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Thursday, October 15, 2020, 22:50
Sanofi plans human trial of mRNA vaccine
By Agencies
Thursday, October 15, 2020, 22:50 By Agencies

Commuters wearing face masks at a subway station in Milan, Italy, on Oct 14, 2020. (LUCA BRUNO / AP)

WASHINGTON / MONTERREY / BERLIN / RIO DE JANEIRO / DUBLIN / PARIS / GENEVA / LONDON / LISBON / ROME / MOSCOW / PRAGUE / WARSAW / BOGOTA / BUENOS AIRES / RABAT / MADRID / ADDIS ABABA / TIRANA / ALGIERS / OTTAWA / SANTIAGO / STOCKHOLM / ZAGREB / BRUSSELS / SOFIA / CAIRO / ZURICH - Two doses of the candidate induced neutralizing antibodies “significantly higher” than those observed in COVID -19 patients as well as a response in infection-fighting T-cells in non-human primates, Translate Bio and Sanofi said in a statement.

The candidate is a so-called messenger RNA vaccine, which prompts the body to make a key protein from the virus, sparking an immune response. It’s based on technology similar to that used by one of the fastest-moving vaccine developers, Moderna Inc.

Sanofi is developing another coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline Plc. That shot is already in a clinical trial, and first results are expected in early December to support the start of a broader phase 3 study before the end of the year.

EU

The European Commission warned on Thursday EU governments were unprepared for the new surge of COVID-19 infections and recommended common measures to roll out vaccines should they become available.

The EU executive's Vice-President Margaritis Schinas urged EU states to adopt a common strategy for the new phase of the pandemic and avoid the "cacophony" of different national measures that characterized the first months on the pandemic on the continent.

With new cases hitting about 100,000 daily, Europe has by a wide margin overtaken the United States, where more than 51,000 COVID-19 infections are reported on average every day.

Hospitals and vaccination services should be properly staffed with skilled workers equipped with necessary protective gear, the Commission said.

Vaccines should be made available first to the most vulnerable groups, which include healthcare and long-term care facility workers, people over 60, people with chronic diseases, essential workers, and more disadvantaged socio-economic groups.

The Commission also called on EU governments to prepare for the possible distribution of vaccines that may need to be stored at extremely low temperatures.

WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday against any complacency in the coronavirus death rate, saying with the increasing number of cases, mortality would also rise.

New cases are hitting 100,000 daily in Europe. Nearly 20,000 infections were reported in Britain, while Italy, Switzerland and Russia were among nations with record case numbers.

While deaths globally have fallen to around 5,000 per day from April's peak exceeding 7,500, WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said caseloads were rising in intensive care units.

READ MORE: WHO chief: Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination

Despite the global push for a COVID-19 vaccine, with dozens in clinical trials and hopes for initial inoculations this year, Swaminathan reiterated that speedy, mass shots were unlikely.

"A healthy young person might have to wait until 2022," Swaminathan said.

Rapid COVID-19 tests

Scientists from Britain's University of Oxford have developed a rapid COVID-19 test able to identify the coronavirus in less than five minutes, researchers said on Thursday, adding it could be used in mass testing at airports and businesses.

The university said it hoped to start product development of the testing device in early 2021 and have an approved device available six months afterwards.

PAHO

Rapid antigen diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus will be a game changer in the fight against the pandemic, the Pan American Health Organization's (PAHO) director Carissa Etienne said on Wednesday.

PAHO is helping to roll out hundreds of thousands of these tests in Latin America, especially in more marginalized regions at first, which will allow people with active symptoms to have test results much faster than before, PAHO officials said at a press conference.

The new rapid tests will allow frontline healthcare workers to diagnose cases within minutes, without the need for a laboratory, and at a third of the cost of traditional PCR tests. 

According to PAHO figures in Latin America and the Caribbean there have been more than 18 million COVID-19 cases and over 590,000 deaths.

Africa

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused "unimaginable impact" on the socioeconomic landscape of Africa, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat has said.

Mahamat made the remarks at the 37th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU, which was held virtually from Oct 13 to 14.

He also stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic "has over-stretched our already weak public health systems to its limits."

As of Wednesday afternoon, Africa has reported nearly 1.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

Albania

Albanian citizens aged 11 and above will be fined 3,000 Albanian lek (US$28.5) for not wearing face masks in public from Thursday onwards, Albana Fico, director of the country's Public Health Institute, said Wednesday. The fine for repeat offenders will be 5,000 Albanian lek.

