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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 16th Feb 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid-19: Five ways to avoid lockdown eye strain
Millions of people are using screens more than ever before. Many who are working or studying from home are staring at laptops and other devices all day. Most schoolchildren currently have no other way of accessing classes. For some, the new ways of working are taking a toll on their eyes. Itchiness, blurry vision and headaches - or eye strain - are among the common problems. More than a third (38%) of respondents to one survey, carried out for the charity Fight for Sight, said their eyesight had worsened since the start of the pandemic. Another survey put the figure at 22%. Eyesight experts say people with persistent problems should visit an optician, which are open in lockdown. But there are things that many of us can do to keep our eyes healthy.
Despair Deepens for Young People as Pandemic Drags On
Life seemed promising last year to Philaé Lachaux, a 22-year-old business student in France who dreamed of striking out on her own in the live music industry. But the onset of the pandemic, leading to the loss of her part-time job as a waitress, sent her back to live at her family home. Now, struggling to envision a future after months of restrictions, Ms. Lachaux says that loneliness and despair seep in at night. “I look at the ceiling, I feel a lump in my throat,” she said. “I’ve never had so many suicidal thoughts.” “The pandemic feels like a big stop in our lives,” she added. “One that puts us so low that I wonder, ‘What’s the point?’”
Hygiene Helpers
COVID-19: Oxford vaccine creator calls for donations to help people in poorer countries receive a jab
The co-creator of the Oxford vaccine has called on people to give money to support coronavirus vaccination in poorer countries. Professor Sarah Gilbert is backing a new campaign launching today, which asks people in the UK to give money to the World Health Organisation COVID-19 relief fund when they receive the date for their coronavirus vaccination. "We produced and developed the Oxford vaccine as a vaccine for the world," Professor Gilbert said about the campaign, which is called Arm in Arm. "We are happy to support a new initiative to get COVID vaccines to as many people as possible."
Wearing a face mask can reduce your risk of severe Covid-19: Humidity inside coverings limits the spread of the virus to the lungs leading to milder infection, study shows
NIH researchers assessed humidity of a space before and after wearing a mask. Masks increase humidity by between 38 and 90 per cent compared to maskless. This leads to hydrated air being inhaled by the person wearing the mask. This helps the respiratory tract to clear out the virus in the mucus and prevent it reaching the lungs
Vaccine passport for shops could happen, says Dominic Raab
Shops and restaurants could require customers to show vaccine passports under plans being considered by the government, the foreign secretary has suggested. Dominic Raab said that the government was considering using vaccine passports at the “domestic or local level”. His comments appear to put him at odds with No 10, which has repeatedly ruled out using them within the UK. The government is working on plans for the use of vaccine passports to enable international travel. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, denied that there were plans to introduce them within the UK.
Widespread vaccinations in the US won't come until the summer. Here's what's been driving down Covid-19 cases so far
Kudos to all the Americans who've been responsible about mask wearing and social distancing. Health experts say your efforts are paying off. After an abysmal start to winter, some Covid-19 numbers have been falling for weeks. But it's not just due to vaccines. More than 14 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with both doses of their Covid-19 vaccines, but that's only about 4% of the US population. And it takes weeks for vaccines to fully kick in. So why are we seeing improvement? "It's what we're doing right: staying apart, wearing masks, not traveling, not mixing with others indoors," said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US CDC
Covid-19: First travellers arrive in UK for hotel quarantine stay
The first travellers required to stay at quarantine hotels have begun arriving in the UK. All British and Irish citizens and UK residents who arrive in England after being in a high-risk Covid country now have to self-isolate in hotels. The "red list" of 33 countries includes Portugal, Brazil and South Africa. The new regulations, which aim to stop Covid variants entering the country, apply to arrivals who have been in one of those places in the past 10 days. In Scotland, the rule to stay in a hotel applies to travellers from all countries - rather than just those from the list of 33 countries.
