Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 16th Apr 2021

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CDC reports 5800 COVID-19 infections in fully vaccinated Americans

About 5,800 people who have been vaccinated against coronavirus have become infected anyway, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells CNN. Some became seriously ill and 74 people died, the CDC said. It said 396 -- 7% -- of those who got infected after they were vaccinated required hospitalization. This is the CDC's first public accounting of breakthrough cases, and the agency is searching for patterns based on patient age and gender, location, type of vaccine, variants and other factors.
15th Apr 2021 - CTV News

Pfizer CEO says third Covid vaccine dose likely needed within 12 months

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said people will “likely” need a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated. He also said it’s possible people will need to get vaccinated against the virus annually.
15th Apr 2021 - CNBC

Covid-19 vaccine passports could create 'two-tier society', equality watchdog warns

Introducing vaccine passports risk creating a 'two-tier society' which could lead to millions feeling discriminating against, the Government has been warned. The Equality and Human Rights Commission also believe mandatory Covid-19 status certificates - which would provide proof of whether you've had two doses of the jab - are "likely to be unlawful". It could create a situation where people from groups where vaccine take up is lower are barred from social events, venues and even travel.
15th Apr 2021 - The Mirror

Hong Kong widens COVID-19 vaccine scheme to under 30s

Hong Kong authorities said on Thursday that the city's vaccine scheme would be widened to include those aged between 16 to 29 years old for the first time, as they aim to boost lackluster demand for inoculations in the Asian financial hub. Hong Kong has seen a relatively slow take-up of vaccines since rolling out the scheme in February, with only around 8% of Hong Kong's 7.5 million residents having been inoculated so far. Patrick Nip, Secretary for the Civil Service, said that the widening of the scheme would enable a total of 6.5 million residents to take part. "We appeal to the public to take the vaccine as soon as possible so HK won’t fall into the vicious cycle of wave after wave of outbreak," he said.
15th Apr 2021 - Yahoo News UK

COVID-19: Pilot mass gatherings to be supported by government-backed compensation scheme

Large-scale event pilots that are testing the viability of mass gatherings will be supported by a government-backed compensation scheme. Up to £300,000 will be made available to organisers should an event have to be cancelled. It comes after a minister previously said that such a scheme could end up "pulling the rug" from big events.
15th Apr 2021 - Sky News

NHS trusts in London preparing to make Covid vaccinations compulsory for workers, leaked email reveals

A major NHS trust in London has discussed making vaccinations against coronavirus a contractual requirement for all its staff, according to a leaked email seen by The Independent that also reveals other trusts may follow suit. The letter to staff at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust, signed by the chief executive Lesley Watts, has not yet been sent to staff but has been shared with dozens of senior NHS bosses across London for them to “adapt and use in your trusts.” Adding a contractual requirement for a vaccination to employment contracts would constitute a change in terms and conditions for staff and is likely to be legally difficult to enforce.
15th Apr 2021 - The Independent

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African Union seeks to boost vaccine-making with 5 new centres

The African Union (AU) has announced the launch of a partnership to manufacture vaccines at five research centres to be built on the continent within the next 15 years. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which helps run the global COVAX coronavirus vaccine-sharing programme with the public-private alliance Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), signed a memorandum of understanding to boost African vaccine research and development as well as manufacturing. The five centres will be located in the north, south, east, west and centre of Africa over the next 10-15 years, according to John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an AU agency. “Trusted partnership will be critical in advancing the vaccine manufacturing agenda on the continent,” he said on Tuesday after a two-day virtual meeting. “The partnership with CEPI symbolises cooperation and collaboration to help respond to infectious disease threats and ensure Africa’s health security.”
14th Apr 2021 - Aljazeera

Chelsea and Westminster NHS trust is set to tell staff that Covid jabs are compulsory as it calls on workers who have turned down vaccines to change their minds

Letter will go out to all of the trust's 6,000 staff shortly to inform them of change Pfizer's jab has cut emergency admissions by three quarters in elderly people Ministers are also pushing for jabs to become mandatory for care home staff.
14th Apr 2021 - Daily Mail on MSN.com

COVID-19: Yes, prime minister, lockdown is driving down coronavirus cases - but vaccines are helping too

As with pretty much everything else about COVID-19, uncertainties abound. It's hard to be sure with any level of precision how much of an impact one or another intervention has made during the coronavirus pandemic. Even having said that, it's pretty clear that of all the interventions during COVID-19, few have been as powerful as nationwide lockdowns.
14th Apr 2021 - Sky News

Battle to control South African Covid-19 variant in London

Londoners were today urged to get tested for Covid-19 to protect the city from the South African variant as surge testing was extended to a third borough. Residents in a “targeted area” within SE16 in Southwark are being urged to get a test after a case of the mutation was detected there. Additional testing sites, some of them mobile, are also being rolled out in Wandsworth and Lambeth where dozens of cases of the SA variant virus have been identified. Health chiefs believe the SA mutation may be more resistant to vaccines but the jabs, including the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna inoculations which have been approved in the UK, are thought to still offer significant protection against severe disease.
14th Apr 2021 - Evening Standard

200 tourists, 1 isolated resort: a lockdown test

Almost 200 Dutch tourists arrived on the Greek island of Rhodes on Monday to trade lockdown in the Netherlands for eight days of voluntary confinement in a Greek holiday resort, as part of a test to see if safe holidays can be arranged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
14th Apr 2021 - Reuters.com

Vaccine tourism: Why are people crossing borders for a jab?

One Saturday morning in late March, Milicia Praca and her roommate grabbed their passports and a bag of crisps and drove towards the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Republic of Serbia. They were keen to accomplish an important task – enter Serbia, pull up their sleeves, and get vaccinated against COVID-19.
14th Apr 2021 - AlJazeera

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Third wave of Covid-19 could still lead to 50,000 UK deaths despite vaccine success, JCVI adviser warns

There could still be a “big third wave” of Covid-19 in the UK leading to tens of thousands of deaths, despite the success of the vaccination programme, a senior scientist has warned. Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that advises the Government on its immunisation plan, said even a small percentage of the population not getting their jab it could lead to the virus spreading. And he said it was still important to retain social distancing measures while the remaining age groups were waiting to be immunised, in order to avoid up to 50,000 more deaths.
13th Apr 2021 - iNews

Opinion | Coronavirus Variants Don’t Need to Be Scary

Five variants have now been proved guilty, as shown by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s designation “variants of concern.” They are B.1.1.7 (first identified in Britain), B.1.351 (first found in South Africa), P.1 (identified in Brazil) and two more recent variants found in California and New York. Each has fewer than two dozen notable mutations, many of which are in the virus’s spike protein, which binds to our cells and is the vaccines’ principal target. Some mutations enhance the virus’s ability to bind to the cells lining our upper airway, while others interfere with our bodies’ capacity to mount a full immune response.
14th Apr 2021 - The New York Times

VAX Live: Concert to help get 27m medical workers vaccinated

Backed by an international concert hosted by Selena Gomez and headlined by Jennifer Lopez, Global Citizen is unveiling an ambitious campaign to help medical workers in the world’s poorest countries quickly receive COVID-19 vaccines. The anti-poverty organisation is announcing the musical event – VAX Live: The Concert to Reunite the World – with a goal of enlisting corporations and philanthropists to raise $22bn for global vaccinations. The concert, which airs on May 8 on US TV channels ABC, CBS and FOX as well as on iHeartMedia radio stations and YouTube, will also showcase the Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder, J Balvin and H.E.R. The acts will be recorded at SoFi Stadium in the western US city, Los Angeles, California. Ahead of the event, Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, highlighted the magnitude of the problem his organisation aims to address. “There are 27 million healthcare workers globally who don’t have access to the vaccine,” Evans told The Associated Press. “I’m 38 years old, and it’s not ethical for me to have access to the vaccine before these heroic first responders and community health workers. So we need governments to start urgently donating those doses.”
13th Apr 2021 - AlJazeera

Vaccine passport discussions should prioritize fairness over economics, ethicist says

The issue of vaccine passports is one rife with the potential for discrimination, and should be approached with a focus on fairness above the economic benefits, says one bioethicist. “(Passports) have the potential to make the inequities that we're seeing from COVID even worse because we know that people who are the hardest hit by COVID are actually the least likely to be vaccinated in some cases at this point in time,” University of Toronto researcher Alison Thompson told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday. “We want to make really sure that vaccine access has been equitable and that it's been not just accessible, but that we have actually reached those communities that need it the most.”
13th Apr 2021 - CTV News

Apple and Google block update of Covid-19 app in England and Wales

An update for the Covid-19 app used in England and Wales has been blocked by Apple and Google, after they found that it breached privacy rules set out in the agreement with the government. The update would have meant that users who tested positive for Covid-19 would be asked to upload details of venues they had checked into recently. But according to people briefed on the decision, the companies did not make the update available for download from app stores at the allotted time last week — which was designed to coincide with the relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England this week.
13th Apr 2021 - Financial Times

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WHO: Growing COVID-19 surge hits critical point

Top officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) said today that COVID-19 cases have climbed for the seventh week in a row, warning that masks, distancing, and other measures are needed to give vaccines a chance to reduce transmission. At a briefing today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said last week marked the fourth highest COVID total in a single week, despite the fact that 780 million doses of vaccine have been given across the globe. "Make no mistake, vaccines are a vital and powerful tool," Tedros said. "But they are not the only tool."
12th Apr 2021 - CIDRAP

Strong support for coronavirus vaccine passports

Most Britons back vaccine passports if they mean the end of social distancing, polling for The Times suggests. A survey showed strong support for Covid status certificates in every setting except shops, though a significant minority would be reluctant to visit pubs and restaurants if they had to show one, suggesting a threat to hospitality revenues if they were introduced.
12th Apr 2021 - The Times

NHS Covid-19 app update delayed after breaking Google and Apple privacy rules

A planned update to the NHS Covid-19 smartphone app has been delayed after the introduction of a new feature is understood to have broken Google and Apple's privacy rules. The UK government was planning to update the app in England and Wales last Thursday (8 April) with software to enable users to upload a list of all their venue check-ins if they subsequently caught coronavirus. But this goes against the rules set by Apple and Google, which explicitly state that their joint Exposure Notifications System used within the app must “not share location data from the user’s device with the Public Health Authority, Apple, or Google”.
12th Apr 2021 - Wales Online

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Stalled at first jab: Vaccine shortages hit poor countries

As many as 60 countries, including some of the world’s poorest, might be stalled at the first shots of their coronavirus vaccinations because nearly all deliveries through the global program intended to help them are blocked until as late as June. COVAX, the global initiative to provide vaccines to countries lacking the clout to negotiate for scarce supplies on their own, has in the past week shipped more than 25,000 doses to low-income countries only twice on any given day. Deliveries have all but halted since Monday. During the past two weeks, according to data compiled daily by UNICEF fewer than 2 million COVAX doses in total were cleared for shipment to 92 countries in the developing world — the same amount injected in Britain alone. On Friday, the head of the World Health Organization slammed the “shocking imbalance" in global COVID-19 vaccination. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said that while one in four people in rich countries had received a vaccine, only one in 500 people in poorer countries had gotten a dose.
10th Apr 2021 - The Independent

Vaccine-hunting volunteers help Americans score COVID jabs

Armies of online volunteers have taken it upon themselves to help total strangers navigate myriad COVID-19 vaccine scheduling systems in the United States. It’s admirable, vital work — as well as a symbol of the country’s sometimes chaotic vaccination campaign.
9th Apr 2021 - Al Jazeera English

China's response to COVID-19: a chance for collaboration

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China's strategy was built on active case finding and case management with identification and quarantine of close contacts, as well as risk-based lifting of restrictions. Chinese authorities aim to test each suspected case and all close contacts of those infected. After three COVID-19 cases were identified in October, 2020, in Qingdao, a pooled testing approach coordinated by the government with the cooperation of residents enabled 10·9 million people—almost the entire population of the city—to be tested within 5 days. Although few COVID-19 cases have been reported, people are generally adhering to non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as avoiding large gatherings. After the government urged people to abandon travel plans, and with local governments imposing strict quarantine measures, there was a 70% drop in the number of passenger trips across the country in the 2 weeks leading up to the Chinese Lunar New Year this year, compared with the same period in 2019. China's public health measures, as well as the public's compliance, largely owing to high trust in the government, have contributed to the effective response. Elements of China's approach, such as those that involve monitoring citizens’ whereabouts, might not be countenanced in many western countries. However, China's domestic successes in controlling COVID-19 stand in contrast with outcomes elsewhere, and other countries should learn what public health lessons they can.
10th Apr 2021 - The Lancet

The pandemic has demonstrated the collective power of doctors speaking up

During the pandemic, doctors came together to push for political change. We must continue to use our newfound voice, says Samantha Batt-Rawden. This time last year the UK’s covid situation was in freefall, with our prime minister hospitalised by the virus, intensive care beds filling up, and the number of deaths rising sharply. As we fought to save lives, the spectre of what had happened in Italy weighed heavily on all of us. It was every intensivist’s worst fear: that we might have to ration care if our resources became overwhelmed. Despite all they had faced, our Italian colleagues had taken the time to reach out to the intensive care community in the UK. In February 2020 I had sat in on Zoom calls and listened to their stark warnings about what would come to pass if the UK did not act quickly. We were a few weeks behind Italy, we heard. In that moment, the UK had a brief window of opportunity to prevent the scale of loss of life seen elsewhere. This was an opportunity we would let slip right through our fingers.
9th Apr 2021 - blogs.bmj.com

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 9th Apr 2021

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Covid-19 or Allergies?

Covid shows up in a variety of ways, but dry cough, fever, fatigue and loss of sense of smell are four very common symptoms. Unlike flu, which typically comes on fast, Covid symptoms may emerge over several days, often starting with fatigue or a minor cough. Other common Covid symptoms include headache, chest tightness, feeling out of breath with activity, chills, aches, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
8th Apr 2021 - New York Times

COVID-19: Changes to NHS Test and Trace app mean everyone will now have to check in

Changes to the way we check in to venues on the NHS Test and Trace app have been made ahead of the reopening of hospitality from Monday. The updates to the app have come into effect to coincide with the availability of rapid lateral flow tests for everyone in England from Friday. The new regulations now state that everyone in a group must check in when they arrive at a pub or restaurant, either by scanning an NHS QR code poster on the app or by providing your contact details.
8th Apr 2021 - Sky News

UK infections drop about 60% amid vaccinations, lockdown

The U.K.’s COVID-19 vaccination program is beginning to break the link between infection and serious illness or death, according to the latest results from an ongoing study of the pandemic in England. Researchers at Imperial College London found that COVID-19 infections dropped about 60% in March as national lockdown measures slowed the spread of the virus. People 65 and older were the least likely to be infected as they benefited most from the vaccination program, which initially focused on older people. The study also found that the relationship between infections and deaths is diverging, “suggesting that infections may have resulted in fewer hospitalizations and deaths since the start of widespread vaccination.”
8th Apr 2021 - The Associated Press

New COVID variants have changed the game, and vaccines will not be enough. We need global 'maximum suppression'

...Since then, new “variants of concern” have emerged and spread worldwide, putting current pandemic control efforts, including vaccination, at risk of being derailed. Put simply, the game has changed, and a successful global rollout of current vaccines by itself is no longer a guarantee of victory. No one is truly safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe. We are in a race against time to get global transmission rates low enough to prevent the emergence and spread of new variants. The danger is that variants will arise that can overcome the immunity conferred by vaccinations or prior infection.
5th Apr 2021 - The Conversation AU

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Got Your Covid-19 Vaccine? Now Cancel Your Extra Appointments

Pharmacies and health officials are making a plea to Americans who received their Covid-19 vaccines: Cancel the other shots you booked. As vaccine eligibility expands and more places offer shots, many people are signing up for multiple appointments and not backing out of the ones they don’t need. The resulting influx of no-shows is forcing vaccine providers, from pharmacies to community clinics, to find last-minute replacements so doses aren’t wasted. In North Carolina, a county health director has been going door-to-door to find takers for missed slots. A Midwest retailer shut down its wait list and tasked employees with weeding out people who made multiple appointments. On social media, it is increasingly common to see posts from health departments offering shots to anyone who can show up at a vaccine site.
7th Apr 2021 - Wall Street Journal

COVID-19: Piloting domestic coronavirus passports 'the right thing to do', says vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi

Looking at the use of domestic COVID passports for people attending pubs and restaurants is "only the right thing to do", the vaccines minister has told Sky News. Nadhim Zahawi admitted that requiring people to show certification before entering some venues "does throw up a number of difficult, ethical questions". But he stressed the government would push on with piloting a COVID passport scheme at events such as the FA Cup final, as he suggested it would be "completely remiss and irresponsible" of ministers not to trial proposals.
7th Apr 2021 - Sky News

Netherlands to ease lockdown by reopening museums and zoos - ANP News

The Dutch government will begin opening museums and zoos this month by offering coronavirus tests before entry, ANP news reported on Tuesday, citing the Health Ministry, in a first easing of far-reaching lockdown measures. Under current measures, public gatherings of more than two people are banned, restaurants are allowed to serve only takeaway food, and there is an evening curfew.
6th Apr 2021 - Reuters

Boat, snowmobile, camel: vaccine reaches world's far corners

After enduring 40-knot winds and freezing sea spray, jostled health care providers arrived wet and cold on two Maine islands in the North Atlantic late last month to conduct coronavirus vaccinations. As they came ashore on Little Cranberry Island, population 65, residents danced with excitement. “It’s a historic day for the island,” said Kaitlyn Miller, who joined a friend in belting out “I’m not giving away my shot!” from the Broadway show Hamilton when the crew arrived. Around the world, it is taking extra effort and ingenuity to ensure the vaccine gets to remote locations. That means shipping it by boat to islands, by snowmobile to Alaska villages and via complex waterways through the Amazon in Brazil. Before it’s over, drones, motorcycles, elephants, horses and camels will have been used to deliver it to the world’s far corners, said Robin Nandy, chief of immunization for UNICEF.
7th Apr 2021 - The Associated Press

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UK minister defends possible domestic use of ‘vaccine passports’

Boris Johnson was on Tuesday forced on to the back foot over so-called Covid passports, as businesses responded coolly to the idea and a senior Tory MP warned they could create “the miserable dystopia of Checkpoint Britain”. The prime minister is facing a major Tory rebellion after the government said on Monday that it wanted to provide some form of certification to help people prove their Covid-19 status, both for overseas travel and for domestic use. But many businesses, including nightclubs, have expressed reservations about their use, while more than 40 Tory MPs have threatened to vote against domestic Covid certificates.
6th Apr 2021 - Financial Times

NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app to share QR code venue check-ins

England and Wales' contact tracing app will soon ask users to share details of venues they have checked in to, if they test positive for the coronavirus. The update to the NHS Covid-19 app will be deployed ahead of shops reopening in both nations on 12 April,
6th Apr 2021 - BBC News

Covid-19 prevention: Why a Google Doodle is telling you to wear a mask to save lives today

Today’s Google Doodle is reminding people of the importance of wearing a face covering, to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. The doodle shows each of the letters putting on a mask, and then spreading out so they are socially distanced. It links to resources explaining how best to protect yourself and others, with less than two per cent of the world’s population having been fully vaccinated.
6th Apr 2021 - iNews

Twice weekly rapid COVID-19 testing to be available to everyone in England

Access to twice weekly, free, regular, rapid coronavirus (COVID-19) testing from 9 April for everyone in England, the Government has announced. Everyone in England, including those without symptoms, will be able to take a free rapid coronavirus (COVID-19) test twice a week. Alongside vaccine rollout, regular testing is at the heart of plans to reopen society and the economy, helping to suppress and control the spread of variants. Updates will be made to the NHS COVID-19 app in England to coincide with the universal testing offer. Everyone in England will be able to access free, regular, rapid coronavirus testing from 9 April, the Government has announced.
6th Apr 2021 - Pharmafield

White House rules out federal Covid-19 vaccine passports

The White House has insisted it will not introduce mandatory federal Covid-19 vaccine passports, as Republican resistance builds to any sort of vaccine certification system. “The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday. “There will be no federal vaccinations database, no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.” However, officials are willing to work with private companies to help set standards for how such certificates could be used fairly, she added.
6th Apr 2021 - Financial Times

Warning about coronavirus vaccine and clots is a sign that the system is working

The efficacy of a vaccine programme is not just a percentage figure. It is not just about antibodies and T-cells. It is also about something far more elusive and far more fragile: faith. After the clinical trials had finished, we were never going to find a high number of serious side effects. By definition, anything that did appear once mass vaccination started had to be rare enough that it had not been spotted in trials of tens of thousands of people.
6th Apr 2021 - The Times

Meet the foggers, the latest innovation in the war against Covid-19

This new sanitiser gun, then, may seem a late addition to the arsenal, but it’s great to use on larger parcels – and when lockdown is over and we can invite non-bubble people back into our homes, it will be even more useful for disinfecting surfaces quickly and effectively. The Portibac is what’s known in the antiviral business as a fogger. “Fogging” sprays micro-droplets of disinfectant onto surfaces and into cracks and crevices. They’ve taken off in China and are available for a lot less than Portibac’s £125 on websites such as Alibaba. However, Handigroup, the Cheshire PPE company behind Portibac, say it took care to source and improve the best of the bunch. And it’s a quality product, with a satisfying motorised burr when you press the trigger, a variable mist and a useful blue headlight to see where you’re aiming. Many cheaper foggers say their headlight is ultraviolet, but Portibac makes no such claim.
6th Apr 2021 - Financial Times

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 6th Apr 2021

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Everyone in England to be offered twice-weekly Covid tests, PM to say

Boris Johnson is to unveil a plan for routine, universal Covid-19 tests as a means to ease England out of lockdown, as the government faced a renewed backlash over the idea of app-based “passports” to permit people entry into crowded places and events. Six months after Johnson unveiled plans for “Operation Moonshot”, a £100bn mass testing scheme that never delivered on its stated aim of preventing another lockdown, all people in England will be offered two Covid tests a week from Friday. The prime minister is to announce the rollout of the lateral flow tests at a press conference on Monday afternoon, at which he will also outline a programme of trial events for mass gatherings, as well as proposals for potentially restarting foreign travel.
5th Apr 2021 - The Guardian

UK to pilot use of coronavirus passports at upcoming large gatherings

The United Kingdom is reportedly planning to test “coronavirus status certifications” in the next few weeks to determine whether or not people can return to mass gatherings such as concerts, sporting events and nightclubs. The Associated Press reports that the trials will collect evidence on how different factors affecting events such as ventilation and social distancing could allow large events to resume, citing British authorities. People who attend such events in April and May will need to be tested for the coronavirus before and after attending. British officials are also looking into COVID-19 passports that will show whether or not a person has been vaccinated, has recently received a COVID-19 test or has some form of immunity to the virus either from illness or immunization, the AP reports
4th Apr 2021 - The Hill

Austria to give Czech Republic 30,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine

Austria will provide the Czech Republic with 30,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said on Friday in what it called a display of solidarity after it felt the European Union did not do enough to help its neighbour. After days of negotiations, EU ambassadors on Thursday agreed to change the bloc’s vaccine distribution system for 10 million BioNTech-Pfizer doses due to be delivered in the second quarter, so needier countries could receive more. Of those 10 million doses, 2.85 million so-called “solidarity vaccines” will be shared between five countries - Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia.
2nd Apr 2021 - Reuters

CDC issues next phase of guidance to cruise ship industry

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention on Friday issued new guidance to the cruise ship industry, including the need for COVID-19 vaccinations, a necessary step before passenger voyages can resume. The new technical instructions, the first update since October, include increasing from weekly to daily reporting frequency of COVID-19 cases and illnesses and implementing routine testing of all crew based on a ship’s COVID-19 status and establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel. “COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations,” the CDC said.
2nd Apr 2021 - Reuters

Coronavirus Testing Declines May Mask the Spread in Some States

Declines in coronavirus testing in many states in the South and the Great Plains are making it harder to know just how widely the virus may be spreading in those states, even as restrictions are lifted and residents ease back into daily life, experts say. States in both regions are reporting few new cases relative to their population, compared with harder-hit states like Michigan or New York. But they are also testing far fewer people. Kansas, for example, is now testing about 60 people a day for every 100,000 in population, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and Alabama only a bit
1st Apr 2021 - The New York Times

Fully vaccinated people can travel safely again, CDC says

Add travel to the activities vaccinated Americans can safely enjoy again, according to new U.S. guidance issued Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward. Still, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged caution and said she would “advocate against general travel overall” given the rising number of infections. “If you are vaccinated, it is lower risk,” she said.
1st Apr 2021 - Associated Press

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Vaccination certificates won’t end lockdown. Prosocial approaches will

Covid-19 immunity and vaccination certificates are being held up as golden tickets to the new normal. Israel, the country leading the way on vaccination rates, has a green pass program to help its citizens return to public spaces such as gyms and theaters. The European Union and China have announced similar passports to revive travel. In the United States, the Biden administration is assessing the viability of vaccine certificates. These efforts raise serious red flags. Vaccination certificates will likely deepen existing inequalities in health care, education, and employment. And the rush to a new normal via certificates sets the stage for function creep — a way of short-cutting public debates and considerations around surveillance and the use of personal data. Triggering prosocial behaviors — the want to get vaccinated because it is internally satisfying to help society as a whole — is a better way to promote large-scale vaccination than vaccine certificates, which favor a select group of people who long to go on vacation, go back to the gym, and generally find their new normal.
31st Mar 2021 - STAT News

People will be able to register online for Covid-19 vaccine from mid-April, says Martin

In Ireland, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said a website allowing people to register for a Covid-19 vaccine will available from the third week in April. Mr Martin told the Dáil 70 per cent of the population should be fully inoculated against the virus by the end of July. Mr Martin said the Government aimed to be at the “latter end of the vaccination programme” in July and August. He defended the Government’s change in policy on vaccination prioritisation to now inoculate people solely on the basis of age rather than age and profession as he was warned about “putting all your eggs in the vaccine basket”.
31st Mar 2021 - The Irish Times

COVID-19: Digital vaccine certificates to help European travel 'ready in June at latest'

EU digital vaccine certificates will be ready in June at the latest, Spain's foreign minister has said. European Union leaders agreed last month to work on the certificates to try to kickstart the tourism industry. Speaking on Wednesday, Arancha Gonzalez Laya said the scheme would be a good tool for European citizens and "if all goes well, we will have a vaccination certificate in June at the latest". "If it can be in mid-May, better but not later than June," she added. The certificates would not prevent those without the jab from travelling, Ms Gonzalez Laya said, but people who had one would be able to pass through EU borders faster.
31st Mar 2021 - Sky News

Do doctors have to have the covid-19 vaccine?

Clarence (Lance) Gravlee discusses in his article "How Whiteness Works: JAMA and the Refusals of White Supremacy" Charles Mills' agreement, the “epistemology of ignorance,” the structured ways of not knowing that allows for claiming innocence (1). Can that also relate to "utilitarian supremacy?” Is it telling to note that the BMJ put the article "Do doctors have to have the covid-19 vaccine?" in the section "Careers"? (2) The article doesn't feature the opinions of a medical doctor or any health care worker in general who chooses not to have a COVID19 vaccine. Gravlee writes: "Ignorance is neither passive nor accidental but integral to a system of power and domination. It involves the active refusal to know." Can the 5 refusals that Andrea Gibbons identified (3), as mentioned in Gavlee's article, also indicate BMJ's 5 refusals of "utilitarian supremacy"? There is the refusal of the other’s humanity and tolerance for perpetual violence and exploitation. There is the refusal to listen to or acknowledge the experience of the other. There is the refusal to confront the history of "anti-vaxxer" oppression and the ways it continues to shape the present. There is the refusal to share space. There is the refusal to face structural causes
31st Mar 2021 - The BMJ

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Airlines call for rapid Covid tests to be used to allow international travel this summer 'because they work just as well as hotel quarantine'

Airlines are calling for rapid Covid tests to be used as standard for international travellers to 'reopen' the industry. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) union has published research claiming that using rapid tests could work as well as a 10-day quarantine policy. And it said the cost and time required to use proper lab-based PCR tests to test travellers would keep the holiday industry on its knees
30th Mar 2021 - Daily Mail

Biden implores US to take COVID-19 seriously as cases climb

As a possible fourth COVID-19 pandemic surge looms even amid expanded access to vaccines, President Joe Biden yesterday urged states and cities to reinstate face mask mandates and bid Americans to behave responsibly, the New York Times reports. "Please, this is not politics—reinstate the mandate," Biden said. "The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place." Following similar patterns in Europe, average daily US coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are up nearly 19% over the previous 2 weeks, including a foreboding spike in northeastern states, as coronavirus variants rapidly supplant less transmissible strains. COVID-19 cases are rising in 30 states, Forbes reports today.
30th Mar 2021 - CIDRAP

Scientists warn new COVID mutations in a year as vaccines stall

Leading health experts from around the world warned the slow roll-out of vaccines and unequal distribution could mean the shots become ineffective as new coronavirus mutations appear within the next year. Seventy-seven scientists – from leading academic institutions from around the globe – participated in the survey with about 30 percent suggesting second-generation vaccines will be needed as soon as in nine months, unless vaccines become more widely produced and distributed around the world.
30th Mar 2021 - AlJazeera

Scientists say ministers to ditch ‘rigid’ Covid rules and teach public how to reduce risk of transmission

Ministers should stop telling people to stick to “rigid” coronavirus rules and instead focus more on explaining how they can reduce the risk of catching the disease, a senior Government scientist has said. The Government loosened Covid-19 restrictions today, implementing a new Rule of Six in England, allowing six people or two households to meet outdoors, including in private gardens. Scientists believe the next step in easing the measures could lead to a rise in Covid-19 cases as people will be more likely to bend the rules after three months of a winter lockdown.
30th Mar 2021 - iNews

Reading and Leeds Festival: Covid vaccine passport need 'likely'

Music fans at this year's Reading and Leeds Festivals will "almost certainly" need some sort of vaccine passport, the organiser has said. Festival boss Melvin Benn said he was confident the events would go ahead after plans to ease lockdown were announced in February. But he said it was likely festival-goers would have to prove they were Covid-free or had been vaccinated. The twin-site festival is due to take place between 27 and 29 August. Under the government's plan, limits on social contact in England could be gone by 21 June, if Covid is under control.
30th Mar 2021 - BBC News

Covid: Secret filming exposes contamination risk at test results lab

Secret filming at one of the biggest UK Covid testing labs has found evidence of potential contamination, discarded tests and pressure to hit targets. A BBC reporter working as a lab technician, filmed staff cutting corners and processing samples in a way that could cause contamination. This means some people who had taken a test via NHS Test and Trace may have received no result or a wrong result. The lab said it had followed all necessary rules and regulations. Evidence at the lab captured on film shows: Checks to ensure samples could be identified, were rushed, meaning tests were sometimes discarded unnecessarily. Some test samples "glooped" across an area where other samples had been placed, risking contamination. Swabs used by people to take Covid tests were left in their tubes when processed, presenting a further contamination risk. A quality control scientist telling the reporter that the quality of the results progressively got worse throughout the day. The findings have led experts to question the way the lab was operating.
30th Mar 2021 - BBC News

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Fauci says new surge in COVID-19 cases has three main causes

Travel, new variants and premature rollbacks of public health restrictions are all contributing factors to the uptick in new COVID-19 cases. Anthony Fauci told CBS that only with more vaccinations can public health measures be safely relaxed.
30th Mar 2021 - The Hill

Biden faces calls to break COVID-19 vaccine patents. Would that boost global supply?

Some lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to suspend patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help boost supply in other countries. And last week, they took a shot at pitching the idea to White House officials. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a request to review proposals for breaking COVID-19 drug and vaccine patents, the White House held a meeting last week, CNBC reports, citing people familiar with the situation. The prevailing view among supporters is that “we’re not safe until the world is safe," one source told CNBC. The United States has administered more than 143 million coronavirus vaccine doses, while some countries have yet to start vaccinations.
29th Mar 2021 - FiercePharma

The Biden administration is developing a national coronavirus 'vaccine passport' scheme for Americans

The Biden administration is working on a vaccine passport program that would allow people to prove they have received a coronavirus vaccination, in order to enter venues which have been closed due to social distancing requirements, such as offices or movie theatres. Five officials, who spoke anonymously, told the Post that the White House is pushing efforts by federal agencies and private companies to develop the scheme. Vaccine passports have been widely touted around the world as a way for various industries to start returning to normal whilst minimising the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and could be an entry requirement for anything from sports arenas, music venues, or restaurants, to international travel.
29th Mar 2021 - Yahoo News UK

Tech 24 - Covid-19: A closer look at the EU's Digital Green Certificate

The Digital Green Certificate is just a fancy term for vaccination pass. It will show proof that a person has either been vaccinated against Covid-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from the disease. It will be free of charge and will rely on a QR code to ensure security and authenticity of the certificate. However, some 68 percent of French people oppose this vaccination pass, as they see it as threatening their privacy. Peter O'Brien tells us more about how French people are very attached to their freedom of speech and movement. This comes as a social media challenge dubbed "L for Liberty" has been launched in the French capital to ensure individual freedom is preserved.
29th Mar 2021 - FRANCE 24

UK ministers weigh Covid certificates for offices

UK ministers are drawing up plans to let employers use Covid-19 certificates for staff working in office buildings once most people are vaccinated later in the year, according to officials and industry figures. The move comes after 12 months of remote working for most white-collar workers in the UK, with chancellor Rishi Sunak among those emphasising the benefits of people working closely with colleagues in person. Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested pub landlords could look to restrict customers if they do not have proof of either vaccination, antibodies or a recent test for Covid-19.
29th Mar 2021 - Financial Times

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Covid-19: Pfizer director says science 'winning the race' against virus

Science is winning the race between coronavirus and the vaccine, Pfizer's UK medical director has said. Dr Berkeley Phillips told BBC News NI it was important people were "allowed to start living again". While the main threat continues to come from new variants, Pfizer is already designing an updated vaccine that will work, he said. Dr Phillips said "incredible progress" had been made in the past year and "we're winning that race". "If you look at what's happening in the UK there are dramatic reductions in the death rate, dramatic reductions in hospitalisations and in the number of cases," he said.
26th Mar 2021 - BBC News

Hauliers face new COVID rules in England as Heathrow seeks holiday easing

Certain lorry drivers arriving in England will need to take COVID-19 tests in a bid to tackle the spread of any future variants, the government said on Sunday as Heathrow Airport lobbied for the easing of an overseas holiday ban from mid-May. From April 6, Hauliers arriving from outside Britain and Ireland for more than two days will need to take a test within 48 hours and one every 72 hours thereafter as part of the new rules. “This is to ensure we keep track of any future coronavirus variants of concern,” transport minister Grant Shapps said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested earlier this week that Britain might need to tighten restrictions on arrivals from France
28th Mar 2021 - Reuters

Keep Your Covid-19 Vaccination Card Safe — You’re Going To Need It

Your most precious travel accessory this summer is going to be a small white piece of paper. Some destinations, cruise lines and major sports venues are already requiring travelers to provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Other businesses, like Krispy Kreme, are offering freebies and other perks to people who can prove they’ve been inoculated. If you are among the 48 million Americans who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the only proof that you have received your Covid shots is typically your paper vaccination record card with the CDC logo in the upper corner. The vaccination card tells you what Covid-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it, and where you received it — but that information is not being stored in any centralized, easily searchable database.
28th Mar 2021 - Forbes

COVID-19: Vaccinated people should be able to meet up and go on holidays, says scientist

A scientist has called for vaccinated people to be allowed to meet up with each other and to travel freely, saying there is no scientific reason why this should be forbidden. Professor Tim Spector, who leads the COVID Symptom Tracker app study run by King's College London, said the vaccination programme was successful and now people's mental health needs to be considered. He told the PA news agency: "I think we're actually in a much better place than many people are telling us, and I, for one, I'm not worried too much about what's happening abroad.
26th Mar 2021 - Sky News

Small rise in Covid-19 infections among secondary school children in England, figures show

Covid-19 coronavirus infection levels among children of secondary school age in England have increased slightly, new figures suggest. The percentage of children in school years 7 to 11 likely to have tested positive for Covid-19 in the week to March 20 is 0.43%, up from 0.32% the previous week. The estimates, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), coincide with the return from March 8 of pupils to secondary schools across England – a move that is likely to have affected the spread of coronavirus, thanks to the mixing of staff, parents and students. Testing has also been scaled up, with all students in secondary schools expected to complete three rapid Covid-19 tests on their return, spaced three to five days apart, then further tests twice a week.
25th Mar 2021 - Wales Online

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Thousands of ambassadors help VDH get COVID-19 information to community members

Whether you’re wearing a mask or keeping your distancing from others, a lot of small actions have a big impact in the fight against coronavirus. That’s why the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is looking for people to take small steps to share important COVID-19 information in their community. They created the COVID Community Ambassador Program in January with the goal of having citizens share accurate information with the people they’re already talking to. “Whether it be their neighbors, their family, their book club, their religious facility; whatever their network is — whether it’s two people or 2,000, it’s the idea that they could share with each other,” explained Virginia Department of Health Public Information Officer Brookie Crawford.
25th Mar 2021 - WTKR

Vaccination race enlists grassroots aides to fight mistrust

His last job was selling cars, but in his new gig, working to turn the tide against a pandemic, Herman Simmons knows not to be too pushy or overbearing. He’s one of more than 50 outreach workers a Chicago hospital has enlisted to promote vaccination against COVID-19 in hard-hit Black and brown neighborhoods. Their job is approaching strangers at laundromats, grocery stores and churches, handing out educational material and making vaccination appointments for those who are willing. “I see myself as my brother’s keeper. I don’t try to force them. I’m persistent,” he said.
25th Mar 2021 - The Associated Press

Covid-19 vaccine: Trust 'key' to care home staff jab take-up

"Respectful conversations" and building trust will be key to convincing care home workers who have refused to have a Covid-19 jab, a health chief has said. About 10% of Middlesbrough care staff had turned down the offer, councillors at a health security panel were told. Mark Adams, director of public health for South Tees, said they were working to increase the coverage. Myth-busting sessions have been held between staff and GPs to debunk misconceptions and ease concerns. Mr Adams told the panel that refusals tended to be seen among younger people in the workforce who were concerned about their fertility on the back of disinformation, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.
25th Mar 2021 - BBC News

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Britain to launch new health security agency to battle pandemics

Britain will launch a new health security agency next week to better prepare for and tackle pandemics by bringing together its testing, analytical and scientific capabilities, health minister Matt Hancock said on Wednesday. The new agency, called the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), will be headed up by Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, who has been at the forefront of the government’s efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Britain has one of the highest death tolls from the novel coronavirus but is gradually easing the latest lockdown under a four-step plan underpinned by the success of its vaccination programme.
24th Mar 2021 - Reuters

The hidden ideological obstacles to vaccination

So far, most world governments have managed to weather the storm of COVID-19. Countless administrations that have been unable or unwilling to implement the necessary measures to protect their citizens from the deadly virus are still in office over a year into the pandemic. This, however, could soon change as countries have now entered a race to vaccinate their citizens against COVID-19, reach herd immunity and, finally, leave this unprecedented public health emergency behind. Governments around the world are aware that the fastest and least-costly way out of this pandemic is through widespread vaccination. However, rapid mass vaccination has proved elusive for many countries for multiple reasons – many of them political or even ideological rather than practical.
24th Mar 2021 - AlJazeera

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Government considering mandatory vaccines for care home workers, says Hancock

Care home workers in England could be required by law to have a coronavirus vaccine under plans being considered by the government, Matt Hancock has said. The health secretary said legislation would need to be put forward in order to protect vulnerable residents but that there was already a precedent for such a move. “There is a duty of care that people have if you work in an elderly care home, after all, residents of elderly care homes are the most vulnerable of all to Covid,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. “There are important moral questions on both sides, there would be a change in the law required, so this is something that we are considering but we haven’t made a final decision on and we do want to hear from care homes and indeed care home staff on this question.”
23rd Mar 2021 - The Independent

Rock 'n' Rollout: Is Gibraltar a glimpse into the future for vaccination-leading UK?

