Japan is set to start trials of HIV medication to treat the new coronavirus patients, as the deadly flu-like pathogen continues to claim more lives, with the worldwide death toll nearing 1,900 people.
The Japanese government’s top spokesman made the announcement on Tuesday, expressing concern that the increase in the number of cases would pose a growing threat to the global economy and public health.
The government is making “preparations so that clinical trials using HIV medication on the novel coronavirus can start as soon as possible,” Yoshihide Suga said at a news briefing in Tokyo, but added that he could not say how long it might take to approve a drug’s use.
HIV drugs have been billed as a potential cure for the coronavirus, while no therapy has so far proven fully effective against the infection since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei Province late last year.
Chinese authorities announced on Tuesday that the death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had risen to 1,868, up by 98 from the previous day.
There were also 1,886 new confirmed infections across mainland China, bringing the total to 72,436 cases, according to the China’s National Health Commission.
For the first time since January, the number of new coronavirus infections fell below 2,000 on Tuesday, although global experts warned it was still too early to say the outbreak was being contained. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Chinese data “appears to show a decline in new cases” but any apparent trend “must be interpreted very cautiously.”
Citing official statements, Reuters said there have been 827 cases in 26 countries and five deaths across the world, with more than half of those cases having been reported on a cruise ship quarantined off Japan.
Japan’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday that a further 88 people, who had tested positive for the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, were kept in quarantine off the port of Yokohama, bringing the total number of infected passengers to 542.
Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and South Korea have already announced plans for the evacuation of their citizens from the ship, following the lead of the United States, which flew home around 300 Americans on Monday.
Canada said it had arranged a chartered flight to repatriate its 256 nationals from the Diamond Princess, providing no further details as to when it would take place.
The coronavirus, named COVID-19, can cause various illnesses, ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as pneumonia. Common signs of the infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other breathing difficulties.