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Masks for all ages
BUSINESS INSIDER

Third Wave Coming: How We’re Getting Smarter About COVID-19

PARIS — With much of the world trying to minimize the impact of a COVID-19 second wave, governments are again forced to make impossible choices between relaxing restrictions to avoid total economic implosion or staying shut down to limit death tolls. Even countries typically mentioned as pandemic role models, like South Korea, are seeing a resurgence of cases.

But perhaps the grimmest news of the second wave is that many experts say we're bound for a third wave.

We know little about how things will play out, especially as hopeful results continue to arrive from several major vaccine efforts. But the logistical challenge of deploying a global vaccination effort means there's a real risk of a third wave arriving well before the virus is defeated. Others say that the next surge would be better characterized as a second installment of a drawn-out second wave.

Either way, the West is unlikely to go into crippling lockdowns again given the depth of economic damage caused by previous efforts to contain infections. What we do have is nine months of gained experience of grappling with the pandemic, and from that, governments have learned important lessons and fashioned new tools for minimizing the impact of the crisis in the months ahead. Here's a look at some of the progress that's been made:

Better knowledge of the virus

Treatments Three major vaccines have been developed and moved into final approval phase, with the UK set to deploy this month. But as we wait, the medical community has been testing and repurposing existing drugs and studying their effect on health, mortality and length of hospitalizations. Some show promise:

• A recent WHO worldwide study (conducted on 11,266 adult patients, across 500 hospitals in more than 30 different countries) reported that the steroid dexamethasone, used as a last resort among the most serious cases requiring oxygen, reduced mortality rates by up to one-third.

President Trump's hospitalization, in the United States, shed light on an experimental treatment using a combination of two synthesized "monoclonal" antibodies to boost the natural immune response of patients. U.S. officials have granted emergency authorization for the treatment — though the WHO remains unsure about the method.

• According to CNN, 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu from Texas could help deliver another potential COVID-19 treatment. Using in-silico methodology, she developed a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein that the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to attach to human cells, infect them and replicate.

• Health professionals and authorities around the world have learned just how crucial timely diagnoses and treatments are. We now know that it's critical to act fast in symptomatic cases, while asymptomatic or only lightly affected patients can quarantine at home.

Viral load - One question researchers have sought to explain is why hospitals and ICU admissions dropped drastically over the summer. The going theory now is that when people receive lower doses of the virus, largely due to social distancing and wearing a mask in public spaces, their bodies are able to fight it and develop immunity more quickly. And the smaller the viral dose people carry, the less infectious they are. The hypothesis is backed by several studies, according to the The Washington Post, but more research is needed to confirm it, especially about how the viral load may impact the severity of the infection.

Masking up in Frankfurt — Photo: 7C0

Prevention is the best cure, but how?

The right tracking - The faster a cluster can be identified, the better the chances of containing the spread. Countries like South Korea have been praised for their streamlined responses to new cases, made possible through extensive contact tracing systems using both manual and digital methods. Many countries have tried to copy that approach, launching smartphone apps that rely on Bluetooth and geolocation to identify and notify people who might have become infected.

• In Germany, the Corona-Warn-App has been downloaded approximately 22 million times but only around 60% of users who have tested positive for Corona upload their findings onto the app, meaning that the people they have come into contact with aren't duly informed of the risk.

• In Finland, an app launched at the start of September became one of Europe's most popular with 1 million downloads in the first 24 hours, as reported by AP. It now has 5.5 million users and counting.

• Across the EU, three out of the 23 member states with a contact-tracing app have switched on cross-border interoperability: Germany's Corona-Warn-App, the Republic of Ireland's COVID-19 tracker, and Italy's Immuni app. Any user traveling from and to these countries can now receive exposure notifications through their national app, without downloading the local one.

Up to the test - Several countries have carried out massive testing campaigns. But the results of the standard PCR tests take up to 4-5 days to arrive, limiting their ability to prevent infected people spreading the virus further. Several labs worldwide have developed antigen tests that work just like the PCR-tests but produce results much more quickly (15 to 30 minutes).

• In the United States, Abbot Laboratories, the only one manufacturing rapid tests, received emergency authorization in August to put them on the market. At the end of September, Trump announced a plan to distribute 150 million of them.

• The WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered to reach volume guarantee agreements with Abbott and SD Biosensor to make 120 million antigen rapid diagnostic tests available to low- and middle-income countries.

On air - Unlike during the first wave, we now know that the virus can be airborne and thus ventilation of potentially infected places is key, with new studies suggesting that the virus can survive in the air for as long as eight minutes. This summer, the WHO issued new recommendations regarding ventilation in public spaces.

Germany will reportedly invest 500 million euros to help schools, offices, museums, entertainment halls, and other public buildings upgrade their ventilation systems.

Buenos Aires province will ban using air conditioning in hospitality venues around primary tourist spots during seasonal holidays, El Tribuno reports.

• In Spain, the Ministry of Education and Employment of the Junta de Extremadura issued clarifications to educational centers in preparation for winter, advising for a "balance" between ventilation to minimize the spread, "adequate" air conditioning to keep a decent temperature, and "adequate" clothing for pupils to stay warm.

