"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 17th May 2021

Isolation Tips
Lockdown has encouraged older people to embrace technology, reconnect and build new relationships
The COVID-19 lockdown was a catalyst for many older people to embrace technology, reconnect with friends and build new relationships with neighbors, according to University of Stirling research. Understanding the coping mechanisms adopted by some over 60s during the pandemic will play a key role in developing interventions to help tackle loneliness, isolation and wellbeing in the future.
If people don’t get paid to self-isolate, UK Covid cases could rise again
The British government has failed to provide adequate support for people self-isolating during the pandemic. Too many still fear they won’t be able to afford time off work should they need to stay at home. Compliance with self-isolation has been worryingly low, with some surveys showing that only around a half of people with Covid-19 symptoms stick to the legal requirement to self-isolate. Evidence suggests that financial barriers are a key reason people don’t comply, but the government has failed to fix this blind spot by protecting people from lost earnings when they are required to isolate. With social restrictions set to ease further, now is the time to address this critical flaw in the government’s pandemic response. Any failure to provide vital self-isolation support could undermine the government’s entire roadmap out of lockdown, putting paid to everything from the vaccine rollout to the expensive test-and-trace system.
Hygiene Helpers
COVID-19: Surge testing for Indian and South African variants under way across England
Surge testing to tackle an outbreak of the Indian variant of coronavirus is under way in parts of England. Extra resources to ensure widespread community testing in targeted locations within east London - including Shoreditch and Dalston - have been put in place after the South African variant was also found. The infections occurred in three workplaces in the area, Hackney Council said.
Mask mandates might be going away, but don’t ditch yours just yet, scientists caution
Fully vaccinated people are exhaling this weekend, ditching masks and easing up on social distancing, per the latest Covid-19 guidance put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new advice marks a significant milestone in the nation’s effort to stamp out the disease, and signals the beginning of a return to normalcy. But scientists say there are good reasons not to toss out your mask stash just yet. “It’s important to not see this change as a signal that this means that the pandemic is over or that there is no capacity for policy reversals in the future,” said William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
U.S. Vaccine Rollout Expands to Children Ages 12 to 15
The first mass campaign to inoculate children against the coronavirus officially began in the United States on Thursday, after the federal government recommended making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available to children ages 12 to 15. Teenagers 16 and older became eligible in most states last month. From Seattle to San Antonio to New York, children in graphic T-shirts and sports jerseys shuffled into vaccination centers, skipping math classes to get vaccinated and, at times, holding a parent’s hand the moment the shot entered their arm. It was a far different scene than only a few months ago, when it was seniors over the age of 65 who descended on vaccination centers, and a marker of how far the country has come in its race to vaccinate the majority of the American population.
'Hugely encouraging' milestone as three million Scots receive coronavirus vaccine
More than three million Scots have now had their first coronavirus vaccine. Scottish Government chiefs have said today that the first doses have now reached a massive two thirds of the adult population as of last night. Health bosses are moving through the programme to vaccinate those aged 40 to 49 years old and more than 50% of this age group having come forward so far. Next up will be those in their 30s who will be offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after health complaints from some younger people about the jab.
COVID-19: Big changes in the rules for people who are fully vaccinated in the US
Vaccinated people in the US will be allowed to stop wearing their face masks in most settings. Masks are no longer being recommended for vaccinated people when they are in crowded places outdoors and in most indoor settings - and they won't have to follow social distancing measures either. The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) changed its guidance for fully vaccinated people on Thursday. Masks will still need to be worn in crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters.
COVID-19: Portugal confirms UK tourists with negative coronavirus test allowed to travel from Monday
Portugal has confirmed that tourists from the UK will be able to travel to the country from Monday. The country's foreign affairs minister has said anyone arriving from 17 May must have had a negative PCR result within the previous 72 hours. Existing travel restrictions on travel into the country from Britain will end on Sunday, the minister confirmed in a statement released by Portugal's tourist board, Visit Portugal.
