Archive for May 14th, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic: Updates from around the world – CNN International

May 14th, 2020
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a night club, now closed following a visit by a confirmed Covid-19 patient, in the popular nightlife district of Itaewon in Seoul on May 10.
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a night club, now closed following a visit by a confirmed Covid-19 patient, in the popular nightlife district of Itaewon in Seoul on May 10. Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

South Korea has identified 17 more coronavirus patients linked to a nightclub cluster in Seoul, Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said today.

Last weekend, authorities in the capital shut down all nightclubs and bars after a spike in cases was connected to the clubbing district Itaewon.

There are now a total of 148 cases in the nightclub cluster.

Authorities raced to track down people who may have been in the area during the incubation period, using cell phone data and credit card records. They have tested tens of thousands of people in the past week alone.

The country has now recorded 11,018 coronavirus cases and 260 deaths, according to Kim and data from Johns Hopkins University.

Church alert: Authorities feared the outbreak of another possible cluster in the city of Incheon, where two infected people attended church services along with 1,000 others.

However, a fresh crisis appears to have been avoided — except for five people whose results are pending, all members of the congregation have tested negative.

Kim said it was likely because 300 of the 1,000 church attendees had been watching the service online, and the remaining 700 people who physically attended had worn masks and gloves and sat apart from each other.

“We can effectively stop secondary and tertiary mass infections through distancing,” Kim said.


Coronavirus pandemic: Updates from around the world –

May 14th, 2020

The first known Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Bangladesh’s refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, the United Nations said on Thursday, citing the Bangladeshi government.

The camps at Cox’s Bazar are home to nearly a million Rohingya refugees, many of whom fled across the border to Bangladesh to escape violence in neighboring Myanmar. 

One of the confirmed cases was a Rohingya refugee, and the other was a Bangladeshi citizen who lives in the surrounding area of the camps, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement.

Bangladesh currently has at least 18,863 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 283 deaths, a tally from Johns Hopkins University shows.

Government response: The Bangladeshi government suspended most of the services within the densely populated camps in late March, including educational programs and other advocacy work.

Health officials have now begun to treat both patients while isolating and testing other refugees in the camps, the agency said.

Covid in the camps is “a nightmare”: “The first positive case of Covid-19 in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh is the realization of a nightmare scenario,” said Daniel P. Sullivan, a senior advocate for human rights with the US-based organization Refugees International.

“In addition, the prevalence of underlying health conditions among refugees and the deteriorating sanitary conditions sure to come with the looming monsoon and flooding season make for a witch’s brew of conditions in which the virus is sure to thrive,” Sullivan added.

Sullivan also stressed the importance of the Bangladeshi government’s efforts to ensure open communication as well as more medical resources within the refugee camp to prevent and prepare for further spread.

CNN has reached out to the Bangladeshi government for a comment.


Pangolins May Not Have Been The Intermediary Host of SARS-CoV-2 After All – ScienceAlert

May 14th, 2020

Understanding the origins of the virus causing COVID-19 is one of the key questions scientists are trying to resolve while working out how to manage the pandemic. But in a fast-evolving situation, we’re bound to point our fingers at a few innocent suspects along the way.

The current hypothesis goes something like this: SARS-CoV-2 passed through a mystery animal host in its suspected evolutionary journey from bats to humans. Critically endangered pangolins have been a favoured candidate for this intermediary host, but now a genomic analysis led by geneticist Ping Liu from Guangdong Academy of Science in China has provided evidence this may not be the case.

SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the Betacoronavirus genus of coronaviruses; this group of coronaviruses primarily infects mammals, and the new study suggests that pangolins are indeed natural hosts for them.

The team pieced together almost an entire genome of the coronaviruses found in two sick Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica). They called the coronavirus isolated from these critically endangered animals pangolin-CoV-2020. Its final sequence had 29,521 base pairs, only slightly shorter than the 30,000-odd base pairs making up SARS-CoV-2.

The resulting genome displayed a 90.32 percent sequence similarity to SARS-CoV-2 and 90.24 percent to the Rhinolophus affinis bat coronavirus BatCoV-RaTG13, which still remains the closest known relative to SARS-CoV-2, with a match of 96.18 percent.

But the sequence similarities don’t reflect the full story. The genetic instructions for the all-important protein spike of the SARS-CoV-2 virus matched more between the bat and human coronavirus than the pangolin one.

However, the pangolin virus essentially shares the same ACE2 binding receptor as that used by the COVID-19 virus – the part of the spike that allows the virus to enter and infect human cells. This was also found in another study that is still undergoing review, and led to suggestions that the human coronavirus may be a type of hybrid (a chimera) between a bat and a pangolin virus.

Liu’s team also thinks these similarities may indicate that a recombination event occurred somewhere in the evolution of these different viruses – where the viral genomes exchanged pieces of their genetic materials with each other. However, their analysis of the evolutionary relationship between the three viruses did not support the idea that the human version evolved directly from the pangolin one.

“At the genomic level, SARS-CoV-2 was also genetically closer to Bat-CoV-RaTG13 than pangolin-CoV-2020,” they wrote in their paper.

There are clearly still a lot of unknowns. With well over 4 million confirmed cases around the world, and a death toll still increasing sharply, the need to understand as much as we can about this virus just continues to intensify.

However, one thing all these genetics studies have firmly ruled out is the idea that the virus was lab made.

As for the pangolins, they had been rescued by the Guangdong Wildlife Rescue Center after being smuggled for black market trade, and sadly succumbed to their illness. Liu’s team could not determine if their deaths were linked to the coronavirus they found.

But perhaps a little good can arise from all this, at least for the world’s most trafficked mammal, with the researchers concluding:

“Minimising the exposures of humans to wildlife will be important to reduce the spillover risks of coronaviruses from wild animals to humans.”

The new research was published in PLOS Pathogens.


HomePod ‘Sold Out’ on Apple’s Online Store [Updated] – MacRumors

May 14th, 2020

Ontario premier to reveal his ‘best cherry cheesecake ever’ recipe – CTV News

May 14th, 2020

TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford is releasing his much-loved cheesecake recipe Friday, one that he’s boasted about on Twitter and even during an official COVID-19 news conference. 

“I make the best cherry cheesecake ever. I do it from scratch. No recipe, I got it down pat,” Ford told reporters on Monday. 

“You can tell I’ve eaten one too many cheesecakes. That’s my problem.”

Ford released a trailer on Twitter Thursday of himself in a kitchen making what he calls, the “famous premier’s cheesecake.”

“Do you know what one of the most popular ways to manage stress is? Baking! Stay tuned for some long-weekend inspiration,” Ford said in the Tweet. 

In the trailer, Ford can be seen smoothing out the crust of the cake and then dabbing on a thick layer of cherries on top of his cheesecake. 

“If I wasn’t premier, I would open up a cheesecake factory,” he says in the video.

A video and the official recipe are expected to be released Friday morning. 

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Apple Buys Virtual-Reality Streaming Upstart NextVR – Wall Street Journal

May 14th, 2020

Canada’s road to UN Security Council seat goes through Fiji – National Post

May 14th, 2020

OTTAWA  — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken with 28 world leaders since the pandemic crisis began in early March as he continues to pursue a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, according to his daily itineraries.

That has meant making time for conversations with leaders of the tiny island nations of Saint Lucia, Fiji and Tuvalu, amid a pandemic that has sickened thousands and shuttered much of the economy. Leaders also contacted since March have included those in Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Sweden, Colombia, Ghana, Sudan, Qatar, Jamaica and Ethiopia, among others.

“We absolutely want a seat on the UN security council,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne reiterated in an interview Thursday. Trudeau made garnering a seat on the Security Council a top priority for Champagne when he was moved to foreign affairs last fall.

Trudeau’s staff say the the primary purpose of the calls is to discuss the global response to COVID-19 and its health and economic impacts, but acknowledge that the UN Security Council bid is sometimes raised.

Saint Lucia and Fiji have just 18 cases of COVID-19 each and Tuvalu, an island with just over 11,000 residents has so far kept the virus out.

Canada is in a tight battle with Norway and Ireland for two possible seats with the vote scheduled for next month.

Trudeau travelled to Africa in early February on a tour meant to drum up support for Canada’s bid and was scheduled to attend a meeting of Caribbean leaders after that, but the Caribbean trip was cancelled with Trudeau returning home to deal with protests that had blocked vital rail lines across Canada.

Champagne said the entire government is focused on COVID-19, including his own ministry, which is focusing on bringing more Canadians home who remain stuck abroad. But it is also thinking about the future.

