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OpEd: Why The Arctic Ocean Must Be Quarantined

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#PARVATIFOUNDATION – Our world has come to an unprecedented pause in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Doctors call it a “novel” coronavirus, which means that it is new to our population and none of us has immunity to it. The cost in human lives and the widespread havoc it wreaks is consuming our news cycle. But what many of us don’t realize is that our world has a ticking time bomb of pathogens, all of which would be “novel” to us, if released. For the sake of our collective future, we must keep them under ice.

The Arctic Ocean does not only keep our planet cool through the albedo effect, when its white ice reflects the sun’s heat away from the planet. It keeps the local permafrost, with its payload of pathogens, frozen. Within the ice and permafrost of the Arctic region are bacteria and viruses that have been kept dormant for millennia. But the ice is melting. Sections of the Arctic Ocean are now 4C too hot. Up to 95% of the summer ice is gone. And scientists have proven that frozen Arctic viruses as old as 30,000 years can be reactivated.

The warning shot was fired in 2016, when an anthrax outbreak was traced to the frozen carcass of a reindeer that died over 75 years ago and thawed in the summer heat. It tore through a herd of 2000 reindeer, took the life of a 12-year-old-boy, and required the hospitalization of dozens of others. If this trend continues, infections from time immemorial could re-emerge to devastate a world no longer immune. 

MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary, is a medical mask that keeps everyone around the globe safe from these frozen pathogens. However, today, the Arctic Ocean is under unprecedented threat from melting and from exploitation that breaks up the ice and inhibits its regrowth: shipping, commercial fishing, oil exploration, and military activity. To protect our global immunity, we must put the Arctic Ocean in quarantine now. We are seeing today the deadly consequences of delay in clamping down to prevent disease.

MAPS declares the entire Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle an international peace park free from all forms of exploitation. Not only does it protect our planet’s air conditioner. Not only does it create a secure habitat for vulnerable species in a time that scientists say we must protect half the planet in order to prevent mass extinction. Not only does it safeguard 17 kinds of whales, who play an essential role in the ocean providing us half the oxygen we breathe. MAPS is urgently needed if we want to keep pandemics from becoming the new normal.

Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd says, “The Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary must continue to hold the massive reserves of restless methane within its quiet lonely bosom where sleeping viruses remain safely captive. From the dark boreal forests to the groaning of the shifting floes, there is the constant whispering reminder that this stark and desolate world is the key to our survival.”

The all-volunteer international charity Parvati Foundation originated MAPS and is in dialogue with all nation leaders to sign the MAPS Treaty immediately. This Treaty updates the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to ensure the Arctic Ocean is given the protection our whole world needs now more than ever. Two nations have already signed.

Parvati Foundation’s founder and CEO, the award-winning Canadian musician and author Parvati, says, “COVID-19 is an urgent reminder of the ways we are all interconnected. What each of us does affects everyone else. We must heed the wake-up call to protect our collective future with MAPS now.”

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

Health

[Excerpt] from an Mental Health & Well Being Open Consultation; United Kingdom

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May 19, 2022 – “Approximately 1 in 6 people aged 16 and over in England were identified as having a common mental health condition in 2014, according to survey data.  In 2020 to 2021, there were around half a million people with more severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. We have seen worrying trends for children and young people, with rates of probable mental health disorders in 6 to 16-year-olds rising from 11.6% in 2017 to 17.4% in 2021. More people than ever are receiving support for a mental health crisis and, tragically, the numbers of those ending their life through suicide have broadly increased over the past decade. We know that two-thirds of people who end their life by suicide are not in contact with NHS mental health services.

For many of us, the experience of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic – and its wide-ranging impacts on individuals, families, society and the economy – have brought these issues into sharper focus. Around 1 in 5 adults in Britain experienced some form of depression in the first 3 months of 2021, over double pre-pandemic figures.

These problems aren’t felt equally by all of us. We know there is an uneven distribution of mental ill-health across society. People facing social and economic disadvantage are at a much higher risk of developing mental health conditions. They are also more likely to receive care and support much later as their conditions escalate to crisis point. In 2020 to 2021, people living in the most deprived areas of England were twice as likely to be in contact with mental health services than those living in the least deprived areas.

There are also disparities by ethnicity, age, sexuality, and sex, and for people with learning disabilities, neurodiversity, and long-term physical health conditions. Risks of mental ill-health are also higher for people who are unemployed, people in problem debt, people who have experienced displacement, including refugees and asylum seekers, people who have experienced trauma as the result of violence or abuse, children in care and care leavers, people in contact with the criminal justice system (both victims and offenders), people who sleep rough or are homeless, people with substance misuse or gambling problems, people who live alone, and unpaid carers. People may belong to several disadvantaged groups at once, which is likely to compound the risk of experiencing mental ill-health. Addressing these disparities is critical to deliver the government’s ambition to level up the country and tackle disparities in health. We will set out more detail on our plans to reduce the gap in health outcomes between different places and communities across the country in our forthcoming health disparities white paper. See Annex A below on mental health disparities for more detail, which can be used as a point of reference when responding to our questions.

The impacts of mental ill-health on individuals, communities, society and the economy are substantial. Children and young people’s mental health conditions incur annual short-term costs estimated at £1.58 billion and annual long-term costs estimated at £2.35 billion.

Around 50% of mental health conditions are established by the time a child reaches the age of 14, and 75% by age 24.

Adults with mental health conditions are much more likely to be out of work, to have lower incomes, increased problems with their physical health, and increased involvement in the criminal justice system, both as victims and perpetrators.

