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Covid-19 antibodies provide lasting immunity: Study

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Coronavirus
Coronavirus

New research adds to the growing body of evidence that immunity persists for at least several months after being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

For the findings, published in the journal ‘Immunity’, the research team lead by Indian-origin researcher in the US studied the production of antibodies from a sample of nearly 6,000 people to see the results.

“We clearly see high-quality antibodies still being produced five to seven months after SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said study author Deepta Bhattacharya from the University of Arizona in the US.

When a virus first infects cells, the immune system deploys short-lived plasma cells that produce antibodies to immediately fight the virus. Those antibodies appear in blood tests within 14 days of infection.

The second stage of the immune response is the creation of long-lived plasma cells, which produce high-quality antibodies that provide a lasting immunity.

The research team tracked antibody levels over several months in people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

They found SARS-CoV-2 antibodies are present in blood tests at viable levels for at least five to seven months, although they believe immunity lasts much longer.

Earlier studies extrapolated antibody production from initial infections and suggested antibody levels drop quickly after infection, providing only short-term immunity.

The research team believes those conclusions focused on short-lived plasma cells and failed to take into account long-lived plasma cells and the high-affinity antibodies they produce.

“The latest time-points we tracked in infected individuals were past seven months, so that is the longest period of time we can confirm immunity lasts,” Bhattacharya said.

“That said, we know that people who were infected with the first SARS coronavirus, which is the most similar virus to SARS-CoV-2, are still seeing immunity 17 years after infection,” Bhattacharya added.

If SARS-CoV-2 is anything like the first one, we expect antibodies to last at least two years, and it would be unlikely for anything much shorter, the researchers said.

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European countries impose new Covid-19 curbs as cases spike

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London, Sept. 22, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A woman wearing a face mask walks at Covent Garden in London, Britain, on Sept. 21, 2020. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that Britain is facing a "tipping point" regarding the coronavirus pandemic and more restrictions are possible to cope with the spread of virus. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)
London, Sept. 22, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A woman wearing a face mask walks at Covent Garden in London, Britain, on Sept. 21, 2020. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that Britain is facing a "tipping point" regarding the coronavirus pandemic and more restrictions are possible to cope with the spread of virus. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)

Countries across Europe were imposing a series of new restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic amid a spike in the number of fresh cases and deaths across the continent.

As of Thursday, the continent’s overall caseload stands at 4,301,247, while the death toll has surged to 197,075, according to the latest update by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The agency said that Europe’s infection rate “has been increasing for 77 days” and there were more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases last week, which was a 36 per cent weekly increase.

In France, one of the worst-hit European countries, President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced that a curfew will be introduced in big cities as a reaction to the recent resurgence of new cases.

Starting from Friday midnight, a four-week 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew will be imposed in the greater Paris region and the eight major cities of Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Aix-Marseille, Rouen, Toulouse, Montpellier and Saint-Etienne, Xinhua news agency reported.

These regions are already on maximum alert, with bars and gyms shut down, theatres and restaurants under strict health protocol.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in public spaces such as beaches and parks.

Anyone violating the curfew would be fined 135 euros, and permissions will be available for those who have health emergencies and work at night.

Presently, France has a total of 779,063 Covid-19 cases, Europe’s second biggest tally after Spain, with 33,037 deaths.

In the UK, a new three-tier Covid-19 alert system came into force across England on Wednesday.

The alert system comprises three levels: “Medium”, “High” and “Very High” with the level being decided according to local infection rate.

The UK has so far reported a total of 654,644 coronavirus cases, with 43,155 fatalities, the highest death toll in Europe.

On Wednesday, Italy, the once epicentre of the pandemic in Europe, reported its largest single-day spike, with more than 7,300 cases, which took the overall tally to 372,799, while the death toll surged to 36,289.

The grim milestone came a day after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree putting new limits on gatherings, sports and school activities.

But bars and restaurants are still allowed to operate until midnight, but only for table service, NPR news reported.

The Catalonian region of Spain has ordered all bars and restaurants to close their on-premises operations, saying they can only sell to-go items for the next 15 days.

Shopping areas, theatres and gyms will have to operate at reduced capacity.

While the Czech Republic, has closed schools, restaurants and bars, The Netherlands is enacting a partial lockdown due to a recent resurgence.

