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Two studies offer hope for Covid-19 vaccine

LONDON: Two studies offered new hope of a potendal vaccine for the novel coronavirus on Monday, seven months af ter the disease was first identified in China and spread rapidly across the globe.

The positive news came as alarm grows over fresh outbreaks of the disease that has killed more than 600,000 people worldwide and battered economies with months of shutdowns meant to stop its spread.

Divided EU leaders struggled at a summit on Monday to salvage a 750-bilhon-euro coronavirus aid package for their region, even as countries from Australia to France tightened restric-tions to curb new outbreaks.

In a promising step towards a Covid19 vaccine, one trial among more than 1,000 adults in Britain found that a vac-cine induced `strong antibody and T cell immune responses` against the coronavirus.

A separate trial in China involvingmore than 500 people showed most had developed widespread antibody immune response.

Both studies, published in The Lancet medical journal, appear to show progress towards a vaccine that is effective and safe for widespread use.

`If our vaccine is effective it is a promising option as these types of vaccine can be manufactured at large scale,` said co-author Sarah Gilbert f rom the University of Oxford.

British biotech firm Synairgen also said on Monday a randomised trial of an aerosol-based treatment shows it could drastically reduce the number of new coronavirus patients dying of the disease or requiring intensive care.

Europe has been the worst-hit continent by the pandemic with more than 200,000 deaths, but European Union leaders remained bitterly split on Monday on how to help its worst-hit and most indebted members such as Italy and Spain.

Arriving for the EU summit inBrussels, France`s President Emmanuel Macron said he saw `the possible hopes of a compromise`.

`Nothing has been agreed yet, so I will remain extremely cautious,` he said.

A handful of EU countries led by the Netherlands are reluctant to hand over such vast sums -750 billion euros ($860 billion)to nations they regard as profligate, particularly Spain and Italy.

Many countries in the continent had largely brought their outbreaks under control and were considering further easing of restrictions before fresh clusters were detected.

Governments are struggling to balance public health concerns over spreading infections against the need to open up economies crippled by months of virus lockdowns.

France has made face masks compulsory in public indoor spaces, Spain asked millions to stay at home again, while the German state of Bavaria said it would soon offer free virus tests at airports.-AFP