Where we left off Wednesday evening, health authorities in Brazil announced that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Latin America’s most populous country had finally surpassed 5 million cases as the outbreak starts to accelerate once again. Brazil reported 31,553 new cases last night, along with 734 new deaths, which pushed Brazil’s death toll to just under 150k.
In other news, South Korea has just sentenced a man accused of lying to authorities about his job and whereabouts during a coronavirus-tracing investigation to jail for six months. The case was the most high-profile investigation yet as SK authorities continue their aggressive efforts to track, trace and quarantine, Yonhap reports.
After declaring that he wouldn’t participate in a remote debate, President Trump said during his first interview after returning to the White House from Walter Reed that he expected Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment to be approved shortly, along with the Regeneron cocktail that Trump was treated with during his stay at Walter Reed, which Trump hailed as a “cure” in a video published yesterday.
After declaring last night that Regeneron’s treatment would be made available to all who need it, Trump said on Fox Business Thursday morning that the therapeutics from Eli Lilly and Regeneron – or their equivalents – will be sent out “for free”.
Late last night, the FT published an exclusive report after obtaining a memorandum of understanding between AstraZeneca and a Brazilian manufacturer which exposed AZ’s pledge to provide its vaccine “at cost” until the pandemic is over as a misleading promise. Because in the memorandum, AZ stipulates that the pandemic will “end” on July 1 of 2021. Since the vaccine has yet to be approved, that should leave a very narrow window where the company is selling their vaccine “at cost”. The “pandemic period” can only be extended if “AstraZeneca acting in good faith considers that the SARS-COV-2 pandemic is not over”.
Finally, the head of the EU’s medicine regulator, which has already struck deals with AstraZeneca and other vaccine developers to expedite their evaluation (the so-called “rolling reviews”) said Thursday that a COVID-19 vaccine is “looking unlikely by year end.”
“Technically, of course it’s possible. Practically it’s very difficult – it’s very unlikely,” said Guido Rasi, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, in an interview Thursday. Even if drugmakers “submit the data in a few weeks, we are already approaching middle of October, so if we wait a few weeks and we take a minimum time of evaluation, more or less we are at the end of the year.”
It’s still possible that EU member states could use national emergency powers to distribute a vaccine, especially as deaths start to climb as the ‘second wave’ takes hold. Already, the UK has set out plans in August to amend legislation and clarify its powers so that an unlicensed COVID jab could be temporarily authorized in Britain. However, Rasi discouraged this behavior, and said countries would be better served by focusing on building out their distribution infrastructure, rather than approving an experimental vaccine “a few days before” everyone else.
Perhaps the biggest story in the US right now, the cluster that has gripped the Tennessee Titans, saw a new development just minutes ago as the team announced another player had tested positive, bringing the team’s total for players and staff who have tested positive to more than 20.
Circling back to Europe, as more countries ramp up social distancing restrictions and ‘localized lockdowns’, DB has published its latest weekly update, showing that the European countries seeing the biggest surge in new cases are the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and France.
ITV’s Robert Peston reported last night that as cases climb in northern England, ministers are “likely” to close all hospitality venues in the region for a period until the outbreak cools.
In its latest weekly update, analysts at Goldman Sachs placed gave the US a reopening score of 67 out of 100 as Texas preparations to lift more restrictions were partly offset by another round of school and potentially business closures in NYC.
Here’s some more news from Thursday morning, as well as the overnight session.
India reports 78,524 cases in the last 24 hours, up from 72,049 the previous day, bringing the total to over 6.83 million. The death toll jumped by 971 to 105,526 (Source: Nikkei).
China reports 11 new cases for Wednesday, up from seven a day earlier. The new cases all were imported infections involving travelers from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not count as confirmed cases, fell to eight from 24 a day earlier (Source: Nikkei).
In an exclusive report, the FT revealed that a copy of a memorandum of understanding between AstraZeneca (which is developing a COVID-19 vaccine with the help and cooperation of Oxford University) and the country of Brazil revealed that the drugmaker’s pledge to provide its drug “at cost” until the pandemic is “over” (Source: FT).
Indonesia’s infections reach a new daily high of 4,850 cases, with 108 deaths in the past 24 hours. Indonesia has now reported a total of 320,564 cases and 11,580 deaths. Health officials express concerns over potential further increases in the coming weeks, with labor unions and student groups taking to the streets over the past few days in protests against a contentious omnibus law on job creation (Source: Nikkei).
The next phase of the Boston Public Schools reopening plan was delayed Wednesday because the city’s coronavirus positivity rate has climbed higher than 4% (Source: AP).