Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), talks to the media at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Image Credit: AP

GENEVA (AFP): The new coronavirus pandemic is clearly "accelerating", the World Health Organization warned Monday, but said it was still possible to "change the trajectory" of the outbreak.

"The pandemic is accelerating," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in a virtual news briefing, saying "it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases."

But he said that "we are not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic."

WHO warns using 'untested' meds against COVID-19 could 'raise false hope'

The WHO also warned on Monday that the use of untested medicines to treat COVID-19 without proper evidence of their efficacy could be dangerous — and raise false expectations.

"Using untested medicines without the right evidence could raise false hope and even do more harm than good, and cause a shortage of essential medicines that are needed to treat other diseases," Ghebreyesus told journalists in a virtual news briefing.

Nigeria reports chloroquine poisonings after Trump comments

LAGOS: Authorities in Nigerian megacity Lagos said Friday that hospitals had seen cases of chloroquine poisoning after US President Donald Trump touted the drug as a treatment against the new coronavirus.

Trump on Thursday said the anti-malarial drug had been "approved" to treat COVID-19 by America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA), only for the head of the agency to row back and say it had not yet been given a definitive green light.

The drug has recently been used to treat coronavirus patients in China and in France — where some researchers said it showed great promise, though scientists agree that only more trials would determine if it really works and is safe.


Health officials in Lagos said there had already been claims online pushing chloroquine as a treatment and that Trump's message had seen interest surge.

"In the last few days, we've seen a lot of messages going around on social medias about chloroquine being a cure for coronavirus and in some parts of Lagos, it was no longer available," Ore Awokoya, senior special assistant to the Lagos state governor on health, told AFP.

"But after Donald Trump's statement it took another dimension, people were massively queueing in front of the pharmacies to buy chloroquine."

She describe the rush to take the drug as "worrying" given that people were "self-medicating without any sort of guidance".

"We've already registered two cases of poisoning - the patients have been hospitalised in Lagos — but we will probably see more and more cases in the coming days," she said.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has so far recorded 12 confirmed cases of new coronavirus infections, but testing has been limited.

The nation of some 200 million people is seen as highly vulnerable to the global pandemic given its weak health system and high population density.

Health authorities in Lagos on Thursday said that there were now cases of "local transmission" of the virus in the city.

Anti-malaria drug for high-risk COVID-19 cases?

NEW DELHI (IANS): The National Task Force for COVID-19 constituted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday recommended the use of anti-malaria drug hydroxy-chloroquine to treat the COVID-19 disease in high-risk cases albeit with utmost precaution.

ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava said that the compound is recommended only for a healthcare worker who is treating a COVID-19 patient.

"Secondly, it's recommended only for persons staying and caring for a household positive patient. They can take that only for prophylaxis, only for prevention," he added.

ICMR told the states that the placing of healthcare workers under chemoprophylaxis with hydroxy-chloroquine should not instil a sense of false security.

"They should follow all prescribed public health measures such as frequent washing of hands, respiratory etiquette, keeping a distance of minimum one metre and use of personal protective equipment (wherever applicable)," said the ICMR advisory.

"The high risk contacts of a positive case placed under chemo prophylaxis should remain in home quarantine while on prophylactic therapy. As recommended by the task force, the drug should only be given on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner," it added.

Apart from the symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, breathing difficulty), if the person on chemoprophylaxis develops any other symptoms, he should immediately seek medical treatment from the medical practitioner who has prescribed the chemoprophylaxis, said the ICMR advisory.

Trump's claim

US President Donald Trump had claimed last week that chloroquine — one of the oldest and best-known anti-malarial drugs — had been approved by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

"We're going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. And that's where the FDA has been so great. They've gone through the approval process — it's been approved," he said during a White House briefing.

The FDA, however, has made it clear that the drug has not been approved yet for treating those infected with Covid-19.

When it comes to anti-malaria compounds chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, the "WHO scientific panel designing SOLIDARITY had originally decided to leave the duo out of the trial but had a change of heart at a meeting in Geneva on March 13 because the drugs 'received significant attention in many countries'."

The available data are still thin.


Researchers in France have published a study in which they treated 20 Covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine.

They concluded that the drug significantly reduced viral load in nasal swabs.

But it was not a randomised controlled trial and it didn't report clinical outcomes such as deaths, according to the prestigious journal Science.

However, scientists have suggested dozens of existing compounds for testing and the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on what it says are the four most promising therapies.

These are "an experimental antiviral compound called remdesivir; the malaria medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine; a combination of two anti-HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir; and that same combination plus interferon-beta, an immune system messenger that can help cripple viruses," said the article in the journal Science of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).