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Saudi Arabia Declares Cease-Fire in Yemen, Citing Fears of Coronavirus: Live Updates

The head of the World Health Organization warned that politicizing the coronavirus pandemic would result in “many more body bags.”

RIGHT NOW Scientists warn that the virus might not fade in warm weather.

Saudi Arabia, battered by virus, declared a cease-fire in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced that the kingdom and its allies would observe a unilateral cease-fire in the war in Yemen starting at noon on Thursday, a move that could pave the way for ending the brutal five-year-old conflict.

Saudi officials said that the cease-fire was intended to jump-start peace talks brokered by the United Nations and that it had been motivated by fears of the coronavirus spreading in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world.

The gesture is the first by any government entangled in an international armed conflict to halt hostilities at least in part because of the pandemic. The secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, pleaded for a worldwide cease-fire two weeks ago, citing the pandemic.

As many as 150 members of the Saudi royal family are believed to have contracted the coronavirus, including members of the family’s lesser branches, according to a person close to the family.

The senior Saudi who is the governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is in intensive care with Covid-19, according to two doctors with ties to the King Faisal hospital and two others close to the royal family. Prince Faisal is a nephew of King Salman.

King Salman, 84, has secluded himself in an island palace near the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea. His son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 34-year old de facto ruler, has retreated with many of his ministers to the remote site on the same coast.

While Yemen is one of the few countries in the world yet to have a confirmed case of Covid-19, aid workers fear that an outbreak there would be devastating.

The cease-fire would include Saudi Arabia’s Arab allies and the internationally recognized Yemeni government, which was effectively toppled in 2014 when a rebel group aligned with Iran and known as the Houthis took over much of the country’s northwest and its capital, Sana.

The W.H.O. chief said politicizing the virus would lead to “many more body bags.”

Replying to criticism from President Trump, the head of the World Health Organization made an impassioned plea for solidarity on Wednesday, warning that politicizing the coronavirus pandemic would result in “many more body bags.”

Mr. Trump unleashed a tirade against the organization on Tuesday, accusing it of acting too slowly to sound the alarm, and of treating the Chinese government too favorably. While the president, who threatened to withhold American funding for the W.H.O., spoke in unusually harsh terms, he was not alone in such criticism.

Asked about Mr. Trump’s comments on Wednesday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. director-general, said, “We want to learn from our mistakes,” but added, “for now, the focus should be on fighting this virus.”

“Please don’t politicize this virus,” Dr. Tedros said. “If you want to be exploited and you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.”

He emphasized that the disease was new, adding, “there are many unknowns and we don’t know how it will behave in future.”

While some critics have called on Dr. Tedros to resign, he said he was not deterred and could withstand “three years” or “three hundred years” of personal attacks. He did not cite Mr. Trump by name.

He said for the first time that for months he has been targeted by racist comments and death threats.

Critics say the W.H.O. has been too trusting of the Chinese government, which initially tried to conceal the outbreak. Others have faulted the organization for not moving faster in declaring a global health emergency.

In Japan, the deputy prime minister and finance minister, Taro Aso, recently noted that some people referred to the W.H.O. as the “Chinese Health Organization” because of what he called its close ties to Beijing.

Taiwan officials say the W.H.O. ignored their early warnings about the virus because China refuses to allow Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its territory, to become a member.

The agency’s defenders say that its powers over any individual government are limited.

In a statement on Wednesday, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, called the W.H.O. “absolutely critical” to vanquishing the virus.

“Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis,” Mr. Guterres said.

Vaccine efforts move toward human trials.

In just a few months, more than two dozen companies have announced promising vaccine programs aimed at ending the pandemic, speeding through the early stages of testing unlike ever before.

On Wednesday, Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech company, said its vaccine candidate had stimulated a powerful immune response in lab and animal experiments, producing antibodies that could fight off the coronavirus. The vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, is set to begin human trials in Australia in mid-May. A final product that would be widely available is still a year or more away.

A vaccine made by the biotech company Moderna is already in a clinical trial, which started March 15. Another one, developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals, was injected into the first adult volunteers on Monday.

