Millions of COVID Cases and Deaths Averted Thanks to Lockdowns: ‘One of Humanity’s Greatest Achievements’

Despite the novel coronavirus outbreaks delivering countless blows to global economies, two different teams of researchers have published studies praising international and local governments for preventing additional infections and millions of deaths.

This week, scientists from Imperial College London and University of California–Berkeley both published studies on the impact of emergency health measures across 17 different countries.

Although the teams used different methods of calculation for their research, they both came to similar conclusions: millions of lives have been saved thanks to large-scale interventions during the pandemic.

According to the Imperial study, European lockdowns helped to prevent more than 3.1 million deaths. The Berkeley study—which examined infection rates and lockdown measures in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the US—found that local and national interventions prevented more than 530 million cases. Both of these studies were published in Nature.

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Furthermore, continuation of these policies beyond the study period have likely avoided many millions more infections, says Solomon Hsiang, director of Berkeley’s Global Policy Laboratory and lead author of the Berkeley study.

“The last several months have been extraordinarily difficult, but through our individual sacrifices, people everywhere have each contributed to one of humanity’s greatest collective achievements,” Hsiang said. “I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference. By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.”

The Berkeley study evaluated 1,717 policies implemented across the 6 countries during the period extending from the emergence of the virus in January to April. The analysis was carried out by Hsiang and an international, multi-disciplinary team at the Global Policy Laboratory, all working under shelter-in-place restrictions.

Photo by UC Berkeley / Global Policy Lab and Hulda Nelson

Recognizing the historic challenge and potential impact of the pandemic, “everyone on our team dropped everything they were doing to work on this around the clock,” said Hsiang.

Today, global cases are nearing 7 million—but the UC Berkeley research suggests that the toll would have been vastly worse without policy interventions.

“So many have suffered tragic losses already. And yet, April and May would have been even more devastating if we had done nothing, with a toll we probably can’t imagine,” Hsiang said. “It’s as if the roof was about to fall in, but we caught it before it crushed everyone. It was difficult and exhausting, and we are still holding it up. But by coming together, we did something as a society that nobody could have done alone and which has never been done before.”

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Meanwhile in London, the Imperial team examined COVID-19 death rates across a dozen European countries after various stay-at-home orders, social restrictions, and shutdowns were implemented back in March.

Measuring the effectiveness of these interventions is important, given their economic and social impacts, and may indicate which courses of action are needed in future to maintain control. Estimating the reproduction number—the average number of cases an infected person is likely to cause while they are infectious—is a particularly useful measure.

“Using a model based on data from the number of deaths in 11 European countries, it is clear to us that non-pharmaceutical interventions– such as lockdown and school closures, have saved about 3.1 million lives in these countries,” said Dr. Seth Flaxman, study author from the Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London. “Our model suggests that the measures put in place in these countries in March 2020 were successful in controlling the epidemic by driving down the reproduction number and significantly reducing the number of people who would have been infected by the virus SARS-CoV-2.”

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Additionally, the team calculated that the reproduction number has dropped to below one as a result of the interventions, decreasing by an average of 82%, although the values vary from country to country.

“This data suggests that without any interventions, such as lockdown and school closures, there could have been many more deaths from COVID-19,” said Dr. Samir Bhatt, study author from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London. “The rate of transmission has declined from high levels to ones under control in all European countries we study. Our analysis also suggests far more infections in these European countries than previously estimated. Careful consideration should now be given to the continued measures that are needed to keep SARS-CoV-2 transmission under control.”

Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

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‘Surprise Breakthrough’ For Kenyan Scientists Who Discover Natural Microbe That Completely Stops Malaria in Mosquitoes

A team of scientists in Kenya and the UK are hailing the “enormous potential” of a new strategy to control malaria, after discovering that a microbe completely protects mosquitoes from infection.

“The data we have so far suggest it is 100% blockage,” Dr. Jeremy Herren of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology told BBC News. “Quite a surprise… I think people will find that a real big breakthrough.”

Now, they are developing plans to spread the microbe through mosquito populations in infected regions, in an unprecedented effort to eliminate the 400,000 deaths that result from the disease each year.

While studying mosquitoes near the waters of Kenya’s Lake Victoria, the researchers unexpectedly came across a protective fungus called ‘Microsporidia MB,’ which was already in the bodies of the insects.

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Now, their goal is to disseminate the microbe in at least 40% of mosquitoes in malaria-infected regions.

Two main methods are being considered: the mass release of spores of the microbe in areas where many mosquitoes live, or implanting the microbe in male mosquitoes (who don’t bite) in the lab, who would then spread it to female mosquitoes, who spread the disease through their bites.

