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China Allows Couples to Have Three Children as Birthrate Falls

May 31, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – China will allow couples to have three children after a census showed its population is rapidly ageing, state media said Monday, further unwinding four decades of strict family planning controls in the world’s most populous nation which have strangled the birthrate. (Read Full Article)

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Coronavirus: The Indian Children Orphaned by Covid-19

May 31, 2021

(BBC) – These are not isolated stories. Covid has devastated families across India, orphaning many children.  Smirti Irani, minister for women and child welfare, recently tweeted that both parents of at least 577 children had died with coronavirus between 1 April and 25 May. Experts say this number is likely a significant underestimate. (Read Full Article)

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Biosecurity Warning Over Loosely-Regulated Virus Labs

May 31, 2021

(BBC) – The US has just announced it is revisiting the origins of the virus, including the possibility that it escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, despite the WHO saying earlier this year this theory was “extremely unlikely”. But we have always known there’s a risk a deadly pathogen could do that. Now a leading expert on biological warfare has called on leaders of the G7 group of leading industrialised nations to consider tighter restrictions, warning loosely-regulated laboratories are a gateway for terrorists. (Read Full Article)

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How Worried Should We Be About Blood Clots Linked to AstraZeneca, J&J Vaccines?

May 31, 2021

(Medscape) – International drug regulators have said the benefits of using COVID-19 vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca outweigh risks as they investigate reports of extremely rare, but potentially fatal blood clots. Several EU countries have restricted their use. Amid concerns that reports of rare side-effects could undermine vaccine confidence, experts have emphasised that clotting risks for both shots remain extremely low and the vaccines are highly effective in preventing COVID-19 deaths and severe disease. (Read Full Article)

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US Overdose Deaths Spiked During Pandemic Biggest Rise in Black and Latinx Communities

May 31, 2021

(Medscape) – U.S. overdose deaths increased by 42% overall in 2020 compared with 2018 and 2019, a new study of Emergency Medical Services records suggests. The analysis of data gathered from the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) found a spike in overdose-related cardiac arrests during the pandemic with the greatest increases seen among Latinx (49.7%) and African American (50.3%) individuals, researchers report in JAMA Psychiatry. (Read Full Article)

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Canada: Remains of 215 Indigenous Children Found on Former Residential School Site

May 28, 2021

(The Guardian) – A mass grave containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children has been discovered on the grounds of a former residential school in the interior of southern British Columbia. The grim discovery at the former school near the town of Kamloops was announced late on Thursday by the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc people after the site was examined by a team using ground penetrating radar. (Read Full Article)

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European Regulators OK Pfizer Vaccine for Children 12-15

May 28, 2021

(ABC News) – The European Medicines Agency on Friday recommended that the use of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech be expanded to children ages 12 to 15, a decision that offers younger and less at-risk populations across the continent access to a COVID-19 shot for the first time during the pandemic. (Read Full Article)

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Germany Officially Recognizes Colonial-Era Namibia Genocide

May 28, 2021

(BBC) – Germany has officially acknowledged committing genocide during its colonial occupation of Namibia, and announced financial aid worth more than €1.1bn (£940m; $1.34bn). German colonisers killed tens of thousands of Herero and Nama people there in early 20th Century massacres. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country was asking Namibia and victims’ descendants for forgiveness. But activists say the aid is not enough to address the suffering inflicted. (Read Full Article)

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The Texas Grid Came Close to an Even Bigger Disaster During February Freeze

May 28, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – The Texas electric grid came within five minutes of a complete collapse in mid-February. The problem could have been much worse. A little-known network designed to jolt the grid back to life wasn’t working properly. Texas grid operators, like their counterparts all over the country, rely on standby generators called “black starts.” Their job is to rescue the grid by supplying electricity to power plants so they can restart after a grid failure—roughly akin to jump-starting a car with a dead battery. When a freak winter storm hit Texas, nine of the 13 primary generators designed to get a downed system going again were, at times, out of commission, according to grid operators. And six of 15 secondary generators—the fail-safe for the fail-safe—had periodic trouble as well, including freeze damage and problems getting fuel. Those problems haven’t previously been reported. (Read Full Article)

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Time Is Running Out in Covid-19 Origins Inquiry, Say WHO-Led Team Members

May 28, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – Members of a World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of Covid-19 urged the United Nations agency’s member states to mandate a second phase of research, warning that time was running out to examine blood samples and other important clues in China regarding when, how and where the pandemic started.  The researchers also called for the U.S. to share with the WHO any intelligence supporting the hypothesis that the Covid-19 virus might have spilled from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, saying they had already unsuccessfully asked Washington for that information. The first confirmed cases of Covid-19 emerged in Wuhan in December 2019. (Read Full Article)

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Texas Standoff Embodies US Battle Over COVID Vaccines

May 28, 2021

(Medscape) – There is an escalating fight between Houston Methodist Hospital and wary healthcare workers who say they don’t want to have to choose between their jobs and a vaccine that isn’t fully FDA approved. Houston Methodist made headlines in April when it told employees they would have to get vaccinated for COVID or be fired, becoming the first large health system in the United States to mandate COVID vaccinations. (Read Full Article)

