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Coronavirus: EU approves COVID-19 drug remdesivir

July 3, 2020

The European Commission has authorized the use of remdesivir to treat severe cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, the US has recorded a record jump in cases for the second day in a row. Follow DW for the latest.

A health care provider in a protective mask and glasse
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Karita
  • The European Commission has cleared the way for remdesivir to be used for treating coronavirus in the EU
  • France's ex-PM Philippe, two health ministers accused of "failing to fight a disaster"
  • A study suggests that the current dominant strain of COVID-19 is more infectious than the original
  • At over 53,000, daily infections reach a new high for the second day in a row in the US
  • Over 10.9 million cases and over 520,000 deaths have been confirmed worldwide

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT) 

23:50 Mass graves are being dug at cemeteries across Bolivia as the number of cases increases across the country. Bolivia has registered 35,528 infections and 1,271 deaths.

The central Bolivian city of Cochabamba has been especially hard hit. Back-hoes and trucks there are opening up large pits
to bury the most recent casualties.

"Not one has been buried," said Raquel Loaiza, a representative of Cochabamba's funeral homes, referring to patients who have died of COVID-19. 

Loaiza said there were 135 bodies awaiting burial.

Local residents, however, have voiced concerns over new infections being triggered in areas surrounding mass graves at cemeteries.

21:42 World's No. 3 tennis player Dominic Thiem will donate the prize money from the Adria Tour organized by the world's top-ranking player Novak Djokovic, Thiem's father said. Djokovic has faced a slew of criticism after his exhibition tournament was stopped midway after some of the participants tested positive for the coronavirus. Many journalists and tennis fans were particularly outraged by images of audience crowding the stands in Serbia and Croatia, and of players partying and playing football and basketball with no regard for social distancing.

While Djokovic himself tested positive for the virus after halting the competition, Thiem has repeatedly tested negative. Speaking to Austria's Die Presse newspaper, Them's father, Wolfgang, defended Djokovic and said it was "too cheap" to vilify the Serb tennis star.

"Of course the dancing in the club was not ideal, but Djokovic hasn't done anything wrong in principle," Wolfgang Thiem said. "It was just too sloppy, too euphoric."

Earlier this week, Serbian media reported that Djokovic donated over €42,500 ($47,800) to Novi Pazar, a city in Serbia that hit especially hard by the pandemic.

21:00 A special court in France announced an investigation into Edouard Philippe just hours after the politician resigned as the country's prime minister. Two of his health ministers, Olivier Veran and Agnes Buzyn, face accusations of "failing to fight a disaster" in their response to the coronavirus pandemic. If the case makes it to trial and they are found guilty, the former top-level officials could face up to two years in prison.

The Law Court of the Republic (CJR) has received scores of complaints from COVID-19 patients, medical workers, prison staff, police and others over the government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak. The judges said they have dismissed 44 of 90 complaints and were yet to decide on 37 others, but nine of the bids were deemed worth investigating.

While French President Emmanuel Macron and others admitted mistakes in their response, neither he nor Philippe mentioned legal issues when the prime minister resigned on Friday.

19:45 Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he has tested positive for COVID-19, just days after holding high-profile meetings. One of the meetings he held was with the US special representative on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Islamabad.

A number of high officials have tested positive for COVID-19 in Pakistan, including Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed and the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Asad Qaiser.

"This afternoon I felt a slight fever and immediately quarantined myself at home," Qureshi said on Twitter. He said he would carry on his official duties from home.

In the last few days, Qureshi has had contact with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in parliament and in a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Pictures released from those meetings showed Qureshi and others wearing face masks.

Pakistan has reported 221,896 cases of the coronavirus and 4,451 deaths. The country has continued to see around 4,000 new cases on a daily basis, despite daily testing numbers falling.

16:37 The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it expects initial results within two weeks from clinical trials of drugs that would treat COVID-19. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement during a briefing on coronavirus. 

Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO's emergencies program, said it would be unwise to predict when a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for mass distribution. While a vaccine candidate might show its effectiveness by year's end, the question was how soon it could be mass-produced, Ryan said in the briefing. 

15:45 Thailand's main international airport in Bangkok will begin carrying out rapid coronavirus tests for several of its overseas arrivals, following the partial lifting of a three-month ban on foreign visitors this month. 

Foreigners had been barred from Thailand since March, with an exception for those who hold work permits. But now, the country is attempting to slowly reopen itself to tourism. 

Business travelers, diplomats and government guests staying for less than 14 days are considered "fast track travelers" who will be tested for the disease at Suvarnabhumi Airport to ensure they are infection-free before entry. 

"The test itself takes around one hour and a half," said Suwich Thammapalo, an official with Thailand's disease control department, adding that its use could be expanded in the future for other travelers and tourists. The airport test will cost 3,000 baht ($96; €86) per person.

14:43 The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) has said car sales will sink this year by 25% in Europe, compared to 2019. The change has been attributed to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the industry. 

The European passenger car market registered a 43% drop in January-June, compared with 23% in the US and 27% in China, according to VDA figures. 

