"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Mar 2021
A year of Covid-19 has made us lonelier – now’s the time for connection
According to a survey of UK adults, taking place nine months into Covid-19 restrictions, one in four adults in the UK said they experienced feelings of loneliness. The levels of loneliness, according to the Mental Health Foundation, ‘were higher in young people, people who are unemployed, full time students and single parents’. If you are feeling lonely, psychologist Andrew Bridgewater adds that right now, the best thing someone can do to seek support during these times — realistically — is to talk about how you’re feeling with someone who will listen and not judge.
Covid: Masks and social distancing 'could last years'
People may need to wear face coverings and socially distance for several years until we return to normality, a leading epidemiologist has predicted. Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at Public Health England, said basic measures could be in place until other countries successfully roll out jabs. She also said a return of big spectator events required careful monitoring and clear instructions about staying safe. The defence secretary has not ruled out the foreign holiday ban being extended. Ben Wallace told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that booking a break abroad now would be "premature" and "potentially risky".
Qantas boss: Governments 'to insist' on vaccines for flying
The boss of Australian airline Qantas has told the BBC that "governments are going to insist" on vaccines for international travellers. Coronavirus vaccines are seen as crucial to reviving an industry that saw worldwide passenger numbers fall 75.6% last year. Chief executive Alan Joyce said that many governments are talking about vaccination as "a condition of entry". Even if they weren't, he thinks the airline should enforce its own policy. "We have a duty of care to our passengers and to our crew, to say that everybody in that aircraft needs to be safe," Mr Joyce said. He believes that would justify changing the terms and conditions on which tickets are booked.
Covid-19: Mumbai to rollout random testing in crowded places
The Indian city of Mumbai is to roll out mandatory coronavirus tests in crowded places as the country grapples with a rise in infections. The local government said rapid tests would be done randomly in areas such as shopping centres and train stations. A refusal to be tested will "amount to an offence", it said. India recorded 40,953 new Covid cases on Saturday, the biggest daily jump for nearly four months. A total 159,000 people have died with the disease. It has seen more than 11.5 million cases of coronavirus infections so far - and the number has been steadily climbing for weeks as the country scrambles to vaccinate its population and identify highly contagious variants of the disease.
Scuffles and arrests as anti-lockdown protesters march through London
Scuffles broke out as anti-lockdown protesters marched through central London on Saturday, defying police warnings for them to stay away due to coronavirus restrictions. Police said they had made 33 arrests, most for COVID regulation breaches, after up to 10,000 people gathered holding banners with slogans such as “Stop Destroying Our Kids’ Lives” and “Fake Pandemic”. Crowded close to one another, protesters also set off flares. Under England’s coronavirus rules it is unlawful for groups to gather for the purpose of protest, but opposition to such measures has grown this week, not specifically related to anti-lockdown demonstrations.
Police use water cannon as German lockdown protest turns violent
Police deployed water cannon and pepper spray after a gathering of some 20,000 protesters against lockdown and other coronavirus rules in central Germany turned violent, with some demonstrators throwing bottles at police. Protesters from all over Germany converged on the central city of Kassel for the march, which was organised by the “Querdenker” - “Lateral Thinkers” - online conspiracy movement. “Bottles were thrown and there were attempts to break through barriers,” police said on Twitter.
Chillicothe business, school developed virtual reality classrooms in response to COVID-19
A new partnership between a local school and a small business is helping students stay connected to their class even when learning remotely. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Bishop Flaget School and Objective Reality Games — a virtual reality arcade and game studio — collaborated to provide a new educational opportunity. By using an Oculus headset, students can visit a VR classroom, participate in lectures, complete assignments and engage with their peers all from home.
