"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 13th Jan 2021
Covid: Eyesight risk warning from lockdown screen time
An eye health charity is recommending people learn the "20-20-20" rule to protect their sight, as lockdown has increased people's time using screens. Fight for Sight advises looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes you look at a screen. Out of 2,000 people, half used screens more since Covid struck and a third (38%) of those believed their eyesight had worsened, a survey suggested. Opticians remain open for those who need them, the charity said.
A simple Fitbit could detect Covid-19 days before symptoms appear
A Fitbit device may be able to give its wearer an early warning over a coronavirus infection before symptoms begin to appear. That’s the thesis from a group of researchers at Stanford University who are currently studying whether wearable technology could help fight the pandemic. Modern Fitbit devices (as well as similar gadgets made by Apple and Garmin) track heart rates and could indicate abnormalities that show up after infection. Although a Covid-19 victim may not show obvious symptoms – such as a cough or loss of smell – for up to five days there is a ‘presymptomatic’ period. During this phase, their body may give off signals that suggest they caught the virus.
With England in lockdown 3, it's time ministers got it right on face masks
Faced with a new, more infectious variant of the virus and a vaccination programme that won’t reach everyone until the autumn, the prime minister has suggested the government may have to tighten restrictions during England’s third lockdown. But ministers already have a simple tool at their disposal. Getting face masks right is one of the most important things we can do now to stop the spread of Covid-19. In England, the attitude to face masks has been inconsistent at best and negligent at worst. Masks are required in shared public spaces such as supermarkets, though many workers have complained that customers aren’t wearing them, and enforcement has largely fallen on individual stores. In schools, the government inexplicably made masks mandatory in corridors but not in classrooms. To reduce transmission as much as possible, they should be worn throughout the school day.
New Zealand to ask international travellers for negative virus test before flying in
New Zealand will ask international travelers from most countries to show negative COVID-19 test results before boarding flights to the country as new contagious variants of COVID-19 spread across globally. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that most global air routes will be of critical concern for the foreseeable future,” COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement. Hipkins said the pre-departure test requirement would soon expand to all countries and territories excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations.
As Canada battles rising COVID-19 cases, lack of sick leave fuels transmission
As Canadian provinces struggle to contain rising COVID-19 infections, a lack of adequate paid sick leave for front-line workers is fuelling transmission, doctors and advocates say. While political leaders and health officials advise sick people to stay home, many people can’t afford to. Some 58% of workers in Canada lack enough paid sick leave, according to the Decent Work and Health Network, and that percentage rises as wages drop. One morning last spring, 67-year-old part-time support worker Susan woke up feeling “a hurt in my heart like a knife.” She went to work at a Toronto rehabilitation home anyway -- she said it was the only way to pay the bills. Susan, who is using an pseudonym for fear of professional repercussions, had no sick days and couldn’t afford to miss even a day’s pay.
Google Launches $3 Million Fund To Tackle Covid-19 Vaccine Misinformation
Amid an ongoing effort by Google to counter the deluge of misinformation and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic, the tech giant said Tuesday it will devote up to $3 million to back fact-checking initiatives to counter vaccine misinformation, which it says has emerged as a particularly troubling phenomenon as global immunization efforts get underway.
Pope Francis will receive Covid-19 jab this week and declares 'without a vaccine you are playing with life'
Pope Francis will receive his Covid-19 vaccine this week, days after his personal doctor died from complications with the virus. The pontiff said it was an 'ethical duty' for everyone to get inoculated as Vatican City prepares for its rollout of the jabs. He told Italian news outlet TG5: 'Everyone should get the vaccine. Without a vaccine, you are playing with health, life, but also with the health of others.'
COVID-19: 'Stubborn number' of people still refusing to follow coronavirus rules
A "stubborn number" of people are still refusing to follow the rules despite England entering a third coronavirus lockdown, the chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council has said. Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Martin Hewitt said forces across the UK have issued almost 45,000 fines for breaches of COVID-19 rules. Appearing alongside him was Home Secretary Priti Patel, who insisted the current restrictions were "very simple and clear" as well as being "tough enough".
