Irish backstop –
More than 14.1 million cases of coronavirus have been recorded worldwide with more than 602,650 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
The following is a summary of the latest developments on the virus around the world:
Americans debated mask mandates and the reopening of schools during the coronavirus pandemic on Friday as state and local officials imposed conflicting orders and cases rose by more than 70,000 across the nation for the second day in a row.The United States recorded a total of at least 70,674 new Covid-19 infections on Friday after climbing by a record 77,499 a day earlier, the largest increase posted by any country since the pandemic started, according to a Reuters tally. US deaths on Friday rose by at least 912, the fourth day in a row that fatalities have exceeded 900 a day.
In the state of Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp sued Atlanta’s mayor to prevent her from mandating masks.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a plan to offer both in-person and remote instruction at the nation’s third-largest school district, over the objection of the teachers’ union, which wants remote learning only.
Americans have become divided along political lines over mask orders, with conservatives more likely than liberals to call the rules a violation of their Constitutional rights.
“Everybody saying that (wearing a mask) is a violation of their freedom – no, it’s not. Because a seatbelt is mandated and that’s to save your life,” said Sharon Taylor (48) a cardiothoracic nurse in Atlanta.
President Donald Trump said that while he supports the use of masks as protection against the coronavirus he does not believe that wearing a face covering should be mandatory for the nation. “I want people to have a certain freedom,” Mr Trump said in an interview with Fox News, an excerpt of which was broadcast by the network ahead of its full airing on Sunday. Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, urged political leaders to “be as forceful as possible in getting your citizenry to wear masks.”
With school set to resume in a few weeks, local officials across the country have announced a variety of plans to resume teaching.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, who until now has allowed school districts in the nation’s most populous state to set their own policies, said on Friday schools could reopen only in counties that for 14 days have stayed off a worsening trends watch list.
As of Friday, 30 of the state’s 58 counties were on the list and schools there must remain closed. Among them are Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego counties, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the state’s population.
The United States has been averaging about 60,000 cases a day in July with cases rising in 41 states on Friday, based on a Reuters analysis. Texas and Arkansas reported a record number of deaths on Friday, while Kansas, Ohio, North Dakota and Puerto Rico reported record numbers of infections.
Mr Trump has urged a return to normal, stressing the importance of reigniting the economy. The Trump administration and some health experts argue children are better off in classrooms for their development, and also to allow parents to return to work.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Saturday delayed the opening of parliament for several weeks as the new coronavirus continued spreading through the country’s two most populous states.
Mr Morrison asked the speaker of the parliament to cancel a two-week session due to start on August 4th, out of concern about the Covid-19 pandemic. The request was seen as a formality as the speaker is a member of Morrison’s Liberal Party and the opposition Labor Party accepted the call.
Lawmakers are to meet at the next planned session on August 24th.
Victoria state reported 217 new infections after a record 428 cases on Friday. Neighbouring New South Wales, the most populous state, which has also been struggling to contain a new wave of infections, saw 15 new cases.Victoria forced nearly five million people into a partial lockdown for six weeks on July 9th, as expectations of harsher social-distancing restrictions were growing with the virus continuing to spread. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews left open the possibility of further curbs, urging people not to leave their houses except for work, exercise or essential shopping.
South Africa on Saturday could join the US, Brazil, India and Russia as the most badly hit countries, as its cases near 350,000. Current case trends show it will surpass Peru. It comes as the world marks Mandela Day, remembering South Africa’s first black president and his legacy of fighting inequality. The country, however, remains the world’s most unequal, and health officials have warned that the pandemic will lay that bare. “The simple fact is that many South Africans are sitting ducks because they cannot comply with World Health Organisation protocols on improved hygiene and social distancing,” the foundation of former South African archbishop and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah, said in a statement. South Africa’s new epicentre, Gauteng province, is home to one-quarter of the country’s population, with many poor people living in crowded conditions. The country’s cases make up roughly half of all on the African continent. Its struggles are a sign of trouble to come for less-resourced nations there.
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India became the third country in the world to record more than one million coronavirus cases on Friday. It has been grappling with an average of almost 30,000 new infections each day for the last week. A surge of 34,884 new cases was reported as local governments continue to re-impose focused lockdowns in several parts of the country, only allowing essential food supplies and health services.
