"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 12th Jul 2021

Isolation Tips
Locked-down Sydney warned worse may be ahead, COVID-19 cases at 2021 high
Australia's New South Wales state reported its biggest daily rise in locally acquired coronavirus infections this year on Saturday, with authorities warning that worse may yet to come for Sydney, which is in a three-week hard lockdown. There were 50 new cases of community transmission in the country's most populous state, up from 44 a day earlier, the previous 2021 record high. This brings the outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant to 489 cases.
Hygiene Helpers
Pfizer, U.S. health officials to discuss COVID boosters on Monday -company
COVID-19 vaccine maker Pfizer Inc will meet with federal health officials as soon as Monday to discuss the need for a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine as it prepares to seek authorization, the company said on Sunday. The meeting comes days after the drugmaker and its partner BioNTech SE announced plans to seek U.S. and European regulatory approval for a third dose of their COVID-19 shot amid the spread of variants and data they said showed heightened risk of infection six months after initial inoculation.
South Africa extends tight COVID-19 restrictions for another 14 days
South Africa extended tight COVID-19 rules on Sunday for another 14 days, maintaining restrictions that include a ban on gatherings, a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. and a prohibition on the sale of alcohol. The country, the worst-hit on the African continent in terms of recorded cases and deaths, is in the grip of a third wave of infections driven by the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant.
Covid passports 'WILL be compulsory in pubs, clubs and restaurants' to prevent fourth wave
The government hopes Covid passports will encourage vaccine-shy young people to get jabbed. By September, all adults over 18 should have been offered both vaccine doses, allowing for the passports. Patrons will need to show proof of either two vaccine doses or a recent negative test under the proposals
Students don't need masks at school if they are fully vaccinated, CDC says
Fully vaccinated students do not need to wear masks in classrooms this fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. The guidance, which goes beyond mask-wearing, is aimed at kindergartners through high school seniors, and is meant "to help keep kids in classrooms, as well as participating in any sports or extracurricular activities," said Erin Sauber-Schatz, who heads the CDC's Community Interventions and Critical Populations Task Force.
Native Americans continue to boast highest vaccination rates in the US
Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, dying at higher rates than other populations. Now, Native Americans have the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the United States. After successfully vaccinating much of their own population, the Indian Health Service has even begun offering doses to visitors.
Oxford told to reduce travel with mass testing for under 30s to slow Covid surge
People living in Oxford are being urged to reduce their travel and surge testing is being brought into the city to tackle soaring Covid cases. Mass testing for people under 30s is also being rolled out. As part of the new measures, which will come into place on Monday, people living in Oxford will also be urged to get the Covid jab. Similar measures have already been introduced across the North West, and Bedford and Birmingham.
Chile Relaxes Restrictions for the Vaccinated as Covid Cases Drop
Chile will loosen restrictions against the coronavirus for residents who are fully vaccinated as new cases plunge and the government expands one of the world’s fastest inoculation programs. Starting July 15, capacity rules for establishments like gyms and restaurants in districts that aren’t under quarantine will be relaxed for people with two doses, according to a government statement on Thursday. The nightly curfew will be shortened depending on virus and vaccination metrics, and schools will be able to open for on-site classes even in neighborhoods under strict lockdown.
Community Activities
G20 warns of risk to global recovery from virus variants
Variants, vaccine shortfalls raise risks-G20. Global tax deal on course for October signing. But US, EU hurdles could complicate things. Call for financial stability to be ensured
Philippines relaxes COVID-19 curbs to allow children outdoors
The Philippines on Friday loosened coronavirus restrictions to allow children out of their homes so they can return to parks, playgrounds, and hiking trails in the capital region and some other provinces after a slowdown in infections. Children aged five and above, who were previously confined indoors, will also be permitted to go to outdoor tourist sites and dining establishments, and play non-contact sports outside, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Opinion | Uganda Did Everything Right on Covid. And the Worst Is Still Here.
Early in the pandemic, Uganda bought itself precious time at great economic cost to protect its people from Covid-19. There were lockdowns, international travel was restricted, and border screenings were introduced to prevent entry of the coronavirus. Cases of Covid-19 identified at borders or in communities were isolated, and people who had been in contact with those infected were quarantined and checked on by public health authorities.