"The international markets have collapsed to an extent for which we have no comparison," VDA president Hildegard Müller said. 

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in sweeping production closures earlier in the year. The crisis has also disrupted key supply chains in the automotive sector. 

The VDA expects that only 2.8 million new cars will be registered in Germany, representing a 23% drop on the previous year. In the first six months of 2020 alone, new car registrations plunged by 35%. 

For workers in the industry, the VDA was somewhat optimistic. The group said that around half of those still in work are on government-backed shorter hours schemes. 

14:10 German scientists have initiated a nationwide coronavirus antibody study, to gain a better understanding of the prevalence of the virus in the country's population. The study will also test how well measures to prevent its spread are working. 

The Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) will carry out the study, by testing around 3,000 blood samples from residents in the southern German town of Reutlingen. They will look for the antibodies created when immune system fights the coronavirus. 

The study will take place over a period of one year, with additional blood samples being collected and tested again in selected districts across Germany four and eight months after each first test. 

The first results from the Reutlingen study are expected to be released in the Fall of this year. 

13:44 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made her first public appearance in a mask following accusations of hypocrisy.

Merkel wore a black mask with the logo of Germany's EU presidency when she walked into the upper house of parliament in Berlin on Friday.

This week the chancellor was quizzed by a journalist about why she hadn't yet been seen wearing a mask in public, when doing so is part of the government's official advice for curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

"If I respect the distancing rules then I don't need to wear a mask,'' Merkel responded. "And if I'm not able to stick to them, for example when I'm out shopping, then we apparently don't see each other, otherwise you'd have already seen me with a mask ... but I'm not going
to give away where and when I go shopping.''

Angela Merkel waring a black face mask
Merkel was wearing a mask when she walked into the Bundesrat on FridayImage: Reuters/F. Bensch

11:29 The number of new coronavirus cases in Israel has crossed the 1,000 mark for the first time since the pandemic began. According to the Health Ministry, a record 1,107 new infections were registered over the past 24 hours — the state's highest total for the second day in a row.

The increase prompted the Israeli government to reimpose limits on gatherings of over 50 people in venues, while some areas in the cities of Lod and Ashdod were declared restricted zones. A five-day lockdown was set to begin in the West Bank on Friday. 

11:13 The Serbian government has declared a state of emergency in the capital Belgrade after a surge in new infections.

The Balkan state began easing its strict lockdown in May, but the emergency measure means some of those restrictions will return.

Belgrade authorities said those not wearing masks in indoor public spaces face fines, public gatherings will be limited to 100 people, and cafes, restaurants and clubs must close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The new rules come a day after the country reported 359 new cases, most of them in Belgrade. 

Recent parliamentary elections, religious festivities and soccer matches with thousands of spectators are thought to have contributed to the rise in infections. 

10:43 The European Commission says it has approved the use of the drug remdesivir to treat severe cases of COVID-19 in the EU.

"We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to secure efficient treatments or vaccine against the coronavirus," EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a press release.

Remdesivir has been shown to speed up the recovery of coronavirus patients, and is so far the only anti-COVID-19 medication to be given the green light in the EU. The authorization from the EU's executive arm came after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) last week recommended the drug be approved for treating patients who are suffering pneumonia and require supplemental oxygen. Remdesivir is manufactured by US drugmaker Gilead Sciences.

Read moreWealthy nations compete for remdesivir supplies

What is remdesivir?

09:45 European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has told German press agency DPA that its planned job cuts will hit workers in northern Germany particularly hard.

More than 5,000 jobs are to be shed in Germany as part of the company's plan to shrink the company's international workforce. Three-thousand of those positions are in the country's north, including 2,325 in Hamburg and 445 in Bremen. 

Earlier this week, Airbus said it must cut 15,000 jobs worldwide in order to survive the coronavirus crisis. The overhaul is expected to be completed by mid-2021.

09:27 Air France is meeting with unions to discuss thousands of job cuts in response to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

CGT union representative Joel Rondel said Air France subsidiary HOP! was expected to shed some 1,022 jobs, while French media has reported the airline is planning to cull around 7,500 positions.

Union members protested outside Air France's headquarters at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris as the talks got underway on Friday. They argue protecting jobs should have been made a key condition of the €7-billion ($8-billion) bailout deal struck with the French government in May. The pandemic has led to huge losses in the airline industry, with travel halted and flights grounded worldwide. 

09:09 Sex workers are holding a protest outside the Bundesrat in Berlin, demanding brothels be allowed to reopen. The industry was effectively shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, with prostitutes banned from working since mid-March.

The protesters say they have developed hygiene regulations with health authorities, and that it makes no sense their industry remains shut down when massage parlors, tattoo shops and saunas are open for business.

They called for more financial support, and also pointed to countries like neighboring Austria and the Netherlands, which are allowing sex work again.  

Sex workers demand the right to be able to work again amid easing coronavirus restrictions
Sex workers demand the right to be able to work againImage: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Soeder

06:35 The UK government said Friday it is scrapping a 14-day quarantine rule for arrivals to England from countries it deems "lower risk," including France, Spain, Germany and Italy. A full list of countries exempt from the rule would be published later on Friday, Downing Street said.

