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More work needed to identify risk from Nigeria variant, says researcher – CTV News

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ABUJA, NIGERIA —
A researcher who identified a novel coronavirus variant in Nigeria has cautioned against automatic assumptions that it poses similar risks to strains that have emerged elsewhere.

The new strain was uncovered last week by scientists at the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in southeastern Nigeria.

ACEGID director Christian Happi said the variant was found in two out of 200 samples of virus collected from patients between August 3 and October 9.

The two samples were taken from the same state in Nigeria at different times.

They show a variant “different to the one that has been circulating in Nigeria, different from the one in South Africa and different from the one in the U.K.,” he said in an interview with AFP.

Britain tightened restrictions after finding a new strain there that it said was more contagious than initial forms of the virus.

South Africa says a new strain detected there could explain the rapid spread of a second wave that has especially affected younger people.

Happi stressed that scientists were racing to unlock knowledge about the Nigeria strain and urged people not to “extrapolate.”

“We have no idea, no evidence to say that this variant is linked to the spike we are seeing in Nigeria or not,” said Happi, explaining that samples from the latest cases were being analysed for an answer.

Nigeria has recorded more than 82,000 cases of COVID-19, of which 1,246 were fatal.

Compared to the country’s population of some 200 million people, this number is tiny.

However, the tally of cases has been rising by several hundred a day since the start of December. There has been a major increase in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, prompting the authorities there to reinstate a curfew and gatherings of more than 50 people.

But the number of deaths in Nigeria has not experienced a proportionate surge.

VIRUS MUTATION

Happi, a Cameroon-raised, Harvard-trained professor of molecular biology, works in a state-of-the-art lab in Ede, southeastern Nigeria.

It is one of only 12 in Africa designed to sequence viral genetic code and track mutations — telltale changes that can be used to build a family tree of the microbe.

From this, the scientists at Ede believe the variant evolved “within Nigeria, I don’t think it was imported from anywhere,” said Happi.

“When changes occur, what matters most, what we’re focusing on, is the spike protein,” he said, referring to the prong-like protein by which coronavirus latches onto a cell and infects it.

Happi said there was a “tendency to extrapolate” after a discovery of this kind.

But he cautioned strongly against automatically assuming that what happened in one population setting would also happen elsewhere.

AFRICAN DIFFERENCE?

“A lot of the models drawn at the onset of the pandemic, all got it wrong,” he said.

“They were saying by now that a third of the African population would be dead. So people need to think,” he said.

“It is very wrong to assume models based on knowledge that are not accurate or on assumptions that are dependent on data obtained from Europe or the U.S. and transpose it to a continent like Africa — we are genetically different, we are immunologically different.”

All of Africa has recorded 2.4 million cases, according to an AFP tally — just 3.6 per cent of the global tally, although testing is also far less widespread. The continent’s death toll of 57,000 is less than a fifth of that of the United States.

John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Union’s health agency, also urged patience as scientists worked to understand the Nigerian variant.

“Give us some time,” he said in a videoconference from Addis Ababa. “It’s still very early.”

Nkengasong appealed to Africans not to let down their guard, warning of the danger of a second wave of infection.

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Upcoming contemporary art exhibit featuring a collection of overlapping drawings as 'illegible, messy scribbles' – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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A Kelowna-based artist is showcasing a new type of art exhibit, focusing on a collection of overlapping drawings that are illegible, messy scribbles for contemporary art.

The Iranian-Canadian artist, Aileen Bahmanipour, has created what she expresses as ‘useless drawings that contradict the very purpose of drawing, which is to have something the viewer is able to see.’

Described as both ‘an image-maker and image-breaker,’ Bahmanipour, exhibit if one that took inspiration from milling machines, extraction tools, and other similar industrial machines that separate particles from materials.

The Wasting Techniques exhibit hosts a series of complex drawings are on clear acetate sheets and will also be sprayed regularly with a spitting machine, which will overtime wash away the drawings and turn them into stains on the floor.

The exhibit also includes multiple ways for visitors to interact with the exhibition, either in person or over a live stream. Two cameras have been set up by the artist, one in front of the transparent sheet and one behind.

“We are intrigued to see the evolution of this exhibition over the next 6 weeks as the artworks change and transform from the spitting machine. Bahmanipour has created an exhibition that avoids being static by not only the transformative quality of the work, but the multiple access points for visitors to experience it,” Artistic and Administrative Director, Lorna McParland said in a press release.

Wasting Techniques will be on view in the Main Gallery of the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art from Jan. 29 to March 13, 2021.