Gibraltar, the tiny British territory on Spain’s south coast, was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic this winter - but it has now become one of the most open places in Europe. With its population densely packed in, and frequent movement of people over the border from Spain, COVID-19 infected 4,000 of its 33,000 residents, killing 93. The small but packed population that made coronavirus so dangerous there, has also helped with the rollout of its vaccination campaign, with the government expecting to have vaccinated all residents over the age of 16 by the end of this month. Its successful vaccination campaign is largely down to the shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech jabs from the UK. This has meant a recent easing of restrictions - and could be a preview of what the UK will be hoping to see when a high enough percentage of its 66 million residents has been immunised.
23rd Mar 2021 - Euronews

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Data will drive the recovery from covid-19

While the current focus on the NHS is rightly on its heroic efforts in the fight against covid-19, we’re also witnessing dramatic progress made in its use of data. In the past year, the NHS has built advanced epidemiological models in days, generated new data to track new cohorts of patients within weeks, and rapidly produced daily reports on progress that have been used by thousands of staff to make daily decisions in response to the pandemic. By quickly acting on the insight from this data, from redirecting staff to building new capacity, acute demand has been managed and real differences made to the quality of care delivered. This shows that the health service can be an agile data-led organisation, able to apply insight to make informed decisions for patients and staff. Even amid the current storm, data has made a difference. Progress that would previously have taken years has been achieved in weeks, and obstacles to collecting and sharing information that have plagued the system for years have been overcome. The task now is to build on those successes and make sure the NHS has the tools to meet the new challenges ahead.
22nd Mar 2021 - Health Service Journal

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Covid: Masks and social distancing 'could last years'

People may need to wear face coverings and socially distance for several years until we return to normality, a leading epidemiologist has predicted. Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at Public Health England, said basic measures could be in place until other countries successfully roll out jabs. She also said a return of big spectator events required careful monitoring and clear instructions about staying safe. The defence secretary has not ruled out the foreign holiday ban being extended. Ben Wallace told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that booking a break abroad now would be "premature" and "potentially risky".
21st Mar 2021 - BBC News

Qantas boss: Governments 'to insist' on vaccines for flying

The boss of Australian airline Qantas has told the BBC that "governments are going to insist" on vaccines for international travellers. Coronavirus vaccines are seen as crucial to reviving an industry that saw worldwide passenger numbers fall 75.6% last year. Chief executive Alan Joyce said that many governments are talking about vaccination as "a condition of entry". Even if they weren't, he thinks the airline should enforce its own policy. "We have a duty of care to our passengers and to our crew, to say that everybody in that aircraft needs to be safe," Mr Joyce said. He believes that would justify changing the terms and conditions on which tickets are booked.
21st Mar 2021 - BBC News

Covid-19: Mumbai to rollout random testing in crowded places

The Indian city of Mumbai is to roll out mandatory coronavirus tests in crowded places as the country grapples with a rise in infections. The local government said rapid tests would be done randomly in areas such as shopping centres and train stations. A refusal to be tested will "amount to an offence", it said. India recorded 40,953 new Covid cases on Saturday, the biggest daily jump for nearly four months. A total 159,000 people have died with the disease. It has seen more than 11.5 million cases of coronavirus infections so far - and the number has been steadily climbing for weeks as the country scrambles to vaccinate its population and identify highly contagious variants of the disease.
20th Mar 2021 - BBC News

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Covid-19 testing will become 'permanent feature of life', documents reveal

Covid-19 testing is likely to become a “permanent feature” of life in Scotland, government documents reveal. A new strategy sets out plans to keep testing people with symptoms beyond the threat of the pandemic. A £13 million genomic sequencing centre is being set up to help swiftly identify variants which may cause fresh outbreaks or beat vaccines. Nicola Sturgeon announced details of the laboratory, saying it would be able to sequence up to 1,000 samples a day. Scotland presently has to send some samples to England to find out details of the viral strain.
18th Mar 2021 - The Times

Covid-19 rapid tests could be offered to younger NI pupils

In Northern Ireland, pupils younger than those in years 12 to 14 could be included in Covid-19 testing for schools "at a later stage". That is according to guidance on testing in schools published by the Department of Education (DE). All post-primary staff and year 12 to 14 pupils are to be offered twice-weekly lateral flow tests from 22 March when they return to school. After the Easter holidays, all staff in primary and pre-schools will also be offered regular testing.
18th Mar 2021 - BBC News

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EU sets out virus pass plan to allow free travel by summer

The European Union’s executive body proposed Wednesday issuing certificates that would allow EU residents to travel freely across the 27-nation bloc by the summer as long as they have been vaccinated, tested negative for COVID-19 or recovered from the disease. With summer looming and tourism-reliant countries anxiously waiting for the return of visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission foresees the creation of certificates aimed at facilitating travel between EU member nations. The plan is set to be discussed during a summit of EU leaders next week.
17th Mar 2021 - The Associated Press

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Skin rashes are the ONLY symptoms for one in five Covid-19 patients

21% of people who have Covid develop a rash as their only symptom of infection 17% get a rash first and then get other symptoms later on as disease progresses Rashes show as hives, bumps or swelling and occur across the whole body
16th Mar 2021 - Daily Mail

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For the first time in decades, vaccines are having a moment. Will it last?

Rupali Limaye got her first dose of Covid-19 vaccine a couple of weeks ago. “I bawled,” she admitted without the slightest hint of embarrassment. It so happens that Limaye is a staunch proponent of vaccination; she works at the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University. But her reaction is not uncommon. Talk to anyone working in or volunteering at Covid vaccination clinics, and you’ll hear tales about the joy, the relief, the shedding of the cloak of dread that has weighed people down during our difficult period of pandemic isolation. “I don’t think many people felt grateful for vaccines before Covid,” Ruth Karron, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Immunization Research, told STAT. “I think it is a reset.”
15th Mar 2021 - STAT News

Covid-19 pandemic: Trump urged to encourage supporters to get jabs

The top US infectious disease expert says it would be "a game-changer" if ex-President Donald Trump encouraged Republicans to get the Covid vaccine. "It will make all the difference in the world," Dr Anthony Fauci told Fox News Sunday. "He's a very widely popular person among Republicans." A recent US opinion poll showed as many as 49% of Republican male supporters did not want to get vaccinated. Mr Trump last month said "everybody, go get your shot" at a conservative forum. It was the first time he publicly encouraged Americans to do so. He has not commented on the issue since then.
15th Mar 2021 - BBC News

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine faced EMA manufacturing concerns ahead of emergency nod: report

About a month before Pfizer and BioNTech won an emergency nod for their COVID-19 vaccine in Europe, regulators raised flags about lower-than-expected levels of intact mRNA in commercial batches, the BMJ reports. The European Medicines Agency outlined “a significant difference" in the RNA in clinical batches and the proposed commercial batches, according to information leaked from an EMA cyberattack in December, which the BMJ subsequently reviewed. While the production issue has since been resolved—and Pfizer's vaccine has since won approval in Europe—the leaks show the “complexities of quality assurance” for mRNA vaccines, especially with regards to RNA instability, the BMJ said. It’s an issue that affects all mRNA developers, including Moderna and CureVac. That instability is the reason for the shots’ frigid cold chain requirements and the need to encapsulate mRNA in lipid nanoparticles, BMJ said.
15th Mar 2021 - FiercePharma

How TikTok is helping demystify the science around Covid-19

The researcher has become a sensation on our platform with more than 212,500 followers; her videos have amassed nearly three million likes. In them, Dr Blakney shows how the vaccines are actually made and tested in the lab, she demystifies the science around the coronavirus and debunks myths about the vaccine’s risks and effectiveness – sometimes involving a dance challenge simultaneously, and often with addictively catchy soundtracks that make learning about vaccines a seat-dancing experience.
15th Mar 2021 - Evening Standard

Czech Republic: What’s behind world’s worst COVID infection rate?

With a population of 10.7 million and about 1.4 million COVID cases to date, the Czech Republic has the highest per capita infection rate in the world. Its death toll – a grim 22,000 people – is also concerning. On March 1, Prime Minister Andrej Babis introduced the strictest lockdown so far. People are banned from travelling within the country, between districts, and cannot visit one another. All retailers, except essential shops such as supermarkets, are closed. The surge in cases comes as the so-called Kent-variant, a highly infectious strain first discovered in the UK, makes it way through the country, pushing Czech hospitals and the economy to the brink of collapse. Leading expert in viral sequencing, Jan Pačes from the Academy of Sciences, talks to Al Jazeera about the severity of the pandemic and calls on the government to take stricter precautions.
15th Mar 2021 - AlJazeera

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What You Can and Can’t Do if You’ve Been Vaccinated: Travel, Gatherings, Risk Factors, What You Need to Know

Many people hope that getting a Covid-19 vaccine will mark an immediate return to normal: no more masks, no more distancing, safe indoor dinner parties and big hugs with friends. The reality is more complicated. For now, people who have gotten their shots must navigate decision-making in a world where the vaccinated and unvaccinated will coexist for months, even within the same household. Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors with others who are also fully vaccinated without taking extra precautions, the CDC said. And vaccinated people may gather with one other unvaccinated family without masks and distancing as long as the unvaccinated members are healthy and aren’t at risk for developing a more serious case of Covid-19. But the CDC urged fully vaccinated people to continue taking precautions in public, and in medium or large private gatherings.
14th Mar 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

British Airways calls for vaccinated people to travel without restrictions

British Airways’s new boss said vaccinated people should be allowed to travel without restriction and non-vaccinated people with a negative COVID-19 test, as he set out his ideas for a travel restart a month before the UK government finalises its plans. Holidays will not be allowed until May 17 at the earliest, the government has said, but before that, on April 12, Britain will announce how and when non-essential travel into and out of the country can resume. Sean Doyle, appointed BA’s chief executive last October, called on Britain to work with other governments to allow vaccines and health apps to open up travel, after a year when minimal flying has left many airlines on life support.
14th Mar 2021 - Reuters

What role could vaccine passports play in the pandemic?

After months of costly shutdowns, closed borders and curtailed personal freedoms, the concept of vaccine passports is gaining traction with governments eager to plot their path through the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of countries, including China and Israel, have already rolled out their own forms of certification ostensibly intended to ease future international travel or revive activity in hard-hit sectors of economies, such as hospitality.
13th Mar 2021 - AlJazeera

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Beware the narrative of ‘normality by June’ – it could go the same way as ‘five days of Christmas’

In the UK, the danger now is that in our excitement over developing effective vaccines against a virus that was unknown just over a year ago we will be seduced into failing to rebuild our basic public health defences. That danger is made worse by the combined pressure of born-again free marketeers and the hedonistic impulses of a public that is being encouraged to believe that a normal summer can be just round the corner with all-inclusive holidays in favourite European resorts a tantalising few months away. Sadly this narrative of the possibility of normality from June onwards could well go the same way as the ‘five days of Christmas’ Boris Johnson promised us back in December. The WHO mantra that ‘nobody is safe until everybody is safe’ is what should inform our expectations rather than one of near instant gratification. If the UK had had a grip on the circulation of the virus it would have thwarted the virus’s propensity to mutate as it passes through large numbers of hosts in the population as it did with the Kent variant.
11th Mar 2021 - The Telegraph

Nobel Prize economists call for vaccine equity and debt relief

Nobel Prize-winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Michael Spence are spearheading calls for urgent action to help poorer countries recover from the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic, including measures to advance vaccine equity, debt relief, and bolstering fiscal resources for cash-strapped nations. The proposals were outlined in a new interim report released on Thursday – the one-year anniversary of the global pandemic – by the Institute for New Economic Thinking’s Commission on Global Economic Transformation, co-chaired by Stiglitz and Spence.
11th Mar 2021 - Al Jazeera English

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Developing nations demand equal access to coronavirus vaccines

South Africa, India, and more than 100 other nations have called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines, saying they are being prevented from immunising their people. The two countries first made the appeal in October last year, calling on the WTO to waive provisions in a trade agreement governing intellectual property rights so medical products can be more easily accessed by developing nations. More than 100 nations have since joined the calls. Endorsing requests for a waiver, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this month: “If a temporary waiver to patents cannot be issued now, during these unprecedented times, when will be the right time?”
10th Mar 2021 - AlJazeera

Vaccine passports 'long, complex, global dialogue,' expert says

As vaccines continue to roll out across the globe, conversations surrounding “vaccine passports” or any other kind of government-issued papers used to show a person has been inoculated against COVID-19 are ramping up. Israel has already rolled out a vaccine passport, and while questions remain about its security several European countries have followed suit and expressed they are considering implementing their own. Canada has also mulled the prospect of vaccine passports, with federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu saying conversations are “very live” with G7 partners.
10th Mar 2021 - CTV News

Covid-19: NHS Test and Trace 'no clear impact' despite £37bn budget

The impact of NHS Test and Trace is still unclear - despite the UK government setting aside £37bn for it over two years, MPs are warning. The Public Accounts Committee said it was set up on the basis it would help prevent future lockdowns - but since its creation there had been two more. It said the spending was "unimaginable" and warned the taxpayer could not be treated like an "ATM machine". But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the MPs' report "defies logic".
10th Mar 2021 - BBC News

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Fully vaccinated people can gather without masks, CDC says

Fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to long-awaited guidance from federal health officials. The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way — in a single household — with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the guidance Monday. The guidance is designed to address a growing demand, as more adults have been getting vaccinated and wondering if it gives them greater freedom to visit family members, travel, or do other things like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world last year.
9th Mar 2021 - The Associated Press

China launches ‘virus passport’

China has launched a health certificate programme for Chinese citizens travelling internationally, one of the first countries in the world to issue a “virus passport”. The digital certificate, which shows a user’s vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens via a programme on Chinese social media platform WeChat that was launched on Monday. The certificate is being rolled out “to help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel”, a foreign ministry spokesman said. The certificate, which is also available in paper form, is currently only for use by Chinese citizens and is not yet mandatory.
9th Mar 2021 - AlJazeera

UK lawmakers say COVID-19 test and trace system yet to prove its worth

England’s COVID-19 test and trace system has not yet proven its worth as there is little evidence of its overall effectiveness, the British parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said on Wednesday, decrying the “unimaginable” costs of the programme. The vast amounts spent on England’s test and trace system and its limited impact has drawn criticism, with opposition politicians calling for it to be run by the state-run health service. The Public Accounts Committee said that Test and Trace had cost 23 billion pounds ($32 billion) so far but had not achieved a key goal of avoiding a cycle of national lockdowns. “Despite the unimaginable resources thrown at this project Test and Trace cannot point to a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic,” chair of the committee, opposition Labour party lawmaker Meg Hillier said.
9th Mar 2021 - Reuters

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In Japan, vending machines help ease access to COVID-19 tests

In Japan, convenience is king and getting tested for COVID-19 can be highly inconvenient. Part of solution, as it is for a range of daily necessities in Tokyo, has become the humble vending machine. Eager to conserve manpower and hospital resources, the government conducts just 40,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests a day, a quarter of its capacity, restricting them to people who are quite symptomatic or have had a high chance of being infected. That’s led to the public to rely heavily on private clinics or buying PCR tests by other means. Vending machines selling test kits offer consumers the option of avoiding crowded clinics or having to wait for an appointment
8th Mar 2021 - Reuters

Fully vaccinated people can gather without masks indoors, should still avoid travel: U.S. says

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can meet without masks indoors in small groups with others who have been inoculated but should avoid non-essential travel and continue to wear face-coverings in public, the Biden administration said on Monday. In a long-awaited update of its guidance for behaviors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said fully vaccinated people could also meet in small groups with unvaccinated individuals deemed at low-risk for severe COVID-19 from one other household without masks. The slight lifting of restrictions represented a still cautious approach to public health guidance despite the quickly growing number of vaccinated people. President Joe Biden has urged Americans to remain vigilant and continue to follow CDC guidelines to prevent another surge of cases.
8th Mar 2021 - Reuters

Covid-19: School rapid test cannot be overruled, says minister

The government is sticking to the rule that a positive rapid Covid test done in secondary schools in England cannot be overruled by the gold-standard tests processed by labs. Concerns have been raised by testing experts that significant numbers could be incorrectly told they are infected. They have called for all positives from the rapid testing done in schools to be confirmed by the standard PCR test.
8th Mar 2021 - BBC News

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You've been vaccinated — the CDC is finalizing guidance on what's safe for you to do

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is finalizing guidance aimed at clarifying what Americans who have received COVID-19 vaccines should and shouldn't do, according to two sources at the agency familiar with its drafting. The upcoming guidance, first reported by Politico, is expected to include that fully vaccinated individuals should be able to gather in small groups with other people who have also been vaccinated. The CDC currently does not recommend in-person gatherings with the general public, saying "gathering virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice." Even for people who have been fully vaccinated, other mitigation measures will still be recommended, including wearing a mask in public and social distancing.
7th Mar 2021 - CBS News

Thailand mulls Covid-19 vaccine passports to boost tourism sector

Thailand is considering Covid-19 vaccine passports and quarantine exemption amid efforts to boost the ailing tourism sector as inoculation rolled out worldwide. Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha has ordered the foreign ministry to conduct a study into the vaccine passports. "If we decide to unveil the plan, China will be among the first countries that we're going to negotiate with," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said
6th Mar 2021 - The Star Malaysia

The great school reopening - what could go wrong?

To reduce the risk of spread of the virus, the government has introduced mass testing. All secondary school pupils will be offered three tests on their return before being asked to carry them out twice a week at home. These will be rapid lateral flow tests that provide a quick result on the spot, unlike the ones that are carried out in official testing centres - known as PCR tests - that are sent off to labs. The rapid tests are less accurate - they may pick up only between half to three-quarters of positive cases, but given they are being used to spot cases before people develop symptoms or for those who do not develop symptoms, the government is adamant they have an important role.
5th Mar 2021 - BBC News

Covid-19: Is school mask and testing policy flawed?

Schools reopen to all pupils next week in England - the first part of the UK where this will happen. It is a crucial step for children and wider society in the route out of lockdown. Masks are to be worn by secondary school children in classes, while mass testing is being introduced. But will these steps be a help? And does it even matter if infection rates go up?
5th Mar 2021 - BBC News

Covid-19 News: Restaurant Dining and Lack of Mask Mandates Are Each Linked to U.S. Virus Spread, C.D.C. Says

The world needs up to 10 billion syringes for coronavirus doses, and manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to meet the demand. The pandemic’s racial disparities persist in the U.S. vaccine rollout.
5th Mar 2021 - New York Times

How to Wear Your Mask ‘Knotted and Tucked’

Step one: Fold your mask in half lengthwise. Step two: With the mask still folded, take one ear loop and knot it, keeping the knot as close as possible to the edge of the mask. Repeat on the other side. Step three: Unfold your mask. It should look like a little canoe with holes on either end. Fold the extra fabric on each end inward, as if to close up the canoe. Step four: Put on the mask, taking care to make sure the fabric you folded inward stays folded. This should prevent any air from coming in through gaps on the side of your mask.
28th Feb 2021 - Medium

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Biden’s announcement moves teachers up in the vaccine line. Will it make a difference?

In school systems where classrooms remain shuttered, or where children may only attend school once or twice a week, President Biden hopes his move to press states into prioritizing teachers for coronavirus vaccination will help them move toward normalcy. But his announcement Tuesday — and his pledge to make vaccination available to all educators and day-care workers by the end of March — was met with mixed emotions. Union leaders, who had lobbied hard for the move, applauded the action. But critics charged it comes far too late in the school year to make much of a difference for schoolchildren.
4th Mar 2021 - The Washington Post

British Airways prepares for travel restart with testing kit plan

British Airways has struck a deal with a COVID-19 testing kit provider as airlines prepare for the desperately-needed restart of summer travel, which is likely to include tests for passengers. After months of lockdown, airlines hope Britain will give the go-ahead from mid-May for holidays to restart, boosting an industry whose finances have been slammed by the pandemic. But it is not yet clear how mass foreign travel will resume. The government will provide more information on April 12.
4th Mar 2021 - Reuters

Alabama extends mask mandate as other US states lift restrictions

Alabama’s governor said on Thursday she was extending the state’s mask mandate for another month, heeding the advice of health experts and breaking with decisions by neighbouring Mississippi and Texas earlier this week to lift their requirements. Alabama’s mandate, due to expire on Friday, will remain in effect until April 9, but no longer than that, Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, said. “After that, it’ll be personal responsibility,” Ivey said at a briefing. “Even when we lift the mask order,” she added, “I will continue to wear my mask while I’m around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same,” Ivey said.
4th Mar 2021 - AlJazeera

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Brazil's Covid outbreak is global threat that opens door to lethal variants – scientist

Duke University neuroscientist urges international community to challenge Brazilian government over its failure to contain - “The world must vehemently speak out over the risks Brazil is posing to the fight against the pandemic,” said Nicolelis, who has spent most of the last year confined to his flat on the west side of São Paulo. “What’s the point in sorting the pandemic out in Europe or the United States, if Brazil continues to be a breeding ground for this virus?”He said: “It’s that if you allow the virus to proliferate at the levels it is currently proliferating here, you open the door to the occurrence of new mutations and the appearance of even more lethal variants.” Already, one particularly worrying variant (P1) has been traced to Manaus, the largest city in the Brazilian Amazon, which suffered a devastating healthcare breakdown in January after a surge in infections. Six cases of that variant have so far been detected in the UK.
3rd Mar 2021 - The Guardian

US coronavirus: CDC director urges people to keep masking and distancing 'regardless of what states decide'

The director of the US Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said she hopes people will decide to individually "do the right thing" about distancing and wearing masks, even in states moving to eliminate restrictions against the CDC's recommendations. "I think we at the CDC have been very clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions," Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing. Walensky's comments come after governors of Texas and Mississippi said they were lifting mask mandates and allowing businesses to open at full capacity, starting now or within days.
3rd Mar 2021 - MSN.com

Vaccine passports: false dawn or golden ticket?

Vaccine passports are a classic case of possible good news accompanied by massive complications. These digital certificates promise a golden key to living a normal life again: but they risk distracting us from the greater need for vaccines in arms and responsible behavior from all. With so much money and power at stake, the world’s biggest brains — from IBM to airlines — are working on systems to allow the vaccinated class access to a wider range of venues and countries.
3rd Mar 2021 - Politico

UK government may start offering financial rewards for becoming healthier

The government is expanding access to weight loss services and may start offering people financial rewards for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as part of the fight against obesity. The Department of Health and Social Care is giving the NHS and local councils in England £70m to pay for up to 700,000 overweight or obese people to go on weight management courses, such as those provided by Weight Watchers or Slimming World, or work with a personal coach to help them shed unwanted pounds. In addition, it has asked Sir Keith Mills, the creator of the Nectar and air miles reward schemes, to look into whether financial incentives would motivate people to eat better and exercise more.
3rd Mar 2021 - The Guardian

Biden says 'big mistake' for states to lift mask mandates given virus toll

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday said decisions to end the required wearing of masks - such as those by governors of Texas and Mississippi - amounted to “Neanderthal thinking” given the rising death toll from the coronavirus pandemic. Asked if he had a message to Texas and Mississippi, Biden told reporters: “I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference.” Biden said the increasing availability of vaccinations was making a difference in containing the pandemic, but it was critical to remain vigilant about wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing. “The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, ‘In the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it.’ It still matters,” Biden said before a brainstorming meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers to address cancer.
3rd Mar 2021 - Reuters

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Vaccine passports could allow people back into Scots pubs, says government advisor

A system of vaccine passports could ultimately allow the return of international travel, MSPs have been told, while some countries are already requiring vaccination "green passes" for entertainment venues. Professor Devi Sridhar of Edinburgh University spoke to the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee about international travel regulations during the pandemic. The Scottish Government adviser said that if coronavirus vaccines significantly reduced transmission of the disease, as initial evidence suggested, electronic vaccine passports could help to restart international tourism. She said EU countries were already developing plans for a digital green pass, with countries like Spain and Greece keen to welcome visitors again. Prof Sridhar said: "I think if these vaccines stop transmission, which they look like they might, we will reach a stage of vaccine passports.
2nd Mar 2021 - Daily Record

Covid-19: Regular tests a 'game-changer' for schools, says science adviser

Regular testing of secondary pupils will be a "game-changer" in giving confidence that schools are safe, a government science adviser has said. Prof Calum Semple told the BBC better ventilation and face masks would also contribute to a safe reopening in England from 8 March. Rates of infection in schools had been "quite low", he said. But a school leaders' union warned the testing demands may mean a staggered return for many. Secondary pupils in England will be asked to take a rapid lateral flow test twice a week to help identify anyone who might be infectious.
2nd Mar 2021 - BBC News

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Expert Views - What role for vaccine passports in coronavirus fight?

As the rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 gathers pace, countries from Sweden to Israel are exploring how certificates and passports could help reopen economies by identifying those protected against the virus. But a push for identity proofs and digital certificates risks excluding poorer and vulnerable groups from vaccine passports and the benefits that come with them, rights experts warn. The Thomson Reuters Foundation spoke to business executives, researchers and advocates about what role vaccine passports should play in the global fight against the pandemic.
1st Mar 2021 - Reuters

'Covid-killing' remote working pods to revive town centres

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has left many of the UK’s high streets with an increasing number of empty retail spaces. These vacant buildings could get a new lease of life from Space Republic, which is proposing to install self-contained, self-cleaning office ‘pod’ spaces that use ultraviolet light to kill coronavirus in empty shops. Billed as a “safe, private workspace for the work-from-anywhere generation”, the sealed work stations, called Pluto work pods, would be put inside defunct high-street chains, pubs, hotels and shopping centres, so that people living locally could walk or cycle to get to them. Anyone can hire a pod for a two-hour concentration session in a safe environment where they can plug in devices for focus-friendly solo working.
1st Mar 2021 - E&T Magazine

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Clean break: the risk of catching Covid from surfaces overblown, experts say

When cases of Covid-19 first began emerging in Australia, some people reported disinfecting their groceries before bringing them into their homes, and there were also concerns that the virus could be living on the surfaces of packages in the mail. During Victoria’s extended lockdown, teams of workers could be seen walking city streets disinfecting traffic light buttons, benches and even fences. An epidemiologist with La Trobe University, Associate Prof Hassan Vally, said just over one year later it has become clear surface transmission is not as significant a factor in Covid-19 spread as once feared. While surface transmission is not impossible, Vally said its role in spread needs perspective. “I want to be clear that nothing should change in terms of washing our hands and personal hygiene,” Vally said. “We can, however, be less anxious about washing every surface 20 times a day, and just concentrate on good hand hygiene and social distancing, and staying home when sick, which should be more than enough to stop us from spreading the virus.”
27th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Minority TikTok influencers create COVID-19 vaccine awareness in new 'See Friends Again' campaign

As the U.S. crossed the 500,000 COVID-19 death milestone earlier this week, Generation Z's minority TikTok influencers switched up their dance routines and comedy skits to bring awareness around the pandemic with a "See Friends Again" campaign. "Sometimes you laugh and brush things off. We need not to laugh," TikTok user Kymon Palau told ABC News. "But we need to have that uncomfortable conversation of what's really wrong, why and then educate people. And I do it through humor." Palau is one of the 18 minority influencers in the campaign, which educates young people of color about the importance of COVID-19 and vaccination. More than 60% of TikTok users are Gen Zers. This racially and ethnically diverse group could bridge the gap between COVID-19 and minority communities.
26th Feb 2021 - ABC news

Plunging COVID-19 test demand may leave US with supply glut

Just five weeks ago, Los Angeles County was conducting more than 350,000 weekly coronavirus tests, including at a massive drive-thru site at Dodger Stadium, as health workers raced to contain the worst COVID-19 hotspot in the U.S. Now, county officials say testing has nearly collapsed. More than 180 government-supported sites are operating at only a third of their capacity. “It’s shocking how quickly we’ve gone from moving at 100 miles an hour to about 25,” said Dr. Clemens Hong, who leads the county’s testing operation. After a year of struggling to boost testing, communities across the country are seeing plummeting demand, shuttering testing sites or even trying to return supplies.
27th Feb 2021 - The Independent

EXPLAINER: Meet the vaccine appointment bots, and their foes

Having trouble scoring a COVID-19 vaccine appointment? You’re not alone. To cope, some people are turning to bots that scan overwhelmed websites and send alerts on social media when slots open up. They’ve provided relief to families helping older relatives find scarce appointments. But not all public health officials think they’re a good idea.
25th Feb 2021 - Associated Press

Getting the vaccine will protect you from the coronavirus — and it may keep people around you healthier, too

Health experts say the coronavirus vaccines may do more than protect recipients from covid-19. Researchers say people who are vaccinated and still contract the virus may carry less of it and also shed less of it — meaning those whom they expose to it may not become as sick. There isn’t a lot of evidence yet to support this hypothesis, but researchers say it is likely the case based largely on observations in animal studies, as well as some preliminary research in humans. This, however, doesn’t mean that vaccinated people should stop taking precautions, such as wearing a mask. “Even if you’re vaccinated and you’re going out, keep masking up until we get more people vaccinated,” said Ilhem Messaoudi, director of the Center for Virus Research at the University of California at Irvine.
27th Feb 2021 - The Washington Post

We’ll never reach herd immunity if we don’t vaccinate more non-White people

States have taken wildly different approaches to vaccine distribution, but one thing unites them: Many of their most at-risk residents, particularly in communities of color, are being left behind. In Connecticut, which boasts one of the best coverage rates in the country, the share of the White population inoculated is at least twice that of the state’s Black population. In North Dakota, another supposed success story, the gap is starker — the share of White residents who have received at least one dose is more than three times that of Black residents. This pattern holds for every state providing data. This doesn’t just cost lives. It also undermines our ability to achieve herd immunity, the point at which enough people are vaccinated to provide protection for a whole community
28th Feb 2021 - The Washington Post

Can vaccinated people still spread the coronavirus?

If all goes well, vaccines will very soon reduce the rate of severe disease and death worldwide. To be sure, any vaccine that reduces disease severity is also, at the population level, reducing the amount of virus being shed overall. But because of the emergence of new variants, vaccinated people still have the potential to shed and spread the coronavirus to other people, vaccinated or otherwise. This means it will likely take much longer for vaccines to reduce transmission and for populations to reach herd immunity than if these new variants had never emerged. Exactly how long that will take is a balance between how effective vaccines are against emerging strains and how transmissible and infectious these new strains are.
27th Feb 2021 - The Conversation US

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‘It’s Up to You’: Ad campaign to encourage coronavirus vaccination gets underway

For tens of millions of Americans still unsure about taking coronavirus vaccine shots, advertising industry experts and government scientists have a new message: “It’s Up to You.” That message and accompanying ad campaign — shaped by months of consumer research and backed by more than $50 million in donated funds — is to be unveiled Thursday across TV and digital video, social media and audio platforms like Pandora and Spotify. It also will include messaging tailored toward Black and Hispanic communities, where studies have found a lack of trust about the coronavirus vaccines and their long-term effects. The ads and related events will feature celebrities, scientists and members of the faith community.
25th Feb 2021 - The Washington Post

Coronavirus vaccine: one of UK's largest care home firms introduces 'no jab, no job' policy

One of the UK’s largest care home operators has instituted a no jab, no job policy for new staff amid ongoing concern about vaccine take-up among care workers. A spokesperson for Care UK, which runs 120 homes and has seen more than two-thirds of its staff vaccinated, said: “Everyone applying for a role which requires them to go into a home will be expected to have been vaccinated before they start work.” The move comes after Barchester, which operates more than 220 private care homes, said it would insist that current staff are vaccinated, warning that if they “refuse … on non-medical grounds [they] will, by reason of their own decision, make themselves unavailable for work”.
25th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

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Covid-19 can survive on clothing for up to THREE DAYS - with polyester garments sustaining the virus the longest, scientists warn

Coronaviruses similar to Covid-19 can survive on clothing for up to three days, according to new research. Research carried out by De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester looked at how a coronavirus behaves on three fabrics commonly used in the healthcare industry. Polyester enables the virus to survive at infectious levels for up to 72 hours, whereas it dies within 24 hours on 100 per cent cotton.
24th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Ukraine: Health workers welcome COVID-19 vaccination drive

Ukraine launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign Wednesday in hopes of halting the spread of the coronavirus that has put a significant strain on the country's teetering health care system. Medical workers and military personnel in different regions of the country were the first to get their shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, 500,000 doses of which arrived in the Ukrainian capital from India on Tuesday. It is better to prevent infections "than to treat the complications of the disease later,” said Yevgeny Gorenko, an intensive care specialist who was the first person to receive a shot on Wednesday.
24th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Covid-19: First doses of vaccines in Scotland led to a substantial fall in hospital admissions

Rollout of the Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines has led to a substantial fall in severe covid-19 cases requiring hospital admission in Scotland, suggest the results of the first study to report on the impact of the UK’s vaccination strategy.1 - The results, available as a preprint, showed that four weeks after the first doses of the Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines were administered the risk of hospitalisation from covid-19 fell by up to 85% (95% confidence interval 76 to 91) and 94% (95% CI 73 to 99), respectively.
24th Feb 2021 - The BMJ

Coronavirus: Home tests will give Germany 'more freedom'

Speaking to Germany's Bundestag parliament on Wednesday, Health Minister Jens Spahn pointed to the approval of home coronavirus tests, known as antigen tests, as an important step on the return to normalcy. Though Spahn spoke of freedoms regained, he warned citizens not to let their guard down and called for patience about the availability of tests. Three such self-administered rapid antigen tests have been given special approval for use by Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. Although he expressed confidence that more and more tests would be available in the days and weeks following approval, Spahn warned they would be in short supply initially.
24th Feb 2021 - Deutsche Welle

New normal? 'Green Pass' opens music concert to vaccinated Israelis

It was an event that could set a precedent in a world longing for a return to normal - a music concert attended by scores of Israelis vaccinated against COVID-19. The open-air concert in Tel Aviv on Wednesday was one of the first in a programme to restart cultural events by restricting attendance to people who have been vaccinated or those with immunity after contracting the disease. Attendees were required to show a “Green Pass”, a government-validated certificate showing they had received both doses of the vaccine more than a week prior to the event or that they had recovered from COVID-19 and were presumed immune. The passes are valid for six months from the time of full vaccination.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

NHS Covid app could be used to prove status and access venues in England

People could use a revamped NHS app to prove their Covid status on entering pubs or theatres in England under plans being considered by ministers, as one major care provider said staff have two months to get jabbed or lose their jobs. Ministers are expected to give businesses in England the power to check Covid certification – whether people have been vaccinated or the result of recent tests. That will include small-scale venues like restaurants or bars. However, the equalities watchdog and trade unions have said that any move that relies solely on vaccine certification could be unlawful and that passes must not be used to relax Covid safety measures in workplaces.
24th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

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NHS app could be used to show coronavirus vaccine or test result

The NHS app could be used to display vaccination status or latest coronavirus test results, as ministers consider the ethical issues surrounding the possible introduction of vaccine passports. Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he has tasked senior minister Michael Gove with leading a review into the “deep and complex issues” surrounding “Covid status certificates”. But it was understood that the “proper review” will also investigate whether businesses such as pubs and theatres could be prohibited from making access conditional on vaccination alone.
23rd Feb 2021 - Aberdeen Evening Express

Covid-19: Frustration over London's maskless passengers

Mask wearing on public transport looks likely to be with us for some time. But the most recent figures from Transport for London (TfL) show there is still a significant minority that do not wear them. Commuters have also complained to me about maskless rail staff who also ignore social distance regulations. TfL said about 90% of its passengers wear masks. Around 137,000 maskless people have so far been stopped from using London's public transport and told to wear a face covering since it was made mandatory on 15 June, latest figures show.
23rd Feb 2021 - BBC News

UK Covid Lockdown: Ministers Review Vaccine Passport Options to Help Firms Open

U.K. firms may be allowed to demand proof that customers do not have coronavirus under options being considered to help businesses reopen after the pandemic. Ministers are conducting a review of whether so-called vaccine passports and test certificates could enable venues to open without fueling a surge in infections once lockdown rules are lifted. In one potential scenario, someone planning to go to an event could be asked to show staff a medical record on their National Health Service smart-phone app proving they have been vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19, a person familiar with the matter said.
23rd Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

Covid-19: Vaccine success drives England's lockdown exit

Siren study - The Pfizer and BioNTech covid-19 vaccine is at least 70% effective against symptomatic and asymptomatic infection 21 days after the first dose and at least 85% seven days after the second dose, shows a UK study of healthcare workers. The Siren study previously investigated the effect of prior infection on protection against reinfection but has now been amended to investigate vaccine effectiveness. The first results following this update have looked at the eight weeks after the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dose.
23rd Feb 2021 - The BMJ

Easing lockdown will allow Covid to spread. Here's how to mitigate the risks

The government’s roadmap for ending Covid restrictions in England commits it to steps that may increase the rate at which the virus spreads. Some of that is unavoidable. But even as we reopen, there is more that we could do to mitigate the risk, and get us to the summer – and normality – without a resurgence. One reason that east Asian countries have done better during the pandemic is that prior experience with Sars has given people the understanding of how respiratory diseases spread, and how to avoid them. Japan’s three Cs guidance – avoidance of closed spaces, crowded places, and conversations – helped it avoid a serious epidemic without imposing a national lockdown. But the UK’s messaging still prioritises hand washing, surface cleaning and 2-metre distancing, and there has been no public education campaign about ventilation on the scale of last year’s hand-washing campaign.
23rd Feb 2021 - MSN.com

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Air New Zealand to trial digital Covid `vaccination passport`

Air New Zealand will trial a digital travel pass to give airlines and border authorities access to passenger health information, including their Covid-19 vaccination status, the carrier said Monday. The scheme, dubbed a "vaccination passport" by industry observers, is intended to streamline travel once borders reopen by allowing passengers to store their health credentials in one place.
22nd Feb 2021 - WION

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Green Pass: Israel's Covid-19 vaccination certificate opens fast track to normal life

People with the so-called "Green Pass" will get access to gyms, hotels and theatres, as more than 46 percent of its 9 million population get vaccinated.
21st Feb 2021 - NBC News

Here are the four steps needed to safely end the UK's Covid lockdown

Our first collective aim should be reducing transmission to as low a level as possible – and keeping it low. Secondly, it will be crucial that we continue to monitor transmission and quickly identify any new variants. The third important aspect of this roadmap should be a highly effective test, trace, isolate and support system. As cases fall and people begin to mix again, keeping the virus under control will depend upon the effectiveness of this system. Councils and communities must work together to ensure those who are least likely to take up the offer of a vaccination are engaged and supported, whether through targeted, culturally aware communication campaigns or enlisting community representatives to encourage uptake. Local community leaders, businesses, faith groups, libraries, schools, sports clubs and local media will all be central to these efforts.
20th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

What's safe after COVID-19 vaccination? Don't shed masks yet

It’s great if the vaccine means someone who otherwise would have been hospitalized instead just has the sniffles, or even no symptoms. But “the looming question,” Fauci said during a White House coronavirus response briefing last week, is whether a person infected despite vaccination can still, unwittingly, infect someone else. Studies are underway to find out, and hints are starting to emerge. Fauci pointed to recent research from Spain showing the more coronavirus an infected person harbors — what’s called the viral load — the more infectious they are. That’s not surprising, as it’s true with other illnesses.
20th Feb 2021 - The Independent

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Covid-19 passports aim to streamline travel requirements. But there’s no one-size-fits-all fix.

