Coronavirus Global Roundup April 22: Pakistan PM gets tested, Oxford to start vaccine trials, Sweden's unique approach
Over 2.58 million people have now been infected with COVID-19, and over 178,500 have lost their lives.
Over 2.58 million people have now been infected with COVID-19, and over 178,500 have lost their lives. Here is a summary of developments from across the globe.
The UN on equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and global hunger
The 193 members of the UN general assembly passed a resolution that calls for ‘equitable, efficient and timely’ access to future COVID-19 vaccines. Scientific endeavours have progressed at breakneck speed, and there are countless clinical trials testing medicines and vaccines. However, even if a vaccine is developed soon, manufacturing it in the millions will be a challenge, so global collaboration is crucial to aid development and distribution as well.
The UN has also said that the number of people on the brink of starvation could multiply from 135 million to 265 million this year; COVID-19 will stretch humanitarian programs even more. The agency urged member states to sign the global ceasefire resolution floated last month.
Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan tested for COVID-19
The PM came in close contact with Faisal Edhi, a philanthropist, who later tested positive. Edhi came to Islamabad to personally deliver a cheque of PKR 10 million to aid the COVID-19 response. While the two men were not in contact for too long, photographs of the event showed that they stood closer than six feet apart from each other, and the envelope could theoretically transmit the disease as well. PM Khan has been tested and the result is expected today.
Sweden’s top epidemiologist defends the country’s unorthodox methods
Unlike most of Europe, Sweden has not imposed a strict lockdown. Voluntary, ‘trust-based’ measures have been put in place instead; people over 70 have been advised to stay in, and physical distancing is recommended but not enforced. Restaurants and bars, schools for those under 16 remain open. The approach has faced criticism; there has been an outbreak in geriatric facilities, and the infection rate of 131 per million citizens is markedly higher compared to neighbouring Scandinavian countries.
Anders Tegnell, of Sweden’s Public Health Agency, said in an interview with Nature that the disease cannot be eradicated simply by physical distancing alone and that Swedish law doesn’t allow broad lockdowns to be employed; containment is dependent on individual responsibility.
He added that closing borders would be ‘ridiculous’ since the disease is already so widespread and that measures such as closing schools are more effective when applied earlier on in an outbreak. He also said that while asymptomatic people can transmit the disease, current evidence does not suggest that they contribute majorly to the spread.
Only time will tell if these measures will pay off - for now, satellite data does suggest that people are restricting movement and staying close to home.
Japan cuts over 100,000 tulips to discourage crowds in the times of COVID-19
The city of Sakura, 50 miles from Tokyo, cancelled an annual tulip festival and cut over 100,000 flowers to discourage crowds from congregating in the area. Japan has over 11,500 cases and is moving aggressively to mitigate further transmission.
Oxford University to begin vaccine trials this week
Matt Hancock, UK’s health secretary said that the government would help fund vaccine trials that will start this week at Oxford University. There are also plans for vaccine development at Imperial College, London.
Over 500 healthy participants are expected to be a part of the trial by May.
For more information, read our article on How to avoid getting COVID-19 infection if you are a healthcare worker.
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