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UK Government Starts Trial for Coronavirus Contact Tracing App

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The first test of a coronavirus contact tracing app was launched by the UK government this week. The test was launched on a small island that existed off the south coast of England.

The app will use Bluetooth technology, to alert users, if they have been close to someone who reportedly has symptoms of the virus or has had a positive test. The digital technology unit of the National Health Service (NHS) has developed the app, which will also upload information to a central database which will consequently help the public health experts to study the behavior of the deadly virus.

The United Kingdom, unlike Germany, has chosen not to use the technology that is jointly developed by Google (GOOGL) and Apple (AAPL), because the data will only be stored locally on individual devices. Instead, the anonymous user data will be stored by the health authority, after encryption, in keeping with UK privacy rules.

According to a statement by the senior cabinet minister, Michael Gove, on Sunday, the government is in hopes that more than half of the 80,000 households on the Isle of Wight, will be downloading the app after its launch. He further added that the government plans on rolling out the app across the country later this month if the test proves to be successful.

According to an infectious diseases expert at Oxford University, Christophe Fraser, such apps can prove to be highly effective in stopping mass infections. Fraser is also the one who is helping in the development of the UK app and has also conducted extensive investigations on the outbreaks of SARS, H1N1, and Ebola. Steps can be taken for the prevention of further transmission if people are alerted when they are exposed to the virus.

However, according to a reported statement by Fraser last month, to show effectiveness in stemming the virus, at least 60% of the population needs to download and use the app. The UK app would ask users about their symptoms, which would then determine if they have enough symptoms of COVID-19, to become a presumed case. Meanwhile, other users that could potentially have “risky contact” are notified and further asked to self-isolate themselves, as the government said.

If the sick individual has themselves tested, the result can also be entered in the app, so the app can notify the contacts whether it was a false alarm or whether they should also get tested or go into quarantine.

Additionally, as a part of its overall efforts in keeping track of the virus after the lockdown restrictions are eased, the UK government wants to hire 18,000 contact tracers in the next few weeks. These contact tracers will track an infected person and where they have been as well as whom they may have come into contact with.

There has already been heavy criticism by privacy advocates, regarding the UK app, and have also argued that a decentralized approach towards the management of data, would provide greater security against bad state actors that are “spying” on citizens.

Other experts argue that by keeping the data centrally located, the app system can be protected from being overwhelmed by hacking attacks, and would further allow better tracking and study of the spread of the infection, by the government.

Matthew Gould is leading the app development for the National Health Service. Matthew told a UK parliamentary committee on Monday that with the centralization of the data, it will help the health authorities to get an insight on essential information, such as which symptoms would more likely result in a positive diagnosis and whether there’s a significant difference in contagion, depending on the time taken for the development of symptoms.

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Cannabis

Who owns the Suspicious Marijuana Farm Near Middleton Home?

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The Police discovered a Marijuana Farm near Kate Middleton’s family home in Buckleberry in Berkshire. A power outage led to the discovery of the illegal farming of marijuana right next to Middleton’s 18 acrea estate, on Thursday.

The Middleton Estate

Kate Middleton’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, own a £4.7 million Grade II Manor house in Buckleberry in Berkshire. The purchased this property back in 2012 after moving from their £1.5 million house in the same village of Berkshire. The 18-acre estate consists of 7 bedrooms and 5 reception rooms. Carole and Michael moved here due to the better privacy and security this house offered.

Image Credits: Zimbio.com

The Middleton Family House holds great importance for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Duke and Duchess have spent a lot of fun moments at ‘The Manor’. All the sweet memories make The Manor a strong fort to hold.

Image Credits: express.co.uk

Discovery of the Marijuana Farm

Upon calling, people from the electricity board came to solve the electricity power situation. The workers from the electricity board discovered the Marijuana Farm on the Wednesday night. They immediately brought this to the attention of the police. The police raided the area on Thursday and found an empty Cannabis factory.

 Also read: House Fire exposes illegal marijuana operation

A witness reported that about 6 vans collected the content inside the potential cannabis factory. The police has taken all the evidence for further investigation. The Police is investigating this case under the top priority badge. They have found some evidence that the empty and abandoned factory was previously being used as a safe space to make drugs from cannabis.

Until now, no arrests have been made and people are clueless about the owner of the factory. The police has asked the public to contact police if they have any information regarding the suspicious factory hidden in the barns. The investigating officer told the media that they are still carrying out an investigation. They are confident that they will soon get to the bottom of this matter.

