. Authorities in Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands have halted their use of the vaccine over blood clotting issues, while Indonesia has decided to hold off until a World Health Organization review. Thailand has much riding on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy and the country will from June be one of its regional manufacturers. Thailand has reserved the first 61 million doses for its population.
Maintaining Services
US Prison Guards Refusing Vaccine Despite COVID-19 Outbreaks
In Massachusetts, more than half the people employed by the Department of Correction declined to be immunized. A statewide survey in California showed that half of all correction employees will wait to be vaccinated. In Rhode Island, prison staff have refused the vaccine at higher rates than the incarcerated, according to medical director Dr. Justin Berk. And in Iowa, early polling among employees showed a little more than half the staff said they’d get vaccinated. As states have begun COVID-19 inoculations at prisons across the country, corrections employees are refusing vaccines at alarming rates, causing some public health experts to worry about the prospect of controlling the pandemic both inside and outside. Infection rates in prisons are more than three times as high as in the general public. Prison staff helped accelerate outbreaks by refusing to wear masks, downplaying people’s symptoms, and haphazardly enforcing social distancing and hygiene protocols in confined, poorly ventilated spaces ripe for viral spread.
Montreal pharmacies to begin booking coronavirus vaccine appointments
Quebecers in the Montreal area should be able to book vaccine appointments at local pharmacies starting Monday as the province continues to expand its COVID-19 immunization campaign. Health Minister Christian Dubé announced earlier this month that some 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments through the province’s vaccine booking portal Monday, with shots to begin March 22. He said the program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious COVID-19 variants, such as the B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the United Kingdom.
France raises prospect of mandatory Covid-19 jabs for healthcare staff
The French government is making a last push to convince healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, before deciding whether to make the jab mandatory to improve uptake. Olivier Veran, health minister, has written an open letter to healthcare workers urging them to get vaccinated “quickly” to protect “our collective security and the capacity of our health system”. Alain Fischer, an immunologist who advises the French government on the vaccine rollout, told the Senate last week that if the pace did not roughly double “in the next 15 days”, the state would have to discuss making the jab mandatory for workers in the sector.
First Participants Dosed in Phase 1 Study Evaluating mRNA-1283, Moderna’s Next Generation COVID-19 Vaccine
Moderna a biotechnology company pioneering messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics and vaccines, today announced that the first participants have been dosed in the Phase 1 study of mRNA-1283, the Company’s next generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate. "We are pleased to begin this Phase 1 study of our next generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1283," said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna. "Our investments in our mRNA platform have enabled us to develop this next generation vaccine candidate, which is a potential refrigerator-stable vaccine that could facilitate easier distribution and administration in a wider range of settings, including potentially for developing countries.
Coming week will see trickle of COVID-19 vaccine doses before ramp-up
The Public Health Agency of Canada is expecting a smaller-than-normal shipment of COVID-19 vaccines this week, with fewer than 445,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech shots scheduled for delivery over the next seven days. Yet that seeming trickle is set to explode into a full-blown flood starting the week of March 22 as the companies dramatically ramp up their deliveries and other pharmaceutical firms start making good on their own promised shipments. The Public Health Agency says this coming week will be the last in which Canada will receive fewer than 1 million doses over a seven-day period. Pfizer and BioNTech alone are on tap to deliver more than that each week for the foreseeable future.
People aged 50 and over can book Covid-19 vaccinations
Those aged 50 and above can book their Covid-19 vaccination in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said. People have the choice of being contacted by their GPs and receiving a jab, or booking themselves in at one of the seven regional centres, if they have not already been invited to receive the vaccine by their doctor. Vaccination centres are being migrated to AstraZeneca for first doses, to maximise use of available Covid-19 vaccine supplies
Healthcare Innovations
Covid-19: Evidence does not suggest AstraZeneca jab linked to clots, MHRA says
People should still get their Covid vaccine despite several EU countries pausing use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab amid concern about blood clots, the UK medicines regulator has said. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said evidence "does not suggest" the jab causes clots. The Netherlands has become the latest country to suspend use of the jab following reports of serious clotting. But the World Health Organization says there is no reason to stop using it. Dutch officials said the move was precautionary following reports from Denmark and Norway about side effects including blood clots. Manufacturer AstraZeneca has said there is no evidence of a link between the two.
B117 deadlier than other COVID-19 strains, more data affirm
The B117 COVID-19 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom in October 2020, may pose a 61% higher risk of 28-day mortality, according to a study published today in Nature. The finding is in line with last week's BMJ study that reported B117 had a 64% higher 28-day risk of death among people older than 30, although both studies note absolute 28-day mortality risk remains low for most populations. "Crucially, our study is limited to individuals tested in the community," the researchers write. "However, this restricted focus allows us to capture the combined effect of an altered risk of hospitalisation given a positive test and an altered risk of death given hospitalisation, while only the latter would be measurable in a study of hospitalised patients only."
Moderna begins testing next-generation coronavirus vaccine
Moderna Inc said on Monday it had dosed the first participant in an early-stage study of a new COVID-19 vaccine candidate that could potentially be stored and shipped in refrigerators instead of freezers. The company said its new candidate could make it easier for distribution, especially in developing countries where supply chain issues could hamper vaccination drives.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 21st Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong will review COVID-19 restrictions as cases decline
Hong Kong’s leader says the government will consider lifting strict social distancing measures as new COVID-19 infections in the city continue trending downward
Millions in China’s northeast placed under COVID-19 lockdown
The city of Jilin will lock down some 4.5 million people for three days starting Monday to help curb the spread of China’s biggest coronavirus outbreak.
Ecuador ends COVID limits on gatherings after hitting vaccination goal
Ecuador's president on Friday announced an end to coronavirus limits on public and private gatherings, but the South American country will continue to require foreign visitors to show proof of vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test. President Guillermo Lasso said the government made the decision to end two years of pandemic containment measures because Ecuador has reached its goal of fully vaccinating 85% of the population above five years old. Both new infections and COVID-related deaths have steadily fallen in recent weeks, according to government data.
Hygiene Helpers
Public health measures are key to curbing Covid in UK, say scientists
Stopping the spread of Covid-19 through public health measures remains vital to curbing the pandemic, one of Britain’s most senior scientific figures has warned. On the eve of the second anniversary of the lockdown that began the UK’s Covid response, Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, called for investment in next-generation vaccines and better access to vaccinations for poorer countries. Farrar joined several of the UK’s most eminent scientists in praising the extraordinary response to the pandemic by the clinicians, researchers and business leaders. But with Covid infections and hospital admissions rising across the UK, measures such as masks, social distancing and ventilation are key.
Toronto to hold 24 pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinics in new spring campaign
The City of Toronto will be holding 24 pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics around the city through its new ‘Vax and Spring’ campaign. In a press release issued Sunday, the city said the campaign is part of the city’s “continued equity-focused, hyper-local mobile strategy to make COVID-19 vaccines as accessible and convenient as possible” to help “bring COVID-19 vaccine clinics to many locations across Toronto.” The city said 24 pop-up vaccine clinics will be held in 22 locations over seven days, beginning on March 20.
Austria reintroduces face masks as coronavirus cases surge
People in Austria will be required to wear FFP2 face masks indoors again as COVID-19 cases are rising once more, the country's Health Minister Johannes Rauch said. "I don't like doing that," Rauch said during a press conference Friday evening, adding that the new rule will apply from Wednesday and that isolation rules will be revised too. He said details about the reviewed restrictions will come "over the weekend." Rauch conceded that easing restriction measures had come too early. Austria is the first country in the EU to reintroduce tougher constraints during the current wave. The number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing in the country during the past two weeks.
COVID-19: Spring booster jabs to be offered to millions of vulnerable people in England
Millions of vulnerable people in England will be offered a fourth COVID vaccine in a bid to top up protection against the coronavirus. Spring booster jabs will be available to care home residents, people who are 75 and over, and the immunosuppressed aged 12 and over. A total of around five million people are expected to be given the jab, with around 600,000 invited to book their dose this week, the NHS says.
HK’s Immunized Who Died of Covid Mainly Got Sinovac: Ming Pao
Almost 87% of Hong Kongers who died from Covid after getting at least one dose of vaccine received Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s shot, Ming Pao reported, though most deaths occurred among those who weren’t immunized. The newspaper said it analyzed data from the Hospital Authority involving 5,167 of the city’s Covid fatalities, without disclosing its sources or additional information. It found that 71% of those who died were unvaccinated. Of the 1,486 who died after receiving at least one dose, 1,292 -- or 87% -- had gotten Sinovac, Ming Pao reported. Most deaths in Hong Kong have occurred among under-vaccinated senior citizens, particularly those living in elderly care homes.
Chinese officials urge elderly to get COVID vaccine, cite lesson of Hong Kong
Older people in China should get vaccinated against COVID-19, senior Chinese health officials said on Friday, adding that deaths among the elderly in the latest wave to hit Hong Kong serve as a lesson for the mainland. "The outbreak in Hong Kong is a particularly profound lesson for us, an example that if the vaccination rate for the elderly is low, the rate of severe cases and deaths will be high," Wang Hesheng, deputy director of the National Health Commission, told a news briefing. "We must not regret when it is too late," he said.
Shanghai pushes ahead with mass COVID tests as new cases spike
The Chinese commercial hub of Shanghai is pushing ahead with a mass testing initiative as it tries to curb a new spike in COVID-19 infections, but some districts were easing lockdown rules in an effort to minimise disruptions. The city, home to about 25 million people, saw symptomatic local community infections hit 57 on March 17, with another 203 domestically transmitted asymptomatic cases, up from eight and 150 respectively a day earlier.
Community Activities
The Pandemic Is Two Years Old. Baseball’s Vaccination Problem is Just Beginning.
Major League Baseball players have been more reluctant to take the Covid-19 vaccine than their counterparts in any of the other American professional sports. Now that decision could have a significant impact on how the upcoming season unfolds. Because of Canadian border restrictions, unvaccinated players won’t be allowed to enter the country to play against the Toronto Blue Jays. They won’t be paid or receive service time for any games missed because of their vaccination status under the industry’s new labor contract, which the owners and players’ union agreed to last week. The rule will, for the first time, provide a clear glimpse into how many players have declined to take the shots, which have been found to be safe and effective by experts around the world. While the NFL, NBA, NHL and WNBA have all reported that nearly all of their players have been vaccinated, baseball is a different story.
Parents up in arms against an Ontario school board's move to keep masks on
As students in Canada's most populous province return to mask-free classes after two years on Monday, one Ontario school board is facing backlash for defying the province's decision to drop masks, potentially setting the stage for a clash on a contentious pandemic issue. The mask mandate and other pandemic measures have become a lightning rod in Canada for an anti-government movement, sparking a three-week protest in capital Ottawa last month.
Working Remotely
Two years later, remote work has changed millions of careers
The pandemic thrust the working world into a new reality in March 2020 as offices closed and millions of people were forced to learn how to do their jobs from home. Two years later, employers and workers are still adapting to a new normal and trying to figure out what the future of work might look like. Some companies are determined to return to the way things were and get everyone back into the office. And some have embraced remote work, allowing employees to work from home full time or part of the time. But many workers are deciding to chart their own course
50% of companies want workers back in office 5 days a week–why experts say this strategy could fail
After two years of working from home – and seeing return-to-office plans derailed by new Covid-19 variants – a growing number of companies are eager to get employees back to the office. About 50% of leaders say their company already requires or is planning to require employees to return to in-person work full-time in the next year, according to new research from Microsoft, which surveyed 31,102 workers around the world between January and February. This number stands in sharp contrast, however, to what employees really want: flexibility. In the same report, 52% of workers said that they are thinking of switching to a full-time remote or hybrid job in 2022.
Legislation delays risk squandering remote working progress – unions
Irish workers are slipping back into “old habits” of turning up at the office five days a week because of Government “foot dragging” over new laws to bolster working from home rights, trade unions are warning. Congress, the umbrella organisation for trade unions, said delays to promised legislation have created a “vacuum” which threatens to squander a once-in-a-lifetime chance to copper-fasten widespread remote working.
Virtual Classrooms
Districts face difficulty luring covid-cautious parents back to school
In the US, the push to return to a pre-pandemic normal has tested the resolve of parents still worried about covid’s risks. Perhaps nowhere has the shift back to normal been more jarring than in Prince George’s schools. Though not its original intent, the Maryland district of about 130,000 students set up a massive virtual learning experiment when, to placate anxious parents, it extended enrollment in its remote program for K-6 students during last summer’s delta variant surge. Thousands of families chose that option, which the district said would last only for the first semester, when a pediatric vaccine was expected to be approved.
Learning How to Blend Online and Offline Teaching
In the pandemic many higher ed faculty, forced onto Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms, have continued teaching online just as they always did face to face, delivering lectures over streaming video as they did in person. Many are unaware that teaching online can actually open new possibilities to innovate their teaching practice. Even so, there are some instructors who have found new and rewarding ways to teach, thanks to the forced experiment with online—by doing things that stimulate active learning, turning video conferencing classes into engaged, peer-to-peer discussions of what students explored on their own or with others between class sessions—activities such as viewing videos, visiting websites and reading scholarly books and articles, among other offline resources.
Universities' online teaching and 'blended learning' to be reviewed
In the UK, the quality of online teaching and “blended learning” at universities is set to be reviewed, over fears that students’ poor experiences of online learning during the pandemic may have undermined the potential of mixing face-to-face lectures with online study. The Office for Students (OfS) has launched a review to explore how universities are delivering blended learning, which will aim to give students and applicants information on whether the elements of their courses taught online are of a high enough quality.
Public Policies
Hong Kong leader says COVID flight ban on 9 countries no longer necessary
Hong Kong plans to relax some anti-COVID-19 measures next month, lifting a ban on flights from nine countries, reducing quarantine time for arrivals from abroad and reopening schools. The moves, announced on Monday by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, could quieten some criticism from residents who have become increasingly frustrated with the city's stringent measures, some of which have been in place for over two years. The flight ban would be lifted from April 1, while hotel quarantine for arrivals could be cut to seven days from 14 if residents tested negative, Lam told a news briefing. She had previously said measures would be in place until April 20.
Moderna seeks FDA authorization for second COVID booster for all adults
Moderna Inc on late Thursday sought emergency use authorization from U.S. health regulators for a second COVID-19 booster shot, as a surge in cases in some parts of the world fuels fears of another wave of the pandemic. The U.S. biotechnology company said its request covered all adults over the age of 18 so that the appropriate use of an additional booster dose of its vaccine, including for those at higher risk of COVID-19 due to age or comorbidities, could be determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and health care providers. Moderna's request is significantly broader than Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE's application that was filed earlier this week with U.S. regulators for a second booster shot for people aged 65 and older
Japan offers aid and COVID vaccines to Cambodia
Japan on Sunday pledged to offer Cambodia about $428 million in aid and 1.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing programme. The pledges were part of several agreements signed by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen during Kishida's visit to Phnom Penh. Japan will provide a support loan of 45 billion yen ($378 million) and grant aid through contribution to international organisations of 6 billion yen ($50 million). Kishida also expressed support for Cambodia's democratic process "such as holding elections in a way that reflects diverse voices from Cambodian people through projects such as the promotion of dialogue", a joint statement said.
Maintaining Services
Ukraine’s World-Class Drug-Molecule Industry Imperiled by Russia Invasion
Article reports that Russian attacks are endangering Ukraine’s world-leading medicinal chemistry industry, which supplies scientists across the globe with molecular building blocks needed for early drug development. Ukraine’s dominance in medicinal chemistry is little known beyond drug developers, who fine-tune a drug’s molecular design to give it the best chance of hitting the desired biological target in the body. Kyiv-based Enamine Ltd. has become a go-to supplier for drug-discovery scientists at academic laboratories and the largest pharmaceutical companies. “It’s a bit like Amazon for chemistry,” said Ed Griffen, a U.K.-based medicinal chemist working with closely held Enamine on a low-cost Covid-19 antiviral pill.
Shanghai's Disney resort shut amid record daily local COVID infections
China's financial hub of Shanghai reported on Monday a record daily surge in local COVID-19 infections as authorities scrambled to test residents and rein in the Omicron variant, while closing its Disney (DIS.N) resort until further notice. Until recent weeks relatively unscathed by coronavirus, Shanghai reported 24 new domestically transmitted COVID cases with confirmed symptoms for Sunday and 734 local asymptomatic infections, official data showed on Monday. It is the fourth consecutive day that Shanghai's local asymptomatic infections have increased.
Covid: Rise in UK infections driven by BA.2 Omicron variant
Covid cases have continued to rise in the UK, with an estimated one in every 20 people infected, figures from the Office for National Statistic suggest. All age groups are affected, including the 75s and over, who are due a spring booster jab to top up protection. Hospital cases are also rising, but vaccines are still helping to stop many severe cases, say experts. An easily spread sub-variant of Omicron, called BA.2, is now causing most cases. Recent easing of restrictions and waning immunity from the vaccines could be factors behind the rise too.
Life During Hong Kong's Worst Covid-19 Outbreak: Full Hospitals, Quiet Streets
Hong Kong has faced a record surge in Covid-19 cases and the world’s highest death rate, prompting authorities to impose strict restrictions. WSJ’s Diana Chan reports on how everyday life has changed in the city, from panic buying to an exodus of residents
Covid restrictions easing across Europe despite surge in cases
In Germany most pandemic controls will be lifted on Sunday after a heated parliamentary debate on Friday which led to both houses of parliament voting in favour. That was despite cases in Germany reaching a new daily record of almost 300,000 on Friday – a seven-day incidence rate of 1,706 cases per 100,000 residents – and a majority of the population expressing concern that the relaxations were coming too soon. Germany has been recording daily deaths of over 200 for several weeks.
China's factories opt for isolation bubbles to beat COVID curbs and keep running
To keep factory lines open in the face of COVID curbs Chinese firms are asking workers to eat, sleep and work in bubbles isolated from the wider world, sterilising premises as often as three times a day and testing for COVID daily. Dubbed "closed-loop management", this approach has been part of China's efforts over the past two years to keep local transmission extremely low by global standards. It was used for example at the Winter Olympics in Beijing to seal event personnel off from the public.
EU health body recommends free COVID tests, vaccines for Ukrainian refugees
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Friday that countries should provide free COVID-19 testing for refugees from Ukraine to avoid outbreaks as more than three million people flee their war-stricken homeland. Infectious diseases and conflict often go hand-in-hand, and the risk of infections spreading could be further exacerbated as COVID vaccination rates in Ukraine have been low overall at 35% versus the EU average of 71.7%. Those fleeing the country should be offered a full course of COVID-19 vaccines, and booster doses, if they do not have proof of prior inoculation, with an emphasis on those at greater risk of severe COVID-19, the ECDC said.
WHO says global rise in COVID cases is 'tip of the iceberg'
Figures showing a global rise in COVID-19 cases could herald a much bigger problem as some countries also report a drop in testing rates, the WHO said on Tuesday, warning nations to remain vigilant against the virus. After more than a month of decline, COVID cases started to increase around the world last week, the WHO said, with lockdowns in Asia and China's Jilin province battling to contain an outbreak. A combination of factors was causing the increases, including the highly transmissible Omicron variant and its BA.2 sublineage, and the lifting of public health and social measures, the WHO said.
Healthcare Innovations
Neurological problems no higher after vaccination; depression, anxiety risk tied to COVID severity
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. Neurological risks not higher after COVID-19 vaccines COVID-19 vaccination did not increase risks for rare neurological conditions among more than 8 million people who had received at least one dose of a vaccine from AstraZeneca, Pfizer /BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, according to researchers. Their study also included 735,870 unvaccinated individuals who had tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as older data on an additional 14.3 million people from the general population for a baseline estimate of rates of the neurological conditions before the pandemic

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 17th Mar 2020

Community Activities
BBC halts plans to charge over-75s for licence fee due to coronavirus Millions of pensioners have begun receiving letters telling them that they must pay the £157.50 fee from June, but this is now on hold
BBC halts plans to charge over-75s for licence fee due to coronavirus Millions of pensioners have begun receiving letters telling them that they must pay the £157.50 fee from June, but this is now on hold
UK hotels could be turned into hospitals during the coronavirus outbreak
Rob Paterson, chief executive officer of Best Western Great Britain, said: "We are in unprecedented territory so we would be willing to take unprecedented steps to support the national effort. "If the NHS wants additional bed space, and we can partner with other companies to provide the right medical equipment and supplies, and we can do it safely, then we would be willing to start having those conversations immediately. "Whatever we can do to help."The move would create additional bed space for the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supermarkets to introduce shopping hours for elderly
Lidl and Tesco are to introduce dedicated shopping hours for older and vulnerable customers. The German discount retailer will prioritise elderly customers from 9am to 11am each day starting tomorrow. There will be prioritised queuing and additional assistance in-store for customers. Lidl says the measure is to help protect more vulnerable shoppers due to increased demand and has asked all customers to respect the dedicated shopping hours each morning. A run of coronavirus panic-buying has gripped several countries, emptying shelves of basic goods despite pleas by authorities to stop.
For millions of low-income seniors, coronavirus is a food-security issue
For older people with sufficient resources, the message is clear: stay home, stock up on food and supplies, and avoid group activities. However, these recommendations fail to address the struggle of millions of low-income older adults who lack access to healthy food and adequate nutrition on a daily basis. And although social distancing is necessary to help limit the spread of the virus, anything that deters people from accessing group meals at senior centers or food banks puts low-income seniors in danger of malnutrition and hunger. Millions of them also typically cannot afford to stock up on food or supplies, and if they can, many need transportation assistance to and from grocery stores. In light of this, federal, state, and local responders need to consider targeted solutions to ensure that food-insecure and socially isolated older adults (as well as other populations with barriers to food access) can stay fed and healthy during the crisis.
How to survive coronavirus lockdown as a parent, especially moms who carry the burden
Whether children are in or out of school, the threat of the coronavirus has made managing family life a much bigger job. Odd are, moms are taking on more of this emotional and domestic labor. On top of this, women are more likely to do what experts call "worry work," An expert explained. Moms are more likely than dads to anticipate the needs of the family and plan ahead for worst case scenarios. (Listen closely, and you can hear the hum of "what's next?" on a constant loop in most moms' heads.) Start tag teaming -- splitting work days and house management as much as possible, and it is making life much better. If there is a silver lining in all this, or at least a lesson that we might want to impart to our kids, it's this. In our cities, our workplaces, our classrooms, and our homes, we are being forced to realize that life works better when we can depend on one another. Parents: When you tell your children to wash their hands, don't just say they need to do it in order keep themselves or the family healthy. Tell them they need to wash their hands in order to keep everyone healthy, and explain why. Then maybe leave a note for an elderly neighbor asking if they could use any help.
Coronavirus: PM says everyone should avoid office, pubs and travelling
The key new government measures are: a) Everyone should avoid gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres b) Everyone should work from home if they can c) All "unnecessary" visits to friends and relatives in care homes should cease d) People should only use the NHS "where we really need to" - and can reduce the burden on workers by getting advice on the NHS website where possible f) By next weekend, those with the most serious health conditions must be "largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks" g) The UK is now "three weeks" behind Italy - the worst-hit country in Europe h) If one person in any household has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days i) Those people should, if possible, avoid leaving the house "even to buy food or essentials" - but they may leave the house "for exercise and, in that case, at a safe distance from others" j) Schools will not be closed for the moment
Amazon ramps hiring, opening 100,000 new roles to support people relying on Amazon’s service in this stressful time
Company will invest over $350 million globally to increase pay by $2/hour in the U.S., £2/hr in the UK, and approximately €2/hr in many EU countries for employees and partners who are in fulfillment centers, transportation operations, stores or those making deliveries so that others can remain at home.
What it's like to have coronavirus: A first-hand account from CBS News' Seth Doane
"I coughed a little bit, just enough to worry the people I was with here. We were out working covering this story. I started to have a little bit of a cough that worried me. For the most part, I feel okay. As we know, this is a deadly virus. It can be incredibly serious, a major respiratory illness. So far I've been lucky. I've had a chest pressure almost like you feel like you've done a big chest workout. I've had a little bit of a cough. I had a relatively mild fever. I've had kind of weird aches and pains in places I'm not used to. But honestly, I feel like I've had colds and flus worse than this. I've never been totally out for the whole day in bed. I've been up, able to talk with people. So for me, luckily, it's been quite mild.
Working Remotely
Hit the precaution button not the panic button
1) Restrict handshakes and practice ‘hello’ from a great distance. 2) Ask your employees to practice sneezing and coughing etiquette 3) Clean your workplace desk or workstation often 4) Promote hygienic washroom practice 6) Disseminating tissues, dustbin and pocket sanitizers to the employees 7) Hygienic office canteen 8) Basics First - Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Coronavirus: Stuck At Home? Here’s The Tech To Get You Through It
If you find you suddenly have some unexpected time at home, there are technological solutions to help you make the most of it. This applies for keeping in touch, video-conferencing that meeting with your colleagues, or FaceTime calls to friends and family, especially if they’re overseas. But the right gadgets can make your sudden enforced solitude more pleasant, too, from using your iPad to watch Netflix if the TV in your bedroom isn’t up to snuff to installing a video doorbell so you don’t need direct contact with the guy at the door.
Coronavirus: 8 ways to look after your mental health
1 - Seek accurate info from legitimate sources 2 - Set limits on news about COVID-19 3 - Look after yourselves 4 - Reach out to others and support those around you 5 - Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking 6 - Acknowledge your feelings 7 - Take time to talk to the children about COID-19 8 - Ask for professional support if and whenever you need it
What Can Be Learned From 'Virtual' Firms as Coronavirus Necessitates Remote Work? | The American Lawyer
Brick-and-mortar firms weren't built with remote work in mind, say the leaders of distributed firms, so they face obstacles both physical and cultural as more attorneys log in from home to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Virtual Classrooms
Coronavirus: Simple tips for better online teaching
1. Record your lectures - don't stream them - 2. Show your face during the teaching session 3. - Keep videos short 4 - Test out slides 5. - Using exisiting resources 6. Make sure they are open access 7. Give specific instructions 8. Provide interactive activities 9. Set reasonable expections 10. Use auto-checking to measure attendence 10. - Use group communication carefully 11. - Let students take control 12 - Don't hide your feelings & Repeat
Middle East discovers value of the virtual classroom amid coronavirus threat
In the UAE, where more than 80 coronavirus cases have been reported so far, the Ministry of Education ordered the closure of all schools and universities for a period of four weeks starting from March 8. Soon afterwards, Saudi Arabia’s education ministry announced the closure of all educational institutions, including public and private schools as well as technical and vocational training institutes. Many institutions in the Kingdom intend to ensure uninterrupted education through digital learning methods in tandem with other measures to reduce the spread of the virus through movement and public interaction.
All students could soon be learning in 'virtual classrooms'. Here's how they work
The virtual school uses Adobe Connect to web conference, Office 365 and G-Suite for cloud-based document sharing and classwork. Teachers issue and mark homework using OneNote, where they can supervise student progress with tasks in real time. Students can break out into smaller online discussion groups and teachers can mute the class to communicate one-on-one with a student who needs help. Each teacher works with a headset, laptop, desktop computer, webcam and a document camera - which functions like a digital projector - but principal Chris Robertson said they could carry out most tasks with a laptop alone. Students also have access to Oliver, a fully digitised school library whose librarian works on the NSW South Coast, and the school can reach thousands of students at a time with live streams. Last year it reached over 25,000 primary school students during two live online presentations on eSafety, and streamed HSC workshops to 11,000 senior school students via 654 simultaneous online connections.
NYC Plans To Feed All Students, Deliver Laptops For Remote Learning
The grab-and-go program is one of the main tenets of Mayor Bill de Blasio's schools shutdown plan. As pressure mounted over the past week to close schools during the novel coronavirus outbreak in the city, de Blasio repeatedly emphasized that one major obstacle was the fact that hundreds of thousands of public school students depend on the free breakfasts and lunches offered at school. On Sunday de Blasio announced that schools are closed through the end of Spring Break on April 20th, and they may remain shuttered for the rest of the school year. Remote learning is to begin March 23rd for the system's 1.1 million students. Meanwhile, the grab-and-go program rolled out Monday morning and is available every weekday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to any child under 18, no matter what school they actually attend, be it charter, private or public, Carranza said. The city is also running the program at every school site for this week, and students don't need to go to their actual home institution but can pick up the food at whatever school is convenient. The plan is to then switch to centralized hubs for food service as the city does during summer breaks.
How a top Chinese university is responding to coronavirus
Although online teaching is no longer a novelty, we are aware that not all faculty members are equally adept at harnessing related technology and managing virtual classrooms. As part of the quality assurance process, ZJU organized a series of training sessions in mid-February for 3,670 faculty members. An instructor of one of our most popular MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) courses was invited to demonstrate how he adapted pedagogy to online tuition and forged a strong sense of community. Student success is what online teaching efforts are all about. It is, therefore, crucial to ensure no one is left out. Seeking to bridge the digital divide, since January ZJU has funded access to online learning for more than 1,000 disadvantaged students. The university has also negotiated deals with several network providers to subsidize the data plans of its faculty and students. For students without access to live streaming or grappling with shaky internet connections, ZJU provides them with lecture playbacks and courseware packages.
COVID-19 pushes universities to switch to online classes—but are they ready?
While the work to transition face-to-face instruction to online environments would mean an initial massive increase in working hours, the results for some educators and some students so far are promising. In the emerging and ever-changing COVID-19 context, New York University Shanghai and Duke Kunshan University offer examples of successful adaptation and rapid deployment of educational technology products, like the video-conferencing platform Zoom and online course provider Coursera. Significantly, these universities had existing experience with these technologies that they were able to expand; they weren't starting from scratch with new and untested tech solutions.
Healthcare Innovations
COVID-19 Vaccine Test Begins With US Volunteer
“We’re team coronavirus now,” Kaiser Permanente study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said on the eve of the experiment. “Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.” The Associated Press observed as the study’s first participant, an operations manager at a small tech company, received the injection inside an exam room. Several others were next in line for a test that will ultimately give 45 volunteers two doses, a month apart. “We all feel so helpless. This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” said Jennifer Haller, 43, of Seattle. She’s the mother of two teenagers and “they think it’s cool” that she’s taking part in the study.
'Healthcare on brink of collapsing': Doctors share stories from inside the Italy coronavirus quarantine
I'm just back from Italy and "enjoying" my first day of self-isolation. Getting a real picture of how bad the situation is, especially in Lombardy and the north, has been really difficult for TV news because movement is so restricted, access to the overwhelmed hospitals impossible and the danger of infection so great. But it's really important people understand just how bad things are, not least because it is where we may be headed. So I will continue to write here about conversations, emails or recordings with those who are still under quarantine in Italy. Some will be Britons who have stayed on, some Italians, some doctors. I start with a voice recording of two Milanese doctors speaking on WhatsApp about the situation at their hospitals.
They’ve Contained the Coronavirus. Here’s How.
Since identifying the first infections (all imported) on their territories — on Jan. 21 in Taiwan and on Jan. 23 in both Hong Kong and Singapore — all three governments have implemented some combination of measures to (1) reduce the arrival of new cases into the community (travel restrictions), (2) specifically prevent possible transmission between known cases and the local population (quarantines) and (3) generally suppress silent transmission in the community by reducing contact between individuals (self-isolation, social distancing, heightened hygiene). But each has had a different approach.