International travel declined by around 90 percent after the pandemic hit — but those still crossing borders may have begun to encounter a novel concept: “covid-19 passports,” or a mobile platform that proves a traveler meets a country’s requirements, like a negative coronavirus test or, in a few cases, having received the coronavirus vaccine. Also called health passports, these are not official documents granted by governments; rather, they are digital passes issued by apps, and accepted by some companies and countries, that have arisen to meet demands by airlines and governments that travelers have a negative coronavirus status. Instead of showing paper-based proof of a test or vaccination card at an airport — which could either be forged, lost or arbitrarily rejected without a streamlined process — a traveler would be able to store and certify their information via their phone
18th Feb 2021 - Washington Post

Covid: Ethnicity vaccine gaps in over-70s

Black and mixed heritage people in their 70s are being vaccinated against Covid-19 at much lower rates than white people, GP records suggest. And fewer Bangladeshi and Pakistani people had been jabbed by 11 February. This follows data from earlier in the vaccination programme showing similar gaps among the over-80s. A discrepancy was not seen in the over-70s at that point, but this is most likely because very few were being vaccinated at that stage. The findings come from a study called OpenSafely, run by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The team has access to completely anonymised medical records covering 40% of GP practices in England.
18th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Mass tests for teachers and pupils to be part of England lockdown easing, report says

Teachers, schoolchildren and their families could be tested for coronavirus twice a week under a plan for mass rapid testing that has been touted as key to safely easing England’s lockdown, reports claim. As many as 400,000 rapid lateral flow tests will be sent to homes every day, supported by a public information campaign to encourage people to take tests even if they do not show any symptoms, it is claimed. Boris Johnson is expected to give further details of the scheme when he outlines his roadmap for easing restrictions on Monday.
18th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

South Korea warns against lax distancing as daily COVID-19 count hits one-month high

South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Wednesday warned against the loosening enforcement of social distancing rules after the number of new coronavirus cases hit the highest levels in nearly 40 days. The government relaxed distancing curbs on Saturday to take effect starting this week, after getting on top of a third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that peaked at around 1,200 daily cases in late December. But the numbers shot back up in just three days, topping 600 for the first time in 39 days on Tuesday, after a ban on nighttime entertainment facilities was lifted and a restaurant curfew extended by one hour to 10 p.m.
18th Feb 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

White House announces plans to ramp up COVID testing

The White House announced new efforts on Wednesday to expand and improve testing for the coronavirus, as the United States ramps up efforts to vaccinate Americans. In a news briefing, Carole Johnson, the nation’s new COVID-19 testing coordinator, announced that the federal government would invest $1.6bn to increase nationwide testing. “We need to test broadly and rapidly to turn the tide of this pandemic but we still don’t have enough testing and we don’t have enough testing in all the places it needs to be,” Johnson said during a news briefing. She said the funds would support testing in schools and in underserved populations, increase manufacturing of critical testing supplies, as well as increase genomic sequencing – key to studying virus variants. According to a White House factsheet, $650m will go towards expanding testing capacity for schools, which will assist them in reopening.
18th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

How covid-19 testing is developing and its future

An HSJ and Siemens Healthineers roundtable discussed how the covid-19 testing regime has developed to date, how it will need to evolve further to consistently reach the right person with the right test at the right time, and what its likely legacy will be for the diagnostics sphere as a whole. The words “testing” and “game changer” have frequently been seen together in the months since the pandemic began. Boris Johnson initially applied the phrase to antibody testing and then in September to rapid mass testing of asymptomatic individuals, which he suggested could offer a route to renewed social gatherings even pre-widespread vaccination. But away from such high profile proclamations, how has covid-19 testing actually developed? And how could and should it develop in the longer term?
17th Feb 2021 - Health Service Journal

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White House announces plans to ramp up COVID testing

The White House announced new efforts on Wednesday to expand and improve testing for the coronavirus, as the United States ramps up efforts to vaccinate Americans. In a news briefing, Carole Johnson, the nation’s new COVID-19 testing coordinator, announced that the federal government would invest $1.6bn to increase nationwide testing. “We need to test broadly and rapidly to turn the tide of this pandemic but we still don’t have enough testing and we don’t have enough testing in all the places it needs to be,” Johnson said during a news briefing.
17th Feb 2021 - AlJazeera

Vaccines, drugs, testing key to easing lockdown safely - UK's Raab

Vaccines, drugs and testing at scale are key to easing lockdown measures safely, Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Wednesday as the government prepares to set out a roadmap on how to loosen restrictions. “The two or three things that are going to be really important if we are to ease out of lockdown safely and responsibly are, yes of course, the vaccine and... the drugs... but also this lateral flow testing, being able to do at it at scale,” he told Sky News.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Contact tracing alone has little impact on curbing Covid spread, report finds

Contact tracing alone has a marginal impact on Covid transmission, curbing the spread of the disease by just 2% to 5%, official estimates show. The figures come after Dido Harding, who heads the government’s £22bn test-and-trace programme in England, suggested it was set to substantially reduce the spread of coronavirus this spring. Newly published data behind that assertion shows the vast majority of the impact of test and trace is down to people self-isolating. An army of contact tracers has been hired to track down close contacts of those who test positive for Covid, and ask them to self-isolate. The contact tracers also remind people of the need to quarantine after a positive test.
17th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

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Hotel quarantine rollout in England 'an absolute joke', says border official

Border staff received guidelines on how to execute England’s new “red list” quarantine rules in an email two and a half hours before they came into force in a rollout that one worker described as “an absolute joke”. British and Irish nationals or UK residents arriving from a list of 33 countries are now required to book a 10-day quarantine package costing £1,750 per adult, as the government seeks to limit the spread of new and potentially more dangerous coronavirus variants arriving from abroad. Border Force sources told the Guardian that all immigration control staff had received a lengthy email with five attachments, detailing official guidance for carrying out the new checks at the border, at 9.25pm on Sunday. The rules came into effect at midnight.
15th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Fauci wins $1 million Israeli prize for 'defending science'

The Dan David Foundation, which is based at Tel Aviv University, said on Monday that Fauci has won the prize for “courageously defending science in the face of uninformed opposition during the challenging COVID crisis,” the Seattle Times reported. “As the COVID-19 pandemic unraveled, [Fauci] leveraged his considerable communication skills to address people gripped by fear and anxiety and worked relentlessly to inform individuals in the United States and elsewhere about the public health measures essential for containing the pandemic’s spread,” the foundation’s awards committee said.
16th Feb 2021 - The Hill

No new virus cases raise hopes New Zealand will end lockdown

For a second consecutive day, New Zealand reported no new community cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, raising hopes that a lockdown in Auckland will be lifted Wednesday. Just how three family members contracted the disease remains a mystery. After the cases were found, top lawmakers hurriedly placed New Zealand’s largest city into a three-day lockdown, the nation's first in six months. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the final decision by lawmakers on whether to lift the restrictions will depend on any new information or cases that crop up over the next 24 hours. “A day when we get zero positive test results is always a good day,” Hipkins said.
16th Feb 2021 - ABC News

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COVID-19: Oxford vaccine creator calls for donations to help people in poorer countries receive a jab

The co-creator of the Oxford vaccine has called on people to give money to support coronavirus vaccination in poorer countries. Professor Sarah Gilbert is backing a new campaign launching today, which asks people in the UK to give money to the World Health Organisation COVID-19 relief fund when they receive the date for their coronavirus vaccination. "We produced and developed the Oxford vaccine as a vaccine for the world," Professor Gilbert said about the campaign, which is called Arm in Arm. "We are happy to support a new initiative to get COVID vaccines to as many people as possible."
14th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Wearing a face mask can reduce your risk of severe Covid-19: Humidity inside coverings limits the spread of the virus to the lungs leading to milder infection, study shows

NIH researchers assessed humidity of a space before and after wearing a mask. Masks increase humidity by between 38 and 90 per cent compared to maskless. This leads to hydrated air being inhaled by the person wearing the mask. This helps the respiratory tract to clear out the virus in the mucus and prevent it reaching the lungs
15th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Vaccine passport for shops could happen, says Dominic Raab

Shops and restaurants could require customers to show vaccine passports under plans being considered by the government, the foreign secretary has suggested. Dominic Raab said that the government was considering using vaccine passports at the “domestic or local level”. His comments appear to put him at odds with No 10, which has repeatedly ruled out using them within the UK. The government is working on plans for the use of vaccine passports to enable international travel. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, denied that there were plans to introduce them within the UK.
15th Feb 2021 - The Times

Widespread vaccinations in the US won't come until the summer. Here's what's been driving down Covid-19 cases so far

Kudos to all the Americans who've been responsible about mask wearing and social distancing. Health experts say your efforts are paying off. After an abysmal start to winter, some Covid-19 numbers have been falling for weeks. But it's not just due to vaccines. More than 14 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with both doses of their Covid-19 vaccines, but that's only about 4% of the US population. And it takes weeks for vaccines to fully kick in. So why are we seeing improvement? "It's what we're doing right: staying apart, wearing masks, not traveling, not mixing with others indoors," said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US CDC
15th Feb 2021 - CNN

Covid-19: First travellers arrive in UK for hotel quarantine stay

The first travellers required to stay at quarantine hotels have begun arriving in the UK. All British and Irish citizens and UK residents who arrive in England after being in a high-risk Covid country now have to self-isolate in hotels. The "red list" of 33 countries includes Portugal, Brazil and South Africa. The new regulations, which aim to stop Covid variants entering the country, apply to arrivals who have been in one of those places in the past 10 days. In Scotland, the rule to stay in a hotel applies to travellers from all countries - rather than just those from the list of 33 countries.
15th Feb 2021 - BBC News

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COVID-19: Australia's Victoria state enters snap lockdown after coronavirus outbreak linked to quarantine hotels

A five-day lockdown is being imposed in Australia's Victoria state, barring spectators from the first few days of the Australian Open tennis tournament. A new COVID-19 cluster has been linked to a quarantine hotel in the state capital Melbourne, reaching 13 cases on Thursday and prompting authorities to take action. Around 6.5 million people went into lockdown at midnight, lasting until the same time on Wednesday, in a state which endured one of the world's strictest and longest lockdowns last year.
13th Feb 2021 - Sky News

How AI and data models help governments fight Covid-19

A not-for-profit business group including IBM and Rolls-Royce is using AI and data models to help Europe fight Covid-19 and help prepare an economic recovery. As Covid-19 vaccines roll out, getting economies and societies back to normal after the worst of the pandemic has passed will depend on collaboration between industry and the public sector – and harnessing the power of data and technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI). These are among the reasons why IBM, Rolls-Royce, Microsoft and dozens of global companies recently founded Emergent Alliance − a not-for-profit collaboration specialising in data, analytics and technology. Last April, data scientists and AI experts at IBM (Data Science and AI Elite Team) and Rolls-Royce (R2 Data Labs) joined a team to work on a crucial pandemic-related challenge: how to get a more accurate and up-to-date regional picture of Covid-19 cases so as to help local authorities mount a more effective response to coronavirus outbreaks.
13th Feb 2021 - The Financial Times

Double masking can block 92% of infectious particles, CDC says

Double masking can significantly improve protection, new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Researchers found that layering a cloth mask over a medical procedural mask, such as a disposable blue surgical mask, can block 92.5% of potentially infectious particles from escaping by creating a tighter fit and eliminating leakage. "These experimental data reinforce CDC's prior guidance that everyone 2 years of age or older should wear a mask when in public and around others in the home not living with you," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told a White House briefing.
14th Feb 2021 - CNN

Covid passports could deliver a 'summer of joy,' Denmark hopes

Like many countries around the world, Denmark is desperate to reopen the parts of its economy frozen by the pandemic. The kingdom of under six million people has become one of the most efficient vaccination distributors in Europe and aims to have offered its whole population a jab by June. But before that target is reached, there's pressure for life to get back to normal for Danes already inoculated and to open up borders for Covid-immune travelers from overseas. Morten Bødskov, Denmark's acting finance minister, last week raised the prospect of a so-called coronavirus passport being introduced by the end of the month. "Denmark is still hard hit by the corona pandemic," he said. "But there are parts of Danish society that need to move forward, and a business community that needs to be able to travel."
13th Feb 2021 - CNN

COVID-19: New surge testing after more South Africa variant cases detected

Surge testing is being introduced in more areas of England after a few more cases of the coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa were detected. The testing will be deployed in: Middlesbrough within the TS7 postcode - Areas in Walsall - Specific areas in the RG26 postcode in Hampshire - People in these areas are strongly encouraged to take a COVID test this week, whether or not they have symptoms.
13th Feb 2021 - Sky News

UK social distancing rules could remain until autumn

Social distancing norms in Britain could remain until the autumn under plans being considered by ministers, The Times newspaper reported on Friday. The government's roadmap out of lockdown assumes people will have to wear masks and remain a metre apart of each other for months, the newspaper reported here. Scientists believed the restrictions may need to go on until the end of the year, according to the report.
12th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Late April or May before lockdown eases with month of low cases needed before change

Level 5 restrictions will not be eased until very low Covid-19 case numbers are sustained for up to four weeks, according to multiple senior Government sources. Such a scenario could see the wider reopening of society, beyond schools and construction, pushed back until late April or early May. The concept of a “pause”, where no easing takes place until numbers stay at a consistent level for a few weeks, is used in New Zealand and Australia and is viewed favourably by a number of Ministers as an effective indicator that it is safe to lift restrictions. The “cautious and conservative” approach enunciated by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in recent days is now widely accepted across all three Government parties. Ministers including the Taoiseach have accepted mistakes were made before Christmas, when measures were relaxed too early .
12th Feb 2021 - The Irish Times

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Ministers to discuss vaccine certificates for international travel

Ministers are set to discuss plans on Friday for vaccination and test certificates to ease international travel after lockdown is lifted. But the discussion will not involve "vaccine passports" to prove immunity at venues in the UK. Instead, it will focus on how Britain can co-operate with the international system expected to be introduced eventually to facilitate journeys between different countries. A source said proposals were at a very early stage, and any scheme is not expected to be put into effect for some time.
11th Feb 2021 - The Independent

C.D.C. Urges Better Masking for Increased Virus Protection

Wearing a mask — any mask — reduces the risk of infection with the coronavirus, but wearing a more tightly fitted surgical mask, or layering a cloth mask atop a surgical mask, can vastly increase protections to the wearer and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday. New research by the agency shows that transmission of the virus can be reduced by up to 96.5 percent if both an infected individual and an uninfected individual wear tightly fitted surgical masks or a cloth-and-surgical-mask combination.
11th Feb 2021 - The New York Times

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CDC study finds two masks are better than one vs. COVID-19

US government researchers have found wearing two masks was better than one when preventing the spread of Covid-19, according to a Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. In a lab experiment, two artificial heads were placed six feet from each other and studied on how many coronavirus-sized particles were expelled and inhalled while wearing a variety of face coverings. Researchers found that wearing one mask, either cloth or surgical, prevented 40 per cent of incoming droplets from being breathed in. When adding a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask, 80 per cent of incoming droplets were stopped.
10th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Feds focus on mask upgrades, COVID-19 vaccine sites

Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing the fit of face masks—both cloth and surgical—can significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission, by as much as 96.5% if both infected and uninfected people wear them properly. "What we know now is everyone needs to be wearing a mask when they are in public or inside with people from outside their households," said Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC during a press briefing today.
10th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Covid-19: Sports equipment presents 'low risk'

The risk of coronavirus transmission from sharing sports equipment is "lower than once thought", a study suggests. Researchers, led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, applied live virus particles to nine types of sports equipment and a control material. They concluded it "seems unlikely" that sports balls and accessories are a major cause for transmission. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last June that cricket balls are a "natural vector" of coronavirus. The Strike study found the virus was least transferrable on absorbent materials like cricket gloves and tennis balls, compared with non-porous equipment like racing saddles and rugby balls.
10th Feb 2021 - BBC News

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Are two masks better than one?

When it comes to protecting yourself against new coronavirus variants, two masks may be better than one. A number of politicians, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Senator Mitt Romney, have been spotted doubling up on face masks, and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has recommended that everyday Americans do the same. As part of our #AskReuters Twitter chat series, Reuters gathered a group of health experts to answer questions about the coronavirus, including what they consider the “right” way to wear face coverings.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters

COVID app triggers overdue debate on privacy in Singapore

For a country that prides itself on being on the cutting edge of high-tech governance, there has been little national discussion in Singapore on the balance between data collection and individual privacy. Now, COVID-19 has forced the conversation, after it was revealed that data from the government’s contact-tracing app, contrary to initial promises, could also be used for criminal investigations. The public backlash prompted the government to not only acknowledge that it had made a mistake but also to introduce new legislation to restrict the use of the data. Under the new amendments to the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, passed in the Singapore Parliament this month, personal data collected by digital pandemic contact-tracing programmes can only be used to contact trace, unless it is required by law enforcement for investigations into “serious offences”. Pritam Singh, the leader of the opposition, has called for an “immediate conversation” on the balance between individual privacy and the use of technology and data collection in Singapore.
10th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

COVID-19: 'Surge testing' in Manchester after mutation of Kent variant detected

Thousands of extra COVID tests are being rolled out in Manchester after a mutation of the Kent variant was found in the city. Four people from two unconnected households were found with the E484K mutation, Manchester City Council said, and 10,000 extra tests will now be distributed.
9th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Covid-19: Travel rule breakers could face £10k fines and prison terms

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned travel rule breakers they could face fines of £10,000 and even a decade in prison. Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock set out the "tough" measures for people who do not comply with the new quarantine rules for UK arrivals. He said the policy, which begins on Monday, applied to England but that the devolved administrations were looking at similar measures.
9th Feb 2021 - BBC News

COVID-19: NHS Test and Trace app has prevented 600,000 cases, study suggests

As many as 600,000 coronavirus cases have been prevented as a result of the NHS COVID-19 app, new research suggests. Scientists at The Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University found that for every 1% increase in app users, the number of infections falls by up to 2.3%. The analysis, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, is based on data gathered in between the app launching in September and the end of last year. "The impact of the app could be increased by more people using it," said Professor Christophe Fraser at the University of Oxford.
9th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Covid-19: Travellers face £1,750 cost for England quarantine hotels

Travellers having to stay in quarantine hotels in England will be charged £1,750 for their stay, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced. The measures, which come into force on Monday, apply to UK and Irish residents returning from 33 red list countries. Those who fail to quarantine in a government-sanctioned hotel for 10 days face fines of up to £10,000. Meanwhile, all travellers arriving into Scotland from abroad by air will have to go into quarantine hotels.
9th Feb 2021 - BBC News

COVID-19: All travellers arriving in UK to have to pay for £100 COVID tests while in quarantine

All travellers arriving in the UK are to face mandatory coronavirus tests - paid for by themselves - from next week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock is poised to announce to MPs. In a Commons statement, Mr Hancock will say that from next Monday, 15 February, all passengers arriving in the UK will be required to take a PCR test, which currently cost around £100 per test, on days two and eight after they arrive. The new rules, which will cause further dismay in the already-reeling airline industry, will apply to arrivals not just from 33 so-called Red Zone countries heading into hotel quarantine, but also those isolating at home.
9th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Spain’s government pinning hopes on a vaccination passport to help kick-start ailing tourism sector

The Spanish government is pinning its hopes on 2021 being a year of recovery. That said, the administration is well aware that one of the mainstays of the country’s economy, tourism, will struggle to return to some kind of normality this year given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. To deal with this issue, the coalition government – made up of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and junior partner Unidas Podemos – is looking for formulas to speed up the return to levels of tourism that existed pre-Covid. One of the key factors being considered is the creation of a Europe-wide vaccination card that could help bring back foreign tourists.
9th Feb 2021 - El Pais

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4 in 5 Americans ready for COVID-19 shot, but vaccine messages remain key, analysis finds

Has the vaccine hesitancy tide turned into a wave of vaccine excitement? Possibly. A new W2O Group study using search and social data found that 80% of Americans are likely willing to get vaccinated. However, vaccine makers still have their work cut out for them—especially among certain groups of people—and messaging will be critical, W2O Chief Data Officer Seth Duncan said. Out of four groups of people established for the study, many of those who aren’t inclined to get vaccinated are politically right-leaning. Among the group—defined as those who follow at least three right-leaning politicians, journalists or news outlets—only 41% show a willingness to get a vaccine. That compares with 95% of center left, 93% of the educated left and 91% of the apolitical groups who are ready to get vaccinated.
8th Feb 2021 - FiercePharma

Cambridge firms underpin game-changing lateral flow test for Covid-19

Two Cambridge-based biotechnology companies have been instrumental in the development of a game-changing platform for lateral flow (LF) tests that could be vital in the fight against Covid-19. Large-scale Covid-19 antibody screenings with high specificity and sensitivity, such as the LF test, could provide public health authorities with reliable data to monitor the impact of regional and national lockdown restrictions and provide evidence of antibody generation after vaccine immunisations. The platform is underpinned by Activotec, a laboratory equipment supplier based in Comberton, while Excivion is developing novel vaccines from St John’s Innovation Centre.
8th Feb 2021 - Cambridge Independent

Covid testing expanded to more workplaces in England

Workplace Covid testing is being offered to more companies in England, for staff who cannot work from home during lockdown, the government says. Businesses with more than 50 employees are now able to access lateral flow tests, which can produce results in less than 30 minutes. Previously only firms with more than 250 staff qualified for testing. Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged businesses and employees to take up the offer to "stop this virus spreading". "When you consider that around one in three people have the virus without symptoms and could potentially infect people without even knowing it, it becomes clear why focusing testing on those without symptoms is so essential," he said, adding that firms should regularly test staff.
8th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Western Australia to make masks mandatory for high school students and teachers in rigorous post-lockdown ruling - after recording another day of ZERO cases

Masks will be mandatory for teachers and senior school students in the Perth, Peel and South West regions. Western Australia recorded no new cases of Covid on Sunday, both within the community and in hotel quarantine.
8th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Travellers to UK set to be tested after arrival

Travellers entering the UK are set to be tested for coronavirus a few days after they arrive. The new, expanded testing regime will be announced shortly. Enhancing the testing regime "to cover all arrivals while they isolate" would add another level of protection, the Department of Health said. The move is designed to help to track any new cases which might be brought into the country and make it easier to detect new variants. It is in addition to the current rules which say travellers arriving in the UK, whether by boat, train or plane, must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to be allowed entry. The test must be taken in the 72 hours before travelling, and anyone arriving without one faces a fine of up to £500.
8th Feb 2021 - BBC News

A digital option is the right investment for at-home Covid-19 testing

The Biden administration’s recent investment of $230 million to expedite rapid production of the Ellume home Covid-19 test represents an audacious step forward in mitigating the pandemic. Some experts have criticized it as a “waste of money” because this kit costs more than other alternatives and because of the timing of the investment. I believe the test is worth the extra cost, due to its connectivity and the types of research it enables, though all of these tests need to be evaluated against the other options. Throughout the pandemic, public health officials have struggled to demonstrate the value and importance of measures such as mask wearing, social distancing, and vaccines. The ultimate result has been public skepticism, poor uptake of helpful interventions, and even outrageous conspiracy theories. We must learn from these missteps and design interventions that can be measured quickly and precisely.
8th Feb 2021 - Stat News

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The U.S. needs a National Vaccine Day

Vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccinations do. That is an essential lesson we have learned from working at the forefront of vaccine development and health communication. One of us (S.P.) helped develop vaccines for rubella, rabies, and rotavirus, that have played an essential role in reducing preventable childhood deaths in the United States and around the world — but only because of public health campaigns that built trust in vaccination and made vaccines easily accessible to people from every walk of life. Now along comes Covid-19, a highly infectious disease caused by a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV2, that humans had never previously encountered. In an amazing feat of science and speed, we now have vaccines against this virus that are proving to be highly effective.
7th Feb 2021 - Stat News

NFL Offers All 30 Stadiums For Use As Coronavirus Vaccine Sites

Every NFL team will offer their stadium as a possible mass vaccination site to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to President Biden. The move would expand an effort that currently includes seven teams. Each team "will make its stadium available for mass vaccinations of the general public in coordination with local, state, and federal health officials," Goodell wrote in the letter, which was sent on Thursday. The effort would be helped, he said, by the experience the teams already have with transforming parts of their facilities into coronavirus testing sites. The NFL has 32 teams, but the offer comprises 30 stadiums, because pairs of teams share facilities in both New York and Los Angeles.
6th Feb 2021 - NPR

COVID-19: Rapid testing to be offered to workplaces with more than 50 employees

Rapid tests will be offered to workplaces with more than 50 employees in an effort to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The lateral flow tests can produce results in less then 30 minutes but were previously only available to firms with more than 250 staff. Officials said the move is an effort to "normalise" testing in the workplace and ensure the safety of those who cannot work from home.
7th Feb 2021 - Sky News

Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests to fight pandemic

When a Halloween party sparked a COVID-19 outbreak at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, school officials conducted rapid screening on more than 1,000 students in a week, including many who didn’t have symptoms. Although such asymptomatic screening isn’t approved by regulators and the 15-minute tests aren’t as sensitive as the genetic one that can take days to yield results, the testing director at the historically Black college credits the approach with quickly containing the infections and allowing the campus to remain open. “Within the span of a week, we had crushed the spread. If we had had to stick with the PCR test, we would have been dead in the water,” said Dr. Robert Doolittle, referring to the polymerase chain reaction test that is considered the gold standard by many doctors and Food and Drug Administration regulators.
6th Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

Europe moves toward COVID-19 vaccine passports but not every country is on board

A few European Union countries have taken steps to distribute special passes to allow citizens inoculated against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to travel freely. Others countries, including the U.K., are considering such a measure.
5th Feb 2021 - MarketWatch

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COVID-19 rarely spreads through surfaces. So why are we still deep cleaning?

The WHO updated its guidance on 20 October, saying that the virus can spread “after infected people sneeze, cough on, or touch surfaces, or objects, such as tables, doorknobs and handrails”. A WHO spokesperson told Nature that “there is limited evidence of transmission through fomites. Nonetheless, fomite transmission is considered a possible mode of transmission, given consistent finding of environmental contamination, with positive identification of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the vicinity of people infected with SARS-CoV-2.” The WHO adds that “disinfection practices are important to reduce the potential for COVID-19 virus contamination”. The CDC did not respond to Nature’s queries about inconsistencies in its statements about the risks posed by fomites.
29th Jan 2021 - Nature

Britain's COVID-19 hotel quarantine policy to start Feb. 15

Britain’s hotel quarantine policy for travellers arriving from COVID-19 hot spots will start on Feb. 15, the government announced on Thursday after critics said it was not moving fast enough to bring in the measures. The mandatory 10-day stay in government-provided accommodation, first announced last month, is designed to tighten borders against new variants of the coronavirus which could endanger Britain’s vaccination programme. Opposition lawmakers have criticised Boris Johnson’s government for not implementing the plan more quickly, saying the delay was putting lives at risk. The prime minister said on Wednesday details would be announced on Thursday, only to be contradicted by his spokesman less than 24 hours later.
4th Feb 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19 vaccine inequality could cause 'deadly consequences,' experts warn

Around 70% of the total coronavirus vaccine doses administered globally have been in the 50 wealthiest countries compared to only 0.1% administered in the 50 poorest countries, according to analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The IFRC described the disparity as alarming and said it could result in “deadly and devasting” consequences, warning that if large areas across the globe remain unvaccinated, the virus will carry on circulating and mutating. “This is alarming because it is unfair, and because it could prolong or even worsen this terrible pandemic,” Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the IFRC, said.
4th Feb 2021 - CNN Philippines

COVID: No special freedoms for the vaccinated in Germany

The German Ethics Council on Thursday spoke out against lifting restrictions for individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Germany has been in partial lockdown since November. Vaccinations started at the end of December with people over 80 and their carers front of the line. There is currently a shortage of vaccines in Germany, and it will take several months for a majority of people to be immunized and become eligible for the lifting of restrictions. Over the past few weeks tourism agencies, event managers and some politicians had suggested allowing those who have been vaccinated to travel, eat in restaurants, attend concerts and other events which would involve close contact with a high number of other people.
4th Feb 2021 - Deutsche Welle

Face masks mandatory beyond WA lockdown

West Australians will be required to wear face masks while out in public and be restricted to seated service at bars and restaurants for another week when the state emerges from lockdown. WA has posted four consecutive days of no new community COVID-19 cases, paving the way for metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and South West to exit lockdown at 6pm on Friday. But Premier Mark McGowan has announced a range of restrictions will remain in place for Perth and Peel until 1201am on Sunday February 14.
4th Feb 2021 - The Canberra Times

Kaduna, Zipline sign agreement for drone-delivered COVID-19 vaccines

In Nigeria, Kaduna State Government has signed a deal with medical delivery firm Zipline that will allow drone shipment of COVID-19 vaccines without significant state investment in cold-chain storage. Zipline in a Reuters report noted that its end-to-end cold chain distribution capability can safely deliver even the Pfizer vaccine which would allow Kaduna health facilities to bypass purchases of ultra-low freezers and enable on-demand deliveries of precise amounts of COVID-19 vaccines.
4th Feb 2021 - The Guardian Nigeria

2 American cruise lines announced they will require all guests and crew members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Hornblower Group cruise lines will require COVID-19 vaccination. Both guests and workers must be vaccinated, and the protocol applies to all sailings starting July 1. The cruise lines still have trips lined up for April through June.
4th Feb 2021 - Business Insider

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UK begins door-to-door testing of 80,000 people to halt South African variant

Volunteers and police officers in several parts of England began knocking on people’s doors to hand out COVID-19 testing kits on Tuesday to try to halt the spread of a highly infectious variant that originated in South Africa. The testing surge was announced by the government on Monday after 11 people in different regions tested positive for the variant without having any links to people who had travelled to South Africa. In total, Britain has found 105 cases of the variant, of which all but those 11 were people who had either been to South Africa or been in contact with someone who had
3rd Feb 2021 - Reuters UK

Denmark: ‘Digital corona passport’ will be ready in months

Denmark’s government has said it is joining forces with businesses to develop a digital passport that would show whether people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, allowing them to travel and help ease restrictions on public life. Finance Minister Morten Boedskov told a news conference on Wednesday that “in three, four months, a digital corona passport will be ready for use in, for example, business travel.” “It is absolutely crucial for us to be able to restart Danish society so that companies can get back on track. Many Danish companies are global companies with the whole world as a market,” he added. As a first step, before the end of February, citizens in Denmark would be able to see on a Danish health website the official confirmation of whether they have been vaccinated.
3rd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

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If You've Been Working from Home, Please Wait for Your Vaccine

Steven W. Thrasher, Ph.D., is a professor at Northwestern University in the Medill School of Journalism and the Institute of Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. He writes about access to the new coronavirus vaccine: "Hopefully the Biden administration will ramp up production as promised, and patents will not be used as an excuse not to be manufacturing vaccines en masse around the world for all earthlings. In the meantime, those of us who have been working from home and are not especially vulnerable need not be passive about people who really need them. As the Washington Post reported, only one of the world’s poorest 29 countries has gotten any COVID vaccine; meanwhile, young Americans working from home are trying to get vaccines to go to conferences and Burning Man!"
2nd Feb 2021 - Scientific American

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Covid: Lockdown easing must happen 'very slowly', adviser says

Ending the current coronavirus lockdown must happen "very slowly, very cautiously", Public Health England's Covid strategy chief has said. Dr Susan Hopkins said the focus should be on getting people vaccinated and preventing another wave of infections. She told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I hope that this summer will be similar to last summer... and that will allow us to do things that feel more normal." Meanwhile, Matt Hancock predicted "a happy and free Great British summer". But the health secretary warned of a "a tough few months" as national restrictions continue across the UK while vaccinations are administered. "We have to follow the data, we have to see the impact of the vaccine on the ground. It's a difficult balance: we've got to move as fast as we can but in such a way that keeps people safe," he told BBC Politics East.
1st Feb 2021 - BBC News

Many who have received the coronavirus vaccine wonder: What can I safely do?

Soon after Marc Wilson gets his second dose of coronavirus vaccine, he plans to resume one of his pre-pandemic joys: swimming laps with his friends. But most other activities — including volunteering at a food pantry and homeless shelter — will be off-limits until the outbreak is curbed and scientists know more about the threat of emerging variants. “I can definitely broaden the things I do, but I still have to be quite cautious,” said Wilson, 70, a retired accountant in Norman, Okla., who has diabetes and other health problems. “When your doctor tells you, ‘If you get covid, you’re dead,’ that gets your attention real good.”
1st Feb 2021 - The Washington Post

Everyone entering care homes should be tested for Covid-19, report urges

Everyone entering care homes should be tested for Covid-19, a report has recommended. Care home workers should be tested every day and those moving between homes should be tested before entry to every home, a report by the Stormont Health Committee has also urged. The report was published on Monday following a committee inquiry into coronavirus in care homes across Northern Ireland. It heard that about 40% of those who died with coronavirus in Northern Ireland last year were care home residents, according to Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency figures. As of October 2020 there were 16,110 registered care home beds across 434 independent homes and 48 that are publicly owned and operated.
1st Feb 2021 - Belfast Telegraph

Covid: Door-to-door testing to be introduced across parts of England in response to South Africa variant

Some 80,000 people across England are being encouraged to come forward for “surge” testing, regardless of whether they have symptoms, as part of efforts to contain the growing spread of the South African coronavirus variant. A total of 105 cases in the UK have so far been attributed to the new variant – 11 of which were recently found to be community-based and not linked to people who had travelled to South Africa, suggesting the virus is now circulating among local populations. These infections were detected in eight different English postcodes: in Hanwell, Tottenham and Mitcham in London; Walsall in the West Midlands; Broxbourne, Hertfordshire; Maidstone, Kent; Woking, Surrey; and Southport, Merseyside.
1st Feb 2021 - The Independent

Fauci: Covid Vaccines Are Less Effective Against New Strains — But Still Worth Taking

Even though new strains of the coronavirus have dented some vaccines’ effectiveness, existing vaccines can still prevent serious illness and slow the virus’ spread, White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday, responding to fears that the coronavirus will become more contagious and less susceptible to vaccines as it mutates. “Even when you have a variant circulating in which you may not have a 95% efficacy to prevent infection, it is very important that you might very very positively prevent serious illness and serious disease,” Fauci said. “You need to get vaccinated when it becomes available, as quickly and as expeditiously as possible throughout the country.”
1st Feb 2021 - Forbes

Coronavirus vaccine would have to be 85 percent effective to stop a surge in deaths

Social distancing may remain in place until the end of the year - while coronavirus vaccines would have to be 85 per cent effective to prevent a surge in deaths if restrictions were totally relaxed, scientists warned today. Modelling passed to Downing Street warns that the UK could see a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission. A paper commissioned by SAGE subgroup SPI-M and produced by modellers at the University of Warwick showed a 'high uptake' was also vital to get the country back to normal without risking a third wave of Covid cases.
31st Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Use of masks by Japanese news anchors sparks debate among public and industry

The use of masks by television personalities and news anchors on camera is sparking a debate among the public and within the entertainment industry in Japan after broadcasters on a major network began wearing them during a program. TV Tokyo Corp. began having its anchors wear masks from Jan. 18. After anchor Mariko Oe asked viewers for feedback, the network received over 1,000 comments, of which approximately 80% saw the move in a favorable light. Some of those who disliked the use of masks on camera remarked it was difficult to make out the anchor’s facial expressions. The network is planning to start using subtitles after viewers with hearing difficulties said the masks meant they were unable to lip-read.
30th Jan 2021 - The Japan Times

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Everyday Covid mistakes we are all still making

Covid-19 infections in the UK are reducing but remain stubbornly high, despite a month of lockdown measures. So could we be doing more as individuals to curb transmission of the virus? A virologist, a psychologist and a public health expert share their views on some of the Covid-19 mistakes that we are all still making.
30th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

U.S. Labor Department issues COVID-19 workplace safety guidance

The guidance issued by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines key measures for limiting the coronavirus’ spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene and routine cleaning. But the guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations.
29th Jan 2021 - Reuters

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Covid-19: Vaccines 'needed across world to reduce chance of new variants'

Coronavirus vaccines must be made available around the world in an effort to keep cases down and prevent new mutations which could escape the effects of the jabs, an expert has warned. Sir Jeremy Farrar, a member of the British government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the amount of virus circulating in the world will determine the chances of a new variant emerging. He said new strains are "a warning of what is coming, which we must take incredibly seriously" and suggested countries with access to vaccines could donate a percentage of their doses through the international Covax drive which aims to ensure equitable access.
28th Jan 2021 - The Irish News

Covid-19: How to break the cycle of lockdowns

The dominance of new, more transmissible variants means that a policy of trying to “live with” the virus will fail, certainly in the UK where the new B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common. I know of no country that is successfully living with the virus while avoiding lockdown and restriction cycles, a high death toll, or—as in the UK—both. We need to set our sights instead on where we want to be and then work out how to get there. The role models we have are Vietnam (35 deaths, 98 million population), Thailand (73 deaths, 70 million population), South Korea (1371 deaths, 51 million population), and New Zealand (25 deaths, 5 million population) where people have been living much more normal lives for months. Following their example, the way out is for the UK to pursue a national suppression strategy—zero tolerance for any community transmission—which comes with the added benefit of protecting ourselves from homegrown vaccine resistant variants.
29th Jan 2021 - The BMJ

Global Covid-19 vaccine passports 'probably' way to go, says Jason Leitch

Scotland's national clinical director has voiced guarded "support" for calls to introduce a global Covid-19 vaccine passport to suppress future spread of the virus. But Professor Jason Leitch warned more data would be needed on the impact of vaccines before pressing ahead with the move, which is being proposed by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The ex-Labour leader says the UK could lead the the way in the creation of a global ID that shows Covid-19 vaccine and disease status. Mr Blair claimed this would aid the recovery of the economy, including the vital tourism sector.
28th Jan 2021 - MSN.com

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How much does one coronavirus vaccine dose protect you and others?

