The World Health Organization agreed Monday to launch an independent investigation of how it led the international effort to deal with COVID-19. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement at the U.N. agency’s yearly General Assembly.
A coalition of WHO member countries had called for such an investigation. Tedros said the examination would not seek to answer the hotly debated issue of where and how the virus came to be.
American President Donald Trump has claimed he has proof suggesting the coronavirus was created in a lab in China. China denies the accusation. The scientific community says all evidence to date shows that the virus jumped to humans from animals.
Trump has repeatedly attacked the WHO, claiming that it helped China hide the extent of the coronavirus spread. Several Republican Party lawmakers have called on Tedros to resign.
Earlier Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that he supports calls for an investigation to learn how the coronavirus started and spread. But he argued for such action to start only after the worldwide health crisis is under control.
Xi spoke at the online WHO gathering.
The new coronavirus was first publicly identified in China in late December. It has since spread around the world, killing more than 315,000 people and infecting almost 4.8 million.
At the meeting Monday, Xi said China has always been “transparent” about its knowledge of the virus. He also announced that his country would provide $2 billion for the fight against COVID-19 over two years.
Governments around the world have been enforcing stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of the virus. Many also have called on people to wear face coverings and stay physically distant from others when they must go out in public. Those measures have brought economies to a halt. On Monday, Japan became the latest country to report that its economy is in recession.
Governments, especially in Europe, are starting to ease restrictions after reporting progress in bringing infection and deaths rates down. Belgium on Monday permitted stores and museums to reopen. More students returned to schools.
International travel restrictions are still in place in many areas, but some popular sites are reopening, including the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, and Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
In India, a rise in new infections has led the government to extend its nationwide lockdown through the end of the month. The government reported more than 5,000 new cases and 157 deaths Monday.
Egypt is closing stores, beaches and parks during the holiday that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Egypt also has established a nighttime curfew.
The United States is easing some restrictions. It leads the world in numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths, with about 1.5 million confirmed cases and 90,000 deaths.
I'm Caty Weaver.
VOA News reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. George Grow and Ashley Thompson were the editors.
Words in This Story
transparent -adj. honest and open: not secretive
museum -n. a building in which interesting and valuable things (such as paintings and sculptures or scientific or historical objects) are collected and shown to the public
lockdown -n. an emergency measure or condition in which people are temporarily prevented from entering or leaving a restricted area or building (such as a school) during a threat of danger
beach -n. an area covered with sand or small rocks that is next to an ocean or lake
park -n. a piece of public land in or near a city that is kept free of houses and other buildings and can be used for pleasure and exercise
Moderna Says Early Coronavirus Vaccine Shows Promise
American drug maker Moderna said Monday that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced antibodies in a small group of healthy people in an early trial.
The company said eight people who received two small amounts of its vaccine developed antibodies similar to those developed by people who have recovered from the disease.
The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases led the experiment, also called a trial. It involved 45 volunteers who received one or two shots of differing amounts of the vaccine.
Tal Zaks is the chief medical officer at Moderna. Based on early results of the trial, he said the vaccine “has the potential to prevent COVID-19 disease….” He also said the company now can better choose the vaccine amount needed for further experiments.
The testing involved three different amounts. Zaks said the two smaller amounts of vaccine seem safe and the larger amount caused some short-term side effects. Three study subjects developed “flu-like” conditions following a second shot of the large dose. Moderna said it plans to drop that amount for the next part of the trial.
Amesh Adalja is an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who was not involved in the study. He told Reuters that the findings are meaningful, but noted that they come from only eight people. “It was designed for safety. Not for efficacy,” he said.
Moderna has been permitted to start a second part of human testing that will involve several hundreds of people. In April, the U.S. government gave the company $483 million for vaccine development. Last week, U.S. officials gave the vaccine special recognition to help speed the process for approval.
Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, said the company is hoping to start part three of the study in July. The company will try to find the lowest amount of vaccine necessary to protect people.
In May, Moderna and the biotechnology company Lonza agreed to work together over the next ten years to make a vaccine. The partnership could lead to the manufacture of 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine treatments a year.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19. Almost 4.8 million people are confirmed to have had the virus. It is known to have killed about 320,000. However, experts think the numbers may be underreported.
The World Health Organization has listed more than 100 efforts to develop effective treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus. The list includes clinical trials in China, at the University of Oxford, and with American drug makers Pfizer, Inovio and Moderna.
Experts predict a safe and effective vaccine could take 12 to 18 months to develop. The results of Moderna’s early trial have not been published. But the news lifted the company’s stock prices and spread hope that a solution against the infectious disease might be close.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Associated Press and Reuters news reports. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
potential - n. a chance or possibility that something will happen in the future
efficacy - n. the power to produce a desired result or effect
clinical - adj. relating or based on work done with real patients