An illustration of sars-cov-2 viruses in an hourglass. Time seems to pass more slowyl during covid lockdowns.

COVID Booster

Time seemed to pass more slowly during the UK’s second lockdown

A team of UK researchers has examined the way people perceive time during lockdown, adding to a growing body of research on the psychology of lockdowns.

A total of 853 people living in the UK answered an online questionnaire in November 2020, between six and 25 days after the beginning of the second national lockdown. They were asked how quickly they felt time passed compared to before the lockdown, as well as how long it felt since the first lockdown.

Over 80% of respondents said they had experienced a distorted passage of time. Depression, satisfaction with social interaction and relative COVID vulnerability were all associated with higher levels of temporal distortion.

“The results of this study suggest that distortions to the passage of time were endemic during England’s second national lockdown,” conclude the authors of a paper published in PLOS One.

“Despite significant experience with social and physical distancing, lockdown restrictions were still distorting the passage of time for the majority of people. This suggests that fundamental changes to the structure of daily life can distort the passage of time in the short and long term.”

Kids can’t be vaccinated, so they must keep getting tested

A team of US researchers say that widespread vaccinations in adults will be ineffective if COVID-19 infection in children goes undetected.

Children with COVID-19 usually have much milder symptoms or are entirely asymptomatic, but they can still catch and pass the virus on. As there’s no viable vaccine for children, and vaccines aren’t 100% effective, this means the pandemic could still continue even if every adult is vaccinated.

A paper published in the journal JAMA Network Open used computer models to estimate the effect of asymptomatic or presymptomatic COVID-19 infections in children. The researchers found that if children aren’t tested and isolated, it will be difficult to curb COVID-19. However, if 10-20% of silent infections in children were identified within three days of testing, this would dramatically reduce COVID-19 infection.

Large study shows mRNA vaccines have no obvious safety concerns for pregnancy

It’s ethically and logistically difficult to include pregnant people in vaccine trials, so data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy has been harder to obtain than other information.

But preliminary findings from a large US study show that there are no obvious safety concerns from mRNA vaccines in pregnant people.

The study, which is reported in a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined the records of 35,691 people who were vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine at various stages of pregnancy. Participants reported a higher-than-expected level of pain at the injection site, but other mild adverse reactions were less common than expected. There also wasn’t any increase in adverse pregnancy and newborn outcomes.

“Continued monitoring is needed to further assess maternal, pregnancy, neonatal, and childhood outcomes associated with maternal COVID-19 vaccination, including in earlier stages of pregnancy and during the preconception period,” the authors conclude.

“Meanwhile, the present data can help inform decision making about vaccination by pregnant persons and their health care providers.”

Regular COVID tests lower burnout for healthcare workers

A survey of 3,537 healthcare workers from the UK, Singapore and Poland has found that two-thirds of respondents are at high risk of burnout, but regular COVID-19 tests can alleviate this a little.

The research, published in PLOS One, queried healthcare workers on their psychological well-being between March and June 2020. The results showed – unsurprisingly – that workers across the three countries reported high levels of burnout, anxiety and depression, but those who were tested regularly for COVID-19 scored lower on all these scales.

The researchers suggest this could be linked to more supportive workplaces administering more frequent tests, or possibly that less engaged workers were less likely to get a COVID-19 test.

Guilt-free questioning makes people more likely to fess up to COVID-19 violations

It can be difficult to assess compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, because people feel a social pressure to say they’re following the rules. But new research published in PLOS One finds that people are more likely to admit to breaking COVID-19 rules when asked about them in a ‘guilt-free’ way.

The study surveyed people online from 12 different countries including Australia, with about 1000-2000 participants per country. The questionnaire included questions about their compliance with COVID-19 restrictions like social distancing, mask-wearing and keeping distance from friends and family.

Half the participants saw a ‘face-saving’ preamble to these questions, which read: “Some people have altered their behaviour since the beginning of the pandemic, while others have continued to pursue various activities. Some may also want to change their behaviour but cannot do so for different reasons. Have you done any of the following activities in the last week?”

Participants in this group were more likely to admit to non-COVID-safe activities. The researchers suggest that this method could make it easier to see if people are following restrictions.