"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 10th Aug 2020
Those alone in isolation plead for 'lockdown bubble' rule for one friend
Every day Tonya Scibilia craves the one hour she can leave the house for exercise and make eye contact with other people. “I know it will be 23 hours before I can do that again,” says Ms Scibilia, who lives alone. “It’s really emotionally tough. I am an extrovert but I think it’s innately human to like to have contact with people and that just ceases.” Ms Scibilia, who works in HR, thinks the government is doing an exceptional job steering Victoria through the coronavirus crisis. She vigilantly follows the rules. She hasn’t hugged her family since March. She orders her groceries online to minimise her risk of being infected with COVID-19 at the supermarket.
Six months into Covid, England's quarantine programme is still a mess
Where South Korea and Germany offer practical support to those who are isolating, England offers little. Regardless of how much testing and tracing we do, without collecting data about people who are isolating, or providing support for those who need to, the virus will continue to spread. Britain should heed the example of east Asian countries. In South Korea, health authorities established a national network of community treatment centres, where people who tested positive for coronavirus and had mild or no symptoms could isolate. Patients in the treatment centres reported their symptoms twice daily, using an app, and medical staff provided video consultations to patients twice a day.
Local lockdowns reveal the need to protect workers’ wages
The imposition of stricter lockdown rules in parts of North West England highlights the need for the government to protect the incomes of workers hit by stricter rules. As well as the additional local lockdowns, alongside the one already in place in Leicester, the government postponed August opening plans for casinos, bowling alleys and ice rinks, in a move affecting tens of thousands of workers. Other workers will have to isolate as they return from holiday in countries such as Spain. But this hasn’t so far prompted a change in government plans to phase out its furlough scheme. This has been paying 80 per cent of the wages of workers at businesses suffering a slump in demand. It also covers those with caring or health needs which require them to stay at home. Likewise, sick pay rules remain unchanged. Earlier in the pandemic, many of those who needed to self-isolate were given rights to sick pay. But statutory pay-outs are still low and many miss out on this right due to low wages
Fatigue plagues thousands suffering post-coronavirus symptoms
In early March, as angst about Covid-19 was growing, Layth Hishmeh remained unconcerned. At 26, having never been seriously unwell, he felt pretty confident this new virus would barely affect him and would even joke about it with colleagues. Then he caught it. After recovering from the initial fortnight of coughing and fever, he collapsed on the street while out shopping. For the next four months he has been ambushed by a baffling array of symptoms, including extreme fatigue, a foggy brain, a raised heartbeat and diarrhoea. “I couldn’t sit up for about one month, and then I couldn’t get myself to the bathroom for another month,” he said. “I’m not doing so well on the mental front at the moment, it’s traumatising.” Mr Hishmeh, who lives in Camberley, Surrey, is one of tens of thousands of people worldwide who have reported severe fatigue and other, apparently uncorrelated, symptoms for months after contracting Covid-19.
Coronavirus: Face masks reduce severity of symptoms in wearer, scientists find
Earlier this year, researchers in China used hamsters to test the theory, The New York Times reported. They housed coronavirus-infected and healthy animals in adjoining cages, some of which were separated by partitions made of surgical masks. Many of the healthy hamsters behind the partitions were not infected. And those animals that did get the virus became less sick than their “maskless” neighbours. The experts say their findings suggest masks are even more important than previously thought, as they both reduce the virual dose – the amount hitting the face – and the viral load, the amount of infection in the body.
No Jab No Play comes into effect today in South Australia: What does this mean for your kids?
The South Australian Government's No Jab No Play laws come into effect today, with children up to the age of six who have not been fully immunised now unable to attend early childcare services. The law attempts to ensure children and the people they encounter are protected against preventable diseases. "Families should be able to send their child to an early childhood service, confident that it's as safe as it can be," Health Minister Stephen Wade said. In Australia, the vaccination schedule starts from the time a child is born and continues until they are four.
Coronavirus: Only half of Britons say they would get a vaccine, poll reveals
Just over half of the UK would definitely get a coronavirus vaccine, with "damaging misperceptions" affecting potential uptake, a poll has revealed. Only 53% of Britons would be certain or very likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19, researchers at King's College London (KCL) and Ipsos Mori found. One in six (16%) said they would definitely not get a vaccine or it would be very unlikely, the poll of 2,237 people between 16 and 75 showed. The study found that people were more likely to reject the vaccine because of their attitudes and beliefs about science and authority than reasons related to coronavirus itself.
Half of people in direct provision ‘unable’ to social distance
Half of people living in direct provision have been unable to social distance from other residents during the Covid-19 pandemic, while more than 40 per cent continue to share a room with a non-family member, according to new research seen by The Irish Times. The Irish Refugee Council’s (IRC) Powerless report, which examines the experiences of direct provision residents during the pandemic, says asylum seekers are suffering “fear and trepidation” because of their “inability to control” their health and safety during the pandemic. The call to end direct provision has become “more compelling than ever” in the context of the pandemic, the council says. The new Government has committed to ending the system.
