September 21, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: Global cases pass 6 million

Brazil has recorded a record number of new COVID-19 cases within 24 hours. Authorities are concerned that ongoing protests across the US will lead to fresh outbreaks of coronavirus.

  • The global death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 370,000
  • US President Donald Trump has delayed the G7 summit, due to take place next month by videoconference
  • Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, reopens after a more than two months
  • Brazil now has the world’s fourth-largest death toll and lags only the US in number of infections

All times in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

23:05 Brazil has recorded 16,409 new cases of the virus, taking the country’s total number of infections past half-a-million. The Health Ministry also reported 480 new fatalities, raising the death toll to 29,314.

Brazil has the highest number of coronavirus cases globally after the United States. Its death toll is the fourth highest in the world, after the US, UK and Italy.

With new numbers reported on Sunday, Latin America and the Caribbean have recorded over a million cases of the virus, according to a tally by news agency AFP.

22:55 The World Bank warned that the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic will cause poverty to double in the occupied West Bank

The Palestinian economy is set to shrink between 7.6 and 11%, the World Bank said, representing a severe downturn after 1% growth in 2019. 

Despite low COVID-19 infection rates, with three deaths out of 450 cases registered among some 5 million residents in Gaza and the West Bank, the lockdown has hurt Palestinians.  

Loss of income and increased spending will likely cause the Palestinian Authority’s financial situation “to become increasingly difficult,” the World Bank said. 

The government’s financial gap “could increase alarmingly” from $800 million (€719 million) last year to $1.5 billion this year. 

“At this point, it is not possible to say how long it will take for the economy to recover from the current containment measures,” the bank said. 

The number of households living below the poverty line is expected to increase this year from 14 to 30% in the West Bank, largely due to Palestinians being unable to cross into Israel for work. 

Meanwhile, the borders of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007, remain closed to all but a few returning Gazans, who are quarantined on arrival. 

The poverty rate in Gaza was already high, 53%, before the pandemic. The World Bank predicts this figure to rise to 64% this year.

22:15 The US has delivered 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to Brazil, to help the South American country fight COVID-19. The antimalarial drug has not yet been proven to be effective against the coronavirus. 

President Donald Trump has publicly called for the use of HCQ, saying that he is taking the drug himself to protect from the virus. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro shares Trump’s view on the effectiveness of HCQ. 

“HCQ will be used as a prophylactic to help defend Brazil’s nurses, doctors, and healthcare professionals against the virus. It will also be used as a therapeutic to treat Brazilians who become infected,” the White House said in a statement. 

“We are also announcing a joint United States-Brazilian research effort that will include randomized controlled clinical trials,” it added. The US also announced it would send some 1,000 ventilators to Brazil.  

Bolsonaro has come under fire for his handling of coronavirus. His downplaying of the pandemic caused him to clash with the country’s state governors and led to the sacking of two health ministers. 

Brazil is now the epicenter of South America’s outbreak with nearly 500,000 confirmed cases. 

Despite a death toll of nearly 30,000 people, Bolsonaro has continued railed against the “tyranny” of lockdowns and even called for country’s soccer season to resume. 

19:45 Turkey has opened two hospitals to treat coronavirus patients as the country’s daily number of COVID-19 infections fell to its lowest since the pandemic’s peak. Turkey recorded 839 cases over the previous 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted Sunday evening.

“Thank God, we prevented the spread of the pandemic even without needing the additional capacity we created here,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said as he opened a 1,008-bed hospital, built over 45 days on the site of the former Ataturk airport in Istanbul.

The country has so far recorded a total of 163,942 COVID-19 cases since the first infection was reported on March 11. Some 4,540 people have lost their lives by contracting the disease.

18:49 Chile has surpassed 1,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, the South American country’s health ministry reported on Sunday. Most of the deaths from the pandemic – 827 – occurred in May, as the virus continues to spread quickly in the country.