Finding new indicators

Back in April, studies pointed out that traces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) of COVID-19 could be found in wastewater. The information was at first explored as a potential new source of contamination but it is now used for wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), a powerful tool to trace the circulation of a virus in a community and estimate its prevalence and geographic distribution. It is particularly useful to monitor asymptomatic infections, which often slip under the radar of clinical surveillance. Wastewater analysis can help locate potential clusters by detecting the virus from 24 hours up to six days before the first symptoms appear.

• In Madrid, Spain, the regional government implemented a method for collecting samples along the city's 15,000-kilometer sanitation network. The action helped the city predict hospitalization rates several days in advance, La Vanguardia reports.

• In late July, maritime-firefighters from the dedicated COMETE unit in Marseille, France predicted an outbreak that only became clinically measurable in early August. The unit recently started collecting more targeted samples in nursing homes to test the residents' environment without exposing them.

The tricky task: getting people to agree to be vaccinated. 
BUSINESS INSIDER

Pride, Shame And VIPs: Convincing The Public To Get Vaccinated

PARIS — A threshold has been crossed this week as the first vaccinations have been administered, in the UK and Russia, with announcements of others to follow in additional countries in the coming days and weeks.

It all sets the stage for the biggest vaccination campaign in world history. But even if the obvious logistical hurdles can be overcome, there may be an even trickier task: getting people to agree to be vaccinated.

Even if the obvious logistical hurdles can be overcome, there may be an even trickier task: getting people to agree to be vaccinated.

Recent opinion polls in many countries show a surprising high number of people who say they'll refuse vaccination, as citizen mistrust in both government and science runs deeper than ever. So authorities around the world are already looking for ways to convince people to take the shot.

Listen first: Ermeline Gosselin and Guillaume de Walque, a pair of Belgian strategic communications experts, recently wrote in the Brussels-based daily Le Soir, that governments and health authorities need to be as "empathetic, humble and transparent" as possible in order to convince people to get vaccinated.

  • This means listening and understanding the fears expressed by citizens concerning possible secondary effects and their lack of trust in the vaccine's efficacy, as well as sending "clear messages' to the population instead of using medical data which can be confusing and not really striking for some.

  • Authorities should also adapt their speech and their language depending on their targeted audience, as well as use social media for more quirky, humorous posts.

  • It is "by shaking up old communication habits that authorities will be able to build trust and convince the greatest number of the real benefits of vaccination," the communication experts write.

The first vaccinations have been administered, in the UK and Russia — Photo: Str/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press

Vaccine as civic duty: Some argue that authorities should highlight the fact that vaccination doesn't only represent a personal benefit, but is also a necessary civic act.

  • A September 2020 study by the German Leibniz Institute for Economic Research found that for a vaccine to be successful, "politicians should not present the decision to vaccinate as a simple risk assessment, but also appeal to social responsibility."

  • Vaccination doesn't only protect the immunized person, but also the people around him or her. According to the study, even if people were to decide against it out of "caution", they could still be convinced via social responsibility.

Vaccination doesn't only protect the immunized person, but also the people around him or her.

Influencers, young and old: "People are more likely to get the vaccine if they see someone they trust having it," writes Stuart Mills, a fellow in Behavioural Science at the London School of Economics in British daily inews. For the expert, choosing the appropriate "messengers' will be crucial to encourage uptake of the vaccine and some are already acting accordingly.

  • U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has said he will take the COVID-19 vaccine publicly to promote public confidence in its safety and effectiveness, joining the last three US Presidents — Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton — who have vowed to take the vaccine in front of cameras. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson could do the same, his press secretary suggested, but not before those in greater need.

  • The National Health Service in the UK is working on a plan to enlist celebrities and influencers on social media, people who are "known and loved," in a vaccination campaign, The Guardian reports. While no name has been confirmed yet, England football Marcus Rashford has been touted as a possible spokesperson, following his popular campaign to end child food poverty. Stuart Mills also suggests involving national figures such as the Royal Family and personalities in various entertainment sectors "to appeal to differing demographics and interests."

The COMETE unit in France specialized in prevention — Photo: BMPM

Stickers & shame: French are among the most skeptical, as almost half of the population say they will refuse to get vaccinated according to recent opinion polls. According to Rustam Romaniuc and Angela Sutan, researchers in behavioral economics, writing in Le Monde, authorities could rely on "psychological and cultural factors that proved their worth when it comes to encouraging civic conduct," such as the "opt-out" option or peer pressure.

  • The researchers compare the vaccination campaign to organ donation: studies have shown that countries where the consent rates concerning organ donation are higher are the ones implementing the "opt-out" option (everybody is a donor unless decided otherwise).

  • They also suggest that authorities, instead of making vaccination compulsory, could draw inspiration from blood donation campaigns or campaigns encouraging citizens to vote, by offering badges, stickers or bracelets. Simple and cheap tools but that can be effective.

  • "The greater the number of people displaying a sticker or a bracelet, the more those who don't have one will feel the need to do it as well, out of imitation or the desire to belong to a larger group," the researchers argue, referring to the stickers displayed during the 2020 U.S. elections.

Old fashioned PR: Business Insider Deutschland says half of Germans are unsure of whether they want the shot, and the most important reason they give is "the concern that the vaccines have not yet been adequately tested."

