Xiamen Innovax Biotech Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China's Yangshengtang Group in eastern China's Zhejiang Province and Xiamen University have announced cooperation with British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), to do an evaluation for a recombinant protein-based vaccine candidate for COVID-19.
Gao Yongzhong, general manager of Xiamen Innovax, said that GSK will provide an adjuvant system that will be used in pre-clinical trials for a vaccine candidate developed by their company and Xiamen University.
"In combination with adjuvant system AS03, the recombinant protein-based vaccine candidate is expected to induce a high level of protective immunity to meet the urgent need for COVID-19 prevention," added Gao.
Thomas Breuer, GSK Vaccines chief medical officer, said that as one of their technological advantages, the adjuvant they produced can help enhance the body's immune response when it is added to the vaccine and an ideal combination is able to develop stronger and more durable immunity than a single vaccine.
"The use of adjuvant amid the COVID-19 pandemic is very important because it helps to produce more doses of vaccine and allows more people to be vaccinated," said Breuer.
According to GSK, the adjuvant can increase the immunogenicity, response speed and tolerance of antigens and meanwhile reduce their consumption. When the same dose of vaccine antigen meets an ideal adjuvant, it can produce more vaccines with the same effect at the same time, which is helpful to mass production of vaccines for the pandemic.
At the moment, the collaboration between the three parties includes pre-clinical trials in the first period and if it is detected to show good prospects, they will then start clinical trials.
South Korea reported 53 more cases of the COVID-19 compared to 24 hours ago as of midnight Wednesday local time, raising the total number of infections to 10,384.
The newly confirmed cases stayed around 50 for the third consecutive day, after recording 47 both on Monday and Tuesday. Of the total new cases, 14 were imported ones.
Eight more deaths were confirmed, lifting the death toll to 200. The total fatality rate came in at 1.93 percent.
A total of 82 more patients were discharged from quarantine after making full recovery, pulling up the combined number to 6,776.
Except for the first 31 cases, all the infections have been reported since Feb. 19. The country has raised its four-tier virus alert to the highest "red" level.
The total number of infections in Daegu, about 300 km southeast of Seoul, and its surrounding North Gyeongsang province increased to 6,803 and 1,320 respectively. It accounted for almost 80 percent of the total.
The numbers in Seoul and its adjacent Gyeonggi province came to 578 and 596 each.
Daegu became the epicenter of the viral spread here as the biggest cluster of infections was found in the metropolis with a 2.5 million population. Daegu has been designated by the government as a "special disaster zone."
The Daegu cluster was closely linked to the church services of a homegrown minor religious sect, called Sincheonji, in Daegu. Members of the sect are known to sit on the floor closely side by side during church services.
Since Jan. 3, the country has tested more than 486,000 people, among whom 457,761 tested negative for the virus and 17,858 were being checked.
India's federal health ministry Wednesday morning said the death toll due to COVID-19 in India rose to 149 and the total number of confirmed cases in the country reached 5,194.
"As of 8:00 a.m. (local time) today 149 deaths related to novel coronavirus have been recorded in the country," reads the information released by the ministry.
On Tuesday evening the number of COVID-19 cases in the country was 4789 and the death toll was 124.
According to ministry officials, so far 402 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement.
"The number of active cases in the country right now is 4,643," reads the information.
Wednesday marks the 15th straight day of ongoing 21-day lockdown across the country announced by the government to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Authorities have imposed strict curfew-like restrictions to prevent the movement of people across the country. All road, rail and air services have been suspended in wake of the lockdown, except essential services which are exempted.
The three-week lockdown is expected to end on April 14.
India's federal home minister Amit Shah has asked authorities to take quick and stern action against individuals involved in hoarding and black marketing.
Meanwhile, Indian Council of Medical Research said it has no objection to state governments setting up convenient sample collection sites. However, the top health research body said its guidelines should be followed and the sample collection should be done using recommended personal protective equipment.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a monthlong state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures on Tuesday to ramp up defenses against the spread of the coronavirus as the number of infections surges.
But the move came in the form of a stay-at-home request — not an order — and violators will not be penalized.
The COVID-19 outbreak is now rampant and rapidly spreading, threatening people's health, their daily lives and the economy, Abe said.
The state of emergency, which is until May 6, will only permit Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and heads of the six other prefectures to do more to reinforce calls for social distancing.
"The most important thing is for each one of us to change our activity," Abe told a government task force. He urged everyone to cut contacts with others by 70-80% for one month, calling the coronavirus pandemic "the biggest postwar crisis."
