Tag Archive : Coronavirus

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Cotton masks provide better protection against the new coronavirus than those made with synthetic fabrics, researchers say.

In a new study, investigators tested different mask fabrics under conditions that mimic the humidity of a person’s breath in order to assess how the fabrics perform in actual use.ADVERTISEMENT

Under humid conditions, filtration efficiency — a measure of how well a material captures particles — increased by an average 33% in cotton fabrics, according to the study published this week in the journal ACSApplied Nano Materials.

That’s because cotton is hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water. By absorbing small amounts of exhaled water in a person’s breath, cotton fibers create a moist environment inside the fabric.

That makes them more efficient filters compared to masks made of synthetic fibers.

In general, synthetic fabrics performed poorly in comparison to cotton, and their performance did not improve with humidity.

Material used in medical masks was about as effective as cotton, but did not improve with humidity, the researchers said.

A previous study by the same team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, and the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute found that dual-layer masks made of tightly woven cotton fabrics with a raised nap, such as flannel, are particularly effective at filtering breath.

That study was conducted under relatively dry conditions in the lab.

“Cotton fabrics are still a great choice,” said Christopher Zangmeister, a research scientist at NIST, in Gaithersburg, Md. “But this new study shows that cotton fabrics actually perform better in masks than we thought.”

While the researchers found that humidity doesn’t make it harder to breathe through fabric masks, breathing may become difficult if fabric masks get wet in other ways. They should be changed if they get wet due to weather.

The findings offer useful information for people who wear masks, as well as for scientists working to improve masks and measure their performance, the study authors said in an NIST news release.

“To understand how these materials perform in the real world, we need to study them under realistic conditions,” Zangmeister said.


The genetic makeup of the coronavirus underwent few “important” changes during the first 11 months of the pandemic, despite the emergence of potentially dangerous new strains last fall, according to a study published Friday by PLOS Biology.

After analyzing hundreds of thousands of sequenced virus genomes, researchers from the United States, Britain and Belgium documented little significant alteration in the virus’ genetic structure since it jumped to humans.

This was the case until late in 2020 — after nearly a year of the virus circulating widely among people in nearly every nation on Earth — when new variants began to emerge as a result of limited immunity in people who’d already had the virus.

The vaccines developed to fight off the virus should continue to work, though, at least for now, the researchers said.

“This does not mean no changes have occurred. Mutations of no evolutionary significance accumulate and ‘surf’ along the millions of transmission events, like they do in all viruses,” study co-author Oscar MacLean said in a press release.

Most of COVID-19’s evolution has been limited because humans have been “highly susceptible” to it, reducing its need to significantly mutate,” said MacLean, a bioinformatician at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Although the precise origins of the virus that causes COVID-19 remain unknown, researchers believe it, like other coronaviruses, originated in a group of viruses found in bats, as well as in pangolins — scaly, anteater-like animals found in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Researchers analyzed archived samples of the virus collected from these animals, as well as humans, to identify mutations genomes and document the virus’s evolutionary process.

The genetic makeup of the virus has changed significantly over time, but most of these alterations occurred before it first emerged in humans — so it remains largely similar to viruses found in bats and pangolins — the researchers said.

This “generalist” nature, and the ease with which the virus jumps between hosts, gives it a unique ability to infect humans and other mammals, they said.

“What’s been so surprising is just how transmissible [the coronavirus] has been from the outset,” study co-author Sergei Pond said.

“Usually viruses that jump to a new host species take some time to acquire adaptations to be as capable … at spreading, and most never make it past that stage,” said Pond, a professor at Temple University’s Institute for Genomics and Evolutionary Medicine in Philadelphia.

The reason the virus began to show signs of evolving again in the fall, with the emergence of new strains in England, Brazil, South Africa and elsewhere, is thatmore people have had the virus and are now immune to it, Pond and his colleagues said.

The new variants evolved to evade this immunity and, as a result, the virus is moving away from the strain first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 — which was used to develop the currently available vaccines — according to the researchers.

These vaccines will continue to work against most of the circulating variants, though that may change over time, they said.

“The first race was to develop a vaccine,” study co-author David L Robertson said.

“The race now is to get the global population vaccinated as quickly as possible” to protect immunity, said Roberts, a professor at the University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research in Scotland.


Hospital dan fasiliti kesihatan di negara ini mungkin tidak dapat menampung jumlah pesakit Covid-19 jika kes harian berjumlah 1,755 setiap hari mengikut unjuran kadar nilai kebolehjangkitan (R-naught) (R0) 1.5 dalam tempoh 10 hari.

