Businessman Stressed

What is Post Pandemic Stress Disorder?

The pandemic has been mentally and physically challenging for many of us, and as many countries hope that the vaccine rollout could mean the restoration of ‘normality’, the effects of the pandemic on many people’s mental health will have taken its toll. Whether this is a understandable trepidation to be in crowds or attend local events, or an increase in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Some experts have been discussing the likelihood of a rise in post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms after the collective trauma and upheaval experienced from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Many experts are simply discussing the function of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. PTSD can occur after an individual has experienced a traumatic event. Nature writes: ‘a major infectious disease pandemic may have widespread and pervasive detrimental effects on individuals’ mental health. For example, a sudden disease outbreak that is associated with high infectivity and rapid transmission results in fear, distress, and anxiety in the public. Long-term stress and anxiety that are caused by a pandemic may further induce symptoms of depression. This ongoing exposure to danger, illness, death, disaster situations, stigma, and discrimination during a pandemic can induce an acute stress response and even cause posttraumatic stress reactions.’ 

However, others are specifically linking this to the pandemic. Reported in Metro, psychotherapist and former NHS clinical lead for mental health has coined the term ‘Post Pandemic Stress Disorder’ to focus on the mental health issues specifically stemming from the pandemic.

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Post Pandemic Stress Disorder is not yet a formal term nor diagnosis, but as Metro reports: ‘Owen’s concern is that many people will have experienced varying degrees of trauma over the past year: loss, isolation, illness, unable to say goodbye to loved ones, business failures and daily horrific news headlines.’ He explains that there are two types of trauma’s ‘large T traumas’ manifesting in PTSD and ‘little t traumas’ which turn into anxiety and/or depression. Many will have experienced a culmination of ‘little t’ traumas over the course of the pandemic. 

Owen stated to Metro: ‘I suspect we will see an increase of symptoms relating to anxiety and mood after lockdown restrictions ease. I believe many of these symptoms will be related directly to underlying trauma and if this isn’t recognized now, then we will be inadequately prepared.’ He adds: ‘Ultimately, without PPSD being recognized and respected by those in positions of authority, the trauma people have experience will not be processed.

This is likely to have a detrimental impact on the health of a society which is already under a massive amount of strain… ‘The pandemic has undoubtedly had a severe impact on every single one of us, and I am not alone in the belief there will be a post-pandemic mental health crisis… Therefore, it is not inconceivable or dramatic to want a new diagnosis which pays respect to the challenges we have faced over the past year and I hope we can create an appropriate framework which will help people to move on and lead happy and healthier lives.’

The symptoms of PPSD that were outlined by outlined Owen, are not dissimilar to the symptoms of PTSD and include: ‘Increased levels of anxiety, variations in mood, sleep issues, nightmares, avoiding situations that remind you of pandemic/lockdowns, Feeling on guard on constantly vigilant about future pandemics or recurrences of Covid-19 and Intrusive type thoughts about your pandemic experiences.’

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Our understanding of PTSD derived from health pandemics is apparently limited and varied in conclusions. A recent study entitled ‘Prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder after infectious disease pandemics in the twenty-first century, including COVID-19: a meta-analysis and systematic review’ published in Nature wrote:

‘Numerous studies have investigated the prevalence of PTSD after pandemics. However, controversy exists with regard to the prevalence and pattern of PTSD (e.g., PTSD with acute onset or delayed onset) after such infectious disease outbreaks. The prevalence of PTSD that has been reported in epidemiological studies has varied widely, depending on the particular outbreak, target population, and methods that are used to assess the disorder. Such prevalence estimates range from 2.3 to 55.1%… Although epidemiological data on PTSD are growing, the global prevalence of PTSD and its drivers in individuals after pandemics remain largely unknown.’ 

The same study concluded however that: ‘The combined prevalence of PTSD after infectious disease pandemics that was found in the present study (23%) was even higher than the estimated pooled prevalence after other disasters, such as major traumatic events (~20%) [112] and floods (~16%) [110].

Our results indicate that PTSD is common in individuals who experience infectious diseases outbreaks, which may persist over a relatively long period of time. Confirmed cases of infection, frontline healthcare workers, and quarantined individuals tend to be vulnerable populations who have a higher potential of developing post-pandemic PTSD.’

