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Iran’s anti #Coronavirus actions against #WHO advice


Iranian physicians and health workers in the APA International Medical Committee claim that the Iran regime is moving contrary to the world’s direction and WHO advice. On 4 March the spokesman for Iran’s Health Ministry declared a red alert on many of the country’s provinces and warned against resuming administrative and economic activities.

In a press release they say “On 5 March, Hassan Rouhani announced that schools would be permitted to open in so-called “white” provinces. He also set 11 April as the date when certain economic activities would resume. “Starting from next week, offices will begin to work with 2/3 of their employees, and only a third are allowed to stay at home,” Rouhani said. Over the past three months, the regime has unequivocally resisted quarantines, calling them “medieval” while promoting superstitious remedies as an alternate approach to confronting the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 4 March, Seyed Hassan Inanlou, deputy director of Health Management at Alborz University of Medical Sciences, warned, that if people pursue their ordinary livelihoods due to their financial circumstances, “The number of cases will be explosive, hospitals will be overloaded with patients, we will lose control, and won’t be able to manage the outbreak.” He also predicted that the death toll could reach a million.

Rouhani’s decision to resume social activity is cruel and reflects the entire regime’s failure to acknowledge any value for human life.

While there is worldwide concern about the peak of Covid-19 this month and many governments are asking their citizens to stay at home and shutting down the population movement to limit the transmission of coronavirus, Iranian authorities are moving in the opposite direction. This will have worrying consequences for the lives of Iranians as well the world population. The rapid rise in the number of fatalities in Iran, to at least 18,000, is a clear sign of this trend.

Physical distancing, workplace closures and encouraging the population to stay at home are necessary steps in confronting the spread of Covid-19, and the Director General of the World Health Organization has called on all governments worldwide “to put in place the social welfare measures to ensure that vulnerable people have food and otherlife essentials during this crisis.”

Most countries have dedicated special funds to financially supporting their populations, but Iran not only has no social welfare measures in place, but has left unpaid the regular salaries of many health care workers who are at the forefront of this battle against Covid-19.

We, as Iranian physicians, have been monitoring the situation in Iran for a long time. It is clear to us and to many Iranian citizens that the current situation is not related to the sanctions imposed on the regime but stems from mismanagement, from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s refusal to spend the hundreds of billions of dollars that are under his direct control in confronting the coronavirus, and from the massive institutionalized corruption within this regime.

During this crisis, the Iranian regime clearly has no sense of responsibility for its population’s health. It is endangering their lives and wellbeing by forcing them to get back to work early, thereby putting the economic burden of the battle against Covid-19 on workers’ shoulders.

As Iranian physicians and health workers in the APA International Medical Committee, we strongly condemn Rouhani’s announcement of an early return to work, and we warn that it will both endanger the lives of the Iranian population and increasing the infection’s prevalence.

This policy could easily cost at least one million Iranian lives in Iran. Therefore, we call on the WHO and UN Secretary General to intervene and compel the regime not to implement this policy but to utilize its trillions of dollars of available funds to safeguard the health of the Iranian people without delay.”

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COVID-19: Nanaimo, B.C., pulp mill boosts medical pulp production


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A B.C. pulp mill that makes a special recipe of pulp for surgical masks, gowns and other medical supplies has doubled up on its production for an American customer amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Harmac Pacific president Levi Sampson said their round-the-clock production at the mill near Nanaimo has been diverted to make the medical-grade pulp.

“We’ve never had a doubling for this grade of pulp, so you can tell that there’s some supply problems out there,” Sampson said.

There are more than 300 full-time workers at the mill and Sampson said the employees take pride in going to work because of the product they’re producing.

“Every day it seems to be more and more health-care professionals are talking about either lack of supplies or worried about it in future,” Sampson said.

Sampson said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland called him Saturday wanting to know more about the business, where the company’s product goes and to congratulate Harmac employees “for continuing to run and be able to produce a product that will eventually make its way to the front lines.”



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Canada takes cautious approach to unapproved COVID-19 drugs, as others prescribe wide use


A doctor guest on Fox News called it “the beginning of the end of the pandemic.” President Donald Trump said it could be a “game changer,” and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave physicians a qualified green light to use it on COVID-19 patients.

