Tagged: Covid-19

Mr President, we’re not officially at “War”

THE DEPLOYMENT of SANDF military personnel in support of SAPS enforcement of an unprecedented ‘lockdown’ in terms of the Disaster Management Act and National Health Act has resulted in at least three deaths, and countless examples of brutality and ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ reminiscent of the apartheid era.

The new regulations gazetted in terms of the legislation, and which appear to reference the colonial 1919 Public Health Act, may also turn out to be unlawful, as too the many contraventions of South Africa’s Bill of Rights.

The Disaster Management Act was drafted primarily to deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and floods, and does not grant the President the kind of powers contemplated by the latest round of executive policy-making decisions.

Similarly, the National Health Act is focused on providing health care for all, and does not contain any reference to the Public Health Act written during a period in which black South Africans were deprived of property rights and other rights such as habeous corpus.

The past days stream of online visuals of combined law enforcement officials invading citizen’s homes without search warrants, shambokking residents on private property, pointing shotguns at civilians queuing for food, affecting arbitrary arrests of civilians, and in some instances, forcing South Africans as well as migrants, to do humiliating squats, brutally knocking others to the ground, rolling them on the streets and pavements, are all brutish acts calculated to force compliance with the latest rounds of regulations. As such, they deserve greater scrutiny from both our government and opposition parties.

To date, the official opposition DA has merely written a letter calling for military investigation into the incidents whilst parliament is in recess. Minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has meekly cautioned members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) against their heavy-handedness during the lockdown.

With all the talk of war South Africans could be forgiven for thinking that the nation had officially declared war against the virus. Unfortunately we are in uncharted terrain so far as this is concerned, and Parliament has yet to pass a War Powers Act which would be required to allow President Ramaphosa to act as a war-time president.

At the start, the President acknowledged that the 15 March, Declaration of a National Disaster was one step away from the so-called national lockdown and a long way away from a State of Emergency. The shelter-in-place directive is unprecedented in modern times, but clearly necessary from a public health perspective. Law enforcement officials however seem to be a little overzealous in jumping the gun when it comes to the State of Emergency and special War Powers that would be needed to drive a command economy under military supervision.

Goods deemed non-essential, and therefore currently restricted from sale, quixotically include vegetable seed, general hardware, and cleaning equipment such as brooms.

Though generally muted by the past weeks events, our courts are still operating and functioning under special rules, and to my knowledge, the rule of law has not yet been suspended. It is unclear how citizens are expected to access legal aid during a lockdown.

Nevertheless Magistrates were quick to roll out summary fines of up to R5000 for contraventions of the new regulations, the magnitude of which will take some time to circulate within our communities. Legal professionals were generally silent or bunkered down, but eager to offer advice on the drafting of wills. Did we scrap the Audi rule alongside the National Environmental Management Act in the process?

We can only hope that the President supplies us with a timeline to the resumption of normality and that attempts to get ahead of the crisis will not come at the further expense of human rights.

The lockdown may be extended indefinitely, as in many other countries.

 

South Africa’s controversial Chloroquine Phosphate adoption

WHY ANYONE would prescribe a substance such as Chloroquine Phosphate for the treatment of Covid-19 is a mystery. For starters the anti-malaria drug is an amebicide, ‘an agent used in the treatment of amoebozoa infections, called amoebiasis’ and is not an anti-viral as such.

It has a low LD50, the lethal dose at which rats and patients die (low is more toxic). It has been touted by both the Trump administration and the World Health Organisation as a treatment for the disease but has been lambasted by critics. Chloroquine: Trump’s misleading claims spark hoarding and overdoses reads one headline.

On the March 19, South Africa adopted Chloroquine Phosphate in its guidelines for the clinical management of Covid-19, published by the Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. A local pharmaceutical company has received permission from the medical regulator to import half a million chloroquine phosphate tablets.

