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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th Nov 2020

Isolation Tips
We asked over 2,000 Australian parents how they fared in lockdown. Here's what they said
Parents have faced unprecedented stress during the pandemic as they care for children while juggling paid work from home. However, very little research so far has focused on family well-being during the pandemic. So we asked more than 2,000 parents to tell us in their own words about the pandemic’s impact on their families. We did this in April 2020, during Australia’s first lockdown. Our published study is the largest of its kind in Australia, and one of very few internationally looking into families’ experiences of the pandemic.
Young people's anxiety levels doubled during lockdown: Study
New research adds to a growing body of evidence that young people's anxiety levels doubled during Covid-19 lockdown. The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, revealed that the number of young people with anxiety doubled from 13 per cent to 24 per cent, during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
Gender-based violence was predictable, and preventable, fallout of lockdown
The National Commission for Women sounded an alarm in early April that domestic violence cases had spiked in just the first week of the Covid-19 lockdown, as had distress calls. This was echoed by the UN Secretary-General who used the term 'shadow pandemic.' Since then, across the world, police, shelters and helplines have confirmed that although the incidence of domestic violence was always higher than we would like to admit, ther was an alarming increase in its frequenct during the panemic.
Coronavirus: Domestic abuse offences increased during pandemic
The number of domestic abuse offences recorded by police in England and Wales has increased during the pandemic. But the Office for National Statistics said such offences gradually rose in recent years so it cannot be determined if it was related to the pandemic. Police recorded 259,324 domestic abuse offences between March and June - 7% up on the same period in 2019. During and after the first lockdown in April, May and June, roughly one-fifth of offences involved domestic abuse.
Hygiene Helpers
Potential COVID-19 surge following Thanksgiving could cause 'humanitarian crisis,' experts warn
As Americans prepare for what will likely be an untraditional Thanksgiving, health experts and state officials are pleading with the public to heed their warnings to not travel and to avoid large gatherings and the mixing of households, as the country tries to get ahold on what experts call an "uncontrolled" spread of the coronavirus. "If we layer in travel and large indoor gatherings which we know are drivers of transmission, we expect to see a massive surge on top of an already dire situation," said Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor, warning that such a surge could result in a "humanitarian crisis."
Christmas UK lockdown lift: Dr Hilary Jones warns plan could spell disaster
Dr Hilary Jones has slammed the UK as a ‘weak nation’ if it feels like the five day Christmas lockdown lift is necessary. The Good Morning Britain medical expert has warned that the government’s plans for a five-day break from coronavirus lockdown rules over the festive period could have an enormous effect on the country going forward. Trying to break it down into simpler terms, he added that we could lose the advantage we currently have on keeping coronavirus contained. ‘I think controlling the virus is like trying to control your weight. It’s easy to put weight on, it’s very difficult to lose it,’ he explained.
How do you exit a lockdown effectively? Listen to the experts
European countries enduring a second wave of COVID-19 have once again locked down. There are signs that these measures are curbing the spread of the coronavirus. But experts warn certain steps are necessary if Europe is to successfully exit this period of lockdown and avoid repeating past mistakes.
Lessons From Europe’s Covid Surge: Control Is Fragile and Losing It Is Easy
As Americans enter a period of peak travel among their states starting with Thanksgiving, new discoveries about how Europe’s second coronavirus wave spread provide an object lesson. Many European regions had made such gains against Covid-19 as to be cited as models. Those gains proved fragile: Unanticipated pockets of infection on the continent and a rush to relax rules allowed it to surge across Europe again. Much of Europe’s new wave can now be traced to outbreaks among agricultural workers living in cramped conditions in Spain’s Catalonia and Aragón regions, according to researchers from Switzerland and Spain. It spread to nearby cities and across Spain, then home with tourists.
How Do We Stop This Surge? Here's What Experts Say Could Help
As the U.S. wades deeper into a brutal fall surge of the coronavirus, Americans are living under a growing list of restrictions aimed at curbing the exponential rise of COVID-19. But given the unrelenting advance of the virus, can these varied approaches make a difference? Or is it delaying the inevitable return to the sweeping lockdowns of the springtime? "It's really hard to slow it down once it gets going like this," says Don Milton, professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. "That's when these awful draconian measures come into play."
Community Activities
Coronavirus surge: Is lockdown 'fatigue' to be blamed for the rise in cases?