Wuhan-style hospital could be built from scratch in Milan as area runs short of facilities amid coronavirus outbreak
A 500-bed Wuhan-style hospital could be built from scratch in Milan to resuscitate coronavirus patients as northern Italy runs out of facilities to keep the most seriously ill alive. As the region grapples with a wave of critical cases that shows no sign of slowing down, Lombardy governor Attilio Fontana said the new hospital would be “fundamental” for the region’s capacity to treat urgent patients. “The progression [of the contagion] continues, so it’s clear we have to prepare ourselves to create many new resuscitation beds,” he said last night. Lombardy is at the epicentre of Europe’s biggest Covid-19 outbreak, with Italy the second worst-hit country after China, seeing 24,747 cases and 1,809 deaths by yesterday.
Imperial College Modelling Paper - Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand
Two fundamental strategies are possible: (a) mitigation, which focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread – reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection, and (b) suppression, which aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely. Each policy has major challenges. We find that that optimal mitigation policies (combining home isolation of suspect cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household as suspect cases, and social distancing of the elderly and others at most risk of severe disease) might reduce peak healthcare demand by 2/3 and deaths by half. However, the resulting mitigated epidemic would still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over. For countries able to achieve it, this leaves suppression as the preferred policy option.
Ten-Minute Coronavirus Test for $1 Could Be Game Changer for Africa
Using technology from home pregnancy and malaria tests, its saliva and finger-prick kit could be ready for sale by June for less than $1 apiece. In Africa, they will be manufactured in Senegal by diaTropix, a newly built diagnostics manufacturing facility run by the director of the Pasteur Institute, Amadou Alpha Sall, who has led training around the continent for coronavirus testing. “We are ensuring that these tests are made accessible at the cost of manufacture,” said Joe Fitchett, medical director of Mologic, which received a $1.2 million grant from the U.K. government to develop the test.
Ventilator Maker: We Can Ramp Up Production Five-Fold
“We could increase production five-fold in a 90- to 120-day period,” says Chris Kiple, chief executive of Ventec Life Systems, a Bothell, Wash. firm that makes ventilators used in hospitals, homes and ambulances. He’d have to tool up production lines, train assemblers and testers and get parts. Accelerating the parts delivery might be the toughest task, he says. The ventilator industry is getting a burst of desperate orders from China and Italy. The U.S. hasn’t seen that yet, although manufacturers are bracing for it. “The time for action by the government is now,” says Kiple. “[Covid] is most likely to get worse next fall.”
Coronavirus Treatment Beings Human Trials in China
China has kick-started a clinical trial to speedily test a drug for the novel coronavirus infection as the nation rushes therapies for those afflicted and scours for vaccines to protect the rest. Remdesivir, a new antiviral drug by Gilead Sciences Inc. aimed at infectious diseases such Ebola and SARS, will be tested by a medical team from Beijing-based China-Japan Friendship Hospital for efficacy in treating the deadly new strain of coronavirus, a hospital spokeswoman told Bloomberg News Monday. Trial for the drug will be conducted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan — ground zero of the viral outbreak that has so far killed more than 360 people, sickened over 17,000 in China and spread to more than a dozen nations. As many as 270 patients with mild and moderate pneumonia caused by the virus will be recruited in a randomized, double-blinded and placebo-controlled study, Chinese news outlet The Paper reported on Sunday.
Isolation Tips
Hong Kong to quarantine arrivals from all foreign countries
Travellers arriving in Hong Kong from any foreign country from Thursday will be put under home quarantine, the city’s leader has said, as she extended a red travel alert to cover all overseas nations. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor noted on Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak had become a pandemic , and the total number of infections abroad had exceeded the total in China. She said that in the previous two weeks, Hong Kong had recorded 57 new infections, 50 of them imported. “If we exclude these imported cases, we only have seven local cases in the past week,” she said.
Covid-19: Everything you need to know about social distancing
For those of us not in self-isolation, social distancing is one of the ways we can stop the spread of Covid-19. This is a step by step guide explaining how to do it.
Coronavirus latest: UK told to stop non-essential contact and avoid public spaces
Key points from the Prime Minister's announcement were: a) Anyone living with someone who has a cough or a fever should also stay at home for 14 days b) All people should work from home if they can and avoid unnecessary travel c) The Government will no longer support mass gatherings with emergency workers d) People should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other social gatherings e) Those classed as 'vulnerable' will be asked to remain at home for 12 weeks f) Schools are not being closed yet
Social distancing prevents infections, but it can have unintended consequences
What effects, if any, might be caused by social distancing in response to the coronavirus is an open question. “I have a couple competing hypotheses,” Holt-Lunstad says. “On the one hand, I am concerned that this will not only exacerbate things for those who are already isolated and lonely, but also might be a triggering point for others to now get into habits of connecting less.” A more optimistic possibility, she says, is that heightened awareness of these issues will prompt people to stay connected and take positive action. “We’d love to be collecting data on that,” she says.
How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing
Recent research by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health paints a more nuanced picture: how you use such platforms seems to matter more than how much you do so. We can all benefit from developing digital habits that support meaningful human connections—especially now that it may be our only option until the outbreak calms. Whether you are quarantined, working remotely or just being cautious, now is the perfect time to practice using technology in socially healthy ways.
Hygiene Helpers
Coronavirus elderly advice: How can I look after my older relatives?
Age UK says it is also important to think of "practical" ways to help, such as running errands on relatives' behalf or picking up supplies such as food and medication. Simon Hewett-Avison, from charity Independent Age, also says families need to make sure elderly people have the supplies they need but urges a "balanced approach" rather than panicked stockpiling. Both the government and supermarkets have urged people not to stockpile goods. Carers UK says those who cannot visit elderly relatives should think of other ways of spending time together - setting up a family group chat, for example, or playing games online. "If online communication isn't possible, never underestimate the value of a regular simple phone call to offer social contact and support," it says.
European distillers turn to making sanitisers to tackle shortage (paywall)
Spirits makers from France’s Pernod Ricard to small craft gin distilleries in the UK are joining efforts to boost production of hand sanitisers to help fight the spread of the coronavirus. The move comes as the UK government prepares regulatory changes to aid a switch in production, and as healthcare systems, businesses and customers in Europe struggle to secure to procure sanitisers, as well as other medical supplies, as infection rates rise. Stocks of isopropyl alcohol, a vital ingredient for hand gels and alcohol wipes, is also in short supply in Europe, with prices for the chemical jumping sharply.
Coronavirus guidance
If you have paid care workers, cleaners or other helpers coming into the home of the person you care for: Ensure that they are following stringent hygiene and infection control measures as set out by the NHS. If they are employed through an agency and you have any doubts, contact the agency to ask them about what protective measures they are taking. Talk to the person you care for about the hygiene and infection control measures they should expect someone coming into their home to follow. They should not be afraid to insist that these are followed. If possible, ensure soap is made readily available and towels are frequently changed.
Reducing the spread of coronavirus starts with basic hygiene
Turns out Mom was right. Health experts say the best, simplest ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 3,200 people and affected more than 100,000 around the world, follow the tried and true cold-season admonishments given out for generations. Wash your hands. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your face. Stay home if you are sick. But some of the advice has gotten a little more specific. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets, which typically travel about three to six feet and settle on surfaces, where they can live for a few hours up to several days, according to the World Health Organization. There is a risk of catching the disease by inhaling those particles, but there is a more significant risk of getting it by touching surfaces, such as desks, handrails, or doorknobs, where those droplets may have settled. “The disease transmission goes from a cough or sneeze to a surface to your hand to your face, and that’s how people get infected,” said Paul Biddinger, director of the Emergency Preparedness Research, Evaluation, and Practice Program, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Good hand washing really matters. If people cough or sneeze into their elbow, that limits the spread of respiratory secretions. What all of us can do together is follow basic hygiene measures that will actually slow the spread of disease in communities.”
Social enterprises help out with coronavirus across Asia
After teaming up with a local partner and activating a network of volunteers, Soap Cycling now provide hygiene kits and masks to about 3,000 of the city’s 21,000 street cleaners. Other businesses for good are tackling education.This week, Hong Kong prolonged its suspension of schools until April but with an artificial intelligence )AI) learning platform that can be accessed from tablets or phones at home, more than 12,000 students in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam are continuing to learn. “When serious disruption occurs, from natural disasters to outbreaks of disease, education has traditionally suffered drastically,” said Priya Lakhani, founder of London-based Century Tech, which offered its product for free to affected students.
Public Policies
Is the government moving fast enough on coronavirus? – podcast
Britain has changed its approach to the coronavirus outbreak after coming under intense pressure as surrounding countries raise their response levels, close schools, shut borders and put in place measures for social distancing. Britain had moved more slowly, with medical experts preparing for the long haul and recommending a more gradual scaling up of policy responses. But yesterday it stepped up its response with a series of new guidelines. The Guardian’s health editor Sarah Boseley has been talking to scientists who defend both approaches and tells Anushka Asthana that a definitive answer is simply not possible, but the pressure is now mounting on the UK to show its modelling data and explain why it is diverging.
Romney proposes sending $1,000 checks to every American to ease coronavirus economic pain
GOP Sen. Mitt Romney proposed on Monday sending every American adult $1,000 to ease the financial pain of the coronavirus pandemic that has tanked global markets and threatens to grind U.S. economic activity to a halt. “While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options,” Romney said in a statement. In an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal published earlier this month, Harvard University economist Jason Furman proposed sending $1,000 to every taxpaying resident or citizen, and $500 to every child.
COVID-19: unravelling the host immune response
Using next-generation sequencing tools, scientists are exploring how SARS-CoV-2 interacts with the immune system to better understand the disease, identify those at higher risk, and minimize its impact.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 17th Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
Can Nextdoor Cure Loneliness?
Loneliness and other pandemic-related factors have catalyzed a mental health crisis across the U.S., contributing to depression and substance abuse. As we do everything the CDC advises to keep our bodies safe, we must remember to protect our mental health as well. This includes combatting loneliness, an underlying issue that could have devastating consequences. Nextdoor is trying to do just that, and its growing popularity is a testament its urgent relevance. The hyper-local social networking app connects people in the same community (common conversation themes include lost cats and restaurant recommendations) and saw massive growth as everyone sequestered in their homes and maybe for the first time realized that... yes, they have neighbors. The platform became a hub for community news and local entertainment during the pandemic, a virtual way to feel intimate connection with those down the block.
Hygiene Helpers
Skin rashes are the ONLY symptoms for one in five Covid-19 patients
21% of people who have Covid develop a rash as their only symptom of infection 17% get a rash first and then get other symptoms later on as disease progresses Rashes show as hives, bumps or swelling and occur across the whole body
Community Activities
Student volunteers team up with council to fight loneliness in York
York students are helping to combat loneliness in the city in a pioneering new initiative. YUSU Nightsafe has teamed up with City of York Council for a project called Door Natters, to help combat isolation during the Covid-19 Pandemic. From the University of York Students’ Union, Nightsafe normally sees volunteers help their fellow students during on nights out. Door Natters sees Nightsafe volunteers pop postcards through people’s doors across York, explaining the scheme. The volunteers then return to look out for postcards placed in windows, telling them if the person living there is vulnerable or lonely and would like a casual chat with a volunteer.
Aston Villa's Neil Taylor encourages BAME community to get coronavirus vaccine
Neil Taylor is urging BAME communities to ignore misinformation about the Covid vaccination program. Speaking in support of a campaign run by the British Red Cross to combat mistrust, the Aston Villa full back, who is of mixed Welsh and Indian descent, said he understood concerns but that the skepticism does not make sense. “We are the ones most at risk, ethnic minorities are more likely to die from this virus than anyone else so for us to be skeptical does not add up. We were all thinking; how on earth have they come up with a vaccine so quickly but it has become clear now it is working. It’s the right thing to do.”
COVID-19: Facebook to label all posts about vaccines with WHO information
Facebook will add labels to all posts about COVID-19 vaccines to show additional information from the World Health Organisation. The move comes amid concerns that misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines may be driving hesitancy in people receiving the jab, potentially putting themselves at risk and prolonging the coronavirus pandemic. In an announcement on Monday, the social media giant said it was working closely with the NHS and global health authorities "to deliver important public health messages quickly, helping people access credible information and get vaccinated."
Raising the curtain again: London theatres prepare to re-open a year on
In an empty London theatre, producer Nica Burns sits among the once buzzing stalls hoping audiences will soon be back for good to watch live performances. A year ago, Burns shut the doors to her six theatres, where shows like “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” and “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” played to crowds in London’s West End, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Twelve months on, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown for England, she is cautiously preparing to re-open them from mid-May.
Working Remotely
Work from home: Here's what remote workers should consider before relocating
Where we work usually plays a major role in where we live. That could mean choosing a house near public transportation or packing up to another state because it’s a hotbed for hiring in your field. But COVID-19 lockdowns have transformed the way we think about work and living. A third of Americans are now working remotely full time, according to a Gallup poll. Compare that to five years ago when just 5% of Americans worked remotely full-time. Maybe you’re considering making a move out of state now that you aren't tethered from a physical office space. Perhaps that’s because you want to save money, live closer to family, or move into a bigger space. Whatever the reason, here are some of the factors you should consider before relocating to another state
5 ways remote work is changing the economy for the better
More than two-thirds of professionals were working remotely during the peak of the pandemic, according to a new report by work marketplace Upwork, and over the next five years, 20% to 25% of professionals will likely be working remotely. Remote working has caused employees to rethink and better accommodate their priorities in life and employers to rethink operations regarding how they can best work with professionals and create teams, the report stated. But it also hasn't been without some downsides, such as blurring the lines between work-life balance and causing increased stress.
Virtual Classrooms
Families of students with disabilities face new challenges in the era of distance learning
This past year has brought massive change for Oregon and Washington students. For students with both intellectual and developmental disabilities, learning at home brings added difficulties for families, as they’re forced to recreate school environments at home, with unfamiliar tools and without receiving services they’re accustomed to. And as schools are ramping up in-person instruction for students, families are concerned that some children have fallen behind and may not get the support to catch back up. OPB stayed in touch with a few families through the difficulties of the last year to learn more about their recent school experience and the decisions they’ll make going forward.
The teens who clean homes during Zoom classes: juggling work and school in the pandemic
In the U.S., for many teens, a year of the coronavirus has meant not only the loss of in-person learning and time with friends, but added shifts at convenience stores and retail shops to help keep their families afloat during the recession. As kids adapt, many of their teachers and schools are improvising as well, extending deadlines and creating new ways to stay in touch. The huge workload is leaving many students stressed out, and some teachers worry they’re in danger of becoming a statistic: the estimated one out of 20 teens who drop out of high school each year, according to federal data. Jay Novelo, a dean at Tyee high school, near Seattle, was hired to handle student discipline. But with schools closed, his main job is keeping tabs on students and encouraging them to not give up on school.
Psychologist Says Virtual Learning Has Left Many Kids Anixous, Overwhelmed
A year into the coronavirus pandemic, doctors say they are seeing an increase in students who are struggling with mental health. Dr. Erica Lee is a psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Kids aren’t really sure how to adapt to remote learning. They can’t pay attention,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of frustration, anxiety, and overwhelmed kids.” Since the pandemic began, the need for mental, behavioral health services has skyrocketed, Lee said, and parents should look for warning signs and some cases seek help.
Public Policies
China approves another COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use
China has approved a new COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, one that was developed by the head of its Center for Disease Control, adding a fifth shot to its arsenal. Gao Fu, the head of China's CDC, led the development of a protein subunit vaccine that was approved by regulators last week for emergency use, the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology said. It is the fifth coronavirus vaccine approved in China and the fourth to be given emergency use approval. The latest vaccine was developed jointly by Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Belgium will continue using AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, task force says
AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, of which other countries have temporarily halted the use due to health risks, will still be administered in Belgium, the Vaccination Task Force confirmed. Earlier in the afternoon, the Superior Health Council had made this decision, based on scientific advice from European and Belgian experts, with which the interministerial conference on public health later agreed. “It would be irresponsible to suspend vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine right now,” said Minister of Public Health, Frank Vandenbroucke.
Canada changes tack, recommends use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in people over 65
Canada’s vaccine advisory panel on Tuesday backed the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 65 and older after initially recommending against it, saying that three recent real-world studies showed the shot to be safe and effective for older adults. Canada has not followed several European countries that suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of serious blood clots following vaccination. A Health Canada official said clots look to be less common, not more common, among people who have been vaccinated.
Boris Johnson faces explosive claims of Covid-19 complacency which led to 'more deaths'
The Prime Minister reportedly suggested the best way to deal with Coronavirus would be to "ignore it" - and there was allegedly talk of encouraging "chicken pox parties" in order to let the virus burn through healthy Brits, creating "herd immunity"
Venezuela won’t authorise AstraZeneca vaccine due to safety fears
Venezuela has announced that it will not authorise AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after several European countries suspended their rollouts of the jab due to possible side effects. “Venezuela will not authorise the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the process of immunising our population due to complications” in vaccinated patients, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on public television on Monday. Venezuela – which began its coronavirus vaccination campaign in February with Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm jabs – had reserved between 1.4 and 2.4 million AstraZeneca doses through the COVAX plan
Thai PM gets AstraZeneca jab, 1 Asian country suspends
Thailand’s prime minister received a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca on Tuesday, as much of Asia shrugged off concerns about reports of blood clots in some recipients in Europe, saying that so far there is no evidence to link the two. Many countries using the vaccine also said the benefits from inoculation far outweighed possible risks, even as parts of Europe suspended it pending investigation of potential side effects. AstraZeneca has developed a manufacturing base in Asia, and the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has been contracted by the company to produce a billion doses of the vaccine for developing nations. Hundreds of millions more are to be manufactured this year in Australia, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.
Maintaining Services
NHS staff who refuse Covid vaccine could be redeployed away from ‘exposure-prone’ settings
NHS hospitals in England could redeploy staff who refuse to get a coronavirus vaccine away from “exposure prone” settings, a new document suggests. The document published by NHS England on Friday, first reported by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), sets out how employers can ensure staff who have declined vaccination are safe at work. It explains that where staff have refused vaccination, effort should be taken to ensure they have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and that they have had a mask fitting.
Further Covid-19 positives in GB team highlight concerns over Olympic travel
The Great Britain athletics team has been hit by nine positive Covid-19 tests, a week after being forced to isolate on their return from the European Indoor Championships in Torun, Poland because a staff member contracted the virus. With more athletes and staff due to be tested today, the situation is causing deep concern among the country’s athletics stars about the potential risks involved in travelling as a team to Tokyo this summer for the Olympic Games. With athletes due to be regularly tested upon arrival at the Olympic Village, another such outbreak could deny athletes the opportunity to compete.
Over-50s set to get call-up for Covid-19 vaccine as supply surge means half of adults will soon be jabbed
All remaining over-50s are set to be offered a Covid-19 vaccine in the coming days with a surge in supply meaning half of all adults will have had a jab by the end of the week. The number of doses being administered across the UK has begun to accelerate rapidly with as many as five million jabs likely to be given out this week – more than twice the rate seen in March so far. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We are expecting that, taking first and second doses together, there will be around 400,000 vaccinations done over the course of this week.” If the other nations of the UK accelerate their own programmes in line with Scotland’s, nearly five million jabs will be given out this week – taking the country past the symbolic milestone of giving a dose to half all those aged 18 or older.
Schools weighing whether to seat students closer together
New evidence that it may be safe for schools to seat students 3 feet apart — half of the previous recommended distance — could offer a way to return more of the nation’s children to classrooms with limited space. Even as more teachers receive vaccinations against COVID-19, social distancing guidelines have remained a major hurdle for districts across the U.S. Debate around the issue flared last week when a study suggested that masked students can be seated as close as 3 feet apart with no increased risk to them or teachers. Published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, the research looked at schools in Massachusetts, which has backed the 3-foot guideline for months. Illinois and Indiana are also allowing 3 feet of distance, and other states such as Oregon are considering doing the same. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now exploring the idea too.
Canada lags in vaccinations but expects to catch up quickly
Canada once was hailed as a success story in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, faring much better than the United States in deaths and infections because of how it approached lockdowns. But the trade-dependent nation has lagged on vaccinating its population because it lacks the ability to manufacture the vaccine and has had to rely on the global supply chain for the lifesaving shots, like many other countries. With no domestic supply, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government bet on seven different vaccines manufactured elsewhere and secured advance purchase agreements. Regulators have approved the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. While acquiring them has proven difficult, that gamble appears to be about to pay off.
Emergent, amid gung-ho COVID-19 production push, eyes upgrade to Canadian vaccine plant: report
Emergent BioSolutions quickly positioned itself as one of the manufacturers to beat in the U.S. fight against COVID-19. Now, the company's laying out plans to upgrade a vaccine facility in Winnipeg—with the help of the Canadian government. Emergent is in talks with Ottawa to fund an expansion of that plant, The Globe and Mail reports. The facility, which employs around 350, is equipped to handle the final manufacturing stages for mRNA, mammalian and microbial drugs—including mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines like those sold by Pfizer and Moderna. The CDMO's Winnipeg plant performs product formulation and fill-finish services, though it doesn't produce drug substance, the news outlet said. Emergent has already pledged current formulation and fill-finish capacity at the plant to local drugmaker Providence Therapeutics, plugging away on an mRNA-based vaccine.
Healthcare Innovations
AstraZeneca vaccine doesn't prevent B1351 COVID in early trial
Two doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine were ineffective against mild-to-moderate infections with the B1351 variant first identified in South Africa, according to a phase 1b-2 clinical trial published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. The double-blind multicenter study, led by scientists at the South African Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit, studied the safety and the efficacy of the AstraZeneca ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine in HIV-negative adults aged 18 to 64 who received either two standard doses of the vaccine or a placebo in a 1:1 ratio 21 to 35 days apart from Jun 24 to Nov 9, 2020. Median follow-up after the second dose was 121 days.
GlaxoSmithKline starts phase III coronavirus vaccine trial with Medicago
GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK) has started Phase 3 clinical testing of a plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Canadian partner Medicago. Takashi Nagao, Medicago’s chief executive, said: "This brings us one step closer to delivering an important new COVID-19 vaccine and contributing to the global fight against the pandemic along with our partner GSK.” Canada-based Medicago said its candidate uses Coronavirus-Like-Particle (CoVLP) technology co-administered with GSK's pandemic adjuvant. Two doses of 3.75μg of CoVLP are administered 21 days apart.
AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine’s Benefits Outweigh Risks, Says EU
The European Union’s top drug regulator said it is still firmly convinced that the benefits of AstraZeneca PLC’s Covid-19 vaccine outweigh the risks, after a string of nations in the bloc temporarily halted use of the shot over blood-clot concerns. The European Medicines Agency so far sees no indication that the vaccine caused a small number of blood-clotting incidents reported across the region, Executive Director Emer Cooke said in a briefing Tuesday. The regulator is currently reviewing those incidents to determine whether they represent a broader risk. Ms. Cooke said the results of the review would be presented Thursday.
mRNA vaccines spur lymph nodes for longer-term protection; COVID-19 test accuracy may vary by time of day
Along with inducing antibodies for immediate defense, mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 also stimulate the lymph nodes to generate immune cells that provide protection over the long term, a new study confirms. The early wave of antibodies are generated by B cells called plasmablasts. In healthy volunteers, blood tests showed that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine induced "a strong plasmablast response," said coauthor Ali Ellebedy of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The immune cells that will produce antibodies upon exposure to the virus in years to come - called memory B cells - are generated by germinal center B cells found only in lymph nodes near vaccine injection sites, his team explained in a paper currently undergoing peer review for possible publication in a Nature journal.
North-east researchers develop 'highly accurate' Covid-19 antibody test
Scientists at the university collaborated with NHS Grampian and the firm Vertebrate Antibodies Ltd to develop the prototype. They describe the new test as “highly accurate, affordable, suitable for mass rollout” – while it also does not require specialised laboratories. Covid-19 antibody – sometimes called serology – tests confirm whether a person has previously had coronavirus. They can be used to manage the pandemic by monitoring how many people have had the virus and how it is spreading. The tests can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of vaccines, population immunity and the impact of new strains of the disease.
Moderna Starts Covid-19 Vaccine Trial In Kids Younger Than 12 Years Old
Biotech company Moderna announced today that it has given the first doses of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine to young children as part of a new study to test how effective the vaccine is in kids.
FDA orders COVID antibody makers Regeneron, Eli Lilly to track virus variants
Emerging coronavirus variants could pose threats to existing monoclonal antibodies and vaccines, and the FDA’s taken note, revising its emergency use authorizations to Eli Lilly’s and Regeneron’s drugs. In edited letters of authorization re-issued in late February and early March, the FDA’s asking the two companies to monitor new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus behind COVID-19 and potentially conduct additional tests of their authorized antibody drugs against variants. The update came as evidence points to increased resistance of emerging coronavirus variants, especially the B.1.351 version first identified in South Africa, to antibody therapies. The letters, first reported by Endpoints, were for existing EUAs for Lilly’s bamlanivimab (PDF) and its combo (PDF) with etesevimab, and Regeneron’s cocktail (PDF) of casirivimab and imdevimab, in mild-to-moderate COVID-19 patients with high risk of disease progression in the outpatient setting.
Long Covid more common in women and children and lasts for months, warns latest review
Lasting effects of infection from coronavirus are more common in women and children than expected, with at least 10 per cent of people infected suffering persistent symptoms for months, a new review has found. Experts at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) examined more than 300 separate scientific studies for the analysis. It found many patients reported struggling to access testing and help from the NHS to treat their symptoms, which varied between patients, suggesting long Covid is a group of four possible syndromes affecting patients differently. The report said: “Long Covid appears to be more frequent in women and in young people (including children) than might have been expected,” adding other sufferers could be experiencing an active disease, impacting on their organs and causing debilitating symptoms that would need ongoing treatment. In some patients, the effects included neurological changes in their brains while others showed signs of blood clotting and inflammation. Other patients reported anxiety, fatigue and damage to their lungs and heart.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 18th Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Welcomes Australia Tourists in Reopening
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is making a play for Australian tourists as she prepares to open the border to foreigners for the first time in more than two years. Appearing on Australian breakfast shows on Friday, Ardern said New Zealanders will welcome back Australians with open arms when the border opens to them on April 13, despite the friendly rivalry between the two nations.
Germany to lift most COVID restrictions
Germany will lift most restrictions to contain the coronavirus despite infections hitting a record in the country on Thursday. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said after talks with leaders of Germany's 16 states that a record of almost 300,000 infections in one day was not good news, but the easing of restrictions was justified given intensive care units were not overwhelemed. As of March 20, requirements to wear a mask will be dropped in indoor places like schools and at supermarkets but will remain mandatory in medical clinics and care homes.
Italy to announce plan to scrap COVID restrictions
The Italian government was set to announce a two-step plan on Thursday scrapping most of its coronavirus restrictions as the country nears the end of its state of emergency. Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government was to meet to approve a plan to soften the curbs, a cabinet statement said. Draghi and Health Minister Roberto Speranza will hold a news conference afterwards to detail the decisions.
Cambodia drops COVID testing requirements for overseas visitors
Cambodia on Thursday dispensed with a requirement for visitors from overseas to take COVID-19 tests, as the country moved ahead of most neighbours by relaxing most restrictions to spur more investment and tourism, officials said. The Southeast Asian country has vaccinated 92.31% of its population of 16 million against the coronavirus, one of the highest vaccination rates in the region, official data shows
S.Korea looks to end COVID restrictions despite record surge in cases, deaths
South Korea recorded a record 621,328 new daily COVID-19 cases and a daily record 429 deaths, authorities said on Thursday, as the country which once took an aggressive anti-pandemic approach is set to end COVID restrictions. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the highly infectious Omicron variant was driving the record wave of infections and while a public survey revealed many expected to catch the virus, few feared serious health consequences.
Hong Kong leader to review COVID restrictions in coming days
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Thursday she would review COVID restrictions in the coming days, as she understands people are increasingly impatient with rules that have isolated the international financial centre and hurt business. Restrictions, including a ban on flights from nine countries such as Britain and the United States, a quarantine of up to 14 days for people arriving in Hong Kong, a ban on face-to-face classes and the closings of gyms and most public venues, have frustrated many residents in the city of 7.4 million. Speaking at a regular COVID-19 media briefing, Lam said she would provide an update around March 20-21 rather than wait for the restrictions to expire on April 20.
China’s Shenzhen to reopen, still trying to contain virus
Companies in Shenzhen, a major Chinese business center, will be allowed to reopen while efforts to contain coronavirus outbreaks progress, the government said Thursday, following a citywide shutdown that rattled financial markets. Testing of everyone in the city of 17.5 million people is “progressing smoothly,” said a deputy mayor, Huang Qiang, at a news conference. He said 71 new cases were found in the 24 hours through midnight Wednesday. China’s case numbers in its latest wave of outbreaks in areas throughout the country are relatively low. But authorities are enforcing a “zero tolerance” strategy that has temporarily shut down major cities to find isolate every infected person.
Hygiene Helpers
How One Country Is Beating Covid Despite 600000 New Cases a Day
South Korea has reached two seemingly contradictory pandemic milestones: It recorded more than 600,000 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, the most of anywhere in the world. At the same time, the country has one of the lowest virus death rates globally. While anywhere else an infection surge of this size would signal an out-of-control outbreak soon to be followed by a spike in fatalities, in South Korea -- which is about the size of Indiana -- the picture is more complex. The sky-high caseload reflects the nation’s consistent deployment of mass testing, largely abandoned by many places as Covid becomes endemic but a key reason behind Korea’s sliding death rate, according to its virus fighters.
Community Activities
Doctors urge Boris Johnson to do better on global Covid-19 vaccine drive
More than 130 leading NHS clinicians and several medical bodies have called on the government to step up funding for the global Covid vaccine drive, saying Britain’s failure to do so is condemning poorer nations to an “ongoing pandemic”. In a letter to Boris Johnson, shared with The Independent, they say government must “play a bigger role in achieving the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 70 per cent global vaccination target by July 2022”. Key signatories include the presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of GPs.
WHO says global rise in COVID cases is 'tip of the iceberg'
Figures showing a global rise in COVID-19 cases could herald a much bigger problem as some countries also report a drop in testing rates, the WHO said on Tuesday, warning nations to remain vigilant against the virus. After more than a month of decline, COVID cases started to increase around the world last week, the WHO said, with lockdowns in Asia and China's Jilin province battling to contain an outbreak. A combination of factors was causing the increases, including the highly transmissible Omicron variant and its BA.2 sublineage, and the lifting of public health and social measures, the WHO said.
Working Remotely
The 'ghost colleagues' of the remote workplace
More than two years since the start of the health crisis, fewer than 30% of knowledge workers around the world are working from the office every day. That means that many employees are interacting with far fewer co-workers than at their desks. A 2021 Microsoft study of its own staff showed switching to remote work meant “employees didn’t just change who they worked with, but also how they worked with them”. At the company, business groups (such as work teams) and informal communities (such as friendship groups) became less connected; people in different groups connected with each other 25% less than before the pandemic. Groups also became static, as workers hung on to existing connections instead of making new ones.
Home working 'helps to attract staff but not keep them'
Working-from-home policies are helping companies to attract new staff but could be harming their chances of retaining them, a survey has found. Nearly three quarters of companies whose staff mostly work onsite say they have found it more challenging than usual to recruit, compared to half of employers whose staff mostly work from home. Four fifths of employers that operate completely remotely, however, reported an increase in resignations, compared to half of employers with staff who never work from home, according to the survey from CIPHR, an HR software company. Tamara Littleton, founder and chief executive of The Social Element, a social media marketing agency with 250 staff who all work remotely, said that staff retention had become more difficult in the past two years.
