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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 1st Apr 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid-19: Few people with symptoms are self-isolating, study finds
Fewer than one in five people request a Covid-19 test if they have symptoms, while the number who follow full self-isolation rules is low, a large study of the test and trace system has found. The report, published in the British Medical Journal, also found only half of people knew the main Covid symptoms. These include a cough, high temperature and loss of taste or smell. Experts said the findings suggested the impact of the £37bn NHS Test and Trace system was "limited". The Department for Health and Social Care said test and trace had saved "countless lives", adding that the latest ONS data found the "overwhelming majority" self-isolated when asked to.
Hygiene Helpers
Vaccination certificates won’t end lockdown. Prosocial approaches will
Covid-19 immunity and vaccination certificates are being held up as golden tickets to the new normal. Israel, the country leading the way on vaccination rates, has a green pass program to help its citizens return to public spaces such as gyms and theaters. The European Union and China have announced similar passports to revive travel. In the United States, the Biden administration is assessing the viability of vaccine certificates. These efforts raise serious red flags. Vaccination certificates will likely deepen existing inequalities in health care, education, and employment. And the rush to a new normal via certificates sets the stage for function creep — a way of short-cutting public debates and considerations around surveillance and the use of personal data. Triggering prosocial behaviors — the want to get vaccinated because it is internally satisfying to help society as a whole — is a better way to promote large-scale vaccination than vaccine certificates, which favor a select group of people who long to go on vacation, go back to the gym, and generally find their new normal.
People will be able to register online for Covid-19 vaccine from mid-April, says Martin
In Ireland, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said a website allowing people to register for a Covid-19 vaccine will available from the third week in April. Mr Martin told the Dáil 70 per cent of the population should be fully inoculated against the virus by the end of July. Mr Martin said the Government aimed to be at the “latter end of the vaccination programme” in July and August. He defended the Government’s change in policy on vaccination prioritisation to now inoculate people solely on the basis of age rather than age and profession as he was warned about “putting all your eggs in the vaccine basket”.
COVID-19: Digital vaccine certificates to help European travel 'ready in June at latest'
EU digital vaccine certificates will be ready in June at the latest, Spain's foreign minister has said. European Union leaders agreed last month to work on the certificates to try to kickstart the tourism industry. Speaking on Wednesday, Arancha Gonzalez Laya said the scheme would be a good tool for European citizens and "if all goes well, we will have a vaccination certificate in June at the latest". "If it can be in mid-May, better but not later than June," she added. The certificates would not prevent those without the jab from travelling, Ms Gonzalez Laya said, but people who had one would be able to pass through EU borders faster.
Do doctors have to have the covid-19 vaccine?
Clarence (Lance) Gravlee discusses in his article "How Whiteness Works: JAMA and the Refusals of White Supremacy" Charles Mills' agreement, the “epistemology of ignorance,” the structured ways of not knowing that allows for claiming innocence (1). Can that also relate to "utilitarian supremacy?” Is it telling to note that the BMJ put the article "Do doctors have to have the covid-19 vaccine?" in the section "Careers"? (2) The article doesn't feature the opinions of a medical doctor or any health care worker in general who chooses not to have a COVID19 vaccine. Gravlee writes: "Ignorance is neither passive nor accidental but integral to a system of power and domination. It involves the active refusal to know." Can the 5 refusals that Andrea Gibbons identified (3), as mentioned in Gavlee's article, also indicate BMJ's 5 refusals of "utilitarian supremacy"? There is the refusal of the other’s humanity and tolerance for perpetual violence and exploitation. There is the refusal to listen to or acknowledge the experience of the other. There is the refusal to confront the history of "anti-vaxxer" oppression and the ways it continues to shape the present. There is the refusal to share space. There is the refusal to face structural causes
Community Activities
£14.7m Lottery cash boost to tackle loneliness in East Lindsey's older people
Ageing Better was originally a six-year (2015-2021), £78 million programme set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to improve the lives of people aged over 50 by addressing loneliness and developing creative ways they can be actively involved in their local communities. Almost 150,000 people have been supported through Ageing Better across 14 locations, from Torbay to Middlesbrough and the Isle of Wight to East Lindsey, with 60% feeling less lonely and a third being more involved with local activities. The National Ageing Better Programme was due to end in 2021, but the partnerships have been awarded a further £6 million with the funding intended to alleviate the difficulties experienced by communities as a result of COVID-19.
COVID-19: Millions of people told they no longer need to shield from coronavirus
More than 90% have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. People who were shielding can access priority supermarket delivery slots until 21 June if they have already registered.
