A health worker disinfects a Vietnam Airlines plane. A Scottish pilot for their airline, Vietnam's sickest patient, has fully recovered. REUTERS/Kham
Culture Spotlight

Vietnam’s famous pilot patient—its worst COVID case—has fully recovered

Plus, a COVID-free town in Italy is opening itself to visitors, a study about gymgoers in Oslo is encouraging for those itching to workout, and Northern Ireland sees a decline in ICU cases. BY JACS T. SAMPAYAN
ANCX | Jun 28 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.


Vietnam’s Patient 91 has recovered and thanks the Asian country profusely

Stephen Cameron, the 42-year-old Scottish pilot who spent 68 days on a ventilator in a hospital in Ho Chi Minh because of COVID-19, believes that if he were not Vietnam, he would not have survived. “They would have flicked the switch after 30 days (if I weren’t in Vietnam),” says the man that the Vietnames press have dubbed as Patient 91. He is the last Covid-19 patient in an intensive care unit in the Southeast Asian Country whose handling of the virus has been globally praised. They’ve had only single digit ICU admissions and no deaths. Many of the country’s intensive care specialists regularly conferred to discuss the pilot's condition. “The very small number of critical care patients meant anyone who was severely ill got the attention of all the country's top-level clinicians,” explains Dr Kidong Park, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative to Vietnam.

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A steady decline in COVID ICU patients in Northern Ireland

No COVID patients are currently receiving treatment in ICU units within Ireland. This is the first time that figures have dropped this low since the start of April. Only one death and two additional cases have also been reported overnight, according to their country’s Department of Health. On April 10, intensive COVID care in Northern Ireland reached its peak with 54 out of the territory’s capacity of 95 filled. The country has had a steady decline of COVID-19 ICU patients in recent weeks. Since the start of June, there has not been more than 10 on any one day.

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This Italian town has never had a COVID case, and is now accepting visitors

Owing to its mountaintop topography, its manageable population, and some initial precautionary measures, the Italian town of San Fele has never had a COVID case. This is certainly a unique situation in the world, but especially fortunate in the European country, which is ninth in total number of cases. The predominantly older townsfolk—it has 15 centenarians—can breathe easy sans mask, but should be on their toes as borders have started opening; inter-regional travel is back while tourism among EU countries is about to return. “We can’t rest easy,” says Donato Sperduto, the town's Mayor. “As soon as somebody arrives, we’ll try to test them. Of course, it’s all based on being aware of who visits.”

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A study in Oslo has found that gyms are safe provided the location has low COVID numbers

A study in Oslo on the possible spread of COVID-19 among gymgoers found that people who went to a gym were no more likely to get infected than people who didn’t. Gyms have already reopened in Norway partly because of these findings. Experts however warn that this might be due to the fact that Oslo does not have many COVID-19 cases to begin with. Working with almost 2,000 participants in a control group who have not been previously tested for the virus, none tested after weeks of being allowed to go about their workout routines regularly. The gyms used had strict social distancing measures and cleaning procedures in place. But, given the traits of the control set, experts think gyms are only safe if the area has a low number of cases.

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COVID-19 is not mutating beyond vaccine efficacy so far, according to scientists

Scientists observing COVID-19 mutations say they have found no alarming changes to the virus so far to suggest that vaccines will be ineffectual against it. "There have been very few mutations observed,” says Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory senior scientist Peter Thielen. “And any mutations that we do see are likely not having an effect on the function of the virus itself.” This is good news for those working on a vaccine, with a few targeting the end of the year for possible deployment. University of Basel molecular epidemiologist Emma Hodcroft believes that we will have a vaccine in the short term. However, she does remind everyone that it is “not a small feat to manufacture a vaccine for billions of people and then to get it to all of those people.”

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