Coronavirus: Death Toll Exceeds SARS, New Cases in Britain and Spain

  • The number of deaths from coronavirus has now exceeded the SARS epidemic of 2002-03.
  • A second case was reported in Majorca, Spain.
  • The Chinese government has applied for a patent for an antiviral drug produced by American company Gilead.

British authorities announced Sunday the registration of a fourth case of the emerging coronavirus. British news sources said that a fourth citizen was confirmed to be infected with the virus in Britain after he was infected by another British citizen in France. Health authorities are now trying to track down people who have contacted the four patients to confirm whether they have contracted the virus or not.

The 2019 novel coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus causing the 2019–20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. The first suspected cases were officially reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.

This comes at a time when China’s National Health Commission said this morning that the number of deaths resulting from coronavirus infection in mainland China reached 811 cases by the end of Saturday, an increase of 89 cases from the previous day. This exceeds the number of people killed during the SARS epidemic, in the years 2002-2003, worldwide.

In a related context, the National Microbiology Center in Spain today confirmed the existence of a second case infected with the Coronavirus. This emerged after testing four suspected cases in Mallorca, according to Reuters news agency. The center indicated that one person was confirmed to be among the four, while the result was negative for the others.

The four patients were placed under observation in Majorca on Friday, after having contact with a person in France diagnosed with the disease. For their part, the German Red Cross announced in the capital, Berlin, that it was ready to supervise 20 people returning from the Chinese city of Wuhan. The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Christophe Yunin, said in Berlin this morning that twelve rooms have been equipped, adding “for the people (of the returnees) this is a stressful situation, so it is decided to make the residence as appropriate for them as possible.”

Returnees from Wuhan are scheduled to arrive at Berlin-Tegel airport later today after a temporary layoff. They will then be taken to quarantine in a building of the German Red Cross Hospitals in Berlin, with 14 days left completely separate from the care of ordinary patients. “Safety is guaranteed for working personnel, patients and their families,” Yunin said.

Gilead Sciences is an American biotechnology company that researches, develops and commercializes drugs. The company focuses primarily on antiviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and influenza, including Harvoni and Sovaldi.

A Struggle for the Invention of a Drug

There appears to be a struggle taking place, between the United States and China, over a drug to treat viruses, including coronavirus. The atmosphere of the conflict dates back to 2016, when a US company applied for a patent for a treatment specific to viruses, and the second did not give its approval. However, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology conducted experiments on using the drug to treat coronavirus in its new phase. These scientists then applied for patented for use in treating the new virus.

In a statement three days ago on its website, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is run by the Chinese government, said that it filed last week with a patent application for the drug “Remdesivir,” produced by the American company Gilead. They said it did so with the aim of “protecting national interests.” It is a step that can stoke trade tense relations between the two countries.

China used one of the articles of the World Trade Organization agreement, known as “compulsory licensing,” to exploit the protected drug according to the request submitted by the American company since 2016. This article states that the government has the right to allow the exploitation of the protected invention without authorization or a permit or license from the owner of the invention, according to conditions set by law as in cases of emergency and extreme national necessities as in cases of epidemic.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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