Coronavirus live news: France unveils new 'danger zones' map; Dutch daily infections hit new high

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New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera has cancelled its entire up.....o 429,193.

New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera has cancelled its entire upcoming season and said it would remain closed until September 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, a sign of the continuing struggles for live entertainment.

The 3,800-seat opera house normally stages more than 200 performances each season and welcomes nearly 800,000 visitors.

The organisation said in a statement:

We regret to inform you that the Metropolitan Opera has made the extremely difficult decision to cancel the entirety of the 2020-21 season, based on the advice of health officials who advise the Met and Lincoln Center.

Because of the many hundreds of performers who are required to rehearse and perform in close quarters and because of the company’s large audience, it was determined that it would not be safe for the Met to resume until a vaccine is widely in use, herd immunity is established, and the wearing of masks and social distancing is no longer a medical requirement.

The Met said it had ambitious plans for a new season beginning in September 2021 with the premiere of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut up in my Bones, the first opera by a Black composer to be performed at the Met.

Operators of Broadway theatres, among the biggest tourist attractions in New York, currently aim to reopen in January 2021.

An Israeli hospital has transformed its car park into a ward as doctors confront a surge in coronavirus cases.

Michael Halberthal, general director of the Rambam Health Care Campus, expressed his frustration that his hospital in the northern city of Haifa has been pushed to take such a dramatic step.

“(It’s) extremely unfortunate that we have to get to this position,” he said.

Just days after management approved the decision, the underground car park has become a ward, complete with beds and wheelchairs - parking spaces have been converted into patient bays.

A technician prepares beds in the underground car park of Rambam Health Care Campus which was transformed into an intensive care facility for coronavirus patients.
A technician prepares beds in the underground car park of Rambam Health Care Campus which was transformed into an intensive care facility for coronavirus patients. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The new ward will be ready to open on Thursday, according to hospital officials, and can accommodate 770 coronavirus patients.

A string of hospitals that have seen their coronavirus wards hit capacity since the government imposed the country’s latest nationwide lockdown on Friday.

Authorities in Israel, which has seen one of the world’s highest per capita rates of coronavirus infections in the past two weeks, imposed a new nationwide lockdown on 18 September 18.
Authorities in Israel, which has seen one of the world’s highest per capita rates of coronavirus infections in the past two weeks, imposed a new nationwide lockdown on 18 September 18. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Israel has the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate as a proportion of its population, according to an AFP tally of the past fortnight, and on Wednesday the health ministry announced nearly 7,000 positive cases over 24 hours.

The country has recorded more than 200,000 cases since the pandemic hit, with 1,317 deaths.

Israel’s second wave of cases has hit particularly hard in the country’s north, home to much of the Arab minority that makes up around 20% of the population.

Updated

Four more Guatemalan officials have tested positive for Covid-19, after Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei and a culture minister were revealed last week to have contracted the virus.

The 64-year-old president said in a televised message on Wednesday that he had endured a “pretty terrible” night and woke up with body pains.

Giammattei added that the general subsecretary of the presidency and the viceminister of international relations had both tested positive.

Authorities told Reuters later that two other government advisors had also tested positive, bringing the total number of Covid-19 cases in the upper ranks of government to at least six.

Giammattei, the fourth Latin American leader to contract the coronavirus, announced he was infected just as the country was easing draconian travel restrictions imposed months ago to contain infections.

Guatemala in total has registered 87,442 cases and 3,154 deaths.

Britain said it was working with partners on the potential for “human challenge” clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, where volunteers are deliberately infected with the virus to test the effectiveness of vaccine candidates, confirming an FT report.

A government spokeswoman said:

We are working with partners to understand how we might collaborate on the potential development of a Covid-19 vaccine through human challenge studies.

These discussions are part of our work to research ways of treating, limiting and hopefully preventing the virus so we can end the pandemic sooner.

Germany has added the French regions of Centre-Val de Loire, Brittany and Normandy, as well as the metropolitan region centred on the Portuguese capital Lisbon, to the list of destinations to which it warned against travel.

It has warned against travel to most of neighbouring Czech Republic following a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country, the Foreign Ministry said.

“Currently, a warning is in force against non-essential, touristic trips to Czechia with the exceptions of the Ustecky and Moravia-Silesia regions,” the ministry said in a statement.

Germany warns against travel to regions within the EU where the rate of Covid-19 infections exceeds the level of 50 per 100,000 population in a week.

Large parts of France, including the capital Paris, are already subject to travel warnings.

France tightens virus measures and unveils new "danger zones" map

France’s health minister has unveiled a map of coronavirus “danger zones” around the country, with bars and restaurants closed from Saturday in Marseille.

Olivier Véran told a news conference the country would be divided into zones by alert level with Marseille, the second-largest city, and the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe for now the only two areas put on the “maximum” alert level.

Paris and its suburbs along with Lille, Toulouse and six other cities were declared “reinforced danger zones”, Véran added.

“Should the sanitary situation worsen further in those areas, then a state of health emergency would be put in place”, the minister said.

Like other European countries where the infection rate has soared in the past month, France has been gradually tightening limits on public and private gatherings locally, hoping it will be enough to contain the disease and avoid a second national lockdown.

After a summer lull, president Emmanuel Macron’s government has been keen to let local authorities adopt measures locally depending on the severity of Covid-19 outbreaks, rather than taking broad measures from the central government in Paris.

In Paris and the other cities now labelled “reinforced danger zones”, attendance at major events will be limited to 1,000 people from the 5,000 allowed now, pre-planned events such as student parties will be banned, and bars and restaurants will have to close at 10pm at the latest.

Two government sources said Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo had strongly resisted restrictions on the opening hours of bars and cafes in the capital, arguing that this would be economically devastating for the sector.

Among other measures, there will be a ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people and, in “maximum” alert level areas like Marseille, bars and restaurants will be closed from Saturday.

Updated

Weather disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic have simultaneously hit tens of millions of people worldwide this year, making them more vulnerable to both threats and hampering emergency response, the Red Cross has said.

In a new analysis, the international humanitarian agency said about 70% of the 132 disasters linked to extreme weather in 2020 had coincided in place and time with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Globally, more than 51 million people - likely an underestimate - had been recorded as directly affected by an overlap of floods, droughts or storms and the pandemic, with nearly 3,500 people killed in the weather events, it said.

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:

The climate crisis has not stopped for Covid-19, and millions of people have suffered from the two crises colliding.

We have had absolutely no choice but to address both crises simultaneously.

While not all weather disasters have a direct link with global warming, the climate is becoming more volatile and weather more extreme as the planet heats up, he added.

The report, produced with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, said the pandemic was complicating efforts to evacuate people, including a need for more shelters to respect distancing and prevent infection.

Disrupted global supply chains have also slowed the flow of relief aid and recovery equipment, the report said, and the pandemic has increased the need for financial humanitarian assistance at a time of deep global downturn.

The places where the colliding threats have shown up most clearly are India and Bangladesh, where almost 40 million people were affected by the pandemic and monsoon floods or storms.

The analysis also looked at the intersection between heatwaves and Covid-19. Nearly 432 million vulnerable people, including the elderly and infants, have struggled with the twin threat this year, including many in Europe and North America, it noted.