Immunity Coronavirus

Expert Claims Israel May Have Reached ‘Sort Of Herd Immunity’ From Covid-19

Eran Segal is a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science who recently spoke with the local Israeli media about how Israel in general may have reached a “sort of herd immunity” after getting nearly 4.9 million residents fully vaccinated. This led to a 97% decrease in the amount of new Covid-19 cases appearing in the nation.

“It is possible that Israel has reached a sort of herd immunity and regardless, we have a wide safety net. I think that makes it possible to remove some of the restrictions immediately.”

Segal claimed that now that most Israelis are immunized, a multitude of economic sectors can begin reopening to assist the nation in its recovery post-pandemic. He also cited that since the gatherings over the Purim and Passover holidays did not lead to any direct spike in cases, the vaccines were proving to be more than effective.

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If Israel does actually achieve this goal, they will be the first country in the world to hit herd immunity. Last week, researchers at the University College London said that the United Kingdom would reach herd immunity by Friday; a claim that was immediately disputed.

Israel has already begun rolling back on a multitude of coronavirus restrictions within the recent months as more and more citizens received their vaccinations. Businesses were able to reopen, even venues and other gathering activities were able to occur more frequently has morbidity levels dropped exponentially with the country’s world-leading vaccination drive.

The Israeli Health Ministry is expected to lift outdoor mask mandates in public spaces later this month while some restrictions on gatherings and schools are still being enforced to protect younger generations.

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Israel is continuously limiting the number of people who can enter and/or exit the nation every day as well, as many experts are worried about the multitude of variants around the world that could potentially undermine the effectiveness of their vaccination program.

Government ministers this past week voted to further ease certain Covid-19 restrictions in schools; they removed the requirement that made fourth graders learn in much smaller class sizes. Ministers also ended the requirement that made all students present a health declarations signed by their parents to enter into a classroom. All universities and colleges are also now able to hold all tests in person.

Currently, Israeli residents are allowed to gather outdoors in crowds up to 100 and up to 20 for indoor gatherings. Cultural and even venues are allowed to host up to 750 people under the Green Pass Program. This program is designed to grant access to public venues exclusively for individuals who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus.

As of this past Saturday there were 4,002 active Covid-19 cases throughout Israel; 221 of which were recently diagnosed last week. The Health Ministry claims that 268 individuals are in serious condition, but the death toll has remained at 6,292. According to the ministry over 5.3 million citizens are vaccinated with their first dose while 4.9 million are now fully immunized.

Syrigne of Covid Vaccine

China Looking For Foreign Vaccine Options After Admitting To Ineffective Vaccines

This weekend, the director of China’s health agency claimed that Covid-19 vaccines being produced by private and state-run groups are not very effective. This announcement comes after an Oregon congressman began pushing for more effective and compassionate vaccine property rights to be shared among the world to end the pandemic more quickly.

The Associated Press initially reported that the director of the China Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, claimed Chinese vaccines “don’t have a very high protection rate.” Sinovac is the privately-owned company that has been producing Covid vaccines in China. Sinopharm is a state-owned firm responsible for the same thing. International testing has revealed that the vaccines from both businesses are 50% effective in preventing moderate to severe Covid-19 symptoms.

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Despite the fact that Pfizer and Moderna have both tested to be 97% and 94% effective respectively, Gao Fu casted doubt on mRNA technology in general, so both vaccines weren’t even put under consideration. This weekend, however, Gao Fu claimed that China is considering other vaccine options now, as their goal is to vaccinate 40% of it’s population by June; for reference they currently have about 5% of their 1.4 billion population vaccinated.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have claimed that 35% of US residents have received at least one of their shots by now. Earl Blumenauer is the Oregon Congressman who also discussed how access to effective vaccines “is a key to global herd immunity from COVID.”

“None of us are safe, we’re only a plane ride away form being reinfected.”

Several lawmakers share Blumenauer’s viewpoints, and have even signed a request to the Biden Administration to temporarily lift intellectual property rights to the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson vaccines. “The idea is for other countries to produce effective vaccines too.”