Also read: WHO – New Study Suggests Face Mask Could Reduces the Risk of COVID-19 by 85%

Baseless Rumors

As suspicious as it might sound, there is no confirmation to it. Kate Middleton is the Queen of Grace and her family is an epitome of class. The rumors about the Cannabis Factory being owned by the Middletons are circulating however, it seems nothing but a rumor. Royal family has always been subjected to such fake news every now and then. Previously rumors about Kate’s fourth pregnancy were also in the air and Kate having marital issues with Prince William also surfaced.

While the Police and CID are working hand in hand to solve the mystery of the Cannabis factory and marijuana farm right next to the Middleton Family House, people are looking forward to get their hands on the latest gossip.

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WHO – New Study Suggests Face Masks Could Reduce Risk of COVID-19 by 85%

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recently approved a new review. The review emphasizes the importance of social distancing, face masks, and eye protection to decrease the spread of COVID-19. However, this applied to both health care settings and the general public. Furthermore, the review also mentioned that a safe distance of at least 3 feet (1 meter) between individuals would decrease the chances of infection by 82%. Moreover, the review has encourages a more effective distance of 6 feet (2m).

Why are face masks important?

Face Masks Covid-19

The New York Times

Face masks and cloth face coverings can potentially protect the general public and health care workers from COVID-19. However, the researchers emphasized that N-95 masks are more effective than other masks, especially in the health care industry. Due to the method of transmission, individuals are focusing on protecting their nose and mouth. However, the authors stated that eye protection might be just as beneficial as masks, and provide further protection.

However, the authors have acknowledged the limitations of the evidence regarding face masks and eye protection. Furthermore, none of the above ways are guaranteed 100% protection from COVID-19. Lead author and clinician-scientist in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, and Department of Medicine at McMaster University Ontario, Dr. Derek Chu, had given a statement. He explained that while all measures were essential, none excluded the possibility of infection completely. He added that consequently, hand hygiene is essential to further reduce the risk of infection.

The review

A new review was published in the journal, The Lancet, on June 1. Chu and his team examined existing research on COVID-19 ad relevant conditions SARS and MERS. In totality, the researchers examined 7 studied on COVID-19, 26 on SARS, and 11 on MERS. This summed up to 44 pieces of research conducted on over 25,000 participants in 16 different nations.

The studies focused on the impact of social distancing, face masks, and eye protection on the spread of COVID-19. The researchers focused on each of them and their degree of protection separately. However, the examination of the impact of the span of potential exposure on the prospect of infection was unsuccessful.

With social distancing and quarantine, however, the risks of infection were decreased. The risks were reduced to 3% with a distance of 3 feet, and to 13% with a distance of fewer than 3 feet. Furthermore, the risk of infection decreased further with added distance.

Risk of transmission

The risk of transmission decreased with added distances and further safety protocols, such as

  • With a face mask – 3%
  • Without a face mask – 17%
  • With eye protection – 6%
  • Without eye protection – 16%
  • Social distancing of up to 3 feet – 3%
  • Social distancing of fewer than 3 feet – 13%

Every extra 3 feet of social distancing reduced the risk by half.

The study’s senior author, and a professor at McMaster University, Holger Schünemann, gave a statement. The author explained how their findings are the first to study direct knowledge of COVID-19, SARS, and MERS. Consequently, this resulted in the best obtainable proof of the optimal use of these safety measures in order to flatten the curve.

In terms of protection, further research in the health care industry has concluded a 96% effectiveness in N95 respirators. Meanwhile, other masks with the inclusion of surgical masks showed 77% efficiency.

However, the review had made its room for error and improvement. No randomized control trials were included in the review. Instead, the review focused on observational studies. In such studies, researchers assign no treatment to participants and merely observe them, to conclude results. However, there is a need for randomized controlled trials, particularly on the impact of face masks on the rate of transmission. Thankfully, the authors have stated that two trials are ongoing in Denmark and Canada.

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What if coronavirus becomes an endemic?

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The recent coronavirus crisis has everyone locked in their homes, trying to stay away from the outside world. However, there has been no change despite the precautionary measures. The drastic increase in its spread has raised suspicions if the virus is here to stay. According to a latest statement released by the World Health Organization, the coronavirus might never go away.

