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Coronavirus Global Updates, 23 July: White House drops payroll tax cut as GOP unveils virus aid

Global Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates: The three worst-hit countries— the US, Brazil, and India—account for nearly half of all confirmed cases globally and more than 40% of fatalities.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 23, 2020 9:15:50 pm
Silent spread of virus keeps scientists grasping for clues The small but mighty coronavirus can unlock a human cell, set up shop and mass produce tens of thousands of copies of itself in a single day. Photographer: Federico Bernini/Bloomberg

Coronavirus Global Updates: The coronavirus pandemic, which first began in China, has now infected over 15 million people and killed over 6.2 lakh people. The three worst-hit countries—the US, Brazil, and India— account for nearly half of all confirmed cases globally and more than 40 per cent of fatalities.

Global cases are now growing by more than 1 million a week, and the United States continue to see a record number of cases. Governments across the Asia Pacific region are struggling to contain a fresh wave of infections, with cities from Hong Kong to Tokyo reporting a surge in recent days.

Over 15 million people have been infected with the virus

1.4 million seek jobless aid, first increase since March

The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since the pandemic struck in March, evidence of the deepening economic pain the outbreak is causing to the economy.

The rise in weekly jobless claims to 1.4 million underscores the outsize role the unemployment insurance system is playing among the nation’s safety net programmes – just when a USD 600 weekly federal aid payment for the jobless is set to expire at the end of this week. All told, the Labor Department said Thursday that roughly 32 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, though that figure could include double-counting by some states. Some economists say the figure is likely closer to 25 million.

Last week’s pace of unemployment applications – the 18th straight week it’s topped 1 million – was up from 1.3 million the previous week. Before the pandemic, the number of weekly applications had never exceeded 700,000.

White House drops payroll tax cut as GOP unveils virus aid

The White House has dropped a bid to cut Social Security payroll taxes as Republicans unveil a USD 1 trillion COVID-19 rescue package on Thursday, ceding to opposition to the idea among top Senate allies. “It won’t be in the base bill,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking on CNBC about the payroll tax cut, killing the idea for now.

The legislation, set to be released Thursday morning by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., comes amid alarming developments on the virus crisis. McConnell’s package is an opening GOP bid in talks with top Capitol Hill Democrats in a negotiation that could be rockier than talks in March that produced a USD 2 trillion rescue package.

GOP senators and President Donald Trump are at odds over priorities, and Democrats say it’s not nearly enough to stem the health crisis, reopen schools and extend aid to jobless Americans.

Switzerland adds another 15 countries in high virus-risk list

Swiss authorities have added another 15 countries, including Mexico and Luxembourg, to their list of nations facing increased risk of COVID-19 infection from which travellers entering Switzerland will be required to undergo a 10-day quarantine.

There are now 42 countries on the quarantine list, based on per capita outbreak levels over the last two weeks. Under the Swiss rules, arriving passengers must “immediately and directly” go home or to other “suitable accommodation” for 10 days, and contact cantonal — or regional — authorities within two days.

Release is permitted only after no symptoms have been shown for the duration. In some cases, cantonal officials provide food and other assistance to those under quarantine – but no support for loss of income is provided. The move effective Thursday adds places like Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” and the United Arab Emirates to the list already including Brazil, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Emirates will cover COVID-19 medical bills

Long-haul carrier Emirates now says it will cover the costs of passengers’ coronavirus-related medical expenses in an effort to encourage more travellers to fly on the airline.

In a statement Thursday, Emirates said passengers can claim medical expenses of up to 150,000 euros and quarantine costs of 100 euros per day for 14 days if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman and CEO of the government-owned airline, said: “We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually reopen, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel.” The airline said the coverage is good for passengers flying until October 30.

Pandemic tough on Argentina’s already overworked care givers

Even before the new coronavirus hit, Argentina’s health care workers were struggling, most of them often working more than 12 hours a day at multiple jobs to make ends meet amid the country’s overheated inflation.

The pandemic has meant even tougher times on the job, providing medical care for the gravely ill and also giving what comfort they can to patients dying of COVID-19 while cut off by quarantine from saying goodbye to family and friends.

Some still go home at night to their families, after taking precautions. Others, fearing for loved ones, have moved into hotels. Some have sent their children to stay with relatives.

Dr. Norte, a surgeon who specializes in cancer cases but is also helping treat COVID-19 cases at the three hospitals where he works, sometimes has to drive an hour to get home to the apartment he shares with his wife, Silvina, in the capital. A kiss and embrace must wait until he showers. “When I come in, it’s such a great joy that you forget everything. You’re happy to get home,” Norte says.

US records over 1,000 new coronavirus deaths for a second day in a row

US deaths from the novel coronavirus rose by more than 1,100 for a second day in a row on Wednesday, including a record one-day rise in fatalities in Alabama, California, Nevada and Texas, according to a Reuters tally. The United States has not seen back-to-back days with over 1,100 lives lost since late May. Weeks after cases began to surge, 23 states are now seeing fatalities also rise, according to a Reuters analysis of deaths for the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks. Deaths rose by 1,101 on Wednesday to a total of over 143,000 after climbing 1,141 on Tuesday. Total cases are nearing 4 million. The states with the most deaths on Wednesday were Texas at 197, California at 159, Florida at 140 and Ohio at 106.

