Steroid ‘breakthrough’ raises COVID-19 hopes, despite China outbreak

GENEVA: The World Health Organization on Tuesday (Jun 16) hailed a "breakthrough" steroid treatment for the coronavirus, boosting hopes that pandemic deaths can be reduced, but a growing new cluster in China sparked fears of a second wave of infections.

Surging death tolls in the Americas and South Asia, plus a new cluster of cases in Beijing, have raised fresh doubts about how soon the world can bring COVID-19 under control.

Advertisement

Advertisement

In the latest sign of the economic toll, US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned that the world's biggest economy is unlikely to recover as long as there is "significant uncertainty" about the pandemic.

But news of the first proven effective treatment for COVID-19, a widely available steroid, gave cause for fresh hope.

"This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough," said the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Researchers led by a team from the University of Oxford administered the drug, dexamethasone, to more than 2,000 severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Among those who could only breathe with the help of a ventilator, it reduced deaths by 35 per cent.

"Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide," said Peter Horby, professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford.

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said patients would start to receive the drug immediately.

CHINA CLUSTER, INDIA SPIKE

But there were fresh reminders of the lingering threat from Asia.

China, which had largely brought its outbreak under control, reported another 31 new infections in Beijing, bringing the total from a fresh cluster linked to a wholesale food market to 137 in six days.

READ: Beijing cuts flights to curb potential spread of mounting COVID-19 cases

The capital's airports cancelled at least 1,255 flights Wednesday, nearly 70 per cent of all services, state media reported.

The new outbreak has led authorities to implement mass testing, put neighbourhoods on lockdown, close schools and urge residents to not to leave the city.

And in India, the world's second-most populous country, saw its COVID-19 death toll shoot up by more than 2,000 to nearly 12,000 fatalities.

More than 8.1 million people have now been infected by the virus since it emerged in China late last year, with nearly 440,000 deaths so far.

Brazil, which has the second-highest caseload and death toll in the world, reported its biggest daily jump in new cases since the start of the pandemic: 34,918.

READ: Brazil now has world's second-worst COVID-19 outbreak, death toll nears 44,000

Peru's death toll, meanwhile, surged past 7,000.

And the United States, the hardest-hit country, passed a grim milestone: with 116,854 deaths, the country has now seen more people die from the pandemic than in World War I.

Fed chief Powell once again pledged the bank will use all its policy tools to help ensure recovery from the outbreak, which he said has inflicted the worRead More – Source