BERLIN - Germany is hoping that a malaria drug called Resochin (chloroquine phosphate) from pharmaceutical company Bayer could be used to treat severe cases of Covid-19.

In an interview with Bild newspaper (link in German), federal health minister Jens Spahn said that there "are early indications that certain medications seem to help," and that there were ongoing studies in Germany into what drugs could potentially work in treating coronavirus, "including with this old malaria drug."

He added that more studies are needed as all drugs have side effects. However, he expects an effective drug to treat COVID-19 to come on the market much earlier than a vaccine.

While tests into the effectiveness of malaria drugs against Covid-19 are still ongoing, the US Food and Drug Administration issued emergency approval to distribute millions of doses to hospitals on Sunday 30 March.

The Department of Health and Human Services in the US said it was taking 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate donated by Novartis (NVS), and 1 million doses of chloroquine phosphate donated by Bayer.

"I would be the happiest health minister in the world if we had a vaccine in three or six months," Spahn told Bild. "But I'm also realistic, and have had enough advice from experts to know that it can take 12 months."

Germany's death toll from Covid-19 passed 1,100 on Friday, with 84,794 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who was self-quarantining and having tests after coming into contact with a doctor who later tested positive for coronavirus, returned to work today. She had been working from her apartment in the centre of Berlin since 22 March.


Harvest workers


The government, which has earmarked an aid package of €750bn (£656bn, $810bn ) in loans, grants, and other financial aid for firms and the economy, has now agreed to allow 40,000 seasonal workers to enter the country for the harvest.

Most of Germany's borders were closed in March to all but essential cargo. However, farmers warned that fruit and vegetables – including the much-prized white asparagus, which will soon need picking — were in danger of wasting in the fields. Normally around 300,000 seasonal workers come to Germany every year, many from neighbouring Poland.

The seasonal workers will be required to arrive in Germany by plane, and the farmers hiring them will need to ensure they are kept apart from the rest of the harvesting crews for 14 days, and remain in the employers' accommodation.