Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
‘No-swab’ OptiGene coronavirus test highly sensitive, UK says
A type of Covid-19 test that can be taken without the need for a nose or throat swab has been found to be highly effective in identifying infectious cases, including for people not showing symptoms, the British government said on Tuesday.
The RT-LAMP tests, made by privately-held British company OptiGene, have been studied in a pilot programme in the southern English city of Southampton, where they were used to test some health service staff as well as 55,000 people connected to the local university. LAMP is short for loop-mediated isothermal amplification, the technology used to process the tests.
“We’ve shown through carefully conducted studies that the OptiGene LAMP test is fast, reliable and easy to use, and dependent on testing format can work directly with saliva samples as well as with swabs,” said Sue Hill, chief scientific officer for England in the National Health Service’s Test and Trace programme.
US analyst says China gave vaccine candidate to North Korea’s Kim
China has provided North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his family with an experimental coronavirus vaccine, a US analyst said on Tuesday, citing two unidentified Japanese intelligence sources.
Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the Center for the National Interest think-tank in Washington, said the Kims and several senior North Korean officials had been vaccinated.
It was unclear which company had supplied its drug candidate to the Kims and whether it had proven to be safe, he added.
Australia’s Queensland lifts most state border curbs in boost to economy
Australia’s Queensland state on Tuesday lifted border restrictions on the country’s two most populous states for the first time in more than eight months, reuniting families and aiding the country’s economic recovery. Residents from all of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria will now be allowed to freely travel to Queensland.
Road checkpoints between Queensland and NSW were removed in the early hours on Tuesday, while the first flights landed at 6am local time with passengers arriving in Brisbane Airport greeted by a singer and a piano player.
Queensland, a popular holiday destination, has taken one of Australia’s hardest lines on border restrictions. With international travel banned, Queensland hopes to see a wave of domestic tourists for the busy summer season.
‘Pandemic’ chosen as Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year
The 2020 prize for Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year went to an obvious choice: pandemic. The term had the most online dictionary lookups of any word, Merriam-Webster said on its website.
The word’s Greek roots are “pan,” meaning all or every and “demos,” meaning people, Merriam-Webster said.
Dictionary lookups skyrocketed on March 11 when the World Health Organization officially labelled Covid-19 a pandemic. The word “saw the single largest spike in dictionary traffic in 2020, showing an increase of 115,806% over lookups on that day in 2019,” said the company.