A malaria drug that U.S. President Donald Trump says he has been taking to avoid contracting COVID-19 has been linked to increased risk of death in patients with the disease, according to a study published in a prominent medical journal.
The study, published Friday in The Lancet, monitored more than 96,000 COVID-19 hospital patients. It found that people treated with hydroxychloroquine, or the related drug chloroquine, were more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat that could cause sudden death.
Trump began touting the use of the malaria drug as a coronavirus treatment in early April and said earlier this week that he was taking it as a preventative measure.
The authors of the study suggested that hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat COVID-19, outside clinical trials, until results from those trials are available and confirm its safety for COVID-19 patients.
In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also issued a warning about the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.
Another new study, this one by the World Health Organization, concluded that the pandemic was interfering with immunization against diseases that could risk the lives of nearly 80 million infants. Global health officials said over half of 129 countries that had immunization data reported the suspension of vaccinations against cholera, measles, polio and other diseases.
India infections spike
As coronavirus cases worldwide neared 5.2 million and deaths climbed past 336,000, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics, India’s health ministry said Friday that the country had recorded its largest one-day spike in COVID-19 infections, with 6,088.
There were 148 deaths in India during the same Thursday morning-to-Friday time frame, the health ministry said. The country has more than 124,000 coronavirus infections overall.
Britain to quarantine travelers
In Britain’s fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus, everyone flying into the country, including citizens, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Each international traveler will have to provide an address and will be subjected to spot checks and fines if he or she breaches quarantine, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told Sky News on Friday. The new protocol is expected to begin next month.
Latin America sees outbreaks
While Europe has been hard hit by the pandemic, Latin America is becoming a coronavirus hot spot. Brazil now has the third-highest number of cases in the world after the U.S. and Russia, with more than 310,000 infected. The country has recorded more than 20,000 deaths and a record 1,188 deaths in a 24-hour period.
“In a sense, South America has become the new epicenter of the disease,” said Michael Ryan, director of the WHO emergency program. “The most affected is clearly Brazil at this point.”
A gravedigger at a cemetery outside Sao Paulo said, "We've been working 12-hour days, burying them one after the other. It doesn't stop."
Chile, Mexico and Peru have also seen steady increases in infections.
Africa COVID-19 Cases Pass 100K
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that coronavirus cases on the continent had topped 100,000. Africa has so far not experienced the high numbers of cases seen in other parts of the world.
More than 3,100 people have died on the continent of 1.3 billion people, and the Africa CDC director said the continent had seen about the same number of new cases in the past week as the week before. “We hope that trend continues,” Dr. John Nkengasong said.
The WHO said that by comparison, when cases reached 100,000 in Europe, deaths stood at more than 4,900.
“For now, COVID-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa, and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.
The WHO said an early analysis showed that the lower mortality rate could be the result of Africa’s young population, with more than 60% of the continent under age 25.
United States reopens
The United States continues to lead the world in the number of cases and deaths. Nearly 1.6 million people have been infected, and nearly 96,000 have died.
Despite the grim statistics, Trump has made clear he wants state governors to do more to ease virus-related restrictions.
He called Friday for governors to allow places of worship to open this weekend. Trump told reporters at the White House that if governors did not allow in-person religious services to resume, he would “override” them. He did not specify how he would do that.
“In America, we need more prayer, not less,” Trump said.
At a round-table discussion with African American leaders in Michigan on Thursday, Trump said Democratic governors who were easing restrictions more slowly than he would like were “hurting themselves, they’re hurting their state, and it’s not good.”
Meanwhile, Michigan's attorney general said Trump might not be invited back to the state if he refuses to wear a face mask in public.
Trump on Thursday visited a Ford auto factory near Detroit that has been converted into a plant to build ventilators, and he was seen not wearing a mask, a violation of the governor’s executive order on masks.
Also on Thursday, Trump ordered flags on all federal buildings and monuments lowered to half-staff for three days in memory of all Americans who have died because of the coronavirus.
He made the announcement on Twitter at the same time he said the lowered flags Monday would also honor service members “who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation” as the country marks Memorial Day.