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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 18th Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
Treasury accused of 'recklessly' suppressing information relating to covid isolation sick pay
The Treasury has been accused of “recklessly” suppressing information relating to a sick pay scheme for people forced to self-isolate during the height of the second wave of the Covid pandemic. According to emails at the start of 2021 between civil servants seen by Politico, the department instructed government officials not to publicise how furlough could be used to access payments during the isolation period. Supporting people – particularly those in low-paid jobs – has been a major point of contention during the crisis, with scientists and opposition MPs repeatedly criticising the amount of financial support on offer for those required to self-isolate.
Having a strong life purpose eases loneliness of COVID-19 isolation, study finds
Why can some people weather the stress of social isolation better than others, and what implications does this have for their health? New research found that people who felt a strong sense of purpose in life were less lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
£500 self-isolation payments to be widened to more low-income workers in Harrogate
Self-isolation payments of £500 are to be made available to more low-income earners in the Harrogate district. The one-off payments were introduced by the government and administered by Harrogate Borough Council from September to compensate for any loss of earnings workers may suffer as a result of having to self-isolate because of Covid. More than £119,000 has been allocated to the council but as of this month around £68,000 remains unspent so officials have proposed to widen the rules around who can apply.
Covid-19: UK and Japan connect to tackle loneliness
Britain and Japan on Thursday announced joint plans to overcome the stigma of loneliness accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the need to put in place policies that help to ‘connect’ people and communities. Britain appointed the world’s first minister for loneliness in 2018 and Japan recently appointed its first minister for loneliness and isolation, Tetsushi Sakamoto. Officials said the measures include regular meetings on the issue between the UK and Japan, sharing knowledge on loneliness measures and policy, and raising awareness in the United Kingdom (UK) and Japan, and within the global community.
COVID-19: Home quarantine rule for travellers to UK 'just doesn't work', says Professor Neil Ferguson
A home quarantine rule for travellers to the UK "just doesn't work", a top epidemiologist advising the government has warned. Professor Neil Ferguson, part of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), suggested that anything other than the tough border restrictions imposed by countries such as Australia and New Zealand was "window dressing". The government has been facing calls to scrap its "amber list" of countries, from which people returning to the UK have to quarantine for 10 days at home.
Hygiene Helpers
Indonesian officials give away live chickens to residents willing to get vaccinated
Live chickens are being given away by local authorities in rural Indonesia as an incentive for older residents to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The program, in Cianjur regency, West Java, is part of the district's effort to increase the number of vaccines administered to citizens age 45 and over. Galih Apria, assistant police commissioner in the sub-district of Pecat, said older residents had been very hesitant about getting the shots during the early rollout of the government's vaccination program.
Britain, pressed by airlines, may ease rules for vaccinated travellers
Ryanair launches legal action over restrictions. UK may make changes for vaccinated travellers. Airlines want unfettered travel for those vaccinated. British Airways, other airlines shares rise. Government policy reviews due later in June
Youth, Delta variant behind UK COVID surge
Two new studies look at the Delta variant (B1617) behind the UK COVID-19 surge, with the first noting that young people are helping drive the exponential growth of COVID-19 cases in England. The second study describes reduced COVID-19 vaccine and antibody efficacy against the more transmissible variant. The first study, published today on the Imperial College London preprint server, involved testing a random sample of people from across England for COVID-19 as part of the ongoing Real-Time Assessment of Community Transmission (React 1) study. The researchers showed that COVID-19 infections in England surged from May 20 to Jun 7, with a doubling time of 11 days and an estimated R (reproductive) number of 1.44. Doubling time is the number of days before coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, or deaths doubled, and R indicates how many people, on average, catch the virus from an infected person.
COVID-19 vaccinations for pharmacists in care homes to be mandatory
Pharmacists who work in care homes, even on a part-time basis, will be required to have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccination under plans announced today (June 16). From October, anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England will be required by law to be immunised against COVID-19, unless they are medically exempt, following a 16-week grace period for health workers to receive both doses, the Department for Health and Social Care (DH) said. This includes anyone who works in a care home full-time – such as care home pharmacists – as well as those who visit for occasional work, under new legislation that will be brought before parliament “at the earliest opportunity”
Community Activities
iPads donated to Shropshire school to enable virtual learning
An ambitious project to enable whole class virtual learning at a small Shropshire school has become reality following the donation of 36 iPads. Teachers and parents at Tibberton CE Primary School set about raising funds for the new devices earlier this term and thanks to the support of local businesses and others in the community they have reached their goal ahead of schedule. It means from September each child in class will have access to their own iPad and associated digital resources to support whole-class learning during lessons.