Delhi, which once successfully turned the tide over in COVID-19 is grappling with infection spikes again. The same has been witnessed in other cities across India. Unlike what many believe, the worst might not just be over yet. This, despite the fact that India as a country is witnessing a depleting peak of COVID. While authorities are imposing strict measures to safeguard the community, there have been significant lapses on the part of the public as well.
‘Relocation of the nation’ expected to spike next month
They were once the cities people would move to for work but the coronavirus pandemic has made things look dramatically different now. While people have anecdotally shared stories of people moving from Melbourne after the Victoria’s harsh lockdown restrictions, new data shows just how true that is. But Melburnians don’t want to move to Sydney either, with the city being snubbed for Brisbane. South Australians are also heading to the sunshine state, according to Muval, a national online removalist booking platform.
German restaurant bears out pandemic with furry customers
The owner of a Frankfurt restaurant is staging a protest against the coronavirus lockdown in Germany by filling his tables with a hundred stuffed toy pandas, in a play on the word “pandemic”. German officials are expected on Wednesday to agree to extend until Dec. 20 a “lockdown light” they imposed on Nov. 2 that means bars, restaurants and entertainment venues must stay closed, while shops and schools can remain open. “We wanted to put some life back into our restaurant,” said Guiseppe Fichera, manager of restaurant Pino. “They are Panda-Mic pandas.”
Can't dine out? UK restaurants offer DIY meal kits to survive lockdown
From fast food to fine dining, some restaurants in Britain are relying on home kits to keep them afloat during lockdown, turning clients into cooks who recreate favourite meals in the comfort of their own kitchens. For brothers James and Thom Elliot, the lockdowns provided an unexpected lifeline for their “pizza in the post” Pizza Pilgrims business. The venture now sells over 1,000 kits a day delivered by couriers.
Working Remotely
Now you can work remotely from Iceland for six months
The Work in Iceland program previously allowed teleworkers to stay for 90 days, but the country believes that by making it easier for foreign nationals to work from Iceland, they add value, knowledge and connections in Iceland that support its innovative environment. The introduction of this visa means that the country has expanded its long-term visa program beyond the European Schengen area, and applies to any foreign national not required to have a visa to enter Iceland. Successful applicants must be permanently employed by foreign companies and meet supplemental health insurance requirements.
Remote work brings new hacking risks
The pandemic has millions of Americans working remotely from home to avoid an outbreak in the workplace — but the coronavirus isn’t the only bug that could find its way into the office. According to cybersecurity professionals, remote work has opened the door for phishing scams, ransomware and other risks and breaches that can come back to bite employees and companies alike. Brian Horton, founder and CEO of Breadcrumb Cybersecurity in Fresno, explained that working away from the office can make an employee far more vulnerable to a hack.
Virtual Classrooms
It's not just ABCs – preschool parents worry their kids are missing out on critical social skills during the pandemic
As researchers who study children’s educational development, we know that preschool helps children develop important academic and social skills they will need for later school success. In April, we surveyed 166 parents of preschool children to examine what they felt was working – and not working – with distance learning. While the data haven’t been published yet, they give us important insights into virtual preschool. Of the 166 parents who responded to our online survey, 73% said their preschool children were provided virtual learning opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis. The children were expected to devote 30 to 60 minutes a day to virtual classes. Two-thirds of parents said they supplemented the school lessons with in-home learning activities, although these primarily focused on reading, not math.
For Iowa Schools, More Virtual Learning Brings Challenges
First-grade teacher Robin Nelson at Garfield Elementary School spends part of her day reminding students to mute and unmute their microphones, raise their hands and take turns speaking as she navigates how best to teach and engage students in virtual school. The Iowa Department of Education on Tuesday approved a second virtual waiver for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, allowing virtual learning to continue in the district beyond Thanksgiving break through Dec. 11. If conditions improve, students could possibly return to in-person class Dec. 7. Families will be alerted by Dec. 3.
Failing grades spike in Virginia’s largest school system as online learning gap emerges nationwide
A report on student grades from one of the nation’s largest school districts offers some of the first concrete evidence that online learning is forcing a striking drop in students’ academic performance, and that the most vulnerable students — children with disabilities and English-language learners — are suffering the most. Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, which has been mostly online since March, published an internal analysis this week showing that, between the last academic year and this one, the percentage of middle school and high school students earning F’s in at least two classes jumped by 83 percent: from 6 percent to 11 percent. By the end of the first quarter of 2020-2021, nearly 10,000 Fairfax students had scored F’s in two or more classes — an increase of more than 4,300 students as compared with the group who received F’s by the same time last year.
