- A study in Italy has provided the first cases of clear evidence linking a mysterious inflammatory illness impacting children to the coronavirus.
- Cases have popped up throughout the United States and Europe, where doctors believed the disease was potentially related to COVID-19.
- The disease is similar to Kawasaki disease, and the study noted a significant increase in patients with Kawasaki-like symptoms since the COVID-19 outbreak started. Most patients with this illness tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
- The study stated that “SARS-CoV-2 might cause a severe form of Kawasaki-like disease.”
What is the Illness?
Doctors have been puzzled by a mysterious inflammatory illness amongst children that could potentially be related to COVID-19, and now, a study in Italy has provided the first pieces of strong evidence linking the two.
The findings were published in a medical journal called The Lancet. There have been cases of this illness in Europe and several states in America. New York alone has seen over 100 cases, as well as three deaths.
“This is a truly disturbing situation,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a briefing on Tuesday.
“And I know parents around the state and around the country are very concerned about this, and they should be.”
Symptoms include a persistent fever, abdominal pain, organ failure, bloodshot eyes, and more. In the United States, officials are referring to the disease as pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention intends to issue an alert telling doctors to report how many children they see experiencing it.
Ties to COVID-19
The Lancet’s study compared this new illness to prior cases of Kawasaki disease at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Italy. Kawasaki is a rare disease that impacts children and has symptoms consistent with the new inflammatory disease.
“Our study provides the first clear evidence of a link between SARS-CoV-2 infection and this inflammatory condition,” Dr. Lorenzo D’Antigo, an author of the study said in a statement, “and we hope it will help doctors around the world as we try to get to grips with this unknown virus.”
The study followed two groups of patients, the first of which was comprised of 19 children who were diagnosed with Kawasaki over the course of five years, between January 2015 and February 17, 2020. The second group consisted of 10 patients with Kawasaki-like symptoms admitted over the course of two months, between February 18, 2020 and April 20, 2020.
Eight of the 10 patients in group two tested positive for COVID antibodies. Doctors believe it is possible that the others could be positive as well and that the negative results may have been a result of medical treatments muddling results or faulty tests. The patients in the second group also experienced more severe symptoms and required more types of treatment to recover.
Another factor of note to doctors was the increased rate of infection among group two. Group one saw a Kawasaki patient on average once every three months. Group two saw 10 patients with Kawasaki-like symptoms in just two months.
What Does This Mean?
As the study notes, the timing of these increased rates of illness coincides with when the virus began to spread in Italy. Since it hit the region that Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital is located in, the hospital “found a 30-fold increased incidence of Kawasaki disease.”
“Children diagnosed after the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic began showed evidence of immune response to the virus, were older, had a higher rate of cardiac involvement, and features of MAS,” the study stated. “We therefore showed that SARS-CoV-2 might cause a severe form of Kawasaki-like disease.”
The ages of those affected with the new disease in this study line up with the ages of children with reported cases in New York, where most patients are between 5 and 14-years-old. While the Kawasaki disease patients in group one averaged at three-years-old, the patients with the new illness in group two averaged at 7 and a half.
Doctors all over have been looking into this infection and trying to analyze its potential ties to the coronavirus.
“If you look at the curves, COVID-19 has plateaued, but there’s an exponential rise in this secondary type of shock syndrome,” Jane Newburger, a cardiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital said in a statement. “It is even possible that the antibodies that children are making to SARS-CoV2 are creating an immune reaction in the body. Nobody knows.”
Boston Children’s Hospital is calling for more research to be done on the subject and is urging clinicians to enroll children in research protocols. It is also calling government agencies to invest in trials and data integration so medical leaders can learn more.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Axios) (The Guardian)
Israel Relaxes Abortion Restrictions in Response to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling
The reforms follow similar moves by France and Germany as leaders across the political spectrum denounce the court’s decision.
Health Minister Makes Announcement
Israel is easing access to abortion in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade, Nitzan Horowitz, the country’s health minister and head of the small left-wing Meretz party, announced Monday.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s move to deny a woman the right to abortion is a dark move,” he said in the announcement, “oppressing women and returning the leader of the free and liberal world a hundred years backward.”
The new rules, approved by a majority in the parliamentary committee, grant women access to abortion pills through the universal health system. Women will be able to obtain the pills at local health centers rather than only hospitals and surgical clinics.
The new policy also removes the decades-old requirement for women to physically appear before a special committee that must grant approval to terminate a pregnancy.
While women will still need to get approval, the process will become digitized, the application form will be simplified, and the requirement to meet a social worker will become optional.
The committee will only conduct hearings in the rare case it initially denies the abortion procedure.
Israel’s 1977 abortion law stipulates four criteria for termination of pregnancy: If the woman is under 18 or over 40, if the fetus is in danger, if the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, or an “illicit union,” including extramarital affairs, and if the woman’s mental or physical health is at risk.
All of the changes will take effect over the next three months.
The World Reacts
Politicians across the political spectrum from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision since it was announced Friday.
On Saturday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne expressed support for a bill proposed by parliament that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the country’s constitution.
“For all women, for human rights, we must set this gain in stone,” she wrote on Twitter. “Parliament must be able to unite overwhelmingly over this text.”
