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England dropped most of its Covid restrictions in July. One month on, here's how it's going – CNN



London (CNN)It’s been a month since England dropped most of its coronavirus restrictions, a move that was welcomed by much of the country’s hard-pressed business sector but criticized by thousands of scientists as a “dangerous and unethical experiment.”

In an open letter published in the Lancet medical journal, they argued that a rising number of Covid-19 cases, the new Delta variant and the fact that a large part of the UK population was not yet fully vaccinated made the move too risky.
But the government was determined to push ahead.
It removed all limits on mixing and allowed venues like nightclubs and sports stadiums to open at full capacity starting on July 19. Face masks are no longer required apart from in a few specific locations, such as airports and hospitals. And as of Monday, fully vaccinated people are no longer required to quarantine after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
A month on, it’s becoming clear that while vaccination works, the reopening has come at a cost.
“The UK is averaging around 90 deaths a day from Covid. Our reopening has been far from an unqualified success,” said Kit Yates, co-director of the Centre for Mathematical Biology at the University of Bath.
While the death toll is much lower than it was at the peak of the pandemic, when as many as 1,300 people were dying every day, experts like Yates say it’s still unnecessarily high.
And with roughly 800 Covid-19 patients ending up in hospital each day, the UK’s public health system is once again under pressure and unable to provide non-emergency care at the level that is needed, Yates said.
“There isn’t capacity to carry out all the routine treatment that’s necessary. As a result people are missing out on lifesaving treatment,” he said.
The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment has risen to 5.5 million in July from 4.4 million in February 2020, according to NHS Providers.
“If there was one lesson I wish other countries would take from watching the UK’s attempt to reopen is that vaccines are not the whole solution to the problem,” Yates told CNN.
“Yes, they make a huge difference, but if you want to keep on top of this disease then you need to back vaccines up with other tried and tested public health measures: Mask mandates in indoor public spaces, ventilation in schools and work places, a functioning, locally-driven test, trace and isolate system in combination with support for isolation,” he added.

Cases dropped, then rose again

Epidemiologists expected the reopening would lead to an increase in the number of people becoming infected with the coronavirus — but this didn’t happen, at least not immediately.
While the number of new cases increased just before the restrictions were lifted, it went down in the first few weeks after the reopening. This unexpected drop was likely down to the fact that contacts between people didn’t increase as rapidly as some predicted, and because the Euro 2020 football tournament, which led to a spike in cases, ended on July 11.
“Thankfully, although technically we’ve lifted restrictions, the UK looks a very different place than it did before the pandemic. My workplace is still practically deserted. It’s quite clear that people are not behaving as they were before the pandemic,” said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.
“There’s an awful lot of scope for people to change their behavior more to allow more transmission of the virus in the future. Whether they will, we don’t know — predicting people’s behavior in the face of an unprecedented pandemic is a fool’s game, really,” he said.
The spike in cases before the reopening meant a large number of people were in quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive. More than 2 million people were “pinged” by the track and trace app in July alone, according to the NHS.
On top of that, the school summer vacation got underway in England on July 16.
Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operational Research Unit at University College London, said it has now become clear that schools played an important part in the overall picture, adding that cases in children have been halving every week since the beginning of the holidays.
But while the overall infection levels dropped in the first few weeks after the reopening, they have started creeping up again.
“In the last two weeks, cases in adults have started going up again, and more than you would know just from looking at the numbers, because they’re kind of masked by the big drops in cases in children,” Pagel said.
She said the increase in cases is worrying, because July and August are precisely the months when it should be easier to keep infection levels down.
“We’re still in a situation where we have a lot of cases and a lot of poor health from Covid, so I think there is kind of a bit of trepidation about what happens when we go back to school in September,” she said.
While hospitalizations in the UK are on the rise, the proportion of people who end up in hospital now is much lower than it used to be, thanks to vaccination.
“In January, before the vaccination program really got into full swing we were maybe seeing upwards of 10% of cases going on to be hospitalized. Now that figure is down to between 2% and 3%, so vaccines are making a huge difference,” Yates said.
The data also shows that while overall vaccination rates matter, the key is in the detail.
The UK has fully vaccinated 60% of its total population, according to Our World in Data, while in the US, that figure stands at 51%, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the overall rate is similar, the US has more unvaccinated elderly people who are more vulnerable to the disease.
“In the over-50s, in our vulnerable populations, we have 90% to 95% fully vaccinated. And that’s making a really big difference. So we do have a lot of hospitalizations, but it’s nowhere near as high as it could be,” Pagel said, referring to the UK population.
“And if you look at places like Florida, which is seeing unsustainable hospitalizations, this is because they have a higher number of people who are still vulnerable, so even though they have high vaccination rates overall, it’s not helping them as much because of how its distributed in their population,” she added.
According to the Florida Department of Health, 79% of people aged between 60 and 64 and 86% of people above the age of 65 have been vaccinated.