On the West Coast of the United States, meanwhile, more than 2 million people have had to deal with major wildfires and the pandemic together, with smoke potentially hiking the likelihood of lung infections including Covid-19, the report said.

Los Angeles county firefighters keep watch on the Bobcat Fire as it burns through the night in Juniper Hills, California on 19 September.
Los Angeles county firefighters keep watch on the Bobcat Fire as it burns through the night in Juniper Hills, California on 19 September. Photograph: Gene Blevins/Reuters

Rocca said the Red Cross welcomed a rise in the number of volunteers helping out in their communities, particularly in developed Western countries, as well as a rise in donations for the Covid-19 response.

But Richard Blewitt, the IFRC’s permanent observer to the United Nations, warned of a “major gap” in funding for other humanitarian crises, such as the current flooding in Sudan.

Wealthy countries may also not deliver the $100bn they had promised this year to help poorer countries tackle climate change, he added. Rocca said:

The massive global investment in recovering from the pandemic proves governments can act decisively and drastically in the face of imminent global threats. We urgently need this same energy on climate.

The governor of Brazil’s São Paulo state, João Doria, said the state is likely to start to immunise its population with China’s Sinovac vaccine for Covid-19 in mid-December, pending regulatory approval.

Brazil has the third-highest number of cases of coronavirus in the world, leading vaccine makers to seek out the country to test their candidates.

São Paulo is one of the sites of Phase III clinical trials for the Sinovac vaccine conducted by the state’s Butantan Institute, a leading biomedical research centre.

Doria told a news conference 5m doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in São Paulo, the country’s most populous state, in October.

The state has a deal with Sinovac for 60m doses to be delivered by the end of February, which Doria said is enough to vaccinate the state’s entire population.

Sinovac’s Latin America head, Xing Han, said the results of the Phase III trials should be out in two months.

Brazilian state governments have been aggressive in courting vaccine makers, with Bahia and Parana states striking deals to test and buy or produce the Russian Sputnik 5 vaccine.

Pfizer and partner BioNTech received Brazilian regulatory approval last week to expand trials of their vaccine in São Paulo and Bahia states.

The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford has a production and distribution deal with the federal biomedical research institute Fiocruz and it is also being tested in Brazil by the federal university of Sao Paulo.

France again reports more than 13,000 new daily Covid-19 cases

French health authorities reported 13,072 new confirmed Covid-19 cases over 24 hours on Wednesday, the daily tally standing above the 13,000 threshold for the third time in six days.

The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 infections was up by 43, to a total of 31,459, and the cumulative number of cases now stands at 481,141.

New York City officials are working to address a rise in Covid-19 cases in parts of Brooklyn and Queens that is raising “a lot of concern”.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the new outbreaks, including a large cluster in three Brooklyn neighbourhoods, accounted for about 20% of confirmed positive cases citywide.

“We’re seeing a serious uptick in multiple neighbourhoods simultaneously and it’s something we have to address with a very aggressive public health effort right away,” de Blasio told reporters, adding that the Sheriff’s Office and the New York police department would help tackle the spread.

Dr Mitch Katz, the CEO of New York City’s public healthcare system, said the city would distribute masks, gloves and hand sanitiser while officials will ask religious leaders to reinforce key public health messages.

Robocalls in English and Yiddish and sound trucks will urge residents to physically distance and wear a face covering, Katz said.

Brooklyn is home to many Orthodox Jews, a community that has been hard-hit by the coronavirus and where compliance with restrictions has been at times problematic.

After becoming the global centre of the pandemic in the spring, the city’s positive test rate has fallen to below 1%.

However, in the borough of Queens, positive cases have risen to 2.24% in Kew Gardens and 3.69% in Edgemere-Far Rockaway.

In Brooklyn, officials are concerned about Williamsburg, with a 2% positive rate, and a southern part of the borough that includes Midwood, Borough Park and Bensonhurst that officials are calling the Ocean Parkway Cluster, where the positive rate is 4.71%, the health department said.

Overall, there has been a slight uptick in coronavirus cases in New York City over the last two months. On 14 September, the city reported 380 new cases, the highest since 20 July. However, the average percent of tests coming back positive has remained virtually unchanged since August, according to city data.

Hi everyone, this is Jessica Murray taking over the blog for the next few hours.

Please do send across your story tips and any personal experiences you would like to share

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @journojess_

The New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square will be virtual this year in a scaled back, socially distanced celebration, the organisers of the iconic New York City event said on Wednesday. They said a very limited group of in-person honorees would attend the event.

Updated

Switzerland has quarantined the entire undergraduate body of one of its premier hospitality management schools just days after their return from summer recess, regional officials said on Wednesday, following a Covid-19 outbreak linked to one or more parties.

All 2,500 undergraduate students at the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne must remain in their housing, including on-campus accommodation, until 28 September, authorities for the canton of Vaud said in a statement.

That followed a number of major outbreaks among the student body which had made it impossible to trace which students had came into contact with the virus.

The festivities that Swiss authorities believe to be the origin of the outbreak had been held before Vaud - which has recorded more infections than any other Swiss canton - introduced stricter measures on 17 September.

Those included the closure of night clubs and a ban on private events of more than 100 people, as well as mandatory mask-wearing in public locations indoors.

Like many European countries, Switzerland has seen a resurgence of cases since lockdown measures were eased and some international travel resumed over the summer months. Cases since the start of the epidemic recently surpassed 50,000.

At roughly 33 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last week, it remains less affected than a number of nearby countries currently at or nearer their peak figures.

It has taken a regional approach on many precautionary measures, leaving cantonal authorities free to impose them as deemed fit.

Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne said it was working with regional medical authorities to support the affected students, who thus far had only reported minor symptoms, and would continue teaching remotely throughout the quarantine period. In a statement it said:

Important measures have been put in place on campus to ensure the highest health standards and to limit the spread of the virus as much as possible.

It said disciplinary measures had been taken against the students who had organised the privately held parties.

Updated

Summary

  • The UK recorded 6,178 new coronavirus cases, close to the highest daily figure ever recorded (6,201 on 1 May). However, there are more than twice as many tests taking place every day now as there were then. So, even though the case numbers are now similar, that does not mean the spread of the virus is the same because in the spring more positive cases were being missed.
  • Belgium is to ease coronavirus restrictions despite a sharp increase in cases. The prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, said that, from 1 October, people who have had contact with an infected person would only have to quarantine for seven days, and face masks would no longer be mandatory everywhere outside. The country of 11 million people recorded on average 1,374 new cases per day over the past week. In early July, there were about 80 a day.
  • Confirmed daily coronavirus cases in the Netherlands hit a record high with 2,357 confirmed over the previous 24 hours, taking the Dutch tally to 100,597 since February.
  • Organisers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics will require Covid-19 tests for non-Japanese athletes and other participants upon arrival in Japan, according to a draft of measures proposed by organisers. Japanese Olympic athletes and other participants living in Japan will be subject to the same measures, according to the draft measures still under discussion.
  • Singapore will pilot a new travel pass for senior executives in the city-state who need to travel regularly for business, authorities said as they further eased some coronavirus-related restrictions. The number of passes will be limited initially, and travellers must stick to their declared itinerary, the government said. Upon return, pass holders must self-isolate while awaiting results of a swab test, instead of undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine at home or at a hotel.