Working Remotely
Mothers bear the cost of the pandemic shift to remote work
For many parents, the COVID-19 pandemic has made life's everyday juggling act--managing work, school, extracurricular, and household responsibilities--much, much harder. And according to a new study led by Penn sociologists, those extra burdens have fallen disproportionately on mothers. The research, shared in the April issue of the journal Gender and Society, investigated how shifts in work and school that arose due to the pandemic triggered changes in the division of labor in families. Using data on two-parent households from a nationwide survey conducted in April 2020, the researchers found that gender disparities in unpaid labor were most apparent when a mother was the only parent working from home, or when neither parent was able to work remotely.
Virtual Classrooms
Teaching in the hall of mirrors: should faculty ever mention appearance?
In a traditional classroom, teachers and students didn’t have to see themselves while learning was taking place. That power of invisibility could be liberating, allowing everyone to focus on the subject matter. Now, people are learning in environments more akin to ballet studios, in which everyone can see themselves. The issue of appearance is almost impossible to avoid. Holding up mirrors to ourselves can be uncomfortable. And with teleconferencing technologies such as Zoom, the ugly behaviour of teachers might also be on display. For example, a video went viral recently that showed an instructor berating a disabled student. In this case, having the camera on made visible the abuse of authority, just as it might reveal a lack of deference from students joining class from beds or cars. To imagine alternatives to the surveillance paradigm, educators should pay attention to why young people are using platforms that allow social interaction without visual scrutiny.
Virtual classes make hunt for missing students harder
A year into the pandemic, the struggle with chronic absenteeism exacerbated by virtual schooling is being felt across the country. Data showing higher levels of absenteeism have increased concerns that school closures and a turn to remote learning will widen academic achievement gaps between poor students and others. It's not necessarily long-term absences from school that are most worrying to school officials. According to the Georgia Department of Education, "missing more than five days of school each year (...) begins to impact student academic performance."
Public Policies
Coronavirus: how wealthy nations are creating a ‘vaccine apartheid’
A chorus of activists are calling for changes to intellectual property laws in hopes of beginning to boost Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing globally, and addressing the gaping disparity between rich and poor nations’ access to coronavirus vaccines. The US and a handful of other wealthy vaccine-producing nations are on track to deliver vaccines to all adults who want them in the coming months, while dozens of the world’s poorest countries have not inoculated a single person. Activists have dubbed the disparity a “vaccine apartheid” and called for the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies to share technical know-how in an effort to speed the global vaccination project.
COVID-19: Irish lockdown to be eased from mid-April with two fully vaccinated people allowed to meet indoors
The Irish government has announced some easing to strict lockdown restrictions from mid-April, including allowing two fully vaccinated people to meet indoors. Speaking in Dublin, the prime minister Micheal Martin said the coronavirus was "a different beast" from the one that Ireland faced during the first lockdown last year, due to the B.117 variant, also known as the UK or Kent variant.
Kyiv sets strict lockdown amid record COVID-19 death toll
Ukraine’s capital Kyiv will impose a strict lockdown from April 5 amid a gloomy prediction for a further surge in infections and a record daily number of coronavirus-related deaths, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Wednesday. Ukraine’s Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said there were 407 coronavirus-related deaths recorded in the country over the past 24 hours, and warned infections were likely to rise further over the next one to two weeks.
Covid: France schools to close under third lockdown
French schools will close for at least three weeks as part of new national restrictions to fight rising Covid cases, President Emmanuel Macron says. Mr Macron said that schools would move to remote learning from next week. Lockdown measures, introduced in some areas of France earlier this month, are also being extended to other districts. All non-essential shops are to close from Saturday and there will be a ban on travelling more than 10km (six miles) from home without good reason. The country is facing a peak of over 5,000 people in intensive care.
14 countries and WHO chief accuse China of withholding data from pandemic origins investigation
It was supposed to offer insight into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. But since its release on Tuesday, the long-awaited World Health Organization investigation has drawn criticism from governments around the world over accusations it is incomplete and lacks transparency. In a joint statement, the United States and 13 other governments, including the United Kingdom, Australia and South Korea, expressed concerns over the study's limited access to "complete, original data and samples." The European Union issued its own statement, expressing the same concerns in slightly softer language. The criticism follows an admission from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, that investigators faced problems during their four-week mission to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in December 2019.
Maintaining Services
NI Covid-19 vaccine extended to those aged 45-49
Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme has been extended to the next age group. People in the 45-49 age bracket can now book to have their jab at a vaccination centre or participating community pharmacy. Those eligible for vaccination also have the option of waiting for their GP to contact them to arrange their jab. The 45-49 age bracket is defined as everyone born between 01/04/1971 and 31/03/1976. Health Minister Robin Swann said: "I would encourage everyone who is eligible to get the jab as soon as possible. "I have something of an interest to declare with today’s announcement as I fall into the 45-49 age group. "I am looking forward to getting my jab very shortly."
