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Texas Governor Greg Abbott Ends Mask Mandate

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The largest state in the USA is to end its mask mandate, effective on March 10. “It is now time to open Texas 100%,” the Republican said on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden has made it clear coronavirus restrictions are still necessary.

Similar rules were lifted in other states, including Michigan, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The undergoing vaccination program has boosted confidence for pre-pandemic lives in those states.

Yet the decisions put the main administration and senior health officials at odds with the Lone Star state and its companions who have reacted with dismay over the decision.

The director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned of a “potential fourth surge of cases” if the country lapsed into complacency. Covid-19 data shows that, while infections and deaths have declined, they are still at high levels relative to other countries.

The new executive order lifts all mask requirements and forbids local authorities from penalizing residents who do not wear a face covering.

“Too many Texans have been side-lined from employment opportunities,” Mr. Abbott said in a speech at the Chamber of Commerce in the city of Lubbock. “Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end.”

He is confident with the improved treatment and vaccinations, it is now in a “far better position”.

He said that with increased vaccinations and improved treatment for Covid-19, the state was “in a far better position now”. Texas has recorded more than 43,000 Covid-19 deaths making it the third-highest state toll in the country.

Political

The Republican leadership favored former President Donald Trump’s relatively relaxed approach to imposing restrictions. But the approach created tension with other cities leaning toward Democrats.

To the states, it was more political. It was the choice between disease control and the economy, mask requirements and personal liberties. And from the outsiders’ perspective, many parties are taking advantage of this situation through the clash of ideologies.

With a year of quarantine did not bring much change, Governor Abbott decides not to follow the science. Despite warnings from health experts, the governor switches his focus to reviving the economic state.

President Biden – in contrast with his predecessor Mr. Trump – has made fighting the virus a priority for his administration.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden said he was upbeat about the vaccination program. However, he urged Americans to remain vigilant in wearing masks and observing social distancing.

Source: BBC, CNN

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Japan’s Daily COVID-19 Cases Top 9,000 For 1st time

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TOKYO, July 29 — Japan’s daily total of COVID-19 cases topped 9,000 for the first time on Wednesday, with a surge in infections in Tokyo casting a pall over the Olympics and putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to take stronger countermeasures.

According to Kyodo news agency, the capital confirmed 3,177 COVID-19 cases, hitting a record for the second straight day and pushing up the nationwide tally to exceed the previous all-time high of 7,958 set Jan 8, as hospitals come under increasing strain.

The surge in infections comes as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads and people in Tokyo tire of restrictions under a state of emergency.

The record high was reported just a day after Tokyo logged 2,848 daily COVID-19 cases, exceeding the previous record of 2,520 cases on Jan 7.

The virus has spread rapidly elsewhere, with the nationwide tally of daily infections that was below 2,000 in early July surpassing 4,000 one week ago, 5,000 on Thursday and 7,000 on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the daily count for the entire country reached 9,583, bringing the cumulative total to nearly 900,000, while Tokyo’s neighbouring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba also all reported record single-day highs at 1,051, 870 and 577, respectively.

Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases has estimated that the Delta variant is now responsible for about 70 per cent of infections in the metropolitan area.

Olympic organisers have pledged to implement adequate COVID-19 countermeasures for “safe and secure” games and stressed that the number of infections among athletes and others associated with the sporting extravaganza is very low.

Suga has denied the possibility of canceling the Olympics, which opened Friday without spectators at almost all venues, and said that “there is no worry” as people are expected to move around less.

But Takaji Wakita, head of the national institute, who also leads the health ministry’s COVID-19 countermeasures advisory panel, warned at a press conference Wednesday that “the spread of infections (over this one week in the country) is something never experienced before.”

The capital’s seven-day rolling average of cases has risen to 1,954.7 per day, up 53 percent from the previous week.

The government has placed Tokyo under the fourth state of emergency, which mostly relies on a cooperative public and does not entail a hard lockdown like some countries have imposed, from July 12 to Aug 22.

Still, some restaurants and bars have ignored calls to stop serving alcohol and close early as the government has lagged in handing out “cooperation money” meant to help them cover lost revenue.

Many people, especially younger ones less likely to be vaccinated, have grown weary of the restrictions and begun going outside more.

“How young people behave is key,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told the press on Wednesday, advising them to get their shots.

Of the 3,177 COVID-19 cases, 1,078 people in their 20s and 680 in their 30s tested positive, accounting for more than half of the total, according to the metropolitan government.