Visitors will also have an opportunity to learn more about Bahmanipour with an upcoming artist talk with them via zoom on Feb. 18. To learn more and register to participate, visit the Alternator Centre’s website.

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Weekend Round-Up: Stylish Set-Dressing, Madden Strategy, And Parisian Art – HODINKEE

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Peter Schjeldahl has been the head art critic at The New Yorker since 1998. I would be lying to you if I said I was a frequent reader of his work, but I’ve always made it a point to bookmark his criticism when I stumble across it. That doesn’t mean I always return to it, mind you, but his writing generally ends up saved inside a perpetually growing list of need-to-read tabs on my laptop, waiting for me to grow restless enough to come back to it. This week, I opened up one of his more recently published pieces, The Art Of Dying, from December 2019. In this thoughtful piece of self-reflection, Schjeldahl discusses a recent lung cancer diagnosis, his years of sobriety, and how he’s lived his life thus far. Nothing is normal these days, and Schjeldahl’s writing here reminds us that we’re all nothing but a sum of our personal experiences and that how we tell our story truly matters. I highly recommend it.

– Logan Baker, Editor, HODINKEE Shop

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Italian art gallery becomes a COVID-19 vaccine centre – The Globe and Mail

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Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev is director of the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art​, which is turning into a vaccination centre in March, 2021.

handout/Handout

The Castello di Rivoli, near Turin, has been a marvel of reinvention over its thousand-year history. It has been a castle – castello in Italian – royal palace, military barracks, refugee centre and, lately, a UNESCO World Heritage site and art gallery.

In March or April, it will assume another role, COVID-19 vaccination centre, when the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, the site’s main tenant, opens its galleries to visitors who fancy combining a bit of culture with their inoculations.

The idea of turning one of Europe’s best-known contemporary art museums into a temporary health clinic was conceived by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, 63, the museum’s American-Italian director. “Art has always helped and healed,” she said. “It provides an experience that includes and involves others and can be a form of therapy to treat trauma.”

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While vaccinations are normally not considered traumatic experiences, getting one in an airy gallery might take the edge off any lingering jab anxiety. Polls suggest there is vaccine hesitancy among significant minorities of Europeans.

Coronavirus vaccinations will be administered in the third floor gallery of Castello di Rivoli, near Turin, Italy, which has been reinvented over the centuries as a castle, royal palace, military barracks, and a refugee centre.

handout/Handout

The vaccines will be administered in the third-floor gallery of the museum, where the walls are lined with the creations of Claudia Comte, a Swiss artist whose work, according to museum literature, comprises “large scale environmental installations … of a form of consciousness primarily shaped through the digital experience.”

While Ms. Comte’s art may not be to everyone’s taste, the gallery no doubt beats a sterile, windowless hospital room as a vaccination centre. Ms. Comte is also working on what Ms. Christov-Bakargiev called a “soothing, calming” soundtrack that will be played while medics administer the vaccines.

After they get their jabs, the newly inoculated will be allowed to wander the lower galleries (assuming Italian pandemic restrictions allow them to open), where one of the new installations will include Sex, by German visual artist Anne Imhof. Works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Amadeo Modigliani are also on display.

The vaccinations will be done by the local health authority, which will have to ensure that the proper safety protocols are in place. Ms. Christov-Bakargiev said the museum should be ideal for the inoculation effort, since it is already equipped with thermal scanners and a climate-control system and has ample space for physical distancing, waiting rooms and vaccination booths. The third floor covers 10,000 square feet.

Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art​ is joining the drive that has led to administration of more than 1.2 million vaccine doses in Italy by Jan. 19, 2021.

Paolo Pellion/Handout

She said the idea of turning the museum into a vaccination centre came to her months ago but took on new urgency on Dec. 13, when museum chairman Fiorenzo Alfieri died of COVID-19 after a month-long illness. He was 77.

“The day after he died, I thought that I needed to do something more than close the museum during the pandemic and wait,” she said. “We had to do something more.”

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Many museums and art galleries in Europe began as hospitals, including Les Invalides in Paris and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, home of Picasso’s Guernica. Castello di Rivoli is just doing it in reverse order – a museum that is becoming, in effect, a hospital.

According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, Italy, which has seen 83,000 pandemic deaths, had administered more than 1.2 million vaccine does by Jan. 19. Ranked by doses per 100 people, the tally puts it well ahead of the European Union average.

Italian health authorities are planning to open vaccination sites in public spaces across the country, including city squares. Cultura Italiae, a group of cultural leaders, has proposed that other museums and cultural centres copy the Castello di Rivoli vaccination model. After all, “public museums are committed to creating an accessible, pluralistic space to serve our community,” Ms. Christov-Bakargiev said.

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