In just a few months, more than two dozen companies have announced promising vaccine programs aimed at ending the pandemic, speeding through the early stages of testing unlike ever before.

On Wednesday, Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech company, said its vaccine candidate had stimulated a powerful immune response in lab and animal experiments, producing antibodies that could fight off the coronavirus. The vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, is set to begin human trials in Australia in mid-May. A final product that would be widely available is still a year or more away.

A vaccine made by the biotech company Moderna is already in a clinical trial, which started March 15. Another one, developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals, was injected into the first adult volunteers on Monday.

The health care giant Johnson & Johnson expects to start clinical trials in September, and has received a nearly $500 million partnership via a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And experimental vaccines developed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Baylor College of Medicine are also waiting for permission from the Food and Drug Administration to begin testing in people.

There is no proven treatment or vaccine yet against Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. A vaccine would be the best way to stop further spread of the coronavirus because it enhances the immune system’s natural defenses.

“We’re all trying to do something which we have almost no precedents for, which is accelerating a vaccine in the middle of a pandemic,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, who is a co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine.

Nations tiptoe toward easing lockdowns, keeping an eye on China.

As the global toll of the coronavirus grows — 1.4 million confirmed infections and more than 82,000 deaths — nations on every continent are struggling to come to terms with the new normal and navigate the fallout from the pandemic.

But the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus pandemic started, lifted its lockdown on Wednesday, allowing 11 million residents to leave the city without special authorization for the first time in more than 10 weeks.

Wuhan’s reversal is a powerful symbolic victory for China that will be closely watched by the rest of the world, even as the contagion continues to spread elsewhere — including in the United States, which is approaching 400,000 known infections. It may offer a window into how other places could begin to restart damaged supply chains and return to a semblance of normalcy.

With most of Europe, India, the United States and many other places under orders for businesses to close and most people to stay home, economies have been crippled and millions of people thrown out of work.

In Europe, where the spread of the virus has started to slow in hard-hit countries like Italy and Spain, some countries are now tiptoeing toward a loosening of strict lockdown measures that have been in place for nearly a month.

But virologists and public health officials say that easing restrictions too swiftly could produce the catastrophic scenario that the lockdowns have so far kept at bay.

Elsewhere, the numbers have yet to peak. As Britain waited for updates on the condition of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a second night in the intensive care unit with complications from the virus, officials warned the peak could be 10 days away.

After a second night in intensive care, Boris Johnson is ‘responding to treatment.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain is stable and “responding to treatment” for the coronavirus, but remains in intensive care, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Mr. Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday and transferred the next day to the intensive care unit, where he received oxygen but was not put on a ventilator. He is not suffering from pneumonia, his aides said on Tuesday, but his illness has brought concerns about the government’s ability to make major decisions during the crisis.

Downing Street declined on Wednesday to comment on what treatment Mr. Johnson was receiving, though it repeated previous statements that he is breathing without assistance apart from receiving oxygen.

The office said he was in good spirits but made clear that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, initially asked to stand in for Mr. Johnson “where necessary,” was now doing so full-time. The prime minister can speak with people when necessary, but is not working.

Mr. Raab is already serving as chairman of a key committee on the pandemic, as the government works to control the epidemic and stabilize an economy hit hard by the lockdown measures it has imposed.

The government is expected next week to review measures that have closed down much of the economy, though there are no signs as yet of an imminent easing.

I think we’re nowhere near lifting the lockdown,” Mayor Sadiq Khan of London said on Wednesday in an interview with the BBC. “I speak to experts regularly. We think the peak, which is the worst part of the virus, is probably a week and a half away.”

The Nightingale, the emergency hospital that was built in less than two weeks at a London conference center, received its first patients on Tuesday, a spokesperson said on Wednesday. It will be able to provide ventilation treatment to more than 2,800 patients.

The E.U.’s finance ministers failed to agree on a plan, and its top scientist quit.

A marathon overnight teleconference of European finance ministers broke off Wednesday without agreement on eurozone measures to counter the economic disaster caused by the pandemic.

