The Daily Dose: Italy braces for COVID-19’s return; Prioritizing where environmental resources are spent.

The dreaded second wave of COVID-19 continues to march across Europe. Rome is the latest government to begin imposing new mitigation strategies. According to the BBC, “Italy has announced a new raft of measures to tighten restrictions amid a surge in coronavirus cases. A mask-wearing PM Giuseppe Conte said the measures were needed ‘to avoid a new lockdown’. Mayors will get powers to close public areas after 21:00 and the opening times of restaurants and the size of groups allowed will tighten.” Italy was the hardest hit European country during the first wave during spring 2020.

Last Friday, a pharmaceutical giant dealt a serious blow to U.S. President Trump’s promise to have COVID-19 vaccines available in time for the November elections. Per STAT, “Pfizer confirmed Friday it expects to seek emergency authorization of its experimental vaccine against Covid-19, if it is effective, in the third week of November. An analysis of the efficacy of the vaccine could be available sooner, the company said in an open letter from its CEO, Albert Bourla, but required safety data will take longer.” Considering the time frame, mid-November is still astonishingly soon to have vaccine results.

There’s an op-ed in Al-Jazeera that takes aim at the pharmaceutical companies, arguing that unless there are reforms are made to the entire industry. Specifically, the article takes issue with the restrictive way intellectual property is handled in international trade. In particular, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, negotiated at the WTO is blamed for harmful pharmaceutical practices. “At a stroke, it meant that one of the main benefits of trade for developing countries – the ability to learn from and copy technologies developed in richer countries – was lost. Just as bad, corporations started worrying more about extending these patents, for instance making tiny changes to products that were of no benefit to the consumer, than they did developing new and useful products.” While the op-ed brings up valid points, it’s hard to envision reforms taking place before a COVID-19 vaccine is developed.

There is widespread consensus that climate change and conservation of biodiversity are major environmental concerns. Unfortunately, there aren’t unlimited resources available to deal with every problem everywhere. A recent Nature article asks, how can this restoration effort be best distributed spatially to maximize benefits for both biodiversity conservation and efforts to tackle climate change? “Strassburg et al. address this crucial question across all of Earth’s biomes (broad zones of vegetation adapted to particular climates). To do this, they analyse data on the benefits and costs of restoration, using information assembled at high spatial resolution across the entire global land surface.” Pragmatic approaches like this article are much needed.

A lot of issues have gotten lost in the COVID-19 world. One of those is the devastating effects the massive Australian wildfires have had on the continent’s wildlife. Very few have suffered as much as the iconic koala. Reuters put together a fantastic photo essay that puts their plight in perspective. “The pervasive infection among the koalas, blazing bushfires, drought, logging of forests and urban encroachment of their habitat are some of the many destructive forces that continue to threaten their survival. These forces, a government report warned in June, could make Australia’s symbolic animal extinct in New South Wales – the nation’s most populous state – by 2050.” Yes, COVID-19 is the most urgent concern, but lets not lose sight of everything else.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week. Let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE CREDIT: Alberto Giuliani

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