Tag Archives: Science

The disruptions dampen Germany’s enthusiasm for the Covid contact tracing app | World News | Instant News

As England and Wales prepare to unveil their coronavirus contact tracing app, German draws the first, less enthusiastic conclusions about the effectiveness of fighting the pandemic with smartphones.

One hundred days after its launch, German authorities acknowledged that IT disruptions and poor communication channels with laboratories made the country’s Corona-Warn-App “one more tool out of many” than Covid-19 cures all.

German application, that is get compliments from as far away as Westminster after launching on July 16, having been downloaded 18.4 million times in Germany and 400,000 times overseas at the start of this week – more than any similar app in any other EU member state combined.

About 1.2 million test results have been submitted to patients via their smartphones.

German coronavirus case

German coronavirus case

Twenty-two percent of Germany’s population of around 83 million have downloaded the app on their phones, a major step towards uptake of 33% that the government’s expert advisory panel announced as the minimum requirements for contact tracing technology. to do its job.

Earlier in the summer, many health officials had targeted a 60% retrieval rate for applications, based on a University of Oxford study released in April, although Telecom’s chief officer, Timotheus Höttges, said on Wednesday that a recent study showed 15% use was sufficient to lower mortality. and coronavirus infection.

The number of people actively using the app tends to be less, however: some users will delete the app again, while others turn off the Bluetooth signal necessary for the technology to work.

Using download figures from Apple’s App Store and Google Play, Telekom said it believed the corona virus application had 15 million active users.

The German app development phase was accompanied by intense discussions around data privacy which resulted in the government turning to a decentralized model, which uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously record the proximity of other smartphones to installed apps.

As a result, Germany’s central disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, lacks data to determine how effective the app is. For example, there are no official figures on how many people have been warned they had the virus.

Accredited Laboratories in Medicine (ALM), the largest association representing laboratories in Germany that perform tests, cites 3-6% of analyzed tests that are taken explicitly because people have been warned by the app.

The app does not automatically send an alert to the contact if the user tests positive, but the user must press a button to do so. On Wednesday, the health minister, Jens Spahn, said nearly 5,000 people had used the app to alert their contacts – only half of them have received a positive test result through the app, and only about 10% of all new infections in Germany since then. launching.

As well as only working on newer smartphone operating systems, experts found app contact tracing via Bluetooth to function unreliable on buses, trains, and subways, where the risk of infection is higher than in the open air. Other users have complained about the error message that won’t go away after uninstalling and reinstalling the app.

Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, attended a press conference on Wednesday to provide an update on the contact tracing app. Photo: Reuters

For applications to work smoothly, laboratories must be able to enter their test results directly into the application. But as of Monday, 20% of German laboratories that can perform PCR tests are still unable to do so, because their software is not compatible with the application’s digital infrastructure, developed by Telekom and tech giant SAP.

“We invest a lot of effort in addressing concerns around data privacy, but less in knowing how test results find their way to your smartphone,” said Axel Oppold-Soda, an ALM spokesman.

Oppold-Soda said he still believed the coronavirus application could make “a very important contribution to contact tracing efforts”. However, the view about the effectiveness of the application among the wider community is less optimistic.

A recent study by the Technical University of Munich found that 51% of those questioned did not believe the application would change the development of the pandemic. In June, before the launch, only 41% expressed the same opinion.

This article was amended on 23 September 2020 to correct that England and Wales, not England, are preparing to unveil the Corona virus contact tracing application.


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Northern Ireland launches the first COVID-19 tracking application in the UK | Instant News

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Northern Ireland on Friday launched the first COVID-19 tracking application in the UK, and the first that can also track users in another country, Ireland, who has been in contact with someone who has the disease.

The COVID Tracker Ireland application, which is used to track the contact of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), is displayed on mobile phones, because it is accommodated for illustrated photos in Galway, Ireland, 30 July 2020. REUTERS / Clodagh Kilcoyne / Illustration

NearForm developers, who hope the application will become a blueprint eventually synchronize across Europe, launch a similar application in Ireland on July 8, and cases can now be traced across the island’s open border with two separate health services.

NearForm’s technical director Colm Harte said the technical approach he used in developing StopCovid NI would work with applications throughout the UK and that could be applied throughout Europe if countries agreed on how to share and store data.

The Scottish devolution government announced on Friday that tracking applications are under development using the same software as Ireland and are also being built by NearForm.

It will be available in the fall.

“This can definitely be done, technically it can be done because more and more countries are turning to Apple and the Google API (application programming interface),” Harte told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“I think that will happen. I do not know when but countries throughout Europe are aware that there are more people starting to travel now, this is a problem that must be resolved. ”


The UK moved to the same Apple and Google model last month when it disposed of locally made models originally scheduled for May.

NearForm, based in the coastal city of Tramore in southern Ireland, is building a Pennsylvania contact tracking application and is in discussions with other states and governments after the successful Irish launch, Harte said.

Nearly 1.5 million people, or 37% of the population of the Republic of Ireland over the age of 15, have downloaded the Irish application since July 8 and 137 users have been warned through the application that they have made close contact with confirmed cases.

Ireland has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe in recent weeks with an average of around 20 per day to surge on Thursday. Northern Ireland has the same low level with no related deaths reported since July 12.

NearForm’s Harte said that if one application can destroy multiple transmission chains, it will be successful.

“You can enter into a conversation about how much needs to be disconnected before it is considered truly successful, but the aim is to break the transmission chain. Once it does that, it has an impact, “he said.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Gareth Jones and Andrew Cawthorne


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Brazilian descendants of escaped slaves were tested for the corona virus | Instant News

REGISTRO, Brazil (Reuters) – Slaves who have fled in Brazil trying to live freely often establish communities called quilombos where their former owners cannot find them.

