COVID-19 treatment evaluation speeds up as countries in Europe relax lockdown rules

World Tuesday 21/April/2020 15:56 PM
By: Times News Service
COVID-19 treatment evaluation speeds up as countries in Europe relax lockdown rules

GENEVA/BERLIN: As countries in Europe started to relax their confinement measures with caution, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that more than 100 countries have joined the efforts to evaluate the treatment trials for COVID-19.

"This week, we expect that more than 600 hospitals will be ready to start enrolling patients," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Welcoming the accelerated development and validation of tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies, Tedros said this will help the world to understand the extent of infection in the population.

Lifting measures

Germany's coronavirus cases surpassed 140,000 on Monday, with a remarkably low fatality rate of 3.1 pct among confirmed COVID-19 infections, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention.

Starting from Monday, shops in Germany with a maximum sales area of up to 800 square meters are allowed to open under new regulations for hygiene as well as access and queue control.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a "gradual" and "cautious" exit strategy from COVID-19 measures, saying "Despite everything, we are still at the very beginning of the pandemic and are far from out of the woods."

Bavaria, the German state with the most confirmed cases, has become the third state in Germany with some form of face mask obligation. In Saxony, a mouth and nose protector or scarf must already be worn when shopping and using public transport, while in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, masks will become mandatory in public transport on April 27.

In Serbia, service shops, green markets and construction sites will start working in full capacity from Tuesday, with obligatory protective measures against COVID-19, the government said in a press release.

Citizens older than 65 who have been spending their time in strict isolation for more than a month will be allowed to go out for a half an hour walk three times per week, between 6:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m., in a circle of 600 meters around their place of residence.

Research on infections

As Italy reported on Monday for the first time a fall in its total active COVID-19 infections and Spain saw its lowest single-day fatalities in the past four weeks, a research institute in Portugal has created a Biobank to study COVID-19.

The Joao Lobo Antunes Institute of Molecular Medicine is storing biological samples from COVID-19 patients in the country to create a database that will enable experts to understand why people react differently to the novel coronavirus.

"We started a collection because we feel that there is a great interest in characterizing the immune response of different patients to infection by COVID-19," Sergio Dias, co-director of the Biobank, told Xinhua.

"What we intend to do is create a repository of samples from COVID-19 patients, accompanied by respective clinical information, which can later be used in studies of immunological characterization of the response to COVID-19," he explained.

For now, the Biobank only collects blood samples to obtain plasma, serum and circulating cells from four groups -- those hospitalized and recovered; admitted to intensive care in a complex clinical situation; cured of the disease with almost no symptoms; and doctors who had contact with patients who had tested positive for the virus.

"We know so little about this virus and how it interacts with its human host. Therefore access to clinical samples is scientifically and clinically extraordinarily relevant," Dias said.

Biobank's samples will be made available to the entire international scientific community, he said, adding "We can share our know-how."