18 May 2020
The UK planning to have 30 million coronavirus vaccines available by September if trials prove successful
“The (UK) Government would ensure to make the vaccine available to developing countries at the lowest possible cost.” (Alok Sharma, UK Business Secretary).
In the United Kingdom yesterday, the Business Secretary Alok Sharma, announced ambitious plans should the UK’ coronaviruis vaccine trials be successful.
At present Oxford University and Imperial College London are both in the process of developing a vaccine.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, he revealed a further £84 million in new funding “to help accelerate their work”.
Mr Sharma said the Government has now committed more than a quarter of a billion pounds towards developing a vaccine in the UK.
He said: “This new money will help mass-produce the Oxford vaccine so that if current trials are successful we have dosages to start vaccinating the UK population straight away.”
Under a new licensing partnership with pharmaceutical firm Astra Zeneca, Mr Sharma promised 30 million vaccines for the UK by September.
This is part of a larger agreement for over 100 million doses in total.
He confirmed that “the UK will be first to get access” but also that the Government would ensure to make the vaccine available to developing countries "at the lowest possible cost”.
The first clinical trial of the Oxford vaccine is already underway, while the Imperial College will be looking to move into clinical trials next month.
Mr Sharma said both trials are world leaders in vaccines against the disease.
Source: Quoting a Sky News report.
17 May 2020
The unfolding school fee challenge facing parents
An article in today’s Solomon Star newspaper told of how parents and guardians will be faced with difficulties in paying school fees once classes resume from tomorrow, Monday.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused much anguish and losses across the world with deaths, job losses, forced closure of businesses, food shortages, and the list of woes seems endless.
In the Solomon Islands, although still free from the deadly virus, people are suffering the effects of a loss of income due to the necessary but tough measures that have been imposed to keep the virus at bay.
I really do understand the real dilemma faced by parents and guardians over the requirements to pay the tuition fees for their children at school.
I suppose schools will need to continue to meet commitments over housekeeping, sanitation, upkeep of premises and maintenance but in the prevailing circumstances do schools have any latitude to temporarily waive school fees given the rise in the general hardships of the people?
I guess, on second thoughts, schools do not have such latitude to relax, waive or set-aside school fees, but does the government in terms of its SUS37, 5 million economic stimulus package announced by the Prime Minister on 5th May?
I really don’t know the answers but feel some relief should be forthcoming over school fees if at all possible.
Looking at the “new normal” as it will relate to the Solomon Islands and externally post-Covid-19
The Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Luke Forau, launched the 2019 CBSI Annual Report last week when he reportedly said, “Due to the coronavirus containment measures, the launching was done virtually with the theme, preparing for a new normal amidst covid-19”.
I was interested to read Dr Forau’s reference to a “new normal” from a grammatical point of view and also the likely expectations - post coronavirus - that one might see in the Solomon Islands and globally, especially in the business world.
The idiom (or cliché) “the new normal”—in the sense of the new standard of baseline expectation or experience—has occurred fairly frequently in the past months since the world first became aware of the deadly, unseen virus, now sweeping the world.
In the Solomon Islands, the “new normal” has seen the people trying to adjust to the array of social restrictions imposed to prevent the virus entering the country; restrictions that prioritises public health.
After the pandemic is over, healthy lifestyles must be part of the “new normal.”
What many nations have come to realize since the onset of the coronavirus is that the physical health of residents in any country, along with its healthcare infrastructure, are two of the most important factors in determining how well a nation responds to public health threats. Without a healthy workforce, there can be no real and meaningful economic recovery.
The Solomon Islands must really think what can be learned from other nations about the impacts of public health threats on vulnerable populations. I believe much can be learned about how New Zealand has effectively brought COVID-19 under control.
In the Solomon Islands, there are many people suffering from Non-communicable Diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer and having such health issues puts those suffering such underlying health conditions in the higher risk levels should coronavirus become prevalent.
As the country considers COVID-19 priorities and prevention measure, the government must do more to encourage a healthy life style change – as part of the “new normal” in the country.
Eating too many salty foods, sugary drinks, and consuming foods with little or no nutritional value, are already wreaking havoc on vulnerable people in the Solomon Islands, and in the wider Pacific.
The government can create ways to educate the public through culturally appropriate public service announcements; and by developing a long-term plan to achieve food security.
In the Solomon Islands, there is enough fresh fruit, and vegetables can easily be cultivated sufficiently to combat chronic diseases such as diabetes. But as we all know, this is not the case — people are already dying prematurely and in high numbers from preventable non-communicable diseases, as I reported earlier about the number of deaths at the NRH since the start of this year
Eating local and staying healthy should be part of any new economic policy planning process. More importantly, and at the least, one must grow “to eat and eat what is grown.”
Moving forward, all must come together, united, as one Solomon Islands family to encourage each other to eat well; consume alcohol in moderation and responsibly; reduce or cut out smoking and exercise regularly.
Food security and food production are areas the government should give greater attention. There is a growing need to transform the agricultural sector and move from a piecemeal approach to a more strategic approach.
A crucial part of the Solomon Islands economic recovery cannot just focus on tourism; to do so, will be to repeat errors made in the past.
If COVID-19 teaches anything to a small island state, it is that being able to feed the nation in times of crisis, is not only important but also quintessential to survival.
Post Covid-19 how much, how fast, and in what ways governments eventually reduce their economic role will be some of the most important questions of the next decade.
I believe the world will see the rise of a contact-free economy and in three areas in particular—digital commerce, telemedicine, and automation—the COVID-19 pandemic could prove to be a decisive turning point.
