Coronavirus Outbreak: Health System Crashed in Wuhan outbreaks

Başlatan Karabasan, Şub 03, 2020, 05:07 ÖS

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World's biggest wealth fund dragged closer to forced asset sales


Norway's US$950 billion sovereign wealth fund -- the world's biggest -- is about to make history as it prepares to liquidate assets to cover government withdrawals.

The crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic is playing out very differently for the giant investor than the 2008 great recession. Back then, Norway's wealth fund used the global sell-off to buy up cheap stocks. This time, the fund will probably need to offload a sizable chunk of its bond portfolio.

Norway faces its worst economic shock in half a century. With petroleum revenue sharply down, the government has much less income to use on crisis measures. That means it will need to withdraw historic sums from its wealth fund to make ends meet.

While past withdrawals were easily covered by the fund's cash flow, that's no longer the case. Companies it invests in are now suspending dividends en masse, in response to the crisis.

Yngve Slyngstad, chief executive officer of Norges Bank Investment Management, pauses during for a news conference in Oslo, Norway, on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. Norway's sovereign wealth fund returned a record US$180 billion in 2019 thanks to a rally in stock markets.

Chief Executive Officer Yngve Slyngstad has already said cash flow this year will be "significantly lower" than previously expected. In 2019, the fund got 243 billion kroner ($23 billion). Meanwhile, calculations by Bloomberg News show that Norway's government will need to pull at least 266 billion kroner from the fund this year (assuming oil prices stay at current levels through 2020).

The situation is quickly deteriorating, and the numbers remain subject to change. A week ago, it looked like government withdrawals would reach just 150 billion kroner, or about US$14 billion.

The government's latest estimates cover a scenario in which the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic lasts two months. If the fallout continues for another two months after that, the 2020 budget would take a further hit of more than 110 billion kroner, Finance Minister Jan Tore Sanner said in a letter to Parliament on Monday. That would force the fund to resort to even deeper asset sales.

Rebalancing Rule

Meanwhile, a rule requiring the fund to rebalance its portfolio is likely to be triggered on Tuesday, after the equity portfolio fell about 5 percentage points below a 70 per cent target last week. That means withdrawals would need to be covered by bond sales, Slyngstad said.

The contrast to 2008-2009 is striking. In the first quarter of 2009, the fund bought 136 billion kroner's worth of cheap stocks, laying part of the foundation for its spectacular ascent during the decade-long rally that followed. What's more, Norway's petroleum income peaked in 2008, and the government deposited surplus cash into the fund.

Slyngstad, who is due to step down this year after running Norway's wealth fund for 12 years, has described the period right after the 2008 financial crisis as the "hardest -- but also in retrospect best" of his tenure.

The Fund and Government Spending:

  • Norway's fund was set up in the 1990s and invests in stocks, bonds and real estate abroad
  • The Nordic country has a self-imposed rule to limit spending of oil wealth to 3 per cent of the fund's value over annual budgets in the long run, with a goal to only spend the return. This year, that's likely to be at least 3.9 per cent.
  • The state's income from oil production (taxes, direct stakes in fields, Equinor ASA dividend) used to cover oil-wealth spending, with the balance transferred to the wealth fund. The government had to make its first withdrawals from the fund in 2016 and 2017 after oil prices dropped

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Coronavirus could travel 27 feet, stay in air for hours: MIT researcher


Social-distancing guidelines to stay 6 feet from others may be woefully inadequate, one scientist warns -- saying the coronavirus can travel 27 feet and linger for hours.

MIT associate professor Lydia Bourouiba, who has researched the dynamics of coughs and sneezes for years, warns in newly published research that the current guidelines are based on outdated models from the 1930s.

Rather than the assumed safety of 6 feet, Bourouiba warns that "pathogen-bearing droplets of all sizes can travel 23 to 27 feet."

Her research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also warns that "droplets that settle along the trajectory can contaminate surfaces" -- and "residues or droplet nuclei" may "stay suspended in the air for hours."

She notes a 2020 report from China that showed that "virus particles could be found in the ventilation systems in hospital rooms of patients with COVID-19."

Bourouiba fears that the current guidelines are "overly simplified" and "may limit the effectiveness of the proposed interventions" against the deadly pandemic.

She says it is particularly urgent for health care workers who, she argues in her report, face an "underappreciated potential exposure range" while treating the sick and dying.

"There's an urgency in revising the guidelines currently being given by the [World Health Organization] and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] on the needs for protective equipment, particularly for the frontline health care workers," Bourouiba told USA Today.

The World Health Organization -- which suggests 3 feet is enough to remain safe -- told USA Today it "welcomed" studies.

"WHO carefully monitors emerging evidence about this critical topic and will update this scientific brief as more information becomes available," WHO said in a statement to the paper.
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Researchers who mapped some of the original spread of coronavirus in humans have discovered there are variants of the virus throughout the world.


They reconstructed the early evolutionary paths of Covid-19 as infection spread from Wuhan, China, out to Europe and North America. By analysing the first 160 complete virus genomes to be sequenced from human patients, scientists found the variant closest to that discovered in bats was largely found in patients from the US and Australia, not Wuhan. Dr Peter Forster, geneticist and lead author from the University of Cambridge, said: 'There are too many rapid mutations to neatly trace a Covid-19 family tree. We used a mathematical network algorithm to visualise all the plausible trees simultaneously. 'These techniques are mostly known for mapping the movements of prehistoric human populations through DNA. We think this is one of the first times they have been used to trace the infection routes of a coronavirus like Covid-19.'


There are 'too many rapid mutations' to map it neatly, Dr Peter Foster said


The team used data from samples taken from across the world between December 24, 2019 and March 4, 2020. They found three distinct, but closely related, variants of Covid-19, which they called A, B and C.

Researchers found that the closest type of coronavirus to the one discovered in bats - type A, the original human virus genome - was present in Wuhan, but was not the city's predominant virus type. Mutated versions of A were seen in Americans reported to have lived in Wuhan, and a large number of A-type viruses were found in patients from the US and Australia. Wuhan's major virus type was B and was prevalent in patients from across east Asia, however it didn't travel much beyond the region without further mutations.