The most important reason they give is "the concern that the vaccines have not yet been adequately tested."

  • According to Business Insider, Germany's Ministry of Health is preparing to roll out a major PR campaign to encourage people to get their shots. In a draft paper seen by the outlet, the govt wrote: "We need a ‘Yes we can" for the Corona vaccination strategy," presenting shots as an "optimistic appeal that ushers in a new, hopeful era in the containment of the pandemic and calls for people to be vaccinated".

  • "We shouldn't just call for vaccinations ("I will be vaccinated!")," says the draft "But must also accompany the information and opinion-forming process at an early stage."

  • The campaign will use the slogan "#SleevesHigh" and feature photos of people who have had the jab, including doctors, 80-somethings, workers. According to the draft, all the images will include some text pointing readers to a website to get more information or to get advice at a dedicated hotline.

Les Primitifs members getting ready
BUSINESS INSIDER
Laure Gautherin

Preppers Of The World, Mask Up! Survivalism And COVID-19

With the pandemic, survivalists around the world have new reasons to prepare for the day it all comes crashing down.

Preparing for the end of the world has been going on for years. Survivalists and so-called "preppers' sprung up independently and in groups during the Cold War, largely out of the fear of a nuclear disaster. But since then, survivalism has evolved to encompass different fears, philosophies and visions of the future. Of course, it doesn't end well in any of them. But the sources of the would-be apocalypse varies, including war (foreign and domestic), environmental disaster, societal collapse, old-fashioned zombies and more.

But now, in the face of a deadly health pandemic, it seems all of us have gotten a taste of expecting (and getting) the worst. For preppers, COVID-19 may (or may not) be a time to adjust plans and sharpen the vision about how to make it when the ultimate disaster arrives.

Going "Primitive" in Quebec: Survivalism is not about stockpiling toilet paper when the government declares national lockdown. "True early preppers already had theirs," film director Christian Lalumière told Le Journal de Montréal. He recently filmed an eight-episode series called "The Last Humans' that follows a survivalist tribe, Les Primitifs (The Primitives), and aims at debunking the survivalist cliché of the old loner living in the woods, living off his homegrown food and guns.

• The focus is on what has been dubbed the "new-survivalism," a branch of the movement whose goal is mainly to reconnect with nature as an answer to all kinds of crises, from health to ecological to economic. Building a community is a big part of the philosophy.

• A very different kind of a survivalist interviewed by Radio Canada says the pandemic has exacerbated the fear of becoming the target for non-preppers, and people are buying weapons typically used for hunting for self-defense.

It's l'economia, stupido: Italian survivalists say they saw the health crisis coming and were ready for it. Their Rambo skills and stockpiled masks and food stock could be useful for the coming economic crash, unemployment and political chaos. The Italian online newspaper Linkiesta reports that more people are identifying as preppers among those financially hit by COVID-19, as well as those who fear the collapse of the government.

• More and more people are contacting survivalist groups looking to learn about producing their own resources, becoming self-sufficient and other basic survival savoir-faire in order to spend less and have less to worry about while looking for a new job and source of income.

Surviving Brexit, and then COVID-19: Long before the health crisis, another lingering threat had awakened survival instincts of some Britons: the specter of chaos and food shortages induced by Brexit trade shutdowns. As the separation with the European Union approached last December, The Guardian dubbed those stockpiling food as "Brexit hoarders." The arrival of COVID only amplified the new wave of worrying.

• Emergency Food Storage UK quickly began selling out its "Brexit Box," which contains one month worth of freeze-dried food plus a water filter and fire kit. According to the British outlet, demand has multiplied with COVID.

U.S. - Exile from nationwide unrest and natural disaster

In the cradle of survivalism, prepping gear is an ever more fruitful business. According to Business Insider Today, the demand for gas masks, hazmat suits and other survival gear has skyrocketed due to a mix of COVID fear and other national disturbances such as West Coast wildfires and Black Lives Matter protests. Prepping has simply gone mainstream.

The U.S. has long been among the avant-garde in terms of different forms of survivalism. For the wealthiest souls of the Silicon Valley, doomsday prepping means such action as getting laser eye surgery to increase chances of survival, buying multimillion-dollar remote properties in New Zealand, having a helicopter all gassed-up and ready to fly and of course, stockpiling guns and ammo. Surviving by any (financial) means necessary.

SARS revival and everyday survival in Singapore: Any good survivalist will tell you that preparation applies to all kinds of crisis, including a pandemic. But no prepper is more prepared than one who actually went through a health crisis. In his disaster-ready home, A prepper from Singapore who gave his name as Samuel explained to Channel News Asia how the SARS outbreak in 2003 convinced him to be ready for anything to save his family. He knew exactly what he needed when the nature of the coronavirus got clearer, adding items to his impressive survival kit because he resides in a red zone for dengue.

As explained on the Singaporian news channel, prepping is about being ready for anything, from natural catastrophe to kidnapping to heart attack. It is a way of life that must happen before all hell breaks, and it's about saving yourself as well as helping your neighbor.

Final takeaway: Skills and knowledge are at least as important as the equipment. Still, it's never too early to stockpile — masks and all.

