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Virus school fears unwarranted: NSW study - Education – Australian Associated Press
A Sydney study has found COVID-19 is milder and less infectious in children and there are few transmissions between children or from children to adults.
The decision to resume face-to-face school learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been vindicated by fresh research showing children transmitted the disease at minimal rates during the “first wave”. The report was released as two Sydney schools were forced to close for deep cleaning after three students were diagnosed with coronavirus. The study, published in The Lancet Journal of Child and Adolescent Health on Tuesday, analysed the spread of COVID-19 in 15 NSW schools and 10 childcare centres between January and April 2020. It found that no COVID-19 transmissions occurred in 90 per cent of those schools and childcare centres in the term one period, and just five secondary transmissions at schools were recorded. There were some 1448 close contacts of 27 confirmed COVID-19 cases in schools and childcare centres over this period. Study lead author, the University of Sydney’s Professor Kristine Macartney, said the data confirmed COVID-19 was milder and less infectious in children. There were very few transmissions between children, or from children to adults. “COVID-19 transmission in schools appears to be considerably less than that seen for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza,” Prof Macartney said in a statement. “This supports the previous findings that COVID-19 transmission in educational settings can be kept low and manageable in the context of an effective pandemic response that includes contact tracing and quarantine, and temporary school closures for cleaning if someone is found to be infected.” The NSW government gradually resumed face-to-face school learning from May 11, having recommended in late March that students learn from home. Researchers also released additional data for terms two and three in NSW. In term two, no secondary transmissions were recorded in schools or childcare centres after COVID-19 cases were confirmed in six sites. In term three, two secondary transmissions have occurred to date in 11 virus-affected sites. “Understanding how the virus spreads in our context will assist modellers, policymakers, healthcare providers and the public to understand the risk of COVID-19 in educational settings and help in decision-making around school closures and reopenings,” Prof Macartney said.
WHO plays down virus 'silver bullet' hopes - Education – Australian Associated Press
The WHO chief says there might never be a
The World Health Organisation has warned that despite strong hopes for a vaccine, there might never be a “silver bullet” for COVID-19, and the road to normality will be long. More than 18.14 million people around the world are reported to have been infected with the disease and 688,080 have died, according to a Reuters tally. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan exhorted all nations to rigorously enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing and testing. “The message to people and governments is clear: ‘Do it all’,” Tedros told a virtual news briefing from the UN body’s headquarters in Geneva. He said face masks should become a symbol of solidarity round the world. “A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment – and there might never be.” Ryan said countries with high transmission rates, including Brazil and India, needed to brace for a big battle: “The way out is long and requires a sustained commitment.” The WHO officials said an advance investigative team in China, where the virus originated, was not yet back. A larger, WHO-led team of Chinese and international experts is planned next to study the origins of the virus in the city of Wuhan, although the timing and composition of that is not yet clear. Tedros also urged mothers to continue breastfeeding even if they had COVID-19, as the benefits “substantially” outweighed the risks of infection.
SpaceX astronauts splash down after voyage – Australian Associated Press - Education – Australian Associated Press
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have splashed down off the Florida coast after a two-month mission on board SpaceX's new Crew Dragon.
US astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who flew to the International Space Station in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon, have splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico. The pair return after a two-month voyage that was NASA’s first crewed mission from home soil in nine years. Behnken and Hurley left the station on Saturday and returned home to land in the waves off Florida’s Pensacola coast on schedule following a 21-hour overnight journey aboard Crew Dragon “Endeavour.” The successful splashdown was a final key test of whether Elon Musk’s spacecraft can transport astronauts to and from orbit a feat no private company has ever accomplished before. “On behalf of the SpaceX and NASA teams, welcome back to Planet Earth. Thanks for flying SpaceX,” SpaceX mission control said upon splashdown. For the return sequence, on-board thrusters and two sets of parachutes worked autonomously to slow the acorn-shaped capsule, bringing Behnken and Hurley’s speed of 28,000kph in orbit down to 560kph upon atmospheric re-entry, and eventually 25kph at splashdown. During re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere, the capsule’s outer shell withstood temperatures as high as 1,927 degrees while Behnken and Hurley, wearing SpaceX’s white flight suits strapped inside the cabin, experienced 30 degrees. The crew will spend up to an hour floating inside the capsule before joint recovery teams from SpaceX and NASA retrieve them for a helicopter trip ashore. There the duo will undergo medical checks ahead of a flight to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX became the first private company to send humans to orbit with the launch of Behnken and Hurley, who will have spent more than two months on the space station upon returning. The landmark mission, launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on May 31, marked the first time the U.S. space agency launched humans from American soil since its shuttle program retired in 2011. Since then the United States has relied on Russia’s space program to launch its astronauts to the space station. Behnken and Hurley’s homecoming was also the first crewed splashdown in an American capsule in 45 years.
