No sweat for British scientists sniffing out cause of body odour – dpa international

Antiperspirants for sale in Dublin pharmacy (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Researchers at the University of York in Britain have found a “unique” enzyme deemed responsible “for the pungent characteristic smell we call body odour or BO.” The research, published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports, describes a “BO enzyme” that occurs in a handful of bacteria and causes “the characteristic armpit odour” that has in turn spawned a lucrative market in deodorants and antiperspirants. The research was carried out by the university in partnership with the research and development wing of Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch conglomerate that counts among its brands the antiperspirant Axe, Lifebouy soaps and Lux perfumes. Michelle Rudden of the University of York’s Department of Biology said the discovery marks “a key advancement in understanding how body odour works,” which in turn “will enable the development of targeted inhibitors.”

World population growth to tail off, changing global balance of power – dpa international

Pedestrians on Grafton Street in Dublin (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Long-term predictions about global demographic expansion will prove overblown as deeper shifts reshape geopolitics, according to projections published on Wednesday in The Lancet, a British medical journal. The world’s population will increase from the current 7.8 billion to a peak of 9.7 billion by 2064, before falling back to 8.8 billion by the century’s end, going by newly-published modelling undertaken by academics from the University of Washington (UWA). The trends suggest that China’s 2017 population of 1.4 billion could drop to 730 million – steeper than UN projections, which give China a population of around one billion in 2100. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is on track to triple to 3.07 billion, leading to it becoming an “increasingly powerful continent on the geopolitical stage.” Though China will overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy by 2035, the US will reclaim top spot decades later, after China’s working-age population plummets to 350 million.

A bit different: Ireland’s pubs reopen but under new pandemic rules – dpa international

Pints of Guinness served on June 29 2020 as Ireland allows some pubs to reopen after almost 4 months closure due to coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)

CLAREMORRIS — Some of Ireland’s pubs were pouring pints on Monday for the first time in nearly four months as the country lifts most coronavirus-related restrictions. Speaking over the evening chatter of customers in The Western, a pub and hotel in Claremorris – a town of around 4,000 people in the west of Ireland – manager Patrick Mitchell said “we had no idea what to expect today, we have been quite busy, but it is a bit different.” Patrons are allowed one hour and 45 minutes drinking-time in bars that serve food – as long as they splash out on a “substantial meal” priced at 9 euros (10 dollars) or more and adhere to social distancing requirements. Inside The Dalton Inn, about 100 metres down the street from The Western, owner Andrew Cooper said “we’re sticking strictly to those rules.” The regime means that only bigger pubs equipped with kitchens will reopen for now – with the food tab so far a deterrent to would-be punters.

As pandemic fades in Ireland, uncertainty around reopening of churches – dpa international

DUBLIN — Ireland plans to allow public religious ceremonies again from Monday, despite confusion over how many people can attend and over how new rules will apply to places of worship. Starting next week, a maximum of 50 people can meet indoors as part of the latest roll-back of curbs imposed in March to stem to spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Ireland. After Diarmuid Martin, the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, described the proposed blanket 50-person ceiling as “strange” and “disappointing,” outgoing Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday that “a specific protocol” based on the seating capacity of places of worship “is going to be worked out” with religious authorities.

Irish health care workers among world’s worst-affected by the coronavirus pandemic – dpa international

DUBLIN — Ireland’s front line medics have been hit harder than counterparts elsewhere by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the head of the country’s main nurses’ union said during a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday. Addressing the Dáil (parliament) Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the country has the world’s highest rate of infection among health care workers.
Ireland’s Department of Health has confirmed 25,383 coronavirus cases since February 29, with 8,161 of those diagnosed among health care workers. Ní Sheaghdha described the numbers as an “absolute scandal” and warned that hospitals are facing staffing shortages.

British team announces ‘major breakthrough’ in Covid-19 treatment – dpa international

At the entrance to a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Face masks are widely-used in some countries as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus - a disease for which there is no vaccine (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A steroid called dexamethasone should be given to patients affected by Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, British researchers reported on Tuesday. Tests on 2,104 patients showed that low doses of the drug cut deaths by a third among patients on ventilators and by a fifth among those receiving oxygen, findings described by the researchers as a “major breakthrough” that “will save lives.” “One death would be prevented by treatment of around eight ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone,” said the research team, which is testing a range of drugs on 11,500 Covid-19 patients at 175 British hospitals/ Martin Landray of the University of Oxford, one of the trial’s leaders, said that dexamethasone, a drug in use since the 1960s to treat inflammations and conditions such as asthma, could prove a “remarkably low cost” means of combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

Estimate puts 1.7 billion people worldwide at risk of severe Covid-19 – dpa international

Social distancing markers on floor of Dublin supermarket (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Some 1.7 billion people have at least one underlying health condition that “could increase their risk of severe Covid-19 if infected,” according to a British medical journal. Estimates published in The Lancet Global Health point to heightened risks from the coronavirus pandemic in regions with relatively high numbers of older people, such as Europe, and in regions with a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS, such as Africa. Using data from 188 countries, the authors of the report estimate that 66 per cent of the world’s over-70s have an underlying condition – such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease – that could leave them vulnerable should they contract the new coronavirus. That percentage drops to 23 among working-age people, with only 5 per cent of under-20s estimated to have developed such a condition.

Singapore ends two-month virus lockdown, though some curbs remain – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore on Tuesday began allowing activities that “do not pose high risk of transmission” to resume after two months of lockdown, despite reporting the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in East Asia. Some offices and factories resumed operations, children went back to school, while places of worship began to open their doors.  Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday that the relaxation will likely prove “a big relief to all” but one that is “certainly not without its risks.” The wealthy city-state, an investment and trade hub whose seaport and airport rank among the world’s busiest, has diagnosed 35,292 cases of the new coronavirus, more than any country in East or South-East Asia except for China. Most of the cases are among foreign migrants confined to dormitories, though the related death toll, at 24, is one of the world’s lowest.

Face masks ’79-per-cent effective’ in slowing coronavirus spread at home – dpa international

Lining up to enter a Kuala Lumpur hardware shop after Malaysia ended its lockdown on May 4 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Wearing face masks at home can prevent pre-symptomatic transmission of the new coronavirus in households, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal. The findings, based on interviews with Chinese families carried out by doctors and academics in Australia, China and the United States, suggest that “precautionary [non-pharmaceutical interventions], such as mask use, disinfection and social distancing in households can prevent Covid-19 transmission during the pandemic.” The authors contend that the research shows wearing masks at home to be “79-per-cent effective at curbing transmission before symptoms emerged in the first person infected.” The work was led by the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and involved the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada and the University of New South Wales’ Faculty of Medicine.

Singapore to spend a fifth of GDP on curbing economic impact of virus – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore will spend an additional 33 billion Singapore dollars (23.2 billion US dollars) to offset the economic impact of coronavirus, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in parliament on Tuesday. The revised fiscal plan is the wealthy city-state’s fourth budget announcement since February and takes total spending pledges to just under 100 billion Singapore dollars – equivalent to almost 20 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Labelling the projected spending as a “fortitude budget,” Heng, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s deputy, said the outlay is necessary due to the “unprecedented uncertainty” caused by the pandemic. Earlier on Tuesday, Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said that GDP shrank 4.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year – indicating that the pandemic ravaged the trade-dependent economy even before the lockdown was imposed in April.