Coronavirus latest:WHO to send international team of experts to China
The UN health body is establishing a specialist team to go to China to study the origin of the novel coronavirus. WHO says deploying the team would take some time.
- EU leaders are meeting in Brussels to try to agree on a coronavirus recovery package for the bloc
- Israel announces new weekend restrictions following a surge in cases
- The US is seeing more than 70,000 new cases a day
- India reaches 1 million cases, behind only the US and Brazil
All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
17:45 The coronavirus outbreak in Brazil has plateaued but is “still very much in the middle of this fight,” the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
“The rise in Brazil is no longer exponential, it has plateaued,” WHO health emergencies chief Mike Ryan told a virtual press conference.
Officials are no longer registering the explosive growth of cases in April and May. The number of new cases in Brazil had stabilized at 40,000-45,000 per day, with daily deaths at around 1,300.
Ryan cautioned that fighting the outbreak and reversing the trend of previous months would still require major interventions. “We need to set the rules for the virus now,” he said, adding: “That opportunity exists now for Brazil to do that, but it is going to take a very sustained, concerted action for that to happen.”
According to the UN health body, about 11% of all COVID-19 cases in the South American country involved health workers.
“What’s not happening yet is that the disease has not turned, and is not heading down the mountain. From that perspective, the numbers have stabilized but what they haven’t done is started to fall in a systematic day-by-day way,” Ryan said.
Brazil has more than two million confirmed coronavirus cases with over 76,600 deaths. Only the US has more infections worldwide.
16:45 The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said a resurgence of coronavirus cases poses the biggest risk to the US economy.
A second wave of the disease would force renewed business shutdowns, the IMF warned, adding that the US government will need to step up efforts to support households and increase demand.
“The principal risk, and one that is the most difficult to quantify, is that a resurgence in the number of COVID-19 cases in the US could lead to renewed, partial shutdowns,” the IMF said.
Washington must address worsening poverty and the deficiencies of the US health system, the IMF said in a report.
“Even with the unprecedented policy support being provided to the economy,” the US suffered a 37% collapse in GDP in the second quarter, and the economy is expected to contract by 6.6 % in 2020, the report said.
The IMF called for more stimulus measures to help relieve the blow as well as for longer-term investments, such as infrastructure.
Authorities in the states of Florida, Georgia, Texas and California have reimposed some restrictions following a spike in new COVID-19 cases.
The IMF warned that the poorest households have been hardest hit by the economic downturn.
16:10 The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will send a team of international experts to go to China to examine the origin of the coronavirus.
WHO emergencies program chief Mike Ryan said the team will not be in place before the end of July.
The United Nations public health agency had already deployed a two-person team to China for a week to prepare the visit of the larger team.
Ryan said the WHO was “very pleased” with the collaboration from Chinese officials so far, adding that establishing and sending a larger team would take time.
15:50 Nearly 10,000 health workers in 40 African countries have been infected with the coronavirus, the World Health Organization reported.
More than half of the infected workers are in South Africa, which makes up about half of the registered cases on the African continent.
According to the WHO, sub-Saharan Africa already had the world’s biggest shortage of health care workers, with less than three per 1,000 people.
Overworked doctors and nurses across the continent have protested or gone on strike as hospitals reach beyond capacity levels. Many expressed concern for their well-being amid shortages of personal protective equipment.
15:03British World War Two veteran Captain Tom Moore has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II to honor his efforts in raising £33 million ($40 million, €35 million) for UK health workers.
In April, the now-100-year-old walked 100 laps of his garden with a walking frame in the lead up to his birthday to raise money for National Health Service workers.
The queen knighted Moore at an investiture at Windsor Castle. The veteran was praised for lifting the spirits of the nation during the coronavirus pandemic and became a symbol of endurance in the face of adversity.
The Yorkshireman served in India, Myanmar (then Burma) and the Indonesian island of Sumatra during World War Two.
