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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 8th Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
Red Cross Red Crescent warns of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people in Europe
The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will have far-reaching impacts for entire generations, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Several studies by Red Cross and Red Crescent societies across Europe show an alarming pattern, which requires increased efforts to tackle inequity and assist those most in need. Antónia de Barros Mota, head of Mental Health/Psychosocial Support for IFRC Europe, said: “The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are like invisible scars or hidden wounds. Young people and children are suffering stress, bereavement and loneliness, which can worsen as time passes. Their parents may have lost their jobs. Lockdowns and other restrictions continue to hamper their access to education, training and work.”
Hygiene Helpers
Cupid’s needle? UK under-30s wooed with dating app vaccine bonus
First came the idea of making Covid vaccinations mandatory to go to the pub, while Israel offered free pizza and beer with a shot. Now UK officials have hit on what they hope is an even more persuasive reason for young people to get their jab: more chance of getting a date. In an eye-catching policy coinciding with the rollout of vaccinations for the under-30s beginning this week, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has teamed up with popular dating apps to encourage take-up of the programme. Users of Tinder, Match, Hinge, Bumble, Badoo, Plenty of Fish, OurTime and Muzmatch will enjoy a series of benefits if they add their vaccination status to their profile, including virtual badges and stickers.
India to give adults free COVID shots after surge in infections
India will provide free COVID-19 vaccines to all adults, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, in an effort to rein in a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and led to the world’s second-highest tally of infections. Modi’s announcement came on Monday after weeks of criticism of a bungled vaccine rollout that has covered fewer than 5 percent of India’s estimated adult population of 950 million.
WHO: High vaccination rates can help reduce risk of variants
A top World Health Organization official estimated Monday that COVID-19 vaccination coverage of at least 80% is needed to significantly lower the risk that “imported” coronavirus cases like those linked to new variants could spawn a cluster or a wider outbreak. Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, told a news conference that ultimately, “high levels of vaccination coverage are the way out of this pandemic.” Many rich countries have been moving to vaccinate teenagers and children — who have lower risk of more dangerous cases of COVID-19 than the elderly or people with comorbidities — even as those same countries face pressure to share vaccines with poorer ones that lack them. Britain, which has vastly reduced case counts thanks to an aggressive vaccination campaign, has seen a recent uptick in cases attributed largely to the so-called delta variant that originally appeared in India — a former British colony.
Putin Wants 'Vaccine Tourism' Plan by End-June
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday asked the government to put together a plan by the end of June to bring “vaccine tourism” to Russia. “There is widespread practice where business people and heads of companies come specifically to Russia to get a jab against the coronavirus,” Putin told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). “In that regard, I would like to ask the government to analyze all aspects of this issue by the end of the month … to be able to organize the conditions for foreign citizens to come to Russia and get vaccinated on a commercial basis,” Putin said.
Where nursing home staff vaccinations lag, COVID-19 outbreaks may follow, experts warn
When 28 residents in two Rochester, New York, nursing homes tested positive for COVID-19 last month, officials there saw the unexpected outbreak as a stark reminder of the potency of the coronavirus vaccine. While much of the country was lining up for shots, by early May, fewer than 45% of the staff across Rochester Regional Health's skilled nursing facilities was fully vaccinated.
Community Activities
Hundreds of former leaders urge G7 to vaccinate poor against Covid-19
One hundred former presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers have urged the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations to pay for global coronavirus vaccinations to help stop the virus mutating and returning as a worldwide threat. The leaders made their appeal ahead of a G7 summit in England which begins on Friday, when US President Joe Biden will meet the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. It's the first time the G7 leaders have met since the start of the pandemic. The three-day summit will cover a range of issues, with a particular focus on how the group can lead the global recovery from coronavirus. In their letter to the G7, the former world leaders said global cooperation had failed in 2020, but that 2021 could usher in a new era.
COVID-19 misinformation was mainly spread online by bots in Facebook groups, study finds
Bot accounts used Facebook groups to quickly and massively distribute misinformation, a new study claims. Researchers looked at posts about a Danish study that found inconclusive data as to whether or not wearing a mask reduced transmission of COVID-19. Bot-created posts misinterpreted the findings and claimed masks were harmful to their wearer - a conclusion that never appears in the research. Not all public health experts agree that Facebook and other social media platforms should 'censor' misinformation
Honda India Foundation opens COVID-19 isolation centres in Haryana & Rajasthan
Facilitating healthcare infrastructure and support for COVID-19 patients, Honda India Foundation has set up COVID care isolation centres in the states of Haryana and Rajasthan. With a focus on medical support and care for patients, especially in rural areas, the foundation has already started operations at these centres with a capacity of 100 beds at Naurangpur (Haryana) and 50 beds at Tapukara (Rajasthan) respectively. The two facilities, set-up in association with Haryana and Rajasthan state governments, have round the clock supervision by trained doctors and nurses along with other medical arrangements.
