Google searches and sewage should be monitored to stop the next pandemic, England’s former chief medical officer has said as she launches a £10 million effort to discover ‘breakthrough’ technologies to avoid a repeat of the global devastation caused by Covid-19.
In her first exclusive interview since coronavirus struck, Dame Sally Davies, who was the country’s most senior medic for nine years before stepping down in late 2019, said the data warning of a new epidemic was often seen by big tech companies and banks well before governments and health bodies.
As such, she said Google searches for symptoms and routine analysis of human sewage for novel viruses could help buy invaluable time when the next infectious outbreak occurs.
Rare dolphins return to Hong Kong as virus halts ferry traffic
The number of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins seen around Hong Kong has jumped as the pause in high-speed ferry traffic due to the coronavirus allows the threatened species to make something of a comeback, scientists said.
Marine scientist Lindsay Porter of the University of St. Andrews said the mammals – also known as Chinese white dolphins and pink dolphins – were moving back into parts of the Pearl River Delta that they typically avoided due to the ferries that connect Hong Kong and Macau.
Dolphin numbers in the area had jumped by up to 30 per cent since March when the ferry traffic was suspended, allowing scientists a rare opportunity to study how underwater noise affected their behaviour, she said.
Nationwide curfew ‘obvious next step if new restrictions fail’
A national curfew would be an “obvious next step” for containing coronavirus if new lockdown rules fail to reverse the current increase in the spread of the disease, ministers believe.
Pubs and restaurants in local lockdown areas are already closing at 10pm, and the measure could be rolled out more widely amid fears that people tend not to adhere to social distancing rules when they consume more alcohol.
The proposal would affect greater numbers of young people, who have been blamed for a recent spike in infections.
NZ easing restrictions everywhere but Auckland
New Zealand will lift coronavirus restrictions across the country on Sept. 21, except in its biggest city, Auckland, which is the epicentre of a second wave of infections, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.
Ms Ardern said Auckland’s restrictions would be reviewed next Monday. She also said the government would immediately ease all physical distancing requirements on planes, a boost for Air New Zealand, which has had to limit passengers on its planes for months.
“I know this change will make a real difference to Air New Zealand and those parts of the country seeking increased numbers of visitors,” Ms Ardern said in a news conference in the South Island city of Dunedin, where she is on an election campaign trip.
Masks will still be mandatory on all public transport, she said.
Social distancing rules eased in Seoul as infections decrease
South Korea has reported its lowest daily virus tally in about a month as it began easing its tough social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency says the 109 new cases added in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 22,285 with 363 deaths.
It’s the 12th consecutive day for South Korea’s daily jump to stay in the 100s. The 109 additional cases are also the lowest daily tally since mid-August.
The government on Sunday relaxed its physical distancing guidelines in the Seoul metropolitan area, citing a downward trend in new infections and worries about public livelihoods.
Under new distancing rules that are formally effective from Monday for two-weeks, franchise cafes and bakeries are allowed to have customers drink and eat inside their shops while indoor gyms and after-school academics can reopen. A ban on dining at restaurants after 9 pm was also lifted.
New crews taking extra precautions to keep virus out of Antarctica
The first US flight into Antarctica following months of winter darkness left from New Zealand on Monday with crews taking extra precautions to keep out the coronavirus.
Antarctica is the only continent without the virus, and there is a global effort to make sure incoming scientists and workers don’t bring it with them.
The US Air Force flight left from the gateway city of Christchurch carrying 106 passengers and crew, said Tony German, the US.Antarctic programme’s representative in New Zealand.
He said the new arrivals will start getting ready for the summer and swap out with skeleton crews who have spent the Southern Hemisphere winter in Antarctica.
The flight was delayed for three weeks by big storms, resulting in an extended six-week quarantine for those aboard.
Mexico’s death toll nears 71,000
Mexico reported 4,408 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 217 additional fatalities on Sunday, bringing its totals to 668,381 infections and 70,821 deaths, according to updated Health Ministry data.
The government has said the real number of infected people is likely to be significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
Cases in Australian hot spot at 3-month low
Australia’s second most populous state, the epicentre of the country’s second wave, on Monday reported its lowest single-day rise in new infections in nearly three months.
Officials recorded 35 new cases and seven deaths in Victoria, as a tight lockdown in the state capital of Melbourne was partially eased.
Melbourne was placed under strict lockdown measures in early August after more than 700 cases were detected in Victoria state in a single day.
From Monday, the city’s 5 million residents will be allowed outside for exercise for two hours, double the limit under the original lockdown measures, while a nightly curfew has also been shortened.
Australia has recorded a total of 27,000 infections, including 817 deaths.