A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia

A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
Residents line up to get tested at a coronavirus testing center set up outside a sports facility in Beijing, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. China reported several dozen more coronavirus infections Tuesday as it increased testing and lockdown measures in parts of the capital to control what appeared to be its largest outbreak in more than two months. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Researchers on Tuesday announced the first drug shown to save lives among severely ill coronavirus patients, offering hope even as infection rates rose in Africa and Asia, and there were worrisome upticks of contagion in countries that had largely contained the virus.

The cheap, widely available steroid, called dexamethasone, reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen, the researches said in England. It did not appear to help less ill patients.

“This is an extremely welcome result,” one study leader, Peter Horby of the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

The study is a large, strict test that randomly assigned 2,104 patients to get the drug and compared them with 4,321 patients getting only usual care. The researchers said they would publish the results soon.

New, record-high infections were registered in South Africa over the weekend despite further loosening of restrictions that opened businesses and houses of worship. The country now has more than a quarter of the cases on the 54-nation African continent with more than 73,000.

A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
A woman reacts after getting a nasal swab taken to test for the coronavirus in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. India is the fourth hardest-hit country by the COVID-19 pandemic in the world after the U.S., Russia and Brazil. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

“It is imperative that we do not fall into despair as we combat COVID-19,” South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told a briefing. “We can never be complacent, never found wanting.”

Those challenges were magnified elsewhere across sub-Saharan Africa with experts warning that the pandemic’s full impact there hasn’t been reached.

Fragile health systems, a “catastrophic” shortage of health care professionals and a dramatic drop in medical imports means that “the health and economic devastation anticipated is yet to unfold,” officials with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote last week in a commentary for the journal Nature Medicine.

Daily deaths continued to rise in Egypt, with the reporting 97 deaths Monday, the country’s highest for a single day. Egypt has over 46,000 COVID-19 infections and 1,672 deaths, but the government has resisted a full lockdown to try to keep the economy functioning. Authorities have shortened the nightly curfew and plan to reopen airports next month.

A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
A health worker in protective suit offers water to a person waiting for nasal swab test for COVID-19 at Sir Ganga Ram hospital in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. India is the fourth hardest-hit country by the COVID-19 pandemic in the world after the U.S., Russia and Brazil. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Israel’s steady raise in infections since restrictions were eased last month has increased fears of what a top Health Ministry official said looked like the “beginning of a wave.”

The country is reporting 200 new cases daily, a tenfold increase from a few weeks ago, and Israeli leaders warned of possibly reinstating strict lockdown measures if people don’t heed calls for people to wear masks, maintain social distancing and wash their hands.

Pakistan’s steady rise in coronavirus cases have put the country in the top 15 nations globally for infections, with over 48,000. Several hospitals have begun refusing patients because they no longer had available beds.

Pakistan’s daily number of infections is nearly 6,000, and one official, Asad Umar, warned that they could top 1.2 million by the end of July.

A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
An employee measures the temperature of another in Yoyo Land, an indoor amusement center in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Daily life in the capital resumes to normal as the government continues to ease restrictions related to running business and activities that were imposed weeks ago to combat the spread of COVID-19. Thailand reported no local transmissions of the coronavirus in the past 3 weeks. (AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)

After fighting the coronavirus for months, Iran saw its highest single-day spike in reported cases since the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ended in late May, renewing fears about a potential second wave of infections.

Iraq reported 58 deaths Sunday, the most in a 24-hour period since February. According to Health Ministry figures, at least 652 people have died from 21,415 confirmed cases, and the increase in deaths has raised worry that Iraq’s frail health system is not equipped to handle the surge of patients.

Russia’s daily caseload of infections continued to grow, despite a decrease in the city of Moscow, which accounted for about 40% of the country’s 545,000 confirmed cases. Discounting Moscow’s figures, the daily number of new coronavirus cases in Russia has grown to around 7,000 from 6,000 three weeks ago.

A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
A man wearing a face mask walks past mannequins wearing face masks in the window of a women’s dress store in the town of Ascot on the first day of the annual Royal Ascot horse race meeting, which is taking place behind closed doors due to the Coronavirus outbreak, in Ascot, England, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will not attend the meet for the first time in her 68-year reign amid the pandemic. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Turkey, which has seen an uptick in cases since it eased restrictions in early June, made the wearing of face masks mandatory in five more provinces Tuesday. “We cannot struggle against the virus without masks,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted.

