In India, 70 lakh people have recovered from COVID infection

With 54, 366 fresh cases, India on Friday registered a total of 77.61 lakh cases of novel coronavirus

New Delhi: With 54, 366 fresh cases, India on Friday registered a total of 77.61 lakh cases of novel coronavirus. In the last 24 hours 690 new deaths were recorded taking the country’s total death tally to 1.17 lakh.

According to the union health ministry, India has leaped across a significant milestone in its fight against COVID-19 as active caseload of the country has fallen below 7 lakh for the first time after two months. The active caseload was below the 7 lakh mark last on August 22.


The total positive cases of the country are 6.95 lakh and they comprise 8.96 per cent of the total cases. “With a high number of COVID-19 patients recovering every day along with a steadily falling and sustained low mortality rate, India’s trend of registering decreasing active cases continues,” health ministry officials said.

India is also reporting a high number of recoveries. The total recovered cases are nearly 70  lakhs and the difference between active and recovered cases is consistently increasing. It stands at 62.53 lakh now. The recovered cases are nearly 10 times more than the active cases, officials said adding 73,979 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours whereas the new confirmed cases are 54,366. The national Recovery Rate has further progressed to 89.53 per cent. A constant drop in daily death figures too has been noticed and the Case Fatality Rate as on date is 1.51% and 24 States/UTs have less than 20,000 active cases.


India has also crossed the 10 crore-mark in conducting tests for detection of COVID-19 with 14,42,722 tests being done in a span of 24 hours. Officials said high level of comprehensive testing on a sustained basis has also resulted in bringing down the national positivity rate. “This indicates that the rate of spread of the infection is being effectively contained. The cumulative positivity rate continues to decline as the total tests cross 10 crore,” the ministry said. The national COVID-19 positivity rate is 7.75 per cent.

Fifteen states and union territories, including Maharashtra, Kerala, Chandigarh, Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Delhi, are exhibiting higher COVID-19 positivity rate compared to the national figure, indicting the need for higher levels of comprehensive testing in these regions, the ministry said.


However, Health Economist Rijo M. John highlighted that of the 10 crore tests conducted by India so far, only 4.68 crores are RT-PCR. “The Test Positivity Rate on 7 day average has been declining consistently and is now at 5.2%, at the level it was on May 17. Growth of tests have been slightly above cases for a while and 7 day average daily testing has been at 11.2 lakhs. However, there are discrepancies between total tests reported by the states and ICMR. For the past few days, the 7 day average of daily number of tests reported by ICMR has been close to 2 lakhs more than those reported by the states combined. These needs to be reconciled. Most states do not report results of testing by test types separately. Many are increasingly relying on antigen tests without disclosing if false negatives are being re-tested sufficiently. There is a severe lack of transparency in reporting of some key variables by many,” John said.


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Police use pepper spray, arrest 16 people as scuffles erupt at Melbourne anti-lockdown rally

Police have arrested 16 anti-lockdown protesters and handed out 61 fines during an hours-long stand-off with hundreds rallying against the Victoria’s coronavirus restrictions.

The “Freedom Day” protest started at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance at 2pm on Friday, with hundreds shouting “free Victoria” and for Premier Daniel Andrews to be sacked.

Scuffles with police erupted at the shrine, with an AAP photographer reporting that officers used pepper spray on some demonstrators.

Protesters moved on to St Kilda Road and went in different directions – some clashing with police on horseback at the Arts Centre and others ending up surrounded by officers at Kings Way in South Melbourne.

In a statement Friday evening, Victoria Police said it was “extremely disappointed” in the behaviour of a large number of protesters who disregarded the health and safety of the community.

“Police are investigating an incident where several police horses were hit in the face with a flagpole by a man,” the statement said.

“Thankfully the horses were not injured during the assaults.

“An incident where a police van was damaged after being pelted by items thrown by protesters will also be investigated.”

Protesters are seen during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne on 23 October.


Three officers were injured during the protest and one was taken to hospital.

“Victoria Police will not accept the selfish behaviour of those who continue to breach the CHO directions,” the statement said.

The 61 penalty notices issued relate to breaches of health directions, such as not wearing a mask, failing to meet public gathering limits and travelling more than 25km from home, assaulting police and failing to state name and address.

An AAP photographer on the scene saw protesters damage a police car, steal a policeman’s hat and let off a flare.

Some protesters wore t-shirts with the slogan “Let Victoria work”, in reference to the shutdowns which remain in force across most industries.

An anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne has continued for hours

An anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne has continued for hours


Many held placards with slogans such as “Media is the virus”, “COVID-19 is a scam” and “Wake up Aussies”.

While lockdown rules have been eased recently, Melburnians can still travel no more than 25km from their homes, and are not permitted to have visitors to their home, unless for care-giving.

People are allowed to gather in groups of no more than 10 people from two households, and must wear masks and socially distance.

There have been regular protests over the last few months but Friday’s rally was the most significant in size and duration.

Police used pepper spray amid scuffles with demonstrators at an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne.

Police used pepper spray amid scuffles with demonstrators at an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne.


Mr Andrews urged protesters on Friday morning not to attend the Shrine because it was a sacred place for Victorians.

“Protests don’t work against this virus and potentially put at risk all the good work we are doing,” he said.

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien, who is an advocate for easing of restrictions faster than the Victorian government has allowed, urged protesters not to break public health rules.

And he said the Shrine was not the place to protest because it was a place of “reverence” and “sacrifice”.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW, VictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.

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Support Active People, Healthy Nation by Empowering Youth to Get Moving

The Active People, Healthy Nation initiative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a mission of helping 27 million Americans become physically active and “creating an active America, together.”

There are three distinct elements involved in reaching that 27 million milestone: (1) inspiring inactive individuals to perform at least one 10-minute session of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, (2) motivating people who are already somewhat active to perform enough physical activity to meet the minimum aerobic physical activity guidelines and (3) empowering youth to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day.

The third of those three elements addresses an age group that has seen consistent declines in physical activity participation in recent decades, for various reasons. In most of the U.S., youth have been negatively impacted by the decline in physical-activity requirements in schools. Around the globe, this is coupled with an increase in sedentary recreational activities like viewing social media and streaming video, computer gaming, and watching television.  

Youth can achieve substantial health benefits by performing bouts of moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity that add up to 60 minutes or more each day. This should include cardiorespiratory activities as well as age-appropriate muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises. Bone-strengthening activities are especially critical for children and young adolescents, because the greatest gains in bone mass occur during the period just before and during puberty.

Behaviors established at a young age have a high probability of persisting into adulthood. Of course, this cuts both ways. While it’s true that physically inactive youth are likely to remain inactive into adulthood, the opposite is also true, as active youth are likely to remain active as they get older. This is why it’s so important for adults—including health coaches and exercise professionals, as well as parents and other caregivers—to model enjoyable and consistent physical activity.

Inspiring children to be more active requires understanding the child and their interests and motivations. While recreational and competitive sports are a great way to provide opportunities to be active, for some children, especially those whose motor skills are less developed or who have overweight or obesity, the competitive atmosphere can be defeating. You can have a positive impact on a child’s perception of exercise by ensuring that activities are fun for the child and appeal to their unique interests. For example, a child interested in science may enjoy a hike to collect flower or rock specimens, while a child with a high sense of adventure may enjoy bouldering or rock climbing. Activities like dancing, bouncing on a trampoline and riding a bike or skateboard are all fun ways to increase cardiorespiratory activity.

Encourage children to try new modalities and experiment as they look for activities they find pleasurable. It is important that children understand that exercise involves simply moving the body and that everyone can enjoy movement.

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Alice Springs motorcyclist dies in hospital a week after hit-and-run, five people to face upgraded charges

A motorcyclist struck in an alleged hit-and-run incident in Alice Springs last week has died in hospital after his life support was turned off.

NT Police confirmed the man’s death on Thursday afternoon, just under a week since the crash in the Alice Springs CBD last Thursday night.

Police said charges would be upgraded for five teenagers arrested over the incident.

The man has been identified on social media as 47-year-old Alice Springs disability support worker Shane Powell.

Family friend Wayne Thompson said on Thursday the decision had been made to remove Mr Powell’s life support.

“The doctors who have fought tirelessly can do no more and Shane’s injuries to the brain are just too great,” Mr Thompson said in a Facebook post.

He said Mr Powell was riding home from work when the crash happened.

“Shane really loved his work and was at the top of his game,” he said.

Five people have been arrested and charged over the crash which happened last Thursday night.(ABC News: Mitchell Abram)

Police allege the five people charged were all occupants of the car that hit Mr Powell at the intersection of Stott Terrace and Telegraph Terrace.

