— US unemployment claims hit 26.4 million
— Hundreds willing to be infected for vaccine trials
—WHO warns malaria deaths could double amid pandemic
By Henry Ojelu
Global coronavirus infection surpassed 2.7 million yesterday as UK formally announced that it has injected the first human vaccine on two volunteers. 188,857 persons have so far died from the disease while 739,945 have recovered.
US unemployment claims hit 26.4 million amid virus
A further 4.4 million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week as the economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to mount.
The new applications brought the total number of jobless claims since mid-March to 26.4 million. That amounts to more than 15% of the US workforce.
However, the most recent data marked the third week that the number of new claims has declined, raising hopes that the worst of the shock may be over.
“While this week’s 4.4 million jobless claims are staggering, there are signs that the pace of layoffs has reached its peak,” said Richard Flynn, UK managing director at financial service firm Charles Schwab.
“The key questions at this point are when can the economy reopen and what happens when it does?”
In the US, the economy is expected to contract 5.9% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. In just five weeks, the surge in unemployment claims has exceeded the number of jobs created in the near-decade of expansion that ended in February.
Hundreds willing to be infected for vaccine trials
An initiative has attracted more than 1,700 volunteers who say they would be willing to intentionally be infected with the coronavirus as part of a controversial testing method that advocates say could speed the development of a vaccine.
The group, 1Day Sooner, says 1,754 people have signed up as volunteers for a so-called human challenge trials as of Thursday, according to its website. Advocates say the trials could vastly speed up development of a cure compared to a more standard approach, in which a large population is given potential vaccines or placebos and left to regular environmental exposures over a prolonged period, after which the rate of infections are compared.
Although the human challenge trials would be voluntary, questions remain about the ethics of infecting individuals, even those believed to be at the lowest risk, with a virus that scientists have an incomplete understanding of, and that has proven deadly for some while only causing mild symptoms for others.
WHO warns malaria deaths could double amid pandemic
The new coronavirus pandemic could severely disrupt access to anti-malaria nets and drugs in sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization said Thursday, warning that malaria deaths risked doubling if efforts are not urgently scaled up.
The UN health agency called on countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 95 percent of all the world’s malaria cases and deaths occur, to rapidly distribute malaria prevention and treatment tools now, before they become too overwhelmed with novel coronavirus cases.
“Severe disruptions to insecticide-treated net campaigns and access to antimalarial medicines could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018,” the WHO warned, citing new modelling analysis.
The analysis, it said, considers nine scenarios for potential disruptions in access to core malaria control tools during the pandemic across 41 countries, and the resulting possible increases in cases and deaths.
Under the worst-case scenario, in which all campaigns to distribute insecticide-treated nets are suspended and there is a 75-percent reduction in access to effective antimalarial medicines, “the estimated tally of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would reach 769,000,” WHO said.
First patients injected in UK vaccine trial
The first human trial in Europe of a coronavirus vaccine has begun in Oxford. Two volunteers were injected, the first of more than 800 people recruited for the study.
Half will receive the Covid-19 vaccine, and half a control vaccine which protects against meningitis but not coronavirus.
The design of the trial means volunteers will not know which vaccine they are getting, though doctors will.
Elisa Granato, one of the two who received the jab, told the BBC: “I’m a scientist, so I wanted to try to support the scientific process wherever I can.”
The vaccine was developed in under three months by a team at Oxford University. Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, led the pre-clinical research.
“Personally I have a high degree of confidence in this vaccine,” she said. “Of course, we have to test it and get data from humans. We have to demonstrate it actually works and stops people getting infected with coronavirus before using the vaccine in the wider population.”
Uganda, Rwanda take delivery of mobile testing labs from Germany
Uganda and Rwanda have taken delivery of two mobile diagnostic labs to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, the first in a network of German-funded units for East Africa, public investment bank KfW said Thursday.
While the project to procure the labs and train staff has been underway since 2018, “they’re arriving at exactly the right moment to help with fighting,” the virus, KfW board member Joachim Nagel said in a statement.
More of the mobile units “for speedy and modern diagnosis of infectious disease” will arrive in the six countries of the East African Community (EAC) region in the coming days, KfW said, for a total