Watching a movie at a drive-in theater
BUSINESS INSIDER
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Crisis Innovation: Business Exceptions That Prove The Rule

Throwback ideas and the next big thing are working for some, even as many other parts of the economy slide into recession.

The coronavirus pandemic is the largest economic disruption in memory, with millions of job losses and rising rates of poverty striking virtually everywhere. Still, the changes to the way we live and work have also been the spark for many innovative entrepreneurs, who are taking the unprecedented health crisis and its side-effects as an opportunity to offer new products and services.

Rise of the Work-cation: Tourist hotspots around the world have been hit particularly hard by the near total shutdown of leisure travel. What's the next best thing? Business travel for leisure.

  • Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has announced a 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp for visitors to work remotely on the Carribean Island. "You don't need to work in Europe, or the U.S. or Latin America if you can come here and work for a couple months at a time; go back and come back," Mottley said.

  • French vacation chain Pierre & Vacances is offering a similar package: to "work from home" at one of their resorts. Twenty locations in France and Spain will offer a package that includes Wi-Fi and 4G. "This crisis has taught us to be ever more agile, to find business opportunities and teleworking is clearly one of the best examples," said Grégory Sion, the director of the brand wrote in a press release. "One of the challenges for Pierre & Vacances is to conquer new targets with new uses for tourism, and we are counting on this new service to achieve this."

  • Others in France are turning their extra space into guest bedrooms, hoping to make cash from regional travelers. While many are using new platforms like Airbnb to rent their rooms, Réjane Mortreux, who has spent almost 20 years providing guest houses, told Les Echos, "This love for one's neighbor is the very foundation of longevity in this profession."

Bicycle boom: With fewer people willing to get into a stranger's car, ride-hailing apps like Uber have seen their profits shrink dramatically during the pandemic. But some are switching focus.

  • Estonia star transportation platform company Bolt is launching an electric program in Paris, with plans to expand to other European cities.

  • Shared bike programs have skyrocketed in popularity. Public bicycle sharing service Vélib measured twice as many daily trips in Paris during June as the same period last year. Rides are also getting longer, meaning more money per minute of travel.

  • In Latin America, Cosmic Go has cornered the bike and scooter market and also provides shared cars and motorcycles. The Colombian-based firm has expanded to 15 countries and more than 70,000 users. During quarantine, it recorded around 1,000 trips a day.

Shared bike programs have skyrocketed in popularity — Photo: Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua/ZUMA

Return of the drive-in (So vintage!): Globally drive-in movie theaters (and other car-driven activities) have seen a resurgence as a safer alternative to enjoy (sort of) being together.

  • In Germany, drive-ins have become popular not only for films but also concerts and church services, with 30 new outdoor theaters popping up around the country since the beginning of the pandemic. Many shows are selling out in advance, with some spaces able to hold hundreds of cars.

  • In South Africa, locals in Cape Town will soon be able to go to a drive-in theater featuring an LED screen allowing for daytime viewing. While some have faced government setbacks, other drive-in businesses are thinking about expanding to film, including a mall in Johannesburg that built a restaurant where diners can order from a variety of restaurants and eat in their cars. The Drive in Diner hopes to add films to the meal experience.

India's startup surge: Despite being one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, in India, many startups across industries are thriving, particularly those that make life in quarantine just a little bit easier.

  • E-pharmacies like Medlife and PharmEasy have grown to provide contactless delivery of medicines as well as online prescription services supported by doctors. Many of these services also allow users to keep track of their health data and receive reminders about renewing prescriptions.

  • E-learning businesses including Unacademy and Vedantu are also finding a larger audience, filling in education gaps with schools closed. Engagement by students and professionals on these platforms increased 8.5% during India's lockdown period, with heightened use by both current and new users.

  • E-grocers such as Grofers and Big Basket have seen their daily orders doubled, with many having their delivery spots completely booked. During a time of rising unemployment, both companies are increasing their workforces and developing partnerships with manufacturing partners and brands.
Eten Restaurant, part of the Mediamatic Biotoop centre in Amsterdam, has tested greenhouse-like booths for customers to eat in.
food / travel

Dining With Distance: Restaurant Innovation Adapts To COVID-19

For many, getting back to "normal life" means going out to eat. But people also want to be safe, which is why eateries — from Amsterdam to Australia — are experimenting with distancing innovations that might soon become the new normal in the field of gastronomy. So how will dining out look like in the post-pandemic world? Here are few glimpses:

• In Saxony-Anhalt, Robin Pietsch, the German state's only starred chef, is thinking about setting up small "greenhouses' in an open space at Wernigerode Castle, the German daily Die Welt reports. Each glass cubicle would accommodate two guests and protect them from other diners, and yet still allow them to appreciate the surrounding scenery.

• Pietsch says he was inspired by the "separated greenhouses' that a vegan restaurant in Amsterdam set up on the waterfront and tested earlier this month. The restaurant should reopen for the public in the beginning of June with other Dutch restaurants and terraces hosting up to 30 guests, reported NH Nieuws.

