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Forget China’s ‘Excessive’ Coronavirus Surveillance—This Is America’s Surprising Alternative

Here’s an interesting twist. China has spent years building a vast surveillance state to digitally track its population, a system that has come to the fore in its attempts to monitor and control the spread of coronavirus. For years we have decried this “big brother” monitoring, and yet it turns out that we have a vast surveillance dataset of our own, just waiting for the government to tap into.

Last week, I reported on viral coronavirus maps that use marketing databases to show the movements of Americans as they congregate and disperse, illustrative of the potential spread of coronavirus infections. The granularity of the data shocked many—although the subject matter distracted most from the underlying issue. The data is unique to individuals but claims anonymity—however, last year the New York Times exposed just how easily that veil is broken.

It is therefore a surprise that the U.S. government—through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has elected to use this marketing dataset rather than mobile operator data to track coronavirus. “Officials across the U.S. are using location data from millions of cellphones,” the Wall Street Journal reported on March 28, “to better understand the movements of Americans during the pandemic.” The newspaper says the plan is “to create a portal for federal, state and local officials that contains geolocation data in what could be as many as 500 cities across the U.S.”

When coronavirus first hit China, the country repurposed its surveillance state into a contact tracing and quarantine enforcement machine. The infrastructure was in place. Facial and license plate recognition, contact tracing and phone tracking, proximity reports from public transportation, apps to determine quarantine status and freedom of movement, and social media to inform on rule-breakers. Described as “excessive coronavirus public monitoring,” it is expanding China’s already pervasive use of biometric people tracking technologies.

In the West we have no such biometric-powered surveillance state, whatever campaign groups might say. There is the rule of law, warranted tracking, even campaigns to remove facial recognition from law enforcement. Meanwhile, we all carry smartphones loaded with apps that we give permission to track us, wherever we go and whenever we go there, down to a frightening level of detail.

Smartphone tracking is becoming the front-end for coronavirus population tracking—be that individuals confined to their homes, curfews, contact tracing or aggregated analysis on the impact of social distancing. A smartphone is a proxy for a person. Track the phones and you track the people. Each device can be uniquely tied to its owner, whether in Beijing or Boston, Shanghai or Seattle.

In the U.K. and mainland Europe, governments and the European Union have pulled data from the mobile network operators themselves to track millions of citizens, aggregated and anonymized, monitoring adherence with social distancing and travel restrictions. There was even talk that the GSMA might develop a centralised data program across 700 operators to track users cross-border.

Mobile networks hold significant data on customers. Location pings, call and messaging metadata, obviously the identities behind the numbers and whatever their CRM systems store. This data has its limitations. It is also heavily regulated, protected from prying eyes except under legally warranted circumstances.

There is however an even larger dataset that has no such regulatory limitations. It contains information on all of us—we actually give it permission to collect our locations, our browsing activities, where we go, when, how often. The information can be mined to infer where we work and live, what we like to do and with who. It is the closest we have to a surveillance state—and it’s now everywhere.

The database is fuelled by the apps on our smartphones—apps we give permission to access data they do not need to execute their own functions. And that data can be sold to create a revenue stream for its operators. Last year, one project set out to show just how out of hand this has become. A security researcher tested 937 Android flashlight apps—the most innocuous apps imaginable, of which 180 requested permission to access our contacts and 131 our precise locations.

This marketing data source, which gathers information on all of us, all of the time, is quite the surveillance feat. If any western government set out its intention to build such a platform there would be an extraordinary public backlash. And yet the data is there and can be accessed commercially for just the payment of a fee.

Once the pandemic is behind us, the memory of those maps tracking us coast to coast will remain. And as we look to the east, to its vast government surveillance ecosystem, perhaps we will recall the equivalent we live with ourselves. The fact is that the necessity of the coronavirus pandemic has pushed government invention into new and surprising areas. And from a surveillance stance, one of the most powerful ways imaginable has been there all the time.

It is clear that over the coming weeks we will be asked to further trade personal privacy for public safety. Those datasets can be mined for ever more powerful information—the same contact tracing and quarantine breaches China monitors. According to the WSJ, the mobile ad data “can reveal general levels of compliance with stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders—and help measure the pandemic’s economic impact by revealing the drop-off in retail customers at stores, decreases in automobile miles driven and other economic metrics.”

Not bad for a ready-made, off-the-shelf alternative.

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I am the Founder/CEO of Digital Barriers—developing advanced surveillance solutions for defence, national security and counter-terrorism. I write about the intersection of geopolitics and cybersecurity, as well as breaking security and surveillance stories. Contact me at zakd@me.com.