Covid-19 leaflets: How pandemic disinformation went offline
A newspaper dropped through Mark Langford's letterbox. It was called The Light. "The first thing you saw was the main headline: 'Covid jabs kill and injure hundreds.' I was horrified." Mr Langford confronted the woman who had delivered it. She told him she was a nurse, that the pandemic was a hoax and that no-one had died from coronavirus. He said he didn't believe a nurse would say that but didn't challenge her credentials at the time. The paper itself contained an article listing people who had allegedly died after receiving the vaccine, but provided no evidence that any of these deaths had been caused by the jab. Another section of the paper claimed face masks were responsible for "thousands" of deaths from bacterial pneumonia. There is no evidence whatsoever for this claim.
Community champions sought to support those most at risk from Covid-19
Telford & Wrekin Council is looking to recruit community champions to support those most at risk of Covid-19. The council is launching a community champions project to reach residents most at risk from coronavirus, after securing £50,000 funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Borough residents are urged to volunteer to help make a difference in the communities they are living in. In particular, volunteers from 'seldom heard groups' are being asked to come forward, from groups who might be struggling to access council services (such as people from ethnic minority backgrounds or from disability communities) but applications from other communities across the borough are also welcomed.
Covid: Welsh firms looking at flexi-working 'permanently'
Some of Wales' major employers say they are considering a permanent shift to flexible working after the pandemic. The Welsh government, Cardiff University and Admiral Group say they are all consulting with staff about a hybrid of home and office working. However, experts say there will always be a place for office working - especially for those starting careers. They say many major organisations will instead have smaller offices and allow more flexible working.
Our research shows working from home works, in moderation
If the Covid-19 crisis subsides and economies can largely reopen, the experiences of so many people working from home over the past year will surely shape what happens next. For many of us, this could emerge as a return to the office for three days a week. Patterns will obviously vary, but a common thread would be something like Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in the office and Wednesday and Friday at home. This coming shift will largely be driven by employers making a calculation between two different, equally important forces. One is what companies see as the need for in-person creativity and connections, which will spur their desire to bring people back into offices. At home, however, we tend to be more efficient in the daily tasks that make up much of working life. This is the competing force that may keep many of us out of the office, even after Covid
Remote Work Visas Are Transforming The Future Of Work And Travel
One of the biggest perks of having a remote job is the massive perk of living and working wherever you want. The remote work environment has advanced extremely fast due to the state of the world pandemic. Millions of workers now have the flexibility to work from anywhere they desire. With millions of people working from home already, remote work is the present, and flexible working is the actual future of work.
How CEOs And Workers Feel About Working Remotely Or Returning To The Office
CEOs are wrestling with what to do about bringing back people to the office. The prevailing corporate consensus is consolidating around a flexible hybrid system, which has been championed by Google CEO Sundar Pichai. This entails offering employees an option or a combination of remote and in-office work. There are other alternatives being offered too. There are real risks inherent with the leading return-to-work hybrid system. Companies will have to ensure that their employees don’t take advantage of the system by collectively deciding to work remotely on Mondays and Fridays, to the disadvantage of other co-workers. It can become a logistical nightmare for managers to have impromptu meetings, as everyone is operating on a different schedule and in varied time zones. A supervisor needs to keep in mind who is working where and when they are available.
Learning from Lockdown: During COVID, a few education changes were for the better
The closing of schools across the U.S. has been a disaster for most students, families and teachers. But in some places, educators are making things work, and even finding ideas that could outlast the pandemic and transform schooling for the better. Earlier this year, The Seattle Times reported on how a strategy called acceleration is moving all children ahead in the Highline School District, and took a look at a learning center created by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Port Angeles School District. Today, as part of the collaboration, we are printing a story by The Hechinger Report — a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education — that looks at how schooling may change forever even after the pandemic ends.
A year after COVID shut schools, students and teachers share what shook them — and what strengthened them
From grade school to graduate school, developing young minds in close physical proximity halted abruptly in mid-March 2020. What happened next to schools and families was devastating and electrifying, thought-provoking and quieting, unifying and isolating. Homes became entire worlds. Working parents juggled daytime teaching. College students studied from childhood bedrooms. Millions of kindergarteners started school in a format previously unfathomable: on Zoom. Teachers shifted to nurturing and encouraging through screens — with little training. Many hunted down students in person to ensure they were safe, fed and outfitted with resources to learn
As U.S. schools shuttered, student mental health cratered, Reuters survey finds
As public school closures stretched into a full year, students across the United States many times encountered short-term or lasting mental health harm. Teachers were affected, too, Reuters found in a national survey of school districts. Nearly 90% of responding districts cited higher rates of absenteeism or disengagement, metrics commonly used to gauge student emotional health. The lack of in person education was a driver of these warning signs of trouble, more than half of districts said. The stresses didn’t affect only students: 57% of responding districts reported an increase in teachers and support staff seeking assistance.
