Situation Reports Overseas

Brought to you by Safe Communities Portugal – From our correspondent Louise Birch

Information accurate at the time of writing. Information about our sources here.

Situation reports Overseas 2020-05-11 to 2020-07-31

Situation reports Overseas 2020-04-20 to 2020-05-10

Situations reports  Overseas 2020-03-30 to 2020-04-19

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OVERSEAS SITUATION REPORT

Tuesday 22nd September 2020 by Louise Birch

“I cannot imagine where I would be today were it not for a handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun” (Charles R. Swindoll)

The United States is the worst-hit country with 204,126 deaths from 7,005,893 cases. At least 4,250,497 people have been declared recovered.

After the US, the next hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 136,895 deaths from 4,544,629 cases, India with 88,008 deaths from 5,501,869 cases, Mexico with 73,493 deaths from 697,663 cases, and the United Kingdom with 41,777 deaths from 394,257 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Peru with 95 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Belgium with 86, Bolivia 65, Spain 65, and Brazil 64.

Latin America and the Caribbean overall has 323,894 deaths from 8,759,032 cases, Europe 225,515 deaths from 4,865,103 infections, the United States and Canada 208,769 deaths from 6,955,933 cases, Asia 126,056 deaths from 7,284,199 cases, the Middle East 42,423 deaths from 1,804,644 cases, Africa 33,953 deaths from 1,410,385 cases and Oceania 921 deaths from 31,110 cases.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, further eased restrictions on the country’s largest city, Auckland, and completely removed domestic restrictions on the rest of the nation, after COVID-19 case numbers continued to fall.  A community outbreak in Auckland, after New Zealand earlier eliminated the virus in June, had prompted a second lockdown in August, which has now been eased further. From 11:59p.m. on Wednesday, social gatherings in Auckland are now limited to 100 people, rather than the current limit of 10. Face coverings are mandatory on public transport and on any planes going to or from Auckland.  Ms Ardern said that from 11:59p.m. on Monday, the rest of the country would fall to so-called level 1 restrictions, meaning there are no rules in place except for strict border restrictions. There has been no community transmission of the virus outside of Auckland.  “Our actions collectively have managed to get the virus under control,” Ms Ardern said.

The state of Victoria in Australia is reporting a steady downward trend in daily coronavirus cases, putting the it on course to ease more restrictions by next week.

The two-week average rise in cases in Melbourne, the state capital, dropped below 35 on Monday, on track to meet a target of below 50 cases by 28 September when the authorities have said they may relax restrictions in the city. Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, is on an extended hard lockdown until 28 September, but authorities lifted some restrictions last week allowing residents to leave their homes for longer periods for exercise and shortened a nightly curfew. The strict restrictions on movement have brought the daily coronavirus cases in the state down to double digits after it touched highs of 700 in early August. “It’s welcome news for Victorians and welcome news for Australians,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told the Australian Broadcasting Corp television on Monday. Victoria reported two deaths from Covid-19 and 11 cases in the last 24 hours. A day earlier, the state reported five deaths and 14 new cases, its lowest rise in daily infections in three months. Australia has so far recorded a total of  26,912 coronavirus infections and 851 deaths, with Victoria accounting for the bulk of both.

Masks are to be made mandatory in certain parts of Munich, Germany’s third-largest city, as a raft of new measures were introduced in response to a rise in infections. Among the restrictions announced by Dieter Reiter, the city’s mayor, on Monday were a ban on meetings of more than five people, or two households or close relatives, an extension of alcohol bans in public places, and a strict limit of 25 people at private indoor celebrations.

Masks must be work by anyone in central Marienplatz, on Viktualienmarkt (Munich’s traditional food market) and the Sendlinger Strasse pedestrian zone. Meanwhile, the president of Bavaria, Markus Söder, earlier indicated there would be new quarantine regulations for sports trips. According to reports, he has his sights set on Bayern Munich fans who want to travel to Budapest for the Supercup on 30 September. It is expected that they will have to quarantine when they return. There have been 273,793 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany and 9,471 live have been lost.  There are 20,322 active cases and 246 of those are described as serious or critical.

In neighbouring Austria, where officials are already speaking of the onset of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, a raft of new restriction came into effect on Monday. Private gatherings across Austria, including parties and weddings, will be limited to 10 people, with exceptions only for funerals. The Alpine country, whose capital, Vienna, was issued with a travel warning by Germany last week, has registered 38,658 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 767 people have lost the battle with COVID-19. 

In Spain, police in Madrid, the capital, and its surrounding towns have begun stopping people coming in and out of some working-class districts that are subject to local coronavirus lockdowns. For the first two days the police patrols, which began yesterday (Monday,) will merely stop people at checkpoints to give them information. From Wednesday, enforcement will become mandatory and those unable to justify their trips for work, study or medical reasons will face fines, regional authorities said. Some 860,000 residents are affected by the new heightened restrictions. Parks are closed and shops and restaurants have to limit their occupancy to 50% in the affected zones. Spain is struggling to contain a second wave of the virus, which has cost the lives of 30,495 people according to official figures. The rules have been brought in on the pretext that Spain now has Europe’s fastest coronavirus spread. The targeted areas have a 14-day rate of transmission above 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, some of the highest in Europe. 

Large parts of Wales in the UK will go into lockdown from 1700 GMT on Tuesday as coronavirus spreads. Coronavirus laws are being tightened in four Welsh authorities, Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport, following a sharp rise in cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said. People will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education, and people will only be able to meet others they don’t live with outdoors for the time being.

Tighter coronavirus restrictions will be imposed in the city of Lyon, France from today (Tuesday) to counter a sharp increase in new coronavirus cases and a surge in intensive care admissions, local authorities said. Attendance at big events will be limited to 1,000 people from the 5,000 allowed currently, the sale and consumption of alcohol outdoors prohibited from 8 pm until the following day and visits to nursing home residents restricted to two per week.

The number of coronavirus infections in Iran has risen by 3,341, the highest daily tally since early June, taking total cases to 425,481, the health ministry spokeswoman told state TV on Monday. Sima Sadat Lari said 177 people had died in the past day, pushing the official death toll to 24,478 in Iran, one of the hardest hit countries in the Middle East. Iran’s deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said last week that the whole country was on coronavirus red alert as daily deaths and cases increased at an alarming rate. Iranian health officials have warned about a third wave of the pandemic, while the government has blamed the spike in infections partly on decline in public adherence to health protocols. Despite concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, schools re-opened on 5 September for 15 million students, although the education ministry said later that attending classes was not compulsory for children.

Total number of cases worldwide – 31,296,530

Total number of deaths worldwide – 965,857

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 22,875,379

Active cases: 

7,455,294 active cases, 

7,394,037 in mild condition, 

61,257 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 23,841,236

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Monday 21st September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light” (Helen Keller)

Today’s report is a round up of the some of the key developments from around the world.

The first wave of coronavirus swept through a world unprepared. Authorities struggled to test for the disease, and didn’t know how to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Lockdowns brought the virus under temporary control in some places, buying a window for the revival of education and the economy and time to prepare for future waves that epidemiologists said were almost inevitable.

Each country has used that time differently, but at the heart of every effective system to halt the spread of the disease is an efficient test and trace system. Authorities need to be able to see where and how the disease is spreading, if they are to have any hope of containing it.

China and New Zealand have both had small outbreaks of the disease after declaring it eliminated. Strict travel bans mean their citizens now live in near total isolation from the rest of the world, rigorous quarantine rules have kept imported cases of the disease from sparking new locally transmitted outbreaks. The few outbreaks of community transmission have been a reminder of how difficult it is to stamp out COVID-19 entirely, neither China nor New Zealand has been able to pinpoint the original source of the infections. However, rapidly deployed test and trace systems have enabled them to bring the outbreaks under control.

Central and Eastern European countries produced one of the unexpected success stories at the start of the pandemic. Despite weaker health and welfare systems, Czechia  (Czech Republic)  and Hungary were among countries in the region with infections and deaths far lower than in western Europe. But cases are now rising fast; early success means the public may be more resistant to anti-virus controls and these countries have populist leaders who are particularly vulnerable to shifts in public opinion. The Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, admitted the government had relaxed public health measures, including making masks obligatory indoors, due to “high societal demand”.

Germany and South Korea were among the fastest to get their testing and tracing systems operating on a large scale, allowing them to identify where and how the disease was spreading. Germany tested everyone returning from holidays over the summer, minimising imported infections. While cases are rising again and a top virologist warned last week that this “winter won’t be an easy one”, so far the increase has been slight. South Korea was among the first countries in the world to announce it had formally entered a second wave of infections, but it also appears to have brought cases under control. The daily rate of increase is now slowing.

Both Spain and Australia claimed early success against the virus, although they took very different approaches. Canberra decided to effectively seal the country off from the rest of the world, while Spain courted summer visitors to salvage some of the vital tourism season. Both have seen regional spikes, and have responded with targeted lockdowns, which depend, however, on a test and trace capacity that lets authorities see where and how the virus is spreading.

The region around the Spanish capital is bracing for a return of controls, although the government is trying to avoid calling them lockdowns. Restrictions will apply to areas with more than 1,000 cases per 100,00 people. They will affect nearly a million people and will effectively limit movement to work, medical and educational reasons.

South Africa went into one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, then emerged braced for a peak in cases and deaths that never came. Scientists are trying to understand how a country where poverty makes social distancing an impossibility for many escaped the worst ravages of the virus. One theory is that a relatively young population may have been resilient. Another is that people living in crowded conditions, widely exposed to other diseases including the coronaviruses that cause the common cold, had stronger immune systems before the pandemic began. Several places, including the Brazilian Amazon city of Manaus, have seen the disease rip through a relatively unprotected population, but have since seen cases ebb, even though infection rates did not hit levels normally needed to create herd immunity. They are hoping to be spared a second wave.

France reported 13,498 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, setting another unwelcome record in daily additional infections since the disease started to spread in the country. The number of people in France who have died from COVID-19 was up by 26, at 31,274, and the cumulative number of cases now totals 442,194, as the seven-day moving average of daily new infections rose to more than 9,700, compared with a low of 272 at the end of May, two weeks after the lockdown was lifted.  

The United Kingdom reported 4,422 new daily cases of coronavirus on Saturday, 100 more new cases than on Friday and the highest daily total since 8 May. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has warned that the English capital needs fresh Covid restrictions by Monday if it is to avoid a big spike in infections, as doctors are urging the government to introduce stronger coronavirus measures in England to drive down case numbers and avoid another national lockdown.

Brazil recorded 33,057 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus in the hours, and 739 deaths from the disease. South America’s largest country has registered 4,528,347 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, according to ministry data, ranking it as the third worst outbreak in the world after the United States (6,967,420) and India (5,400,619)

On Saturday, the Philippines reported 3,962 new coronavirus infections and 100 additional deaths, with both numbers the highest in five days. In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases have risen to 286,743 while deaths have reached 4,984, making it the worst-hit country in south-east Asia. Of the new cases, 3,286 or 83% were detected in the last 14 days, the DOH said in its case bulletin. There are also 68,645 patients who are active cases or are currently sick, of which 87.4% have mild symptoms, 9% have no symptoms, 2.5% are in critical condition and 1.1% are severe cases.  Metro Manila had the highest number of new cases among the provinces with 1,440 new infections, followed by Bulacan with 354, Cavite with 287, Laguna with 222 and Batangas with 213 more infected residents, according to reports from local media in the Philippines.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is cracking down on private social gatherings as coronavirus cases surge. Ontario reported 407 new cases on Saturday compared with about 80 per day two weeks ago. Canada on Friday recorded 1,044 new cases from a day earlier, making it the third time in five days that new daily infections have topped 1,000.  Ontario is scrambling to stamp down a recent spike in coronavirus cases as children return to school and the province struggles to increase its testing capacity, forcing many in cities to wait in line for hours this week to get swabbed.

After Poland reported record daily new coronavirus cases on Saturday, neighbouring Lithuania and Slovakia also logged their largest daily tallies since the pandemic began. The eastern European figures are in line with a surge in cases across Europe since August that has caused many countries to move back towards tougher restrictions. The increase brings the total of reported coronavirus cases in the nation of 38 million people to 78,330.

The ministry also reported 12 lives lost on Saturday, putting that total at 2,282

In neighbouring Slovakia, a nation of 5.4 million people, the latest figure of 290 new infections brought its total to more than 6,500 cases. “Now we have a new record. Today, the situation is becoming critical,” Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic wrote on Facebook.

“However, if we remain responsible, we will live relatively freely despite the pandemic.”

Lithuania, a Baltic state with a population of 2.8 million, reported its highest daily count as well, with 99 new infections putting the country’s total at more than 3,600 cases. Czechia (Czech Republic) for its part reported more than 2,100 new cases, a day after registering a record of 3,130 new infections.

In Spain, a partial lockdown is set to begin in some of Madrid’s poorer districts next week, but residents of one of the worst-hit neighbourhood’s said today they doubted the new measures would work.

The number of lives lost in Iran has risen by 166 to 24,118, a health ministry spokeswoman told state TV.  The total number of identified cases rose by 2,845 in the last 24 hours to 419,043 in Iran, one of the Middle East’s worst-hit countries, spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari was quoted as saying.

On Sunday, Russia reported 6,148 new cases, the second straight day when the daily number of cases exceeded 6,000, taking the national tally of infections to 1,103,399. The country’s coronavirus crisis centre said 79 people had died of the disease in the last 24 hours, bringing the Russian death toll to 19,418.  There are currently 174,624 active cases of coronavirus in the country and 2,300 of those are described as serious or critical.  With a recorded population of 145,948,421, the number of infections per 1M populous is 7,560.

In Australia, Victoria state Premier, Dan Andrews gave a media briefing in which he said 

This is a good day. A day where Victorians can be proud of the work that they’ve done, their commitment, their resolve to see this off. To defeat this virus in its second wave properly, comprehensively and sustainably”  He confirmed there are 14 new cases and five new deaths. Nine of the new cases are linked to known clusters. The fatalities include four people in their 80s and one in their 90s. There are no additional cases in regional areas. There are 94 people in hospital with Covid-19.  There are still 4,267 cases with an unknown source, but that’s a drop of seven since the previous day. There are 743 active cases across Victoria, including 117 health workers, and 20 in regional Victoria.

The rolling 14-day average is down to 36.2 in metropolitan Victoria and 1.8 in regional Victoria. “These numbers are coming down,” says Andrews. “We are, thanks to the hard work of every single Victorian, the vast, vast majority of Victorians who are following the rules, doing the right thing, getting tested as soon as they have symptoms”. 

In New South Wales 2 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 4,011. There was one coronavirus related death reported, taking the overall number of deaths to 55.  There were 13,635 tests reported in the 24-hour reporting period, compared with 15,239 in the previous 24 hours. NSW Health is treating 78 Covid-19 cases, including two in intensive care, one of whom is being ventilated. 86% of cases being treated by NSW Health are in non-acute, out-of-hospital care.

Queensland has recorded two new coronavirus cases. State Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said on Sunday both cases were already isolating with one among a close contact of a known case and the other an international traveller in hotel quarantine.

It has been nine days since the sunshine state has recorded a community transmission of COVID-19, while its number of active infections has fallen to 29. The result comes as Queensland prepares to welcome ACT (Australian Capital Territory) travellers on Friday and double its intake of international arrivals by the end of October. The border will open only to Canberrans who arrive by plane and anyone coming from NSW via the ACT will have to wait 14 days before being allowed to fly. Queensland will also lift its quota on international arrivals from 500 to 1,000 by 24 October, with the government calling for expressions of interest from Brisbane and Cairns hotels to take returnees.

India’s coronavirus case reached 5,400,619 after adding 92,605 new infections in the past 24 hours, data from the federal health ministry showed on Sunday. The country has posted the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August, and lags behind only the United States, which has 6, 970,044 cases in terms of total infections.  A total of 1,113 people died of COVID-19 in 24 hours in India, the health ministry said, taking mortalities to 86,893 which is a relatively low 1.6% of all cases.

Three new community cases of COVID-19 this weekend will give the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, food for thought as she considers axing restrictions in New Zealand today (Monday).  The fresh cases are not linked to the Auckland cluster which saw Ms Ardern send New Zealand’s biggest city into lockdown last month. Instead, health authorities say they are three members of the same household as a man who recently returned to NZ but passed quarantine without a positive result.

Total number of cases worldwide – 31,036,957

Total number of deaths worldwide – 962,339

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 22,642,848

Active cases: 

7,431,770 active cases, 

7,370,384 in mild condition, 

61,386 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 23,605,187

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Sunday 20th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Dream small dreams. If you make them too big, you get overwhelmed and you don’t do anything.  If you make small goals and accomplish them, it gives you the confidence to go on to higher goals”  (John H. Johnson)

With faces straight out of Dr. Seuss, the cheeky beaks of Burmese roofed turtle hatchlings are characterised by what’s been described as a nonstop grin. These days, the turtles have plenty of reasons to be cheerful. 

Not long ago, however, the existence of species, native to Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River region, was in serious doubt. Over-hunting for food, medicinal use, and the pet trade, as well as reckless egg harvesting, improper electro-fishing techniques, and destruction of natural turtle habitat had all but wiped the once-flourishing reptiles from the face of the planet. In fact, by the 1990s, the species was thought to be extinct. It wasn’t until 2001, when a likely smuggled specimen turned up in a Hong Kong pet shop, that conservationists began to hope at least some small portion of their population had survived. Heartened by the news, biologist Gerald Kuchling, who’s now with the University of Western Australia, along with the Myanmar Forest Department launched a joint survey expedition of the upper Chindwin River, a site Burmese roofed turtles were once known to inhabit.  

On one of his days off, Dr. Kuchling happened to visit a turtle pond at a Buddhist temple in Mandalay. To his infinite surprise, he found three of the elusive critters smiling up at him from the murky water. “I was very excited and definitely flabbergasted,” he said.

With the blessing of the temple board, Dr. Kuchling and his Burmese colleagues moved one male and two female turtles to the Mandalay Zoo.

Later, while exploring the Dokhtawady, a tributary of the Irrawaddy, Dr. Kuchling discovered even more specimens which were also transported to the zoo. This was in the nick of time too, as a damnable damming project destroyed their habitat soon after.

While there were thought to be less than 10 Burmese roofed turtles—five or six adult females and perhaps two adult males—living in the wild, not all of them made the trip.

When fishermen on the upper Chindwin River reported a handful of females still nested there during the dry season, Dr. Kuchling, along with the Forest Department and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), organised and implemented a conservation stewardship program for the site.

Each year since, the beach has been fenced off by seasonally hired villagers who then track nesting females and carefully harvest their eggs. “We came so close to losing them,” WCS herpetologist Steven G. Platt, told The New York Times. “If we didn’t intervene when we did, this turtle would have just been gone.” Thanks to subsequent WCS efforts and the Turtle Survival Alliance, approximately 1,000 of the turtles have been successfully raised in captivity and are soon to be released into the wild. The WCS reports the species faces “little danger of biological extinction” at this point.

On hearing rumours of his alleged demise, humorist Mark Twain famously quipped, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” No doubt his public was tickled at the time, but we think bringing these cheerful turtles back from the brink of extinction will give everyone a reason to smile—including the turtles. 

 

This week, if you looked up the dictionary definition for the word ‘sportsmanship,’ there’s a good chance you might have seen a picture of Ireland’s national lacrosse team there.

That’s because rather than looking to their own interests, they ceded their spot at the World Lacrosse Games 2022 to a Native American Iroquois squad who’d been shut out of the international competition on a technicality.

The eight teams slotted to play in the tournament were selected on the basis of where their team ranked at the end of the 2018 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship. The Iroquois Nationals came in third. Ireland finished 12th.

Since the Iroquois are not recognised as a sovereign nation nor do they have an Olympic Committee, the International World Games Association (IWGA) initially disqualified them from championship play. In August, the IWGA reversed its decision, but with the roster already set, the point seemed moot—until team Ireland changed the game.

In a statement, Michael Kennedy, chief executive officer of Ireland Lacrosse said, “It’s simply the right thing to do… As much as our players would have been honoured to compete, we know the right thing is for the Iroquois Nationals to represent our sport on this international stage.”

“You have gone above and beyond not only for us, but for what you believe is right,” the Iroquois Nationals tweeted in response. “Your actions have spoken louder than words “showing everyone the true power of sport, and the spirit of lacrosse. We will never forget that”

The Iroquois or Haudenosaunee are a historical indigenous confederacy in northeast North America. They were known during the colonial years to the French as the Iroquois League, later as the Iroquois Confederacy and to the English as the Five Nations, comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca.

In an interview with USLacrosse Magazine, World Lacrosse Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr said, “Some of the most inspiring gestures in international sport are when athletes from one team reach across and lend their support to athletes from another. That’s exactly what…the membership of Ireland Lacrosse have done, and we should all be inspired by their example.”

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Louise Birch.

 

Saturday 19th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“You build on failure, you use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past.  You don’t try to forget the mistake but you don’t dwell on it.  You don’t let it have any of your energy, any of your time or any of your space” (Johnny Cash)

France confirmed a new 24-hour record late on Thursday, registering 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours and pushing the cumulative number to 415,481. The previous high was 10,561 new cases in a day, recorded on 12 September. The sharp increase is a result of a higher infection rate but also of a massive increase in testing according to reports.  Extra measures to curb the epidemic in the cities of Lyon and Nice were announced by the health minister on Thursday, adding to the three other regions already deemed as virus “red zones”.

Israel entered a second national coronavirus lockdown on Friday, becoming the first country to re-enter nationwide restrictions. The unpopular lockdown is expected to last at least three weeks, upending a normally festive period filled with Jewish holidays.

The UK government has hinted at second national lockdown amid reports of a plan to ‘circuit break’ the virus. The UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, told Sky News: “The number of people in hospital is doubling every eight days or so … we will do what it takes to keep people safe.”

Czechia (Czech Republic) reported a record rise in cases on Friday for a third successive day. It announced 3,130 new cases a day after more than 2,000 new cases was reported for the first time. 

Hungary, Romania and Slovakia have all announced a record number of new cases this week. Hungary announced 941 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, for a total of 16,111 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 669 deaths. Of the infected, 374 people were being treated in hospital and 29 were on ventilators. Over the last several days, Hungary has extended the mandatory wearing of masks, already necessary on public transportation and shops, to theatres, cinemas, health care and social institutions, among others. People not wearing masks or wearing them incorrectly can be fined

Russia has reported 5,905 new coronavirus cases, its largest daily rise since July. It brings the country’s tally to 1,091,186, the fourth largest in the world.

Thailand has reported its first coronavirus death in more than 100 days, after an infected Thai citizen had returned from abroad earlier this month. The 54-year old man, who was an interpreter based in Saudi Arabia working for the Thai labour ministry, had been treated in a Bangkok hospital for two weeks and died on Friday.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak, is re-opening for international flights, ending an eight-month moratorium. China stopped international flights in March as COVID-19 swept the world, but has now largely brought the disease under control at home through travel restrictions, testing and lockdowns.

The pandemic could soon be out of control in Canada, the country’s top medical officer has said, following a worrying surge in new infections. The warning from the chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, is the clearest indication yet of how worried authorities in the country are about the potential for the outbreak to spiral out of control. Ontario announced new restrictions and steep fines amid a surge of COVID-19 infections that prompted the concerns that the country is losing control of the virus. Canada’s most populous province announced plans to limit the size of gatherings, reversing course on previous steps to reopen the province’s economy. The new rules reduce the size of indoor gatherings to 10, down from 50, and outdoor gatherings to 25, down from 100. A C$10,000 fine is also being implemented for organisers of “illegal” gatherings.  There have been 140,867 confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada and 9,200 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Health authorities in Mexico have reported 3,182 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the in the country to 684,113. So far, 488,416 people have recovered from their infections, while 72,179 have died, with 201 more deaths reported in the latest update. Mexico has the fourth-highest death toll from the pandemic.

The Philippines’ health ministry has reported 3,257 additional infections, marking the 11th straight day the country has recorded more than 3,000 daily cases. In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases have increased to 279,526, most of which are in the capital, while deaths rose 47 to reach 4,830.

Indonesia says its average daily death toll from coronavirus stands at 105 cases – an increase of 25% from last week. Wiku Adisasmito, the spokesman for the Covid taskforce, also announced a further 122 people had died from the virus as of 17 September. The number of lives lost in Indonesia now stands at 9,336.  Most days of September have seen more than 100 deaths from the virus in Indonesia, as the death toll has steadily risen towards the peak of 139 recorded on 22 July.  There have been 236,519 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Indonesia. 

Denmark will lower the limit on public gatherings to 50 people from 100 and order bars and restaurants to close early to curb a rise in new coronavirus infections, the prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, said on Friday, according to reports.  Denmark has experienced daily infections rise in recent weeks after relaxing lockdown measures imposed between March and May. In 24 hours, 454 new coronavirus infections have been registered in Denmark, close to an April record of 473. The reproduction rate, which indicates how many people one infected person on average transmits the virus to, is at 1.5 across the country, Frederiksen said. Bars and restaurants will have to close at 10pm. Both measures will take effect from today Saturday 19 September and last until 4 October. So far, Denmark has recorded a total of 21,847 people infected with coronavirus, 17,110 of whom have recovered. 

Officials in Iran have claimed their country is in the grip of a third wave of coronavirus, as the number of new infections rose once again to more than 3,000 a day.  Iran was one of the first countries to be struck by the virus outside China. Officials brought the disease under a form of control by early May, but then saw a further spike at the start of June that then drifted down to fewer than 1,600 new cases per day in late August. The latest figures released on Friday by the Iran health department showed 144 deaths in the previous 24 hours and the number of new infections had risen by 3,049 to reach 416,198. The total pandemic death toll in the country is 23,952. Twenty-eight of the country’s provinces, including the capital, Tehran, are classified as red or yellow, a coding to denote the seriousness of the virus.

Total number of cases worldwide – 30,407,457

Total number of deaths worldwide – 951,473

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 22,092,196

Active cases: 

7,363,788 active cases, 

7,302,619 in mild condition, 

61,169 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 23,043,669

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Friday 18th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Life is divided into three terms, that which was, which is and which will be. Let us learn from the past, to profit by and from the present and to live better in the future” (William Wordsworth)

Latin America has started to resume normal social and public life at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic still requires major control interventions, World Health Organisation regional director Carissa Etienne said on Wednesday. Coronavirus cases in Colombia’s border area with Venezuela have increased ten-fold in the last two weeks, Etienne said in a virtual briefing from Washington with other Pan American Health Organization directors.

Death rates are climbing in parts of Mexico, and similar trends are seen in Ecuador, Costa Rica and Bolivia, with similar patterns also emerging in areas of Argentina, she warned.

“Although the entire world is racing to develop new tools to prevent and cure COVID-19, a safe and effective vaccine that can be manufactured and delivered at scale is not around the corner. We must be clear that opening up too early gives this virus more room to spread and puts our populations at greater risk. Look no further than Europe.”

Etienne said governments must monitor travel very carefully because reopening to tourism can lead to setbacks. That has happened in the Caribbean, where several countries that had virtually no cases have experienced spikes as tourism resumed.

According to a Reuters tally, Latin America has recorded around 8.4 million coronavirus cases, and over 314,000 deaths, both figures being the highest of any region.

The World Health OrganiSation has warned of “alarming rates of transmission” of COVID-19 across Europe and cautioned countries against shortening quarantine periods.

WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, said the number of coronavirus cases in September “should serve as a wake-up call for all of us”.

“Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region,” he told an online press conference from Copenhagen.

The health body also said it would not change its guidance calling for a 14-day quarantine period for anyone exposed to coronavirus.

“Our quarantine recommendation of 14 days has been based on our understanding of the incubation period and transmission of the disease. We would only revise that on the basis of a change of our understanding of the science,” said Catherine Smallwood, a WHO Europe senior emergency officer.

In France for instance, the recommended length for self-isolation in case of exposure has been reduced to seven days. It is 10 days in the UK and Ireland, and several more European countries, such as Portugal and Croatia, are currently considering reducing their recommendations.

Knowing the immense individual and societal impact even a slight reduction in the length of quarantine can have … I encourage countries of the region to make scientific due process with their experts and explore safe reduction options,” Kluge said, adding that the “concept of quarantine must be protected” and “continuously adapted”.

The 53 member states of WHO Europe have recorded nearly 5m cases of COVID-19 and more than 227,000 related deaths, according to the organisation’s figures.

The number of daily cases recorded is between 40,000 and 50,000, comparable to a daily peak of 43,000 on 1 April, although testing in many countries has increased considerably.

A new record was set on 11 September, with about 54,000 cases recorded in 24 hours.

The Netherlands has recorded a new daily high for coronavirus cases, the health authorities there said on Thursday. There have been 1,753 new cases in the past 24 hours. That increased the total number of infections to 88,073. Cases in Netherlands have been rising sharply since the beginning of September.

Spain’s health minister has called on the regional government of Madrid “to do whatever needs to be done to control the situation” amid growing fears that the pandemic is once again overwhelming the area in and around the capital. On Wednesday, Spain logged a total of 614,360 coronavirus cases, up almost 11,200 on the previous day. Over the past fortnight, 120,657 new infections have been diagnosed, a third of them in the Madrid region. Three hundred and sixty-six people have died across Spain from the virus in the past seven days, 124 of them in Madrid.

Czechia (Czech Republic) has reported more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day for the first time as it battles a surge in infections that is among the fastest in Europe. The health ministry recorded 2,139 cases of the new coronavirus on Wednesday, up from a previous record of 1,675 reported the previous day.  The country of 10.7m has seen a spike in cases this month that has easily surpassed peaks seen during the first wave of the outbreak in March. Due to the rise, the government has tightened mask wearing rules and restricted bars’ opening hours. On Wednesday, the health ministry said it would ban stand-up indoor events from today (Friday) evening, also affecting bars and restaurants where customers cannot exceed seating capacity.

The Solomon Islands is one of the few Covid-free countries in the world.  Perhaps not for much longer! Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has said it will repatriate more than 400 students, including 12 who have tested positive for coronavirus, who have been stranded in the Philippines since the island nation closed its borders in March. Their return has become a headache for officials in one of the few COVID-19 zero countries in the world, while the Philippines has recorded more than 260,000 cases. “We look forward to seeing our students home soon, and be assured, the Solomon Islands is still COVID-19 free,” Sogavare said.

Some positive news for our friends down under. Australia has recorded its lowest one-day rise in coronavirus cases in nearly three months, prompting hopes that restrictions in some areas will be eased. Australia said 35 coronavirus cases had been detected in the past 24 hours on Thursday, the lowest one-day rise since 24 June. Victoria state, Australia’s COVID-19 epicentre, accounted for the bulk of the new cases, with 28 people diagnosed with the virus in the past 24 hours. “It is a fantastic outcome and a tribute to the hard work, sacrifice and contribution every single Victorian is making and I want to say thank you,” Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.  The result in Victoria will buoy hopes that residents in Melbourne will soon be granted additional freedoms after more than six weeks under a strict lockdown.

India reported another global record jump in daily coronavirus infections with 97,894 cases in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday. Coronavirus infections in India have reached 5,141,905, piling pressure on hospitals grappling with unreliable supplies of oxygen that they need to treat tens of thousands of critical patients. There are currently 1,018,486 active cases of coronavirus in India and 8,944 of those are described as serious or critical.

South Africa will reopen its borders to most countries next month, the president said Wednesday, part of a wider easing of anti-coronavirus measures announced as figures continue to improve. The continent’s most industrialised economy shuttered its borders at the start of a strict nationwide lockdown on March 27 to limit the spread of the virus.

Restrictions on movement and business have been gradually eased since June, but borders stayed sealed to avoid importing the virus from abroad. President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday said most remaining rules will be rolled back from September 20, and that international travel would “gradually and cautiously” resume on October 1st. 

“We have withstood the coronavirus storm,” Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation.

“It is time to move to what will become our new normal for as long as the coronavirus is with us.” Under the new measures, most gatherings will be permitted at 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, with a cap of 250 people for indoor events. A 10:00 pm curfew will be scaled back to midnight and a 50-person limit at recreational facilities will be lifted.

Restrictions on sporting events remain in place, however, and face-masks will still be required in public. Travel may also be restricted to and from countries with “high infection rates” Ramaphosa added, explaining that a list would be determined based on “latest scientific data… from those countries”. There have been 653,444 confirmed cases of coronavirus in S.Africa and 15,705 people have lost the battle with COVID-19. With a recorded population of 59,465,326, the rate of infection equates to 10,989 cases per 1M populous.

International passengers arriving at Abu Dhabi airport will now have to wear a tracking device while they complete a mandatory 14-day home quarantine, according to state-owned Etihad Airways. Daily infections in the United Arab Emirates rose this month to their highest since the outbreak started. Officials have largely blamed the rise on people not practicing social distancing. Those arriving at Abu Dhabi airport would be fitted with a medically approved wristband, which is removed after the 14-days of home quarantine, according to Etihad’s latest travel update.  Only UAE citizens and residents can currently enter the country through Abu Dhabi airport, though foreign visitors can enter through Dubai. There have been 82,568 confirmed coronavirus cases across the UAE and 402 people have died. Over 72,000 people are reported to have recovered and there are currently 10,049 active cases. 

Total number of cases worldwide – 30,118,442

Total number of deaths worldwide – 946,599

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 21,858,654

Active cases: 

7,313,189 active cases, 

7, 251,975 in mild condition, 

61,214 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 22,805,253

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Thursday 17th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“We all have life storms, when we get the rough times and we recover from them, we should celebrate that we got through it.  No matter how bad it may seem, there’s always something beautiful that you can find”  (Mattie Stepanek)

New Zealand reported a second consecutive day of no new cases of COVID-19 spread in the community on Wednesday.  A single new case diagnosed in the country on Wednesday, health officials said, was uncovered in a traveller returning to New Zealand who is in quarantine at a managed isolation facility. However another person has died of the virus in hospital, bringing New Zealand’s death toll to 25. The news of a second day of no reported domestic cases comes two days after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, announced current coronavirus restrictions on social gatherings would remain in place until next Monday, at which point, her government will begin to ease them if community spread of the virus appears to be controlled. New Zealand already vanquished the virus once, in June, at one point there were no active cases of Covid-19 in the country, but a resurgence in the largest city, Auckland, led to a second lockdown, which is now being eased. Health officials said Tuesday that there are 79 cases in the country, a number that is slowly falling as more people recover than there are new cases diagnosed, with 52 of them in the community and 27 imported cases in quarantine facilities. Three people are in hospital with the virus.  A total of 1,802 cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in New Zealand.

Czechia (Czech Republic) reported 1,677 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, its highest daily count since the beginning of the pandemic. As of Tuesday evening, health ministry data showed the overall number of cases in the country, which has a population of 10.7 million, stood at 38,896.

In Ukraine, a record 76 coronavirus-related deaths were registered in the preceding 24 hours, the national security council said on Wednesday. The country’s previous record – 72 – was registered last week. The council said 162,660 cases were recorded in the country as of 16 September, with 3,340 deaths and 72,324 people recovered.

India’s coronavirus cases have passed 5 million, testing the country’s feeble health care system in tens of thousands of impoverished towns and villages.The Health Ministry reported 90,123 new cases in 24 hours, raising the nation’s confirmed total to 5,020,359, about 0.35% of its nearly 1.4 billion population. It said 1,290 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 82,066. India’s total coronavirus caseload is closing in on the United States’ highest tally of more than 6.6 million cases and expected to surpass it within weeks.

Mexico reported 4,771 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 629 additional fatalities on Tuesday, bringing its totals to 676,487 infections and 71,678 deaths, according to updated Health Ministry data. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely to be significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

The Madrid region, one of the worst hit in Spain, is to introduce targeted lockdowns and other restrictions on movement on Friday in areas with high numbers of cases, local authorities have said. Madrid accounts for about one-third of the country’s active caseload, with a higher incidence in high-density and low-income neighbourhoods, mainly in the south of the city. Antonio Zapatero, the head of Covid-19 response in Madrid, told reporters: “We are taking measures but it is not enough … Nothing will work if we are not responsible. There has been a relaxation of behaviour that we cannot afford.”

He said people were organising parties, drinking in the street and not respecting quarantine rules. Zapatero did not give details of the measures to be announced on Friday, but said the health department was considering locking down areas with the highest incidence of the virus. Since restrictions on movement were lifted and mass testing began in late June, infections have risen in Spain from a few hundred a day to thousands, outstripping other hard-hit nations such as the UK, Italy or France. Spain’s cumulative number of cases, at 603,167, is the highest in western Europe, while the number of lives lost stands at 30,004.  Authorities in Madrid hope to start using quick tests from next week, which would help track cases faster. 

While many European countries are seeing new cases surge to levels not seen since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweden, whose light-touch approach has made it an international outlier, has one of the continent’s lowest infection rates.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the Scandinavian country’s 14-day cumulative total of new cases was 22.2 per 100,000 inhabitants on Tuesday, against 279 in Spain, 158.5 in France, 118 in the Czech Republic, 77 in Belgium and 59 in the UK, all of which imposed lockdowns this spring.

Twenty-two of the 31 European countries surveyed by the ECDC had higher infection rates. New cases, now reported in Sweden only from Tuesday to Friday, are running at roughly the rate seen in late-March, while data from the national health agency showed only 1.2% of its 120,000 tests last week came back positive.  Sweden has confirmed 87,575 cases of coronavirus and 5,860 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Authorities in Myanmar are racing to build a field hospital to cope with a surge of coronavirus infections that doctors fear could overwhelm the country’s fragile health system. The south-east Asian nation reported 307 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, its highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic in March, and another 134 on Wednesday morning, taking the total to 3,636 cases and 39 deaths.  Myanmar had gone weeks without a case of local transmission before an outbreak in mid-August in the western region of Rakhine that has spread across the country.

Indonesia reported its biggest daily rise in infections, with 3,963 new cases and a further 135 virus-related deaths on Wednesday.

The Philippines recorded an additional 3,550 infections and 69 more deaths.

Russia reported 5,670 new infections and 132 new deaths. 

Total number of cases worldwide – 29,788,532

Total number of deaths worldwide – 940,353

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 21,597,380

Active cases: 

7,250,799 active cases, 

7,189,911 in mild condition, 

60,888 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 22,537,733

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Wednesday 16th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves” (William Shakespeare)

Jordan will suspend schools for two weeks from Thursday and close places of worship, restaurants and public markets as part of renewed restrictions after a record rise in coronavirus cases in the last few days. The decision taken after a cabinet meeting came as the kingdom struggles to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the pandemic.  The health minister Saad Jaber said the government was seeking to avoid the kind of tight nationwide lockdown imposed in the spring that brought the virus under control with low daily case numbers among a population of 10 million.  Officials blame large social gatherings and weddings, which are now banned, for the fast transmission of the virus and have enforced 14-day prison term for violators of the ban. More than 4,000 shops have been closed for breaching health rules on wearing face masks. There have been 3,528 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Jordan and 26 people have lost their lives.  Out of 1,247 active cases, 13 are described as serious or critical.

Panama has lifted a five-month-old coronavirus measure that meant women could go out one day and men the next. The rules limiting when people can could go out for essentials proved controversial because it led to harassment and discrimination against transgender people. The health minister, Luis Antonio Sucre, urged caution despite the lifting of the rule, which had been in place since March. “Today we are beginning a new stage,” Sucre said, “in which men and women can go out when they wish. We have to be very careful, we have to remember that the pandemic is not over.” Panama has had 102,204 reported cases and 2,173 lives have been lost to COVID-19.  Similar measures were also tried in Peru as a way to reduce the number of people on the street and slow the spread of the virus.   There have been 733,860 cases of the virus in Peru, the 5th highest caseload in the world.  To date, 30,812 people have died.  The case rate in Peru, where the population is recorded 33,065,274, equates to 22,194 infections per 1M populous.

Mainland China reported eight new coronavirus cases on 14 September, down from 10 cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said in a statement on Tuesday.

The National Health Commission said all new reported cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas. The commission also reported nine new asymptomatic cases, down from 39 a day earlier. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 85,202. The number of lives lost to COVID-19 remains unchanged at 4,634.