According to local health experts, the government's decision was taken based on the increase in new coronavirus cases and the need to avoid a health emergency due to the approaching influenza season.

The announcement came as Albanian health authorities reported more than 200 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic.

Overall, the country has reported a total of 15,955 confirmed cases, including 9,762 recoveries and 434 fatalities.

Algeria

Algeria reported on Wednesday 185 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's infection tally to 53,584, the Ministry of Health said.

The ministry also announced nine more fatalities, raising the death toll to 1,827.

Also on Wednesday, the government announced it will lift the suspension of Friday prayer in the restricted provinces from Nov 6, the official APS news agency reported.

Argentina

Argentina passed Colombia as the most-infected country in Latin America after only Brazil and is currently number five globally in overall cases trailing the US, India, its northern neighbor and Russia. In total, 931,967 people have tested positive while 24,921 fatalities have been reported.

A total of 14,932 COVID-19 cases were reported in Argentina in the last 24 hours, taking the nation's caseload to 931,967, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.

Another 350 deaths were also reported in the same period, raising the death toll to 24,921, the ministry said.

The province of Buenos Aires remains the worst-hit region among all provinces with 480,494 confirmed infections.

Brazil

Brazil has registered 749 additional coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours and 27,235 new cases, the nation's Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

The South American country has now registered 151,747 total deaths and 5,140,863 total confirmed cases.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria's Health Ministry reported on Thursday morning a record high of 819 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, taking the country's tally to 26,593.

The previous daily record of 785 new cases was reported on Wednesday.

The death toll rose to 929 after six more fatalities were logged, the ministry said.

It added that 1,380 patients are currently hospitalized, with 67 in intensive care, and the number of infected medical workers has reached 1,440.

Canada

A total of 4,042 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Canada, including 1,996 backlogged cases from the long weekend and 2,046 newly identified cases on Tuesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Canada has reported a total of 188,984 COVID-19 cases and 9,663 deaths, according to CTV.

Chile

The number of patients in critical condition due to COVID-19 has decreased in Chile in recent days, Minister of Health Enrique Paris said on Wednesday.

"For the eighth consecutive day, there are less than 100 critical patients, reaching 87 people who on this day are in this state. This is a good sign, but it is necessary to continue maintaining all self-care measures," Paris told local media.

Paris said 1,089 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last 24 hours, raising the tally to 485,372.

Nineteen more deaths were logged, taking the death toll to 13,415, according to the Department of Statistics and Health Information (DEIS).

Colombia

The total number of COVID-19 infections in Colombia reached 930,159 after tests detected 6,061 new cases in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection said Wednesday.

The death toll climbed to 28,306 after 165 additional fatalities were reported over the past day, the ministry said, adding that a total of 816,667 patients have recovered.

A healthcare worker collects a swab sample from a woman at the Public Health Teaching Institute in Rijeka, Croatia, on Oct 14, 2020. (GORAN KOVACIC / PIXSELL VIA XINHUA)

Croatia

Croatia reported 793 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a daily record.

Since the pandemic began, Croatia, with some 4 million people, has had 22,534 cases with 344 deaths. Currently there are 3,562 active cases.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic will start building capacity for COVID-19 patients outside of hospitals, government officials said on Thursday, as the daily rise in new coronavirus cases hits fresh records.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek told CTK news agency the army would start building an area for 500 hospital beds at a fairground in Prague from Saturday.

The Czech Republic registered 9,544 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily number since the start of the pandemic, according to Health Ministry data published on Thursday.

The number of total cases detected since the outbreak hit in March has nearly doubled in October alone, to 139,290.

Egypt

Egypt reported late on Wednesday night six additional deaths from COVID-19, raising the death toll to 6,077, the Health Ministry said.

Wednesday's daily toll marked the lowest single-day coronavirus-related fatalities in Egypt since April 15, when five deaths were registered.

Meanwhile, the country reported 128 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, raising the tally to 104,915, the ministry's spokesman, Khaled Megahed, said in a statement.

People dine at a restaurant as France's President Emmanuel Macron gives an address on television, in Saint jean de Luz, southwestern France, Oct 14, 2020. (BOB EDME / AP)

France

Police raided the homes and offices of France’s health minister and its public health director on Thursday as part of a probe into the authorities’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, a health ministry official told Reuters, confirming an earlier BFM TV report.

