Topline: A pan-European team of researchers announced Wednesday their plan to release a smartphone app that would notify users if they’ve been exposed to someone infected with coronavirus, the latest example of tech-driven coronavirus solutions that have also raised concerns about user privacy.
- A European project called Pan-European Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing is working toward releasing a coronavirus tracing app in the next week that would use anonymous Bluetooth technology to track when a smartphone comes in close range with another, so if a user were to test positive for coronavirus those at risk of infection could be notified.
- Contact tracing, or determining people who may have been exposed to someone with a virus, is an established aspect of pandemic control and was used effectively to tackle coronavirus in countries like China, Singapore and South Korea in the form of smartphone tracking.
- University of Oxford researchers and the U.K. government are working on a similar project— but unlike other smartphone tracking systems, the British version in development would be based on voluntary participation and bet on citizens inputting their information out of a sense of civic duty.
- The U.S. government is in talks with companies like Facebook FB and Google GOOGL and other tech companies about tracking if users are social distancing using large amounts of anonymous, aggregated location data— this information is less precise, and more likely to anticipate outbreaks rather than pinpoint individuals who have been exposed to the virus.
- 1.5 million Israelis have voluntarily downloaded a mobile app that alerts users if they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus— but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has still ordered that potential coronavirus carriers have their phones monitored, a controversial move the government says is necessary, as the 17% of the population using the app is not enough to fight off the pandemic.
- Moscow , on a city-wide lockdown since Monday, announced Wednesday that a new phone app that will officials to track the movements of people diagnosed with coronavirus in the capital city would be launched on Thursday, saying the government will lend a smartphone to anyone unable to download the app.
Crucial quote: “We’re exploring ways that aggregated anonymized location information could help in the fight against [coronavirus]. One example could be helping health authorities determine the impact of social distancing, similar to the way we show popular restaurant times and traffic patterns in Google Maps ,” Google spokesman Johnny Luu told the The Washington Post. He made sure to note it “would not involve sharing data about any individual’s location, movement, or contacts.”
Key background: Private and public entities alike are looking for ways to fight off coronavirus as the pandemic continues. On Wednesday, there were more than 900,000 confirmed cases worldwide and nearly 50,000 deaths.Officials told The New York Times NYT that The National Health Service, Britain’s centralized national health system, is trusted by citizens— and paired with the strong data privacy laws in place, said they think people would agree to join the effort to share their private information to help trace infections. However, American tech firms are reported to still be skeptical about sharing substantial data with the U.S. government ever since Edward Snowden revealed the NSA was collecting information from the firms clandestinely.
Surprising fact: The information tech companies have access to data that sheds light on Americans’ behavior in light of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a Facebook analysis, restaurant visits fell about 80% in Italy and 70% in Spain— while Americans only stopped eating out at a rate of 31%.
[IN NUMBERS] Coronavirus Update: COVID-19 In Africa
While most cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have been reported in the U.S. , Europe, and China, the virus is spreading rapidly across the African continent.
The confirmed worldwide cases for the virus have surpassed five million with the current figure being at 5,813,418.
The increase in new reported cases around the world has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the coronavirus a global pandemic.
The death toll has risen globally to a whopping 357,896.
The U.S. leads with 102,114 deaths. The U.K is second with 37,460. Italy is third with 33,072. France is fourth with 28,596, and Spain is fifth with 27,118.
China, where the virus originated from, maintains that its death toll is at 4,634.
The figure of the global recoveries stands at 2,515,416.
The African continent has 127,243 cases of Covid-19, while the death toll stands at 3,724. The continent has made 53,053 recoveries.
Here are the numbers in Africa:
|Country||Confirmed Cases||Confirmed Deaths||Confirmed Recoveries|
|Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)||390||4||155|
|Central African Republic (CAR)||702||1||23|
|Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)||2,556||31||1,302|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)||2,660||69||381|
|Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)||272||2||168|
|Sao Tome and Principe||251||8||4|
Note: The numbers will be updated as new information is available.
NO WOMAN SHOULD EVER DIE GIVING LIFE
By –Sheikha Hend Al Qassimi and Siddharth Chatterjee
Consider this. 24 women, children and babies were murdered at a hospital in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Even by standards of a country as accustomed to bloodshed as Afghanistan, the May 12 attack on a Kabul maternity clinic was an event of unmitigated horror.
That anyone could target women at their most vulnerable and infants in their first hours of life defies belief and makes one despair of the world that welcomed little Amina. Born just two hours before the attack that killed her mother, Amina’s leg was shattered by a bullet.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “Any attack on innocents is unforgivable, but to attack infants and women in labour… is an act of sheer evil”.
The incident throws into relief the need to protect vulnerable populations even as the world struggles with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health workers operating in difficult circumstances, such as the heroic Dr Najibullah Bina who led the team that conducted the first surgery on little Amina’s leg, continue to expose themselves and their families to the virus as well as to terror attacks.
The pandemic has an alarming potential to reverse hard-won socioeconomic gains inspired the March 2020 appeal by UN Secretary-General António Guterres for an immediate global ceasefire, which asked all warring parties to silence their guns to facilitate the delivery of aid and open up space for diplomacy.
Women generally are at specific risk and disadvantage in Afghanistan, largely for reasons of culture. Their lives, quite separately from their deaths, are constrained in many ways that affect their health, education, nutrition and well-being. One of the most dangerous places in the world for a woman to give birth, Afghanistan is a microcosm of vulnerability for women and children, with a maternal mortality rate of around 638 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and around two physicians for every 10,000 people.
Afghanistan must figure out how to best support women and children when health efforts are under threat by both terrorists and a dangerous virus.