The announcement follows surges in new cases in Tokyo, including consecutive rises exceeding 100 over the weekend. By Tuesday there were 1,196 confirmed cases in the metropolitan region of 14 million people. Nationwide, Japan has reported 91 deaths from COVID-19 and 3,906 confirmed cases, plus another 712 cases and 11 fatalities from a cruise ship that was quarantined earlier at Yokohama port near Tokyo.
Abe has been under pressure to declare a state of emergency to get better compliance with calls for social distancing amid rising alarm over the number of cases without any known contact with other patients.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike welcomed the emergency measures, saying she expects they "will prevail widely and deeply among the people." She said her immediate request under the state of emergency is "stay home."
Japan's limits on official action during a state of emergency stem from its experience with repression and disasters stemming from fascist governments before and during World War II. The public is doubly wary due to the push by Abe's ultra-conservative ruling party and its supporters for a constitutional amendment to include a state of emergency clause for disaster and wartime contingencies.
Abe's government is thought to have delayed declaring a state of emergency out of fear of how it might hurt the economy. But as fear of the pandemic has grown, the public and medical experts have increasingly supported taking more drastic action.
The state of emergency includes a stay-at-home request; guidance to schools on temporary closures and requests to close nonessential businesses and stores and to cancel or postpone events and exhibits. Violators cannot be penalized unless they fail to comply with orders on providing or storing emergency relief goods, such as surgical masks and medical equipment.
Still, the state of emergency could significantly limit movement of people around and out of the city. Takahide Kiuchi, an economist at Nomura Research Institute, said in a recent report that a state of emergency could cause consumer spending to fall nearly 2.5 trillion yen ($23 billion), leading to a 0.4% drop in Japan's annual GDP.
Abe's government also announced a 108 trillion yen ($1 trillion) stimulus package to help the country to survive the economic downturn and to protect businesses and jobs.
The government overcame controversy over risks to civil rights to gain approval of a special law last month enabling Abe to declare a state of emergency.
Earlier, Japan sought to curb infections by closely monitoring clusters of cases and keeping them under control, rather than conducting massive testing as was done in neighboring South Korea. That strategy appears to be failing given the sharp rise in cases not linked to previous known infections.
As is true in many places, there are fears over shortages of beds and ICU units for patients with severe symptoms.
Pakistan's military promised Tuesday that dozens of doctors who were briefly jailed for protesting a lack of protective equipment needed to treat the growing number of coronavirus cases will get the equipment they need.
The 47 doctors protested in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, on Monday, when they were detained. They were released later the same day, according to provincial spokesman Liaquat Shahwani.
An army statement on Tuesday said the "emergency supplies of medical equipment, including PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) are being dispatched to Quetta."
However, some of the doctors said they were mistreated by police and that some of their colleagues were beaten. The physicians declined to give their names, fearing reprisals.
Two doctors have died after contracting the new virus in Pakistan, which has recorded 4,004 cases and 54 deaths. Many of the cases have been traced to pilgrims returning from neighboring Iran. Pakistani authorities have imposed a countrywide lockdown until April 14.
In Iran, authorities struggling to battle the virus announced Tuesday they would expand testing to asymptomatic people, but didn't say how many test kits they have available or provide other details.
Iran's Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that with active screening of such cases, there are expectations the virus and COVID-19, the illness it causes, can be brought under control by mid-May.
"With this step, we will go after people without symptoms," said Namaki, adding this would require a large number of tests. He didn't elaborate. The health ministry said searching for asymptomatic cases would be combined with restrictions on both city and intercity travel and quarantine.
Iran is facing the worst outbreak in the region. Iran's state TV said Tuesday the new coronavirus has killed another 133 people, pushing the country's death toll to 3,872 amid 62,589 confirmed cases.
The health ministry's spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 27,039 people have recovered so far while 3,987 remain in critical condition.
There are nearly 109,000 confirmed cases across the Middle East, with more than 4,600 fatalities.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Tuesday sought to reassure Egyptians a day after officials reported 149 new cases, the country's highest one-day tally since the pandemic began.
El-Sissi's government has imposed a night-time curfew, suspended international air travel and closed schools and universities to curb the virus' spread. Egypt has more than 1,320 confirmed cases and 85 deaths.
"So far, the situation is under control," he said in televised comments. "The goal is to minimize the damage caused by the pandemic." El-Sissi said he's opposed to a complete lockdown.
El-Sissi said the military has set up four field hospitals in different parts of the country with more than 500 beds to help treat virus patients.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death.
At a retirement home ravaged by the coronavirus in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, another resident died, the eighth so far there. Dozens of the home's resident's have been infected and relatives have been staging angry protests outside the premises in recent days.
Overall, more than 9,000 have been infected in Israel and 60 have died, the vast majority elderly and many in assisted living facilities.