Two 19-year-old men and three youths — aged 16, 15 and 13 — face charges of hit-and-run causing serious harm and failing to rescue or provide help.

The 15-year-old boy has also been charged with entering an intersection against a red light.

Police said the younger three, who are all on bail, are due to face court tomorrow.

They said one 19-year-old had been remanded in custody until November 3 and the other, who is on bail, would face court at a later date.

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Andrews tried to explain ‘1000 people at a racetrack was safer than 10 at a funeral’


Several Killed in Stampede for Pakistan Visas in Jalalabad

More than a dozen people were killed in a stampede in Jalalabad on October 21 as thousands of Afghanis seeking Pakistan visas crowded into a stadium. Most of those killed were women, Tolo News said, while a number of people were also injured. Applicants had been requested to gather at the stadium, five kilometers away from Pakistan’s consulate, where they would receive tokens needed for their applications. Thousands of people showed up, leading to the stampede, according to local reports. Pakistan only began issuing visas last week, after an eight-month interruption due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Pakistan embassy in Kabul expressed “deep grief and sadness” at the deaths. Credit: Pajhwok Afghan News via Storyful

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Victorian government backflips on move allowing 1,250 people at Cox Plate horse race after heavy backlash

The Victorian government has backflipped on a decision to allow more than a thousand people to be at the 100th running of Melbourne’s Cox Plate horse race this weekend following a wave of backlash.

On Tuesday afternoon, the state government announced 500 owners and connections would be able to attend Moonee Valley for both Friday night’s Manikato Stakes and Saturday’s Cox Plate, in addition to the jockeys, operations staff, media and security officials.

A maximum of 1,250 people were to be allowed on the course at any one time.

Racing Minister Martin Pakula said the meetings would feature a range of COVID-safe arrangements including caps on numbers, staggered arrivals and temperature checks.

The announcement prompted a surge of criticism on social media, most of which cited Victoria’s harsher coronavirus restrictions on funerals and family gatherings.

But late on Tuesday night, Mr Pakula said he had spoken to the Moonee Valley Racing Club and the decision had been reversed.

“Owners won’t return to the race track until we reach the next stage of the easing of restrictions. I apologise for any upset that has been caused,” he tweeted.

“The decision to allow some owners on course for the 100th Cox Plate was motivated only by respect for the occasion & a desire to mark a small step on the path to reopening.

“It was a mistake, given that other restrictions remain in place, and we’ve heard the community feedback.”

Time limits were to be placed on how long owners could remain on course, food and beverage services were to be takeaway only, and owners and connections were to be kept away from mounting yards and horse stalls and required to social distance.

Prior to the government’s backflip, Moonee Valley Racing Club chief executive Michael Browell said he was delighted to have some spectators on course for the milestone race.

“The 100th running of the Ladbrokes Cox Plate is a significant milestone in our club’s history and to have owners on course to enjoy the race is a great result,” he said in a statement.

“While it is disappointing that we can’t welcome our members and the racing public this year, we look forward to putting on a great carnival that they will enjoy from their living rooms.”

Additional reporting by AAP.

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Does mining employ more Indigenous people than any industry?

Matt Canavan says mining employs Indigenous people at a greater rate than any other industry. Is he correct?

(Image: RMIT ABC Fact Check)

The claim

The recent destruction of Indigenous heritage sites in the western Pilbara has brought the relationship between mining giants and traditional landowners into sharp focus, with a Senate inquiry under way to examine the actions of mining corporations.

Following a public outcry over Rio Tinto detonating explosives near sites dating back more than 46,000 years, BHP announced that it would not disturb its sites without further consultation with the Banjima people, the traditional landowners at its South Flank mine.

Liberal National Party Senator Matt Canavan immediately took to Twitter, arguing the Banjima people wanted the mine to proceed in order to create jobs in the area.

“This is the problem with a witch hunt,” he tweeted. “It always ends in an over-reaction. Mining employs Indigenous people at a greater rate than any other industry. You don’t help Indigenous people by stopping mining.”

As pressure mounts and former West Australian premier Colin Barnett calls for a royal commission into the destruction, RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates: does the mining industry hire Indigenous people at the greatest rate?

The verdict

Canavan is correct, but his claim does not paint a complete picture of Indigenous employment.

While the mining industry, as a proportion of its workforce, employs Indigenous people at the highest rate, it’s important to note that many more Indigenous Australians work in other sectors of the economy.

According to census data, Indigenous Australians account for 3.8% of the mining workforce, well above the average of 1.7% for all industries.