Chinese authorities locked down a third neighborhood in Beijing to contain a new coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 100 people after the country appeared to have largely contained the virus since it first appeared there late last year.

Most of the cases have been linked to Beijing’s Xinfadi wholesale food market, and people lined up for massive testing of anyone who had visited the market in the past two weeks or come in contact with them. About 9,000 workers at the market were tested already.

New Zealand, which hadn’t seen a new case in three weeks, said it is investigating a case in which two women who flew in from London to see a dying parent were allowed to leave quarantine and drive halfway across the country before they were tested and found to be positive.

  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    A commuter wearing a goggle and protective face mask to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus sits on the seat of a subway train in Beijing, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. China reported several dozen more coronavirus infections Tuesday as it increased testing and lockdown measures in parts of the capital to control what appeared to be its largest outbreak in more than two months. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    Medical workers attend a demonstration in Marseille, southern France, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. French hospital workers and others are protesting in cities around the country to demand better pay and more investment in France’s public hospital system, which is considered among the world’s best but struggled to handle a flux of virus patients after years of cost cuts. France has seen nearly 30,000 virus deaths. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    Visitors observe giraffe Samson at Moscow’s Zoo, with the Kudrinskaya Square Building in the background, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Outdoor spaces in cafes and restaurants, museums and zoos have reopened in Russia’s capital on Tuesday as part of easing the coronavirus restrictions. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    Residents line up to get tested at a coronavirus testing center set up outside a sports facility in Beijing, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. China reported several dozen more coronavirus infections Tuesday as it increased testing and lockdown measures in parts of the capital to control what appeared to be its largest outbreak in more than two months. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    Visitors enjoy themselves at Yoyo Land, an indoor amusement center in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Daily life in the capital resumes to normal as the government continues to ease restrictions related to running business and activities that were imposed weeks ago to combat the spread of COVID-19. Thailand reported no local transmissions of the coronavirus in the past 3 weeks. (AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)
  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    A primary school student gestures for a hug from a distance to her teacher, as she collects her personal belongings, as the school year ends, in a school in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    Police and security officials watch as people gather at a coronavirus testing center at a sports facility in Beijing, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. China reported several dozen more coronavirus infections Tuesday as it increased testing and lockdown measures in parts of the capital to control what appeared to be its largest outbreak in more than two months. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    Graduate students and their professors work on a production line for facemasks, to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, in the Antwerp Design Lab at the University of Antwerp in Antwerp, Belgium, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Three product design professors, along with several of their graduate students, have been working on a facemask for health care workers that would be both comfortable and pass medical requirements. Their design is currently being tested at the University Hospital in Antwerp. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    A health worker takes nasal swab test for COVID-19 at Sir Ganga Ram hospital in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. India is the fourth hardest-hit country by the COVID-19 pandemic in the world after the U.S., Russia and Brazil. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
  • A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia
    A couple adjust sunshades at the beach of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Borders opened up across Europe on Monday after three months of coronavirus closures that began chaotically in March. But many restrictions persist, it’s unclear how keen Europeans will be to travel this summer and the continent is still closed to Americans, Asians and other international tourists. (AP Photo/Joan Mateu)

The re-emergence of the virus in the country that earned widespread praise for how it handled infections raised the specter that international air travel could trigger a fresh COVID-19 wave just as countries are reopening airports to stimulate tourism.

South Korea reported 34 new cases Tuesday. Half were in densely populated Seoul, where officials are scrambling to stem transmissions linked to leisure and religious activities and low-income workers who can’t afford to stay home.

The Seoul government has so far resisted calls to reimpose stronger social distancing guidelines, fearing further economic damage.

The Philippines reimposed a strict lockdown on the city of Cebu after a rise in cases. Quarantine restrictions were reimposed on Manila for another two weeks as infections continued to spike.

“The battle with COVID isn’t over,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said.


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A drug offers hope even as virus cases rise in Africa, Asia (2020, June 16)
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