• Unlike its European neighbors, Sweden never enforced a lockdown, and bars, restaurants and cafés continue to serve seated customers, albeit with certain precautions in place. Many establishments decided, for example, to rope off every other table to make social distancing easier. But that's nothing compared to the approach taken by a new restaurant called Bord för En (Table for One), which opened two weeks ago serves just one customer per day, seated at a table in the middle of... a field! Not only that, but food is served in a basket attached to a rope. Offering seasonal and locally farmed food and drinks, the restaurant's owners also have a novel approach when it comes to the bill: It's up to the guests to decide how much they're willing to pay. "We're all facing difficult times," the restaurateurs​ told the Insider.

• The proprietor of a seafood pub in Ocean City, in the U.S. state of Maryland, have also found a creative way to keep business afloat while maintaining social distancing. Customers at Fish Tales, which is reopening its dine-in services, will once again be allowed to mix, mingle and much, but with one condition: They have to wear giant inflatable inner tubes on wheels. These "bumper tables' are six feet wide, and according to UJ City News, the owner intends to fit 40 to 60 of them inside her restaurant.

Photo: Fish Tales

• A café in northeast Germany came up with a similar idea, only instead of inner tubes, customers use swimming pool floats (water noodles) to maintain social distancing. The 1.5-meter-long noodles are attached to hats that customers at Rothe in Schwerin, as the café is known, don while dining, Euronews reports.

• In Spain and Italy, some restaurants plan to reopen with plexiglass screens separating tables or even individual diners. One restaurant in the town of Leganés has already installed the prototype screens to test the design, reports The Local. As part of a pilot test, it has also set up thermal cameras that detect the temperature of diners.

• In New South Wales, Australia, in the meantime, restaurants are back in operation, but with strict limits on the number of diners allowed. Eateries can serve no more than 10 people at a time. Concerned that some clients might find the relative emptiness a bit off putting, the owner of one Sydney restaurant came up with a crafty solution: Why not fill the empty chairs with cardboard cutouts? And because the faux customers can't, of course, talk, the proprietor also outfitted his establishment with recorded background noise that simulates the chatter of clients, 7 News reports.

•A restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand had a similar idea, but instead of cardboard customers, decided to go with stuffed panda dolls. Different strokes, as they say, for different folks.

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Thousands of schoolchildren participate in a calligraphy competition in Anlong, China
BBC

The Latest: Peru’s COVID Death Rate, Myanmar Teachers, Tesla Prices

Welcome to Tuesday, where there's a new country with the highest rate of COVID deaths, India registers its worst recession in almost 80 years, and Lithuania's capital city goes full on science fiction. The Latin American business magazine America Economia shows us the massive new port in Peru that's planned to be the gateway for growing Chinese trade into the region.


• Netanyahu's legal challenge rejected: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's challenge of the legality of a bid by a rival rightist to head a new Israeli government has failed after it was rejected by the country's president.

Uganda minister shot in assassination attempt: Gen. Katumba Wamala, Uganda's Transport Minister, was wounded in an attack by gunmen. His daughter and driver were killed.

• COVID update: Peru's COVID death toll more than doubles following a review of its counting methods, making it the country with the world's highest death rate per capita, with more than 180,000 fatalities. The WHO has announced it will use Greek letters to refer to variants to simplify discussions and avoid stigma, with the UK variant labelled as Alpha for instance.

• Myanmar's schools boycott: Schools in Myanmar reopen for the first time since the military seized power, but teachers and students are set to defy the junta by boycotting classes in protest.

• Tesla prices increase due to supply chain pressure: U.S. automaker Tesla is increasing the prices of its electric vehicles due to supply chain disruptions across the auto industry, notably a shortage in computer chips.

• Osaka withdraws from French Open: Citing recent struggles with depression, Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka pulls out of French Open after she was fined and threatened with expulsion following her decision to boycott the news conferences.

• A portal to another city: The capital city of Vilnius, Lithuania, has installed a futuristic mirror-like "portal" that is connected to a similar installation 600 kilometers away in Lublin, Poland, broadcasting live images from the two cities to encourage people to "rethink the meaning of unity."

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A Chinese company launched smart helmets at the end of April
BUSINESS INSIDER

Early Detection: Health Tech Helps Boost COVID-19 Testing

As countries around the world scramble to conduct sufficient COVID-19 testing, there is now an urgent need for the design of rapid diagnostics of early symptoms to identify potential carriers to test, and eventually, isolate them. Researchers and the so-called "health tech" and "wearables' sector are racing to release new devices, and adapt existing ones, to help the early detection and identification of the virus.

  • Smart wristband: The Indian healthcare platform GOQii is launching GOQii Vital 3.0, a smart wristband that can track vitals such as body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, The Times of India reports. Thanks to an inbuilt temperature display and thermal sensors, the device could help detect one of the early symptom of the virus, which is high body temperature. It could also help health workers such as nurses and doctors, as well as patients check their temperature without any human contact. The company has partnered with German health tech startup Thryve to conduct a clinical study in India to test the accuracy of early detection of infections. GOQii has donated 1,000 of its smart wristbands to Mumbai Police and is in talks with governments, hospitals and private enterprises. The GOQii Vital 3.0 will also be soon available for sale to the public on platforms such as Amazon.