“The medical system has already started becoming more strained,” Shigeru Omi, Suga’s top COVID-19 adviser, said in a parliamentary hearing, calling on the government to “send out a message that gets across the sense of crisis they should be feeling and take countermeasures fitting of the current infection situation.”

The governors of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa will ask the central government, possibly Thursday, for their prefectures to be placed under the same state of emergency.

The government will “promptly consider such requests and make a decision,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference Wednesday.

Suga also met with members of his Cabinet including health minister Norihisa Tamura to discuss the current situation.

As early as Friday, the government will convene a meeting to decide on putting the three prefectures under the emergency, an official said.

Suggesting there are not many options for the government, a senior official at the prime minister’s office, said, “We have used almost all cards available by now.”

Meanwhile, the Olympic organising committee said Wednesday that 16 more people linked to the games, none of them athletes, have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total since the start of this month to 169.

It is the first time in four days that the organisers have reported no COVID-19 positive cases of Olympic athletes.

Sources: BERNAMA

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District Race Malaysia By AIA Vitality, The World’s Greatest Exploration Race Attracted More Than 11,000 Runners

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Maintaining one’s health during this challenging time has not been easy, especially in the past six months where various movement control orders were put in place due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has put a hold on many things, with mass participation events being one of them.

Adapting to the various challenges caused by the pandemic, District Race Malaysia by AIA Vitality rose to the occasion and made a return as an augmented reality event by providing a digitally engaging and fun urban exploration experience. This year’s event was made even more attractive as participation was free and made available nationwide. This gave equal opportunities for runners across Malaysia to participate in the event.

District Race Malaysia by AIA Vitality was launched on 1 March 2021, providing users with a fun way to lead an active life to stay happy and healthy during these trying times. The 4-month long event became an instant hit with avid casual runners in Malaysia; including non-runners who just enjoyed casual walks. The event has managed to exceed its initial target of 10,000 sign-ups, with over 11,000 participants registered on the District app, all vying for the opportunity to take home the grand prize, the brand new Proton X50.

One of the contributing factors to the overwhelming response was the flexibility of participation – making it easy for runners to choose the when, where and how of their participation. The District app was enhanced to be even more user-friendly – by simply stepping out of the house, switching on the app, pressing start and navigating their journey towards checkpoints to earn points. With no set route or distance and checkpoints made available everywhere, explorers were able to create their own strategy and choose how they wanted to explore. Whether by walking or running, everyone got to participate at their own pace.

Participants were also able to link their GPS supported wearable devices to the District app and earn points for any walking or running activities. The points collected on the wearable were then credited towards the overall leaderboard. The prizes up for grabs via lucky draw included over 40 items such as Garmin watches and adidas gear, as well as a brand-new Proton X50, which undoubtedly was the main attraction.

Josh Tendler, Head of Marketing, District Technologies said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many planned events worldwide, and mass participation events especially are not excused. The event cancellation is definitely felt by runners everywhere. That is why we decided to do a digital race for this year. What the digital event lacks in the physical interactions, it makes up for in flexibility. Participants get to choose how and when to do the race at their convenience, while collecting points, being healthy, and unlocking Augmented Reality selfie filters. In my opinion, one of the silver linings of the pandemic is we now found new ways to connect with our loved ones, others around the community, either by staying active together or just enjoy their companion through virtual interactions and reaching collective goals together. We would like to thank AIA for helping to make District Race’s vision in providing an engaging and fun urban exploration experience a reality as well as their support for the second year in a row.”

Heng Zee Wang, Chief Marketing Officer, AIA Bhd. said, “I would like to congratulate the winners and the participants of District Race Malaysia by AIA Vitality for their amazing achievements despite the current circumstances. We hope that this event has inspired Malaysians from all walks of life to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle during these challenging times. We would like to express our appreciation to District Technologies for successfully executing a digital event that benefitted many Malaysians and we look forward to supporting many more exciting initiatives like this as part of our efforts to help people achieve Healthier, Longer, Better Lives.”

Chong Zee Min emerged as the lucky winner to bring home the most coveted prize; the all-new and free Proton X50. Participants received 1 entry to the lucky draw for every activity of over 2,000+ points in the District app.