The team used data from samples taken from across the world between December 24, 2019 and March 4, 2020 (Picture: Nextstrain)

The researchers say the C variant is the major European type, found in early patients from France, Italy, Sweden and England. The analysis also suggests one of the earliest introductions of the virus into Italy came via the first documented German infection on January 27, and that another early Italian infection route was related to a 'Singapore cluster'. It is absent from the study's Chinese mainland sample but seen in Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. Scientists argue their methods could be applied to the very latest coronavirus genome sequencing to help predict future global hotspots of disease transmission and surge.


The original strain has moved to the US and Australia while type C spread to Europe (Picture: PNAS)


The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Variant A, most closely related to the virus found in both bats and pangolins, is described as the root of the outbreak by researchers. Type B is derived from A, separated by two mutations, then C is in turn a 'daughter' of B, the study suggests. The phylogenetic network methods used by researchers - which looks at evolutionary relationships among biological entities - allowed the visualisation of hundreds of evolutionary trees simultaneously in one simple graph.

https://metro.co.uk/2020/04/10/coronavirus-mutated-three-distinct-strains-spread-across-world-12536852/

Original article

Phylogenetic network analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genomes
https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/04/07/2004999117
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Phase II clinical trial for COVID-19 vaccine underway


Chinese scientists have kicked off the second phase of a clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine in the hardest-hit city of Wuhan, in Central China's Hubei province, on Sunday.

It is China's first recombinant vaccine candidate for novel coronavirus entering Phase II of a human clinical trial, with 500 volunteer participants.

The eldest volunteer is 84-year-old Wuhan resident Xiong Zhengxing, who completed the vaccination on Monday morning, accompanied by his daughter.

The trial is led by the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention and jointly conducted with the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University.

The vaccine, developed by the Institute of Biotechnology, Academy of Military Medical Sciences, is constructed by genetic engineering methods and is used to prevent diseases caused by novel coronavirus infections.

The first phase of the vaccine clinical trial focused on its safety, while the second phase weighs more on its efficacy. Unlike the first phase, the second phase recruited more participants and introduced a placebo control group, according to Zhongnan Hospital.

Volunteer recruitment for the vaccine began on Thursday. It is China's first candidate for the virus that entered clinical human testing. The Phase I trial was conducted in March.

https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202004/13/WS5e94688da3105d50a3d15e33.html Mesajı Paylaş
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CORONAVIRUS CAN SURVIVE HIGH TEMPERATURES FOR LONG PERIODS, STUDY FINDS


Some strains of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can survive temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for an hour, researchers have found. To kill the virus in a laboratory setting, the team had to heat it to 92 degrees Celsius (197 degrees Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes.

The study, which appears on the pre-print website bioRxiv, has not been published in a scientific journal and has not been peer reviewed by experts, so the findings should be considered with caution.

The team, led by Boris Pastorino, from the Emerging Viral Diseases Unit at Aix-Marseille University, in France, were looking at what heating and chemical requirements are needed to inactivate the virus. They were looking at the risk the virus poses to laboratory workers who are regularly in contact with SARS-CoV-2.

The team concluded that because low viral loads are observed in most COVID-19 patients, the lower heat temperatures should be sufficient to deactivate it. However, samples with far higher loads need higher temperatures. "The results presented in this study should help to choose the best suited protocol for inactivation in order to prevent exposure of laboratory personnel in charge of direct and indirect detection of SARS-CoV-2 for diagnostic purposes," they wrote.

Jeremy Rossman, Senior Lecturer in Virology at the University of Kent, U.K., who was not involved in the research, said the findings had important implications for laboratory workers, and could help provide guidance for people researching and performing diagnostics on SARS-CoV-2.

"If the results do hold up to peer review, the paper provides helpful guidance on handling of SARS-CoV-2 samples for laboratory worker," he told Newsweek. "With low levels of virus--as is the case for most mild human cases--the 56 degree Celsius heat inactivation used in many diagnostic labs is shown to be sufficient; however, for samples that potentially contain very high levels of virus--such as sputum samples from critical cases--their results suggest that a higher heat of 92 degree Celsius is necessary for complete virus inactivation."

Other studies have assessed the stability of the virus under different conditions. In one correspondence published in the Lancet Microbe, researchers found SARS-CoV-2 was "highly stable" 4 degrees Celsius. However, at 70 degrees Celsius, they found the virus was inactivated in five minutes.

In another pre-print paper, researchers from Beijing, China, found air temperature and humidity played a role in transmission of the virus. By analyzing infection rates across 100 Chinese cities, they found higher temperatures and humidity levels appeared to "significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19." They said this was in line with SARS and influenza, which both have reduced transmission under these conditions.
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Singapore's cramped migrant worker dorms hide Covid-19 surge risk


Singapore, praised for its gold standard approach to tracing coronavirus cases, is facing a surge in transmission linked to its cramped migrant workers' dormitories, where thousands more infections are expected to emerge.

The health ministry reported 728 new cases on Thursday, the biggest rise in a single day, as medical teams raced to test and isolate workers living in vast dormitory blocks.

While Singapore has been lauded for its rapid and comprehensive approach to contract tracing, officials have been accused of overlooking the dormitories, where thousands of workers live in close quarters and between 12 and 20 men might share a single room.

In March the campaign group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) urged officials to make plans to protect workers, warning: "The risk of a new cluster among this group remains undeniable." Authorities are resorting to moving men to multi-storey car parks, military camps and floating hotels in an attempt to reduce crowding.

Mohan Dutta, a professor at Massey University in New Zealand, who has interviewed 45 migrant workers in Singapore since the outbreak began, said many feared an outbreak was inevitable due to the conditions.

"Participants told me that even up until Monday they don't have access to soap and adequate cleaning supplies," he said. While migrants were being served food so that they did not use shared kitchens, the quality of meals was poor and lacking in nutrition. In some cases 100 men were sharing five toilets and five showers.

Nine dormitories, the biggest of which holds 24,000 men, have been declared isolation units by officials, while all other buildings accommodating the city-state's 300,000 workers have been placed under effective lockdown. The restrictions, an attempt to reduce further transmission, have left the dormitories even more crowded than usual as only essential workers are permitted to leave.

One construction worker, from Bangladesh, told the Guardian there were long queues to use shared bathrooms which often did not have enough water for the showers or toilets to function.

