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Global Coronavirus Updates, 21 August: Hong Kong offers free testing to all residents; European economic rebound slows as cases rise

Global Coronavirus Updates: Nearly eight million have succumbed to the virus while more than 14 million have recovered till now, according to the John Hopkins report.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 21, 2020 8:55:08 pm
Public officials disinfect to curb the spread of the coronavirus at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea (AP)

Coronavirus Global Updates: With over 22.5 million cases worldwide, the World Health Organisation in Europe has said that there has been a steady increase in coronavirus cases even as the epicentre of the pandemic has moved to the Americas.

While addressing the media on Thursday, Dr Hans Kluge said that while European countries had made “phenomenal efforts” to contain the virus, at least 26,000 cases were still being reported from across the continent on a daily basis. However, he said, the region was in a “much better position to stamp out these localized virus flare-ups” and “can manage the virus differently now than we did when Covid-19 first emerged.”

Nearly eight million have succumbed to the virus while more than 14 million have recovered till now, according to the John Hopkins report.

European economic rebound slows as virus cases rise

The European economy’s rebound from the coronavirus recession appears to have slowed in August as a resurgence in new confirmed contagions across the region makes businesses, shoppers and travelers more cautious.

An indicator of business activity published Friday by research firm IHS Markit fell back to a level that suggests the economy is barely growing after a relatively strong burst in July, when many countries had phased out the restrictions on public life that were imposed in the spring to contain the pandemic.

Coronavirus contagions are rising rapidly in many European countries, even if deaths remain at a relatively low level. That has made some consumers more cautious. Europe’s busiest airline, Ryanair, said this week it was cutting back further on the number of flights as demand remains low.

Hong Kong offers free testing to all residents

Hong Kong will offer free, universal testing to its residents starting September 1. The testing program, which will last a maximum of two weeks, is on a voluntary basis.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said that universal testing was possible due to support from Beijing, which provided resources such as laboratory staff to boost capacity in the semi-autonomous city. The program is aimed at identifying individuals who are infected but have exhibited no symptoms. The city, with a population of 7.5 million, has conducted over 1.2 million tests so far.

Critics of the universal testing program say that there may be potential privacy concerns, given that the program is supported by the Chinese Communist Party.

Lam brushed aside such concerns, stating that no matter what the government did, there will always be people who come up with conspiracy theories.

UK issues urgent call for more Indian, South Asian plasma donors

The UK’s state-funded National Health Service (NHS) on Friday issued an urgent call for people of Indian and South Asian heritage who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma to help save lives of others infected with the deadly virus.

According to experts, people from a South Asian background are around twice as likely to have high enough antibodies for their donations to be used in life-saving treatment trials, compared to white people.

The NHS said that this antibody-rich plasma, which could save the lives of people with coronavirus, is being sought urgently ahead of a feared second wave of the pandemic in the country later in the year.

“We have had a fantastic response from the Asian community. COVID-19 is attacking the Asian community more than the wider community and donating plasma could save a life,” said Rekha Anand, a Consultant Haematologist for NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which is a Special Health Authority in charge of blood and organ donation.

NHSBT said that its data shows that people of an Asian heritage have been donating in strong numbers, at over 7 per cent of all plasma donors so far, and also sought to highlight the donation as a safe and easy procedure.

Virus cases reported at 41 schools in Germany’s capital

At least 41 schools in Berlin have reported that students or teachers have become infected with the coronavirus not even two weeks after schools reopened in the German capital. Daily Berliner Zeitung published the numbers Friday and city education authorities confirmed the figures to The Associated Press.

Hundreds of students and teacher are in quarantine, the newspaper reported. Elementary schools, high schools and trade schools are all affected, the paper wrote. There are 825 schools in Berlin.

The reopening of schools and the possible risks of virus clusters building up in educational institutions and then spreading beyond to families and further into society have been a matter of great concern and it’s an issue that’s hotly debated in Germany.

Education in Germany isn’t in the hands of the federal government, but under the auspices of the country’s 16 states and thus there are many differing COVID-19 rules in place depending on each state, especially when it comes to wearing masks.

New Zealand defers lockdown decision after new cases emerge

With 11 fresh Covid cases, New Zealand on Friday put off its decision about easing restrictions in its biggest city of Auckland to next week. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would decide whether the government would ease alert level 3 restrictions in Auckland and level 2 measures in the remaining parts of the country on Monday.

Virus spike in South Korea may be spreading

The recent surge in coronavirus cases in South Korea appears to be spreading nationwide. For the eighth day in a row, the country reported a triple-digit daily surge. While most of the cases were reported in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region, officials said the latest new infections were reported practically across all major cities.

The country’s caseload is now at 16,670, including 309 deaths.

Public officials disinfect to curb the spread of the coronavirus at the Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul. (AP)

Japan to ease Covid re-entry curbs on foreigners with resident visas

Japan is mulling easing entry restrictions on foreign nationals with resident visas starting September, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Re-entry will be permitted for visa holders, including permanent residents and exchange students, on condition that they undergo coronavirus testing and quarantine for 14 days, the same policy that applies to Japanese citizens re-entering the country, the state broadcaster said.

A consular official with Japan’s foreign ministry said there was “no decision yet” on easing border restrictions.

Trump admin classifies teachers as essential workers

The United States Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday classified teachers as essential workers as the Donald Trump-led administration pressed schools nationwide to resume classes.

This came after a Reuters tally showed that new infections have fallen for four weeks in a row in Texas and Florida.

The teachers’ unions, however, have threatened to strike or sue if they are told to go back to class.

Ireland’s EU commissioner, minister under fire for attending golf even

An Irish Cabinet minister “apologised unreservedly” on Thursday for attending a social event with more than 80 people amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to The Irish Examiner newspaper, 81 people, including current and former politicians, attended a dinner hosted by the Irish parliament’s golf society in a hotel. Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary, who attended the event, later said: “I wish to apologise unreservedly to everyone. We are asking quite a lot from everyone at this difficult time. I also offer this apology and my sincere regret to my government colleagues,” he said.

Prospective students wear face masks and shields as they take the entrance exam for Mexico’s National Autonomous University in the stands of University Olympic Stadium, amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, in Mexico City. (AP)

Mexico to get at least 2,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine to test

Mexico will receive at least 2,000 doses of Russia’s potential coronavirus vaccine, dubbed ‘Sputnik V’, to test among its population, a senior Mexican government official said on Thursday.

“Mexico was offered at least 2,000 doses of the vaccine to do its protocol to start testing it in Mexico, which is very good news because again we buy ourselves time,” Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said.

On Wednesday, Mexico’s government told Moscow it intended to conduct phase 3 testing of the vaccine, as part of the Latin American country’s efforts to secure early supplies of an effective medicine to contain the Covid cases.

Mass testing of Russia’s vaccine to get domestic regulatory approval will involve more than 40,000 people and will be overseen by a foreign research body when it starts next week, backers of the project said on Thursday.

Brazil coronavirus cases tops 3.5 million, fatalities exceed 112,000

Brazil has reported over 3.5 million coronavirus cases so far. With 45,323 new cases, the tally rose to 3,501,975 while the death toll stood at 1,204 on Thursday.

(With agency inputs)

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