J&J eyes one billion doses of potential COVID-19 shot in 2021, weighs challenge trials

By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson could produce 1 billion doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine next year if it proves successful and would consider injecting healthy volunteers with the novel coronavirus if there are not enough patients for final trials, a company executive said.

J&J kicked off in July early-stage human safety trials for its potential COVID-19 vaccine after releasing details of a study in monkeys that showed its best-performing candidate offered strong protection in a single dose.

It is developing the vaccine in collaboration with its Belgian subsidiary, Janssen.

Large-scale trials are set to start by the beginning of October and J&J aims to have results on the vaccine’s efficacy between the end of this year and mid-2021, Johan Van Hoof, head of vaccines at Janssen, told Reuters on Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, and before large-scale trials had been conducted.

Van Hoof said that production of the vaccine had already begun despite the financial risks involved, to make sure it would be available as soon as possible should it prove effective against the new coronavirus.

Several million doses will be ready by the beginning of 2021, with a total capacity of 1 billion shots by the end of the year, he said. He added that the company was likely to favor a single-jab approach, although a final decision on whether a booster would be needed had not yet been made.

ETHICAL ISSUES

Outcomes of large-scale, or Phase III, trials will depend on the incidence of infections, Van Hoof said, with faster results expected with higher virus transmission.

That is why J&J is likely to conduct those trials in the United States and Latin America, the world’s regions currently with the highest number of cases.

If infections drop significantly, J&J is also considering so-called challenge trials, in which volunteers are infected with the virus so that a vaccine candidate can be tested on them.

“We are looking into that possibility,” Van Hoof said, noting though that such trials posed ethical issues that needed to be resolved before they could be conducted. For instance, an effective therapy against the disease should be available to minimize risks for volunteers exposed to the virus.

In May British drugmaker AstraZeneca, which is developing a leading coronavirus vaccine with Oxford University, said it was too early to deliberately expose trial participants to the pathogen, but that may become an option if ongoing tests hit a snag.

Van Hoof said that preparations to stock the virus for possible challenge trials were already underway and J&J was part of ongoing discussions with universities and other bodies involved in these projects.

“We find it a very interesting idea,” he said, adding however, that setting up facilities for such trials would perhaps take longer than testing vaccines on people who are already infected in the community – as long as transmission remained relatively high.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

New travel curbs imposed as world tackles second COVID-19 wave

By Stephen Coates and Peter Graff

SYDNEY/LONDON (Reuters) – Nations in Asia imposed new restrictions on Monday and an abrupt British quarantine on travelers from Spain threw Europe’s summer reopening into disarray, as the world confronted the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

In the United States, where infection rates have been climbing since mid-June, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien became the most senior White House official to test positive.

Surges were reported in a number of countries previously singled out as places where the virus was under control.

Australia recorded a record daily rise. Vietnam locked down the city of Danang, forcing tens of thousands of visitors to evacuate. Mainland China confirmed the most new locally transmitted cases since early March. Papua New Guinea shut its borders.

Hong Kong banned gatherings of more than two people, closed down restaurant dining and introduced mandatory face masks in public places, including outdoors.

Just weeks after European countries trumpeted the reopening of tourism, a surge in infections in Spain prompted Britain to order all travelers from there to quarantine for two weeks, torpedoing the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people.

The World Health Organization said travel restrictions could not be the answer for the long term, and countries had to do more to halt the spread inside their borders by adopting proven strategies such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.

“It is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future. Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume,” WHO emergencies program director Mike Ryan said.

“What is clear is pressure on the virus pushes the numbers down. Release that pressure and cases creep back up.”

NOT LIKE BEFORE

Officials in some of the European and Asian countries where the virus is again spreading say new outbreaks will not be as bad as the original waves that hit earlier this year, and can be contained with local measures rather than nationwide shutdowns.

But countries that have suffered extreme economic hardship from months of lockdowns are also determined not to let the virus get out of control again, even if that means reversing the path to reopening.

Europe has yet to lift bans on travelers from many countries, including the United States where the White House said national security adviser O’Brien presented no risk of infection for Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.

Britain’s announcement of the return of quarantine for Spain was likely to torpedo the revival of airlines and tourism businesses across the continent, which had thought they had survived their biggest crisis in living memory.

Britain accounts for more than 20% of foreign visitors to Spain, where tourism represents 12% of the economy.

Europe’s biggest airline, Ryanair, cut its annual passenger target by a quarter on Monday and warned a second wave of COVID-19 infections could lower that further.

A British junior health minister said more European countries could end up on the “red list” if infections surge.

