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Statistics Canada says it is suspending all media lockups for data releases



Statistics Canada said on Monday it would suspend all media lockups for data releases until further notice, citing the need for staff to work from home given the coronavirus outbreak.

On days when data is released, Statscan allows reporters access to a lock-up in a room with no access to cell phones or wireless. Media are able to write stories but cannot transmit them until communications are restored at 8.30 a.m. Eastern time (1230 GMT).

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And now the good news about media-fueled ‘panic’ – Asia Times



The 21-day lockdown across India could be extended beyond April 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a videoconference with political leaders on Wednesday. A prolonged lockdown seems inevitable in worst-affected regions such as financial capital Mumbai.

Through such a deluge of bad news, Covid-19 also delivers legacy good news, more so as the world’s first micro-reported pandemic. Call it the virus version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Skeptics continue to scoff at the mass spread of “coronavirus panic” by the “media virus.” But “panic” was inevitable: This was the first pandemic to be born in the bed of a telecommunications revolution.

For this, thank goodness, our guardian angels, or the fool’s luck of a unique species.

No previous pandemic could be monitored in real time for 5.28 billion people with mobile phones, 3.5 billion smartphone users, 67.95% of the world’s population with a mobile device.

Unlike even the SARS generation circa 2003 reading the morning newspaper and seeing the evening news, the Covid-19 generation devours news updated minute-by-minute, 24/7. The news tsunami multiplies through information (and misinformation) spreading via 3.8 billion social-media users, with the average user having an account on eight platforms.

The key question is not whether we accursed media misfits are spreading panic. Instead, wonder how many more lives might have been saved if those earlier pandemics had popped up in such times of mass-media weaponry?

Covid-19 appeared at a time of traditional newspapers, television, media sites converging online into a hyper-synergy of billions of news consumers on Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, Twitter – on hand-held devices.

Therefore, unlike bubonic plague, Spanish flu, Ebola and other pandemic predecessors, Covid-19 had zero chance of escaping global household attention – more so as it was able directly or indirectly to affect every household.

The core question, then, is not whether we are making too much fuss over a pandemic that has killed fewer people so far than the seasonal flu, malaria, or tuberculosis do each year.

Instead, Covid-19 for the first time pushes this sobering question into focus: Why were we so negligent and oblivious, year after year, with commonly known killers of millions? TB alone causes 1.2 million deaths a year.

Avoid shaking hands, frequently wash your hands with soap and water, avoid touching your face and wear a mask if you are sick” – that is the common advisory for a range of communicable diseases, from TB to common flu. It took the Covid-19 mass-media pandemic to push that advice into practice among billions of us, which we may hope is a lasting legacy of life-saving hygiene.

Crucial Covid-19 fringe benefits

Air quality in 90 Indian cities has improved thanks to the nationwide lockdown, according to a US National Aeronautics and Space Administration study, including in New Delhi, which hit global headlines in recent months for its toxic air.

A NASA-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) report said the impact of measures taken to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic caused a drop in PM2.5 (fine particulate pollutant) by 30% in Delhi, and by 15% in Ahmedabad and Pune.

“It is the lockdown impact,” said Gufran Beig, a scientist at SAFAR. “Local factors like shutting down industries and construction and traffic have contributed to improving the air quality.” And this was just four days into the 21-day lockdown, with air possibly much purer 10 days later.

Neighboring Nepal reported similar news, including Mount Everest getting a much-needed rest, with the Nepalese government suspending expeditions this year.

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Mount Everest has been spared this remarkable sight so far in 2020, with ‘social distancing’ not possible near the world’s highest peak. The numbers attempting the climb in 2019 led to bottlenecks in the ‘death zone,’ where very low oxygen levels put lives at risk. Photo: AFP / Handout

“The sunny spring sky in Kathmandu was brilliantly clear on Tuesday, the first day of a week-long nationwide lockdown,” Nepali Times happily reported on March 24. “With no traffic, and flights all grounded, there is no noise pollution in the street or the sky.”

Delhi Police reported an 80% drop in crime last month, with crooks also forced to take a Covid-19 break.

Road accidents, which normally account for 400 deaths a day in India, have also dipped: no traffic, except for essential needs and services.

Wait for a health report announcing a record low in gastroenteritis and diabetic cases, owing to folks forcibly kept away from street food and on a diet of home-cooked meals.

As with Mumbai citizens experiencing incredible sights of a locked-down city, Delhi denizens rubbed their eyes with disbelief seeing an unpolluted River Yamuna for the first time in a lifetime.

A Twitter user in Delhi, enraptured with the new vision of River Yamuna, was moved to recommend a compulsory two-week national lockdown each year.

These are strange coronavirus times.