Updated

The UK has recorded 6,178 new coronavirus cases, according to today’s daily update to the government’s coronavirus dashboard. That is a big increase on yesterday’s figure (4,926) and close to the highest daily figure ever recorded (6,201 on 1 May).

But, as my colleague Andrew Sparrow writes, comparisons with the spring are misleading. There are more than twice as many tests taking place every day now as there were then. So, even though the case numbers are now similar, that does not mean the spread of the virus is the same because in the spring more positive cases were being missed.

The daily dashboard also shows the UK has recorded another 37 deaths. This is the highest daily recorded total since mid July, and it takes the government’s tally to 41,862. But this figure only covers people who have died within 28 days of testing positive. The total number of people in the UK who have died from confirmed or suspected coronavirus is more than 57,600.

Our UK coronavirus and politics live blog is here:

Updated

While the countries in the west wait on tenterhooks for a vaccine to combat what is becoming a newly resurgent coronavirus pandemic, Russia is on its way to approving its second.

The Russian news agency TASS reports that the registration procedure of the vaccine against the coronavirus developed by the Vector research centre is planned to be completed by 15 October.

After the registration of the vaccine, clinical trials will start with the participation of volunteers aged over 60 as well as those with chronic illnesses.

A boy walks past coronavirus-themed street art in Gaza city.
A boy walks past coronavirus-themed street art in Gaza city. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The UN and the World Health Organization have called on governments to take action against an “infodemic” of misinformation and disinformation about the global coronavirus outbreak.

In a joint statement, the agencies said governments should “develop and implement action plans” to manage information about the virus “promoting the timely dissemination of accurate information, based on science and evidence” and “preventing the spread, and combating, mis- and disinformation while respecting freedom of expression”.

We further call on all other stakeholders – including the media and social media platforms through which mis- and disinformation are disseminated, researchers and technologists who can design and build effective strategies and tools to respond to the infodemic, civil society leaders and influencers – to collaborate with the UN system, with member states and with each other, and to further strengthen their actions to disseminate accurate information and prevent the spread of mis- and disinformation.

The statement reiterates a resolution passed at the World Health Assembly in May, calling on member states to recognise “that managing the infodemic is a critical part of controlling the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Social media companies have already taken steps to limit access to information that runs counter to advice disseminated by the WHO, leading to accusations of censorship from some quarters.

Wednesday’s statement, which was endorsed by International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies and the International Telecommunication Union, added:

The Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is the first pandemic in history in which technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, informed, productive and connected. At the same time, the technology we rely on to keep connected and informed is enabling and amplifying an infodemic that continues to undermine the global response and jeopardises measures to control the pandemic.

An infodemic is an overabundance of information, both online and offline. It includes deliberate attempts to disseminate wrong information to undermine the public health response and advance alternative agendas of groups or individuals. Mis- and disinformation can be harmful to people’s physical and mental health; increase stigmatisation; threaten precious health gains; and lead to poor observance of public health measures, thus reducing their effectiveness and endangering countries’ ability to stop the pandemic.

Misinformation costs lives. Without the appropriate trust and correct information, diagnostic tests go unused, immunisation campaigns (or campaigns to promote effective vaccines) will not meet their targets, and the virus will continue to thrive.

Furthermore, disinformation is polarising public debate on topics related to Covid-19; amplifying hate speech; heightening the risk of conflict, violence and human rights violations; and threatening long-terms prospects for advancing democracy, human rights and social cohesion.

Updated

Coronavirus-sniffing dogs are set to be deployed to Finland’s main international airport in a pilot project to find innovative ways to screen arrivals who may spread Covid-19, the Washington Post reports.

Four dogs are ready to begin work, with a further 12 already trained and six more being coached for the role. Their handlers hope their keen sense of smell could detect coronavirus in just 10 seconds, compared with the lengthy delays associated with lab testing.

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Helsinki found signs that the dogs can detect the virus in the sweat of patients. The Helsinki airport scheme will be the first large-scale trial to investigate whether the method can be effective in practice.

However, the dogs will not be walking up and down queues of passengers at the arrivals gates. Rather, passengers will be asked to give a sample of their sweat from a swab on their neck, then submit it through a hole in the wall. Passengers who take part will also be urged to take a standard PCR test to check the dogs’ accuracy.

Anna Hielm-Björkman, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, told the Washington Post that if the method is effective, the dogs could be deployed elsewhere, including to care homes and schools.

“You could open up society in another way if you had those dogs,” she said.

Sniffer dog Miina, being trained to detect the coronavirus from the arriving passengers’ samples at Helsinki airport
Sniffer dog Miina, being trained to detect the coronavirus from the arriving passengers’ samples at Helsinki airport. Photograph: Attila Cser/Reuters

Updated

Hi, this is Damien Gayle taking over for a little bit while Lucy grabs a bite to eat. You can reach me with any comments, tips or suggestions for coverage at [email protected], or via Twitter direct message to @damiengayle.

Updated

Authorities in Spain’s Madrid region have requested urgent help to hire hundreds of foreign doctors and reinforce police, as they mulled widening a partial coronavirus lockdown to more areas as cases rise.

The region is the hardest-hit in Spain by a second wave of the coronavirus and has restricted movement between and within some districts that are home to about 850,000 people.

Ignacio Aguado, the deputy head of the regional government, told reporters the region needed 300 doctors from outside the European Union who had worked in the first wave of the pandemic, but could not hire them immediately due to complex regulations.

He also asked the central government for an additional 222 national police to enforce quarantines and fines in areas under partial lockdown.

On Monday, the region asked central government for help from the army to fight the coronavirus surge in and around the Spanish capital, where the partial lockdown of some poorer areas has prompted protests.

Aguado said on Wednesday:

We’ve decided to formally request logistical help from the military to install (hospital) tents, carry out tests and disinfection tasks in each of the areas under restrictionsy.

Residents in the mostly lower-income neighbourhoods where infection rates are highest say the measures are inefficient and unfair.

Retiree Nieves Marcos from the Usera area, one of those under partial lockdown, told Reuters:

The battle against the virus is not in confining; it is in primary healthcare, where we can test for the positive and negative so we can confine the people who are truly infected.

Regional health data showed on Tuesday the number of areas with infection rates exceeding 1,000 per 100,000 people had grown by nearly 50% to 53. Officials said restrictions could be widened after a review this week and have not ruled out tougher measures.

Madrid accounts for about a third of coronavirus cases in Spain and has the highest share of hospital capacity occupied by patients with Covid-19.

Spain’s cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus infections has soared since the end of a nationwide lockdown in late June and stands at 682,267 - the highest in western Europe. More than 30,900 people have died of Covid-19.

Uzbeks who walk 10,000 steps a day for a year will be granted free use of state-owned gyms and a 50% discount on services provided by the government, according to a draft document published on Wednesday.

The draft presidential decree aims to promote fitness and healthy lifestyles and also includes provisions such as holding a car-free day and building street workout facilities across Uzbekistan, which has a population of 34 million people.

The government also hopes the health drive will help protect the population from illnesses like Covid-19, although Uzbekistan has reported fewer cases than many other countries, with 53,000 confirmed infections and 444 deaths. It introduced two lockdowns in order to contain its spread.

