Coronavirus: What’s Happening in Canada and Around the World Monday

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Merck & Co. Inc. announced Monday that it has applied for emergency use authorization in the United States for its tablet to treat patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, setting it on track to become the first oral antiviral drug for the disease.

Its authorization could help change the clinical management of COVID-19 because the pill can be taken at home. The treatment, molnupiravir, could halve the risk of death or hospitalization for those most at risk of contracting severe COVID-19, according to the drug’s maker.

Viral sequencing done so far has shown it to be effective against all variants of the coronavirus, including delta, Merck said.

Interim data on the drug’s efficacy, which was developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, had a dramatic impact on the actions of COVID-19 vaccine makers when it was released last week.

WATCH | Why the Merck COVID-19 pill could be a ‘huge step forward’:

Merck COVID-19 pill could be “huge step forward”, specialist says

The first results of an experimental COVID-19 pill that could dramatically reduce hospitalizations and deaths in some high-risk patients are promising, says infectious disease specialist Dr Matthew Oughton. He says molnupiravir could be a “huge step forward” in treatment, but seeing more raw data will allow experts to fully assess its effectiveness. (Merck & Co.) 1:04

Existing drugs include the infused antiviral remdesivir from Gilead Sciences Inc. and the generic steroid dexamethasone, which are usually only given after a patient has already been hospitalized.

Meanwhile, the monoclonal antibody drugs from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Eli Lilly have so far only experienced limited absorption due to the difficulty of administering them.

In India, however, two drugmakers last week sought to end late-stage trials of their generic versions of molnupiravir to treat moderate COVID-19, study documents show.

A source from India’s Drug Controller General said the pill had not shown “significant effectiveness” against moderate cases, but was successful against mild cases.

Merck said its tests are based on definitions from the United States Food and Drug Administration, which for moderate COVID-19 describe blood oxygen levels as no less than 93%, while tests in India define moderate as blood oxygen levels between 90 and 93%.

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Canadians gather for Thanksgiving with various restrictions in place:

Safety first at many Thanksgiving gatherings

In the first big party since the mass COVID-19 vaccinations, many Canadians were still giving their Thanksgiving table a safe seat, if local restrictions allowed gatherings. 2:07

What is happening in the world

As of Monday morning, more than 237.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Tracker. The death toll worldwide was over 4.8 million.

In Europe, Russia reported 957 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, close to the all-time high of 968 reported two days earlier. The government’s coronavirus task force also said it recorded 29,409 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Moscow, which reported 5,002 cases on Monday, said it was launching free “express” antibody-based tests for COVID-19 at a number of places, including shopping malls, with the aim of avoid a new wave of restrictions.

A gravedigger stands during the burial of a COVID-19 victim in a cemetery outside Omsk, Russia on October 7. (The Associated Press)

In the Asia-Pacific region, hairdressers, gyms, cafes and bars in Sydney reopened to fully vaccinated customers on Monday for the first time in more than 100 days after Australia’s largest city hit a point of reference in terms of vaccination.

Sydney had planned to reopen after 70% of the New South Wales state population aged 16 and over were fully vaccinated. As of Monday, 73.5 percent of the target population were fully immunized and more than 90 percent had received at least one dose.

A hairdresser in Sydney, Australia, is cutting and cutting some of its first clients for months on Monday after more than 100 days of lockdown imposed to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Rick Rycroft / The Associated Press)

New Zealand will demand that teachers and workers in the health and disability sectors be fully immunized, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, as she extended restrictions in Auckland for an additional week.

In the Americas, Venezuela received a second batch of 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX mechanism on Sunday, while the government said it hopes to achieve the immunity of 70% of Venezuelans in here the end of the month.

In Africa, the Egyptian public prosecutor announced on Sunday that it had ordered the arrest of three people after thousands of unused COVID-19 vaccines were found along a water channel.

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