"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 15th Jul 2020
Should all coronavirus patients be put into hotel quarantine? We did the maths
The increased risk of infection for individuals within the building or groups of buildings suggests hotel isolation could be both a safer and more cost-effective measure. Facing the risks of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, the Government needs to consider multiple measures to control the spread of the virus. Although our findings show the cost of self-isolating a patient at their home is cheaper than a hotel room on average, this is not the case for all household sizes.
Coronavirus lockdown may have led to increased child suicides, new report warns
A “concerning signal” that child suicides may have increased during the coronavirus lockdown has prompted a warning to doctors and health services to be vigilant. A national report for NHS England found there had been 25 likely suicides of children during the first 56 days of lockdown in March and April,
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of isolation pods to transport Covid-19 patients unused
‘Isolation pods’ purchased for transporting people infected with coronavirus have gone used over fears they could explode. NHS England spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on 15 of the devices for patients who have infectious diseases to be used in ambulances during the pandemic. Their manufacturer described the devices, called EpiShuttles, as a “single-patient isolation and transport system” designed for containing highly infectious patients. It has hit back at claims that they are not safe to use and believing otherwise is caused by “poor knowledge of the equipment”.
America is being way too calm about COVID-19
What’s even scarier is the propensity of Americans to ignore or downplay a malaise that is generating tens of thousands of entirely preventable deaths. It makes total sense that the rest of the world wants to keep Americans out these days. Thanks at least in part to mostly young people socializing in bars and nightclubs, the country has been setting records for daily case counts, now nearing 3 million. In states that reopened early — Arizona, Florida, Texas — new COVID-19 cases have been increasing faster every day, suggesting that the disease is spreading exponentially. The horrible data suggest that we have learned nothing from the tragic experience of the past several months, that things are spinning out of control and that wishing for the best is folly. When I, as a data scientist, see numbers like this — and recognize that even they are vastly understating the reality — I automatically extrapolate to the worst case scenario, in which millions of people die. I start to actually smell death.
How to fix the Covid-19 dumpster fire in the US
There’s no point in sugar-coating this. The U.S. response to the Covid-19 pandemic is a raging dumpster fire. Where a number of countries in Asia and Europe have managed to dampen spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to the point where they can consider returning to a semblance of normalcy — friends from Paris just emailed me pictures from their Sicilian vacation — many international borders remain closed to Americans. On Sunday, Florida reported more than 15,000 cases — in a single day. South Korea hasn’t registered 15,000 cases in the entire pandemic to date. One day last week the U.S. recorded more than 68,000 cases.
Asia ramps up coronavirus curbs as new clusters erupt
Australian states tightened borders and restricted pub visits on Tuesday, while Disney prepared to close its Hong Kong theme park and Japan stepped up tracing as a jump in novel coronavirus cases across Asia fanned fears of a second wave of infections. Many parts of Asia, the region first hit by the coronavirus that emerged in central China late last year, are finding cause to pause the reopening of their economies, some after winning praise for their initial responses to the outbreak. Australia largely avoided the high numbers of cases and casualties seen in other countries with swift and strict measures, but a spike in community-transmitted cases in Victoria state and a rise in new cases in New South Wales has worried authorities.
Helping track and reduce COVID-19 infections in Northeast Brazil
A combination of thermal drones, artificial intelligence, and mathematical modeling is helping scientists track and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Northeast Brazil: one of a series of ongoing, innovative coronavirus research initiatives being carried out by UCL and scientists in Brazil.
Are masks about to become compulsory in France?
After several announcements from high-profile political and scientific figures, there is growing speculation that France could be about to make wearing a mask compulsory in more situations. At present masks are compulsory on all forms of public transport (including taxis and Ubers) and there is a €135 fine for not wearing one. The rest of the rules are slightly more varied. Shop and business owners have the right to require customers to wear a mask and the right to bar entry to customers who are not masked. In practice some shops and businesses declare port du masque obligatoire (wearing a mask is compulsory) while other merely say that masks are recommandé (recommended).