NASA's Mars rover launches successfully - Education – Australian Associated Press
NASA has successfully launched its Perseverance rover to Mars, complete with a mini-helicopter and testing equipment to search for signs of past Martian life.
NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance has blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on a $US2.4 billion ($A3.4 billion) mission to search for traces of potential past life on the planet. The next-generation robotic rover – a car-sized, six-wheeled vehicle carrying seven scientific instruments – is also scheduled to deploy a mini-helicopter on Mars and try out equipment for future human missions there. Its arrival at Mars is planned for February 18 at the site of an ancient river delta. It soared into the sky from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7.50am local time on Thursday under clear, sunny and warm conditions, carried by an Atlas 5 rocket from the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance. The launch took place after the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) facility in Pasadena, California, where its mission engineers were located, was rattled by an earthquake. “The spacecraft is in good health and on its way to Mars,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote on Twitter. JPL mission controllers established their first communication signal with the spacecraft some 90 minutes after lift-off, prompting applause and cheers in the California control room. This marked NASA’s ninth journey to the Martian surface. “It’s really kind of a key of a whole bunch of new research that we’re doing that is focused on the question … is there life out there?” the space agency’s science division chief Thomas Zurbuchen said on a NASA live stream after the launch. Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Mike Watkins joked about the California quake, saying it was “just the Earth being excited about going to Mars”. “It was a very minor event,” he said. “Everything’s fine, and we’re on our way to Mars.” Perseverance is due to land at the base of a 250m-deep crater called Jezero, site of a former lake and water system from 3.5 billion years ago that scientists suspect could bear evidence of potential past microbial life. Scientists have long debated whether Mars – once a much more hospitable place than it is today – ever harboured life. Water is considered a key ingredient for life, and Mars billions of years ago had lots of it on the surface before the planet became a harsh and desolate outpost. This was the third launch from Earth to Mars this month, following probes sent by the United Arab Emirates and China. US Vice President Mike Pence wrote on Twitter: “Today is a great day for American leadership in space!” On board Perseverance is a 1.8kg autonomous helicopter named Ingenuity, which is due to test powered flight on Mars. The thin Martian atmosphere – 99 per cent less dense than Earth’s – poses a challenge to Ingenuity, which was designed to be light, with rotor blades that are larger and spin more quickly than what would be needed for a helicopter of its mass on Earth. Since NASA’s first Mars rover Sojourner landed in 1997, the agency has sent two others, Spirit and Opportunity.
China succesfully launches probe to Mars - Education – Australian Associated Press
The unmanned probe launched by China is expected to arrive at Mars in February, when it will attempt to deploy a rover to explore the planet for 90 days.
China has successfully launched an unmanned probe to Mars in its first independent mission to another planet, a bid for global leadership in space, and a display of its technological prowess and ambition. China’s largest carrier rocket, the Long March 5 Y-4, blasted off with the probe at 12.41pm local time on Thursday from Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan. The probe is expected to reach Mars in February, where it will attempt to deploy a rover to explore the planet for 90 days. If successful, the Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, which is the name of a poem written two millennia ago, will make China the first country to orbit, land and deploy a rover in its inaugural mission. There will be challenges ahead as the craft nears Mars, Liu Tongjie, spokesman for the mission, said ahead of the launch. “When arriving in the vicinity of Mars, it is very critical to decelerate,” he said. “If the deceleration process is not right, or if flight precision is not sufficient, the probe would not be captured by Mars,” he said, referring to gravity on Mars taking the craft down to the surface. Liu said the probe would orbit Mars for about two and a half months and look for an opportunity to enter its atmosphere and make a soft landing. “Entering, deceleration and landing (EDL) is a very difficult (process). We believe China’s EDL process can still be successful, and the spacecraft can land safely,” Liu said. Eight spacecraft – American, European and Indian – are orbiting Mars or on its surface with other missions under way or planned. The United Arab Emirates launched a mission to Mars on Monday, an orbiter that will study the planet’s atmosphere. The United States has plans to send a probe in coming months that will deploy a rover called Perseverance, the biggest, heaviest, most advanced vehicle sent to the Red Planet by NASA. China’s probe will carry several scientific instruments to observe the planet’s atmosphere and surface, searching for signs of water and ice. China previously made a Mars bid in 2011 with Russia, but the Russian spacecraft carrying the probe failed to exit the earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean. A fourth planned launch for Mars, the EU-Russian ExoMars, was postponed for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic and technical issues.
