Tag: COVID-19

Global leaders unite to ensure everyone everywhere can access new vaccines, tests and treatments for COVID-19; US stays away from the initiative

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By SAT News Desk/ WHO Media

GENEVA, 24 April 2020 – Heads of state and global health leaders today made an unprecedented commitment to work together to accelerate the development and production of new vaccines, tests, and treatments for COVID-19 and assure equitable access worldwide. It was a global endorsement of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The United States, China, Russia, and India did not participate in the initiative.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already affected more than 2.4 million people, killing over 160,000. It is taking a huge toll on families, societies, health systems, and economies around the world, and for as long as this virus threatens any country, the entire world is at risk.

There is an urgent need, therefore, while following existing measures to keep people physically distanced and to test and track all contacts of people who test positive, for innovative COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments.

“We will only halt COVID-19 through solidarity,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Countries, health partners, manufacturers, and the private sector must act together and ensure that the fruits of science and research can benefit everybody.”

Work has already started. Since January, WHO has been working with researchers from hundreds of institutions to develop and test vaccines, standardize assays, and standardize regulatory approaches on innovative trial designs and define criteria to prioritize vaccine candidates. The Organization has prequalified diagnostics that are being used all over the world, and more are in the pipeline. And it is coordinating a global trial to assess the safety and efficacy of four therapeutics against COVID-19.

The challenge is to speed up and harmonize processes to ensure that once products are deemed safe and effective, they can be brought to the billions of people in the world who need them. Past experience, in the early days of HIV treatment, for example, and in the deployment of vaccines against the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, shows that even when tools are available, they have not been equally available to all.

So today leaders came together at a virtual event, co-hosted by the World Health Organization, the President of France, the President of the European Commission, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The event was joined by the UN Secretary-General, the AU Commission Chairperson, the G20 President, heads of state of France, South Africa, Germany, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Italy, Rwanda, Norway, Spain, Malaysia and the UK (represented by the First Secretary of State).

Health leaders from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI-the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund, UNITAID, the Wellcome Trust, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IFRC), the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (IFPMA), the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN), and the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (IGBA) committed to coming together, guided by a common vision of a planet protected from human suffering and the devastating social and economic consequences of COVID-19, to launch this groundbreaking collaboration. They are joined by two Special Envoys: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Gavi Board Chair, and Sir Andrew Witty, former CEO of GlaxoSmithKline.

They pledged to work towards equitable global access based on an unprecedented level of partnership. They agreed to create a strong unified voice, to build on past experience and to be accountable to the world, to communities, and to one another.

“Our shared commitment is to ensure all people have access to all the tools to prevent, detect, treat and defeat COVID-19,” said Dr. Tedros. “No country and no organization can do this alone. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator brings together the combined power of several organizations to work with speed and scale.”

Health leaders called on the global community and political leaders to support this landmark collaboration and for donors to provide the necessary resources to accelerate the achievement of its objectives, capitalizing on the opportunity provided by a forthcoming pledging initiative that starts on 4 May 2020. This initiative, spearheaded by the European Union, aims to mobilize the significant resources needed to accelerate the work towards protecting the world from COVID-19.

Why myth of western hubris, delusion of capitalist invincibility are falling apart

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By Dr Bhabani Shankar Nayak*

The colonial and imperialist militaries, political and economic systems are defeated by the mutilating powers of the pestilence. The COVID-19 virus is controlling our so-called modern lifestyles and quarantining ourselves within the walls of our rooms to reflect and reimagine. The ‘end of history’, ‘clash of civilizations’ and ‘there is no alternative’ were three rotten ideological theses advanced to established market-led liberal democracy.
The narratives were constructed and propagated to make people believe that the capitalist world order is the only available alternative. However, the worlds of Prof Francis Fukuyama, Samuel P Huntington, and linages of their elks come to an end as coronavirus pandemic batters the world and its capitalist economic systems. It shows the limits of capitalist globalization. It is also revealing a very frightening future with the rise of surveillance capitalism and its state apparatus.
The grandeurs of propaganda advocating the principles of laissez-faire economy promoted by capitalist globalization undermined the abilities of the states. The welfare states within capitalist frameworks have failed to perform their welfare responsibilities for citizens. The weakening of welfare states under capitalist globalization transformed basic necessities like lifesaving medicines as mere commodities in the market where ill-health is a great source of profit for the corporations.
The world is reeling under lockdowns and the death rate is increasing in the USA, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Netherland, whereas China, Vietnam, Cuba, Odisha, and Kerala in India have managed to contain and control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The myth of western hubris and delusions of capitalist invincibility is falling apart.
It is not a surprise that the capitalist states have failed in emergency response preparedness to combat the coronavirus pandemic. It shows the limits of the capitalist state and market-led healthcare systems dominated by big pharmaceutical corporations which laid the foundation for public health disasters.
The big pharmaceutical corporations consider pandemics and all forms of health disasters are opportunities for making a profit. It is clear that pharmaceutical corporations are the biggest obstacle to fighting Coronavirus pandemic.
The neoliberal illusions of capitalist globalization and its ideological roots have exhausted all its arguments. There is nothing new and liberal about neoliberal capitalism as a system in all its forms. There are attempts to expand its lifespan with the help of wars, dictatorships, and by killing liberal democracy and democratic cultures around the world.
All attempts have failed to save capitalism from itself. But capitalism continues to reinvent itself by forming new partnerships. This time, it forms alliances with regional, religious and reactionary political forces to sustain itself by spreading all kinds of hatred, risks, and fear, which led to the growth of surveillance regimes and security states.
There is a surge of surveillance capitalism after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a threat to individual liberty and freedom. The digitalization citizenship reduced democratic polity as a mere number crunching exercise in electoral marathons. It can be misused by the state, governments, and corporations to control individual life as per the requirements of the capitalist structure. Prof Fukuyama might have postponed his end of history. Prof Huntington might have abandoned the clash of civilization project. Henry Kissinger’s dream of the American world order is halted for now.
It is time to write the final epitaph Prof Fukuyama, Prof Huntington and their ideological followers who swindled the progressive promises twentieth and twenty-first century by developing a system that helps few and marginalizes many. Crisis and fear are the twin weapons of such a process of a capitalist pandemic that thrives on war, dictatorships, and economic exploitation.
The death rate is increasing in the USA, UK, France, Spain, Italy. But China, Vietnam, Cuba, and Kerala have managed to contain it
The coronavirus pandemic associated with the economic crisis reveals a rotten economic and political system that treats human lives as disposables. It cannot be business, as usual, any longer. The world needs a new political and economic order. The working classes suffer the most in all public health crisis and economic crisis.
It is imperative for the working-class population to fight for their alternatives based on their common experiences and common sufferings under capitalist globalization and pandemics associated with it. The reversal of capitalist globalization is possible and inevitable.
The starting point is to nationalize health services by de-commodifying medicine and its business. The capitalist globalization offers us to choose between laissez-faire and laissez mourir. It is not a choice between capitalism and socialism. It is a choice between capitalism and life.
The experiences of the Coronavirus pandemic guide us to make a clear choice. Let’s choose life and defeat capitalism. This is the only alternative, which can help us to survive the ordeal. Our economic freedom depends on the political choices we make today for the future survival of humanity.
Nothing can stop emancipatory movements. In spite of all propaganda to socialize masses within capitalist social, economic and political order, revolutionary upsurge does not die. The human desire to emancipate from the bondage of capitalism finds news ways of expressing itself. It counters the ugly realities of everyday lives under capitalism.
The human cost of coronavirus pandemic immeasurable but it offers us an opportunity to completely destroy capitalism as a system. If we do not take this historic opportunity, our lives will continue to suffer from the everyday pandemic of surveillance capitalist state and pharmaceutical corporations. Let this pandemic be a catalyst for universal healthcare and human emancipation from all forms of illness promoted by capitalism as a social, economic and political system.
The history of revolutionary struggles for political and economic alternatives is somersault of continuous processes. It is hard to write and very difficult to predict. There is no doubt on human being’s love for reason and science, the dream of freedom and struggle for human emancipation win all the way to the end for a better future.

*Coventry University, UK

Source: counterview.net

Victoria’s modelling confirms staying at home saves lives

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Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews. Photo: SAT

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 20 April 2020: New state-based modeling shows staying at home and other physical distancing requirements are working to slow the spread of coronavirus, saving thousands of Victorian lives.

