Coronavirus Global Updates: More than 25.88 million people were reported to have been infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 857,881 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
Globally, at least 861,512 people have succumbed to the virus infections, with the highest death toll reported by US, followed by Brazil and India. A total of 17,209,534 recoveries have been registered worldwide.
Here are the top developments globally:
Members named to panel probing WHO’s pandemic response
An independent panel appointed by the World Health Organization to review its coordination of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic will have full access to any internal UN agency documents, materials and emails necessary, the panel said Thursday as it begins the probe.
The panel’s co-chairs, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, announced the 11 other members during a media briefing.
The panel scheduled its first meeting for Sept. 17 and plans to meet every six weeks between then and April. It expects to brief WHO on the group’s initial progress in November before presenting a final report next year.
WHO bowed to calls from most of its member states in May to launch an independent investigation of how it managed the international response to the coronavirus after the United States accused the U.N. health agency of mismanaging the early phase of the pandemic and colluding with China to hide the extent of the outbreak there.
Malaysia expands entry ban to US, UK, France pass holders
Malaysia on Thursday added at least nine more countries, including the United States, Britain and France, to its list of long-term immigration pass holders to be barred from the country, national news wire Bernama reported.
Malaysia’s government on Tuesday said it would from September 7 bar entry of pass holders from India, Indonesia and the Philippines in a bid to curtail imported coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy.
The ban will now include all countries that have reported more than 150,000 coronavirus cases, the report said, citing senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Coronavirus is not the deadliest disease that can befall mankind: Singapore PM
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said the COVID-19 pandemic is a disaster on a global scale but it is not the deadliest disease that could befall mankind and that lessons learnt during this emergency must be documented for future epidemics.
Lee pointed out that scientists believe ‘Disease X’ could potentially harm mankind on a much greater scale. ‘Disease X’ is a placeholder name adopted by the World Health Organisation in February 2018 to represent unknown pathogens which could cause a much bigger epidemic.
When COVID-19 was first reported, Lee said, many wondered if ‘Disease X’ had arrived. “COVID-19 has been a disaster for the world, but it is not ‘Disease X’,” Loong was quoted as saying by local media on Wednesday.
Thailand reports 1st local coronavirus case in 100 days
Health officials in Thailand say a prison inmate has tested positive for the coronavirus in the country’s first confirmed locally transmitted case in 100 days, AP reported. They said on Thursday the inmate is a 37-year-old man who was arrested for drug abuse who was arrested in Aug. 26 and tested positive on Wednesday when brought to the health center of a prison in Bangkok.
Thailand has sustained relatively light health damage from the pandemic, even though in January it was the first country outside China to confirm a case. But its economy has been devastated by the absence of foreign tourists, who are banned from entry, and by a drop in exports. The country’s last locally transmitted case was confirmed on May 24 and announced on May 25.
Middle East’s confirmed COVID death toll goes over 50,000
The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus went over 50,000 in the Middle East on Thursday as the pandemic continues. That’s according to a count from The Associated Press, based on official numbers offered by health authorities across the region.
Those numbers still may be an undercount, though, as testing in war-torn nations like Libya and Yemen remains extremely limited.
The hardest-hit nation remains Iran, with over 21,900 deaths and over 380,000 confirmed cases and 328,000 recoveries. Israel just recorded a record-high 3,000 new cases in a day as the country’s coronavirus tally is set to submit a list of more detailed recommended restrictions where infection rates have been highest.
The United Arab Emirates, which has embarked on a mass testing campaign, saw its highest daily confirmed new case count in over three months.
Hong Kong’s mass testing finds only few cases
Only six people in Hong Kong have tested positive for the coronavirus out of a batch of 128,000 residents who had undergone the mass-testing programme that began on Tuesday. Four of the six were previous coronavirus patients who had been discharged last month, and still carried traces of the virus when they were tested.
As of Thursday, 850,000 people in the city of 7.5 million had registered to take part in the weeklong program that offers all residents a one-time, free coronavirus test as the city seeks to identify silent carriers of the virus.
The low number of positive cases found so far has drawn criticism that the government’s universal testing program was not cost effective amid privacy concerns and fears that DNA data could be sent to mainland China.
UK working on 20-minute COVID-19 test
The British government says it is investing in a coronavirus test that gives results in as little as 20 minutes, as critics say tests for the virus are being rationed because the system can’t cope with demand, AP reported.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government is expanding trials of two new tests — a no-swab saliva test and another that gives results in minutes. It’s also running a trial on the benefits of repeat testing of people without symptoms.
Britain has hugely expanded its testing capacity since the start of the pandemic, but critics say it is still not doing enough to find and isolate people with the coronavirus.
France unveils huge economic rescue plan
Facing resurgent virus infections, Frances government is unveiling details Thursday of a 100 billion euro-118 billion recovery plan aimed at creating jobs saving struggling businesses and pulling the country out of its worst economic slump since World War II.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said on RTL radio ahead of the presentation that the plan hopes to create 160,000 jobs next year and restore France’s economic growth levels of 2019 by 2022 – the year of next presidential elections.
Called France Reboot, the plan includes money for renovating buildings and boosting rail use to reduce emissions.
UK may reimpose quarantine on travelers from Portugal
Britain could make a decision on Friday on whether to impose a 14-day quarantine on arrivals from Portugal after cases of COVID-19 began to rise in the popular holiday destination, the UK’s health minister, Matt Hancock, said on Thursday.