14:27 Multinational conglomerate 3M — the leading manufacturer of N95 masks in the US — said it has investigated 4,000 reports of fraud, counterfeiting and price gouging in connection to the face masks and has filed 18 lawsuits.
The company’s line of N95 masks has been approved by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
According to 3M, US courts have so far issued six temporary restraining orders and four preliminary injunctions to stop N95 sales the company claims are unlawful. 3M said in some cases criminal charges had been filed.
“The schemes we shut down were not only unlawful, they also endangered lives and wasted precious time and resources by diverting buyers from legitimate sources of much-needed respirators,” said Denise Rutherford, 3M senior vice president of corporate affairs.
In one case filed in the state of Minnesota, 3M sued Legacy Medical Supplies and four people connected with the company, claiming they were trying to sell 3M brand N95 respirators at a 75% to 267% markup over 3M’s list price, local newspaper the Star Tribune reported.
14:04 German triathlete and Ironman champion Jan Frodeno has criticized politicians and meat manufacturer boss Clemens Tönnies for the unjust treatment of animals in the German meat industry.
“Politics only ever implement what is popular. You can see this in the Tönnies case. That this man has recently demanded money from politicians to keep his absolutely disgusting machinery alive — I find it unbearable,” said the three-time Ironman world champion in an interview with German news outlet FOCUS Online.
Last month, a coronavirus outbreak at the Tönnies meat-processing plant in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia left more than 1,500 employees infected and triggered a lockdown in two nearby districts.
It was the worst coronavirus outbreak in Germany since the country began easing restrictions in May and sparked widespread criticism about the working and living conditions of mostly migrant workers in slaughterhouses across the country. Poor working conditions were reportedly partly to blame for the outbreak.
Frodeno, 38, said everyone should “concern themselves with the welfare of animals… The industrial meat that many people eat is pumped full of hormones and was produced under extremely stressful conditions for the animals.”
The 2008 Olympic triathlon champion added that cheap meat in supermarkets “does not meet the criteria for good meat.”
13:58 German scientists are looking for 4,000 volunteers to attend a pop music concert. The experiment would help the researchers understand the risk of a coronavirus infection among large crowds.
Pop singer Tim Bendzko is set to perform in a Leipzig venue in August. The live entertainment serves to bring “the behavior of the audience as close as possible to reality,” said researchers from the teaching hospital in the central city of Halle. All of the participants would need to be healthy, show a negative test for the coronavirus before taking part, and wear FFP2 masks provided by the organizers.
The researchers would also provide the volunteers with a device tracing their movements and the distance to other people. They also aim to distribute a fluorescent disinfectant that would then help them track surfaces that people touch most often. The organizers would also run the audience through three possible scenarios, including the one of no distancing, another with stricter hygiene measures, and another with social distancing of 1.5 meters (6 feet).
The project should help “identify possible frameworks under which artists and athletes could once again play and perform after September 30,” the researchers said on their website.
13:44 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK could return to normality from the coronavirus pandemic by Christmas.
“It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas,” Johnson said, despite concerns of a second wave of infections over the winter.
The British leader announced a series of proposals for relaxing the remaining lockdown restrictions in England, including lifting home office and reopening sports stadiums and live theater.
Currently, the UK government advises employees to work from home whenever possible. Under his latest proposals, Johnson said workers can have “more discretion” and discuss whether it is safe to return to the office from August 1, adding that people could still continue to work from home.
Most remaining leisure venues, such as casinos and ice-skating rinks, could also resume services from August 1, albeit with social distancing restrictions in place. Wedding receptions with up to 30 guests would also be permitted.
Johnson also announced that the government would inject an extra £3 billion ($3.8 billion, €3.3 million) into the state-run National Health Service (NHS).
“Even as we plan for the worst, I strongly believe we should also hope for the best,” Johnson said.
13:20 British Airways (BA) has retired the last Boeing 747 in its fleet on Friday due to the reduced number of passengers taking to the skies.
