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Japan to trial HIV medication to treat coronavirus patients

TOKYO: Japan plans to trial HIV medication to treat patients with the coronavirus as the rising number of cases poses a growing threat to the country's economy and public health.

Mr Yoshihide Suga, the government's top spokesman, said yesterday the government is "conducting preparations so that clinical trials using HIV medication on the coronavirus can start as soon as possible".

Mr Suga said he couldn't comment on how long it would take for the new drug to be approved.

Japan has confirmed at least 74 cases domestically and 520 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama port. One person has died.

The spread of the virus has prompted Tokyo to put limits on crowds while some companies have begun to urge employees to work from home.

With no therapy proven 100 per cent effective so far, close to 1,900 people have died in China.

Meanwhile, thieves in Japan have made off with some 6,000 surgical masks, as the country faces a shortage. Four boxes disappeared from a locked storage facility at the Japanese Red Cross hospital in Kobe city, a hospital official said yesterday.

"We still have a large number of masks - enough to continue our daily operations at the hospital, but this is so deplorable."

Police suspect the thieves intend to resell the masks.

Masks have sold out at many stores across the nation. Japanese flea market app Mercari called on its users to trade masks "within socially accepted limits" after a box of 65 masks was priced at more than 50,000 yen (S$635) at its marketplace.

The government has "strongly requested" mask makers to boost output, Mr Suga said last week. - REUTERS, AFP

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