A recent article in The New York Times reported that 239 scientists from 32 countries have authored an open letter to the World Health Organization (WHO), concerning the potential for COVID-19 viral particles to remain airborne for a prolonged period of time. The scientists “outlined the evidence showing that smaller particles can infect people, and are calling for the agency to revise its recommendation.”
COVID-19 – the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), often simply referred to as the coronavirus – is transmitted person to person via airborne droplets. These are created when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, sending viral particles into the air within mucus. The key differentiation is the size of these droplets. Droplets that are five to ten microns in diameter are referred to as respiratory droplets. While technically airborne, these droplets are comparatively large and eventually succumb to gravity, typically falling to the ground within a distance of around a metre.
Droplets categorised as airborne are those that are below five microns. These are referred to as droplet nuclei. These airborne droplets can travel further than one metre, as well as remain suspended in the air for prolonged periods of time. This is of considerable concern in the case of COVID-19, as even physical distancing measures may only have a limited effect if airborne transmission is occurring.
Studies have already found that SARS-CoV-2 can remain viable in aerosols for a period of several hours. In theory, this could allow the virus to still remain transmittable even after a prolonged period drifting in airborne droplets. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has thus far disputed the possibility, claiming that “…the finding of COVID-19 virus in aerosol particles up to three hours does not reflect a clinical setting in which aerosol-generating procedures are performed — that is, this was an experimentally induced aerosol-generating procedure.”
The possibility that COVID-19 transmission could potentially be airborne highlights the need for the use of protective face masks. If the claim is true, physical distancing measures will have a very limited effect and far more caution must be taken.
Figures in India are now swiftly approaching 800,000, with numbers exceeding 20,000 new cases per day now being the new norm. Weeks of ever-increasing daily figures have seen India climb the ranks of the most-affected nations in just a short period of time. India is now ranked global third for total COVID-19 cases, only surpassed by the US and Brazil. Given the speed of India’s increase in daily cases, coupled with its vast population, India’s disease figures could plausibly increase beyond even that of the US in the coming months.
Singapore Organizations Adopt AI, ML Amid COVID-19 Induced Uncertainties
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore businesses are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to manage consumer credit risk and deal with economic uncertainties, according to a new research by information services company Experian.
Experian, which surveyed 3,000 consumers and 900 executives working in retail banking, e-commerce, consumer technology and telecommunications, found that COVID-19 has accelerated adoption of digital solutions.
Singapore organizations in particular are embracing AI and ML at a much faster pace than their international peers, with 78% of organizations already using AI to cope with today’s marketplace unpredictability while 79% are leveraging ML. These are higher than the global figure of 69%.
S&P Global Ratings estimates that Asia Pacific (APAC) financial institutions will be hit with US$1.4 trillion in additional nonperforming assets and additional credit costs of about US$440 million as risks associated with COVID-19 and market volatility take hold.
Against this backdrop, 25% of Singapore-based respondents are planning to use on-demand cloud-based decisioning applications, policy rules (25%) and automated decision management (24%) to help them effectively determine which consumers can be safely given extended credit. Over the next 12 months, 69% will be allocating resources towards building their analytics capabilities to assess customer creditworthiness, the survey found.
Online shopping and e-commerce on the rise
Singaporean businesses’ willingness to invest in and adopt digital solutions comes at a time when consumers are demanding better digital-first experiences. A research conducted in June by market research consultancy Blackbox and survey firm Toluna found that while consumers spent more online during the pandemic, about four in ten Singaporeans said they were not satisfied with their e-commerce experience, noting that delivery costs, product prices and delivery time could be better improved.
That being said, global marketing research firm Nielsen expects the penetration of users venturing into e-commerce to continue to rise. Nielsen’s COVID-19 dipstick in March 2020 found that 69% of Singaporean people surveyed who bought household goods online for the first time during COVID-19 will do so again in the next 12 months.
Similarly, Standard Chartered, which polled 12,000 consumers across 12 markets in August 2020, found that, amid COVID-19, Singaporean consumers that prefer online purchases to in-person card or cash payments increased to 50%, up from 35% before the pandemic.
Changing spending habits
Globally, the COVID-19 crisis and its ramifications have disrupted markets and deteriorated the health and economic welfare of consumers. In Singapore, 23% of respondents still face challenges in paying credit card bills, while 20% are encountering difficulties paying their utility bills, the Experian research found. This has prompted many consumers to rethink their spending habits, shifting to essentials and cutting back on most discretionary categories.
In Singapore, consumers are taking steps to manage these financial challenges by reducing their expenditure on non-essentials (22%), saving more (22%), and starting a personal budget (17%), the study found.
According to the Standard Chartered survey, consumers in the city-state are spending about 15-52% more on groceries, digital devices and healthcare, but spend less on clothes, experiences and travel or holidays.
Almost eight in ten respondents in Singapore said they would like to be better at managing their finances, and six in ten said the pandemic has made them more likely to track their spending. Most of the respondents are either user or interested in using budgeting as well as finance tracking tools.
Jeremy Soo, head of consumer banking at DBS Bank, told Fintech News Singapore in September, that, amid COVID-19, people were starting financial planning earlier. Since the bank launched its new digital financial planning tool, NAV Planner, back in April, over one million customers had used it, Soo said.