Sir David Attenborough receives Covid-19 vaccine
Sir David Attenborough has become the latest well-known name to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, his representative has confirmed. The news about the 94-year-old natural historian comes a few days after it was revealed the Queen had been vaccinated. It's not known which vaccine Sir David has been given or exactly when he had it. The Perfect Planet host is one of several stars to receive the first of two doses of the vaccine. They include The Great British Bake Off's Prue Leith, actor Sir Ian McKellen, choreographer Lionel Blair, actor Brian Blessed and actress Dame Joan Collins.
Third Democrat tests positive for COVID after riot lockdown
Democrats have proposed a $1,000 a day fine on lawmakers who refuse to wear masks while in the Capitol complex. Rep. Debbie Dingell is leading the charge on the issue and blasted Republicans for 'laughing off' requests to wear one. Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider became the third lawmaker to test positive for COVID after being in lockdown with lawmakers last week. About 100 lawmakers were huddled in a poorly-ventilated room together during the MAGA riot on the Capitol with many Republicans refusing to wearing masks. He slammed Republicans: 'I was forced to spend several hours in a secure but confined location with dozens of other Members of Congress,' he said. 'Several Republican lawmakers in the room adamantly refused to wear a mask' He is isolating at home in Illinois and not yet showing symptoms. Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, 55, also tested positive for COVID-19. And Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, 75, announced earlier on Monday that she had tested positive for the coronavirus and was suffering mild symptoms. Both Jayapal and Coleman blame their infections on being trapped with Republicans who refused to wear face masks Jayapal says she believes it will turn out to be a 'superspreader event'
Analysis: Boris's Sunday spin away from No 10 undermines UK Govt's tough lockdown message
Chris Whitty, the UK Government’s chief medical brain, spent hours on the morning media shift urging people to “double down” on complying with the Covid-19 restrictions, Boris Johnson told people to "do the right thing" and stick to the rules.
Lockdown adds to suffering of vulnerable Lebanese: charity
A total lockdown set to start this week will exacerbate the suffering of vulnerable Lebanese families struggling to make ends meet unless the government offers assistance, a charity has warned. “We recognise the importance of taking thorough measures... but we are very concerned that vulnerable families and their children will be left to deal with a catastrophe on their own," Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Lebanon director, said late Monday. Lebanon, a country of more than six million, is grappling with its worst economic downturn since the 1975-1990 war.
Coronavirus: Wetherspoon pub chain to remove lockdown-sceptic posters
The Wetherspoon pub chain says it will remove lockdown-sceptical posters from its venues as coronavirus continues to spread in parts of England. Last month bosses made pages from their company magazine, Wetherspoon News, available to download and put in pub windows. It was part of a campaign by chairman Tim Martin against government restrictions, which he said were “messing up the economy and also the health of the nation”. One of the flyers was pictured still visible in some pub windows this month. It reproduces a news story from 20 November last year, which cast doubt on the dire warnings of government scientists about the threat posed by the second Covid-19 wave.
New Austrian COVID cluster: mainly British group on ski teacher course
Austria said on Tuesday it has identified a new cluster of 17 COVID-19 cases, a mainly British group on a ski teacher training course, despite the country being on lockdown and having banned flights from Britain over fears of a new coronavirus variant. The Alpine province of Tyrol, which suffered Austria’s worst outbreak to date at the ski resort of Ischgl, said the cluster in the town of Jochberg was suspected to be of the new, more infectious variant first pinpointed in Britain in September that has spread to dozens of countries including Austria. The fact such a training course was allowed to happen despite lockdown restrictions, which include closing schools to all but daycare, stunned many Austrians.