The next highest workforce representations of Indigenous people are in public administration (2.8%) and in a category called “other services” (2.1%).

However, while mining employs 6,652 Indigenous Australians, nearly four times that number work in healthcare and social assistance (26,178).

Almost 20,000 Indigenous people also work in public administration and safety, and 17,176 in education and training.

Although the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) cautions that the census may undercount the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, experts said it was still the most reliable means of assessing Indigenous employment.

One expert also noted that although mining is a major employer of Indigenous people, increasing automation in the industry posed a greater risk to Indigenous jobs than stricter rules around protecting cultural heritage.

What the figures show

Census data is the most reliable measure for testing Canavan’s claim, experts spoken to by Fact Check said.

This is despite the fact that the data may undercount the Indigenous population by as much as 17.5%, according to the ABS, which collects and analyses the data.

Michael Dockery, an associate professor in the School of Economics and Finance at Curtin Business School, told Fact Check that “as Indigenous people represent only around 3% of the population, most sample-based surveys don’t have enough Indigenous respondents to make accurate inferences”.

Francis Markham, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research told Fact Check that in the absence of alternative data, relying on percentages broadly allows for any undercounting because “it assumes that somebody who is not counted is equally as likely to be hired across a range of industries as someone who is counted”.

The census data shows that Indigenous Australians account for 3.8% of the mining workforce, well above the national average of 1.7%.

In percentage terms, the next highest workforce representations of Indigenous people were in public administration (2.8%) and a category known as “other services” that includes industries such as repair and maintenance and professional services (2.1%).

However, when Indigenous employment is measured in absolute numbers, the picture is very different because mining employs relatively few people overall.

In 2016, the mining sector employed around 177,640 people, of whom 6,652 were Indigenous.

By contrast, industries such as healthcare and social assistance are much bigger employers: a total of 1,351,018 people were employed, of whom 26,178 were Indigenous.

Likewise, construction employed 911,058 people, including 16,160 Indigenous workers.

Why the controversy?

Rio Tinto’s destruction of the two Juukan rock shelters in May was widely criticised as being irresponsible. Shareholders were among those who condemned the blast, triggering a board review of its cultural heritage management and resulting in an executive purge, including Jean-Sébastien Jacques, who stepped down as chief executive.

The blast has raised questions over the adequacy of legal protections for Indigenous heritage sites.

John Ashburton, chair of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama (PKK) Land Committee, which represents the area’s traditional land owners, said the loss was devastating.

“Our people are deeply troubled and saddened by the destruction of these rock shelters and are grieving the loss of connection to our ancestors as well as our land,” he said.

Ashburton said the PKK recognised they had a long history with Rio Tinto but expressed frustration that Section 18 of the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act prevented new information, such as the historical significance of the rock shelters, from being taken into consideration.

“We recognise that Rio Tinto has complied with its legal obligations, but we are gravely concerned at the inflexibility of the regulatory system,” he said.

The Banjima Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the traditional landowners at BHP’s South Flank mine, also expressed concern about the ability of WA’s Aboriginal Heritage Act to be able to protect culturally significant sites.

The corporation told the Senate inquiry that agreements had “historically been negotiated in an environment of an extreme imbalance of power”.

BHP has established a Heritage Advisory Council to inform future decisions regarding its South Flank mine.

Former WA premier Colin Barnett, whose government granted the right for the sites to be blasted, said that a Senate inquiry investigating the destruction was insufficient, and that Rio Tinto and successive governments had both failed to meet their responsibilities to protect Indigenous heritage sites.

The bigger picture

While the resources sector accounts for some of Australia’s top exports, its contribution to employment is often misconstrued.

ANU’s Dr Markham said: “The mining industry isn”t the biggest employer of Indigenous people — this line is often misinterpreted.”

Curtin University’s Dr Dockery said that the main contribution from mining to Australia’s economy was not related to jobs.

“Mining is critical to the Australian economy in terms of output and particularly in terms of the value of exports, but because it is extremely capital-intensive, it has a relatively small share of employment that belies its economic importance,” he said.

Despite the strength of the economy pre-pandemic, and continuing strength of mining exports, Indigenous unemployment overall remains high. The government’s 2020 Closing the Gap report found that the program had fallen short in reaching the majority of its targets, including for employment.

“The target to halve the gap in employment outcomes within a decade was not met,” it said.

