The Daily Dose: Lockdown protests in the Netherlands; Scientists arguing over who’s right.

In terms of localized outbreaks, the second wave gripping the city of Manaus in Brazil may be the worst of the year-long pandemic. Per Al-Jazeera, “With hospitals overrun and supplies of oxygen running out, Brazilian epidemiologist Jesem Orellana said COVID-19 patients’ hospital beds in Manaus, the capital of the country’s Amazonas region, turned into ‘asphyxiation chambers’. ‘Manaus is lost,’ said Orellana, who described the city as an open-air laboratory ‘where all types of negligence and inhumanity are possible” and in which people are dying at home with no medical support.’” Conservative President Jair Bolsonaro has been dismissive of the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak from the start, refusing to treat it seriously, resulting in the current dire situation.

Anti-COVID-19 lockdown protests hit the Netherlands over the weekend in yet another sign that the effects of the pandemic stretch far beyond public health. Per the BBC, “Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has condemned weekend riots against newly imposed coronavirus restrictions as “criminal violence”. Rioters attacked police and set cars and bikes on fire to protest against a curfew introduced on Saturday. In the southern city of Eindhoven, protesters threw fireworks, looted supermarkets and smashed shop windows. There were smaller protests in Amsterdam, and in some cities and towns around the country. More than 200 people have been detained, police said.” Unfortunately, the latest example of social unrest isn’t the first nor will it be the last as on-and-off lockdowns continue to be implemented.

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The World Health Organization has been accused of moving too slowly in declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the highest level of warning the organization can declare. Now, experts are investigating what went wrong with the warning system. Per Nature, “Many say the organization should have declared a PHEIC about a week earlier than it did. But the largest failing, researchers agree, is that so many countries ignored it. Two new preliminary investigations — one from the WHO and another from an independent panel responsible for assessing the organization — attempt to unravel why.” The basic argument is that since the WHO is essentially a toothless body overly dependent on country donations, it was unable to perform its duties effectively.

Behind the scenes, Science is always rife with controversies and competing theories. Add into the mix a need to feel like the person with all the answers, and you get the necessary elements for heated (maybe healthy?) debate. One area that is highly and passionately contested pertains to the theory of phase separation. Per Science, “Phase separation advocates hold that proteins and other molecules self-organize into denser structures inside cells, like oil drops forming in water. That spontaneous sorting, proponents assert, serves as a previously unrecognized mechanism for arranging the cell’s contents and mustering the molecules necessary to trigger key cellular events.” Critics of phase separation cite sloppy research practices as hampering data that support the theory. They also take exception to the idea that it is a theory that “solves everything.”

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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