"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 19th Feb 2021
How have COVID-19 pandemic school closures impacted the health of children globally?
As the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to challenge public health, most recently by the emergence of new variants of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), schools in many regions of the world continue to be largely closed. It has been estimated that from March to May 2020, this affected up to 1.5 billion children and young people (CYP). A new study by researchers in the US and the UK explores the damage caused by school closures to educational progress, health, and well-being in CYP globally. Surprisingly, the damage appears to be far less than was originally thought. The team has released their findings on the medRxiv* preprint server.
COVID-19: Parents who lost teenagers to suicide in lockdown issue warning - 'there's going to be a lot of PTSD'
As authorities wrestle with how to safely reopen schools, there is evidence in the US that closures have taken a huge mental health toll on students and their families. "450,000 people and counting in the US have died of COVID, and that's a terrible thing," said Dylan's father Chris. "I'm fortunate in that I don't know any of those people. But I do know one person who committed suicide.
Associations between feelings/behaviors during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and depression/anxiety after lockdown in a sample of Chinese children and adolescents.
Children and adolescents may be more susceptible to mental disorders due to COVID-19 pandemic than adults. This study aimed to identify correlated factors for depression/anxiety among children and adolescents after COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. An online survey by cluster sampling was conducted after lockdown in 5175 Chinese children and adolescents with informed consents from their parents. The 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire and the 7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scales with 10-point cutoff were used to measure depression and anxiety, separately. Stepwise logistic regression was conducted. Stata 15.1 Version was used.
Covid-19 passports aim to streamline travel requirements. But there’s no one-size-fits-all fix.
International travel declined by around 90 percent after the pandemic hit — but those still crossing borders may have begun to encounter a novel concept: “covid-19 passports,” or a mobile platform that proves a traveler meets a country’s requirements, like a negative coronavirus test or, in a few cases, having received the coronavirus vaccine. Also called health passports, these are not official documents granted by governments; rather, they are digital passes issued by apps, and accepted by some companies and countries, that have arisen to meet demands by airlines and governments that travelers have a negative coronavirus status. Instead of showing paper-based proof of a test or vaccination card at an airport — which could either be forged, lost or arbitrarily rejected without a streamlined process — a traveler would be able to store and certify their information via their phone
Covid: Ethnicity vaccine gaps in over-70s
Black and mixed heritage people in their 70s are being vaccinated against Covid-19 at much lower rates than white people, GP records suggest. And fewer Bangladeshi and Pakistani people had been jabbed by 11 February. This follows data from earlier in the vaccination programme showing similar gaps among the over-80s. A discrepancy was not seen in the over-70s at that point, but this is most likely because very few were being vaccinated at that stage. The findings come from a study called OpenSafely, run by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The team has access to completely anonymised medical records covering 40% of GP practices in England.
Mass tests for teachers and pupils to be part of England lockdown easing, report says
Teachers, schoolchildren and their families could be tested for coronavirus twice a week under a plan for mass rapid testing that has been touted as key to safely easing England’s lockdown, reports claim. As many as 400,000 rapid lateral flow tests will be sent to homes every day, supported by a public information campaign to encourage people to take tests even if they do not show any symptoms, it is claimed. Boris Johnson is expected to give further details of the scheme when he outlines his roadmap for easing restrictions on Monday.
South Korea warns against lax distancing as daily COVID-19 count hits one-month high
South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Wednesday warned against the loosening enforcement of social distancing rules after the number of new coronavirus cases hit the highest levels in nearly 40 days. The government relaxed distancing curbs on Saturday to take effect starting this week, after getting on top of a third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that peaked at around 1,200 daily cases in late December. But the numbers shot back up in just three days, topping 600 for the first time in 39 days on Tuesday, after a ban on nighttime entertainment facilities was lifted and a restaurant curfew extended by one hour to 10 p.m.
White House announces plans to ramp up COVID testing
The White House announced new efforts on Wednesday to expand and improve testing for the coronavirus, as the United States ramps up efforts to vaccinate Americans. In a news briefing, Carole Johnson, the nation’s new COVID-19 testing coordinator, announced that the federal government would invest $1.6bn to increase nationwide testing. “We need to test broadly and rapidly to turn the tide of this pandemic but we still don’t have enough testing and we don’t have enough testing in all the places it needs to be,” Johnson said during a news briefing. She said the funds would support testing in schools and in underserved populations, increase manufacturing of critical testing supplies, as well as increase genomic sequencing – key to studying virus variants. According to a White House factsheet, $650m will go towards expanding testing capacity for schools, which will assist them in reopening.