Toys How to keep your kids entertained at home during lockdown
As soon as the schools closed for the latest lockdown there was a huge focus on homeschooling and the various ways parents can help prevent their children falling behind academically. Yet little has been said about the fact there are entire weekends and evenings where you’ll need to find ways to keep your kids entertained when the usual soft plays, swimming pools, zoos, craft centres and other go-tos are closed. Having downtime, and being given time to relax and play, is vitally important. If the very thought of all of this is giving you cold sweats, we’ve compiled a list of fun activities for all ages, capabilities and budgets to inspire you to get your children playing and chilling.
Don't Make These 6 Biggest Mistakes If You're Working From Home, Says Guy Who's Done It for 10 Years
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a period of working from home is becoming increasingly inevitable for many companies. For a number of employees, the experience is not only new, but it's also dreaded. The pros, of course, are very clear: Supreme flexibility, undeniable autonomy and a commute that consists of walking down the hallway or a flight of stairs. The cons? It takes practice and requires a significant amount of self-awareness, discipline and laser-like focus. My journey in remote work started in 2010, when I was building my first startup. Fast forward 10 years later, and I've amassed a decade's worth of remote working secrets.
Can you spot 13 items that have caused injuries to those working from home?
A tricky brainteaser which raises awareness of the risk of injury while working from home has left avid puzzlers stumped. With Brits working from kitchens, bedrooms, and any other space they can find, National Accident Helpline decided to survey 1,000 people who have been working from home to find out more about the issues that they have been facing during this time. To highlight the areas of risk to those working remotely, they have hidden 13 household items that have caused injuries to those working from home. So, can you beat the average time of 45 seconds to spot all of the dangerous items?
‘Be kinder with deadlines’: What teachers learned from remote teaching last time
As teachers take part in another round of remote teaching, many are using the lessons they learned during the previous lockdown to inform their work. We spoke to educators on what works and what doesn’t based on their experiences last year.
Virtual learning will stick around after COVID fades
About two in 10 U.S. school districts have already adopted, plan to adopt or are considering adopting virtual learning after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new RAND Corporation study. The survey of district leaders indicates that virtual learning was the innovative practice that most district leaders anticipated would continue, citing both student and parent demand for continuing various forms of online instruction. District leaders who mentioned plans to continue offer virtual learning and instruction after the COVID-19 pandemic has abated said they want to do so to offer students more flexibility, meet parent or student demand, meet the diversity of students’ needs, and maintain student enrollment
Covid-19: Williamson promises 300,000 extra laptops
An extra 300,000 laptops and tablets have been bought to help disadvantaged children in England learn at home, says Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. Mr Williamson said the devices would be delivered to schools. He also pledged to publish a remote education framework to support schools and colleges with delivering lessons during the latest national lockdown. It comes as research says children from poorer families are likely to struggle more with remote learning.
British school children in lockdown get hours of free TV education
Parents in Britain may be relieved to hear that the BBC launched its new educational offering on Monday, meaning that school-aged children will be able to access hours of curriculum-based learning on television every day. The broadcaster announced its initiative last week in response to new lockdowns in England and Scotland, to “ensure all children can access curriculum-based learning, even if they don’t have access to the internet,” it said. Katie Thistleton, who presents BBC Bitesize Daily Secondary, an hourly show for children aged 11 and over that was made last year in response to the pandemic, said the aim is to make her show and others available to a wide audience.
Trump will reverse plan to hold back second COVID-19 vaccine doses and urge states to give jabs to all over-65s in an effort to speed up rollout that has seen fewer than 3% of ...