Amid AstraZeneca setback, Germany banks on homegrown vaccine
As Germany ponders how to accelerate its sluggish coronavirus vaccination campaign after yet another hitch involving the AstraZeneca shot, a production facility in the historic pharmaceutical center of Marburg may hold part of the answer to reliable supply in the months and years ahead. BioNTech, the German company that developed the first widely used vaccine together with U.S. partner Pfizer, is busily starting up a production facility that it says can produce up to a billion doses this year alone. That estimate was raised from the original hopes for 700 million.
Governments, Sanofi unveil nearly $1B for vaccine-manufacturing site
Three levels of government unveiled funding for a nearly $1 billion expansion of drug-maker Sanofi’s vaccine manufacturing facility in Toronto to support future domestic production of influenza and coronavirus vaccines. The funding, announced at a joint news conference Wednesday, will allow French pharmaceutical company Sanofi S.A. to build an “end-to-end bulk vaccine manufacturing facility” at the firm’s North York campus in Toronto, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said. The project, which is expected to be fully operational by 2026, is meant to prepare Canada for vaccine self-sufficiency during future pandemics. When complete, it will enable “state-of-the-art” product formulation, filling, inspection and packaging of vaccines. “This project of nearly $1 billion is one of the largest-ever bio-manufacturing investments that has been (made) in Canadian history,” Champagne said.
Some Johnson & Johnson Covid Vaccine Doses Delayed in US by Factory Mix-Up
Workers at a Baltimore plant manufacturing two coronavirus vaccines accidentally conflated the vaccines’ ingredients several weeks ago, ruining about 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and forcing regulators to delay authorization of the plant’s production lines. The plant is run by Emergent BioSolutions, a manufacturing partner to both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Federal officials attributed the mistake to human error. The mixup has halted future shipments of Johnson & Johnson doses in the United States while the Food and Drug Administration investigates. Johnson & Johnson has moved to strengthen its control over Emergent BioSolutions’ work to avoid further quality lapses.
Hungarian journalists accuse gov’t of censoring COVID reporting
Hungarian journalists have accused the government of putting lives at risk by barring the media from covering the full extent of what is now the world’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak. In an open letter published by most of the country’s independent news outlets on Wednesday, reporters said they had been blocked from hospitals and barred from speaking to medics, making it impossible to alert the public to the crisis.
Healthcare Innovations
University scientists deconstruct Covid-19 vaccines and publish 'recipe' on open web
Scientists have determined the “recipes” for two Covid-19 vaccines using leftovers in vials bound for the trash and published the mRNA sequences on Github, the online repository for software code. The group of scientists from Stanford University were able to determine the sequences of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and included the mRNA sequences in a post they published on Github last week, tech news site Motherboard first reported. Experts say the publication will help researchers around the world better identify when testing samples whether they are looking at sequences from the Covid-19 virus or vaccines to treat the virus, because they can give false positives.
Pfizer, BioNTech: COVID vaccine effective in teens
Pfizer and BioNTech today announced that their COVID-19 vaccine was 100% effective and triggered a robust antibody response in a phase 3 US trial involving 2,260 adolescents 12 to 15 years old. The immune responses in that age-group, the companies said, exceeded those recorded previously among 16- to 25-year-olds. The companies say they plan to submit the data to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of the vaccine in this age-group. "The initial results we have seen in the adolescent studies suggest that children are particularly well protected by vaccination, which is very encouraging given the trends we have seen in recent weeks regarding the spread of the B.1.1.7 UK variant," BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in the companies' press release.
AstraZeneca COVID vaccine 70% effective vs B117 variant
Data from a UK phase 2/3 clinical trial suggest the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-vaccine is 70.4% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 caused by the B117 variant, which was identified in the United Kingdom in late 2020. The data, published in The Lancet yesterday, also showed it was 28.9% effective at preventing asymptomatic infections or cases with unknown symptoms. Overall efficacy was 61.7% against the B117 variant and 77.3% against other variants, according to the study. The vaccine was 81.5% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 caused by non-B117 strains.
Fewer than 5% of COVID-19 infections are acquired in schools, Canadian simulation study finds
Several simulations were run in which schools were reopened but different measures in the community were in place. In each scenario, the schools had measures in place such as capping class sizes, students staying in one classroom during the day and universal masking. School-acquired coronavirus infections made up 3.15% of all cases in the first scenario, 4.19% in the second and 2.37% in the third. Researchers say this shows that other mitigation measures should be taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 before schools are closed