The Latest: WHO says plasma therapy still 'experimental'
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says using plasma from the recovered to treat COVID-19 is still considered an “experimental” therapy and that the preliminary results showing it may work are still “inconclusive.”
President Donald Trump on Sunday approved an emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients.
WHO’s chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said convalescent plasma therapy has been used in the last century to treat numerous infectious diseases, with varying levels of success. Swaminathan says WHO still considers convalescent plasma therapy to be experimental and said it should continue to be evaluated. She added that the treatment is difficult to standardize, since people produce different levels of antibodies and the plasma must be collected individually from recovered patients.
Swaminathan says that the studies have been small and provided “low-quality evidence.” She says countries can “do an emergency listing if they feel the benefits outweigh the risks” but that that's "usually done when you’re waiting for the more definitive evidence.”
Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, said that convalescent plasma therapy can come with numerous side effects, from a mild fever and chills to more severe lung-related injuries.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Trump announces plasma treatment authorized for COVID-19
— Biden says he’d shut down U.S. economy if scientists recommended
— South Korea tightens restrictions as new virus cases climb
— Emails show businesses held sway over reopening plans in U.S. states
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
MADRID — Catalonia’s president has announced a ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people and widespread testing of half a million students in Spain’s northeastern region.
The new series of measures announced by Quim Torra on Monday aim to curb a wave of new coronavirus infections ahead of the re-opening of schools in mid-September, which officials and experts fear could become a vector for more contagion.
Torra said that the next three weeks are crucial in fighting not only the current incidence of the pandemic but how it will evolve in autumn and winter.
“We have to give everything in the coming three weeks, because yes or yes this country has to get to work and yes or yes schools need to open,” the regional chief said at a new conference.
Catalonia reported 1,776 new infections on Monday, with nearly 700 people currently in hospitals and 134 of them in intensive care units.
Spain as a whole leads Europe’s charts with more than 386,000 total reported infections since February.
BERLIN — The Bavarian town of Rosenheim, near the border with Austria, says it is banning more than five people from different households from meeting in public to counter a spike in coronavirus infections.
Authorities said Monday that the number of new infections over the previous seven days exceeded the national threshold in Germany of 50 cases per 100,000 people.
Officials also banned private events with more than 50 people indoors or 100 outdoors.
Germany has seen a steady rise in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. On Saturday the number of new cases topped 2,000. On Sunday, when fewer labs report results, the number of newly registered infections fell to 782.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — The Baltic country of Lithuania is as of Monday ordering a 14-day isolation for travelers from Germany because the number of infected people there is high.
Germany was added to the Lithuanian Health Ministry’s list of coronavirus-affected countries because the COVID-19 infection rate on Friday reached 16.5 cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks.
Anyone entering Lithuania must self-isolate if they return from countries with rates above 16 per 100,000 people and must also get tested if they return from countries with rates above 25.
Health officials said that besides Lithuania, where the rate stands at 12.8, seven EU member countries currently have less than 16 cases per 100,000 people: Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary and Latvia.
Lithuania has seen 2,635 confirmed cases and 84 deaths.
TOKYO — The Japanese government spokesman has defended the nation’s GoTo campaign, which encourages travel within Japan by offering discounts at hotels and inns.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday that the government-backed campaign was a success, having been used by 2 million people in the last month.
He said only 10 cases of COVID-19 were found at hotels and other lodging during that monthlong campaign, and just one of those people had used the campaign discount.
The tourism business in Japan supports 9 million jobs, Suga said, adding: “Its importance to the economy can’t be emphasized enough.”
The campaign has come under fire as a risk for spreading the virus.
Japan, which has already sunk into recession, has confirmed more than 1,100 deaths and 62,000 coronavirus cases so far. Daily cases are rising gradually to about 1,000 people lately.
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — New Zealand’s prime minister says the lockdown of Auckland will last an extra four days as authorities try to stamp out an outbreak of the coronavirus.