US will ship previously withheld second doses to states, reversing its policy. Manufacturing has ramped up such that having too few doses to give booster shots to everyone who got a first shot is not a concern, HHS Secretary said. Just 9.27 million Americans have received a first dose and 29 million doses have been distributed. Doses went first to health care workers, many of whom refused the shots. Trump administration is now urging states to vaccinate anyone 65 or older Dr Anthony Fauci criticized original roll-out plans for being 'too rigid,' delaying the vaccination process. Mass vaccination sites are now opening up across the nation, including at Disneyland and Dodger Stadium in California and in New York
Brussels probes member states’ compliance with EU Covid vaccine strategy
Brussels is to probe EU governments’ compliance with its centralised buying of coronavirus vaccines, as concerns grow that member states will seek to make their own deals to avoid possible supply shortages. The European Commission is to write to the bloc’s 27 countries to ask them to provide “all the necessary transparency” over any dealings with drug companies with which it has done deals or held talks. Tensions have grown over whether the commission has secured sufficient quantities of the vaccines made by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, the only two so far to have won approval from the EU medical regulator. Germany has already reportedly placed several bilateral orders, including 30m doses with BioNTech/Pfizer and 20m doses with CureVac, which — like BioNTech — is a German company. Cyprus has asked for extra jab supplies from its Mediterranean neighbour Israel, which has the highest vaccination rate in the world.
Covid-19: All doctors should be offered first vaccine dose by mid-February, government says
The UK government has promised that every adult in the UK will be offered a covid-19 vaccination by the autumn as it set out plans to rapidly scale up its mass vaccination programme. The UK covid-19 vaccines delivery plan,1 published on Monday 11 January to coincide with the opening of seven new regional vaccination centres, said England will have capacity to vaccinate at least two million people per week by the end of January. This will be delivered across 206 hospital sites, 50 vaccination centres, and 1200 local vaccination sites run by primary and community care teams, it says. The expansion of capacity means that everyone will live within 10 miles of a vaccination centre, or, in the case of a small number of highly rural areas, have access to a mobile unit delivering vaccinations, the plan says.
Germany and Netherlands likely to extend Covid lockdowns
Germany’s tough anti-Covid measures are likely to last a further eight to 10 weeks, Angela Merkel has warned, while the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has extended the Netherlands’ national lockdown into next month. As Europe struggles to stem the number of cases and deaths and concerns mount about the new, more contagious UK variant, the German chancellor said infections could rise 10-fold by Easter if the country did not succeed in containing the virus’s spread. Germany’s lockdown, under which schools and non-essential shops and services have closed, was due to last until 31 January, but Merkel reportedly told a working group of her Christian Democratic Union: “We still need eight to 10 weeks of hard measures.” The country has been recording record daily case numbers and deaths in the 900-1,000 range but the figures remain skewed due to under-reporting over the Christmas holiday and a true picture is not expected to be available until 17 January.
Boris Johnson gathers Cabinet amid fears lockdown could get tighter
Boris Johnson is said to be considering tightening the coronavirus lockdown rules in England amid a surge in cases. Here are some of the options Mr Johnson could consider: Curbs on click and collect - At the moment non-essential shops are allowed to offer click and collect services but there are concerns that this still results in too much interaction between different households. The Government could opt to ban non-essential shops from offering click and collect services, restricting it to just supermarkets and other essential shops. Nicola Sturgeon said today she is considering such a move in Scotland. Takeaways - Restaurants are not allowed to physically open during lockdown but they are allowed to offer takeaway food. However, there are rising worries that picking up takeaway food is also leading to too many households mixing while they wait for food to be prepared. Rules could therefore be tightened to stop people waiting inside restaurants. Ms Sturgeon also said this is under consideration in Scotland. - Closing more work places
Bubbles will be allowed if Covid lockdown tightens up
People living alone or with childcare needs would still be able to form a support bubble with one other household in a tougher lockdown, Matt Hancock has promised. However, the heath secretary said that exercising outside with another person from a separate household could be banned if people kept breaching the exemption. Mr Hancock and Boris Johnson said that the rules would be tightened if necessary. The prime minister warned yesterday against “false complacency”.
Lockdown leading to 'very difficult period' for UK economy, warns Bank governor
The UK economy is facing its “darkest hour” due the latest Covid-19 lockdown, which is likely to delay the recovery, the Bank of England governor has warned. In comments on Tuesday that echoed warnings from the chancellor, Rishi Sunak a day earlier that the economy “is going to get worse before it gets better”, Bailey said the UK would bounce back, but only after the lockdown had ended and concerns about the spread of the virus had receded. Referencing Winston Churchill’s use of the phrase in 1940 following the evacuation of Dunkirk, he said: “There’s an old saying about the darkest hour is the one before dawn.”
