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Brazil’s Covid-19 Variant Inundates Local Hospitals, Attacking Younger Patients | Instant News


SÃO PAULO – Researchers and doctors sound the alarm a new, more aggressive type of coronavirus from the Amazon region of Brazil, which they believe is responsible for the recent increase in deaths, as well as infections in younger people, in parts of South America.

Brazil’s daily death toll from the disease climbed to its highest level this week, pushing the total number of Covid-19 deaths in the country past a quarter of a million. On Tuesday, Brazil reported a record 1,641 deaths from Covid. Neighboring Peru is struggling to curb a second wave of infections.

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The new variant, known as P.1, was 1.4 to 2.2 times more contagious than the version of the virus previously found in Brazil, and 25% to 61% more capable of reinfecting people who had been infected with the previous strain, according to a study. released Tuesday.

With mass vaccination away across the region, countries like Brazil are at risk of becoming breeding grounds strong virus version that could make the current Covid-19 vaccine less effective, public health specialists warn.

A more prolonged pandemic could also devastate the economies of countries like Brazil, slow growth and widen already large piles of sovereign debt as governments make payments to the poor, economists say.

“We have a dramatic situation here – the health systems in many states in Brazil have collapsed and others will be damaged in the coming days,” said Eliseu Waldman, an epidemiologist at the University of São Paulo.

Health workers check arrivals at a field hospital in Manaus, Brazil, on Feb.11.


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raphael alves / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Several doctors have reported a surge in younger patients on their Covid-19 wards, many in their 30s and 40s with no underlying health problems. In Peru, some doctors said patients became seriously ill sooner, just three or four days after first symptoms appeared, compared with an average of nine to 14 days last year.

“This virus behaves differently,” said Rosa Lopez, a doctor in the intensive care unit at Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen Lima Hospital. “It is very aggressive … the situation is very difficult, very dire.”

The Amazonian strain, P.1, emerged in the Brazilian city of Manaus late last year and quickly caught the attention of Brazilian and international scientists racing to map its distribution. The large number of variant mutations to the spike protein, which help the virus penetrate cells, is of particular concern.

“We are at the worst of times. I wouldn’t be surprised if P.1 were all over Brazil now, ”said Felipe Naveca, a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation who has studied the new strain. He estimates that Brazil is already home to hundreds of new Covid-19 variants, even though P.1. is the most worrying so far, he said.

However, researchers are still confused as to why more young people are getting sick and whether P.1 is more deadly, or more contagious.

“The recent epidemic in Manaus has weighed on the city’s health care system, leading to inadequate access to medical care,” wrote study author P.1, led by Nuno Faria, a professor of viral evolution at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. .

People wait to fill empty oxygen cylinders on the southern outskirts of Lima, Peru, on Feb.25.


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ernesto benavides / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

“We were therefore unable to determine whether the estimated increased relative risk of death was due to P.1 infection, pressure on the Manaus health care system, or both,” they wrote.

A study led by Mr Naveca released last week showed that in some cases the P.1 strain carried a viral load about 10 times higher than the initial version of the virus circulating in Brazil for most of the pandemic. But an international group of scientists led by Mr Faria concluded that it would not be possible to determine whether P.1 infection was associated with increased viral load until detailed clinical investigations were carried out.

Researchers in South Africa grapple with the same questions while studying Another new variant, B.1.351. Doctors there also reported increased hospitalizations and deaths for younger patients, but the researchers concluded that more younger people became seriously ill as more people became infected overall. The likelihood of younger people dying increased, they said, because hospitals were overwhelmed, not because the variant itself was more lethal.

Another possible explanation for the increase in younger patients is that the virus has spread through many of the elderly who have died, said Francisco Cardoso, an infectious disease specialist at Emílio Ribas hospital in São Paulo.

Latin America has been one of the world’s Covid-19 hotspots since the pandemic began, but in recent days doctors in Brazil have grown increasingly desperate, portraying horror scenes across the country. While the new strains are largely to blame, so is a lack of preparation and prevention by regional governments, said public health specialists.

Hospitals operate with ICU occupancy rates above 80% in nearly two-thirds of Brazilian states. After many patients suffocate in Manaus Earlier this year when the hospital ran out of oxygen, prosecutors were investigating reports from another Amazon city that intubated patients were tied to their beds after a sedative shortage.

In Peru, where the government has detected the P.1 strain, hospitals were quickly pushed out of capacity as infections spiked in January after one of the world’s worst outbreaks last year. Doctors are now choosing among dozens of patients when the ICU beds are open, while Chile is donating rescue oxygen amid an acute shortage.

The scene comes as the US, UK and Israel celebrate falling infection rates amid a mass vaccination campaign, evidence of a widening immunity gap between rich and poor countries. While more than 15% of people in the US have received a Covid-19 shot, Brazil has administered the vaccine to only 3% of the population. Peru and Colombia have vaccinated less than 1%.

If Latin America doesn’t find a way to speed up vaccination campaigns, other countries such as Colombia and Bolivia that have seen a slowdown in recent infections could also fall victim to the new variant, infectious disease specialists said.

The longer the disease is allowed to rot in countries like Brazil, the more likely it is that new variants will emerge that reduce the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine, thus also becoming a threat to countries that have immunized their populations.

“Unless everyone in the world gets the vaccine immediately, none of us will be protected,” said Patricia Garcia, a former Peruvian health minister and epidemiologist. It will never stop.

Cesar Palacios, a 44-year-old pediatrician in the northern Peruvian city of Piura, lost his parents and younger sister to the disease earlier this year. She spent 10 days on a ventilator after she fell ill herself, her illness escalating rapidly as oxygen levels in her blood dropped to dangerous territory, at 86% just a day after her first symptoms. A few days later he was in the ICU.