New research published on Wednesday however, ‘suggested that “off label” re-purposing of drugs such as hydroxychloroquine could lead to “drug-induced sudden cardiac death”. The paper by the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical organisation, found that ‘chloroquine and Kaletra, a HIV drug also being used against coronavirus, can cause the heart muscle to take longer than normal to recharge between beats.’

Most RNA viruses develop solely in cytoplasm (a thick solution that fills each cell and is enclosed by the cell membrane.) Unlike plasmodium malaria (amoebozoa ) viral populations do not grow through cell division, because they are acellular.

Coronaviruses are enveloped positive-stranded RNA viruses that replicate in the cytoplasm.

‘To deliver their nucleocapsid into the host cell, they rely on the fusion of their envelope with the host cell membrane. The spike glycoprotein (S) mediates virus entry and is a primary determinant of cell tropism and pathogenesis.’

There are over 100 known drug compounds capable of disrupting the viral replication of Sars-CoV-2, the coronovirus responsible for COVID-19. These substances have been located via an unprecedented bioinformatics search by two groups of scientists working round-the-clock on the equivalent of the Manhattan Project.

Their findings were published less than three weeks apart and must be considered required reading by anyone working in the field of coronovirus medicine. Unfortunately due to politics surrounding branded drugs and the Trump administration, and the machinations of the World Health Organisation, and our own government, these findings are being ignored.

Local use of the drug appears to pre-empt a WHO trial already underway in Norway and Spain.

Although Chloroquine Phosphate, ‘the phosphate salt of chloroquine, a quinoline a compound with antimalarial and anti-inflammatory properties’ appears on one of the lists provided by the researchers, the substance is not recommended by doctors as anything more than a last resort.

The chief executive of Novartis cautioned on Friday that it is “too soon” to be sure whether the anti-malaria drugs could be a definitive treatment for the coronavirus.

“Researchers have tried this drug on virus after virus, and it never works out in humans. The dose needed is just too high,” says Susanne Herold, an expert on pulmonary infections at the University of Giessen,

The latest list of potential coronovirus drugs discovered via an unprecedented bioinformatics search, include many compounds already approved for administering by doctors, some are already in preclinical trials. Among them is a 1971 antiviral drug, Ribavirin capable of disrupting the RNA synthesis of the coronovirus itself, the bug responsible for the biggest health crisis event of the 21st Century.

The drug is described in a paper aptly entitled ‘Broad-spectrum coronavirus antiviral drug discovery‘. It escaped media attention, perhaps due to its patent rights lapsing, while Lopinavir–Ritonavir, a relatively new HIV drug has received a lot of press, alongside Favivlavr a drug from China approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China .  Clinical trials of a promising COVID-19 antiviral, Remdesivir, which gets incorporated into viral RNA and prevents it being synthesised, halting viral replication, are currently underway.

Ribavirin, also known as tribavirin, is an antiviral medication used to treat RSV infectionhepatitis C and some viral hemorrhagic fevers.

A team lead by Nevan Krogan of the Gladstone Institute, working around the clock have identified more than 300 human proteins that interact with SARS-CoV-2 during infection.

Since the Trump announcement there has been attempts to classify coronovirus medicine research and restrict any adverse criticism of Chloroquine, with EPA announcing broad restrictions.

Efforts to raise awareness amongst local organisers of a Peninsula community coronovirus response team were instead met with ridicule, and the writer threatened with prosecution. The lack of debate amongst local authorities is reminiscent of the HIV-denial era, since anyone publishing coronovirus information ‘not authorised by the DOH ‘ may run foul of recently gazetted regulations governing the spread of information.

It is safe to say when this epidemic broke, we were dealing with denialists who refused to believe there was an epidemic. Overnight, these same folk have turned into gatekeepers of what can and cannot be said. Now even government officials are denying there are any antiviral treatments capable of bringing down the epidemic to manageable proportions and urging us all to use Chloroquine  the most widely used drug against malaria.