As the Delta variant spreads, Republican reluctance will mean thousands more deaths
Unfortunately, millions of Trump's followers were convinced by his behavior during his last year in office that COVID was not a crisis. No matter what he says today, they remain convinced that the virus was a political attack, a hoax or simply overblown, regardless of the monumental body count. And then there's the relentless disinformation campaign coming from right-wing media. Here's a little taste:
COVID cases climb as Southeast Asia feels force of Delta variant
Having escaped the worst when the coronavirus pandemic erupted last year, Southeast Asia is now suffering dramatic rises in deaths and cases, while vaccination shortfalls and highly contagious variants derail containment efforts. As countries like Britain, Germany and France prepare to remove most remaining restrictions after devastating outbreaks, governments in Southeast Asia are tightening measures, hoping targeted lockdowns will act as circuit-breakers in arresting record jumps in cases and deaths that started rising in May.
#BoycottHeineken Trends After Brewer Celebrates Vaccines
Heineken NV ran a minute-long ad on social media Thursday showing senior citizens dancing in a nightclub and racing to take a dip at a nearby beach. It ended with the message, “The night belongs to the vaccinated. Time to join them.” By Friday, bands of aggrieved users on Twitter were threatening to #BoycottHeineken. Some uploaded videos of themselves opening bottles of the brewer’s namesake lager and pouring it down their kitchen sinks in protest. Others described the ad as pro-vaccination propaganda.
Working Remotely
Remote work may be leading to an uptick in harassment based on gender, race and age
Though the technology sector is by no means representative of all jobs, data coming out of the space can be helpful in predicting trends that may eventually spread to all industries. A recent report from Project Include, a U.S.-based non-profit committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, found that 25 per cent of tech workers surveyed globally experienced an increase in gender-based harassment during the pandemic, while 10 per cent experienced race-based hostility and 23 per cent over the age of 50 experienced increased age-based harassment. Remote work has been a breeding ground for new, different types of virtual harassment, according to Valerie Cade, a Canadian workplace harassment expert
News organizations are taking different approaches to how often employees will come back to the office
Since the pandemic shutdowns in early 2020, reporters have adjusted techniques to break stories, shifting from in-person lunches and coffees to phone calls and zoom meetings. Editors and team leaders have managed remotely, relying on Slack, Microsoft Teams and content management systems for workflow and communication. Unlike many industries that have been crippled by the pandemic, newsrooms have adjusted and pumped out stories without much of a hitch. That’s led to a quandary among newsroom executives and human resource leaders in charge of getting employees back to the office. How much flexibility should be given to employees who have demonstrated they can produce stories while not in the office? Do newsrooms want everyone back in the office? Is a hybrid approach more appropriate? Or should employees be given total flexibility to work from home whenever they want?
How to Achieve Sustainable Remote Work
Though many executives were relieved to discover that their companies could operate with shuttered office buildings, the shift to remote work was not always smooth. A longitudinal study of remote workers around the world, conducted last year during the pandemic, found that many managers expressed concern that the performance of telecommuters would be “lower” than those who work in an office setting. Meanwhile, more than forty per cent of these managers also expressed skepticism that remote workers can “stay motivated in the long term,” while a similar percentage had low confidence that they “can manage a team of remote workers.” America’s corporate workers could still get things done from home, but, at least from the managerial perspective, they weren’t necessarily doing so in a sustainable manner. The problem with these beliefs is that many employees working for these skeptical managers have come to value a professional life that doesn’t involve long commutes synchronized to rigid hours.
Companies Cutting Office Space Predict Long-Term Savings
Companies expect to reap millions of dollars in savings in the years ahead as they scale back on office space after the coronavirus pandemic emptied workplaces around the country. However, some are paying in the short term for their decision to downsize. Online listings company Yelp Inc., consumer loan provider Affirm Holdings Inc. and drug distributor McKesson Corp. in recent weeks have disclosed one-time charges related to plans to shrink their real-estate footprint. They are among many businesses that are subletting office space, choosing not to renew leases or taking other steps to slim down after giving employees more flexibility to work from home.
