The World Health Organisation’s new coronavirus guidelines acknowledge some reports of airborne transmission, but stop short of confirming that the virus spreads through the air.
WHO said on Thursday that some outbreaks related to indoor crowded spaces, which suggested the possibility of aerosol transmission such as during choir practice, in restaurants or in fitness classes.
But the organisation said more research was “urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of Covid-19”.
The report follows an open letter from aerobiologists scientists who specialise in the spread of disease in the air that urged WHO to update its guidance on how the disease spreads to include aerosol transmission.
Based on its review of the evidence, WHO said the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 spreads through contact with contaminated surfaces or close contact with infected people who spread the virus through saliva, respiratory secretions or droplets released when a person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings.
WHO’s new guidelines suggest people should avoid crowds and ensure good ventilation in buildings, in addition to social distancing, and encourage masks when physical distancing is not possible.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there was not a lot of solid evidence yet on airborne transmission, but added: “I think it’s a reasonable assumption that it does occur.”
Dr Fauci said the evidence so far was “the fundamental basis for why we are now so intent on getting people – particularly people without symptoms – to wear masks”.
Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate and onetime girlfriend of disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, has been made to wear paper clothes in her prison cell in New York, so worried are officials that she might take her own life.
Ms Maxwell was arrested by the FBI last Thursday on charges she helped lure at least three girls, one as young as 14, to be sexually abused by Epstein. She denies the charges.
The steps taken by the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn far extend the usual measures taken for inmates, according to the Associated Press.
The Justice Department has reportedly implemented additional safety protocols in the event Ms Maxwell, 58, tries to harm herself, or in case other inmates wish to harm her. Guards must also ensure she has a roommate in her cell and is being monitored at all times.
Areas of New York have recorded a nearly 70 per cent rate of immunity to Covid-19, in what scientists have described as “stunning” findings that suggest they could be protected from any second wave.
Some 68 per cent of people who took antibody tests at a clinic in the Corona neighbourhood of Queens received positive results, while at another clinic in Jackson Heights, 56 per cent tested positive.
The results, shared by healthcare company CityMD with the New York Times, appear to show a higher antibody rate than anywhere in the world, based on publicly released data.
The next closest is the Italian province of Bergamo, which recorded 57 per cent, followed by Alpine ski resort Ischgl, the site of Austria’s biggest coronavirus outbreak, which reported 47 per cent.
The US Supreme Court has ruled that nearly half of Oklahoma was Native American land, a decision that some officials warned could throw the state into chaos.
The decision means that for the first time much of eastern Oklahoma is legally considered a reservation. More than 1.8 million people live in the land at issue, including roughly 400,000 in Tulsa, the state’s second-largest city.
The unique case represented the opportunity for the Supreme Court to weigh in on the limits of tribal sovereignty and revisit the country’s history of displacing native tribes from their land.
Under the ruling, tribe members who live within the boundaries would become exempt from certain state obligations such as paying state taxes, while certain Native Americans found guilty in state courts may be able to challenge their convictions on jurisdictional grounds.
The tribe also may obtain more power to regulate alcohol sales and expand casino gambling.
When the Spanish flu pandemic hit the world after the First World War it came in three waves, with the second being the most deadly.
And this is not an oddity. Of the last 10 big respiratory disease outbreaks, five have had significant subsequent waves, and four came after a summer trough.
“Influenza pandemics tend to come in three waves; a spring wave, followed by a severe winter wave and another spring wave,” says Prof Francois Balloux, an epidemiologist and director of the UCL Genetics Institute in London.
Sars-Cov-2 is not an influenza virus but a coronavirus. Nevertheless, it is droplet spread and Prof Balloux is not optimistic for the coming winter.
“To me, the most likely scenario for the Covid-19 epidemic is that there will be a winter wave in the northern hemisphere, which I expect could be worse than the spring/summer waves we’ve [already] experienced”.
Several countries around the world are already seeing a resurgence of cases, some more severe than the first.
