September 28, 2020

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Coronavirus latest: WHO reports record daily increase in global cases

The World Health Organization has reported its highest single-day rise in new cases, as global testing efforts are ramped up. In Germany, the R-rate has spiked 60% to 2.88.

  • Brazil’s death count has passed 50,000
  • WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned against ‘politicizing’ the pandemic
  • Germany’s virus reproduction rate climbed significantly for a second day     
  • There are nearly 9 million confirmed infections globally and over 469,000 people have died

 All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

22:10 Brazil has reported over 20,000 new confirmed cases of the virus on Monday, bringing the country’s coronavirus tally to 1,106,470, according to the health ministry. The total number of deaths has risen to 51,271, from 50,617 a day earlier.

21:55 Close to 60 girls have tested positive for the virus at a state-run shelter for runaways and sexual abuse victims in India. Seven of those who tested positive were pregnant. 

“We have a total of 57 minor girls who have tested corona-positive at the shelter home,” said Ajeet Kumar, a probation officer in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district.

“Many girls in such facilities have past or ongoing cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, or instances of elopement and other matters.”

The shelter houses vulnerable girls under the age of 18. Those who tested positive were moved to hospitals, while the remaining residents and staff members have been quarantined.

Many are concerned about the mistreatment of vulnerable children in shelters, especially after a string of sex abuse scandals were reported over the past years. However, authorities said that the pregnancies were already known before the girls arrived at the shelter.

The new cases at the shelter have given rise to fears over the spread of the virus in institutional homes, which are often crowded with resources stretched thin. With over 425,000 confirmed cases, India is the fourth worst-hit country in the world.

21:25 Two more staff members of the Trump campaign have tested positive for the virus. Both were in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the US president’s rally on Saturday, a campaign official has confirmed.

“After another round of testing for campaign staff in Tulsa, two additional members of the advance team tested positive for the coronavirus,” spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. 

“These staff members attended the rally but were wearing masks during the entire event.”

Hours before the rally on Saturday, the campaign announced that six staffers had tested positive.

20:39 South Africa on Monday said it had over 100,000 coronavirus cases – the highest on the continent – and nearly 2,000 deaths.

“As of today, the cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa has breached the 100,000 mark at 101,590,” the health ministry said. The country recorded 61 new deaths in 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1,991.

South Africa accounts for more than half of Africa’s coronavirus infections, according to the World Health Organization. Nigeria and Ghana follow, with 20,000 and 14,000 cases respectively.

20:22 The reproduction rate (R-rate) in Germany has decreased to 2.76, following a major spike to 2.88 on Sunday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

This rate means that one person will infect, on average, between two and three other people. The increase is due to local clusters of the virus, and particularly due to an outbreak at a Tönnies slaughterhouse in North Rhine-Westphalia, which saw over 1,000 workers test positive. The local clusters that have impacted the daily R-rate were in Gütersloh, Warendorf, Magdeburg and Berlin-Neukölln.

“Since the number of cases in Germany is generally low, these local outbreaks heavily affect the value of the reproduction rate,” the RKI said in its report.

The R-rate is easily affected by short-term changes in case numbers, the institute added.

Since the middle of May, the RKI has also offered what it calls a seven-day R-rate, which refers to a longer period of time and is therefore subject to less daily fluctuations. According to the RKI, the current seven-day value is 1.83.

18:42 Saudi Arabia will only allow a “very limited number” of people already residing in the kingdom to perform the Hajj pilgrimage that begins in late July.

The pilgrimage will take place “this year with a very limited number of those who want to perform the Hajj from all nationalities residing in Saudi Arabia only,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

Over 2 million people perform the pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca every year, many of whom travel from abroad. Saudi Arabia has over 161,000 confirmed cases, and a death toll of 1,307.

18:28 Half of Chinese-Canadians say they have been the targets of racial slurs and other forms of discrimination since the start of the pandemic, according to a poll issued by the Angus Reid Institute.