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“It’s in everyone’s interest to do this, we’ll only be safe when the whole world can be protected, but it’s hard when wealthy countries like the US bought up most of the initial supply of effective vaccines.”

“This risks further deepening of global inequities, sparking new tensions and divides, with really serious ramifications for stability and progress around the world. Letting Covid circulate in other countries will yield stronger variant strains, which may be resistant to current vaccines.”

Martha Newsome is the president of Medical Teams International, a Pacific Northwest-based organization that works to vaccinate people in poorer countries.

“It’s literally a human rights issue. I think sometimes we just think ‘I need to get my family vaccinated, I need to get my community vaccinated,’ but we will not get out of this pandemic isolation that we’re feeling until everyone is vaccinated.”

The pharmaceutical industry opposes sharing intellectual property rights, however, which Blumenaur claims is a “short-sighted, and frankly inhumane attitude to have when facing a global health crisis. If we don’t defeat this virus together, it’ll come back to bite us.”

Two Positive Covid Tests

Michigan’s Surge In Covid-19 Cases Has Health Experts Worried For Rest Of The US

Michigan is currently in the middle of a major surge of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations that has many experts worried for the rest of the nation. Younger people are among the most vulnerable as they’re the last group to receive their vaccinations. Dr. Celine Gounder is an epidemiologist who spoke to the media about this recent surge.
“Michigan is really the bellwether for what it looks like when the B.1.1.7 variant spreads in the United States. It’s causing a surge in cases and it’s causing more severe disease, which means that even younger people, people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are getting very sick and being hospitalized by this.”

The B.1.1.7 strain was initially spotted in the United Kingdom but is now the most dominant strain of Covid-19 in America. Experts have claimed this strain is more contagious, may cause more severe disease and is potentially more deadly. Florida currently has the highest number of variant cases, filled by Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, according to the CDC.

Gounder claims Michigan’s surge in particular is caused by a combination of two factors: the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant combined with the fact that many states have already pulled back, or completely removed, all health and safety precautions meant to curb the spread of Covid due to the fact that vaccines are rolling out more quickly now.
“While some officials are trying to make a case for the federal government to ramp up vaccines to the state, that won’t help in Michigan’s case. Here’s why: it takes about two weeks after the Pfizer and Moderna second doses and about two weeks after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before people are immune. Meanwhile, the incubation period, which is the time from when you’re exposed to when you are infected with Covid, is four to five days.”
“So there is no way that a surge in vaccination is going to help curb this when transmission is happening right now. The hard truth is that the only thing that will curb transmission right now are measures that take effect immediately. For example, masking up, not dining indoors, and socializing outdoors,” Gounder explained.
Michigan is currently reporting thousands of new coronavirus cases everyday, when just a few weeks ago the state’s data showed that it’s daily case count was as low as 500. Dr. Rob Davidson is an emergency room physician in the state who told the media recently that “hospitalizations have gone up four fold in just the last two weeks.”
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN: “Hospitals are being inundated, Michigan needs to shut down and the government should send more vaccines to the state. Think about it this way: Every year during fire season, when forest fires get out of control, we don’t just leave the states to manage as best they can. We surge firefighting forces into those states. So Michigan is on fire now. And we need to put that out.”
Beyond just Michigan health officials are warning of sharp increases in Covid-19 all throughout the country. Minnesota officials are specifically claiming it’s “more important than ever to keep wearing a mask and physical distancing.” Some experts in the US think that the nation could prevent another surge in the coming weeks if all Americans just continue to treat this pandemic like they did in the beginning while the rest of the country waits to receive their vaccinations.
So far about 35.9% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of their vaccine and 21% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the record pace that the US is administering vaccines, the country could reach the vaccination numbers needed to control the virus over the next few months. The way to do that is to vaccinate like crazy,” Reiner said.
“The last 20 to 30% are going to be the hardest because a lot of folks in this country are still hesitant to get the vaccine. We’re seeing it all over the country. We need to really get down on the grassroots level, talk to people about their hesitancy and get shots into arms, because if we don’t vaccinate that last 30% or so, we’re still going to have to live with this virus for a very long time.”
Doctor Holding Coronavirus Vaccine Syringe

Updated Efficacy Levels in Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine rollout is well underway for many countries around the world. After an applauded record development of several coronavirus vaccinations, developers are still monitoring vaccination data as they are distributed worldwide. This is a variety of reasons – to monitor safety and side effects, immunity response, understand the vaccine’s impact on groups of people and so forth. As the vaccine is rolled out to larger groups of people, developers will continue to evaluate update their efficacy claims simply due to the greater amount of data available. 

