Cases confirmed worldwide by national authorities stand at 2,804,796 (84,900 of them reported in the preceding 24 hours). 193,710 deaths have been recorded (6006). (Source: WHO Situation Report 97; at 10:00 CET on Sunday 26 April)
Johns Hopkins University’s Center of Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) reported (at 17:30 AEST on Monday 27 April) 2,972,315 confirmed cases and 206,565 deaths.
At 15:00 AEST on Monday 27 April
Nationwide, confirmed cases stand at 6720, a rise of 9 in 24 hours. 83 deaths have been recorded. More than 517,000 tests have been conducted.
ACT 106 cases (first case reported 12 March); NSW 3004 (25 January); NT 27 (20 March); Qld 1033 (29 January); SA 438 (2 February); Tas 214 (2 March); Vic 1349 (25 January); WA 549 (21 February).
Free open-source hardware (FOSH) and 3D printing could help to alleviate the burden of COVID-19 on global health systems, says a new study published in the journal PLOS Biology.
Tom Baden and André Chagas, from the University of Sussex, UK, and co-authors suggest that this could be a viable option to provide health services with the tools and equipment so desperately needed during the pandemic.
FOSH follows an ethos where blueprints for a tool are made freely available so that anyone can study, learn, modify, customise and commercialise them. The new study provides an overview of the blueprints currently available free online – with a focus on personal protective equipment, ventilators and diagnostic test kits – that could be used to help in the fight against COVID-19.
Although some of the designs still need to be tested, many others have already received suitable verification, having been published in peer-reviewed papers. The authors therefore believe that FOSH should be seriously considered as a method of quickly providing equipment where it’s needed.
A Research Letter published in JAMA examines the suggestion that mildly symptomatic patients with COVID-19 may experience an altered sense of smell or taste – a phenomenon demonstrated for previous coronavirus strains and reported for SARS-CoV-2. More than 200 adult patients assessed to be COVID positive at Trevino Regional Hospital, Italy, and capable of home management were interviewed by telephone 5–6 days after their diagnoses.
Just over 50% of the patients reported “moderate” to “as bad as it can be” severity of altered smell or taste; most also reported other symptoms, with tiredness, fever, coughing and muscle and joint pain the most prevalent.
The study authors wrote that “Alterations in smell or taste were frequently reported by mildly symptomatic patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection and often were the first apparent symptom.” But they add: “The results must be interpreted with caution due to study limitations: data were self-reported and based on a cross-sectional survey, the sample was relatively small and geographically limited.”
In a thought-provoking Perspective article published in Science, University of Chicago, US, immunology and epidemiology modeller Sarah Cobey writes that, given uncertainty in the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 and high certainty in its virulence, it’s understandable that early responses to combat it have relied on blunt interventions, such as movement bans.
But now, Cobey says, the scientific challenge is to identify, through inference and simulation, measures that could provide as-good or better protection with less social cost.
A complementary and urgent task, she writes, is to identify if any sub-populations or settings contribute disproportionately to transmission and to target interventions to them.
“For example, school-age children tend to drive influenza virus transmission in communities, although they are underrepresented among severe clinical cases and deaths,” she writes.
“Interventions to reduce influenza virus infections in children have yielded disproportionate effects in reducing infections in adults.”
“This pandemic illuminates choices in managing respiratory pathogens,” Cobey writes. “The choices faced now will continue to matter.”
A predictor model devised at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is claimed to offer “a glimmer of hope” for the pandemic in Australia, suggesting that the worst has passed and indicating less than 1000 deaths nationally.
The QUT team, led by physician and mathematician Dan Nicolau, has developed what they believe to be a more accurate model to predict the trajectory of the virus and its mortality, based on reliable, country-independent data.
The predictions, updated daily, are available at covidwave.org. They look at the ratio of known infections to recoveries in each country and compare this ratio with the number of reported daily deaths in each country.
“Many other models to predict and alter the course of the virus have been developed, but most depend on numerous, untested assumptions, and their predictions vary wildly. Our model does not do that, relying instead on more reliable, empirical data,” says Nicolau, whose findings are in a paper currently under review at the New England Journal of Medicine.
Oxford University respiratory physician Mona Bafadhel, Nicolau’s co-author, says that virtually all countries follow the same patterns, with the confirmed and then recovered cases curve climbing to a peak and then inverting once it passed a level in the mid-hundreds, but at different periods.
“COVID-19 is a virus that respects no national or cultural boundaries,” says Bafadhel.
“Our data also suggests it was quietly spreading across the globe weeks before the authorities reacted, a lesson to learn for future outbreaks.”
Spoiler alert: no images with this story. According to a New York Times opinion story by Diana Spechler, the nude selfie – an often decried and slightly sad (at least to some of us) emblem of the digital era – has had a proper PR makeover. “Since the pandemic began, sex has changed: It’s imagined, monogamous, Zoomed or Skyped,” writes Ms Spechler. “And nude selfies have become one symbol of resilience, a refusal to let social distancing render us sexless. Nude selfies are no longer foreplay, a whetting of a lover’s appetite, but the whole meal.” Bon appetit, friends.
What will the world look like months and years from now? Politically it may well be rather different, with the COVID-19 pandemic tightening the grip of some autocrats – in power, in many cases, as a result of a twenty-teens lurch to the right in some countries. A 23 April article published in the Economist asserts: “No fewer than 84 countries have declared a state of emergency since the pandemic began, says the Centre for Civil and Political Rights, a watchdog in Geneva. Some will surrender these powers when the emergency is over. Others plan to hang on to them.”
Ian Connellan is a journalist and editor for the Royal Institution of Australia.
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