78 percent of unvaccinated Americans unlikely to change their minds: Gallup
More than 3 in 4 Americans who have yet to receive a coronavirus vaccine say it is unlikely they ever will, according to a new poll. Among U.S. adults who do not plan to be vaccinated, 78 percent said in a Gallup poll released Monday they are unlikely to reconsider their plans. Roughly half — 51 percent — indicated they are "not likely at all" to change their mind and get vaccinated. Overall, just 1 in 5 vaccine-reluctant adults said they are open to reconsidering, with 2 percent saying they are "very likely" and 19 percent saying they are "somewhat likely" to ever get inoculated.
With Covid-19, as with HIV, science and partnerships with communities lead the way
Like so many of her generation, Josephine Nabukenya wasn’t aware of her HIV status during her early childhood in Uganda. But when she was 8 years old, she came across a letter written by her mother that revealed the devastating news: Josephine and her mother and father were all living with HIV. Josephine was HIV-positive at birth. Now a 27-year-old youth worker at the Makerere University Johns Hopkins University Research Collaboration in Kampala, Uganda, Josephine is one of the hundreds of thousands of children who belong to a generation born HIV-positive but who are alive today due to the power of antiretroviral medication — and political activism.
Working Remotely
The 'Zoom towns' luring remote workers to rural enclaves
Although some urban centres across the world have also established programmes to entice workers to relocate, a taste for a slower, more outdoorsy option has recently emerged, especially in the US. A new study from the Pew Research Center found that one in 20 US adults have moved in response to Covid-19, with those younger than 30 most likely to have made the change. Many are urbanites from major coastal cities, like New York and San Francisco, who were spurred by the growing disconnect between stagnant wages and rising living costs as well as the prospect of bigger spaces and access to nature in the American interior. Now that influential companies like Facebook and Twitter have set the tone for long-term remote work even after the pandemic ends, this young talent has been emboldened to seek out new horizons.
Working from home post-pandemic could offer mixed results for women, researchers say
According to Statistics Canada, nearly a third of Canadians worked from home at the beginning of 2021, compared with just four per cent in 1996. An Angus Reid survey conducted in 2020 suggests that two-thirds of Canadians who work from home expect that to continue post-pandemic. Both surveys suggest most employees would prefer a hybrid model that would allow them to work remotely but occasionally pop into the office. As the number of daily COVID-19 cases declines across Canada and a return to more normal work life looms, some wonder what impact a hybrid workplace could have on employees — especially for women, who have traditionally sought out more flexible options to help them juggle work with family responsibilities.
Working In Sweatpants May Be Over As Companies Contemplate The Great Office Return
Fifteen months into the pandemic, Brookfield's office buildings in Washington are only at about 14% occupancy, down from 80% in normal times. Companies that ordered their employees to work from home in March 2020 are only now starting to bring them back into the office. Some are waiting until fall to bring back workers in significant numbers, while others have no plans to return to pre-pandemic work arrangements at all. Navigating the return to the office is a delicate operation that has the potential to define a company's culture for years. What happens over the coming months could also have a profound effect on cities such as Washington. In survey after survey, an overwhelming majority of workers say they want flexible work options to continue.
Virtual Classrooms
How COVID changed schools outreach
Pandemic lockdowns around the world have created challenges for researchers who want to inspire the next generation of scientists. Closed laboratories have prevented them from hosting work-experience students, and emptied classrooms and museums have limited or barred opportunities to share stories and experiments in person. Outreach organizers have been under particular pressure to adopt creative solutions because many programmes are targeted at groups that are under-represented in science, or at schools in deprived neighbourhoods. Students in many such schools have missed out on crucial lab experience because of closures, the challenges of home schooling and cancelled exams. As happened with conference presenters and university lecturers’ switch last year to virtual sessions and classes, respectively, outreach organizers’ adoption of digital formats was abrupt and unprecedented. But they have learnt that virtual outreach schemes can engage participants just as much as in-person activities can, can offer more flexibility and can also draw larger audiences.
Public Policies
MHRA authorises Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds
The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has extended the authorisation of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 15 years old. On Friday, the MHRA announced that it had concluded that the jab is safe and effectiveness in the younger age group,
PH approves Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use
The Philippines has approved for emergency use the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China state-owned Sinopharm, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Monday. In a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said they have already authorized the Department of Health (DOH) to accept Sinopharm COVID-19 shots. “So ito po ay tinignan na rin ng ating mga experts at ang ating pong evaluation sa FDA, today, we already granted an emergency use authorization [EUA] to the DOH to accept the donations of Sinopharm,” Domingo said.