One day after Brazil surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the outbreak has reached a plateau in the country. “The rise in Brazil is no longer exponential,” WHO executive director Michael Ryan said in a press conference Friday. “There is a plateau, there is an opportunity here now for Brazil to push the disease down, to suppress the transmission of the virus, to take control,” he said, adding that it will take “sustained, concerted action.”
“The numbers have stabilised, but what they haven’t done is start to fall in a systematic, day-by-day way,” Mr Ryan said. “ Brazil is still very much in the middle of this fight.”
The Latin American nation trails only the US in coronavirus infections and deaths globally, with almost 78,000 fatalities. The country’s response – no national guidelines, two health ministers who departed and a leader that has often belittled the disease – has been criticised by health experts and by the WHO itself. On Friday, Brazil reported 34,177 new cases and 1,163 deaths from the disease. The country, home to 210 million people, has registered over 260,000 infections in each of the past two weeks, the highest tallies since the virus was first reported locally in late February. Deaths have hovered above 7,000 a week for about a month.
British prime minister Boris Johnson has held out the prospect of a “significant return to normality” by Christmas as he announced a fresh easing of lockdown restrictions in England on Friday – but his roadmap was met with a backlash from business leaders and claims he is making policy “on a wing and prayer”. After four months of encouraging the public to work from home to help contain the spread of coronavirus, the prime minister said from August 1st the onus would be on employers to decide whether staff could safely come back to the office. His blueprint could lead to a return for gigs, theatre performances and business conferences in the coming months. A lifting of restrictions on attendance at football matches could happen in October, Mr Johnson said, and it “may conceivably be possible to move away from the social distancing measures” by November. Mr Johnson said local lockdowns would be implemented quickly where needed, and he unveiled plans to hand local authorities greater powers. He was careful not to claim that his proposals had been endorsed by the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, and the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance. Meanwhile, British ministers are making plans to distribute millions of free coronavirus antibody tests after a version backed by the government passed its first major trials, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported late on Friday.
Rest of Europe
The reproduction rate of the coronavirus in France’s Brittany region has risen sharply in less than a week.
Catalonia urged some four million people to stay home in response to surging virus cases. Spain overall reported 628 new cases on Friday, its highest daily increase since the beginning of May, with Catalonia and neighbouring Aragon accounting for the bulk of the new clusters. However the rise was still well below the numbers seen at the height of the pandemic.
Belgium may be at the start of a second wave of coronavirus infections after reporting a 32 per cent increase in weekly cases, virologists said.
Czech authorities tightened restrictions in the northeast of the country after a spike in infections.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 529 to 201,372, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.The country’s reported death toll rose by one to 9,083, the tally showed.
Russia said cases rose 0.8 per cent, the lowest daily increase since recording of data on the outbreak began in March. The 6,234 new confirmed infections in the past day bring the total to 765,437, according to data from the Russian government’s virus response center.
Some 25 million Iranians are estimated to have contracted the coronavirus so far and up to 35 million more are at the risk of getting the infection, president Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Saturday, citing a health ministry report. Iran has recorded nearly 13,800 deaths and 270,000 confirmed cases since it detected its first case five months ago. Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the Middle East with more than 270,000 confirmed cases. Experts believe the true numbers around the world are higher because of testing shortages.
In China, the number of confirmed cases in a new Covid-19 outbreak in the far western region of Xinjiang has risen to 17. The Covid-19 death toll remains at 4,634.
In Bangladesh, confirmed cases surpassed 200,000 but experts say the number is much higher as the country lacks adequate labs for testing. Most people in rural areas have stopped wearing masks and are thronging shopping centres ahead of the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha later this month.
South Korea approved an early stage clinical trial of Celltrion Inc’s experimental Covid-19 treatment drug, making it the country’s first such antibody drug to be tested on humans.
Tokyo saw a third straight day of more than 200 new cases. Infections totaled 290 on Saturday, public broadcaster NHK said, citing sources at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. That’s close to the record 293 cases reported a day earlier. Officials in Japan have so far resisted reimposing additional restrictions. There’s no need to declare a state of emergency right now and the Tokyo medical system isn’t under pressure, Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Friday.– Guardian, PA, Reuters, Bloomberg
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