Scientists detail volcanic action on Venus - Education – Australian Associated Press
Scientists have found that Venus is not as geologically dormant as previously thought, with evidence of 37 recently active volcanic structures.
Scientists have identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that appear to be recently active – and probably still are today – painting the picture of a geologically dynamic planet and not a dormant world as long thought. The research focused on ring-like structures called coronae, caused by an upwelling of hot rock from deep within the planet’s interior, and provided compelling evidence of widespread recent tectonic and magma activity on Venus’s surface, researchers said on Monday. Many scientists long had thought Venus, lacking the plate tectonics that gradually reshape Earth’s surface, was essentially dormant geologically for the past half billion years. “Our work shows that some of that interior heat is still able to reach the surface even today. Venus is clearly not so geologically dead or dormant as previously thought,” said Earth and planetary scientist Anna Gülcher of the Institute of Geophysics in Zurich, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The researchers determined the type of geological features that could exist only in a recently active corona – a telltale trench surrounding the structure. Then they scoured radar images of Venus from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft in the 1990s to find coronae that fit the bill. Of 133 coronae examined, 37 appear to have been active in the past 2 million to 3 million years, a blink of the eye in geological time. “In my opinion, many of these structures are indeed active today,” said University of Maryland geophysicist and study co-author Laurent Montesi. Coronae are essentially fields of lava flows and major faults spanning a large circular area. Many of the 37 reside within in a gigantic ring in the planet’s Southern Hemisphere, including a colossal corona called Artemis 2100km in diameter. Venus, Earth’s closest and just slightly smaller planetary neighbour, is covered by clouds of sulphuric acid and has surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead.
Study suggests Oxford virus vaccine 'safe' - Education – Australian Associated Press
Scientists at Oxford University say their experimental coronavirus vaccine has been shown in an early trial to prompt a protective immune response.
A coronavirus vaccine being developed by Britain’s University of Oxford with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca appears to be safe and to produce immunity, researchers say. An ongoing trial involving 1077 healthy adults found that the vaccine “induced strong antibody and T cell immune responses” up to day 56, the researchers wrote in The Lancet medical journal. They said the immune responses “may be even greater after a second dose,” according to a trial with a sub-group of 10 participants. The British government has already ordered 100 million doses of the potential vaccine, which is among dozens of vaccine candidates worldwide. “The early stage trial finds that the vaccine is safe, causes few side effects, and induces strong immune responses in both parts of the immune system,” the Oxford researchers said. They said the vaccine produces a cellular immune response, or T cell response, within 14 days of vaccination and an antibody response within 28 days. The vaccine uses a genetically modified common cold virus that infects chimpanzees, weakened so that it can’t cause disease in humans, said Oxford’s Andrew Pollard, the lead author of the study. “The immune system has two ways of finding and attacking pathogens – antibody and T cell responses,” Pollard said. “This vaccine is intended to induce both, so it can attack the virus when it’s circulating in the body, as well as attacking infected cells.” “We hope this means the immune system will remember the virus, so that our vaccine will protect people for an extended period,” he said. Pollard cautioned that his team needs “more research before we can confirm the vaccine effectively protects against Sars-CoV-2 infection, and for how long any protection lasts”. Sars-CoV-2 is the scientific name for the coronavirus that causes the respiratory illness COVID-19.
UAE launches first Arab mission to Mars - Education – Australian Associated Press
The Arab world's first interplanetary trip has begun with a United Arab Emirates spacecraft blasting off to Mars from Japan.
