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COVID-19: 'Remain on guard' to keep surfaces clean of coronavirus, experts say – Brockville Recorder and Times



Whether you’re continuing to hunker down or getting ready for the new normal, now is a good time to review best practices

As parts of Canada begin to reopen following a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the country’s chief public health officer is warning people to remain vigilant.

Canada’s reported more than 2,290 deaths and about 43,500 cases of the virus since the pandemic was declared on March 11. And while the spread may be slowing in Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, it’s still peaking in the country’s most populous provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

“I think we have to tread very carefully at this point,” Dr. Theresa Tam said. “We are seeing some bumps in the road that remind us we can’t let down our guard.”

Whether you’re continuing to hunker down, getting ready for the new normal, or bracing for subsequent waves of the pandemic, now is a good time to review best practices for dealing with the coronavirus on everyday surfaces.

How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus can spread from an infected person through respiratory droplets generated when someone coughs or sneezes, through personal contact (such as shaking hands) with an infected person, or by touching something with the virus on it.


How long can the coronavirus survive on surfaces?
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in March, which tested how long the virus could remain on various surfaces in a lab setting. It showed that the virus was detected on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours.

The amount of the virus decreased over time and so the risk of infection from touching the surfaces would likely fall over time as well.

What are some of the most dangerous surfaces?
Any surface in a public place is potentially hazardous because you don’t know who has been there, or if they were infected.

For this reason, it’s important to avoid high-touch areas such as public transit, or grocery stores.

It’s important to avoid touching door handles, light switches, or taps that others may have touched and contaminated.

A worker in a protective suit inside a bus at the Toronto Transit Commission – Queensway Garage – on Evans Ave. near Kipling Ave. in Toronto, Ont. on Thursday April 16, 2020.

Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia

Can you get the virus from food?
There haven’t been any reported cases of COVID-19 being spread through food, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

However, it’s still recommended to follow safe food handling and cooking practices — such as washing fruits and vegetables in running water, properly cooking food and keeping counters and prep areas disinfected and clean.

Could you get the virus from groceries?
There’s no evidence that you can get the virus from food packaging, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible, said Dr. Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor in the Department of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“The potential risk is that an infected person recently handled our groceries, and then we touch those items and go on to touch our eyes, nose, or mouth,” she said. “There are several ways to reduce this risk, including letting the groceries sit untouched for some time, disposing of outer food packaging, or disinfecting hard surfaces like bottles or cans, but the most important thing is to wash your hands well after handling anything new that comes into your home.”

Is it possible that food deliveries or packages received in the post are contaminated?
There is a chance that a delivery person, or container could spread the virus. That’s why it’s best to use contactless payment methods.

And best practise would be to throw out or recycle any packaging. Also, remember to carefully wash your hands after handling it.

That said, if you’re receiving a book, or clothing that’s been packed in cardboard, it’s much more likely that the cardboard could be contaminated than the contents, which likely already spent days packed up.

High-touch surfaces such as toys, toilets, phones, electronics, door handles and TV remotes should be cleaned regularly

How safe are non-medical grade masks?
“The recommendation is to use a cloth face mask that fits snugly and has multiple layers of fabric,” said Harvard’s Dr. Marcus. “Cloth masks can be reused, but should be washed in between uses with hot water and laundry detergent.”

Are there any tips for cleaning surfaces?
Coronaviruses can be destroyed on surfaces by using appropriate disinfectants and following the instructions, according to Canada’s health agency.

Regular household cleaners including bleach solutions and cleaners with at least 70 per cent alcohol content should be effective.

High-touch surfaces such as toys, toilets, phones, electronics, door handles and TV remotes should be cleaned regularly.

And if somebody in your home has been diagnosed with the virus then everything should be disinfected more frequently.

This story idea initially came from a reader who took part in our COVID-19 ‘Ask Us Anything’ initiative. Want to know more? Ask us a question here.

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WHO stops hydroxychloroquine trials over safety concerns – Bangkok Post



The coronavirus pandemic has hammered Latin America, with Brazil the latest epicentre of the disease.

GENEVA: The WHO suspended trials of the drug that Donald Trump has promoted as a coronavirus defence, fuelling concerns about the US president’s handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans.

Trump has led the push for hydroxychloroquine as a potential shield or treatment for the virus, which has infected nearly 5.5 million people and killed 345,000 around the world, saying he took a course of the drug as a preventative measure.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also heavily promoted hydroxychloroquine while the virus has exploded across nation, which this week became the second most infected in the world after the United States.

But the World Health Organization said Monday it was halting testing of the drug for Covid-19 after studies questioned its safety, including one published Friday that found it actually increased the risk of death.

The WHO “has implemented a temporary pause… while the safety data is reviewed”, its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, referring to the hydroxychloroquine arm of a global trial of various possible treatments.

Trump announced last week he was taking the drug, explaining he had decided to take after receiving letters from a doctor and other people advocating it.

“I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories,” Trump told reporters then, as he declared it safe.

Trump dismissed the opinions then of his own government’s experts who had warned of the serious risks associated with hydroxychloroquine, with the Food and Drug Administration highlighting reported poisonings and heart problems.

Trump has been heavily criticised for his handling of the virus, after initially downplaying the threat and then repeatedly rejecting scientific analysis.

The United States has by far the world’s highest coronavirus death toll, reaching 98,218 on Monday, with more than 1.6 million confirmed infections.