The safety issues here are also reminiscent of the thalidomide disaster,  one of the darkest episodes in pharmaceutical research history

Although the mechanism of action is not fully understood, chloroquine has been shown to inhibit the parasitic enzyme heme polymerase that converts the toxic heme into non-toxic hemazoin, thereby resulting in the accumulation of toxic heme within the parasite.

Chloroquine may also interfere with the biosynthesis of nucleic acids. However the coronovirus is not a microbial parasite and more research on the use of the substance in symptomatic treatment of a condition associated with an RNA virus would be required.

The most important lesson of the 1918 influenza pandemic: Tell the damn truth

Here are 69 potential Antiviral drug treatments as the Coronovirus rips up South Africa

HERE are 69 possible antiviral drug treatments for the Coronovirus. Some of them repurpose old drugs, others involve new combinations, and are already in use for a range of diseases, including Parkinsons, Cancer and HIV. Some drugs have already been approved for administering by doctors, some are already in preclinical trials. Among them is a 1971 antiviral drug, Ribavirin capable of disrupting the RNA synthesis of the coronovirus itself, the bug responsible for the biggest health crisis event of the 21st Century.

The drug is described in a paper aptly entitled ‘Broad-spectrum coronavirus antiviral drug discovery‘. It escaped media attention, perhaps due to its patent rights lapsing, while Lopinavir–Ritonavir, a relatively new HIV drug received a lot of press, alongside Favivlavr a drug from China approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China .

It appears a massive search using the latest information technology and supercomputers was conducted.

A group of scientists including ‘Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics’ experts has raced to make the discovery as New York hits an epidemic spike that looks set to require at least 30 000 extra respirators, countless more hospital beds, and the construction of makeshift morgues. The City is currently in a state of emergency.

South Africa is about to enter a national lockdown from midnight Thursday.

The latest research dovetails a paper published on 27 February by Micholas Smith, Jeremy C. Smith on ‘Repurposing Therapeutics for COVID-19: Supercomputer-Based Docking to the SARS-CoV-2 Viral Spike Protein and Viral Spike Protein-Human ACE2 Interface.’

The newer paper was published on 22 March 2020 and should have made headline news, if only NYC wasn’t at the centre of the epidemic.

The list includes Chloroquine, a controversial anti-malaria drug with a low Lethal Dose 50 (LD50), a measure of toxicity, where low is more toxic. The drug has been touted by Donald Trump, but has not been approved by the FDA for use, and also Haloperidol, a drug used to treat so-called Schizophrenia.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a global megatrial of what it claims are ‘the four most promising coronavirus treatments’

Scientists in Iceland have found 40 mutations of the coronavirus among people with the deadly bug in the country. A previous study conducted in China and published early this month indicates that two separate types of the novel coronavirus — one more aggressive than the other — had been infecting people since the start of the outbreak.

According to a WHO official ‘Ten percent of the people who are in [intensive care units] in Italy are in their 20s, 30s or 40s. These are young, healthy people with no co-morbidities, no other diseases.’

HERE IS THE LIST OF 69:

JQ1105; RVX-208; Silmitasertib1; TMCB; Apicidin1; Valproic Acid1; Bafilomycin A11; E-52862; PD-144418; RS-PPCC; PB281; Haloperidol; Indomethacin; Metformin1; Ponatinib; H-89; Merimepodib1; Migalastat1; Mycophenolic acid12; Ribavirin; XL4131; CCT 36562312; Midostaurin13; Ruxolitinib1; ZINC17759623671; ZINC432671913; ZINC4511851; ZINC95559591; AC-555411; AZ8838; Daunorubicin1; GB110; S-verapamil; AZ3451; ABBV-744; dBET6; MZ1; CPI-0610; Sapanisertib; Rapamycin; Zotatifin; Verdinexor; Chloroquine; Dabrafenib; WDB002; Sanglifehrin; AFK-506; Pevonedistat; Ternatin 4; 4E2RCat; Tomivosert; Compound 2; Compound 10; PS30613; IHVR-190291; Captopril1; Lisinopril1; Camostat; Nafamostat; Chloramphenicol; Tigecycline; Linezolid1

