Category: Coronavirus

Under duress


Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here. These are dark days for democracy. It hardly feels like the time to address anything other than the brutal murder of George Floyd and the ongoing horrors occurring in the US, but the COVID-19 pandemic is no less dangerous today than it was a week ago. In fact, the selfish actions of impeached US President Donald Trump have surely exacerbated the pandemic and arrested the science and technology world’s ability to address the…

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Google Maps data shows which European countries took lockdown most seriously


A substantial part of humanity is slowly emerging from weeks of lockdown. What we have experienced is truly rare: a real global threat, menacing to all wherever we lived. But how did humanity respond to this pandemic? Did people consistently stay at home as most governments asked them to? And if they didn’t, where did they go? We can answer these questions thanks to Google. It has released data on people’s movements gathered from millions of mobile devices that use its software (Android, Google Maps and so on). Never before has this level of detail been available. For infamous pandemics…

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It’s time to shark up y’all


Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here. Hola Earthlings, A few months back, when our beards were shorter and our fuses were longer, we collectively took solace in Netflix‘s “Tiger King” and Nintendo’s Animal Crossings: New Horizons. Remember that? Those were simpler times. We identified with the tigers in their cages – not only were they locked up, but somehow the damn tigers ended up being extras in a show with the word “Tiger” in its name. It seemed weird at…

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Chinese city’s health-tracking surveillance tech set to outlast the pandemic


A Chinese city plans to turn its contact-tracing app into a permanent health tracker, deepening fears that surveillance tech introduced to fight COVID-19 will outlast the pandemic. Authorities in the eastern city of Hangzhou have proposed combining medical records, physical exam results, and data on lifestyle choices to create a healthcare score for citizens. Officials said the system would be a “firewall to enhance people’s health and immunity,” the Guardian reports. They aim to launch the app by the end of next month. Each of the city’s 10 million residents would be given a colored health badge based on a collation of this data, and a…

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Cannabis is more effective at preventing and treating COVID-19 than hydroxychloroquine


A team of scientists from Canada have identified at least 13 strains of cannabis sativa they believe can aid in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. The President of the United States of America has spent the past few weeks touting a dangerous drug called hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic treatment for COVID-19. Unfortunately, the president’s expertise is in reality TV, not medicine. Several studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine, a drug designed to treat malaria, has dangerous side-effects when used to treat coronavirus, including death. The quest for a COVID-19 drug that will both make Donald Trump and his friends in…

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This free AI chatbot helps businesses fight COVID-19 misinformation


Avaamo, a company that specializes in conversational AI, recently built a virtual assistant to translate natural language queries about the COVID-19 pandemic into reliable insights. In other words, it’s an AI-powered chatbot that can answer just about any question you have about the pandemic. Avaamo’s Project COVID uses a deep learning system called natural language processing to turn our questions about the pandemic into website and database queries. It works a lot like Google or Bing, you input text and the AI tries to find the most relevant information possible. The big difference is that Avaamo carefully guards the gates…

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A look at how Jitsi became a ‘secure’ open-source alternative to Zoom


The coronavirus pandemic pushed people to stay in their homes, and in turn, forced them to use video conferencing products. In the past couple of months, Zoom became an almost indispensable app, Facebook had to step up and make a rival product, and Google made its enterprise conferencing product free for everyone. Amid this video conferencing boom, Zoom’s security and privacy-related problems made a lot of people skeptical about using its products. Plus, the company wasn’t transparent about communicating its mishaps — this forced a lot of people to look for free open source products, and Jitsi emerged as a perfect…

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Google and Apple launch COVID-19 contact-tracing tech


Google and Apple have launched the first phase of their COVID-19 contact-tracing tech: an Exposure Notification API that public health agencies can use to build their own mobile apps. The software uses Bluetooth to alert people if they’ve been in contact with someone who has the virus. When a user declares that they’ve likely caught COVID-19, the system sends a notification to other Android phones and iPhones that have been in their vicinity. The idea is to both reduce infections and help governments monitor the viruses’ spread. However, it will only be effective if a lot of people use it, a problem that has plagued most existing…

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Expert tips for maintaining your mental health during the pandemic


It’s that special time of year when both Mental Health Awareness Month in the US and Mental Health Awareness Week in the EU combine forces to become Super Duper Mental Health Awareness Time. We made that last part up, but the fact of the matter is that it’s safe to say those of us born after World War II have never collectively experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic as a global community. Everyone is affected by the pandemic in one way or another, and everyone has mental health. And that means we need to exercise our minds the same as…

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Coronavirus: survey reveals what the public wants from a contact-tracing app


The UK government is currently trialling a contact tracing app among residents of the Isle of Wight ahead of a plan to roll it out across England. The app is designed to alert users if they have been in contact with someone who has reported COVID-19 symptoms and encourage them to self-isolate. But success will depend on the number of people who are willing to actually use it. We conducted a non-representative survey of 730 people on May 11 – six days into the trial – which has thrown up some findings that could help work out what would convince people…

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