The total annual cost of mental ill-health in the workplace to government has been estimated at between £24 billion and £27 billion. The overall annual loss to the economy has been estimated at between £70 billion and £100 billion. Losses are greater in places and among groups that experience mental health disparities.

Health is essential to a stable and functioning economy.

Our strong economic foundation going into the pandemic and the support provided throughout means we have made good economic progress.

However, we must continue to build back better as we begin to rebuild the economy. By improving mental health across the country, we can improve lives and livelihoods whilst reducing the demand on the NHS and pressure on other public services, and at the same time supporting economic growth.

A healthier and happier population is also more likely to access employment opportunities, which will reduce inactivity and improve productivity.

Reducing disparities in mental health between local areas is therefore critical to ensuring more equal access to opportunities and supporting the government’s Levelling Up agenda.”

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Africa

Natural Immunity less powerful against new Omicron strains in South Africa as Fifth Wave looms

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Africa, May 19, 2022 – South Africa is undergoing a massive covid surge with cases jumping by 50 percent in just 24 hours on May 5th. 9,757 new cases were reported on the 5th, 3,587 more positive results than the 6,170 recorded the day before.  For context, on April 5th, a month earlier 1538 new infections were recorded.

Since that 50 percent increase on May 5th daily new infections have consistently been above 2,900 reaching as high as 10,017 on May 11th. South Africa recorded over 86,000 new cases and over 550 deaths between May 5th and 16th in a time frame of less than 2 weeks.

Vaccine uptake in South Africa is below slightly above 50 percent with only 35 million fully vaccinated individuals in a population of more than 59 million.

Shabir Mahdi, a scientist leading vaccine trials in the country had suggested that natural immunity was what was helping with lower hospitalizations when omicron initially appeared in the country.

This latest increase however, is being driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub variants, which may be more adept at evading natural immunity.

In a study carried out by the Africa Health Research Institute blood samples from people infected with omicron but unvaccinated, when tested against BA.4 and BA.5, neutralizing antibodies which fight Covid were eight times lower. In people who contracted omicron and were vaccinated it was three times lower.

The study has not yet been peer reviewed but the researchers say, “The low absolute neutralization levels for BA.4 and BA.5, particularly in the unvaccinated group, are unlikely to protect well against symptomatic infection,”

“This may indicate that… BA.4 and BA.5 have potential to result in a new infection wave.”

That study was carried out back in January when the variants were first detected.

When the Omicron fueled fourth wave hit South Africa in 2021 cases in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe quickly followed. BA.4 and .5 have been detected in the US, Canada, China and parts of Europe.

On May 12th the BA.4 and.5 variants were both upgraded to variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Control.

The ECDC says variants of concern are ones for which, “clear evidence is available indicating a significant impact on transmissibility, severity and/or immunity that is likely to have an impact on the epidemiological situation in the EU/EEA.”

The possible spike in cases comes one year and five months since the first COVID jabs in the world were administered in the UK and the US,  one year and four months since the first vaccine was administered in the Turks and Caicos.

Though boosters have been available in many countries worldwide booster campaigns have not been as effective as initial vaccination campaigns. Without the stretched protection of boosters many more people may remain vulnerable to this building wave of BA.4 or BA.5 vaccines.

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Caribbean News

List of Demands for UK, presented by Overseas Territories at May 4-6 meetings

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#UnitedKingdom, May 19, 2022 – Speakers of the House from Overseas Territories in the Caribbean met with the UK House of Commons in the first ever Speaker-led conference to discuss issues relating to governance, climate and visibility in the House of Commons and provide the UK with an idea of what they say is necessary for OTs to survive.

The meeting held on May 4th to 6th was attended by Speakers from Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, the UK House of Commons and a representative from Gibraltar.

A communique released after the event made it clear that democracy was of utmost import to the small island states.

“We reaffirmed the central role played by legislatures in democratic life, our commitment to the principles of democracy in our legislatures, the sacredness of democracy and the need for partnership to sustain it. As our legislatures bring together all components of society, they are the cornerstones of democratic governance; they represent the wills and expressions of the people through scrutiny and democratic process,” it said.

Governance

In order to support the legislature the OTs requested that the UK government provide funding for them to have a ‘dedicated building in which to carry out its activities and duties’ as well as investment in the training of officials and sharing of best practices. The Speakers also requested that funding be provided for any constitutional reviews should the issue arise.

To ensure that the overseas territories have a voice in legislation in the UK that affects them the UK Speaker promised to explore opportunities for OTs to scrutinise these laws . Additionally the UK Speaker said the house of commons was willing to help facilitate parliamentary representation of the Overseas Territories at the UK Parliament if the territories decided they wanted to.

The Speakers requested that outside of this the UK provide detailed Impact Assessments for any bill that would affect them

Climate Change 

Aptly described as a climate emergency in the communique the speakers noted that while the OTs were bastions of nature  the volatility with which climate change was occurring would directly impact overseas territories first and worst.

“The Overseas Territories are custodians of internationally important habitats, which span the globe from the Antarctic to the Caribbean, the South Atlantic to the Pacific and the Indian Oceans with different geographical challenges…We recognise that the Overseas Territories have multiple levels of vulnerability including economic constraints and challenges of infrastructure which mean the impacts of the climate emergency can result in huge environmental disasters and economic impacts” it said.

Thus the countries called for long term, strategic action by the UK including dedicated and transparent funding to replace lost EU funding caused by Brexit. They also thanked the UK for their commitment to biodiversity.

The territories ended on a firm note emphasising their right to self-determination saying, “We reiterate our shared belief that the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, as enshrined in the UN Charter, applies to the peoples of the Overseas Territories.”

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