The Daily Dose: COVID-19 hits the Middle East and Europe

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While the data coming out of China appear to indicate that the COVID-19 outbreak has slowed in that country, the virus has caused outbreaks in new territories. Europe and the Middle East have taken serious hits in recent days. According to the Associated Press,

“In Italy, authorities set up roadblocks, called off soccer matches and shuttered sites including the famed La Scala opera house. In Iran, a report of dozens of deaths in a single city emerged as infections were reported to have spread for the first time to Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and Afghanistan. Across the world, stock markets and futures dipped.”

More from the AP regarding Iran,

“Clusters of the virus continued to emerge, including a possible one in Qom, an Iranian city where the country’s semiofficial ILNA news agency cited a lawmaker in reporting a staggering 50 people had died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The country’s Health Ministry rejected that, insisting the death toll remained at 12.”

Yet it is South Korea that is currently showing the most worrying signs with 833 confirmed cases and 8 fatalities. More from the AP,

“Beyond expanding a delay to the start of the school year from the hardest-hit area of Daegu nationwide, though, it remains to be seen how far the government will go. A Chinese-style lockdown of Daegu — a city of 2.5 million people that is the country’s fourth largest — appeared unlikely, even as signs of the response to a broadening problem could be seen nearly everywhere in the nation.”

Last week, STAT News published an article making the case that China’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan bought the world some time to prepare for the virus’s spread. As per STAT, “The last few days have seen a perceptible flattening in growth of Covid-19 cases in China, raising hopes that the epidemic has peaked. (Though there are doubts about the accuracy of China’s count.) That supports the emerging consensus on the Wuhan quarantine in particular: that, at minimum, it bought China and the world time to prepare. Crucially, the time lag allowed public health agencies to devise and distribute a diagnostic test that hospitals can use to identify patients ill with the novel coronavirus.” However, with the weekend’s developments, particularly in the Middle East and Europe, China’s tardiness in dealing with the outbreak may become the focus once again. The infection of people with no link to China or Chinese travellers suggests that the millions of people allowed to leave Wuhan early in the outbreak has spread the disease around the world already.

The Trump Administration is moving forward with the Obama Era exploration of a wider adoption of Open Access protocols in journals that publish studies funded by taxpayer dollars. As per Science, “The White House issued a notice Wednesday seeking comment on its effort to enhance public access to federally funded research. It’s an old idea creating new controversy. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Kelvin Droegemeier is pushing back against publishers that in December said the administration was quietly pursuing an executive order to require immediate free distribution of taxpayer funded research.” We fully support a move toward greater adoption of Open Access.

The world needs all the help it can get when it comes to fighting the current antibiotic resistance crisis. Cue the entrance of artificial intelligence technology. According to Science, AI has been able to pinpoint novel classes of antibiotics. “A pioneering machine-learning approach has identified powerful new types of antibiotic from a pool of more than 100 million molecules — including one that works against a wide range of bacteria, including tuberculosis and strains considered untreatable.”

More later…

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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