The demand for flexible work 'will only accelerate' in coming years as workers feel more empowered
In the past two years, work has changed tremendously as many people shifted to remote work, went through a career change, or quit working altogether. One thing that seems to be favored amongst most workers, however, is flexibility. According to Nick Lillios, CEO of Nowsta, a workforce management platform, 2022 is the year for flex work. In 2020, many Americans were forced into hybrid and remote work models after the start of the coronavirus pandemic. And according to a recent report from Apollo Technical, an IT and engineering agency, 72% of workers now prefer a flexible work model over returning to office full-time.
Virtual Classrooms
Digital teaching materials: moving away from print for better results
Waste paper is often discarded in classrooms, and Microsoft Word-based worksheets tend not to be particularly engaging, especially during online teaching periods. Moreover, interactive questions, audio and video can’t be included in printed materials. HTML 5 packages (H5P) provide a new way to create rich interactive content within learning management systems such as Moodle, Canvas and Blackboard. Content types include multiple-choice questions, gap fills, drag and drop, interactive video, parallax presentations and many more. An interactive book allows many of the content types to be embedded in a comprehensive browser-based workbook.
Universities’ online teaching and ‘blended learning’ to be reviewed
In the UK, the quality of online teaching and “blended learning” at universities is set to be reviewed, over fears that students’ poor experiences of online learning during the pandemic may have undermined the potential of mixing face-to-face lectures with online study. The Office for Students (OfS) has launched a review to explore how universities are delivering blended learning, which will aim to give students and applicants information on whether the elements of their courses taught online are of a high enough quality.
Public Policies
Chinese President Vows to Control Covid Outbreak With Smallest Cost
As other countries have moved away from lockdowns and social distancing, Beijing has touted the success of its draconian measures in keeping the number of cases low, despite a mounting toll on its people and economy. However, Chinese officials have scrambled to boost confidence in the Chinese economy as the more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus has prompted a surge in cases. The costs of fighting outbreaks add to recent headwinds, as Mr. Xi’s campaign of regulatory tightening last year has slowed economic momentum more than expected. The geopolitical crisis over the war in Ukraine, and the potential costs to China of its recent alignment with Russia, have also rattled investors’ nerves. In a Thursday meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist Party’s top decision-making body, Mr. Xi asked officials to minimize the impact on the Chinese economy and people’s lives from Covid-19 control measures, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
White House Names Next Covid-19 Response Chief as Jeff Zients Steps Down
Jeff Zients, who has led the White House’s Covid-19 response for more than a year, will be leaving the job in April and be replaced by Dr. Ashish Jha as the Biden administration navigates a new strategy for the next phase of the pandemic. The change in leadership underscores that the administration sees its Covid-19 response as less a reaction to the virus and more of a continuing public-health situation. Dr. Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a well-known public-health leader, has championed many of the measures the administration has used to combat Covid-19. Mr. Zients, an investor and former Obama administration economic adviser, was brought in to lead the White House’s pandemic response in part because of his reputation for fixing or taking on challenging situation
Countries Try to Win Support for Deal to Waive Patent Protections on Covid-19 Vaccines
After 18 months of fierce debate, a group of countries, including the U.S., has reached an agreement to waive patent protections on Covid-19 vaccines. Now they are racing to get other countries to support the deal at the World Trade Organization, officials involved in the discussions said. The U.S. and the European Union have reached a compromise with South Africa and India that would allow developing countries to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines without the permission of the holder of the intellectual-property rights. It also would set a precedent for future pandemics.
Moderna to deliver 70 million Covid-19 booster vaccine doses to Japan
Moderna has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan for delivering an additional 70 million doses of its Covid-19 booster vaccine or an updated booster vaccine candidate. The modified booster vaccine candidate will be supplied on obtaining authorisation in the region. The company intends to supply the vaccine doses to Japan in the second half of this year.
WHO postpones evaluation of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine
The World Health Organization said Wednesday its evaluation of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has been postponed for the time being, due to the "uneven situation." WHO vaccines expert Dr. Mariangela Simao said at a press briefing that the UN health agency's officials had originally been scheduled to visit Russia on March 7 — just weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine — to assess the facilities where Sputnik V is produced. "These inspections were postponed for a later date," Simao said. "The assessment, along with inspections, have been affected because of the situation.
Covid-19: Pfizer asks US regulator to authorise fourth vaccine dose for over 65s
Pfizer and BioNTech have applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorisation for a fourth dose of its mRNA vaccine against covid-19 for adults aged 65 and older. The companies said that the additional dose reduced the rates of infection and severe illness in older adults. In a press release they said that they were seeking the new approval for adults over 65 who had received an initial booster of any of the authorised or approved covid-19 vaccines. Pfizer-BioNTech said that the request was based on “two real-world data sets from Israel analyzed at a time when the Omicron variant was widely circulating. These data showed evidence that an additional mRNA booster increases immunogenicity and lowers rates of confirmed infections and severe illness.” The companies said that an analysis of Israeli Ministry of Health records was conducted on over 1.1 million adults aged 60 and over who had no known history of SARS-CoV-2 infection and were eligible for a fourth vaccine dose. They wrote, “These data showed rates of confirmed infections were two times lower and rates of severe illness were four times lower among individuals who received an additional booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine administered at least four months after an initial booster (third) dose compared to those who received only one booster dose.”
UK approves AstraZeneca's antibody-based COVID treatment
Britain's medicines regulator has approved AstraZeneca's antibody-based COVID-19 treatment for preventing infections in adults with poor immune response, marking a major step in the fight against the pandemic as infections surge globally. The decision to grant approval for the treatment, Evusheld, was endorsed by the government's independent scientific advisory body, Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said on Thursday. Figures showing a global rise in COVID-19 cases could herald a much bigger problem, the World Health Organization said this week, warning nations to remain vigilant.
Maintaining Services
Rising Covid cases mean we need to stay vigilant, but vaccines mean we don't need to panic
You’d think, now that there’s a war on, that we’ve had enough of pestilence. One horseman of the apocalypse at a time, please. But, inconsiderately, it appears that Covid-19 cases in the UK are on the rise again. Not anywhere near the levels of the Omicron peak two months ago, when about 200,000 new cases were being detected a day, but we are seeing as many cases as we did during the second wave in January 2021, and numbers are still going up. It’s reasonable to worry about it, and we should definitely keep an eye on it. But we don’t need to panic.
Scientists fear U.K. is easing coronavirus testing and monitoring too soon
After dropping nearly all coronavirus restrictions last month, Britain is now ending some of its most widespread testing and monitoring programs, a move some scientists fear will complicate efforts to track the virus and detect worrisome new variants. Officials have largely dismissed those concerns, despite a recent uptick in cases across Europe, insisting that high immunization rates will help dampen future waves of disease. Based on how quickly new variants have arisen, some experts suggest the next one could arrive as early as May. They warn that U.K. authorities should be using the time to prepare, rather than winding down their pandemic defenses. Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, called it “an unfortunate pattern” that has been seen repeatedly throughout the outbreak.
Generic drugmakers sign on to make cheap version of Pfizer COVID pill
Thirty five generic drugmakers around the world will make cheap versions of Pfizer Inc's highly effective COVID-19 oral antiviral Paxlovid to supply the treatment in 95 poorer countries, the U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) said on Thursday. Pfizer struck a deal last year with the group to allow generic drugmakers to make the pills for 95 low- and middle-income countries. They have been working since then to select the drugmakers they will license. Paxlovid is expected to be an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 after it reduced hospitalizations in high-risk patients by around 90% in a clinical trial. The results were significantly better than those for Merck & Co's rival antiviral pill molnupiravir in its clinical trial.
Healthcare Innovations
Severe COVID-19 tied to long-term depression, anxiety
A new observational follow-up study in six European countries published in The Lancet Public Health links severe COVID-19 to long-term depression and anxiety. University of Iceland at Reykjavik researchers led the study, which analyzed symptoms of depression, anxiety, COVID-related stress, and poor sleep quality among 247,249 adults, 4% of whom were diagnosed as having COVID-19 from Mar 27, 2020, to Aug 13, 2021. Participants, who were followed up for as long as 16 months (average, 5.7), lived in Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, or the United Kingdom. Most severely ill COVID-19 patients recuperated at home, but some spent time in a hospital.
COVID-19 Vaccine Produced by Yeast Could Increase Accessibility
In a new paper, the researchers report that the vaccine, which comprises fragments of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein arrayed on a virus-like particle, elicited a strong immune response and protected animals against viral challenge. The vaccine was designed so that it can be produced by yeast, using fermentation facilities that already exist around the world. The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, is now producing large quantities of the vaccine and plans to run a clinical trial in Africa. “There's still a very large population that does not have access to Covid vaccines. Protein-based subunit vaccines are a low-cost, well-established technology that can provide a consistent supply and is accepted in many parts of the world,” says J. Christopher Love, the Raymond A. and Helen E. St. Laurent Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard.
Fourth vaccine offers little protection against COVID-19 - study
The fourth coronavirus vaccine has shown to offer little protection against the coronavirus, a new study released by Sheba Medical Center has shown. The study, published by The New England Journal of Medicine, examines the efficacy of the fourth coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna. The interim results released show that the vaccine offers little to no protection against contracting the virus when compared to young and healthy individuals vaccinated with three doses. However, the vaccine did prove to provide moderate protection against symptomatic infection among young and healthy individuals in comparison to those inoculated three times.
Altered immune cells in lungs may cause breathlessness after Covid-19
A study has found abnormal immune cells in the lungs of patients with persistent breathlessness months after a Covid-19 infection. The altered immune cells in the airways are thought to cause ongoing lung damage. The research was undertaken by scientists at Imperial College London and involved people who had been previously hospitalised with Covid-19. The findings, published in Immunity, suggest that recovery from Covid-19 infection might be accelerated by treatments that dampen the immune system and reduce inflammation. Professor Pallav Shah, a joint senior author of the study from Imperial College, said: ‘These findings suggest that persistent breathlessness in our group of Covid-19 patients is being caused by failure to turn off the immune response, which leads to airway inflammation and injury.’

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 18th Mar 2020

COVID19 News Highlights

  • The head of the Australian Medical Students' Assocation suggested integrating the country's medical students into the fight against coronavirus
  • T-Mobile says it plans to ramp up bandwidth and speeds for customers as the coronavirus forces them to work remotely from home
  • In Argentina, teaching educational software company GOSchool is offering its virtual classroom services to schools across the country for free
  • Nature Medicine says researchers have found the novel SARS-CoV2 virus, commonly referred to as CVID19, is a product of natural evolutionary selection and is not a laboratory construct or purposefully manipulated
  • In Italy, an experiment in aggressive testing for coronavirus of all 3,300 inhabitants of the town of Vo, near Venice, regardless of symptoms, has helped completely stop the spread of the illness
  • CBS News reported that the Executive Director of the U.S. National Nurses United, Bonnie Castillo, said that 'nurses are being asked to reuse masks due to shortages'
  • Israeli scientists at the IIBR believe they've completed the initial phase of a vaccine for COVID-19, though, a number of trials still have to be conducted before it could be deemed as safe
  • A combination of two anti-HIV drugs have proved successful in coronavirus positive cases in Rajasthan
  • An academic study indicates that over the counter anti-malaria med Chloroquine may be highly effective at treating the coronavirus
  • Dutch scientists say they have found an antibody against COVID19 at Erasmus MC and Utrecht University
  • UK doctors are criticising the government for not letting the NHS test staff
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary said that the U.S. could see a global unemployment rate of 20% as coronavirus plunges the economy into a recession
  • In Italy, there are the first signs of a slowing down in the rate of spread in the coronavirus
Community Action
'A potential solution': Training doctors ready to join fight
Australia’s 17,000 medical students are ready to join the coronavirus fight, the head of the Medical Students’ Association says, but must be integrated carefully to avoid long-term damage to patients and the health system.As Australia prepares for a worst-case scenario of 15 million coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday announced 20,000 student nurses would enter the workforce immediately.
To Track Virus, Governments Weigh Surveillance Tools That Push Privacy Limits
As the country scrambles to control the rapidly spreading coronavirus, government agencies are putting in place or considering a range of tracking and surveillance technologies that test the limits of personal privacy. The technologies include everything from geolocation tracking that can monitor the locations of people through their phones to facial-recognition systems that can analyze photos to determine who might have come into contact with individuals who later tested positive for the virus, according to people familiar with the matter. Data-mining firm Palantir Inc., which was credited with helping to find Osama bin Laden, is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to model the virus outbreak. Other companies that scrape public social-media data have contracts in place with the agency and the National Institutes of Health, documents show.
Giant Stores In Maryland Modify Hours, Add Time For Older Adults
The grocery store chain with 91 stores in Maryland is changing some of its operations due to the new coronavirus - with time set aside to allow the elderly and most vulnerable the chance to shop first thing
What’s the Risk of Coronavirus to Pregnant Women? Gynaecs Explain
Dr Priya Jayachandran, who works in Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital in Chennai, however, tells The Quint that while studies are yet to be conducted on this, expectant mothers are generally at a higher risk of contracting respiratory diseases. “Pregnant women sometimes have low immunity and need more oxygen than women who are not pregnant. This makes them susceptible to respiratory infections like flu. While there is no need to panic, expecting mothers should take precautions.”
Working Remotely
Chinese students flock home as coronavirus shuts Western campuses
Packed onto a plane full of fellow Chinese students heading home from the United States, 20-year-old Harvard University undergraduate Roger Zhang wore goggles to ward off the coronavirus for hours until they became just too uncomfortable. Zhang is among tens of thousands of overseas Chinese students making the journey back to China, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, as fears of it grip Western countries and schools and campuses shut their gates. "I can't predict the future, but it has seemed relatively more under control in China," the Shenzhen native told Reuters.
T-Mobile has a plan to temporarily hike the speed of its 4G LTE and 5G networks during the crisis
With the coronavirus forcing adults to work from home and students to stream virtual lessons, T-Mobile expects demand for its network capacity to rise sharply causing traffic bottlenecks and slower data speeds. To prevent excess traffic from slowing its 4G LTE data speeds, T-Mobile is borrowing 600MHz spectrum to increase capacity. By renting the additional 600MHz spectrum, T-Mobile will increase its 4G LTE capacity allowing those working or studying from home to experience faster data speeds than they might have otherwise had to deal with. And with T-Mobile possibly using the borrowed 600MHz holdings for both 4G LTE and 5G, the additional airwaves are very much welcome especially in markets where it can be quickly put to use. The companies loaning the spectrum to T-Mobile include Bluewater; Channel 51; Comcast; Dish; Grain Management affiliate NewLevel, LLC; LB Holdings and Omega Wireless, LLC. This list includes half of the 10 largest holders of 600MHz spectrum in the U.S. The spectrum will be borrowed by T-Mobile for a period of 60 days.
Coronavirus, what are the necessary protocols to follow for work? What are the best recommendations for businesses, what rules must employees follow
Il Fatto Quotidiano lists and explains the 13-point worker protocol backed by the government, unions and business - which details safety best practices for employees during the current coronacrisis
Virtual Classrooms
Faced with the suspension of teaching educational software company GoSchool offers its virtual classroom services for free to schools across the country
With the measures being implemented by the national government in the face of the advance of the Covid-19 coronavirus, leading to the suspension of classes at different educational levels throughout Argentina, many now realise they need to turn to virtual classrooms and teaching. Although there are free resources, the platforms have a certain complexity for those who are not accustomed to their use, which generates a predisposition on paid services. In this framework, a Mendoza-based company, GoSchool, dedicated to improving and streamlining academic management, has decided to offer its virtual classroom software at no cost to schools and teachers across the country to face quarantine.
Coronavirus in Argentina: virtual classrooms, apps and social networks so that the children are up to date while there are no classes
Coronavirus in Argentina: virtual classrooms, apps and social networks so that the children are up to date while there are no classes. Some schools are already sending content and activities online, but in many others the implementation of virtual classrooms has been delayed. As another prevention measure against the advance of the coronavirus , which in Argentina has already caused two deaths and more than 50 infections, the national government announced several prevention measures on Sunday night, including the suspension of classes until 31 of March.
In Uruguay, ANEP and Ceibal have created a virtual classroom to cover classes for two weeks
The National Administration of Public Education ( ANEP ) reported that during the two-week suspension of classes, by government decision to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, the educational centers will remain open with four-hour shifts in administrative, management, service or teacher support. Meanwhile, the 1,026 rural schools across the country will remain closed. For this reason, ANEP together with Ceibal have created a virtual classroom so that the children can take advantage of the time on these days and talking to a teacher is encouraged. It will be switched on from this Tuesday; and although there is no obligation to enter the website, families are encouraged to get their children to use it during the suspension of classes.
Healthcare Innovations
Researchers say COVID-19 product of ‘natural evolution’ not a ‘laboratory construct’
According to the journal Nature Medicine, researchers have found that the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus, also commonly referred to as COVID-19, is a product of natural evolutionary selection and is not a “laboratory construct or purposefully manipulated” coronavirus. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. The new research into the origins of the virus comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has infected more than 190,000 people globally, killing more than 7,500 around the world. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in all 50 states in the U.S.
Lessons From Italy’s Hospital Meltdown. ‘Every Day You Lose, the Contagion Gets Worse.’
The coronavirus is pushing a wealthy region with high-tech health care toward a humanitarian disaster. The coronavirus is devastating Bergamo and pushing a wealthy region with high-tech health care toward a humanitarian disaster, a warning for the U.S. and other developed countries. The city’s experience shows how even advanced economies and state-of-the-art hospitals must change social behaviors and prepare defenses ahead of a pandemic that is upending the rules.
Medical company threatens to sue volunteers that 3D-printed valves for life-saving coronavirus treatments
A medical device manufacturer has threatened to sue a group of volunteers in Italy that 3D printed a valve used for life-saving coronavirus treatments. The valve typically costs about $11,000 from the medical device manufacturer, but the volunteers were able to print replicas for about $1. A hospital in Italy was in need of the valves after running out while treating patients for COVID-19. The hospital’s usual supplier said they could not make the valves in time to treat the patients, according to Metro. That launched a search for a way to 3D print a replica part, and Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli, who work at Italian startup Isinnova, offered their company’s printer for the job
Aggressive testing helps Italian town cut new coronavirus cases to zero
An infection control experiment that was rolled out in a small Italian community at the start of Europe’s coronavirus crisis has stopped all new infections in the town that was at the centre of the country’s outbreak. Through testing and retesting of all 3,300 inhabitants of the town of Vò, near Venice, regardless of whether they were exhibiting symptoms, and rigorous quarantining of their contacts once infection was confirmed, health authorities have been able to completely stop the spread of the illness there.
MetroHealth Medical Center can now test COVID-19 samples, results available in 2 hours
MetroHealth Medical Center becomes the first hospital in the state that can now test COVID-19 samples at its laboratory with results available after just two hours. MetroHealth President Akram Boutros said supplies are limited and the hospital is working with its vendors to obtain the supplies needed to expand testing.
Coronavirus cases have dropped sharply in South Korea. What’s the secret to its success?
South Korea has emerged as a sign of hope and a model to emulate. The country of 50 million appears to have greatly slowed its epidemic; it reported only 74 new cases today, down from 909 at its peak on 29 February. And it has done so without locking down entire cities or taking some of the other authoritarian measures that helped China bring its epidemic under control. Behind its success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts. South Korea has tested more than 270,000 people, which amounts to more than 5200 tests per million inhabitants—more than any other country except tiny Bahrain, according to the Worldometer website. The United States has so far carried out 74 tests per 1 million inhabitants, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
Coronavirus pandemic straining medical supplies, forcing nurses to reuse masks with "no protection"
As hospitals across the U.S. brace for a surge in patients, health care workers say the protective measures taken over the next few weeks will be critical, according to CBS News' Carter Evans. Some government leaders worry the coronavirus pandemic could stretch hospitals to their breaking point while medical equipment shortages threaten to put doctors, nurses and patients at risk. "Nurses are being asked to actually reuse masks, including surgical masks, which provide no protection," Executive Director of National Nurses United Bonnie Castillo said. She told CBS News that one of the group's main concerns is a shortage of N-95 masks, which filter out 95% of airborne particles. Last week, the CDC posted new guidelines saying health care workers could use looser-fitting surgical masks as "an acceptable alternative."
How U.S. coronavirus testing stalled: Flawed tests, red tape and resistance to using the millions of tests produced by the WHO
When Olfert Landt heard about the novel coronavirus, he got busy. Founder of a small Berlin-based company, the ponytailed 54-year-old first raced to help German researchers come up with a diagnostic test and then spurred his company to produce and ship more than 1.4 million tests by the end of February for the World Health Organization. “My wife and I have been working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, ever since,” Landt said by phone about 1 a.m. Friday, Berlin time. “Our days are full.” By contrast, over the same critical period, U.S. efforts to distribute tests ground nearly to a halt, and the country’s inability to produce them left public health officials with limited means to determine where and how fast the virus was spreading. From mid-January until Feb. 28, fewer than 4,000 tests from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were used out of more 160,000 produced.
Israeli Scientists to Announce Development of Coronavirus Vaccine
Over 50 experienced PhD scientists from the Israel Institute for Biological research (IIBR; Ness-Ziona, Israel) are working to produce a vaccine and antibody for the novel coronavirus. ccording to reports, scientists at IIBR have had a significant breakthrough in understanding the biological mechanism and qualities of the coronavirus and are expected to announce the completion of the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. However, a number of pre-clinical and clinical trials will have to be conducted for months before the vaccination can be deemed as effective or safe to use. Nevertheless, in view of the global emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, the trials could be accelerated to vaccinate a majority of the people who are at the highest risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Combination of two anti-HIV drugs proved crucial in Coronavirus treatment, Rajasthan official
A combination of two anti-HIV drugs has proved crucial in the treatment of coronavirus positive cases, a senior official of the Rajasthan government said. Additional Chief Secretary (Medical and Health) Rohit Kumar Singh said the patients' condition improved after they were administered the anti-HIV drugs. Three of the four patients in the state have now been declared coronavirus-free. Singh said the first two patients tested positive for the virus were an Italian couple "Their symptoms were flu-like so they were initially given anti-malaria and anti-swine flu drugs," he said. "All this while, our doctors were in touch with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Drug Controller General of India. Since the structure of coronavirus is similar to that of HIV to some extent, so they tried a combination of the two anti-HIV drugs," he added.
New academic study reveals over-the-counter anti-malaria med Chloroquine may be highly effective at treating coronavirus
There is good news today that an existing anti-viral medication may be effective at treating the COVID-19. According to a new academic study presented by Thomas R. Broker, (Stanford PhD), James M. Todaro (Columbia MD), and Gregory J. Rigano, Esq., in consultation with Stanford University School of Medicine, UAB School of Medicine, and National Academy of Sciences researchers, shows that over the counter anti-malaria pills Chloroquine may be highly effective at treating coronavirus COVID-19.
Unique discovery in Erasmus MC: antibody against corona
A world premiere from Erasmus MC and Utrecht University: they found an antibody against COVID-19. The scientific publication of the group of ten scientists is ready for assessment by the leading journal Nature. In the summary, the scientists describe an antibody to SARS2, the coronavirus causing the current pandemic (COVID-19). The antibody can help detect and prevent this type of corona infection. It is a world’s first. Disclaimer: The antibody still has to be tested on humans (and this will take months) and the article is under peer review before Nature will publish it. But Grosveld is hopeful: “We expect an email any moment”, says the Spinoza Prize winner in his lab on the tenth floor.
People with Type A blood are significantly more likely to catch coronavirus according to Chinese outbreak study
People with Type A blood are significantly more likely to catch coronavirus than those with Type O, Chinese academics have found. The study in Wuhan - the epicentre of the disease - also found those with Type A blood are more likely to die from COVID-19. In the general population Type O blood (34%) is more common than A (32%). However, among COVID-19 patients, people with Type O accounted for just 25%, whereas Type A made up 41%. People with Type O blood made up a quarter (25 per cent) of deaths in the research. Normally, Type O people make up 32 per cent of people in Wuhan. The controversial correlation has yet to be scrutinised by other academics in peer review and the researchers are unable to explain why infection varies by blood type.
Dutch researchers find antibody which may lead to anti-corona medicine
Researchers from the University of Utrecht and the Erasmus medical centre have developed a human antibody which, they say ‘offers potential for prevention and treatment of COVID-19’. It is important not to give false hope but the discovery is promising, research leader Berend-Jan Bosch says on the UU website. ‘But it is still too soon to speculate about its eventual working on people.’ The research is currently awaiting peer review before it can be published in the prestigious science journal Nature. The researchers are now trying to get a pharmaceutical company on board that can produce the antibody on a large scale as a medicine.
Doctors push for treatment of coronavirus with blood from recovered patients
In the absence of vaccines or antiviral drugs, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore say the key to slowing and treating the coronavirus might be hidden in the blood of those who’ve already recovered from the disease. The method of using “convalescent serum” — essentially harvesting virus-fighting antibodies from the blood of previously infected patients — dates back more than a century, but has not been used widely in the United States in decades. During the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, scientists reported that transfusions of blood products obtained from survivors led to a 50 percent drop in deaths among severely ill patients. A similar strategy was used to treat and slow the spread of polio and measles outbreaks decades ago, but the technique fell out of favor in the 1950s with the innovation of modern vaccine science and antiviral drugs, said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of the molecular microbiology and immunology department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
China closes makeshift hospitals as virus cases plunge
China has closed most of the makeshift hospitals opened to receive coronavirus patients in the epidemic's epicentre as the number of new infections in the country hit a record low. There were 40 new cases nationwide, the National Health Commission said Monday, the lowest number of fresh cases since it started reporting the data in January. Most of the new cases, as well as 22 new deaths, were in Hubei, the central province at the epicentre of the outbreak. The deaths -- which were all in Hubei except one -- bring the country's toll to 3,119.
Isolation Tips
Household isolation, social distancing and shielding – who should do what and for how long?
Household isolation - If anyone is symptomatic – with a high temperature or a continuous cough – the whole household should stay at home for 14 days to avoid the spread of infection. Who needs to undertake “social distancing” measures? Everyone has been asked to undertake social distancing measures to delay the spread of the virus. People who live alone should isolate themselves for seven days.
Coronavirus emergency kit: Social distancing to flatten the curve
According to the WHO, the most common symptoms are fever, fatigue and a dry cough. Some patients may experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. Current estimates of the incubation period - the amount of time between infection and the onset of symptoms - range from one to 14 days. Most infected people show symptoms within five to six days. However, infected patients can also be asymptomatic, not displaying symptoms despite having the virus in their system. The elderly, and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
Coronavirus empties out Berlin's public spaces
The coronavirus pandemic is throttling social and cultural life in Germany's public spaces. Chancellor Angela Merkel's message to the nation to reduce travel, stay at home and keep social distance is also being heeded in Berlin.
Coronavirus: "Social distancing" visualizations on the Internet
For some people, especially children, it is difficult to understand why we suddenly have to isolate ourselves socially in times of Corona. Animations in social networks explain why this is so important.
Hygiene Helpers
How do I know if I have coronavirus?
People who are showing particular symptoms are being told to self-isolate in order to stop the coronavirus from spreading further. If you have a fever or a persistant cough, you and the rest of your household have to remain at home for 14 days and have food and medicine delivered to you. But how do you know if you’re just ill, feeling a bit ropey or if you have the symptoms of coronavirus? What do the symptoms of coronavirus feel like? BBC News’ Health and Science Reporter, Laura Foster, takes a look.
‘There is a policy of surrender’: doctor on UK’s Covid-19 failures
Mark Gallagher, a consultant cardiologist, is at home with a temperature of 38 and is pretty certain he has Covid-19. But the NHS will not test him for it. Instead, he has paid for a test kit from a private UK clinic and a colleague in China is sending him another. Gallagher has been in and out of his London hospital every day for the last 28 in a row. In the past couple of weeks he saw maybe 70 people in outpatients, he said. He cannot understand why the NHS will not test him or other healthcare workers who are put at risk by their work and risk infecting other vulnerable patients in turn, as well as their families. “The policy is that I don’t need to be tested and even the people who have been in contact with me aren’t going to be tested,” he said.
Public Policies
Global recession begins: A FIFTH of US workers have already lost wages due to coronavirus
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has reportedly warned that the US could see an unemployment rate of 20 per cent as the coronavirus plunges the economy into a recession. On Tuesday, it was revealed that a global recession has already begun due to the spread of COVID-19 as major companies begin laying off employees worldwide and a fifth of US workers say that they have already lost wages due to the crisis.
Museums Association Urges UK to Launch Emergency Fund with $145M Earmarked for Brexit Festival
“We are calling for an emergency fund to be created to support museums through this difficult period,” Sharon Heal, director of MA, told the Art Newspaper. “The government had earmarked £120m for a ‘festival of Britain’ in 2022; we believe this should now be made available to support museums at risk of permanent closure as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.” The organization is also asking for clarity regarding the safety measures the government is implementing—specifically whether institutions are being asked to close or ordered to close—and demanding that the UK do more to protect culture workers whose livelihoods are at risk following the shuttering of arts museums and businesses for what could be weeks or months. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a speech on Monday, March 16, informing the public that stricter public health measures need to be taken including the limiting of social contact and mass gatherings. The speech presumably led major UK institutions—including the British Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Tate galleries—to begin closing their doors.
In Italy, first signs of a slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus
Italian civil protection data show a decrease in the increase, even more marked in the first regions placed in containment. This is the first - relatively - good news in the terrible health crisis that Italy has been facing for the past three weeks: according to statistics, the progression curve of Covid-19 finally seems to be slowing down, revealing the positive effects of the choice of containment of the population, gradually since March 8. The trend has been detected for two days by observers of the epidemic, but no one has yet dared to come forward to announce it publicly, preferring to wait until the figures were looking more solid.
Rutte can no longer laugh at the facts
I called Prof. Jaap Goudsmit, one of the top epidemiologists in the world, professor at Harvard, known for his work to combat Sars and HIV, among others. A swift testing of the population is what is needed he told me.Jaap Goudsmit is a cordial man who generously shares his knowledge. He explained that immediately a broad population test is needed; at least one hundred thousand people, preferably one million. They should be diagnosed as to whether they have been infected with coronavirus and see if they have recovered, so we know how many serious cases have occurred, and how the different age groups have responded to the infection. It takes huge numbers of test kits, and if not, they need to be made by industry with the utmost urgency, regardless of cost. Regional GGD laboratories can analyze the samples, and the data can then be interpreted by experts such as Jaap Goudsmit. As long as we do not know exactly how many have been infected, as I understood from Prof. Goudsmit, how far the infection has spread, especially in children and young adults, we cannot sensible remedial measures because we do not know the hard figures for each age group.
Chaos in Manila as Philippines launches coronavirus quarantine measures
A rise in patient numbers across the region – where nations had initially recorded relatively few cases – follows a ramping up of testing efforts. The increases have cast doubt on suggestions that warmer weather may stop the virus, and prompted a growing number of governments to introduce curbs on movement.
What Will It Take to Stop Coronavirus?
Efforts are underway to find a vaccine, but even the most optimistic timelines suggest several months of scientific development before human clinical trials can begin. With no vaccine or treatment, the most effective way to stop 2019-nCoV’s spread is to limit transmission by identifying infected individuals as quickly as possible and isolating them for treatment before they can infect others. This strategy worked against the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic in 2003. Global and national health authorities are implementing the approaches used during the SARS crisis, but, other measures also need to be taken because 2019-nCov is already widespread in China.
