"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 4th Feb 2021

Isolation Tips
COVID-19: SEND children suffered 'profound disruption' during first lockdown, report
Young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) experienced "profound disruption" to their well-being and family life during the first lockdown, according to new research. The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, paints a "concerning picture" of teachers and professionals struggling to support pupils and their families. Almost all (98%) providers said they had pupils who would find it hard to keep to social distancing, while 75% had pupils who require personal care which involves close contact with others.
The rise of parental burnout in lockdown
On top of usual household duties, for the last 10 months parents have been educating children, working remotely and keeping relationships intact - so it's no wonder they’re feeling the strain of lockdown. Even Kate Middleton has urged parents to seek help when they need it. Dr Punam joins us to discuss the warning signs of parental burnout and what you can do about it.
Hygiene Helpers
UK begins door-to-door testing of 80,000 people to halt South African variant
Volunteers and police officers in several parts of England began knocking on people’s doors to hand out COVID-19 testing kits on Tuesday to try to halt the spread of a highly infectious variant that originated in South Africa. The testing surge was announced by the government on Monday after 11 people in different regions tested positive for the variant without having any links to people who had travelled to South Africa. In total, Britain has found 105 cases of the variant, of which all but those 11 were people who had either been to South Africa or been in contact with someone who had
Denmark: ‘Digital corona passport’ will be ready in months
Denmark’s government has said it is joining forces with businesses to develop a digital passport that would show whether people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, allowing them to travel and help ease restrictions on public life. Finance Minister Morten Boedskov told a news conference on Wednesday that “in three, four months, a digital corona passport will be ready for use in, for example, business travel.” “It is absolutely crucial for us to be able to restart Danish society so that companies can get back on track. Many Danish companies are global companies with the whole world as a market,” he added. As a first step, before the end of February, citizens in Denmark would be able to see on a Danish health website the official confirmation of whether they have been vaccinated.
Community Activities
Covid is the greatest test of global solidarity in decades – we have to work with, not against, each other
In September 2000, 189 countries signed the Millennium Declaration, shaping the principles of international cooperation for a new era of progress towards common goals. Emerging from the Cold War, we were confident about our capacity to build a multilateral order capable of tackling the big challenges of the time: hunger and extreme poverty, environmental degradation, diseases, economic shocks, and the prevention of conflicts. In September 2015, all countries again committed to an ambitious agenda to tackle global challenges together: the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Working Remotely
Sick of the office? Atlantic island opens 'Digital Nomads Village' for remote workers
Working remotely? How about doing it from the Portuguese island of Madeira? Of course, non-essential travel is off the cards in Ireland for now, and Madeira is currently rated as 'red' on the EU's traffic light maps for travel. But both will hopefully change in the not-too-distant future, and Madeira is as tempting an alternative to the office (or 'boffice') as you'll find. Digital Nomads Village opens on February 1 in Ponto do Sol on the south coast, as a response to what its tourism board says is an increasing demand for people to live and work remotely on the island.
More Ways To Succeed At Remote Work In 2021 And Beyond
Video-meeting fatigue will remain a challenge for remote workers in 2021 and beyond. But if you get intentional, there are ways that you can take full advantage of this great video technology without letting it become a drain on your happiness or your productivity. My last article offered five general ways to succeed at remote work. The ideas I’ve provided below center on one specific aspect of remote work that quickly materialized once we all retreated to our homes to work. It’s often known as “Zoom Fatigue” or “Zoom Gloom.” But to be fair, it’s the exhaustion caused by days packed with video meetings, regardless of the platform.
Virtual Classrooms
The keys to virtual kindergarten? Good planning and puppets ... lots of puppets
Delaware has spent the year pushing schools to offer some form of in-person learning. Students learn better in the classroom, Gov. John Carney has said repeatedly, especially Delaware’s youngest learners. But some of those youngest learners have already opted to study from home for the rest of the school year. At Joe Parrett’s own school, Wilbur Elementary in Bear, only 41% of families chose to return for in-person learning. Parrett and other teachers are left trying to solve a challenge that would have been unheard of a year ago – how do you teach five year olds to read and count through a screen? The answer includes plenty of dance breaks, silly names and voices, perfectly planned slideshows, and lots and lots of puppets.
