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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Nothing certain on chloroquine, test kits as WHO warns of long battle against Covid-19

The World Health Organization says there is no evidence to show the effectiveness of chloroquine in treating Covid-19 patients.
PETALING JAYA: The World Health Organization (WHO) today said the jury is still out on rapid test kits to detect Covid-19 and the use of chloroquine to treat the virus.
The United Nations agency also warned countries to brace for a “long-term battle” against the pandemic.
Dr Socorro Escalante
Covid-19 incident manager for the Western Pacific Region Dr Socorro Escalante said WHO was aware of a number of rapid test kits on the market, but that these are still under evaluation.
“We have not seen the evidence and the potential performance of these tests to diagnose Covid-19,” she said at a media briefing.
A few days ago, the health ministry said it would try a new rapid test kit from South Korea to detect Covid-19 cases.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said they had decided against buying a rapid test kit from China due to reports of a low accuracy rate.
Beijing recently donated some 100,000 test kits to Malaysia.
Escalante also said there was no evidence to show the effectiveness of chloroquine – an anti-malaria drug touted as a “game-changer” by US President Donald Trump – to treat the virus.
She acknowledged studies done “in vitro” that might have shown chloroquine as effective in combating Covid-19.
“However, there has not been any trial, a controlled trial undertaken to show the effectiveness and the safety of the medication.”
Over the weekend, Noor Hisham said three types of drugs were available in Malaysia and could be used to treat Covid-19.
Dr Takeshi Kasai
The drugs – chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir – “can be used to treat other ailments and for treating Covid-19”, he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, said there was no way to tell how long the pandemic would continue.
However, he said it was unlikely that the virus would disappear “in the next week, or even next month”.
“I’m using this opportunity to tell you that this battle is going to be long term.
“We want every country to respond according to their situation and prepare for a large scale outbreak,” he said.
He added that there is no standard approach to treating the virus, although countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong are cited as examples in curbing the outbreak.
He said every country is trying its best.
“What we have observed is, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
“What we learn from China is that every province is adjusting its approach, tailored to its own context.”
However, he noted some common practices in countries where the outbreak has slowed down, including identifying cases, isolating and treating them, tracing contacts as well as introducing health interventions for social distancing. - FMT

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