WHO experts to visit Wuhan in Covid-19 origins probe, says China
World Health Organisation experts will visit the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019, at the start of their investigation into the origins of the pandemic, China has said. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the experts will arrive in Wuhan on Thursday. Other details of their schedule have not been announced and the central government's National Health Commission offered no further information. The visit has been expected for months. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed frustration last week that arrangements were taking so long to finalise.
Millions in China lockdown over new COVID-19 threat
China imposed new coronavirus curbs in areas near Beijing on Tuesday, putting 4.9 million people under lockdown as new infections raised worries about a second wave in a country that has mostly contained the disease. Lauren Anthony reports.
Australia clamps down in response to cases of UK coronavirus variant
Authorities in Australia have responded swiftly to contain potential outbreaks of the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19. On Thursday 7 January, a cleaner for a hotel quarantine facility in Brisbane tested positive for the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant, first sequenced in the UK in September, which has now reached at least 45 countries.The following morning, with no further positive cases, Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a short, citywide circuit-breaker lockdown affecting some 2 million residents. The city, where life has been normal for months, hadn’t locked down since the first wave in Australia in March. The lockdown began on Friday at 6pm Brisbane time, and ended on Monday 11 January at the same time. It included a strict mask mandate for anyone leaving their homes, including while driving and exercising.
US COVID-19 vaccine strategy pivots to target those 65 and up
Operation Warp Speed announced today a major pivot in the US COVID-19 vaccine strategy, one that will see the release of all current vaccines in the national stockpile and a new effort to vaccinate all those 65 and up as quickly as possible. The changes bring the total number of doses that have been made available for use in the United States to roughly 38 million. "We are now at an important juncture in the vaccine program where we're ready for a transition," said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar during an Operation Warp Speed press conference today.
Retailers remove product limits on groceries after Brisbane lockdown ends
Retailers have removed product limits for popular grocery items in Brisbane after the end of its three-day lockdown. Shoppers descended on stores in large numbers on Friday after the Queensland government confirmed five local government areas would shut down for 72 hours to stop the spread of the UK strain of COVID-19. Punches were thrown and supermarkets stripped bare as residents defied advice to raid shelves and stock up on supplies. It prompted major retailers like Coles and Woolworths to reintroduce product limits on multiple items
Asia Today: India starts shipping COVID-19 vaccine to cities
India has started shipping COVID-19 vaccines to multiple cities, four days ahead of a nationwide inoculation drive. The first consignment of vaccines developed by the Serum Institute of India left the city of Pune on Tuesday. The vaccines rolled out from Serum Institute of India’s facility in temperature-controlled trucks to the city’s airport, from where they were loaded into private air carriers for distribution all over the country. Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri called the shipping of vaccines a “momentous mission.”
UK retailers call for police help to enforce mask rules
British retailers called on the police to help enforce the wearing of masks to limit the spread of COVID-19, with one of the biggest supermarkets saying on Monday it would no longer allow entry to those flouting the rules. With infection numbers rising sharply the UK government has expressed concern about the spread of the virus in supermarkets, with people breaching rules by not wearing masks while shopping in them. Non-essential retail, restaurants and bars are shut across Britain, leading to a high level of demand for supermarkets and other food stores. “People have got to follow the guidance in supermarkets, people need to be keeping their distance, making sure that they’re wearing masks, doing the right thing,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters.
ICE must provide Covid-19 vaccines to all detained migrants
After months of public health and political debates on vaccine prioritization for incarcerated populations, Covid-19 vaccination has begun in prisons and jails across the United States. Yet little is known about vaccination programs in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. Some states have said they will vaccinate incarcerated populations in Phase 1b or 2 of the vaccines rollout, either alongside correctional officers or after they have been vaccinated. The Federal Bureau of Prisons first planned to prioritize correctional officers, in line with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. But after pushback from public health experts highlighted the growing rates of Covid-19 among inmates, the Bureau of Prisons began vaccinating staff members and selected prisoners simultaneously.
