|

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 11th Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
People’s odds of loneliness could fall by up to half if cities hit 30% green space targets
One in four Australians feel lonely on three or more days a week. Our longitudinal study, just published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, finds adults in neighbourhoods where at least 30% of nearby land was parks, reserves and woodlands had 26% lower odds of becoming lonely compared to their peers in areas with less than 10% green space. For people living on their own, the associations were even greater – in areas with 30% or more green space the odds of becoming lonely halved. This is good news for cities around the world – including Barcelona, Canberra, Seattle and Vancouver – that have set targets of 30% green cover.
Hygiene Helpers
COVID-19: Vaccine passports or proof of negative test to be used at Wembley for Euro 2020 matches
Vaccine passports will be used at Wembley as one of the ways to allow supporters to attend matches at Euro 2020, UEFA has said. Fans will be required to show proof of full vaccination against coronavirus or a negative lateral flow COVID-19 test within the previous 48 hours before being admitted into the stadium, which is due to host all three of England's group games this month - including their clash with Scotland on 18 June. Their opening match against Croatia on Sunday will be the first time proof of being jabbed is used at a sports event, and people heading to any of the upcoming games will be able to use the NHS app - or the Scottish or Welsh vaccination record services - to show that it's been at least two weeks since they had their second dose.
Wear masks in Euro 2020 crowds, warns EU health body
Euro 2020 fans should avoid attending games if they have any COVID-19 symptoms and wear masks in stadiums allowing around 50% capacity, a European Union agency urged on Thursday, amid concern the tournament could spread infections. The European Championship, postponed last year because of the pandemic, starts on Friday for one month with 11 countries hosting games and stadiums allowing fans back. Budapest aims for full capacity while Saint Petersburg and Baku will have 50%. Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Rome and Seville will use between 25% and 45% of capacity, while Munich will use a minimum 22% capacity and London's Wembley - which hosts the final - a minimum 25% for the initial games.
Paytm, Infosys offer India help in COVID vaccine bookings: Report
Paytm, Infosys and MakeMyTrip are among companies seeking approval in India to provide online COVID-19 vaccine bookings, the head of the government’s tech platform has said, as the country tries to make it easier for its huge population to book shots. The government relaxed rules last month to potentially allow third-party apps to offer vaccine bookings and has taken back control of procurement from states following delays and shortages. It also faced initial problems with its own vaccine booking platform. About 15 state agencies and private companies, which also include Indian healthcare giants Apollo and Max, and online pharmacy 1mg, have asked to be allowed to offer vaccine bookings, RS Sharma, head of the government’s panel managing the CoWIN vaccination registration platform, told Reuters news agency.
Plexiglass Is Everywhere, With No Proof It Keeps Covid at Bay
Sales of plexiglass tripled to roughly $750 million in the U.S. after the pandemic hit, as offices, schools, restaurants and retail stores sought protection from the droplets that health authorities suspected were spreading the coronavirus. There was just one hitch. Not a single study has shown that the clear plastic barriers actually control the virus, said Joseph Allen of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We spent a lot of time and money focused on hygiene theater,” said Allen, an indoor-air researcher. “The danger is that we didn’t deploy the resources to address the real threat, which was airborne transmission -- both real dollars, but also time and attention.” “The tide has turned,” he said. “The problem is, it took a year.”
More transmissible, wilier variant makes Covid-19 vaccinations even more crucial, experts say
It’s getting even riskier to remain unvaccinated. The United States, as a whole, is still in good shape for the summer of reunions and revived activities. But for those who haven’t been immunized against Covid-19, there is a new concern: the emergence of yet another coronavirus variant, one with a nasty combination of features that makes it even more dangerous than the other strains that have caused global alarms. The variant, known as Delta, was first spotted in India and helped power that country’s recent explosive outbreaks. Also called B.1.617.2, it seems to be the most transmissible version of the coronavirus seen thus far, but also carries some ability to get around the body’s immune protection generated after vaccination or an initial infection. (There’s also some evidence that it is more likely to cause severe disease, though researchers are still trying to confirm that.)
Community Activities
Covid-19 ventilators donated by Barcelona footballer Lionel Messi left abandoned in warehouse
Life-support machines donated by the footballer Lionel Messi are sitting abandoned in a warehouse in Argentina despite a brutal second wave of infections leaving hospitals desperate for supplies. Through his foundation, the Barcelona star had sent 32 ventilators by private jet in August last year to his home town of Rosario. For almost a year, however, the machines have been left unopened in an airport repository, pending authorisation from the national health regulator. The case has baffled the Messi Foundation, which had successfully delivered medical equipment to Argentina only a few months before, in May last year.
