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Friday, July 03, 2020, 22:36
EU grants conditional clearance to antiviral remdesivir
By Agencies
Friday, July 03, 2020, 22:36 By Agencies

This April 8, 2020 photo shows a vial of the drug Remdesivir pictured during a press conference about the start of a study with the Ebola drug Remdesivir to treat severely ill patients afflicted with COVID-19 at the University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg, northern Germany, amidst the new coronavirus pandemic. (ULRICH PERREY / POOL / AFP)

RIO DE JANEIRO / JOHANNESBURG / PARIS / ZURICH / RABAT / SANTIAGO / GENEVA / BRUSSELS - The European Commission said on Friday it had given conditional approval for the use of COVID-19 antiviral remdesivir following an accelerated review process.

The EU executive said the drug, produced by Gilead Sciences Inc, was the first medicine authorised in the European Union for treating COVID-19 following a "rolling review" begun by the European Medicines Agency at the end of April.

The agency reviews data as they become available on a rolling basis, while development is still ongoing.

The Commission said on Wednesday it was in negotiations with Gilead to obtain doses of remdesivir for the 27 European Union countries.

However, that may prove difficult after the US Department of Health and Human Services announced it had secured all of Gilead's projected production for July and 90 percent of that for August and September.

Remdesivir is in high demand after the intravenously-administered medicine helped to shorten hospital recovery times in a clinical trial. It is believed to be most effective in treating COVID-19 patients earlier in the course of disease than other therapies like the steroid dexamethasone.

Still, because remdesivir is given intravenously over at least a five-day period it is generally being used on patients sick enough to require hospitalisation.


There is ‘very little risk’ that pets can infect their owners with COVID-19, the chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, told a Geneva news conference that felines, ferrets and “even tigers” have been infected with the disease.

“There is very little risk from domestic animals because there was some concern about domestic animals becoming a source of infection,” she said.

Commuters wearing face masks or coverings travel on a TfL Central Line Underground train carriage towards central London on June 15, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)


Britain will end coronavirus quarantines for people arriving in England from more than 50 countries, including Germany, France, Spain and Italy - but not the United States - the British government said on Friday.

The move, effective July 10, clears the way for millions of British tourists to take summer holidays without worrying about being quarantined when they return. Those arriving from higher risk countries will still have to self-quarantine for 14 days under a rule which has angered airlines and travel companies.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government had debated for days how to ease the quarantine rules. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which set their own health policies within the United Kingdom, have not announced plans to lift the measures.

“There will be a list of 50 plus countries and if you add in the overseas territories, 60 something or other that we will publish later today,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

“Today marks the next step in carefully reopening our great nation,” he said.

As the spread of the novel coronavirus slows in Europe, countries are reopening travel after more than three months of lockdown.

The full list of countries has not yet been published. New Zealand is included, as are the Vatican and Britain’s overseas territories such as the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar. The United States remains on the “red list”.

“The US from a very early stage banned flights from the UK and from Europe so there isn’t a reciprocal arrangement in place,” Shapps said.

Britain’s foreign ministry will also set out exemptions from a global advisory against “all but essential” international travel, from July 4, a key to normal insurance being valid.

The government said it expected countries included on the quarantine-free list to reciprocate by relaxing their own restrictions.

The UK's death toll from confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus rose by 89 on Thursday to 43,995 from 43,906 the day before, government figures showed.

Including suspected cases, the toll is approaching 55,000, according to a Reuters tally of official data sources.


The United States reported more than 55,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the largest daily increase any country has ever reported, according to a Reuters tally.

A surge in coronavirus cases across the United States over the past week has put US President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis under the microscope and led several governors to halt plans to reopen their states after strict lockdowns.

The daily US tally stood at 55,274 late Thursday, topping the previous single day record of 54,771 set by Brazil on June 19.

Just two weeks ago, the United States was reporting about 22,000 new cases a day. It has now reported more than 40,000 cases for seven straight days and broken records for new cases three days in a row, according to the tally.

New infections rose in 37 out of 50 US states in the past 14 days compared with the two weeks prior in early June, according to a Reuters analysis.

