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What will it take to stop the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading around the world? – CNN International

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Since the first case was identified in early December in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, more than 5,900 people have fallen sick and at least 132 people have died in mainland China. In addition, there are dozens of confirmed cases in 17 locations outside of mainland China, including at least five in the United States.
The number of total cases worldwide now exceeds 6,000.
The world has never had more advanced medical science, but it’s also never been so interconnected. So what can be done to stop it from becoming a global epidemic?
There’s still plenty we don’t know about the virus, known officially as 2019-nCov, but Chinese authorities believe that it is spreading human to human, and that people can be infected before symptoms show.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has stopped short of calling it a global health emergency, but there’s no disputing that it is spreading. Over the weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the outbreak is accelerating.
“Life is of paramount importance. When an epidemic breaks out, a command is issued. It is our responsibility to prevent and control it,” he said, according to Chinese state media.

First thing’s first. How bad is it?

Although it’s scary to think of a deadly virus spreading, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of cases so far have not been fatal.
The mortality rate is changing as the numbers of people affected change. As of Tuesday, Wuhan coronavirus’ mortality rate was about 2.3%. By comparison, the WHO estimated that the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003 had an overall fatality ratio of 9.6%. Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) — another type of coronavirus — has a mortality rate of 35%.
However a large proportion of the coronavirus cases are considered “severe” and very few people have so far been released from hospital after recovering, according to official numbers.

So how are doctors treating it?

There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses, which range from the common cold to SARS. But just like the common cold, doctors can treat the symptoms, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonoses unit.
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David Heymann, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment, said doctors would be making sure patients can breathe properly and give them life support if required. Aside from that, the benefit of keeping people in hospital would be isolating them from the general population, so they can’t infect others.

What else can doctors do?

The way to stop an outbreak is to work out who a patient has had contact with, and try to stop them from spreading the virus, Heymann said.
Doctors put all the contacts the patient has had recently under “fever surveillance,” he said. If those contacts develop a fever, then they are immediately tested for the virus — and then their contacts need to be traced. Hospitals must follow good practice, so that doctors themselves are not helping the disease.
“By tracing contacts, identifying new cases, isolating new cases, you can interrupt transmission eventually,” he said, adding that was how the 2003 SARS outbreak was brought under control. “Those are the things you can do — clean up hospital practices, make sure that they’re done well so that you don’t transmit in hospitals, and at the same time, make sure that you’re tracing contacts and identifying all cases.”

What about travel bans?

Authorities in Hong Kong, which borders mainland China, have established travel bans, telling residents of Hubei and those who have visited the province in the past 14 days that they can’t enter the city. They’ve also said that all public, cultural and leisure facilities will be closed “until further notice” in a move to control the spread of Wuhan coronavirus. On Tuesday, Hong Kong announced it was closing many of its borders with mainland China.
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In mainland China, isolation has been taken to another level.
Chinese authorities have shut down transport in and out of Wuhan and at least 10 other cities, effectively quarantining millions of people. Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang, told state broadcaster CCTV on Monday that even though history may not remember the move kindly, “we think as long as it’s good for the control of the epidemic and people’s safety, we are willing to take any responsibilities for locking down the city.”
Peter Daszak, president of non-profit EcoHealth Alliance, which researches emerging infectious diseases, hailed the move as “bold,” saying it was not without political risks but might be enough to help stop coronavirus spreading.
It’s a move that’s never been done before at such magnitude — and it has prompted criticism from some experts.
There were smaller quarantines during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but those led to violent protests and a distrust of public health authorities, said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University and director of the WHO’s Center on Global Health Law, adding that the move could even hamper the outbreak response.
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Others have cautioned that it may be unwise for logistical issues. Wuhan health authorities earlier said local hospitals are overwhelmed, and the city plans to build two more hospitals within days.
“The health risks for people in the city depends on how they’re closing it down,” said Heymann, referring to food and medical supplies. Even so, the move would hopefully decrease the number of cases that made it to other countries, he added.

What about vaccines?

