Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
COVID infections on the rise in England, survey shows
There has likely been a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive for COVID-19 and in the overall incidence of infections in recent weeks, Britain's Office for National Statistics said on Friday. The weekly infection survey said an estimated 1 in 1,500 individuals had COVID-19 in the most recent week from July 20-26, compared to 1 in 2,000 the previous week.
How inequality and poverty undermined South Africa's COVID response
When coronavirus patients started arriving at South Africa's government-run Thelle Mogoerane Hospital, workers scrambled to set up isolation wards to treat them. They can't keep up. Video filmed inside the hospital and seen by Reuters shows patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, being treated in a general ward, separated from other patients only by curtains.
There is no 'zero risk' in easing travel restrictions, WHO says
There is no "zero risk" strategy for countries easing international travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and essential travel for emergencies should remain the priority, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. In a long-awaited update to its guidance on travel, the United Nations global health agency said cross-border trips for emergencies, humanitarian work, the transfer of essential personnel and repatriation would constitute essential travel.
U.S. records nearly 25,000 coronavirus deaths in July
U.S. coronavirus deaths rose by almost 25,000 in July and cases doubled in at least 18 states during the month, according to a Reuters tally, dealing a crushing blow to hopes of quickly reopening the economy. The United States has recorded nearly 1.8 million new cases in July out of its total 4.5 million infections, an increase of 66% with many states yet to report on Friday. Deaths in July rose at least 19% to over 152,000 total.
Large U.S. COVID-19 vaccine trials will exclude pregnant women for now
The first two COVID-19 vaccines to enter large-scale U.S. trials will not be tested in pregnant women this year, raising questions about how this vulnerable population will be protected from the coronavirus, researchers told Reuters. Moderna and Pfizer, which has partnered with Germany's BioNTech , this week separately launched clinical trials that use a new and unproven gene-based technology. Both companies are requiring proof of a negative pregnancy test and a commitment to using birth control from women of childbearing age who enroll.
Trump planning for U.S. rollout of coronavirus vaccine falling short, officials warn
As scientists and pharmaceutical companies work at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, public health officials and senior U.S. lawmakers are sounding alarms about the Trump administration's lack of planning for its nationwide distribution. The federal government traditionally plays a principal role in funding and overseeing the manufacturing and distribution of new vaccines, which often draw on scarce ingredients and need to be made, stored and transported carefully.
South Africa produces its first ventilators to fight COVID-19
The first of thousands of South African-designed ventilators rolled off a Cape Town assembly line on Friday, responding to requests from hospitals needing them for severe COVID-19 cases but unable to get them on global markets, officials said. Poorly resourced hospitals across Africa, which is nearing a million cases of COVID-19 -- more than half of them in South Africa -- have struggled to cope with a burgeoning case load amid a global scramble favouring richer nations in procuring ventilators and protective gear.
Exclusive: China-backed hackers 'targeted COVID-19 vaccine firm Moderna'
Chinese government-linked hackers targeted biotech company Moderna Inc, a U.S.-based coronavirus vaccine research developer, this year in a bid to steal data, according to a U.S. security official tracking Chinese hacking. China on Friday rejected the accusation that hackers linked to it had targeted Moderna.
U.S. to pay $2.1 billion to Sanofi, GSK, in COVID-19 vaccine deal
The U.S. government will pay $2.1 billion to Sanofi SA and GlaxoSmithKline Plc for COVID-19 vaccines to cover 50 million people and to underwrite the drug makers' testing and manufacturing, the companies said on Friday. The award is the biggest yet from 'Operation Warp Speed', the White House initiative aimed at accelerating access to vaccines and treatments to fight COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Northern Ireland launches UK's first COVID-19 tracker app
Northern Ireland on Friday launched the United Kingdom's first COVID-19 tracing app, and the first one that can also trace users in another country, Ireland, who have been in contact with someone suffering from the disease. The developer NearForm, which hopes the app will become a blueprint eventually synching up all of Europe, launched a similar app in Ireland on July 8, and cases can now be traced across the island's open border by two separate health services.