Community Activities
Coronavirus in the UK: New BBC Panorama research reveals rise in anti-vaccine propaganda accounts on social media
An investigation for the BBC’s Panorama has revealed an alarming increase in the followers of anti-vaccine accounts on social media – and the impact of the content being shared. Research for the programme, which airs on BBC One on February 15th, analysed anti-vaccine content available on the major social media platforms. It found that anti-vaccine accounts on Instagram increased nearly five-fold in 2020, reaching over four million followers. “Naturally we didn’t have the time maybe to do the sort of preliminary work that we do when we’re introducing vaccines,” said Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England. “I think it's fair to say that we didn’t have time to do all those things as well as we would normally do but we’re very much playing catch up now.” It comes at a time when more people are seeking health information online.
The superspreaders behind top COVID-19 conspiracy theories
As the coronavirus spread across the globe, so too did speculation about its origins. Perhaps the virus escaped from a lab. Maybe it was engineered as a bioweapon. Legitimate questions about the virus created perfect conditions for conspiracy theories. In the absence of knowledge, guesswork and propaganda flourished. College professors with no evidence or training in virology were touted as experts. Anonymous social media users posed as high-level intelligence officials. And from China to Iran to Russia to the United States, governments amplified claims for their own motives. The Associated Press collaborated with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab on a nine-month investigation to identify the people and organizations behind some of the most viral misinformation about the origins of the coronavirus. Their claims were explosive. Their evidence was weak. These are the superspreaders.
Landlords evicting hundreds during lockdown with government’s new ‘eviction ban’ loopholes
Hundreds of renters have been thrown out of their homes in the middle of lockdown after the government caved in to landlord lobbying and introduced loopholes to its eviction ban. New figures show eviction attempts by landlords doubled during the winter coronavirus lockdown, while more than 500 households were forced out by county court bailiffs. The government promised in March that nobody would be made homeless because they had lost their income due to coronavirus, and put a blanket ban on evictions.
Australian Proud Boys sought combat-trained supporters to 'arrest' police at Covid lockdown protests
The far-right Proud Boys in Australia sought people trained in combat to help confront police during anti-lockdown protests in Melbourne last year. Amid repeated warnings from security agencies in Australia and overseas about the way far-right groups have used the Covid-19 pandemic to recruit, Guardian Australia can reveal that senior members of the neo-fascist Proud Boys group were involved in protests during Melbourne’s second-wave lockdown last year. A series of messages posted to anti-lockdown social media groups in the past year reveal the increasingly blurred line between the loose coalition of conspiracy groups that orchestrated those protests and far right groups such as the Proud Boys.
Locked down and lonely, London Zoo faces fight to survive
London Zoo should be teeming with children released from school by half-term holidays. But instead, the monkeys’ pranks are unobserved, King Cobra is coiled friendless in the reptile house and the future of the world’s oldest scientific zoo is in peril. As the menagerie in Regent’s Park, central London, nurses a multi-million-pound hole in its budget and lockdown keeps visitors away, even during school holidays, the keepers are sad and anxious. “Lockdown here has been really surreal - like with no visitors here, it’s been a really sad time for the zoo,” Kate Sanders, big cats team leader at the zoo, told Reuters.
Working Remotely
‘Work, life balance is key to working from home’
The results of this year’s Macra na Feirme Rural Youth Survey provides a fascinating insight into the work changes that have followed as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those working in rural Ireland outside of farming were asked a series of questions concerning their work, life balance and the impact of Covid-19 has had on their lives. 53% of those surveyed said they would like to work from home or from a remote working hub in the future while 34% of respondents said they would not like to work remotely in the future. Over 47% said they were happy with their current work/life balance and of those - 30% highlighted how their workload has decreased since Covid-19 while 70% said their workload remained the same.
Could Remote Working Revive Italy's Dying Villages?
Italy’s small towns and villages have been hemorrhaging residents for decades as dire job opportunities have pushed inhabitants to move to cities or even abroad. The boom in working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, could mean a reversal of this trend. Small towns are seeing an influx of new residents and homeowners looking to take advantage of slow, countryside living. The now-famed €1 house auctions that have enticed remote working freelancers from around the globe are also helping to save these towns from drastic depopulation. Local councils are seizing the opportunity to help lure new country dwellers by offering high-speed internet and monetary incentives. But the question remains over how sustainable this trend will be beyond the pandemic.
