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Coronavirus: UK hospital trials new treatment drug

BBC:A new drug developed by UK scientists to treat Covid-19 patients is being trialled at University..

BBC:A new drug developed by UK scientists to treat Covid-19 patients is being trialled at University Hospital Southampton.

Developed by UK bio-tech company Synairgen, it uses a protein called interferon beta, which our bodies produce when we get a viral infection.

Initial results from the trial are expected by the end of June.

There are currently few effective treatments for coronavirus with doctors relying on patients’ immune systems.

What is the new drug?

Interferon beta is part of the body’s first line of defence against viruses, warning it to expect a viral attack, explains Richard Marsden, chief executive of Southampton-based Synairgen.

He says the coronavirus seems to suppress its production as part of its strategy to evade our immune systems.

The drug is a special formulation of interferon beta delivered directly to the airways when the virus is there, with the hope that a direct dose of the protein will trigger a stronger anti-viral response even in patients whose immune systems are already weak.

Interferon beta is commonly used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Synairgen has already shown its preparation can stimulate the immune response in the lungs of patients with asthma and other chronic lung conditions.

But we can only know whether it works for Covid-19 patients after it has been through a rigorous clinical trial.

The patient

Kaye Flitney is one of 75 people who have been enrolled in the clinical trial, filmed exclusively by BBC Panorama. It requires Covid-19 patients, like her, to inhale the drug via a nebuliser to bring it deep into the lungs.

Kaye, 67, struggles to sit up in her hospital bed and coughs as she puts the dispenser to her lips. She says when she first found out she had coronavirus her first thought was not for her own health.

“I was frightened because my husband has heart failure. It would kill him.”

The 67-year-old, who was taken to hospital due to difficulty with her breathing, said taking the drug hasn’t caused her much discomfort.

“You don’t notice you’re taking it ’til you’re finished. It’s not so bad. I could see myself taking it at home.”

How does the trial work?

The 75 volunteers involved so far have been recruited from some 10 hospitals around Britain. Half get the drug, half get what is known as a placebo – an inactive substance.

No-one involved in the trial knows which patients have been given which treatment until the trial is over.

“If you know it’s a drug, your mind might have a bias,” explains Sandy Aitken, the nurse administering the drug.

The hope is, it will show the patients getting the drug do much better than those that don’t, says Professor Tom Wilkinson, of the University of Southampton.

Image captionThe BBCs Justin Rowlatt with nurse Sandy Aitken at a patients bedside

Synairgen’s drug trial is the template for a new fast-track clinical scheme that has just been set up by the government.

The Accord programme, as it is known, is designed to accelerate the development of new drugs for patients with Covid-19.

The first phase of the programme involves six other drugs.

More than 100 treatments are being explored worldwide and a drug called remdesivir, which was developed as an Ebola treatment, has generated particular excitement.

US officials have claimed there is “clear-cut” evidence it helps people recover from the coronavirus.

How far away could the UK treatment be?

Initial results from the interferon beta trial are expected by the end of June. But even if the drug does show promise, it will face further scrutiny before it can be used routinely on patients.

That could take months, although the government has said it will work as fast as possible.

If deemed effective, the drug and the nebulisers used to deliver it would then need to be manufactured in huge quantities.

Mr Marsden says he is already talking to suppliers around the world about whether it will be possible to start producing the drug as soon as the clinical trial is over.

However, he says it would still not be widely available until the end the year.

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GCO responds to Amnesty report on non-payment of salaries by stadium contractor

Office on Wednesday issued a statement in response to an Amnesty report accusing a company operating..

Office on Wednesday issued a statement in response to an Amnesty report accusing a company operating at the Al Bayt Stadium of not paying salaries to workers.
Here is the full statement:
In September 2019, the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (ADLSA) was made aware, by the Supreme Committee of Delivery & Legacy, of delayed salary payments by Qatar Meta Coats W.L.L.
The company was financially sanctioned, and operations were suspended until all outstanding salaries were paid. Financial insecurity between November 2019 and April 2020 meant that Qatar Meta Coats workforce received irregular salary payments during this period.
In May 2020, the issue was partially resolved and all salary payments from February to May were paid in full by the company. There are a small number of outstanding salary payments preceding February, which will be resolved in the coming days. Qatar Meta Coats was recently sold and ADLSA is overseeing the activities of the new ownership to rectify the neglect of the previous owner, including renewing expired residence permits and health cards.
Working with our international partners, the government has bolstered legislative and operational frameworks to improve and further protect the rights of migrant workers, while clearly setting out the legal obligations of all companies operating in Qatar. We have made it clear to all employers that, in line with legislation, incidents of non-compliance will result in strict sanctions, including heavy fines, shutting down worksites, blacklisting, and prosecuting individuals responsible for neglecting the welfare of their workforce.
Furthermore, as part of our efforts to tackle exploitative labour practices by companies, draft legislation was passed last week to increase financial and non-financial penalties for labour law violations, including those related to delayed salary payments.
The government has made significant progress in recent years to reform the countrys labour system. There are still issues to overcome, including those related to the attitudes and behaviours of a small minority. This will take time, but we remain firmly committed to the task.

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Creepy technologies invade European post-pandemic workplaces

Washington, D.C., June 9, 2020 (PAHO)—The Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa ..

Washington, D.C., June 9, 2020 (PAHO)—The Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa F. Etienne, said preparing for winter and hurricanes is critical to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Americas.

With more than 3.3 million cases of COVID-19 in the region and many areas reporting exponential rises in cases and deaths, “We are concerned by data showing the virus surging in new places that had previously seen a limited number of cases,” Etienne said in a press briefing today.

