Covid-19 wrap | AstraZeneca to know by year-end if vaccine works, Trump admits playing down virus

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  • President Donald Trump admits he tried to minimise the seriousness of the threat from Covid-19 at the outset of the pandemic.
  • AstraZeneca should still know before the end of the year whether its experimental vaccine protects people against Covid-19.
  • More quiet zones in high-risk indoor spaces could help to cut coronavirus contagion risks, researchers have said.

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 27.85 million, death toll at 902 216

More than 27.85 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 902 216 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

An average of more than 5 600 people die each day from Covid -19, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the last two weeks.

AstraZeneca should know by year-end whether vaccine works if trials restart

AstraZeneca should still know before the end of the year whether its experimental vaccine protects people against Covid-19, the drugmaker's chief executive Pascal Soriot said on Thursday, as long as it can resume trials soon.

The British company suspended late-stage trials this week after an illness in a participant in Britain. The patient was reportedly suffering from symptoms associated with a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.

Soriot said during an online event that AstraZeneca did not yet know the diagnosis, adding that it was not clear if the volunteer had transverse myelitis and more tests were needed.

He said the diagnosis would be submitted to an independent safety committee and this would usually then tell the company whether trials can be resumed.

Soriot said that the potential vaccine, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has flagged as the most promising for coronavirus, that it was usual for a trial to be suspended.

"It's very common, actually, and many experts will tell you this," Soriot said, adding: "The difference with other vaccine trials is, the whole world is not watching them, of course. They stop, they study, and they restart."


Trump admitted playing down coronavirus danger

President Donald Trump admits he tried to minimise the seriousness of the threat from Covid-19 at the outset of the pandemic in audio recordings released Wednesday from interviews with veteran US journalist Bob Woodward.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump said in an interview with Woodward on March 19, according to a CNN preview of the book "Rage," due to be published September 15.

"I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic," he said in the conversation with Woodward, which was recorded.

In another recorded interview, on 7 February, he told Woodward the virus "goes through the air" - despite repeatedly mocking people who wear masks in the weeks and months after. It took until July before he was seen publicly wearing a mask.


Battery-powered face mask seeks to fight Covid and foggy glasses

A South Korean company has invented a battery-powered filtered face mask designed to reduce annoying problems associated with conventional designs, such as breathing difficulties and fogged-up glasses.

LG Electronics' PuriCare Wearable, which comes in one size and weighs as much as a pair of ski goggles, features two fans and high-efficiency particle air filters that clean air coming in and exhaled breath going out.

As authorities increasingly urge the public use of face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, manufacturers have turned their attention to making such gear more comfortable without compromising safety.

The mask comes with a case that charges the battery and disinfects the mask with UV light.


France cannot rule out local lockdowns - advisor

Local lockdowns cannot be ruled out in French regions where Covid-19 infections are flaring up even though authorities are striving to avoid it, a government advisor said on Thursday.

"We must do everything we can to avoid local lockdown ...In these (risk) regions we could look into further restrictions of big gatherings of crowds," Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the epidemic, told RTL radio.

The situation in about 20 large cities, including Marseille, Bordeaux and the Paris region, was being watched closely, he said.

French health authorities reported 8 577 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the second-highest number of daily additional infections since the disease started to spread in the country at the end of the winter.


Speak softly and scatter fewer coronavirus particles, say researchers

More quiet zones in high-risk indoor spaces, such as hospitals and restaurants, could help to cut coronavirus contagion risks, researchers have said, after a study showed that lowering speaking volume can reduce the spread of the disease.

In efforts to rein in transmission, a reduction of 6 decibels in average speech levels can have the same effect as doubling a room's ventilation, scientists said on Wednesday, in an advance copy of a paper detailing their study.

"The results suggest that public health authorities should consider implementing 'quiet zones' in high-risk indoor environments, such as hospital waiting rooms or dining facilities," wrote the six researchers from the University of California, Davis.

Microscopic droplets ejected while speaking evaporate to leave behind aerosol particles big enough to carry viable virus, the paper showed. An increase of about 35 decibels in loudness, or the difference between whispering and shouting, boosts the particle emission rate by 50 times.


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