Efficacy refers to the percentage reduction of disease in a vaccinated group of people compared to an unvaccinated group. Each vaccine had to go through several stages of development before they were approved as safe for wider use and rollout, one of the final trials are usually on thousands of volunteers, which gives a preliminary efficacy value. However, as the vaccine is given to millions, this percentage may change. Many vaccinations, including the Pfizer-BioNTech shot were approved in late 2020, and as we move through 2021, developers are releasing new efficacy details. 

As the vaccination was rolled out quickly due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, scientists and developers do not yet have a conclusive understanding of how long immunity against COVID-19 lasts with the vaccination, nor whether those who are vaccinated can still be carriers.

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In the case of the Pfizer-BioTech vaccination, a trial has found that its vaccination protects against systematic COVID for up to six months. The Guardian wrote: ‘In a statement released on Thursday, the companies reported efficacy of 91.3% against any symptoms of the disease in participants assessed up to six months after their second shot.

The level of protection is only marginally lower than the 95% achieved soon after vaccination. The findings are the first to demonstrate that the vaccine remains effective for many months, an outcome that doctors and scientists had desperately hoped for because it suggests that people being vaccinated now should be protected at least until the autumn when boosters may be ready.’

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccination’s effectiveness varies between age groups. According to The Observer, the company has been trialing its effectiveness on younger age groups, ‘Pfizer and BioNTech said new phase 3 trial data has shown that their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine BNT162b2 is 100 percent effective and well-tolerated in youths ages 12 to 15.’ The vaccines overall effectiveness is apparently 94% for those 65 and older and 95% for those aged 16 and older. 

The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccination was completed late last year and has already been approved and rolled out across the UK and Europe.  Its original levels of efficacy were lower than Pfizer, but its levels were still beneficial, with the added bonus that this vaccination could be stored more easily than the RNA Pfizer-BioNTech version.

However, it has hit a few road bumps during rollout. This vaccine has not yet been approved in the USA, and has, until recently been undergoing trials.  A press release released on the 22nd of March claimed that preliminary analysis found the vaccine to be 79% effective, in trial of over 32,000 people in the United States, Chile and Peru.

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However, this claim was questioned, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) were concerned that this was outdated information. Nature reported that now, ‘a key phase III clinical trial found the vaccine to be 76% effective at preventing COVID-19, the company announced on 25 March, two days after it was accused of misrepresenting interim results, which reported a slightly higher efficacy of 79%. Scientists hope the kerfuffle will not cause lasting damage to the vaccine’s reputation, which could be bolstered by scrutiny — and likely approval — by US drug regulators.’ Adding that ‘the difference between 76% and 79% efficacy is “tiny, and to be expected with the number of cases analyzed”, said Peter English, a retired consultant in communicable-disease control, in a statement to the UK Science Media Centre.’

On the US vaccine trial, the BBC reported: “the Anglo-Swedish firm has now adjusted the efficacy rate of its vaccine from 79% to 76%. Further data from the US trial showed efficacy among the over 65s rose from 80% to 85%. AstraZeneca said it now looked forward to getting US regulatory approval.

The company said the trial results confirm the vaccine “is highly effective in adults” and it remains 100% effective at preventing severe cases of the disease.” The Astra Zeneca website also added, in February, that trial ‘analysis also showed the potential for the vaccine to reduce asymptomatic transmission of the virus, based on weekly swabs obtained from volunteers in the UK trial.’

Business Sales

S&P 500 Reaches 4000 Points For First Time Ever

Gains in Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet helped the S&P 500 jump past the 4,000 point mark for the first time ever on Thursday as optimism about a recovering US economy persists.

Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Nvidia increased by 1% or more, with a large number of growth stocks showing signs of awakening once again after falling in recent weeks behind so-called value stocks expected to outperform as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite surprising news last week of the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits increasing, some measures of manufacturing activity soared to their highest levels in more than 37 years in March, with employment at factories the highest since February 2018.

