Paul-Ehrlich-Institut (PEI), Germany's Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedicines, has approved the third clinical trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
"Trials on vaccine candidates in humans are a significant step in the direction of authorizing safe and efficacious vaccines against COVID-19," PEI noted.
The vaccine candidate was developed by the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) and the pharmaceutical company IDT Biologika.
During the Phase-1 trial, 30 healthy adult volunteers between 18 and 55 years would receive two vaccinations at a four-week interval, according to PEI.
The candidate is a vector vaccine for which the genetic information for a surface protein of SARS-CoV-2 is built into a smallpox virus, according to PEI.
The vaccine against the smallpox virus had already been developed more than 30 years ago at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (LMU).
The vector could not replicate in the body of the vaccinated person, but the genetic information introduced could simulate an infection and trigger the production of COVID-19 antibodies and immune cells.
The German government launched a special funding program to accelerate research and development of a COVID-19 vaccine, with up to 750 million euros (878 million U.S. dollars).
The clinical trial of the vaccine candidate by IDT Biologika and DZIF is one of three trials currently conducted by German companies in the fight against COVID-19.
The pharmaceutical companies BioNTech and CureVac are already conducting studies in advanced phases in trials on humans.
A total of 1,384 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Italy over the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health said on Thursday.
This compares to 633 new infections on Wednesday and brings the total number of people currently infected to 52,647, according to the ministry, reports Xinhua.
Meanwhile, 1,140 patients have recovered (against 1,198 recoveries on Wednesday) and 24 people have lost their lives (up from 19 fatalities on Wednesday), bringing the overall recoveries to 228,844 and the overall death toll to 35,918.
The total number of COVID-19 infections, fatalities and recoveries since the pandemic officially began here in late February has risen to 317,409 cases over the past 24 hours, the ministry said.
Of the total reported cases over the past 30 days, 50.8 percent occurred among people aged 19-50; 25.3 percent among people aged 51-70; 14 percent among kids aged 0-18; and 9.89 percent among the elderly aged 70 and over.
In the past 30 days, 52.6 percent of the cases were male, according to the National Institute of Health (ISS).
Also on Thursday, Health Minister Roberto Speranza presided over the inauguration of a new COVID-19 vaccine production line at a manufacturing facility belonging to the Italy division of Sanofi S.A., a French multinational biopharmaceutical company.
Countries across the globe -- including France, Italy, China, Russia, Britain and the U.S. -- are racing to find a vaccine. According to the website of the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Sept. 30, there were 192 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 41 of them were in clinical trials.
Speranza spoke about "seven or eight difficult months ahead" as he inaugurated the facility near the city of Anagni in the Lazio region, which also includes Rome, the nation's capital.
"I am certain humanity will win (the COVID-19) challenge," the minister said. "There will be a safe and effective vaccine, and we will have treatments that work."
"Meanwhile, we must continue to use the tools that we have," Speranza said in reference to social distancing, hand hygiene and face masks.
Speranza said that "the priority of our government is to reopen the schools, not to reopen the football stadiums." Italy is still "in a difficult place" with regard to the pandemic, he said, and the government is still being forced to make tough choices.
His comments came after the Genoa FC soccer team on Wednesday reported that at least 15 of its players and staff had tested positive for the virus.
The health minister also said that rapid antigen tests are already provided in schools in some regions of Italy and will soon be available in schools across the country.
Italy's schools reopened on Sept. 14. They were shut down between early March and early May as part of the national lockdown.
Health authorities in Switzerland have ordered a quarantine for a staggering 2,500 students at a prestigious hospitality management school in the city of Lausanne after “significant outbreaks" of the coronavirus that are a suspected byproduct of off-campus partying.
Authorities in Switzerland's Vaud canton, or region, said all undergraduates at the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, known as the Lausanne Hospitality Management University in English, have been ordered to quarantine both on- and off-campus because the number of COVID-19 outbreaks because targeted closures were not possible.
The World Health Organization, national health authorities and others have cautioned that young people, who tend to have milder COVID-19 symptoms than older demographic groups, have been a key driver for the continued spread of the coronavirus in recent weeks, particularly in Europe.
It noted that an early investigation showed that “one or more parties was at the origin of these many outbreaks of infection,” and reiterated authorities previous call for a ”responsible attitude" among party-goers such as by wearing masks, tracing their contacts, keeping alert for symptoms, and “social distancing.”
“Significant outbreaks of infection have appeared at several levels of training, making a more targeted closure impossible that that involving the 2,500 students affected,” the Vaud regional office said in a statement. “Until Sept. 28, the students must stay home. For some, that means not leaving their housing on the hospitality school site.”
School administrators were taking “all necessary measures” to ensure that classes were continuing online, the statement said.
University spokesman Sherif Mamdouh said Thursday that the situation was “not ideal” but that the university took precautions in recent months. He said that 11 students had tested positive for the coronavirus and none required hospitalization.