French lockdown comes into force in bid to curtail spread of deadly virus
France entered a 15-day lockdown at midday on Tuesday that will require people to remain at home except for essential outings in a bid to curtail the coronavirus outbreak. The French government has said tens of thousands of police will be patrolling streets and issuing fines of 38 to 135 euros for people without a written declaration justifying their reasons for being out.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 18th Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
Loneliness may be the biggest threat to productivity right now
As companies prepare for the logistics of returning to work, the mental-health crisis of their employees looms large. Surveys show anxiety and stress affect productivity and retention; TELUS International says 80% of workers would consider leaving their current employer for one that focuses more heavily on mental health. How can workers and managers solve for burnout and loneliness as a part of our transition to the workplace of the future? The twin pandemics are hitting workers hard, but also represent an opportunity to rethink and reconnect dynamics among teams. That’s the message of two new books on the subject.
Don’t lose sight of senior loneliness now that some restrictions are lifted
With social activities and events consistently delayed or canceled for almost a full year, seniors have become increasingly vulnerable to feelings of depression and isolation. Many already struggled with isolation from others, but it only increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For those with access to technological tools like Zoom, FaceTime or Skype, video communication has helped to ease (if not completely alleviate) the pain of separation from family. But for seniors in skilled nursing facilities who may not have ready access to computers or technical assistance, continued estrangement and isolation during ongoing or sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks will cause secondary concerns that care providers must keep front of mind as the pandemic continues. Providers must be nimble and remain ready to again rely on technology options and other tools they’ve used to engage and serve residents since last March.
How to protect your physical and mental health while staying home during the pandemic
While it may be necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic for a person to stay home to protect themselves and others, there are ways to lessen the potential adverse mental and physical health effects. In this article, we discuss why staying home all the time during quarantine or lockdown can prove difficult. In particular, we focus on how to treat or lessen the mental and physical health impacts of staying home.
Coronavirus shielding advice to end on 1 April - Hancock
More than 3.7 million vulnerable people in England will no longer have to shield from the coronavirus from 1 April. It comes as the numbers of Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions have declined for the past couple of weeks. Letters will be sent out to this group in the next two weeks. In them, people will still be advised to keep social contacts at low levels, work from home where possible and stay at a distance from other people. Since 5 January, they have been asked to stay at home as much as possible to reduce their risk of being exposed to the virus. But at a Downing Street press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed shielding guidance, which had been extended to 31 March for all those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, would end on 1 April.
Hygiene Helpers
EU sets out virus pass plan to allow free travel by summer
The European Union’s executive body proposed Wednesday issuing certificates that would allow EU residents to travel freely across the 27-nation bloc by the summer as long as they have been vaccinated, tested negative for COVID-19 or recovered from the disease. With summer looming and tourism-reliant countries anxiously waiting for the return of visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission foresees the creation of certificates aimed at facilitating travel between EU member nations. The plan is set to be discussed during a summit of EU leaders next week.
Community Activities
Hundreds more laptops ensure students in Lancashire are fully equipped to work remotely
Lancashire County Council has secured a further 1,000 laptops for schools to ensure that all students have the technology they need to be able to work remotely. An extra £650k for the new hardware brings the council's investment in laptops for schools to £1.47m. In total the council has secured 3,350 laptops for schools with this funding. Lancashire schools welcomed back all students earlier this month, with measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus. However schools must be able to support remote learning in cases where students are asked to self-isolate due to a confirmed case in their bubble.
Google blocked nearly 100 million harmful Covid-19 ads in 2020
Google blocked or removed nearly 100 million adverts linked to the Covid-19 pandemic last year, new figures show. The company's Ads Safety Report revealed these formed a significant proportion of the 3.1 billion adverts it banned in total for violating its policies in 2020. Among the blocked Covid-19 adverts were many spreading misleading claims about fake vaccine doses and miracle cures. Others were seen to be profiteering from in-demand products such as face masks during supply shortages. Google said the figures are the result of increased investment in its automated detection technology and a major revamp of its advertising policies.
'You might be the only person they’ve seen all week': how two charities are tackling isolation during Covid
Social isolation has affected us all this past year, following Covid-19 into our lives like a grey shadow. The webs of restrictions and worries catch differently for each household, matter in different ways to each person, but we have all felt the effects of seeing fewer people. During the first lockdown, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found up to 70% of people reported feeling “isolated, left out, or lacking companionship some of the time or often”. Other studies show loneliness has an impact on both physical and mental health, linking a lack of connection with others to increased risk of earlier death, heart disease, depression and dementia. Doctors have called for “urgent action” to make sure the benefits of shielding from coronavirus are not outweighed by the problems caused by being alone.
Working Remotely
Will work from home outlast virus? Ford's move suggests yes
It’s a question occupying the minds of millions of employees who have worked from home the past year: Will they still be allowed to work remotely — at least some days — once the pandemic has faded? On Wednesday, one of America s corporate titans, Ford Motor Co., supplied its own answer: It told about 30,000 of its employees worldwide who have worked from home that they can continue to do so indefinitely, with flexible hours approved by their managers. Their schedules will become a work-office “hybrid”: They'll commute to work mainly for group meetings and projects best-suited for face-to-face interaction. Ford's announcement sent one of the clearest signals to date that the pandemic has hastened a cultural shift in Americans' work lives by erasing any stigma around remote work and encouraging the adoption of technology that enables it. Broader evidence about the post-pandemic workplace suggests that what was long called tele-commuting will remain far more common than it was a year ago.
What does a future of remote work look like for Massachusetts?
As COVID-19 vaccines make possible the potential for a return to everyday life as we once knew it, the impacts of living over a year amidst a global pandemic may very well continue to linger on long after the coronavirus crisis enters history books. With a workforce now intimately familiar with the benefits of working outside the office, Massachusetts officials are now trying to suss out exactly how the trend will carry on even when more employers re-open brick-and-mortar offices in the months ahead. Michael Kennealy, the state’s secretary of housing and economic development, said recently his office is wrestling with questions about how an increase in remote work might impact everything from employers and employees, commercial real estate, and economic investments in cities and towns to internet broadband accessibility and transportation policy.
Virtual Classrooms
Will Classroom Social Distancing Rules Change?
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday that the agency might revise its guidance calling for at least six feet of distancing between students in schools in areas with high coronavirus transmission. But one major stakeholder, the American Federation of Teachers, is staunchly opposed to changing the guidance now and plans to try to persuade the agency not to do so.
How Business School Students Network During Covid: Virtual Hangouts
A key selling point of business schools is their ability to bring together students of various nationalities and backgrounds, who forge friendships in the hallways and lounges that pay dividends decades later. “The network is a close second, if not as important as the academic experience,” says Minya Nance, assistant dean for student experience strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. But in an era of online learning, MBA students are struggling to make such connections—spurring schools around the world to develop new avenues to those crucial relationships via virtual campuses, Slack channels, and Zoom roadshows.
Virtual Learning Might Be the Best Thing to Happen to Schools
Our tenuous experiment with virtual schooling could have a silver lining: Some children may end up being more resilient on the other side of the pandemic. Innovating on the fly, navigating uncertainty, maintaining hope for the future, communicating effectively, and relying on networks of people and community resources to overcome challenges are just some of the skills kids are developing during this time. These types of competencies—ones that children of color have typically brought to the classroom with little acknowledgment—are part of what Tara Yosso, an education professor at UC Riverside, calls “community cultural wealth.” The pandemic could usher in an increased appreciation for what students who have faced significant hardships have had to master throughout their life: developing strengths from dealing with an untenable set of challenges. For many students, learning from home can also be healthier than in-person schooling. Deepening one’s bond with parents, for instance, sets foundations for trust and empathy, bolsters cognitive development, and even increases one’s life expectancy.
Public Policies
Covid US: White House to send surge shipments of vaccines to emerging hotspots
The White House is currently making plans to send massive shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to emerging hotspots in the U.S. Two senior administration officials told CNN the Biden administration is very worried that the number of Americans traveling over Spring Break will lead to a fourth surge of the coronavirus. Members of the federal government's COVID-19 response team have been scouring data to project where outbreaks of the virus might pop up and plotting different potential scenarios. In an attempt to avoid this, officials plan to speed up the vaccine rollout and inoculate Americans who are at the highest risk.
Australia gives COVID-19 shots to virus-hit Papua New Guinea
Australia will send COVID-19 vaccines from its own supply to its near-neighbor Papua New Guinea and will ask AstraZeneca to send more to try to contain a concerning wave of infections, Australia's prime minister said Wednesday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 8,000 doses would be sent next week for Papua New Guinea's front-line health workers and he and his Papua New Guinea counterpart James Marape would ask AstraZeneca to send another 1 million doses as soon as possible. The European Union this month blocked a shipment of more than 250,000 doses to Australia because the need for them was not considered great enough in a country largely successful in containing the coronavirus.
India backs AstraZeneca shot as COVID-19 cases hit three-month high
India said on Wednesday its coronavirus immunisation campaign would continue with “full rigour” despite some concerns in Europe about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine it relies heavily upon as infections hit a three month high. The European Medicines Agency is investigating reports of 30 cases of unusual blood disorders out of 5 million recipients of the vaccine in the region. Since starting the drive in mid-January, India has administered 36 million vaccine doses, which are mostly the AstraZeneca shots developed with Oxford University and locally known as Covishield.
Germany extends border control with Czech Republic, Tyrol
Germany has extended border control with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region, Interior Minster Horst Seehofer said on Wednesday, citing the current number of new coronavirus infections and more virus variant cases. “We decided today to extend border controls in mutation areas in the Czech Republic and Austria,” Seehofer said. The control was reinstated on Feb. 14, following the introduction of a stricter lockdown in the Czech Republic.
Poland announces nationwide lockdown amid COVID-19 surge
Poland’s health minister announced a nationwide lockdown on Wednesday, as the country battles a surge in coronavirus cases. Theatres, shopping malls, hotels and cinemas will be closed starting on Saturday, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told a news conference. Poland reported 25,052 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to health ministry data, the highest daily number so far this year
UAE offers third shot of Chinese vaccine in some cases
The United Arab Emirates is offering people who have shown weak immunity after two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine a third shot of the Chinese jab as booster. Healthcare authorities have told anyone who fears they are not immune after taking an antibody test after their second dose to return to the centre where they were vaccinated. “The vast majority of people have taken Sinopharm and it shows a good response,” said a doctor working at a government hospital. “The booster is only needed if you don’t mount an immune response after two jabs.”
After vaccine freeze, European countries seek a quick thaw
First, France abruptly halted AstraZeneca vaccinations. Now, the French prime minister wants to get one as soon as he can. With the virus rebounding from Paris to Budapest and beyond, European governments that rushed to suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccines after reports of blood clots are realizing the far-reaching impact of the move. And they suddenly seem eager for any signal — or fig leaf — that allows them to resume the shots. That could come as soon as Thursday, when the European Medicines Agency releases initial results of its investigations into whether there is a connection between the vaccine and the blood clots. So far, the EMA and World Health Organization have said there’s no evidence the vaccine is to blame.
Palestinians get 60,000 vaccine doses through WHO program
The Palestinian Authority said Wednesday it will receive just over 60,000 coronavirus vaccine doses over the next 48 hours, the first shipment provided by a World Health Organization partnership aimed at helping poor countries. That’s only enough doses to vaccinate 31,000 people out of a population of nearly 5 million Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. Israel, which has faced criticism for not sharing more of its supplies with the Palestinians, has already vaccinated 5 million people — more than half of its population — and has largely reopened its economy.
Syria launches COVID vaccine drive as Israel questions swirl
The Syrian government finally kicked off its vaccination campaign against the novel coronavirus in the war-torn country last week. Al Jazeera learned through reliable sources that Bashar al-Assad’s government received 5,000 doses from a country it refused to name and simply described as “friendly”. The first jabs were given to front-line health workers spread across several main hospitals in the country. But many in government-controlled and rebel-held areas are worried they might be left out of the vaccination drive if it is carried out without any international oversight. Moreover, while the government is being furtive about which vaccine it received and who has footed the bill, many in Syria say it is an open secret it is Russia’s Sputnik V that was bought by Israel – reportedly under a prisoner exchange deal.
Manila Orders Anyone Below 18 to Stay Indoors as Virus Cases Surge
The Philippine capital Manila will widen a ban on minors leaving their residences to include youths of up to 18 years old for two weeks starting on Wednesday, tightening coronavirus restrictions in a bid to tackle a new surge of infections. Only those aged 18-65 years old will be allowed out of their homes, the Metro Manila Development Authority said in a statement, citing an agreement among mayors. The Philippines late last year started easing one of the world's longest and strictest lockdowns though a rule that anyone under 15 must stay indoors in Manila remained in place. The Southeast Asian country has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases this month, recording the largest daily increase since mid-August on Monday with 5,404 new infections. Nighttime curfews have been reimposed since Monday for two weeks in Metropolitan Manila, the country's coronavirus hotspot that is home to more than 12 million people.
Maintaining Services
All over-50s can now book coronavirus vaccine, says NHS
Everyone over the age of 50 can now book a coronavirus vaccination as the NHS widens eligibility amid an expected surge in supply of vaccine from this week. NHS England changed the eligibility on its main vaccination booking website on Wednesday morning, reducing the eligibility from 55 to anyone aged 50 or over. It means anyone over the age of 50 can go online and book themselves a vaccination, they do not need to wait to be contacted by their GP.
Chile's red-hot inoculation drive reaches frozen continent of Antarctica
Chile’s blazing fast vaccination program has reached the icy shores of Antarctica, officials and researchers told Reuters on Wednesday, bringing a sense of relief to one of the most isolated and vulnerable outposts on Earth. The pandemic hit Antarctica in December, making it the last of the world’s continents to report an outbreak of COVID-19. Chilean health and army officials scrambled to clear out staff from a remote region with limited medical facilities. Marcela Andrade, an official with the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH), told Reuters by phone that air force personnel, followed by staff at the Profesor Julio Escudero research base, were inoculated on Sunday with vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.
Covid vaccines for England's under-50s delayed due to major shortage
People under the age of 50 may have to wait up to a month longer than planned for their Covid vaccination because of a major shortage of vaccines, NHS leaders have said. The unexpected delay was revealed in a letter to health service chiefs, who have been ordered to stop booking first-dose appointments for anyone under 50 for all of April. The letter from NHS England explained that the move was necessary because there would be a “significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers beginning in the week commencing 29 March”.
Healthcare Innovations
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 Vaccine Has No Efficacy Against South African Virus Strain, Study Shows
According to a Phase 1b-2 trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University / AstraZeneca Plc (NASDAQ: AZN) was ineffective against mild-to-moderate infections caused due to mutated virus strain in South Africa,
US refuses to delay time between coronavirus vaccine doses
The UK's controversial decision to increase the time between covid-19 vaccine doses has been thrust back under the spotlight after the US hasn’t followed suit, amid warnings that the strategy may backfire. However, the UK is no longer alone in its decision, with Canada and Germany both choosing to follow a similar plan. In December, the UK made the surprise decision to lengthen the interval between doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines from the recommended three or four weeks to 12 weeks.
Actual Covid-19 infection rate in the US may be more than double official CDC figures, study says
The actual number of coronavirus infections throughout the United States could be twice as high as the daily tracking figures reported ahead of the deadly holiday surge late last year, according to a new study published on Tuesday. Researchers at the Clinical Reference Laboratory in Kansas surveyed blood samples from nearly 62,000 life insurance applicants, finding higher rates of Covid-19 antibodies in the pool of applicants compared to nationally reported estimates. According to the study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, nearly 16 million Covid-19 cases went undiagnosed or patients were otherwise asymptomatic ahead of the holiday season, when the country saw an unprecedented surge in the rate of infections and deaths nationwide, compared to CDC figures were estimated a total of nearly 7.2 million cases.
Scots university's pioneering Covid-19 antibody test is 'more accurate' than those currently available
A new Covid-19 antibody test that’s better than those currently available has been developed by researchers at a Scots university. Serology tests detect if a person has previously had the virus and are important tools in tracing its spread. However, some existing antibody tests are not suited to rapid mass deployment as they can be inaccurate and also detect other coronaviruses including some versions of the common cold. In response to the Chief Scientist Office’s rapid research funding, Aberdeen University, in collaboration with Vertebrate Antibodies and NHS Grampian, has developed a test that has shown high levels of ­accuracy in smaller trials. The next step is to start a trial on a larger cohort.
CDC IDs new COVID-19 variants of concern, as hot spots reemerge
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said two coronavirus variants first detected in California, B.1427 and B.1429, are now considered as variants of concern. The CDC said the variants may be 20% more transmissible. In comparison, the variant B117, first identified in the United Kingdom, is considered 50% more transmissible than the original wild type COVID-19 virus. Neither of the new variants of concern are thought to escape the effectiveness of currently approved vaccines, but therapeutics, including monoclonal antibody treatments, may be slightly less effective. Currently, the CDC's variant tracker shows 4,686 B117 cases in 50 states, 142 B1351 cases in 25 states, and 27 P1 cases in 12 states.
UK nursing homes saw spikes in B117 COVID variant in early winter
The proportion of COVID-19 cases caused by the SARS-CoV-2 B117 variant in UK nursing homes rose from 12.0% on Nov 16 to 60.4% on Dec 13, mirroring the variant’s spread in the community, according to a research letter published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers from University College London examined a sample of 4,442 positive COVID-19 tests from nursing home residents and staff from Oct 5 to Dec 17 to determine the proportion of cases caused by B117, the variant first discovered in the United Kingdom. UK nursing home staff are tested weekly, and residents are tested monthly. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations increased rapidly in southeast England in November and December, despite lockdowns. More than half of the cases were attributed to B117, which studies have suggested is more deadly and spreads 40% to 70% more easily than previous strains, and was behind the rise of infections in England in early winter.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 24th Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
S Africa eases COVID restrictions for vaccinated travellers
Article reports that South Africa, the country in Africa worst affected by coronavirus, has relaxed some of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions, dropping mandatory negative results for inbound fully-vaccinated travellers, a move expected to boost tourism. On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement to scale down restrictions – imposed since March 2020 – as new infection rates slow and death rates decline. “Travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours,” said Ramaphosa. Previously all travellers entering the country were required to produce a costly negative PCR test. Inside the country, vaccinated individuals or those that have a negative test result will be allowed back into sporting stadiums and music and theatre shows – which will be permitted to operate at half capacity.
‘A new beginning’: New Zealand to drop Covid vaccine passes and mandates
New Zealand will do away with vaccine passes and vaccine mandates for some of the workforce in early April, in a major loosening of the country’s tough Covid-19 restrictions. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced the changes on Wednesday morning, citing high vaccination rates, better data to identify which environments are high risk, and modelling that suggests the country’s Omicron outbreak would peak in early April.
Polish government to lift more COVID-19 restrictions despite expert concerns
In Poland, the government wants to lift more pandemic restrictions although medical experts are concerned about not enough people being vaccinated against COVID-19 for the country to develop herd immunity and the mass arrival of unvaccinated Ukrainians. Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told the media on 17 March that he had recommended that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki abolish the mask-wearing obligation in buildings.
Chinese steelmaking hub Tangshan enters lockdown as COVID cases rise
China's top steelmaking city Tangshan implemented a temporary lockdown on Tuesday to avoid further cases of COVID-19 as infections surged, the local government said in a statement. Residents should not leave their houses or buildings except for tests or emergencies pending further announcement, the government said. Tangshan reported 15 confirmed locally transmitted cases from March 19-22, and 79 asymptomatic cases, while Hebei province, where Tangshan is located, had 331 confirmed cases and 2,454 asymptomatic cases as of March 22, data from the provincial health authority showed.
Hygiene Helpers
WHO blames rising Covid cases in Europe on curbs lifted too soon
Several European countries lifted their coronavirus restrictions too soon, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, and as a result are now witnessing sharp rises in infections probably linked to the new, more transmissible BA2 subvariant. Hans Kluge, director of the WHO’s Europe region, said countries including Germany, France, Italy and Britain had lifted their Covid curbs “brutally – from too much to too few”. Infections are rising in 18 out of the region’s 53 countries, he said. Kluge told journalists in Moldova on Tuesday that more than 5.1 million new cases – often linked to the BA2 variant, which experts say is about 30% more contagious – and 12,496 deaths have been reported in the region over the past seven days.
Community Activities
Indonesia's annual holiday exodus to go ahead this year as COVID cases ease
Indonesia will lift a ban on domestic travel during the Muslim holiday season of Eid al-Fitr in early May, President Joko Widodo said on Wednesday, after banning the annual tradition for two years during the pandemic. The decision to allow the annual exodus after the holy month of Ramadan is the latest in a series of measures aimed at easing COVID-19 restrictions and reviving Southeast Asia's largest economy. Indonesia, a country of 270 million, banned the mass travel known locally as 'mudik' in early 2020 as it scrambled to contain the spread of coronavirus along with the rest of the world.
New Zealand sports to welcome back crowds as COVID rules eased
New Zealand sports will welcome full-capacity crowds when COVID-19 rules ease this weekend after a bruising period for revenues. New Zealand capped crowds at 100 people for outdoor events while battling an outbreak of the Omicron variant, but will lift the curbs from Saturday, along with the need for fans to wear masks, the government said on Wednesday. "While Omicron is transmissible the natural ventilation of an outdoor seating reduces the risk," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
COVID vaccine maker Moderna flags Japan ambition with sumo sponsorship
Moderna Inc is sponsoring sumo flags in its first such promotion in Japan, as the COVID-19 vaccine maker seeks to wrestle market share from compatriot Pfizer Inc. The U.S. firm's introduction to the broader Japanese public was set back after some of its doses last year were found to be contaminated, although it has clawed back market share since with the help of a government-endorsed programme. Now, as the government plans a fourth-dose vaccination programme, Moderna is looking to sumo to boost its public appeal as it seeks to expand beyond COVID-19 shots.
Hong Kong hopes to 'resolve' COVID flight-ban rule as cases ease
Hong Kong is looking to resolve a problem over a ban on airlines which bring in COVID-positive passengers as it eases travel curbs that have sealed off the city for two years, its leader said on Wednesday. The government said this week a ban on flights from nine countries - Canada, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Britain, the United States, France, Australia and the Philippines - would be lifted on April 1 but it was not clear if airlines would face a two-week ban if they bring in infected people, as is currently the case.
Working Remotely
7 Ways Work You Can Improve Your Health While Working from Home
It turns out that increased job flexibility can significantly reduce anxiety in your personal and professional lives. If you manage time wisely, remote work can even equip you to take better care of your mental, emotional and physical needs. However, not everyone is thriving while working from home. As the pandemic drags on, the line between your job and home life can blur and heighten stress levels. Luckily, a simple shift in priorities can help you feel good again and dramatically improve your health and happiness.
UBS offers US wealth unit staff option to work remotely full-time
UBS has begun offering some of its US-based employees the option to work remotely full-time in an effort to meet staff demand for greater flexibility and increase retention, the group announced on Wednesday. The Swiss bank and wealth manager is rolling out a new work program, the Virtual Worker Framework, that will allow its eligible US staff to access UBS’s tech platform and attend meetings and other in-person events remotely. The firm’s US-based Global Wealth Management employees are seeing the first phase of the rollout of the new program, UBS said
Virtual Classrooms
Why learning together is the future of online education
Following the ed tech revolution, we’re seeing an exciting and necessary evolution—one to address the elephant in the online classroom. The reality is that online learning engagement and completion rates are famously low. Learning leaders struggle to boost engagement, even when learners have access to content on nearly every skill imaginable. Not enough people are making the progress they want with online education. What is standing in the way? there are three core reasons: accountability, effectiveness, and connection.
Virtual teaching: How to share resources with your music students
With the pandemic affecting everyone’s everyday lives, virtual learning has become the norm for a lot of students, parents and teachers. Many tutors and teachers wonder how they can make the most of the online world to make learning fun and effective. The same goes for learning and teaching music. It might be quite a change for some, but there are still ways to keep each other inspired. In this article, we will be looking at several ways in which teachers are able to share various resources with students virtually, so that they receive the same level of learning as they would within the classroom. But most importantly, these digital tools can help us maintain our love for learning and music.
Public Policies
S.Korea gives emergency approval for adult use of Merck's COVID pills - Yonhap
South Korea's drug safety agency said on Wednesday that it has decided to give emergency approval for the use of Merck & Co Inc's COVID-19 treatment pill for adults, the Yonhap news agency reported. The molnupiravir tablet, branded as Lagevrio, is the second oral antiviral to be authorised in South Korea after Pfizer Inc's Paxlovid. Lagevrio will only be allowed for patients who are aged 18 or older and not pregnant but cannot not use injection medications and the highly effective Paxlovid, the report said.
Mexico sticking to plan to package Russian COVID-19 vaccine
Mexico is sticking to its plan to package domestically the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V because health matters are separate from political conflicts, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said. In October, state-run vaccine company Birmex signed an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets Sputnik V, to package the product in Mexico. "We're going to continue with our plan, commitments made are kept," said the president, who has ruled out imposing economic sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Novavax says its COVID vaccine gets India authorisation for teens
Novavax Inc said on Tuesday its COVID-19 vaccine has got emergency-use authorization from the Drugs Controller General of India for children aged 12 to 17 years. The authorization is a global first for the age group for the vaccine, which is manufactured and marketed in India by the Serum Institute of India under the brand name Covovax. Novavax last month said its vaccine was 80% effective against COVID-19 in a late-stage trial testing the shot in 2,247 teens aged 12 to 17 years.
UK Covid Test Contracts: National Audit Office Finds Inadequate Record-Keeping
When the pandemic hit, ministers were forced to act quickly to scale up testing capacity – working with the private sector to secure the necessary services and supplies, according to the National Audit Office (NAO). As part of these efforts, between January 2020 and December 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) awarded 22 contracts to health company Randox, or its strategic partner, Qnostics Ltd, with a maximum value of £776.9 million, the watchdog said. By value, almost all the contracts were for the provision of Covid testing services, with less than 1% (£6.9 million) for the provision of testing-related goods, it added. The NAO found that 60% of the total value of the contracts (£463.5 million) was awarded directly without competition, under emergency procurement rules.
Maintaining Services
Hong Kong schools need 90 per cent student jab rate to resume full-day classes
Schools must ensure 90 per cent of their students have received at least two vaccine shots against Covid-19 if they hope to resume whole-day lessons in the classroom next month, Hong Kong’s education minister has announced. Confirming a previous Post report, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung also said that all teachers and school staff must have received at least two vaccine doses before returning to campus, unless they had a valid medical exemption.
Ministers urged to ensure Covid-19 testing remains free for NHS staff
The NHS Confederation is leading a call for ministers to provide clarity over Covid-19 testing requirements for NHS staff and for access to free tests to remain in place for the workforce, especially for those who are patient-facing. The concerns from organisations representing NHS staff come as Covid-19 rates across the UK continue to spike, with hospital admissions also on the rise.
WHO: COVID-19 cases rise for 2nd straight week, deaths fall
Article reports that the number of new coronavirus cases globally increased by 7% in the last week, driven by rising infections in the Western Pacific, even as reported deaths from COVID-19 fell, the World Health Organization said. There were more than 12 million new weekly cases and just under 33,000 deaths, a 23% decline in mortality, according to the U.N. health agency’s report on the pandemic issued late Tuesday. Confirmed cases of the virus had been falling steadily worldwide since January but rose again last week, due to the more infectious omicron variant and the suspension of COVID-19 protocols in numerous countries in Europe, North America and elsewhere. Health officials have said repeatedly that omicron causes milder disease than previous versions of the coronavirus and that vaccination, including a booster, appears highly protective.
COVID-19: Soaring virus-related absences in England's state schools could 'seriously damage' exam grades, headteachers say
Levels of COVID-related pupil absences in state schools in England have more than tripled, leading to concerns over how it may impact grades. In total, 201,600 pupils were off for COVID-related reasons on 17 March, up from 45,100 on 3 March, the latest government figures show. The rate of COVID-linked absences rose to 2.5% of students on 17 March, up from 0.7% on 3 March. The rising COVID cases have prompted concerns from headteachers about the potential impact absences will have on grades.
Covid-19: 'Vaccine tracers' brought in as county Covid rate trebles
A team of "vaccine tracers" have been brought in as the number of Covid infections in a county almost trebled in three weeks. Latest data shows more than 11,045 cases were recorded in Hertfordshire in the seven days to 16 March, representing a rate of 923.7 per 100,000 of the population. It is almost three times the 328.6 case rate recorded on 28 February. The new team aims to boost vaccination levels across the county. Hertfordshire's director of public health Jim McManus warned that the case rate had changed "quite dramatically" in recent weeks, with cases increasing in most age groups, including the more vulnerable over-60s, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.
Healthcare Innovations
Study examines the effectiveness of remdesivir in a pill form for COVID-19
Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are testing remdesivir in a pill form to understand how effective it is for treating COVID-19. Remdesivir is an RNA polymerase inhibitor that disrupts the production of viral RNA, preventing the multiplication of SARS-CoV-2; it has been given to half of all hospitalised patients with the disease. It works by blocking the machinery the virus needs to make copies of itself and spread throughout the body. The scientists explored whether a pill form of remdesivir could be developed and the benefits that it could provide. Currently, remdesivir is administered intravenously, however, an oral version of this medication could extend its benefits to outside the hospital.
Antibodies in children last at least 6 months after COVID; SK Bioscience vaccine shows promise vs Omicron
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. Antibodies in kids after COVID last 6 months or more Most children and adolescents with COVID-19 antibodies after SARS-CoV-2 infection usually still have the antibodies in their blood more than half a year later, new data shows. Starting in October 2020, researchers in Texas recruited 218 subjects between the ages of 5 and 19. Each provided three blood samples, at three-month intervals. More than 90% were unvaccinated when they enrolled in the study.
Risk of type 2 diabetes rises after COVID; organ transplant from donors who had COVID likely safe
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. Type 2 diabetes risk rises after COVID-19 People may be at increased risk for developing diabetes for up to a year after a diagnosis of COVID-19, according to two studies. One study used data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to track more than 181,000 adults with COVID-19 for a year after recovery
Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine Works Safely in Young Children, Company Says
Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine safely induced robust immune responses in children ages 6 months to 5 years in a new study, the company said, though the shot had modest efficacy against the Omicron variant. Moderna said Wednesday the vaccine’s efficacy against symptomatic infections was 43.7% in children ages 6 months to 2 years, and 37.5% in children ages 2 to 5. The efficacy rates were lower than seen during adult testing, which took place before Omicron emerged, but comparable to the real-world effectiveness of two doses of Moderna’s vaccine found among adults during the Omicron wave.
