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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Be informed, be aware. Prevention and precautions in a Covid-19 world.

The Thaiger

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Be informed, be aware. Prevention and precautions in a Covid-19 world. | The Thaiger
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As of this morning the number of cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus has reached 169,552. The number of deaths related to the virus is now 6,516, representing a death rate of around 3.8%, up from 3.4% two weeks ago, and up from the earlier days when it hovered around 2%. But the number of people that have fully recovered has now grown to 77,753.

Thailand reported 32 new cases yesterday. Read about the new cases HERE.

In the last week the spikes have been in Italy, USA, Iran, Spain, Germany and other European countries. More outbreaks will occur. As the number of cases mount and treatment is becoming more nuanced with a larger sample size, across the globe, some key factors are emerging.

Firstly, the virus is statistically more contagious than the flu or common cold, whilst the death rate is higher than seasonal flus. A lot higher. Like 60-80 times higher (when compared to annual US influenza statistics). Statistically that isn’t hugely significant when there are 100,000 cases. But it would be if there were 100 million, or a billion cases.

Be informed, be aware. Prevention and precautions in a Covid-19 world. | News by The Thaiger

Covid-19 also has a higher potential to overwhelm health care systems with the sudden influx of new cases and be a high risk for people with other illnesses.

Influenzas and the common cold are already global and have been floating around the global community for thousands of years, mutating and evolving. Covid-19 has been around for just over 2 months, and only a month or so beyond China’s borders (in any significant numbers).

For example, just two weeks ago Italians were going about their daily lives with a few isolated cases being reported in the north of the country. Now the entire country is in complete lockdown and their hospital system overwhelmed with cases. 17,660 confirmed cases as of today and a death rate of 7.1%.

Still, the ability for governments, generally, to contain the spread of the disease has been swift at this stage and the education about prevention continues spread quickly through the internet (as does the misinformation).

It should also be noted that many of the people who have sadly succumbed to the virus have been in the older demographics, in China and beyond, and many with reported underlying diseases as well. In fact, as you get older your chances of dying from a Covid-19 infection increases, in a completely predictable linear fashion. The message here is clear – be young and remain healthy.

Be informed, be aware. Prevention and precautions in a Covid-19 world. | News by The Thaiger

Secondly, the virus’s incubation period, where it can remain contagious with the carrier showing few or no symptoms, is an ongoing concern. Biologically, it behaves differently than the flu.

Viruses are genetically destined to survive, evolve and thrive. The insidious beauty of the Covid-19 virus is that the symptoms in its human hosts can remain dormant for up to 4 days (current estimates), during which time the host can be highly contagious, milling around in close contact with other humans, oblivious to their role as a ‘spreader’.

This relatively unique dynamic of the Covid-19 coronavirus will continue to remain the disease’s main advantage, and the biggest challenge for world health authorities.

Be informed, be aware. Prevention and precautions in a Covid-19 world. | News by The Thaiger

Thirdly, we are still in the very early phases of this pandemic. Whilst the containment has been swift in most cases, and with many locations in almost total lockdown (parts of central South Korea, Italy, some New York suburbs) we’re still seeing a wide spread of the virus.

It’s also clear that our mobile, gregarious and jet-setting lifestyle – more people are flying from continent to continent than any time in human history – is a perfect mechanism to spread the disease, faster and more efficiently.

In the last week we’ve seen a serious escalation of cases in disparate locations around the world, most Europe and the US at this stage. But be assured that these ‘outbreaks’ will pop up in other locations in the coming weeks and months. Consider that places like India, South America and Africa are still to report large outbreaks at this stage. That could currently be due to inadequate testing or mis-reporting.

Be informed, be aware. Prevention and precautions in a Covid-19 world. | News by The Thaiger

Finally, whilst we’ve learned a lot as we follow and analyse cases in the digital age, there’s still much we don’t understand about this novel coronavirus. As its original designation suggests, it’s novel, or new. New information, scientifically verified, is creeping out each day giving global authorities better information to initiate better procedures to try and contain the spread and care for patients.

That all bodes well for the future although, at this stage, the increased knowledge hasn’t turned into a drop in the numbers of new reported cases. Responsible media remains core to communicating the latest, most accurate information.

The best we can all do is be prepared, informed and keep up to date with reliable news on the matter.

So, why should we be taking the Covid-19 outbreak seriously?

In the next few months there will surely be some reliable, proven vaccine produced. But it could take up to a year, or more, to test and then ramp up the manufacture to a point where medical authorities could usefully start vaccinating large sections of the community. Even so, the early days of manufacture will be used on the most serious cases, in the richest countries. It’s roll-out to a wider world population could take many more months.

The best long term solution is going to remain preventative which will fundamentally change so many aspects of our lives, compared to the pre-coronavirus days (pre-2020).

Travel, events, gatherings of people, greetings, wearing of face-masks (whether they provide any barrier or not), tourism industries, airlines, business sentiment, etc, etc.

