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Monday, June 01, 2020, 23:02
Russia to roll out its first approved virus drug next week
By Agencies
Monday, June 01, 2020, 23:02 By Agencies

A man walks with an umbrella under the rain across the Red Square, in downtown Moscow, on May 31, 2020 amid a strict lockdown in Russia to stop the spread of COVID-19. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

BRASILIA / JOHANNESBURG / LONDON / MEXICO CITY / CAIRO / MADRID / ROME / MOSCOW / BERLIN / LIMA / ABUJA - Russia will start administering its first approved antiviral drug to treat coronavirus patients next week, its state financial backer told Reuters, a move it described as “a game changer” that should speed a return to normal economic life.

Russian hospitals can begin giving the drug, registered under the name Avifavir, to patients from June 11, with enough to treat around 60,000 people per month, the head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund, Kirill Dmitriev, told Reuters in an interview.

The head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said that the drug successfully treated the virus in most cases within four days

Dmitriev said clinical trials showed that the drug successfully treated the virus in most cases within four days. He said that “for 90% of people it eliminates the virus within 10 days”.

Dmitriev said the new drug, which comes in tablet form, would allow people to spend less time in hospital and reduce the time they are contagious, saying the drug had few side-effects but was not suitable for pregnant women. It was particularly effective, he said, for patients suffering from mild or mid-level symptoms.

ALSO READ: COVID-19: FDA approves emergency use of remdesivir

Avifavir, known generically as favipiravir, was first developed in the late 1990s by a Japanese company later bought by Fujifilm as it moved into healthcare. Russian specialists modified the generic drug to enhance its efficacy for treating COVID-19, said Dmitriev, who said Moscow would be ready to share the details of those modifications with others within two weeks.

Russia on Monday reported 9,035 new coronavirus cases, taking the tally to 414,878. The country's coronavirus response center said another 162 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 4,855.

On Monday, shops in Moscow will reopen and residents will be allowed leave their homes to take a stroll for the first time in nine weeks under a partial easing of a tough lockdown regime following a fall in coronavirus cases.

Global tally

Global COVID-19 deaths surpassed 372,000 on Monday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, more than 6.1 million COVID-19 cases have been reported around the world, according to the CSSE.

The United States reported the most COVID-19 cases and deaths, with a tally nearing 1.8 million and a death toll over 104,000. Other countries with over 20,000 fatalities included Britain, Italy, France, Spain, and Brazil, the CSSE data showed.

The number of confirmed cases across the African continent reached 141,535 while the death toll surged to 4,069 as of Sunday morning, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

Brazil

Brazil registered 16,409 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, raising the country's tally to 514,849 in the second worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the world after the United Sates, the health ministry said.

It said there were another 480 deaths reported in the last 24 hours in Brazil, for a total death toll of 29,314, the fourth highest in the global pandemic after the United States, Britain and Italy.

The US has supplied Brazil with 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for use against the coronavirus, the two governments said on Sunday, despite medical warnings about risks associated with the anti-malaria drug.

The White House released a joint announcement on the drug, just days after the World Health Organization (WHO) suspended testing it in COVID-19 patients  because of safety concerns.

“HCQ will be used as a prophylactic to help defend Brazil’s nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals against the virus. It will also be used as a therapeutic to treat Brazilians who become infected,” the statement reads.

The two countries will also conduct a joint research effort that will include “randomized controlled clinical trials,” according to the statement.

ALSO READ: Study linking hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 risks questioned

Belarus

Belarus reported 898 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, taking its total tally to 42,556, according to the country's health ministry.

Out of all the cases, 18,514 people have recovered so far, while 235 people with chronic diseases have died, the ministry said.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia on Monday reported 85 more confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the tally to 1,257 in the country.

All 85 new cases, 51 males and 34 females, are Ethiopian nationals, the Federal Ministry of Health said in a statement. 

One more person succumbed to the disease on Monday, bringing the number of COVID-19-related deaths to 12, the statement said.