Britain allowed holiday-makers to travel to Portugal without any restrictions less than two weeks ago but a rise in the coronavirus there has prompted speculation it will be put back on a list of countries that require quarantine measures.
“We follow the data and we make these announcements in an organised way on a Friday lunchtime,” Hancock told Sky News.
China offers coronavirus vaccine candidates to aviation industry workers
China has offered experimental coronavirus vaccines to aviation industry workers, according to a regulatory notice seen by Reuters, in a push to inoculate high-risk groups to prevent a possible resurgence as economies reopen. China, which has four COVID-19 vaccines in the final stage of human trials, launched the emergency use vaccine programme in July, hoping to boost the immunity of groups such as border inspectors or medical industry workers.
Frontline workers at Chinese airlines, airports, China National Aviation Fuel Group and TravelSky Technology Limited will be provided a candidate vaccine on a voluntary basis, the notice from China’s aviation regulator shows.
Czech reports highest daily number of cases since pandemic’s start
The Czech Republic’s daily number of new coronavirus cases rose to 650, the highest since the pandemic reached the country in March, Health Ministry data showed on Thursday. With that number, the overall count of cases rose to 25,773 in the country of 10.7 million.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked state public health officials to prepare to distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine to high-risk groups as soon as late October, documents published by the agency showed on Wednesday.
The timing of a vaccine has taken on political importance as US President Donald Trump seeks re-election in November, after committing billions of federal dollars to develop a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, which has killed more than 180,000 Americans.
“For the purpose of initial planning, CDC provided states with certain planning assumptions as they work on state specific plans for vaccine distribution, including possibly having limited quantities of vaccines in October and November,” a CDC spokeswoman told Reuters.
Signs of COVID easing in Brazil
Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll appears to be easing for the first time since May, data shows, a sign the Latin American country could be descending from a long infection plateau that has seen it suffer the world’s second-worst outbreak after the United States. With nearly 4 million confirmed cases, the virus has killed over 120,000 people in Brazil.
But the level of average daily deaths dropped below 900 per day last week – the lowest in three and a half months and below the rate of both the United States and India, according to a Reuters tally. Researchers at Imperial College London also calculate that the transmission rate in Brazil, at which each person infected with the coronavirus infects another person, is now below 1, the level required for new infections to slow.
Australia’s hotspot reports triple-digit cases for first time in 4 days
Australia’s Victoria state on Thursday reported a triple-digit rise in new COVID-19 infections for the first time in four days, denting optimism that the second wave of cases has been contained. Victoria state said 113 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours, up on the 90 infections reported on Wednesday.
Australia has now recorded more than 26,000 COVID-19 cases, while the death toll rose to 678 after 15 people in Victoria state died from the virus. Victoria’s capital Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, is in its fifth week of a six-week lockdown.
US: Budget deficit to hit record USD 3.3 trillion due to virus, recession
The federal budget deficit is projected to hit a record USD 3.3 trillion as huge government expenditures to fight the coronavirus and to prop up the economy have added more than USD 2 trillion to the federal ledger, the Congressional Budget Office said.
The spike in the deficit means that federal debt will exceed annual gross domestic product next year, a milestone that would put the US where it was in the aftermath of World War II, when accumulated debt exceeded the size of the economy. The USD 3.3 trillion figure is more than triple the 2019 shortfall and more than double the levels experienced after the market meltdown and Great Recession of 2008-09.
Britain to fund expansion of rapid test trials
Britain is putting 500 million pounds ($666 million) into trials of rapid COVID-19 tests and into population-testing for the disease, the health ministry said on Thursday. Health minister Matt Hancock has said he hopes mass testing using faster COVID-19 tests can be rolled out towards the end of the year, adding that they are key to restoring freedoms after months of COVID-19 restrictions.
The funding will be used to expand existing trials of saliva tests and a rapid 20-minute test in southern England, while a new, community trial in Salford, northwest England, will assess the benefit of population-testing, under which people are regularly tested regardless of whether they have symptoms, so that any cases can be picked up before they have spread widely. “Innovative new tests that are fast, accurate and easier to use will maximise the impact and scale of testing, helping us to get back to a more normal way of life,” Hancock said.
Mexico leads in health worker deaths from COVID, says report
Mexico leads the world in coronavirus deaths among its health care workers, Amnesty International said in a new report Wednesday. It said Mexico has reported 1,320 confirmed deaths from COVIID-19 so far, surpassing the United States at 1,077, the United Kingdom at 649, and Brazil at 634.
The report is likely to revive debate about Mexico’s extremely low coronavirus testing rate, with fewer than one in 100 Mexicans tested. While Mexican officials have bragged that all health care workers have gotten one test, that appears insufficient for people who face daily exposure over months.
Actor Dwayne Johnson says he and family have recovered
Hollywood actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said in a video message posted on social media on Wednesday that he, his wife and their two young children tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks but that they all have recovered and are healthy. Johnson, 48, said in the Instagram post that he and his spouse, Lauren, 35, and their daughters, Jasmine, 4, and Tiana, 2, caught the virus about 2-1/2 weeks ago from “very close family friends” whom he said had no idea how they had become infected.
“I can tell you this has been one of the most challenging and difficult things we have ever had to endure as a family, and for me personally,” he said in the video.
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