Updated: July 18, 2020 9:41:39 pm
The number of coronavirus cases crossed the 14 million mark Saturday, just four days after it breached the 13 million milestone. This is the first time cases have increased by one million in less than 100 hours, news agency Reuters reported.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a record rise of 237,743 infections Friday, led by the United States, Brazil, India and South Africa. Nearly 6 lakh people have succumbed to the virus.
Meanwhile, China is experiencing a new surge in the country’s Xinjiang region that reported 16 fresh cases in the last 24 hours. Xinjiang, a region dominated by China’s Uighur Muslim population had largely been unaffected by the pandemic and reported only 1 case before the current surge. Before this, the largest outbreak was in Beijing that infected more than 330 people.
Trump says he won’t order Americans to wear masks
President Donald Trump has said he would not order Americans to wear masks to contain the spread of the coronavirus, saying people should have a “certain freedom.”
His comments came after Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, appealed to state and local leaders to be “as forceful as possible” in getting people to wear masks in public places.
In a ‘Fox News Sunday’ interview, Trump said, “I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wear a mask, everything disappears.” Commenting on the initial comments from top health officials, Trump said: “Hey, Dr Fauci said don’t wear a mask. Our Surgeon General – terrific guy – said don’t wear a mask. Everybody who is saying don’t wear a mask – all of sudden everybody’s got to wear a mask, and as you know masks cause problems, too.”
Trump, who has been seen wearing a face mask only once, said, I’m a believer in masks. I think masks are good.”
But Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said social distancing, an important factor in blunting the spread of the coronavirus, can be difficult with more people going out.
“When you’re living your life and trying to open up the country, you are going to come into contact with people. And for that reason, we know that masks are really important, and we should be using them everywhere,” he said during a US Chamber of Commerce virtual event.
UK reviews COVID-19 death toll figures amid fear of inaccuracy
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock asked Public Health England (PHE) to review its analysis after experts warned the number of fatalities could be over-exaggerated by recording each and every positive coronavirus test and failure to assess if the eventual cause of death was directly linked to the deadly virus.
“The Secretary of State [Hancock] has asked PHE to urgently review their estimation of daily death statistics,” the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement. “Currently the daily deaths measure counts all people who have tested positive for coronavirus and since died, with no cut-off between time of testing and date of death. There have been claims that the lack of cut-off may distort the current daily deaths number. We are therefore pausing the publication of the daily figure while this is resolved,” it said.
England’s figures are understood to include anyone who has ever tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of whether they died for another reason. This could mean that the UK’s coronavirus death toll of over 45,000 may be exaggerated.
Iran estimates it has 25 million coronavirus infections
Iran’s president on Saturday estimated as many as 25 million Iranians could have been infected with the coronavirus since the outbreak’s beginning, as he urged the public to take the pandemic seriously, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday.
Hassan Rouhani cited a new Iranian Health Ministry study in offering the unprecedentedly high numbers. Rouhani also said about 30 to 35 million will be infected to the virus in the coming months.
“We have to estimate that 30 to 35 million people will be exposed to the virus, which is very important,” Rouhani added.
Iranians officials have not explained on what the report’s estimates are based. The study has so far not been made publicly available. Referring to the report, Rouhani said it also predicts that the number of hospitalisations will soon be “twice as many as we have seen in the last 150 days.” Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 270,000 confirmed cases and at least 13,979 deaths. That includes 2,166 new cases and 188 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.
Local councils in England get new powers to order COVID-19 shutdowns
Local authorities in England have been handed fresh powers from Saturday to be able to order shutdowns of shops and events as part of government’s plans to impose localised lockdowns in the event of a flare-up in coronavirus cases in particular areas.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had confirmed new powers for local councils during a Downing Street briefing on Friday, when he laid out plans for a further ease up in the UK’s lockdown by lifting travel restrictions on public transport and giving employers the option to get their workforce back into work from August 1.
“From tomorrow (Saturday), local authorities will have new powers in their areas. They will be able to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces and cancel events,” said Johnson.
“These powers will enable local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount,” he said.
