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COVID-19: How long are you protected for if you’ve already had coronavirus – and are you still a risk to others? | UK News

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The study's results come as the first pharmacies start offering vaccinations

People who’ve had COVID are likely to be protected from reinfection for at least five months and have a similar defence to someone who’s been vaccinated, according to a UK study.

But does it mean those who have recovered are no longer a risk to others? And could the protection last any longer? Here’s what you need to know.

Who did the study follow and is it reliable?

More than 20,000 healthcare workers from 102 NHS trusts across the country, including frontline staff, have been tested since June by the Public Health England (PHE) Siren study.

Some 6,614 of them tested positive for antibodies at the start of the research, suggesting they’d had the virus previously in the first wave.

It’s a big cohort of people so its results are valuable – and the study is still ongoing.

How many people contracted COVID a second time?

There were only 44 potential reinfections from the 6,000-plus found to have antibodies.

Two of them were deemed “probable” cases, while 42 were “possible”, based on the evidence available.

What does it mean for the chances of contracting the virus again?

If all 44 cases are assumed to be confirmed reinfections, the protection rate is 83% compared with those who’ve not had it before.

If only the two “probable” cases are considered, the rate would be 99%, but researchers are going with the headline figure of 83%.

However, PHE says more work is going on to clarify this range.

How long does the protection last?

It appears to be at least five months, on average, from first getting sick.

The analysis of the results was done towards the end of 2020, and the study is still following the participants to see if it lasts longer.

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The study’s results come as the first pharmacies start offering vaccinations

It means people infected in the first wave last spring could now be at risk of getting coronavirus again.

The study’s lead, Professor Susan Hopkins, warned the protection “is not total and we do not yet know how long [it] lasts”.

Despite the uncertainties, Dr Julian Tang – a clinical virologist at University of Leicester – said the results were still “useful and reassuring news” for medics on the frontline.

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It’s also important to note that the study was done before the new UK variant – which transmits far more easily – had become widespread.

Scientists are therefore also looking at whether “first wave” antibodies provide protection against it.

How does this ‘natural’ protection compare with vaccines?

Vaccines being rolled out in the UK, such as the Pfizer and Oxford jab, can offer over 90% protection after two shots.

In terms of length of protection, scientists aren’t sure yet – as the vaccines haven’t been around long enough to see how long people are immune for.

The vaccines may also have to be tweaked to deal with new variants of the virus – such as the one that’s been identified recently in Brazil.

If I’ve had COVID before, can I still pass it on?

It’s very possible, and the study’s authors warn that a person with antibodies may still be a clear risk to others.

They say early evidence suggests some people with immunity could carry high levels of the virus in the nose and throat, and potentially pass it on.

Can I be more relaxed if I’ve been infected before?

No – in light of the risk of potentially still being able to spread coronavirus, people must still stick to the law and government guidelines.

PHE stresses it’s “crucial that everyone continues to follow the rules and stays at home, even if they have previously had COVID-19“.

This means continuing to stick to lockdown measures and practise safety protocols such as social distancing, wearing a face covering and regular handwashing.

Will COVID be ‘easier’ the second time, and will I show symptoms?

The two “probable” reinfection cases in the study said their symptoms were less severe the second time – but it’s too early to say for sure.

However, if it were to follow other coronaviruses, a second infection could turn out more minor.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist from Warwick Medical School, said studies on common cold coronaviruses indicate that any reinfection “is unlikely to result in severe disease”.

But one notable difference with getting COVID-19 again, appears to be the likelihood of not showing any symptoms at all.

The study found people who were reinfected were significantly more likely to be asymptomatic (66%) than those contracting COVID for the first time (22%), said Professor Paul Hunter, from the Norwich School of Medicine.

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Google investigating ethical AI team member over accessing thousands of sensitive files | Science & Tech News

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Google investigating ethical AI team member over accessing thousands of sensitive files | Science & Tech News

Google is investigating a member of its ethical AI team after they were found to have taken thousands of sensitive files from its servers and shared the information with external accounts.

The investigation follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a Black woman and prominent researcher on the team whose departure provoked controversy over Google‘s attitude to employees from ethnic minority backgrounds.

One of Ms Gebru’s colleagues, Margaret Mitchell, “had been using automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Gebru,” as Axios reported.

In a statement sent to Axios, Google confirmed the investigation.

“Our security systems automatically lock an employee’s corporate account when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered,” it said.

“In this instance, yesterday our systems detected that an account had exfiltrated thousands of files and shared them with multiple external accounts. We explained this to the employee earlier today.”

The precise nature of Ms Gebru’s departure has been disputed.

The researcher and her colleagues claimed she had been fired, while Google executives said they accepted her offer to resign. Ms Gebru responded that she had not offered to resign, only threatened to.

Inspiring the controversy was a paper which Ms Gebru had co-authored on the risks of AI, including biases and the environmental impact of developing the technology.

She claimed that she had been asked by Google to withdraw the paper, with the company’s head of AI research, Jeff Dean, explaining that the company felt the paper ignored relevant research on mitigating many of the risks it described.

In a memo circulated internally at Google in December, the company’s chief executive Sundar Pichai said he was looking into how Ms Gebru was treated at the company, although no findings from that inquiry have yet been published

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Mystery of butterfly flight finally cracked by scientists | Science & Tech News

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Mystery of butterfly flight finally cracked by scientists | Science & Tech News

Scientists believe they have finally cracked the mystery of how butterflies fly despite their “unusually short, broad and large wings” compared to their body size.

