Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
The Philippines has approved the ‘compassionate use’ of Molnupiravir for 31 hospitals. (Merck & Co Inc via Reuters)
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Updated 27 October 2021

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
  • Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand
  • Each pill is estimated to cost between $1.97 and $2.96

MANILA: The Philippines will receive 300,000 courses of Merck & Co’s COVID-19 antiviral drug next month, licensed importers and distributors said on Wednesday, as Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand.
Singapore and Malaysia have signed deals to buy the drug, Molnupiravir, while Indonesia is finalizing a purchase agreement, among a slew of orders after data from interim clinical trials showed the pills could halve the likelihood of hospitalization or death for patients at risk of severe COVID-19.
“Molnupiravir can now be accessed by our countrymen upon being prescribed for such use by their respective physicians,” Monaliza Salian, president of MedEthix, a Philippine health care products importer, told a news conference.
MedEthix will import 300,000 courses of Molnupiravir for COVID-19 patients in four hospitals, she added. The shipment will be the first batch of the drug to arrive in the Philippines.
Each pill is estimated to cost 100 to 150 pesos ($1.97 to $2.96), said Meneleo Hernandez, president of pharmaceutical firm JackPharma, which will distribute the drug locally.
The Philippines has approved the “compassionate use” of Molnupiravir for 31 hospitals, Food and Drug Administration Chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said on Wednesday.
Molnupiravir would be the world’s first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval.
The Philippines’ health ministry on Wednesday reported 3,218 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest single-day tally in more than five months. It has so far fully inoculated roughly 26 million of its 110 million population.
With nearly 2.77 million cases and more than 42,300 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.


Pope Francis arrives in Cyprus with migrants in focus

Pope Francis arrives in Cyprus with migrants in focus
Updated 7 sec ago

Pope Francis arrives in Cyprus with migrants in focus

Pope Francis arrives in Cyprus with migrants in focus
LARNACA, Cyprus: Pope Francis arrived on Cyprus on Thursday with a focus on inter-faith dialogue and lending his support to a country on one of the frontlines of Europe’s migration crisis.
Francis, who will travel on to Greece on Dec. 4, was to meet with Cyprus’s president on Thursday as well as with the Maronite Church. On Friday he is scheduled to perform mass at an open-air stadium and later hold an ‘ecumenical prayer’ with migrants at a Catholic Church in the divided capital.
“It will be a beautiful trip but we will touch some wounds. I hope that we all will be able to gather up the messages given to us,” Pope Francis told journalists on the aircraft.
Young children waving flags of Cyprus and the Vatican welcomed Francis at Larnaca airport, and three young girls in Cypriot traditional dress gave him bouquets of flowers.
Cyprus says it is struggling to cope with an influx of undocumented migrants, either through a dividing line splitting the island, or by boats from the neighboring Middle East.
Francis, who has made defense of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy, has arranged to have 50 migrants relocated to Italy after his trip this week.
Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict, visited Cyprus in 2010. Cyprus’s Orthodox Church, the dominant Christian communion, traces its lineage back to some of Christ’s earliest followers.
According to the Book of Acts in Christian scripture, St. Paul visited the island with Barnabas, the founder of Cyprus’s Church, and Mark the Evangelist.
The Pope will be staying at a Franciscan monastery in the capital Nicosia, one of the last divided capitals of the world. The Roman Catholic Holy Cross Church, in the same compound, still bears scars from the crossfire of ethnic strife and from a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup in 1974.

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia
Updated 02 December 2021

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia
  • EU ordered its non-essential staff to leave war-torn Ethiopia

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Thursday announced that it was ordering its non-essential staff to leave war-torn Ethiopia.
EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said security would be stepped up for EU and local staff remaining at its missions to Ethiopia and to the African Union.


Baby found dead in migrant boat off Spain’s Canaries

Baby found dead in migrant boat off Spain’s Canaries
Updated 02 December 2021

Baby found dead in migrant boat off Spain’s Canaries

Baby found dead in migrant boat off Spain’s Canaries
  • The group includes 68 women, six children and the body of a baby who did not survive the voyage
  • Spain is one of the main gateways into Europe for migrants seeking a better life in Europe