The 16-hour meeting was meant to produce recommendations for collective action by the 19 European Union nations that use the euro, in addition to policies enacted by individual countries. While there was broad support for some ideas, like a $109 billion fund for unemployment benefits, others proved more contentious.

Italy and Spain, the worst-hit countries, want the group to issue joint debt, known as eurobonds or coronabonds. And they want loans from the bloc’s bailout fund to come without conditions for economic overhaul or austerity. Wealthier countries to the north have resisted those moves.

Analysts foresee the worst recession in generations — a roughly 13 percent economic contraction across the 19 European Union nations that share the euro.

The European Union’s top scientist quit after failing to persuade his superiors to create a major scientific program to confront the virus. Colleagues said he had been asked to leave.

Dr. Mauro Ferrari, who became president of the European Research Council in January, resigned on Tuesday in a letter to Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president.

“I have been extremely disappointed by the European response to Covid-19,” he said in a statement to The Financial Times. “I arrived at the E.R.C. a fervent supporter of the E.U.,’’ he wrote, but “the Covid-19 crisis completely changed my views.”

Dr. Ferrari said he began to press for a special virus program in early March, but it was barred by the bloc’s rules. He said he worked with Ms. von der Leyen on an alternative, but it was apparently blocked by the commission’s bureaucracy.

On Wednesday, the Research Council rejected Dr. Ferrari’s version of events, saying he had been forced out in part because he spent half his time in the United States and missed important meetings.

What you need to know about hydroxychloroquine.

With more than one million people worldwide ill from the coronavirus, there is an urgent search for any drug that might help.

While there is no proof that any drug can yet cure or prevent a coronavirus infection, one prescription medicine that has received significant attention is hydroxychloroquine, approved decades ago to treat malaria and also used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

President Trump has recommended it repeatedly, despite little evidence that it works against the coronavirus.

Here are some key facts on hydroxychloroquine:

promising laboratory study found that chloroquine could block the coronavirus from invading cells, which it must do to replicate and cause illness. But drugs that vanquish viruses in petri dishes do not always work in the human body, and studies of hydroxychloroquine have found that it failed to prevent or treat other viral illnesses.

Still, many hospitals are giving hydroxychloroquine to patients infected with the coronavirus because there is no proven treatment, and they hope it will help. Clinical trials with control groups have begun across the world.

Overall, hydroxychloroquine is considered relatively safe for people who do not have underlying illnesses that the drug is known to worsen. But like every drug, it can have side effects and is not safe for people who have abnormalities in their heart rhythms, eye problems involving the retina, or liver or kidney disease. Do not use it without consulting a doctor who knows your medical history and what other medications you are taking.

He was on a cruise with 217 people. 128 tested positive for the virus.

For at least one passenger, a trip on a cruise ship seemed like a way to avoid the pandemic. Now, though, nearly 60 percent of the people aboard have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Greg Mortimer, an Australian ship off the coast of Uruguay, has been at sea since March 15, when it departed for Antarctica and South Georgia with 217 people onboard.

“We thought somewhat naïvely that a boat going into isolation for three weeks was probably a safe place to be,” Brian Meier, 55, one of the six Americans on the ship, said on Wednesday. “We were hoping to be coming back in three weeks when everything would be calming down.”

He said each passenger’s temperature was taken before they boarded the vessel, and the cruise line warned that the boat would turn around if a passenger developed a fever. But on Tuesday, Aurora Expeditions announced that the virus had found its way onboard, and that six people had been evacuated to hospitals, where they are in stable condition.

Mr. Meier, who has tested positive for the virus, said the cruise company decided to divert the ship to the Falkland Islands on the fourth day of the three-week cruise. When news spread that there was someone with a fever onboard, all passengers were confined to their cabins, he said, and everyone was tested. On Tuesday the results came back: 128 were positive.

“I’m doing fine with no symptoms other than 16 days of cabin fever,” Mr. Meier said. “The bigger challenge is just having this open-ended situation, not sure what our future really is. It’s out of our control.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/world/coronavirus-live-news-updates.html#link-4cdd06d4

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