Coronavirus: Face covering use expanded in England and Scotland
Face coverings have become mandatory in more indoor settings in England and Scotland following a recent spike in coronavirus cases. Places where coverings must now be worn in both countries include museums, places of worship and aquariums. Other new settings in England include cinemas and funeral homes, and in Scotland, banks and beauty salons. Coverings will also become compulsory in all public enclosed spaces in Northern Ireland from Monday.
An Urban Planner’s Trick to Making Bike-able Cities
When the citizens of Barcelona returned to the streets in mid-May after a 2-month lockdown, they discovered a changed city. Not only was it overgrown with plants and wildlife, but the streets had been transformed by 13 miles of bright yellow bike lanes painted over the old car lanes. Adria Gomila, the chief of mobility services in Barcelona, is leading the metamorphosis. His team of 30 has turned Spain’s second-largest city into one of the most bike-friendly metropolises in southern Europe. The pandemic, though a tragedy, has also turned into an opportunity.
Covid-19 infection rates soar in Italy
The number of daily new coronavirus infections in Italy jumped 38% higher Friday, with 552 confirmed cases registered compared to the previous day, the highest daily new caseload since late May. Two weeks ago, Italy had been registering roughly 200 new cases a day. The northeastern region of Veneto, which performed nearly 16,500 swab tests in a day, registered roughly a third of those new cases. Veneto Governor Luca Zaia said the new infections were found in residents who recently returned home from Spain, Peru, Malta, Croatia and Greece. “Vacations are a risk,” he said in his daily briefing. “Everyone must decide where they want to go on vacation, but it’s also true, that by us, for a couple of weeks now, we’re seeing a concentration of patients who were infected on vacation.″ Northern Italy is where Italy’s outbreak began in February, and which registered the highest number of cases and deaths throughout the pandemic.
A city divided: COVID-19 finds a weakness in Melbourne's social fault lines
New analysis by The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald that matches geography with demography and the disease burden shows clearly that COVID-19 is not affecting us all the same. Melbourne is a city divided. Of its five most disadvantaged municipalities, four of them have the most active COVID-19 cases. The fifth disadvantaged area is Dandenong, where the Spotless laundry is. In Brimbank, in Melbourne's west the number of active cases is in excess of 800 - that's more than 10 times the level of Boroondara in the leafy inner east. These five areas are also where the most insecure work is. It is minimum wage workers, often migrants, and often in contingent or casual jobs who are suffering unduly from the disease.
UK 'heading back into lockdown next month', says government's ex-chief scientist
Britain could be heading for full lockdown again by the end of the month. And the PM must act NOW to prevent it, a former government chief scientific adviser warns today. Sir David King said: “We need a proper test and trace system by September. Otherwise full school opening will put us right back.” Sir David says we are “nowhere near” the safe reopening of schools. He is urging Boris Johnson to “get it right” in August – or face a second wave of coronavirus infections. And he blasted the Government’s track and trace policy as “disastrous”.
Thousands protest against Netanyahu over COVID-19, corruption allegations
Thousands of Israelis rallied outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem on Saturday as anger mounted over corruption allegations and his handling of the coronavirus crisis. “Your time is up”, read the giant letters projected on to a building at the protest site, as demonstrators waved Israeli flags and called on Netanyahu to resign over what they say is his failure to protect jobs and businesses affected by the pandemic. The protest movement has intensified in recent weeks, with critics accusing Netanyahu of being distracted by a corruption case against him. He denies wrongdoing. Netanyahu, who was sworn in for a fifth term in May after a closely fought election, has accused the protesters of trampling democracy and the Israeli media of encouraging dissent.
UK medics protest, seeking pay raise after pandemic struggle
Hundreds of health care workers have rallied in British cities, demanding the government acknowledge their hard work during the coronavirus pandemic with a hefty pay increase
UK’s first Dutch-style cycle friendly roundabout opens in Cambridge
Britain's first Dutch-style roundabout prioritising cyclists and pedestrians over motorists has opened in Cambridge. Cyclists have an outer ring on the roundabout, with cycle crossings over each of the four approach roads in a contrasting red surface. There are also zebra crossings over each approach road for pedestrians and motorists must give way to pedestrians and to cyclists when joining and leaving the roundabout.
The lockdown effect on home moves:number of Londoners looking to swap the city for village life rises by 150 per cent
The post-lockdown lure of village life has seen enquiries from Londoners keen to move out to the sticks increase by almost 150 per cent, a new study reveals today. Research from property portal Rightmove found the number of would-be buyers currently living in the capital but now considering an escape to the country is up 144 per cent from June to July this year compared to the same period last year. And enquiries about homes in satellite towns are up by 79 per cent. The same pattern was found in major cities across the UK. Lower prices in the hinterland of London may be one reason for this new-found enthusiasm to leave. But Miles Shipside, Rightmove’s property expert, believes that quality of life is key. ““The lure of a new lifestyle, one that is quieter and has an abundance of beautiful countryside and more outdoor space, has led to more city dwellers choosing to become rural residents,” he said. “We saw a shift as early as April in more people living in cities enquiring about moving out of that city, and this trend has continued.
