Asia Pacific Focus

China’s wet markets open shop amid global pressure for ban on wildlife trade
Asia Pacific Focus

China’s wet markets open shop amid global pressure for ban on wildlife trade

Even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to paralyze the health system and economy all over the world, China’s wet markets have, reportedly, started to open up. Notably, it has been suspected by the experts that the COVID-19 virus resulting in the deaths of thousands of people across the world emerged from wild animals from the wet markets in China’s Wuhan city. Following the initial pandemic outbreak in Wuhan, approximately 20,000 wet markets were forced to close shop in China. After China’s lifted the lockdown earlier in April, the wet markets have started opening up in several parts of the country.

However, as China remerges from the pandemic crisis, there is pressure mounting on the mainland from international bodies calling for the strict prohibition in the wet-markets. The United Nations biodiversity has called for stricter measures to curb the sale and consumption of wild animals not only in China but countries across the world. UN Biodiversity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema has also called for the countries to curb the trading of live animals in the markets in order to reduce the risk of future zoonotic/disease outbreak. Experts also believe that the reopening of the wet markets in China is a matter of concern, calling for global pressure on the country to reconsider its actions on the trading of the wild and exotic animals.

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There has been an ongoing debate on the complete ban on the wet markets. While a section of the society argues that these wet markets provide livelihood to locals where the people sell and buy the products, other section of the society has called for a ban exclusively on sale of live and wild animals. The World Health Organisation has also come under pressure from conservation groups demanding the closure of live animals trading in such markets to prevent the risk they pose on spreading global pandemics.

Amid the discourse, China’s Shenzhen became the first city in the mainland to ban the sale and consumption of dogs and cats.
While it has been over four months since the inception of the disease, vaccination is almost 12/18 months away, as per the scientific experts. Even as mainland China lifted the lockdown, the country is restricting the movement of the citizens over concerns of the second wave of infections.

Meanwhile, the number of positive COVID-19 cases across the world has crossed 14,47,000 with over 80,000 deaths.

Fashion World’s Future and its Contribution Amid Coronavirus
Asia Pacific Focus, Europe

Fashion World’s Future and its Contribution Amid Coronavirus

The entire world is currently struck and battling the coronavirus pandemic. Nations have banned travel and enforced lockdown to control the spreading of the virus. The lockdown has majorly hit the global market as malls, markets, fashion stores are all shut. One of the industries that have been smitten by this is the fashion industry. Artisans, tailors, small designers, apparel and textile industry, are facing the consequence of the outbreak worldwide.

Many major events have been canceled or postponed, such as the Paris Men’s Fashion Week and Couture Week, Met Gala, CFDA Awards, and others.

In March, The famous India Fashion Week Autumn-Winter 2020 got postponed, and the Chairman of Fashion Design Council Of India (FDCI) Sunil Sethi issued refunds to designers and sponsors who had invested in the show and stalls for the event. FDCI has also set up a fund to provide financial aid to small designers and businesses in the Indian Fashion Industry.

Big international brands like Giorgio Armani, Dior, Burberry, and many more pitched in to help mobilize by stitching masks and gowns for frontline workers.

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Dior reopened its BabyDior brand in Redon and volunteered to produce new masks and aid the healthcare professionals.

Giorgio Armani, in his Instagram post, announced that companies Italian production plants will contribute towards manufacturing disposable medical overalls for frontline workers.

Burberry stated that the company’s global supply chain would produce 100,000 surgical masks and support the NHS, and added that they stand together in the battle against coronavirus.

No one knows how the global fashion world will recover from such a drastic economic loss. The fashion and luxury industry is predicted to suffer around $600 billion due to the coronavirus, and it will surely make the consumers think before spending on luxury goods.