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is a hot item in the United States, embraced by the highest politician in the land and many in the medical community, despite minimal evidence that it helps those stricken by the novel coronavirus.

India and Brazil have similarly doubled down on using the drugs to treat the pandemic virus.

But it’s a different story in Canada, where hydroxychloroquine and other potential COVID-19 medicines are being met more with a cautious interest than unbridled enthusiasm.

Canadian researchers are actively involved in several studies of the malaria drug and others, with the federal government spending millions to support them.

But in contrast to the FDA, health organizations here have discouraged their use except as part of those clinical trials — studies designed to carefully assess the drugs’ effectiveness and possible harmful side effects.

And some experts warn that widespread use outside of studies — which typically include a control group of patients who don’t receive the drug — could make it difficult to ever determine whether they work or not.

“When people become very ill … your impulse is to try anything that might help, and that’s driven the response in some places,” said Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta. “But as people have been wrapping their heads around the data underpinning these drugs, it’s really pretty thin on the ground.”

Dr. Salim Yusuf, a professor at Hamilton’s McMaster University and leading clinical-trials expert, is helping design a fast-tracked hydroxychloroquine study. He said he understands the urge to try unproven treatments but worries about the consequences.

It could result in harm

“One perspective is ‘We’re in a time of desperation and let’s throw anything we can at it to save people’s lives.’ I understand that,” he said. “The danger is it’s not objective. It could result in harm.”

Just as the scientific community has entered an extraordinary, expedited race to develop a vaccine for the virus causing COVID-19, it is rapidly testing whether a number of new drugs or ones used for other conditions might help the minority of patients made critically sick by the pathogen.

Health Canada alone has approved eight separate COVID-19 trials.

The malaria drug has drawn the most attention worldwide, initially because of a small French study that seemed to show that combining it with the antibiotic azithromycin had some effectiveness against the coronavirus.

Trump gave his endorsement and then it became a political issue, with opponents of the president seeming eager to see it debunked, supporters trumpeting the drugs as a miracle cure.

And on Monday, the FDA made its surprise pronouncement, saying it was worth the risk of trying an unproven remedy for seriously ill patients.

Canadian doctors, like their American counterparts, are legally allowed to prescribe approved medicines “off-label” for uses other than those specified in their licences.

But Health Canada has not followed the U.S. lead by encouraging they do so with hydroxychloroquine.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control recommended in a lengthy March 30 report against using any of several potential COVID-19 drugs except as part of clinical trials.

Quebec’s National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services said in a news release Thursday that treating coronavirus patients with the malaria pills should “be done within the framework of research protocols.”


University of Minnesota researchers set up an automated liquid handler as they begin a trial to see whether malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine can prevent or reduce the severity of COVID-19.

Craig Lassig/Reuters/File

And guidelines developed by University of Toronto-based critical care doctors also say experimental therapies ought to be used only as part of clinical trials, or else after consulting an infectious-disease specialist and getting the patient’s informed consent.

Saxinger said she agreed with such advice, though she said exceptions may have to be made in smaller centres where there’s no chance of a patient joining a clinical trial.

Having heard positive reports about some of the drugs, patients might balk at being part of a clinical trial, where half would not receive the medicine, said Dr. Gordon Rubenfeld, a critical-care doctor at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. But before using the treatments widely “we should find out whether these work.”

The accelerated effort to conduct those studies is remarkable, said Yusuf. Researchers would typically take two or more years first to study a drug and then set up the trial. His group’s trial involving hydroxychloroquine was launched two weeks ago and, pending Health Canada approval, aims to start enrolling patients in a week or so.

“This is unprecedented … at least in my lifetime.”

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LILLEY: Ford government announces new measures as cases spike


As the province announced more than 150 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, new social distancing measures are now in effect.

All social gatherings and events over five people are prohibited according to a press release issued Saturday evening.

Exceptions include private homes of five people or more, and authorized childcare facilities serving families of first reponders or front-line healthcare workers — provided it doesn’t exceed 50.

Funerals will also be permitted, but limited to 10 people.

