Inside Covid-19: tracing app and your privacy; what’s next for vaccine, SA deaths, and pandemic – Ep 82

In this episode, we talk to a data and privacy law specialist Emma Sadleir on the skepticism surrounding Covid-19 contact tracing apps and Professor Shabir Madhi, one of South Africa’s pre-eminent experts on vaccines. Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, he has published more than 350 studies in his field. Professor Madhi speaks to us about the latest developments in Covid-19 vaccine trials, including the news that the AstraZeneca Oxford trial has been temporarily put on hold. And he shares the details of a study that explores the possibility that South Africans may have developed immunity to Covid-19 as a result of exposure to other, similar diseases. Professor Madhi also sets out how the pandemic might develop – and says he disagrees that SA has a low Covid-19 death rate. – Jackie Cameron

The Covid-19 headlines

  • AstraZeneca has put on hold phase three trials of a vaccine being developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford. South Africa is among the countries to have signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to secure the vaccine, if trials prove successful. The drug maker says it “voluntarily paused” the trial to allow a review by an independent committee. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer says the move “by no means puts that vaccine completely off the table”. In a statement, AstraZeneca said it “voluntarily paused” the phase 3 clinical trial — which kicked off in July — to allow a review of the “single event” by an independent committee. “This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials,” the statement said.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is forbidding social gatherings of more than six people in England, says Bloomberg. Los Angeles has banned traditional Halloween activities, such as trick-or-treating and haunted houses, it says.
  • India’s fatalities from coronavirus infections are creeping up after the country surpassed Brazil to have the world’s second-highest number of cases. India has reported more than 1,000 deaths from Covid-19 for eight consecutive days. That’s higher than the daily death toll in other hard-hit nations like the US, Brazil, Russia and Mexico. With almost 74,000 virus-related deaths, India has the world’s third-most people killed by the virus.
  • Offices in central London are set to decline in value by as much as 10% this year as the pandemic drives down demand for space, reports Bloomberg. Short-term demand for offices has slumped, with many companies’ employees still working from home after lockdown, according to Simon Wallace, co-head of alternatives research and strategy at DWS Group. That’s likely to push rents in the capital’s most expensive areas down by about 8%.
  • As the number of Covid-19 cases rises sharply in parts of Europe, health authorities from the UK to Spain are calling on young people to do more to halt the spread of the virus. This is how the situation looks in a number of major European countries and how it is being tackled.
  • In Spain, which on Monday became the first western European country to record more than 500,000 Covid-19 cases, authorities have been urging greater vigilance among young people for weeks. This month will also prove key as young people across the country begin returning to their studies after a six-month absence.
  • Researchers believe there is a Thrombosis risk in patients with Covid-19. Autopsy findings revealed thrombosis as a direct cause of death in several cases. However, little is known in critically-ill patients, says the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine.
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