Equally important is the fact that neither of these approaches would kill the mosquitoes, thus preserving the delicate balance between ecosystems and food chains.

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Their promising lab research was published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature, where they wrote “These findings are significant in terms of regional malaria transmission and epidemiology as well as risk-mapping.”

Such a program would be the biggest leap forward in the effort to eradicate malaria since infections had dropped by 40% leading up to 2014 due to mass mosquito net distribution by UNICEF and their partners such as the Global Fund.

Photo by Dean Calma / IAEA, CC license

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Countries Hit Hardest By COVID-19 Are Starting to Lift Social Restrictions After Encouraging New Recovery Rates

As the world continues its fight to curb the novel coronavirus outbreaks, several countries have announced significant recoveries this week.

France, Italy, and Spain—the countries with the highest numbers of confirmed cases outside of the US—outlined their plans for slowly lifting their various social restrictions as rates of infection and fatality continue to fall.

In light of Italy recording their lowest number of new cases since March 10th, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says that the country will begin reopening the economy on May 4th. Although schools will not reopen until September, small businesses and restaurants will soon be allowed to reopen so long as customers are limited to takeout options and social distancing guidelines. Factories will also be reopened for manufacturing and people will be allowed to visit their relatives in small numbers.

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Meanwhile, Spain celebrated a significant decline in coronavirus-related deaths, with daily counts falling below 300 for the first time since March 20th. Government officials say that they will be slow to reopen the economy; however, they will start to lift social restrictions by allowing children to play outside for one hour per day—a first for the nation’s youth after spending six weeks in isolation.

Al Jazeera reports that France also hailed their largest single-day drop in COVID-19 deaths after it fell by more than 33% in just 24 hours. The country also recorded their lowest number of in-hospital deaths in 5 weeks.

New Zealand was quick to enact some of the world’s strictest social restrictions after confirming just a few cases of the virus back in March. Now, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that the nation’s pre-emptive shutdowns has succeeded in eliminating community transmission of COVID-19 this week. This means that while there will still most likely be new cases of the virus, healthcare officials will know where it is being transmitted.

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Although New Zealand has had 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of novel coronavirus over the course of the last two months, government officials report that they will still be cautious in gradually lifting social restrictions, starting with some non-essential businesses.

South Australia also announced that they are considering easing travel restrictions after the nation made it 7 days without a new recorded case. This accomplishment is largely credited to the province testing more than 15,000 people within a two-week period. There are now currently only 14 active cases.

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Taiwan has been celebrating its own milestone of 17 straight days without any new local cases as well as its first 4-day streak without any new domestic or imported COVID-19 cases.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

Representative photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez

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These Optimistic COVID-19 Updates Give Us the Evidence We Need for Hope in April

This week’s news headlines from around the world have brought together another batch of COVID-19 updates that are both positive and noteworthy.

For starters, the number of novel coronavirus deaths in Spain dropped for the fourth consecutive day in a row, which has inspired hope that the nation is now past the peak of their outbreak—especially since the decline marked the lowest recorded number of deaths in two weeks.

Spain has experienced the most recorded cases of the virus in Europe, although other European nations have reported some hopeful trends of their own.

In France, the number of COVID-19 fatalities and new daily cases fell by more than 50% over the weekend, according to datasets from Worldometer.

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Italy, which has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, has now recorded three straight days of decline in new cases. Additional datasets from Worldometer show that yesterday marked the lowest number of new cases since March 17th—roughly half of the nation’s peak number of new cases which was recorded on March 21st. After several consecutive days of decline, April 5th also marked the lowest number of Italian deaths since March 19th.

Meanwhile, less than two weeks after New Zealand enacted strict nationwide lockdowns, the nation reports that they have not only flattened their curve of cases, they have “squashed it”.

On the US front, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says that the number of deaths statewide fell for the first time and remained flat for new days, raising hopes for a flattened curve. New hospital admissions also fell across the state from 1,427 on April 2nd to 358 on April 5th, according to Market Watch.

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Furthermore, Cuomo added that 75% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state have been discharged.

Worldometer goes on to confirm that the number of collective new cases and deaths in the US have actually fallen since April 3rd which affirms evidence that social restrictions have been effective in curbing COVID-19.

Although national responders are still anxiously anticipating new problems posed by the pandemic during the coming weeks, the nation’s most influential statistical model has predicted that there may be fewer shortages of medical equipment—and fewer deaths—than we may have previously thought.