UK races to test, vaccinate as virus variant threatens plans
British health workers, aided by the army, distributed coronavirus tests door-to-door Saturday in two towns in northern England, seeking to contain a fast-spreading variant that threatens plans to lift all lockdown restrictions next month. Cases of a variant first identified in India have more than doubled in a week, defying a sharp nationwide downward trend in infections won by months of restrictions and a rapid vaccination campaign. Government scientific advisers say this variant is likely more transmissible than even the U.K.’s dominant strain, though it’s unclear by how much.
Amazon offers $100 vaccine bonus to entice 75,000 US workers
Amazon is seeking to hire 75,000 people in a tight job market and is offering bonuses to attract United States workers, including $100 for new hires who are already vaccinated against COVID-19. The jobs are for delivery and warehouse workers, who pack and ship online orders. Amazon, which already pays at least $15 an hour, gave out raises for some of its workers last month, and the company said Thursday that new hires will make an average of $17 an hour.
Community Activities
Police move revellers off streets as Barcelona parties after lockdown easing
Spanish police said they cleared 9,000 revellers from Barcelona's city centre streets and the nearby beach on Sunday to prevent dangerous overcrowding on the first full weekend after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Many in the crowd had taken part in mass drinking sessions known as "botellones", police said. Culture Minister José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, speaking at an event in Madrid, urged young people to continue to follow social distancing rules.
Peterborough’s Sikh community raises thousands to support Covid relief effort in India
India is currently experiencing a deadly second wave of the virus that is stretching what is already a fragile health system in many areas of the country to breaking point. One of the main problems is the lack of space in hospitals and scarcity of oxygen supplies. To help with this, Sikhs from the Gurdwara Baba Budha Sahib Ji on Royce Road put out an appeal for help within the city’s Sikh community. In just over a week, they were able to raise £8000, which was presented as a cheque to Khalsa-Aid International
Mental Health Awareness Week 2021: Cambridgeshire charity opens up about supporting people through lockdown
Over the last year, living in and out of lockdowns and under a range of restrictions, it has become more important and apparent than ever before, that we need to take care of our mental health. Many people have suffered during the pandemic, from the anxiety of living through a global health pandemic to the feelings of loneliness and isolation as we were told to keep our distance from friends and family. One Cambridgeshire charity has been on the frontlines of this, helping those who are struggling with their mental health. Lifecraft has been in operation for around 25 years and is a user-led mental health organisation based in Cambridge. Given the pandemic, Lifecraft has had to adapt its services, moving face-to-face groups online and over the phone.
Bradford's Hindu community rallies to support Covid-19 appeal in time of crisis
The Hindu community in Bradford has been contributing to national efforts to help those in India devastated by Covid-19. The country has been hit hard by the virus in recent weeks, with terrible scenes broadcast across the world. The Bradford Hindu Council (BHC) has been helping to fundraise for Sewa UK, which has been sending out things like oxygen concentrators (pictured above) and essential family kits, as well as supporting orphanages and elderly homes.
Critics of Tokyo Olympics submit petition urging cancellation
Critics of Japan’s plan to hold the Tokyo Olympics despite a fourth wave of coronavirus infections submitted a petition on Friday signed by 350,000 people over nine days calling for the Games to be cancelled. "Stop Tokyo Olympics" campaign organiser Kenji Utsunomiya said the global festival of sport - already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic - should take place only when Japan can welcome visitors and athletes wholeheartedly.
Working Remotely
The Post-Covid Office Needs a Makeover to Get Its Workers Back
A quiet revolution has permeated global health circles. Authorities have come to accept what many researchers have argued for over a year: The coronavirus can spread through the air. That new acceptance, by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comes with concrete implications: Scientists are calling for ventilation systems to be overhauled like public water supplies were in the 1800s after fetid pipes were found to harbor cholera. Cleaner indoor air won’t just fight the pandemic, it will minimize the risk of catching flu and other respiratory infections that cost the U.S. more than $50 billion a year, researchers said in a study in the journal Science on Friday. Avoiding these germs and their associated sickness and productivity losses would, therefore, offset the cost of upgrading ventilation and filtration in buildings.