Germany links over 2,000 cases to slaughterhouse

A German official says authorities have now linked more than 2,000 coronavirus infections to an outbreak at a slaughterhouse last month that led to a partial lockdown in two western counties.

Regional authorities restored some coronavirus restrictions in the Guetersloh and Warendorf areas in late June after more than 1,400 people at the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck tested positive for the virus.

North Rhine-Westphalia state’s health minister, Karl-Josef Laumann, told Thursday’s edition of the daily Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung that authorities now link 2,119 cases to the Toennies outbreak. He said a link is possible in another 67 cases. The partial lockdown has since been lifted and the slaughterhouse reopened, with improved hygiene precautions.

Singapore reports 354 new coronavirus cases, mostly foreign workers

Singapore on Thursday reported 354 new coronavirus cases, mostly foreigners, pushing the total tally to 49,098 in the country, the health ministry said. The new cases include 346 foreign workers living in dormitories, it said. Eight of the new infections are community cases — four Singaporean citizens and permanent residents (foreigners) and four foreigners holding work passes.

There are also five imported cases. The patients have been placed on stay-home notice on their arrival in Singapore, the ministry said. The nationwide coronavirus tally now stands at 49,098, it said.

While 150 patients are currently undergoing treatment in hospitals across the country, 3,772 others are isolated and cared for at various community facilities, the ministry said. As many as 211 more coronavirus patients were discharged from hospitals and community isolation facilities on Wednesday, taking the total number of recoveries to 44,795. Singapore is currently in the Phase 2 of its reopening, with businesses gradually resuming operations.

Don’t expect first COVID-19 vaccinations until early 2021: WHO

Researchers are making “good progress” in developing vaccines against COVID-19, with a handful in late-stage trials, but their first use cannot be expected until early 2021, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert said on Wednesday. WHO is working to ensure fair vaccine distribution, but in the meantime it is key to suppress the virus’s spread, said Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies programme, as daily new cases around the globe are at near-record levels. “Realistically it is going to be the first part of next year before we start seeing people getting vaccinated,” he told a public event on social media.

People line up behind a health care worker at a mobile Coronavirus testing site at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles (AP)

World leaders to send videos instead of traveling to U.N. in September

World leaders will send videos instead of physically gathering at the United Nations in September due to the coronavirus pandemic, the General Assembly decided on Wednesday, a move that paves the way for people wary of traveling to the United States—like North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un—to participate. The annual high-level meeting had been shaping up to be a week-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the world body, but U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres suggested in May that leaders send video statements due to likely travel issues.

Trump says he is comfortable having his son and grandchildren back in schools

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he is comfortable with his son, Barron, and grandchildren going back to school, arguing that schools should be open despite concerns from many that it could lead to more coronavirus infections. Trump’s push for schools to reopen comes even as cases of the deadly disease skyrocket across the country, including in states critical to his re-election in November such as Florida and Texas. The president, a Republican, has threatened to withhold federal funding if schools do not reopen. He said he was fine with the children in his family returning to school buildings. “I am comfortable with that,” he said.

President Donald Trump holds a face mask as he speaks during a news conference at the White House (AP/File)

Brazil, Argentina hit coronavirus records as Latin America exceeds 4 million cases

Brazil and Argentina registered daily records for confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, pushing the total number of cases in Latin America past 4 million and underlining the difficulty the region faces in controlling the pandemic. Brazil registered 67,860 additional cases of the virus on Wednesday, along with 1,284 related deaths. That brought the total number of cases in Latin America’s largest nation to 2,227,514, while deaths rose to 82,771. Neighboring Argentina posted a daily record of 5,782 confirmed cases, the vast majority of them in and around the capital, Buenos Aires, taking the total number infected in the country to 141,900.

Brazil, Brazil coronavirus cases, coronavirus news, coronavirus vaccine, coronavirus vaccine news, indian express Hairdressers wear face shields and masks for protection amid the COVID-19 pandemic while attending clients in Brazil (AP)

Australia reports highest coronavirus deaths in 3 months, infections climb

Australia reported its highest daily number of coronavirus-related deaths in three months on Thursday as new infections continued to climb in its second most populous state. Victoria state said it had confirmed another 403 infections, while five people had died from the virus in the last 24 hours. The fatalities, including a man in his 50s, mark the country’s biggest one-day rise in COVID-19 deaths since late April. “This demonstrates the growing toll this terrible virus is taking on our community,” Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told reporters in the state capital, Melbourne. With authorities unable to bring new infections below triple digits, residents in Melbourne and most of the state are now required to wear masks outside of their homes. Nationally, Australia has recorded about 13,000 coronavirus cases with a death toll of 128.

Members of the Australian Defence Force gather information and conduct temperature checks at a drive-in Covid-19 testing site in Melbourne (Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg)

Some more stories from across the globe

* South Korea slides into recession

* Philippines reimposes travel ban

* Mainland China reports 22 new coronavirus cases, including 18 in Xinjiang

* UN report suggests temporary basic income to help world’s poorest amid pandemic

* Brazil president still tests positive for virus

* Ukrainian authorities are extending coronavirus restrictions until Aug. 31

* Study: Nearly half of Spaniards gained weight during lockdown

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