FIRST LIST IDENTIFIED BY SUPERCOMPUTER

pemirolast -7.4 ZINC5783214 benserazide -7.4 ZINC3830273 Natural Product: luteolin-monoarabinoside -7.4 ZINC18185774 pyruvic acid calcium isoniazid -7.3 ZINC4974291 Natural Product: quercetol;quercitin -7.3 ZINC3869685 protirelin -7.3 ZINC4096261 carbazochrome -7.2 ZINC100029428 nitrofurantoin -7.2 ZINC3875368 benserazide -7.2 ZINC3830273 carbazochrome -7.1 ZINC100045148 sapropterin -7.1 ZINC13585233 Vidarabine -7.1 ZINC970363 Natural Product: eriodictyol -7.1 ZINC58117 tazobactum -7.1 ZINC3787060 phenformin hcl -7 ZINC5851063 carbazochrome -7 ZINC100045148 carbazochrome -7 ZINC100045148 vildagliptin -7 ZINC100003507 Natural product: demethyl-coclaurine

 

Rate of Infection R0, why this so important when it comes to COVID-19?

R0 describes how many cases of a disease an infected person will go on to cause – in this imagined scenario R0=2.

FOR THE first SARS pandemic in 2003, scientists estimated the original R0 to be around 2.75. A month or two later, the effective R0 dropped below 1, thanks to the tremendous effort that went into intervention strategies, including isolation and quarantine activities.

Scientists use R0 – the reproduction number – to describe the intensity of an infectious disease outbreak. R0 estimates have been an important part of characterizing pandemics or large publicized outbreaks, including the 2003 SARS pandemic, the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. ‘It’s something epidemiologists are racing to nail down about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.’

Since SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 is a sister clade of SARS, it is extremely useful to simply refer to the bug as SARS2. In fact much of what was learnt during the first epidemic should be applied to the latest outbreak. For example, SARS was transmissible via respiratory and bodily fluid. Until evidence is provided to the contrary, one must assume this to also be the case with SARS2.

In the 1950s, epidemiologist George MacDonald suggested using R0 to describe the transmission potential of malaria. He proposed that, if R0 is less than 1, the disease will die out in a population, because on average an infectious person will transmit to fewer than one other susceptible person. On the other hand, if R0 is greater than 1, the disease will spread.

When public health agencies are figuring out how to deal with an outbreak, they are trying to bring R0 down to less than 1. This is tough for diseases that have a high R0.

When SARS2 arrived, it was assumed the R0 was similar to the previous epidemics. Initially SARS2, the novel coronovirus, was spreading within a range of 2.2 to 2.7 then it shot up to 4.7 – 6.6

This places it in the realm of Smallpox which has an R0 of 5–7.

You  can read more on How Scientists Quantify the Intensity of an Outbreak Like COVID-19

Coronavirus: Simple statistical predictions for South Africa

Coronavirus: Simple statistical predictions for South Africa

As South Africa fumbles COVID-19 testing, WHO warns social distancing is not enough

AS SOUTH AFRICA continues to struggle to ramp up basic testing for COVID-19, experts at the World Health Organization on Monday emphasized that countries should prioritize such testing— and that social-distancing measures are not enough.

“We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (aka Dr. Tedros) said in a press briefing March 16.

Dr. Tedros noted that, as the numbers of cases and deaths outside of China have quickly risen, many countries—including the US—have urgently adopted so-called social-distancing measures, such as shuttering schools, canceling events, and having people work from home. While these measures can slow transmission and allow health care systems to better cope, they are “not enough to extinguish this pandemic,” Dr. Tedros warned.

What’s needed is a comprehensive approach, he said. “But we have not seen an urgent-enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the response,” Dr. Tedros said.

