The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), a scientific charity and the chartered society for worker health protection is emphasising to its members that widespread workforce vaccination is not yet a sufficient control to allow for the removal of other Covid measures.
The advice comes as the UK passes the halfway mark in vaccinations and all the UK’s countries relax Covid-19 restrictions. Over recent months, while lockdown restrictions have been in place, workplaces have been the frontline for the control of the spread of the pandemic.
While much has still to be learned about the disease, social distancing, testing and good ventilation remain key to preventing the spread in the workplace. Vaccination is likely to have a significant impact on workplace transmission as well.
However, the Society is warning that simply relying on vaccination, at least in coming months, would be a risky strategy for employers and may contribute to outbreaks, undermine the public health benefits of the vaccine programme, or even land the employer in hot water legally.
“The vaccination effort has been an outstanding British science success story and will save lives of workers, particularly those exposed to the general public and those with some vulnerabilities,” said BOHS president, Kelvin Williams. “However, until the virus is not as widespread in the population, vaccination alone will not be sufficient.”
The Society draws attention to research by Oxford University Significant reductions in Covid-19 infections found after single dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine | University of Oxford that highlights that asymptomatic infection is still an appreciable risk after receipt of vaccinations. There will continue to be people within workplaces who are susceptible to the virus, either because they have not yet been vaccinated or they are in the small group of people still vulnerable to infection.
“We are greatly looking forward to seeing the end of additional Covid measures, but it’s probably too early to be relaxing them, despite the general easing of restrictions in society,” commented BOHS CEO, Professor Kevin Bampton. “In social life, people can select the risks they wish to be exposed to, but in the workplace it remains the responsibility of employers to ensure those risks are managed.”
The Society points out that younger and pregnant women may be amongst the group of people who may not yet have been vaccinated and that further research needs to be undertaken into the effectiveness of the vaccine on different ethnic groups, which also have lower vaccine take-up. Over-reliance on vaccination as a control of the virus may indirectly result in discrimination against these groups.
“The BBC’s Swiss Cheese explanation of Covid risk explains the problem simply,” added Williams, referring to the Broadcaster’s interactive explanation Covid-19: Vaccines alone will not stop Covid spreading – here’s why – BBC News. “We are at a crucial stage in the return to work, where public-facing jobs are ramping up and with them the risk of exposure to infection. Suppressing the risk of asymptomatic infection is not only important to protect workers themselves, but also to reduce the amount of virus in circulation and the potential breeding grounds for new variants. The vaccine promises light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not out of it yet.”
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Voyager acquires majority control of XO Markets
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Voyager Space has completed the purchase of a majority interest in commercial space holding company XO Markets.
Revealed in December 2020, the transaction also includes XO Markets subsidiary Nanoracks. It involves the infusion of significant growth capital into the business.
The financial details of the deal remain undisclosed.
Nanoracks provides low-cost, high-quality solutions required for satellite deployment, along with basic and educational research in over 30 countries.
The company has already launched more than 1,000 projects to the International Space Station, as well as the Bishop Airlock on the SpaceX CRS-21 mission on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Nanoracks is also working on its long-term Space Outpost Program for private space platforms.
Voyager chairman and CEO Dylan Taylor said: “In the last year, the space industry has undergone a rapid evolution with demand for commercial space services reaching record highs.
“Innovative companies like Nanoracks are continuing to drive this transformation forward with first-of-their-kind technologies like the Bishop Airlock.
“We look forward to working with Jeffrey and his team as Nanoracks continues to push the envelope of what’s possible in the years to come while benefiting from the full support of our integrated model.”
Last month, Voyager completed the acquisition of The Launch Company, which specialises in the development of the systems, hardware, and processes to accelerate NewSpace companies to orbit.
In line with the NewSpace mission, Voyager recently inducted former Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine to chair its advisory board.
NASA, Axiom sign agreements moving ahead with first commercial station visit
NASA and Houston-based Axiom Space have signed a “mission order” setting the stage for four civilians to visit to the International Space Station early next year, the first fully commercial flight to the orbiting lab complex, agency managers said Monday.
Axiom’s “AX-1” mission and an upcoming charity-driven flight to low-Earth orbit, both aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules, represent “a renaissance in U.S. human spaceflight,” said Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight development.