Last century, smallpox killed about 300 million people, according to the World Economic Forum. Thanks to vaccines, it became the first deadly disease to be completely wiped out.
So it’s no surprise that scientists would want to develop a vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus. According to Daszak, there are already vaccine candidates — and scientists around the world are working towards developing one.
Vaccine for new Chinese coronavirus in the works
But even if scientists do successfully develop a vaccine, it might not be ready in time to treat this outbreak.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it will take a few months until the first phase of clinical trials begin — and then more than a year until a vaccine might be available.
Heymann, from the WHO, said it’s highly unlikely that any vaccines that come up for study during this outbreak would be available anytime soon.
“They’ll be available if this outbreak continues for any long period of time, but nobody knows what will happen to this outbreak,” Heymann said.
Even then, a vaccine can’t be used to treat people with the virus — it can only be given to people who haven’t already been exposed to it.

Should the WHO declare a global health emergency?

So far, the WHO has decided not to declare a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) — although Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, warned “it may yet become one.”
The World Health Organization should sound the alarm on Wuhan coronavirusThe World Health Organization should sound the alarm on Wuhan coronavirus
A PHEIC is defined as something that constitutes a public health risk to other states due to the speed of it spreading overseas, which requires a coordinated international response. If a PHEIC is declared, all WHO member states must abide by the WHO Emergency Committee’s recommendations.
Last week, the WHO said that while the outbreak was serious in China, it had not yet hit a global level. But the WHO may also be concerned about creating unnecessary panic.
During the SARS outbreak that infected more than 8,000 people and killed 774 around the world between November 2002 and July 2003, the WHO warned visitors not to travel to Hong Kong. In May 2003, the WHO withdrew that advisory, but Hong Kong remained on a list of affected areas until June 23, 2003.
Some considered that move to be an overreaction, according to a paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in August 2003.
“In some circles, the WHO is perceived to have overreacted to the epidemic, causing unnecessary panic on the international scene and putting unjustified barriers in the way of persons from ‘infected’ areas wishing to attend such events as business exhibitions or international sports activities,” the paper said.

So what can the public do? Are masks useful?

Masks are being used so widely in Hong Kong and mainland China that stocks are running low.
Wearing masks is now mandatory for those going out in public in Wuhan. The Chinese central government has asked manufacturers of medical face masks to resume production over the Lunar New Year period. According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, 30 factories have resumed production and are making 8 million masks each day.
Students disinfect their hands with an alcohol solution before entering class at a school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on January 28, 2020.Students disinfect their hands with an alcohol solution before entering class at a school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on January 28, 2020.
But it’s still unclear how the virus is spread, or whether masks would stop it, Heymann said.
“There’s no evidence that it’s circulating in a way that could prevent it,” he said. And even if the disease can spread through the air, masks might not be entirely effective. “Masks are very tricky to wear,” he added, explaining that if there is an air gap in the mask, it won’t work.

What else can be done?

Experts say there is one simple thing you can do: wash your hands.
The WHO’s Van Kerkhove said she recommends washing hands with soap and water and sneezing into your elbow, if you have to sneeze.
An official checks the temperature of a passenger in front of a train ticket gate at Beijing international airport on January 27, 2020, amid the outbreak of a novel coronavirus. An official checks the temperature of a passenger in front of a train ticket gate at Beijing international airport on January 27, 2020, amid the outbreak of a novel coronavirus.
Informing people about what to look out for is also vital, according to Heymann. If a person who is asymptomatic shows up in an airport, they may not be picked up by authorities who are only screening for fever.
“A border doesn’t stop infections, people can cross borders while they’re in the incubation period. So screening will pick out some, but it certainly won’t get others,” Heymann said.
“So what’s important at screening is to tell people, not only ‘we’re taking your temperature’. But giving them some kind of notification about where they go should they get a fever.”

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Canada launches long-awaited auction of 5G spectrum

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Canada is set to begin a hotly anticipated auction of the mobile telecommunications bandwidth necessary for 5G rollout, one that was delayed more than a year by the pandemic.

The 3,500 MHz is a spectrum companies need to provide 5G, which requires more bandwidth to expand internet capabilities.The auction, initially scheduled for June 2020, is expected to take several weeks with Canadian government selling off 1,504 licenses in 172 service areas.

