Coronavirus Global Updates: As the coronavirus pandemic enters its ninth month, over 18.94 million people have tested positive and over 11 lakh people have recovered from the disease on Friday. The African continent has been seeing a rapid surge in Covid-19 infections as the cases crossed the 1 million mark. Health experts warn the number of cases are higher than the official figures as the number of testing is still low in several African countries.
At least 708,848 people have succumbed to the disease so far, according to a Reuters tally. Mexico with the third highest death toll in the world crossed 50,000 fatalities and is behind Brazil, which is approaching 100,000 mark, and the United States, which is approaching 160,000 deaths.
Here are the top global developments
Hong Kong offers free testing for all residents
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the semi-autonomous Chinese city will offer free coronavirus testing for all its 7.5 million residents beginning in two weeks.
Lam says such universal testing will help gauge the level of transmission in the community, find those who may be carrying the virus but not showing symptoms and reassure the public.
She told reporters, “Put simply, anyone in the community who wants to do a test can take the test. We won’t care if they come from high-risk groups or not.”
Lam says tests would be carried out in a manner to avoid lines and maintain social distancing.
Russia’s Covid-19 cases cross 875,000
As per Reuters, Russian authorities reported 5,241 new cases of Covid-19 Friday pushing its national tally to 877,135, the fourth largest in the world. The death toll rose to 14,725 after officials said 119 people had died across the country in the last 24 hours. (Reuters)
Spanish experts call for ‘impartial evaluation’ on devastation caused by virus
A group of 20 leading Spanish experts in public health and epidemiology are urging the government to undertake “an independent and impartial evaluation” of why the coronavirus pandemic has hit Spain so hard.
Spain is the western European country with most COVID-19 cases – 309,855, Johns Hopkins University figures show. The Spanish scientists said in a letter published in the Lancet medical journal Friday that the government should appoint a panel of Spanish and foreign experts to evaluate what has happened.
They said potential explanations include lack of pandemic preparedness, a slow official response, an aging population and funding cuts in the public health system.
Swiss ink deal with Moderna for 4.5M doses of COVID vaccine
The Swiss federal government says it has struck a deal with Moderna to supply Switzerland with 4.5 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine if the US biotech firm successfully develops one.
The Federal Office of Public Health says the agreement aims “to guarantee Switzerland early access to the vaccine of Moderna” and is one of the first such deals by any government with the company.
“The federal government wants to ensure that the Swiss population has rapid access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” an office statement said on Thursday. “At the same time, Switzerland is supporting multilateral projects for the fair distribution of a future vaccine.”
The Moderna deal would make it possible to vaccinate 2.25 million people, because expectations are that two doses would be needed, it said. That would be enough for more than a fourth of the wealthy Alpine country’s population of about 8.2 million.
Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state’s infections ‘relatively flat’
The coronavirus infection rate in Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has been “relatively flat” in the past week, a state health official said. Victoria registered 450 new cases and 11 deaths on Friday.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said almost a third of the latest cases – 139 – were health care workers.
“Our nurses, doctors, ambulance, paramedics, cooks, cleaners, orderlies, ward clerks, everybody in our hospital system, they are not the front-line, they are the last line of defense. And I would just ask all Victorians to follow the rules to protect themselves but also to protect our dedicated healthcare team. They are heroes,” Andrews said.
NYC begins registering travellers at COVID-19 checkpoints
New York City opened new traveller checkpoints Thursday to register visitors and residents returning from nearly three dozen states who are required to quarantine for 14 days – an initiative that drew swift criticism from privacy advocates.
The checkpoints, targeting busy entry points like Penn Station, are more of an awareness campaign than a blockade, intended to preserve the city’s progress reducing its COVID-19 infection rate and forestall a second wave as the coronavirus ravages other states.
Authorities said this week a fifth of all new coronavirus cases in New York City have been from travellers entering the city from other states. The random checks are similar to an effort already in place at airports and includes offers of free food delivery and in some cases even hotel stays for people who must quarantine.
Covid cases in Africa top 1 million
Africa’s coronavirus case count surpassed 1 million on Thursday, and currently stands at 1,003,056 cases, of which 21,983 have died and 676,395 have recovered after testing positive, according to Reuters. South Africa, the world’s 5th worst nation which makes up more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s case load – has recorded 538,184 cases.
According to health experts, Africa’s cases are much higher than what’s being reported partly due to low levels of testing in many African nations.
US lifts global health coronavirus travel advisory
The US State Department and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention on Thursday lifted global advisories, but still recommended US citizens to avoid all international travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice,” the State Department said in a statement lifting its “Do Not Travel” advisory.
Countries are divided into levels on the basis of infection spread in their countries. A few countries, including Thailand, New Zealand and Fiji, were put on a low risk Level 1 whereas “Level Four: Do Not Travel” has about 30 nations including India, Russia, Bangladesh among others.
Mexico’s toll breach 50,000 fatalities
With 819 fatalities recorded in the last 24 hours, Mexico’s death toll due to the coronavirus infection crossed the 50,000 mark to reach 50,517 deaths. The country reported a spike of 10,000 deaths in the last 2 weeks and currently has the third worst fatality toll in the world.
Health ministry officials have said that the number of cases and deaths in Mexico are likely significantly higher than reported. The country’s current caseload stands at 462,690 cases with 6,590 reported in the last 24 hours.
Brazil’s Bolsonaro sets aside $360 million for AstraZeneca covid vaccine
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued a decree on Thursday to set aside $356 million in funds to purchase the potential coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University in the UK. The country hopes to be able to eventually produce the vaccine themselves.
Brazil’s Acting Health Minister General Eduardo Pazuello said “the most promising(vaccine) in the world” could be available in Brazil by December of January. Pazuello said Brazil would initially receive 100 million doses, which would allow for the vaccination of half the country’s population, and then produce the vaccine locally.
South Korea to lift ban on travellers from Hubei, China
South Korea will lift a ban on travellers from the Chinese province of Hubei, which was the original epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, starting Monday, a government official said on Friday. An absence of new confirmed cases in Hubei recently is cited as the basis for the decision, Yoon Tae-ho, a senior South Korean health ministry official, told a briefing.
Philippines becomes South Asia’s worst affected nation
The number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines neared the 1,20,000 mark to surpass Indonesia in becoming South Asia’s worst hit region. Despite having the longest and strictest lockdown in South Asia, premature easing of restrictions has paved way for new surges in infections.
Failure in quarantine protocols and testing gaffes for over 100,00 of overseas workers arriving back home after losing their jobs in other countries have fuelled virus resurgence.
Mainland China reports 37 new coronavirus cases, same as day earlier
China reported 37 new coronavirus cases in the mainland as of the end of Aug 6, the same as the day earlier, the National Health Commission said in a statement.
Of the new cases, 10 were imported infections involving travellers from overseas compared with 7 such cases reported a day earlier. At least 14 of the new infections were asymptomatic, down from 20 a day earlier. With the death toll remaining the same at 4,634, China’s caseload climbed past 84,500.