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Millions could be suffering from long Covid, British study suggests

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Healthcare workers in North Memorial’s 2019s South Six and South Seven Intensive Care Units treated patients critically ill with COVID-19 on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020 at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, Minn.

Aaron Lavinsky | Star Tribune via Getty Images

A study in England looking at persistent Covid-19 symptoms suggests that around 2 million people in the country may have had the condition known as “long Covid.”

The study, part of Imperial College London’s REACT research which is tracking the virus in England, saw 508,707 people across the country of roughly 56 million asked whether they’d had Covid (confirmed or suspected), and asked about the presence and duration of 29 different symptoms linked to the virus.

Among the 76,155 participants that said they had experienced a symptomatic Covid infection, 37.7% said they experienced at least one symptom lasting 12 weeks or more, while almost 15% of people said they had experienced three or more symptoms lasting 12 weeks or more.

The symptoms of long Covid can vary, with people reporting ongoing fatigue, shortness of breath, memory loss or problems with concentration (dubbed “brain fog”), insomnia, chest pain or dizziness, as well as other symptoms. But it is still poorly understood and scientists don’t yet know why some people continue to have symptoms post-Covid, and others none.

“In this large community-based study of symptoms following Covid-19 among adults aged 18 years and above in England, participants reported high prevalence of persistent symptoms lasting 12 weeks or more,” the researchers at Imperial noted of their latest study.

Extrapolating the findings in the study to the wider Covid backdrop in England, where there have been 4.07 million Covid cases confirmed to date, the study could mean that over 2 million adults who have had the virus in England may have experienced some form of long Covid.

“Estimates ranged from 5.8% of the population experiencing one or more persistent symptoms post-Covid-19 (corresponding to over 2 million adults in England), to 2.2% for three or more persistent symptoms (just under a million adults in England),” the researchers noted.

They said that their estimates of the proportion of people with persistent Covid symptoms were higher than in many other studies, although previous estimates have varied widely.

“Our comparatively high estimate, at 37.7% of people with Covid-19 experiencing one or more symptoms at 12 weeks, may partly reflect the large list of symptoms we surveyed, many of which are common and not specific to Covid-19. However, we asked participants only about symptoms that they related to a confirmed or suspected episode of Covid-19, and not to symptoms more generally.”

Scientists are still investigating long Covid, and experts have urged the British government to address its public health implications; the National Health Service has opened long Covid assessment centers, for example.

“A substantial proportion of people with symptomatic Covid-19 go on to have persistent symptoms for 12 weeks or more, which is age-dependent. Clinicians need to be aware of the differing manifestations of Long Covid which may require tailored therapeutic approaches,” researchers at Imperial said.

The survey data was collected between Sept. 15 last year and Feb. 8 and the study is a preprint, and has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a journal. 

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India eyewear start-up Lenskart plans IPO in next 3 years, outlook: CEO

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Indian start-up Lenskart plans to go public within the next three years, CEO and founder Peyush Bansal told CNBC on Friday.

The company, which sells eyewear online and via retail outlets, this week announced it received $220 million in funds, led by Singapore state investor Temasek and Falcon Edge Capital. Earlier this year, Lenskart raised $95 million from global investment firm KKR. It also counts SoftBank as one of its investors.

“I think we would do an IPO in the next 24 to 36 months latest,” Bansal told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”

“We still want to achieve a little bit more scale and grow our business in India as well as Southeast Asia. Then, we’ll be ready to do IPO,” he said, adding that the plan is to grow revenue to more than $500 million.

Lenskart expanded into Singapore in 2019. Bansal said Friday that he is confident the start-up can become the top player in the city-state over the next 12 to 18 months.

A man walks towards a Lenskart showroom in Gurugram, Haryana, India, on 16 March 2019.

Nasir Kachroo | NurPhoto | Getty Images

The company, which is reportedly valued at $2.5 billion, plans to use the newly raised funds to expand its presence in India and grow its operations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East in the next three to four years.

Some of the capital would also be deployed as investments into artificial intelligence and other technologies.

“There’s a huge demand for high-quality, affordable eyewear,” Bansal said about the Indian market. He claimed consumers buy on average four pairs of eyewear from Lenskart every two years, compared to a pair of eyewear every two-and-a-half years from other companies.

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The biggest hurdle for Lenskart is creating a supply chain, according to Bansal. He explained that the company is in the process of building a manufacturing plant in India from which, it plans to ship about 150,000 prescription glasses a day.

“A lot of this capital actually goes in long-term investment in technology and building the supply chain infrastructure,” he said.

Indian start-ups are entering what some investors have described as the “beginning of a new era,” where the prominent names are going public. Food delivery firm Zomato made its stock market debut on Friday, and its shares jumped over 70% at the open.

