"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 19th Mar 2021
COVID-19: Isolation increases risk of immunological disorders, immunologist says
As Canada continues to weather the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have been concerned with the potential impact that extended isolation could be having on the mental wellness of our youth as continued lockdowns, distanced learning and gathering limits leave children with significantly less time interacting with others and their typical environments. One viral immunologist is aiming to bring attention to what he calls the “underappreciated effect” our pandemic is having on the physical health of children, as time spent in isolation has been amplifying an already present epidemic of allergies, asthma and even auto-immune diseases in the country.
Elderly with hearing difficulties experienced memory loss, loneliness during Covid-19 lockdown
People aged over 70 years with hearing difficulties experienced heightened depression, loneliness and memory problems during the COVID-19 lockdown, according to an online survey conducted by UK health experts. "The impact of social isolation has been massive on the elderly population, but our survey shows that people with hearing impairment have been more substantially affected," said Professor Annalena Venneri from the University of Sheffield's Neuroscience Institute. Venneri, who is also the co-author of the study, said measures put in place to help limit the spread of the virus —such as face coverings and social distancing — have limited the social interaction of the elderly people to a greater extent.
GPs in England should prescribe art and gardening to combat Covid issues - study
Thousands more people should be prescribed art classes, group gardening projects and nature walks on the NHS in a bid to improve physical and mental health, it has been claimed. A report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists says patients are missing out on “social prescribing”, even though it could help combat the mental health fallout from the pandemic. Social prescribing can include activities such as attending a new skills workshop, playing football in a local team, taking some form of education or training, or helping local elderly residents with their gardening. It can be used to help deal with loneliness and improve physical and mental conditions.
Covid-19 testing will become 'permanent feature of life', documents reveal
Covid-19 testing is likely to become a “permanent feature” of life in Scotland, government documents reveal. A new strategy sets out plans to keep testing people with symptoms beyond the threat of the pandemic. A £13 million genomic sequencing centre is being set up to help swiftly identify variants which may cause fresh outbreaks or beat vaccines. Nicola Sturgeon announced details of the laboratory, saying it would be able to sequence up to 1,000 samples a day. Scotland presently has to send some samples to England to find out details of the viral strain.
Covid-19 rapid tests could be offered to younger NI pupils
In Northern Ireland, pupils younger than those in years 12 to 14 could be included in Covid-19 testing for schools "at a later stage". That is according to guidance on testing in schools published by the Department of Education (DE). All post-primary staff and year 12 to 14 pupils are to be offered twice-weekly lateral flow tests from 22 March when they return to school. After the Easter holidays, all staff in primary and pre-schools will also be offered regular testing.
Google removed more than 99 million malicious Covid-19 ads in 2020, figures show
Google blocked or removed more than three billion adverts for violating its policies in 2020, including more than 99 million linked to the coronavirus pandemic, the company has revealed. The internet company’s annual Ads Safety Report showed it suspended 1.7 million advertiser accounts for breaking Google rules. It said a major revamp of its advertising policies, including the addition or updating of more than 40 rules for both advertisers and publishers had meant a drastic increase in the number of ads removed over the last 12 months. Among the 3.1 billion adverts removed were over 99 million related to Covid-19, many for misleading claims such as miracle cures or fake vaccine doses, but also ads for N95 masks during supply shortages
Drive to help Wirral BAME communities feel safe about Covid jab
A Wirral woman is championing a campaign to ensure ethnic communities across the borough feel safe about having the Covid-19 vaccine. Carol Haque is encouraging others in the Bangladeshi community to take up the vaccine as the safest, most effective way to tackle the virus in a campaign launched by Cheshire and Merseyside NHS. Using insight from local research, representatives from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic will address questions about the vaccine in a series of radio adverts, posters and social media adverts.