How covid-19 testing is developing and its future
An HSJ and Siemens Healthineers roundtable discussed how the covid-19 testing regime has developed to date, how it will need to evolve further to consistently reach the right person with the right test at the right time, and what its likely legacy will be for the diagnostics sphere as a whole. The words “testing” and “game changer” have frequently been seen together in the months since the pandemic began. Boris Johnson initially applied the phrase to antibody testing and then in September to rapid mass testing of asymptomatic individuals, which he suggested could offer a route to renewed social gatherings even pre-widespread vaccination. But away from such high profile proclamations, how has covid-19 testing actually developed? And how could and should it develop in the longer term?
Danish supermarket to help small, shuttered businesses survive lockdown
Danish supermarket cooperative Kvickly has pledged to set aside some of its extra proceeds made while smaller retailers were shut down by coronavirus restrictions and use it for marketing to help them reopen successfully. Supermarkets, but not smaller retailers, in the Nordic country have been allowed to stay open during a lockdown introduced in December to curb the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain. Kvickly said it would donate its proceeds from sales of non-food items to shuttered shops for use in marketing campaigns as they reopen for business. That would amount to at least 7-10 million Danish crowns ($1.14-$1.63 million) - but more if the current coronavirus lockdown is extended beyond March 1.
Covid crisis: 1.9m people in UK 'have not worked for more than six months'
Almost 2 million people in Britain have not worked for more than six months during the coronavirus pandemic, amid growing risk to workers from long-term economic damage caused by the crisis. The Resolution Foundation said up to 1.9 million people in January had either been out of a job or on full furlough for more than six months, revealing the lasting impact on employment caused by Covid and multiple lockdowns. Highlighting the risks to workers from long-term unemployment, it called on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to use next month’s budget to extend targeted support for sectors of the economy hardest hit by the crisis. The report warned that while the outlook for the economy was steadily improving thanks to the vaccination programme and as the government prepares to roll back Covid restrictions, many workers remained concerned about their job prospects.
Lockdown over, tennis fans back as Australia says no new virus cases for over 48 hours
Australia said on Thursday it had gone more than 48 hours since detecting the last locally acquired case of COVID-19, as Victoria state ended a lockdown letting thousands of tennis fans back in Melbourne Park for the last days of the Australian Open. Jack Barber, a 25-year-old student, was among 7,477 spectators in the stadium watching Japan’s Naomi Osaka defeat the United States’ Serena Williams to go through to the ladies final. “Yeah, it’s awesome. I wasn’t sure if they were going to put the event on. It’s been really nice to be here. I actually kind of like the lower crowds,” said Barber, with the Rod Laver Arena limited by social distancing restrictions to half its capacity. “It’s kind of nice to be able to walk around and go wherever you want.”
COVID rumours hamper Brazil’s efforts to vaccinate Indigenous
Indigenous nurse Almeida Tananta battled heavy downpours of tropical rains as he rode his motorbike for hours across the red-soiled dirt tracks of Tabatinga, a municipality in Western Amazonas, which borders the Amazon rainforest and Colombia, and has the largest concentration of Indigenous Brazilians in the Amazon. Tananta was en route to apply the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the remote Umariacu villagers, in Alto Rio Solimoes. But when he arrived at the village of wooden-thatched houses skirting the banks of the Amazon river, the nurse’s hopes of vaccinating the 1,037 villagers quickly vanished.
Almost A Year Into The Pandemic, Working Moms Feel 'Forgotten,' Journalist Says
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many American families without child care and in-person schooling. Those new household burdens have largely landed on the shoulders of women, says Journalist Claire Cain Miller. Miller has been working from home, reporting on how the pandemic has affected the lives of mothers, in a New York Times series called "The Primal Scream." It's a subject she's familiar with: Her children, ages 4 and 8,have been been attending school virtually since the pandemic began. Miller says increased household responsibilities have forced many working mothers -- and especially Black and Latinx mothers — to scale back on their hours or leave the workforce entirely during the pandemic, further widening economic and racial disparities.
Older workers faring better when it comes to working remotely: survey
In what many may view as contrary to preconceived notions about the fluency of older workers with technology, many actually have been faring better than their younger colleagues when it comes to working remotely. That’s according to a ABBYY COVID-19 Technology and Business Process survey released earlier this month. The firm surveyed 4,000 senior-level executives in 20 industries across four countries — France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States — and found a huge gap in process expectations between digital natives and baby boomers. Two-thirds of young executives said there is not enough information provided on business processes, whereas only 26% of those aged more than 55 years agreed with that. In addition, two-thirds of young executives said that there is not enough visibility of the progress of processes, whereas only 25% of older executives complained about this.