Article Credit: Hindustan Times/Vogue Business/USA Today/Quartz

Coronavirus treatment and vaccine, the only hope for a return to normal
Americas, Asia Pacific Focus, Europe

Coronavirus treatment and vaccine, the only hope for a return to normal

It seems that without a treatment or a vaccine the coronavirus emergency (COVID-19) is destined to continue and the return to normal is more and more complicated. After Wuhan, the first epicenter of the pandemic in China, tried to gradually remove the restrictive measures for residents, Beijing yesterday recorded a new local transmission case of Covid-19 in the province of Hubei, and 18 ‘imported’ cases. In the country there are now 888 cases of return, or linked abroad. Four more people died in Wuhan, the National Health Commission reported. There are 1,030 asymptomatic subjects, after 64 others were identified yesterday, 38 of which only in Hubei. In the past seven days, among the ‘imported’ cases, 190 people have been discharged, while 698 remain in the hospital and among these there are 17 patients in intensive care. The new official report therefore speaks of 3,326 coronavirus deaths and 81,639 infections, 50,008 just in Wuhan. According to the National Health Commission, 76,751 patients have been discharged from Chinese hospitals since the beginning of the emergency.

But what are the hopes that science offers us today?

After an initial trial on ten patients, thousands of people affected by COVID-19 with satisfactory results in subjects with severe forms of infection and with negligible infusion-related side effects were treated by Dr. Lu Ming, of Wuhan, head of a delegation of Chinese doctors supporting the Italian hospital Policlinic San Matteo in Pavia in the treatment of coronavirus with the plasma of patients recovered. According to the Chinese team, positive results are seen 24-48 hours after the plasma infusion of the healed subjects who developed the antibodies to the new disease. This experimental therapy with plasma infusions from healed patients, already conducted in China, began at the San Matteo hospital in Pavia last week. The concept is to take plasma from the blood of healed or convalescent people. The plasma is then analysed to evaluate the number of antibodies and finally infused in sick patients. In this way, the antibodies themselves are put back into circulation with the aim of helping to fight the infection leading to recovery. Among the first donors are some citizens of Casalpusterlengo, in the province of Lodi, one of the first outbreaks in northern Italy that tested negative after the infection. But the results so far are completely uncertain and it is not possible to make predictions, even if plasma infusions are not an absolute novelty. The technique is already in use on people with coagulation problems, in which the risks are related to those of a normal infusion.

Work in progress to find a vaccine.

In the United States, there are many universities and pharmaceutical companies working to find a vaccine for the new coronavirus. Encouraging signs come from the University of Pittsburgh where a team of researchers coordinated by the Italian Andrea Gambotto and Professor Louis Falo have completed the phase of experimentation on mice of a possible vaccine against Saars-Cov2. The Pittsburgh’s research aims to the creation of a sort of patch that would be ready for industrial production within 5 months. The first goal of the tests is to rule out the toxicity of a vaccine. Usually this is first tested on mice, then on monkeys, finally on humans, before being produced and distributed. In some cases, the primate test phase is skipped. If it will also be done in the case of coronavirus, experts believe that the time to have a vaccine available will certainly shorten, but we cannot deceive ourselves that it is ready in a few weeks or months, it will still take about a year.

What are the other therapies available today?

In the race to find an effective cure, many hypotheses have been heard, from Avigan used in some cases in Japan, to fast vaccines. Today the most concrete and effective way is represented by antivirals and in particular by Remdesivir. This is a drug currently used experimentally and in compassionate use, therefore in emergency situations in which other treatments are ineffective. Coronavirus seems to be a staged disease, in which already existing anti-inflammatories, such as cortisone, in some cases has given excellent results as well as the use of an anti-Ebola drug or hydroxychloroquine, used in the treatment of rheumatic diseases.

But there are still many things we don’t know about covid-19.

At the beginning of the epidemic, doctors and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the mask was only for those who had contracted the coronavirus, nurses, doctors and those who were in close contact with possible sources of infection. Now, things are changing. WHO is seriously considering the latest scientific studies on the spread of COVID-19 in the air and has said it is ready to review the guidelines on masks. David Heymann, head of the WHO working group, said that “we are studying the latest scientific evidence and new research could lead to a change in the mask guidelines”. The Lydia Bourouiba of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge concentrated their studies on the speed, the permanence in the air and the distance travelled by the droplets of saliva emitted by patients who can transmit invective diseases such as the current COVID-19. It turned out that a sneeze creates a cloud of both droplets and small droplets that can go up to 8 meters away. Droplets emitted with sneezing and coughing from infected people can travel up to two meters and then fall by gravity. If there are no hazards outdoors, in particular closed environments such as hospitals, without adequate air changes, the rooms could become saturated with infected air.

