Pandemic at beginning stage | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 17, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:26 AM, September 17, 2020

Pandemic at beginning stage

Warns WHO; Indian hospitals scramble for oxygen; Russia to sell 100m doses of vaccine to India

The world is still at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, a World Health Organization special envoy on Covid-19 said as infections in India soared past five million yesterday.

Global cases are rapidly approaching 30 million, with more than 936,000 known Covid-19 deaths, the global economy devastated and nations struggling to contain outbreaks.

In the frantic global race to battle the disease, the EU's chief warned against "vaccine nationalism". "None of us will be safe until all of us are safe -– wherever we live, whatever we have," Ursula von der Leyen said.

The spread of the virus has accelerated in some of the most populous parts of the world such as India, where the latest million infections were detected over just 11 days.

And some experts have warned that the total number of cases could be far higher in the vast nation, which has been easing one of the world's strictest lockdowns recently despite the surge to help its reeling economy.

"People have lost their fear or are too tired (of) being cautious. They want to be out and earn a living right now," Jayant Surana, a New Delhi-based entrepreneur, told AFP.

"Everything has now been left to god's will."

The surge in infections is piling pressure on hospitals grappling with unreliable supplies of oxygen that they need to treat tens of thousands of critical patients.

In the big states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, that are also some of the worst-affected by the virus, demand for oxygen has more than tripled, doctors and government officials said, prompting urgent calls for help.

"Desperate patients have been calling me through the night but I don't know when I will get stock," Rishikhesh Patil, an oxygen supplier in the western city of Nashik, told Reuters.

The health ministry reported 90,123 new infections yesterday, taking the total caseload to 5.02 million. The death toll from Covid-19 is now at 82,066, the ministry said, with 1,290 fatalities recorded in the previous 24 hours.

'WORSE THAN SCIENCE FICTION'

David Nabarro, who is one of the World Health Organization's (WHO) special envoys on Covid-19, told the UK's Foreign Affairs Committee that the present situation is just the tip of the iceberg.

"This is really serious. We're not even in the middle of it yet," he told MPs. "The virus is really at the beginning of its troubles throughout our world and I personally believe that it is going to have a really negative impact."

He said the outbreak is "worse than any piece of science fiction", and appears to be getting "nastier" as cases reemerge in Europe.

His comments follow those of a similar vein made by the WHO chief on Monday.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that Europe is "not out of the woods", and that while deaths remain at a "relatively low level", the average number of daily cases across the continent is now higher than during the first peak of the pandemic.

With scientists rushing to find an effective vaccination seen as the way to end the pandemic, nine candidates are in late-stage human trials -- the final stage of clinical testing, according to the WHO.

TRUMP VACCINE CLAIM

The United States remains the worst-hit nation in the world in terms of both infections and deaths, and Trump is under intense pressure over his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The Republican leader said Tuesday that a vaccine may be available within a month -- an acceleration of even his own optimistic predictions.

"We're within weeks of getting it, you know -- could be three weeks, four weeks," Trump said during a town hall event broadcast on ABC News.

Russia's sovereign wealth fund will supply 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine to Indian drug company Dr Reddy's Laboratories, the fund said yesterday, as Moscow speeds up plans to distribute its shot abroad.

The deal for its Sputnik-V vaccine candidate comes after the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) reached agreements with Indian manufacturers to produce 300 million doses of the shot in India, also a major consumer of Russian oil and arms.

The agreement brings the total number of doses Russia has so far announced that it will supply abroad to just over 200 million - half to Latin America and half to India. RDIF has said it has received requests totalling 1 billion doses.

Deliveries to India, which has a population of more than 1.3 billion, could begin in late 2020, RDIF said, adding this was subject to the completion of trials and Sputnik-V's registration by regulatory authorities in India.

Meanwhile, Serum Institute of India has received Indian regulatory approval to resume local clinical trials of AstraZeneca's potential Covid-19 vaccine, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday.

AstraZeneca has resumed British clinical trials of the vaccine after they were paused earlier this month following a serious side effect in a trial participant.

 

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