Source: Forget China’s ‘Excessive’ Coronavirus Surveillance—This Is America’s Surprising Alternative

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Two Doctors Who Treated SARS: Beware These Behavioral Changes That Could Make The Coronavirus Pandemic Worse

Coronavirus Frontlines is a special series where we are sharing the perspective of experts at the forefront of combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and wealth of the human race is unprecedented for almost every person on the planet.  The last incidence of an event of this magnitude was the Spanish Flu in 1918. There have been other pandemics caused by infectious agents in the last century — polio in the 1950s, influenza in 1957 and 1968, and more recently H1N1 in 2009 — but none of these wreaked as much havoc as COVID-19.

Human beings have tremendous difficulty in responding to unprecedented bad news – however, research has shown that our behavioral responses to it are predictable.  There are three behaviors we are observing and will continue to observe in the next few months. You should watch for these in both yourself and your loved ones to avoid falling into some mental health traps. That goes double if you’re responsible for advising decision makers, or if you are one yourself.

The first of these predictable behaviors is denial.  When we physicians break bad news to our patients, such as telling them they have a terminal illness, they often will not even hear us at first.  They use words like ‘growth’ instead of ‘cancer.’ They appear cheery in the face of awful predictions. Denial is an extremely powerful defense mechanism that allows individuals to protect themselves from completely breaking down. But the downside of denial is that it can lead to avoiding taking the essential next steps needed to avoid disaster.

In the case of COVID-19, it is clear many individuals were in denial when the images from Wuhan first emerged.  The natural reaction was, “That is far away and really can’t happen where I live.” Even when it spread through Asia, people had this same reaction. When it got to Iran, it remained easy to ignore the news, as there is little open communication with Iran. Even when it hit a Seattle nursing home, people continued to dismiss it as being far away and impacting an isolated vulnerable population.

Countries like Taiwan, which experienced SARS in 2003, avoided denial, and so were much better able to defend themselves by recognizing the threat early and proactively setting up control measures.  While denial can be useful on an individual level, it was a dire behavior for countries that were then ill prepared for this pandemic despite the clear warning signs.

The second behavior people invoke in crisis is attempting to control their immediate environment. When we treat patients in the terminal phases of their lives, it is not uncommon for troubled family members to ask us “What is his potassium level today?” This despite the detail being irrelevant to the patient’s overall health state. They can’t control the really bad thing that is happening, but it gives them comfort to focus on something they think they can control.

When COVID-19 approached, people responded by hoarding items they feared would be in short supply; both reasonable items like hand sanitizer and unreasonable items like toilet paper and over the counter cold remedies that don’t help with COVID-19. Trying to maintain control helps soothe the fear, but it is only temporary and false security. It becomes further detrimental when hoarding leads to panic.

The third behavior is the thirst for good news. Having one young patient with COVID-19 come off of a ventilator and recover can have a tremendous impact on the morale of the healthcare providers. The relief of hearing that infected friends have recovered can feel like a major victory. But the intense desire to find good news is also a trap.

During the SARS outbreak in Toronto, one of us chaired a daily conference call of clinicians in all hospitals in Ontario.  In early May 2003, it appeared the outbreak was finally contained. But on those calls one clinician voiced concern about a cluster of patients in her hospital that didn’t have clear SARS infections but warranted further investigation. The rest of us wanted it to be over so badly that our bias led us to dismiss this information and declare the outbreak controlled.  One week later, those patients created a new cluster of SARS, and we had to do it all over again.

We fully expect that in addition to the tremendous pressure to get the economy going again, that the ‘thirst for good news bias’ will rear its head with tremendous force. The same countries that used denial to cope with the start of this pandemic will fall into this trap — with dire consequences.  When we start to see reduction in the number of new cases of COVID-19, the job is far from over. This is when it gets challenging, because it is vital to continue physical distancing measures until there is a sustained reduction in cases. Despite the personal, economic and socio-political damage this causes, it is only then that public health authorities should start to lift these restrictions.

Recognizing these three behaviors, which are the natural result of normal human cognitive psychology, will be crucial in determining how this all ends (or at least how it plays out until we have an effective vaccine). And this is why we believe that while heads of governments should be accountable for what happens in their countries, they should leave the decision making to public health scientists.  Those scientists in turn would do well to consult with behavioral psychologists to weed out destructive biases, so they can devise the right strategies to save lives and get us back to normal again.

