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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th Feb 2021

Isolation Tips
'Zoom fatigue': Like being in an elevator with people staring at you nonstop for 8 hours a day
Video apps like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, and Google Meet have been used for many different things during the pandemic, including job interviews, work meetings, school, yoga classes, check-ins with friends and family. It can feel exhausting to sit and talk in front of a camera. Researchers at Stanford University looked into the science behind people’s collective “Zoom fatigue.” Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, says “Zoom fatigue” is a generic term for feeling drained after sitting in front of any kind of video conference for much of the day. He says Zoom has become the generic term for videoconferencing, and he’s not trying to vilify the company. They should even be thanked for making their software free and easy to use, he points out.
COVID-19: New ad campaign urges people to keep staying at home despite coronavirus transmission rates declining
An advertising blitz has been launched to encourage people to keep staying at home until COVID-19 restrictions can be lifted. The campaign also urges them to continue with mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing. And it appeals to people to understand the importance of remaining in lockdown, despite declining coronavirus transmission rates, the success of the vaccine rollout and the launch of the roadmap out of lockdown.
Hygiene Helpers
‘It’s Up to You’: Ad campaign to encourage coronavirus vaccination gets underway
For tens of millions of Americans still unsure about taking coronavirus vaccine shots, advertising industry experts and government scientists have a new message: “It’s Up to You.” That message and accompanying ad campaign — shaped by months of consumer research and backed by more than $50 million in donated funds — is to be unveiled Thursday across TV and digital video, social media and audio platforms like Pandora and Spotify. It also will include messaging tailored toward Black and Hispanic communities, where studies have found a lack of trust about the coronavirus vaccines and their long-term effects. The ads and related events will feature celebrities, scientists and members of the faith community.
Coronavirus vaccine: one of UK's largest care home firms introduces 'no jab, no job' policy
One of the UK’s largest care home operators has instituted a no jab, no job policy for new staff amid ongoing concern about vaccine take-up among care workers. A spokesperson for Care UK, which runs 120 homes and has seen more than two-thirds of its staff vaccinated, said: “Everyone applying for a role which requires them to go into a home will be expected to have been vaccinated before they start work.” The move comes after Barchester, which operates more than 220 private care homes, said it would insist that current staff are vaccinated, warning that if they “refuse … on non-medical grounds [they] will, by reason of their own decision, make themselves unavailable for work”.
Community Activities
England minorities: Higher COVID-19 cases, fewer vaccinated
England’s ethnic minority communities have higher levels of COVID-19 infections and lower levels of vaccine acceptance than other groups, according to a new study that highlights how the pandemic is worsening health inequalities. The study found that 92% of people across England either have received or would accept a vaccine. But that figure dropped to 87.6% for Asians and 72.5% for Blacks, according to the study released Thursday by Imperial College London. Researchers also found that most people of all age groups produced disease-fighting antibodies after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
COVID-19: Anti-fraud probe as EU nations are offered 900 million 'ghost' jabs worth €12.7bn
Fraudsters are trying to cash in on mistakes made by the EU's coronavirus vaccination campaign by offering millions of scam jabs to member states. The bloc's anti-fraud agency OLAF said around 900 million vaccines have been pitched to several countries for €12.7bn (£11bn). These offers were said to be made by "alleged intermediaries," prompting OLAF to investigate. Pharmaceutical companies involved in making vaccines against COVID-19 say they sell to governments direct only.
COVID-19: Almost 70,000 COVID lockdown fines handed out, with steep rise since Christmas
Police have handed out nearly 70,000 fines to people for breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules since they came into force, with more than 6,000 issued in a single week, new data shows. Figures published by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) on Thursday show that a total of 68,952 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issues by forces. Of this figure, 63,201 fines were handed out in England and 5,751 in Wales between 27 March last year and 14 February.
The Good, the Bad, and the Embarrassing in America’s COVID-19 Response
The pandemic has been both a bad and an embarrassing time to be an American. Bad in an actuarial sense, because per-capita death rates here have been among the highest in the world. Embarrassing at the level of national identity. In Washington, last year, the President promised that the virus would be gone by Easter, and when it wasn’t he mused that Americans might self-treat with bleach. In Michigan, armed men guarded a barbershop that had defied public-health orders to close. On South Padre Island, in Texas, spring break proceeded as usual—packed and unmasked—even as cases were climbing. The state’s lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, insisted that there were “more important things than living”; later, he urged Texans to keep the economy open even if it meant more deaths.
