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Sweden, not the US, is the #COVID-19 disaster

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Trump haters claim the US is the hardest hit country in the world, and COVID-19 deniers claim Sweden proved the shutdown did no good, writes TakeBack.org Executive Director John Pudner.

Both claims are absurd, and can only be held by one who acts like a lawyer who cherry picks google searches to try to build a case versus anyone who examines the facts like a doctor. They examine all facts to determine the best conclusion for their patients.

An honest assessment of facts would start by determining the Covid-19 death rate per capita compared to how many people in each country have pre-existing conditions that would make deaths more likely.

This sheet compares how many deaths each country would expect to have based on the percent of their residents that have diabetes and/or are obese. These are the two most common preconditions. Then the sheet compares that to the actual per capita deaths caused by COVID-19 as of 25 June.

Based on the percent of residents with pre-existing conditions, the fact that 47% of Americans are obese and many have diabetes indicates the US would likely rank 8th in the world in per capita COVID-19 deaths. In fact the US ranks 7th even assuming China and other secretive countries are actually providing accurate death numbers.

One conclusion is many charge that the US response to COVID-19 did not work and that the US is the hardest hit country is absurd. In other words the US per capita COVID-19 death rate is almost exactly what should be expected based on the tremendous number of Americans with pre-existing conditions. The 372 COVID-19 deaths per million is right in line.

On the other extreme, those who refuse to acknowledge the importance of social distancing, wearing masks in public and gradual re-openings long used Sweden as their example of a country that did what the US should have done and simply rode out COVID-19.

However, the Swedes are extremely healthy for a developed country. Barely half as many (25.4%) are obese as Americans, and combined with diabetes or pre-existing conditions project that the Sweden should only rank 82nd in deaths.

In fact Sweden is a disaster. Since the deniers held Sweden up as an example, deaths exploded to 137% of US per capita deaths. They are now fifth in the world with COVID-19 deaths dwarfing  those in the US with 512 deaths per million. The two bordering countries have about one-tenth the deaths of Sweden, the country held up as the example of why you should NOT shut down (Norway has 47 deaths per million, and Finland 59).

The second conclusion is now that we know the example of Sweden was a disaster, there is no case left for not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing in order to spread the disease rather than inconvenience ourselves in any way.

The bottom line is that forcing politics into the center of medical debates is a terrible development in the American political scene that costs lives. Those who simply search for ways to blame President Trump or any other politician prevent an effective response just as much as some Trump supporters who try to make a case against taking the simple measures needed like masks and distancing actually make it harder to reopen due to their unwillingness to inconvenience themselves to save lives.

Get the politics out of the process and localities, states and the country can open as much as possible to bring back the lost jobs without escalating deaths that were initially forecast to end next week.

The opinions cited in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of EU Reporter.

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UK plans COVID-19 'challenge' trials that deliberately infect volunteers

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Britain will help to fund trials using a manufactured COVID-19 virus to deliberately infect young healthy volunteers with the hope of accelerating the development of vaccines against it, write  and Paul Sandle in London, with additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva.

The government said on Tuesday (20 October) it will invest £33.6 million ($43.5m) in the so-called “human challenge” trials in partnership with Imperial College London, laboratory and trial services company hVIVO and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

If approved by regulators and an ethics committee, the studies will start in January with results expected by May 2021, the government said.

Using controlled doses of virus, the aim of the research team  will initially be to discover the smallest amount of virus it takes to cause COVID-19 infection in small groups of healthy young people, aged between 18 and 30, who are  at the lowest risk of harm, the scientists leading the studies said in a briefing.

Up to 90 volunteers could be involved at the initial stages, they said, and virus to be used will be manufactured in labs at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Chris Chiu, an Imperial College scientist on the team, said the experiments would rapidly increase understanding of COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes it, as well as accelerating development of potential new treatments and vaccines.

Critics of human challenge trials say deliberately infecting someone with a potentially deadly disease for which there is currently no effective treatment is unethical.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the trials would be carefully controlled and marked an important next step in building understanding of the virus and accelerating vaccine development.

Chiu said the plan for initial studies - which are aimed at assessing how much virus it takes to infect someone with COVID-19 - is to immediately treat volunteers with the Gilead antiviral drug remdesivir as soon as they are infected.

