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Covid: China's Sinovac vaccine to be included in Brazil immunisation plan - BBC News
Officials say an immunisation programme using CoronaVac could begin as soon as January 2021.
image captionCompanies around the world have been developing coronavirus vaccines Brazil plans to use a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine as part of a national immunisation programme, officials have announced. São Paulo Governor João Doria said the federal government had agreed to buy 46 million doses of the vaccine CoronaVac. He said the immunisation programme could begin as soon as January 2021, making it one of the first such efforts in the world to fight the pandemic. Brazil has been one of the countries worst affected by coronavirus. It has had nearly 5.3 million confirmed cases - the third highest tally in the world after the US and India - and is second only to the US in terms of deaths, with nearly 155,000 registered so far, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University. If approved by the country's health regulator, CoronaVac - developed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech - will be one of two vaccines included in Brazil's immunisation programme. The country also plans to administer a vaccine being created by England's Oxford University and the drug giant AstraZeneca. Mr Doria has previously touted Sinovac's experimental vaccine, announcing plans to use it to inoculate residents of São Paulo. The Chinese vaccine is being tested by São Paulo state's research centre Butantan Institute. The institute announced on Monday that the two-dose vaccine appeared to be safe in a late-stage clinical trial. However, it warned the result was only preliminary, with testing ongoing. It said data on how effective the vaccine is will not be released until the trial is over. Trials are also being conducted in Turkey and Indonesia.
Pieces of orbiting space junk set for very close pass - BBC News
Two bits of discarded Russian and Chinese space hardware may pass within less than 25m of each other.
image copyrightGetty Images image captionThere is growing concern about the potential for more collisions in space (Artwork image) Two pieces of old space junk may come within 25m of each other, according to a Silicon Valley start-up which uses radars to track objects in orbit. LeoLabs has been monitoring the paths of a defunct Russian satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket segment. It sees them converging over Antarctica at 00:56 GMT (01:56 BST) on Thursday. Other experts who've looked at the available data think Kosmos-2004 and the ChangZheng rocket stage will pass with a far greater separation. With a combined mass at over 2.5 tonnes and relative velocity of 14.66km/s (32,800mph), any collision would be catastrophic and produce a shower of debris. And given the altitude of almost 1,000km, the resulting fragments would stay around for an extremely long time, posing a threat to operational satellites. Neither Kosmos-2004, which was launched in 1989, nor the ChangZheng rocket stage, launched in 2009, can be moved. So, there is no possibility to influence the event. LeoLabs offers orbital mapping services using its own radar network. Data from the most recent event updates show miss distance of 25 meters (+/- 18 meters at 1-sigma uncertainty). We will gather observation data tonight from the first radar pass after TCA to hopefully confirm no new debris is detected. — LeoLabs, Inc. (@LeoLabs_Space) October 15, 2020 Dr Moriba Jah, an astrodynamicist at the University of Texas at Austin, has worked out the miss distance to be about 70m. And the Aerospace Corporation, a highly respected consultancy, comes to a similar conclusion. With more and more satellites being launched, there's certainly growing concern about the potential for collisions. The big worry is the burgeoning population of redundant hardware in orbit - some 900,000 objects larger than 1cm by some counts - and all of it capable of doing immense damage to, or even destroying, an operational spacecraft in a high-velocity encounter. This week, the European Space Agency released its annual State of the Space Environment report. It highlighted the ongoing problem of fragmentation events. These include explosions in orbit caused by left-over energy - in fuel and batteries - aboard old spacecraft and rockets. On average over the last two decades, 12 accidental fragmentations have occurred in space every year - "and this trend is unfortunately increasing", the agency said. Also this week, at the online International Astronautical Congress, a group of experts listed what they regarded as the 50 most concerning derelict objects in orbit. A large proportion of them were old Russian, or Soviet-era, Zenit rocket stages.
Planet Mars is at its 'biggest and brightest' - BBC News
The Red Planet is unmissable in the night sky right now as its orbit aligns with Earth's.