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual learning is stressing students out
A new study from NBC News and the nonprofit Challenge Success looked at 10,000 students across the country and found that virtual learners are more stressed, working longer hours, and getting much less sleep than their peers who go to the classroom at least one day a week. There’s no easy answer for how to get all students back in the classroom in the middle of the pandemic, and the study’s authors aren’t necessarily arguing that all students should go back right away. But they did say that the need to figure out a solution is “urgent.” And the numbers definitely make it seem that way. More than half of the all students surveyed (remote or not) were more stressed out about school in 2020 than in years past. But 84 percent of remote students said they’ve suffered from exhaustion, headaches, and insomnia this school year.
Lessons from a Year of School, Interrupted
After a whole year of on-again, off-again schooling in Hong Kong, it’s probably safe to say that schools have entered a new normal during the Covid-19 pandemic, and that the virtual or a hybrid model of teaching is here to stay...perhaps for longer than anyone anticipated. As an educator at The Harbour School (THS), a K to Grade 12 US-curriculum international school based in Ap Lei Chau, this last year has been a ride like no other since I started teaching. Reflecting back on 2020, we have endured much in a year of uncertainty, but there are also valuable lessons learned which I believe will inform and shape the future of education for years to come.
Public Policies
Zimbabwe receives first batch of Sinopharm vaccines
Zimbabwe has received its first 200,000 coronavirus vaccines, a donation by the Chinese government. Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga was at the Robert Mugabe International Airport in the capital, Harare, in the early hours of Monday for the arrival of the doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China.
South Korea reaches deals to buy more COVID-19 vaccines for 23 million people
South Korea has arranged to buy coronavirus vaccines for 23 million more people, its prime minister said on Tuesday, a day after authorities decided to scale back initial vaccination plans, citing delays and efficacy concerns. The deals include vaccines from Novavax Inc for 20 million people and Pfizer products for 3 million, bringing the total number of people to be covered to 79 million, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said. “The government has been working to bring in sufficient early supplies, but there is growing uncertainty over our plan for the first half due to production issues with global drugmakers and international competition to adopt more vaccines,” he told a televised meeting.
Australia medical regulator approves AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine
Australia's medical regulator said on Tuesday it had granted provisional approval for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, making it the second vaccine to get regulatory approval in Australia.
Incoming WTO head warns 'vaccine nationalism' could slow pandemic recovery
The World Trade Organization’s incoming chief on Monday warned against “vaccine nationalism’ that would slow progress in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and could erode economic growth for all countries - rich and poor. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters her top priority was to ensure the WTO does more to address the pandemic, saying members should accelerate efforts to lift export restrictions slowing trade in needed medicines and supplies. The former Nigerian finance minister and senior World Bank executive was appointed on Monday in a consensus process and starts her new job on March 1. “The WTO can contribute so much more to helping stop the pandemic,” Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview at her home in a suburb of Washington.
EU seeks new COVID-19 vaccine deal with Moderna, AstraZeneca flags doses made outside EU - sources
The EU is holding talks with Moderna on buying more COVID-19 vaccine and AstraZeneca, with which talks have stalled, has suggested delivering doses of its own vaccine made outside Europe to make up for supply cuts, two EU sources said. The European Union has set a target of vaccinating 70% of its adult population by the end of the summer, but has struggled to secure the doses promised by pharmaceutical companies. It is now trying to expand its reserve of vaccines, which already amount to nearly 2.3 billion doses from six drugmakers for its population of about 450 million. The EU is negotiating a new supply deal with Moderna that could nearly double the volume of vaccine doses from the U.S. biotech firm, two senior EU officials involved in the talks told Reuters.
Covid-19: Millions of asthmatics 'must wait for vaccine'
In England, people whose asthma is under control will not be prioritised for the Covid vaccine, the government has confirmed. Sufferers of the condition will not be on the list ahead of their peers unless they are formally shielding, regularly take steroid tablets or have ever had an emergency hospital admission. This appears to be a rowing back from previous guidance indicating steroid-inhaler users would be eligible. It has since been judged this group is not at increased risk of death. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was following independent advice that the immediate priority should be to "prevent deaths and protect health and care staff, with old age deemed the single biggest factor determining mortality".