No one in his dormitory had yet tested positive, he said, but some people had temperatures of 38C. "In my room and other rooms also there are many [with] symptoms, some feel [they have] no energy, someone has body aches," he said. "We are frightened."



The government said it had increased cleaning services in the dormitories, which are usually privately operated, and was providing meals to workers and moving people to alternative accommodation.

Professor Dale Fisher, a senior consultant in infectious diseases at Singapore's National University Hospital, said medical teams had moved from hospitals to test people on site quickly. "If we don't stop it there the hospitals will get overwhelmed."

It was likely that thousands more cases would be discovered, Fisher said. "[The men] are all 30 to 40 years old, which is good, but still when you're dealing with these massive numbers you're going to get a good number of sick 30 to 40-year-olds.

"The risk [relating to migrant worker dormitories] is completely different and the preparation and the anticipation wasn't there.

"The message to other places is, if you have an overcrowded setting it is just so vulnerable," Fisher said, pointing to slum areas in countries such as India. "When people say India's shutdown has been extended - I can't think of anything other than shutting down. It's like the only defence you've got."

The second wave of cases in Singapore has brought the total number of infections to 4,427 including 10 deaths. Fisher said he was not aware of any fatalities among migrant worker clusters but these typically were not recorded until a later date.

Singapore's migrant workers, who are largely from India and Bangladesh, are an essential part of the work force. Many toil for long hours on the country's construction sites, building its skyscrapers and shopping malls, so that they can send money to relatives back home.

It is not uncommon for workers, who have temporary contracts and are dependent upon their employers for work permits, to be paid less than promised. Workers might be promised as much as S$1,200 per month, but typically receive anything between S$500-750, according to Dutta. The workers pay large sums in agency fees to work in Singapore and are often reluctant to complain for fear of being deported.

Workers' dormitories are on the outskirts of the city-state, which, Dutta said, "makes them in many ways invisible to the landscape of Singapore".
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/17/singapores-cramped-migrant-worker-dorms-hide-covid-19-surge-risk Mesajı Paylaş
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First known U.S. coronavirus death occurred on Feb. 6 in Santa Clara County


A person who died at home in Santa Clara County on Feb. 6 was infected with the coronavirus at the time of death, a stunning discovery that makes that individual the first recorded COVID-19 fatality in the United States, according to autopsy results released by public health officials late Tuesday.

That death -- three weeks before the first fatality was reported in the U.S., in Washington state on Feb. 28 -- adds to increasing evidence that the virus was in the country far earlier than once thought.

Santa Clara County on Tuesday announced three previously unidentified deaths from the coronavirus: the Feb. 6 case; one on Feb. 17, which also predates the death that was earlier believed to be the first; and one on March 6. Initially, the first death in the county had been reported March 9.

"What it means is we had coronavirus circulating in the community much earlier than we had documented and much earlier than we had thought," said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County's public health officer. "Those deaths probably represent many, many more infections. And so there had to be chains of transmission that go back much earlier."

Cody did not provide details about the people who died in February but said the deaths "tell us we had community transmission - probably significant community transmission - far before we realized it and documented it."

"From what we understand, neither of the cases had a history of travel," Cody said. "So we assume that they were acquired locally."

People typically die of COVID-19 about a month after they are infected with the coronavirus, suggesting that the person who died Feb. 6 likely was infected in early January. At that time, the virus had been reported only in China -- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not yet issued any advisories to Americans about the potential threat.

Santa Clara County officials said in a statement that the medical examiner-coroner had performed autopsies on two people who died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 and sent tissue samples to the CDC. The CDC confirmed that both samples were positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday.

The county also confirmed a resident who died March 6 had died from COVID-19.

All three residents died at home "during a time when very limited testing was available only through the CDC," the county statement said.

"Testing criteria set by the CDC at the time restricted testing to only individuals with a known travel history and who sought medical care for specific symptoms," the statement said. "As the medical examiner-coroner continues to carefully investigate deaths throughout the county, we anticipate additional deaths from COVID-19 will be identified."

As of Tuesday, Santa Clara County had reported 1,946 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 88 deaths.

John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley, said Tuesday night that he was impressed that Santa Clara County had thought to look at earlier deaths and determine if they could be attributed to the coronavirus.

"I'd like to better understand when this virus got here," he said. "I'm delighted to hear they're being aggressive and trying to get a better understanding."

He added that he was not surprised to learn of the earlier deaths. Experts have suspected for weeks now that the virus likely entered the United States in December, or even earlier.

The first case in the United States was identified Jan. 21, in a man in Seattle who had recently returned from China. The earliest cases in the Bay Area were also in recent travelers. At the time, only people with similar travel histories were tested, or people with whom they came into close contact.

"Jan. 21 was the first time we identified it here. But we know there were cases in China in December," Swartzberg said. "As a matter of fact, it may have been circulating there as early as September." And with so much travel between China and the Bay Area, "why would it surprise us if it were here?" he said.

Many of the earliest cases were likely overlooked, Swartzberg and other infectious disease experts have said. The first outbreak of a new viral infection in China was only reported in late December. The virus itself wasn't identified until early January. And for weeks, it was considered largely contained there -- no one was looking for it in the U.S.

Also, in January the United States was in the middle of the typical influenza season, so a death in someone with symptoms similar to the flu wouldn't have provoked investigation in January, Swartzberg said. In fact, public health experts have surmised that many early deaths from COVID-19 were attributed to the flu instead.

"It was influenza season," Swartzberg said. "Everyone thought it was the flu."

https://www.sfchronicle.com/health/article/First-known-U-S-coronavirus-death-occurred-on-15217316.php?utm_campaign=CMS%20Sharing%20Tools%20(Premium)&utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=referral Mesajı Paylaş
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Coronavirus detected on particles of air pollution


Coronavirus has been detected on particles of air pollution by scientists investigating whether this could enable it to be carried over longer distances and increase the number of people infected.

The work is preliminary and it is not yet known if the virus remains viable on pollution particles and in sufficient quantity to cause disease.

The Italian scientists used standard techniques to collect outdoor air pollution samples at one urban and one industrial site in Bergamo province and identified a gene highly specific to Covid-19 in multiple samples. The detection was confirmed by blind testing at an independent laboratory.