Couple reveal how they gave up full time work to live in a van
A couple who swapped their busy office jobs for life in van, trading their hectic nine to five schedules for working just two days a week remotely have revealed they're still saving the same amount as before despite a 60 per cent salary cut. Charlie Low, 25, an insight manager, and Dale Comley, 29, an engineer, from Bristol, decided to leave their jobs after finding themselves constantly counting down to the days to the weekend every week. Tired of the rat race, they invested £8,800 in a bright yellow LWB Mercedes Sprinter van - previously used by delivery company DHL - and converted it in their spare time after choosing to commit to a new life on the road. Over the next year, the couple spent £6,700 converting the van but are still able to save the same amount now as when they were working full time as their ills are so tiny.
Remote working locations confirmed across Wales
Locations across Wales are being made available for remote working, giving people an alternative to working from home or working in a traditional office environment. The Welsh Government is encouraging an increase in remote working and has set a long-term ambition for 30% of the Welsh workforce to work away from a traditional office, to be achieved by giving people more options and choice on their workplace. This ambition is intended to help town centres, reduce congestion and cut carbon emissions.
Why remote work has eroded trust among colleagues
When the pandemic triggered mass workplace closures last spring, many companies were unprepared for what turned into an open-ended remote-work arrangement. For some, the extraordinary situation initially prompted a heightened sense of goodwill as workers juggled the demands of family and fine-tuned home-office setups. Yet as we now pass the one-year mark of virtual work, the shaky foundation of many company cultures is cracking to reveal a lack of trust among remote managers and employees. The dearth of trust isn’t something that will be magically fixed once the pandemic subsides, especially as businesses are considering adopting new models, from hybrid systems to a different kind of work week. The consequences of a culture of distrust are significant – including diminished productivity, innovation and motivation. But there are steps we can take to effectively build and repair trust, even from afar.
Covid-19 remote working and newsroom productivity
More than a third of media professionals believe they have exceeded newsroom productivity while working from home during the coronavirus pandemic – however some shared concerns that the quality of their work had dipped. The absence of face-to-face contact was a problem raised by journalists who feel they have suffered from not being able to meet interviewees or interact with colleagues amid the buzz of the newsroom. This was a common theme: “It’s more productive but you miss that time interacting with people. The talking and chats that might make you ‘less productive’ but have a human side.”
US schools prepare summer of learning to help kids catch up
After a dreary year spent largely at home in front of the computer, many U.S. children could be looking at summer school — and that's just what many parents want. Although the last place most kids want to spend summer is in a classroom, experts say that after a year of interrupted study, it’s crucial to do at least some sort of learning over the break, even if it’s not in school and is incorporated into traditional camp offerings. Several governors, including in California Kansas and Virginia are pushing for more summer learning. And some states are considering extending their 2021-22 academic year or starting the fall semester early
Remote Schooling Strains Parents and Their Children, CDC Survey Suggests
In the U.S., parents whose children received virtual instruction were more likely to report poorer well-being for themselves and their kids, a federal government survey found. The parents were more likely to report that they were emotionally distressed, concerned about job stability and struggling to balance work and child care if their children were learning virtually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released Thursday. Some of the parents also reported the mental and emotional health of their children had worsened, while their physical activity had decreased.
Biden set to hit goal of 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in first 100 days over a month ahead of schedule
President Joe Biden is poised to hit a top goal he set for his first 100 days in the White House - 100 million vaccine shots in the arms of Americans - as early as Thursday, NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett reported. Before he was inaugurated, Biden underscored the importance of ramping up the pace of vaccination in the US. In early December, he unveiled a three-part plan to crush COVID-19 in his first 100 days - including complete 100 million vaccine shots. Biden's 100th day in office will be April 30, which means he's set to hit this goal over a month ahead of schedule.
Ukraine's COVID-19 cases jump, capital Kyiv imposes tough restrictions
New coronavirus infections spiked to their highest level in Ukraine since November on Thursday, prompting the capital Kyiv to impose a tight lockdown for three weeks starting on Saturday. Kyiv’s lockdown echoes similar measures to be introduced by Lviv, the largest city in the west of the country, on Friday including closures of cafes, restaurants, non-food stores and a ban on public events. “We need to gain time and do everything to prevent the collapse of the medical system,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
‘Safe and effective’: EU drug regulator backs AstraZeneca vaccine
The European Union drug regulator has said it has come to a “clear scientific conclusion” that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is “safe and effective” after several, mostly European, countries suspended its use following reports of blood clots among some recipients. Speaking during a news briefing on Thursday, Emer Cooke, head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said the AstraZeneca vaccine “is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events or blood clots,” stressing once again that the jab’s benefits outweigh possible risks.