“We know we are in the most difficult weeks,” Undersecretary of Health Paula Daza said in a televised address. “We are making decisions and taking measures every day to contain the spread.”

Chile has so far registered 99,688 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 1,054 of them fatal, according to the health ministry.

18:19 Bosnia’s state court has ordered the release of a regional prime minister and two other men suspected of corruption in connection with the import of defective ventilators for coronavirus patients.

Turning down a prosecution request for the three to be detained for 30 days, the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina said in a statement that detention was not necessary for the smooth operation of the criminal procedure.

Fadil Novalic, prime minister of the autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation, had been held since Thursday. Also released were Fahrudin Solak, an official in charge of procuring equipment to combat the outbreak, and Fikret Hodzic, owner of a raspberry processing firm that procured the ventilators.

Prosecutors have accused the three men of abuse of office, taking bribes and money laundering, while not formally charging them. Solak and Hodzic were additionally accused of forging official documents. The three men all denied any wrongdoing.

17:00 Cafes and restaurants in Paris were allowed to reopen on Sunday – only if they host guests outdoors – as the French capital gradually eases the coronavirus restrictions. Eateries may use more space on the streets in order to host people outside, Mayor Anne Hidalgo told Le Parisien newspaper.

Hidalgo also reopened the square in front of Paris’ iconic Notre Dame cathedral on Sunday, more than a year after a fire destroyed its roof. The repair work has continued after an interruption due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Paris was badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with France recording a high number of deaths.

France reports 31 new coronavirus deaths on Sunday – the 11th consecutive daily increase below 100. As of Sunday, around 29,000 people in France have died from COVID-19.

16:21 Sweden has reported zero coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, for the first time since March 13, the country’s health authorities said on Sunday. Last week, the Scandinavian country reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe per capita over a seven-day-period.

In previous weekends, Swedish authorities reported a low death toll only for a steeper rise to return in the following days when the reporting catches up, the health authority spokesman said.

Sweden has faced both criticism and praise for taking a more relaxed approach to lockdown measures than most other countries. No stay-at-home order was imposed and many stores remained open at the height of the outbreak.

15:52 Starting from June 2, Abu Dhabi will introduce a one-week ban on traffic to and between its main cities, the local government’s media office said on Sunday.

The restrictions, which are being imposed to check the coronavirus spread, include a ban on entering and exiting the emirate as a whole, it said on Twitter.

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the seven-member United Arab Emirates. The city has so far reported over 34,000 COVID-19 cases and 264 deaths from the disease.

15:37 Mosques have reopened in Saudi Arabia – except the holy city of Mecca – more than two months after congregational prayers were banned under a lockdown to contain the coronavirus spread in the kingdom.

Worshippers, however, must follow stringent social distancing rules, with a mandatory facial mask and restrictions on ablution (cleansing ritual before the prayer).

“Worshippers rushed to the home of God to perform their obligatory duty (prayers) after the reopening of mosques,” the ministry of Islamic affairs said on Twitter.

Domestic flights also resumed on Sunday, with state media saying around 100 of them were scheduled.

The kingdom has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the Gulf region – more than 85,000 infections and 503 deaths from COVID-19.

A suspension of the “umrah” pilgrimage will remain in place until further notice, the interior ministry said.

15:24 British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has defended his government’s “careful” loosening of the coronavirus restrictions.

“We are confident that this is the right step to be taking at this moment in time,” Raab told Sky News. “We are taking those steps very carefully, based on the science but also based on our ability now to monitor the virus.”

British scientists and health experts have criticized Prime Minister Boris Johnson for easing a 10-week-long lockdown, with several saying it was a premature and risky move.

With Britain experiencing one of the world’s highest death rates from COVID-19, the government says the lockdown is being eased “cautiously” to help restart the economy.

The UK’s coronavirus death toll has risen by 113 to 38,489, the government said on Sunday.