COVID-19 in pregnancy tied to poor maternal outcomes, preterm birth, fetal death
In the first study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Northern California researchers analyzed the electronic medical records of 43,886 pregnant women who delivered from Mar 1, 2020, to Mar 16, 2021. Average patient age was 30.7 years, 33.8% were White, 28.4% were Hispanic, 25.9% were Asian or Pacific Islander, 6.5% Black, 0.3% American Indian or Alaska Native, and 5% were multiracial or of another race. Among these women, 1,332 (3.0%) tested positive for COVID-19 from 30 days before conception to 7 days after delivery. Infected women were more likely than their uninfected peers to be younger and Hispanic and to have had multiple babies, a higher neighborhood deprivation index, and obesity or chronic high blood pressure. Before universal COVID-19 testing of pregnant women admitted for delivery was implemented in the healthcare system in December 2020, the positivity rate was 1.3%, compared with 7.8% after.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 19th Mar 2020

News Highlights

  • Top UK COVID-19 expert self-isolates after developing symptoms
  • NHS Trusts gave staff wrong advice on self-isolation
  • Shortage of face masks, swabs and basic supplies threatening challenge for U.S.coronavirus testing
  • Bergamo laments a generation lost to the coronavirus
  • UN FAO working on tasks at hand, but since Tuesday, all remotely
  • Liechtenstein school lessons moving online
  • Darmstadt taking advantage of new online platform from start-up founder
  • UK - evictions of renters falling behind with landlords will be suspended during crisis
  • Russia's 'silence' on coronavirus outbreak starting to cause increasing concern
  • As China's new virus cases reach zero, experts look to second wave from 'imported cases'
  • UK faces massive shortage of ventilators - says Swiss manufacturer
  • Danish supermarket invents new way of stopping people hoarding goods
  • Chinese say Avigan effective in treating coronavirus patients
  • Confusion over where to take Ibuprofen or not for COVID-19 symptoms
  • Italian tests on the effectiveness of Tolicizumab for 33 coronavirus patients to start
  • Europe is repeating errors made in Wuhan, say Chinese medics
  • Top 60 coronavirus treatments under development
  • Everyone in Iceland to be tested for the coronavirus
  • 99% of those killed by the coronavirus in Italy had other underlying pathologies says study
  • Spain worried that it does not have enough virus diagnostic kits and protective medical equipment
Isolation Tips
Top UK Covid-19 expert self-isolates after developing symptoms
One of the government’s top coronavirus experts has had to self-isolate after developing coronavirus symptoms and revealed he was probably infectious when he attended a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday. Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, tweeted that he has a persistent cough and high fever, and had been forced to self-isolate in his central London flat for seven days. Ferguson, head of the modelling programme at Imperial’s MRC centre for global infectious disease analysis, who has been working round the clock with a team of experts advising the government, tweeted: “Sigh. Developed a slight dry but persistent cough yesterday and self-isolated even though I felt fine. Then developed high fever at 4am today. There is a lot of Covid-19 in Westminster.”
Coronavirus: NHS trusts gave staff the wrong advice on self-isolation
Staff at several NHS hospitals were wrongly told to go to work when they should have been self-isolating, it has emerged. Doctors and nurses were advised they could work even if someone else in their home had symptoms of coronavirus – despite official guidance being that their household should self-isolate for 14 days if anyone shows signs of the symptoms. On Monday night, after the advice to the public had changed, the Worcestershire Acute Hospital, in the West Midlands, sent out a briefing to staff saying: “We have been told that this guidance will not apply to healthcare workers.”
Le Monde answers questions about the new laws governing confinement in your home in France
With so many French people unsure and uncertain about what to do in this new situation they find themselves in, le Monde tackled the most common questions that readers are asking explaining how things will work in the coming weeks
Coronavirus. Conditions for going out to play sports - what must you do
You need to apply for certificate or permit to leave the home, it does enable you to go jogging or cycling but you must stay within the close proximity to your home
Hygiene Helpers
Morning!! Working on a "red zone" ward today, with my amazing FY1 Rebecca. This is a ward for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID19.
Morning!! Working on a "red zone" ward today, with my amazing FY1 Rebecca. This is a ward for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID19. We're keeping a big smile on our faces and have @BBCRadio2 on in the doctor's room. Dizzy symbol Send us some love!
Shortages of face masks, swabs and basic supplies pose a new challenge to coronavirus testing
CDC tells health-care workers to use bandannas if they don’t have face masks. As the federal government scrambles to rapidly boost the nation’s capacity to test for the novel coronavirus, cutting red tape and leaning on the speed and technology of the private sector, new delays are developing because of a shortage of raw materials and vital items: chemical solutions, swabs and even face masks for health-care workers. From coast to coast, local and state officials complain that shortages of everyday supplies are disrupting efforts to sharply ramp up testing, which is key to identifying the spread of disease. The scarcity is hampering both the ability of health-care workers in hospitals to draw samples to send to laboratories and the ability of those laboratories to confirm infection.
Community Activities
Want To Avoid Spreading Coronavirus Misinformation? Think Like A Science Journalist
No one wants to spread bad information—but for non-scientists, it can be hard to distinguish facts from rumors. I asked a couple of experts in the ethics of science journalism on how best to use social media responsibly in the age of coronavirus. Here are a few guidelines they shared:
Panic buying forces British supermarkets to ration food
Britain’s biggest supermarkets, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda, limited purchases of all food products on Wednesday after frantic shoppers stripped shelves to prepare for possible isolation during the coronavirus outbreak.
The picture that shames selfish Britain:
Stooping to check his shopping list, this elderly man is faced with a shocking reality – most of the stock has been stripped from the supermarket shelves by selfish customers. The gentleman is therefore left to wonder where exactly he will be able to pick up his essentials as shops suffer from a surge in stockpiling by uncaring shoppers. The picture was taken in a Sainsbury's store in Epsom, Surrey, but the increase in panic buying has hit all major supermarkets.
Coronavirus: Cheltenham staff had symptoms while working at racing festival
Cheltenham Festival punters and staff have been struck down by symptoms consistent with coronavirus, sparking fresh fears that hundreds of racegoers could be infected and spreading the illness. Housemates Andrew Maclean, 24 and Scott Saunders, 25, have quarantined themselves inside their home after coming down with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Mr Maclean and Mr Saunders, from Cheltenham, developed symptoms when they were working at a restaurant and bar, respectively, at the festival - at first thinking they only had colds - and now fear they passed their infection on to others. The pair have questioned why Cheltenham went ahead despite the worsening crisis and the calls for it to be cancelled to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
'A generation has died': Italian province struggles to bury its coronavirus dead
Coffins awaiting burial are lining up in churches and the corpses of those who died at home are being kept in sealed-off rooms for days as funeral services struggle to cope in Bergamo, the Italian province hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had killed 2,978 across Italy, all buried or cremated without ceremony. Those who die in hospital do so alone, with their belongings left in bags beside coffins before being collected by funeral workers. In Bergamo, a province of 1.2 million people in the Lombardy region, where 1,640 of the total deaths in the country have taken place, 3,993 people had contracted the virus by Tuesday. The death toll across the province is unclear, but CFB, the area’s largest funeral director, has carried out almost 600 burials or cremations since 1 March. “In a normal month we would do about 120,” said Antonio Ricciardi, the president of CFB. “A generation has died in just over two weeks. We’ve never seen anything like this and it just makes you cry.”
Working Remotely
Italy COVID-19 lockdown does not halt work of UN agriculture agency
Italy has been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, with nearly 28,000 confirmed cases of the disease and 2,503 deaths, according to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO). While a national quarantine has the country in lockdown, it has not halted the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), based in the capital, Rome. Most staff have been working remotely since last Tuesday, although a skeleton team remains at the building to ensure critical business continuity. It too will be reduced this week as FAO moves to complete telecommuting. The new arrangements mean new ways of working. Teams are using technology not only to get the job done but also to keep in touch. FAO has provided staff with licenses for Zoom, the remote conferencing service, thus facilitating virtual meetings and collaboration. Colleagues are calling each other, instead of emailing, to discuss work matters but also to maintain human contact. Daily check-ins, weekly meetings, and WhatsApp groups are also helping to foster team spirit.
The ins and outs of working from home in the age of COVID-19
As the marketing director for Ignite Northwest, a company that supports entrepreneurs, Cyndi Donahue said most if not all of the people she works with regularly work from home, with one glaring exception: Donahue herself. But with officials advising to “hunker down” to curtail the spread of COVID-19, Donahue is doing just that. Luckily for her, her husband is an old pro and helped her get situated in their home’s guest room. He’s helped her set up the technology, and they’re putting their children on a schedule for structure, but the thing Donahue is struggling with is missing people.
Virtual Classrooms
Homework now comes via WhatsApp
On Monday, school lessons in Liechtenstein were moved home. The Liechtenstein schools have found different solutions to provide the pupils with tasks. These measures have been taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Classes should therefore take place by distance learning until the Easter holidays - or longer depending on the how the health crisis evolves. Students are currently sent homework and weekly plans with instructions to be solved via WhatsApp and email. The time window required for this is tailored to each individual as is the form of the task and its size.
Darmstadt: virtual classroom on online platform
The free online platform schulforum.info is based on tingtool, which the start-up founder Peter Fischer developed in Darmstadt. According to its press statements this Internet application, which is free of charge for schools and teachers in Darmstadt, enables virtual classrooms to be set up within ten minutes without the need for software to be preinstalled on the home computer. Tingtool is a cloud-based tool for meetings and discussions in virtual space and, according to the information, was specially developed by Darmstadt to force the digital networking of actors from the school and education sector. Around three months ago, the interactive platform schulforum.info was already given to the Darmstadt City Parents' Advisory Board by the digital city of Darmstadt, for its own use
Public Policies
Scientists have been sounding the alarm on coronavirus for months. Why did Britain fail to act?
In January The Lancet published a report from China. 'The Chinese scientists pulled no punches. “The number of deaths is rising quickly,” they wrote. The provision of personal protective equipment for health workers was strongly recommended. Testing for the virus should be done immediately a diagnosis was suspected. They concluded that the mortality rate was high. And they urged careful surveillance of this new virus in view of its “pandemic potential”. That was in January. Why did it take the UK government eight weeks to recognise the seriousness of what we now call Covid-19?'
Coronavirus: New evictions banned to help renters during crisis
The government is promising emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or rented accommodation for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. Under urgent new laws, landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least three months, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Ministers have also confirmed the three-month mortgage holiday announced on Tuesday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing difficulties due to coronavirus.
Coronavirus protest in Brazil sees millions bang pots from balconies
People in Brazil have expressed anger at President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the coronavirus pandemic by banging pots and pans together on balconies. Millions of protesters in the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro appeared at windows on Wednesday evening calling for the president to step down. It was the biggest protest against Mr Bolsonaro's government to date. There are over 500 cases of the virus in Brazil, including two government ministers. Four people have died. Mr Bolsonaro, who has previously dismissed precautions taken against the novel coronavirus as "hysteria" and "fantasy", has been criticised for his response to the deadly outbreak. The president has been tested for the virus twice, but said on both occasions the results were negative. However 14 people who travelled with him to Florida to meet President Trump have tested positive for the virus.
Uncounted among coronavirus victims, deaths sweep through Italy's nursing homes
As the official death toll from Italy’s coronavirus outbreak passes 2,500, a silent surge in fatalities in nursing homes, where dozens of patients a day are dying untested for the virus, suggests the real total may be higher. Official data show that nearly 30,000 people have been confirmed as positive for the coronavirus in Italy, the highest number outside China where the virus first emerged. But strict testing rules mean only patients hospitalized with severe symptoms are normally being swab tested. While no detailed data is available, officials, nurses and relatives say there has been a spike in nursing home deaths in the worst affected regions of northern Italy since the virus emerged, and they are not showing up in coronavirus statistics. “There are significant numbers of people who have died but whose death hasn’t been attributed to the coronavirus because they died at home or in a nursing home and so they weren’t swabbed,” said Giorgio Gori, mayor of the town of Bergamo.
Russia's coronavirus count under scrutiny as Putin government denies hiding cases
Even the president of Belarus, often seen as Russia's closest neighbour, has questioned the low numbers, suggesting that Russia is "ablaze" with coronavirus. Senior Russian officials, including Putin, the country's prime minister and the mayor of Moscow, all insist the Russian figures are accurate. The official TASS news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova as suggesting the situation was a result of "restrictive and prohibitive measures" adopted by Russia, including an early closure of the border with China and other restrictions on people entering Russia from Asia. But several doctors and health-care workers contacted by CBC News believe the real caseload is far higher and that Russia could be hiding hundreds of coronavirus deaths by labelling them as something else.
Trudeau unveils $82B COVID-19 emergency response package for Canadians, businesses
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a massive $82-billion aid package to help Canadians and businesses cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic, including income supports, wage subsidies and tax deferrals. The package includes $27 billion in direct supports and another $55 billion to help business liquidity through tax deferrals. Combined, the package represents more than three per cent of Canada's GDP. Trudeau said the deep spending and delayed federal revenue will not drive the country into recession, insisting "prudent" decisions made over the last five years have put Canada on a strong economic footing to weather the crisis.
As China’s Virus Cases Reach Zero, Experts Warn of Second Wave
China has no new infections of the coronavirus domestically for the first time since the start of a crisis that has sickened over 80,000 Chinese people. But what could be a sign the country has defeated the fatal pathogen is likely to just be a temporary reprieve. While the outbreak’s epicenter has shifted to Europe, where there are now more cases being reported daily than at the height of China’s crisis, epidemiologists warn that the Asian giant could face subsequent waves of infections, based on patterns seen in other pandemics.
China uses soft power to position itself as a leader in tackling coronavirus
In the last few weeks, China has donated coronavirus testing kits to Cambodia, sent planeloads of ventilators, masks and medics to Italy and France, pledged to help the Philippines, Spain and other countries, and deployed medics to Iran and Iraq. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has offered comforting words, telling the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, that “sunshine comes after the storm”, and adding that the two countries should step up cooperation and exchanges after the outbreak. As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and countries struggle to respond, China has positioned itself as a leader and benefactor in public health, building the kind of soft power Beijing needs at a time of intensifying US-China rivalry and scrutiny of Chinese influence around the world.
A chilling scientific paper helped upend U.S. and U.K. coronavirus strategies
Immediately after Boris Johnson completed his Monday evening news conference, which saw a somber prime minister encourage his fellow citizens to avoid "all nonessential contact with others," his aides hustled reporters into a second, off-camera briefing. That session presented jaw-dropping numbers from some of Britain’s top modelers of infectious disease, who predicted the deadly course of the coronavirus could quickly kill hundreds of thousands in both the United Kingdom and the United States, as surges of sick and dying patients overwhelmed hospitals and critical care units. The new forecasts, by Neil Ferguson and his colleagues at the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, were quickly endorsed by Johnson’s government to design new and more extreme measures to suppress the spread of the virus.
How many people could die from the coronavirus - scientists answer the question
The database used in the scientists' research is maintained and updated by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The data is divided into cases of infection, remission and fatalities. The database is updated frequently and contains details such as dates and geographic distribution. From these parameters, the rates that entered the model were calculated. The components of the model applied to the coronavirus epidemic result in very rapid contagion. Data from Italy show that an infected person passes the virus to, on average, between 3 and 4 people before they recover or die from the infection, thereby doubling the number of cases every 4 days. Professor Lyra explains that there are only two ways to end this epidemic. “The first is when many people have been infected and have developed immunity in healing. When this happens, there are no more susceptible people and, therefore, according to rule (A) of the model, there are no new possible infections. Obviously this case is terrible, practically the entire population would have to be infected at some point during the epidemic and the death toll from this would be frightening,” warns Lyra.
UK faces 'massive shortage' of ventilators - Swiss manufacturer
Britain faces a “massive shortage” of ventilators that will be needed to treat critically ill patients suffering from coronavirus, after it failed to invest enough in intensive care equipment, a leading ventilator manufacturer said on Wednesday. “England is very poorly equipped,” said Andreas Wieland, chief executive of Hamilton Medical in Switzerland, which says it is the world’s largest ventilator maker. “They’re going to have a massive shortage, once the virus really arrives there,” he told Reuters in an interview. Ventilators, running in the thousands of dollars per unit, are used to help people with respiratory difficulties to breathe. They are high-tech versions of the “iron lungs” that kept people alive into the 1950s during fierce polio epidemics.
Coronavirus cases soar in Brazil: there are 428 infected and 4 dead It is the largest daily jump in the number of cases in that country. Most of the infections are concentrated in Sao Paolo
The Brazilian Ministry of Health reported that 428 have been infected with coronaviruses in that country, including four people who have died. Most of the cases are concentrated in Sao Paulo, where 240 infections have already been registered. The São Paulo State Health Secretariat reported that three of the four dead had problems with hypertension and other chronic diseases
Maintaining Services
Australia has given the elderly an hour in the mornings to do their shopping so they can avoid panic buying caused by the #coronavirus
"Even though it was just for 1 hour, it gave us a chance to slowly do our shop." Australia has given the elderly an hour in the mornings to do their shopping so they can avoid panic buying caused by the #coronavirus
10,000 extra troops to join British army's Covid support force
The Ministry of Defence is to double the size of the military’s civil contingency unit to create a 20,000-strong Covid support force, the defence secretary has announced. An additional 10,000 troops will be added to the 10,000 routinely held at higher readiness in case of a civil emergency, and reservists could also be called up, Ben Wallace said on Wednesday. There are fears about the ability of the police and NHS, which are both already at full stretch, to deal with the scale of the crisis. While the government has been reluctant to highlight such a bleak prospect, the armed forces need to be prepared for the threat of a breakdown in civil order given that troops have been deployed in other countries to enforce lockdowns and prevent looting of shops.
Coronavirus in London: Why is the outbreak worse in the capital?
Many streets and pubs are eerily quiet as London records more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than anywhere else in the country. London has been hit the worst by the coronavirus outbreak - with 953 of the UK's 2,626 confirmed cases and at least 35 of its 104 deaths. The spread of COVID-19 has all but emptied streets that are normally packed, monuments appear eerily deserted and tourist attractions, museums and theatres continue to close.
Sainsbury’s to close its meat, fish and pizza service counters to free up staff
Sainsbury’s to close its meat, fish and pizza service counters to free up staff. The supermarket is aiming to bolster its delivery network to cope with unprecedented demand
A supermarket in Denmark got tired of people hoarding hand sanitizer, so came up with their own way of stopping it.
A supermarket in Denmark got tired of people hoarding hand sanitizer, so came up with their own way of stopping it. 1 bottle kr40 (€5.50) 2 bottles kr1000 (€134.00) each bottle. Hoarding stopped! #COVID19 #coronavirus #Hoarding
Coronavirus: Water firms issue blockage warning as people use toilet paper 'alternatives'
Drains and sewers are in danger of becoming blocked as people use wet wipes, paper towels - and possibly even newspaper - because they can't find loo roll at the supermarket. Water companies in the UK and Australia have warned against using alternatives which are unflushable. They say if there is no other option, wipes and kitchen roll should be disposed of in the bin. Social media campaigns are urging people to stick to toilet roll as some people panic-buy and strip shelves bare during the coronavirus outbreak.
HealthCare Innovations
Coronavirus: Japanese anti-viral drug effective in treating patients, Chinese official says
A Japanese anti-viral drug appears to be effective in treating coronavirus patients, Chinese medical officials have found. Favipiravir, also known as Avigan, was approved for use in Japan in 2014 and is active against a range of illnesses, including influenza strains, yellow fever, Ebola and foot-and-mouth disease. Now it has shown encouraging results in treating patients with Covid-19 in clinical trials involving 320 people in Shenzhen and Wuhan. “It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday. The 35 patients who received the drug in Shenzhen appeared to test negative for coronavirus in a median of four days, compared to 11 days for the 45 who did not receive it.
WHO Now Officially Recommends to Avoid Taking Ibuprofen For COVID-19 Symptoms
The World Health Organization recommended Tuesday that people suffering COVID-19 symptoms avoid taking ibuprofen, after French officials warned that anti-inflammatory drugs could worsen effects of the virus. The warning by French Health Minister Olivier Veran followed a recent study in The Lancet medical journal that hypothesised that an enzyme boosted by anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen could facilitate and worsen COVID-19 infections. Asked about the study, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva the UN health agency's experts were "looking into this to give further guidance." "In the meantime, we recommend using rather paracetamol, and do not use ibuprofen as a self-medication. That's important," he said.
AIFA will start starting testing the effectiveness of Tolicizumab on 33 coronavirus patients on Thursday
The agency plans to launch a test on 330 patients with coronavirus. This Phase 2 testing will be to assess how effective the drug Tolicizumab is and if it works in these coronoavirus cases.
Europe’s Doctors Repeat Errors Made in Wuhan, China Medics Say
Key among them is inadequate protection for medical workers, leading to a high infection rate among doctors and nurses. In Wuhan, a lack of understanding of the disease and a shortage of protective equipment in the early weeks of the outbreak in January led to thousands of health-care workers being infected while treating patients. At least 46 have died. “Our European colleagues are contracting the disease in their daily practice, and the proportion is quite similar to the earlier situation in Wuhan,” said Wu Dong, a gastro-enterology professor at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. Wu spoke from Wuhan with journalists in Beijing on Monday, alongside three other top Chinese doctors. “We need to protect our medical staff.”
New analysis breaks down age-group risk for coronavirus — and shows millennials are not invincible
In general, the U.S. experience largely mimics China’s, with the risk for serious disease and death from Covid-19 rising with age. But in an important qualification, an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday underlines a message that infectious disease experts have been emphasizing: Millennials are not invincible. The new data show that up to one-fifth of infected people ages 20-44 have been hospitalized, including 2%-4% who required treatment in an intensive care unit. Still, the most severe cases, and the highest rates of death, are among the elderly. Although 17% of the U.S. population is 65 or older, 31% of cases were in that age group, CDC experts concluded in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. While it is possible that the elderly have more chances to be infected than younger people, such as by living in nursing homes, that is considered unlikely, since younger adults encounter many others at work and school.
"Respiratory viruses often see a reduction in transmission power in warmer weather, but for this pandemic that won't be true"
Mauricio Rodríguez Álvarez, professor of Virology at UNAM, analyzes some of the facts and fiction surrounding the coronavirus. The virus has already crossed over different latitudes around the world with varying temperatures and the infection process remains very little changed. Some places (like Mexico) have several flu peaks now and the infections continue throughout
Coronavirus: Scientists reveal how the body fights back against infection
Scientists in Australia say they have for the first time mapped how the body's immune system responds to coronavirus, an important step in the possible creation of an effective vaccine. Researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne were able to test blood samples at four different time points in an otherwise healthy woman in her 40s, who presented with COVID-19 and had mild-to-moderate symptoms.
China sends masks, gloves to help France fight virus - French minister
China is sending 1 million surgical masks and gloves to France to help it fight the coronavirus, the French foreign minister said on Wednesday. A first plane arrived via Belgium earlier on Wednesday and a second will arrive on Thursday, Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an interview with BFM TV. France, which has a shortage of masks and gloves, provided China with some 17 tonnes of equipment after the virus broke out in China’s Wuhan province.
Catching Up to Coronavirus: Top 60 Treatments in Development
More than two dozen of the 60 COVID-19 treatments in development are therapies that have emerged or made public just in the two weeks since GEN published its original A-List summarizing COVID-19 therapies in the works.
Everyone In Iceland Can Get Tested For The Coronavirus. Here's How The Results Could Help All Of Us.
As countries around the world scramble to fight back the spread of the coronavirus, Iceland is doing things a little differently from the rest — and the approach could have a much larger impact on our understanding of the virus. The small island nation of 364,000 is carrying out large-scale testing among its general population, making it the latest country to put aggressive testing at the heart of its fight against the pandemic. But — crucially — the testing also includes people who show no symptoms of the disease. Iceland’s government said it has so far tested a higher proportion of its citizens than anywhere else in the world. The number of individuals tested by the country’s health authorities and the biotechnology firm deCode Genetics — 3,787 — roughly translates to 10,405 per million, which compares to about 5,203 in South Korea, 2478 in Italy, and 764 in the UK. "Iceland’s population puts it in the unique position of having very high testing capabilities with help from the Icelandic medical research company deCode Genetics, who are offering to perform large scale testing," Thorolfur Guðnason, Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, told BuzzFeed News. "This effort is intended to gather insight into the actual prevalence of the virus in the community, as most countries are most exclusively testing symptomatic individuals at this time." Of 3,787 individuals tested in the country, a total of 218 positive cases have been identified so far. "At least half of those infected contracted the virus while travelling abroad, mostly in high-risk areas in the European Alps (at least 90)," the government said on Monday. Those numbers include the first results of the voluntary tests on people with no symptoms, which started last Friday. The first batch of 1,800 tests produced 19 positive cases, or about 1% of the sample. "Early results from deCode Genetics indicate that a low proportion of the general population has contracted the virus and that about half of those who tested positive are non-symptomatic,” said Guðnason. “The other half displays very moderate cold-like symptoms." “This data can also become a valuable resource for scientific studies of the virus in the future,” he added.
Scientists say mass tests in Italian town have halted Covid-19 there
The small town of Vò, in northern Italy, where the first coronavirus death occurred in the country, has become a case study that demonstrates how scientists might neutralise the spread of Covid-19. A scientific study, rolled out by the University of Padua, with the help of the Veneto Region and the Red Cross, consisted of testing all 3,300 inhabitants of the town, including asymptomatic people. The goal was to study the natural history of the virus, the transmission dynamics and the categories at risk. The researchers explained they had tested the inhabitants twice and that the study led to the discovery of the decisive role in the spread of the coronavirus epidemic of asymptomatic people. When the study began, on 6 March, there were at least 90 infected in Vò. For days now, there have been no new cases.
More than 99% of those killed by the coronavirus in Italy had other pathologies
More than 99% of coronavirus deaths in Italy were from people with previous medical conditions , according to a study by the country's national health authority. After deaths from the virus reached more than 2,500, with a 150% jump in the past week, health authorities have been analyzing the data to extract useful information to combat the spread of the disease. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's government is considering extending national confinement beyond the beginning of April, newspaper La Stampa reported on Wednesday. Italy has more than 31,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
The coronavirus epidemic hits Spain which does not have enough virus diagnostic testing kits
The problem is serious, warn the experts consulted, although it is mitigated by social distancing which has already been decreed throughout Spain by the government. Carrying out as many tests as possible has been shown to be the key tool in slowing down the virus in countries such as Germany or South Korea . Distancing reduces the circulation of the virus, but knowing who is infected remains key. Each diagnosis means investigators can see is a chain of infections and can act to ensure that they no longer reach an old folks home, avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and, ultimately, reduce the number of deaths”, explains a person responsible for microbiology at a large Madrid-based public hospital.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 19th Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
COVID-19: Isolation increases risk of immunological disorders, immunologist says
As Canada continues to weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have been concerned with the potential impact that extended isolation could be having on the mental wellness of our youth as continued lockdowns, distanced learning and gathering limits leave children with significantly less time interacting with others and their typical environments. One viral immunologist is aiming to bring attention to what he calls the “underappreciated effect” our pandemic is having on the physical health of children, as time spent in isolation has been amplifying an already present epidemic of allergies, asthma and even auto-immune diseases in the country.
Elderly with hearing difficulties experienced memory loss, loneliness during Covid-19 lockdown
People aged over 70 years with hearing difficulties experienced heightened depression, loneliness and memory problems during the COVID-19 lockdown, according to an online survey conducted by UK health experts. "The impact of social isolation has been massive on the elderly population, but our survey shows that people with hearing impairment have been more substantially affected," said Professor Annalena Venneri from the University of Sheffield's Neuroscience Institute. Venneri, who is also the co-author of the study, said measures put in place to help limit the spread of the virus —such as face coverings and social distancing — have limited the social interaction of the elderly people to a greater extent.
GPs in England should prescribe art and gardening to combat Covid issues - study
Thousands more people should be prescribed art classes, group gardening projects and nature walks on the NHS in a bid to improve physical and mental health, it has been claimed. A report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists says patients are missing out on “social prescribing”, even though it could help combat the mental health fallout from the pandemic. Social prescribing can include activities such as attending a new skills workshop, playing football in a local team, taking some form of education or training, or helping local elderly residents with their gardening. It can be used to help deal with loneliness and improve physical and mental conditions.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19 testing will become 'permanent feature of life', documents reveal
Covid-19 testing is likely to become a “permanent feature” of life in Scotland, government documents reveal. A new strategy sets out plans to keep testing people with symptoms beyond the threat of the pandemic. A £13 million genomic sequencing centre is being set up to help swiftly identify variants which may cause fresh outbreaks or beat vaccines. Nicola Sturgeon announced details of the laboratory, saying it would be able to sequence up to 1,000 samples a day. Scotland presently has to send some samples to England to find out details of the viral strain.
Covid-19 rapid tests could be offered to younger NI pupils
In Northern Ireland, pupils younger than those in years 12 to 14 could be included in Covid-19 testing for schools "at a later stage". That is according to guidance on testing in schools published by the Department of Education (DE). All post-primary staff and year 12 to 14 pupils are to be offered twice-weekly lateral flow tests from 22 March when they return to school. After the Easter holidays, all staff in primary and pre-schools will also be offered regular testing.
Community Activities
Google removed more than 99 million malicious Covid-19 ads in 2020, figures show
Google blocked or removed more than three billion adverts for violating its policies in 2020, including more than 99 million linked to the coronavirus pandemic, the company has revealed. The internet company’s annual Ads Safety Report showed it suspended 1.7 million advertiser accounts for breaking Google rules. It said a major revamp of its advertising policies, including the addition or updating of more than 40 rules for both advertisers and publishers had meant a drastic increase in the number of ads removed over the last 12 months. Among the 3.1 billion adverts removed were over 99 million related to Covid-19, many for misleading claims such as miracle cures or fake vaccine doses, but also ads for N95 masks during supply shortages
Drive to help Wirral BAME communities feel safe about Covid jab
A Wirral woman is championing a campaign to ensure ethnic communities across the borough feel safe about having the Covid-19 vaccine. Carol Haque is encouraging others in the Bangladeshi community to take up the vaccine as the safest, most effective way to tackle the virus in a campaign launched by Cheshire and Merseyside NHS. Using insight from local research, representatives from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic will address questions about the vaccine in a series of radio adverts, posters and social media adverts.
Working Remotely
Couple reveal how they gave up full time work to live in a van
A couple who swapped their busy office jobs for life in van, trading their hectic nine to five schedules for working just two days a week remotely have revealed they're still saving the same amount as before despite a 60 per cent salary cut. Charlie Low, 25, an insight manager, and Dale Comley, 29, an engineer, from Bristol, decided to leave their jobs after finding themselves constantly counting down to the days to the weekend every week. Tired of the rat race, they invested £8,800 in a bright yellow LWB Mercedes Sprinter van - previously used by delivery company DHL - and converted it in their spare time after choosing to commit to a new life on the road. Over the next year, the couple spent £6,700 converting the van but are still able to save the same amount now as when they were working full time as their ills are so tiny.
Remote working locations confirmed across Wales
Locations across Wales are being made available for remote working, giving people an alternative to working from home or working in a traditional office environment. The Welsh Government is encouraging an increase in remote working and has set a long-term ambition for 30% of the Welsh workforce to work away from a traditional office, to be achieved by giving people more options and choice on their workplace. This ambition is intended to help town centres, reduce congestion and cut carbon emissions.
Why remote work has eroded trust among colleagues
When the pandemic triggered mass workplace closures last spring, many companies were unprepared for what turned into an open-ended remote-work arrangement. For some, the extraordinary situation initially prompted a heightened sense of goodwill as workers juggled the demands of family and fine-tuned home-office setups. Yet as we now pass the one-year mark of virtual work, the shaky foundation of many company cultures is cracking to reveal a lack of trust among remote managers and employees. The dearth of trust isn’t something that will be magically fixed once the pandemic subsides, especially as businesses are considering adopting new models, from hybrid systems to a different kind of work week. The consequences of a culture of distrust are significant – including diminished productivity, innovation and motivation. But there are steps we can take to effectively build and repair trust, even from afar.
Covid-19 remote working and newsroom productivity
More than a third of media professionals believe they have exceeded newsroom productivity while working from home during the coronavirus pandemic – however some shared concerns that the quality of their work had dipped. The absence of face-to-face contact was a problem raised by journalists who feel they have suffered from not being able to meet interviewees or interact with colleagues amid the buzz of the newsroom. This was a common theme: “It’s more productive but you miss that time interacting with people. The talking and chats that might make you ‘less productive’ but have a human side.”
