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Techtools : Apple and Google want to turn your phone into a Covid-tracking machine

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Just when you were wondering why the world’s biggest tech companies weren’t doing more to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Apple and Google made a big announcement: They are joining forces to build an opt-in contact-tracing tool using Bluetooth technology that could help public health officials track the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The new tool brings with it not only hope for a quicker end to the pandemic, but also a host of privacy and security concerns.

The contact-tracing tool Apple and Google want to create would have your smartphone log when you’ve come into close contact with other people. If one of those people later reports Covid-19 symptoms to a public health authority, your phone would send you an alert. It works a bit like exchanging contact information with everyone you meet, except everything is designed to be anonymous and automatic.

Instead of contact info, your smartphone will periodically exchange anonymized tracing keys with nearby devices. Both devices maintain a list of the keys they’ve collected on a cloud server, and when one person reports an infection, they have the option of sending an alert to people they’ve recently been in contact with. That alert will share information for what those people should do next.

Those are the broad strokes of what’s sure to be a very complex public-health-focused surveillance system. It represents an unprecedented partnership between two competing tech giants, one that could forever change the way our devices talk to each other.

(Apple and Google say that the new contact-tracing tool will work between iPhones and Android phones.) The Bluetooth-based approach also draws on beacon technology that’s already in use in retail environments — and is already a concern for privacy advocates. Understanding the privacy and security implications of this new coronavirus contact-tracing technology will take time, but based on what we know now, the tool will start rolling out soon.

How it’s built

An important thing to understand about this system is that Apple and Google aren’t doing this by themselves. The two companies are building a set of tools, known as an application programming interface (API), that lets iOS and Android apps communicate with each other.

In the first phase of the tool’s release, which will start around mid-May, Google and Apple will release the APIs so that public health authorities can then build apps that will be publicly available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. People can choose to download those apps — and again, these apps will let iPhones and Android phones talk to each other.

The tool’s second phase will roll out over the next several months. Apple and Google plan to build contact-tracing functionality into the operating systems of the phones themselves, which might sound a little tricky for folks who worry about being tracked without their consent. As the New York Times points out, by building the tool directly into the operating system, Apple and Google effectively ensure that the contact-tracing system can run 24 hours a day, rather than only when a particular app is open.

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“This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities,” the companies said in a press release. “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.”

To protect users’ privacy, Apple and Google say they will build this system while keeping people’s identities anonymous throughout the process. That’s because the companies say they won’t build a database of who has Covid-19 and whom they’ve been in contact with. Instead, they’ll store that information in temporary, anonymous cryptographic keys that refresh every 15 minutes. Meanwhile, all participation in contact tracing will be opt-in, and both companies say they plan to release regular reports on the program’s progress.

Apple and Google released technical specifications and other details about the project in press releases on Friday morning. Though it will take some time to sift through these details, the tool’s announcement has definitely caught the attention of privacy experts, who broadly seem hopeful about the anonymized, decentralized nature of what Apple and Google are building.

How it works, in theory

Which brings us back to how the tool might actually work. In their announcement, Apple and Google mapped out a hypothetical scenario that does a good job of explaining the broad strokes of the contact-tracing process. It involves two people named Alice and Bob.

Alice and Bob meet each other for the first time while sitting on a bench for a brief conversation. Because they’ve installed the new Apple and Google technology, their phones exchange anonymized tracing keys (think of these as contact info files with a unique identifier instead of a person’s contact info). These keys indicate that Alice and Bob have been in contact, and because they’ve opted in to the Apple and Google contact tracing system, this exchanging of keys happens automatically.

A few days later, Bob finds out he’s positively diagnosed with Covid-19, and he updates an app with that information. With Bob’s consent, the app then sends an alert to everyone with whom Bob exchanged keys in the last 14 days. Alice is one of these folks, so she gets a notification that she’s been in contact with someone who has Covid-19. The notification also includes information about what Alice should do next, like go get tested herself.