Are more people in Denmark going to wear face masks?
New recommendations from the Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen), published Friday, advise the use of face masks in the country in certain circumstances, including when travelling home from areas considered high-risk or on the way to being tested for coronavirus. As of Friday, the authority recommends using face masks in certain special situations, bringing the policy in Denmark closer to that of other European countries such as France and Germany. According to its new advice to those who have tested positive, those in close contact with someone who has tested positive, and those with symptoms, the authority recommends people use face masks if they are forced to leave self-isolation. "Use a face mask if you break self-isolation to go out to take a test," the health authority states, linking to a guide for correctly using masks.
Grassroots help for homeless, drug addicts thrives in lockdown S. Africa - The Jakarta Post
While some of the nation's homeless shelters have made headlines for harsh living conditions and police brutality, others have become unexpected havens for some residents. "I found paradise here," said Matthew Nxumalo, 35, a mechanic who is also on the methadone program, which has helped some 200 people in different shelters since the beginning of the lockdown. "Nobody else thought about us until we arrived here, but I feel like I've been given a second chance," Nxumalo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation before he gathered firewood in the bushes next to the bowling green to light an evening fire.
Banksy creates mask-themed work on London Underground
Coronavirus-inspired stencils on tube train feature rats with surgical face masks and hand sanitiser
No vaccine, no carnival, Rio's samba schools warn
Some of Rio's biggest samba schools say they will not participate in next year's Carnival unless a coronavirus vaccine is widely available, Brazilian media reported Tuesday. Five of the 12 top samba schools, including Mangueira and Beija Flor, told Brazil's O Globo newspaper they would vote to postpone the parades at a meeting set for Tuesday. "It's simple. If there's no vaccine, there will be no samba," said the head of the Sao Clemente school, Renatinho Gomes. "How can you gather crowds without collective immunity?"
Have work, will travel: Why Estonia wants digital nomads
Tiny Estonia is wielding an unlikely weapon in the fight against the economic damage caused by coronavirus: immigration law. On Wednesday, the Baltic state will launch a “Digital Nomad Visa,” which it hopes will help it recover from an expected recession and boost its growing credentials as a bureaucratic innovator.
Employers to allow staff to continue working remotely - Gartner
The majority of employers plan to allow their staff to continue working remotely some of the time, according to new research from Gartner. A survey from the analyst firm found 82% of respondents intend to permit remote working some of the time as employees return to the workplace. For many organisations with employees working both onsite and remotely, adapting to a new, more complex hybrid workforce is the challenge as how people work together to get their job done evolves, Gartner says. Nearly half (47%) said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time going forward. For some organisations, flex time will be the new norm as 43% of survey respondents reported they will grant employees flex days, while 42% will provide flex hours, “The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a huge experiment in widespread remote working,” says Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice.
Working from home can soon mean working in Barbados for up to a year
Those working remotely in the Covid-19 pandemic may soon be able to move the home office to Barbados, according to the Barbados Government Information Service. Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley announced at the reopening of a bar that the government will soon introduce a 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp for visitors working remotely, the government information service said earlier this month. Rapid testing is not readily available for the country in the coronavirus pandemic, which has made short-term travel to Barbados more difficult, Mottley said. The year-long invitation is Barbados' answer to the economic difficulties travel companies and tourist destinations are facing as people all over the world are encouraged to stay home and mitigate the virus' spread.
Potential for remote working across different places | VOX, CEPR Policy Portal
While working from home represents an opportunity to reduce the economic costs of lockdowns and social distancing measures, not all occupations are suitable for remote working. Even more importantly, the possibility for remote working is not the same across locations within countries. As shown by Dingel and Neiman (2020), the first authors to study how remote working can differ across locations in the US, a much larger share of employment is able to shift to remote mode in some places than in others, reducing the economic costs of lockdown more significantly in those regions. Our study (OECD 2020) assesses the potential of remote working within 27 EU countries, Switzerland, Turkey and the US. Overall, cities – especially capitals – have a higher share of employment that can potentially be done via teleworking than other places within the same countries. This share is, on average, 15 percentage points higher in the region with the highest potential for remote working than in the region with the lowest potential, reaching more than 20 percentage points in certain countries. The concentration of occupations that have a high remote working potential in some regions drives these large within-country differences.