In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.5% at 33,145.88 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.95% to 4,010.77.

The Nasdaq Composite increased by 1.48% to 13,442.31.

After breaking the 4000-point barrier for the first time, the S&P 500 was up about 7% in 2021 and has gained about 80% from its low in March 2020.

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“We’re still bullish for this year, and we think that with stimulus, with the Fed committed to being dovish, with the economy reopening due to more of the U.S. getting vaccinated, overall you’re going to see corporate earnings do pretty well,” said King Lip, chief investment strategist at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco.

The Nasdaq remained about 5% below its February record high close, still smarting as higher U.S. bond yields hurt technology stocks.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors rose, with technology, communication services and energy gaining more than 1%.

US automakers this week reported a rebound in first-quarter sales from the struggles that the coronavirus pandemic caused last year, but numbers were not quite as good as expected due to a global chip scarcity that meant many companies were forced to halt production.

The Covid-19 pandemic has boosted sales overall for automakers as more people choose to travel by their own cars rather than using public transportation.

However, chip shortages and extreme winter weather across the south west throughout February resulted in automakers having to close factories, ensuring analysts remain cautious about the speed of the sector’s recovery over the next year.

General Motors Co reported that its first-quarter U.S. sales rose 4% to 642,250 vehicles, helped initially by an increase in demand for its Escalade sport utility vehicles and Encore subcompact crossover SUVs.

“Sales are off to a strong start in 2021, we are operating our truck and full-size SUV plants at full capacity and we plan to recover lost car and crossover production in the second half of the year where possible,” said Steve Carlisle, GM executive vice president.

GM, the number one automaker in the US, said it estimates that the seasonally adjusted annual sales pace for the first quarter of the year was around 16.7 million units.

Japan’s Nissan Motor Co said its U.S. sales rose nearly 11% to 285,553 vehicles in the quarter, while South Korea’s Hyundai Motor’s U.S. sales jumped about 28% to 167,130 vehicles.

Deliveroo’s recent London IPO struggles have left a sour taste in the mouths of a large portion of its customer base.

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A number of amateur traders were swayed by Deliveroo’s regular updates and offers regarding its IPO, but investors are nursing losses after Deliveroo shares plunged as much as 30% on their London Stock Exchange debut on Wednesday.

The early fall, which has sliced 2 billion dollars off initial valuations, is being regarded as a blow to Britain’s ambitions of attracting fast-growing tech companies to London.

The outlook appeared bleak for Deliveroo even before the IPO, with several asset managers shunning it because of complaints over gig-economy working conditions, as well as Deliveroo’s corporate governance.

“I took a gamble,” London-based amateur trader Amy Lee told Reuters. “It was my own fault, but I think I was swayed by the thought ‘surely Deliveroo wouldn’t advertise a bad product to their customers through their app. That would be stupid right?’”

One Londoner who bought 295 pounds of Deliveroo stock said the company’s sales team seemed to have “bent over backwards” to turn diners into investors.

“Every time you placed a Deliveroo order they flashed a sign. They let me invest even without a brokerage account. They said we will open up a Lloyds (bank) account for you and do it for you, (for) a one-off fee of 5 pounds. They made it super helpful,” he said, requesting anonymity.

Asked for comment, a Deliveroo spokesperson said: “Although the trading started lower than we would have liked, we are just starting life as a public company and we are confident that our winning proposition will deliver long term value for all shareholders.”

“We thank each of our customers who took part in our customer offer and will work tirelessly for them each and every day.”

World Health Organization

UK, USA Criticize WHO Covid Report, Accuse China of Withholding Data

As part of a statement signed by 12 other countries, the US and UK have heavily criticized a World Health Organization (WHO) report into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, while also accusing China of ‘withholding access to complete, original data and samples”.

The statement, whose other signatories include Australia and Canada, came soon after the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, admitted that his organization’s investigation was “not extensive enough” and that his team of experts had difficulties accessing raw information during their four-week visit to Wuhan at the beginning of the year.

On Tuesday, shortly after Tedros’ comments, the 14 countries – including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia and Israel – said in a statement that they “fully” supported the WHO’s efforts to bring an end to the pandemic, including understanding how it “started and spread”.