About 70 million doses of vaccines against covid-19 have now been administered worldwide, including in excess of 20 million in the US. In the UK, where more than 7 million people have received a first dose, most people will be required to wait for about three months before they receive the second dose. This has left many wondering how protected they are, and what measures they still need to take for their safety and that of others. Here’s what you need to know. …
27th Jan 2021 - New Scientist

Those Covid-19 variants? ‘Don’t worry yet,’ vaccine expert says

In Tuesday, Paul Offit, the vaccine developer and a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, dropped by, virtually, for a conversation with STAT+ subscribers. During the discussion, he addressed a question on everyone’s mind: How worried should we be about new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19? Offit — who, overall, believes “we’re going to turn the corner,” with the help of vaccines — had plenty of worries. A rare side effect of the vaccines could emerge and scare people away from them, even when the benefits far outweigh its risks. It could take a long time to fix vaccine distribution and manufacturing problems. But he said his biggest concern is that a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus will learn to evade the vaccines. He also explained, at length, why he doesn’t think it’s time for you to worry yet. The transcript of that explanation follows; it has been edited for clarity and length.
27th Jan 2021 - Stat News

All countries should pursue a Covid-19 elimination strategy: here are 16 reasons why

The past year of Covid-19 has taught us that it is the behaviour of governments, more than the behaviour of the virus or individuals, that shapes countries’ experience of the crisis. Talking about pandemic waves has given the virus far too much agency: until quite recently the apparent waves of infection were driven by government action and inaction. It is only now with the emergence of more infectious variants that it might be appropriate to talk about a true second wave. As governments draw up their battle plans for year two, we might expect them to base their strategies on the wealth of data about what works best. And the evidence to date suggests that countries pursuing elimination of Covid-19 are performing much better than those trying to suppress the virus. Aiming for zero-Covid is producing more positive results than trying to “live with the virus”.
28th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Willingly or pressured, Slovaks take COVID tests to avoid tough lockdown

Slovak physiotherapist Katarina Caklosova was ready to close shop for two weeks rather than heed government requirements to undergo a coronavirus test - until she found that new rules would also ban her from her favourite nature walks. That tipped the balance and Caklosova, 50, will join almost 3 million Slovaks who have taken a test to avoid stricter lockdown measures kicking in on Wednesday and aimed at curbing the number of new COVID-19 cases. Under the new rules to be applied until Feb. 7, people who cannot show a certificate proving they tested negative in the previous week or had the infection in the past, are barred from moving around even for work and exercise.
27th Jan 2021 - Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Four in five over-80s have had first COVID-19 jab despite weekend slump in vaccinations

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said on 25 February that 78.7% of people aged over 80 have now received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine - up from 60% around a week ago. UK-wide there are 3.3m people aged over 80 - suggesting that around 2.6m in this cohort have had at least one dose of vaccine. Of the 6.6m total first-dose COVID-19 jabs administered UK-wide to date, around 40% have gone to over-80s. NHS officials have said around three quarters of jabs in England have been administered by GP-led local vaccination sites.
26th Jan 2021 - GP online

Cloth Masks May Look Better, But They Don’t Work Better

Howard is the lead author and Tufekci a co-author of an influential and extremely informative “evidence review on face masks against Covid-19” that has been making the rounds since April and was published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper concludes that cloth masks may be similarly effective to disposable ones in reducing the chances that a mask wearer with Covid-19 will infect others, because they catch most of the virus-laden droplets that wearers expel when they cough or sneeze or talk. But when virus-laden droplets do make it out into the air, and — as is especially wont to happen in cold, dry winter weather — most of the moisture evaporates, leaving “aerosolized” particles that can float around for hours, disposable medical masks seem to do a better job than cloth ones of keeping them out. The single-biggest piece of evidence for this comes from one of the rare randomized controlled trials of cloth-mask use, which was conducted in 2011 and published in the British Medical Association journal BMJ Open in 2015.
26th Jan 2021 - Bloomberg

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Bulgaria will have all travellers entering the country take Covid-19 test

On Monday, the health minister of Bulgaria announced that they will make all the travellers coming in the country, take a Covid-19 test in order to curb the spread of the new strain of coronavirus. Bulgaria will make everyone coming into the country take Covid-19 tests to stop the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, health minister Kostandin Angelov said on Monday. Bulgarian health authorities say they have so far recorded eight cases of the new variant that was first identified in Britain. "Today we will undertake actions to make PCR tests compulsory for all travellers that want to enter the country, including from the European Union," Angelov told a government meeting. The country has seen a significant drop in new infections in recent weeks and is planning to ease some restrictions and reopen secondary schools, shopping malls and gyms from February 4.
25th Jan 2021 - Hindustan Times

Medical-grade masks now mandatory in Austria

Medical-grade FFP2 face masks are now mandatory in Austria for people aged over 14 on public transport, shops and businesses, pharmacies, as well as hospitals or medical practices. Austria is among the first European countries to make FFP2 masks mandatory. The measure has largely been accepted without complaint, despite controversy over other measures, such as the closing of schools while ski lifts remain open. Though often sold for more than €5 each just a few weeks ago, the masks, which block 94% of aerosols, can now be found at all grocery stores for 59 cent each.
25th Jan 2021 - RTE.ie

Australia halts New Zealand travel bubble amid fears of South African coronavirus strain

The Federal Government has suspended quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders arriving in Australia for 72 hours amid fears of a South African strain of COVID-19 across the Tasman. A New Zealand woman infected with the highly infectious variant of COVID-19 first detected in South Africa visited around 30 sites before her case was detected. Travellers coming from New Zealand to Australia in the next 72 hours will have to go into mandatory hotel quarantine. "This will be done out of an abundance of caution whilst more is learnt about the event and the case," Mr Hunt said.
25th Jan 2021 - ABC.Net.au

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Double-Masking: Why Two Masks Are the New Masks

Double-masking is a sensible and easy way to lower your risk, especially if circumstances require you to spend more time around others — like in a taxi, on a train or plane, or at an inauguration. Pete Buttigieg, the former presidential candidate and now the nominee for secretary of transportation, was spotted double-masking. It appears he was wearing a high-quality medical mask underneath a black cloth mask. His husband, Chasten, was sporting a similar double-masked look, but with a fashionable plaid cloth mask that coordinated with his winter scarf. We should all be thinking about the quality of our masks right now. New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge, and one in particular is cause for pressing concern in the United States because it’s so contagious and spreading fast. I wrote about the steps you can take to better protect yourself.
24th Jan 2021 - The New York Times

A proactive approach to fight SARS-CoV-2 in Germany and Europe

This paper develops a sustainable way to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. The strategy presented here aims to avoid new infections, deaths and more nationwide lockdowns. It consists of three core elements: First, a rapid reduction in the number of infections to zero. Second, the avoidance of transmissions/reintroduction of the virus into virus-free green zones through local travel restrictions, tests and quarantines. Third, rigorous outbreak management if new cases occur sporadically
24th Jan 2021 - dortmund.de

Covid: Vaccinated people may spread virus, says Van-Tam

People who have received a Covid-19 vaccine could still pass the virus on to others and should continue following lockdown rules, England's deputy chief medical officer has warned. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam stressed that scientists "do not yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission". He said vaccines offer "hope" but infection rates must come down quickly. A further 32 vaccine sites are set to open across England this week. Prof Van-Tam said "no vaccine has ever been" 100% effective, so there is no guaranteed protection. It is possible to contract the virus in the two- to three-week period after receiving a jab, he said - and it is "better" to allow "at least three weeks" for an immune response to fully develop in older people.
23rd Jan 2021 - BBC News

Nurses call for higher-grade face masks to protect against new coronavirus strains

Nurse leaders calling for all NHS staff to be given the higher grade of PPE Royal College of Nursing wrote a letter to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) College said was aware that some NHS trusts are using higher grade face masks
23rd Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

COVID-19: Crowds at Heathrow Airport spark social distancing concerns

Crowds at Heathrow Airport have sparked "super spreader" concerns after pictures emerged of a packed departures hall with limited social distancing. Former British ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott posted a photo of Terminal 2 on Friday with the caption: "T2 Heathrow Friday afternoon. No ventilation. Long delays. Super spreading." Pictures and videos of huge queues for passport control have appeared on social media in recent days, despite international travel being largely banned. Britons are only allowed to go abroad for a small number of "legally permitted reasons" during lockdown, with arrivals requiring a negative coronavirus test from the past 72 hours before they are allowed entry.
23rd Jan 2021 - Sky News

Europe’s growing mask ask: Ditch the cloth ones for medical-grade coverings

Faced with new, more contagious, strains of the coronavirus and a winter surge in cases, European nations have begun to tighten mask regulations in the hope that they can slow the spread of the virus. Germany on Tuesday night made it mandatory for people riding on public transport or in supermarkets to wear medical style masks: either N95s, the Chinese or European equivalent KN95 or FFP2s, or a surgical mask. It follows a stricter regulation from the German state of Bavaria this week that required N95 equivalents in stores and on public transport. Austria will introduce the same measures from Monday.
20th Jan 2021 - Washington Post

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COVID-19 misinformation: scientists create a ‘psychological vaccine’ to protect against fake news

Anti-vaccination groups are projected to dominate social media in the next decade if left unchallenged. To counter their viral misinformation at a time when COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, our research team has produced a “psychological vaccine” that helps people detect and resist the lies and hoaxes they encounter online. The World Health Organization expressed concern about a global misinformation “infodemic” in February 2020, recognising that the COVID-19 pandemic would be fought both on the ground and on social media. That’s because an effective vaccine roll out will rely on high vaccine confidence, and viral misinformation can adversely affect that confidence, leading to vaccine hesitancy. We recently published a large study which found that higher belief in misinformation about the virus was consistently associated with a reduced willingness to get vaccinated.
19th Jan 2021 - The Conversation

Follow lockdown rules or face punishment, says UK interior minister

British interior minister Priti Patel warned those who break COVID-19 lockdown rules that they faced punishment by police, announcing a new 800 pound ($1,097.36) fine for those who attend house parties. "My message is clear: If you don't follow these rules, then the police will enforce them," Patel told a news conference. "Police officers are now moving more quickly to hand out fines when they encounter breaches."
21st Jan 2021 - MSN.com

Another 65 pharmacies join COVID-19 vaccination programme

A further 65 pharmacy-led sites will begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations over the coming days, but “many more” pharmacies are keen to offer their service, sector leaders say. The 65 additional sites – which include pharmacy teams operating from a mosque, pop-up Odeon and Village Hotel sites operated by Pharmacy2U and the Manchester Whalley Range Tennis and Cricket Club, run by Wilbraham Pharmacy – join the initial six pharmacies that went live last week (January 14).
21st Jan 2021 - Chemist+Druggist

France may follow Germany in making clinical masks mandatory

Medical-grade face masks rather than cloth coverings could become mandatory in a number of European countries to help contain the rapid spread of highly contagious Covid variants first identified in the UK and South Africa. Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states agreed on Tuesday that either single-use surgical FFP1 masks or more protective FFP2 filtering facepiece respirators should be worn in the workplace, on public transport and in shops.
21st Jan 2021 - The Guardian

New Covid strain: Australian city lifts ban on wearing mask indoors

People living in Australia's third-largest city of Brisbane will no longer need to wear a mask in indoor venues from Friday onwards as the state of Queensland announced that it has managed to bring the local spread of a mutant Covid-19 strain under control. "From 1 am tomorrow we will be back to having amongst the lowest restrictions in our economy in the country - this is great news for business, great news for tourism, and great for the people of Queensland to celebrate," Xinhua news agency quoted the state's Health Minister Yvette D'Ath as saying on Thursday. As of Thursday, Queensland continues to record zero local cases, allowing the authorities to further ease the pandemic restrictions. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attributed the result to the state's "go hard and go quickly" strategy.
21st Jan 2021 - Khaleej Times on MSN.com

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Coronavirus vaccine passports will leave bosses on shaky legal ground

With more than four million people in Britain having received a first dose of the Covid vaccine and another ten million or more expected to do so over the next month, there is a clamour for those protected from the virus to be allowed to go about their normal lives. Many businesses, particularly in the transport and travel industries, believe that vaccine passports could offer a way out of restrictions and governments are reviewing the feasibility of such schemes.
20th Jan 2021 - The Times

Biden starts term with COVID actions on masks, support for WHO

The 46th US president, Joe Biden, will make several executive orders today pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, including issuing a mask mandate on federal grounds, reports CNN. Biden will also ask Americans to wear a mask when in public for the next 100 days, and to adhere to physical distancing. He has already set forth a goal of distributing 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the next 100 days. "As you've heard the president-elect say, the pandemic will continue to get worse before it gets better," Jeff Zients, the incoming White House COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters according to the Washington Post. "This is clearly a national emergency and we will treat it as such."
20th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

COVID-19: Plans for daily testing in schools put on hold over worries about accuracy

Plans for daily tests in schools are being halted amid warnings about the accuracy of lateral flow tests. The rapid turnaround tests were due to be used to keep pupils and staff in school if they had come into contact with a positive case.
20th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Israel extends Covid lockdown despite vaccination drive

The Israeli government decided Tuesday to extend the country's coronavirus lockdown to the end of the month after a spike in infections, despite an intensive vaccination campaign. Israel began its third lockdown in late December and tightened it on January 8, with officials saying at the time it would be lifted after two weeks if the daily caseload decreased sufficiently. Since the rollout of vaccinations one month ago, the Jewish state had innoculated more than 2.2 million of its nine million inhabitants, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday.
20th Jan 2021 - FRANCE 24

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Wearing face masks DOES stop spread of Covid-19 and reduces R rate

US researchers gave a questionnaire to more than 300,000 people in 50 states Increase of 10% in people wearing masks makes it 3x more likely R is less than 1 Experts add that wearing a mask does not mean social distancing is not needed
19th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

US needs national COVID 'smart testing' strategy, APHL says

As the United States starts off 2021 with COVID-19 vaccines as well as variants, the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) reasserts the importance of strategic COVID-19 testing strategies with a report published late last week. In the report, "Smart Testing for Optimizing Pandemic Response," the group recommends a coordinated national approach, supply chain management, and a focus on using test results as a means to improve public health surveillance.
19th Jan 2021 - CIDRAP

How to reduce the risk of catching Covid-19 when travelling by car

Experts outline the best way to prevent coronavirus infection when sharing a car Sanitising high touch-points and sticking to essential travel only are also advised Government currently prohibits travel with other people with some exceptions
19th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

International arrivals to New Zealand must return negative Covid test before flight

New Zealand has imposed a blanket testing regime for all flights arriving internationally, with passengers now required to return a negative Covid test result before departure. The Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said while New Zealand already had tight border controls in place, the rising number of cases around the globe meant further protections were called for. Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands will be exempt from the new requirement. “As we signalled last week, given the high rates of infection in many countries, most global air routes are of critical concern for the foreseeable future,” Hipkins said.
19th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

New Zealand women taking leap into entrepreneurship during Covid-19 era

Many women are starting their own small businesses after a wave of Covid-19-related redundancies, according to Chooice NZ founder Sarah Colcord. More than 5000 new businesses registered with the companies office in 2020, the only rise in the number of companies in New Zealand in the past five years. The novel coronavirus has changed how many people work and live, with side-hustles often transformed into a main income source - a trend that is tipped to grow. Small businesses have long been the backbone of New Zealand. There are 546,732 small enterprises in Aotearoa - making up over 97 percent of all companies. Sarah Colcord founded New Zealand's largest Facebook Group, Chooice (formerly NZ Made Products) and co-founded its e-commerce partner Chooice.co.nz.
19th Jan 2021 - RNZ

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Germany plans more tests, sequencing to deal with new coronavirus strains

Top German politicians on Monday called for new measures to slow the spread of new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus, including more health checks for cross-border commuters and intensified gene sequencing of virus samples. In future, health labs will have to sequence 5% of the samples they collect when screening for the coronavirus to check if they match more virulent variants first identified in Britain and South Africa, or if new mutations were emerging in Germany. National and regional leaders are due to meet on Tuesday to decide on new measures. “We still have a big risk ... that is the risk of mutation,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference, calling for a joint European response. An outbreak of a mutated variant of the coronavirus at a clinic in the southern German alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which appeared not to be one of the known variants, fanned the concerns.
18th Jan 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: 24-hour vaccination sites to be piloted in London before end of January

Twenty-four hour vaccination sites will be piloted in London before the end of January, the vaccines minister has said. Speaking to Sky News, Nadhim Zahawi said the NHS will be "targeting forensically who we want to protect" to ensure the most vulnerable people can be vaccinated first. He said that as there is "limited supply" of the vaccine, "it needs to get into the arms of the most vulnerable" such as those who are elderly or clinically extremely vulnerable. Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS national medical director for England, told Sky News the 24/7 pilot would be starting "within the next week or two". The current 8am to 8pm vaccination times have been working for the over-80s, and some areas of the UK have managed to give out first jabs to the majority of this age group.
18th Jan 2021 - Sky News

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COVID-19: More than half of over-80s have received vaccine as 140 jabs given a minute

More than half of over-80s in the UK have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, as the government has revealed that 140 jabs are being given out a minute. Sharing the news on Twitter, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "I'm delighted that over half of all over-80s have been vaccinated. "Each jab brings us one step closer to normal."
17th Jan 2021 - Sky News

German minister says COVID curbs should be eased for vaccinated people

People who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 should be allowed to go to restaurants and cinemas earlier than others, a German minister said, contradicting other cabinet members who have so far opposed special freedoms for those inoculated. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the state had massively restricted people’s basic rights in order to contain infections and avoid overwhelming hospitals. “It has not yet been conclusively clarified to what extent vaccinated people can infect others,” Maas told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “What is clear, however, is that a vaccinated person no longer takes a ventilator away from anyone. This removes at least one central reason for restricting fundamental rights.”
17th Jan 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Every UK adult could be offered a vaccine by mid-July - if these figures are anything to go by

For a few hours this week, we were given an insight into the closely-guarded secret at the centre of the UK's vaccination programme. It came courtesy of the Scottish government, which published its vaccination plan on Wednesday. The plan included detailed figures for the number of vaccines that would be supplied to Scotland by the UK each week until the end of May. The UK government objected, saying the publication of the figures would create difficulties for the pharmaceutical companies, and the offending page was quickly removed - but not before some clever internet users were able to save a copy.
16th Jan 2021 - Sky News

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The future of the Covid vaccine: Inside New York City’s pop-up clinics

On a normal weekday, Hillcrest High School in Queens, New York, would be filled with students congregating in the hallways and attending classes. But the school has instead faced a pandemic transformation, becoming one of the latest vaccination pop-ups to open up across New York City. When eligible residents arrive on the site, which officially opened on Sunday, they are asked to confirm their online appointment with a staff member before they are guided along a stickered path through the hallways of the high school.
14th Jan 2021 - The Independent

Pope Francis, 84, receives his first dose of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

Vatican began vaccinating its population of 800 against Covid on Wednesday Pope Francis, 84 and with only one lung, was among the first to get a shot Pope Emeritus Benedict, 93, received his jab early on Thursday, Vatican said Francis told Catholics it is their 'moral duty' to be vaccinated against the virus
14th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Mayor: Chicago opening 6 mass COVID-19 vaccination sites

The city of Chicago is opening six mass COVID-19 vaccination sites that’ll be able to deliver roughly 25,000 weekly shots once operational, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday. Lightfoot visited one of two new sites that opened Thursday but said Chicago needs many more first doses to protect all Chicagoans quickly. The last three sites are expected to open in the next week. Most are at City Colleges of Chicago campuses. “We are frustrated by the federal government's response to COVID-19 overall, but particularly the vaccine rollout which is not delivering on its promises of the quantities that we've seen," Lightfoot said after touring a Richard J. Daley College site.
14th Jan 2021 - Associated Press on MSN.com

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Stricter COVID-19 restrictions likely saved THOUSANDS of lives in European countries, study finds

European countries that had stricter mitigation measures against COVID-19 likely saved thousands of lives, a new study finds. Nations such as Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had closed schools and offices, limited gatherings and implemented stay-at-home orders before cases began rapidly spreading across the continent, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Tuesday. Meanwhile countries such as the UK, Belarus and Luxembourg implanted few to no restrictions, allowing infections to spread relatively unchecked. What's more, the CDC found that sterner restrictions in most European countries could have led at least 74,000 fewer deaths - mostly in the UK, France and Spain.
13th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Spain aims for all care home residents to get first COVID-19 vaccine dose by weekend

Spain aims for all its nursing home residents to have received a first dose of vaccine against the coronavirus by the end of the week, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting. Since kicking off its vaccination campaign at the end of December and with new infections on the rise, Spain has focused its efforts on inoculating elderly nursing-home residents who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
13th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Return with confidence: Using tech to create safe offices, post-pandemic

How can technology help companies worldwide return to work safely when lockdown ends? At Siemens, Ruth Gratzke is overseeing a “Return with Confidence” campaign to create safe and healthy indoor office environments. “It addresses everything from elevators where you don’t have to touch the buttons, touchless interactions throughout the building or management of meeting rooms and desks around social distancing,” said Gratzke, who is president of Siemens Smart Infrastructure, U.S., a unit of Siemens AG. “It’s about using creative and new technologies, looking at what’s available in tech and giving people the confidence to return to the office.”
13th Jan 2021 - Reuters

EasyJet cabin crew to help with UK vaccination programme

British airline easyJet said the National Health Service (NHS) would train hundreds of its cabin crew to administer COVID-19 vaccines under a fast-track scheme designed to help boost the country’s vaccination efforts. The government plans to vaccinate the elderly, the vulnerable and frontline workers - around 15 million people - by mid-February and is opening up centres and recruiting volunteers to help it meet its target. With travel at very low levels due to the lockdown, many of easyJet’s 3,000 cabin crew are not working but are both first aid trained and security cleared, making them attractive candidates to the NHS to help with the programme.
13th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Chinese province of 37million declares 'emergency' to combat coronavirus as the nation's new COVID-19 epicentre launches a second round of mass-testing amid fresh outbreak

Heilongjiang in northeast China announced to enter an 'emergency state' today The province banned its 37m residents from leaving unless absolutely necessary Shijiazhuang in Hebei ordered 11m people to undergo city-wide testing again The province emerged as China's new epicentre in the latest COVID-19 outbreak China recorded 107 new native cases today, the highest daily tally since last July
13th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

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A simple Fitbit could detect Covid-19 days before symptoms appear

A Fitbit device may be able to give its wearer an early warning over a coronavirus infection before symptoms begin to appear. That’s the thesis from a group of researchers at Stanford University who are currently studying whether wearable technology could help fight the pandemic. Modern Fitbit devices (as well as similar gadgets made by Apple and Garmin) track heart rates and could indicate abnormalities that show up after infection. Although a Covid-19 victim may not show obvious symptoms – such as a cough or loss of smell – for up to five days there is a ‘presymptomatic’ period. During this phase, their body may give off signals that suggest they caught the virus.
12th Jan 2021 - Metro

With England in lockdown 3, it's time ministers got it right on face masks

Faced with a new, more infectious variant of the virus and a vaccination programme that won’t reach everyone until the autumn, the prime minister has suggested the government may have to tighten restrictions during England’s third lockdown. But ministers already have a simple tool at their disposal. Getting face masks right is one of the most important things we can do now to stop the spread of Covid-19. In England, the attitude to face masks has been inconsistent at best and negligent at worst. Masks are required in shared public spaces such as supermarkets, though many workers have complained that customers aren’t wearing them, and enforcement has largely fallen on individual stores. In schools, the government inexplicably made masks mandatory in corridors but not in classrooms. To reduce transmission as much as possible, they should be worn throughout the school day.
12th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

New Zealand to ask international travellers for negative virus test before flying in

New Zealand will ask international travelers from most countries to show negative COVID-19 test results before boarding flights to the country as new contagious variants of COVID-19 spread across globally. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that most global air routes will be of critical concern for the foreseeable future,” COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement. Hipkins said the pre-departure test requirement would soon expand to all countries and territories excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations.
12th Jan 2021 - Reuters

As Canada battles rising COVID-19 cases, lack of sick leave fuels transmission

As Canadian provinces struggle to contain rising COVID-19 infections, a lack of adequate paid sick leave for front-line workers is fuelling transmission, doctors and advocates say. While political leaders and health officials advise sick people to stay home, many people can’t afford to. Some 58% of workers in Canada lack enough paid sick leave, according to the Decent Work and Health Network, and that percentage rises as wages drop. One morning last spring, 67-year-old part-time support worker Susan woke up feeling “a hurt in my heart like a knife.” She went to work at a Toronto rehabilitation home anyway -- she said it was the only way to pay the bills. Susan, who is using an pseudonym for fear of professional repercussions, had no sick days and couldn’t afford to miss even a day’s pay.
12th Jan 2021 - Reuters

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Supermarkets told to limit customers over fears lockdown rules being broken

Shoppers could once again be faced with long queues outside supermarkets as part of a wider Government crackdown on compliance with the latest lockdown measures. Ministers are said to have agreed to toughen enforcement of the rules amid fears poor compliance could mean the nationwide restrictions fail to bring the soaring coronavirus infection rates under control. The crackdown will focus on the retail sector and the rules allowing people to leave their homes for daily exercise, according to The Times. A Government source told the newspaper: ‘We need to make sure supermarkets in particular are following the rules given this is one of the few places where you still see people from different households in the same indoor space.’
11th Jan 2021 - Metro

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Rapid Covid testing across England will help identify symptomless carriers

Rapid testing to find symptomless carriers of Covid-19 is to be launched in England this week. The aim of the programme is to identify some of the tens of thousands of infected people who are unwittingly spreading the virus across the country. The dramatic escalation of the programme – which uses detectors known as lateral flow devices – comes as Covid death rates have continued to soar and hospitals have reported alarming numbers of patients needing intensive care.
10th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Nurse catches Covid three weeks after getting Pfizer vaccine

A nurse in Wales caught Covid three weeks after getting the vaccine, prompting warnings from experts that it takes time for immunity to build up. The nurse, who has been working for the Hywel Dda University Health Board area, said that she contracted the virus while waiting for the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech jab. Deputy Chief Executive of Hywel Dda health board, Dr Philip Kloer, said that while a Covid vaccine ‘reduces your chance of suffering’ from the virus, no vaccine is ever 100% effective.
9th Jan 2021 - Metro.co.uk

Australia scrambles to block coronavirus variant; travellers must show negative test

Travellers to Australia will have to show a negative Covid-19 test before they can get on their plane, the prime minister said on Friday (Jan 8), as the city of Brisbane went into lockdown after the discovery of a case of a virulent new coronavirus variant. The more than 2 million residents of Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, will be barred from leaving their homes for anything but essential business for three days from Friday evening after a worker at a quarantine hotel tested positive for the new variant, which was first detected in Britain. Australia has detected several cases of the variant but this was the first one to appear outside the quarantine system.
9th Jan 2021 - The Straits Times

Israel's Covid vaccine rollout is the fastest in the world — here are some lessons for the rest of us

While the U.S. and Europe attempt to ramp up their own Covid vaccination drives, Israel is outpacing them all. Israel’s vaccination drive began on Dec. 19, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the first person to be vaccinated in the country. Priority has been given to people aged over 60, health care workers and anyone clinically vulnerable — reported to make up around a quarter of its 9 million population.
9th Jan 2021 - CNBC

SAGE warns people must still wear masks AFTER getting Covid vaccine

SPI-B, a sub-group of SAGE, warned some people would stop obeying rules. They said it was crucial that Government told people to continue to be strict. There is no proof that the vaccine will stop people from spreading the virus. Trials only looked at whether the jabs could prevent severe Covid-19
9th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Queen and Prince Philip get Covid vaccine at Windsor Castle

In England, the Queen and Prince Philip have both received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccinations, Buckingham Palace has confirmed. The royal couple were given the jab by a doctor from the Royal Household at Windsor Castle, where they are both isolating. The Queen, 94, and the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, both meet the Government age guidelines for those who should be given the vaccine. Some 1.3 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a Covid vaccine, according to the government.
9th Jan 2021 - Evening Standard

Covid-19: Act like you've got the virus, government urges

People in England are being told to act like they have got Covid as part of a government advertising campaign aimed at tackling the rise in infections. Boris Johnson said the public should "stay at home" and not get complacent. On Friday 1,325 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test were recorded in the UK - the highest daily figure yet - along with 68,053 new cases. Government sources say there is likely to be more focus from police on enforcing rather than explaining rules. "With over 1,000 people dying yesterday it's more important than ever everyone sticks to rules," a source told the BBC.
9th Jan 2021 - BBC News

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Moderna's coronavirus vaccine likely prevents infection for 'a couple of YEARS,' CEO says

Moderna Inc CEO Stéphane Bancel said on Thursday the firm's coronavirus vaccine will likely protect for at least 'a couple of years.' He says this is because levels of antibodies against COVID-19 in humans decreases very slowly. Although more research is needed, Bancel said enough evidence shows there is no 'nightmare scenario' of the jab working for just a month or two. Bancel says the biotechnology company is currently working on research that will show it protects against the new variants from the UK and South Africa
8th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

England to require travellers to show negative COVID tests

Britain’s government will require people entering England to present a negative COVID-19 test result on arrival starting next week to protect against new strains of the coronavirus from other countries, the government said on Friday. Passengers arriving by boat, plane or train will have to take a test up to 72 hours before departing for England, the transport ministry said, mirroring measures taken by many other countries around the world. “We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of COVID-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a new lockdown for England this week after a surge in cases linked to a new variant of the coronavirus believed to have originated in the country.
7th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Covid-19: Stale air can transmit the coronavirus

A Cambridge doctor says he wants the government to do more to warn the public that infected air is a major source of transmission of Covid-19 and that ventilating rooms is just as important as washing hands. He warned that the need to open windows and ventilate indoor spaces to disperse the virus is not being publicised enough by the government when research shows eight out of ten cases are caused by breathing in infected air. And he says cloth masks offer only “minimal protection” against these tiny particles which can stay floating in the air.
7th Jan 2021 - Cambridge Independent

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COVID-19: Britons must take coronavirus test before travelling to Ireland

Visitors to Ireland will have to produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours, as the country's government brings in a raft of tough new restrictions.
6th Jan 2021 - Sky News

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The Times view on the new lockdown: End Game

The means to defeat the coronavirus are now available. Yet the rate of infection of Covid-19 in Britain is intensifying and risks overwhelming the National Health Service. That is the paradox driving public health policy. Unfortunately, the government has been continually reactive in adopting measures to halt transmissions. It has had to learn painfully that there is no route out of the crisis by half-measures. Policy needs to be tougher and speedier if the nation’s hardships are to be eased and then dispelled by a vast vaccination campaign. Failing to do this has already cost lives. The government needs to give a clearer message on the urgency of the crisis and the stages by which, with public support, it can be lifted.
5th Jan 2021 - The Times

Large US airlines back global COVID-testing requirements: Report

A group representing airlines in the United States has backed a proposal by public health officials to implement a global testing programme requiring negative tests before most international air passengers return to the US, according to a letter seen by the Reuters news agency. Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and other large carriers, also urged the Trump administration in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday “to move ahead with recommendations to rescind current entry restrictions on travellers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil as soon as possible … concurrently with the testing programme.”
5th Jan 2021 - Aljazeera.com

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Australia's largest state reports zero COVID cases, urges thousands to get tested

Australia’s most populous state New South Wales (NSW) on Monday reported zero local coronavirus cases for the first time in nearly three weeks, as Sydney battled multiple outbreaks and authorities urged tens of thousands of people to get tested. NSW daily testing numbers have dropped to around 20,000 in the last two days from a peak of about 70,000 recorded on Christmas Day, Dec. 25. The overwhelming majority of tests are in the state capital Sydney. “The numbers are far too low... if we’re going to succeed in staying ahead of the COVID pandemic, testing is crucial in large numbers so we can be confident of the data when we’re making decisions,” NSW Acting Premier John Barilaro told reporters.
4th Jan 2021 - Reuters UK

China giving COVID-19 vaccine to 50 million in a month, Israel vaccinating so fast it's running out of vaccine

China is aiming to administer the first dose of the vaccine to 50 million people before Jan. 15 and the second shot by Feb. 5. Lunar New Years festivities begin on Feb. 11. Health officials in Israel are working to secure more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as the country has inoculated a higher proportion of its population than any other country and is running low on supply.
4th Jan 2021 - The Hill

Five key milestones in the Covid-19 pandemic that we’re anticipating in 2021

If 2020 was defined by the explosion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, 2021 could be about its dwindling. But how many people will fall ill, and die, as that happens is dependent on our leaders, individuals, vaccine makers, and public campaigns to encourage people to get the Covid-19 shots developed with unprecedented speed. STAT News publishes its forecast regarding what to anticipate for the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021
4th Jan 2021 - STAT News

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LA begins issuing digital vaccine verification for Apple Wallet

LA will begin offering the digital receipts for vaccination starting this week. Plan is being carried out in partnership with tech company Healthvana. It's initially aimed at ensuring people get the correct second dose of vaccine. But critics fear a looming system of 'vaccine passports' required for travel. Raises questions about civil rights and people with immunity after infection
31st Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Coronavirus: UK sets up more than 20 Covid test sites for France-bound hauliers

More than 20 new coronavirus testing centres for hauliers driving to France are being set up in the next few days, the transport secretary has announced. Grant Shapps said that 10 sites opened on Saturday, with a further 10 to come on Sunday, and more to be added in the week. The government is also offering help to firms that wish to set up testing centres on their own premises. Free testing kits will be available to companies as part of the scheme. The move comes after France shut its border to UK arrivals - including freight drivers - last month, amid concern over a new fast-spreading variant of coronavirus identified in the UK. It led to thousands of lorry drivers being stuck in Kent as they waited to cross the English Channel, with some clashing with police after spending days in their cabs.
2nd Jan 2021 - BBC News

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Harris receives COVID-19 shot in bid to boost U.S. vaccine confidence

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received a COVID-19 vaccination live on television on Tuesday, as the incoming Biden administration seeks to boost confidence in the inoculation even while warning it will be months before it is available to all. Senator Harris, who is Black and Asian-American, will become the second high-profile person from an ethnic minority background to receive the vaccine after Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Dec. 18. Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, has said he will make the fight against the coronavirus, which has infected more than 19 million Americans and killed over 334,000, his top priority.
29th Dec 2020 - Reuters

China meat association calls for exporters to disinfect shipments to prevent COVID-19

Chinese meat importers and processors have called on exporters in countries with COVID-19 outbreaks to step up checks on shipments before they are sent to the world’s biggest market, China’s top industry group said. “China has been importing a large quantity of meats this year, and has detected virus on the packaging of cold chain products many times, even as lots of disinfection has been done domestically,” Gao Guan, spokesman for the China Meat Association, said on Tuesday. It would be better to handle virus control at the point of origins and carry out disinfection at production plants as the cost would be lower and efficiency higher, Gao said. China has ramped up disinfection and virus testing on frozen food after it found coronavirus on imported products and packaging.
29th Dec 2020 - Reuters

Consortium working with medical authorities on approval for Covid-19 rapid test

A consortium that includes medical diagnostics company Omega is working with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to enable approval for its Covid-19 lateral flow antibody test. The Alva-based company is part of the consortium led by AIM-listed Abingdon Health developing the AbC-19 Rapid Test. Abingdon, which is York-based, said that while the UK's Department of Health and Social Care has first refusal of supplies of the test through a contract that runs to 14 February, it is also working on potential international distribution. The UK Rapid Test Consortium liaising with customers and regulatory authorities across a total of 27 international territories, to allow future use of the product outside of the UK.
29th Dec 2020 - Insider.co.uk

Covid: Military back-up for pupil testing as heads urge delay to start of term

Members of the armed forces are to give remote support to secondary schools and colleges in England setting up mass Covid testing as the new term begins. Military personnel will hold webinars and give phone support to school staff. But head teachers say they need support on the ground and more time to make the plan workable. They are calling for a delay to the start of term. The government wants pupils to go back in the first two weeks of January, but is keeping the situation under review.
29th Dec 2020 - BBC News

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Fauci: Up to 90% of population needs vaccine for herd immunity

"We all have to be honest and humble, nobody really knows for sure, but I think 70-85% for herd immunity for COVID-19 is a reasonable estimate," he said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. Fauci had previously told The New York Times it could take up to 90% of the US population to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity against the coronavirus. He clarified that the range he states are a "guesstimate," and that the goal was for 70 to 85 percent of the population to be vaccinated. This month, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized both Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use which have been rolled out across the country.
27th Dec 2020 - Business Insider

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Biden to receive coronavirus vaccine as U.S. inoculation effort mounts

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden received his first injected dose of the COVID-19 vaccine live on television on Monday in an effort to boost confidence in its safety ahead of its wide distribution next year. Biden has said he would make the fight against the coronavirus, which has killed more than 315,000 Americans and infected more than 17.5 million, his top priority when he takes office on Jan. 20. At age 78, he is in the high-risk group for the highly contagious respiratory disease.
21st Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Austria will offer coronavirus tests to its entire population with those testing negative receiving 'more freedoms' as country prepares for third lockdown

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced Austria will enter a third lockdown It will run between December 26 to January 24, but will see mass testing done Those who take part in the series of testing will be allowed more freedoms Such freedoms include visiting cultural events and restaurants, Kurz said It was also announced the country will be reopening ski lifts despite lockdown
19th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

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Covid: Austrians who pass antigen test to be exempt from lockdown

Austria is to enter a third lockdown from Boxing Day but will stage mass coronavirus tests in mid-January to determine who will be exempt from certain restrictions, the government announced on Friday. Italy is preparing to outline new measures that could lead to a complete lockdown over the Christmas and new year period, while the Spanish government has warned of a possible “third wave” of infections. Austria’s latest lockdown, which comes into effect on 26 December, will include daytime curfews, the closure of non-essential shops, and schools switching to remote learning from 7 to 15 January. Mass antigen tests being offered on the weekend of 16 and 17 January will give people the opportunity to “test themselves free” of restrictions, according to the interior minister, Karl Nehammer.
19th Dec 2020 - The Guardian

Chilean president handed $3,500 fine for mask-less selfie with stranger on beach

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera was slapped with a $3,500 fine on Friday after posing for a selfie on the beach with a bystander without wearing a mask as required during the coronavirus pandemic, health authorities said. Chile has strict rules on mask wearing in all public places and violations are punishable with sanctions that include fines and even jail terms. Pinera apologized then turned himself in shortly after the selfie surfaced on social media in early December.
18th Dec 2020 - Reuters

Peter Roderick: Transparency in approving covid-19 vaccines

Transparency is generally regarded as essential for public trust in medicines, and likely to lead to better decision-making. Yet lack of transparency has been a hallmark of the regulation of medicines. Modest improvements have been made over the last decade, but the spotlight is being shone again on how the regulatory system operates as approvals are being given or considered for several covid-19 vaccines. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) held live-streamed public meetings to discuss the issue generally on 22 October 2020, and specifically for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with an FDA analysis, on 10 December ahead of the FDA’s decision. That meeting voted 17/4, and one abstention, in favour of emergency use approval, which was issued the next day. A further meeting is scheduled pre-licensure for the Moderna vaccine on 17 December. As the FDA head, Stephen M. Hahn has said, “The FDA recognizes that transparency and dialogue are critical for the public to have confidence in COVID-19 vaccines”.
17th Dec 2020 - The BMJ

The U.S. says employers can require workers to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Employers can require workers to get a Covid-19 vaccine and bar them from the workplace if they refuse, the federal government said in guidelines issued this week. Public health experts see employers as playing an important role in vaccinating enough people to reach herd immunity and get a handle on a pandemic that has killed more than 300,
19th Dec 2020 - New York Times

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Biden to get COVID-19 vaccine publicly next week

President-elect Joe Biden will get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as next week, transition officials said on Wednesday (16 December), as US authorities try to build public confidence in a measure that promises to stanch the deadly pandemic. Vice President Mike Pence will get the vaccine on Friday, the White House said. Both men will receive the shot publicly in an effort to boost confidence in the safety of the vaccine, which will become widely available to the public next year. “I don’t want to get ahead of the line but I want to make sure that we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take,” Biden said at an event earlier on Wednesday. Biden, 78, is in a high-risk category for the coronavirus because of his age.
17th Dec 2020 - EURACTIV

Sweden's king says 'we have failed' over COVID-19, as deaths mount

Sweden’s king said his country had failed in its handling of COVID-19, in a sharp criticism of a pandemic policy partly blamed for a high death toll among the elderly. Carl XVI Gustaf, whose son and daughter-in-law tested positive last month, used an annual royal Christmas TV special to highlight the growing impact of the virus, in a rare intervention from a monarch whose duties are largely ceremonial. Sweden has stood out from most countries by shunning lockdowns and face masks, leaving schools, restaurants and businesses largely open and relying mainly on voluntary social distancing and hygiene recommendations to slow the spread. An official commission said on Tuesday systemic shortcomings in elderly care coupled with inadequate measures from the government and agencies contributed to Sweden’s particularly high death toll in nursing homes.
17th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

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Covid-19: Europeans urged to wear masks for family Christmas

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged Europeans to wear masks during family gatherings at Christmas. It said Europe was at "high risk" of a new wave of coronavirus infections in the early part of 2021, as transmission of the virus remained high. Countries across the continent have been registering thousands of daily cases and hundreds of deaths. Germany was among countries tightening restrictions on Wednesday, closing schools and non-essential businesses. Meanwhile European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the first Covid vaccine would be authorised for use within a week.
16th Dec 2020 - BBC News

UK medical journals call for Christmas Covid rules to be reversed

Plans to relax Covid restrictions at Christmas must be reversed or many lives risk being lost, according to a rare joint editorial from two of the UK’s most eminent medical journals. That call was echoed by the head of the hospital doctors’ union, who described the government’s plans as “kamikaze”. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, also urged Boris Johnson to reconsider the restrictions in a letter to the prime minister on Tuesday afternoon. The British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal said the government could no longer claim to be protecting the NHS if it went ahead with its “rash” plans to allow households to mix indoors over Christmas. “We believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives,” it says.
16th Dec 2020 - The Guardian

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US vaccinations ramp up as feds weigh 2nd COVID-19 shot

Hundreds more U.S. hospitals will begin vaccinating their workers Tuesday as federal health officials review a second COVID-19 shot needed to boost the nation’s largest vaccination campaign. Packed in dry ice to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures, shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are set to arrive at 400 additional hospitals and other distribution sites, one day after the nation’s death toll surpassed a staggering 300,000. The first 3 million shots are being strictly rationed to front-line health workers and elder-care patients, with hundreds of millions more shots needed over the coming months to protect most Americans. The FDA is set to publish its analysis of a second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, which could soon join Pfizer-BioNTech’s in the fight against the pandemic. If FDA advisers give it a positive recommendation on Thursday, the agency could greenlight the vaccine from drugmaker Moderna later this week.
15th Dec 2020 - The Independent

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New Zealand agrees on 'travel bubble' with Australia in early 2021

New Zealand agreed on Monday to allow quarantine-free travel with Australia in the first quarter of 2021, nearly a year after it locked down its borders to protect its population from the novel coronavirus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the cabinet had agreed in principle on a trans-Tasman, quarantine-free travel bubble pending confirmation by Australia’s cabinet and no significant change in circumstances in either country. “It is our intention to name a date ... in the New Year once remaining details are locked down,” Ardern said at a news conference in the capital, Wellington. New Zealand’s has virtually eliminated the novel coronavirus by enforcing a tough lockdown and keeping its borders shut to all foreigners for most of the year.
14th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Why many countries failed at COVID contact-tracing — but some got it right

Across the Western world, countries have floundered with this most basic public-health procedure. In England, tracers fail to get in touch with one in eight people who test positive for COVID-19; 18% of those who are reached provide no details for close contacts. In some regions of the United States, more than half of people who test positive provide no details of contacts when asked. These statistics come not from the first wave of COVID-19, but from November, long after initial lockdowns gave countries time to develop better contact-tracing systems. The reasons for the failures are complex and systemic. Antiquated technology and underfunded health-care systems have proved ill-equipped to respond. Wealthy nations have struggled to hire enough contact-tracers, marshal them efficiently or make sure that people do self-isolate when infected or that they quarantine when a close contact has the disease. And overstretched contact-tracers have been met with distrust by people wary both of health authorities and of the technologies being deployed to fight the pandemic. Meanwhile, researchers who are keen to draw lessons from contact-tracing operations are stymied by a dearth of data.
14th Dec 2020 - Nature.com

France launches mass Covid-19 screening campaigns before lifting lockdown

The French cities of Le Havre, on the Normandy coast, and Charleville-Mézières, near the Belgian border, are conducting mass Covid-19 testing campaigns on Monday in the country's latest effort to stem the spread of the disease before the holidays and the end of France's second lockdown on Tuesday. While the French will be allowed to circulate freely throughout the country without having to document their comings-and-goings with administrative permits, the number of new daily coronavirus infections remains high above the government's objective for mid-December.
14th Dec 2020 - FRANCE 24 English

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 14th Dec 2020

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Scientists warn against Christmas gatherings in UK despite relaxed rules

“If people [aren’t] cautious, then we will pay for our Christmas parties with January and February lockdowns,” said Prof Devi Sridhar, the chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “With a vaccine just weeks away, why risk infecting vulnerable and elderly people we love?” Prof Susan Michie, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) and the Independent Sage group of experts, agreed. “One has got to respond to the situation as it is, not the situation as we’d like it to be,” she said, reiterating that people should think carefully about whether to meet up with others, and if they do, only meet outside. “If we really want to keep our loved ones safe, the best thing is not to see them.”
11th Dec 2020 - The Guardian

Covid drives record drop in global carbon emissions, research shows

The coronavirus pandemic has driven a record drop in global carbon emissions, researchers have found. They warned, however, that greener measures are needed as economies recover, to start delivering the annual emissions cuts required to to curb climate change. Britain saw one of the biggest drops in emissions at 13 per cent, the analysis showed. The country saw major reductions in transport - the largest source of climate pollution for the country - and was hit by two waves of restrictions.
11th Dec 2020 - Evening Standard

Covid-19 in Wales: Mass testing a 'waste of resources'

Continuing mass testing in Wales could be a "massive-scale of waste of resources", a leading public health expert has said. Figures show less than 1.5% of people were testing positive as part of pilots in Merthyr Tydfil and the lower Cynon Valley. Dr Angela Raffle said there was little evidence to suggest it helped cut transmission. First Minister Mark Drakeford said mass testing "has a part to play". Dr Raffle, a senior lecturer in population sciences at Bristol University, said mass testing was "incredibly resource intensive". "We simply don't know whether you'll find enough cases who would have transmitted a lot, and who don't [transmit Covid-19] simply because you found them," she said. "And we don't know whether telling lots of people they're negative could actually undermine any potential benefit."
13th Dec 2020 - BBC News

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 11th Dec 2020

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Coronavirus vaccine: your questions answered | British Heart Foundation

We explain the latest news on the coronavirus vaccine, including when it will be available and who will get it.
10th Dec 2020 - British Heart Foundation

Covid-19: The mask-wearing US city that bucked the trend

A major factor in the decision was keeping the university - South Dakota State - open for teaching and therefore retaining the large student population during the autumn, adds Mr McMacken. The requirements for mask use were brought in by the city of Brookings but they don't apply across the entire county of the same name. Our data is for the county, not the city, so it has its limitations. Brookings County now has the lowest infection rate out of the five most populous South Dakota counties.
10th Dec 2020 - BBC News

Studies find Covid testing, exit strategies key to efficacy

As local administrations in India prepare for a second wave, infections, two new studies that evaluated interventions such as lockdowns and travel restrictions in containing Covid-19, found that proper testing and exit strategies are crucial. “Imposing a lockdown during the first wave was a good decision, but the health care system wasn’t prepared to handle the exit then. We found that exit strategies played a major role in the increase in the number of cases. The study showed that aggressive measures like lockdowns may be inherently enough to suppress an outbreak, however other measures need to be scaled up as lockdowns are relaxed. Premature withdrawal of lockdowns without adequately planned interventions for the post-lockdown phase may lead to the second wave,” Giridara Gopal, co-author of the study told TNIE.
10th Dec 2020 - The New Indian Express

South Korea study shows how coronavirus spreads indoors

The study — adding to a growing body of evidence on airborne transmission of the virus — highlighted how South Korea’s meticulous and often invasive contact tracing regime has enabled researchers to closely track how the virus moves through populations. “In this outbreak, the distances between infector and infected persons were ... farther than the generally accepted 2 meter [6.6-foot] droplet transmission range,” the study’s authors wrote. “The guidelines on quarantine and epidemiological investigation must be updated to reflect these factors for control and prevention of COVID-19.”
9th Dec 2020 - Los Angeles Times

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 10th Dec 2020

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Covid-19 vaccine: Allergy warning over new jab

People with a history of significant allergic reactions should not have the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid jab, regulators say. It came after two NHS workers had allergic reactions on Tuesday. The advice applies to those who have had reactions to medicines, food or vaccines, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said. The two people had a reaction shortly after having the new jab, had treatment and are both fine now. They are understood to have had an anaphylactoid reaction, which tends to involve a skin rash, breathlessness and sometimes a drop in blood pressure. This is not the same as anaphylaxis which can be fatal. Both NHS workers have a history of serious allergies and carry adrenaline pens around with them.
9th Dec 2020 - BBC News

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 9th Dec 2020

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Could Slovakia's mass testing programme work in England?