South Korea cuts first-quarter COVID-19 vaccination plan, restricts use of AstraZeneca shot
South Korea said on Monday it will not use AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine on people aged 65 and older, reversing an earlier decision, and scaled back initial vaccination targets due to delayed shipments from global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX. South Korea had said it would complete vaccinations on 1.3 million people by the first quarter of this year with AstraZeneca shots, but it slashed the target sharply to 750,000. The decision is largely due to adjustments in the supply timetable of the 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said
Zimbabwe receives 200,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in donation from China
Zimbabwe has received its first batch of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines from China as it ramps up efforts to begin vaccinating two thirds of its population. Receiving the vaccines at Robert Mugabe International Airport, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said: "it has not been lost on us that in times of need, China's response has been swift." Chiwenga said the donation was "timely" and "yet another demonstration of the long bond of friendship and solidarity." Zimbabwe is the first country in southern African to receive the Sinopharm jabs, whose efficacy against a new variant that emerged in neighbouring South Africa, is still unclear.
No new community cases found in New Zealand since lockdown
As people in Auckland adjusted to a new lockdown on Monday, health officials said they'd found no evidence the coronavirus had spread further in the community, raising hopes the restrictions might be short-lived. New Zealand's largest city was hurriedly placed into a three-day lockdown Sunday after three unexplained virus cases were found. It's the country's first lockdown in six months and represents a setback in its largely successful efforts to control the virus. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the negative test results since the first three were found was an encouraging start, but cautioned a fuller picture of the outbreak wouldn't emerge until Tuesday, when the results from an expanded testing regimen would be known.
Vietnamese province reimposes stay at home order in coronavirus battle
Vietnam on Monday reintroduced stay at home measures in the northern province of Hai Duong after it reported dozens of COVID-19 cases there every day since a new outbreak last month. Having stayed clear of the virus for nearly two months, Vietnam was back on high alert after the government confirmed its first community infections in Hai Duong on Jan. 28. The province, where 499 COVID-19 infections have been detected, will be under lockdown from midnight on Tuesday until further notice, the government said.
Hungary's PM seeks renewal of special powers to fight COVID-19
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban asked parliament on Monday to extend the government’s special powers to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, saying only vaccinations would enable the government to ease lockdown measures introduced last autumn. Hungary became the first European Union member state last week to start administering Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine after its regulator approved the shot for emergency use rather than wait for a green light from the EU’s European Medicines Agency. The Hungarian drug regulator has also granted approval to Chinese Sinopharm’s vaccine, also a first in the EU.
Germany defends border controls as business demands lockdown exit plan
Germany said on Monday its decision to impose border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria is a temporary measure of last resort and it defended a lockdown extension against business demands for a roadmap to reopening. The new restrictions along the normally open borders were prompted by alarm over outbreaks in the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region of strains of the coronavirus that spread faster and cause more illness. Germany installed frontier checks on Sunday, drawing protest from Austria and concerns about supply-chain disruptions that could damage the country’s export-oriented manufacturing sector.
Health ministry advisor Ricciardi calls for new lockdown
Walter Ricciardi, a top Italian physician and advisor to Health Minister Roberto Speranza, has suggested Italy have another full-blown nationwide lockdown amid concern about the spread of new variants of COVID-19 in Italy. Ricciardi suggested a short but tough lockdown, in which non-essential activities would be stopped and schools closed. The proposal stirred angry reactions from many quarters, with League leader Matteo Salvini blasting "experts who sow fear". Ricciardi reacted to calls for him to quit by saying he would be prepared to do so if that were deemed "useful".
Germany says pandemic border checks are only temporary
Intensified checks at Germany’s borders meant to slow the spread of the pandemic are only temporary and a last resort, a German government spokesman said on Monday. “A return to normal is in the interest of everyone involved,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular news conference.
Australia suspends travel bubble with New Zealand after Auckland lockdown
Australia has suspended its quarantine-free travel arrangement with New Zealand following the detection of COVID-19 in a couple and their daughter in Auckland at the weekend. After initially saying there would be no change to the travel bubble, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly convened an urgent meeting late on Sunday with the chief health officers from NSW, Queensland and Victoria. “It was decided at this meeting today that all flights originating in New Zealand will be classified as Red Zone flights for an initial period of 72 hours from 12.01am on 15 February”, a statement from the Department of Health reads.
