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Coronavirus digest: Merck seeks approval for COVID pill

US pharmaceutical company Merck is looking to get its COVID-19 pill cleared for emergency use. Meanwhile, people in Germany will have to start paying for rapid coronavirus tests that used to be free. DW has the latest.

Photo of Merck's molnupiravir oral anti-COVID-19 drug

Merck's molnupiravir is on track to become the first oral anti-COVID drug

American pharmaceutical company Merck wants to get its COVID-19 pill approved for emergency authorization. The company has submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for its oral drug molnupiravir.

The pill has been found to reduce hospitalizations by 50%, according to phase three clinical trials.

"The extraordinary impact of this pandemic demands that we move with unprecedented urgency," the company's chief executive, Robert Davis, said in the statement.

No deaths were reported in patients who received the pill, while eight deaths had been recorded in patients who received a placebo.

Watch video 03:38

German DAX company Merck now has female leader

German biotechnology company CureVac NV will give up on its first-generation COVID-19 vaccine, after late-stage trials delivered disappointing results.  

CureVac will focus instead on collaborating with GSK to develop improved mRNA vaccine technology. The move also allows the company to focus on the race for new variant-specific vaccines, and for combination shots that prevent two or more infectious diseases. 

"In the ongoing transition from acute pandemic to endemic, our decision ... reflects expected changes in public health needs that our second generation can potentially address,” said Chief Executive Franz-Werner Haas. 

Here are the latest major coronavirus developments from around the world:

Europe

In Germany, people will now have to start paying for rapid COVID-19 tests. Exceptions for this rule include people who cannot be vaccinated, including children under the age of 12.

The tests had been offered free of charge across the country since March. 

Those who need to be tested in order to end a period of quarantine will also be tested free of charge.

People are required to show a negative test, a vaccination certificate, or proof of recovery from the coronavirus in order enter restaurants, for example, or attend events staged indoors. 

Watch video 01:51

New campaign aims to improve vaccination rate in Germany

Latvia has declared a three-month state of emergency following a record spike in COVID-19 infections.

There are now well over 1,000 new daily cases, surpassing the infection rate seen earlier this year.

According to the new regulations, masks must be worn in all public buildings, and all government workers must be vaccinated by November 15. Latvians are also being asked to work from home.

In Italy, authorities are investigating the outbreak of riots during protests against COVID-19 restrictions in Rome last weekend. Forty people were injured in the violence, which was staged by right-wing groups.

Protesters are angry over new rules that will make it compulsory to show so-called "green passports" in places of work. The document will be proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative test.

Watch video 02:00

Italy mandates COVID-19 'Green Pass' for all workers

An industry study into the United Kingdom's nightlife sector found around 86,000 jobs had been shed since 2019. The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has blamed the coronavirus closures for the losses. Nightclubs and casinos were among the last to reopen after restrictions began to relax.

On Monday, the World Health Organization's (WHO) top vaccine advisers recommended that people with weakened immune systems should be given an additional dose of all WHO-approved COVID vaccines.

The global health body also said that fully inoculated people in the over-60 age category who had been given Sinovac and Sinopharm shots should be offered a booster. The advisory group made the point that this was not a recommendation for the general population.

Africa

Authorities in Egypt have arrested three people alleged to have dumped thousands of unused COVID-19 vaccines.

The shots were found in a drain in Minya, 200 kilometers (124 miles)  south of Cairo.

According to health officials, 18,400 vaccine doses were unaccounted for. More than 13,400 doses were found dumped and were unfit for use. Just under 5,000 had been lost.

The three people detained were employees of the Health Ministry.

In South Africa, a maximum of 2,000 fans will be allowed to watch the World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia on Tuesday due to an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Sporting events were canceled in March, 2020. Matches were allowed to resume five months later, but only in empty stadiums.

South Africa has been the hardest-hit on the continent, and various restrictions have damaged the local economy.

Watch video 02:57

Musical tribute to South Africa's health workers

Asia

Thailand is planning to fully reopen to tourists who have been vaccinated and have traveled from low-risk countries from November 1. The country relies heavily on its tourism industry, which accounts for almost 20% of income.

COVID-19 travel restrictions have hurt the economy, leading to its worst slump in more than 20 years.

Watch video 01:59

Anger grows in Thailand's crippled tourism sector

Sri Lanka will begin inoculating schoolchildren against COVID-19 from next week. The country's Health Ministry said the process would begin on October 21 with students aged 18 and 19 years.

According to officials, everyone over 20 has received the first dose, while 82% have received a second dose.

North America

World Bank President David Malpass has called for a “comprehensive plan” to address debt in low-income countries.

The global pandemic has left economies reeling as debt loads rose 12 percent to $860-billion in 2020.

Malpass said: "Sustainable debt levels are vital for economic recovery and poverty reduction."

Malpass told members of the media that suspension of debt could be an avenue.

"I think there should be consideration by the world of what to do after January 1. And a suspension is something that could be considered," he said.

kb/nm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)