"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 7th Jul 2021

Isolation Tips
‘It isn’t over’: WHO warns against easing COVID curbs too soon
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned governments around the world against easing COVID-19 restrictions too soon, saying countries that did so risked paying a heavy price for rushing back to normality. Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, the UN health agency’s top emergency expert Mike Ryan said a new wave of infections could be round the corner and noted that for much of the world, the pandemic was just getting started.
Hygiene Helpers
Mass-testing reduced Liverpool COVID-19 cases by a fifth, study finds
A mass rapid-testing scheme reduced COVID-19 cases in the English city of Liverpool by more than a fifth, researchers said on Wednesday, arguing it was an effective public health intervention despite concerns over accuracy of the devices. The community testing pilot scheme launched in November, and offered everyone in the city tests whether or not they had symptoms, in an attempt to find a new way to use testing to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Covid-19: 4,500 applications made for emergency vaccine passports
More than 4,500 holidaymakers have applied for short-term vaccine passports, MLAs have been told. The so-called COVIDCert was announced by the Department of Health on Friday. The emergency scheme was introduced by Northern Ireland's Department of Health to accommodate those planning to visit countries which require proof of two Covid-19 vaccinations. Health Minister Robin Swann told MLAs the public response had been "incredible".
COVID-19: PM suffers backlash over plans to ditch rules on wearing face masks
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also warned that lifting all restrictions in one go would be "reckless" - and is calling for face coverings to remain mandatory on public transport. He said: "To throw off all protections at the same time when the infection rate is still going up is reckless. "We need a balanced approach, we need to keep key protections in place, including masks, including ventilation and crucially... proper payments to those who need to self-isolate." Dr Chaand Nagpaul of the British Medical Association said it was "increasingly concerning" for Mr Johnson to "decide to go full steam" on easing measures - despite warnings over rising hospital cases and deaths
Community Activities
Doctors are arrested for Covid vaccine scam after injecting 2500 people with SEA WATER in India
14 people have been arrested so far on charges of manslaughter and criminal conspiracy. Doctors and medical staff allegedly used hospital access to make fake vaccine certificates. The organisers made over £20,000 before the programme was uncovered. Authorities have reported over 400,000 Covid deaths in India, but experts believe the number is far higher
Covid: Why Boris Johnson's 'freedom day' is terrifying for millions
There are millions of these frail people. For those whose immune systems are compromised or suppressed, the efficacy of vaccines is much reduced. For others among the frail, any residual risk of becoming infected is too great, because for them it is literally a matter of life or death. So when you hear politicians and others talking about the important freedom to choose not to wear a mask and not to keep a respectful distance from others, note that their freedom is felt as oppression by those who through no fault of their own are more at risk from this awful disease.
'Long Covid' Will Surge Among Young, England's Chief Medic Warns
So-called long Covid is set to soar among younger people in England when remaining coronavirus restrictions are lifted, England’s chief medical officer warned. Chris Whitty said that while he expected deaths to be “much lower” proportionally compared to previous waves, long Covid remains “a worry.” “Since there’s a lot of Covid at the moment and the rates are going up, I regret to say I think we will get a significant amount more long Covid -- particularly in the younger ages where the vaccination rates are currently much lower,” he said at the Local Government Association’s virtual conference Tuesday.
Trish Greenhalgh: Freedom Day, but at what cost?
I hope I am wrong, but it looks like the UK is once again setting up a colossal natural experiment which will put wave three of the pandemic into a super-exponential growth phase. Given that we appear to be powerless to stop this happening, we should at least ensure that we collect the right kind of high-quality data to document and analyse what unfolds.
Working Remotely
As office life beckons again, the pandemic's digital nomads weigh benefits of a return
Before the pandemic, the term "virtual nomad" applied to a privileged few who had found a way to finance perpetual travel — and seemed to do so effortlessly. But when Covid-19 forced employers to go remote, it opened up the possibility of a nomadic lifestyle to entirely new groups of people. Now, despite employers setting dates for full, in-person returns, many who took advantage don't want to go back. "People have experienced the power of work-life flexibility, enhancing the quality of their lives, their satisfaction," said Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the book "Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere."
We Need Remote Work for Everyone
One promise of technology is that it is a great equalizer. But the reality hasn’t been quite that simple. The infusion of technology into more industries is one factor that has led to a division of the American work force between promising jobs with good salaries and low-wage work with less possibility of advancement. Ben Casselman recently wrote about the pandemic causing more companies to use automation, which could eliminate jobs and erode bargaining power, particularly for lower-paid service workers. Remote work could further widen the divide if it sticks around as another legacy of the pandemic. Professionals with desk jobs might have the option to untether themselves, at least part time, from a physical work location. But you can’t butcher cattle, take care of children or repave a highway by Zoom.