Far right 'exploiting' anger at lockdowns to radicalise wellness community, police say
Rightwing extremist groups have “exploited” anger at Covid-19 lockdowns to radicalise Australians in wellness and alternative medical circles into adopting white supremacist ideologies, Victoria police have warned a parliamentary inquiry into extremism. The inquiry into extremist movements and radicalism has separately been warned by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation that Australians as young as 13 are involved in onshore terrorism, both in Islamist and rightwing extremist circles, and that encrypted online communication channels are preventing authorities from intervening before “lone actors” become radicalised and carry out attacks.
Covid 19 coronavirus in NZ: One year into the pandemic, five lessons for 2021 and beyond
Exactly one year ago tomorrow, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand. What are some of the lessons we have learned about this pandemic? And what are the implications for improving our response in future? Arguably, New Zealand's greatest lesson is that an elimination strategy is the optimal response for a moderate to severe pandemic like Covid-19. The strategy provides a vivid example of how protecting public health also protects the economy when compared with mitigation or suppression strategies. This successful approach has required decisive science-backed government action and outstanding communication to create the social licence needed for an effective response.
Working Remotely
Why we should listen to Gen Z's response to remote working
We don’t know yet how many companies will opt for an alternative working model after the pandemic, but jobs platform Tallo is confident that the Gen Z response to remote working will be a deciding factor. As a digital-native talent pool, flexibility may be a priority for this younger generation that will be the future leaders of the workforce. In an effort to know more about young people’s perceptions of remote working, Tallo recently surveyed 850 college students in the US. Of that number, 63pc said they would accept a role that is primarily virtual, 86pc said they would feel just as productive in a remote role and 74pc said they’d prefer a job with both remote and in-person opportunities.
Workers expect employers 'to let them down' when it comes to long-term remote work
As the COVID-19 pandemic rolls into its second year, many in the American workforce have grown accustomed to calling their homes their offices. And they’re starting to like it, too. Some companies have even announced that they’ll allow employees to permanently work from home, if they so desire. But as vaccinations roll out and the country begins to see the light at the end of a very long coronavirus tunnel, many others are trying to figure out what to do and how to plan a return to business as usual. This is a once in a millennium opportunity to rethink work “for the way work should be, not the way it’s always been,” said Deborah Lovich, senior partner and managing director of Boston Consulting Group, during Fortune’s Reimagine Work Summit
Worried about meeting coworkers at your new all-remote job? Here are some tips.
Advice to a reader concerned about starting a new job remotely: "Just as being the new kid in town gives you the perfect cover for fumbling names and asking lots of questions, the pandemic has given us all the perfect excuse to not just embrace the awkwardness, but to bond over it. “If we level the playing field and know that everyone is struggling ... and ask people how they are actually doing … that immediately opens up the conversation to something more real,” says Susan McPherson, a communications specialist and author of “The Lost Art of Connecting: The Gather, Ask, Do Method for Building Meaningful Business Relationships”
Virtual Classrooms
11 tips to help you make the most of online learning
Most of us are no longer strangers to some form of online learning. During the first lockdown we became a nation of students, whether it was through virtual PE lessons with Joe Wicks or attempting to perfect a new skill while furloughed. But as Covid-19 continues to devastate the economy, with 1.74 million people now out of work, virtual education is more than just the preserve of those wanting to expand their minds. It is also a vital tool in the arsenal of anybody seeking work, with courses on just about anything available to help you land your next job. Here, we have compiled ten top tips on how you can get ahead when it comes to online learning.
Could Ed Tech and Virtual Learning Help Schools ‘Go Green’?
