Category Archives: News

COVID-19: The urgency to ‘flatten the curve’

What do we mean by ‘flatten the curve’?

When dealing with a pandemic like COVID-19, the ultimate goal is to stop the overall spread of the virus. In order to do so, the slowing down of the spread is a critical phase in achieving this. Hence, the social distancing measures in place across the world.

To ‘flatten the curve’ means to reduce the growth in the number of cases – giving medical professionals, institutional bodies and government officials more time to prepare and respond. As well as this, it accommodates for effective planning in a stressful situation as such.

For hospitals to function – doctors must be readily available to treat patients. However, with an influx of patients they must quickly adapt to the escalation of cases. Slowing the spread of COVID-19 cases through measures such as social distancing will not only save lives but ensure that we continue to progress ahead.

What do the curves on the graph represent?

‘Flatten the curve’

The curves represent the number of cases and how they are increasing/decreasing over time. A steep, higher curve signifies that cases are increasing fast. The lower curve indicates that cases are emerging slower, and that the virus is not spreading as faster.

By keeping the curve low, it allows for added time and preparation in controlling the spread of the virus.

How will social distancing determine the outcome of this pandemic?

The spread of the virus depends on how contagious it is, who is more vulnerable to it and how fast it impacts our immune systems. According to the World Health Organisations (WHO) COVID-19 is an ‘infectious disease’ primarily spreads through ‘droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose’ when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Seasonal flu has a lower fatality rate because people have been vaccinated against the virus or developed immunity. Coronavirus, on the other hand, does not have a vaccine and is known to have vigorous symptoms. As a result, people are more vulnerable to it.

Social distancing measures such as self-isolation and quarantine will decrease chances of transmission and consequently the spread of the virus.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that prior to the lockdown – one positive person would infect 2.6 other people. However, after social distancing measures were implemented – the figure reduced to 0.62. This means that the virus is being detained and should eventually burn out given the measures in place are strictly followed.

How should we go about this situation as individuals?

NHS guideline

In these uncertain times, it is natural to be overcome with anxiousness and self-awareness. Essential workers, doctors and patients are battling a wide-scale pandemic that is challenging day-to-day routines. As individuals of society, we have the duty to protect the most vulnerable of people amid this pandemic. By staying home, maintaining our hygiene and social distancing – we can encourage a safer, less disastrous outcome.

Why does toilet paper take so long to get to grocery stores?

Since the coronavirus ramped up and became a pandemic one essential hygiene product is flying off the shelves in grocery stores all over the world: toilet paper.  But why does it take so long to restock? 

Toilet paper can be made by recycled paper’s pulp or through tree pulp that is then dyed with chemicals to give it the white appearance.  The treated pulp is then sent to paper mills where it is converted into large sheets of paper and then cut into napkins, toilet paper, and paper towels in different sizes.  

Last year, the UK used around 1.25 million tonnes of hygiene paper of which over half were in the form of toilet paper, according to a statement by The Confederation of Paper Industries and The Paper Industry Technical Association.  

An unusually full stock of toilet paper sold 2 for 1 and limited to 4 single rolls per family. source: Natalia Jaramillo

Toilet paper mills, pre-pandemic, were already running 24 hours a day seven days a week and now with COVID-19 impacting worker’s schedules and increasing demand, the industry is having a tough time catching up. 

Kimberly Clarke, producer of popular toilet paper brands such as Andrex and Cottonelle said in a statement: 

“We have plans in place to address the increased demand for our products to the extent possible, including accelerating the production of essential products and reallocating inventory to help. Our teams continue to monitor demand and we will make adjustments to our plans accordingly.” 

Kimberly Clarke’s plans to ramp up production of essential products like toilet paper means slowing production of non essential products all meanwhile implementing worker safety protocols that may slow down production.  

“Some of the additional measures include regular cleaning of work areas, shift rotations, distancing reminders where people queue, and temperature scans at entry points. We’re also encouraging our employees to stay at home if they feel unwell,” read a Kimberly Clarke statement for the company’s COVID-19 response. 

In order to get toilet paper into grocery store shelves,  trucks have to be packed at paper mills driven to grocery stores and then unpacked and restocked onto the shelves. 

“I asked when the next shipment of toilet paper was coming and the cashier said to come early morning on Saturday,” said Viviana Riveros, a grocery store customer. 

When she arrived at 9 am, one hour after opening, the store was sold out of its supply of toilet paper.  

Grocery store shelves where there should be toilet paper are left empty due to COVID-1. Source: Natalia Jaramillo

Another popular toilet paper maker Essity, who makes Cushelle, already increased net sales in 2019 by 10.6% and is now further increasing due to the pandemic response to panic buy. 

