While the WHO is concerned about the "very worrying" rate of transmission of Covid-19, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has approved an antiviral pill against covid. This makes the UK the first country to allow the use of such a treatment against the coronavirus.
"We are, again, at the epicentre (...) The current rate of transmission in the 53 countries in the European region is very worrying (...) if we stay on this trajectory, we could see another half a million deaths from Covid-19 in the region by February" lamented WHO Director Hans Kluge during an online meeting.
The World Health Organisation believes that the recent explosion of covid cases is strongly linked to the relaxation of anti-covid measures and insufficient vaccination coverage. Hospitalizations linked to the virus have "more than doubled in one week", according to WHO Europe data. The number of cases is on the rise for the sixth consecutive week, while the number of Covid-related deaths per day has also been on the rise for more than seven weeks now, i.e. about 250,000 cases and 3,600 deaths linked to the coronavirus per day.
According to the WHO, masks and social distancing measures are still "essential" in the fight against the spread of the virus at the moment.
"Reliable projections show that if we achieved 95% mask use in Europe and Central Asia, we could save up to 188,000 of the half a million lives we stand to lose by February 2022" ensured Hans Kluge.
First Covid-19 treatment approved by health agency
In parallel to the WHO meeting, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the use of an antiviral pill against Covid, jointly developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. UK becomes the first country to approve the use of such a medication.
The MHRA has recommended this treatment, molnupiravir, for people with mild to moderate covid and at least one risk factor for developing severe covid. The latest studies show that Molnupiravir could halve the risk of death or hospitalization for those most at risk.
Merck's treatment would first be given to those most likely to develop a severe form. A wider roll-out could follow if hospital admissions and deaths are down, as the latest data shows.
"We are now working within government and the NHS to urgently provide this treatment to patients, initially through a national study so that we can collect more data on how antivirals work in a mainly vaccinated population." UK Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup told Parliament.
MHRA Director Dr June Raine reassures sceptics of the new Covid-19 treatment that: "without any compromise on quality, safety and efficacy, the public can be confident that the MHRA has conducted a robust and thorough assessment of the data.
The number of daily cases in the UK is reported to be over 40,000 in the last 7 days and 131 deaths linked to Covid-19.
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