Leonardo Setti at the University of Bologna in Italy, who led the work, said it was important to investigate if the virus could be carried more widely by air pollution.

"I am a scientist and I am worried when I don't know," he said. "If we know, we can find a solution. But if we don't know, we can only suffer the consequences."

Two other research groups have suggested air pollution particles could help coronavirus travel further in the air.

A statistical analysis by Setti's team suggests higher levels of particle pollution could explain higher rates of infection in parts of northern Italy before a lockdown was imposed, an idea supported by another preliminary analysis. The region is one of the most polluted in Europe.

Neither of the studies by Setti's team have been peer-reviewed and therefore have not been endorsed by independent scientists. But experts agree their proposal is plausible and requires investigation.

Previous studies have shown that air pollution particles do harbour microbes and that pollution is likely to have carried the viruses causing bird flu, measles and foot-and-mouth disease over considerable distances.

The potential role of air pollution particles is linked to the broader question of how the coronavirus is transmitted. Large virus-laden droplets from infected people's coughs and sneezes fall to the ground within a metre or two. But much smaller droplets, less than 5 microns in diameter, can remain in the air for minutes to hours and travel further.

Experts are not sure whether these tiny airborne droplets can cause coronavirus infections, though they know the 2003 Sars coronavirus was spread in the air and that the new virus can remain viable for hours in tiny droplets.

But researchers say the importance of potential airborne transmission, and the possible boosting role of pollution particles, mean it must not be ruled out without evidence.

Prof Jonathan Reid at Bristol University in the UK is researching airborne transmission of coronavirus. "It is perhaps not surprising that while suspended in air, the small droplets could combine with background urban particles and be carried around."

He said the virus had been detected in tiny droplets collected indoors in China.

Setti said tiny droplets between 0.1 and 1 micron may travel further when coalesced with pollution particles up to 10 microns than on their own. This is because the combined particle is larger and less dense than the droplet and can remain buoyed by the air for longer.

"The pollution particle is like a micro-airplane and the passengers are the droplets," said Sett. Reid is more cautious: "I think the very small change in the size of the [combined] particles is unlikely to play much of a role."

Prof Frank Kelly at Imperial College London said the idea of pollution particles carrying the virus further afield was an interesting one. "It is possible, but I would like to see this work repeated by two or three groups."

Another expert, Prof John Sodeau at University College Cork, in the Republic of Ireland, said: "The work seems plausible. But that is the bottom line at the moment, and plausible [particle] interactions are not always biologically viable and may have no effect in the atmosphere." He said the normal course of scientific research might take two or three years to confirm such findings.

Other research has indicated correlations between increased Covid-19 deaths and higher levels of air pollution before the pandemic. Long-term exposure to dirty air is known to damage lung health, which could make people more vulnerable to Covid-19.
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Global coronavirus death toll could be 60% higher than reported


The death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60 per cent higher than reported in official counts, according to an FT analysis of overall fatalities during the pandemic in 14 countries.

Mortality statistics show 122,000 deaths in excess of normal levels across these locations, considerably higher than the 77,000 official Covid-19 deaths reported for the same places and time periods.

If the same level of under-reporting observed in these countries was happening worldwide, the global Covid-19 death toll would rise from the current official total of 201,000 to as high as 318,000.

To calculate excess deaths, the FT has compared deaths from all causes in the weeks of a location's outbreak in March and April 2020 to the average for the same period between 2015 and 2019. The total of 122,000 amounts to a 50 per cent rise in overall mortality relative to the historical average for the locations studied.

In all the countries analysed except Denmark, excess deaths far outnumbered the official coronavirus death tolls. The accuracy of official death statistics from the virus is limited by how effectively a country is testing people to confirm cases. Some countries, including China, have retrospectively revised up their death tolls from the disease. 




According to the FT analysis, overall deaths rose 60 per cent in Belgium, 51 per cent in Spain, 42 per cent in the Netherlands and 34 per cent in France during the pandemic compared with the same period in previous years.

Some of these deaths may be the result of causes other than Covid-19, as people avoid hospitals for other ailments. But excess mortality has risen most steeply in places suffering the worst Covid-19 outbreaks, suggesting most of these deaths are directly related to the virus rather than simply side-effects of lockdowns.

David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge university, said the daily counts in the UK, for instance, were "far too low" because they only accounted for hospital deaths.

"The only unbiased comparison you can make between different countries is by looking at all cause mortality . . . There are so many questions about the rise we've seen in death that have not got Covid on the death certificate, yet you feel are inevitably linked in some way to this epidemic."

The extra deaths are most pronounced in urban areas with the worst virus outbreaks, and have completely overwhelmed reporting mechanisms in some. This is especially worrying for many emerging economies, where total excess mortality is orders of magnitude higher than official coronavirus fatalities.

In Ecuador's Guayas province, just 245 official Covid-related deaths were reported between March 1 and April 15, but data on total deaths show that about 10,200 more people died during this period than in a typical year -- an increase of 350 per cent.




In the northern Italian region of Lombardy, the heart of Europe's worst outbreak, there are more than 13,000 excess deaths in the official statistics for the nearly 1,700 municipalities for which data is available. This is an uptick of 155 per cent on the historical average and far higher than the 4,348 reported Covid deaths in the region.

The region surrounding the Italian city of Bergamo registered the worst increase internationally with a 464 per cent rise in deaths above normal levels, followed by New York City with a 200 per cent increase, and Madrid, Spain, with a 161 per cent increase.

In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, data on burials shows an increase of 1,400 relative to the historical average during the same period -- 15 times the official figure of 90 Covid deaths for the same period.

The challenge is not confined to the developing world. In England and Wales, the number of fatalities in the week ending April 10 was the highest this century. The figure was 76 per cent higher than the average for the same week in the past five years, and the number of excess deaths was 58 per cent higher than the total number of reported Covid-deaths for the same period.

"If we want to . . . [understand] the ways different countries have responded to the surging pandemic and how [it] has affected the health of the population, the best way is to count excess deaths," said David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Experts have warned of serious under-reporting of Covid-19 cases in residential facilities for the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. "Very few countries appear to be testing people in care homes, staff and residents, systematically," said Adelina Comas-Herrera, research fellow at the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre of the London School of Economics.