“If we see the rates going up, we would have to take action because we cannot take the risk of coronavirus being spread again across the UK,” Helen Whately told Sky News when asked if Germany or France might be next after Spain.

In China, which managed to squelch local transmission through firm lockdowns after the virus first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year, a new surge has been driven by infections in the far western region of Xinjiang.

In the northeast, Liaoning province reported a fifth straight day of new infections and Jilin province reported two new cases, its first since late May.

Australian authorities who have imposed a six-week lockdown in parts of the southeastern state of Victoria said it could last longer after the country’s highest daily increase in infections.

“The tragedy of COVID-19 is that we know, with the number of new infections that we have seen today, that there will be many further deaths in the days ahead,” Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told reporters.

In Japan, the government said it would urge business leaders to ramp up anti-virus measures such as staggered shifts, and aimed to see rates of telecommuting return to levels achieved during an earlier state of emergency.

“At one point, commuter numbers were down by 70 to 80%, but now it’s only about 30%,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said late on Sunday. “We really don’t want to backtrack on this, so we have to explore new ways of working and keep telecommuting high.”

Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people, mostly local tourists, from Danang after three residents tested positive at the weekend. Until Saturday, the country had reported no community infections since April.

North Korean state media reported on the weekend that the border town of Kaesong was in lockdown after a person who defected to South Korea three years ago returned this month with symptoms of COVID-19. If confirmed, it would be the first case officially acknowledged by Pyongyang.

Papua New Guinea halted entry for travellers from Monday, except those arriving by air, as it tightens curbs against infections that have more than doubled over the past week.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Stephen Coates and Peter Graff; Editing by Nick Macfie)

U.S. coronavirus cases pass 4 million as infections rapidly accelerate

By Lisa Shumaker

(Reuters) – The total number of coronavirus cases reported in the United States passed 4 million on Thursday, reflecting a rapid acceleration of infections detected in the country since the first case was recorded on Jan. 21, a Reuters tally showed.

It took the country 98 days to reach 1 million cases, but just 16 days to go from 3 million to 4 million, according to the tally. The average number of new U.S. cases is now rising by more than 2,600 every hour, the highest rate in the world.

As the pandemic has spread widely over the country, moving from the early epicenter of New York to the South and West, federal, state and local officials have clashed over how to fight it, including over how and when to ease social and economic restrictions aimed at curbing the infection rate.

Whether to order the wearing of masks, a common practice in the rest of the world and recommended by the federal government’s own health experts, has become highly politicized, with some Republican governors particularly resistant.

Hostility to the idea appeared to be dwindling this week, however, including from the Republican administration of President Donald Trump, who once dismissed mask-wearing as an effort to be politically correct.

Trump, who faces falling poll numbers over his handling of the health crisis ahead of the November election, has long refused to wear a mask in public but this week encouraged Americans to do so.

While Trump did not issue a national mandate, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir on Thursday cited the importance of masks in “turning that tide.”

“We have to do our mitigation steps: wear a mask, avoid the crowds. We won’t see hospitalizations and deaths go down for a couple of weeks because of lagging indicators, but we are turning that tide,” Giroir told Fox News Network.

He also said the time it currently takes to get coronavirus test results back needs to be reduced. The huge surge in infections has created a testing backlog.

Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the nation’s biggest medical test companies, said on Thursday it expects to cut week-long turnaround times for COVID-19 tests by more than half to get to “acceptable” levels by September.

‘THAT STUFF WORKS’

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Thursday said measures such as wearing masks were helping to lower the numbers of deaths and new cases in his state, once one of the hardest hit.

“What the current data can tell us is that social distancing, wearing that face covering, that stuff works, and it tells us that everyone should go get tested,” the Democratic governor said at an event.

On Thursday, Florida reported a record one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths with 173 lives lost, according to the state health department. Alabama reported a record increase in cases for the fourth time this month.

Another partisan point of contention is whether schools should start fully opening in August despite concerns that doing so could cause infections to spike.

Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding if schools do not reopen, but he told a press briefing on Wednesday the decision would ultimately be up to state governors.

Administration officials have said a quicker re-opening is essential to get the cratering economy moving again, another central plank of Trump’s re-election campaign.

The White House said Trump would discuss the issue again on Thursday at a briefing at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT).

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Writing by Sonya Hepinstall, Editing by Bill Berkrot)

U.S. coronavirus infections, hospitalizations rise, crisis could worsen

(Reuters) – The United States has revisited the grim milestone of recording more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day, while infections and hospitalizations are rising in many states, forcing President Donald Trump to acknowledge the crisis could get worse.

