Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Friday
- WHO does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 until middle of next year.
- Members named to panel probing WHO’s pandemic response.
- South Korean doctors split over strike deal amid new wave of coronavirus infections.
- Ontario judge rules that mom can send son back to school over father’s objections over COVID-19.
- Indiana University sees ‘alarming’ spike in COVID-19 at frat, sorority houses.
- Italy’s Berlusconi reportedly has pneumonia after positive coronavirus test.
- India adds another 83,000 coronavirus cases, nears 2nd-most in world.
- New Zealand reports first death from coronavirus in more than three months.
The World Health Organization does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 until the middle of next year, a spokesperson said on Friday, stressing the importance of rigorous checks on their effectiveness and safety.
None of the candidate vaccines in advanced clinical trials so far has demonstrated a “clear signal” of efficacy at the level of at least 50 per cent sought by the WHO, spokesperson Margaret Harris said.
Russia granted regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine in August after less than two months of human testing, prompting some Western experts to question its safety and efficacy.
U.S. public health officials and Pfizer Inc said on Thursday a vaccine could be ready for distribution as soon as late October. That would be just ahead of the U.S. election on Nov. 3 in which the pandemic is likely to be a major factor among voters deciding whether President Donald Trump wins a second term.
“We are really not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” Harris told a UN briefing in Geneva.
“This Phase 3 must take longer because we need to see how truly protective the vaccine is and we also need to see how safe it is,” she added. This referred to the phase in vaccine research where large clinical trials among people are conducted. Harris did not refer to any specific vaccine candidate.
All data from trials must be shared and compared, Harris said.
WATCH | Infectious disease specialist cautions against rushing vaccine development:
The WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance are leading a global vaccine allocation plan known as COVAX, which aims to help buy and distribute shots fairly. The focus is on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country such as health-care workers.
COVAX aims to procure and deliver two billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021, but some countries that have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, have said they will not join.
Meanwhile, an independent panel appointed by the World Health Organization to review its co-ordination of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will have full access to any internal UN agency documents, materials and emails necessary, the panel said Thursday as it began the probe.
The panel’s co-chairs are former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.
The 11 others, announced during a media briefing, include Dr. Joanne Liu, who was an outspoken WHO critic during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese doctor who was the first to publicly confirm human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 10:15 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 130,493 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 115,444 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,180.
In a precedent-setting ruling, an Ontario Superior Court judge has sided with a parent who wants her son to return to school over the objections of the child’s father, who insisted the child take his classes online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice Andrea Himel heard motions related to the case dubbed Chase v. Chase in the Newmarket Courthouse north of Toronto in mid-August and ruled in favour of the mother last week.
The ruling, the first of its kind in Ontario since the pandemic began, comes as family lawyers tell CBC News that many estranged couples are bringing up the question of who decides whether their kids go back to school or distance learn. They say that threatens to tax a family court system already under strain due to delays caused by COVID-19.
WATCH | Doctors answer your back-to-school questions:
In this case, the nine-year-old boy’s mom argued that a return to in-class learning will be more successful and productive for him as isolation at home has been difficult for him socially.
But while the father agreed that attending school in person is preferable academically, socially, physically and psychologically, he argued that during the pandemic the health risks are significant.
He also told the court he worries about the impact of wearing a mask at school, as his son is in French immersion and it would be harder for him to communicate clearly.
In her ruling, Himel noted that no one in either household has any underlying medical conditions that make any of them particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of COVID-19, and that the province’s “decision to re-open the schools was made with the benefit of medical expert advisers and in consultation with Ontario school boards.”
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 26.3 million. More than 869,000 people have died while 17.5 million have recovered.
In the United States, Indiana University at Bloomington on Thursday urged students living in fraternity and sorority houses to move out, citing an “alarming” rate of positive COVID-19 tests that marked the latest outbreak in the U.S. Midwest and at a college campus.
The university said on Twitter that positive tests for coronavirus were exceeding 50 per cent in some Greek houses, higher than in dorms, and told fraternity and sorority members to “re-evaluate their current living situation.”
New coronavirus infections have fallen nationwide for six weeks in a row, while the Midwest. Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting the highest percentage of positive tests, over 20 per cent in each state.
Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus, has been diagnosed with the early stages of double pneumonia, ANSA newsagency reported on Friday.
Double, or bilateral pneumonia affects both lungs and can make breathing difficult. The condition has been seen in many cases of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
Berlusconi, 83, was taken to Milan’s San Raffaele hospital on Thursday evening, two days after his Forza Italia party announced he had coronavirus.
“After the appearance of some symptoms, Berlusconi was admitted to hospital as a precautionary measure,” Forza Italia said in a brief statement, adding that his condition was “not a cause for concern.”
COVID-19 has forced 12 schools in mainland France to close, but the rest of the almost 60,000 opened as planned at the start of the academic year, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Friday, as coronavirus cases across the country surge.
“It has been a rather good week even though there are always some glitches. Over 12 million pupils returned to school in spite of the difficulties and the worries,” he told Europe 1 radio. The French school year began on Tuesday.
WATCH | France’s students return to classrooms with coronavirus protocols in place:
Blanquer said a further 10 schools were closed for the same reason on La Reunion, an island off Madagascar administered by France.
South Korea’s top medical body faced a rift on Friday after trainee doctors rejected a deal by its leader to end a two-week-old strike, although the government backed down from reform plans aimed at averting future epidemics.
Some of the trainees vowed to continue the walkout by about 16,000 interns and resident doctors to oppose the government measures, such as increasing the number of doctors and building public medical schools, among others.
The strike has hindered efforts to dampen a new wave of coronavirus infections, with 198 new cases on Thursday taking the nation’s tally to 20,842, with 331 deaths, while a surge in critical cases led to a dearth of hospital beds.
The government says its initiative could help tackle similar crises in future, but the doctors say it would merely swell their numbers in cities, without improving medical services and work conditions in rural provinces.
Also on Friday, South Korea ordered another week of physical distancing curbs for the region around the capital, Seoul, until Sept. 13. Though Thursday’s daily caseload fell below 200 for the first time in more than two weeks, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said tougher distancing rules imposed last week needed more time to show results.
In India, the number of people infected with the coronavirus rose by another 80,000 and is near Brazil’s total, the second-highest in the world.
The 83,341 cases added in the past 24 hours pushed India’s total past 3.9 million, according to the Health Ministry. Brazil has confirmed more than four million infections while the U.S. has more 6.1 million people infected, according to Johns Hopkins University. India added nearly two million coronavirus cases in August alone.
India’s Health Ministry on Friday also reported 1,096 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 68,472.
Justifying lifting of lockdown restrictions while infections are surging, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the testing capacity has been ramped up and safety procedures put in place.
“While lives are important, livelihoods are equally important,” Bhushan said.
Australia’s Victoria state reported a record 59 deaths on Friday, the highest ever daily total for the country, including previously unrecorded fatalities in aged care homes over the past several weeks.
An outbreak in the city of Melbourne has raced through dozens of aged-care homes, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Australia’s total number of virus deaths now stands at 737.
Neighbouring New Zealand reported its first death from the coronavirus in more than three months on Friday. Health authorities said a man in his 50s died at an Auckland hospital where he was being treated for the virus following a small outbreak in the city that began last month.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday current restrictions to beat the spread of the coronavirus would be in place until at least mid-September. Auckland, the country’s largest city, will remain on alert level 2.5 that limits gatherings to no more than 10 people.