Public Policies
Guaido: Maduro refuses to access US-held funds to buy vaccines
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Wednesday that Venezuelan funds controlled by the United States Treasury Department could be used to pay for coronavirus vaccines but that President Nicolas Maduro’s government is refusing to cooperate. The government has not accepted an implementation plan laid out by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) that would enable Venezuela to join the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) programme, and has not fulfilled a prior deal regarding distribution of COVID-19 tests.
France to start producing coronavirus vaccines at four labs amid pressure to speed up innoculations
France will soon begin production coronavirus vaccines from four laboratories, the president has said, as the country faces pressure to speed up inoculations. Emmanuel Macron said all French people who are willing to be vaccinated against the virus will be offered a jab by the end of the summer.
Israel opens coronavirus vaccines to all over-16s
Israel’s health ministry has said it will offer coronavirus vaccines to anyone over the age of 16, as part of a rapid campaign that has already seen the majority of older and vulnerable populations receive shots. The ministry has told healthcare providers they can start booking appointments for the new age group starting on Thursday. One in three Israelis has received at least one injection, a far higher fraction than anywhere else. The country of 9 million had previously allowed anyone over 35, as well as at-risk groups and exam-taking students aged 16 to 18, to be inoculated.
China announces plan to provide 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses to developing nations through global COVAX facility
China announces plan to provide 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses to developing nations through global COVAX facility.
COVID-19: Nicola Sturgeon aims for phased return of Scotland schools within three weeks
A phased return of pupils to classrooms in Scotland could begin from 22 February, the first minister has announced. Nicola Sturgeon revealed the news as she confirmed the country's COVID-19 lockdown restrictions would be extended until at least the end of February. Ms Sturgeon said the measures were having an effect, noting that the prevalence of the virus has fallen in Scotland, but stressed "continued caution" was required with pressure on the NHS still "severe". She held out the prospect of a "careful and gradual" easing of restrictions from the start of next month, if progress continues to be made, adding she would update MSPs on a possible relaxation of measures in two weeks.
WA lockdown to remain as state records no new cases
Western Australia’s five-day lockdown will remain as the state records a second day of zero COVID-19 cases.
New Zealand regulator approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
New Zealand on Wednesday warned against “vaccine nationalism” that could delay the rollout of international shipments after its medicines regulator provisionally approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she still expected supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech product to arrive in the country by end-March, but expressed concern at any attempt to limit exports. “The world just can’t afford for that to happen. We won’t be safe until we have widespread rollout across the globe,” she told a news conference. “So it’s in everybody’s interest that we see vaccine programmes continuing to roll out in other countries.”
Dutch PM Rutte confirms lockdown to last until at least March
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday that most of the lockdown measures in the Netherlands, many of which have been in place since October, will remain in place for weeks due to fears over a surge in cases as a result of variant strains. Rutte’s government is still weighing whether to continue an evening curfew that has triggered rioting in some Dutch cities beyond next week, the prime minister told a press briefing. The government announced earlier this week that primary schools and daycares will reopen on Feb. 8, adding that it is also looking at possibly reopening secondary schools but that will not happen before March.
Qatar announces new restrictions amid fears of second COVID wave
Qatar has announced new restrictions amid a surge in coronavirus cases that authorities said could lead to a second wave of infections. The 32-point plan, made public on Wednesday, includes provisions to limit at 80 percent the number of staff present at their workplace. Among other things, it also reimposes a ban on indoor weddings, with some exceptions. The announcement came as Qatar announced an 85 percent increase in the number of hospitalisation cases in January compared with the previous month. “We have seen an 85 percent increase in January compared to December in the number of COVID-19 patients being admitted to hospital,” Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, said.
Maintaining Services
New U.S. transportation chief optimistic about future of travel despite COVID-19
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday he was “deeply optimistic” about the future of travel despite the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on airlines, airports, transit systems and road use. The pandemic has sent tens of millions of workers home for months, slashed tourism and business travel demand and placed significant burdens on transportation services to deliver packages, vaccines and other critical goods. Much of the nation’s travel sector is again asking Congress for a new round of emergency funding. “We will break new ground in ensuring that our economy recovers and rebuilds, in rising to the climate challenge, and in making sure transportation is an engine for equity in this country,” said Buttigieg, who was sworn in Wednesday, in an email to staff.
