Human trials have begun for promising COVID-19 vaccines in several countries. Rapid testing has been approved in Canada. Virus-sniffing dogs are joining the fight against the coronavirus. While the reports of the spread and the impact of the virus are still unrelentingly grim, there there are many uplifting developments to focus on. Here’s some good news to keep you going throughout the week:
As the need for increased testing continues, Health Canada has approved a new rapid COVID-19 test by Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience that can produce results in nearly 30 minutes. The handheld devices are expected to relieve some of the burden on currently overwhelmed public health laboratories and help in rural areas that have less access to premium healthcare.
The development of a COVID-19 vaccine is progressing at “unprecedented speed” as scientists around the world work to find a more permanent solution to the global pandemic. Several drugs are progressing to human trials, with recent approvals in Australia and China. At this rate, a market-ready vaccine may be available to the public within the next year.
All of the self-isolation and distancing measures are beginning to pay off: Australia announced that the country is flattening the coronavirus curve. The Australian government has said it isn’t ready to lift restrictions despite the decline in daily infections, but now consider the country to be in a “position of strength” as more recoveries are underway than active cases.
Austria, Italy, Spain and Iran are just some of the countries beginning to lift restrictions as they begin to see positive payoff from their lockdowns throughout March and early April. While lockdowns and safety protocols are still remaining in place for the time being, the return-to-work for hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” workers shows optimism in the modestly flattened curve.
As Ontario continues with operating restrictions on non-essential businesses and has been using measures, such as ticketing for social distancing violations and emergency alerts reminding people to stay indoors, the province’s numbers are looking encouraging. Nearly 45 per cent of COVID-19 cases have been deemed resolved and case growth averages are on the decline.
An Alberta RV dealer is offering up trailers to healthcare workers wanting to self-isolate away from their families as they expose themselves to higher risk of infection at work. While Western RV, the business donating the free mobile real estate, is temporarily closed, staff has been volunteering to prepare the motorhomes for the front-line workers. And RV owners in Ontario are also offering up their uninhabited motorhomes to hospital staff who need to isolate from their families to minimize risk.
A university student has re-imagined the traditional face mask to make it more inclusive for all types of communication. The masks provide crucial coverage while leaving a clear plastic window in front of the mouth to allow for lip reading. The masks are being produced in her home and are being manufactured for free — the only cost associated with the order is shipping.
The Toronto Public Library is turning some of its branches into food banks during the COVID-19 outbreak. Libraries are often spacious and located in easy-to-access areas of neighbourhoods, making them ideal candidates for community support centres.
In Nova Scotia, library workers are running a mobile bookmobile that carries only carefully sanitized and glove-handled items. The library has also loaned out tablets, gaming systems and is running online programming like language lessons to keep self-isolating patrons busy.
A partnership in the U.K. is beginning trials that will train dogs to sniff out the coronavirus. The charity involved, Medical Detection Dogs, has successfully trained dogs in the past with up to 80 per cent accuracy in detecting malaria, cancer and Parkinson’s. A spokesperson from MDD says there is “absolutely no reason why a dog can’t detect the virus,” stating that dogs can identify both a unique smell of the virus and connected symptoms such as fever.
Bangkok, Beijing, São Paulo and Delhi are just some of the cities seeing a drastic drop in pollution as much of the population is being asked to stay home and minimize time outdoors. Levels of particle pollution considered most harmful to human health had fallen by nearly 60 per cent by the end of March, and photos are being shared of uncommon blue skies from residents.
‘It’s positively alpine!’ Disbelief in big cities as air pollution falls https://t.co/zBgfU2Rsz2
— The Guardian (@guardian) April 11, 2020
Members of the public are expressing their gratitude to workers, nurses and ICU doctors treating coronavirus patients. Various acts of kindness have been seen across Canada including hand-written welcome signs from border patrol officers.
Through a skincare-savvy group on Reddit, self-care packages are being sent to workers such as first responders that include face masks, hand creams and serums for workers being put under heavy stress and long hours.
Some celebrities are using their platform for good during a tough time.
The cast of Canada’s beloved sitcom Schitt’s Creek went on Instagram Live to provide fans with daily entertainment in exchange for donations to Food Banks Canada and Feeding America to support during the coronavirus crisis.
Lady Gaga has also organized a first-of-its-kind digital benefit concert to raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts. The show lineup includes Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Idris Elba, Paul McCartney and other big-name stars. Having raised $35 million in just over a week, the money will go toward global PPE supplies, testing kits and lab capacity.