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How lockdown is leading to leak of confidential information
Americas, Asia Pacific Focus, Europe

How lockdown is leading to leak of confidential information

As most of the population of the world is getting into a lockdown situation, as the only resort to prevent the Corona Virus from spreading any further, the way we work is transforming. Work From Home (WFH) has become the norm of the current times. Most corporate are functioning through the WFH strategy to work. But with this, comes the perils of information leak too.

Apparently, professional lawyers are being warned by their firms to be weary of technological gadgets like Alexa. It is confirmed that Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s voice assistant listens to all your private and confidential conversations, breaching the client-lawyer privilege.

Law firms have now started advices its staff working from home issued advice to staff to mute or shut off listening devices. It suggested not having any of the devices near their work space at all.

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Other devices used as smart technology at home are all Artificial intelligence enabled and can pose to be a threat to the confidentiality clause that lawyers and bankers have to maintain. While Amazon and Google has confirmed that their devices only get activated when they hear a familiar word being used with the environment they are set in, recent testing by Northeastern University and Imperial College London has found that these devices can activate inadvertently between 1.5 and 19 times a day.

Other than this, applications like TikTok are known to have been tracking every click and all activity on the user mobile devises and is gradually being banned across America. In the recent past, technology companies have been under fire for compromising with user privacy by having teams of human auditors listen to conversations without consent to improve their AI algorithms.

Misinformation can kill us faster than Covid-19
Americas, Asia Pacific Focus, Europe

Misinformation can kill us faster than Covid-19

Coronavirus, since its origin about four months ago in Wuhan in China, has not only spread infection but also countless wild stories and conspiracy theories about its origins, its effects, its cure. Last week, more than 300 people in Iran died and over 1000 became ill after consuming toxic methanol amid rumours that it can cure Covid-19. The Islamic Republic is one of the worst hit nations by the outbreak, with the corona positive count reaching 44,605 and death toll 2,898. But the authorities are struggling not only in controlling the pandemic but also the spread of online misinformation.

In India, there were reports of hundreds of chickens found dead as people believed that coronavirus was passed on to humans through birds or vice versa and so to curtail its further spread a whole lot got killed.

As per a Buzzfeed report, misinformation led to riots in a small village in Ukraine, which lasted for two days. On 18 February a plane from Wuhan, China, (epicentre of coronavirus) arrived in the country, and rumours started circulating that those on board were infected with Covid-19. After landing, the passengers were immediately taken to an undisclosed medical facility. Rioters prevented the bus from entering their village by throwing stones and blocking way, fearing that the evacuees would infect all. Later after testing the evacuees, government announced that none of the passenger was corona infected. So there was nothing to worry about, yet so much chaos to handle.

In the words of WHO director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. He emphasised that if we did not control it, “we are headed down a dark path that leads nowhere but division and disharmony”.

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In the age of social media, misinformation spreads faster than any virus which is far more dangerous as it increases human anxiety, putting them in survival mode and eventually overtaking the elements of empathy, unity, kindness and humanity. A similar trend was visible as soon as the whole world went into lockdown – which led to hoarding, disrupted supply chains, export ban, de-globalisation and de-regionalsim. A simple example of how Germany and the Netherlands refused to help Italy in unitedly raising ‘corona bonds’ (emergency EU bonds) sums it up all.

It is only human to calm anxiety by gathering more information about the threat and trying to make out loved ones informed and prepared. But this approach would have made sense in pre-internet era, where information was put out majorly by official government sources. But in the age of social media and search engines it is hard to differentiate fake from facts. Unfortunately, there are a lot of platforms functioning for economic or propaganda/ idealogical purposes, rather than sharing reliable information. For all you would know, you might be spreading a rumour by even sharing a meme or a joke (may be on empty shelves) which could triggers panic among people.