Ireland's remote workers find sanctuary in the sticks
As a child, award-winning artisan baker Patrick Ryan remembers visiting his grandparents in Wicklow town. Before Christmas he opened a second store there. Though Covid restrictions have posed social distancing challenges to Ryan’s new venture, they have also helped. While previously the town’s large commuter contingent were in Dublin all day, now they are working from home — and hungry for fresh bread and pastries. “The buying culture has changed, too. I think people now have more appreciation of the independent businesses on their doorstep,” Ryan says. He is not the only one to think so. A number of new businesses have opened in the town, including a café and a patisserie, changing a pattern of shop closures that stretched back to the recession
Here's the tech you should bring along if you plan to work from your vacation spot
Only 10% of employees want to return to the office post-pandemic, according to a Hibob survey, a people management platform. Employers seem to like this flexible work environment, too. A recent PwC report found 83% of companies said the shift to remote work has been positive. Naturally, there are exceptions on both sides – not to mention several jobs cannot be performed from home – but those who can (and enjoy it) can rely on technology to remain productive while away from a conventional office.
Ireland wants pandemic-era remote working to revive its rural towns
In March, the Irish government unveiled a plan to revive the country’s rural economy by enticing more people to work remotely. A long-standing challenge for rural Ireland has been the migration to urban areas. With the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic and what can be achieved through remote working, the Our Rural Future plan aims to incentivize more people to stay in or move to non-urban areas. The plan commits to providing financial support for local authorities to turn vacant properties in towns into remote working hubs. This includes a plan for “over 400 remote working facilities” across the country.
Death of the call centre? Workers ring in the changes during WFH era
A new message frequently punctuates the muzak as customers wait to speak to a call centre worker nowadays: a recording warning them to expect “home life noises in the background” once someone answers. “A friend of mine heard splashing water when she called her bank,” said consultant Ursula Huws, a long-term advocate for staff to be allowed to do their jobs from home and who coined the term teleworking in the early 1980s. “The agent revealed she was in the bath. For an industry historically so resistant to remote working, that speaks volumes about how far things have come in the past 12 months.” Before coronavirus arrived in the UK, only 3.8 per cent of the country’s 812,000 call centre workers were based at home, according to research group ContactBabel — below the 5.1 per cent average for the working population.
'Burning out': Remote workers report paying a price for increased productivity
Remote workers in Canada are logging more hours, experiencing more stress, and feeling less engaged with their work, according to a new survey. The online survey, conducted by ADP Canada and Angus Reid, asked 1,501 Canadians working remotely and in person to evaluate their experience working during the pandemic, including their work hours, productivity, engagement, stress levels, and quality of their work. The survey found that 44 per cent of remote workers reported they were logging more hours of work than they were in pre-pandemic times. Of those, one in ten reported working an additional day, or more than eight extra hours per week.
Costa del Covid: Millennials swap UK drizzle to work remotely in Spain and gain post-Brexit rights
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to thousands of home working millennials to move out of small flats in the UK’s major cities and into large villas in Spain. According to research from European homes portal Kyero there has been a 446 per cent leap in younger British people looking for a life by warm Spanish seas in the past year, with the “corona nomads” revelling in the benefit of a UK income and the lower cost of living. Martin Dell, co-founder of Kyero, says: “Widespread remote working over recent months has had a significant impact on the types of people looking to buy property in Spain and the rest of Europe. Greater numbers of younger people, and those now working remotely full time – ‘Corona nomads’ – are considering a move abroad as we all become less tied to the office and are able to live, work and play where we really want to.”
Public Policies
Trinidad and Tobago declares state of emergency as COVID-19 cases surge
Trinidad and Tobago will impose a state of emergency from midnight to contain an increase of COVID-19 cases and related deaths, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said on Saturday. Rowley also imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time, with some exceptions to essential services including the energy sector, supermarkets, and pharmacies. The twin island state was experiencing a third wave of COVID-19, Rowley said.