Virtual Classrooms
US schools prepare summer of learning to help kids catch up
After a dreary year spent largely at home in front of the computer, many U.S. children could be looking at summer school — and that's just what many parents want. Although the last place most kids want to spend summer is in a classroom, experts say that after a year of interrupted study, it’s crucial to do at least some sort of learning over the break, even if it’s not in school and is incorporated into traditional camp offerings. Several governors, including in California Kansas and Virginia are pushing for more summer learning. And some states are considering extending their 2021-22 academic year or starting the fall semester early
Remote Schooling Strains Parents and Their Children, CDC Survey Suggests
In the U.S., parents whose children received virtual instruction were more likely to report poorer well-being for themselves and their kids, a federal government survey found. The parents were more likely to report that they were emotionally distressed, concerned about job stability and struggling to balance work and child care if their children were learning virtually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released Thursday. Some of the parents also reported the mental and emotional health of their children had worsened, while their physical activity had decreased.
Public Policies
Biden set to hit goal of 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in first 100 days over a month ahead of schedule
President Joe Biden is poised to hit a top goal he set for his first 100 days in the White House - 100 million vaccine shots in the arms of Americans - as early as Thursday, NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett reported. Before he was inaugurated, Biden underscored the importance of ramping up the pace of vaccination in the US. In early December, he unveiled a three-part plan to crush COVID-19 in his first 100 days - including complete 100 million vaccine shots. Biden's 100th day in office will be April 30, which means he's set to hit this goal over a month ahead of schedule.
Ukraine's COVID-19 cases jump, capital Kyiv imposes tough restrictions
New coronavirus infections spiked to their highest level in Ukraine since November on Thursday, prompting the capital Kyiv to impose a tight lockdown for three weeks starting on Saturday. Kyiv’s lockdown echoes similar measures to be introduced by Lviv, the largest city in the west of the country, on Friday including closures of cafes, restaurants, non-food stores and a ban on public events. “We need to gain time and do everything to prevent the collapse of the medical system,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
‘Safe and effective’: EU drug regulator backs AstraZeneca vaccine
The European Union drug regulator has said it has come to a “clear scientific conclusion” that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is “safe and effective” after several, mostly European, countries suspended its use following reports of blood clots among some recipients. Speaking during a news briefing on Thursday, Emer Cooke, head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said the AstraZeneca vaccine “is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events or blood clots,” stressing once again that the jab’s benefits outweigh possible risks.
Pakistan receives second batch of 500,000 vaccines from China
Pakistan has received a Chinese donation of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, bringing the country’s total supply to one million shots, Health Minister Dr Faisal Sultan said. The South Asian nation of 220 million people launched COVID-19 vaccinations for the public on March 10, starting with older people. Health workers started receiving shots in early February.
India sticks to AstraZeneca vaccine ‘with full vigour’
India is not worried about some European Union countries suspending use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and will continue to roll out the shot in its huge immunisation programme “with full vigour”, a senior official said. The AstraZeneca shots are produced by India’s Serum Institute and known in the country as Covishield. The vaccine accounts for most of the 35 million coronavirus jabs administered in the country so far.
Paris goes into lockdown as COVID-19 variant rampages
France imposed a month-long lockdown on Paris and parts of the north after a faltering vaccine rollout and spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants forced President Emmanuel Macron to shift course. Since late January, when he defied the calls of scientists and some in his government to lock the country down, Macron has said he would do whatever it took to keep the euro zone’s second largest economy as open as possible. However, this week he ran out of options just as France and other European countries briefly suspended use of the AstraZenca vaccine. His prime minister, Jean Castex, said France was in the grip of a third wave, with the virulent variant first detected in Britain now accounting for some 75% of cases. Intensive care wards are under severe strain, notably in Paris where the incidence rate surpasses 400 infections in every 100,000 inhabitants.
Maintaining Services
India coronavirus: Concerns mount over high levels of vaccine wastage
More than two million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have gone to waste during India’s national inoculation drive, leading some officials to call on the public to cherish the “elixir-like, precious commodity”. On Wednesday, Indian health officials highlighted that about 6.5 per cent of all doses delivered to the front line have been wasted. Concerns are such that prime minister Narendra Modi spoke out over the issue, demanding immediate steps to tackle the problem and stating that “we are denying somebody’s rights because of this wastage”.
More dying of Covid-19 now in Europe than in first wave as UK variant takes hold
More people are dying of Covid-19 now in Europe than during March 2020, the World Health Organization has warned. The WHO's emergencies lead in Europe, Dr Catherine Smallwood, said she was "particularly worried" about the situation in the Balkans, the Baltic States and Central Europe, where hospitalisations and deaths are among the highest in the world. The numbers of new cases per million people are also rising so fast that in some countries - notably Estonia, Bosnia, Hungary and Poland - the graphs tracking the virus point almost vertically upwards. Experts said that the combination of the spread of the more transmissible UK variant coupled with slow government reactions, as well as a lack of vaccinations in some countries, could all be contributing to the spiking numbers and Europe's looming third wave.
U.S. to share 4 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with Mexico, Canada
The United States plans to send roughly 4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine that it is not using to Mexico and Canada in loan deals with the two countries, yielding to requests to share vaccines with allies. Mexico will receive 2.5 million doses of the vaccine and Canada is to receive 1.5 million doses, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “It is not fully finalized yet but it is our aim,” Psaki told a daily briefing. “Ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is ... mission critical to ending the pandemic.” The Biden administration has come under pressure from countries around the world to share vaccines, particularly its stock of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is authorized for use elsewhere but not yet in the United States.
Brazil struggles with lack of ICU doctors as pandemic worsens
As Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak spirals out of control, the country is facing a dangerous new shortage, threatening to drive fatalities even higher: a lack of staff in intensive care units. ome medical professionals are burned out after months of grueling, soul-sapping work. Others are simply unable to keep up with the endless flow of critical COVID-19 patients pushing the country’s healthcare system to the brink. “Intensive care doctors are a commodity in short supply,” César Eduardo Fernandes, the president of the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) told Reuters on Wednesday. “There’s no way to meet this brutal, catastrophic demand.”
Taiwan clears AstraZeneca vaccine, shots might start on Monday
Taiwan has given regulatory approval to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and might start giving the first inoculations as early as Monday, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said. Taiwan’s first vaccines – 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca shot – arrived on the island earlier this month.
Healthcare Innovations
GPs ‘at least 30% less likely’ to pass Covid-19 on to others after one vaccine dose
Chances of healthcare workers passing Covid onto others reduced by at least 30% after one vaccine dose, according to the first UK study into the transmission of coronavirus following vaccination. Quoting the research in yesterday’s coronavirus briefing, health secretary Matt Hancock said ‘it shows that the vaccines are saving lives’. The study, which included 300,000 people, saw researchers assess the health records of people who lived with vaccinated and unvaccinated healthcare workers between 8 December and 3 March to find how many tested positive for Covid-19 or were hospitalised. The yet-to-be-peer-reviewed study, carried out by Public Health Scotland and the University of Glasgow, suggested that after one vaccine dose healthcare workers are at least 30% less likely to pass Covid onto others, with this rising to 54% less likely after a second dose. The researchers said this is a low estimate of the ‘true’ impact of the vaccines, given that household members of healthcare workers could also be infected through people they do not live with.
Skin swabbing could be useful in detecting Covid-19, research suggests
Simple skin swabbing could be useful in helping to help detect Covid-19, new research suggests. Chemists at the University of Surrey found that people infected with the virus appear to have lower lipid levels in the natural oils that coat the surface of their skin.
Covid-19 reinfections are rare, unless you are over 65
Coronavirus reinfections are rare, but it's more common for people 65 and older to get infected more than once, according to a study published Wednesday in the Lancet medical journal. The study, which looked at reinfection rates among 4 million people in Denmark, found that most people who have had Covid-19 seemed to have protection from reinfection for more than six months. In a follow-up after six months, the study found no evidence that protection was waning. But a check of the demographics of who was getting infected again showed it was mostly people 65 and older, Jen Christensen reports.
J&J developing several next-generation COVID-19 vaccines, says CEO
Johnson & Johnson is developing several next generation COVID-19 vaccines against the emerging variants of the coronavirus, Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky said on Thursday. The drugmaker, which won the U.S. emergency use authorization of a one-shot vaccine last month, had previously said it was developing a second-generation vaccine that would target the variant first identified in South Africa. J&J is also working on a two-dose version of its vaccine. "We could be in a situation where you could either need a booster to maintain the durability (of protection against the virus) or you might need to have a next derivative of the current vaccine to address these variants as they develop", Gorsky said at a webinar by the Economic Club of New York.
Half of hospital COVID survivors note symptoms 4 months on
Half of French COVID-19 survivors who were hospitalized (51.0%) had at least one COVID-related symptom at least 4 months later, according to a study published yesterday in JAMA. The most commonly noted symptoms were fatigue (31.1%), cognitive conditions (20.7%), and shortness of breath (16.3%). Further clinical tests in a subset of 177 patients showed that 63.2% had abnormalities on lung computed tomography (CT) scan, but the researchers note that severe pulmonary after-effects were not common. "Along with funding for research to better understand and treat long COVID, simultaneous investment in clinical infrastructure will be needed to support patients as they recover from this challenging disease," writes Hallie Prescott, MD, MSc, of the University of Michigan, in an invited editorial.
Trending Clinical Topic: PASC
At a recent White House briefing, Anthony Fauci, MD, introduced a new acronym for what had been called "long COVID." PASC is the new term used to describe long-lingering effects of COVID-19 (see Infographic below) and is this week's top trending clinical topic. At the briefing, Fauci stressed that even patients with moderate cases of COVID-19 can develop PASC. "New symptoms sometimes arise well after the time of infection, or they evolve over time and persist for months," he explained. "They can range from mild or annoying to actually quite incapacitating." Fauci noted that the National Institutes of Health recently launched an initiative to further study the phenomenon.
Existing COVID vaccines may protect against Brazil strain: Study
Existing vaccines may protect against the Brazilian variant of the coronavirus, according to a University of Oxford study which also highlighted how a variant first found in South Africa poses the biggest headache for vaccine makers. Coronavirus variants with specific mutations to the spike protein are of concern because scientists worry they will reduce the efficacy of vaccines, as well as immunity gained from prior infection.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 25th Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
Singapore extends quarantine-free entry as Asia shifts to "living with COVID"
Singapore said on Thursday it will lift quarantine requirements for all vaccinated travellers from next month, joining a string of countries in Asia moving more firmly toward a "living with the virus" approach. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the financial hub will also drop requirements to wear masks outdoors and allow larger groups to gather. "Our fight against COVID-19 has reached a major turning point," Lee said in a televised speech that was also streamed on Facebook. "We will be making a decisive move towards living with COVID-19."
Poland scraps most mask, quarantine rules
Poland will lift the requirement to wear masks in confined spaces, except for health care facilities, and remove quarantine rules for travellers and roommates of infected people, Poland's Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Thursday. "I have decided to introduce two changes as of March 28 - an end to the obligation to wear masks, stipulating that it does not apply to health care facilities", Niedzielski said. "The second decision is to abolish home isolation and home quarantine for roommates (of infected people) and all quarantines for people entering Poland."
Chinese steelmaking hub Tangshan enters lockdown as COVID cases rise
China's top steelmaking city Tangshan implemented a temporary lockdown on Tuesday to avoid further cases of COVID-19 as infections surged, the local government said in a statement. Residents should not leave their houses or buildings except for tests or emergencies pending further announcement, the government said. Tangshan reported 15 confirmed locally transmitted cases from March 19-22, and 79 asymptomatic cases, while Hebei province, where Tangshan is located, had 331 confirmed cases and 2,454 asymptomatic cases as of March 22, data from the provincial health authority showed.
Hygiene Helpers
Simple home oxygen monitors signal when to seek COVID care
COVID-19 patients can safely use inexpensive pulse oximeters at home to watch for a drop in blood oxygen that signals they need to seek advanced care, according to a systematic review published yesterday in The Lancet Digital Health. Pulse oximeters are small devices that shine light through a patient's finger to measure his or her blood oxygen saturation. They can be used alone or as part of a remote patient monitoring (RPM) package. Imperial College London researchers analyzed 13 observational studies involving 2,908 participants in five countries using pulse oximetry to monitor their blood oxygen levels from when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 to Apr 15, 2021. Some RPM programs had participants monitor their own oxygen levels, while others developed a mobile app or website for patients to report their readings. Participants included older people with more than one underlying illness, young people, and pregnant and postpartum women. All participants had COVID-19 except for 12 controls in one study.
COVID booster provides protection for over-65s after 15 weeks -UK data
A booster dose of vaccine against COVID-19 continues to provide robust protection against hospitalisation for older people nearly four months after getting the third dose, new data from the UK's Health Security Agency on Thursday showed. Vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation for people aged over 65, 15 weeks after a booster, was 85%, down from 91% two weeks after getting the third dose, the latest vaccine surveillance report from the agency estimated. The data is the first released by the UK on the longer term durability of boosters. The UK is administering fourth doses to vulnerable age groups, joining a number of other countries including Israel as the world fights the more infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Japan to Start Preparations for 4th COVID-19 Vaccine Shots
The Japanese health ministry on Thursday decided to start preparations for administrating fourth shots of novel coronavirus vaccines. The ministry plans to administer the fourth shots as "temporary vaccinations," like the first, second and third shots. It assumes the use of Pfizer Inc.'s or Moderna Inc.'s vaccine for the fourth shots. The timing to start giving the fourth shots and the interval between the third and fourth shots will continue to be discussed.
Virtusa Delivers COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
Virtusa Corporation today announced that its Virtusa Vax Manager is available to provide businesses with an easy way to track employee vaccination status. The COVID-19 vaccine tracker and return to office capabilities of Virtusa Vax Manager can be built rapidly, and is easily configurable on technology from Pegasystems, the software company that crushes business complexity, to help companies stay compliant with emerging regulations, while ensuring the wellbeing of all employees and easing the burden on HR staff.
Covid-19: Less than 2% of young kids in NI vaccinated as health professor warns of 'serious' long Covid risk
Only 2,483 doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to children in Northern Ireland between the ages of five and 11. Less than 2% of the cohort has received a dose despite the fact that the vaccine was made available to all children in the age group over a month ago.
COVID-19: Pandemic can't be beaten without easy access to testing, warns WHO envoy Dr David Nabarro
People must continue to have "easy access" to testing with "still an awful lot of people getting sick and dying" from COVID, the World Health Organisation has told Sky News. Speaking on the second anniversary of the first UK national lockdown, Dr David Nabarro, the WHO's special envoy on the virus, appealed for people to remember it is "still nasty" - and that without mass testing it is difficult to monitor "where the virus is". From 1 April, lateral flow tests will no longer be freely available, the government has said.
Zimbabwe renews COVID vaccination drive, targets schoolkids
Zimbabwe has launched a new COVID-19 vaccination campaign that includes jabbing children aged 12 and above to rescue a drive faltering due to vaccine hesitancy and complacency. This week schools in the southern African country have become vaccination zones with children in school uniforms lining up to get the injections. Many parents say they support the vaccination drive to prevent schools from becoming centers of infection, although others remain skeptical.
Community Activities
Majority of GPs think England Covid restrictions removed too soon
The majority of GPs in England think Covid restrictions should still apply, a Pulse survey has revealed. Speaking to Pulse, GPs said removing restrictions meant difficulties keeping vulnerable people safe, and they expressed particular concern with regards to the scrapping of free Covid testing. More than two-thirds of GPs are also concerned about their own health in light of the lifting of restrictions. Since the end of last month (24 February), fully-vaccinated people and children have not been required to isolate if they develop symptoms of Covid-19 and, from next week (1 April) free testing will be scrapped altogether except for the most vulnerable. However, asked in a Pulse survey to what extent they agreed with the Government’s decision to remove restrictions: Well over half (59%) of GPs said they disagreed and almost a quarter (24%) of GPs said they ‘strongly’ disagreed. Although another quarter (27%) of GPs did agree with scrapping restrictions, only 7.5% ‘strongly’ agreed. Of the respondents, more than two thirds (69%) felt concerned about their own health with the removal of restrictions – 23% of these felt very concerned. Just 31% felt unconcerned.
U.S. airline CEOs urge Biden to lift COVID mask mandate -letter
The chief executives of American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and other carriers have urged U.S. President Joe Biden to end a federal mask mandate on airplanes and international pre-departure testing requirements. The airline executives, including the chairman of Southwest Airlines and JetBlue's CEO, said in a letter the restrictions "are no longer aligned with the realities of the current epidemiological environment."
Working Remotely
Working culture has changed – can the public sector keep up?
When the pandemic hit, many of the UK’s 5.7 million public sector employees took part in the largest remote working experiment in history. At the same time, many were also thrust on to the frontline of the country’s response to the Covid crisis. According to the Office for National Statistics 42% of public sector workers worked flexible hours in 2018, compared with 21% of private sector workers. However, only 3% of public sector workers reported that they worked mainly from home, compared with 17% of people in the private sector.
Mental health at work: the tech helping businesses to assist struggling staff
Loneliness and anxiety afflict many people working remotely, but companies can support employees with an array of technologies. For many businesses, technology could play a role in helping employees’ mental wellbeing. One solution is the use of app-based surveys that enable employees to set out their concerns and feelings about their workplace environment. This is an effective way of ensuring that employers take into account the diverse and differing needs of their workforce, says Kate Cavanagh, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Sussex.
5 misconceptions about remote work, debunked
According to the Pew Research Center, only 23 percent of workers in jobs that could be done from home were frequently working remotely before the coronavirus pandemic. During the pandemic, that number peaked at 71 percent and is currently at 59 percent. While a majority of those workers early in the pandemic said they were working from home because their offices were closed, the proportion has flipped, and now the majority say they’re working from home because they want to. Remote work has evolved from a rare ad-hoc accommodation to a preferred way of life.
Virtual Classrooms
A teacher's tips for effective edtech integration
Integrating technology into the classroom offers numerous benefits for students, including increased communication and collaboration skills alongside better engagement. The first thing that needs to be done in order to successfully integrate technology in the classroom has to be instructing/training teachers to do so. Having professional development sessions offered yearly and up to date with the ever-changing tech tools that schools are offered would be something that every teacher could benefit from. Students, as a result, will reap the benefits of their teachers’ pedagogical tech skills.
How Virtual Learning Can Help Bridge the Skills Gap
Though online learning predates COVID-19, the pandemic quickened the pace of digital learning’s evolution in higher education. The last two years alone have seen an explosion in online courses and the expansion of online degree programs. Moving forward, higher education institutions must innovate to increase access, engagement and the overall experience for students of all types, while also embracing the idea of “lifelong learning,” said Judy Olian, president of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, during a webinar on “How Virtual Learning Is Enabling Lifelong Skill-Building.” Olian and three other panelists discussed where online education fits into the future of higher ed and how institutions must adapt moving forward.
Public Policies
South Africa drops Covid test for vaccinated travellers
South Africa is the latest country to ease rules for inbound travellers. With immediate effect, fully vaccinated arrivals no longer need to present a Covid test to enter the country, the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has announced. Visitors who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated are permitted entry, but must present a negative PCR result from a test taken within the 72 hours prior to arrival. Unlike some European countries, South Africa currently classes anyone with two or more doses of a recognised vaccine as “fully vaccinated”. Children under five are exempt from testing requirements, regardless of vaccination status.
Covid-19: Government left “inadequate” paper trail when awarding testing contracts, says watchdog
The UK government failed to keep proper records when awarding almost £780m (€937m; $1.03bn) worth of covid-19 testing contracts to the diagnostics company Randox, the UK’s public spending watchdog has found. Last year the Conservative MP and former minister Owen Paterson resigned from his parliamentary seat after being heavily criticised for lobbying the government on behalf of Randox while acting as a paid consultant to the company. In a report published on 24 March1 the National Audit Office (NAO) acknowledged that the government had had to act quickly to build testing capacity at the start of the pandemic, but it said that the Department of Health and Social Care “did not document key decisions adequately, disclose ministerial meetings with Randox fully or keep full records of ministerial discussions involving Randox.”
AstraZeneca's preventative COVID shot set to win EU clearance this week-sources
Europe's drug regulator is expected to give the go-ahead this week for AstraZeneca's antibody-based injection for preventing COVID-19 infections, two people familiar with the review said, following U.S. and UK approvals. The treatment is meant for adults whose immune system is too weak to respond to vaccines and offers a new tool to ease the pandemic burden on healthcare systems. Infections in Europe are on a sharp rise again this month, with the adult vaccination rate stagnating at a little over 83%. The expected recommendation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is set to be confirmed swiftly by the European Commission, which has the final word on market access.
Maintaining Services
COVID-19: More elderly people being admitted to hospital with coronavirus than at peak of Omicron wave, latest data shows
More elderly people are now being admitted to hospital with COVID than they were at the peak of the Omicron wave, according to the latest official data. The statistics from the UK Health Security Agency will add urgency to the new drive to vaccinate the over-75s with a "spring booster". Figures from the Weekly Flu and COVID Surveillance Report show that the admission rate in England for every 100,000 people over the age of 85 was 178.29 in the week to 20 March, compared with 158.43 at the turn of the year. The rate in people aged between 75 and 84 was 74.34 per 100,000 last week. At the beginning of January, it was 70.3. Although hospitalisation rates in younger patients are also rising, they are still below the level of the original Omicron surge.
A fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose is on the horizon, but Victoria's booster rate remains stubbornly low
Experts have raised concerns about the "disappointing" rate at which Victorians are getting their booster COVID-19 vaccine doses, as the possibility of a fourth dose is considered. More than 93.7 per cent of eligible Victorians have had two doses of the vaccine, but the latest figures from the health department show 64 per cent of people aged 18 and up have now received three vaccine doses. That figure has risen by less than seven percentage points in a month — it stood at 57.1 per cent on February 23.
One million Scots have not had a booster vaccine amid warnings over waning immunity
Figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) show 983,875 adults have not received a third dose or booster, six months after the programme began. More than 500,000 of these are at least 12 weeks on from their second dose. The Scottish Government admitted fewer appointments had taken place than expected, after PHS reported that 21,000 vaccine doses were thrown away in February after reaching their expiry dates.
Rich countries getting new COVID vaccine before poorer ones
The company behind a COVID-19 vaccine touted as a key tool for the developing world has sent tens of millions of doses to wealthy nations but provided none yet to the U.N.-backed effort to supply poorer countries, a sign that inequity persists in the global response to the pandemic. COVAX had planned to make available 250 million doses from Novavax by March, but the U.N. agency in charge of deliveries says the first shipments now likely won't be made until April or May.
Two years on from UK's first Covid lockdown, cases may be rising but deaths remain low
Two years on from the start of the UK’s first Covid lockdown, when cases were rising rapidly and there was no timeline for a vaccine, the threat of the virus has changed significantly in the UK. Prime Minister Boris Johnson marked the milestone by paying tribute to the “heroic efforts” of the NHS on Wednesday, while giving sympathies to the families of those who died from Covid, and said Britain’s 187,000 coronavirus casualties “will never be out of our hearts and minds”. The UK is now one of the few places globally with nearly zero Covid restrictions in place despite a recent rise in cases driven by the Omicron variant, but Health Secretary Sajid Javid has insisted there is “no particular cause for concern”, with the “wall of defence” from vaccines keeping the situation stable.
Covid-19: Free PCR tests to end for most in April
In Northern Ireland, most people will no longer be able to access a free PCR test from 22 April, the health minister has said. Lateral flow tests (LFTs) will continue to be free, but only for people displaying Covid-19 symptoms and this policy continues to be reviewed. Routine contact tracing is also set to be phased out between the middle of April and the end of June. Health Minister Robin Swann said the changes reflected the "new realities of the pandemic".
Australia to roll out fourth COVID vaccine shot ahead of winter
Australia will roll out a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines to its most vulnerable population starting next month, authorities said on Friday, as the country looks to limit fresh outbreaks ahead of winter. The decision comes amid a steady rise in cases fuelled by the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron strain and concerns of co-circulation of COVID-19 and flu viruses during colder months as most social distancing restrictions end. A second booster shot will be offered from April 4 to people who had their previous booster shot at least four months ago and are over 65 years, Indigenous Australians over 50, people with disability or severely immunocompromised, Health Minister Greg Hunt said during a media briefing.
Global COVID-19 cases climb for second week in a row
Last week marked a turnaround in a 5-week decline in cases. In the continued rise this week, cases were up 7% compared to the week before, the WHO said. Cases were up 21% in the Western Pacific region, an area that includes locations experiencing surges, including South Korea, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. The European region's cases remained steady, while levels declined in the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, South East Asia, and Americas regions. Deaths overall declined 23% compared to the week before, though they were up 5% in the Western Pacific region. The WHO received reports of 12 million cases last week. Countries reporting the most cases were South Korea, Vietnam, Germany, France, and Australia. Also, there were 33,000 deaths across the globe, with Russia nudging ahead of the United States in reporting the most weekly fatalities.
Healthcare Innovations
We’ve found one factor that predicts which countries best survive Covid
In 2019, the Global Health Security Index published a report ranking countries on their preparedness for pandemics. The US scored highest, followed by the UK. Two years later, both countries rank among those with the greatest loss of life from Covid. How could this be? A large part of the answer is trust. Countries that looked good on paper in 2019, such as the US, UK, Spain and Slovenia, found they lacked this intangible but critical layer of defence. And this figure from our research over the past two years at the Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker shows it in stark terms. On the left (see below) you can see that a higher global health security score in 2019 is not correlated with fewer deaths during the pandemic, at least among the countries whose health systems have a minimum threshold of capacity.
Sinovac Booster Gives Elderly Stronger Protection Against Omicron, Study Finds
Two doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine offered older people only a moderately high level of protection against severe disease and death from Covid-19, but a third dose significantly bolstered their defenses, according to a new study by scientists in Hong Kong. The study, based on patients infected during the current devastating Omicron wave in Hong Kong, serves as a cautionary note for mainland China, where Sinovac is a pillar of the country’s vaccination program. Many older people there have yet to receive booster shots. For people 60 and older, two Sinovac doses were 72 percent effective against severe or fatal Covid-19 and 77 percent effective against Covid-related death, the study found.
No fall in Covid-19 antibody levels among elderly, figures suggest
Covid-19 antibody levels among UK adults remain at a record high, with no evidence of a drop among older age groups whose most recent dose of vaccine was likely to be several months ago, analysis suggests. Some 99.3% of people aged 80 and over in England were likely to have antibodies at the start of March, along with 98.2% in Wales and 98.3% in Scotland – the highest for each nation since estimates began at the end of 2020. The figures, which have been calculated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also estimate 99.2% of over-70s in Northern Ireland had antibodies at the beginning of this month – again, the highest level so far.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 20th Mar 2020

Isolation Tips
Please help us (#nhsworkers) to help you... by staying at home
Please help us (#nhsworkers) to help you... by staying at home and avoiding other people you are preventing spread of Covid-19, reducing #NHS work, and saving the lives of vulnerable fellow humans! @Suffolk_PC @SuffolkGPFed @WestSuffolkNHS @NHSWSCCG @IESCCG
Simple Food Swaps For When You Run Out Of Ingredients
Has a coronavirus quarantine emptied your kitchen? These are the best substitutes for butter, eggs, milk, onions, lemon, sugar, flour, broth and more.
When it’s all too much, here’s how to quell coronavirus anxiety, according to experts
There are so many sources of stress during the COVID-19 pandemic (pandemic!), it’s normal to feel some anxiety when a global infectious disease is impacts every realm of your life. Here are some ways to cope with stress and anxiety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
I'm an Italian mom under coronavirus lockdown. Here's what I wish I had done differently before things got bad
Italy has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak that's rapidly spreading worldwide.The country is on lockdown, its 60 million citizens have been instructed to remain indoors, and all public gatherings have been canceled. Katherine Wilson, a mother of two who lives in Rome, said she wished that she and other Italians had listened to warnings about the coronavirus. She warned Americans not to make "similar misguided choices."
Coronavirus: How to help the elderly and other vulnerable people during the outbreak
‘There are some simple steps we can all take that will make a huge difference,’ says Caroline Abrahams at AGE UK...
It's Totally Normal To Feel Weird, Anxious Or Scared Right Now. We're In A Period Of Grief
Therapists explain us how we can maintain some form of control – no matter how big or small – in our lives.
Hygiene Helpers
How long can the novel coronavirus survive on surfaces and in the air?
A new study shows that SARS-CoV-2 can linger in the air for hours and on some materials for days
Covid-19: Clon Distillery to produce sanitiser – and free for local charities
CEO Mr Scully said ‘We are adhering to HSE specifications, creating sanitisers with an alcohol content of 63% ABV. Fortunately, we already have suitable 500 ml PET bottles and equipment in place, which means that we are ready to go into production immediately. We expect to have our first batch of 5,000 bottles ready within the next week.’
Denmark to send out coronavirus self-test kits to homes
Denmark will start offering take-home kits to collect samples to test for the new coronavirus, in order to get a better view of its spread, health authorities said on Wednesday.
Community Activities
Concert pays homage to health workers.
Concert pays homage to health workers. Musicians and singers living in a building in the Barbès district of Paris improvise a concert from their windows, in homage to the medical staff on the front line against the #coronavirus epidemic
Ok this was sweet - Israelis on their balconies clapping and cheering for the doctors and nurses
Ok this was sweet - Israelis on their balconies clapping and cheering for the doctors and nurses fighting the Coronavirus pandemic
Coronavirus: A million people demand NHS workers get priority testing
More than a million people have signed a petition calling for NHS staff to be prioritised for coronavirus testing so they can continue to work. NHS staff with a cough are facing the dilemma of being unable to work for a week or infecting patients with COVID-19.
Retailers who inflate prices because of Coronavirus could be prosecuted, CMA warns
The watchdog added that it would consider asking the Government to introduce price controls if needed as products, including hand sanitiser, sell out at hundreds of supermarkets nationwide
Coronavirus: Bangladesh mass prayer event prompts alarm
Tens of thousands of people gathered in Bangladesh for a mass prayer session on Wednesday, despite fears it posed a risk of spreading the new coronavirus. Local police chief Tota Miah told AFP news agency that 10,000 Muslims had gathered in Raipur town to pray "healing verses" from the Koran. But some eyewitnesses told the BBC the figure was closer to 30,000. A similar religious event in Malaysia in February has been confirmed as the source of more than 500 infections.
Facebook has a coronavirus problem. It's WhatsApp.
The platform is being used to spread messages that often contain a mixture of accurate and misleading claims that have been debunked by medical experts. The problem is now so acute that world leaders are urging people to stop sharing unverified information using the app. "I am urging everyone to please stop sharing unverified info on WhatsApp groups," Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Monday on Twitter. "These messages are scaring and confusing people and causing real damage. Please get your info from official, trusted sources."
Twitter to remove harmful fake news about coronavirus
Twitter will remove tweets that run the risk of causing harm by spreading dangerous misinformation about Covid-19, the company has said, after weeks of criticism that its policies on misinformation were too lax.
Coronavirus: The med students who want to help
With the NHS under pressure because of coronavirus, medical students at the University of Liverpool are hoping to use their skills to volunteer at hospitals during the crisis.
