BSP Solomon Islands announces Relief Package for Customers Impacted by COVID-19
Quoting the Island Sun newspaper – 1 April 2020
“THE Bank South Pacific Solomon Islands is monitoring the evolving nature of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and is arranging relief packages to assist customers during this period.
“BSP Group CEO Robin Fleming said BSP is working closely with the Central Bank and other authorities both within Papua New Guinea and in all the countries in which BSP operates.
“Fundamental to our planning is also being able to support our customers and as the leading bank in the South Pacific, we know we have a responsibility to help people in our communities and around the Pacific, “added Mr Fleming.”
Copyright @ 2020, Island Sun newspaper.
1 April 2020
Antibody tests offer transformational hope amidst the coronavirus threat
The Solomon Islands government is awaiting test kits being sent from China and no doubt will put them to work on their arrival to check whether persons presently isolated in quarantine actually have the coronavirus in their system.
Until now the results that the expected test kits will facilitate have been the accepted diagnostic method of investigation, but testing of a different kind is on the way and labeled a “game changer’ by health experts and a test reported to be “completely transformational.”
An article written by Rachel Moss and published just a few hours ago by Huff’s Post in the United Kingdom mentioned antibody tests that could be the glimmer of hope many have been waiting for amid the global coronavirus outbreak.
I would like to share what Ms Moss wrote and quote from her article.
“The tests are different from those currently being used around the world to see if someone has the actual virus, Covid-19, in their system.
“Instead, the antibody tests – also called serology tests – are designed to check if a person has detectable antibodies in their blood, meaning they will have already had Covid-19, but their immune system has cleared the infection. Crucially, this means they’ll now have some resistance if they come into contact with an infected person again.
“Earlier this month, Professor Chris Whitty, who is advising Boris Johnson’s government on tackling the disease, said the tests would first be available for “critical uses”, such as working out whether NHS staff and frontline key workers are immune.
“So how do they work – and how will they help slow the spread of coronavirus? Here’s everything you need to know.
“To date, there’s been some confusion around whether a person can develop immunity to the virus, or if it’s possible to be infected twice.
“The latest finger prick test works by detecting antibodies – which “will demonstrate if your immune system has cleared the infection”, confirms Professor Trudie Lang, director of the Global Health Network, University of Oxford.
“The working assumption with the evidence we have so far is that it’s very unlikely you can get the virus again,” she tells HuffPost UK. “There were some early reports of people getting the virus twice, but what may have happened is people may have had the same infection again.”
“This is called recrudescence, she explains, and is sometimes seen with malaria. It’s the resurgence of symptoms linked to the original infection. “It isn’t a second virus – it’s the same virus with symptoms coming back again because you haven’t completely cleared it,” she says.
“Prof. Lang says being able to test if an individual has developed antibodies to the virus will be “completely transformational” in fighting Covid-19 around the world. “We can make sure we’ve got doctors or nurses who can work safely in hospitals,” she says. “People won’t have to isolate unnecessarily at home for 14 days, because you’ll be able to tell very quickly if people have cleared it or not.”
“While a cough, fever and breathlessness are among the known symptoms of Covid-19, evidence suggests some people infected may have milder symptoms, or even be asymptomatic. Therefore, this antibody test could help paint a more accurate picture of the disease and how it’s spreading.
“This test shows if you’ve cleared the virus and that’s going to be really important for looking at how immunity is changing across the population and helping us track how the virus is passing,” Prof. Lang explains.
“We’ll have a clearer picture of who’s had it without symptoms and cleared it, and that will help the government in making decisions around when they can lift some of the restrictions that have been put in place.”
“Scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai are among those who developed these antibody tests. Professor Florian Krammer, a virologist at the school, told Science Mag the test could also pave the way for new treatment, by allowing recovered patients to donate their “antibody-rich serum” to help treat critically ill patients.
“Key workers such as NHS staff will be tested as a priority, so they can get back to work when it’s safe for them to do so. If tests become available for the general population, Prof. Lang says getting the logistics of distribution right will make all the difference.
“We really need these tests to be available at what we call ‘points of care’, which means they’re available in the community so people don’t have to go to a hospital,” she says. “That’s critical and will ramp up the amount of tests that can be done, because at the moment they’re taking up a lot of hospital care workers’ time. The whole logistics around it and the availability will be key.”
“The new antibody test would not replace the current test to detect Covid-19, but would work in unison with it, she adds. Prof. Lang believes inexpensive access to both tests will be particularly critical in informing health policies in countries where there are currently a low level of confirmed cases.