The modeling, undertaken by Monash University and the Doherty Institute, in collaboration with epidemiology experts
in the Department of Health and Human Services, finds that if no physical distancing restrictions were in place, Victoria would have seen up to 58,000 new coronavirus cases every day at the peak of the pandemic, overwhelming our health system.

The data also reveals that if a business-as-usual approach had been adopted, 10,000 intensive care beds would have
been required and as many as 9,200 Victorians would have been presenting to the hospital every single day. Tragically, it also shows the immense human cost of the pandemic, with as many as 36,000 Victorians dying – that’s averaging 70 lives lost every day and up to 650 deaths in a day during the peak.

Premier Daniel Andrews says, “With Victorians doing the right thing and staying home, we’ve been able to slow the spread of the virus – if we stay the course and don’t get complacent, we will get through this together.”
“We’ll continue to take the advice of our public health experts, informed by the data, as we make decisions about when is the right time to ease some of the restrictions that we have in place.”

The modeling also shows that Victoria’s ‘Reff’ number – the projected number of infections passed on by a person with coronavirus – has dropped to 0.5. If Reff is kept below one, an outbreak slowly wanes. If it is above one, it grows.
Thanks to the current restrictions and the overwhelming number of Victorians doing the right thing, the modeling confirms that our curve is flattening. Victoria’s curve compares favorably with other countries that also acted early, like South Korea and New Zealand.

Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos says, “We thank all Victorians for playing a part in saving lives – we have a long way to go, but we should all take pride in the positive impact of our efforts.”

For information about coronavirus visit coronavirus.vic.gov.au or call 1800 675 398.

CovidGyan: Pan-institutional India website on COVID-19 launched with information minus misinformation

By SAT News Desk

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MELBOURNE, 12 Apri 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. We have already crossed a million confirmed infections. The actual number of untested cases is undoubtedly much higher. The frontline warriors in this disaster are the doctors, nurses, and other supporting health workers. At the back end, thousands of scientists and engineers are collaborating—also at an unprecedented scale—to understand the exact behavior of the coronavirus, transmission dynamics of the disease, diagnostics, innovative technologies to scale up the fight, means of coping up with physical distancing and critical assessment of communications.

To beat the information overload about COVID-19, a number of scientific and other institutions have launched a website ‘CovidGyan’, to spread reliable information while filtering misinformation. A multi-institutional, multi-lingual science communication initiative, called CovidGyan, has been created to deal with just this challenge. The initiative is the brainchild of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC). Other prominent partners include Vigyan Prasar, IndiaBioscience, and the Bangalore Life Science Cluster (BLiSC, which comprises InStem and C-CAMP, in addition to NCBS-TIFR). An outcome of this initiative is the launch of the CovidGyan website: https://covid-gyan.in.

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Scientists Speak about CovidGyan:

Coordinating this initiative is Prof. Rajesh Gopakumar, Centre Director of the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) in Bangalore. According to Gopakumar, the mandate of the CovidGyan initiative is to, “create, curate and communicate scientifically credible and authentic COVID-19 related content and resources.” He underlines that the main target audience of this content is the general citizenry as well as the scientifically curious who would like to keep abreast of developments.

Prof. Satyajit Mayor, Centre Director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), emphasizes that NCBS houses expertise, knowledge, and experience in studying all scales of biology, from viruses to ecosystems that we inhabit. He adds, “At the time of the COVID-19 crisis, it is especially important that we utilize our deep scientific understanding of the biological world to provide a more holistic perspective on the situation we find ourselves in, and seek appropriate solutions for the resolution of this crisis.”

Prof. Arnab Bhattacharya, who leads the TIFR Mumbai science communication initiative Chai and Why?, says that reliable information based on science is an urgent need due to the infodemic of misinformation about COVID-19. This compels us to realize that, similar to climate change, ignoring science can quickly intensify problems to a global scale. CovidGyan is an attempt to build this with the coordinated effort of scientists across India in several Indian languages.

Prof. V. Chandrasekhar, Centre Director of TIFR Hyderabad, pointing out the urgency, adds that COVID-19 is affecting countries around the world; a situation that requires the scientific community to work together to meet several objectives. To this end, scientists of TIFR-Hyderabad are working along with several others in the TIFR system towards this effort.

