30 Babies Born to Surrogates Stranded in Russia

Thirty babies born to surrogate mothers are stranded in St. Petersburg, an official said on Wednesday, with foreign parents unable to travel to Russia’s second city due to coronavirus restrictions.

The children’s rights ombudswoman in the city Anna Mitianina said on her website that the authorities had received calls from several medical facilities caring for children born to surrogate mothers.

Most foreign parents are from China and are “not able to pick up their children because of the pandemic,” she said.

Mitianina added that she was dealing with the situation personally and had approached the regional governor to help resolve the problem in coordination with the Chinese consul general.

Russia closed its borders in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus and has registered the fourth-highest caseload in the world.

Surrogacy is legal in the country and has been a lucrative business for many years, but some in Russia are calling for an end to the practice for foreigners.

Eight Russians including several doctors and a mother were arrested and charged with human trafficking in the country’s first surrogacy probe in January this year.

In May, Ukrainian authorities also reported around 100 babies born to surrogate mothers were stranded because of the border closures.

After their plight was publicized, the government stepped in to help the parents obtain special permits to travel to the country to meet and collect their newborns.

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Australian researchers have said they hope to start human trials for a coronavirus antibody therapy in early 2021, while a large-scale trial of a vaccine could begin by the end of this year.

Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has made good progress in identifying the most potent antibodies that could neutralise the spike protein on the virus that causes Covid-19, stopping it from being able to enter human cells, researcher Wai-Hong Tam said.

Antibody therapies would be most useful for the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, she said.

Almost 64 per cent of Australia’s 549 deaths from Covid-19 have occurred among residents of aged-care homes, mostly in Victoria.

“If we’re very hopeful, we are looking at clinical trials early next year,” Ms Tam told reporters.

Separately, the University of Queensland (UQ) said its scientists had reported to the International Society for Vaccines that their “molecular clamp” vaccine had been found to be effective in hamsters and could be manufactured at scale.

Assuming the team’s ongoing phase 1 clinical trial shows adequate safety and immune responses, its partner, CSL Ltd, could start a large-scale study before the end of this year, UQ project co-leader Keith Chappell said.

The “molecular clamp” technology adds a gene to viral proteins to stabilise them and trick the body into thinking it is seeing a live virus so it makes antibodies against it.

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