China Embarks On Clinical Trial For Coronavirus Vaccine

This photo taken on February 6, 2020 shows a laboratory technician working on samples from people to be tested for the new coronavirus at “Fire Eye” laboratory in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province. BGI Group, a genome sequencing company based in southern China, said it opened on February 5 a lab in Wuhan able to test up to 10,000 people per day for the virus. The official Chinese death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose on February 7 to 636, with the government saying total infections had climbed past 30,000. STR / AFP.

 

China has started the first phase of a clinical trial for a novel coronavirus vaccine, records show, as the world’s scientists race to find a way to combat the deadly pathogen.

It comes after US health officials said last week they had started a trial to evaluate a possible vaccine in Seattle.

The Chinese effort began on March 16 — the same day as the US announcement — and is expected to continue until the end of the year, according to a filing in the country’s Clinical Trial Registry, dated March 17.

“Volunteers of the COVID-19 phase one trial have already started receiving the vaccine,” a staff member involved in the government-funded project told AFP on Sunday.

The 108 participants, aged between 18 and 60, will be tested in three groups and given different dosages. They are all residents of the central city of Wuhan — where the new coronavirus first emerged late last year.

READ ALSO: Iraq On Total Lockdown Until March 28 Over Coronavirus

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages and governments step up protection measures, pharmaceutical companies and research labs around the world are working at full tilt.

There are currently no approved vaccines or medication for the new disease, which has killed more than 13,000 people worldwide so far.

The vaccine trial announcements come amid an escalating feud between the US and China over the pandemic, with President Donald Trump enraging Beijing by speaking of the “Chinese virus”.

China’s nationalistic Global Times published an opinion piece last week noting “the development of a vaccine is a battle that China cannot afford to lose”.

But the quest is expected to take time — the US candidate vaccine may take another year to 18 months before becoming available.

An antiviral treatment called remdesivir, made by US-based Gilead Sciences, is already in the final stages of clinical trials in Asia and doctors in China have reported it has proven effective in fighting the disease.

But only randomised trials will allow scientists to know for sure if it really helps or whether patients would have recovered without it.

AFP

Coronavirus: Singapore Charges Man With Virus For Lying To Health Officials

This photograph taken on February 22, 2020 shows a volunteer (L) taking a temperature of a church member attending a small group service as a protective measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Heart of God church in Singapore. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP

 

A Chinese man infected with coronavirus and his wife have been charged in Singapore for lying to health authorities investigating whether they had passed the illness to others, officials said Wednesday.

Singapore has recorded nearly 100 cases of the COVID-19 infection since the illness first originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December.

With nearly 2,800 confirmed deaths and more than 81,000 cases worldwide, Singapore has banned the entry of visitors who have travelled through China or parts of South Korea within two weeks of their arrival.

Hu Jun, originally from Wuhan, arrived in Singapore on January 22 and later tested positive for the illness. The 38-year-old has since recovered and been discharged from hospital.

His Chinese wife, a resident of the city-state, was issued a quarantine order.

Singapore’s health ministry said the couple “had given false information… about their movements and whereabouts” to officials investigating whether they could have passed the infection on to others.

They were charged because of the potentially serious risk their actions had posed to public health, the ministry added.

The pair face a fine of up to US$7,150 and six-month imprisonment if convicted.

Retracing the movements of those infected with the virus is crucial in tracking down individuals who may have been exposed, and prevent further spread.

In a separate case, immigration officials said Wednesday it had withdrawn an unnamed foreigner’s permanent resident status for violating an order to stay at home in self-quarantine after his recent travel to China.

AFP

British National Contracts Ebola In Sierra Leone

Ebola virus diseaseA British national living in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola Virus, the first Briton to fall victim to the deadly disease that has spread across the West African region since March, the Department of Health said on Saturday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the current Ebola epidemic – the world’s worst ever with 1,427 documented deaths – will likely take six to nine months to halt.

Some aid organisations, including medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, have warned that the outbreak, which began in Guinea before spreading to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, is now out of control.

The WHO conceded on Friday that the hiding of victims and the existence of “shadow zones” where medics cannot go had concealed the true scale of the epidemic.

Britain’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, John Watson, confirmed a British national was among those suffering from Ebola and said medical experts were assessing the situation in Sierra Leone to ensure appropriate care was provided.

“The overall risk to the public in the UK continues to be very low,” Watson said in a statement.

No further details about the British national were immediately available, and it was not known whether there were plans to evacuate the patient.

Ebola, which is passed on by direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected persons, strikes hardest at healthcare providers and caregivers who work closely with those infected. Dozens of local doctors and nurses have died from the virus in recent months.

Two American aid workers, who contracted Ebola in neighbouring Liberia and were then evacuated, recovered from the disease and were released from a hospital in the United States earlier this week.

Fear, stigma and denial have led many families to hide their infected loved ones from health officials. In other instances, patients have been forcibly removed from treatment facilities and isolation centers, creating the risk of the disease’s further spread.

Ebola Fear: South Africa Bans Travellers From Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone

Ebola FearSouth Africa said on Thursday that due to fears over the spread of the Ebola virus, it was banning travellers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from entering the country, apart from its own citizens.

Travellers from Nigeria, where there is a much smaller outbreak, would, however, be allowed entry.

South African citizens returning from the three highest risk countries would be permitted entry but subject to a stricter screening process, a government statement said.

The deadly Ebola disease has killed more than 1,300 people this year in the three small West African states and also has a toehold in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy.

 

75% of Ebola Victims Are Women – Health Officials

EbolaHealth officials have said that about 75 per cent of people contracting Ebola are women because they are often the primary care-givers, nurses and traders.

The disease, which has claimed the lives of at least 1,229 people across Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, is disproportionally infecting women as the outbreak spreads across West Africa.

Liberia’s Minister for Gender and Development, Julia Duncan-Cassell, said that health teams at task force meeting in Liberia found three-quarters of those who were infected or died from Ebola were female.

She told the Washington Post: “Women are the caregivers — if a kid is sick, they say, ‘Go to your mom.’

“The cross-border trade women go to Guinea and Sierra Leone for the weekly markets, [and] they are also the caregivers. Most of the time when there is a death in the family, it’s the woman who prepares the funeral, usually an aunt or older female relative.”

The Ministry of Health in Liberia also said about 75 per cent of the Ebola deaths it has counted so far have been women, Buzz Feed reports.

A spokesperson for Community Response Group and a leader of the Social Mobilization Committee on Ebola, Suafiatu Tunis, said that female family members are also typically expected to nurse and tend to sick family members, increasing their risk of contracting the disease even further.

Women in West Africa are also the traditional birth attendants, nurses and the cleaners and laundry workers in hospitals. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, making hospital transmission the likely method by which it would be passed on to large numbers of people.

A WHO spokeswoman in Monrovia, Liberia, Maricel Seeger, said that reaching women and educating them on the disease was crucial to tackling the virus’ spread, as they play a major role as conduits of information in their communities”.

“By reaching the women, they are reaching those who can best protect their families, and their own health,” she said.

Liberia has the highest death toll and its number of cases is rising the fastest. In response, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered West Point sealed off and imposed a night-time curfew.

At least 50,000 people live on the half-mile-long point, which is one of the poorest and most densely populated neighbourhoods of the capital.