Global COVID-19 fight continues as curve flattens in hardest-hit European countries

UNTV News   •   April 7, 2020   •   326

The global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues with a glimmer of hope that some of the hardest-hit European countries have reported a reducing daily number of cases over the past weekend, suggesting a possible flattening of the curve.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global death toll from the pandemic has climbed to 62,955 as of 18:00 CET Sunday with globally confirmed cases reaching 1,136,851.

A total of 208 countries and regions have now reported COVID-19 cases on the same day, one more than the previous day.

The United States has registered the highest number of global cases with 273,808 confirmed cases as of 18:00 EST (1000 GMT) on Sunday.

Plagued by the highly contagious disease, attitudes towards masks are changing in the country after officials from the White House and state governments have started encouraging the use of the protective gear, though U.S.President Donald Trump appeared to claim he would not personally wear one.

However, there remains a significant shortage and some people are dusting off their sewing machines to make their own, with reports that one Chicago-based dry cleaning and laundry business has started making and selling handmade masks made from leftover clothing materials.

Another concern surrounds the low inventory of testing reagents and the shortage in the number of medical staff which has forced many test points to close.

Spain has overtaken Italy to become the country with the most confirmed cases in Europe. Construction teams are working around the clock to build three more field hospitals in Valencia, Castellon and Alicante as Spain bids to contain the virus.

But there is some encouragement that the number of new cases and new deaths of COVID-19 has continued to fall for several days, according to daily data published by the Spanish Ministry for Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Services on Sunday.

A total of 6,023 new infections were registered between Saturday and Sunday, fewer than the 7,026 new cases in the previous 24 hours and 7,472 between Thursday and Friday, bringing the country’s total cases to 130,759.

The situation is also showing signs of progress in Italy. The one-day COVID-19 death toll showed its smallest increase in nearly three weeks during past weekend and the number of hospitalized patients declined, according to Angelo Borrelli, head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department said Sunday.

The confirmed cases in Italy stood at 124,632 as of 18:00 EST (1000 GMT) on Sunday, while the overall death toll was 15,362.

Italy is considering moving to “phase two” of emergency with the falling trend in new infections.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Germany climbed to 91,714 as of 18:00 EST (1000 GMT) Sunday, with a total death toll of 1,342, according to the WHO.

Meanwhile, the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) on Sunday called on the federal government to introduce a second aid package to support the economy, according to the German Press Agency (DPA).

In several German cities, police have moved to enforce social distancing rules as some ventured out to enjoy the spring weather outdoors over the weekend. German media group Focus Online reported that security officers and police in Dusseldorf dissolved a crowd of around 200 people on the Rhine on Sunday in order to maintain the necessary distance between people.

While the total coronavirus fatalities in France swelled to 7,546 as of 18:00 EST (1000 GMT) Sunday, the number of critically-ill patients in the country has been increasing less rapidly.

French authorities on Sunday warned that the virus “continues to hit hard,” urging people to continue to respect the confinement protocols. Warm spring weather had incited some Parisians to head out, defying a lockdown imposed in mid-March to stem the virus spread.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that the existing restrictions imposed to curb the COVID-19 spread in the country would be eased gradually in the following weeks, the official IRNA news agency reported.

WHO data shows that by 18:00 EST (1000 GMT) Sunday, Iran had 58,226 confirmed cases and an overall death toll of 3,452.

Low-risk businesses will resume their activities from April 11 in different provinces except Tehran, with the capital city set to resume one week later on April 18, Rouhani said. Two thirds of all government employees will return to work in offices from April 11.

Meanwhile, there was concern in the UK as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital for tests on Sunday after suffering persistent coronavirus symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus. Downing Street underscored that this was not an emergency admission and that Johnson remains in charge of the government.

On the same day, Queen Elizabeth II delivered a rare television address to Britain and nations around the world, with the long-reigning monarch urging people to rise to the challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Asia, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to declare a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, due to the recent surging COVID-19 cases in Tokyo and other large cities, government sources said Monday.

As of 18:00 EST (1000 GMT) Sunday, the total confirmed cases in Japan reached 3,271, with an overall death toll of 70.