The airline was the world’s largest operator of the 747-400 model and had already planned to ground its 31 jumbo jets in 2024. But forecasters warned that the number of passengers would remain lower than normal, potentially for years to come.
“It is unlikely our magnificent ‘queen of the skies’ will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic,” read a statement from BA.
BA’s predecessor, BOAC, first used the 747 model in 1971. While the plane launched the new age of plane travel, newer models are more fuel-efficient and modern.
Australian airline Qantas conducted a farewell flight for its final 747 on Friday. Few airlines, including national flag carriers Lufthansa (Germany), Air India (India), and Korean Air (South Korea) still have the model in service.
12:35 South Korea approved human trials of an experimental COVID-19 treatment, marking the country’s first-round clinical trials of an antibody drug for the virus.
The medication, developed by Celltrion Inc, is directed against the surface of the virus and designed to block it from locking on to human cells.
The company plans to enroll 32 healthy volunteers to test the drug, which demonstrated an up to a 100-fold reduction in viral load in tests on animals. Celltrion said human trials will also begin soon in Europe. The company anticipates results from the studies by the end of this year and aims to commercialize the drug by early 2021.
Other companies developing potential COVID-19 treatments include Eli Lilly and Co, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and AbbVie.
12:10 The UK ordered an urgent review into how virus deaths are counted, following the release of a study that suggested health authorities were overestimating the death toll by counting people who died long after recovering.
Britain, which has seen the deadliest outbreak in Europe, has recorded more than 45,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, while many more people are suspected to have died without being tested.
However, the Oxford University’s Center for Evidence-Based Medicine revealed a “statistical flaw” in the public health agency’s data-gathering method. According to the center, Health England checks its list of lab-confirmed cases against a central register of deaths to see whether the patients are still alive.
“A patient who has tested positive, but successfully treated and discharged from hospital, will still be counted as a COVID death even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later,” the study said.
Under this method, “no one with COVID in England is allowed to ever recover from their illness.” The findings would offer a possible explanation as to why deaths in England have not fallen as drastically as those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which collect their own data.
In response, Health Secretary Matt Hancock asked Public Health England to urgently review the way it reports deaths “aimed at providing greater clarity on the number of fatalities related to COVID-19,” a spokesman said.
As a whole, the UK has recorded over 294,000 infections since the start of the pandemic.
11:43 Barcelona residents are being urged to stay home and not gather in groups of more than 10, as regional authorities seek to curb an increase in cases without imposing a mandatory lockdown.
Health authorities also called on residents of the Catalonian capital to shop online instead of in-person, and said cultural and sports events will be limited.
“We recommend that people don’t move around if it’s not absolutely necessary,” Catalonia’s health chief Alba Verges told a news conference. “It is very important to respect these measures now, it’s the best way to avoid a lockdown.”
Spain reported its biggest daily jump in infections in over two months on Thursday, with 580 new cases. Catalonia and neighboring Aragon have led that increase.
Spain has been one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries, with nearly 259,000 confirmed cases and a death toll of over 28,000. The country ended a strict nationwide lockdown in June, but more than 170 infection clusters have appeared since.
10:50 Russia says it expects a deal with UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to manufacture a vaccine that is being developed by the firm and Oxford University to go ahead.
Moscow says the deal will likely proceed despite allegations it was trying to steal vaccine data. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre said Thursday that hackers backed by Russia tried to steal vaccine and treatment research from pharmaceutical institutions around the world.
Russia has denied the claims. “There’s nothing that needs to be stolen,” Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, told Reuters news agency. “It’s all going to be given to Russia.”
Dmitriev said a deal could be announced later on Friday.
10:45 South Korean prosecutors have questioned the leader of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus over accusations that the church hampered the government’s response to the virus.
Lee Man-hee was questioned for four hours in Suwon, a city just south of the country capital Seoul. The prosecution and the church said he was sent home after complaining of an unspecified health problem.
A prosecutor said the office plans to bring him back for further questioning.