Mamdouh said the quarantine affects 2,500 undergraduates. The university has a total student body of about 3,500, including people pursuing advanced degrees. He said hundreds of students living in on-campus dormitories on campus will be subject to the quarantine.
Switzerland is not alone. The latest government figures in neighboring France show that 22% of the country’s currently active virus clusters emerged at schools are universities. The United States has also seen clusters linked to college students.
World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris said that while it is “unfair to just put it on the young people,” it's also unsurprising that teenagers and young adults might assume they don't need to worry about succumbing to the virus.
“Perceptions do indicate that they don't feel they are as at-risk as older groups” Harris said, particularly in the wake of data showing younger people typically have less-severe cases of COVID-19.
“The message they have heard is: ‘You are out of jail, go out and play,’" she said. “We don't want to be the fun police, but we want people to have fun safely.”
Also read: Coronavirus global caseload now 31,779,533
The European Union summit has been postponed for a week as EU Council President Charles Michel has gone into quarantine after a close collaborator was diagnosed with COVID-19, reports AP.
Spokesman Barend Leyts made the disclosure on Tuesday, saying “Michel today learned that a security officer, with whom he was in close contact early last week, tested positive for COVID."
Leyts said that the European Council chief is "respecting Belgian rules" and "he has gone into quarantine as of today."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday disclosed that he ordered fresh restrictions on regular activities amid fear of a dramatic surge in confirmed coronavirus cases.
He also warned the Britons that they should not expect to return to a normal social or work life for at least six months, reports AP.
Saying Britain must act now or face a huge second wave of COVID-19, Johnson announced a package of new restrictions that includes requiring pubs, restaurants and other entertainment venues in England to close down between 10 pm and 5 am and urging people to work from home where possible.
Johnson had encouraged workers just weeks ago to go back into offices to keep city centers from becoming ghost towns, and he expressed hope that society could return to normal by Christmas. In a stark change of tone, he said Tuesday that "for the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives."
"We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments and new forms of mass testing, but unless we palpably make progress, we should assume that the restrictions I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months," Johnson told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
The announcement came a day after the government's top scientific and medical advisers said new coronavirus infections were doubling every seven days and could rise to 49,000 a day by mid-October if nothing was done to stem the tide.
On Monday, the government reported 4,300 new confirmed cases, the highest number since May and four times the number seen a month ago. Chief medical officers have raised the U.K.'s virus alert level from three to four, the second-highest rung, saying cases of COVID-19 were rising "rapidly and probably exponentially."
The new restrictions require face masks to be worn in taxis as well as on public transport. The size of some gatherings is being curtailed, with weddings limited to 15 people instead of 30, and a plan to bring spectators back into sports stadiums starting in October is being put on hold.
Johnson did not reduce the number of people who can gather indoors or out, which remains at six.
The British government is also increasing the penalties for breaking the rules. People who breach orders to quarantine face fines of up to 10,000 pounds ($12,800) and businesses that breach "COVID-secure" rules can be shut down.
The measures apply only to England. Other parts of the U.K. introduced similar curbs, but some went further in limiting social interactions.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has often struck a more cautious note than Johnson during the pandemic, said that with a few exceptions, people would be barred from visiting others' homes, and car-sharing would be discouraged.
Sturgeon said the measure would be reviewed every three weeks but "may be needed for longer than that." She said she hoped it would be less than six months.
The new restrictions outlined by Johnson are less stringent than the nationwide lockdown imposed in March, which confined most of the population and closed most businesses. Britain eased its lockdown starting in June as cases began to fall, but that trend has now been reversed.
The prime minister said if the new curbs did not slow the outbreak, "we reserve the right to deploy greater firepower, with significantly greater restrictions."
Still, some lawmakers from Johnson's governing Conservative Party are uneasy about tightening restrictions on business and daily life, citing the impact on Britain's already-reeling economy.
To persuade people to stay home if they test positive for the virus, the government announced it would pay low-income workers 500 pounds ($639) if they are told to self-isolate for 14 days.
Businesses, especially in the areas of hospitality, sports and the arts, said they urgently needed support, too.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said before the announcement that the restrictions would be "another crushing blow" for many businesses.
But most epidemiologists believe more restrictions are again necessary and even worry that the government's plans may not go far enough.
Polls suggest a majority of people in Britain support lockdown measures to contain the virus. But they also show that trust in the Conservative government's handling of the pandemic has declined after troubles with testing, mixed messages on reopening and the U.K.'s high death toll.
Britain has the highest confirmed virus death toll in Europe, at 41,877 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say all such tallies underestimate the true number of deaths.
While ministers tout the record numbers of tests being performed, there are widespread reports of people having to travel hundreds of miles for tests or tests being voided because it's taking labs too long to process them.
An app meant to bolster contact-tracing efforts is to be released this week after months of delay.
Jennifer Cole, a biological anthropologist at Royal Holloway University, said people's behavior is "the biggest influence" on the spread of the virus.
"In essence, the government is saying, 'Stay sober, stay sensible and the venues can stay open.' It's a carrot to encourage responsible behavior," she said.