The Gates Foundation is starting with an initial funding of USD 250 million. Photo from Global Citizen/Handout via REUTERS
Culture Spotlight

Bill and Melinda Gates are pouring the resources of their foundation into COVID-19

Plus, South Africa has allowed its citizens to exercise, and New Zealand is continuing along its first week out of strict lockdown. BY JACS T. SAMPAYAN
ANCX | May 03 2020

As the world remains mired in COVID-19 case counts and alarming updates, it’s hard to look past everyone’s grim newsfeeds. But opening our eyes wider to a bigger world that is, albeit slowly, starting to stand up should give us hope—or at least an easier day. ANCX will regularly gather positive developments in different corners of the globe to show that, in trying to move forward, we can confidently train our eyes upward.

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The Gates Foundation will focus on pandemic efforts

Five years ago, Bill Gates spoke on TED and declared that the world wasn’t ready for a global pandemic. And, seeing how COVID-19 has been ravaging the world this year, his assessment was proven largely correct. Instead of repeatedly saying “I told you so,” he and his better half Melinda are concentrating all their energies on helping the planet solve this problem. The couple’s eponymous foundation, which has a USD 40 billion endowment, will now be concentrated entirely on COVID-19 efforts for the foreseeable future. In the past, the foundation has tackled HIV, malaria, and polio eradication. After announcing an initial funding of USD 250 million (earmarked for diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, and support for African and South Asian countries), Gates says that they will leverage existing partnerships as well as the expertise of their staff to battle the virus. 

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South Korea's “positive” recoveries are not reinfections 

Last month, 263 patients who had recovered from COVID-19 in South Korea later tested positive again, suggesting that the virus could reinfect. Thankful, scientists are inferring that this is not a case of reactivation, and might likely be due to flaws in the testing process; the tests might have detected remnants of the virus without picking up if the person was, indeed, infected. Seoul National University Hospital Division head Dr. Oh Myoung-don, who advises the Korean government, said the tests only detected the ribonucleic acid of the dead virus. For similar cases, the person might get a positive test but will not be able to infect others. 

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South Africans have been allowed to go and exercise 

After adhering to strict lockdown measures in their country by President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africans have recently been allowed to go out and work out within a few kilometers from their own home during a three-hour window. Everyone from joggers to dog walkers excitedly went out and took advantage of this reprieve. Soldiers were on hand to ensure social distancing measures were in place as well as enforce rules on the use of masks. The African country has so far only endured 5,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 103 deaths, substantially fewer numbers in comparison to other countries. 

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More vaccines go into clinical trials

Pharmaceutical multinational Pfizer and German company BioNTech, who have teamed up to create a potential COVID-19 vaccine, are swiftly moving to human trials. If all goes well, the vaccine, called BNT162, could be ready for emergency use by the last quarter of the year. BioNTech shares that 200 volunteers from 18 to 55 years old would be given varying doses to find the optimal dose for further studies. The clinical trial was approved by the German Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedical Drugs, the country’s first against COVID-19. Around the world, a handful of vaccine programs are also in clinical trials and around 80 are in preliminary phases.

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Coursera will teach unemployed Americans for free

American online learning platform Coursera is helping out those who are newly unemployed by the pandemic a chance to beef up their knowledge. Three thousand eight hundred of their courses and 400 of their specialization are now available for free through US government agencies that are looking to find jobs for its citizens. Enrollment will be open until September 30th and students will be allowed to complete the courses until the end of the year. Outside of the US, this free education will be available to countries such as Colombia, Greece, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Malaysia. A Coursera program typically costs USD 399 per year.

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New Zealand is on its first week of easing from the lockdown

Earlier in the week, New Zealand has lowered its alert level and allowed some of its citizens to return to work and school. Restaurants and caf├ęs, provided they adhere to social distancing rules and transactions are contactless, were also allowed to reopen for takeout orders. New cases have been kept to single digits, and today, there were no new deaths. “It's crucial that all New Zealanders stay vigilant and follow the guidelines of physical distancing, keeping to our bubbles, practicing good hand hygiene and if you're unwell, staying away from others and seeking medical advice,” says the country’s Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

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US clears Ebola drug for emergency use against COVID-19

Remdesivir was recently authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use in treating COVID-19. While a recent clinical trial showed that the drug helped in shortening recovering times for seriously ill patients, it did not substantially improve survival rates. The drug, which was originally developed by pharmaceutical company Gilead to treat Ebola, disrupts the virus’s ability to replicate. According to FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, it is the first authorized therapy against COVID-19. The Gilead website clarifies on its site, however, that “Remdesivir is an experimental medicine that does not have established safety or efficacy for the treatment of any condition.”

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