More than 5,200 of South Korea’s 13,672 have been linked to the church so far. The church’s Daegu branch was the largest cluster when infections spiked in late February.
South Korean health officials said they were optimistic that the pandemic was under control in the country.
Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said the spread of the virus was stabilizing in Seoul and other major cities after spiking in late May.
10:08 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the North American-European alliance has prevented the pandemic from turning into a security crisis.
“NATO’s main task is to make sure that health crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, does not become a security crisis, and we have been able to do that,” Stoltenberg told the BBC.
“Of course we have adjusted some of the ways we do our activities…but the main message is that we have been able to uphold deterrence defense, our operational presence, throughout the pandemic.”
09:55 Organizers of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing says they are “pressing ahead” with their preparations, despite warnings from a former senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official that they could be postponed.
“At present, Beijing 2022 is implementing strict prevention and control measures against COVID-19, while pressing ahead with the Games preparations in an orderly manner,” said organizers in a statement to the AFP news agency, referring to both the 2022 Winter Olympics and the postponed Tokyo 2020 games.
The 2020 Games were originally supposed to begin a week on Friday.
Former IOC vice president Dick Pound said all options would have to be considered if the Beijing games cannot be held just six months after the Tokyo games. If the pandemic does not show any signs of slowing down, Japanese and IOC officials have raised concerns about canceling the Tokyo games, which could influence whether the winter games take place in Beijing.
“To get to that point, where you decide you can’t do it [Beijing] in 2022, you explore whatever options you have,” said Pound.
The coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China late last year and has since spread around the globe, infecting more than 13.8 million people and killing at least 590,000 of them.
China has ruled out hosting international sporting events this year — except for the 2022 Olympic trials — to limit the spread of the virus.
09:19The EU has begun a summit to determine the details of a post-pandemic economic rescue package.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she expected a tough road ahead.
“We are going into the consultations with a lot of vigor, but I must also say that the differences are still very, very large and I cannot , therefore, predict whether we will be able to reach an agreement this time,” said Merkel. “That is why I expect very, very difficult negotiations.”
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that the proposed EU recovery fund should be based on the downturn in countries’ growth due to the pandemic and not solely on past economic performance.
“We will see the impact of the pandemic next year and this impact will be mainly in GDP. So this should be the most, the biggest criteria,” said Babis, noting that his country was one of the best “on unemployment, one of the best concerning debt to GDP [ratio] and also we have growth — and it is not possible to penalize successful countries because they were successful.”
07:25 Israel says it will impose weekend restrictions on gatherings to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus.
From 5:00 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) on Friday until early Sunday, restaurants and gyms will be shut down. Gatherings of more than ten people in closed spaces and more than 20 in the open air, except for workplaces or families, will also be banned.
The measures will be in place every weekend until further notice, however, “there will be no restriction on leaving one’s home,” a joint statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the health ministry said.
The statement added that the steps were necessary “to prevent a general lockdown in light of the sharp increase in the morbidity of the coronavirus.”
The country of some 9 million people has recorded more than 46,000 confirmed cases and 384 deaths as of Thursday evening.
Israel won praise for its initial response to the COVID-19 outbreak, but the government has come under criticism amid a resurgence in cases after lockdown measures were lifted.
06:35 China is now requiring those arriving on the mainland from Hong Kong to show a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous three days and undergo 14 days of supervised quarantine in order to gain entry, following a new outbreak in the semi-autonomous region.
Notable exceptions include students and truck drivers who must cross the border on a daily basis, along with “important business people” and others recognized under bilateral policies excluding them from quarantine demands, according to the official notice.
Hong Kong reported 67 new cases of coronavirus infections on Thursday, an all-time daily high. Authorities said 63 were locally transmitted and that they could not trace the source for 35 of them.
06:01 The German Teachers’ Association has criticized hygiene measures for the next school year presented by the country’s Ministry of Education.