It found that in 2018, the Indigenous employment rate was around 49% compared with around 75% for non-Indigenous Australians.

Future prospects

Queensland University emeritus professor David Brereton, a resources sector expert, told Fact Check more research was needed at a national level to understand how jobs were being distributed.

Dr Bereton said there had been a concerted effort by mining companies to hire and retain Indigenous staff. But localised research conducted at the former Century mine in the Gulf of Carpentaria had shown that not all employment figures were equal in value.

“Some of the companies that were improving their Indigenous employment rates were often just recycling from the pool of people who were already experienced.”

“The real measure of impact and benefit is whether you are giving jobs to people that hadn’t been in the mainstream labour market — and whether they stay in work after,” he said.

Dr Bereton said this metric was critical to understanding the true value of employment but was rarely tested.

He also flagged a potential risk that automation posed to the future employment prospects of Indigenous people in the mining sector — especially when it came to iron ore.

“Of all the factors that are going to make it more challenging in the future, stricter rules on cultural heritage would be down the list,” he said. “It’s more likely to be factors around automation and remote operation.”

report tabled in 2018 by UQ’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, identified Indigenous people as being the most vulnerable to a decline in the need for entry-level and semi-skilled jobs in the sector, especially in remote areas where fewer alternative employment options were available.

Regional and gender dimensions

Indigenous employment in the mining sector is unequally distributed along gender lines and in terms of proximity to major cities.

Consistent with the non-Indigenous workforce, gender plays a significant role in both the likelihood of being employed and what types of work are being undertaken.

A report produced by the Australian National University, based on census data, found that around 80% of the Indigenous workforce in the mining sector was male.

Another recent study, published by the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, found that disability, education and the history of incarceration were among the most important factors impacting labour force participation, but that some of these disproportionately affected women.

“The labour supply associations with education and incarceration are greater for females than males,” the study noted.

More broadly, the census data showed Indigenous females were less likely to be employed than males overall, with 44% of males employed compared with 41% of females.

Indigenous people living in remote areas were much more likely to be working in mining, accounting for 23.1% of the Indigenous workforce. In regional areas, it accounted for 6.7% and in major cities, 3.7%.

Principal researcher: Sonam Thomas


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COVID-19 restrictions lead to ‘stressful’ delays for people with furnace problems – Calgary

Dmitri Bakanov was in a race against the weather Monday, as he worked on an unexpected furnace repair job at a client’s home in northwest Calgary.

“It’s a no-heat situation, an emergency,” Bakanov said. “They have been in a motel for a couple of days.”

The repair comes as Bakanov, the owner of Heatmaster Services, faces unusual obstacles: shortages of furnaces and parts, a situation brought on by COVID-19 distancing restrictions at factories in the U.S.

Read more:
COVID-19 case forces closure of Calgary school amid provincial staffing ‘crisis’

“They used to work shoulder-to-shoulder, but now due to the COVID, they have to work six-feet apart, so that put a pause on everything.

“I’ve been in this industry well over 16 years and this is the first time we are enduring a shortage of so much product. It’s stressful.”

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It’s also tough for a Calgary man who finds himself waiting for a new furnace, after an inspection showed he needs one, a job that’s scheduled for later this week.

“I’ve got two fireplaces, so I can use those and I’ve got some space heaters, but it will be pretty nerve-wracking until the new furnace gets put in,” Todd White said.

“It’s a little frustrating but considering what we’re going through right now, I’m at least happy that I can get something.”

Read more:
Alberta reports 898 new cases of COVID-19, 4 additional deaths since Friday

The delays may go on for a while, as furnace factories try to find ways to speed up production.

“Now they’re coming back, but there’s such a big demand, they’re not keeping up,” Bakanov said.

Facing many calls from customers with no heat, Bakanov said he’s doing his best to help them.

“We’ll put space heaters around the house to keep them warm for a week or two,” Bakanov said.

“Whatever it may be until we get something more solid and get (the job done) and keep our customers warm during these cold times in Calgary.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Why Do People Hire a Hit Man?

Criminologists have a name for a person who hires a hit man: instigator. They also confirm what news stories suggest: Lots of instigators get caught because they don’t know what they’re doing. After all, most of us don’t socialize with professional killers. The average person therefore looks to acquaintances or neighbors for referrals, or finds his way to criminal bottom-feeders who are likely to be inept and inexperienced. The former may be inclined to call law enforcement, while the latter may lose their nerve or botch the job. Which helps explain why so many murders for hire don’t produce any dead bodies.

