Coronavirus update: Russian vaccine candidate produces antibody response

Results from trials in Russia have shown a potential vaccine has produced an antibody response in participants of a preliminary trial, while 3,000 have been recruited for a further study.

Meanwhile, the head of the Tokyo Games says a lack of a coronavirus vaccine will not cause the Olympics to be postponed again.

This story will be regularly updated throughout Saturday.

Saturday’s key moments:

Russia publishes virus vaccine results, weeks after approval

Russia’s ‘Sputnik-V’ COVID-19 vaccine has produced an antibody response in all participants in early-stage trials, according to results published on Friday by The Lancet medical journal.

The results of the two trials, conducted in June and July and involving 76 participants, showed 100 per cent of participants developing antibodies to the new coronavirus and no serious side effects, The Lancet said.

Russia licensed the two-shot jab for domestic use in August, the first country to do so and before any data had been published or a large-scale trial started.

Researchers said longer and larger trials were needed to prove the vaccine would be safe and effective.

One part of the safety trial included only men and the study mostly involved people in their 20s and 30s, so it is unclear how the vaccine might work in older populations most at risk of the more severe complications of COVID-19.

International experts remained cautious over the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety.

Nevertheless, its Russian developers made some bold claims on Friday after presenting the findings to reporters.

“We are ready to assert that the protective effect of this vaccine will be detectable and remain at a proper level for two years, or maybe even more,” Professor Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Moscow-based institute that developed the vaccine, said.

At least 3,000 people had already been recruited for the large-scale trial of the Sputnik-V vaccine launched last week, and initial results were expected in October or November this year.

Tokyo Games won’t be held up by search for vaccine

Two women in surgical masks walking in front of a sculpture of the Olympic rings
The 2020 Olympics were meant to begin on July 24, but have been postponed by exactly a year.(Reuters: Athit Perawongmetha)

A vaccine is not a requirement for holding next year’s postponed Olympics and Paralympics, the CEO of the Tokyo Games says.

“The International Olympic Committee and the WHO already discussed this matter. It’s not a condition for the delivery of the Tokyo 2020 Games,” Toshiro Muto said.

“Of course, if vaccines are developed we’ll really appreciate it. And for Tokyo 2020 this will be great.”

Mr Muto was speaking after a meeting with Government officials, disease experts and Japanese Olympic officials.

It came as Tokyo tries to figure out if it can hold the Games.

The task force meetings over the next several months will deal with issues like getting athletes into Japan, COVID-19 testing, measures to keep venues safe, anti-virus measures at the Athletes’ Village, immigration issues and the status of fans.

“As far as spectators, we don’t have any conditions yet, but we’d like to avoid no spectators,” Mr Muto said.

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi admitted to hospital

A man in a dark suit presses his palms together and smiles as he poses for a photograph.
Silvio Berlusconi is being monitored in hospital while two of his children self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.(AP: Andrew Medichini/File)

A top aide to Silvio Berlusconi says the former Italian prime minister has been admitted to a Milan hospital as a precaution.

Senator Lucia Ronzulli told state TV the media mogul, 83, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week, was doing well.

She said he was undergoing “precautionary monitoring” of his infection.

State radio later said he was admitted to San Raffaele hospital, where Mr Berlusconi’s private doctor is based, after having COVID-19 “symptoms”.

It said he would have tests but did not give details.

On Thursday, Mr Berlusconi told his supporters he no longer had a fever or pain.

Italian media has said two of his adult children have also recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have been self-isolating.

Restrictions to tighten around Madrid

A woman in a face mask kneels down to show children in school uniforms how to use a robot thermometre.
Nearly a third of Spain’s recent new infections have been detected around Madrid.(AP: Paul White)

The Madrid Regional Government is further restricting family reunions and social gatherings to curb a sharp jump in coronavirus cases.

An existing ban on outdoor meetings of more than 10 people has been extended to indoor areas.

The move follows most new recent infections being linked to gatherings at homes.

Funerals, burials, weddings and religious celebrations, as well as group visits to museums or guided tourism, will be restricted starting Monday.

Nearly one third of the country’s new infections are in and around the Spanish capital, a region of 6.6 million people.

At least 16 per cent of beds in Madrid’s hospitals are occupied by COVID-19 patients, the highest rate of all Spanish regions.

Announcing the new restrictions Friday, the regional health chief said recent data show the rate of new daily increases was slowing down.

Madrid is also expanding the number of contact tracers, and is purchasing 2 million kits for rapid coronavirus tests.

Spain, edging to half a million confirmed coronavirus cases since February, is leading Europe’s second wave of the pandemic.

The country has confirmed at least 29,234 deaths.

Hungary records largest daily caseload

Close up of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaking.
Viktor Orban has warned of a “difficult situation” if Hungary’s economy is again paused due to coronavirus lockdowns.(AP: Jean-Francois Badias)

Hungary has registered 459 new cases of coronavirus, the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio his Government had three main objectives regarding the second wave of the pandemic: protect those the most at-risk, such as the elderly, create conditions needed for schools to function and fire up the economy.

“If the economy has to stop again, we’re all going to be in a very difficult situation,” Mr Orban said.

Hungary’s decision to close its borders to most foreigners from September 1 has drawn criticism from the European Union, but Mr Orban said despite the objections from Brussels, “In a few days they will be doing what we are,” because it will not be possible to stem the spread of the virus without new border rules.

Hungary has registered 7,382 confirmed cases and 621 deaths.