WHO Covid update LIVE: Three drugs in new trial to treat virus as variant sparks panic

These therapies – artesunate, imatinib and infliximab – were selected by an independent expert panel for their potential in reducing the risk of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. These drugs were donated for the trial by their manufacturers.

Artesunate is used for severe malaria, imatinib for certain cancers, and infliximab for diseases of the immune system such as Crohn’s Disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “Finding more effective and accessible therapeutics for COVID-19 patients remains a critical need, and WHO is proud to lead this global effort.

“I would like to thank the participating governments, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, clinicians and patients, who have come together to do this in true global solidarity.”

One Oxford scientist warned the Delta variant had wrecked that world’s chances of achieving herd immunity altogether.

READ MORE: Herd immunity ‘not possible’ with the Delta variant – stark warning by Oxford scientist

Sir Andrew Pollard, Oxford Vaccine Group Director, told MPs on Tuesday that the Delta strain could still infect vaccinated individuals, making herd immunity “impossible”.

“We know very clearly with coronavirus that this current variant, the Delta variant, will still infect people who have been vaccinated and that does mean that anyone who’s still unvaccinated, at some point, will meet the virus,” Sir Andrew said.

“I think we are in a situation here with this current variant where herd immunity is not a possibility because it still affects vaccinated individuals.”

Not only that, the Covid expert warned we might see “a variant which is even better at transmitting in vaccinated populations.”

According to Sir Andrew, this means we should not be making a vaccine programme based around herd immunity.

The deadly Delta variant has now torn through 132 countries and contributed significantly to the death toll of 131,000 UK citizens.

The WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan previous said Delta was a warning we must heed before more dangerous variants emerge, which led to fears of fresh lockdown restrictions among newly freed Britons.

Yesterday’s warning over herd immunity came as another expert in the field warned the pandemic could be “closer to the beginning than the end”.

Leading epidemiologist Dr Larry Brilliant made the brutal statement based on the figure that only 15 per cent of the global population has been vaccinated.

Dr Brilliant said: “Unless we vaccinate everyone in 200-plus countries, there will still be new variants.”

He predicted Covid will become a “forever virus” and said booster shots should be a priority this autumn, but the warning remained: Covid is not going anywhere.

LIVE UPDATES TO FOLLOW…

17:28 Pregnant women should be given Covid vaccine

Pregnant women should be vaccinated against COVID-19, based on a new analysis that did not show increased risk for miscarriage, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The CDC said it has found no safety concerns for pregnant people in either the new analysis or earlier studies.

Pregnant women can receive any of the three vaccines given emergency authorisation — Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

Sascha Ellington, team lead for the Emergency Preparedness and Response team in CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health, said that vaccine uptake in pregnant women has been low, with only 23 percent receiving at least one vaccine dose.

“We want to increase that,” Ellington said, noting that the agency was working on strategies to have obstetricians and gynecologists become vaccine providers.

“We want women to be protected.

“We’re not seeing any safety signals and so the benefits of vaccination really do outweigh any potential or unknown risks.”

16:23 Swiss government to halt free Covid jabs for those not vaccinated

The Swiss government plans to halt most free COVID-19 testing for people who are not vaccinated now that nearly half the population has got the jabs.

“For the government, protecting hospital structures now has priority, no longer protecting the non-vaccinated population,” it said while keeping in place scaled-back curbs on public life it adopted in June as new cases were on the decline.

More than 730,000 people in Switzerland and tiny neighbour Liechtenstein have had confirmed infections and around 10,400 have died of the disease since the pandemic broke out last year.

The Swiss strategy has focused on repetitive testing in schools and companies as well as preventive testing free of charge.

The federal government will continue to finance tests in schools, companies and healthcare facilities.

15:32 Europe’s drug regulator looking into possible side-effects related to vaccines

Europe’s drugs regulator is looking into three new conditions to assess whether they may be possible side-effects related to COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna following a small number of cases.

Erythema multiforme, a form of allergic skin reaction, and glomerulonephritis and nephrotic syndrome, disorders related to kidneys, are being studied by the safety committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), according to the regulator.

The mRNA technology used by the two vaccines has been a turning point in the pandemic and for the scientific community, with their high effectiveness against COVID-19, but some rare side-effects of the shots are being studied as more people are inoculated globally.

15:05 Mask wearing and social distancing still vital to curbing Covid

The WHO has said measures such as face masks and social distancing remain crucial if we are ever to achieve herd immunity from Covid. 

At a WHO conference this afternoon, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid, said everyone needed to “play a part” in measures like “continuing to wear your mask, spending time out doors, getting the vaccine when it’s offered to you.” 

