From lockdown rewilding in Scotland to the tests that could help track coronavirus, here’s what went right this week
Public Health England has approved two testing kits, which can reportedly detect if people have been infected with coronavirus and whether they may have built up some immunity. The kits were developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche and US multinational Abbott Laboratories. Governments, including the UK’s, have heralded antibody tests as a useful tool for tracking the spread of coronavirus. The new kits, which Downing Street said would be available on the NHS although perhaps not for some time, have been welcomed by scientists. However, while the presence of antibodies suggests a degree of immunity, scientists have warned it is unclear how long such protection will last.
The World Health Organization launched two apps this week: one to support health workers during coronavirus and the other to keep the public informed. The WHO Academy app provides health workers with up-to-the-minute guidance, training and virtual workshops to help them care for Covid-19 patients and themselves. “With this new mobile app, the WHO is putting the power of learning and knowledge-sharing directly into the hands of health workers everywhere,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general. The other app, WHO Info, was launched to keep the general public informed.
A Belgian maintenance company with a fleet of cranes is using the machines to reunite families with relatives living in high-rise care homes. Residents of nursing homes have been isolated from their families for weeks to protect them from Covid-19, and while those living on ground floors have been able to chat to loved ones through windows, this hasn’t been possible for residents living higher up. Offering a solution to that is Tristan Van den Bosch, manager of Group-f maintenance company, which has given families in the city of Watermael-Boitsfort a lift by raising them to the upper floors to see their relatives. “We’re happy that we have been able to help people,” Van den Bosch told ABC News.
Image: Andreas Dress
The lifting of lockdowns has resulted in a resurgence of coronavirus cases in some countries, so news of them being eased should be treated with caution. However, New Zealand returned to something resembling normality this week after its prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the country had won the battle against community transmission of Covid-19. New Zealanders are able to see friends and families again and businesses are reopening. Ardern has been praised for her quick response to coronavirus, which saw her swiftly shut the country’s borders and impose a strict lockdown to contain it.
Image: Dan Freeman
There have been no recorded pedestrian deaths as a result of road accidents in New York City for 58 days, the longest period since the city started recording fatalities in 1983. One upside of lockdowns has been quieter streets in cities usually choked with traffic, such as New York. This has accelerated the trend for kicking cars out of cities, including London, where pop-up cycle lanes are being constructed to get people off public transport, where coronavirus has more chance of spreading.
Image: Emiliano Bar
On Monday, Positive News reported on the rewilding enthusiasts who have foregone the comforts of their own homes during lockdown to rewild the Scottish Highlands. Volunteers working for Trees for Life have been isolating themselves at the charity’s Dundreggan rewilding estate in Glenmoriston since March – to care for more than 100,000 native trees, which were due to be planted this spring. “No one has visited us for weeks now, except for delivery drivers and the postie,” said Doug Gilbert of Trees for Life. “We’re here in isolation for the long-haul if needs be.” Read more here.
Image: Roan Lavery
An initiative to provide free face masks to people living in the world’s poorest communities has been expanded to more African nations in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus. The WHO warned last month that Africa could be the next epicentre of the outbreak. African Masks, a non-profit supported by crowdfunding, employs tailors to sew face masks, which are distributed for free in impoverished communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Senegal, Benin and Nigeria. “We are using local skills – and providing some jobs during a tough economic time,” said Emilie Serralta, a humanitarian worker and founder of African Masks. Read more here.
Image: Peter Yeung
A crowdfunding campaign to get 4,000 copies of Positive News magazine to frontline NHS workers has passed 95 per cent of its £12,000 target. The campaign was launched after hospitals got in touch with Positive News to request copies of the magazine for their staff. The WHO advises people to “find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories” during the pandemic. The team behind Positive News hopes that by providing free copies of the magazine to NHS workers, it will bring them some respite from the psychological pressures of the coronavirus crisis. Support the campaign here.
Image: Luke Jones
Main image: Aaron Birch