Covid closures: how teachers adapted to working remotely
During the first lockdown, teachers had to pull remote learning solutions out of a hat, says Mark Enser. But, while it’s clear that no amount of digital wizardry can replicate the magic of the classroom, tools such as Zoom have transformed the way we think about pedagogy for good
Parents with kids in virtual school are more stressed, some use drugs and alcohol to cope, CDC study shows
Parents with kids stuck home during the pandemic will tell you how stressed they are, but now the CDC has scientific evidence that virtual schooling is taking a real physical and emotional toll — driving some parents to drugs and alcohol to help cope. The findings, published Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggest that virtual learning “might present more risks than in-person instruction related to child and parental mental and emotional health and some health-supporting behaviors.”
EU export ban would delay UK Covid vaccine drive by two months
Britain’s Covid vaccine programme faces a two-month delay in the event of an EU export ban, derailing the government’s plans to reopen the economy this summer, an analysis for the Guardian reveals. A ban, due to be debated by leaders of the 27 EU member states on Thursday, would badly stall the UK vaccination effort, and would be likely to force the government to extend restrictions on people’s lives. It would not, however, provide a significant boost to EU member states’ troubled programmes, according to a report by the data analytics company Airfinity. The comparatively small number of doses that would be kept within the bloc would speed up the full vaccination of every adult in the EU by “just over a week”, the research suggests.
India sees largest increase in coronavirus cases since 2020
India reported the largest increase in coronavirus cases it has seen since 2020 as multiple states bring back some restrictions on public gatherings. As the Associated Press reports, India’s Health Ministry recorded 43,846 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, marking the worst single-day increase since November of last year. More than half of the new infections are found in the central state of Maharashtra, where India's financial capital of Mumbai is situated. Maharashtra has imposed new lockdown measures until the end of March, the AP reports and Mumbai authorities have announced that they will begin administering random required coronavirus tests in crowded spaces.
Covid: Rich states 'block' vaccine plans for developing nations
Wealthy countries - including the UK - are blocking proposals to help developing nations increase their vaccine manufacturing capabilities, documents leaked to BBC Newsnight show. Several poorer countries have asked the World Health Organization to help them. But richer nations are pushing back on provisions in international law that would enable them to achieve this. This is according to a leaked copy of the negotiating text of a WHO resolution on the issue. Among those richer nations are the UK, the US, as well as the European Union.
EU rebuffs UK calls to ship AstraZeneca COVID vaccines from Europe
The European Union is rebuffing British government calls to ship AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines produced in a factory in the Netherlands, an EU official said on Sunday. Former EU member Britain has so far administered many more vaccines than EU countries in proportion to the population. “The Brits are insisting that the Halix plant in the Netherlands must deliver the drug substance produced there to them. That doesn’t work,” the official told Reuters. The Leiden-based plant which is run by sub-contractor Halix is listed as a supplier of vaccines in both the contracts that AstraZeneca has signed with Britain and with the European Union. “What is produced in Halix has to go to the EU,” the official added.
Egypt gets more doses of Chinese coronavirus vaccine
Egypt received another 300,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in the early hours of Saturday, the health ministry said in a statement. The third shipment from China of the Sinopharm vaccine brings the total doses delivered to Egypt to 650,000 since December. Some 600,000 of those were a gift from Beijing and the rest were sent by the UAE. The North African country also got 50,000 doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in February.
