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Global COVID-19 Deaths Top 700,000, Victoria Suffers Another Record Despite ‘Toughest Lockdown Yet’: Live Updates

Global COVID-19 Deaths Top 700,000, Victoria Suffers Another Record Despite ‘Toughest Lockdown Yet’: Live Updates

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Global COVID-19 Deaths Top 700,000, Victoria Suffers Another Record Despite 'Toughest Lockdown Yet': Live Updates Tyler Durden Wed, 08/05/2020 - 07:48

Summary:

  • COVID deaths top 700k
  • US to send DHHS Secretary Alex Azar on historic visit to Taiwan
  • Czech Republic reports biggest jump in new cases since June
  • Poland suffers record deaths
  • WHO sends team of 43 to South Africa
  • Uganda is Africa's standout COVID success story
  • WHO says first "confirmed" North Korea COVID cases "inconclusive"
  • Queensland, Australia bars travelers from all Eastern states

* * *

As new COVID-19 cases continued to slow in the US and Brazil on Tuesday, the number of confirmed deaths worldwide passed the 700,000 mark, while the number of confirmed cases hit, according to data from JHU and Bloomberg.

Perhaps the biggest news overnight comes out of the US, where Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he plans to visit Taiwan to discuss the international response to the pandemic. The trip will happen in the coming days. It will almost certainly lead to a further deterioration in the relationship between the US and China, as Azar's visit will be the highest-level visit by an American Cabinet official since the break in formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Taipei in 1979.

The Czech Republic reported its biggest daily jump in cases since the end of June on Wednesday. The 290 new cases pushed its national total to 17,286, with 383 deaths. Roughly 1/4th of the new cases - 77 - were in the eastern region of Moravia-Silesia, bordering Poland, where many miners and their families have been infected. It comes as Poland reported several consecutive days of record case numbers. Poland, meanwhile, reported 18 new virus-linked deaths, the most in a day since June 30, raising the country's death toll to 1,756

North Korea’s suspected first coronavirus patient - a defector who recently snuck back in to the closed off country - has tested inconclusive for the virus, according to the WHO rep who works with North Korea (a reliable, independent, source of information, we're sure.

“The person was tested for Covid-19, but test results were inconclusive,” Dr Edwin Salvador, the WHO representative for North Korea, told Reuters on Wednesday.

As many as 64 first contacts and 3,571 secondary contacts of the suspected case have been identified and quarantined in government facilities for a period of 40 days, Salvador said. Kaesong remains under lockdown and household doctors continue to conduct surveillance in the city, he said.

Australia has tightened its lockdown in the troubled state of Victoria to resemble the restrictions that forced hundreds of millions of Europeans to remain indoors for months. While it could take weeks for these measures to have some impact, the state is already nearly 4 weeks in to a 'partial lockdown' imposed when the latest cluster in Melbourne first emerged.

The Associated Press described how Australia's streets "drained of life" this week as the state of Victoria imposed the country's toughest lockdown yet.

And despite all of this, Victoria premier Daniel Andrews announced 725 new cases in the state and 15 new deaths, making the last 24 hours the deadliest day yet for the Australian outbreak, and the second-worst day for new cases across the country (it was the worst day for Victoria). Though, to be sure, South Australia processed a record number of COVID-19 tests on Tuesday, and are expected to exceed that again today, as thousands flock to testing.

The outbreak in Victoria is creating more paranoia nationally as the state of Queensland on Wednesday announced that it would shut its state border with the rest of Australia's East Coast, after having already banned travelers from Victoria. Travelers from New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory won't be allowed to travel to Queensland starting Aug. 8. This despite the fact that the ACT currently has no active cases.

NSW also announced that all residents returning from Victoria will need to hotel quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.

As WHO plays down the outbreak in North Korea, its Africa arm is sending a team of 43 specialists to South Africa, a country that has quietly climbed the coronavirus rankings as Africa's most industrialized nation is also home to its largest outbreak - or, to put it more accurately, the continent's largest number of confirmed infections: As of Wednesday morning, the country had 521,318 cases, the fifth-highest number in the world, and more than half of all reported infections in Africa, which is now close to the 1 million milestone. South Africa's health minister on Wednesday heralded the country's decreasing infection rate, but warned that the people must stay vigilant to stave off "a renewed surge". SA has recorded 8,884 COVID-19 deaths, although studies of excess mortality rates indicate the actual toll could be higher.