Prof. K. Subramaniam, Centre Director of the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE) in Mumbai, mentions that the partner institutions in this CovidGyan initiative have diverse capabilities in scientific research, science communication, and science education. This combined capacity can be channeled to bring authentic and reliable information to the public as well as those engaging in the struggle against the pandemic in a variety of roles. He highlights that it is extremely important to localize reliable scientific information, which takes into account the individual complexity of Indian conditions.

Underlining the need for CovidGyan, Prof. Amol Dighe of the Department of Theoretical Physics TIFR, says that COVID-19 is affecting each and every individual in some form or the other, and the fight against it is going to be at the medical as well as societal level. This is why people from all strata of society should have access to trustworthy information in a language that they understand best. He maintains that CovidGyan will be making resources available in as many Indian languages as possible, so that the science, as well as the guidance for health and well-being, reaches the widest audience possible.

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Dr. Smita Jain, Executive Director, IndiaBioscience, adds that COVIDGyan is an effort to bring a validated pool of content either developed by practicing researchers from the partnering institutions or curated from across the web. IndiaBioscience has always brought interesting and latest news, columns and articles to its readers through its website and now as a partnering institutions of COVIDGyan, it hopes to continue to provide the best possible content to a much larger audience during this time of crisis.

Prof. Kaushal Verma, Office of Communications of Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru, concludes that CovidGyan is a timely portal that will go on to become a trustworthy and reliable source of information about various aspects of COVID-19.

Prof. Rajesh Gopakumar further emphasized the role of scientists, who are playing a dual role in the current crisis: the search for vaccines and cures and policy measures informed by science. The rationale for some of these steps may not be obvious to the general public and it is also the responsibility of scientists to explain these in a compelling way. The #CovidGyan initiative provides a forum to bring together scientists and communicators across TIFR and other partnering institutions to make an impact.

The CovidGyan website includes short informative videos, posters and infographics, FAQs, mythbusters, and articles, which are being actively translated into multiple Indian languages. Please visit in a few days for more and more multilingual content.

Website: https://covid-gyan.in
Videos in 12 languages: https://covid-gyan.in/videos

Contact email: contact@covid-gyan.in

Source: CovisGyan media release,3 April 2020.

400 million people in India’s risk falling into poverty in the informal economy during the COVID-19 crisis: ILO report

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Photo: ILO

“81 percent in the global workforce of 3.3 billion are currently affected by full or partial workplace closures.”

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 8 April 2020: The Coronavirus crisis is affecting tens of millions of informal workers in the unorganized sector. Latest ILO figures for India, Nigeria, and Brazil reveal unprecedented numbers affected deeply towards poverty as a consequence of the lockdowns and other steps.

“Current lockdown measures in India, which are at the high end of the University of Oxford’s
COVID-19 Government Response Stringency Index, have impacted these workers significantly, forcing many of them to return to rural areas, says the ILO Monitor 2nd edition: COVID-19 and the world of work Updated estimates and analysis released on 7 April 2020. (ilo.org)

At the global level, the report press release says, “The COVID-19 crisis is expected to wipe out 6.7 percent of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020 – equivalent to 195 million full-time workers.

Large reductions are foreseen in the Arab States (8.1 percent, equivalent to 5 million full-time workers), Europe (7.8 percent, or 12 million full-time workers) and Asia and the Pacific (7.2 percent, 125 million full-time workers).

Huge losses are expected across different income groups but especially in upper-middle-income countries (7.0 percent, 100 million full-time workers). This far exceeds the effects of the 2008-9 financial crisis.”

The rather disturbing report reveals more than four out of five people (81 percent) in the global workforce of 3.3 billion are currently affected by full or partial workplace closures.

“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “We have to move fast, decisively, and together. The right, urgent, measures, could make the difference between survival and collapse.”

Worldwide, two billion people work in the informal sector (mostly in emerging and developing economies) and are particularly at risk.

Large-scale, integrated, policy measures are needed, focusing on four pillars: supporting enterprises, employment, and incomes; stimulating the economy and jobs; protecting workers in the workplace; and, using social dialogue between government, workers, and employers to find solutions, the study says.