“When you are going to be on a mechanical ventilator, you think, am I going to live? Am I going to die? “Said Dr. Palacios. “I have no other choice. I am very afraid. “

While Peru has imposed a curfew on Lima and other states with high infections, Brazilian cities such as São Paulo and its capital, Brasília, have imposed stricter restrictions over the past few days.

But many Brazilians break the rules, following directions from the country’s president. Right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro has played down the disease and attacked state governors for imposing a lockdown, accusing them of destroying local businesses.

The military police in São Paulo raided about 50 companies over the weekend that refused to comply, including a group of 190 elderly Brazilians holding a clandestine party.

As a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus spreads around the world, scientists are racing to understand why this new version of the virus is spreading faster, and what this means for the vaccine effort. New research says the key may be spike protein, which gives the coronavirus its unmistakable shape. Illustration: Nick Collingwood / WSJ

Write to Samantha Pearson at [email protected] and Ryan Dube at [email protected]

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Italian Residents Join the Establishment | Instant News


Mario Draghi speaking in Washington, October 14, 2017.


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jim watson / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Italy, like the US, has recently completed experiments in populist governance. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the anti-immigration League formed a coalition after general elections in 2018, but the coalition broke up after less than a year. As in America, the new head of government is an established figure. But unlike President Biden, Prime Minister Mario Draghi is better known as a politician than a technocrat: an economist with a doctorate from MIT who heads the Italian Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Italy and the European Central Bank. He shuns social media and rarely gives public interviews or speeches.

“When I was prime minister, Mario Draghi was the director general of the Treasury. I know him personally and professionally, “Lamberto Dini told me. He led the government in 1995-96, “He was very quiet. He would only call when there was a problem to solve, and he would solve it. He’s not just a technocrat; he is a great political figure. ”

Mr Draghi, 73, is best known for rescuing the euro during its debt crisis in 2012. He promised in his speech that the ECB will do “whatever is necessary” to save the eurozone, stopping international speculation on the currency.

This month President Sergio Mattarella appointed Mr Draghi to head the national unity government. Unlike in the US, there is no populist reaction to the new established leader. In contrast, the anti-establishment Five Star League and Movement was so eager to join the new cabinet that they abandoned their previous eurosceptic positions. The coalition also includes the center-left Democratic Party, the free market Forza Italia, and the socialist-democratic Free and Equals Party. The only opposition party is the far-right Brothers of Italy.

The unelected Mr Draghi was very popular with voters. According to a survey by Noto Sondaggi, Italy’s leading poll, 56% of Italians trust him – the highest number recorded in two decades. Markets seem to share the feeling: The Italian bond yield benchmark hit a record low after the appointment.

Bringing together a diverse coalition will be a challenge for the new prime minister. For starters, he reappointed Luigi Di Maio Five Star as foreign minister. Mr. Party Di Maio opened Italy to the Chinese Communist Party by signing the Belt and Road Initiative. Mr Draghi is committed to Italy’s alliance with the US and needs to persuade the Five Star Movement to change course.

In a country where Covid has been particularly hard-hit, Mr Draghi will also manage an aid program larger than the Marshall Plan – $ 240 billion from the European Union’s Recovery Fund. He oversaw the ECB’s quantitative easing after the 2008 financial crisis, and he appointed League members to the major economics ministries, a signal that he plans to increase productivity by reducing taxes and reforming inefficient bureaucracies. Expenditures will be directed carefully to businesses with prospects for success and unemployment.

“It looks like we’ve come to an agreement,” Giovanni Orsina, historian and dean at Rome’s LUISS University, told me. Voters vote for anti-establishment parties, but they lack the competence to lead. Italy will find out if a trusted leader can satisfy popular discontent by combining expertise with a different populist vision.

Ms. Bocchi is Joseph Rago’s Memorial Fellow of the Journal.

Journal Editorial Report: Paul Gigot interviews economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Image: Stefani Reynolds-Pool / Getty Images

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Appears in the print edition of February 25, 2021.

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DNB Says Authorities Have Ended Investigations on Alleged Money Laundering | Instant News


Prosecutors suspended an investigation into the alleged involvement of Norwegian bank DNB in ​​handling payments from an Icelandic fishing company involved in the bribery investigation.


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ints kalnins / Reuters

Bank of Norway

DNB AS

A said on Friday that an investigation into his alleged involvement in handling payments from an Icelandic fishing company involved in the bribery investigation had been dropped.

The Norwegian National Authority for the Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime, known as Okokrim, launched an investigation in November 2019 following the disposal of WikiLeaks data and the subsequent allegations made in the Icelandic media.

DNB said in a statement on Friday that it had been informed that the investigation had not yielded any information that provided a basis for criminal prosecution of the individual and that the public prosecutor did not think the company sentence was applicable in this case. “Because of that the case has been closed,” said DNB.

WikiLeaks published more than 30,000 documents called “Fish Files”, which show that the Icelandic fishing group Samherji hf has for years paid billions of dollars to Namibian officials for fishing quotas in the country’s waters.

Icelandic media later claimed that Samherji used DNB to funnel more than $ 70 million to a shell company in the Marshall Islands, part of the proceeds from his activities in Namibia.

Samherji said the figure was actually $ 28.9 million and related to fees for the crew but did not disclose which bank was used for the transaction.

“The dismissal of the case confirms that the allegations are pointless,” Samherji said in a statement on Friday. “Samherji is pleased with this result, because the company has always maintained that the allegations regarding Samherji’s affiliated transactions with DNB are baseless.”

Write to Dominic Cut in [email protected]

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