Coronavirus

Argentina Eyes Herd Immunity — And Healthcare Reform

The scale and spread of the coronavirus pandemic may make so-called 'herd immunity' virtually inevitable, but it can also prompt Argentina to integrate its scattered healthcare services into a single, national service.

Health workers in Buenos Aires
Health workers in Buenos Aires
Martin Moyano Barro

-Analysis-

BUENOS AIRES — Since the pandemic began, the official policy of all healthcare bodies run by the Argentine Health Ministry has basically been to reinforce the system with more beds in hospital intensive care units, increase the number of healthcare professionals and organize an effective quarantine in and around the capital, which was considered the most "at-risk" region.

Of course, an increase in ICU beds and training medics to undertake new treatments — both in the private and public sectors — are significant measures. Still, these are hardly the only valid responses the state can and should implement.

Herd immunity does not mean there will be no infections.

The healthcare system, with a wide fragmentation of resources and concentration in certain parts of the country, was already shortsighted before the pandemic. Now, we are in for the long haul. Today, the very low level of testing and very high proportion of positives among those tested illustrate not just the insufficiency of testing, but also the absence of any decent tracking and prevention policy.

With around one million Argentines infected, the reality indicates that the country is effectively seeking herd immunity, or precisely the opposite of what the government is saying to justify lengthy confinements.

That is akin to betting everything on this card, in a system that is unprepared to face down an enormous economic crisis and a social security sector that has been losing countless contributors who must now rely on the state. This will worsen as we enter the summer (in the southern hemisphere), when several epidemics will join forces, namely coronavirus, dengue fever and Zika in the northern and central parts of the country. These will need particular attention in the summer, as their symptoms may be confused with those of COVID-19.

The pandemic's economic effects will greatly impact the healthcare system — Photo: Roberto Almeida Aveledo/ZUMA

A second wave of infections is hard to see in Argentina, as the current rate of contagion and deaths makes it difficult for infections to rise much beyond our present rates, with herd immunity.

Achieving herd immunity does not mean there will be no infections, but that these will be fewer, and with a far lower death rate. If we add to this a vaccine that may arrive toward the middle of the next year, the problem may even be curbed.

The pandemic's economic effects will nevertheless greatly impact the healthcare system. Supplies are imported. The loss of formal jobs will also hurt the social security and private insurance sectors. Contributions have fallen short of the cost of services and there are no signs of an improvement to this situation in the short term.

This creates an urgent need to integrate the national system of healthcare services, to equitably distribute the country's healthcare resources and make them accessible to an impoverished population. The country must also be prepared for future healthcare threats by creating a National Health Agency that benefits all. This would mean that the high price we are paying for herd immunity in money and lives will not have been in vain.

*Moyano is a healthcare consultant in Buenos Aires.

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New Delhi, India: Fumigation Against Dengue Fever In New Delhi

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 வணக்கம்*

Welcome to Thursday, where America's top general reacts to China's test of a hypersonic weapon system, Russia is forced to reimpose lockdown measures and Venice's historic gondola race is hit by a doping scandal. French daily Les Echos also offers a cautionary tale of fraud in the crypto economy.

[*Vaṇakkam, Tamil - India, Sri Lanka, Singapore]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Top U.S. general says Chinese weapon nearly a "Sputnik moment": China recently conducted a "very concerning" test of a hypersonic weapon system as part of its push to expand space and military technologies, Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bloomberg News. America's top military officer said that this was akin to the Soviet Union's stunning launch of the world's first satellite, Sputnik, 1957, which sparked the Cold War space race. Milley also called the test of the weapon "a very significant technological event" that is just one element of China's military capabilities.

Brexit: France seizes British trawler: A British trawler has been seized by France while fishing in French waters without a license, amid escalating conflict over post-Brexit fishing rights. France's Minister for Europe said it will adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards Britain and block access to virtually all of its boats until it awards licenses to French fishermen.

COVID update: Russia confirmed a new record of coronavirus deaths, forcing officials to reimpose some lockdown measures, including a nationwide workplace shutdown in the first week of November. Germany also saw its numbers spike, with more than 28,000 new infections yesterday, adding to worries about restrictions this winter there and elsewhere in Europe. Singapore, meanwhile, reported the biggest surge in the city-state since the coronavirus pandemic began. Positive news on the vaccine front, as U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck granted royalty-free license for a COVID-19 antiviral pill to help protect people in the developing world.

Iran nuclear talks to resume: Iran's top nuclear negotiator said multilateral talks in Vienna with world powers about its nuclear development program will resume before the end of November. The announcement comes after the U.S. warned efforts to revive the deal were in "critical phase."

First U.S. passport with "X" gender marker: The U.S. State Department has issued its first American passport with an "X" gender marker. It is designed to give nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people a marker other than male or female on their travel document. Several other countries, including Canada, Argentina and Nepal, already offer the same option.

China limits construction of super skyscrapers: China has restricted smaller cities in the country from building extremely tall skyscrapers, as part of a larger bid to crack down on wasteful vanity projects by local governments. Earlier this year the country issued a ban on "ugly architecture."

Doping scandal hits Venice's gondola race: For the first time in the history of the Venice Historical Regatta, a participant has tested positive to marijuana in a doping test: Gondolier Renato Busetto, who finished the race in second place, will be suspended for 13 months.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"End of the ice age," titles German-language Luxembourgish daily Luxemburger Wort, writing about how the ice melting in the Arctic opens up new economic opportunities with a new passage for countries like Russia and China but with potentially devastating effects for the environment. The issue of the Arctic is one of the topics that will be discussed at the COP26 Climate Change Conference which kicks off in Glasgow on Sunday.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$87 billion

A new United Nations report found that extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods and droughts have caused India an average annual loss of about $87 billion in 2020. India is among the countries which suffered the most from weather hazards this year along with China and Japan.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Air Next: How a crypto scam collapsed on a single spelling mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy from Laurence Boisseau in Paris-based daily Les Echos.

📲 The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system. Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation.

📝 On Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, the CEO admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

⚠️ What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond". Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


📣 VERBATIM

"A weapon was handed to Mr. Baldwin. The weapon is functional, and fired a live round."

— Following the Oct. 21 on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, Sante Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told a press conference that the "facts are clear" about the final moments before Hutchins was shot. The investigation continues to determine what led up to that moment, and any possible criminal responsibility related to how the "prop" gun that actor Alec Baldwin fired was loaded.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Share with us your favorite gondola memories or worst crypto scams — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com

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