David Hasselhoff joins German vaccine appeal
Former “Baywatch” TV star David Hasselhoff is appearing in a video released by the German health ministry calling on people to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The video makes a play on Hasselhoff's 1989 "Looking for Freedom" album, which was popular in Germany after its title song become a soundtrack for the fall of the Berlin Wall. "Aermel hoch! ("Sleeves up!"), Hasselhoff says in German in the video released on Monday that had already been viewed on Twitter almost 200,000 times by Wednesday.
Abu Dhabi restricts many public areas to those free of COVID
Abu Dhabi, the second-most populous emirate in the UAE, will restrict access to shopping malls, restaurants, cafes and other public places from June 15 to those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently tested negative. The new rules were announced late on Wednesday as the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven emirates, has seen daily cases rise over the past three weeks. The UAE, which does not give a breakdown for each emirate, recorded 2,179 new infections on Wednesday, up from 1,229 on May 17. The restrictions will also apply to gyms, hotels and their facilities, public parks, beaches, swimming pools, entertainment centres, cinemas, and museums, Abu Dhabi's media office said
U.S. National Cathedral bells toll 600 times to mark COVID-19 victims
On a rainy Thursday evening in Washington D.C., the bells at the National Cathedral tolled 600 times, once for every 1,000 Americans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Fifteen months into the pandemic, the official U.S. death toll is approaching 600,000, even as a national vaccination program has successfully reduced the rate of daily infections and deaths. As of June 10, the overall COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. is 596,059, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The World Health Organization (WHO) puts the international figure at 3,758,560.
Germany starts rolling out a digital EU vaccination pass
Germany on Thursday started rolling out a digital vaccination pass that can be used across Europe as the continent gets ready for the key summer travel season. The country’s health minister said starting this week vaccination centers, doctors practices and pharmacies will gradually start giving out digital passes to fully vaccinated people. The CovPass will let users download proof of their coronavirus vaccination status onto a smartphone app, allowing them easy access to restaurants, museums or other venues that require proof of immunization. The vaccination passport should be available to everyone in Germany who is fully vaccinated by the end of this month, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.
High COVID vaccine uptake may protect the unvaccinated
Higher levels of COVID-19 vaccination in a population are tied to lower rates of infection in unvaccinated youth younger than 16 years, who were ineligible for the vaccine at the time of the trial, according to an observational, real-world, Israeli study today in Nature Medicine. Researchers from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa led the study, which involved mining vaccination records and COVID-19 test results gathered during a rapid vaccine rollout in 177 communities. They found that vaccination rates in each community were linked to a large subsequent decline in COVID-19 infections in the unvaccinated youth. For every 20 percentage points of vaccinated people in a population, on average, COVID-19 test positivity declined about twofold.
How vaccine hesitancy is being tackled in Bristol’s diverse communities
The five areas in Bristol with the highest populations of ethnic minorities are also the five areas with the lowest Covid vaccine uptake, analysis by the Cable has found. But Bristol has been proactive in tackling the disparity, with a targeted campaign to answer people’s questions and fears around the vaccine and to take vaccine clinics into communities. “The only way we have is for trusted people to have the vaccine and to talk about their experience,” said Mohammed Elsharif, Community Development Manager for Bristol City Council’s vaccine campaign. The model is simple but labour-intensive: bringing the vaccine to communities by creating vaccine clinics in community and religious centres, getting trusted community leaders and faith leaders to publicly take the vaccine, having ‘community champions’ to encourage people within their communities to take the vaccine – and sometimes even making appointments with them. They also put on webinars where people have the chance to air their concerns about the vaccine and get answers to their questions
As Britons return to lives post-Covid, a care provider is urging people to continue supporting elderly neighbours
Community networks set up during the first lockdown meant some people had more visitors and help with medication and food than before the pandemic. As restrictions ease, Radfield Home Care is worried that this support will now drop off and elderly and disabled people will return to lives of loneliness. Research carried out by the care provider found that 73 per cent of people aged 60 and over were nervous about the UK’s planned easing of restrictions on 21 June. Fifty-three per cent said they had concerns about infection rates rising when lockdown lifts, while just over 10 per cent were worried about interacting with others and eight per cent feared visiting supermarkets, shops and restaurants.
Working Remotely
Making Remote Working More Environmentally Friendly
Could remote working become the norm for current and future employees? It's clear that the pandemic has forced a shift in the way many of us experience work with more people than ever working from home. But with a greater awareness of 'the environment' and our individual impact on it, are there ways for remote employees to tailor their work life to improve their own carbon footprint
Amazon relaxes return-to-work plans, will let employees work remotely two days a week
Amazon is giving its corporate employees greater flexibility to work remotely, the company said Thursday, in a significant U-turn from its earlier return-to-work guidance. In an internal memo sent to employees, Amazon said it expects employees to work in the office three days a week, leaving them the option to work remotely up to two days a week. Leadership teams will determine what days employees will be required to work from the office, the company said.
