NEWS
19/05/2020 07:58 BST | Updated 19/05/2020 11:25 BST

Coronavirus: Here's What Hydroxychloriquine Can Do To You – And Four Other Things You Need To Know

Donald Trump reveals he's been taking anti-malaria drug unproven to treat Covid-19, as UK death toll nears 35,000.

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As England prepares to reopen schools and vaccine trials provide a sliver of hope normal life may one day return, Donald Trump told reporters he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine for several weeks.

There is no evidence the anti-malaria drug works to combat Covid-19, of which there have been more than 1.5 million US cases. 

Meanwhile, latest figures show the UK death toll had reached 34,796 as of 5pm on May 17. 

Statista

Here’s what you need to know today:

What does hydroxychloroquine actually do to you?

The president’s revelation on Monday came as a shock to many, not least because the drug is completely unproven to work against coronavirus. 

Hydroxychloroquine is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, but numerous clinical trials have yet to prove it effectively treats coronavirus. It also has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients

Neil Cavuto of Fox News who quick to tell viewers in no uncertain terms they shouldn’t follow Trump’s advice for their own safety.

Cavuto referenced a handful of research studies, including analysing patient data from Veterans Health Administration medical centres last month that concluded the drug shows no real benefit for treating coronavirus, and may actually be harmful.

A second study, conducted at Columbia University in New York, reached a similar conclusion earlier this month.

Others have also pointed to a review published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal listing a long list of side effects.

 “If you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus ... it will kill you,” Cavuto said. “I cannot stress this enough: This will kill you.”

Former UK government chief scientific adviser Sir David King told Good Morning Britain: “I think he speaks from the top of his head and every word he says should be ignored in terms of advice.

“I’m sorry but this is not the pronouncements of a person who is listening to the scientists. He is making it up as he goes along.”

Meanwhile, the president tweeted a letter he had sent to World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

He warned if the organisation “does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days”, he would consider withdrawing the US as a member and stopping funding permanently. 

First vaccine trials offer glimmer of hope

A vaccine could train the immune system to fight coronavirus, according to US scientists.

Neutralising antibodies have been found in the first eight people who took part in safety trials for the experimental mRNA-1273 vaccine.

The drug, being tested by firm Moderna, injects a small sample of Covid-19’s genetic code into patients.

The amount is enough to encourage a response from the immune system and the trials are expected to be rolled out more widely in the summer.

Tal Zaks, chief medical officer at Moderna, said: “These interim Phase 1 data, while early, demonstrate that vaccination with mRNA-1273 elicits an immune response of the magnitude caused by natural infection starting with a dose as low as 25 micrograms.”

He added: “These data substantiate our belief that mRNA-1273 has the potential to prevent Covid-19 disease and advance our ability to select a dose for pivotal trials.”

Professor Robin Shattock, Professor of Mucosal Infection and Immunity, Imperial College London, called the early results “encouraging”.

He added: “While it will be important to scrutinise the actual data, the reported findings are in line with expectations that vaccine candidates should provide levels of neutralising antibodies that are at least equivalent to convalescent subjects.

“This is a promising start, but efficacy data will be key followed by an ability to scale in a manner that provides global access should this vaccine be successful.”

RODGER BOSCH via Getty Images
Vaccine trials have offered a glimmer of hope.

Teachers reveal anger at government’s ‘shambolic’ plans to reopen schools

Teachers have described the “chaos” of staff scrambling to make classrooms safe amid intensifying pressure and a lack of clear guidance from the government, just a fortnight before schools reopen to some pupils.

With reception, year one and year six to return on June 1, as well as increased contact for year 10 and year 12 pupils, teachers have raised concerns about “impossible” social distancing guidance and being forced to teach classes they have no experience of.

They also fear being “demonised” after headlines urging teachers to be like NHS “heroes” and warn of a class divide that risks letting the poorest children fall further behind their peers - undermining the principal reason ministers are pushing for a prompt return to the classrooms.

One year five teacher at a school in north London said: “Everyone’s really anxious, we’re in panic mode really.”

Unemployment up by 50,000

Unemployment increased by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March, official figures showed.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS,  said of the latest unemployment figure: “While only covering the first weeks of restrictions, our figures show Covid-19 is having a major impact on the labour market.

“In March employment held up well, as furloughed workers still count as employed, but hours worked fell sharply in late March, especially in sectors such as hospitality and construction.

“Through April, though, there were signs of falling employment as real-time tax data show the number of employees on companies’ payrolls fell noticeably, and vacancies were sharply down too, with hospitality again falling steepest.”

Economist Sir Christopher Pissarides warned hours of work figures “fell catastrophically” while vacancies figures showed the labour market “more or less stopped functioning”.

The London School of Economic academic told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme employment figures are “not as bad”, but added: “Hours of work figures fell catastrophically.

“And also vacancies fell which shows the labour market more or less stopped functioning at the beginning of the lockdown.”

Polly Thomas via Getty Images
Unemployment was up 50,000 in the three months to March.

Young people are most likely to have lost work or seen their income drop because of the coronavirus pandemic, a report suggests.

More than one in three 18 to 24-year-olds is earning less than before the outbreak, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation.

It said younger workers – a quarter of whom have been furloughed by their employers – risk their pay being affected for years, while older staff may end up involuntarily retired.

Care home deaths under scrutiny 

Coronavirus in care homes will be thrust into the spotlight again amid reports ministers knew a month ago that temporary workers were helping spread the killer disease.

Care chiefs will appear before MPs on Tuesday to update them on how homes and their staff are coping with the pandemic.

It comes as The Guardian claimed a leaked Public Health England study found workers who transmitted coronavirus across six care homes had been brought in to cover for staff who were self-isolating to prevent the vulnerable people they looked after from becoming infected.

The paper reported the study was conducted over the Easter weekend from April 11 to 13. It alleges the results have been known in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) since at least the end of last month, but were only circulated to care home providers, councils and local directors of public health last week.

More than 22,000 care home residents are estimated to have died in England and Wales, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitting there had been “an appalling epidemic in care homes”.

Infographic supplied by Statista.