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UK’s 3-tier coronavirus alert system kicks in

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London, Oct. 13, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A man wearing a face mask walks past a shop in London, Britain, on Oct. 13, 2020. The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 143 to 43,018, marking the highest daily figure since June, according to official figures released Tuesday. Another 17,234 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 634,920, the latest data showed. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)
London, Oct. 13, 2020 (Xinhua) -- A man wearing a face mask walks past a shop in London, Britain, on Oct. 13, 2020. The coronavirus-related deaths in Britain rose by 143 to 43,018, marking the highest daily figure since June, according to official figures released Tuesday. Another 17,234 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 634,920, the latest data showed. (Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)

A new three-tier Covid-19 alert system set out by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come into force across England as the country struggles to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The alert system comprises three levels: “Medium”, “High” and “Very High” with the level being decided according to local infection rates, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Liverpool City Region is placed in the “very high” level which sees venues such as bars and pubs closed unless they can operate as restaurants, while people are also banned from socializing with other households.

Currently, most of England is placed in the first tier of the government’s three-tier system, which means an alert level of “medium”.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has announced that he now supported a complete two or three weeks of lockdown across England as a “circuit breaker” to halt the spread of the virus.

He proposed a temporary set of restrictions, designed to get the infection rate down, with every pub, bar and restaurant in England closed for two-to-three weeks.

Starmer said it could be timed to coincide with school half term holidays to minimize disruption.

According to a paper by two of the government’s leading scientific advisers, a “short, sharp” two-week lockdown over the October half term break could prevent more than 7,000 deaths.

On Wednesday, Johnson told MPs at Parliament that he rules out nothing in the fight against coronavirus, but that he wants to “avoid the misery of another national lockdown”.

“I rule out nothing, of course, in combating the virus but we’re going to do it with the local, regional approach that can drive down and will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, Northern Ireland announced that the region is set to begin a four-week “circuit breaker” lockdown from Friday.

Among other restrictions, the hospitality sector in the region will be required to close apart from deliveries and takeaways for food, with the existing closing time of 11 p.m. remaining.

Meanwhile, no overnight stays in a private residence will be allowed unless in a bubble; close contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians are not permitted to open, apart from those relating to the continuation of essential health interventions and therapeutics.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on Wednesday announced that the country will ban travellers from rest of the UK’s coronavirus hotspots from Friday, adding that the evidence suggests Covid-19 is “moving from east to west across the UK and across Wales”.

The measure will apply to tier-two and tier-three areas of England, according to Drakeford.

On Wednesday, the UK reported 19,724 new Covid-19 cases, which took the overall infection tally in the country to 654,644, according to official figures released Wednesday.

The death toll increased to 43,155 after 137 new fatalities.

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Hand hygiene for all in corona times (Oct 15 is Global Handwashing Day)

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Hand hygiene for all in corona times
Hand hygiene for all in corona times

October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, a global advocacy day, dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

The Covid-19 pandemic provides a stark reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a virus is also one of the simplest: hand hygiene, especially through handwashing with soap. To beat the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, handwashing with soap must be a priority now and in the future.

This year’s theme, Hand Hygiene for All, calls for all of society to achieve universal hand hygiene.

The link between handwashing and health was first established less than two centuries ago.

Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor working in Vienna General Hospital, is known as the father of hand hygiene. In 1846, he noticed that the women giving birth in the medical student/doctor-run maternity ward, in his hospital, were much more likely to develop a fever and die, compared to the women giving birth. He noticed that doctors and medical students often visited the maternity ward directly after performing an autopsy.

Taking cognizance of the seriousness, Semmelweis imposed a new rule mandating handwashing with chlorine for doctors. The rates of death in his maternity ward fell dramatically. This was the first proof that cleansing hands could prevent infection.

A few years later in Scutari-Italy, the Crimean War brought about a new handwashing champion, Florence Nightingale. At a time when most people believed that infections were caused by foul odors called miasmas, Florence Nightingale implemented handwashing and other hygiene practices in the war hospital in which she worked.

Sadly, handwashing promotion stood still for over a century. It was not until the 1980s, when a string of food-borne outbreaks and healthcare-associated infections led to public concern.

SITUATION IN INDIA

Communicating the importance of washing hands with soap to avoid Covid-19 spread is a daunting task in India as only 35.8 per cent households in the country practice hand-washing with soap or detergent before a meal, while 60 per cent households wash hands only with water.

The National Sample Survey (NSS) 76th round report-2019, reveals that 25.3 per cent households in rural India and 56 per cent in urban wash hands with soap or detergent before a meal. Also, 2.7 per cent households wash hands with ash, mud, and sand before meals.