“As a leading global hygiene and health company, we are currently also doing our utmost to continue to manufacture and deliver essential products such as hand paper towels, soap and sanitizers, toilet paper, handkerchiefs and diapers to consumers and customers around the world,” said Magnus Groth, CEO and President of Essity. 

The shortage of toilet paper comes after the UK government issues statements advising people not to panic buy. 

Coronavirus fake news: how to spot it before you spread it

It seems as though misinformation about the dreaded coronavirus is in its own way contagious.

It’s easy to hit share or ‘retweet’ or to even send a quick factoid you read about the virus to someone else and the temptation is just as understandable but spreading this fake news doesn’t help anyone and only scares people even more.

Many of the people who share these hoaxes and false information don’t do it to mislead – they think they’re sharing some truly valuable information with their family and friends.

From checking sources to verifying accounts, here are a few steps you can take to spot fake news and verify information correctly before you decide to share it.

REMEMBER: If you see someone on social media posting something that isn’t true, be gentle and kind when informing them or pointing it out. Correcting information that is false can sometimes backfire. People are likely to be defensive when they’re challenged so always make sure you’re kind during this tense moment.

 

Video sources

 

Institutions face structural changes to support students amid the COVID-19 pandemic

As the UK government begins to up its efforts in impeding the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions have been forced to introduce structural changes.

Multiple universities have moved to online classes through means of digital platforms such as Blackboard and Canvas – sites prominently used among institutions across the UK.

Blackboard CEO Bill Ballhaus took to its official site with a notice, highlighting their plans to support institutions across the UK during the outbreak. He ensured that Blackboard will continue making online learning feasible for both staff as well as students.

According to the statement, the number of online users ‘has doubled every day’ and the platform is working diligently to keep up with this unprecedented surge.

To meet service user needs, Blackboard’s pro-active measures include activating ‘cross-functional response teams’ to ensure the functioning of the platform.

Universities have introduced responsive measures such as online libraries to make academic sources and books accessible to students.

Nottingham Trent University recently announced that it will waive accommodation fees for students who have the left the city during the nation-wide lockdown. Students who have vacated their residence provided by the university and are not returning will no longer be required to pay rent.

In a statement, the professor’s vice-chancellor Edward Peck said: “At every stage in this national crisis Nottingham Trent University has been committed to following Government and PHE advice whilst ensuring that the interests of our students are always paramount in every decision that we take.”

“We understand that many of our students rent from private third-party providers, both purpose-built student accommodation and houses in multiple occupation. NTU is not able to make a unilateral decision on behalf of our students regarding accommodation fees charged by these providers.”

PhD and master’s students have also signed an open letter urging research councils to publish a plan outlining the additional financial support required for postgraduate students.

Due to fieldwork at halt and university labs and libraries being shut, many are unable to complete their research projects.

March is a typically active period of the academic year – with lecture theatres packed and assignment deadlines approaching. This year, there is an unprecedented silence.

Users took to social media sites expressing that they are ‘mentally tapped out’ and ‘paralysed’ from the on-going situation.  

A PhD student at the University of Westminster stated that: “The assumption to go about academic responsibilities in one’s home has been readily taken advantage of. For many, staying at home brings forth added care responsibilities.”

“At present, many of us are taking on this additional workload to help us survive in the face of a virus that knows no boundaries. If these changes that are being introduced are causing more stress to students, then perhaps it’s time to reorganise the education system.”

To learn more about the government response and information provided by universities regarding COVID-19, visit this webpage.

Forgotten heroes near “breaking point”

Care workers up and down the country are calling for people to be more understanding of their position, after prime minister Boris Johnson labelled them as key workers in his lockdown guidelines.

NHS staff, social care workers, childcare and teaching staff, as well as those working  in supermarkets and other similar positions are only a fraction of those whose careers are considered essential for society to continue running.

However, many have complained that measures that are being taken to protect the vulnerable are not being extended to the right people.

KEY WORKER

©Chloe Rose

Many supermarkets in the UK have implemented designated hours in the day to NHS staff, as well as those over 70 to shop alone for their own protection. But a lot of care workers believe no consideration has gone in to their situations, with many of them having the responsibility to shop for elderly or vulnerable clients, as well as a duty of care to practice strict social distancing measures for the sake of their clients.

One care worker complained how it was “atrocious” that supermarkets were letting NHS workers skip queues while “not letting carers for vulnerable people do the same”. She stated that she knew “at least one elderly man who might not get his shopping now because a carer with a one hour time limit was not let in to stores in time”. 