In 2003, the Australian Institute of Criminology published an analysis of 163 contract-killing cases (some completed, others merely attempted) in Australia; it remains one of the most significant studies ever conducted of the subject. The authors determined that 2 percent of all murders in Australia were contract killings and that contracts were, in some cases, surprisingly affordable. One unfulfilled contract was for 500 Australian dollars; another job was completed for just $2,000. Among other key findings, nearly 20 percent of all contracts involved a romantic relationship gone wrong, and 16 percent were financially motivated.

Another study, this one of contract killings in Tennessee, found instigators pretty evenly split between men and women. This is notable, given that almost all conventional murders are committed by men. But it tracks with the fact that women are almost as likely as men to wish someone dead. In The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind Is Designed to Kill, David M. Buss, an evolutionary psychologist, reports that “91 percent of men and 84 percent of women have had at least one vivid fantasy about killing someone.”

What of the people who are hired to kill? Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist who has consulted on a dozen murder-for-hire cases, told me that virtually all of the contract killers he’s examined display moderate to severe psychopathy. “Psychopathy, as a constellation of personality traits, gives them both the aggression and the emotional detachment to be able to carry out an act like this for money,” he says. Other experts I spoke with believe that both parties to a contract killing are engaged in psychological distancing. The contractor comforts himself by saying, This is my job. I’m just following orders. The instigator thinks, I’m not a murderer—he’s the one pulling the trigger.

Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist who has testified in court cases of criminals ranging from serial killers (Jeffrey Dahmer) to deranged assassins (John Hinckley Jr.), has another theory as to why homicidal people hire help. “My prime suspect is the depiction of hit men in popular culture, such as films, TV, video games, and novels,” Dietz told me, noting that the last time he entered hit man into Netflix, hundreds of results appeared. According to Dietz, such entertainment gives “the illusion that this is a service available to anyone.” In a world where dangerous or unpleasant tasks are routinely outsourced, a viewer might think, Well, why not this too?

This article appears in the July 2019 print edition with the headline “Hired Guns.”

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How dissecting superspreading events can help people take COVID-19 measures seriously

It’s a snapshot of a superspreading event: one person unknowingly infected with COVID-19 transmitted the contagion to 23 other passengers scattered on a tour bus, even those sitting seven rows behind.

The image presented in last month’s study of what happened on a sunny, breezy day in eastern China is dramatic, experts say.

For those who have been studying how the public has responded to messages from authorities during the pandemic, it’s the kind of story that public health officials should harness more often in their communications.

“They tell a very compelling story,” said Prof. Kim Lavoie, who holds the Canada Research Chair in behavioural medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal. “If you can represent that visually, people get it. People see the good things that happen when I adhere to these policies and the not-so-good things that happen.”

The Chinese study documented what happened in late January during the peak Lunar New Year travel season. The novel coronavirus was spreading in China’s Hubei province when a group of 126 Buddhists living in the community took two buses to a temple ceremony in Ningbo, hundreds of kilometres east of the city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the coronavirus.

A woman who had recently dined with friends in Hubei rode on one bus. The presumed index case started to have a cough, chills and muscle aches after returning from the temple. She sat, unmasked, for the 100-minute round trip on a vehicle with cooling units recirculating the air. Two windows on each side of the bus were open.

The close, crowded conditions on a bus for a long period with someone who was likely highly contagious — with most of the 68 passengers and driver not wearing masks — suggested “airborne transmission likely contributed to the high attack rate,” the researchers wrote.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said it does not have a definition of superspreading events for this country and instead monitors outbreaks.

Several local medical officers of health across the country also don’t refer to superspreaders. For example, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, was asked Tuesday if the city’s largest current outbreak at a spin studio — one of the worst fitness studio outbreaks in the country — would be considered a superspreader event.

Richardson said the public health department generally doesn’t use that term, instead calling it a “very large outbreak” with a lot of transmission.

(CBC News)

Nonetheless, Dr. Kieran Moore, the medical officer of health for Kingston, Ont., and surrounding communities, said that during an outbreak at a nail salon in June that led to 37 cases, a “superspreading event contributed to 38 per cent of total cases.”

Testing rates were at record levels following media attention and public health messaging, Moore said.

Personal approach is more persuasive

Successful public health measures during COVID-19 can also be used to tell a story and illustrate cause and effect for the public, Lavoie said.