Workers from home beware - pay cuts might be the price of freedom
Dreaming of working remotely from that cottage in the hills? There is a good chance you will get paid less, according to a survey of human resources executives published on Thursday. Employees who move to cheaper locations to work permanently from home are also likely to have more limited career prospects, executive search firm Leathwaite said. Forty-five percent of the 250 human resources executives who took part in the survey said wages and bonuses should be adjusted when people decide to work remotely in areas with a lower cost of living. People working from home would be competing against a much bigger pool of potential rivals for their job, according to the HR executives
The Remote Working Marathon - Morale, Flexibility And The Gender Divide
The great work-from-home experiment continues in Europe and North America, and it is clear that even with vaccinations and the easing of restrictions our workplace will not “return to normal” soon, if indeed it ever does. We know virtual working works pretty well from a functional perspective – office workers can continue doing their jobs and are equally if not more productive – and from a work-life balance perspective. But there are also significant limitations in terms of morale, motivation, collaboration and creativity, and it looks as if the new normal will be a hybrid - a mix of office and home-based activities, with more flexibility and fluidity about where work gets done. We have some useful insights into what has actually changed over the last year and how people are coping with these unprecedented circumstances, and what this might mean for the future of work.
Pandemic to widen skill gaps as workplaces change, McKinsey says
Tens of millions of workers in developed economies will have to retrain for secure careers in post-COVID labour markets reshaped by the pandemic and the remote working revolution, a report by consultancy McKinsey said on Thursday.
'You and your friends are making history': Mom's post on virtual learning goes viral
A mother's viral post explaining how she's encouraged her son through remote learning is hitting home for parents on Facebook. Christine Derengowski, a writer from Michigan, shared with her followers the unique perspective she gave her 7-year-old son when he was recently struggling with an assignment. "I said, 'You won’t get in trouble and you can’t fail first grade. In fact, you’re kind of a superhero yourself,'" Derengowski wrote in the Facebook post. "I said, 'Do you know that no kids in the history of kids have ever had to do what you’re doing right now? No kids in the history of kids have ever had to do school at home, sitting in their bedroom, watching their teacher on a computer. You and your friends are making history.'"
DIY education: Greek teacher creates TV classes for inmates
Setting up a television channel from scratch isn’t the most obvious or easiest thing for a math teacher to do — especially without prior technical knowledge and for use inside a prison. But that is exactly the task Petros Damianos, director of the school at Greece’s Avlona Special Youth Detention Center, took on so his students could access the lessons that coronavirus lockdowns cut them off from. Greek schools have shut, reopened, and closed again over the past year as authorities sought to curtail the spread of the virus. Like their peers across much of the globe, the country’s students adapted to virtual classes.
Macron urges US, EU to rapidly divert COVID vaccines to Africa
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday urged fellow European nations and the United States to give up to five percent of their current COVID-19 vaccine supplies to developing countries in Africa, warning poorer nations are paying “astronomical prices” for jabs being made in the West. Macron said the current uneven distribution of doses marked an “unprecedented acceleration of global inequality” and cautioned some countries were being charged two or three times the price paid by the European Union for vaccines such as the one produced by Oxford-AstraZeneca.
Rich nations stockpiling a billion more COVID-19 shots than needed: report
Rich countries are on course to have over a billion more doses of COVID-19 vaccines than they need, leaving poorer nations scrambling for leftover supplies as the world seeks to curb the coronavirus pandemic, a report by anti-poverty campaigners found on Friday. In an analysis of current supply deals for COVID-19 vaccines, the ONE Campaign said wealthy countries, such as the United States and Britain, should share the excess doses to “supercharge” a fully global response to the pandemic. The advocacy group, which campaigns against poverty and preventable diseases, said a failure to do so would deny billions of people essential protection from the COVID-19-causing virus and likely prolong the pandemic. The report looked specifically at contracts with the five leading COVID-19 vaccine makers - Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax.
Covid-19: NI lockdown extended until 1 April
Lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland will be extended until 1 April, the Stormont Executive has agreed. But children in primary 1 to primary 3 (aged four to seven) will go back to school in Northern Ireland on 8 March. Restrictions were imposed on 26 December to manage the spread of Covid-19. Health officials have said they want to avoid a possible rise in cases around St Patrick's Day on 17 March. Another review of the measures will take place on 18 March. First Minister Arlene Foster said Northern Ireland knew "from experience what looks like success is hard-won, but also fragile". "We need decisions to be safe and sustainable, with a proper sequencing of actions."
How Will Covax Deliver Covid-19 Vaccines to Poorer Countries?