Like in India and many other poor countries, the virus spread like wildfire through South Africa's overcrowded urban slums in Cape Town, Johannesburg and other cities. For weeks, it threatened to overwhelm public hospitals, but Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize told reporters Wednesday that the health care system in the country will be able to cope.

"Our hospitals have been battered but we have not breached our hospital capacity," he said. "Our wards are full and our ICU beds are full, but not to complete capacity. And the field hospitals that we constructed still have space." There have been adequate supplies of oxygen for severely affected patients, he said.

After reporting the latest updates from South Africa, Reuters on Wednesday published a lengthy story about Uganda, one of the largest countries in Africa, and how its experience with deadly viruses like Ebola and Marburg shaped its handling of coronavirus. Uganda - a nation of 42 million - has recorded just a handful of deaths due to the restrictive and sometimes brutally enforced lockdown imposed by the authoritarian government.

Despite crumbling public hospitals, doctors’ strikes and corruption scandals, the African nation has largely succeeded in containing the virus: It has recorded just 1,200 cases and five deaths since March. Per Reuters, Uganda’s experience "shows what can be accomplished when a government with a firm grip on power acts quickly and enforces a strict lockdown. But its success came at a cost, critics say.
Jobs were lost, and economic growth is set to plunge to as low as 0.4% in 2020, from 5.6% last year, according to the World Bank."

Meanwhile, Africa's 54 countries have recorded a total of roughly 975,000 cases and 21,000 deaths from the virus.

As a result of the lockdown, some pregnant women died in labor, unable to reach hospitals in time due to travel restrictions, while security forcesbeat and arrested some scofflaws who disobeyed the lockdown.

"A jobless person is better than a dead person,” state minister for health Robinah Nabbanja told Reuters. “The lockdown was completely justified.”

Not everyone agreed: "I go hungry sometimes and eat only once in a day," he said. "Coronavirus hasn’t killed us but the hell of going hungry is not that far from death."

Moving on to Asia, perhaps the biggest news overnight amounts to a disturbing echo of the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura warned on Wednesday that Japan is facing a "second wave", and that Japanese citizens should exercise caution when traveling for the upcoming Obon Holiday that starts next week. He asked any Japanese with symptoms to please stay home. The holiday - like the Chinese New Year holiday that coincided with the initial phase of the outbreak - typically sees millions of Japanese return to their hometowns to visit family.

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Exosomes Could Improve Inhaled Therapeutics

Instead of disguising vaccines in synthetic lipid nanoparticles, researchers used exosomes as their drug delivery vehicles to the lung. The exosomes are…

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For respiratory diseases, from asthma to COVID-19, inhaled treatments can quickly deliver a drug to the desired target, the lungs. Global health depends on such treatments. As Kristen Popowski, a PhD candidate in comparative biomedical sciences at the North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, and her colleagues wrote: “Respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remaining prevalent in the ongoing pandemic.”

Kristen Popowski [North Carolina State University]
Although lipid nanoparticles offer one delivery vehicle for such treatments, nature creates an obstacle. “The lung has natural defense mechanisms against inhaled particulates, and traditional lipid-nanoparticle vaccines present challenges in cytotoxicity and respiratory clearance,” says Popowski. “A nanoparticle formulation that can withstand these defense mechanisms remains a critical challenge.” So, Popowski and her colleagues explored an alternative approach.

“Instead of disguising vaccines in synthetic lipid nanoparticles, we utilize cell-secreted nanoparticles called exosomes as our drug delivery vehicles to the lung,” Popowski explains. “Our exosomes are secreted from native lung cells and are recognizable by the lung.”

Consequently, she says, “We can minimize pulmonary toxicity and clearance to better deliver and retain vaccines.” In addition, the exosome-based treatments developed by Popowski and her colleagues can be formulated as a dry powder that requires no refrigeration and can have a shelf life of 28 days.

