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Coronavirus update: ‘Major breakthrough’ as trial shows cheap steroid can reduce COVID-19 death rates


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Coronavirus update: ‘Major breakthrough’ as trial shows cheap steroid can reduce COVID-19 death rates

Russian President Vladimir Putin is being protected from coronavirus by special disinfection tunnels that anyone visiting him at his home or in the Kremlin must pass through, according to his spokesman.Meanwhile the World Health Organization has announced it plans to update its guidance to determine how and when generic steroid dexamethasone should be used to…

Coronavirus update: ‘Major breakthrough’ as trial shows cheap steroid can reduce COVID-19 death rates

Russian President Vladimir Putin is being protected from coronavirus by special disinfection tunnels that anyone visiting him at his home or in the Kremlin must pass through, according to his spokesman.

Meanwhile the World Health Organization has announced it plans to update its guidance to determine how and when generic steroid dexamethasone should be used to treat patients with COVID-19 following the results from an overseas trial.

Giving low doses of the steroid to patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 reduced death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection, a UK-led trial showed.

[WYSIWIG: This story is no longer being updated latest coronavirus update story]

Wednesday’s key moments:

Putin installs ‘disinfection tunnels’ in Kremlin and his home

Russian President Vladimir Putin is being protected from coronavirus by special disinfection tunnels that anyone visiting him at his home or in the Kremlin must pass through, according to his spokesman.

A special tunnel has been installed at Mr Putin’s official Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow and there two more in the Kremlin, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

He said they were installed at the height of the pandemic in Russia, which authorities say is now on the wane, particularly in Moscow where lockdown restrictions are being lifted.

Demonstration footage, published by the state-controlled RIA news agency, shows masked people passing through one of the tunnels and being sprayed with disinfectant from the ceiling and from the side.

RIA described the disinfectant as a fine mist that covered people’s clothes and any exposed upper body flesh.

Mr Putin has spent much of the pandemic running the world’s largest country from his residence rather than the Kremlin, chairing video conference meetings from a room that his critics dubbed a bunker.

Mr Peskov said some coronavirus restrictions in the Kremlin remained in place, but many had been removed.

He said precautions regarding Mr Putin’s health continued to be justified.

World Health Organization to update COVID-19 guidance after ‘great news’ in drug study

Man in suit speaking to reporters.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said dexamethasone is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in patients needing oxygen or ventilator support.(AP: Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will update its guidelines on treating people stricken with COVID-19 to reflect results of a clinical trial that showed dexamethasone can help save critically ill patients.

The WHO’s clinical guidance for treating patients infected with the new coronavirus is aimed at doctors and other medical professionals and seeks to use the latest data to inform clinicians on how best to tackle all phases of the disease, from screening to discharge.

Although the dexamethasone study’s results are preliminary, the researchers behind the project said it suggests the drug should immediately become standard care in severely stricken patients.

“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The agency said it was looking forward to the full data analysis of the study in coming days.

“WHO will coordinate a meta-analysis to increase our overall understanding of this intervention. WHO clinical guidance will be updated to reflect how and when the drug should be used in COVID-19,” the agency added.

Travel likely off the cards for Australians until 2021

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham says it is likely that Australia’s borders will remain all but closed until next year.

In the meantime, the Government is hoping to set up a travel bubble with New Zealand in the second half of 2020 and also wants to allow in some international university students.

The tail of a Qantas plane can be seen through a fence sitting in an airport.

Travel is likely to be permitted to countries with similar successes suppressing the spread of COVID-19 first.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

“We can simply work through the 14-day quarantine periods that have worked so well in terms of returning Australians to this country safely,” Senator Birmingham said in a speech to the National Press Club.

The return of international students will be a boost for universities facing big financial losses with the border closed as international education is Australia’s fourth-largest foreign exchange earner, worth $38 billion a year.

“I hope that we can look eventually at some of those countries who have similar successes suppressing the spread of COVID-19 to Australia and New Zealand,” Senator Birmingham added.

“But I do, sadly, think that in terms of open tourist-related travel in or out of Australia, that remains quite some distance off, just because of the practicalities of the volumes that are involved and the need for us to first and foremost keep putting health first.”

He explained general travel was “more likely” to be on the agenda for 2021.

#Steroid

Steroid shown to reduce COVID-19 deaths

Giving low doses of the generic steroid dexamethasone to patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 reduced death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection, trial data has shown.

The results, described as a “major breakthrough” by scientists leading the UK-led clinical trial known as RECOVERY, suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients treated in hospital for the pandemic disease, the researchers said.