Vaccination sites opening in hard-hit California communities to tackle COVID disparities
New vaccination centers are due to open this month in the heart of two California communities especially hard hit by the coronavirus, as state and federal officials try to tackle racial and economic disparities hindering U.S. immunization efforts. Joint plans to launch the two sites on Feb. 16, at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum in Oakland and the California State University campus in east Los Angeles, were detailed separately on Wednesday by Governor Gavin Newsom and the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients.
Slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout expected in war- ravaged Syria
The success of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in war-ravaged Syria depends on their availability and distribution and may initially cover only 3% of the population, a World Health Organization official said Tuesday. Akjemal Magtymova, WHO's representative in Syria, said the country is eligible to receive vaccines for free through the global COVAX effort aimed at helping lower-income countries obtain the shots. But Magtymova couldn't say when the first shipment would arrive, how many vaccines were expected, or how they would be rolled out in a divided country still at war. The COVAX rollout is expected to begin in April. Magtymova spoke to The Associated Press in the capital Damascus amid concerns over the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines across the country, where the health care sector has been devastated by a decade of war and remains divided into three rival parts.
Some U.S. pharmacies to begin getting direct shipments of coronavirus vaccine
Several thousand pharmacies across the United States will start to receive direct shipments of coronavirus vaccine next week in the first phase of a strategy intended to simplify the ability to get shots, White House officials said Tuesday. Jeff Zients, coordinator of the White House’s covid-19 response, said the 1 million doses that will be sent to pharmacies starting Feb. 11 come on top of a modest increase in vaccine allocations to states that is beginning this week. And to help states cope with financial burdens created by the pandemic, Zients said, the government will reimburse them retroactively for emergency expenses associated with fighting the public health crisis, including the purchase of masks and gloves, and the mobilization of the National Guard.
MP encourages city's Black community to get covid jab
A Merseyside MP has visited a health centre to encourage the city's Black community to take up the offer of a coronavirus vaccine. Liverpool Riverside MP Kim Johnson visited Princes Park Health Centre, which recently began its Covid-19 vaccination programme. Ms Johnson, along with Dr Katy Gardner, Cllr Steve Munby and Cate Murphy, a member of the MP's team, were given a full tour of the centre. Ms Johnson said: "We were blown away by the dedication and expertise of all the staff, including Dr David Lewis, Fiona Lemmens, Michelle Fairhurst and the fantastic team of medical students. "While I welcome the development, the delay has been frustrating.
Coronavirus: German medics fly in to aid Portugal's hospital emergency
The sight of a German military plane touching down in Lisbon on Wednesday, carrying intensive care specialists and ventilators to help save lives in Portugal's embattled hospitals, recalls the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe. Last spring, when Italy was overwhelmed by the first wave of infections, it was helped out by several other European countries taking in patients - even if many Italians felt it was too little, too late. Now, almost a year on, it is Portugal's turn. The country's national health service is overwhelmed. There's a shortage of beds and specialist nurses, and in one hospital last week, potentially life-threatening problems in an overburdened oxygen system.
Healthcare Innovations
Britain trial to test combining Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines in two-shot regimen
Britain on Thursday launched a trial to assess the immune responses generated if doses of the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc are combined in a two-shot schedule. The British researchers behind the trial said data on vaccinating people with the two different types of coronavirus vaccines could help understanding of whether shots can be rolled out with greater flexibility around the world. Initial data on immune responses is expected to be generated around June. The trial will examine the immune responses of an initial dose of Pfizer vaccine followed by a booster of AstraZeneca’s, as well as vice versa, with intervals of 4 and 12 weeks.
Promising results from FIRST COVID-19 pill vaccine tested in humans
Vaxart, Inc., a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing oral vaccines administered by tablet, today announced preliminary data from its Phase 1 study of VXA-CoV2-1 showing that its oral COVID-19 tablet vaccine candidate was generally well-tolerated, and immunogenic as measured by multiple markers of immune response to SARS-CoV-2 antigens. “Our Phase I results highlight the importance of our differentiated vaccine design, as they suggest VXA-CoV2-1 could have broad activity against existing and future coronavirus strains. These results are timely, as we are seeing the emergence of new variants less responsive to first generation vaccines, thus making potential cross-reactivity another important advantage of next-generation vaccines,” said Andrei Floroiu, Vaxart’s Chief Executive Officer.