So the way forward is to fight Covid-19 as it was done during 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, by social distancing. We need to distance ourselves both in person and online. Not matter how tempting an information/ meme/ joke looks like, don’t share it. Anything official and important would be shared through more authentic channels and institutions.

Shenzhen creates history, becomes first Chinese city to ban consumption of dogs and cats
Asia Pacific Focus

Shenzhen creates history, becomes first Chinese city to ban consumption of dogs and cats

As various countries across the world continue their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought the lives of the citizen to a standstill, Shenzhen city in China has become the first city in the East Asian country to ban the consumption of dogs and cats. Authorities at Shenzhen city took the historic decision on April 1 with a new low which will come into effect from May 1. As per the law, the consumption and production of the meat of wild animals including cats and dogs have been banned and people caught selling, breeding or eating wild animals could be punished.

The decision was taken by the Mainland city in an attempt to clampdown the trade of wildlife in the aftermath of the inception of the Coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan city in December 2019. In an order released by the city government, it has been stated that the ban has been imposed as a response to the spirit of human civilization. Animal welfare groups have also come forward in praising the efforts of the Chinese city in the protection of the wildlife.

Experts argued that the deadly disease spread across to the humans from animals after early signs showed were seen in people who were exposed to the markets in China’s Wuhan city where trading of wild animals used to take place.

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According to some reports, as the Coronavirus cases begin to ease in the Mainland, the wet markets where the wild animals including bats and pangolins were traded have reopened and the daily life of the people is gradually returning to normal. For many years, environmentalists and wildlife activists have been demanding the prohibition of trade and consumption of wild animals in China.

While the COVID-19 cases are lowering in China, the epicentre of the pandemic is shifting to the United States and Europe. While many countries across the globe are still under complete lockdown, China is slowly and cautiously opening up its markets. There are over 1 million positive COVID-19 cases reported worldwide since the outbreak. Meanwhile, China will observe April 3 as the national day of mourning to commemorate the sacrifice of the people who lost their lives fighting the COVID-19 disease.

Is coronavirus lockdown leading to a surge in domestic violence?
Americas, Asia Pacific Focus, Europe

Is coronavirus lockdown leading to a surge in domestic violence?

The coronavirus lockdown is no less than a nightmare for people living with abusive partners. Reports suggest that there have been manifold increase in domestic violence cases since the lockdown began in different countries as a preventive measure to beat Covid-19.

French authorities witnessed 36% increase in domestic violence cases in Paris only, while rest of France showed 32% rise in reported cases since the lockdown began on March 17.

China, which was first to be engulfed by the pandemic outbreak, reported twice as many cases of domestic violence as compared to the normal times, after the lockdown began in January. Soon the hashtag translating as #AntiDomesticViolenceDuringEpidemic started going viral.

Spain also reported a violent case wherein a 35-year-old woman (mother of two) was killed by her partner last month during the lockdown. The country is facing the second-worst outbreak in Europe after Italy.

According to Oxfam India, the global figures suggest that almost 1 in 3 or the 35 per cent of women worldwide have “experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime .”

Experts believe that coronavirus-deemed shutdown has put society under stress as many fear losing jobs, many are combating with food shortages, economic and mental insecurities. And in such stressful times, confinement aggravates frustration, increasing the likelihood of conflicts, leading to domestic and sexual violence. The lockdown increases the danger as it puts the victim under constant touch of the perpetrator.

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Anti-domestic violence organisations are finding it not only hard to work from home as they are unable to reach out to the victims due to shutdown but also not able to help victims due to lack of refuge. Hope the governments and welfare agencies are not losing sight of this grave issue amid Covid-19 pandemic. Though many have come forward in support of the abused victims.

Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of British charity SafeLives, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “It’s a perfect storm. Lockdowns will lead to a surge in domestic abuse, but also severely limit the ability of services to help.”