In terms of e-commerce, the pandemic has accelerated a change in shopping habits that was already well established.
In Europe, 13% of consumers have turned to online retailing for the first time.
I have previously written about telemedicine and the practice has become part of the “new normal” in Australia and more so in the United States. The same trend to telemedicine practices have been seen in France and South Korea.
Some senior students in the Solomon Islands are aware of what automation by way of robots might bring and have participated in robotic competitions with much success in overseas.
It is now estimated in a post-Covid-19 world, automation by way of robotics could affect 400 million to 800 million jobs by 2030. This may seem far-fetched but let me give two examples to illustrate my point.
Here in Bangkok, the shopping malls are due to re-open tomorrow, Sunday, after the COVID-19 lockdown but with restricted shopping hours and subject to shoppers having their temperature checked, wearing compulsory face masks and practicing social distancing.
Patrolling the major shopping malls will be robots, humanoid looking, capable of detecting and reporting breaches of the health requirements, including singling out anyone without a face mask, with a temperature over 37 deg and anyone not keeping a safe distance apart.
Those robots will replace workers who would normally have been employed to uphold the public health measures.
In Singapore trial robots built much like big dogs and capable of walking very much like a dog would on all fours, now patrol some public parks and open spaces to survey and report, including sending photo images of breaches of the health safety rules. The robots do the work of former patrol officers.
And finally, companies will need to reconsider how they can establish more resilience. Many companies will need to rebalance their priorities, making additional resiliency measures as important to their strategic thinking as cost and efficiency.
Because necessity is often the mother of invention, the pandemic could bring some positive outcomes. Individuals, communities, businesses, and governments are all learning new ways to connect. And businesses are finding faster, cheaper ways to operate. In-person conferences have used virtual technology with video conferencing. Remote working has grown out of all expectation and these changes could make for better management and more flexible workforces.
Remote or virtual conferencing has not been lost on the SIG of late and even Dr Forau presented the Bank’s 2019 Annual Report virtually.
Even Solomon Islands dive tourism entrepreneur, Belinda Botha has stepped up with a timely and proactive helping hand to offer virtual business coaching advice to struggling South Pacific tourism operators.
17 May 2020
What is the world doing to create a COVID-19 vaccine?
As we organise our daily lives to work alongside the “new normal” that has been imposed on us by the spate of stringent, but necessary regulations and orders to combat Covid-19, it is all too easy to be saying, “When will this end?”
I don’t have the answer to that question but I do look out daily for any possible breakthroughs in the scientific and medical world that could offer some hope.
I’ll share a couple of them with you today.
Well, it seems the race to find a vaccine for the new coronavirus is well underway. Governments and researchers are aiming to provide billions of people with immunity in eighteen months or less, which would be unprecedented.
Many governments have warned that daily life cannot return to normal until their populations have built up antibodies to fend off the virus. Some clinical trials are already underway, but vaccine development often takes years.
Developing a successful vaccine is not enough. Many countries also face the looming challenge of producing quantities necessary to provide immunity to all their citizens, and competition is already emerging over who will have access once a vaccine is ready.
There are more than one hundred vaccines in preclinical development by pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, government agencies, and others. More than seventy of these are being monitored by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Work on trying to find a vaccine is already underway in the United States, China, the United Kingdom and in Germany. In those four countries clinical trials are pressing ahead.
The WHO and other multilateral institutions such as the World Bank are focused on financing and manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine for global use, in particular to ensure fair allocation among all countries.
The pharmaceutical industry is also driving much of the push toward a vaccine.
In the United Kingdom, the University of Oxford started human trials for a candidate in late April, with $25 million in funding from the UK government.
In an article I read today in the UK’s Evening Standard newspaper, written by Imogen Braddick, it said the UK Government is to invest 93 million pounds to bring forward the opening of a new vaccine-manufacturing centre to ensure it is ready to begin production if a coronavirus vaccine is found.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) in Oxfordshire will now open in summer 2021 – 12 months earlier than planned.
The not-for-profit facility, based at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxford, will have the capacity to produce enough doses for the entire UK population in as little as six months.
Meanwhile, in a separate article written by Darrell Etherington and published on Yahoo, it said, quote:
“Therapeutics company Sorrento has made what it believes could be a breakthrough in potential treatment of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to COVID-19. The company released details of its preclinical research on Friday, announcing that it has found an antibody that provides "100% inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection of healthy cells after four days incubation." The results are from a preclinical study that still has to undergo peer review. It was an in vitro laboratory study (meaning not in an actual human being), but it's still a promising development as the company continues to work on production of an antibody "cocktail" that could provide protection against SARS-CoV-2 even in case of mutations in the virus.”
MAL sign $2.4 M funding for hatchery and feed production
Quoting Solomon Star Newspaper – 15 May 2020
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock has signed another exciting project worth SBD2.4million dollars with Food Works Supplies Ltd for hatchery and feed mill services.
“ In thanking the Managing Director of Food Works Supplies Ltd, Mr. Tony Tepeaihana, the Permanent Secretary Mrs. Ethel Tebengi Frances urged that they make this undertaking successful because the ministry is counting on them to deliver a service that is so needed to boost poultry industry in the country.
“The Permanent Secretary during the signing ceremony also explains that the project was selected because it satisfied two key government priorities the ministry is mandated to implement, being, import substitution and increase the production of food locally as a food security strategy under the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Copyright @ 2020, Solomon Star News.