His co-lead investigator, Peter Horby, said dexamethasone — which is already widely used in other diseases to reduce inflammation — is “the only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality — and it reduces it significantly.”

“It is a major breakthrough,” he said.

A nurse in scrubs, a hair net and face mask stands next to a machine in a hospital ward.

The drug was shown to reduce death rates among patients on ventilators or receiving oxygen.(Reuters: Baz Ratner)

The study is yet to be peer-reviewed.

In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, about 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone, compared with more than 4,000 who were not.

For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40 per cent to 28 per cent.

For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a week in hospital after contracting COVID-19, said the drug was the “biggest breakthrough yet” in treating the virus.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the result of the trial as a “huge step forward” for the treatment of the disease in a video message posted to social media.

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He later told Sky News: “It does increase your chances of survival quite significantly. It is one of the best pieces of news we’ve had through this whole crisis.”

“It reduces your chances of dying when you are on a ventilator. It is brilliant news for everybody.”

He said the drug’s potential had first been spotted in February and in March positive signals came so the Government began buying it up in April.

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, which has killed more than 437,000 people globally.

The RECOVERY Trial, running since March, also looked at the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, but found it caused other health problems.

Medical workers attend to a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care unit at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen.

The steroid is widely used in other diseases to reduce inflammation.(AP: Hani Mohammed, file)

Health officials ‘cautiously pleased’ to see dexamethasone report

Australian health authorities have cautiously welcomed a potential new treatment for COVID-19.

British scientists say they have found a cheap and widely available steroid, dexamethasone, can help treat people who are sick with coronavirus.

Speaking at a daily coronavirus briefing, Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan said a statement on the dexamethasone study would be forthcoming.

But she cautioned: “We must remember that even if a treatment has been found — and we will need to see the published data — that does not in any way detract from the need for us to continue to prevent the spread across Australia.”

“So we will need to continue to do those things that we have been doing to prevent spread of COVID-19.”

Alison McMillan looks slightly to the right as she stands at a podium with two microphones on it. Her short brown hair is down.

Alison McMillan said officials would be releasing a statement on the UK reports.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

Of the 21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Victoria on Wednesday, Ms McMillan commented on the fact 15 were returned travellers.

She made the point there are around 6,500 Australians returning to the country every week.

“So while these numbers are a little more than we have seen in recent days, we are seeing people return from places where there is a very high prevalence of COVID-19.”

Ms McMillan said officials were constantly reviewing travel restrictions on quarantine requirements “based on what we learn about the virus and the evidence”.

“But as yet, we are concentrating on the borders remaining closed and the rules are still there.”

Ms McMillan said she did not have any firm dates for when the opening of a Trans-Tasman bubble would occur.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez tests positive to COVID-19

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has been diagnosed with coronavirus, is receiving treatment and will work remotely and through his aides, he said late on Tuesday (local time).

“As President of the nation and a responsible citizen, I want to communicate that during the weekend I started to feel some discomfort and today I was diagnosed as having been infected with COVID-19,” Mr Hernandez said in a televised speech.

Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks with his right hand raised. He wears glasses and stands in front of a blue flag and blue wall.

Juan Orlando Hernandez said he had mild symptoms.(Reuters: Jorge Cabrera)

“They have recommended rest but I will continue working remotely and through my aides.”

Mr Hernandez said he had mild symptoms, started receiving treatment and is feeling better.

He will stay in isolation under observation to decide where treatment will continue, as recommended by his doctors, the Government said in a statement.

He is using microdacyn, azithromycin, ivermectin and zinc to treat the virus.

His wife and two aides, also diagnosed with coronavirus, are all being treated.

First lady Ana Garcia de Hernandez is asymptomatic and will self-quarantine at home, the Government added.

Honduras has reported 9,656 virus infections and 330 deaths.

6.5 million download German coronavirus app in just over a day

The German Government is celebrating a successful start for its coronavirus tracing app, which it says has been downloaded 6.5 million times in just over 24 hours.

It has been just over a month since Australia’s coronavirus app was launched.

Since then, it has been downloaded over 6 million times.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that it was a “strong start” and “should motivate even more citizens to join in”.

He added that, “containing corona is a team game” and everyone who uses the app makes a difference.

Use of Germany’s app is voluntary and it is designed to store data only on people’s phones rather than centralised servers.

The app was launched with great fanfare on Tuesday.

‘No excuses’ for quarantine failure: Ardern

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a breakdown in COVID-19 controls led to two travellers testing positive to the disease after leaving quarantine.

The country had not seen a new coronavirus case in three weeks before two women who had recently arrived from London, via Brisbane, tested positive yesterday.