Featured Image: Pexels
Nitric oxide as a potential treatment for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus
Researchers explore the potential antiviral effects of nitric oxide against the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, scientists all over the world are racing to find a safe and effective vaccine or treatment. The speed and severity of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus’s spread around the world has placed an urgent need for an effective therapy. Unfortunately, to date, there are still no effective therapies for preventing an infection with the virus infection or for treating COVID-19.
Nitric oxide (NO) is a naturally occurring compound that is also produced in the body known to have a wide range of antimicrobial activity against bacteria, fungi, and viruses among other things. Previously, nitric oxide has been shown as an effective agent against SARS-CoV (the coronavirus responsible for the 2003 epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome – SARS) in lab cell studies and in a small clinical trial involving inhalation of the compound. During the SARS outbreak, nitric oxide was given as an inhaled gas to treat SARS patients with success, particularly because of nitric oxide’s ability to decrease lung inflammation in these patients. The success seen in previous studies with nitric oxide against the SARS coronavirus suggests the potential for similar success against SARS-CoV-2.
In a recent study published in Redox Biology, scientists in Sweden explored nitric oxide’s potential as a treatment against the coronavirus in laboratory cell studies. The scientists specifically focused on examining the antiviral effects nitric oxide had on cells infected with SARS-CoV-2. They found that nitric oxide inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in infected cells in a dose dependent manner, proving that nitric oxide possesses antiviral effects on the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, in a manner likely similar to its antiviral effects against SARS-CoV. The scientists also identified a potential target – SARS-CoV-2 main protease – for future therapeutic developments, including nitric oxide.
While this present study highlights the antiviral potential of nitric oxide on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, there is much more research to be investigated and studied before any recommendations on the clinical use of nitric oxide in patients diagnosed with COVID-19 can be made. The researchers’ next steps are to study whether the antiviral benefits of nitric oxide as seen in this present study are the same when it is inhaled as a gas.
Written by Maggie Leung, PharmD
Akaberi, D., Krambrich, J., Ling, J., Luni, C., Hedenstierna, G., Järhult, J. D., . . . Lundkvist, Å. (2020). Mitigation of the replication of SARS-CoV-2 by nitric oxide in vitro. Redox Biology, 37, 101734. doi:10.1016/j.redox.2020.101734
Nitric oxide a possible treatment for COVID-19. (2020, October 2). Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/uu-noa100220.php
Image by visuals3Dde from Pixabay
Air Travel High: TSA Screens 1 Million For First Time Since March
How’s this for an October surprise? Despite a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country, it appears that more people are flying on commercial jetliners than at any time over the last seven months.
More than one million people were screened by the Transportation Security Administration at airport security checkpoints Sunday. It’s the first time the TSA’s daily traveler count has topped the one million mark since March 16.
And this wasn’t just a one-day surge in air travel. The TSA’s daily throughput figure has topped 900,000 eight times already this month, and the TSA reports that the 6.1 million people passing through U.S. airport checkpoints between Oct. 12 and Oct. 18 was the greatest weekly traveler volume measured since the start of the pandemic.
But experts say there is a lot of pent-up demand for air travel and it’s important to note that despite the modest increase, the number of people flying is still down more than 60% from the 2.6 million who flew on the same October Sunday last year.
Still, it’s a bit of good news at a time the nation’s airlines are burning through tens of millions of dollars a day and reporting huge financial losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. Delta and United both reported last week that they lost billions in the third quarter, as fewer people than expected dared to get onto airplanes in July, August and September. American and Southwest report their third-quarter results later this week, but are also expected to show billions in losses after many would be passengers canceled summer travel plans or drove to their destinations instead of flying.
The industry group Airlines for America says airlines are in desperate need for additional federal coronavirus relief, as they are collectively losing $5 billion a month.
Last year and into January and February of this year, airlines were setting passenger volume records. The TSA reported screening between 2.5 and 2.7 million people on the busiest travel days, which are usually Fridays and Sundays. But as the coronavirus outbreak spiked last March, companies halted business travel and millions canceled vacations and weekend getaways.
By mid-April, the number of travelers passing through security checkpoints plummeted to under 100,000, a decline of 96%. Other than the days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the group Airlines for America says there hadn’t been that few people flying since the dawn of the jet airplane age in the 1950s.
There were short-lived upticks in air travel demand in early summer, especially around the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holiday weekends. But the number of COVID-19 cases spiked after each holiday, especially in parts of the country that rushed to reopen bars, restaurants and other gathering places. Lingering concerns about spreading the viral illness dampened demand for air travel during the later summer months.
As welcome as this month’s surprising rise in air travel is, there is still a lot of uncertainty over whether the trend will continue, especially heading into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, which is usually a busy air travel period.
Most airlines have significantly reduced their schedules as demand remains weak, and some have suspended service to smaller cities. In late September, bookings for travel in November were just a fraction of last year’s level, according to the airline data firm OAG.
And with what appears to be a new wave of COVID-19 cases surging, especially in the Midwest, several states are setting records for the daily number of infections being reported. Public health officials in many states are urging residents to stay home to celebrate the holidays in small family groups.
“COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and play, and will now change how we plan to celebrate the holidays,” said Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who added that “the safest way to celebrate is with members of your household and connecting with others virtually.”
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