By Jonathan AmosBBC Science Correspondent image copyrightdamianpeach.com image captionIn all its glory: Mars pictured by Damian Peach on 30 September Get out there and look up! Mars is at its biggest and brightest right now as the Red Planet lines up with Earth on the same side of the Sun. Every 26 months, the pair take up this arrangement, moving close together, before then diverging again on their separate orbits around our star. Tuesday night sees the actual moment of what astronomers call "opposition". All three bodies will be in a straight line at 23:20 GMT (00:20 BST). "But you don't have to wait until the middle of the night; even now, at nine or 10 o'clock in the evening, you'll easily see it over in the southeast," says astrophotographer, Damian Peach. "You can't miss it, it's the brightest star-like object in that part of the sky," he told BBC News. Even though this coming week witnesses the moment of opposition, it was Tuesday of last week that Mars and Earth actually made their closest approach in this 26-month cycle. A separation of 62,069,570km, or 38,568,243 miles. That's the narrowest gap now until 2035. At the last opposition, in 2018, Earth and Mars were just 58 million km apart, but what makes this occasion a little more special for astrophotographers in the Northern Hemisphere is the Red Planet's elevation in the sky. It's higher, and that means telescopes don't have to look through quite so much of the Earth's turbulent atmosphere, which distorts images. Experienced practitioners like Damian use a technique called "lucky imaging" to get the perfect shot. They take multiple frames and then use software to stitch together the sharpest view. Damian's picture at the top of this page shows up clearly the "Martian dichotomy" - the sharp contrast between the smooth lowland plains of the Northern Hemisphere and the more rugged terrain in the Southern Hemisphere. Evident too is Mars' carbon dioxide ice cap at the southern pole. The image was captured using a 14-inch Celestron telescope. "That's quite a serious bit of equipment; it's not something you get on a whim," says Damian. "But even a telescope half that size will show up all the major features on Mars quite easily. And if you've got a good pair of binoculars, you'll certainly be able to make out that it's actually a planet and not a star." It's around opposition that space probes are launched from Earth to Mars. Obviously - the distance that needs to be travelled is shorter, and the time and energy required to make the journey is less. Three missions are currently in transit, all of which were sent on their way in July: The United Arab Emirates's Hope orbiter; China's Tianwen orbiter and rover; and the Americans' Perseverance rover. Europe and Russia had hoped to despatch their ExoMars "Rosalind Franklin" rover, too, but they missed the launch window and will now have to wait until late 2022. That's the penalty you pay when the planets align only every 26 months. Hope, Tianwen and Perseverance are all on course to arrive at Mars in February. In 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth around opposition in nearly 60,000 years - a separation of just 56 million km. The distance between the two at opposition can be over 100 million km, as happened in 2012. The variation is a consequence of the elliptical shape of the orbits of both Mars and Earth. [email protected] and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos
Covid can be airborne, US CDC guidelines now say - BBC News
The US has updated its guidance to reflect how the virus can linger in the air, sometimes for hours.
By Michelle RobertsHealth editor, BBC News online image copyrightGetty Images Coronavirus can be spread by tiny particles suspended in the air, sometimes for hours, says the US Centres for Disease Control. Its updated guidance says this airborne route of transmission is still uncommon - bigger droplets from coughs, sneezes and talking are still the main source. People are at higher risk of catching it the longer and closer they are to someone who has the virus. Poorly ventilated enclosed crowded spaces are are riskier than outdoors. Last month, the CDC published - and then took down - a draft version of the guidance warning about possible airborne transmission, saying it had been posted in error. At the time, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it knew of no new evidence to suggest this was how the virus was spreading, although it agreed that aerosol transmission was possible in some circumstances. There are some examples where people with Covid have infected others who were more than 6ft or 2m away. Others have caught the virus in an air space that an infectious person was present in minutes or hours earlier. The CDC says these are rare, and existing advice on protective behaviours - washing hands, wearing face coverings and social distancing - remains the same. "People can protect themselves from the virus that causes Covid-19 by staying at least 6ft away from others, wearing a mask that covers their nose and mouth, washing their hands frequently, cleaning touched surfaces often and staying home when sick," says the CDC. It says the general public do not need to take the added precautions that healthcare professionals do to protect against airborne transmission, such as wearing medical grade masks and other personal protective equipment. Guidance from the UK government says clinicians carrying out tasks that could generate airborne droplets of saliva loaded with the virus should use the higher standard of protection, including disposable gowns, filtering respirators and face-shielding visors.
