KEY POINTS

  • G-7 finance ministers and their central bankers have scheduled a teleconference to try to develop a coordinated response to the virus
  • The number of U.S. cases grew to 100, with six deaths reported
  • In Iran, the virus was blamed for the death of a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khameini

Coronavirus deaths soared above 3,000 globally Monday as the outbreak spread to six more countries and Group of Seven finance minister sought a response that would keep a global recession at bay.

The World Health Organization reported Armenia, Czechia, Dominican Republic, Luxembourg, Iceland and Indonesia joined the list of countries affect by the outbreak, which grew to 88,948 confirmed cases. Saudi Arabia and Jordan also announced their first cases.

G-7 finance ministers scheduled a Tuesday teleconference to develop a coordinated response to the outbreak. The ministers were to be joined by their central bank governors, Bloomberg News reported.

In the U.S., President Trump Monday met with pharmaceutical executives to urge them to accelerate efforts to develop a vaccine as the number of U.S. deaths rose to six. The meeting had been arranged to discuss drug prices and congressional legislation to curb increases, but Trump said the discussion would deal with a vaccine first.

Dr. Anthony Faucio, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week the agency was moving rapidly to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, but it would take 12 to 18 months, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Congress he could not guarantee such a vaccine would be affordable.

“The COVID-19 vaccine will likely take longer than 12 months to market even if the smartest minds in the world were sequestered, assembled, and asked to work on this full time. This is due to the inherent complexity related to understanding immunological response and identifying antigens that generate protective response,” said Vasudev Bailey, a partner at Artis Ventures, a California venture capital firm, in response to an IBTimes query.

“This type of virus has occurred and spread three times in the last 20 years, which is inexcusable,” said Dr. William Haseltine, chair of the U.S.-China Health Summit and founder of Harvard Medical School’s HIV/AIDS research department.

“Our experience with HIV informs us that we very likely have all the tools needed to develop combinations of drugs that will cure those infected and protect those who are not. But as we’ve learned from our experience, ignorance, complacency and denial are as much an enemy as the virus itself.”

Abraham Gutman, CEO of ATMednet, said the key to developing an effective vaccine is recruiting the right patients for clinical trials.

However, Raja Sharif, founder and CEO of Farmatrust, which helps pharmaceutical companies to track their products, said it would be possible to speed up the process if researchers used blockchain to record their results instead of paper.

“Cell/gene therapy is a nascent science, currently used only in cases where no known cure exists. Treatments have to be created within 20-30 days, otherwise, patients die. It's a process involving many supply chain participants across different locations,” Sharif told IBTimes.

“Blockchain is perfect for this work-in-progress industry as it offers a fully regulatory compliant record of data that is immutable and incorruptible while not being tied to a specific vendor.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the number of U.S. cases has grown to 100. But Trump has downplayed the threat posed by the virus, and the financial markets Monday shrugged off the outbreak as the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 1,294 points.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused the president of mishandling the situation to a “dangerous degree.”

The administration had asked for $1.25 billion in new funding to fight spread of the virus. Bipartisan negotiators on Capitol Hill were reported close to agreement on a $7.5 billion proposal.

A Washington state nursing home Monday reported four more deaths from the disease, bringing to six the number that have occurred in the United States. Seattle authorities said they planned to open isolation centers, and King County Executive Dow Constantine said he had signed an emergency declaration. The county was planning to buy a motel for use as a quarantine center.

Warner Bros. canceled the New York premiere of “Superman: Red Son” amid fears of the contagion.

In Iran, where 978 cases have been confirmed, Mohammad Mirohammadi, a member of the Expediency Council and a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, and his mother were among that country’s 385 fatalities. Earlier, the virus was blamed for the death of Hadi Khosroshahi, the former Iranian ambassador to the Vatican.

The news spurred authorities to abandon efforts to downplay the outbreak and draw up plans to mobilize as many as 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to enforce containment efforts. Disinfectants were being sprayed on streets in major cities, and officials were warning against hoarding of medical supplies, threatening severe punishment. Schools and universities were closed by religious shrines remained open.

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