Every year, the Environmental Protection Agency releases a report detailing solid waste generation, greenhouse gas emissions and landfilling across the U.S., and paper waste in schools and the public sector has been a key concern. In 2018, the most recent year for which complete data is available, paper products comprised the largest proportion of municipal waste at over 23 percent. However, the EPA saw a decline in paper waste from 87.7 million tons in 2000 to 67.4 million tons in 2018 as work increasingly moved online. Whether institutions were recycling paper or avoiding it altogether by going digital, paper waste has been cut drastically over the past decade. Now ed tech experts say the massive virtual shift that occurred as a result of coronavirus school closures could help schools reduce their carbon footprint even further.
Public Policies
China approves two more COVID-19 vaccines for wider use
China approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for wider use Thursday, adding to its growing arsenal of shots. The National Medical Products Administration gave conditional approval to a vaccine from CanSino Biologics and a second one from state-owned Sinopharm. Both are already being used among select groups of people under an emergency use authorization. China now has four vaccines to immunize its population. CanSino said its one-shot vaccine candidate is 65.28% effective 28 days after the dose is given. It can be stored at 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius, “making it more accessible especially to the regions with underserved public health,” it said in a statement.
AZ to divert COVID-19 vaccines from global supply chain to meet EU target -
AstraZeneca has said it will be able to meet a target to deliver 180 million COVID-19 vaccines to the EU in the second quarter, by topping up the supply from its global production network. The company released a statement saying it will meet the EU’s targets by using its global supply chain to make up for any shortfall in Europe, where it is struggling to get production up to speed. It released the statement following a Reuters report citing a European official, directly involved with talks over vaccine supply, stating less than half of the 180 million doses ordered will be delivered in the second quarter.
UK Covid alert level drops as NHS threat 'reduced'
The four UK chief medical officers and NHS England's national medical director agreed the change following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre. The alert level has been at level five since early January, when Scotland and England began their latest lockdowns. The top medics urged people to "remain vigilant" by following lockdown rules. A change in alert system does not automatically mean restrictions can ease, but it helps to inform government decisions on lockdown rules.
France, Germany to beef up COVID-19 controls at common border
France said on Thursday it would bring in new COVID-19 restrictions for the area around its common border with Germany, as President Emmanuel Macron’s government tries to contain a surge of coronavirus variants in the French region of Moselle. Cross-border workers, who had exemptions until now, will need to present negative PCR tests to get through if travelling for reasons unrelated to their jobs, France’s European affairs and health ministers said in a joint statement. Home working in the area will also be reinforced, they said, after France and Germany said earlier this week they were trying to find ways to prevent a closure of their common border.
France imposes weekend lockdown near Belgian border after corona outbreak
The French region of Dunkirk, right next to the border with Belgium, will be placed under a weekend-long lockdown after an “alarming” rise in the number of coronavirus cases was reported, French Health Minister Olivier Véran announced on Wednesday. In the vicinity of the coastal town, the rate of infection was around nine times higher than the national average, reportedly as a result of a breakout of the British variant, which is believed to be the cause of around 75% of all regional cases.
Finland to begin three-week lockdown on 8 March
Finland will go into a three-week lockdown starting on 8 March and is prepared to declare a state of emergency, Prime Minister Sanna Marin has said, as the country faces a rising number of coronavirus cases. The lockdown will not include a curfew but will involve the closure of restaurants and ordering school students who are 13 or older to move to remote learning, the government said. Ms Marin said she is ready to declare a state of emergency next week, having discussed this with the president.
Hungary extends lockdown, sees 'exceptionally difficult' two weeks ahead as infections rise
Hungary is entering its toughest period since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and over the next two weeks hospitals will come under strain like never before, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday. "I have only bad news," Orban said in a Facebook video. "We are facing the hardest two weeks since the start of the pandemic. The number of infections is rising sharply and will continue to rise due to the new mutations." On Thursday, Hungary reported 4,385 new infections, the highest number this year.
EU says UK, U.S. have vaccine export bans, EU allows exports of Pfizer, Moderna shots
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday that the EU was allowing exports of COVID-19 vaccines, mostly from BionTech/Pfizer and Moderna, while the United States and Britain had mechanism to block them. Von der Leyen told a news conference that approximately 95% of EU-made vaccines that had been exported since Jan. 30 were manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, and the remainder by Moderna. She said that both were honouring their supply contracts with the EU and therefore there was no limitation on their export, while on AstraZeneca’s exports the EU was keeping “a very close eye” because of the company’s shortfalls in deliveries to the 27-nation bloc.
