Five Pakistani and Indian firms

to make ‘anti coronavirus drug’

  • Worldwide cases 4,347,015, deaths 297,197,
  •  Surge in UK cases 233,151, deaths 33,614
  • Anti-body test approved in England as positive
  • Sadiq Khan against easing lockdown further
  • Hate crimes targeting Asians up by 21 percent

Nation special report

LONDON: As a worrying surge in fatalities due to dangerous coronavirus is being experienced every day, a US pharmaceutical firm has signed agreements with drug makers in South Asia to expand supply of the drug remdesivir for treating Covid-19.

The agreement between Gilead and five generic pharmaceutical companies in India and Pakistan will help make the medicine for 127 countries. Remdesivir cut the duration of symptoms from 15 days to 11 in clinical trials at hospitals around the world.

The antiviral drug was originally developed as an Ebola treatment. It works by attacking an enzyme that a virus needs in order to replicate inside our cells.

Under the licensing agreement, the five companies have the “right to receive a technology transfer of the Gilead manufacturing process for remdesivir to enable them to scale up their production quickly”, a statement from Gilead said.

The licences would be royalty-free until the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the public health emergency arising out of Covid-19, or until another pharmaceutical product or a vaccine is approved to treat or prevent the disease, BBC reported quoting the statement.

The agreements allow the Cipla Limited, Ferozsons Laboratories, Hetero Labs Ltd, Jubilant Lifesciences and Mylan to manufacture the drug. The managing director of the privately-owned Hyderabad-based Hetero Labs told the BBC that it is “too early” to determine the pricing of the drug and when the manufacture will begin.

“Things will be clearer by June. We anticipate controlled usage [of the drug] through government institutions. Our main aim is that India should be self-sufficient in the drug if India chooses to use it,” Vamsi Krishna Bandi said.

Test results

A test to find out whether people have been infected with coronavirus in the past has been approved by health officials in England. Public Health England said the antibody test, developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, was a “very positive development”.

The blood test looks for antibodies to see if a person has already had the virus and might now have some immunity. Until now, officials have said such tests are not reliable enough.  The government previously spent a reported £16m buying antibody tests which later proved to be ineffective. Sources told the BBC the Roche test was the first one to offer serious potential.

Fatalities in UK

The number of people who have died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus has risen to 33,614 – an increase of 428 over 24 hours. It is the third week the government’s daily announcements have included people in care homes and the community, rather than just in hospital, who have died.

But only those who had tested positive for Covid-19 are included, meaning anyone who died with a suspected case won’t be recorded. The figures cover the period up to 5pm on Wednesday.

It comes after the number of people confirmed to have died in hospitals after contracting the virus rose by 256 in 24 hours. That increase consisted of 207 in England, 34 in Scotland, 10 in Wales and five in Northern Ireland. Here’s a quick primer on what all the different numbers mean and how to understand them.

Meanwhile, as of 9am on Thursday, 1,593,902 people have been tested for coronavirus, with 233,151 coming back positive. Some 126,064 tests were carried out in the 24 hours up to 9am, the highest number in a single day so far.

According to the WHO, so far, a total of 4,347,015 number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported including 297,197 fatalities while 1,548,547 were recovered. WHO had declared coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, and it has been giving daily situation report on the infection since January 21.

Sadiq Khan

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said that the lockdown must not be relaxed further until Londoners can access same-day coronavirus tests and get results within 48 hours, Sadiq Khan has said.

The Mayor echoed calls from former health secretary Jeremy Hunt for a rapid acceleration in how quickly results are available to people being checked for the virus. Mr Khan said a “test-trace-isolate” system was essential to prevent a second wave of infections.

Currently it can take one or two days for someone with symptoms who is eligible for a test to arrange one, then it can take more than three days to get the result. Mr Khan said the capital’s greater levels of ethnic diversity and poverty — both key factors in Covid mortality — made rapid testing crucial.

Hate crimes

Hate crimes targeting south and east Asian communities have risen by 21% during the coronavirus pandemic, ministers have told MPs. The Home Affairs Select Committee heard that incidents of revenge porn – the sharing of intimate images or video without consent – had also increased since the start of the crisis, the Asian Image has reported.

Home Office minister Baroness Susan Williams told the Select Committee that while incidents of extremism broadly had not increased during the lockdown, “there has been a 21% uptick in hate incidents against the IC4 and IC5 community”.

IC codes are used by police in some communications to describe the apparent ethnicity of a victim or suspect – IC4 refers to south Asia and IC5 to east Asia. Last week, research warned rising levels of racist abuse that had forced people of Chinese heritage to withdraw from UK society before the lockdown are likely to escalate when it lifts.