Despite the WHO suspension, Brazil’s health ministry said Monday it would keep recommending hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19.

“We’re remaining calm and there will be no change,” health ministry official Mayra Pinheiro told a news conference.

Bolsonaro is a staunch opponent of lockdown measures and like Trump has played down the threat of the virus, even as Latin America has emerged as the new global virus hotspot.

Brazil has reported nearly 375,000 cases, widely considered to be far fewer than the real number because of a lack of testing, and more than 23,000 deaths.

Chile also is in the grip of a virus surge, with a record of nearly 5,000 infections in 24 hours on Monday.

– ‘Thrilled to break the isolation’ –

While South America and parts of Africa and Asia are only just beginning to feel the full force of the pandemic, many European nations are easing lockdowns as their outbreaks are brought under control.

In hard-hit Spain, Madrid and Barcelona on Monday emerged from one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, with parks and cafe terraces open for the first time in more than two months.

Elsewhere, gyms and swimming pools reopened in Germany, Iceland, Italy and Spain.

And slowing infection rates in Greece allowed restaurants to resume business a week ahead of schedule — but only for outdoor service.

“I’m thrilled to break the isolation of recent months and reconnect with friends,” said pensioner Giorgos Karavatsanis.

“The cafe in Greece has a social dimension, it’s where the heart of the district beats.”

Despite the encouraging numbers, experts have warned that the virus could hit back with a devastating second wave if governments and citizens are careless, especially in the absence of a vaccine.

The latest reminder of the threat came from Sweden, where the Covid-19 death toll crossed 4,000 — a much higher figure than its neighbours.

The Scandinavian nation has gained international attention — and criticism — for not enforcing stay-at-home measures like other European countries.

– ‘What will happen if I die’ –

The extended lockdowns, however, have started to bite globally, with businesses and citizens wearying of confinement and suffering immense economic pain.

Unprecedented emergency stimulus measures have been introduced, as governments try to provide relief to their economies, with the airline and hospitality sectors hit particularly hard because of travel bans.

Lufthansa became the latest major global company to be rescued, as the German government agreed a 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) bailout for one of the world’s biggest airlines.

But analysts have warned that the pandemic’s economic toll will be even more painful for countries far poorer than Western nations.

In the Maldives, a dream destination for well-heeled honeymooners, tens of thousands of impoverished foreign labourers have been left stranded, jobless and ostracised as the tiny nation shut all resorts to stop the virus.

“We need money to survive. We need our work,” said Zakir Hossain, who managed to send about 80 percent of his $180 a month wage to his wife and four children in Bangladesh before the outbreak.

“I heard that if a Bangladeshi worker dies here, they don’t send his body back and he is buried here,” he said. “I am worried what will happen if I die.”

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WHO stops hydroxychloroquine trial in COVID-19 patients due to safety concerns – CANOE



GENEVA — The World Health Organization has suspended testing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients due to safety concerns, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

Hydroxycholoroquine has been touted by Donald Trump and others as a possible treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The U.S. President has said he was taking the drug to help prevent infection.

“The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity trial while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board,” Tedros told an online briefing.

He said the other arms of the trial – a major international initiative to hold clinical tests of potential treatments for the virus – were continuing.

The WHO has previously recommended against using hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent coronavirus infections, except as part of clinical trials.

Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies program, said the decision to suspend trials of hydroxychloroquine had been taken out of “an abundance of caution.”

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Promising results from VIDO-InterVac's COVID-19 vaccine pre-clinical trials – paNOW



Several weeks ago, two doses of vaccine were given to the animals. Time was needed to then assess their immune response against a control group.

So how effective exactly is the vaccine so far?

“In the vaccinated animals – the ones that responded to the vaccine – we saw almost undetectable amounts of virus afterwards,” says Gerdts. “So, that’s very good news, and in comparison to the control group per swap… this is a range in a 50,000 fold reduction of it.”

All of the ferrets that were infected received what Gerdts says is a ‘high’ dose, or one million particles of the disease. Depending on exposure levels, it’s not even in the range of what a human would be exposed to, even with a high ‘virus shedder.’

Data on the lungs of the ferrets is still being analysed, but initial results indicate a very high immune response as well as high levels of neutralizing antibodies. It does not appear as though any other organs were affected by the virus either.

At this point, Gerdts says they are now in the midst of producing clinical grade vaccine doses that can be used in humans. He calls it the most time consuming part of the vaccine development.

In the meantime, they’re also conducting safety studies – which are required by regulators to essentially move on to human trials.

“In these safety studies, we’ll address whether there’s any unwanted effects or any adverse events to the vaccine. And also with this particular disease there is concern about what is called ‘disease enhancement’ where the vaccine would actually enhance the disease. So, there’s particular studies that will help us to rule out that our vaccine will do that.”

Gerdts admits that there is some concern that certain vaccines being developed currently may actually make the disease worse. It happened when a vaccine was developed for the virus that causes Dengue Fever several years ago.

“The technology that we have chosen is one that has a very well proven track record in humans and animals… and the advantage of that, is that it’s easily ‘scalable.’ So, at the end, we can produce millions of doses in a single run in a manufacturing facility. So while maybe it’s a bit slower at the moment, the advantage of our vaccine will be that it’s easier to scale and more cost effective.”

If all goes well, human trials are scheduled to begin in the fall.

“This is a vaccine made by Canadians for Canadians. So, we will make sure that our vaccine is available to Canadians at the highest priority.”

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