A Swiss pharmaceutical giant said yesterday it had a swine flu vaccine ready for trial as governments stepped up precautions to counter the newly declared influenza pandemic.
While millions could catch the flu, governments and health experts around the world have sought to play down fears that the A(H1N1) virus, also known as swine flu, could become a major killer.
Swine flu has so far infected almost 30,000 people in 74 countries and claimed 145 lives since it was first detected in Mexico in April, WHO figures showed.
Novartis stole a march on competitors by announcing it had completed a first batch of vaccine for pre-clinical trials. A spokesman said it hoped to have a vaccine in production by September or October.
The UN health agency raised its global alert to a maximum six on Thursday, saying it had reached pandemic status because of its geographical spread.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) said the declaration of a “moderate” pandemic should not spark panic and did not mean the A(H1N1) death toll would rise sharply.
She said raising the alert “means that the world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century.”
The WHO said it would ask drugmakers to quickly prepare to produce swine flu vaccines once the production of seasonal flu vaccine ends.
Mexico has been the worst hit. Its government on Thursday increased the country’s death toll to 109 with 6,294 A(H1N1) infections. The US comes next. Its health authorities have reported 27 deaths and 13,217 cases.
Australia, the worst hit in the Asia-Pacific region, was considering raising its national flu alert and adopting powers to cancel sports events, restrict travel and even shut national borders, although officials stressed extreme measures were unlikely.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the country had prepared well but faced problems because of the number of people who travel abroad. Australia has 1,307 confirmed cases including four in intensive care.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations