Just over two weeks have passed since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak, which first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December, a global pandemic.
To date, more than 510,000 people have been infected worldwide, with more than 22,900 people dying from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The infections, whose rates have accelerated since the outbreak began, have touched almost every corner of the world, causing unprecedented and widespread travel restrictions and trade closings that threaten a global recession. At least three billion people, including India's 1.3 billion population, have been ordered to stay home.
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Despite the fact that new cases in China have decreased dramatically, which has eased many restrictions, places such as Italy, Spain, Iran and the United States have become new hot spots for the virus, for which there is no vaccine or vaccine. proven treatment.
The speed and severity with which the virus spread across the planet have left international organizations, governments and individuals reeling.
But the past few months have not been without events that offer reason for hope.
Here are six positive stories to watch:
WHO launches global trial of possible treatments.
The WHO launched a global trial to quickly assess the most promising treatments for the virus and the disease it causes. The organization is currently reviewing four drugs or drug combinations that were developed for other diseases and are already approved for human use and could be widely available.
The streamlined study will build on data generated by thousands of patients at participating hospitals in countries around the world, while requiring little extra time and effort from already overwhelmed medical personnel.
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Until March 20, Thailand, Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland had signed to participate in the trial.
During the global study, according to the journal Science, a The doctor can enter the information of an infected hospitalized person, who has signed a consent form, on a WHO website. The doctor will tell the WHO website which of the possible treatments are available in the hospital, and the website will randomly assign the patient to one of the available medications or to the local standard of care.
Doctors record the day the patient left the hospital or died, the length of the hospital stay, and whether the patient required oxygen or ventilation, Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, medical officer of the WHO Department of Vaccines and Biological Products, told the magazine.
The massive data set it produces could quickly indicate which treatments are the most effective.
"We are doing this in record time," Restrepo told Science.
UK call for volunteers exceeds expectations
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on 250,000 volunteers Tuesday night to help deliver food and medicine to the most vulnerable citizens who were ordered to isolate themselves.
In 24 hours, more than 400,000 people had signed up. That number soon rose to more than half a million, according to the BBC, larger than Britain's armed forces, which currently number just over 192,000.
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Under the National Health Service's volunteer plan, health professionals and some charities will be able to ask for help for their at-risk patients, who will then be paired with volunteers who live near them.
Any fit and healthy adult can apply to help deliver drugs from pharmacies, take patients to appointments, or make regular phone calls to monitor people.
Around 11,000 former doctors also agreed to return to the health service, while more than 24,000 nursing students and senior doctors will also help the health system.
Drops of air pollution
A silver lining to the countries that are blocking the entire planet, slowing transport and most of the industry to halt, has been a marked decline in air pollution.
Satellite images showed that pollution in China plummeted as large swaths of the country closed at the height of the outbreak there.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) confirmed on Wednesday that the concentration of pollutants, in particular nitrogen dioxide, which is largely caused by road transport, recently declined massively in Europe. "especially in the main cities under closure measures. "
In Milan, the industrial capital of Italy, average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over the past four weeks have been at least 24 percent lower than the previous four weeks in the year, according to the EEA.
In Bergamo, the average concentration of the pollutant during the week of March 16 to 22 was 47 percent lower than in the same week in 2019. And in Rome, the average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide during the last four weeks were between 26 and 35 percent less than for the same weeks in 2019.
The trend can be seen beyond Italy: in Spain, Barcelona's average nitrogen dioxide levels decreased by 40 percent from one week to the next. Compared to the same week in 2019, that reduction was 55 percent.
In Madrid, average levels of nitrogen dioxide decreased by 56 percent from one week to the next. Compared to the same week in 2019, the reduction was 41 percent.
The "peak,quot; of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy will soon be reached
Experts have urged patience while waiting for the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, the world's largest hot spot, to peak. Scientists have been forced to learn about the new virus in real time as it spreads, making predictions particularly difficult.
So far, Italy has registered more than 8,000 deaths and more than 80,000 infections.
As the coronavirus spreads in Europe, hospitals are overwhelmed.
On Saturday, Italy recorded its highest number of daily deaths of 793 new deaths from COVID-19.
Since then, however, the daily toll, while still high, has not exceeded that number. New daily cases have also stabilized.
The numbers are grounds for tentative optimism, WHO deputy director-general for Strategic Initiatives Ranieri Guerra told the Italian radio station Radio Capital, the Italian news service ANSA reported Wednesday.
"The slowdown in growth rate is an extremely positive factor, and in some regions, I think we are close to the point of the curve's drop, therefore, the peak may be reached this week and then fall," Guerra said.
Guerra also told the radio station that the effect of Italy's national blockade, which began on March 9 and intensified in the following days, could soon be reflected in the number of cases.
"I think this week and the first days of the next will be decisive because they will be times when the government's measures of 15-20 days ago should take effect."
US Hospitals USA Prepare to use blood plasma as treatment
US hospitals USA They are gearing up to test a century-old treatment used to fight flu and measles outbreaks in the days leading up to vaccines, and more recently they tried it against Ebola and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). This treatment could also work for COVID-19.
The United States Food and Drug Administration said it is accelerating the approval of the use of plasma from recovered patients to treat the newly infected.
When a person becomes infected with a particular virus, the body begins to make specially designed proteins called antibodies to fight infection. After the person recovers, those antibodies float in the survivors' blood, specifically in the plasma, the liquid part of the blood, for months, even years.
Injecting plasma into another infected patient could increase the body's ability to fight infection, decrease the severity of the disease, and free up hospital resources.
"Every patient we can keep out of the ICU (ICU) is a huge logistical victory because there are bottlenecks in hospitals," said Michael Joyner, anesthesiologist and physiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. .
"We need to have this on board as soon as possible and pray that a surge does not overwhelm places like New York and the West Coast."
Doctors in China tried the first COVID-19 treatments using donated plasma from survivors of the new virus, but studies there only yielded preliminary results.
Cuban doctors sent to help overwhelmed Italian health system
Cuba has sent a brigade of doctors and nurses to Italy to help fight the coronavirus, following a request from the most affected region of Lombardy.
Cuban doctors go to Italy to fight the coronavirus
While the UN has called for international cooperation to combat the pandemic, many countries have been forced to focus on their own populations, as health systems around the world face shortages of personnel and supplies.
Cuba has sent its "white robed armies,quot; to disaster sites around the world since its 1959 revolution. However, the 52-member medical staff brigade represents the first time that Cuba has dispatched an emergency contingent to Italy, which It got down on its knees because of the pandemic, despite being one of the richest countries in the world.
"We are all afraid, but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we eliminate fear and put it aside," Leonardo Fernández, 68, an intensive care specialist, told the Reuters news agency shortly before departure. of his brigade.
"The one who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheroes, we are revolutionary doctors," he said.