Microsoft founder and philanthropist, Bill Gates, has committed to assist African countries with mass-based testing kits for the coronavirus.
Gates has had talks with President Cyril Ramaphosa on Africa’s approach to the pandemic which has infected over 1.1-million people across the globe, with nearly 65 000 deaths.
In Africa, there are more than 8 000 COVID-19 cases and 339 deaths across 50 countries.
Many countries have implemented lockdowns and border closures as a way to stem the spread of the virus.
South Africa has the highest number of cases on the continent with 1585.
Latest coronavirus update:
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) April 4, 2020
#COVID19 | The President has urged government and society at large to build on the tremendous impetus provided by the need to respond to the coronavirus pandemic to rethink how governments, businesses and communities function and relate to each other. https://t.co/Ni8yBMCOuw pic.twitter.com/RD87AcAGof
— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) April 4, 2020
In an interview with the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, Gates commended President Ramaphosa for his commitment to fighting the coronavirus.
“In developing countries its far harder and so you know there will be these measures actually stop it from getting to a large part of the population places like India, Nigeria. You know I was talking to President Ramaphosa, who’s not only President of South Africa but as the head of the African Union and he’s a very strong voice encouraging the countries there to act quickly when the number of cases is still fairly low.”
In an interview with the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, Gates commended President Ramaphosa:
The @GatesFoundation has supported our health needs for many years. They have offered assistance with innovative mass-based testing kits and research. I spoke to @BillGates and he commended the swift and decisive action South Africa has taken on #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/CSfFLYqnzA
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 (@CyrilRamaphosa) April 4, 2020
COVID-19 vaccine update:
Meanwhile, Australia’s national science agency said on Thursday it has commenced the first stage of testing potential vaccines for COVID-19, as it joins a global race to halt the coronavirus pandemic.
Pre-clinical testing by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), comprising injecting ferrets with two potential vaccines, was underway at its high-containment biosecurity facility near Melbourne.
The first phase testing would take around three months, CSIRO’s director of health Rob Grenfell told Reuters, adding that any resulting vaccine would not be available to the public before late next year.
“We’re still sticking to the optimistic 18-months for delivery of vaccine to the general consumers,” Grenfell said from Melbourne in an interview over Skype. “Now this, of course, may change. There’s a lot of technical challenges that we’re having to go through.”
Grenfell said scientists were working at a “remarkable” pace, reaching the pre-clinical testing stage in about eight weeks, a process that usually takes up to two years.
“So, this is the speed that’s going on at the moment.”
More than 1 200 000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus across 207 countries and territories, killing more than 64 000. Australia has reported around 5 500 cases and 34 deaths.
Confirmed coronavirus cases around the world:
Grenfell said he expected human trials of one of the two vaccine candidates being tested to begin later this month or early next month.
CSIRO said its testing would cover both efficacy and evaluating the best way to administer the vaccine for better protection, including an intramuscular injection and a nasal spray.
CSIRO was the first research organisation outside of China to successfully develop a lab-grown version of the virus to enable pre-clinical studies on COVID-19.
In February, it confirmed ferrets reacted to the coronavirus as they shared with humans a particular receptor on their respiratory cells that the virus binds itself to.
“If we can stop that virus binding to the ferret receptors in the respiratory system, there’s a very good chance it (vaccine) will work in humans,” Grenfell said.
Moderna Inc is the closest publicly known facility to human testing, announcing plans to start a trial in Seattle last month.
The U.S government has cut deals with both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, and is in talks with at least two other companies, to produce massive quantities of vaccines.
Israel has begun testing a COVID-19 vaccine prototype on rodents at its bio-chemical defense laboratory, a source told Reuters on Tuesday.
In Australia, thousands of healthcare workers last week entered a trial to see if a century-old vaccine for tuberculosis can fight off the novel coronavirus.