Coronavirus Global updates: Researchers at the University of Oxford believe they may have a breakthrough in their quest for a Covid-19 vaccine after the team discovered that the newly found agent could provide ‘double protection’ against the deadly coronavirus following early stage human trials, PTI quoted media reports in the UK as saying. Blood samples taken from a group of UK volunteers given a dose of the vaccine showed that it stimulated the body to produce both antibodies and ‘killer T-cells’, a senior source from the trial was quoted by ‘The Daily Telegraph’ as saying
More than than 13.5 million people have been infected worldwide and over 580,000 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are thought to be far higher for a number of reasons, including limited testing.
Also, the United States, which is worst-hit by the pandemic, reported 67,889 cases and 944 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the total infections in the country to 3.52 million and casualties to 1,37,358. Brazil is the second worst-hit country with 1,966,748 infections and 75,336 deaths, followed by India that has reported over 9.6 lakh cases so far.
In the hunt for a vaccine against Covid-19, encouraging news emerged about two candidates on Wednesday. The New England Journal of Medicine published an interim analysis describing an immune response generated in participants of phase I clinical trials for a vaccine developed by US-based biotech company Moderna. Meanwhile, ITV reported that there could be positive news, possibly by Thursday, on initial trials of another vaccine from the University of Oxford.
Also, China has approved an early-stage trial in humans of German firm BioNTech’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, its local partner Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical said on Thursday.
Here are some of the latest updates on coronavirus from across the world:
UK, US, Canada accuse Russia of hacking virus vaccine trials
Britain, the United States and Canada say Russia is trying to steal information from researchers seeking a COVID-19 vaccine. The three nations alleged Thursday that hacking group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear and said to be part of the Russian intelligence service, is attacking academic and pharmaceutical research institutions involved in coronavirus vaccine development.
The persistent and ongoing attacks are seen by intelligence officials as an effort to steal intellectual property, rather than to disrupt research. Britain’s National Cybersecurity Centre made the announcement, which was coordinated with authorities in the U.S. and Canada.
It was unclear whether any information actually was stolen but the National Cypersecurity Centre says individuals’ confidential information is not believed to have been compromised.
Cozy Bear has been identified by Washington as one of two Russian government-linked hacking groups that broke into the Democratic National Committee computer network and stole emails ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The other group is usually called Fancy Bear.
It’s also unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about the vaccine research hacking, but British officials believe such intelligence would be highly prized. (AP)
Dutch king opens disease exhibition delayed by pandemic
A museum in the Dutch city of Leiden finally opened an exhibition on contagious diseases through the ages on Thursday after a long delay caused by the disease currently sweeping the world – COVID-19.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander, who briefly self-isolated with his wife and three daughters as a precautionary measure after returning from a skiing vacation in Austria in March, opened the “Contagious!” exhibition at the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave.
The exhibition – with real-life social distancing stickers on the floor – was updated at the last minute to include references to the coronavirus pandemic, but also sheds light on the history of contagious diseases from the bubonic plague and smallpox to AIDS.
On one stand, a dummy wearing a replica of a plague doctor’s long robe and elaborate face mask with a long beak stuffed with aromatic spices to protect against infection stands near another mannequin wearing the blue medical gown, plastic goggles, face mask and disposable gloves that have become one of the signature images of the battle to treat victims of COVID-19 in intensive care units around the globe.
Some of the historical artifacts on display owe more to superstition than to science. An onyx-handled silver rattle complete with bells and whistle was believed to protect babies from ill health and accidents.
Number of laid-off workers seeking jobless aid stuck at 1.3M
The number of laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits remained stuck at 1.3 million last week, an historically high level that indicates many companies are still cutting jobs as the viral outbreak intensifies.
The elevated level of applications for jobless aid is occurring as new confirmed cases of coronavirus are spiking across much of the Sunbelt, threatening to weaken the economic recovery. Case counts are rising in 40 states and 22 states have either paused or reversed their efforts to reopen their economies, according to Bank of America.