“It is also important that we spend time on the rebuild and the world that we want post COVID,” he said. “We need to keep an eye on the future that we want and how we want to shape it.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Senegal’s President Macky Sall during as part of a trip to Africa in early February meant to drum up support for Canada’s UN Security Council bid.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/File

He said the government wants the seat because it’s a chance to shape the world’s response on any number of issues.

“The UN security council is the big table. This is where the most consequential decisions are taken with respect to peace and security around the world,” he said. “It is the first time in generations the world has been on pause, and I think, before we push play, Canadians want us to play a role on the international scene.”

If Canada wins next month’s vote, it will take its seat at the table next year, for a two-year term.

“The most interesting thing about the value of a security council seat is you don’t know how valuable it will be until you’re on the council,” said Adam Chapnick, a professor at the Royal Military College and author of a book on Canada and the UN.

There is no recipe for how you finish a campaign under COVID

Chapnick said having a seat at the table is an opportunity to forge ties with some of the world’s most important nations.

“Unless you’ve got really lousy diplomats, which we do not. You will inevitably build some relationships that you don’t have the opportunity to build when you aren’t on the council.”

He said he believes Canada has a 50/50 shot at actually getting the seat, but securing the seat has become difficult in the pandemic environment.

“There is no recipe for how you finish a campaign under COVID.”

Christopher Sands, the director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre in Washington, D.C., said there is political pressure on Trudeau to keep pursuing the seat, even amid the pandemic crisis.

“He almost has to, because the Liberals were so tough on (former prime minister Stephen) Harper for not appearing to trying hard enough when Canada last tried,” he said. “If Trudeau doesn’t try I think it will make him look much weaker.”

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne: “We absolutely want a seat on the UN security council.”

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/File

Canada pursued a seat in 2010 under the Conservative government, but lost to Portugal, despite the Harper government haven’t received written promises of support from a majority of UN members, many of whom later broke that promise. That broke Canada’s record of winning a place on the 15-member body once a decade since the UN’s inception.

Sands said Canada is in for a tough fight. Norway has been chasing its seat for years and has increased foreign-aid commitments to secure the seat. He said Ireland’s bid has also been formidable and they have a lot of goodwill in the world.

“There are not a lot of people who hate the Irish, so I think it’s going to be very hard for Canada this time.”

He noted that Canada also has a mixed record when it has sat on the council in the past, often failing to achieve much while there. Although he said there could be a role now for a middle power to have greater influence in a world where tensions are rising between large powers China and the U.S.

“Canada on the security council would be a voice for a lot of countries that don’t want to take sides in a great power rivalry,” Sands said.

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Chrome to Block Battery-Sucking Ads in August Update – MacRumors

May 14th, 2020

Researchers try combining remdesivir with a second drug to deliver a “one-two punch” to virus – CBS News

May 14th, 2020

Just three weeks ago, 57-year-old Bill Clark was discharged from a hospital in Atlanta after battling COVID-19.

“I started wondering, ‘How bad is this going to be? Am I close to dying?'” Clark recalled.

Clark took part in a groundbreaking global trial with early results that showed the drug remdesivir reduced average hospitalizations from 15 to 11 days.

Dr. Aneesh Mehta was the lead investigator of that NIH trial at Emory University. “I think remdesivir, it’s going to be one important tool, but we also need to look for other ways to help our patients,” Mehta said.

In the next phase of the trial, Mehta and colleagues are adding even more firepower. They’re combining remdesivir, which stops the virus from multiplying, with a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that aims to prevent organ damage by calming down an inflamed immune system.

“What the remdesivir does is stops the spark — and the immune modulator will hopefully be putting dirt on the fire to put it out,” Mehta said.

“One-two punch,” said CBS News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. 

“A one-two punch,” Mehta said.

Mehta’s team is looking at whether this powerful combination could make recovery even faster and possibly reduce the mortality rate in a way remdesivir alone has not yet been shown to do.

The National Institutes of Health also said researchers are testing another potential coronavirus treatment cocktail: A mix of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine with an antibiotic used to treat infections like pink eye.

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Coronavirus Infections: Talking Can Generate Droplets That Linger Up to 14 Minutes – The New York Times

May 14th, 2020

Coughs or sneezes may not be the only way people transmit infectious pathogens like the novel coronavirus to one another. Talking can also launch thousands of droplets so small they can remain suspended in the air for eight to 14 minutes, according to a new study.