Developing countries are falling dangerously behind in the global race to end the coronavirus pandemic through vaccinations. The Covax facility aims to get Covid-19 shots to at least 20% of the populations of the world’s poorest nations. Covax has made deals with most of the big manufacturers, including Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc. But during the first half of 2021, the majority of planned deliveries from the facility are for the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC and Oxford University. For the whole year, the AstraZeneca vaccine is forecast to make up about one-third of Covax supplies, assuming that the shots by J&J and Novavax and other manufacturers get authorized as expected.
Dutch government races for plan B to uphold nightime coronavirus curfew
The Dutch government raced on Wednesday to prepare legislation to keep a nighttime curfew in place after a court ordered it to scrap the controversial COVID-19 measure which has become the focus of campaigning a month before a general election. The stakes are high politically as Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the country’s top health officials argue the measure is essential to soften a third wave of infections they say is about to arrive due to variants of the coronavirus. Tuesday’s court ruling found the government’s current justifications lacked sufficient legal basis, sending authorities scrambling to draft a bill and enact it swiftly into law.
Erdogan: Turkey to start lifting COVID curbs in March
Turkey will begin a gradual return to normal life on a province-by-province basis from March, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who added that nationwide weekend COVID-19 lockdowns would be lifted in some provinces based on infection rates. Turkey imposed curfews, weekend lockdowns and other curbs in December as cases rose sharply. It plans to reopen schools nationwide on March 1 and its vaccination programme has so far administered shots to nearly 5.7 million people using shots developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.
Novavax, coronavirus shot data in hand, strikes an eye-popping supply deal with global vaccine consortium
COVID-19 vaccine maker Novavax has at times flown under the radar as some of the world's leading drugmakers dominated headlines and raced toward rollouts. But an eye-popping new supply deal with international players is sure to turn heads. Novavax on Thursday unveiled a memorandum of understanding with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to provide 1.1 billion doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate to COVAX, a global effort to ensure equitable vaccine distribution. The Serum Institute of India will help produce doses under a prior deal between that company and Gavi. The deal will support work by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization to distribute doses in every country worldwide.
Pfizer coronavirus vaccines to arrive in Perth this weekend with high-risk workers a priority for initial 5,000 doses
Western Australia is set to receive its first 5,000 doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine this weekend. WA Premier Mark McGowan said quarantine and international border workers would be among the first West Australians to be eligible for the vaccine. "Our quarantine hotel workers, including hotel staff, cleaners, police, security and clinical staff working in our quarantine facilities are at higher risk of contracting the virus, so it makes sense that they are prioritised," he said. "That goes for particular staff at our airports and ports, particularly those who board and spend time on overseas vessels."
Zimbabwe starts COVID-19 vaccinations, vice-president gets first shot
Zimbabwe kicked-off its COVID-19 vaccination programme on Thursday after receiving a donation of 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China earlier in the week. Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as the country’s health minister, was the first to receive the jab, at Harare’s Wilkins Hospital. Zimbabwe aims to vaccinate around 60,000 healthcare and other frontline workers in the first round of vaccinations. The elderly and those with chronic conditions will follow.
These Doctors Want to Pick Their Covid-19 Vaccine, Fearing Reactions, Lower Efficacy
Health-worker unions in Europe say thousands of their members refuse to take one of the three Covid-19 vaccines available in the region because of concerns over efficacy and reports of side effects, the latest setback for the continent’s slow vaccine rollout. Organizations representing health professionals across Europe said this week that doctors and nurses shouldn’t be forced to take the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC because it was shown to offer less robust protection against Covid-19 than the other two currently authorized in the European Union. They also expressed concern over reports that the AstraZeneca vaccine appeared to cause stronger reactions in recipients.
Victoria's statewide lockdown ends. Data can tell us what to do next time
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced today the state’s five-day circuit-breaker lockdown would end at midnight tonight. The state’s health department reported zero new cases overnight from nearly 40,000 tests — the highest number of daily tests recorded in Victoria since the start of the pandemic. Andrews said a five-day lockdown is “infinitely better” than taking a chance and ending up with a five-week lockdown or worse. But in truth, we don’t know for sure what that chance is. The fact Victoria uses comprehensive “contacts of contacts” tracing means we have rich data to explore how testing and tracing would stand up under more dire transmission scenarios involving the UK variant and a multi-case seeding event.