Dr. Allan S. Detsky is a Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and Department of  Medicine at the University of Toronto; former

Dr. Isaac Bogoch is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Medicine, and is an Infectious Diseases specialist and General Internist at the Toronto General Hospital with a focus on tropical diseases, HIV, and general infectious diseases. He completed medical school and Internal Medicine residency training at the University of Toronto, and then specialized in Infectious Diseases at Harvard University. He holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health, and has completed fellowships in both Tropical Infectious Diseases and HIV care. Dr. Bogoch divides his clinical and research time between Toronto and several countries in Africa and Asia and he collaborates with a team that models the spread of emerging infectious diseases

Source: Two Doctors Who Treated SARS: Beware These Behavioral Changes That Could Make The Coronavirus Pandemic Worse

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As Europe Locks Down, Sweden Takes A Liberal Approach To Coronavirus

Topline: Sweden is taking a more liberal strategy to combat coronavirus than its European neighbors. As confirmed cases and deaths spike, some Swedes are calling for the government to rethink the country’s strategy.

  • Unlike the rest of the continent, people in Sweden as of Friday were still permitted to visit restaurants for sit-down meals, get a haircut and even send children under the age of 16 to school.
  • It’s all part of Sweden’s plan that focuses on self-responsibility as the government turns its attention to isolating and treating confirmed coronavirus patients, instead of widespread shelter-in-place orders.
  • Sweden’s Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has expressed skepticism about enforcing a sustained period of lockdown. While bans have been placed on gatherings of 50 or more people and Swedes have been told to avoid unnecessary travel, these are relatively laidback restrictions when compared to other European countries that are shutting down schools and restricting everyday movement.
  • The government instead has emphasized a set of guidelines, like encouraging increased hand washing, social distancing and limiting contact with vulnerable people, like those over age 70.
  • Recent numbers show Swedes appear to be following social distancing guidelines even when they’re not required by law. Passenger numbers on public transportation in the capital have fallen by half, and polls indicate that half of residents there are working from home.
  • However, some critics say people need more stringent guidelines to follow as both deaths and new cases have risen in the past week. Last month, more than 2,000 academics signed an open letter in March to demand tougher measures from the government

Crucial quote: “It is important to have a policy that can be sustained over a longer period, meaning staying home if you are sick, which is our message,” Tegnell said. “Locking people up at home won’t work in the longer term. Sooner or later people are going to go out anyway.”

Key background: The Swedish Health Agency reported 612 new cases on Friday alone, bringing the countrywide total to about 6,000. The same day, the death toll hit 333. Between 25 to 30 people have died each day. Stockholm has seen the most coronavirus cases, accounting for more than half of the whole country’s fatalities, according to Reuters CRI .

What to watch for: Whether coronavirus cases increase in Sweden in the coming weeks. According to The Daily Mail, one statistician in Sweden said half the population could become infected in April.

Interesting fact: According to YouGov data, Sweden is the country least afraid of the coronavirus pandemic, with only 31% of Swedes say they are “very” or “somewhat” scared that they will contract the virus.

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I am a Texas native covering breaking news out of New York City. Previously, I was a Forbes intern in London. I am an alum of City, University of London and Texas State University.

Source: As Europe Locks Down, Sweden Takes A Liberal Approach To Coronavirus

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What to Know About Coronavirus Immunity and Chances of Reinfection

Troubling headlines have been cropping up across Asia: Some patients in China, Japan and South Korea who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and seemingly recovered have been readmitted to the hospital after testing positive for the virus again.

Because SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, was only discovered a few months ago, scientists are still trying to answer many big questions related to the virus and the disease it causes. Among them is whether patients can be reinfected by the virus after they seem to recover from the symptoms.

With other coronavirus strains, experts say the antibodies that patients produce during infection give them immunity to the specific virus for months or even years, but researchers are still figuring out if and how that works with COVID-19.

The answer has huge implications for the spread of the disease, since researchers believe it will continue to crash across the world in waves, hitting the same country multiple times.

Can you get re-infected after recovering from COVID-19?

There remains a lot of uncertainty, but experts TIME spoke with say that it’s likely the reports of patients who seemed to have recovered but then tested positive again were not examples of re-infection, but were cases where lingering infection was not detected by tests for a period of time.

Experts say the body’s antibody response, triggered by the onset of a virus, means it is unlikely that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 can get re-infected so soon after contracting the virus. Antibodies are normally produced in a patient’s body around seven to 10 days after the initial onset of a virus, says Vineet Menachery, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Instead, testing positive after recovery could just mean the tests resulted in a false negative and that the patient is still infected. “It may be because of the quality of the specimen that they took and may be because the test was not so sensitive,” explains David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who also studied the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which is caused by a coronavirus in the same family as SARS-CoV-2.

A positive test after recovery could also be detecting the residual viral RNA that has remained in the body, but not in high enough amounts to cause disease, says Menachery. “Viral RNA can last a long time even after the actual virus has been stopped.”

Keep up to date on the growing threat to global health by signing up for our daily coronavirus newsletter.