A new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society finds that the key is not in the downstroke, when the butterflies’ wings push them forward, but in the upstroke when the wings clap together.

“When the wings clap together at the end of upstroke the air between the wings is pressed out, creating a jet, pushing the animal in the opposite direction,” the researchers say.

The theory about wing claps to explain butterfly flight was first proposed in the 1970s but has only just been proven by Swedish scientists at Lund University.

The researchers caught six wild butterflies in the meadows around Stensoffa, in southern Sweden, and analysed how these butterflies flew using powerful high-speed video cameras and a wind tunnel.

The researchers also examined what role the creature’s flexible wings had in forming the cupped shape which enabled this jet to thrust them forward by developing mechanical clappers.

One of the two sets of clappers was rigid while the other was flexible, similar to the butterfly wings.

They found the flexible wings significantly increased the force of the clap and improved the efficiency of the wingbeat by 28% – an enormous improvement for a flying animal.

“Our measurements show that the impulse created by the flexible wings is 22% higher and the efficiency 28% better compared to if the wings had been rigid,” said author Dr Christoffer Johansson.

“That the wings are cupped when butterflies clap them together, makes the wing stroke much more effective,” said biology researcher Dr Per Henningsson, who studied the butterflies’ aerodynamics with Dr Johansson.

“It is an elegant mechanism that is far more advanced than we imagined, and it is fascinating. The butterflies benefit from the technique when they have to take off quickly to escape from predators,” Dr Henningsson added.

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Gary Numan: ‘One of my songs got over a million streams – I got £37’ | Ents & Arts News

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Nile Rodgers at the premiere of Cats at the Lincoln Center in New York CIty in 2019. Pic:John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

Gary Numan has told Sky News he received just £37 for a hit that had been streamed more than a million times, as an inquiry into the economics of digital music services continues.

The British singer-songwriter, best known for hits including Are ‘Friends’ Electric?, Cars and We Are Glass in the 1970s and 80s, has sold millions of records over the years and is set to release his 18th solo studio album, Intruder, in May.

With artist revenue from touring obliterated by the COVID-19 pandemic, platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play have come under increased scrutiny in the past 12 months and are currently being looked into by a department of culture, media, and sport committee (DCMS) inquiry.

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Nile Rodgers is among several artists who have appeared at an inquiry into streaming. Pic:John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx/AP

On Wednesday, executives from the UK’s “big three” major labels – Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music – as well as representatives from licensing bodies, appeared before MPs for the third session of the hearing, which has already seen artists such as Elbow frontman Guy Garvey, Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien, Chic’s Nile Rodgers and singer-songwriter Nadine Shah give evidence.

The label heads told MPs their cut from streaming was a fair reward for the risks involved in developing artists, recording, marketing and distribution.

Numan is not appearing at the inquiry, but gave his thoughts on the revenue from streaming in an interview with Sky News – putting the figures into context.

“The solution’s simple,” he said. “The streaming companies should pay more money. They’re getting it for nothing.

“I had a statement a while back and one of my songs had had over a million plays, million streams, and it was £37. I got £37 from a million streams.”

Giving another example, Numan continued: “I printed out, I think it was about a year ago, a statement – my streaming statement came in and I didn’t look at it, I just put it to print, and I looked over about half an hour later, it was still printing.

“It was hundreds and hundreds of pages. And the end of it was, like, £112. It was barely worth the [paper] it was printed on, and it took nearly half an hour to print. You know, it’s so much stuff, so much streaming, and there’s absolutely nothing in it.”

Streaming currently accounts for more than half of the global music industry’s revenue and brings more than £1 billion to the UK in revenue, with 114 billion music streams in the last year.

But according to the Broken Record campaign, artists receive around 16% of the total income from streams, while record companies get around 41% and streaming services around 29%.

Numan said that very big artists can do well from streaming, but smaller artists struggle.

“If you’re really at the top, then you can earn pretty well from streaming,” he said. “If you’re not, you might as well forget it, it isn’t even worth printing it out, printing out the statement.”

The star’s words were echoed during the latest DCMS session by Peter Leathem, chief executive of music copyright collective Phonographic Performance Ltd, who said: “If you look at 2019, the best-selling albums were Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, based on the film, and Abbey Road by the Beatles, its 50-year anniversary.

“If you are trying to break a new artist or trying to get your own streaming going you have got the last 50 years of the music industry to compete with.”

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But Tony Harlow, chief executive of Warner Music UK, cautioned against disrupting the system.

“This is an evolving situation,” he said. “It is being well-governed by a market that is efficient and nimble and it doesn’t need any change.

“Any disruptions could diminish UK competitiveness at a time when I feel the UK needs to be the home of recorded music, just as it is by providing one in 10 streams around the world, by being the number two export business.”

During the session, it was suggested that major labels were operating like an “oligopoly” – to which Jason Iley, chairman and chief executive of Sony Music UK and Ireland, replied: “The independent sector is a brilliant sector and signs some of the best acts.

“There is more opportunity for artists to either sign to a major label or sign to an independent label or distribute their own records. There are more avenues today than I have ever seen in my time doing this job.”

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