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Researchers working overtime to better understand Omicron, now a variant of concern according to WHO
Nov. 29, 2021 6:41 p.m.
WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE). This decision was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes. Here is a summary of what is currently known.
Current knowledge about Omicron
Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting studies to better understand many aspects of Omicron and will continue to share the findings of these studies as they become available.
Transmissibility: It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible (e.g., more easily spread from person to person) compared to other variants, including Delta. The number of people testing positive has risen in areas of South Africa affected by this variant, but epidemiologic studies are underway to understand if it is because of Omicron or other factors.
Severity of disease: It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta. Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron. There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants. Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks. All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.
Effectiveness of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection
Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron (ie, people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with Omicron), as compared to other variants of concern, but information is limited. More information on this will become available in the coming days and weeks.
Effectiveness of vaccines: WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines. Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death.
Effectiveness of current tests: The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.
Effectiveness of current treatments: Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers will still be effective for managing patients with severe COVID-19. Other treatments will be assessed to see if they are still as effective given the changes to parts of the virus in the Omicron variant.
At the present time, WHO is coordinating with a large number of researchers around the world to better understand Omicron. Studies currently underway or underway shortly include assessments of transmissibility, severity of infection (including symptoms), performance of vaccines and diagnostic tests, and effectiveness of treatments.
WHO encourages countries to contribute the collection and sharing of hospitalized patient data through the WHO COVID-19 Clinical Data Platform to rapidly describe clinical characteristics and patient outcomes.
More information will emerge in the coming days and weeks. WHO’s TAG-VE will continue to monitor and evaluate the data as it becomes available and assess how mutations in Omicron alter the behaviour of the virus.
Recommended actions for countries
As Omicron has been designated a Variant of Concern, there are several actions WHO recommends countries to undertake, including enhancing surveillance and sequencing of cases; sharing genome sequences on publicly available databases, such as GISAID; reporting initial cases or clusters to WHO; performing field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand if Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics, or impacts effectiveness of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or public health and social measures. More detail in the announcement from 26 November.
Countries should continue to implement the effective public health measures to reduce COVID-19 circulation overall, using a risk analysis and science-based approach. They should increase some public health and medical capacities to manage an increase in cases. WHO is providing countries with support and guidance for both readiness and response.
In addition, it is vitally important that inequities in access to COVID-19 vaccines are urgently addressed to ensure that vulnerable groups everywhere, including health workers and older persons, receive their first and second doses, alongside equitable access to treatment and diagnostics.
Recommended actions for people
The most effective steps individuals can take to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to keep a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others; wear a well-fitting mask; open windows to improve ventilation; avoid poorly ventilated or crowded spaces; keep hands clean; cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue; and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.
WHO will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available, including following meetings of the TAG-VE. In addition, information will be available on WHO’s digital and social media platforms. (From the World Health Organization)
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Heated Pokémon battles at Paldea Region
August 23, 2022 5:42 p.m.
The Pokémon Company is pleased to share the following news about the Nintendo Switch software titles Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet.
Here’s a New Pokémon that you can meet in the Paldea Region!
Cyclizar is a Pokémon that lives with humans. This Pokémon has lived in many households in the Paldea region since ancient times. It has a mild disposition, and people riding Cyclizars are a very common sight. It appears that Cyclizar don’t mind being ridden because the warmth of a rider helps stave off the cold.
Cyclizar has a body optimized for running. It can sprint at over 70 mph while carrying a human. It has an extremely hard head and thick, lithe tail that are not only useful for maintaining balance and absorbing shocks while sprinting—they also provide effective ways to attack during battles.
Here’s a new move from Cyclizar: it can shed its tail! The user can create a substitute for itself using its own HP before switching places with a party Pokémon in waiting.
Battle with Pokémon Trainers from All over the World in the Battle Stadium!
With the Battle Stadium feature in Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet, you’ll be able to use the internet to enjoy battling Trainers from all over the world.
Ranked Battles, which players have had the chance to enjoy in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, will be returning in Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet. Players will be able to take on battles in modes like Casual Battles and Online Competitions as well.
Get ready to have heated Pokémon battles with the new partners you meet in the Paldea region!
Casual Battles are low-stakes battles in which results are not recorded. One appealing feature about these battles is that you can use any Pokémon.
In Ranked Battles, you will be able to test your battle skills against Pokémon Trainers from all over the world. Your rank will change depending on your battle results. Trainers are sorted into tiers based on their ranks. If you can reach Master Ball Tier, the topmost tier, you’ll have a chance to vie to be the best Pokémon Trainer in the world in fierce battles.