14:31 Emirates airline says it has made some staff redundant due to the impact of the pandemic. Two company sources told Reuters that trainee pilots and cabin crew had been affected.

“We reviewed all possible scenarios in order to sustain our business operations, but we have come to the conclusion that we unfortunately, have to say goodbye to a few of the wonderful people that worked with us,” the airline said in a statement.

The state-owned airline, which has around 60,000 employees and is part of the Emirates Group, did not say how many staff had been affected by the job cuts.

Emirates said on May 10 that a Dubai government commitment to provide it with “equity injections” would allow it to preserve its skilled workforce.

Emirates Group’s airport services subsidiary DNATA has also laid off some staff and placed thousands of others on unpaid leave.

13:57 The developers of the German government’s coronavirus contact-tracing app, which is to be made available by mid-June, have made the complete source code public to fulfill their pledge to keep the development as transparent as possible.

“We have published all the remaining … source code for the app on the developer platform GitHub,” said a statement from Deutsche Telekom and SAP AG. It said that all code for the app was now available to be viewed by interested experts. More than 65,000 software experts had already looked at the code published previously and made suggestions for improvement, the statement said.

The proposal to use such an app to help combat the spread of COVID-19 has met with criticism, with opponents saying that it constitutes a form of illegal surveillance. However, the app, which warns users if they have been in dangerous contact with an infected person, does not give away any location information, and all data is anonymized and stored on users’ devices rather than a centralized server.

13:23 As the English Premier League prepares to resume matches on June 17, one player insists the move is “financially driven.” Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings says players are being treated as “commodities in the game.”

“The motives are possibly 100% financially driven rather than integrity driven,” the England international told Britain’s Mail of Sunday newspaper.

“I am all for playing again because we have no other choice. As players, we were the last people to be consulted about Project Restart and that is because of where we fall in football’s order of priority.”

British authorities suspended all football matches on March 13 due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has, so far, killed over 38,000 people in the country, with more than 274,000 reported cases.

Premier League has pushed on with its “Project Restart” after consent from the British government on Saturday.

Germany has already resumed Bundesliga matches, and Spain’s La Liga is set to restart on June 11.

European clubs have registered huge economic losses as a result of football suspension.

Tyrone Mings is among a handful of players who have spoke out against the return of the EPL

13:00 Pakistan has reported 88 deaths from the novel coronavirus over the past 24 hours – the highest single-day tally for the South Asian country. A record 3,039 COVID-19 cases were also reported on May 30.

COVID-19 cases have seen a huge spike in Pakistan since the Eid celebrations last week, with officials reporting 2,636 new infections on May 28. On Friday, the virus claimed 78 lives.

Overall, the Muslim-majority nation has recorded over 70,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 1,500 related deaths despite a low testing rate.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan lifted lockdown restrictions earlier this month to revive the country’s economy. Khan’s administration has been slammed for not imposing a strict countrywide lockdown to contain the virus spread and downplaying the pandemic’s threat.

12:45 Thailand’s parliament has approved a stimulus package amounting to nearly $60 billion (€54 billion) to help the Southeast Asian country’s economy back on its feet after it was battered by the coronavirus crisis.

Some $17.3 billion are to go to farmers and the informal workers who normally earn their livelihoods as street vendors, masseurs and bar waiters. Another $1.4 billion was to go toward “health care readiness,” the government said, without giving details.

The opposition has voiced fears that the money could end up in the hands of specific groups rather than benefiting ordinary people. This has been denied by the government, which says there will be careful screening before aid is allotted.

Thailand’s economy, the second-biggest in the region after Indonesia, has been particularly hard-hit amid the pandemic, as it is heavily reliant on tourism, a sector that has come to a virtual standstill worldwide. It is expected to contract by 6-7% in 2020. The kingdom has so far reported some 3,000 cases of coronavirus infections, with a death toll of 57. Just four cases were confirmed on Sunday, all imported from overseas.

