December 3, 2020

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A family wearing masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus visits a market in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Coronavirus latest: WHO urges Pakistan to lock down

The World Health Organization is urging Pakistan to impose a two-week intermittent lockdown to stem a spike in new cases. Germany will end its border controls for most Europeans on June 15.

  • The WHO recommends that Pakistan reimpose “intermittent lockdowns,” stating the country does not meet any conditions for lifting restrictions
  • Germany will end its border controls for all EU citizens on June 15, while extending travel warnings for 160 non-EU countries
  • Across the world, there are more than 7.2 million confirmed cases and over 410,000 deaths

All times in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)

22:06 US President Donald Trump has said he’s planning to hold his first rally since the start of the pandemic next Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He’s also planning events in Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Trump’s rallies typically draw tens of thousands of people, but have not taken place since March 2. Meanwhile, a Trump campaign spokesperson tweeted a movie trailer-style video on Wednesday that said “This month, we’re back.”

Coronavirus has killed over 114,000 people in the US, and infected over 2 million.

20:20 A majority of the members of the Rio de Janeiro state legislature have voted to commence impeachment proceedings against Governor Wilson Witzel for alleged corruption related to the buying and selling of COVID-19 equipment.

Witzel faces 14 motions of impeachment, the majority surrounding the suspected overpricing on purchases of ventilators and other medical supplies to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.

19:15 Prosecutors are to question Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, as well as the country’s health and interior ministers, on Friday over how the government dealt with the outbreak.

The prosecutors from Bergamo, the city in the Lombardy region worst hit by the novel coronavirus, have launched an investigation into the the government’s handling of a virus known to have claimed more than 34,000 lives in Italy.

The prosecutors are focusing on why a red zone was not imposed around the towns of Nembro and Alzano in February after some argued the government reacted too slowly. The local and national governments have blamed each other.

“The things I have to say to the prosecutor, I will say to the prosecutor. I don’t want to anticipate,” he said. “I will conscientiously set out all the facts of which I have knowledge. I am not at all worried.”

“All investigations are welcome. The citizens have the right to know and we have the right to reply.”

17:00 The World Health Organization has again moderated comments made earlier in the week by its technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, regarding the likelihood of transmission from those who are asymptomatic.

“In Monday’s press briefing, my colleague and friend Dr Maria Van Kerkhove answered a question about the extent to which COVID-19 is being spread by people who don’t show symptoms,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Since early February, we have said that asymptomatic people can transmit COVID-19, but that we need more research to establish the extent of asymptomatic transmission.”

Tedros continued: “I have talked about humility a number of times over the last few months and I think it’s fair to say that this microscopic virus has humbled all of us. By definition, a new virus means that we’re learning as we go. We have learned a lot, but there’s still a lot we don’t know.”

“But here’s what we do know: that finding, isolating and testing people with symptoms, and tracing and quarantining their contacts, is the most critical way to stop COVID-19 transmission.”

13:45 The Netherlands is planning to deliver 4,000 new-season herrings, a delicacy known locally as “maatjes,” to German medics as thanks for their help treating Dutch patients. The salty delicacies will go to Münster clinic staff who coordinated Dutch transfers to German hospitals. 

Among others, Angela Merkel has a soft spot for the salty sea dwellers

13:10 The 2020 Italian MotoGP, due to take place at the Mugello Circuit, has been canceled, the sport’s governing body and promoter announced on Wednesday.

A fixture on the Grand Prix motorcycling calendar for almost three decades, the race becomes the eighth to fall by the wayside due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the cancellation of Mugello,” the CEO of promoter Dorna Sports Carmelo Ezpeleta said in a statement. “Sadly, we were not able to find a solution to the logistical and operational issues resulting from the pandemic and rearranged calendar to enable us to visit the venue this season.”

MotoGP organizers are still hopeful of starting the season in Jerez, Spain, on July 19 — the season was originally scheduled to start on March 8 in Qatar.

11:12 Indonesia posted a record single-day increase of 1,241 infections, shortly after the country began a program of restriction easing.

Last week, the capital Jakarta opened mosques for the first time in nearly three months, as its governor announced the gradual reopening of shuttered offices, restaurants, shopping malls and tourist attractions. Similar measures are being eased across the archipelago — home to nearly 270 million people.

