The latest on the global pandemic
The European Union wants to fast-track funding to treat COVID-19 patients with blood plasma collected from survivors, an EU document seen by Reuters shows, in a sign of the bloc's growing confidence in the experimental treatment. The move also highlights the more assertive approach being taken by the 27-nation union in the race to find effective drugs and vaccines against the new coronavirus, after the United States scooped up several promising candidates. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has invited national blood authorities to apply for possible emergency funding by July 10 to boost their collection of convalescent plasma, which is obtained from people who have recovered from COVID-19, the document seen by Reuters said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday it was setting up an independent panel to review its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the response by governments. The announcement follows strong criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration of the global agency's role in the crisis - though the WHO said the review was not linked to the United States. Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have agreed to head the panel, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Indonesia reported its biggest single-day rise in coronavirus infections on Thursday, with almost half of the 2,657 new cases detected at a military training centre in West Java. There were 58 new coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, bringing the official total to 3,417, health ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a news conference. Partial data for 20 of Indonesia's 35 provinces gathered by volunteer group Kawal Covid-19 from local governments websites, however, showed there were a further 6,847 deaths of people who had not been tested but showed acute symptoms.
- Associated Press
The coronavirus pandemic in Africa is reaching “full speed” and it’s good to prepare for the worst-case scenario, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief said Thursday, after a South African official said a single province is preparing 1.5 million gravesites. Just a day after confirmed virus cases across Africa surpassed the half-million milestone the total was over 522,000 and climbing, with more than 12,000 deaths. Provincial official Bandile Masuku, a medical doctor, startled South Africans when he told reporters Wednesday that Gauteng is preparing over 1.5 million graves.
Just one person in a South Korean survey of more than 3,000 people showed neutralizing antibodies to the novel coronavirus, health authorities said on Thursday, indicating the virus has not spread widely in the community. "The results indicate that each citizen has taken an active participation in tough social distancing," Kwon Jun-wook, the deputy director of the Korea Centers for Disease and Prevention (KCDC), told a briefing. It has credited its success to widespread testing and strict social distancing.
- Associated Press
Confirmed coronavirus infections in the Philippines soared past 50,000 on Wednesday in a troubling milestone for a country that has reopened an economy on the brink of recession while still struggling to combat the pandemic. The Department of Health reported 2,539 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 50,359, including 1,314 deaths. The Philippines' caseload is the second largest in Southeast Asia, where the combined number of infections has surpassed those in China, where the pandemic emerged.
The number of cases is triple that of severe influenza illnesses recorded annually, according to the World Health Organization. Many hard-hit countries are easing lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of the novel virus, while others, such as China and Australia, implement another round of shutdowns in response to a resurgence in infections. The first case was reported in China in early January and it took 149 days to hit 6 million cases.
Numerous neurological problems such as tremors, seizures, and impaired consciousness have been linked to severe COVID-19, and a small German study may have uncovered a mechanism by which the virus appears to trick the body into attacking the brain. Researchers have been seeing these symptoms without finding the coronavirus in the cerebrospinal fluid circulating through the brain and spinal cord. It appears that patients' immune systems are producing what are known as autoantibodies that mistakenly target a person's own tissues or organs, researchers reported on Monday on medRxiv, in advance of peer review.
- Associated Press
President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa in late June that drew thousands of participants and large protests "likely contributed" to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday. Although the health department’s policy is to not publicly identify individual settings where people may have contracted the virus, Dart said those large gatherings “more than likely" contributed to the spike. “In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots," Dart said.
- Associated Press
After months of touting an unproven anti-malaria drug as a treatment for the new coronavirus, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is turning himself into a test case live before millions of people as he swallows hydroxychloroquine pills on social media and encourages others to do the same. Bolsonaro said this week that he tested positive for the virus but already felt better thanks to hydroxychloroquine. “I trust hydroxychloroquine,” he said, smiling.