Where have patients tested positive for COVID-19 after seeming to have recovered?

A study on recovered COVID-19 patients in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen found that 38 out of 262, or almost 15% of the patients, tested positive after they were discharged. They were confirmed via PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, currently the gold standard for coronavirus testing. The study has yet to be peer reviewed, but offers some early insight into the potential for re-infection. The 38 patients were mostly young (below the age of 14) and displayed mild symptoms during their period of infection. The patients generally were not symptomatic at the time of their second positive test.

In Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began, researchers looked at a case study of four medical workers who had three consecutive positive PCR tests after having seemingly recovered. Similar to the study in Shenzhen, the patients were asymptomatic and their family members were not infected.

Outside of China, at least two such cases have also been reported in Japan (including one Diamond Princess cruise passenger) and one case was reported in South Korea. All three of them reportedly showed symptoms of infection after an initial recovery, and then re-tested as positive.

Does recovering from COVID-19 make you immune?

There hasn’t been enough time to research COVID-19 in order to determine whether patients who recover from COVID-19 are immune to the disease—and if so, how long the immunity will last. However, preliminary studies provide some clues. For example, one study conducted by Chinese researchers (which has not yet been peer-reviewed) found that antibodies in rhesus monkeys kept primates that had recovered from COVID-19 from becoming infected again upon exposure to the virus.

In the absence of more information, researchers have been looking at what is known about other members of the coronavirus family. “We are only three and a half months into the pandemic,” Hsu Li Yang, an associate professor and infectious disease expert at the National University of Singapore, says. “The comments we’re making are based on previous knowledge of other human coronavirus and SARS. But whether they extrapolate across COVID-19, we’re not so sure at present.”

One study conducted by Taiwanese researchers found that survivors of the SARS outbreak in 2003 had antibodies that lasted for up to three years—suggesting immunity. Hui notes that survivors of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS, which is also caused by a virus related to the one that causes COVID-19) were found to last just around a year.

Menachery estimates that COVID-19 antibodies will remain in a patient’s system for “two to three years,” based on what’s known about other coronaviruses, but he says it’s too early to know for certain. The degree of immunity could also differ from person to person depending on the strength of the patient’s antibody response. Younger, healthier people will likely generate a more robust antibody response, giving them more protection against the virus in future.

“We would expect that if you have antibodies that neutralize the virus, you will have immunity,” Menachery says. “How long the antibodies last is still in question.”

By Hillary Leung April 3, 2020

Source: What to Know About Coronavirus Immunity and Chances of Reinfection

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More Than 160 New Jersey Police Officers Tested Positive for Coronavirus

More than 160 New Jersey Police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, New Jersey State Police said Sunday in a press release. (New Jersey State Police issued a correction after the head of the agency “overstated” how many personnel tested positive for the COVID-19 at a press conference held by state officials on Saturday.)

Acting State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan had said on Saturday that about 700 police were reported as having the disease. “During a recent COVID-19 press conference, Col. Patrick Callahan overstated the Law Enforcement Statewide Positive cases,” the agency said in the statement on Sunday, noting that so far, across the state, 163 personnel had tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,272 had been quarantined.

“There’s more than 700 police officers quarantined at home and there’s about the same amount (…) that have tested positive from all 21 counties,” Callahan had said.

Callahan said authorities “track every single police officer” who test positive for COVID-19 but did not elaborate on what departments were most affected or provide an exact number of how many police personnel tested positive.

Callahan also indicated that two police officers who were reported as being in serious condition are improving.

U.S. Government Working on Guidelines to Assess Local Coronavirus Risk

Federal officials are developing guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread, as he aims to begin to ease nationwide guidelines meant to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

The U.S. has more than 124,000 COVID-19 cases and New Jersey is second only to New York in the number of cases it has so far reported, according to a tracker from researchers at Johns Hopkins University. As of Sunday morning, New York has reported about 53,500 cases and New Jersey has reported about 11,000 cases.

On Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a domestic travel advisory, urging “residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.”

By Sanya Mansoor Updated: March 30, 2020 1:46 PM EDT | Originally published: March 29, 2020 10:53 AM EDT

Source: More Than 160 New Jersey Police Officers Tested Positive for Coronavirus

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Hay Fever or Coronavirus? For Allergy Sufferers, a Pollen Season of Extra Worries Is Starting Up

1

(HAMBURG, Pa.) — The spring breezes of 2020 are carrying more than just tree pollen. There’s a whiff of paranoia in the air.

For millions of seasonal allergy sufferers, the annual onset of watery eyes and scratchy throats is bumping up against the global spread of a new virus that produces its own constellation of respiratory symptoms. Forecasters are predicting a brutal spring allergy season for swaths of the U.S. at the same time that COVID-19 cases are rising dramatically.