India promises more vaccines as daily COVID-19 deaths stay above 4000
Some Indian states said on Sunday they would extend COVID-19 lockdowns to help contain the pandemic, which has killed more than 270,000 people in the country, as the federal government pledged to bolster vaccine supplies. The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours in India has risen more than 4,000 for the fourth time in a week, with Sunday's 311,170 new infections representing the lowest single-day rise in more than three weeks.
Turkey to ease daytime lockdown measures from Monday but curfews to stay - ministry
Turkey will start easing its strict coronavirus lockdown on Monday by allowing movement during the day while keeping overnight and weekend curfews in place, the Interior Ministry said in a directive on Sunday. President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey would gradually ease out of a full lockdown imposed 2-1/2 weeks ago, and lift restrictions more significantly in June. Turkish authorities tightened coronavirus measures after the number of daily COVID-19 cases soared above 60,000 in April, one of the highest rates globally, and deaths reached nearly 400 a day.
Greece extends coronavirus lockdown on Kalymnos island
Greece has extended a lockdown on the island of Kalymnos for a week on Saturday as coronavirus infections there remained high, authorities said. Under the lockdown imposed on May 4, residents are allowed to leave home only for workplaces that remain open, to visit the doctor or pharmacy, to walk their pets or for shopping until 6 p.m. at the supermarket. They can leave the island only for health reasons. The restrictions will remain in place until 6 a.m. on May 24.
Ecuador approves for use Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine
Ecuador approved for emergency use Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad, said on Saturday. “Ecuador joins a number of other nations of South America which have included Sputnik V in their coronavirus vaccine portfolios,” Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said in a statement.
Share COVID jabs instead of vaccinating kids, WHO urges
The World Health Organization has urged rich countries to reconsider plans to vaccinate children and instead donate COVID-19 shots to the COVAX scheme that shares them with poorer nations. The WHO is hoping more countries will follow France and Sweden in donating shots to COVAX after inoculating their priority populations to help address a gulf in vaccination rates. Canada and the United States are among countries that have authorised vaccines for use in adolescents in recent weeks. However, a WHO official said talks with Washington on sharing doses were under way.
Maintaining Services
COVID-19: Local lockdowns can't be ruled out to curb spread of Indian variant in places like Bolton and Blackburn
In England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has not ruled out imposing local lockdown restrictions in places worst affected by the Indian variant of coronavirus. In Bolton, where a number of people have ended up in hospitals with the Indian variant, the "vast majority" of those patients had been eligible for a COVID jab but not yet had one, Mr Hancock said.
Australia sticks by plan to re-open border in mid-2022
Australia is sticking to plans to start re-opening to the rest of the world only from the middle of next year, officials said on Sunday, resisting mounting pressure to end the closure of international borders. In March 2020, Australia closed its borders to non-nationals and non-residents and has since been allowing only limited international arrivals, mainly citizens returning from abroad. "All the way through we will be guided by the medical advice," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a televised briefing. "We will be guided by the economic advice."
All over-50s to get second dose of Covid-19 vaccine early in bid to prevent deadly wave due to Indian variant
In England, everyone over 50 or with a pre-existing health condition should now get a second dose of the coronavirus vaccine eight weeks after their first in order to boost their protection against Covid-19 in light of the growing Indian variant. The independent regulator has recommended the change in strategy in order to reduce the number of people who are vulnerable to serious illness if the spread of the new strain leads to a spike in infections. Ministers are confident the new approach can be delivered without slowing down the rollout of first doses to the under-40s, because most people waiting for a second dose have received Oxford/AstraZeneca whereas younger cohorts will be given Pfizer or Moderna instead.