Greece lifts some COVID-19 restrictions to relieve lockdown fatigue
Greece will lift some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions next week as part of a plan to gradually reopen the economy and relieve national fatigue even as its hospitals remain under severe pressure from stubbornly high infections, authorities said on Friday. Hair and beauty salons and archaeological sites will open from Monday, Akis Skertsos, deputy minister to the prime minister, told a weekly news briefing. “It is imperative to provide some breaths of freedom, some depressurisation valves, so that the remaining measures can be complied with,” Skertsos said, adding that the government plans to provide free rapid tests to all citizens.
Parts of France enter lockdown amid confusion and frustration
Nearly a third of French people entered a month-long lockdown on Saturday with many expressing fatigue and confusion over the latest set of restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. The government announced the new measures on Thursday after a jump in COVID-19 cases in Paris and parts of northern France. The new restrictions are less severe than those in place during the lockdowns of spring and November 2020, raising concerns that they may not be effective. “I hope it’s going to end quite quickly, although I have questions on how efficient the measures are,” Kasia Gluc, 57, a graphic editor said on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris. There was frustration among so-called non-essential shop owners forced to close down.
France restart using AstraZeneca vaccines but only for over 55s
France and almost a dozen other countries have resumed their rollout of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, after temporarily suspending it following reports of it causing blood clots. The move comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) confirmed on Thursday that the jab was “safe and effective”. While insisting that its benefits far exceeded its risk, the EU’s medical regulator added that it could not “definitively” rule out a link between rare blood clots and the Anglo-Swedish company’s vaccine. As a result, the National Authority for Health (NAH), the French regulator, has decided to only administer AstraZeneca doses to the over-55s.
Indonesia resumes use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine
Indonesia on Friday cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for use again after the European Union s drug regulator said the vaccine didn't increase the overall incidence of blood clots. Southeast Asia’s biggest economy delayed the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine after more than a dozen countries in Europe suspended the vaccine due to concerns of some people who received the vaccine developing blood clots. “The benefits of using the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca outweigh the possible risks, so that we can start to use it,” Indonesia’s Food and Drug Authority said in its announcement.
WHO panel gives nod to AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, has 'tremendous potential'
The World Health Organization (WHO) exhorted the world to keep administering AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shots on Friday, adding its endorsement to that of European and British regulators after concerns over blood clotting. "We urge countries to continue using this important COVID-19 vaccine," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva. He was speaking after the global health body's vaccine safety panel said available data about the AstraZeneca shot did not point to any overall increase in clotting conditions. European and British regulators also said this week that the benefits of AstraZeneca's shot outweighed the risks, prompting various nations to lift their suspensions.
Bosnian capital tightens rules as COVID-19 deaths spike
Bosnia's capital is tightening measures against the new coronavirus as authorities struggle to cope with rising infections and a spike in deaths caused by COVID-19. Sarajevo has mourned dozens of victims this month, as daily new cases in Bosnia rose from just a few hundred to more than 1,700 this week. Twenty-one new deaths were reported in the capital on Friday alone. “This is a war without weapons,” said an elderly resident who identified himself only by his first name, Hajrudin.
Denmark raises limit on public gatherings to 10 people
Denmark’s government on Thursday agreed with Parliament to raise the limit on public gatherings to 10 persons, while more schools and upper secondary educations will be allowed to resume from March 22, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Coronavirus vaccine rollout tipped to meet targets despite flooding, international supply issues
Federal health authorities say they are confident the next phase of Australia's COVID-19 vaccination program will meet its targets, despite international supply issues and weather-related delivery delays. Phase 1B of the program is due to start on Monday, with about 6 million Australians eligible to receive their first doses. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said the medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, expected to complete the approvals process for locally produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine "in the coming days"
Coronavirus: The Indian factory making 6,000 syringes a minute
Rajiv Nath, who heads India's largest syringe factory, says he is turning down as many as 40 requests for syringes from across the world. Mr Nath's Hindustan Syringes & Medical Devices (HMD) is in huge demand now as countries try to ramp up vaccination against Covid-19. The factory is currently producing some four million syringes a day but Mr Nath says that's still not enough given that the world needs 10 billion syringes to vaccinate just 60% of its population. He hopes that better coordination between the WHO, governments and syringe makers will smooth the way going forward.
