New lockdowns from China to Europe as virus trials stumble
The Borneo Post (Sabah), Malaysia, 15 October 2020, https://www.pressreader.com/article/281831466208163
PARIS: As Europe imposed new restrictions to try to stall a surging second wave of the novel coronavirus, hopes for vaccines to rapidly provide relief suffered a blow Tuesday with the suspension of two clinical trials in the United States.
China meanwhile rushed to test an entire city of nine million within days after a minor coronavirus outbreak in the sprawling country, and Europe struggled to tackle a new surge of infections.
The virus is still spreading rapidly worldwide, with over one million deaths and 37 million infections. Many nations that suppressed their first outbreaks now face a second wave.
Hopes for a rapid vaccine rollout suffered a setback as US pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly said it had suspended the Phase 3 trial of its antibody treatment over an unspecified incident, the second in less than 24 hours after Johnson & Johnson ran into a similar problem.
In Europe, the Netherlands imposed a “partial lockdown” to curb one of the region’s worst coronavirus surges, with all bars, cafes and restaurants to close, and non-medical face coverings mandatory in all indoor spaces for people aged over 13.
In Britain, Labour opposition leader Keir Starmer called for a 2-3 week “circuit break” lockdown to slow the rates, saying the government had “lost control” of the outbreak having ignored stringent measures suggested by scientific experts on Sept 21.
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce tighter restrictions and faster testing in a prime-time TV interview late Wednesday, with some media speculating Paris and other cities could face evening curfews.
Meanwhile China — where Covid-19 first emerged late last year — launched a drive to test all residents of Qingdao after a handful of cases were detected on Sunday.
More than four million samples had been collected and 1.9 million results returned as of Tuesday afternoon, Qingdao authorities said, adding that no new cases had been found beyond already confirmed infections.
Chinese officials intend to test the entire city — around 9.4 million people — by Thursday.
In scenes contrasting with the fumbled testing efforts elsewhere, health workers in protective clothing swiftly set up tents and residents queued up to provide samples.
As the rest of Europe struggled to contain the disease, Russia also reported its highest-ever number of daily virus deaths, at 244, and a record number of new cases at almost 14,000.
Italy imposed new, tougher rules to control a resurgence, including an end to parties, amateur football matches and snacking at bars at night.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki became the latest high-profile figure to go into quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person.
In opposition to lockdowns and social distancing, some politicians have proposed letting the coronavirus circulate in the population to build up “herd immunity” — where so much of the population has been infected there are insufficient new victims for the virus to jump to.
But the World Health Organization has dismissed such plans as “ethically problematic” and requiring mass vaccinations to work.
Furthermore, study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal indicated that exposure to the virus may not guarantee future immunity — and the second infection could come with even more severe symptoms.
Despite the vaccine testing setbacks, which health experts say is normal as testing scales up massively in its later stages, the World Bank approved US$12 billion for developing countries to finance the purchase and distribution of vaccines, tests and treatment.
The financing “aims to support vaccination of up to a billion people,” the bank said.
A health worker (left) takes a swab from a resident to be tested for the Covid19 coronavirus as part of a mass testing programme following a new outbreak in Qingdao in China’s eastern Shandong province.
Employees of cafe Marcella watch a broadcast of a press conference of the Dutch Prime minister and Health minister on new measures taken to tackle the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in Amsterdam.