What It's Like To Start A New Job Remotely During A Pandemic
James is among a number of Washingtonians who are navigating starting a job remotely, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has kept many companies from returning to the office. These new employees are struggling to adapt to virtual work environments—making their first impressions via Zoom, trying to establish working relationships remotely, and dealing with video conferencing fatigue and tech glitches in workplaces they’re unaccustomed to.
More Canadians will be working from home post-pandemic, StatCan data suggests
New data from Statistics Canada suggests that more Canadians will be working from home once the COVID-19 pandemic is over as more employers report that their staff can effectively do their jobs remotely. The survey results released Tuesday found that nearly one-quarter of Canadian businesses expect that 10 per cent or more of their workforce will continue to telework or work remotely post-pandemic. According to Statistics Canada, businesses that expect their employees to continue working from home include the information and cultural industries sector (47 per cent) and the professional, scientific and technical services sector (44.5 per cent).
Apple asks retail staff to work remotely as it shuts stores down again
Apple also shipping COVID-19 test kits to employees' homes, and told staff a full return to U.S. offices won't occur before the end of the year
A Teacher Who Contracted COVID-19 Cautions Against In-Person Schooling
As school districts consider how to approach learning this fall with no sign of the coronavirus slowing, the virus has already had devastating consequences in one rural Arizona school district. Jena Martinez-Inzunza was one of three elementary school teachers at the Hayden Winkelman Unified School District who all tested positive for COVID-19 after teaching virtual summer school lessons together from the same classroom. Martinez's colleague and friend, Kimberley Chavez Lopez Byrd, who taught in the district for nearly four decades, died. "She was very dear to me. She's one of my closest friends," Martinez told Morning Edition.
'I'm scared': In Detroit, a city hit hard by COVID-19, reopening classrooms sparks protests
While the district says it took safety precautions to prevent the spread of the virus and stressed that no students or teachers were forced to participate in face-to-face instruction, the first two days of classes were met with protests. Activists blocked school buses from leaving a bus depot. A civil rights lawyer, who used the word “genocide” to describe the effect of the district’s decision because the student population is 96 percent Black or Latino, says she plans to seek an injunction to close the schools. The head of the city teachers union called in-person summer school a “mind-boggling decision.” And some parents expressed grave reservations about whether their children would be safe.
Wake County student calls for online classes as Gov. Cooper decides reopening plan
As the state awaits a decision on school reopening plans, nearly 1,500 people signed a high school senior’s petition calling for the Wake County Public School System to adopt an online-only school reopening plan, instead of proposed in-person approaches. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he will announce his school reopening plan Tuesday at 3 p.m., after delaying the original announcement set for July 1. If Cooper says schools have to operate fully online, every North Carolina School district will have to cooperate.
WHO sounds alarm as coronavirus cases rise by one million in five days
The pandemic has now killed more than half a million people in six-and-a-half months, and World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there would be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future, especially if preventive measures were neglected. “Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one,” he told a virtual briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva. “If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go, it is going to get worse and worse and worse. But it does not have to be this way.” Reuters’ global tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease accelerating fastest in Latin America.
WHO says no return to 'normal' as Latin America deaths pass US
Too many nations are mismanaging their coronavirus response, placing a return to normality a long way off, the World Health Organization warned Monday as Latin America recorded the world's second-highest death toll. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that too many countries were "headed in the wrong direction" with governments giving out mixed messages that were undermining trust. "There will be no return to the 'old normal' for the foreseeable future," he said, warning that without governments adopting a comprehensive strategy, the situation would get "worse and worse and worse".
