US braces for second virus wave as global cases pass 2m

 

America should brace for a second wave of coronavirus cases to hit next year, the head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday (local time).

Dr Robert Redfield said COVID-19 may turn out to be seasonal like other bugs such as the flu.

"I think we have to assume this is like other respiratory viruses, and there will be a seasonality to it," Dr Redfield said.

He said that the country needs to ramp up testing capacity now, and implement other control measures, such as contact tracing, to prepare for the possibility of the next large outbreak.

"The CDC is science-based, data-driven, [so] until we see it, we don't know for certain [there will be a resurgence]," Dr Redfield said.

 

 

"But it is critical that we plan that this virus is likely to follow a seasonality pattern similar to flu, and we're going to have another battle with it upfront and aggressively next winter."

The CDC director said he refers to the strategy necessary to fight the virus as "block and tackle, block and tackle."

"We are working hard to augment [public health tools] now so that as we get into the next season, we'll be able to stay in high containment mode while we complement that with some continued mitigation strategies," Dr Redfield said.

More than 609,000 cases have been detected in the country, including at least 26,000 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

 

CDC director Dr Robert Redfield. Picture: AP
CDC director Dr Robert Redfield. Picture: AP

US SEES DEADLIEST DAY

It comes as America saw its deadliest day yet for the coronavirus on Tuesday (local time) - with more than 2405 fatalities around America, according to reports.

The grim milestone brought the US death toll to more than 26,000, CNN reported.

The spike followed three days in which deaths had been on the decline, with the previous highest daily death toll being 2108, on Friday, according to USA Today.

More than 610,000 Americans have been infected with the dangerous bug since the first stateside case was detected in late January, according to the latest figures from John Hopkins University.

Despite the staggering numbers, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday that he believes that the rate of infections appears to have begun to level out, reports the New York Post.

"There's no doubt what we've seen over the last several days is a flattening out," Dr Fauci said on the Today show in the US.

Across the world, there have been more than two million cases, leading to at least 129,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

 

It comes as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said his city may not return to "something like normal" for at least four months as coronavirus restrictions are gradually lifted and eased.

"By September, then we are hopeful we can be back to something more like normal," Mr de Blasio said.

"But the way we get there is with that smart, cautious approach."

He said California's plan to reopen is "right on track."

The state plans to gradually reopen parts of the economy with some restrictions, like fewer tables at restaurants and waiters wearing gloves and masks. California Governor Gavin Newsom said thermometers, masks and other protective gear will be common in public spaces and schools may stagger arrival times. Large gatherings are "not in the cards," Mr Newsom said.

Meanwhile, Harvard University scientists have published new projections in the journal Science predicting that social distancing measures already in place could be extended well beyond the end of the year - and, if no coronavirus vaccine is discovered, "intermittent periods of social distancing" could be required until 2022, or at the latest, even 2025.

They wrote that different scenarios could see the initial wave of infections end only for new waves to follow behind them.

FLIGHT PLAN FOR STRANDED AUSSIES

The Lebanese government is looking at repatriation flights to and from Australia, to shift some of the thousands of residents thought stranded by COVID-19 restrictions between the two countries.

But potential movements have become clouded as Lebanon enters its worst recession in decades and dual citizens may seek sanctuary for economic over coronavirus reasons.

The news comes as the total number of infections around the world topped the two million mark early Thursday morning (Australian time).

 

A worker last week sprays disinfectant on luggage as a precaution against the coronavirus, outside a hotel where Lebanese passengers who arrived from abroad will get tested for coronavirus. Picture: AP
A worker last week sprays disinfectant on luggage as a precaution against the coronavirus, outside a hotel where Lebanese passengers who arrived from abroad will get tested for coronavirus. Picture: AP

 

There are more than 250,000 Lebanese in Australia with at least 25,000 Lebanese-Australians who normally live in the country of their heritage, many of whom have been stranded since the Mediterranean country was one of the first in the world to move swiftly to a lockdown and close its airports on March 19.

The Lebanese government has confirmed their government was now planning on two-way repatriations with special flights already working to bring some of the 20,000 residents back from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Mass expressions of interest have been received but exact numbers can now not be confirmed as Lebanon faces a severe economic and financial crisis, that may be behind movement intentions.

Speaking via the Lebanese embassy in Canberra, a government spokesman told News Corp Australia, people had advanced warning of strict travel restrictions but some were still caught out.

 

The Lebanese Government, with President Michel Aoun in centre, wearing masks and gloves to help protect themselves from the coronavirus, while attending a cabinet meeting in Beirut late last month. Picture: AP
The Lebanese Government, with President Michel Aoun in centre, wearing masks and gloves to help protect themselves from the coronavirus, while attending a cabinet meeting in Beirut late last month. Picture: AP

 

Repatriations and associated costs were to be evaluated before any flights to Australia take place.