The decree outlines a programme called “Let’s overcome the pandemic through sports!” and highlights the promotion of sports such as walking, running, cycling, mini football, badminton, volleyball and street ball.

Belgium easing restrictions despite sharp rise in cases

Belgium is ending a requirement to wear face masks outdoors and reducing the time people have to self-isolate, in a slight easing of coronavirus restrictions announced on Wednesday despite sharply rising numbers of Covid-19 infections.

The prime minister Sophie Wilmes told a news conference that, from 1 October, people who have had contact with an infected person would only have to quarantine for seven days.

Masks would no longer be mandatory everywhere outside, as is currently the case in the capital, Brussels, and some other cities, she said. They will still have to worn in shops, cinemas, on public transport and in crowded streets.

Wilmes told reporters in Brussels:

Wearing a mask is very important in the management of the epidemic. However there is no point in imposing it everywhere all the time.

The country of 11 million people recorded on average 1,374 new cases per day over the past week. In early July, there were about 80 a day. That equates to 136 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days.

Wilmes added:

The epidemiological situation is not evolving favourably.

However, there was no clear tightening of measures, unlike other countries such as the UK, which announced curbs likely to last six months on Tuesday.

Public events can still be attended by 200 people indoors and 400 outside and Belgians will still able to see up to five people without social distancing, although that could be cut to one depending on the health situation.

Belgium imposed a lockdown on 18 March due to Covid-19, which has claimed 9,955 lives in the country, one of the world’s highest fatality figures per capita.

Updated

The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, went into quarantine on Wednesday after one of his bodyguards tested positive for Covid-19, forcing him to call off a planned trip to Jordan, according to the ministry and media reports.

An initial test of the minister had found he was not infected, the ministry said.

The announcement, a day after a meeting of European Union leaders was postponed because the European council president, Charles Michel, entered quarantine, highlights the difficulty of maintaining normal diplomatic business as Europe prepares for a second, autumn wave of coronavirus infections.

“Foreign minister Maas put himself into quarantine after a member of his personal protection team was infected with Covid-19,” the ministry said.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said Maas had had to cancel a planned visit to Jordan as a result of his quarantine.

On Tuesday, Michel postponed to next week a summit of EU leaders after coming into contact with someone who had the virus. The summit had been planned for this Thursday.

Updated

Dutch daily coronavirus cases hit new high

Confirmed daily coronavirus cases in the Netherlands hit a record high on Wednesday, with 2,357 confirmed over the previous 24 hours, according to data published by health authorities.

The country has had 100,597 confirmed cases since it began registering them in late February, according to data made available by the national institute for health (RIVM).

Cases have risen rapidly since late August amid a broader European second wave, leaving the country short of tests, and prompting the prime minister, Mark Rutte, to urge citizens to recover a sense of “urgency” about social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

Updated

Organisers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics will require Covid-19 tests for non-Japanese athletes and other participants upon arrival in Japan, according to a draft of measures proposed by organisers and released on Wednesday.

Reuters reports that Japanese Olympic athletes and other participants living in Japan will be subject to the same measures, according to the draft measures still under discussion. Tokyo 2020 organisers were forced to delay the Games due to the pandemic.

Updated

Germany’s health minister has urged users of a smartphone app to help trace coronavirus infections to upload positive test results into the system, so that others at risk get a timely warning.

The Corona-Warn-App, launched 100 days ago, has been downloaded more than 18m times – more than all other similar apps across Europe combined that use Bluetooth technology to assess an individual’s risk of catching Covid-19.

Yet only 5,000 app users who have tested positive – or half the total – have actually taken the steps needed to trigger exposure notifications to their contacts, the health minister, Jens Spahn, told a news conference.

Most are calling a hotline, while few are directly uploading their results via their phone – reflecting lingering fears that people’s identity will be revealed despite the app’s privacy protections.

Spahn told reporters:

Please use the app, if you test positive, to inform those you have been in touch with.

Despite the relatively high public support for the app, designed by Deutsche Telekom and SAP, there is little evidence so far that it has contributed meaningfully to curbing the pandemic.

Still, the government is backing the Corona-Warn-App as a supplement to manual contact-tracing to contain infection numbers that are rising in Germany, albeit more slowly than in other European countries.

Work is continuing to digitally automate the task of uploading of lab test results, with the consent of users. A symptom tracker to help users figure out whether they may have Covid-19 will be added in October, said Juergen Mueller, the chief technology officer at SAP.

Updated

Walt Disney Co will lose its option to buy a plot of land next to its Hong Kong theme park that was to allow for future expansion after the city’s government said on Wednesday it would not extend the option due to current economic conditions.

The announcement comes as the Chinese-ruled hub tries to bolster its flagging economy and badly hit tourism sector, which was impacted heavily by anti-government protests last year and more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

Hong Kong’s Disneyland resort is owned by a joint-venture, Hong Kong International Theme Parks Ltd (HKITP), of which the local government owns 53% and Walt Disney Co holds the rest.

The government said it was prudent to focus on the development and expansion of the existing resort in the coming few years rather than a geographic expansion, according to a statement on its website.

The option to buy the land, which is nearby the city’s international airport, was agreed 20 years ago and expires on Thursday.

A Walt Disney Company representative said the company would continue investing but was “extremely disappointed with the Hong Kong government’s decision not to extend the phase 2 land expansion option.”

The land earmarked for Disney has been unused for years and activists had advocated that public housing be built on it. As the city experienced a renewed rise in coronavirus infections, authorities set up a temporary quarantine centre.

An employee holding balloons at the Disneyland theme park in Hong Kong after it reopened in June following its first shutdown due to the coronavirus.
An employee holding balloons at the Disneyland theme park in Hong Kong after it reopened in June following its first shutdown due to the coronavirus. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Disney said on Tuesday it would reopen its Hong Kong park on 25 September to a reduced number of visitors and limited days, with enhanced health measures. It had closed again in mid-July for a second time.

The Asian financial hub has relaxed its coronavirus restrictions, including reopening theme parks, after the testing of nearly two million people in a programme organised by the Chinese government found 42 cases.

Gatherings remain capped at four people and all guests inside the park must wear face masks.

Updated

Israel’s cabinet is meeting to discuss tightening lockdown restrictions, with reports the government might shutter synagogues and ban crowds from gathering for demonstrations.

Having imposed a three-week lockdown on Friday, Israel has reported a surge in the number of infections. On Wednesday morning, the health ministry reported close to 7,000 new virus cases, more than double the number of daily cases compared with the beginning of the month.

The defence minister, Benny Gantz, said he supported an increase in restrictions.

The right to demonstrate and protest is sacred. The demand of those who seek to pray as the Jewish people have practiced for thousands of years is also sacred and just. The demand of those who want to earn a decent living, return to work and take care of their children is also real and just. But no less important, certainly in national emergencies, is the right to health and security.

Today, the coronavirus cabinet will present outlines to limit prayers and demonstrations made by professionals in the police, the Health Ministry and legal advisers to the government. We will back their decision.

Israel has recorded a relatively low death toll for its infection rate, at around 1,300, but officials warn that number could jump.

Updated

Singapore will pilot a new travel pass for senior executives in the city-state who need to travel regularly for business, authorities said Wednesday, as they further eased some coronavirus-related restrictions.

