International Covid-19 news: 'Breakthrough' in search for treatment, global markets awaken as restrictions ease

International Covid-19 news: 'Breakthrough' in search for treatment, global markets awaken as restrictions ease

AFP reports that an antibody from a patient who recovered from SARS, a respiratory illness, has been shown to block Covid-19 infection in a laboratory setting, researchers said on Monday in another potential breakthrough in the search for coronavirus treatment.

Scientists based in Switzerland and the US previously isolated the antibodies from the patient in 2003, following the SARS outbreak that killed 774 people.

They experimented with 25 different types of antibodies -- which target specific protein spikes on viruses -- to see if they could prevent cells becoming infected with Covid-19.

Both SARS and the pathogen which causes Covid-19 are coronaviruses, thought to have come from animals, and so their structures are similar.

The researchers identified eight antibodies that could bind to both Covid-19 and the infected cells.

One candidate, known as S309, was shown to have "particularly strong neutralising activity" against Covid-19.

By combining S309 with other less potent antibodies they were able to target different sites on the virus' protein spike, thus reducing its potential to mutate.

Markets wake up as global restrictions ease

Global stock markets rose sharply on Monday as governments around the world relaxed coronavirus lockdowns, prompting investors to bet that the worst of the impact of the pandemic on the world economy has passed, AFP reports.

Oil prices surged back above $30 per barrel and gold rose to levels not seen in more than seven years.

"It has been a very optimistic start to the new week with stocks, crude oil, copper, gold and silver all pushing higher," said Fawad Razaqzada, an analyst at ThinkMarkets.

Traders also not only brushed off a warning from the head of the US' Federal Reserve that a full recovery would likely not come until next year, but took the statement as a sign that more central bank stimulus is coming, further fuelling their appetite for stocks.

"Sentiment has been boosted as many European countries including Spain, Italy and the UK reported the lowest number of Covid-19 related deaths for two months at the weekend and as several countries ease lockdown restrictions," Razaqzada said.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index added close to 700 points moments after the opening bell, while key European markets were all more than three percent higher, with Frankfurt even topping four.

Major markets in Asia had closed higher earlier Monday, but by much lower percentages than subsequently posted by European and US markets.

Neil Wilson at said gold, which hit a high of $1 765.19 per ounce  a level last seen in October 2012, had "emerged as a clear winner from the economic turmoil created by the pandemic"

The benchmark US oil contract was meanwhile up by 10% on the day in the European afternoon.

But analysts were quick to warn that the party may not last for very long.

Dubai's famous gold souk markets shine again

Evening dresses made of gold mesh, gilded sunglasses and glittering crowns are sparkling again from the windows of Dubai's historic gold souk which was shuttered during the coronavirus lockdown, AFP reports.

One important element is still missing, though - the customers.

But for business owners, the reopening of one of the world's biggest gold markets is a vital move towards normality ahead of the mid-year tourist season, in a city that prides itself on shop-'til-you-drop experiences.

"Reopening the shops is a big step for us... The main factor here is psychological," said Tawhid Abdullah, chairman of the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group, the industry's main governing body in the emirate.

"We expect that by July or August when the airports reopen... we will regain 50% of our business activity," he told AFP.

Dubai styles itself as a regional centre for trade and services, and tourism has long been its lifeblood. It welcomed more than 16 million tourists last year, and was aiming for 20 million this year before the pandemic crippled global travel.

Gulf states have struggled to curb the disease, which spreads easily among large populations of migrant workers living in crowded conditions, and the United Arab Emirates has reported some 19 000 cases, with 203 deaths.

The gold souk closed on 24 March and reopened under strict social distancing and hygiene rules on 26 April. 

Venice's gondolas back on the water

Venice's gondolas glided across the Grand Canal once more on Monday as Italy's lockdown eased, taking the odd local from one side to the other as they wait for tourists to return, AFP reports.

Wearing not only their famous blue and white stripped t-shirts but also gloves and masks, the gondoliers helped passengers climb into the boats, where tape had been used to mark the social distancing spaces people must keep on board.

"It's good news, a sign of everyone's desire to get back to normal as soon as possible, but without ever lowering our guard in order to defeat the virus once and for all," said Giovanni Giusto, city councilor for the Protection of Traditions.

Workers in sanitary suits could be seen spraying the boarding areas with disinfectant before people clambered aboard, shelling out two euros to be taken across the canal rather than walking down to the nearest bridge.

The gondolas serve in particular the Rialto fish market and the popular Dorsoduro area. Six passengers can board at a time.

The smaller, often ornate gondolas traditionally used to ferry tourists around the northern Italian city are expected to return to the water on 3 June, when people from the European Union will once more be allowed into the country.