US Covid-19 cases rise by over 70,000 for second day in a row
The daily increase in coronavirus cases in the US rose by 70,674 Friday after climbing by a record 77,499 a day before. The toll in the country also rose by over 900 for the fourth consecutive day. According to a Reuters analysis of cases in the past two weeks, infections are rising in 41 of the 50 states while deaths are rising in 19 states.
The surge in cases amid a debate in the US on whether masks should be worn, and schools should be reopened.
EU leaders resume ‘grumpy’ summit on budget, virus fund
European Union leaders were hunting for compromises Saturday as a summit to reach a deal on an unprecedented 1.85 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund entered its second day with tensions running high.
A full day and night of discussions by the 27 leaders on Friday only added to the irritations over how the huge sums should be spent and what strings should be attached.
The atmosphere was grumpier this evening than this afternoon, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte told Dutch reporters after Friday’s marathon talks. “This is going to take a while, I think.”
The EU executive has proposed a 750-billion euro fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the most needy countries. That comes on top of the seven-year 1-trillion-euro EU budget that leaders were fighting over when COVID-19 slammed their continent.
Australian PM wants to delay parliament due to Covid-19
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Saturday sought to postpone the two-week August sitting of parliament citing as a reason the increased risk of community transmission in the country’s two most populous states — Victoria and New South Wales.
“The government cannot ignore the risk to parliamentarians, their staff, the staff within the parliament and the broader community,” Morrison said.
On Friday, Victoria state reported a record 428 new infections, while New South Wales said it was banning dancing, singing and mingling at weddings as authorities struggle to contain a new surge in infections.
Antibody tests pass first major trial in the UK
The finger prick antibody tests, which take about 20 minutes to detect the coronavirus infection, were found to be 98.6 per cent accurate in secret human trials held in the UK in June, Reuters reported citing the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
The government is planning to distribute millions of free coronavirus antibody tests as it passes its first major trials of the tests developed by the UK Rapid Test Consortium and Oxford University.
EU leaders at loggerheads over Covid recovery plan
The 27 European Union heads who met for the first face-to-face talks since lockdowns were imposed, failed to agree on a stimulus package to support the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic in the bloc’s countries.
Emphasising the crucial importance of the stimulus package for the EU’s economic recovery, officials said leaders remained unable to agree on the overall size of the package and the split between grants and repayable loans, among other issues.
Argentina records highest daily spike after easing restrictions
After announcing a gradual easing of its lockdown that lasted four months, the Argentinean government Friday confirmed its highest daily spike in coronavirus infections at 4,518. The country now has 119,301 confirmed cases, with 2,178 deaths, according to official data.
On lifting the country’s lockdown, President Alberto Fernandez said the gradual return to normalcy would happen in several stages, with the first stage lasting till August 2.
Mexico’s death toll crosses 35,000
After registering 736 deaths on Friday, Mexico’s death toll crossed the 35,000 mark, the fourth highest in the world. The country has over 3,24,000 cases.
The government has raised concerns over the crowding in hospitals, especially in the state of Nuevo Leon. Even the Gulf coast state of Tabasco has an 85 per cent hospital occupancy at the moment.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he was concerned about the situation in Tabasco, where he was born.
China experiences a new outbreak in Uighur dominated Xinjiang region
Mainland China reported 22 fresh Covid infections on Saturday, up from 10 a day earlier. Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western region of Xinjiang, said it has launched emergency response plan after the city reported 16 new coronavirus cases on Friday. Xinjiang has so far mostly avoided a surge in cases and reported only one infection before the current surge. Over 260 people are under medical observation, according to the regional health commission.
China has been accused of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the homeland of the largely Muslim Uighur ethnic community.
As of Friday, mainland China had 83,644 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 toll stood at 4,634.
Spike in Canada’s coronavirus cases worrying, says medical officer
A recent spike in coronavirus cases in Canada is worrying and can be linked to groups of young people gathering in bars and nightclubs, Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer said on Friday.
“When we examine recent trends in case reporting, there is some cause for concern. After a period of steady decline, daily case counts have started to rise,” he added.
(With inputs from agencies)
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