AstraZeneca receives $1 billion in U.S. funding for virus vaccine
A British-Swedish pharmaceutical company has received more than $1 billion in funding from the U.S. Health Department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with the University of Oxford.
AstraZeneca has agreed to initially supply at least 400 million doses of the vaccine, according to a news release from the company on Thursday. In response to President Donald Trump’s call to develop 300 million doses of vaccine by January 2021 under Operation Warp Speed, the collaboration is working to deliver a vaccine called AZD1222 for as early as October 2020.
The agreement between AstraZeneca and BARDA will accelerate the development and manufacturing of the company’s vaccine to begin Phase 3 clinical studies this summer with approximately 30,000 volunteers in the United States, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Argentina to fly in rabbis to certify kosher meat
BUENOS AIRES — Argentina, which has enforced one of the world’s toughest travel bans against the coronavirus, plans to help charter a private flight to bring in rabbis from Israel to certify meat at the country’s packing plants for kosher markets around the world.
The trip is key to Argentina being able to maintain beef exports to key buyer Israel, which has become increasingly important with exports stalled to the European Union and sharply down to major buyer China.
Argentina is the world’s fifth-largest beef exporter and Israel is the No. 3 buyer of its famed cuts, snapping up over $100 million each year, said Mario Ravettino, head of Argentina’s ABC meat export consortium.
The rabbis normally make the trip twice a year and stay for a few months, as many as 15 rabbis in plants at a time. They ensure the cattle are slaughtered and the meat processed in accordance with Jewish law.
Grand Canyon announces ‘limited recreation access’ for Memorial Day weekend
The Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim will be open to the public starting Friday to May 25 for “limited entry and recreational access,” following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health authorities. The South Rim section partially re-opened last weekend, then closed again from May 20-21 for public health concerns.
The U.S. National Park Service said it is closely monitoring the pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis, according to a news release. The South entrance will be open again Friday from 4-10 a.m. for visitors to enter the park, but will close at 10 a.m. Park-goers on the Memorial Day weekend will be able to hike, cycle and visit museums.
This comes after the CDC quietly released detailed plan for reopening America on Wednesday, and nearly every state in the country has already reopened parts of their economies — including access to beaches, restaurants and hair salons.
U.S. scientist warns coronavirus vaccine not guaranteed
A top U.S. scientist behind groundbreaking research in cancer and HIV/AIDS warned that a vaccine for the coronavirus may never be found, as the number of global COVID-19 infections surged past 5 million on Thursday.
William Haseltine, who has also worked on human genome projects, said that while a COVID-19 vaccine could be developed, “I wouldn’t count on it.” Instead, he told Reuters, countries beginning to reverse lockdown measures need to lean on careful tracing of infections and strict isolation measures to control the spread.
Such an approach has proved successful in some countries that have minimized the spread, but worldwide, the numbers continue to climb. More than 328,000 people have died due to the virus while 5,001,494 have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University as of Thursday morning.
IOC chief says he agrees that ‘summer 2021 is the last option’ for Games
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said that he agrees the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics would have to be cancelled if the Games cannot take place next summer.
The IOC, jointly with the Japanese government, had postponed the Olympics to next July due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last month that the Games could not take place next year unless the coronavirus pandemic is contained.
“[Abe] made it very clear from the beginning that summer 2021 is the last option an quite frankly I have some understanding for this because you cannot forever employ 3,000 to 5,000 people in an organizing committee,” Bach told British broadcaster BBC on Wednesday. Staging the Tokyo Olympics behind closed doors was “not what we want,” he said, but added that he needed more time to consider whether that was feasible.
Brazil expands use of unproven drug as virus toll rises
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro unveiled rules on Wednesday expanding the prescription of chloroquine — the predecessor of an anti-malaria drug promoted by President Donald Trump — for coronavirus patients despite a lack of clinical proof that it is effective.
Chloroquine was already being used in Brazil for COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized in serious condition, and under the new regulations, it can be given to people with lighter symptoms such as abdominal pain, cough or fever, according to Brazil’s Health Ministry.
“There is still no scientific evidence, but it is being monitored and used in Brazil and worldwide,” Bolsonaro, who has likened the virus to a “little flu” and feuded with local governments over their stay-at-home measures, said via his official Facebook page. More than 291,000 cases have been confirmed in Brazil — the third most in the world after the U.S. and Russia — and the announcement came a day after the country’s single-day death toll from the virus hit a new high of more than 1,100.
Italian coffee drinkers unhappy about a post-lockdown hike in prices
Some businesses in Italy are increasing coffee prices more than 50 percent and consumers are not happy, according to consumer rights’ association Codacons, which said it received dozens of complaints since the shops began reopening in Italy on Monday. The association has also received complaints about spikes in hairdresser prices.
As shops and restaurants open after ten weeks in lockdown, coffee drinkers have reported cafes charging 2 euros (about $2.20) for an espresso in Milan — about 54 percent more than the city’s pre-lockdown espresso-price of 1.30 euros. In the capital city of Rome — where a coffee used to cost 1.10 euros on average — coffee-drinkers were unhappy about now paying 1.50 euros.
“We hope these are isolated situations, and that the exhibitors do not decide en masse to adjust the price lists to make up for the lower earnings and sanitation costs of the premises,” the association’s president, Carlo Rienzi, said in a statement on Monday.
World COVID-19 cases pass 5 million
The number of COVID-19 cases around the world has passed 5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases. There have been more than 328,000 deaths globally, according to the university.
The cases passed 5 million after World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that more than 100,000 cases had been reported to the organization over the previous 24 hours.
Tedros said at a news conference in Geneva that the 106,000 cases reported to the WHO was “the most in a single day since the outbreak began.”
In the United States, there have been more than 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 with more than 93,700 deaths, according to an NBC News count.
Guidance on church reopenings held up in dispute between CDC, White House
Guidance on reopening houses of worship has been put on hold after a disagreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House, a senior administration official confirmed.
The news was first reported by The Washington Post, which stated that the White House was resistant to putting limits on religious institutions.
“The CDC sometimes views things in an overly bureaucratic way. What we are trying to do is encourage a more federalist approach where each state is able to make decisions based on their own circumstances and individually tailored needs,” the senior administration official told NBC News.
The CDC this week released recommendations for reopening restaurants, mass transit, schools and child care programs across the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.
There has been an ongoing struggle between the CDC and the White House over guidelines for reopening, with the White House expressing concerns that the CDC’s guidelines are too restrictive.