A World Health Organization (WHO) recommending two new drugs to treat COVID-19, Polish researchers identifying a gene that can double the risk of becoming severely ill with COVID, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calling Omicron a dangerous virus, and the AstraZeneca Vaxzevaria COVID vaccine manifesting an increased antibody response to the Omicron strain after a third booster dose are some of the crucial developments regarding the COVID-19 virus from across the world.
Moreover, a UN report claimed that the fatal wave of the COVID-19 Delta variant led to the deaths of 2,40,000 people in India between April and June in 2021 and interrupted economic recovery. It also warned that "similar episodes" may take place in the near future.
Additionally, WHO experts, in their recommendation in the British medical journal the BMJ, said arthritis drug baricitinib, used along with corticosteroids, to treat critical COVID patients resulted in better survival rates and decreased need for ventilators. Meanwhile, US pharma giant Pfizer has sought the Japanese government's approval for its oral COVID treatment.
Here is what is happening regarding the COVID-19 situation across the world: -
1. A WHO panel has recommended the use of two new COVID drugs by Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology for coronavirus patients, adding more treatment choices as the fast-spreading Omicron strain renders many ineffective. The UN health agency panel, on Thursday, endorsed Lilly's baricitinib, retailed under the brand name Olumiant, for patients with severe COVID along with corticosteroids. The panel also conditionally endorsed GSK-Vir's antibody therapy for non-serious patients at the highest risk of hospitalisation.
2. A UN report claimed that the fatal wave of the COVID-19 Delta variant led to the deaths of 2,40,000 people in India between April and June in 2021 and interrupted economic recovery. The report also warned that "similar episodes" may take place in the near future. "In India, a deadly wave of infection with the Delta variant stole 240,000 lives between April and June and disrupted economic recovery. Similar episodes could take place in the near term," it noted.
3. Polish researchers have identified a gene that they state more than doubles the risk of becoming severely ill with COVID, a finding they hope help doctors detect people who are most at risk from the infection. The scientists from the Medical University of Bialystok discovered that the gene was the fourth most significant factor deciding how severely a person suffers from COVID, after age, weight and gender.
4. US President Joe Biden announced that his government will double to 1 billion the rapid, at-home COVID tests to be handed out free to Americans, along with N95 masks, as he emphasised his efforts to increase resources to help the country weather the surge in coronavirus cases. Biden also announced that beginning next week, 1,000 military medical workforce will start deploying across the country to help swamped medical facilities alleviate staff shortages owing to the highly transmissible Omicron strain.
5. The UK government announced that the minimum duration of self-isolation for people who test COVID positive will be lowered from the present seven days to five, and will be effective from Monday, January 17. According to the new rule, fully inoculated individuals will be able to leave isolation on day six post negative lateral flow tests on that day and a day before, i.e., days five and six.
6. Pfizer, on Friday, said that it has applied for the Japanese government's nod for its oral COVID treatment. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in December 2021, that he spoke with the US-based pharma company's CEO Albert Bourla to obtain two million doses of Pfizer's antiviral pill.
7. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted on Thursday, "…while Omicron causes less severe COVID-19 disease than Delta, it remains a dangerous virus, particularly for those who are unvaccinated. Almost 50,000 deaths a week is too many. Learning to live with this virus does not mean we should accept this number of deaths."
8. Pakistan registered over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a startling 46 per cent surge, and the highest single-day jump seen over the last four months, according to official data. As many as 3,019 cases were reported, as against 2,07424 hours earlier. As a result, the positivity rate also surged to 6.12 per cent from 4.7 per cent reported a day earlier.
9. The AstraZeneca Vaxzevaria COVID vaccine manifested an increased antibody response to the Omicron strain after a third booster dose, according to preliminary data published by the Anglo-Swedish biopharma major on Thursday. The company stated that it is submitting this additional data to health authorities across the world in wake of the pressing need for a third booster dose.
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