The United Arab Emirates has launched its first mission to Mars as it strives to develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil. The Hope Probe blasted off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre at 6.58am Japanese time on Monday for a seven-month journey to the red planet, where it will orbit and send back data about the atmosphere. The first Arab mission to Mars was initially due to launch on July 14, but has been delayed twice due to bad weather. Just over an hour after launch, the probe deployed solar panels to power its systems and established radio communication with the mission on earth. There are currently eight active missions exploring Mars; some orbit the planet and some have landed on its surface. China and the United States each plan to send another this year. The Emirates Mars Mission has cost $US200 million ($A286 million) , according to Minister for Advanced Sciences Sarah Amiri. It aims to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere for the first time, studying daily and seasonal changes. The UAE first announced plans for the mission in 2014 and launched a National Space Program in 2017 to develop local expertise. Its population of 9.4 million, most of whom are foreign workers, lacks the scientific and industrial base of the big spacefaring nations. It has an ambitious plan for a Mars settlement by 2117. Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati in space last September when he flew to the International Space Station. To develop and build the Hope Probe, Emiratis and Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) worked with US educational institutions. The MBRSC space centre in Dubai will oversee the spacecraft during its 494 million km journey at an average speed of 121,000 km/h.
Concerns grow for Vic healthcare workers - Education – Australian Associated Press
Victoria's coronavirus outbreak is adding an extra layer of pressure on a healthcare workforce worried about their health and that of their patients.
While Victoria makes room in hospitals to deal with the surge of coronavirus patients, concern grows about their care and the pressure put on health workers. Outbreaks at aged care facilities have been a major factor in the state’s COVID-19 crisis, and there have also been multiple outbreaks among healthcare workers in Melbourne hospitals. Cases have been confirmed at Brunswick Private Hospital, Monash Health, Northern Hospital, the Royal Children’s Hospital, the Royal Women’s Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital. A survey of Australian hospital, aged care and disability care workers showed almost half were worried about the patients they looked after due to the lack of staff resources. The survey featured responses from 500 Australian healthcare workers. In Victoria, 48 per cent of the workers expressed their unease about the additional pressure that COVID-19 is putting on an already strained workforce. Slater and Gordon Practice Group Leader Andrea Kehoe has been in touch with some of the workers surveyed and said many are facing an increasingly anxious situation. “Is not only the risk to themselves but even more so the risk to the residents and the patients,” she told AAP. “Because of the lack of resourcing, not only of the protective equipment but resourcing in the sense that are there on the ground.” Saying the lack of staff was a recurring theme before coronavirus, Ms Kehoe said some facilities aren’t accepting agency and casual staff for extra support. Another leading body advocating for the protection of health workers is the Australian Medical Association. AMA President Dr Tony Bartone told Seven that doctors and nurses in Victorian hospitals were under the pump, with rostering strained when workers are infected or put into isolation. Meanwhile, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victoria called on the federal government to direct more efforts to aged care. ANMF Victoria secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick called for reimbursement for aged care staff who may have to relinquish shifts and demanded special paid leave for staff who must isolate. She also encouraged the federal government to make sure protective equipment was delivered to aged care providers. Since the pandemic began the state has boosted hospitals’ capacity to deal with COVID-19, creating more than 1000 spaces for intensive care and critical care beds. More than 86 million gloves, more than 34 million surgical masks, 1.4 million N95 masks and 2.2 million face shields are available for distribution to health services across the state.
WHO posts record high global virus cases - Education – Australian Associated Press
The WHO says the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours have been reported in the US, Brazil and India.
The World Health Organisation has reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 228,102 in 24 hours. The biggest increases were from the United States, Brazil, India and South Africa, according to a daily report. The previous WHO record for new cases was 212,326 on July 4. Deaths remained steady at about 5000 a day. Global coronavirus cases exceeded 12 million on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, marking another milestone in the spread of the disease that has killed more than 555,000 people in seven months. Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies program, said on Friday it was unlikely that the coronavirus would be eliminated. “In the current situation it is unlikely we can eradicate this virus,” he told an online briefing from Geneva. He said that, by extinguishing clusters of infection, the world could “potentially avoid the worst of having second peaks and having to move backwards in terms of lockdown”. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, said on Friday that airborne transmission of the coronavirus had always been a concern but that droplets appeared to be the most common infection route. “Aerosol transmission is one of the modes of transmission that we have been concerned about since the beginning, particularly in healthcare settings … where we know these droplets can be aerosolised – which means can stay in the air longer,” she said. The WHO released new guidelines on the transmission of the coronavirus on Thursday that acknowledged some reports of airborne transmission but stopped short of confirming that it spreads through the air, a route that cannot be blocked by the social distancing now common around the world.