Even the much higher numbers of deaths in the pandemic suggested by excess mortality statistics are likely to be conservative, as lockdowns mean that "mortality from numerous conditions such as traffic accidents and occupational injuries possibly went down", said Markéta Pechholdová, assistant professor of demography at the University of Economics, Prague.

Clarification: A chart in this article was amended to indicate that the mortality data used for Italy is for an incomplete set of that country's municipalities. Complete national mortality data for Italy have not yet been released.

https://www.ft.com/content/6bd88b7d-3386-4543-b2e9-0d5c6fac846c
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Bombshell 'Five Eyes' Western intelligence dossier claims China lied about human-to-human transmission, 'disappeared' whistle-blowers and refused to help other countries prepare a vaccine for coronavirus


  • A leaked 15-page dossier from the 'Five Eyes' intelligence alliance says China's secrecy over the pandemic is an 'assault on international transparency'
  • The US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand intelligence agencies have exposed a series of cover-ups
  • It claims Five Eyes found a 'deadly denial of human-to-human transmission'
  • Researchers who tried to raise the alarm have been silenced or disappeared and evidence of the outbreak was destroyed, it adds
  • Report shows China refused to hand over virus samples to develop vaccines and censored its internet
  • China also allegedly censored virus news on search engines from December 
  • The leaked files show the nations have evidence the virus was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology 


China lied about the human-to-human transmission of coronavirus, made whistle-blowers disappear and refused to help nations develop a vaccine, a leaked intelligence dossier reveals.

The 15-page document drawn up by the Five Eyes security alliance brands Beijing's secrecy over the pandemic an 'assault on international transparency' and points to cover-up tactics deployed by the regime.

It claims that the Chinese government silenced its most vocal critics and expunged any scepticism about its handling of the health emergency from the internet.

China has roundly come under fire for suppressing the scale of its early outbreak which did not afford other nations time to react before the disease hit their shores. 

Five Eyes - the pooling of intelligence by the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - laid bare its scathing assessment of the Xi Jinping administration in a memo obtained by the Australian Saturday Telegraph

The smoking gun file claims to have found evidence the virus spawned in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, close to the wet market China says it came from.

But the paper describes how Beijing was outwardly downplaying the outbreak on the world stage while secretly scrambling to bury all traces of the disease.

This involved 'destroying' laboratory samples, bleaching wet market stalls, censoring the growing evidence of 'silent carriers' of the virus and stonewalling sample requests from other countries.

In a damning portrayal of a mass cover-up, the bombshell report reveals:

  • Chinese researchers of bat-related viruses studied a sample which had a 96 per cent genetic match to Covid-19 as early as 2013;
  • Their 'risky' research found in 2015 that the disease was transmissible from bats to humans;
  • Information on asymptomatic carriers of the disease was 'kept silent' by the Chinese state;
  • Beijing started censoring search engines in December to stop any internet surfing relating to the virus;
  • The World Health Organisation followed China by denying evidence of human-to-human transmission until late January despite concerns raised by neighbouring countries';
  • The Five Eyes countries lashed out at China for criticising other countries' flight freezes while simultaneously locking down Hubei Province.



A leaked 15-page dossier from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance claims China's secrecy over the pandemic is an 'assault on international transparency'. The files show the nations were probing the possibility the virus was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (above)

Dossier suggests China's coronavirus cover up dates back to November 2015

  • November 9, 2015: Wuhan laboratory announces they have created a new virus from SARS-CoV. 
  • December 6, 2019: The first evidence of human-to-human transmission occurs when a wife contracts a pneumonia-like disease after her husband displayed similar symptoms after visiting the Wuhan wet market.
  • December 27: Beijing announced a new coronavirus which had infected 180 people. 
  • December 31: Chinese state officials start monitoring the internet for searches of the unknown virus.
  • January 1, 2020: A handful of Wuhan medics raising the alarm bell on the virus are arrested.
  • January 3: China bans scaremongering about the new virus.
  • January 10: Chinese official Wang Guangfa insists the outbreak is 'under control'.
  • January 11: China reported its first coronavirus death.
  • January 23: Wuhan was put into lockdown.
  • January 30: The WHO branded the outbreak a global emergency.
  • February 7:  Dr Li Wenliang who spoke out about the virus died after contracting it.
  • April: Wuhan revises up its cases as other countries wrestle the global pandemic.


The Five Eyes dossier paints an alarming image of increasingly authoritarian powers used by Beijing to hide its disease to the wider world. 

One of the most critical aspects of the report is of China's lack of transparency over how the disease spreads.

The file points to a 'deadly denial of human-to-human transmission' in the early stages of the the outbreak in Wuhan.

Intelligence gathering reveals China had 'evidence of human-human transmission from early December,' but continued to deny it could spread this way until January 20.   

The World Health Organisation regurgitated Beijing's claims despite officials in neighbouring Taiwan and Hong Kong raising concerns, the report says.

Evidence of asymptomatic cases, known as 'silent carriers', was also reportedly buried.

But while the Chinese regime were downplaying the threat of the virus on the world stage, it was secretly scrambling to vanish all traces of the epidemic, the intelligence memo claims.

On January 3, China's National Health Commission reportedly ordered virus samples be destroyed and issued a 'no-publication order' about the virus.

As part of a mass 'suppression and destruction of evidence', the state ordered samples of the virus to be destroyed in laboratories while wet market was bleached to extinguish remnants of the disease. 

The report reveals China had started censoring news of the virus on search engines from December 31, deleting terms such as 'SARS variation, 'Wuhan Seafood market' and 'Wuhan Unknown Pneumonia.'

Anecdotal reports from the time also suggested Beijing's hand in hiding evidence of the then unknown disease from the internet.   

The document is also scathing of China's downplaying of the need for other countries to impose travel bans while Beijing officials were simultaneously quaranteeing Wuhan's 11 million citizens.

Underscoring the regime's hypocrisy, the paper says: 'Millions of people leave Wuhan after the outbreak and before Beijing locks down the city on January 23,' according to The Telegraph.

'Thousands fly overseas. Throughout February, Beijing presses the US, Italy, India, Australia, Southeast Asian neighbors and others not to protect themselves via travel restrictions, even as the PRC imposes severe restrictions at home.' 