Smaller operators are going into the auction complaining that recent regulatory rulings have further tilted the scales in the favour of the country’s three biggest telecoms companies – BCE, Telus and Rogers Communications Inc – which together control around 90% of the market as a share of revenue.

Canadian mobile and internet consumers, meanwhile, have complained for years that their bills are among the world’s steepest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers did not cut bills by 25%.

The last auction of the 600 MHz spectrum raised C$3.5 billion ($2.87 billion) for the government.

The companies have defended themselves, saying the prices they charge are falling.

Some 23 bidders including regional players such as Cogeco and Quebec’s Videotron are participating in the process. Shaw Communications did not apply to participate due to a $16 billion takeover bid from Rogers. Lawmakers and analysts have warned that market concentration will intensify if that acquisition proceeds.

In May, after Canada‘s telecoms regulator issued a ruling largely in favour of the big three on pricing for smaller companies’ access to broadband networks, internet service provider TekSavvy Inc withdrew from the auction, citing the decision.

Some experts say the government has been trying to level the playing field with its decision to set aside a proportion of spectrum in certain areas for smaller companies.

Gregory Taylor, a spectrum expert and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said he was pleased the government was auctioning off smaller geographic areas of coverage.

In previous auctions where the license covered whole provinces, “small providers could not participate because they could not hope to cover the range that was required in the license,” Taylor said.

Smaller geographic areas mean they have a better chance of fulfilling the requirements for the license, such as providing service to 90% of the population within five years of the issuance date.

The auction has no scheduled end date, although the federal ministry in charge of the spectrum auction has said winners would be announced within five days of bidding completion.

($1 = 1.2181 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Virtual Law Firms Are on the Rise in Canada

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Virtual law firms have been on the rise for a while. In a 2019 roundtable discussion conducted by the American Bar Association, several firm leaders met to discuss the growing presence of online legal services. The consensus was clear: virtual is the new reality.

That was 2019. In the intervening two years, the world was gripped by a global pandemic that forced most people to conduct their business indoors. As you might have guessed, demand for contactless, remote legal services has only ballooned since that roundtable discussion.

While the roundtable primarily focused on the legal industry in the US, you can witness similar trends here in Canada. Like the taxi industry and entertainment distribution industry before it, law is increasingly moving toward digital spaces.

This article explores what virtual law firms are, what benefits they present for Canadian clients, and what kind of clients are driving the virtual law boom.

Not a Change but an Addition

At its best, the shift from brick-and-mortar law firms to virtual isn’t an alteration of legal services as much as it is an addition.

The best virtual law firms do not compromise on service – they still offer traditional legal services with the expertise of real lawyers. The only difference is that they have added a new medium: a more accessible, transparent means of communication and billing.

Why Canadians Choose Online Law Firms

For some clients, the traditional brick-and-mortar firm was hard to give up. They viewed their lawyer like they viewed their doctor: a professional whose in-person expertise couldn’t be replicated in a digital space. Then, the pandemic hit. As millions more Canadians acclimatized to working online, they also habituated to the idea of doing business online.

 

Credit: Ketut Subiyanto Via Pexels

The benefits were immediately apparent. Virtual law firms feature streamlined communication, available seven days a week. They eliminate the need to go to a physical office. They offer all the same legal expertise and services as a brick-and-mortar lawyer. And, crucially, they often leverage transparent pricing: flat, predetermined legal fees with no hidden costs. A client looking for affordable legal services in Mississauga or Toronto, for instance, can simply click a few buttons and hire a lawyer on the spot.

Who Is Using These New Services?

You might be wondering: do they wheel a computer into the courtroom when someone avails themselves of a virtual lawyer? No, that isn’t quite the case.

Clients tend to use virtual law firms for everyday legal services – not necessarily courtroom representation. A client looking to create a will or name a power of attorney might choose a virtual lawyer for the sake of simplicity. A homebuyer, looking to keep costs manageable might hire a virtual lawyer for closing since their prices are both more transparent and affordable. A couple seeking to draft a cohabitation agreement may find similar benefits in an online lawyer.

The fact is that virtual legal services are not only here to stay – they are on the rise. Fortunately, the future is friendly; online law firms offer the same legal expertise as their physically housed counterparts, with the added benefits of being accessible and affordable.