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While authorities remain vigilant in the face of cautious optimism, weather reports are showing positive environmental progress as well.

Following similar reports in China and the US, air pollution is continuing to plummet in countries with social restrictions, such as the UK and India. In New Delhi alone—which has some of the worst air pollution in the world—airborne particulates plunged by 71% in just one week.

Particle pollution in major UK cities have also dropped by as much as one-third—and the rates are expected to fall even further as lockdowns continue.

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“These are big changes—pollution levels are the equivalent at the moment of a holiday, say an Easter Sunday,” Professor James Lee from York University and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science told The Guardian about the data.
“And I think we will see an even starker drop off when the weather changes.”

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Russia Sends Cargo Plane of Medical Supplies to US: ‘There is no alternative to working together’

The Russian government has reportedly deployed their largest cargo plane filled with medical supplies bound for the United States as a means of helping curb national shortages amidst the COVID-19 outbreaks.

According to Reuters, the AN-124 Russian plane carrying face masks, medical gowns, and hospital equipment left Moscow yesterday evening.

Although the gesture of assistance has generated mixed political feedback as a result of ongoing strains between Russia and the US these last few years, the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. quoted the Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov saying: “Being aware of the serious epidemiological situation in America, the Russian side offered medical equipment and protective gear as assistance.

“Importantly, when offering assistance to the American colleagues, President Putin is guided by the following consideration: when US manufacturers of medical equipment gain momentum they will be able to reciprocate if need be,” he continued. “Now, when the current situation affects each and every one and can be characterized as global, there is no alternative to working together in the spirit of partnership and mutual help.”

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This is not the first time Russia has sent supplies to the U.S. during times of emergency. They were one of the first countries to offer assistance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, sending multiple jets with special evacuation gear, medical equipment, a water-cleansing system, a rescue helicopter, and six tons of drinking water.

The U.S. has received other international aid shipments during the novel coronavirus pandemic; Taiwan reportedly donated 100,000 masks to America’s shores earlier this month. Furthermore, European Union member nations have been exchanging a number of supplies and services between countries in need over the course of the last month.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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10 Positive Updates on the COVID-19 Outbreaks From Around the World

If it seems that your news feed has been flooded with nerve-wracking updates on the COVID-19 outbreaks, have no fear—there are also plenty of positive updates on the pandemic as well.

So without any further ado, here is a list of 10 hopeful headlines on the coronavirus response from around the world.

File photo by Pan American Health Organization, CC

1) US Researchers Deliver First COVID-19 Vaccine to Volunteers in Experimental Test Program

Scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle delivered the first rounds of a potential coronavirus vaccine to several dozen optimistic volunteers earlier this week.

One 43-year-old vaccine recipient is Jennifer Haller, who is a mother to two teenagers.

She was all smiles afterward, telling AP reporters she was “feeling great” as she was leaving the clinic.

“This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” she added.

2) Distilleries Across the United States Are Making Their Own Hand Sanitizers to Give Away for Free

Amidst national shortages of hand sanitizers, alcohol distilleries in Atlanta, Portland, rural Georgia, and North Carolina have begun using their facilities to make their own sanitation products.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) says that cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based rub can help to kill viruses on your hands, many of the distilleries say they hope to continue producing their bootleg sanitizers until the virus has been properly contained.

3) Air Pollution Plummets in Cities With High Rates of Quarantine

Satellite readings of air pollution levels over China and Italy show that the regions hit hardest by the COVID-19 have also caused air pollution levels to decline dramatically.

Photo by NASA

Some reports estimate that China’s quarantine has saved more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere—which is about the equivalent of what Chile produces in a year.

Not only have similar effects been reported across Italy, the canals and waterways of Venice are reportedly cleaner than ever with the waters shining crystal clear in the absence of diesel-powered boats and gondoliers.

4) Johns Hopkins Researcher Says That Antibodies From Recovered COVID Patients Could Help Protect People At Risk

The vaccine being tested in Seattle isn’t the only potential treatment for the disease—an immunologist from Johns Hopkins University is reviving a century-old blood-derived treatment for use in the United States in hopes of slowing the spread of the disease.

The technique uses antibodies from the blood plasma or serum of people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection to boost the immunity of newly-infected patients and those at risk of contracting the disease.

5) South Korean Outbreak Finally Abating as Recoveries Outnumber New Infections for Three Days in a Row

File photo by Valentin Janiaut, CC

According to Reuters, South Korea recorded more COVID-19 recovery cases on March 6th than new infections for the first time since the nation experienced the largest Asian outbreak outside of China.