Dr. Shi Zhengli pictured in a lab in 2017. Her research into deadly bat-derived coronaviruses was cited a key concern by the intelligence, according to the dossier



A Wuhan food market. Australia has maintained the virus most likely came from the Wuhan live animal market and said there was only a 5 percent chance it came from the lab. Australia's own connections with the lab were also documented in the dossier, according to The Telegraph


Doctors and scientists who tried to raise the alarm about the virus and China's handling of it have also vanished or been punished, according to the documents.   

Huang Yan Ling, a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and thought to be patient zero for the global pandemic, mysteriously disappeared and her biography was deleted from the lab's website.

The institute has denied she was so-called '­patient zero' and said she is alive but she has not been heard from since.

Other whistleblowers including businessman Fang Bin, lawyer Chen Qiushi and former state TV reporter Li Zehua are reportedly being held in extrajudicial detention centers for speaking out about China's response to the pandemic.

The dossier shows some disagreement among the Five Eyes nations over whether the virus originated in the Wuhan lab or the wet market, the Telegraph reported.

It claims the nations were probing the possibility the virus was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, with several studies led by scientist Dr. Shi Zhengli being cited as concerns in the report.

The dossier outlines that Zhengli and her team have conducted research in the lab into deadly bat-derived coronaviruses, with at least one of the virus samples being a 96 per cent genetic match for Covid-19.

Donald Trump has been leading the Western backlash to China, while Downing Street yesterday said 'there are questions to be answered' of Covid-19's origins.

This week, Trump said he had seen evidence that coronavirus may have been created in the Chinese lab.

'Yes I have. Yes I have,' Trump said when asked if he had seen proof the virus originated in the institute.

He would not divulge what the evidence was that confirmed his suspicions.

In Britain, Number 10 would not be drawn on the specifics of Mr Trump's comments but reiterated its desire for an international probe into the start of the outbreak.

Asked if Boris Johnson agreed with Mr Trump, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said: 'There are clearly questions that need to be answered about the origin and spread of the virus, not least so we can ensure that we are better prepared for future global pandemics.

However, Australia has maintained the virus most likely came from the Wuhan live animal market and said there was only a 5 percent chance it came from the lab.

Australia's own connections with the lab were also documented in the dossier, according to The Telegraph.

The Telegraph reported that the Australian government trained and funded key scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as part of an ongoing partnership between the CSIRO and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. 

The team members worked in the CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory where they carried out research into deadly pathogens in live bats.

It was revealed in April that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had received a $3.7million grant from the US government, and had been carrying out research on bats.
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Coronavirus NSW: Dossier lays out case against China bat virus program

China deliberately suppressed or destroyed evidence of the coronavirus outbreak in an "assault on international transparency'' that cost tens of thousands of lives, according to a dossier prepared by concerned Western governments on the COVID-19 contagion.

The 15-page research document, obtained by The Saturday Telegraph, lays the foundation for the case of negligence being mounted against China.

It states that to the "endangerment of other countries" the Chinese government covered-up news of the virus by silencing or "disappearing" doctors who spoke out, destroying evidence of it in laboratories and refusing to provide live samples to international scientists who were working on a vaccine.

It can also be revealed the Australian government trained and funded a team of Chinese scientists who belong to a laboratory which went on to genetically modify deadly coronaviruses that could be transmitted from bats to humans and had no cure, and is not the subject of a probe into the origins of COVID-19.

As intelligence agencies investigate whether the virus inadvertently leaked from a Wuhan laboratory, the team and its research led by scientist Shi Zhengli feature in the dossier prepared by Western governments that points to several studies they conducted as areas of concern.

It cites their work discovering samples of coronavirus from a cave in the Yunnan province with striking genetic similarity to COVID-19, along with their research synthesising a bat-derived coronavirus that could not be treated.

Its major themes include the "deadly denial of human-to-human transmission", the silencing or "disappearing" of doctors and scientists who spoke out, the destruction of evidence of the virus from genomic studies laboratories, and "bleaching of wildlife market stalls", along with the refusal to provide live virus samples to international scientists working on a vaccine.

Key figures of the Wuhan Institute of Virology team, who feature in the government dossier, were either trained or employed in the CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory where they conducted foundational research on deadly pathogens in live bats, including SARS, as part of an ongoing partnership between the CSIRO and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

This partnership continues to this day, according to the website of the Wuhan ­Institute of Virology, despite concerns the research is too risky.

Politicians in the Morrison government are speaking out about the national security and biosecurity concerns of this relationship as the controversial research into bat-related viruses now comes into sharp focus amid the investigation by the Five Eyes intelligence agencies of the United States, Australia, NZ, Canada and the UK.

RISKY BAT RESEARCH

In Wuhan, in China's Hubei province, not far from the now infamous Wuhan wet market, Dr Shi and her team work in high-protective gear in level-three and level-four bio-containment laboratories studying deadly bat-derived coronaviruses.

At least one of the ­estimated 50 virus samples Dr Shi has in her laboratory is a 96 per cent genetic match to COVID-19. When Dr Shi heard the news about the outbreak of a new ­pneumonia-like virus, she spoke about the sleepless nights she suffered worrying whether it was her lab that was responsible for the outbreak.

As she told Scientific American magazine in an article published this week: "Could they have come from our lab?" Since her initial fears, Dr Shi has satisfied herself the genetic sequence of COVID-19 did not match any her lab was studying.

Yet, given the extent of the People's Republic of China's lies, obfuscations and angry refusal to allow any investigation into the origin of the outbreak, her laboratory is now being closely looked at by international intelligence agencies.

The Australian government's position is that the virus most likely originated in the Wuhan wet market but that there is a remote possibility -- a 5 per cent chance -- it accidentally leaked from a laboratory.

The US's position, according to reports this week, is that it is more likely the virus leaked from a laboratory but it could also have come from a wet market that trades and slaughters wild animals, where other diseases including the H5N1 avian flu and SARS originated.

CREATING MORE DEADLY VIRUSES

The Western governments' research paper confirms this.

It notes a 2013 study conducted by a team of researchers, including Dr Shi, who collected a sample of horseshoe bat faeces from a cave in Yunnan province, China, which was later found to contain a virus 96.2 per cent identical to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused COVID-19.