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Starlink Struggles in Testing

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We are now two years on from the launch of the first satellite in the Starlink system, and reviews for the beta test are rolling in. As with anything Musk has a hand in, there’s been a lot of talk about what Starlink can accomplish. Some are firm believers that the service will live up to its hype, while others insist Starlink is another case of Musk’s overpromising and underdelivering. As the latest reports have shown, Starlink could be shaping up for the latter rather than the former.

The Starlink Potential

The basic idea behind Starlink is that it will act as a faster and more reliable satellite internet service than any that came before. Directly, Starlink could be seen as a successor to systems like Anik F2, a high-throughput satellite that launched in 2004. Offering speeds up to 30 times faster than dial-up, at up to 1.5Mbps, these early incarnations held promise.

The only real issue with these early systems is that to achieve geostationary orbit they had to be placed around 36,000 km high. Even in perfect conditions, this distance would incur a latency (or round trip wait time) of approximately 550 milliseconds. While this could be useful for general browsing duty, more fast-paced and active uses such as movie streaming or online gaming were rendered unplayable with such delay.

To avoid this issue, Starlink has instead gone with an enormous net of satellites in three tiers, with the closest placed at 500km above the earth’s surface. To maintain orbit, these need to move extremely quickly, which is why Starlink is aiming to launch tens of thousands of satellites. The more added, the better the coverage. The outcome of this difference is a supposed eventual goal of 300Mbps bandwidth and a latency of 20 milliseconds.

Source: Pixabay

Testing Results

In the beta tests, Starlink in action is far from living up to the dream. The major problems to arise have been found in two related areas; unreliable connections and the difficulty of dish placement. In simple terms, Starlink can only operate at peak effectiveness when it’s given a completely free field of view to the sky. Any surrounding trees, houses, or geography will diminish the dish’s ability to track satellites. Add shoddy reliability even in perfect circumstances, and the dream isn’t as great as many hoped.

Speeds in beta tests have tended to hover around a 90Mbps download speed, which isn’t too terrible, and latency still usually played under the all-important 100 milliseconds mark. However, without reliable connections, such speeds are practically moot. Speeds can vary wildly over a day, and with so many satellites constantly needing new connections, downtime can occur regularly and often. Dealing with a couple of hours of downtime a day might be acceptable if it can be planned around, but when it happens seemingly at random it becomes far less permissible.

 

Real-Life Uses

As for what Starlink could be used for today, that much relies on luck. Consider two common uses, streaming movies online and playing online casino games. In streaming movies, quality could be fine for large chunks of a film, with constant interruptions where the movie has to pause, buffer, or drop to lower quality to ensure consistency. This is frustrating and could be a deal-breaker for some.

In accessing and playing on something like the best online Canada casinos, demands tend to be much lower than with systems like movie streaming. This applies to all facets of the experience, from browsing comparison websites to find bonuses and features to collecting deposit matches, and playing the games themselves. Each step here requires very little bandwidth, but each could also be broken by the low connection reliability. Safety features of these casinos mean a constant connection needs to apply at all times when playing games, where Starlink’s drops could render even small titles unplayable.

Source: Pixabay

Future Perfect?

Proponents of Starlink are quick to point out that the growing net of satellites will improve coverage reliability, and this much is true to some degree. That said, the major benefits will only ever apply to those with completely unobstructed lines of sight to the sky. This is an unlikely scenario for most people, though in the right place at the right time, the potential is there.

Ultimately, the most profound benefits afforded by Starlink could apply not to general internet connections in developed nations, but rather as specialized systems for remote and developing areas. Having a satellite dish for high-speed internet in such places could introduce massive benefits in terms of education and communication opportunities. The results of such systems are untold improvements to ways of life, and in this, we have to have faith in what Starlink could accomplish.

With rollout increasing all the time, and a goal for integration into larger vehicles like ships and RVs stated somewhere down the line, we’re yet to see the peak of what Starlink can accomplish. Should it fail to measure up, however, its government subsidies could be cut, and the project could utterly fail. Though, should this occur, the lessons learned from Starlink are immense and might prove indispensable for satellite communications technology in the future. Either way, the Starlink experiment seems to have been worth the effort.

 

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