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News24.com | Covid-19 wrap | UK now has 2nd highest infection rate in Europe, Trump announces travel plans, Vaccine promise in china, and reduction in emissions

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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Britain now has Europe’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll

Reaching a milestone that will be celebrated by no one, the United Kingdom now has Europe’s second-highest official coronavirus death toll, raising questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to the outbreak.

Some 26 097 people in the UK have died after testing positive for Covid-19 as of 28 April at 16:00 GMT, Public Health England (PHE) said on Wednesday, for the first time citing daily figures that included deaths outside of hospital settings.

The figure included an extra 3 811 deaths added to the most recent total announced – mostly incorporating deaths in care homes between 2 March and 28 April – on Tuesday.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who in recent weeks had been standing in for Johnson during the prime minister’s absence due to his own battle with the virus, said there were 756 more deaths in all settings reported on Tuesday compared with the day before.

That means the UK has suffered more Covid-19 deaths than either France or Spain have officially reported, though fewer than Italy, which has Europe’s highest death toll and the second-worst in the world after the United States.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that behind every statistic there are many human lives that have tragically been lost before their time,” Raab told reporters. “We are still coming through the peak and… this is a delicate and dangerous moment in the crisis.”

The UK government has been fiercely criticised over its handling of the crisis, not least over the provision of personal protective equipment to medical personnel.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer criticised Johnson’s response to the world’s worst public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak after Johnson had spoken of Britain’s “apparent success” in tackling coronavirus in a speech to the nation as he returned to work on Monday.

– Al Jazeera


Trump says he will resume travelling next week

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he’ll resume flying around the country from next week and looks forward to holding “wild” campaign rallies as soon as he can.

Trump told reporters in the White House that he is “going to Arizona next week and we look forward to that”.

This will be his first cross-country trip since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the United States.

He added that he will visit Ohio, one of the key swing states in the November presidential election, “very soon”.

The Arizona trip is focused on the economic recovery effort and is not a campaign rally, “because it’s too soon” for crowded events in stadiums, Trump explained.

– AFP


US records 2 502 coronavirus deaths in past 24 hours: tracker

The United States recorded 2 502 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, according to the latest real-time tally on Wednesday reported by Johns Hopkins University.

After two days of a relative easing in the toll on Sunday and Monday, the numbers have spiked again the past two days.

At least 60 853 people have now died in the country, according to the Baltimore-based university.

– AFP


‘Don’t waste a minute’: Chinese firm readies mass vaccine production

A researcher in a lab coat in Beijing holds up the hopes of humanity in his fingers: “Coronavac”, an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus that has upended the world.

Sinovac Biotech, which is conducting one of the four clinical trials that have been authorised in China, has claimed great progress in its research and promising results among monkeys.

While human trials have just started, the company says it is ready to make 100 million doses per year to combat the virus, which surfaced in central China late last year before spreading across the globe and killing more than 220 000 people.

Thousands of shots of the vaccine, which is based on an inactivated pathogen, have already been produced and packaged in a white and orange case emblazoned with the name “Coronavac”.

While the drug has a long way to go before it is approved, the company must show that it can produce it on a large scale and submit batches to be controlled by the authorities.

The World Health Organisation has warned that developing a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months, and Sinovac does not know when its half-millilitre injection will be ready for the market.

“It’s the question everyone is asking themselves,” said Sinovac director of brand management Liu Peicheng.

Nasdaq-listed Sinovac has experience in mass-producing a drug against a global virus: it was the first pharmaceutical company to market a vaccine against H1N1, or swine flu, in 2009.

– AFP


US says remdesivir shows ‘clear-cut’ effect in treating coronavirus

Covid-19 patients who took the antiviral remdesivir recovered about 30% faster than those on a placebo, the results of a major clinical trial showed on Wednesday, as the top US epidemiologist hailed the drug’s “clear-cut” benefit.

The finding represents the first time any medication has been shown to improve outcomes against the Covid-19 illness, which has claimed more than 220 000 lives globally and ground the world economy to a halt.

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which oversaw the trial, said that patients on the drug made by Gilead Sciences had a 31% faster time to recovery than those on a placebo.

“Specifically, the median time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received placebo,” it said.

For Anthony Fauci, who leads the NIAID and has been one of the government’s point people during the crisis, “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.”

“Although a 31% improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100%, it is a very important proof of concept because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” he told reporters at the White House.

The results also suggested that people who were on the drug were less likely to die, although the difference was small. The mortality rate was 8% for the group receiving remdesivir versus 11.6% for the placebo group.

The trial began on 21 February and involved 1 063 people across 68 locations in the United States, Europe and Asia.

– AFP


Covid-19 to cause record emissions fall in 2020: IEA

Covid-19 is expected to cause global energy emissions to fall a record 8% this year due to an unprecedented drop in demand for coal, oil and gas, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday.

The IEA’s Global Energy Review was based on an analysis of electricity demand over more than 100 days, during which much of the world has entered lockdown in a bid to control the pandemic.

It predicted that global energy demand would fall 6% in 2020 – seven times more than during the 2008 financial crisis and the biggest year-on-year drop since World War II.

This would be the equivalent of losing the entire energy demand of India, the world’s third-largest power consumer, the IEA said.

Advanced economies are set to see the biggest declines, with demand in the United States down 9% and an 11% fall in the European Union likely.

“This is a historic shock to the entire energy world,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

“The plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas.”

With consumption falling, the IEA said it had noticed a “major shift” to low-carbon sources of power, such as wind and solar, which are set to make up 40% of global electricity generation – six percentage points more than coal.

– AFP

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