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AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial Brazil volunteer dies, trial to continue
21 October 2020, 11:05 PM

Brazil’s health authority, Anvisa said on Wednesday that a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had died but added that the trial would continue.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial.”

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the trial would have been suspended if the volunteer who died had received the COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting the person was part of the control group that was given a meningitis vaccine.

CNN Brasil reported that the volunteer was a 28-year-old man who lived in Rio de Janeiro and died from COVID-19 complications.

Anvisa provided no further details, citing medical confidentiality of those involved in trials.

AstraZeneca declined to comment immediately.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which is helping coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil, separately said the volunteer was Brazilian without revealing where the person lived.

It is up to an independent review board to decide whether trials will continue, a spokesperson for the university said.

The board is made up of experts not from AstraZeneca, nor the universities nor the Brazilian biomedical research center FioCruz that plans to produce the vaccine in Brazil.

So, far 8 000 of the planned 10 000 volunteers in the trial have been recruited and given the first dose in six cities in Brazil, and many have already received the second shot, he said.

AstraZeneca shares fell 1.8%.

Brazil’s federal government has plans to purchase the UK vaccine and produce it at FioCruz in Rio de Janeiro, while a competing vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd is being tested by Sao Paulo state’s research center Butantan Institute.

Brazil has the second deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus, with more than 154 000 killed by COVID-19, following the United States.

It has the third largest number of cases, with more than 5.2 million infected, after the United States and India.

Brazil’s Health Minister ill with suspected case of COVID-19
21 October 2020, 5:09 AM

Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello has fallen ill with a suspected case of COVID-19, the ministry’s press office said on Tuesday, as the country battles with the third-worst coronavirus outbreak globally, with nearly 5.3 million cases.

The Ministry said Pazuello had a fever on Tuesday and would be tested for COVID-19. On Monday, the Minister had missed a public event with President Jair Bolsonaro.

“He had a small indisposition and went to the hospital,” Bolsonaro said at the event. The Ministry said on Monday that Pazuello had been discharged and was at home.

Bolsonaro has sought to downplay the severity of the coronavirus, calling it a little flu. The President fell ill with a mild case of COVID-19 earlier this year, and several of his cabinet ministers have been infected previously.

Two different health ministers resigned in the span of roughly a month before Bolsonaro appointed Pazuello.

Bolsonaro has endorsed the drug hydroxychloroquine for treating coronavirus, despite its being unproven for that purpose; the former ministers had advised a more cautious approach.

Pazuello, who does not hold a medical degree, expanded access to hydroxychloroquine and allowed for public doctors to prescribe it for almost anyone who tests positive for coronavirus.

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut discourage nonessential travel as COVID-19 cases rise
21 October 2020, 4:23 AM

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Tuesday urged residents to limit nonessential travel between the states but stopped short of imposing quarantine requirements for people crossing those borders, even as local coronavirus cases rose.

New York, which faced one of the most rampant outbreaks in the world earlier this year, now requires people arriving from 38 states and two US territories where cases are rising to quarantine for 14 days, either at home or in a hotel room.

Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania now meet the state’s criteria for the quarantine requirements, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed with his neighboring counterparts that adding them to the quarantine list would be impractical.

In a joint statement later on Tuesday, Cuomo joined New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, all Democrats, in saying the three states “depend on each other when it comes to commerce, education, and health care.”

“We’re urging all of our residents to avoid unnecessary or non-essential travel between states at this time, but will not subject residents of our states to a quarantine if coming from a neighboring state,” the statement said.

Cuomo said he also wanted to discourage nonessential travel from Pennsylvania.

The rate of positive coronavirus tests was above 3% in New Jersey, state health officials said on Monday.

In Connecticut, the positivity rate was 1.7%, Lamont said on Monday. Pennsylvania’s was 4.3%, said Governor Tom Wolf.

New York’s positivity rate was 1.3% on Tuesday, one of the lowest in the nation, but health officials have raised concerns about some “hot spots” in parts of New York City and counties north of the metropolis.

At least two hit as soldiers fire on Nigerians protesting police brutality in Lagos: Witnesses
21 October 2020, 4:04 AM

Soldiers opened fire on Nigerians protesting against police brutality in the Lekki district of the commercial capital Lagos on Tuesday, striking at least two people, four witnesses told Reuters.