The French government is trying to help victims by putting them in hotels and setting up approximately 20 consultation centres in stores. The French Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, announced on March 26 that victims of domestic violence could drop a message to local pharmacists if they are in danger. The government also announced fund of about 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in funds for anti-domestic abuse organizations to facilitate them in helping people and keep up with increasing demand for their services in the current situation.

In Spain’s Canary Islands code word ‘Mask 19’ is used by the victims at nearest pharmacy to help them reach out to authorities for rescue.

Germany and Austria have made facilities, providing refuge or helping in removal of violent family members from quarantined households. Several other nations, in partnership with NGOs are devising more such plans but a lot of nations have not made any arrangements for the victims.

What’s dangerous is that this upward moving graph of domestic violence cases is only of reported cases, while there many cases which remain unreported since in nations like India domestic violence is seen as a normal. Hope the lockdown and coronavirus both recede soon.

Pros and Cons of Working From Home During Coronavirus Lockdown
Americas, Asia Pacific Focus, Europe, Middle East & Africa

Pros and Cons of Working From Home During Coronavirus Lockdown

Currently, the world is fighting a deadly pandemic called coronavirus or Covid-19. Many precautionary measures have been announced by nations worldwide to contain the virus from spreading. Among them is work from home for all employees due to imposed lockdown.

One of the most significant changes for employees is to work from home amid global coronavirus lockdown. Working from home sounds exciting initially, but actually, it comes with its advantages and disadvantages as well.

Besides freelancers and small businesses, who are familiar with working from home, many permanent employees opted to work from home a few times due to personal reasons or family emergencies. However, recently everyone is adjusting to the work from home culture due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Right now, it’s essential to stay safe from the coronavirus as its spreading rapidly worldwide. The positives that an office goer will see in work from home are; we need not dress up formally for office; you could work in your PJs. Without setting the alarm, you could oversleep at home and have a brunch.

Office politics, busy schedules, meetings, and travel exhaustion is put to a break due to lockdown.
But, on the contrary, people in many nations such as India are facing low internet speed due to heavy traffic hampers the daily deadline.

Family members, kids, and other personal responsibilities have increased during the lockdown, for example, doing daily chores. Many nations are experiencing a shortage of groceries and essential goods due to panic buying, which has resulted in empty stores, which is a big concern for survival.

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Change of work environment can disturb focus and everyday productivity. The sudden change to sit alone without colleagues can cause loneliness and fatigue.

Staying alert and not getting distracted by kids, family members, or television can be a challenging task for people working from home.

Work from home is not meant for every person, but currently, everyone needs to do so under lockdown.

According to psychologists and experts, if we want to be as productive as we were in office, we need to have a daily planner to follow at home.

We must set up an alarm and wake up early. We should avoid late-night movies and series. We should exercise daily indoors as per our schedule, which will increase our stamina, alertness, focus, and health.

We must practice self-discipline by taking a bath, getting dressed for work at home also. Make sure to sit in a well lighted silent place to avoid distraction.

Create deadlines for each assignment and break time to refresh yourself. Always keep yourself hydrated with juices and fruits while working.

Prioritize your family needs and requirements as, during the lockdown, we need to practice a healthy relationship and spend quality time with family as well.

Taliban refuses negotiations with the selected by the  Afghan government
Asia Pacific Focus

Taliban refuses negotiations with the selected by the Afghan government

A Taliban spokesman said that the Taliban would not negotiate with the team announced by the Afghan government, in a possible setback in the US-brokered peace process.

The spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that the movement refuses to negotiate with the team selected by the Afghan government because it was not chosen in a way that includes “all Afghan factions”. The Afghan government announced the formation of a team late on Thursday, which was praised by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and described as “complete”.

In February the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban requiring the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, but progress required toward negotiations between the movement and the Afghan government has been delayed by differences between Afghan politicians and a dispute between the Taliban and the government over the prisoners’ release and a possible ceasefire as preconditions for talks.

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Mujahid said that the Afghan government’s announcement of the negotiating team had “violated” its agreement with the United States and that all parties had not agreed on the team.