The UK’s response to the covid-19 pandemic has, on any measure, been unimpressive. In a recent assessment of G7 countries, it came out second worst in the cumulative number of deaths in relation to population, just behind Italy. It was worst in terms of the contraction of the economy. These facts were well known. What was new, and surprising, was that it had achieved these unenviable positions despite spending far more than most of the other countries. Using a measure based on the core budget deficit, it spent 80% more than the average among these industrialized countries, beaten only by Canada. Faced with this predicament, it is understandable that ministers would look elsewhere for ideas. At first it was Sweden, with Downing Street seeking advice from its chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell. Sweden’s refusal to adopt the stringent measures imposed elsewhere had obvious attractions for a party committed to individual freedom, with ministers who had spent many years criticizing the “nanny state.” Unfortunately, as the evidence from Stockholm accumulated, revealing a magnitude of economic decline similar to that in its locked down neighbours, but at a much higher cost in lives, the attraction waned, finally evaporating when the second wave, which advocates for the Swedish model predicted would not happen, became apparent.
8th Dec 2020 - The BMJ

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WHO hails COVID vaccine progress, urges nations to double down on mitigation

At a media briefing today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said decisions by country leaders in the coming days will set the course for the virus in the short term and influence when the pandemic will eventually end. He said though vaccine progress brings hope, the WHO is worried about a growing perception that the pandemic is over. "The truth is that at present, many places are witnessing very high transmission of the virus, which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers," he said.
4th Dec 2020 - CIDRAP

Well and Lloyds follow Boots in launching private COVID-19 swab tests

Well and Lloyds pharmacy have followed in the footsteps of Boots and launched private COVID-19 swab test services, the multiples have confirmed. Well announced last week (December 2) that it was introducing a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in-pharmacy test priced at £120 – also the price of the Boots in-branch COVID-19 swab test that launched in October. Lloydspharmacy also offers an at-home COVID-19 PCR swab test kit.
7th Dec 2020 - Chemist+Druggist

US schools go back and forth on in-person learning

New York reopened classrooms to many of its youngest students Monday in what has become a frustrating, stop-and-start process in many school systems around the U.S. because of the alarming surge in the coronavirus. The nation's largest school district, with 1 million students, had shut down in-person learning just two weeks ago but decided to bring back preschoolers and elementary school children after parents pushed for it and the mayor concluded it was safe to do so with beefed-up testing. In contrast, school systems in Detroit, Boston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and suburban Minneapolis in recent weeks abandoned in-person classes or dropped plans to bring students back because of soaring infections. The retreat in some places and the push forward in others are happening as the virus comes back with a vengeance across much of the U.S., with deaths per day averaging over 2,200 — about the same level seen during the very deadliest stretch of the outbreak, last spring in the New York City area.
7th Dec 2020 - The Independent

UK could suffer a 'severe' third wave of Covid in January if we 'take our foot off the pedal', SAGE scientist warns

Professor Andrew Hayward warned that the pandemic is still not over today He said it would be 'sad' for cases to surge following the Christmas period Covid-19 vaccine is a ray of hope for ending pandemic in the next few months
7th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

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Atul Gawande on Coronavirus Vaccines and Prospects for Ending the Pandemic

The New Yorker staff writer discusses when a vaccine might be ready for distribution, who should receive it, and whether eradicating the virus is possible.
4th Dec 2020 - The New Yorker

Covid test-and-trace: Is backwards contact tracing the way forward?

Contact tracing is about detective work - and there are different ways to do it. If a person tests positive, forward contact tracing means finding all the people they could have passed the virus on to, and asking them to self-isolate. For backwards contact tracing, the aim is to find who gave the virus to the person who tested positive. The theory is that if they have already passed on the virus, they're more likely to have infected other people as well, because of how superspreading works. Then their contacts are found, and asked to self-isolate, too. If the effort is just on going forward, then "potentially a lot of cases won't have infected people", said Dr Adam Kucharski, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The result is a big part of the outbreak will be missed, he says. But because cases are often linked to superspreading events, going backwards could pick up infections that might otherwise be missed
6th Dec 2020 - BBC News

CDC urges 'universal mask use' indoors for the first time in U.S.

The CDC suggested the universal use of face masks in a new report on Friday. The agency said proper face masks should be worn anywhere outside of an individuals' home. Report said the US has reached a 'phase of high-level transmission' amid the winter weather, holiday seasons and flu season. President-elect Joe Biden announced he will ask Americans to wear face masks for up to 100 days when inaugurated. Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations have increased across the country. CDC said national forecasts predicted between 9,500 and 19,500 new Covid-19 deaths will be counted during the week ending December 26
5th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Multidose COVID-19 vaccines will test state tracking systems

When the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available in the United States, officials’ first challenge is getting the people in the door for their shots. Then, they’ll have a second problem: making sure they come back again to get a second dose of the same vaccine. With two two-dose vaccines headed for authorization, the logistical challenges of a vaccination program are only magnified. “You don’t want to have someone get the first dose of one brand of vaccine, and a second dose of another,” says Ben Moscovitch, project director of health information technology at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Assuming the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the vaccines after they review the data later this month, states will start to receive shipments of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine on December 15th, and the Moderna vaccine on December 22nd. From there, it’s up to states to distribute the vaccines. Both take two doses, given a few weeks apart, and both could be circulating at the same time. And that’s just the two front-runners. Other multidose vaccines are still in the development pipeline.
4th Dec 2020 - The Verge

Eceptionist launches self-service COVID-19 vaccine management tool

Global health care software provider Eceptionist has launched a new web-based solution to help private and public organizations manage COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Dubbed VaxManager, the software as a service (SAAS) solution alleviates the administrative burden of managing COVID tests, flu shots, and other vaccines when they become available. VaxManager incorporates an organization's COVID guidelines into a test/vaccine request workflow to automatically screen and prioritize vaccine and test requests, the company said. The mobile-friendly platform also includes a self-registration and self-request portal for patients to ensure quick and easy onboarding. Automated appointment reminders, follow-up notifications, and post-testing and post-vaccine information make the software highly reliable and relevant for patients.
4th Dec 2020 - IT PRO

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 4th Dec 2020

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Biden asks Fauci to join COVID-19 team, stresses need for masks

Biden told CNN that he plans to ask the public to wear masks for 100 days to help drive down the spread of the novel coronavirus. “I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask,” Biden said. “Not forever, 100 days.” His office would issue a standing order for people to wear masks in federal buildings and on interstate transportation, including aeroplanes and buses, he added. Biden also said he would get the COVID-19 vaccine when Fauci says it is safe and would be happy to take it publicly. “It’s important to communicate to the American people it’s safe, safe to do this,” he said.
3rd Dec 2020 - Al Jazeera English

Coronavirus: WHO considers e-vaccination certificates to ease travel

The WHO recommended that countries do not begin issuing immunity passports A number of governments have suggested they are a route back to normality British experts warned issuing immunity passports would lead to inequality WHO: Rich nations will lose hundreds of billions if vaccine isn't issued equally
3rd Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Covid: WHO looks at possible ‘e-vaccination certificates’ for travel

The World Health Organisation has warned against countries issuing "immunity passports" to people who have recovered from Covid-19 but is investigating the prospects of using electronic certificates to flag those who have been vaccinated. "We are looking very closely into the use of technology in this Covid-19 response, and one of them is how we can work with member states towards an e-vaccination certificate," a WHO medical expert told a virtual briefing in Copenhagen on Thursday. Dr Siddharta Sankar Datta, a regional adviser on diseases and immunisation, said the technology could potentially be used to open up international travel.
3rd Dec 2020 - The Independent

The covid-19 symptoms to watch out for

Symptoms of covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, can range from mild to severe. The most common include fever, a dry cough or shortness of breath, but there are other indications you could need to be tested or have a conversation with your doctor. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms, and the order in which they appear can vary. Some people don’t show any symptoms — what health experts call “asymptomatic” cases — but still could spread the virus to others.
2nd Dec 2020 - The Washington Post

Public trust vital for Covid-19 vaccine programmes, says WHO

The WHO has urged European countries to prepare for vaccinations against Covid-19, stressing that community acceptance will be crucial to the success of the health programmes. More than 200 Covid vaccines are under development, some of which have already completed phase 3 clinical trials with an efficacy rate of more than 90%. This week the UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is also reviewing vaccines from the US company Moderna and the Oxford University/AstraZeneca team.
3rd Dec 2020 - The Guardian

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WHO tightens mask guidelines

The World Health Organization (WHO) is tightening its mask guidelines, telling people who live in areas where the coronavirus is still spreading to wear masks at all times in a variety of public places. The new guidelines, rolled out on Tuesday, specify that those entering stores, workplaces and schools with low ventilation should make sure that they are wearing a mask. The WHO is also asking that people wear masks if they cannot keep a physical distance of at least three feet from others within an enclosed area. The guidelines also call for children 12 and older to wear masks and state that face coverings should be worn outdoors if it is not possible to socially distance.
2nd Dec 2020 - The Hill

COVID-19 vaccine: How exactly does the cold supply chain work?

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in the UK is manufactured in Belgium and needs to be stored at -70C (-94F) to avoid spoiling before it is administered. The government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has confirmed its priority list for the first phase of the UK's mass vaccine rollout, which will begin early next week. But the prime minister has acknowledged the government faces "immense logistical challenges" in distributing the vaccine to those who need it over the coming weeks and months. These vaccines will need to be transported from Pfizer's manufacturing plant in Belgium to some of the most distant parts of the British Isles, including the Isle of Arran. Here's how that will work:
2nd Dec 2020 - Sky News

These Covid-19 Vaccines Are Safe, Right?

Sam Fazeli, a Bloomberg Opinion contributor who covers the pharmaceutical industry for Bloomberg Intelligence, answered questions about the safety of new Covid-19 vaccines that are set to win approval for broad use in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere as early as this month. The conversation has been edited and condensed.
2nd Dec 2020 - Bloomberg

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Germany says coronavirus vaccine will be safe

The same rigorous approval standards are being applied to the coronavirus vaccine candidates as for other medicines, Germany’s science minister has said, adding that any approved jab will be voluntary. Anja Karliczek said the key to gaining widespread public support for the immunisation is ensuring the same standards are applied across the board. Authorities will educate the public about any possible side effects that could occur after vaccination, including headaches, localised pain and fever. Vaccination against the virus will not be mandatory, Ms Karliczek said. The rapid pace of the vaccines’ development is down to huge efforts by scientists, as well as early funding and experience from previous vaccines, Marylyn Addo, a doctor at Hamburg's UKE hospital who is working in vaccine trials, said.
1st Dec 2020 - The Independent

Covid-19: Students tested before travelling home

The mass testing of university students for Covid-19, so they can go home for the Christmas break, has started in Canterbury. Those testing negative will be able to use the "travel window" between 3 and 9 December. Two tests must be taken 72 hours apart. "We're trying to ensure the safety of students returning to their families and not presenting a risk to them" said Simon Gwynne of Canterbury Christchurch University. The testing centre set up at the university will be open from 10:00 to 18:00 GMT every day until 8 December, with 900 students booked in on the first day. Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 must isolate for 10 days, with a community buddy system making sure they are looked after.
1st Dec 2020 - BBC News

Coronavirus: Netherlands makes face masks mandatory indoors

The Netherlands has made it compulsory to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus. The country is one of the last in Europe to introduce such a measure. The rule will apply to those over the age of 13 in public buildings such as shops, railway stations and hairdressers from Tuesday. The Netherlands has been one of the countries worst affected by Europe's second wave of Covid-19. It broke daily case records throughout October, and the number of new confirmed infections in the country of 17 million has remained fairly stable at about 5,000 a day for several weeks.
1st Dec 2020 - BBC News

Masked Indian comic superhero fights Covid-19 fear

India's first female comic superhero Priya, a gang-rape survivor who earlier campaigned against rape, acid attack and sex trafficking, is back to fight disinformation around the Covid-19 pandemic. In Priya's Mask, due to be launched on 2 December, the comic crusader joins hands with Jiya, the "Burka Avenger", a popular character from a Pakistani cartoon show, as the two go about trying to tackle the pandemic - and also the "infodemic", a major proliferation in fake news surrounding the coronavirus. With more than 9.4 million infections and 137,000 deaths, India has the second highest caseload globally. A strict nationwide lockdown that was imposed on 21 March delayed the spread for a while, but infections grew rapidly - and continue to do so - since restrictions were relaxed.
1st Dec 2020 - BBC News

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Covid Vaccines: 5 Things An Actual Scientist Wants Anti-Vaxxers To Know

And the recent flurry of positive news around vaccines has inevitably focused some of this misguided energy into the supposed harms and risks associated with inoculation, once again fuelling the anti-vax movement that began in the 1990s. Most of the concerns raised are old and already debunked news, repackaged for the social media age and propagated by non-experts. So HuffPost UK asked an actual expert, UCL medicine cell biologist Dr Jennifer Rohn, to help debunk the 2020 version of a 1990s phenomenon...
30th Nov 2020 - Huffington Post UK

Coronavirus: NHS Covid-19 app to gain self-isolation payments

England and Wales' contact-tracing app is to add a Self-Isolation Payment feature as soon as next week. The version 4 update will address a discrepancy that currently exists. Those told to stay at home by human contact-tracers can qualify for £500 of support. But privacy safeguards built into the NHS Covid-19 app had complicated making the same offer to those who had received an automated self-isolate notification. It is hoped the move will encourage more people to install the app and follow its guidance over the Christmas period, when there are concerns that cases of the coronavirus could spike again.
1st Dec 2020 - BBC News

Coronavirus: Bournemouth universities to test thousands

More than 6,000 university students and staff will be tested for coronavirus over the next week. Bournemouth University (BU) and Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) have teamed up to provide 12,000 tests for students and staff, ensuring they can go home for Christmas. Jim Andrews, chief operating officer at BU, said: “We’ve been working with AUB over the last two weeks to set up a testing facility on the BU campus as part of the government’s guide to get all students tested so those who want to go home before Christmas are able to do so.
1st Dec 2020 - Bournemouth Echo

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 30th Nov 2020

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How 'Dictator Dan' Defied a Dangerous Murdoch Media and Led Australia to COVID Victory

Australia is on the verge of eliminating the Coronavirus now that the epicentre of its second wave – Melbourne – has recorded its twenty-eighth consecutive day of no new cases. It is a milestone epidemiologists say signals the elimination of COVID-19 in the community, leaving the city of five million residents now without a single active case. The land of Down Under has become the world’s benchmark for managing the pandemic: following the science, placing faith in bona fide public health experts and rejecting the kind of unthinking, know-nothing, right-wing populism pushed by Rupert Murdoch-employed pundits in the media and members of the country’s right-wing Government, the Liberal Party.
28th Nov 2020 - Byline Times

'COVID-passport' for tourists who have had a coronavirus vaccine is in final stages of development amid reports airlines will BAN anyone who has refused the injection

A leading travel industry association is developing a digital passport for international plane passengers who have been vaccinated for COVID-19. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Saturday that it is in the final phase of developing the infrastructure for the passport, which could become an essential component in rebuilding the shattered tourism industry. 'Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveler identities in compliance with border control requirements,' Alexandre de Juniac, IATA CEO, said
28th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

More than 1,300 wrongly told they have Covid after Test and Trace lab error

More than 1,300 people were wrongly told they had coronavirus due to a lab error with the government’s Test and Trace service. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said 1,311 people who took a test from 19-23 November across the UK were incorrectly told they received a positive result. It said there was an issue with a batch of testing chemicals which meant their results were void. A DHSC spokesman said: “Swift action is being taken to notify those affected and they are being asked to take another test, and to continue to self-isolate if they have symptoms. This laboratory error was an isolated incident and is being fully investigated to ensure this does not happen again.” The DHSC did not comment on whether the error affected regionalinfection rate figures.
27th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

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What the biopharma industry is doing to build confidence in Covid-19 vaccines

Over the last few weeks, the United States has surpassed 100,000 Covid-19 cases a day and reached the staggering milestone of 10 million cases. This is both sobering and humbling. While there has been encouraging news about progress in the development of Covid-19 vaccines, making sure that Americans have confidence in these vaccines is crucial to helping bend the curve of infections and getting us back to some semblance of normalcy. According to researchers writing in The Lancet, we will need a majority of Americans to have the confidence to get vaccinated for Covid-19 vaccines to be effective in moving the U.S. toward population-level control of viral spread. As Anthony Fauci has noted, “If you have a vaccine that is highly effective and not enough people get vaccinated, you’re not going to realize the full, important effect of having a vaccine.”
25th Nov 2020 - STAT News

Scientists ask to see evidence behind relaxing UK's Christmas Covid rules

Ministers are facing calls to publish scientific advice on the relaxing of Covid-19 rules over Christmas amid warnings that a single infectious guest could infect a third of those at a household gathering. Under rules revealed by the prime minister on Tuesday, up to three households can form a “bubble” for five days over Christmas. It prompted some scientists to speak out, warning that mixing will inevitably lead to an increase in infections come the new year, leading to deaths. Some said the government should have put greater emphasis on the dangers and potential control measures. Now experts have called for the government to release advice given by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
26th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Rapid COVID-19 tests provide lifeline for London orchestra

Maxine Kwok, a violinist in London’s oldest symphony orchestra, is delighted that rehearsals have resumed thanks to a rapid, lab-free COVID-19 test that gives the musicians the confidence to work together again. “It was so difficult not to play for months,” Kwok, a member of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), said after being tested. “But the moment that we were able to have this kind of testing at this regularity, meaning we could just come back to work and feel comfortable and safe, really made a huge difference for us,” Kwok told Reuters. “I was so thrilled. I can’t describe it really,” she added ahead of a rehearsal attended by around 40 musicians, all masked and still observing social distancing rules.
26th Nov 2020 - Reuters

Coronavirus: Limit contacts before Christmas bubbling, executive urges

People should limit their contact with others before Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed at Christmas, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has said. Across the UK, three households can mix for five days from 23-27 December. However, Ms O'Neill said it was important to reduce Covid-19 transmission "as low as possible". First Minister Arlene Foster said the next two weeks "are crucial... so that we can all have the safest and the happiest Christmas possible".
26th Nov 2020 - BBC News

Antibody testing likely undercounts the number of people who have had COVID-19: More than 25% of infected health care workers had NO signs of it in their blood work 60 days later

CDC researchers found that 6% of more than 3,000 health care workers they tested had antibodies to coronavirus. Within 60 days, when they were retested 28% of the health care workers had antibody levels so low that they could no longer be detected. Researchers warn this suggests that using antibody testing likely undercounts how many people have had COVID-19 and that plasma has a short shelf life
26th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

Covid vaccine trials did NOT monitor whether participants took other steps to prevent infection like wearing masks and social distancing

A participant in Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine trials told Business Insider that the firm did not monitor the participants behavior if they didn't feel sick. Moderna also did not specify how to behave or track data on the participants' actions during its trial. It was left up to individuals to wear masks or socially distance - behaviors that are estimated to reduce the risk of spreading or catching COVID-19
26th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

Untested, untraced: how three-quarters of Covid contacts slip through cracks

Statistics show how ‘world-beating’ tracing scheme fails to follow up on Covid-19 cases at every step. It was in May that Boris Johnson promised the UK would have a “world-beating” test-and-trace operation in place within weeks. “Our test-and-trace system is as good as, or better than, any other system anywhere in the world,” he doubled down in July. But nearly half a year after the system was established, thousands of Covid-19 cases still go undetected each week, leaving severe lockdown restrictions as the only option to prevent hospitals across the country from collapsing. The Guardian has analysed the latest figures on the performance of test and trace to show how people at risk of spreading the virus go missing at every step of the process.
26th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

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Potential COVID-19 surge following Thanksgiving could cause 'humanitarian crisis,' experts warn

As Americans prepare for what will likely be an untraditional Thanksgiving, health experts and state officials are pleading with the public to heed their warnings to not travel and to avoid large gatherings and the mixing of households, as the country tries to get ahold on what experts call an "uncontrolled" spread of the coronavirus. "If we layer in travel and large indoor gatherings which we know are drivers of transmission, we expect to see a massive surge on top of an already dire situation," said Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor, warning that such a surge could result in a "humanitarian crisis."
25th Nov 2020 - ABC news

Christmas UK lockdown lift: Dr Hilary Jones warns plan could spell disaster

Dr Hilary Jones has slammed the UK as a ‘weak nation’ if it feels like the five day Christmas lockdown lift is necessary. The Good Morning Britain medical expert has warned that the government’s plans for a five-day break from coronavirus lockdown rules over the festive period could have an enormous effect on the country going forward. Trying to break it down into simpler terms, he added that we could lose the advantage we currently have on keeping coronavirus contained. ‘I think controlling the virus is like trying to control your weight. It’s easy to put weight on, it’s very difficult to lose it,’ he explained.
25th Nov 2020 - Metro.co.uk

How do you exit a lockdown effectively? Listen to the experts

European countries enduring a second wave of COVID-19 have once again locked down. There are signs that these measures are curbing the spread of the coronavirus. But experts warn certain steps are necessary if Europe is to successfully exit this period of lockdown and avoid repeating past mistakes.
25th Nov 2020 - World Economic Forum

Lessons From Europe’s Covid Surge: Control Is Fragile and Losing It Is Easy

As Americans enter a period of peak travel among their states starting with Thanksgiving, new discoveries about how Europe’s second coronavirus wave spread provide an object lesson. Many European regions had made such gains against Covid-19 as to be cited as models. Those gains proved fragile: Unanticipated pockets of infection on the continent and a rush to relax rules allowed it to surge across Europe again. Much of Europe’s new wave can now be traced to outbreaks among agricultural workers living in cramped conditions in Spain’s Catalonia and Aragón regions, according to researchers from Switzerland and Spain. It spread to nearby cities and across Spain, then home with tourists.
25th Nov 2020 - The Wall Street Journal

How Do We Stop This Surge? Here's What Experts Say Could Help

As the U.S. wades deeper into a brutal fall surge of the coronavirus, Americans are living under a growing list of restrictions aimed at curbing the exponential rise of COVID-19. But given the unrelenting advance of the virus, can these varied approaches make a difference? Or is it delaying the inevitable return to the sweeping lockdowns of the springtime? "It's really hard to slow it down once it gets going like this," says Don Milton, professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. "That's when these awful draconian measures come into play."
25th Nov 2020 - NPR

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Hundreds in NYC line up to get tested for COVID-19 ahead of Thanksgiving

Hundreds lined up outside COVID testing facilities Tuesday morning before they even opened their doors. In Brooklyn, dozens flocked to CityMD facilities in the early hours with long lines snaking through Flatbush, Williamsburg and Bushwick. Wealthy New Yorkers are avoiding the wait by paying line-waiters $80 an hour to line up on their behalf. Gov. Cuomo warned New Yorkers in a press conference Tuesday not to be fooled by one negative test result. Americans across the country are clamoring to get COVID tests as they ignore the pleas of public health experts to cancel Thanksgiving travel plans
24th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

UK health minister says test and trace can't control COVID-19 alone

British health minister Matt Hancock said that ‘test and trace’ can not control coronavirus in the way that an effective system of mass testing can, as he defended the performance of the heavily criticised contact-tracing system. The test and trace system was inefficient and slow, Reuters found after speaking to tracers and analysing the data, making it inadequate to avoid a second wave and a new English national lockdown which started on Nov 5. “The test and trace programme, ahead of the second lockdown, was functioning to reduce transmission enormously,” Hancock told lawmakers. “By the time of the second lockdown, it had already broken the chains of transmission hundreds of thousands of times.”
24th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Pets at Home says pets have been 'a lifesaver' during lockdown

Animals have been "a lifesaver" for people struggling during Covid lockdown, according to retailer Pets at Home which has seen sales rise sharply. Chief executive Peter Pritchard said pets had played "an incredibly important role" through a period of "social loneliness". He added that during the early days of lockdown one of the few reasons people could go out "was to walk your dog". In the six months to 8 October, Pets at Home saw revenues rise by 5.1%.
24th Nov 2020 - BBC News

Special Report: 50,000 COVID-19 deaths and rising. How Britain failed to stop the second wave

Faced with one of the highest death tolls from the first wave of the coronavirus, Boris Johnson pledged a “world-beating” test-and-trace system to prevent a resurgence this winter. A Reuters investigation reveals how that promise came unstuck.
24th Nov 2020 - Reuters

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New Zealand leader Ardern offers virus know-how to Joe Biden

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday became the latest world leader to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory, saying she offered to share her nation's expertise on dealing with the coronavirus. Ardern said the tone of the 20-minute phone call was warm and that Biden spoke very favorably about how New Zealand was handling the pandemic. “What has been really at the center of our response has been some fundamentals around testing, contact tracing, isolation,” Ardern said. “That’s over and above what we’ve done at our borders.”
23rd Nov 2020 - The Independent

New Zealand study details COVID-19 spread on long-haul flight despite tests

A recent case study details COVID-19 transmission on a New Zealand long-haul flight, even with negative pre-departure testing results and social distancing requirements. The 12-page report, released by New Zealand health officials last weekFriday, follows a cluster of coronavirus cases linked to one passenger traveling on an 18-hour flight from Dubai to New Zealand in September. Though the traveler tested negative with a PCR test before the flight, researchers concluded that "at least four in-flight transmission events of SARS-CoV-2 likely took place" as the pre-symptomatic yet contagious person infected at least four others. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.
23rd Nov 2020 - USA Today

Covid-19: Daily coronavirus test plan to cut contacts' 14-day self-isolation

Daily coronavirus tests will be offered to close contacts of people who have tested positive in England, as a way to reduce the current 14-day quarantine. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people will be offered tests every day for a week - and they will not need to isolate unless they test positive. He also said rapid tests will allow every care home resident to have up to two visitors tested twice a week. Labour welcomed increased testing but raised concerns over test-and-trace. The chairman of the Independent Care Group which represents independent care homes, Mike Padgham, said the government was being "rather ambitious".
23rd Nov 2020 - BBC News

China tests millions after coronavirus flareups in 3 cities

Chinese authorities are testing millions of people, imposing lockdowns and shutting down schools after multiple locally transmitted coronavirus cases were discovered in three cities across the country last week. As temperatures drop, widescale measures are being enacted in Tianjin, Shanghai and Manzhouli, even though the number of new cases remains low compared to the United States and other countries that are seeing new waves of infections. Experts and government officials have warned that the chance of the virus spreading will be greater in cold weather. Recent flareups have shown that there is still a risk of the virus returning, despite being largely controlled within China.
23rd Nov 2020 - The Associated Press

Study: Mask Mandates Boost the Economy

Opponents of COVID-19 restrictions often claim preventative rules would hurt the economy, but a new study finds that statewide mask mandates can actually be a benefit. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that researchers from the University of Utah business school determined that mask orders make consumers feel better about shopping—so they visit more stores and spend more time in each one. The study authors found statewide mandates were more helpful to the local economy than county orders. “The thing that really pops out,” professor Nathan Seegert said, “is that statewide mask mandates are much more effective at both saving lives and livelihoods.”
23rd Nov 2020 - Daily Beast

Doctors say CDC should warn people the side effects from Covid vaccine shots won't be 'a walk in the park'

The CDC must be transparent about the side effects people may experience after getting their first shot of a coronavirus vaccine, doctors urged during a meeting Monday with CDC advisors. Dr. Sandra Fryhofer said that both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines require two doses and she worries whether her patients will come back for a second dose because of potentially unpleasant side effects after the first shot. Both companies acknowledged that their vaccines could induce side effects that are similar to symptoms associated with mild Covid-19, such as muscle pain, chills and headache.
23rd Nov 2020 - CNBC

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Britons ‘to receive freedom passes if they pass two Covid tests a week’

Britons could be given special 'freedom passes' if they test negative for coronavirus twice a week. Passholders would have to show that they have been regularly tested with an electronic form, it has been reported. The pass, which could take the form of a QR code, would allow holders to live a relatively normal life. Boris Johnson is said to be set to unveil the scheme on Monday when he launches the Government's Covid Winter Plan.
22nd Nov 2020 - Evening Standard

More States Offer Covid-19 Contact-Tracing Apps, But Adoption Is Uneven

Covid-19 contact-tracing apps from Apple Inc. and Google are coming to more states, along with evidence that they can help slow infections as long as enough people use them. Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., have recently adopted the “exposure notification” technology the companies built into their smartphone operating systems—Big Tech’s most significant contribution to the fight against Covid-19. California, and other states are piloting the technology and could release it soon.
21st Nov 2020 - Wall Street Journal

Wisconsin governor renews mask mandate despite court challenge as pandemic worsens

Wisconsin’s governor on Friday extended a statewide mask mandate despite a legal challenge from conservatives, renewing an emergency health order requiring face coverings in public spaces to curb an alarming surge in COVID-19 infections.
21st Nov 2020 - Reuters

Lockdowns could be avoided if 95% of people wore masks, says WHO

Lockdowns could be avoided if everyone followed health measures such as wearing masks, the World Health Organization's top Europe official said at a Thursday news briefing. WHO Europe's Regional Director Hans Kluge stressed that lockdowns should be a "last resort," and urged the public to follow guidance to help to prevent deaths. He said that if 95% of people wore masks, instead of the current 60%, "lockdowns would not be needed" -- although he added that mask use was not a "panacea" and needed to be combined with other measures. "If we all do our share, lockdowns are avoidable," Kluge said.
19th Nov 2020 - CNN

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Lockdowns could be avoided if 95% of people wore masks, says WHO

Lockdowns could be avoided if everyone followed health measures such as wearing masks, the World Health Organization's top Europe official said at a Thursday news briefing. WHO Europe's Regional Director Hans Kluge stressed that lockdowns should be a "last resort," and urged the public to follow guidance to help to prevent deaths. He said that if 95% of people wore masks, instead of the current 60%, "lockdowns would not be needed" -- although he added that mask use was not a "panacea" and needed to be combined with other measures. "If we all do our share, lockdowns are avoidable," Kluge said.
19th Nov 2020 - CNN

Covid-19: St Andrews University to roll out free tests for students before Christmas

St Andrews University students will be offered free Covid-19 tests before they head home to visit family at Christmas. People without symptoms, will be able to get a test whether or not they plan to leave St Andrews over the festive break. They will be voluntary but students have been strongly advised to take them as young people are more likely to have no symptoms, even if they have the virus. The university plans to open a testing centre it its own sports centre by November 30. Students will be offered a lateral-flow test, which involves taking a swab from the mouth and nose in a process that takes just a few minutes. Results will be received within 24 hours.
19th Nov 2020 - The Courier

Robin Swann aims to push for an 'ambitious' mass Covid-19 testing programme

The Health Minister has said Northern Ireland should push for a mass testing system as seen in Liverpool, but warned such an ambitious plan would take time. Speaking at a Stormont health briefing on Wednesday, Robin Swann said he had already raised the issue with Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Mr Swann added that rapid progress on a Covid-19 vaccine could bring hope by the spring, but further restrictions before Christmas would still be inevitable. It comes as the Department of Health confirmed a further 11 Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland, bringing the total to 889.
19th Nov 2020 - Belfast Telegraph

A gym trainer exposed 50 athletes to Covid-19, but no one else got sick because of a ventilation redesign

A Virginia gym owner thought she had a nightmare scenario on her hands when she learned that 50 athletes were potentially exposed to Covid-19 particles by one of the gym's coaches. But not a single member ended up contracting the virus, thanks to the extra safety precautions and ventilation measures she put in place. Velvet Minnick, 44, is the owner and head coach at 460 Fitness in Blacksburg, Virginia. Like many gym owners across the nation, she was forced to shut down the facility in March due to coronavirus. They rented out equipment and held Zoom classes, but it wasn't long before members were burned out. As the state entered Phase 2 of reopening in June, Minnick was allowed to have athletes back inside her facility. She knew one member, however, who could help her get people back while keeping them safe.
19th Nov 2020 - CNN

Social connections with COVID-19–affected areas increase compliance with mobility restrictions

We study the role of social connections in compliance of U.S. households with mobility restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, using aggregated and anonymized Facebook data on social connections and mobile phone data for measuring social distancing at the county level. Relative to the average restriction efficacy, a county with one-SD more social connections with China and Italy—the first countries with major COVID-19 outbreaks—has a nearly 50% higher compliance with mobility restrictions. By contrast, social connections of counties with less-educated populations, a higher Trump vote share, and a higher fraction of climate change deniers show decreased compliance with mobility restrictions. Our analysis suggests that social connections are conduits of information about the pandemic and an economically important factor affecting compliance with, and impact of, mobility restrictions.
19th Nov 2020 - Science Advances

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Covid vaccines should not be seen as 'unicorn' solution, says WHO chief – video

Michael Ryan, the head of the World Health Organization’s emergencies programme, has said that while vaccines are effective tools, they are not the lone solution to ending the coronavirus pandemic. ‘Some people think that vaccines will be, in a sense, the solution, the unicorn we’ve all been chasing,’ he said during a virtual briefing in Geneva on Wednesday, warning other measures such as social distancing needed to be maintained. It comes after positive efficacy results from late-stage trials of two potential Covid-19 vaccines
19th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

COVID-19: People told to open windows this winter to decrease coronavirus risk

People are being encouraged to open their windows this winter to decrease the risk of catching coronavirus. The Department for Health has released a video showing how virus particles linger in enclosed spaces. It also shows how letting fresh air in can reduce the risk of infection by more than 70%. Coronavirus is spread through the air by droplets and smaller particles known as aerosols when they are exhaled from the nose and mouth of an infected person as they breathe, speak or cough.
18th Nov 2020 - Sky News

Smoking causes three times as many cells to be infected with coronavirus, lab study suggests – despite array of research showing that it may cut the risk of getting COVID-19

UCLA researchers created models of human airways from donor stem cells Exposed some to smoke and compared impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection Found those exposed to cigarettes had three times as many cells infected Also discovered the smoke inhibits function of interferons which help the body fight the virus
18th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

Danish study finds face masks provide limited protection to wearer

A Danish study released on Wednesday found face masks provide the wearer with only limited protection against COVID-19 infection, but said this should not be used to argue against their widespread use to prevent people infecting others. In the study, which was carried out in April and May when Danish authorities did not recommend wearing face masks, 6,024 adults were divided into two groups, one wearing face masks and one control group.
18th Nov 2020 - Reuters

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Wash hands, use the app and avoid a Christmas lockdown

As 2020’s finishing post shuffles into view, a casual query among friends about what they fear the most in the lead up to Christmas elicits a unanimous, reflexive response. Lockdown. A regional or nationwide Level 3 or 4 plunge, right on the holiday doorstep, knocking the stuffing out of your Christmas turkey. Hopefully, the spectre of such bad tidings won’t play out, but it’s clear that we still have many months of maintaining our heightened defensive posture in repelling the menace of this pandemic from taking root in the community.
17th Nov 2020 - Stuff.co.nz

American, British Airways, OneWorld to trial COVID-19 tests

American Airlines, British Airways, and the oneworld alliance will launch a coronavirus testing trial this month aimed at convincing the U.S. and UK governments to introduce testing so that transatlantic travel can restart. BA was operating 84 flights per week between London Heathrow and New York JFK prior to the pandemic, but last week operated just 21. BA CEO Sean Doyle said that without a travel testing regime, Britain was being left behind countries such as Germany. Alongside its partners, BA plans to collect data from at least 500 passengers on flights from three U.S. cities to London Heathrow by asking them to take three free COVID-19 tests as part of their journey: one before departure, one on landing, and one three days after their arrival.
17th Nov 2020 - Reuters

NIH head: Masks are 'lifesaving medical instrument' not 'invasion of your personal freedom'

The head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is urging the public to abide by safety guidelines and socially distance, saying that while recent results for COVID-19 vaccine candidates are "encouraging," people must take extra precautions for at least "a few more months." The comments from NIH director Francis Collins come as pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna recently announced that their vaccine candidates were shown to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing the coronavirus. Collins told Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour on Monday that he felt “extremely encouraged” by the results and said “we're pretty optimistic that we're on a good path.”
17th Nov 2020 - The Hill

Mouthwash can kill COVID-19 in 30 seconds: Study

Over-the-counter mouthwash can kill coronavirus within 30 seconds of exposure, a study has found. Scientists at Cardiff University discovered mouthwash containing at least 0.07 percent cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) showed “promising signs” of reducing transmission of the virus. Their preliminary report, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, supports a study published last week that found mouthwash containing CPC helps in reducing the viral load of people infected with the coronavirus. It comes ahead of a clinical trial on patients at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff to find out whether mouthwash can reduce coronavirus in a patient’s saliva. The findings are expected to be published in early 2021. Dentyl is the only UK mouthwash brand that is part of the clinical trial led by Professor David Thomas from Cardiff University.
17th Nov 2020 - Al Jazeera English

