Air pollution contributes to a “significant fraction” of coronavirus-related deaths

DUBLIN — Fifteen per cent of all novel coroavirus-related deaths worldwide “could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution,” according to a German-led team of researchers. Published in the journal Cardiovascular Research, the estimate is based on analysis of pollution and pandemic data by organisations including the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Harvard University’s public health school and The Cyprus Institute’s Climate and Atmosphere Research Center. Exposure to air pollution likely aggravates “co-morbidities that could lead to fatal health outcomes of the [novel coronavirus] infection,” the research team said. Deaths linked to a combination of air pollution and Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, represent “potentially avoidable, excess mortality,” they added.

Singapore team develops one-minute coronavirus test – dpa international

DUBLIN — Mention of a breathalyzer typically evokes images of a bedraggled five o’clock shadow peering bloodshot-eyed through a driver’s window after being pulled over by police. That could change if a new test for the novel coronavirus gets a second wind after successful first-round trials.. According to a Tuesday statement by the National University of Singapore (NUS), the device, which resembles a drink-driving breathalyzer, generates a result in around 60 seconds. The outcomes, which NUS reports as having proven 90 per cent accurate among the 180 people tested, “are generated in real-time” by analysis of “Volatile Organic Compounds” in a person’s breath. Jia Zhunan, doctor and chief executive officer of NUS spin-off company Breathonix, said the test is “is easy to administer,” needing neither trained staff nor laboratory processing.

UN agency data suggest Asia worst-hit by pandemic curbs – dpa international

A near-deserted street in Kuala Lumpur during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — International travel has plummeted during the novel coronavirus pandemic, with nowhere worse affected than the Asia-Pacific region, according to United Nations tourism body data.International arrivals across the region have dropped 72 per cent so far in 2020, according to the data, which was compiled for the Madrid-based World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) new Tourism Recovery Tracker.International arrivals in the Asia-Pacific were down 99 per cent year-on-year, a standstill that came after countries imposed strict lockdowns and holiday bans aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. China, Japan and South Korea were among the worst affected, with the UNWTO tracker showing an 83-per-cent drop in tourist arrivals across northeast Asia as most countries prohibited all but essential travel.

More hints of inconsistency in virus antibody tests – dpa international

Coronavirus-related distancing in force in a church in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Analysis of commercially available coronavirus antibody tests shows a “broad range of performance,” with patients suffering “severe disease” after infection later showing a more “readily detectable antibody response” compared to milder cases. The research, published in the journal PLOS Pathogen on Thursday, was funded by Britain’s Department of Health and carried out by a team from institutions including Kings College London and the University of Amsterdam. The team assessed 10 antibody test kits by “using blood from patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 throughout the peak of the epidemic in London.” The test kits “all gave the best results when used 20 days or more” after illness.

In latest tweak to coronavirus rules, Ireland to allow small crowds at sporting events – dpa international

Mayo gaelic football goalkeeper David Clarke and team mates at McHale Park in Castlebar ahead of a clash with Monaghan in March 2019 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s government said on Tuesday that “limited crowds” will be permitted to attend sporting events in the country as part of the latest adjustment to the country’s coronavirus-related rules. Attendances will be capped at 200 people where stadium capacity exceeds 5,000, with 100 the limit at smaller facilities. Some of the bigger grounds, such as the 82,000-capacity Croke Park and the 51,700-seat Aviva Stadium, will have tailored limits to be set at a later date. Among the main events coming up are the Republic of Ireland’s Nations League football ties against Wales and Finland and Ireland’s rescheduled Six Nations rugby clash with Italy on October 24. Gaelic football and hurling tournaments, which usually are held during the summer and draw crowds of over 80,000, will start in October and end before Christmas.

Irish government gives green light, again, for pubs to reopen – dpa international

Pouring pints in an Irish hotel restaurant on June 29 2020, the day some pubs and restaurants were perrmitted to reopen

DUBLIN — Pubs can resume pouring pints from September 21, Ireland’s government decided on Tuesday, ending a prohibition introduced in March as part of a pandemic lockdown. “About time,” the Licensed Vinters Association, a group representing Dublin pubs, posted on Twitter. “Absolute relief,” said Mellett’s, a pub in the west of Ireland. Citing health worries, the government previously postponed a scheduled mid-July reopening three times, though restaurants and pubs serving food were allowed to open from June 29 – with provisos that drinkers purchase a meal priced at 9 euros or more and leave after one hour 45 minutes. Another 3,500 pubs have had to wait, prompting anger among owners left out of pocket after restocking ahead of the postponed reopenings. “We have been marched up this hill several times before,” said Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, in a Tuesday statement.

Neglect of chronic diseases heightened by pandemic response – dpa international

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

DUBLIN — Most countries are failing to curb non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer, according to research published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, which said the situation has been made worse by coronavirus-related disruptions to health systems. Only six countries are on track to reduce deaths from such conditions, including heart disease and chronic respiratory disease, by a third by 2030, according to the report, referencing commitments made in 2015 as part of the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals.” The novel coronavirus pandemic has “disrupted the regular care often required by patients” affected by non-communicable diseases, who are in turn among the most vulnerable to serious illness if infected with the virus, which can cause a disease known as Covid-19.

Irish central bank says virus curbs caused ‘deep downturn’ – dpa international

Some retailers open, some not, along central Dublin street in June (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The novel coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions could shrink the Irish economy by nearly 14 per cent in 2020, according to the country’s central bank. In a report published on Friday, the Central Bank of Ireland said that a “widespread shutdown of businesses caused by the pandemic” led to “sudden and large-scale job losses” and a “severe negative shock to both consumer spending and investment.” The worst-case scenario of a 13.8-per-cent recession is based on the virus lingering through the year and prompting some restrictions to be reimposed. The bank’s best-case outcome would see Ireland’s gross domestic product (GDP) down by 9 per cent, slightly better than the 10.5 per cent projected earlier by the Finance Ministry.

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.

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.