But they also added that they felt it was “essential that we voice our shared concerns that the international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples”.

The long-awaited report by WHO-commissioned experts and their Chinese counterparts concluded that the global pandemic probably came to humans from animals.

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WHO leader Tedros admitted that he believed there should be a continued examination of the theory that the virus had escaped from a Wuhan institute of virology laboratory, despite the report concluding that it was ‘extremely unlikely’ to be the source of the pandemic.

“In my discussions with the team, they expressed the difficulties they encountered in accessing raw data,” Tedros said.

“I expect future collaborative studies to include more timely and comprehensive data sharing,” he said pointedly while adding that the report “advances our understanding in important ways”.

“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” Tedros said.

While the WHO report found that a number of possible sources of the pandemic were unlikely, officials revealed that this investigation was just the beginning and a network of new, detailed investigations would now have to take place.

“We will see that in the report, there is a lot of very detailed information and useful information that again point towards the need for very specific new studies,” Dr. Ben Embarek revealed at the WHO briefing on their findings on Tuesday.

“The Chinese counterparts, ahead of our coming were also conducting a large number of surveys on animals, different types of animals, wild animals, animals from zoos, animals from farms, domestic animals, et cetera, dozens of thousands of animals were tested and all negative. So again, showing the difficulty of picking up a particular species as a potential intermediary host.”

“(President Biden believes) that the American people, the global community, the medical experts, the doctors, all of the people who’ve been working to save lives, the families who have lost loved ones, all deserve greater transparency. They deserve better information. They deserve steps that are taken by the global community to provide that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during her latest press conference, during which the topic of the latest WHO report was brought up by the attending media.

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“So there was an extensive statement put out by a number of countries, including the U.S. But let me highlight, and we’re still reviewing the report, but let me highlight some of the concerns that have come up to date: the report lacks crucial data, information, and access.

“It represents a partial and incomplete picture. There was a joint statement, as I noted that was put out. We also welcome a similar statement from the EU, and EU members sending a clear message that the global community shares these concerns.

“There are steps from here that we believe should be taken. There’s a second stage in this process that we believe should be led by international and independent experts. They should have unfettered access to data. They should be able to ask questions of people who are on the ground at this point in time. And that’s a step that WHO could take,” Psaki continued.

“They have not been transparent. They have not provided underlying data. That certainly doesn’t qualify as cooperation. The analysis performed to date from our experts, their concern is that there isn’t additional support for one hypothesis. It doesn’t lead us to any closer of an understanding or greater knowledge than we had six to nine months ago about the origin. It also doesn’t provide us guidelines or steps, recommended steps on how we should prevent this from happening in the future. And those are imperative.”

US Presidental Debate

Biden Reveals Details of $2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment Plan

President Joe Biden has this week unveiled plans for what he calls a ‘once-in-a-generation’ investment in infrastructure across America, promising it would lead the country out of the struggles of the pandemic to create the “strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world”.

Speaking at the site of the launch of his presidential campaign two years ago, a carpenters’ training center outside Pittsburgh, Biden revealed details of his plan that would elaborate on his campaign pledge to “rebuild the backbone of America”.

The comprehensive proposal, which Biden has dubbed the American Jobs Plan, intends to rebuild 20,000 miles of road and highways and repair the 10 most economically significant bridges across the country, as well as a long list of other projects that Biden claims will help tackle the climate crisis, bridge wealth inequality and strengthen US competitiveness on the global market.

“It’s time to build our economy from the bottom up and from the middle out. Not the top down, it hadn’t worked very well. For the economy overall it hadn’t worked, because Wall Street didn’t build this country. You, the great middle class, built this country. And unions built the middle class. And it’s time. And this time, when we rebuild the middle class, we’re going to bring everybody along,” President Biden said at the announcement in Pittsburgh.

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“Regardless of your background, your color, your religion, everybody gets to come along. So today I’m proposing a plan for the nation that rewards work, not just rewards wealth. It builds a fair economy that gives everybody a chance to succeed. And it’s going to create the strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world.”