Japan PM Suga urges Japanese to watch Olympics on TV to prevent spread of COVID-19
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday called on the public to watch the upcoming Tokyo Olympics on TV to avoid the spread of COVID-19 infections, as the organisers debate whether to allow domestic spectators into Olympic venues. Suga, speaking at a news conference to announce the lifting of some COVID-19 restrictions in Tokyo and several other areas, said that the most important thing was to avoid a rebound in the number of infections and the collapse of the medical system.
Families mourn the loss of loved ones who hesitated on the Covid-19 vaccine
Despite vaccines being widely available for teenagers and adults, demand has slowed drastically since mid-April. At the time, the country was administering an average of 3.4 million doses per day. That moving average is now close to 600,000 per day as of Tuesday, the most recent day for which the figure is available, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Local governments are offering financial incentives for people to get the shot. Medical experts and officials are also seeing effective strategies by local pastors, coaches and community leaders working on a grass-roots level to encourage people. The word-of-mouth approach from trusted voices can be powerful, said the Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr., a prominent pastor who leads the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida​. This spring, his church invested in a mobile medical unit to make health care more accessible in his community.
Disneyland Paris reopens, but Mickey Mouse won't give hugs
The Disneyland Paris theme park opened to visitors on Thursday after being shuttered for nearly eight months during the pandemic, but safety measures were in force to stop the virus spreading. While cast members dressed as favourite Disney characters - among them Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy - were on hand as usual for selfies with visitors, they were keeping their distance. According to the park's revised rules, "close interactions, including hugs, will be temporarily suspended." Visitors over the age of six are also required to wear masks. Nevertheless, visitors streaming through the gates at opening time were ecstatic to be there.
Community centres to share £270,000 Covid recovery fund
In Shropshire, the Covid-19 emergency funding provided to the council by government in 2020 and 2021 is aimed at enabling a number of community centres to restart, recover and once again become vibrant community assets in a safe and secure way. Cabinet member for cooperative communities, engagement and partnerships, Councillor Paul Watling said: “During the pandemic these community hubs have been the glue that has held everything together and enabled Telford & Wrekin Council to support its communities. They are right at the heart of people’s lives and have for many been a lifeline – a place where we can extend our support to the most vulnerable.
Empowering Indian women who lost their partners to COVID
Thousands of Indian women have lost their husbands to the coronavirus pandemic, most of those men were the sole earners in their families. Nichelle worked as a human resource professional for seven years before quitting her job nearly two years ago. Soon after her husband’s death, another reality hit her: she needed to find a job, at a time when the pandemic had caused huge job losses across India and forced millions of people out of work. She was contacted by a volunteer from COVID Women Help – an initiative that seeks to empower women who lost their partners to the pandemic by providing them financial and professional help. Less than a month after Shawn’s death, Nichelle got a job with a human resource solutions company with the help of COVID Women Help.
Working Remotely
Office Culture Is So Unwelcoming To Black Employees, They Don't Want To Go Back
A report released Tuesday suggests Black employees value remote work the most, and it may be because they face so many draining microaggressions in their office environments. The Future Forum, a research consortium surveyed 5,085 U.S. office workers and professionals who “work with data, analyze information or think creatively” from April to May, asking about their work lives during this stage of the pandemic. Although a majority of people surveyed said that they want to work at least part of the time away from the office, Black employees were the group most likely to want a flexible working experience, either through a remote-only or hybrid model that would have them in-office only part of the time. In the survey, 68% of Black workers wanted flexible work policies, compared to 56% of white workers.