India's biggest slum has so far nailed coronavirus. Here's how they did it
With its narrow streets, congested housing, underfunded health care and poor sanitation, many thought India's largest slum would be devastated by COVID-19. In fact, Dharavi — located in India's financial capital Mumbai — was often heralded as a prime example of why the country was ill-prepared to deal with the coronavirus. Stigma associated with the disease spread deep into the neighbourhood. "Everyone was scared and locked themselves in their homes," local resident and asthma sufferer Sameer Vhatkar told the ABC. "When corona was spreading in our local areas, we felt that Dharavi was going to be finished." Mr Vhatkar tested positive for the virus in May after he took a neighbour, who had contracted COVID-19, to hospital.
Historic 'wine windows' used in Tuscany during plague come back into use during coronavirus
Restaurants and cafes in Tuscany are reopening their 17th century wine windows. They were originally used during the plague so merchants could sell their wine. Small business owners are now selling coffee, ice cream as well as wine. There are around 300 of the buchette del vino that are known about in Tuscany
CQC-Style Ratings to Hold Matt Hancock to Account
In a move many health professionals may only previously have dreamt of the performance of Government health ministers in England is to be rated. The ratings from an independent evaluation system will be similar to those issued to NHS organisations by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the findings will go to the Commons Health and Social Care Committee which is chaired by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
How to make an impression and get noticed while working remotely
The novelty of working from home, with 8:53 a.m. alarm calls and midday MasterClass breaks, has long worn off. Now you miss the sub-zero temps of your cubicle and the days of not having to supervise your kid’s virtual theater class. Plus, “the anonymity of working from home is really taking a toll on people and many are feeling a bit forgotten,” said Dr. Marianna Strongin, a psychologist in a private practice on the Upper East Side. It can feel difficult to get the attention you deserve, with employees finding it increasingly hard to get their work noticed.
Remote working and online shopping could drive 14 million cars off US roads – permanently
As many as 14 million cars could disappear from American roads in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s one of the findings of a KPMG report that estimates almost 40% of all jobs in the United States could be done from home, drastically reducing reliance on the private motor vehicle.
Coronavirus: Dubai government's flexible working hours expected to cut traffic congestion
A decision to give Dubai government employees flexible working hours could consign morning traffic gridlock to the past, transport experts said. Public sector workers will have the option to begin work at any time between 6.30am and 8.30am from Sunday, August 16. The decision could reduce accidents on the city's roads, caused by frustrated drivers rushing to make it to offices on time, said Thomas Edelmann, founder of campaign group Road Safety UAE. “It is an important step in reducing the morning gridlocks as much as possible,” he said. “There are a number of benefits to this including the reduction of dangerous behaviour from motorists.
3D virtual reality building inspections developed to aid remote working during the pandemic
A new online platform using 3D and virtual reality technology has been developed to allow remote building inspections to take place. The six-month project at the University of Strathclyde uses state-of-the-art algorithms, virtual reality and image processing techniques to monitor the construction phase of buildings. The platform will create a 3D environment of a building and reduce the number of physical inspections from quantity surveyors and health and safety inspectors required.
Facebook employees to be given £750 for home offices as remote working continues till July 2021
Facebook has announced that it will be giving its employees £750 towards home office needs as it extends remote working to next summer at the earliest. Since March, almost all of the tech giant’s 48,000 members of staff, which are typically based in 70 offices around the world, have been working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg stated that the company would allow workers to remain at home until the end of 2020.
‘Zoom is fine, but it can’t match being back in the office’
Temperature checks at reception, spaced-out desks, contactless coffee dispensers and plastic lift-button prodders. Welcome back to work – in an anti-Covid-19 office. These features, which would have been deemed eccentric and invasive in January, are some of the measures being deployed for returning employees by one of the UK’s biggest companies, property firm British Land. And many more businesses will have to take heed if the UK is to reverse its position as one of the slowest European countries to get its feet back under the desk. Only a third (34%) of UK white-collar employees have gone back to work, while in continental Europe almost three-quarters of staff (68%) have done so, according to analysis from US bank Morgan Stanley.
How safe is it to go back to the office?
It is “impossible” to make the office 100 per cent safe, says Paul Hunter, professor of Medicine at the University of East Anglia. “You could spend millions on preparations and then someone gets the infection from the journey in. You can’t legislate for all these transmissions.” Experts and officials remain divided over the most basic aspects of the virus that causes Covid-19, from the way it spreads to the length of time it lasts on a desk. But all agree there is no single miracle measure that protects the workforce. Instead, there are many that add up to reducing the risk. As companies gingerly prepare to reopen their offices, here is a taste of the uncertainties they face.
London school 'must have back-up plan in case of second coronavirus lockdown'
London schools must have a back-up plan in case of a new lockdown, an education technology adviser said today. Simon Carter, director at RM Education, said schools should have a “hybrid approach” of classroom and remote lessons, and teachers need more training in using technology for distance learning. He said: “Schools and colleges must have an effective continuity plan. In the event that we see another lockdown here in London and the closure of schools, teachers require a clear understanding of what to do; and the different methods of remote learning.