“The most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission,” he went on. “And to do that, you must test and isolate. You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected.”

SEE: US testing response flounders 

SEE: Singapore’s Portable Covid-19 Swab Test 

SEE: Covid-19 Facts: Surviving the Covid-19 ‘Immunity’ Disaster

Covid-19 Facts: Surviving the Covid-19 ‘Immunity’ Disaster

1. What is SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19?

“Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” is the name of the new virus according to the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). “COVID-19” is the name of the new disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

This means it is related to the coronovirus responsible for the 2003 SARS epidemic. ‘Based on phylogeny, taxonomy and established practice, the CSG recognizes this virus as forming a sister clade to the prototype human and bat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs) of the species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus, and designates it as SARS-CoV-2.’

2. What are the Symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19, according to the WHO: fever (in 88% of cases), dry cough (68%), fatigue (38%) and sputum/phlegm production (33%). Shortness of breath occurred in nearly 20% of cases, and about 13% had a sore throat or headache, the WHO said in a report drawing on more than 70,000 cases in China.

3. How Infectious is SARS-CoV-2?

Covid-19 is more infectious and contagious than previously assumed. R0 value is likely to be between 4.7 and 6.6., and not 2.2 to 2.7 as previously reported. This places it in the realm of Smallpox which has an R0 of 5–7.

It can survive for up to 3 days+ on surfaces and remain airborne for hours.

It is most infectious during incubation, and first week of symptoms and less infectious during post-symptomatic recovery period. Incubation period averages 5.1 days.

It follows that since SARS-CoV-2 is related to the SARS 2003 virus, the same protocols should apply, ‘avoid direct contact with respiratory secretions or body fluids.’

Note: It is well worth reading up on predecessor SARS 1

Can We Learn Anything from the SARS Outbreak to Fight COVID-19?

The problem is that since the coronovirus is a new pathogen, we do not possess natural immunity. South Africans will eventually gain ‘herd immunity’ which is ‘the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination’.

4. How many South Africans are likely to catch COVID-19?

If one uses Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel’s estimates that 40%-60% of the population will invariably be infected: South Africa with a population of 56+ million must plan for some 22 400 000 to 33 600 000 cases of which 1 904 000 will be critical according to WHO average mortality rate of 3.4. This makes it a major problem for the public health system. See Coronavirus: Simple statistical predictions for South Africa

Luckily we have a relatively young population. Age of a population is a factor in mortality rate.

5. How many hospital beds does South Africa have?

There are currently some 80 000 beds in the public health system, and 5000 beds in the private health care system according to MOH Dr Zweli Mkhize today. This means a potential shortfall of 1 819 000 beds. Nationally, there is only 1 hospital, 187 hospital beds and 42 surgical beds per 100 000 population.

6. Which groups are most at risk from SARS-CoV-2?

Most reports suggest that the elderly, infirm and those already possessing co-morbidity, i.e underlying disease such as HIV, Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease are particularly at risk from falling critically ill from the disease.

COVID-19 update: What you need to know now that it’s officially a pandemic

7. Why should I be concerned about SARS-CoV-2 & COVID-19?

Patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection are presenting with a wide range of symptoms. Most patients seem to have mild disease, and about 20% appear to progress to severe disease, including pneumonia, respiratory failure, and, in some cases, even death, according to the Lancet.

Coronavirus turns deadly when it leads to ‘cytokine storm’; identifying this immune response is key to patient’s survival

Since COVID-19 may also reduce lung function, opportunistic infection from Pneumococcus, Streptococcus and Mycobacterium Tuberculosis within the South African context may also be inferred. This presents a substantial and heretofore under-reported risk.

Unless we think globally and act locally to contain and prevent transmission, new waves of the pandemic are likely to hit the sub-continent.

8. What can I do to prevent transmission?

Social distancing, avoiding large crowds, hand-washing, the Covid “handshake” and sneezing into ones elbow are all behavioural changes suggested by our MOH.