Nasa Wallops launch: Astronauts to test new $23m toilet at space station - BBC News
Astronauts will test the female-friendly toilet before its probable use in a future lunar mission.
Image copyrightNASAImage caption The launch of Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket was delayed on Thursday after technical issues Nasa is to launch a new zero-gravity toilet for testing at the International Space Station (ISS) before its probable use in a future mission to the Moon. The $23m (£17.8m) toilet, which sucks waste from the body, will be sent to the station on a cargo ship. Nasa said the toilet's "vacuum system" was designed for the comfort of female astronauts, unlike previous models. A rocket carrying the cargo ship was supposed to blast off from Wallops Island, Virginia, on Thursday. But the mission was aborted less than three minutes before lift off because of technical difficulties. Another launch attempt is due on Friday evening if engineers can fix the issues that caused Thursday's delay. On board will be the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), the new titanium space toilet that Nasa says will help astronauts "boldly go" during deep-space missions. The toilet uses a vacuum system to suck waste away from the body in a zero-gravity environment. For privacy, the toilet is located inside a cubicle - just like in a public bathroom on Earth. Image copyrightNASAImage caption The toilet is located inside a stall on the space station Nasa says the toilet represents an upgrade on the current facilities in the US part of the ISS. Weighing 45kg (100lbs) and standing 28in (71cm) tall, the toilet is 65% smaller and 40% lighter than the one currently in use. Designers also gave more consideration to the comfort of female astronauts. "[A] big part of our project was optimising the use of the toilet for the female crew," Melissa McKinley, a Nasa project manager, told the BBC's US partner CBS News. "Nasa spent a lot of time working with the crew members and doing evaluations to improve the use of the commode seat and the urine funnel to make it more accommodating to use by female crew members" she said. Image copyrightNASAImage caption The toilet has been designed with female astronauts in mind These design improvements will be put to the test on the ISS before they are eventually built into Orion capsules that will carry astronauts to the Moon. A successful dry run, in every sense of the term, is what astronauts are hoping for. "Cleaning up a mess is a big deal. We don't want any misses or escapes," Ms McKinley told the Associated Press news agency. Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket will deliver the new toilet as part of a cargo run consisting of science equipment, crew supplies and spare parts. How do space toilets work? Space toilets "use air flow to pull urine and faeces away from the body and into the proper receptacles", according to Nasa. In a video posted to Twitter, Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir described the toilet as a "vacuum system". "So imagine you have a vacuum cleaner and you're sucking things down. You turn on a big fan, so that's pulling everything down inside the toilet," she said. There is a specially shaped funnel for urine and a seat for bowel movements, which can be used simultaneously. "The UWMS seat may look uncomfortably small and pointy, but in microgravity it's ideal," Nasa said. "It provides ideal body contact to make sure everything goes where it should." When sat on the toilet, astronauts can use foot restraints and handholds to keep themselves from floating away. The toilet can process and recycle urine as drinking water for the astronauts. As Ms Meir said, on the ISS "today's coffee is tomorrow's coffee". Faecal waste is not given the same treatment, but Nasa says it is studying this capability. "Just like everything else, going to the bathroom in space is something that you have to get used to," Ms Meir said. You may also be interested in: Media captionBBC science correspondent, Laura Foster, explains how a helicopter, the size of a Chihuahua, will explore Mars
Hancock refuses to rule out Christmas student lockdown - BBC News