Online Competitions are competitions in which Trainers can battle with other entrants.
In Official Competitions, various kinds of rules may govern these special competitions in which you compete to see how high you can place in the rankings.
In the Friendly Competitions format, you can hold your very own competition or join one set up by other Trainers.
Rental Teams lets you easily borrow Battle Teams by inputting IDs that have been shared online. You’ll also be able to build your own Battle Team and make it available for Pokémon Trainers all over the world to use!
Please note that a paid Nintendo Switch Online membership is required to use the Battle Stadium. To use the Battle Stadium, you may need to install updated data that may become available on or after the games’ release date. Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield players cannot battle with Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet players.
Master Using the Terastal Phenomenon in Battle!
Terastallizing is a phenomenon in the Paldea region that makes Pokémon shine and glimmer like gems. Terastallized Pokémon shine during battles, too.
Change your Pokémon’s type and turn the tables!
The primary feature of Terastallizing in battle is that it changes your Pokémon’s type to its Tera Type. Pokémon don’t outwardly show what their Tera Type is until they Terastallize—a fact that
you can use to take opponents by surprise in battle. Combining Tera Types with different moves and abilities can open up near-infinite strategic possibilities.
This Tyranitar, which is normally Rock/Dark type, became Ghost type after Terastallizing.
If a Coalossal combines the Steam Engine Ability with a Water Tera Type, the Pokémon can take less damage and receive a speed boost when it gets hit by a Water-type move.
Tera Blast is a new move that shows its power when the user is Terastallized.
Tera Blast is a Normal-type move that can be learned with a TM. When used by a Terastallized Pokémon, it becomes a move of the same type as the Pokémon’s Tera Type and displays its immense might. Use it at the right moment to change the flow of the battle.
Tera Blast inflicts damage using the Attack or Sp. Atk stat—whichever is higher for the user.
New Items That Can Make Battles Even More Exciting
These items can be held by Pokémon to trigger a variety of effects. How you use them may mean the difference between victory and defeat. Use them in conjunction with Pokémon moves and Terastallizing to achieve victory.
This herb will allow the holder to mirror an opponent’s stat increases and boost its own stats–but only once.
This hooded cloak conceals the holder, protecting it from the additional effects of moves.
If a Pokémon holding this item uses a multi-strike move, that move will be more likely to hit numerous times.
Lastly, the latest trailer for Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet has been released! Check out the trailer titled “Competitive Play Trailer | Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet” at https://youtu.be/22fAJ6Iy_80
For more information about Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet, please go the official webpage: https://scarletviolet.pokemon.com/en-us/
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From PayMaya Enterprise to Maya Business
August 21, 2022 5:06 p.m.
PayMaya, the country’s largest processor of merchant payments, has relaunched its enterprise brand as Maya Business.
The new Maya Business seamlessly integrates omnichannel payment acceptance solutions, business-to-business (B2B), and business-to-government (B2G) payments, with digital banking services powered by Maya Bank, including a high-interest business deposit account and a range of credit products for enterprises and their customers.
The transformation comes on the heels of the successful launch of the new Maya brand and consumer app in late April this year which saw an accelerated uptake for wallet and digital banking services.
“With the new Maya Business, we’re creating the future of the enterprise, unleashing digital at a faster speed and on a broader scale,” said Manuel V. Pangilinan, Chairman of Voyager and PayMaya, and Chairman Emeritus of Maya Bank.
Accelerating the digital transformation of businesses
During the event, keynote speakers Department of Trade and Industry Secretary (DTI) Alfredo Pascual and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Felipe Medalla emphasized the need to accelerate the digital transformation of businesses as critical components of sustainable economic growth and inclusion.
“The BSP welcomes the rollout of new digital financial services that bring the benefits of digitalization to Filipino businesses and end-users. We are creating the right environment, but without enterprises like Maya, it means nothing if the private sector does not find a way of utilizing the opportunities. These efforts contribute to our push to expand financing options for our MSMEs and bring them into the mantle of the formal financial system,” said BSP Gov. Felipe Medalla.
For his part, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Alfredo Pascual underscored the crucial role of the private sector in helping the Philippines achieve its digital transformation goals.
“The private sector, with its agile mindset and disposition, has to play a key role, particularly in implementing the digital transformation of large and small enterprises as well as the government itself. Congratulations to Maya for providing a fast and secure financial transaction platform for businesses and consumers,” Pascual said.