Pakistan receives second batch of 500,000 vaccines from China
Pakistan has received a Chinese donation of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, bringing the country’s total supply to one million shots, Health Minister Dr Faisal Sultan said. The South Asian nation of 220 million people launched COVID-19 vaccinations for the public on March 10, starting with older people. Health workers started receiving shots in early February.
India sticks to AstraZeneca vaccine ‘with full vigour’
India is not worried about some European Union countries suspending use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and will continue to roll out the shot in its huge immunisation programme “with full vigour”, a senior official said. The AstraZeneca shots are produced by India’s Serum Institute and known in the country as Covishield. The vaccine accounts for most of the 35 million coronavirus jabs administered in the country so far.
Paris goes into lockdown as COVID-19 variant rampages
France imposed a month-long lockdown on Paris and parts of the north after a faltering vaccine rollout and spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants forced President Emmanuel Macron to shift course. Since late January, when he defied the calls of scientists and some in his government to lock the country down, Macron has said he would do whatever it took to keep the euro zone’s second largest economy as open as possible. However, this week he ran out of options just as France and other European countries briefly suspended use of the AstraZenca vaccine. His prime minister, Jean Castex, said France was in the grip of a third wave, with the virulent variant first detected in Britain now accounting for some 75% of cases. Intensive care wards are under severe strain, notably in Paris where the incidence rate surpasses 400 infections in every 100,000 inhabitants.
India coronavirus: Concerns mount over high levels of vaccine wastage
More than two million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have gone to waste during India’s national inoculation drive, leading some officials to call on the public to cherish the “elixir-like, precious commodity”. On Wednesday, Indian health officials highlighted that about 6.5 per cent of all doses delivered to the front line have been wasted. Concerns are such that prime minister Narendra Modi spoke out over the issue, demanding immediate steps to tackle the problem and stating that “we are denying somebody’s rights because of this wastage”.
More dying of Covid-19 now in Europe than in first wave as UK variant takes hold
More people are dying of Covid-19 now in Europe than during March 2020, the World Health Organization has warned. The WHO's emergencies lead in Europe, Dr Catherine Smallwood, said she was "particularly worried" about the situation in the Balkans, the Baltic States and Central Europe, where hospitalisations and deaths are among the highest in the world. The numbers of new cases per million people are also rising so fast that in some countries - notably Estonia, Bosnia, Hungary and Poland - the graphs tracking the virus point almost vertically upwards. Experts said that the combination of the spread of the more transmissible UK variant coupled with slow government reactions, as well as a lack of vaccinations in some countries, could all be contributing to the spiking numbers and Europe's looming third wave.
U.S. to share 4 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with Mexico, Canada
The United States plans to send roughly 4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine that it is not using to Mexico and Canada in loan deals with the two countries, yielding to requests to share vaccines with allies. Mexico will receive 2.5 million doses of the vaccine and Canada is to receive 1.5 million doses, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “It is not fully finalized yet but it is our aim,” Psaki told a daily briefing. “Ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is ... mission critical to ending the pandemic.” The Biden administration has come under pressure from countries around the world to share vaccines, particularly its stock of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is authorized for use elsewhere but not yet in the United States.
Brazil struggles with lack of ICU doctors as pandemic worsens
As Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak spirals out of control, the country is facing a dangerous new shortage, threatening to drive fatalities even higher: a lack of staff in intensive care units. ome medical professionals are burned out after months of grueling, soul-sapping work. Others are simply unable to keep up with the endless flow of critical COVID-19 patients pushing the country’s healthcare system to the brink. “Intensive care doctors are a commodity in short supply,” César Eduardo Fernandes, the president of the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) told Reuters on Wednesday. “There’s no way to meet this brutal, catastrophic demand.”
Taiwan clears AstraZeneca vaccine, shots might start on Monday
Taiwan has given regulatory approval to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and might start giving the first inoculations as early as Monday, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said. Taiwan’s first vaccines – 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca shot – arrived on the island earlier this month.