India reported 83,809 new coronavirus infections for its lowest daily jump in a week, the health ministry said on Tuesday. The world’s second-most populous nation appeared to be on course to cross the milestone of 5 million cases today (Wednesday) as its tally of 4.93 million is just 70,000 short. India, where cases have been rising faster than any other nation, lags only the United States in terms of its number of total infections. The lives lost total reached 80,808 on Tuesday, an increase of 1, 054 in 24 hours, the ministry added. 

Millions of school students in Pakistan have returned to classes after schools and colleges were closed for six months due to the coronavirus outbreak. Educational institutes were closed in March but the government announced a staggered reopening last week as daily infection numbers are falling.  Senior schools were the first to restart, with middle school set to go back next week and primary school the week after.

The long closure led to the cancellations of exams and left academic calendars in disarray. Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood warned that schools that did not following precautionary measures, including the wearing of masks and social distancing, would be closed. Pakistan has recorded 302,424 cases of the coronavirus and 6,389 deaths but daily infections have been slowing from a peak of nearly 7,000, and 118 deaths, in one day in June.

In Ireland, the government is to delay the reopening of Dublin’s drink-only pubs because coronavirus cases in the capital have increased twentyfold in the past month. Leo Varadkar, the deputy Prime Minister, said the surge would require additional restrictions in Dublin, which has a 14-day incidence rate of 89.1 per 100,000, almost double the national rate of 46.8. Prof Samuel McConkey, an infectious disease expert at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin, urged residents to restrict social gatherings, saying: “Where we are at now is not a stable place.” The government was expected to publish on Tuesday a risk-ranking system, with a score of one the lowest and five the highest, requiring a full lockdown. It considers Ireland to be at level two. Despite the continued closure of so-called “wet” pubs it is not yet clear if Dublin will be given a higher rating. There have been 31,192 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland and 1,784 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  Ireland has registered 48.5 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days, the 17th highest of 31 countries monitored by the EU’s independent European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, but the rate in Dublin is double that.  Ireland has registered 48.5 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days, the 17th highest of 31 countries monitored by the EU’s independent European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, but the rate in Dublin is double that.

Hospitality venues in Copenhagen have been ordered to limit their opening hours following a rise in COVID-19 cases in Denmark.  Restaurants, bars and cafes will have to close at 10pm in the capital, after health minister Magnus Heunicke said the country’s reproduction rate, which indicates the average number of people an infected person transmits the virus to, is at 1.5. A total of 334 new coronavirus infections were registered in24 hours, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to 20,237.  To date, a total of 633 people have lost their lives. 

New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands have hit a daily record of 1,379 in the 24 hours preceding the writing of the report. On Monday, health authorities in the country recorded 1,300 new infections, it said. The rise means COVID-19 cases have increased by 9,194 in a week, 85% more than in the first week of September when 4,917 new cases were recorded. Most new infections recorded on Tuesday were reported in Amsterdam and The Hague.

Australia’s virus hot spot Victoria state says it will relax pandemic restrictions in most areas from Wednesday night. Premier Daniel Andrews said Tuesday that people who live outside the state capital, Melbourne, would have no restrictions on leaving their homes and all shops will be able to reopen. Mr Andrews also urged Melbourne residents not to get discouraged about staying in lockdown as the rest of the state opens up. People are not allowed to leave Australia’s second-largest city without approved reasons and police will tighten checkpoints on routes from Melbourne as the rest of the state opens up. Australia recorded its first day without a single reported COVID-19 death since 13 July on Tuesday.

South Korea’s new virus cases stayed below 200 for the 13th consecutive day on Tuesday as the country’s tougher social distancing scheme has taken effect, but untraceable cases reached a new high. The country added a further 106 confirmed cases, including 91 local infections, raising the total caseload to 22,391, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). It marked a slight drop from 109 cases reported on Monday. The number of additional patients reached 121 on Sunday and 136 on Saturday. The number of local infections remained in double digits for the third consecutive day but health authorities are still struggling to regain control over the spread of the virus due to increased cases with unknown transmission routes and sporadic clusters. Over the past two weeks, 25% of the additional cases had unidentified infection routes, marking the highest level since the country started to compile such data in April.

Among the new cases, 28% were also linked to cluster infections.  367 people have lost the battle with the virus and 18,878 people are reported to have recovered.  Out of 3,146 active cases, 158 are described as serious or critical. 

Total number of cases worldwide – 29,519,555

Total number of deaths worldwide – 934,101

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 21,344,110

Active cases: 

7,241,344 active cases, 

7,180,620 in mild condition, 

60,724 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 22,278,211

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Tuesday 15th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Do your duty and a little more and the future will take care of itself” (Andrew Carnegie)

The World Health Organisation expects Europe to see a rise in the daily number of COVID-19 deaths in October and November, the head of the body’s European branch has told the media.

“It’s going to get tougher. In October, November, we are going to see more mortality,” the WHO Europe director, Hans Kluge, said, as the continent experiences a surge of cases though the number of deaths has remained relatively stable.

The resurgence is, however, expected to lead to an increase in daily deaths, the WHO said.

“It’s a moment where countries don’t want to hear this bad news, and I understand,” Kluge said stressing that he wanted to send the “positive message” that the pandemic “is going to finish, at one moment or another”.

The WHO Europe’s 55 member states held an online meeting on Monday and Tuesday to discuss their response to coronavirus and agree on their overall five-year strategy. 

However Kluge, based in Copenhagen, cautioned against those who believe that the development of a vaccine will bring an end to the pandemic. 

He said: “I hear the whole time: ‘the vaccine is going to be the end of the pandemic’. Of course not! We don’t even know if the vaccine is going to help all population groups. We are getting some signs now that it will help for one group and not for the other.  And then if we have to order different vaccines, what a logistical nightmare! The end of the pandemic is the moment that we as a community are going to learn how to live with this pandemic. And it depends on us and that’s a very positive message.”

The number of cases in Europe has risen sharply in recent weeks, especially in Spain and France. On Friday alone, more than 51,000 new cases were reported in the 55 countries of the WHO Europe, which is more than the highest peak in April, according to the organisation. Meanwhile, the number of daily deaths has remained at around the same level since early June, with around 400-500 deaths per day linked to COVID-19, WHO data showed.

The World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 dashboard showed Monday a new one-day record high had been reached at 307,930 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

The WHO’s complete figures for Sunday showed that 307,930 cases were confirmed to the UN health agency during the day, 19,870 higher than Saturday’s tally.

Daily confirmed cases have only topped 300,000 once before, when 306,857 were recorded on September 6. According to the WHO’s figures, there have been more than 28,870,000 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease, while more than 921,800 people have lost their lives, including 5,537 on Sunday.

“Lives and livelihoods have been lost, the global economy is in recession and social and political fault lines have been exposed,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said via video-link Monday at the organisation’s European regional committee.

“We are by no means out of the woods. The average daily number of cases in the region is now higher than it was during the first peak in March,” he said, citing the record 48,921 cases confirmed in Europe on Sunday.

A total of 132,464 cases were confirmed in the WHO’s Americas region on Sunday, followed by 101,119 in southeast Asia.

There were also 14,827 cases reported in the eastern Mediterranean, 5,958 in the western Pacific and 4,641 in Africa.

Health authorities in Catalonia have reported four cases of coronavirus reinfection, including a doctor who is currently being treated in an intensive care unit, but who is expected to recover. The other three cases are said to be mild. Last week, Spain became the first western European country to log more than 500,000 Covid cases. At the time of writing, the total number of cases stood at 576,697 – 112,364 of them diagnosed over the previous two weeks. Spain has so far recorded 29,747 coronavirus deaths.The proportion of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients stands at 7.5% nationally, although the figure in Madrid is almost three times that, at 18%. Both the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and Fernando Simón, Spain’s health emergencies chief, have expressed concerns over the situation in Madrid, which accounts for around a third of all cases and deaths. On Monday, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the regional president of Madrid, announced an €80m plan to improve primary healthcare and hire more staff.

More than a million pupils returned to schools across Portugal on Monday.

Portugal ordered schools, kindergartens and universities to close in mid-March when a lockdown was imposed to fight the spread of the virus. Classes were replaced with online lessons and daily TV broadcasts of various subjects. 

The number of daily infections has increased in Portugal since the end of the lockdown and is now around the levels last seen in April.

 

Queues formed outside schools across Italy on Monday as 5.6 million pupils returned to classrooms for the first time in over six months. Schools in 12 Italian regions reopened in what Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said was a “big test for the state”.  “There will be difficulties and
hardship, especially at the beginning,” Conte said. “I thank the teachers and school principals, and the families who have made many sacrifices.” Schools were closed on 6 March, a week before Italy went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chaos marked the lead-up to the reopening, with many schools forced to postpone the start of the academic year because single-person desks had not arrived in time. Some schools will also open with reduced hours due to a shortage of staff. About 13,000 teaching and non-teaching staff will not yet return after testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies as part of a blanket screening carried out last week. Children went back to school in the northern Alto Adige region in early September while schools in the remaining seven regions are expected to reopen on 24 September. Teachers have to wear face masks at all times, as do pupils over the age of six. Desks have to be 1 metre apart. Staff and children have their temperature taken on arrival, while hand-gel dispensers will be placed around school buildings. Those who have been in close contact with a student or teacher who tests positive for COVID-19 will be immediately quarantined.

According to reports, Sweden has taken Britain off its red-list of countries that it advises citizens not to travel to, despite a pick-up in new coronavirus cases and restrictions on public gatherings in the UK. Swedes can now travel freely to most European destinations, though Finland, Ireland, the Baltic countries and Malta remain on the country’s red-list.

New Zealand will remain at its current COVID-19 alert level for at least another week, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday. The country is currently under low-level restrictions due to continued community transmission of the coronavirus in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. Physical distancing is required, and masks are legally mandated on public transport.  Social gatherings in Auckland are limited to 10 people, and the rest of the country is limited to 100. The gathering limits for Auckland will be reviewed on 21 September, said Ms Ardern, Restrictions for the rest of New Zealand will be reviewed on 21 September too, if the virus remains contained the country outside of Auckland would move to the lowest restriction level.  Ms Ardern also said physical distancing restrictions on planes and public transport, which required empty seats to be left between passengers, would be removed today, with masks still required.  There are 96 active cases of the virus inNew Zealand. There have been 24 lives lost since March, and 1,798 confirmed cases total.

French Polynesia has recorded another 67 coronavirus cases in 24 hours, raising its total to 1,020. Of those cases, 958 have been detected since August, when the government and the French High Commission re-opened borders and abolished quarantine restrictions for tourists. On 9 August, there were just 69 infections. Since that date, five weeks ago, the number of confirmed cases has increased exponentially, up nearly 1500%.  Out of 309 active cases, 7 are described as serious or critical.  With a recorded population of just 281,240, the case rate equates to 3,389 infections per 1M populous.

Australia has reported its lowest one-day rise in infections in nearly three months as authorities began to ease restrictions aimed at slowing its spread. Thirty-nine people were found to be infected with the virus in the past 24 hours, the lowest one-day increase in new cases since 26 June, when 37 infections were detected. Australia’s second most populous state of Victoria on Monday reported seven deaths from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours and 35 new cases, its lowest daily rise in infections since late June.

With dwindling numbers of new infections, the epicentre of Australia’s latest outbreak, the state has begun easing restrictions, allowing people to leave their homes for longer periods for exercise and shortening a curfew at night. In Queensland state, which has effectively eradicated the virus, authorities are under pressure as they decline to open its borders to other areas that are also free of infections. With families separated, even for funerals, the state’s chief health officer is under police guard after getting death threats.

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, was the only other to report any new cases with four in the past 24 hours.  All but one of the cases was in quarantine after returning from overseas, though officials warned against complacency. Australia has recorded a total of 26,692 coronavirus infections and 816 deaths.  Over 23,500 people have beaten COVID-19, 97% of the total number of infections. 

Total number of cases worldwide – 29,279,771

Total number of deaths worldwide – 929,901

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 21,105,582

Active cases: 

7,244,288 active cases, 

7,183,764 in mild condition, 

60,524 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 22,035,483

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Monday 14th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“It is always wise to look ahead but difficult to look further than you can see” (Winston Churchill)

A round up of some of the developments around the world from the weekend.

Oxford University has announced that clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine, under development with the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, are to resume in the UK, after the trials were suddenly halted last Sunday (7 Sept) when a participant fell ill.

Daily coronavirus cases in Scotland have hit a four-month high, after a total of 221 people have tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours.

In Wales, there were a further 164 cases of coronavirus confirmed  bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 19,228. Public Health Wales said no further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,597.

Oxygen supply has grown scarce in parts of India that are particularly hard-hit by coronavirus. With total cases of more than 4.75m, following a record rise of 97,570 new infections on Saturday, India is the world’s second worst affected country. Total COVID-19 deaths stood at 78,614, putting India in third place in a ranking of countries’ fatalities.

The Netherlands has reported 1,231 new cases of coronavirus, as well as one further death.  However, according to the latest update from the Dutch national institute for public health and the environment, just one new death from Covid-19 was registered on Saturday. Daily new cases were at their lowest on 10 July, following months of lockdown measures, and have gradually risen since then. So far, daily death tolls have not followed a similar trajectory.

Athens has become the centre of what senior government officials are calling a “troubling” surge in cases in Greece.  From Monday to Friday, health officials registered 555 cases of coronavirus in the greater Attica region, out of 1,232 recorded nationwide. The public health organisation, EODY, announced 158 infections in the space of 24 hours in the region on Friday.

In England, people were urged not to have a “party weekend” before the government’s “rule of six” restrictions come into force on Monday. The call from the Police Federation came as a former chief scientific adviser urged the public to act in tune with guidelines as the UK is “on the edge of losing control” of coronavirus, he said.

Russia reported 5,488 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the tally to 1,062,811, the fourth largest in the world. 

Hungary’s health authorities on Saturday reported 916 new infections, with Saturday’s tally being 25% higher than the previous record of 716 new cases, reached on Friday.

In France health authorities on Saturday reported 10,561 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a new daily record as the number topped 10,000 for the first time.  The latest daily count, surpassing the previous record of 9,843 new infections reported on Thursday, highlights a resurgence of the disease in the country. The rise led the government to outline additional measures on Friday to avert a return to the general lockdown put in place earlier in the year. 

The United Arab Emirates has reported its highest daily rise in confirmed cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, with 1,007 new infections found.  There have been 78,849 cases of coronavirus confirmed in the UAE and 399 people have died. 

A 100-year-old woman has recovered from Covid-19 in Vietnam, according to local media. The woman, who was being treated at Quang Nam central general hospital, in Vietnam’s central Quang Nam province, tested positive for the virus on 30 July. She is one of five patients who were being treated at the hospital who were given the all-clear on Saturday after testing negative for infection a third time. The other four are between 13 and 75 years old. Vietnam has so far reported 1,060 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 35 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

The Philippines has reported the highest single-day coronavirus death toll so far recorded in south-east Asia, according to official sources. The health ministry on Saturday reported 186 more deaths related to coronavirus, a daily record.  In total, there have been 261,216 confirmed cases and 4,371 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Elsewhere in south-east Asia, Indonesia has reported 3,636 new coronavirus infections and 73 more deaths. The latest report brought the total number of infections to 218,382 and deaths to 8,723, the highest number of deaths in the region. The country’s capital Jakarta will reimpose stricter wide-scale restrictions starting today to control spread of the virus in the city.

Although most of California is still in lockdown, officials are starting to see signs of hope as new cases and hospitalisations drop.  America’s most populous state still has the most cases in the country, but when adjusting for population, other states such as Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Louisiana are doing worse. Over the last week, an average of 93,527 tests have been conducted each day, and the statewide positivity rate has decreased to 3.7%. However, the crisis is far from over.  As of 11 September, 14,269 deaths attributable to COVID-19  had been recorded in California, and on Saturday morning, total confirmed infections stood at 755,705.

The number of lives lost as a result of COVID-19 in Turkey reached 7,056 on Sunday, rising by 57 people in the previous 24 hours, according to data from the health ministry.  The total number of cases in the country rose by 1,527 on Sunday, reaching a total of 291,162 cases, the data showed, with 258,833 people recovered from Covid-19.  Both daily deaths and cases have risen to levels previously reported in mid-May recently.  The government has ruled out widespread lockdowns but has announced new measures recently, including banning weddings and other events and limiting the number of passengers allowed on public transport. 

Israel’s government has approved imposing a three-week nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus that will start on Friday,  However, Israel’s Ben Gurion airport will remain open, according to reports. Israel’s increasing rate of coronavirus infection is bringing the country’s hospitals closer to maximum capacity and destabilising the health system, a report by Israel’s coronavirus information centre said on Sunday. The centre’s daily report said that coronavirus is rapidly spreading in Israel, adding that the rate of infection during the past two weeks is the highest recorded since the outbreak began.

Saudi Arabia will partially lift its suspension of international flights as of 15 September to allow “exceptional categories” of citizens and residents to travel, the state news agency SPA said on Sunday.  The kingdom will scrap all travel restrictions on air, land and sea transport for citizens on 1 January 2021, it said.  In March, the kingdom suspended international flights to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Exceptional categories include public and military sector employees, diplomats and their families, those working for public or non-profit private sector jobs abroad, businessmen, patients who need treatment abroad, those studying abroad as well as people with humanitarian cases, and sports teams, according to reports. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizens and non-Saudi residents with valid residency or visitors’ visas will be allowed to enter the kingdom as of 15 September conditional on proving they have tested negative for coronavirus. 

GCC citizens can usually travel freely between member states without the need for visas, or sometimes passports, a national identity card might be sufficient, at least at land border crossings. Saudi Arabia introduced stringent measures to curb the spread of the virus in March, including 24-hour curfews on most towns and cities.  The kingdom has recorded 325,651 infections and 4,268 deaths.

On Sunday, Czechia (Czech Republic) reported its largest daily increase in new coronavirus infections for a third straight day, according to Health Ministry data. It is the fifth day in a row with new infections above 1,000 as the country of 10.7 million sees a surge in cases that is among the fastest in the European Union. The government has tightened rules requiring face mask use but aims to avoid harsh lockdowns.

The UK reported 3,330 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, slightly down from Saturday’s 3,497 and 3,539 on Friday. The government also reported a further five deaths from COVID-19 bringing the total death toll of people who had a positive test result and died within 28 days to 41,628. Britain is to bring in a new ban on social gatherings today (Monday) in a bid to curb the increasing rise in infections. There have been 368,504 confirmed cases of the virus in the United Kingdom. 

Total number of cases worldwide – 29,127,591

Total number of deaths worldwide – 927,139

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 20,961,394

Active cases: 

7,239,058 active cases, 

7,178,160 in mild condition, 

60,898 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 21,888,533

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Saturday 12th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase” (Martin Luther King, Jr)

 A brief round up of some developments that were reported on after hours Thursday that you may already be aware of so apologies if this is old news for you.

France recorded nearly 10,000 new cases, its highest ever single-day total, a day before a cabinet meeting that might consider imposing fresh, local lockdowns to curb the spread of the disease.

The United Nations has called for an immediate ‘quantum leap’ in funding for global programmes developing coronavirus treatments and vaccine candidates. A $15bn funding gap needs to be plugged over the next three months, the the UN secretary-general said.

Finland’s Prime Minister will work remotely until further notice after the country’s new coronavirus tracing app warned that she may have been exposed to virus.

Greece has reported 372 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily figure since the pandemic began, bringing its total caseload to 12,452. Another four deaths were registered, taking the toll to 297.

Brazil recorded 40,557 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in 24 hours, and 983 deaths from the disease, the health ministry said on Thursday.  There have now been 4,239,763 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Brazil and 129,575 people have lost their lives. 

Tougher coronavirus restrictions are to be imposed in Portugal ahead of the start of the school year, including halving the size of permitted gatherings and new curbs on drinking. Sales of alcohol will also be barred from 8pm (local municipality restrictions will apply) as will drinking in public spaces.

News from Friday

Austria has responded to an increase in infections by making face-masks compulsory in more places including all shops and school corridors, and limiting the size of private events indoors to 50 people.  Austria quickly brought its first wave of infections under control with an early lockdown in mid-March that it began lifting a month later. However, daily cases have been rising since late June and hit their highest level since late March on Thursday.  Face masks, currently required on public transport and in shops considered essential such as supermarkets and post offices, will have to be worn in all shops and in schools but not in classrooms. Waiters will also be required to wear them, Kurz said. The new measures take effect from Monday. Events without assigned seating, including private parties, will be limited to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. Professionally organised events with assigned seating will be capped at 1,500 people indoors and 3,000 outdoors, slashing the current limits of 5,000 and 10,000.  There have been 31,247 cases of coronavirus confirmed in the country and 748 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  Out of 4,456 active cases, 39 are described as serious or critical.  In a country with a recorded population of 9,016,342, the rate of infection equates to 3,466 cases per 1M populous.

Ninety people have tested positive and eight have died in two care homes in central Switzerland in two of the largest outbreaks seen in retirement facilities.  The new clusters come amid a steady rise in cases in the country since mid-June, despite low and stable case numbers compared to its European neighbours. In the Siviriez nursing home in the canton of Fribourg, 37 elderly residents and 19 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven people have died in the past week, the canton’s authorities said in a statement. Civil defence forces were called in to help and some sick residents have been moved to hospital as there were no longer enough staff to care for them, it said.

In the Maison Bourgeoisiale retirement home in Bulle, also in Fribourg, 21 residents and 13 staff have tested positive, the canton said, adding that one person there had died.

Other nursing homes in the canton have seen sporadic cases, it said, adding though that most of those had been among staff members.  Switzerland has also announced that people travelling from part of France and Austria will need to be quarantined because of rising coronavirus cases there, but exempted immediate border regions. Switzerland considers that countries that count more than 60 new daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for 14 consecutive days are at-risk and reserves the right to impose restrictions, including a 10-day quarantine. The country has so far confirmed 45,711 cases of coronavirus and 2,020 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  In a country with a recorded population of 8,666,823, the rate of infection equates to 5,274 cases per 1M populous.

Finland will allow holidaymakers to visit the country for up to three days in order to help the struggling tourist industry, ministers have announced.  Under the new measures, travel restrictions will be eased to allow visitors from Germany, Sweden and other countries with fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past fortnight.

Arrivals from countries with higher levels of infection, such as France and the UK, will also be admitted without quarantine requirements if they are travelling with a charter flight or organised tour group, and if their stay does not exceed 72 hours.  Finland’s tight border restrictions ban arrivals from all but a handful of EU countries in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  The country has confirmed 8,469 cases of coronavirus and 337 people have lost their lives.  Out of 632 active cases, 1 is described as serious or critical and 7,500 people are reported to have recovered from the virus. 

Inside Kosovo’s hospitals, beds are filling up with the sick and dying as COVID-19 tears through one of Europe’s poorest corners. However, outside on the streets, a third of the population believe the pandemic is pure hoax, according to a recent poll that has shocked a government now trying to tackle the scourge of disbelief. Kosovo, a former Serbian province home to 1.8 million, has recently seen some of the highest COVID-19 death rates in Europe, while having one of the weakest healthcare systems.

In Pristina, relatives, many from rural areas, told reporters that they took shifts waiting outside the infectious disease clinic to be close to their sick loved ones and on hand to buy medicine as the hospital reserves were almost empty. In a bid to convince the public of the real dangers at hand, the government has decided to let media into previously sealed hospital wards to film the suffering. “Tell those outside who don’t believe what you saw here,” an exhausted elderly man, recovering at the infectious disease clinic after a two-week battle with the respiratory disease, told a local TV channel.

“Don’t joke with this. How can anyone believe a lie that the virus does not exist?” he implored.

Others who had once been among the unbelievers now know the dangers firsthand.

“To tell you the truth, I believed it did not exist. Now, after the hell I went through, I am convinced and I am telling the whole nation,” said an elderly woman, who had been treated with oxygen therapy for weeks.

The scepticism is a huge problem for the government as it tries to enforce measures in Kosovo, which had its deadliest month yet in August with nearly 300 deaths, a toll higher than all the three prior months combined. Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti’s government has tightened curfews in hot-spot cities, ordered early closures for restaurants and bars and banned public gatherings and religious ceremonies.

Iran has announced a further 2,313 cases in the last 24 hours, the highest daily rise since the 19 August. There have now been 395,488 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Iran.  It also announced a further 115 deaths, taking its total to 22,798. Iran has been reporting at least 100 deaths a day from virus since June. 

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Iraq hard, with 278,418 confirmed cases and 7,814 lives lost. In March, Iraqi authorities shut down airports and imposed total lockdowns to halt the virus’s spread. Top Shia authority Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani halted his weekly sermons, and they have yet to resume. However rules have generally been relaxed, with most airports reopening in July and curfews now only in place overnight. On Monday, the Iraqi government’s coronavirus crisis cell announced restaurants could seat customers, rather than just providing takeaway services, if they abide by health ministry protocols and that sports events could resume, but in the absence of spectators. The loosening of restrictions came just a few days after Iraq recorded its highest daily caseload yet, with more than 5,000 new coronavirus infections recorded on 4 September.

Thousands of supporters of Iraqi shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have gathered at a mosque in east Baghdad for the first weekly prayers since the onset of the pandemic. Iraq’s mosques have been closed to gatherings for close to six months, but Sadr said on Wednesday he would hold open-air prayers in his stronghold. In east Baghdad’s Sadr City, worshippers put on medical masks and gloves and had their temperatures taken before being allowed into the courtyard of the main mosque, where volunteers were spraying disinfectant. “We urge everyone to abide by social distancing and protect themselves against this virus,” the Imam said in the opening to his brief sermon. Sadr had issued a list of restrictions on Twitter this week, including that worshippers must stand exactly 75cm apart and sermons must last only 15 minutes. One worshipper, Qassem al-Mayahi, 40, said he was “happy to finally be able to pray on Fridays, as this is one of the five pillars of Islam. We need to figure out how to live” with the virus, “we may as well pray.” Other prayers at Sadrist mosques were also expected in the Shia holy city of Najaf.

India reported another record daily jump of 96,551 coronavirus cases on Friday, taking its total of confirmed cases to 4,587,777 according to official figures. Infections are growing faster in India than anywhere else in the world. The country currently has 948,473 active cases and 8,944 are classed as serious or critical.  Deaths have remained relatively low in the country, but are seeing an upward trend, with more than one thousand deaths being reported every day for the last ten days. 

Total number of cases worldwide – 28,399,494

Total number of deaths worldwide – 914,929

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 20,404,290

Active cases: 

7,080,344 active cases, 

7,019,584 in mild condition, 

60,760 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 21,319,075

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Friday 11th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect towards others” (Dalai Lama)

An extract from the opening remarks made by WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus at the most recent COVID-19 media briefing:

“COVID-19 is teaching all of us many lessons. 

One of them is that health is not a luxury item for those who can afford it; it’s a necessity, and a human right. Public health is the foundation of social, economic and political stability. That means investing in population-based services for preventing, detecting and responding to disease. This will not be the last pandemic. History teaches us that outbreaks and pandemics are a fact of life. But when the next pandemic comes, the world must be ready, more ready than it was this time.

In recent years, many countries have made enormous advances in medicine, but too many have neglected their basic public health systems, which are the foundation for responding to infectious disease outbreaks. Part of every country’s commitment to build back better must therefore be to invest in public health, as an investment in a healthier and safer future.

In fact, there are many examples of countries that have done exactly that.

Thailand is reaping the benefits of 40 years of health system strengthening. 

A robust and well-resourced medical and public health system, allied with strong leadership informed by the best available scientific advice, a trained and committed community workforce with 1 million village health volunteers, and consistent and accurate communication, have built trust and increased public confidence and compliance. 

As you know, Italy was one of the first countries to experience a large outbreak outside China, and in many ways was a pioneer for other countries. Italy took hard decisions based on the evidence and persisted with them, which reduced transmission and saved many lives. National unity and solidarity, combined with the dedication and sacrifice of health workers, and the engagement of the Italian people, brought the outbreak under control.

Mongolia acted very early, activating its State Emergency Committee in January. As a result, despite neighbouring China, Mongolia’s first case was not reported until March and it still has no reported deaths.

Mauritius has high population density, with high rates of non-communicable diseases and many international travellers, which meant it was at high-risk. But quick, comprehensive action, initiated in January, and previous experience with contact tracing paid off.

Although the Americas has been the most-affected region, Uruguay has reported the lowest number of cases and deaths in Latin America, both in total and on a per capita basis. This is not an accident. 

Uruguay has one of the most robust and resilient health systems in Latin America, with sustainable investment based on political consensus on the importance of investing in public health. 

Pakistan deployed the infrastructure built up over many years for polio to combat COVID-19. Community health workers who have been trained to go door-to-door vaccinating children for polio have been utilized for surveillance, contact tracing and care.

There are many other examples we could give, including Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, Vietnam and more. 

Many of these countries have done well because they learned lessons from previous outbreaks of SARS, MERS, measles, polio, Ebola, flu and other diseases. 

That’s why it’s vital that we all learn the lessons this pandemic is teaching us. 

Although Germany’s response was strong, it is also learning lessons. 

I welcome the announcement by Chancellor Angela Merkel over the weekend that her government will invest 4 billion euros by 2026 to strengthen Germany’s public health system. I call on all countries to invest in public health, and especially in primary health care, and follow Germany’s example.”

There were some key developments reported late Wednesday that are of note given the ever changing situation in Europe so I thought it prudent to begin with those.

France’s COVID-19 hospitalisations reached a one-month high as cases surge. The daily new coronavirus infections rose by more than 8,500 for the third time in six days on Wednesday, with the disease spreading at its fastest pace since it emerged in the country. The number of people taken to hospital with the virus was also up, by 43, increasing for the 11th day in a row to reach a one-month high of 5,003. France’s COVID-19 scientific committee says the government is facing difficult decisions after recording the second highest number of new cases (+8,557) for months on Wednesday. The committee said the level of coronavirus in the country was “worrying” and that the government “will be forced to take a certain number of difficult decisions … in the next 8-10 days at most”.

Jean-François Delfraissy, the head of the committee told journalists “France is now at a worrying level that is not far behind Spain with a lag of maybe two weeks, and much more severe than Italy”.

Portugal reported its highest daily cases since 20 April with 646 new coronavirus cases. The country’s health secretary, Jamila Madeira, said transmission was occurring primarily in family households. New cases fell to about 100 a day at the beginning of August but have crept back up since, worrying the tourism industry as it waits to hear whether it will taken back out of the UK’s air bridge list (countries UK residents can travel to without having to self-isolate on their return).  Stricter measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak will be introduced across Portugal from mid-September as students return to schools and many workers go back to the office, although details have yet to be announced.

Germany has advised against tourist trips to batch of European destinations. The foreign ministry has advised tourists against travelling to a batch of European destinations including Prague, Geneva, Dubrovnik and Corsica due to high coronavirus infection rates.

Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus has announced the temporary suspension of inbound flights due to a major rise in active coronavirus cases. The breakaway region, only recognised as a sovereign state by Turkey, has so far officially recorded four deaths and 475 infections, but has seen a jump in new cases, registering 144 positive tests in the first eight days of September. Mustafa Sofi, director of the north’s civil aviation authority, said inbound flights would be halted from Tuesday (8th Sept) until Sunday evening, with the exception of emergency flights as well as military and medical planes. The north only receives flights from Turkey, and requires new arrivals to be quarantined for seven to 14 days, depending on where the passengers have been besides Turkey. However, officials said they were running out of hotel and other rooms for self-isolation. Outbound flights to Turkey will still be allowed. Yesterday, the Turkish Cypriot cabinet also announced the closure until 1 October of schools, clubs, discos, cinemas, theatres and casinos, which are banned in Turkey and are a major tourist draw.

The countries of central Europe, having come out of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in much better shape than most of their western European counterparts, are now facing higher numbers than during the spring peak of COVID-19, as restrictions return to the region.

The Višegrad Four group – Hungary, Czechia (Czech Republic,) Poland and Slovakia – were proud of their low numbers earlier in the year but all four are now struggling to contain a second wave that looks set to be worse than the first. Poland recorded a daily high of 903 positive tests on 21 August, though has subsequently seen a reduction. In Slovakia, which was the first country along with the Czech Republic to introduce statutory mask wearing, 161 new cases were recorded on Tuesday, in contrast with the early part of the summer when new daily cases often did not break double figures.

Romania is approaching the milestone of 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the latest update from the country’s public health agency. On Thursday, 1,380 new infections were reported, bringing the total so far in the country to 99,684, of whom 4,065 have died, an increase of 47 on Wednesday. The total number of people being treated in hospital with COVID-19 is 7,133. Since the beginning of Romania’s outbreak, 41,010 patients have been declared cured, while 12,568 asymptomatic patients were discharged 10 days after detection.

India has confirmed another record number of daily coronavirus infections recording 95,735 new cases in 24 hours. The latest spike comes in a week which has seen a number of daily infection tallies over 90,000, representative of just how large the caseload is becoming in India. The number of cases is linked to the country’s scaling up of testing, more than 1 million tests are being carried out every day, according to the health ministry.

However cases are also rising as the country continues to open up, bars and pubs reopened in Delhi this week and later this month schools will reopen. With 4.4 million recorded infections, India has the second-highest number of cases after the US. It does, however, have a high recovery rate in comparison to other countries. For every 100 people confirmed with the virus, nearly 78 have recovered.

Tokyo is reportedly planning to lift restrictions on opening hours for bars and restaurants, as new coronavirus cases in the city continued on a downward trend. The capital has recorded far more cases than other parts of Japan, leading to its controversial exclusion from a domestic travel campaign in July.  However daily infections have gradually declined since reaching a peak of 472 in early August. On Wednesday it reported 149 infections, down from between 300 and 500 a day early last month. Nationwide, Japan reported more than 500 new infections on Wednesday, down from the 1,300-1,500 level in early August. Japanese media said a request for restaurants and bars to close at 10 pm could be lifted as early as next Tuesday, adding that the metropolitan government could lower its virus alert from the current “red” status, which means infections are spreading.

Tokyo’s nightlife districts have been blamed for driving up cases since a nationwide state of emergency was lifted in late May, prompting local authorities to call on establishments serving alcohol to voluntarily close early. 

Indonesia’s capital Jakarta is to re-implement stricter social restrictions on Monday, after the number of COVID-19 cases in the country has increased over the last month. On Wednesday night, governor Anies Baswedan said that 77% of isolation beds in the capital were currently occupied and the city would run out of beds by 17 September. COVID-19 intensive care units in the capital would be completely full by 15 September if cases continue to increase, he said. The measures will see office workers working from home; shopping centres and places of worship closed, while traffic around the capital’s borders will be monitored more closely. The reclosure of essential industries will be another blow to an already stricken economy. Jakarta has recorded over 50,000 coronavirus cases as of Thursday, the highest number in Indonesia, and over 1,300 virus-linked deaths. In total, Indonesia has recorded 207,203 cases and 8,456 lives lost have been virus-linked, the highest coronavirus mortality rate in south-east Asia.

The Philippines has confirmed 3,821 more new coronavirus infections, the most in 11 days. A further 80 people have lost the battle with the virus.  In a bulletin, the health ministry said total confirmed cases have increased to 248,947, the most in Southeast Asia, while the number of lives lost to COVID-19 has reached 4,066. So far 186,058 people infected with the virus have recovered, the health ministry said.  Out of 58,823 active cases, 990 are described as serious or critical.

Total number of cases worldwide – 28,084,321

Total number of deaths worldwide – 908,991

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 20,151,709

Active cases: 

7,023,621 active cases, 

6,963,112 in mild condition, 

60,509 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 21,060,700

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Thursday 10th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace” (Buddha)

HANDS FACE SPACE – In the United Kingdom, a new government campaign is being launched to remind people to wash their hands, cover their faces and keep their distance, in a bid to keep infections down as the winter months approach. With the slogan “Hands. Face. Space”, advertising will run across TV, radio, print, social and digital display advertising, as well as on community media channels, the Department of Health and Social Care has said. The slogan was originally launched by the Prime Minister in July, but collided with the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s catchy and inviting message, “Eat out to help out”, offering discounts at local restaurants. “Hands. Face. Space” failed to enter the public consciousness to the same degree.

In Wales, the government has added three more Greek islands to its quarantine list just hours before restrictions come into force. From 4am yesterday (Wednesday), travellers arriving in Wales from Santorini, Serifos and Tinos will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Health Minster Vaughan Gething said in a statement on Tuesday evening that he reviewed the latest assessments by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) before making the decision.

This follows an announcement made on Thursday in which travellers arriving from Portugal, Gibraltar, French Polynesia as well as the Greek islands of Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros, Antiparos and Crete were told to self isolate from 4am the following day.

This latest measure comes after the Department for Transport announced quarantine measures for travellers arriving in England from the named Greek islands, with the exception of Paros and Antiparos, on Monday.

This forms part of the government’s new regional approach to quarantine policy, in which islands can be added or removed from the quarantine list should infection rates differ from their mainland countries.

Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday as the government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases. Prime Minister Boris Johnson used a press conference on Wednesday to announce the change in the law after the number of daily positive COVID-19 cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000. The legal limit on social gatherings will be reduced from 30 people to six. It will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors, including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.

Gatherings of more than six people will be allowed where the household or support bubble is larger than six, or where the gathering is for work or education purposes.

Exemptions will also apply for weddings, funerals and organised team sports in a COVID secure way.

The number of new, confirmed cases of coronavirus in France rose by 6,544 over the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report to reach a total of 335,524 cases since the outbreak began there.  There have been 30,764 lives lost to COVID-19 in France and 88,226 people have recovered.  Currently, there are 216,534 active cases in the country and 574 are described as serious or critical.

Three migrant camps near Athens have been placed in quarantine as concerns mount over spread of virus among thousands of asylum seekers living in squalid conditions in Greece. Thousands have fled an overcrowded refugee camp after multiple fires gutted much of the site on the Greek island of Lesbos, authorities have said. The cause of the blaze which burned tents and containers was not immediately clear, a fire brigade official said. A police official said that migrants had been taken to safety. People were seen leaving the camp, carrying their luggage, witnesses said. At least 25 firefighters with 10 engines, aided by police, were battling the flames both inside and outside the facility, the fire brigade said, adding that emergency personnel were pushed back by migrants during their efforts to put out the fire.The Moria facility, which hosts more than 12,000 people – more than four times its stated capacity – has been frequently criticised by aid groups for poor living conditions. It was placed under quarantine last week after authorities confirmed that an asylum-seeker had tested positive for the coronavirus. Confirmed infections have risen to 35 since then.

The wearing of face masks inside buildings across Czechia (Czech Republic) will be mandatory from today (Thursday). Health minister Adam Vojtěch said the government had made the decision following a spike in new infections in the country. On Wednesday, the Czech Republic recorded 1,164 new cases of the virus bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 29,877.  The rise in the number of Czech cases has been among the fastest in Europe, with infection rates over the last two weeks only faster in Spain, France, Malta, Romania and Croatia, according to the European Union agency European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The Czech pace is roughly three times that of neighbouring Germany. The number of lives lost to COVID-19 is 441.  There are reportedly 9,272 active cases with 62 of those described as serious or critical.

The number of new coronavirus cases registered in the Netherlands surged to 1,140 in the 24 hours, the highest daily total since April, the health minister said on Wednesday. Hugo de Jonge announced the figures recorded by the National Institute for Health (RIVM) during a live video stream. “It’s not going the right way,” De Jonge said. A day earlier the country recorded 964 cases, with cases rising quickly among young adults. The RIVM said the increase was not tied to the reopening of primary schools across the country over the past three weeks. There have been 76,548 confirmed cases in the country and 6,244 lives have been lost.  The Netherlands has not released data relating to active cases or recovered patients but there are currently reported to be 45 serious or critical cases in the country. With a recorded population of 17,142,164, the rate of infection is 4,465 cases per 1M populous.

Canada is seeing a worrying increase in the number of people infected with the coronavirus as schools across the country start to reopen, a top medical official said on Tuesday. There are reports that Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said an average of 545 new cases had been reported daily over the past week, up from about 300 in July.