Working From Home Two-Days A Week Should Be Made A Legal Right In The Post Pandemic World
Slowly, societies are reopening. Many employers are now calling back their workers to return to work from the office. Employers are concerned that organizational culture is eroding, workers are losing social connections, and the ability to think creatively as parts of teams. Already, governments are asking themselves how to approach this question. In the UK case, the government is thinking about making working from home a “default” right – a politically debated idea that could take many forms and shapes. Regulators and politicians are between a rock and a hard place. Governments want city centers and business districts to come back to life, for both the economy of those areas (usually full of coffee places and restaurants where salaries are being spent!), and support transport companies that take commuters from home to their work. They also want to lend a sympathetic ear to those businesses insisting on having their workers back in the office.
Women with child-care needs are 32% less likely to leave their job if they can work remotely, according to new report
Over the past year, millions of women globally have left the workplace due to job loss or child-care demands, resulting in at least $800 billion in lost income in 2020, according to Oxfam International. As business leaders start to map out their plans for bringing employees back to the office, new data from Catalyst, a global nonprofit that focuses on building workplaces that are equitable for women, finds that long-term remote work options could be the key to retaining more women in the workplace. Moving forward, company leaders need to create an environment where “people don’t feel like they have to choose between remote or the office and that they don’t fear perhaps negative career consequences because of their choice.”
Bank of America Says All Vaccinated Staff to Return to Office in September
Bank of America Corp. expects all of its vaccinated employees to return to the office after Labor Day in early September, and will then focus on developing plans for returning unvaccinated workers to its sites. More than 70,000 of the firm’s employees have voluntarily disclosed their vaccine status to the bank, Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan said in a Bloomberg Television interview Thursday. The firm, which has more than 210,000 employees globally, has already invited those who have received their shots to begin returning.
Virtual Classrooms
How can universities maintain hybrid education across the UK as network demands become increasingly complex?
At the beginning of the pandemic, UK higher education institutions had to abruptly shift to online learning formats to guarantee some form of educational continuity for their students. This process was not easy, with universities confronted with the challenge of how to provide comprehensive learning within the limits of a purely online learning environment. Given the rapid pace of events during the opening stages of the pandemic, universities could be forgiven for any technological teething issues. However, the UK is now over a year into pandemic restrictions and, with partial online teaching set to continue for many universities into the 2021 autumn term, students will expect their education be delivered as seamlessly as possible. The onus is on universities to support the COVID generation of students as best they can, and so they must manage their complex IT infrastructures as efficiently as possible to avoid hampering class time with brownouts and outages.
Public Policies
Japan plans to lift COVID restrictions ahead of Olympic Games
Japan’s government on Thursday approved lifting Tokyo’s virus emergency measures a month before the Olympics, but set new restrictions that could sharply limit fans at the sporting events. The state of emergency in place in Tokyo began in late April and largely limits bar and restaurant opening hours and bans them from selling alcohol. That measure will now end in the capital and eight other regions on June 20, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced. It will stay in place in Okinawa. “The number of infections nationwide has been declining since mid-May and the situation in terms of hospital beds is steadily improving,” he said. “On the other hand, in some regions there are signs that the fall in the number of infections is slowing,” Suga added.
AstraZeneca vaccine price pledge omits some poor countries, contract shows
AstraZeneca can charge a higher price for its Covid-19 vaccine in dozens of poor countries once the pharmaceutical company decides the pandemic has ended, according to a copy of its contract with Oxford University seen by the Guardian. The British-Swedish drug firm has promised to provide the vaccine at a not-for-profit price to the developing world in perpetuity, but a review of a redacted version of its contract with Oxford University, obtained by the student advocacy group Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), found that the promise excludes many low-income and lower-middle-income countries. Among those left off the list are 34 countries classified by Unicef and the WHO as being in need of vaccine support, including Sri Lanka, Angola, Timor-Leste, Honduras, Zimbabwe and the Philippines, which could all be charged a higher price once AstraZeneca declares the Covid-19 pandemic has ended.
U.S. donating additional 1 million COVID-19 vaccines to Canada
The United States is donating one million additional doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Canada. The doses, which were produced in the U.S., will arrive in Toronto later today, according to a White House official speaking on the condition they not be named, as they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. This delivery is part of a broad donation strategy previously announced by the Biden administration.
