The Tokyo Olympics next July will be a “uniquely risky” event, demanding flexibility from organisers amid the uncertainty of the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly if a vaccine has not been rolled out by then, medical experts say.
Japan and the International Olympic Committee made the unprecedented decision last month to delay the Games for a year, as the world battles the virus that has infected 2.3 million people and killed more than 150,000 globally.
But questions persist whether the Games can go ahead 15 months from now, as a vaccine could still be at least a year away, according to the most optimistic estimates.
“When we talk about bringing sports back with packed stadiums, I really think that is something we are going to have to wait for a vaccine to be able to do,” said Zach Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University in the United States.
Tokyo 2020 is set to run from July 23 to Aug. 8 next year, but organisers expect few changes to the original plan, including attendance by enthusiastic supporters.
But that might be over optimistic, Binney, a specialist in aspects of athlete health, told Reuters.
“Every person that you add to a gathering adds risk,” said Binney, who expects vaccine development would take 1-1/2 years from the start of the outbreak, or until late 2021, at the earliest.
“So, once you get up to 50,000, 70,000, 100,000 (fans)… that is an enormous amount of risk to be taking on without a vaccine.”
The Olympics was “a uniquely risky event”, he added, because of the threats represented by visitors streaming in from areas with a lot of infections, and the reverse flow when they return afterwards, perhaps carrying home infections.
Although more hopeful for a vaccine to be found within a year, Jason Kindrachuk, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Manitoba in Canada, flagged a risk of further delay to the Games, as vaccinating people would take time.
“It is going to push the limits right up to the border of when the Olympics should be starting,” said Kindrachuk, who has worked on outbreaks of Ebola and SARS.
“You want to get people vaccinated not right at the point of the Olympics, but a little bit beforehand, so they build up that protective immunity.”
Dr Kentaro Iwata, who drew international attention for his criticism of the Japanese government when quarantined in February on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, along with thousands of passengers, expressed pessimism over the new date.
“I don’t think the Olympics is likely to be held next year, if held at any time,” the virologist told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in a teleconference.
“Japan might be able to control this disease by next summer, and I wish we could, but I don’t think that would happen everywhere on earth,” the Kobe University professor added.
In response, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee said it was focusing purely on delivering the Games next year.
“The mission is to prepare the stage for next summer; we do not feel it is appropriate to respond to speculative questions,” spokesman Masa Takaya said in an email to Reuters on Monday.
Even if a vaccine were not ready, the organisers might still be able to hold the Games, as long as they were flexible and well prepared, Kindrachuk added.
“It is going to take some creative thinking, and hopefully some willingness from the public, to at least still partake in watching… understanding that it is just simply not going to look like what we have seen before.”
Binney said the safest option would be for athletes to arrive in Tokyo four to six weeks in advance and follow rigorous isolation measures for two weeks before moving into the Olympic village to train for the remaining period.
“My goal would be to have the Olympic Village as a virus-free quarantine zone,” he added. (ReutersNAN)
Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Peter Ejiofor) (NAN)
United States judge whose son was killed by gunman speaks out
A United States Federal Judge whose son was killed and husband wounded by a gunman disguised as a FedEx driver detailed her last moments with her only child in an emotional video posted online.
“Two weeks ago, my life as I knew it changed in an instant and my family will never be the same,” United States District Judge Esther Salas said in the video posted to YouTube on Monday.
The attack on Salas’ family in New Jersey happened July 19. The accused gunman, attorney Roy Den Hollander, was later found dead in an apparent suicide in upstate New York.
He is described as an anti-feminist lawyer, and officials said Salas had recently presided over one of his cases.
That morning the Salas family was getting ready to clean up after a party. They had just celebrated her son’s 20th birthday.
“Daniel always wanted to spend his birthdays with his dad and me so he asked that we host a party for a few of his Catholic University of America friends,” she says in the video.
Despite the pandemic, they agreed.
“We thought we could adhere to safety guidelines,” she says.
After going to church with her husband, Salas said she went alone to the basement to wake up her son.
“We were chatting, as we always do, and Daniel said, ‘Mom, let’s keep talking. I love talking to you, Mom,’” Salas says, struggling to hold back tears. “And it was at that exact moment that the doorbell rang.”
Her son ran upstairs. Moments later, she heard gunshots and screams.
“I later learned that this monster, who had a FedEx package in his hand, opened fire,” she says in the video, her voice shaking.
“But Daniel, being Daniel, protected his father and he took the shooter’s first bullet directly to the chest.”
