"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 24th Jun 2020

Isolation Tips
Lockdown to ease for vulnerable people in England from next month
The more than 2 million people who are “shielding” from COVID-19 in England because clinically they are extremely vulnerable to the virus will be allowed to spend more time outside their homes from July 6, the health department said on Monday. Bringing the guidance for them into line with rules set for the wider population, the health ministry said they will be able to meet outside in a group of up to six people and, if single or living alone, create a so-called “support bubble” with one other household of any size. From Aug. 1, the guidance will then be relaxed so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield and those who cannot work from home will be able to return to the workplace as long as it is COVID-secure.
Shielding in England: how do you feel about coming out of lockdown?
From 6 July, people in England with underlying health issues who have been shielding since March will be allowed to leave their homes. They will be able to meet up outside in groups of up to six people from different households, provided they keep 2 metres apart, and they will no longer have to remain 2 metres apart from the rest of their household at home.
Domestic abuse reports soar in Hampshire as police called to 7,950 incidents since coronavirus lockdown began
Figures obtained exclusively by The News have today revealed the county’s force has responded to a massive surge in domestic incidents during the coronavirus lockdown. Hampshire police have attended 7,950 reports since stay-at-home measures were announced in March, an increase of almost 500 compared to the same period last year. The worrying spike comes amid calls from abuse charities for the government to accelerate plans to create a new national strategy to combat the violence during the pandemic
Hygiene Helpers
Schools To Reopen In Fall With Masks, Coronavirus Rules: Pritzker
With summer officially underway, parents and teachers got the news they've been waiting for. Will students return to Illinois schools this fall, despite the coronavirus pandemic? The answer, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, is yes — with masks, new social distancing protocols and the possibility of a return to e-learning if there's another wave of the coronavirus. After five consecutive weeks of declining coronavirus case counts and COVID-19 deaths, Pritzker on Tuesday announced plans to return to in-person learning.
French StopCovid app led to 1.8 million activations as of June 22
France's state-supported "StopCovid" contact-tracing app has been downloaded by 1.9 million people, roughly 2% of the population, leading to 1.8 million activations as of June 22, digital affairs minister Cedric O said on Tuesday. The "StopCovid" smartphone app, which was launched on June 2, warns users if they have come into contact with anyone infected with the coronavirus to help to contain the epidemic as France emerges from lockdown.
California governor urges mask use as hospitalizations rise
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is imploring people to wear face coverings to protect against the coronavirus and allow businesses to safely open.
Summer solstice parties cancelled in Spain amid coronavirus concerns
Beach parties on the eve of the summer solstice have been cancelled across Spain as authorities tried to avoid crowds to prevent a new outbreak of Covid-19. Traditional bonfires and spectacular firework displays next to the sea were also prohibited by health chiefs from Valencia to Barcelona along the Mediterranean coast and in Galicia in the northwest.
Illinois schools to reopen in fall after coronavirus shutdown
Schools must follow Illinois Department of Public Health requirements to reopen. Besides face coverings and social distancing, those include prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people, symptom screenings and temperature checks for anyone entering school buildings, and increased cleaning and disinfection.
Brazilian judge tells Bolsonaro to behave and wear a face mask
A Brazilian judge has ordered Jair Bolsonaro to rectify his “at best disrespectful” behaviour by wearing a face mask when circulating in the capital, Brasília. The president has sparked outrage by repeatedly flouting measures designed to slow the advance of a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 Brazilians. The rightwing populist has made a succession of public appearances – at protests, shops and even a floating barbecue – wearing a mask incorrectly, or not at all. On Monday, a federal judge ruled Bolsonaro was not above the laws of the federal district, which contains Brazil’s capital, and would face a daily fine of 2,000 reais (£310) if he continued to break the rules. The use of masks has been compulsory there since late April.
Community Activities
Barcelona opera reopens with concert to an audience of hundreds of potted plants
A Barcelona opera has given its first concert since mid-March to an audience of potted plants. The Gran Teatre del Liceu opened on Monday for a performance by the UceLi Quartet, as a prelude to its 2020-2021 season. A string quartet played Giacomo Puccini's "Crisantemi" to 2,292 plants, in a performance that was also livestreamed to human listeners. The concert, which took place a day after Spain lifted its three-month state of emergency, was planned by Spanish conceptual artist Eugenio Ampudia.