  • Mask detector: Researchers from MIT and Harvard in the United States are adapting the technology they developed to detect viruses causing Zika and Ebola to identify COVID-19. The team has designed a face mask with a sensor that produces a fluorescent signal when a person infected with the virus coughs, breathes or sneezes. The project is still in the "very early stages' bioengineer Jim Collins told Business Insider, but the first results have been promising. The sensors could offer a cheaper and quicker way to detect the virus as traditional diagnostic tests can take about 24 hours to run, compared to one to three hours for the mask. The laboratory hopes to begin mass manufacturing by the end of summer.

  • Fever-detecting helmet: Chinese startup KC Wearable launched smart helmets at the end of April for public officers and health workers, that allow them to detect high temperatures in people from up to 5 meters way. According to China Daily, the company, which has conducted millions of tests in several Chinese cities, says that the helmets can scan the temperatures of around 200 individuals in one minute thanks to an infrared camera connected to an AR headset. Since then the company has sent helmets to Italy's carabinieri military police and to the Netherlands for testing, as well as to the police in Dubai, among others.

The device can be worn on the throat, like a patch — Photo: Northwestern University

  • Sneezing on a smartphone: Professor Massood Tabib-Azar, an engineer at the University of Utah in the United States is leading a project to create a sensor that users can plug into their smartphones' charging port and that can tell whether they are infected or not within one minute if they sneeze or cough on it, International Business Times reports. The project was started last year originally to fight the Zika virus but is now being adapted to detect COVID-19 instead. The inch-wide sensor communicates with the smartphone via Bluetooth and is reusable, as it can destroy a previous sample with a small electrical current. It could be available to the public as soon as August and would cost around $55.

  • Smart throat patch: An engineering laboratory at Northwestern University in the United States has created a soft and flexible wearable sensor that is about the size of a stamp and can be worn on the throat, like a patch. The device monitors coughing, respiratory activity as well as temperature and heart rate by measuring motions that appear at the surface of a skin, in the same way a stethoscope does. Through a set of data algorithms, the sensor, which was designed initially to monitor speaking functions in stroke survivors, can now catch and identify early signs and symptoms of the virus. The device is currently being tested on 25 people including patients and healthcare workers.

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Bill Gates in Africa
Nigeria
Michael Kelley

What Bill Gates Has Done That's Setting Off Radical Islamist Killing Sprees

The Microsoft founder and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are active in trying to eradicate polio. But immunization efforts have led to deadly attacks from Nigeria to Pakistan.

Efforts like the one being led by Bill Gates and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have reduced the number of children paralyzed by the polio virus from 350,000 in 1998 to fewer than 225 cases in 2012.

But the last remnants of the the debilitating disease must be wiped out in Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, or else it will make a comeback.

Radical islamic militants are preventing that from happening by attacking clinics, health workers, and police who travel with vaccinators to administer the vaccine to children.

Earlier this month in northern Nigeria, armed men linked to Islamist extremist group Boko Haram killed nine people at a clinic after a local cleric denounced polio vaccination campaigns and local radio programs saying the campaigns are part of a foreign plot to sterilize Muslims.

Epicenter

The province, Kona, is now the epicenter of polio infections in Africa as it has refused to participate in the vaccination campaign.

In Pakistan a total of 18 people have been killed in the last three months, including a police officer who was escorting a polio team in the tribal areas in the country's northwest.

The cultural suspicions may be even messier in Pakistan where came to light that CIA hired a Pakistani doctor to give out hepatitis B vaccine in Abbottabad in March 2011 in an apparent effort to get DNA samples from Osama bin Laden’s hide-out.

"Boko Haram and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan share a common ideology and common strategy and ... their targets are similar," Shehu Sani, president of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, told the Guardian. "Boko Haram have targeted police stations, politicians, religious clerics who speak out against them and people engaging in polio vaccination programmes."

The tactics have been effective as polio infections have doubled in Pakistan since 2009, new cases are on the rise in Afghanistan, and a polio virus traced to Pakistan was recently found in sewers in Cairo, Egypt (which hasn't seen a case since 2004).

Total eradication

Gates, Microsoft"s 57-year-old co-founder, who has donated an estimated $28 billion to charity through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is determined to completely eradicate the disease.

"Polio's pretty special because once you get an eradication you no longer have to spend money on it," Gates told The Times of India. "It's just there as a gift for the rest of time ... All you need is over 90 percent of children to have the vaccine drop three times and the disease stops spreading ... The great thing about finishing polio is that we'll have resources to get going on malaria and measles."

David Scales of The Disease Daily notes that the key to success in the remaining infected areas is "regaining trust of both the local people and religious leaders," which led northern Nigeria to resume polio vaccinations after a 2003 boycott. Until then, the polio teams need more protection.

Pakistanis aren't so optimistic about solving it through cultural outreach.

"There is only one lasting solution to this and that is to militarily defeat the Taliban once and for all," according to an editorial in the Pakistan Express Tribune.

Polio, a highly infectious viral disease that can cause permanent paralysis in a matter of hours, usually infects children living in unsanitary conditions.

Holy Asteroid Flyby! It's Disturbingly Big, Incredibly Close - But We're Safe. For Now
BUSINESS INSIDER
Dina Spector

Holy Asteroid Flyby! It's Disturbingly Big, Incredibly Close - But We're Safe. For Now

Look up (with binoculars) for a glance of 2012 DA14, size of half a football field.