Matt Hancock refuses to rule out stopping students returning home, to limit spread of Coronavirus.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Hundreds of thousands of students have been returning to their university towns Matt Hancock has refused to rule out banning students from returning home at Christmas, to limit the spread of coronavirus outbreaks. The health secretary was responding to a question about concerns that students could be spreading Covid-19, amid numerous university-based outbreaks. At Glasgow University 120 students have tested positive for Covid-19 and are among 600 self-isolating there. Academics had warned against the mass movement of the UK's million students. The University and College Union had called for students to be taught wholly online, from home until Christmas, ahead of the start of term, but ministers advised some face-to-face learning was key to students' mental health. In a response to a question on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme about whether students would be asked to stay in their university towns at Christmas, Mr Hancock said he had "learned not to rule things out". "I don't want to have a situation like that and I very much hope we can avoid it. "We have said throughout that our goal is to suppress the virus, whilst protecting the economy and protecting education. "And protecting people in education whether it's school or university is obviously critical as is protecting the economy." He added: "In terms of universities, we are working very closely with them to try to make sure the students are safe, but that they can also get their education." "I've learned not to rule things out and one of the challenges that we have is how to make sure people are as safe as possible." But he added: "This is not our goal, I don't want to leave you with the expectation - but we have to work on all contingencies at the moment." It comes after a growing number of outbreaks on university campuses, with students isolating in their residential groups at Glasgow, Dundee and Liverpool. Boris Johnson has said universities have been given a "clear request not to send students home in the event of an outbreak, so as to avoid spreading the virus across the country". Socialising University students are being urged not to hold parties in their halls of residence under the rule of six, and to avoid socialising in places that do not have Covid-19 protections in place. Many universities are warning students they face fines or even having their courses terminated if they do not follow the regulations. Image caption Students are returning to campuses across the UK Universities have taken extensive measures in their buildings to minimise risks on campuses and many lectures are already being taught online, but there is less control over what takes place off university premises. But minutes of a recent meeting of the government's scientific advisory group on emergencies, suggest ministers were aware of the risks of bringing students back to university and sending them home at the end of term. The minutes of the 1 September meeting said: "Sage noted that risks of larger outbreaks spilling over from HE institutions are more likely to occur towards the end of the academic term, coinciding with Christmas and New Year period when students return home. "This could pose risk to both local communities and families, and will require national oversight, monitoring and decision-making." UCU general secretary Jo Grady has said the evidence was clear that online learning should be the default position. "Yet still ministers and vice-chancellors are insisting students should travel and universities should engage in face-to-face teaching, even in areas with local lockdowns. "It cannot be business as normal at the moment and they need to stop pretending that is a credible option." 'Number one priority' University leaders say they have working hard for months to ensure students can return to their campuses safely. "Ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities in the new academic year is the number one priority for universities," said a Universities UK spokeswoman. UUK said institutions were taking action to encourage responsible student behaviour, would continue to follow the latest government and public health advice, and were working in partnership with local authorities and public health bodies "to ensure that effective and rapid outbreak response plans are in place and clearly understood".
The daring plan to save the Arctic ice with glass - BBC News
The fear that action to combat climate change has been too slow has led some scientists to test unconventional methods to stem the loss of Arctic sea ice.