Mexico City restaurants open doors in defiance of COVID-19 ...
Several prominent restaurant chains and smaller eateries on Monday defied Mexico City's extension of a ban on dine-in service, in an act of civil disobedience against rules aimed at controlling a surge in COVID-19 cases. Fish restaurant Fisher's, steak house Sonora Grill and Potzollcalli, which sells a Mexican pork and corn soup, were among the outlets that flouted the ban. Between them, the three chains have dozens of outlets in the city area. Officials initially said a partial lockdown implemented on Dec. 19 would last until Jan. 11, but extended it after surging cases last week pushed hospitals to their limit. Hospitals in the capital are 89% full, the highest peak of the pandemic, according to city data. Nationwide, Mexico has surpassed 1.5 million cases and 130,000 deaths.
Oral COVID-19 vaccine beckons, as ImmunityBio licenses iosBio tech
ImmunityBio has licensed technology underpinning a COVID-19 vaccine that could be administered orally rather than by injection from UK biotech iosBio. Approvals for injectable vaccines for COVID-19 are starting to build, but non-injectables like oral and intranasal vaccines could be required if the pandemic is to be fought across all areas of the globe, according to Wayne Channon, the UK firm’s chairman. “Non-injectables remove the need for health professional-led immunisation programmes, making widespread vaccine roll-outs quicker and easier and more affordable,” Channon told pharmaphorum.
Pfizer Says It Can Quickly Develop Vaccines for Covid-19 Variants
The Big Pharma company Pfizer is digging in for a long fight against Covid-19. In an interview on Tuesday morning, the company’s chief scientific officer, Mikael Dolsten, said that Pfizer (ticker: PFE) is working on a more stable formulation of its Covid-19 vaccine that will be easier to distribute, and is thinking through how to update the vaccine if new strains of the virus emerge that evade the current version. Dolsten said that the Covid-19 problem, and the problem of new coronaviruses in general, isn’t going away.
Bacteria in your GUT 'affects Covid-19 severity'
South Korean study reviewed pre-existing research on role of gut microbiome Hong Kong-based scientists examined blood and stool samples from patients Both studies indicate a gut microbe imbalance is key in severe Covid-19
JPM: 'Very soon,' says Johnson & Johnson CEO as world waits for its COVID-19 vaccine data
Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine regimen could jump-start an immunization push that's faltering in spite of the millions of doses Pfizer, BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna are rolling out around the world. And the J&J shot is on the verge of its next big step forward. The pharma giant is in the “final stages” of data analysis for its phase 3 trial, CEO Alex Gorsky said Monday at the annual J.P. Morgan healthcare conference. The company hopes “to have that information very soon,” he added.
Immunological characteristics govern the transition of COVID-19 to endemicity
We are currently faced with the question of how the CoV-2 severity may change in the years ahead. Our analysis of immunological and epidemiological data on endemic human coronaviruses (HCoVs) shows that infection-blocking immunity wanes rapidly, but disease-reducing immunity is long-lived. Our model, incorporating these components of immunity, recapitulates both the current severity of CoV-2 and the benign nature of HCoVs, suggesting that once the endemic phase is reached and primary exposure is in childhood, CoV-2 may be no more virulent than the common cold. We predict a different outcome for an emergent coronavirus that causes severe disease in children. These results reinforce the importance of behavioral containment during pandemic vaccine rollout, while prompting us to evaluate scenarios for continuing vaccination in the endemic phase.
Japan has found a new Covid variant. Here's how it compares to virus strains in the UK, South Africa
The identification of a new Covid variant comes as countries scramble to contain two other contagious strains that have emerged in the U.K. and South Africa. Public health experts have expressed concern the fresh strains could pose a threat to inoculation efforts. In recent weeks, optimism about the mass rollout of coronavirus vaccines appears to have been tempered by the resurgent rate of virus spread worldwide.