That’s causing angst for people who never have had to particularly worry about their hay fever, other than to stock up on antihistamines, decongestants and tissues. Now they’re asking: Are these my allergies? Or something more sinister?

Read more: Mapping the Spread of the Coronavirus Outbreak Around the U.S. and the World

“Everyone is sort of analyzing every sneeze and cough right now,” said Kathy Przywara, who manages an online community of allergy sufferers for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Never mind the differing symptoms — that sneezing and runny nose, hallmarks of hay fever, are not typically associated with COVID-19, which commonly produces coughing, fever and in more serious cases shortness of breath. Never mind that allergies don’t cause fevers. Allergy sufferers fret that there’s just enough overlap to make them nervous.

Keep up to date with our daily coronavirus newsletter by clicking here.

Allergy season is already underway in Oceanside, California, where Ampie Convocar is dealing with a runny nose, sinus pain and headache, and an urge to sneeze. Last year, she would’ve considered her symptoms mere annoyance. Now they cause tremendous anxiety. People with asthma, like Convocar, are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“I consider it as something that could kill me because of COVID-19 floating around,” Convocar said via email. With a family member still traveling to work every day, she said, “I don’t know what he got out there.”

Many garden-variety hay fever sufferers, of whom there are about 19 million adults in the U.S., are also on heightened alert. They’re taking their temperatures each day, just in case. They’re hiding their sneezes and sniffles from suspicious colleagues and grossed-out grocery shoppers. They’re commiserating with each other and sharing memes on social media.

Pamela Smelser is reminded of allergy season every time she looks out the window of her home office, where her cherry tree is blooming. Spring came early to Maryland, she said, and lots of people are coughing and sneezing from the pollen.

“You do what you have to do: You take your meds for allergies and stay away from people,” Smelser said. “People get really hinky about coughing right now.”

Though she’s had allergies for years, Smelser, a semi-retired social worker and community college teacher outside Baltimore, admits to being a touch paranoid. She takes her temperature every day because she’s 66 and, well, you can never be too careful. “I can’t rule out that I have anything,” she said. “That’s the paranoia: You can’t even get a test to say, ‘This is all seasonal allergies.’”

In Pennsylvania, pear trees are budding, red maple are beginning to flower and Leslie Haerer’s allergies are already in full bloom. The 64-year-old retired nurse, who lives about an hour north of Philadelphia, is coping with a scratchy throat, an urge to sneeze and a headache behind the eyes.

As a medical professional, Haerer knows her symptoms are attributable to her allergies. She also knows that other people are “really flipped out about this,” including the scowling family of three who saw her sneeze into her elbow outside a Chinese restaurant and, instead of continuing on to their destination — the pizza shop next door — got in their car and sped away.

“I was like, ‘I’m sorry you missed your pizza,’” Haerer said. “People’s reactions are just over the top.”

Read more: Will the Coronavirus Ever Go Away? Here’s What One of the WHO’s Top Experts Thinks

In Austin, Texas, where pollen counts are high, Marty Watson initially dismissed his itchy eyes, mild headache, coughing and sneezing as the product of a tree allergy, even after his temperature became slightly elevated. Then, in mid-March, he realized he could no longer smell a pungent sourdough starter, and friends began sending him news stories that said a loss of smell sometimes accompanied a coronavirus infection.

“Austin is notorious for all sorts of allergies, and it became really hard to tell: Is it this? Is it that?” said Watson, 52.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

As allergy season ramps up in Pennsylvania, Dr. Laura Fisher, an allergist in Lancaster, expects an influx of worried patients. She is advising them to keep up with their medications, stay at home as much as possible and monitor for symptoms that seem unrelated to their allergies.

“I think people are more afraid of catching it, more afraid of going out and getting it from the grocery store or drive-thru, than they are of their usual symptoms being COVID,” said Fisher, president of the Pennsylvania Allergy and Asthma Association.

Jessica Tanniehill initially blew off her symptoms as allergy-related. Tanniehill, 39, of Adamsville, Alabama, started with a runny nose and sneezing. Body aches and a cough came next, following by shortness of breath. She thought her seasonal allergies had led to a bout of anxiety, nothing more, especially since she’d been outside all day doing yard work and washing her truck. “I didn’t take it seriously,” she said.

Turns out she’d contracted COVID-19 — which doesn’t preclude the possibility that she’d had allergies as well.

Tanniehill, who’s now on the mend, acknowledged that she “was one of the people that was saying they’re overreacting to all this. But now I wish I was more careful.”

 By Associated Press March 30, 2020 2:24 PM EDT

Source: Hay Fever or Coronavirus?