Ms Ardern said protocol required the women to be tested twice — on day three and day 12 — before leaving quarantine.

“That should have happened in the cases we learned about yesterday. It did not and there are no excuses,” she said.

Ms Ardern said the women, who had flown to New Zealand to visit a dying parent, were not at fault.

“It is not their fault that the system failed, and from all accounts they have followed the health protocols required of them,” she said.

The women drove halfway across the country before they were tested and found to be positive.

The re-emergence of the virus in the country once praised for how it handled infections raised the spectre that international air travel could trigger a fresh wave of contagion just as countries reopen airports to stimulate tourism.

Ms Ardern has appointed the Assistant Chief of Defence, Air Commodore Digby Webb, to oversee all quarantine and managed isolation facilities in the country.

She said Air Commodore Webb would “undertake a start-to-finish audit” of exiting procedures at the facilities.

Spain to honour 27,000 dead

King Felipe with Pedro Sanchez

Pedro Sanchez (right) announced King Felipe VI (left) would preside over the state ceremony.(Supplied: House of HM the King)

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says a state ceremony will be held on July 16 to honour more than 27,000 people who have died a coronavirus-related death in Spain.

Speaking to politicians, Mr Sanchez announced on Wednesday that the ceremony would be presided over by King Felipe VI, Spain’s head of state, and attended by top officials from the European Union and the World Health Organization.

Spain has had more than 244,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Although daily deaths are believed to have dropped to a single digit, the Government has kept the death toll at 27,136 for two weeks as it revises inconsistencies on reporting from different regional authorities.

US death toll now tops fatalities from World War I

Medics handle stretchers at the back of open ambulances.

Arizona was one of six states to report a record increase in infections.(AP: Ross D Franklin)

The US death toll from COVID-19 now exceeds the number of American soldiers who died in World War I.

New coronavirus infections hit record highs in six states on Tuesday (local time), marking a rising tide of cases for a second consecutive week, as most states move forward with reopening their economies.

Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas all reported record increases in new cases after recording all-time highs last week.

Nevada also reported its highest single-day tally of new cases, up from a previous high on May 23.

Johns Hopkins University figures put the US death toll at 116,526, more than the country’s World War I death toll.

Historians and the Congressional Research Service believe 116,516 is the best figure for American battlefield deaths in that conflict.

A masked child at a protest holds a sign saying Let My Mom Work

Florida hit another record high as the state moves to open up its economy.(AP: Lynne Sladky)

But both figures are far from precise, due to a lack of testing during the pandemic and the challenges of counting the dead in the trenches a century ago.

In Oregon, health officials are trying to contain an outbreak of over 200 new cases in linked to a Pentecostal church.

The Oregonian newspaper reported that a video on the Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church Facebook page on May 24 showed hundreds of people standing close together, singing.

Large gatherings were banned in the state at that time.

The paper said the video had since been deleted.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said the record number of new cases was due to more testing.

Hospitalisations — a metric not linked to increased testing — also hit a record high. But the state had nearly 15,000 hospital beds available, Mr Abbott said.

Beijing closes another neighbourhood amid fresh outbreak

A number of people in white protective gear usher two people in plain clothes and masks to a fenced area

The virus was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon at Beijing’s Xinfadi market.(AP: Andy Wong)

Chinese authorities have locked down a third neighbourhood in Beijing — where the emergency level has been raised from the third to the second level — to contain an outbreak that has infected more than 100 people.

The measures fall short of a lockdown, with roads and highways still open and Beijing’s two airports in operation, though many flights have been cancelled. There is also no blanket curb on residential compounds.

The latest increase in infections in the Chinese capital was first reported on June 11 after a 52-year-old man tested positive.

Dozens more cases have since been confirmed, most of them linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market in Beijing’s Fengtai District.

About 9,000 workers at the market have been tested.

“The situation of the outbreak has become extremely severe, therefore, under the guidance of the expert team from the National Health Commission, we have recently organised experts to assess the development of the outbreak,” said Chen Bei, the deputy secretary-general of the Beijing Municipal Government.

Beijing health authorities reported 27 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking the city’s tally to 106.

Pang Xinghuo, a senior official for the Beijing disease control authority, later said Beijing could not rule out the possibility that the number of COVID-19 cases in the city would stay at current levels for some time.

Imported seafood products like salmon have been removed from markets after reports coronavirus was found on a chopping board in the Xinfadi market.