For one, Mark Serreze, a climate scientist who directs the US National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, wonders whether theyll work as intended. If you put down the silica beads in an area of fast-moving ocean currents, notably the Fram Strait, they will be quickly dispersed, rendering them ineffective, he says. The proposal also raises financial questions, like who would foot the approximately $1-5bn (£800m to £4bn) annual bill for making, shipping, testing and distributing the necessary silica beads in the Fram Strait. It may be an eye-watering figure, but it starts to look small next to the estimated $460bn (£360bn) that the United States incurred in extreme weather and climate disasters between 2017 and 2019 alone, Field notes. Researchers are exploring the feasibility of other geoengineering approaches to save the melting Arctic, but none come without problems. One, for instance, would entail building millions of wind-powered devices to pump water from the deep to the ice surface in order to build up thicker layers of ice which is energy-intensive and might not be very effective, Bitz says. She and Serreze view such approaches as stop-gap solutions to climate change, in that they only treat single symptoms in the case of silica dust, temperatures while doing nothing about the root cause of it. If Fields strategy works as intended, thats wonderful, Bitz says, but I know that not emitting CO2 in the first place will work. Field agrees that geoengineering is in no way a replacement for reducing carbon emissions. Rather, she sees it as a chance to buy the time needed for world economies to decarbonise and stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The silica beads, she says, are the backup plan I hoped wed never need. -- The emissions from travel it took to report this story were 0kg CO2. The digital emissions from this story are an estimated 1.2g to 3.6g CO2 per page view. Find out more about how we calculated this figure here. -- Join one million Future fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter or Instagram. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called The Essential List. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Worklife, and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Nasa outlines plan for first woman on Moon by 2024 - BBC News
The US space agency (Nasa) formally outlines its $28bn plan to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024.
Image copyrightNASAImage caption Artwork: Nasa wants to return to the Moon, but this time it wants to stay The US space agency (Nasa) has formally outlined its $28bn (£22bn) plan to return to the Moon by 2024. As part of a programme called Artemis, Nasa will send a man and a woman to the lunar surface in the first landing with humans since 1972. But the agency's timeline is contingent on Congress releasing $3.2bn for building a landing system. Astronauts will travel in an Apollo-like capsule called Orion that will launch on a powerful rocket called SLS. Speaking on Monday afternoon (US time), Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said: "The $28bn represents the costs associated for the next four years in the Artemis programme to land on the Moon. SLS funding, Orion funding, the human landing system and of course the spacesuits - all of those things that are part of the Artemis programme are included." But he explained: "The budget request that we have before the House and the Senate right now includes $3.2bn for 2021 for the human landing system. It is critically important that we get that $3.2bn." Artemis: To the Moon and Beyond Image copyrightLockheed MartinImage caption Artwork: astronauts will travel to the Moon in a spacecraft called Orion The US House of Representatives has already passed a Bill allocating $600m towards the lunar lander. But Nasa will need more funds to develop the vehicle in full. Mr Bridenstine added: "I want to be clear, we are exceptionally grateful to the House of Representatives that, in a bipartisan way, they have determined that funding a human landing system is important - that's what that $600m represents. It is also true that we are asking for the full $3.2bn." In July 2019, Mr Bridenstine told CNN that the first woman astronaut to walk on the Moon in 2024 would be someone "who has been proven, somebody who has flown, somebody who has been on the International Space Station already". He also said it would be someone already in the astronaut corps. At the time of this interview, there were 12 active woman astronauts. They have since been joined by five other female Nasa astronauts who graduated from training earlier this year. But it remains unclear whether they can fulfil the criteria in time to fly on the first landing mission in 2024. Image copyrightNASAImage caption The most recent class of astronaut graduates includes six women - five from Nasa and one from the Canadian Space Agency Asked about the timeline for choosing crew members for the Artemis missions, the Nasa chief said he hoped to pick a team at least two years prior to the first mission. However, he said: "I think it's important we start identifying the Artemis team earlier than not... primarily because I think it will serve as a source of inspiration." The new document outlines Phase 1 of the plan, which includes an uncrewed test flight around the Moon - called Artemis-1 - in the autumn of 2021. Nasa's human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders said that Artemis-1 would last for about a month to test out all the critical systems. She said that demonstration flight would reduce the risk for Artemis-2, which will repeat the trip around the Moon with astronauts. A new test has been added to this mission - a proximity operations demonstration. Shortly after Orion separates from the upper-stage of the SLS rocket - known as the interim cryogenic propulsion stage - astronauts will manually pilot the spacecraft as they approach and back away from the stage. Image copyrightNASAImage caption Artwork: The SLS rocket is on track to make its maiden flight next year This will assess Orion's handling qualities, along with the performance of the spacecraft's hardware and software. Artemis-3 will become the first mission to send astronauts to the lunar surface since Apollo 17 some 48 years ago. Nasa has provided $967m (£763m) to several companies to work on designs for the landing vehicle that will take them there. Later in the decade, the plan calls for Nasa to establish a base for humans, called Artemis Base Camp, that would include the infrastructure needed for long-term exploration of the Moon. Scientists would like to extract water-ice from the lunar South Pole, because it could potentially be used to make rocket fuel on the Moon, at a lower cost than carrying it from Earth. By comparison with Artemis, the Apollo programme in the 1960s and 70s cost upwards of $250bn in inflation-adjusted US dollars. However, the $28bn for this new plan does not include money already spent developing the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Follow Paul on Twitter.