Germany scrapped a Nazi-era law prohibiting the promotion of abortion Friday, just hours before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
In Israel, abortion is a far less controversial issue than it is for Americans. Around 98% of people who apply for an abortion get one, according to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
Part of the reason for Israel’s relatively easy access to abortion is that many residents interpret Jewish law to condone, or at least not prohibit, the procedure.
In the United States, several Jewish organizations including the American Jewish Committee, Hillel International, and the Women’s Rabbinic Network have expressed opposition to the court ruling, and some Jews have protested it as a violation of their religious freedom.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC News) (The Guardian)
Flight Deporting Refugees From U.K. to Rwanda Canceled at Last Hour
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the U.K.’s asylum policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.
Saved By The Bell
The inaugural flight in the U.K. government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda was canceled about an hour and a half before it was supposed to take off Tuesday evening.
A last-minute legal intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) halted the flight. Tuesday’s flight originally included 37 people, but after a string of legal challenges that number dwindled to just seven.
In its ruling for one of the seven passengers, a 54-year-old Iraqi man, the court said he cannot be deported until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.
Another asylum seeker, a 26-year-old Albanian man, told The Guardian he was in a “very bad mental state” and did not want to go to Rwanda, a country he knows nothing about.
“I was exploited by traffickers in Albania for six months,” he said. “They trafficked me to France. I did not know which country I was being taken to.”
A final domestic effort to block the flight in the Court of Appeals failed on Monday. The High Court will make a ruling on the asylum policy next month.
Britains Divided by Controversial Policy
U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke to lawmakers after the flight was canceled, defending the asylum policy and saying preparations for the next flight will begin immediately.
“We cannot keep on spending nearly £5 million a day on accommodation including that of hotels,” she said. “We cannot accept this intolerable pressure on public services and local communities.”
“It makes us less safe as a nation because those who come here illegally do not have the regularized checks or even the regularized status, and because evil people-smuggling gangs use the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains to fund other appalling crimes that undermine the security of our country,” she continued.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Filippo Grandi, told CBC the policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.
“We believe that this is all wrong,” he said. “This is all wrong. I mean, saving people from dangerous journeys is great, is absolutely great. But is that the right way to do it? Is that the right, is that the real motivation for this deal to happen? I don’t think so. I think it’s… I don’t know what it is.”
An Iranian asylum seeker in a British detention center who was told to prepare for deportation before being granted a late reprieve was asked by ABC whether he ever thought the U.K. would send him to Africa.
“I thought in the U.K. there were human rights,” he said. “But so far I haven’t seen any evidence.”
The Conservative government’s plan was announced in April, when it said it would resettle some asylum seekers 4,000 miles away in Rwanda, where they can seek permanent refugee status, apply to settle there on other grounds, or seek asylum in a safe third country.
The scheme was meant to deter migrants from illegally smuggling themselves into the country by boat or truck.
Migrants have long made the dangerous journey from Northern France across the English Channel, with over 28,000 entering the U.K. in boats last year, up from around 8,500 the year prior. Dozens of people have died making the trek, including 27 who drowned last November when a single boat capsized.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (CNN)
Ryanair Draws Outrage, Accusations of Racism After Making South Africans Take Test in Afrikaans
Afrikaans, which is only spoken as a first language by around 13% of South Africa, has not been the country’s national language since apartheid came to an end in 1994.
Airline Won’t Explain Discrimination
Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has received widespread criticism and accusations of racism after it began requiring South African nationals to complete a test in Afrikaans to prove their passport isn’t fraudulent.
The airline told BBC the new policy was implemented because of “substantially increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the U.K.”
Among other questions, the test asks passengers to name South Africa’s president, its capital city, and one national public holiday.
Ryanair has not said why it chose Afrikaans, the Dutch colonial language that many associate with white minority rule, for the test.
There are 11 official languages in South Africa, and Afrikaans ranks third for usage below Zulu and IsiXhosa. Only around 13% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as their first language.
“They’re using this in a manner that is utterly absurd,” Conrad Steenkamp, CEO of the Afrikaans Language Council, told reporters. “Afrikaans, you have roughly 20% of the population of South Africa understand Afrikaans. But the rest don’t, so you’re sitting with roughly 50 million people who do not understand Afrikaans.”
“Ryanair should be careful,” he continued. “Language is a sensitive issue. They may well end up in front of the Human Rights Commission with this.”
Ryanair’s policy only applies to South African passengers flying to the United Kingdom from within Europe, since it does not fly out of South Africa.
The British government has said in a statement that it does not require the test.
Anyone who cannot complete the test will be blocked from traveling and given a refund.
Memories of Apartheid Resurface
“The question requiring a person to name a public holiday is particularly on the nose given that SA has a whole public holiday NEXT WEEK commemorating an historic protest that started in response to language-based discrimination,” one person tweeted.
South African citizen Dinesh Joseph told the BBC that he was “seething” with anger when asked to take the test.
“It was the language of apartheid,” he said, adding that it was a trigger for him.
Officials in the country were also surprised by Ryanair’s decision.
“We are taken aback by the decision of this airline because the Department regularly communicates with all airlines to update them on how to validate South African passports, including the look and feel,” South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.
Any airline found to have flown a passenger with a fake passport to the U.K. faces a fine of £2,000 from authorities there. Ryanair has also not said whether it requires similar tests for any other nationalities.
Many people expressed outrage at Ryanair’s policy and some told stories of being declined service because they did not pass the test.