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In Singapore, Standing Too Close Can Now Get You 6 Months in Jail

In Singapore, one of the most densely populated places in with world, sitting or standing too close to another person is now a crime, punishable by up to six months in jail or a $7,000 fine.

The new laws came into effect on Friday as the city-state takes drastic measures to try to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid a surge in new cases linked to travelers who have come from other parts of the world.

Anyone who intentionally sits less than one meter (a little more than three feet) away from another person in a public place or who stands less than a meter away from another person in a line will be guilty of an offense, according to rules published by the country’s health ministry. The new restrictions also ban people from sitting on fixed seats that have been marked to indicate they should not be occupied. The measures, which are expected to be in place until April 30, apply to business and individuals.

The Singaporean government also closed bars and nightclubs and placed limitations on gatherings of more than 10 people and banned large events.

Singapore confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Jan. 23, but officials there were able to stave off a major outbreak from spreading from mainland China thanks to aggressive testing, contact tracing and strict quarantine measures. But now Singapore, like several other cities in Asia, is facing a second wave of infections.

Will Coronavirus Ever Go Away? Here’s What One of World Health Organization’s Top Experts Thinks

Dr. Bruce Aylward was part of the WHO’s team that went to China after the coronavirus outbreak there in January. He has urged all nations to use times bought during lockdowns to do more testing and respond aggressively.

On Thursday, officials in Singapore confirmed 52 new cases of the virus. Twenty-eight of those were imported cases, many with a travel history to Europe, North America, the Middle East, and other parts of Asia.

Other governments in the region, which largely avoided large-scale lockdowns that are now taking place across the U.S. and Europe, are introducing increasingly strict measures in the fight against the coronavirus, in the hopes of stopping a resurgence of the illness. The Hong Kong government this week announced that it was considering a ban on serving alcohol at bars and restaurants. Chinese authorities said that they will ban the arrival of most foreigners into the mainland from March 28, in an attempt to stop the virus from coming in from overseas.

The number of people infected with the coronavirus in Singapore rose to 683 on Friday. More than 500,000 people in over 175 countries and territories are now infected by COVID-19.

By Amy Gunia March 27, 2020

Source: In Singapore, Standing Too Close Can Now Get You 6 Months in Jail

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Will the Coronavirus Ever Go Away? Here’s What a Top WHO Expert Thinks

Dr. Bruce Aylward has almost 30 years experience in fighting polio, Ebola and other diseases, and now, he’s turned his attention to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Aylward, the senior adviser to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the world’s top officials in charge of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The doctor, who led a joint WHO mission to China in February to study the effectiveness of the coronavirus response in the country, has seen firsthand the measures Beijing took to fight the virus. Now he’s sharing what he learned with governments and communicating with the WHO response teams working to fight COVID-19 in virus epicenters around the globe.

In an extensive teleconference interview with TIME from his office in Geneva, Aylward shared what he thinks needs to be done to stop the pandemic, and what the future might hold.

The following excerpts from the conversation have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Do you expect COVID-19 to continue to spread?

We can get little glimpses into the future from places that are recently getting infected, places that aren’t infected, but also the places where it all started. And if you go back and look at China right now, they [identified the virus] in early January, they had a full on response, sort of threw everything at it, and it’s middle of March now and they estimate maybe end of March they’ll be coming out of it, so a full three months.

When you look around the world in Europe, North America, the Middle East, you can see that we’re really at the period of exponential growth, we’re still seeing the virus going up very, very rapidly, even in hard hit places like Italy, for example. These countries still have months of this challenge in front of them.

When you look to other parts of the world, like Africa, for example, and parts of the Indian subcontinent you can see that it’s just beginning. Even though they have very, very few cases, if you look carefully at that curve, it’s also in a phase of exponential growth.

What do you think the coronavirus pandemic will look like six months from now?

I expect we will be emerging—still with disease in various parts of the world—but we should be emerging from a bad wave of this disease across a large swathe of the planet. The challenge is we’re going to be back into the flu season. And one of the big questions is, are we going to see a surge of it again at that period?

Looking further into the future, what do you anticipate? Will COVID-19 ever disappear?

What it looks like is that we’re going to have a substantial wave of this disease right through basically the globe unless something very different happens in the southern hemisphere. And the question then is: What’s going to happen? Is this going to disappear completely? Are we going to get into a period of cyclical waves? Or are we going to end up with low level endemic disease that we have to deal with? Most people believe that that first scenario where this might disappear completely is very, very unlikely, it just transmits too easily in the human population, so more likely waves or low level disease.