The PAHO Director noted, “In South America, our response to the pandemic will be impacted by the arrival of winter, while hurricane season will complicate our efforts in North and Central America, and especially in the Caribbean.”

Preparing for respiratory infections during winter

Winter, now starting in South America, “fuels respiratory infections—like seasonal influenza and pneumonia—that can rapidly spread in colder climates and as more people gather indoors to stay warm,” she said.

“This is a problem for patients because respiratory illnesses leave them at greater risk of severe COVID-19 infection. Its also a challenge for strained health systems that will have to cope with the dual burden of a coronavirus pandemic and a spike in other respiratory illnesses. It does not help that the similar symptoms will make diagnosing COVID-19 even harder,” Dr. Etienne told journalists at the briefing.

Influenza vaccination “to prevent severe cases of flu is more critical than ever—particularly for high-risk groups like health workers, the elderly and people with chronic conditions. These same groups are also at high-risk of coronavirus infection,” she noted.

Seasonal influenza vaccination is ongoing in 14 countries, and more than 90 million people are being targeted. PAHO is helping countries buy vaccines through its Revolving Fund. “The Fund helped secure 24 million flu vaccine doses, despite the added logistical hurdles that were all facing in transporting essential supplies during the pandemic,” the PAHO Director explained.

Preparing for hurricane season

With hurricane season starting, PAHOs director suggested that officials in the Caribbean, Central America, and the East coast of the USA “review national hurricane response plans and conduct simulation exercises to ensure your disaster and COVID-19 responses are aligned. We should also plan for potential disruptions to the care of critically ill patients and refine evacuation plans.”

She said PAHO is working to provide emergency response supplies throughout the region, and “to secure critical facilities like laboratories, and quarantine and isolation centers so diagnosis and treatment for COVID-19 can continue even under difficult circumstances.”

”We must take action today to safeguard our progress and mitigate the spread of the virus during this time. That means redoubling our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, so that we reduce the dual burden the approaching winter and hurricane seasons might bring.” Dr. Carissa F. Etienne

Strengthening health infrastructure by hiring surge staff and expanding reserves of essential supplies and protective equipment is also important and “will help ensure the work done to prepare for COVID-19 is reinforced to address these seasonal threats, she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed our region to the limit. Our communities and health systems are under duress, and our collective efforts are laser focused on containing the virus, Dr. Etienne said.

“Preparing for winter and hurricane season is a critical part of this fight. We must take action today to safeguard our progress and mitigate the spread of the virus during this time. And that means redoubling our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, so that we reduce the dual burden the approaching winter and hurricane seasons might bring.”

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Dozens dead in Pakistan as PIA plane plunges into Karachi houses

Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 85 people have been killed after an Airbus A320 passenger airliner cr..

Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 85 people have been killed after an Airbus A320 passenger airliner crashed into a residential neighbourhood while on approach to the airport in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, officials say.

At least two male passengers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK-8303 from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi survived the crash on Friday, a health ministry spokeswoman told Al Jazeera.

There were at least 91 passengers on board the plane, according to an official passenger manifest shared with Al Jazeera by the officials.

Health ministry spokeswoman Meeran Yousuf told Al Jazeera by telephone that 85 people have died, with 53 bodies kept at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi’s largest government hospital, and 32 at Civil Hospital Karachi, another major state-run hospital.

Yousuf said the two survivors were being treated at the hospitals in Karachi, while 19 bodies have been identified so far.

At least six people who were on the ground when the airliner crashed into houses in the densely populated Model Colony area of Karachi, adjacent to the city’s international airport, were being treated for their injuries, she added.

“Our plane [an Airbus] A320 which was coming from Lahore to Karachi was on final approach,” said PIA chief Arshad Malik in a video message released after the crash.

“The last words we heard from our pilot were that there is a technical problem and he was told on final approach that he has both runways available to him to land on. But the pilot decided that he wanted to go around.”

The plane then rapidly lost altitude and crashed short of the runway into the Model Colony neighbourhood, witnesses told the local media.

Dense plumes of black smoke rose above houses in the narrow streets of the neighbourhood, with television footage showing several houses crushed from the impact of the aircraft.

Parts of the plane, including the emergency exit door, were seen strewn in the streets.

Pakistan: Passenger plane with 107 onboard crashes


Wreckage of the PIA passenger plane crash can be seen in a residential area in Karachi [Sabir Mazhar/Anadolu]


Pakistan’s military said it had deployed helicopters to assess the damage and help ferry the dead and wounded to the hospitals.

An emergency was declared in all of the city’s hospitals, already reeling from a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus, provincial health minister Azra Pechucho told reporters.

“We are doing DNA testing of the dead bodies so that they can be identified and they can be given to their families,” she said.

“We were already in an emergency situation due to COVID, we were already alert … and now we have put the surgical units on alert as well.”

‘Shocked and saddened’

Pakistan resumed limited domestic flight operations last week, after a lengthy suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed more than 1,067 lives in the South Asian nation, according to the government data.

The Airbus A320, operated by Pakistan’s national flag carrier, was due to land in Karachi at 2:45pm local time (09:45 GMT) after an hour and a half in the air after departing Lahore earlier in the day.

In 2016, Pakistan suffered its deadliest recent air crash, when all 47 people on board a PIA Embraeur ATR aircraft were killed when it crashed into a mountain en route from the northern town of Chitral to the capital Islamabad.

In 2010, the country saw its worst air disaster, with all 152 people on board an Air Blue passenger flight killed when the plane crashed into the hills just north of the capital Islamabad.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an immediate inquiry into Friday’s crash.

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