Three ideas for more effective online teaching (opinion)
Many students alchemize participating in distance learning with sitting in front of an optically and audibly challenged neophyte substitute. Moreover, some act as if they can easily evade engaging in chats, polls and discussions. Pandemic-era instructors, much like the lobsterman who drops a beacon into Long Island Sound at night, luring his valuable catch toward the shimmering light, need newfangled pedagogical beacons to lure their students toward enlightenment. At the start and middle of the term, by clearly explaining and consistently enforcing a series of post-traditional classroom rules, you can create more of a safe, productive and freewheeling remote learning environment and less of a rigid digital panopticon. I’ve listed below 10 rules I’ve developed for the students in my classes. Any that you establish for your own classes can, of course, be more or less rigorous.
Public Policies
Britain to detail post-lockdown restrictions in England
The British government on Thursday will set out which COVID-19 restrictions each local authority in England will face when a national lockdown ends next week allowing businesses to reopen in areas where infection rates are lower. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England into a month-long lockdown in early November after coronavirus cases and deaths started to rise again, angering businesses and some of his own political party over the economic consequences. He set out new measures on Monday to replace the lockdown from Dec. 2, reinforcing a previous regional approach and warning that some areas would move into a higher alert level than the one they were in before.
Germany Merkel: Car rams into chancellery gate ahead of Covid decision
A car has been driven into the gates of Angela Merkel's Federal Chancellery building in Berlin, German police say. A 54-year-old man was detained but the background to the incident was unclear. The Volkswagen car had messages daubed in white on both sides. One called for an end to "globalisation politics" while another referred to "you damned killers of children and old people". The incident came hours before Mrs Merkel held talks with regional leaders on extending Covid safety measures.
Pope Francis takes aim at anti-mask protesters: ‘They are incapable of moving outside of their own little world’
In his new book, “Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future,” to be released Dec. 1, the head of the 1.3 billion–member Roman Catholic Church lambastes those who protest the health measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19: “Some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom,” he writes.
Covid lockdown in France: Macron’s sobering message to the nation
President Macron announced an easing of restrictions in France last night while preparing the nation for an unfamiliar festive season of sobriety, home-cooked meals and early nights. In a televised address Mr Macron, who placed France in lockdown on October 29, said that he planned to lift it on December 15 if daily new infections fell below 5,000 by that date.
France’s lockdown to ease as Macron says second peak has passed
President Emmanuel Macron has announced a three-step route out of lockdown for France ahead of the Christmas season, declaring the second coronavirus peak to be ‘over’. People will be able to visit non-essential shops and go to museums and cinemas by mid-December – but won’t be able to enjoy a meal in a restaurant or a gym workout until late January as the Government strives to keep infection rates down. It comes after a month of tight restrictions, with residents currently requiring a permission slip to leave their homes, although schools and some workplaces remain open.
French government pledges more support for businesses as lockdown measures eased
The French government is pledging an additional €1.6 billion to help businesses forced to remain shut, despite the easing of lockdown restrictions. Restaurants and gyms will remain closed until at least January 20, while no date has been given for the re-opening of bars or nightclubs. The extra funds will be used to expand a grant scheme to help firms cover their costs during the crisis. Meanwhile, business groups have welcomed news that all shops will be allowed to open from Saturday.
Night curfews allowed, lockdown needs Centre’s nod in new Covid protocol
In India, due to the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in various states, the Centre on Wednesday allowed states and union territories to impose local restrictions, such as night curfew, based on their assessment of the situation. However, they cannot impose any local lockdown outside the containment zones without prior consultation with the Centre. The MHA also said that state governments can consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures in cities where the weekly case positivity rate is more than 10 percent so that the number of employees attending offices at the same time can be reduced.
Winter cold, young spreaders, small gatherings spur South Korea's Covid-19 third wave
Falling temperatures, young asymptomatic spreaders and small social gatherings where people tend to take off their masks. These are reasons cited by experts to explain South Korea's latest surge in coronavirus cases in what is viewed as the third major wave since February and possibly the biggest and toughest to curb. South Korea, which has prided itself on using massive testing and aggressive contact tracing to fight the coronavirus outbreak without resorting to lockdowns, is now struggling to contain Covid-19 ahead of an all-important college entrance exam due on Dec 3.