WHO chief slams 'mixed messages' from leaders on coronavirus
The World Health Organization’s chief on Monday slammed some government leaders for eroding public trust by sending mixed messages on the coronavirus and warned that their failures to stop their countries’ spiraling outbreaks mean there would be no return to normal “for the foreseeable future.” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus did not call out specific politicians for criticism but said “too many countries are headed in the wrong direction” with the pandemic and some were not taking the proper steps to curb infections. At the same time, Tedros acknowledged how difficult it was for governments to respond effectively, given the economic, social and cultural consequences of imposing restrictions.
As U.S. Surge in Coronavirus Cases Continues, Some States Tighten Rules
Coronavirus cases in the U.S. continued to grow in dozens of states, as some officials instituted fresh containment measures and others examined how reopening plans failed to anticipate surges in new infections and related hospitalizations. More than 136,200 people have died of the disease across the nation, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and more than 3.4 million have been infected. More than 575,000 have died world-wide and more than 13.2 million have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins data.
From NZ to Iceland, the femocracies that aced their virus response
Iceland has also been heralded for acing its handling of Covid-19, recording just 10 deaths. Its prime minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir was quick to act, offering free testing to all citizens, while Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen and Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin both followed Ardern’s lead, moving quickly to impose travel bans. Their measures might have been stricter than many countries’, but their delivery was softer. Ardern has held Kiwis’ hands through the pandemic, delivering non-preachy video messages from her living room and non-combative press conferences. If a staff member walks in during a Facebook Live, she’ll introduce them to viewers, and when a reporter forgot his question in a recent briefing, Ardern joked and told him she hoped he was getting enough sleep.
In US, political divisions stymie return to lockdowns
US mayors of Houston and Atlanta are calling for a return to stay-at-home orders to staunch an alarming spike in coronavirus cases, but are being hindered by state governors who favor less restrictive measures.
UK government will look at Leicester lockdown on Thursday, says health minister
British Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Tuesday the government would assess whether lockdown measures in the English city of Leicester could be eased on Thursday, but warned that the number of coronavirus cases was still high. A stringent lockdown was imposed in Leicester, in central England, two weeks ago - even as many restrictions were being lifted for the rest of the country - after a spike in cases of COVID-19 in the city. “I set out that there is process for whether changes can be made in Leicester. The process is that we will look at 14 days of data ... on Thursday of this week and make a public announcement as soon as is reasonably possible about whether and if any changes can be made to the situation,” Hancock told parliament adding that the number of positive cases was still well above the rest of the country.
Germany eyes local travel bans to prevent 2nd virus wave
Helge Braun, who is Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff and tasked with coordinating the government's pandemic response, said Germany is considering local travel bans for areas that see a sudden, unexplained surge in virus cases. "Our measures are appropriate to preventing a second big wave," Braun told The Associated Press in an interview at the Chancellery in Berlin. "But this requires us to stay the course, not get careless in our measures and maintain our respect for the virus." Germany has managed to flatten the curve of infections to three per 100,000 inhabitants a week - a very low rate by international comparison. The country of 83 million has reported just over 200,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,077 deaths since the start of its outbreak.
Experts call for Australia to replace coronavirus suppression strategy with elimination plan
An elimination strategy would likely involve tougher lockdowns, and has proved successful in New Zealand. Prominent public health experts who now believe Australia should adopt the strategy include Bill Bowtell and Gregory Dore, from UNSW's Kirby Institute, and Melbourne University epidemiologist Tony Blakely. Dr Bowtell, an adjunct professor at the University of NSW and one of the architects of Australia's response to HIV, said Australia was on the verge of eliminating the disease. "We've got the evidence in front of our eyes," he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
COVID-19: S.African teachers call for school closures
South Africa's largest teachers union has called on authorities to close schools until the number of COVID-19 cases drop in the country, which has the most infections on the continent. "The community infections have been rising since the reopening of schools and [it is] inevitably affecting the schools," Mugwena Maluleke, the general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, said in a virtual media briefing. "In the country, the virus is reaching its peak and at the same time, we are in winter season known as the influenza season," he said, adding that if schools remain open, learners, teachers, and academic staff would be at high risk of contracting the virus as South Africa approaches its peak of infections.