Her son later died. Her husband, Mark Anderl, a 63-year-old criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor, was shot three times, she explains. One bullet struck his chest, another his stomach, and the third his right forearm.
“While my husband is still in the hospital recovering from his multiple surgeries, we are living every parent’s worst nightmare,” she pauses for a moment, before adding: “Making preparations to bury our only child, Daniel.”
Salas noted that the gunman was easily able to find her personal information online. She then pleads for lawmakers to help protect the private details of federal judges, so no one else suffers the same fate as she and her family.
“My son’s death cannot be in vain, which is why I am begging those in power to do something to help my brothers and sisters on the bench,” she says.
Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)
Insect can escape after being eaten by frog, scientists find
The insect Regimbartia attenuata can escape even after being devoured by certain species of frog, among them Pelophylax nigromaculatus, Japanese ecologist Shinji Sugiura of Kobe University announced on Monday.
Like other kinds of frog, Pelophylax nigromaculatus’ lack of teeth makes it unable to kill the insect before eating it. This is done instead by the digestive tract.
But that mostly doesn’t work with Regimbartia attenuata, which, Sugiura says, stimulates the frog to defecate and, like Tim Robbins’ wrongly imprisoned Andy Dufresne in 1994 film “The Shawshank Redemption,” crawls through a river of excrement to its freedom.
It’s the first time that the flight of prey after consumption has been documented scientifically, according to researchers from the magazine Current Biology.
The aforementioned insect and frog are found in the same paddy fields in Japan. To investigate the insect’s capacity for self-defence, Sugiura fed it to young and adult frogs.
The frogs made light work of chowing down the insects. But, within six hours, 93.3 per cent of the impudent invertebrates had come out the other end – and all were as chirpy as ever after their improbable journey.
The insect apparently moves from the frog’s digestive tract to its intended exit at the anus, researchers said. Pressure from the frog’s sphincter keeps its anus closed, prompting the insect to stimulate the frog’s intestine.
This causes the sphincter to relax and allows the insect to take a triumphant log ride to freedom on the frog’s stool.
Researchers observed the same thing happen after consumption of the insect to four other species of frog: Pelophylax porosus, Glandirana rugosa, Fejervarya kawamurai und Hyla japonica.
Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)
Nigerian Breweries earns N152bn revenue in 6 months
Nigerian Breweries Plc says it earned a revenue of N152 billion for the half-year (H1) ended June 30, 2020.
Mrs Sade Morgan, Corporate Affairs Director said this in a financial report on the company’s unaudited and provisional results sent to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on Monday in Lagos.
A breakdown of the results showed that the revenue of N152 billion was a drop, compared to the N170 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2019.
According to the report, the Company also made a N5.70 billion Profit after tax in the period under review.
“The half-year results for the 2020 financial year show a strong balance sheet for the Company despite several factors that negatively impacted on the Company’s operations, such as an increase in Excise Duty, a rise in inflation, an increase in VAT from 5 to 7.5 per cent, as well as the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on businesses worldwide.
“Despite these challenges, the Company’s financial position shows stability and sustained profitability.
“To support the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the Company, during the period under review, made various donations in cash and kind valued at about N531 million out of a phased commitment of N600 million to the Federal and State Governments’ Covid-19 Relief Funds,” the statement said.
The Board of Directors commended the company’s management for its efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the business.
It also lauded the prudent management of its resources as reflected in a seven per cent reduction in expenses incurred on marketing, distribution, and administration.
“The Board expressed confidence that the Company is well-positioned to continue to deliver return on investment to Shareholders.
According to the Board, the Company’s priority during this period “remains ensuring the health, safety and welfare of employees, customers and partners”.
Edited By: Edith Bolokor/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)
Missing sailors found in Micronesia thanks to SOS written in sand
dpa) Three missing sailors have been found on a tiny island in the western Pacific after they wrote an outsized SOS in the sand that was spotted from the air, according to a statement by Australia’s Defence Ministry.
The men were found on Sunday after they had been missing for three days and media reports say they are in good health.
Their call for help, written on the beach of Pikelot Island, 190 km west of where they had set out, was seen by Australian and United States aircraft, the statement said.
A ship, the HMAS Canberra, headed to the sailors’ aid and a helicopter landed on the beach, bringing water and food for the men and carrying out identity and health checks.
The men were reportedly sailing between the atolls Poluwat and Pulap, a journey of 42 km, when they veered off course and ran out of fuel.
Pikelot Island, which is only 450 metres long, is part of the Caroline Islands, a scattered archipelago in the western Pacific.
A Micronesian patrol vessel, FSS Independence, is heading to the island to pick up the men.
Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)