September 19, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: Global deaths surpass 400,000

The confirmed death toll from COVID-19 has reached a bleak new milestone and the United States leads the world with nearly 110,000 fatalities. India has seen a new record daily spike in cases.

  • Anti-racism rallies “undoubtedly” raise the risk of new infections, the UK Health Secretary warns
  • Total infection numbers in Brazil are no longer displayed on the key government website
  • Sweden’s economy is headed for a record plunge despite avoiding lockdown

Follow Monday’s developments in the coronavirus pandemic: Coronavirus latest: Global infections top 7 million

22:05 Bolivia is working on legislation that will make it mandatory for patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their blood plasma for treatment against the virus.

“We are working on a law for the mandatory donation because we are in an exceptional stage… we urge all patients who have recovered to extend their arm of solidarity and join the group of donors to save lives,” Bolivian Minister of Health Eidy Roca told PAT, a local news channel. The law will include sanctions on the commercialization of the recovered person’s blood or any of its elements.

21:00 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has urged people taking part in protests over the killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, to get tested for the coronavirus. Cuomo said the state was planning to open 15 testing sites to enable protesters to get their test results quickly. “I would act as if you were exposed, and I would tell people you are interacting with, assume I am positive for the virus,” he said.

Cuomo’s statement follows similar calls from the cities of Atlanta, San Francisco and Seattle — where protesters are being encouraged to get tested for free at testing centers.

19:11 Some Black Lives Matters’ protesters have ignored social distancing rules imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Large crowds gathered once again in several European cities on Sunday to denounce the police killing of African American George Floyd on May 25. Although face masks were often visible and distancing was attempted by some groups, the sheer size of the crowds, especially in London, made the 1.5 meter rule almost impossible to uphold.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted that: “COVID-19 is still a very real threat,” and urged the city’s residents “to consider ways of making your voice heard that doesn’t put yourself and others at risk.”

UK Health Secretary on Sunday also warned that some protesters were likely to be carriers of the virus and that the demonstrations would “undoubtedly” raise the risk of further coronavirus cases.

17:44 The confirmed global death toll from COVID-19 has crossed the 400,000 mark, a day after the government of Brazil broke with standard public health protocols by ceasing to publish updates of the number of deaths and infections.

The South American country is the second-worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic after the United States.

Worldwide, at least 6.9 million people have been infected by the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University, whose aggregated tally has become the main worldwide reference for monitoring the disease.

Its running counter says the US has almost 110,000 confirmed virus-related deaths. Europe as a whole has recorded more than 175,000 deaths since the virus emerged in China late last year.

16:55 Travel companies have slammed a new requirement by the British government that incoming travelers will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. From Monday, people arriving in the UK will have to leave their address and contact details at the border. Anyone not adhering to the obligation to self-isolate could face a heavy fine.

The new rules are “full of holes,” Quash Quarantine, a campaign group claiming to represent 500 travel companies, said on Sunday.  

“There are more holes than in a sieve in this unworkable, poorly thought(-out) and economically damaging government policy,” the group’s co-leader Paul Charles told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

Airlines, already having sustained huge losses as a result of international travel bans during the pandemic, have also slammed the new rules.

The UK government says the measure is aimed at preventing a second wave of infections entering from abroad. Britain has seen Europe’s highest death toll from the pandemic, with the government accused of responding too late.

14:55 Schools and universities in Afghanistan will remain closed for another three months as the nation’s number of confirmed cases continues to climb. 

Distance learning programs taught online and via radio and television broadcasts will continue to replace traditional classroom teaching for the time being, the Education Ministry said.

Afghanistan has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in recent days, prompting the government to place restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people and oblige people to wear masks in public.

Authorities recorded around 800 additional infections and 30 new deaths in the 24 hours to Sunday, bringing the country’s confirmed caseload to more than 20,000, with 357 deaths.

Decades of war have left Afghanistan with a fragile health system and limited testing capacity has led to fears the true figures could be far higher.

14:16 As other nations in Europe report sharply lower new cases, Russia has recorded nearly 9,000 new infections over the past day. The number is roughly in line with those reported over the past week as the spread of the virus may be reaching a plateau in Russia.

The national task force for the pandemic said 8,984 new cases were recorded, and 134 people died. New cases of the virus have hovered around 9,000 per day since the middle of May.

Russia has tallied 5,859 deaths overall, a number that health experts question as being much too low. Russian authorities say the low figure is due to their efficient work at handling the pandemic and method of counting the virus-linked dead that differs from other countries.

13:01 India has reported nearly 10,000 new cases, another single-day high for the country that comes a day before it reopens shopping malls, hotels and religious venues after a 10-week lockdown.

India has now surpassed Spain as the fifth hardest-hit country, with more than 247,000 confirmed cases of the virus, including nearly 7,000 deaths. New Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad are among India’s worst-hit cities. Six of the country’s 28 states account for 73% of the total cases.

India has already partially restored train services and domestic flights and allowed shops and manufacturing to reopen. E-commerce companies have started to deliver goods, including those considered nonessential, to places outside containment zones.

11:07 Chinese officials released a report praising China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which also addresses some of the criticism lobbied by the US administration.

The report says China “wasted no time” in sharing information on the virus, including its genetic sequence, with the World Health Organization and other countries. Previously, the AP news agency reported that China delayed for over a week before sharing the genome in January and identifying the virus in a foreign country.

National Health Commission head Ma Xiaowei said the AP’s story “seriously goes against the facts.”

“The Chinese government did not delay or cover up anything,” he said. In an apparent jab at the US, he said “certain countries go against the tide of history.”