If working from home becomes the norm, housing inequality will deepen
It is easy to see why working remotely is viewed as an attractive prospect. Most of us like being in our own place, surrounded by our own things. By contrast, work is widely associated with stress and difficulty, at least some of the time. For some groups the gains are plain to see. The rise in online activity has meant the past year has offered opportunities to disabled people that were previously off limits. For those struggling with housing costs, including younger adults in the south-east where rents are highest, the switch to remote working offers the possibility of living somewhere cheaper while keeping the same job. It will take time to assess how such changes stack up against the downsides of shrinking workplaces.
Londoners Will Travel to Shop But Not to Work
London’s West End shopping area is almost as busy as it was before the pandemic, while the city’s financial districts remain only half full. That suggests more and more residents are comfortable traveling into crowded centers, but are in no rush to return to the office. Last week’s transaction volume at Pret A Manger Ltd. sandwich stores in the West End was 78% of what it was before the pandemic, the highest level since lockdown measures began easing in March, according to Bloomberg’s Pret Index. By contrast, in the cluster that includes the City and Canary Wharf, which employs thousands of bankers and fund managers, sales have been stagnating for the past four weeks at just over half of what they were in January of last year. The data suggest workers in London’s financial districts are slowing their return to the office as Covid-19 cases rise.
Virtual Classrooms
Getting Disconnected Students Access to Their Online Classrooms
Scott Muri is superintendent of the Ector County Independent School District in Texas. He writes about the ways in which his school district tackled moving to remote learning: "We had always known that technology could enhance the learning experiences that teachers provide. That is why, before the pandemic, our team developed a years-long master plan to put devices into the hands of every student, from pre-K through 12th grade, and to facilitate broadband access to all of our families. But in March 2020, we did not have years to solve this problem. At best, we had months. So, driven by this deep “why” to do better for our students, we accelerated that work. We purchased 37,000 new devices within six months. We immediately and diligently searched for quality short- and long-term broadband solutions for our students."
Teachers warn that school rules already limit phone use, a ban may hinder virtual learning
Iain Rankin, head of drama at a north-west London secondary school, is unimpressed by the Government proposal to ban smartphones in schools. He says there is already a no-phone rule in most schools, so this is a pointless initiative. Mr Rankin says there are also times when smartphones can be useful in lessons. “Schools have been thrust into digitising learning because of lockdowns, and I’ve realised how to integrate that sort of thing into my lessons in the physical classroom and for homework, too. I suspect I am not the only one.”
Public Policies
The Latest: Zimbabwe back to strict lockdown, virus surges
Zimbabwe has returned to strict lockdown measures to combat a resurgence of COVID-19 amid vaccine shortages. Infections have dramatically increased in recent weeks despite a night curfew, reduced business hours, localized lockdowns in hotspot areas, and bans on inter-city travel. The country’s information minister announced the virus has spread to rural areas which have sparse health facilities. Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced after a Cabinet meeting that most people must stay at home, similar to restrictions on movement adopted in March last year when towns and cities became almost deserted.
Australia denies using ‘plants’ to undermine China’s Covid vaccine rollout in Pacific
The Australian government has denied undermining China’s plan to roll out Covid vaccines to Pacific countries after Beijing lashed Canberra’s purported “callous” and “irresponsible behaviour”. The allegation, first aired in Chinese state-controlled media and then amplified by the foreign ministry in Beijing, was “absolutely not” true, the Australian government said on Tuesday. The spat is the latest flashpoint in the deteriorating relationship between China and Australia amid intense competition for influence in the Pacific region.
S. Korea is to get 700,000 COVID-19 vaccines doses from Israel
South Korea said it will receive 700,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine from Israel on loan this week, in an attempt to speed up immunisation following a surge in infections around the capital Seoul. More than 1,000 COVID-19 cases were reported as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, the highest since December and hundreds more than the 746 cases posted on Monday, Yonhap news agency reported, citing South Korean government health officials.
Maintaining Services
Israel to ship 700K Pfizer doses to South Korea in swap deal
Israel is sending 700,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to South Korea in exchange for a future shipment of vaccines from South Korea to Israel. Under the deal, Israel will transfer the Pfizer vaccines to South Korea in an effort to inoculate more of the Asian nation’s citizens this month. South Korea will send the same number of doses to Israel as early as September, the officials added. “This is a win-win deal,” Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in his statement. The agreement will “reduce the holes” in the vaccine’s availability. Jung Eun-kyeong, South Korea’s top infectious disease expert, confirmed the deal. She said the Seoul government will continue to pursue swap deals with other countries.