Ontario COVID-19 vaccines expand to people 75 and older, 60 and older to begin at pharmacies with AstraZeneca
Ontario is expanding its booking system to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine to people who are 75 and older across the province, effective Monday, March 22. "The progress we are making on our Vaccine Distribution Plan demonstrates what can be done when we unleash the full potential of Team Ontario," a statement from Ontario Premier Doug Ford reads. "Thanks to the efforts of an army of frontline health care heroes and volunteers, we are getting needles in arms even faster than we had imagined. All we need now is a steady and reliable supply of vaccines from the Federal government to ensure anyone who wants one, gets one as soon as possible so we can all stay safe."
US coronavirus vaccine rollout becomes 'less messy'
In December, then President-elect Joe Biden set a goal of getting 100 million people vaccinated against Covid-19 in the first 100 days of his presidency. At this rate, it looks like US will hit that mark on Friday, which is day 58. "These milestones are significant accomplishments, but we have much more to do," Biden said Thursday. "That's just the floor. We will not stop until we beat this pandemic." The country still has a long way to go, but the vaccine rollout is looking a lot less chaotic. As of Thursday, about 12.3% of people are fully vaccinated in the US. That's a long way from herd immunity, where enough people have been vaccinated or had the disease to have immunity, if herd immunity is even achievable.
Many health-care workers have not gotten a coronavirus vaccine
Health-care workers were the first group in the United States to be offered coronavirus vaccinations. But three months into the effort, many remain unconvinced, unreached and unprotected. The lingering obstacles to vaccinating health-care workers foreshadow the challenge the United States will face as it expands the pool of people eligible and attempts to get the vast majority of the U.S. population vaccinated. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, barely half of front-line health-care workers (52 percent) said they had received at least their first vaccine dose at the time they were surveyed. More than 1 in 3 said they were not confident vaccines were sufficiently tested for safety and effectiveness.
A rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollout backfired in some US states
A surprising new analysis found that states such as South Carolina, Florida and Missouri that raced ahead of others to offer the vaccine to ever-larger groups of people have vaccinated smaller shares of their population than those that moved more slowly and methodically, such as Hawaii and Connecticut. The explanation, as experts see it, is that the rapid expansion of eligibility caused a surge in demand too big for some states to handle and led to serious disarray. Vaccine supplies proved insufficient or unpredictable, websites crashed and phone lines became jammed, spreading confusion, frustration and resignation among many people. “The infrastructure just wasn’t ready. It kind of backfired,” said Dr. Rebecca Wurtz, an infectious disease physician and health data specialist at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. She added: “In the rush to satisfy everyone, governors satisfied few and frustrated many.”
Skin swabs could be the next COVID-19 test
Researchers have developed a new method for testing COVID-19 that uses a skin swab. The new test is less invasive compared to current testing methods. The skin swab test analyzes sebum, which is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands. Researchers from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom led the study.
Covid vaccine priority list should include heart failure patients, experts say
Experts are calling for an urgent review of the vaccine priority list to include heart failure patients, as studies show more than half of this group who contract Covid-19 subsequently die. Younger people living with severe heart failure are not deemed at very high risk under the national immunisation programme. The data, from the Irish Heart Foundation and the Health Service Executive, has prompted the HSE’s national heart programme to call for under-70s, along with inpatients awaiting cardiac surgery, to be moved from level seven to level four of the priority list.
COVID-19 deaths: CDC may underestimate risk for people of color
The way in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report COVID-19 deaths may lead to an underestimation of racial and ethnic disparities, according to a new study. The authors say that the CDC use a statistical method called “weighting” that discounts the impact of the uneven geographical distribution of COVID-19 deaths in the United States among various racial and ethnic groups. They argue that this approach fails to take into account the range of factors that influence where people live and work. This is important because these factors may also influence the risk of COVID-19.