Ketua Pengarah Kesihatan, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah berkata, pihaknya akan terus memperkasakan tindakan kesihatan awam bagi mengurangkan nilai kadar kebolehjangkitan itu kepada sekurang-kurangnya di bawah 1.0.

“Jika kita lihat sebelum ini negara mencatat empat digit kes Covid-19 iaitu pada 24 Oktober (1,240 kes), 4 November (1,032 kes) dan 6 November iaitu 1,755 kes.

“Bagaimanapun, selepas (tempoh) itu kita mencatatkan kes kurang daripada yang kita jangkakan (dengan kes kembali kepada tiga digit) dan jika kes semakin berkurang kita akan berupaya melandaikan lengkuk Covid-19,” katanya pada sidang akhbar perkembangan Covid-19 di Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM) di Putrajaya hari ini.

Beliau berkata, tindakan kesihatan awam itu adalah pendekatan paling penting selain kerjasama semua pihak bagi memutuskan penularan rantaian Covid-19 dalam negara.

Selain tindakan kesihatan awam, beliau berkata, amalan semua langkah pencegahan juga adalah matlamat utama KKM dalam mengekang penularan wabak berkenaan.

“Kita perlu mencegahnya dan bukan mengawal ketika peringkat (virus) merebak,” katanya.

Dalam pada itu, Dr Noor Hisham berkata, kawalan pergerakan rentas daerah dan negeri di Semenanjung perlu dipertingkatkan bagi memastikan penularan jangkitan Covid-19 dapat diputuskan.

Penularan jangkitan di Semenanjung dilihat membimbangkan kerana jumlah kes baharu contohnya di Lembah Klang serta Negeri Sembilan hari ini mencatatkan 427 kes melebihi kes di Sabah iaitu 259 kes.

“Tindakan proaktif perlu diambil untuk kekang Covid-19 dan semua pihak perlu patuh prosedur operasi standard (SOP) yang telah ditetapkan untuk kita kawal jangkitan rentas negeri dan rentas daerah,” katanya.

Beliau berkata, pihaknya sentiasa melakukan saringan serta aktiviti kesihatan awam lain di lapangan bagi mengesan jangkitan Covid-19 di satu-satu kawasan.

“Untuk kekang jangkitan, kita telah melaksanakan pelbagai tindakan contohnya mereka yang berada di zon merah tetapi kembali ke Kelantan perlu memakai wrist band serta kuarantin,” katanya.


A restaurant in Prague’s historic centre has invented a dessert shaped like the novel coronavirus, an attempt to arrest a slump in business that is already proving a hit with customers.

The Black Madonna would normally be bustling with tourists admiring its cubist interior, but it has suffered as travel to the Czech Republic slumped amid the pandemic and the country battles one of the highest rates of coronavirus infections in Europe.

The dessert’s creator, Olga Budnik, said she got the idea during lockdown in the spring.

“I found a photo of the virus on the internet and I figured out in detail how to make the dessert — how to make the spikes, what the colour would be like, and I prepared it all,” she told Reuters.

The dessert is slightly smaller than a tennis ball, with a chocolate crust and dusted with cocoa butter spray. The virus’ “spikes” are made of white chocolate and dried raspberries.

Inside there is a pistachio filling with raspberry puree and raspberries in the centre.

The delicacy has been a big success, with sales of more than 100 each day and rising.

“The coronavirus crisis has meant a huge drop for us, in tens of per cent, like for other gastro enterprises,” the cafe’s marketing manager Vojtech Hermanek said.

“But at the same time it was a chance to bring out the coronavirus cake which is a symbol … showing that not everything is lost.”

Budnik, a Ukrainian living in Prague for the past six years, already has sights on the next product — a Covid-19 vaccination-themed sweet which should taste of citrus and liqueur.

“It will be lots of lime with a bit of alcohol,” she said.


Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed what the science has been telling us all along about the effectiveness of face masks — that they’re currently our best bet at getting a handle on the coronavirus pandemic.

They make such a difference, in fact, that some experts suspect they’ll be just as reliable ― if not more ― as a vaccine when it comes to blunting the spread of COVID-19.

“These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have, and I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings,” Redfield said during a recent Senate hearing.

Redfield went onto to say that masks may offer more of a guarantee than a vaccine. President Donald Trump later shut down the comments, but the medical community stood behind Redfield.

Because the vaccines are still in clinical trials, it’s currently unclear how effective they’ll be. It’s thought they may trigger an immune response in about 70% of people, rendering some vaccinated people unprotected. Other vaccinated people may not get sick but carry the infection and contribute to community spread, and who knows when we’ll have enough doses for everyone.