Portugal keeps parts of Lisbon under coronavirus lockdown
Portugal’s government said on Monday five areas on the outskirts of Lisbon will remain under a partial lockdown put in place two weeks ago to tackle a worrying wave of coronavirus cases. People living in 19 civil parishes of Greater Lisbon are allowed to leave home only to buy essential goods such as food or medication, or to travel to and from work. “Although the coronavirus incidence rate has improved in these 15 days, it has not yet reached a stage where we would reevaluate measures,” Cabinet Affairs Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva told a news conference.
India's tech hub Bengaluru, other towns back in lockdown as coronavirus infections surge
India’s high-tech hub of Bengaluru will go back into a coronavirus lockdown for a week on Tuesday after a surge of infections, threatening to derail government efforts to revive a stuttering economy. Places of worship, public transport, government offices and most shops will close again from the evening, and people will be confined to their homes, only allowed out for essential needs. Schools, colleges and restaurants will remain shut, authorities said. Bengaluru, home to some of the world’s biggest IT firms such as Infosys, had only about 1,000 coronavirus cases in mid-June and was seen to have fared better than other parts of India in terms of testing and contact tracing.
Catalan chief defies judge who rejected lockdown, sowing confusion
Spain’s Catalonia approved on Monday a decree giving it legal backing to place restrictions on the city of Lleida and its surroundings to stem a surge in coronavirus infections, defying a judge’s earlier ruling that such an order was unlawful.
Thais seek to fix errors that allowed infected foreigners in
Authorities in Thailand have urged almost 1,900 people to quarantine themselves and get tested for the virus after a breakdown in screening allowed two foreigners with the disease to pose a risk to public health. The agency coordinating Thailand's coronavirus response also announced it is rolling back regulations for admitting foreign visitors in order to tighten up procedures.
Paris bubbles over with optimism post-lockdown
Since the first days of déconfinement, Parisians have embraced with gusto a return to normal life that interprets liberally the official guidelines of social distancing and wearing masks. Judging by the festive outdoor hubbub, the feeling of risk has dissipated. At 5 Pailles, a trendy brunch spot in the 10th arrondissement, a densely packed line snakes around the corner on weekends. Bengisu Gunes, a partner in the restaurant, says business has never been better: “It’s like a placebo effect,” she says of the desire to come out again. “Or maybe it’s the French culture — a little revolutionary.” Meanwhile in Britain, where restaurants and pubs reopened on July 4, three-fifths of Britons still don't feel comfortable dining out, according to an Office for National Statistics survey.
'Great concern' as new Ebola outbreak grows in western DR Congo
WHO says nearly 50 people infected in new Ebola outbreak as DR Congo grapples with COVID-19 and measles epidemics.
Health Ministry officials said to conclude there’s no escaping 2nd lockdown
TV report comes hours after Health Ministry director assures Israelis his office working to prevent another statewide shutdown, but warns that infection rate has risen to 6%
Canada's Medicago begins human trials of plant-based COVID-19 vaccine
Medicago said it has begun testing its plant-based coronavirus vaccine in an early-stage clinical trial as the Canadian company, backed by tobacco company Phillip Morris, races against larger drugmakers to develop a treatment option to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Medicago's vaccine is being tested with adjuvants from GlaxoSmithKline and Dynavax Technologies. Medicago's potential vaccine uses the leaves of a plant from the tobacco family to produce the S-spike protein, one of the three spike proteins of the novel coronavirus. The company has already used this approach in a flu vaccine that is awaiting Canadian approval.
