A man stands on a tower in La Alcazaba at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain as it reopens to the public under strict social distancing measures on June 17, 2020. REUTERS/Jon Nazca
Culture Spotlight

Spain has lifted its state of emergency and is now opening its borders

Plus, an Oxford study shows that a drug can prevent more COVID deaths, the world’s biggest movie theater groups are starting to schedule screenings again, and an airborne diseases expert calculates that a quick hug isn’t all that bad. BY JACS T. SAMPAYAN
ANCX | Jun 21 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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Spain is opening its borders to its neighbors

After enduring one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns, Spain lifted its state of emergency and has reopened its borders to visitors from most of its neighbors. The country’s COVID-related deaths are the third-highest among members of the European Union, and Prime Minister Pedro S├ínchez warns that hygiene protocols will be observed strictly. Tourism represents around 12 percent of the country’s GDP, and accepting arrivals for summer is important to its economy being jumpstarted. All arriving passengers will, of course, be screened. While Spanish citizens may also move around freely in their own country, social distancing rules are still in place. According to government announcements, Spain’s COVID numbers have been falling steadily.

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A drug tested by an Oxford research team reduced deaths among the critically-ill

A research team at Oxford University announced that the drug dexamethasone was shown to significantly reduce the number of deaths among those who are critically ill from COVID. The team trialed the drug, which is steroid based, on around 2,000 patients. Used to treat common conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, Dexamethasone partly works by suppressing the immune system, which might prevent its own over-response to the coronavirus. In the Oxford study, the drug reduced the number of deaths among COVID patients that require the use of ventilators by one-third. Medical professionals note, however, that the drug does not prevent anyone from being infected. It should also not be bought without a doctor’s professional advice.

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According to this doctor’s calculations, a quick hug isn’t COVID risky

Hugging—at least to the extent that everyone used to do it—is one of the simple joys that the world is now prevented from indulging in. But according to calculations from Virginia Tech aerosol scientist Linsey Marr, who happens to be one of the leading experts on airborne disease transmission, the risk of exposure during a brief hug can be surprisingly low. Her conclusion is based on mathematical models from a Hong Kong study. “We don’t know how many infectious viruses it takes to make you sick—probably more than one,” Dr. Marr says. “If you don’t talk or cough while hugging, the risk should be very low.” But don’t go hugging with abandon just yet. How much virus a person sheds still depend on many variables, and it is still better to avoid physical contact as much as possible. But if you really need to do so, remember to wear a mask, and avoid touching the other person with your face or mask.

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Big movie theater companies will be screening again starting next month

The top two cinema theater owners in the world are opening for business within the next month. Following a three-month lockdown, both AMC Theaters and the Cineworld Group will start screening movies once more. The former is planning to open around 1,000 theaters worldwide while the latter will open all of its theaters by July 10. Cineworld will begin with screenings of highly anticipated movies such as Disney’s live action Mulan and the DCEU’s Wonder Woman 1984. "We are thrilled to be back and encouraged by recent surveys that show that many people have missed going to the movie theater," says Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger in a statement.

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Iceland is getting an influx of arrivals

On the first day that Iceland had opened its country to travelers from the European Union, it saw about 900 arriving passengers from neighboring countries. EU nationals and those who have a valid residence permit for a Schengen Area country are permitted to enter the country without going through a 14-day quarantine. Those outside of the Schengen Zone will have to wait until at least July 1. Last month, Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir introduced a few changes to travel restrictions, and have relaxed measures against COVID. Among the country’s first few visitors is a team from news organization CNN, who reported that Iceland felt like a parallel universe where everything seemed back to normal.

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