The country’s COVID-19 task force said the surge was due to more effective monitoring: “The increase in new infections is the result of aggressive tracing.”

But some health experts are calling for a reversal of easing policies. “Regions that are planning to lift restrictions, or are already doing so, should revisit that decision,” said Panji Fortuna Hadisoemarto, an epidemiologist at Padjadjaran University. “If the number of cases keep increasing in Jakarta for the next few days, I think the administration has to pull the emergency brake and bring back restrictions,” he added.

Latest figures for Indonesia shows more than 34,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1,959 deaths. But the country has one of the lowest testing rates in the world and real toll is believed to be much higher.

10:58 The rising number of anti-vaxxers in Germany is causing concern for the EU Commission. Vaccinations appear to be the next battleground from the spreading of false information, said Vice President Vera Jourova. She quoted a public opinion poll that showed that the number of people in Germany who were prepared to have a vaccination against coronavirus had decreased by 20% within two months — during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The survey, conducted by market research company Kantar, found 67% of those asked said they would “definitely” or “probably” accept a vaccination against coronavirus, when one is developed.

10:30 The EU will recommend its member states begin to reopen their external frontiers to travelers from outside the bloc from July 1, said its diplomatic chief Josep Borrell.

The decision on easing restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus rests with national capitals, but Borrell said Brussels would suggest “a gradual and partial lifting” of the ban.

10:05 Germany will end its border controls on June 15, meaning EU citizens will once again be allowed to travel into the country without being stopped, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced.

Border controls with Switzerland, France, Austria and Denmark will be lifted on Monday, Seehofer said, adding that the government would reconsider its plans if the COVID-19 situation worsens.

Quarantine orders will also largely be lifted, although each of Germany’s 16 states can determine its own quarantine regulations. State leaders and the federal government agreed that travelers will have to enter a 14-day quarantine if there are more than 50 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants within a week.

Neighboring Austria will also lift coronavirus travel restrictions on people arriving from 31 EU countries as of June 16. This includes lifting checks at its Italian border, said Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg. The lifting of restrictions will not apply to Britain, Sweden, Spain and Portugal, Schallenberg said. These countries have been hard-hit by the virus and Sweden’s government decided against imposing a lockdown. Austria will continue to advise against travel to Lombardy, Italy’s hardest-hit region, with a partial travel warning, added Schallenberg.

“Today we are taking a big step in the direction of the new travel normality and the restoration of freedom of movement in Europe,” tweeted Schallenberg, welcoming the decision.

09:35 The German government extended travel warnings for 160 countries until the end of August, according to a Cabinet decision reached on Wednesday.

The travel warnings, which do not include European Union countries, advises against “non-essential tourist travel” due to the risks posed by the coronavirus.

The Foreign Ministry decision allows for some exceptions to be made for individual countries if the spread of the virus has been curbed. The decision to lift individual travel warnings will take into consideration the number of new COVID-19 cases, as well as the testing capacity, hygiene rules and the health system capacity in each country.

Repatriation possibilities and safety measures for tourists will also be considered.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued travel warnings for around 200 countries in mid-March. The government agreed to lift warnings for 31 EU countries last week, instead putting in travel guidelines informing tourists about the coronavirus situation in each country.

09:00 France plans to end government powers brought in to deal with the coronavirus pandemic on July 10, said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s office. The government will retain the ability to curb gatherings and freedom of movement for four months.

The steps were being taken “in view of the positive evolution of the health situation at this stage,” adding that the state of health emergency “must remain an exceptional case,” said Reuters, citing the office.

France passed state of health emergency legislation in March, giving the government the power to restrict civil liberties by decree without parliamentary approval. But recent data appears to show the coronavirus pandemic is slowing in the country. France’s coronavirus death toll stands at 29,296, the fifth-highest in the world. On Tuesday, the number of people in intensive care fell below 1,000 for the first time since March 19.

08:30 The global economy could contract 6.0% this year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is forecasting in its latest outlook.

The prognosis is based on if the pandemic being kept under control. This scenario would see the economy bouncing back with 5.2% growth in 2021.

Under another scenario factoring in a second wave of contagion this year — which the intergovernmental organization said is equally likely — the global economy could contract 7.6% before growing only 2.8% next year.