How Australia succeeded in lowering COVID-19 cases to near-zero
Unlike other nations, including Canada, which have aimed to maintain new infections at a level that won't overwhelm the medical system, Australia set out to virtually eliminate the virus from its shores. When Australia was hit with a surge of COVID-19 cases in late July just weeks after declaring victory against the first wave, it prompted one of the world's longest lockdowns in Melbourne, for example, closing virtually everything that wasn't a grocery store or hospital for nearly four months. In many cities, roadblocks were established to ensure people stayed home. Even when restrictions were eased there was a nightly curfew, and in the initial lockdown people weren't allowed to be more than five kilometres away from home in certain regions. Break a rule, and you could face a fine of $1,300.
How Iceland hammered COVID with science
Driving along Reykjavik’s windswept roads on a cold March morning, Kári Stefánsson turned up the radio. The World Health Organization had just announced that an estimated 3.4% of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 would die — a shockingly high fatality rate, some 30 times larger than that for seasonal influenza. There was a problem with that estimate, however: it was based on reported cases of COVID-19, rather than all cases, including mild and asymptomatic infections. “I couldn’t figure out how they could calculate it out without knowing the spread of the virus,” recalls Stefánsson, who is the founder and chief executive of deCODE genetics, a human-genomics company in Reykjavik. He became convinced that making sense of the epidemic, and protecting the people of Iceland from it, would require a sweeping scientific response.
Germany plans Christmas curbs as COVID-19 deaths hit record
Germany reported a record 410 COVID-19 deaths over 24 hours just before federal state leaders and Chancellor Angela Merkel were due to discuss an extension of pandemic-related restrictions into December and for the Christmas and New Year holidays. The 16 federal states are expected to decide on Wednesday to extend the “lockdown light” until Dec. 20. This will keep bars, restaurants and entertainment venues shut while schools and shops stay open.
UK spent 849 million pounds on COVID dining subsidy
Britain’s government spent almost twice as much as expected on encouraging people to eat in restaurants, cafes and pubs during what proved to be a temporary lull in COVID-19 cases in August. Official figures released on Wednesday ahead of new spending plans from finance minister Rishi Sunak showed his Eat Out to Help Out scheme cost 849 million pounds, much more than an initial government estimate of 500 million pounds.
Lithuania extends lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge
Lithuania on Wednesday extended its coronavirus lockdown until Dec. 17, when the new government is expected to take over. The outgoing government said the lockdown had stabilised new infections at about 11,000 per week, twice as high as during the week of Nov. 4 when the three-week lockdown was announced. “The spread has slowed somewhat, but the situation remains really serious,” Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said during a televised cabinet session.
Bulgaria imposes lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge
Bulgaria said on Wednesday it would close schools, restaurants, shopping malls and gyms until Dec. 21 as it struggles to contain a surge in new coronavirus infections. “Only one thing has been proven to have an impact on COVID-19 - decreasing social contacts or quarantine. To ease the pressure on hospitals that are on the brink, we are introducing measures for three weeks,” Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said. Like much of central and eastern Europe, Bulgaria weathered the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well in the spring, but cases have spiked across the region this autumn.
Maintaining Services
Soaring Covid-19 Hospitalizations Again Put Traveling Nurses in Demand
As the number of people hospitalized due to the coronavirus rises across the U.S., hospitals are turning to a tactic they used in earlier surges: hiring more traveling nurses. Demand is so great that hospitals are paying as much as twice the usual hourly pay for nurses, in one case $140 an hour, traveling-nurse agencies and hospital-industry leaders say. Hospitalizations, which have set new records every day for two weeks, hit a fresh high of 85,836 on Nov. 23, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That is higher than any of the prior surges in the U.S., where hospitalizations—at their highest—were pushing the 60,000 mark.
As COVID-19 Vaccine Nears, Employers Consider Making It Mandatory
Just a few months into the coronavirus pandemic, Holly Smith had already made up her mind. She was not going to reopen her restaurant to diners until there was a vaccine. She just didn't think it was safe. When she shared the decision with her staff, they asked: Would the vaccine be mandatory? Yes, she said. It would be. "I'm not going to open until I can indeed be sure that everyone on my staff is vaccinated," says Smith, chef and owner of Cafe Juanita in Kirkland, Wash. "The immediate people on the team — you've got to take care of them. If you don't take care of them, they cannot help you take care of business."