The number of passes will be limited initially, and travellers must stick to their declared itinerary, the government said. Upon return, pass holders must self-isolate while awaiting results of a swab test, instead of undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine at home or at a hotel.

The country has recorded over 57,000 coronavirus cases overall, mostly among workers living in dormitories. The vast majority of those infected have since recovered.

The regional travel hub is home to the Asian headquarters of many global companies whose executives have long relied on the city-state’s connectivity. It has reciprocal business travel arrangements with a handful of countries, including China, Japan and neighbouring Malaysia.

Lawrence Wong, the co-head of Singapore’s virus taskforce, told a media briefing.

The idea is to be able to allow senior executives who are based in Singapore with extensive regional or international responsibilities to have a bit more flexibility to travel for their work reasons.

However, those travellers must comply with the policies of the countries they are visiting.

Authorities also said that while working from home remained the default for Singapore, more employees will be allowed to return to workplaces with some precautions.

Among other easing measures, Singapore will from next month increase the limits on attendance numbers at weddings and in cinemas.

Over the next few weeks, the government will look at how to further ease restrictions, including permitting travel with countries it deems safe and allowing more people to meet socially, Wong said.

Travel restrictions around Europe aimed at curbing coronavirus contagion ravaged Spain’s tourism industry during the crucial month of August, depriving it of millions of tourists, Reuters reports.

The number of nights booked in Spanish hotels fell 64% last month from a year ago, data from the National Statistics Institute showed on Wednesday. In the first eight months of the year, hotel bookings slumped 70% from the same period in 2019.

Travel restrictions imposed by European countries during the summer, amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections in Spain, have hit Spanish hotels hard after they emerged from a strict lockdown that had kept them shut between mid-March and late June.

Hotel bookings by British tourists plummeted over 91% in August, meaning the country lost about 1.1 million British visitors alone, while bookings from Germany were down 80%, the data showed. The Balearic islands lost 86% of their foreign tourists compared to a year earlier.

The tourism sector accounts for about 12% of the Spanish economy, providing more than one job in eight. Spain, one of the world’s most visited countries, received more than 80 million foreign visitors each year, mainly from European countries.

Updated

The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has announced the cancellation of this year’s Vienna Opera Ball, a glamorous society event that usually marks the peak of the Austrian ball season.

The government cited rising Covid-19 infection rates in the Alpine country as the reason for calling off the event, which was planned for 11 February 2021. While the Vienna State Opera put a lot of effort into security concepts, the wellbeing of participants could not have been guaranteed, the government said.

It is only the second cancellation of the annual event since the end of the second world war. In 1991, the Vienna Opera Ball was cancelled due to the Gulf war.

Dancers of the State Opera ballet performing during a dress rehearsal for the traditional Opera Ball in Vienna back in February.
Dancers of the State Opera ballet performing during a dress rehearsal for the traditional Opera Ball back in February. Photograph: Lisi Niesner/Reuters

Updated

Malaysia recorded 147 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking the total to 10,505 infections. The health ministry also reported three new deaths, raising that tally to 133.

Good morning from London! I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next eight hours. As always, please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @lucy_campbell_

China’s foreign ministry has announced that foreigners with valid residence permits can enter the country without needing to re-apply for visas from 28 September.

Foreigners whose residence permits expired after March 28 can apply for visas at Chinese embassies and consulates for entry, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

China in March temporarily suspended the entry of foreigners with valid Chinese visas and residence permits as an interim measure in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

Travel restrictions around Europe aimed at curbing coronavirus contagion ravaged Spain’s tourism industry during the crucial month of August, depriving it of millions of tourists.

The occupancy rate in Spanish hotels fell 64% last month from a year ago, data from the National Statistics Institute showed on Wednesday.

In the first eight months of the year, hotel bookings slumped 70% from the same period in 2019.

A woman walks past a closed restaurant in Valencia, Spain
A woman walks past a closed restaurant in Valencia, Spain. Photograph: Kai Foersterling/EPA

Travel restrictions imposed by European countries during the summer, amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections in Spain, have hit Spanish hotels hard after they emerged from a strict lockdown that had kept them shut between mid-March and late June.

Hotel bookings by British tourists plummeted over 91% in August, meaning the country lost about 1.1 million British visitors alone, while bookings from Germany were down 80%, the data showed. The Balearic islands lost 86% of their foreign tourists compared with a year earlier.

The tourism sector accounts for about 12% of the Spanish economy, providing more than one job in eight. Spain, one of the world’s most visited countries, received more than 80 million foreign visitors each year, mainly from European countries.

Updated

Getting a front-row seat to Milan’s fashion week is harder than ever this year, with uninvited influencers and buyers nursing bruised egos as the shows start on Wednesday under coronavirus restrictions.

The virus, which is resurgent in Europe, forced many luxury houses to put off confirming their presence until the last minute – and in the end only a third have committed to appearing.

Nevertheless, the Italian fashion chamber’s head, Carlo Capasa, said: “In this year marked by the Covid-19 epidemic, fashion has demonstrated, despite the difficulties that lie ahead, a great strength and sense of unity.”

The pandemic has forced many fashion brands to rethink the way they will show their collections.
Models for Sartoria 74 present creations part of the 2021 spring-summer collection during the Altaroma fashion show in Rome. Photograph: Domenico Stinellis/AP

Missoni, the Italian label known for its explosions of colour, will start, presenting its new collection virtually, just like 41 other labels among the 64 spring/summer 2021 catwalks on the calendar.

In these social-distancing times, brands from Moschino to Versace and Prada have opted to simply stream their shows on social media.

Not so for Giorgio Armani, who will be showing his collection on Italian prime time television on Saturday.

Twenty-two houses are braving a live audience, from Fendi and Dolce&Gabbana to Etro, Ferragamo and Max Mara.

“Organising a fashion show with public present is a real headache at the moment,” confesses an organiser at a major fashion house, who preferred to remain anonymous.

“The number of seats has been drastically reduced and the seating plan, a diplomatic and political Tetris at the best of times, is driving us wild. We don’t want to offend anyone, but we don’t have enough room for everyone,” he said.

Updated

Indonesia reports biggest daily rise in coronavirus cases

Indonesia reported 4,465 new coronavirus cases today, the country’s biggest daily rise, taking the total number of infections to 257,388, data from the country’s health ministry showed.

The data added 140 new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 9,977, the biggest death toll in south-east Asia.

Updated

Ultraviolet lamp that can kill virus but is safe for humans launched in Japan

A company in Japan has launched an ultraviolet lamp that can kill the coronavirus without damaging people’s eyes or skin, and is expected to be used to disinfect busy spaces such as train carriages, lifts and waiting rooms.

The Care 222 is the first of its kind, according to Ushio, a lighting electronics manufacturer based in Tokyo.

Health experts, including the World Health Organisation, have warned people not to use conventional UV lamps to disinfect their hands or other parts of their body as they can cause skin cancer and eye damage.

Ushio’s gadget, however, emits UV rays with a wavelength of 222 nanometres, as opposed to the conventional 254 nanometres, enabling them to kill the virus without harming people, the firm said on its website.

“One of Care 222’s greatest features is that it can be used all the time,” it said. “Unlike conventional ultraviolet light sources, [it] can be used even when people are present, allowing continuous disinfection of the air and environmental surfaces.”