“I am very skeptical as to whether these measures are sufficient or can be implemented at all,” said the president of the association Heinz-Peter Meidinger in an interview with news agency KNA.
The ministry on Wednesday presented a broad set of national hygiene regulations for schools that included requiring the use of medical face masks and avoiding physical contact. However, the rules allow for the recommended minimum distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) to be waived between teachers and students in the classroom. The ministry said the recommendations were deliberately kept very general.
“My feeling is that at present the principle of hope is being used, [hope] that there will not be a second wave when the social distancing rules in schools are abolished,” Meidinger said.
The start of school after the summer holidays, no matter what form, is, in general, a great challenge for federal states, school boards, municipalities and the federal government, said the association president, who is also the headmaster of the Robert Koch Gymnasium in Deggendorf, Bavaria.
It is not just a matter of improving the hygiene standards at schools, but also of modernizing the digital equipment, he added.
Meidinger emphasized that his association is counting on “the renovation and modernization backlog being cleared as quickly as possible, also with regard to digital equipment and the call for funds from the Digital Pact,” he said, referring to a state and federal initiative to better equip Germany’s schools with digital technology.
The German Teachers’ Association represents the interests of 160,000 school educators in Germany.
05:51The United Nations (UN) is seeking an additional $3.6 billion (€3.2 billion) for its response to the ongoing pandemic. The world body initially requested $2 billion in March, then $6.7 billion in May, to $10.3 billion to help deliver aid in 63 states, mostly in Africa and Latin America.
Developed countries will pay “the price of inaction” if poorer nations do not receive help, the UN said.
“The response so far of wealthy nations, who’ve rightly thrown out the fiscal and monetary rule books to protect their own people and economies, the response that they’ve made to the situations in other countries has been grossly inadequate and that’s dangerously shortsighted,” said UN aid chief Mark Lowcock.
The body warned that if action is not taken, the pandemic will trigger an increase in global poverty for the first time since 1990 and push over a quarter-billion people to the brink of starvation.
05:29 Canadian police have shot and killed a 73-year-old man just hours after he refused to wear a medical face mask in a grocery store, the country’s public broadcaster CBC reported.
The man allegedly assaulted a grocery store employee on Wednesday after he was asked to wear a face covering — in accordance with the law — to slow the spread of COVID-19.
An employee at the store in Minden, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Toronto, said the man refused. He then left the scene.
Police used the man’s license plate to find his house. Once there, two officers were involved in a shooting.
The man died shortly after he was transported to a hospital, a statement from Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said.
“From the scene, a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol were collected,” plus the weapons of two police officers, the SIU said.
05:08 As many as 87% of coronavirus infections in Wuhan between January and March may have gone undetected, a study published in the British scientific journal Nature has said.
The research by a group of Wuhan-based Chinese experts found that between 53% and 87% of cases prior to March 8 were undiagnosed. The number includes asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic cases.
As a result, the reproduction rate of the virus was pegged at only 0.28, meaning that on average an infected person passed the disease on to fewer than one new person, indicating that the outbreak would soon die out.
In reality, the reproduction rate during the early phases of the outbreak was 3.54, the paper said, much higher than that of SARS or MERS.
The findings highlighted “the risk posed by unascertained cases in changing intervention strategies,” the authors wrote.
The Chinese government originally stipulated that asymptomatic cases, even when confirmed through laboratory testing, were not counted towards “confirmed cases” until the patient exhibited symptoms.
Ignoring such cases may have minimized the appearance of the threat posed by the illness, and affected how other countries attempted to prevent its spread.
04:17 India has reached 1 million cases of coronavirus, health ministry data shared Friday showed, as infections spread to smaller towns and rural areas following the lifting of lockdown measures.
An increase of 34,956 new infections in the past 24 hours pushed the national total to 1,003,832.
The ministry also reported a record 687 deaths, bringing total fatalities to 25,602.
India is third only to the US and Brazil in total cases of COVID-19.