Organized public events include parades, weddings, social gatherings and worship services.

This new order replaces a previous one limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people.

The new cases were reported by the province on Saturday, morning bringing the total to 1,144, including 8 cases deemed resolved and 18 more where the patient died.

The current death toll includes 2 cases awaiting official laboratory confirmation from a nursing home in Bobcaygeon, Ontario where three other residents have tested positive and 35 have shown symptoms.

The province remains on a mostly upward trajectory — there have been 453 new cases since Thursday.

Against the backdrop of an increasing number of cases and strain on hospitals, the province announced they were taking control of purchasing all key medical supplies needed in the COVID-19 fight.

Items such as ventilators, masks and swabs will now go through central purchasing and distribution to ensure adequate supplies arrive where and when they are needed.

“COVID-19 is impacting supply chains across Canada, and around the world,” said Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services.

“That’s why we are proclaiming the Supply Chain Management Act to make sure we can deploy critical supplies, equipment and services to where they are needed most.”

Ford also announced the province would take aim at those attempting to make extreme profits off the crisis.

“I have zero tolerance for this kind of nonsense,” Ford said of the province’s new anti price gouging legislation.

“It’s un-Canadian, it’s wrong.

“If you’re selling face masks, protective gloves, cold medicine, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes and you’re hiking the price five times, ten times what it should be — you’re done, you’re gone because we’re coming after you.”

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Fines range from $750 for an individual to $500,000 for a company director, while corporations could face penalties of up to $10 million.

Jail time is also possible.

The premier encouraged anyone who spots price gouging to report it through the provincial hotline at 1-800-889-9768.

The premier said that the government understands the difference between a convenience store charging a couple more dollars for a product than large retailers, and said they would listen to all sides during investigations — including finding out if wholesalers are the ones responsible for gouging retailers.

Ford also ripped into a young woman facing charges for faking a COVID-19 diagnosis to get out of her shift at a Hamilton McDonalds.

After presenting her manager a forged doctor’s note, the restaurant sent all its employees home to self-isolate and engaged in an extensive and expensive cleaning.

“It’s disgusting,” Ford said.

“What human being would do stuff like this? We’re in a crisis and they’re going out there and lying and putting people in jeopardy.”

The 18 year-old woman now faces fraud, forgery and mischief charges.



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‘They are completely intertwined’: Tentative signs of recovery in China help some Canadian companies weather COVID-19 storm


One night in late January, Canadian Jacob Cooke found himself in Jiangsu province in China, desperately trying to find seats on a plane leaving the country and promising his brother, Joseph, he’d make it to Vancouver.

For more than a decade, they had run a business called WPIC Marketing + Technologies with an ocean between them, helping brands from Canada and, eventually, all over the globe launch e-commerce operations in China.

But that night, panic was washing over China after news channels started reporting on the highly contagious outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan province. There was little information about who was most vulnerable, how the virus spreads or what symptoms to expect, but fears were aroused. Soon, trains were shutting down, hotels were closing their doors and slowly, but surely, ways out of the country were disappearing.

“There was definitely not enough information,” Jacob said. “You didn’t know what to believe, you just wanted to get far enough away from it.”

Jacob also worried about his family, including his wife and their two young sons, aged five and nine, who had travelled from their home in Beijing to visit her family in Jiangsu for Chinese New Year, since it looked like they might be stuck there. After spending hours on the phone, he secured seats on a plane leaving Shanghai for Vancouver, and then tracked down a driver to make the six-hour trek to the airport.

Seven weeks later, after Jacob and his family made it safely back to Vancouver, the situation has in many ways reversed: Canada, and most of the western world, are desperately trying to stop the spread of coronavirus, with new measures being announced almost on an hourly basis that shut down parts of the economy, while China is in recovery.

It’s still not clear how the deadly virus will be contained, or what its ultimate toll will be, so the horizon in Canada and elsewhere remains too dark to look for silver linings.

Yet if the worst does not come to pass, the Cooke brothers and others who hold deep business ties to China can see how the global connectivity of our economies may help both countries.