 “By the end of 2021, the loss of income exceeds that of any previous recession over the last 100 years outside wartime, with dire and long-lasting consequences for people, firms and governments,” OECD chief economist Laurence Boone wrote in an introduction to the refreshed outlook, entitled “World Economy on a Tightrope.”

In a previous report in March, by when the outbreak had hit China but not yet the world’s other large economies, the OECD slashed its global growth forecast by half a percentage point to 2.4% — this would have been the worst performance since the 2008 financial crisis.

07:58 Hungary and Croatia will lift restrictions on cross-border travel from Friday as the novel coronavirus pandemic has subsided and remains under control in both countries, Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday.

Previous border openings with Austria, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic had not caused a spike in new cases, said Szijjarto in a Facebook video.

The latest figures show Croatia has 2,247 confirmed infections and a modest death toll of 106. Hungary has 4,017 cases and 551 deaths.

07:50 The World Health Organization (WHO) has told Pakistan to implement “intermittent” lockdowns to stem the surge in coronavirus infections as the country lifts restrictions, said the country’s officials.

“As of today, Pakistan does not meet any of the prerequisite conditions for opening the lockdown”, the WHO said in a letter confirmed by Pakistan officials on Tuesday.

Since the start of Pakistan’s outbreak in March, Prime Minister Imran Khan opposed a nationwide lockdown of the sort seen elsewhere, arguing his country could not afford it. Instead, Pakistan’s four provinces ordered a patchwork of closures, but last week Khan said most of these restrictions would be lifted.

The recommendation from the WHO comes as Pakistan health officials declared a record number of new cases in the past 24 hours. The country has now confirmed a total of more than 113,000 cases and 2,200 deaths — though with testing still limited, real rates are thought to be much higher.

The health body added test results indicate a high level of infection in the population and many people have not adopted behavioral changes such as social distancing and frequent hand-washing. It recommended an intermittent lockdown cycle of two weeks on, two weeks off.

Zafar Mirza, the prime minister’s special advisor for health, responded to the letter saying: “We have to make tough policy choices to strike a balance between lives and livelihoods.”

07:15 Schools in Germany are set to return to normal after the summer holidays, said Stefanie Hubig, the president of the conference of ministers of education and cultural affairs (KMK). The ministers of education are in agreement on this and will hold discussions next week on what the coming school year could look like, said Hubig in comments on German public broadcasting corporation ARD’s Morgenmagazin breakfast show.

Hubig said she could well understand that parents with pre-school and school-aged children had reached their limits in recent weeks. The school situation in Germany’s 16 states was currently varied, but they were all heading in the same direction, said Hubig, adding that it was good that some children were already able to return to school.

Last week, the state ministers of education announced a return to regular school operations. Due to the corona pandemic, schools had been closed nationwide since mid-March. Since the beginning of May, some classes have resumed but to a very limited extent. Many children go to school only on a daily or weekly basis.

06:55 Japan’s lower house has approved an emergency budget worth 31.91 trillion yen, ($297 billion, €261 billion) to boost its economy — the world’s third-biggest — after the coronavirus tipped it into recession.  The budget will be sent to the upper house and is widely expected to be enacted as early as Friday.

06:25 Malaysia has reopened nearly all economic and social activities after nearly three months of lockdown. Malaysians can now travel for domestic holidays, get their hair cut and visit street markets. Schools and religious activities are set to gradually resume.

The government says the “recovery” phase will last through August, with certain prohibitions still in place. Night clubs, pubs, karaoke, theme parks and reflexology centers will stay shut. Contact sports or those with spectators and activities with big groups are still banned.

Malaysia has had 8,336 infections and 117 deaths. Daily cases have dropped to only seven per day since Monday — the lowest point since the lockdown started March 18.

Malaysia has reopened nearly all economic and social activities after nearly three months of lockdown successfully brought down virus infections.

06:20 Coronavirus cases in India reached nearly 10,000 in the past 24 hours to Wednesday after its health ministry reported 9,985 cases and 274 deaths. The total number of infections in India now stands at 276,583 — the fifth highest in the world — but the country has kept deaths relatively low at 7,745.