Covid-19 Singapore: A ‘pandemic of inequality’ exposed - BBC News
Life has returned to normal for many in Singapore, but one group of people still remain in lockdown.
Zakir Hossain Khokan has just about had enough. It's been weeks since he was last allowed out of the room he shares with 11 others. The room is bare, except for six metal-framed bunk beds. Clothes and the odd towel hang in front of the beds, providing some semblance of privacy. "Day and night, we are just inside one room," he says. "It's actually torturing our mind. It's like jail." "Then we can't social distance because there's no space." Having already caught Covid-19, recovered, and gone back to work, Zakir thought his worst days were behind him. His dormitory was declared cleared of the virus in June. But last month a new cluster developed at the dorm, and like thousands of migrant workers, he was ordered back into quarantine. Once lauded for its containment of the virus, Singapore's success crumbled when the virus reached its many foreign worker dormitories, something activists say should have been seen coming a mile off. Now months on, Singapore is reporting single figure daily cases in the local community. People are going back to work, cinemas have reopened and laughter can be heard coming out of restaurants again. But many of Singapore's lowest earners remain indoors, facing uncertainty. The men who built the city Singapore saw its first imported virus cases in late January - weeks later, it had more than 100 cases. A huge contact tracing programme began and a national coronavirus-tracing app was rolled out. Public cautions were increased and clearly communicated. Harvard epidemiologists called Singapore's system the "gold standard of near perfect detection". But there was a crisis building, unseen by most of the population. Singapore is home to more than 300,000 low-wage foreign workers from countries like India and Bangladesh, who mainly work in industries like construction and manufacturing. Their right to live in Singapore is tied to their job and their employer must provide accommodation, at a cost. They commute from their dorms in packed vans to building sites where they work and take breaks alongside men from other crowded dorms - perfect conditions for the virus to spread. Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Singapore's foreign workers often work in labour-intensive industries With no legal maximum occupancy rules, in pre-Covid times it was normal for up to 20 men to share a room in a dorm. In late March, migrant rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) warned that the "risk of a new cluster among this group remains undeniable". Weeks after a partial national lockdown largely brought the situation among the general public under control, the activists' predictions came true. Hundreds of new migrant worker cases were being discovered each day. Since mid-April, the government has released two distinct daily figures - the cases amongst the local community and the cases in the dormitories. The statistics show the stark contrast between the high number of cases in the dorms and the number of cases in the community, which are so low they barely register in the graph below. "Covid-19, much like any other pandemic, is a pandemic of inequality," Mohan Dutta, professor of Communication at Massey University, told the BBC. "How we communicate it - like the idea of reporting two different numbers in Singapore [these] make the inequalities even more evident. One might even go so far as to say its [an example of] 'othering'." Locked in The authorities decided that the dormitories would have to be sealed off. Around 10,000 healthy migrant workers in essential services were taken out to other accommodation - a skeleton staff to keep the country running. But the majority were trapped in the dorms - some not even allowed to leave their rooms - while mass testing was carried out. Infected workers were gradually removed, isolated and treated. It was a remarkably different experience to the lockdown the rest of the country was going through, with shopping allowed, daily exercise encouraged and every type of outlet offering delivery. These people were well and truly locked down, with only basic meals delivered to them. "Once the lockdown was in place, we were not allowed to come out of the room. We were not allowed to go next door too," Vaithyanathan Raja, from southern India, told the BBC. Image copyrightSuppliedImage caption A typical curry meal provided to a migrant worker The turn of events forced many in Singapore to confront the living conditions of many of these migrant workers - the sudden attention, coupled with new hygiene measures, saw a surge of charitable collections, and many dorm operators working to improve conditions. Mahalingam Vetriselvan, a 51-year-old worker from India, says facilities in his dorm had been ok, but that tightly packed bunks have now been replaced with single beds, placed at a "good amount of distance". Another foreign worker sent similar pictures of his dorm being re-arranged, and said the number of beds had gone from 15 to eight. Image copyrightSuppliedImage caption One migrant