The Covid-19 pandemic has infected over 38 million people and claimed more than a million lives around the world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Global coronavirus infections top 38 Million

Over 38 million people around the world have now been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to tracker Worldometer.

The tracker picks up live data from health ministries around the world.

It shows that over 28 million people have recovered, while over a million have died.


Europe hits record of over 700,000 new cases

The World Health Organisation said European nations reported more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases last week — the highest-ever figure since the start of the pandemic.

In a weekly briefing published, WHO said weekly virus cases and deaths across Europe jumped by 34 percent and 16 percent respectively. Britain, France, Russia and Spain accounted for more than half of the new cases seen in the region.

WHO noted that the number of new cases reported in Spain showed a “noticeable decline” in comparison to recent weeks. But in Poland, WHO said virus cases and deaths spiked by 93 percent and 104 percent respectively, and the government has tightened restrictions to try avoiding another lockdown.

Norway makes vaccine free

The government in Norway says it will make the vaccine free and that it will cover the costs that municipalities and hospitals may have in connection with vaccinations.

Health Minister Bent Hoeie said that the government’s decision was based on recommendation by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. That agency will also be preparing a national vaccination plan with a priority order.

“We hope to be able to start offering vaccines as early as 2021 but the time for start-up will depend on when pharmaceutical authorities give their approval,” Hoeie told the Norwegian parliament.

Norway has seen 15,524 virus cases and 276 deaths.

Taiwan diagnoses virus in a patient for the first time since February

Taiwan says it has diagnosed virus in a Taiwanese citizen returning from China for the first time since February.

The patient, identified only as a man in his forties, reported having a runny nose and cough to quarantine officials upon his arrival in Taiwan on Sunday, spokesperson for the Central Epidemic Command Center Chuang Jen-hsiang told reporters.

Chuang said the man had been working in the eastern province of Jiangsu, which, according to China’s National Health Commission, has not reported any recent cases of local transmission.

Malaysia reports 660 cases

Malaysia reported 660 new virus cases, more than half of those in Sabah, a state now under lockdown, and as the capital braces for similar restrictions on movement to come into force this week.

The new infections raise Malaysia’s cumulative tally to 16,880 cases, according to the health ministry. There were four new deaths reported, taking total fatalities to 163.


Italy orders strict new measures

Italian Premiere Giuseppe Conte has ordered strict new anti-virus measures, including limits on private gatherings and a ban on casual pickup sports.

Conte negotiated with the country’s regions to win limits on private gatherings, over the objections of some governors. Parties in closed spaces are banned, but the measures, imposed Tuesday, are limited to “strong recommendations” against private gatherings in homes with more than six people who don’t live under the same roof.

Bars and restaurants must close by midnight, and drinks can only be consumed at tables — not while standing at the bar or outside — after 9 pm (7pm GMT). Also banned are any contact sports that are not organised by an association that can maintain distancing rules. That means no casual games of Italy’s beloved soccer in local parks.

Giro d’Italia on brink of cancellation 

The Giro d’Italia cycle race is on the brink of cancellation after five teams were hit by virus cases on the first rest day of the three-week grand tour with almost two weeks left until the finish in Milan.

The Mitchelton-Scott team withdrew from the race after four staff members tested positive for the virus following top rider Simon Yates pulling out last week.

A rider from Jumbo-Visma, a Team Sunweb rider, one staff member from Ineos-Grenadiers and AG2R-La Mondiale also returned positive tests, organisers RCS said.

RCS, in a joint statement with the International Cycling Union (UCI), said the teams’ doctors had ordered “isolation measures”.

Indonesia reports 3,906 infections

Indonesia reported 3,906 new infections and 92 new deaths, data from the country’s virus task force showed.

The new infections brought the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 340,622, while the death tally rose to 12,027, the region’s highest number of fatalities.

Israel surpasses 2,000 deaths 

Israel has now recorded more than 2,000 deaths from the virus as the country remains under lockdown for a fourth week to quell the outbreak.