According to the BSP 2021 E-Payments Measurement, business payments account for 24.1% of total monthly retail payments. Supplier payments make up almost 90% of total business payments, but most of these still use non-digital channels.
Maya Business is committed to accelerating digital transformation among enterprises and consumers in line with the national targets under the Digital Payments Transformation Roadmap 2023 and eCommerce Philippines Roadmap 2022.
“As a growth and transformation enabler, we are embedding our digital Maya solutions into the operating systems of our merchants, big or small, online or physical,” Orlando B. Vea, PayMaya Founder-CEO and Maya Bank Co-Founder, commented.
From payments to digital financial services
“From being a payments partner for enterprises, we’re now an all-in-one growth partner for businesses,” said Shailesh Baidwan, PayMaya Philippines Group President and Maya Bank Co-Founder. “Beyond leadership in payment acceptance, we’re enabling our customers with new digital financial services like business deposit, payroll disbursements, working capital loans, and buy-now-pay-later products.”
Maya Business offers merchants the broadest range of payment acceptance solutions, allowing businesses to accept any credit, debit, and prepaid card, scan-to-pay via QR, or via Maya wallet, whether online or on-ground. Solutions include Maya Checkout for online payments, Maya Payment Links for digital invoicing, Maya QR enabled by QR Ph Person-to-Merchant (P2M) payments – the national standard promoted by the BSP, and Maya Terminal, the country’s first android point-of-sale device.
Business owners and corporations can fast-track their business growth with a fully digital bank account that offers free PesoNet transfers and a 1.5% interest rate, four times higher than traditional banks. This feature is currently available for existing Maya Business clients.
On top of payment acceptance, Maya Business also offers a disbursement platform that enables organizations to efficiently distribute funds to their employees, suppliers, or citizen beneficiaries.
Maya Business honors Financial Inclusion Heroes
Maya Business is making big moves to help leapfrog millions of citizens, businesses, organizations, and government offices into more inclusive digital financial services.
Formerly PayMaya Enterprise, the country’s largest digital payments processor for key industries, recently recognized trailblazing partners that have championed Filipinos’ welfare through accessible financial services.
Recognized as Financial Inclusion Heroes, these organizations have proactively adopted digital solutions to empower their constituents by making everyday transactions more convenient and accessible.
“Financial inclusion is at the heart of what we do. We are proud to honor outstanding partners who have led the charge in enabling more Filipinos to be financially included through innovative and relevant services,” said Orlando B. Vea, CEO-Founder of PayMaya and Co-Founder of Maya Bank.
Maya Business is powered by the country’s only end-to-end digital payments company, PayMaya Philippines, and Maya Bank for digital banking services.
DTI and BSP: showing the way for financial inclusion
Leading the list of Maya Business Financial Inclusion Heroes are the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for spearheading the country’s digital payments transformation roadmap and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for championing e-Commerce adoption across consumers and enterprises.
Through progressive regulation and initiatives led by the BSP, the Philippines has made significant inroads in achieving the national target of financially including 70% of adult Filipinos by 2023. As of end-2021, more than 53% of adult Filipinos already have access to basic financial accounts.
BSP Gov. Felipe Medalla called on the private sector to support the national financial inclusion goals during his keynote remarks at the Maya Business event. Joining him to receive the Financial Inclusion Hero award for the BSP are Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier, Deputy Governor Bernadette Puyat-Romulo, and Monetary Board Members Anita Linda Aquino and Peter Favila.
For the DTI, Secretary Alfredo Pascual and Assistant Secretary Mary Jean Pacheco accepted the recognition. In his keynote, Sec. Pascual said that “collaboration between industry and government is effective in promoting priority initiatives.”
“We have accomplished much through our collaborations, and the successful outcome speaks for itself. Let us continue with our Ecommerce Roadmap 2023-2025 and assist large merchants and, more importantly, MSMEs in leapfrogging toward a cashless and inclusive fintech,” Pascual added.
Financial inclusion at the grassroots
Brgy. Namayan of Mandaluyong City, one of this year’s awardees, exemplified how financial inclusion can empower communities. As the first-ever barangay-level “cash lite” community in the Philippines, Brgy. Namayan enabled its residents and workers to enjoy digital transactions with the help of Maya Business.
The barangay equipped its residents with citizen ID cards linked to Maya accounts for everyday payment transactions in sari-sari stores, karinderia, bulalohan, and other small merchants. Barangay workers, meanwhile, can safely receive their monthly allowances through their Maya-powered citizen ID cards.