Pfizer to test COVID-19 vaccine engineered for South African variant
A top Pfizer Inc scientist said on Thursday the company is in intensive discussions with regulators to test a booster shot version of its coronavirus vaccine specifically targeted for a highly contagious variant that is spreading widely in South Africa and elsewhere. A laboratory study released on Wednesday suggested that the South African virus variant may reduce protective antibodies elicited by the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by two-thirds, but it is not clear how much that reduces the shot's effectiveness against this version of the pathogen. Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer's top viral vaccine scientists and a co-author of the study, said in an interview he believes the current vaccine is highly likely to still protect against the concerning variant first discovered in South Africa. "A level of neutralizing antibodies that may be on the order of between a third and a half the level of neutralizing antibodies you see against the original virus does not mean you have only a third to half of the protection level, you may well have full protection," he said.
Zambia study casts doubt on the assumption that COVID-19 skipped Africa
A new study concluding out of Lusaka, Zambia last summer has found that as many as 19% (almost 1 in 5) of recently-deceased people tested positive for COVID-19. A new Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) study in Lusaka, Zambia's capital, challenges the common belief that Africa somehow "dodged" the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings indicate that low numbers of reported infections and deaths across Africa may simply be from lack of testing, with the coronavirus taking a terrible but invisible toll on the continent. Published in The BMJ, the study found that at least 15% and as many as 19% of recently-deceased people arriving at Lusaka's main morgue over the summer had the coronavirus, peaking at 31% in July. Despite most having had COVID symptoms, few were tested before death.
Delayed Second Dose versus Standard Regimen for Covid-19 Vaccination
Case Vignette - You chair the Governor’s task force on rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine. Given concerns about the limited availability of the two-dose mRNA vaccine, you have been asked to weigh in on the debate regarding the most effective use of the currently available doses. Should people who have already received a first dose of vaccine have their second dose delayed by a number of months until there is a greater supply, so that more people can receive a first dose? Or should those who have gotten the first dose receive the second dose according to the standard schedule, 3 to 4 weeks after the first dose, as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? You must consider the benefits and risks of the two approaches, on both individual and population levels, and decide what to recommend to the task force.
COVID vaccine data 'so good' that it points to lockdown ending earlier, Sage adviser says
Coronavirus vaccine data is “so good” that it points to an earlier end to the UK’s lockdowns, MPs have been told. Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) adviser Professor Mark Woolhouse said every aspect of the UK’s vaccine rollout has gone so well that ministers should bring forward their plans to begin easing restrictions. As of 15 February, 16.12 million doses had been administered in the UK. According to Oxford University’s Our World in Data website, the UK is third in the world in terms of doses administered per 100 people.
Thai-developed COVID vaccine to proceed to human trials
Thailand’s second domestically developed vaccine will soon undergo human trials, officials say, adding that the plan was to produce up to five million doses by the end of the year. The vaccine, developed by Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, had been successful in trials on mice and monkeys and is due to be tested on humans in late April or early May, Kiat Ruxrungtham of the Chula Vaccine Research Center said on Thursday. “By year-end, we should have a production capacity of one to five million doses annually,” Kiat told a news conference, adding this could later rise to about 20 million doses per year. The announcement comes amid criticism that Thailand’s vaccine strategy has been slow and overly reliant on AstraZeneca shots being produced by local manufacturer Siam Bioscience, which owned by the country’s king. The Thai-developed “ChulaCov19” vaccines are initially being produced in California, but will be produced locally in later stages by Thai company Bionet Asia, Kiat said.
Vitamin D not effective in moderate to severe COVID, study finds
Less than a week after JAMA Network Open published a small study showing zinc and vitamin C were not associated with improved mild COVID-19 infections, a 240-person JAMA study also found that a single dose of vitamin D did not have any significant effect on moderate to severe COVID-19 infections. The study, published yesterday by Igor Murai, PhD, a Sao Paul rheumatologist, and colleagues, reported that hospital stay was a median 7.0 days for both those in the intervention and the placebo group, and while there were differences up to 8.4 percentage points across in-hospital mortality, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and mechanical ventilation needs, they were all statistically not significant.
UK COVID-19 swab study highlights lockdown impact
The latest results from an ongoing study from Imperial College London to track COVID-19 patterns in Britain show that infections have fallen by more than two-thirds since January, likely due to lockdowns. In other global developments, the World Health Organization announced a new battle plan against COVID-19. The research team based at Imperial College London, part of the REACT program, has been using home-based swab tests to tracking virus spread, and their latest results from a preprint study include 85,000 people who were tested between Feb 4 and Feb 13. Infections fell across the country, with steeper drops in London and the South East, and more modest declines in Yorkshire and Humber. Prevalence dipped across all ages at a similar level, suggesting that the pattern is due to the lockdown, rather than vaccination. However, they warned that infections are still high, at about 1 in 200 people, with the highest levels seen in young people ages 5 to 12 and those ages 18 to 24 years old.