Even this week we’ve seen a substantial reaction from the business world with share markets dropping around the world. We’re likely to see more knee-jerk investor reaction as the business world fully digests the impact of the virus spread. At this stage the effects to business will probably be profound and medium to long-term, maybe up to the end of this year. But no one really knows.

Many things will change and a new post-Covid-19 world may emerge, where our community and contact with each other may be played out in a whole new way; the hand shake, the cheek-kiss greeting of the Europeans, protocols at large events, the idea of centralised ‘offices’ – we’re already starting to see habits modified to cope with the new paradigm.

New general behaviours will emerge which will profoundly change the way we communicate and go about civil discourse.

The big winners will be some medical companies and private hospitals, home delivery services, businesses that can operate with its workforce working remotely, and probably a few churches (for those that prefer a ‘divine’ solution rather than a medical one). There will also be a boom in fake-cures, pseudoscience-related information, scams and politicians who will use the turn of events to their own benefit. Turn your bullshit-detector dial up to ‘high’.

Be informed, be aware. Prevention and precautions in a Covid-19 world. | News by The Thaiger

So when people post about world influenza figures, compare the Covid-19 outbreak to the issue of global starvation or even the road toll, they forget that ALL these issues are separate and unique situations that bear no resemblance. The issues should not, and cannot, be compared. We are in the very early phases of Covid-19 and we already know enough to confirm that this in NOT just another influenza with an extremely low mortality rate.

We remain floundering in the early days of this world pandemic and, statistically, there are no positive signs of the situation being brought under control in the immediate future.

“We are in unchartered territory. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures.” – WHO Chief

Remain alert and informed, but not alarmed.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Covid-19 are similar to a range of other illnesses such as influenza. Having any of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have Covid-19, and in the vast majority of cases, it won’t be. But symptoms include…

  • fever
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing

Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible respiratory problems, a lung infection or pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

We don’t yet know how long symptoms take to show after a person has been infected, but current World Health Organisation assessments suggest that it is 2–10 days, even up to 14 days.

If you have these symptoms, or have recently been to a country or area of concern, or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19, or in an area with a lot of other people, please contact your nearest public hospital to register your situation, and go to the hospital if you start to display symptoms.

Prevention

There is currently no vaccine to prevent the latest coronavirus (Covid-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus in the first place. However, here are some everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including…

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick (probably good advice at any time).
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if Covid-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Maintain high standards of hygiene.
  • Stay home if you are sick and inform your family or workplace if you are unwell.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the rubbish bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • Follow medical recommendations for using a face mask…
    • The US Centres for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation do not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including Covid-19.
    • Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of Covid-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)
    • Face masks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.
    • Note: The flimsy, cheap, paper face masks will do almost nothing to help anyone.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • As an alternative, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.
    • Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

19 new Covid-19 cases detected in quarantine

Caitlin Ashworth

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19 new Covid-19 cases detected in quarantine | The Thaiger

19 new Covid-19 cases were detected in quarantine, according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. Thailand’s total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases is raised to 3,961 with 3,790 recoveries and 60 deaths. 111 people are currently receiving medical treatment for the coronavirus.

  • 4 Thai nationals travelling from Saudi Arabia, including a 40 year old teacher and 3 students ages 5, 10 and 12, tested positive for Covid-19.
  • 3 people travelling from the United States, including a 61 year old American and 2 Thais, ages 30 and 75, tested positive for Covid-19.
  • 2 Indian nationals, ages 32 and 40, travelling from India tested positive for Covid-19.
  • 2 Thai nationals, ages 26 and 52, travelling from Germany tested positive for Covid-19.
  • 2 Thai nationals, ages 30 and 37, travelling from the Republic of Georgia tested positive for Covid-19.
  • A 27 year old Thai national travelling from the United Kingdom tested positive for Covid-19.
  • A 30 year old Thai national travelling from Luxembourg tested positive for Covid-19.
  • A 31 year old Thai national travelling from Sweden tested positive for Covid-19.
  • A 42 year old Italian national travelling from Italy tested positive for Covid-19.
  • A 69 year old Omani national travelling from Oman tested positive for Covid-19.
  • A 41 year old Thai national travelling from Poland tested positive for Covid-19.

19 new Covid-19 cases detected in quarantine | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Questions raised over AstraZeneca “dosing mistake” in vaccine trials

The Thaiger

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Questions raised over AstraZeneca “dosing mistake” in vaccine trials | The Thaiger

British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced this week that their experimental coronavirus vaccine candidate is, on average, 70% effective. But since Monday’s announcement vaccine experts from around the world have questioned the methodology of the trials and transparency of the announced Phase 3 trial results.

The questions and uncertainty of the AstraZeneca vaccine trials will set back the timing for the vaccine to be authorised other parts of the world. Scientists are curious why the company has pooled results from different trials, saying that this “deviates from standard reporting on clinical trials”.