Uganda re-imposes lockdown to beat back COVID-19 case surge
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday re-imposed a strict lockdown that included the closure of schools and the suspension of inter-district travel to help beat back a surge in COVID-19 cases in the East African country. The new measures, which will be effective from Monday morning, include the closure of all educational institutions, some bans on travel, the shutdown of weekly open markets, and the suspension of church services. Most of the new restrictions, Museveni said, would be implemented for 42 days. An assessment of their impact will then help the government decide whether to ease or prolong them, he added.
India reopens major cities as new COVID cases hit two-month low
Key Indian cities have reopened for business, with long queues for buses in the financial hub of Mumbai while traffic returned to the roads of New Delhi after a devastating second wave of coronavirus that killed hundreds of thousands. The 100,636 new infections of the past 24 hours were the lowest in the world’s second-most populous nation since April 6, and well off last month’s peaks of more than 400,000, allowing authorities to reopen parts of the economy.
US to donate 750,000 COVID jabs to Taiwan amid China row
The United States will give Taiwan 750,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, as part of the country’s plan to share millions of jabs globally, a delegation of US senators have announced, after Taipei complained that China was hindering its efforts to access the injections. Senator Tammy Duckworth, who landed in Taiwan with two of her colleagues on Sunday, said their trip underscores the bipartisan support for the democratic island that Beijing claims as its own territory.
U.S. report concluded COVID-19 may have leaked from Wuhan lab
A report on the origins of COVID-19 by a U.S. government national laboratory concluded the hypothesis claiming the virus leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the classified document. The study was prepared in May 2020 by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and was referred by the State Department when it conducted an inquiry into the pandemic's origins during the final months of the Trump administration, the report added.
Maintaining Services
WHO's Tedros hopes African COVID vaccine sites to near production by end-2021
World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday he hopes African COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing sites will be identified and some even close to producing by the end of 2021, in the race to deliver more shots to the continent. While Tedros did not provide specifics on which country, Reuters has reported that Senegal could begin producing COVID-19 vaccines next year under an agreement with Belgian biotech group Univercells aimed at boosting Africa's drug-manufacturing ambitions.
Norway shortens interval between COVID-19 vaccine doses
Norway will shorten the interval between COVID-19 vaccine doses to nine weeks from the current 12 weeks, thus speeding up the inoculation process, the health ministry said on Monday. "We'll have ample supply of vaccines in the time ahead," Health Minister Bent Hoeie said in a statement. Norway uses vaccines made by Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) as well as the Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE.N) partnership, each requiring two injections. "Reducing the dose interval is part of the Institute of Public Health's strategy to ensure that the population is fully vaccinated as quickly as possible," the ministry said
Indonesia reinforces hospitals amid worrying COVID-19 surge in some areas
Indonesian authorities have drafted in more doctors and nurses to two areas on the islands of Java and Madura after hospitals there approached full capacity amid a spike in coronavirus cases, the country's health minister said on Monday. Health experts and officials are worried about the risk of a broader spike in virus cases fuelled by variants and a jump in travel last month as many in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country travelled back to hometowns for holidays after Ramadan.
Covid chaos at airports in rush to flee Portugal before it leaves green list
Thousands of British holidaymakers in Portugal face chaos at airports and Covid testing sites as they rush to return before quarantine rules change tomorrow. The government abruptly announced that Portugal would be moved from the green list of approved travel destinations to the amber list last Thursday. Passengers have until 4am tomorrow morning to return or they must quarantine for ten days. Anyone flying home must have proof of a negative Covid test taken no more than three days before their departure or face a £500 fine, but testing centres in Portugal were overwhelmed by the sudden demand.
First Slovaks get Sputnik V shots after months of wrangling
Slovakia became the European Union's second country to start inoculating people with the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine on Monday, after months of rows over the shot that has yet to be approved by European regulators. Then-Prime Minister Igor Matovic bought Sputnik V in March, saying it would speed up vaccination efforts. The country of 5.5 million bought 200,000 doses and intended to buy 2 million. The launch of vaccinations was delayed, however, amid a political crisis that erupted because Matovic had done the deal without consulting his coalition partners, who opposed using the vaccine before it had EU approval
Thais debut locally made AstraZeneca but supplies are tight
Health authorities in Thailand began their much-anticipated mass rollout of locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, but it appeared that supplies were falling short of demand from patients who had scheduled vaccinations for this week. Hospitals in various parts of the country have been posting notices for several days that some scheduled appointments would be delayed, adding to existing public skepticism about how many doses Siam Bioscience would be able to produce each month. The government has said it will produce 6 million doses in June, then 10 million doses each month from July to November, and 5 million doses in December.