Maintaining Services
Mexico begins vaccinating elderly against COVID-19
Mexico began vaccinating senior citizens in more than 300 municipalities across the country on Monday, after receiving approximately 870,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The effort was largely concentrated in remote rural communities, but hundreds of people over the age of 60 also lined up before dawn in a few far-flung corners of the sprawling capital, Mexico City, for the chance to get vaccinated. Officials encouraged people to not come all at once, but with shots distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, the demand was immediate. The government has designated 1,000 vaccination sites, including schools and health centres, mostly in the country’s poorest communities.
Syringe shortage hampers Japan's COVID-19 vaccination roll out
Japan is scrambling to secure special syringes to maximise the number of COVID-19 vaccine shots used from each vial, but manufacturers are struggling to ramp up production quickly, raising fears that millions of doses could go waste. Japan, with a population of 126 million, last month signed a contract with Pfizer Inc to procure 144 million doses of its vaccine, or enough for 72 million people, with the vaccination campaign set to start on Wednesday. One vial is meant for six shots, Pfizer says, but it takes special syringes that retain a low volume of solution after an injection to extract six doses, while only five shots can be taken with standard syringes that the government has stored up in preparation for the inoculation drive.
Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses arrives in Australia, ahead of first jabs next week
The first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have touched down in Australia as preparations continue for the first stage of the national rollout, Health Minister Greg Hunt says. People will begin receiving the vaccine from Monday, February 22, with more than 142,000 doses arriving in Sydney from Europe just after midday on Monday. "They will now be subject to security, quality assurance, in particular to ensure that temperature maintenance has been preserved throughout the course of the flight, to ensure the integrity of the doses, and to ensure there has been no damage," Mr Hunt said. Mr Hunt said the doses would be split up among the states based on their populations, and more information would be released later this week.
Phoenix is paying its employees to get COVID-19 vaccine. Other cities and employers offer incentives, too
Phoenix is paying its employees $75 if they get vaccinated for COVID-19. Other cities in the Phoenix area are rewarding their employees for receiving the vaccine, as well, either by giving them a discount on their health insurance or giving them wellness points that could add up to a discount on their insurance. The city programs come as many large private-sector employers announce they are doing the same. Dollar General, Kroger, McDonald’s and Olive Garden are paying their employees either a flat rate or a certain number hours of pay to get the vaccine.
Covid-19: Special school teachers 'forgotten' in vaccine rollout
In Northern Ireland, it is an "insult" that the Stormont executive did not vote to vaccinate all special school staff, according to the National Association of Headteachers. A special school teacher has also told BBC News NI she felt "outrage, disappointment, fear and frustration" at the decision. Special schools in Northern Ireland have been open for all pupils since the start of January. Only a limited number of staff are to be given priority for vaccination. That will include some of those working in the direct care of clinically vulnerable children. Education Minister Peter Weir claimed the NI Executive had been "reluctant" to hold a vote on a plan to vaccinate all special school staff.
COVID-19: Vaccine programme moves to phase two after 15 million receive first coronavirus jab
Letters are being sent to those aged over 65 and the clinically vulnerable to invite them to receive the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. It comes a day after the UK reached the target of giving at least one dose of the vaccine to 15 million people - the majority of them most at risk from the disease. This means that the first four priority groups - those aged over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable - have all been invited to receive the first dose of the vaccine.
PoliticsNow: Health Minister Greg Hunt says 4 million vaccine jabs to be done by early April
Health Minister Greg Hunt says 4 million vaccinations will be administered by early April. It comes amid news that the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines have landed in Australia, while Scott Morrison told parliament that the first vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been filled in a Melbourne facility today. Premier Daniel Andrews says he ‘can’t say’ when the statewide lockdown will end as Victoria recorded just one new local case of COVID-19 today.
When will lockdown end? How restrictions will be lifted in three stages, with pubs possibly open by Easter
In England, the Government has developed a plan for leaving lockdown that could see pubs and restaurants open by Easter. A senior official told i that Boris Johnson’s road map out of lockdown will begin with the reopening of schools, already scheduled for 8 March. Non-essential retail will follow, and finally hospitality. When these reopen will depend on how the return of pupils affects the virus’ reproduction rate, known as the R number. On Friday that figure fell below one for the first time since July.