Pence acknowledges health risks of Trump rally

US Vice President Mike Pence listens as US President Donald Trump speaks

The Trump campaign said it had received more than a million ticket requests for the rally.(Reuters: Joshua Roberts)

US Vice-President Mike Pence says the Trump campaign is considering a bigger venue for Donald Trump’s Tulsa, Oklahoma campaign rally — his first since the coronavirus shutdown.

Virus cases are continuing to climb in Oklahoma and other states, and Mr Pence acknowledged the health risks involved in bringing so many people together.

The Trump campaign said it had received more than 1 million ticket requests for the rally, leading Mr Pence to raise the potential of another venue.

“It’s all a work in progress. We’ve had such an overwhelming response that we’re also looking at another venue,” Mr Pence told Fox News.

He said attendees would have their temperatures screened, and hand sanitiser and face masks would be provided.

The chief health officer in Tulsa said over the weekend he was worried about holding such a large indoor event while coronavirus cases are rising in the area, and wished the rally could be postponed.

The rally will be Mr Trump’s first since early March.

Racism in the UK means minorities are harder hit by virus

A man and a woman wearing face masks stand in front of Tower Bridge in London on a clear blue sky day.

The report said it was clear the pandemic “exposed and exacerbated longstanding inequalities” in the UK.(Reuters: Toby Melville)

A new study by Public Health England has confirmed that historic racism and social inequalities are contributing factors that increase the risk of black, Asian and minority communities contracting and dying from the coronavirus in the UK.

The British Government has been under heavy pressure to do more to directly address the issue, after data consistently showed that coronavirus death rates were significantly higher for black people and ethnic minorities compared to white people.

The report did not look at genetic factors, but said it was clear that the pandemic “exposed and exacerbated longstanding inequalities” in the country.

Queen Elizabeth to miss Royal Ascot for first time

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Prince Charles arrive for the second day of the Royal Ascot in 2013.

The Queen, who has several horses running over the coming days, will have to watch the races on television.(AP: Alastair Grant, file)

Nothing has kept Queen Elizabeth II away from the Royal Ascot race meeting during her 68-year reign — not pregnancy, a speech to Parliament or even an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

But this year, the 94-year-old will not be attending.

Royal Ascot is one of the country’s most high-profile horse racing events and one that effectively launches a British summer of sport that also includes Wimbledon and golf’s Open Championship.

Unlike Wimbledon and the British Open, Royal Ascot has not been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, though spectators will be absent.

More than 300,000 guests, more often than not dressed to the nines, would have been expected to attend the five-day meeting.

Queen Elizabeth II is driven in an open carriage from the Golden Gates at Ascot in this 1952 photo. Prince Philip is with her.

The Queen has not missed the Royal Ascot meeting once during her 68-year reign.(AP: Eddie Worth, file)

The Queen has several horses running over the coming days, including First Receiver, ridden by Frankie Dettori in the Queen’s racing colours.

As an owner, the Queen will have access to a virtual Royal Ascot parade ring while viewing her horses from the safety of Windsor Castle.

She has won around 7 million pounds ($12.84 million) in prize money from horse racing over the past three decades.

The Queen has been isolating at Windsor Castle, west of London, with her 99-year-old husband the Duke of Edinburgh, over the past three months.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles has revealed his March bout of COVID-19 continues to affect his senses of smell and taste.

During a visit to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, he told staff he had ongoing symptoms of the virus, according to the BBC.

“He did speak of his personal experience … his loss of smell and taste and, sort of, still felt he’s still got it now,” healthcare assistant Jeff Mills said.

500 train carriages converted to treat COVID-19 patients

Workers wearing protective suits disinfect the exterior of a passenger train with COVID-19 isolation coach written on it

Workers wearing protective suits disinfect the exterior of a passenger train after it was converted into an isolation facility.(Reuters: Rupak De Chowdhuri)

Indian authorities have been converting train coaches for use as makeshift coronavirus care centres in New Delhi as the city struggles to contain a spike in cases.

The chairman of the Indian Railway Board, Vinod Kumar Yada, said 500 coaches had been converted, and 40 had already been deployed in New Delhi.

New Delhi is a growing area of concern with rising infections swamping its health services, and the national government criticising its contact tracing and hospital capacity.

The capital has about 10,000 beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients, half of which are already occupied.

India’s Health Ministry on Tuesday reported 10,667 new infections nationwide, taking the total number of recorded infections to 343,091, the fourth highest in the world behind the US, Brazil and Russia.

Maharashtra, the western state that is home to Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital, continues to have the highest state toll.

The actual numbers, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher due to a number of reasons such as limited testing.

There have been 9,900 recorded deaths in the nation from the disease.

ABC/wires



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