“Our collaboration with Maya becomes even more relevant now, given the need for safer contactless transactions. By encouraging cashless technologies in everyday transactions in our barangay, we are building a safer and more inclusive community,” said Brgy. Namayan Chairman Victor Emmanuel Francisco Jr.
Financial Inclusion Heroes across sectors
Maya Business feted partners who contributed significantly to promoting financial inclusion. Among these Financial Inclusion Heroes are:
- Ease of Doing Business Champions – National Government Agencies: the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), Pag-IBIG, and Social Security System (SSS) for making it easier for citizens to pay civic fees through omnichannel payment acceptance
- Ease of Doing Business Champions- Local governments: Taguig City and Caloocan City for adopting an ecosystem approach for person and business to government payments and citizen disbursements
- LGUs Embracing and Accelerating Digitalization (LEAD) program Champion: Department of Interior and Local Government for promoting e-payments adoption among local governments units (LGUs)
- Agriculture: Development Bank of the Philippines for the joint efforts in promoting countryside development
- Education: the University of the Philippines System for adopting an all-in-one ID card with payment capabilities for their students and employees
- Humanitarian: Oxfam Pilipinas for pioneering the use of cashless technology in disaster preparedness and emergency response via the Inclusive and Affordable Financial Facilities for Resilient and Developed Filipinos Project (iAFFORD) program
- Social Welfare: Department of Social Welfare and Development for utilizing digital technologies in delivering pandemic cash assistance to citizens
- Travel and Tourism: Philippine Airlines for helping grow the sector post-pandemic
“With our Maya Business partners, we are making big moves in driving digital financial services adoption across the length and breadth of the country,” said Shailesh Baidwan, Group President of PayMaya and co-founder of Maya Bank.
To know more about Maya Business, visit maya.ph/business and follow @MayaBusinessPh on Facebook.
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YouTube announces “YouTube: Game On,” a live online global gaming event
August 10, 2022 4:59 p.m.
YouTube celebrates all things gaming–from popular titles to top content creators–through the first-ever “YouTube: Game On,” a two-hour interactive livestream event premiering live globally on Sunday, August 28, 4:00 A.M. Philippine time.
YouTube: Game On brings together more than 60 top gaming content creators, including Markiplier, AliA, AyChristene, Bazerk, Caylus, Chica, CouRage, Dream, EddieVR, EyStreem, Kwebbelkop, Neto, GeorgeNotFound, Jake Fellman, Lachlan, LARRAY, LaurenzSide, LDShadowLady, MatPat, Muselk, Myth, Preston & Brianna, Sapnap, Sidemen, Slogo, SunlessKhan, Sykkuno, The Grumps, TommyInnit, Typical Gamer, Wirtual, with even more to be announced. They represent over 400 million subscribers and more than 150 billion combined lifetime views on the platform.
They will be playing and featuring today’s hottest games, including Among Us, Fall Guys, Fortnite, Free Fire, Friday Night Funkin’, Grand Theft Auto V, Minecraft, Mortal Kombat 11, Poppy Playtime, Rocket League, Street Fighter 6, Trackmania and more.
Gaming fans can watch and play along by voting in real time on unique gaming challenges and influence how the stream will play out.
The event will include various entertaining segments: a frightening batch of analog horror challenges that’ll give viewers good and thrilling jump scares; the Hot Ones Challenge: Video Gamer Faceoff hosted by Sean Evans, where viewer-selected players will go head-to-head playing an early demo of the highly anticipated Street Fighter 6 while eating hot wings; Grandma & Gran-Poppy Playtime where unsuspecting seniors will try to be the last person standing in survival horror game Poppy Playtime; and even more fun and creative gaming challenges.
YouTube: Game On celebrates the diversity of gaming content that makes up YouTube gaming culture–from entertaining gaming challenges and surprise gameplay moments to honoring classic game anniversaries–all of which are inspired by the most popular trends on the platform.
YouTube saw over 800 billion gaming-related views, over 90 million hours livestreamed, and over 250 million uploads in the first half of 2021, and is home to the most relevant gaming trends and content across livestreams, video-on-demand, and Shorts content. The global livestream event also comes at the heels of a jam-packed summer of gaming on the platform with a non-stop slate of gaming content from fan-favorite creators around the world.
YouTube: Game On will simultaneously stream across the globe on August 28. Live chat and interactive polling features for viewers will be enabled across all five streams, making livestream outcomes a global decision. Watch and pre-subscribe to the stream via the official YouTube: Game On Watchpage.
Watch the trailer here!