Ovidiu Dugulan/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 781,000 people worldwide.Over 22 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some national governments are hiding or downplaying the scope of their outbreaks. Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 5.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 171,823 deaths. Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:9:19 a.m.: Iran’s coronavirus death toll tops 20,000There were 168 additional coronavirus-related fatalities in Iran on Wednesday, bringing the country’s death toll past 20,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. It’s another grim milestone for the nation of 80 million people, which has the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the Middle East with more than 350,000 diagnosed cases.Nevertheless, Iran still plans to hold university entrance exams for over one million students. The Islamic Republic is also preparing for mass commemorations at the end of the month for the ninth and tenth days of Muharram, which marks the start of the Islamic New Year.7:15 a.m.: Pope warns against vaccine priority for the richPope Francis said Wednesday that a COVID-19 vaccine should be “for everyone” and not made a priority for the rich.“How sad it would be if for the COVID-19 vaccine priority is given to the richest,” Francis said during his weekly general audience at the Vatican, which was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.“It would be sad,” he added, “if the vaccine became property of such and such nation and not universal for everyone.”The pope noted how COVID-19 “has uncovered the plight of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world.”“The pandemic is a crisis. You don’t come out of it the same — either better or worse,” he said. “We must come out better.”6:34 a.m.: India records 1,092 more deathsIndia’s health ministry recorded 1,092 additional coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide toll to 52,889.The latest single-day rise in fatalities is lower than India’s record of 2,003 deaths reported on June 16.The country of 1.3 billion people has the world’s fourth-highest death toll from COVID-19, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico, according to a real-time tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.More than 2.7 million people in India have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began — the third-highest count in the world.5:39 a.m.: ‘We are not seeing a surge in community cases,’ says New Zealand PMNew Zealand reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, five of which were locally transmitted and are linked to a cluster of cases in the country’s most populous city.The national total now stands at 1,299 cases, 96 of which are active, according to data published on the health ministry’s website.New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the latest figures were “encouraging.”“At this stage, we are not seeing a surge in community cases,” Ardern said at a press conference Wednesday. “We have not seen any new cases outside of that identified Auckland cluster.”Health officials are still investigating how the outbreak in Auckland started after the country went 102 days without any local transmission. The new cluster of cases was discovered there last week, prompting authorities to impose a two-week lockdown in the region and to reschedule national elections.4:45 a.m.: France will require face masks in offices starting next monthFrance’s labor ministry announced Tuesday that face masks will be required in enclosed shared office spaces starting Sept. 1, citing an “upsurge” in COVID-19 cases.Mask will not be mandatory in individual offices so long as only one person is present, the ministry said.The wearing of face masks is already compulsory in public indoor spaces across France. Several cities, including Paris and Marseille, have imposed mask requirements in some outdoor areas, such as popular beaches.There were 2,238 new cases of COVID-19 identified in France on Tuesday, according to the health ministry, which is requiring on-the-spot tests for travelers coming from over a dozen nations with active virus circulation, including the United States. 3:50 a.m.: US reports more than 1,300 new deaths in a single dayThere were 44,813 new cases of COVID-19 identified in the United States on Tuesday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.Tuesday’s tally is well below the country’s record set on July 16, when 77,255 new cases were identified in a 24-hour reporting period.An additional 1,324 coronavirus-related deaths were also recorded Tuesday — a nearly threefold increase from the previous day but still under the record 2,666 new deaths that were reported on April 17.A total of 5,482,602 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and at least 171,823 of them have died, according to Johns Hopkins. The cases include people from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and other U.S. territories as well as repatriated citizens.By May 20, all U.S. states had begun lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The day-to-day increase in the country’s cases then hovered around 20,000 for a couple of weeks before shooting back up and crossing 70,000 for the first time in mid-July.While week-over-week comparisons show that the nationwide number of new cases has continued to decrease in recent weeks, the number of new deaths has increased, according to an internal memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, obtained by ABC News on Tuesday night. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Midway through Georgia’s legislative session there’s a buzz around the Georgia State Capitol in downtown Atlanta. Crowds of lawmakers, engaged citizens and lobbyists come in from across the state to help conduct the state’s business each day, and this week they were joined by 25 up-and-coming leaders in the agriculture and forestry industries. The current class of the University of Georgia’s Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry spent Thursday and Friday meeting with Georgia lawmakers and leaders in Atlanta. The trip, divvied between meetings with media representatives, legislators, agricultural advocates and state leaders like Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black and Gov. Nathan Deal, was designed to introduce them to the inner workings of state government. “We want participants to understand on a practical level the process of how things are done at the capitol, how policy is made and the role that they have to play in that process,” said Lauren Griffeth, director of the AGL program and a leadership specialist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Warnell School of Forest Resources. “This visit really debunks a lot of the myths about what happens here. You can have a negative opinion about lawmaking and policy making, but after engaging with law makers and seeing the process in action, you know that there are a lot of people here who are just trying to do the best thing for Georgia.” Organized by the CAES and the Warnell School, the purpose of AGL is to educate and empower Georgia’s agricultural leaders to become effective advocates for the largest economic drivers in Georgia — the state’s agricultural and forestry industries. Participants include foresters, farmers and nursery managers, as well as businessmen and businesswomen, representatives from agricultural advocacy groups and government agencies. With such diverse backgrounds, some participants are familiar with the process of talking to their elected officials. But, for others, this was their first trip to the capital and their first time watching a legislative session in process. “We were able to see the movers and shakers who make a difference as far as policy goes and who are responsible for ensuring that agriculture and conservation are successful and sustainable as we move into the future,” said AGL participant Ameila Dortch, a state public affairs specialist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Before their graduation in 2017, AGL’s current class will visit the Port of Savannah, row crop farms, UGA research plots, agritourism destinations and manufacturing hubs — all in an effort to gain a larger understanding of how the agriculture and natural resource industry impacts every sector of Georgia’s economy. The experiences are meant to build their knowledge and confidence, so they can be better leaders in their businesses, farms or agencies, and so they can more effectively advocate for the industry as a whole. That’s exactly what the group gained by visiting the capital, Dortch said. In 1993, community and state leaders across Georgia participated in the first leadership development program, formerly known as “Agri-Leaders.” Since then, 350 business leaders, farmers, foresters, educators and other stakeholders have completed the program to become more effective leaders and advocates. Graduates of AGL say they have experienced transformational leadership development that has positively impacted their professional capital and the agriculture and forestry industries. For more information about Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry, visit agl.caes.uga.edu.
Jun 6, 2007 (CIDRAP News) Fewer than half of physicians who responded to a survey at a recent conference in Europe said they thought an influenza pandemic was very likely in the next few years, according to a report in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. The researchers also asked if attendees had gathered a supply of the antiviral drug oseltamivir for personal or family use. Only 11 (7.9%) of 139 respondents said they had. By training level, only 1 of 27 infectious disease specialists reported having acquired the antiviral, but among those in infectious disease training, 5 of 24 (17.2%) had their own supply. The findings, published early online, revealed that only 72 (44.7%) of respondents took the view that an avian influenza pandemic is “almost inevitable” or “very likely” within “the next few years.” Seventy-three physicians, or 45.4%, thought a pandemic was “possible” in that time span, while 16 (9.9%) viewed such an event as unlikely or very unlikely. Sarah Long, MD, chief of infectious diseases at St Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, said she has spoken at the same Oxford conference before and knows the audience. “It’s a very educated group, with a lot of doctors in training,” she told CIDRAP News. The survey was an anonymous electronic poll conducted at a pediatric infectious disease course at Oxford University in England. The group included 161 physicians, mostly from Europe, with half from the United Kingdom. The poll was conducted by Nigel Curtis of the University of Melbourne (Australia) and Andrew Pollard of Oxford. Peter M. Sandman, PhD, a risk communication expert from Princeton, N.J., and a columnist for the CIDRAP Business Source Weekly Briefing, questioned the authors’ interpretation of their survey findings, saying they equated pandemic inevitability with pandemic imminence. “We are on solid ground when we say another flu pandemic is nearly inevitable. We are on extremely weak ground when we say that it’s probably imminent, and we are doing terrible science and terrible risk communication when we conflate the two claims,” he told CIDRAP News. Sandman said that in the face of a dramatic decline in media coverage of H5N1 avian flu, the finding that 45% of physicians thought a pandemic was inevitable or very likely represents a