In rural areas, 70 per cent people wash hands with water without soap or detergent, before a meal, and in urban areas, 42 per cent of people follow this practice.

What is more alarming is that about 26 per cent people in India don’t wash their hands with soap or detergent after defecation. 13.4 per cent households (15.2 per cent rural and 9.8 per cent urban) wash hands only with water after defecation. Two-third toilets in India have water and soap/detergent available in or around the toilets.

Diarrhoea and pneumonia are leading causes of death for children under the age of five. Handwashing can save lives and can decrease diarrhoea by almost one-half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.

Handwashing with soap impacts not just health and nutrition, but also education, economics, and equity.

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Malaysia reports 660 new Covid-19 cases

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 9, 2020 (Xinhua) -- People wearing masks walk on a street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 9, 2020. Malaysia on Monday announced 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 117. (Xinhua/Chong Voon Chung/IANS)
KUALA LUMPUR, March 9, 2020 (Xinhua) -- People wearing masks walk on a street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 9, 2020. Malaysia on Monday announced 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 117. (Xinhua/Chong Voon Chung/IANS)

Malaysia reported 660 new Covid-19 infections, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 17,540.

Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press briefing that six of the new cases are imported and 654 are local transmissions, Xinhua reported.

Four more deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 167.

The majority of new cases are from eastern state of Sabah, with 429 of the new cases reported in the state.

Another 233 patients have been released after recovery, bringing the total cured and discharged to 11,605, or 66.2 per cent of all cases.

Of the remaining 5,768 active cases, 108 are being held in intensive care and 35 of those are in need of assisted breathing.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told a separate press conference that 282 roadblocks have been set up nationwide in a bid to enforce movement restrictions introduced to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The restrictions are in force in Kuala Lumpur, the administration center of Putrajaya as well as the adjacent Selangor state from October 14 to 27, and also in the country’s eastern Sabah state from October 13 to 26.

Separately, the country’s armed forces said in a statement that personnel have been mobilized to assist in roadblocks and to airlift medical supplies and other items to Sabah, which has seen the highest number of new Covid-19 cases in the country.

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Afghanistan’s Covid cases reach 39,994

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Coronavirus (File Photo: IANS)
Coronavirus (File Photo: IANS)

The Afghan Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday confirmed 66 new Covid-19 cases, pushing the total number of cases in the country to 39,994, including 5,160 active cases.

A total of 318 tests were conducted within the past 24 hours, and 66 were positive in 12 provinces out of 34 Afghan provinces, the ministry said in a statement.

One patient died within the period, taking the death toll to 1,481 since February, the statement added.

As many as new recoveries were recorded since early Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Laboratories across Afghanistan have completed 115,720 tests since February.

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Australia breaches 900 Covid-19 deaths

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Sydney, Aug. 28, 2020 (Xinhua) -- File photo taken on April 1, 2020 shows a researcher working at a lab of University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia. An Australian-developed COVID-19 vaccine has shown promising results in pre-clinical testing, raising hopes for its potential effectiveness and manufacturability. UQ released detailed results of animal trials of its vaccine candidate on Tuesday to the International Society for Vaccines. It's "Molecular Clamp" vaccine works by locking on to the normally unstable, perfusion proteins on the surface of the virus, allowing the body's immune system to respond more effectively. (University of Queensland/Handout via Xinhua/IANS)

Australia has surpassed 900 coronavirus deaths about seven months after reporting its first death.

As of Wednesday afternoon there had been 904 deaths from Covid-19 in Australia, up from 899 on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

It comes after Australia confirmed its first death from the virus on March 1 and marks Australia’s deadliest day since seven deaths were reported on September 29.

All five deaths were in Victoria, the hardest-hit state by the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, which now accounts for 90.2 per cent of the country’s coronavirus deaths.

It has taken about a month for the death toll to increase from 800 to 900 compared to about eight days for it to grow from 700 to 800, reflecting the subsiding second wave of Covid-19 infections.

“Of the 904 deaths in Australia, 690 have been in either residential care or home care,” Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health, said in a press conference in Canberra.

The total number of Covid-19 cases in Australia rose to 27,341 on Wednesday afternoon, and the number of new cases in last 24 hours is 25, according to the latest figures from Australian Government Department of Health.

Victoria confirmed seven new cases and New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, reported 14 cases, three of which were recently returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

It is the second consecutive day that New South Wales has recorded more new cases than Victoria.

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