03:38 The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 583, bringing the nationwide total to 200,843, according to the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.
The reported death toll has increased by 4 to 9,082, the RKI reported.
Yesterday the RKI confirmed seven deaths from COVID-19 and 534 cases.
02:18 The Australian state of Victoria has reported a record increase in daily infections for the second day in a row.
The second-most populous state in the country recorded 428 new cases, Premier Daniel Andrews said. The figure comes just a day after registering its previous daily high of 317 new infections. It also reported three new deaths from COVID-19.
“We are in the fight of our lives,” Victoria state’s Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos told reporters in Melbourne.
A recent outbreak has resulted in the state being isolated from the rest of the country in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
A lockdown measure in the state capital Melbourne means the city’s 4.9 million residents have been ordered to stay home except for essential business.
Meanwhile, the country’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), has said it was banning dancing, singing and mingling at weddings as authorities battle to contain a new wave of infections.
The state has uncovered eight coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, mostly from community transmissions believed to have emanated from Victoria.
In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new restrictions will be implemented from next week.
Funerals and places of worship will have a maximum of 100 people in attendance. Four square meters of space must be allocated per person.
Weddings in the state will be limited to 150 people, Berejiklian said, and guests must remain seated.
02:12 The United States has set yet another record for new cases with 68,428 infections recorded over a 24 hour period, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In the same period, there were 974 fatalities recorded nationwide from COVID-19, the Baltimore-based university’s tally showed at 8.30 p.m. EST (0030 GMT Friday). The latest figures mean the death toll in the US currently stands at 138,201, while the total number of cases has reached 3,560,364.
Arizona, California, Florida and Texas have all experienced record surges recently and infections are rising in almost all states across the US.
Florida alone has reported well over 300,000 cases. To put that figure into context, if Florida were a country, it would be in the top 10 hardest-hit in the world.
00:47 Mexico’s Health Ministry has reported 6,406 new infections and 668 additional deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 324,041, from which 37,574 people have died from the novel virus.
The government has reason to believe the actual number of infections, though, is significantly higher than the figure reported.
The spread of the coronavirus in Mexico has prompted authorities to implement local restrictions on mobility, commerce, and leisure, particularly in tourist hotspots, even as the government looks for ways to boost the country’s beleaguered economy.
00:05 Non-essential travel across US land borders with Canada and Mexico will continue to be prohibited until at least August 21, as COVID-19 cases in the US continue to surge.
Border crossings will be allowed for commercial traffic, people returning to their home country, commuters and people traveling for family care, educational or humanitarian reasons.
Travel for tourism and shopping is prohibited, which has had an economic impact on border communities.
Restrictions on cross-border traffic began in March and have been repeatedly extended in 30-day blocks.
00:04 The leading expert on infectious diseases in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has urged younger people to take preventative measures to curb the spread of the virus, which has had a resurgence in numerous parts of the country.
“Please assume the societal responsibility of being part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he said in a live interview with Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.
In April, Facebook removed “pseudoscience” as an option for advertisers. Social media outlets have received criticism for allowing misinformation about the pandemic to appear on their platforms.
Infections in the US have surged to over 60,000 a day from daily totals under 20,000 in May. The average age of those contracting the virus has fallen by about 15 years. Many of those infected show few symptoms, Fauci said.
As a result, he urged people to wear masks, avoid crowds and maintain social distancing.
“We should be looking at public health measures as a vehicle or a gateway to getting the economy back,” Fauci added.
00:02 Coronavirus cases in Brazil have crossed the two-million mark, and are currently at 2,012,151. The number of deaths stood at 76,688 on Thursday. The country took only 27 days to reach 2 million from the 1 million mark.
Brazil is the second worst-affected nation after the US. Experts believe the actual number of infections to be much higher. President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been accused of downplaying the severity of the disease, has himself been infected with the virus.
00:00 Catch up on Thursday’s coronavirus news here
kp, jsi,tg/mm (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP) (DW)