Providing hand-sanitation stations at Taxi ranks, Metro-Rail and public venues is another suggestion, so too providing UV lights and/or latex gloves and hand sanitiser to those who deal with money at checkouts, and also pump jockeys at Petrol Stations.

Disinfection of Public Transport and Taxis should be prioritised!

Predecessor SARS 1 showed sensitivity to UV light, renders inactive.

Traditional burning of Imphepho or African Sage may assist poor households in removing bacteria and viruses from the air, as inferred from Journal of Ethnopharmacology, since havan samagri has the potential to kill 94% of bacteria.

9. Is there a cure?

Treatment is currently symptomatic. Several treatment therapies have been advanced, including the use of chloroquine phosphate to treat fever, antivirals such as protease inhibitors to treat viral reproduction and other therapies. Anecdotal evidence suggests that codeine and ibuprofen exacerbates the fever and should not be taken without doctor supervision. Favipiravir, a Japanese flu drug has also proven effective.

Covid-19: ibuprofen should not be used for managing symptoms, say doctors and scientists

See Could an old malaria drug help fight the new coronavirus?

Warnings issued on lethal dose of Chloroquine 

Nvidia is calling on gaming PC owners to put their systems to work fighting COVID-19 by assisting projects already  ‘simulating potentially druggable protein targets from SARS-CoV-2

Avoid Coronophobia, the fear of Coronoviruses killing you. Rational thinking rather than fear, panic and denial is the key here.

10. Can I test for SARS-CoV-2?

Yes, currently the only tests available are via pathology labs, designated public hospitals such as Tygerberg and the private health system and cost anywhere between R1400 to R900. Local tests have a 48 hour turnaround. This is a significant downside to an otherwise excellent disaster plan. Singapore for instance has rolled out a four-hour turnaround swab-test at entry points, while Senegal is working on a 10-minute PCR test.

Demand better screening, lowering of threshold of surveillance and access to free testing.

11. Is there a Vaccine?

South Africa has no candidate vaccine at this time.

See: How can AI help biotech companies seeking vaccines?

Passive antibody therapy, an Antibody Method from the 1890s is being used to provide stop-gap immunity.

A Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle.

Immunisation will take time, we need to be vigilant and patient until then.

Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus Vaccines

12. Which borders are closed?

A travel ban has been enforced on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. There is currently no word on Japan,  Spain and other places of concern.

13. How will this effect the global economy?

In 2004 Jong-Wha Lee and Warwick J. McKibbin in ‘Estimating the Global Economic Costs of SARS’ published in ‘Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak‘ produced a global model to simulate the economic impact of a long-term SARS epidemic using the period 2002–2081. The so-called ‘G-Cubed (Asia-Pacific) model’ is eerie and prescient in its description. I reproduce it here:

First, fear of SARS infection leads to a substantial decline in consumer demand, especially for travel and retail sales service. The fast speed of contagion makes people avoid social interactions in affected regions. The adverse demand shock becomes more substantial in regions that have much larger service-related activities and higher population densities, such as Hong Kong or Beijing, China. The psychological shock also ripples around the world, not just to the countries of local transmission of SARS, because the world is so closely linked by international travel. Second, the uncertain features of the disease reduce confidence in the future of the affected economies. This effect seems to be potentially very important, particularly as the shock reverberates through China, which has been a key center of foreign investment. The response by the Chinese government to the epidemic was fragmented and nontransparent. The greater exposure to an unknown disease and the less effective government responses to the disease outbreaks must have elevated concerns about China’s institutional quality and future growth potential. Although it is difficult to measure directly the effects of diseases on decision making by foreign investors, the loss of foreign investors’ confidence would have potentially tremendous impacts on foreign investment flows, which would in turn have significant impacts on China’s economic growth. This effect is also transmitted to other countries competing with China for foreign direct investment (FDI). Third, SARS undoubtedly increases the costs of disease prevention, especially in the most affected industries such as the travel and retail sales service industries. This cost may not be substantial, at least in global terms, as long as the disease is transmitted only by close human contact. However, the global cost could become enormous if the disease is found to be transmitted by other channels such as through international cargo.

