No indication virus seasonal | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 29, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:02 AM, July 29, 2020

No indication virus seasonal

Says WHO; Moderna, Pfizer eye year-end vaccine launches

The spread of coronavirus does not appear to be impacted by seasonality, the World Health Organization said yesterday, warning against false beliefs that summer is safer.

"Season does not seem to be affecting the transmission of this virus," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters in a virtual briefing.

She pointed out that some of the hardest-hit countries are currently in the midst of different season.

While it is summer in the United States, which with nearly 148,000 deaths and close to 4.3 million cases is the hardest-hit country, the second most affected country Brazil, which counts more than 87,000 deaths, is in winter.

And yet, she said, there "seems to be this fixed idea about this virus being seasonal", and that Covid-19 will come in waves.

This is because people are mistakenly viewing the pandemic through "a flu lense, because that is the way the flu behaves."

"What we all need to get our heads around is this is a new virus... and even though it is a respiratory virus and even though respiratory viruses in the past did tend to do these different seasonal waves, this one is behaving differently," Harris said.

Instead of expecting the virus to behave like other viruses that are more familiar, she said people should look at what is actually known about how to stop transmission of Covid-19.

What works, she said, is physical distancing, hand washing, wearing a mask where appropriate, always covering up sneezes and coughs, staying home when experiencing symptoms, the isolation of cases and quarantining of contacts.

The global health body's warning came as governments across the world imposed new restrictions yesterday in a bid to cool coronavirus hotspots after new infections shot up in some countries, sparking fears of a second wave.

Iran suffered its worst day yet of the pandemic, reporting 235 new deaths yesterday, a record toll for a single day in the Middle East's hardest-hit country.

"The situation is worrying," health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.

"Tehran, the most populous province, has turned red for the first time since the first peak of the virus."

Authorities have made masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and allowed the hardest-hit provinces, including Tehran, to re-impose restrictions that had been progressively lifted since April to reopen Iran's sanctions-hit economy.

CHINA SURGE

Chinese authorities scrambled to halt the possibility of a second wave of infections after a new cluster in the northwest port city of Dalian spread to other provinces.

China had largely brought the virus under control since it first emerged in the country late last year, through a series of strict lockdowns and travel restrictions.

But in recent months a number of small outbreaks have given cause for concern, with China reporting 68 new infections yesterday -- the highest daily number since April.

Of those, 57 were in the northwest region of Xinjiang, where an outbreak has seen millions of residents tested and strict lockdowns in the regional capital Urumqi.

Health authorities said the Dalian cluster had now spread to nine cities in five regions across the country, including as far away as the southeast coastal province of Fujian.

Beijing has tightened measures in the affected region, introducing mass testing in Dalian and heightened scrutiny of travellers arriving in the city, reports AFP. 

VACCINE TRIALS

Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc launched two 30,000-subject trials of Covid-19 vaccines that could clear the way for regulatory approval and widespread use by the end of this year, the companies said.

The trials, both announced on Monday, are the first late-stage studies supported by the Trump administration's effort to speed development of measures against the novel coronavirus, adding to hope that an effective vaccine will help end the pandemic.

Both vaccine candidates rely on a new technology that allows for faster development and manufacturing than traditional vaccine production methods but does not have an extensive track record.

So-called mRNA, or synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), teaches the immune system to recognise and neutralise the coronavirus by mimicking its surface.

Moderna, which has never brought a vaccine to market, has received nearly $1 billion from the US government, which is helping bankroll several vaccine candidates under its Operation Warp Speed program.

Pfizer has an agreement to sell vaccines for 50 million people to the US government for around $2 billion, if the vaccine is effective, reports Reuters.

More than 150 coronavirus vaccine candidates are in various stages of development, with some two dozen prospects already conducting human testing.

SPANISH QUARANTINE

The UN World Tourism Organization said yesterday that the coronavirus crisis cost the global tourism sector $320 billion in lost revenue between January and May.

This is "more than three times the loss during the Global Financial Crisis of 2009," the Madrid-based organisation said in a statement.

The summer season in Europe continues to pose problems for the sector and people wanting to go abroad on holiday.

Over the weekend, the United Kingdom introduced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers returning from Spain which has seen an uptick in cases in recent weeks.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday warned of a "second wave" in Europe.

"Let's be absolutely clear about what's happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends, I'm afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic."

Spain's tourism industry faced fresh misery as Germany also issued a travel warning against parts of the country.

 

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