Following the harrowing number of Covid-19 deaths in Italy on Saturday, which marked the largest rise in a day, the country is to close all non-essential businesses to help mitigate further spread of the virus. “Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open,” said Giuseppe Conte, the Italian Prime Minister. “But all the rest of the non-essential production activities, including plants and offices, will close down.”
As the Italian healthcare system continues to struggle with the increasing number of patients requiring emergency and intensive care, a number of doctors from the country have made a pleas for additional hospital staff and equipment – many are also urging other countries to consider treating more patients at home.
In the UK, where the death toll just exceeded 200 and which is allegedly ‘just a couple of weeks behind Italy’, the UK has made plans to draft in military personnel to ensure that food and medicines reach those most vulnerable, including those isolated at home. These measures come hand in hand with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advice to 1.5 million people to stay home. Those most at risk will receive letters or texts messages strongly advising them not to go out for 12 weeks to protect themselves.
As the UK’s National Health System (NHS) continues to face increased strain, this new move aims to reduce the number of people being hospitalised. Speaking on Saturday evening, Johnson said: “The Italians have a superb healthcare system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand. The Italian death toll is already in the thousands and climbing. Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread – then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed.”
But the UK NHS is already quickly reaching that point, and Johnson continues to receive criticism for his lack of decisive actions leading up to this point. The UK Government has also issued a call for tens of thousands of retired healthcare workers to return to their healthcare roles to help ease the burden on the NHS.
News has also come in from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office that hundreds of Britons that are currently stranded in Peru due to a 15-day government lockdown (imposed since Monday) could be flown home early next week
Over in India, more than a billion people have been asked to stay indoors for a 14-hour curfew – a test that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced would assess the country’s ability to fight the virus. In addition, the country’s oldest and busiest railway network is to shut down from Monday to prevent the spread of the virus in Mumbai. Only government workers in ‘essential services’ will be allowed to travel via the service. Experts also note that India is conducting the fewest test per million at the moment, making the virus much harder to contain, especially given the populous nature of the country’s capital city.
Testing for the virus is one of the most important things that can be done to help track the progression of the pandemic and decide how to make an informed response.
In some positive news, the US Food and Drug Administration has just approved the use of Cepheid’s Covid-19 test, which has the advantage of being able to be run either with or without the use of a nasal swab – a crucial factor considering that nasal swabs are taxed globally in light of the need for testing – and can give results in approximately 45 minutes. The test can also be done at home, improving the country’s Covid-19 mitigation strategy.
And its not the only tech company doing its bit to help overcome the Covid-19 pandemic: Apple has announced that it is working to source necessary supplies for healthcare workers both in the US and Europe and has also donated US$15 million to go towards the Covid-19 response, as well as offering two-to-one corporate matching for all employee donations; while Microsoft is providing an open research data set in partnership with colleagues at academic institutions around the world called the 'Covid-19 Open Research Data Set', which currently includes more than 29,000 scholarly articles about the virus.
Elsewhere, Rihanna has become the latest celebrity to donate to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday, the singer’s Clara Lionel Foundation announced it has donated $5 million to a number of organisations responding to the outbreak.
At the time of writing, the global number of Covid-19 cases sits at approximately 316,659, with 13,599 deaths (4,825 deaths in Italy) and 94,176 recoveries (almost a third of the total global number of confirmed cases).