COVID-19 Roundup: UNC holds firm on reopening; Hopkins and UMass pivot; Syracuse suspends nondistancing students
Johns Hopkins University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst were among the latest institutions Thursday to rethink their plans for the fall. "We write today with a profound sense of regret and intense disappointment to share the news that we will not be able to return in person to campus this fall as we had hoped," Johns Hopkins president, provost and vice president for student affairs wrote to undergraduates late Thursday. "With the full support of the board of trustees, we have come to the difficult but necessary decision that the fall semester will be entirely online for our undergraduates." The administrators "strongly" urged students who had planned to come to Baltimore for the fall "not to do so," said virtually all campus facilities would be closed, and announced a 10 percent reduction in fall tuition.
Increase in COVID-19 cases prompts change of plans for Madison County Schools
Madison County Schools announced a change in its back-to-school plan. On Aug. 5, the district announced it would be changing from its initial goal of Plan B to online instruction. This comes after one school in the county has already reported a COVID-19 outbreak. Wednesday's announcement stated that the county had seen a 50% increase in positive cases over 10 days, including an infant and a school-aged child who tested positive, and one death in the community
At the elite Shipley school in Bryn Mawr, money is no object in coronavirus-reopening plans
For the price of $24,000 to $40,000 per child in tuition, here is how one of the most prestigious private schools in suburban Philadelphia is planning to get around the problem of a coronavirus pandemic that is forcing the shutdown of in-class instruction at many public schools this fall. Spoiler alert: The kids get to go to class. In person. Every single day of the week. The Shipley School is aiming for this lofty outcome through a staggering array of if-then statements and contingency plans shared with me a few days ago by head of school Michael Turner. By the end of our one-hour-long talk, it felt as though I had just interviewed a logistics chief of a major corporation. Every education administrator has been scrambling. But only a few have the resources of a place like Shipley, a fact that in and of itself, is both breathtaking and distressing.
Parents look to private schools for in-person instruction as school districts announce online starts
As more schools announce online starts for fall amid the pandemic, parents are looking to private schools for face-to-face instruction. Private schools across the U.S. have reported an uptick in interest from families as local public schools roll out online or hybrid fall plans. Parents say they need their children to be in-school so they can be engaged while parents work.
The Latest: Hawaii schools to open year with remote learning
Hawaii officials say the state’s public school students will begin the academic year with remote learning only, after a spike of coronavirus cases. Gov. David Ige said Friday that all public students will spend the first four weeks of the school year learning online from home. Officials had originally planned to start the year with a mostly hybrid model in which students would alternate between online and in-person classes. The state will go to the hybrid approach in September if community transmission of the virus is brought under control. Oahu has seen the majority of new cases in recent weeks, filling up hospital beds and spurring officials to close beaches, parks and hiking trails.
Are families ready for online instruction? | Coronavirus
The workstations in Lydia Santiago’s home classroom are arranged where her six kids will learn best, she said. The dining room table. The couch. The beanbag chair. And for one particularly athletic child, the trampoline out back. “I’d rather have the kids seated comfortably where they want to learn than force a place on them,” Santiago said.
‘Learning pods’ could help NC families with online education
This year, that stress is compounded by the massive societal and institutional changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about the safety of students and teachers. In-person learning has been delayed in many districts, leaving parents who work outside the home seeking solutions. There are also concerns about the socialization skills children miss when all their learning is virtual. An increasingly popular idea being embraced by parents in the Triangle and across the nation is the “learning pod” solution, a system in which parents form cohorts to take on a small number of kids and guide them through virtual instruction. This solution not only leaves parents free to focus on their jobs, it allows kids to study alongside other kids.
Kentucky teachers union says COVID-19 positivity rate too high to resume in-person classes
Kentucky's teachers union said Friday that the state's public schools should not resume in-person instruction until COVID-19 positivity rates at the state and county levels fall and remain below 4%. "By every objective measure, and without public schools being open at all during the last few months, the coronavirus situation in Kentucky at this moment is far worse than it was in March," the Kentucky Education Association said Friday in a statement. "If we all believed it wasn't safe to operate schools then, how can it possibly be safe to reopen now?" KEA said schools should not resume in-person instruction until, "at the minimum," the infection rate for both the state and the county in which a school district is located "fall below 4% and both remain below 4% for 21 consecutive days as measured by a 7-day rolling average." "Districts must also consider other factors unique to their own communities," KEA said, "such as the infection rate among school-aged children and whether the Department of Public Health supports their reopening plan."
UK to plunge into deepest slump on record with worst GDP drop of G7
Britain’s economy will be officially declared in recession this week for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, as the coronavirus outbreak plunges the country into the deepest slump on record. Figures from the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday are expected to show that gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic prosperity, fell in the three months to June by 21%.