Japanese gov't to boost domestic coronavirus vaccine development as 'national strategy'
The Japanese government is quickly crafting a new strategy to boost development of domestic coronavirus vaccines, the Mainichi Shimbun learned on May 13. The government has created a framework for the new strategy to boost coronavirus vaccine development and a production system, based on lessons learned from delays in developing domestic vaccines. Setting the development of domestic vaccines as a "national strategy to tackle on a long-term and continuous basis," the government intends to incorporate items such as forming and funding a research and development hub to boost vaccine development with new technologies, arranging a clinical trial environment and revising the pharmaceutical approval system.
'I'm finally here': Greece formally opens to tourists
Greece formally opened to visitors on Saturday, kicking off a summer season it hopes will resurrect its vital tourism industry battered by the coronavirus pandemic. After months of lockdown restrictions, Greece also opened its museums this week, including the Acropolis museum, home to renowned sculptures from Greek antiquity. "I feel really alive and good because it has been such a hard and long year because of COVID," said Victoria Sanchez, a 22-year-old student on holiday from the Czech Republic.
India's Cipla says supply of COVID-19 drug remdesivir catching up with demand
India's Cipla said on Saturday that its manufacturing of the COVID-19 remdesivir drug was beginning to catch up with demand after the company sought to boost production amid a massive second wave of coronavirus infections in the country. Backorders and complaints over low supply started moderating in the second week of May, the drugmaker said, after it began ramping up production of the antiviral drug last month. Hospitals have faced shortages of the drug, which is being widely used and was sold in April for over 10 times its listed price in the black market.
India's Dr. Reddy's to get 36 mln doses of Sputnik V vaccine in next few months
Indian drugmaker Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Ltd said on Friday it expects to get 36 million doses of Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in the next couple of months under its contract with Russia's sovereign wealth fund. India's catastrophic second wave of the pandemic has led to huge demand for vaccines, which in turn has left the country, the world's biggest vaccine producer, low on stocks
Healthcare Innovations
Italian study shows COVID-19 infections, deaths plummeting after jabs
COVID-19 infections in adults of all ages fell by 80% five weeks after a first dose of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine, according to Italian research published on Saturday. The first such study by a European Union country on the real-world impact of its immunisation campaign was carried out by Italy's National Institute of Health and the Ministry of Health on 13.7 million people vaccinated nationwide. Scientists started studying data from the day Italy's vaccination campaign began, on Dec. 27 2020, until May 3 2021. The analysis showed that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation, and death decreased progressively after the first two weeks following the initial vaccination.
‘Pan-coronavirus’ vaccine shows early promise in monkeys and mice, research finds
A universal vaccine that could offer protection against Covid variants, along with a variety of other coronavirus infections, including Sars and Mers, has been found to be effective in monkeys and mice, scientists say.
Nearly 12,000 lives saved by vaccines so far in England - analysis
The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in England has prevented nearly 12,000 deaths and more than 30,000 hospitalisations in older people, an analysis by government agency Public Health England (PHE) said on Friday. Britain has given two-thirds of its adult population at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine, helping Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his efforts to reopen the economy by the summer.
Delayed second Pfizer COVID-19 shot produces more antibodies -study
Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine generates antibody responses three-and-a-half times larger in older people when a second dose is delayed to 12 weeks after the first, a British study said. The study released on Friday is the first to directly compare immune responses of the Pfizer shot from the three-week dosing interval tested in clinical trials, and the extended 12-week interval that British officials recommend in order to give more vulnerable people at least some protection quickly.
COVID mRNA vaccines induce immune response in pregnant, lactating women
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines trigger an immune response in pregnant and breastfeeding women, and maternal antibodies transfer into infant cord blood and breast milk, a small descriptive study yesterday in JAMA finds. A team led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center researchers in Boston assessed immune response in a convenience sample of 103 pregnant, lactating, and nonpregnant women given either the Pfizer/BioNTech (54%) or the Moderna (46%) COVID-19 vaccine from December 2020 through March 2021. Seventeen percent of pregnant participants received their first vaccine dose in the first trimester, while 50% received it in their second trimester, and 33% got theirs in their final trimester.