The same carer commented that while “designated hours are good, not everyone can be there at the times they’ve been put in place, they’re early in the morning which is when most carers are in the community helping those most vulnerable with showering, medication and other essential daily duties and by the time we get the opportunity to get to shops we’re turned away because we’re not NHS”.

 

Care workers across the nation are also complaining of services being “near breaking point” due to shortages of Personal Protective Equipment.

Unison, a trade union representing all in the public sector, have recently called on the prime minister to do more to end severe shortages of PPE before the situation in the care industry becomes dire.

A care worker in a Tyne and Wear convalescent care home complained that PPE arriving at her workplace was being distributed to the wrong people or used irresponsibly. Leaving those who have constant contact with the vulnerable with only gloves and limited numbers of aprons to protect them and their clients against the potentially deadly virus.

“We’re being treated like second rate citizens just because we don’t have an NHS badge hanging around our necks. We’re putting our own lives and our family’s lives at risk working in this sector but we’re still not considered equal to NHS workers.”

Not only are care workers being denied basic protection for the sake of themselves and those around them, many are seeing their workload increase as they are expected to take on the jobs of others in order to meet the high demand and fast turnover that COVID-19 is creating.

Short term care homes including convalescent and rehabilitation centres are seeing their turnover go from three to four weeks to just five days to keep up with hospital’s need to free up beds for patients suffering with novel coronavirus.

Sunderland care worker, Carol, also expressed concerns about the government’s lack of concern surrounding testing in the UK.

“People coming to us aren’t being tested before they leave hospital. They’re coming to us for convalescent care, but we don’t know what these people are bringing into our home. The cross infection risk is putting people in danger but again, because we’re not NHS it’s like we don’t exist.” 

With those working on the front line still not being considered for necessary testing, the risk of working with the vulnerable is far from over. But these unsung heroes of the care sector will carry on, knowing how vital their work is to the running of society.

For now, carers not working in the National Health Service can only hope their positions will begin to be held in the same regard as those working for the NHS, before they reach a point of no return.

CORONAVIRUS INFO

©Chloe Rose

 

Chloe Rose

 

 

Five coronavirus health tips you should ignore and why

With coronavirus cases increasing across the world, people are turning to anything to help them cope with and avoid catching the virus and that includes sloppy health advice ranging from ineffective and harmless to incredibly dangerous.

Most of these popular claims are being shared online so it’s important to look at the science behind it and what it says.

1. Drinkable silver

Colloidal silver, which are tiny particles of the metal suspended in liquid, was promoted on US televangelist Jim Bakker’s show. A guest on the show claimed the fluid kills some strains of the coronavirus within 12 hours.

The idea that it could be a potential treatment for coronavirus has been speculating all over social media, especially on Facebook by medical freedom groups.

Supporters of colloidal silver claim it can help the immune system, act as an antiseptic and treat a variety of health conditions. Although there are occasional uses of silver in health care, such as in bandages applied to wounds, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s effective to consume.

Advice from the US health authorities clearly state that there’s no evidence this silver solution is effective for any health condition let alone coronavirus. This is also because silver is not a metal that has any function in the human body unlike iron and zinc. Most importantly it could also cause serious side effects such as causing bluish-grey discolouration of the skin commonly known as Argyria.

People who are promoting the substance on social media for general health have found their posts now create a fact-checking pop-up warning from Facebook’s services.

2. Garlic

A majority of Facebook posts recommend eating garlic helps prevent coronavirus from entering your system and also lowers the chance of you getting it.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there’s no evidence that eating garlic can protect people from the virus even though it is “a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties.”

Image from: EcoWatch

Even though they have the potential to be harmful, in a large number of cases these types of remedies aren’t harmful in themselves as long as they’re not stopping people from following evidence based medical advice.

A story of a woman who was left with a severely inflamed throat and who had received hospital treatment because she had consumed 1.5kg of raw garlic was reported by the South China Morning Post.

Even though we know in general that eating healthy foods such as fruit and veg and drinking water is good for staying healthy, there’s no evidence that particular kinds of foods could help fight this strain of the virus.

3. Homemade hand sanitiser

As many reports of shortages of hand sanitiser emerged in many countries, especially Italy, so did instructions for how to make home-made gel on social media.

Image from: Popular Science

But it turned out these recipes were alleged dupes of one of Italy’s most popular brands and many scientists pointed out they were only suitable for cleaning surfaces and not good for use on skin.

Hand gels that contain alcohol also contain emollients, which make them gentler on skin even though they have a 70% alcohol content.

Sally Bloomfield, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says she does not believe an effective hand sanitiser product could be made at home – including Vodka which has not been recommended to use as an alternative to hand sanitiser as it only contains 40% of alcohol and has proven to be ineffective.