After a Year of Denying Covid-19, Tanzania Orders Vaccines
Tanzania has lodged an order for coronavirus vaccines, the country’s presidency said Thursday, after the East African nation’s government spent a year denying the existence of the virus within its borders and becoming a magnet for Covid-19 skeptics from around the globe. Tanzania’s request for vaccines from the World Health Organization-backed Covax program, which distributes free Covid-19 shots to the world’s poorest countries, follows the death of President John Magufuli in March, when local doctors and church leaders were warning about a surge in infections. His successor and former deputy, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has tentatively instituted more transparency in the handling of the pandemic, opening several Covid-19 testing centers and wearing masks during public appearances
New Zealand lays out vaccine plan after grumbling over delay
New Zealand will take up to the end of the year to inoculate all those eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday, as she announced details of a vaccine campaign. The Pacific island nation shut its borders and used tough lockdown measures to become one of the few countries to have virtually eliminated COVID-19, but the government is facing criticism for a slow rollout of vaccines. About 560,000 people in the country of 5 million have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine while about 325,000 have been given a second dose.
Fauci: US to spend $3.2B for antiviral pills for COVID-19
The United States is devoting $3.2 billion to advance development of antiviral pills for COVID-19 and other dangerous viruses that could turn into pandemics. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, announced the investment Thursday at a White House briefing as part of a new “antiviral program for pandemics” to develop drugs to address symptoms caused by potentially dangerous viruses like the coronavirus. The pills for COVID-19, which would be used to minimize symptoms after infection, are in development and could begin arriving by year’s end, pending the completion of clinical trials. The funding will speed those clinical trials and provide additional support to private sector research, development and manufacturing.
Maintaining Services
Denmark will offer Covid-19 vaccine to all children aged between 12 and 15 to boost overall immunity ahead of winter
Denmark will offer Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 12-15 after the adult population has been inoculated to boost its overall immunity against the virus ahead of the winter, health authorities announced on Thursday. Initially, offer Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine will be made available for 12-15 year-olds as it is the only vaccine approved by the EU's drug regulator for use in adolescents, the Danish Health Authority said in a statement. The EU regulator expects to announce a decision on the use of Moderna's shot in adolescents sometime next month.
COVID-19: All over-18s in England able to book vaccine from Friday as Whitty warns of 'surprises' ahead
England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned COVID-19 "has not thrown its last surprise at us and there will be several more over the next period". Speaking at the NHS Confed Conference, he said he is anticipating case rates will continue to go up in the next few weeks due to Delta being "significantly more transmissible" than Alpha. He said: "In terms of the medium term, my expectation is that we will get a further winter surge, late autumn/winter surge.
Hundreds of Indonesian doctors contract Covid-19 despite Sinovac vaccination
More than 350 Indonesian doctors have contracted Covid-19 despite being vaccinated with Sinovac and dozens have been hospitalised, officials said, as concerns rise about the efficacy of some vaccines against more virulent virus strains. Most of the doctors were asymptomatic and self-isolating at home, said Badai Ismoyo, head of the Kudus district health office in Central Java, but dozens were in hospital with high fevers and declining oxygen saturation levels. Kudus is battling an outbreak believed to be driven by the more transmissible Delta variant which has pushed bed occupancy rates above 90 per cent in the district.
England invites all adults to get their COVID-19 vaccines
The health service in England will open up COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone aged over 18 on Friday, a big step towards the government's target of giving every adult who wants a vaccine a first shot in the next month. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday pushed back the full re-opening of England from lockdown until July 19 because of a rise in cases, but also accelerated his vaccination plans, pledging to give every adult a first dose by the same date.
Healthcare Innovations
How COVID vaccines work against the Delta variant
The Delta variant of coronavirus is a source of serious concern as lab tests have shown it is more contagious and resistant to vaccines compared with other forms of COVID-19. However, there is evidence that the available jabs retain important effectiveness against it after two doses. A British study published in The Lancet medical journal in early June looked at levels of neutralising antibodies produced in vaccinated people exposed to the Delta, Alpha (first identified in Britain) and Beta (first identified in South Africa) variants. It found that antibody levels in people with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot were six times lower in the presence of the Delta variant than in the presence of the original COVID-19 strain on which the vaccine was based. The Alpha and Beta variants also provoked lower responses, with 2.6 times fewer antibodies for Alpha and 4.9 times fewer for Beta.