Facebook remote working plan extended to all staff for long term
Facebook will let all employees who can work away from the office do so after the Covid pandemic is over. The company has told employees "anyone whose role can be done remotely can request remote work". Rival big tech firms Apple and Google have recently reversed pandemic working conditions, telling staff to return to the office in the coming months. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told staff he plans to spend up to half of 2022 working remotely. He had previously said that half of the company's 60,000 employees could be working from home within a decade.
Remote workers work longer, not more efficiently
The return to the office is well under way, just as summer in the northern hemisphere begins. Pretty soon, people will be able to resume the habit of staring wistfully out of the window, hoping it will still be sunny at the weekend. As many workers embrace a hybrid pattern, perhaps commuting 2-3 days a week, the experiment in full-time home-working is ending. At the same time, assessments of its effectiveness are proliferating. Early surveys of employees and employers found that remote work did not reduce productivity. But a new study* of more than 10,000 employees at an Asian technology company between April 2019 and August 2020 paints a different picture. The firm uses software installed on employees’ computers that tracked which applications or websites were active, and whether the employee was using the keyboard or a mouse. (Shopping online didn’t count.)
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual Learning Helped Push Caltech Physics Labs into Future
Of all the classes to adapt for remote learning, a physics lab might seem among the most difficult considering that its purpose is to provide students hands-on experience with the tools and techniques of a real lab. But even before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and caused classes to go online, Caltech senior physics lab manager Eric Black had a plan in hand that would allow his students to learn from home.
Education expert talks challenges of virtual learning for students, mental health supports
Many students struggled with virtual learning and some fell behind. While many focus on academics, Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, said children were also impacted emotionally. She spoke with 7News On Your Side's Lindsey Mastis about some of the things parents can do to help get their students the help they need. In some cases, it may mean advocating for additional help. She recommends reaching out to teachers to begin a conversation first by asking how best to communicate and when, and share what works best for parents too. But she warns that holding kids back a grade is often not necessary
Public Policies
Biden says biggest vaccine donation 'supercharges' battle against coronavirus
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that a donation of 500 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to the world's poorest countries would supercharge the battle with the virus and comes with "no strings attached." Biden, speaking alongside Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay ahead of a G7 summit, thanked other leaders for recognising their responsibility to vaccinate the world.
UK to donate more than 100m surplus vaccine doses, says PM
Boris Johnson says the UK will start donating coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries in the next few weeks. More than 100m surplus doses will be delivered in the next year, he announced ahead of the G7 summit. US President Joe Biden has promised half a billion doses of Pfizer vaccines to 92 low and middle-income countries and the African Union. The first 5m doses from the UK will be given by the end of September, with another 25m by the end of the year. The prime minister said: "As a result of the success of the UK's vaccine programme we are now in a position to share some of our surplus doses with those who need them.
U.S. to raise COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property issues with WTO, may take time -Tai
The Biden administration is committed to efforts to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and will raise the issue with the World Trade Organization (WTO), but it may take time, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Thursday. "We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the WTO that will be needed to make this happen. And this may take time given the complexity of the issues involved, but our goal remains to get vaccines to as many people as fast as possible," Tai said in remarks to an AFL-CIO union event. U.S. President Joe Biden last month backed a proposed patent waiver for vaccines targeting the novel coronavirus that advocates say could help boost availability amid the pandemic.
Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Vaccine changes as shorter interval between doses announced
The introduction of a shorter interval between Covid-19 vaccine doses in Northern Ireland has been announced. The time between both doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines is to be reduced to a maximum of eight weeks. This will accelerate the vaccination programme as it moves into its final phase and will ensure that people in NI have "the strongest possible protection from variants of the Covid-19 virus". This includes the Delta variant which has been identified here recently
Portugal halts easing of COVID-19 rules in Lisbon as cases rise
Most of Portugal will move to the next stage of lockdown easing next Monday but stricter rules will remain in place in the capital Lisbon due to a worrying rise in COVID-19 infections, the government said on Wednesday. Portugal imposed a nationwide lockdown in January to tackle what then was the world's worst coronavirus surge, but restrictions have been gradually lifted since mid-March and most businesses have already reopened. Across most of the country, restaurants, cafes and pastry shops, which now must close at 10.30 p.m., will be able to keep doors open until 1 a.m. from June 14, and there are no more restrictions on stores' opening hours.
EU foregoes 100 million J&J vaccines, considers donating other doses - sources
The European Union decided not to take up an option to buy 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) COVID-19 vaccine and is considering donating another 100 million optional shots, if ordered, European officials said. The discussions show a drop in confidence in the one-dose shot, which was initially touted as crucial for a successful vaccination drive in Europe, but has been largely relegated to a back-up choice after safety and supply problems. The EU at the end of March let the term to order 100 million extra doses lapse, three European officials with direct knowledge of contracts with vaccine makers told Reuters, revealing a confidential clause of the contract with J&J which had not been previously disclosed.