A "small" asteroid will make a record close approach to Earth this week, coming inside the earth-centric orbit of most man-made satellites.

NASA scientists at the near-Earth object program are monitoring asteroid 2012 DA14 closely and say there is absolutely no chance that the space rock will smash into our planet this time around.

There is a very slight chance that it will hit the Earth when it flies by again in 2110. It was discovered just one year ago.

2012-DA14, artist's rendition (wikipedia)

The asteroid, about half the size of a football field (150 feet in diameter), will however, only be 17,200 miles above Earth's surface when it whips past the eastern Indian Ocean, off Sumatra, around 2:24 p.m. East Coast time. It won't be visible with the naked eye, but could be seen with binoculars.

Most weather and communication satellites circle Earth at a distance of around 22,000 miles — so that's a pretty close shave.

"The flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 is the closest ever predicted Earth approach for an object this large," NASA said in a press release.

Asteroid 2012 DA 14 is hurtling toward Earth at 17,460 miles per hour and weighs almost 287,000,000 pounds.

Even in the improbable scenario that 2012 DA 14 did smack into Earth, the piece of space debris wouldn't destroy our planet. It would be similar to the Tunguska asteroid, which hit Siberia in 1908, though if it hit a city or an ocean it could create a fair bit of destruction.

NASA's Don Yeomans tells CNN that 2012 DA14 is likely made of stone, which would be less damaging than the asteroid made of metal that "collided with Earth 50,000 years ago, creating the mile wide Meteor Crater" in Arizona and obliterating everything for 50 miles around."

Here's more on the asteroid from NASA:

How Facebook Could Make Foodie Billions By Plugging Instagram Into Graph Search
BUSINESS INSIDER
Owen Thomas

How Facebook Could Make Foodie Billions By Plugging Instagram Into Graph Search

As Instagram users snap and tag their lastest best meal, Yelp, OpenTable and even FourSquare could be victims of Zuckerberg's appetite.

Instagram snaps of the delicious meal you're about to eat are such a cliché, they played a starring role in CollegeHumor's hilarious takedown of the Facebook-owned photo-sharing site.

But for restaurateurs, these pics are no joke: People are taking a massive number of photos of food, and Instagram's Photo Map feature instantly shows what's being served at a restaurant. That was the rationale behind OpenTable's $10 million acquisition of Foodspotting this week.

New numbers reported by MomentFeed, a startup that helps brands manage location pages on services like Facebook and Foursquare, show what a huge phenomenon this is.

It's not limited to fancy, upscale restaurants in San Francisco and New York; people are taking huge numbers of photos in chain restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory and PF Chang's.

In an 18-day period studied at the end of 2012, users posted 4,899 photos tagged with a Cheesecake Factory location on Instagram. (MomentFeed only analyzed place-tagged photos, not comments or hashtags.)

Those numbers destroy what's happening on Foodspotting, a service dedicated to this particular art form. Instagram had 40 times the number of photos taken at Chevy's locations versus Foodspotting. At Texas Roadhouse, the ratio was 22 times. And those numbers are typical for most chain restaurants.

Yelp has long offered the ability to upload photos alongside reviews. But a spotcheck of the Cheesecake Factory location in downtown San Francisco, a Yelp stronghold, shows 564 photos posted over the past six years. The pace of posting has picked up recently, boosted by Yelp's mobile app. Our rough estimate shows Instagram users posting two to three times more frequently at Cheesecake Factory locations.

"It's obvious Instagram is the real Foodspotting," MomentFeed CEO Rob Reed told Business Insider. "That's why Foodspotting stalled and were acquired. Vertically focused apps don't make it."

We don't think OpenTable bought Foodspotting for its photo database, of course—it's more about bringing mobile and social talent into the company and setting them loose on OpenTable's larger user base. But even then, Instagram has such a huge head start on food photos, we're not sure how OpenTable will ever catch up.

What's the implication for Facebook? Huge, if it can tie the photos together with Graph Search and location pages.

While Graph Search is currently limited, one thing it can do right now is show all the photos taken at a particular location.

Foodspotting and Yelp both excel at offering detailed information about restaurants. On Foodspotting, users tag photos with specific dishes, while on Yelp, they can write free-form reviews whose text can be mined for insights and relevancy.

But most people are visual, and photos mean more to them. At San Francisco's Cheesecake Factory, there are more than 1,000 photos already—and Instagram promises to funnel far more into the maw of Facebook's voracious data machine.

Facebook can also show friends who have been there. Those links, together with photos, constitute a far more visceral kind of recommendation than OpenTable or Yelp, with their much smaller user bases, can currently offer.

So the combination of photos and friends—Facebook's basic formula—could prompt more local advertisers to take Facebook seriously as an advertising vehicle, if they aren't doing so already.

The only real threat to Facebook comes from Foursquare. At the Cheesecake Factory in San Francisco, Foursquare has 890 user photos. And Instagram currently relies on Foursquare to tie location data to specific businesses; users can simultaneously post Instagram photos to Facebook and Foursquare.

Then again, Facebook could well switch Instagram from Foursquare's places database to its own. And as local-business search gets more and more important, it's hard to imagine Facebook isn't thinking about that.