Netherlands

Terraces throughout the Netherlands filled quickly on Monday as bars and restaurants were allowed to open for the first time in almost three months on a sunny public holiday.

As the number of new coronavirus infections in the country has dropped steadily in recent weeks, restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas and theatres were allowed to open their doors from 1000 GMT on Monday, as long as they follow strict social distancing rules to prevent a new rise in infections.

They are now allowed to receive a maximum of 30 customers at a time, who all have to make reservations in advance and need to be seated at tables with a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between them.

Chile

More that 1,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Chile, the health ministry reported on Sunday, with 827 of the deaths occurring in May alone as the pandemic spreads quickly in the South American mining powerhouse.

The country has had 99,688 confirmed cases of the disease so far, 1,054 of them fatal, the ministry said.

"We know we are in the most difficult weeks," Undersecretary of Health Paula Daza said in a televised address.

"We are making decisions and taking measures every day to contain the spread," Daza added.

Egypt

Egypt shortened a night curfew by one hour on Sunday as it recorded new highs in the daily increases in novel coronavirus cases and deaths.

The health ministry said a new record of 1,536 daily cases had been confirmed, including 46 deaths, bringing the tally to 24,985 and the death toll to 959. It was the fourth consecutive day for Egypt's daily infections to surpass 1,000.

Earlier, the Prime Minister's Office said a night curfew would end at 5 am instead of 6 am. The curfew begins at 8 pm, though its start had been brought forward to 5 pm last week during the holiday that follows the Eid holiday at the end of Ramadan.

The government announced that the number of hospitals designated to deal with coronavirus cases, in addition to previously assigned quarantine facilities, is rising to 376 from 340, and the number of laboratories capable of processing test results to 57 from 49.

Greece

Greece allowed year-round hotels to open on Monday, restarting its vital tourism sector hobbled by weeks of lockdown, although business remained quiet with international flights from its main airports only set to resume from June 15.

With borders also still shut in key tourism markets, some hotels have pushed back their openings due to low reservations.

“We got our jobs back, but there is stress and uncertainty over the future,” Spyros Divanis, managing director of Divani Hotels, told Reuters.

Having contained the spread of COVID-19 better than many European Union countries, Greece has been easing restrictions since May.

People wearing face masks walk on a platform at Ramses railway station in Cairo, Egypt, on May 31, 2020. (AHMED GOMAA / XINHUA)

El Salvador

El Salvador's Congress passed a new emergency bill to address the impact of the coronavirus crisis and gradually reopen the Central American nation's economy, while President Nayib Bukele has vowed to veto the measure.

Bukele argued that it was too risky to reopen the country as it could lead to a rise in coronavirus infections. El Salvador has registered 46 deaths from the coronavirus and a total of 2,517 cases.

Bukele had asked Congress to prolong current quarantine measures for another 15 days, to give time for coronavirus infections to come down. He said economic activity could resume once the quarantine extension expired.

France

France's coronavirus cases are continuing to decline, health officials said on Sunday, with 14,322 patients currently in hospital, down from 14,380 a day earlier.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care fell to 1,319 from 1,361, the health directorate said in a statement.

The hospital death toll from the virus rose by 31 to 18,475, the 11th consecutive daily increase below 100.

Numbers for nursing home deaths will next be updated on Tuesday, the directorate said.

Germany

Germany recorded a decline in the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths, while the infection rate rose for a third day, inching higher above the key threshold of 1.0.

There were 221 new cases in the 24 hours through Monday morning, bringing the tally to 183,410, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Fatalities rose by 10 to 8,540. 

The reproduction factor of the virus rose to 1.04 on Sunday from 1.03 the day before, according to the latest estimate from the Robert Koch Institut (RKI).

RKI data on Monday showed the number of confirmed cases increased by 333 to 181,815 while the reported death toll rose by 11 to 8,511.

German broadcaster NDR reported on Sunday a COVID-19 cluster infection in connection with several celebrations in the city of Gottingen, after at least 35 people were infected and 160 were put in home quarantine.