“To disguise their inadequate response to COVID-19, they insanely smeared and slandered China… In response to such scapegoating practice, China will certainly fight back.”

10:02 While companies around the world race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, a US senator claimed there was evidence that China was trying to slow down or sabotage the West’s efforts.

“China does not want us… to do it first,” Republican senator Rick Scott told the BBC. “We have got to get this vaccine done. Unfortunately, we have evidence that communist China is trying to sabotage us or slow it down,” said the Florida-based politician.

He did not provide details on the evidence but said it came through the US intelligence community.

“What I really believe is whether England does it first or we do it first, we are going to share,” Scott added. “Communist China, they are not going to share.”

09:42 Dutch authorities have started culling mink at fur farms across the country after several coronavirus outbreaks were reported and at least two people were “very likely” infected through contract with the diseased animals. Over 10,000 animals in at least 10 farms are set to be exterminated in the coming week.

Animal rights activists sued against the measure, but their effort was rejected on Friday. The animals were killed by carbon monoxide, the officials said. The Netherlands has over 150 mink farms. However, mink farming was outlawed in the Netherlands in 2013, with farms told to close down by 2023.

08:27 Protests against police brutality across the UK will “undoubtedly” raise the risk of coronavirus cases, said the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“I support very strongly the argument that is being made by those who are protesting… but the virus itself doesn’t discriminate and gathering in large groups is temporarily against the rules precisely because it increases the risk of the spread of the virus.”

His comments come after thousands of protesters ignored government appeals to stay at home and gathered in London on Saturday, taking a knee and chanting the name of George Floyd, the victim of police brutality in the US. Small groups of protesters later clashed with the police, with at least 14 officer injured.

06:09 Sweden is facing a record economic drop despite not locking down like other European countries, SEB bank economist Olle Homgren told the AFP news agency.

“As in most of the world. there will be a record decline for the Swedish economy in Q2,” said Homgren.

The expert, who works for the influential Swedish financial group, also said that a rebound was likely in the second part of the year.

Health officials in the Scandinavian country have recommended social distancing and avoiding travel, but kept bars, restaurants, and most businesses open. The strategy drew attention from all across the world. By Sunday morning, Sweden had close to 43,900 confirmed infections and 4,656 deaths with the population of 10.3 million. The outbreak has hit the country more severe than any of its Scandinavian neighbors.

05:51 China reported its first non-imported coronavirus case in two weeks, alongside five more cases imported from abroad. The domestic infection was discovered on the island of Hainan off the country’s southern coast. While the current pandemic originated in China in late 2019, the authorities have managed to contain the spread of the disease domestically, with some 83,000 cases and 4,634 deaths reported in the country overall as of Sunday morning. The world’s most populous country is currently listed 18th by caseload according to the tally provided by Johns Hopkins University.

05:48 A key government website in Brazil no longer shows total deaths and coronavirus cases, with only the daily numbers still available. The authorities have decided to revamp the page with President Jair Bolsonaro claiming that the overall data “does not reflect the moment the country is in.”

Separately, a Bolsonaro ally suggested that some states have been sending false reports to the federal health ministry.

“The number we have today is fanciful or manipulated,” businessman Carlos Wizard, expected to take a high-level position in the ministry, told O Globo newspaper.

In turn, a council of state health secretaries slammed the “authoritarian, insensitive, inhumane, and unethical attempt to make the COVID-19  deaths invisible.”

According to the tally kept by the US-based Johns Hopkins Institute, Brazil has seen nearly 673,000 coronavirus cases and 35,930 deaths as of Sunday morning. Only the US has reported more coronavirus cases. The figures also make Brazil third heaviest-hit country in the world on the total number of fatalities, behind the US and the UK.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly dismissed fears of the pandemic, describing the coronavirus as “little flu.”

This week, the country also moved its daily coronavirus briefing to late in the evening. On Friday, Bolsonaro joked  the move would annoy the reporters working for the country’s most watched news program, Jornal Nacional, which would now be broadcast before the government releases its latest figures.

03:00 China would increase international cooperation if it succeeds in developing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the science and technology minister said.

China would make a vaccine a “global public good” when it is ready, the minister, Wang Zhigang, told a news conference in Beijing.

01:15: Brazil has reported 904 deaths and 27,075 cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, according to data released by the Health Ministry. Brazil now has 672,846 cases — the second-highest in the world after the United States. The data from the Health Ministry comes shortly after it was excluded for a short time from the global data statistics compiled by Johns Hopkins University after the government restricted the publication of a consolidated data on cases and deaths from the coronavirus.

The Health Ministry released partial data following this incident — by hiding the total number of infections since the virus first hit the country.

The news of Brazil fudging its coronavirus numbers comes at a time when the government, led by Jair Bolsonaro, is looking to ease lockdown measures. On Friday, the governor of Rio de Janeiro authorized the partial reopening of bars, restaurants, shopping malls and some sports activities.

01:04: Mexico reported 3,593 cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, taking the total number cases up to 113,619. The country reported 341 deaths from the virus in 24 hours.  About 13,511 people have now died from the coronavirus in Mexico.

00:49: Panama, which had rescinded its lockdown restrictions by gender, reimposed the order from June 8 in two provinces after a spike in cases. The country reported 541 infections on Saturday, taking the total count to just over 16,000 cases. Panama’s announcement comes just days after it relaxed a fierce lockdown imposed on March 25, which allowed people to go out just two hours a day, according to gender and personal identity number.

00:00 Catch up on Saturday’s developments here: Coronavirus latest: India overtakes Italy after latest spike

(DW)