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Mandatory BCG vaccination linked with slower Covid-19 growth

Mandatory BCG vaccination correlated with a flattening of the curve in the spread of Covid-19, the analysis showed.

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New York, Aug 2 : Adding to the growing evidence that early BCG vaccination may be helpful in taming the Covid-19 spread, scientists now claim that countries with mandatory BCG vaccination until at least the year 2000 tended to exhibit slower infection and death rates during the first 30 days of the outbreak.

By applying a statistical model based on their findings, the researchers further estimated that only 468 people would likely have died from Covid-19 in the US as of March 29 – which is 19 per cent of the actual figure of 2,467 deaths by that date – if the US had instituted mandatory BCG vaccination several decades ago.

Martha Berg, the study’s lead author from University of Michigan (U-M) and colleagues focused on changes in the growth rates of Covid-19 cases and deaths, while controlling for variables including diagnostic test availability, median age, per capita GDP, population size and density, net migration rate, and various cultural differences such as individualism.

Their findings suggest that national policies for universal BCG vaccination can be effective in the fight against Covid-19 – an association that merits clinical investigation.

“Available evidence demonstrates that BCG vaccination, typically given at birth or during childhood to prevent tuberculosis, can also help strengthen immunity against various other infectious diseases – perhaps including Covid-19,” the authors wrote in a paper published in the journal Science Advances.

To reach this conclusion, Berg and colleagues analyzed the day-by-day rate of increase of confirmed cases in 135 countries and deaths in 134 countries in the first 30-day period of each country’s outbreak.

Mandatory BCG vaccination correlated with a flattening of the curve in the spread of Covid-19, the analysis showed.

However, the authors caution that their results do not portray BCG as a “magic bullet.”

They found substantial variation in Covid-19 growth rates even among BCG-mandated countries, suggesting that additional societal variables likely have an effect on mandatory BCG vaccination’s effect on the spread of the disease.

In India, the Tamil Nadu government last month allowed a pilot project to study if the BCG vaccine will help reduce the mortality rate among elderly Covid-19 patients. The National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis will start the pilot programme.

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Israel reports 2,445 new Covid-19 cases; 193,374 in total

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Jerusalem, Sep 23 : Israel’s Ministry of Health reported 2,445 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 193,374.

The total count of deaths from the coronavirus in Israel rose by 12 to 1,285, while the number of patients in serious condition rose from 653 to 668, out of 1,352 patients currently hospitalised, Xinhua news agency reported.

The number of recoveries in the country increased by 3,971 to 140,751, while the number of active Covid-19 cases stood at 51,338.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli government approved a plan to expand the national economic safety net to deal with the pandemic’s impact.

“Expanding the plan will enable immediate economic assistance for businesses and wage-earners who are expected to be hurt by the current Covid-19 nationwide lockdown,” said a joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Ministry.

The expansion includes the lowering of damage threshold for businesses to receive fixed expenditure grants to 25 per cent, providing advances against the fixed expenditure grants, a comprehensive worker retention plan, and deferring the reduction in unemployment benefits.

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United States Covid deaths top 200,000 as questions linger over halting virus spread

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The US death toll from the coronavirus exceeded 200,000, as some guidelines and practices for stopping the disease’s spread have been called into question.

While the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University indicated that 52,000 new cases had been reported on Monday, some 21,800 of those new cases came from the release of backlogged data in Texas.

The US logged 36,695 new cases on Sunday, Johns Hopkins reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caused uncertainty Monday when it removed from its website newly posted guidelines saying the coronavirus could be transmitted by tiny particles that linger in the air.

The agency said a draft version of proposed changes was posted in error.

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China turned 500K rural Tibetans into ‘branded coercive labourers’

China is pushing growing numbers of Tibetan rural laborers off the land and into recently built military-style training centers where they are turned into factory workers, mirroring a program in the western Xinjiang region that rights groups have branded coercive labour.

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Beijing: Beijing has set quotas for the mass transfer of rural laborers within Tibet and to other parts of China, according to over a hundred state media reports, policy documents from government bureaus in Tibet and procurement requests released between 2016-2020 and reviewed by Reuters. The quota effort marks a rapid expansion of an initiative designed to provide loyal workers for Chinese industry.

A notice posted to the website of Tibet’s regional government website last month said over half a million people were trained as part of the project in the first seven months of 2020 – around 15% of the region’s population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred into jobs within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low paid work, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture.

“This is now, in my opinion, the strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen almost since the Cultural Revolution” of 1966 to 1976, said Adrian Zenz, an independent Tibet and Xinjiang researcher, who compiled the core findings about the program. These are detailed in a report released this week by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based institute that focuses on policy issues of strategic importance to the U.S. “It’s a coercive lifestyle change from nomadism and farming to wage labour.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly denied the involvement of forced labor, and said China is a country with rule of law and that workers are voluntary and properly compensated.

“What these people with ulterior motives are calling ‘forced labor’ simply does not exist. We hope the international community will distinguish right from wrong, respect facts, and not be fooled by lies,” it said.

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