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‘Vast’ gap in funding needed to fight the coronavirus, WHO warns

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Hospital workers wearing protective eyewear and masks prepare to check blood tests taken from Indonesian students who returned from China in quarantine at a hospital in Banda Aceh on January 29, 2020.

Chaideer Mahyuddin | AFP | Getty Images

The head of the World Health Organization warned Monday of a huge gap in funding to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there was a “vast global gap” between the organization’s ambition for a fund, known as the “Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator” (or ACT-Accelerator), and the funds already pledged to fight the virus.

“We have to fundamentally scale up the way we are financing the ACT-Accelerator and prioritize the use of new tools,” Tedros said at the global health body’s latest media briefing in Geneva.

“While we’re grateful for those that have made contributions, we’re only 10% of the way to funding the billions required to realize the promise of the ACT Accelerator,” he said.

The ACT Accelerator was launched in April 2020 and is attempting to bring together governments, health organizations, scientists, businesses and philanthropists to speed up an end to the pandemic by supporting the development and distribution of the diagnostics, vaccines and treatments needed.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which is tracking the amount of money pledged globally to fight the virus, including funding under the ACT Accelerator initiative, says that $9.9 billion has been pledged to date.

Tedros said that the funding needed for vaccines alone was over $100 billion. While a lot of money, the figure was “small in comparison to the 10 trillion dollars that have already been invested by G-20 countries in fiscal stimulus to deal with the consequences of the pandemic so far,” he said.

Tedros said the total number of registered coronavirus cases worldwide would hit 20 million this week (to date, the number of cases stands at 19,877,261). The number of confirmed fatalities stands at 731,570, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Acknowledging the suffering caused by the pandemic, Tedros said there were “green shoots of hope,” nonetheless.

“No matter where a country, a region, a city or a town is — it’s never too late to turn the outbreak around,” Tedros told the news briefing. 

“There are two essential elements to addressing the pandemic effectively: Leaders must step up to take action and citizens need to embrace new measures,” he said, emphasizing that the best way to beat the virus was to suppress it.

“My message is crystal clear: suppress, suppress, suppress the virus.”

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Irish schools harnessing solar and smart tech to measure energy use

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Microsoft’s Irish unit is working with a utility firm on a renewable energy scheme that will involve the installation of internet-connected solar panels on the rooftops of schools in the country. 

The project, with SSE Airtricity — a green energy provider and subsidiary of Scotland’s SSE — encompasses 27 schools spread across the Irish provinces of Leinster, Munster and Connaught.

In an announcement Monday, SSE Airtricity said internet of things technology would be harnessed to connect the panels to a cloud computing platform from Microsoft. Within the schools, digitally connected screens have been set up to let pupils follow energy usage information in real time.   

An investment of nearly 1 million euros ($1.17 million) from the Microsoft Sustainability Fund will fund the program.

While the installation of solar panels will help the schools to offset carbon dioxide emissions, there is a wider aspect at play that could have consequences further afield.

In its statement, SSE Airtricity said the software tools would be used to “aggregate and analyze real-time data on energy generated by the solar panels.”

This, it added, would demonstrate “a mechanism for Microsoft and other corporations to achieve sustainability goals and reduce the carbon footprint of the electric power grid.”

The use of renewable energy technologies on buildings designed for education is not unique to the Republic of Ireland.

Earlier this year, Norwegian firm Veidekke was tasked by the city of Oslo to build an energy-efficient, solar-paneled school in Norway.

According to Veidekke, the school — which is set to cover around 14,000 square meters and is slated to be finished before the 2023 academic year begins — will have solar panels on both its façades and roof.

Over in the U.K., the University of Plymouth is one of many institutions to use a Building Management System, or BMS, to both monitor and control things like lighting and the energy used by devices in its buildings.

According to the institution, its BMS “controls 95 percent of our campus buildings, ensuring intelligent control of the building systems to make sure there’s no energy waste.”

The development of sustainable learning environments is not solely reliant on tech, either. In 2019, a 200-foot long “green pollution barrier” was installed at an elementary school in Sheffield, northern England. The idea behind the BREATHE barrier, as it’s known, is to act as an air pollution filter from road traffic.

 

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Nikola shares slide after second sexual abuse allegation raises questions about GM deal

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Under-25s are giving up on their dream job due to the pandemic

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