Italian cities see bicycle boom after COVID-19 lockdown
Italy has seen a surge in bicycle sales since the government ended its coronavirus lockdown as people steer clear of public transport and respond to government incentives to help the environment. Some 540,000 bikes have been sold nationwide since shops across the country reopened in early May, according to sector lobby Ancma, a 60% increase in the first month compared to the same period in 2019. To keep people off metros and buses and avoid road congestion, the government has offered to contribute up to 500 euros ($562.70) for city-dwellers who buy traditional or “pedal-assisted” electrical bicycles. The subsidy, which kicked in on May 4 and runs to the end of the year, has accelerated a trend in place even in small centres where it is not available.
Working Remotely
What the Dutch can teach the world about remote work
For some, remote working is just another day at the office. Thousands of workers in the Netherlands benefit from the country’s astonishingly flexible work culture. While the percentage of employed persons usually working remotely before the coronavirus outbreak lingered at around 4.7% in the UK, and 3.6% in the US, 14.1% of the Netherland’s workforce reports usually working away from the office. The Netherlands has long led the global shift toward remote work, with only Finland catching up in recent years while other countries lag behind.
Covid-19 has accelerated tech adoption across India, says Microsoft's Maheshwari
The covid-19 pandemic has made work-from-home the new normal for India's IT and technology firms. Microsoft India has transitioned to a virtual workplace for nearly all its operations and currently, only a small number of employees who perform essential services continue to be on-site at its offices. In an interview, Anant Maheshwari, president, Microsoft India spoke about helping build digital capabilities and the role of technology amid the covid-19 crisis
New Study: Nearly one-third of workers expect to work remotely full-time after the pandemic
Americans who've been working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic expect that remote work will continue to be a big part of their "new normal" after the crisis has passed, according to a national survey from edtech firm MindEdge/Skye Learning. The online survey, The State of Remote Work 2020: The Age of the Pandemic, of 828 remote workers and managers found that almost a third (29%) expect to remain working remotely full-time even after businesses resume "normal" operations. Another 27% expect to work remotely at least part-time – and only 35% expect to return to their old workplaces on a full-time basis.
How Working Remotely Is Making Us More Creative
According to recent surveys, most workers and most CFOs want to make some measure of remote work a permanent reality. While business drivers like reduced overhead and digital transformation initiatives are certainly at play here, surveys like these and our recent global experiment in remote working also hint at the fact that our creativity actually increases when we work remotely.
Paying Remote Workers to Relocate Gets a Pandemic-Era Boost
As jobs go remote due to coronavirus, several cities are doubling down on incentive programs to lure tech workers to work from home in a new location.
A Quarter Fewer Canadians Will Commute to Work After the COVID-19 Lockdown Lifts: New Survey
A new survey from Rates.ca found that COVID-19 is driving a lasting shift in Canadians’ commuting routines with a decline by 25 per cent of respondents (84 per cent compared to 63 per cent) stating they will travel to work post lockdown, whether in their own vehicle, taking public transit or carpooling. Representing a 13 per cent decline, slightly more than half (53 per cent) of respondents say they plan to drive to work in the future, a notable change from 61 per cent who did pre-COVID-19. When it comes to taking public transit to their jobs, the survey indicates a drop of 58 per cent (17 per cent to seven per cent) while 50 per cent fewer will carpool (six percent to three per cent).
Breakingviews - The looming war over working from home
For the hundreds of millions of office workers forced to participate in the world’s biggest telecommuting experiment, whatever enthusiasm they may have had is wearing off. Faster networks and processing speeds smoothed the experience compared to prior efforts, but there are bigger issues for companies and their staffs to consider as they start thinking about a post-pandemic era. More than 80% of employees expect to return to the office in the next 12 to 18 months, according to a Xerox survey of corporate tech decision makers released in June. Over half of the companies polled plan to move to hybrid home and office models and will boost IT spending to support the transition.