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered a third of France's population be put under nightly curfew on Wednesday to tackle a surging second wave of the coronavirus, saying now was not the time for conviviality.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 12,000 police officers would be deployed to enforce curfews in major cities across France from Saturday.

Police would not enforce the “rule of six” on private gatherings, he added.

The virus was spreading at parties and private gatherings, the president said, and action was needed now in Paris and eight other big French cities to slow the rate of infection or else hospitals risked being overwhelmed.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced an evening curfew in Paris and eight other big French cities, hours after the government declared a new state of emergency 

The curfews will last an initial four weeks, but Macron said the government would seek a two-week extension from parliament, meaning the measures will be in place until Dec 1.

The curfews apply to the Paris region, Marseille, Toulouse, Grenoble, Montpellier, Rouen, Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Lille. The cities have a combined population of about 20 million people.

Anyone violating the curfews will be fined 135 euros (US$159).

On Wednesday, France reported 22,591 new cases, the third time in six days the daily tally has gone beyond the 20,000 threshold. The virus has killed more than 32,000 in France.

Macron said the goal was to reduce the current rate of 20,000 new cases per day to around 3,000 and to sharply reduce the burden on intensive care units in hospitals.

A man wearing a face mask leaves the entrance of a church with a banner reminding people of the coronavirus restrictions in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Oct 14, 2020. (MARTIN MEISSNER / AP)

Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s top health official warned that the recent surge in coronavirus infections is threatening Germany’s ability to track cases and check the spread of the disease.

Warnings mounted that it was up to the citizens of Europe's biggest economy to do their part to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as daily new infections reached a record on Thursday.

"There can be no question anymore now that this is the start of a very big second wave," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Helge Braun, told public broadcaster ARD.

There can be no question anymore now that this is the start of a very big second wave.

Helge Braun, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff

Germany posted a record 6,638 new cases, bringing the tally since the start of the pandemic to 341,223, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday. The previous record daily increase was 6,294 on March 28, according to RKI data.

Thursday's data showed the reported death toll rose by 33 to 9,710.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the country registered 7,173 new infections, taking the tally to 344,487. That exceeded the previous high of 6,933 recorded on March 28. There were 44 additional fatalities, lifting the overall number of deaths to 9,716.

Health Minister Jens Spahn warned that people's behaviour in the coming days would determine whether they will be able to spend Christmas with their families this year.

Germany's states agreed late on Wednesday to extend measures against the spread of the coronavirus to larger parts of the country as new cases soared, but Merkel warned even tougher steps may be needed.

ALSO READ: Europe sharpens restrictions to regain grip on pandemic

Under Wednesday's agreement, the threshold at which tougher measures such as late-night curfews on bars and tighter restrictions of private gatherings kick in will be lowered to 35 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, compared with 50 before.

Ireland

Ireland's government moved three counties on its open border with Northern Ireland - Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan - to Level 4 of its five-step framework of COVID-19 constraints and banned almost all visits to homes across the country.

British-run Northern Ireland has seen a rapid rise in cases which neighboring Prime Minister Micheal Martin of Ireland described as "hugely worrying."

The new Irish measures mean all non-essential retail will be banned until Nov 10 in the first counties to be moved to Level 4. Martin said he wanted to continue to assess the impact of the recently imposed Level 3 curbs elsewhere for the next week.

Italy

Italy has registered 7,332 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Wednesday, the country's highest ever daily tally and steeply up from 5,901 on Tuesday.

There were also 43 COVID-related deaths on Wednesday against 41 the day before.

Although Italy's daily deaths remain relatively low, the number of people in intensive care with the virus has risen steadily. They stood at 539 on Wednesday, compared with a low of around 40 in the second half of July.

ALSO READ: WHO reiterates call for antivirus steps

Lithuania 

Ninety-eight new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius as of Wednesday noon, the National Center for Public Health (NVSC) said in a press release.

Due to the epidemiological situation in the capital, NVSC recommended limiting indoor activities such as group sports trainings and shortening the opening hours of bars.

According to the Ministry of Health, Lithuania has reported a total of 6,505 confirmed COVID-19 cases, along with 109 deaths and 2,903 recoveries as of 11:00 am Wednesday.

Mexico

Mexico's health ministry reported on Wednesday 4,056 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 478 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 829,396 cases and 84,898 deaths.

