Thursday, February 22, 2024

International Briefs

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The Trust Method

Scientists and governments all over the world are analysing South Korea’s response to the coronavirus and how they were able to get it under control so quickly.  On February 18, South Korea diagnosed its 31st patient with COVID-19, and she became known as the country’s “super-spreader”. She was a middle-aged woman who had taken part in mass congregations at a religious group. She passed the virus onto other members of the group and unsuspecting residents of the city of Daegu. Overnight, doctors were diagnosing more than 900 new cases a day.

That’s when the government came up with a strategy called TRUST (Transparency, Robust Screening and Quarantine, Unique but Universally Applicable, Strict Control, and Treatment). That included swift deployment of testing stations, creation of mobile applications and quarantining capabilities, reporting of accurate and transparent data and strict monitoring and investigations of possible contacts and finally, treatment.

The government was able to run up to 19,000 diagnostic tests a day and, in the early phase of the outbreak, it made hospitalisation mandatory for all confirmed cases regardless of the severity of symptoms.

When Chinese scientists first published the COVID-19 virus’ genetic sequence in January, at least four South Korean firms began developing and stockpiling test kits—well before the country had its first outbreak. Anyone with a mobile phone also received alerts about areas where the virus was known to be active. Transparency played a big role. Since day one, press briefings have been held twice a day by experts in disease control. The briefings were livestreamed through the internet with simultaneous interpretation into English. This openness and transparency have been pivotal in gaining public trust and a high level of civic awareness, which encouraged the public to take voluntary self-quarantine and other preventive measures such as “social distancing” that has effectively slowed the spread of COVID-19.  South Korea has one of the lowest casualty rates from COVID-19 in the world, at just 1 percent.

The Fake Medical Factory

The deluge of information being distributed on social media and the internet to meet the insatiable demand for news on the coronavirus crisis has created what is literally a fake medical factory with all sorts of advice being given out, mostly fake and in many cases, downright dangerous. The fact remains that, as of now, there is no known cure even as the pandemic continues to spread alarmingly. That has not stopped people from offering all sorts of “expert” advice, none based on scientific evidence or proven usage. In India, we have had elected members of the BJP offering bizarre cures—one said cow urine and cow dung could be cures, yet another distributed cloves “energised by mantras” while others, including some in government, are talking up homeopathy and various herbs. Baba Ramdev has also advocated yoga as a possible counter to the pandemic, again without empirical evidence. The other “cures” put out by assorted “experts” include:

Raw garlic:  Social media is flooded with advice on eating garlic to prevent infection. The World Health Organisation says that while it is “a healthy food that may have some anti-microbial properties”, there’s no evidence that eating garlic can protect people from the new coronavirus. In China, a woman had to receive hospital treatment for a severely inflamed throat after consuming 1.5kg of raw garlic after an online post went viral claiming that a bowl of boiled garlic water can cure the 2019 novel coronavirus. Facebook has since blocked the post because “the primary claims in the information are factually inaccurate”.

Hot baths: Taking a hot bath will not prevent you from catching COVID-19. Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower.

Antibiotics: Again, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. The new coronavirus is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

Hand dryers: Debunking circulating myths, the World Health Organisation said hand dryers alone cannot kill coronavirus. Rumours circulated that using the hot air from the dryer for 30 seconds will rid any trace of the virus on your hands.

Sesame oil: Another myth is related to sesame oil, a staple in Asian cooking. But that’s about all. Contrary to rumours, rubbing sesame oil onto the skin won’t block coronavirus from entering the body. The WHO says: “No. Sesame oil does not kill the new coronavirus.”

Eating chicken will encourage the virus: This is absolutely false. Suppliers of meat, fish and chicken have been badly hit after false rumours circulated that non-vegetarian food, especially chicken, infected people with the virus. WHO has rubbished such claims.

Cats and dogs spread coronavirus: There is no evidence that COVID-19 can infect pets. In Hong Kong, a pomeranian’s owner had COVID-19 but his dog did not display any symptoms.

Brand Value

A huge number of the biggest brands in the world are doing their bit in the fight against Covid-19. They include luxury brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga who are using their workshops to make surgical masks instead of luxury clothes for the French health service.

French luxury powerhouse LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Tiffany, Dom Pérignon, and many other high-end brands, has ventured into the hand sanitiser sector. Perfume and cosmetics makers Christian Dior, Guerlain, and Givenchy will use their production facilities to make hand sanitisers that will be provided to French authorities for free in an effort to fight the coronavirus. L’Oréal Group, one of the largest beauty producers in the world, is using its facilities to make hand sanitisers for medical officials.

Even carmakers are joining in: Vauxhall offered to assemble ventilators and ventilator components using 3-D printers at its plant in England, after it stopped production due to falling demand. In the US, General Motors Co, and Ford Motors Co were examining whether they could also put their idled factories to work making medical equipment. Meanwhile, Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is donating 1.1 million testing kits, 6 million masks, and 60,000 protective suits and face shields. They are all being sent to Ethiopia from where they will be sent out to every other country on the African continent.

Celebrities Join the Crusade

In a heartwarming development, celebrities are lining up to do their bit and send some of the millions they have earned towards helping fight the coronavirus. Roger Federer widely considered the best tennis player of all time, and his wife, Mirka, will be donating 1 million Swiss francs ($1.02 million) to help the most vulnerable families in his home country, Switzerland.

Two of the biggest names in the world of soccer are also making sizable donations. Barcelona star Lionel Messi is donating 1 million euros that will be split between the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona and another medical centre in Argentina. Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo is funding three intensive care units for coronavirus patients at hospitals in Portugal. In America, Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and former governor of California, has donated $1 million to the Frontline Responders Fund to address the shortage of protective equipment and medical supplies. Actor Gwyneth Paltrow also donated $100,000 to the same Fund. Power couple Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively have pledged $1 million to Feeding America and Food Banks Canada. Pop star Rihanna has announced that she will donate $5 million to COVID-19 rapid response efforts in the US and across the globe. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $105 million to aid the global response to the novel coronavirus.

Lead picture: UNI

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