“This is concerning and I want to underscore that when cases occur, including in schools, it is a reflection on what’s happening in the community,” she told a briefing. “This week is a really critical week.” Several of the 10 provinces have started to reopen schools this week for in-person learning for the first time since March after investing millions in added protections. Quebec, which welcomed back pupils last month, has already reported a number of cases in schools.   Alberta, which reopened schools one week ago, reported 11 new coronavirus cases spread across 11 different schools, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw told reporters. She said the infections were spread in the community, and not acquired within the schools.Alberta now has 1,692 known active cases, the most since early May. The Premier of Ontario, Canada’s most-populous province, railed against young people and students who he said were holding unauthorised parties and warned them he wanted the police to lay charges if necessary.

“No more parties. I just can’t stress it enough,” Doug Ford told a briefing on Tuesday. Ontario announced a one-month suspension of efforts to lift remaining restrictions that had been imposed to fight the outbreak. The coronavirus reproduction number, which shows how many people someone with COVID-19 is infecting, has risen to just above one, an indication that the virus is spreading. Canada has recorded a total of  133,748 coronavirus cases and 9,153 people have lost their lives.  With a recorded population of 37,804,826 ( Is that all I hear you cry? Yes I thought it would be much more), the case rate is 3,538 infections per 1M populous.

Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria state on Wednesday reported 76 new cases and 11 lives lost from the virus . Victoria, the country’s second most populous state, a day earlier reported eight deaths and 55 cases. The state, which extended its tough movement restrictions in its largest city of Melbourne until 28 September to contain a second wave, is deepening its contact tracing programme to further ease a rise in daily new cases.

New Zealand reported six new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, all spread by community transmission and connected to an outbreak in the largest city, Auckland. Health authorities are asking all members of a particular church, Mt. Roskill Evangelical Fellowship, to be tested for the coronavirus, even if they are not symptomatic or have been tested before. All six of the new cases have links to the church.

Total number of cases worldwide – 27,773,965

Total number of deaths worldwide – 902,583

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 19,854,705

Active cases: 

7,016,677 active cases, 

6,956,214 in mild condition, 

60,463 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 20,757,288

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Wednesday 9th September 2020 by Louise  Birch

“I’ve been through it all baby, I am Mother Courage” (Elizabeth Taylor)

Spain has become the first western European country to record more than half a million COVID-19 cases, logging a total of 525,549 infections as concerns also grow over the rise in cases in France and the UK. The Spanish milestone comes amid a continuing surge in infections as millions of children begin returning to school after a six-month hiatus.

According to the latest figures from the health ministry, Spain has logged 49,716 new cases in the past week, and 237 lives lost bringing the total number of people who have lost the battle with COVID-19 to 29,516.  Around a third of the new cases and deaths are in Madrid, the region hardest hit by the pandemic. Spain has the fastest rise in daily confirmed cases in Europe, which began a climb in July, with France showing a similar increase beginning in August.

India recorded its highest daily deaths from the coronavirus in more than a month on Tuesday, even as new infections slowed, data from the health ministry showed. The health ministry said 1,133 people had died of COVID-19 in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report, the highest since July, taking total mortalities to 72,843. However, new daily cases were at 75,809, the lowest in a week. India surpassed Brazil on Monday to become the country with the most number of coronavirus cases outside of the United States and has a cumulative caseload of 4.28 million.

Hong Kong will expand the size of public gatherings to four people and reopen more sports venues from Friday as the Asian financial hub relaxes strict curbs against a third wave of the coronavirus, according to reports. The measures come as new daily cases have dropped into the single digits from three figures. Last week, gyms and massage parlours reopened and night-time dining hours were extended. Restaurants will be allowed to seat four people, up from two now, while indoor and outdoor recreation spaces will reopen, said Sophia Chan, the city’s health secretary, but swimming pools are to stay shut. “We must strike a balance. The third wave is entering two months already and we have yet to see an end to it,” Chan told a news briefing, adding that new infections were being reported each day, some of unknown origin.

A mass testing scheme initiated by China for Hong Kong has picked up 16 new cases from more than 800,000 people tested, the government said on Tuesday.  There have been 4,896 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the outbreak was reported in HK and 99 people have lost their lives.  

Cheers can be heard from Ireland, where the government is likely to authorise the reopening of more than half the country’s pubs that do not serve food on 21 September after health officials advised they should not open before that date, according to media reports on Tuesday. Ireland exited lockdown at a slower pace than most of Europe and a pausing of the final stage of its initial reopening plan since July has made it the only country in Europe not to fully reopen pubs. Bars that serve food were allowed to open for the first time since March alongside restaurants at the end of June under strict conditions. National broadcaster RTE reported that cabinet would discuss a range of dates, also including 14 September and 28 September. Ministers have twice set a reopening date for pubs but postponed it after a rise in COVID-19 cases. Data on Monday showed that Ireland’s average number of cases has continued to rise slowly over the past week and is at a higher level than when the government significantly tightened nationwide coronavirus restrictions last month. The country’s chief medical officer warned residents of Dublin and Limerick on Monday to limit their social interactions as much as possible to control concerning spikes in cases in two of Ireland’s largest cities.  There have been 29,774 cases of the virus confirmed in Ireland and 1,777 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  There are 4,633 active cases and 7 people are described as in serious or critical condition.  Over 23,300 have recovered from the virus.

Ukraine registered a record 57 deaths linked to coronavirus, the national security council said on Tuesday, up from a previous record of 54 deaths registered last week. The council said a total of 140,479 cases were registered in Ukraine as of 8 September, with 2,934 deaths and 63,546 people recovered.

In the United Kingdom, the deputy chief medical officer has warned that if the country does not again take coronavirus very seriously it will face “a bumpy ride over the next few months”, after a “big change” in infections. Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said on Monday the public had “relaxed too much” over the summer and described the rising number of cases were of “great concern”.

Caerphilly in South Wales is preparing to be placed under local lockdown and stricter measures were extended in Scotland.

There were a further 2,948 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Monday, following the 2,988 reported on Sunday, which was the largest daily figure since May.

In an interview with journalists, Prof Van-Tam said:

“This is a big change. It’s now consistent over two days and it’s of great concern at this point. We’ve been able to relax a bit over the summer, the disease levels have been really quite low in the UK through the summer but these latest figures really show us that much as people might like to say ‘oh well it’s gone away’ – this hasn’t gone away. And if we’re not careful, if we don’t take this incredibly seriously from this point in we’re going to have a bumpy ride over the next few months. He said that the rise is “much more marked” in the 17-21 age group, but noted there is a “more general and creeping geographic trend” across the UK.”

In other UK coronavirus news, the total number of confirmed cases in the UK has reached 350,100. The seven-day rate of new UK cases has risen to 21.3 per 100,000 people, just above the threshold of 20 cases per 100,000 at which the government considers imposing quarantine conditions on people travelling to the UK, if recorded in other countries.  There have been 41,554 lives lost to COVID-19 across the UK. 

Malaysian authorities on Tuesday reminded the public to avoid physical contact, including fist bumps as a form of greeting, as the number of new coronavirus cases in the country climbed to a three-month high. The fist bump, where two people briefly press their closed fists together, has replaced the traditional handshake in popularity as people around the world sought to limit the spread of the pandemic. Malaysia’s top health official said any form of physical contact presents the risk of infection and reminded people to maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (3.3ft).  The south-east Asian country recorded a three-digit rise in new infections for the first time since early June, with 100 cases reported on Tuesday.  Malaysia has so far avoided the level of outbreaks seen in neighbours the Philippines and Indonesia, which have 241,987 and 200,035 cases respectively. Indonesia’s death toll of 8,230 is the region’s highest.  Malaysia has reported a total of 9,559 infections including 128 lives lost. 

Total number of cases worldwide – 27,524,937

Total number of deaths worldwide – 897,638

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 19,625,261

Active cases: 

7,002,038 active cases, 

6,941,748 in mild condition, 

60,290 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 20,522,899

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Tuesday 8th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Women are like teabags, we don’t know our strength until we are in hot water” (Unknown but I would like to be able to take credit for this one)

An extract from the most recent press briefing given by World Health Organisation Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:

“Yesterday I had the honour of addressing foreign ministers from G20 countries. 

The focus of the discussion was on how together we can reopen societies, economies and borders.  

This is something WHO supports wholeheartedly.

Lockdowns are a blunt instrument that have taken a heavy toll in many countries.

With the right mix of targeted and tailored measures, further national lockdowns can be avoided. 

Several countries are using a data-driven approach to drive a targeted response. 

This is allowing them to open up carefully and safely, while remaining ready to respond rapidly to any new clusters or amplifying events. 

Once again, I want to reiterate the four priorities we urge countries to focus on:

Prevent amplifying events.

Empower people to protect themselves and others.

Focus on the public health basics. 

And protect the vulnerable, including older people and those with underlying conditions.

South Korea has added 119 more cases of the coronavirus, its lowest daily jump in more than three weeks amid a downward trend in new cases. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday the additional figures took the country’s total to 21,296 confirmed cases with 336 deaths. It’s the fifth straight day the country’s daily jump has stayed under 200. The 119 additional cases are the lowest in kind since mid-August. 

South Korea’s caseload had risen since early last month, with many associated with churches, restaurants and schools and an anti-government street rally in the greater Seoul area. In late August, South Korea’s daily jump once marked over 400. However, the caseload has gradually slowed down, largely thanks to toughened social distancing rules that restricts at dining at restaurants and bans gatherings at churches, night spots, after-school academics and fitness centres.

India confirmed 90,632 coronavirus cases in 24 hours, a global high for the number of infections recorded in a single day. India has now reported 4,208,645 cases in total and 71,711people have lost the battle with COVID-19. The staggering total takes the number of coronavirus cases worldwide well past 27m. The true number of cases worldwide is likely to be significantly higher, due to differing testing rates and definitions, delays and suspected underreporting.

Health officials in New Zealand reported two new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Monday, both linked to an existing outbreak in the largest city, Auckland.  There were also two further new cases of the virus diagnosed in the quarantine facilities for travellers returning to New Zealand. The number of current cases of the coronavirus in the country hit zero in June but there has since been a resurgence in Auckland, the origin of which is still unknown. It has led to a second lockdown for the city, which is now easing. There are now 118 active cases of the virus in New Zealand, officials said; 41 are cases diagnosed in returning travellers, all of whom were already in quarantine, and 77 are in the community.  24 people have died of the virus in New Zealand – the most recent last week. Four people are in hospital, one of them in intensive care. There have been 1,776 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 since it arrived on the country’s shores.

Coronavirus cases are rising in 22 of the 50 USA states, according to analysis, a worrisome trend on a Labor Day holiday weekend traditionally filled with family gatherings and parties to mark the end of summer. As little as three weeks ago, cases were increasing in only three states, Hawaii, Illinois and South Dakota, after an analysis comparing cases for the two-week period of 8-22 August with the past two weeks. Most of the 22 states where cases are now rising are in the less-populated parts of the Midwest and South. While cases nationally have dropped from a peak in July, the United States is going into the Labor Day holiday weekend with an average of 44,000 new cases a day, double the number ahead of the 23-25 May Memorial Day weekend.

Many health experts partly blame the July spike on social gatherings held around Memorial Day.   The USA has now confirmed 6,460,421 cases of coronavirus and 193,253 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  With a recorded population of 331,362,224, the rate of infection in the country equates to 19,497 cases per 1M populous. 

Denmark’s limit on public gatherings will be lowered to 50 people from 100 in the capital Copenhagen and in Odense, after a recent spike in number of COVID-19 infections, the country’s health minister said on Monday.  There have been 18,113 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 628 people have lost the battle with the disease.  

In Scotland, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has warned the Scottish government could “put the brakes” on further relaxation of the lockdown, or even reimpose some restrictions later this week, after a continuing rise in COVID-19 cases. Ms Sturgeon said during her regular coronavirus briefing that the surge in cases made it quite unlikely Scotland would move from phase 3 to phase 4 of its lockdown route map when she gives the next three-weekly review statement on Thursday. She was speaking after 146 new positive Covid-19 cases were reported overnight in Scotland, with 78 of those in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, after 225 cases were reported on Sunday. There were 12 further hospital admissions, taking the total to 246, with five in intensive care. Ms Sturgeon confirmed the daily case numbers were similar to those last seen in early May, but said there was far more testing now, capturing many more cases than in May. Even so, it was clear there was a fresh surge in cases. She said “as we have released ourselves from lockdown, we have also released the virus from lockdown”

She said the partial lockdown in Glasgow and surrounding councils and in Aberdeen were a warning of what might be needed

Russia reported 5,185 new coronavirus cases on Monday, pushing its national tally to 1,030,690, the fourth largest in the world. Authorities confirmed 51 deaths in the preceding 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 17,871. The latest figures come as  Russia’s consumer health safety watchdog announced that early-stage trials on a second Russian coronavirus vaccine will be completed by the end of the months. Health authorities in the country approved the world’s first coronavirus vaccine last month, in a development that was greeted with scepticism in the West.

The Isle of Man has recorded its first confirmed COVID-19 case since May, the chief minister has said. The person had returned to the island a week ago on a flight in which all passengers wore masks, and has been self-isolating at home for seven days. The chief minister stressed there is “no need for concern” as the case has been contained.

In Guernsey (Channel Islands), Director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink, has announced the identification of a positive case of COVID-19.  It is the first confirmed case for 129 days. The person involved returned from the UK having complied with trace advice and going straight into self isolation upon return to the island.  There is no link between this case and the one reported in the Isle of Man.

Total number of cases worldwide – 27,316,605

Total number of deaths worldwide – 893,501

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 19,385,123

Active cases: 

7,037,981 active cases, 

6,977,964 in mild condition, 

60,017 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 20,278,624

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Monday 7th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“ I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace”  (Helen Keller)

Today’s report focuses on a round up of the developments relating to COVID-19 from around the world over the weekend.

Portugal reported 486 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, its biggest daily increase since the week its lockdown was lifted in May.

The UK recorded 1,813 new infections on Saturday, slightly down from the 1,940 cases that were reported Friday, the highest figure since 30 May.

Brazil recorded 30,168 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as well as 682 deaths from the disease, and remains the second-worst affected country globally.

France reported 8,550 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, slightly down from Friday’s new all-time record of 8,975 daily additional infections.  French authorities have placed seven more departments, covering major cities such as Lille, Strasbourg and Dijon, on high alert amid an acceleration in new COVID-19 infections. Twenty-eight of France’s 101 mainland and overseas departments are now considered “red zones” where authorities will be able to impose exceptional measures to slow the number of new coronavirus cases.

Several thousand people rallied on Saturday in the Croatian capital Zagreb to protest against coronavirus measures, which they said endangered human rights and freedoms. Croatia has recorded 11,964 cases of coronavirus and 198 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  There are currently 2,758 active cases in the country, 21 of which are considered to be serious or critical.  Over 9,000 people have recovered from the virus. 

About 1,000 people demonstrated in the heart of Rome on Saturday against the mandatory wearing of face masks and compulsory vaccination.

Mexico’s health ministry on Saturday reported 6,319 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 475 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 629,409 cases and 67,326 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely to be significantly higher than the confirmed cases. According to reports, the country has recorded an extra 122,765 deaths above expectations during the pandemic up to August, the health ministry said on Saturday in a report about excess mortality rates, also suggesting that the real coronavirus toll is much higher. 

In Australia, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that restrictions will continue for two weeks from 13 September, with some changes, specifically to the lockdown in metropolitan Melbourne.  Stage four restrictions in Melbourne will be extended for two weeks to 28 September with Mr Andrews, declaring “we can’t run out of lockdown”. “I want a Christmas that is as close to normal as possible and this is the only way, these steps are the only way, that we will get to that point,” Andrews said when revealing a roadmap to eventually lift restrictions which currently include a night-time curfew. Stage four was originally meant to end on 13 September. The extension will include some minor changes. From midnight next Sunday, Andrews said, the curfew will start at 9pm instead of 8pm and people who live on their own will be able to have one guest in their home, extending the current rules for intimate partner visits to one friend or family member.

Indonesia has reported 3,444 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report.  The increase brings the national total to 194,109, according to data published on the health ministry’s website. The country also reported 85 new deaths on Sunday, taking the total to 8,025 – the highest coronavirus death toll in southeast Asia.

Israel’s number of lives lost to COVID-19 has passed 1,000 as the government considers new restrictions to curb a rise in infections. Israel had earned praise for its early handling of the virus crisis and imposing tight movement restrictions.  More than 3,000 new cases a day have been confirmed in the most recent spike, raising the spectre of a renewed nationwide lockdown. Overall, Israel has recorded 129,349 cases of the virus, with more than 26,000 still active.

In Wales, on Sunday, there have been no further reported deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus in the country, health officials have said. The total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remains at 1,597. said the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country had increased by 98, bringing the revised confirmed cases to 18,381.

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 27,113,774

Total number of deaths worldwide – 884,529

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 19,230,235

Active cases: 

6,999,010 active cases, 

6,938,863 in mild condition, 

60,147 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 20,114,764

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Sunday 6th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Find a place inside where there’s joy and the joy will burn out the pain” (Joseph Campbell)

It’s Sunday so let’s all smile and reflect on some positive stories from around the globe.

A town in Finland is literally helping green-minded citizens eat cake as they reward eco-friendly behaviour with various rewards: including free public transport tickets, swims, and yes, cake.

A little north of Helsinki, the city of Lahti has developed an app tracking the carbon emissions of local residents based on whether they get around by car, public transport, bicycle or on foot. Residents who volunteer their information in the CitiCAP app get a carbon quota for the week. If they have some of their allowance leftover, they get ‘virtual euros’ to spend on things like bus tickets, bike lights, access to public pools, or coffee and cake at a local cafe. In a city of 120,000, so far 2,000 residents have downloaded the app. The project’s research manager, Ville Uusitalo, told Euronews, “You can earn up to two euros (per week) if your travel emissions are really low, but this autumn, we intend to increase the price tenfold.”

In the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, there is space enough for trees to grow and space enough for 2 million residents to plant truckloads of trees while social distancing. Although the virus has spread fast throughout the country, its threat was not enough to dissuade the government of the most-populous Indian state from conducting a mass tree-planting campaign along the banks of the river Ganges as part of its pledge to shade a third of the nation under tree cover by 2030. The nation’s target acreage of 235 million acres would represent an area the size of Texas and New Mexico combined.

The planting was carried out by volunteers, nonprofit employees, government workers, and even lawmakers, all of whom maintained distance from each other and wore face masks to stop the possible spread of coronavirus.

An astrophotographer has revealed the brilliant pictures of space he’s been taking right from his backyard.   England’s Russell Discommode has always loved taking photos of the cosmos, but it was because of the lockdown that he was really able to devote himself to his passion. Russell, from Cirencester in Gloucestershire, recently bought a star tracker and telescope to locate “deep sky” objects—some up which are up to 50 million light-years away.He then used a special astrophotography camera to capture anything he spotted, producing some out-of-this-world images.

Russell said, “I have always loved astrophotography, however, the majority of my images have been wide angle landscapes of the Milky Way.

“I started taking photos with my regular camera equipment and a cheap star tracker. I was instantly hooked and so decided to invest in a telescope, bigger star tracker, and an astro camera. The photos I have taken ranges from nebula such as the Orion Nebula, Elephant’s Trunk Nebula and the Heart Nebula to other galaxies such as the Bode and Cigar Galaxy and the Needle Galaxy.”

 

 

Happiness, like art, is often subjective, but unlike art, happiness isn’t something you’d expect to find hanging in a museum. Or, at least it wasn’t until an entire museum devoted to happiness opened in Copenhagen in July. 

The Happiness Research Institute, yes, there really is such a thing, is the driving force behind the new project. According to their mission statement, the independent think tank’s goal in exploring why some societies are happier than others “is to inform decision-makers of the causes and effects of human happiness, make subjective well-being part of the public policy debate, and improve the overall quality of life for citizens across the world.”

“I think people imagine that the Institute is like a magical place,” CEO Meik Wiking joked in an interview with CNN, “a room full of puppies or ice cream but we are just eight people sitting in front of computers looking at data.” After receiving numerous public requests to visit their less-than-magical offices, the “Happiness Crew” was struck by a notion, if people truly wanted a place where they could gain a better understanding of what makes human happiness tick, why not give them one? “We thought, why don’t we create a place where people can experience happiness from different perspectives and give them an exhibition where they can become a little bit wiser around some of the questions we try to solve?” Wiking explained.

On July 14, 2020, with strict COVID-19 protocols in place, the 2,585 square-foot museum made its debut. With a current maximum capacity of 50, visitors are invited to explore happiness from a global perspective that includes historical insights on how the concept of happiness has evolved over the ages, and the ways in which varying regional cultures define the term. The museum houses a vast collection of donated artifacts that represent happiness to people from around the globe. “We might be Danish or Mexican or American or Chinese, but we are first and foremost people,” Wiking told CNN. “It’s the same things that drive happiness no matter where we’re from, and I hope that people will see that in the exhibition.” It’s safe to say that Wiking, who wrote international bestseller “The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way To Live Well,” knows more than a thing or two about happiness.  

He has some hopeful words for all of us in the pandemic.

“When we follow people over time,” he noted, “we can see that they are remarkable at overcoming the challenges that happen to them… Of course, it’s necessary to be optimistic in my profession, but I think we can overcome these times as well.”

 

Saturday 5th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Let us make our future now and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality” (Malala Yousafzai)

The World Health Organisation has said it does not expect widespread vaccinations against coronavirus until the middle of next year, stressing the importance of rigorous checks on their effectiveness and safety.

“We are not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” spokeswoman Margaret Harris told journalists at a briefing in Geneva.

“This phase 3 must take longer because we need to see how truly protective the vaccine is and we also need to see how safe it is,” she added referring to vaccine clinical trials.

Iran’s death toll from coronavirus rose by 118 to 22,044, a health ministry spokeswoman told state TV on Friday, with the total number of identified cases rising to 382,772. Sima Sadat Lari said that 2,026 new cases were identified in the 24 hours preceding the announcement.  Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East.  There have been 22,044 lives lost due to COVID-19 and there are currently 30,420 active cases in the country, 3,695 of them are described as serious or critical.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday that the country’s current restrictions to beat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic would be retained until mid-September. The largest city, Auckland, will remain on alert level 2.5, while the rest of the country will be on alert level 2.0, Ms Ardern told a news conference. The settings would be reviewed on 14 September, she said.

Israel has announced a new lockdown affecting 30 areas as it grapples with one of the world’s highest detected per capita infection rates and a death toll nearing 1,000. With a recorded population of 9,197,590, the case rate in the country equates to 13,673 infections per 1M populous. From Monday, travel from 30 areas classified as “red” will be limited and non-essential businesses shut down, said Professor Ronni Gamzu, who is coordinating Israel’s battle against the virus.  Authorities have unveiled a categorisation of districts, escalating from green, where coronavirus is deemed under control, through yellow, orange, and finally red for highest risk areas. The Jewish state detected over 3,000 new infections on Wednesday alone, the highest number of confirmed infections in a single day. The 30 areas in the red category will be announced by Sunday, according to authorities. 

Ukraine has registered another unwelcome record of 2,723 cases of coronavirus in one day, the national security council said on Friday, up from a previous record of 2,495 cases. Ukraine has imposed a temporary ban on most foreigners entering the country until 28 September, and extended lockdown measures until the end of October to contain a recent spike in cases.

Indonesia has reported 3,269 new coronavirus infections, bringing the overall tally to 187,537, according to data from the country’s health ministry. It was the third consecutive day of new infections above 3,000 and followed Thursday’s record-high 3,622 new cases.

Indonesia also reported 82 new deaths on Friday, raising its total fatalities to 7,832, Southeast Asia’s highest number.

The Philippine health ministry reported 3,714 novel coronavirus infections and 49 additional deaths. In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases have increased to 232,072 while the number of lives lost from the disease has reached 3,737.

The regional government of Madrid, the worst-affected part of Spain, has announced that no more than 10 people will be allowed to meet indoors from Monday and has also capped the number of people permitted to attend religious services and funerals. The regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said the “very painful and very difficult” measures had been taken in a bid to arrest the spike in cases in and around the capital. Almost a third of the 100,000 new coronavirus cases detected in the past two weeks in Spain have been in the Madrid region, while it also accounted for 73 of the 191 deaths during the past seven days. In Madrid’s hospitals, 16% of beds are occupied by Covid patients, compared with a national average of 6%. Both the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the head of Spain’s centre for health emergencies, Fernando Simón, have expressed concern this week over the situation in Madrid. However, the central government has ruled out a return to lockdown or isolating Madrid from the rest of the country.

The reproduction “R” number of COVID-19 in the UK remains between 0.9 and 1.1, the government said on Friday, indicating that the rate of infection is most likely either broadly stable or slightly growing. The latest growth rate for the whole of the country is between -1% and 2%, the government said, meaning the number of new infections is somewhere between shrinking by 1% and growing by 2% every day.  There have been 340,411 confirmed cases of the virus across the United Kingdom and 41,527 people have reportedly died as a result of COVID-19 or where the disease was mentioned on the death certificate.  With a recorded population of 67,949,254, the case rate in the UK equates to 5,010 infections per 1M populous.

India has for the second day in a row reported more than 80,000 cases in 24 hours:

India reported a daily jump of 83,341 coronavirus infections on Friday, taking its tally to 3.94 million, health ministry data showed, as Asia’s worst-hit country closes in on Brazil as the world’s second most affected nation from the virus. The ministry said 1,096 people died from COVID-19, taking the toll to 68,682.

Iraq registered its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections on Friday with 5,036 cases to take its total to 252,075, the health ministry said. It reported 84 fatalities to take its coronavirus death toll to 7,359. The daily tally of cases has been rising since the holy month of Ramadan and as many Iraqis flout lockdown measures.

Total number of cases worldwide – 26,521,881

Total number of deaths worldwide – 874,204

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 18,707,320

Active cases: 

6,940,357 active cases, 

6,879,605 in mild condition, 

60,752 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 19,581,524

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Friday 4th September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Be faithful to that which exists within yourself” (Andre Gide)

Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll appears to be easing for the first time since May, data shows, a sign the Latin American country could be descending from a long infection plateau that has seen it suffer the world’s second-worst outbreak after the United States. With 4,001,422 confirmed cases, the virus has taken the lives of 123,899  people in Brazil. However, the level of average daily deaths dropped below 900 per day last week, the lowest in three and a half months and below the rate of both the United States and India.

Researchers at Imperial College London also calculate that the transmission rate in Brazil, at which each person infected with the coronavirus infects another person, is now below 1, the level required for new infections to slow.

Turkey is seeing a second peak of its coronavirus outbreak due to “carelessness” at weddings and other social gatherings, its health minister has said, amid a rapid rise in the number of daily cases and deaths. Coronavirus deaths have jumped to their highest since mid-May, when lockdowns were in place, and new cases have risen to mid-June levels, at almost 1,600. Ankara mostly reopened the economy and lifted weekend and age-specific lockdowns in early June. Fahrettin Koca said the capital Ankara had seen the most rapid rise in infections lately. He added that 29,865 healthcare workers in the country had contracted the virus so far, with 52 of them dying.  Turkey has confirmed 273,301 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak reached there and 6,462 people have lost their lives.  There are reportedly 19,963 active cases and 1,017 of those are classified as serious or critical.  

India reported a staggering daily jump of 83,883 coronavirus infections on Thursday, taking its tally to 3.85 million, just 100,000 behind Brazil, the world’s second most affected nation, health ministry data showed. Asia’s worst-hit country has been posting the world’s largest daily caseload every day for almost a month, although deaths remain relatively low. The ministry said 1,043 people died from COVID-19, taking the toll to 67,486.

Vietnam plans to restart international commercial flights to and from six Asian cities from mid-September, according to reports from state media. The move ends months of coronavirus-related suspension after easing some restrictions on foreign business travellers. The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) is proposing resuming flights to Guangzhou, Seoul, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Taipei and Tokyo, which would mean about 5,000 travellers arriving each week, the transport ministry-run Giao Thong newspaper reported. Those arriving must still undergo two weeks of quarantine, according to health ministry requirements, unless the duration of their visit is under 14 days. Vietnam has not yet reopened to tourists.  The country has reported 1,046 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the outbreak reached there and 35 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

Czechia (The Czech Republic) reported 650 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its highest number for a single day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The latest cases, recorded by the health ministry over the previous 24 hours, took the overall number of cases reported since March to 25,773 in the country of 10.7 million. The Czech Republic has registered 425 deaths associated with COVID-19, a lower toll than many of its fellow EU member states.

Singapore health authorities have detected new coronavirus clusters at foreign worker dormitories previously found to be clear of the infection, according to media reports.

The vast majority of Singapore’s nearly 57,000 cases are from cramped dormitories that house more than 300,000 mostly South Asian workers employed in sectors such as construction and ship-building. Authorities declared last month that all workers living in dormitories had recovered or had been tested to be free from COVID-19. However, over the last two weeks new clusters have emerged. On Wednesday, the health ministry said clusters were detected at three more dormitories after finding links between cases.

Indonesia reported 3,622 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, a record high in daily cases, and 134 new deaths, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed. The number of new daily deaths reported was the highest since 22 July. That brought the latest coronavirus tally in south-east Asia’s biggest country to 184,268 infections and 7,750 deaths.

Thailand has reported its first locally transmitted coronavirus case in 100 days, after a prison inmate was confirmed to have COVID-19. The 37-year-old man, who works as a DJ, tested positive at a prison health centre on Wednesday. Dozens of contacts are now being tested, including his family members, people he met in court and other inmates. He had been arrested for drug offences on 26 August. Thailand had gone months without registering any new cases, and it’s not clear how the man became infected. The last local case was on 24 May.  The country has managed to avoid a major outbreak, despite its capital, Bangkok, being one of the world’s most visited cities. Since January, when Thailand became the first country outside of China to record a case of COVID-19 officials have confirmed 58 deaths. Lockdown measures that were introduced in March, including a curfew and alcohol ban, have since been eased and businesses have reopened. Strict border measures, however, remain in place. Thai people returning must spend 14 days in designated quarantine facilities, while tourists are not allowed to enter the country. The absence of foreign travellers has dealt a huge blow to the economy, leaving hotels and bars empty. Confirmation of the case comes ahead of a four-day long weekend, when large numbers of people are expected to travel. The holiday is being held to make up for the loss of Songkran, a water festival celebrating the traditional Thai New Year, which is usually held in April but was postponed due to COVID-19.  Thailand has confirmed 3,427 cases of the virus and there are currently 92 active cases with 1 described as serious or critical. 

Total number of cases worldwide – 26,214,107

Total number of deaths worldwide – 868,156

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 18,479,599

Active cases: 

6,866,352 active cases, 

6,805,784 in mild condition, 

60,568 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 19,347,755

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Thursday 3rd S September 2020 by Louise Birch

“When we seek to discover the best on others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves” (William Arthur Ward).

I will start with an extract from the opening remarks of World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus  at a recent media briefing on COVID-19.

“Eight months into the pandemic, we understand that people are tired and yearn to get on with their lives. We understand that countries want to get their societies and economies going again.  That’s what WHO wants too. Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions are something that some countries felt they needed to do to take pressure off their health systems. But they have taken a heavy toll on livelihoods, economies and mental health.

WHO fully supports efforts to re-open economies and societies. We want to see children returning to school and people returning to the workplace but we want to see it done safely. At the same time, no country can just pretend the pandemic is over.  The reality is that this coronavirus spreads easily, it can be fatal to people of all ages, and most people remain susceptible.

If countries are serious about opening up, they must be serious about suppressing transmission and saving lives. This may seem like an impossible balance, but it’s not. It can be done and it has been done. But it can only be done if countries are in control of transmission. The more control countries have over the virus, the more they can open up.

Opening up without having control is a recipe for disaster. Its not one size fits all, its not all or nothing.

We believe there are four essential things that all countries, communities and individuals must focus on to take control.

First, prevent amplifying events. COVID-19 spreads very efficiently among clusters of people.  In many countries, we have seen explosive outbreaks linked to gatherings of people at stadiums, nightclubs, places of worship and in other crowds. Preventing these amplifying events is essential, but there are ways to hold gatherings safely in some places.  Decisions about how and when to allow gatherings of people must be taken with a risk-based approach, in the local context. Countries or communities experiencing significant community transmission may need to postpone events for a short time to reduce transmission.  On the other hand, countries or communities with sporadic cases or small clusters can find creative ways to hold events while minimising risk.

Second, reduce deaths by protecting vulnerable groups, including older people, those with underlying conditions and essential workers. Countries that do this well may be able to cope with low levels of transmission as they open up. By protecting those who are most at risk, countries can save lives, prevent people becoming severely ill, and take the pressure off their health systems.

Third, individuals must play their part by taking the measures we know work to protect themselves and others – stay at least one metre away from others, clean your hands regularly, practise respiratory etiquette, and wear a mask.

Avoid the three Cs: closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings.

And fourth, governments must take tailored actions to find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine contacts. Widespread stay-at-home orders can be avoided if countries take temporary and geographically-targeted interventions.

Some good news in the Philippines – the health ministry recorded 2,218 new coronavirus infections, the country’s lowest daily case increase in five weeks.

Australias coronavirus hot spot, Victoria state, extended its state of emergency for another six months as its weekly average of new infections dipped. The Victorian parliaments upper chamber passed legislation by a 20-19 vote to extend the state of emergency, which enhances the governments powers to impose pandemic restrictions. The government had wanted a 12-month extension. The state health department reported 90 new infections and six deaths in the latest 24-hour period.

 

Entry requirements for tourists have been tightened in the Maldives after a spike in coronavirus infections at more than a dozen resorts, the foreign ministry has said.

The Indian Ocean archipelago reopened its luxury resort islets in mid-July after a months-long lockdown and did not require visitors to be tested or carry virus-free certificates when entering the country. Since then, 29 local staff and 16 foreigners have tested positive at the resorts, officials said, where they were also being isolated. Under the new guidelines, all tourists will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result on arrival. There have been 8,003 confirmed cases or coronavirus in the Maldives and 29 people have died.  There are reported to be 2,709 active cases and 12 are described as serious or critical.  In a country with a population of 542,099, the number of infections equates to 14,763 cases per 1M populous.

 Irelands “green list” of countries exempt from travel restrictions is under review after a spike in the number of Irish COVID-19 cases made adding countries with a similar or slightly better incidence rate too risky, the country’s health minister said. Ireland dropped a 14-day quarantine requirement for arrivals from an initial list of 15 European countries in late July and cut that down to 10 on 4 August, when an increase in cases in the likes of Malta and Cyprus struck them off the list. More countries were due to be added or removed every two weeks, but the list has not been amended since Ireland’s 14-day cumulative cases per 100,000 of population rose above 30 from around three cases when the measure was introduced.  There have been 29,025 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland and 1,777 pool have lost the battle with COVID-19.  Out of 3,884 active cases, 6 are described as serious or critical.  Over 23,000 people are reported to have recovered from the virus.

 Greece recorded has recorded the first coronavirus case in the overcrowded migrant camp of Moria on the island of Lesbos, two migration ministry officials said on Wednesday. A 40-year old asylum seeker has tested positive for the virus and had been put in isolation.  Authorities were trying to trace the people he had been in contact with, the official said.The Moria facility, which hosts about 13,000 people, has been frequently criticised by aid groups for poor living conditions.  Since 1 March, all migrants who reach Lesbos have been quarantined away from the island’s camps. Greece has recorded 10,524 coronavirus cases since the first infection in February, and 271  lives have been lost liked to COVID-19. In recent weeks, it has reported a surge in cases, which has forced Greek authorities to gradually reimpose restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Lesbos lies just off the Turkish coast, and hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees have used the island as a staging post in recent years in their attempt to get to mainland Europe.

Tens of thousands of young people headed to sports arenas across Uzbekistan on Wednesday to sit university entrance exams in the open air due to the coronavirus pandemic. The massive exercise, which will span two weeks, will see more than 1.4 million applicants take a three-hour test while seated at desks on the running tracks or walkways of the stadiums.

They are competing for some 150,000 university places under a centralised admissions system. Hundreds of young men and women attended the first session at one of the stadiums in Tashkent on Wednesday morning, wearing masks. The Central Asian nation of 34 million has just ended its second national lockdown after a mid-summer surge in cases stretched its healthcare system to the limit. Uzbekistan has confirmed 42,437 coronavirus cases and 327 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Total number of cases worldwide – 25,987,062

Total number of deaths worldwide – 862,709

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 18,260,039

 

Active cases:

6,864,314 active cases,

6,803,783 in mild condition,

60,531 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 19,122,748

 

 

Wednesday 2nd September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has taken issue with the opinion that high death rates from Covid-19 are not a major concern if it is mainly the elderly dying with the disease.

“Accepting someone to die because of age is moral bankruptcy at its highest, and we shouldn’t allow our society to behave this way.”

The WHO chief urged governments around the world to engage with people demonstrating against Covid-19 curbs and listen to their concerns, but stressed protesters needed to understand the virus was dangerous. Tedros said it was important to “listen to what people are asking, what people are saying … we should engage in an honest dialogue”. But he stressed demonstrators have a responsibility to ensure protests are safe.

“The virus is real. It is dangerous. It moves fast and it kills. We have to do everything to protect ourselves and to protect others.”

France’s new Covid-19 infections surged by almost 50% in August, hitting 281,025 cases, versus 187,919 at the end of July. New cases in August increased on average by a record 3,003 every day, a figure four times higher than July’s average increase of 746 per day. The seven-day moving average of new infections, which smoothes out reporting irregularities, stood at 5,167, reaching a new record for a fourth day in a row, versus a low of 272 on 27 May, two weeks after the country ended its two-month long lockdown.

The surge of new cases has led authorities to re-impose some containment measures, such as making face masks mandatory in the streets, shops and public transportation of almost all the country’s main cities. As of Tuesday, masks will also be compulsory in workplaces. However, as the new school year starts this week, French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex have been saying they will do everything to avoid a new national lockdown.

French pupils went back to school Tuesday as schools across Europe open their doors to greet returning pupils this month, nearly six months after the coronavirus outbreak forced them to close and despite rising infection rates across the continent. Many teachers and parents are worried the reopening of schools will accelerate the spread of Covid-19, but governments have insisted it should go ahead.  French children returned to school after a two-month long summer break that followed two weeks of obligatory schooling just before the holidays. Teachers and pupils between 11 and 18 will be required to wear masks both indoors and outdoors. Pupils in Belgium also returned to school on Tuesday, while those in Germany went back last month.

Masks will also be compulsory in Greece, where children are expected to return to school next Monday with a maximum of 25 children per class. In England and Wales, where children return to school this week after a six-month closure, the government initially said masks in schools would not be necessary, but reversed its policy last Wednesday.

The new guidance advises secondary school students aged 11 to 18 and staff to wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas in places where there are local virus restrictions.  In Spain the government has insisted all children over the age of six must wear masks at all times and wash their hands at least five times a day. Children should maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from each other, and regional governments have hired additional teachers to reduce class sizes.

Hungary has decided to let tourists from its three eastern European neighbours, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, enter the country with a fresh negative coronavirus test, it said late on Monday, just as a lockdown on its borders took effect. Last week, Hungary said it would close its borders to foreigners from Tuesday to curb a rise in coronavirus cases. Returning Hungarian citizens can avoid a 14-day quarantine only if they provide two negative Covid tests. However, after talks with the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, on Monday, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, agreed to let Czech visitors who have already booked holidays in Hungary for September enter the country, the foreign ministry said. The easing was subsequently extended to Poland and Slovakia, the ministry said in a statement. Visitors coming to Hungary have to produce a negative Covid test not older than five days, which Budapest says represents sufficient safety guarantees. Hungary had reported 6,257 coronavirus cases with 616 deaths. The number of new cases has surged in recent days, just as Hungary prepared to start the school year.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Ukraine will continue to rise in September and could reach 3,000 a day by the end of this month, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on Tuesday. Ukraine reported 2,088 cases on Tuesday and 2,141 on Monday. Last week, the daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to a record 2,481.The increase comes after Ukraine last week imposed a temporary ban on most foreigners from entering the country until 28 September and extended lockdown measures until the end of October to contain a recent spike in cases. The country has reported a total of 123,303 infections and 2,605 lives have been lost to COVID-19.