The research dossier also references work done by the team to synthesise SARS-like coronaviruses, to analyse whether they could be transmissible from bats to mammals. This means they were altering parts of the virus to test whether it was transmissible to different species.

Their November 2015 study, done in conjunction with the University of North Carolina, concluded that the SARS-like virus could jump directly from bats to humans and there was no treatment that could help.

The study acknowledges the incredible danger of the work they were conducting.

"The potential to prepare for and mitigate future outbreaks must be weighed against the risk of creating more dangerous pathogens," they wrote.

You have to be a scientist to understand it, but below is the line that the governments' research paper references from the study.

"To examine the emergence potential (that is, the potential to infect humans) of circulating bat CoVs, we built a chimeric virus encoding a novel, zoonotic CoV spike protein -- from the RsSHCO14-CoV sequence that was isolated from Chinese horseshoe bats -- in the context of the SARS-CoV mouse-adapted backbone," the study states.

One of Dr Shi's co-authors on that paper, Professor Ralph Baric from North Carolina University, said in an interview with Science Daily at the time: "This virus is highly pathogenic and treatments developed against the original SARS virus in 2002 and the ZMapp drugs used to fight ebola fail to neutralise and control this particular virus."

A few years later, in March 2019, Dr Shi and her team, including Peng Zhou, who worked in Australia for five years, published a review ­titled Bat Coronaviruses in China in the medical journal Viruses, where they wrote that they "aim to predict virus hot spots and their cross-species transmission potential", describing it as a matter of "urgency to study bat corona­viruses in China to understand their potential of causing another outbreak. Their review stated: "It is highly likely that future SARS or MERS like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China."

It examined which proteins were "important for interspecies transmission".

Despite intelligence probes into whether her laboratory may have been responsible for the outbreak, Dr Shi is not hitting pause on her research, which she argues is more important than ever in preventing a pandemic. She plans to head a national project to systemically sample viruses in bat caves, with estimates that there are more than 5000 coronavirus strains "waiting to be discovered in bats globally".

"Bat-borne coronaviruses will cause more outbreaks," she told Scientific American. "We must find them before they find us."

AUSTRALIA'S INVOLVEMENT

Dr Shi, the director of the Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Wuhan Institute of Virology, spent time in Australia as a ­visiting scientist for three months from February 22 to May 21, 2006, where she worked at the CSIRO's top-level Australian Animal Health Laboratory, which has recently been ­renamed.

The CSIRO would not comment on what work she undertook during her time here, but an archived and translated biography on the Wuhan Institute of Virology website states that she was working with the SARS virus.

"The SARS virus antibodies and genes were tested in the State Key Laboratory of Virology in Wuhan and the Animal Health Research Laboratory in Geelong, Australia," it states.

The Telegraph has obtained two photographs of her working at the CSIRO laboratories, including in the level-four lab, in 2006.


Shi Zhengli, director of the Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Wuhan Institute of Virology, who working in Australia in 2006.

Dr Shi's protégé, Peng Zhou -- now the head of the Bat Virus Infection and Immunity Project at the Wuhan Institute of Virology -- spent three years at the bio-containment facility Australian Animal Health Laboratory between 2011 and 2014. He was sent by China to complete his doctorate at the CSIRO from 2009-2010.

During this time, Dr Zhou arranged for wild-caught bats to be transported alive by air from Queensland to the lab in Victoria where they were euthanised for dissection and studied for deadly viruses.

Dr Linfa Wang, while an Honorary Professor of the Wuhan Institute of Virology between 2005 and 2011, also worked in the CSIRO Office of the Chief Executive Science Leader in Virology between 2008 and 2011.

Federal Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson said it was "very concerning" that Chinese scientists had been conducting research into bat viruses at the CSIRO in Geelong, Victoria, in jointly funded projects between the Australian and Chinese governments.

"We need to exercise extreme care with any research projects involving foreign nationals which may compromise our national security or biosecurity," she said.

While the US has cut all funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the CSIRO would not respond to ­questions about whether it is still collaborating with it, saying only that it collaborates with research organisations from around the world to prevent diseases.

"As with all partners, CSIRO undertakes due diligence and takes security very seriously," a spokesman said. "CSIRO undertakes all research in accordance with strict biosecurity and legislative requirements."

IS THE RESEARCH WORTH THE RISK?

The US withdrew funding from controversial experiments that make pathogens more potent or likely to spread dangerous viruses in October 2014, concerned it could lead to a global pandemic.

The pause on funding for 21 "gain of function" studies was then lifted in December 2017.

Despite the concerns, the CSIRO continued to partner and fund research with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The CSIRO refused to respond to questions from The Saturday Telegraph about how much money went into joint research collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Science and its Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The Wuhan Institute still lists the CSIRO as a partner while the US has cut ties since the coronavirus outbreak.

The argument is whether it is worth developing these viruses to anticipate and prevent a pandemic when a leak of the virus could also cause one. Debate in the scientific community is heated.

There have also been serious concerns about a lack of adequate safety practices at the Wuhan Institute of Virology when dealing with deadly viruses.

A ''Sensitive but Unclassified'' cable, dated January 19, 2018, obtained by The Washington Post, revealed that US embassy scientists and diplomats in Beijing visited the laboratory and sent warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety practices and management weaknesses as it conducted research on coronaviruses from bats.

"During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of ­appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory," the cable stated.


Australian Animal Health Laboratory, in East Geelong, is part of the CSIRO. Picture: Andy Rogers


UNLIKELY CLAIMS VIRUS CREATED IN LAB

Scientific consensus is that the virus came from a wetmarket. But the US's top spy agency confirmed on the record for the first time yesterday that the US intelligence committee is investigating whether COVID-19 was the result of an accident at a Wuhan laboratory.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence acting director Richard Grenell said the virus was not created in a laboratory.

"The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to US policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China," he said.

"The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified. As we do in all crises, the Community's experts respond by surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to US national security. The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan."

Despite Mr Grenell's statement and scientific consensus that the virus was not created in a laboratory, based on its genome sequence the governments' research paper obtained by The Telegraph notes a study that claims it was created.

South China University of Technology researchers published a study on February 6 that concluded "the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high-risk biohazards laboratories".