Working Remotely
Virtual Classrooms
Coronavirus homeschooling? Five ways to keep your kids learning, happy and healthy
Tom Rose and Jack Pannett are qualified teachers and sports coaches and run an activity business that helps children learn. They also broadcast their own podcast. Here, they set out their five top tips on how to keep your kids engaged, learning, healthy and happy while schools are closed because of coronavirus...
Are you a parent trying to find activities for kids home from school?
Are you a parent trying to find activities for kids home from school? Or someone stuck at home looking for fun distractions? Here are some fun, free science and nature resources you can use at home. I’ll be adding to this list over time.
Public Policies
The coronavirus pandemic began in China. Today, it reported no new local infections for the first time
China has reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since the pandemic began, marking a major turning point in the global battle to contain Covid-19. At a news conference on Thursday morning, officials from China's National Health Commission announced there had been just 34 new cases in the past 24 hours -- all imported from overseas -- and eight new deaths, all in Hubei, the province where the virus was first identified. There were there no new reported cases in Hubei at all on Wednesday.
Coronavirus: "The way the epidemic was managed in South Korea should serve as an example"
In a country, where shops and transport have not been closed, the epidemic has been brought under control thanks, in particular, to the civic spirit of the population, in contrast to the atmosphere of panic in the West, observed, Christophe Gaudin, a French academic based in Seoul.
Coronavirus: NHS staff 'at risk' over lack of protective gear
NHS staff say they are being put at risk during the coronavirus outbreak because of a lack of protective gear. One doctor told the BBC that frontline healthcare workers felt like "cannon fodder" as they do not have access to equipment such as face masks. Health workers also expressed concerns that not enough of them were being tested for the virus.
Coronavirus: UK urged to pay for workers' wages
The government has been urged to step in immediately to pay firm's wage bills to prevent mass unemployment. MPs across all parties are warning that small and medium sized businesses are facing a "catastrophic" loss of revenue because of anti-virus measures.
Coronavirus: Government 'looking at' £151-a-week benefit to stop workers facing destitution
Extra support is expected to be announced for workers either on Friday or Saturday - and ministers today said the radical £151-a-week idea is one of those under consideration
Federal government wants to provide 40 billion euros in emergency aid for small businesses
The self-employed and small businesses are hard hit by the consequences of the corona crisis. According to SPIEGEL sources, the state is now putting together an aid package for them.
Ecuador Mayor orders cars to park on airport runway to stop planes arriving in panic over coronavirus
Referring to an Iberia plane which had no passengers, she said: "There were no fewer than 11 crew members arriving from Madrid, who were going to stay in a hotel in Guayaquil until they could take off on Friday. How is it possible that the plane was going to be allowed to land today so that they could stay in our city coming from theirs with a high number of coronavirus cases?"
China ramps up coronavirus help to Europe (paywall)
Brussels has thanked China for offering to provide more than 2m medical masks and 50,000 coronavirus testing kits, as Beijing escalates its help to European countries grappling with the growing pandemic.
Social distancing working in Italy but epidemic could be determined by population demographics
The effects of the lockdown in Lodi — near Milan in northern Italy — enacted in late February shows a flattening of the curve of the epidemic, says researchers at the University of Oxford. "While cases in the province of Bergamo began to increase from Feb 24th - in contrast to Lodi - no shutdowns or restrictions were imposed," the Oxford sociologists note in a study on how demographics can affect the epidemic. The entire province of Lombardy, which includes Lodi and Bergamo, was instead shut down roughly two weeks later on March 8. Cases in Bergamo have surpassed those in Lodi.
Maintaining Services
A Superstar Epidemiologist's Plan to Fight Coronavirus
The only way we’re really going to flatten the curve is: a) a massive at-home testing effort b) using cell phone location data to tell people who may have been exposed to self-isolate c) allowing people who have known immunity (from having had it) back into the workforce once we know via blood test that they can’t get it or spread it anymore. That way, they can keep everything running while others fall sick.
London paramedics rationed to one face mask between two
Paramedics attending people who could be infected with the coronavirus were told only one person in each team of two could wear a face mask, with the other instructed to stand two metres away from the patient if “clinically appropriate”.
How can we protect healthcare workers?
How can we protect healthcare workers? Evidence suggests risks of #COVID19 to providers grow when healthcare systems get overwhelmed. In Italy 9% of all infections are among medical personnel. In Lombardy alone, 20% of providers were infected.
Healthcare Innovations
King’s Critical Care –Evidence SummaryClinical Management of COVID-19
This is a summary of the evidence available internationally on the management of COVID-19 disease which clinicians may find useful.
Coronavirus: The detectives racing to contain the virus in Singapore
Contact-tracing isn't new - it's been used for decades to track patients who may have passed their illness to others during their stay. But Singapore's use of the system during this crisis was praised by Harvard epidemiologists in early February, who described it as a "gold standard of near-perfect detection". The World Health Organization has also praised Singapore for being proactive even before the first case was detected. Singapore, unlike the US and much of Europe, started contact tracing early to stay ahead of community spread.
China's coronavirus lockdown strategy: brutal but effective
Nearly two months on, Beijing’s lockdown approach for the coronavirus appears vindicated. China has reported its first day with no domestic transmissions of the disease; all newly identified cases had been imported from abroad, health authorities say. Countries with their own exponentially-growing outbreaks are imposing similar measures, from Italy and Spain to Germany and California, though none are as strict as Wuhan’s
Coronavirus looks different in kids than in adults
A paper released this week in the journal Pediatrics, based on 2,143 young people in China, provides the most extensive evidence on the spread of the virus in children, and there is bad news and good news. The study provides confirmation that coronavirus infections are in fact generally less severe in kids, with more than 90 percent having mild to moderate disease or even being asymptomatic. But it contains worrisome information about one subset — infants — and suggests that children may be a critical factor in the disease’s rapid spread.
COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin
An analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered.
Chloroquine: is a 70-year-old treatment for malaria the key to beating coronavirus?
Doctors in France offer glimmer of hope as they reveal a positive result from treatment.
Yes, Young People Are Falling Seriously Ill From Covid-19
In the U.S., 705 of first 2,500 cases range in age from 20 to 44. Despite initial data from China that showed elderly people and those with other health conditions were most vulnerable, young people — from twenty-somethings to those in their early forties — are falling seriously ill. Many require intensive care, according to reports from Italy and France. The risk is particularly dire for those with ailments that haven’t yet been diagnosed.
Scots scientist says one million coronavirus vaccines will be available by end of the year
The Scottish scientist developing a lifesaving vaccine for coronavirus says one million doses will be available for distribution by the end of the year with first responders, medical staff and those with underlying medical conditions given priority.
A Potential COVID-19 Vaccine Begins Clinical Trial
NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Moderna Therepeutics' Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tal Zaks about the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial, which started on Monday in Seattle.
Trials to begin on Covid-19 vaccine in UK next month
Researchers hope to conduct animal tests next week and safety trials as early as next month
Nearly 40 Percent of U.S. Hospitalized Coronavirus Patients Are Age 20 to 54
Data released Wednesday night by the CDC shows that of the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized in the U.S. for COVID-19, about 20% of those were ages 20 to 44 and another 18% were between the ages of 45 and 54. However, COVID-19 is still significantly more dangerous in older patients, as 80% of deaths associated with coronavirus are adults over the age of 65.
Coronavirus: Australian scientists map how immune system fights virus
Scientists in Australia say they have identified how the body's immune system fights the Covid-19 virus. Their research, published in Nature Medicine journal on Tuesday, shows people are recovering from the new virus like they would from the flu. Determining which immune cells are appearing should also help with vaccine development, experts say.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
A year of Covid-19 has made us lonelier – now’s the time for connection
According to a survey of UK adults, taking place nine months into Covid-19 restrictions, one in four adults in the UK said they experienced feelings of loneliness. The levels of loneliness, according to the Mental Health Foundation, ‘were higher in young people, people who are unemployed, full time students and single parents’. If you are feeling lonely, psychologist Andrew Bridgewater adds that right now, the best thing someone can do to seek support during these times — realistically — is to talk about how you’re feeling with someone who will listen and not judge.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid: Masks and social distancing 'could last years'
People may need to wear face coverings and socially distance for several years until we return to normality, a leading epidemiologist has predicted. Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at Public Health England, said basic measures could be in place until other countries successfully roll out jabs. She also said a return of big spectator events required careful monitoring and clear instructions about staying safe. The defence secretary has not ruled out the foreign holiday ban being extended. Ben Wallace told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that booking a break abroad now would be "premature" and "potentially risky".
Qantas boss: Governments 'to insist' on vaccines for flying
The boss of Australian airline Qantas has told the BBC that "governments are going to insist" on vaccines for international travellers. Coronavirus vaccines are seen as crucial to reviving an industry that saw worldwide passenger numbers fall 75.6% last year. Chief executive Alan Joyce said that many governments are talking about vaccination as "a condition of entry". Even if they weren't, he thinks the airline should enforce its own policy. "We have a duty of care to our passengers and to our crew, to say that everybody in that aircraft needs to be safe," Mr Joyce said. He believes that would justify changing the terms and conditions on which tickets are booked.
Covid-19: Mumbai to rollout random testing in crowded places
The Indian city of Mumbai is to roll out mandatory coronavirus tests in crowded places as the country grapples with a rise in infections. The local government said rapid tests would be done randomly in areas such as shopping centres and train stations. A refusal to be tested will "amount to an offence", it said. India recorded 40,953 new Covid cases on Saturday, the biggest daily jump for nearly four months. A total 159,000 people have died with the disease. It has seen more than 11.5 million cases of coronavirus infections so far - and the number has been steadily climbing for weeks as the country scrambles to vaccinate its population and identify highly contagious variants of the disease.
Community Activities
Scuffles and arrests as anti-lockdown protesters march through London
Scuffles broke out as anti-lockdown protesters marched through central London on Saturday, defying police warnings for them to stay away due to coronavirus restrictions. Police said they had made 33 arrests, most for COVID regulation breaches, after up to 10,000 people gathered holding banners with slogans such as “Stop Destroying Our Kids’ Lives” and “Fake Pandemic”. Crowded close to one another, protesters also set off flares. Under England’s coronavirus rules it is unlawful for groups to gather for the purpose of protest, but opposition to such measures has grown this week, not specifically related to anti-lockdown demonstrations.
Police use water cannon as German lockdown protest turns violent
Police deployed water cannon and pepper spray after a gathering of some 20,000 protesters against lockdown and other coronavirus rules in central Germany turned violent, with some demonstrators throwing bottles at police. Protesters from all over Germany converged on the central city of Kassel for the march, which was organised by the “Querdenker” - “Lateral Thinkers” - online conspiracy movement. “Bottles were thrown and there were attempts to break through barriers,” police said on Twitter.
Chillicothe business, school developed virtual reality classrooms in response to COVID-19
A new partnership between a local school and a small business is helping students stay connected to their class even when learning remotely. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Flaget School and Objective Reality Games — a virtual reality arcade and game studio — collaborated to provide a new educational opportunity. By using an Oculus headset, students can visit a VR classroom, participate in lectures, complete assignments and engage with their peers all from home.
Covid-19 leaflets: How pandemic disinformation went offline
A newspaper dropped through Mark Langford's letterbox. It was called The Light. "The first thing you saw was the main headline: 'Covid jabs kill and injure hundreds.' I was horrified." Mr Langford confronted the woman who had delivered it. She told him she was a nurse, that the pandemic was a hoax and that no-one had died from coronavirus. He said he didn't believe a nurse would say that but didn't challenge her credentials at the time. The paper itself contained an article listing people who had allegedly died after receiving the vaccine, but provided no evidence that any of these deaths had been caused by the jab. Another section of the paper claimed face masks were responsible for "thousands" of deaths from bacterial pneumonia. There is no evidence whatsoever for this claim.
Community champions sought to support those most at risk from Covid-19
Telford & Wrekin Council is looking to recruit community champions to support those most at risk of Covid-19. The council is launching a community champions project to reach residents most at risk from coronavirus, after securing £50,000 funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Borough residents are urged to volunteer to help make a difference in the communities they are living in. In particular, volunteers from 'seldom heard groups' are being asked to come forward, from groups who might be struggling to access council services (such as people from ethnic minority backgrounds or from disability communities) but applications from other communities across the borough are also welcomed.
Working Remotely
Covid: Welsh firms looking at flexi-working 'permanently'
Some of Wales' major employers say they are considering a permanent shift to flexible working after the pandemic. The Welsh government, Cardiff University and Admiral Group say they are all consulting with staff about a hybrid of home and office working. However, experts say there will always be a place for office working - especially for those starting careers. They say many major organisations will instead have smaller offices and allow more flexible working.
Our research shows working from home works, in moderation
If the Covid-19 crisis subsides and economies can largely reopen, the experiences of so many people working from home over the past year will surely shape what happens next. For many of us, this could emerge as a return to the office for three days a week. Patterns will obviously vary, but a common thread would be something like Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in the office and Wednesday and Friday at home. This coming shift will largely be driven by employers making a calculation between two different, equally important forces. One is what companies see as the need for in-person creativity and connections, which will spur their desire to bring people back into offices. At home, however, we tend to be more efficient in the daily tasks that make up much of working life. This is the competing force that may keep many of us out of the office, even after Covid
Remote Work Visas Are Transforming The Future Of Work And Travel
One of the biggest perks of having a remote job is the massive perk of living and working wherever you want. The remote work environment has advanced extremely fast due to the state of the world pandemic. Millions of workers now have the flexibility to work from anywhere they desire. With millions of people working from home already, remote work is the present, and flexible working is the actual future of work.
How CEOs And Workers Feel About Working Remotely Or Returning To The Office
CEOs are wrestling with what to do about bringing back people to the office. The prevailing corporate consensus is consolidating around a flexible hybrid system, which has been championed by Google CEO Sundar Pichai. This entails offering employees an option or a combination of remote and in-office work. There are other alternatives being offered too. There are real risks inherent with the leading return-to-work hybrid system. Companies will have to ensure that their employees don’t take advantage of the system by collectively deciding to work remotely on Mondays and Fridays, to the disadvantage of other co-workers. It can become a logistical nightmare for managers to have impromptu meetings, as everyone is operating on a different schedule and in varied time zones. A supervisor needs to keep in mind who is working where and when they are available.
Virtual Classrooms
Learning from Lockdown: During COVID, a few education changes were for the better
The closing of schools across the U.S. has been a disaster for most students, families and teachers. But in some places, educators are making things work, and even finding ideas that could outlast the pandemic and transform schooling for the better. Earlier this year, The Seattle Times reported on how a strategy called acceleration is moving all children ahead in the Highline School District, and took a look at a learning center created by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Port Angeles School District. Today, as part of the collaboration, we are printing a story by The Hechinger Report — a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education — that looks at how schooling may change forever even after the pandemic ends.
A year after COVID shut schools, students and teachers share what shook them — and what strengthened them
From grade school to graduate school, developing young minds in close physical proximity halted abruptly in mid-March 2020. What happened next to schools and families was devastating and electrifying, thought-provoking and quieting, unifying and isolating. Homes became entire worlds. Working parents juggled daytime teaching. College students studied from childhood bedrooms. Millions of kindergarteners started school in a format previously unfathomable: on Zoom. Teachers shifted to nurturing and encouraging through screens — with little training. Many hunted down students in person to ensure they were safe, fed and outfitted with resources to learn
As U.S. schools shuttered, student mental health cratered, Reuters survey finds
As public school closures stretched into a full year, students across the United States many times encountered short-term or lasting mental health harm. Teachers were affected, too, Reuters found in a national survey of school districts. Nearly 90% of responding districts cited higher rates of absenteeism or disengagement, metrics commonly used to gauge student emotional health. The lack of in person education was a driver of these warning signs of trouble, more than half of districts said. The stresses didn’t affect only students: 57% of responding districts reported an increase in teachers and support staff seeking assistance.
Covid closures: how teachers adapted to working remotely
During the first lockdown, teachers had to pull remote learning solutions out of a hat, says Mark Enser. But, while it’s clear that no amount of digital wizardry can replicate the magic of the classroom, tools such as Zoom have transformed the way we think about pedagogy for good
Parents with kids in virtual school are more stressed, some use drugs and alcohol to cope, CDC study shows
Parents with kids stuck home during the pandemic will tell you how stressed they are, but now the CDC has scientific evidence that virtual schooling is taking a real physical and emotional toll — driving some parents to drugs and alcohol to help cope. The findings, published Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggest that virtual learning “might present more risks than in-person instruction related to child and parental mental and emotional health and some health-supporting behaviors.”
Public Policies
EU export ban would delay UK Covid vaccine drive by two months
Britain’s Covid vaccine programme faces a two-month delay in the event of an EU export ban, derailing the government’s plans to reopen the economy this summer, an analysis for the Guardian reveals. A ban, due to be debated by leaders of the 27 EU member states on Thursday, would badly stall the UK vaccination effort, and would be likely to force the government to extend restrictions on people’s lives. It would not, however, provide a significant boost to EU member states’ troubled programmes, according to a report by the data analytics company Airfinity. The comparatively small number of doses that would be kept within the bloc would speed up the full vaccination of every adult in the EU by “just over a week”, the research suggests.
India sees largest increase in coronavirus cases since 2020
India reported the largest increase in coronavirus cases it has seen since 2020 as multiple states bring back some restrictions on public gatherings. As the Associated Press reports, India’s Health Ministry recorded 43,846 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, marking the worst single-day increase since November of last year. More than half of the new infections are found in the central state of Maharashtra, where India's financial capital of Mumbai is situated. Maharashtra has imposed new lockdown measures until the end of March, the AP reports and Mumbai authorities have announced that they will begin administering random required coronavirus tests in crowded spaces.
Covid: Rich states 'block' vaccine plans for developing nations
Wealthy countries - including the UK - are blocking proposals to help developing nations increase their vaccine manufacturing capabilities, documents leaked to BBC Newsnight show. Several poorer countries have asked the World Health Organization to help them. But richer nations are pushing back on provisions in international law that would enable them to achieve this. This is according to a leaked copy of the negotiating text of a WHO resolution on the issue. Among those richer nations are the UK, the US, as well as the European Union.
EU rebuffs UK calls to ship AstraZeneca COVID vaccines from Europe
The European Union is rebuffing British government calls to ship AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines produced in a factory in the Netherlands, an EU official said on Sunday. Former EU member Britain has so far administered many more vaccines than EU countries in proportion to the population. “The Brits are insisting that the Halix plant in the Netherlands must deliver the drug substance produced there to them. That doesn’t work,” the official told Reuters. The Leiden-based plant which is run by sub-contractor Halix is listed as a supplier of vaccines in both the contracts that AstraZeneca has signed with Britain and with the European Union. “What is produced in Halix has to go to the EU,” the official added.
Egypt gets more doses of Chinese coronavirus vaccine
Egypt received another 300,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in the early hours of Saturday, the health ministry said in a statement. The third shipment from China of the Sinopharm vaccine brings the total doses delivered to Egypt to 650,000 since December.‮ ‬Some 600,000 of those were a gift from Beijing and the rest were sent by the UAE. The North African country also got 50,000 doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in February.‮ ‬
Greece lifts some COVID-19 restrictions to relieve lockdown fatigue
Greece will lift some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions next week as part of a plan to gradually reopen the economy and relieve national fatigue even as its hospitals remain under severe pressure from stubbornly high infections, authorities said on Friday. Hair and beauty salons and archaeological sites will open from Monday, Akis Skertsos, deputy minister to the prime minister, told a weekly news briefing. “It is imperative to provide some breaths of freedom, some depressurisation valves, so that the remaining measures can be complied with,” Skertsos said, adding that the government plans to provide free rapid tests to all citizens.
Parts of France enter lockdown amid confusion and frustration
Nearly a third of French people entered a month-long lockdown on Saturday with many expressing fatigue and confusion over the latest set of restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. The government announced the new measures on Thursday after a jump in COVID-19 cases in Paris and parts of northern France. The new restrictions are less severe than those in place during the lockdowns of spring and November 2020, raising concerns that they may not be effective. “I hope it’s going to end quite quickly, although I have questions on how efficient the measures are,” Kasia Gluc, 57, a graphic editor said on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris. There was frustration among so-called non-essential shop owners forced to close down.
France restart using AstraZeneca vaccines but only for over 55s
France and almost a dozen other countries have resumed their rollout of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, after temporarily suspending it following reports of it causing blood clots. The move comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) confirmed on Thursday that the jab was “safe and effective”. While insisting that its benefits far exceeded its risk, the EU’s medical regulator added that it could not “definitively” rule out a link between rare blood clots and the Anglo-Swedish company’s vaccine. As a result, the National Authority for Health (NAH), the French regulator, has decided to only administer AstraZeneca doses to the over-55s.
Indonesia resumes use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine
Indonesia on Friday cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for use again after the European Union s drug regulator said the vaccine didn't increase the overall incidence of blood clots. Southeast Asia’s biggest economy delayed the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine after more than a dozen countries in Europe suspended the vaccine due to concerns of some people who received the vaccine developing blood clots. “The benefits of using the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca outweigh the possible risks, so that we can start to use it,” Indonesia’s Food and Drug Authority said in its announcement.
WHO panel gives nod to AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, has 'tremendous potential'
The World Health Organization (WHO) exhorted the world to keep administering AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shots on Friday, adding its endorsement to that of European and British regulators after concerns over blood clotting. "We urge countries to continue using this important COVID-19 vaccine," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva. He was speaking after the global health body's vaccine safety panel said available data about the AstraZeneca shot did not point to any overall increase in clotting conditions. European and British regulators also said this week that the benefits of AstraZeneca's shot outweighed the risks, prompting various nations to lift their suspensions.
Bosnian capital tightens rules as COVID-19 deaths spike
Bosnia's capital is tightening measures against the new coronavirus as authorities struggle to cope with rising infections and a spike in deaths caused by COVID-19. Sarajevo has mourned dozens of victims this month, as daily new cases in Bosnia rose from just a few hundred to more than 1,700 this week. Twenty-one new deaths were reported in the capital on Friday alone. “This is a war without weapons,” said an elderly resident who identified himself only by his first name, Hajrudin.
Denmark raises limit on public gatherings to 10 people
Denmark’s government on Thursday agreed with Parliament to raise the limit on public gatherings to 10 persons, while more schools and upper secondary educations will be allowed to resume from March 22, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Maintaining Services
Coronavirus vaccine rollout tipped to meet targets despite flooding, international supply issues
Federal health authorities say they are confident the next phase of Australia's COVID-19 vaccination program will meet its targets, despite international supply issues and weather-related delivery delays. Phase 1B of the program is due to start on Monday, with about 6 million Australians eligible to receive their first doses. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said the medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, expected to complete the approvals process for locally produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine "in the coming days"
Coronavirus: The Indian factory making 6,000 syringes a minute
Rajiv Nath, who heads India's largest syringe factory, says he is turning down as many as 40 requests for syringes from across the world. Mr Nath's Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices (HMD) is in huge demand now as countries try to ramp up vaccination against Covid-19. The factory is currently producing some four million syringes a day but Mr Nath says that's still not enough given that the world needs 10 billion syringes to vaccinate just 60% of its population. He hopes that better coordination between the WHO, governments and syringe makers will smooth the way going forward.
Ontario COVID-19 vaccines expand to people 75 and older, 60 and older to begin at pharmacies with AstraZeneca
Ontario is expanding its booking system to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine to people who are 75 and older across the province, effective Monday, March 22. "The progress we are making on our Vaccine Distribution Plan demonstrates what can be done when we unleash the full potential of Team Ontario," a statement from Ontario Premier Doug Ford reads. "Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline health care heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined. All we need now is a steady and reliable supply of vaccines from the Federal government to ensure anyone who wants one, gets one as soon as possible so we can all stay safe."
US coronavirus vaccine rollout becomes 'less messy'
In December, then President-elect Joe Biden set a goal of getting 100 million people vaccinated against Covid-19 in the first 100 days of his presidency. At this rate, it looks like US will hit that mark on Friday, which is day 58. "These milestones are significant accomplishments, but we have much more to do," Biden said Thursday. "That's just the floor. We will not stop until we beat this pandemic." The country still has a long way to go, but the vaccine rollout is looking a lot less chaotic. As of Thursday, about 12.3% of people are fully vaccinated in the US. That's a long way from herd immunity, where enough people have been vaccinated or had the disease to have immunity, if herd immunity is even achievable.
Many health-care workers have not gotten a coronavirus vaccine
Health-care workers were the first group in the United States to be offered coronavirus vaccinations. But three months into the effort, many remain unconvinced, unreached and unprotected. The lingering obstacles to vaccinating health-care workers foreshadow the challenge the United States will face as it expands the pool of people eligible and attempts to get the vast majority of the U.S. population vaccinated. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, barely half of front-line health-care workers (52 percent) said they had received at least their first vaccine dose at the time they were surveyed. More than 1 in 3 said they were not confident vaccines were sufficiently tested for safety and effectiveness.
Healthcare Innovations
A rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollout backfired in some US states
A surprising new analysis found that states such as South Carolina, Florida and Missouri that raced ahead of others to offer the vaccine to ever-larger groups of people have vaccinated smaller shares of their population than those that moved more slowly and methodically, such as Hawaii and Connecticut. The explanation, as experts see it, is that the rapid expansion of eligibility caused a surge in demand too big for some states to handle and led to serious disarray. Vaccine supplies proved insufficient or unpredictable, websites crashed and phone lines became jammed, spreading confusion, frustration and resignation among many people. “The infrastructure just wasn’t ready. It kind of backfired,” said Dr. Rebecca Wurtz, an infectious disease physician and health data specialist at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. She added: “In the rush to satisfy everyone, governors satisfied few and frustrated many.”
Skin swabs could be the next COVID-19 test
Researchers have developed a new method for testing COVID-19 that uses a skin swab. The new test is less invasive compared to current testing methods. The skin swab test analyzes sebum, which is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands. Researchers from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom led the study.
Covid vaccine priority list should include heart failure patients, experts say
Experts are calling for an urgent review of the vaccine priority list to include heart failure patients, as studies show more than half of this group who contract Covid-19 subsequently die. Younger people living with severe heart failure are not deemed at very high risk under the national immunisation programme. The data, from the Irish Heart Foundation and the Health Service Executive, has prompted the HSE’s national heart programme to call for under-70s, along with inpatients awaiting cardiac surgery, to be moved from level seven to level four of the priority list.
COVID-19 deaths: CDC may underestimate risk for people of color
The way in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report COVID-19 deaths may lead to an underestimation of racial and ethnic disparities, according to a new study. The authors say that the CDC use a statistical method called “weighting” that discounts the impact of the uneven geographical distribution of COVID-19 deaths in the United States among various racial and ethnic groups. They argue that this approach fails to take into account the range of factors that influence where people live and work. This is important because these factors may also influence the risk of COVID-19.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 28th Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai Imposes Staggered Lockdowns to Keep Coronavirus at Bay
Shanghai imposed stringent pandemic restrictions it has long tried to avoid on its 25 million residents that are likely to disrupt commercial activity well beyond the city limits. Local authorities said on Sunday they plan to lock down the city in two phases over the next week and a half to try to control an outbreak of the highly infectious Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus. All over Shanghai, the government’s announcement sparked frenzied scrambles to food markets and grumbling about the disruption to urban life in a city that until recently appeared relatively unaffected by Covid.
Travel, Alcohol, Masks: Singapore Lifts Major Covid Restrictions
Singapore will significantly ease Covid-19 curbs, lifting most restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors and a requirement to wear masks outdoors, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Travel-related stocks gained. With the latest wave of the virus subsiding, Lee said that Singapore will double the group size limit to 10 people and allow up to 75% of employees who can work from home to return to their workplaces. The city-state will ease testing and quarantine requirements for travelers and lift a ban on alcohol sales in pubs and eateries after 10:30 p.m.
Hygiene Helpers
Many in Malaysia to lose fully-vaccinated status if they don't get Covid-19 booster
Some two million recipients of the Covid-19 vaccine by Sinovac are set to lose their fully vaccinated status if they do not receive their boosters by April 1, said Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. "Based on the latest data, about 2.09 million recipients of the Sinovac vaccine for their primary series have yet to get their booster shots," he told a press conference in Parliament on Thursday (March 24). "They will stand to lose their fully vaccinated status when the deadline ends." The deadline for adult primary recipients of CoronaVac - the vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech - is March 31, after it was extended from Feb 28. Mr Khairy also said that those who had yet to get their Sinovac booster would be deemed "not fully vaccinated" by Singapore.
German health minister urges people at risk to get second COVID booster
Germany's health minister on Friday urged people over age 60 with risk factors such as high blood pressure or a weak heart to get a second booster shot against COVID-19 to reduce their risk of getting seriously ill. Karl Lauterbach said he had asked the STIKO vaccine authority to adjust its current recommendation for a second booster to include a bigger group of people. STIKO currently recommends second boosters for people aged 70 and above, and for people belonging to particularly high risk groups. Only 10% of those have received it so far, Lauterbach told a news conference.
Community Activities
Pfizer, Moderna and J&J Face Shareholder Pressure to Broaden Covid-19 Vaccine Access
Socially conscious investors and global-health activists are turning to shareholders to press Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson to make more of their shots available to people in poorer countries. Groups including the antipoverty organization Oxfam have succeeded in placing proposals on shareholder proxy ballots that ask drugmakers to do more to widen access to the Covid-19 vaccines, such as exploring the transfer of their technology to other manufacturers. The proxy battles are the latest effort seeking to push Covid-19 vaccine makers to share their technology in order to boost supplies at lower-income countries, after some of the countries asked the World Trade Organization to lift patent restrictions and activists urged the U.S. government to share companies’ vaccine technology with other countries.
Uninsured Americans now to be charged up to $195 per COVID test by some providers: report | TheHill
Several testing providers will no longer provide COVID-19 tests for free to uninsured Americans, even if they are symptomatic, saying they will begin to charge between $100 and $195 dollars for PCR tests, ABC News reported. Quest Diagnostics, which is one of the country's largest COVID-19 testing providers, told ABC News that patients will now be billed $125 per PCR test if they are not on Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance. Quest has started telling partners and clients that it will no longer be able to reimburse for uninsured claims due to a lack of congressional funding, ABC noted.
Nearly half of foreign businesses in Hong Kong are planning to relocate
Foreign businesses have for decades reaped the benefits of setting up shop in Hong Kong, a historically stable, expat-friendly finance hub at the doorstep of mainland China. But lately, as Beijing has tightened its grip on the former British colony, those firms are increasingly eyeing the exits. Nearly half of all European businesses in Hong Kong are considering relocating in the next year, according to a new report. Companies cite the local government's extremely strict Covid-19 protocols that mirror those on the mainland. Among the firms planning to leave, 25% said they would fully relocate out of Hong Kong in the next 12 months, while 24% plan to relocate at least partially. Only 17% of the companies said they don't have any relocation plans for the next 12 months.
Harvard Economist Says Covid Hit Worse by Education Than Gender
While the pandemic disproportionately hurt women in the workforce more than men, the bigger divide was among education levels, according to a new paper by Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin. When restaurants, retailers and other service providers closed, those without college degrees were more likely to lose their jobs. Meantime, many college-educated Americans could continue to work from home. “The pandemic produced both a he- and a she-cession,” Goldin wrote in a report discussed at the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity conference Thursday. “Relative to previous recessions, women have been harder hit. But the largest differences in pandemic effects on employment are found between education groups rather than between genders within educational groups.”
