Covid-19 Live Updates: Trump Suggests Vaccine Approval Plans Are Driven by Politics
President Trump said on Wednesday that the White House “may or may not” approve new Food and Drug Administration guidelines that would toughen the process for approving a coronavirus vaccine, and suggested the plan “sounds like a political move.”
The pronouncement once again undercut government scientists who had spent the day trying to bolster public faith in the promised vaccine. Just hours earlier, four senior physicians leading the federal coronavirus response strongly endorsed the tighter safety procedures, which would involve getting outside expert approval before a vaccine could be declared safe and effective by the F.D.A.
Last week, Mr. Trump said that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had “made a mistake” when he said that most Americans would not complete the vaccination process until next summer and that masks were at least as important as a vaccine to control the virus’s spread.
The F.D.A. had planned to issue stricter guidelines for the emergency authorization of any new coronavirus vaccine, which would add a new layer of caution to the vetting process, even as the president has insisted a vaccine will be ready as early as next month. Mr. Trump, though, cast doubt on the F.D.A. plan.
“That has to be approved by the White House,” he said, adding, “We may or may not approve it.” Raising questions about why vaccine makers would want to delay the process, he said, “We are looking at that, but I think that was a political move more than anything else.”
He pointedly said he had “tremendous trust in these massive companies” that are testing the vaccines, adding, “I don’t know that a government as big as” the federal government could do as well.
At Wednesday’s Senate hearing, the doctors — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the F.D.A.; Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director; and Admiral Brett P. Giroir, the coronavirus testing czar — defended their scientific integrity amid mounting evidence that Mr. Trump and his administration have interfered with their agencies’ decision-making and growing public doubts about a vaccine.
All four officials pledged to take any vaccine approved by the F.D.A. and said they would encourage their families to do the same.
Polls show a troubling drop in the number of Americans who would be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine. A survey published last week by the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of Americans would either probably or definitely take a vaccine, down from 72 percent in May.
The Israeli government said on Thursday that it was tightening its second national lockdown after coronavirus infection rates soared this week to about 7,000 new cases a day, among the highest in the world.
The new measures, which go into effect on Friday, will remain in place at least until the end of the Jewish High Holy Days in mid-October. Most businesses will have to close, and all gatherings, including protests and communal prayers, will be restricted to groups of up to 20 people outdoors within about 1,100 yards of home.
An exception has been made for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, which begins at sundown on Sunday. Limited numbers of worshipers will be allowed to pray inside synagogues as they did during last week’s Rosh Hashana, or New Year, holiday.
Ultra-Orthodox cabinet ministers had argued that for many Jews, praying outdoors in the heat on Monday would be unbearable, especially for those observing the 25-hour fast of the sacred day of atonement.
The government was still mulling whether to halt outbound flights allowing Israelis to travel abroad from Ben-Gurion International Airport.
The new restrictions were largely meant to address a heated dispute roiling Israel. On one side are those who say they have the right to hold mass protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which have been taking place weekly in the streets near his official residence in Jerusalem. On the other are Orthodox politicians who oppose restrictions on prayer as long as the protests are allowed to continue.
The Israeli Parliament must approve any measures limiting the freedom to protest, which is anchored in law.
Indonesia’s coronavirus death toll soared past 10,000 on Thursday, as new cases continued to surge across the nation and within the president’s cabinet.
The world’s fourth-most-populous country already has the second-highest death toll from the coronavirus in the Asia-Pacific region, after India. Experts believe that many more deaths have gone unreported in Indonesia because many patients suspected of having the disease died before their test results were returned.
Cases are still climbing, too: Indonesia, which until last week had never reached 4,000 new cases in a single day, has now passed that mark five times in the past six days. Over the past week it has reported nearly 30,000 new cases, on par with Britain, Israel and Mexico.
On Thursday afternoon, Indonesia reported 4,634 new cases, a daily record, and 128 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 10,105.
The minister of religious affairs, Fachrul Razi, 73, became the third member of President Joko Widodo’s cabinet to test positive, his office said Monday. The ministers of transportation and fisheries have both recovered, but a top Jakarta government official died last week.
Indonesia was slow to adopt coronavirus restrictions earlier this year, then quick to lift them in the hope of reviving the economy. Jakarta, the capital, recently imposed a partial shutdown for the second time. But the government’s overall approach appears to have backfired as cases keep rising and the economy sputters.
The country’s economy is expected to contract this year for the first time since the Asian economic crisis of 1998, the finance minister, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said Tuesday. She forecast a decline in the gross domestic product of as much as 1.7 percent this year.
The government is urging members of the public to wear masks and is imposing fines of up to $16.75 for those not wearing one. A few people have been told to lie in a coffin as punishment. Others have chosen to dig graves for Covid-19 victims rather than pay a fine.
Health experts are concerned that campaign events for regional elections planned for December could cause new incidents of superspreading. And they worry that seasonal flooding could soon displace thousands from their homes and cause more contagion as people crowd into shelters.
They also fear that the country’s beleaguered medical system could be overwhelmed by a surge of patients. Some hospitals are nearing capacity and more than 4,300 patients with moderate or no symptoms are being housed at an athletic village in Jakarta.
“We really need the public’s assistance to carry out health protocols, because if we continue like this, all our existing systems will collapse,” the national medical volunteer coordinator, Jossep William, told reporters on Monday.
When air travelers arrive at Helsinki’s airport and collect their luggage, they are now invited to wipe their necks for a 10-second coronavirus test that does not involve an uncomfortable nasal swab. After placing the sweaty wipe in a box, it is taken behind a wall to be sniffed. By a dog.
A couple of these coronavirus-sniffing canines began work at the Finnish airport on Wednesday as part of a pilot program that aims to detect the virus from an arriving passenger’s sweat.
And they seem to be doing the job, a top researcher from the University of Helsinki who is monitoring the trial said.
In the first stage of the trial, the dogs could sniff out the virus in a person who is asymptomatic, or before symptoms appear, the researcher, Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, said.
International airports have used various methods to detect the virus in travelers, including saliva screenings, temperature checks and nasal swabs. But researchers in Finland say that using dogs could prove cheaper, faster and more effective.
In July, researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover in Germany found that after a week of training, dogs could distinguish saliva samples of people infected with the coronavirus from noninfected samples with a 94 percent success rate.
What does the virus smells like? You would have to ask the dog, because it is so far a scent undetectable by humans.