Thousands of Nigerians have demonstrated nationwide every day for nearly two weeks against a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), that rights groups had for years accused of extortion, harassment, torture and murders. The unit was disbanded on October 11 but the protests have persisted with demonstrators calling for a raft of law enforcement reforms.

“They started firing ammunition toward the crowd. They were firing into the crowd,” said Alfred Ononugbo, 55, a security officer. “I saw the bullet hit one or two persons,” he said.

The condition of those two people was not immediately known. Amnesty International has said at least 15 people had been killed since the protests began.

In a Twitter post, the Nigerian Army said no soldiers were at the scene of the shooting on Tuesday night in Lekki, an upmarket district where the toll gate has been the site of daily protests in Lagos, Africa’s biggest city.

Lagos state government said it would open an investigation into the shooting, which witnesses said began about 7 p.m. (1800 GMT).

“There have been reports of shooting at the Lekki Toll Plaza,” Gboyega Akosile, a spokesperson for the governor, said on Twitter. “The State Government has ordered an investigation into the incident,” he said in another tweet.

A Nigerian army spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Inyene Akpan, 26, a photographer, said more than 20 soldiers arrived at the toll gate in Lekki and opened fire. He said he saw two people being shot.

Akinbosola Ogunsanya, a third witness, said he saw around 10 people being shot. Ogunsanya, who said lights went out shortly before the soldiers arrived, also said he saw soldiers remove bodies.

Another witness, Chika Dibia, said soldiers hemmed in people as they shot at them.

Video verified by Reuters showed men walking slowly in formation toward demonstrators, followed by trucks with flashing lights, and the sound of gunfire popping. Another video showed the toll gate itself, with a protester waving a Nigerian flag, as people ran amid the sounds of gunfire.

A Reuters witness heard sirens and gunfire.

A doctor at the private Reddington Hospital in the Victoria Island area of Lagos said 13 people were being treated, including some for gunshot wounds. The doctor asked not to be identified.

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday held scheduled talks with the defence minister and the chief of defence staff around 6:15 p.m. (1715 GMT) to discuss national security, two presidency officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A spokesperson for the president did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Nigerian army was due to begin a two-month national exercise on Tuesday. When the move was announced on Saturday, it denied the move was part of a security response to the demonstrations. Days earlier the military said it was prepared to help maintain law and order.

The weeks-long protests were sparked by a video that began circulating in early October purportedly showing SARS officers shooting a man in southern Delta state. Police denied the shooting.

Authorities on Tuesday imposed a round-the-clock curfew on Lagos as the state governor said protests had turned violent.

It is one of three of Nigeria’s 36 states to have announced such measures in the last two days. The national police chief also ordered the immediate deployment of anti-riot forces nationwide following increased attacks on police facilities, a police spokesperson said.

US reports about 300 000 more deaths than usual during pandemic: CDC
21 October 2020, 3:36 AM

Nearly 300 000 more people have died in the United States in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic than expected based on historical trends, with about two-thirds of the deaths due to COVID-19 illnesses, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 299 028 more people died between January 26 and October 3 than the average numbers from past years would have indicated.

The CDC did not provide specific explanations for the excess deaths but said it expects the deaths to include those related directly or indirectly to COVID-19.

The agency defines excess deaths as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.

The CDC found that excess deaths have occurred every week since March 2020.

Excess deaths reached their highest points in the weeks ended April 11 and August 8, the CDC said.

The largest percentage increase in excess deaths from all causes was among adults aged 25–44 years at 26.5%.

The data show disproportionate increases among certain racial and ethnic groups, with the largest average percentage increase in deaths compared with previous years occurring among Hispanic people (53.6%).

Deaths were 32.9% above average among Black people and 36.6% above average for Asians.

The CDC notes estimated numbers of deaths in the most recent weeks are likely underestimated and will increase as more data become available.

Deaths from other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and respiratory diseases have also increased in 2020.

However, the researchers said it is unclear to what extent these represent deaths indirectly related to the pandemic because of disruptions in healthcare access or utilisation.

About 220 000 people have died in the United States due to COVID-19, according to the most recent Reuters tally.

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