The ministry also said 127,053 healthcare workers have contracted confirmed cases of COVID-19, with at least 1,744 fatalities since the pandemic began.

Morocco

Morocco registered 3,387 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, taking its tally to 160,333, the health ministry said in a statement.

It also reported 41 more deaths, raising the death toll to 2,726.

Poland

Poland reported a record of coronavirus infections for the second consecutive day, with 8,099 new cases, according to health ministry data published on Twitter, with further curbs expected to be announced later on Thursday.

The country of 38 million has now recorded 149,903 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,308 deaths.

Health authorities say it has enough hospital beds and respirators for now to tackle the pandemic but cannot rule out localized shortages.

Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska told public radio station PR24 that most large Polish cities would become "red" zones, areas with the highest level of coronavirus restrictions.

The lower house of parliament will likely hold an extra meeting on Friday to discuss a new healthcare bill that may make it compulsory for doctors to treat COVID patients when ordered to do so by authorities.

Portugal

Tougher measures will be imposed in Portugal from Thursday onwards to contain record levels of coronavirus cases. 

From Thursday, gatherings will be limited to five people. Weddings and baptisms can be attended by a maximum of 50, but university parties will be banned.

Fines for businesses which do not comply with the rules will be doubled from an upper limit of 5,000 to 10,000 euros.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa will also submit a proposal to parliament to make face masks compulsory in crowded outdoor spaces, and use of the government's tracing app compulsory for some workforces.

Portugal has recorded 91,193 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,117 deaths, but cases have crept back up. On Wednesday, the country hit a record 2,072 daily cases, according to health authority DGS, although testing rates have also increased.

There were nearly 400 localized outbreaks reported across the nation, DGS said, adding most of the coronavirus cases were concentrated in and around the capital Lisbon and in the country's northern region.

Russia

Russia recorded on Thursday 13,754 new coronavirus cases and a record high of 286 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the tally to 1,354,163 and the death toll to 23,491.

Russia has granted regulatory approval to a second COVID-19 vaccine, according to its register of authorized medicines.The jab was developed by the Vector Institute in Siberia and completed early-stage human trials last month. However, results have not been published yet and a large-scale trial, known as Phase III, has not yet begun.

The peptide-based vaccine, named EpiVacCorona, is the second to be licensed for use in Russia. There has been a placebo-controlled trial on 100 volunteers between 18 and 60 in Novosibirsk.

Meanwhile, Industry Minister Denis Manturov said Russia is going to miss its target of making 30 million doses of the Sputnik-V vaccine this year due to setbacks maintaining the serum’s stability while expanding production. Manturov said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that Russia will have made 40,000 doses by the end of this month, with the maximum possible by the New Year 2.3 million. 

Slovakia

Slovakia recorded 1,929 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the country's biggest one-day tally since the pandemic started, Health Ministry data showed on Thursday.

Slovenia

Slovenia introduced new measures Thursday to fight its rising number of coronavirus infections.

Schools will from Monday operate online for older elementary pupils and all high school students. For seven Slovenian regions gatherings of more than 10 people are forbidden and masks are obligatory outdoors.

Slovenia, a country of some 2 million people, reported 707 daily infections on Thursday.

Spain

Spain's Health Ministry reported on Wednesday 11,970 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country's infection tally to 908,056.

Another 209 deaths were also reported, raising the death toll to 33,413.

The Madrid region continues to be the worst-hit area with a total of part of  270,745 confirmed infections and 9,837 deaths. Another 2,723 new cases and 48 deaths were registered in the past 24 hours.   The region including and around the country's capital remains subject to a State of Alarm, which was imposed by the central government on Oct. 9 in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

The Catalan regional government confirmed that as of Friday, all bars and restaurants in the region will have to close for 15 days. 

Sweden

The COVID-19 infection rate is increasing across Sweden with an overwhelming majority of regions reporting a spike in cases, Swedish Television reported on Wednesday.

A joint report from Sweden's county administrative boards showed that 17 out of 21 regions were experiencing rising infection rates, with some reporting a rapid rise in numbers.

"There is now a confirmed community spread in several municipalities, particularly among school children, youths, home care personnel and staff members at several hospital wards," Swedish Television reported, citing the Jamtland-Harjedalen County Administrative Board.

Sweden has so far reported 101,332 confirmed cases and 5,907 deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Switzerland

The number of new coronavirus infections in Switzerland reported on Thursday rose by 2,613 in a day as fresh cases hit their second-highest daily total following Wednesday's record, data from Switzerland's public health agency showed.