Those infected were related to several families whose members had attended several private parties, according to the NDR.

The outbreak in Gottingen is among a slew of local outbreaks of COVID-19 recently in Germany, including outbreaks following a church service in Frankfurt and a restaurant reopening in Leer.

Ghana

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ghana has reached 8,070 after 189 new cases were reported as of Sunday, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said.

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 remains at 36 while 106 more patients have recovered, bringing the total of recoveries to 2,947, the president said late Sunday.

At least 13 patients are severely ill, with three of them critical, and one is on a ventilator.

The president extended the closure of the country's entry points to the end of July, to curb imported cases.

Italy

The new coronavirus is losing its potency and has become much less lethal, a senior Italian doctor said on Sunday.

"In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy," said Alberto Zangrillo, the head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy's coronavirus contagion.

"The swabs that were performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago," he told RAI television.

Italy's COVID-19 deaths climbed by 75 on Sunday, against 111 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases fell to 355 from 416 on Saturday.

The total death toll now stands at 33,415 the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.

The number of confirmed cases amounts to 233,019, the sixth highest global tally behind those of the United States, Russia, Spain, Britain and Brazil.

People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 42,075 from 43,691 the day before.

People walk and cycle near the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy, May 31, 2020. (MAURO SCROBOGNA / LAPRESSE VIA AP)

Kenya

Kenya's health ministry on Sunday confirmed 74 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's tally to 1,962.

Rashid Aman, chief administrative secretary at the Ministry of Health, said one death was reported, pushing the death toll to 64.

Malta

Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela announced on Sunday that airports and ports will resume operations on July 1 while bars, gyms and law courts will reopen on Friday. 

Abela told a television interview on party station ONE TV that his government will make a formal announcement on Monday on the relaxation of the restrictions.

Abela said that on June 8, the government will announce a multi-million-euro budget that will encourage businesses to invest and consumers to spend money.

As of Sunday, Malta had reported 618 confirmedcases, with 534 recoveries, 75 active cases and nine deaths. 

Mexico

Mexico's Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Sunday there were another 151 coronavirus deaths and 3,152 new cases, bringing the death toll to 9,930 and the tally to 90,664.

READ MORE: Global coronavirus cases surpass 6 million

Morocco

The Moroccan health ministry on Sunday reported 27 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the North African country to 7,807.

The number of the recoveries increased to 5,459 after 58 new ones were added, Mouad Mrabet, coordinator of the Moroccan Centre for Public Health said at a press briefing.

He also reported one fatality, bringing the death toll from the coronavirus to 205.

Namibia

The airport in the Namibian harbour town of Walvis Bay has closed after two residents tested positive for the coronavirus and the economic hub went into lockdown.

The airport would be closed for seven days, manager Chrizelda George told media on Sunday. Other airports in the country will still allow domestic flights as scheduled and for emergency evacuations.

Namibia's flag carrier, Air Namibia, has also suspended all flights in and out of Walvis Bay until June 8.

A third Walvis Bay resident, a colleague of one of the patients, has since tested positive, bringing the total infections nationwide to 24 with no deaths.

Most of the desert nation in southwest Africa will ease restrictions from Tuesday.

Nigeria

Nigeria confirmed 307 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing its nationwide tally to 10,162.

The new cases were reported in 14 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), according to a statement released by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) late Sunday.

Since the epidemic hit the West African nation on Feb 27, Nigeria has recorded 287 deaths and 3,007 recoveries.

North Macedonia

North Macedonia reported 62 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, raising its tally to 2,226, according to the country's health ministry.

The ministry said that 1,552 patients had recovered so far, while 133 people had died.

Peru

Peru reported 8,805 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and another 135 deaths on Sunday, bringing the total caseload of infections to 164,476 and the death toll to 4,506.

Currently, 8,882 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, with 988 in intensive care units and on ventilators, the health ministry said.

Peru will continue to use hydroxychloroquine to treat patients, Health Minister Victor Zamora said, adding that it was recommended by a team of experts.

