New lock­downs from China to Europe as virus tri­als stum­ble

The Bor­neo Post (Sabah), Malaysia, 15 Oc­to­ber 2020,­­ti­cle/2818314662­08163

COVID-19 News - - News -

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.

— AFP pho­tos

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.

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