World Coronavirus Dispatch: Tracing scientists' efforts in a brutal year

With vaccines proving highly effective, scientists expect they could be the final weapon to end the Coronavirus.
China peddles falsehoods to obscure origin of Covid

Nine months into the Coronavirus pandemic, China is trying to change the narrative of Covid-19's origins by pushing misleading theories that the virus came from elsewhere. Fearing damage to global and domestic reputation, the country recently said that packaged food might have brought the virus. The state news media has published false stories misrepresenting foreign experts. A recent Chinese paper even claimed that the virus could have first broken out in India. However, scientists still believe the virus first started circulating in China before spreading to other countries. They say the narrative that China is trying to push lacks scientific credibility. Read More

Covid may be encouraging people to live in larger groups

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is pushing more people in the rich world to live together as they discover benefits of sharing household work and company. People say shared living has made lockdowns more bearable. In broad chapters of human history, people across the world have actaully lived in larger groups. It's only after industrialisation, when work started moving outside, isolated households became the normal in the West. Many aspects of life can benefit from shared housing. Parents of small children find it easier to go out to work by leaving their kids at home with other friendly adults. The young learn from the older people, who in turn appreciate young people’s help with practical things. Shared living involves working with neighbours even amid disagreements. This might help bring divided societies together, at least a little. Read More

Let's look at the global statistics

Global infections: 67,073,728

Change Over Yesterday: 533,694

Global deaths: 1,536,056

Nations with most cases: US(14,757,000), India(9,677,203), Brazil(6,603,540), Russia(2,439,163), France(2,345,648).

Source: John Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center

Global ad market set for rebound

Assuming vaccinations and big sporting events such as the Olympics go on smoothly, global advertising market is expected to rebound next year with less scars than during the global financial crisis. Digital marketing took center stage in the Covid-hit world with small businesses turning to online ads to survive and bigger advertisers focused on driving e-commerce instead of big campaigns to enhance their brand image. Markets such as China, the US and the UK held up relatively well through 2020. While advertising through tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook showed better than expected growth in 2020, traditional forms of media such as television, print and outdoor advertising suffered a brutal downturn. Read More

Covid-19 has ravaged all economies, except Taiwan

Coronavirus has devastated economies all around the world, but Taiwan may emerge relatively unscathed. In fact, it may outstrip China this year in growth. Two factors helped Taiwan’s relative success. For one, the country has contained the virus effectively without large scale restrictions. Effective contact-tracing in the initial stages of outbreak and universal mask-wearing were strictly enforced. Second, as more people worked from home, Taiwan has seized on the pent-up global demand for electronics from tablets to headphones. Taiwan also benefitted from US-China tensions as local firms that had previously invested in China have shifted some of their operations back home. If the pandemic ends, and Joe Biden rolls back tariffs on China, will the Taiwanese economy be able to sustain this momentum? The jury is out. Read More

Christmas tree sellers run into Covid costs

Christmas tree sellers have kicked-off an early sale this year as people started buying much earlier than they usually do. But, just because more people are buying trees doesn’t mean farmers and independent vendors are making a big profit. The surge in online shopping this holiday season has sent freight costs skyrocketing, which in tandem with rising absenteeism tied to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has meant the tree industry is paying more overheads. The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has also hindered vendors and seasonal workers from Canada who travel to the US to sell trees during the holidays. For independent sidewalk vendors, who depend on out-of-state Christmas tree exporters, higher costs are taking a toll. Read More

Virus-election to decide fate of Romanian populists

Coronavirus has enveloped a tight election in the east European state of Romania this weekend. Prime minister Orban’s Liberal Party's prospects of gaining parliament majority look thin with the virus forcing record low turnout and public anger over restrictions. The country is struggling with one of the highest death rates in the European Union’s east and its deepest economic slump. While the ruling party still leads opposition Social Democrats in polls, it might have to make some compromises, forge alliances with smaller parties to have a crack at power. Read More

Specials

How many people need to be vaccinated for life to go back to normal?

With vaccines proving highly effective, scientists expect they could be the final weapon to end the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. For life to return to normal, enough people need to be given shots to achieve a level of herd immunity --- a stage where virus finds it difficult to find a host for transmission and eventually dies down. Herd immunity through vaccines depends on two factors. For one, the efficacy of vaccines in real-world as opposed to controlled clinical trials. For instance, some people might not get two shots in prescribed time that could mean less protection. Assuming the trial vaccine efficacy proves right, Herd immunity will likely be achieved when 60 per cent to 70 per cent of people in a community are vaccinated. Globally, it would be between 4.7 billion and 5.5 billion people. But, this assumption is based on how well the vaccine works to prevent transmission of virus from person to person. Read More

How scientists waged the battle against Covid in a brutal year

From finding the shape, nature and genetics of the coronavirus in January to producing tested vaccines in less than a year, scientists have pulled off something that is nothing short of a medicale miracle. Zhang, a chinese reasearcher, in january had given the world vital information on sequencing Sars-Cov-2 RNA, that has since allowed scientists to isolate and replicate individual pieces of the virus and use these components to study the virus. The virus spike, upon reaching the body cells, slips in the RNA into them and makes multiplie copies. Using the genetic information provided by Zhang, BioNTech–Pfizer have created a vaccine that has a genetic code to trick our cells into producing virus-like protien spikes. When the immune system recognises these spikes, it triggers enough antibodies to fend off the actual infection. A similar approach was adopted by Moderna in making its vaccine while Oxford-Astrazenca scientists followed a different strategy by engineering a common cold virus that infects chimpanzees. Read More


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