Russia’s coronavirus case tally passed the 1 million mark on Tuesday as schools and educational institutions reopened across the world’s largest country with new mandatory safety precautions in place. However officials say more than 800,000 people have recovered from the disease, and that with just over 17,000 deaths, the death toll is lower than in many other European countries. The coronavirus crisis centre said on Tuesday that the overall case tally stood at 1,000,048 after 4,729 new infections were reported. It said 123 new deaths had been confirmed in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 17,299. President Vladimir Putin, in a nationwide TV address, told school children and students to observe virus safety rules. It is mandatory for teachers to wear masks in schools in Moscow, which has been harder hit by the virus than other parts of Russia. Teachers are allowed to take off their masks in classrooms when teaching however, provided they keep a safe distance from children. Moscow schoolchildren are not required to wear masks in schools. But traditional ceremonies at the start of the school year were cancelled on Tuesday and the use of different classrooms will be limited to reduce infection risks. “I’m not afraid of Covid of course, but I follow restrictions,” Daniil Ivanenko, a 9th-grade student, told Reuters TV at his school in western Moscow on Tuesday. Russia said that 167,044 people are currently infected with the virus and 2,300 of those are described as serious or critical.

Poland is banning direct flights from 44 countries including Spain, Israel and Romania in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the central European country, the government said on Tuesday. The US, Malta, Montenegro, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and India are also on the list of countries, but local media reported that Russia and China had been removed from it. The ban comes in today (Wednesday) and follows measures to reintroduce restrictions on public life in the worst affected parts of the country, as the government tries to tackle the spread of the virus without resorting to a complete lockdown. Poles are, however, allowed to fly to and from any country they want if they choose indirect flights through countries that are not on the list, such as Germany.

Poland, a country of 38 million, has officially registered 67,922 Covid-19 infections and 2,058 people have died from the virus. On Tuesday, 550 new infections were registered, according to health ministry data. 

Malaysia has said it would bar entry of long-term immigration pass holders from India, Indonesia and the Philippines from 7 September, in a bid to curtail imported coronavirus cases amid a spate of new clusters in the country. Health authorities in south-east Asia’s third-largest economy have recorded 9,354 cases and 128 deaths, with new cases found in clusters detected in at least four states. The entry ban on pass holders from the three countries will include permanent residents, expatriates, students and those on spouse visas and participants of Malaysia’s My Second Home programme, senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said. “The decision was made on the advice of the health ministry to clamp down on the spread of imported Covid-19 cases,” Ismail Sabri said in a televised news conference. India is the third most affected country by the pandemic behind the United States and Brazil, with its coronavirus tally reaching nearly 3.7 million on Tuesday. A total of 7,505 people have died of the coronavirus in Indonesia, the highest in the region, while the Philippines, which has reported over 224,000 cases, has seen a continuous rise in infections.

Total number of cases worldwide – 25,719,569

Total number of deaths worldwide – 856,275

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 18,014,861

Active cases: 

6,848,433 active cases, 

6,787,314 in mild condition, 

61,119 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 18,871,136

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Tuesday 1st September 2020 by Louise Birch

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, lie is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly” (Langston Hughes)

Scotland has recorded the highest daily number of cases since mid-May after health officials detected 160 cases overnight, following the disclosure of 123 new cases on Sunday. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, said the figures were “undoubtedly a concern to us”. She said a majority of the new cases were spread across central Scotland, with 69 in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, 27 in Lanarkshire and 19 in the Lothians. She said the Glasgow cases appeared to be linked to a large number of small clusters, and others followed indoor parties a week ago. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital increased too, by five to 256. Five people are in intensive care.  Ms Sturgeon also said the data highlighted the urgent need for people to follow physical distancing and hygiene rules. “It’s a reminder that the virus is still a very real risk and it’s a development which concerns me and one we’re taking very seriously.”

Coronavirus cases in Colombia have reached 607,938 and the number of lives lost to the virus now total 19,364, ahead of the end to more than five months of lockdown.

The Andean country reported 8,024 cases on Sunday. Daily cases have begun to fall since their peak on 20 August of 13,056

The USA has now confirmed 6,175,600 coronavirus cases, as the numbers continue to grow in several Midwestern states. Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota have recently reported record one-day increases in new cases while Montana and Idaho are seeing record numbers of hospitalised patients. Many of the new cases in Iowa are in the counties that are home to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, which are holding some in-person classes. Colleges and universities around the country have seen outbreaks after students returned to campus, forcing some to switch to online-only learning. Nationally, the numbers of new cases have declined, with the US Centers for Disease Control reporting the seven-day rolling average of new infections has dropped to 41,573. That is down from the peak of 66,960 in late July. The seven-day average death toll stands at 928. It dropped under 1,000 deaths per day on 22 August.  There have been 187,232 lives lost to COVID-19. The USA currently has 2,543,601 active cases of the virus and 16,025 of those are described as serious or critical.

Jordan reported 73 new cases of coronavirus recently, its highest daily tally since the start of the outbreak, bringing its total infections to 1,966, with 15 deaths. There are 483 active cases with 3 described as serious or critical. 

Ghana will reopen air borders to international travel from today,1 September, after closing them in March to limit the spread of the virus. Kotoka international airport, outside the capital, Accra, was closed in March along with other border points in an effort to contain the virus in the West African country. “I am glad to announce that Kotoka international airport will reopen and resume operations from Tuesday, 1 September 2020,” the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, said in a nationwide broadcast late on Sunday.

He said land borders would remain closed. New safety measures have been imposed to prevent passengers bringing the virus into the country. “Any passenger arriving in Ghana must be in possession of a negative Covid-19 PCR test result from an accredited laboratory in the country of origin,” he said. The test should have been done not more than 72 hours before their departure. The country has reported 44,205 cases of coronavirus and 276 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  Out of 1,152 active cases, 6 of those are described as serious or critical.

News from New Zealand where there are nine new cases of COVID-19 in Auckland as the city moves out of lockdown and allows travel throughout the country. It has been almost three weeks since Auckland moved to Alert Level 3, which shuttered schools and many businesses. However, Auckland is now at Level 2.5, while the rest of the country remains at Level 2. That means Aucklanders have harsher restrictions, with gatherings capped at 10 people and authorised funerals and tangihanga at 50. (The tangihanga is the enduring Māori ceremony for mourning someone who has died. It is commonly called a tangi, which also means to weep, and to sing a dirge, a lament for the dead. The dead play an important role in Māori traditions). From today, masks are also mandatory across the country on public transport and planes for everyone over 12. Ms Ardern has also asked New Zealanders not to leave their homes without wearing a mask.

“We know masks protect you and the people around you,” she said. “They limit the chance of Covid-19 spreading in places where it is often harder to distance yourself and to trace people.” The move to Level 2.5 comes as some experts say that they would have preferred Auckland to stay longer in Level 3 to ensure the cluster was contained

All of the new cases are linked to the original Auckland cluster which sparked the lockdown. There are 11 people with COVID-19 in hospital and the total number of confirmed cases in the country has reached 1,738 with 22 lives lost.

China has reported 17 new coronavirus cases, up from 9 reported a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Monday. The National Health Commission said all of the new cases were imported infections involving travellers returning from abroad, marking the 15th straight day of no local infections for the country.

The number of doctors in Indonesia who have died after becoming infected with COVID-19 has passed 100, according to the Indonesian Doctors Association. The country is facing one of the worst outbreaks in south-east Asia, and there are growing concerns that a recent rise in cases is leaving hospitals overwhelmed. There have been 174,796 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Indonesia and 7,417 people have died.  Across the geographic region of Asai, there have now been 7,029,872 confirmed case of the virus and 141,680 lives have been lost.

The Philippines reported on Monday 3,446 coronavirus infections and 38 deaths, taking its total caseload to 220,819 and fatalities to 3,558, its health ministry said. The ministry also said on Monday that five Philippine hospitals have been identified as candidates for potential clinical trials of a Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by the China-based Sinovac Biotech

In South Korea, new infections have stayed under 200 for a second day in a row. The country reported 248 cases on Monday, including 238 local infections, and 299 cases on Sunday. However, this likely reflects lower testing on a weekend. Private tuition centres shut for the first time and traffic was lighter in South Korea’s capital Seoul on Monday, the first working day of tighter social-distancing rules designed to halt a second wave of coronavirus outbreaks. The country took the unprecedented step on Friday to restrict the operation of restaurants, coffee shops and so-called cram schools in the Seoul metropolitan area, with churches, nightclubs and most public schools having already been closed. Fewer cars and people were on the streets of Seoul during the morning rush hours as more companies encouraged employees to work from home.  South Korea has reported total infections of 19,947 and 324 deaths from COVID-19.

Russia reported 4,993 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing its nationwide tally to 995,319, the fourth largest caseload in the world. Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said 83 people had died over the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 17,176.

India reported 78,512 coronavirus infections on Monday, more than any other country but fewer than the previous day, when it posted the world’s biggest, single-day tally, as authorities looked to open more sectors of the economy. On Sunday, India’s total of 78,761 new cases exceeded the previous global record of 77,299 in the US on July 16. 

The world’s second-most populous country has been posting the highest single-day caseload in the world since 7 August. At 3,641,048 cases, India is fast catching up to the US and Brazil in terms of total cases but it has a lower death rate. India’s coronavirus deaths went up by 971, taking the tally to 64,807, the health ministry said. The huge numbers have got authorities worried, especially with people in rural areas largely abandoning rules aimed at stopping the spread, officials say. Kumar Sanjay Krishna, the chief secretary of Assam, one of the worst-hit states, attributed the increasing cases to more testing, the opening of the economy and complacency. “People are not following precautionary steps and are violating the Covid-19 protocols,” he said on Twitter.

“From Monday onwards there shall be visible strict action taken against those who violate the norms of social distancing or found not wearing a face mask.”

Total number of cases worldwide – 25,436,912

Total number of deaths worldwide – 851,349

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 17,750,816

Active cases: 

6,834,747 active cases, 

6,773,647 in mild condition, 

61,100 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 18,602,165

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Monday 31st August 2020 by Louise Birch

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along””(Eleanor Roosevelt)

Another week in the world of COVID-19 and this report is a round up of some of the developments from across the globe over the weekend.

Brazil registered another 758 coronavirus deaths and 41,350 new cases, the health ministry said on Saturday.  The nation has now registered 120,4982 lives lost to coronavirus and 3,846,965 confirmed cases. In terms of total deaths, Brazil is the second-hardest hit  country in the world after the United States.  However, daily new cases and deaths have begun to stabilise in recent weeks.

Authorities in Istanbul announced curbs on weddings and other ceremonies in Turkey’s largest city on Saturday as the number of daily coronavirus cases and deaths hit their highest level nationwide in more than two months.  From today (Monday) indoor weddings, engagement parties and circumcision ceremonies will be banned, Istanbul’s governor’s office said. Children and people aged over 60 will be barred from outdoor ceremonies which still go ahead, it said.  The restrictions were published a few hours before health minister Fahrettin Koca said 1,549 new cases of coronavirus had been diagnosed in Turkey, the highest daily number since mid-June. Thirty-nine people died, the most since mid-May, he said. “The number of patients in serious condition continues to increase,” Koca said in a tweet.  “We cannot be relaxed about following the measures to curb the outbreak,” he added.  Turkey has confirmed 267,064 cases of the virus and 6,284 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

India will reopen underground train networks and allow sports and religious events in a limited manner from next month as part of the government’s efforts to revive the economy, despite soaring coronavirus infections.  The country reported 76,472 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, slightly lower than the numbers seen in the last couple of days, but extending a run that has made the country’s outbreak currently the world’s worst in terms of the number of daily recorded infection rates figures. The underground train network, a lifeline for millions in the capital city of New Delhi, will be reopened in a phased manner from 7 September, the federal home ministry said.  India has confirmed 3,559,587 cases of coronavirus and 63,788 are have reportedly died as a result of COVID-19.

France reported 5,453 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, and the health ministry described the situation as “worrying” following a spike the previous day when the country registered its highest number of cases since mid-March. 

Friday’s “exponential” rise in the number of new cases to 7,379 marked the biggest daily figure reported since France imposed a lockdown at the height of the pandemic. 

“In mainland France, the progression of the COVID—19 epidemic is exponential. The strong growth dynamics of transmission is very worrying,” the health ministry said on its website.  Despite the persistently high number of new cases, however, a doctor in Paris said the current situation was different from February and March when the virus spread uncontrollably.  “We have learned from our mistakes,” Karine Lacombe, head of the infectious diseases unit at the Saint-Antoine hospital in Paris, said in an interview on BFM TV.  “We have made a lot of progress in terms of treatment. For example, we know that dexamethasone … works and has a positive effect on mortality”.  France has made compulsory the wearing of masks in Paris and other cites, as the government seeks to avoid another lockdown that could push the economy into a deeper recession. 

Myanmar reported 77 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, the south-east Asian nation’s biggest daily rise, amid a recent resurgence of the virus after weeks without confirmed domestic transmission. The health ministry did not immediately say where the 77 new cases were found. Most recent infections have been in Sittwe, the capital of conflict-torn Rakhine state, where authorities have imposed a lockdown and curfew. Myanmar’s outbreak has been relatively small compared with other countries in the region since it found its first case in March, with only six deaths and 749 infections reported.

Azerbaijan has extended some coronavirus lockdown restrictions, including the closure of its borders, until 31 September after a further rise in the number of infections, the government said on Saturday.  Azerbaijan, which recorded a daily increase of coronavirus cases of between 130 and 180 in the past several weeks, will reopen museums and exhibition halls from 1 September, the government said. However shopping malls will remain closed and public transport will be limited, while the ban on travelling between the regions remains in place. Azerbaijan introduced measures to stem the coronavirus on 24 March and has extended them several times. The South Caucasus country of 10,153,980 people has registered 36,309 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 531 people have lost their lives.

Namibia will lift lockdown restrictions, allowing international travel, schools to reopen and onsite alcohol consumption from September, the President, Hage Geingob, announced over the weekend, but he extended an overnight curfew as Covid-19 cases continue to rise. The southern African country of 2,548,160 people now has 7,116 confirmed Covid-19 cases and the disease is not yet contained, of its 69 deaths, 55 were in August alone.  “The virus is likely to remain in our midst for a prolonged time and we must learn to live with it … learning to live with the virus means adapting our attitudes and behaviours so that we can reduce the damage it can do to our country,” Geingob said in a televised address.  He announced that an 8pm to 5am curfew in place in the capital, Windhoek, and the Erongo region, Covid-19 hotspots, will be introduced across the country.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has thanked Aucklanders, who have come  out of lockdown, for their commitment to suppressing that country’s latest Covid-19 flare-up. There are two new cases of Covid-19 reported today, both in the community and linked to the latest Auckland cluster. Ms Ardern thanked the residents of New Zealand’s largest city for their adherence to the stringent lockdown requirements. “Our system is only as good as our people. And our people are amazing.” But Ardern urged Aucklanders too, to “keep going”. Masks will be mandated on public transport, and strongly encouraged elsewhere. “Basically when you step out of your home, we’re asking you to please wear a mask.”  Ms Ardern said it was “highly unlikely” there was Covid outside Auckland: “we want to keep it that way”.

She warned too, that if further outbreaks occurred, New Zealand could be forced to move back up the alert levels. There are 13 active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand. 10 people are in hospital, two in intensive care. New Zealand has recorded 1,729 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.  Ms Ardern has also helped her fellow Kiwis with mask-making.

Surging COVID-19 cases in Guam are threatening to overwhelm the island’s healthcare system, while rapidly spreading infections across Papua New Guinea and new clusters in French Polynesia following the resumption of tourism have sparked fears of uncontrolled outbreaks in the Pacific. The Pacific region is still the least-infected in the world, several countries remain COVID-19 free, but there are troubling surges across countries with fragile health systems ill-equipped for large numbers of infections.  Governor of Guam Lou Leon Guerrero has said  “We are in very dire straits. We are in very desperate times. Our island right now is sick.”  Guam has recorded 1,287 infections and 10 people have died.   A total of 459 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Papua New Guinea and 5 lives have been lost.  French Polynesia has recorded 482 cases and 0 deaths so far. 

In Australia, Victoria has recorded 114 new coronavirus cases and 11 more deaths.

The figures, confirmed by the department of health and human services on Sunday, bring the state’s toll from the virus to 524 and the national total to 611. It follows 94 new cases on Saturday, which was the first day since July 5 that cases were in the double digits. “Absolutely, this strategy is working,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Saturday. “We’ve all just got to find a way to stay the course.” Residents in the capital Melbourne are subject to another fortnight of strict stage four restrictions including an 8pm to 5am curfew and Andrews said the benefits from the first four weeks were starting to show. Regional Victorians are under slightly less strict stage three restrictions for the same period. Mr Andrews was cautious about rushing to a return to normal, saying the path back to normality will be based on “science and data and evidence”. One of the first issues to be addressed when restrictions ease could be people living alone who have gone weeks with little human interaction. “We want to try and support them and indeed every Victorian, with a clear, dedicated, logical but also meaningful plan for opening up, but it is just a little too early,” Andrews said. Restrictions across Melbourne are due to expire on 13 September but will be reduced gradually rather than removed completely. Health officials have indicated that recommendations for face masks could remain in place for several more months.

Elsewhere, in Australia, the government in the northern state of Queensland has added more locations to a public health alert in the south-east. The ABC, Australia’s public broadcaster, is reporting there are now 120 locations under the alert, as identified by contact tracers. The state reported another four cases yesterday and extended restrictions on gatherings to the Gold Coast. No more than 10 people were allowed to gather in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan or the Gold Coast without a COVID-19 safety plan.

The new rules will also come into effect in the Darling Downs from 8am Monday after health alerts were issued for the Southern Hotel and Queens’ Park Markets in Toowoomba.All Saturday’s cases were linked to a correctional service training academy at  Wacol, taking the corrective services cluster to 19 cases.

Schools will reopen in Nigeria’s coronavirus epicentre Lagos next month as part of plans to revive the economy coronavirus cases decline, the state governor has said. 

Lagos plans to reopen colleges on 14 September, and primary and secondary school schools on 21 September, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said.

“The gradual easing doesn’t mean the pandemic is over,” he said in a tweet. “It is not an invitation to carelessness or nonchalance.” The Lagos governor said restaurants, social clubs and recreational centres would also be allowed to reopen as long as they followed safety rules. Secondary schools reopened across Nigeria this month for pupils due to take graduation exams. Nigeria has reported 53,727 infections in total, including 18,104 in Lagos and 1,011 deaths.

A more infectious mutation of Covid-19 has been found in Indonesia, the Jakarta-based Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology said on Sunday, as the country’s caseload surges.

Indonesia reported 2,858 new infections on Sunday, data from the health ministry showed, below the previous day’s record 3,308 cases but above the past month’s daily average. Its total caseload now stands at 172,053, with 7,343 coronavirus-related deaths.

The “infectious but milder” D614G mutation of the virus has been found in genome sequencing data from samples collected by the institute, deputy director Herawati Sudoyo told Reuters, adding that more study is required to determine whether that was behind the recent rise in cases. The strain, which the World Health Organisation said was identified in February and has been circulating in Europe and the Americas, has also been found in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.

Total number of cases worldwide – 25,225,566

Total number of deaths worldwide – 847,676

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 17,574,888

Active cases: 

6,803,002 active cases, 

6,741,712i n mild condition, 

61,290 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 18,422,564

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Saturday 29th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now” (Martin Luther King,Jr.)

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference on Thursday that the COVID-19 pandemic had been an “acid test” for countries as well as for the International Health Regulations (IHR). He said that even before the coronavirus pandemic, emergencies such as the  Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo had exposed flaws in the IHR. Such emergencies showed that some elements of the IHR may need review, including the binary nature of the (alert) mechanism.

The WHO is setting up a committee of independent experts to consider changing the rules on declaring an international health emergency, following criticism of its COVID-19 pandemic response. The world body declared a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) over the new coronavirus on 30 January, at which time the respiratory disease had infected fewer than 100 people outside China, and claimed no lives beyond its borders. Under the current International Health Regulations (IHR) governing preparedness and response for health emergencies, there are no lower, intermediate levels of alert beneath a full PHEIC, either on a global or regional scale. WHO experts had met on 22-23 January, but at that point did not conclude that the outbreak merited the high state of alert of a full PHEIC. The committee will present a progress report to the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body, made up of member states, in November, and a full report to the assembly in May.

Spanish schoolchildren aged six and over must wear masks to class, the government announced recently, unveiling a plan to reopen schools just days before the start of the new academic year. The health minister, Salvador Illa, said that, while closing down schools could become necessary if multiple cases of the virus were detected across different classrooms, that would be the last resort. “It would have to be studied on a case by case basis. This is not black and white,” he said at a joint news conference with the ministers for education and regional policy. Spain’s health ministry reported 3,594 new infections on one day this week  and has logged nearly 83,000 in the past two weeks.  28,996  people have died since the onset of the pandemic and the country has reported 451,792 cases of the virus.  Asked whether concerned parents would have the right to keep their children at home, education minister Isabel Celaa said schools were safer than other places. “It is mandatory to go to class. For anyone who is afraid, I must say that we have been working since day one for a safe environment,” she said, acknowledging there was no place with “zero risk.”

Ireland is to keep its pubs shut, Europe’s longest such lockdown, to try to curb infection rates. Health officials have recommended “wet” pubs that do not serve food should not open on 31 August, as previously planned. It will be the third time authorities have extended restrictions on the pubs, which shut in March and were initially due to reopen in July. Pubs that serve food reopened in late June. Ronan Glynn, Ireland’s acting chief medical officer, said on Thursday that wet pubs, about half of Ireland’s 7,000 pubs, should stay shut amid a rising infection rate of 33 per 100,000 people.  There have been 28,453 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ireland and 1,777 people have lost the battle with COVID-19. 

Norway will not yet ease restrictions designed to counter coronavirus even through the spread has been slower recently, the Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, said on Friday. She told a news conference “Even if the infection numbers are coming down, we can’t say that we have landed safely yet … we have to be sure that we maintain control.”

To prevent a resurgence in infections, the country halted its planned easing of restrictions earlier this month, and imposed new measures such a ban on bars serving alcohol after midnight. Events with more than 200 participants will still be banned, distancing rules in theatres retained and sports activities for adults limited. The level of infections is, however, considered low, the health minister, Bent Hoeie, said. The country of 5.4 million people diagnosed 356 cases last week.  Norway has confirmed 10,542 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began there and 264 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  Over 9,300 people have recovered and there are currently 930 active cases in the country with 1 of those described as serious or critical.

Several US Midwest states reported record one-day increases in the number of new coronavirus cases as the nationwide death toll reached 184,847, and cases rose to 6,049,064. There are reports that Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota all recorded the biggest one-day increases in new infections this week since the pandemic started. North Dakota, where cases rose 30% last week, reported a record 333 new cases on Thursday. Neighbouring South Dakota, where cases rose 50% last week, reported a record 623 new infections. Iowa reported 1,288 new cases on Thursday after seeing infections rise nearly 7% last week. Minnesota reported 1,154 new cases and saw its new cases rise 4% last week, according to a Reuters analysis. Cases were also rising in Illinois. The Midwestern state records came as governors of several other states said they would not reduce testing as recommended the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which this week advised that people who were exposed to COVID-19 but not symptomatic did not need to be tested. Critics said the change was based on political pressure and not science. California, Connecticut, Florida, Texas, New Jersey and New York all planned to continue to test asymptomatic people who have been exposed to Covid. The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut slammed the CDC’s move as “reckless” and “not based on science,” and said they would not change testing guidelines in their states.  

China has reported nine new COVID-19 cases, compared with eight a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Friday. The National Health Commission said in a statement that all new infections were imported cases involving travellers from overseas, marking the 12th consecutive day of no local transmissions. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 85,013, while the number of lives lost remained unchanged at 4,634. To put that figure in context, India recorded 75,760 cases in one day (Thursday) alone.

There are five new confirmed community cases of coronavirus in New Zealand, and 7 new imported cases. All of the new five cases are related to the Auckland cluster, and four out of five are in one family. The seven imported cases all arrived on the same flight on 27th August and are now in isolation. There are 161 people linked to the community cluster that are in quarantine in Auckland. Eleven people are being treated in hospital, with three in intensive care. On Thursday, 11,010 tests were processed.   Auckland is on track to move out of level 3 lockdown on Sunday despite the new cases of COVID-19.

New Zealand’s largest city has been in level 3 for more than two weeks and on Friday the finance minister, Grant Robertson, said that at midnight on Sunday Auckland would move to level 2. Level 3 requires most people to stay at home unless shopping or if they are essential workers; while level 2 allows people to return to work, school and jobs, as well as eating and drinking out.

Australia’s second most populous state of Victoria has reported 113 new cases in 24 hours (Thursday to Friday), the same figure as the previous day. Twelve more people died. The state has been at the centre of the country’s toughest lockdown, which appears to be stabilising the spread of the virus. Australia’s largest state of New South Wales reported 13 new cases, including six linked to a cluster in the centre of Sydney. Meanwhile the north-eastern state of Queensland has reported three new positive cases, taking the number of cases linked to the cluster between the Brisbane youth detention centre and the corrections training academy to 15.

South Korea reported 371 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, including 359 local infections, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). This is down from the nearly six-month high on Thursday of 441. However, the country has reported triple digit figures of new cases for more than two weeks.  The new case numbers came as Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government would extend the current Phase 2 social distancing, which was due to expire this weekend, for at least another week.

Earlier this week, Seoul officials ordered the closure of most schools in the capital and surrounding areas. Seoul has also mandated that masks to be worn in both indoor and outdoor public places, and has ordered places like churches, nightclubs, karaoke bars and other high-risk venues closed.

Brazil reported 44,235 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 984 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in 24 hours, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Brazil has registered 3,764,493 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 118,649, according to official figures, in the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak outside the United States.

The United Kingdom has imposed a 14-day quarantine measure on travellers arriving from Switzerland, Jamaica and the Czech Republic following spikes in virus infection rates in the countries. Cuba has been added to the list of destinations from which people can arrive in the UK without entering a quarantine period after cases fell, while Wales has removed the requirement for arrivals from Singapore.  The UK on Thursday recorded the highest number of new coronavirus cases since 12 June, with government figures reporting 1,522 positive cases. The number of new cases, which cover the 24 hours to 9am on 27 August, were up 474 on the previous day. The average number of cases confirmed in the past seven days stood at 1,155, the highest rolling average recorded since 22 June.

Coronavirus cases in Russia have reached 980,405, the fourth largest in the world, after the country reported 4,829 new infections on Friday.  Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said 110 people had died over the past 24 hours, bringing its official death toll to 16,914.

On Friday, Indonesia reported its biggest increase in new coronavirus infections for a second day, after 3,003 cases were recorded in 24 hours. The new cases brought Indonesia’s total coronavirus infections to 165,887, while 105 new fatalities took the death toll to 7,169, data from the country’s COVID-19 taskforce showed.

Malaysia will continue with certain movement control restrictions until the end of 2020, the Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has said. Malaysia has reported a significant decline in the number of virus cases, reporting only 10 new cases on Friday. It has gradually reopened nearly all businesses, but with social distancing protocols. Large gatherings are banned and international borders remain closed. In a televised address, Muhyiddin said while the south-east Asian nation had the virus under control, the spread of the virus globally meant “it will be a long time before our country is free from the dangers of COVID-19”. The economy has shown positive signs of recovery, he added. There have been 9,306 confirmed cases of the virus in Malaysia and 125 people have died.  Out of 151 active cases, 8 are described as serious or critical.

Total number of cases worldwide – 24, 670,140

Total number of deaths worldwide – 836,517

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 17,125,306

Active cases: 

6,708,317 active cases, 

6,646,928 in mild condition, 

61,389 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 17,761,823

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Friday 28th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen” (Winston Churchill)

European countries have seen an increased incidence in COVID-19 infections among younger age groups this summer. And, with winter coming, they are likely come into closer contact with elderly people in the populations, which could lead to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths, World Health Organisation Regional Director (Europe) Dr Hans Henri P Kluge has said. He has warned young people that no one is invincible and that this pandemic is a “tornado with a long tail”. It is known what has to be done, he says, calling on nations to put in place effective test-and-trace systems.

But, Dr Kluge says, we are not back in February, when nations were taken by surprise by the speed and ferocity of the virus’s spread. Instead, he says, “vigilance is the key word and we now know enough to be able to manage the situation. That would include, for example, keeping educational institutions open”.

In France, the government needs to intervene to contain an outbreak as the virus circulates widely among younger people, the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, has said.

He also said the health minister, Olivier Véran, will start holding weekly news briefings over the COVID-19 situation in the country. The government is hoping to avoid a new nationwide lockdown but the country has been facing a resurgence of infections since July, with an acceleration from mid-August.  France is to order the mandatory wearing of face masks across Paris to curb surging coronavirus infections,  PM Jean Castex said on Thursday, warning that the outbreak could spiral out of control if swift action is not taken. “The virus is spreading all over the country,” Castex told a news conference, flanked by his health and education ministers. The spread of the epidemic could become exponential if we do not react quickly. The reproduction “R” number of infections in France has risen to 1.4, meaning that every 10 people with the virus will infect another 14. An R number above 1 can lead to exponential growth. France made it compulsory to wear a face mask in closed public spaces such as shops and banks on 21 July, and in early August it became compulsory outdoors in crowded parts of the capital, including the Sacre Coeur basilica of Montmartre.

France and Italy reported post-lockdown daily case highs earlier this week. France’s 5,429 new cases raised concerns ahead of the new school year starting next week. Italy reported 1,367 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily tally since May when the country was still in lockdown.

Poland will extend its quarantine period for those suspected of being infected with coronavirus to 10 days from 14 days, the health minister said on Thursday, amid a surge in new daily cases. Poland has recorded 64,689 confirmed cases and 2,010 lives have been lost since the outbreak began in the country. 

Qatar has decided to reopen all mosques across the country for daily and Friday prayers from 1 September, a statement by the supreme committee for crisis management announced recently. The statement said this would be part of the fourth and final phase of a plan that started on 15 June, aimed at gradually lifting coronavirus restrictions.  Qatar has the worlds highest per capita coronavirus infection rate but one of the lowest death rates, an outcome achieved by blanket testing, a young population and high healthcare spending.  There have been 117,988 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Qatar and with a recorded population of 2,807,805, that equates to 42,021 infections per 1M populous.  195 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Rwanda has lengthened its evening curfew and prevented movement in and out of the western area of Rusizi after a recent surge in cases, according to media reports. Rwanda was one of the first to impose strict lockdown measures in Africa, on 22 March, when it had only 19 cases, and partially lifted the measures on 1 May, when it had officially recorded 225 cases and zero deaths.  However, the country has hit a record 217 cases in one day and has recorded a third of its 3,625 cases in the past 10 days, with authorities blaming the spike on complacency and fatigue with social distancing measures. After a cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame, the government announced that a national curfew would be tightened to 7pm-5am from the current 9pm-5am. “Because of increasing cases of coronavirus in Kigali City, public transport between Kigali and other districts has also been banned,” read a statement from the government. All transport is banned in and out of Rusizi, where there has been a significant increase in cases.

Schools which were expected to be reopened in September will also remain closed.

Other measures such as the closure of bars, wearing of masks in public, limiting of staff in offices and ban on public gatherings will remain in place. Rwanda has opened up to tourists arriving on international flights, who must present a negative COVID-19 certificate, however land borders remain closed to foreigners.

Neighbouring Uganda, which also had a strict lockdown from only a handful of cases in March, has also seen a surge in cases recently. There have been 2,524 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Uganda and 26 deaths recorded.

Ethiopia has recorded the highest daily case numbers of the region since the start of the crisis, with almost 10,000 cases in the past week alone.  At the time of writing, 45,221 cases have been confirmed and 725 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Cases have dropped in Kenya but the country has maintained its evening curfew.  The country has confirmed 33,389 cases and 567 people have died.  There are reportedly 13,454 active cases in Kenya and 44 of those are described as serious or critical.

Tanzania remains an outlier, having not issued official numbers in four months and insists it has no more cases. To date, just 509 confirmed cases have been recorded and 21 lives lost. Official figures indicate 305 active cases with 7 of those classed as serious or critical. 

In Australia, numbers of new infections in the southern state of Victoria appeared to be stabilising. On Thursday, 113 cases were reported, the lowest increase since 5 July, when 74 cases were reported. However the state reported 23 deaths associated with COVID-19 on Thursday.

New Zealand reported seven new cases, including one imported infection. The six other cases were all linked to the Auckland cluster.

India has passed 60,000 coronavirus deaths and recorded its highest daily tally of 76,014 cases, the Times of India reports. It’s the third highest daily tally of cases anywhere in the world, after the US recorded 78,427 (25 July) and 76,930 (17 July). The previous highest daily count in India was 70,488 (22 August). The Times says the surge came on the back of increased testing, with just under 925,000 samples tested on Wednesday.

Four members of a dwindling tribe in India’s far off Andaman Islands have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said on Thursday. The Great Andamanese are one of the six tribes who have lived in the Andamans in the Bay of Bengal for thousands of years.

Only about 50 members survive, after thousands were killed by British colonisers in the 19th century or died later due to diseases. Indian officials have since tried to protect their way of life while opening up the islands to the fruits of development such as access to healthcare. Dr Avijit Roy, who is leading the fight against the outbreak of COVID-19 in the islands, said they had run tests on the Great Andamanese living on one of the coral-reef islands in the archipelago and four of the men had turned out to be positive.  Officials believe the men may have travelled to the main Andaman islands and contracted the virus there. The London-based Survival International said authorities must work to prevent the virus reaching other remote tribes. “It is extremely alarming that members of the Great Andamanese tribe tested positive for COVID-19. They will be all too aware of the devastating impact of epidemics that have decimated their people,” said Sophie Grig, senior researcher. On the Indian mainland, in the eastern state of Odisha, a member of a hill tribe had also tested positive, a state official said.

South Korea has reported 441 new coronavirus cases, the most daily infections since early March when the country had the first large outbreak, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. Of the cases, 434 were locally transmitted, bringing the total to 18,706 infections, with 313 deaths. There have been 14,461 recoveries reported and currently there are 3,932 active cases, 46 described as serious or critical.

Total number of cases worldwide – 24, 393,868

Total number of deaths worldwide – 830,805

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 16,924,558

Active cases: 

6,638,505 active cases, 

6,576,950 in mild condition, 

61,555 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 17,755,363

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Thursday 27th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“ You’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it” (Robin Williams)

The World Health Organisation has suggested the pace of COVID-19 transmission is easing in many parts of the world. Governments have been ramping up efforts to contain the disease, which has claimed the lives of almost 814,000 people and infected at least 23 million since late last year.

WHO data said fatality and infection rates were easing in most regions, notably in the hard-hit Americas, except Southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean.

In Africa, WHO regional director Matshidiso Moeti said new cases were declining after the continent passed “what seems to have been a peak”.

But Health Minister Zweli Mkhize of hard-hit South Africa warned that “our biggest worry is whether in fact this is the first surge and there might be another one”, pointing to the latest developments in Spain.

One of the worst affected countries in Europe, Spain is to use 2,000 soldiers trained in tracking to help regions identify those who have been exposed to infected people. “We can’t let the pandemic once again take control of our lives… we must take control and halt this second curve,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

While the World Health Organisation says COVID-19 transmission rates are easing across much of the world, they are continuing to escalate in places like India – 18 straight record days of infections, more than 67,000 new cases in 24 hours . In the US, nearly 1000 people are still dying every day from the virus.

Sweden has withdrawn its advice against unnecessary travel to the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Romania. Sweden earlier withdrew advice against unnecessary trips to Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, the Vatican and Austria. The foreign ministry in a statement on its website extended its advice against travel to other EU and Schengen countries and Britain until 9 September, and to the rest of the world until 15 November.

Rising numbers of confirmed cases in some countries are fuelling fears of a resurgence in the spread of Covid-19.

Iran’s death toll from coronavirus rose by 119 to 21,020, the health ministry’s spokeswoman told state TV on Wednesday, with the total number of identified cases rising to 365,606. Sima Sadat Lari said that 2,243 new cases were identified in 24 hours in Iran, rising from 2,213 a day earlier.  There have been 21,020 lives lost in the country which has a recorded population of 84,153,43.  There are reported to be 29,716 active cases of the virus in Iran and 3,831 of those are described as serious or critical.

Lari said: “Unfortunately we have been facing a surge in coronavirus infections in recent weeks. I urge everyone to avoid unnecessary trips.”

Iran’s top health officials have appealed to Iranians to avoid travelling during the Shia Muslim religious holiday of Ashura later this week to avoid the risk of a fresh surge of infections. Ashura is the 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram when, according to Islamic tradition, Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Mohammed, was killed in battle in 680. But despite warnings by the authorities against travelling, state media reported heavy traffic on roads leading to the Caspian coast in northern Iran, a favourite destination during holidays.

The Philippines has reported 5,277 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily increase in 12 days, and a further 99 deaths. The country’s health ministry said the total number of confirmed cases had risen to 202,361, more than 60% of which were reported in the past month, while  the number of lives lost has increased to 3,137, (figures have been confirmed by official sources).  The Philippines has the largest number of COVID-19 cases in south-east Asia.

Kenya’s President has extended a nationwide curfew for 30 days, saying coronavirus cases were rising in areas outside the capital. In a televised address, Uhuru Kenyatta also ordered bars and nightclubs shut for another 30 days – but increased the number of people allowed to attend weddings, funerals and other events. He said infections were slowing in Nairobi and the port and tourism hub of Mombasa. He also said: “This crisis has however began to percolate to the counties. The new frontier of this invisible enemy is increasingly shifting to the counties and to our rural areas.” At present Kenya has 32,803 cases of coronavirus, 559 lives have been lost and 19,296 recoveries have been recorded.  There are currently 13,189 active cases and 44 are described as serious or critical.

Ukraine has imposed a temporary ban on most foreigners from entering the country until 28 September and extended lockdown measures until the end of October to contain a recent surge in coronavirus cases. Speaking at a televised cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, also said the government would need to take a decision on Thursday on whether to ban major public events in September.  There have been 110,085 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ukraine and 2,354 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  Over 53,000 people are reported to have recovered and currently there are 54,277 active cases in the country. 177 of those are described as serious or critical.

Myanmar ordered all schools to close after reporting 70 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, its biggest daily rise, as authorities try to tackle a resurgence of the virus following weeks without confirmed domestic transmission. All but one of the new cases announced on Wednesday were in the western state of Rakhine, found in nine different locations, each linked to an outbreak in the state capital, Sittwe, where a lockdown and curfew were imposed last week. Myanmar’s outbreak has been relatively small compared with other countries in the region, with six deaths and 580 infections in total, but an increase in cases by nearly 35% in just over a week is causing some concern.

 

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Hassan Diab, said the country was at risk of losing its control over its coronavirus outbreak after a surge in the number of cases in the wake of the massive explosion in Beirut on 4 August. “The number of cases is increasing greatly, and if this continues, we will lose control of this epidemic,” Diab was cited as saying in a statement issued by the supreme defence council.  Lebanon registered 525 new coronavirus infections and 12 deaths on Tuesday. There have been 13,687 confirmed cases in the country so far and 138 people have reportedly lost their lives to COVID-19. The country experienced a rise in infections following the catastrophic explosion in the capital city at the start of the month. Official figures show 9,826 active cases in Lebanon.

Cases doubled in the two weeks following the blast, as infections spread in hospitals where victims were being treated, medics say. The government imposed a partial lockdown last Friday to help combat community spread. But the shutdown, which includes a curfew from 6pm to 6am, still allows for clearing rubble, making repairs and giving out aid in neighbourhoods damaged by the explosion. The airport will remain open, with travellers having to take PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests before boarding and on arriving in the country. 

Total number of cases worldwide – 24,111,854

Total number of deaths worldwide – 824,704

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 16,651,062

Active cases: 

6,636,088 active cases, 

6,574,356 in mild condition, 

61,732 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 17,475,766

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Wednesday 26th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“Happiness is having a scratch for every itch” (Ogden Nash)

I start with an extract from the opening remarks made by the Director General of The World Health Organisation at the media briefing earlier this week.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

“There is light at the end of tunnel and as I said last week, together we can do it.

