covid19

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Alex
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The Canadian government is talking to international partners about the development of COVID-19 vaccination certificate systems that might one day help facilitate travel across international borders but bureaucrats in Ottawa, as well as some politicians, wonder if such a system is the best way to proceed.

“We are working on it on a scientific basis and we will have more to announce when we have it to announce,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday. “Right now we’re focussed on getting through this pandemic and being prepared to come roaring back once we’re through it.”

The lack of enthusiasm in federal government circles to develop vaccination certificates is matched by the World Health Organization which argued in a paper it published in February that “national authorities and conveyance operators should not introduce requirements of proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition for departure or entry, given that there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission.”

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Alex
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One of the last times I stepped outside my Brooklyn apartment without a mask on was in early spring 2020, just before the state issued a mask mandate. I remember because as my dog peed on a tree, a neighbor asked me pointedly where my mask was. Where I live, almost everyone wears a mask when they go outside. If a person sipping from an iced coffee with their mask pulled down approaches someone else on the sidewalk coming the other way, they will usually yank the mask back up, as if they’ve been caught partially dressed. The other day I noticed a woman sitting on a hill in the middle of a field with her face covered. There was no one near her.

For a while now, this has felt a little unnecessary, if understandable, given that we were still learning things about the virus and were trying to be as careful as possible. But now, as we’ve come to know more about the virus, as vaccinations are ramping up, and as we’re trying to figure out how to live with some level of COVID in a sustainable way, masking up outside when you’re at most briefly crossing paths with people is starting to feel barely understandable. Look: I believe masks (and even shaming) are indispensable in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. Despite early waffling, public health experts are virtually unanimously in support of them and have remained so even as our early dedication to scrubbing surfaces and Cloroxing veggies wound down.

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Alex
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Research has long shown that regular exercise has a slew of health benefits like helping to prevent high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Now researchers say regular activity could help protect against severe Covid hospitalizations.

In a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers and physicians at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in Southern California, the University of California, San Diego, and other institutions found that Covid patients who regularly exercised before becoming sick were the least likely to be hospitalized, admitted to the ICU and die as a result of their illness.

The study looked at data from nearly 50,000 adult patients in California diagnosed with Covid-19 from January 2020 to the end of October 2020.

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Alex
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Companies and countries that depend on travel or large gatherings are counting on a totally unproven concept.
In a harbor on the Greek island of Paxos, Panagiotis Mastoras checks over his fleet of pleasure craft and counts down the days to the return of the tourists who fuel the economy of the 8-mile speck in the Ionian Sea.

For the rental-boat skipper, the easing of travel curbs imposed as the Covid-19 outbreak swept the world appears tantalizingly close. Greece said it would welcome back visitors starting on May 14, as long as they’ve had a vaccination, recovered from the novel coronavirus, or tested negative before flying out. “It’s the safest way,” says Mastoras, one of 850,000 people working in a holiday sector that accounted for almost a quarter of Greece’s gross domestic product before the pandemic, the highest proportion in Europe. “We’ve reached a point where it can’t go on like this.”

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Alex
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Three million face masks are thought to be thrown away every minute, research suggests.

In June 2020, researchers at the University of Aveiro in Portugal estimated that 129 billion face masks are used monthly across the world.

Experts at the University of Denmark have described the worrying statistic, which amounts to three million face masks a minute, as a ‘ticking time bomb’.

In the paper, titled Preventing masks from becoming the next plastic problem, scientists said the world must ‘urgently recognise this potential environmental threat’.

One key factor which could be contributing to the problem is that face coverings are a new phenomenon in most countries across the world. While we are quite used to recycling items such as plastic bottles, there is no official guidance on mask recycling. Researchers said this makes it more likely that they would be disposed of as solid waste.

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Alex
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It will boil down to two predominant factors that control how a virus behaves in a population: the virus’s biology and the immunity of the host population.

Endemic viruses are those that have constant presence within a geographical area. Such viruses are all around us, though they vary by location. Examples in Europe and North America include the rhinovirus (a cause of the common cold) and influenza virus, while the dengue and chikungunya viruses are endemic in many Asian countries.

Endemic diseases are often milder, but it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. Flu, for instance, is estimated to cause up to 810,000 hospitalizations and 61,000 deaths annually in the US.

There are currently four endemic coronaviruses that, for most people, just cause a cold. Whether SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will join them will be down to two predominant factors that control how a virus behaves in a population: the virus’s biology and the immunity of the host population.

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Alex
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Drug makers are increasingly turning to monoclonal antibodies to protect the millions of people who can't use vaccines. But questions swirl about their cost and long-term viability.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout gathers pace, a population is at risk of being left behind: the millions of people around the globe who lack fully functional immune systems.

While the exact number of the immunocompromised worldwide is unknown, estimates suggest that about 10 million live in the U.S. alone, or around 3 percent of the national population. The number encompasses a diverse range of vulnerabilities, including rare genetic immune deficiencies, chronic illnesses that impair the immune system such as rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer and organ-transplant patients who must take immune-suppressing medications.

For them, vaccines will not be effective, because they are incapable of making their own antibodies to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Instead, pharmaceutical companies around the world are racing to develop alternative treatments that bypass the immune system altogether.

The most common option is called monoclonal antibody treatments. These artificially generated antibodies mimic the body’s natural immune response by binding to key sites on the virus’ spike protein, preventing it entering cells and reproducing. Companies including AstraZeneca, Regeneron, and Eli Lilly are currently testing whether monoclonal antibodies can protect immunocompromised people from SARS-CoV-2.

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Alex
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COVID-19 could take a massive toll on the health of hearts across the world. New research has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause a wave of cardiovascular problems in the coming years. Not only are the researchers concerned with how the virus impacts the heart, but also how the lockdown might have affected peoples’ wider health.

Cardiovascular disease killed nearly 18.6 million people globally in 2019, a rate that has risen by over 17 percent from the decade previous. While this trend is set to continue regardless of the pandemic, researchers suspect that COVID-19 is likely to make things even worse. The new study, published today in the American Heart Association's flagship journal Circulation, predicts the global burden of cardiovascular disease will grow exponentially over the next few years as a direct and indirect consequence of COVID-19.

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