Australia places no upper age limit on Pfizer coronavirus vaccine
Australian regulators have decided to place no upper age limit on use of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine despite reports of dozens of deaths among the elderly in Norway. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration said in a statement Tuesday that it received reports on Jan. 14 of about 30 deaths in more than 40,000 elderly people vaccinated with Pfizer PFE, -0.43%. But it added that “no causal link between vaccination and deaths could be established.” The agency says that “elderly patients can receive this vaccine and there is no cap on the upper age limit.” The regulator last month gave provisional approval for the use of the Pfizer vaccine in Australia and the first doses are due to be administered to people aged 16 and older in late February.
Glaxo and Curevac to develop vaccines to tackle Covid-19 variants
Glaxosmithkline and a German biotechnology company are to develop a new generation of Covid-19 jab to tackle multiple emerging variants in one vaccine as part of a €150 million collaboration. The FTSE 100 pharmaceuticals group, which is based in west London, will also support the manufacture of up to 100 million doses of Curevac’s existing “first-generation” vaccine candidate, which is in trials, through its facilities in Belgium this year.
What do we know about China's Covid-19 vaccines?
China has been developing vaccines since the start of the pandemic. What do we know?
Covid-19: Study showing Oxford vaccine slows virus spread 'superb' - Hancock
Results that show the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine might reduce the spread of coronavirus have been hailed as "absolutely superb" by the health secretary. Matt Hancock said the study shows "vaccines are the way out of this pandemic". It is the first time a vaccine has been shown to reduce transmission of the virus. The UK has given a first Covid jab to more than 10 million people so far. The results of the study, which has not yet been formally published, suggest that the vaccine may have a "substantial" effect on transmission of the virus. It means the jab could have a greater impact on the pandemic, as each person who is vaccinated will indirectly protect other people too.
More Than 20% of Londoners Have Covid-19 Antibodies, ONS Study Shows
More than one in five people in London would have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies in January, according to a new study that highlights how widespread the disease has become in the U.K. capital. The capital city, which was particularly hard hit during the winter wave of the virus, has the highest rate of positive tests in the whole of England. Nationwide, one in seven likely have the anitbodies, which suggest a person had the infection in the past, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday.
COVID-19: Coronavirus antibodies last for at least six months after infection, study finds
Coronavirus antibodies last for at least six months after infection for the majority of people who have had the virus, according to a new study. It found 99% of participants who had tested positive for previous infection retained coronavirus antibodies for three months after being infected, while 88% did so for the full six months of the study. The research from UK Biobank also found that 8.8% of the UK population had been infected by December 2020, rising as high as 12.4% in London and as low as 5.5% in Scotland.
Adults 20 to 49 may have driven 72% of US COVID-19 surges
Adults 20 to 49 years old may have kindled 72.2% of US COVID-19 resurgences starting in late summer 2020, with those 35 to 49 especially contributing, a study published yesterday in Science suggests. A team led by researchers from Imperial College London analyzed age-specific cell phone mobility data of more than 10 million Americans and linked them to age-specific COVID-19 death data starting on Mar 15, 2020. Data from 42 US states, Washington, DC, and New York City showed that the number of visits to places such as supermarkets and restaurants began to rebound across all age-groups in August after a significant initial reduction due to public health interventions such as lockdowns in the spring. COVID-19 infections and deaths followed a similar pattern in both the United States and Europe. The authors called for targeting interventions such as transmission-reducing vaccines to people 20 to 49 years as a strategy to reduce the likelihood of future COVID-19 surges and related deaths in areas not yet affected by highly transmissible new coronavirus variants.
Pfizer Vaccine Is Just as Effective Against COVID U.K. Strain, Israeli Data Shows
The coronavirus vaccines administered in Israel are effective at curbing infection rates, the incidence of serious COVID-19 cases and at protecting against the British variant of the coronavirus, according to new studies conducted by an Israeli health maintenance organization based on real-world data and reported here for the first time. The first study, conducted by Leumit Health Services on the basis of patient data collected since Israel's vaccination campaign began in December, provides invaluable insight into the effectiveness of the vaccine in the real world, as opposed to efficacy rates measured in the course of controlled experiments in laboratories. According to the second study, the Pfizer vaccine is similarly effective at affording protection against the U.K. variant
A single shot of Pfizer's Covid vaccine might NOT be enough to protect over-80s from South African variant, Cambridge study finds
Lab tests suggested single shot did not stimulate big enough immune response UK Government delayed giving second dose for 12 weeks as part of jab strategy South African variant already spotted in 105 Brits and fears it's more widespread Mass testing started today to find cases with crucial South African mutation.