World Coronavirus Dispatch: Secret ingredients behind vaccine breakthrough

Pfizer moved to seek emergency authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine from the US drug regulator, after trials proved over 95 per cent efficacy in preventing infections. The move marks a milestone in months of frantic global hunt for a medicine that could check the pandemic. Once the company files for approval, it is upto the regulator to decide whether the vaccine works safely and is fit for public use. It’s also unclear how much time the agency will take to analyse the vaccine data.

Let’s look at global statistics

Global infections: 57,564,688

Change over yesterday: 642,538

Global deaths: 1,372,182

Nations with most cases: US (11,910,906), India (9,050,597), Brazil (6,020,164), France (2,160,343), Russia (2,023,025)

Source: John Hopkins Coronavirus Research Centre

Churches push back against restrictions Religious leaders were largely silent during first wave of Covid restrictions, but they ran out of patience this time. Religious groups across Europe and US are resisting the government curbs, arguing they are being unjustly targeted. Governments believe restrictions on collective worship are necessary to halt the strong increase of infections, hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 that has swept across most Western countries this fall. A study this summer by Johns Hopkins University researchers found that people who had visited a house of worship three or more times in the previous two weeks reported infections 16 times more than those who hadn’t visited. Read more here The world’s first quarantine-free travel bubble Hong Kong and Singapore are scheduled to test the world’s most comprehensive air-travel bubble on November 22nd. Once the arrangement kicks in, travellers will be able to fly between the two cities without quarantine, and any restrictions on what they plan to do on their visits. The flyers will have to secure a negative test result not more than 72 hours before travelling and they face another test at the destination airport. Though there have been other attempts to get cross-nation travel going again, none has gone this far. Read more here Office markets staring at slow, long recovery The positive news on the vaccine front has sparked hopes for a faster global economic rebound. Defying those expectations, investors are taking it slow in the commercial real estate. The dealmaking remains far below pre-pandemic levels, a sign that markets are staring at a long and slow recovery. Even in regions where the virus remains at bay, there’s no sign of speedup in office markets. Offices still comprise the biggest share of commercial real estate transactions, about one-third of the global market as per latest estimates. Read more here Hong Kong’s fourth wave of infections Hong Kong is asking more students to stay at home and seeks to impose fresh restrictions, signaling a arrival of fresh wave.

Classes for primary school levels 1 to 3 will be suspended from Nov. 23 for two weeks. The turn for the worse comes two days before the former British colony is due to launch an air travel bubble with fellow financial hub Singapore, in what is the world’s most comprehensive travel arrangement open to all residents. Read more here

Specials The biggest unfounded sensation The collaboration between two separate, but increasingly allied groups — a small but active Chinese diaspora and the highly influential far right in the United States — has created the biggest right-wing media sensation in recent times about Dr Li-Meng Yan, a researcher in Hong Kong, who peddled unsubstantiated claims to millions that the coronavirus was a bio-weapon manufactured by China. The initial cover-up of the outbreak by China has further fueled suspicion about the origins of the virus. A riveting account of how Dr Yan’s trajectory was carefully crafted by Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese billionaire, and Stephen K Bannon, a former adviser to Mr Trump. Read more here Secret ingredients behind vaccines breakthrough Both Moderna and Pfizer are using the same, but never-before-approved technology in their Covid vaccines to prevent infections. At the center of both shots is a thread of messenger ribonucleic acid or mRNA that produces virus-like protein cells. The immune system recognises and attack those bits and, in case of any actual infection, the response would be faster. Moderna’s vaccine uses 100 micrograms of RNA per dose, while Pfizer’s shot uses only 30 micrograms, which makes it easier to produce and less expensive. In both cases, the mRNA is encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles and cold storage is needed to keep the nanoparticles in good shape and to stop the mRNA degrading. Read more here Pandemic shifts parenting roles The pandemic has upended the child caring responsibilties, probably since World War II. As offices closed, and the shift to working from home became the normal, men are spending more number of hours with their children than ever before. This could lead to a permanent re-evaluation of the value of fatherhood and a shift in working patterns. Business leaders are forced to recognise the values of flexible working and realise both parents need to be empowered to juggle between work and family life. While women bore the brunt of extra childcare during the initial days of pandemic, the society has the changed the way it sees fatherhood towards the end of the year. Read more here Long read: Many Americans are becoming their own bosses While coronavirus has dismantled the job markets, it has also pushed people to come up with new ideas and products and services. The Covid-driven crash was different, many aren’t waiting for jobs to return. More Americans are becoming their own bosses, setting up tiny businesses to work as traveling hair stylists, in-home personal trainers, boutique mask designers and chefs. This emerging group of entrepreneurs are blossoming despite the challenges in starting new business, including a lack of access to employer-provided health insurance, workers’ compensation, paid sick leave and eligibility for unemployment insurance. Read more here

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