Trial begins of new UK COVID-19 treatment

Trial begins of new UK COVID-19 treatment
Paramedics wheel a patient on a trolley outside a hospital in London on January 12, 2021 as surging cases of the novel coronavirus are placing health services under increasing pressure. (AFP)
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Updated 13 January 2021

Trial begins of new UK COVID-19 treatment

Trial begins of new UK COVID-19 treatment
  • Using a nebulizer, the drug is turned into a mist, making it easy to inhale
  • Interferon beta protein inhaled by patients shown to have 80% efficacy in reducing symptoms

LONDON: A trial has begun in the UK of a new treatment to stop the development of severe symptoms in COVID-19 patients.
The treatment involves inhaling a protein called interferon beta, commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis, in order to stimulate the immune system before the virus can take hold.
Using a nebulizer, the drug is turned into a mist, making it easy to inhale, with each course currently costing around £2,000 ($2,733) to produce.
Early research found the treatment could cut the rate of serious cases of COVID-19 developing in patients by as much as 80 percent.
Synairgen, the UK company manufacturing the drug, said in a trial of 100 people, patients were up to three times more likely to be able to return to everyday activities quickly after completing the course, and hospital stays were reduced by a third. 
“To be viable, it will have to represent good value for money,” said Synairgen’s CEO Richard Marsden.
The new trial will involve 600 patients, and is set to include people in 19 other countries, with half of participants receiving the drug and the rest a placebo.
The trial is set to be completed by this summer, and the drug could be approved for use before the end of the year.
The effectiveness of interferon beta against COVID-19 was first discovered by scientists at the University of Southampton while researching its uses against other lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The university’s Prof. Tom Wilkinson, overseeing the trial, said: “If we had a positive study, we would hope to move rapidly into scaled manufacture and delivery of the drug in clinical practice.” 
He added that the development of alternatives to vaccines is essential as it could take years for the whole world to be inoculated against COVID-19, and that there would be many people unable or unwilling to receive a jab.
The threat of virus mutation and resistance to current vaccines also increases the need for alternative treatments, he said.


Netherlands anti-curfew protests spark clashes with police, looting

In this image made from video, a COVID-19 testing center is seen after being set on fire in Urk, 80 kilometers northeast of Amsterdam, on Jan. 23, 2021. (Pro News via AP)
Updated 25 January 2021

Netherlands anti-curfew protests spark clashes with police, looting

In this image made from video, a COVID-19 testing center is seen after being set on fire in Urk, 80 kilometers northeast of Amsterdam, on Jan. 23, 2021. (Pro News via AP)
  • Vehicles burned, businesses at Eindhoven’s central train station looted
  • A Covid-19 testing center was set on fire on Saturday evening in the village of Urk

THE HAGUE: Protests against a curfew to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the Netherlands degenerated into clashes with police and looting in cities across the country Sunday, authorities and reports said.
Police used water cannon and dogs in Amsterdam, public television NOS reported, after hundreds gathered to protest the curfew which is set to last until February 10 and is the country’s first since World War II.
In the southern city of Eindhoven, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred, regional television Omroep Brabant reported. At least 30 people were arrested there, according to police.
A number of vehicles were burned and businesses at Eindhoven’s central train station were also looted, media reports said.
Dutch rail company NS called on travelers to avoid the Eindhoven station, where it said train circulation was interrupted due to the intervention of emergency services nearby.
Eindhoven mayor John Jorritsma told reporters that if the country continued “down this path, then I think we are heading for civil war.”
Incidents were also reported in The Hague, Breda, Arnhem, Tilburg, Enschede, Appeldoorn, Venlo and Ruremond.
A Covid-19 testing center was set on fire on Saturday evening in the village of Urk in the north of the country, local authorities said.
“The fire in a screening center in Urk goes beyond all limits,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Sunday.
Violators of the 9 p.m. to 4:30 am curfew, which Prime Minister Mark Rutte says is needed to bring case numbers down, face a 95-euro ($115) fine.
Exemptions are possible, in particular for people returning from funerals or those having to work, but on condition that they present a certificate.
Rutte also announced on Wednesday a ban on flights from Britain, South Africa and South America, and a cut in the number of guests allowed in people’s homes to one, from the previous limit of two.
New variants of the virus have led to deep concern in Europe, particularly a more infectious strain that first emerged in Britain.
The Netherlands was already under its toughest measures since the start of the pandemic, with bars and restaurants having closed in October, and schools and non-essential shops shut since December.
Dutch lawmakers on Thursday approved Rutte’s curfew plan, though on condition that it begin half an hour later than the original 8:30 p.m. start time.
The move had faced criticism led by far-right politician Geert Wilders, who called it “careless” and “disproportionate.”
“I stand here for freedom. I lost it myself,” said Wilders, who has for years been under round-the-clock security after receiving death threats.
“I do not accept that we unnecessarily... introduce curfews while there are alternatives.”
Rutte and his cabinet resigned on January 22 over a scandal involving child tax benefits, but they will continue to govern until elections in mid-March.