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Weekly news 25 October 2020

Gilead’s remdesivir receives first FDA approval as Covid-19 drug

Business Day 23 October 2020 - Antiviral remdesivir was one of the drugs used to treat US President Donald Trump

The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved Gilead Sciences's antiviral drug remdesivir for treating patients with Covid-19 in hospital, making it the first and only drug approved for the disease in the US.  

PROFILE: Guy Richards, critical-care professor at Wits University

Financial Mail 22 October 2020 - As one of the founders of the intensive-care specialty in SA, this doctor was at the forefront of treatment for Covid-19 patients

Guy Richards, professor emeritus in critical care at Wits University, as he begins a conversation at his office, beneath the sprawling Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. He played a critical role writing guidelines (or, in medical speak, "treatment protocols") for Covid-19 ICU patients within just two weeks of SA’s first documented coronavirus case.

European cities short of flu vaccine amid rising fear of lethal ‘twindemic’

Business Day 22 October 2020 - Top manufacturers such as GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi have boosted supplies to the region by an average of 30% in anticipation of higher demand

A surge in demand for vaccines to ward off the northern hemisphere  winter flu has led to shortages in some European cities, raising the risk of a potentially lethal “twindemic” as Covid-19 cases spike. Many governments boosted vaccine orders this year and launched campaigns to encourage citizens to get shots. 

Survey highlights SA’s growing coronavirus fatigue

Business Day 22 October 2020 - The second round of an HSRC and UJ survey found people more concerned about the economic effects of the lockdowns than the virus itself

Almost half the respondents (46%) believed they are unlikely to get the disease in the months ahead; 41% thought the threat of the coronavirus is exaggerated; and 23% had been to a funeral or religious service with more than 50 people before the government eased restrictions on social gatherings. In the first round of the survey, only a third believed the threat of Covid-19 has been over stated. 

Halted US trials of two coronavirus vaccines to restart

Business Day 22 October 2020 - AstraZeneca and J&J expect trials to resume within days as part of the US Operation Warp Speed programme

The two companies developing Covid-19 vaccines backed by Operation Warp Speed temporarily halted their trials because participants fell ill, slowing down the race for a shot to halt the pandemic. J&J paused its trial last week when a participant got sick. 

Second wave inevitable if SA doesn’t change behaviour – Abdool Karim

Medical Brief 21 October 2020 - December holiday travel should be limited to avoid a surge in pandemic infections, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of the COVID-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee , said in a radio interview.

With summer season right on the doorstep, many people in South Africa are consolidating travel plans. But the country’s leading epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, has cautioned that interprovincial holidaying may increase the risk of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Sipokazi Fokazi for TimesLive. 

Dispute over Mkhize’s warning of rising Covid-19 cases in Western Cape

Business Day 21 October 2020 - Province records 42% increase in infections, and attributes spike to cluster outbreaks

Health minister Zweli Mkhize sounded the alarm on Wednesday about a spike in coronavirus cases in some provinces, drawing particular attention to a “resurgence” in the Western Cape. SA has recorded more than 706,000 cases of Covid-19, and slightly more than 18,650 deaths since the first case was confirmed in early March. 

Health department says EFF proposal for 24/7 clinics is unaffordable

Business Day 21 October 2020 - The department says it would be desirable to have round the clock care at clinics, but the bill has ‘massive financial implications’

“The bill in its current form will have massive financial implications,” the department’s chief director for district health services, Ramphelane Morewane, told parliament’s portfolio committee on health. “The country is currently under financial stress and would struggle to adjust the current budget against the health requirements as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. 

SA hospitals warn of high cost of health neglect

Medical brief 21 October 2020 - Health checks and treatment should be addressed even during COVID-19, stressed the Hospital Association of SA in a media release this week.

“Patients are presenting late with very serious conditions, including heart attacks and strokes,” Goosen says. In some cases, patients didn’t follow up with specialists after being identified as being at risk; in others, she says, they “left it late” after experiencing symptoms. 

UK volunteers to be infected with Covid-19 in first ‘human challenge’ vaccine trial

Business Day 20 October 2020 - The aim is to discover the smallest amount of virus it takes to cause Covid-19 but there is some ethical controversy around such a trial

Britain will help fund trials using a manufactured Covid-19 virus to deliberately infect young, healthy volunteers with the hope of accelerating the development of vaccines against it.  

Pandemic creates scores of jobs in US health-care sector

Business Day 19 October 2020 - CVS Health will hire about 15,000 workers to help with flu season and coronavirus testing

“We’re estimating a much greater need for trained pharmacy technicians this year given the continued presence of Covid-19 in our communities,” CVS’s chief human resources officer Lisa Bisaccia said. On Friday, CVS and Walgreens Boots Alliance were approved by the department of health and Human Services to give Covid-19 shots to residents and workers at US nursing homes.