A lot of that is going to depend on what we as countries, as societies, do. If we do the testing of every single case, rapid isolation of the cases, you should be able to keep cases down low. If you simply rely on the big shut down measures without finding every case, then every time you take the brakes off, it could come back in waves. So that future frankly, may be determined by us and our response as much as the virus.

The U.S. and Europe had quite a head start to get ready for this. Was a major outbreak inevitable, or could it have been stopped?

I don’t like to use the word “squandered,” that’s a big word. But we probably haven’t optimized how we used that time. Now what we’ve done is, we’ve gained time again by putting in place these big shutdowns. All they do is they buy time, they don’t actually stop the virus, they suppress it, they slow it. What you want to do now is use that time well to get the testing in place, to get the systems in place, so that you can actually manage the individual level cases that are going to be fundamental to stopping this.

And the big question right now is “Are countries going to use this time during these shutdown periods optimally?” Because if you just shut it down your societies, your economies and hope for the best… This is guerrilla warfare against a virus, the virus is just going to sit you out, it’ll just circulate quietly among households and then you’re going to let them all go again and phoom there’s no reason it shouldn’t take off again, unless you’re ready for it.

How long do you think this outbreak will impact daily life in the U.S. and western Europe? How long do you think it’ll take for life to return to normal?

You have to compare it to the few examples you have that have been through this, hence you have to go back to China, look at [South] Korea, look at Singapore. These countries in the very early stages, if they were to throw everything at it, probably a solid two months in front of them, if not a bit longer, maybe three months.

What we’re seeing is that they’re throwing bits and pieces at it. Most countries in the west frankly are really struggling with, “Can we really test all these cases? Can we really isolate all the confirmed cases?” They’re struggling with that. So they’re approaching it a bit differently than China did and the big question is going to be: Is that approach going to work and limit it to just a few months, that hard hit China took? Or is it going to drag it out so long that the bigger societal, economic impacts linger longer than anyone want?

Do you think the U.S. lost critical time with its testing rollout issues?

I think every country may not have optimized the use of the time it had available, and for different reasons. Some people just continued to think this might be flu and some cases they may not have had the testing capacity.

Is there reason to be concerned about a second wave of infections in China?

Absolutely, and China is concerned. As we traveled around China, one of the most striking things that I found, especially in contrast to the West, as I spoke to governors, mayors, and their cases were plummeting—in some of the places they were down to single digit cases already—as I spoke to them and I said, “So what are you doing now?” They said, “We’re building beds, we’re buying ventilators, we’re preparing.” They said, “We do not expect this virus to disappear, but we do expect to be able to run our society, run our economy, run our health system. We cannot end up in this situation again.”

Have you seen examples of politics overruling public health or slowing down responses?

No. I know a lot of people will challenge my assessment. The reasons that there have been problems in some countries is they haven’t had a consensus on the severity of the disease, or they haven’t had a consensus around the transmissibility. You have to have that consensus that you’re dealing with something serious and severe and dangerous for your society and individuals. Otherwise you just cannot generate the public support which is fundamental to accepting the measures, but also the implementing.

Why does the fatality rate in Italy looks to be so high?

It’s a combination of factors. If you look at Italy, and the age distribution, it’s the second-oldest country in the world after Japan, people forget that. You have an older population number one, they get the more severe disease and they’re more likely to die.

What countries are in the most vulnerable situation?

Everyone is vulnerable, but the big question of course is what’s going to happen when this really starts to take off in those low-income countries where they don’t have as much medical capacity such as in Africa.

It’s one of those things that you don’t want to imagine because the numbers could be so grave. The population distribution could help. Is the humidity and the temperature going to help make a difference? I would hope so, but look at the situation in Singapore, that’s a hot, humid country. So the situation in these countries could be very difficult.

The WHO is urging countries to “test, test, test.” Are there any countries in particular that you think are not doing enough testing?

That’s much easier answered the other way around. Is anyone doing enough testing? There it’s limited. It’s China, [South] Korea, Singapore.

There are reports of people dying of coronavirus who are otherwise healthy. What have your teams seen in terms of who the virus is killing?

One of the things that terrifies me now is, as this is spread in the west is, there’s this sense of invulnerability among millennials. And absolutely not. Ten percent of the people who are in [intensive care units] in Italy are in their 20s, 30s or 40s. These are young, healthy people with no co-morbidities, no other diseases.

We don’t understand why some young healthy people progress to severe disease and even die and others don’t. We don’t have clear predictors.

What would your message be for young people around the world?

This is one of the most serious diseases you will face in your lifetime, and recognize that and respect it. It is dangerous to you as an individual. It is dangerous to your parents, to your grandparents and the elderly in particular and it is dangerous to your society in general. You are not an island in this, you are part of a broader community, you are part of transmission chains. If you get infected you are making this much more complicated and you are putting people in danger, not just yourself.