More than 142,000 people in the country have died from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, a toll that public health experts say will likely rise in several states. Florida, Texas, Georgia and California are among about 40 states recording more cases.

Florida reported 9,785 new cases and 140 new deaths on Wednesday, while COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized hit a record high of 9,530. Alabama reported a record 61 new deaths on Wednesday, a day after hospitalizations hit a record high.

Nationally, coronavirus deaths rose by 1,141 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally. It was the first time since June 10 that the daily toll surpassed 1,000.

Nineteen states have reported a record number of currently hospitalized COVID patients so far in July. Thirty-two states have reported record increases in cases in July and 16 states have reported record increases in deaths during the month.

The U.S. government moved to secure 100 million doses of vaccine, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday.

The government will pay $1.95 billion to buy the doses of Pfizer Inc and German biotech firm BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate if they are able to successfully develop one, the companies said.

Pfizer said it would not receive any money from the government unless the vaccine is deemed to be safe and effective and is successfully manufactured.

Trump, who played down the extent of the health crisis and the importance of face coverings, changed his tone on Tuesday, and encouraged Americans to wear a mask if they cannot maintain social distance.

Trump also said that the spread of the virus “will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better – something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is.”

Mandatory mask wearing, which health officials say can slow the spread of the virus, is a political issue among Americans, with many conservatives calling such rules a violation of their constitutional rights.

Coronavirus infections are increasing in some politically important states including Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely, Alexandra Alper, Jeff Mason, Michael Erman and Ankur Banerjee; Writing by Grant McCool; editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Explainer: What is a second wave of a pandemic, and has it arrived in the U.S.?

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Infectious disease experts, economists and politicians have raised concerns about a second wave of coronavirus infections in the United States that could worsen in the coming months.

But some, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, said it is too soon to discuss a second wave when the United States has never emerged from a first wave in which more than 120,000 people have died and more than 2.3 million Americans have had confirmed infections with the novel coronavirus.

Here is an explanation of what is meant by a second wave.

WHY DESCRIBE DISEASE OUTBREAKS AS WAVES?

In infectious disease parlance, waves of infection describe the curve of an outbreak, reflecting a rise and fall in the number of cases. With viral infections such as influenza or the common cold, cases typically crest in the cold winter months and recede as warmer weather reappears.

Fears about a second wave of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, stem in part from the trajectory of the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic that infected 500 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people. The virus first appeared in the spring of 1918 but appears to have mutated when it surged again in the fall, making for a deadlier second wave.

“It came back roaring and was much worse,” epidemiologist Dr. William Hanage of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health said.

Epidemiologists said there is no formal definition of a second wave, but they know it when they see it.

“It’s often quite clear. You’ll see a rise involving a second group of people after infections in a first group have diminished,” epidemiologist Dr. Jessica Justman of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said.

U.S. COVID-19 cases spiked in March and April and then edged downward in response to social-distancing policies aimed at slowing the transmission of the virus from person to person. But unlike several countries in Europe and Asia, the United States never experienced a dramatic drop in cases marking the clear end of a first wave. There is now a plateau of about 20,000 U.S. cases daily.

“You can’t talk about a second wave in the summer because we’re still in the first wave. We want to get that first wave down. Then we’ll see if we can keep it there,” Fauci told the Washington Post last week.

The easing in recent weeks of social-distancing mandates in numerous U.S. states as businesses have reopened has caused an acceleration in infections.

IS TALK OF WAVES JUST SEMANTICS?

To many epidemiologists, it is a matter of semantics.

“Do you want to call it an extension of the first wave or a second wave superimposed on the first? You could argue it either way,” Justman said.

Dr. Eric Toner, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said he does not find “waves” to be an especially useful term in describing a pandemic.

“When you’re underwater, it’s hard to tell how many waves are passing over your head,” Toner said.

Toner said current increases in U.S. cases have less to do with the virus and more to do with people’s behavior.

“The virus isn’t going away and coming back. The virus is still here. It’s up in some places and down in others,” Toner said.

WHAT IS THE FORECAST FOR THE COMING MONTHS?

Vice President Mike Pence last week wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal trying to ease concerns over a second wave of U.S. cases. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Monday that a “second wave” is not coming.

Dr. Theo Vos of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation called those assurances “wishful thinking.”

Based on global models, his group has predicted that the coronavirus will surge in the fall as colder temperatures arrive in the United States.