The end goal here is herd immunity, and to achieve that we’ll need enough of the population to be immune to COVID-19, either through a highly effective vaccine or by beating the infection itself.

Long story short: There are way too many unknowns to start taking our masks off soon. Until we have more data, health experts say masks are a must for a while. Here’s why we’re still going to need to wear masks well into 2021:

We won’t have enough doses of the vaccine at first.

The main reason masks aren’t going away anytime soon is because there’s going to be a super limited supply of vaccines when it first becomes available.

Those initial doses are likely going to go right to the people who need protection most: at-risk health care workers, the elderly, people with serious underlying health conditions and first responders. The rest of the population in the United States will have to wait, mask on, until there’s enough to go around.

On top of that, the vaccine will probably be administered in two doses about 21 to 28 days apart. According to Kawsar Talaat, an assistant professor in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, that means it’ll take people about six to eight weeks to fully develop an immune response. People could still theoretically get sick after just the first dose, so mask-wearing will be crucial in between shots.

Similar to the flu shot, the COVID-19 vaccine won’t completely shield you from the disease.

Though it’s still unclear how effective the vaccine will be, experts suspect it’ll invoke an immune response in about 70% of the population. The efficacy could be as low as 50%. (For context, these figures are similar to the flu shot.) Of course, there’s also a chance the protection percentage may be higher.

Basically, some people’s bodies just won’t respond to the vaccine and they mind wind up getting sick anyway; others may be totally fine.

But keep in mind that there are a ton of vaccines being tested right now. While the first one may not be foolproof, some of the others approved in 2021 may be better. So far, it appears that mutation of the corona virus into different strains isn’t a major concern, which is potentially good news for a vaccine.

“I really hope we can get a vaccine that’s better than 70%. If it’s not the first-generation vaccine, at least maybe the second generation vaccine,” Talaat said.

This doesn’t mean that the vaccine is useless. The goal of the vaccine actually isn’t to prevent an infection entirely, but to reduce the severity of disease. We want more people to get less sick from COVID-19. This is also what the flu shot does every year.

It’s a bit out of reach to expect the vaccine to prevent infection entirely, according to Talaat. This means that even vaccinated people could contribute to community spread if they stop wearing a mask.

“So, theoretically, somebody could have the virus in their nose and potentially spread it to somebody who’s more vulnerable without ever knowing,” Talaat said.

On top of that, we don’t know how long the vaccine’s protection, or durability, will last quite yet.

“Masks will be important until we know some of this information,” Talaat added.

People are feeling iffy about the vaccine.

Then there’s the whole issue of people feeling skeptical about the vaccine.

Inconsistent messaging during the pandemic has eroded people’s trust in our public heath system. One poll found that two-thirds of the population probably wouldn’t get vaccinated even if they could. It’s going to take a lot of education and reassurance to get people on board.

“I think it will take time for people to accept this vaccine. They will need to observe that there aren’t a whole lot of bad adverse effects from the people who get the vaccine before they’re willing to trust it,” Talaat said.

According to Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine with University of California San Francisco, we may not need the entire population to get vaccinated.

“It’ll naturally slow down once enough people get the vaccine,” Gandhi said. Even if just 60 to 70% of people were protected, it would help us greatly reduce community transmission.

Masks could help close the gap. “Models show that 70, or even better, 80% of the population wearing masks could reduce transmission and symptomatic disease … down to almost zero,” Gandhi said.

In other words, we should embrace masks for a while.

We know masks work.

Lots of data has come out in recent weeks pointing to their effectiveness. One experiment found that the spread of hundreds of respiratory droplets can be blunted by mask-wearing. Another report found that areas with mask mandates had slower COVID-19 growth rates compared to places with no mask requirements.

There are also two documented real-world scenarios showing us that masks really do keep us safe. On an international flight, none of the 25 people sitting near a masked man infected with COVID-19 got sick. In Missouri, two hairstylists were diagnosed with COVID-19 but ultimately did not pass it onto to any of their clients because everyone wore masks.

In other words, it’d be wise to hang on to our masks. It’s going to take all kinds of efforts to bring community transmission down — masks, social distancing and an effective vaccine.

So, how much longer of mask-wearing are we looking at? Gandhi suspects we’ve got at least another year of it. “I would say that all of our population has to mask until we get community transmission down to an acceptable, extremely low level,” Gandhi said.

A vaccine will come and it will help, but masks are also our best bet for a while.Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.