The discrimination has left many feeling that their fellow citizens do not see them as “fully Canadian,” the institute said in a statement.

Attacks, threats and graffiti directed toward people of Chinese descent since the pandemic was declared amounts to a “shadow pandemic,” it added.

Sixty-one percent of the 516 total respondents said they changed their daily routines to avoid run-ins and harassment, while over half fear that their children will be bullied over the virus when they return to school. Forty-three percent reported being threatened or intimidated, while three in 10 said they were exposed to racist graffiti or messaging on social media.

More than 1.7 million Canadians, or 5% of the population, are of Chinese descent.

17:56 The French health ministry has reported 23 new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 29,663, and marking the first time in four days that the daily toll rose above 20. France, which is in the process of loosening virus-related restrictions, has over 197,000 confirmed cases.

17:20 The number of deaths due to coronavirus in the United States has passed 120,000, amid a spike in cases in several states.

More Americans have now died from COVID-19 than were killed fighting in World War One.

About 800 Americans have died on average each day in June, down from a peak of 2,000 per day in April. After weeks of declining, US coronavirus cases are on the rise again, with 12 states reporting record increases in cases last week.

One of the states to log such an increase was Oklahoma, where President Donald Trump told supporters at a rally that he had asked health officials to reduce coronavirus testing, as it leads to a higher number of cases being detected and more grim statistics.

Health experts say that an increase in testing has accounted for some, but not all of the growth in cases. The US has over 2.28 million confirmed cases.

16:21 Many countries that have been successful in tackling the pandemic are seeing a rise in cases due to religious events and other gatherings, said World Health Organization epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.

“Any opportunity that the virus has to take hold, it will. It is really important that countries are in a position to rapidly detect these cases, she told an online briefing. The WHO’s Mike Ryan also pointed to new clusters in South Korea, that were linked to clubs, shelters and amusement parks.

15:57 A Japanese computer used to fight coronavirus has taken the top spot as the world’s fastest, announced its developers on Monday.

The Fugaku supercomputer, developed by Japan’s Riken scientific research centre and firm Fujitsu, is 2.8 times faster than the second-ranked US-developed Summit supercomputer.

All supercomputers run around 1000 times faster than a normal computer.

Fugaku, which means Mount Fuji in Japanese, is expected to start full-time operation from April 2021, after six years of development.

Ahead of this, the computer has been assisting efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic. It has been running simulations on how droplets would spread on office spaces with partitions installed or packed trains with windows open.

“I hope that the cutting-edge IT developed for it will contribute to major advances on difficult social challenges such as COVID-19,” Satoshi Matsuoka, the head of Riken’s Center for Computational Science, said in a statement.

“#Fugaku has become No.1 in all the supercomputer performance benchmarks … Thanks for putting up the list!,” Matsuoka tweeted.

“I very much hope that Fugaku will show itself to be highly effective in real-world applications and will help to realize Society 5.0,” Naoki Shinjo, corporate executive officer of Fujitsu, said in a statement.

Summit has previously topped the speed-tables in the last four rankings by the Top500 – a list that is produced twice a year and rates supercomputers based on speed in a benchmark test set by experts from Germany and the US.

15:51 Portugal is set to reimpose some coronavirus restrictions in the capital Lisbon, Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced.

Costa said the measures, which restrict gatherings of more than 10 people and require that cafes and shops close at 8pm, would be introduced from Tuesday. Portugal has confirmed over 39,000 cases, and just over 1,500 deaths.

15:33 New York City is entering the second phase of easing coronavirus-related restrictions, with restaurants reopening and workers returning to offices.

People are now able to dine at restaurants, although only outdoors, and go to hair salons and barber shops. Meanwhile, workers are allowed to return to offices for the first time since the start of the pandemic, although many companies have decided to extend remote-working policies. Some retail shops will also be reopened, while real estate companies can resume their work.