10:47 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will ask parliament to extend Spain’s lockdown measures for another two weeks, newspaper El Pais reported. After June 21, he reportedly said the state will no longer restrict citizen’s movements. The death toll increased by just four on Sunday, bringing the total deaths to 27,125 people. There were 271 more infections, bringing total cases to 239,228.

Spain imposed a state of emergency on March 14, enforcing one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns. Children were confined to homes, adults could only leave for food, medical care and jobs unable to be done remotely. Restrictions have been gradually eased.

10:29 Pope Francis has warned against both pessimism and narcissism amid the coronavirus crisis, and also called on his church to retain solidarity.

In his remarks made during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican to mark Pentecost Sunday, Francis said he had heard many people lamenting that nothing would be the same again following the pandemic. The pope said such thinking meant that “the one thing that certainly does not return is hope.”

He also criticized what he said was a tendency “to think only of our own needs … and to not admit our own frailties and mistakes” amid the pandemic. He also touched on rifts between conservative and progressive elements within the Catholic Church, telling the faithful to focus on the things they had in common and to bear in mind that all were “children of God.”

The Mass was held before only a few dozen faithful wearing masks and sitting one to a pew as part of measures to stem the spread of COVID-19. The basilica has been reopened to tourists, but only a selected few are allowed to attend services led by the pope to avoid crowding. Italy has been one of the countries worst hit by the current pandemic.

09:24 There have been more than 8,000 new coronavirus cases reported in India, another record high for the country. There are now 182,143 confirmed infections, with 5,164 deaths. In the past 24 hours, 192 people died, according to the health ministry. 

Thus far, fatalities have centered on the states of Maharashtra, the financial hub, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. More than 60% of cases have come from those two states.

Modi, in his monthly radio address, said India was faring better than most countries, with a fatality rate of 2.8%. However, there are mounting concerns about the spread of the pandemic as millions of migrant laborers return home from cities during the world’s longest lockdown.

India is due to largely lift containment measures in June, except in high-risk zones.

09:10 The internationally acclaimed pianist Igor Levit on Sunday finished a marathon overnight 16-hour piano performance aimed at drawing attention to the plight of musicians and artists affected by the coronavirus restrictions. The 33-year-old played the piece “Vexations” by French composer Eric Satie (1866-1925), considered to be one of the longest pieces ever written, in a Berlin studio, with the performance streamed via several channels.

Shortly after completing his performance, Levit tweeted: “Done. Done. Happy. Fulfilled. And so damned high.”

Musicians in Germany have been hit hard by pandemic restrictions that have caused the cancelation of concerts for months on end. Some orchestras have been streaming concerts without live listeners, but many freelancers are currently struggling to earn a livelihood.

08:09 US health experts say they fear the ongoing massive protests against police brutality could unleash a second wave of coronavirus outbreaks. They say that many people carrying the virus without symptoms could easily infect others at gatherings where protesters are packed close together. Although many protesters wear masks, they are still at risk of being infected, as the masks protect others more than the wearers themselves.

In Europe, French police on Saturday dispersed a large march in Paris by unions protesting at conditions for workers in the country illegally, citing the “health risks that such an event is likely to generate.” In Hong Kong, where a ban on gatherings of more than eight people has been extended to June 4, police have also broken up larger protests in recent weeks using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. They have also cited health concerns but have been accused of using social distancing rules as a pretext for breaking up the anti-government rallies.

08:00 160 people have been quarantined in the German town of Göttingen after a large coronavirus outbreak that was linked to private parties. The figure includes 57 children and adolescents. They were quarantined after 35 people tested positive following large family gatherings in the university town in Lower Saxony last weekend. A 67-year-old man has been hospitalized in a serious condition. Most of those infected are members of the same extended family, local media reported. Local media reported that the outbreak was linked to one man who broke quarantine restrictions.