Lebih 31.4 juta penduduk dunia dijangkiti Covid-19

September 23, 2020 | News | No Comments

Jumlah kumulatif kes positif Covid-19 di seluruh dunia kini melepasi 31.4 juta kes.

Ini berikutan 200,000 jangkitan baharu direkodkan dalam tempoh 24 jam.

Data terbaharu Johns Hopkins University menunjukkan Amerika Syarikat (AS) kekal sebagai negara paling teruk terjejas dengan 6.88 juta kes jangkitan.

Ini diikuti India dengan 5.56 juta kes, manakala Brazil merekodkan 4.55 juta kes.

Jangkitan Covid-19 di Rusia pula melepasi angka 1 juta kes.

Sementara itu, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Afrika Selatan, Sepanyol dan Argentina melepasi angka setengah juta kes.

Negara yang melepasi angka 300,000 termasuk Perancis, Chile, Iran, United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Arab Saudi, Iraq, Pakistan dan Turki.

Negara merekodkan angka positif melebihi 250,000 termasuk Itali, Filipina, Jerman dan Indonesia.

Dalam pada itu, negara yang melepasi angka 100,000 ialah Ukraine, Kanada, Bolivia, Qatar, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Romania, Panama dan Mesir.

Negara lain masih merekodkan angka positif di bawah 100,000.


Amidst the coronavirus lockdown, those with medical conditions are put in a more dangerous situation. Not only would they have to protect themselves from the virus, but they need to monitor and make sure that their medical conditions are also kept in check.

Usually, it would be a simple task of scheduling an appointment with your doctor and getting a check-up done. According to data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, Gavi, and the Sabin Vaccine Institute, routine immunization services has slowed down in 68 countries and would affect 80 million children due to the pandemic.

If the coronavirus is affecting the immunization of children, imagine the implications it would have on older people who are facing heart problems or even diabetes.

Another report by the WHO stated that cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, and cancer are the top medical problems in Southeast Asia. It kills 8.5 million people every year.

But all is not lost because the adoption of cloud-based digital monitoring tools has increased, making it easier for those affected to track their health without the need of meeting a doctor.

Confirm RX

There are devices like this already in the market. One of them is called Confirm RX by Abbott. It’s a smartphone-compatible cardiac monitor that can generate and send a report to you and your doctor.

You’re also able to flag any symptoms to your doctor and vice versa. It can also track irregular heartbeats if the issue arises.

The insertion procedure is also very simple and not a hindrance because the device is only 1.4 cubic centimeters

FreeStyle Libre

Technology has also covered those who are affected by diabetes. FreeStyle Libre – another product by Abbott – is a glucose monitoring tool which allows patients to hold their phone near the device – positioned at the back of the upper arm – and capture real-time glucose levels.

It has also proven to reduce prolonged hypoglycemia and offer better glucose control.

This device also eliminates the need of a blood test giving you faster results.

Another report by the Global Wearable Medical Device Market said that the market size is expected to reach US$27 billion by 2023, and a fast pace growth is foreseen in Asia Pacific due to lifestyle and cardiac diseases.


PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS) – All those returning to Malaysia from overseas will have to undergo their mandatory quarantine at hotels or quarantine centres starting from Friday (July 24), said Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri, who is also Defence Minister, said this requirement applies to both Malaysians and non-citizens who have been allowed to enter the country.

Under current rules, returnees who test negative for the coronavirus upon arrival in the country are allowed to serve their mandatory 14-day quarantine at home. But this option will no longer be available from Friday.

Mr Ismail Sabri, who was speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, said those arriving from Friday will have to bear the full cost of their quarantine at hotels and government centres.

The new requirement comes amid rising Covid-19 infection numbers after Malaysia eased its shutdown measures on June 10, allowing businesses and most social activities to resume but with social distancing protocols in place.

Recently, five cases were detected in the “Novgorod cluster”, which originated from a Malaysian who had returned from Russia on July 5. He had tested negative for the virus on arrival, but two days later began displaying symptoms of the disease such as fever and breathing difficulties.

A second test for the disease turned up positive, and one of his family members also later tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Ismail Sabri said the police will no longer just give advice and issue warnings to those who flout social distancing rules under the recovery phase of the country’s movement control order (MCO).

“Many people seem to assume that there are no laws in place, as if the MCO has ended,” he said.

“The police have made a decision that there will be no more warnings and advice. They will take stern action on anyone who violates the MCO,” he added.

On Monday, the police detained 80 individuals for violating the MCO – 20 of whom were remanded, four released on police bail and 56 issued compounds.