"The paper is soon withdrawn because it 'was not supported by direct proofs', according to author Botao Xiano," the dossier noted, continuing to point out that: '"No scientists have confirmed or refuted the paper's findings', scholar Yanzhong Huang wrote on March 5."

The Saturday Telegraph does not claim that the South China University of Technology study is credible, only that it has been included in this government research paper produced as part of the case against China.

CHINA'S COVER-UP OF EARLY SAMPLES

The paper obtained by The Saturday Telegraph speaks about "the suppression and destruction of evidence" and points to "virus samples ordered destroyed at genomics labs, wildlife market stalls bleached, the genome sequence not shared publicly, the Shanghai lab closure for 'rectification', academic articles subjected to prior review by the Ministry of Science and Technology and data on asymptomatic 'silent carriers' kept secret".

It paints a picture of how the Chinese government deliberately covered up the coronavirus by silencing doctors who spoke out, destroying evidence from the Wuhan laboratory and refusing to provide live virus samples to international scientists working on a vaccine.

The US, along with other countries, has repeatedly ­demanded a live virus sample from the first batch of coronavirus cases. This is understood to have not been forthcoming despite its vital importance in developing a vaccine while potentially providing an indication of where the virus originated.

THE LAB WORKER WHO DISAPPEARED

Out of all the doctors, activists, journalists and scientists who have reportedly disappeared after speaking out about the coronavirus or criticising the response of Chinese authorities, no case is more intriguing and worrying than that of Huang Yan Ling.

A researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the South China Morning Post reported rumours swirling on Chinese social media that she was the first to be diagnosed with the disease and was ­"patient zero".

Then came her reported disappearance, with her biography and image deleted from the Wuhan Institute of Virology's website.

On February 16 the institute denied she was ­patient zero and said she was alive and well, but there has been no proof of life since then, fanning speculation.

DESTRUCTION OF EVIDENCE

On December 31, Chinese authorities started censoring news of the virus from search engines, deleting terms including "SARS variation, "Wuhan Seafood market" and "Wuhan Unknown Pneumonia."

On January 1 without any investigation into where the virus originated from, the Wuhan seafood market was closed and disinfected.

It has been reported in the New York Times that individual animals and cages were not swabbed "eliminating evidence of what animal might have been the source of the coronavirus and which people had become infected but survived". The Hubei health commission ordered genomics companies to stop testing for the new virus and to destroy all samples. A day later, on January 3, China's leading health authority, the National Health Commission, ordered Wuhan pneumonia samples be moved to designated testing facilities or destroyed, while instructing a no-publication order related to the unknown disease.

Doctors who bravely spoke out about the new virus were detained and condemned. Their detentions were splashed across the Chinese-state media with a call from Wuhan Police for "all citizens to not fabricate rumours, not spread rumours, not believe rumours."

A tweet from the Global Times on January 2 states: "Police in Central China's Wuhan arrested 8 people spreading rumours about local outbreak of unidentifiable #pneumonia. Previous online posts said it was SARS." This had the intended effect of silencing other doctors who may have been inclined to speak out.

So the truth about the outbreak in China has remained shrouded in secrecy, with President Xi Jinping aggressively rejecting global calls for an inquiry.

The dossier is damning of China's constant denials about the outbreak.

"Despite evidence of human-human transmission from early December, PRC authorities deny it until January 20," it states.

"The World Health Organisation does the same. Yet officials in Taiwan raised concerns as early as December 31, as did experts in Hong Kong on January 4."

The paper exposes the hypocrisy of China's self-­imposed travel bans while condemning those of Australia and the United States, declaring: "Millions of people leave Wuhan after the outbreak and before Beijing locks down the city on January 23." "Thousands fly overseas. Throughout February, Beijing presses the US, Italy, India, Australia, Southeast Asian neighbours and others not to protect themselves via travel restrictions, even as the PRC imposes severe restrictions at home." In the paper, the Western governments are pushing back at what they call an "assault on international transparency".

"As EU diplomats prepare a report on the pandemic, PRC successfully presses Brussels to strike language on PRC disinformation," it states.

"As Australia calls for an independent inquiry into the pandemic, PRC threatens to cut off trade with Australia. PRC has likewise responded furiously to US calls for transparency."

Chair of Australia's Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security Andrew Hastie said after the cover-up and disinformation campaign from China, the world needed transparency and an inquiry.

"So many Australians have been damaged by the mismanagement of COVID-19 by the Chinese government, and if we truly are as close as Beijing suggests we are then we need answers about how this all started," he said.
https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/coronavirus/bombshell-dossier-lays-out-case-against-chinese-bat-virus-program/news-story/55add857058731c9c71c0e96ad17da60
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SARS-COV-2 was already spreading in France in late December 2019
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A Military-Funded Biosensor Could Be the Future of Pandemic Detection
If it wins FDA approval next year, the two-part sensor could help spot new infections weeks before symptoms begin to show.
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Study claims Vitamin D levels may impact COVID-19 mortality rates


Researchers have discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates from the novel coronavirus, a new study reveals.

A research team led by Northwestern University analyzed data from hospitals and clinics across China, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Patients from countries with high COVID-19 mortality rates, such as Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, had lower levels of vitamin D compared to patients in countries that were not as severely affected, according to the study.

The researchers also found a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and cytokine storm, which is a hyperinflammatory condition caused by an overactive immune system.

"Cytokine storm can severely damage lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients," Ali Daneshkhah, a postdoctoral research associate at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering, said in a statement. "This is what seems to kill a majority of COVID-19 patients, not the destruction of the lungs by the virus itself. It is the complications from the misdirected fire from the immune system."

However, the scientists also cautioned against hoarding vitamin D supplements.

"While I think it is important for people to know that vitamin D deficiency might play a role in mortality, we don't need to push vitamin D on everybody," said Northwestern's Vadim Backman, who led the research, in a statement. "This needs further study, and I hope our work will stimulate interest in this area. The data also may illuminate the mechanism of mortality, which, if proven, could lead to new therapeutic targets."

Scientists said they need to conduct much more research to understand how vitamin D could be used to protect against COVID-19 complications.

As of Thursday afternoon in the United States, the novel coronavirus had killed at least 74,844 and infected at least 1,244,119.
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