Chong was surprised when she learned of the news. “The event itself inspired me most as it turns exercising into a fun and unique experience while exploring many different and interesting areas of my city that I would have otherwise missed out. I am thrilled have won the grand prize, a brand new Proton X50. Such an unexpected sweet surprise! This is a massive bonus coupled with a sense of achievement. I am truly delighted!” said Chong, 31, from Penang.

Amongst the other prizes presented were Garmin watches and adidas merchandise to the Top 3 Overall Male and Female Champions, as well as merchandise packs to the Biggest Team Overall.

For Overall Male, the first place was taken by Jimmy Lim, taking home the Garmin Fenix Watch, followed by Chew Soon Yong in second place and Yew Hoe Liew in third place, winning them the RM 1,000 and RM 500 adidas vouchers respectively.

For Overall Female, the Garmin Fenix Watch was won by first placed Lynn Ooi, followed by Ooi Ai Lyn in second place and Teoh Seow Sian in third place, also taking home the RM 1,000 and RM 500 adidas vouchers respectively.

The Biggest Overall Team, AIA District Family, with a total of 40 members, took home free merchandise packs for each member.

District Race Malaysia by AIA Vitality also hosted a series of campaigns throughout the 4-month long event to give runners more reasons to participate. In conjunction with Ramadan this year, the Get Fit For Charity campaign was conducted, rallying runners across Malaysia to come together in solidarity for the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM). The challenge was to collectively hit the goal of 5,000,000 points, with AIA committing to donate RM1 for every 100 points scored during the campaign period. While the challenge was set for 12 April – 16 May 2021, the target was met well ahead of time, hitting the overall goal by 4 May 2021. Thanks to the collective efforts of the runners, the charity engagement was an overwhelming success with RM 50,000.00 raised and donated to NCSM.

Besides collecting points for the charity, the Top Average Team Score Challenge was also conducted to incentivize runners to keep their points rolling. Team Sonic took home RM10,000.00 cash after accumulating an average of 289,000+ points per team member.

In June 2021, the Social Media Contest went live, asking users to post a photo, video or story to their Facebook or Instagram taking part in District Race Malaysia by AIA Vitality, along with proof of an activity of at least 2,000 points. The lucky winners were chosen based on their creativity and walked away with prizes such as Garmin watches, adidas vouchers, and Garmin merchandise packs.

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(Video) Beneficial Music Choice! These 5 Songs Can Help You Improve Your Focus

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Music actually is not just a means of entertaining ourselves. Other than that, it can also encourage creativity and also would help us to become more productive. Listening to music can be so therapeutic, relieving feelings of stress so that you can concentrate better. In fact, plenty of people swear by music as a helpful tool for studying and working.

Studies have shown that music produces several positive effects on a human’s body and brain. Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory. These are 5 songs that have been scientifically proven that can really help you to improve your own focus.

1) Classical Music

Research done in French universities have shown that listening to classical music while studying can increase your test scores. Students lectured in a room with classical music in the background did significantly better on a quiz than students in a room with no music.

2) Meditation Music

Stress is not your friend when you need to focus. Music used for the purpose of meditation facilitates your mind and body’s ability to relax into a state of calmness. The effects of meditation music have been studied on cancer patients to decrease their levels of stress and increase their probability of healing and physiological markers of health.

3) Instrumentals

From movie and video game soundtracks to trance jazz, the pure melody of the instrumentals music gives your brain a break from trying to make sense of song lyrics in addition to concentrating on the 2,300 words you still have to knock out on your essay.

4) Nature & Rain Sounds

Nature relaxes us as it takes us away from the beeps and honks of city living and brings us to a state of relaxation and contentment. In a 2010 study, the participants who completed a challenging math problem that was followed by 10 minutes of nature sounds experienced greater sympathetic nervous system relaxation than the control group. Whether it be the sound of rain, ocean waves or the jungle, the sounds of nature manage to silence any annoying brain blabber and allow you to focus on the task at hand with surprising clarity.

5) Brainwave Entrainment

Brainwave entrainment is the scientific term of synchronizing your brain’s neuron activity to the rhythm of sound. There are two types of Brainwave Entrainment:

  • Binaural beats: Binaural beats utilize your brains natural ability to fill in sensory gaps by emitting sounds of two different frequencies into each ear. This causes the brain to detect the variance between these two frequencies and create its own frequency from the difference between the two.
  • Isochronic Tones: Research has said that the brain actually functions most optimally during the silence between sounds. This is why drumming can be so entrancing.

Sources: Spoon University.

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