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DOJ Charges 14 with COVID-Related Fraud Nearing $150M

May 28, 2021

(Medscape) – The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday announced charges against 14 defendants across the country who allegedly engaged in healthcare fraud schemes that exploited the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in over $143 million in false billings to Medicare. Among the defendants, a DOJ news release said, were a telemedicine company executive, a physician, marketers, and medical business owners. (Read Full Article)

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Lisa Shaw Death: BBC Presenter Had Blood Clot After AstraZeneca Jab, Family Says

May 27, 2021

(The Guardian) – The award-winning BBC radio presenter Lisa Shaw died in hospital after suffering blood clots following her AstraZeneca vaccination, her family has said. The 44-year-old, who was a well-known broadcaster in the north-east of England and had worked for BBC Radio Newcastle since 2015, developed severe headaches a week after having the jab and fell seriously ill a few days later, relatives said in a statement. (Read Full Article)

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Taiwan Struggles with Testing Backlog Amid Largest Outbreak

May 27, 2021

(Associated Press) – Praised for its success at keeping the virus away for more than a year, Taiwan had until May recorded just 1,128 cases and 12 deaths. But the number of locally transmitted cases started growing this month and it soon became clear that the central government was ill prepared not only to contain the virus, but to even detect it on a large scale due to a lack of investment in rapid testing. (Read Full Article)

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Why a Grand Plan to Vaccinate the World Against Covid Unraveled

May 27, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – This spring, American epidemiologist Seth Berkley had to break some bad news to the world’s poorest countries: millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses promised to them weren’t coming. The nations were counting on getting shots from Covax—a multibillion-dollar program to immunize the world, led by Dr. Berkley and championed by the World Health Organization. But shipments from Covax’s main supplier in India, where Covid-19 cases were surging, suddenly weren’t coming through. (Read Full Article)

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Covid-19 Is Killing Hundreds of Pregnant Women and Babies in Brazil

May 27, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – More than a hundred pregnant women are dying from Covid-19 every month in Brazil, more than twice the rate last year, according to government figures—a tragedy researchers largely blame on the P.1 variant of the virus that first emerged in the Amazon and overwhelmed hospitals. In total, more than 800 expectant and postpartum mothers in Brazil have died from the disease since the pandemic began. At least 1,000 pregnant women have died from complications related to Covid-19 in the Americas, according to an estimate from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Tuesday, based on data from 24 countries. Pregnant women in Brazil face the highest risk of dying from the disease in the region, it said. (Read Full Article)

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AI Emotion-Detection Software Tested on Uyghurs

May 26, 2021

(BBC) – A camera system that uses AI and facial recognition intended to reveal states of emotion has been tested on Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the BBC has been told. A software engineer claimed to have installed such systems in police stations in the province. A human rights advocate who was shown the evidence described it as shocking. (Read Full Article)

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The Mini Lungs and Other Organoids Helping to Beat COVID

May 26, 2021

(Nature) – Shuibing Chen spent close to two months tending to her mini lungs — some half a million of them. Each one looked like a tiny storm cloud, ensconced in a warm dish and protected by a jelly-like dome. Chen, a stem-cell biologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, and her team had nurtured them from clumps of human cells, adding nutrients every few days as they grew into 3D air sacs. These lung organoids matured until they reached the size of a lentil. Then, the team packed them up and transported them just a few blocks away, to a laboratory authorized to work with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. There, the organoids were drowned in virus and each was doused with one of 15,000 drugs. Almost all of the mini lungs died, but a few of the drugs stemmed the infection — representing a handful of possible treatments for COVID-19. (Read Full Article)

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Shuttered Hospitals, Soaring Covid-19 Deaths: Rural Black Communities Lose a Lifeline in the Century’s Worst Health Crisis

May 26, 2021

(STAT News) – This tragedy was only made worse by institutional failings: All three relatives ended up in different, far-off hospitals across southwest Georgia. Early in the pandemic, the hospital nearest Taylor’s house stopped accepting Covid-19 patients, and then, in the middle of the worst public health crisis this century, it shut for good. A larger hospital managed by the same group, Phoebe Putney Health System, received $89.7 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provider relief fund during the pandemic. But the company said it was unable to develop a financial plan for its more rural location, which needed $10 million to upgrade and renovate the facility. (Read Full Article)

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Rich Countries Cornered COVID-19 Vaccine Doses. Four Strategies to Right a ‘Scandalous Inequality’

May 26, 2021

(Science) – He was right. Today, some rich countries are vaccinating children as young as 12 years old, who are at extremely low risk of developing severe COVID-19, while poorer countries don’t even have enough shots for health care workers. Nearly 85% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to date have gone to people in high-income and upper middle–income countries. The countries with the lowest gross domestic product per capita only have 0.3%. Tedros lambasted the “scandalous inequity” again in his opening speech at the World Health Assembly on 24 May. By September, at least 10% of the population in every country should be vaccinated, he said. (Read Full Article)

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