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Global Coronavirus Updates, August 19: South Africa investigates COVID-linked corruption; Australia hails vaccine deal as virus surge abates

Global Coronavirus Updates: Globally, more than 14 million people have recovered from the infection (14,043,710), with the highest number of recovered in Brazil (2,751,246) and followed by India (1,977,779).

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 19, 2020 7:41:20 pm
According to virologist Upasana Ray, the mutation may have just been reported in Malaysia but is not new for the world. (AP)

Coronavirus Global Updates: The number of novel coronavirus infections in the world crossed the 22 million-mark and spiked up to 22,058,697 on Wednesday, with the US reporting the highest number of infections and nearing 5.5 million (5,481,795). The US is followed by Brazil with the second-highest infections (3,407,354), and India at the third position (2,767,274).

Meanwhile, the death toll due to the COVID disease rose to 779,533, with the US reporting the highest deaths in the world (171,799), followed by Brazil (109,888), Mexico (57,774), and India (52,889).

Globally, more than 14 million people have recovered from the infection (14,043,710), with the highest number of recovered in Brazil (2,751,246) and followed by India (2,037,871).

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Here are the top developments in the world:

South Africa investigates COVID-linked corruption of $290 mn

South African authorities are investigating government departments for graft over irregularities in coronavirus-related tenders worth 5 billion rand ($290 million), the head of its Special Investigating Unit (SIU) told lawmakers on Wednesday.

The figure is likely to add to pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ruling African National Congress, who have struggled to deflect criticism from alliance partners and opposition parties as allegations of corruption implicated senior ANC politicians.

Ramaphosa, who replaced his scandal-prone predecessor Jacob Zuma in 2017 with promises to eradicate corruption, has battled to root out criminality linked to the fight against COVID-19 in South Africa, which has the world’s fifth highest number of coronavirus infections at 592,144.

Australia hails vaccine deal as virus surge abates

A fresh outbreak of infections in Australia’s coronavirus hot zone of Victoria eased further on Wednesday, while the country agreed a deal to secure a potential COVID-19 vaccine that it plans to roll out cost-free to citizens. Australia has signed a deal with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to produce and distribute enough doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine for its population of 25 million, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said late on Tuesday.

Czechs won’t join WHO’s coronavirus vaccine programme, prefer EU plan

The Czech Republic will not take part in the World Health Organization-led COVAX plan to develop and distribute a vaccine against COVID-19 and will opt instead for an initiative of the European Union, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said on Wednesday. The WHO has struggled to bring wealthier countries on board for a global vaccine pact, saying on Tuesday that nations that hoard possible COVID-19 vaccines while excluding others will deepen the pandemic.

Shoppers pass a branch of Marks and Spencer in London, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Marks and Spencer has said it will cut 7,000 jobs over the next three months as the UK retailer overhauls its business in the latest sign of how the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the high street. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Britain to bring in mass testing to curb spread of COVID-19

Britain plans to bring in regular, population-wide testing for COVID-19 so it can suppress the spread of the virus and ease restrictions that have crippled its economy without triggering a second wave in one of the worst-hit countries in the world. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was trialling a range of new, faster tests that can give instant results and hoped to roll them out towards the end of the year.

Pope warns rich countries against coronavirus vaccine nationalism

Rich countries should not hoard a coronavirus vaccine and should only give pandemic-related bailouts to companies committed to protecting the environment, helping the most needy and the ‘common good’, Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

Pope francis, easter eve, Pope message o easter eve, world news. coronavirus outbreak, covid 19, indian express Pope Francis (Source: Reuters/File)

“It would be sad if the rich are given priority for the Covid-19 vaccine. It would be sad if the vaccine becomes property of this or that nation, if it is not universal and for everyone,” Francis said at his weekly general audience.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that any nation which hoards possible COVID-19 vaccines while excluding others would deepen the pandemic.

Women wearing protective face masks to help prevent spread of the coronavirus walk through a shopping center, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Iran surpassed 20,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, the health ministry said — the highest death toll for any Middle East country so far in the pandemic. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran coronavirus death toll tops 20,000

Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus surpassed 20,000 on Wednesday with 153 deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry spokeswoman told state TV, as the number of total cases hit 350,279. “The death toll has reached 20,125 …With 2,444 new infections in the past 24 hours, the total number of cases has reached 350,279,” said Sima Sadat Lari. Iran is one of the worst-hit countries from the outbreak in the Middle East.

Finland’s Prime Minister says COVID test negative

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Wednesday her COVID-19 test taken a day earlier was negative, but she would continue to work remotely due to respiratory symptoms.”It is important not to go to work if showing symptoms and thus expose others. The condition is good and the symptoms are mild,” Marin said on Twitter.Last week, Finland recommended the use of face masks in public for the first time as the number of coronavirus cases rises.