He said that 37 people were detained for activities at pubs or nightclubs, while 43 were detained for activities that made it difficult for social distancing measures to be observed.

The minister said that nightclubs were still not allowed to reopen under the recovery MCO and added that the local authorities would increase enforcement activities on nightclubs, including suspending their licences.

“The government hopes the public will keep on being the eyes and ears for the authorities in reporting any instances where standard operating procedures have been violated,” he said.

The number of new Covid-19 cases has risen by double digits in the past few days, sparking fears of a fresh wave of infections.

The Malaysian health authorities recorded 21 new coronavirus cases on Monday, lifting the total since the outbreak began to 8,800 cases and 123 deaths.

Monday was the third straight day of double-digit rise in infections, after the country managed to broadly hold daily growth to single digits since movement controls were eased on June 10. The number of positive cases had climbed by 15 on Sunday, and by 18 two days prior.


PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The Malaysian government is considering whether to go with a fine or jail time for those refusing to “mask up” once the use of face masks is made mandatory in public places, said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said the growing number of infections was worrying, as the number of new Covid-19 cases hit double digits for the third straight day on Tuesday (July 21).

There were 15 cases on Tuesday with 11 of them being local transmissions.

If the wearing of a face mask is made mandatory in public places under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act, Dr Noor Hisham said that those flouting the law could either be fined RM1,000 (S$324) or put in jail.

“The Health Ministry is encouraging the use of face masks, especially in public places, high-risk places or places where social distancing of one metre apart is hard to enforce.

“We have currently not made it mandatory because once we make it mandatory under the Act, we would have to consider the punishment.

“We are still looking at the punishment – whether to fine or give jail time for those not wearing face masks – once its use is made compulsory, ” he said during a briefing on Tuesday.

He reiterated the ministry’s recommendation on the use of face masks, which could reduce the risk of infection by 65 per cent as well as social distancing, which could reduce transmission by up to 70 per cent.

Dr Noor Hisham said Malaysia recorded seven recoveries on Tuesday.

As for the 15 new infections, he said four were from imported cases involving three Malaysians and one foreigner.

Nine of the 11 local cases were from Sarawak.

Out of those, one was a foreigner who tested positive during new arrival screening at the Semuja Immigration depot in Sarawak. “Five of the cases are from a new cluster – the Sentosa Hospital cluster. There are currently six cases in this cluster; the first was detected on July 19, ” he said.

Those affected in this cluster were five medical workers and another one from a cleaning company.

All six of them are being treated at the Sarawak General Hospital.

There were no new deaths on Tuesday. The number of fatalities remained at 123.


Facebook is, by and large, a wretched hive of misinformation and villainy. Fortunately, it’s just a tiny bit less scummy now, with the site having suspended one of its largest anti-mask groups.

The Verge reports that Facebook group Unmasking America! has been removed for spreading misinformation about COVID-19. Over 9,600 members strong, the group opposed the use of face masks, spread widely debunked myths about the accessories, and loudly advocated for people to completely ignore medical professionals amidst a deadly global pandemic.

“We have clear policies against promoting harmful misinformation about COVID 19 and have removed this group while we review the others,” Facebook spokesperson Dami Oyefeso told Mashable.

Unmasking America! was removed after The Verge reached out to Facebook for comment on the group. A quick search by Mashable found numerous other anti-mask groups currently remain active on Facebook, such as NO MAS(K) with over 3,400 members and Anti-Maskers with over 1,700. The Verge notes Facebook group Million Unmasked March is still active as well, with almost 8,000 members. What’s more, it’s promoting a rally at which unmasked people will gather in large numbers — exactly what medical professionals are begging people not to do.

Misinformation surrounding the use of face masks has been rife both online and off, with anti-mask campaigners claiming they reduce your oxygen levels and infringe on people’s personal freedoms. Such arguments have been repeatedly, exhaustively countered and debunked by medical experts, yet this dangerous and inaccurate rhetoric continues to circulate.

Despite the rampant spread of misinformation on its platform, Facebook has been reluctant to remove false content altogether unless it may lead to “imminent physical harm.” In an April blog post, the website stated it is instead combating COVID-19 misinformation by having content assessed by fact-checkers and, if found false, “[reducing] its distribution and [showing] warning labels with more context.”

Fortunately, it seems Facebook is at least acknowledging that refusing to wear a mask and encouraging others to do the same may quickly lead to physical harm.

“Examples of misinformation we’ve removed include harmful claims like drinking bleach cures the virus and theories like physical distancing is ineffective in preventing the disease from spreading,” Facebook wrote in April.