Raja Murthy has contributed to Asia Times since 2003, The Statesman since 1990 and earlier for the Times of India, Economic Times, Elle, Wisden, The Hindu and others.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world’s first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

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Media warnings over hydroxychloroquine are about hating Trump, not saving lives – The Post Millennial



Researchers at McGill University are seeking participants to take part in a trial that will be used to test how well hydroxychloroquine can fight coronavirus.

Yet in the establishment media, hydroxychloroquine remains a dirty word. This is mostly due to President Trump’s enthusiasm for the drug as a potential treatment and prevention for COVID-19, and the media’s lack of enthusiasm for President Trump. Not liking the president, however, is not a good enough reason to discount a potential treatment, especially one that is yielding results.

On Tuesday, a writer and a video producer from FiveThirtyEight made a curious video outlining how “we don’t have any evidence that any of these drugs would be effective against COVID-19.”

Kaleigh Rogers and Anna Rothschild discuss how “throwing” hydroxychloroquine at people with coronavirus “it’s not a good way to do science.”

The same day Rogers and Rothschild scolded President Trump for expressing hope for successful hydroxychloroquine treatments, a Democratic state lawmaker came forward to say that it saved her life. Rep. Karen Whitsett of Michigan credits the drug with saving her life, as do her doctors. And her experience is not merely a one-off.

Meanwhile, in New Scientist, Carrie Arnold notes that there are more than 60 drugs being investigated by researchers and scientists. Remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine are among them, both of which have been mentioned by the president, and are the latest two drugs being tried with current coronavirus patients. While Remdesivir is a known anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine is no longer used for that purpose because the parasite that causes malaria has become resistant to it. It has been discovered to have other uses and treatments.

French doctors, in their effort to battle COVID-19, used the drug to treat 26 COVID-19 patients. Hydroxychloroquine was given three times per day, along with azithromycin, an antibiotic. The results shared by doctors showed that ten days of treatment led to a decrease of the virus in their blood, compared to 16 patients who were not given the cocktail and did not have a reduction in their viral load.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called these findings “anecdotal.” Fauci has been a strong proponent of traditional methods of drug testing. He insists that clinical trials are the most effective method of determining pharmaceutical efficacy. While that is the preferred method, it is not particularly timely.

While it remains true that hydroxychloroquine does not have the official stamp of approval from official scientific organizations and bodies, the anecdotal evidence is beginning to pile up that this just might be saving lives.

Clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine are now underway in New York, the US region where the death toll is highest. If these trials prove that the cocktail of hydroxychloroquine in concert with azithromycin is effective, the accessibility and low cost of these drugs would make it almost instantly available to treat a wide number of patients.

Concerns over hydroxychloroquine and its close relative chloroquine are that they are in use currently for other, chronic conditions, such as Lupus, and can cause trouble for people with heart conditions. But just as we were informed not to wear masks so that the general public would not diminish the supplies necessary for medical personnel, being told that a pharmaceutical that could save lives should not be used because other people need it is nonsensical.

Of course, none of that is a concern to Rogers and Rothschild, who are primarily interested in taking aim at President Trump. The coronavirus outbreak has put the entire world on pause and put an entire generation at risk of losing their lives. It’s a completely unprecedented situation in modern times.

It stands to reason that Trump, as the president of the hardest hit nation in the global outbreak thus far, may take unprecedented action in trying to save lives. He has been clear in his impetus to present news that is positive, as well as delivering the crushing reality we are facing.

Like so many in the media, these two scolds appear like they would rather the president fail than the sick get healed. That’s what derangement looks like, and they are not alone. Since Trump was elected, there has been a faction of people that would prefer to see him fail, even if that failure brings the nation to its knees. This rhetorical battle over hydroxychloroquine is not about drug efficacy, but about the ongoing Trump Derangement Syndrome that has plagued so many in our mainstream media.

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COVID-19: Mexican media says Vancouver men accosted journalist on beach – Vancouver Sun



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Two tourists who attacked a journalist reporting live from a Puerto Vallarta beach have been identified by Mexican media as Vancouver residents.

On Monday, Doraliz Terrón of Paralelo Informativo was confronted by the pair while filming a Facebook Live segment on vacationers ignoring stay-at-home orders to sunbathe at closed beaches.

“You can’t film us,” the first man said, swearing at the reporter and attempting to wrestle her phone away. “You need our permission and we don’t give you permission. Get out of here.”

A second man joined the confrontation, asking, “How much are you going to pay us for this?” before swearing, shouting sexist slurs and making threatening gestures at Terrón.

Beaches in Mexico are public property, and permission is not needed to take footage of people in public spaces.

Furthermore, they’re closed, as local officials work to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state of Jalisco, where there have been 135 confirmed cases and seven deaths.

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