As captivating as these drawings are, they represent a complex marriage of technology and design. That doesn’t mean that the contact-tracing system can’t work as advertised, but there are, so far, an unknown number of caveats that will come with its potential success.

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How privacy matters

In announcing this new initiative, both Apple and Google have stressed that users have to consent to participate in contact tracing, that the apps won’t collect personally identifiable information, and that people who test positive aren’t identified to anyone else. Still, organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have raised privacy concerns about such contact-tracing systems — which are already being widely used in other countries such as South Korea, China, and Singapore.

“To their credit, Apple and Google have announced an approach that appears to mitigate the worst privacy and centralization risks, but there is still room for improvement,” Jennifer Granick, ACLU surveillance and cybersecurity counsel, wrote in a public statement on Friday. “We will remain vigilant moving forward to make sure any contract tracing app remains voluntary and decentralized, and used only for public health purposes and only for the duration of this pandemic.”

And that’s another looming question: Just how long will Apple and Google leave these contact-tracing tools embedded in their mobile operating systems? After all, if this technology can be used to track who you’ve been in contact with, it seems possible that it could also be coopted for commercial purposes or even for government surveillance. As Bennett Cyphers, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said to Recode, “We don’t want anything to be built into the OS that’s going to be turned on forever.”

There are also questions about the accuracy of Bluetooth. Some have worried that Bluetooth could yield false positive matches, though it’s not yet clear exactly how Apple and Google will implement the proximity features of Bluetooth LE technology. Others have raised concerns about the location accuracy of contact-tracing mobile apps in general. Furthermore, for the tool to be most effective, a plurality of people must opt in to using it. The big test of this project’s success will be how widespread the adoption of this contact-tracing tool becomes, and if that will be enough to impact the course of this pandemic’s trajectory significantly.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about how the Apple-Google tool will work in practice. We’ll learn more in the weeks to come, after the companies roll out the APIs and public health authorities start releasing contact-tracing apps. But regardless of potential drawbacks, this tool represents one of the most ambitious private-public partnerships in recent history. It’s the beginning of a new future where tech companies are injecting their resources into a public health crisis, not only leveraging their power in a tremendous way but also raising questions about how this power will change society for years to come.

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Analysis

Anti-Vaxxers Highlight Political Polarization in North America

Introduction: The Growing Divide The rise of anti-vaccine sentiment in North America has exposed a deep-seated and concerning divide within society, one that transcends the realm of science and health. This ideological schism not only jeopardizes public health but also underscores the intensifying political polarization in the region. Examining this issue from an analytical perspective, […]

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anti-vaccine sentiment

Introduction: The Growing Divide

The rise of anti-vaccine sentiment in North America has exposed a deep-seated and concerning divide within society, one that transcends the realm of science and health. This ideological schism not only jeopardizes public health but also underscores the intensifying political polarization in the region. Examining this issue from an analytical perspective, it becomes evident that anti-vaxxers are symptomatic of broader political, social, and cultural divisions that demand serious attention.

I. The Genesis of Anti-Vaccine Sentiment

Anti-vaccine sentiment in North America is not a new phenomenon. It traces its origins to a complex interplay of factors, including historical vaccine hesitancy, mistrust in government institutions, and the proliferation of misinformation through digital media. Understanding the historical context of vaccination resistance is crucial to addressing the issue effectively.

II. The Role of Political Ideology

One of the striking aspects of the anti-vax movement is its close association with political ideology. Research indicates that vaccine hesitancy is not evenly distributed across the political spectrum. Conservatives, particularly in the United States, are more likely to express scepticism about vaccines. This alignment raises important questions about the intersection of political beliefs and public health.

III. The Influence of Media Ecosystems

The media landscape plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion, and anti-vaxxers have effectively utilized it to spread their message. The proliferation of echo chambers and algorithm-driven content on social media platforms has allowed misinformation to thrive. A critical analysis of the media’s role in perpetuating vaccine scepticism is essential.