Portugal

Portugal's Ministry of Health said it will focus efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic in the region of Lisbon and Vale do Tejo, which has a large share of new cases.

Around 7,000 tests will be done per day, in addition to inspections in places of greatest vulnerability, according to the ministry.

Portugal recorded 297 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, of which 268 were in the region of Lisbon and Vale do Tejo.

As of Sunday, Portugal has confirmed 32,500 cases and1,410 deaths. 

Rwanda

The Rwandan government on late Sunday canceled its earlier decision to further loosen COVID-19 lockdown restrictions after reassessing the situation.

Transportation between provinces and the capital city Kigali, as well as motorcycle passenger services, which had been scheduled to resume on Monday, will remain closed until further notice and further measures against COVID-19 would be announced by the cabinet on Tuesday, the Prime Minister's Office said in a tweet.

The health ministry on Sunday reported 11 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and six recoveries, bringing the tally to 370 and the number of recoveries to 256.

Somalia

Somalia's health ministry on Sunday confirmed 60 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections to 1,976.

Health Minister Fawziya Abikar said another 21 patients have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 348.

The minister also said five deaths were reported, pushing the death toll to 78.

Commuters wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the coronavirus queue at the Bara taxi rank in Soweto, Johannesburg, on June 1, 2020. (MICHELE SPATARI / AFP)

South Africa

South Africa sought to revive its stuttering economy on Monday with the partial lifting of a coronavirus lockdown, letting people out for work, worship or shopping, and allowing mines and factories to run at full capacity.

South Africa's central bank expects the economy to contract by 7 percent this year.

But moving to "level 3" lockdown so soon has been questioned by some who say it will inevitably increase the number of coronavirus cases, which jumped above 30,000 over the weekend.

READ MORE: Virus: 8m workers to return to work in South Africa on June 1

President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday some COVID-19 hotspots may be placed on a higher alert if special interventions fail to contain the pandemic.

Special interventions will be made in hotspot areas by deploying dedicated, multidisciplinary teams to contain the outbreak, including epidemiologists, doctors, nurses and community health workers, Ramaphosa said.

As of Sunday, the country had reported 32,683 cases, with 683 deaths. The Western Cape, the hardest-hit province, recorded 21,382 cases,with 503 deaths.

The Department of Basic Education announced that Monday's reopening of schools has been postponed by a week, saying that a substantial number are not ready to welcome back pupils. 

The plan for grades 7 and 12, the last years of primary and secondary school respectively, to return on Monday backfired after teachers' unions and governing associations urged school staff to defy the government order, saying schools did not have protective equipment (PPE) to keep educators and pupils safe.

Schools will reopen Monday only for management teams, teachers and non-teaching staff for instruction on health and safety measures, to finish cleaning and focus on supply chain matters.

Spain

All Spanish beaches reopened on Monday with the exception of Barcelona, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao will unlock its doors for the first time in months as Spain took steps to revive a tourist industry brought to a halt by the coronavirus.

No tourists traveled to Spain in April because of the coronavirus lockdown, dragging income from the key sector down by 48 percent in the first four months of the year, the National Statistics Office (INE) said on Monday.

Tourists only spent 11.7 billion euros (US$13.02 billion) between January and April, 48 percent lower than a year ago, the INE said.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday the country needed 15 more days of lockdown until June 21 "to finish with the pandemic once and for all", and he would ask parliament to approve a final two-week extension to the stay home rule.

From June 21, a national state of emergency will end and so will the lockdown, allowing citizens to move freely in their regions. From July 1, citizens will be able to move throughout the country.

Spain's death toll rose by two on Sunday to 27,127, the health ministry said, while its tally rose by 96 overnight to 239,429. In the Spanish north African enclave of Ceuta, health authorities ordered the compulsory isolation of 121 people after 12 cases were confirmed in one area.

Meanwhile, Belgian and Spanish authorities have confirmed that a Belgian prince has tested positive for the coronavirus after attending a party that violated COVID-19 restrictions.

