Remdesivir, a drug that failed against Ebola and hepatitis, gets emergency approval to treat Covid-19.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued an emergency approval for remdesivir as a treatment for patients severely ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The F.D.A. rushed to approve remdesivir under emergency use provisions, after a federal trial demonstrated modest improvements in severely ill patients.
The trial, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, included more than 1,000 hospitalized patients and found that those receiving remdesivir recovered faster than those who got a placebo: in 11 days, versus 15 days. But the drug did not significantly reduce fatality rates.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the results were “a very important proof of concept” but not a “knockout.” President Trump hailed the drug on Friday as “an important treatment and “really promising.”
Remdesivir is approved only for severely ill patients and only temporarily; formal approval must come later.
Dr. Mark Denison of Vanderbilt University is one of the researchers who found the drug’s potential. In 2007, he discovered that coronaviruses have a powerful “proofreading” system. If an error occurs in copying RNA as the coronavirus replicates, it corrects the error. In lab experiments, coronaviruses that mutated were weaker, outcompeted by those without mutations.
Dr. Denison and other experts wondered if it might be possible to trick the virus with a drug that dodged the proofreading system and blocked the virus’s growing RNA chain, making it prematurely terminate.
Talking about this problem with another scientist at a meeting, Dr. Denison learned that Gilead Sciences had dozens of drugs that might do the trick. “All of these compounds had been shelved for one reason or another,” Dr. Denison said.
Most worked in lab tests to shut down coronaviruses, he found — some better than others. One of the best was GS-5734, now known as remdesivir.
But the drug in the past had failed a number of real-life tests — not just against hepatitis but also against Ebola in Africa. The drug languished, unapproved for any use — until a new coronavirus emerged.
As SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, began to grow into a pandemic, many scientists realized that remdesivir might be the best solution at hand. It had already undergone animal testing and safety testing in humans.
Not everyone is convinced that remdesivir will live up to its promise. A study in China, published this week in Lancet, found the drug offered no benefit to severely ill patients.
Despite the skepticism, Gilead has been ramping up production and currently has 1.5 million vials on hand, enough for about 150,000 patients. Those will be provided to patients at no cost, said Daniel O’Day, the company’s chief executive.
An associate justice on the Philippine Supreme Court, Marvic Leonen, said on Saturday that nearly 10,000 prison inmates had been freed across the country as part of efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Of the 9,731 inmates freed between March 1 and April 29, more than 2,000 were released from prisons in Manila, he said. Most of the rest, about 4,600, had been held elsewhere in Luzon, the region that includes the capital.
“We continue as much as we can to decongest the jails,” Justice Leonen said during an online news briefing.
Th announcement came days after Human Rights Watch called on the government to fully report deaths in its prisons from Covid-19, after at least nine inmates and nine staff members tested positive for the coronavirus at Quezon City Jail in the Manila area, one of the country’s most crowded prisons.
The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the central Philippines also reported one death from the coronavirus this week, while the Cebu City Jail reported 212 infections.
Human Rights Watch said the government “has not fully reported” prison deaths and that there was concern that the disease was more widespread in the prison system than was being reported.
Across the world, prisons have become breeding grounds for the coronavirus, leading governments to release hundreds of thousands of inmates in an attempt to curb the spread of the contagion behind bars.
Jeffrey Gettleman, The Times’s South Asia bureau chief, moved to New Delhi with his family nearly three years ago. We asked him to paint a picture of how life has changed under India’s coronavirus lockdown, one of the world’s strictest.
The first thing that disappeared was the annoying sound of a power drill up the street, from a house under construction.
Then the newspapers.
Then the fruit sellers, the taxis, the rickshaws, and chicken.
Day by day, life under coronavirus lockdown in India took away something else, usually something good. And nearly six weeks into it, much of this country is still frozen.
In many cities like New Delhi, practically nothing is moving on the roads. People stay indoors, as instructed, emerging only to collect the basic necessities. One friend who gets his food delivered told me he hasn’t left his house for a month.
All the airlines are grounded. Schools and offices are closed. The only businesses that I’ve seen operating are food shops, pharmacies and banks. The banks have lines running out the door and down the sidewalk where red circles have been spray-painted for people to stand in, six feet apart, like little islands.
The other day, I drove to Delhi’s outskirts. India is a place rightly known for teeming crowds and riotous traffic. There seems to be a national aversion to sticking to your lane, so I felt almost guilty blazing down an empty highway, past miles of shuttered shops, with no one to cut me off.
Whenever we turned off the highway, every village, no matter how small, was barricaded — some with oil drums, others with rope. Behind the barricades stood villagers carrying sticks to keep strangers out and wearing fraying bandannas over their faces, the virus vigilantes.
Even the sky above us is different these days. New Delhi is usually one of the world’s most polluted cities; its ceiling is invariably smudge gray. But now with so few cars and factories running, the air here is cleaner than it has been in decades.
The weather that first weekend under lockdown, in late March, was especially lovely: mid 80s, breezy, clear skies. So on the following Monday when I saw The Times’s driver, Jag Singh, one of the few Indians I now see on a regular basis because of our isolation, I asked if he had managed to get outside.
“No.” Did his neighbors? Again, “no.”
Having seen the photos of some Americans rushing to beaches as soon as they were allowed, I asked why he thought Indians felt so constrained.
The Trump administration is moving to take a more aggressive stand against China on economic, diplomatic and scientific issues at the heart of the relationship between the world’s two superpowers, further fraying ties that have reached their lowest point in decades.
White House aides this week have prodded President Trump to issue an executive order that would block a government pension fund from investing in Chinese companies, officials said — a move that could upend capital flows across the Pacific. Mr. Trump announced on Friday that he was restricting the use of electrical equipment in the domestic grid system with links to “a foreign adversary” — an unspoken reference to China.
The open rivalry between the two nations has taken on a harder and much darker shading in the months since the new coronavirus spread from a metropolis on the Yangtze River across the globe, speeding up efforts by hard-liners in both Washington and Beijing to execute a so-called decoupling of important elements of the relationship.
China is likely to emerge from the recession caused by the pandemic faster than other nations. The United States — still reeling from the virus, with more than one million infected and more than 64,000 dead — will probably rely on economic activity in Asia to help prop up its own economy. Part of that involves getting Beijing to comply with a trade agreement signed in January.
Nearly a dozen U.S. states tentatively returned to public life on Friday, the first mass reopening of businesses since the pandemic brought America to a standstill six weeks ago. But there were clashes across the country over how, when and even whether it should be done.
Partisan battles flared in Illinois and Michigan, where protesters demanded that Democratic governors loosen restrictions. The skirmishes there and elsewhere revealed political dividing lines and geographical differences, but also something more basic — a vast and widely varying range of personal views about what the country should do.
Texas lifted stay-at-home orders for its 29 million residents. In Houston, the Galleria mall was open again, but ample close-in parking suggested that some customers were wary of returning. In Mobile, Ala., a venerable boutique decided to reopen with one dressing room, to be disinfected between uses.
Diners will soon return to South Carolina restaurants, though not indoors: Gov. Henry McMaster announced on Friday that he would ease more restrictions as of Monday, with restaurants, which have been limited to takeout and delivery, allowed to serve diners outdoors.
Iowa loosened restrictions in some counties, but not others. In Davenport, which is still under restrictions, Glory Smith questioned that logic, since the virus does not respect county boundaries.
As more states began to reopen on Friday, the governors of Illinois, Louisiana and Michigan contended with challenges to their authority to shutter some parts of public life. In California, hundreds gathered near the Huntington Beach shoreline to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order that the beach, and all beaches in Orange County, be marked off-limits.
But in a sign of the range of Americans’ views on how institutions should respond to the virus, workers at several large businesses, including Amazon and Target, protested working conditions at the companies and discouraged them from rolling back safety measures in a rush to return to business as usual. The protests came on May Day, or International Workers’ Day, traditionally a day for labor protests around the globe.
In Gaza, an enclave of two million where joblessness, poverty and dependency on international aid have long been at epidemic proportions, the coronavirus pandemic has been an economic boon.
The virus itself has largely spared Gaza because of strict Israeli-enforced controls over border crossings, and the decision by the ruling militant group Hamas to isolate all returning residents in quarantine facilities, now for three weeks. Only 17 people are known to have been infected, and no fatalities have been reported.
Gaza once had hundreds of apparel factories and employed 36,000 Palestinians but the industry all but collapsed in 2007 when Hamas seized control and Israel banned Gaza’s clothing exports to Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The Israeli authorities permitted the exports to resume after the 2014 Gaza war with Israel, and now, about a dozen factories have been turning out masks and protective wear, several of them hiring new employees, expanding their hours or even subcontracting excess work.
Some factories have also quietly filled orders from their Israeli partners with designs that are politically risky, featuring Israeli flags, the logo of a popular Israeli soccer team or “Made in Israel” labels.
Several tailors said they had no compunctions making masks to protect people in Israel, despite a number of bloody conflicts over the past 12 years.
“At the end of the day, we are all humans,” said Raed Dahman, 42, at Hassanco in Gaza City. “We should try to make sure everyone is safe, without exceptions.”
Reporting was contributed by Gina Kolata, Jason Gutierrez, Jeffrey Gettleman, Edward Wong, Ana Swanson, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Iyad Abuheweila, Adam Rasgon and Charu Suri