Starting from Wuhan, China, the Coronavirus has spread across the globe. Majority of the countries are failing to gain control over its spread. Adversely affecting the world’s economy, the virus has put countries into lockdown. This has led to a halt for imports and exports and even caused the oil market to crash.

Current Situation

Currently, the novel virus has affected 6,245,229 people, causing 373,337 deaths, and is nowhere near slowing down. Everyday, the new cases seem to be increasing and the hospitals have reached maximum capacity. Governments have taken numerous measures to isolate and accommodate the patients. Quarantine centers have formed and pharmacies have received extensive supply of protective material. However, the number of affected people has still shown a continuous increase.

Over the last 7 months, researchers and scientists across the globe have been trying to produce an effective vaccine. There have also been numerous research studies to find ways of slowing the spread of the virus. However, the efforts have not produced any fruitful outcomes. While some believe mouthwash can help, others have theories about adding vitamin D supplements to the diet to stay safe. None of them have been successful.

Also read: Massachusetts – Cannabis Retailers Fear Another Shutdown Owing to COVID-19

Will coronavirus become an edmemic?

While majority of the world is praying for the pandemic to end, the World Health Organization has raised suspicions that the crisis might turn into an endemic, even if a vaccine is developed. When an infection becomes a characteristic of a particular population, it is referred to as an endemic. Just like we have made peace with HIV, chicken pox and the Influenza virus, coronavirus would become a norm.

It is evident f that having a transmittable disease is a big problem for the everyday lives of people. Business processes have also been put to a halt as everyone is bound within the boundaries of their homes. Currently, even going to a nearby market for getting groceries is not safe.

Everything has shifted online as schools and other educational institutions have been closed. Staying at home is more convenient than commuting to work everyday. However, frustration might take a toll on us when we are stuck in the same space without any guarantee of returning to normal.

As the cases keep on increasing, it is high time people start thinking of a world where they coexist with the deadly virus. There are far too many uncertainties at this point. The scientists still have not produced an effective vaccine and there is no guarantee if an affected patient will not get infected again. In fact, a second infection might actually be worse than the first one given the compromised immune system.

What to expect

However, given the bitter reality, it is becoming clear that coronavirus might be here to stay for a long time. The World Health Organization has reiterated the suspicions, saying that the virus might “never go away”.

Also read: US Cannabis Legalization – Recent Survey Shows Voters Consider it as Success

Even though it is daunting to think of living with a virus that has caused global unrest, it is time to think of how the world would be, post the crisis. Embracing the reality is vital in making sure the people are ready to face what the future holds. Scientists believe that eventually, the human body would learn to adapt to the new life style, until then, how exactly would the world function?

There is a strong possibility that people would move away from the cities. Since, the virus is highly contagious, living in relatively congested areas would increase the probability of contracting the disease. Moving to the suburbs or the country side would be an optimal option. Especially, since most of the work would shift online, there will be no need of getting to offices or educational institutions. Working from home would be the ultimate future.

Going out for shopping or a night out would no longer be viable options. All hangouts and meetups would be within safe boundaries, with the maximum being a barbecue in the backyard. Similarly, online shopping would be only way to buy things you want – that too without the certainty of getting the correct products!

Further, imagine a world where you cannot just decide to go out and get something you need. Every time you go somewhere, you will have to take precautionary measures, wear a mask, use sanitizer and keep a safe distance from everyone you come across.

Conclusion

Some might argue that if coronavirus decided to stay, the world would be a better place. Pollution would drastically decrease as travel and commute is minimized. This might propel the world towards a low carbon future. Over the last few months, measurements by European Space Agency has shown a 40% decrease in nitrogen dioxide emissions as compared to the previous year. Moreover, the Air quality Index has improved, and bio-luminescent microbes have also seen to return to the beaches of California.

While the outcomes are great in terms of the environmental conditions, it is, however, not a suitable living situation for the people – who have spent majority of their lives in freedom. Being held captive within the walls of your own home can highlight personal issues, along with added frustration and stress. Reports have shown that the number of domestic violence cases after a lock down have drastically increased.

Overall, it is evident that the chances of containing the virus as minuscule. It has been on its ‘killing spree’ for the past 7 months. The new world would be an entirely different experience for the humans – particularly with the restrictions and preservation rules that would have to be followed. However, it is in human nature to adapt – and the post COVID world would eventually become the new “normal”.

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