The different wavelength, combined with a special filter, means the rays are unable to infiltrate the surface of the skin or the eyes, the company added.

The firm, which developed the machine with Columbia University, found that it took between six and seven minutes to kill 99% of viruses and bacteria in the air, and on surfaces measuring up to 3 square metres located 2.5 metres away, Kyodo news agency reported.

The company’s claims have been confirmed in a third-party study by Hiroshima University, it added.

Updated

The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has made it into Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2020.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian biologist and public health researcher, has been at the head of the organisation since 2017. He is the first non-physician and first African in the role; he was endorsed by the African Union

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photograph: Salvatore di Nolfi/AP

Updated

In Israel, the government last week imposed a nationwide lockdown that closed schools, shopping malls, hotels and restaurants. The coronavirus cabinet was meeting later Wednesday to discuss further tightening the restrictions.

Israel won international praise for its handling of the outbreak last spring, moving quickly to seal its borders and impose a lockdown that appeared to contain the virus.

Sept 22, 2020.
A woman wearing a protective face mask plays with her daughter next to a statue of the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, during a nationwide three-week lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus at the beach in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP

But the government reopened the economy too quickly, and a new outbreak has quickly spread throughout the summer. The economy, meanwhile, has not recovered from a serious downturn caused by the first lockdown.

Updated

The French government is expected to unveil tighter coronavirus restrictions for Paris today following a cabinet meeting, BFM TV and Le Parisien newspaper said.

A Parisian walks past street art on the corner of Saint-Anthoine Hospital in Paris, thanking Hospital workers for their work under Covid-19 pandemic
A Parisian walks past street art on the corner of Saint-Anthoine Hospital in Paris, thanking Hospital workers for their work under Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

Among the measures planned are a ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people while attendance at major events could be limited to 1,000 people from the 5,000 allowed now, the reports said. The sale of alcohol outdoors will be prohibited after 8 pm they added, citing several sources.

The new rules for Paris, if confirmed, would follow similar measures in Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nice as the coronavirus resurges across the country.

Updated

Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria is considering easing curbs sooner than previously flagged, the state’s premier said on Wednesday, as the two-week average of new infections in the city of Melbourne dropped below 30.

Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, has been the epicentre of the country’s second wave of Covid-19. The city has been under a hard lockdown, including a nightly curfew, since 2 August.

The state reported 15 new cases and five deaths on Wednesday.

The 14-day average in Melbourne dropped below the 30-50 band, which the state set as a precondition for allowing around 100,000 people to return to work in construction, manufacturing, warehouses and child care from 28 September.

“We are winning this battle and we will prevail. It’s just a matter of us staying the course - not letting our frustration get the better of us,” state premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.

Andrews said if the average holds below 30 ahead of this Sunday’s review of restrictions, it was possible further curbs could be eased, but he declined to say what those might be.

Updated

Couple of interesting developments in the world of ballet.

The realities of the pandemic have intervened in Bolshoi’s return after performers test positive for Covid-19.

Shaun Walker, the Guardian’s central and eastern Europe correspondent, reports about the plans announced over the summer for something approaching a full season of opera and ballet across its three stages.

On 6 September, the theatre started the season with an all-star cast performing Verdi’s Don Carlo, even as Moscow continued to record hundreds of new Covid cases every day. But the third and final performance had to be cancelled at the last minute after singer Ildar Abdrazakov tested positive for Covid. Later, the soprano Anna Netrebko posted on Instagram that she had also tested positive.

Meanwhile, Mark Brown, our arts correspondent, writes about plans for the Royal Ballet announcing its October comeback with 100 dancers.

The company has revealed ambitious details of its “comeback” after a seven-month break from full performances on the Covent Garden stage. The plan is for a celebration performance with 100 dancers and a full orchestra on 9 October, livestreamed around the world.

Updated

The UK foreign minister, Dominic Raab, says the country cannot rule out a full second national lockdown.

In a radio interview, the minister said there was no “silver bullet” to beat the pandemic urging those workers who could do so to work from home.

Updated

This could be a game-changer – European airlines are pinning hopes on pre-flight Covid-19 tests that deliver results as fast as pregnancy tests to help restore passengers’ confidence in taking to the skies in confined spaces with shared air.

Germany’s Lufthansa, at the mercy of government bailouts for survival, is in talks with the Swiss drugmaker Roche over deploying so-called antigen tests, according to two people familiar with the discussions, as the airline aims to make them available next month.

Lufthansa planes sitting on the tarmac at Berlin’s Brandenburg International airport
Lufthansa planes sitting on the tarmac at Berlin’s Brandenburg International airport Photograph: Oliver Lang/EPA

The Italian operator Alitalia, meanwhile, told Reuters that from Wednesday it would add two flights from Milan to Rome, to the two it is already offering from Rome to Milan, exclusively for passengers with negative tests.

The tests are administered by health authorities at the airports and included in ticket prices. If they prove popular and safe, these antigen-tested flights will be expanded to more domestic, and later international, routes, the airline said.

Unlike laboratory-based molecular tests that have been the staple of health authorities in the pandemic, antigen tests do not require machines to process. Much like pregnancy tests, they can produce results in about 15 minutes.

However the tests require an uncomfortable nasal swab and are not as accurate as the molecular, or PCR, tests. They generally produce more “false negatives”, which could mean sick people could slip through the cracks and on to planes.

An increasing number are hitting the market, from companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Becton Dickinson & Co and Quidel Corp and Roche, which is rebranding antigen tests from South Korea’s privately held SD Biosensor.

Airlines are pressing governments to embrace alternatives to blanket travel restrictions amid a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe.

Updated

Morning and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. As ever, please do send any tips, stories and things you feel we should be covering to [email protected] or follow me to send me a DM on Twitter @NParveenG

Updated

Well, my time is up for today. Thanks for following along – and I look forward to bringing you more blog tomorrow. In the meantime:

It stands just over 18 metres tall and weighs 25 tonnes. And, after years of painstaking work, a life-size Japanese Gundam robot has just proved to its legions of fans that it really can move.

Modelled on one of the robots from the hugely popular 1970s anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, the huge machine was put through its paces this week at its new home in the the port city of Yokohama.

The humanoid was due to become the centrepiece of Gundam Factory Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on 1 October, but the virus pandemic means it will not be officially unveiled until later in the year, according to the site’s operator.

“This decision was made to ensure the health and safety of our fans and employees in response to the worldwide spread of Covid-19,” it said in a statement.

Jacinda Ardern’s Covid success gives National little room to move on policy

Charlotte Graham-McLay in Wellington

Its record on eliminating Covid-19 and bringing a second outbreak under control has drawn praise for New Zealand from around the world. Now, the centre-left Labour party, led by the wildly popular Jacinda Ardern, faces an election bolstered by their success in containing the virus – but darkened by the shadow of the country’s worst recession in years.

At the polls on 17 October, voters will be asked to choose between slightly different approaches to who would be allowed to enter the country, whether border quarantine should be government-managed or partially privatised, and the best economic recipe to recover from the pandemic.

But beyond policy, the centre-right opposition party, National, led by Judith Collins and lagging in the polls, faces perhaps an even tougher job: convincing New Zealanders that a government widely seen as having kept the country safe during a pandemic should be jettisoned so that they can be installed.