The Health Ministry reported that the country had surpassed 2,000 deaths. It reported five more fatalities, raising the toll to 2,021.

Israel — which has confirmed more than 295,000 cases — had garnered praise earlier this year for its swift imposition of travel restrictions to limit the pandemic’s spread, but after lifting the first nationwide lockdown in May, new cases quickly increased.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government imposed a second blanket lockdown on September 18 as the infection rate per capita grew to one of the highest in the world.


Pakistan increases lockdowns

With Pakistan’s coronavirus caseload inching upward, the government has increased lockdowns across the country, targeting markets and neighborhoods with increasing numbers.

At a meeting of top government officials from across the country, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said 3,497 so-called “smart” lockdowns have been imposed in districts across the country of 220 million people.

Pakistan has recorded 319,848 cases, including 531 new ones.

Russia reports new all-time records of daily cases and deaths

Russia’s virus cases rose by 13,868, a new daily record since the start of the outbreak early this year, pushing the overall total number of infections to 1,326,178.

The previous record of 13,634 new cases was registered on Sunday.

Russia’s virus crisis centre also reported a record daily rise of 244 deaths from the virus, bringing the official death toll to 22,966.

French government cannot rule out option of curfew, says minister

French government minister Marlene Schiappa said the government could not rule out imposing a curfew on cities such as Paris to curb the spread of the virus.

“Everything is being examined. Nothing can be excluded,” she told LCI television when asked about the possibility of imposing a curfew, after another minister also hinted the government could take such a move.

UK may have to go further on restrictions, minister says

The British government may have to impose stricter restrictions than it currently has if the second wave of the novel virus accelerates in high risk areas, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a new tiered system of restrictions for England on Monday, with Liverpool and the surrounding Merseyside placed in the highest level, with pubs shut, to curb an acceleration in virus cases.

“The message that we did deliver to those leaders in Merseyside was that we need to take these steps, we probably even need to go further but that we want to design those steps jointly between ourselves and local government,” Jenrick said.


UK unemployment jumps to 4.5 percent on virus fallout

Britain’s unemployment rate has jumped to 4.5 percent as the pandemic continues to slash jobs, official data showed.

The reading for the June-August period compared with an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent for May to July, the Office for National Statistic said in a statement.

Roche plans to sell antigen lab tests by end-2020

Roche plans to start selling a higher-volume virus antigen test for laboratories by the end of the year as the Swiss drugmaker expands diagnostics for the pandemic.

“These fully automated systems can provide test results in 18 minutes for a single test (excluding time for sample collection, transport, and preparation), with a through put of up to 300 tests per hour from a single analyser, depending on the analyser,” the group said in a statement.

The company did not immediately provide details on the accuracy of the antigen test compared to the more-common molecular tests that are now the industry standard in determining whether somebody has an active infection.

3 out of 9 million tested in Chinese city of Qingdao

Authorities in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao say they have completed virus tests on more than 3 million people following the country’s first reported local outbreak of the virus in nearly two months.

The city’s population is 9 million.

The health department said that no new positive cases had been found among the more than 1.1 million test results returned thus far. 

The city said it had a total of 12 cases, six with symptoms and six without, since the new outbreak was first spotted over the weekend at a hospital.

The National Health Commission, however, said that at least six new cases of the virus were found in Qingdao in the past 24 hours.


Australia’s most populous states ease curbs despite surge

Australia’s most populous state said it will ease restrictions despite reporting the biggest one-day jump in new virus cases in six weeks.

New South Wales (NSW) said that from October 16 venues that offer outdoor dining will be allowed to have double the number of patrons outside. NSW previously required such venues to ensure four square metres for each patron.

“We know particularly in our state during this pandemic some of the hardest hit industries have been arts and recreation and hospitality,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet told reporters in Sydney.

India registers 55,342

India’s total virus cases rose by 55,342 in the last 24 hours to 7.18 million, the lowest daily rise since mid-August, data from the health ministry showed.

Deaths from infections rose by 706 to 109,856, the ministry said.

India’s virus case load topped 7 million on Sunday and the country has added a million cases in just 13 days. 