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St. Louis Is So Overwhelmed With Covid-19 It’s Asking People To Do Their Own Contact Tracing

As health officials across the country struggle with dwindling resources amid a third resurgence of the coronavirus, St. Louis said Monday the county is so overwhelmed with Covid-19 it no longer has enough capacity for contact tracing.
16th Nov 2020 - Forbes

Using contact tracing app 'strongest form of defence' against another lockdown - Shaun Hendy

Speaking on TVNZ1's Breakfast the University of Auckland data modelling expert warned a potential two week period of new community cases of the coronavirus, which authorities can't get on top of, could put New Zealand into lockdown. Hendy said he believed Auckland particularly had become complacent before a woman who lives, studies and works in the central city was confirmed as having Covid-19 last week - a case of community transmission. The woman has been linked to the Defence Force cluster and one of her close contacts was confirmed as having contracted the virus yesterday.
16th Nov 2020 - 1News

Visitor Covid-19 testing launched in care homes under pilot

A pilot to provide Covid-19 tests to designated friends and family of those living in care homes has today been launched across Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon. The move, which aims to help facilitate indoor visits and even physical contact between care home residents and their patients
16th Nov 2020 - Nursing Times

Covid-19: New 'mega labs' in early 2021 to speed up testing

Two new "mega labs" will open in early 2021 with the aim of doubling the UK's daily coronavirus testing capacity, the government has said. The sites - at Leamington Spa in the Midlands and another at an unconfirmed site in Scotland - will increase testing capacity by 600,000. The latest data shows current capacity is around 519,000 - although the number of tests actually processed is lower. Meanwhile, Labour is calling for a national plan to roll out the vaccine. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the vaccination programme will probably be the largest logistical operation since World War Two - and called for a plan setting out who will be eligible for a jab and when.
16th Nov 2020 - BBC News

Tempus and Yale Announce Research Collaboration to Accelerate COVID-19 Test Development

Tempus, a leader in artificial intelligence and precision medicine, and the Yale School of Public Health announced a research collaboration to accelerate the development of COVID-19 diagnostic tests in the U.S. This partnership will leverage SalivaDirectTM, a saliva-based laboratory diagnostic test that has been developed by researchers at Yale. Tempus and Yale will further develop SalivaDirectTM to enable home sample collection and to combine COVID-19 and influenza testing of saliva samples. Simple and affordable at-home sample collection is seen as instrumental to providing Americans with more testing options to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Testing for both the novel coronavirus and influenza from the same sample has been described as a key priority to reduce the impact of both diseases during winter months.
16th Nov 2020 - Business Wire

South Korea to tighten social distancing, warns of new COVID-19 crisis

South Korea will impose stricter social distancing rules for the greater Seoul area a month after easing them, officials said on Tuesday, warning of an even bigger crisis if anti-COVID-19 efforts fail to dampen a spike in new cases. Starting Tuesday midnight, tighter curbs will ban public gatherings of 100 people or more, limit religious services and audiences at sporting events to 30% capacity, and require high-risk facilities including clubs and karaoke bars to broaden distance among guests. South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories after tackling the first major COVID-19 epidemic outside China with aggressive tracing and testing, but continues to battle persistent rises in infections. The tougher restrictions came as the daily case tally hovered above 200 for a fourth consecutive day, with a series of cluster outbreaks emerging from offices, medical facilities and small gatherings in Seoul and surrounding regions where around half of the country’s 52 million population live.
16th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

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BioNTech vaccine scientist says jab could halve Covid transmission

The scientist behind the first potential Covid-19 vaccine to clear interim clinical trials says he is “very confident” the jab will reduce transmission of the disease, perhaps by 50%, resulting in a “dramatic” reduction in cases. The German company BioNTech and the US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer announced to worldwide acclaim last week that their jointly developed vaccine candidate appeared to be 90% effective in stopping people from falling ill. Uğur Şahin, the chief executive of BioNTech, said he expected that further analysis would show that the jab is also effective in stopping spread of the disease, but probably not by as much as 90%. Certainty around its impact will not come until next year, he added.
15th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

How Australia brought the coronavirus pandemic under control

Kim Laurie worked as a florist for a quarter of a century before opening her own shop in Melbourne in July, just before the city was engulfed by a second wave of Covid-19 cases. Within weeks, Australia’s second-biggest city was reporting 700 new cases a day and Victoria’s state government imposed a second lockdown. “It was really devastating as I had no choice but to close the doors of the business for several weeks,” said Ms Laurie. Her flower shop is one of thousands of businesses hit hard by home confinement and nightly curfews, which lasted 112-days and have become hallmarks of Australia’s hardline approach to combating the pandemic. Corporate leaders have criticised the measures as too strict and economically damaging. But the zero tolerance strategy worked: no new locally transmitted cases have been reported in Victoria since the lockdown was lifted two weeks ago.
13th Nov 2020 - Financial Times

COVID-19: Two new testing 'mega labs' planned for 2021

Two new "mega labs" to turnaround 600,000 coronavirus tests a day are planned for next year, as Boris Johnson tries to draw a line under losing two key advisers. The prime minister will make a "series of critical announcements", Number 10 said, following the sudden departure of aides Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain. And in a bid to shore up support from "red wall" Tory MPs, he will hold a meeting with the so-called Northern Research Group today to "listen to their ideas" and convey his commitment to "levelling up".
15th Nov 2020 - Sky News

Controversial US data firm Palantir could manage UK’s ailing Test and Trace scheme

US data analysis company Palantir Technologies could be drafted in to manage the UK government’s troubled COVID-19 Test and Trace programme, according to press reports. Palantir has been linked with the project for several weeks and the Financial Times is the latest to suggest that the company could get involved with the troubled project. Palantir was founded in 2003 by a team including paypal co-founder Peter Thiel and the company’s billionaire CEO Alex Karp. Taking its name from the “seeing stones” in The Lord of the Rings, Palantir is known for counter-terrorism work and fraud investigation with agencies of the US federal government.
14th Nov 2020 - pharmaphorum.com

Asia Today: S. Korea begins fining people not wearing masks

South Korea has reported its biggest daily jump in COVID-19 cases in 70 days as the government began fining people who fail to wear masks in public. The 191 new cases Friday represented the sixth consecutive day above 100 and was the highest daily increase since Sept. 4, when authorities reported 198 new infections. More than 120 of the cases were from the Seoul metropolitan area, where the coronavirus has spread in hospitals, nursing homes, churches, schools, restaurants and offices. The continuing spread has alarmed government officials, who have eased social distancing measures to soften the pandemic’s shock on the economy.
13th Nov 2020 - Associated Press

Britain to pilot COVID-19 tests for care home visitors

Visitors to care homes in parts of England will be able to get tested for COVID-19 under a new pilot plan aimed at reducing onerous restrictions in time for Christmas, the health ministry said Saturday. With England under lockdown until December, care home visits can still go ahead in certain circumstances, but official guidance states that screens, windows or “visiting pods” should be used to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. “I know how heart-breaking restricting visits to care homes has been, not only for residents, many of whom will feel disoriented and confused by the situation, but also their loved ones who aren’t able to simply hug each other to support them in this difficult time,” health minister Matt Hancock said.
13th Nov 2020 - The Japan Times

How Do I Clean And Maintain A Reusable COVID-19 Mask? : Goats and Soda

Does putting a reusable mask in the oven for 30 minutes at 165 degrees Fahrenheit kill the virus that causes COVID-19 and other pathogens? If not, how do I clean it? The good news: Yes, baking your cloth or synthetic mask would probably kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Several studies have shown that the virus dies when exposed to 158 degrees Fahrenheit for a length of time somewhere between 2 1/2 minutes and an hour. The bad news: It may also singe your mask.
13th Nov 2020 - NPR

Covid-19: Lockdowns Return and North Dakota Issues Mask Mandate as Records Fall

After months of resisting ordering the people of North Dakota to wear masks and limit the size of gatherings, the state’s Republican governor relented in an effort to stem a coronavirus surge that is among the worst in the U.S. and that threatens to overwhelm the state’s hospitals. Gov. Doug Burgum’s executive order Friday night came as a surprise and only hours before the state recorded new daily records for hospitalizations and infections. Throughout the pandemic, the former software executive had been leaving it to individuals to take personal responsibility for slowing the spread of the virus, beseeching the public during his weekly press briefings to wear masks but emphasizing a “light touch” by government.
13th Nov 2020 - Associated Press

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Pharma companies must open their books on the funding agreements for covid-19 vaccines

Recently, the Financial Times reported that there is an important limitation to pharmaceutical corporation AstraZeneca’s not-for-profit promises on the production of their covid-19 vaccine. With hundreds of other vaccines under development, supported by an exceptional level of public funding, this is a cause for concern. Pharmaceutical corporations must open their books, make all funding and licensing agreements public, and substantiate any no-profit claims with data. We know that pharma does not tend to share this information willingly, so it is time for governments to take charge, demand transparency, and put their commitments to equitable access of covid-19 vaccines into action. As someone working on innovation and access to healthcare issues for Médecins Sans Frontières, an international medical humanitarian organisation, and a person living with cystic fibrosis who is at high risk of severe covid-19, we can see how groundbreaking a safe, effective, and affordable covid-19 vaccine would be in our joint global journey towards normality.
12th Nov 2020 - The BMJ

How China claimed victory over the coronavirus

Millions have been tested in response to recent outbreaks and Chinese infections are well below many other countries. Lockdowns and mass testing are China’s main weapons in the fight against the pandemic
12th Nov 2020 - South China Morning Post

Where COVID lurks: Restaurants and gyms are behind infection surge and where you're most likely to catch virus, while malls, convenience stores and pharmacies are all low-risk, cell phone tracking data suggests

A computer model analyzed 10 cities and looked at where people go during the day, how long they stay and the occupancy. It found most COVID-19 occur at 'superspreader' sites, such as coffee shops, full-service restaurants and gyms Keeping department stores, convenience stores, gas stations and pharmacies open contributed relatively few additional infections. Next, they created trade off charts to determine how limited occupancy could reduce infection risk. In Chicago, reopening at 100% occupancy would lead to nearly 3.5 million cases but a 20% occupancy cap would only lead to about 500,000 new infections. In Los Angeles, full capacity would lead to more than three million new cases but limiting occupancy reduce the number of infections by 75%
10th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

Spanish government to reduce sales tax on face masks from 21% to 4%

Spain will reduce the rate of sales tax on face masks from 21% to 4%, said the government on Wednesday. Finance Minister and government spokesperson María Jesús Montero said in Congress yesterday that the Cabinet will approve a decree next week reducing the value added tax (VAT) on these products, which are mandatory in public spaces for everyone aged six and above. The compulsory use of face masks has been in place for months, as Spain continues to struggle to curb the spread of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, the number of reported single-day fatalities reached 411, a number unseen since the days of the full lockdown in the spring.
12th Nov 2020 - EL PAÍS in English

Spain will require a negative COVID test for residents of high-risk countries starting Nov. 23

Travellers bound for Spain from countries considered high-risk areas for the coronavirus will be asked to provide proof of a negative test to visit the European country, authorities said Wednesday. Starting Nov. 23, travellers to Spain will be required to submit a negative test result from within 72 hours prior to their planned departure. They will be able to do so via the internet, a smartphone application, or with a document before boarding a plane or boat. The proof of being virus-free before traveling will come on top of the temperature checks performed on arriving passengers at Spain’s airports and ports. The measure will apply to countries designated as “high risk.”
12th Nov 2020 - USA Today

COVID-19: Test and Trace still missing four in 10 contacts of those who tested positive

Test and Trace reached 60.4% of contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus in the week ending 4 November, latest figures show. This is slightly up on the previous week's figure of 59.9%, making it one of the lowest rates since the scheme began. Figures also show that 149,253 people tested positive for coronavirus at least once in England in the same week - the highest weekly number since the system was launched in May, and an 8% increase on the previous week.
12th Nov 2020 - Sky News

Covid-19: Government faces legal action over £75m contract for antibody tests

Legal action has been launched over the UK government’s award of a £75m (€84m; $99m) contract for one million antibody tests to a business consortium, alleging that the deal unlawfully bypassed safeguards protecting taxpayers’ money. Judicial review proceedings issued on 11 November by the Good Law Project, a not-for-profit legal organisation, say that the government was actively involved in setting up the UK Rapid Test Consortium and gave it £10m to buy components to manufacture testing kits. The contract to purchase the AbC-19 Rapid Tests was signed without a public tender and without evaluating the accuracy of the tests, the action says. This, the Good Law Project claim argues, raises serious concerns about the maladministration of public funds. A study1 published in The BMJ this week questions the accuracy of the AbC-19 test and suggests that, if used in real life settings, the test would result in a large number of false positive results. These conclusions contrast with an earlier (not yet peer reviewed) study suggesting that the test gave no false positive results.
12th Nov 2020 - BMJ

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Covid-19 face masks with valves don’t work

Wearing a face mask helps stop the spread of coronavirus and keep others safe, unless it has a valve on it. New research has revealed how ineffective these types of masks are. High speed cameras have been used to capture the air flow from an uncovered mouth alongside two different kinds of face mask. As the video above shows, the type of mask with a valve on it still allows a jet of virus-containing air to escape.
11th Nov 2020 - Metro

Covid-19: Liverpool mass-trial sees 23,000 tested with 154 positive

More than 23,000 people have been tested for Covid-19 in Liverpool's mass trial with 154 testing positive. City mayor Joe Anderson said 23,170 people have been tested since midday on Friday with 0.7% testing positive. Those testing positive had no symptoms, testers said. All residents and workers in Liverpool have been offered tests. There are 18 test centres - including Liverpool's Anfield stadium - and Mr Anderson said there had been a "great response" from people. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had urged all the city's 500,000 residents to take part, saying "do it for your friends, for your relatives, for your community" in a bid to drive the disease down".
11th Nov 2020 - BBC News

West Indies cricket squad stripped of training rights due to New Zealand COVID-19 protocol breach

The West Indies cricket squad has been stripped of the right to train while in managed isolation after players were found to have breached rules around their 14-day quarantine. New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said CCTV footage from the team’s Christchurch hotel showed players mingling in hallways and sharing food in violation of managed isolation regulations. The ministry said all incidents occurred within the hotel and there was no danger to the public. The West Indies squad, which has completed 12 of its scheduled 14 days of isolation under COVID-19 regulations, will not be able to train again until its full managed isolation period has been completed. The isolation period might be extended if any further concerns arise, the ministry said. West Indies Cricket chief executive Johnny Grave told New Zealand media it is “hugely disappointing that players that knew the protocol completely broke that.”
11th Nov 2020 - The West Australian

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There may be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year, but 'normality' may not come until end of 2021

A COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be authorized before the end of the year, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to throw away your mask anytime soon. Rolling out a vaccine to everyone who wants one will take months in the U.S., not to mention the rest of the world. And while vaccines are essential tools for fighting a pandemic like COVID-19, they don't fix everything.
10th Nov 2020 - USA TODAY on MSN.com

CDC now says masks protect both the wearers and those around them from Covid-19

Wearing a mask can help protect you, not just those around you, from coronavirus transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance Tuesday. The statement was an update to previous guidance suggesting the main benefit of mask wearing was to help prevent infected people from spreading the virus to others. Cloth masks act as "source control" to block virus particles exhaled by the wearer and provide "filtration for personal protection" by blocking incoming infectious droplets from others, the CDC said in its new guidance.
11th Nov 2020 - CNN

Nearly one in five Covid patients later diagnosed with mental illness – study

Nearly one in five people who have had Covid-19 are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety, depression or insomnia within three months of testing positive for the virus, according to a study that suggests action is needed to mitigate the mental health toll of the pandemic. The analysis – conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre – also found that people with a pre-existing mental health diagnosis were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 than those without, even accounting for known risk factors such as age, sex, race, and underlying physical conditions. “This finding was unexpected and needs investigation. In the meantime, having a psychiatric disorder should be added to the list of risk factors for Covid-19,” said Dr Max Taquet, an NIHR academic clinical fellow and one of the authors of the analysis.
10th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

FEATURE-Trackers to mask detectors: India bets on COVID tech amid privacy fears

From a tracker that can tell where someone sleeps at night to a device detecting whether they have a mask on or not, India's government is betting on hi-tech solutions to fight COVID-19, despite growing privacy concerns.
10th Nov 2020 - Reuters on MSN.com

Unpacking the legal and ethical aspects of South Africa's COVID-19 track and trace app

The most effective way to stop the spread of a virus is to prevent contact with everyone who is infected. Those who are infected can be isolated and treated if necessary. To determine who they are, it’s necessary to actively look for and manage cases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging technologies are being repurposed to help trace whoever has been in contact with an infected person. Some of these technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), wi-fi and Bluetooth, are not new. GPS has been used to find accident victims at precise geographic locations. Some of the uses of wi-fi are oxygen monitoring devices, smart beds, access to electronic medical records and real-time access to X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging scans.
10th Nov 2020 - The Conversation Africa

Nepal to offer free COVID-19 tests and treatment as cases surge

Nepal will provide free COVID-19 tests and treatment for everyone, an aide to the prime minister said on Tuesday, as the total number of infections was set to cross the 200,000 mark. The move follows a Supreme Court order for free treatment last week after the Communist government asked citizens who could afford to pay to do so, limiting free testing and care to only those who couldn’t.
10th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera

Screening the healthy population for covid-19 is of unknown value, but is being introduced nationwide

Subsequently it was reported that the UK government had abandoned plans for Operation Moonshot. Yet, on Tuesday 3 November it was reported that Moonshot Phase 1 has actually begun in Liverpool. According to the City Council’s website “everyone who lives or works in the city” is eligible for regular and repeat testing from 6 November by attending one of 14 army-run test centres over the course of two weeks. [3] The website says this is the beginning of national roll out and “will help to demonstrate that massive asymptomatic testing can identify far more cases and break the transmission of coronavirus.” The army is conducting testing for 11 to 18 year olds in schools, and a letter to parents from one school head advised “if you wish to exclude your child from this test please do so to me in writing by first thing on Monday morning.” Screening for under-11s is not mentioned. Official communication to residents has been through news announcements, appealing to public duty and claiming that the test detects “infectiousness.” Little or no information is provided about the nature and limitations of the test(s) being performed and Public Health England are keeping the results of their studies of the accuracy of the test confidential. No information has been given to participants to explain whether the project is actually research, or how personal data will be held and used. An assumption is made that everyone has a smart phone.
10th Nov 2020 - BMJ

Covid-19: NHS England should manage test and trace system, says Independent SAGE

The Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Independent SAGE) has renewed its call for urgent reform of the government’s covid-19 test and trace system,1 urging that it be replaced by a system overseen by the NHS to avoid future lockdowns. Independent SAGE showed that 1 217 214 contacts have been reached by England’s NHS Test and Trace service since May at an approximate cost of £10 000 (€11 000; $13 000) per head so far, based on the government’s commitment to spend £12bn on a tracking system. Contact tracing in the national service is provided by the private companies Serco and Sitel. Latest figures show that the number of contacts traced has remained stagnant at around 60%. However, Kit Yates of the University of Bath concluded after analysing government data that only 14% of those who provided contacts have been reached and advised to quarantine. “We know that not everyone is isolating, because it’s not practical for people and they’re not being supported effectively,” he said, projecting that only 5-10% of those told to isolate are doing so.
10th Nov 2020 - BMJ

UK to roll out twice-weekly testing for health service staff

Britain will start rolling out twice-a-week COVID-19 tests to all National Health Service (NHS) staff from Tuesday, health minister Matt Hancock said, in order to protect patients and health workers. “(Rapid) tests allow us, from today, to begin rolling out twice-weekly testing for all NHS staff, which will help keep people safe when they go into hospital, and help keep my wonderful colleagues in the NHS safe too,” Hancock told parliament.
10th Nov 2020 - Reuters

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As Covid-19 cases drop, South Korea revises physical distancing guidelines

South Korea has eased its level of physical distancing regulations – even though authorities are concerned that the Covid-19 virus could spread more easily during the coming winter season. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the move was made as the average daily number of new cases has remained below 100 over the past week. It has introduced a revised five-tier scheme, which took effect on Saturday, and is based on the average number of daily infections per week. The new system divides the nation into seven zones and allows provincial governments to decide the level of their own physical distancing regulations in line with the number of new infections in their respective regions.
9th Nov 2020 - New Straits Times

Israel tests passengers from Denmark for new mutated coronavirus

Israel said on Monday it would test people arriving from Denmark for a new mutated strain of coronavirus stemming from Danish mink farms, and ask them to self-isolate. The health ministry issued the statement after unconfirmed reports by N12 News and other media that three Israelis returning from Denmark were suspected of having been infected with the new strain. “The likelihood of a patient carrying the mutation arriving in Israel is low ... At the same time we are exercising extra caution,” the ministry said.
9th Nov 2020 - Reuters

COVID-19: Biden pleads ‘wear a mask’ ahead of ‘very dark winter’

US President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation after meeting with his transition coronavirus advisory board on Monday, calling for unity and simple steps to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Biden said, “Please, I implore you, wear a mask” during the speech in Wilmington, Delaware. He noted masks could save the lives of older people, children and teachers and added: “It could even save your own life.” Biden became the projected winner of the US presidential election on Saturday, after Pennsylvania was called for the former vice president. Biden is currently projected to have 290 Electoral College votes, more than the 270 required for victory, according to The Associated Press news agency. Trump currently sits at 214, with Alaska and North Carolina still not called but favouring the president. Georgia too close to call and the small margin will trigger an automatic recount.
9th Nov 2020 - Al Jazeera English

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Covid-19 mass testing in Liverpool to be extended to secondary school pupils

The mass Covid-19 testing in Liverpool will be extended to secondary school pupils within days, it has now been agreed. Parents of pupils aged 11-18 will be sent letters asking if they are willing to consent to their child receiving a test.
8th Nov 2020 - Liverpool Echo

UK and others look for lessons from Slovakia's Covid mass-testing project

Authorities in Slovakia say they hope a nationwide programme in which two-thirds of the country’s population were tested for Covid-19 in just two days last weekend will halve the number of cases of the virus in the country. The Slovak testing programme has drawn interest from across Europe, as debates continue about whether or not blanket testing is the best way to fight coronavirus. A Downing Street team travelled to Slovakia last weekend to witness the testing, keen to draw lessons before a mass testing programme due to be launched in Liverpool this weekend. Slovak officials said the team included two Downing Street advisers and two people responsible for arranging the UK’s large-scale testing programme in Liverpool.
8th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Coronavirus: How thousands died of Covid-19 they caught in hospitals

During the first wave of the pandemic, patients who went into hospital to be treated for conditions unrelated to Covid were infected and died. Hospital-acquired infections accounted for one in ten Covid deaths. Though the figures relate to all deaths from Covid from March 1 to August 31, experts are calling for action to protect the public as the problem is 'ongoing'
8th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

Queen Elizabeth II wears mask at tribute to Unknown Warrior

Queen Elizabeth II donned a face mask in public for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic when attending a brief ceremony at Westminster Abbey last week to mark the centenary of the burial of the Unknown Warrior. While the 94-year-old monarch has been seen in public on several occasions over the past few months, she had not been pictured wearing a face covering until now. On Wednesday, during her first public engagement in London since March, she wore a black mask that was edged with white. Pictures of the ceremony were officially released late Saturday.
8th Nov 2020 - The Associated Press

Coronavirus: Greece reintroduce SMS authorisation for movement as country enters second lockdown

Residents in Greece will need to obtain permission before leaving their homes as the country's second lockdown comes into force. Similar to measures adopted during the first lockdown, people will be required to send a text message to a five-digit number, providing their name, address and the reason why they need to leave their house. The country's digital governance minister announced the permissible reasons on Thursday.
7th Nov 2020 - Sky News

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Working in an office instead of remotely may double COVID risk: CDC

Employees in office settings may be more likely to become infected with the novel coronavirus if they regularly commute to work rather than work from home, according to a new report. Public health investigators who examined possible exposures to COVID-19 among employed adults found that workers who tested positive for COVID-19 were almost twice as likely to report regularly commuting to work, compared with the employees studied who tested negative, according to research published Thursday as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
5th Nov 2020 - ABC News

Minister blames public for second English lockdown

The second national lockdown in England has been caused in part by a lack of public compliance, the justice secretary has said, adding that it will be a “huge challenge” to get the public to follow the strict rules this time. Robert Buckland suggested the public had failed to adhere to the previous system, leading to the need for the four-week lockdown starting on Thursday in England. “That’s one of the reasons we are having to take the measures we are today,” the cabinet minister told the BBC. “Sadly, it’s been difficult frankly regarding the compliance of some people with regard to the quarantine restrictions. “I think it would be very ambitious of me to suggest that somehow we will be able to use the enforcement authorities to intervene in every case I think sadly that’s not possible.”
5th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Lloyds asks its 1400 branches to help find COVID-19 trial volunteers

Lloydspharmacy is encouraging its teams to help find suitable patients for an Oxford University COVID-19 clinical trial, C+D has learned. Lloydspharmacy teams will be asked to display a poster of the PRINCIPLE COVID-19 trial – run by the University of Oxford – in their pharmacies, and “engage with customers and patients where they can about the project”, a spokesperson told C+D last week (October 29). The multiple will use its network of more than 1,400 pharmacies to raise awareness of the trial – which is evaluating whether the use of two common antibiotics, azithromycin and doxycycline, can help people with COVID-19 symptoms recover at home.
5th Nov 2020 - Chemist+Druggist

Test and trace sinks to 60% of Covid-19 contacts reached in England

A total of 137,180 people in England tested positive for Covid-19 in the week ending 28 October, the highest weekly number of cases since NHS test and trace launched in May. It represents an 8% rise in new positive infections on the previous week, according to Public Health England data. The test-and-trace system also reported having one of its worst weeks in terms of its performance in tracing the close contacts of those infected with Covid-19.
5th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

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Face coverings: what should you look for in a homemade mask?

With face coverings now mandatory in enclosed spaces in the UK, many of us are having to get used to a whole new dress code. And choices are springing up everywhere - fancy a mask with your favourite photo on the front? How about matching your mask to your outfit? But when it comes to protecting others and ourselves, what should we look for in a home-made mask?
28th Oct 2020 - Patient

Coronavirus: Older children and teachers in England must wear face masks at school

All pupils and teachers at secondary schools in England must wear face masks in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, it has been announced. Under updated government guidance issued on Wednesday, staff and students in Year 7 and above have been told to wear face coverings in school communal spaces - outside of classrooms - where social distancing cannot be maintained. Face coverings had already been required for secondary school pupils within areas under Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions in England, with those local restrictions now to be replaced by the national measures.
4th Nov 2020 - Sky News

Delivery timetable of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has slipped, UK official says

The timetable for delivery of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate has slipped and Britain will receive just 4 million doses of the shot this year, the head of the UK’s vaccine procurement programme said on Wednesday. In May, Britain agreed a deal for 100 million doses of the vaccine, developed by Oxford University and licensed to AstraZeneca, with 30 million doses estimated for delivery by September 2020. Oxford’s trial chief said earlier he was optimistic that late-stage trial results of its efficacy could be presented before the end of the year, and that doses of the shot are already being made.
4th Nov 2020 - Reuters

Lockdown will be a letdown if we do not overhaul the test and trace system – it is time for a local approach

The Test and Trace system has repeatedly failed to deliver and a further lockdown will be a letdown unless that changes. Figures for the week ending 14 October show only 15 per cent of people getting results within 24 hours, down by half from the previous week; only 59.6 per cent close contacts of Covid-positive people identified; and of them, only 57.6 per cent reached. This contrasts with 94.8 per cent contacts reached of cases handled by local authority public health teams.
4th Nov 2020 - The Independent on MSN.com

Tory-linked firm involved in testing failure given new £347m Covid contract

The UK government has awarded a new £347m Covid-19 testing contract to Randox, the Tory-linked private healthcare company whose testing kits had to be recalled over the summer because of concerns about contamination. The deal is a six-month extension of an existing contract and was agreed without other companies being invited to bid. It means the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has now approved transfers of nearly half a billion pounds in taxpayer funds to the Northern Ireland-based company since the pandemic began. Disclosed in a filing on a European contracts website, the award has prompted concerns about “cronyism” and calls for an independent inquiry into the £12bn spent so far on attempting to control the pandemic through the test-and-trace system.
4th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

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Covid-19: Liverpool to pilot city-wide coronavirus testing

People in Liverpool will be offered regular Covid-19 tests under the first trial of whole city testing in England. Everyone living or working in the city will be offered tests, whether or not they have symptoms, with follow-up tests every two weeks or so. Some will get new tests giving results within an hour which, if successful, could be rolled out to "millions" by Christmas, the government says. Liverpool has one of the highest rates of coronavirus deaths in England. The latest figures show the city recorded 352 cases per 100,000 in the week up to 30 October. The average area in England had 153. On Monday, the UK recorded 18,950 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and 136 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
3rd Nov 2020 - BBC News

U.S. to Use Covid Testing, Isolation Over Lockdowns: Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Senior Scholar Dr. Amesh Adalja discusses how the 2020 election could impact the U.S. approach to the coronavirus and the importance of having the Centers for Disease lead the public health response to Covid-19. He speaks on "Bloomberg Surveillance." The Bloomberg School of Public Health is supported by Michael R. Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News
3rd Nov 2020 - Bloomberg

Contact Tracers Eye Cluster-Busting to Tackle Covid’s New Surge

As a resurgent coronavirus sweeps across Europe and the U.S., some health experts are calling for a “cluster-busting” approach to contact tracing like the one Japan and other countries in Asia have used with success. Rather than simply tracking down the contacts of an infected person and isolating them, proponents advocate finding out where the individual caught Covid-19 in the first place. That extra step, known as backward tracing, exploits a weak spot of the virus — the tendency for infections to occur in clusters, often at super-spreading events. KJ Seung, a doctor who helps oversee contact-tracing for Massachusetts, said he adapted his approach this summer after watching a seminar with Japanese scientists. Since his team started backward tracing, they’ve uncovered clusters at weddings, funerals, bars and other places where people congregated, generating fresh insights into the spread of the disease.
3rd Nov 2020 - BloombergQuint

Could we push coronavirus cases in Australia back down to zero — and stay there?

It's taken almost five months, millions of people going into lockdown, and a significant amount of sacrifice. But on Sunday, for the first time since June, Australia achieved a day with no locally acquired cases of COVID-19. It's an impressive and — as Victorians will tell you — hard-won achievement. But it was also short-lived: Yesterday New South Wales recorded one new COVID-19 case, and multiple alerts were issued for Western Sydney. Still, with new case numbers at their lowest in months, is it possible for Australia to get back down to zero — and stay there? And even put coronavirus elimination within our sights?
3rd Nov 2020 - ABC News

Covid-19: The country's response to community cases hasn't relaxed, the system is just 'more sophisticated'

The official response to new Covid-19 community cases might appear more relaxed than previous outbreaks. But the lack of intensity is simply a reflection of the strides made to improve the public health system, one expert says. Two new community cases – both workers stationed at the Sudima Hotel isolation facility in Christchurch – have not prompted localised lockdowns, as happened in Auckland after the August cluster emerged. “This is another example of the system working well to protect our border,” Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said at Tuesday’s Covid-19 update.
3rd Nov 2020 - Stuff.co.nz

Lockdown will be a letdown if we do not overhaul the test and trace system – it is time for a local approach

The Test and Trace system has repeatedly failed to deliver and a further lockdown will be a letdown unless that changes. Figures for the week ending 14 October show only 15 per cent of people getting results within 24 hours, down by half from the previous week; only 59.6 per cent close contacts of Covid-positive people identified; and of them, only 57.6 per cent reached. This contrasts with 94.8 per cent contacts reached of cases handled by local authority public health teams.
3rd Nov 2020 - The Independent

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Which? face mask tests reveal huge differences in filtration

Our first independent lab test of reusable face coverings has revealed that some cloth masks are highly effective at blocking particles, but that basic single-layer masks may not be up to the job. We tested 15 reusable fabric face coverings of different designs – including pleated, moulded, stretchy and multi-layer options – to find out how well they filter bacterial particles. We also assessed how breathable and comfortable they were to wear, and if they survive multiple washes and wears without degrading.
30th Oct 2020 - Which?

Liverpool to pioneer UK's first attempt at mass Covid testing

Up to half a million people in Liverpool are set to be tested for Covid-19 under the UK government’s first attempt to embark on city-wide mass testing and track down every case of the virus. The Guardian also understands that the self-isolation period for those who test positive for coronavirus, and their contacts, could be cut from the current 14-day period to seven days as early as this week. It comes after ministers, who announced a new England-wide lockdown from Thursday amid soaring cases, face pressure to improve the beleaguered £12bn test-and-test trace system to control outbreaks and limit the lockdown to four weeks. Under the Liverpool mass testing programme, which begins on Friday and will cover everyone living and working in the city, a variety of test types and the logistical help of the army will be deployed in a pilot to see whether mass population screening is feasible across other regions of England, as proposed in Operation Moonshot.
2nd Nov 2020 - The Guardian

NHS Covid-19 App error left thousands unaware they need to isolate

A reported error with the NHS Covid-19 App has left potentially thousands of people unaware they may have been exposed to coronavirus. The contact-tracing app was set at the wrong sensitivity level, meaning many users were not sent self-isolation alerts after they came into contact with infected people. The error meant users whose “risk score” should have triggered an alert were not notified, The Sunday Times first reported. The app, launched a month ago on 24 September, has been downloaded more than 19 million times. It was updated last week to improve accuracy and notifications which was “expected to increase the number of people asked to self-isolate by the app”. Since its launch “shockingly low” numbers of people had been sent warnings about potential exposure to the virus, a government official told The Sunday Times.
2nd Nov 2020 - Digital Health

Superdrug: COVID-19 antibody test kit relaunched as MHRA compliant

Superdrug has re-launched its at-home COVID-19 antibody testing service – which was withdrawn earlier this year – saying it is “confident” it complies with MHRA guidance. Patients can order the home sampling test kit via the Superdrug online doctor service at a cost of £69, the multiple said last week. The kit – which includes instructions on how to take a finger-prick blood sample at home – is posted to patients, with the capillary blood sample then sent to Superdrug’s United Kingdom Accreditation Service-accredited partner laboratory for analysis.
2nd Nov 2020 - Chemist+Druggist

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Household spread of Covid-19 is common and quick, a new CDC study finds

The spread of Covid-19 among members in a household after one person is infected is "common" and occurs quickly after illness onset, according to a new study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The person exposed or suspected of having Covid-19 should be isolated before getting tested and before test results come back to protect others in the home, said the study, published Friday in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
2nd Nov 2020 - CNN

Half of Slovakia's population tested for coronavirus in one day

Nearly half of Slovakia’s entire population took Covid-19 swabs on Saturday, the first day of a two-day nationwide testing drive the government hopes will help reverse a surge in infections without a hard lockdown. The scheme, a first for a country of Slovakia’s size, is being watched by other nations looking for ways to slow the virus spread and avoid overwhelming their health systems. The defence minister, Jaroslav Naď said on Sunday 2.58 million Slovaks had taken a test on Saturday, and 25,850 or 1% tested positive and had to go into quarantine. The EU country has a population 5.5 million and aims to test as many people as possible, except for children under 10.
1st Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Sewage testing shows a country flush with coronavirus cases

When Rosa Inchausti and her colleagues started testing wastewater in Tempe, Arizona, it was 2018 and they were not looking for coronavirus. They were tracking the opioid epidemic. But because they were set up to sample the city sector by sector, they were able to switch gears and begin sampling sewage for evidence of coronavirus. "We were ready for this," Inchausti told CNN. Now the city is regularly sampling sewers to keep an eye on the pandemic. And things are not looking good in parts of Tempe.
31st Oct 2020 - CNN

Organised 'overkill': China shows off rapid lockdown system after latest outbreak

China’s strict formula of immediate lockdowns and mass testing even at the first signs of infection has been vital to its success in controlling the disease, allowing its economy to quickly recover from the crisis, officials say. The highly orchestrated strategy - described as “overkill” even by its own proponents - is unique among major economies at a time when Europe and the United States are facing a massive surge of new cases and often chaotic policies. At the time the girl was diagnosed, the Kashgar region of Xinjiang had reported no new cases for almost 70 days. “China has taken the most comprehensive, strictest and most thorough control and prevention measures since the COVID-19 pandemic started,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday. “The facts show China’s measures are effective.”
30th Oct 2020 - Reuters

The face mask test: which are the best at limiting the spread of Covid?

Some fabric face coverings on sale in supermarkets and high-street pharmacies could be giving people a false sense of security by letting the vast majority of large particles pass through them, an investigation by the consumer magazine Which? has revealed. Three of the masks the magazine’s researchers tested failed to capture 93% of bacterial particles, meaning that these particles could be inhaled or exhaled by the mask wearer. However, it was found that the best-performing face coverings were as good as surgical masks at blocking bacterial particles, preventing more than 99% of them from penetrating the fabric.
30th Oct 2020 - The Guardian

It may be time to reset expectations on when we'll get a Covid-19 vaccine

The ambitious drive to produce Covid-19 vaccine at warp speed seems to be running up against reality. We all probably need to reset our expectations about how quickly we’re going to be able to be vaccinated. Pauses in clinical trials to investigate potential safety issues, a slower-than-expected rate of infections among participants in at least one of the trials, and signals that an expert panel advising the Food and Drug Administration may not be comfortable recommending use of vaccines on very limited safety and efficacy data appear to be adding up to a slippage in the estimates of when vaccine will be ready to be deployed. Asked Wednesday about when he expects the FDA will greenlight use of the first vaccines, Anthony Fauci moved the administration’s stated goalpost.
31st Oct 2020 - STAT News

Trump rallies may have led 700 coronavirus deaths and 30,000 new infections, report claims

A Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research report released Friday says Donald Trump's rallies may have led to 700 COVID-19 deaths. A study of 18 of Trump's massive rallies held between June 20 to September 22 found the events increased subsequent cases of COVID-19. Researchers say the rallies may have led to 30,000 new virus infections. 'The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death,' the study said. However, the paper has not yet undergone peer review and has not been vetted by experts in public health or epidemiology
1st Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

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The biggest unknowns in a post-pandemic work world

It’s been nearly a year since the novel coronavirus began spreading around the world. While we’ve learned a lot about Covid-19 since January – and how to live and work in lockdown – there’s still much we don’t know about how the pandemic will change our societies. That’s why we’ve rolled out Unknown Questions, our series grappling with these seismic changes by asking leaders and experts across the globe for their input. But today, we’ve turned to you, our readers, for your views on the biggest unknowns about the post-pandemic future.
30th Oct 2020 - BBC News

Merkel heckled by German MPs as she defends second 'soft' Covid lockdown

Angela Merkel said Germans had the chance to show Covid-19 “you have chosen the wrong host” as she defended her government’s second “soft” lockdown, to shouts and heckles in parliament. Citing an interview with the German science writer Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim, which she said reflected her own attitude towards the pandemic, the chancellor said: “If the virus could think, it would think … ‘I’ve got the perfect host here. These people live all over the planet. They are globally networked and are social creatures, they can’t live without social contacts. They have a hedonistic inclination, they like to party, it couldn’t be any better.’”
29th Oct 2020 - The Guardian

Instant Salvation?: The Challenges We Face Once a Coronavirus Vaccine Is Found

Several coronavirus vaccine candidates could soon be approved and German Health Minister Jens Spahn has begun making plans to inoculate millions of people. But the challenges remain immense and the virus will be with us for quite some time to come.
29th Oct 2020 - DER SPIEGEL International Edition

Merck CEO says Covid vaccine won't be a 'silver bullet,' predicts mask use for the 'foreseeable future'

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier told CNBC on Thursday that drugs to treat or prevent Covid-19 aren’t a “silver bullet” solution to the pandemic. People will need to wear masks and practice social distancing measures well into 2021, he predicted. Frazier said “he’s very optimistic that in the near future” there will be positive results coming from late-stage clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics.
29th Oct 2020 - CNBC

Kashgar in lockdown after completion of 4.7 million Covid-19 tests

Neighbourhoods cordoned off, shops closed after 100 infections confirmed in village on outskirts of city. Local woman says situation not as bad as in July, as people have learned to cope the restrictions
29th Oct 2020 - South China Morning Post

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England's contact-tracing system needs better data handling to beat COVID-19

An anxious Jane receives a text message from the NHS confirming she has tested positive for COVID-19. She had called in sick to work that morning, after she first began to experience a dry cough and mild fever. But she’d spent the previous week running around town for work and various errands. Jane quickly picks up a piece of paper and starts retracing her steps as far as back as she can remember. She writes 11 names on the blank corner of an old electricity bill. Seven more quickly followed on a couple of post-it notes. She had phone numbers for ten.
28th Oct 2020 - The Conversation UK

Northeast Drives Record U.S. Testing to Monitor Covid-19 Surge

The Northeast is running America’s biggest Covid-19 surveillance operation as a coronavirus resurgence sweeps the country, sending U.S. testing overall to a record. The seven-day average of U.S. tests rose to 1.2 million Tuesday, part of an upswing that started about a month ago and has continued unabated, according to Covid Tracking Project data. The Northeast states account for 26% of average daily tests, even though they are reporting just 10% of the country’s positives and have 17% of the country’s population. That makes it the top testing region per capita.
28th Oct 2020 - Bloomberg on MSN.com

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COVID-19 risk on planes 'very low' with proper measures, Harvard review says

The risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard a plane is "reduced to very low levels," Harvard researchers concluded. The onboard ventilation systems coupled with measures such as masks, frequent cabin cleaning, and distancing during boarding and deplaning help keep the virus from spreading. "This layered approach reduces the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission onboard aircraft below that of other routine activities during the pandemic, such as grocery shopping or eating out," the report stated. The Aviation Public Health Initiative (APHI), comprised of faculty and scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published its Phase One report Tuesday, analyzing "gate-to-gate travel" onboard planes. It has not been peer-reviewed.
27th Oct 2020 - ABC

Eight in 10 Covid-19 hospital patients are vitamin D deficient, study

Further proof that vitamin D could protect people from coronavirus emerged today after a study found deficiencies in the sunshine nutrient are four times as common among hospitalised patients. A mountain of research from around the world has painted a clear picture — infected patients who do not have enough vitamin D are more likely to end up in hospital.
27th Oct 2020 - Daily Mail

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China’s Kashgar had a covid-19 outbreak. Now all 4.5 million residents are being tested.

