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

FILE PHOTO: Co-director of the intensive care unit at CommonSpirit’s Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center, Dr. Zafia Anklesaria, 35, who is seven months pregnant, attends to a COVID-19 patient in the hospital where she works, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Breakthrough for severely ill

A cheap and widely used steroid has become the first drug shown to be able to save the lives of critical COVID-19 patients in what scientists said is a “major breakthrough” in the coronavirus pandemic.

Preliminary trial results announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis, reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.

The British scientists who announced the results of the study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, said they would work to publish full details as soon as possible.

Bringing in the troops

New Zealand on Wednesday said the defence force will now oversee the country’s quarantine facilities and strengthen border requirements, after a slip-up allowed two people with coronavirus to move around the country.

The two women went into compulsory quarantine after arriving from Britain on June 7, but were given special permission to leave the facility early to see a dying parent, even though one had symptoms that she attributed to a pre-existing condition.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the infected person should never have been allowed to leave, adding: “This represents an unacceptable failure of the system.”

The country had last week declared itself free of COVID-19.

Rising tide

New coronavirus infections hit record highs in six U.S. states – Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas – on Tuesday, marking a rising tide of cases for a second consecutive week.

Health officials attribute the spike to businesses reopening and Memorial Day weekend gatherings in late May. Many states are also bracing for a possible increase in cases after tens of thousands of people took part in protests over the past three weeks to end racial injustice and police brutality.

In Oklahoma, where President Donald Trump plans to hold an indoor campaign rally on Saturday, health officials urged attendees to get tested for the coronavirus before arriving and then to self-isolate following the event and get tested again.

English soccer restarts

Digital health passports could help get soccer fans back through the turnstiles, according to a company carrying out tests for the English Premier League, which resumes in empty stadiums on Wednesday. A digital health passport is a web-based platform that shows a person’s COVID-19 testing status and history by scanning a QR code when seeking access to a venue.

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has urged supporters to stay home and not gather at stadiums as the League leaders prepare to resume their quest for a first English top flight title in 30 years. Liverpool need just six points from their remaining nine games to win the title.

And data from Germany’s Bundesliga “ghost games” played without fans has shown the usual home advantage has been wiped out. The surreal atmosphere is also having an effect on the way games are being played, with fewer goals, fewer shots, but more passes.

Compiled by Karishma Singh; editing by Richard Pullin


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