The collective sacrifices of individual Canadians succeeded in bending the curve when only essential workers ventured out, cases dropped and then the effective reproductive number fell below one, pausing the disease’s exponential growth during the summer. Australia’s more recent success is another positive example.

To keep people engaged with public health measures over time, Lavoie suggests that governments in Canada share more personally relevant information to help individuals make informed decisions, rather than what she called a “pretty please” approach.

“I think ‘pretty please’ without supporting data is not very compelling, particularly when you’re asking people to make massive sacrifices without demonstrating that the sacrifices are worth it.”

(CBC News)

Early on, Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, was praised for clearly showing people what was happening and why, in easy-to-understand terms.

“I honestly believe that had a huge impact,” Lavoie said. “It felt like ‘We respect you, we trust you with the information, and now that you have it, we have confidence you’ll make the right decision.'”

What’s more, when missteps were made initially, such as outbreaks in B.C.’s long-term care homes, Henry took full responsibility, she said.

What motivates people to sacrifice?

Behavioural medicine also suggests that moving away from a one-size-fits-all message to a more personalized approach would work better at motivating people to make important sacrifices.

Lavoie and Simon Bacon, a professor of health, kinesiology and applied physiology at Concordia University in Montreal, have been surveying people throughout the pandemic about what motivates them as part of the iCARE (International COVID-19 Awareness and Responses Evaluation Study) project.

The findings suggest that younger people might be more motivated by the socio-economic fallout of reimposing restrictions rather than risk to their individual health from COVID-19, compared with people over the age of 65.

“Show how long it’s going to take us to pay down the debt, this is how long it’s going to take, the longer we remain in this,” Lavoie said.

Individual goals matter, too.

“I think we do need to have positive messaging,” Lavoie said.

Barbershop manager Georgette Simms gets a haircut from her partner, Jason Carter, at their business, Social Barber Studio, in Brampton, Ont., in July. Positive messaging from public health officials can help people understand that adhering to COVID-19 safety measures can be beneficial, such as by protecting their business. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A common message from public health officials is: “We’re all going to get through this.” But to Lavoie, that doesn’t go far enough.

Her version is: “We are going to get out of this only together. This is how and this is why, and this is what’s in store for us the quicker we achieve that,” she said. “We’re all going to benefit. Some of you will benefit by protecting your health. Some of you will benefit by protecting your business. Some of you will benefit by being able to have your dream wedding.”

It’s a numbers game

The field of finance also shows how communicating in terms of time, not case numbers, makes a difference in perception.

Daniela Sele, a PhD candidate at the Center for Law & Economics at ETH Zurich, turned from studying exponential growth in financial decision-making, like compound interest, to the exponential growth of infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Sele found that how numbers are presented matters in how people perceive them.

Portraits of Dr. Bonnie Henry, left, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, are dismantled at a picture-framing shop in Vancouver in May. Henry was praised at the time for clearly showing people what was happening during the COVID-19 pandemic and why, in easy-to-understand terms. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

In a preprint study posted in August, Sele asked about 450 students to estimate how many cases could be avoided through interventions like physical distancing, handwashing and wearing a mask.

Sele and her co-author found people drastically underestimated how many cases could be avoided.

But if the same numbers were framed in terms of doubling time — how long it takes cases to double from, say, 100,000 to 200,000 — people assessed the benefits correctly.

The classic example of framing exactly the same number differently is saying two-thirds of people will survive versus one-third of people will die.

“I think it’s interesting to think about could we talk about how long until the health-care system capacity is reached in our local community?” Sele said. “Because people, according to our data, seem to understand that better than the actual pace of the pandemic.”

WATCH | The role of superspreading events in COVID-19 transmission:

Two infectious disease doctors answer viewer questions about high-risk settings for COVID-19 transmission and how data about transmission could help people make decisions about how to live their lives. 6:11

Prevent superspreading events

Ashleigh Tuite, an infectious disease epidemiologist and mathematical modeller at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said when it comes to superspreading events like the tour bus in China, a small proportion of people are responsible for a greater share of the transmission.

“You don’t know ahead of time what will result in a superspreading event,” Tuite said.

The message? Like the woman who boarded a tour bus, it’s impossible to know if your silent infection will affect many others, so everyone needs to heed public health precautions.

It’s a combination of biology, such as being at the peak of infectiousness, and performing an activity in a location that’s really conducive to transmission — think indoor, crowded places — that come together to create superspreading events, Tuite said.

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