Biden’s proposal includes hundreds of billions of dollars of funding to expand access to high-speed broadband; replace lead water pipes, ensuring access to clean drinking water; and upgrade the electric grid, making it more reliable while shifting to new, cleaner energy sources.

It also aims to improve community care facilities for seniors and those with disabilities, as well as modernize schools and retrofit homes and office buildings. Labor unions would also come out well if the proposal is put through, with dedicated funding to training millions of workers and supporting initiatives that strengthen unions.

“It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges, it’s a once in a generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago. In fact, it’s largest American jobs investment since World War II,” Biden continued.

“It’ll create millions of jobs, good paying jobs. It’ll grow the economy, make us more competitive around the world, promote our national security interest and put us in a position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years.”

Spending for the plan would take place over eight years and generate millions of new jobs, according to Biden. The President proposed to pay for the package by way of introducing a substantial increase on corporate taxes that would offset the spending over the course of 15 years.

Among the corporate changes, Biden called for the corporate tax rate to increase from 21% to 28% and for measures to be introduced that would force multinational corporations to pay more taxes in the US on profits earned abroad.

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The plan for funding would begin to undo major pieces of Donald Trump’s tax-cut laws, which included lowering the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.

Biden carefully chose the venue for the unveiling of this huge plan. He spoke at the site he initially announced his campaign in Pittsburgh – a city he won, in a swing state that helped deliver him the presidency – that was once a symbol of American industrial decline but has steadily rebuilt its economy with green medical facilities, research universities and tech companies.

“It’s big, yes. It’s bold, yes. And we can get it done. It has two parts. The American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, both are essential to our economic future. In a few weeks, I’ll talk about the American’s Family Plan. But today I want to talk about the Americans Jobs Plan,” Biden said.

“It modernizes transportation infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our airports.

“It’s about infrastructure. The American Jobs Plan, we’re modernizing 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets that are in difficult, difficult shape right now. It’ll fix the nation’s ten most economically significant bridges in America that require replacement. Remember that bridge that went down? We got ten of the most economically significant across the country and we’ll rebuild them.

“We’ll also repair 10,000 bridges, desperately needed upgrades to unclog traffic, keep people safe and connect our cities, towns, and tribes across the country. The American Jobs Plan will build new rail corridors and transit lines, easing congestion, cutting pollution, slashing commute time, and opening up investment in communities that be connected to the cities and cities to the outskirts where a lot of jobs are these days.”

International Travel

Some European countries are re-opening their borders

Depending on the restrictions in your country or area, many people are looking forward to the ability to travel to different countries on vacation again and with the global rollout of vaccinations against coronavirus, that is once again looking like a very attainable possibility.

In a bid to re-start the very lucrative, and for many countries central, tourism industry, some countries have now began opening their borders. However, access may be dependent on a number of variables depending on the country – from whether you need proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, to what country you are entering from. 

The popular destination, Italy is among those to open its borders again to some visitors. Those from the EU countries, the Schengen travel zone, Australia, Japan and some other countries will be allowed in, however those from countries such as the UK and Brazil are not allowed to travel into Italy due to the emergence of virus variants in said countries. Time Out writes: 

‘New rules also mean that you might be required to provide a negative test result on arrival. If you’re entering the country from within the Schengen area, you will now be asked to provide evidence that you received a negative result in a test administered in the 48 hours before travel (or face quarantine).

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Travelers from Austria and outside the Schengen area will instead be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. All international visitors, from any country, must also fill out this ‘travel declaration form’ before departure. You should also note that Italy has brought in a tiered lockdown system, with the country split into ‘yellow’, ‘orange’ and ‘red’ areas depending on how rampant the virus is. For the moment, most of the country is considered ‘red’, which means bars, restaurants and all other non-essential businesses are closed.’

Greece, was a country campaigning for the use of a digital vaccine pass in order to re-open its tourism industry, on which its economy heavily relies. They now have begun lifting lockdown restrictions to the EU, Schengen member states, the UK and other countries such as Australia, Japan, Israel, Turkey and some more. Those countries that are not in the list may not travel. 

The majority of EU countries are allowing travelers within the EU to travel freely, and a handful of other countries, Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand are also allowed entry at the time of writing this article. This list is evolving and changing depending on rising or falling infection rates. The UK for example, has been taken off of many countries’ ‘entry’ list due to the new strain that evolved from the country last year.  