Despite the incentives to take an exosome-based approach to inhaled treatments for respiratory diseases, turning that into a part of bioprocessing requires more research.

“Although commercial manufacturing of exosomes has recently shown extensive improvement, optimization of mRNA loading into exosomes remains a challenge,” Popowski says. “Endogenous mRNA expression through exosome engineering would likely be necessary for large-scale production.”

The post Exosomes Could Improve Inhaled Therapeutics appeared first on GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

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War, peace and security: The pandemic’s impact on women and girls in Nepal and Sri Lanka

The impacts of COVID-19 must be incorporated into women, peace and security planning in order to improve the lives of women and girls in postwar countries…

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Nepalese girls rest for observation after receiving the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Attention to the pandemic’s impacts on women has largely focused on the Global North, ignoring countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka, which continue to deal with prolonged effects of war. While the Nepalese Civil War concluded in 2006 and the Sri Lankan Civil War concluded in 2009, internal conflicts continue.

As scholars of gender and war, our work focuses on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. And our recently published paper examines COVID-19’s impacts on women and girls in Nepal and Sri Lanka, looking at policy responses and their repercussions on the women, peace and security agenda.

COVID-19 has disproportionately and negatively impacted women in part because most are the primary family caregivers and the pandemic has increased women’s caring duties.

This pattern is even more pronounced in war-affected countries where the compounding factors of war and the pandemic leave women generally more vulnerable. These nations exist at the margins of the international system and suffer from what the World Bank terms “fragility, conflict and violence.”

Women, labour and gender-based violence

Gendered labour precarity is not new to Nepal or Sri Lanka and the pandemic has only eroded women’s already poor economic prospects.

Prior to COVID-19, Tharshani (pseudonym), a Sri Lankan mother of three and head of her household, was able to make ends meet. But when the pandemic hit, lockdowns prevented Tharshani from selling the chickens she raises for market. She was forced to take loans from her neighbours and her family had to skip meals.

Some 1.7 million women in Sri Lanka work in the informal sector, where no state employment protections exist and not working means no wages. COVID-19 is exacerbating women’s struggles with poverty and forcing them to take on debilitating debts.

Although Sri Lankan men also face increased labour precarity, due to gender discrimination and sexism in the job market, women are forced into the informal sector — the jobs hardest hit by the pandemic.

Two women sit in chairs, wearing face masks
Sri Lankan women chat after getting inoculated against the coronavirus in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in August 2021. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

The pandemic has also led to women and girls facing increased gender-based violence.

In Nepal, between March 2020 and June 2021, there was an increase in cases of gender-based violence. Over 1,750 incidents were reported in the media, of which rape and sexual assault represented 82 per cent. Pandemic lockdowns also led to new vulnerabilities for women who sought out quarantine shelters — in Lamkichuha, Nepal, a woman was allegedly gang-raped at a quarantine facility.

Gender-based violence is more prevalent among women and girls of low caste in Nepal and the pandemic has made it worse. The Samata Foundation reported 90 cases of gender-based violence faced by women and girls of low caste within the first six months of the pandemic.

What’s next?

While COVID-19 recovery efforts are generally focused on preparing for future pandemics and economic recovery, the women, peace and security agenda can also address the needs of some of those most marginalized when it comes to COVID-19 recovery.

The women, peace and security agenda promotes women’s participation in peace and security matters with a focus on helping women facing violent conflict. By incorporating women’s perspectives, issues and concerns in the context of COVID-19 recovery, policies and activities can help address issues that disproportionately impact most women in war-affected countries.

These issues are: precarious gendered labor market, a surge in care work, the rising feminization of poverty and increased gender-based violence.

A girl in a face mask stares out a window
The women, peace and security agenda can help address the needs of some of those most marginalized. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Policies could include efforts to create living-wage jobs for women that come with state benefits, emergency funding for women heads of household (so they can avoid taking out predatory loans) and increasing the number of resources (like shelters and legal services) for women experiencing domestic gender-based violence.

