SINGAPORE — Singapore on Friday said it would reopen its borders to visitors from New Zealand and Brunei from next month, in the city-state’s first steps towards resuming leisure travel since it sealed its borders to control COVID-19 outbreaks.
The city-state, which currently only allows official and business travel to selected countries, also said it would allow students to travel for study overseas if distance-learning was not available.
The measures would take effect on September 1, with various restrictions, the health ministry said.
Singapore sealed its borders in March and subsequently went into a two-month lockdown as mass outbreaks in cramped migrant worker dormitories emerged.
Those lockdown measures were lifted in June and the travel and tourism hub — facing its worst recession in history — has been taking steps to slowly resume business and stimulate the economy.
Arnold Schwarzenegger says feeling ‘fantastic’ after heart surgery
LOS ANGELES — Action star Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Friday he has had heart surgery but is feeling “fantastic.”
“I have a new aortic valve to go along with my new pulmonary valve from my last surgery. I feel fantastic and have already been walking the streets of Cleveland,” the “Terminator” actor and former California governor tweeted.
Schwarzenegger, 73, posted a picture of himself giving a thumbs up from his hospital bed at the Cleveland Clinic, and thanked medical staff there.
The actor, who was born with a heart defect, underwent emergency open-heart surgery in 2018 to replace a pulmonary valve.
Schwarzenegger became one of the world’s best known action movie stars in the 1980s with films including “Conan the Barbarian” and “The Terminator,” and comedies such as “Twins.”
In 2003 he was elected governor of California and championed environmental policies.
After ending his term in 2011, he returned to movies, appearing in “The Expendables 2,” as well as a sequel to “The Terminator.”
WHO: Nations mulling Gilead’s COVID drug should consider trial flop, too
GENEVA/ZURICH — Health officials reviewing Gilead Science Inc’s GILD.O remdesivir against COVID-19 should consider all evidence, including a trial in which the medicine failed, before giving it the green light, the top WHO scientist said on Friday.
U.S. regulators appeared not to have done so when approving the drug this week, Soumya Swaminathan told a news conference.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved Gilead’s antiviral drug for treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19, making it the first and only drug approved for the disease in the United States.
The FDA decision came a week after the release of the results of the World Health Organization’s Solidarity trial, which concluded remdesivir has little or no impact on a patient’s chances of surviving COVID-19.
The FDA said its approval was based on three trials, including a 1,062-patient study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which found that remdesivir reduced hospital stays to 10 days from 15 days, and helped reduce the risk of death in some patients who were receiving oxygen.
The drug did not improve overall survival.
“The Solidarity results do not refute these findings of benefit to patients,” the FDA said in a statement posted on its website.
Remdesivir is also approved for treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 in Japan, Taiwan, India, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union.
Gilead is allowing generic companies to manufacture the drug for supply to 127 low-income countries.
“We believe our results are very robust,” the WHO’s Swaminathan said, when asked about the FDA move.
“We hope that people who are doing treatment guidelines in other countries, as well as regulators around the world, will take note of our study results, in addition to the other evidence.”
For the remdesivir arm of the WHO’s Solidarity trial, 2,743 patients were given the treatment, compared to 2,708 in the control group.
Gilead, which has raised the possibility of bias in the “unblinded” WHO study because patients and their doctors were aware of which treatments were being used, got initial data from the trial in late September, the WHO has said.
“We have apprised FDA of the topline WHO Solidarity trial results and the draft manuscript” submitted to a publication, the company said.
“However, at this time Gilead has not received the requested datasets from WHO for the Solidarity trial results.”
The WHO also said on Friday that its formal guidelines on use of remdesivir for COVID-19 should be ready for release in three to four weeks, after a separate group within the United Nations health agency reviews data from the study.
An independent WHO panel will convene next week to look at all evidence of the effectiveness of Gilead’s drug, Janet Diaz, the WHO’s top official for clinical care responses, said.
“We would anticipate that the guidelines will be available within three to four weeks,” Diaz said.
“What we’re doing now in the pandemic is to try to continue with that approach in a transparent and trustworthy way, but do it faster.”
NASA probe leaking asteroid samples after hearty collection
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. probe that collected a sample from an asteroid earlier this week retrieved so much material that a rock is wedged the container door, allowing rocks to spill back out into space, NASA officials said on Friday.
The robotic arm of the probe, OSIRIS-REx, on Tuesday night kicked up a debris cloud of rocks on Bennu, a skyscraper-sized asteroid some 200 million miles (320 million km) from Earth and trapped the material in a collection device for the return to Earth.
But images of the spacecraft’s collection head beamed back to ground control revealed it had caught more material than scientists anticipated and was spewing an excess of flaky asteroid rocks into space.
The leakage had the OSIRIS-REx mission team scrambling to stow the collection device to prevent additional spillage.
“Time is of the essence,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, told reporters.
Zurbuchen said mission teams will skip their chance to measure how much material they collected as originally planned and proceed to the stow phase, a fragile process of tucking the sample collection container in a safe position within the spacecraft without jostling out more valuable material.
NASA will not know how much material it collected until the sample capsule returns in 2023.
The troubleshooting also led mission leaders to forgo any more chances of redoing a collection attempt and instead commit to begin the spacecraft’s return to Earth next March.
“Quite honestly, we could not have performed a better collection experiment,” OSIRIS-REx principle investigator Dante Lauretta told reporters, affirming a hearty sample size.
But with the door lodged open by a rock and the “concerning” images of sample spillage, “we’re almost the victim of our own success here,” he added.
The roughly $800 million, minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, launched in 2016 to grab and return the first U.S. sample of pristine asteroid materials.
Japan is the only other country to have accomplished such a feat.
Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago.
A sample could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists say.
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