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Snippets from UK: Mask Up with an N99 to Breathe Easy, Suggests New Study

Representational pic.

Representational pic.

From Britain getting hopeful of a permanent end to lockdowns to the EU bureaucracy's role in the Covishield controversy, a roundup of what's making news today.

More than a face-saver: Disputes have continued as long as the pandemic over the benefit of wearing a mask. Where there are masks, a fair bit of creativity has gone into designing them. And for safety primarily, the N95 was considered the best standard. But the Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation now finds that the quality of masks can make a huge difference and that the FFP3 mask or the N99 can offer up to 100 percent protection. Not even a surgical mask can keep out aerosols that may carry the virus.

Javid bats for “irreversible" end to lockdown: New Health Secretary Sajid Javid has made himself popular with the tabloid newspapers in declaring his belief in an early and “irreversible” end to the lockdown. “Javid fights for freedom” the Daily Mail ran. Britain just has to “learn to live” with the virus, he says. Some had been hoping that he may advance it to July 5 from the due date July 19. But that is not to be. In any case, Javid may have spoken an infamous last word here. The end of a lockdown can only be as irreversible if the advance of the virus reverses or is stopped by vaccines. The virus is widely reported to be mutating dangerously all the time, and the efficacy of the vaccines is limited as of now, and over the long run, untested.

The silver lining of low Covid death toll: Some reason for optimism has emerged, even as the number of infection cases in Britain continues to rise. The death toll, as Health Secretary Sajid Javid says, is “mercifully low”, as is the number of hospital admissions. Those two critical indices are not rising in proportion to the number of cases. So long as that parallel is broken, Britain should be on its way out of the lockdown, and past the virus. At the same time leading virologists say there is no question that the virus will change form and come back over the course of the rest of the year. Meanwhile, as Britain basks in optimism, more and more countries are shutting their doors to Brits. They are not learning to live with any risk of arrival of more virus with the British.

EU ‘babudom’ may have sparked Covishield row: The cry over racism from the EU over a current refusal to recognise Covishield might just be excessive. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) says it does not control travel, those are protocols that individual member states announce. It says the only AstraZeneca for which it received an application was Vaxzeveria, which was certified. It says it has received no application for any vaccine called Covishield. That is the same vaccine, as recognised by the WHO, and accepted by several countries. The EMA says a vaccine is a biological product, and tiny changes in production conditions can make a difference. It, therefore, certifies use based also on manufacturing conditions. Which it is prepared to do with Covishield once it receives an application. Racist? Or just bureaucratic?

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A raw deal: An answer to the Covishield controversy may lie in Alphonso mangoes. Back in 2014, the EU banned the import of Alphonso mangoes on the grounds that a few fruit flies were seen accompanying some crates that turned up. The EU took the view that those flies could destroy Europe’s salad crops. But away from EU recommendations, Britain and many countries around the world continued to import them. No such thing as an Alphonso disease broke out among either humans or salads anywhere. The EU lifted its ban the following year.

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