IV. The Distrust of Institutions

The erosion of trust in public institutions, including healthcare agencies and government bodies, has contributed to the rise of anti-vaccine sentiment. Scepticism towards these entities has fostered a climate of uncertainty, which anti-vaxxers have skillfully exploited. A closer look at this crisis of confidence is necessary for finding long-term solutions.

V. The Influence of Celebrity Advocacy

Celebrities have emerged as influential figures in the anti-vax movement, leveraging their status and platform to amplify vaccine scepticism. The public’s susceptibility to celebrity endorsements and their impact on vaccine uptake must be analyzed to better understand how misinformation spreads.

VI. The Globalization of Vaccine Hesitancy

Anti-vax sentiment is not confined to North America. It is a global issue with varying degrees of impact in different regions. Understanding the transnational nature of this problem and how it interacts with local dynamics is essential for comprehensive solutions.

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VII. The Role of Education and Health Literacy

The quality of education and health literacy also play a significant role in vaccine hesitancy. Analyzing the disparities in access to quality education and healthcare, and their impact on vaccine attitudes, is crucial for developing targeted interventions.

VIII. The Challenge for Public Health

Public health officials and healthcare providers face a formidable challenge in countering anti-vax sentiment while respecting individual autonomy. Striking the right balance between public safety and personal choice requires careful consideration and a multifaceted approach.

IX. Bridging the Divide: A Way Forward

Addressing the political polarization and anti-vaccine sentiment in North America requires a multi-pronged approach. Strengthening trust in institutions, improving media literacy, promoting science-based education, and fostering open dialogues are essential steps toward finding common ground.

Conclusion: A Shared Responsibility

The issue of anti-vax sentiment is symptomatic of the deep political polarization in North America. Tackling this issue requires a collective effort from all sectors of society. While public health authorities play a vital role, individuals, communities, media outlets, and policymakers must come together to bridge this divide and protect public health. Failure to do so not only jeopardizes our ability to control infectious diseases but also weakens the social fabric that binds our diverse and vibrant continent together.

FAQs

1. Are anti-vaxxers the new pariahs?

The term “pariah” suggests an outcast or someone marginalized by society. While it may be too strong a term to universally label all anti-vaxxers, it’s undeniable that they face increased scrutiny and criticism due to their stance on vaccines. Anti-vaxxers are often met with scepticism and even ostracism by those who believe in the importance of vaccinations. The negative attention they receive stems from concerns about public health and their role in spreading misinformation. Still, it’s essential to engage with anti-vaxxers in a constructive manner to address their concerns rather than alienate them further.

2. Have conservatives always been anti-vaxxers?

No, conservatives have not always been anti-vaxxers. While there is a correlation between vaccine hesitancy and some conservative political ideologies in recent years, it’s important to avoid making sweeping generalizations. Vaccine hesitancy is a complex issue influenced by various factors, including historical context, misinformation, distrust in institutions, and individual beliefs. Conservative individuals, like those from other political backgrounds, have a diverse range of views on vaccines. Public health is a matter that should transcend political lines, and addressing vaccine hesitancy requires understanding its multifaceted causes.

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3. What are your thoughts on COVID anti-vaxxers?

COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, like vaccine hesitancy in general, is a cause for concern. Widespread vaccination is crucial for achieving herd immunity and effectively managing the pandemic. COVID-19 vaccines have undergone rigorous testing and have been proven safe and effective. Those who choose not to get vaccinated may put themselves and others at risk. It’s essential to approach COVID-19 anti-vaxxers with empathy and provide accurate information to address their concerns. Public health measures should be guided by science and designed to encourage vaccination rather than stigmatize those who are hesitant.