Israel passes law to name and shame those who decline Covid vaccine
Israel has passed a law allowing the identities of people who have not been vaccinated to be shared with other authorities. The decision on Wednesday raises concerns over privacy for those who may opt against getting the jab. It passed by 30 votes to 13 and gives local governments, the director general of the education ministry and some in the welfare ministry the right to receive the names, addresses and phone numbers of everyone who has not had the vaccine. The objective of the measure – which remains valid for three months or until the Covid-19 pandemic is declared over – is ‘to enable these bodies to encourage people to vaccinate by personally addressing them’, according to a statement issued by parliament. Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2021/02/25/israel-passes-law-to-name-and-shame-people-who-havent-had-covid-jab-14143058/?ito=cbshare Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/
COVID-19: EU leaders divided over vaccine passports to allow European travel this summer
European Union leaders are divided over developing vaccine passports to open the continent up to tourism this summer. Some countries want an EU-wide approach instead of individual nations having their own certificates, while others are concerned such documentation could result in discrimination. Leaders of the EU's 27 countries met online on Thursday to start a two-day summit to discuss the pandemic, and while they agreed to work on vaccine certificates, they could not come up with a unified plan.
Maintaining Services
South Korea preps coronavirus vaccines after political scuffle over first shots
South Korean politicians won’t be the first in line when the county kicks off its coronavirus vaccination drive on Friday, despite calls from the opposition party for the president to roll up his sleeve and take a shot to reassure vaccine sceptics. Leading political figures spent the week trading rhetorical shots over who should be the first to take a literal jab, but in the end, health authorities said widespread acceptance of vaccines in South Korea means they would stick to plans to vaccinate healthcare workers and other at-risk individuals first. On Thursday, the first doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine were distributed to clinics in preparation for the initial inoculations.
CVS Pharmacies Adds Coronavirus Vaccines at 40 California Locations, Including in San Diego County
CVS Pharmacies will continue its rollout of the coronavirus vaccine Thursday as it makes doses available at 40 more select CVS locations across California – including several in San Diego County. The company said approximately 49,140 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are being made available to distribute at these locations in California through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
Coronavirus Vaccine Finder Aims to Help Americans Get Shots
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hoping to make it easier for Americans to find Covid-19 vaccines, is backing the test of a centralized online portal where the public can search for nearby vaccination locations with doses on hand. The website, called VaccineFinder, is run by Boston Children’s Hospital with the help of several collaborators. It grew out of the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009 and has been used for years to coordinate the distribution of flu and childhood vaccines. It expanded on Wednesday to include the availability of coronavirus vaccines at more than 20,000 locations, concentrated in several states. If the program goes well, the website’s developers plan to expand it nationwide in coming weeks to include nearly all vaccine providers that agree to be featured.
UK Covid hospital deaths up 311 as cases plunge 78% since start of England's lockdown
The UK's coronavirus hospital death rate has risen by 311. England has recorded 254 further deaths, Wales 21, Scotland 31 and Northern Ireland, five. It marks a 75 drop on last week's figures - when 386 hospital deaths were recorded across the UK. Confirmed cases of coronavirus have plunged by more than 78% since the start of England's lockdown, new figures show today.
COVID-19: Lockdown easing risks 'cold wave' hospital pressure as non-COVID patients return to A&E
Senior hospital staff have admitted the prime minister's roadmap out of lockdown is making them "a bit anxious and nervous". Doctors and nurses at Warrington Hospital have weathered the first and second wave of the pandemic and are now bracing themselves for the "cold wave". This is the winter surge of patients coming into their emergency department with seasonal respiratory illnesses. This year the cold wave came late, but the sharp spike in A&E attendances means it is here now.
