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Sweden goes it alone and stays open for business

2 heures 5 minutes ago

Crowded streets and children playing outdoors.

Unusual scenes in these strange times.

But Sweden is going it alone -- one of the last European countries to avoid a lockdown.

It's urging citizens to stay at home if they feel ill, but allowing bars and restaurants to stay open.

Customers are told to observe social distancing.

Now they have to be seated and served at a table.

Children up to late secondary level are still going to school, too -- because they're said to be less susceptible to the virus -- and to reduce social and economic disruption.

Other countries reason that kids can still spread it to others who may be more vulnerable.

Sweden, a country of 10 million people, has had about 4,500 confirmed cases and at least 180 deaths.

It's setting up a temporary hospital and warning of a lack of staff and safety equipment.

And ramping up other measures.

The government said Wednesday it would increase testing, with an initial focus on health workers and others in key jobs.

And that it would ban visits to old people's homes.

That's several weeks behind most other European countries.

There are signs of dissent though.

A group of senior healthcare officials has written to the government calling for tougher measures.

And while Sweden's officially staying open for business, many customers are choosing to stay away.

Prompting the center-left government to offer loan guarantees and other help to support struggling businesses.


Have I already had coronavirus? How would I know and what should I do?

4 heures 25 minutes ago

Covid-19 symptoms, when they occur, vary widely and undertesting means many people have probably been unwittingly infected * Coronavirus – latest updates * See all our coronavirus coverageCovid-19 symptoms vary widely, and undertesting in many countries means that many people may have already had the coronavirus without having received a positive diagnosis. Is it possible to find out, and how should you behave if you think you may have been infected? Is there any way to know whether someone has had Covid-19 in the past?Dr William Hillmann: At this point, we don’t have a test to tell that. We are developing antibody tests to check for a prior infection, but those aren’t ready for clinical use yet. The only definitive way to know that you’ve had it is to get tested while you have it and to have that test be positive. Could I have had it and been asymptomatic? Hillmann: Coronavirus is actually quite a significant spectrum of symptoms, from people who are entirely asymptomatic and would have no idea that they have it to people with very mild, cold-like symptoms – runny nose, congestion, sore throat – to people with more flu-like symptoms – high fevers, muscle aches, shortness of breath and cough. All the way up to people with severe illness, who we’re seeing in the hospital with respiratory failure, requiring ICU care. (Editor’s note: recent reports suggest that loss of smell and taste are also signs of Covid-19 infection.) What percentage of carriers are asymptomatic?Dr David Buchholz: Right now in New York, we’re only testing the sickest possible people. So we have no idea. However, there was a study in Iceland, which tested [a large segment of its] population, and 50% of the people who tested positive had no symptoms. Are people who are asymptomatic also contagious? Hillmann: A significant proportion of people who are totally asymptomatic are contagious for some portion of time. We just don’t know [for how long] at this point, because we don’t have the kind of testing available to screen for asymptomatic infections.When people are symptomatic, they’re contagious. A day or two before they become symptomatic, they’re likely contagious as well. A virus builds up and starts to shed, and then after symptoms resolve, people can still be contagious for a couple of days. We have some evidence of viral shed even a couple of weeks after symptoms are resolved. It’s hard to know if that’s actual live virus, which is still able to infect somebody, or if that’s just dead virus that the body is shedding. Should someone behave differently if they think, but don’t know for certain, that they have already had it?Buchholz: We all have to be role models. If we’re all in it together, we all should be doing social distancing.Hillmann: Since there’s no real way to know at this point who might have had it, unless you’re symptomatic, you get a swab and are definitively diagnosed with it, I would just act as if you hadn’t had it. Keep doing all of those things that we all should be doing at this point: social distancing and hand hygiene. If I think I may have had it, do I have an ethical obligation to tell people I came in contact with? Even if it may in fact just have been a cold?Buchholz: I would, absolutely. I’m in New York, and it was definitely in the community before we knew it. So, yeah, any family members and close friends, maybe somebody you work next to, I think I would just alert them, especially if it was in the last 14 days. If it’s been more than 14 days, they would have gotten sick by now if they had significant exposure.Hillmann: It’s up to every individual about what they feel is right. If somebody is diagnosed with a case of coronavirus, I might feel a little bit more strongly that they should tell people because if you’re in close contact with a healthcare worker, it could have implications for precautions that healthcare worker needs to take. If I’ve had it, can I get it again?Buchholz: There’s not been any evidence that anyone’s gotten it more than once. Someone with a normal immune system that can react to the virus and get better should have immunity for quite some time, at least a year, if not lifelong.There have been reports out of China suggesting people are testing positive for Covid-19 a second time. Most scientists think it is an issue around the inaccuracy of the testing and not that people are having two separate cases of the disease.ExpertsDr David Buchholz, senior founding medical director, primary care, assistant professor of pediatrics, Columbia University Irving medical centerDr William Hillmann, associate inpatient physician director at Massachusetts general hospital