07:06 China’s factory activity expanded more slowly in May as the country attempted to restore its economy. Factories in China have been reopening their doors, but the worldwide economic slowdown caused by the pandemic has weighed heavily on Chinese exports.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a key gauge of Chinese factory activity, was at 50.6 points in May. This was still above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction. But it is slightly down from 50.8 in April and 52.0 in March, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

NBS senior statistician Zhao Qinghe said the underwhelming result was due to weakness in China’s imports and exports, saying “the epidemic situation and economic situation globally remain severe and complex, and foreign market demand is still shrinking”.

The Chinese economy contracted 6.8% in the first quarter, compared to the previous year — the first  contraction since quarterly records began. Analysts say it will be months until economic activity returns to pre-crisis levels.

06:56 An engineer who flew back to China as part of a program run by the German Chamber of Commerce has tested positive for coronavirus, Chinese authorities said on Sunday. Officials in the city of Tianjin said the 34-year-old was asymptomatic and had been taken to a central quarantine facility. Most of the 200 people who were on the same flight are anyway undergoing two weeks of quarantine at a Tianjin hotel.

The program has been organized to return representatives of German industry and their relatives to China after they were stuck in Germany because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The next flight will depart for Shanghai on Wednesday. Up to 2,500 people have expressed an interest in returning to China through the program.

06:34 The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem has reopened after being shut down in March as part of coronavirus lockdown measures. The move comes as cases of COVID-19 decline in both Israel and the Palestinian territories. The dozens of worshippers who came to prayers on Sunday were still obliged to wear masks to protect themselves and others.

The site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is holy both to Muslims and Jews and has often been a flashpoint for violence. On the first day of the Islamic Eid holiday on May 23, Palestinian worshippers tried to enter the compound by breaking through barriers. Clashes ensued when Israeli security forces intervened. Normally, tens of thousands of people worship there on Eid al-Fitr.

Israel has reported more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19, with a death toll of 284. The occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, which together are home to some 5 million people, have confirmed fewer than 500 infections and only three deaths.

03:30 South Korea has reported 27 new cases of coronavirus, including 21 in Seoul. Authorities are eager to avoid a second widespread outbreak after new clusters have been linked to warehouse workers and clubgoers.

Twelve of the cases were international arrivals.

Concerns are mounting about the effects of imported cases in a country that managed to keep the death toll below 300 with aggressive tracking and tracing. Millions of children are returning to school and social distancing guidelines have largely been eased.

Meanwhile in China, only two new cases were reported, both imported. The new cases see China’s total number of cases exceed 83,000. China has largely cut international flights, but a special chartered flight of employees from German companies such as Volkswagen arrived from Frankfurt on Saturday.

03:09 Germany reported 286 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, according to figures from the Robert Koch Institute. The country now has a total of 181,482 cases, with some 8,500 deaths.

01:25 Jerusalem’s Al-Asqa mosque has reopened for the first time in two months, AFP reported. The mosque compound is the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

Worshippers wearing protective masks were allowed in during the early hours of Sunday morning for the first prayers of the day.

The mosque closed its doors in March as Israel introduced measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.

01:00 Lawmakers and health experts are concerned that ongoing protests across the United States will lead to fresh outbreaks of coronavirus. Protests sparked by the killing in police custody of unarmed black man George Floyd have seen thousands take to the streets.

Social media footage shows social distancing measures being ignored and many people not wearing face masks.

“If you were protesting last night, you probably need to get a COVID test this week,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has said. “There is still a pandemic in America that’s killing black and brown people at higher numbers.”

The US recorded 960 deaths from coronavirus on Saturday, bringing its total to 103,759 since the pandemic began.

Read moreGeorge Floyd killing: Trump threatens to call in military as US cities see fresh protests

00:08 The number of deaths in Latin America has passed 50,000, as Brazil marks a record rise in the number of cases. Chile, Mexico and Peru are among the countries struggling to contain the rise in infections.

Experts say Latin America is the new epicenter of COVID-19.

00:00 You can catch up on Saturday’s updates here