Coronavirus update: Hydroxychloroquine drug Donald Trump takes to ward off COVID-19 linked to increase risk of death, South America becomes new epicentre
A new study of 96,000 COVID-19 patients that looks at the effects of hydroxychloroquine on the body suggests its use against the coronavirus leads to an increased risk of death.
Elsewhere, the WHO has identified South America as the current epicentre of the pandemic as its countries’ health systems are overwhelmed and Brazil reports a record surge in cases.
This story will be regularly updated throughout Saturday.
Saturday’s key moments:
Hydroxychloroquine increases likelihood of death: study
Malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which US President Donald Trump says he has been taking, was tied to increased risk of death in a study in 96,000 COVID-19 patients, according to a paper published in the widely respected medical journal The Lancet.
The study found that people treated with hydroxychloroquine, or the closely related drug chloroquine, had higher risk of in-hospital death when compared to those who had not been given the drug.
Mr Trump has said he is taking hydroxychloroquine to protect against the coronavirus, even though his administration has warned it can have deadly side effects.
The head of Italy’s pharmacological agency has also weighed in on the lack of data to suggest it is effective against COVID-19 as Italy conducts its own limited trials of the drug.
UK to introduce 14-day quarantine for international arrivals from June
Britain will introduce a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for travellers arriving from overseas from June 8, a measure that airlines have warned will devastate their industry.
All international arrivals, including returning Britons, will be required to self-isolate and provide details of where they will be staying to the authorities.
“Now we are past the peak of this virus, we must take steps to guard against imported cases triggering a resurgence of this deadly disease,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel.
She said those who breached the quarantine in England could be fined 1,000 pounds ($1,863), and that spot checks would be carried out by health and border officials.
The quarantine measures will not apply to those arriving from the Irish Republic, and there are also exemptions for freight drivers, medical professionals and seasonal agricultural workers.
Putin says Russia has stabilised the outbreak
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the outbreak in Russia has begun to abate, creating a positive environment for easing restrictions.
Russia currently ranks second after the United States in the number of infections with 326,448 cases, including 3,249 deaths.
The Russian leader said a steady drop in new cases, from almost 7,000 new cases per day at the peak of the outbreak, to roughly 3,000 now, sets the stage for further lifting of restrictions.
Mr Putin noted that the country’s hospitals can accommodate over 165,000 coronavirus patients, and they are currently two-thirds occupied. He acknowledged the need to preserve hospital capacity in case of a new wave of contagion as restrictions lift.
The COVID-19 mortality rate in Russia has remained remarkably low at about 1 per cent, drawing suspicions in the West that the country was under-reporting its death toll.
Russian officials have rejected the claim, saying that the low toll reflected efficient preventative measures and broad testing.
Children half as likely to catch and pass coronavirus, research suggests
A review of studies around the world by British researchers has found that people under 20 have a 56 per cent lower risk of catching COVID-19.
The review is not without its doubters, however, as some researchers such as those at University College London have said evidence remains “weak” on how likely children were to transmit the virus to others.
“Our findings show children and young people appear 56 per cent less likely to contract COVID-19 from infected others,” the review team said.
“Susceptibility is a key part of the chain of infection, and this supports the view that children are likely to play a smaller role in transmitting the virus and proliferating the pandemic, although considerable uncertainty remains.
“This new data provides essential evidence to governments around the world to inform their decision-making on whether to reopen schools and reduce or end lockdown measures.”
South America becomes the new ‘epicentre’ of the virus
The World Health Organization has identified South America as the new epicentre of the pandemic as the virus accelerates across South America.
Brazil reported more than 1,100 deaths in the past day, bringing its total toll to over 20,000. It has counted more than 300,000 cases, making it the third worst-hit country in the world by official counts, though experts consider both numbers as undercounts due to the widespread lack of testing.
Infections rose and intensive-care units were also swamped in Peru, Chile and Ecuador, countries lauded for imposing early and aggressive business shutdowns and quarantines. Many experts said the rising death toll across Latin America showed the limits of government action in a region where millions make a living in informal jobs and many police forces are weak or corrupt and unable to enforce restrictions.
In Chile, more than 90 per cent of intensive care beds were full last week in the capital, Santiago, where the main cemetery dug 1,000 emergency graves to prepare for a wave of deaths. Ecuador’s Government declared a 2:00pm-5:00am curfew in March, among other measures, but cases have swamped medical and mortuary services in the city of Guayaquil and the capital, Quito.
Hundreds of people can be seen violating the curfew daily in Ecuadorian cities, many selling goods on the streets to earn enough to buy food.
Pandemic halts vaccination for nearly 80 million children
The coronavirus pandemic is interrupting immunisation against diseases including measles, polio and cholera that could put the lives of nearly 80 million children under the age of 1 at risk, according to a new analysis from the World Health Organization and partners.
In the new report, health officials warned that more than half of 129 countries where immunisation data were available reported moderate, severe or total suspensions of vaccination services during March and April.
“Disruption to immunisation programs from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.
UNICEF reported a significant delay in planned vaccine deliveries due to lockdown measures and a dramatic reduction in the number of available flights.
“We have effective vaccines against measles, polio and cholera. While circumstances may require us to temporarily pause some immunisation efforts, these immunisations must restart as soon as possible or we risk exchanging one deadly outbreak for another,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director.
“We cannot let our fight against one disease come at the expense of long-term progress in our fight against other diseases.”
More than 40 of Africa’s 54 nations have closed their borders, though some allow cargo and emergency transport, and 46 campaigns to vaccinate children against polio have been suspended in 38 countries, the majority of which are also in Africa. Measles campaigns have been suspended in 27 countries.
Britain may leave school reopening decision to teachers
A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Government ministers trust principals to make their own decisions in allowing students back to school.
The comment comes as the UK Government prepares to release its “roadmap” plan to reopen the UK.
Mr Johnson’s Government has faced criticism from some teachers and unions over their plan to reopen schools to some pupils from June 1.
They say the move is too early and others that they have little time to prepare buildings for a return under social distancing measures.
“We continue to work closely with teachers, schools and the unions to address their concerns,” the spokesman said.
“The roadmap sets out plans to get more children into schools in the safest possible way from June 1 at the earliest and we will set out more details on our plans as soon as we can.
“We trust head teachers to know the best course of action for their own schools.”
Trump classifies places of worship as essential
US President Donald Trump has deemed churches and other houses of worship “essential” services and called on governors to allow them to reopen this weekend despite the threat of the coronavirus.
“Today I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” said Mr Trump.
He said if governors don’t abide by his request, he will “override” them, though it’s unclear what authority he has to do so.
Mr Trump stressed the importance of churches in many communities and took issue with some of the businesses that had been allowed to reopen.
“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential” but not churches, he said. “It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”
“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united. The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue, go to their mosque,” he said.