Virtual Classrooms
Creativity, serendipity enhance CGA's pivot to online classes
Shannon White signed up to teach a full slate-plus of courses for the COVID-19 semester of ’20. “What a semester to have an overload, right?” she quipped. White is a faculty member at William & Mary’s Center for Geospatial Analysis, which offers courses and training on GIS (geographic information system) technology. As with all other courses at the university, classes were interrupted by spring break. The university’s switch to virtual instruction followed. GIS is a high-tech marriage of data science and cartography. White and other CGA faculty instill graduate and undergraduate students with the skills and understanding to use mapping and visualization techniques in projects ranging from art history to field biology.
Accounting professor captures ‘in-person synergy’ in transition to online learning
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the St. Mary’s University community has adapted — faculty stepping up to deliver quality education to students from a distance. Robbie Bishop-Monroe, D.B.A., Assistant Professor of Accounting, shared takeaways from her spring classes in a Q&A. Bishop-Monroe, also a CPA, joined St. Mary’s in 2019. She specializes in accounting, auditing and governmental accounting. In Spring 2020, she taught Introduction to Accounting, Governmental Accounting and Auditing.
TEA spells out funding for distance learning but delays advice on how to open classrooms
The state will continue to fund school districts for remote learning in the coming school year, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a phone call with superintendents Tuesday afternoon. Texas has ordered districts to open campuses for students who choose to return to classrooms, but Morath said he’d wait until later to offer the guidance for in-person instruction that school leaders were expecting. “It’s a rapidly changing public health landscape now, much like it was in the initial days of coronavirus,” he said.
Public Policies
New Zealand citizens returning home may be quarantined in campervans
New Zealand's government is considering using campervans on a Navy base in Auckland for its citizens to isolate in after returning from overseas to stop the spread of coronavirus. As hotels reach capacity in the city, the most populous in the country, an increase in people returning from overseas as coronavirus restrictions relax may cause a lack of accommodation for the mandatory two-week isolation period. Whangaparaoa military base was already used to isolate New Zealand nationals returning on repatriation flights from Wuhan, China, then the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health and the public face of the country's battle against the disease, was asked if the Whangaparaoa military base in Auckland would once again be used.
Russians Throng River Cruises as Moscow Lockdown Eases Ahead of Vote
Russians soaked up the sun on boat cruises on the river Moskva on Tuesday for the first time in three months after authorities lifted many of the city's last remaining restrictions aimed at halting the novel coronavirus. Officials in the city of 12.7 million, the epicentre of Russia's outbreak, say new infections have been falling from a peak in May and stood at just over 1,000 on Tuesday. Russia's national case load, the world's third highest, is nearly 600,000. The city, which began rapidly relaxing an array of lockdown restrictions earlier this month, on Tuesday allowed restaurants, cafes, libraries, playgrounds and gyms to open properly and for river cruises to resume.
Johnson to overrule scientists and ease lockdown
Boris Johnson will on Tuesday reject misgivings from some leading scientists and press ahead with a plan to cut England’s contentious two-metre social-distancing rule, as he adds cinemas, galleries and museums to the list of premises able to reopen on July 4. Pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers will also be given approval to reopen their doors with coronavirus precautions in place on July 4, to the relief of Conservative MPs who have been urging the prime minister to press ahead with further lockdown easing. In a sign of increasing efforts to boost the economy amid the Covid-19 crisis, Mr Johnson is hoping to announce in the next few days the lifting of the UK’s 14-day quarantine arrangements for travellers arriving from countries including Belgium, France, Germany, Greece and Spain.
Britain gets its summer back: PM halves 2m rule, opens pubs and lets households mix inside from July 4 - but warns he could 'put the handbrake on at any time' with 95% of UK still in danger of catching coronavirus
PM announced key sectors including tourism and hospitality can reopen next week for first time since March. Changes will be reversed if people abuse new rules and Covid-19 takes off again, Boris Johnson has warned. Comes amid optimism that virus which has killed over 42,000 in UK is reducing to manageable proportions Indoor venues, including cinemas, museums and art galleries, are allowed to reopen in England from July 4.
