Coronavirus Global Updates: Over 15.7 million (15,736,499) people have been infected, and 638,577 have succumbed to the novel coronavirus, according to the latest data released by Johns Hopkins University. As many as 8,986,470 (over 8.9 million) recoveries have been reported so far.
Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019. Almost half of the total number of global cases have emerged from three countries — the United States, Brazil and India.
Meanwhile, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said regulators that normally work within their own countries or regions will likely harmonise efforts on potential COVID-19 vaccines to speed up their approvals once they become available. She also said testing vaccines for safety and efficacy – a process that usually takes years – could be accelerated to just six months in the midst of the pandemic, if regulators were satisfied with data. However, she warned that safety was paramount in the process.
Here are some of the top global stories today:
US agency vows steps to address COVID-19 inequalities
If Black, Hispanic and Native Americans are hospitalised and killed by the coronavirus at far higher rates than others, shouldn’t the government count them as high risk for serious illness?
That seemingly simple question has been mulled by federal health officials for months. And so far the answer is no. But federal public health officials have released a new strategy that vows to improve data collection and take steps to address stark inequalities in how the disease is affecting Americans.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stress that the disproportionately high impact on certain minority groups is not driven by genetics. Rather, it’s social conditions that make people of colour more likely to be exposed to the virus and – if they catch it – more likely to get seriously ill.
“To just name racial and ethnic groups without contextualising what contributes to the risk has the potential to be stigmatising and victimising,” said the CDC’s Leandris Liburd, who two months ago was named chief health equity officer in the agency’s coronavirus response.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested negative
In a Facebook post, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said Saturday that he has tested negative for Covid-19. Bolsonaro had in the past repeatedly dismissed the disease as a “little flu” and often mingled in crowds, sometimes without wearing a mask.
“Good morning everyone,” Bolsonaro wrote on Facebook after reporting that the test was “negative”. The 65-year-old leader didn’t say when he did the new test. On Wednesday, he had tested positive for the third time.
Bolsonaro also posted a photo of himself with a box of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, although it has not been proven effective against the virus. Now that Bolsonaro is clear of the virus, he is expected to return to mingling in crowds as he used to do before his diagnosis. He had spent many weekends since the beginning of the pandemic in close proximity to supporters, sometimes without wearing a mask.
On Thursday, he was photographed without a mask while talking to some sweepers in the garden of the presidential residence. Brazil, Latin America’s largest nation, is one of the outbreak’s epicentres. According to the Brazilian government, on Friday there were 85,238 confirmed deaths due to the new coronavirus. The country has 2,343,366 confirmed cases. The real numbers are believed to be higher.
UK experts call for anti-obesity action to cut COVID-19 risk
Supporting people to move towards and maintain a healthier weight may reduce the serious effects of COVID-19, UK experts have concluded in a new report released on Saturday. Public Health England (PHE), the executive body linked to the government’s Department of Health, conclude in their findings that being obese or excessively overweight increases the risk of severe illness and death from the novel coronavirus.
The report summarises findings from evidence published during the pandemic on the effects of excess weight and obesity on COVID-19. PHE notes that UK and international evidence suggests that being severely overweight puts people at greater risk of hospitalisation, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission and death from COVID-19, with risk growing substantially as body mass index (BMI) increases.
“The current evidence is clear that being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, as well as from many other life-threatening diseases,” said Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE. “It can be hard to lose weight and even harder to sustain it, which is why people cannot easily do it on their own. Losing weight can bring huge benefits for health – and may also help protect against the health risks of COVID-19. The case for action on obesity has never been stronger,” she said.
The report comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to be finalising Downing Street plans for an anti-obesity drive. In an interview recently, he asked the British public to make losing weight a goal for the year as part of efforts to combat the deadly coronavirus.
Singapore reports 513 new cases, all foreigners; tally nears 50,000
Singapore on Saturday reported 513 new coronavirus cases, all foreigners, taking the tally to nearly 50,000 in the country, the health ministry said. The new patients include two community and six imported cases.
All the 513 new patients are foreign workers, the ministry said, adding that the nationwide COVID-19 tally now stands at 49,888. The imported patients have been placed on stay-home notice upon their arrival in Singapore, it said.
While 45,172 people have recovered so far, the virus has claimed 27 lives in the country. The daily number of cases is expected to remain high for the next two weeks, the ministry said.