“It’s about doing it all and making sure we stay vigilant,” she finished. 

15:00 WHO discusses new Covid drugs

When asked whether the drugs entering the WHO’s new Solidarity PLUS trial would be effective against Covid variants, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove said: “There will be more variants, the virus is always evolving, it continues to evolve every day.” 

“I don’t have an answer, but I think what’s important is we have a process in place to be able to get those answers,” she added. 

WHO discusses new Covid drugs Covid LIVE

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove (Image: WHO)

14:50 Covid expert says Africa has done better than expected

At a WHO Covid conference today about the Solidarity PLUS Covid drug trial, Professor Samba Sow, Director of the Centre for Vaccine Development in Mali, thanked the WHO and said it had “fought for global solutions in what has been undoubtedly one of the worst global issues of our time.” 

Prof Sow said he had initially had grave concerns about how the virus would hit Africa, but went on: “But despite the frightening third wave which is occurring now and the lack in so many countries of enough testing, the pandemic has not impacted Africa in the way we expected.

“That is not to say that Africa is not at risk, it is. This is why trials like the Solidarity PLUS trial are so crucial.”

14:30 Dr Ghebreyesus gives stark Covid warning

Speaking at a WHO Covid conference this afternoon, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave a warning to the world about Covid.

While the total number of global Covid cases has already topped 200million, Dr Ghebreyesus said: “We know that the real number of cases is much higher.

“At the current trajectory we could pass 300,000,000 reported cases early next year. 

“But we can change that. We are all in this together but the world is not acting like it.” 

14:20 WHO gives fatal Marburg virus update

The WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today that the WHO was supporting Guinea in tracing the source of the new Marburg virus outbreak. 

Dr Ghebreyesus said about 150 close contacts of the man who bled to death from the virus in Guinea have been identified so far. 

He went on: “Marburg is a very different virus to the one that caused COVID 19 but many of the elements are the same. 

“…Isolating, tracing and engaging local communities in the response.” 

“There is no licensed vaccine for Marburg although there are vaccines under development.” 

Dr Ghebreyesus finished by saying the WHO are trying to assess potential vaccines for the virus.

WHO gives fatal Marburg virus update

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Image: WHO)

13:50 Khamenei sees ‘urgent’ need to curb Covid in Iran

Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei said Covid was the country’s “number one problem” and must be urgently curbed today. 

He also called for greater efforts to important and produce vaccines. 

Daily coronavirus cases have reached 42,000 in Iran’s fifth wave of infections. 

It is the worst hit Middle East country. 

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech: “The pandemic is Iran’s number-one problem today … The number of infected people and the fatalities are truly tragic.

“It is an urgent matter that must be curbed,”

Iran’s health ministry reported the death toll now stands at 95,647 after 536 deaths today. 

The ministry blamed the rise on the highly-contagious Delta variant. 

Khamenei banned imports of U.S and British-made vaccines in January this year, but has said said the Government must “increase efforts to both important and to produce homegrown vaccines.”

Iran’s clerical establishment has been accused of being slow to vaccinate people, as only about 4 per cent of the 83 million population has been double jabbed. 

Iran has blamed U.S sanctions for hampering purchases and deliveries of vaccines from other nations.

Iran is also participating in the COVAX scheme, run by the GAVI alliance and the WHO, to try to speed up vaccinations. The scheme aims to secure fair access to vaccines for poorer countries. 

Authorities have said daily deaths could climb to 800 in the coming weeks, while Iranian state media showed pictures of hospitals that have run out of beds for new patients. 

13:32 74 per cent of home sellers vet buyers before viewing due to Covid

The threat of Covid remains a worry for the majority of home sellers when it comes to allowing potential buyers into their homes for viewings. 

Research commissioned by U-See Homes found 74 per cent of sellers are vetting buyers before they even make it to the viewing stage to ensure they aren’t allowing any unnecessary visits to their home from time wasters. 

13:20 WHO clinical trial enters new phase with three possible new drugs

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the next phase of its Solidarity trial. 

Solidarity PLUS will test three new drugs in hospitalised Covid patients. 

The three therapies – artesunate, imatinib and infliximab, were selected by an independent expert panel for their potential in reducing the risk of death in hospitalised Covid patients. 

They are already used for other illnesses including malaria, certain cancers and immune system diseases such as Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis.

The drugs were donated for the trail by their manufacturers. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “I would like to thank the participating governments, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, clinicians and patients, who have come together to do this in true global solidarity.”