He said that while studies have show remdesivir has little or no effect on severe COVID-19 cases, his team has a “strong belief” that it will be an effective treatment if given in the very earliest stages of infection.

A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization said that there are “very important ethical considerations” when approaching such human challenge trials.

“What is critical is that if people are considering this, it must be overseen by an ethics committee and the volunteers must have full consent. And they must select the volunteers in order to minimise their risk,” she told reporters in Geneva.

Chiu said his team’s “number one priority is the safety of the volunteers”.

“No study is completely risk free, but (we) will be working hard to ensure we make the risks as low as we possibly can,” he said.

Britain’s hVIVO, a unit of pharmaceutical services company Open Orphan, said last week it was carrying out preliminary work for the trials.

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EU ready to approve new measures for economies if necessary - Dombrovskis

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The European Union will be ready to approve new measures to support its member states should the economies suffer further after a new surge in COVID-19 cases, its Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis (pictured) said on Wednesday (21 October), writes Giulia Segreti.

“We will certainly keep monitoring the situation closely and we are ready to react with new proposals, if necessary,” Dombrovskis told Italian daily La Stampa when asked whether there would be a new Recovery Fund.

Dombrovskis added that a new wave of coronavirus infections would “certainly have an effect” on the Commission’s upcoming autumn economic forecasts.

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77% of Europeans insist EU funds be linked to respect for Rule of Law

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A majority of EU citizens supports a larger EU budget to overcome the pandemic. Public health is the priority, followed by economic recovery and climate change.

In a new survey commissioned by the European Parliament and conducted at the beginning of October 2020, nearly eight out of ten participants (77%) across the EU support the concept that the EU should only provide funds to member states if the national government implements the rule of law and democratic principles. At least seven in ten participants agree with this statement in 26 EU Member States.

An absolute majority of Europeans continues to call for a larger EU budget to fight COVID-19

54% of Europeans believe the EU should have greater financial means to be able to overcome the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. In 20 EU member states, a majority of the participants agrees with this claim; in 14 EU member states, an absolute majority of participants supports a larger EU budget.

Asked about which policy fields this enlarged EU budget should be spent on, more than half of participants (54%) say that public health should be a priority, followed by economic recovery and new opportunities for businesses (42%), climate change and environmental protection (37%) and employment and social affairs (35%). At EU level, climate change and the environment has replaced employment in the top three spending priorities compared to the last survey conducted in June 2020.

Public health is the top spending priority for respondents in 18 countries. Estonia, Latvia and Czechia put the economic recovery on top, whilst in Austria, Denmark and Germany citizens favoured most the fight against climate change. In Croatia, Slovakia and Finland, participants chose employment and social affairs as their top spending priority.

Broad majority of citizens fear direct impact on their personal financial situation

Taking the necessary decisions on the Recovery Package and the MFF as soon as possible is clearly vital, as demonstrated by the worrying personal financial situation of European citizens since the beginning of the pandemic. A broad majority of citizens fear the pandemic will a direct impact on their personal financial situation –or have already suffered it: 39% of participants say that the COVID-19 crisis has already impacted their personal income, while a further 27% expect such an impact in the future. Only 27% expect the COVID-19 situation not to have an impact on their personal income. In 20 countries, most participants say that the current crisis has already impacted their personal income.

Citizens continue to see the EU as part of the solution to this crisis

Two-thirds of participants (66%) agree that the EU should have more competences to deal with crises such as the Coronavirus pandemic. Only a quarter (25%) disagrees with this statement. These findings are consistent with the results from both previous surveys conducted by the European Parliament in April and June 2020 respectively.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the European Parliament has commissioned three dedicated surveys measuring European public opinion in times of COVID-19. The latest survey was conducted online (and via telephone in Malta) by Kantar between 25 September and 7 October 2020, among 24,812 participants in all 27 EU Member States. The survey was limited to those aged between 16 and 64 (16-54 in Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia). Quotas on gender, age, and region at national level ensure the survey is representative. The total EU results are weighted according to the size of the population of each country surveyed.

The publication of the full report for this survey, including the complete data set, is planned for early November 2020.

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