The spike comes asthe government moves forward with reopening restaurants, shopping malls and religious places in most of its states after a more than two-month-long lockdown. The government has already partially restored train services and domestic flights and allowed shops and manufacturing to reopen. Subways, hotels and schools and colleges, however, remain shuttered nationwide.

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi are the worst-hit states with 90,787, 34,914 and 31,309 positive cases respectively.

05:55 Emirates, one of the world’s biggest long-haul airlines, will lay off more pilots and cabin crew in what would be a second day of redundancies, reported Reuters citing sources. It follows the Dubai state airline laying off hundreds of pilots and thousands of cabin crew on Tuesday in a bid to stave off a cash crunch caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Airlines around the world have been hit hard by the pandemic as borders closed and flights ground to a halt, with many forced to make cuts to staff.

05:30 Mexico confirmed an additional 4,199 coronavirus cases on Tuesday and 596 new deaths, suggesting the planned reopening of broader economic activities may still be far away. Confirmed deaths had reached a peak of almost 1,100 per day last week, but the daily total had declined for a few days before Tuesday’s rebound.

Latest figures for Mexico show over 124,000 cases and 14,649 deaths. About one-fifth of Mexico’s cases are among health care professionals. Officials also acknowledge that given Mexico’s low rate of testing, the real numbers are probably many times higher.

The country’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador unveiled plans to reopen Mexico under a “new normal” on June 1, beginning with regions of the country least affected by the disease.

Mexico has also come under pressure from the US to restart its economy because the US relies on its smaller neighbor for manufacturing. In May, the US car sector pushed for the plants that serve the US market to resume work. Many US plants depend on parts from Mexico, which are often produced in factories along the border. Hundreds of such factories are located in Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico.

04:40 Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are spiking in parts of the US Southwest, causing the state of Arizona to reactivate its emergency plan for medical facilities.

The uptick comes as the US begins to reopen its economy that has been devastated by shelter-at-home rules.

On Tuesday, 21 US states reported weekly increases in new cases of COVID-19. Cases in Arizona — one of the first states to reopen in mid-May — have increased 115% since then. A former state health chief warned that a new stay-at-home order or field hospitals may be needed.

Utah and New Mexico all posted rises of 40% or higher for the week ended Sunday, compared with the prior seven days, according to a Reuters analysis.

US non-profit health system Banner Health tweeted that the trend was “concerning.”

California has also seen an uptick in cases and has placed nine counties on a watch list, meaning harsher coronavirus measures could be reinstated. The counties the list include Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Fresno  ­­— where 18 million of California’s 39 million residents live, reported Reuters.

 “Many of the cases that are showing up in hospitals are linked to gatherings that are taking place in homes — birthday parties and funerals,” said Olivia Kasirye, public health director of Sacramento County, also on the watch list.

So far, across the US there have been over 1.9 million cases and over 112,000 deaths from the virus  — by far, the largest death toll worldwide.

04:07 The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 318 to 184,861 on Wednesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute. That figure marks an increase from the day prior, which saw just 252 new reported cases.

The death toll also rose by 18, up to 8,729.

01:14 Research by scientists at the Cambridge and Greenwich universities suggested that a widespread use of facemasks could help in pushing down COVID-19 transmissions to controllable levels. This could help in containing national epidemics and prevent further waves of infection. 

Richard Stutt, who co-led the study, recommended that face masks, along with social distancing and some lockdown measures could provide “an acceptable way of managing the pandemic and re-opening economic activity.” 

Researchers in this study linked the dynamics of spread between people with population-level models, to assess the effect on the disease’s reproduction rate in different scenarios of mask adoption, combined with periods of lockdown.

The WHO has recommended that governments ask everyone to wear fabric face masks in public areas, where the risk of spreading the virus is higher.

00:03 The number of suspected and confirmed deaths from coronavirus in the United Kingdom has passed 50,000, according to official figures. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) assessed all deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned or suspected on the death certificate up to May 29. 

Officially, the government only counts the deaths of those who had tested positive for COVID-19 — a figure which rose to 40,863 on Tuesday. However, the total count including suspected cases is 50,107.

00:00 Catch up on Tuesday’s updates here: Coronavirus latest: Moscow eases lockdown restrictions

(DW)