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak was first reported in South Korea back in January, the nation reached a peak of 909 new infections on February 29th. Now, however, Reuters reports that the declining rate of infection has continued to fall with less than 100 new cases reported for several days in a row.

6) China Celebrates Several Milestones of Recovery After Temporary Hospitals Close and Parks Reopen

Crowds of medical staffers and discharged patients were filmed celebrating the closure of all 14 temporary hospitals that opened in Wuhan to treat COVID-19 patients during the worst of the outbreak.

Authorities told the South China Morning Post this week that the virus had finally passed its peak as the nation’s mainland experienced only 11 new cases on March 13th, most of which were from international travelers.

As the outbreak is finally brought under control, parks and tourist attractions are slowly beginning to reopen to the public under careful moderation.

7) Australian Researchers Testing Two Drugs as Potential ‘Cures’ for the Virus

Professor David Paterson, director of the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research and infectious disease physician at the RBWH.

At the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, scientists have found that two different medications—both of which are registered and available in Australia—have completely wiped out traces of the disease in test tubes.

Not only that, the drugs were given to some of the nation’s first COVID-19 patients, which resulted in “disappearance of the virus and complete recovery from the infection,” researchers told News.com.au.

The university is now looking to conduct a nationwide trial with the drugs to evaluate the efficacy and tolerance of each drug administered separately and together.

8) Uber Eats is Supporting the North American Restaurant Industry By Waiving Delivery Fees for 100,000 Restaurants

As restaurants across Canada and the United States are forced to temporarily shut down amidst COVID-19 outbreaks, Uber Eats has announced that they will be waiving delivery fees for independent restaurants.

“We know the success of every restaurant depends on customer demand,” the company said in a statement. “That’s why we’re working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants on Eats, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.

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“As more customers are choosing to stay indoors, we’ve waived the Delivery Fee for the more than 100,000 independent restaurants across US and Canada on Uber Eats. We will also launch daily dedicated, targeted marketing campaigns—both in-app and via email—to promote delivery from local restaurants, especially those that are new to the app.”

9) Dutch and Canadian Researchers Are Reporting Additional Breakthrough Research on Treating the Virus

Photo by Sunnybrook University

Scientists from Canada and the Netherlands have also made medical breakthroughs of their own. In Toronto, a team of researchers managed to isolate the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, which will help researchers around the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments, and vaccines.

“Researchers from these world-class institutions came together in a grassroots way to successfully isolate the virus in just a few short weeks,” said Dr. Rob Kozak, clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “It demonstrates the amazing things that can happen when we collaborate.”

Meanwhile, Dutch researchers have submitted a scientific paper for publishing on how they have identified an anti-body for the virus—and it could be a world-first.

10) Here Are a Bunch of Other Ways That People and Businesses Are Supporting Each Other Throughout the US Outbreak

File photo by Martha Heinemann, CC

Dollar General has announced that they will be devoting their opening hour of shopping time to elderly customers. Athletes and sports teams are pledging to pay the wages of arena employees during the shutdown. Utility companies, landlords, automakers, and internet providers are waiving a number of late fees and payments to ease the financial burden of the shutdown. School districts across the country are still opening their doors to serve meals to kids and families.

All in all, the pandemic situation may seem grim, but these are just a few examples of how businesses and individuals are still looking out for each other during times of trouble.

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Watch Celebrations Erupt After Nation’s Last Ebola Patient is Discharged From Treatment Center

This woman officially became the last Ebola patient in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after she was released from medical care and provided with an official bill of health last week.

Medical teams have been fighting to control the Ebola outbreak since it began in August 2018, making it the nation’s second-worst outbreak with more than 2,000 deaths. Since Masika Semida was the last patient treated for Ebola, healthcare workers cheered and danced in celebration as she was discharged from their treatment center in Beni.

Officials have been closely monitoring several dozen people who were in contact with Semida prior to her treatment—but with no new Ebola cases reported within the last two weeks, UN officials believe the outbreak may have finally come to an end.

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“I applaud the tireless efforts that have been made to respond to this outbreak and I’m truly encouraged by the news that the last Ebola patient has left the treatment centre healthy,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

The end of the outbreak can only be officially confirmed once there have been no new reported infections 42 days after the last reported case has tested negative. However, all the aspects of the Ebola response remain in place to ensure that any new cases are detected quickly and treated.

According to WHO, surveillance, pathogen detection and clinical management are ongoing, including validating alerts, monitoring the remaining contacts, supporting rapid diagnostics of suspected cases and working with community members to strengthen surveillance on deaths in the communities.

(WATCH the video below) – Photo by ABC News

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