Around the globe, COVID-19 is worsening the situation for women already at risk, such as those in abusive relationships. Many millions are now required by emergency regulations to remain at home with their abusers, removed from the gaze of those who might otherwise see them and offer help.
And with one in every three women globally experiencing physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime, the issue is startlingly grave.
UNFPA, the UN’s Population Fund, says the COVID-19 lockdown is disproportionately affecting women and children. It is resulting in millions more cases of violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation and unintended pregnancy. “The new data shows the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 could soon have on women and girls globally,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA’s Executive Director.
Their well-being and economic resilience are threatened not only by the lockdown itself, but also by scaling down of health services and support such as hotlines, crisis centres, shelters, legal aid, protection, and counselling services.
The horror in Afghanistan further illustrates the urgency of the UN Secretary General’s clarion call for the peace-humanitarian action-development nexus to deal with conflicts, violent extremism, and other forms of instability. Now more than ever, there is a need for approaches that address social, economic, and political drivers of radicalisation.
There will be no one-size-fits-all model, and each country must continually assess which members of society are at the highest risk. If vulnerable groups are not properly identified and suitable responses developed, the consequences of this pandemic may be more devastating than we have dared to imagine.
Humanity has often been guilty of detachment regarding the plight of vulnerable populations. The COVID-19 threat is an opportunity to change course. While the virus does not discriminate, we must be careful lest our responses to it end up further entrenching current inequalities.
Images of two-hour-old Amina, swaddled in a blood-drenched blanket and with a bullet in her tiny bones must exponentially rouse our collective humanity and question the normalisation of indifference to the most vulnerable.
About the Authors
Sheikha Hend Al Qassimi, a multifaceted Emarati Princess, is an accomplished editor and writer, successful entrepreneur and architect and a committed philanthropist. She has a Masters in Marketing, Management & Communications from the Paris Sorbonne University. A Bachelor of Arts and Design with a double major (Architecture and Design Management) from the American University of Sharjah. Follow her on twitter- @LadyVelvet_HFQ
Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. He has served in various parts of the world with UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, UNOPS, UN Peacekeeping and the Red Cross Movement. A decorated Special Forces veteran, he is an alumnus of Princeton University. Follow him on twitter-@sidchat1
Beyoncé And Tina Knowles-Lawson Are Accelerating Coronavirus Testing In Underserved Communities—And Challenging Other Celebrities To Do The Same
Last weekend, close to 1,000 residents flocked to two middle schools in predominantly black Houston communities, waiting patiently in their cars to receive free COVID-19 testing.
Unlike many other cities nationwide, Houston has had free testing available to the public but “some people, definitely minorities because we are overlooked, just aren’t aware or aren’t taking it seriously,” Tina Knowles-Lawson, a Houston native herself, tells Forbes.
That lack of awareness in the community inspired Knowles-Lawson to create the #IDIDMYPART campaign. Launched in partnership with daughter Beyoncé and her BeyGOOD initiative, the campaign encourages black and brown residents—the demographic that’s dying at a faster rate than any other in the state—to seek free COVID-19 testing. The campaign ran two testing locations on May 8 and 9, 2020, with plans to recruit celebrities in other cities to continue the initiative in the weeks and months to come.
“It’s associated with Beyoncé, in some way, so it’s a cool thing, you know?” says Knowles-Lawson. “And it’s working, because people are still going to testing sites.”
The testing locations kept that cool factor in mind. As volunteer medical professionals from the United Memorial Medical Center administered tests (the hospital is following up with each individual attendee), DJs spun the latest hits from Beyoncé and other artists. And on their way out, attendees were given vouchers to two of Houston’s most popular restaurants: Frenchy’s and Burns Original BBQ. “You didn’t have to get in your head about the test; it wasn’t so sterile,” says Knowles-Lawson. “It was almost like a celebration of getting tested. We wanted to take away the stigma.”
Knowles-Lawson also wanted to stress health and wellness more holistically, so other products including vitamins, grooming supplies, toilet paper, gloves and masks were also handed out, thanks in part to the campaign’s partners including Procter & Gamble, Matthew 25 Ministries, supermarket chain H-E-B and TWC Logistics Trucking.
“People are getting upset when they see people with no mask on, but a lot of people just don’t have them,” says Knowles-Lawson.
That the campaign took place on Mother’s Day weekend was just a coincidence, but was still a fitting time for the mother-daughter collaboration to launch. Knowles-Lawson, who grew up impoverished in Galveston, Texas, has always sought to instill the give-back mentality in her daughters, Beyoncé and Solange. “It was five kids at home, and my sister had eight children, and they were always at our house—our little two-bedroom house,” recounts Knowles-Lawson, with a laugh. “But my mom could stretch a piece of steak. She just shared all the time. I never forgot that.” Once they were old enough, Beyoncé and Solange were continuing the family’s acts of service, spending their Sundays feeding Texas’ homeless community after church.
Beyoncé’s also teamed up with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to donate $6 million in support of mental health and wellness organizations in Houston, New York, New Orleans and Detroit.
And the #IDIDMYPART campaign isn’t limited to Houston. It’s challenging other celebrities to continue the initiative in other cities nationwide. Several have already answered the call. Tyler Perry has vowed to implement the initiative in Atlanta, Octavia Spencer aims to set up sites across Mississippi, and Cookie and Magic Johnson will lead the charge in Detroit.
“Nothing would make me happier than to see people use their platforms to get this information out,” says Knowles-Lawson. “People are getting testing who wouldn’t otherwise. We can keep the momentum going.”
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