4. Heat and avoiding ice cream

A variety of advice suggests that heat kills the virus, from taking hot baths to drinking hot water or absurdly enough, even using hair dryers.

A post that was falsely referenced to UNICEF that claimed drinking hot water and exposure to the sun will kill the virus was shared multiple times on social media in different countries. The post also suggested that ice creams should be avoided as cold things can increase the lifespan of the virus.

Image by: edexLIVE

Even though we know the virus doesn’t survive well outside the body during summer, we are still unsure on how heat impacts the virus. Many doctors have suggested that the virus could not die down during the summer or in hot temperatures as it is able to survive at the body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius.

Therefore, outside the body, “to actively kill the virus you need temperatures of around 60 degrees Celsius”, says Professor Bloomfield.

However, washing bed linen and towels at 60 degrees Celsius is good as it can kill viruses in fabric but is not a good idea for washing skin.

5. Having a drink of water every 15 minutes

A post that has been circulating over Facebook as well as being posted by actor Jessie Williams on his Instagram story, quotes a Japanese doctor who recommends drinking water every 15 minutes to flush out any viruses that may have entered your system through the mouth.

Image from: Snopes

Coronavirus infections can enter the body through respiratory tracts when you breathe in. Even though some of them might go into your mouth, continually drinking water isn’t going to prevent you from catching the virus.

Trudie Lang, a professor at the University of Oxford, says there is “no biological mechanism” that would back the concept of washing a respiratory virus down into your stomach to kill it.

However, generally drinking water and making sure you stay hydrated is good medical advice.

Tesla, Apple and Coca Cola are among companies not providing enough protection measures for employees during the coronavirus pandemic according to Teamsters union.

Many United-States-based companies are not increasing protections enough for their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the union giant Teamsters.

Tech giants Apple and Tesla are not reimbursing shuttle drivers like their competitors Facebook, Genentech, Electronic Arts, Linkedin, Twitter and Salesforce, who are offering shuttle drivers reimbursements, health care and ensures contracted drivers will receive paychecks throughout the pandemic, according to a statement by Teamsters union joint council 7. 

Great Lakes Coca Cola, a company controlled by another American giant corporation Coca Cola, is not offering its employees similar protections due to the coronavirus as their competitors. 

Great Lakes Coca Cola’s competitors, Pepsi Co. Beverages North America and the American Bottling Company, are offering their employees percentage-based increases to their essential workers in addition to their regular hourly pay, paid sick leave to those diagnosed with COVID-19 or forced to quarantine and paid sick leave for workers due to factory closures, according to a statement by Teamsters Local Union number 727 of Park Ridge, Illinois. 

Photo by: Maximilian Bruck on Unsplash

How Has Coca Cola Responded? 

Great Lakes Coca Cola proposed a $100 US dollar weekly stipend only to employees who complete all of their weekly shifts. 

Yet, popular union Teamster is not happy with this proposition.

“It’s absurd that any company during an international health crisis is essentially telling its members they must come to work, no matter what,” said John Coli Jr, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 727 based in Chicago.  

Coca Cola has increased their sanitation efforts to thoroughly clean high touch surfaces, restricts visitors, encourages remote working and will implement isolation protocol if an employee becomes diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a statement. 

Photo by: Julian O’hayon on Unsplash

How Has Apple Responded? 

Apple reopened all of its greater China stores on March 13 while closing all stores outside of the greater China region but continues to take orders through their online stores and promises “fast and free delivery”, according to Apple’s official website. 

Apple is continuing to deep clean office spaces while asking employees who are able to work from home to do so, conducting health screenings and temperature checks, according to a statement on March 13. 

Hourly workers will also be receiving usual pay as with business as usual operations and Apple has extended their leave policy to include health COVID-19 related health circumstances such as recovering from coronavirus, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining or childcare challenges due to school closures, according to a statement. 

Photo by: Tesla

How Has Tesla Responded?

In a Feb. 4 newsletter Tesla explained they want to “become the world’s safest company by continuously integrating safety into the way we work and the products we build, which is why we rely on each of our employees, dedicated leaders and Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) professionals and service providers to promote a culture of safety,” wrote Laurie Shelby, Vice President of Environmental, Health & Safety at Tesla. 

Teamsters Local Union 853 represents over 1000 shuttle drivers some of which work for Tesla and Apple in the area. 

“I am shocked that Apple and Tesla would be so cold-hearted as to refuse to do even the minimum that the other companies are doing for the drivers,” said Stacy Murphy, Teamsters Local 853 Business Representative. 

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