Europe eyes arthritis drug for Covid-19 cases

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Amsterdam

The European Medicines Agency has started an accelerated review process to determine if a common arthritis drug might help people hospitalized with severe COVID-19, months after the drug was granted an emergency use authorization in the U.S.

In a statement Monday, the EU drug regulator said it was assessing an application to extend the use of tocilizumab for adults suffering from severe coronavirus in the hospital, who were already being treated with other steroids or required extra oxygen, including via a ventilator.

Tocilizumab is an anti-inflammatory drug currently used to treat adults and children with severe arthritis.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the drug an emergency use authorization and the World Health Organization recommended its use last month for people who are critically ill with COVID-19.

The European regulator said it expected to make a decision by mid-October on tocilizumab, based on data from four large studies. The drug was first licensed in the EU in 2009.

Tokyo — Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency will continue through Sept. 12 rather than finishing at the end of this month as initially planned, the government decided Monday With the virus continuing to spread in the country, the state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa, and three other regions which began in July will be extended and expanded.

The measures were enforced throughout the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, which took place with no spectators from the general public at many events.

With the latest extension, the emergency will remain in force during the Tokyo Paralympics, which open Aug. 24 and close on Sept. 5.

“The surge in infections is reaching alarming record highs,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said after meeting with other ministers about the move.

The emergency measures center on asking eateries and bars to close at 8 p.m. and not serve alcohol.

They will be expanded to several more prefectures including Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka, which are currently under a less severe cautionary “quasi-emergency.”

Belgrade, Serbia — Serbia will start administering a third, or booster, dose of vaccines this week to people who previously were vaccinated at least 6 months ago, after cases of infections have surged in recent days.

Authorities on Monday said that citizens will receive text messages with invitations for booster shots. Initially, heath authorities will contact people with weakened immune systems, the elderly, medical workers and those whose jobs require frequent travel.

Serbia, a Balkan nation of around 7 million people, has vaccinated over 50% of its population.

The country loosened anti-virus rules during the summer which has led to a rise in confirmed new cases and hospitalizations mostly from the highly contagious delta variant.

On Monday, Serbia confirmed 1,288 new cases for the past 24 hours while seven people died. More than 700,000 people have been infected since the start of the pandemic and over 7,000 people died. ___

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s president on Monday removed the island nation’s health minister amid a surge of COVID-10 cases and deaths.

The cabinet reshuffle announced by the office of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on Monday came as the health ministry is facing mounting criticism over it’s failure to contain COVID-19, which is spreading fast across the Indian Ocean island nation.

Pavithra Wanniarachchi was removed from the Health Minster portfolio and was appointed as Minister of Transport.

Media Minister and government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella was appointed as the new health minister.

Sri Lanka is witnessing an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths over the last two weeks. Doctors have warned that hospitals and morgues are reaching their maximum capacities.

The government has ruled out an immediate lockdown despite repeated pleas from doctors because of an ailing economy.

Jakarta, Indonesia — Indonesia’s president pledged to improve COVID-19 testing and treatment in a speech Monday marking the country’s independence and said the pandemic has changed Indonesian culture in ways that would be a foundation for advancement.

Wearing masks, not shaking hands and avoiding crowds of people were once taboo, while working from home, distance learning, online meetings and online court have become new habits “that we used to be hesitant to do,” President Joko Widodo said in the national address marking the country’s 76th anniversary of independence.

“Amid today’s disruptive world, the spirit to change, the spirit to make changes and the spirit to innovate have become the foundation to build an advanced Indonesia,” Widodo said.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, the acceleration of innovation has become an integrated part of our everyday lives.”—AFP

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