Trials show ‘drug can block COVID’



A leading infectious diseases expert, has declared that new trials show for the first time that "a drug can block this virus".

Results from two trials of the anti-viral drug remdesivir showed it was effective in cutting recovery times and in helping patients with severe symptoms be discharged from hospital within two weeks.

And the New York Times reported the drug could even be approved as soon as today for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration.

A trial conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases showed a "clear-cut positive effect in diminishing time to recover", Dr Fauci said.

Speaking to reporters from the White House, Dr Fauci said the results were "quite good news".

"It's highly significant. Because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus," he said.


The news of a possible breakthrough came as the UK's death toll soared by nearly 4500 to more than 26,000 after deaths in care homes and the wider community were added to the number of deaths in hospitals for the first time.

Until now, the daily reported figures have only included the number of people who have died in hospitals.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that the toll will from now on include those who have died in care homes and the community to "bring as much transparency as possible".

In the week up to April 17, 3096 people died in care homes from the virus - triple the week before when 1043 deaths were registered, The Sun reported.


People enjoying the sunshine in London. Picture: Getty
People enjoying the sunshine in London. Picture: Getty

It means a third of all coronavirus deaths in England and Wales are now happening in care homes.

Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Angela McLean said: "Deaths from COVID-19 are dominated by those deaths in hospital, but that is not the only location in which such deaths are seen."

The Health Secretary also confirmed that testing would be expanded to all care home residents and staff, regardless of whether they have COVID-19 symptoms, and all those aged 65 and over with symptoms and their households.

Meanwhile, new economic data suggests the US economy could be on track to shrink by as much as 30 per cent this year.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared reopening schools and workplaces will be crucial victories in the coronavirus fight as Australia prepares to lift restrictions.

The Prime Minister says the nation's great success in flattening infection rates is not the end goal.

"We don't want to just win the battle against COVID-19 but lose a broader conflict when it comes to the economy and the functioning of our society," he said on Wednesday.

It comes as the new tracking app passed 3 million downloads.

Mr Morrison thanked Australians on Twitter, urging those who had not downloaded the app to do so.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says enabling people to return to work and children attend classrooms will be key milestones.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says enabling people to return to work and children attend classrooms will be key milestones.

"We all want the restrictions eased and to get back to doing the things we love as soon as we can and it's safe to do so," he tweeted.

Just one new case of the virus from unknown sources was detected in the past 24 hours, the second day in a row with a single community transmission diagnosis.

The nation's coronavirus toll rose to 90 on Wednesday after a 12th person died at a western Sydney nursing home.

More than 5600 of the 6746 people diagnosed with coronavirus nationally have recovered.

"If we were to consider our success on COVID-19 as just having a low number of cases, that is not good enough," Mr Morrison said.



The Prime Minister nominated having protections in place, enabling people to return to work and children attend classrooms as key milestones.

"Of course, there will continue to be additional cases; of course, there will be outbreaks - that's what living with the virus will be like," he said. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly was confident Australia can handle a potential second wave of infections.

"If a second wave does occur, we'll deal with it quickly and we'll respond to it," he said.

With 325 new confirmed deaths from coronavirus, Spain has seen a slight rebound in fatalities for a total of 24,275 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Infections stand over 212,000, although the Health Ministry's figure only includes the cases confirmed by the most reliable laboratory tests that are not being conducted massively.

Authorities want to come out from a near total freeze of social and economic life in stages and at different speeds depending on how its provinces and islands respond to the health crisis.


The US economy shrank in the first quarter at its sharpest pace since the 1930s Depression as the coronavirus lockdown shut down the country, ending the longest expansion in the nation's history.

The Commerce Department said gross domestic product fell at a 4.8 per cent annualised rate in the January-to-March period after expanding at a 2.1 per cent rate in the final three months of 2019.

Economists in a Reuters poll had been looking for a GDP contraction of 4 per cent, though estimates ranged to as low as negative 15 per cent. The decline reflected a plunge in economic activity in the last two weeks of March, which saw millions of Americans seeking unemployment benefits.


The snapshot will reinforce analysts' predictions that the economy was already in a deep recession with predictions the economy will shrink by 30 per cent this year.

"The economy is in free fall, we could be approaching something much worse than a deep recession," said Sung Won Sohn, a business economics professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

"It's premature to talk about a recovery at this moment, we are going to be seeing a lot of bankruptcies for small and medium sized businesses."

Meanwhile, also in the US, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has demanded a plan from transport authorities on how they intend to keep the city's subways safe after essential workers complained they had been taken over by the homeless.


With the number of passengers down 90 per cent, homeless people have moved onto the subway system. Mr Cuomo said it was essential that the trains were cleaned and disinfected every night to keep them safe for frontline workers.

He said the subway was not the place for the homeless to live.

"Any essential worker who shows up and gets on a train should know that that train was disinfected the night before," Mr Cuomo said.



Germany faces the prospect of returning to a stricter lockdown after a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.

