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BBC Dad and his family are back to spread some joy when we need it most

BBC Dad and his family are back to spread some joy when we need it most

Good news, people: BBC Dad and his family are back. 

Things are tough right now. But allow yourself to travel back down memory lane to a time that was arguably simpler. 

The year was 2017, back in the days when we could still go outside. A time when BBC Dad and his delightful family were basically Family of the Year, thanks to a wonderful viral clip that truly stole the world’s hearts depicting one infamously interrupted BBC interview.

In a new BBC World News interview, political scientist Robert Kelly and his wife Kim Jung-A sat with their kids Marion and James and discussed social distancing measures in South Korea.  Read more…

More about South Korea, Bbc Dad, Culture, and Web Culture

Israel passes emergency law to use mobile data for COVID-19 contact tracing

Israel has passed an emergency law to use mobile phone data for tracking people infected with COVID-19 including to identify and quarantine others they have come into contact with and may have infected.

The BBC reports that the emergency law was passed during an overnight sitting of the cabinet, bypassing parliamentary approval.

Israel also said it will step up testing substantially as part of its respond to the pandemic crisis.

In a statement posted to Facebook, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote: “We will dramatically increase the ability to locate and quarantine those who have been infected. Today, we started using digital technology to locate people who have been in contact with those stricken by the Corona. We will inform these people that they must go into quarantine for 14 days. These are expected to be large – even very large – numbers and we will announce this in the coming days. Going into quarantine will not be a recommendation but a requirement and we will enforce it without compromise. This is a critical step in slowing the spread of the epidemic.”

“I have instructed the Health Ministry to significantly increase the number of tests to 3,000 a day at least,” he added. “It is very likely that we will reach a higher figure, even up to 5,000 a day. To the best of my knowledge, relative to population, this is the highest number of tests in the world, even higher than South Korea. In South Korea, there are around 15,000 tests a day for a population five or six times larger than ours.”

On Monday an Israeli parliamentary subcommittee on intelligence and secret services discussed a government request to authorize Israel’s Shin Bet security service to assist in a national campaign to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus — but declined to vote on the request, arguing more time is needed to assess it.

Civil liberties campaigners have warned the move to monitor citizens’ movements sets a dangerous precedent.

According to WHO data, Israel had 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of yesterday morning. Today the country’s health ministry reported cases had risen to 427.

Details of exactly how the tracking will work have not been released — but, per the BBC, the location data of people’s mobile devices will be collected from telcos by Israel’s domestic security agency and shared with health officials.

It also reports the health ministry will be involved in monitoring the location of infected people to ensure they are complying with quarantine rules — saying it can also send text messages to people who have come into contact with someone with COVID-19 to instruct them to self isolate.

In recent days Netanyahu has expressed frustration that Israel citizens have not been paying enough mind to calls to combat the spread of the virus via voluntary social distancing.

“This is not child’s play. This is not a vacation. This is a matter of life and death,” he wrote on Facebook. “There are many among you who still do not understand the magnitude of the danger. I see the crowds on the beaches, people having fun. They think this is a vacation.”

“According to the instructions that we issued yesterday, I ask you not leave your homes and stay inside as much as possible. At the moment, I say this as a recommendation. It is still not a directive but that can change,” he added.

Since the Israeli government’s intent behind the emergency mobile tracking powers is to combat the spread of COVID-19 by enabling state agencies to identify people whose movements need to be restricted to avoid them passing the virus to others, it seems likely law enforcement agencies will also be involved in enacting the measures.

That will mean citizens’ smartphones being not just a tool of mass surveillance but also a conduit for targeted containment — raising questions about the impact such intrusive measures might have on people’s willingness to carry mobile devices everywhere they go, even during a pandemic.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that the US government is considering similar location-tracking technology measures in a bid to check the spread of COVID-19 — with discussions ongoing between tech giants, startups and White House officials on measures that could be taken to monitor the disease.

Last week the UK government also held a meeting with tech companies to ask for their help in combating the coronavirus. Per Wired some tech firms offered to share data with the state to help with contact tracing — although, at the time, the government was not pursuing a strategy of mass restrictions on public movement. It has since shifted position.

WHO calls for rapid escalation in global COVID-19 response, including testing and isolation

The World Health Organization (WHO) held a briefing today for media to update them on the current status of the global pandemic of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and called out worldwide efforts on what the agency’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom described as not an “urgent enough”  response in terms of fielding a truly comprehensive approach.

In prepared remarks to kick-off the media Q&A, Adhanom said that while to date we have “seen a rapid escalation in social distancing measures, like closing schools and cancelling spring events,” there still hasn’t been enough done on a global level in terms of “testing, isolation and contact tracing,” which he said formed the “backbone of the response.”

“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded,” Adhnom said. “And we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected. We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test. Test every suspected case. If they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in close contact with up to 2 days before they developed symptoms, and test those people too.”

The agency noted that it has shipped a total of 1.5 million tests to 120 countries thus far. The U.S. in particular has lagged behind its global peers when it comes to testing, with the country refusing the WHO tests offered and opting instead to develop its own CDC-developed tests, whose initial rollout met with mirrors. Based on data from last week, the U.S., even now that private lab tests are coming online to attempt to supplement the CDC-issued ones, the country is still far behind Japan, the UK, Italy, China, South Korea and many others when it comes to testing on a per capita basis compared to its population.

Adhanom went on to advise that all confirmed cases be isolated once identified, in health facilities if possible, but in either makeshift facilities set up for the purpose if that’s not an option, or for those with very mild symptoms, at home. He clarified this meant that care-givers treating people at home should wear a medical mask when they occupy shared space, and that the patient should both sleep separately and use a different bathroom.

“Once again, our key message is: test, test, test,” Adhanom said. “This is a serious disease. Although the evidence we have suggests that those over 60 are at highest risk, young people, including children, have died.”

He also pointed out that while we’re now seeing epidemics even in developed countries with advanced health care systems and institutions in place, facing significant challenges, there’s an even greater pending global threat as the pandemic spreads to low-income nations. Adhanom said that limiting impact among those vulnerable populations requires “every country and every individual to do everything they can to stop transmission.”

During the Q&A, Adhanom went further, noting that while the immediate threat still needs to be addressed, and addressed promptly, the COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed fundamental issues with our global approach to pandemic preparedness that we’ll need to address longer-term.

“Globally we have a very, very serious weakness in terms of preparedness,” he said. “While doing our best to suppress this pandemic, at the same time we have to think about planning for the future, for the long-term. Improving our preparedness, making sure that the world is better prepared.”

“It’s time to commit to invest in our weaknesses, and minimize our risk as a global community,” Adhanom continued. “No country can develop or strengthen its system and protect itself from outbreaks, epidemics or pandemics. The world is more intertwined than ever before – globalization cannot be reversed […] we need to make sure that we act in unison to build the global preparedness and the global resistance.”

WHO also reiterated and clarified the best actions that individuals can take to help contribute to the global effort to combat the spread of the virus. The organization’s COVID-19 Technical Lead Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infection disease epidemiologist, acknowledged that people are feeling afraid, and stressed the importance of hand-washing as one action that everyone can take to make a difference.

“Being scared is normal, what we need to do is channel that energy into something positive, and making sure that you know what you can do to protect yourself,” she said. What we do know that works in terms of your hands, and in terms of what you need to do, is washing your hands. We say this all the time. And it may not be the most exciting thing, but it’s the most important thing that you can do to protect yourselves.”

“Every single person who is washing their hands is helping themselves and others,” she continued, noting that everyone should “wash [their] hands as much as they possibly can.”