An economic recovery is now taking shape in China. Self-isolation is starting to end, people are returning to offices and work in factories has largely resumed its pre-coronavirus level of activity.

China opened up a portion of its Great Wall this past week.

China opened up a portion of its Great Wall this past week.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

FedEx Corp. on a March 17 conference call said 90 to 95 per cent of large manufacturers in China are now open, as are about two-thirds of small manufacturers. The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong and Shanghai SE Composite Index both ended the week on a positive swing after brutal declines since the start of the year.

But as supply chains and demand for goods ramps up in China, they’re slowing elsewhere. Yet there were signs of life even in the depths of China’s outbreak.

Joseph Cooke, president of WPIC, said it’s been a strange year in China. Online sales usually dip during the new year celebration, but they remained steady this year, perhaps because people in self-isolation indulged in “retail therapy,” he said.

As the weeks in lockdown progressed, online sales in China accelerated as brick-and-mortar retail stores stay closed. That also provided a lifeline for many Canadian companies, particularly those that need to move seasonal inventory, WPIC chief executive Jacob Cooke said.

“China coming back online is great for Canadian companies,” he said. “With retail closed here, for example, and a lot of stuff being seasonal, it’s got to move somewhere or it’s going to become useless.”

Some companies’ quarterly earnings reports are already bearing that trend out.

China coming back online is great for Canadian companies

Jacob Cooke

For example, Nike Inc. chief executive John Donahoe on Wednesday reported that his company’s e-commerce sales in China increased more than 30 per cent during the last quarter, even as it had closed 5,000 stores in the country during most of that time.

Other parts of China’s economy appear to be returning to normal as well, offering a potential lifeline to companies from Canada and elsewhere needing to sell their goods.

“I was talking today to someone who was in Beijing and she said, ‘Here’s the thing, there was a traffic jam and I had lunch with someone, and it’s the first time I’ve had lunch with someone in weeks,” said Sarah Kutulakos, executive director of the Canada China Business Council.

She said the key to China’s resumption of regular business activity is that everyone has been “incredibly conservative about social distancing and people are taking that very seriously.”

People wearing masks cross a street during after work rush hour, as businesses start returning to their normal routine, in Beijing.

People wearing masks cross a street during after work rush hour, as businesses start returning to their normal routine, in Beijing.

Thomas Peter/Reuters

That has benefited Canadian companies with operations in China as well.

For example, Toronto-based Neo Performance Materials Inc., which turns rare earth and rare metal-based materials into magnets and other products used in cars and high-tech devices, operates four factories in China, all of which are now operating and shipping goods again.

None of its 1,100 employees there have contracted COVID-19, but the company has said it implemented precautionary measures including temperature checks of its workers.

On a March 12 earnings call with analysts, chief executive Geoff Bedford said the supply chain is largely functional again, with his factories able to procure all the raw materials they need.

Still, it’s not all good news. China is still experiencing the repercussions from the lockdown period, including declining demand.

“We are seeing signs of slowing downstream demand from our customers, particularly for supply chains that are located within China,” Bedford said on the call.

He noted that more than 60 per cent of Neo Performance’s sales are related to the automotive industry, including vehicles manufactured for the Chinese domestic market, which is one particular area where demand is softening. But he also noted that trend was already happening the previous year.

Aurora, Ont.-based auto-parts manufacturer Magna International Inc. on Thursday reported that it expects softening demand in China, though its customers there are ramping up again after extended downtime throughout February. Meanwhile, many of its customers in North America and Europe have reduced production rates or temporarily closed.

Employees eat their lunch while staying 2 meters away from each other at the Dongfeng Fengshen plant on March 24, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.

Employees eat their lunch while staying 2 meters away from each other at the Dongfeng Fengshen plant on March 24, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.

Getty Images

Overall auto sales in the world’s biggest vehicle market dropped 79 per cent in February, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, which does not expect demand to normalize until the third quarter.

WPIC’s Jacob Cooke said Canada’s economy is intricately linked to China’s economy, even if diplomatic spats and trade wars are decoupling the two countries on cultural and political levels.

“They are completely intertwined,” he said. “If either of those pieces go down, it just creates huge problems for the global economy.”

