US coronavirus vaccine poised for final testing: Live updates

US researchers say COVID-19 vaccine under study seen to boost immune systems while antibodies study raises new concerns.

MORE ON HEALTH

  • The United States state of Florida surpassed its daily record for coronavirus deaths on Tuesday with 132 more fatalities amid rising global worries of a resurgence, even as researchers say that the first vaccine tested in the US had worked to boost patients’ immune systems and is set for final testing.
  • The blood from seriously ill coronavirus patients on ventilators was found by researchers to be highly inflammatory and harmful to the body, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday, citing a study by Dutch scientists.
  • United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said the world is experiencing the sharpest decline in per capita income since 1870 and that “between 70 and 100 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty”.
  • South Africa has surpassed the United Kingdom in its number of confirmed coronavirus cases, according to its health ministry and data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It now has the world’s eighth-highest number of confirmed cases with 298,292 and over 4,300 deaths.
  • More than 13.25 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 7.36 million have recovered, and more than 576,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The US, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Italy have recorded the most deaths.

Here are the latest updates.

Wednesday, July 15

01:50 GMT – Trump calls COVID school closures a ‘terrible decision’ as deaths rise

US President Donald Trump has criticised the state of California’s two largest school districts for making students learn from home for the upcoming term in the face of the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican president, in an interview with CBS News, said it was a mistake for the Los Angeles and San Diego school districts to provide only on-line education for the academic year beginning in August.

“I would tell parents and teachers that you should find yourself a new person, whoever’s in charge of that decision, because it’s a terrible decision,” Trump said.

Trump made the comment as the number of cases surge by over 10,700 in one day, bringing the state’s total to more than 346,000, with 137 new deaths added to the tally of over 7,000. 

01:30 GMT – Cyprus to double random tests at two main airports

Cyprus is doubling the number of random coronavirus tests that will be carried out on arriving passengers at its two main airports each day, AP news agency reported.

The Cypriot government said in a statement that 600 random tests will be performed on passengers arriving from a total 39 countries whose citizens are not required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Travelers arriving from 17 of those countries are required to obtain health certificates declaring them coronavirus-free 72 hours prior to boarding a flight.

The Transport Ministry says approximately 5,500 passengers currently fly in and out of the east Mediterranean island nation’s airports daily.

Tourism is a key industry for Cyprus, directly accounting for 13 percent of the economy. Officials are projecting that this year, the country will receive less than a quarter of 2019’s tourist arrivals.

01:15 GMT – France aims to reopen schools amid lingering COVID-19 concerns

France - Schools

France’s school reopening was driven in part by concerns about getting parents back to work to restart the economy [File: Jean-Francois Badias/AP]

France is aiming to reopen all schools for the new academic year under as “normal” conditions as possible, President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday, despite lingering virus concerns from some parents and teachers.

France gradually reopened schools in May and June as the country emerged from virus lockdown, and most children returned to class. While new infections prompted a few schools to close again, the vast majority stayed open until the school year wrapped up earlier this month.

“We have learned a lot” from that period, Macron said. “We developed a new way of teaching” to take the virus into account.

France’s school reopening was driven by concerns about getting parents back to work to restart the economy, as well as widespread worries about disadvantaged children who couldn’t access online classes, who need special help or whose families depend on subsidized school lunches.

Schools adjusted schedules to keep children from mingling freely and kept students in one classroom instead of having them move around for different subjects. They were required to air out classrooms regularly, and masks were necessary for middle and high school students.

01:00 GMT – Tokyo to lift coronavirus alert to highest level – report

Tokyo will lift its alert level for coronavirus infections to the highest of four levels on Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported quoting Asahi newspaper, after a recent spike in cases to record levels in the Japanese capital.

Daily coronavirus cases exceeded 200 in four of the last six days, touching an all-time high of 243 cases last Friday as testing among workers in the metropolis’s red-light districts turned up infections among young people in their 20s and 30s.

The highest alert level suggests that “coronavirus infections are likely spreading”, the Asahi newspaper said.

Tokyo - coronavirus

The Japanese capital of Tokyo has confirmed more than 100 new coronavirus infections last Monday [Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

00:26 GMT – Coronavirus antibodies ‘highly inflammatory’ – Dutch scientists

The blood from seriously ill coronavirus patients on ventilators was found by researchers to be highly inflammatory and harmful to the body, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday, citing a study by Dutch scientists.

The scientists, led by Professor Menno de Winther from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, found that the blood from COVID-19 patients struggling for their life on ventilators was highly inflammatory.

They observed during a series of experiments that this could trigger an overreaction of the immune system, destroy crucial barriers in tissues and cause water and blood to spill over in the lungs, the South China Morning Post report said.

00:16 GMT – COVID-19 vaccine test moves forward in the US

The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the United States revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported – as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press news agency.

The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health in partnership with Moderna Inc, will start its most important step around July 27: a 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.

Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralising antibodies in their bloodstream – molecules key to blocking infection – at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

00:01 GMT – US state of Nevada reports record high cases in one day

Officials of the US state of Nevada say a record high in the daily number of positive COVID-19 tests in the state may be the result of people failing to wear masks and keep distances apart during the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday, AP news agency reported.

State coronavirus response chief Caleb Cage said Tuesday that a resurgence in hospitalisations continues less than a week after Governor Steve Sisolak cited a spike in cases and again closed bars and restaurants in the Las Vegas and Reno areas.

The more than 1,100 new cases reported statewide on Tuesday brings the total to nearly 30,000. Cage blamed the Fourth of July weekend. The US has 3.4 million cases and over 136,000 deaths.