Daiane do Nascimento was tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) by the Butantan Institute in Quilombo Peropava, a community of African descent, first founded by runaway slaves, in Registro, Sao Paulo state, Brazil July 29, 2020. REUTERS / Amanda Perobelli

But coronaviruses have found their way to one, Peropava in the state of Sao Paulo, which has survived since slavery was abolished in 1888.

On Wednesday, 120 masked Peropava residents marched to submit mass tests for the new corona virus, after several community members had contracted the disease.

“We don’t think it will get here, a fairly remote place. But unfortunately it arrived, “said Valdir Cabral, a resident who has just recovered from COVID-19.

Cabral still spends his time resting in bed in his concrete house in the woods, chickens pecking to eat outside the door.

Health workers with the biomedical center of The Butantan Institute conduct tests by pricking fingers and dripping blood into the openings of a plastic rapid testing kit.

The agency did not announce how many people tested positive for the virus but said the results would be used to help prevent its spread.

The Registro, the municipality of about 56,000 people where Peropava is located, has registered 824 COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths from the disease, according to the local health secretary’s office.

Brazil is the country worst hit by a pandemic, after the United States. On Wednesday, Brazil kept a diary for COVID-19 new cases and related deaths, with 69,074 people sick and 1,595 people dead in a 24 hour period.

The Butantan Institute focuses on helping the most vulnerable communities, including indigenous Brazilians, who often have limited access to medical care.

“It is important to strengthen our activities in the poorest areas, the suburbs of big cities, small towns, in the sense of making them understand what is at stake and making them comply with preventive measures,” said Butantan director Dimas Covas.

Reporting by Pablo Garcia; Additional Reporting by Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Richard Chang


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Coronavirus live news: US death nears 150,000 when Hong Kong warns hospital could collapse World News | Instant News

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has sounded alarming warnings about the city’s health system.

With a new wave of infections that are mostly transmitted locally, Hong Kong “is on the verge of a massive community outbreak that could cause the collapse of our hospital system and cause lives, especially older people,” he said.

Data from the Hospital Authority shows that by midday Tuesday the city’s isolation room is only above 80% capacity, and individual beds are around 79%.

Last week the South China Morning Post reported 65% of 1,012 isolation beds and 77% of 534 isolation rooms in the city’s public hospitals were occupied.

As of yesterday there were 1,099 confirmed patients treated at hospitals in 15 public hospitals and community isolation facilities, the Hospital Authority said.

“Anti-epidemic measures have caused difficulties and discomfort, but to protect our loved ones, our healthcare staff and Hong Kong, I urge you to follow the steps of social distance and stay at home as far as possible,” said Lam

Lam called for community cooperation when the government began to enforce strict measures and sought to improve testing – with Beijing’s help.

A statement on Monday from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Beijing’s senior presence in the city, said Hong Kong’s testing capacity could no longer meet demand, and “the medical system and quarantine facilities were being overwhelmed”.

Therefore the Hong Kong government has requested assistance from the Central Government.

It does not specify what assistance is needed, but whether it accuses “a small number of people” from going out of their way to “make unreasonable accusations or even slander and stain based on political bias or driven by political manipulation”.


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German IDT warns against rising prices for equipment for the COVID-19 vaccine | Instant News

BERLIN / FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The struggle to produce the COVID-19 vaccine pushed up prices for some bottling equipment and other raw materials, adding to industry concerns about limited output, German vaccine makers told Reuters.

Photo of the June 24, 2020 leaflet received from the biotech company IDT Biology in Dessau-Rosslau, Germany, on July 28, 2020, showed employees of Bjoern Dalichau and Andreas Mueller preparing to fill in the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate. Hartmut Boesener / IDT Biology / Handout via Reuters

Family-owned IDT Biology manufactures viral vaccines for pharmaceutical companies and is working on six COVID-19 projects including the experimental AstraZeneca vaccine jointly developed by Oxford University.

Based in Dessau-Rosslau in eastern Germany, IDT said it was seeing bottlenecks for equipment such as bottles and had seen several cases of suppliers raising prices.

“Our joint efforts to increase output volume go hand in hand with the need to have responsible price handling to keep production costs under control,” Chief Science Officer Andreas Neubert said in an interview.

“We have seen examples of such (price increases) and that is even a sizable increase,” he added, refusing to give further details about which suppliers had raised prices.

The comments underline growing concerns in the industry about the obstacles of making, packaging and distributing billions of doses at once.

IDT, which has been in business for nearly 100 years, has applied to the German government for a 170 million euro ($ 199 million) grant to help it expand its development, testing and production capacity.

IDT plans to build a new production line that will have the capacity to bottle 380 million additional vaccine doses per year, Neubert said.

Chief Executive Juergen Betzing said the company could only fill a small part of the request to fill the vaccine because they already have the full order book. To take additional clients, they have to defer other customers.

IDT works with the German Infection Research Center (DZIF) and partners in Munich, Marburg and Hamburg on what are called virus vector vaccines and hopes to begin initial testing in about 100 people in Germany in September.

It aims to have the capacity to produce up to 50 million doses per year of an experimental vaccine based on the Modified Vaccinia Ankara Virus developed for smallpox, Betzing said.

Because this new vaccine is supported by proven technology, the vaccine may be safe and therefore potentially useful for certain risk groups, such as the elderly, he added.

More than 150 vaccine candidates are in various stages of development, with 23 prospects in human trials throughout the world. Moderna and Pfizer have launched two final phase studies that could pave the way for regulatory approval by the end of the year.

Reporting by Caroline Copley and Ludwig Burger; edit by Emelia Sithole-Matarise


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