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Cuba credits two drugs with slashing coronavirus death toll

Tori Holland

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Cuba credits two drugs with slashing coronavirus death toll

HAVANA (Reuters) – Communist-run Cuba said this week that use of two drugs produced by its biotech industry that reduce hyper-inflammation in seriously ill COVID-19 patients has sharply curbed its coronavirus-related death toll.

FILE PHOTO: People line up to buy food amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in downtown Havana, Cuba, April 3, 2020. Picture taken April 3, 2020. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Health authorities have reported just two virus-related deaths over the past nine days among more than 200 active cases on the Caribbean’s largest island, a sign they may have the worst of the outbreak under control.

The government, which hopes to increase its biopharmaceutical exports, has touted various drugs it produces for helping prevent infection with the new coronavirus and treating the COVID-19 disease it causes.

It ascribes the recent reduction in deaths of severely ill COVID-19 patients largely to the use beginning in April of two drugs that appear to help calm the “cytokine storm,” a dangerous overresponse by the immune system in which it attacks healthy tissue as well as the invading virus.

One is itolizumab, a monoclonal antibody produced in Cuba and elsewhere. The other is a peptide that Cuba says its biotech industry discovered and has been testing for rheumatoid arthritis in Phase II clinical trials.

“Some 80 percent of patients who end up in critical condition are dying. In Cuba, with the use of these drugs, 80 percent of those who end up in critical or serious condition are being saved,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said on Thursday in a meeting shown on state television.

Scientists caution that large placebo-controlled studies are needed to assess the safety and efficacy of these drugs for treating COVID-19.

But Cuba’s experimental treatments have helped it achieve an overall COVID-19 death rate of 4.2%, compared with the regional and global averages of 5.9% and 6.6%, respectively, health authorities say.

Fatality rates depend on many variables, including the rate of testing, quality of healthcare systems, and age and underlying health condition of the population.

Official data suggests that Cuba, with universal healthcare and a well-staffed care system, has done well in containing its outbreak. It has registered less than 20 cases per day over the past week, down from a peak of 50 to 60 in mid-April. In total, Cuba has reported 1,916 cases for a population of 11 million and 81 death.

That translates to an infection rate 0.71 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with about 29 per 100,000 for the United States, according to a John’s Hopkins University tally.

Swift action helped Cuba contain its outbreak. After closing borders, schools and public transportation in March, Cuba urged residents to stay home, made wearing of masks obligatory, and employed effective contact tracing to curb the virus spread.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Additional Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Bill Berkrot

After being a professional journalist for 5 years and understanding the ups and downs of health care sector all over the world, Tori shifted her focus to the digital world. Today, she works as a contributor for News Brig with a knack for covering general and health news in the best possible format.

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Health/Science/Environment

Indonesia reports biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections

Tori Holland

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Indonesia reports biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections

FILE PHOTO: Medical staff wearing protective suits take a rest at an emergency room amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Pekanbaru, Riau Province, Indonesia, June 5, 2020, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/FB Anggoro/ via REUTERS

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia reported on Saturday its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections, with 993 new cases, taking its total number to 30,514, a health ministry official said.

The official, Achmad Yurianto, reported 31 new deaths related to COVID-19, taking the total number of deaths in Indonesia to 1,801.

Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Angie Teo; Writing by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Robert Birsel

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India overtakes Italy’s coronavirus tally as lockdown easing looms

Tori Holland

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India overtakes Italy's coronavirus tally as lockdown easing looms

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India reported a record 9,887 new coronavirus cases in one day on Saturday and overtook Italy as the world’s sixth-biggest outbreak, two days before the relaxing of a lockdown with the reopening of malls, restaurants and places of worship.

FILE PHOTO: A man carries his son as he stands with others in a queue at a Railway reservation ticket counter after a few restrictions were lifted during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi, India, June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

With its total number of cases rising to more than 236,000, India now has fewer infections than only the United States, Brazil, Russia, Britain and Spain, according to a Reuters tally.

However, India’s toll of deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is 6,642, small compared with those other countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, anxious to jump-start an economy crippled by the epidemic and put millions of people back to work, is easing its lockdown of the 1.3 billion population imposed in March, which the government says helped avoid an exponential rise in cases.

Restrictions will be loosened from Monday but some experts are worried it is too soon.

Giridhar R Babu, epidemiologist at the Public Health Foundation of India, in particular questioned the re-opening of religious places.

“We can survive and sustain the gains without … opening up religious places for sometime,” Babu said on Twitter.

Concerts, sporting events and political rallies are still banned.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said late on Friday India’s lockdown had helped it dampen down transmission of the disease, but there was a risk the cases could rise again.

“As India and in other large countries open up and people begin to move there is always a risk of the disease bouncing back up,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, told a news conference in Geneva.

People visiting places of worship will be asked to wash their hands and feet, and there will be no distribution of food offerings, sprinkling of holy water or touching of idols and holy books.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in GENEVA; Editing by Aditya Kalra, Robert Birsel

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Russia reports 8,855 new coronavirus cases, 197 deaths in last 24 hours

Tori Holland

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Russia reports 8,855 new coronavirus cases, 197 deaths in last 24 hours

A woman wearing a protective face mask and gloves walks through a disinfection cabin placed at the entrance of the Evropeyskiy shopping mall, after it was reopened as part of a phase of lifting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Moscow, Russia June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia reported 8,855 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, pushing the total number of infections to 458,689.

Officials said 197 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official nationwide death toll to 5,725.

Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov and Maxim Rodionov, writing by Andrey Ostroukh, editing by Mark Potter

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