13:05 Marbug virus panic: man bleeds to death

Fears over an outbreak of deadly Marburg virus have been heightened by the revelation that a man who died after contracting the virus earlier this week may have spread it to 155 people.

Read more: Marburg virus panic: 155 could be infected after man ‘bleeds to death’ – WHO rings alarm

12:55 Twitter thread asking for positive vaccine experiences goes viral

A Twitter thread has gone viral after a user asked for people to share their positive experiences of getting a Covid vaccine. 

Moderna. I had covid March u201820. Letu2019s compare:

u2022 1st ud83dudc89- Felt like *shit* for 24 hours, then it was over.

u2022 2nd ud83dudc89- Felt not great for 24 hours, then it was over.

u2022 COVID – felt like SHIT for 3 days, breathing difficulties for 2 WEEKS, brain fog.

I know which I prefer! u263aufe0f

u2014 Justin Starr (@UrbanAstroNYC) August 10, 2021

12:50 Vietnam reports 8,776 new Covid cases

Vietnam’s health ministry has reported 8776 new coronavirus infections today, most of which are in the south. 

12:20 Nurse ‘injected people with saline’ instead of Covid vaccine

A police investigation found that a Red Cross nurse may have injected people in Germany with a saline solution instead of a Covid vaccine dose. 

Authorities have appealed to thousands of people to get another dose to protect themselves. 

The nurse is believed to have injected salt solution into people’s arms instead of real doses at a vaccination centre in Friesland in northern Germany in early spring. 

Saline solution is not harmful, but this might mean people who got vaccinated in Germany in March and April (mainly elderly people) missed out on the genuine vaccine and were therefore at a higher risk of catching covid. 

Credit: Reuters

12:05 Booster jabs hang in the balance

The UK’s Covid booster campaign is still uncertain despite being due to start in under four weeks. 

Experts are still assessing whether all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable will need a third jab.

It is planned that around 30million people will receive a third Covid jab along with a flu vaccine, with the programme due to commence on September 6. 

Health secretary Sajid Javid said on Tuesday that preparations for the booster campaign were ongoing but ministers were waiting for guidance from the clinical experts. 

Ministers are already reported to be planning a booster campaign for 2022 after securing 32million Pfizer doses for autumn next year. 

These doses cost £1billion, according to a report by The Times. 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said: “We have secured access to more than 500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines and we are confident our supply will support potential booster programmes in the future.”

Asked about a booster campaign for this year, Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, who sits on the JCVI, told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve been asked to advise as to who might receive a booster if it proves necessary to give boosters.

“I think it’s becoming quite clear that there are a small group of people whose immune responses to the first two doses are likely to be inadequate – people who’ve got immunosuppression of one kind or another, perhaps because they’ve got immunodeficiency or they’ve been receiving treatment for cancer or bone marrow transplants or organ transplants, that kind of thing.

“I think it’s quite likely we’ll be advising on a third dose for some of those groups.

“A broader booster programme is still uncertain – we’ve laid out potential plans so that the logistics of that can be put together, alongside the flu vaccine programme.

“We need to review evidence as to whether people who receive vaccines early on in the programme are in any serious risk of getting serious disease and whether the protection they’ve got from those first two doses is still strong. We clearly don’t want to be giving vaccines to people that don’t need them.”

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told Times Radio: “For a vulnerable person whose immunity is suboptimal, any boosting is better than none, and some of the data is quite promising on getting people back up into that protective zone.”

11:50 Northern Ireland Covid rates highest in UK

Northern Ireland’s Covid infection rates are the highest in the UK, new data has revealed.

The latest data, for the seven days up to August 1, show an infection rate of 445.3 per 100,000 of the population. 

This is almost twice as high as the rate in England (282.1) and more than three times higher than the rates in Scotland (143.6) and Wales (141.5). 

The Public Health Agency has urged anyone with Covid symptoms to get a test. 

Dr David Cromie from the agency said people must be vigilant to stop the spread of the virus. 

He said: “This is a serious disease and people are still dying or becoming very unwell. 

“We need everyone to continue to follow the public health advice, get tested if they are symptomatic, and engage with the Contact Tracing Centre (CTS) if they test positive for Covid-19.

“If you haven’t yet received your Covid-19 vaccine, make arrangements to get it as soon as possible, as the vaccine will help prevent you from becoming seriously unwell with Covid-19, and also help keep vulnerable members of our community safe.”

He described testing as a “vital tool” in the fight against the virus.

“If you are symptomatic, please isolate and get tested, as there’s no way of knowing if you have Covid-19 if you don’t get tested, and it also means that we can’t alert your close contacts,” he added. 