Including the anticipated certification of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and upcoming sub-orbital flights by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, “I think that’s the perfect word for what we’re experiencing,” he said of the growing commercial space market. “This is a real inflection point, I think, with human spaceflight.”
Axiom Space, led by Mike Suffredini, NASA’s former space station program manager, announced last year that it plans to launch a four-man crew to the space station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. The launch currently is targeted for the January timeframe.
Axiom Vice President Mike Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut and space station commander, will serve as commander of the AX-1 mission, expected to last about 10 days. Joining him will be Larry Connor, an American entrepreneur, Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy and Israeli investor Eytan Stibbe, a former fighter pilot.
Lopez-Alegria told reporters Monday the crew will participate in centrifuge training and flights to simulate weightlessness starting next week, followed by a camping trip to Alaska in July for “bonding and leadership training.”
Lopez-Alegria and Connor, the mission pilot, will begin SpaceX flight training shortly thereafter before the entire crew begins space station familiarization at the Johnson Space Center in October.
“We acknowledge the responsibility of setting the bar for future private missions and we embrace that challenge,” said Lopez-Alegria. “They’re not interested in being tourists. They want to do their part to improve humankind … through scientific experimentation and outreach to educational and philanthropic organizations.”
The flight will be the second fully commercial launch of civilians to low-Earth orbit. In September, SpaceX plans to launch four civilians aboard a Crew Dragon capsule in a flight benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The two-man two-woman crew, chartered by billionaire Jared Isaacman, will orbit the planet for three days or so before returning to an ocean splashdown. Axiom’s AX-1 mission will be the second all-civilian flight to low-Earth orbit but the first to visit the International Space Station.
“Since it is the first and we’ve never done this before, we are going to learn as we go. I’m sure we’re going to have some hiccups and we’re going to have to make some adjustments and some lessons learned,” McAlister said. “But I think with the signing of this mission order, we’ve achieved a pretty significant milestone.”
Suffredini said the AX-1 mission is the first step toward the company’s goal of eventually operating a space station of its own after NASA’s lab is retired.
“This really is the beginning of a number of flights that really lead to the ultimate goal of having a commercially available low-Earth-orbit platform to not only help grow the LEO economy, but to be able to just serve all humanity,” he said. “It’s a tremendous step forward.”
In a bid to open up the station for more commercial use, NASA managers are planning on up to two “private astronaut missions,” or PAMs, per year, based on the availability of docking ports and government traffic to and from the lab complex.
The cost of transportation to low-Earth orbit, whether aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon or Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, will be up to the commercial entity sponsoring the flight. Prices for commercial launches are not known, but seats are expected to sell for at least $50 million each given the cost of the rocket and crew capsule, pre-launch training and support and crew recovery at the end of the flight.
For its part, NASA will require up to $4.8 million per flight for mission planning and execution, space-to-ground communications and use of NASA-provided equipment. The base cost of support from the station’s professional crew members will run $5.2 million per mission.
Other costs include $2,000 per day per crew member for food, up to $1,500 per person, per day for clothing, hygiene products, sleeping bags and other supplies and up to $164,000 per person, per day, to cover the cost of pre-staging food and crew provisions, as well as for disposal of any unused items.
Axiom is not paying list price for the AX-1 mission, in part because planning began before the new price guidelines were determined and because the company will be providing services to NASA that the agency would otherwise have to pay for. The mission order announced Monday covers just $1.69 million. Additional agreements remain to be negotiated.
“Axiom is obtaining services from NASA, such as crew supplies, cargo delivery to space, storage and on-orbit resources for daily use,” said Angela Hart, manager of commercial low-Earth orbit development at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “NASA’s purchasing cold stowage return capability from Axiom to return scientific samples to researchers on the ground.”
But, she added, “there are a multitude of other additional reimbursable Space Act Agreements that Axiom and SpaceX have with NASA that have other contract values.”
“Those include training services, as well as launch services at the Cape and other items that we’re still negotiating,” Hart said. “So that is not the full value of all the services that Axiom is responsible for.”
Given the extreme costs of transportation, NASA and Axiom acknowledge private spaceflight will remain the exclusive domain of wealthy adventurers, entrepreneurs and company-sponsored researchers, at least in the near term. But Suffredini said “you have to start somewhere,” and Lopez-Alegria said costs will eventually come down.