"The Lebanese government will assess the impact of that (flights) on the Lebanese health care system in relation to COVID-19, also taking into consideration some other relevant factors and will accordingly decide on repatriating Lebanese from other countries," the spokesman said.

"The timing for that, including repatriation from Australia, is not yet decided. A number of cases have registered to return from Australia to Lebanon, but no further details can be disclosed."

Last week Lebanese president Michel Aoun declared his nation in an economic recession with a severe shortage of foreign currencies, high unemployment and poverty as he sought $15 billion to $20 billion in external foreign aid.

GATES SLAMS WHO DECISION

Microsoft founder Bill Gates strongly criticised US President Donald Trump's decision to withhold $A800 million in funding to the World Health Organisation, saying it's "as dangerous as it sounds".

Mr Gates tweeted that America's involvement and funding for the WHO was more important now than ever.

"Halting funding for the World Health Organisation during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds," he tweeted.

"Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organisation can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever."

 

 

Mr Trump announced he would halt funding to the WHO immediately for "its role in severely mismanaging the spread of coronavirus" and would launch an investigation into their mishandling of the pandemic.

 

 

The US Chamber of Commerce and the American Medical Association lead the outrage against the move, saying it wasn't in the best interest of the country and urged him to reconsider.

World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says he regrets Mr Trump's decision to halt funding to the UN body.

Mr Trump halted funding, pending a review, saying the WHO had aided China's cover-up of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

Dr Tedros said he hoped the United States would continue to be a "longstanding and generous friend" to the WHO.

"We regret the decision of the President of the United States to order a halt in funding to the World Health Organisation," he said, adding that a review would be carried out after the pandemic is over to review WHO's response.

 

PHARMACEUTICAL GIANTS TO WORK ON VACCINE

Two pharmaceutical giants will join forces to work on a coronavirus vaccine they hope will enter clinical trials this year, potentially making it available in the second half of 2021.

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said the vaccine would combine a Sanofi-developed antigen, which stimulates the production of germ-killing antibodies, with GSK's adjuvant technology, a substance that boosts the immune response triggered by a vaccine.

 

 

"The companies plan to initiate phase I clinical trials in the second half of 2020 and, if successful, subject to regulatory considerations, aim to complete the development required for availability by the second half of 2021," they said.

"As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone," added Sanofi's chief executive Paul Hudson.

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline will work on a vaccine. Picture: AP
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline will work on a vaccine. Picture: AP

Given the extraordinary humanitarian and financial toll of the pandemic, Sanofi and GSK said global access to COVID-19 vaccines was a priority.

They said they were committed to making any vaccine developed through the collaboration "affordable to the public and through mechanisms that offer fair access for people in all countries."

Sanofi, based in Paris, said it would contribute its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, designed to exactly match proteins found on the surface of the new virus.

Britain's GlaxoSmithKline said it would add its adjuvant, an ingredient for vaccines that can create stronger and longer-lasing immunity.

 

 

"The use of an adjuvant can be of particular importance in a pandemic situation since it may reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced and therefore contributing to protect more people," the statement said.

It can also improve the likelihood of delivering an effective vaccine that can be manufactured at scale.

Sanofi and GSK said their joint effort was supported by funding and a collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Meanwhile, US medical company Abbott has announced it has launched an antibody blood test "that can help determine" if a person has previously had COVID-19.

The blood test will search for the antibody IfG - a protein the body develops in the last stages of the infection.

Governments around the world have been hoping to use antibody testing to help end lockdowns so people with virus immunity may be able to go back to work.

SPAIN'S CURVE MAY BE FLATTENING

The daily number of deaths from the coronavirus in Spain has fallen slightly from 567 to 523, the health ministry says, as the country ramps up testing that could allow it to further ease tough restrictions.

Passengers walk along a tunnel in a metro station in Barcelona. Picture: AP
Passengers walk along a tunnel in a metro station in Barcelona. Picture: AP

With the total number of fatalities at 18,579, Spain remains one of the world's worst-affected countries, with only the United States and Italy recording higher death tolls.

But there is growing evidence the government is managing to flatten the curve on deaths and infections. The official tally of cases rose to 177,633 on Wednesday from 172,541 the day before, the ministry said.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said efforts were under way to ramp up testing, to get a tighter grip on the spread of the disease and build a strategy for emerging from a lockdown that has kept most Spaniards confined to their homes since mid-March.

The loosening of restrictions began this week as some non-essential businesses were allowed to resume work.

 

Originally published as US braces for second virus wave as global cases pass 2m