Hong Kong to Offer Free Virus Tests to Entire City, Lam Says
The mainland-sponsored testing push has fanned suspicions that authorities will collect DNA samples from residents, as local law enforcement recently did with protesters who were arrested. The tactic is also deployed frequently by police in Xinjiang and elsewhere on the mainland. The Hong Kong government denied that there are plans to harvest DNA, saying that the claims are unfounded and that test samples will not be transported to the mainland. “We are talking about lives here,” Lam said. “So I hope people will bear in mind scientific evidence and facts, and not resort to conspiracy theories, and smear every effort indiscriminately.” Local media Ming Pao reported Monday that China wanted Hong Kong to conduct mandatory testing of the entire population but the city’s government and experts blocked the proposal, citing unidentified sources. Some local District Council members had led demonstrations outside the hotel where the mainland testing support team is staying and at the locations of their site visits this week. The Hong Kong government said that this disregarded “public interest, health and safety” in a statement on Wednesday.
Hawaii reinstates coronavirus restrictions: 'There's no question that the virus is surging'
Hawaii Gov. David Ige will reinstate restrictions to curb the spread of the coronvirus as cases in the state continue to grow. Ige said he will reinstate inter-island travel restrictions beginning on Tuesday, ordering travelers arriving in Kauai, Hawaii, Maui and Kalawao counties to quarantine for 14 days. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the almost 300 city and county parks on the island of Oahu will close beginning Friday through Sept. 5, including the beaches.
Sweden’s pandemic no longer stands out
Sweden is no longer the outlier it used to be on coronavirus. It no longer has the least restrictive approach to the pandemic in Europe and it has lost its briefly held status as the country with the highest number of deaths per capita after its number of Covid-19 cases decreased over the summer. Its economy has suffered less than the European average in recent months, but at least as much and possibly more than its Nordic neighbours. “We get a second chance. We don’t want this to take off again. We now have the chance to learn and do additional things to avoid things taking off,” said Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér, a critic of Sweden’s approach and a professor of cell and molecular immunology at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm.
Algeria eases more coronavirus restrictions, including travel curbs and curfew
Algeria said on Saturday it will further ease its coronavirus lockdown, including shortening an overnight curfew and lifting some travel curbs. In addition, large mosques will be allowed to reopen, along with beaches, entertainment venues, hotels, restaurants and cafes. The North African country has recorded 34,155 coronavirus infections, with 1,282 deaths. The new measures include lifting a travel ban on 29 provinces from Aug. 9 until the end of the month. During that period, a curfew will be shortened and will run from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. from the current 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., the government said. Mosques with a capacity of more than 1,000 worshipers can reopen from August 15, though Friday prayers, which attract larger numbers of people, will remain banned throughout the country. The use of air conditioners in mosques also remain banned, as does a prohibition of access for women, vulnerable people and children under 15 years.
El Salvador supreme court rebukes president's decree to reopen economy
The constitutional chamber of El Salvador’s Supreme Court of Justice on Friday declared an executive decree that would establish protocols for the gradual reopening of the economy as unconstitutional. President Nayib Bukele and Congress have clashed over how to manage the pandemic and the country’s gradual reopening. Bukele had released an executive decree on July 29 that set out a calendar for a gradual reopening of the poor Central American economy. But in its ruling, the court stated that the new measures “contradict constitutional parameters established” earlier to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Philippines government could use COVID-19 outbreak to crack down on dissent, critics warn
The Philippines became the Southeast Asian country with the highest number of coronavirus cases on Thursday, the same week it reimposed strict lockdown measures to try to curb its surging outbreak. The measures came after the government passed sweeping new anti-terror legislation that rights groups say is so vague it could be used to silence critics of its pandemic response. The Philippines now has at least 122,754 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,168 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On Saturday, 80 medical associations called for another lockdown, saying health care workers needed a "time out" as hospitals struggled to handle a five-fold increase in infections. "If you want to resign or if you're too lazy, government personnel will help you and they will work," President Rodrigo Duterte said, lashing out at medical personnel. "I can ask my soldiers and police officers to work 28 hours a day," he said.
Coronavirus: Stricter measures introduced in Preston
Lockdown measures have been reintroduced in Preston after a rise in Covid-19 cases. Residents in the Lancashire city face stricter restrictions, which include banning separate households from meeting each other at home. The council had already asked residents to follow extra precautions in a bid to halt the spread of the virus. The move brings Preston in line with measures in east Lancashire, Greater Manchester and parts of west Yorkshire. Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the restrictions in these areas would remain in place "as the data does not yet show a decrease in the transmission of this terrible virus". Any changes to the measures will be announced by 14 August following a review next week, he added. He said the decision to extend the restrictions to Preston was "at the request of the local area".
NZ PM Ardern launches 'COVID election' campaign promising jobs
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday launched her re-election campaign promising a “laser-like” focus on boosting jobs and economic growth hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The charismatic 40-year-old leader is on track for a comfortable victory in the Sept. 19 election, according to opinion polls, having won global praise for her leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. It has been 99 days since New Zealand had any domestic transmission of COVID-19, a rare achievement as the pandemic rages globally, and it has re-opened the economy after undergoing a complete shutdown to eradicate the coronavirus. “When people ask, is this a COVID election, my answer is yes, it is,” Ardern told her supporters gathered in Auckland for the launch of her Labour Party’s re-election campaign. In her first campaign speech, Ardern pledged a NZ$311 million ($205.32 million) scheme aimed at getting 40,000 Kiwis back in work, if her party wins the Sept 19 polls.
