Alumni Activities

130 Viewers Joined the International Conference on Sharing of New Ideas on Different Defenses against Covid-19

On August 5, 2020, JST and JISTEC co-organized a web seminar on different defenses against Covid-19. The webinar was hosted by Dr. Ooi Hong-Kean, Professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, one of the prominent organizations that was awarded the Sakura Science Plan (SSP) project. This webinar was joined by 130 viewers in 21 countries/regions around the world. To open the webinar, JST’s Mr. Kuroki Shinichi (Deputy Director of China Research and Sakura Science Center) remarked how important it is for us to tackle Covid-19, which is affecting every sphere of our society, including the operation of the Sakura Science exchange program.

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Besides Thailand, speakers from five countries with a high number of infected cases shared their presentations (India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and China). While all speakers emphasized the big shift to the new norms involving social distancing/self-isolation, use of masks/face-shields, temperature monitoring, thorough hand-washing, online education/work and e-commerce, they also introduced their own country-specific measures taken to combat Covid-19.

The first presenter from Indonesia, Dr. Elziyad Muhammad Thohawi of Airlangga University mentioned that East Java (Surabaya and Gresik) is becoming the new epicenter for positive cases, and that the country must counter low public participation in sanitary measures and hoax-information. To counter the status, Dr. Thohawi pointed out innovative measures being introduced like the use of automatic medical assistance robots, mobile ultraviolet light sterilization robot, locally invented or produced biopharma diagnostic test kits and ventilators, mobile labs that can analyze samples from suspected patients, herbal products that boost immunity and clinical trials of vaccine derived from genome-sequencing of the virus.

Next up, Dr. Vitthal Shrirang Dhaygude from Maharashtra Animal & Fishery Sciences University in India explained that there were 4 lockdowns during March-May. Even Mumbai, one of the most populated cities in India was deserted. Many new startups like Asimov Robotics (developed robots that can carry necessities to isolated hospital wards) and IIT Delhi’s Estylo (developed full-body sanitization tunnel) came up with innovative solutions. The Covid-19 tracking app, Aarogya Setu was launched in early April. He also mentioned that Covid-19 brought about sharing of household responsibilities among men and women during lockdown.

Regarding Kazakhstan, Dr. Laura Auberkerova from Kazakh National Agrarian University explained that the country went into a state of emergency during March 16-May 11, 2020, which restricted sports, entertainment and crossing of provincial borders. After borders were opened during the end of April, a number of positive cases resurged to bring about another closure during July 16-August 17. During these closed periods, a system was launched where citizen could exchange drugs that they don’t’ need. Medical students also joined in the fight against Covid-19. The elderly or the socially vulnerable who needed help were also matched-up with care-givers. Kazakhstan has been developing a vaccine since mid-March and WHO has registered it as a candidate vaccine.

With a recovery rate of 88.9% and death rate of 2.1% in Pakistan, Dr. Muhammad Adnan Saeed of the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Lahore, explained that the pandemic was controlled effectively through small-scale “smart lockdowns” that are “limited to one street or a block,” so as not to damage the economy. Patients with mild symptoms practiced self-quarantine and medical care was only provided to critical patients. Although some facilities are still open, schools are closed until September 15. Other effective measures include remote “telemedicine” to avoid pressure on hospitals, conversion of expo-centers and hotels into quarantine hubs, and mandatory removal of carpets/rugs from prayer venues. Production of indigenous ventilators are also under way.

Dr. Sirinum Pisamai of Chulalongkorn University reported that there have been 3,310 confirmed cases so far in Thailand and that there are about 10 new cases per day. Travelers to Thailand must be quarantined for 14 days. By scanning the issued QR code in front of each shop, the Covid-19 tracking app “Thai Chana” allows users to know how much a facility is congested or if a shop is taking appropriate measures. If you later get a notification that you were at risk, you will eligible for free testing. The faculty of medicine at Chulalongkorn University is now developing its own vaccine.

From China, Dr. Liu Xianyong of China Agricultural University mentioned that using the Face ID machine has become a part of life for going in and out of campus, and that PhD dissertation defense has been conducted online, too. University personnel stayed on-campus until June 11. There have been 200 cases of Covid-19 in Beijing, the home to his university. All faculty and administrative staff, and students were tested for Covid-19 on June 27 but none came out positive.

Lastly, to conclude the session Dr. Ooi supplemented information on the situation in Japan. Since the Covid-19 mortality was comparatively quite low in Japan, the government did not enforce a lockdown but announced a state of emergency. Social rule offenders are neither fined nor arrested. The key slogans in Japan are to avoid the 3 C’s: 1) Closed spaces with poor ventilation, 2) Crowded places and 3) Close-contact. Mask-wearing in public is a readily accepted phenomenon because many Japanese have been using face masks to prevent pollen allergy in their daily life. Effective Covid-19 drugs approved by the Japanese government includes Remdisivir (used for Ebola, SARS/MERS) and Dexamethasone (used as immunosuppressor to reduce cytokine storm). It was also suggested that the antibiotic Clarithromycin, which has been used to treat patient with interstitial pneumonia, can potentially be tested as an add-on drug.

In early April, 2020, Dr Ooi had called out to ex-SSP participants to send in the situation reports on Covid-19 in their respective countries. A total of 41 reports across 24 countries/regions were sent to Dr. Ooi. All reports raised significant issues and measures, and they were uploaded and made public at the Sakura Science Plan website. This webinar was carried out to further enhance sharing of ideas on how to fight Covid-19. JST and JISTEC would once again like to thank Dr. Ooi and all the speakers deeply for such a diverse and informative session.