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Supply chain partnership keeps essential services running with PPE provision

Inside Telecom Staff

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A nationwide communications infrastructure specialist has been leaning on its robust supply chain to provide critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for field service engineers amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. The vital supplies have ensured that important engineering works have been able to go ahead throughout the past few weeks as millions more people rely on digital networks to work and learn from home.

CHH CoNeX has provided more than 200,000 face masks and hundreds of thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to field service engineers across the UK. In addition to protecting the company’s own small team of engineers, the equipment has also been donated to other businesses involved in the supply, installation and maintenance of telecommunications networks, in addition to key workers in telecommunications, warehousing, kitting, marshalling, logistics and final mile delivery.

An increased percentage of the UK’s working population has been operating from home throughout the past month. This, together with school closures encouraging parents to teach children at home through digital services, has put an unprecedented strain on the country’s digital network. CHH CoNeX’s provision of essential PPE has ensured that key maintenance engineers have been able to carry out essential telecommunications work to keep the country connected throughout this time.

Tim Hughes, managing director at Birmingham-based CHH CoNeX, explained: “We took the decision very early on to leverage our supply chain and access tonnes of PPE equipment to ensure that CHH and our partners can continue to deliver critical infrastructure services throughout the lockdown period. While our Managed Services team keeps engineers fully kitted out with PPE all year round, we have never had to access quite the quantity that we have recently.

“We take supply chain planning very seriously and it is only through a robust, flexible and proven supply chain that we were able to procure and supply such a large scale of PPE. We took a risk in paying up front for materials to reserve allocation before the goods had even come into our supplier, but the trust we have in our supply chain partners and the collaboration within meant we were able to take delivery of the equipment early on, as soon as it was available. We then made an effort to supply the equipment free of charge to other field service partners that would benefit.

“The rules in our industry are quite simple. Without the right PPE, engineers cannot do their job. We knew we would have to lean on our supply chain to keep essential services running throughout lockdown and beyond.”

The equipment traveled even further than CHH CoNeX first envisaged, with its partners passing on equipment throughout the supply chain to utilities companies and other key workers, ensuring that Britain continues to keep essential services running even during the most challenging times.

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MedTech

New COVID-19 test using T Cells

Mounir Jamil

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New COVID-19 test using T Cells

Indoor Biotechnologies, a global immunodiagnostics and biotechnology company based in Cardiff in the UK, was recently awarded funding from Innovate UK to develop a COVID-19 test using T cells. Successfully identifying individuals that have already been infected and have immunity would allow society to safely return to normal. In addition, reliable testing methods are needed since the symptoms of COVID-19 vary from person to person, with some not even displaying symptoms.

A potential method for a COVID-19 test is done by searching for specific antibodies in the blood samples. Several antibody tests are available, but doubts are present regarding the reliability of knowing if a person has gained immunity.

Long-term protection from viruses doesn’t only come from antibodies, but also from other cells of the immune system such as T cells, that play a vital role in eradicating and controlling viral infections. The latest test proposed by Indoor Biotechnologies focuses on the T cells rather than antibodies. If it is successful, the COVID-19 test or Simple Cellular Immunity Test (SCIT) will be able to identify the presence of T cells that cause COVID-19 from a single tube of blood and within 24 hours. 

This method has the ability to be more sensitive and more reliable at determining immunity than antibody testing. In order to validate this, it will be tested on individuals that already carried the virus and have developed antibodies. The COVID-19 test is also very valuable during vaccine development in order to help identify whether an adequate immune response has been created to protect people against coronavirus, and for testing how long the immune response lasts.

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MedTech

COVID-19 screening app that analyzes breathing, coughing and voice patterns

Adnan Kayyali

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COVID-19 screening app that analyzes breathing, coughing and voice patterns

Novoic, a startup founded by Oxford and Cambridge researchers, is developing a COVID-19 screening app that can screen people for COVID-19 by listening to the sound of their cough, aptly named “Coughvid”. The company that previously used speech analysis technology to detect cognitive impairments and diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, is now turning its attention to COVID-19.

The app works by recording a person’s coughing, breathing, voice patterns and analyzes them using a machine learning algorithm. Additionally, the app collects users’ demographic and medical history data and asks if a participant has been tested for COVID-19.

Currently the COVID-19 screening app has only a 70% accuracy rate, but the developers are far from done. To ‘teach’ the AI, Novoic will ask 1 million volunteers to “donate their cough” so the algorithm can be refined into a reliable screening process to distinguish between infected and non-infected coughs more decisively

“Different people’s voices of course sound different from each other, including when they’re healthy,” explains Emil Fristed, co-founder and CEO of Novoic. “To build accurate algorithms that work for everyone, we need a lot of data, which is why we are calling upon the public to step forward. If we capture enough cough sounds, we believe this could be the answer to cheap, accessible testing.

Due to the lack of respiratory sound data sets available to researchers, collecting these samples may help further diagnostic research beyond COVID-19. “The data will be stored on University servers and be used solely for research purposes,” said Cambridge University.

To assure those with fears of privacy and data security, the company said that user locations will only be known when actively using the app.

The researchers say however that the COVID-19 screening app is not a substitute for a medical exam. It is made to bolster the capabilities of mass testing in a non-intrusive, social distancing- friendly way.

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MedTech

COVAX Facility – 75 Countries, 1 Team

Mounir Jamil

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COVAX Facility - 75 Countries, 1 Team (1)

So far, about 75 countries and nations have expressed an increased interest in protecting their own populations and those of other nations by joining the COVAX Facility, a newly designed mechanism that ensures rapid, equitable, and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines all around the world.

The 75 countries will be financing the vaccines from their own public finance budgets, and will be partnering with up with 90 lower income countries that could benefit greatly from voluntary donations to Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, mentioned that COVAX Facility is the only truly global solution for the current pandemic.  

The goal of the COVAX Facility is to deliver two billion doses of effective, safe vaccines that have succeeded in regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification. The vaccines are set to be divided equally amongst participating countries, proportional to their populations. The COVAX Facility will also have extra doses for emergency and humanitarian use, including dealing with severe outbreaks before they spiral out of control. 

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