Analysts said that would be a tall order; Labour, according to a 1 News Colmar Brunton poll on Tuesday, is sitting at 48%, while National is polling at 31%. The rest of the vote is occupied by minor parties, who traditionally in New Zealand have formed coalition governments with Labour and National:

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • US president Donald Trump has said the 200,000 US deaths from coronavirus were “a shame” in response to a reporter’s question about the milestone in the country’s fight against the pandemic. As Trump was departing for an election campaign event in Pittsburgh he told the media: “I think if we didn’t do it properly and do it right, you’d have 2.5 million deaths.” The US has the most Covid-19 deaths in the world, 60,000 more deaths than Brazil, which has the next worst toll. The total US figure on Tuesday night was 200,768.
  • In a video address on Tuesday at the United Nations general assembly, Trump said the UN had to take action against China and called for Beijing to be held accountable by the UN for “releasing the virus”. He also falsely claimed the World Health Organization was “virtually controlled by China”. China’s UN representative, Zhang Jun, said the country rejected the “baseless accusations” before introducing President Xi Jinping.
  • Japan is considering allowing more foreign arrivals into the country for longer stays starting as early as next month, while keeping the Covid-19 entry curbs in place for tourists, the Asahi newspaper reported on Wednesday.
  • In Scotland, hundreds of students have been told to isolate after a suspected Covid-19 outbreak in a hall of residence. NHS Tayside is investigating a single positive Covid case and a small number of suspected cases linked to private student accommodation Parker House in Dundee.
  • The weekly number of new recorded infections worldwide was last week at its highest level ever, the WHO announced. With a new seven-day high of just short of 2m new cases recorded, the latest tally represents a 6% increase on the previous week as well as “the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic”, the UN health agency said.
  • In the UK, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, introduced new restrictions for England that could last six months following a surge in cases in recent weeks. The raft of measures include telling the public to continue working from home, a 10pm curfew for hospitality venues, and limiting weddings to 15 people.

Updated

Robert Booth and Pamela Duncan report:

In the UK, sweeping bans on visiting at thousands of care homes risk residents dying prematurely this winter as they give up hope in the absence of loved ones, experts in elderly care have warned.

More than 2,700 care homes in England are either already shut or will be told to do so imminently by local public health officials, according to a Guardian analysis of new government rules announced to protect the most vulnerable from Covid-19.

Care groups are calling for the government to make limited visiting possible, including by designating selected family members as key workers:

With the coronavirus devastating jobs across the country, desperate Indonesians are flocking to illegal gold mines as the soaring price of the precious metal overrides the risk to their lives and the environment.

Spooked by the economic destruction wrought by the pandemic, consumers and investors around the world have been snapping up gold, which is seen as a hedge against volatility, sending its price to a record above $2,000 an ounce last month.

The surge in demand has fuelled a boom in mineral-rich Indonesia’s illegal mining industry, with workers ignoring the threat of arrest, mercury poisoning or being caught in the middle of gun battles, AFP reports.

Indonesia banned the use of mercury for artisanal miners in 2017. But the dangerous metal, which can affect the nervous system and cause disabilities in newborn children, can still be purchased on the black market.

The livelihoods of at least one million Indonesians are supported by small-scale mining, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which promotes mercury-free technologies.

Despite pandemic restrictions, there are reports of unlicensed operators bringing scores of domestic migrants to makeshift mines sites across the country, which have long been prone to fatal accidents.

The Bolshoi’s doors have stayed open even in times of revolution and war. So after coronavirus forced the longest hiatus in the Moscow theatre’s schedule for more than two centuries, it was eager to bounce back.

Plans were announced over summer for something approaching a full season of opera and ballet across its three stages, and on 6 September, the theatre started the season with an all-star cast performing Verdi’s Don Carlo, even as Moscow continued to record hundreds of new Covid cases every day.

But it did not take long for the realities of the pandemic to intervene: the third and final performance of Don Carlo had to be cancelled at the last minute after singer Ildar Abdrazakov tested positive for Covid. Later, the soprano Anna Netrebko posted on Instagram that she had also tested positive:

Mainland China reported 10 new Covid-19 cases as of 22 September, up from 6 a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Wednesday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that all new cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic infections also rose to 18 from 15 a day earlier, though China does not classify these symptomless patients as confirmed cases.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases for mainland China now stands at 85,307, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

The leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo appealed Tuesday before the UN General Assembly for debt relief for developing countries to help them cope with the pandemic, AFP reports.

“In order to help developing countries exit the crisis and fare better after Covid-19, the international community’s efforts must include debt cancellation and other relief so they can better recover,” President Felix Tshisekedi said.

The Group of 20 major economies and the International Monetary Fund have already agreed on measures including relieving debt or suspending payments as poor nations prioritize the response to the pandemic.

This UN handout photo shows Felix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as he addresses the general debate of the seventy-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly, on 22 September 2020 at the UN in New York.
This UN handout photo shows Felix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as he addresses the general debate of the seventy-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly, on 22 September 2020 at the UN in New York. Photograph: Loey Felipe/UNITED NATIONS/AFP/Getty Images

But Tshisekedi, in a video address to the annual summit, called on the international community to “take other decisions with a view to complete cancellation.”

“All measures of support or additional funding for development countries should be without any conditions,” he said.

He also called for a boosting of technical assistance “to halt and stop a disease that is our common enemy.”

Covid-19 has killed more than 966,000 people since it first emerged in China in late 2019, according to a global tally by AFP.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s poorest nations but international observers have found guarded hope since the December 2018 election of Tshisekedi.

His succession from Joseph Kabila marked the first peaceful transition of power since the former Zaire’s independence from Belgium six decades earlier.

The US president says: ‘Well, I think it’s a shame’ when asked by a White House reporter about the 200,000 coronavirus deaths in the US – a fifth of the global total and the highest of any country worldwide. He claims the US could have had 2.5 million deaths ‘if we didn’t do it properly’. Trump also repeats his accusation that China is at fault for the pandemic:

Mike Hytner and Ben Butler report:

Embattled Rugby Australia has been delivered another blow after major sponsor Qantas ended its 30-year partnership with the code.

The Australian airline has also pulled back in its deals with cricket and football in a bid to save up to $20m a year.

Qantas said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was the reason behind the rugby decision, rather than last year’s Israel Folau controversy.

Folau’s homophobic social media posts raised questions over the continued involvement of Qantas, whose chief executive Alan Joyce said at the time that sponsorship deals were “supposed to be a positive”.

Israel Folau’s anti-gay comments ‘very disappointing’, Qantas saysRead more

But on Wednesday Qantas chief customer officer Stephanie Tully said the virus had been “the undoing” of the partnership, which will expire at the end of this year:

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,769 to 275,927, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.

The reported death toll rose by 13 to 9,409, the tally showed.

In recent weeks, cases have consistently been over 1,500 after falling to below 500 between June and July.

Japan considers allowing more foreigners in

Japan is considering allowing more foreigners into the country for longer stays starting as early as next month, while keeping the Covid-19 entry curbs in place for tourists, the Asahi newspaper reported on Wednesday.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Japan has adopted some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world, with even permanent residents unable to re-enter the country without prior permission.

The government eased some of those restrictions on students and business people from seven countries in late July.