While investing collectively in research and development on vaccines, we need to also use the tools at hand that we have now to suppress this virus.

As governments hone their track and trace systems to test, isolate and care for patients, and trace and quarantine their contacts, everyone can play their part. 

If we all physically distance, clean our hands regularly, wear masks, and keep informed, we can collectively break the chains of transmission. 

Do it all. 

Do it all, now”

The first cases of coronavirus have been detected within the Gaza Strip outside its quarantine facilities, Palestinian officials have said, a potentially disastrous development given the enclave’s fragile health system. Four people from the same family have so far tested positive for coronavirus, Gaza’s interior ministry said recently as authorities imposed a 48-hour lockdown. “As soon as the virus cases were detected, the leadership of the interior ministry and the crisis unit held intensive meetings,” said ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bazam. Hamas authorities urged Gazans to abide by the immediate shutdown, which includes the closure of workplaces, schools and mosques.  Citing security concerns, both Egypt and Israel maintain tight restrictions at the Gaza frontier, leaving Gazans with little access to the outside world for years and hospitals often complaining of shortages in medical supplies.  “What happens if one of us gets infected?” asked Khaled Sami, a Gaza resident. “When people are seriously ill, they send them into Israel, the West Bank or Egypt. Everything is closed now and who is going to open the gate for someone suffering from the coronavirus?”.  Another Gaza resident, who asked to be identified only as Abu Ahmed said “I hope the whole world can now help Gaza. We can’t resolve this issue on our own.”

On Monday, a Hong Kong man who recovered from COVID-19 was infected again four-and-a-half months later in what researchers at the University of Hong Kong said was the first documented instance of human re-infection.  Hong Kong is set to ease some coronavirus measures from 28th August, allowing venues such as cinemas and beauty parlours to reopen and restaurants to extend dining hours, authorities said on Tuesday. 

Hong Kong had seen a resurgence of locally transmitted cases since the start of July but the daily number has fallen from triple digits in recent weeks to low double digits. Monday’s infection count of nine new cases was the lowest in nearly two months.  There have been 4,711 confirmed cases in Hong Kong and 77 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

A 34-year-old doctor in Argentina is the country’s first confirmed case of someone who, after having recovered from COVID-19, fell ill with the virus a second time four months later.  Alejandra Müller, a hospital director in the town of Helvecia in the central province of Santa Fe, was first diagnosed with the virus on 24 March, after acquiring the virus from a child who had fallen ill. Müller recovered from the virus and, after testing negative, was able to return to her job. “That first time I was back at work after two weeks, having had only some chest pain, some throat congestion, a bit of fever and pharyngitis,” Müller told reporters. The doctor submitted to two tests in April, both of which came back negative, before receiving the all clear. “I thought I had acquired immunity,” Müller said. But four months later Müller fell ill with the virus again, much harder this time. “The second time the infection was completely different,” said Müller. The doctor developed pneumonia at the end of July and had to go into hospital for five days. “I had all the symptoms, except losing my sense of taste, though I did lose my sense of smell.” Argentina had a record-breaking 8,713 new cases and 382 coronavirus-related deaths earlier this week, with 350,867 confirmed cases and 7,366 lives lost since the outbreak began.

Two European patients were confirmed to have been re-infected with the coronavirus, according to regional public broadcasters, raising concerns about immunity. Broadcasters said on Tuesday a patient in the Netherlands and another in Belgium have been re-infected with the virus. Dutch broadcaster NOS cited virologist Marion Koopmans as saying the patient in the Netherlands was an older person with a weakened immune system. “That someone would pop up with a re-infection, it doesn’t make me nervous,” she said. “We have to see whether it happens often.”

South Korea has ordered most schools in Seoul and surrounding areas to close and move classes back online, the latest in a series of precautionary measures aimed at heading off a resurgence in coronavirus cases. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 280 new coronavirus cases as of midnight Monday, bringing the country’s total to 17,945 and 310 deaths. That represents a drop in daily new infections from 397 reported as of midnight Saturday, the highest daily tally since early March.

Indonesia reported 2,447 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 157,859, data from the county’s COVID-19 taskforce showed. The data recorded an additional 99 lives lost, taking the total to 6,858, the highest COVID-19 death toll in south-east Asia. 

Secondary school pupils in Scotland will have to wear face coverings in corridors, communal areas and on school buses from next Monday. Scotland’s education secretary, John Swinney, said the measure applies to all high schools but he added that nobody should be sent home for not wearing a mask. “This is not going to be mandatory. We are recommending this is what should be done and we will encourage schools to pursue that as part of the work to maintain safety within schools. It’s about making sure that everybody is looking out for each other.” The Scottish government said that it had been consulting councils and teaching organisations about the measure after face coverings were recommended for secondary schools by the World Health Organisation at the weekend. (WHO said face coverings were useful where physical distancing between adults and pupils aged 12 and over was impossible, or in areas of high transmission.)

Germany has managed to keep the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths relatively low compared with some other large European countries, but the number of new daily cases has been rising steadily since early July and has accelerated in recent weeks.

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has risen to 236,117, according to official figures released on Tuesday, while the reported number of lives lost has reached 9,336.  With a recorded population of 83,824,401, the number of infections equates to 2,817 cases per 1M populous.  Over 209,000 people are reported to have recovered from the virus and there are currently 17,181 active cases with 245 of those described as serious or critical.

India reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases globally for the 18th straight day, remaining well ahead of the US and Brazil, according to data taken from official sources. It took India from the end of January, when the country’s first case was reported, until July to reach around 1.6 million cases, a period when the government imposed a strict lockdown. However, infections have rocketed by a further 1.5 million since the start of August, taking the total to 3,193,917, behind only Brazil and the US. India reported its first virus related fatality in mid-March, with the death toll rising to around 35,700 by the end of July. In August so far, around 22,600 deaths have been recorded.  The number of people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 is 58,824.

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 23,879,043

Total number of deaths worldwide – 818,536

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 16,414,038

Active cases: 

6,646,469 active cases, 

6,584,877 in mild condition, 

61,592 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 17,232,574

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Tuesday 25th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“May the stars carry away your sadness. May the flowers fill your heart with beauty. May hope forever wipe away your tears, above all, may silence make you strong” (Chief Dan George).

French regional health authorities have said there had been a “very worrying” outbreak of coronavirus at a naturist holiday resort on France’s Mediterranean coast, with 100 holidaymakers so far testing positive. The Cap d’Agde resort in the Herault region, hugely popular among naturists, reported 38 positive tests last Monday and a further 57 on Wednesday, the regional health authority said.  The rate of infection was four times higher among naturists in the resort rather than in the village itself. French authorities will in the coming days reciprocate Britain’s decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France, the junior minister for European affairs said on Monday.  France reported almost 4,900 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours Sunday to Monday. 

Italy’s first wave of the pandemic was brutal, with more than 250,000 infections, peaking at about 6,000 cases a day in March.  The number of new infections continues to rise in the country.  Another 1,210 people tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, the sharpest daily rise since May, when the country was still in lockdown. About half of the 1,210 new cases are holidaymakers returning from Croatia, Greece, Spain and Malta — but also from Sardinia. The Italian island has been recording an increase in coronavirus positive tourists in recent days. With many domestic tourists taking ferries to and from Sardinia, the mainland region of Lazio set up a testing facility at the dock at Civitavecchia, so those driving vehicles off the ferries could line up for immediate testing on their return home. The latest cases have pushed the overall national total, since the start of the emergency, up to 259,345. The number of lives lost has now reached 35,437.

Despite the surge in coronavirus cases, the government has said there are no plans for a new lockdown.

The Greek island of Lesbos was added to a list of areas under heightened COVID-19 vigilance, officials said. The move came as health authorities announced a new daily infection high of 284 cases nationwide in 24 hours.

Sweden has been an outlier in Europe’s fight against the novel coronavirus, keeping businesses, restaurants and most schools open throughout the pandemic, while not recommending the use of face masks, which remain a rare sight on city streets.

Per capita, Sweden has suffered many times more COVID-19 deaths than its Nordic neighbours, though not quite as many as Europe’s worst-hit countries such as Belgium, Spain and Britain. New cases, hospitalisations and mortality have fallen sharply over the past couple of months. With most Swedes having returned from summer vacations and schools reopening last week for the new semester, there are concerns the country could see a second wave of infections. However, Sweden’s top epidemiologist and architect of its unorthodox pandemic strategy, Anders Tegnell, remarked that Sweden is likely to see local outbreaks but no big second wave of Covid-19 cases in the autumn, such as inundated hospitals a few months ago.

The Australian state of Victoria reported its lowest daily rise in new coronavirus infections in seven weeks on Monday, fuelling optimism that a deadly second wave there is subsiding. Victoria on Monday reported 116 cases and 15 lives lost from the virus, down from a peak of more than 700 cases early this month. Australia saw a surge in infections in the past month in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital and the country’s second-largest city, but cases have been trending downward in recent days helped by a total lockdown.

New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, will continue with its Level 3 restrictions for an additional four days. Auckland was set to lift the restrictions – requiring residents to ‘stay at home and stay local’ – on this coming Wednesday, but those have now been extended to 11:59pm on Sunday. The Auckland cluster is now 101 confirmed cases, the largest in the country.

China has seen no locally transmitted cases for eighth day in a row. China reported 16 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 23 August, all of which were imported infections involving travellers from overseas, the country’s health authority said on Monday. This compared with 12 cases reported a day earlier, all imported too, and marked the eighth consecutive day of no locally transmitted cases.

On Monday South Korea’s capital Seoul ordered masks to be worn in both indoor and outdoor public places for the first time, as it battles a surge in coronavirus cases centred in the densely populated metropolitan area. In May, the city government ordered that masks be worn on public transport and in taxis, but a recent spike in cases has health officials worried that the country may need to impose its highest level of social distancing, known as phase 3.  “If we can’t stop it at this stage, we have no choice but to upgrade to the third phase of social distancing,” President Moon Jae-in told his top aides. “The raise to phase 3 is by no means an easy option.”  Under phase 3, schools and business will be urged to close, inflicting more damage on Asia’s fourth-largest economy. Overall, South Korea has reported 17,665 coronavirus cases and 309 lives have been lost.  There are currently 3,137 active cases in the country and 32 are described as serious or critical.

Russia reported 4,744 new coronavirus cases on Monday, pushing the number of  confirmed infections to 961,493, the fourth largest in the world. According to official sources, the number of people who have lost the battle with COVID-19 is now 16,448.  There are 171,950 active cases and 2,300 are said to be serious or critical, over 773,000 people have recovered from the virus.  Reports from Russia indicate that authorities may this week announce the resumption of international flights to France, Hungary, Malta, Cyprus, Jordan, Egypt and China’s Shanghai.  Russia grounded international commercial flights during the coronavirus lockdown earlier this year and has so far only resumed flights to London, Turkey, Tanzania and Switzerland.

Total number of cases worldwide – 23,620,697

Total number of deaths worldwide – 813,133

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 16,110,209

Active cases: 

6,697,355 active cases, 

6,635,651 in mild condition, 

61,704 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 16,923,342

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Monday 24th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you had left open” (John Barrymore)

Here are some of the developments in the world from the weekend.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said children aged 12 and over should wear masks to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic under the same conditions as adults, while children between six and 11 should wear them on a risk-based approach. 

Children aged 12 and over should particularly wear a mask when a one-metre distance from others cannot be guaranteed and there is widespread transmission in the area, the WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a document on the WHO website dated 21 August.

Whether children between six and 11 should wear masks depends on a number of factors, including the intensity of transmission in the area, the child’s ability to use the mask, access to masks and adequate adult supervision, the two organisations said.

The potential impact on learning and psycho-social development together with  the interactions the child has with people at high risk of developing serious illness, should also play a role.  Children aged five years and under should not be required to wear masks based on the safety and overall interest of the child, the WHO and UNICEF said. 

Italy reported 1,071 new coronavirus infections, the health ministry said on Saturday, exceeding 1,000 cases in a day for the first time since lockdown restrictions were eased in May. The Rome region in Italy recorded 215 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours to Sunday, mainly because of people returning from holiday, the largest such rise since the Italian capital was in lockdown in March, health officials said Saturday.  Italy, particularly the northern Lombardy region, the Venice area and Rome, are seeing a resurgence in the virus over the summer, even if the daily numbers remain below the national threshold of 1,000, unlike in neighbouring France.

In France the health ministry on Saturday reported 3,602 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, a smaller rise than on Friday and after the increase in cases reached a post-lockdown high earlier in the week. The ministry said the total coronavirus deaths in the country had risen by nine in the same 24 hours to 30,512.  The total of confirmed infection cases in France now stands at 238,002, while the number of people in intensive care units was up to 380, there are 122,450 active cases in the country.

Ireland has reported 156 new coronavirus infections, the fourth highest daily tally since early May.  It’s the fourth time in eight days that Ireland has reported more than 100 daily coronavirus cases. Ireland significantly tightened its nationwide coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday to try to rein in the new spike, which began in late July after cases had fallen to a daily average of around 20 for much of the previous two months.  On Thursday, the Irish health minister, Stephen Donnelly, had said the country was “at a tipping point.”

The government lifted separate stricter measures in two counties on Friday but extended them for two more weeks in Kildare, where there were 36 cases. Dublin accounted for 55 with the rest spread across the country, similar to previous days.

Scotland recorded 123 more cases, its biggest daily rise for more than three months. The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, expressed her concern but pointed out that more than half of the new cases were linked to an outbreak at a food processing plant in Tayside. 

A further 71 people tested positive for the virus in Northern Ireland and Wales recorded a daily increase of 34 cases.

The United Kingdom recorded 1,288 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, up from 1,033 a day earlier, government figures showed.  Eighteen more people have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, up from two a day earlier.  The new cases were recorded as the government ramps up testing in an effort to suppress the spread of the virus and ease restrictions that have crippled the economy.

Travellers from the UK to France are required to self-certify that they are not suffering coronavirus symptoms or have been in contact with a confirmed case within 14 days preceding travel. The requirement to self-certify has been added to the UK government’s travel advice for those visiting France. Meanwhile, those travelling to the UK from France must still quarantine for 14-days after France was removed from the travel corridor list from August 15.

Czechia (Czech Republic) and Ukraine both reported the highest ever increases in daily cases. Ukraine reported 2,328 cases, while there were 506 new cases confirmed  in the Czech republic

India announced on Saturday that the country has hit the milestone of one million tests per day.  There have now been 35,292,220 coronavirus tests conducted in the country and 3,049,855 confirmed cases of the virus.  There are 710,998 active cases in the country and 8,944 of those are described as serious or critical. 2,281,982 people are reported to have recovered from coronavirus. India’s recovery rate increased to 74.30%, up from 73.91% on Friday, as reported by the ministry of health and family welfare.

 

Brazil reported 50,032 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 892 deaths from the disease caused by the virus according to figures released by the health ministry on Saturday.  Brazil has registered 3,582,698 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 114,277, according to WHO data making it the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak outside the United States.

Mexico’s confirmed coronavirus deaths have now reached 60,254. Mexico’s health ministry on Saturday reported 6,482 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 644 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 556,216. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases. There are some signs of hope: new cases have eased since reaching a record daily number at the start of August. Earlier this week, the government said the outbreak is now in “sustained decline”.

Iraq registered nearly 4,000 new cases, bringing its recorded total to 201,050. Many fear yet another surge in cases is imminent, as Shia Muslims converge on the holy city of Karbala to commemorate the beginning of the mourning month of Muharram. 

The Australian state of Victoria has recorded 208 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, and 17 deaths, health authorities have confirmed.  Queensland’ Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned on Sunday morning the state was “not out of the woods yet” despite reporting only two new cases of the virus linked to an outbreak at a youth detention centre. Both cases – a woman in her 30s and an infant boy – were from the same family as a known case and had been already quarantining at their home west of Brisbane. On Saturday morning, the state introduced new rules restricting the numbers of people who could gather in homes and outside to 10 people, but businesses and organisations with COVID-19  plans in place could continue to operate as they had been.

Ms Palaszczuk said there were now nine cases in the cluster linked to the detention centre outbreak. The state had 16 active cases. Among 6,875 tests carried out in the previous 24 hours, 202 detention centre staff and 11 inmates had returned negative tests, with a further 20 results from inmates still to be returned.   Health authorities in New South Wales, reported Sunday morning four new cases of coronavirus, including a second security guard from a Sydney hotel. Of the four new cases, two people had caught the disease while overseas and were in hotel quarantine and another was a household contact of a previous case linked to a cluster at a restaurant. The state of Western Australia has recorded one new case, taking the state’s total to 652. There are nine active cases. The new case is an interstate traveller who has returned from overseas and is currently in hotel quarantine.

South Korea reported its highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since early March on Sunday, as outbreaks continued to spread from a Seoul church and from political demonstrations its members had attended. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) confirmed 397 new infections as of midnight Saturday, up from the previous day’s 332 and marking more than a week of daily three-digit rises. That brings South Korea’s total to 17,399 infections of coronavirus and 309 people have lost the battle with COVID-19. From Sunday, the government imposed second-tier social-distancing rules in areas outside Seoul, banning in-person church meetings and closing nightclubs, buffets and cyber cafes. 

The Philippines recorded 2,378 new coronavirus infections on Sunday. It is smallest daily spike in nearly four weeks, but the nationwide tally rose to 189,601, still the highest in Southeast Asia. In a bulletin, the Department of Health also reported 32 more fatalities, bringing the country’s death toll to 2,998.  The figures have been confirmed by data supplied by the World Health Organisation.

In Peru, at least 13 people were crushed to death or asphyxiated as partygoers attempted to flee a Lima nightclub raided by police because it was in breach of COVID-19 restrictions. At least six were injured, including three police officers, as around 120 people tried to escape the Thomas Restobar club on Saturday night. Police arrived to break up a party on its second floor, national police and government officials said.  Peru ordered the closure of nightclubs and bars in March and banned extended family gatherings on 12 August. A Sunday curfew is also in effect.  The country has recorded a total of 585,236 coronavirus cases, double the number reported on July 2, while the known death toll has risen to 27,453.  With a recorded population of 33,036,402, the rate of infections equates to 17,715 cases per 1M populous.

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 23,423,772

Total number of deaths worldwide – 809,570

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 15,955,123

Active cases: 

6,659,043 active cases, 

6,597,367 in mild condition, 

61,676 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 16,764,693

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Sunday 23rd August 2020 by Louise Birch

Do not let Sunday be taken from you.  If you soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan” (Albert Schweitzer)

I hope you find this report uplifting and that it brings a smile to your faces.

Two beluga whales taken from the sea nearly ten years ago have been returned to the ocean.

Little Grey and Little White are now being looked after at the world’s first open water sanctuary for belugas in Iceland. It is the first time the belugas have been in the sea since they were captured by a Russian whale research centre in 2011 and later taken to a water park in China. Little Grey and Little White are now in a care pool and need time to get used to their new environment before they are released into a larger sanctuary in Klettsvik Bay off the south coast of the country.

The pair had been transported from China to a care facility on the Icelandic island of Vestmannaeyjar in 2019 but now their 6,000 mile journey has finally come to a happy end. The animals were moved by truck and tugboat, carried in specially made slings which were designed with foam matting so that the whales were comfortable during transportation.

Experts were with Little Grey and Little White to make sure they were eating properly and staying healthy during their journey. Little Grey is said to be ‘very playful’ but she also has a mischievous side, spitting water at her care team. Meanwhile, Little White is ‘much more reserved but still likes to play and forms close bonds with her carers’.

The Sea Life Trust which looks after the animals, said it was delighted to confirm the whales are home safe and getting to know their new surroundings in the care area at Klettsvik Bay. Andy Bool, head of the Trust, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to share the news that Little Grey and Little White are safely in their sea sanctuary care pools and are just one step away from being released into their open water home. “Following extensive planning and rehearsals, the first stage of their release back to the ocean was as smooth as we had hoped and planned for. “We are carefully monitoring Little Grey and Little White with our expert care team and veterinarians and hope to announce their final release very soon.” 

                                                                           “all good things are wild and free” Henry David Thoreau

There are about 200,000 beluga whales in the wild, they are a distinctive white colour and only grow up to 4 metres in length which is about twice the height of an adult human male.

 

A man dressed as Batman is prowling the streets of Santiago, Chile, at night delivering warm meals to the city’s homeless.

The man, who prefers not to be identified, cooks around 100 food rations a day which he self-finances. He then dresses up as Batman and delivers the dinners to homeless people throughout the South American capital. 

The man did reveal what inspired him for the mission. “Look around you, see if you can dedicate a little time, a little food, a little shelter, a word sometimes of encouragement to those who need it”

 

 

A 103-year-old grandmother has crossed another item off her bucket list, her first tattoo!

Dorothy Pollack, of Muskegon, Michigan, went to AWOL Custom Tattooing with her granddaughter and became the oldest person the tattoo parlour has ever inked. The tattoo parlour did the artwork for free.

“Granny is a badass now; sportin that ink.”

After getting the tattoo, Dorothy decided to take her first ride on the back of a motorcycle! She says the key to living a long life is keeping busy and hard work, apparently that’s all she ever knew what to do.

 

 

Sources

BBC News

Reuters

Sunnyskyz

 

 

 

Saturday 22nd August 2020 by Louise Birch

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words”  (Robert Frost)

After I had finished writing the report for Friday, there were some interesting developments so I am starting with some of the news that came in late Thursday.

The total number of fatalities across Latin America is close to 250,000, following the recording of a further 1,204 deaths in Brazil.

Morocco could return to a complete coronavirus lockdown as cases continue to rise. New cases nationally have surged to more than 1,000 a day since the country lifted a strict three-month long lockdown in late June and hit a record high of 1,766 on 15 August. Tighter controls have been introduced in Marrakesh and Casablanca, following similar measures in Rabat on Tuesday. “If figures continue to increase, the COVID-19 Scientific Committee may recommend another lockdown, perhaps with even tighter restrictions,” King Mohammed VI said in a speech.  Morocco has reported 47,638 cases of coronavirus and 775 people have lost their lives.  There are currently 14,057 active cases and 31 of those are described as serious or critical. 

 

Slovenia has added neighbouring Croatia to its quarantine list, meaning that returning travellers will have to self-isolate. The UK also added Croatia to its quarantine list while Germany advised against travel to the regions of Sibenik-Knin and Split Dalmatia, which are popular with tourists, after the public health agency declared them coronavirus risk regions, making tests for returnees mandatory. Slovenia has recorded 3,225 cases of the virus and 33 people have died since the outbreak reached the country. With a population of 5,460, the rate of infection equates to 591 cases per 1M populous.

France has reported a new post-lockdown record in daily cases. The country has reported 4,711 new coronavirus infections in one day (Wednesday to Thursday), a new post-lockdown record and a level last seen during the height of the epidemic in France. There are currently 266 clusters under investigation, an increase of 33. Thirty-one French departments are deemed to be in a situation of “moderate or significant risk.

Northern Ireland reduced number of people allowed to meet under new Covid-19 restrictions. Outdoor gatherings are now limited to 15 people, reduced from 30, while indoor gatherings in private dwellings are now limited to six individuals from two households, from 10 previously.

Italy hit a new daily record in COVID-19 infections since 16 May. Italy has reported another sharp rise in Covid-19 infections, as the country registered 845 new coronavirus cases late on Thursday, 203 more than Wednesday.

Portugal has been added to UK COVID-19 safe travel list, meaning arrivals from the country will no longer have to quarantine, but Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago have been removed meaning that people returning from those countries will have to quarantine for 14 days.  Portugal has confirmed 54,992 cases of coronavirus according to figures suppled by the World Health Organisation and 1,788 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  There are currently 12,940 active cases in the country and 39 of those are described as serious or critical.  With a population of 10,192,461, the rate of infections in Portugal equates to 5,395 cases per 1M populous whereas in the United Kingdom, the rate of infections is 4,744 cases per 1M populous.

 

News from Friday.

Poland reported 903 new coronavirus cases on Friday, according to official figures, the highest daily increase since the pandemic outbreak. Poland has reported 60,281 cases, and 1,938 lives have been lost to COVID-19.

The Australian state of Victoria has recorded 179 new cases of COVID-19. It was the lowest one-day increase in five weeks and a sign that the outbreak that brought a lockdown on Melbourne was being brought under control.

Eleven new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in New Zealand on Friday, nine of them related to the community outbreak in south Auckland. Half of the cases came from churches and the rest from family contacts. Two of the cases arrived from overseas recently, both are now in quarantine. Eight people are now receiving hospital care, all of them infected from the community. Some 89 cases are now considered part of the south Auckland cluster. New Zealand’s cabinet will meet on Monday to decide alert levels for the whole country, including Auckland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.

 

Disaster-hit Lebanon has locked down for two weeks from Friday to stem a string of record daily infection rates that have brought the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 10,952, including 113 deaths.  Still recovering from the huge fertiliser explosion in Beirut two weeks ago, the country’s interim government fears the fragile health sector will be unable to cope if there is a big surge in cases. The new lockdown measures, which include a nighttime curfew from 6:00am (0300 GMT) to 6:00pm (1500 GMT), will not affect the clean-up or aid effort in areas ravaged by the blast.

South Korea’s vice health minister has warned of the “very serious situation” facing the country as it tries to contain the latest coronavirus outbreak. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported 324 new cases as of midnight Thursday, bringing the country’s total to 16,670, with 309 deaths. It was the highest daily count since 8 March. South Korea has been placed back on high alert after a spike of cases centred around a church in Seoul whose members were among thousands who attended a conservative political rally in the capital last Saturday.

India has edged closer to 3 million coronavirus cases, reporting 68,898 new infections in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report, according to the health ministry. The country now has 2,910,032 cases, the ministry says, although more than 2 million have recovered. The number of people who have lost the battle with COVID-19 is now 55,002. India is the worst-hit country in Asia, and third behind the United States (5,746,534 cases) and Brazil (3,505,097 cases) in terms of total cases of the coronavirus.

Citizens of Beijing can go mask-free for the first time in months, health authorities said on Friday, as new cases continued to decline in the Chinese capital. Many people are still choosing wear the masks in public, however, because social pressure made them feel obliged to do so. 

Myanmar has locked down the state capital of the conflict-torn Rakhine state after an outbreak of a coronavirus strain that officials said was more infectious than that previously seen in the country. Since Monday, 19 people have tested positive for the virus in the western region, health officials confirmed on Friday, the first local transmission in Myanmar in months, bringing the total number of cases to 409. 

 

 

As cases continue to climb in Spain, the country’s health emergency chief has issued his strongest warning since the country emerged from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns.

“There should be no confusion, things are not going well,” Fernando Simón told reporters. “If we continue to allow transmission to rise, even if most cases are mild, we will end up with many in hospital, many in intensive care and many deaths.”

Spain has registered 66,905 cases in the past two weeks, resulting in Europe’s highest 14-day infection rate. More than a quarter of these new infections have been in Madrid, the centre of the country’s crisis in March and April. “We can’t say that the epidemic is out of control at a national level, but there are some specific places where it is,” Simón added, without giving details. Deaths have increased across Spain, with 131 lives claimed in the last seven days compared with 12 deaths one month ago. Around 1,400 COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospital in the last week, nearly double from one week earlier.

The rise in cases has prompted officials across Spain to roll out a raft of measures, from closing nightclubs to forcing restaurants and bars to close their doors by 1am. On Friday the central Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha was expected to go further by shutting a sector that has slipped through the cracks to remain open: strip clubs and brothels.

The move comes after a brothel in the region reported an outbreak of eight positive cases among its staff, according to local media. Amid difficulties in tracking down patrons, government officials are urging them to get tested.  Spain has confirmed 404,229 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began and 28,813 people have died.  With a recorded population of 46,757,339, the number of infections in the country equates to 8,645 cases per 1M populous. 

Singapore is to reopen its borders to visitors from New Zealand and Brunei next month, in its first-steps towards resuming leisure travel since it closed borders to control coronavirus outbreaks. The city-state, which currently only allows official and business travel to selected countries, also said it would allow students to travel for overseas study if remote-learning was not possible. The new measures will take effect on 1 September with various restrictions, the health ministry said. Singapore sealed its borders in March and subsequently went into a two-month lockdown as mass outbreaks emerged in cramped migrant worker dormitories. There have been 56,216 confirmed cases in Singapore and 27 people have died as a result of COVID-19. With a population of 5,856,690, the number of infections equates to 9,599 cases per 1M populous.

Total number of cases worldwide – 22,893,287

Total number of deaths worldwide – 797,695

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 15,539,457

Active cases: 

6,556,135 active cases, 

6,494,374 in mild condition, 

61,761 described as serious or critical. 

Closed cases – 16,337,152

Information and statistics from 

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Friday 21st August 2020 by Louise Birch

“When in doubt, tell the truth” (Mark Twain)

European countries are registering an average 26,000 new cases of coronavirus every day, the director general of the World Health Organisation’s Europe office has said, as he warned of a potential resurgence of the pandemic.

In a briefing on Thursday morning, Hans Kluge said that while the “epicentre” of the pandemic had moved to the Americas, the European region still accounted for 17% of the global total of coronavirus cases. He said:

“The risk of resurgence has never been far away. In the last two months, new cases have been steadily increasing every week in the Region. There were 40,000 more cases in the first week of August, compared to the first week of June, when cases were at their lowest.

Every day now the European Region reports an average of over 26,000 new coronavirus cases. This is due in part to the relaxation of public health and social measures, where authorities have been easing some of the restrictions and people have been dropping their guard.”

Kluge also said that young people play an important role in attempts to curb the spread of the virus.

To my daughters, to adolescents and teenagers everywhere, to all of you at that exciting, adventurous point in your lives – thank you for the sacrifices you have made to protect yourselves and others from #COVID19.

No youngster wants to miss a summer. But I am very concerned that more and more young people are counted among reported cases.

According to a recent study, globally among those aged 15-24, cases of Covid-19 have increased from a rate of 4.5% at the end of February to 15% in mid-July. Low risk does not mean no risk.

No one is invincible and if you do not die from #COVID19, it may stick with your body like a tornado”

Europe has reported 3,260,301 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began and 204,431 people have lost the battle with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.

France registered 3,776 new COVID-19 infections in one day this week, marking another post-lockdown peak and bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 225,043, but President Emmanuel Macron again ruled out imposing another national lockdown. “All the indicators keep going up and the transmission of the virus is getting stronger among all ages groups affected, young adults in particular”, the health ministry said in a statement.

It said the virus was especially active in and around Paris and Marseille, the country’s two biggest cities.

Italy recorded 642 new infections in one day,  hitting a new record since May when the country cautiously emerged from one of the longest lockdowns in the world after more than 30,000 COVID-related deaths.  Seven more people have died with the virus. The overall tally of cases has now risen to 255,278. The number of lives lost now stands at 35,412. On Sunday the government ordered the closure of discotheques and made masks compulsory outdoors in specific areas at night – the first real restrictions since the lockdown eased. Walter Ricciardi, a senior adviser to the Italian health ministry on the coronavirus outbreak, told reporters “ Italy is at a crossroads right now. If we do not apply containment measures and the numbers continue to rise, localised lockdowns will be required.”

Sweden has taken a different approach to most European countries in dealing with the pandemic, relying to a greater extent on voluntary measures focused on social distancing and opting against a strict lockdown. Most schools have remained open and many businesses have been continued to operate to some extent, meaning the economy has fared better than many others. However, the country has recorded its highest tally of deaths in the first half of 2020 for 150 years, the country’s national statistics office said recently.   In total, 51,405 Swedes died in the January to June period, a higher number than any year since 1869, when 55,431 died, partly as a result of a famine. The population of Sweden was about 4.1 million then, compared to 10.3 million now. Official statistics show that COVID-19 claimed about 4,500 lives in the period to the end of June – a number that has now risen to 5,805 . That was a much higher percentage of the population than in other Nordic nations, though lower than some other European countries such as Britain and Spain.  Sweden has confirmed 85,810 cases of coronavirus and the rate of infection in the country equates to 8,489 cases per 1M populous.  In Britain, it is 4,727 cases per 1M populous and in Spain 8,298 cases per 1M populous.

Spain’s health ministry said 3,715 coronavirus infections were diagnosed in just 24 hours,  a new single-day record since the country emerged from a three-month lockdown in mid-June. With 136 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the past two weeks, Spain tops the European chart of the highest cumulative incidence. It is one of the main indicators closely monitored by epidemiologists. The Madrid region, home to 6.6m, has emerged as one of the hot spots in the new wave of outbreaks, which officials have linked mostly to family reunions and nightlife. New regulations, including on hours of nightlife and the closure of outdoor smoking, took effect yesterday (Thursday) in the Spanish capital.

Belgian schools will reopen on 1 September when the academic year starts, with children above 12 years old and teachers required to wear masks, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes has said. “The goal is to avoid a second wave, we see today that the situation is stabilising and improving,” she told a news conference. “It is very important that children go to school.” Belgium has recorded a downward trend in daily new cases in the past days. Brussels, home to EU institutions and NATO, has reported increases, although on a declining level. With 9,969 lives lost linked to the coronavirus so far, the country of 11, 596,526 has one of the world’s highest death rates from COVID-19 per head with 860 lives lost per 1M populous.  The number of cases stands at 78,897, equating to 6,854 infections per 1M populous. Ms Wilmes eased restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend public events, doubling it to 200 for inside events and 400 for outside.

Shoppers will be allowed in twos, while a Belgian family or those living together will only be able to meet five other people, a restriction introduced last month that will now be extended to the end of September.

Average daily cases of coronavirus in Africa fell last week, a “hopeful sign” for the continent’s fight against the disease, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said. The continent-wide daily average was 10,300 last week, down from 11,000 the week before, Dr John Nkengasong said, adding that officials were greeting the news with “cautious optimism”. He said “We have begun to bend the curve slowly. It is very, very early. We are dealing with a very delicate virus that spreads very quickly, but it’s important to recognise those slight tendencies that are positive.

Africa had recorded 1,152,364 cases as the time of writing, 596,060 of which were in South Africa, which has the fifth-highest total globally. South Africa has seen its number of daily confirmed cases fall from a peak of over 12,000 to an average of 5,000, driving the drop in the continent-wide average.

The Africa CDC has announced that it would start large-scale antibody testing and that seven countries would participate in the first phase: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria and Morocco. Even with limited data, African health officials are increasingly sure that most coronavirus cases are asymptomatic – Dr Nkengasong put the portion at 70 – 80% – and that deaths are relatively low, Dr Nkengasong said.

“For sure our deaths are not as high as in other parts of the world,” he said, noting that official data put the fatality rate at 2.3% and there was little evidence this figure was off-base. “We are beginning to be comforted with that number,” he said. “Member states are looking actively as to whether deaths are occurring massively in the community, and that is not the case.”

Total number of cases worldwide – 22,646,894

Total number of deaths worldwide – 792,359

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 15,357,434

Active cases:

6,497,101 active cases,

6,435,113 in mild condition,

61,988 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 16,149,793

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Overseas Situation Report Thursday 20 August 2020 by Louise Birch

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life, to be happy – it’s all that matters”

(Audrey Hepburn)

In South Korea, new daily cases have been running in three figures for the last week, forcing renewed social distancing measures and the closure of nightclubs, bars and cafes. The country is struggling to contain an outbreak of the virus in the capital, Seoul, after the country reported the highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since early March on Wednesday. New cases rose by 297 bringing the total of reported confirmed cases to 16,058 and 306 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

In the Philippines, stricter lockdown measures that were imposed in the capital Manila earlier this month have been lifted, after Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte promised a “refreshed” approach to tackling the coronavirus outbreak. Tighter measures were reimposed on 4 August for two weeks, following pleas from doctor groups, who warned that hospitals were overwhelmed.  There have been 169,213 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and 2,687 people have lost their lives.  Out of 53,665 active cases, 489 are described as serious or critical.  Over 112,860 are reported to have recovered from the virus.

Nepal temporarily banned public and religious gatherings and most transportation in its capital, Kathmandu, and surrounding areas on Wednesday, asking residents to stay home to control the spread of the coronavirus as cases surge. The curbs will apply to Kathmandu Valley from Wednesday for a week, but could be extended, the government said, one day after the country reported its biggest daily rise in coronavirus cases. Transgressors will be fined $5 but could face up to three months in jail. Nepal began to partially ease a nationwide lockdown in June, allowing some local transport to resume, but kept a ban on international and domestic travel in place, while the country’s famed peaks have remained closed to climbers. The country has confirmed 28,257 cases of the virus and 114 people are reported to have lost the battle with COVID-19. There are 10,563 active cases with no data to confirm the numbers who are classed as serious or critical. Nepal has a population of 29,203.691 and the number of infections equates to 968 per 1M populous.

Finland said on Wednesday it would bring back travel restrictions for several countries that it had for months considered safe destinations, including Germany and its Nordic neighbours, to stop the spread of Covid-19.  Travelling from Iceland, Greece, Malta, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus, San Marino and Japan to Finland would be limited to essential trips from 24 August, with people returning from those countries required to self-quarantine for two weeks, the interior minister, Maria Ohisalo, said.  There have been 7,776 confirmed cases of the virus in the country and 334 people have died. Over 7,000 people have recovered and there are currently 392 active cases in Finland.

Toulouse has become the first city in France to impose the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors, in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. Officials in France’s fourth-largest city fear that a mass movement of people towards the end of the summer break will lead to a spike in infections, according to media reports from within the country.

New infections across France have been increasing in recent weeks and the numbers of people admitted to hospital and to intensive care have also been rising.  Face masks are already compulsory on public transport in France and indoors in public places. Many French towns and cities, including Paris and Toulouse, have also used discretionary powers to make masks mandatory in certain areas – often busy streets, near tourist hotspots and at outdoor food markets. Toulouse officials said masks would be compulsory outdoors across the city starting on Friday, from 7am to 3am the next day, for all people aged 12 and over, including those on bikes and kick-scooters.

 

In Greece, the party’s over on Mykonos, with officials from the civil protection agency announcing strict restrictions on the island, a tourist hotspot, to contain the spread of coronavirus infections. The measures, which also cover the coastal area of Chalkidiki in northern Greece, include a complete ban on live parties and festivities, a limit of nine people in all public and private gatherings and compulsory mask wearing in closed and open spaces, according to media reports. They will come into effect from 21 August, for 10 days.  Greece has reported 7,472 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began, (the first case was detected 26 February) and 232 people have lost their lives.

Iran has now recorded 20,125 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus, the health ministry said: the highest death toll for any Middle East country so far in the pandemic. The announcement came as the Islamic Republic, which has been struggling with both the region’s largest outbreak and the highest number of fatalities, went ahead with university entrance exams for over 1 million students. Iran is also preparing for mass Shiite commemorations later this month. Iran suffered the region’s first major outbreak, with top politicians, health officials and religious leaders in its Shiite theocracy infected with the virus. It has since struggled to contain the spread across the nation of 80 million people, initially beating it back only to see it rise again at the beginning in June. However, international experts remain suspicious of Iran’s case counts. Researchers in the Iranian parliament suggested in April that the death toll was likely to be nearly double the officially reported figures, due to undercounting and because not everyone with breathing problems had been tested. There have been 350,279 confirmed cases of the virus recorded in Iran.

Argentina confirmed 6,840 new cases of coronavirus and 172 deaths earlier this week as the country struggles to contain a surge in recent weeks. The country’s health ministry said it now had a total of 305,966 cases and 6,048 people have died, figures confirmed by data held by the World Health Organisation.  Dr Luis Camera, a member of the Argentine government’s health advisory group, said while cases, intensive care admissions and hospital bed occupancy rates were not still climbing, they had settled at an unsustainable level. 1,799 of 71,127 active cases are classed as serious or critical.

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 22,395,687

Total number of deaths worldwide – 786,139

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 15,121,711

 

Active cases:

6,487,837 active cases,

6,425,783 in mild condition,

62,054 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 15,907,850

 

 

Wednesday 19th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“All of life is peaks and valleys, don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low” (John Wooden)

The World Health Organisation has warned that COVID-19 is now being spread mainly by people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who may be unaware they are infected, potentially transmitting the disease to more vulnerable groups.