But are they second waves, spikes or simply a continuation of the first wave? And what do they tell us about the likelihood of a second wave hitting the UK this winter?
United States – a failure of political leadership
The curve of the US outbreak has been described as a ski slope, with the number of new cases first climbing before plateauing and then steeply rising again.
On Wednesday the number of cases passed the three million mark, confirming the assessment by the leader of the country’s coronavirus taskforce, Dr Anthony Fauci, that the US remains “knee deep in the first wave”.
It is hard to see the US epidemic as caused by anything other than poor leadership. The US is one of the world’s richest nations with a highly developed public health infrastructure but it was slow to react initially and then too quick to open up.
Confused messaging from the White House has left some of the 328 million population terrified and others wondering if the virus really exists at all. Violence and protest caused by the killing of George Floyd will not have helped.
An audio transcript of George Floyd’s last moments has been released by authorities in Minneapolis, as questions are mounting in Phoenix, Arizona, over a disturbingly similar police killing in 2017.
Floyd, 46, died on May 25 when Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
On Tuesday, during a hearing for one of the three officers involved in Floyd’s death, Thomas Lane, the audio of his bodycamera was released.
In it, Floyd explains that he is frightened of the police after being shot previously by officers.
He tells them he is claustrophobic, and starts panicking.
He is heard exclaiming that he is going to die, and, terrified, calling out for his mother.
The Supreme Court has ruled that a Manhattan prosecutor can get access to Donald Trump’s tax returns, rejecting the US president’s arguments to complete immunity on the matter.
However the ruling is unlikely to lead to Mr Trump’s tax record being seen by the public before the November election, given less than four months remains to voting day.
The case is returning to the lower courts so some specifics can be debated, which will take time. Also any documents handed over will be given to a secret grand jury, not the public.
Yet the decision, which seven of the nine justices backed including the two men Mr Trump appointed to the court, rejects Mr Trump’s argument for blanket protections over his tax returns while in office.
That decision, on a criminal case, was just one of two taken on Thursday about Mr Trump’s financial records. The other was over a push from Congress to obtain such records.
In that second case, the Supreme Court blocked the request by House of Representatives committees controlled by the Democrats from getting a wide array of the president’s financial documents.
The twin decisions – one theoretically allowing the tax returns to be released in a criminal case, the other rebuffing a push by Congress – have left a mixed picture for the president.
The argument from Mr Trump’s legal team that he does not need to hand over his tax returns to a Manhattan prosecutor investigating a criminal matter was rejected – a defeat.
Yet in the delays in that case, and the blocking of the House of Representatives’ drive, Mr Trump is now unlikely to have to show his tax returns to the public before the vote – a victory in the short term.
Mr Trump struck a critical tone in his immediate reaction on Twitter, writing: “Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference’. BUT NOT ME!”
Mr Trump has refused to publish his tax records for years, defying a precedent set in modern US politics, and the time on the clock has nearly run out before the next election, which is less than 130 days away.
In the first case, involving criminal proceedings, both Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, the two justices Mr Trump appointed, agreed that a prosecutor could get access to the tax returns.
The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts.
It read: “Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” the court’s opinion read.
“We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.”
More to follow.
Finding the Way Back feels like an apt title for the new Ben Affleck film, since it’s a phrase that has probably been scrawled on his agent’s whiteboard for the last five years. Following a spate of celebrity over-exposure in the early 2000s – co-starring Jennifer Lopez, as you may recall – Affleck began to age into something of a new-school Hollywood stalwart.
He directed three well-received features for Warner Bros, the last of which, Argo, won the Best Picture Oscar in 2013. And bookending this already-hot streak were his two finest performances to date, as the Superman actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland and the hapless husband Nick Dunne in Gone Girl. But then in 2013, Affleck was cast as Batman: a career move that seemed to immediately hit pause on this fruitful mid-period. His career, and certainly profile, became all but consumed by the ill-fated DCU franchise, while outside of work he weathered multiple stints in rehab for alcoholism and, in 2018, divorce.