The agency reported a total of 71,317 confirmed cases in Switzerland and tiny neighbouring principality Liechtenstein. The death toll rose by two to 1,818.

On Wednesday, the 24-hour total hit 2,823, the most recorded in a day since the pandemic began. 

People walk down the steps of the main entrance of Waterloo train station at which point they are allowed to remove their face coverings, in London, UK, Oct 15, 2020. (MATT DUNHAM / AP)

UK

Tighter COVID-19 lockdowns could be imposed on London and northern England by the British government on Thursday and Health Secretary Matt Hancock will address parliament, junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi said.

Zahawi said the government was also speaking to London Mayor Sadiq Khan who has called for tougher lockdowns in the capital where 11 boroughs are seeing more than 100 new cases a week per 100,000 people.

"It is my expectation that the government will today announce that London will shortly be moving into tier 2 or the high alert level of restrictions," Khan said.

The United Kingdom reported 19,724 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a rise of 2,490 from the day before, government data showed

The United Kingdom reported 19,724 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a rise of 2,490 from the day before, government data showed as new local restrictions were due to be brought in for some areas of the country to curb the spread of infections.

The figures also showed there were 137 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, down slightly from Tuesday when there 143 were recorded.

In Northern Ireland, the health department reported a record amount of daily cases on Wednesday with 1,217 new infections bringing the number of cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days to 356. Four more deaths were also announced.

Meanwhile, Wales said it intended to ban people living in areas with high rates of COVID-19 infections in the rest of the UK from entering the country from Friday 1700 GMT, in a bid to prevent the spread of the disease. 

Under plans being prepared by the devolved Welsh government, those people in areas of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland with high infection levels will be barred, First Minister Mark Drakeford said.

US

US President Donald Trump is no longer capable of spreading the novel coronavirus and can attend a town hall on Thursday without putting others at risk, top US public health official Anthony Fauci said in an interview with CBS Evening News.

Meanwhile, Trump's 14-year-old son, Barron, tested positive for COVID-19 but exhibited no symptoms after both of his parents contracted the virus, first lady Melania Trump said.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi were "far apart" on another coronavirus economic relief package, and that a deal would be hard to reach before the Nov 3 election

"Luckily he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms," Melania Trump said in a statement. She said she and Barron had since tested negative for the virus.

White House staffers who were infected have begun trickling back to the West Wing, saying they only had mild symptoms. They include Hope Hicks, a senior adviser to Trump, and Karoline Leavitt, an assistant press secretary.

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany hoped to return by the end of the week, a White House official said, while other press aides such as Harrison Fields, Jalen Drummond and Chad Gilmartin are still not back at the White House.

In another development, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said COVID-19 vaccines may not be initially recommended for children, when they become available.

Overall, the US has reported more than 7.9 million confirmed cases and more than 216,000 deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

On coronavirus stimulus, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi were "far apart" on another coronavirus economic relief package, and that a deal would be hard to reach before the Nov 3 election, but he would keep trying.

Eli Lilly antibody trial

Eli Lilly and Co said on Tuesday that the government-sponsored clinical trial of its COVID-19 antibody treatment similar to one taken by Trump has been paused by the US government because of a safety concern.

Earlier, it was reported that the trial has been paused by Lilly. 

Lilly said the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) paused a government-backed clinical trial of its COVID-19 drug in hospitalized patients "out of an abundance of caution" over a potential safety concern. 

The trial was stopped because early results showed a difference in clinical status after 5 days between those who received the Lilly drug and those who received placebo, reaching what it called “a predefined boundary for safety,” NIAID said, without providing more detail.

Pfizer, BioNTech vaccine trial

Side effects that have emerged in a large late-stage trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE are in line with those seen in smaller early studies, a positive sign for one of the front-runners in the race for a shot.

The partners haven’t had to stop their late-stage study over safety concerns, BioNTech Chief Executive Officer Ugur Sahin said in an interview. They’re sticking with their previously announced target of being able to show as soon as this month whether the vaccine works.

In what Sahin said is an unusual step, Pfizer and BioNTech published some of the data they used to narrow the field in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday. The results show that people who took the experimental shot they chose had fewer so-called systemic side effects -- things like fever, chills and fatigue -- than those who got another jab in the partners’ portfolio.


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