Malaysian university moots robot graduation ceremonies to cut virus risk

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) — A Malaysian university is considering using robots dressed in gowns and mortarboards to act as stand-ins at graduation ceremonies to prevent coronavirus infections — but students have blown a fuse at the idea. A video of the planned ceremonies released by the university shows two elegantly attired, waist-high robots being handed diplomas by high-ranking university officials. The students’ faces appear on screens mounted on the robots’ heads. Associate professor Engku […]

Scottish island pilots drone deliveries of medical supplies

by Stuart GRAHAM Agence France-Presse OBAN, United Kingdom(AFP) — In a field overlooking the Lorn and Islands Hospital in the town of Oban on Scotland’s remote west coast, an anxious Duncan Walker trained his eyes above a nearby hill. Walker, chief executive of drone delivery company Skyports, is working with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to trial whether medical supplies like COVID-19 tests and protective equipment can be flown from the hospital to the Isle of […]

Plastic bubble brings joy to French nursing home

by Elia VAISSIERE PICTURES BY DENIS CHARLET Agence France-Presse BOURBOURG, France (AFP) — Nathalie Szczepaniak caresses the hand of her husband Joseph, a care home resident, as the couple reunites after weeks without a visit because of France’s coronavirus lockdown. But this is no ordinary reunion. The couple meets in an anti-virus “bubble” at Joseph’s nursing home in Bourbourg, northern France, separated by a clear plastic sheet that allows them some physical contact, face-to-face, without the […]

10% of diabetics die within days of coronavirus hospitalization: study

PARIS, France (AFP) — One in 10 diabetics with coronavirus dies within seven days of hospital admission, according to a study of more than 1,300 patients published Friday in the journal Diabetologia. Two-thirds of the patients were men, and the average age across both sexes was 70, the study found. “The presence of diabetic complications and increased age increase the risk of death,” the researchers said in a statement. “Increased BMI” — body mass index, […]

India wilts under heatwave as temperature hits 50 degrees Celsius

NEW DELHI, India (AFP) — India is wilting under a heatwave, with the temperature in places reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) and the capital enduring its hottest May day in nearly two decades. The hot spell is projected to scorch northern India for several more days, the Meteorological Department said late Tuesday, “with severe heat wave conditions in isolated pockets”. As global temperatures rise, heatwaves are a regular menace in the country — […]

Bushfire-hit Australians still in tents as virus slows recovery

by Andrew LEESON Agence France-Presse COBARGO, Australia (AFP) — Victims of Australia’s catastrophic bushfires are still living in tents, garages and makeshift shelters months after the blazes ended, with efforts to rebuild their lives hampered by the coronavirus pandemic. Inside a small tin shed on Australia’s southeast coast, a family of six takes refuge from the cold as the southern hemisphere winter begins to bite. The structure — chock-full of toys and beds — has […]

Italy’s nearly deserted Pompeii reopens its ruins to public

by Alexandria SAGE Agence France-Presse Pompeii, Italy (AFP) — Italy’s world-famous archaeological site Pompeii reopened to the public on Tuesday as the country’s coronavirus lockdown lifted — though guides outnumbered tourists at the ancient Roman city. The exceptionally-preserved remains of the city covered in volcanic ash by the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago in 79 A.D. are usually the country’s second-most visited site after the Colosseum in Rome. But on Tuesday, many […]

Anti-viral drug effective against coronavirus, study finds

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Anti-viral drug remdesivir cuts recovery times in coronavirus patients, according to the full results of a trial published Friday night, three weeks after America’s top infectious diseases expert said the study showed the medication has “clear-cut” benefits. Complete results from the research, which was carried out by US government agency the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), were published by leading medical periodical the New England Journal of […]

WHO suspends trials of hydroxychloroquine as virus treatment

  by Nina LARSON Agence France Presse GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The World Health Organization said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus. The decision came after a study published in The Lancet medical journal last week suggested the drug could increase the risk of death among COVID-19 patients, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference. Tedros said the executive group of the […]

ICRC warns of dire humanitarian crisis in northeast Syria

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AFP) — The International Committee of the Red Cross warned Thursday of a worsening crisis in northeast Syria, where water cuts, food shortages and depleted health services are proving as dangerous as coronavirus. Home to sprawling displacement camps hosting tens of thousands of people, including families of Islamic State group members, the Kurdish-held northeast has been hard hit by nine years of war. A COVID-19 outbreak, which the United Nations says has infected […]

Japan newborn gets liver stem cells in world first

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Doctors in Japan have successfully transplanted liver cells derived from embryonic stem cells into a newborn baby, in a world first that could provide new treatment options for infants. The newborn was suffering from urea cycle disorder, where the liver is not capable of breaking down toxic ammonia. But the six-day-old was too small to undergo a liver transplant, generally not considered safe until a child weighs around six kilogrammes (13 […]

‘We can get it done here’: Africa’s tech scene tackles virus

by Fran BLANDY and AFP Africa bureaus PICTURES BY SIMON MAINA AND NIPAH DENNIS Agence France-Presse NAIROBI, Kenya (AFP)— Watching from afar as much of the world was brought to its knees by the coronavirus, African scientists, engineers and innovators have turned to homegrown solutions to prepare for the worst case scenario. By the time the virus hit Africa, where cases have risen relatively slowly, images of overwhelmed hospitals and stories of health workers strapped for […]