Florida reported the biggest increase of any state so far on Thursday, recording over 10,000 new cases in a single day. With 21 million residents, the state has reported more new daily coronavirus cases than any European country had at the height of their outbreaks.

ALSO READ: England's schools to re-open from Sept in boost for economy


Brazil registered 1,252 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 61,884, the Ministry of Health said on Thursday.

Total confirmed cases rose by 48,105 to reach 1,496,858, the second worst outbreak in the world behind the United States.

In Rio de Janeiro alone, 6,618 people have died of COVID-19 in the past four months. Only 14 countries in the world have a death toll higher than the city. Public hospitals are at 70 percent capacity.


The number of deaths in France from the new coronavirus has risen by 14 from the previous day to 29,875, the country's health department said on Thursday.

The number of people in hospital fell by 188 to 8,148 and the number of people in intensive care units fell by nine to 573, with both numbers continuing weeks-long downtrends.


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 446 to 195,674, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday.

The reported death toll rose by 9 to 9,003, the tally showed.


Travelers to Switzerland from 29 countries will from July 6 have to register with the authorities and go into self-isolation to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus, the government said on Thursday.

The list includes the United States, Sweden, Brazil and Russia, which have been designated as countries with a high risk of infection.

Visitors who have spent time in the named countries in the previous 14 days must notify the Swiss authorities immediately on arrival and then go into quarantine for 10 days, the government said.

The list of affected countries also includes Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Serbia. The list will be continually reviewed, the government said.

In Switzerland the number of infections has started to increase in recent days, triggering concerns about a second wave of COVID-19, but its borders with Italy, Austria, Germany and France are currently open.

The country, which has lifted many of its restrictions, including reopening schools and shops, has had 31,967 positive tests for COVID-19 so far, while 1,686 people have died during the epidemic.


Spain received practically no international visitors this spring and its tourist sector has had next to zero income, with hotel bookings in the country saw a 99.9 percent drop in May, according to data published on Thursday by the country's National Statistics Institute (INE).

This is in stark contrast to May 2019, when Spain welcomed nearly eight million foreign visitors, who spent slightly over eight billion euros (US$9 billion).

The all but complete lack of tourist activity is the result of the lockdown and the closure of Spain's international borders on March 14 in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus.


Mexico reported a record daily rise of 6,741 confirmed cases, bringing the total to 238,511, according to the Health Ministry. Deaths rose 679 to 29,189. The increase in cases comes a day after Mexico overtook Spain to become the country with the world’s sixth-deadliest virus outbreak.

Earlier, deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez Gatell told The Washington Post that Mexico’s capital registered about three times as many deaths as it normally does from March through May, bolstering concerns that the nation’s official statistics on the virus don’t accurately reflect the full scale of the health crisis.

The city registered an average of 18,533 deaths from March to May in the 2016 to 2018 period, according to researchers at Nexos magazine.


Peru’s death toll exceeded 10,000 on Thursday -- the 10th nation to reach the milestone -- as the government pressed ahead with a plan to reopen the economy. The country reported 185 fatalities in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 10,045, less than 16 weeks after reporting its first virus death. In all, 292,002 have been infected in the nation of 32 million, according to the Health Ministry.

In Latin America, the current epicenter of the pandemic, only Brazil and Mexico have reported more deaths.


Chile on Thursday reported a total of 284,541 COVID-19 cases since the start of its outbreak, with 5,920 deaths.

According to the Health Ministry, in the past 24 hours, tests have detected 2,498 new cases of infection and 167 more patients died of the virus.

Of the newly detected cases, 2,042 presented symptoms and 230 were asymptomatic.

Some 29,374 cases around the country are considered active, either being treated in hospital or at more than 150 isolation centers established by the government.

In the same 24-hour period, health authorities carried out 10,831 tests for COVID-19, bringing the total number of tests done since testing and tracing began in March to 1,131,008, with a positive rate of 25.16 percent.

Chile's lockdown measures remain in place, including a nighttime curfew enforced by military troops and police officers, closed borders, suspended schools and closed non-essential businesses.