China reports 1,300 asymptomatic virus cases after public concern

7 heures 31 minutes ago

China on Wednesday said it has more than 1,300 asymptomatic coronavirus cases, the first time it has released such data following public concern over people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms. Health officials also reported the first imported case from abroad in Wuhan -- the epicentre where the virus first emerged late last year -- heightening fears of infections being brought into China from other countries. Of 36 new cases reported Wednesday, 35 were imported from abroad.


Masquerade or needed aid? China virus help proves contentious

7 heures 58 minutes ago

China has stepped in to help the West tackle the coronavirus crisis after managing to quell its own outbreak. As European and American healthcare systems creak under the strain, China has offered millions of face masks and teams of medical experts. As well as seeking to deflect criticism over initial Chinese missteps in handling the epidemic, analysts say, the campaign is a public relations opportunity in China's great power rivalry with the West and especially the United States.


Iran warns US after Patriot deployment to Iraq

8 heures 4 minutes ago

Iran warned the US Wednesday that it was leading the Middle East to disaster in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic after it deployed Patriot air defence missiles to Iraq. Washington had been in talks with Baghdad about the proposed deployment since January but it was not immediately clear whether it had secured its approval or not. Iran, which wields huge influence in its western neighbour, said that it had not.


Villager fakes death to circumvent India's virus lockdown

8 heures 46 minutes ago

A Kashmiri villager faked his death and travelled more than a hundred miles in an ambulance with four others in a desperate bid to circumvent India's virus lockdown and return home, police said Wednesday. Hakim Din was being treated for a minor head injury at a hospital in Jammu when an ambulance driver suggested the 70-year-old fake his death to get past checkpoints, police said. Din and three other men wanted to return to Poonch, a far-flung region in Indian-administered Kashmir close to the de facto border with Pakistan.


Trump warns of 'painful two weeks' as officials predict up to 240,000 US coronavirus deaths