In a virtual briefing, the WHO’s western Pacific regional director, Dr Takeshi Kasai, said:

“The epidemic is changing People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving the spread. Many are unaware they are infected. This increases the risk of spillovers to the more vulnerable.”

People should not be blamed for wanting to live normal lives but the message from the World Health Organisation is that people, especially the young, are not invincible amid the pandemic, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said on Tuesday.

We are seeing young people who are ending up in ICU. Young people are dying from this virus, she told a briefing in Geneva, referring to intensive care units.

Malta will close its bars and night clubs once again after a surge in coronavirus cases. Coming into effect from today (Wednesday), the measures to ensure social distancing will also apply to sports facilities and social clubs, and mass gatherings have been restricted to 15 people. Restaurants and shops can remain open.  It has been announced that Malta will introduce a new “amber travel list” of countries whose nationals must present a certificate showing a negative Covid-19 swab test from the previous 72 hours before being allowed entry. There have been 1,375 confirmed cases of the virus in Malta and 9 people have died.  There are 607 active cases, 3 of which are described as serious or critical.  With a population of just 441,695, the rate of cases equates to 3,113 infections per 1M populous.

Pool parties and party boats are set to be banned in Mallorca and Ibiza amid a surge of coronavirus cases. Two months after reopening to tourists, the Balearic Islands will also implement the measures being rolled out across Spain, including shutting restaurants and bars at 1am and banning smoking in public places when distancing isn’t possible.

Oman has allowed the reopening of tourist and international restaurants, and gyms and swimming pools located in hotels. The changes, allowed only under certain regulations and requirements, took effect from Tuesday.  Oman has reported 83,226 cases of coronavirus and 588 people have lost their lives.  There are 4,826 active cases and 150 of those are described as serious or critical.  With a recorded population of 5,122,006, the rate of infections equates to 16,249 cases per 1M populous.

 

Nigeria will resume international flights on 29 August as it eases restrictions over the novel coronavirus pandemic. Africa’s most populous country shut its airspace in March to contain the spread of the virus that has so far infected 49,068 and claimed 975 lives.

China reported 22 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, same as the tally a day earlier, according to official figures. All of the new infections were imported cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement, making it the second straight day for zero new locally transmitted cases. There were no new deaths. China also reported 17 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 37 a day earlier.  The country has recorded 84,849 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 4,634 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. Out of 612 active cases, 30 are described as serious or critical.

The world-famous Mariinsky ballet company has called off performances after some 30 members, mostly dancers, contracted the coronavirus, St Petersburg health authorities have said. Three have been hospitalised while the others are following treatments at home, Irina Chinjeria of the city’s health authority said  Nearly 300 other dancers have been told to confine themselves to home as a precaution.  Performances scheduled for last week were called off and only operas will be staged for the rest of August.

Russia had recorded 927,745 cases of Covid-19, and 15,740 deaths, according to official figures.

South Africa, which has had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns for five months, relaxed its restrictions yesterday to permit the sale of alcohol and cigarettes, and the return of other aspects of more ordinary life in response to decreasing numbers of new cases and hospitalisations for COVID-19.  The country has loosened its regulations to permit the opening of bars, restaurants, gyms, and places of worship, all limited to no more than 50 people. Schools will reopen gradually from 24 August, starting with grades 12 and 7 and a phased opening of other grades.  With 589,886 confirmed cases, South Africa has more than half of all reported cases in Africa (1,132,524). The 54 countries of the continent reported a total of more than 1.1m cases on Tuesday, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. South Africa has recorded 11,982 lives lost to COVID-19,  overall the continent has reported 25,946 deaths. However, the actual numbers of cases and deaths are believed to be much higher, say health experts. South Africa’s new confirmed cases have dropped from an average of 12,000 a day at the peak in July to fewer than 5,000 a day as of last week.

Older and vulnerable people in Ireland are to be told to limit their time outdoors and indoor gatherings limited to six people, according to local media in the country. The reports state that Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team believes more curbs must be introduced to control a resurgence of COVID-19 just two weeks before schools are due to reopen. Ireland’s met later on Tuesday to consider the recommendations, which include a restriction on outdoor gatherings to 15 people. Restrictions in the country are already among the strictest in Europe and currently limit outdoor gatherings to 50 people, while 10 visitors from no more than four different households are allowed in the homes of anyone else, so as to limit house parties. The number of daily confirmed cases in Ireland has been rising steadily since the end of July, from around 20-30 per day to 66 on Monday. The country’s infection rate now stands at 22.3 cases per 100,000 people, above the important benchmark of 20 in which the UK will consider introducing quarantine.  There have been 27,313 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland and 1,774 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  To date, 23,364 people have recovered and there are 2,175 active cases, 8 described as serious or critical.

India has carried out nearly 900,000 coronavirus tests in a single day, a record for the country. The health ministry said 899,000 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to Tuesday. Only the US has ever carried out more daily tests, conducting 926,876, on 24 July. India’s tests returned 55,079 cases positive cases, taking its total number of confirmed infections to 2,719,499 – behind only the US and Brazil. The daily death toll of 876, took the number of lives lost in the country to 52,060.

The Indian resort state of Goa is cracking down on revellers throwing illegal, drug-fuelled parties as coronavirus cases climb in the tourist hotspot, a government minister said on Tuesday. The coastal region has long been a magnet for backpackers and other travellers drawn to its scenic beaches and easygoing vibe, but the pandemic has meant that large get-togethers are now banned. Lots of bars and restaurants are also unable to operate after many workers fled the state for their home villages when India imposed a strict lockdown in late March. The partying has not stopped, however – including in private villas, stone quarries and at secret locations in the jungle involving thousands of dollars’ worth of drugs, according to local media.  Foreign tourists cannot travel to India but Goa is home to a substantial number of foreign residents including many Russians, Israelis and Britons.  Goa, home to around 1.8 million people, has registered nearly 12,000 coronavirus cases so far, with the vast majority of infections recorded over the past month

Luxembourg has begun offering a free coronavirus test to all returning holidaymakers as it continues an aggressive mass-testing programme that its government says has led to the country being unfairly penalised by fellow EU member states.  According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the Grand Duchy has Europe’s highest 14-day cumulative number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants at 120.1, ahead of Spain with 115.7. That headline figure masks what is also by far Europe’s most ambitious testing scheme: according to the scientific online publication Our World in Data, Luxembourg has carried out more than 727 COVID-19 tests per 1,000 inhabitants.

On the latest available data, that also places the country, which has a population of about 625,000 people, at the top of the world rankings, ahead of the United Arab Emirates (582 tests per 1,000 inhabitants), Bahrain (555), Malta (313) and Denmark (310). However, the success of the scheme, which parliament recently voted to extend and expand to 53,000 tests a week, has revealed an infection rate that has prompted several European countries, including Germany and the UK, to place it on a travel blacklist. While new daily infections are falling after a post-lockdown peak of more than 100 in late July, Luxembourg, which has recorded a total of 7,469 coronavirus cases and 124 lives lost, is still considered a high risk by a dozen EU countries.

Total number of cases worldwide – 22,102,681

Total number of deaths worldwide – 778,367

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 14,840,669

Active cases:

6,483,645 active cases,

6,421,449 in mild condition,

64,196 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 15,619,036

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 18th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.  The world owes you nothing, it was here first” (Mark Twain)

Hong Kong reported 44 new coronavirus cases on Monday as the government announced an extension to social distancing measures aimed at controlling further spreading of the virus, which has seen a resurgence in the Asian financial hub since early July. While the number of daily cases have come down from triple digits in recent weeks, authorities have cautioned residents from becoming complacent, warning that the situation remained “severe”. Restrictions including a ban on dining at restaurants from 6pm and the mandatory wearing of masks in all outdoor public areas is set to remain in force for a further seven days until August 25, the government said in a statement on Monday. Since late January, 4525 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 69 of whom have died. Monday’s figure was down from Sunday’s 74 cases.

Australia reported its deadliest day of the pandemic on Monday, with 25 deaths in the southern state of Victoria, which has been particularly hard hit by a substantial outbreak of the virus. All but three of the victims were linked to outbreaks in aged care homes. In the neighbouring state of New South Wales, school choirs and group wind-instrument sessions were banned for six weeks, in an attempt to stop community transmission.

In India, the number of lives lost from the virus reached 51,079 on Monday, according to official figures, after 941 new fatalities were reported in the previous 24 hours. India now has the fourth-worst death toll behind the US (173,139), Brazil (107,879) and Mexico (56,757) and the third highest rate of infections at 2,651,290, behind the US (5,569,941) and Brazil (3,340,197).

Italy has closed its nightclubs from Monday for three weeks and made it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors in some areas between 6pm and 6am. It’s the first reintroduction of restrictions as cases rise, particularly among young people. Cases have double in three weeks and the median age of those affected is now below 40. The new rules started two days after an Italian holiday when many young Italians go out dancing and will run until early September.  Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Saturday urged young people to be as cautious as possible as “if they infect their parents and their grandparents, they risk creating real damage”.  Testing on holidaymakers landing in Rome’s airports began on Sunday after the government said last Wednesday that people travelling from Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain must be screened for the virus.

Nightclubs have also closed their doors in four more regions of Spain as new measures to curb a rise in Covid-19 infections came into effect on Monday, a day after a noisy Madrid protest against virus restrictions.Spain’s most populous region, Andalusia, along  with Galicia and Cantabria in the north, and Castilla and Leon in the centre were the latest Spanish regions to begin enforcing 11 measures the government unveiled on Friday to curb one of the fastest virus growth rates in Europe. Two other regions, La Rioja and Murcia, began applying the measures on Sunday. They include the closure of all discos, nightclubs and dancing halls while restaurants and bars are required to close by 1am, with no new guests allowed in from midnight in a country known for late-night partying.

All of Spain’s 17 regional governments, which are responsible for healthcare, agreed to enforce the measures which also include a ban on smoking outdoors in public places when a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained.

Israel has relaxed some social distancing restrictions from Monday, allowing up to 20 people to gather indoors and up to 30 people in open spaces. It will also relax quarantine rules for workers from some foreign countries. There have been 93,691 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 690 people have lost the battle with COVID-19. With a recorded population of 9,197,950, the rate of infection equates to 10,186 per 1M populous. Out of 23,939 active cases, 398 are described as serious or critical. Over 69,000 people are reported to have recovered from the virus.

In Czechia (Czech Republic,) the government will make the wearing of face masks compulsory again from 1 September on public transport and in many indoor public venues following a resurgence of coronavirus infections and ahead of what it expects to be a tough autumn, according to media reports.  The Czech Republic was among the first countries in Europe to order people to wear masks in most public places in March but had gradually lifted the requirement as infections fell in late spring. However infections have again started to trend higher.  Schools are due to reopen on 1 September after the summer holidays. The new rules will require people to wear face masks in shops, common areas of schools and in public buildings, though not in the workplace or in restaurants and bars. The government has also cut the minimum quarantine requirement to 10 days since meeting an infected person from 14 days.  There have been 20,012 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 397 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  Out of 5,816 active cases, 26 are described as serious or critical.

Indonesia reported 1,821 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing its infection total to 141,370, data from government’s COVID-19 task force showed and confirmed by figures submitted to the World Health Organisation. The Southeast Asian country also reported another 57 lives lost, taking the total to 6,207, the highest death toll in Southeast Asia.

Total number of cases worldwide – 21,876,677

Total number of deaths worldwide – 773,847

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 14,598,714

Active cases:

6,504,116 active cases,

6,439,876 in mild condition,

64,240 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 15,372,561

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 17th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“Think in the morning, act in the noon, eat in the evening, sleep in the night” (William Blake)

Here are some of the key COVID-19 developments from around the world over the weekend.

Saturday

Algeria started reopening its mosques, cafes, beaches and parks for the first time in five months, gradually relaxing one of the world’s longer virus confinement periods.

Greek authorities have announced 230 new coronavirus cases, 27 from international arrivals.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has said  that all indications were that South Africa had reached the peak of Covid-19 infections, as he announced a sweeping removal of lockdown restrictions on the economy.  Mr Ramaphosa said the government would end the ban on alcohol and tobacco, allow restaurants and taverns to return to normal business, subject to strict hygiene regulations, and remove the ban on travel between provinces. With 583,653 confirmed infections so far, South Africa has been badly hit by the virus, despite one of the strictest and earliest lockdowns in the world. A total of 11,677 people have died, according to official figures, though research by government medical scientists suggests the true figure is several times higher.

Students in Saudi Arabian public schools will be educated via distance learning for the first seven weeks of the new school year.

Malta posted its highest ever daily-on-day rise in coronavirus infections.

Turkey confirmed 1,256 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily rise in infections since June.

The French health ministry on Saturday reported 3,310 new coronavirus infections in France over the past 24 hours, setting a new post-lockdown high for the fourth day in a row and taking the country’s cumulative cases to 215,521. France is to propose that masks be worn in shared workspaces. The country is set to announce new measures within the next two weeks to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace, the employment minister, Elisabeth Borne, said on Sunday after Paris and Marseille were declared “red zones” and the country recorded another new high in post-lockdown infections. Paris expanded the parts of the city where masks are now obligatory in the open air, adding popular tourist areas such as the zone around the Eiffel tower and the Louvre to its list of busy shopping streets, open air markets and nightlife areas previously announced.  Marseille, too, added more mandatory mask zones. It is now compulsory to cover your nose and mouth in public in the busiest areas of several French cities where physical distancing is difficult, including Nice, Rennes, Lille, La Rochelle, Lyon and Bordeaux.

Ireland reported a “deeply concerning” 200 new Covid-19 cases arising from multiple clusters across the country, the highest daily amount since the beginning of May.

The United Kingdom recorded 1,012 new coronavirus infections, the fifth day in a row more than 1,000 infections have been reported in daily figures.

Mainland China has reported 19 new cases of the virus, including 15 imported, and four locally transmitted cases – all in Xinjiang.

Nearby Hong Kong is working to get a handle on its long-running latest (and worst) outbreak. City health authorities confirmed 46 new cases and two deaths on Saturday. Of the new cases 39 were locally transmitted and 2 of them had no know source.

Since early July Hong Kong has been battling a renewed wave of the virus with a high rate of community transmission. Strict social measures are in place, and authorities are preparing to launch mass testing.

 

Sunday

In Trinidad and Tobago, the government are about to bring in tougher anti-virus measures after the number of infections increased this month. The Caribbean nation registered a jump in Covid-19 cases in August after a gradual rise in July, and has now recorded 494 confirmed cases and 10 lives have bee lost. “Given how the virus has been behaving in other populations worldwide… we expect that we will be able to control the level of infection in a situation where our parallel (health) system would be able to cope,” Prime Minister Keith Rowley told reporters. The new measures, come into effect on Monday and last 28 days, include the closure of beaches and places of worship, as well as a ban on dining at restaurants and bars. No more than five people will be able to gather at a time, and schools will no longer re-open in September as planned. As well, the Attorney General will consider legislation to make face masks mandatory. “The time for persuasion has now passed and we will take such action,” Mr Rowley said.

In Australia, the state Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews gave the following update of the developments in the state :

The state of emergency has been extended until 13 September.

16 people have died including one female and two males in their 70s, two females and four males in their 80s, and four females and three males in their 90s. There are 279 new cases. In Victoria, there are 7,671 total active cases, including 158 in Geelong, 49 in Bendigo, 27 in Ballarat, 82 in disability accommodation. The virus reproduction rate has dropped to about 0.86. Police have given out an additional 243 fines for breaching restrictions.

The state of Queensland has better news, there are no new cases of the virus to report. The state, which has introduced hard borders with other states, has nine active cases. In total 1,091 people have contracted Covid-19 during the pandemic, six of them have died.

New Zealand on Sunday reported 13 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus for the previous 24 hours, as the country’s first outbreak in months continues to grow. All but one of the new cases were community transmissions and appeared to be linked to a cluster in Auckland where the most recent outbreak started, the director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, told a media briefing in Wellington. The 13th infected person was a traveller returning from abroad and in a managed quarantine. The new cases bring the number of active cases in New Zealand to 69, three of which are described as serious or critical. Since the start of the year, the country has recorded 1,622 cases and 22 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

South Korea reported 279 cases of the new coronavirus, the most cases since early March, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

Out those, 267 were locally transmitted cases, mostly in Seoul and surrounding areas.

The new cases bring the country’s tally to 15,318 infections, and 305 lives lost.

In Spain, regions have begun implementing a slew of measures aimed at slowing down one of Europe’s highest rates of infection. Some two months after the country eased out of one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, cases have soared across the country. The 14-day rate of new cases now sits at 116 per 100,000, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, compared to 41 in France and 19 in the UK.Among the regions  worst hit is Catalonia, where 1,044 new cases and 13 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from the regional health ministry. The sharp rise in cases prompted a recent announcement of new measures that will be put in place across Spain, including the shuttering of nightclubs and the closure of bars and restaurants by 1am. Smoking in public places will be banned when distancing is not possible. On Sunday these new measures came into effect in the northern wine-growing region of La Rioja and the southeastern region of Murcia. Other regions are expected to implement the measures in the coming days. In the Basque Country, where the 14-day rate of infection has climbed to 181 cases per 100,000, officials said they would declare a “health emergency” on Monday, which would allow them to restrict public gatherings and potentially confine areas with a high-risk of transmission. In hard-hit Madrid, officials announced that, starting Monday, they would carry out random tests on residents in some of the most at-risk areas of the city in hopes of better tracking asymptomatic cases. In the past two weeks, more than 10,800 people have tested positive in the Madrid region.

The Netherlands has added Paris and the Bouches-du-Rhone area, Brussels, Madrid and several Spanish regions to its orange advisory list, warning against all but essential travel and demanding that people returning go into quarantine for 14 days. Great Britain is also on the list because of the 14-day quarantine it has imposed on travellers from the Netherlands, but those returning from the UK are not required to quarantine when they get home. More than 650 people tested positive for coronavirus in the Netherlands in the 24 hours to Saturday, bringing the country’s latest weekly total to 4,508, more than 1,000 more than the previous week.

Total number of cases worldwide – 21,642,115

Total number of deaths worldwide – 769,486

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 14,350,746

Active cases:

6,521,883 active cases,

6,457,460 in mild condition,

64,423 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 15,120,232

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 16th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“If you want to be happy, BE”  (Leo Tolstoy)

An artist in Los Angeles is memorialising each of the thousands of people who have died from COVID-19 in the United States with a delicate origami crane.

Karla Funderburk started making the cranes three months ago, stringing the paper swans in pink, blue, yellow and many other colours together and hanging them in her art gallery.

“I was feeling the loss, and one way to process that was I started folding cranes. Cranes are a traditional Japanese symbol of carrying the soul to heaven,” she said.

She tried making 10 cranes each night but when on May 14 the number of deaths ticked to 88,000 she realised it would take her 24 years to complete them and she asked for help. Now volunteers drop off scores of the elegantly made paper swans daily.

“I started receiving boxes and bags. Sometimes I would get one crane with one name on it, some boxes had 300,” she said.

Hundreds now hang from the ceiling of her Matter Studio with others sitting on tables and stacked in boxes waiting to be added to the sad reminder of the virus’ toll.  The gallery’s website also lists hundreds of names of virus victims. “I feel like this space is holding, holding the place, for the remembrances of the souls we are losing,” she said. Karla had 9,300 cranes as of Thursday 13 August 2020.

 

 

 

An NHS nurse who had to be put on a ventilator after contracting coronavirus has returned to work at the same hospital that saved her life. In March, Millie Magadlela was placed in the critical care unit of the University Hospital of North Tees (United Kingdom) where she works after testing positive for the virus.

The 59-year-old spent around two weeks fighting for her life on the ICU before being discharged in an emotional moment which was caught on camera.  Millie became unwell on 29 March after finishing her shift at the hospital and after a few days developed more serious coronavirus systems which resulted in her being hospitalised.

“I’m thrilled to be back after four long months at home recovering,” Millie said. “Although a bit apprehensive about how my first day back would be, I can say it’s been lovely to get back into a routine and I’ve loved seeing all my colleagues and friends.” The nurse added that she received a “warm welcome” from her colleagues on the ward. “They were all so happy to see me back, saying ‘you look amazing’ and ‘you look great’,” she explained. “That made my day and my anxiety started to ease and I became more relaxed.”

 

 

The combination of interruptions in international travel and periods of heavy rainfall has led to Kenyan wildlife officials reporting a recent elephant baby boom. In Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, 140 elephants were born in a single calving season–a record in this park known for its breathtaking views of Kilimanjaro and the savanna.

“It has been a difficult year for all of us but there is still much to celebrate,” said Winnie Kiiru, speaking for the Elephant Protection Initiative in a statement. “Here in Amboseli, elephants are thriving. 140 beautiful calves have been born in 2020 and more are expected.” The Kenya Wildlife Service reported that from 1989 to 14 August 2020, the nation’s elephant population has more than doubled. This is in part because authorities in the past couple of years have “managed to tame poaching in this country,” reports Tourism & Wildlife Minister Najib Balala.

 

 

Two friends were out on a surfing trip when they saved a dog stuck in a sea cliff cave.

On August 1, Zach Regan and Matty Johnson were off on an overnight adventure on Vancouver Island’s remote west coast. With everything they needed to go surfing and fishing, it was set to be a great trip. They were out in their small aluminum boat when, out of the corner of his eye, Matty saw the brown legs of an animal in a cave. It was too small to be a bear or a wolf. It was a starving, cold, terrified dog. “We were trying to beat an upcoming storm, but we made the decision to save the dog,” Matty Johnson said. The pair’s rescue mission was on.

It involved a “wetsuit, a surfboard, a lasso, almost being bitten in the face, a reef, big waves, and awesome teamwork.” Once Stella was safely in their boat, they snuggled her in a bag to keep her warm. Then, once on dry land in Canada again, they began their search for the owner.

Matty says there were great vibes all around when the owners, long since consigned to the death of their dog, got word she was safe.  The owners were amazed to see their pet again. They thought they’d lost their dog forever when they became separated on the wild Juan de Fuca Trail three months ago. Matty wanted to share his story for one reason: “Wanting to spread good news and inspire people to put themselves out there when the opportunity arises.”

 

 

Thats just the kind of good news we love to hear.

 

Saturday 15th August 2010 by Louise Birch

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth” (Buddha)

The UK government has confirmed that six countries, including France, will be removed from its travel corridor list, following a surge in COVID-19 cases. Arrivals into the UK from France, the Netherlands, Malta, Monaco, Aruba and Turks & Caicos will have to quarantine for 14 days on their return or face a fine, will come into effect at 4am on Saturday. The UK will be “ruthless” over quarantine, UK PM Boris Johnson said.

Aruba is possibly one of the lesser known countries to be added to the UK quarantine list.  Described by Lonely Planet as the most touristed island in the Southern Caribbean with miles of dreamy beaches, all inclusive resorts and a pretty little capital, Oranjestad, Aruba is a constituent country of the Netherlands.  It has a population of 106, 821 and has confirmed 894 cases of coronavirus, meaning a case rate of 8,369 infections per 1M populous.  Aruba’s number of new coronavirus cases has risen sharply in recent days, from 31 daily infections a week ago to 87 on Thursday, according to the World Health Organisation.  The large rise would appear to coincide with the island reopening its borders to tourists last month, prompting 11,000 sun-seekers to pour on to Aruba.

France said the UK quarantine move will lead to reciprocal measures. France’s secretary of state for European affairs has responded to said the UK decision to add France to their quarantine list, saying the move would lead to “reciprocal measures” across the Channel. Clement Beaune tweeted: “A British decision which we regret and which will lead to reciprocal measures, all in hoping for a return for normal as soon as possible.”

France has reported a new post-lockdown peak in daily Covid-19 cases. The French health ministry reported 2,669 new coronavirus infections in one day setting a new post-lockdown daily high for the second day in a row and taking the country’s cumulative total of cases to 209,365.

In Norway, the government has said citizens should wear face masks on public transport in and near Oslo amid a rise in COVID-19 cases. Until now, authorities in Norway had refrained from recommending wearing face masks in public. “We recommend face masks as an extra precaution when it is difficult to maintain a distance of 1 metre on public transport,” Norway’s health minister, Bent Høie, said on Friday.  Norway has confirmed 9,887 cases of the virus and 261 people have died. There are 769 active cases and 2 of those are classed as serious or critical.

Austria’s foreign ministry has warned its citizens against travelling to Croatia due to rising coronavirus rates in the country.

Following Austria’s warning about Croatia, it’s worth taking a quick look at infection rates in the European countries causing the most concern to public health officials.

In Croatia, the infection rate has levelled off in recent weeks after rising sharply through June and July, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The latest data suggests Croatia’s infection rate is 7.8 per 100,000 people,

How does that compare to other countries? Well, France’s infection rate is double Croatia’s – at 15 cases per 100,000 people – and the Netherlands is higher still, at 19 cases. Malta has 35 cases per 100,000 people.

Spain had 26 cases per 100,000 people when the UK added it to the quarantine list on 27 July.

Nightclubs and late-night drinking establishments are to close and smoking is to be banned in all public places across Spain in measures announced on Friday.

Salvador Illa, the health minister, announced 11 measures and three recommendations that have been agreed following a meeting with representatives from all of the country’s 17 autonomous regions. In line with moves already taken in Galicia and the Canary Islands, smoking is prohibited in all public spaces where it is not possible to maintain a social distance of 1.5 metres. This effectively outlaws smoking on the outdoor terraces of bars and restaurants, all of which must now close by 1am. The botellón, the type of al fresco drinking party favoured by young people, is banned, as is all drinking in public places. No more than 10 people can sit together in a restaurant and with a minimum space of 1.5 metres between tables. The same distance must be maintained in bars.

The measures are another blow to the hospitality business as, until now, outdoor terraces were smokers’ last refuge. It is also high summer when life is lived outside and people of all ages traditionally stay out till the small hours eating and drinking. Visits to care homes will also be restricted, with only one visitor per day allowed in for a maximum of one hour. Testing will also be targeted at specific groups or neighbourhoods, and to health workers and those employed in care homes. Among the recommendations, people are also urged to stay within their social bubble and cautioned against gatherings of more than 10 people at home. The moves come after 2,935 new cases were recorded in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report, 842 in Madrid and 1,075 in Catalonia, with a total of 8,000 new infections since Wednesday.

In Germany,  authorities in Berlin are considering the ban of the night-time sale of alcohol in some inner-city areas to minimise the number of young people socialising in large crowds, as confirmed new infections in the German capital continue to rise.

By 6pm on Thursday, authorities in Berlin recorded 131 new cases within the last 24 hours, with the city’s Mitte and Neukölln districts in particular showing rising numbers over the last seven days. Germany has reported 222,487 cases of coronavirus and 9,283 lives have been lost.  Out of 12,404 active cases in the country, 224 are classed as serious or critical.

Serbia will require negative coronavirus tests taken within 48 hours for foreigners coming from four neighbouring countries, the Balkan state’s government crisis team said on Friday. The measure applies to those arriving from Bulgaria, Croatia, North Macedonia and Romania from today. However, it does not apply to Serbian nationals returning from those countries, only people from elsewhere. Serbia has confirmed 28,998 cases of the virus and 661 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  There are currently 2,220 active cases in the country with a recorded population of 8,732,995.  Over 26,000 people are reported to have recovered and 78 remain described as serious or critical.

Italys health minister, Roberto Speranza, announced he has signed an ordinance requiring holidaymakers returning from Spain, Croatia, Malta and Greece to be tested for the coronavirus, as the number of new cases crossed the 500 mark for the first time in weeks. “We need to maintain the utmost caution in order to defend what we have achieved so far”, said Speranza. “People returning from these countries will now have to have swabs”. The number of lives lost has risen to 35,231 at the time of writing and 252,235 coronavirus cases have now been confirmed in the country.

New Zealand has reported 13 new cases of coronavirus and extended the lockdown in Auckland for 12 days. Two of the cases emerged far from Auckland, the original site of the country’s outbreak.The two cases were linked to the Auckland outbreak and occurred in the Waikato town of Tokoroa, 200km south of New Zealand’s biggest city, bringing the total size of the cluster to 30. One person was being treated in hospital.The development was described as concerning, with fears health services in the more rural area could come under strain.

Peru passed 500,000 coronavirus cases and has the highest fatality rate in Latin America, according to recent data, as the government struggles to contain a recent surge of infections. There have been 507,996 confirmed cases and 25,648 related deaths, vice health minister Luis Suarez said at a news conference. The Andean country has the highest coronavirus fatality rate in Latin America at 777 lives lost per 1M people, surpassing hard-hit regional neighbours Chile (538 deaths per 1M) and Brazil (496 deaths per 1M)

There have been 5,074.373 confirmed cases in this geographic region and 171,418 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. Brazil has reported 3,229,621 cases of the virus and Chile has confirmed 380,034 infections.

The number of daily coronavirus cases in Tokyo has risen above the 300 mark for the first time in five days. Japanese authorities said they had confirmed 389 new cases in the capital, nearly two-thirds of whom were aged under 40. The number of serious cases rose from three to 24. Governor Yuriko Koike has urged residents to stay in Tokyo during the ongoing Obon holiday period, which is normally a time when many Tokyoites visit relatives in rural areas or go travelling.  Japan has reported 51,147 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,063 people have lost the battle with COVID-19. In a country with a recorded population of 126,428,486, the number of infections per 1M populous is 405 with 8 deaths per 1M populous.

Hong Kong has reported 48 new coronavirus cases as authorities warned residents to be vigilant against a resurgence of the disease since early July. Since late January, 4,361 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 67 of whom have died. Friday’s figure of 48 cases is down from 69 infections the previous day. All but two of the 48 cases were locally transmitted, according to officials. Out of 902 active cases, 30 are described as serious or critical.

Total number of cases worldwide – 21,128,511

Total number of deaths worldwide – 758,322

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 13,973,224

Active cases:

6,396,965 active cases,

6,332,406 in mild condition,

64,559 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 14,731,546

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 14th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight” (Phyllis Diller)

In Peru, President Martín Vizcarra has banned family gatherings and extended lockdowns to five more regions of the country amid a fresh surge in cases of coronavirus. Fifteen of Peru’s 25 regions were already covered by rolling lockdowns. Vizcarra announced the return of a blanket Sunday curfew as figures revealed a 75% rise in infections among children and adolescents. “Now those who are infecting us are the people we know, the relatives who come to visit us, the friends who get together to kick a ball around or enjoy a barbecue,” Vizcarra said in a speech broadcast from the Government Palace in Lima. In recent days, the Andean country has registered a daily average of 7,000 confirmed infections and 200 deaths, according to official data.  The first case of Covid-19 appeared in Peru on 6 March and a week later the government imposed a strict quarantine.  Peru has reported 489,680 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 21,501 people have lost their lives.  There are currently 132,423 active cases in the country and 1,496 of those are described as serious or critical.

Turkey is to delay the reopening of schools by almost a month. Students will return to classrooms in Turkey in late September, nearly a month after the start of the new academic year, the government announced, as daily coronavirus cases remain above 1,000. It will be a gradual transition, starting with online learning before transitioning to in-person education.

Chile will lift one of the world’s longest lockdowns on Monday. The capital Santiago’s central business district and adjoining Central Station will move to a “transitional” stage under a “Step by Step” reopening. The mayor said citizens should remain indoors whenever possible, wear masks in public and wash their hands. People may leave their homes on weekdays without the previously required police permissions, and meet in small groups, while businesses can gradually reopen.

As previously reported, Italy has ordered travellers arriving from Croatia (5,870 confirmed cases, 160 deaths), Greece(5,942 and 214), Malta (1,190 and 9) and Spain (373,692 and 28,581)to be tested for COVID-19 and has now added Colombia to a list of countries under a complete travel ban amid growing concern over new infections.

Once the world’s worst-affected country, Italy has managed to bring down and contain the number of infections in recent weeks but officials are worried by a gradual resurgence.

On one day this week, authorities recorded 481 new cases and 10 deaths, twice the levels regularly seen in June when tough lockdown measures imposed from March were being eased. With the annual summer holiday reaching its peak, health services are bracing for a return of travellers from destinations where social distancing, face masks and other protective measures appear to have been widely ignored. Health minister Roberto Speranza has announced he had signed an order requiring antibody or swab tests to be performed on all arrivals from the four countries and said there would be a ban on arrivals and transit passengers from Colombia. Greece reported 262 new cases of COVID-19 on one day this week, its highest daily tally since the start of the outbreak, while Spain reported almost 1,700 new cases. Malta, which had brought cases down to zero for a few days, last week reintroduced some controls after a jump. Earlier this month, the Italian government extended until September a number of measures, including telling people to wear masks in closed public spaces and maintain distance of at least 1 metre while also recommending frequent hand washing.

In Finland, health authorities have recommended that people begin wearing masks in public places, after months of claiming there was insufficient evidence to justify their use.

Mika Salminen, director of health security at Finland’s public health body THL, said “evidence of masks’ effectiveness is not particularly strong” but “even small additions to our range of available options are justified.” After only a trickle of cases at the start of the summer, Finland is now experiencing an increase, with 219 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the last fortnight. The country with a population of 5,541,745 has confirmed 7,683 cases and 333 people have lost the battle with COVID-19. However, the Nordic country still has one of Europe’s lowest incidences of the virus according to the World Health Organisation.  The number of cases equates to 1,386 infections per 1M populous.

Germany has reported 1,445 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours, the highest level since 1 May, according to the Robert Koch Institute, which monitors public health.

“This trend is unsettling,” the RKI said in a statement. “We absolutely have to avoid a further accentuation of the situation.” The states of North Rhine Westphalia in the west and Hamburg in the north, are showing marked increases. There are fears that the daily increase which has been occurring over the past three weeks, will soon be too much for health authorities to handle. At the height of the pandemic, Germany was reporting around 6000 new cases a day. It has been noted that there had been a significant rise in the infection rate amongst younger people. The average age of those infected is now 34, the lowest average age since the start of the pandemic.  The development is said to be of concern, because it could indicate the spread of the illness through the wider population. At the end of April the average age of those infected was 50. With a growing number of holiday makers among the new infections, Bavaria’s government has been forced to admit that the test results of 44,000 returning travellers have yet to be communicated to them, blaming high demand. Of those, 900 are of people who have tested positive.

All travellers returning to Germany from regions considered high risk have been obliged since last Saturday to undergo tests and to quarantine until they receive a negative result. Bavaria was also the first state to offer tests to anyone returning from their holiday who wants one. The highest number of positive results so far has occurred at the A3 motorway border crossing between Germany and Austria. Overall, the number of holiday makers returning with positive results is on the rise, according to health authorities.  Germany has reported 219,575 coronavirus cases and 9,268 have lost their lives to COVID-19.  A total of 199,900 are said to have recovered from the virus and there are currently 10,407 active cases, 236 of which are described as serious or critical.

France is reportedly “on the cliff-edge” of being removed from the British government’s list of quarantine-exempt destinations amid a continuing rise in infections, with a decision expected by the end of the week.  France recorded its most new daily virus cases since May this week.  More than 2,500 new coronavirus cases were registered in France in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report, in the sharpest increase since May. Officials have said indicators were “clearly worsening”. Of 600,000 tests over the past week, more than 11,600 were positive, the health ministry’s DGS public health division said.  Lyon and Bordeaux have joined the lengthening list of major French cities to have made wearing a mask obligatory in public in their busiest areas, where narrow streets or large numbers of people make physical distancing impossible.

Ukraine reported a record daily jump of 1,592 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the national council of security and defence said on Thursday. The number of infections has increased sharply in Ukraine in the past two months as authorities have eased some restrictions, allowing cafes, churches and public transport to reopen. The health minister, Maksym Stepanov, urged people to obey broader restrictions that remain in place. “I will insist on strict adherence to all the rules. The situation is very tense,” Stepanov told a televised briefing. The total number of cases rose to 86,140 including 1,992 lives lost.  There are currently 37,932 active cases in Ukraine and 123 of those are described as serious or critical.

Jordan has closed its border with Syria for a week starting Thursday, after staff at their only open land crossing tested positive for the novel coronavirus, state media said.

There are reports that Jordan has seen a drop in virus cases, with new infections recorded mainly among travellers arriving from abroad, but it registered 25 cases of the virus in the past two days, mostly at the Jaber crossing with its war-torn northern neighbour.  Jordan has reported 1,283 coronavirus infections and 11 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  Syria has confirmed 1,327 cases and 53 people have died. However, the health ministry has admitted it lacks the capacity to carry out widespread testing in the provinces.

Australia posted its lowest one-day rise in new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks on Thursday, stoking hopes that a second wave of new infections gripping Victoria state is finally being brought under control. Australia, once heralded as a global leader in combating the virus, has struggled to contain an outbreak in the country’s second most populous state, which has seen triple digit daily new cases for weeks.

But Australian states and territories on Thursday reported just 292 new infections in the past 24 hours, down from 414 the previous day and the lowest since 20 July.

“We now believe, cautiously, that we have early signs of the flattening of the curve,” Australia’s minister for health, Greg Hunt, said in a televised media conference. The bulk of the new infections again came in Victoria, which detected 278 new infections in the past 24 hours, down from 410 a day earlier.

Total number of cases worldwide – 20,870,216

Total number of deaths worldwide – 748,290

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 13,759,235

Active cases:

6,362,691 active cases,

6,298,134 in mild condition,

64,557 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 14,507,525

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

Thursday 13th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“ Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye” (Helen Keller)

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said his country has granted the first regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine. The announcement came after less than two months of human testing. The country’s sovereign wealth fund said the vaccine would be named Sputnik V, in a reference to the cold war space race. The news from Moscow was greeted with some scepticism. Experts highlighted the lack of proper phase-3 testing, with one warning that “collateral damage from release of any vaccine that was less than safe and effective would exacerbate our current problems insurmountably’.  However, the World Health Organisation said it had not received enough information to evaluate the Russian vaccine. The Pan American Health Organization said the vaccine should not be introduced in Brazil, as has been reportedly planned, until phase 2 and 3 trials are completed.

Lebanon has registered a record daily number of coronavirus cases earlier this week. As the country grapples with the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion that has rocked the political sphere and overwhelmed hospitals, Lebanon’s totals now stand at 7,121 cases and 87 deaths since February, according to official figures. Even before the blast there had been a recent surge in infections. There are reported to be 4,657 active cases in the country and 35 of those are described as serious or critical.

The number of lives lost in Argentina from the coronavirus has reached 5,004, the government said recently and this has been confirmed by figures from official sources. Cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks, pushing the South American nation up in the global charts despite months of lockdown and a promising start. Argentina has confirmed 260,911 cases of the virus and there are currently 74,518 active cases of which 1,585 are classified as serious or critical. With a recorded population of 45,242,544, the rate of infections equates to 5,767 per 1M populous. Argentina has been under quarantine since March 20, although officials previously relaxed restrictions in many parts of the nation, a  move blamed for the recent spike in cases.  The World Health Organisation has expressed special concern for the spike in cases in Argentina after months in which the country appeared to have the outbreak under control. More than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 are being reported daily in the Americas, the global health organisation said.

In the hours immediately before Auckland, New Zealand  went into Level 3 lockdown at noon on Wednesday, the city’s roads were full, queues snaked outside supermarkets and toilet paper flew off the shelves once more. People hurried to stock up and carry out last-minute tasks in the knowledge that the luck for one of the very few countries that appeared to have contained coronavirus had changed. Mary Robson, 77, said having to remain indoors again was sad, “but it’s a wise decision. I will do that but I’m old school – born during the war years”. Mary was out shopping and had lost her bank card, she handed a fish merchant $5 – all the cash she had with her – only to be given a bag of fillets and her money back. “Kiwi spirit,” said Mrs Robson, a widow of 45 years, “I love it.”

She was shopping at Manukau City, the commercial hub of south Auckland, home to four people from the same family whose positive tests for Covid-19 prompted the new stage 3 lockdown.

There are four more “probable” cases of COVID-19 transmitted in the community in Auckland, New Zealand, in addition to the four instances confirmed yesterday, the country’s top health official, Ashley Bloomfield said. The four probable cases are linked to the other four. All have COVID-19 symptoms and are awaiting test results. All four, as well as the other recently confirmed cases, are in isolation at home.

