News about the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, is not all gloomy as some modest progress is gradually being made across the globe in the effort to curb the pandemic.
Officials of the World Health Organisation (WHO) say they are working with scientists across the globe on at least 20 different coronavirus vaccines, with some already in clinical trials. This is in a record time of just 60 days after sequencing the gene.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for WHO’s emergencies programme, said on Friday at a press conference at the organisation’s headquarters in Geneva that “the acceleration of this process is really, truly, dramatic in terms of what we’re able to do, building on work that started with SARS, that started with MERS and now is being used for COVID-19.”
Officials, however, say the vaccines are still a long way away from being available for public use.
Already, China has given the green light for researchers to begin human safety tests of an experimental coronavirus vaccine. This is meant to develop a shot against the COVID-19 disease, which has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
Scientists in the United States also say clinical trials have begun for a vaccine developed by the country’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the U S biotech firm Moderna. The vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, was first tried on 43-year-old Jennifer Haller, an operations manager at a small tech company.
Apple opens shops in China
Meanwhile, Apple has reopened all 42 of its branded retail stores in China as of Saturday, March 21. The stores had all shuttered in early February as China restricted travel, in an attempt to slow the coronavirus outbreak.
Apple said that store closures in China, one of the company’s biggest markets, were a primary reason why it was forced to revise its quarterly guidance downward last month.
Two 103-year-olds recover
Meanwhile, two 103-year-old women have recovered from the disease in Iran and China. A 103-year-old woman, Zhang Guangfen, from the most affected Chinese province of Wuhan, is reported to have recovered from the Coronavirus disease after she had treatment for only six days in a hospital located in Wuhan.
Another 103-year-old woman in Iran has also recovered from the disease. Iran State media reported on Saturday that, despite overwhelming evidence that the elderly are most at risk from the disease, the unnamed woman, who was hospitalised in the central city of Semnan for about a week, has recovered.
She was “discharged after making a complete recovery,” Semnan University of Medical Sciences head, Navid Danayi, was quoted as saying.
China closes coronavirus hospitals
In what appears to be a dramatic sign that the coronavirus crisis is improving in China, the last two of 16 temporary hospitals in the epicentre city of Wuhan have been shut down.
The final group of 49 patients walked out of the Wuchang temporary hospital in the capital of Hubei province to cheers, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
The 784-bed facility, which was converted from Wuchang Hongshan Stadium, opened on February 5, and received a total of 1,124 patients, according to the news outlet, which said 833 were discharged and 29 transferred to other hospitals.