sustained concern, rather than complacency. “The data suggest, if anything, that European physicians share the hunch that H5N1 makes a pandemic likelier than usual,” he added. The authors concluded that the survey contains some mixed messages about physicians’ perceptions of pandemic risk. Despite widely publicized evidence that the world faces a serious threat of a pandemic, more than half of the respondents “did not believe the risk of an imminent influenza pandemic was more than a possibility,” the report says. However, a “significant minority” of the doctors believed the risk was high enough to warrant gathering their own antiviral supply, despite recommendations against personal stockpiling. Concerning antiviral stockpiling, Long said, “I’m pleased that such a small number [of survey respondents] have their own stockpile.” Antiviral supplies should be reserved for early responders and patients who need them, but other countries may have different views on physicians’ keeping their own supply, Long added. “If the perceived risk of an influenza pandemic observed in our survey is reflected in the wider medical community then it is perhaps not surprising that doctors are largely silent about this issue,” the authors write. They add that the reasons for physicians’ attitudes warrant further investigation if they are to help alert the world to the threat of a pandemic. Long wasn’t surprised by the survey results, but she said they may give a false impression that physicians don’t take the pandemic threat seriously, because qualifiers such as “possible” may not accurately gauge what people think. “Some might think ‘probably’ is associated with inevitable in the next 2 or 3 years,” she said. “Some of us are lumpers, and some of us are splitters.” “It is good news that many of Curtis and Pollard’s respondents still think a pandemic may well be imminent,” Sandman said. “But it would be better news if they realized that nobody has a clue whether a pandemic is imminent or not, and if they understood that preparedness doesn’t depend on whether a pandemic is imminent or not.” Curtis N, Pollard PJ. Physicians’ perception of pandemic influenza. Arch Dis Child 2007 May 10 (early online publication) [Abstract]
Swedish pension buffer fund AP1 recorded a 5.2% investment return for the first half of 2017, up from the 3.5% generated in the same period in 2016, according to interim data.The fund’s assets swelled to SEK322.9bn (€33.2bn) by the end of June, from SEK310.5bn at the end of December. It passed SEK3.7bn on to the Swedish pension system in the six-month period for the payment of state benefits.Johan Magnusson, AP1’s chief executive, said: “Naturally we are delighted to have helped strengthen the Swedish pension system for so many years, but the outlook for being able to [continue] delivering a high real return is more demanding. “The market conditions with long-term low interest rates are the primary factor that has increased returns and asset prices in such a way that it is realistic to expect a period of lower returns than normal for most classes of assets.” The pension fund said that it had been particularly active in its real estate investment activity in the reporting period, making several direct investments.These included increasing its holding of retail properties in Secore Fastigheter, the continued expansion of its investment in real estate company Willhem, as well as a new joint venture with Finnish pensions insurance company Elo.The Swedish fund said its return outperformed its strategic benchmark by 1.2 percentage points in the January-to-June period, which equated to SEK3.6bn.Magnusson said that as one of the referral bodies, AP1 would be familiarising itself with the details of the proposal for revised investment rules for the AP funds that the government recently presented.“Generally speaking, however, we welcome the proposal as it brings our current investment rules up to date,” he said.More modern, flexible rules could give AP1 a better foundation to achieve its return target in the long term, Magnusson said.
Sweden’s AP1 has invested SEK300m (€28.5m) in a private equity fund commited to aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Swedish private equity firm Summa Equity, the fund’s manager, said it had closed its second fund with investor commitments worth SEK6.5bn.The Stockholm-based company said the fund – Summa Equity II – would invest in Nordic and European companies working for solutions to global challenges.These included core elements of the SDGs: ageing demographics, movement of people, resource scarcity, population growth, climate change and technology disruption. Jan Rådberg, portfolio manager for private equity at AP1, said: “AP1’s overriding goal is to deliver the best possible return on pension savers’ money. We are convinced that one way of achieving this goal is by considering sustainability aspects in our investment decision process.“We seek investments that are characterised by sustainable value creation. We are therefore excited to invest in Summa Equity, and look forward to a close and fruitful cooperation.”Summa Equity said it was one of the first private equity companies to commit to the SDGs, aligning its investment strategy with the SDG framework.Reynir Indahl, managing partner of Summa Equity, said: “Some of the leading global investors are not only continuing to invest in us, but also increasing their investment in Fund II. This confirms that investors increasingly recognise that companies that incorporate solutions to environmental, social, and governance challenges will show stronger growth and returns, while having lower risk. They are more future-proof.”According to its 2018 annual report, AP1 had 5.5% of its SEK324bn portfolio invested in private equity or private equity funds.