Australia recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday and the biggest daily rise in infections in three days. Victoria reported 21 lives lost, two more than the previous deadliest days earlier this week and 410 new cases in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report. The new cases end a run of three consecutive days with new infections below 400 and dent hopes that a second wave gripping the state of Victoria may be stabilising. A cluster of infections in Melbourne, the Victorian capital and Australia’s second-largest city, forced authorities last week to impose a night curfew, tighten restrictions on people’s daily movements and order large parts of state economy to close. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that while the number of cases were trending down, the impact of the strict new lockdown measures was yet to show up in the case numbers. He told reporters “We all know that a week is not the life cycle of this virus, our experts remain firm in the view that this will drive the numbers down.”

The Paris marathon, one of the most popular events on the global running calendar which routinely attracts over 40,000 participants, is the latest to be disrupted by the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. In June, the New York City marathon was cancelled while the Boston marathon was also scrapped for the first time in its 124-year history. Marathon majors in Berlin and Chicago were also cancelled while the London marathon, originally set for April, was postponed to 4 October and will be run as an elite-only event. France has reported 204,172 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 30,354 people have also the battle with COVID -19.

Wearing a face mask became compulsory on Wednesday in all public places in Brussels, Belgium as the number of COVID-19 infections rose. The Belgian capital, which hosts the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, recorded on average 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants daily over the last week, which puts the city among the worst affected in Europe. Everybody in the city, which has a population of 1.2 million, now has to wear a face mask when in parks, on streets or in any other public sites, as well as in private space accessible to the public, the regional government said. Until now masks had been compulsory only in crowded public spaces and enclosed sites, such as shopping malls. The measure was announced after the number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the capital exceeded 50.

The Belgian government said the nationwide increase in coronavirus cases had stabilised, with an 12% increase in cases this week, compared to the previous week. That compares to a 58% increase in cases in July.  However, the latest weekly data shows a 57% increase in coronavirus cases in the capital, which the government described as “alarming”. Cases are now declining in Antwerp, which became a hotspot at the end of last month.

Further restrictions have been imposed on people travelling to and from Spain.

Germany has added Madrid and the Basque Country to its blacklist of areas not to visit, along with Catalonia, Aragón and Navarra.

As of today, the northern Italian region of Emilio-Romagna is insisting on COVID-19 tests for anyone travelling from Spain, Greece and Malta. The move follows spikes in infections in Madrid and the Basque Country, as well as Castilla-León in Spain’s northwest. Infection rates continue to be high in Aragón but are falling in the Barcelona region. Mass testing has been carried out in some Catalan towns and is to be extended to parts of Barcelona at the weekend. The average age of those testing positive is 40 and the overall positive rate in Catalonia is 8.63 per 100, considerably above the WHO’s recommended maximum of 5%. Track and trace teams in the region say they are meeting resistance from people who have been in contact with infected individuals. Some refuse to be tested while others won’t accept being quarantined after only being in contact with someone positive for 15 minutes. In the town of Ripollet, for example, 45 out of 193 people traced refused to be tested. The UK’s de facto travel ban has effectively killed off British travel to Spain with the industry reporting an 80% drop in reservations right through until the end of the year. France’s advice to avoid the region has also had a negative impact. Spain is not planning to retaliate with quarantine or other restrictive measures.

Norway is reimposing quarantine on more travellers from foreign countries, the government has said, and reiterated its advice that Norwegians should avoid travelling abroad amid a jump in the number of new coronavirus cases. Norway diagnosed 357 people with Covid-19 last week, the highest since April, but still well below the record 1,733 cases found in a single week in late March, data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health showed. Norway has reported 9,751 cases of coronavirus since he pandemic rated the country and 256 people have died.  There are currently 638 active cases and 2 are described as serious or critical. Over 8,800 people are recovered from the virus.

Vietnam reported three new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, raising the number of cases in the country to 880, with 17 lives lost. All fatalities stemmed from the new outbreak.The majority of recent cases were in Danang, a town of 1.1 million, where broad social distancing measures and a city-wide lockdown were extended indefinitely on Tuesday. A sports stadium converted into a 1,000-bed field hospital received its first patients on Wednesday, many of them from three urban hospitals at the centre of Danang’s outbreak.  Vietnam’s Prime Minister has said the next 10 days will be critical in the country’s fight against COVID-19, which resurfaced late last month after three months of no domestic cases. Vietnam was lauded for suppressing an earlier outbreak through aggressive testing, contact-tracing and quarantining, but it is now racing to control infections in multiple locations linked to the popular holiday city of Danang, where a new outbreak was detected on 25 July.

Singapore on Wednesday reported 42 new COVID-19 cases, its lowest daily count in about four and a half months, according to official reports.  The city-state went into a lockdown in mid-April after mass outbreaks in cramped migrant worker dormitories pushed its caseload to one of the highest in Asia.

Total number of cases worldwide – 20,555,407

Total number of deaths worldwide – 746,688

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 13,468,730

Active cases:

6,339,989 active cases,

6,275,411 in mild condition,

64,578 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 14,215,418

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 12th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning” (Albert Einstein).

The Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made the following remarks at a recent press briefing on COVID-19.

“This week we’ll reach 20 million registered cases of COVID-19 and 750,000 deaths. (NB number of cases exceeded 20 million within hours of this statement).

Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering. Every life lost matters.   I know many of you are grieving and that this is a difficult moment for the world.

But I want to be clear, there are green shoots of hope and no matter where a country, a region, a city or a town is – it’s never too late to turn the outbreak around.  

There are two essential elements to addressing the pandemic effectively:

Leaders must step up to take action and citizens need to embrace new measures.

Some countries in the Mekong Region, New Zealand, Rwanda, and many island states across the Caribbean and the Pacific were able to suppress the virus early. New Zealand is seen as a global exemplar and over the weekend Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern celebrated 100 days with no community transmission, while stressing the need to remain cautious.

Rwanda’s progress is due to a similar combination of strong leadership, universal health coverage, well-supported health workers and clear public health communications.  All testing and treatment for COVID-19 is free in Rwanda, so there are no financial barriers to people getting tested.  And when people test positive for the virus, they’re isolated and health workers then visit every potential contact and test them also.

Getting the basics right provides a clear picture of where the virus is and the necessary targeted actions to suppress transmission and save lives.  This means that where there are cases, the government can quickly implement targeted measures and focus control efforts where they are needed most.

Other countries like France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Italy, and the UK had major outbreaks of the virus but when they took action, they were able to suppress it.”

 

The European Union’s health agency has called on member states that are seeing an increase in cases of coronavirus to reinstate control measures, as it warned of a “true resurgence” in several countries. In a “rapid risk assessment” published recently, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned of a “risk of further escalation of Covid-19” across the continent.

The agency said: While many countries are now testing mild and asymptomatic cases, which has resulted in increased case reports, there is a true resurgence in cases in several countries as a result of physical distancing measures being relaxed. The Stockholm-based agency said that the Covid-19 pandemic continues to pose a major public health threat, in spite of a recent decline in cases. Since the relaxation of movement restrictions and other measures, the spread of the virus had resumed.

“Further increases in the incidence of Covid-19, and associated hospitalisations and deaths, can be mitigated if sufficient control measures are reinstalled or reinforced in a timely manner,” the agency said.

Countries that are now observing an increase in cases, after having lifted their control measures following a temporary improvement in the epidemiological situation, should consider re-instating selected measures through a phased, step-wise and sustainable approach.

For those countries seeing an increase “the risk of further escalation of COVID-19 is high.” If those countries fail to implement or reinforce restrictions, the risk was “very high,” it warned. The agency conceded that as the pandemic wears on “it is natural for people to become fatigued and reduce compliance with public health measures.”

The rate of new coronavirus infections in Ireland over the past 14 days is now higher than that of the UK, figures released by the European Centre for Disease Control show.

After a spike in cases over the past week, Ireland’s infection rate is 16.9 cases per 100,000 people, 5,414 cases per 1M populous, compared to 16.5 in the UK, 4,588 cases per 1M populous. The UK has the highest caseload in Europe although the number of infections per capita is lower than other European countries who have recorded less confirmed infections. According to RTE, Ireland’s national public broadcasting corporation, the Irish government used figures from the ECDC to decide which countries went on its green list for travel.

After 102 days New Zealand has its first cases of Covid-19 outside of a managed isolation or quarantine facility, Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister, has told reporters in a late-night news conference. There are four confirmed cases of Covid-19 in one family in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. The family had not travelled from overseas and the source of the infection is unknown. This is significant because the country had not recorded transmission of the virus within the community in more than three months and daily life had returned to normal, except for strict border controls. All 22 known cases of the virus before this announcement were among returning travellers quarantined in isolation facilities. Ms Ardern says “many questions remain” about the four new cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in the community – after 102 days of no such cases in the country.

She has announced that as of 12pm on Wednesday, Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, will be placed in a restrictive phase of lockdown for three days. Ms Ardern said the most important thing was “tracing this case back to its original origin. We have not been able to determine the source of these cases.” Those diagnosed had no known link to the managed isolation facilities for returning travellers, nor to the country’s borders, where all recorded cases of the virus have been registered. All schools and childcare facilities will be closed in Auckland from Thursday except for classes for the children of essential workers.  The phase that Auckland is entering is described as a restrictive phase and is the 2nd strictest available.  However, the remainder of the country will have measures imposed too.

All restrictions on daily life had eased in early June when the last remaining Covid-19 case recorded in the community recovered. From today, outside of the city of Auckland, where the cases were recorded, New Zealanders will not be allowed to gather in large numbers, and should work from home if possible. “As a team we have also been here before,” Ms Ardern told New Zealanders. “We know that if we have a plan and stick to it we can work our way through difficult and unknown situations.”

New confirmed cases in the Netherlands jumped to 4,036 in the past week, continuing the rapid increase seen since the easing of lockdown measures last month, Dutch health authorities have said. The number of infections was up 55% from the 2,588 cases reported over the previous week.  There have been 59,194 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands and 6,157 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Alarm bells are ringing as Bosnia, a poor Balkan country of 3.5 million people, faces record daily numbers of deaths from Covid-19. According to official data, 22 deaths were logged over a 24-hour period on Tuesday, the highest toll yet in a country where 447 lives have been lost. In an open letter, writers, doctors, journalists and other public figures said they were “frightened by the lack of an even minimal necessary institutional response” to the resurgence of the epidemic. After lifting a strict lockdown at the end of April, authorities have imposed few mandatory restrictions, instead issuing recommendations with weak enforcement.  There have been 14,708 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Bosnia.  Currently there are 5,850 active cases in the country and 8,411 people have recovered from the virus.

Vietnam has reported 16 more infections and one new death, taking the total number of cases in the south-east Asian country to 863, of which 16 have been fatalities. Most of the new cases are linked to the central city of Danang, where the new outbreak began late in July after Vietnam had been more than three months without domestic transmission. According to reports, the health ministry has said more than 165,000 people are being quarantined in the country. Vietnam has a recorded population of 97,435,032 and the number of cases equates to 9 infections per 1M populous.

Indonesia has reported 1,693 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total tally of infections to 128,776, according to sources citing data from the country’s health ministry. The data also showed an additional 59 deaths, taking the total to 5,824, the highest COVID-19 death toll in south-east Asia.

Meanwhile, the Philippines reported 2,987 new coronavirus infections, according to reports. The tally of confirmed cases now stands at 139,538, the highest in south-east Asia. A health ministry bulletin also reported 19 more fatalities, bringing the country’s death toll to 2,312.

Bhutan ordered its first nationwide lockdown on Tuesday after a returning resident who tested positive for coronavirus came in close contact with people in the capital Thimphu.

The lockdown was ordered after a 27-year-old Bhutanese woman, who returned from Kuwait and was discharged from quarantine after testing negative, tested positive at a clinic on Monday. The case took the total in the tiny Himalayan kingdom to 113, still the lowest in south Asia. The country has yet to record a fatality. The lockdown will restrict movement of people and vehicles in the largely Buddhist nation of 750,000 people.

The government said in a statement “The unprecedented lockdown is enforced to identify and isolate all positive cases, immediately breaking the chain of transmission. Everyone is asked to stay home to protect themselves and their families from the disease, should there be undetected, rampant transmission.”  There are 16 active cases of the virus in Bhutan and 97 people are reported to have recovered.

Kuwait has recorded 73,068 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 486 lives have been lost to date.  Over 64,700 people have recovered from the infection and 7,823 active cases remain, 110 described as serious or critical.

Total number of cases worldwide – 20,317,413

Total number of deaths worldwide – 740,296

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 13,241,378

Active cases:

6,335,739 active cases,

6,271,060 in mild condition,

64,679 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 13,981,674

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Tuesday 11th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life” (Yoko Ono)

More good news from New Zealand as the country reported its 101st day in a row with no recorded community transmission of COVID-19 from an unknown source.  All 21 active cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed in travellers returning to New Zealand from other countries; all of them are in quarantine at the government’s managed isolation facilities. There were no new cases of the coronavirus recorded in the quarantine hotels on Monday.  The absence of known community transmission of the virus means that apart from strict border controls, life in New Zealand has returned to normal and no physical distancing or masks are required. There have been 1,569 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, with 22 deaths.  Out of 21 active cases, none of those are described as serious or critical and are not believed to be in hospital.

The Australian state of Victoria has recorded 322 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours preceding this report, the state’s health department said on Monday. Victoria is home to Melbourne, which is expected to remain under strict Stage-4 lockdown until 13 September. The government said there were 19 fatalities from the virus which is the deadliest day for the state so far.  The previous record was 17 deaths. This brings the number of lives lost in Australia to 314 and the country has reported 21,407 confirmed cases.  With a recorded population of 25,531,288 ( is that all I hear you ask? Yes it surprised me too), the number of infections equates to 838 per 1M populous.

China reported on Monday 49 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for August 9, compared with 23 cases a day earlier, the health authority said. The National Health Commission said in a statement 35 of the new infections were imported cases. There were no new deaths. China also reported 31 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 11 a day earlier. At the time of writing, mainland China had a total of 84,668 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to official figures. The number of lives lost in China to date is 4,634. There are currently 802 active cases and 41 of those are described as serious or critical.  79,232 people are reported to have recovered from coronavirus.

Concern is growing that a resurgence of coronavirus in Europe will lead to a “second wave” of uncoordinated border restrictions that will undermine the open borders on which the European Union is founded. In a letter to national governments, seen by the Associated Press, the European commission warns that “while we must ensure that the EU is ready for possible resurgences of Covid-19 cases … we should at the same time avoid a second wave of uncoordinated actions at the internal borders of the EU.”

“The re-establishment of ineffective restrictions and internal border controls must be avoided. Rather, the response should be to have targeted, proportionate and coordinated measures, informed by scientific evidence,” said the letter, sent to the 27 EU member countries and Britain. The letter comes after some countries have imposed new restrictions, or demanded that travellers quarantine, in an echo of the panic border closures which blocked the movement of supplies and medical equipment after Europe’s first outbreak emerged in Italy in February.

Experts fear that countries are becoming so used to lowering the gates at their frontiers as they see fit that the future of Europe’s ID-check free Schengen area is in peril.

Belgium, where EU headquarters are based, does not allow travel to some regions in Spain, notably Catalonia in the north, and also has bans on people coming from parts of France, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Romania and Switzerland.

Scandinavian nations are notably quick to react to any rise in infection rates. Denmark’s foreign ministry now has Spain, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Romania and Andorra on its so-called red list. Norway, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, has not hesitated either.

As I write, fresh outbreaks of Covid-19 in north-east Spain continue to cause concern. In the 24 hours Sunday to Monday, Catalonia has reported 863 new infections and five deaths while there were 633 new cases in neighbouring Aragón. According to official figures, Spain has had 361,442 cases and 28,503 people have lost their lives. Fresh outbreaks have also been reported in Marbella and elsewhere on the Costa del Sol. The football club Atlético de Madrid, who are due to travel to Lisbon to take part in the UEFA Champions League, also reported two cases, although it was not clear if those affected were player or staff.  As a result of the rising numbers,  a majority of Schengen group countries have joined the UK in advising against travel to Spain. The only exceptions at present are Portugal, Poland, Luxembourg, Romania and Sweden.

In France, wearing a face mask became compulsory on dozens of busy Paris shopping streets and in other popular parts of the city from 8am on Monday as coronavirus numbers continued to rise in and around the French capital. The order applies to everyone aged 11 or over covers crowded zones where physical distancing is difficult, police said, including open-air markets and streets with large numbers of cafés and bars, such as the rue Oberkampf and two popular streets in the Marais district, the rue de Bretagne and the rue des Francs-Bourgeois. The city’s busiest boulevards as well as the pedestrianised banks of the Seine and the Canal St Martin – popular evening and weekend gathering places – are also included, plus some tourist attractions such as Montmartre with its warren of narrow streets. More open parts of the city, such as the zone around the Eiffel Tower, are not covered.  Several other French cities, including Lille, Nice and Biarritz, have adopted similar measures in recent days as the spread of Covid-19 has accelerated in several parts of France.  There have been 197,921 confirmed infections in the country, 3,031 per 1M populous.  The number of lives lost has reached 30,324.

Greece is “formally” in the midst of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the country’s top infectious disease experts has told reporters.  After recording its highest number of positive diagnoses ever – a record 203 cases on Sunday – the nation has reached a critical juncture in its ability to contain further spread of the virus. “We can say that Greece has formally entered a second wave of the epidemic. This is the point that we could win or lose the battle,” said Gkikas Magiorkinis, assistant professor of hygiene and epidemiology at Athens university.  “Unless there is a change in the trend that we are seeing we are likely to propose more measures along the lines we have seen in Poros,” he added referring to the Argo Saronic island where a surge in cases late last week prompted authorities to announce an unprecedented crackdown including the closures of clubs, bars and restaurants from 11pm. The Greek health minister Vasillis Kikilias hinted that further containment measures were likely to be announced warning “transmission of the virus is growing dangerously”. Until this month, Greek health officials appeared to have the epidemic under control but Magiorkinis said the abrupt rise, compounded by a sudden jump in the number requiring intubation, up from nine on 1 August to 22 last night, left no doubt that the highly contagious disease was working its way through society. Prior to additional precautionary measures being enforced last week – not least mask-wearing in all enclosed spaces – Greece had seen its effective reproductive number, or R number, reach 1. “Our main concern is the degree to which this epidemic can stretch any health system,” he said. “Greece currently has around 1,000 beds that can support Covid-19 patients … no health system, anywhere in the world, can cope effectively with a full epidemic resurgence. In the next two weeks we could have as many as 100 people intubated, almost matching the number we had at the height of the pandemic.” Tourism has partly played a role for the sudden increase. But echoing government officials, Magiorkinis attributed the resurgence mostly to lax observance of hygiene protocols by Greeks particularly younger generations who have flooded bars and beaches in recent weeks.  Greece has reported 5,623 confirmed cases of the virus and 212 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  Official figures indicate 1,607 cases in the  country with 22 of those described as serious or critical.

In Russia, authorities have confirmed 5,118 new Covid-19 infections, pushing the total to date to 892,654. The country’s total number of coronavirus cases remains as the fourth largest number in the world. The official death toll also rose to 15,001 on Monday after  authorities said in their daily coronavirus report that 70 people had died in the last 24 hours.  There are 180,972 active cases in Russia and 2,300 of those are described as serious or critical.  Official figures show that 696,681 people have recovered form the virus.

According to the health ministry in Iran, 189 more people have died from Covid-19 in the  24 hours preceding the writing of this report.  Sima Sadat Lari, the health ministry spokeswoman, said the number of lives lost due to the coronavirus outbreak in Iran had now reached 18,616. Meanwhile, 2,132 more people had tested positive for the virus over the same 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the country, scene of the Middle East’s worst outbreak, to 328,844, 286,642 of whom have recovered. There are 3,992 Covid-19 patients in a critical condition in intensive care units.

Hong Kong has reported 69 new coronavirus cases, of which 67 were locally transmitted, as authorities battle to contain a resurgence of the virus in the financial hub. Since late January, 4,149  people have been infected in Hong Kong, and 55 people have died.  On Sunday, HK reported 72 new cases and there are 1,178 active cases of which 36 are described as serious or critical.

On Monday, Indonesia reported that the country’s total infections rose by 1,687 to 127,083. Data from the government’s Covid-19 task force also showed a further 42 people had died after being diagnosed with the virus. The number of lives lost this far is 5,765.  Over 82,000 people are reported to have recovered from the virus and there are 39,082 active cases with no data available as to the numbers described as serious or critical.

Total number of cases worldwide – 20,072,696

Total number of deaths worldwide – 734,820

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 12,930,070

Active cases:

6,407,806 active cases,

6,343,025 in mild condition,

64,781 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 13,664,890

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 10th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“We don’t need to share the same opinions as others but we need to be respectful” (Taylor Swift)

The start of a new week so here is a Monday morning round up of some of the weekends events in a world dominated by COVID-19.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted the nation has “a moral duty” to reopen schools next month, amid indications he would force pubs, restaurants and shops to close ahead of schools in the event of severe coronavirus flare-ups. The prime minister is understood to favour only closing schools as the last resort after scientific advisers warned more restrictions may be needed to reopen classrooms in England next month.  Further coronavirus measures come into force in England on Saturday. Face coverings are now mandatory in indoor places of worship, museums and galleries, public areas in hotels and hostels, bingo halls, libraries, cinemas, concert halls, crematoria, aquariums and indoor zoos. The new requirement comes as figures showed nearly all Britons were wearing face masks outside their homes. An Office for National Statistics survey covering the period of 29 July to 2 August found that 96% of adults said they had worn a mask when they left their homes.

In Belgium, police have made several arrests after a brawl broke out on a beach between officers and young people they had told to leave for refusing to respect virus safety measures. The clashes took place at the resort of Blankenberge, which is about 15km north of Bruges. A group of young people became violent after police told them to leave the beach.

Cuba has placed Havana back on a strict lockdown following a rebound in coronavirus cases, ordering restaurants, bars and pools once more to close, suspending public transportation and banning access to the beach. Cuba, which has been hailed as a rare success story in Latin America for its textbook handling and containment of its coronavirus outbreak, had eased lockdown restrictions last month after cases dwindled to but a handful per day.  There have been 2,888 confirmed cases in the country with a population of 11,325,861. 88 lives have been lost to COVID-19 and there are currently 358 active cases in Cuba, 7 of those described as serious or critical.

 

Meat giant, Danish Crown announced Saturday it had closed a large slaughterhouse in Denmark after nearly 150 employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The abattoir in Ringsted, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the capital Copenhagen, employs nearly 900 people.  Denmark has confirmed 14,442 cases of the virus and 617 people have lost the battle with COVID-19. In a country with a recorded population of 5,794,390, testing has been carried out at a ratio of 289,975 tests per 1M populous.

Brazils loss of life has exceeded 100,000. Official figures show 100,543  people have died and there have been 3,013.369 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Italy has recorded a 38% jump in the number of infections, recording an increase of 552 cases on Saturday.  It’s the highest daily caseload in the country since May.  There have been 250,103 confirmed cases of the virus in Italy and 35,203 people have lost their lives.  Currently, Italy reports that there are 12,953 active cases and 43 of those are described as serious or critical.

Australia has topped 20,000 coronavirus cases, doubling from 10,000 in less than a month due to the outbreak in Melbourne.

Norway has advised all its citizens to avoid travelling abroad and will make masks mandatory on public transport from next week.

The European Union has removed Morocco from its safe list of countries from which the bloc allows non-essential travel.  Morocco has confirmed 32,007 cases of coronavirus and 480 lives have been lost.  In a country with a recorded population of 36,955,749, the number of infections equates to 866 per 1M populous. There are now just 10 countries on the list which are deemed to have the pandemic largely under control: Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay.

 

 

France recorded 40% more cases on Friday than it did the day before, raising concerns among UK travellers that France could be the next country added to the quarantine list. There have now been 197,921 confirmed infections in France and 30,324 people have died.

Mexico’s health ministry on Saturday reported 6,495 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 695 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 475,902 cases and 52,006 deaths. Officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases. Mexico has the third highest coronavirus death total globally, behind the US and Brazil, and last week saw daily case rises above 9,000.  Official figures indicate that there are 105,258 active cases in Mexico and 3,892 of  those are described as serious or critical.

Some good news from New Zealand, Sunday marked 100 days of zero community transmission cases. Here is a look at how they’ve done it.

Ongoing border controls to stop Covid-19 from entering the country

A lockdown and physical distancing to stop community transmission

Case-based controls using testing, contact tracing and quarantine

New Zealand is one of a small number of jurisdictions, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Australia and Fiji – pursuing Covid-19 containment or elimination. Most have had new outbreaks. The exceptions are Taiwan, Mongolia, Fiji and New Zealand.

Australia adopted very similar responses to the pandemic and it is important to note that most states and territories are in the same position as New Zealand. But Victoria and, to a lesser extent, New South Wales are seeing a significant resurgence. The key difference is that New Zealand committed relatively early to a clearly articulated elimination strategy and pursued it aggressively. An intense lockdown proved highly effective at rapidly extinguishing the virus.

Australia has recorded its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic so far, after 17 people died in Victoria in the 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday. Ten of the 17 deaths were linked to aged care homes, and the state also recorded 394 new cases of Covid-19, Premier Daniel Andrews announced. Sunday’s figures surpass the previous deadliest day, Wednesday, when Victoria reported 15 deaths, including a man in his 30s. A second man in his 30s died in the state on Saturday.

 

The Philippines has recorded 61 new deaths from coronavirus, the highest daily increase in fatalities reported for three weeks. This takes the country’s death total to 2,270.

A health ministry bulletin also reported 3,109 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total confirmed cases to 129,913. The Southeast Asian country leads that geographic  region in the most number of cases and is second to Indonesia in deaths.  In terms of the whole of Asia, India is by far the worst affected country (by caseload) with 2,156,757 confirmed infections and 43,498 lives lost.

Vietnam’s health ministry has recorded a further 31 cases of coronavirus, and one further death. This takes the country’s total number of cases to 841, with 11 lives lost.  All of the new cases are linked to the central city of Danang, where the new outbreak began late last month, the Ministry of Health said in a statement. There have been 355 cases since the virus resurfaced in Danang, with 11 deaths. Coronavirus infections have since been detected in at least 15 locations in Vietnam.

In Wales, there have been no further deaths recorded where people died after testing positive for Covid-19, Public Health Wales said. This means the total death toll remains at 1,579. The number of cases in Wales increased by 26, bringing the total confirmed to 17,451.

A further 10 people have died in hospital in England, having either tested positive for coronavirus, or in cases where a positive test was not returned, but coronavirus was mentioned on their death certificate. This brings the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 29,411, NHS England said on Sunday. The patients were aged between 45 and 89 and all had known underlying health condition. In two of the cases, the deceased had not tested positive for Covid-19, but Covid-19 was mentioned on their death certificate. All deaths are recorded against the date of death rather than the day the deaths were announced, NHS England said. The region with the highest number of deaths was the Midlands with four. There were three deaths in the North East & Yorkshire, two in the East of England and one in London. There were no deaths reported in the North West, where local lockdown measures in place in Greater Manchester and parts of east Lancashire were extended on Friday to include Preston.

In Scotland, there have been 48 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and zero deaths but the Register Offices are generally closed over the weekends so this figure could change. A cluster of linked cases was discovered in Aberdeen last week, leading to lockdown restrictions being reintroduced in the city. Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch said 110 cases had been linked to the Aberdeen outbreak, with more expected to be confirmed.  Almost 650 “close contacts” from the infections are being investigated.

Across the United Kingdom there have now been 309,763 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 46,566 people have died as a result of COVID-19. With a recorded population of 67,923,973, the number of infections equates to 4,560 cases per 1M populous.

The USA has passed the grim milestone of 5 million confirmed cases as the total there reached 5,151,901.  A total of 165,092 people have lost their lives to COVID-19 in the USA.  The states of California, Florida and Texas have all recorded more than 500,000 cases and the state of New York has recorded the highest number of lives lost with 32,831 to date.  The states of Montana, Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming and Vermont have all recorded less than 5,000 cases of coronavirus thus far.

Total number of cases worldwide – 19,853,402

Total number of deaths worldwide – 730,511

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 12,753,262

Active cases:

6,369,629 active cases,

6,304,661 in mild condition,

64,968 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 13,483,773

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

Positive Sunday 9th  August 2020 by Louise Birch

“When you wake up every day, you have 2 choices.  You can either be positive or negative; an optimist or a pessimist. I choose to be an optimist, its all a matter of perspective”  (Harvey Mackay)

Rhino poaching in South Africa has decreased by almost 53% in the first six months of 2020, which continued a dramatic downward trend over the last five years.

 

“After a decade of implementing various strategies… efforts are paying off,” said the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy this week. “We have been able to arrest the escalation of rhino losses.”

The Minister said the nationwide Covid-19 associated law enforcement measures to restrict movement has powered the ongoing decline in rhino poaching compared to the same period last year, calling it ‘striking’. An astonishing reprieve was celebrated in the Kruger National Park where, during April, no rhinos were killed in the Intensive Protection Zone for the first time in almost ten years.

Giselle Williams didn’t know how to sew. But she did have a family heirloom sitting around the house, her great-great-grandmother’s Singer sewing machine and wondered if it could be put to use to help others during the pandemic. It all began when the COVID-19 pandemic brought Giselle’s  Colorado (USA) hairstyling business to a halt in Arvada. She noticed the growing army of sequestered mask-makers and decided to put her free time to good use but she never learned how to sew and thought she didn’t have a sewing machine. That’s when she remembered the 100-year-old treadle machine. It is so old that it doesn’t even use electricity. Instead, the 1922 Singer Model 66 “Red Eye” is powered mechanically by a foot pedal pushed up and down by the operator’s foot. It was being used as a piece of decorative furniture in her guest room. After decades spent idle, it definitely needed some work, so Giselle’s husband Darin set his mind to restoring it. After many YouTube videos, a good cleaning, fresh lubrication, and a new leather drive belt, the couple had a functioning sewing machine. Then Darin got to work teaching Giselle to sew. As young boy, Darin spent summers with his grandmother who was a seamstress and learned to sew by sewing hand puppets with her fabric scraps. He used his skills and taught Giselle how to thread the machine, wind the bobbin and sew a straight stitch.

Together, the couple found a face mask pattern and purchased fabric to begin prototyping. They also received donated fabric from friends, family and neighbours to support the effort. After a few days practicing, the team officially began their mask-making operation. Their first requests came from local healthcare providers and a distillery that was producing hand sanitiser for first responders. Since those first weeks, the team has ramped up production and has provided more than 450 masks to churches, restaurants and businesses across Colorado. They have received requests from frontline workers as far away as Japan and Thailand. Currently, the team is at work producing another 50-75 masks to be sold at-cost at the Fetch Markets at Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, Colorado.

 

6-year-old Callaghan McLaughlin had been looking forward to starting his own lemonade stand once the weather warmed up but since the novel coronavirus outbreaks has forced the world into quarantine, he had to improvise. Rather than spend his times indoors, Callaghan decided to spread joy in his community by setting up a “drive-by joke stand” so he could make his neighbours laugh while respecting social distancing guidelines.

Callaghan’s mother Kelsea says that the youngster has been using one-liners from a kid’s joke book that she bought for him six months ago. Since she and her husband have already been privileged to hear the bulk of Callaghan’s jokes, she felt it was time he share his jokes with a new audience. The youngster has been setting up shop every morning at the end of his driveway in Saanich, British Columbia for at least one hour before taking a lengthy lunch break and returning in the afternoon for another shift.

 

Amid hard times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, one sight is putting a smile on people’s faces in Portugal, dolphins splashing around near Lisbon’s shores.  Though dolphins have been sighted in the Tagus since Roman times, the mammals are no longer seen often, according to a 2015 report by the Sea School and the Marine Science Association in Lisbon. But over the last two months, social media channels have been alive with videos and images of dolphins shared by those lucky enough to catch sight of them leaping out of the waves.

“With the improvement in water quality, the river has been gaining new life and a friendly family of dolphins has been seen several times during the last month,” Lisbon’s mayor’s office wrote on Facebook.The pandemic has halted the cruise ship industry and fewer commuter ferries have crossed the river.  But marine biologist Francisco Martinho, who specialises in dolphins, said there was more to the story. “It’s not because the river has become more peaceful that dolphins are spending more time there,” Martinho said. “It’s because there are more fish than usual for them to eat.” Martinho said it was not clear why more fish were being found in the waters and said the dolphins were likely to leave in a few months if the fish run out. “It is a difficult time for everyone but something good happened,” a Facebook user commented on pictures of the dolphins shared online.

 

Saturday 8th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“We can live without religion and meditation but we cannot survive without human affection” (Dalai Lama)

An extract from the World Health Organisation Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID -19 (6 August 2020)

“The events of the last seven months are a tragic reminder of the insecurity and instability that disease can cause.  The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world. It has stress tested our political, economic, cultural and social infrastructure.  And found us wanting.

It has pushed the limits of health systems both weak and strong, leaving no country untouched. It has humbled all of us.  The world spends billions every year preparing for potential terrorist attacks but we’ve learned lessons the hard way that unless we invest in pandemic preparedness and the climate crisis, we leave ourselves open to enormous harm.”

Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed one million, but global health experts say the true toll is likely several times higher, reflecting the gaping lack of testing for the continent’s 1.3 billion people. While experts say infection tolls in richer nations can be significant undercounts, large numbers of undetected cases are a greater danger for Africa, with many of the world’s weakest health systems. The World Health Organisation calls the milestone a pivotal point for Africa as infections in several countries are surging.

The virus has spread beyond major cities into distant hinterlands where few health resources exist and reaching care could take days. African nations banded together early in the pandemic to pursue badly needed testing and medical supplies and advocate for equitable access to any successful vaccine. Swift border closures delayed the virus spread. However, Africa’s most developed country, South Africa, has strained to cope as hospital beds fill up and confirmed cases are over a half-million, ranking fifth in the world. It took Africa nearly 5 months to reach 500,000 COVID-19 cases and only 1 month to double that figure.  There are fears that if measures against the virus are not followed, health care systems already weakened by conflict and violence could be overwhelmed by COVID-19

Passengers from Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas will be required to self-isolate at home or another specified address for 14 days on arrival in the UK from today (Saturday).

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice to warn against all but essential trips to the three countries. Brunei and Malaysia have been added to the government’s travel corridor list, following a decrease in confirmed cases of coronavirus, meaning arrivals from these countries no longer need to quarantine.  Figures released this week show Belgium has suffered a consistent increase in cases in recent weeks, rising to 27.8 new cases per 100,000 people. This towers over the UK’s latest rate of 8.4 per 100,000, and is higher than Spain’s 27.4 level around the time when the UK introduced travel restrictions there.

Belgium’s prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, was last week forced to put a halt to the nation’s Covid-19 exit plan by introducing drastic new social distancing measures in the hope of avoiding a new national lockdown. Contacts outside every household were limited to the same five people for a month, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

In Andorra, new cases per week have increased five-fold since mid-July, the country has confirmed 944 cases and 52 people have died.  With a recorded population of just 77,277, the case rate in Andorra equates to 12,216 infections per 1M populous.

In the Bahamas the weekly case rate peaked at 78.6 last week, up from 3.1 in the middle of last month.  There have been 751 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 14 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  There are currently 646 active cases in the Bahamas and the case rate equates to 1,908 infections per 1M populous.

Norway has advised its citizens to avoid all travel abroad, even to countries with few Covid-19 cases, amid a series of measures aimed at preventing a resurgence of the epidemic. “I think most of us have now understood the holiday is over,” health minister Bent Høie told a press conference. “We have to roll up our sleeves, because we have a job to do – preventing the virus from forcing us to close the country again.” Saying sacrifices would be needed in order to keep schools open, Høie said that from Saturday, bars across Norway would no longer be allowed to serve past midnight. Gatherings would remain restricted to 200 people and adult sports would no longer resume on 1 September as planned. Masks are expected to be made mandatory on public transport, with a decision due on 14 August; all those who can cycle rather than take public transport should do so; and employers should take steps to make sure half as many people were on public transport in rush hour as at present.

Spanish authorities have ordered about 32,000 people into lockdown in the central riverside town of Aranda del Duero in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus. The residents of Aranda del Duero, known for its vineyards, will find their movements restricted to the absolute minimum and be barred from entering or leaving the town which lies 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Madrid.

Poland has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown after it reported 809 new coronavirus infections on Friday, the sixth record daily rise in two weeks. According to the reports, most of the cases were in and around big cities including the capital Warsaw, Katowice and Krakow.  The government has imposed stricter sanitary rules on a number of Polish counties, which include compulsory wearing of protective face masks outside the home.

It has banned conferences, sport events and concerts, closed cinemas and gyms, and imposed a 50-person limit on the number of people taking part in weddings though churches and hotels remain open. Poland has reported 50,324 cases overall, and 1,787 people have lost their lives to Covid-19.

A total of 49 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Malta on Friday, the second-highest number of patients to test positive in 24 hours since March, according to a Times of Malta report. There were 52 new cases reported on April 7. The 49 new cases were discovered from 1,717 swab tests – more than double the 825 tests that had been administered when 52 cases were found.  Malta has confirmed 995 cases of coronavirus and 9 people have died.  675 people have reportedly recovered from the virus and there are 311 active cases

In Russia authorities have reported 5,241 new Covid-19 infections, pushing the country’s national tally to 877,135. The official death toll also rose by 119 to 14,725 on Friday. Russia has the fourth largest caseload of the virus in the world, and the 11th highest number of related deaths.

India has seen another large jump in new cases with 62,538 coronavirus infections being reported in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report. The rise takes the country’s total to 2,033,847 according to official sources. The country became the third nation to record more than 2 million cases of the novel coronavirus, behind the United States and Brazil, as infections spread further to smaller towns and rural areas.

Japan confirmed a record 1,580 new coronavirus infections on Friday, as cases continue to mount throughout the country, particularly in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka. With Japan’s Bon holiday season beginning next week, there is concern that the movement of people will further spread the virus. The Tokyo metropolitan government on Friday reported 462 new cases of coronavirus infection, just short of the daily record of 472 cases confirmed in the capital late last week. To mitigate the risk of the virus spreading, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike has requested residents to refrain from traveling during the holiday.

Hong Kong has announced free mass testing for all residents, amid a third wave of Covid-19 infections. More than half the city’s total number of infections were detected in July, with 12 days in a row with cases above 100. HK has reported 3,939 confirmed cases and 46 people have died. Official figures show that there are currently 1,273 active cases with 41 of those described as serious or critical.

The top 20 countries with the highest numbers of confirmed cases.

The top 20 countries with the highest loss of life.

The top 20 countries with the highest cases per 1M populous

Total number of cases worldwide – 19,319,942

Total number of deaths worldwide – 718,814

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 12,405,823

Active cases:

6,195,305 active cases,

6,130,097 in mild condition,

65,208 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 13,124,637

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Friday 7th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong” (Ella Fitzgerald)

Switzerland has become to latest country to impose a strict quarantine on travellers from Spain to curb the spread of coronavirus. The 10-day quarantine period does not apply to those arriving from the Balearic and Canary Islands, which have experienced a smaller number of infections than mainland Spain. The measure will take effect from Saturday, Patrick Mathys, the head of crisis management for the federal public health office, told a briefing in Bern. So far, the UK, Ireland and Norway have imposed quarantine measures on travellers arriving from Spain. Meanwhile, there are travel warnings in place for Spain in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Finland and Poland.  There have been 35,746 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Switzerland and 1,981 people have died.  Currently, there are 2,165 active infections in the country and 24 of those are described as serious or critical.

New restrictions have been imposed in the city of Aberdeen in Scotland following an outbreak. Under the measures, pubs and restaurants were ordered to close and visitors have been asked to stay away. “We are at a stage of this pandemic where extreme caution is necessary, and also in my view, sensible,” Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said at a press conference after a meeting with officials. Ms Sturgeon advised Aberdeen residents against travelling other than for work or education, and said people should not visit other households. Hospitality venues in Aberdeen were required to close by 5pm on Wednesday.

Covid-19 cases in Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest country, have surged by more than 60% in the last week, to a total of nearly 800, health ministry data showed recently.

