What’s the latest with COVID-19?

According to an editorial in Nature (dated 10 Jan 2022), it is time for us to come to terms with the fact that COVID-19 is here to stay.

Rather than laying plans to return to the ‘normal’ life we knew before the pandemic, 2022 is the year the world must come to terms with the fact that SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay.
Rather than laying plans to return to the ‘normal’ life we knew before the pandemic, 2022 is the year the world must come to terms with the fact that SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay.

Given the amount of pandemic fatigue there is at the moment, many people have already come to terms with it. However, as Nature states, this doesn’t mean that we should stop taking precautions to reduce transmission. With Omicron emerging as a serious threat to moving on from the virus, experts are stressing the need to continue wearing masks and social distancing.

“Omicron is a real threat. Omicron is much more transmissible, and it’s capable of infecting people who have been vaccinated or previously infected. If you’re going to get together with relatives and loved ones, test before you come together. And wear masks in public. And try to social distance in other circumstances.”

It’s also worth noting that the virus will continue to mutate and we will see more variants, but thanks to the ongoing research, scientists will be better equipped to handle them.

“I slightly suspect that there will be future variants, but I think with all that we’ve learned now, we actually should be able to deal with them with much greater certainty.” Professor Peter Openshaw Professor of Experimental Medicine

So, it might be presumptuous to say that this (vaccines, wearing masks, jumping three feet into the air if someone coughs nearby) is our new normal, but it’s our normal right now.


References

  1. COVID is here to stay: countries must decide how to adapt | https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-00057-y
  2. Omicron – latest research and expert views as PCR test rules change

Taking a break from media

We need to take a break from the media including social media. That doesn’t mean I turn off the television and then I get on CNN online. That means I truly take a break. And children need to be taking breaks as well. … What we know about children is if they’re spending most or all of their time related to tragedies, that can increase their stress reactions.

Robin Gurwitch PhD

Lately, I’ve found myself picking up my phone, flicking through the same notifications and discarding it only to pick it up two seconds later. It’s difficult not to feel like this pandemic has been a missed opportunity to relearn how to enjoy ourselves without our screens, or how to learn or simply exist without them.

There is a lot of focus on maintaining communication with our loved ones via social media, but what about letter writing? How many people take the time to put pen to paper instead of the three seconds it requires to send a text message? How many of us send emails that aren’t work-related? Everything has been streamlined into micro-messaging and I’d argue that a lot of people don’t feel connected at all.

Still, taking a break from media isn’t just about not keeping in touch, it’s about mental clarity. We’ve been bombarded with so much information over the past year and a half that there’s no time to process it. There is no time to reflect. With our laptops, phones and televisions screens on, we are in a constant flux capacitor of information and we need a break.

“There’s a lot of stuff we can do that doesn’t involve a screen. We can get off our phones by subscribing to print magazines, or working on a physical puzzle. I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about a boom in escapist fiction – books that aren’t about a pandemic, really good stories you can get lost in.” – Tanya Goodin

I used to love reading books as a child and young adult, but with the popularity of social media and smartphones, I started reading on my phone. During the first lockdown in the UK, I created a huge spreadsheet of books I wanted to read – and proceeded to read four or five before I gave up. For the third (!) lockdown, I bought a physical book called The French Girl (and two ebooks). Reading the physical book was a revelation. At first, I struggled to get through a chapter. My fingers would itch for my phone, desperate to scroll through notifications! With time, I was able to sit through multiple chapters and switch off from the world for a little while.

As for the ebooks… I started one and got distracted by something else on my phone. The huge spreadsheet remains untouched.

Go figure!


Source: How to take a digital detox during the Covid-19 pandemic

COVID-19 vaccine protection is fading as the number of cases increase

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Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Researchers in the UK have found that the protection offered by the Pfizer/Biotech and AstraZeneca vaccines begins to fall after six months. The researchers have linked this to the need for booster shots for those who already had two doses of the vaccine.

While major countries like the US, UK and also the EU are planning to administer booster shots, there has been some criticism and scepticism. Some researchers believed there was no evidence that booster shots were necessary. Some also believe it would be morally wrong to start giving people a third dose many people are unable to access the vaccines at all.

To read more check out this article on Reuters – ‘COVID vaccine protection wanes within six months – UK researchers

How are we using social media?

Roxanne Cohen Silver, PhD:

Research does make it clear that social media is a larger source of misinformation and rumour than we typically get from traditional media. There isn’t anybody who is monitoring and vetting the information for its truthfulness or its veracity. So we need to step back. How are we using social media? Is it for connection, or is it for information gathering?

Purplexed Science: During the early stages of the pandemic, I admittedly relied heavily on Twitter updates. Not necessarily other people’s tweets, but the curated headlines and conversations Twitter itself would group together. The public’s willingness to be informed is directly linked to how the media has chosen to inform.

I found myself deleting several news notifications I’d set up because it was nothing but COVID-19, and I think that can do two things.

Dilute the information, or expose people to more misinformation. Human beings tend to rationalise what they cannot understand and this pandemic has been no different.

People are using social media for connection, but that also comes with information gathering. People feel a need to share what they’ve learnt with others. Often without stopping to fact check, after all, it’s easier to click a button than it is to input a search term into Google and spend half an hour reading up on a topic you may not necessarily understand.

One solution may be integrating a fact checking service within all social media platforms, or a service that allows people to quickly input information and returns them with a concise and clear explanation. Implementing such a service would be costly and time-consuming, so the buck stops with social media and news outlets. They should be held accountable for what is posted and do their due diligence before misinformation is allowed to spread.

There is a new variant of COVID-19 in the UK

On Saturday 19th December, millions of people were thrown into uncertainty when the UK government announced that Christmas was effectively cancelled. Plans to allow people to travel without restrictions for up to five days were scuppered by the emergence of a new variant of the virus.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • The variant is named VUI-202012/01.
  • It was detected by the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium
  • There have been more than 1000 cases so far
  • It’s been detected in at least 60 local authorities within the UK
  • It was first spotted in September but seems to be causing a rise of case across the UK now

According to Public Health England, the new variant is not necessarily more dangerous, although research is currently underway.

SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus and mutations are expected to occur as it replicates. Some variants with changes in the spike protein have already been observed as the virus is intensely sequenced here in the UK and around the world. There is no evidence that the newly-reported variant results in a more severe disease.

Professor Wendy Barclay, head of the department of infectious disease, Imperial College London.

In terms of the vaccine, the mutation that’s caused the new variant has been located in the spike protein — the area targeted by the vaccine. This means it should still be effective. However, more research is being done and we will know more in the coming weeks.


Source: BMJ 2020;371:m4857 (link), Science Focus (link)

4 COVID-19 Expert Quotes

Coronavirus (or COVID-19) has taken the world by storm, and after a frenzied period at the beginning of the year, many countries are seeing a rise in the number of cases. Despite the efforts from scientists and researchers across the globe, there is still no vaccine for the virus. This means society is still relying on social distancing and hygiene measures to limit the spread of the virus.

With the general public unused to this kind of phenomenon, it’s down to the experts to keep us up to date and informed.

Here are 4 Expert COVID-19 quotes… Continue reading “4 COVID-19 Expert Quotes”