(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Stepping up steroid use
Several U.S. hospitals in states with fresh surges of COVID-19 cases have started treating their sickest patients with dexamethasone rather than await confirmation of preliminary results of a study by British researchers, who said the inexpensive steroid saves lives.
Traditionally, doctors wait for detailed data to be published in a peer reviewed journal – or for guidelines from medical societies – before embracing a new treatment, so they can better gauge the risks against the drug’s benefits. The urgency of the coronavirus pandemic and lack of other treatments has altered those calculations.
“It almost feels unethical not to use the drug,” said Dr. Kartik Cherabuddi, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Florida’s medical school.
New data suggests European strain
China has released genome sequencing data for the coronavirus responsible for a recent outbreak in Beijing, with officials saying on Friday it identified a European strain based on preliminary studies.
Details published on China’s National Microbiology Data Center website revealed the Beijing genome data was based on three samples – two human and one environmental – collected on June 11. That was the same day the Chinese capital reported its first new local COVID-19 infection in months.
“According to preliminary genomic and epidemiological study results, the virus is from Europe, but it is different from the virus currently spreading in Europe,” CDC official Zhang Yong was cited as saying in an article published on Friday by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on its website.
“It’s older than the virus currently spreading in Europe.”
Seeking united recovery
European Union leaders will try to narrow their differences over a coronavirus economic recovery plan at a video-conference summit on Friday, worried that further bickering and delay will only dent public confidence in the bloc as a deep downturn takes hold.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU, reeling from more than 100,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 and facing its worst recession since World War Two, urgently needed an agreement on its multi-year budget and a multi-billion-euro recovery fund.
“The pandemic has revealed how fragile the European project still is,” Merkel told parliament in Berlin, lamenting the “rather national and not European” initial response to the pandemic by EU governments, including her own.
UK alert level lowered
The United Kingdom’s chief medical officers have agreed that the COVID-19 threat level should be lowered one notch to “epidemic is in general circulation” from “transmission is high or rising exponentially”.
The UK has a COVID-19 death toll of more than 50,000 based on official data including fatalities where it is mentioned on death certificates, making it one of the worst hit countries in the world.
“There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues,” the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said.
“It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.”
(Compiled by Linda Noakes, Editing by William Maclean)