“In order to reach a real and lasting peace, the aforementioned team must be agreed upon by all Afghan actors,” he said.
In response, Najia Anuri, a spokesperson for the Afghan Peace Affairs’ Ministry, said, “This team was formed after wide consultation with the different classes of Afghan society.”

So far, Abdullah Abdullah, political rival to President Ashraf Ghani, has not confirmed whether he accepts the delegation, a move diplomats say is gaining in importance due to his team’s strong influence in north and west Afghanistan.

On Friday, Abdullah’s spokesman declined to confirm or deny whether he would support the negotiating team. His spokesman did not respond, and the US embassy in Kabul did not respond to two requests for comment on Saturday.

Increasing Coronavirus: Who is to blame?
Americas, Asia Pacific Focus, Europe

Increasing Coronavirus: Who is to blame?

Coronavirus, the biggest global pandemic of the century, is not the only virus which has infected the world and taken down millions of lives. The world has fallen victim to Ebola, Yellow fever, Zika virus, Nipa virus, MERS (CoV), scarlet fever, SARS, Enterovirus 68 and many more. Today, we have more viruses and diseases than ever before. According to a research paper, “Deposition rates of viruses and bacteria above the atmospheric boundary layer”, published in 2018, there are about 800 million viruses on every square meter of the planet. But not all viruses cause pandemics. Well, not all viruses even enter the human lives.

According to scientists, wet forests are the breeding grounds for most of the viruses in the world as the region is rich in terms of biodiversity. Rodents, mammals and bats are the maximum carriers of viruses but the most dangerous of all are bats as they have a strange ability to carry a lot of viruses, in their saliva, urine, and faeces. And they can easily spread these virus as they can fly to different places.

Dr. Kevin Olival, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, who has been studying emerging viral infections for over a decade, said that over the last 60 years, the number of viral diseases has gone up four times and the outbreaks per year has increased three times.
He added that there are thousands of new viruses in the world. Interestingly these are new only to the world of humans and science as they have been existing among the wild for thousands of years.

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Viruses are not coming to humans, but humans are going to them. It is humans, who are getting into the forest, and using the forest land to build malls, estates or convert them into plantations, including soya bean plantation in Amazon, palm oil plantation in Indonesia, Malaysia, live stock ranching, agricultural expansion, logging etc.

Dr. Barbara Han, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York, said, “Whatever survives, spills out. Deforestation is closely tied to disease emergence.” Dr Han said that by 2050, more than half of the world’s population is expected to live in the tropics and subtropics. Where as at present only 15 percent of the world’s rain forests still remain untouched, but the rest has been burned down.

Human activities are rapidly impacting the environment and hampering the balance of existing biodiversity. With all these changes, comes along the era of new and deadly viruses. We witness it a lot many times that, if deforestation happens in certain area then animals show up in nearly farm lands or houses. In the same manner if these virus-carrying animals or bats enter human space or spit or pee or poop on a human or in our farm lands then these viruses enter human race.

In 2017, Dr. Olival was working on project ‘PREDICT’, along with a team from the EcoHealth Alliance, who were trying to investigate where the most dangerous unknown pathogens are likely to be living. The team predicted that the next pandemic would emerge from bats, as they are already known to be cause of many human pandemics, including Sars, which emerged from cave-dwelling bats in China, and Ebola.

Stephen Morse, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, raised a pertinent point. Dr. Morse told BBC, “I think we are better able to respond to pandemics today than ever, but part of the problem is mobilising the resources and political will to take them seriously. I feel the greatest problem is not so much the pathogen – it’s complacency.”

The key causes of increasing rate of viruses are rampant human consumerism, globalisation, overselling of tourism industry and growing clutches of capitalism, in-short human expansion into the wild. We, humans need to learn from past and from our catastrophic mistakes before becomes a past.

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A college senior student, Ashley Lawrence has been thoughtful to design masks which have a plastic strip on the mouth part that will help the deaf and dumb community to continue to use sign language to communicate.
#ProtectiveMasks #DeafandDumb #NewsAlert #Corona

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