4. Anti-vaxxers, why are vaccines so bad?

Vaccines are not inherently “bad.” In fact, vaccines have been one of the most successful public health interventions in history, saving millions of lives by preventing serious diseases. The perception that vaccines are harmful often stems from misinformation, myths, and misconceptions spread by the anti-vax movement. It’s crucial to rely on scientific evidence and expert consensus, which overwhelmingly supports the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Any concerns about vaccines should be addressed through credible sources and open, informed dialogue with healthcare professionals.

5. What is your view on anti-vaxxers? Aren’t they cowardly and delusional?

Labelling anti-vaxxers as “cowardly” or “delusional” is not a constructive or empathetic approach. Anti-vaxxers are individuals who often have genuine concerns, albeit misguided ones. It’s essential to engage with them respectfully, listen to their apprehensions, and provide accurate information based on scientific evidence. Addressing vaccine hesitancy requires patience, education, and understanding. Name-calling or stigmatization only deepens the divide and hinders the efforts to build trust in vaccines and protect public health. Treating this issue with empathy and patience is more likely to lead to positive outcomes.

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Canada

Socio-Economic Implications of Canadian Border Closure With U.S

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After doing a  detailed analysis of the situation emerging from the closure of the border between    Canada and  US, it could be assessed that how damaging the decision is for the  Economy of Canada, and how beneficial, it will be for Canada, if it decides to re-open the Border which is closed over the fears of an outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic.

Since, some people think that given the maximum number of  Covid-19 cases and several deaths worldwide, the decision should stay as there are thousands of cases and deaths over covid-19 in the US. They deem it a good step to keep the border shut over the fears of  Novel Corona Virus with the US and Mexico

Though some sections consider the move as a right decision based on the covid0-19 statistics some experts term it very dangerous for  Canadian Economy as it will be affected as major industries such Tourism and Travel, Immigration affected very badly and economic cannot be put on hold for long as the numbers show that  75% to 80% Canadian exports go to the US while 30% to 40% US exports make their way in  Canada.

Thus the economy has been hit very badly due to this prolonged closure and shutdown of Economic activities will ultimately pose a grave threat to falling in Recession and Falling of  Reserves.

The Canadian authorities will have to swallow a hard pill to re-open the b border for essential and non-essential travel since both types of entries in the country contribute to the economy of the country.

At the moment, Canada has limited Covid-19 infections as compared to the US that has a massive number of infections in the world.

According to the Border Management Experts, this could be the only problem that might have prompted  Canadian Prime Minister to extend the closure for another month until some  SOP’s may be developed to ensure on border covid-19 Testing and Scanning so that preventive measures should be taken to keep the infection ratio low in Canada.

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 The World economies are affected very badly over the lockdowns announced to prevent Covid-19 outbreak and their economy has been under pressure already and the financial experts predict the worst type recession shortly. 

The people of both countries are of the view that the Prolonged border closure has caused an economic crisis and several Industries such as Hotel Industry, Travel Tours and Immigration, Food and beverages Industry, sports Industry, Education have been affected very badly and both Canada and the US cannot afford to sustain more jolts to their economy as economic activities have dropped to almost  80%  and ring the alarm bells for the leadership to decide immediately what their next plan will for the border.

Whether they will reopen it in phases or provide restrict access to essential travel such health workers, Airline Crew, Food and Goods services, People visiting ailing relatives and other related activities that fall within the purview of  “ essential”.

Although, the global Pandemic has created a situation like recession which is going from bad to worse each Passing day, yet in such scenario “keeping borders Closed” for trade and Business Opportunities and other travel, entertainment industry, will incur an irreparable loss to the Economy of both Canada and US as both countries have signed several Trade Agreements and US has been losing millions of Dollars in terms ” US Entry Waivers” and this is putting pressure on world’s biggest economy

Even it is a great blow to the Immigrants who wish to travel to neighbouring countries.

Both Canada and the United States are providing millions of dollars to people as relief package, Health and social security and other procurements such  Covid-19 testing kits and establishing new isolation and Quarantine centres as the infections surge in the US and worldwide.