Just two days after announcing the discovery of a single asymptomatic case of the novel coronavirus, authorities in China's Kashgar area said they have tested 4.5 million residents, nearly the entire population. By Monday evening, 164 asymptomatic cases had been found in the area. The swift response by health authorities in Kashgar, a trade hub of 4.7 million people in China's far-western Xinjiang region, reflects the heavy pressures on local officials to quash the outbreak, the country's largest since the summer. Central government officials flew there during the weekend to monitor the testing.
26th Oct 2020 - Washington Post

Coronavirus: Test and trace workers report new problems with troubled service

Frontline workers at England’s beleaguered test and trace service have now complained about technical problems over the weekend potentially causing delays to contact tracing thousands of patients who have tested positive for the virus. As the test and trace service battles a surge in daily positive test results, workers reported a system failure on Sunday which led to a problem with cases being put through for clinical assessment and contact tracing. The problem started at around 10am on Sunday and was still being experienced by some staff on Monday. The Independent spoke to contact tracers and also saw messages between workers on Sunday and Monday confirming the lack of cases coming on to the system which is provided by company Sitel.
26th Oct 2020 - The Independent

Can Pre-Flight COVID-19 Testing Get Travelers Back On Planes?

In hopes of jumpstarting a business decimated by the pandemic, airlines and airports are offering pre-flight, on the spot testing for COVID-19, with some test results back in 15 minutes.
26th Oct 2020 - NPR

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Slovaks begin mass testing in virus hotspots as cases surge

Thousands of Slovaks lined up to be tested for the coronavirus in the country’s worst-affected areas on Friday, taking part in a pilot programme that will eventually go nationwide. The government hopes the antigen tests, along with a partial lockdown, can help control a sharp rise in infections. It also offered an incentive to take part, saying those who test negative will be subject to less stringent rules, meaning they can leave home to go to work, take country walks or visit post offices and banks. Those who do not take a test will face a stricter lockdown regime including a ban on commuting to work.
24th Oct 2020 - Reuters UK

Japan researchers show masks block coronavirus, but not perfectly

Japanese researchers have shown that masks can offer protection from airborne coronavirus particles, but even professional-grade coverings can’t eliminate contagion risk entirely. Scientists at the University of Tokyo built a secure chamber with mannequin heads facing each other. One head, fitted with a nebulizer, simulated coughing and expelled actual coronavirus particles. The other mimicked natural breathing, with a collection chamber for viruses coming through the airway. A cotton mask on the receiver head reduced its viral uptake by up to 40% compared with no mask. An N95 mask, used by medical professionals, blocked up to 90%. However, even when the N95 was fitted to the face with tape, some virus particles still managed to get in. When a mask was attached to the coughing head, cotton and surgical masks blocked more than 50% of the virus transmission.
22nd Oct 2020 - The Japan Times

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The false promise of herd immunity for COVID-19

Epidemiologists have repeatedly smacked down such ideas. “Surrendering to the virus” is not a defensible plan, says Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Such an approach would lead to a catastrophic loss of human lives without necessarily speeding up society’s return to normal, he says. “We have never successfully been able to do it before, and it will lead to unacceptable and unnecessary untold human death and suffering.” Despite widespread critique, the idea keeps popping up among politicians and policymakers in numerous countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. US President Donald Trump spoke positively about it in September, using the malapropism “herd mentality”. And even a few scientists have pushed the agenda. In early October, a libertarian think tank and a small group of scientists released a document called the Great Barrington Declaration. In it, they call for a return to normal life for people at lower risk of severe COVID-19, to allow SARS-CoV-2 to spread to a sufficient level to give herd immunity. People at high risk, such as elderly people, it says, could be protected through measures that are largely unspecified. The writers of the declaration received an audience in the White House, and sparked a counter memorandum from another group of scientists in The Lancet, which called the herd-immunity approach a “dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence”3.
22nd Oct 2020 - Nature.com

Why countries are resorting to pandemic lockdowns again

The lockdowns are back. On Thursday, Ireland is set to become the first country in Europe to impose a second national lockdown as cases of the novel coronavirus surge once again. “We’re making a preemptive strike against the virus, acting before it’s too late,” Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said as he announced the measures. Ireland is not alone in moving toward drastic action, although the extent of measures varies. The Czech Republic, only months ago considered a rare pandemic success story, announced similar plans on Wednesday. Britain, France, Germany and Spain have set regional restrictions this month, prompting demands for nationwide action.
22nd Oct 2020 - The Washington Post

A Sustainable Alternative to Blanket Lockdowns

As cities around the world—including Auckland, Jakarta, Melbourne and Tel Aviv—have entered seemingly endless cycles of lockdowns and viral resurgences, there is a pressing need to reassess this lockdown strategy given the economic, social and psychological damage it wreaks. Blanket lockdowns may be effective, but they are blunt and brutal tools. As this pandemic wears on, possibly for months or even years to come, we need a sustainable alternative that involves more targeted measures that are evidence-based and data-driven.
22nd Oct 2020 - Scientific American

UK PM Johnson says COVID trace scheme needs improvement after new low

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday England’s test and trace scheme needed improvement after a record low proportion of contacts of positive COVID-19 cases were reached in the latest weekly figures. Just 59.6% of contacts of positive COVID cases were reached between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14, statistics for England’s Test and Trace scheme showed - compared with the 80% target - with turnaround times for people receiving their results also getting slower. “I share people’s frustrations and I understand totally why we do need to see faster turnaround times and we do need to improve it,” Johnson said at a news conference.
22nd Oct 2020 - Reuters UK

Huawei phones to get their own version of NHS Covid-19 app

The NHS Covid-19 app has been submitted to Huawei's app store. The move will initially mean that users of Huawei's older handsets will be able to download it from the firm's App Gallery as an alternative to the Google Play store. But it potentially paves the way for the contact-tracing software to come to the Chinese firm's newer handsets too. Huawei indicated that this might happen as soon as November. But others have stressed there are hurdles to overcome. The app - which is designed for use in England and Wales - has already been downloaded more than 18 million times from Apple and Google's own stores. All of Huawei's existing phones are powered by Android.
22nd Oct 2020 - BBC News

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Friendly skies: App would help travellers comply with COVID tests

A public-interest foundation is testing a smartphone app that could make it easier for international airline passengers to securely show they have complied with COVID-19 testing requirements. It is an attempt to help get people back to flying after the pandemic sent global air travel down by 92 percent. The Switzerland-based Commons Project Foundation was conducting a test Wednesday of its CommonPass digital health pass on United Airlines Flight 15 from London’s Heathrow to Newark Liberty International Airport, using volunteers carrying the app on their smartphones. Officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Customs and Border Protection were observing the test.
21st Oct 2020 - Al Jazeera English

CDC updates its guidelines for close Covid-19 contact after prison guard gets infected

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its definition of a close contact with a Covid-19 patient to include multiple, brief exposures, after a Vermont prison worker appears to have been infected that way, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday. The new definition includes exposures adding up to a total of 15 minutes spent six feet or closer to an infected person. Previously, the CDC defined a close contact as 15 minutes of continuous exposure to an infected individual. The agency changed the definition after a report from Vermont of a corrections officer who became infected after several brief interactions with coronavirus-positive inmates -- none of them lasting 15 minutes, but adding up over time.
21st Oct 2020 - CNN

Coronavirus survives on skin five times longer than flu, Japan study finds

The coronavirus remains active on human skin for nine hours, Japanese researchers have found, in a discovery they said showed the need for frequent hand washing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The pathogen that causes the flu survives on human skin for about 1.8 hours by comparison, said the study published this month in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal. “The nine-hour survival of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus strain that causes COVID-19) on human skin may increase the risk of contact transmission in comparison with IAV (influenza A virus), thus accelerating the pandemic,” it said. The research team tested skin collected from autopsy specimens, about one day after death. Both the coronavirus and the flu virus are inactivated within 15 seconds by applying ethanol, which is used in hand sanitizers
18th Oct 2020 - The Japan Times

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Rapid one-hour Covid-19 tests launch for travellers to Italy and Hong Kong from Heathrow Airport

Passengers flying from Heathrow to Italy or Hong Kong will now be able to get a Covid-19 test at the airport and receive their results within an hour. The private test costs £80 and is aimed at helping people travelling to destinations where proof of a negative result is required on arrival. A growing number of countries worldwide are adding the UK to their list of high-risk coronavirus countries, meaning travellers face more restrictions.
20th Oct 2020 - ITV

Italian government enlists top influencers to promote COVID masks

Top Italian influencer Chiara Ferragni and her rapper husband Fedez have urged their fans to wear face masks, heeding a call from Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to raise awareness about battling COVID-19. Ferragni, 33, and Fedez, 31, are especially popular amongst teenagers and interrupted their usual flow of Instagram glamour to stress the importance of masks in curbing infections.
20th Oct 2020 - Reuters UK

Coronavirus: 'India must cut pollution to avoid Covid disaster'

India's dreaded pollution season has returned as air quality in the capital Delhi and other northern cities rapidly deteriorated in the last two weeks. This is bad news for India's fight against coronavirus because several studies around the world have linked air pollution to higher Covid-19 case numbers and deaths. A Harvard University study shows that an increase of only one microgram per cubic metre in PM 2.5 - dangerous tiny pollutants in the air - is associated with an 8% increase in the Covid-19 death rate. Another study by scientists at the UK's University of Cambridge also found a link between the severity of Covid-19 infection and long-term exposure to air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides and ground-level ozone from car exhaust fumes or burning of fossil fuels.
20th Oct 2020 - BBC News

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Covid-19: First UK airport coronavirus testing begins

The test will cost £80 and a result can take a mere 20 minutes. The aim is to help people travelling to destinations where proof of a negative result is required on arrival. A growing number of countries have classified the UK as being "at risk", meaning travellers from the UK face more restrictions. The authorities in Hong Kong now require people to show they have a negative test result, taken within 72 hours of a flight from London. The rapid saliva swab, which is now available at Heathrow Terminals 2 and 5, is known as a Lamp (Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification) test.
20th Oct 2020 - BBC News

What can we learn from nations that got it right? Victoria Allen analyses UK's Covid testing farce

Why has Test and Trace fallen apart in England while other countries have managed to make the system work? The principle is simple – test people with symptoms, trace their contacts and ask them to self-isolate – but the execution has varied dramatically. England has lagged behind countries such as South Korea, which rapidly grasped the importance of testing people and tracking their contacts. And where Germany invested in local contact tracers, the English system relied on poorly performing call centres.
19th Oct 2020 - Daily Mail

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Covid-19: Most vulnerable 'could get vaccine by Christmas'

A Covid vaccine could be given to some of the most vulnerable people "this side of Christmas", according to the chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce. But limited supplies would mean the government would have to decide who should get it, and when. Kate Bingham also said a vaccine will not be "a silver bullet" that would allow life to get back to normal overnight. And she warned that it was unlikely to protect everyone from infection. Ms Bingham said she was optimistic that a vaccine would be found that would "protect some people from infection and can reduce the severity of symptoms". But she said it was "very unlikely" to be a single jab and that ongoing revaccination would be needed - probably every few years.
18th Oct 2020 - BBC News

Coronavirus: Restrictions on private events, no gatherings in public of more than 15 people; masks mandatory in more areas and working from home recommended

At an extraordinary meeting on 18 October, the Federal Council introduced several further national measures to combat the rapid rise in coronavirus infections. From Monday, 19 October spontaneous gatherings of more than 15 persons are not permitted in public. A mask must be worn in publicly accessible indoor areas, including in all railway stations and airports, and at bus and tram stops. Moreover, there are now new rules for private events of more than 15 persons, and in restaurants, bars and clubs food and drink may only be consumed sitting down. Following consultations with the cantons, the Federal Council has adapted the Special Situation COVID-19 Ordinance accordingly. This now also includes a recommendation to work from home.
18th Oct 2020 - Swiss Government

Coronavirus test results must come in 24 hours, says Sage scientist

A massive expansion of testing will still leave Britain struggling to keep Covid-19 infections under control unless the system can inform people they are positive within 24 hours, one of the government’s most senior scientific advisers has warned. Ministers have insisted that they are on course to hit a target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of the month, with suggestions this weekend that capability of a million tests a day could be reached by Christmas. However, Graham Medley, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and chair of its subcommittee on modelling, said that returning test results “ideally within 24 hours” was as critical as capacity in a successful test-and-trace system. He said if necessary, capacity should be curbed in favour of speed
18th Oct 2020 - The Guardian

Germany’s ‘bottom-up’ testing keeps Covid-19 at bay

“It is much more expensive to test too little, than to test too much”. That is the mantra Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, has repeated for months as the country mobilised a vast network of private and public laboratories to quadruple its early Covid-19 testing capacity to almost 1.6m tests per week. Such early interventions helped the EU’s most populous state tame the coronavirus pandemic more successfully than most of its neighbours. Germany’s 361,000 infections represent just a fraction of the 4.5m in Europe so far, significantly lower than the 936,000 cases in Spain and the 708,000 cases in the UK, both of which have much smaller populations.
18th Oct 2020 - The Financial Times

Is tracking down every super spreader the REAL key to beating Covid-19? An approach that pinpoints the start of an outbreak may be twice as effective - as evidence shows just ...

As an average, R number masks differences in individuals and how virus behaves Studies suggest about one in five who catch Covid-19 gives it to someone else Scientists say 'super-spreaders' may be behind 80 per cent of all new infections If true, current tactic used by NHS Test and Trace is at best a waste of resources
18th Oct 2020 - Daily Mail

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Coronavirus: How China is testing 9,000,000 people in five days

China is currently in the process of testing an entire city of 9 million people for coronavirus in five days. The country, which appears to have largely brought the virus under control, is mass testing in Qingdao after 12 new cases broke out there linked to a hospital treating patients from abroad. Six had symptoms and six did not. As of today more than 4.2 million tests have been carried out in the northern port city, with no new cases of Covid-19 found among the almost 2 million sets of results received so far. China has adopted an impressive mass testing process which has been seen nowhere else in the world.
14th Oct 2020 - Metro.co.uk

COVID-19 lockdowns averted tens of thousands of premature deaths related to air pollution

Lockdowns initiated to curb the spread of the coronavirus in China and Europe at the beginning of the pandemic improved air quality, averting tens of thousands of deaths in regions where air pollution has a significant impact on mortality, a new study shows. According to research published in The Lancet Planetary Health, scientists at the University of Notre Dame found that particulate matter concentrations in China dropped by an unprecedented 29.7 percent, and by 17.1 percent in parts of Europe, during lockdowns that took place between Feb. 1 and March 31 in China and Feb. 21 to May 17 in Europe. Particulate matter (PM2.5)—tiny airborne particles smaller than 1/10,000 of an inch in diameter—comes from various combustion-related sources including industrial emissions, transportation, wildfires and chemical reactions of pollutants in the atmosphere.
14th Oct 2020 - Phys.org

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More masks, less play: Europe tightens rules as virus surges

Governments across Europe are ratcheting up restrictions to try to beat back a resurgence of the coronavirus that has sent new confirmed infections on the continent to their highest weekly level since the start of the pandemic. The World Health Organization said Tuesday there were more than 700,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in Europe last week, a jump of 34% from the previous week. Britain, France, Russia and Spain accounted for more than half of the new infections. The increasing caseload is partly the result of more testing, but the U.N. health agency noted that deaths were also up 16% last week from the week before. Doctors are warning that while many of the new cases are in younger people, who tend to have milder symptoms, the virus could again start spreading widely among older people, resulting in more serious illnesses.
14th Oct 2020 - The Associated Press

A 'circuit breaker' in England will work only if test and trace is urgently reformed

In July, it all looked possible. England’s 12-week lockdown had reduced the number of positive cases. We could have continued to crush the R value, and built the infrastructure capable of snuffing out local outbreaks. But instead the government chose privatised call centres over community contact tracers. Our testing system, divorced from primary care, was too slow to identify cases. Those who did test positive were often uncertain about what should happen next. And in the absence of financial support, many households did not comply with isolation.
14th Oct 2020 - The Guardian

Countries turn to rapid antigen tests to contain second wave of COVID-19

Countries struggling to contain a second wave of COVID-19 are turning to faster, cheaper, but less accurate tests to avoid delays and shortages that have hampered efforts to quickly diagnose and trace those infected.Germany, where infections jumped by 4,122 on Tuesday to a total of 329,453 cases, has gotten nine million so-called antigen tests a month that can give a result in minutes and cost around $ 7.75 each. This would, in theory, cover more than 10% of the population. The United States and Canada also buy millions of tests, as does Italy, whose recent tender for five million tests attracted bids from 35 companies. Switzerland, where new cases of COVID-19 are at record levels, is considering adding the tests to its national screening strategy. The German Robert Koch Institute (RKI) now recommends antigen testing to supplement existing molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which have become the standard for the assessment of active infections, but which have also suffered from shortages because the pandemic has overwhelmed laboratories and exceeded the production capacity of manufacturers.
14th Oct 2020 - France24

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Covid-19: training dogs to sniff out the virus

What does a disease smell like? Humans might not have the answer, but if they could talk, dogs might be able to tell us. Able to sniff out a range of cancers and even malaria, canines’ extraordinary noses are now being put to the test on Covid-19. Nicola Davis hears from Prof Dominique Grandjean about exactly how you train dogs to smell a virus, and how this detection technique could be used in managing the spread of Covid-19
13th Oct 2020 - The Guardian

Covid-19: Are we still listening to the science?

Cases of Covid-19 are increasing across England and the number of people in hospital is now higher than before the full lockdown. It is at this critical moment that the gulf between the official scientific advice and the political decisions made by government has been laid bare. Documents released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) reveal a call to action three weeks ago. Prof Calum Semple, who was at the Sage meeting on 21 September, said the three-tier system had come too late and he believes that a short national lockdown could be needed within weeks. Sage is also damning of the government's supposedly world-beating test-and-trace system.
13th Oct 2020 - BBC News

Italy tells citizens they must wear a mask if a friend visits your home

Italy has introduced stricter lockdown measures which will see people required to wear facemasks when other people visit them in their own homes. The country has seen a large spike in cases in recent weeks which led prime minister Giuseppe Conte to reintroduce several of the social distancing rules which were eased over the summer months. The new legislation will affect gatherings, restaurants, sports and school activities and will take effect within 24 hours, remaining valid for 30 days. Parties in restaurants, clubs or in the open air are banned and the government has strongly recommended that people do not hold parties in their homes or host more than six guests at any time.
13th Oct 2020 - YAHOO!

South Korea mandates mask-wearing to fight Covid-19 as face coverings remain controversial in the US

South Korea is mandating the wearing of masks at all crowded facilities, on public transport and at demonstrations, even as the country eases up on coronavirus restrictions as the number of local infections shrinks. Anyone who violates the new face-mask policy, which kicks in next month, faces a fine of 100,000 won, or around $87, and facilities which fail to follow preventative measures could face closure, health authorities said Monday. The East Asian nation is only the latest in the region to introduce a mask mandate, a sign of how vital face coverings have been found to be in controlling infections and preventing future outbreaks. In many cases, such as in Hong Kong, such orders are largely inconsequential, as almost everyone has been wearing a mask for months now, without being told to by the government, something which has been credited for keeping cases low.
13th Oct 2020 - CNN

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Covid-19: China's Qingdao to test nine million in five days

The Chinese city of Qingdao is testing its entire population of nine million people for Covid-19 over a period of five days. The mass testing comes after the discovery of a dozen cases linked to a hospital treating coronavirus patients arriving from abroad. In May, China tested the entire city of Wuhan - home to 11 million people and the epicentre of the global pandemic. The country has largely brought the virus under control. That is in stark contrast to other parts of the world, where there are still high case numbers and lockdown restrictions of varying severity.
12th Oct 2020 - BBC News

Failures at Austrian ski resort ‘helped speed up spread' of Covid-19 in Europe

An independent commission has found that Austrian national and local authorities made “momentous miscalculations” by first hesitating and then rushing to evacuate an Alpine ski resort that has been described as the “ground zero” of the coronavirus first wave in Europe. Ischgl, a town of 1,600 inhabitants in the Tirolean Paznaun valley and one of Europe’s premium skiing destinations, has been in the spotlight since the middle of March, after thousands of tourists, including at least 180 Britons, caught the virus there during the spring holidays and carried it back to their home countries.
12th Oct 2020 - The Guardian

Covid-19 forecasting app for colleges launched

A new app that forecasts the spread of Covid-19 in colleges has been launched. Developed by the University of Exeter in collaboration with colleges, the free online tool is said to analyse individual college data according to various inputs such as class-based bubbles, larger year group bubbles and attendance on different days. It also allows the user to input community infection rates as well as information about how they are running their college to forecast how many people may need to self-isolate and other steps they can take to minimise disruption.
12th Oct 2020 - FE Week

Herd immunity as coronavirus solution ‘simply unethical’: WHO

The head of the World Health Organization warned against the idea that herd immunity might be a realistic strategy to stop the coronavirus pandemic, dismissing such proposals as “simply unethical.” At a media briefing on Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said health officials typically aim to achieve herd immunity by vaccination. Tedros noted that to obtain herd immunity from a highly infectious disease such as measles, for example, about 95% of the population must be immunized.
12th Oct 2020 - Global News

Resistance to lockdown rules is not just ‘fatigue’

The use of the term “pandemic fatigue” in the World Health Organization report is misleading (While Sturgeon takes decisive action on Covid, Johnson just blusters, 8 October). The report is concerned with the increase in non-compliance with regulations designed to counter Covid-19. It lists many putative reasons for non-compliance, including reduced trust in authorities, decreases in perceptions of risk, increased complacency and changes in values (eg, an increased emphasis on libertarianism). This matters because different reasons for non-compliance must be countered with different policies: increased libertarianism requires government information to emphasise our interdependence, increased complacency requires incentives to abide by regulations, errors in risk perception require better risk communication. Referring to every one of these very different phenomena as fatigue implies that the same policy is appropriate for dealing with them all.
11th Oct 2020 - The Guardian

Novel coronavirus can last 28 days on glass, currency, Australian study finds

The virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on banknotes, glass and stainless steel for up to 28 days, much longer than the flu virus, Australian researchers said on Monday, highlighting the need for frequent cleaning and handwashing. Findings from the study by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, appear to show that in a very controlled environment the virus remained infectious for longer than other studies have found. CSIRO researchers found that at 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), the SARS-CoV-2 virus remained infectious for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as plastic banknotes and the glass found on mobile phone screens. The study was published in Virology Journal.
12th Oct 2020 - Reuters UK

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Better air during China’s mass lockdowns may have reduced hospital visits

Lower levels of harmful PM2.5 particles could have resulted in an estimated 5,000 fewer hospital admissions from late January to February, study finds. Researchers also estimate there were 60,000 fewer respiratory illnesses like asthma attacks in the period
9th Oct 2020 - South China Morning Post

Coronavirus in Africa: Five reasons why Covid-19 has been less deadly than elsewhere

Many African countries have been praised for waging an effective campaign to combat the spread of coronavirus despite their reputation for having fragile state heath systems. The continent, which has a population of more than one billion, has had about 1.5 million cases, according to data compiled by the John Hopkins University. These figures are far lower than those in Europe, Asia or the Americas, with reported cases continuing to decline. Africa has recorded about 37,000 deaths, compared with roughly 580,000 in the Americas, 230,000 in Europe, and 205,000 in Asia.
9th Oct 2020 - BBC News

Coronavirus can survive for a MONTH on surfaces including banknotes and mobile phone screens

CSIRO, Australia's science agency, found that Covid can survive up to 28 days. Research found that the virus survived better in colder temperatures. Results could improve risk mitigation procedures to prevent the disease spread
11th Oct 2020 - Daily Mail

Spain brings military discipline to COVID-19 contact tracing

Various European countries have used their armies for logistical support in tackling COVID-19, but hard-hit Spain is now bringing military discipline to a process that health experts say is key in stemming the spread of the pandemic: contact tracing. At five army bases in Madrid, 150 volunteer soldiers spend their days calling people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, mapping recent social interactions, and asking those potentially infected to stay at home. “We try to impress upon them the idea that their help is vital to bringing an end to the chaos we are living through this year as soon as possible,” Lt. Hector Sanchez said at the Goloso military base on the outskirts of Madrid, where he is in charge of 30 tracers.
9th Oct 2020 - Reuters UK

How effective ‘traffic-light’ systems have been in managing the coronavirus outbreak in other countries

The coronavirus pandemic has reached a second wave, as infection rates continue to ramp up all over Europe. In England, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is one of the leading figures to criticise the Government’s approach to local lockdowns informed by its “traffic light system” – placing the majority of the north and midlands under a raft of fresh lockdown restrictions. While the system has been met with contempt by some local leaders, it is not just the UK who have employed a traffic light-style guide to provide the public with clear messaging on the social distancing measures in place in different areas. Similar systems have been employed in France, the Canadian province of Quebec, New Zealand and Spain to name a few countries, although with varied effect.
9th Oct 2020 - iNews

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Italy Makes Masks Mandatory Outside, Imposes COVID Test For UK Arrivals

Italy has imposed stricter coronavirus regulations today as cases in the country are on the rise. It is now mandatory to wear masks in outdoor spaces across the whole of Italy, and visitors arriving from countries including the UK will have to provide a negative COVID-19 test result. With 3,678 coronavirus cases confirmed in the last 24 hours, Italy’s new cases have passed the 3,000 mark for the first time since April 24. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has brought in tougher measures in a bid to avoid another economy-crippling lockdown for Italy.
8th Oct 2020 - Forbes

Japan's response to first coronavirus wave late but had good results, report says

Japan’s virus countermeasures spanning January to July — during which time the country saw its first major wave of COVID-19 — were “belated but produced good results,” according to a report published Wednesday by the Asia Pacific Initiative, a Tokyo-based global think tank founded in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Insufficient disaster preparedness, disjointed messaging from public officials, a stubborn resistance to raising testing capacity as well as political friction between national and municipal leaders seemed to expose the shortcomings of the “Japan Model.” And yet, using only voluntary countermeasures and “soft lockdowns” that bore no punitive measures, the country did “the best it could with what it had,” the report said.
8th Oct 2020 - The Japan Times

The real lessons from Sweden’s approach to covid-19

The great thing about using a small country to support your argument is that your opponents are unlikely to know what is really going on there. Perhaps that is why Sweden, with 10.3m people, has become a much-cited example in the debate about how to deal with covid-19. Liberty-loving Swedes are supposedly pursuing a mask-free, lockdown-light strategy that will create herd immunity without bankrupting the economy. Sweden’s success, it is said, is a standing rebuke to the left-wing killjoys who love bossing folk around and shutting everything down.
10th Oct 2020 - The Economist

New Zealand’s ‘go hard, go early’ strategy seems to have worked.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is facing re-election, called the country’s reopening a validation of its “go hard, go early” response.
7th Oct 2020 - New York Times

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Covid-19: Group of UK and US experts argues for “focused protection” instead of lockdowns

Thousands of medical practitioners and public health scientists have signed a declaration arguing for an alternative public health approach to dealing with covid-19. The Great Barrington Declaration,1 published on Monday 5 October, was drawn up by three epidemiologists and public health experts from Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford universities, who describe their approach as “focused protection” of the people most at risk. As of Wednesday 7 October almost 6300 medical practitioners and public health scientists from the US, the UK, and other nations had signed the declaration. The authors—Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard, Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford, and Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine and economics at Stanford—said that because older people were 1000 times more likely to die of covid-19 than younger people, an “age stratified” approach could allow resources to be focused on older and high risk patients, while allowing younger and healthier people to attend school and keep businesses open.
7th Oct 2020 - The BMJ

Boris Johnson flatly rejects letting Covid-19 sweep through UK while protecting vulnerable

Boris Johnson today flatly rejected the idea of letting Covid-19 sweep through Britain while protecting the vulnerable. Downing Street made clear that such a policy, advocated by a group of academics, scientists and medics, could lead to young people infecting older generations who are at greater risk of being killed by coronavirus. No10 said the idea, being promoted under the banner of the Great Barrington Declaration, was based on an “unproven assumption” that it was possible to stop the virus being passed between generations to more vulnerable people.
7th Oct 2020 - Evening Standard

Coronavirus: Why public transport could be safer than we thought

The risk of coronavirus spreading on public transport has remained substantially low through the pandemic, several international studies have shown. Safety measures imposed on public transport around the world since COVID-19 hit have made them "the safest places on earth", Dr Julian Tang, a professor of respiratory sciences at Leicester University, told Sky News. He said if people took the same precautions in other high-risk areas such as crowded streets and pubs, the number of cases would reduce there.
7th Oct 2020 - Sky News

Italy expected to make mask-wearing compulsory OUTDOORS

Italy is considering making the use of masks outdoors mandatory nationwide to fight the coronavirus. Infections in Italy - the first European country to be hit by the virus - have risen steadily over the past two months. The regions of Lazio, around Rome, and Campania, around Naples, have already made mask wearing mandatory outside. And authorities are 'working on a proposal' to make it a compulsary rule nation-wide, Health Minister Roberto Speranza told the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday.
7th Oct 2020 - Daily Mail

Covid-19 community spread of ‘significant concern’ for nursing homes

The rise in coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes is of “significant concern” and correlates with rising infection rates in the community, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) has warned. NHI Chief Executive Tadgh Daly said there is growing concern among nursing home operators over the recent rise in new Covid-19 outbreaks following weeks where the number was tapering off. At the end of August, there were 38 active outbreaks in nursing homes but this number fell to 26 by the end of September. By October 3, the number of active outbreaks in nursing homes had increased to 31, as highlighted by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) when it recommended moving to Level 5 restrictions.
7th Oct 2020 - Irish Examiner

Genetic tracing could show how coronavirus spread through White House

There’s a way for the White House to prove exactly how the outbreak traveled among its ranks: through gene-based contact tracing. But it doesn’t appear interested in doing so — even as the circle of President Trump's associates infected with the virus expands by the hour.The Trump administration could, if it chose, search samples taken from dozens of White House staff members and visitors for tiny genetic variants. Because the virus undergoes slight changes as it moves from person to person, it’s possible to map where it has moved by looking for similarities in mutations. White House spokesman Judd Deere said tracing has been done for people who had contact with Trump. But it’s the kind recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which involves merely tracking people who were nearby those known to be infected.
7th Oct 2020 - Washington Post

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How do pandemics end?

We are in the grip of a pandemic like none other in living memory. While people are pinning their hopes on a vaccine to wipe it out, the fact is most of the infections faced by our ancestors are still with us.
4th Oct 2020 - BBC News

Coronavirus: How to tell which countries are coping best with Covid

As the Covid crisis has unfolded, infection rates have fluctuated and restrictions have proliferated. But it has always felt that there was one idea to cling to: that by working out which countries were doing well - and which were not - there was something to be learned. After all, historians will surely puzzle over how the countries of Western Europe, with broadly similar economies, produced such drastically different outcomes. So far, at least. We use international comparisons all the time, of course - they're a way of measuring how our own governments are doing. But even comparing the simplest data can be complex. There can be differences in how and when death is reported, how co-morbidities are reflected on death certificates, and for how long after a positive test a death is considered to be Covid-related. All will influence how a country's performance at any given moment is measured.
6th Oct 2020 - BBC News

Coronavirus vaccine may be ready by end of 2020, WHO says: ‘There is hope’

A vaccine against Covid-19 may be ready by the end of 2020, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. “There is hope,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a meeting of WHO executives gathered to examine the global response to the pandemic. “We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine.” There are currently nine experimental vaccines in the pipeline of the WHO-led Covax global vaccine facility, which aims to distribute two billion doses by the end of 2021.
6th Oct 2020 - The Independent

'Raging epidemic is not inevitable' — Dr. Scott Gottlieb believes China case count and rips U.S. response

Dr. Scott Gottlieb expressed disappointment with the state of the U.S. coronavirus epidemic. “The entire Pacific Rim has less than 1,000 infections a day. Having a raging epidemic is not inevitable,” the former FDA chief told CNBC. Gottlieb doesn’t believe China is lying about its much fewer case counts. “The entire Pacific Rim isn’t in on the conspiracy.”
6th Oct 2020 - CNBC

Coronavirus can survive for up to NINE HOURS on human skin, study finds

Researchers mixed samples of the coronavirus and influenza A virus with human skin samples obtained from autopsies 24 hours prior. The flu virus survived for less than two hours on skin while the coronavirus lived for up to nine hours. Both viruses were completely inactivated within 15 seconds by hand sanitizer containing 80% alcohol. The team says the findings show how the coronavirus has a higher risk of contact transmission than the flu and the importance of hand-washing
5th Oct 2020 - Daily Mail

Coronavirus cases in Arizona declined by 75% during the summer after mask mandate, CDC report finds

In Arizona, coronavirus cases remained stable from early March to mid-May while stay-at-home orders were in effect and businesses were closed. After the stay-at-home order was lifted, cases rose by 151% from around 800 per day to more than 2,000 daily. On June 17, Gov Doug Ducey updated guidelines and allowed counties to implement mask policies. Cases briefly increased before declining by 75% from 3,506 cases per day on July 13 to 867 cases daily on August 7
6th Oct 2020 - Daily Mail

Trump could face a relapse, Dr. Fauci warns, as president opts to downplay nation's coronavirus threat despite massive death toll

President Donald Trump rolled out of Walter Reed hospital confidently urging the nation not to fear the coronavirus despite experts warning the U.S. death toll, at more than 210,000, could almost double by year's end. Experts also warn that the commander-in-chief himself may not have seen the worst of the virus just yet. "I am very worried that people will take this to mean that 'If he can beat COVID I can beat COVID,'" said Narasimhan, senior vice president for critical care services at Northwell Health. "I don’t think that we can take any real lessons (from Trump's illness) except that he did get sick. Pretending this is not real disease will not help."
6th Oct 2020 - USA Today

Trump Covid post deleted by Facebook and hidden by Twitter

Facebook has deleted a post in which President Trump had claimed Covid-19 was "less lethal" than the flu. Mr Trump is at the White House after three days of hospital treatment having tested positive for the virus. He wrote the US had "learned to live with" flu season, "just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!" Twitter hid the same message behind a warning about "spreading misleading and potentially harmful information". Users have to click past the alert to read the tweet. "We remove incorrect information about the severity of Covid-19, and have now removed this post," said Andy Stone, policy communications manager at Facebook.
6th Oct 2020 - BBC News

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'Major questions unanswered' about effectiveness of NHS Covid-19 App

There are “major questions unanswered” about the effectiveness of the NHS Covid-19 App, a charity has said. The app was officially launched in England and Wales on 24 September, after months of setbacks and multiple trials. But the Health Foundation has raised concerns about the lack of published evidence from the app’s pilots, which it says could put public trust at risk.
5th Oct 2020 - Digital Health

India's new paper Covid-19 test could be a ‘game changer’

A team of scientists in India has developed an inexpensive paper-based test for coronavirus that could give fast results similar to a pregnancy test. The test, named after a famous Indian fictional detective, is based on a gene-editing technology called Crispr. Scientists estimate that the kit - called Feluda - would return results in under an hour and cost 500 rupees (about $6.75; £5.25). Feluda will be made by a leading Indian conglomerate, Tata, and could be the world's first paper-based Covid-19 test available in the market.
5th Oct 2020 - BBC News

Did early focus on hand washing and not masks aid spread of Covid-19?