Jacob was in China as it entered the peak of its outbreak and now he’s back in Canada as the coronavirus takes hold here, giving him some insight into how conditions are progressing in both countries.

“This has sort of been the whole process for me,” he said. “You’re basically experiencing it in cycles: you’re either cycling to further and further lockdowns or you’re opening up.”

Right now, Canada and the United States are still cycling to further lockdowns as the number of new cases detected continues to grow daily. But Jacob and his brother Joseph both said it only takes a bit of good news to swing momentum in the other direction.

“I’m feeling like it’s very quiet in Vancouver, and people are staying home,” said Joseph. “Let’s hope we curb the spread.”

Financial Post

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Thugs Mugging Nurses for IDs to Get Free Coronavirus Food and Drink



Thugs have been mugging doctors and nurses to steal their identity badges in order to access priority shopping and freebies from supermarkets during the coronavirus pandemic.

With shops facing supply chain delays and National Health Service (NHS) staff working long hours, supermarkets have opted to support their healthcare professionals by offering them priority shopping and freebies like snacks and hot drinks. Britons on social media reported earlier in the week major shops like Lidl and Waitrose giving nurses bouquets of flowers in appreciation. Dominos, Greggs, Pret a Manger, Burger King, and Pizza Hut are also offering free food and coffee to those who work for the National Health Service.

However, amidst these acts of appreciation and kindness has arisen a new type of crime, where thugs are mugging medical professionals of their lanyards and IDs to obtain freebies meant for those on the frontline of the coronavirus battle.

So concerned is NHS England by the reported incidents, it is preparing to tell staff across the country to hide their IDs and NHS-branded lanyards when out in public, according to The Guardian.

The left-wing newspaper reported that reprobates had tried to grab lanyards off of two doctors as they were leaving Lewisham hospital in south London.

One doctor said: “Something like this is appalling. It’s beyond the pale and so shocking. Someone tried to grab my colleagues’ ID badges as they were leaving but didn’t get them.”

Staff at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS trust’s two hospitals were told on Monday: “Following reports of an attempt to take the ID badges of two members of staff as they were leaving work, please make sure your ID badge is out of sight.”

Staff at University College Hospital London have also been warned to be vigilant when leaving facilities after similar incidents.

A National Health Service official told The Guardian: “This is absolutely grim. ID badges are being stolen in a few places as staff come out of their trust. As soon as staff are coming off-site they are waiting for them and stealing them, to get the free food and also so they can go shopping during the protected early morning shopping hour that some supermarkets have put in place for NHS staff.

“It’s mainly nurses who have been targeted. They’re the ones who often walk out of the main entrance of a hospital with their lanyards on.”

These are not the only abominable acts of criminality to have been committed against the medical service as it is gearing up for the worst pandemic the United Kingdom has seen in a century.

Earlier in the week, thugs drilled holes into the tires of six ambulances in Kent, south-east England. The vehicles had been damaged whilst parked in an ambulance centre in Ramsgate. Kent’s ambulance service is under “significant pressure” following the coronavirus outbreak, according to KentOnline.

Supermarkets have also moved onto the frontline, continuing to ensure the supply chain for food reaches vulnerable citizens, and have likewise faced their own assaults. “Youths” were reported to have burnt out two Iceland delivery trucks in Bristol earlier this week after police officers had told them to disperse.

In response, the CEO of the budget supermarket wrote: “Two of our vans in Southmead were burnt out last night during disturbances in the town. At a time when home delivery is literally a lifeline for some vulnerable people, this is sickening.”

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University of Guelph pauses search for new president, names interim one – Guelph


The University of Guelph says it is suspending its search for a new president and vice-chancellor amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the board of governors have appointed current provost and vice-president Charlotte Yates as president on an interim basis for two years.


READ MORE:
University of Guelph cancels ‘face-to-face’ classes, events in response to COVID-19

Board chair Shauneen Bruder said universities and organizations worldwide are focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and this is where their efforts and resources should be concentrated.

“COVID-19 is creating much uncertainty, both now and for the future,” Bruder said in a statement. “We expect that even once the crisis subsides, the implications will be long-lasting. At the same time, there are many other strategic imperatives the university must address to continue to move forward.”