Singapore has launched a mobile app to help track potential cases and control community spread of the coronavirus as it saw its case numbers hit 1,309 on Sunday.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Manpower said in a joint statement that transmissions within Singapore’s foreign worker dormitories had continued to rise, and the city state was seeing more confirmed cases and ill workers.

As a result, two dormitories had been declared as isolation areas, with on-site medical support deployed and food and essential supplies provided, according to the statement.

The Singapore Government has announced that most workplaces will be shut down and many food establishments would be closed for a month from Tuesday as part of the so-called ‘circuit breaker’ measures designed to stop the the spread of COVID-19. (REUTERS CONNECT)

Tokyo residents welcome end of state of emergency

UNTV News   •   May 26, 2020

People in Tokyo, Japan on Tuesday (May 26) woke up to their first day with loosened social distancing curbs, after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency for all areas in the country on Monday (May 25).

Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures, as well as Hokkaido were the last remaining areas under emergency.

Many residents welcomed the government’s decision to end the emergency, though most said they are still alert for the virus since more people are out on the streets.

“I’m still a bit worried. There may be a second wave of an epidemic so we still need to be alert,” said 45-year-old Naoto Furuki who said the trains were a lot more crowded with commuters this morning.

With the emergency order lifted, Tokyo will move into “stage one” of loosening restrictions, allowing libraries and museums to reopen, and restaurants to stay open until later in the evening. Subsequent stages would see theatres, cinemas and fairgrounds reopen.

Company employee Daisuke Tominaga is happy that the emergency state is over, saying that the Japanese economy will collapse if businesses and people have to continue to live under restrictions.

“I want to go out drinking and attend concerts,” he said enthusiastically.

Many shops and restaurants have restarted operations since the government began lifting the emergency in rural and suburban areas earlier this month, but some stores remain closed. (Reuters)

(Production: Kim Kyung-Hoon, Akiko Okamoto, Travis Teo)

UK PM Johnson backs under-fire aide Cummings

UNTV News   •   May 25, 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed his senior adviser Dominic Cummings on Sunday (May 24), despite calls from within his own Conservative Party for the aide to resign for traveling 400km during the coronavirus lockdown.

Cummings, who masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union, came under pressure when newspapers reported he had travelled from London to Durham in late March, when Britain was under a strict lockdown to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Johnson’s office said Cummings made the journey to ensure his 4-year-old son could be properly cared for by relatives if he too fell ill.

The journey took place at a time when millions of Britons were staying inside and foregoing contacts with friends and relatives. The government’s order at the time was everyone in a household where anyone had symptoms must not leave home.

With Johnson’s words that he had acted with integrity, Cummings was safe. But the row within the governing Conservatives looked set to ripple on, with those who called for the senior aide’s resignation expected to be marginalized.

The newspapers have since reported that Cummings was seen in northern England on other occasions. The government has denied this.

A number of cabinet ministers and the attorney general have said that the journey was justified. (Reuters)

(Production: Paul Warren, Gabriela Boccaccio, Michael Fiorentino)

IATF approves Phl participation in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials

Maris Federez   •   May 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Upon the recommendation of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has approved the proposed participation of the Philippines in clinical trials that seek to formulate a potential vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Based on IATF Resolution No.39 dated May 22, 2020, the task force has also ordered the creation of a sub-technical working group which will be led by the DOST.

The group will be coordinating with the four collaborating organizations composed of the Department of Health (DOH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the World Health Organization (WHO) with regard to the said clinical trials.

The IATF has also issued a directive to the FDA to facilitate the processing of necessary permits for the conduct of the clinical trials in the country.

The collaborating organizations for the clinical trials are the Adimmune Corporation, Academia Sinica, Chinese Academy of Science- Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health, the Sinopharm – Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, and the Beijing Institute.

Once the clinical trials are undertaken, these will be included in the FDA’s requirements for the registration process for the vaccine and the application for certificate of registration to make the vaccine available in the market.

The Philippines has initially participated in the WHO’s clinical trials, which include the testing of off-label drugs that show potential of being effective against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the IATF has also approved the plans of the DOST to construct research centers for the local vaccine research development.

These include the Virology S&T Institute at the New Clark City in Tarlac and the reactivation of the Pharmaceutical Development Unit of the DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute. —(from the report of Rosalie Coz) /mbmf

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