South Africa

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has informed parliament of his decision to extend the deployment of 20,000 soldiers, a drop from 76,000, until Sept 30 to help enforce COVID-19 restrictions as the country reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases.

Ramaphosa first deployed 2,820 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) a few days before enforcing a nationwide lockdown in late March. The number was increased to 76,000 in April as the health threat grew.

The money that will be spent on this extension is 1.5 billion rand (US$88.35 million), Ramaphosa told the speaker of parliament.

At the end of March, Ramaphosa announced one of the toughest lockdowns anywhere in the world, banning anyone but essential workers from leaving home except to buy food or medicine, and prohibiting alcohol sales, when South Africa had just 400 cases.

The country started slowly reopening parts of the economy from May and again in June but infection have started to spike again. On Thursday, South Africa reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases, adding 8,728 confirmed infections and taking the total count to 168,061, according to health ministry data. Deaths rose by 95 to 2,844.


Zimbabwe reported 12 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the country's total to 617, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said in a statement.

The new cases include 10 citizens who returned from South Africa and two local transmissions.

The number of recoveries increased from 166 to 173, while deaths remain at seven.

The country has conducted 71,236 COVID-19 tests so far.

READ MORE: Virus: Brazil records nearly 50,000 deaths as crisis deepens


Egypt confirmed on Thursday 1,485 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total cases in the country to 71,299, Egyptian Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, 86 patients died from the novel coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 3,120, while 407 patients were cured and discharged from hospitals, increasing the total recoveries to 19,288, Egyptian Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.

Megahed underlined Egypt's close cooperation with the World Health Organization regarding the pandemic.


Morocco confirmed on Thursday 333 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total cases registered in the country since March 2 to 12,969, said the Health Ministry.

The death toll from the virus reached 229 as one new fatality was recorded in the last 24 hours, said Hind Ezzine, head of the department of epidemic diseases of the ministry, at a regular press briefing.

The number of cured patients has increased to 9,090 with 64 new recoveries, she added.


Ghana’s deputy trade and industry minister Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah has resigned for violating coronavirus self-isolation measures after testing positive for the virus, President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a statement on Friday.

“This follows the admission by the deputy minister of his breach of the COVID-19 protocols, when, as a person certified to be positive of the virus, he visited a registration centre in his constituency before the period of self-isolation was complete,” the statement said.

The West African nation has recorded one of the highest number of coronavirus cases in the continent since the outbreak at 18,134, with 117 deaths. Last month, Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman Manu tested positive for the virus.


Russia recorded 6,718 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking its total to 667,883, the country's coronavirus response center said in a statement Friday.

The death toll rose by 176 to 9,859, while 437,893 people have recovered, including 8,915 over the last 24 hours, said the statement.

Moscow, the country's worst-hit region, reported 659 newly confirmed cases, taking its tally of infections to 223,530.

On Thursday, 284,158 people were still under medical observation, while more than 20.4 million virus tests have been conducted nationwide, Russia's consumer rights and human well-being watchdog said Friday in a separate statement.


Serbia’s authorities declared a state of emergency in Belgrade on Friday, reimposing some restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 after a surge of infections in the capital.

Residents of the city will be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces or on public transport, opening hours of clubs and cafes will be shortened, and gatherings will be limited to 100 people indoors or 500 outdoors.

The state of emergency comes into effect immediately, city hall said in a statement on Friday. President Alexandar Vucic announced the measures on television overnight.

Local authorities in central and western Serbia have already declared emergencies in several other municipalities where a rise in COVID-19 cases had threatened to disrupt the functioning of the health system.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Serbia has begun to rise since May, when the government lifted a countrywide lockdown. Soccer matches with thousands of fans, religious festivities and parliamentary elections are believed to have contributed to the spike in infections.

On Thursday, Serbia which has a population of 7.2 million, recorded 359 new infections, bringing its total confirmed cases to 15,195, up from 11,523 a month ago. So far 287 people have died.

Authorities have already reactivated hospitals that were adapted to treat COVID-19 patients in the early phase of the outbreak.

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