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IOC says everything that can be done has been done

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A view of the Olympic rings in Tokyo ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.

Danny Lawson | PA Images | Getty Images

The Tokyo Olympics are set to officially begin after a one-year delay, and the International Olympic Committee says organizers have done all they can to ensure a safe games as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

“Everything that … can be done, everything that was recommended by all these experts — some of them here with us to deliver these games — we have done,” Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s Olympic Games executive director, said in response

He was responding to criticism that the organization was using “cheap measures” and had not listened to advice. Dubi told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Friday that the IOC received help from many experts around the world and “diligently followed up” on all the measures that were recommended.

“I think we’re doing just the right thing, and we do not consider at all that it is cheap,” he said.

Challenges at the Olympics

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday told organizers that they have done their best, and said the goal is not to have zero Covid cases during the games.

“The mark of success is making sure that any cases are identified, isolated, traced and cared for as quickly as possible, and onward transmission is interrupted,” Tedros said.

Dubi of the IOC said that’s what the organizers have done over the past few days, and will continue to do.

Looking to the future, including the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, he said the IOC has learned how to create safe conditions, but that the situation is “very fluid” and will keep evolving.

“We have to be prepared for the worst and we have to plan for the worst,” he said. He added that there are “no talks whatsoever” about a postponement.

The show must go on?

Earlier this week, Toshiro Muto, chief of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, did not rule out canceling the event if Covid-19 cases spike.

But Kirsten Holmes, a professor who focuses on events and tourism at Curtin University, said it would be “very difficult” for the organizers to cancel the games.

For the organizing committee, it’s very difficult for them to not go ahead.

Kirsten Holmes

Professor at Curtin University

She said the Tokyo Games will be more logistically difficult than normal games, and there will need to be flexibility. “But I think it’s very unlikely that … the whole games will be stopped,” she said.

“We could see individual competitions within that postponed or perhaps canceled, if all of the competitors are unable to take part,” she told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Friday.

With no spectators or international visitors, Holmes said the games will be all about the athletes, some of whom may only have one chance to compete at this level.

“For the organizing committee, it’s very difficult for them to not go ahead, and that’s why … we will see the event proceed over the next couple of weeks and of course the Paralympic Games next month as well,” she said.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.



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Singapore retailers reeling from Covid measures as sales drop up to 70%

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People inside a shopping mall in Singapore on May 15, 2021, ahead of tightening restrictions over concerns of a rise in Covid-19 coronavirus cases.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s brick and mortar businesses have been hit hard by Covid-19 and retailers have seen sales plummet significantly as a result of Covid restrictions, according to a retail trade body in the country.

Sales have plunged between 30% to 70% for some retailers since the onset of the pandemic, according to Rose Tong, executive director of the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), a not-for-profit organization with 420 members spanning sectors like fashion, electronics, beauty and wellness, as well as food retailers and supermarkets.

With each round of tightened restrictions, sales have declined between 50% to 80%, she told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.

Singapore re-imposed tighter Covid-19 restriction again on Thursday, as the number of Covid cases climbed due to several clusters in karaoke bars as well as wet markets. The increased measures — which include the barring of dine-in services and limiting public gatherings to two — will last until Aug. 18.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 170 new cases of Covid-19, of which 162 were locally transmitted infections. The number of new cases in the community has grown rapidly, and spiked to 883 cases in the past week from 127 cases the week before, according to the ministry’s report. 

As a result of the continued restrictions, shopper traffic has dipped significantly — but retailers are still paying the full cost of rent, she said.

“We are hoping that landlords are more proactive and they would take a fair share of the burden,” she said, adding that some business owners are seeking support from their landlords to offer rental rebates.

Pivot to online sales

On Friday, the government announced a support package worth 1.1 billion Singapore dollars ($808 million) to help businesses and workers impacted by the latest restrictions.

They included a jobs support scheme for sectors like restaurants and gyms affected, as well as those in the retail and entertainment sector.

Other measures include support for local retailers to get on-board local online retail platforms.

During the Great Singapore Sale shopping festival from June to July, SRA partnered with e-commerce site Lazada to boost online turnovers. This helped drive up sales and there was a high uptake in home deliveries, said Tong.

While businesses have started adopting digital strategies to improve sales, there are plenty of challenges ahead, she added.

“We do face very intense global market competition from the market places all over the world. Cost is high with deliveries and the cost of goods,” she said.

Online retail accounts for less than 20% of sales for brick-and-mortar businesses, Tong said.

Members of the SRA collectively hire more than 80,000 workers, and have an annual revenue of more than 32 billion Singapore dollars ($23.5 billion), according to the website.

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