When Covid-19 Hit, Many Elderly Were Left to Die
Of all the missteps by governments during the coronavirus pandemic, few have had such an immediate and devastating impact as the failure to protect nursing homes. Tens of thousands of older people died — casualties not only of the virus, but of more than a decade of ignored warnings that nursing homes were vulnerable. Public health officials around the world excluded nursing homes from their pandemic preparedness plans and omitted residents from the mathematical models used to guide their responses. In recent months, the coronavirus outbreak in the United States has dominated global attention, as the world’s richest nation blundered its way into the world’s largest death toll. Some 40 percent of those fatalities have been linked to long-term-care facilities. But even now, European countries lead the world in per capita deaths, in part because of what happened inside their nursing homes.
Two Countries, 232,851 Cases and One Big Problem
A lot of things were going right in Southeast Asia’s two great archipelago nations before the coronavirus came around. Indonesia and the Philippines had relatively robust economies tended by well-regarded policy makers, and the benefit of young, educated populations. Both countries were poised to become bigger regional forces in the decades to come. Indonesia and the Philippines took different approaches to battling Covid-19, but the outcome has been the same: deep growth contractions and signs that recoveries — when they do come — will be shallow. These countries were always going to take a hit, given the way global growth has incinerated. Yet they also suffer from home-grown missteps and submerged logs that made a terrible situation worse.
New Zealand marks 100 days of virus elimination
New Zealand on Sunday marked 100 days since it stamped out the spread of the coronavirus, a rare bright spot in a world that continues to be ravaged by the disease. Life has returned to normal for many people in the South Pacific nation of 5 million, as they attend rugby games at packed stadiums and sit down in bars and restaurants without the fear of getting infected. But some worry the country may be getting complacent and not preparing well enough for any future outbreaks. New Zealand got rid of the virus by imposing a strict lockdown in late March when only about 100 people had tested positive for the disease. That stopped its spread. For the past three months, the only new cases have been a handful of returning travelers who have been quarantined at the border.
Ukraine closes checkpoints at Crimean border to control coronavirus
Ukraine’s government said on Saturday it had temporarily closed its border with Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, to prevent further spread of coronavirus. All three crossing points between the mainland and Crimea, which is defined by Ukraine as an occupied territory, will be closed from Aug. 9 to Aug. 30, a government statement said. Only Crimean residents with Ukrainian citizenship will be allowed to enter Crimea.
Havana back on lockdown as coronavirus rebounds
Cuba placed Havana back on a strict lockdown on Saturday following a rebound in coronavirus cases, ordering restaurants, bars and pools once more to close, suspending public transportation and banning access to the beach. Cuba, which has been hailed as a rare success story in Latin America for its textbook handling and containment of its coronavirus outbreak, had eased lockdown restrictions last month after cases dwindled to but a handful per day. But they have risen back to April levels over the past two weeks, with the health ministry reporting 59 cases on Saturday and saying the situation could become “uncontrollable” if authorities did not act fast. “We are witnessing a new epidemiological outbreak that puts our entire population at risk,” Cuban Health Minister José Angel Portal said during a daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday.
Whitmer extends coronavirus emergency through Sept. 4
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday extended Michigan’s coronavirus emergency through Sept. 4, enabling her to keep in place restrictions designed to curb the spread of COVID-19. The governor, whose administration earlier this week said new cases had recently plateaued, noted that they still remain higher than nearly two months ago and that many students will return to in-person instruction over the next month. The seven-day statewide average is up six-fold since June 10, to about 700 cases per day, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The rate of tests coming back positive also has trended higher since early June.
Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for covid in past two weeks, as they return to school and universities make students sign pledges to not attend parties and to stay on campus
Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July, just weeks ahead of schools reopening in some states amid the pandemic. In total 97,000 children tested positive for the novel coronavirus from July 16 to July 30, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Today there are more than five million cases of COVID-19 in the country and over 162,000 deaths. Out of those infections more than 338,000 were children.
9 People Test Positive at Georgia School After Viral Photo of Packed Hallways
A Georgia high school that went viral earlier this week after a student shared photos of a crowded hallway will be conducting online-only learning Monday and Tuesday after six students and three staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. According to a letter sent to parents, all nine people who tested positive were at North Paulding High School last week, and they were each tested privately and reported their results to the school. A second letter sent to parents Sunday evening said the school will be disinfected Monday and Tuesday while students are out of the building. Administrators will inform students and parents Tuesday evening whether they will return to in-person instruction or continue with online learning. The viral photo, taken by sophomore Hannah Watters, showed students, few of whom were wearing masks, packed together in the hall. Watters was suspended after sharing the photo on social media but had her suspension rescinded Friday.