MADRID: A baby was found dead in one of five migrant boats intercepted off Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic with nearly 300 people on board, officials said Thursday.
Migrant arrivals on the Canaries have surged since late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe’s southern coast dramatically reduced crossings to the continent via the Mediterranean.
In the latest incident, the Spanish coast guard rescued 282 sub-Saharan African migrants from five inflatable dinghies off the coast of Fuerteventura, one of the seven islands that make up the Canary islands, local emergency services said in a tweet.
The group includes 68 women, six children and the body of a baby who did not survive the voyage, an emergency services spokeswoman said.
They are all in good health except for one woman who needed medical attention, she added.
Spain is one of the main gateways into Europe for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
Between January 1 and November 30 a total of 36,379 migrants arrived in Spain by sea, 511 more than during the same time last year, according to interior ministry figures.
More than half, 54 percent, arrived on Spain’s Canary Islands off the North African coast.
The shortest route to the archipelago is more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Moroccan coast, but it is notoriously dangerous due to strong currents.
Over 900 migrants have died trying to reach the Canaries so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.


India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant

India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant
Updated 02 December 2021

India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant

India says it detects two cases of Omicron variant
  • All primary contacts and secondary contacts of both the cases have been traced and are being tested

BENGALURU: India has detected two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in the southern state of Karnataka, a health ministry official said on Thursday.
“All primary contacts and secondary contacts of both the cases have been traced and are being tested,” the health ministry’s joint secretary Lav Agarwal told a news briefing.


Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign
Updated 02 December 2021

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign

Biden launching winter COVID-19 booster, testing campaign
  • The plan includes a requirement for private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests and a tightening of testing requirements for people entering the US regardless of their vaccination status
  • Biden is also extending his directive requiring masks on airplanes and other public transit, which had been set to expire in January

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden is set to kick off a more urgent campaign for Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots Thursday as he unveils his winter plans for combating the coronavirus and its omicron variant with enhanced availability of shots and vaccines but without major new restrictions.
The plan includes a requirement for private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests and a tightening of testing requirements for people entering the US regardless of their vaccination status. But as some other nations close their borders or reimpose lockdowns, officials said Biden was not moving to impose additional restrictions beyond his recommendation that Americans wear masks indoors in public settings.
Biden said Wednesday that the forthcoming strategy, to be unveiled during a speech at the National Institutes of Health, would fight the virus “not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more.”
The White House released details of Biden’s plan early Thursday, in advance of the speech.
The Biden administration has come to view widespread adoption of booster shots as its most effective tool for combating COVID-19 this winter. Medical experts say boosters provide enhanced and more enduring protection against COVID-19, including new variants.
About 100 million Americans are eligible for boosters under current US policy, with more becoming eligible every day. Convincing those who have already been vaccinated to get another dose, officials believe, will be far easier than vaccinating the roughly 43 million adult Americans who haven’t gotten a shot despite widespread public pressure campaigns to roll up their sleeves.
And while Biden’s vaccination-or-testing requirement for workers at larger employers has been held up by legal challenges, the president on Thursday will renew his call for businesses to move ahead and impose their own mandates on workers so they can stay open without outbreaks.
In a effort to encourage more people to take the booster doses, the Biden administration is stepping up direct outreach to seniors — the population most vulnerable to the virus. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will send a notice to all 63 million Medicare beneficiaries encouraging them to get booster doses, the White House said. The AARP will work with the administration on education campaigns for seniors.
So far about 42 million Americans, about half of them seniors, have received a booster dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week broadened its booster dose recommendation to cover all Americans aged at least 18 starting six months after their second dose of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna.
The White House said the CDC was also developing new guidance for schools in an effort to reduce or eliminate current quarantine requirements for those are not fully vaccinated and exposed to the virus. The new policies, which the White House said will be released in the coming weeks, could include so-called “test-to-stay” policies, in which those who are considered close contacts can continue to go to school but wear masks and undergo serial testing, in a bid to minimize learning loss and disruption.
The administration’s upcoming rule to require private insurers to cover at-home testing is still being drafted, and many details remain to be worked out, including under what criteria they will be reimbursable, officials said. Those insured by Medicare and Medicaid would not be eligible, but the White House said as many as 150 million people with private insurance would see easier and cheaper access to the at-home tests.
Beginning next week, the White House said, all travelers to the US, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of boarding their flights. That’s down from three days right now for those who have been vaccinated, in an added precaution against the omicron variant. But the White House has shelved tougher options, like requiring post-arrival testing or requiring quarantines upon arrival in the US
Biden is also extending his directive requiring masks on airplanes and other public transit, which had been set to expire in January, through at least the middle of March, the White House said.
The administration is also informing states that it has more than 60 teams available to help them or their municipalities address surges in cases and public health shortages heading into the winter, with half aimed at bolstering hospital services and 20 targeted at supporting life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments.