Scientist who edited babies’ genes says he acted ‘too quickly’

The scientist at the heart of the scandal involving the world’s first gene-edited babies has said he moved “too quickly” by pressing ahead with the procedure. He Jiankui sent shock waves across the world of science when he announced in 2018 that he had edited the genes of twin girls, Lulu and Nana, before birth. He was subsequently sacked by his university in Shenzhen, received a three-year prison sentence, and was broadly condemned for having gone ahead with the risky, ethically contentious and medically unjustified procedure with inadequate consent from…

‘It was all for nothing’: Chinese count cost of Xi’s snap decision to let Covid rip

When Sunny* thinks back to March last year, she laughs ruefully at the ordeal. The 19-year-old Shanghai student spent that month locked in her dormitory, unable to shop for essentials or wash clothes, even banned from showering for two weeks over Covid fears. In April, the entire city locked down. It was the beginning of the chaos of 2022, as local Chinese authorities desperately tried to follow President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid decree while facing the most virulent strain of the virus yet: Omicron. “Everyone was panicking, no one was ready,”…

Six lifestyle choices to slow memory decline named in 10-year study

A combination of healthy lifestyle choices such as eating well, regularly exercising, playing cards and socialising at least twice a week may help slow the rate of memory decline and reduce the risk of dementia, a decade-long study suggests. Memory is a fundamental function of daily life that continuously declines as people age, impairing quality of life and productivity, and increasing the risk of dementia. Evidence from previous research has been insufficient to evaluate the effect of healthy lifestyle on memory trajectory, but now a study suggests that combining multiple…

Ageing planet: the new demographic timebomb

In Japan even criminals are getting old. In the country’s notorious yakuza crime syndicates, more than half of members are now over 50, according to the national police agency. Veterans who have passed 70 outnumber those under 20 by two to one, even though teenagers are the groups’ traditional source of “muscle”. Japan is a pioneer in adjusting to the skewed demographics of an ageing society, with the impact of its low birthrates exacerbated by a fierce resistance to immigration. But its dilemmas are increasingly shared around the world. India…

Xi’s authority dented by sudden Covid U-turn but iron grip on power is undimmed

Just a few months ago, the thought of questioning the strength of Xi Jinping’s leadership was inconceivable. He had just secured his third term, conducted a brutal purge of factional rivals and ensured he and his beliefs were inextricably and existentially tied with the Chinese Communist party. The zero-Covid policy – despite some societal grumblings – had been enshrined as the best and only way out of the pandemic. But zero Covid was already growing unpopular in China in the latter half of 2022. It was playing havoc with people’s…

Above and beyond: key events in 2022 that shaped space exploration

The year has been a blast in space exploration, from Nasa’s big step in returning to moon missions, to glimpses at the origins of the universe and hope that humanity could survive the doomsday scenario of an asteroid hurtling towards Earth. These are the events that shaped 2022 in space advances: Back to the moon Nasa hadn’t sent a crew-capable spacecraft to the moon for half a century when Artemis 1 blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral in November. Atop the mighty Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket…

WHO urges Covid data ‘transparency’ as China prepares to open borders

The World Health Organisation again urged China’s health officials to regularly share specific, real-time information on the country’s Covid surge, as the UK joined other countries in bringing in travel restrictions, citing a lack of data as the reason. WHO Covid experts met Chinese officials on Friday and “again stressed the importance of transparency and regular sharing of data to formulate accurate risk assessments and to inform effective response”, said the WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In particular, WHO requested more genetic sequencing data, data on hospitalisations, intensive care unit…

In China, here is what we want the west to know about our Covid response | Zheng Zeguang

Over the past weeks, Beijing has become the first city to go through the infection peak, and life and work are returning to normal in the capital. The Covid-19 situation in China is generally stable and controllable, and people are making plans to work, study and travel. That’s why the Chinese government has announced that, starting from 8 January, Covid-19 will be managed with measures against Class B instead of the more serious Class A infectious diseases in accordance with the law. There will also be new cross-border travel rules.…

Amid the climate crisis, Covid and crumbling democracies, I find hope in people who show the best of humanity | Trent Zimmerman

As we farewell 2022, many of the world’s citizens will be hoping for a better new year. It is hard to look back on the past year – indeed couple of years – without a high degree of angst about the direction of our global community. We have been battered by a pandemic that, while past the peak for most nations, is still disrupting societies and economies. After two years of its hermit-like isolation, 1.4 billion Chinese citizens are now experiencing a nationwide Covid onslaught for the first time with…

Why did China relax its Covid policy – and should we be worried?

After long pursing a zero-Covid policy, China has relaxed many restrictions including quarantine rules for travellers. But some experts have raised concerns the U-turn may cause problems. We take a look at why. What has happened in China? Until recently China followed a zero-Covid policy, including strict lockdowns and quarantining those testing positive and their close contacts. However, earlier this month China made an abrupt U-turn, abandoning many – although not all– of its restrictions, apparently in response to protests. Among the measures it has scrapped is the use of…