Never, never underestimate a new disease, there’s just too much unknown. What we do know is it will kill young people, it will make young people sick in large numbers. You’ve gotta respect this.

What should a country’s first priority after locking down be?

Test, test, test, test, test. Not test, test, test, test, test everyone, but test the suspects, test the suspects, test the suspects.

Then, effectively isolate the confirmed cases. The third piece is the quarantine piece.

How do you think this will end?

This will end with humanity victorious over yet another virus, there’s no question about that. The question is how much and how fast we will take the measures necessary to minimize the damage that this thing can do. In time, we will have therapeutics, we will have vaccines, we’re in a race against that.

And it’s going to take great cooperation and patience from the general population to play their part because at the end of the day it’s going to be the general population that stops this thing and slows it down enough to get it under control.

By Amy Gunia March 23, 2020

Source: Will the Coronavirus Ever Go Away? Here’s What a Top WHO Expert Thinks

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Dr. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization talks about how the world has passed the tipping point with the COVID-19 outbreak and while countries tried to curb the spread, none of them were prepared for the scope of the disease. Aylward says small, incremental measures are not going to curb the spread and steps need to be taken with the same speed that the disease itself is spreading. For more info, please go to https://globalnews.ca/tag/coronavirus/ Subscribe to Global News Channel HERE: http://bit.ly/20fcXDc Like Global News on Facebook HERE: http://bit.ly/255GMJQ Follow Global News on Twitter HERE: http://bit.ly/1Toz8mt Follow Global News on Instagram HERE: https://bit.ly/2QZaZIB #GlobalNews

Bill Gates On COVID-19: ‘Best-Case Scenario Is Six To Ten Weeks Of Total Isolation In U.S.’

Topline: Bill Gates said that total isolation for six to ten weeks is the only viable option to minimize lives lost and economic damage for the United States to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

  • The billionaire philanthropist predicted, during a virtual TED interview, that if the United States enacts such stringent isolation, there could be positive results within 20 days.
  • Gates argued that the United States missed the critical period to develop comprehensive testing—which would’ve needed to occur in February—that could’ve been used as an alternative to total, sustained nationwide isolation.
  • “There really is no middle ground; It’s very tough to say, ‘Keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies in the corner.’ It’s very irresponsible to suggest to people they can have the best of both worlds,” said Gates.
  • He reiterated that the United States needs to maintain isolation at this moment to avoid devastating outcomes like those of Wuhan and northern Italy.
  • Gates maintained his optimism about the crisis, saying that the world’s experience with COVID-19 will enable us to prepare for the next pandemic.
  • Gates is confident the innovation occurring in the rich countries in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment will fortify developing Southern Hemisphere countries, who may expect to meet up with the virus as seasons shift.

Background: Microsoft founder Bill Gates is the second-richest person in the world, with a $97.4 billion net worth. He has donated 25% of his wealth to charitable causes through his philanthropic organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has given $50 million to COVID-19 therapies so far.

Even as the coronavirus outbreak takes the world by storm, a number of other diseases are also rearing their ugly heads. Cases of swine flu and bird flu have already been reported in India and other countries. Now, a man from China has tested positive for hantavirus.

I’m the assistant editor for Under 30. Previously, I directed marketing at a mobile app startup. I’ve also worked at The New York Times and New York Observer. I attended the University of Pennsylvania where I studied English and creative writing.

Source: Bill Gates On COVID-19: ‘Best-Case Scenario Is Six To Ten Weeks Of Total Isolation In U.S.’

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‘We’re not ready for the next epidemic’ — Watch Bill Gates remind us many, many times about the potential impact of a pandemic like coronavirus COVID-19. » Subscribe to NowThis: http://go.nowth.is/News_Subscribe » Sign up for our newsletter KnowThis to get the biggest stories of the day delivered straight to your inbox: https://go.nowth.is/KnowThis In US news and current events today, we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. American business magnate, software developer, investor, and philanthropist Bill Gates has been warning us about our under-preparedness for future pandemics for years. Bill Gates is best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. In 2015 he gave a TED Talk on the issue of viruses, vaccines, epidemics, and pandemics, and how they affect the world greatly. #BillGates #TEDTalk #Coronavirus #COVID19 #News #NowThis #NowThisNews Connect with NowThis » Like us on Facebook: http://go.nowth.is/News_Facebook » Tweet us on Twitter: http://go.nowth.is/News_Twitter » Follow us on Instagram: http://go.nowth.is/News_Instagram » Find us on Snapchat Discover: http://go.nowth.is/News_Snapchat

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