Government ran secret coronavirus outbreak exercise five years ago
The UK government ran a secret exercise mimicking the outbreak of a Covid-like virus outbreak in 2016. Exercise Alice, as the project was called, involved the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and was carried out nearly five years ago. The exercise envisioned an outbreak of MERS, the so-called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which is a coronavirus, according to newspaper The Guardian.
FDA Extends Shelf Life of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine
Johnson & Johnson said on Thursday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended the shelf life of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from three months to four-and-a-half months. The health regulator's decision was based on data from ongoing studies, which demonstrated that the vaccine is stable at 4.5 months when refrigerated at temperatures of 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 8 degrees Celsius), the drugmaker said.
Maintaining Services
Covid-19: France reopens restaurants and welcomes back British tourists
Paris waiters smiled and there was a spring in the step of commuters flocking back to offices in France today as near-normal life resumed under bright sunshine after months of restrictions. President Macron voiced “lucid optimism” for the country as restaurants and cafés opened to customers indoors for the first time in seven months, the curfew was pushed back from 9pm to 11pm and the country’s borders were opened to visitors — including those from Britain — without the need to prove a family emergency or a compelling business reason. “Life will resume across our territory,” Macron said. “We are going to reacquaint ourselves with part of our culture, of our art of living.”
NHS told to identify patients actually sick from Covid-19 separately to those testing positive
Hospitals have been told to change the way they collect data on patients infected with coronavirus to differentiate between those actually sick with symptoms and those who test positive while seeking treatment for something else. The move would reduce the overall number of patients in hospital for coronavirus as until now data from hospitals has included all patients who tested positive for Covid-19, regardless of whether they had symptoms or not. NHS England has instructed hospitals to make the change to the daily flow of data sent by NHS trusts and told The Independent that the move was being done to help analyse the effect of the vaccine programme and whether it was successfully reducing Covid-19 sickness.
AstraZeneca says working with Southeast Asian nations on vaccine deliveries
AstraZeneca says it is working closely with Southeast Asia governments to ensure its COVID-19 vaccine is supplied "as quickly as possible", after reported delays in deliveries of orders from a Thai plant owned by the country's powerful king.
As more kids go down the ‘deep, dark tunnel’ of long Covid, doctors still can’t predict who is at risk
At 14 years old, Kate Dardis knows what pain feels like and how to work through it. An accomplished gymnast accustomed to training four hours a day, she has met a competitor this year that she can’t beat with exercise or sheer willpower — yet. Rarely sick before a stomachache kept her home from school for three days in October, the Bloomington, Ill., eighth-grader was hit by a headache in January that still hasn’t loosened its grip. Her heart races. Her body aches. She gets winded climbing stairs and feels dizzy when she changes position. Concentrating on schoolwork is difficult remotely and exhausting in person. Kate learned last month from a team of doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital that she is suffering from the post-Covid syndrome better known as long Covid. Her Covid-19 test was negative last fall after some teammates and coaches at her gym tested positive, but in February an antibody test ordered by her pediatrician confirmed she had been infected with Covid-19.
Healthcare Innovations
A 'Universal' Coronavirus Vaccine to Prevent the Next Pandemic
In the past 20 years alone, three coronaviruses have caused major disease outbreaks. First came the original SARS virus in 2002. Then, in 2012, MERS was identified. In 2019 SARS-CoV-2 emerged, setting off a global pandemic. Hundreds of other coronaviruses are known to be circulating in bats and other animals. Scientists have warned that some of them could emerge in the future and potentially infect people. Our current COVID-19 vaccines were specifically designed for SARS-CoV-2, but what if a next-generation vaccine could protect against both known and unknown coronaviruses? Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., are working on a so-called universal coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad is leading the effort.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine effective against variants: study | TheHill
The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine produces several immune responses allowing it to be effective against different variants of the virus, according to a study released Wednesday. The research, published in Nature as an accelerated article preview, determined that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine activated immune responses against the original COVID-19 strain, as well as the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Epsilon variants. The study concluded that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine “offered strong protection against symptomatic” cases of COVID-19 in South Africa and Brazil where variants have caused most sequenced cases. Researchers studied the antibody and cellular immune responses of 20 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55.
AstraZeneca vaccine linked to slightly higher risk of blood disorder
Data from Scotland’s Covid vaccination programme has revealed a possible small increase in the risk of a treatable and often mild bleeding disorder after the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Doctors examined the medical records of 5.4 million people in Scotland for instances of blood clots, unusual bleeding, and a condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), where a reduction in blood platelets can lead to easy bruising, bleeding gums and internal bleeding. The analysis conducted with Public Health Scotland found the risk of ITP was marginally higher in the 1.7 million people who had received a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine than in a comparison group that did not receive the shot up to 14 April 2021.