The EU recently put forward a proposal for vaccine passports In a bid to create a system that will allow tourism to restart in Europe by the summer. The BBC explains: 

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‘The aim of the EU pass is to get travel moving across borders, “without discrimination”, but getting it all organized in a short space of time will be a significant challenge. EU leaders have called for legal and technical work to go ahead “as a matter of urgency” while maintaining restrictions on non-essential travel for the moment. The original plan is for the certificate to be in place for the summer but that deadline could be hard to meet. The certificate, either digital or on paper, will enable anyone vaccinated against Covid, or who has tested negative, or recently recovered from the virus, to travel across all 27 member states.

The EU also wants to include non-EU countries such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Key to the digital certificate is a QR code – a machine-readable graphic code made up of black and white squares – that contains personal data and the EU’s Commission says it will be safe and secure. It is working with the World Health Organization to ensure the certificate is recognized beyond Europe. ’

Places like Denmark will use the pass to also allow access to access services within the country, such as hairdressers and restaurants. Sweden is also considering this application. 

Some countries such as Iceland have already opened its borders to vaccinated travellers, so those who have been fully inoculated against COVID-19 (and can prove it) should be able to enter the country. However, before you attempt to travel anywhere, be sure to check the rules and restrictions for both your destination and the country that you are travelling from. You may need to also check the rules for re-entering your home country, whether this is to provide a negative COVID test or quarantine in a hotel or no-restrictions at all. Be aware that the pace of the pandemic has meant that rules are changing rather quickly, so be prepared to adapt to new restrictions and regularly update yourself on the safety guidelines. 

Pandemic Mental Health

1 In 3 Covid-19 Survivors Diagnosed With Mental Health Disorders Within 6 Months Of Recovery

A pandemic study regarding the long term effects of Covid-19 in its survivors has estimated that 1 in 3 individuals were diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric conditions within six months of their initial infection. 

The study was published this week in the peer-reviewed journal, The Lancet Psychiatry. The study itself used electronic health records from more than 230,000 Covid-19 patients mainly from the US and specifically regarding 14 different brain and mental health disorders. 

The study found that “34% of survivors were diagnosed with at least one of the 14 conditions, with 13% of those people being their first recorded neurological or psychiatric diagnosis. Mental health diagnoses were most common among patients, with 17% diagnosed with anxiety and 14% diagnosed with a mood disorder.”

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Neurological diagnoses were much more uncommon, however, they were more prevalent in patients who experienced serious illness during their Covid-19 infection. 7% of Covid-19 patients who had to be admitted to intensive care had a stroke, for example, and 2% were diagnosed with dementia. 

“It shows the toll that COVID takes is not just with the (disease itself), but also with the aftermath of the condition, which can be extremely complicated, involving not only the brain but other organs in the body as well,” said Dr. William Li, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the study of abnormal blood vessel growth.

The study also looked at around 100,000 flu patients and more than 230,000 patients who were diagnosed with a respiratory tract infection within the past year and found that neurological and psychiatric diagnoses were more common in individuals who fought Covid-19. 

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“There was a 44% greater risk of brain or mental health disorder diagnoses after COVID-19 than after the flu, and a 16% greater risk than with respiratory tract infections,” according to the study.

Julie Walsh-Messinger, assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Dayton, recently discussed how it’s possible that “coronavirus infection could lead to anxiety or depression as these conditions have been associated with inflammation typically seen in Covid-19.”

“We’re seeing higher rates of depression and anxiety across the board regardless of (COVID-19 infection) or not. It’s hard to tease apart how much of it is general stress-induced anxiety or depression because of lack of ability to socialize, lack of ability to engage in activities that one normally enjoys, fear about the future and how much of it is specific to the disease’s progress. Even so, the study is an important first step in what clinicians can expect from their patients who have recovered from COVID-19,” she explained. 

“The size of the study also demonstrates how the long-term effects of COVID-19 can impact a country’s health care system even after the disease is gone. Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial for health and social care systems due to the scale of the pandemic. Health care systems need to be resourced to deal with the anticipated need,” said lead author Paul Harrison, a professor at the University of Oxford in the U.K.