“Phase one was a big deal, but phase two is really a giant step for this city. This is where most of our economy is,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told a press conference, adding that up to 300,000 people were expected to return to their jobs during the new phase.

The city has touted a four-step reopening plan, which will see theaters and museums remain closed until the fourth and final phase. The first phase began two weeks ago.

The city has been the hardest-hit in the US, with more than 22,000 confirmed COVID-19-relatd deaths. At least 100 coronavirus cases are still being recorded each day, according to city data. However, fatalities have been in the single digits in recent days and the number of daily infections has also been in decline.

15:07 Bulgaria is reintroducing a mandate on wearing masks in public spaces, following a rapid rise in the number of infections, a special government crisis team said.

Starting from June 23, people will be required to have their mouth and nose covered when in public, indoor spaces such as shopping centers, stores and cinemas, said Health Minister Kiril Ananiev.

That will be on top of an already-existing requirement to wear masks on public transportation and in pharmacies and hospitals.

A mask requirement was initially in place until mid-June, but was lifted. The Balkan country of 7 million people has confirmed 3,905 cases and a death toll of 199.

14:29 World leaders must not politicize the coronavirus pandemic, but unite to fight it, World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

He added that the pandemic is still accelerating and producing record daily increases in infections across the globe. It took over three months for the world to see 1 million virus infections, at the last 1 million cases have come in just eight days, Tedros said during a videoconference for the Dubai-based World Government Summit.

His comments come as the number of reported infections have spiked in Brazil, Iraq, India, and several US states.

“The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself, it’s the lack of global solidarity and global leadership,”  said Tedros, who has faced heavy criticism from US President Donald Trump. “We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world.”

 Tedros never directly mentioned Trump’s name, or the fact that Trump has threatened to pull the US’ support for the health agency. Trump has repeatedly criticized the WHO for its early response to the outbreak, and has accused the agency of participating in a cover-up of information about the virus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that, indeed, the world was not prepared. Globally, the pandemic is still
accelerating,” Tedros said.

Nearly 9 million people have been infected by the virus, and almost 469,000 have died worldwide.

14:05 United Kingdom health officials reported 15 new deaths, marking its lowest daily death toll since mid-March, and bringing the total number of fatalities to 42,647. The UK, the European country hardest hit by the virus, has almost 306,000 confirmed cases.

14:00 White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said there would be no second wave of coronavirus, and it is unlikely that there will be widespread shutdowns across the country.

“There are some hotspots. We’re on it,” Kudlow told CNBC. “We know how to deal with this stuff now. It’s come a long way since last winter and there is no second wave coming.”

The United States has almost 2.3 million confirmed cases and a death toll of nearly 120,000.

13:30 The Netherlands recorded on Monday 69 new infections and zero deaths, the first 24-hour period with no new deaths registered by the National Institute of Health (RIVM) since March 9, Dutch health authorities announced in their daily update.  

Cases in the Netherlands have declined since reaching a peak at the start of April. Lockdown measures gradually eased and have been phased out. Some social distancing and hygiene rules remain in place.

The densely populated northwestern European country has registered a total of 49,600 coronavirus cases with 250 deaths.

12:50 India has registered a record number of new infections and a death toll of more than 400 people in the past 24 hours. The 15,000 new cases brought India’s total to more than 425,000, right behind the US, Brazil and Russia, according to data from the federal health ministry.

Foreign embassies have warned their citizens in the country that hospitals might not have enough beds for them.

The German embassy notified citizens living in the capital, New Delhi that there was “little to no chance” of them securing treatment at hospitals for the coronavirus as well as other intensive care needs. The message was not an order to evacuate India but for German citizens to assess whether India was still safe for them depending on individual circumstances, Reuters reported, citing a diplomat.

Ireland has also suggested that citizens leave India due to the lack of available hospital beds in the country.

According to the Delhi state government, more than 7,000 hospital beds were available for coronavirus patients on Monday, mostly in public hospitals. However, patients in search of treatment have questioned the accuracy of such claims.