worker said his beds were changed from a double decker (L) to a single bed (R) Another worker told the BBC he was lucky to be moved into a hotel by his employer. But this wasn't the case for Zakir, who comes from Bangladesh and works as a project co-ordinator in construction. After being hospitalised with Covid-19, he recuperated in temporary accommodation before finally being taken back to his dorm. "I left the dormitory on 17 April, and when I came back on 9 July, I didn't see any improvements," he said. According to Zakir, his room - which measures around 6m by 7m - is shared by up to 12 men. Image copyrightSuppliedImage caption Picture of a dormitory bedroom "They say we should social distance, but to us, that's a joke you know," said Zakir. "How do we have space to distance inside the small room?" Each floor is home to 15 such rooms - or up to 180 men assuming each room is fully filled. They share one toilet facility, with six basins, shower cubicles, toilets and urinals, says Zakir. Government guidelines state there should be 15 beds to one toilet, shower and sink. Image copyrightSuppliedImage caption This is one half of the bathroom that is shared by up to 180 men "They ask us to keep clean but inside the soap dispenser there's no soap," said Zakir. The BBC has reached out to the dormitory operator for comment but has not heard back. According to Dipa Swaminathan, the founder of migrant rights group Its Raining Raincoats, such conditions have long been the norm for many workers. "The things we're talking about now - their dorms, their food - these things have been around for years," she told BBC News. "The reason why we don't hear about it is because they're not the complaining kind. They have a deep sense of gratitude for what they have here [in Singapore]. If they do feel any level of stress, they've really reached a breaking point." There are grim stories of the strain the pandemic has put on the workers. There were several reports of attempted suicides, deaths or self harm. One widely circulated video - which could not be independently verified - showed a worker standing at what appeared to be a window ledge of a dormitory - before being pulled in by his flatmates. "I see some people from my dormitory, they call their family and say they cannot take the situation," said Zakir, who himself runs a charity for migrant workers. "They cry and say they want to go home." Salary issues also contribute to some of this mental stress, with families at home relying on the workers' wages. "We can't send money because we can't go outside," said Zakir, who adds that some others have not been paid their usual salary. The Ministry of Manpower told the BBC that all foreign workers who work full-time must be paid their prevailing salaries, but that for those who could not work, it would be "unrealistic to impose a uniform requirement across all employers". Instead, employers should "engage and mutually agree... on appropriate salary arrangements". A post-mortem Singapore has since pledged to further improve conditions for migrant workers - the government says that by the end of 2020, each resident will be giving a living space of at least 6sqm/person. Each room can be allocated a maximum of 10 beds - all of which have to be spaced out by at least 1m. The question now being asked is how the situation was allowed to get so bad in the dorms when, as Prof Dutta said, "many organisations already pointed to basic problems before the pandemic hit". Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has admitted that the government's response to the threat to dorms was "not without shortcomings" but that "communal living in any form poses risks". "We stepped up precautions. For a time, these seemed adequate. But then bigger clusters broke out in the dorms, which threatened to overwhelm us," he said in an address to parliament earlier this month, shortly after winning an election in which the migrant issue was only a minor talking point. Though he conceded that missteps were taken, he ended by saying: "In the fog of war, it is not possible always to make the perfect decisions." Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption A dormitory located on the outskirts of Singapore Last month, the government declared that all workers living in dormitories had recovered or were tested to be Covid-19 free. But just weeks later - new virus clusters have emerged in a handful of dormitories again. Zakir doesn't know when he will be released. His greatest hope now he says, is to just be able to go back to work, and for things to improve for migrant workers in Singapore. "Many of us have spent a long time here. For me, I have been here 17 years - it's like we are already part of Singapore," he said. "We are not asking to be treated like a citizen. Just treat us like you would treat a human being - like we are a part of society. If it could be like that, that would be very nice." Additional reporting by Krithiika Kannan, graphics by South Asia Visual Journalism
Coronavirus: Rise in UK cases a great concern, Van Tam says - BBC News
England's deputy chief medical officer says the UK must start taking Covid-19 "seriously again".