The impacts of COVID-19 must be incorporated into women, peace and security planning in order to achieve the agenda’s aims of improving the lives of women and girls in postwar countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Luna KC is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Research Network-Women Peace Security, McGill University. This project is funded by the Government of Canada Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program.

Crystal Whetstone does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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ThreatX raises a fresh round of capital to protect APIs and web apps

ThreatX, a vendor selling API protection services to mainly enterprise clients, today announced that it raised $30 million in a Series B funding round…

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ThreatX, a vendor selling API protection services to mainly enterprise clients, today announced that it raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Harbert Growth Partners with participation from Vistara Growth, .406 Ventures, Grotech Ventures and Access Venture Partners. With the new cash, which brings ThreatX’s total raised to $52 million, CEO Gene Fay tells TechCrunch that ThreatX will “accelerate” investments in platform development while scaling sales and marketing initiatives.

The raise highlights investors’ continued confidence in cybersecurity businesses to net returns, despite the current macroeconomic woes. While there’s some evidence that fundraising has begun to slow down, cybersecurity startups raised $2.4 billion between January and June, according to PitchBook. Companies that defend APIs from outside attack have been particularly fruitful, lately, with startups such as Ghost Security and Corsha raising tens of millions of dollars in capital.

ThreatX was co-founded in 2014 by Bret Settle and Andrius Useckas. Prior to starting ThreatX, Settle was VP of enterprise architecture at BMC; Useckas had worked with Bret at BMC, where he was an enterprise security architect. The two were also colleagues at Corporate Express, which was acquired by Staples in 2008, where Useckas came in as an external pen tester.

“Over the course of working together for several years, Settle and Andrius saw a massive gap in the market in terms of solutions to protect BMC’s application portfolio,” said Fay, who was appointed CEO of ThreatX in 2020. “The products available required endless tuning and rule-writing and returned piles of false positives. Through all of this, the notion of innovating in the space — and ThreatX — was born.”

ThreatX offers API protection, bot and DDoS mitigation and traditional web application firewalls (WAF) for first- and third-party web apps. The platform builds a profile of threat actors, leveraging a detection and correlation engine to show which actors are actively attacking and which might pose the greatest threat.

Image Credits: ThreatX

Fay sees ThreatX competing primarily with two categories of cybersecurity vendors. The first are newer API observability tools such as Salt Security and Noname. The second are bot management platforms like Cequence and WAF players such as Akamai, F5 and Imperva, which generally rely on applying rules-based protection to web apps and APIs.

Fay argues that the former group — the bot management and WAF vendors —  tend to offer capabilities that came together through acquisition, so they’re less integrated. As for the latter — the API observability tools — Fay asserts that they often don’t offer web app or bot protection and require offline analysis, which precludes the ability to block attacks in real time.

“The bottom line is that to protect APIs, you must be able to block attacks in real time,” Fay said. “Grabbing data through observation and analyzing it after the fact may be interesting, but it does little from an immediate security standpoint. For our customers, the number one priority is protection — in real time, all the time. That is the value proposition we offer to our customers.”

Real-time protection or no, it’s true that API attacks are a growing cyber threat. Gartner predicts that by 2022, API attacks will become the most frequent attack vector, causing data breaches for enterprise web software.

“The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated use of APIs as companies looked at how they might provide new services to deliver value — and derive revenue — from customers,” Fay added. “As people — both as consumers and professionals — turned to technology to get more done, reliance on both APIs and web applications grew substantially. That, in turn, has increased the need for security in this context — which presents a ton of opportunity for ThreatX.

While Fay demurred when asked about financials, he said that ThreatX currently has “more than” 100 customers. He declined to name any names.

When reached for comment, Harbert Growth Partners general partner Tom Roberts said in a statement:

APIs are a strategic priority for businesses of all sizes and have become a primary target for threat actors. Organizations are now contending with constant threats and require API and web application protection capabilities that can identify and respond to attacks in real time. This need for “real-time attack protection” is driving the API security market toward an aggressive pivot. Based on ThreatX’s strong customer traction and unique product capabilities, we believe the company is well positioned to meet this shift head-on as a valuable partner to businesses looking to secure their attack surface.

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