Study predicts surge in HIV, TB and malaria deaths amid COVID-19 pandemic
Deaths from HIV, tuberculosis and malaria could surge in poor and middle-income countries as already weak health systems grapple with severe disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a predictive study published on Monday. Over the next five years, deaths from the three diseases could rise by as much as 10, 20 and 36 percent respectively - putting the mortality impact on a scale similar to the direct impact of the coronavirus pandemic itself, the modelling study found. "In countries with a high malaria burden and large HIV and TB epidemics, even short-term disruptions could have devastating consequences for the millions of people who depend on programmes to control and treat these diseases," said Timothy Hallett, a professor at Imperial College London who co-led the work. He said the knock-on impact of COVID-19 could undo some of the significant progress against these diseases made over the past two decades, "compounding the burden caused by the pandemic directly".
Coronavirus antibodies may not help with cure, after Dutch study sees harmful effect in ICU patients
Researchers led by a professor in the Netherlands report that they might have found an important clue that may answer why immunoglobulin G appears only when patients are ill enough to be admitted to ICU. AFPResearchers led by a professor in the Netherlands report that they might have found an important clue that may answer why immunoglobulin G appears only when patients are ill enough to be admitted to ICU. Researchers led by a professor in the Netherlands report that they might have found an important clue that may answer why immunoglobulin G appears only when patients are ill enough to be admitted to ICU. Antibodies generated by the immune system to neutralise the novel coronavirus could cause severe harm or even kill the patient, according to a study by Dutch scientists. Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is a fork-shaped molecule produced by adaptive immune cells to intercept foreign invaders. Each type of IgG targets a specific type of pathogen. The IgG for Sars-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19, fights off the virus by binding with the virus' unique spike protein to reduce its chance of infecting human cells. They usually appear a week or two after the onset of illness, when the symptoms of most critically-ill patients suddenly get worse. A research team led by Professor Menno de Winther from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands said they might have found an important clue that may answer why the IgG appears only when patients are ill enough to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).
Moderna's coronavirus vaccine ready to advance to final phase of testing
The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the United States revved up people's immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported - as the shots are poised to begin key final testing. "No matter how you slice this, this is good news," Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government's top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press news agency. The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci's colleagues at the National Institutes of Health in partnership with Moderna Inc, will start its most important step around July 27: a 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus. But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost. Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralising antibodies in their bloodstream - molecules key to blocking infection - at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.
What was the impact of Sweden's soft approach to lockdown?
Sweden’s softer approach to lockdown involved closing universities and other schools for older pupils and recommending that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and everyone over 70 self-isolate. Now, a new study suggests that these limited measures contributed to fewer deaths than expected. Still, Sweden saw more deaths from the pandemic than neighboring countries Denmark and Norway. The new research, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, makes clear the complexity of determining which strategies for reducing the spread of the virus and saving lives are most effective.
Pfizer coronavirus vaccine fast-tracked by FDA
The Food and Drug Administration said it will speed the review of two vaccine candidates from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and partner company BioNTech. The fast-track status was granted based on preliminary data from phase one and two studies in the U.S. and Germany. The company expects to enroll 30,000 people in its next phase of trials. If the trials are successful, the companies hope to make 100 million doses by the end of the year and possibly more than 1.2 billion doses by the end of 2021. The administration is investing in a range of vaccine approaches with the hope of landing a successful shot before the year ends.
'Little chance of a Covid-19 vaccine before 2021' warns French epidemiologist
There is little chance of a 100-percent effective coronavirus vaccine by 2021, a French expert warned on Sunday, urging people to take social distancing measures more seriously. "A vaccine is several years in development," said epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet, a member of the team of scientists advising the government on the crisis, speaking on BFMTV television. "Of course, there is an unprecedented effort to develop a vaccine, but I would be very surprised if we had that was effective in 2021," he added. While we would probably have one that worked partially, we were very far from the end of the crisis, he said. That being the case, "we have to live with this virus" he said. And since another lockdown was out of the question, people had to go back to "more serious habits".