The country has slowly been easing its lockdown after faring much better than its European neighbours as a result of an aggressive policy of mass testing.

But the country's virus reproduction rate - known as "R" - which measures how many people the average person with COVID-19 infects has bounced back to just below one.

That means one person with the virus infects one other on average and earlier this month, the rate was at 0.7.


Germany saw the overall number of coronavirus cases grow by 1018 on Monday and 1144 on Tuesday.

There has also been a steady rise in the number of deaths from 117 on April 25 to 188 on April 28 and the country has already been planning for a second wave of killer coronavirus.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned if they R rate increases even slightly above 1 then the country's health service faces being overwhelmed.

"If we get to a point where each patient is infecting 1.1 people, then by October we will be back at the limits of our health system in terms of intensive-care beds," she said.

Meanwhile, Sweden has suffered its highest death rate this century despite claiming it had passed the peak of coronavirus infection.

The Scandinavian country is the only nation in Europe not to have imposed lockdowns - even though its death toll is actually worse than the USA, Iran and Germany per head of population.


Sweden has controversially allowed schools for under-16s, cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses to stay open, although it has been urging people to respect social distancing.

The country's deputy state epidemiologist Anders Wallensten said a week ago "the peak was reached" on April 15.

But the Swedish statistics office has now released data showing that in the week ending April 12 a total of 2,505 people died.

This is almost 150 more deaths than the highest death rate in one week, which was 2,364 dead the first week of 2000, it said.

Statistics Sweden says the deaths are concentrated in the capital Stockholm.

During weeks 14-16 this year the number of deaths in the city have been more than twice as high as the corresponding weekly average from 2015-2019.



With 325 new confirmed deaths from coronavirus, Spain has seen a slight rebound in fatalities for a total of 24,275 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Infections stand over 212,000, although the Health Ministry's figure only includes the cases confirmed by the most reliable laboratory tests that are not being conducted massively.

Authorities want to come out from a near total freeze of social and economic life in stages and at different speeds depending on how its provinces and islands respond to the health crisis.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday local time announced his plan and called it "a road to a new normal," but one "without a GPS system."

Individual exercise has resumed as well as haircuts and other personalised services with an appointment. In most places, some shops will open on May 11, and socialising will be permitted in outdoor cafes, bars, as well as services in churches and mosques at one third of their capacity.

Territories that by that point keep the epidemic at bay will be granted further relaxation of restrictions in restaurants, cinemas, theatres and museums by the end of May.

Preschools will reopen then but only for parents who need to work, since in-classroom education won't resume until the new school year in September.

Barring any worsening of the outbreak, capacity in venues will be increased toward mid-June and beaches will open before gradually settling into a "new normal" that will allow domestic travel. International travel still needs to be sorted out by the European Union, Spain says.



Brazil, the South American country worst hit by the corona­virus pandemic, has registered more than 5000 deaths from COVID-19, pushing the toll above that of China.

A record 474 deaths were recorded on Tuesday, local time, with the number of infections rising to 71,886.

China, where the virus emerged, has recorded about 4600 deaths.

Brazil's health ministry said its toll could be significantly higher than official figures, with 1156 further deaths under investigation. Experts believe the overall number of COVID-19 cases could be 12 to 15 times higher because of a large number of undetected cases, given the lack of testing availability across the country's population of 210 million.



China's parliament will hold its annual session next month after being delayed because of the coronavirus, state media said on Wednesday local time, signalling the communist leadership's growing confidence in taming the epidemic.

Beijing announced in February that it would put off the annual National People's Congress for the first time since the Cultural Revolution as the country battled the coronavirus outbreak, which then became a pandemic.

The rescheduled session on May 22 will highlight confidence by the leadership that China has largely brought its outbreak under control.



Top Communist Party leaders including President Xi Jinping attend each year's gathering with thousands of delegates from across the country, to rubberstamp bills, budgets and personnel moves. The annual gathering was originally due to start on March 5.

According to a statement cited by official news agency Xinhua from the NPC Standing Committee - the body that oversees the legislative session - the epidemic in China is "improving steadily" and "normal economic and social life is gradually resuming".

This means the "conditions for convening the NPC annual session … are ready," the statement said.

China's capital on Wednesday lowered its emergency alert from the highest level and lifted a strict quarantine requirement for domestic travellers from "low-risk" areas, which it had kept in place long after many other regions in the country eased travel restrictions.

Arrivals in Beijing from the virus epicentre of Hubei province as well as travellers coming from abroad are still required to complete a 14-day quarantine, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

"This is a show of strength," said Hong Kong-based political analyst Willy Lam. "It's a sign that China is back on its feet, and the economic machinery keeps humming, and a big reassurance to the people that the epidemic is over."

The announcement was also aimed at the domestic audience, to reassure Chinese citizens after a sharp 6.8 per cent contraction in the first quarter's economic growth, he added.




Originally published as Trials show 'drug can block COVID' as UK death toll soars

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