Rising infections paralleled rising applications for aid in some states getting hit right now, and fell in states with declining infections. In Florida claims doubled to 129,000, and in Georgia they rose nearly one-third to 136,000. In California they increased 23,000 to nearly 288,000. Applications also rose in Arizona and South Carolina.
Applications fell in Texas, New Jersey and New York.
The Labour Department’s Thursday report showed that applications for jobless aid fell by about 10,000 from the previous week. The figure has now topped 1 million for 17 straight weeks. Before the pandemic, the record high for weekly unemployment applications was nearly 700,000.
China will allow cinemas in low-risk areas to open from July 20
China will allow cinemas in low-risk areas to reopen from July 20, the country’s film administration said on Thursday, six months after they were forced to shut as part of the country’s draconian measures to contain the novel coronavirus. Cinemas resuming operations will face a series of restrictions – from limited film showings to mandatory mask use – while those in medium-to-high risk areas will remain shut, the China Film Administration said in a statement.
Russia’s coronavirus case tally passes 750,000
Russia’s official coronavirus case tally reached 752,797 on Thursday, the fourth largest in the world, after authorities reported 6,428 new cases in the last 24 hours.In their daily readout, officials said 167 people had died overnight, pushing the official death toll to 11,937.
China gives the go-ahead for human trials of BioNTech’s COVID vaccine candidate
China has approved an early-stage trial in humans of German firm BioNTech’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, its local partner Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical said on Thursday. The potential vaccine is one of the two most advanced candidates that BioNTech is working on with its partner Pfizer Inc and they received “fast track” status this week from the US Food and Drug Administration which is designed to speed up the regulatory review process.
Fosun Pharma said in a filing that a unit will initiate a Phase I clinical trial of BNT162b1 “as soon as possible once it is ready”. It is licensed to exclusively develop and commercialise COVID-19 vaccine products developed by using BioNTech’s mRNA technology in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The candidate is one of at least 23 being tested on humans in a frantic global race to find a vaccine the world is counting on to end a pandemic that has infected more than 13 million people and killed more than half a million. Prior to the latest approval, Chinese researchers and companies have moved eight vaccine candidates into different phases of human trials at home and abroad.
Covid-19 vaccines: What are the two candidates?
Moderna was the first company to begin a human trial for a vaccine against Covid-19. Called mRNA-1273, the vaccine went into phase I trials on March 16. The vaccine uses mRNA technology, which involves injecting genetic instructions to human cells for creating proteins to fight the virus. The details of the phase I trial come two weeks before Moderna begins phase III on July 27.
Oxford University has developed its vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, in partnership with global biopharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. It delivers a SARS-CoV-2 protein to induce an immune response. The vaccine has already gone into phase III trials, but the results of phase I are yet to be announced.
Florida tops 10,000 virus cases, reaches 300,000
Florida reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and reached 300,000 total infections. Florida has 10,181 confirmed cases and a total of 301,810 since the outbreak began there March 1. The state confirmed 112 deaths — the third time in the last seven days its eclipsed 100 ? and 4,626 total COVID-19 deaths. Florida’s rolling seven-day average for deaths has increased to 92 per day, triple the 31 posted a month ago. As of Tuesday, Florida had the No. 2 death rate in the United States, slightly behind Texas.
Brazil’s Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus again
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has again tested positive for coronavirus, he told reporters on Wednesday in Brasilia, suggesting he has yet to recover from an infection first diagnosed last week. Since catching the virus, the president has said he remains in good health and he would resume his normal work schedule if he tested negative this week. On Wednesday, he said he would get tested again in a few days. Bolsonaro, a former army captain, first announced his diagnosis on July 7 after dismissing the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it a “little flu” even as Brazil’s outbreak became the worst in the world outside the United States.
As COVID-19 cases surge, Australia expands wage subsidy scheme
The Australian government is injecting a further A$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) into a wage subsidy programme to counter rising unemployment as the country posted the biggest rise in coronavirus cases since early April. Australian officials reported 327 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a surge that was almost entirely due to the state of Victoria, which posted its biggest-ever one-day rise in infections. Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, has been isolated from the rest of the country for more than a week following a fresh outbreak of the disease. The 4.9 million residents in its capital, Melbourne, have been ordered to stay home except for essential business.