It has the second-highest number of infections, behind the United States which is approaching the 8 million mark. 

South Korea reports 102 new cases

South Korea has reported 102 new cases of the virus, its first daily increase over 100 in six days.

The steady rise is a cause of concern as officials have lowered social distancing restrictions this week after concluding that the viral spread was slowing after a spike in mid-August.

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency brought the national caseload to 24,805, including 434 deaths.

Fifty-eight of the new cases was reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where transmissions have been linked to hospitals, sports facilities, a funeral home and an army unit.

Trump returns to campaign trail

US President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail for the first time since contracting the coronavirus, resuming his efforts to stage a late comeback in the election’s final stretch.

In a memo released by the White House just hours before Trump was due to resume his campaign rallies, White House doctor Sean Conley said the president had tested negative on consecutive days using an Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW antigen card.

Trump has been eager to show the world that he is no longer sidelined by a virus that he has consistently played down and that has infected more than 8,035,385 people and killed at least 215,000 people across the nation, including more than 15,000 in Florida.

Trump wasn’t wearing a mask himself during the event in Sanford, Florida. And neither was anyone else, barring a small minority, in the crowd of several thousand, 

Just a week after his release from the hospital, he continued to mock Biden for his efforts to encourage social distancing at his campaign events, deriding as “crazy” the circles Biden’s campaign uses to delineate individual space.


Mainland China reports first local infections in nearly two months

Mainland China has reported its first locally transmitted Covid-19 infections in nearly two months, as Qingdao launched a city-wide testing drive after discovering new cases linked to a hospital designated to treat imported infections.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that a total of 13 Covid-19 infections were reported in mainland China on October 12, down from 21 a day earlier.

Seven of the new cases were imported infections that originated from overseas, while all six local cases were reported in the eastern province of Shandong, where Qingdao is located.

The last time China reported local Covid-19 transmissions was on August 15, when a total of four confirmed cases were reported in Xinjiang.

The total number of Covid-19 infections for mainland China now stands at 85,591, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

South Korea reports triple-digit rise in coronavirus cases in six days

South Korea has reported 102 new coronavirus cases, marking a triple-digit increase in six days, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

Daily infections fell largely into the double-digit range in the past two weeks, which led the government to relax some rules on social distancing this week.

Mexico reports 3,542 new cases and 164 more deaths

Mexico’s health ministry reported 3,542 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 164 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 821,045 cases and 83,945 deaths.

The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

J&J COVID-19 vaccine study paused due to unexplained illness in participant

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine study has been paused due to an unexplained illness in a study participant, Stat News, an American health-oriented news website, reported, citing a document obtained by the news organisation.

A document sent to outside researchers running the 60,000-patient clinical trial states that a “pausing rule” has been met, the online system used to enroll patients in the study has been closed and the data and safety monitoring board would be convened, the report said.


Cuba relaxes restrictions seven months into pandemic

Cuba has relaxed coronavirus restrictions in hopes of boosting its economy, allowing shops and government offices to reopen and welcoming locals and tourists at airports across the island except in Havana.

Face masks and social distancing remain mandatory, although authorities will no longer isolate those who have been in contact with suspected cases as the island returns to a semblance of normality.

The change comes after officials acknowledged the need to reactivate an economy hit by pandemic restrictions and recent sanctions the US imposed, as President Trump seeks votes from anti-Castro Cuban-Americans ahead of the general election.

The island of more than 11 million people has reported some 6,000 coronavirus cases and more than 120 deaths from Covid-19 since March, with the government credited with swiftly identifying and isolating cases and implementing house-to-house visits.

Panama resumes international flights after 7 months

Panama’s Tocumen airport has resumed international flights after nearly seven months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The resumption comes as part of a broad nationwide reopening of economic activities that also includes hotels and casinos.

It also comes at a time when the Central American country has kept a stable rate of infections and deaths from the new virus for two months, after the mid-year peak that almost exceeded hospital capacity.

So far, Panama has reported 120,313 cases of coronavirus and 2,491 deaths, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.