“This is not just in the UK, every country is struggling with this,” she says. “You have to find the virus, but you have to also find who hasn’t had the virus and where it isn’t. They are two very different jobs – but equally important.”
31 March 2020
Human testing for a coronavirus vaccine set to begin in September.
In keeping with my promise to the followers of my daily articles published in the Solomon Islands and, to all those that read the daily blog on my website to try and bring news of any developments for a corona virus vaccine, I can relate what was published by APF News just a few hours ago.
This is the report:
“Johnson & Johnson said on Monday it had selected a lead candidate vaccine for the new coronavirus that would move to human trials by September and could be ready for emergency use by early next year.
“The pharmaceutical company has signed an agreement with the US government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to invest $1 billion in the effort, it said in a statement.
“J&J began working on the vaccine under investigation -- Ad26 SARS-CoV-2 -- in January using the same technology it used to develop a candidate vaccine for Ebola.
“Paul Stoffels, the company's chief scientific officer, told AFP his team had combined a common cold virus incapable of replicating with parts of the coronavirus, and hoped it would trigger a human immune response.
"We had several vaccine candidates which we tested in animals in order to choose the best one, that took 12 weeks, from January 15 to today," he said.
“They also had to evaluate which candidate vaccine could be upscaled, "to make sure on the one hand it works, and on the other hand, we can make a lot of it," he added.
“Mr.Stoffels said he was confident of achieving this milestone because J&J was working with the same team that had developed a candidate vaccine for SARS, which killed almost 800 people between 2002-2003.
“Though there has never before been a successful human vaccine for any virus belonging to the coronavirus family, Stoffels said he was confident of achieving this milestone because J&J was working with the same team that had developed a candidate vaccine for SARS, which killed almost 800 people between 2002-2003.”
31 March 2020
In Australia a 100-year-old TB vaccine is being tested as a weapon against coronavirus
Hardly had the ink dried on my last missive sent to try and assure the people of the Solomon Islands that the pace is increasing to try and find a vaccine that could stop coronavirus in its tracts, when I received more information.
Fully realising I must not create what could amount to false hopes, I would ask this latest information from Melbourne, Australia, one of our closet regional skilled friends and donor allies, be considered with the hopeful expectation that the trials said about to begin will prove positive and beneficial in the fight to stem the threat of coronaviris.
Let me share this with you.
“The bacillus Calmette-Guerin, or BCG, shot has been used widely for about 100 years, with a growing appreciation for its off-target benefits. Not only is it a common immunotherapy for early-stage bladder cancer, it also seems to train the body’s first line of immune defense to better fight infections.
“With an immunization specifically targeted against the pandemic-causing Covid-19 disease at least a year away, the World Health Organization says it’s important to know whether the BCG vaccine can reduce disease in those infected with the coronavirus, and is encouraging international groups to collaborate with a study led by Nigel Curtis, head of infectious diseases research, at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne.
“It can boost the immune system so that it defends better against a whole range of different infections, a whole range of different viruses and bacteria in a lot more generalized way," said Curtis, who’s also a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne and head of the infectious diseases unit at the city’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
“Hospital staff who volunteered to be part of a six-month trial in Australia involving 4,000 health-care workers will be randomly allocated to be vaccinated starting Monday against seasonal influenza and TB, or the flu shot only.
“A placebo vaccine won’t work as a control in this case because the BCG shot typically causes a localized skin reaction that leaves a scar, making it obvious which group received the TB vaccination.
“Similar research is going on in the Netherlands. Curtis, in an interview Saturday, said he’s in discussions with potential trial sites in other Australian cities as well as Boston.
“Although the inexpensive vaccine, which is used to immunize some 130 million newborns worldwide each year, may potentially offer protection to a broader group of people, the priority is on health workers who are at higher risk from being infected with coronavirus while caring for sick patients.
"We need to think of every possible way that we can protect health-care workers," Curtis said. "And there’s going to be a particular need to reduce the amount of time that our health-care workers are absent."
“Studies in infants in Africa have shown that the BCG vaccine offers protection against TB and other pediatric infections, probably by enhancing the body’s innate immune system -- specifically white blood cells that target non-specific pathogens before an antibody response has kicked in usually days later.
“Blood samples taken at the start and end of the trial will determine who was infected with the coronavirus, while participants will log any symptoms during the trial period. The study’s data monitoring committee will review the results after three months to look for any signs that the approach is working.
"We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think that this might work," Curtis said. "We cannot guarantee that this will work. And of course, the only way to find out is with our trial."
31 March 2020
Solomon Islands: Responding positively to the Covid 19 threat.
