Saturday, December 4

US approves experimental virus drug

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WASHINGTON: American authorities have approved an experimental drug for emergency use on coronavirus patients, as more US states eased pandemic lockdowns despite another spike in deaths from the disease.

The approval is the latest step in a global push to find viable treatments and a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has left half of humanity under some form of lockdown, hammered the world economy and infected more than 3.3 million people.

One vial of the drug Remdesivir lies during a press conference about the start of a study with the Ebola drug Remdesivir in particularly severely ill patients at the University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg, northern Germany. — AFP photo

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug initially developed to treat Ebola, was given the green light after a major trial found that it boosted recovery in serious Covid-19 patients.

“It’s really a very promising situation,” President Donald Trump said at the White House, where he was joined by Daniel O’Day, CEO of Gilead Sciences, which developed Remdesivir.

The drug incorporates itself into the virus’s genome, short-circuiting its replication process.

Its approval came as the US leaders struggled with growing pressure from citizens wearying of stay-at-home orders.

With about 1.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 65,000 deaths, the United States has the highest tolls of any country, and Trump is keen for a turnaround as the world’s largest economy reels with tens of millions left jobless.

“Hopefully, we’re going to come in below that 100,000 lives lost, which is a horrible number nevertheless,” said Trump, after suggesting earlier in the week the country could expect 60,000 or 70,000 fatalities.

Texas became the largest US state yet to ease curbs, while anti-lockdown demonstrations were held in several states – including California, where officials had re-closed beaches beginning Friday to avoid a repeat of last weekend when crowds flocked to the shoreline.

In Huntington Beach, 55 kilometres south of Los Angeles, several thousand people rallied to denounce Governor Gavin Newsom’s beach shutdown order.

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” protester Monica Beilhard fumed.

“It was uncalled for, unnecessary and people out here are making that known,” she said.

Governments around the world are struggling to balance the immense political and economic pressure to ease lockdowns with the need for public health measures against the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 236,000 people.

Several European countries have begun to lift restrictions, with authorities in some of the hardest-hit parts like Spain reporting signs that the pandemic there was slowing.

In Asia, India announced that the lockdown on its 1.3 billion people – the world’s biggest – would continue for two more weeks from May 4.

And in Singapore, the government said yesterday that pet food stores and hair salons will be allowed to reopen on May 12.

Most of the city-state’s infections have been detected at dormitories housing migrant workers, and their confinement was extended to June 1. — AFP