The two-week lockdown of the country’s largest city was due to end Wednesday but will now continue through Sunday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that authorities need to be sure they have found the perimeter of the outbreak and they’re not seeing too many cases crop up that they haven’t found through contact tracing.
New Zealand went 102 days without any community transmission of the virus before the cluster of cases was found in Auckland this month. Ardern said the rest of the country would continue for now with some restrictions under Alert Level 2, and it would become mandatory from next week to wear masks on public transport under level 2.
Health authorities on Monday reported nine new virus cases.
NEW DELHI — India has registered 61,408 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, driving the country’s reported virus tally past 3.1 million.
The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 836 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 57,542.
India has been recording at least 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks. Western Maharashtra state and three southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are the country’s worst-hit regions. New hot spots also continue to feed surges in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states in India’s north.
Meanwhile, India’s recovery rate has reached nearly 75% as more than 2.3 million people affected by the virus have been discharged from hospitals, according to the Health Ministry.
India has reported the third most cases in the world after the United States and Brazil, and its fatalities are the fourth-highest in the world.
The country of 1.4 billion people has been slowly opening up to heal the economy, though areas identified as most affected by the virus remain under lockdown.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea counted its 11th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps in coronavirus cases as officials tighten social distancing restrictions nationwide to combat what they describe as the biggest crisis since the pandemic began.
The 266 cases reported by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday came after three consecutive days of over-300 increases, although infection numbers tend to be lower at the start of the week due to the lesser number of tests in weekends.
The KCDC said 202 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, where health workers have struggled to track transmissions linked to various sources, including churches, restaurants, schools and workers.
Infections were also reported in major cities throughout the country, including Busan, Daejeon and Sejong.
KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said it’s likely the country will continue to report huge infection numbers in coming days as health workers scramble to trace and test contacts of virus carriers.
The country since Sunday has banned larger gatherings, shut down nightspots and churches and removed fans from professional sports nationwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A young child died due to complications from coronavirus in June, the first confirmed death of a minor in Iowa during the pandemic, the state health department belatedly announced Sunday evening.
The Iowa Department of Public Health said the state medical examiner’s office concluded its case investigation Aug. 6 into the death of the child, who was under the age of 5. But the death wasn’t reported in the state’s statistics until Saturday, more than two weeks later.
“The child’s death was publicly reported this weekend after ensuring the individual’s identity would remain protected and notifying the family,” the department said in a statement. “We have made every effort to protect the identity of this child, while the family grieves this devastating loss. Again, we send our sincerest condolences.”
The confirmation of the state’s first child death comes one day before dozens of school districts are prepared to begin the school year on Monday — a development that has many educators and parents already on edge.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has ordered schools to reopen for at least 50 percent in-person instruction, despite a pandemic that has already killed 1,036 people and seen infections soar in recent days.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state on Monday recorded its lowest tally of new coronavirus cases in eight weeks with the state capital Melbourne half way through a six-week lockdown.
Victoria reported 116 new cases and 15 deaths. That is the lowest daily tall of new cases since 87 were reported on July 5. The daily count has been as high as 725 news cases in early August.
The state recorded 208 new cases on Sunday and 182 on Saturday.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton had predicted on Sunday that numbers could dip below 150 this week.
He added although the daily case numbers had been “jumping around,” he expected they were on a downward trajectory.
But health authorities have warned that the daily tally would need to fall to single digits or low double digits before the Melbourne lockdown was relaxed.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says the Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients.
Trump, announcing the decision Sunday at the White House, called convalescent plasma a “powerful therapy.” He says the FDA’s action will expand access to the treatment, which is already being used. The treatment involves transferring antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients to patients suffering from the disease.
The announcement follows days of suggestions by White House officials of politically motivated delays by the FDA in approving a vaccine and treatments for the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Trump made the announcement on the eve of the Republican National Convention that will nominate him to run against Democrat Joe Biden.