The research, published Wednesday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help explain how people with mild or no symptoms may infect others in close quarters such as offices, nursing homes, cruise ships and other confined spaces. The study’s experimental conditions will need to be replicated in more real-world circumstances, and researchers still don’t know how much virus has to be transmitted from one person to another to cause infection. But its findings strengthen the case for wearing masks and taking other precautions in such environments to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Scientists agree that the coronavirus jumps from person to person most often by hitching a ride inside tiny respiratory droplets. These droplets tend to fall to the ground within a few feet of the person who emits them. They may land on surfaces like doorknobs, where people can touch lingering virus particles and transfer them to their face. But some droplets can remain aloft, and be inhaled by others.

Elaborate experiments have revealed how coughing or sneezing can produce a crackling burst of air mixed with saliva or mucus that can force hundreds of millions of influenza and other virus particles into the air if a person is sick. A single cough can propel about 3,000 respiratory droplets, while sneezing can generate as many as 40,000.

To see how many droplets are produced during normal conversation, researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the University of Pennsylvania, who study the kinetics of biological molecules inside the human body, asked volunteers to repeat the words “stay healthy” several times. While the participants spoke into the open end of a cardboard box, the researchers illuminated its inside with green lasers, and tracked bursts of droplets produced by the speaker.

The laser scans showed that about 2,600 small droplets were produced per second while talking. When researchers projected the amount and size of droplets produced at different volumes based on previous studies, they found that speaking louder could generate larger droplets, as well as greater quantities of them.

Although the scientists did not record speech droplets produced by people who were sick, previous studies have calculated exactly how much coronavirus genetic material can be found in oral fluids in the average patient. Based on this knowledge, the researchers estimated that a single minute of loud speaking could generate at least 1,000 virus-containing droplets.

ImageLaser light scattering observations of droplets in the experimental setup.
Laser light scattering observations of droplets in the experimental setup.Credit…Valentyn Stadnytskyi; Philip Anfinrud; Christina E. Bax; Adriaan Bax

The scientists also found that while droplets start shrinking from dehydration as soon as they leave a person’s mouth, they can still float in the air for eight to 14 minutes.

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“These observations confirm that there is a substantial probability that normal speaking causes airborne virus transmission in confined environments,” the authors wrote in the study.

The researchers acknowledged that the experiment was performed in a controlled environment with stagnant air that may not reflect what happens in rooms with good ventilation. But they still had reason to believe their reported values were “conservative lower limit estimates” because some people have a higher viral load, meaning they may produce droplets with several thousand more virus particles than average.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says keeping at least six feet away from others can help people avoid contact with respiratory droplets and lower the risk of infection. But many scientists have argued that droplets can travel farther than six feet, depending on the force with which droplets are launched, the surrounding temperature, whether there are air currents that can carry them farther and other conditions.

There is also debate about whether the coronavirus can also be transmitted through even smaller droplets — less than a tenth the width of a human hair — that are known as aerosols, and can remain suspended or travel through the air for longer.

In another recent study, the same authors showed that just articulating certain sounds can produce significantly higher amounts of respiratory particles. The “th” sound in the word “healthy,” for example, was a very efficient generator of speech droplets. Another paper, published in January by researchers from the University of California, Davis, found the vowel sound “e” in “need” produces more droplets than the “a” in “saw,” or “o” in “mood.”

What researchers don’t yet know is whether all speech, cough and sneeze droplets carrying virus particles are equally infectious, or if a specific amount of virus needs to be transmitted for a person to get sick by breathing it in.

But the new study adds to the case for maintaining a physical distance from other people to help slow the spread of coronavirus, said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who was not involved with the paper.

“Based on this and other evidence, it would be wise to avoid extended face-to-face conversations with other people unless you are far apart and in a well-ventilated space, including outdoors,” Dr. Marr said.

The study also highlights the importance of wearing masks during social and other interactions.

“The risk of talking to one another will probably be lower than being exposed to a person who is not wearing a mask and openly coughs and sneezes,” said Dr. Werner E. Bischoff, the medical director of infection prevention and health system epidemiology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. “Normal talking to a person while keeping the recommended social distance will be fine. Putting on a mask will be even better.”