COVID-19 vaccine in high demand across US, but supply limited
Across the U.S., states are expanding vaccination criteria and opening mass COVID-19 vaccination sites to an eager population. But, as the New York Times reports, few states claim they have enough vaccine supply to meet demand. The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that 70,057,800 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, and 52,884,356 have been administered. That translates to roughly 12% of the US population having had at least the first dose in a two-dose series of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
Healthcare Innovations
Imperial College expert warns new coronavirus wave could kill tens of thousands of Britons by late summer if lockdown is completely lifted too early
Professor Azra Ghani revealed how a model forecasts significant wave of deaths by summer 2021 if restrictions are eased in July - even despite a vaccine rollout. The government has vowed to release its plan to exit lockdown on February 22. Government is seemingly taking a cautious approach to returning to normality
Next coronavirus vaccines may be drops, pills or printed on demand
The race to develop vaccines against covid-19 got off to a flyer, but with dangerous new virus variants, stark inequalities in access to vaccines and few vaccination options for children, the world still needs all hands on deck. Last week, a virtual meeting run by the New York Academy of Sciences called The Quest for a COVID-19 Vaccine showcased the most promising new candidates. So far, all approved covid-19 vaccines have been injectable. Another option is a nose drop, says Robert Coleman, CEO of biotech company Codagenix, in Farmingdale, New York.
Pan-European consortium seeks big pharma partner for COVID-19 shot
A pan-European consortium developing a COVID-19 vaccine is in talks with big pharma to support the late-stage development of its shot and ramp up manufacturing, the head of German biotech firm Leukocare told Reuters. Leukocare is working with Italy’s ReiThera and Belgium’s Univercells on a vaccine based on a so-called non-replicating adenoviral vector, the same technology that AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have used. Chief Executive Michael Scholl said the companies were talking to potential big pharma partners about whether they could provide additional manufacturing capacity, as well as help to advance their candidate through Phase III clinical trials.
Covid-19: Vaccine as good in 'real world' as in trial in Israel
More data from Israel's vaccination programme is suggesting the Pfizer jab prevents 94% of symptomatic infections. This indicates the vaccine is performing just as well in a larger population as it did in the clinical trials. It is proving highly effective at preventing illness and severe disease among all age groups, according to public health doctor Prof Hagai Levine. "High vaccination coverage of the most susceptible groups" was key, he said. Israel's largest health fund Clalit looked at positive tests in 600,000 vaccinated people and the same number of unvaccinated people, matched by age and health status. It found 94% fewer infections among the vaccinated group. This was based on test results in people's medical records, usually taken if they had symptoms or were a close contact of someone who had tested positive. And the vaccine prevented almost all cases of serious illness. This pattern was the same in all age groups - including the over-70s, who may have been under-represented in clinical trials.
Kent variant may be 70 percent more deadly: UK study
The highly infectious variant of the novel coronavirus that is predominant in the United Kingdom may be up to 70 percent more deadly than previous strains, according to a report by the government’s scientific advisers. The findings from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), published on Friday on the government’s website, underscored concerns about how mutations may change the characteristics of SARS-CoV2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – and alter the course of the pandemic. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the negative test results since the first three were found was an encouraging start, but cautioned a fuller picture of the outbreak wouldn’t emerge until Tuesday, when the results from an expanded testing regimen would be known.
WHO approves AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday listed AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, widening access to the relatively inexpensive shot in the developing world. “We now have all the pieces in place for the rapid distribution of vaccines. But we still need to scale up production,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, told a news briefing. “We continue to call for COVID19 vaccine developers to submit their dossiers to WHO for review at the same time as they submit them to regulators in high-income countries,” he said. A WHO statement said it had approved the vaccine as produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India.
A new study identifies seven U.S. virus variants with the same worrying mutation.
As Americans anxiously watch the spread of coronavirus variants that were first identified in Britain and South Africa, scientists are finding a number of new variants that seem to have originated in the United States — and many of them may pose the same kind of extra-contagious threat. In a study posted on Sunday, a team of researchers reported seven growing lineages of the coronavirus, spotted in states across the country. All have gained a mutation at the exact same spot in their genes.