As a small child in war-time Britain I survived the almost nightly bombing raids near my home and witnessed the evacuation of children then my age from the major cities to country areas where bombing was not so intense and thought safer.
Now having become a senior citizen I am again caught up in a situation where curtailment of movement, and the right of assembly is greatly restricted and facing an enemy, this time an invisible one, but one that is deadly and no respecter of borders, faith, gender, age, status or nationality, threatening all our lives on a massive and global scale.
I refer, of course, to the onset of coronavirus, now rated a pandemic.
A pandemic that has spread rapidly to many countries and resulted in a great many deaths and a meltdown in the expected economic growth prospects of the most affected countries, to say nothing of job losses and the shutdown of organisations and businesses that has already impacted on the lives and prospects of millions of people.
The mass exodus of hundreds of Solomon Islanders fleeing from Honiara to their home provinces to escape the possible intrusion of coronavirus reaching the national capital, a story I wrote about yesterday, took my mind back to the early war years.
The Solomon Islands despite being a dependent country and without the medical resources and health services infrastructure to effectively deal with the deadly invasive virus, has put in place early effective measures to keep the virus out so far.
The Solomon Islands government already has in place a ban of international flights; quarantine centres and is awaiting test kits from the Chinese government which are promised to arrive by courier services this week or next week.
The Chinese government will also be sending protective clothing for use by front line personnel already working with professionalism and dedication in dealing with the unseen virus.
Although international flights bringing passengers to the Solomon Islands have been banned it appears that some cargo flights are being allowed.
During the early war years I remember the people of Britain remained strong and united against the then common threat, the same must be the case in the Solomon Islands today.
I believe the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has said much the same when praising the work of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the ‘front-line’ officers most vulnerable during their work.
I would add praise, as well, to the way the Solomon Islands media has reported on events at home during the ongoing crises and repeatedly stressed calls for the public not to panic and to heed the advice on the virus scare from the appropriate authority, namely the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.
In Papua New Guinea, the Prime Minister, James Marape, has revealed that his government is considering asking banks to defer loan repayments by three months to help local people and businesses.
The PNG Prime Minister also revealed plans by the government for an economic stimulus strategy due to the economic strain being faced by the country arising from Covid- 19.
Mr.Marape additionally mentioned his government was also working to utilise its business stimulus fund under the 2020 budget.
At home, in the Solomon Islands, the government is also considering putting together a stimulus package to relieve any serious impacts on the national economy arising from the Covid 19 pandemic.
The Prime Minister has said it is important that the country’s continues to function with minimal disruption.
In aligned but separate news, the local BRED Bank has said it will be assisting its customers with financial relief packages and all personal loan repayments will be deferred for six months (principal and interest) starting on 1st April 2020.
In one of the more recent moves, the government has ordered the closure of all schools as a precaution against coronavirus.
All students have been told to return to their villages or home and to remain with their parents or guardians until further notice is received from the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development.
Meanwhile the government has made a decision that Solomon Islanders studying in Fiji, PNG and the Philippines should remain in their respective host countries.
The Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr. J Rodgers said the biggest challenge faced by the government was the lack of quarantine spaces.
It is understood there are more than 2000 Solomon Islands students studying at various institutions in the region.
The Prime Minister, however, has assured students overseas that the Government will provide financial assistance to ensure their safety and comfort in their host countries amidst the current covid-19 global pandemic.
By way of a footnote to this piece, Ben Hocking writing in Your Life Choices an on- line publication said today that new COVID-19 testing kits that will deliver results in three to 15 minutes will be available in Australia by early April.
Mr. Hocking wrote - quote:
“The rapid diagnostic tests (RDT), which can be done with a small finger prick, require no laboratory equipment and do not require the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) equipment, one of the limiting factors in wide scale testing.
“The COVID-19 rapid test is a small disposable kit that uses a lateral flow colloidal gold-based detection method against viral specific IgG/IgM, delivering results in as little as three minutes without requiring any laboratory equipment.
“Most other available COVID-19 tests make use of PCR technology to detect viral RNA, which requires skilled technicians, takes several hours to produce a result and is limited in throughput by the availability of specific laboratory equipment.
“The new test’s easy usability makes it an attractive option for regional testing or for mobile/rapid screening centres.
“It consists of a small device that requires only 10 microlitres of patient serum or plasma, or 20 microlitres of whole blood, to be loaded into a receptacle, alongside an included buffer, which then migrate along the device to an area of immobilised viral S protein fragments.
“If virus specific IgG or IgM is present, conjugates are formed, which show up as a distinctive red band on the device.
“Results are typically seen within three to 15 minutes, depending on the quantity of IgG/IgM in the blood.”