11 heures 54 minutes ago

President gives unusually sombre press conference with projections taking physical distancing measures into account * Coronavirus – live US updates * Live global updates * See all our coronavirus coverageDonald Trump has warned America to brace for a “very, very painful two weeks” as the White House projected that the coronavirus pandemic could claim 100,000 to 240,000 lives, even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.Striking an unusually sombre tone at the start a marathon two-hour briefing, the US president defended his early handling of the crisis and displayed models that, he said, justified his decision to keep much of the economy shut down.“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks. This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks.”The US death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,800 on Tuesday, eclipsing China’s official count. Trump has been widely condemned for exacerbating the crisis by failing to prepare testing kits, breathing apparatus and other equipment.On Tuesday his experts said their models showed between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus even if the country keeps mitigation measures in place.Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus taskforce response coordinator, told reporters that models show a worst case scenario of between 1.5m and 2.2m deaths in the US “without mitigation”.But with measures in place, she added, the “mountain” could be reduced to a “hill” that projects 100,000–240,000 deaths – still a staggering total. She stressed that the number could be lower if people changed their behavior.She displayed a chart in which New York had by far the most cumulative cases, followed by New Jersey, then the other 48 states bunched together. Birx expressed hope that social distancing could prevent major outbreaks in those states.Early mitigation slowing the spread of disease in California and Washington state “gives us great hope”, she added. “It’s communities that will do this. There’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviour.”Asked if Americans be prepared for the likelihood that there would be 100,000 Americans who die from this virus, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: “The answer is yes. As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it.“Is it going to be that much? I hope not, and I think the more we push on the mitigation, the less likelihood it will be that number ... We are really convinced mitigation is going to be doing the trick for us.”He added: “We’re going to continue to see things go up. We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working ... Now is the time, whenever you’re having an effect, not to take your foot off the accelerator and on the brake, but to just press it down on the accelerator. And that’s what I hope and I know that we can do over the next 30 days.”Trump eventually heeded such advice, and opinion polls, after previously declaring an ambition to restart the economy by Easter. He announced on Sunday that he was extending to 30 April the guidelines that urged Americans to cease social gatherings, work from home, suspend onsite learning at schools and more in a nationwide effort to stem the spread of the virus.Trump spoke after another bad day for the stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 400 points, or roughly 1.9%, to seal the worst first-quarter finish of its 135-year history.But the president defended shutting down much of the economy, attempting to rewrite history. Trump, who in speeches and on Twitter has compared Covid-19 to the common flu, said: “A lot of people have said, ‘Ride it out. Don’t do anything, just ride it out. And think of it as the flu.’ But it’s not the flu. It’s vicious.”And as the briefing wore on, more of the old Trump emerged. He made misleading claims about the early travel restrictions he imposed on China and Europe and, despite complaints from state governors, defended the supply of ventilators and other equipment.Although public health experts raised the alarm early based on reports from China, the president claimed: “Nobody knew how contagious this was. I don’t think any doctor knew it at the time. People have not seen anything like this.”Trump denied his early downplaying of the virus had given people a false sense of security and dismissed critics who said he should be more willing to deliver bad news. “This is really easy to be negative about, but I want to give people hope, too,” he said. “I’m not about bad news. I want to give people hope. I want to give people the feeling that we all have a chance.”And trying to put his own efforts in a positive light, he noted that without his mitigation guidelines, models show the death toll could have reached 2.2m. “You would have had people dying all over the place.“You would have seen people dying in airplanes, you would have seen people dying in hotel lobbies. How many people have even seen anybody die? You would have seen death all over.”The president added: “One hundred thousand is, according to modeling, a very low number.” But he also described the figure as “very sobering”.Trump was asked if, as the Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has suggested, he was distracted by the impeachment trial in January. “I don’t think I would’ve acted any differently,” he replied. “I don’t think I would’ve acted any faster.”In the wide-ranging session, there was also a question about a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who proposed that the coronavirus could be carried on droplets a distance of 27ft. Fauci responded: “This could really be terribly misleading ... That is not practical ... That is a very, very robust, vigorous, atchoo sneeze.”


China starts to report asymptomatic coronavirus cases

13 heures 30 minutes ago

Chinese health authorities began on Wednesday reporting on asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus as part of an effort to allay public fears that people could be spreading the virus without knowing they are infected with it. China, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, has managed to bring its outbreak under control and is easing travel restrictions in virus hot spots. Up to now, the number of known asymptomatic cases has been classified, and it is not included in the official data, though the South China Morning Post newspaper, citing unpublished official documents, recently said it was more than 40,000.


Trump allies warn against feud with swing state governor

14 heures 1 minute ago

President Donald Trump's allies are trying to contain a politically risky election year fight with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as he struggles to balance presidential politics with a global pandemic in one of the nation's most important swing states. Both sides have tried to de-escalate the feud this week, although Trump's supporters in particular sought to downplay tensions that ratcheted up over the weekend when the Republican president unleashed a social media broadside against Whitmer, a Democrat who had been critical of the federal government's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Trump has clashed with other Democratic governors as well, but he saved his most aggressive insults for the first-term female governor, who is considered a leading vice presidential prospect for his opponent.


China lockdown may have blocked 700,000 virus cases: researchers

15 heures 51 minutes ago

China's decision to lock down the city of Wuhan, ground zero for the global COVID-19 pandemic, may have prevented more than 700,000 new cases by delaying the spread of the virus, researchers said Tuesday. Drastic Chinese control measures in the first 50 days of the epidemic bought other cities across the country valuable time to prepare and install their own restrictions, according to the paper by researchers in China, the United States and the UK, published in the journal Science. "Our analysis suggests that without the Wuhan travel ban and the national emergency response there would have been more than 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of Wuhan by that date," he was quoted as saying in a press release.


Coronavirus infects 29 medical workers at Mexico hospital

15 heures 59 minutes ago

Nearly 30 medical workers at a hospital in northern Mexico have been infected with coronavirus, the regional health department told Reuters on Tuesday, in one of the worst outbreaks to hit the country's healthcare system so far. Mexico has so far reported 1,215 coronavirus cases and 29 deaths, and officials have warned that hospitals and clinics could be overwhelmed if the number of infections rise to levels seen in Europe. The health department at the northern border state of Coahuila said 29 medical and nursing staff of the publicly owned IMSS General Hospital in Monclova had tested positive for coronavirus as of late Tuesday.


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