Nepal imposes one-week lockdown in capital Kathmandu

Authorities in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu and surrounding districts imposed a one-week lockdown Wednesday after a surge in coronavirus cases. People are prohibited from leaving their homes. Offices and businesses are closed and traffic halted except for essential and emergency movement. All outdoor religious activities and ceremonies are also not allowed. Violators face one month in jail and 500 rupees in fine.

Nepal’s 1016 cases recorded Tuesday was its highest daily spike. Kathmandu had 205 of the new cases. A national lockdown imposed in March lasted for 120 days before being lifted last month. The country now has confirmed 28,257 cases and 114 deaths from coronavirus.

People queue to reach the summit cross on top of the highest German mountain ‘Zugspitze’ (2962 meters) near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Wednesday, Aug.19, 2020. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Brazil coronavirus cases top 3.4 million

Brazil reported 47,784 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,352 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Tuesday. Brazil has now registered 3,407,354 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 109,888, according to ministry data, marking the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak after the United States.

New Zealand’s domestic cases drop to five

New Zealand said on Wednesday that it had five new cases of coronavirus in the community, and one in managed isolation facilities. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the drop in cases indicated the country was not seeing a surge of COVID-19 in the community. There were 13 cases reported on Tuesday. “The roll out of our resurgence plan is working as we intended,” Ardern said, adding there was no intention to raise the level of restrictions in Auckland.

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The government said it would increase the number of defence personnel at its quarantine facilities and border to beat any further spread of COVID-19. Around 500 more defence personnel will be deployed, taking the total defence force personnel supporting the COVID-19 response to around 1,200 – the largest military contingent since New Zealand sent peacekeepers to Timor-Leste during unrest there in the early 2000s, the government said in a statement.

Germany’s confirmed cases rise by 1,510

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,510 to 226,914, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday. The reported death toll rose by seven to 9,243, the tally showed.

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Coronavirus outbreak threatens South Korean capital

South Korea reported the highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since early March on Wednesday as an outbreak in the capital Seoul appeared to intensify. The 297 new infections mark the sixth straight day of triple-digit increases in a country that has managed to blunt several previous outbreaks, bringing South Korea’s total to 16,058 infections with 306 deaths, health officials said.

Most of the new cases appeared in Seoul and the surrounding areas, raising concerns of a broader outbreak in a metropolitan area of more than 25 million people that has only seen small clusters so far. The government ordered the closure of nightclubs, karaoke bars, buffets and cyber cafes earlier this week, banned all in-person church services, and restricted indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than 50 and 100 people respectively.

Australia locks in vaccine deal as new cases ease

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A fresh outbreak of infections in Australia’s coronavirus hot zone of Victoria appeared to have eased on Wednesday, as the country signed a deal to secure a potential COVID-19 vaccine that it intends to roll out free of cost to its citizens. Australia has signed a deal with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to produce and distribute enough doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine for its population of 25 million, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said late on Tuesday.

All Australians will be offered doses but a medical panel will determine the priority list of vaccine recipients, Health Minister Greg Hunt said. “Naturally you would be focusing on the most vulnerable, the elderly, health workers, people with disabilities in terms of the speed of roll out, but I think there would be widespread uptake in Australia,” Hunt told Sky News on Wednesday.

Argentina exceeds 300,000 coronavirus cases

Argentina confirmed 6,840 new cases of coronavirus and 172 new deaths on Tuesday, taking it simultaneously over the 300,000 cases and 6,000 death threshold as the Latin nation battles a surge of contagions in recent weeks. The country’s health ministry reported a total of 305,966 cases and 6,048 deaths.

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Dr Luis Camera, a member of the Argentine government’s health advisory group, said while cases, intensive care admissions and hospital bed occupancy rates were not still climbing, they had settled at an unsustainable level. “The highest points for the City of Buenos Aires could have been the last days of July and the first days of August,” he told Reuters TV. “Now the infection curve has stabilized at a plateau, but a high plateau. In South America, you call it the altiplano, as opposed to the lowlands.”

Pelosi emphasizes need for COVID-19 deal ‘now’

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that Democrats in Congress are willing to cut their coronavirus relief bill in half to get an agreement on new legislation, which a senior aide said did not signal a change to her position. “We have to try to come to that agreement now,” Pelosi said in an online interview with Politico. “We’re willing to cut our bill in half to meet the needs right now. We’ll take it up again in January. We’ll see them again in January. But for now, we can cut the bill in half.”

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