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coronavirus

Coronavirus
Jag Bhalla*

It's The Access, Stupid: Why Leaving Vaccines To Capitalism Will Never Work

The U.S. will stop funding vaccines but says it wants equitable access. That’s not possible in a predatory system.

-OpEd-

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. federal government has supervised the purchasing and distribution of vaccines, tests, and treatments. Many Americans saw for the first time what publicly funded healthcare could do as citizens were able to access prevention and treatment without for-profit constraints.

But a few weeks ago, Dawn O’Connell, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services, announced that COVID-19 “countermeasures” – meaning vaccines, tests, and treatment – would transition to the commercial market sooner than previously planned, with program funds set to run out as early as January 2023.

O’Connell noted that “while the federal government has been pleased to play this role, we have always known that we would not be in this business forever.” She emphasized the administration’s goal of “continued equitable access” for all Americans.

Her statement expresses an astonishing display of ill-founded confidence in the idea that the private sector will do the right thing — like handing over henhouse security to a fox and expecting higher egg production in return.

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Coronavirus
Alice Facchini

Italy's Orphans Of COVID: Children Who Lost Parents Are Also Left Alone By The State

In one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, thousands of Italian minors lost a parent or caregiver to COVID. However, unlike other places, Italy has yet to set out a clear plan to support them, leaving them more vulnerable to mental health issues, and even abuse.

ROME — Julia was 13 years old when her father was hospitalized for COVID. It was March 2020 and very little was known about the virus. When they loaded him into the ambulance, the girl had no idea that she would never see him again.

The following days at home were rough: her mother was very agitated because she could not get any information, while her little sister did not understand what was going on. And then came the news: Julia’s father had died, but no one knew if and when it would be possible to see him and conduct his funeral. Julia did not allow herself to cry. Instead, she told the psychologist who was seeing her: "Now I have to be strong, dad would have wanted it that way."

Her mother fell into depression, she had no job, and the entire family was left without financial support. "Can I get a job to help mom?," Julia asked the psychologist. For a moment she even thought of quitting school, but then changed her mind and got a part-time job as a babysitter.

After a few weeks, however, she broke down: she no longer felt like leaving her room, quit volleyball, and no longer wanted to go to school.

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Coronavirus
Khorloo Khukhnokhoi

Mongolian Herbal Medicine, A COVID Revival Takes Root

Traditional medicines, once banned, have regained favor. Government and health officials are endorsing them alongside COVID-19 vaccinations.

ERDENET, ORKHON PROVINCE, MONGOLIA — The water steams, then bubbles to a boil. Bayarjargal Togmid takes the pot off the stove and stirs in a bright yellow grass, known as manjingarav.

“This plant is excellent against coughing,” she says. “I drink it now and mix it with water so that my children often gargle their throats and mouths with it. It is far more effective than regular medicines.”

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Coronavirus
Shuyue Chen

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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In The News

Le Weekend ➡️ Truss One-Way Ticket, Wind Turbine 2.0, Rear-Ending Japan’s Oldest Loo

October 21-22

  • Ex-USSR unrest
  • Eurovision 2023: nul points
  • Pan Solo
  • … and much more.
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Economy
Alan Shipman

Rishi Sunak — It's The Economy, Smarty

Nobody questions the new British Prime Minister's intelligence, or even his performance as Chancellor of the Exchequer. But the economic conditions after the debacle of his predecessor Liz Truss leaves little margin for error for Rishi Sunak.

As the incoming UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak has the immediate advantage of perceived success in his two years as chancellor.

His tenure ended last July when he resigned due to a difference of opinion with then-prime minister Boris Johnson over the economy. But during his time as chancellor, he is credited with rescuing households and businesses from the effects of the COVID pandemic lockdowns by launching an innovative and impressively timely furlough scheme. He reversed a “small state” approach to become the private sector’s temporary paymaster, spending an unprecedented £70 billion to shorten the recession.

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Coronavirus
Deng Yuwen

Xi's Burden — Why China Is Sticking With Zero COVID

Too much has been put in to the state-sponsored truth that minimal spread of the virus is the at-all-cost objective. Xi Jinping may eventually have no choice but to renounce the harsh measures, but at this week's Communist Party Congress, the Chinese President was giving no ground.