Media captionPeople need to "start taking this very seriously again" Prof Jonathan Van Tam The latest "big change" in coronavirus infections across the UK is of "great concern", England's deputy chief medical officer has warned. Prof Jonathan Van Tam said people have "relaxed too much" over the summer and "we have got to start taking this very seriously again". If not, the UK will have "a bumpy ride over the next few months", he warned. He said that infections among younger people in EU countries had later filtered through to older age groups. France and Spain are among a number of European countries that have seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, after lockdown restrictions were eased and testing for the disease was ramped up. On Monday, Spain became the first country in western Europe to record 500,000 infections, after tallying more than 26,000 new infections over the weekend. Prof Van Tam's comments came as more parts of the UK are to face tougher restrictions following a rise in the number of cases. On Sunday UK authorities announced 2,988 new cases - the highest figure since 22 May, while a further 2,948 cases were reported in the 24 hours to 09:00 BST on Monday. Stricter rules on home visits will be extended to two more areas in the west of Scotland from midnight. In Wales, the county borough of Caerphilly is to be placed under a local lockdown from 18:00 BST on Tuesday. "People have relaxed too much, now is the time for us to re-engage, and to realise that this a continuing threat to us," Prof Van Tam said. Image copyrightPA Media He added that hospital admissions and deaths were "at a very low level" in the UK and the rise in cases was most prominent among those aged between 17 and 21 - but the country risks following the trajectory of some EU countries. "Where case numbers rise initially in the younger parts of the population they do in turn filter through and start to give elevated rates of disease and hospital admissions in the older age groups, and we know that then becomes a serious public health problem," he said. "The fact that 17 to 21-year-olds are not becoming ill means they are lucky, but they also forget because the disease is not severe for them that they are potent spreaders." Prof Van Tam added that the trend had moved away from "specific hotspots", such as the one that occurred in Leicester last month. Instead, "there is a more general and creeping geographic trend across the UK that disease levels are now beginning to turn up". He urged public health officials and politicians to think about how the virus is managed not in the short term, but over the next six months and "until the spring". The rise in cases we have seen over the past two days seems like quite a large jump. But it is still well short of where we were in the spring. The official figures show we hit 6,000 cases a day at points, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Testing was only largely taking place in hospitals so virtually none of the infections in the community were being picked up. Estimates suggest there were about 100,000 cases a day at the peak. So the fact that we have got close to 3,000 a day now when mass testing is available (albeit clearly not picking up every case) means we are a long way from where we were. But there is alarm within government. While the majority of cases are in younger age groups, the more they rise the harder it becomes to keep the virus away from more vulnerable people. It comes after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a change in England's quarantine policy, adopting an approach which allows islands to treated differently to a country's mainland. He said travellers arriving in England from seven Greek islands will have to self-isolate for 14 days from 04:00 BST on Wednesday. They are Crete, Lesvos, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos, and Zakynthos (also known as Zante).