Coronavirus: UK must prepare for second virus wave - health leaders
Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to determine whether the UK is properly prepared for the "real risk" of a second wave of coronavirus. In an open letter published in the British Medical Journal, ministers were warned that urgent action would be needed to prevent further loss of life. The presidents of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Nursing, Physicians, and GPs all signed the letter. It comes after Boris Johnson announced sweeping changes to England's lockdown. On Tuesday, the prime minister said pubs, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers will be able to reopen from 4 July. The 2m social-distancing rule will be replaced with a "one-metre plus" rule, meaning people should stay at least 2m apart where possible, but otherwise should remain at least 1m apart while taking steps to reduce the risk of transmission, such as wearing face coverings.
How lockdown now compares across the UK as England lifts more lockdown measures
Key changes to lockdown rules have been announced in England with the announcement that pubs, restaurants and cinemas will be allowed to open from July 4. But in Wales, the next review is due to be held on Friday, July 10. First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Monday June 22 said that the Welsh Government would be assessing the two-metre rule themselves. Mr Drakeford said they will follow the advice that Mr Johnson is relying on as well as the advice from Wales' chief medical officer and medical networks. "We put the health of the public first," he said. The Welsh Government says: "Decisions on the rules for preventing the spread of the virus in Wales are for the Welsh Government.
Canada's biggest city, Toronto, to reopen businesses, ending three-month lockdown
Toronto, Canada’s most-populous city and financial capital, will allow businesses to reopen starting on Wednesday, joining other regions in the province of Ontario in ending a three-month pandemic lockdown, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Monday. Malls and restaurants in Toronto, along with Peel Region, which includes some of the city’s densely populated suburbs, will be able to open their patios, according to the government’s plan.
Easing several lockdown rules at once could boost virus, say UK scientists
The easing of multiple lockdown measures in England at once risks Covid-19 gaining a fresh foothold, scientists advising the government have warned. They raised concerns over the halving of the 2-metre physical distancing rule at the same time as reopening venues, saying the country was currently experiencing up to 4,300 Covid-19 infections a day and had no effective digital track-and-trace system, while highlighting research that showed transmission of the virus was more likely to happen indoors.
Coronavirus has brought US 'to its knees', says CDC director
Dr Robert Redfield tells hearing that public health capabilities underfunded as US sees more than 2.3 million cases. “We have all done the best that we can do to tackle this virus and the reality is that it’s brought this nation to its knees,” Redfield told the House energy and commerce committee. “We are probably going to spend $7tn because of one little virus,” he added. He said that the US had “used the capacity that we have” to confront the pandemic but that “the critics will be there”.
Finnish gov't calls off specific coronavirus recommendations for over-70 set
The government said that due to an improvement in Finland's coronavirus infection rate, it was no longer issuing special recommendations for residents over the age of 70. At a press conference early Tuesday evening, Minister for Basic Services and Health, Krista Kiuru, said risk assessments were central to decision making regarding the restrictions which were put in place during the crisis over the spring. Tuesday's announcement was the second time that restrictions on the over-70 set were eased. Before government lightened those restrictions last month, seniors had been advised to avoid leaving their homes if at all possible. Going forward, general recommendations from the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) apply to all age groups, meaning that people should continue practicing good cough and sneezing hygiene, good hand hygiene and other preventative measures.
Serbia Under-Reported COVID-19 Deaths and Infections, Data Shows
Data from the Serbian state’s COVID-19 information system shows that more than twice as many infected patients have died than the authorities announced, and hundreds more people tested positive for the virus in recent days than admitted, BIRN can reveal.
EU May Ban Travel from US as it Reopens Borders, Citing Coronavirus Failures
European Union officials are racing to agree on who can visit the bloc as of July 1 based on how countries of origin are faring with new coronavirus cases. Americans, so far, are excluded, according to draft lists seen by The New York Times.
Sweden's Coronavirus Failure Started Long Before the Pandemic
Many countries have criticized the Swedish government’s lax lockdown, but the deadly mistakes of defunding elder care and decentralizing public health oversight were made before anyone had heard of COVID-19.