Nearly 14,000 people have now died from the disease since the first reported case in India in January. While the death toll in India remains low when compared to countries with similar numbers of infections, public health experts worry overworked hospitals will be unable to deal with a surge in cases.

11:11 South Korean health authorities said for the first time the country appeared to be undergoing a “second wave” of the coronavirus, with the latest cluster of cases concentrated in the capital, Seoul.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), said it had become clear that a holiday weekend in early May marked the beginning of a “second wave” of the virus. The KCDC had previously said the country’s first wave had never really ended.

Greater Seoul, a densely populated area, had previously reported few cases.

11:00 Kazakhstan will impose a two-day lockdown in the northern city of Kostanay and four nearby towns next weekend after a spike in new cases, the Kazakh newspaper Kostanayskiye Novosti reported, citing local authorities.

Between June 27 and June 28, residents of Kostanay and the four towns, including mining hubs Rudny and Lisakovsk, will only be authorized to leave their homes for work or urgent matters.

With a population of 19 million, the Central Asian country has seen COVID-19 infections increase more than five-fold to about 28,000 since lifting a nationwide lockdown in mid-May.

Last weekend, authorities temporarily closed shopping malls, markets, parks and public transit in the country’s major cities. Neighboring Kyrgyzstan has said it would adopt the same approach.

08:50 Japan is close to lifting travel restrictions with Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, and New Zealand, the country’s minister of foreign affairs has announced. 

“As soon as we are ready, we wish to phase in partial travel on a trial basis,” Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi said in press conference. 

After speaking with Thailand, “it was confirmed that we would coordinate to build a system which would make it possible for essential business human resources to travel between our two countries,” he said. 

As for Vietnam, “we agreed that we would partially, and in a staged manner, relax restrictions on travel between our two countries.”

Japan would continue using diplomatic channels to speak with Australia and New Zealand to coordinate when travel restrictions could be lifted, he said. 

“We do not think it will take the much time,” he said.

He emphasized that it was important that international travel be phased in partially. 

08:05 Russia has reported 7,600 new coronavirus infections, bringing the country’s case total to 592,280, the third largest national figure in the world. 

According to Russia’s coronavirus task force, 95 people died in the past 24 hours. This brought the official death toll to 8,206. 

The country has reported a gradual decline in new daily infections after easing lockdown restrictions earlier this month.

Russia’s low fatality rate relative to the number of overall cases has prompted some to question the death toll figures.

07:40 Hospitals in the EU are preparing for a second wave of coronavirus infections by training reserve forces and becoming more mobile. 

“We need a health army,” said Maurizio Cecconi, president-elect of the European Society for Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM) and head of the intensive care unit in a hospital in Milan. 

“If there is a another big wave, we should be prepared to send in doctors and nurses from nearby Italian regions. This was not sufficient when the first wave happened.” 

Acting president of the ESICM Jozef Kesecioglu said that many doctors and nurses in the first wave received only a crash course in dealing with COVID-19 patients and that they should now be trained in more detail.

07:02 Abu Dhabi has lifted restrictions to permit movement between its cities for residents starting on Tuesday, while at the same time extending entry restrictions into the emirate for non-residents, the country’s media office has reported. 

In a tweet, the office said that Abu Dhabi — the largest and wealthiest member of the Untied Arab Emirates federation — had extended a ban on entering the emirate without a permit for one more week, but would allow residents to leave freely.

06:55 German Health Minister Jens Spahn called for clear, regional action to contain a recent coronavirus outbreak at a German meat processing plant to avoid the infection spreading to the rest of the country. 

“Now it is necessary to immediately contain every regional outbreak and interrupt the infection chains,” Spahn told German newspaper the Rheinische Post. It was urgent that quarantine orders be implemented, he said. 

“Only with decisive action on the ground in East Westphalia can the spread of the disease to the whole of Germany be prevented,” he said, adding that it was good that the state government in North Rhine-Westphalia had made the outbreak its top priority. 