AstraZeneca announced last Monday that the participants in the UK had been given 2 different courses of the candidate vaccine.

The drugmaker, who co-developed the vaccine with the University of Oxford, didn’t explain why they used 2 different dosing regimens, or why the size of one group was significantly smaller than the other.

• In one group, 2,741 participants received a half-dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least 30 days later. This group was 90% protected against Covid-19.

• In the second group, 8,895 participants received a full dose followed by another full dose a month later. This group was only 62% protected.

The 2 trials, when averaged, according to AstraZeneca, gives their vaccine its reported 70% effectiveness. But epidemiologists say that the small number of people in the low dose group make it difficult to know if the effectiveness “was a statistical quirk”.

David Salisbury, from the global health program at London-based Chatham House, said another area of confusion was that the studies pooled results from the two groups to reach an average of 70% efficacy. Speaking to AP…

“You’ve taken two studies for which different doses were used and come up with a composite that doesn’t represent either of the doses. I think many people are having trouble with that.″

Then, Mene Pangalos, head of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, responded to Reuters saying that a “lab error” was the reason why some volunteers had received a smaller dose… the dose that proved to be 90% effective.

“The reason we had the half dose is serendipity, Researchers had underpredicted the dose of the vaccine by half.”

Then, the next day, University of Oxford chimed in in a statement… “dose selection for any new vaccine is a complicated area, and in exploring methods of dose selection, we discovered one gave a lower dose than expected.”

“A difference in the manufacturing process had led to the error.”

AstraZeneca say that these “manufacturing problems” have been corrected, noting that the UK regulator overseeing the trial had agreed to include “both approaches” in Phase 3.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Menelas Pangalos said that the mistake is actually irrelevant.

“Whichever way you cut the data, even if you only believe the full-dose, full-dose data, we still have efficacy that meets the thresholds for approval with a vaccine that’s over 60% effective.”

The trial’s lead investigator at Oxford University, Professor Andrew Pollard, as part of the announcements on Monday, said that’s the issue is likely to do with the delicate balance of dosing someone just enough to trigger an immune response against the disease.

“What we’ve always tried to do with a vaccine is fool the immune system into thinking that there’s a dangerous infection there that it needs to respond to, but doing it in a very safe way.”

“So, it may be that the best way of kicking the immune system into action could be to give the body a small amount of the vaccine to begin with, and then follow up with a larger amount.”

Responding to whether he had genuine confidence that the half-dose group’s 90% success was not just a feature of a small sample size, Pollard said that result was “highly significant…even with the numbers that we have.”

Moncef Slaoui, a US-based researcher and former head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccines department who leads the US coronavirus vaccine program, says they were reviewing AstraZeneca’s vaccine data.

He noted that group that got the lower dose that yielded the 90% efficacy had been a younger group, with no one older than 55.

“That could potentially affect the strength of AstraZeneca’s findings, given that young people typically produce stronger immune responses to vaccines. We want it to be based on data and science.”

Natalie Dean, assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida said that the AstraZeneca/Oxford University team “get a poor grade for transparency and rigour when it comes to the vaccine trial results”.

“This is not like Pfizer or Moderna where we had the protocols in advance and a pre-specified primary analysis was reported.”

AstraZeneca shares have fallen 12% since November 11.

SOURCE: Euro News | Reuters | CNN

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai government to sign vaccine contract with Oxford University, AstraZeneca, today

Maya Taylor

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Thai government to sign vaccine contract with Oxford University, AstraZeneca, today | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.aseanthai.net

The Thai PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has confirmed that Thailand will today sign a contract with Oxford University and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, for the procurement of their Covid-19 vaccine. The PM says the agreement will mean Thais can access the vaccine once it goes into production. This contract is in addition to the agreement signed for the transfer of vaccine technology that will enable it to be manufactured here.

Earlier this week, the team behind the vaccine announced that it was between 70-90% effective, depending on the dosage. The discrepancy raised some questions, as it appeared the vaccine was more effective when administered first as a half-dose, followed by a full dose, rather than when 2 full doses were administered. The team now says it may carry out another global trial to determine why the lower dose appears more effective.

The PM points out that one significant advantage the vaccine has is that it can be stored at temperatures of 2 – 8 degrees Celsius, unlike those of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at much lower freezer temperatures (around -70 degrees Celsius, in the case of the Pfizer jab). Such a requirement could create a logistical nightmare for some countries.

The PM says the vaccine is likely to be approved and go into production in Thailand by the middle of 2021, adding that the quicker it’s available, the quicker the tourism sector and the overall economy will recover.

According to a Thai PBS World report, the PM says many other countries have signed similar deals with pharmaceutical companies, in order to guarantee access to effective vaccines for their citizens. Meanwhile, he adds that, until the vaccine is available, people should continue with hygiene measures such as mask-wearing in public spaces, hand-washing and social distancing, in order to avoid the repeat waves of the virus that other countries are having to deal with.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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