Coronavirus: EU signs remdesivir deal, Hong Kong leader warns of risk to health system

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Senate Republicans have unveiled their $1 trillion coronavirus relief plan as the virus continues to infect tens of thousands across the country every day. The bill includes another round of stimulus paychecks for Americans and also sets aside funding for small businesses, Covid-19 testing capacity and schools. Two companies have now begun the phase three trials of their respective vaccine candidates as Pfizer and Moderna race to introduce the first safe and effective vaccine to the market. 


Here are some of today's biggest developments:

The following data was compiled by Johns Hopkins University:

  • Global cases: More than 16.7 million
  • Global deaths: At least 660,978
  • Top five countries: United States (over 4.3 million), Brazil (over 2.4 million), India (over 1.5 million), Russia (over 827,000), South Africa (over 459,000)

EU signs deal with Gilead for coronavirus treatment remdesivir

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has reportedly signed a deal with Gilead for its Covid-19 medicine remdesivir in an agreement that is set to cover 30,000 patients across the bloc from early next month. 

"The Commission signed a contract with the pharmaceutical company Gilead for ensuring treatment doses of Veklury - the brand name for remdesivir," Dana Spinant, a spokesperson for the European Commission, told a news briefing on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

"As of early August onwards, batches of this medicine Veklury will be made available to member states and the U.K.," she added.

The contract, which was reportedly worth 63 million euros ($73.9 million), will provide treatment for patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms, Spinant said. — Sam Meredith

Every province and city in Vietnam at high risk of infections, prime minister says

Vietnam has zero coronavirus deaths. Here's why.
Vietnam has zero coronavirus deaths. Here's why.

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said every province and city in the country was at high risk of coronavirus infections, Reuters reported citing local state broadcaster VTV. 

The leader's remarks came after Vietnam reported its first case of local transmission in more than three months, according to the news agency. Though Vietnam shares a border with China, the country has recorded only 446 cases of infection and no deaths.

"We have to act more swiftly and more fiercely in order to control the outbreak," VTV quoted the prime minister telling government officials at a meeting, Reuters said, adding that Danang, where new infections were reported last week, would be placed on "strict lockdown." — Saheli Roy Choudhury

U.K. reaches supply deal with Sanofi and GSK for potential vaccine doses

The U.K. government reached an agreement with pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and Glaxosmithkline for a supply of up to 60 million doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine.

A vaccine candidate is being developed by the two companies. Clinical trials are expected to start in September and regulatory approval could be achieved by the first half of 2021 if the data are positive, Sanofi said in a statement on Wednesday. 

More than 100 vaccine candidates are currently being developed, with 25 of them in clinical trials as of July 28, according to the World Health Organization

The U.K. has also signed supply deals for other vaccine candidates that are being studied. That includes 100 million doses of University of Oxford's potential vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Singapore's jobless rate jumps in the quarter ending June

Provisional data showed Singapore's jobless rate rose to a new decade high of 2.9% in the second quarter, Reuters reported on Wednesday. 

Retrenchments were much higher between April and June, with 6,700 people laid off, compared to 3,220 in the three months that ended in March, the news wire said. 

With over 50,000 reported cases, Singapore went into a partial lockdown between April to May and started reopening its economy in phases from June. Most of the cases in the city-state were found in migrant worker dormitories. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Hong Kong faces large-scale outbreak that may lead to a 'collapse' of its hospital system, Carrie Lam says

Passengers wear surgical masks in an MTR train, following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Hong Kong.
Tyrone Siu | Reuters

Hong Kong is facing a new wave of Covid-19 infections that can overwhelm the city's health care system and cost lives, chief executive Carrie Lam has warned. 

She urged people to stay at home as far as possible and follow strict social distancing measures. The city on Tuesday said it was investigating 106 additional cases of infection, bringing Hong Kong's total number of confirmed cases to at least 2,884

"We are on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak, which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly," Lam said in a statement. 

New regulations aimed at curbing the disease's spread are set to kick in from Wednesday. Those measures ban the gathering of more than two people, close dining in restaurants and make the wearing of face masks mandatory in public, Reuters reported. — Saheli Roy Choudhury

Trump still thinks hydroxychloroquine works on coronavirus

President Donald Trump said he still thinks hydroxychloroquine works against Covid-19, despite mounting evidence that the malaria drug is ineffective in treating the virus. 

Trump was asked by a reporter about a video Trump shared on Twitter that went viral across social media platforms that claimed hydroxychloroquine is "a cure for Covid" and "you don't need a mask" to slow the spread of coronavirus. The video was later labeled as containing misleading information and has since been taken down.

"I wasn't making claims," Trump said of his tweet, noting that he was passing along recommendations from other people, including doctors.

The drug generated excitement earlier in the year after a handful of small studies suggested it could be beneficial, especially when combined with antibiotic azithromycin. Trump promoted it as a potential treatment for the virus and said he used it as a preventive measure against the disease. However, several larger studies showed the drug was not helpful and caused heart issues in some patients. —Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

North Carolina to order curfew on restaurants selling alcohol, reports record hospitalizations

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced during a press conference that the state's restaurants will be ordered to stop selling alcohol after 11 p.m. and the state's bars will remain closed. The order takes effect on Friday, he said. 

The order is intended to prevent "restaurants from turning into bars after hours" and the state is "hopeful" the new order will slow down the virus' spread among young people, Cooper said. 

The state reported an additional 1,749 Covid-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total to more than 116,000, Cooper said at the press conference. There are at least 1,244 people hospitalized with Covid-19, the highest number of hospitalizations since the beginning of the state's outbreak, he said. 

"The numbers are still too high. In order to start a downward trend, we have to double down on actions that slow the spread of the virus. Other states have had to go backward when they saw sharp increases in their case numbers that overwhelmed their hospitals. Fortunately, we've avoided that," he said. — Noah Higgins-Dunn

McConnell says he will not negotiate with Democrats on liability protections

Mitch McConnell: We don't want to make it more profitable to stay home than work
Mitch McConnell: We don't want to make it more profitable to stay home than work

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans are "not negotiating" with Democrats over legal immunity for businesses, doctors and schools during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The GOP has pushed for liability protections except in cases of "gross" negligence or "intentional" harm as part of a developing congressional coronavirus relief bill. The provision could take away employees' ability to seek damages if they return to an unsafe workplace as the pandemic spreads. 

McConnell told CNBC's Kayla Tausche that "no bill will pass the Senate that doesn't have the liability protection in it." Republicans and Democrats are working to pass a pandemic aid plan after states stopped paying out the $600 per week enhanced federal unemployment benefit that has been a lifeline for millions of Americans during the outbreak.

In a joint statement Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the liability provision shields "employers who do not protect workers' health and safety, while offering no [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] protections to ensure workers can trust in safe workplaces." —Jacob Pramuk

Expiration of $600 weekly unemployment benefit will hurt U.S. economy, says Tilman Fertitta