Do our genes decide whether or not we are vulnerable to severe cases of Covid-19? That’s the implication of new research, which found that people with a genetic mutation that increases the risk of dementia are at least twice as likely to suffer severe symptoms if they catch the coronavirus – regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with dementia. UK researchers analysed genetic data from 500,000 people and said the link they uncovered between the virus and the “e4” variant of the ApoE gene was “pretty bulletproof”.
Meanwhile, as the World Health Organization continues its search for effective coronavirus treatments, it has temporarily dropped trials of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which Donald Trump claims to have been taking as a precaution. The WHO paused the trials in light of a study published last week, which suggested taking the drug put patients at higher risk of heart problems and death.
Ending lockdown early could cause an ‘immediate second peak’
The world is still in the middle of the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, and countries that are lifting their lockdowns now risk an “immediate second peak” of infections, according to the WHO. Over Memorial Day weekend, with the US nearing 100,000 coronavirus deaths, crowds gathered at beaches in California and bars in Missouri – scenes that left Dr Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, “very concerned”.
Virginia governor Ralph Northam was criticised after failing to wear a mask during a beachfront stroll on Saturday, a day after the Democrat told Virginians that wearing a face covering “could literally save someone else’s life”.
Kentucky anti-lockdown protesters hung an effigy of their Democratic governor Andy Beshear from a tree on the grounds of the state capitol in Frankfort, an act criticised by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
America may never identify its “patient zero”, according to experts who are investigating the undetected early spread of the coronavirus in the US.
Trump spent the weekend golfing and insulting women
Donald Trump marked Memorial Day with a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, following two days of golfing at his club in nearby Sterling, Virginia – the president’s first round on a golf course in almost three months. He also devoted some of the holiday weekend to Twitter, retweeting personal attacks on Nancy Pelosi and Stacey Abrams for their looks or weight, and another that denounced Hillary Clinton as a “skank”.
In another series of tweets on Monday, Trump threatened to move the Republican national convention in August from Charlotte, North Carolina, to another state with less strict lockdown requirements. North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, was “still in shutdown mood,” the president complained, saying he wanted to be sure the convention arena would be packed with GOP supporters.
Joe Biden said it felt “good to be out of my house” as he laid a wreath at a Delaware veterans’ memorial on Monday. Trump’s 2020 challenger and his wife Dr Jill Biden both wore face masks for the trip.
The pandemic is a ‘disaster’ for children’s rights
A Dutch NGO has warned that the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will be “disastrous” for the human rights of the world’s children, making them more vulnerable to forced labour and underage marriage, plunging millions into extreme poverty and depriving them of health and education provisions. KidsRights chairman, Marc Dullaert, said the crisis “turns back the clock on years of progress made on the wellbeing of children”.
Elsewhere in the world…
… Mexico City has seen 8,000 more deaths so far this year than the four-year average, suggesting the country’s official coronavirus death toll of approximately 7,400 could be a vast underestimate.
… Brazil’s embattled president Jair Bolsonaro is facing further pressure after his political idol, Donald Trump, announced a ban on travel to the US from Brazil amid a surge of cases in the country.
… The Russian resort of Sochi will reopen its 65 seaside sanatoriums next week, as the popular tourist destination begins lifting its lockdown before the summer season.
In other news…
Ahmaud Arbery’s murder is being investigated as a possible hate crime, according to the Arbery family’s lawyer, who said on Monday that the FBI has launched a criminal inquiry into two district attorneys and the Georgia police department involved in the case.
The world’s health professionals have called for a “green recovery” from the Covid-19 crisis. Groups representing about half of the global medical workforce signed an open letter to G20 leaders urging them to prioritise public health and environmental concerns as they seek to rebuild the world economy.
“The end of an American-led system and the arrival of an Asian century … is now happening in front of our eyes,” the EU’s foreign affairs chief has said, urging European diplomats to devise “a more robust strategy” for dealing with China.
Americans are going back to space
Not since Nasa’s shuttle fleet retired in 2011 has the US possessed the capability to send its own astronauts into orbit. But on Wednesday, in partnership with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, two American astronauts will set off from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. Richard Luscombe reports on a historic launch.
Zach King: Tiktok’s first auteur
Film-maker Zach King scored his first viral hit with “Jedi Kittens” in 2011. Today, he’s the only non-teen in TikTok’s top five content creators. “When I graduated film school I thought I would be going off to direct and produce big blockbuster films,” he tells Alex Rayner. “Now I’m making movies for the little screen instead, and I love it.”
The man in the iron lung
When he was six, Paul Alexander was paralysed for life by polio. At 74, he’s one of the last people alive still using an iron lung. He sees parallels with his own experience in the Covid-19 pandemic, he tells Linda Rodriguez McRobbie. “It’s exactly the way it was, it’s almost freaky to me.”
Opinion: The office has been rendered obsolete
Before the coronavirus lockdown, just 5.2% of the US workforce worked from home. That number has probably increased tenfold, says Brianne Kimmel – and it ought to lead us to live healthier, happier lives.
A world where the office is obsolete is more positive, more communal and more productive. It’s one that reconnects us with our neighbors nearby and grounds us in personal principles rather than professional achievements.
Last Thing: Steer clear of cannibal rats
The CDC has warned that America’s city rats are displaying “unusual or aggressive” behaviour amid the lockdown, after two months during which they have been deprived of their standard diet of restaurant waste and street garbage. In New York, for example, there are increased reports of rat cannibalism and infanticide.
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