Authorities attributed the rise to people relaxing their guard on protective measures that had so far kept Gambia’s case total the lowest in Africa. Testing has also increased in the country, where the number of deaths is 16. “There is increased enforcement of mask-wearing and other measures across the country,” said a government spokesman, Ebrima Sankareh. Gambia will increase police, paramilitary, marine and immigration presence on its border as scores of Senegalese return from celebrating Eid al-Adha at home, he added. Senegal has recorded 10,538 coronavirus cases and 218 people have died.  The case rate in Senegal equates to 3,061 infections per 1M populous. Gambia has reported 671 confirmed infections, 277 cases per 1M populous and 14 people have lost their lives.

The World Health Organisation has deployed a “surge team” of 43 health experts to South Africa to help the country deal with the pandemic, which has confirmed 529,877 cases, the fifth-highest in the world and 9,298 deaths.  Across the continent of Africa, there have been 998,994 confirmed infections and 21,700 people are reported to have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Germany has added Belgium’s virus-hit Antwerp to quarantine list. Antwerp province was added to the list of coronavirus risk zones, requiring travellers arriving from the region to go into quarantine for 14 days unless they can produce a negative Covid-19 test.

On Thursday, Germany recorded its highest number of coronavirus infections for three months, fuelling fears that health authorities are losing control over the spread of the pandemic. The country now has 9,141 active cases according to official figures. The increase coincides with the return of hundreds of thousands of Germans from their summer holidays, often from high risk areas, as well as with the start of the school year in several of the 16 states.

Finland has entered a “second stage” of coronavirus outbreak, as authorities placed new restrictions on arrivals from some European Union countries. Belgium, the Netherlands and Andorra were removed from Finland’s green travel list, putting a stop to tourists arriving from those countries and imposing a 14-day quarantine on other returnees, according to media reports.  Further containment measures within Finland would be unveiled next week, officials said. According to new estimates, the reproduction rate (R) of the virus has now risen above 1, to between 1.1 and 1.4, the health ministry’s strategic director Liisa-Maria Voipio-Pulkki told a press conference. “The situation is extremely delicate,” Voipio-Pulkki said, adding that “some sort of second stage has begun. Whether we can expect a smaller wave or a larger wave depends on how we respond.”  Finland has reported 7,512 confirmed cases and 331 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  201 cases remain active, one of which is described as serious or critical.

The government of the northern Spanish region of Castilla y León has ordered the town of Aranda de Duero and its 32,000 residents back into confinement for a fortnight after 230 cases of coronavirus were detected in the area. From today (Friday), people will only be allowed in and out of the town for medical appointments, for work reasons, or to look after those in need of care.The order comes less than a week after two small towns in the same region – Íscar and Pedrajas de San Esteban – were also returned to confinement following Covid outbreaks.  The regional government of the Basque country has said there is no longer any doubt that it is “facing a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic”.

Speaking on Thursday after 338 new cases were diagnosed in the region, the health minister, Nekane Murga, called for people to remain vigilant and warned them not to underestimate the virus. Spain has recorded 33,965 new cases of the virus in the past two weeks, 1,772 of them between Tuesday and Wednesday. To date, the country has confirmed 349,894 cases and 28,498 lives have been lost to COVID-19.  In a country with a recorded population of 46,756,330, the number of infections equates to 7,483 cases per 1M populous.

France has recorded its biggest jump in the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases since 30 May with 1,695 positive diagnoses in just 24 hours. The figures, released daily by the public health authority, Santé Publique France, confirmed the trend of a surge in COVID-19 in the country. There were 581,779 tests carried out and the latest figures showed 1.6% of them were positive. The number of patients in hospital dropped but has been going up and down for several days.

 

In the Netherlands, Amsterdam has ordered the wearing of face masks in crowded places.  Both Amsterdam and the port of Rotterdam have made face masks compulsory in certain busy areas including the Dutch capital’s Red Light district, as coronavirus infections showed a worrying spike. The new measures come as the number of infections doubled in a week in the country, where 55,955 people have now been infected and 6,150 have died.

The Philippines has recorded another jump in coronavirus cases to overtake neighbouring Indonesia as the country with the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in East Asia.  A recent surge in cases of the virus in and around the capital, Manila, has pushed authorities to reimpose a lockdown affecting around a quarter of the country’s 107 million people. The Philippines recorded 3,561 new infections on Thursday, taking its total confirmed cases to 119,460.  The number of lives lost rose by 28 to 2,150 Indonesia has confirmed 118,753 infections and 5,521 fatalities, but is expected to grow after the recent spike in cases.

Total number of cases worldwide – 19,049,908

Total number of deaths worldwide – 712,474

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 12,227,998

Active cases:

6,109,436 active cases,

6,044,014 in mild condition,

65,422 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 12,940,472

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Thursday 6th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Germany has lifted its travel warning for several coastal regions of Turkey, ceding partially to weeks of campaigning by Ankara, whose tourism industry relies heavily on German visitors. The warning has been lifted with immediate effect for the four coastal provinces of Antalya, Izmir, Aydin and Mugla, government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in Berlin. “Turkey has developed a special tourism and hygiene concept for these four regions in order to realise safe tourism under the conditions of the pandemic,” Demmer said. Turkey will require anyone travelling back to Germany to present a negative coronavirus test within 48 hours before departure. There have been 233,851 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Turkey and 5,747 people have died.  According to official sources, there are 10,607 active cases in the country and 580 of those are described as serious or critical.

Staying with Turkey, the country has rolled out new inspection and enforcement rules after  confirmed coronavirus cases jumped above 1,000 for the first time in three weeks, in what the government called a grave rise during peak holiday season. On Tuesday it adopted daily quarantine inspections, new tracing oversight in all cities and measures for weddings, funerals and other large gatherings, although it avoided broad curbs on economic activity.

Greece’s top scientific adviser warned against complacency on coronavirus after the country reported its highest single-day increase in infections in weeks. Authorities reported 121 new coronavirus cases recently after a steady rise over the past 10 days. The tally was the highest since 22 April, the total number of infections in the country has reached 4,855. There have been 209 deaths recorded in total. Greece introduced an early lockdown in mid-March which buffered the country from the devastating effects of the pandemic seen in many other European countries. However the recent increase in infections prompted authorities to introduce measures like mandatory face masks in closed spaces.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in the Netherlands almost doubled last week, according to government data released recently. A further 2,588 new cases were reported over the past week, 1,259 more than were reported the week before.

There were major regional differences in the uptick, with the province of South Holland in particular showing an increase in cases. There are now 242 known active Covid-19 clusters in the country, an increase of 109 clusters of three or more related infections compared to the previous week. Covid-19 hospital admissions (current and previous) were reported during the past week for 44 patients – 21 more than last week.  The Netherlands has recorded 55,955 confirmed infections since the outbreak began there and 6,150 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

 

In Ireland, the government has decided not to move to Phase 4 of its Covid-19 recovery plan, meaning pubs and hotel bars remain closed. Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin said the Republic of Ireland could not “risk moving backward”. The next phase would also have allowed gatherings of up to 500 people outdoors and 50 indoors. Mr Martin said the decision would be reviewed again in three weeks time. It is the second deferral of Phase 4 after the Irish cabinet voted to delay it in July amid concerns about the spread of the virus. The current rules on gatherings allow for a maximum of 200 people to meet outdoors and 50 indoors.  The cabinet also made changes to the green list for travel and announced face coverings will be mandatory in shops and shopping centres from Monday 10 August.  Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, San Marino and Monaco have been removed from the list of countries from which travellers would not have to self-quarantine for 14 days.  Ireland has recorded 26,253 confirmed infections and 1,763 people have lost their lives.  Over 23,000 people have successfully been COVID-19 and there are currently 1,126 active cases in the country.  5 of those are classed as serious or critical.

Czechia (Czech Republic) reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases since the end of June, according to official sources.  The 290 new cases brought the total number detected to 17,286. The country has recorded 383 deaths. Almost a quarter of the new cases, 77, were in the eastern region of Moravia-Silesia, bordering Poland, where many cases have appeared recently among miners and their families. The overall number of active cases reached 5,091. Some epidemiologists have suggested that the virus has weakened, pointing to a relatively low number of people being hospitalised, currently totalling 123. The daily number of people who have died in connection with the coronavirus has been below five since 20 May. However, health officials have cautioned that some measures taken to curb the illness are likely to return after the summer holidays when cities will be more crowded and the flu season begins. Prague’s chief public health officer, Zdenka Jagrova, told the daily paper Pravo that people in the capital would definitely be required to wear face masks again at some point inside public spaces such as shopping malls and on public transport.

Ukraine has recorded a record daily increase of 1,271 coronavirus cases recently. The number of infections in the country has risen sharply in the past two months as authorities have eased some restrictions, including allowing cafes, churches and public transport to reopen. The health minister Maksym Stepanov urged people to obey broader restrictions that are still in place. In a televised briefing, he said: “Ukrainians, the fight against coronavirus is impossible without you. The rules are very simple: the use of masks, antiseptics and a distance of 1.5 metres. Following these simple rules significantly reduces the risk of disease.”  The total number of cases rose to 75,490, the number of lives lost is 1,788 and 41,527 people have recovered at the time of writing.

There’s been a big development in Australia’s handling of the pandemic after Queensland closed its borders to New South Wales and the Australia Capital Territory (ACT) Queensland, which has very few cases of the virus, has already shut out Victorians but now all NSW residents will be barred except for some rare exemptions. returning locals will have to pay for 14-day quarantine. The closure comes into force at 1am August 8th.  While the ACT has no cases of Covid-19, the deputy premier says there is evidence people from NSW hotspots are flying into Queensland from Canberra.

Brazil has seen another 51,603 people contract Covid-19 in the 24 hours preceding this report and 1,154 have died, the health ministry has announced.  The country has registered more than 2.8 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official figures show that 96,096 people have died as a result of COVID-19, in the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak after the United States.

Test results for a man suspected of being North Korea’s first coronavirus case were inconclusive, but authorities have quarantined more than 3,635 primary and secondary contacts, according to a World Health Organisation official. On 26 July, the country said it had declared a state of emergency and locked down the border city of Kaesong after a person who defected to South Korea three years ago returned across the fortified border with what state media said were symptoms of Covid-19. At the time, state media were unclear over whether the man had been tested, saying an “uncertain result was made from several medical checkups”. But the leader, Kim Jong-un, declared that “the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country”.  If confirmed, the case would have been the first officially acknowledged by North Korean authorities, but since then state media have continued to say no cases have been reported. “The person was tested for Covid-19, but test results were inconclusive,” Dr Edwin Salvador, the WHO representative for North Korea, told the media on Wednesday. As many as 64 first contacts and 3,571 secondary contacts of the suspected case have been identified and quarantined in government facilities for a period of 40 days, Salvador said. Kaesong remains under lockdown and household doctors continue to conduct surveillance in the city, he said.

Despite having no confirmed cases, North Korea had imposed a widespread lockdown and conducted contract tracing, he added. Hardly surprising but there are no official figures available to confirm any of the numbers in North Korea.

Total number of cases worldwide – 18, 735,564

Total number of deaths worldwide – 705,061

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 11,947,368

Active cases:

6,083,135 active cases,

6,017,731 in mild condition,

65,404 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 12,652,429

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

Wednesday 5th August 2020 by Louise Birch

“When you are enthusiastic about what you do, you feel this positive energy. It’s very simple” (Paulo Coelho)

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam  is short of test kits as national coronavirus cases climb, according to media reports. Vietnam reported 10 new COVID-19 infections and two deaths on Tuesday, lifting its total cases to 670, with eight lives lost. The increase comes as the capital said it was running short of the rapid testing kits being used to keep a new outbreak at bay. Targeted testing and strict quarantining had helped Vietnam contain earlier outbreaks, but it is battling a new cluster of infections after going more than three months without detecting any domestic transmission. The new outbreak has infected more than 200 people since July 25, the majority in the central city of Danang, but it has spread to at least eight other cities and provinces, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where entertainment venues are closed and gatherings restricted to prevent infections. Danang and Buon Ma Thuot in the coffee-growing Central Highlands have been placed on lockdown. A government spokesman on Monday said Vietnam does not plan a nationwide lockdown.

There are fears that a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is “highly likely” to hit France in the autumn or winter, according to the government’s top scientific body. The warning comes as authorities seek to contain an increase in new cases over the past two weeks. “The situation is precarious and we could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control, like in Spain,” the French scientific committee said in a statement published by the health ministry. “It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter,” it said, adding that if people failed to respect social distancing rules, it could not rule out a return of the epidemic as soon as this summer.

French authorities have already started to tighten public hygiene rules, with cities such as Lille and Nice ordering people to wear masks in busy pedestrian streets. France has reported 3,376 new confirmed Covid-19 cases over the last three days and the number of people being treated in ICUs for the disease has started to creep higher.  Parisian city authorities want to make the wearing of face masks mandatory in certain outdoor areas in order to prevent a new spike of coronavirus infections. French media has reported that Mayor Anne Hidalgo would put in a formal request with the Paris prefecture about ordering the use of face coverings in specific areas, after the government on Friday gave local authorities the power to order the wearing of masks in outdoor public spaces

There are currently 79,501 active cases of the virus in France and 371 of those are described as serious or critical. Since the outbreak began, the country has reported 191,295 infections and 30,294 people have lost the battle with COVID-19

After strict lockdown measures pushed down infection rates, many European countries are now watching numbers creep back up, a consequence of easing curbs to try to limit economic damage and greater social mixing in the holiday season.

Germany is already contending with a second wave of the virus and risks squandering its early success because people have been flouting social-distancing rules, according to Susanne Johna, the president of Marburger Bund, which represents the country’s doctors. “We are already in a second, shallow upswing,” she told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper on Tuesday, urging people to continue to respect distancing and hygiene rules and wear masks despite an understandable desire to return to full normality.  Germany has reported 212,331 cases of coronavirus and 9,232 lives have been lost. Over 194,000 people have recovered and there are 8,399 active cases, 270 described as serious or critical.

Denmark’s state epidemiologist on Tuesday said he could not recommend proceeding to the next phase of reopening society during the coronavirus outbreak, according to reports from the media in the country. “It is not something that I can recommend from a healthcare perspective that you go ahead with,” Kare Molbak, director of Statens Serum Institut (the state serum institute) said according to reports. The government and parliament are due to begin discussing the fourth phase of reopening, including nightclubs, this month. The weekly number of people infected with Covid-19 in Denmark has risen in the past couple of weeks.  There have been 14,073 confirmed cases in the country since the outbreak began there and 616 people have died.  According to official sources, there are 742 active cases and 3 of those are described as serious or critical.

Poland has reported its fourth record daily increase in coronavirus cases in a week, with more than 30% of cases coming from the Silesia region in the south, which has been grappling with another outbreak among coal miners. The daily record comes as Poland considers introducing stricter restrictions, including mandatory testing for travellers returning to Poland and quarantine for those coming from certain countries. More than 220 cases were reported in Silesia. Sanitary services said last week that the resurgence of Covid-19 among miners is a result of loosening restrictions and the working conditions in mines, where it is difficult to enforce social distancing. Poland now has a total of 48,149 recorded coronavirus cases and 1,738 deaths. There are 11,355 active cases in the country and 65 of those are described as serious or critical.

On Tuesday, Iran confirmed over 2,700 new Covid-19 infections, its highest single-day count in more than a month, as the health ministry called for those without masks to be fined. Deaths and infections from the novel coronavirus have been on a rising trajectory in the Islamic republic since hitting a months-long low in May, according to reports. This has prompted Iran to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed spaces and reimpose restrictions lifted gradually since April to reopen the economy. Despite the rule, people without masks can still be seen inside the capitals’ shops and banks, and state television often criticises them for doing so. “In the past 24 hours, new confirmed cases were reported to be 2,751,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in televised remarks. The number is the highest since June 5, when the ministry reported 2,886 infections in one day.   There have been a total of 314,786 cases confirmed in Iran, the 10th highest caseload in the world and 17,617 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

Total number of cases worldwide – 18,491,649

Total number of deaths worldwide – 698,535

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 11,717,899

Active cases:

6,075,215 active cases,

6,010,631 in mild condition,

64,584 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 12,416,434

Information and statistics from

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

www.who.int

 

 

 

Tuesday 4th August 2020 by Louise Birch

 “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” (Helen Keller)

July was the worst month of the coronavirus pandemic so far for many countries, with more than 8 million cases recorded, nearly as many as the first six months of the outbreak put together, figures have shown.

With global infections passing 18 million on Monday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned over the weekend that the pandemic continues to accelerate, with cases doubling about every six weeks.

There might never be a “silver bullet” for Covid-19 in the form of a perfect vaccine, and the road to normality could be long, the WHO has said.

The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the emergencies chief, Mike Ryan, exhorted nations to rigorously enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing and testing.

“The message to people and governments is clear: ‘Do it all’,” Tedros told a virtual news briefing from the UN body’s headquarters in Geneva. He said face masks should become a symbol of solidarity round the world.

New Zealand has reported two new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, both diagnosed in travellers returning to the country who are quarantined in government-managed facilities.

It has been 94 days since a coronavirus case in New Zealand was last recorded as being acquired locally from an unknown source. There are 27 active cases in the country, all among returning travellers staying in the isolation facilities.  Returnees must spend two weeks at the hotels, where they are tested twice for Covid-19. Only New Zealanders and certain essential workers are permitted to enter the country. The two latest cases were diagnosed in a teenage boy returning from the United States and a man in his 20s arriving from Switzerland.  New Zealand has recorded a total of 1,565 confirmed cases of the virus, with 22 deaths. A swift, early lockdown of the country in March appears to have quashed its spread.

Honduras will extend its coronavirus curfew for another week until 9 August in an effort to curb the coronavirus pandemic according to reports citing the security ministry as the source. Honduras first imposed a curfew, which is in daily effect between 5pm and 7am, in March. The country has confirmed 42,685 cases of coronavirus and 1,368 people have lost their lives.  Honduras has a population of 9,917,550 and the number of confirmed infections equates to 4,304 cases per 1M populous.

Vietnam is rushing to build a 700-bed makeshift hospital to cope with a coronavirus outbreak in the central city of Da Nang, as the country’s health minister warned the current strain of the virus is more contagious than those previously seen in the country.

Nguyen Thanh Long said each person carrying the new strain may infect about 5-6 people, compared to 1.8-2.2 people during the country’s previous outbreak. Over recent months, the country has been praised for its success in preventing a major outbreak, thanks to its aggressive contact tracing and quarantine measures. It was on the brink of reaching 100 days without any community transmission, before cases were detected in Da Nang, a busy tourist hub. Last week, Vietnam recorded its first ever coronavirus-related fatality, linked to the outbreak in Da Nang. Since then, five more people have died bringing the total number of lives lost to 6.  There have been 620 confirmed coronavirus cases on Vietnam since the pandemic began.

Manila, the capital of the Philippines and its outlying districts are to go back into lockdown after medical groups warned the country was waging “a losing battle” against the coronavirus. Metropolitan Manila, the capital region of more than 12 million people, and five densely populated provinces will revert to stricter quarantine restrictions for two weeks starting Tuesday, the president’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said on Monday.

The move, which economic officials oppose, will again prohibit non-essential travel outside of homes. The President, Rodrigo Duterte, had relaxed the country’s lockdown on 1 June in an effort to restart the stalled economy.  Under the new restrictions, police checkpoints will return to ensure only authorised people, including medical personnel and workers in vital companies, venture out of their homes, said Eduardo Ano, the interior secretary. Other businesses previously allowed to partly reopen, including barbershops, internet cafes, gyms, dine-in restaurants, massage and tattoo shops, drive-in cinemas and tourist destinations, will again be closed.

One person is dying from Covid-19 every seven minutes in Iran, state television said on Monday, as the country’s health ministry reported 215 new deaths from the disease.

The combined death toll in Iran rose to 17,405 on Monday, Sima Sadat Lari, the health ministry spokeswoman, said, while the number of confirmed cases rose by 2,598 to 312,035. Of those, 270,228 have recovered. Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls. A report by the Iranian parliament’s research centre in April suggested that the coronavirus tolls might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry, according to some media reports. The report said that Iran’s official coronavirus figures were based only on the number of deaths in hospitals and those who had already tested positive for the coronavirus.

The number of coronavirus patients admitted to intensive care units in Belgium has doubled in a month and the epidemic is spreading “intensively”, health officials warned on Monday.  Belgium suffered one of the highest per capita rates of infection at the height of Covid-19’s progress through Europe but began easing lockdown measures in May after the disease peaked. Now, cases are climbing once again. “We can see that the virus is circulating intensively in our territory. The numbers continue to rise,” the federal virus taskforce spokeswoman, Frederique Jacobs, said. “There are no less than 13 municipalities in which more than 100 people per 100,000 inhabitants have tested positive, that’s one person in 1,000 infected as of last week.” On average 2.7 people died of Covid-19 every day in Belgium in the last week of July, up by about a third from two in the previous seven days. At the time of writing, 9,845 people have died since the epidemic arrived. Most of the new wave of infections are among young adults, but nevertheless, Jacobs said, “The number of people admitted to intensive care has doubled since the beginning of July.”

Some travellers arriving in Singapore will be required to wear electronic monitoring devices to ensure they are complying with quarantine restrictions, the city state’s government has announced. The devices, which use GPS and Bluetooth signals to track wearers, will be issued to people arriving from a select group of countries who will be allowed to isolate at home rather than at a state-appointed quarantine centre. Similar measures using electronic wristbands to track people’s’ movements during quarantine have been used in Hong Kong and South Korea. In Singapore, travellers will be ordered to activate the device when they reach their home. They will receive notifications on the device which they must acknowledge. Any attempt to leave home or tamper with the device will trigger an alert to the authorities. There are already tough punishments for breaching of quarantine and social distancing rules. Under the Infectious Diseases Act, lawbreakers can be fined up to S$10,000 ($7,272) or imprisoned for up to six months, or both. Singapore has also revoked the work passes of foreigners who flouted the rules.

Singapore has reported 53,051 coronavirus infections, one of south east Asia’s worst outbreaks, mostly due to mass outbreaks in cramped migrant workers’ dormitories, but imported cases have been creeping up in recent days. Twenty-seven people have died of Covid-19 there.

Total number of cases worldwide – 18,299,567

Total number of deaths worldwide – 693,975

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 11,507,626

Active cases:

6,097,966 active cases,

6,032,157 in mild condition,

65,809 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 12,201,601

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

Monday 3rd August 2020 by Louise Birch

“ I live in a crazy time” (Anne Frank)

This is a round up of the key developments around the globe over the weekend.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Saturday the coronavirus pandemic was likely to be “lengthy” after its emergency committee met to evaluate the crisis six months after sounding the international alarm.

South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus infections have reached 503,290, the fifth highest total in the world, according to figures released on Saturday. Cases in Africa as a whole have reached 949,098.

The number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in Belgium has doubled in one week, as an average of 448.1 people per day tested positive for Covid-19 in the last week of July.

Travellers entering France from 16 countries where coronavirus is spread widely must now undergo tests upon arrival at French airports and ports. French prime minister Jean Castex announced last month that the tests would be required as of 1 August for passengers France is allowing in from a list of approved countries, unless they present proof of a negative test done within 72 hours of their departure.  Those who test positive in France as of Saturday must quarantine for 14 days. France is not permitting general travel to and from the 16 countries, which include the US and Brazil.  The testing requirement therefore only applies to people entering under limited circumstances: those who are French citizens and who live in these countries, or citizens of these countries with an established residence in France. Along with the United States and Brazil, which are reporting tens of thousands of new cases each day, the countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Israel, India, South Africa, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Panama, Peru, Serbia, Turkey and Madagascar.  France has had 187,919 confirmed infections and 30,265 people have died as a result of Covid-19.

36 crew members confined on the Norwegian cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said on Saturday.  Arriving at the northern Norwegian port of Tromso from the archipelago of Svalbard, the crew of the MS Roald Amundsen was quarantined onboard the ship on Friday after four staff members tested positive for the virus and were hospitalised. Of the 158 crew members onboard, 120 tested negative. Five people will be retested.  Norway has recorded 9,253 infections and 255 people have lost their lives. The country has a population of 5,424,892 and the number of confirmed cases equates to1,706 cases per 1M population.

Nigerias commercial capital Lagos will allow churches and mosques to resume in-person services from 7 August, and restaurants, social clubs and recreational centres will also be allowed to reopen with limited capacity from 14 August as the state, the centre of Nigeria’s coronavirus outbreak, eases restrictions despite a continued rise in infections. Nigeria has confirmed 45,537 cases of coronavirus and 883 people have died. There are currently 22,567 active cases in the country and 7 of those are described as serious or critical.

Ireland’s chief medical officer described a recent spike in Covid-19 infections as “concerning”, as the average number of cases per day doubled from around 20 in recent weeks to over 40 over the past five days.  Ireland has confirmed 26,109 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak there and 1,763 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.  In a country with 4,942,447 people, the number of infections equates to 5,283 per 1M population.  Ireland is considering additional measures to limit non-essential travel in the wake of an uptick in coronavirus infections in recent days at home and elsewhere in Europe, according to the country’s health minister, Stephen Donnelly. Ireland already advises against all non-essential international travel and requires people arriving from all but 15 countries to self-isolate for 14 days, but it does not require tests from visitors and has not banned flights from any country.

Mexico reported a record number of new confirmed coronavirus infections on Saturday, registering more than 9,000 daily cases for the first time and passing the previous peak for the second day running, official data showed.  There are reports that Mexico’s health ministry announced 9,556 new cases of coronavirus, surging past the record of 8,458 set on Friday. The ministry also logged 784 additional fatalities, bringing the total tally in the country to 434,193 cases and 47,472 deaths. Mexico has struggled to contain the virus, and has since late May been trying to restart the economy, which in the April-June period contracted by more than 17% quarter-on-quarter. The government says the real number of infected people is likely considerably higher than the confirmed cases.  The new record in cases came a day after Mexico overtook Great Britain as the country with the third-highest number of deaths caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Austria has so far escaped the brunt of the pandemic, recording 21,304 coronavirus cases and around 718 deaths. However, new infections have risen again in recent weeks since tough virus-related restrictions have been largely lifted. One notable recent cluster is at the picturesque Lake Wolfgang, less than 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Salzburg.

Authorities insist the spread of the virus is under control at Sankt Wolfgang and elsewhere in the Alpine nation of nearly nine million people.

Residents in the Australian city of Melbourne will be subject to an overnight curfew for the next six weeks, and be banned from travelling more than 5km to go shopping or to exercise, as Victoria attempts to get the number of new coronavirus cases under control. Victoria state Premier, Daniel Andrews, announced that from 6pm on Sunday, residents in the Melbourne metropolitan area would be under curfew for six weeks until 13 September.

Coronavirus infections in the Philippines reached 103,185 on Sunday in a troubling milestone after medical groups declared that the country was waging a losing battle against the virus and asked the president to reimpose a lockdown in the capital. 2,059 people have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19. The Philippines has the second highest number of cases in south-east Asia after Indonesia, and has had more infections than China, where the pandemic began late last year.

Tokyo confirmed 292 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, after the number of cases rose by more than 400 in the past two days, according to Japan’s public broadcaster. Governor Koike Yuriko had said Tokyo could declare a state of emergency if the coronavirus situation in the Japanese capital deteriorates further, as debate deepened over how to respond to record increases in new infections.

Russia reported 5,427 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, bringing its nationwide tally to 850,870, the fourth largest caseload in the world. Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said 70 people had died over the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll in the country of about 145 million people to 14,128. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, had said that recent improvement in his country could quickly be reversed. “The number of coronavirus infections in Russia gradually decreased in June and July,” Putin said during a video conference with officials on Wednesday last week, adding that the number of new cases had halved since the peak in May.

A further five people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,347, NHS England said. Patients were aged between 52 and 86 years old, and all had known underlying health conditions. Another two deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

In Wales, authorities have said a further three people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of deaths in the country to 1,565. The number of cases in Wales increased by 37, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 17,279.

Scotland has recorded its seventeenth day without any new registered coronavirus deaths, as authorities reported 31 new cases. It brings the total number of positive cases to 18,676, according to figures released on Sunday.

The total number of confirmed cases across the United Kingdom has reached 303,952 and 46,193 people are reported to have died as a result of COVID-19.

Total number of cases worldwide – 18,093,870

Total number of deaths worldwide – 690,002

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 11,374,573

Active cases:

6,029,295 active cases,

5,963,500 in mild condition,

65,795 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 12,064,575

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com

 

 

 

 

Stories with a smile

Sunday 2nd August 2020 by Louise Birch

“What is another word for Thesaurus?”

This 144 year old wisteria in Japan looks like pink sky

Native to China, Korea and Japan, wisteria is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family, Fabaceae (Leguminosae) which includes 10 species of woody climbing vines.

Two Indian schoolgirls have discovered an asteroid which is slowly shifting its orbit and moving toward Earth.  Asteroids, also known as minor planets, are small rocky objects that orbit the sun.

Radhika Lakhani and Vaidehi Vekariya, both studying in 10th grade, were working on a school project when they discovered the asteroid, which they named HLV2514.

The girls, from the city of Surat in the western Indian state of Gujarat, were participating in a Space India and NASA project, which allows students to analyse images taken by a telescope positioned at the University of Hawaii.  “We started the project in June and we sent back our analysis a few weeks ago to NASA. On July 23, they sent us an email confirming that we had identified a near Earth object,” Vekariya, who is 15 years old, told reporters.  The asteroid is currently close to the orbit of Mars — but in 1 million years, it will change its orbit and move closer to Earth, although it will still be at a distance of more than 10 times the distance which exists between the Earth and the Moon.  Asteroids are taken very seriously by NASA. Since this asteroid is changing its orbit it has become news.  Vekariya said pupils could not celebrate the discovery, due to the pandemic, but added: “This was a dream. I want to become an astronaut.”  She said: “It is such a vast topic. There is no limit to search in space, especially the black hole theory.”

Conservationists have captured footage of endangered tigers in a region of western Thailand for the first time in four years. The footage of the big cats is rekindling hope that tigers are returning to the forests of the country after being poached to near extinction and sold in the illegal wildlife trade. Remote camera traps captured three young Indochinese tigers in February and March. In one shot, a curious tiger comes right up to the camera to check out the device.

Released to coincide with Global Tiger Day, the images were captured as part of a joint monitoring program between Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), global wild cat conservation organisation Panthera and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

 

Most of us know the adage, “You can’t go home again,” but it seems Juan Manuel Ballestero never got the memo.  As the true implications of the Covid-19 crisis grew increasingly dire, Ballestero wanted more than anything else to be reunited with his elderly parents in Argentina in time for his father’s upcoming 90th birthday.

The problem? Ballestero was in Portugal and all international flights had been cancelled.

With a daunting 5,600 miles and the Atlantic Ocean between him and his family, Ballestero was faced with a seemingly insurmountable dilemma. But, the 47-year-old mariner came up with a daring solution—he’d simply sail home. Sensing time was of the essence, Ballestero feared the local port would soon begin restricting travel as well. The urgency of the situation left him with no window to second-guess his decision: Within 24 hours he decided to take the one-way ticket—and there was no going back. He’d been right, too. By the time he was ready to embark, authorities on the tiny Portuguese island of Porto Santo warned him that if he left, he could not return.

Like that of Odysseus, Ballestero’s voyage wasn’t without hardships or danger. His food supply dwindled, and authorities at Cape Verde, the port where he’d hoped to restock, refused him entry. Once past the equator, he ran out of fuel and was left to rely purely on wind power. On day 38, he ran out of wine. Then, the wind quit, leaving his sailboat sitting in the doldrums for 10 days. During that time, barnacles grew on the hull—which would create drag and slow him down. So he was forced to dive under the vessel and scrape them off, risking a shark attack. With no one aboard to help should he run into trouble, the situation was potentially perilous, but Ballestero proved lucky. The wind eventually picked up again, allowing him to resume course.

As the journey dragged on, Ballestero’s faith was continually challenged, but he never truly panicked. “I wasn’t afraid, but I did have a lot of uncertainty. It was very strange to sail in the middle of a pandemic with humanity teetering around me,” he told The Times. “Faith keeps you standing in these situations.”

While Ballestero endured numerous adversities, the voyage also afforded him glimpses of Mother Nature’s grace as well. For most of the final leg of his crossing, a playful pod of dolphins provided welcome company, racing alongside him.

By the time Ballestero reached home, 85 days had elapsed. Immediately upon entering the port, he was tested for COVID-19 and cleared. Exhausted but ecstatic, Juan Manuel and his dad were reunited just in time for Father’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 1st August 2020 by Louise Birch

“August is the month of the high-sailing hawk, the hen hawk is the most noticeable.  He likes the haze and calm of these long warm days. He is a bird of leisure and seems always at his ease.  How beautiful and majestic are his movements!” (John Burroughs)

Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made the following comments at a recent press briefing, he is a wise man!

“The pandemic does not mean life has to stop.

We must all learn to live with the virus, and to take the steps necessary to live our lives, while protecting ourselves and others, especially those at highest risk of COVID-19. As you know, one of those groups is older people, especially those living in long-term care facilities.

Although older people are at a higher risk of severe disease, younger people are at risk too.

One of the challenges we face is convincing younger people of this risk.

Evidence suggests that spikes of cases in some countries are being driven in part by younger people letting down their guard during the northern hemisphere summer.

We have said it before and well say it again: young people are not invincible.

Young people can be infected; young people can die; and young people can transmit the virus to others.

That’s why young people must take the same precautions to protect themselves and protect others as everyone else. They can be leaders – they should be leaders and drivers of change.

All of us have a role to play in reducing our risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Every day, we all make decisions that affect our health and the health of those around us, in many ways.”

The World Health Organisation has warned that spikes in coronavirus transmission in a number of countries were being driven by young people “letting down their guard”.

In France, while far below the peak of crisis, the “R” rate of viral transmission (one of the key measures of how fast the virus is spreading) has risen to 1.3 nationwide. That means 10 infected people are infecting 13 others on average.  The mayor of Saint-Malo, whose walled city has drawn tens of thousands of French tourists who opted to stay in the country for the summer holidays, said masks were now mandatory inside the old city and on the ramparts for everyone aged 11 and over. “Masks are essential protection for limiting the virus’s spread,” Mayor Gilles Lurton said, after health authorities said the Ille-et-Vilaine region had 44 new cases on Wednesday alone. Starting yesterday (Friday), masks are required in open-air markets in Orleans, central France, and after 9:00 pm along the Loire river, where crowds of people have been gathering in the evenings.  The mayors of Bayonne and the nearby Atlantic resort of Biarritz have announced that face masks would be compulsory in their city centres starting next week. Biarritz will also ban access to its beaches at night to prevent parties being held there.  France’s health authorities have confirmed a “marked increase” in the number of coronavirus cases of 54% across the mainland, excluding overseas territories, in a week.

England has reintroduced lockdown measures over large areas of the north of the country after a surge in cases. The country’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, says the increases have been caused largely by people “not abiding to social distancing”. On Thursday night he said from midnight people from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Leicester would not be able to meet each other indoors.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced he will reverse a decision to relax a range of lockdown measures due to come into force in England on Saturday, including cancelling plans to allow a full range of beauty treatments. The further easing of lockdown restrictions in England that were due on 1 August for higher risk settings, including allowing small wedding receptions and the reopening of bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos, has been postponed for at least two weeks, he said. Furthermore, Indoor performances will not resume, pilots of crowds in sports centres will not take place, and wedding receptions of more than 30 people will not be permitted.

Spain has recorded its highest daily increase in the number of coronavirus cases since lockdown was lifted on 21 June. Over 1,200 new infections were reported in one day this week, topping 1,000 for the second day in a row.  Spain has already seen a number of localised restrictions introduced to control the virus. The average daily count is more than 1,900 cases per day over the past seven days, a figure which has more than tripled in two weeks, prompting Spain’s autonomous regions to step up measures. Britain, France and Germany have all advised against travel to certain parts of Spain, in a major blow to the country’s tourism sector.

Lithuania said it will impose a two-week quarantine on travellers arriving from France starting Monday after a surge in coronavirus cases there. The Baltic state’s chief epidemiologist Loreta Asokliene told reporters Friday that France is the latest addition to a Lithuanian list of countries that have seen at least 16 new confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the last two weeks. The updated “black list” requiring all incoming travellers, including Lithuanian citizens, to self-isolate for two weeks will include 12 EU member states as of Monday, she added. The others are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden. With a population of 2,718,842, Lithuania has a case rate of 763 infections per 1M populous.  There have been 2,075 confirmed cases and 80 people have lost their lives to COVID-19.  Out of 351 active cases, 6 are described as serious or critical.

Germany has added three northern Spanish regions to its list of high-risk destinations, meaning anyone arriving from those areas will have to produce a negative coronavirus test or go into quarantine for 14 days. Germany’s foreign ministry said it had toughened up its warning against travel to the regions of Catalonia, Navarre and Aragon following a spike in COVID-19 cases there.  The move comes after Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control added the three regions to its high-risk list.  “A mandatory quarantine can only be avoided through a negative COVID-19 test,” the ministry said.

The ministry had on Tuesday already advised against non-essential travel to the three regions but Friday’s tightened restrictions underline the growing alarm about returning holidaymakers bringing the virus back with them. The affected regions include the tourist hotspots of Barcelona and the beaches of the Costa Brava.  Germany has recorded 209,980 confirmed cases and 9,221 people have lost the battle with COVID-19.

Japan has recorded a record high for new cases for the second day in a row. At least 1,274 cases were reported on Thursday, including a record 367 in Tokyo, where officials are considering issuing its own version of a state of emergency depending on the number of cases in the coming days.  The governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, has warned that the Japanese capital could declare a state of emergency if the coronavirus outbreak continued to worsen, after new cases reached a record single-day high of 463 on Friday.

“If the situation worsens, Tokyo would have to think about issuing its own state of emergency,” Koike said, a day after she called on bars, restaurants and karaoke venues to close early, at 10pm, from Monday until the end of August.

Brazil recorded 57,837 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the 24 hours preceding the writing of this report, as well as 1,129 deaths, the Health Ministry reported. Brazil has registered more than 2.6 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 91,377, according to official figures.

Mexico’s health ministry posted 639 new deaths from coronavirus, bringing the country’s toll to 46,000, one more than the United Kingdom, at the time of writing . Total confirmed infections in Mexico stand at 416,179 cases, up 7,730, according to figures released by WHO.  The country has 97,992 active cases and 3,922 of those are considered serious or critical.

Vietnam has reported 45 new coronavirus infections in the city of Danang, marking the country’s biggest single-day jump in cases, as the health ministry sent more health experts to the central city in a bid to combat the outbreak. There are reports that the new patients, aged between 27 and 87, are linked to three hospitals and two clinics in Danang, a tourism hot spot where Vietnam last week detected its first locally transmitted infections in more than three months, the ministry said in a statement. The health ministry has sent a special task force of health experts, along with more than 1,000 health workers, to Danang to help handle the deteriorating situation there. The newly confirmed cases in Danang have brought up the total number of cases in Vietnam to 546.  Sadly, a 70-year-old man has died after contracting Covid-19 in Vietnam, the first coronavirus-related death to be recorded in the country, which has been widely praised for its response to the pandemic.  Vietnam responded quickly to the outbreak in January and used extensive contact tracing and strict quarantine rules to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Philippines health ministry on Friday confirmed 4,063 new coronavirus infections, reporting the highest daily case increase in south-east Asia for a second straight day.

In a bulletin, the ministry said the total number of confirmed infections have risen to 93,354, while deaths increased by 40 to 2,023. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has announced maintained coronavirus restrictions in the capital Manila and some provinces for a further two weeks to try to control the spread of the virus.

 

Total number of cases worldwide – 17,553,319

Total number of deaths worldwide – 678,098

Total number of recovered cases worldwide – 10,998,758

Active cases:

5,876,463 active cases,

5,810,184 in mild condition,

66,279 described as serious or critical.

Closed cases – 11,676,856

Information and statistics from

www.who.int

www.worldometers.info

www.theguardian.com

www.covid19.who.int

www.reuters.com