11:35 Covid restrictions on maternity wards could be scrapped

Covid restrictions on maternity wards may be scrapped if there is a higher vaccination uptake among expectant mothers and their partners. 

The master of Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital, Professor Fergal Malone said weekly surveys of patients and visitors have shown just 39 per cent of pregnant women and 41 per cent of their partners visiting the hospital had been fully vaccinated. 

He said if that figure rises to the level seen in the general population – between 75 and 85 per cent – then “you’ll see it being safe to relax all restrictions.” 

Prof Malone said the current figure was not surprising, adding: “There is some vaccine hesitancy.

“What that means is 60 per cent of the patients and/or partners walking around the Rotunda Hospital today are not vaccinated and therefore are vulnerable to Covid infections and indeed more likely to transmit.”

He told RTE’s Morning Ireland: “That’s the common myth about maternity services – while 75 per cent to 85 per cent of the general population are vaccinated, that’s not reflected in what’s going on in maternity hospitals.

“If we can get that vaccination number up towards those that range, absolutely you’ll see it being safe to relax all restrictions.

“So I’d encourage every single pregnant woman, please get vaccinated, and their partners.”

11:00 France’s overseas territories badly hit by Covid

French president Emmanuel Macron has said France’s overseas territories including the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique are suffering badly from the pandemic.

The president said: “The situation is dramatic” at a virtual meeting with senior cabinet ministers. 

10:50 Myanmar leaves Rohingya Muslims desperate for Covid vaccinations

Myanmar currently has no plans to include minority Rohingya Muslims living in densely-packed camps in its vaccine rollout. 

A junta-appointed local administrator said despite starting to vaccinate priority groups in the western Rakhine State, the Rohingya Muslims would not be included.

Local administrator Kyaw Lwin said there were no plans for vaccinating any of the Muslims living in packed shacks and behind barbed wire in Sittwe, where the rollout has begun. 

“We are only following orders,” he said, and declined to comment on whether this could be classed as discrimination against the Rohingya. 

An estimated 140,000 Rohingya live in Rakhine State, the majority of whom are confined to camps. 

Myanmar’s covid response almost collapsed entirely following a coup on February 1, but the army is now trying to step up vaccinations as Myanmar faces its worst spike in infections. 

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya felt to Bangladesh in 2017 during operations by the army under the command of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who is now Prime Minister and head of Myanmar’s junta. 

U.N investigators said the operations were carried out with “genocidal intent” but the army denied this. 

Vaccinations began this week in Bangladesh camps which house more than one million Rohingya refugees. 

Myanmar leaves Rohingya Muslims desperate for vaccinations

Rohingya Muslims have been left off the vaccine rollout (Image: GETTY)

10:35 Human trials to start on Covid nasal spray vaccine

Two coronavirus vaccines administered via a nasal spray are due to start human trials in Thailand by the end of the year. 

A Thai Government official said the human trials were due to begin after promising results involving mice. 

The trials will also test protection against the Delta variant. 

Research to develop nasal sprays to prevent and treat Covid has been going on around the world, especially given the lining of the nose is a known entry point for the virus. 

10:19 Russia’s daily Covid deaths reach record high

Russia’s daily Covid death toll has reached a record high for the fourth time. 

The country reported 799 coronavirus-related deaths today, an all-time high which has been blamed on the infectious Delta variant. 

Russia’s coronavirus task force confirmed the country’s death toll now stands at 167,241.

10:10 Teens should be vaccinated, says expert

An expert on Covid has revealed he told the Government children aged 16 and 17 would need the Covid vaccine. 

Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said the body had advised the Government after seeing a small number of serious cases in that age group.

Prof Finn told BBC Breakfast: “We’re going cautiously down through the ages now into childhood and it was clear that the number of cases and the number of young people in the age group – 16, 17 – that were getting seriously ill merited going forward with giving them just a first dose.

“Most young people who get this virus get it mildly or even without any symptoms at all.

“But we are seeing cases in hospital even into this age group – we’ve had a couple of 17-year-olds here in Bristol admitted and needing intensive care over the course of the last four to six weeks – and so we are beginning to see a small number of serious cases.

“What we know for sure is that these vaccines are very effective at preventing those kind of serious cases from occurring.”

Information on “when and what” second doses would be would come after more assessment, Prof Finn added. 

The expert also said he hoped parents would advise their children to accept the vaccine when offered. 

According to NHS England, nearly 16,000 people in the 16 to 17 age category have already had their vaccine over the weekend, just days after the guidance was updated. 