14. How will this effect the local economy?

Our economy is so intertwined with the rest of the world that the impact is bound to last for a very long time. In the meantime, think about the benefits and opportunities of buying local, sharing with your neighbour, lending a hand and being prepared. Household responsibility dictates that it is up to individual households at the end of the day to provide for oursselves and to figure out how best to move the economy forward.

Singapore’s Portable Covid-19 Swab Test

A NEW SWAB TEST  test for the COVID-19 infection has been implemented at checkpoints in Singapore.

The National Development Minister said the new swab test extends testing to lower-risk symptomatic travellers as an added precautionary measure. All land, sea and air checkpoints currently conduct temperature screening on travellers.

“We are putting this in place precisely because…we want to have a mechanism in order to detect and identify upstream early on,” said Wong.

After undergoing the swab test, travellers will be allowed to continue with their journey. Each test outcome will take three to six hours, and individuals will then be contacted on their results. Those with positive results will be conveyed to hospital via ambulance.

Wong acknowledged that the swab tests would require more manpower but stated that it was important, “not least because beyond…the known infected sources, we don’t know whether the virus may be coming in from other sources”.

Those who refuse the swab test may face sanctions. Short-term visitors who refuse the test will be barred from entry into the country. Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders who refuse testing may have their immigration facilities or work pass privileges revoked or their validity shortened.

Travellers, including Singaporeans, who do not comply with the testing or who are uncontactable later may be penalised or prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act.

SINGAPORE-based Veredus Laboratories, a provider of innovative molecular diagnostic solutions, recently announced the development of VereCoV detection kit, a portable Lab-on-Chip application capable of detecting the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) i.e. Wuhan Coronavirus, in a single test.

The VereCoV detection Kit is based on the VereChip technology, a Lab-on-Chip platform integrating two powerful molecular biological applications, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and microarray, that will be able to identify and differentiate MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and 2019-nCoV with high specificity and sensitivity.

WHY IT MATTERS

The Wuhan Coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, Central China, was initially identified during mid-December 2019. The outbreak was linked primarily to stallholders who worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which also sold live animals. Chinese scientists found that the 2019-nCoV is at least 70% similar in genome sequence to SARS-CoV.

According to latest reports on the first day of the Lunar New Year (25th January), authorities have reported 15 new deaths in Wuhan, including a medical professional in his 60s, bringing the death toll in China to 41. The virus has also been detected in the US, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Nepal.

A recent article by The Business Times reported that the VereCoV detection kit was expected to be commercially available from Feb 1 this year.

ON THE RECORD

“Given the high transmission rates of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, it is inevitable that the 2019-nCoV could possibly result in high incidences of transmission. There are similarities in genetic make-up between these Coronaviruses, however gene mutations in the 2019-nCoV are largely responsible for recent outbreak cases. It is therefore critical for our multiplexing assay to provide wide genetic coverage to detect and differentiate these Coronaviruses, particularly to identify 2019- nCoV for appropriate mitigation actions, if necessary,” said Dr Sato Mitsuharu, R&D Director of Veredus in a statement.

Dr Rosemary Tan, CEO of Veredus Laboratories added, “This VereCoV detection kit will be one of the first commercially available kits in the world with the capability to detect, differentiate and identify all 3 Coronaviruses in a single test in about 2 hours. Time-to-market is crucial as it addresses the need for a fast and easy-to-use detection method. This is something we are confident of as we have previously updated our VereFlu Influenza A/B detection kit and VereMERS detection kit to include the then newly emergent pandemic strain H1N1/2009 and MERS-CoV, respectively within few weeks from time of first outbreak.”