GPs ‘at least 30% less likely’ to pass Covid-19 on to others after one vaccine dose
Chances of healthcare workers passing Covid onto others reduced by at least 30% after one vaccine dose, according to the first UK study into the transmission of coronavirus following vaccination. Quoting the research in yesterday’s coronavirus briefing, health secretary Matt Hancock said ‘it shows that the vaccines are saving lives’. The study, which included 300,000 people, saw researchers assess the health records of people who lived with vaccinated and unvaccinated healthcare workers between 8 December and 3 March to find how many tested positive for Covid-19 or were hospitalised. The yet-to-be-peer-reviewed study, carried out by Public Health Scotland and the University of Glasgow, suggested that after one vaccine dose healthcare workers are at least 30% less likely to pass Covid onto others, with this rising to 54% less likely after a second dose. The researchers said this is a low estimate of the ‘true’ impact of the vaccines, given that household members of healthcare workers could also be infected through people they do not live with.
Skin swabbing could be useful in detecting Covid-19, research suggests
Simple skin swabbing could be useful in helping to help detect Covid-19, new research suggests. Chemists at the University of Surrey found that people infected with the virus appear to have lower lipid levels in the natural oils that coat the surface of their skin.
Covid-19 reinfections are rare, unless you are over 65
Coronavirus reinfections are rare, but it's more common for people 65 and older to get infected more than once, according to a study published Wednesday in the Lancet medical journal. The study, which looked at reinfection rates among 4 million people in Denmark, found that most people who have had Covid-19 seemed to have protection from reinfection for more than six months. In a follow-up after six months, the study found no evidence that protection was waning. But a check of the demographics of who was getting infected again showed it was mostly people 65 and older, Jen Christensen reports.
J&J developing several next-generation COVID-19 vaccines, says CEO
Johnson & Johnson is developing several next generation COVID-19 vaccines against the emerging variants of the coronavirus, Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky said on Thursday. The drugmaker, which won the U.S. emergency use authorization of a one-shot vaccine last month, had previously said it was developing a second-generation vaccine that would target the variant first identified in South Africa. J&J is also working on a two-dose version of its vaccine. "We could be in a situation where you could either need a booster to maintain the durability (of protection against the virus) or you might need to have a next derivative of the current vaccine to address these variants as they develop", Gorsky said at a webinar by the Economic Club of New York.
Half of hospital COVID survivors note symptoms 4 months on
Half of French COVID-19 survivors who were hospitalized (51.0%) had at least one COVID-related symptom at least 4 months later, according to a study published yesterday in JAMA. The most commonly noted symptoms were fatigue (31.1%), cognitive conditions (20.7%), and shortness of breath (16.3%). Further clinical tests in a subset of 177 patients showed that 63.2% had abnormalities on lung computed tomography (CT) scan, but the researchers note that severe pulmonary after-effects were not common. "Along with funding for research to better understand and treat long COVID, simultaneous investment in clinical infrastructure will be needed to support patients as they recover from this challenging disease," writes Hallie Prescott, MD, MSc, of the University of Michigan, in an invited editorial.
Trending Clinical Topic: PASC
At a recent White House briefing, Anthony Fauci, MD, introduced a new acronym for what had been called "long COVID." PASC is the new term used to describe long-lingering effects of COVID-19 (see Infographic below) and is this week's top trending clinical topic. At the briefing, Fauci stressed that even patients with moderate cases of COVID-19 can develop PASC. "New symptoms sometimes arise well after the time of infection, or they evolve over time and persist for months," he explained. "They can range from mild or annoying to actually quite incapacitating." Fauci noted that the National Institutes of Health recently launched an initiative to further study the phenomenon.
Existing COVID vaccines may protect against Brazil strain: Study
Existing vaccines may protect against the Brazilian variant of the coronavirus, according to a University of Oxford study which also highlighted how a variant first found in South Africa poses the biggest headache for vaccine makers. Coronavirus variants with specific mutations to the spike protein are of concern because scientists worry they will reduce the efficacy of vaccines, as well as immunity gained from prior infection.