The change takes effect on July 10. It will only apply to arrivals to England. The Scottish and Welsh governments as well as the Northern Irish executive have not yet relaxed restrictions.

04:55 Here's the latest coronavirus news from Asia:

India is reporting another single-day record increase in new coronavirus infections, with 20,903 cases added to the tally in the last 24 hours. The country now has a total of 625,544 cases and 18,213 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

The steady rise in numbers puts India on track to overtake Russia to become the third most-affected country behind the US and Brazil. India is gradually easing restrictions, although high-risk areas remain under lockdown. As of next week, all monuments, including the Taj Mahal, will be allowed to reopen to tourists.

Meanwhile, Indian regulators have given the green light to drugmaker Zydus to move ahead with human trials for its potential coronavirus vaccine. The company said its experimental vaccine showed a "strong immune response" in animal studies and that the antibodies produced in tests so far were able to completely neutralize the virus.

More than a dozen vaccine candidates are currently being tested on humans around the world. Zydus is the second firm to get approval to start clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine in India.

Read moreIndia's HIV and TB patients suffer consequences of coronavirus pandemic

India unveils new COVID strategy

In South Korea, for the first time in weeks, more new coronavirus cases are being recorded in cities other than the capital, Seoul. The country reported 63 new infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 12,967. Less than half of them were in the Seoul area. The rest came from other centers such as Gwangju in the country's southwest, and Daegu, which emerged as a major virus hot spot in February and March.

The spike of cases in Gwangju, where there are concerns about hospital capacities, prompted the tightening of social distancing restrictions and closure of public facilities such as libraries and museums. 

In North Korea, leader Kim Jong Un is warning officials not to get complacent about the coronavirus, saying it could lead to "unimaginable and irretrievable crisis," state media reports. The isolated state maintains that it has not had a single case of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, a claim that has been widely questioned by observers.

According to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Kim told a ruling party meeting that North Korea had "thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus," but he also criticized violations of anti-virus rules and stressed the need to "maintain maximum alert." The country's strict lockdown, imposed earlier this year, has taken a toll on its already struggling economy.  

China has reported five new cases of the coronavirus, including three brought from outside the country, the National Health Commission reports. More than 100 people who are suspected cases, or who tested positive without showing symptoms, have been quarantined. More than 83,500 people have been infected and 4,634 have died in China since the virus was first identified in Wuhan last year, but strict lockdown measures and social distancing rules have helped to dramatically curb the spread. No new deaths were reported Friday.

04:17 Mexico has registered 6,741 new coronavirus infections, a daily all-time high for the country. The new cases lodged on Thursday brought total infections there to 238,511, the health ministry said. The increase means Mexico has now passed Iran, moving into 10th place among countries with the most cases. 

Mexico also experienced 679 new fatalities linked to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 29,189.

03:30 Coronavirus cases in Germany went up by 446 in the last 24 hours, according to the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, bringing the number of overall infections to 195,674.

Fatalities increased by 9 for a total death toll of 9,003.

Germany takes helm of EU

01:20 The United States recorded more than 53,000 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, a tally by Johns Hopkins University showed. The number marked a new one-day record as infections increase across the country, the hardest-hit in the world.

There were 53,069 more cases, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic reached the US to 2,735,339.

A further 649 people died of the disease, bringing the US total death toll to 128,677.

Thursday was the second consecutive day of a record-high case count in the United States.

00:05 The genetic variation of COVID-19 currently dominant around the globe is infecting human cells more readily than the original variation that emerged in China, according to a new study.

Results of lab-based research published in the journal Cell have suggested that the current mutation is more transmissible between people than the previous iteration of the virus, though it remains to be proven.

"I think the data is showing that there is a single mutation that actually makes the virus be able to replicate better, and maybe have high viral loads," said US top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci in response to the study, in which he was not involved, speaking with Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Read more: How lab animals have fared in the coronavirus crisis

Researchers from a team of universities found that the current variant of the virus, D614G, makes a small but significant change in the protein that protrudes from the surface of the virus, which it uses to invade and infect human cells.

Initial results shared in April were criticized for not proving the mutation itself was responsible for its domination. Other factors or chance could have played a role, critics said. 

The team then carried out additional experiments, analyzing data of 999 British patients hospitalized with COVID-19. They observed that those with the variant had more viral particles in them, but it had no effect on the severity of their disease.

Laboratory experiments have meanwhile shown that the variant is three to six times more capable of infecting human cells.

00:00 Catch up on yesterday's coronavirus news here.

In reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, unless otherwise specified, DW uses figures provided by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Coronavirus Resource Center in the United States. JHU updates figures in real-time, collating data from world health organizations, state and national governments, and other public official sources, all of whom have their own systems for compiling information.

Germany's national statistics are compiled by its public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). These figures depend on data transmission from state and local levels and are updated around once a day, which can lead to deviation from JHU.

nm,kp/ng (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)