Wenny Zulianti

Wenny Zulianti

03
April

As many as 10 million people globally may have been infected by the new coronavirus, Australia's chief medical officer said on Friday, with the under-reporting due to a lack of testing in some countries for the highly contagious respiratory disease.

A Reuters tally of official data on Friday pegged the number of COVID-19 cases caused by the virus at 1 million, but Australia's chief medical officer said the true size of the global outbreak may be up to 10 times higher.

"Worldwide we have passed 1 million infections. But we believe the true number is five or 10 times as much," Brendan Murphy told reporters.

Murphy said the mortality rates vary so much around the world that he believes many infections are going undetected.

The World Health Organization has called on countries to significantly increase testing for coronavirus, while some critics have also highlighted differences in how some countries count coronvirus cases.

China - where the outbreak began late last year - has only recently started counting asymptomatic cases of coronavirus, prompting criticism from some international experts.

Without criticizing China or any other countries, Murphy said he did not trust any data beyond Australia's.

"The only numbers I have total faith in are the Australian numbers, frankly."

02
April

As the number of coronavirus cases and deaths rises in Indonesia, the government says it will use modified diagnostics test kits for tuberculosis available at more than 132 hospitals and public health centers for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by the end of the week.

The government’s spokesperson for COVID-19-related matters, Achmad Yurianto, said on Wednesday that the government would start ordering cartridges for the rapid molecular test equipment that could detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, whereas previously the equipment was only outfitted with cartridges to detect tuberculosis bacteria.

“These changes will certainly not be easy, because it requires changes to the machines’ settings in addition to training the human resources and preparing the cartridges. But we are optimistic that it can be done starting this week,” Yurianto said at a press conference on Wednesday, adding that test runs may already be conducted that day.

He said the use of TB test kits could shorten the time it takes to carry samples from the hospitals to laboratories, adding that the test used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method that was more accurate than the rapid testing.

The decision came after the Indonesian Society of Respirology (PDPI) said the government could use TB test kits by modifying the cartridges. The modified cartridges were designed by American molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, which also produces expert TBM/RIF machines used to test for TB.

The technology also recently received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approving its use to detect COVID-19 in the US.

The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease that endorses COVID-19 testing with the TB kits said the technology could accelerate the detection of the disease in low- and middle-income countries, returning results as quickly as in 45 minutes.

In the press conference, Yurianto also said the country had recorded 1,677 cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday with 157 fatalities and 103 recoveries. Cases have now been found in 32 of 34 Indonesian provinces.

He also said the government had distributed around 475,200 rapid test kits to every provincial health office for early detection and contact tracing, adding that it also had distributed 349,000 pieces of personal protective equipment for medical workers across the country.

 
02
April

Iran's death toll from the coronavirus has passed 3,000, the health ministry said on Wednesday, as President Hassan Rouhani accused Washington of missing a "historic opportunity" to lift sanctions.

Tensions between the arch-foes have soared since President Donald Trump abandoned a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions.

Tehran has repeatedly called on Washington to reverse its policy, which has been opposed by US allies, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the coronavirus death toll in Iran now stood at 3,036 following 138 new fatalities in the past 24 hours.

He added that 2,987 new cases had been confirmed, bringing the total to 47,593, with 15,473 of those hospitalized having recovered and been discharged.

"This was the best, historic opportunity for the Americans to reverse their wrong path and for once, tell their nation they are not against the Iranian people," Rouhani said in televised comments at a cabinet meeting.

They "did not learn their lesson even during this difficult global situation," he said.

"This was a humanitarian issue. No one would have blamed them for retreating."

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the US sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process purchases for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

Countries including Azerbaijan, Britain, China, France, Germany, Japan, Qatar, Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have all sent shipments of medical aid to Iran.

European nations have also delivered medical goods to Iran in the first transaction under the Instex financing mechanism set up to get round US sanctions, Germany said on Tuesday.

It is more than a year since Britain, France and Germany announced the creation of Instex, a delay that has prompted Iran to question European governments' commitment to seeing it through in defiance of the Trump administration.

02
April

He doesn't wear a mask but he is helping save lives from coronavirus just the same. Meet Tommy, the robot nurse.

Tommy is one of six new robots helping flesh-and-blood doctors and nurses care for coronavirus patients at the Circolo Hospital in Varese, a city in the northern Lombardy region that is the epicenter of the outbreak in Italy.

"It's like having another nurse without problems related to infection," said Doctor Francesco Dentali, director of intensive care at the hospital.

The child-size robots with large blinking eyes are wheeled into rooms and left by a patient's bedside so doctors can look after others who are in more serious conditions.

They monitor parameters from equipment in the room, relaying them to hospital staff. The robots have touch-screen faces that allow patients to record messages and send them to doctors.

Most importantly, Tommy and his high-tech teammates allow the hospital to limit the amount of direct contact doctors and nurses have with patients, thus reducing the risk of infection.

More than 4,000 Italian health workers have contracted the virus treating victims in Italy and 66 doctors have died.

The death toll in Italy, the world's hardest hit country in terms of deaths, topped 13,000 on Wednesday, more than a third of all global fatalities.

"Using my abilities, medical staff can be in touch with the patients without direct contact," Tommy the robot, who was named after a son of one of the doctors, explained to a visiting reporter on Wednesday.

It takes a while for patients to realize that, given the enormity of the task of combating coronavirus and the toll it is taking on overworked medical staff, robots may be just what the doctor ordered.

"You have to explain to the patient the aim and function of the robot," Dentali said.

"The first reaction is not positive, especially for old patients. But if you explain your aim, the patient is happy because he or she can speak with the doctor," he said.

The robots also help the hospital limit the number of protective masks and gowns staff have to use.

"These days, they are a scarce resource," said Doctor Gianni Bonelli, the hospital's director.

The shortage of masks has been one of the biggest problems dogging the national health system since the contagion surfaced at the end of February.

The national commissioner for the emergency has said it will take Italy at least two months to become self-sufficient in producing protective masks.

Tommy and his fellow robot nurses have one more advantage - they are not subject to exhaustion. A quick charge of batteries and they are back at work in the ward.