Virtual Classrooms
We need a revolution in university teaching – and online-only lectures could start it
Simon Jenkins writes: "Lectures are rubbish education. They should have gone out when printing was invented and students learned to read. The vanity of monks and preachers kept them going and set them up for university education ever since. Lectures have nothing to do with teaching, which is an interactive process. They are academic showbusiness. Yet 3,000 Manchester University students have signed a petition to save their lectures after the pandemic and stop them going online under what is called “blended learning”. They seemingly prefer to have to attend a draughty lecture hall at a fixed time and snooze through a ritual hour of note-taking, as if attending high mass. They are sceptical of the university’s statement that a new “online default model of teaching” will not diminish their “contact time”, even if it offers the comfort and convenience of tuning in to lectures wherever and whenever they choose."
6 Ways to Effectively Use Virtual Reality in Education
Virtual reality technically refers to a computer-generated simulation, wherein an artificial surrounding comes into existence. This realistic environment is accessible to the user in all directions and provides an immersive experience. Naturally, educationists observed great potential in this technology and have, by now, made several attempts to successfully incorporate it into the classrooms and learning modules. Here, in this compilation, we will look into some of the most effective implementations of Virtual Reality in Education.
Judge dismisses Yale student's virtual learning lawsuit
A federal judge has dismissed a Yale University student’s attempt to sue the university for partial compensation for virtual online learning during the height of the pandemic last year. The Yale undergraduate student Jonathan Michel filed a class-action lawsuit against the university for the full tuition payment he and other students made to the school in the spring 2020 semester before the pandemic forced universities across the country to switch to remote virtual learning, the Hartford Courant reported. The judge dismissed the suit because the school is protected from giving tuition reimbursements due to regulations that give it approval to close programs and not issue refunds during a “public health or security concerns.”
U.S. CDC updates school guidance to emphasize in-person learning
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday updated its guidance for U.S. schools reopening in the fall, recommending masking indoors for everyone who is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and three feet of distance within classrooms. The agency said school administrators can require indoor mask use even for students and educators who are vaccinated, depending on the needs of the community. Reasons would include schools with children under age 12, who are not currently authorized to receive COVID-19 vaccines, or high rates of COVID-19 transmission in the region.
Public Policies
Saudi Arabia approves Moderna's COVID vaccine -state news agency
Saudi Arabia's Food and Drug Authority on Friday approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for use in the kingdom, the state news agency (SPA) said. The authority added that after this approval, authorities will start procedures to import the two-dose vaccine, the news agency said. Saudi Arabia had earlier approved the use of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Arab countries pledge aid as Tunisia struggles with COVID pandemic
Several countries promised to help Tunisia fight the coronavirus on Friday as the north African country recorded its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began, putting its health care system under severe stress and depleting oxygen supplies. President Kais Saied said in a statement that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had pledged to send vaccinations and whatever medical equipment Tunisia needed.
Maintaining Services
Tokyo 2020 CEO says Tokyo Olympics will create model for pandemic Games
The Tokyo Olympics will provide a model for hosting the Games during a pandemic after rising COVID-19 infections forced organisers to ban spectators at most events, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said on Sunday. "This will be the first Olympics held during a pandemic, and Tokyo will provide a model for how that is done," Muto said on a political debate program aired by public broadcaster NHK. Athletes will not have to compete in completely empty venues because Olympic officials and journalists will be there, he added.
Public alarm grows at Boris Johnson’s plan for Covid ‘freedom day’
Boris Johnson faces a growing revolt over plans to end most Covid restrictions on 19 July – including the mandatory wearing of face masks on public transport and in hospitals – as half of the public now say they want “freedom day” to be delayed. Last night, as doctors and other NHS workers demanded that mask-wearing continue in hospitals, regional political leaders broke ranks, saying they would override the national government on the issue and strongly advise people to continue wearing masks on public transport.
Unvaccinated hospitalized patients say they regret not getting the shot
"It is heart-wrenching to see unvaccinated individuals come into the hospital with regret," said Dare, an infectious diseases physician. They are patients who, "if they could do it all over again, would have had the vaccine in a second." Arkansas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with less than 35 percent of adults having been fully vaccinated. Now, the state's low vaccine uptake has crashed headlong into the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, leaving some hospital systems once again teetering on the brink of collapse more than a year into the pandemic.