“It’s true that right now, it’s not very democratic, you have to be in a pretty select demographic to be able to afford it,” said Lopez-Alegria. “But … we’re all working to get the prices to come down. And I think if you follow the trend of costing, for example, commercial aviation, or pretty much any mode of transportation, they all start out high and come down.
“And so the experience that these folks will come away with, combined with the significant means of influence that they have at their disposal, I think is a win-win and sets us on a good course for the future.”
After Chinese rocket reentry, DoD calls for countries to ‘behave responsibly’
DoD spokesman: Countries that conduct activities in space should share information about those activities, especially when they put people at risk.
WASHINGTON — Less than two days after parts of an uncontrolled Chinese rocket fell into the Indian Ocean, the Pentagon said allowing a large booster to free fall toward Earth is “irresponsible behavior.”
“We want to see everybody who are actors in space do so in a responsible, deliberate way that’s mindful of the safety of all our citizens here on Earth,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters May 10.
Debris from the roughly 30-meter-long, five-meter-wide empty core stage of China’s Long March 5B fell into the Indian Ocean May 8. The uncontrolled reentry prompted international concern over whether it might land in a populated area.
Kirby said countries that conduct activities in space should share information about those activities, especially when they put people at risk. “It important, for the safety of everybody who uses the space domain to communicate, and to improve situational awareness,” he said. “We want everybody to behave responsibly and to ascribe, at the very least, to some internationally accepted norms of behavior.”
Former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said May 10 the Long March 5B episode is another reminder that the United States needs to step up diplomatic efforts to compel China to change its behavior.
This is the latest of several instances where China has acted irresponsibly, Bridenstine said during a Heritage Foundation virtual event.
When China in 2007 shot down its own weather satellite “it resulted in orbital debris that today we’re still dealing with. Of course, this wasn’t a unique event with the Long March 5B,” Bridenstine said.
He recalled a similar episode in May 2020 when pieces from another Chinese Long March 5B core stage landed on the Ivory Coast, causing damage to buildings.
“Look, there has to be responsible behavior in space, it’s critical that we use the elements of diplomacy to compel good behavior,” Bridenstine said.
From a national security standpoint, he said, it’s even more concerning that China could be deploying hardware in space that the United States might not be able to track.
“What concerns me most is not a rocket body that everybody knew about, was watching and paying attention to,” he said. “But what are the things we can’t see, like cubesats, that we don’t know about?”
The Space Force, he said, needs to step up its capabilities to monitor outer space. “We have to be really good at space situational awareness,” he added. “A rocket body launched from China that everybody knows and sees, yeah, that’s a problem from a public policy perspective, but that’s not what concerns me when you think about the threats in space that would be nefarious in nature.”
Inmarsat heading to administrative court over Dutch 3.5 GHz auction
TAMPA, Fla. — Inmarsat is pivoting to an administrative court in its battle to stop the Netherlands from auctioning 3.5 GHz spectrum, which the British satellite operator says it does not want to cede to bandwidth-hungry 5G networks.
Inmarsat had sought an injunction in a civil court to stop the Dutch government’s plan to sell the frequencies, which it uses for maritime safety services, to terrestrial 5G providers next year.
A hearing was scheduled May 11 at The Hague District Court, but was canceled after the Dutch government published its National Frequency Plan (NFP) April 30.
“The publication of the National Frequency Plan does not change Inmarsat’s position and we will continue to oppose the amendments to the NFP by the Dutch Government, which are unnecessary and put lives at risk,” an Inmarsat official said in an emailed statement.
There is not yet a date for the administrative court hearing in Rotterdam.
The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate Policy was unable to comment before this article was published.
The government is keen to release more 5G-suitable spectrum as other European countries are ahead in next-generation network deployments.
Inmarsat will have to move a ground station in Burum, in the northern part of the Netherlands, if the country gives wireless operators full use of the frequencies.
“Inmarsat is committed to the Netherlands and to continuing to provide essential, free of charge maritime safety services from Burum,” the company official added.
“Contrary to the mistaken belief of the Dutch Government, these services can continue without affecting future 5G telecoms services in the northern Netherlands. We will continue to defend safety of life at sea services against the unnecessary position of the State.”
The Dutch government has said wireless operators will be able to use 3.5 GHz spectrum for 5G in September 2022 if it auctions it early next year.
Inmarsat says it would take longer to transfer the frequencies.
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