In such circumstances halting economic activities are suicidal for  Canada and Virus affected the US  by keeping borders close for non-essential or optional purposes despite putting some curbs on essential travels such putting immigrants in 14 days quarantine and other immigration-related curbs. 

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The economists fear that what would be the consequences if the covid-19 vaccine was unavailable till the end of the year 2021, will they still keep the border closed, sounds like insensible and disastrous for all types Industries and Sectors including  Immigration and Border services. 

So, it would be prudent on the part of Both Canada and US  to think over the re-opening of their border so that people intending to visit their relatives on both sides of borders may have uninterrupted access and they must be facilities at the border checkpoints for covid-19 so that the fears of  Canadian authorities about getting soaring infections may be dispelled by assuring them safety measures at border crossing points.

Furthermore,  the fears cannot be treated with medicines but they could be soothed with confidence-building measures as the statistics show that  65% Canadian fear to get contracted by Virus while over 60% US people have a similar situation for contracting virus.

Despite all this, nobody knows that when these borders will reopen for general people apart from essential travel as most people are in the grip of fear and prefer staying at home as per WHO guidelines, that may be the issue that both Canadian and US Governments are lingering on the issue and prefer extending closure as both nations enjoy cordial relation and the closure is a mutual decision of both countries.

Recently, though some Tour industry groups recorded their protest and demanded to re-open the border. The decision could not be influenced until the general public presses their respective Governments to review the decision and take some bold steps to save their economies falling to prey to this pandemic.

Both Canada and the US  cannot afford to lose millions of Dollars in border trade and border revenues such as Entry waivers, customs etc to boost their economies.

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China

Global Socio-Economic Impact of Covid-19

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The Pandemic originating from Wuhan China has enveloped the whole world and the catastrophe caused by covid-19 is beyond speculation.  Schools, Colleges, Universities and business are closed for an indefinite period and the World has gone into self-isolation while the countries imposed lockdown in the world in the severely hit areas to contain the outbreak at massive scale.

The pandemic has affected all the countries especially China, France, Italy, Germany, US, UK, Iran, Egypt and third world countries i.e Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and  Afghanistan and some African countries.

There are some countries which are severely impacted socially and economically while some countries have sustained moderate impact owing to taking timely preventive measures as per circulated guidelines of WHO and Local Health ministries of respective Countries.

With President Donald  Trump clipping the wings of  UN’s apex health body by cutting the financial support amid the Global Pandemic, the catastrophe is expected to go from bad to worse as WHO  will experience the funds’ shortage that will ultimately contribute to a deep humanitarian crisis. 

The world posts a bleak picture already as all business activities have been suspended, the markets have been closed for an indefinite period, the stock markets crashed and the unemployment ratio suddenly jumped to historical high due to covid-19 Pandemic. Even OPEC members have decided to cut the oil production given the pandemic situation. 

The Global economy has been severely impacted by the shocks of the deadly virus that prompted companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Face book, Twitter to ask their employees to work from home to avoid contracting  Covid-19.

All the industries have been impacted badly that include entertainment, Sports, food franchise has completely shutdown creating panicking situation all around as once busiest streets and markets have started presenting deserted look.

This global economic warrants that if the early remedy to cure covid-19 is not discovered, the future will be dreadful to predict. The mighty economies such as China, the US, France, Italy, UK, Germany has been seriously impacted by this deadly virus. The situation is haunting the people around the world, bringing misery of greater proportion as compared to Word War II, Ebola, SARS, MERS, Plage and Yaws.

The Daily Wage workers, Private workers, drivers, hawkers, shop keepers and thousands of similar workers have lost their jobs and the opportunity to earn their livelihood. The companies have preferred work from home option for their employees to limit the outbreak and avoid contracting covid-19.

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It is alarming that hundreds of workers have filed as unemployed. The lengthy lockdowns have created serious humanitarian and economic crises and the experts are of the view that the circumstances are fast moving towards the global recessions and may take a long time to recover from this catastrophe.

