As of this morning - Friday 20th March - the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 3,269, with 144 deaths and 65 recoveries.
With UK prime minister Boris Johnson setting out new measures daily, and a retired force of nurses and doctors being asked to return to the NHS to fight the crisis, other organisations and companies are gearing up to tackle the worst of the outbreak.
New study results published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) have suggested that, unfortunately, adding AbbVie's Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) to standard care in seriously ill patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection did not significantly shorten the time to clinical improvement.
The data also showed that it did not significantly lower mortality rates either, but researchers have noted that the combination of HIV protease inhibitors did offer "modest" benefit on some measures.
Johnson & Johnson has also said that there was no evidence that its HIV drug Prezista (darunavir), by itself or in combo with other HIV drugs, has any effect on SARS-CoV-2, leading to another potential dead end.
However, a team of scientists at the University of Southampton have announced a trial of an inhaled drug that may help people reduce the symptoms of the virus.
The SNG001 study is looking at the benefit of an inhaled formulation of interferon-beta-1a in COVID-19 patients to potentially assist in reducing symptoms, after Phase II clinical trials in asthmatic patients have previously shown that SNG001 is well tolerated, enhances the lungs' antiviral defences and improves lung function during cold or flu infection.
In more global efforts, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is launching a taskforce to tackle negative impacts within its remit, urging retailers to behave responsibly and saying that it would consider any evidence that companies may have broken competition or consumer protection law.
As the public health emergency worsens and its impact on the economy becomes more serious, the CMA has said its taskforce will scrutinise market developments to identify harmful sales and pricing practices as they emerge, as well as warning firms suspected of exploiting these exceptional circumstances – and people’s vulnerability – through unjustifiable prices or misleading claims.
Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, said: “This is obviously a time when we all have to behave responsibly to protect our fellow citizens, and particularly those who are most vulnerable. We urge retailers to behave responsibly in the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“But if they do not, our taskforce is monitoring market developments to enable us to intervene as quickly as possible. We have a range of options at our disposal, from warnings to enforcement action to seeking emergency powers. We hope that such action will not be necessary, but we will do whatever is required to stop a small minority of businesses that may seek to exploit the present situation.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) urges the public to stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, with information available through your national and local public health authority.
Wash your hands frequently:
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Maintain social distancing:
Maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early:
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.