From the moment coronavirus reached UK shores, public health advice stressed the importance of washing hands and deep-cleaning surfaces to reduce the risk of becoming infected. The advice was informed by mountains of research into the transmission of other respiratory viruses: it was the best scientists could do with such a new pathogen. But as the pandemic spread and data rolled in, some scientists began to question whether the focus on hand hygiene was as crucial as it seemed. Contaminated surfaces, such as doorknobs and light switches – “fomites”, to use the scientific terminology – may not be such a big deal, they claimed.
5th Oct 2020 - The Guardian

French minister: colleagues who didn’t download Covid app being ‘very French’

France’s technology minister has blamed the poor take-up of the country’s Covid-19 contact alert app on “timing and culture” and says colleagues in government who failed to download it were being “very French”. Cédric O, the minister for digital transition, said that using the app, StopCovid, was essential if the French wanted to avoid further restrictions. Paris and several other cities have been put on red “maximum alert” after a rise in the spread of the virus in recent days.
5th Oct 2020 - The Guardian

Australia's Victoria state to boost testing on path to easing restrictions

Australia’s coronavirus hotspot of Victoria will look into ways to increase testing for the disease to control its spread in anticipation of easing of the state’s stringent lockdown restrictions, officials said on Monday. New daily coronavirus infections in Victoria, Australia’s second most-populous state, fell to nine cases on Monday, down from 12 in the previous days. No deaths were reported.
5th Oct 2020 - Reuters UK

In full: GP letter warns Hancock against new Covid lockdown

In England, a group of GPs has written to Matt Hancock, warning him against a new lockdown: "As a group of expert medical generalists, we urgently wish you to consider non-Covid harms and deaths with equal standing as the reported deaths from Covid. Restrictions and lockdown have recognised value in pandemic control and we fully supported the first lockdown when little was known about the virus. The position now is transformationally different: after the short, initial lockdown phase, the harms to long term health and wellbeing begin to outweigh the benefits. Now is a critical pivotal point: we must recognise our duty to do no harm. We are concerned due to mounting data and real-world experience, that the one-track response threatens more lives and livelihoods than Covid-lives saved."
5th Oct 2020 - Pulse

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Study reveals the most likely indicator of a Covid-19 infection

Four out of five people with sudden loss of smell or taste tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, new research has suggested. The findings suggest an acute loss of smell or taste is a highly reliable virus indicator, scientists say. They add that loss of smell or taste should now be considered globally as a criterion for self-isolation, testing and contact tracing. Researchers at UCL and UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) assessed health data from primary care centres in London.
2nd Oct 2020 - Metro

Numbers show lockdowns are a 'no brainer'. Letting people die isn't

COVID-19 has killed 890 people in Australia, 802 of whom were over 70, 669 of whom were in government-supported aged care. Estimates vary on how many would have died had we not locked down. “It’s easier to estimate the negative effects of lockdown, because we don’t see [the positive effects],” says Flinders University health economist Professor Jonathan Karnon. Australians’ mental health has worsened and the number of children in hospital with anorexia has dramatically increased. But the number of suicides in Victoria has remained steady. How much of the mental health toll can be slated to lockdowns, versus the general anxiety of a once-in-a-generation pandemic? The virus does seem to pose long-term health risks to even the young and healthy, but we won’t truly know what those are for years. The same is true for lockdown's long-term damage to children’s education and the job prospects of university graduates looking for jobs amid a recession.
3rd Oct 2020 - Sydney Morning Herald

Kids And Superspreaders Are Driving COVID-19 Cases In India, Huge Study Finds

In the largest study ever of transmission patterns for COVID-19, researchers in India tested more than a half-million contacts of 85,000 cases to examine how and to whom the coronavirus is spreading. The first interesting finding: Children are spreading the virus amongst themselves and also to adults. Second: The greatest risk for infection among the people studied in the two southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is a long bus or train ride.
2nd Oct 2020 - NPR

Covid-19: Test and trace app incompatibility angers cross-border residents

People living near England's border with Scotland say they are angry that Covid-19 test and trace apps for the two nations are incompatible. Users living in one nation and travelling to the other can only use one app at a time. Barrister Brian Payne, who commutes to Newcastle from the Scottish Borders, called it a "significant failing". The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was working on "a technical solution".
2nd Oct 2020 - BBC News

Face masks become mandatory in Rome as coronavirus cases rise

Face masks will have to be worn at all times out of doors in the Italian capital Rome and the surrounding Lazio region, local authorities ruled on Friday in an effort to counter rising coronavirus infections. Italy on Thursday registered more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time since the end of April. Lazio accounted for some 265 of those cases and has been increasingly concerned by the growing contagion. A number of other Italian regions, including Campania centred on Naples, have already made mask wearing obligatory outdoors.
2nd Oct 2020 - Reuters India

Trump's White House event in focus over Covid spread

With Donald Trump now in hospital, there are growing questions about how he and his wife were exposed to coronavirus. A crowded Rose Garden event is coming under intense focus - last week's ceremony where Mr Trump formally announced his nomination of the conservative Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. City council member Brooke Pinto told the Washington Post it was "disappointing that the White House has flaunted not wearing masks and gathering large crowds".
4th Oct 2020 - BBC News

UK tourists can visit just six countries without restrictions

With a second lockdown feeling imminent, if you are desperate for an overseas holiday a last-minute break could be your best bet. Yet, with Turkey and Poland being added to the UK’s quarantine list this week, our choices of where we can go (and not quarantine at either end) are quickly diminishing. Just six countries remain which UK visitors can enter without restrictions: Sweden, Italy, Greece, San Marino, Gibraltar and Germany (although the latter has restrictions for passengers from Wales and Northern Ireland).
2nd Oct 2020 - Evening Standard

Coronavirus vaccine head: Less than half of the UK population could get vaccinated

Less than half of the UK population could be vaccinated against the coronavirus, the head of the country's vaccine taskforce has said. Kate Bingham said officials hope to give the vaccine to around 30 million adults - less than half of the country's population of 67 million. The head of the immunisation programme told the Financial Times: "People keep talking about 'time to vaccinate the whole population' but that is misguided. "There is going to be no vaccination of people under 18. "It's an adult-only vaccine for people over 50 focusing on health workers and care home workers and the vulnerable."
4th Oct 2020 - Sky News

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Trump Tests Positive for the Coronavirus

The president’s result came after he spent months playing down the severity of the outbreak that has killed more than 207,000 in the United States and hours after insisting that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.
2nd Oct 2020 - New York Times

Smoking and obesity increase risk of severe COVID-19 and sepsis

Researchers have identified genetic evidence to support a causal link between smoking and obesity and an increased risk of severe COVID-19 and sepsis. The study, led by an international team of scientists from the UK, Norway and the USA, found that both smoking and having a higher body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity) can increase the risk of severe outcomes with COVID-19.
1st Oct 2020 - Imperial College London

Coronavirus: Some users of NHS tracing app incorrectly given COVID-19 exposure alerts

Some users of the new NHS contact-tracing app have received notifications saying they'd been near someone with coronavirus, only to discover the alerts were system checks sent by Google and Apple. People who downloaded the COVID-19 app in England and Wales told Sky News they had received a notification which said: "Someone you were near reported having COVID-19." Yet, when they clicked on the message, they found no information explaining whether they should self-isolate.
1st Oct 2020 - Sky News

Rethinking Covid-19 Test Sensitivity — A Strategy for Containment

It’s time to change how we think about the sensitivity of testing for Covid-19. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the scientific community are currently almost exclusively focused on test sensitivity, a measure of how well an individual assay can detect viral protein or RNA molecules. Critically, this measure neglects the context of how the test is being used. Yet when it comes to the broad screening the United States so desperately needs, context is fundamental. The key question is not how well molecules can be detected in a single sample but how effectively infections can be detected in a population by the repeated use of a given test as part of an overall testing strategy — the sensitivity of the testing regimen.
1st Oct 2020 - nejm.org

Coronavirus: How Italy has fought back from virus disaster

Through the window of the car in front, there's a short, sharp cry from the toddler - eased with a quick lollipop or a colourful picture: a distraction aid once the swab is finished. And then the next in a long line of vehicles pulls up as Rome's "Baby drive-in" continues apace. The test serves children from newborn to the age of six. A result comes within 30 minutes. If it's negative, they can return to day-care or school, even if there's a positive case in their class.
1st Oct 2020 - BBC News

Why People Have Had Enough of Lockdowns

France, the U.K. and Spain face a triple threat: A jump in cases, a population exhausted by lockdown-induced recession, and rising resistance to tougher measures. Curfews and closures of restaurants and bars have seen business owners literally throw their keys to the ground in present-day Marseille. In Madrid, protesters have bristled at a targeted local lockdown they view as discriminatory. It’s not just conspiracy theorists on the streets in London and Berlin who are angry. Those protesting shouldn’t be dismissed as the selfish exceptions to the rule. Beyond the vocal minority, there are signs that the silent majority is also losing faith in increasingly bureaucratic strictures. Policymakers need to restore it.
1st Oct 2020 - Bloomberg

32% of people would not take Covid-19 vaccine - poll

Almost a third of people in Ireland (32%) would not take the first publicly available EU approved Covid-19 vaccine, according to a new national poll commissioned by RTÉ. The survey examined how people across the country have adapted since the start of the coronavirus crisis. It asked people aged 12 and over about their outlook in areas such as mental and physical health, the economy, finances, family and going back to work and school.
1st Oct 2020 - RTE.ie

Coronavirus updates: Cornell study calls Donald Trump biggest source of misinformation; Moderna vaccine won't come before spring 2021

Despite President Donald Trump repeatedly assuring the nation that a coronavirus vaccine would be approved before Election Day, a key vaccine developer said Thursday its product won't be released to the public until March 2021 at the earliest. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci rebutted some of the president's claims during Tuesday's debate with former vice president Joe Biden, telling ABC News his views on masks were "taken out of context." A new study out of Cornell found that Trump is the "single largest" transmitter of misinformation surrounding COVID-19, touting false "miracle cures" and giving credence to dubious claims about the origins of the virus. "Saturday Night Live," which is set to come back this week, may be in some hot water with the state of New York. The show's producers announced that it would welcome a live audience for the recording despite regulations prohibiting most live audiences. A spokesman for the state's health department said "that restriction has not changed."
1st Oct 2020 - USA TODAY

In crowded Gaza, public embraces mask-wearing to fight COVID-19

The coronavirus may have been slow to reach the sealed-off Gaza Strip, but Palestinians in the densely populated enclave have been quick to embrace mask-wearing to try to contain its spread. Five weeks into an outbreak of COVID-19 among the general population in the territory, restaurants, many shops, schools, mosques and other public facilities remain closed, and a night-time curfew is in effect. It is rare to see anyone without a mask outdoors, with the coronavirus death toll at 20 and nearly 3,000 cases reported since infections spread beyond border quarantine facilities on Aug. 24. Citing security concerns, Israel and Egypt maintain tight restrictions along the frontier with Gaza, where two million people live under the rule of the Islamist Hamas group.
1st Oct 2020 - Reuters UK

Covid-19 vaccine alone won't defeat spread of virus, report warns

A successful vaccine for Covid-19 will not conquer the spread of the virus alone, with restrictions on daily life likely to continue for some time, a team of experts have said. Hundreds of teams of researchers around the world are working to produce a vaccine against the coronavirus, with 11 currently in phase three human trials. The UK government has reserved access to six potential vaccines and has raised hopes that a vaccine could be on the cards by spring next year. A report from a multidisciplinary group convened by the Royal Society, called Delve (Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics), says there are serious challenges to producing a vaccine, including hurdles in manufacturing and storage, questions around how well vaccines will work, and problems with public trust.
1st Oct 2020 - The Guardian

Russia is spreading lies about Covid vaccines, says UK military chief

Russia is seeking to destabilise countries around the world by sowing disinformation about coronavirus vaccines that is shared rapidly across social media, the head of the armed forces has warned. Gen Sir Nick Carter, the chief of defence staff, said the propaganda tactic reflected a strategy of “political warfare” aggressively undertaken by Beijing as well as Moscow “designed to undermine cohesion” across the west. The senior general accused “autocratic rivals” of “manipulating the information environment” to exploit the Covid-19 crisis for strategic gain – including “pro-Russian vaccine politics” – in a speech at the Policy Exchange thinktank. Their “disinformation narratives” were designed to permeate anti-vaccination social media groups, Carter added, pointing to an example uncovered earlier this summer by Australian researchers that spread rapidly from Ukraine. In July, a fake press release was posted to websites of the pro-Russian self-declared state in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. It falsely claimed that the US had conducted vaccine trials on Ukrainian volunteers, some of whom had died.
1st Oct 2020 - The Guardian

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Coronavirus: Coordinated global lockdown could cut COVID-19 cases by 90 percent - study

Stopping future waves of COVID-19 might require coordinated lockdowns across the globe, rather than letting each country do its own thing, epidemiologists say. The pandemic started in China, but quickly made its way across the world - first devastating Europe before the epicentre moved to New York and the US, followed by a surge in South America. Presently India is recording the majority of new cases. New Zealand is believed to have eliminated community transmission of the virus earlier this year after implementing one of the world's toughest lockdowns, enjoying a brief return to near-total freedom between June and August. But with the pandemic still raging elsewhere it came back, just a week after Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said a resurgence was "inevitable".
30th Sep 2020 - Newshub

Largest COVID-19 study highlights role of super-spreaders

In the bleak ranking of worst COVID-19 outbreaks, the United States, with 7.2 million infections, is likely to be eclipsed only by India, which has 1 million fewer cases but is catching up fast. Yet parts of India have led the world in one aspect of the pandemic response: contact tracing — the labor-intensive, time-sensitive, painstaking work of identifying people who were exposed to a known infected person. Extensive contact tracing in two southern Indian states offers the strongest evidence yet that a few super-spreading individuals are responsible for a disproportionate share of new coronavirus infections, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science. It also suggests that children are more efficient transmitters of the virus than widely believed.
1st Oct 2020 - Los Angeles Times

COVID-19: How to make indoor spaces safer

Ventilation is the introduction of fresh air into an indoor space while the stale air is pushed outside. Whether at home or in public buildings, such as schools and offices, ventilation can be improved by simply opening windows and doors whenever possible. Luca Fontana, a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) specialist consultant at the WHO, told Al Jazeera ventilation is “one part of the big package of infection prevention and control measures” along with physical distancing, hand hygiene and face masks.
1st Oct 2020 - Al Jazeera English

Ten million people have downloaded the NHS Covid-19 app

People in England and Wales have responded hugely to calls for them to download the NHS Covid-19 app, with over 10 million people downloading it so far, 6 million of whom did so on its first day - September 24, 2020. The app plays a significant part in the NHS Test and Trace service in England and the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme, identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus. By midday on September 27, there had been over 10 million downloads across compatible Google and Apple devices in England and Wales.
1st Oct 2020 - National Health Executive

Largest COVID-19 contact tracing study to date finds children key to spread, evidence of superspreaders

A study of more than a half-million people in India who were exposed to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 suggests that the virus’ continued spread is driven by only a small percentage of those who become infected.
30th Sep 2020 - Princeton University

Police urged to use Covid-19 app on personal phones amid guideline confusion

Police officers have been encouraged to use the coronavirus contact tracing app on their personal smartphones while working if they wish to, amid confusion about guidelines concerning the technology. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) had initially asked officers to hold off downloading the app on both personal and work devices pending a technical assessment. A spokesman for the body denied any suggestion of “security issues” or a policy reversal, saying such checks are standard procedure for any new software used on work-issued smartphones.
30th Sep 2020 - London Evening Standard

Germany looks to tackle coronavirus rise with 3 simple strategies

Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to avoid another full national lockdown. Coronavirus infections are rising in Germany, as elsewhere in Europe. Although, so far it has not seen a surge in cases like France, Spain and the U.K.
30th Sep 2020 - CNBC

Coronavirus infection rate rising but scope for more, Indian survey shows

Coronavirus infection rates among adults in India have risen sharply, a survey showed on Tuesday, although a large percentage of the population has not yet been exposed, suggesting there is scope for cases to rise much further. In the serological survey conducted in August and September, blood samples were tested for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. If a person tests positive for the antibodies, it means they were infected with the virus at some point. Blood samples collected from more than 29,000 adults between Aug. 17 and Sept. 22 showed that the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies increased to 7.1% compared to 0.73% in a previous survey between May 11 and June 4, the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Balram Bhargava, told a press briefing.
30th Sep 2020 - Reuters

NIH to assess and expand COVID-19 testing for underserved communities

The National Institutes of Health has awarded nearly $234 million to improve COVID-19 testing for underserved and vulnerable populations. A part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, the RADx Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program will support 32 institutions across the United States and will focus on populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic. These groups include African Americans, American Indians/Alaskan Natives, Latinos/Latinas, Native Hawaiians, older adults, pregnant women and those who are homeless or incarcerated. “It is critical that all Americans have access to rapid, accurate diagnostics for COVID-19, especially underserved and vulnerable populations who are bearing the brunt of this disease,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “The RADx-UP program will help us better understand and alleviate the barriers to testing for those most vulnerable and reduce the burden of this disease.”
30th Sep 2020 - National Institutes of Health

Covid-19: Universities roll out pooled testing of students in bid to keep campuses open

Some UK universities are introducing covid-19 screening programmes using pooled testing to help prevent outbreaks and allow campuses to stay open. The University of Cambridge and the University of Nottingham are both using pooled testing, which involves mixing several samples together and then testing the pooled sample. If the result comes back positive the people in the group then need to be tested individually. This approach increases the number of people who can be tested using the same amount of resources—saving time, supplies, and money. However, some experts have raised concerns over whether the costs, benefits, and harms of such programmes have been evaluated, and they have called for advice from the UK National Screening Committee. In July, Stanford Health Care in the US began using a pooling method for covid-19 (in groups of four to eight), which had previously been used to screen blood donations for the presence of HIV or hepatitis. The group has said that the method is not being used for all samples, as it works best in populations where most samples are expected to be negative. Pooled testing has also been used in countries including Uruguay and Rwanda, to allow screening of teachers and healthcare workers and to overcome infrastructure and financial issues
30th Sep 2020 - The BMJ

How we need to change global supply chains after COVID-19

COVID-19 blindsided us. Doctors, nurses and other frontline medical workers were forced to wear garbage bags for lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Grocery store shelves were left barren around the world while surplus elsewhere led to 3.7 million gallons of milk and 750,000 eggs being dumped and destroyed per day, according to the Dairy Farmers of America. Seemingly overnight, the pandemic plunged nearly every industry into crisis. Goods production stalled. Supply chains were crippled. The virus was fast-spreading and unforeseen; there was only so much even the best logistics experts in the world could do. As a global society, we must learn from this moment. It’s urgent that we do, as many top health experts predict that this virus could likely reemerge in varying waves across different geographies for the foreseeable future. As HP’s Chief Commercial Officer, I recognize that the perfect, fully pandemic-proof supply chain will never exist. Every business, including those in the tech industry, have had to contend with the disruption wrought by this pandemic, but I do believe that we can make our current models better.
30th Sep 2020 - World Economic Forum

The only local lockdown that worked? How Luton cut the number of Covid cases and escaped further restrictions

In July, when lockdown measures were being gradually eased in the rest of the country, Luton was one of a handful of areas to have the relaxation stalled. With cases rising at a concerning rate, the town, along with Blackburn with Darwen, was listed as an “area of intervention” and the planned reopening of leisure facilities was temporarily cancelled. By the end of the month, cases in Luton were controlled enough for the area to be brought back in line with the rest of the country. Blackburn, on the other hand, was put into local lockdown – where it has remained.
30th Sep 2020 - iNews

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EU tries to avoid lockdowns as global death toll reaches 1m

The global death toll from the novel coronavirus, which first emerged in China late last year and has swept across the world, reached the one million mark on Monday (28 September) . The United States has the highest death toll with over 200,000 fatalities, followed by Brazil, India, Mexico and the UK - while Spain, France and Italy are also among the deadliest countries for Covid-19. However, the chief of emergencies at the World Health Organization, Michael Ryan, said last Friday that the global coronavirus death toll could hit two million - even with an effective vaccine in place. "Are we prepared collectively to do what it takes to avoid that number?" he said, calling on governments to do everything to halt the surge of Covid-19 infections worldwide. "Unless we do it all, the number [two million deaths] is not only imaginable but unfortunately and sadly, very likely," he added.
29th Sep 2020 - EUobserver

WTO should play role in COVID-19 medicine access: candidate

A key contender to head the World Trade Organization told Reuters on Tuesday she thinks the body should play a role in helping poorer countries access COVID-19 drugs and vaccines, and this topic should be part of negotiations if she wins. Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, seen by delegates as a top candidate to lead the WTO, currently chairs the GAVI vaccine alliance board and stressed her credentials among five remaining candidates “at the intersection between public health and trade”. “Trade can contribute to public health - seeing that connection, invoking those (WTO) rules, actively discussing COVID-19 issues and how WTO can help,” the former finance minister and World Bank managing-director said. “For me, that would be a priority.”
29th Sep 2020 - Reuters UK

New York City to impose mask fines as COVID-19 cases climb

New York City will impose fines on people who refuse to wear a face-covering as the rate of positive tests for the novel coronavirus climbed above 3 percent for the first time in months, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said. Officials will first offer free masks to those caught not wearing one. If the person refuses, they will face an unspecified fine, de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday.
29th Sep 2020 - Al Jazeera English

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 29th Sep 2020

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COVID 19: The strained relationship between science and politics

In the scientific world researchers tread a slow and methodical path in the search for truth. But for some politicians, the rush to deliver quick and easy answers to the complex challenges of the COVID-19 crisis is creating new challenges of its own.
28th Sep 2020 - Deutsche Welle

WHO COVID Debrief on kids going back to school

Is it safe to send your children back to school? WHO’s Dr Abdi Mahamud explains. The role of children in transmitting the disease is not yet fully understood and scientists are working to understand more, says WHO’s Dr Abdi Mahamud in this episode of the WHO COVID Debrief. To date, few outbreaks have been reported in children in schools. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 190 countries have closed their schools, affecting some 1.6 billion students as per data released by UNESCO after surveying 94 percent of the world’s students.
28th Sep 2020 - Al Jazeera English

In Brazil's Amazon a COVID-19 resurgence dashes herd immunity hopes

The largest city in Brazil’s Amazon has closed bars and river beaches to contain a fresh surge of coronavirus cases, a trend that may dash theories that Manaus was one of the world’s first places to reach collective, or herd, immunity. When a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, its spread becomes unlikely. University of Sao Paulo researchers suggested that a drastic fall in COVID-19 deaths in Manaus pointed to collective immunity at work, but they also believe that antibodies to the disease after infection may not last more than a few months.
28th Sep 2020 - Reuters

Pubs and restaurants 'responsible for just 3.2% of Covid-19 outbreaks' in week 10pm curfew was announced

Pubs, bars and restaurants were responsible for just 3.2 per cent of confirmed coronavirus outbreaks in the week the Prime Minister introduced a 10pm curfew, new data suggests. Public Health England publishes a weekly update of data on how coronavirus and respiratory infections are spreading around the country. According to the latest figures that were published on Friday, a total of 772 respiratory infections were reported in the week leading up to September 20, and 69 per cent of these were linked to Covid-19 infections.
28th Sep 2020 - Evening Standard

Plastic face shields 'are not effective in stopping COVID-19 spread'

Plastic face shields now commonly worn by hairdressers, barbers and beauty salon workers are not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, researchers have said. Technology in Japan involving the world’s fastest supercomputer found that nearly 100% airborne tiny droplets escaped through the plastic. The technology used in the research is called Fugaku and it can perform more than 415 quadrillion computations a second. It has also found that non-woven fabric face masks are the most effective at trapping airborne droplets of the virus.
28th Sep 2020 - Diabetes.co.uk

Pandemic disrupting your child’s sleep? These scientists-backed tips help little ones nod off

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted all of our lives to some degree as families cope with isolation, job fears and in some tragic cases the death of loved ones. While young children may not fully understand the outbreak, months off school combined with anxious parents will undoubtedly have left many feeling unsettled. If this has affected their sleep, scientists from the University of Florida in Gainesville have put together their expert tips to help little ones nod off.
28th Sep 2020 - Yahoo Lifestyle UK

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 28th Sep 2020

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People could suffer impact of having Covid for years, professor warns | ITV News

A specialist in infectious diseases has warned that people could suffer from the impact of having coronavirus for years, with many experiencing prolonged symptoms. Professor Sam McConkey, associate professor and head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), said some patients continue to have “significant dysfunction” of the lungs, heart or brain up to three or six months later. Those recovering from Covid-19 have reported feeling faster heart rates than usual, others suffer panic attacks, while some say they cannot walk as far and some have reported having “brain fog” and difficulty concentrating.
27th Sep 2020 - ITV News

One in five will refuse Covid vaccine when it becomes available

A fifth of people in the UK say they are unlikely to get a coronavirus vaccine if one is approved, a study highlighting “concerning” levels of misinformation has found. Three-quarters (78%) of 17,500 adults surveyed by University College London (UCL) researchers said they would be “likely” to get vaccinated, with 49% saying they were “very likely” to do so. But 22% said this was unlikely, and one in 10 said this was “very unlikely”, with factors including worries about unforeseen effects, preferences for natural immunity, concerns about commercial profiteering, and mistrust of vaccine benefits.
26th Sep 2020 - Wales Online

COVID-vaccine results are on the way — and scientists' concerns are growing

Two weeks ago, the UK trial of a leading vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca restarted after a six-day pause to investigate safety concerns. Halted trials of the same vaccine in South Africa and Brazil have also since resumed, but the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet given the green light for US studies to start again. The trial’s sponsors have so far released few details about what caused the pause, and why the trial was allowed to resume. Some scientists say this lack of transparency could erode public trust in the vaccine.
26th Sep 2020 - Nature.com

Test Results From NHS Or Government Labs Can't Be Linked With Covid-19 App, Official Admits

Tens of thousands of test results delivered each day by NHS or Public Health England (PHE) labs can’t be linked with the official Covid-19 app, officials have admitted. An issue with the long-awaited technology – which arrived on Thursday months later than hoped – means that Pillar 1 test results, which are provided by the NHS and PHE, cannot be connected to the app. On Friday, 210,375 tests were taken – 61,481 of which were handled by PHE and the NHS.
26th Sep 2020 - Huffington Post UK on MSN.com

NHS Covid-19 app refuses to let users enter negative test results and insists they STAY in 14-day quarantine in flaw that has affected 60,000 people in 24 hours

App tells users to self-isolate if they alert it to any coronavirus-like symptoms But if they fail to book a test through the app they then cannot enter the results This means they are unable to turn off a warning advising them to self-isolate The Department of Health said that they had now fixed the problem
26th Sep 2020 - Daily Mail

Covid-19: Fewer than 0.1% fined for no masks on trains

Fewer than 0.1% of people stopped by police for not wearing masks on trains received a fine, figures have revealed. British Transport Police (BTP) said it stopped 14,726 people from 15 July to 15 August for failing to comply, resulting in 14 fixed penalty notices. The rules, introduced in June, state anyone travelling on public transport must wear a face covering. BTP said enforcement in the form of fixed penalty notices was only used as a "last resort". It said, from 30 July to 8 September, officers recorded 50,729 "interventions" with passengers not wearing face coverings, with 3,545 - 7% - of those told to leave the train.
26th Sep 2020 - BBC News

England’s coronavirus tracing app positive test result function fixed but problems continue

An issue preventing users of the NHS Covid-19 app in England logging a positive test result has now been resolved. However, people who book a test outside the app still cannot log negative results. Concerns were expressed when it emerged people tested in NHS hospitals or Public Health England (PHE) labs or those taking part in the Office for National Statistics infection survey could not enter their results on the newly-launched app.
26th Sep 2020 - Evening Standard

Coronavirus: More than 1,000 New Yorkers test positive in a day for first time since June

More than 1,000 New Yorkers have tested positive for Covid-19 in a single day on Friday. It was the first time since 5 June that the state has reported a daily case number that high. Positive cases in the state have been rising steadily over the last few weeks, according to ABC7. The rise may be attributed to the reopening of businesses and schools. The state was seeing an average of approximately 660 people test positive each day. The state reported it had averaged 817 positive tests per day in the seven-day period that ended Friday
26th Sep 2020 - The Independent

Coronavirus: Children behind rising demand for tests in England

Demand for coronavirus tests has almost trebled among young children in England this month - but only 1% were found to have the virus, figures show. In the first two weeks of September, more than 200,000 under-nines were tested, according to government's test-and-trace programme. That is nearly three times as many as in the previous fortnight. A large study review has also confirmed that children are less likely to be infected than adults. But the role that children and adolescents play in transmitting the virus "remains unclear", it said.
26th Sep 2020 - BBC News

Japan's remote workforce packs on a few pounds amid pandemic

Who could have known there are tangible, physical benefits to commuting to an office for work every day? Back in the first weeks of the state of emergency, working from home may have initially seemed like a dream come true. However, recent reports on websites such as My Navi and Suits Women suggest that sitting in front of a computer surrounded by all the comforts of home more than likely didn’t help workers’ waistlines, with women putting on an average of 2.6 kilograms in April and May and men an average of 3.3 kilograms. This might not sound excessive but, as people have continued to work from home during summer, shedding the extra weight seems to be proving a little more difficult.
26th Sep 2020 - The Japan Times

178,000 people given the all-clear in mass test sparked by asymptomatic workers

Two men at Qingdao port test positive for Covid-19 after working night shift unpacking frozen food - Two ships put on temporary blacklist after coronavirus found on goods they were carrying
25th Sep 2020 - South China Morning Post

Coronavirus: London placed on Covid-19 watch-list as cases rise

London has been added to the government's Covid-19 watch-list following a rise in cases in the city, officials have said. All boroughs have been classed as areas of concern, but no additional restrictions have been announced. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the city was at "a worrying tipping point" with hospital admissions increasing. Councils in the city have urged residents to abide by current restrictions. The watch-list, published each week, categorises local councils seeing a higher infection rate as "areas of concern", "areas of enhanced support" or "areas of intervention". Tighter restrictions are usually introduced for areas in the third category.
25th Sep 2020 - BBC News

Coronavirus: NHS tracing app problem that left tens of thousands of tests unlogged has been fixed, government says

A problem that prevented tens of thousands of people from logging the result of their coronavirus tests on the new NHS contact-tracing app has been fixed, according to a Department of Health spokesman. In a statement, they said: "Everyone who receives a positive test result can log their result on the app. "A minority of people, such as hospital patients, who were unable to log their positive result can now request a code when contacted by NHS Test and Trace to input on their app." It came after the app's developers admitted it had not been able to link more than 60,000 coronavirus tests carried out in England on Friday - just under a third of the total - to its systems
25th Sep 2020 - Sky News

NHS Covid-19: App app issue fixed for people who test positive

The government has fixed a problem with its new NHS coronavirus app in England and Wales which meant many positive test results were not being logged. Users were unable to record a positive test result, if they had booked a test elsewhere and not via the app. But the Department of Health said everyone who tests positive can now log it, however they booked the test. However, people who test negative are still unable to share their result if they did not book it via the app.
25th Sep 2020 - BBC News

UK will see 100 coronavirus deaths per day within three or four weeks claims SAGE expert

Professor Graham Medley from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, SAGE, said the high death toll was "inevitable" if the infection rate rises to 10,000 new infections per day. The 100 deaths per day is based upon a fatality rate from coronavirus remaining at 1 percent. This death rate is disputed as the World Health Organisation suggests fatalities from coronavirus is estimated at 0.5 percent.
25th Sep 2020 - Daily Express

Coronavirus mutation emerges that may outmaneuver mask-wearing and hand-washing

New preliminary research suggests a dominant strain of coronavirus may be more contagious than others. A virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) who reviewed the study said the findings suggest the virus may have become more contagious and could possibly be responding to health measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing. Other experts questioned the study, saying they have yet to identify a mutation that would change how infectious or deadly the virus is.
24th Sep 2020 - The Hill

When Will We See a Covid-19 Vaccine for Kids?

The pandemic has many parents asking two burning questions. First, when can I get a vaccine? And second, when can my kids get it? It may come as a surprise that the answers are not the same. Adults may be able to get a vaccine by next summer. But their kids will have to wait longer. Perhaps a lot longer. Thanks to the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed and other programs, a number of Covid-19 vaccines for adults are already in advanced clinical trials. But no trials have yet begun in the United States to determine whether these vaccines are safe and effective for children.
21st Sep 2020 - The New York Times

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 25th Sep 2020

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Coronavirus UK: Traffic-light system being considered for lockdowns

Ministers have reportedly approved the plan which would see local authority areas ranked red, orange or green – depending on the severity of the pandemic locally. The system would work in tandem with the new NHS app and users would receive automatic alerts on their phone when further restrictions are coming in. The meaning of each category is still being discussed. But it’s thought if a place is marked green then no further restrictions would be needed, beyond the rules that already apply to the whole country.
24th Sep 2020 - Metro.co.uk

GPs raise concerns about patients paying privately for 'extortionate' Covid-19 tests

GPs have raised concerns about anxious patients paying ‘extortionate’ prices for private coronavirus tests after being unable to access the government Test and Trace system. Online pharmacies and private GPs are among those charging between £140 and £250 to carry out an antigen test for Covid-19. It comes after Pulse reported that GPs were being inundated by patients unable to get a test as as NHS Test and Trace continued to struggle to meet demand. Those paying for tests include parents whose children have been sent home from school or nursery but who cannot get a test through the Government online booking system and need to get back to work.
24th Sep 2020 - Pulse

As 21 states report a rise in new Covid-19 cases, CDC chief says more than 90% of Americans remain susceptible

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that even an effective Covid-19 vaccine won't replace the need for other public health measures, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and washing hands. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the vaccine will not be 100% effective and taken by 100% of the population -- which means there still will be room for Covid-19 to spread. Fauci said he's being "practical" when he says, "I think if we can get 75 to 80% of the population vaccinated, I think that would be a really good accomplishment." "It is not going to eliminate the need to be prudent and careful with our public health measures," he said in a Facebook Live conversation with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
24th Sep 2020 - CNN

This Is Why NHS Covid-19 App Privacy Concerns Are Massively Overblown

The long-awaited NHS Test and Trace Covid-19 app has finally arrived and although the technology is not a “silver bullet” in the fight against the pandemic, it is at least a positive step to aid contact tracing efforts. For it to work it will need at least seven million people to download and use it but already it’s clear not everyone is on board.
24th Sep 2020 - Huffington Post UK

Users report issues as Covid-19 app launches in England and Wales

The launch of the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales has exposed problems with the programme, some of which were known about in advance, and some of which will come as a surprise to both the government and users. Although there were hundreds of thousands of downloads of the app in the first few hours on iPhones from the App Store and Android from the Google Play Store, simply accessing it caused a problem for many. Some Android users reported accidentally downloading the trial version that had been made available in Newham, east London, and the Isle of Wight. That then led to a rash of one-star reviews on the Google Play Store, giving the app an average rating of just 1.5 stars.
24th Sep 2020 - The Guardian

NHS Covid-19 app: One million downloads of contact tracer for England and Wales

NHS Covid-19 instructs users to self-isolate for 14 days if it detects they were nearby someone who has the virus. It also has a check-in scanner to alert owners if a venue they have visited is found to be an outbreak hotspot.
24th Sep 2020 - BBC News

'Close to 100% accuracy': Helsinki airport uses sniffer dogs to detect Covid

Four Covid-19 sniffer dogs have begun work at Helsinki airport in a state-funded pilot scheme that Finnish researchers hope will provide a cheap, fast and effective alternative method of testing people for the virus. A dog is capable of detecting the presence of the coronavirus within 10 seconds and the entire process takes less than a minute to complete, according to Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki, who is overseeing the trial. “It’s very promising,” said Hielm-Björkman. “If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places” such as hospitals, care homes and at sporting and cultural events.
24th Sep 2020 - The Guardian

Rethink short lockdowns, tracing is key: PM Modi to states

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday asked the Chief Ministers of seven states worst hit by the Covid-19 crisis to make a critical assessment of the 1-2-day lockdowns that several states have been imposing, and the adverse impact these have on economic activity. The Prime Minister stressed on the need for states to strengthen their tracing- tracking strategy to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus infection. “The lockdown brought benefits. Globally too, it has been appreciated. However, now we have to focus on micro containment zones, which will ensure that the spread is contained… States have to make an assessment on how effective are the lockdowns that are being imposed for 1-2 days. Because of this, economic activity should not face problems. My suggestion to the states is to take up this issue very seriously. We have to increase our focus on effective testing, treating and surveillance, and clear messaging,” the Prime Minister said.
24th Sep 2020 - The Indian Express

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 24th Sep 2020

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WHO on a coronavirus second wave, lockdowns and how the world responded to the pandemic

Just over six months ago, the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus outbreak a "pandemic." Since then, our lives have changed beyond all recognition. Over half of the world's population has experienced some kind of lockdown, almost 1 million people have died, and countries around the globe are bracing for an unprecedented economic collapse. ABC News recently spoke to WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris to discuss the organization's response to the pandemic, whether countries took the novel coronavirus seriously enough, fears of a second wave and why lockdowns became the preferred means of dealing with the biggest public health emergency in a century.
23rd Sep 2020 - ABC News

Britain finally launches COVID-19 app in England and Wales

The government had said the app would arrive in May, but early trials were dogged by problems, and developers abandoned home-grown technology in favour of Apple and Google’s model in June. The embarrassing U-turn followed warnings from tech experts that it would be less effective and that it should have switched to the Apple-Google software earlier. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the reworked tool was “an important step forward in our fight against this invisible killer”.
24th Sep 2020 - Aljazeera.com

Glitches dent German enthusiasm for Covid contact-tracing app

As England and Wales prepare to unveil a coronavirus contact-tracing app, Germany is drawing less than enthusiastic first conclusions about the effectiveness of battling the pandemic with smartphones. A hundred days after its launch, German authorities conceded that IT glitches and poor communication channels with laboratories make the country’s Corona-Warn-App “one more tool of many” rather than a Covid-19 cure-all. The German app, which drew praise from as far as Westminster after it was launched on 16 July, had by the start of this week been downloaded 18.4m times in Germany and 400,000 times abroad – more than similar apps in all other EU member states combined.
23rd Sep 2020 - The Guardian

People didn't follow the Covid rules out of fear. They did it for the common good

As the government lurches from U-turns to full-on pile-ups, and a second wave of Covid-19 looms large, it’s worth remembering something. For three months back in the spring, we – UK citizens – did what we needed to do. The government may have dozed at the wheel, but when it finally woke up, we acted collectively by staying at home to save lives. And with some notable exceptions, we stayed the course by locking down for longer and more willingly than some predicted.
23rd Sep 2020 - The Guardian

Why is Germany doing better than the UK at fighting a resurgence of Covid-19?

Boris Johnson's comments about why "freedom-loving" UK has higher coronavirus cases than Germany and Italy have sparked a heated debate and given us a reason to look at why Germany is coping better than the UK in the fight against a second wave. On Tuesday UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked by opposition Labour MP Ben Bradshaw if "the reason Germany and Italy have far lower Covid rates than us" is because their contact tracing and testing programmes work. Johnson rejected the argument, adding: "Actually there is an important difference between our country and many other countries around the world, that is that our country is a freedom-loving country.
23rd Sep 2020 - The Local Germany

As Covid-19 Fatigue Fuels Infections in Europe, Italy Resists Second Wave

Months after Italy’s lockdown against the coronavirus ended, Enrica Grazioli still sanitizes everything that comes into her Milan apartment, wears face masks diligently and limits interactions between her sons and their grandparents. Ms. Grazioli, a self-proclaimed social butterfly who loves to cook for guests, still hasn’t had friends over for dinner since the virus struck. “Am I overdoing it?” says Ms. Grazioli. “Maybe, but we had a national tragedy of epic proportions and you don’t quickly forget something like that.” Italy, the first nation outside Asia to suffer a major coronavirus outbreak, had one of the world’s worst death tolls this spring. Overflowing hospitals in parts of northern Italy had to choose which patients got the last intensive-care beds. The Italian army drove truckloads of victims out of the city of Bergamo, which couldn’t cope with the dead.
23rd Sep 2020 - The Wall Street Journal

Coronavirus: Madrid in lockdown as doctor warns Britons to follow the new rules or pay the price

A front line doctor in Madrid has urged Britons to stay strong and obey the rules as the country faces a second wave of coronavirus. "We only have to do this for a few more weeks, not forever," Dr Moreno Santiago told Sky News. "Things like wearing a mask we only need to do for a few short weeks and in that time we can control the pandemic, if not we are going to pay for this. It will be very, very, very costly."
23rd Sep 2020 - Sky News

Italy's harsh lessons help keep second wave at bay

When Covid-19 struck Europe, Lombardy’s flooded hospitals and spiralling death toll provided a grim template for Italy’s neighbours. In the past weeks, however, it is offering a more upbeat, alternative path: while Spain, France and the UK are experiencing a second surge in infections after loosening lockdown restrictions, Italy has kept the disease under control. New daily cases are on the rise to 1,535 from the low hundreds in June, when restrictions started easing. But this compares with more than 10,000 new cases in Spain and France. Life feels normal in most of Italy: restaurants and bars are open, people enjoy late-summer trips to the beach and children have returned to school.
23rd Sep 2020 - Financial Times

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 23rd Sep 2020

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Fewer than 40% of Americans plan to get a coronavirus vaccine as soon as one is available

In a new poll, 39% of US adults said they are not likely to get the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available, down from 53% surveyed last month. About 43% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans said they were likely to get the jab during the rollout, a drop from 56% and 49%, respectively. Just 9% of surveyors said they were 'very likely' to be immunized with the first available vaccine, a decrease from 17% in August. Thirty percent of respondents said they would wait a few months before being given the shot while nearly one-quarter said they will not get the shot at all
23rd Sep 2020 - Daily Mail

Potential risk model could see 4.5m people shielding from COVID-19 this winter

People’s health, weight, age and sex will determine whether they will need to shield from COVID-19 over the winter months, according to reports. The Sunday Telegraph has said that up to 4.5million people will be advised to stay at home as part of the government’s new shielding plan. The risk model is still being considered, although Professor Peter Openshaw, an adviser to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has urged experts to “act fast” because he said a delay of just a “few days” could be dangerous. In an interview with Sophy Ridge on Sunday’s Sky News he said he thought the country was on the “edge of losing control”. He added: “It’s a bit like water seeping through a dam. It starts as a trickle and if you don’t do something about it, it can turn into a real cascade.”
22nd Sep 2020 - Diabetes.co.uk

As Covid Fatigue Fuels Infections in Europe, Italy Resists the Second Wave

Months after Italy’s lockdown against the coronavirus ended, Enrica Grazioli still sanitizes everything that comes into her Milan apartment, wears face masks diligently and limits interactions between her sons and their grandparents. The 16 health areas with an incidence rate above 1,000 cases but that are not under the new restrictions are: Lavapiés, Canillejas, García Noblejas, San Isidro, Rafael Alberti, Orcasitas, Vicálvaro-Artilleros, Campo de la Paloma, Villaamil (all located in the city of Madrid); Doctor Trueta and Miguel Servet (both in Alcorcón); Las Fronteras (Torrejón de Ardoz); Panaderas (Fuenlabrada); Villa del Prado (in the municipality of the same name); Alcalde Bartolomé González (Móstoles); and Sierra de Guadarrama (Collado Villalba).
22nd Sep 2020 - Wall Street Journal

Spain to cut coronavirus quarantine to 10 from 14 days, SER radio says

The Spanish government and regional authorities are set to cut the quarantine imposed on those who have had contacts with people tested positive to coronavirus to 10 days from a previous 14 days, Cadena SER radio station reported on Tuesday. Spain has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in western Europe and regional authorities have ordered a partial lockdown from Monday in some Madrid neighbourhoods and other regions are taking measures to curb contagion.
22nd Sep 2020 - Reuters UK

French universities' new rules seek to prevent new COVID-19 clusters

Face masks are obligatory, there are separate entrances and exits on campus and many on-site facilities are restricted or closed. But despite a range of sanitary measures at universities in France, at least a dozen COVID-19 clusters have emerged since some classrooms re-opened earlier this month. September marks the start of a new academic year and the French government says children and students should return to the classrooms again. But in a post-lockdown France, where cases are surging a