Coronavirus data is funneled away from CDC, sparking worries
Hospital data related to the coronavirus pandemic in the US will now be collected by a private technology firm, rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a move the Trump administration says will speed up reporting but one that concerns some public health leaders. The CDC director said Wednesday that he’s fine with the change, even though some experts fear it will further sideline the agency.
Oklahoma governor tests positive for Covid-19
Oklahoma’s governor said he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday, becoming one of the highest elected US politicians to test positive for the disease, as new coronavirus infections in his state and neighboring Texas surged by record numbers for a second straight day.
Japan domestic tourism campaign under fire as cases spike in Tokyo
A Japan government campaign to kickstart domestic tourism after the coronavirus outbreak has come under fire with officials in Tokyo and the countryside saying it’s too soon to boost travel from the capital, hit by a spike in new cases. Scheduled to kick off July 22, the campaign will see travellers receive subsidies of as much as 50% in an effort to boost tourism-reliant economies outside of Japan’s major population areas.
China reports 1 new Covid case in mainland
China reported one new confirmed COVID-19 case for the mainland as of the end of July 15, down from six a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Thursday. The new case was an imported infection involving a traveller from overseas. All six cases reported a day earlier were also imported infections. Beijing reported no new cases for the tenth consecutive day. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in mainland China to date is 83,612. The death toll remains unchanged at 4,634.
Floored by COVID-19, Cirque du Soleil eyes return to the high-wire
As the coronavirus pandemic ripped around the globe, Cirque du Soleil, a circus troupe formed by Quebec street performers that become a global powerhouse, saw most of its operations grind to a halt in barely 48 hours. The company, which gained international renown for extravagant shows featuring acrobats, jugglers, firebreathers and musicians, was forced to shut down productions in China, Italy and the United States, among other countries.
COVID ICU patients’ survival rate has improved: Study
The death rate for COVID-19 intensive care patients has dropped by about one-third since the start of the pandemic, due at least in part to better hospital care, a review of published studies found. The global analysis of 24 observational studies of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, was published on Wednesday in the journal Anaesthesia. The research, led by Professor Tim Cook of England’s Royal United Hospitals Bath, found the overall mortality rate of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICUs) has fallen from almost 60% since the end of March to 42% at the end of May.
Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine hopes rise with strong trial results
Researchers at the University of Oxford believe they may have a breakthrough in their search for a COVID-19 vaccine after the team discovered that the jab could provide “double protection” against the deadly coronavirus following early stage human trials, according to media reports in the UK. Blood samples taken from a group of UK volunteers given a dose of the vaccine showed that it stimulated the body to produce both antibodies and ?killer T-cells?, a senior source from the trial was quoted by ‘The Daily Telegraph’ as saying.
The discovery is promising because separate studies have suggested that antibodies may fade away within months while T-cells can stay in circulation for years. However, the source cautioned that the results, while “extremely promising”, did not yet prove that the Oxford vaccine provides long-lasting immunity against the deadly virus.
“I can tell you that we now know the Oxford vaccine covers both bases ? it produces both a T cell and an antibody response. It’s the combination of these two that will hopefully keep people safe. So far, so good. It’s an important moment. But we still have a long way to go,” the source said. Another source close to the team described the presence of both antibodies and T-cells as a ?double defence? against COVID-19.
‘The Lancet’ medical journal has confirmed that it would be publishing early-stage human trial data from the Oxford team on Monday. David Carpenter, chairman of the Berkshire Research Ethics Committee, which approved the Oxford trial, said the vaccine team was “absolutely on track”. “Nobody can put final dates… things might go wrong but the reality is that by working with a big pharma company, that vaccine could be fairly widely available around September and that is the sort of target they are working on,” he said. The vaccine development, by the university’s Jenner Institute, is being supported by the UK government and AstraZeneca, which will support the production phase. The pharmaceutical company said last month that phase one trials were due to finish and a phase three trial had begun which will see the vaccine given to thousands of people so it can be tested for efficacy and safety.
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