Covid bubbles to be axed in England's schools
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the system of sending "bubbles" of children home after a positive case would cease at the end of summer term. The bubble system had been necessary to limit virus spread but was now causing disruption to pupils' lives, he said. Teaching unions warned against easing rules as cases are still rising. The changes to schools guidance will take effect at the same time as the country eases restrictions and moves to stage four. This is expected to be on 19 July - with confirmation of this due next Monday.
Morepen Laboratories produces test batch of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia's sovereign wealth fund), and Morepen Laboratories, one of the leading manufacturers of pharmaceutical products in India, today announced the production of the test batch of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in an exclusive facility in state of Himachal Pradesh. The first batch will be shipped to the Gamaleya Center for the quality control. RDIF and Morepen Laboratories signed a cooperation agreement in June 2021 and are actively implementing the technology transfer.
COVID-19: Londoners who get first vaccine jab can win Euro 2020 final tickets, says mayor Sadiq Khan
Londoners are being offered the chance to win tickets to the Euro 2020 final if they sign up for their first COVID jab. The city's mayor, Sadiq Khan, is putting up one pair of tickets for Sunday's final at Wembley, as well as 50 pairs for the fan zone in Trafalgar Square. To be eligible, people need to show proof they have been to a walk-in vaccination centre for their first dose, or have booked an appointment.
Crackdown on ‘vaccine sommeliers’ as Covid pandemic grips Brazil
Cities across Brazil are clamping down on “vaccine sommeliers” who seek to cherrypick their Covid shots despite the devastating epidemic still gripping Latin America’s largest nation. More than half a million Brazilians have lost their lives to an outbreak the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, stands accused of ruinously mishandling. Yet some citizens have shown themselves to be perplexingly selective about which brand of vaccine they receive. “We’re pioneering a new occupation here in Brazil: the vaccine sommeliers,” Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, complained last month amid mounting reports about over-picky residents turning down certain vaccines at health posts.
Indonesia copes with oxygen shortages as COVID cases quadruple
Indonesia is struggling with one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks as new cases more than quadrupled in a month, prompting a critical shortage of oxygen in several areas. At least 33 people died at a hospital in Yogyakarta when its supply ran out over the weekend and the government on Monday asked oxygen producers to send all their supplies to hospitals and clinics.
Healthcare Innovations
Data predicts 2m UK summer Covid cases with 10m isolating
Two million people could contract Covid this summer, potentially meaning up to 10 million must isolate in just six weeks, Guardian analysis shows, prompting warnings over risks to health and disruption to the economy. The figures come as Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said England was entering “uncharted territory” in its wholesale scrapping of lockdown rules from 19 July. New infections could easily rise above 100,000 a day over the summer, he said, more than at any point in the pandemic.
Drug That Blocks Immune System Overload Reduces Covid-19 Deaths
Combining two inflammation-blocking drugs reduces hospitalization and death from Covid-19 compared with a standard therapy, according to the World Health Organization. Adding drugs that block an immune protein called interleukin-6 to an already widely used treatment, corticosteroids, reduces the risk of death and the need for breathing assistance, the health agency said Tuesday in a statement. The recommendation was based on 27 trials involving almost 11,000 people.
Pfizer vaccine less effective against delta variant
A study conducted in Israel found that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is somewhat less effective against the more infectious delta variant, though it was still found to be effective at preventing severe illness. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the Pfizer vaccine protected 64 percent of immunized people during an outbreak of the delta variant, a sharp drop when compared to the 94 percent of people it had previously been shown to protect. However, the shot was still 94 percent effective at preventing severe illness, a slight decrease from the 97 percent that were kept from experiencing severe illness previously.
The Delta variant is causing more than 80% of new COVID-19 infections in 4 US states, including 96% of new cases in Missouri
The Delta variant is ripping through parts of the US, causing more than 80% of new COVID-19 infections in four states, data shows. The highly infectious Delta variant accounts for more than 80% of new coronavirus infections in Kansas, Arkansas, Connecticut, and Missouri, according to data compiled by Scripps Research's Outbreak.info. In Missouri, more than 96% of new cases are caused by Delta, the data showed on Tuesday — the highest percentage of any US state.
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Protects Against Delta Variant, Company Reports
The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is effective against the highly contagious Delta variant, even eight months after inoculation, the company reported on Thursday — a finding that should reassure the 11 million Americans who have gotten the shot. The vaccine showed a small drop in potency against the variant, compared with its effectiveness against the original virus, the company said. But the vaccine was more effective against the Delta variant than the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa — the pattern also seen with mRNA vaccines.