Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO

WHO warns of ‘second peak’, halts Hydroxychloroquine trials for COVID-19

* ‘Solidarity Trial’ only looks at effects of Hydroxychloroquine, not Chloroquine ─ WHO Chief Scientist

* Let’s be cognizant that virus can spike at any time where it is even declining  ─Emergencies Chief Michael Ryan

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For want of more data as a precautionary measure for safety concerns, the World Health Organisation has stated that it “temporarily” suspended clinical trials of Hydroxychloroquine drug as a potential treatment for Coronavirus (COVID-19) being administered in a number of countries across the world.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO, who clarified this Monday, May 25, at a media briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, said the decision was reached following the recent publication of a study in the Lancet, which  indicated that using the drug on COVID-19 patients could increase their likelihood of dying.

Ghebreyesus stated that the Executive Group of the so-called Solidarity Trial, in which hundreds of hospitals across several countries have enrolled patients to test several possible treatments for the novel Coronavirus, as a precaution, had suspended trials using that drug.

“The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the Hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board,” said WHO Director-General.

He, nonetheless, revealed that “the other arms of the trial are continuing.”

Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat arthritis but pronouncement from public figures including the United States President Donald Trump, who of recent announced he is taking the drug, has prompted governments to bulk buy the medicine.

Brazil’s Health Minister lately also recommended using Hydroxychloroquine, as well as the anti-malarial Chloroquine to treat even mild COVID-19 cases.

But the Lancet study found that both drugs could produce potentially serious side effects, particularly heart arrhythmia.

And neither drug benefitted patients hospitalised with COVID-19, according to a Lancet study, which looked at the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals during the trials.

Ghebreyesus stressed at the briefing stated that the two drugs “are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria,” AFP report said.

Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist at the Monday briefing, also said that the WHO-backed Solidarity Trial had been looking only at the effects of Hydroxychloroquine and not Chloroquine.

Swaminathan stated that the decision on suspending enrolment for trials using hydroxychloroquine was “a temporary measure”.

“We’re just acting by precaution,” WHO Emergencies Chief Michael Ryan concurred.

Meanwhile, the global health body has warned of what it called “second peak” in areas where COVID-19 is declining.

Countries where Coronavirus infections are declining could still face an “immediate second peak” if they let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak, the World Health Organisation as well disclosed Monday.

According to Ryan in the online briefing, the world is still in the middle of the first wave of the Coronavirus outbreak, noting that while cases are declining in many countries they are still increasing in Central and South America, South Asia and Africa.

Ryan said epidemics often come in waves, which means that outbreaks could come back later this year in places where the first wave has subsided.

There was also a chance that infection rates could rise again more quickly if measures to halt the first wave were lifted too soon.

“When we speak about a second wave classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later.

“And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” Ryan stated.

He added: “But we need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time.

“We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.”

He said countries in Europe and North America should “continue to put in place the public health and social measures, the surveillance measures, the testing measures and a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downwards trajectory and we don’t have an immediate second peak.”

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