This article was updated on Oct. 17 at 10:45 a.m. EST

The tragic bus accident in Guiyang last month — in which 27 people being sent to quarantine were killed — was one of the worst examples of collateral damage since the COVID-19 pandemic began in China nearly three years ago. While the crash can ultimately be traced back to bad government policy, the local authorities did not register it as a Zero COVID related casualty. It was, for them, a simple traffic accident.

The officials in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou, of course, had no alternative. Drawing a link between the deadly crash and the strict policy of Zero COVID, touted by President Xi Jinping, would have revealed the absurdity of the government's choices.

At a speech Sunday to open this week's historic Communist Party Congress, Xi made clear he had no immediate plans to loosen the Zero-Covid strategy. He called the tough health measures, a "people's war to stop the spread of the virus."

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Coronavirus
Yi Dong, Ren Yang

Escape From Foxconn: Inside The COVID Lockdown Chaos Blocking China's iPhone Production

Around China, Zero COVID policy has shut down entire towns and workplaces. But in the high-tech Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, famous for cranking out iPhones, employees were forced to work even if they tested positive. Exclusive testimony from some of those who fled Foxconn premises last week.

ZHENGZHOU — Luo, a newcomer at the Foxconn factory in this central Chinese city, was genuinely frightened when she heard her workplace would be an "experiment field" for new COVID-19 policies: Even during outbreaks, some employees won't stop their production work. Luo was chosen as one of the experiment subjects.

By the end of October, things were getting out of control at Foxconn: chaotic COVID testings, spreading infections, workers quitting their jobs. And Luo felt trapped inside the five million square meters of the Foxconn factory, China's largest producer of Apple's iPhones, which was falsely described as a COVID-free zone.

On Oct. 29, videos of Foxconn workers returning by foot to their hometowns began to spread on the internet. Some workers claimed that due to the company's chaotic quarantine system and poor logistical support, they had chosen to leave on their own and walk for several days back to small towns outside the city.

It would only deepen the delays piling up for iPhone deliveries around the world, and raise new questions about China's policy for dealing with the spread of COVID.

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Coronavirus
Emma Frans

So, Did Sweden's No-Lockdown COVID Strategy Pay Off?

During the pandemic, the world watched as Sweden carried out a unique approach to combat the COVID-19 virus, relying on social distancing instead of lockdowns. Although labeled a "disaster" at the time, the strategy worked well for all — except one key group.

As much of the world shut down early in the COVID pandemic, Sweden remained open. The country’s approach was controversial, with some calling it “the Swedish experiment”.

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In The News

Le Weekend ➡️ Fuel Shortage Bots, Endometriosis Breakthrough, Best Fat Bear

October 15-16

  • Putin's nuclear pressure
  • COVID orphans
  • An endometriosis breakthrough
  • … and much more.
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In The News

Le Weekend ➡️ COVID Art, Bionic Pancreas, Doodle Home

October 8-9

  • What Lula needs to win
  • Why Xi won’t let Zero-COVID go
  • The world’s most extreme doodler
  • … and much more.
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Coronavirus
Lucila Pellettieri

It Takes Two To Tango, But One Pandemic Has Nearly Killed It

The pandemic has devastated Argentina’s tango culture — and the thousands of people who depend on it.

BUENOS AIRES — What María Campos missed most was the tango embrace. Two dancers, entwined like braided rope, whirling across a floor in wordless harmony. For tangueros, it’s as elemental as breathing. “Many older people in the tango milieu have died of sadness more than of COVID,” she says, “for not being able to dance.”

Tango was born in Argentina and is an international ambassador for the country of 45 million. Even so, the coronavirus has proved a formidable adversary. Tango thrives on intimacy, on commingled limbs and breath. So does the airborne virus. For 18 months, until September, the government barred tango events, or milongas, which shuttered tango venues, emptied dance studios and canceled competitions. Even now, dancing indoors requires proof of vaccination.

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