Kids on the front line

In England, next month’s return to school is a major risk, because most kids won’t be vaccinated against the disease.
The UK medicines watchdog, the MHRA, has approved the Pfizer and Moderna shots for children and teenagers aged 12 and above, but only clinically vulnerable teenagers have been able to get the shots so far.
The government said Sunday that 16- and 17-year-olds will be offered the vaccine by next week, but there has been no announcement on inoculation for younger children.
“We will see lots of students meeting up indoors in schools at which few or no mitigations have been put in place … we should expect to see further rises in transmission when this happens, which will inevitably lead to more cases, more hospitalizations and tragically more deaths,” Yates said.
Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer in machine learning at Queen Mary University of London, has long been critical of the government’s approach to the reopening, arguing that the plan put children at unnecessary risk.
“They may not individually get hospitalized or die at the same rate, but if enough of them get infected, then a large number will still get hospitalized and sadly, some will die. And they do get long Covid,” she said, pointing to data released by the Office for National Statistics earlier this month, which showed that 34,000 kids aged 17 and under are suffering from long Covid, with 22,000 of them saying their illness is having an impact on their day-to-day activities.
“These are not mild cases … 7,000 have had persistent symptoms for more than one year. That’s not mild,” she said.
Pagel said that while schools don’t appear to be major drivers of new injections when overall community transmission levels remain low, they become a problem when Covid levels are higher — as they are right now in the UK.
“Every other high income country is doing at least one of three things … they are either vaccinating adolescents, or they’re keeping in mitigation (measures) in schools such as masks and social distancing, isolation and (investing in) ventilation, or they’re keeping community transmission low … most of them are doing two of those things. We’re not doing any of them,” she said.

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Apple's iOS 14.8 Pegasus security fix: iPhone owners urged to update immediately – CNET



Angela Lang/CNET

Apple released security updates for its iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Mac computers earlier this week that close a vulnerability reportedly exploited by invasive spyware built by NSO Group, an Israeli security company. 

On Monday, the tech giant posted a security note for iOS 14.8 and iPadOS 14.8 that said some malicious PDFs could take advantage of its operating systems. “Processing a maliciously crafted PDF may lead to arbitrary code execution,” the note read. “Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.” 

Apple also released WatchOS 7.6.2, MacOS Big Sur 11.6 and a security update for MacOS Catalina to address the vulnerability. 

The fix, earlier reported by The New York Times, stems from research done by a public interest cybersecurity group called Citizen Lab that found a Saudi activist’s phone had been infected with Pegasus, NSO’s best-known product. According to Citizen Lab, the zero-day, zero-click exploit against iMessage, which it nicknamed ForcedEntry, targets Apple’s image rendering library and was effective against the company’s iPhones, laptops and Apple Watches. 

Read more: Check if your iPhone is infected with Pegasus spyware with this free tool

Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto, says it determined NSO used the vulnerability to remotely infect devices with its Pegasus spyware, adding that it believes the exploit has been in use since at least February. It urged all Apple users to immediately update their operating systems.

“Ubiquitous chat apps have become a major target for the most sophisticated threat actors, including nation state espionage operations and the mercenary spyware companies that service them,” Citizen Lab said in a report. “As presently engineered, many chat apps have become an irresistible soft target.”

The security update rolled out a day before Apple took the wraps off a slate of new products, including iPads, Apple Watches and iPhones. The company used the fall rollout of devices, which is one of the company’s most important annual events, to tout its security measures. Saying that privacy is “built in from the beginning,” Apple said the upcoming version of its iOS software will block trackers and prevent monitoring of email, among other safety provisions.