Maintaining Services
Belgium Gives Free Rail Travel To All
But travel abroad will be anything but clearcut, with the reimposition of border controls and cancellation of flights possible this summer. For those with concerns about international travel, the Belgian government has given them a major incentive to take a Belgian ‘staycation’ instead: free rail journeys for the rest of the year to anywhere in the country. Every Belgian resident aged 12 and over will be entitled to a “national tour” rail pass giving them 12 free journeys, in an attempt to boost the country’s tourism sector which suffered badly from the lockdown. The free journeys can be claimed at a rate of two per month, from August 2020 to January 2021
France’s Revival Sees Economy Unexpectedly Return to Growth
The French economy’s revival from the coronavirus lockdown appears stronger than anticipated, with a measure of private-sector activity showing growth for the first time in four months. IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers Index jumped to 51.3 in June from 32.1 in May, beating economists’ expectations for 46.8. The individual gauges for both manufacturing and services also climbed above the 50 key level.
Cinemas re-open in France, the birthplace of film
After a three-month coronavirus hiatus, French movie fans made a comeback on Monday as cinemas across the country re-opened in the latest phase of the country's relaxation of lockdown measures.
End of télétravail? France's new rules for employees to return to work
Working from home will cease to be the norm as France lays out new protocols for people returning to work. The French government will this week lay out new protocols that will allow more people to return to work, including abolishing the recommendation that everyone should work from home if possible. As France has gradually reopened, government advice has remained the same as it was at the height of the lockdown - that people who can work from home should continue to do so if possible. The recommendation was intended to avoid large numbers of people in workplaces, as well as easing crowding on public transport at peak times in cities. But now a new protocol, set to be published in its final form later in the week, scraps this recommendation.
In Poor Countries, Many Covid-19 Patients Are Desperate for Oxygen
As the coronavirus pandemic hits more impoverished countries with fragile health care systems, global health authorities are scrambling for supplies of a simple treatment that saves lives: oxygen. Many patients severely ill with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, require help with breathing at some point. But now the epidemic is spreading rapidly in South Asia, Latin America and parts of Africa, regions of the world where many hospitals are poorly equipped and lack the ventilators, tanks and other equipment necessary to save patients whose lungs are failing. The World Health Organization is hoping to raise $250 million to increase oxygen delivery to those regions. The World Bank and the African Union are contributing to the effort, and some medical charities are seeking donations for the cause.
When can I travel to France? Latest guidance for UK visitors - and quarantine rules explained
Despite France’s major recent changes to its lockdown measures, arrivals from the UK and some other countries are still being asked to self-isolate for 14 days. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) also currently advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice took effect on 17 March, and while it initially applied for a period of 30 days, the travel ban is now listed as “indefinite”. On top of that, a two-week quarantine period for anyone arriving back in the UK – including UK nationals – has been in place since 8 June.
Healthcare Innovations
Coronavirus tracker: Sanofi corners vaccine tech new and old; Merck series tackles cancer during COVID-19
Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson doesn't share the "need for speed" driving so many other big pharmas in the COVID-19 vaccine race; instead, his company will focus on older, proven tech to bring a shot to market sometime next summer. Still, Sanofi doubled down on a 2018 pact with Translate Bio, currently at work on an mRNA vaccine candidate. A private equity firm nabbed a former Bristol Myers Squibb plant where it hopes to entice drugmakers to ramp up production on U.S. shores. Plus, Indian CDMO Piramal Pharma Solutions continued its U.S. expansion when it snared a former G&W Laboratories site on Monday. Plus, Merck & Co. is expanding its partnership with Katie Couric in a new web series tackling the hurdles cancer patients face during the COVID-19 pandemic
Covid-19 vaccine may work better as a nasal spray instead of an injection, top scientists claim
A coronavirus vaccine may be more effective as a nasal spray or inhaler, researchers behind Britain's most promising Covid-19 jabs claimed today. Oxford University and Imperial College London scientists believe getting the vaccine directly into the lungs may be the best way to protect people against the respiratory infection. Both universities are currently testing their Covid-19 jabs — administered by injection into the muscle — on thousands of humans in clinical trials, in the global race to find a way to end the pandemic. The Oxford vaccine, leading the global race for a Covid cure, is currently being trialled on more than 10,000 people in Britain, Brazil and South Africa after moving in phase III trials.
