American authorities have approved an experimental drug for emergency use on coronavirus patients, as more US states eased pandemic lockdowns despite another spike in deaths from the disease.
The approval is the latest step in a global push to find viable treatments and a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has left half of humanity under some form of lockdown, hammered the world economy, and infected more than 3.3 million people.
Remdesivir, an antiviral drug initially developed to treat Ebola, was given the green light on Friday after a major trial found that it boosted recovery in serious COVID-19 patients.
“It’s really a very promising situation,” President Donald Trump said on Friday at the White House, where he was joined by Daniel O’Day, CEO of Gilead Sciences, which developed Remdesivir.
Remdesivir incorporates itself into the virus’s genome, short-circuiting its replication process.
The drug approval came as the US leaders struggled with growing pressure from citizens wearying of stay-at-home orders.
With about 1.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, nearly 65,000 of them fatal, the United States has the highest tolls of any country, and Trump is keen for a turnaround as the world’s largest economy reels with tens of millions left jobless.
“Hopefully, we’re going to come in below that 100,000 lives lost, which is a horrible number nevertheless,” said Trump, after suggesting earlier in the week the country could expect 60,000 or 70,000 fatalities.
Texas became the largest US state yet to ease curbs, while anti-lockdown demonstrations were held in several states — including California, where officials had re-closed beaches beginning Friday to avoid a repeat of last weekend when crowds flocked to the shoreline.
There were protests in 11 cities in California — where more than 50,000 coronavirus cases have been reported — with people chanting against the lockdown.
In Huntington Beach, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) south of Los Angeles, several thousand people rallied to denounce Governor Gavin Newsom’s beach shutdown order.
“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” protester Monica Beilhard fumed.
“It was uncalled for, unnecessary and people out here are making that known,” she said. “And we’re also very much saying enough is enough, we have the right to work… and it’s time for the governor to allow the healthy to be able to get back to business.”