Prince Joaquin, who is tenth in line to the Belgian throne, attended a party in Cordoba in southern Spain on May 26, two days after arriving in the city to start a job. The Spanish El Pais newspaper reported that 27 people were at the party, 12 more than the maximum of 15 people currently allowed to meet under the restrictions in place in the autonomous community of Andalusia. All 27 people are now in isolation and face fines of between 600 to 10,000 euros (US$666 to US$11,100) for breaching regulations.

Sweden

Sweden has not reported any coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, for the first time since March 13, health authorities said on Sunday, but there is typically a delay in reporting figures at weekends.

Last week, Sweden had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe per capita over a seven-day-period, data showed.

There have been previous weekends where the death toll has increased by as little as two, only for a steeper rise to return in the following days when the reporting catches up, the authorities said.

The pandemic has killed 4,395 people in Sweden.

Tunisia

Tunisia's Ministry of Health announced on Sunday one new COVID-19 case, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 1,077.

The death toll remained at 48 and the number of recoveries stands at 960.

A man rides a bike outside Buckingham Palace in London, May 31, 2020. (DOMINIC LIPINSKI / PA VIA AP)

UK

Britain still intends to go ahead with a COVID-19 quarantine later this month for those arriving in the United Kingdom but is looking at “air bridges” with certain countries, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Monday.

“It’s something we’ve said we’re looking at and that remains the case,” the spokesman said. “We’ve set out the reasons why we believe (quarantine) is a necessary step: its intention is to control the spread of the virus and protect the British public.”

With the government easing some lockdown measures from Monday, the spokesman also said that if the public followed social distancing guidelines, it was unlikely to lead to a spike in infections.

The British government is following scientific advice in cautiously easing the coronavirus lockdown, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said on Monday, after criticism from some prominent epidemiologists.

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said the government was "reasonably confident" the easing would not boost the rate of infection, but some pictures of people apparently flouting the new rules has caused concern.

The government said it had met its 200,000 capacity testing target, including the means for 40,000 antibody tests a day. Ministers also say a tracing system is already working.

Another 113 COVID-19 deaths were registered as of Saturday afternoon, bringing the death toll in the country to 38,489, Jenrick said. As of Sunday morning, 274,762 people have tested positive in Britain, marking a daily increase of 1,936.

From Monday, up to six people will be able to meet outside in England, some school classes will restart, elite competitive sport can resume without spectators and more than 2 million people who have been "shielding" will be allowed to spend time outdoors.

Ukraine

 A total of 24,012 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 718 deaths, have been reported in Ukraine, while 9,690 patients have recovered, the country's health ministry said Monday.

As of June 1, 1,725 children and 4,621 health workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the beginning of the country's epidemic, said the ministry.

Another 340 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, it said.

US

Eighty-six crew members on one of American Seafoods' fish processing vessels have tested positive for COVID-19, the fishing company said on Sunday.

The crew of the American Dynasty crawler were tested for the disease at the port at Bellingham, Washington state, before departing to Seattle. American Dynasty has a carrying capacity of 142 crew. Test results for another nine crew members are still not out yet, the company said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday reported a total 1,761,503 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 23,553 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 915 to 103,700.

The CDC reported its tally of cases as of 4 pm EDT on May 30 (2000 GMT on May 30) versus its previous report released on Saturday. The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

Chicago may postpone its partial easing of the COVID-19 shutdowns this week after violent protests over the death of George Floyd left devastating wreckage, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday.

The city was set to start reopening on Wednesday then add more city services and some parks on June 8, but Lightfoot said she’s consulting with the commissioner of public health, police superintendent and others to make a determination on the plan. Access to Chicago’s downtown and central business district is restricted, and public transit into the loop has been suspended.

Uganda

Uganda on Monday reported 40 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 457, a ministry of health statement said.

According to the statement, out of the 1,319 samples collected from cross-border cargo truck drivers and communities on Sunday, 23 Ugandan truck drivers and 17 contacts and alert cases tested positive for the virus.


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