The long term predictions from Imperial College CovidSim Report 9
We present calculations using the CovidSim code which implements the Imperial College individual-based model of the COVID epidemic. Using the parameterization assumed in March 2020, we reproduce the predictions presented to inform UK government policy in March 2020. We find that CovidSim would have given a good forecast of the subsequent data if a higher initial value of R0 had been assumed. We then investigate further the whole trajectory of the epidemic, presenting results not previously published. We find that while prompt interventions are highly effective at reducing peak ICU demand, none of the pro- posed mitigation strategies reduces the predicted total number of deaths below 200,000. Surprisingly, some interventions such as school closures were predicted to increase the projected total number of deaths.
S. Africa to start Africa's first coronavirus vaccine pilot
South Africa will roll out the continent’s first coronavirus vaccine trial this week, the university leading the pilot said Tuesday, as the country grapples with the highest number of cases in Africa. The vaccine, developed by the Oxford Jenner Institute, is already being evaluated in Britain, where 4,000 participants have signed up for the trial. South Africa has set out to vaccinate 2,000 people with the vaccine known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. Fifty of the candidates have HIV. “We began screening participants for the South African Oxford 1 Covid-19 vaccine trial last week, and the first participants will be vaccinated this week,” University of Witwatersrand (Wits) vaccinology professor Shabir Madhi told a virtual press conference.
Economic and social consequences of human mobility restrictions under COVID-19
The lockdown measures introduced in Italy to deal with COVID-19 have produced a mobility contraction which is not homogeneously distributed across Italian municipalities and regions. An examination of the steep fall on the Italian mobility network during the pandemic reveals some counterintuitive results, calling for further analysis.
Coronavirus: Scotland achieves New Zealand-style testing benchmark as only one Covid case detected for every 200 tests
The ratio of positive to negative test results indicates that Scotland “is on the safe side” in terms of controlling the pandemic, according to a scientific briefing paper that draws comparisons with the performance in New Zealand and South Korea. It has also plunged since April, when more than one in five tests were coming back positive. It came as Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that no deaths from Covid had been reported in Scotland for a second day in a row, with just 15 confirmed or suspected Covid patients in intensive care.
Inovio gets $71 million from U.S. defense department for COVID-19 vaccine device
U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to scale up production of the company’s devices that are used to administer its experimental COVID-19 vaccine into the skin. The drug developer’s shares rose nearly 13% to $17.27 before the opening bell. The funding from the DoD will be used to expand the manufacturing of a next-generation version of the company’s Cellectra devices. The company began developing the devices in 2019 and has already begun initial production. Cellectra is a small, hand-held device that can be stockpiled in large quantities without maintenance. Inovio said a previous version of the device has been used in clinical trials to safely dose more than 2,000 patients
Blood Type May Play a Role in Covid-19 Severity
A very early study of patients with Covid-19 in Wuhan and Shenzhen, China was among the first to suggest an association between blood type and SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility and disease severity. In that study, published ahead of peer review, the type A blood group appeared to be associated with a greater risk for acquiring Covid-19 and the type O blood group was linked to lower risk. Another early study involving cases in New York City, also published ahead of peer review, found a higher prevalence of group A blood type in patients who were SARS-CoV-2 positive and a lower prevalence of infection with group O blood type. And, preliminary data recently reported by the commercial genetic testing site 23andMe also suggested a protective role for type O blood type against the novel coronavirus when compared to other blood types. Blood specialist Parameswaran Hari, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, said while the research suggesting a role for blood type in Covid-19 remains preliminary, the findings appear to be consistent. Hari was not involved with the newly published study, but he talked to BreakingMED about the findings. “The studies are all pointing in the same direction, and that is really intriguing,” he said.