This latest project – Affleck’s first after formally stepping down from his superhero commitments – jabs hopefully at the play button again. While it isn’t quite a triumphant return to form, it at least reminds us – and hopefully also Affleck – of what he’s capable of bringing to the table.
Aptly enough, the film itself is something of a comeback drama, about a man whose sense of purpose has been long obscured by alcoholism and heartbreak. Affleck plays Jack Cunningham, a bearded, bearlike construction worker whose days begin with a beer in the shower and only get hazier from there, until he finally blacks out at his local bar, or just slumped by the fridge.
Police in Miami on Wednesday arrested the former governor of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Cesar Duarte, who is wanted on corruption charges in his homeland, U.S. and Mexican officials said.
Duarte, who governed the northern border state from 2010 to 2016, has been accused by Mexican authorities of misappropriating public funds.
The Mexican attorney general’s office said Duarte faced extradition back to Mexico. Its statement came shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump met with his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, at the White House.
Duarte, who governed Chihuahua for the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), has previously denied wrongdoing.
Lopez Obrador said in January that the United States had agreed to extradite Duarte. Interpol had issued a wanted notice for the former governor.
This engrossing new release offers a collection of six modern pieces for the harpsichord played by the well-known American-born harpsichordist of Iranian extraction, Mahan Esfahani. The earliest was composed in 1960, the latest in 2018, and the composers hail from six different countries. The very idea of “modern music for harpsichord” seems a contradiction in terms, because there’s something stubbornly antique about the sound of a harpsichord. Even when it’s being used to play jagged little modernist fragments or hammered clusters like the ones in the Jaws soundtrack, the sound never quite shakes off its Baroque associations. Add to that the suggestively otherworldly sounds of electronics which are mingled into three of the pieces, and you have a disc that seems more like a gauntlet thrown down to the listener than an offer of enjoyment. That would certainly be in character. Esfahani likes to be provocative, and it probably gives him a gleeful pleasure to offer up a disc that so completely upends the common view of what a harpsichord is. But it’s a risky move. Some listeners, faced with the question implied by the title Musique? – “Is this really music?” – will be tempted to answer with a resounding “non”.
That would be a shame, because there’s much to enjoy and be moved by on this disc. The first piece Rain Dream is one of those delightfully evocative and mournful evocations of nature the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu wrote in his later years. The fact that the super-sharp recording allows you to hear the faint creakings and resonances of the harpsichord adds to the music’s gentle water-streaked pathos. By contrast the Set of Four by that pioneer American experimentalist Henry Cowell makes overt nods to Baroque-era harpsichord music. The set contains a grand overture in the form of a Rondo, an angular little fugue, a pompous Chorale, and a moto perpetuo that occasionally sounds like atonal Handel. There are more Handelian echoes in the piece entitled After Handel’s Vesper by British composer Gavin Bryars, though it is less musically satisfying.
Then there are the three pieces that combine the sharply defined sounds of the harpsichord with the more soft-edged, atmospheric ones of electronics. The contrast was especially acute in Jardin Secret (Secret Garden) II by the Finn Kaija Saariaho, where the electronic sounds were constructed from breathy recordings of the composer’s own voice. More satisfying to me was the piece specially written for this record: Intertwined Distances by the Iranian female composer Anahita Abbasi. (Iran has produced several interesting female modernist composers in recent years – who would have thought it?) After a disconcertingly dry beginning it develops into a fascinating dialogue between opposites that sometimes come to within a hair’s breadth of each other, only to part again.
Most rewarding of all is the longest and last piece on the disc, by the French composer Luc Ferrari. A series of flourishes on the harpsichord ushers in a faint electronic drone, which soon develops an insistent rhythmic pulse against which the harpsichord sometimes fights, sometimes yields, an idea projected with a sure sense of dramatic timing and telling variety of colour by Esfahani. The ending, in which he adds decorative wisps to a high cicada-like chirruping, is beautifully poetic. Putting together this CD has clearly been a labour of love for Esfahani; let’s hope listeners respond with the curiosity and sympathy it deserves.
Musique? is out now from Hyperion