“It’s likely to start picking up in October,” Vos said, with increased cases hitting in November, December and January.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Peter Henderson and Will Dunham)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now 06-22-20

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

South Korea’s second wave

Health authorities in South Korea said for the first time the country is in the midst of a “second wave” of novel coronavirus infections focused around its densely populated capital.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) had previously said South Korea’s first wave had never really ended.

But on Monday, KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong said it had become clear that a holiday weekend in early May marked the beginning of a new wave of infections focused in the greater Seoul area, which had previously seen few cases.

Training an “army”

Europeans are enjoying the gradual easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, but in hospitals they are already preparing for the next wave of infections.

Some intensive care specialists are trying to hire more permanent staff. Others want to create a reservist “army” of medical professionals ready to be deployed wherever needed to work in wards with seriously ill patients.

European countries have been giving medics crash courses in how to deal with COVID-19 patients, and are now looking at ways to retrain staff to avoid shortages of key workers if there is a second wave of the novel coronavirus.

Antibody levels fall quickly

Levels of an antibody found in recovered COVID-19 patients fell sharply 2-3 months after infection for both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, according to a Chinese study, raising questions about the length of any immunity against the novel coronavirus.

The study highlights the risks of using COVID-19 “immunity passports” and supports the prolonged use of public health interventions such as social distancing and isolating high-risk groups, researchers said.

Health authorities in some countries such as Germany are debating the ethics and practicalities of allowing people who test positive for antibodies to move more freely than others who do not.

Israeli company has high hopes for mask fabric

An Israeli company expects a fabric it has developed will be able to neutralise close to 99% of the coronavirus, even after being washed multiple times, following a successful lab test.

Sonovia’s reusable anti-viral masks are coated in zinc oxide nano-particles that destroy bacteria, fungi and viruses, which it says can help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Tests in the Microspectrum (Weipu Jishu) lab in Shanghai had demonstrated that the washable fabric used in its masks neutralised more than 90% of the coronavirus to which it was exposed, Sonovia said on Monday.

Liat Goldhammer, Sonovia’s chief technology officer, said that in the coming weeks the fabric, which can also be used in textiles for hospitals, protective equipment and clothing, will be able to neutralise almost 99% of the coronavirus.

Dog days for Chinese fair?

China’s annual dog-meat festival has opened in defiance of a government campaign to reduce risks to health highlighted by the novel coronavirus outbreak, but activists are hopeful its days are numbered.

The coronavirus, which is widely believed to have originated in horseshoe bats before crossing into humans in a market in the city of Wuhan, has forced China to reassess its relationship with animals, and it has vowed to ban the wildlife trade.

In April, Shenzhen became the first city in China to ban the consumption of dogs, with others expected to follow.

The agriculture ministry also decided to classify dogs as pets rather than livestock.

(Compiled by Linda Noakes, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

‘This is about livelihoods’: U.S. virus hotspots reopen despite second wave specter

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – Facing budget shortfalls and double-digit unemployment, governors of U.S. states that are COVID-19 hotspots on Thursday pressed ahead with economic reopenings that have raised fears of a second wave of infections.

The moves by governors of states such as Florida and Arizona came as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States could not afford to let the novel coronavirus shut its economy again and global stocks tanked on worries of a pandemic resurgence.

As Florida reported its highest daily tally of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis unveiled a plan to restart public schools at “full capacity” in the autumn, arguing the state’s economy depended on it.

North Carolina reported record COVID-19 hospitalizations for a fifth straight day on Thursday, a day after legislators passed a bill to reopen gyms, fitness centers and bars in a state where more than one in ten workers are unemployed.

Governors of hotspot states face pressure to fire up economies facing fiscal year 2021 budget shortfalls of up to 30% below pre-pandemic projections in the case of New Mexico, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank. Nevada, which has seen cases increase by nearly a third in the past two weeks, is suffering 28% unemployment, based on U.S Bureau of Labor statistics.

“This is about saving lives, this is also about livelihoods in the state of Arizona,” Governor Doug Ducey told a news briefing, adding that a second shutdown of the economy was “not under discussion” despite official figures showing a 211% rise in virus cases over the past 14 days.

About half a dozen states including Texas and Arizona are grappling with rising numbers of coronavirus patients filling hospital beds.

Ducey and Texas Governor Greg Abbott say their hospitals have the capacity to avoid the experiences of New York, where the system was stretched to near breaking point as some COVID patients were treated in hallways and exhausted workers stacked bodies in refrigerated trailers.

‘FOOT ON THE BRAKE’

A second wave of coronavirus deaths is expected to begin in the United States in September, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said on Thursday, citing a surge in mobility since April. Its latest model projects 170,000 deaths by Oct. 1, with a possible range between 133,000 and 290,000.

