As the pandemic crossed the grim threshold of 2 million confirmed cases, new diplomatic feuds broke out, economic activity plummeted and as some countries tried to loosen restrictions, others saw resurgences in the number of cases .
US overtakes Italy as country with most deaths
The United States has suffered more confirmed coronavirus deaths than any other country and on Friday reached nearly 35,000 deaths, with Italy being the second most affected country with 22,000 deaths. China has revised the death toll in Wuhan, the hardest hit city in the country where the virus first appeared, up 50% to 3,869 from 2,579, citing the addition of dead patients to home and late or inaccurate reporting from some hospitals of the dead. Globally, the number of confirmed cases doubled in 13 days. The actual number of cases is assumed to be much higher than the official figures suggest, countries varying in the extent to which they test and the growing awareness that many people may experience few or no symptoms.
Trump suspends funding for the World Health Organization
Donald Trump announced Tuesday that the United States would freeze payments to the World Health Organization (WHO) for 60 to 90 days for its management of the coronavirus pandemic. He accused the world body of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the threat, even though he declared a public health emergency on January 30 – after which Trump continued to hold rallies and compared the coronavirus to the flu. seasonal.
António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, criticized the decision, saying that “this is not the time to cut resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus ”, in a press release echoed by the leading personalities of public health worldwide. However, some have said that, although the funding cut is not warranted, WHO could have done more to examine China’s initial response to the outbreak. Sir John Sawers, a former head of the British intelligence service, told the BBC that Beijing was not honest when the disease first appeared and faced “anger” from the international community.
Pharmaceutical giants team up to work on coronavirus vaccine
GSK and Sanofi are two of the largest vaccine companies in the world – between them, they probably have the largest vaccine manufacturing capacity in the world. This week, they announced an unprecedented initiative to join forces to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. Two companies of this size that team up rather than compete are almost unknown, but we are not living in normal times and the potential market for a vaccine is essentially the entire world population.
The two bring proven vaccine technology – Sanofi provides a protein-based vaccine he already uses for seasonal flu, and GSK provides a so-called adjuvant, which can be added to a vaccine to boost the immune system’s response. It is unlikely that the effort would be the first to get a vaccine approved – some teams already have candidates in phase 1 trials – but they are unique in that they have the existing capacity to develop to manufacture the hundreds of millions of doses that will likely be needed worldwide. .
Countries are easing closures, but experts say some form of social distancing may need to continue until 2022
Countries around the world are trying to lift restrictions on social displacement while avoiding an overwhelming increase in the number of cases. In Europe, Denmark, among the first European countries to impose a lock in early March, became the first to reopen schools this week. Austria reopened thousands of small stores and said it would allow outdoor sports such as tennis, golf and athletics from May, Spain allowed non-essential workers to return to work and Italy has authorized the reopening of bookstores and clothing stores. In the United States, Donald Trump has unveiled an 18-page plan to “Open America Again” identifying the circumstances necessary for regions of the country to allow employees to start returning to work.
However, scientists who have modeled how the pandemic could last beyond the next few months have concluded that intermittent social distancing may be necessary until 2022. The document, published in the journal Science, found that a single lock was probably insufficient. to control the pandemic and that the secondary peaks could be greater than the current one without continued restrictions.
The analysis indicated that additional measures such as a vaccine or treatment could reduce the need for foreclosure, but raised the prospect of case outbreaks – and the potential need for intermittent cycles of social distancing until 2022. ” Predict the end of the pandemic in the summer [of 2020] doesn’t match what we know about the spread of infections, “said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at Harvard and co-author of the study.