Britain should NOT return to normal on July 19 because NHS backlog combined with third wave is putting doctors under pressure and the 'pandemic is far from over' says medical chief
The government hopes Covid passports will encourage vaccine-shy young people to get jabbed. By September, all adults over 18 should have been offered both vaccine doses, allowing for the passports. Patrons will need to show proof of either two vaccine doses or a recent negative test under the proposals
U.S. Covid-19 Hospitalizations Rise as Delta Variant Spreads
Hospitalizations related to Covid-19 are rising in the U.S. after a long decline, federal data showed, providing evidence of the human toll the Delta virus variant is taking on unvaccinated Americans. Just under 2,000 new patients were admitted to hospitals each day over the week ending July 5, a 6.8% increase over admissions during the previous week and an 88% decrease over a seven-day average of 16,492 patients admitted daily in early January, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New cases are up too, to a seven-day daily average of 13,859 on July 6, about an 11% increase over the previous seven-day average, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday at a White House briefing.
Healthcare Innovations
Children face risk of long Covid as Delta dominates
An infectious diseases expert has warned Ireland needs a plan for treating long Covid as the Delta variant rips through the country’s young people. Jack Lambert, professor of clinical medicine at University College Dublin, said young people are already being treated for the debilitating symptoms that can linger for months after infection. Children were at risk, he said. “We have treated teenagers with chronic fatigue syndrome following a viral illness, even before Covid-19 existed. We know it is going to happen,” he added
Inhaled COVID-19 vaccine prevents disease and transmission in animals
In a new study assessing the potential of a single-dose, intranasal COVID-19 vaccine, a team from the University of Iowa and the University of Georgia found that the vaccine fully protects mice against lethal COVID-19 infection. The vaccine also blocks animal-to-animal transmission of the virus. The findings were published July 2 in the journal Science Advances.
Sinovac's Vaccine Found Inferior to Pfizer Shot in Chile Study
Sinovac’s vaccine was less potent than Pfizer’s at stopping Covid-19 in Chile where the two shots were used simultaneously, allowing the first real-world comparison of the two inoculations. China’s CoronaVac was 66% effective in preventing Covid among fully vaccinated adults, compared with 93% or the jab made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. The research shows both shots protect against severe disease. Sinovac’s inactivated inoculation, given to more than 10 million Chileans, was slightly less effective in preventing hospitalization and deaths than Pfizer’s messenger RNA vaccine, which was administered to fewer than half a million people, according to the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Scotland's Covid case surge drops off after the football team's exit from Euro 2020, expert claims
Professor Paul Hunter claims Scotland's cases's rounding off was caused by the team's exit from Euro 2020. Cases in Scotland skyrocketed last month, up from less than 500 on June 1 to more than 4,000 on July 1. Researchers blamed the sudden surge on people meeting up in pubs and homes to watch matches
COVID and the brain: researchers zero in on how damage occurs
How COVID-19 damages the brain is becoming clearer. New evidence suggests that the coronavirus’s assault on the brain could be multipronged: it might attack certain brain cells directly, reduce blood flow to brain tissue or trigger production of immune molecules that can harm brain cells. Infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 can cause memory loss, strokes and other effects on the brain. The question, says Serena Spudich, a neurologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, is: “Can we intervene early to address these abnormalities so that people don’t have long-term problems?”
Benefits of mRNA COVID vaccines outweigh rare heart risks, says WHO
The benefits of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the very small risk they might cause heart inflammation, as the jabs reduce hospitalisations and deaths, an advisory panel of the World Health Organization said on Friday. In a statement, the WHO said that reports of two rare conditions - myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, and of its lining, called pericarditis - had typically occurred within days of vaccination, mainly among younger males after the second dose.
Very Few Kids Need to Shield From Covid, Large U.K. Study Finds
Most young people face an “extremely low” risk of illness and death from Covid-19 and have no need to shield from the virus, according to researchers behind a large U.K. study. The analysis, which its authors say is the most comprehensive on the topic to date, backs up clinical reports that show children and teens are less likely to be hospitalized or face severe effects from the virus. Covid-19 does increase the chance of serious illness in the most vulnerable children -- those with complex disabilities and severe existing medical conditions -- but even in those cases the risks are smaller compared with adults.