Egypt to start local production of Sinovac vaccine mid-June- minister
Egypt received 500,000 doses of China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine on monday, airport sources said, as the health ministry said local production of the Chinese vaccine will start in mid-June. Egypt received raw materials for the production of two million Sinovac doses in May, after signing an agreement to produce the vaccine locally and distribute it in Egypt and other African countries. The first vials are due to be produced on June 15 and up to six weeks will be needed for checks before they are put to use in vaccination centres, Health Minister Hala Zayed told the private MBC Masr TV channel late on Sunday.
Healthcare Innovations
A different kind of COVID-19 vaccine is coming, and it could be 'even more protective'
A COVID-19 vaccine different from those made by Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer could be available to Americans "as soon as this summer," NPR reported on Sunday. The three vaccines currently authorized for use in the USA
We’ll Probably Need Booster Shots for Covid-19. But When? And Which Ones?
As the nation edges closer to President Biden’s goal of a 70 percent vaccination rate, many people are beginning to wonder how long their protection will last. For now, scientists are asking a lot of questions about Covid-19 booster shots, but they don’t yet have many answers. The National Institutes of Health recently announced that it has begun a new clinical trial of people fully vaccinated — with any authorized vaccine — to see whether a booster of the Moderna shot will increase their antibodies and prolong protection against getting infected with the virus.
Swapping vaccines may be beneficial against Covid-19, German study suggests
Taking the AstraZeneca jab and then having the Pfizer shot ten weeks later could result in stronger immunity than sticking with the same vaccine for both doses, a German study suggests. The experiment is one of the first to indicate that swapping vaccines may be not only safe and effective but potentially beneficial. However, the research is still in its early days and much remains to be learnt about how various combinations work. There has been much speculation that patients who receive two vaccines based on separate underlying technologies might acquire better protection against Covid-19. This is because the vaccines elicit different forms of immune response from the body.
Would you have your DNA tested to predict how hard COVID-19 would strike? Should you?
For people not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 or still nervous about venturing into crowds, the sales pitch may be alluring: Drool into a tube to provide your DNA and mail it off to see how likely you are to be among the 10% to 15% of people who will end up in the hospital or die from a SARS-CoV-2 infection. That’s the promise of a test an Australian company launched last week in the United States. It combines genetic data with someone’s age, sex, and preexisting medical conditions to predict their risk of becoming extremely ill from COVID-19. The $175 test is based on genetic markers linked to severe COVID-19, along with other risk factors, and the company says it developed its predictions using data on thousands of COVID-19 patients in the United Kingdom. It may be a forerunner of similar risk tests: An academic team has recently detailed a simpler genetic test to help determine how aggressively some people infected with SARS-CoV-2 should be treated.
EMA highlights guidance not to use heparin for COVID-19 vaccine-linked clots
The European Medicines Agency on Monday pushed guidance for doctors not to use the blood thinner heparin to treat rare blood clots and low blood platelets in people who got AstraZeneca's or Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 shots. Europe's drugs regulator, seeking to ensure proper treatment, highlighted the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis interim guidance. In April, the ISTH concluded "management should be initiated with non-heparin anticoagulation upon suspicion" of vaccine-linked clotting and low platelets.
UK minister says Delta variant 40 percent more transmissible
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is estimated to be 40 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant that caused the previous wave of infections in the United Kingdom, Britain’s health minister has said. People who have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine should be equally protected against either variant, he added.
Underlying illness, respiratory infection raise risk for severe COVID in kids
Type 1 diabetes, obesity, heart problems - In the first study, published today in JAMA Network Open, researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used the Premier Healthcare Database Special COVID-19 Release, which houses data from 872 hospitals, to study 43,465 patients 18 and younger who visited an emergency department or were hospitalized for severe COVID-19 from March 2020 to January 2021.
India battles deadly child illness that strikes during Coronavirus recovery
First it was black fungus, then white fungus, then yellow — all rare infections which are causing havoc in adult patients recovering from coronavirus. As India grapples with the eruption of strange Covid-related complications, doctors are now alarmed at a sharp escalation in a life-threatening condition in children recovering from the illness. Last year only three patients with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) were reported but in the second wave more children have caught the virus, leading to more cases. The syndrome catches parents unawares two to six weeks after the Covid infection when they are usually relieved at their child’s recovery. More than 2,000 cases have been recorded across the country, mostly affecting children aged between 5 and 15.
Holidaymakers returning from Portugal had a Covid test positivity rate of 1.5% - three times higher than England's
Three out of 200 travellers returning to the UK tested positive for coronavirus between May 6 and May 19. In England by May 30 the positivity rate of tests taken by members of the public was 0.5%, PHE figures show. Portugal has been demoted from the green list, leaving Brits without a foreign summer holiday destination