A note of caution came from Utah, where Governor Gary Herbert said most of the state would pause its reopening after a 126% rise in cases over the past two weeks.

Austin, Texas on Thursday also said it would likely extend stay-at-home and mask orders past June 15 after the state reported its highest new case count the previous day. Austin health officials blamed a record week of infections on easing business restrictions and Memorial Day gatherings.

There was no talk of new shutdowns.

In New Mexico, Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel pointed to outbreaks at the Otero County Prison Facility, as well as in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as factors behind an uptick in cases.

“It means a little bit of a foot on the brake, watch carefully for the next couple of weeks, not much in the way of major changes in what we’re doing,” said Human Services Secretary David Scrase.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Additional reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin and David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Daniel Wallis)

Where U.S. coronavirus cases are on the rise

By Chris Canipe and Lisa Shumaker

(Reuters) – Several southern U.S. states reported sharp increases in COVID-19 infections, with Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia all seeing new cases rise 35% or more in the week ended May 31 compared with the prior week, according to a Reuters analysis.

South Carolina health officials said they expected more increases in the future due to a lack of social distancing and mask-wearing at protests triggered by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota.

“If people don’t follow current recommendations for social distancing and avoiding crowds of any kind, we can anticipate seeing increased numbers,” the South Carolina health department said in a statement to Reuters.

Graphic: Tracking the novel coronavirus in the U.S.

South Carolina said the recent rise in its new cases, which have been going up for three weeks, was in part due to the completion of testing in the state’s 194 nursing homes.

Alabama’s health department attributed the state’s steady increase in cases since early May to community transmission, clusters of outbreaks, and more testing.

Virginia officials were not immediately available for comment.

Nationally, new COVID-19 cases fell for a fifth straight week, down 4.7% last week compared with a 0.8% drop the prior week, according to the Reuters analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

As all 50 states have partially reopened, cases are rising in 17 states compared with 20 in the prior week. (For an interactive graphic, click here)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for their daily number of new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions.

Thirteen states have met the criteria for the week ended May 31, compared with 14 states and the District of Columbia the prior week, the analysis showed. Pennsylvania and New York lead with seven straight weeks of declines, and new cases are also falling in New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

(Graphic: World-focused tracker with country-by-country interactive, )

(Reporting by Chris Canipe in Kansas City, Missouri, and Lisa Shumaker in Chicago; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now 5-29-20

(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Hospitals slash use of hydroxychloroquine

U.S. hospitals said they have pulled way back on the use of hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump as a COVID-19 treatment, after several studies suggested it is not effective and may pose significant risks.

Early hopes for the drug were based in part on lab tests and its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. But its efficacy has so far failed to pan out in human trials, and at least two studies suggest it may increase the risk of death.

China plans to extend flight curbs

Chinese civil aviation authorities plan to extend until June 30 their curbs on international flights to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. embassy in Beijing said in a travel advisory on Friday.

China has drastically cut such flights since March to allay concerns over infections brought by arriving passengers. A so-called “Five One” policy allows mainland carriers to fly just one flight a week on one route to any country and foreign airlines to operate just one flight a week to China.

Washington has accused Beijing of making it impossible for U.S. airlines to resume service to China.

Fighting misinformation

It’s not just U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets that are being fact-checked.

Twitter has also flagged a tweet written in March by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian that suggested the U.S. military brought the novel coronavirus to China, posting a blue exclamation mark under it with a comment urging readers to check the facts about COVID-19.

Clicking on the link directed readers to a page with the headline, “WHO says evidence suggests COVID-19 originated in animals and was not produced in a lab”.

Closed climbing season

Nepal’s Sherpa guides, famed for being the backbone of mountain expeditions in the Himalayas, have also found their livelihood hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Many have returned to their villages, hiking officials say, as climbing and trekking activities have been suspended since March, and some are looking ahead with hope to the less popular autumn climbing season, which lasts from September to November.

Friday is the anniversary of the day Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa, and New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary became the first people to climb the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) high Mount Everest in 1953.

(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Nick Tattersall; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Coronavirus infects more than 3,000 U.S. meatpacking workers: union

Coronavirus infects more than 3,000 U.S. meatpacking workers: union
CHICAGO (Reuters) – More than 3,000 U.S. meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 44 workers have died, the country’s largest meatpacking union said on Thursday, reflecting an increasing toll on plant employees.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has called on the Trump administration and meat companies like Tyson Foods Inc and JBS USA to do more to protect workers from the disease. The union reported 35 worker deaths in meatpacking as of May 12.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)