Spotlight: Dignitaries infected, medical resoures strained, Europe seeking remedies for coronavirus crisis

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-28 08:20:15|Editor: yhy
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BRUSSELS, March 27 (Xinhua) -- As COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating in Europe, preying on ordinary mortals and dignitaries alike, more countries are scrambling to seek remedies for the pandemic and its fallout.

Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that over half a million people have been infected worldwide. In Europe, the toll is still staggering, with both Italy and Spain on Friday reporting their highest single-day new deaths, 969 and 769, respectively.


Downing Street said on Friday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had tested positive for coronavirus. Shortly after Johnson, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed his infection.

The infections of the two British high-ups came just two days after Prince Charles, 71, tested positive for the virus. It reveals that the virus is going deep indiscriminately into every corner of society.

Cluster infections have been reported in many closed facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and even barracks--25 NATO soldiers in the battalion in Rukla, central Lithuania, have tested positive for the coronavirus, the baltic state's presidency said Friday.


Healthcare workers, who formed the frontline in the battle against the invisible enemy, suffered most due to the risks of exposure or lack of protective gear.

Spain's health emergency chief said Friday that 9,444 health workers have tested positive for the coronavirus. The country is seeking to employ 200 foreign professionals to make up the gap.

In Portugal, more than 4,500 doctors, among them many retired, have registered to reinforce the National Health Service, the Medical Association said on Friday.


While medical services in Europe are buckling under the strain of soaring caseload, hospitals are fretting about the lack of medical supplies.

Frederic Valletoux, head of the French Hospital Federation, warned on Friday that hospitals in the Paris region would be saturated within 48 hours due to fast-spreading contagion.

Bruno Riou, a medical director at the AP-HP hospital group in Paris, urged the immediate transfer of patients to less stricken regions to ease the burden of the capital's hospitals.

In addition to overseas purchases and donations, many European countries are exploring multiple ways to guarantee medical supplies. Some factories have shifted to produce medical resources.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Friday visited the Technological Center of the Textile and Clothing Industries of Portugal (CITEVE) in northern Portugal, which will be converted to produce protective equipment during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, donations are reaching Europe to help relieve the shortage. Among them, 20,000 face masks donated by China's COSCO Shipping Group to Belgium arrived on Thursday.

A shipment of medical supplies donated by Chinese companies in Shandong Province was delivered via a chartered flight on Friday morning from Jinan, the provincial capital, to Serbia. It followed another batch of medical supplies donated by Chinese companies, which arrived one day ago.


As the global death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 23,335, the WHO stressed an urgent need for therapeutics to treat patients and save lives.

Speaking of the "Solidarity Trial," a multi-country clinical study for potential treatments for COVID-19, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it is a historic trial that will dramatically cut the time needed to generate robust evidence about what drugs work.

He said that the first batch of patients in Norway and Spain will be shortly enrolled in the study, which compares the safety and effectiveness of four different drugs or drug combinations against the epidemic.

"The more countries who join the trial, the faster we will have results," Tedros said, noting more than 45 countries and regions are contributing to the trial while more have expressed interest.

Italian regulators on Friday greenlighted pilot programs aimed at testing specific anti-malaria drugs and pharmaceutical mixtures used to treat AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) to determine whether they could be effective in fighting COVID-19.

In Austria, experts on a virtual press conference in Vienna water-downed the hope of rapid therapy. The effectiveness of medicines in relation to COVID-19 will be clearer in "half a year to a year," said Stefan Kahler, chief for clinical research within the Association of the Austrian Pharmaceutical Industry.

Even if "the time is pressing" regarding the dramatically developing pandemic, one should not forget that "only good, well-founded scientific knowledge" can really help, he said.

While therapies and vaccines are not on the near horizon, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed the power of solidarity in anti-virus war.

"It is time for mutual understanding, joint action, and immediate initiatives ... Major crises demand brave decisions. Let us take them!" wrote Mitsotakis on his Facebook account Friday.