Previous Covid infection may not offer long-term protection, study finds
Previous infection with coronavirus does not necessarily protect against Covid in the longer term, especially when caused by new variants of concern, a study on healthcare workers suggests. Researchers at Oxford University found marked differences in the immune responses of medical staff who contracted Covid, with some appearing far better equipped than others to combat the disease six months later. Scientists on the study, conducted with the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium, said the findings reinforced the importance of everyone getting vaccinated regardless of whether they had been infected with the virus earlier in the pandemic.
CureVac’s coronavirus vaccine only 47 percent effective
German company CureVac's coronavirus vaccine is far less effective than other jabs already in use, the firm said Wednesday. The company announced a 47 percent efficacy rate against all COVID-19 cases and said it "did not meet prespecified statistical success criteria" based on the second analysis of a large-scale efficacy trial. The study involved 40,000 people in 10 countries in Europe and Latin America with at least 13 coronavirus variants circulating, the company said. The "original strain" was "almost completely absent" from the trial.
Covid-19: Regeneron's antibody combination cuts deaths in seronegative patients, trial finds
Regeneron’s antibody combination treatment cut deaths in seronegative patients—meaning those who had not mounted their own antibody response to covid-19—by one fifth, the Recovery trial has found. The researchers found that for every 100 seronegative patients treated with the combination of casirivimab and imdevimab, there were six fewer deaths. They said patients admitted to hospital should now be routinely tested for antibodies to determine whether the treatment could benefit them. The two virus neutralising antibodies work by binding non-competitively to the critical receptor binding domain of SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein, thereby stopping the virus from binding to and entering human cells. Recovery, which is being carried out in 177 UK hospitals, has been evaluating potential covid-19 treatments for patients admitted to hospital. It discovered the first effective treatment for reducing mortality—dexamethasone—while also discounting others including hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma.
Delta variant fuelled 50% rise in English COVID prevalence -study
The rapid spread of the Delta coronavirus variant has driven a 50% rise in infections in England since May, a large prevalence study led by Imperial College London found on Thursday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed the end of restrictions. The government said the data supported Johnson’s decision to push back the end of COVID restrictions in England to July 19, citing the threat of the Delta variant first identified in India, and the need to vaccinate more people. The latest round of the REACT-1 prevalence survey, conducted between May 20 and June 7, found prevalence was 0.15%, compared to 0.10% in the last set of data from late April to early May.
Can you mix and match COVID-19 vaccines?
Can you mix and match two-dose COVID-19 vaccines? It’s likely safe and effective, but researchers are still gathering data to be sure. The authorized COVID-19 shots around the world are all designed to stimulate your immune system to produce virus-fighting antibodies, though the way they do so varies, noted Dr. Kate O’Brien, director of the World Health Organization’s vaccine unit. “Based on the basic principles of how vaccines work, we do think that the mix-and-match regimens are going to work,” she said. Scientists at Oxford University in the United Kingdom are testing combinations of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer-BioNTech. Smaller trials are also ongoing in Spain and Germany. “We really just need to get the evidence in each of these (vaccine) combinations,” O’Brien said.
Pfizer’s arthritis drug Xeljanz shows lifesaving benefits in hospitalized COVID-19 patients
Pfizer’s BioNTech-partnered COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty may be getting all the attention these days, but the pharma giant’s anti-inflammatory drug Xeljanz just chalked up a win in treating patients hospitalized with the disease. Xeljanz reduced the risk of death or respiratory failure among hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia who didn’t require ventilation, according to data published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The company is now analyzing the full dataset and will assess the next steps, Tamas Koncz, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer of Pfizer Inflammation & Immunology, said in a statement Wednesday. The data come from the STOP-COVID study, which enrolled 289 hospitalized patients across 15 sites in Brazil. After 28 days of treatment, death or respiratory failure had occurred in 18.1% of patients on Xeljanz, compared with 29% for those who received placebo. All patients also received other standard-of-care treatments, including corticosteroids, which were given to nearly 90% of patients in both trial arms.