Zuck-san
BUSINESS INSIDER
Owen Thomas

Facebook v. Google - A New Edge In All-Out War For Digital Advertising

Facebook is the upstart, Google is the grizzled veteran -- and still the powerhouse -- in the massive battle for online advertising dollars.

But when the cash register rings, who gets the credit? That is the billion-dollar question in advertising these days—particularly in Internet advertising, where it's easy to track clicks and links, but often hard to pin down exactly which view of an ad drove a sale.

Now Facebook is making it easier to show that an ad displayed on the social network led to a sale—even an ad seen days or weeks ago.

The technology is called conversion tracking, and after years of testing the idea, Facebook quietly rolled it out to all advertisers in a little-noted move last week.

The idea is pretty simple: Facebook creates a customized conversion pixel that advertisers place on a page—like a checkout page on an e-commerce site, or a signup page for a subscription, or an app-download page—where a consumer's taking the action they hoped their ads would prompt.

That lets Facebook link sales to ad campaigns, showing in aggregate which ads generated the most response.

Google has long had similar features, along with Google Analytics, a dashboard for doing deep analysis of users' actions on a website.

But Facebook has rolled out something far more powerful that can consistently track users across mobile devices and desktop websites.

It can do this because it has a single, unified identity for each of its users, who tend to stay logged in to Facebook far more than any other website.

Google has responded by rolling out Google+. Often misunderstood as a social network, Google+ has been described by executive chairman Eric Schmidt and other executives as an "identity layer" across Google products. Its social features provide an incentive for users to log in with Google accounts. But they have yet to do so with anything like the consistency and frequency that Facebook users do.

Facebook experimented with conversion tracking in 2010, abandoning it and then rolling it back as a service restricted to its biggest advertisers. More recently, it has been combining a limited test of conversion tracking with a feature called Optimized CPM, which automatically tunes campaigns to specific marketing goals like product sales or app downloads, rather than crude link-clicking metrics.

Those tests seem to be successful: On Tuesday, Facebook quietly announced that the feature was available to all advertisers around the world.

Why does this matter? Google has dominated online advertising for a host of reasons, but the chief one is the measurability of its ads. When a user clicks on a link, that sparks a storm of data used by Google and its advertisers alike to tweak their next campaign. Search-engine marketing is now a science rather than an art.

And because it is so easy for Google to show a direct link between a click and a sale, it has commanded the lion's share of online-marketing budgets, especially in direct-response categories.

But any student of marketing knows that the demand funnel is long and complex, with multiple exposures to a message required to prompt a sale.

Google dominates the end of the funnel, catching consumers when they are in a mood to buy (as they typically are when they type product-related keywords into a search box).

Facebook, because of its ubiquity in people's daily habits, can play in the middle of the funnel, offering the kind of frequency marketers need to break through to ad-inundated consumers.

And now Facebook can show how those ads lead to purchases—even if they don't happen in the moment a consumer clicks.

Facebook still can't compete with Google at the end of the demand funnel. Its recently announced Graph Search is unsuitable for almost all product queries in its present form, save maybe for categories like movies and music.

But if conversion data can shift some spending away from Google—or, more likely, from the billions of dollars of offline, unmeasured advertising spending that both Facebook and Google hope to capture—then Facebook stands to gain.

Ears Of Big Brother? Gun Detection System Can Also Listen In On Conversations
BUSINESS INSIDER
Robert Johnson

Ears Of Big Brother? Gun Detection System Can Also Listen In On Conversations

Already in place in several cities, the federal Department of Homeland Security may install state-of-the-art acoustic technology in DC that can cover areas of up to 20 square miles.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Secret Service have requested information to support the installation of a gunshot detection system in Washington D.C.

Such a system is already in place in various cities, as outlined last May by The New York Times, and it records a whole lot more than gunshots. A seargeant for the Richmond Police Department told the Times he could hear, "doors slamming, birds chirping, cars on the highway, horns honking."

These systems can also record conversations, which raises questions about the limits of police surveillance. Indeed, one murder case in New Bedford, Mass. is expected to hinge on a recorded argument, according to the Times.

The main supplier of the current system is ShotSpotter, which lists Lockheed Martin and the Ferguson Group as two of its three Strategic Partners.

Lockheed manufactures many unmanned systems that could soon be flying U.S. airspace. The Ferguson Group "lobbies Congress and the federal agencies on behalf of public and private interests across the country. The Ferguson Group is the largest federal representative of local governments in Washington, DC."

OpenSecrets has ShotSpotter paying Ferguson Group $390,000 from 2010 to 2012.

A few of the questions DHS wants to answers are:

- The exact effective range of the system

- How easily can the sensors be concealed "aesthetically to match their surroundings"

- Can the system be used without "use of live fire or blanks"

- Can the system be made portable

- Will the system detect 95 percent or more of an areas gunshot incidents and can it be monitored by government agencies alone

SpotShotter says its wide-area acoustic technology can be used to cover areas of up to 20 square miles and has already logged more than half-a-million incidents.

In addition to this most recent request for the Secret Service, the ShotSpotter system is used by a long list of regional law enforcement agencies outlined on the company's website.

This layout Homeland Security is looking for could be very similar ShotSpotter's regional systems, but DHS wants the ability to monitor its system solely within federal agencies.