Though China has been able to contain Covid-19 and even lifted restrictions on outgoing flights with some strict SOPs, yet the Covid 19 seems to be an invisible predator waiting for its prey regardless of any region. The virus has impacted all the zones i.e with the cooler, hotter or moderate atmosphere.

The only solution to fight this pandemic is social distancing, maintaining the hygienic environment and avoiding crowdy spaces. The Governments around the world have imposed strict lockdowns and the frontline fighters (Health workers) around the world doing a marvellous job to protect their fellowmen even at the cost of falling prey to this deadly virus.

While fighting this pandemic. Many health workers have been tested positive. Even, some frontline soldiers lost their fight to this pandemic and laid down their lives to secure the future of their respective country.

Education is being imparted through digital platforms as online education is increasing for students. Though students are facing some issues such as the connectivity, Sound quality, Video Quality, yet in this emergency, the Schools, Colleges, Universities and other online course websites are striving to provide some light of  Knowledge in these difficult times.

The booming industries such as restaurants, hotels, motels and  Aviation have been closed for an indefinite period.

Coronavirus Pandemic has brought catastrophe in the world impacting all the industries and has caused economic slowdown throughout the world in all the major continents who are thickly populated such as Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa.

Unfortunately, despite 151598 deaths worldwide and over 2.21 Million confirmed cases covid-19, all eyes are hooked towards the discovery of vaccine to treat the patients and save their lives. At the moment, only plasma therapy is being conducted and some common medicines are being used such as cough, flu fever-related medicine.

Though human trials have been started by some  Pharmaceutical companies, the experts are of the view that it may take one and half year for the vaccine to be available in the market. It is also estimated to be the costliest vaccine ever keeping in view its global implications and rapid speed of pandemic spread in the world.

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It is estimated that Europe, Asia, Middle East to suffer a lot especially, Italy, France, UK, Iran and US as the ratio of deaths is higher than other countries especially US where average deaths per days have surpassed all other nations that prompted Trump to cut funding to world health Organization accusing it of mishandling the pandemic and delayed response to mitigate its implication while  WHO head has refuted the allegations.

The covid-19 has also impacted Sports, News & Media, Entertainment and Services Industries to the extent that. All the sporting events have been suspended, series and Leagues have been rescheduled and big events such as  PSL, IPL, FIFA  World Cup, Olympics Games and others have been completely cancelled raising concerns among the players. Even the players are facing the trauma having travel history to the epicentre of Covid-19 Pandemic and tested positive.

 The Entertainment industry has been heavily impacted as all the dramas, Films and comedy shooting and recording has been postponed till indefinite period and all the events including concerts have cancelled due to covid-19 and actors have lost the source of living.

The services industry especially the skilled and non-skilled have been subjected to starvation as all the roadside small business such as Hair Cutting Salons, Cobblers, Gold and blacksmith shops, Electricians, Booksellers, daily wages workers and Masons have lost their living owing to lockdowns globally.

 Finally, the Print and Electronic  Media are partially impacted though they are a very vulnerable community as they have been busy in coverage of the pandemic around the world and are prone to contracting the deadly virus due to close contact with Patients at Quarantine Centres and the Health specialists working at the hospital and temporary health centres specially set up for an emergency.

The Print Media has been hit hard as people consider it risky to read a Print copy of newspapers over covid-19 fears and prefer paper or online edition of the newspapers. Hence, such a trend has impacted the Newspaper  Sales badly.

On the other hand, electronic media such as News Channels, Radio and Digital Media such as Websites, YouTube are grabbing people’ attention.

The Social Media is also buzzing with Covid-19 updates though  Social Media and Silicon Valley companies have asked their employees to work from home and follow the preventive measures these include Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and Search Giant  Google.

The world should be united to fight this global pandemic that is haunting the world. The US should release funds to help WHO work effectively for global health and expedite the process of vaccine discovery as each day will deprive the near and dear ones of the families around the world. With collaborative efforts, the world can win this war against the pandemic.

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