Around 1,330 employees at the Tönnies meat processing plant in the district of Gütersloh have tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The plant has closed its doors and all 7,000 local employees have been ordered to quarantine. 

On Sunday, the state government had announced it would not institute a lockdown, but cautioned that it remained a possibility should the number of infections continue to mount.

06:00 Remote Mongolia will elect a new parliament on Wednesday amid the pandemic, with controversy over candidates flouting lockdown rules and thousands of people stranded overseas and unable to vote. Some 2,000 polling stations have been set up around the country well over double the size of France with a population of just 3 million. 

Despite logging just 200 confirmed cases, mostly imported from Russia, and no fatalities to date, Mongolia closed its borders in March. Schools and universities remain closed. However, both of the country’s two main parties have broken the rules on gatherings of 30 or more people for their campaign rallies. Bans on door-to-door campaigning also failed to have an impact.

For around 8,000 Mongolians currently outside the country, voting could be a challenge. Those returning from abroad go into a five-week quarantine, postal votes are not an option. Although the government set up some charter flights to return some stranded citizens, it did not do so on a large scale, saying there was not enough room in quarantine facilities.

The powerful post of president is not up for grabs in the parliamentary elections.

03:40 Germany has reported 537 new cases of coronavirus and 3 people have died in the last 24 hours, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control agency.

The new figures push the total number of infections to over 190,000, with nearly 9,000 fatalities.

Although the numbers are relatively low, Germany saw a spike in its reproduction rate at the weekend as fresh clusters were reported across the country. Several housing blocks are currently under strict quarantine.

02:33 South Korea has reported 17 new cases, 12 of which were from the Seoul metropolitan area. Six of the new cases were linked to foreign arrivals.

The country has been trying to control a resurgence of the virus in the densely populated capital region. After seeing 40 to 50 new cases per day over the past two weeks, Sunday was the first time the number of new infections dropped to the teens in nearly a month.

The recent rise in cases has raised concerns that South Korea might be heading towards another major outbreak, after containing the first wave of infections.

02:12 China reported 18 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, nine of which were in the capital, Beijing. Seven asymptomatic cases were also reported, which China doesn’t count as confirmed cases.

Local authorities in Beijing are imposing restrictions and taking measures to stop the spread of the virus after a recent increase in cases.

01:38 Australia is attempting to isolate six suburbs of Melbourne amid a flare-up in coronavirus cases. People in the affected areas were warned by Victoria state government to avoid leaving their suburbs and outsiders were urged not to enter the areas from Monday onward, in order to avoid a return to strict lockdown measures.

Some 160 new cases were recorded in Melbourne after weeks of very low new infection figures. Officials say most new cases were among families who had reunited after months apart. Meeting sizes are still limited and social distancing measures are still in place.

01:03 Mexico has reported 5,343 new infections and 1,044 deaths within 24 hours, the Health Ministry has announced. The total number of infections now stands at 180,545 and 21,825 people have died.

Mexican authorities estimate that the real number of infected people may be far higher than the official number of cases.

00:49 German Health Minister Jens Spahn has called for the German parliament to review the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it will be a good idea if the health committee along with experts carry out an evaluation, so we can learn when we are faced with the next comparable situation,” Spahn told Monday’s edition of the Neue Berliner Redaktionsgesellschaft.

He called for the findings of such an evaluation to be implemented rapidly, citing the restructuring of hospitals as a key example. He praised the high number of intensive care beds that Germany had before the pandemic, but said there could be room for improvement with the way hospitals worked together.

00:05 The World Health Organization has reported its highest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases, with roughly 183,000. The greatest tally was from Brazil, which had 54,771 new infections, followed by the US, which reported 36,617. India reported over 15,400 cases.

Experts say the rising numbers could be due to factors including increased infections and more widespread testing.

The death tally increased by 4,743, more than two-thirds of which came from the Americas.

ed/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa) (DW)