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The effects of COVID-19 on finance

Mounir Jamil

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The effects of COVID-19 on finance

The current pandemic has plummeted the world into a state of emergency, the economy is losing its balance and company leaders are walking a tight rope. Governments have put together rescue packages that must now reach businesses that need help the most. Although the full extent of the effects of COVID-19 on finance remains unclear, there is little time left to prevent the worst. Therefore, it is crucial for banks to reach out to their customers and guide them through these difficult times.

It is now a major priority for banks to play their role in stabilizing the economic situation as soon as possible. To achieve this, they should first be able to supply companies with the right support to promptly ensure their survival. Applications for development loans from SMEs must be processed and checked as swiftly as possible. When granting the loans, banks must balance security on the one hand, and efficient support on the other.

On top of that, financial institutions must face the additional challenge of maintaining normal operations. For example, bank branches are being closed for safety purposes, and personal contact between bank advisors and customers is very difficult right now. Entire departments have temporarily moved to work from home, which poses several unprecedented administrative challenges. Several internal and external services have been made available exclusively online.

The urgency of digital transformation, becomes more than obvious given the current situation – especially in financial institutions. Due to lockdown measures and restrictions of public life, banks are adapting by creating appropriate offerings where they can reach their business partners under the given circumstances and encourage them to use these services. The logical alternative is to reduce dependency on the physical branch by extending the availability and scope of digital services.

In times of adversity, trust is a key factor in business. The current changes could help traditional banks take the lead, after several years in direct competition with fintech enterprises and neobanks. To meet the current global challenges, fintech and banks must work in close collaboration. This will allow them to take effective joint action. The demand for digital solutions is rapidly growing, and fintech has garnered experience in this area.

Junior social media strategist with a degree in business. Passionate about technology, film, music and video games.

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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