Yates replaces outgoing president and vice-chancellor Franco Vaccarino, who announced last year that he was stepping down. His term will end on Aug. 1 and Yates will officially take over the following day.

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A search committee has been working since last fall and the university said it was at a critical stage of the process when it made the decision to pause the search.

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Bruder said Yates was chosen in part because of her effectiveness in a range of complex situations and circumstances.

“Her significant experience and extensive knowledge of the complexities and challenges facing the university will enable her to act immediately on priorities during this critical period,” Bruder said.


READ MORE:
McGill University students design 3D-printable masks for health-care workers

Yates has served as provost since 2015 and the university said since then she has built a strong leadership team that includes five new deans and other key academic leaders.

She previously served as dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at McMaster University.

“I am deeply honoured by the trust the board has placed in me to lead the University of Guelph during this challenging time,” Yates said.

“I welcome this opportunity. The university has extraordinary, dedicated faculty, staff and students and exceptionally strong academic and administrative leaders. Working together, we will rise to meet the challenges before us while also enhancing our reputation for quality and excellence.”

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An announcement regarding an interim provost and vice-president to replace Yates will be forthcoming, the university said.


READ MORE:
Here’s why frequent handwashing is recommended in preventing spread of COVID-19

In response to the pandemic, the University of Guelph has cancelled all in-person classes for the remainder of the winter semester and more than 4,000 students living on residence have moved out.

Classes resumed on Monday in what the university called an “alternative delivery format.”

More information on its response to the pandemic can be found on the university’s website.










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Work on light rail network halted until April 13




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More than 2 million rapid #Coronavirus tests ready to be deployed to Europe’s health-care system 


The 15-minute coronavirus test is now available to ease the strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on health-care systems across Europe, which comes as world leaders look for solutions to combat the disease.

Using easy-to-collect samples, the tests detect the IgM and IgG antibodies response to the coronavirus, to identify if patients have contracted COVID-19 within minutes of testing.

The technology, which has already been used in China, will improve the detection rate of patients carrying COVID-19, allowing doctors to test suspected carriers as soon as 2 days after suspected exposure.

The antibody test, which was approved for sale in European markets last week, promises to ease pressure on labs by providing rapid point-of-care diagnostics.

This will assist healthcare professionals to clinically assess patients with and without symptoms, so they can provide vital care to those most in need even quicker.

Total coronavirus cases are set to surpass 240,000 worldwide today, and having been granted CE Mark certification, the tests can be made available immediately, with manufacturing being increased to meet demand over the coming weeks.

Yesterday (19 March), British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed interest in procuring COVID-19 tests which are as “simple as a pregnancy test, which can tell whether you have had the disease and in its early days, but if it works as its proponents claim, then we will buy literally hundreds of thousands of these kits as soon as practicable.”

He continued: “Because obviously it has the potential to be a total gamechanger.”

The World Nano Foundation, through its partners, has formed a partnership with the Chinese developer of the test, to make them available across Europe.

The World Nano Foundation are offering these tests to Governments first, as they are best positioned to prioritise the application of the tests, rather than have the supply taken up indiscriminately by the market (minimum order 100,000 tests, price on application). These Rapid tests have already been used for Coronavirus in China and we now have CE Mark approval to deploy these tests in Europe immediately.

Use case examples:-
1. To relieve pressure on centralised testing methods that require laboratory machine which are already
overloaded.

2. To allow key workers forced into self-isolation due to contact to return to work if test negative.

3. To rapidly identify transmission events from contact lists of known positive patients.

For more information about the 15-minute COVID-19 tests, please contact Paul Sheedy, Co-Founder of The World Nano Foundation: [email protected]n.com





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Tokyo is tone deaf on staging Olympics during coronavirus crisis


If there was a guarantee that Tokyo could host in an environment that was safe and virus-free this summer or this fall (October is probably the latest viable window), then by all means use the power of the Olympic movement to celebrate the containment of COVID-19.

Yet without that guarantee, Olympic organizers are defying all logic by insisting that there will be an opening ceremonies on Friday, July 24.

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