Coronavirus: There is new hope for treatments

But so long as this pandemic continues to plague our world, we must all remain on our guard

Foreign workers wearing protective masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, walk past a worker housing complex in Dubai's Qusais neighbourhood, in the United Arab Emirates, on May 1, 2020, marking International Workers' Day (Labour Day). / AFP / Karim SAHIB
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Over the past few days,  there have been some signs of good news in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre has developed an aerosol treatment, tested on a small sample of 73 Covid-19 patients, all of whom recovered from the disease. Other potential treatments have also shown promising preliminary results in the US. In a trial that involved more than 1,000 coronavirus patients, the antiviral drug remdesivir appeared to cut their recovery time by four days, in addition to slashing the mortality rate. Many of the patients who underwent treatment were discharged from hospital in less than a week.

While larger-scale trials and more time are required to prove the efficacy of these drugs, the discovery of potential treatments is an encouraging step toward resolving the ongoing health crisis. If the drugs are indeed proven to be viable, millions of lives could be saved and the suffering of patients alleviated. Meanwhile, global efforts are underway to find a vaccine.

If anything, these developments – less than six months after the virus was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan – underline the importance of research not just in times of crises but also over the long term. Scientific advances can help to prevent future outbreaks and secure life-saving medication for patients suffering from new and well-known diseases. Even after the coronavirus pandemic has been contained, research to combat viruses and other ailments must continue to receive generous funds and support.

It is also encouraging that, despite greater access to testing kits, some European countries such as Denmark and Belgium are now reporting fewer new cases over the past week. This is a sign that physical distancing and lockdown measures are bearing fruit. And as countries around the world gradually begin to open up their borders as well as economies, now is a time for cautious optimism and even greater precaution.

The process of reopening the economy and injecting a dose of normalcy back into our lives has come with a set of new rules. In the UAE, for instance, restaurants and malls have been allowed to reopen but can only operate at 30 per cent capacity of staff and customers on any given day to avoid overcrowding, and to make it easier for them to carry out physical-distancing measures. Temperature has to be taken at the entrance of every mall and, in Abu Dhabi, employees of non-essential businesses are required to be tested before they can go back to work.

Even after the pandemic is contained, research to combat viruses and other ailments must continue to receive funds and support

These are important measures. Experts have warned that if restrictions are relaxed hastily and people do not follow physical distancing and hygiene norms, a second wave of infections could be on the horizon. Citizens, residents and businesses must therefore remain cautious and take heed of the directions of health authorities. It is imperative for people leaving their houses to wear masks at all times and wash their hands frequently in order to help in curbing the spread of the disease. We all have a part to play in keeping up the momentum in this fight. So long as this pandemic continues to plague our world, we must all remain on our guard and strive to protect those around us from the disease.