Health News Roundup: Finland to tighten restrictions on public gatherings; Catalent to make active ingredient for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate and more

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Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Catalent to make active ingredient for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate

Catalent Inc said on Monday it will manufacture active ingredient for AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. It will be made at Catalent’s commercial gene therapy manufacturing facility located in Harmans, Maryland, the company said.

Seoul mandates face masks as South Korea battles spike in coronavirus

South Korea’s capital Seoul on Monday mandated the wearing of face masks in both indoor and outdoor public places for the first time, as the country battles a surge in coronavirus cases centred in the densely populated city region. In May, Seoul’s government had ordered that face masks be worn on public transport and taxis, but the latest spike in cases has health officials worried that the country may need to impose its highest level of social distancing.

Italy begins testing potential COVID-19 vaccine on volunteers

Italy kicked off human trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, joining a global effort to develop a response to the virus which has shown signs of resurging in Europe. Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani institute, a hospital specializing in infectious diseases will conduct trials on 90 volunteers over the coming weeks, with the hope a vaccine may be available by spring of next year.

Swedish COVID-19 response chief predicts local outbreaks, no big second wave

Sweden is likely to see local outbreaks but no big second wave of COVID-19 cases in the autumn, such as inundated hospitals a few months ago, the country’s top epidemiologist and architect if its unorthodox pandemic strategy said on Monday. Sweden has been an outlier in Europe’s fight against the novel coronavirus, keeping businesses, restaurants and most schools open throughout the pandemic, while not recommending the use of face masks, which remain a rare sight on city streets.

WHO cautious on COVID-19 plasma as U.S. issues emergency authorization

The World Health Organization on Monday was cautious about endorsing the use of recovered COVID-19 patients’ plasma to treat people who are ill, saying evidence it works remains “low quality” even as the United States issued emergency authorization for such therapies. “There are a number of clinical trials going on around the world looking at convalescent plasma compared to the standard of care,” Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, said.

WHO says 172 countries engaging with global COVID-19 vaccine plan

Some 172 countries are engaging with the COVAX facility designed to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization said on Monday, but more funding is needed and countries need now to make binding commitments. Countries wishing to be part of the global COVAX plan have until Aug. 31 to submit expressions of interest, WHO officials said, with confirmation of intention to join due by Sept. 18, and initial payments due by Oct. 9.

Novartis CEO says COVID-19 makes valuing takeover targets tougher

Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG has financial firepower for acquisitions even with net debt of $26 billion, though the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to value takeover candidates, Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said in an interview. “We generate a high free cash flow that allows us to not only finance our dividend but to direct capital to other purposes,” Narasimhan told the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung.

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now: Plasma treatment authorized Colour-coded wristbands to guide social distancing in Dubai office

As nearly 100 employees went back to work in the office of a Dubai media company, managers found a way to avoid awkwardness around social distancing — color-coded bracelets indicating how staff wants to be greeted. At the reception of Create Media Group, employees can choose between green bracelets, to show fist bumps are fine, yellow ones to indicate they can chat without touching, and red bands to keep a distance from others.

Finland to tighten restrictions on public gatherings

Finland will tighten restrictions on public gatherings from September, limiting them to 50 people unless further measures are in place, due to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases, authorities said on Monday. Having allowed up to 500 people to gather during August, the new limits will apply to both indoor and outdoor public meetings, the state administrative agency said.

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