Covid-19 has caused havoc and torment around the world. With almost 15 million cases and over 600,000 deaths, governments around the world have been put to the test. Some have taken a more laid-back approach, such as Sweden, whilst others were extremely authoritative from the very beginning, like Taiwan.
With protests in the US against wearing masks and lockdown in general, we’re beginning to see the difficulty of balancing social distancing with keeping the economy going. It’s certainly a scale, but it’s one that no one has figured out yet.
The most daunting issue we face is that the end is not in sight. Most experts believe there will be a second wave, and we’re arguably already witnessing it in some countries. Whether or not it will act like a seasonal virus and strike hard again in November, or if the rise in cases in Spain is due to relaxing lockdown, we’re desperately looking for scientists to have a breakthrough. Afterall, science is our best hope at nullifying the effects of SARS-CoV-2.
Hope in PCR Technology
There may be controversy and debate surrounding the mask requirements, as well as lockdown in general, but there’s something we can all agree on. Everyone wants a home test kit, because testing is a fantastic way to contain the virus. The issue is that many people who work from home never have the chance to get tested.
It appears we have a breakthrough of sorts with Stilla Technology. There’s been proof-of-concept studies in China that has spurred on the development of the SARS-CoV-2 detection kit. This kit is stated to have an advantage over the qPCR, because it detects low concentration targets in a large sample.
The Covid-19 kit developed by Stilla Technologies can be purchased online, in which a quote can be requested. This uses PCR technology (Polymerase Chain Reaction) which was discovered by Kary Mullis in the early 80s. The discovery brought on endless opportunities to detect nucleic acids.
In 2016, Stilla Technologies introduced a new platform based on crystal digital PCRTM: The NaicaTM system. This combined the advantages of array-based digital PCR, as well as the reduced costs of droplet PCR.
What this could mean for society
The more commercialised testing becomes for Coronavirus, the better. This doesn’t denounce state testing, but the more competition for testing will mean prices come down, accessibility increases and ultimately, more people are aware of their status.
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Such commercial testing products need to be ruthlessly examined of course, but type 1 and type 2 errors become quickly evident, documented and reported. Predominantly, such tests would be used by companies for their employees, to prevent workplace spreading.
Other potential breakthroughs for Covid-19
A vaccine is of course the most effective way at ending a pandemic, but getting there is a very slow process. Currently, Oxford university has promising hopes for an experimental version that has seen a strong immune response in the volunteers of the trial. Researcher Sarah Gilbert stated they were very happy with the initial results of a single dose of vaccine.
However, they are refraining from predicting when this could become available. It would be very unlikely if we saw one within 2020, and if we do, it would raise concerns about the thoroughness of its trial and potential symptoms.
There has also been the release of an NHS approved steroid, dexamethasone. This drug has shown to be effective in treating severe patients who are struggling to breathe, but has no effect on more mild cases of Covid-19.
Finally, tracking intelligence is another huge factor in a society’s ability to contain the virus. Whilst the UK’s tracking has proven to be very poor, many other countries have developed comprehensive tracing systems.
Germany’s tracing app is claimed to be the best, named Corona Warn App. Fighting a virus is a team game, German health minister Jens Stahn says, and the SAP-developed app has privacy in mind.
The app encrypts the data, and is deleted from users’ devices after two weeks. The app uses bluetooth to detect other devices, how close they are, and for how long they’re around each other. When someone is diagnosed with Covid-19, every device that has been in contact with the infected person’s device will receive a warning message.
The downside of the app is that it’s expected at least 50 million people in Germany will need to use it for it to be effective, which is in the area of 80% of the adult population.’
The largest resistance to a tracing app is privacy concerns, particularly since the NSA scandal is still on the mind of many. For other countries to have a huge backing of a tracing app, they will need to promise what Germany has, which is the deletion, anonymisation, and encryption of all data. After all, a brief download of an app is surely a small price to pay for containing a pandemic.
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