Under the latest proposed easing, Japan would allow those staying for longer than three months, such as students and medical workers, to enter from any country, the Asahi said, citing multiple government sources.

Entry would be limited to 1,000 people a day, it said.

Japan has so far managed to keep its coronavirus infections and deaths at low levels compared with hard-hit countries, at a cumulative 79,900 infections and 1,519 deaths.

Updated

Papua New Guinea does not have enough Covid-19 testing kits, the country’s health minister has said. Fewer than 17,500 tests have been conducted across the country since the beginning of the pandemic.

And while PNG’s outbreak remains small by global standards - 517 confirmed cases and seven deaths - it rose rapidly through August and early September, and the actual number of infections is likely to be many times larger than the official figure.

Controller of PNG’s National Pandemic Response, police chief David Manning, said some of PNG’s provinces were not properly conducting tests or sending swabs to central health authorities.

But health minister Jelta Wong said regional authorities were testing as much as they could, but testing kits were limited.

“The testing kits is what we are lacking in at the moment,” Radio NZ reported Wong as saying.

“As you know, the world is fighting for these testing kits at the moment, so we’re in a line. We should get them by the end of this month.”

Manning said a surge in infections in PNG’s crowded capital Port Moresby was particularly concerning. About 40% of the capital’s population live in informal settlements, with little running water, and little ability to socially distance.

“We are all vulnerable to Covid-19. It can affect people of all ages, including the young members of our community. The virus does not discriminate and can strike any member of our community so let us all remain vigilant.”

China’s UN representative Zhang Jun said the country rejected ‘baseless accusations’ around coronavirus before introducing President Xi Jinping.

In a video address, Donald Trump said the UN had to take action against China and called for Beijing to be held accountable by the UN for ‘releasing the virus’:

Mexico's confirmed coronavirus deaths approach 75,000

Mexico’s confirmed coronavirus caseload rose to 705,263 on Tuesday, according to updated data from the health ministry, along with a reported death toll of 74,348.

Authorities reported 4,683 new cases along with 651 deaths on Tuesday, but the true figures are likely significantly higher due to little testing.

A sanitation technician disinfects tents set up on Mexico City’s Juarez Avenue to demand the resignation of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly known by his initials AMLO, Tuesday, 22 September, 2020.
A sanitation technician disinfects tents set up on Mexico City’s Juarez Avenue to demand the resignation of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly known by his initials AMLO, Tuesday, 22 September, 2020. Photograph: Marco Ugarte/AP

A 16-year-old Australian student, Mayela Dayet, will address the United Nations general assembly on Wednesday night to present the findings of a survey that shows young women and girls are shouldering a greater economic, domestic and emotional load and working harder during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study, released by humanitarian organisation Plan International as part of a report called “Halting Lives – The impact of COVID 19 on girls and young women”, surveyed more than 7,000 15-to-24 year-olds across 14 countries:

In Scotland, hundreds of students have been told to isolate after a suspected Covid-19 outbreak in a halls of residence.

NHS Tayside is investigating a single positive Covid case and a small number of suspected cases linked to private student accommodation Parker House in Dundee.

Close contacts of the positive case, who is a student of Abertay University, are being contacted. All 500 residents at the accommodation have been asked to self-isolate until further contact tracing has been completed:

Here is a transcript of that exchange between Trump and reporters:

Reporter: Why haven’t you said anything about the U.S. hitting 200,000 deaths from Covid?

Trump: Say it again?

Why haven’t you said anything about the US hitting 200,000 deaths from Covid?

Trump (gesturing to other reporters): Go ahead. Anybody else?

Reporter: Mr. President, could you speak to the grim milestone today of 200,000 deaths to the virus? What do you want to say to the American people?

Trump: Well, I think it’s a shame. I think if we didn’t do it properly and do it right, you’d have two and a half million deaths. If you take a look at alternatives, you could have two and a half million deaths or something thereabouts. You could have a number that would be substantially more.

With all of that being said, we shouldn’t have had anybody. And you saw my United Nations speech. China should’ve stopped it at their border. They should’ve never let this spread all over the world, and it’s a terrible thing. But had we not closed our country down and reopened -- and now we’re doing well in reopening; the stock market is up -- all of those things. But I think it’s a horrible thing.

But if we had not done it right, you could have two million, two and a half million, or three million. But it’s a horrible thing. It should’ve never, ever happened. China let this happen, and just remember that.

Reporter: Do you think that we could hit another 200,000-death milestone?

Trump: Well, I know this: The original numbers were around 200,000, if you do it right, if you did a good job, and if the public worked along. And if you didn’t do it right, you’d be a at two million, two and a half million. Those were the numbers.

But this should’ve never happened. This should’ve never come out of China. They should’ve never let it happen. So that’s it.

Updated

US President Donald Trump calls 200,000 deaths 'a shame'

US President Donald Trump has responded to a question asked by a reporter at the White House about the US death toll – a fifth of the global total and the highest of any country worldwide – passing 200,000 by saying, “Well, I think it’s a shame”.

Trump went on to say:

I think if we didn’t do it properly and do it right, you’d have two and a half million deaths. If you take a look at alternatives, you could have two and a half million deaths or something thereabouts. You could have a number that would be substantially more [...] And you saw my United Nations speech, China should have stopped it at their border. They should have never let this spread all over the world and it’s a terrible thing.”

Earlier, he dismissed a question about the devastating toll:

Updated

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next few hours. Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

The weekly number of new recorded coronavirus infections worldwide was last week at its highest level ever, the WHO announced. With a new seven-day high of just short of two million new cases recorded by the WHO, the latest tally represents a 6% increase over the previous week as well as “the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic,” the UN health agency said.

Meanwhile in the UK, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, introduced new restrictions for England likely to last six months following a surge in positive cases in recent weeks. The raft of new measures include telling the public to continue working from home, a 10pm curfew for hospitality venues, and limiting weddings to 15 people.

  • Jordan reported its highest daily count since the start of the pandemic in March. As another 634 positive cases took the tally to 5,679, the health ministry warned the coronavirus was spreading fast across the country and urged people to social distance and wear masks to protect others.
  • Hundreds of students in Dundee, Scotland have been told to isolate after a suspected Covid-19 outbreak in halls of residence. NHS Tayside is investigating a single positive case and a small number of suspected cases of coronavirus linked to private student accommodation, Parker House in Dundee.
  • The US coronavirus death toll passed the grim milestone of 200,000, the highest in the world. According to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, at least 200,005 Americans have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic started in March, that is about one-fifth of the global death toll.
  • The EU Council has been postponed after its president went into quarantine when his bodyguard tested positive. Charles Michel’s test came back negative but he will quarantine nonetheless in accordance with Belgian rules, and the council will take place on 1 and 2 October.
  • The Netherlands posted a record weekly number of new confirmed coronavirus infections. In the week through 22 September cases hit 13,471, an increase of 60% on the 8,265 cases reported the week prior.
  • People arriving in Italy from Paris and seven other areas of France now have to undergo mandatory coronavirus tests. The move comes amid rising infections in France and affects people arriving from Île-de-France, the region including Paris, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Corsica, Hauts-de-France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie.
  • Iran reported a record daily rise in infections. A further 3,712 positive cases took the tally to 429,193.
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