Read more: Watch iPhone 13 launch live: How to watch Apple’s event today

Apple thanked Citizen Lab for providing a sample of the exploit, which the iPhone maker said wasn’t a threat to most of its users.

“Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals,” Ivan Krstić, who runs Apple’s security engineering and architecture operations, said in a statement. “While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.”

In July, researchers found evidence of attempted or successful installations of Pegasus on 37 phones of activists, journalists and businesspeople. All but three of the devices were iPhones. Some of the people appear to have been targets of secret surveillance through Pegasus, software that’s supposed to be used to pursue criminals and terrorists. The spyware is reportedly capable of accessing and recording texts, videos, photos and web activity as well as passively recording and scraping passwords on a device. 

NSO released a statement late Monday that didn’t directly address Apple’s update but said it “will continue to provide intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world with life saving technologies to fight terror and crime.”

The company, which licenses surveillance software to government agencies, says its Pegasus software helps authorities combat criminals and terrorists who take advantage of encryption technology to go “dark.” Pegasus runs secretly on smartphones, providing insight into what their owners are doing. Other companies provide similar software.

CEO Shalev Hulio co-founded the company in 2010. In addition to Pegasus, NSO offers other tools that locate where a phone is being used, defend against drones and mine law enforcement data to spot patterns.

NSO has been implicated in other hacks, including the high-profile hack of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2018. In the same year, a Saudi dissident sued the company for its alleged role in hacking a device belonging to journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

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iPhone 13 Pro runs Geekbench, reveals 55% better GPU performance vs iPhone 12 Pro – news –



As you probably already know, Apple unveiled four new smartphones yesterday – the iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, and 13 Pro Max. They’re all powered by the A15 chip, but there are GPU differences between them.

While the iPhone 13 and 13 mini have a 4-core GPU, the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, along with the new iPad mini, have a 5-core GPU.

This A15 chip with a 5-core GPU has been tested on Geekbench’s compute benchmark using the Metal API today, by someone in possession of an iPhone 13 Pro prototype. The resulting score is 14216, which is about 55% more than the iPhone 12 Pro‘s 9123. This points to huge GPU performance improvements in the new iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max compared to their direct predecessors.

iPhone 13 Pro runs Geekbench, reveals 55% better GPU performance compared to iPhone 12 Pro

Apple has called the 5-core GPU version of the A15 “the world’s fastest smartphone chip”, and promised that it delivers “50% faster graphics performance than any other smartphone chip”. Well, that seems to be the case at least when comparing to last year’s A14 Bionic with 4-core GPU, as featured in the iPhone 12 Pro. The iPhone 13 Pro has 6GB of RAM too.

We don’t yet know how the A15 with 4-core GPU would perform, since no one has benchmarked an iPhone 13 or 13 mini yet. We also don’t have CPU benchmark results for any of Apple’s new devices at this point, but all of these are surely coming soon.


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Apple Quietly Removes 256GB iPhone SE Model From Online Store – MacRumors



Following updates to its product lineups this week, Apple has quietly discontinued the 256GB capacity option for the iPhone SE.

Prior to this week, the ‌iPhone SE‌ was available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB configurations, but since Tuesday’s “California streaming” event and subsequent product lineup rejig, only the first and second of those capacities are listed on Apple’s online store. Pricing for the 64GB and 128GB ‌iPhone SE‌ options remains the same.

According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is planning an update to the ‌iPhone SE‌ for the first half of 2022. The current model was launched in April 2020, so the removal of the 256GB variant could be a sign that Apple is beginning to ramp down production of this particular model.

During its virtual event, Apple announced that the iPhone 13 and ‌iPhone 13‌ mini start with 128GB of storage, which is double the base 64GB offered for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini.

The storage capacities available for the ‌iPhone 13‌ and ‌iPhone 13‌ mini include 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB, while the iPhone 13 Pro and ‌iPhone 13 Pro‌ Max also have a new 1TB storage option.

Pricing continues to start at $699 for the ‌iPhone 13‌ mini, $799 for the ‌iPhone 13‌, $999 for the ‌iPhone 13 Pro‌, and $1,099 for the ‌iPhone 13 Pro‌ Max. Preorders for the new ‌iPhone 13‌ models begin Friday.

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Apple today announced that the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini start with 128GB of storage, which is double the base 64GB offered for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini.
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