Travel restrictions have no end in sight as European leaders worry about new variants
Looking to holiday in Greece or Spain? You could be waiting some time. European leaders are expected to say on Thursday that all non-essential travel needs to remain restricted as the Covid health situation remains “serious” across the continent, according to a document seen by CNBC. The European Union’s 27 heads of state will gather virtually on Thursday afternoon to discuss the current state of the pandemic in the region. The EU is still one of the worst hit parts of the world by the coronavirus, with a number of nations still in lockdown or with strict social restrictions in place. At the same time, vaccination efforts have faced a bumpy start and some question whether the EU will reach its target of vaccinating 70% of its adult population by the summer.
India’s health workers baulk at taking homegrown COVID vaccine
India is struggling to convince its healthcare and front-line workers to take a homegrown COVID-19 vaccine controversially approved without late-stage efficacy data, government data showed on Thursday, days ahead of a wider roll-out. The country has the world’s second-highest number of COVID-19 infections after the United States, with cases recently surging as mask-wearing declines and states have eased social distancing measures. A lack of confidence in a homegrown vaccine could prevent India from meeting its target of vaccinating 300 million of its 1.35 billion people by August.
Vaccinate prisoners en masse, not police or teachers, JCVI tells ministers
Teachers, police and other key workers should not get priority for Covid jabs but prisoners can be vaccinated en masse, the government’s advisory body has concluded. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) handed final recommendations to ministers on Sunday advising that under-50s be vaccinated by age rather than occupation, and that people from ethnic minorities should not get priority, The Times understands. At least 150,000 more people with learning disabilities have been added to the present vaccine priority list, after concerns that too many with severe problems were being missed. Ministers are due to sign off the next phase of the vaccine programme imminently and are expected to follow the committee’s advice. On Monday Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines deployment minister, said: “We will absolutely follow what they recommend.”
Healthcare Innovations
BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine in a Nationwide Mass Vaccination Setting
All persons who were newly vaccinated during the period from December 20, 2020, to February 1, 2021, were matched to unvaccinated controls in a 1:1 ratio according to demographic and clinical characteristics. Study outcomes included documented infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), symptomatic Covid-19, Covid-19–related hospitalization, severe illness, and death. We estimated vaccine effectiveness for each outcome as one minus the risk ratio, using the Kaplan–Meier estimator.
Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is 92% effective at preventing serious illness, Israeli study says
Ninety-two per cent of recipients of the Pfizer vaccine have been protected from developing severe symptoms of Covid-19, the most comprehensive study of the jab has found. The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, was based on data from 1.2 million patients of Israel’s largest healthcare provider, half of whom had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It was conducted by doctors and researchers led by Professor Ran Balicer, of Israel’s Clalit Health Services, along with a team of senior researchers from Harvard University, and is the largest study of its kind.
California coronavirus variant is resistant to antibodies, but vaccines should still work
Early studies show the coronavirus variant that’s spreading widely across California is somewhat resistant to antibodies that fight off infection, but the vaccines still should offer plenty of protection, infectious disease experts say. Antibodies generated by the vaccines, or by previous coronavirus infection, were two to four times stronger against earlier versions of the virus compared to the new variant, scientists at UCSF found in laboratory studies. They released preliminary results this week.
How would COVID-19 vaccine makers adapt to variants?
How would COVID-19 vaccine makers adapt to variants? By tweaking their vaccines, a process that should be easier than coming up with the original shots. Viruses constantly mutate as they spread, and most changes aren't significant. First-generation COVID-19 vaccines appear to be working against today's variants, but makers already are taking steps to update their recipes if health authorities decide that's needed.
Pfizer and BioNTech Studying Third Covid-19 Vaccine Dose to Fight New Strains
Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have begun a study testing in people whether the companies’ Covid-19 shot can provide protection against emerging strains of the coronavirus. The companies said Thursday they have started the small study to see whether a third dose of their authorized Covid-19 vaccine would increase its effectiveness against new variants, such as the strain first identified in South Africa. The approach differs from that of Moderna Inc., which said Wednesday it had made a new vaccine targeting the strain found in South Africa and shipped doses to U.S. government researchers for human testing.
GSK narrows focus on elderly in trial to treat pneumonia from COVID-19
GlaxoSmithKline will extend a trial testing an experimental rheumatoid arthritis drug on patients suffering from pneumonia related to COVID-19 to focus on the elderly as it seeks to firm up encouraging findings so far.