09:39 Travel recovery has started

Britain’s Heathrow Airport has said the UK’s travel recovery has begun after a surge in passenger numbers in July. 

The rise in travellers comes as the Government eased travel restrictions, with over 1.5million passengers passing through the airport in July. 

This made it the busiest month since March 2020, before lockdowns began in Europe and left travel at a standstill. 

The airport, which before the pandemic was the busiest in Europe, warned overall numbers will still down 80 per cent on pre-covid levels and said the Government needed to do more for travel to return anywhere close to 2019 levels. 

Heathrow and airlines such as British Airways have criticised the UK Government for not easing travel restrictions quickly enough and for the complicated rules around expensive coronavirus tests. 

They called for the cost of testing to be reduced and more countries to be added to the green-list of low risk countries.

WHO Covid update LIVE: Major announcement after terrifying new alert – variant fears soar

Heathrow Airport said the Government needed to do more to help travel return to pre-pandemic levels (Image: GETTY)

09:38 WHO issues red-alert for highly-contagious Ebola-like virus

The WHO has issued an emergency alert over a new ‘ebola-like’ virus. 

The Marburg virus is highly virulent and led to a man’s death in Guinea on August 6. 

There is no approved drug to combat the deadly virus, which has an 88 per cent mortality rate, as yet. 

READ MORE: 

WHO urgent warning: Ebola-like virus with 88% mortality rate could ‘spread far and wide’ 

WHO red alert: Man dies as highly-contagious new virus identified and carriers isolated

09:34 Almost 40million Britons double jabbed

39,688,566 Britons had received their second dose of the Covid vaccine by August 9. 

47,091,889 had received their first dose by the end of the same day. 

09:28 USA: Schools defy mask bans

School districts in southern states Florida and Texas are defying their Republican governors’ banks on requiring masks for children and teachers as coronavirus case numbers rocket. 

Cases are climbing in conservative areas with low vaccination rates. 

09:25 Melbourne to stay locked down for second week

Australia’s second-biggest city will stay in lockdown for a second week after reporting 20 new Covid cases. 

Melbourne is struggling to stamp out infections caused by the highly contagious Delta variant. 

09:20 Britain records highest daily death toll since March

Britain recorded its highest daily Covid death toll since March yesterday, Tuesday August 10. 

Government data showed 146 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded, the highest daily total since March 12. 

It appears July’s surge in cases is now showing in the country’s fatality figures. 

09:06 UK Covid figures: 23,510 people test positive

In the seven days between August 5 and 11, an average of 23,510 Britons have tested positive for coronavirus. 

08:55 Third jab ‘likely’ for a small number of people, vaccination expert says

A third coronavirus jab will ‘quite likely’ be required for a small percentage of the population, a vaccination expert has said. 

Professor Adam Finn, sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government on vaccine policy, and said people with a weak immune system are likely to need a booster. 

It is still unclear whether a booster jab will be needed for all over-50s however. 

Professor Finn told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve been asked to advise as to who might receive a booster if it proves necessary to give boosters,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“I think it’s becoming quite clear that there are a small group of people whose immune responses to the first two doses are likely to be inadequate – people who’ve got immunosuppression of one kind or another, perhaps because they’ve got immunodeficiency or they’ve been receiving treatment for cancer or bone marrow transplants or organ transplants, that kind of thing.

“I think it’s quite likely we’ll be advising on a third dose for some of those groups.

“A broader booster programme is still uncertain, we’ve laid out potential plans so that the logistics of that can be put together, alongside the flu vaccine programme.

“We need to review evidence as to whether people who receive vaccines early on in the programme are in any serious risk of getting serious disease and whether the protection they’ve got from those first two doses is still strong – we clearly don’t want to be giving vaccines to people that don’t need them.”

08:40 Covid ‘unlikely to be eradicated entirely’

A Government scientific adviser has said Covid is unlikely to be eradicated entirely but the “nature of the virus” meant it would become a seasonal infection.

Andrew Hayward, of University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, and the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, also told BBC Radio 4’s Today that Covid would likely continue to mutate, meaning true herd immunity was unlikely.

The professor said: “I think the nature of this infection and the nature of the vaccines is such that the level of immunity that is achieved is not enough to consider that.

“If someone could come up with a vaccine that was not only 95 percent protective against severe disease but 95 percent protective against infection then, yes, we would stand a chance of eradicating it.”

He added: “I think it is a pretty distant prospect and we need to get used to the concept that this will become what we call an endemic disease rather than a pandemic disease.

“A disease that is with us all the time – probably transmits seasonally a bit like influenza where we see winter outbreaks.”

William Murphy

William Murphy

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