Some countries have seemingly seen the worst of the coronavirus and have lifted many lockdown restrictions, and yet pandemic news can still “ruin a person’s mood” in just minutes, according to British and Canadian researchers. In a paper published in PLOS One, a medical journal, academics from the University of Essex and Simon Fraser University reported so-called “doomscrolling” through pandemic news shared on social media to be “one of the least enjoyable activities in a day.” That’s hardly a surprise, given that such stories have been a seemingly relentless drumbeat of daily case numbers and deaths, as well as updates about “government regulations and lifestyle restrictions.”
The first year of the coronavirus pandemic saw a “stark rise” in mental health disorders, with around 160 million additional cases worldwide, according to estimates by doctors and scientists in Australia and the US. The findings suggest an “additional 53 million cases of major depressive disorder and 76 million cases of anxiety disorders” in 2020, increases of more than a quarter that were “due to the pandemic,” according to the team, which was led by researchers from the University of Queensland and University of Washington. The biggest jumps were in countries with the highest incidences of the virus or the severest restrictions on social and economic activity.
Singapore-based scientists have come up with a device that detects coronavirus in the air of indoor spaces, raising the prospect of “airborne surveillance” of the virus to supplement testing of individuals. The air-sampling method means “early warning of infection risks” could be possible in hospital wards and nursing homes, and could boost virus-monitoring capabilities in public places where people gather indoors, such as restaurants and cinemas.
The coronavirus pandemic has worsened a “grim” economic outlook for the world’s poorest countries, UN trade officials believe, with many likely to be “mired” in crises for years to come. An “emerging two-speed global recovery” from the pandemic and related restrictions, which last year caused most countries’ economies to shrink, could “reverse many hard-won development gains,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) warned on Monday.
Around three-quarters of the world’s people with diabetes cannot get the treatment they need, according to the University of Birmingham in Britain, which warned of “huge drop-offs” in care worldwide. Around 80 per cent of the world’s approximately 420 million diabetes sufferers live in so-called low and middle-income countries, but “fewer than 6 per cent of these individuals can access the care they need to manage their diabetes and prevent long-term complications like heart attacks, strokes, kidney diseases or blindness,” the researchers estimated.
Research and development (R&D) spending in booming sectors such as software and pharmaceuticals has increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while transport and travel, which have been hit hard by the pandemic, have reported falling outlays. Overall spending was up, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which said that “scientific output, expenditures in research and development, intellectual property filings and venture capital deals continued to grow” last year after a record-setting 2019. WIPO had earlier reported an “all-time high” number of patent filings for 2020, describing the record on Monday as “driven by medical technology, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.”
Governments need to “rethink global travel restrictions,” according to the Singapore-based secretariat of the 21-country Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc, which described the pandemic-related curbs as “chaotic.” The frontier rules “are not consistent,” the secretariat said on Wednesday, leading to “even essential travel” becoming “more cumbersome” and “more exclusive” than it has been for decades.
The coronavirus pandemic has “intensified” needs to prevent and treat not only infectious diseases such as Covid-19, but “noncommunicable” illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, say health-issue campaigners. The pandemic “has brought about a greater recognition that the long-held distinctions between infectious and noncommunicable diseases are not as clear cut as once thought,” according to the Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) Alliance and The George Institute for Global Health, who warned in a report that “those with chronic conditions have a significantly higher risk of hospitalisation or death from the virus.”
Unemployment across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) fell for the third consecutive month in July, the group’s Paris-based secretariat said on Thursday. As countries continued to mostly ease coronavirus pandemic restrictions, joblessness dropped by 0.2 per cent to 6.2 per cent of the OECD-area workforce. However, unemployment remained almost 1 per cent above the 5.27 per cent recorded in February last year, the month before the World Health Organizaton declared a pandemic and most countries imposed lockdowns that froze swathes of their economies. Overall, around 1.6 million people were taken off unemployment registers across the OECD in July, leaving over 41 million people without a job.
Only one in five of Europeans claim to “still feel free in their everyday life,” around a third as many as before the coronavirus pandemic. A survey published this week by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) showed 22 per cent of respondents claiming to feel free, “compared to 64 per cent who say they felt free two years ago, before the pandemic struck.” The poll, carried out in May and June and taking in over 16,000 people, suggested 41 per cent of Hungarians and 38 per cent of Spaniards “currently feel free,” the highest among the 12 countries canvassed. Meanwhile one in two Germans, the most of any country, say they are “not free” – despite being put under arguably less onerous restrictions than elsewhere.