97,000 children reportedly test positive for COVID-19 as schools gear up for instruction
Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics finds. Just over 97,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus from July 16 to July 30, according to the association. Out of almost 5 million reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S., CBS News' Michael George reports that the group found that more than 338,000 were children. Vanderbilt University's Dr. Tina Hartert hopes increased testing of children will help determine what role they play in transmission, as school districts around the country return to some form of school. She is leading a government-funded study that saw DIY testing kits sent to some 2,000 families.
Germany Struggles to Set COVID-19 Rules as Schools Reopen
German students go back to school Monday even as federal and state leaders are still trying to figure out how to keep half a million children, their teachers, and other staffers safe from the coronavirus. "There are conflicting priorities, health protection on the one hand, which is very important to us, and on the other hand that we want to ensure the right to education of every single child,” German education minister Sandra Scheeres said. She said keeping students 1.5 meters apart while inside a school is sometimes impossible. Scheeres recommends that schools divide pupils into groups and keep them separate. If anyone were to test positive for the coronavirus, only that person and their cluster would need to be quarantined instead of everyone.
Stone pub landlord 'complacent' in enforcing Covid-19 rules
The landlord of a pub linked to an outbreak of coronavirus has said he was "simply not strong enough" in enforcing government rules. Custodio Pinto, of the Crown and Anchor in Stone, Staffordshire, said he regretted being "complacent" in enforcing regulations with customers. Twenty-two people linked to the pub have tested positive for Covid-19. About 1,000 people were tested after health officials set up mobile units in the area. Staffordshire Police said it visited the site on 18 and 19 July following social distancing concerns.
Coronavirus: Pubs ‘the perfect storm’ for spreading disease, experts warn
Pubs create the “perfect storm” for spreading coronavirus and carry more risk than planes, experts have found. Indoor pub drinkers are potentially subjecting themselves to a build-up of infected droplets caused by poor ventilation and people having continuous conversations, often speaking more loudly to be heard over the din of a noisy bar, the academics warn. Households mixing in pubs and homes has been blamed for a rise in Covid-19 cases in Preston, leading to lockdown restrictions being reimposed there.
Gaza children return to school despite virus fears
Hundreds of thousands of children have returned to school in Gaza after a five-month suspension aimed at reining in the spread of the novel coronavirus in the crowded Palestinian territory. Ziyad Thabit, undersecretary of the education ministry in the Hamas-ruled enclave, said pupils would follow a remedial curriculum throughout August and classes would be limited to four a day. The United Nations agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, which provides education to hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza, said more than 285,000 pupils had returned to its 277 schools. In a statement, it said it has "put in place preventative measures such as providing all the necessary materials to sanitise schools" and training staff on how to use sanitation materials effectively.
Power Up: Anthony Fauci cautiously supports sending kids back to school
In an interview with Power Up, Anthony S. Fauci cautiously supported the Trump administration's push to reopen elementary and secondary schools — and in some cases, college campuses — this fall. But he leavened his advice by explaining sending kids back into classrooms depends on how bad the virus is in various places. “The default principle should be to try as best you can to get the children back to school,” Fauci told us. “The big, however, and qualifier in there is that you have to have a degree of flexibility. The flexibility means if you look at the map of our country, we are not unidimensional with regard to the level of infection.”
Princeton Scraps Plan to Return Undergraduates to Campus
Princeton University reversed its plan to bring some of its students back on campus for the next term, saying undergraduate classes won’t be held in person because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision means undergraduates from the classes of 2022 and 2024 will not come to campus in late August as previously planned, the school said. “In light of the diminished benefits and increased risks currently associated with residential education amid New Jersey’s battle against the pandemic, we have decided that our undergraduate program should be fully remote in the fall semester of 2020,” Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber said in a letter to the university community.
German-Chinese coronavirus vaccine trial begins
Clinical trials on humans have begun in China for a potential coronavirus vaccine developed by German pharmaceutical group BioNTech with Chinese company Fosun Pharma, the companies said Wednesday. Seventy-two participants have already received their first dose following approval for the phase 1 trial from Chinese regulatory authorities, Mainz-based BioNTech and Fosun Pharma said in a statement. The vaccine candidate, known as BNT162b1, is one of four based on BioNTech's proprietary mRNA technology.
Anakinra for severe forms of COVID-19
There is an urgent need to seek new therapeutic approaches to combat the infective and post-infective stages of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. The Article by Thomas Huet and colleagues1 on the clinical use of the interleukin-1 (IL-1) receptor antagonist, anakinra, to treat patients with COVID-19 is very interesting. The main hypothesis of the study was based on hyperinflammation caused by an increase in proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1β, IL-6, and tumour necrosis factor (TNF), triggered by SARS-CoV-2 infection. The recruited participants in this study did not have any other infection, but what if the patients did have another proinflammatory condition, such as obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, or other autoimmune disease?
Many COVID-19 patients lost their sense of smell. Will they get it back?