Greater Manchester's largest NHS trust draws up Covid-19 vaccination plans for staff
Manchester's largest NHS trust is drawing up plans to vaccinate its staff against coronavirus. The Manchester Evening News has seen an early internal planning document circulated within Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. The Trust runs a number of hospitals including Manchester Royal Infirmary, Wythenshawe Hospital, Saint Mary's Hospital, Royal Manchester Children's Hospital and Trafford General. Several potential Covid-19 vaccines are in the later stages of clinical trials, but still have to pass safety tests. It's not yet known whether - or when - a vaccine could be approved for use. But in line with Government instruction the NHS in all settings is gearing up to be ready to roll out vaccination programmes from any date in December, although mass vaccination is said to be more likely to happen in the new year.
COVID Christmas rules: What's allowed during the festive season?
Coronavirus rules will be relaxed over the festive season across the UK with people allowed to celebrate in three-household "Christmas bubbles" with their families. Leaders in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all agreed that groups can meet at home, outdoors or in a place of worship from 23 to 27 December. Individuals will also be able to travel between tiers and across the whole of the UK without restriction within the five-day period for the purposes of meeting with their bubble.
Coronavirus pandemic: Germany seeks EU deal to close ski resorts
Germany is seeking an agreement with EU countries to keep ski resorts closed until early January, in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. "I will say this openly that it won't be easy, but we will try," Chancellor Angela Merkel said after speaking to Germany's regional leaders on Tuesday. The news came as the country extended its partial lockdown until 20 December. Some of the early European coronavirus hotspots were at ski resorts, helping spread infections across the continent.
'Essential workers' likely to get earlier access to Covid-19 vaccine
Essential workers are likely to move ahead of adults 65 and older and people with high-risk medical conditions when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signs off on Covid-19 vaccine priority lists, coming after health care workers and people living in long-term care facilities, a meeting of an expert advisory panel made clear Monday. The intention is to bring many people of color closer to the front of the vaccine priority line — should they want to be vaccinated — in recognition of the fact that the pandemic has disproportionately hit Black and Latino communities.
Healthcare Innovations
After dosing mix-up, latest COVID-19 vaccine success comes with big question mark
Some evidence suggests that slowly escalating the dose of a vaccine more closely mimics a natural viral infection, leading to a more robust immune response. “It’s not really mechanistically pinned down exactly how it works,” Hill says. Because the different dosing schemes likely led to different immune responses, Hill says researchers have a chance to suss out the mechanism by comparing vaccinated participants’ antibody and T cell levels. The 62% efficacy, he says, “is a blessing in disguise.” But Moore says the low-dose prime group resulted in too few cases to be confident in its results. “Was that a real, statistically robust 90%?” he asks.
First round of US lockdowns cost about $6million for each death that was avoided, study finds
Study looked at cost of government-ordered shutdowns from March to May. Found that lockdowns saved 29,000 lives at a total cost of $169 billion. Costs included job losses and declines in companies' market value. Study comes as states impose new restrictions and virus surges
Researchers Say 90% Of Recent Coronavirus Sequences In U.K. Came From Spain
The U.K is on its second lockdown, and scientists say most sequences of new cases are from a coronavirus strain that originated in Spain — which British tourists brought home from summer vacations.
A Cluster-Randomized Trial of Hydroxychloroquine for Prevention of Covid-19
The analysis included 2314 healthy contacts of 672 index case patients with Covid-19 who were identified between March 17 and April 28, 2020. A total of 1116 contacts were randomly assigned to receive hydroxychloroquine and 1198 to receive usual care. Results were similar in the hydroxychloroquine and usual-care groups with respect to the incidence of PCR-confirmed, symptomatic Covid-19 (5.7% and 6.2%, respectively; risk ratio, 0.86 [95% confidence interval, 0.52 to 1.42]). In addition, hydroxychloroquine was not associated with a lower incidence of SARS-CoV-2 transmission than usual care (18.7% and 17.8%, respectively). The incidence of adverse events was higher in the hydroxychloroquine group than in the usual-care group (56.1% vs. 5.9%), but no treatment-related serious adverse events were reported.
Blood tests for Covid-19 could be made 'up to 100,000 times more sensitive' by using nanodiamonds
Exclusive: Pregnancy test-like sticks are currently being trialled for Covid-19. But they, like the widely-used HIV equivalent, use gold nanoparticles. A red line is made to indicate a positive result when gold particles stick to virus. But using glowing nanodiamonds instead of gold particles gives a stronger signal and is also much more sensitive