Trump signs orders to lower prescription drug prices
US President Donald Trump on Friday signed four executive orders aimed at lowering the prices Americans pay for prescription drugs. Trump has faced criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He had previously proposed most of the changes made by the executive orders he signed on Friday, but this is the first time they have been signed into executive orders.
One order would allow for the legal importation of cheaper prescription drugs from countries like Canada, while another would require discounts from drug companies now captured by middlemen to be passed on to patients, Trump said.
The US reported at least 73,363 new infections on Friday taking its tally to 4.13 million. At least 1,019 fatalities due to COVID-19 were confirmed on the same day, following 1,140 on Thursday, 1,135 on Wednesday and 1,141 on Tuesday. The numbers have been driven in large part by a surge in infections in Arizona, California, Florida, Texas and California.
Singapore PM flags retirement delay over virus as he unveils cabinet
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong named a largely unchanged cabinet on Saturday following an election win this month, and flagged a possible delay, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, of his plan to step down.Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Lee’s expected successor, was kept in post helming the finance ministry, as were senior ministers Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Teo Chee Hean.
“We are in a crisis of a generation … therefore I have kept on many of my older colleagues who are all participating in this fight against COVID-19,” Lee, whose People’s Action Party (PAP) has ruled Singapore since its independence in 1965.Lee, 68, said he may have to delay his plans to handover to a successor by the time he is 70 because of the pandemic.
New foreign students can’t enter if courses are online: US Govt
The Trump administration Friday announced that new foreign students will be barred from entering the United States if they plan to take classes that are entirely online.
In a memo to college officials, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said new students who were not already enrolled as of March 9 will “likely not be able to obtain” visas if they intend to take courses entirely online.
The announcement affects students hoping to enroll at universities that will provide classes entirely online as a result of the pandemic.
Vietnam back on coronavirus alert after first local infection in 3 months
Vietnam was back on high alert for the novel coronavirus on Saturday after medical officials in the central city of Danang detected its first locally transmitted case in three months. Thanks to strict quarantine measures and an aggressive and widespread testing programme, the Southeast Asian country has kept its virus total to an impressively low 415 cases and had reported no locally transmitted infections for 100 days. Vietnam has reported no deaths from the virus.
On Friday, the health ministry said a 57-year-old man from Danang, a tourist hot spot, had tested positive, prompting the isolation of 50 people he came in contact with. The ministry said 103 people connected to the patient were tested for the virus, but all their tests were found negative. The government said on Saturday a new test had confirmed the man’s infection, bringing the total number of cases in Vietnam to 416.
Beijing partly reopens movie theatres as cases decline
With social distancing rules in place, Beijing partially reopened movie theatres Friday. The city’s theatres mandated advanced bookings, capped capacity at 30 per cent and banned eating and drinking during the show. Ahead of the movie, temperature checks were conducted, and moviegoers were asked for their travel record.
Cinemas have been closed for around six months but began reopening this week in major cities throughout the country.
China reported 21 new virus cases on Friday, six of them imported, with the rest in the Xinjiang region and Jilin province. Beijing has gone more than two weeks without any cases of local transmission, spurring authorities to lift many restrictions on activities.
Pakistan reports 1,487 new COVID-19 cases
Pakistan reported 1,487 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 271,886 on Saturday. A total of 236,596 people have recovered from the disease, which 5,787 people have died, including 24 patients during the period.
Of the total infections, 116,800 were in detected in Sindh, 91,691 in Punjab, 33,071 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 14,821 in Islamabad, 11,550 in Balochistan, 2,012 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and 1,942 in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Galleries shut by COVID-19, Brazil has a drive-thru art show
With galleries and museums shuttered due to the pandemic, a Brazilian art gallery owner decided to adapt the culture of drive-in movies to the visual arts, and inaugurated a drive-thru exhibition in Sao Paulo.
“DriveThru.Art” displays art works on 18 panels measuring 10 meters (33 feet) wide by 5 meters (16 1/2 feet) high by different artists in a huge shed that once housed a metallurgical business.
Viewers can visit only inside a car. The cost is 40 reais ($8) per car, with up to four people. For those who do not have a car, the exhibition offers one that can accommodate up to three people, for the same price. Tickets can be obtained on a website and the ticket provides information on the art works, which will be on exhibit through Aug. 9. The show is open 1-9 pm every day but Monday and Tuesday.
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