In early March, Peter Quagge began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as chills and a low-grade fever. As he cut pieces of raw chicken to cook for dinner one night, he noticed he couldn’t smell the meat. “Must be really fresh,” he remembers thinking. But the next morning he couldn’t smell the Dial soap in the shower or the bleach he used to clean the house. “It sounds crazy, but I thought the bleach had gone bad,” he says. When Quagge stuck his head into the bottle and took a long whiff, the bleach burned his eyes and nose, but he couldn’t smell a thing. The inability to smell, or anosmia, has emerged as a common symptom of COVID-19. Quagge was diagnosed with COVID-19, though he was not tested, since tests were not widely available at the time. He sought anosmia treatment with multiple specialists and still has not fully recovered his sense of smell.
Japan, AstraZeneca agree on 120 mil. COVID-19 vaccine dose supply
The Japanese government has reached an agreement with British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc to receive a supply of 120 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine being developed with the University of Oxford, health minister Katsunobu Kato said Friday. The vaccine will be supplied to Japan from next year if put into practical use, with 30 million doses to be received by March. The drugmaker, which has been conducting a final-stage clinical trial of its experimental AZD1222 vaccine, has not yet decided whether it is necessary to inoculate a person once or twice. "We want to reach a final contract as quickly as possible, as well as proceed with negotiating with other vaccine developers," Kato told reporters. Japan has already agreed to receive a supply of 120 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine for 60 million people by the end of June next year from U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE, if they succeed in developing it.
New clues on virus reproduction mystery; non-Covid vaccines may help
Scientists already knew that once the virus breaks into a cell, it forms double-membrane sacs, or vesicles, in which it makes copies of its genetic material. But the sacs appeared to be closed and it was previously unclear how the genetic material moved from the sac into the fluid in the cell, where new virus particles assembled themselves.
Wrexham Pharma Base Wins Race to Start Manufacturing Covid-19 Vaccines
A grey little factory in North Wales may be about to play a key part in rescuing us from the tedium of social network face mask shaming, as Wrexham's CP Pharmaceuticals is clearing the decks and preparing to take on the job of manufacturing mass doses of any covid-19 vaccine that aces trials and is deemed safe for the population. CP Pharmaceuticals is a subsidiary of Wockhardt, a multinational responsible for making many generic medical products. Most importantly for the UK's vaccine developers, the deal includes the rights to make millions of doses of the University of Oxford's world-leading attempt at a covid-19 vaccine underway in cooperation with AstraZeneca, known as AZD1222.
Covid-19: lack of diversity threatens to undermine vaccine trials, experts warn
The remarkably fast progress of two leading contenders for an effective coronavirus vaccine has raised hopes the pandemic may be speedily tamed. But some experts have warned the vaccine trials risk being undermined by a lack of diversity among their participants. Last month, the University of Oxford reported a vaccine it is developing with AstraZeneca from a chimpanzee virus elicited a “strong immune response” in people involved in an initial trial. A separate vaccine project, overseen by the US biotech company Moderna, also saw encouraging results from an early small-scale trial. The two research trials, striving to charge ahead of a pack of more than 140 different teams racing to find a vaccine to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, have sparked a rare burst of optimism during the crisis. But the trials are striking not only for their rapid pace but also their overwhelming whiteness.
Anthony Fauci says COVID-19 vaccine may be partially effective
An approved coronavirus vaccine could end up being effective only 50 to 60 percent of the time, meaning public health measures will still be needed to keep the pandemic under control, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top United States infectious diseases expert, said on Friday. "We don't know yet what the efficacy might be. We don't know if it will be 50 percent or 60 percent. I'd like it to be 75 percent or more," Fauci said in a webinar hosted by Brown University. "But the chances of it being 98 percent effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach."
Rare syndrome linked to COVID-19 found in nearly 600 US ...
Nearly 600 children were admitted to U.S. hospitals with a rare inflammatory syndrome associated with the novel coronavirus over four months during the peak of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a report on Friday. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) is a rare but severe condition that shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, including fever, rashes, swollen glands and, in severe cases, heart inflammation. It has been reported in children and adolescent patients about two to four weeks after the onset of COVID-19. With rising COVID-19 cases, there could be an increased occurrence of MIS-C, but this might not be apparent immediately because of the delay in development of symptoms, said the report's authors, including those from the CDC's COVID-19 response team.
Dogs could sniff out Covid and speed up testing
In the dogged search for mass testing, maybe dogs are the solution. Scientists are calling for volunteers in northwest England to take part in a trial to identify the smells that are unique to Covid-19 infection and then see if dogs can sniff them out. The hope is their sensitive noses will be able to spot the signs of coronavirus without the need for laboratory testing. Dogs could then offer another means of mass screening at airports and in hot spots. In the past decade researchers have found that dogs are able to spot illness before it is even apparent to the people who are sick. This ability was first noticed by owners who claimed that their dogs had spotted they had cancer.
Pfizer agrees to manufacture Gilead's coronavirus drug remdesivir
Pfizer has agreed to manufacture and supply Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir. The multiyear agreement will support efforts to scale up the supply of the intravenous drug. Pfizer will manufacture the drug at its McPherson, Kansas, facility.