Working Remotely
The pandemic opened the door to remote working, now we need to support this way of working for future generations
The way people work has significantly changed since the pandemic and the Welsh Government is keen to do all it can to help lock in the positive benefits experienced by many and encourage more businesses to adopt this new approach to working. In a strategy published today the Welsh Government sets out its plans to work with businesses, trade unions and key stakeholders to help more employers to adopt a more agile and flexible approach within their workplace, so that employees can make a choice on the way they work, whether that’s locally from a shared work space, from home, or a mixture of both.
How to Create a Thriving Hybrid and Remote Work Culture
The pandemic has forced organizations to recognize that they need to adapt their work culture to a hybrid and remote future. Employees may have different office schedules: Some essential employees might be there full-time, others will be there 1-3 days a week, and some may be fully remote. However, the danger of a sense of resentment building up between “haves” and “have nots” around schedule flexibility calls for a work culture that addresses such issues. Leaders who want to seize a competitive advantage in the future of work need to use research-based best practices to create a culture of “excellence from anywhere” to address these concerns.
You want to work remotely. Your boss wants you back in-person. Here’s how to negotiate
Because of work-at-home benefits like more family time, more sleep (on account of no commute) and better work-life balance, many employees are staunchly against reverting to old ways. For some workplaces, this is a non-issue. Many bosses are embracing the new world of hybrid work, and some are taking it a step further by introducing year-round summer Fridays—the practice of ending work a few hours early before the weekend—or even four-day workweeks. But other employees may not be so lucky, with bosses who are intent on bringing everyone back in-person, despite the mountain of evidence that it doesn’t increase productivity or foster collaboration in any meaningful way.
Virtual Classrooms
The pandemic upended education. Two years later, what changes are here to stay?
Two years ago, the pandemic upended the education system. And while students are now back at their desks in before-times style, other parts of schooling will likely never be the same. From Chromebooks in classrooms to added mental health and social supports, some pandemic-induced changes appear to be here to stay — at least for now. What are COVID-19′s lasting impacts on the way kids learn, how schools operate, and how communities interact with them? Some educators and parents shared their perspectives.
Enrolling and Engaging Online Learners: A Compilation
“Enrolling and Engaging Online Learners” is a new print-on-demand booklet from Inside Higher Ed. You may download the free compilation of news articles and essays here. On Wednesday, April 27, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, Inside Higher Ed will present a webcast to discuss the themes of the booklet and answer your questions.
Public Policies
Experts worry about how US will see next COVID surge coming
As coronavirus infections rise in some parts of the world, experts are watching for a potential new COVID-19 surge in the U.S. — and wondering how long it will take to detect. Despite disease monitoring improvements over the last two years, they say, some recent developments don’t bode well: —As more people take rapid COVID-19 tests at home, fewer people are getting the gold-standard tests that the government relies on for case counts. —The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon use fewer labs to look for new variants. —Health officials are increasingly focusing on hospital admissions, which rise only after a surge has arrived.
U.S. to Clear Additional Booster Shot Against Covid-19
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is poised to clear a fourth dose of the mRNA coronavirus vaccine for adults age 50 and older, looking to shore up protections for more vulnerable groups, a person familiar with the matter said. The authorization could come as early as next week and, for most Americans, it would mean a second booster shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Currently, only immunocompromised people are eligible in the U.S. for the additional dose. Unlike with previous authorizations, the FDA is expected to stop short of a full recommendation, meaning the option would be open for people who want the shot. The development was reported earlier by the New York Times.
How to get a Cuban COVID jab in 1,000 easy steps
On Valentine’s Day 2022 in Havana, Cuba, I received the Soberana Plus booster shot, one of the island nation’s five homegrown COVID-19 vaccines. The jab had been a long time coming. For the past year, I had been fixated on the idea of being injected with a made-in-Cuba coronavirus vaccine. While obviously not offering protection against the imperial machinations of my homeland and Cuba’s chief antagonist, the United States, the Cuban serums were at least being developed in the interest of global public health rather than pharmaceutical profit or “vaccine apartheid”, as World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has described it.
Maintaining Services
Australian Medical Association reveals full strain on the nation’s hospital system
Australia’s hospital system is “showing cracks” under the weight of increased demand and underfunding, according to the country’s peak professional body. The Australian Medical Association’s annual public health system report card has revealed just how dire the situation is nationwide, as emergency departments have buckled under the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than one in three people have waited longer than the clinically-recommended 30 minutes to receive urgent care. AMA president Omar Khorshid said only 63 per cent of patients had been seen within the recommended period in the past year. “One in three people who present to an ED will wait longer than four hours to be either discharged or admitted,” Dr Khorshid said.
Premier calls for pre-Songkran vaccine drive
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered authorities to speed up inoculation of vulnerable groups ahead of the Songkran festival next month, a spokesman says. Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, government spokesman, said Gen Prayut has ordered state agencies to encourage people aged 60 and over, those suffering from underlying illnesses and pregnant women to receive their shots against Covid-19 before the holidays as a precautionary measure. The goal is to offer booster jabs to at least 70% of the elderly who have already been vaccinated at least twice, he said. The Songkran festival marks an important time when families return home and pay respects to the elderly.
Persistent cough 'may be TB rather than Covid' - and cases are on the rise
UK health leaders fear cases of tuberculosis (TB) are slipping under the radar. The potentially dangerous bacterial infection begins as a persistent cough, similar to many people’s experience of Covid-19. Incidents of TB have been falling since 2019 but appear to be on the rise once again, fuelling fears people may be dismissing the symptom as the coronavirus. Now anyone with a cough is being warned not to assume their illness is definitely caused by Covid-19.
Costs of going unvaccinated in America are mounting for workers and companies
Nearly a year after COVID vaccines became freely available in the U.S., one fourth of American adults remain unvaccinated, and a picture of the economic cost of vaccine hesitancy is emerging. It points to financial risk for individuals, companies and publicly funded programs. Vaccine hesitancy likely already accounts for tens of billions of dollars in preventable U.S. hospitalization costs and up to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, say public health experts. For individuals forgoing vaccination, the risks can include layoffs and ineligibility to collect unemployment, higher insurance premiums, growing out-of-pocket medical costs or loss of academic scholarships.
Healthcare Innovations
The BA.2 Omicron subvariant is now dominant in northeastern US states
The Omicron BA.2 subvariant has become dominant over other Covid-19 coronavirus variants in the northeastern US, per the latest CDC data. The news comes as a surge of new cases in Europe, driven by the more-contagious BA.2 and by countries lifting Covid-19 restrictions. That surge is prompting some experts to worry that another wave could soon be coming to the US. Experts told previously Insider they expect a wave of BA.2 in the US could be milder than in Europe, in part because of previous exposure to its cousin, the subvariant BA.1. More vulnerable groups could still be at risk, the experts said. As of last week, BA.2 made up 55.4% of samples collected in Health & Human Services (HHS) Region 1, the CDC said Tuesday. This region covers Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, as well as ten federally recognised Tribal Nations.
Edinburgh scientists find patients with both Covid and flu at greater risk of severe illness and death
Adults in hospital with Covid-19 and the flu at the same time are at much greater risk of severe disease and death compared with patients who have Covid-19 alone or with other viruses, according to new research. Scientists found that patients who had both SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, and influenza viruses were more than four times more likely to require ventilation support and 2.4 times more likely to die than if they just had Covid-19. The study looked at more than 305,000 hospitalised patients with Covid-19 and involved researchers from the University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, Imperial College London and Leiden University in the Netherlands. Researchers say the findings show the need for more flu testing of Covid-19 patients in hospital and highlight the importance of full vaccination against both Covid-19 and the flu. Professor Kenneth Baillie, professor of experimental medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We found that the combination of Covid-19 and flu viruses is particularly dangerous.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 23rd Mar 2021

Isolation Tips
UK less anxious but more lonely than a year ago, a study into the emotional impact of lockdown reveals
The UK will emerge from lockdown a less anxious but more lonely nation according to a landmark study which paints a mixed picture of the pandemic’s deep emotional impact on adults. Anxiety about the pandemic has become less common, falling from 62 per cent of those surveyed in March 2020 to 42 per cent in February 2021. However, loneliness has become much more common, increasing from 10 per cent of those surveyed in March last year to 26 per cent last month. Feelings of loneliness have not returned to their pre-lockdown levels at any point over the past year, including when most restrictions were lifted over the summer.
Scots report rise in loneliness levels rise as Covid anxiety decreases
Feelings of loneliness and hopelessness have increased among Scottish adults in the past year, new research has found. There was also a rise in the number of people who thought about suicide, according to the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic study. Researchers found that feelings of loneliness have become much more common over the past year, increasing from 11% of those surveyed in March last year to 29% in February this year. However anxiety about the pandemic has fallen, from 64% in March last year to 44% last month.
Hygiene Helpers
Data will drive the recovery from covid-19
While the current focus on the NHS is rightly on its heroic efforts in the fight against covid-19, we’re also witnessing dramatic progress made in its use of data. In the past year, the NHS has built advanced epidemiological models in days, generated new data to track new cohorts of patients within weeks, and rapidly produced daily reports on progress that have been used by thousands of staff to make daily decisions in response to the pandemic. By quickly acting on the insight from this data, from redirecting staff to building new capacity, acute demand has been managed and real differences made to the quality of care delivered. This shows that the health service can be an agile data-led organisation, able to apply insight to make informed decisions for patients and staff. Even amid the current storm, data has made a difference. Progress that would previously have taken years has been achieved in weeks, and obstacles to collecting and sharing information that have plagued the system for years have been overcome. The task now is to build on those successes and make sure the NHS has the tools to meet the new challenges ahead.
Community Activities
COVID long-haulers speak about living with brain fog, rancid smells and crushing fatigue
In February, the NIH announced a four-year, $1.15 billion dollar initiative to study what causes long COVID, but even before the initiative was put forth, clinics were springing up around the country to research and treat the growing number of long-haul patients. Health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have also drawn connections between long COVID and myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, which is characterized by symptoms like fatigue and brain fog and can be triggered by infectious diseases like mononucleosis, Lyme disease and severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Dr. Sara Martin is working to get one such initiative off the ground. The Adult Post-Acute COVID clinic at Vanderbilt University, which launched this week, brings together specialists from internal medicine, infectious disease, pulmonology, cardiology, ophthalmology, psychology, physical medicine, ear, nose and throat, speech pathology and neurology.
Lessons from a year of lockdown: UK regional leaders on how their communities have tackled the Covid pandemic
Wales has forged its own route through the coronavirus crisis following its first case in Swansea on 28 February last year and its first case of community transmission in Caerphilly less than a fortnight later. A poll last month found that people in Wales overwhelmingly think the First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Welsh Government, which has imposed an unprecedented series of “made in Wales” measures, has handled the crisis better than Boris Johnson and the UK Government. While the death rate in both countries was similar at the peak in January this year, it was at its biggest gap in February between the two nations since March 2020 at 272.2 deaths per 100,000 in Wales compared with 393.2 in England.
COVID-19: The patriarchal pandemic
From Argentina to Malaysia and Sudan to the United Kingdom to the United States, there has been a surge in reports of violence against women. To be sure, there are more opportunities for domestic violence when people are confined to domestic space. And yet the pandemic has disproportionately affected women in other ways, as well. In numerous countries, females are overly represented in industries, such as hospitality and food services, that have suffered high job losses.
Covid One Year On: Charities 'blessed' with community spirit
Throughout North Somerset, community-led initiatives have been launched during the pandemic, each with the goal of supporting people. Nailsea Community Group, formerly Nailsea Covid Support Group, has evolved from a band of neighbours helping each other with their shopping to close to 200 volunteers. Vice-chairman Jules Richardson estimates that more than 11,000 people combined have used the groups delivery service. Clevedon Foodbank experienced a rapid rise in the number of residents reliant on its services during 2020 compared to previous years which eventually led to the creation of Yatton Foodbank. Trustee, Alison Kember, told the Times: "Usually we help around 2,000 to 3,000 people but the number surpassed 5,000 last year.
Working Remotely
Major employers scrap plans to cut back on offices - KPMG
Most major global companies no longer plan to reduce their use of office space after the coronavirus pandemic, though few expect business to return to normal this year, a survey by accountants KPMG showed on Tuesday.
Hybrid remote and office working could revive local economies
A hybrid model of remote and office working is here to stay and policymakers should harness it to turbocharge plans for regeneration and regional growth, according to a report. Researchers at Legal & General and Demos said that the upheaval in working practices caused by the pandemic had created a new emphasis on the areas around people’s homes, where workers will be spending more time and money in future. This has created opportunities for parts of the country, particularly rural areas, which have traditionally struggled to attract businesses and workers. However, it also has the potential to create new inequalities between those areas that attract homeworkers and those that do not. City centres, once a magnet for office workers, also face new challenges.
House bound: NI firms considering remote working model beyond Covid
It is now a year since office-based businesses began working from home just before the first national lockdown, bringing a huge lifestyle change for us all virtually overnight. Employees and companies are now asking how long will this continue, and is there any going back to the way we were. It seems not, with one business leader adamant that things will never be the same again. Liberty Insurance and its subsidiary Hughes Insurance have said that its 400 staff in Northern Ireland will be working remotely from now on, and outsourcing giant Capita — which has 1,500 staff here — has said the same about workers in their call centres.
UAE: How remote work visas will help expats, employers
Expatriate business leaders in the UAE have called the cabinet ruling a breath of fresh air for corporations. The Federal Cabinet has approved a new system allowing professionals to reside in the country while working remotely for employers abroad, a scheme Dubai launched by itself in October.
Holyrood could keep some remote working after Covid, says Presiding Officer
Remote working procedures brought in to help Holyrood adapt to Covid-19 could remain in place after the pandemic has come to an end, even though they are “suboptimal” to normal sittings, the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer has said. Ken Macintosh said he had been “pleased and relieved” by how the parliament had adapted its working practices after the virus struck. Those changes have seen some business, including committee meetings and questions to ministers, take place entirely remotely, with MSPs appearing from their living rooms, studies and kitchens.
Report recommends manager training to ensure women working remotely aren't ignored
The growing number of vaccinated Americans has propelled discussions of returning to the office. But a recent report warns women’s careers could suffer further damage unless managers prepare to support those interested in hybrid arrangements. Compared to six months ago, 48% of women have become less interested in returning to the physical workplace full-time, according to Perceptyx’s report, which polled more than 1,000 U.S. workers.
Virtual Classrooms
'This is the future': 16 new virtual public schools approved in past year to operate in Iowa; pandemic speeds growth
Since March of last year, the Iowa Department of Education has approved 14 new virtual public schools. But many say the pandemic only accelerated a trend toward online school that has been growing for decades. This school year may have unearthed a new understanding of virtual learning for many Iowa families that hadn't tried it before — and the possibility that more students will learn online next fall in one of the 16 virtual schools that have received state approval in the past 12 months.
Students, teachers and parents climb the virtual learning curve
A year after schools statewide were forced to close their doors by a rampant virus, teachers and students alike have learned a ton about how to do online learning. Yet while studies have shown substantial learning loss during the pandemic, especially for students of color, local leaders expect some virtual learning will be with us for a while even as the vaccine reduces the toll of COVID-19 and more students return to classrooms. Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler recently emailed parents that the district will continue to offer Rockford Virtual next school year, citing “very positive” feedback from parents.
Public Policies
US trials find AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine safe and effective
The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca was 79 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic illness in a large trial in the United States, Chile and Peru, the company said on Monday, paving the way for it to apply for US approval. The vaccine was 100 per cent effective against severe or critical disease and hospitalisation and was safe, the drugmaker said on Monday, releasing results of the late-stage human trial study of more than 32,000 volunteers across all age groups. The data will give credence to the British shot after results from earlier, separate late-stage studies raised questions about the robustness of the data.
Mauritius approves Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine - Russian RDIF fund
Mauritius has approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for use against COVID-19, becoming the 55th country to do so, Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said on Monday.
Greece orders private doctors to join COVID-19 battle
Greece’s health minister is requisitioning the services of private sector doctors from certain specialties in the wider Athens region to help fight a renewed surge in coronavirus infections that is straining hospitals to their limits
Covid-19: Miami Beach imposes curfew for spring break
Huge crowds gather as Florida's governor says state is open, despite local authorities imposing restrictions
Hungary approves new Chinese vaccine, and CoviShield for emergency use
Hungary is the first European Union (EU) country to approve for emergency use China’s CanSino Biologics coronavirus vaccine and CoviShield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca shot, the Hungarian surgeon general said on Monday. New infections are surging in Hungary in a third wave of the pandemic, even as vaccine import and usage rates are among the highest in the EU with the country using Chinese and Russian vaccines as well as Western ones. If both new vaccines are also approved for mass use by the National Health Centre, Hungary will have seven sources to procure vaccines from. It was unclear when and in what quantity Hungary planned to deploy the newly authorised vaccines, or how it planned to buy them.
Doctors in Hungary urge volunteers to join overwhelmed COVID-19 wards
An appeal went out on Monday for volunteers to join hospital staff treating coronavirus patients in northwestern Hungary, as doctors said COVID-19 wards were overwhelmed, with the pressure only set to mount during the next few weeks. New infections are surging in Hungary, hard-hit by the third wave of the pandemic, despite vaccination rates at the top of European Union nations, as a proportion of population. Hungary was the first nation in the bloc to buy and use Chinese or Russian vaccines, as it said shipments from Western suppliers lagged.
Switzerland approves J&J COVID vaccine
Swiss regulators on Monday gave the green light to Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, after already authorising the jabs made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The Swissmedic regulatory authority said in a statement that it had authorised the use of the vaccine, which has the advantages of being a single-shot jab that can be stored with regular refrigeration rather than at ultra-cold temperatures. "Following a careful review of all the submitted documentation, Swissmedic has granted the 'COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen' temporary authorisation," it said.
Venezuela announces ‘radical quarantine’ amid coronavirus surge
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced two weeks of what he referred to as “radical quarantine”, leaving Holy Week celebrations suspended. “I announce that Holy Week this year will be again in radical quarantine. So we are going to have fourteen days, two weeks of radical quarantine,” he said on Sunday, referring to a period that will encompass the Christian holiday of Easter. About 88 percent of Venezuela’s 28.5 million people are Christian, the vast majority of whom are Catholic.
‘Grotesque’: Producers urged to overcome vaccine inequity
More producers of COVID-19 vaccines should follow AstraZeneca’s lead and license technology to other manufacturers, the World Health Organization chief said on Monday, as he described continuing vaccine inequity as “grotesque”. AstraZeneca’s shot, which new US data showed was safe and effective despite some countries suspending inoculations over health concerns, is being produced in various locations including South Korea’s SKBioScience and the Serum Institute in India.
WHO: Global coronavirus deaths rise for 1st time in 6 weeks
A top World Health Organization expert on the coronavirus pandemic said Monday the weekly global count of deaths from COVID-19 is rising again, a "worrying sign" after about six weeks of declines. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on COVID-19 at the U.N. health agency, said the growth followed a fifth straight week of confirmed cases increasing worldwide. She said the number of reported cases went up up in four of the WHO's six regions, though there were significant variations within each region. "In the last week, cases have increased by 8% percent," Van Kerkhove told reporters. "In Europe, that is 12%—and that's driven by several countries." The increase is due in part to the spread of a variant that first emerged in Britain and is now circulating in many other places, including eastern Europe, she said.
Maintaining Services
Covid-19: Primary pupils and years 12-14 return to school
In Northern Ireland, all primary school pupils and those in years 12 to 14 of post-primary returned to school on Monday. That follows a decision taken by the executive at its meeting on 16 March. Primary pupils in P4 to P7 join those in P1 to P3 who returned to school on 8 March. Pupils returning on Monday have not been in school since before Christmas, their second prolonged absence from the classroom in a year. They will attend school for at least a week before many schools begin Easter holidays.
German tourist industry warns of job losses from tighter pandemic lockdowns
The German tourist industry has warned of layoffs and bankruptices if authorities further tighten lockdowns meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus including by enforcing quarantine for those returning from holidays abroad. National and regional leaders meeting on Monday evening to decide the next round of measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic are mulling requiring quarantine for all returning travellers, not just those who were in high-risk areas.
New York lowers coronavirus vaccine eligibility age to 50
New York will join a handful of U.S. states that have lowered their eligibility age for coronavirus vaccines to 50, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday. The state, the country’s fourth most populous, had restricted eligibility to residents who are at least 60 years old, have pre-existing health conditions or are essential workers, especially those who come in contact with the public. “We are dropping the age and vaccinating more people,” Cuomo said at a church in Mount Vernon, New York, where he launched a campaign to encourage houses of worship to make themselves available as vaccination sites.
Taiwan kicks off COVID vaccination campaign with AstraZeneca jab
Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot on Monday, having volunteered to be first in line to underscore government confidence in the vaccine’s safety as the island began its inoculation campaign. “I have just finished getting the injection, there is no pain at the injection site, and there is no soreness of the body,” Su told reporters at National Taiwan University Hospital in central Taipei
Healthcare Innovations
The world’s first oral Covid-19 vaccine is being prepared for clinical trials - here's how it works
The world’s first oral Covid-19 vaccine is being prepared to enter Phase 1 clinical trials by an Israeli-American pharmaceutical company. Based on technology developed by Hadassah-University Medical Center, the joint venture between Premas Biotech and Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc will see the development of a novel oral Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine is based on ‘POD’ oral delivery technology developed by Oramed. This will allow the vaccine to orally administer a number of protein-based therapies, which would otherwise be delivered by injection.
COVID-19: Hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo may be associated with coronavirus, research suggests
Hearing loss and other auditory problems may be strongly linked to coronavirus, new research suggests. Scientists estimate 7.6% of people infected with COVID-19 experience hearing loss, while 14.8% suffer tinnitus. They also found the prevalence of vertigo was 7.2%. The researchers, from The University of Manchester and Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, compiled data from 24 studies that identified an association between coronavirus and auditory and vestibular problems. The vestibular system includes parts of the inner ear and brain that process the information involved with controlling balance and eye movements.
Vitamin D may prevent COVID, especially in Black patients
Higher levels of vitamin D than traditionally considered sufficient may help prevent COVID-19 infection—particularly in Black patients—or lead to less severe outcomes, two new US studies suggest.

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 29th Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai Lockdown Experiment Begins as Officials Race to Clear Covid-19
Half of Shanghai went into lockdown on Monday, as authorities escalated measures to contain a spiraling Covid-19 outbreak in China’s financial capital. After announcing the snap two-stage lockdown of the city on Sunday, Shanghai reported 3,500 new Covid-19 cases, another record, with the number of infections doubling every few days. On Monday, barricades were seen splitting up the city, while many metro services and bus lines were suspended. Companies including Tesla Inc. suspended manufacturing for four days.
Ghana opens borders and eases majority of Covid-19 restrictions
Ghana is the latest African country to ease its Covid-19 rules. In his 28th Covid-19 address, President President Akufo-Addo announced an update on the measures taken to limit the spread of the virus. Citing a "review premised on the background of rapidly declining infections, the relative success of the vaccination campaign ... and the increased capacity in the public and private health sectors", the leader presented measures set to take effect on Monday, March 28. 2 years after President Akufo-Addo closed all borders, he announced the opening of sea and land borders vowing the economy would soon rebound.
Bulgaria to remove COVID-19 restrictions
The Bulgarian government will remove all restrictive measures against COVID-19 from 1 April, including the mandatory wearing of protective masks in closed public spaces and restrictions on public events. Bulgarian authorities say the decision to drop all measures was taken after the issue was discussed in detail over the past month.
Hygiene Helpers
COVID-19 booster essential, even among individuals previously infected
A long-term, cohort study led by researchers at the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University and Ziv Medical Center in Safed has produced further insight regarding the interplay between COVID-19 infection and vaccination in providing protection over time. Seven to nine months after the second dose of the vaccine, antibody levels throughout the cohort dropped and were comparable in all groups including among young people and those infected before vaccination. The booster, however, led to antibody levels ten times higher than after the second dose in all groups within the cohort. The study, recently published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, further showed that all individuals, including those with hybrid immunity (infected and vaccinated) require subsequent boosters beyond the two initial COVID-19 vaccine doses.
COVID-19: 600,000 people to be invited for spring booster jabs next week
More than 600,000 people in England will be invited for a COVID-19 booster jab next week. Since the beginning of the spring booster programme last week, NHS England said more than 470,000 people have already come forward for a jab. Around 5.5 million people in England aged over 75 or immunosuppressed will be eligible for a spring booster over the coming weeks and months.
Community Activities
MIT Reinstates SAT, ACT Mandates Many Colleges Dropped During Covid
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is reinstating its standardized testing requirements, citing that most students are now able to access the exams safely. Vaccine availability and an increase in students taking tests at school have alleviated challenges that had made it especially difficult for high-schoolers to sit for the SAT and ACT during the pandemic, MIT said Monday in a statement. Many colleges across the U.S. have made the requirements optional amid ongoing Covid disruptions and concerns that the tests unfairly favor wealthier students. The math component of the exams are especially important in evaluating whether a prospective student will do well at MIT, the college said.
For red and blue America, a glaring divide in COVID-19 death rates persists 2 years later
Political polarization in the U.S. was evident and intensifying long before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, two years ago. Polling shows that the emergence of the novel coronavirus in 2020 exacerbated the rift, pushing Americans further apart on key pandemic response efforts. Surveys from Pew Research Center, last year, found that in the early months of the pandemic, about 6 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents believed the virus was a major threat to the health of the U.S. population, compared to only a third of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. That 26-point gap would ultimately grow to approximately 40 points by the fall, researchers found.
Working Remotely
Hybrid workplaces for offices aren't working.
Hybrid schedules are supposed to provide the best of both worlds: all the benefits of working from home (no commute, more focus, hanging out with the dog, whatever it may be) plus the benefit of in-person collaboration with colleagues. The problem is … much of the time, it isn’t happening that way. Instead, a lot of people who have returned to their offices for some or all of the week have found that they’re the only ones there, or others are staying isolated in their offices, and all communication still happens over email, Slack, or Zoom. As a result, they’re spending time commuting to and from the office and dealing with all the hassles of in-person work but without any of the promised payoff.
The rise of the rural remote worker
About 3,000 Portuguese workers have so far taken advantage of the MAIS rural employment grant, which was introduced in March 2020. Many of the initial recipients are Portuguese citizens who worked overseas but decided to return home at the outset of the Covid-19 outbreak. As part of a wider effort to attract foreign workers, meanwhile, Portugal recently extended the scheme to all EU workers and anyone holding a valid work visa. Portugal is not the first country to try luring professionals into rural areas. Local authorities in Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Croatia and the US are among those to have offered cash incentives over recent years.
The workers with social anxiety fearing the return-to-office
Experts say anxiety has rocketed among young people during the pandemic, and although there’s little data on exactly how many people are dealing with it, it’s estimated that 12.1% of US adults experience social anxiety at some point in their lives. Employees are just starting to trickle back into the workplace, so we’re still in the early stages of understanding how in-office work will affect people who are coping. However, European schools are already reporting a spike in school-return refusals among children due to mental-health and anxiety problems exacerbated by the pandemic. If kids’ behaviours are the harbinger – especially because social anxiety affects younger people more – it’s possible we may see a similar trend manifest in the workplace.
Public Policies
U.S. Covid Response Showing Cracks as Congress Delays Funds
Personic Health Care has been providing free Covid testing for uninsured families in Philadelphia and northern Virginia throughout the pandemic, thanks in part to federal support. But earlier this month when the White House said that the U.S. doesn’t have the funds to cover those costs, it put Personic, a mid-sized patient-monitoring and telehealth company, in a precarious spot. The company wants to continue offering the free tests, but that’s not sustainable through another surge of infections, said Azmat Husain, its founder and chief medical officer.
Botswana Approves Corbevax Covid Vaccine, Plans Local Output
Corbevax, a Covid-19 vaccine developed in Texas, has been approved for use in Botswana, according to U.S. biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong. Doses of the vaccine currently in production have been reserved for the country, he said at a ceremony on Monday in the southern African nation’s capital, Gaborone. It will ultimately be made at a local factory called Pula Corbevax, Botswanan President Mokgweetsi Masisi said. Soon-Shiong is helping launch production and the facility may later make another inoculation produced by his ImmunityBio Inc. “It has now been given to 10 million young Indians safely,” Soon-Shiong said. “We have now brought it to Botswana.”
FDA expected to authorize second coronavirus booster for 50 and older
The Food and Drug Administration is poised to authorize a second coronavirus vaccine booster for anyone 50 and older, a bid to provide an extra layer of protection amid concerns Europe’s rise in infections from an omicron subvariant could hit the United States, according to several government officials. The authorizations for second Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters could be announced as soon as Tuesday
Laos eyes giving 4th coronavirus vaccine doses
The Lao Ministry of Health plans to offer fourth doses of coronavirus vaccines to health care workers and people at risk of serious illness starting in April to shield them and other vulnerable groups from the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Booster shots will be used to ramp up levels of antibodies against the virus, which will reduce the risk of severe illness, local newspaper Vientiane Times reported
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 preventative drug secures EU approval
AstraZeneca's Evusheld has been approved in the EU for the prevention of COVID-19 in adults and teens 12 years and older weighing at least 40 kg.
Medicago's tobacco ties jeopardize growth of its COVID shot
Canadian vaccine maker Medicago's COVID-19 vaccine, approved last month in Canada, is facing limited growth in the near-term after the World Health Organization said it would not review the vaccine because the company is partly owned by U.S.-Swiss tobacco company Philip Morris, health experts say. The WHO said at a briefing this month and in a follow-up statement to Reuters that it has not accepted an application for the vaccine because of its 2005 public health treaty requiring no involvement with any company that produces or promotes tobacco-based products.
FDA halts use of GlaxoSmithKline and Vir's COVID-19 drug Xevudy in 8 northeast states
With new strains of the coronavirus showing their elusiveness and pushing more antibody treatments toward irrelevance, is there danger of an over-reliance on COVID-19 oral antivirals, especially Pfizer’s Paxlovid? Friday, the U.S. paused the distribution of GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology’s antibody drug Xevudy in the northeast, where the omicron subvariant BA.2 now accounts for more than half of new infections. The states included in the directive are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. In addition, Xevudy’s use will be halted in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Lab testing shows that a 500-mg dose of Xevudy is not “fully active” against the BA.2 variant, the FDA said.
Maintaining Services
End of free Covid testing could put vulnerable at risk, say UK experts
Come the end of March, the lights will dim on the UK’s Covid epidemic. Despite infection levels rising, cases will plummet, as free lateral flow and PCR tests are stopped for the majority of people in England, with other countries in the UK also set to reduce free testing in the coming weeks and months. But while the government has argued it is time to manage Covid as we do other infectious diseases such as flu, scientists have warned ending community testing could put vulnerable people at risk and undermine efforts to understand the virus.
The ‘zero-Covid’ approach got bad press, but it worked – and it could work again
Many people thought No-Covid was impossible, but the handful of places that embraced it proved them wrong. Now that some of those places are themselves shifting to a reduction or mitigation strategy, countries that opted for mitigation from the beginning are enjoying a “we told you so” moment. But No-Covid’s early champions had to shift in part because other countries let the virus rip. Even if their strategy didn’t remain the optimal one, it bought them time to prepare others. It’s important that we remember that when the next pandemic sidles along.
Scottish Covid-19 patient numbers increase again to another record high
Article reports that the number of coronavirus patients in Scotland’s hospitals has reached another record high – for the sixth time in the past eight days.Scottish Government figures showed that on Sunday there were 2,360 people with recently confirmed Covid-19 in hospital, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. The latest peak in hospital numbers comes after a slight fall in the t