Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said he was “not hopeful” of a deal on an EU coronavirus fund this week, despite opening the door to compromise on a key hurdle.
The “frugal four” of the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden have said they want the 750-billion-euro recovery package to contain only loans for pandemic-hit states, and not grants.
Rutte told parliament that despite meeting a string of EU leaders in recent days to break the deadlock, he was “quite gloomy about how things will go” at a summit on Thursday.
“I can assure you that we are doing everything we can behind the scenes, but that given how things are going, I am not hopeful,” he said.
The Dutch premier insisted that “we are for loans” which are conditional on tough economic reforms by countries that get the money, such as pension and labour market changes.
“If countries then say ‘but we also want to know what the road to grants is,’ then... I have to be able to explain to the Dutch parliament and all Dutch citizens that in exchange, fundamental reforms that have stalled so far are taking place,” Rutte said.
The Netherlands should also have a right to veto any grant if countries did not carry out those reforms, Rutte said.
“That’s where the balance is, I think, you will have to find it. I’m not so hopeful about that at all,” he concluded.
French President Emmanuel Macron, EU chief Charles Michel and the prime ministers of Italy, Spain and Portugal have all visited The Hague for talks with Rutte in recent days without any sign of a major breakthrough.
Basra Children’s Hospital which specialises in cancer treatment has cut admissions by half since May due to coronavirus, its director said, and is battling to keep children safe from infection with a new isolation ward and testing its staff.
Hospital director Ali Abulhussein al-Idani said that since June, five children were diagnosed with the illness upon admission to the hospital, including a six month-old child, who died of complications.
“The immune system of cancer patients is very weak, it can be close to nil. If a patient (with cancer) catches the coronavirus, he or she will be affected badly and rapidly,” he added.
The hospital has boosted ward cleaning and limited visitors to just one per child, is treating more patients as outpatients, as well as routinely testing staff.
Iraq has registered 81,757 cases of coronavirus including 3,345 deaths as of Tuesday.
EU drops Serbia and Montenegro from safe list
The European Union has decided to drop Serbia and Montenegro from its safe list of countries from which non-essential travel is allowed, and did not even discuss including the United States given its sharp rise in coronavirus cases, EU officials told Reuters.
EU diplomats today approved a proposal from Germany, now holding the rotating EU presidency, to exclude non-EU Serbia and Montenegro because of spreading infections, officials said. There have been anti-government protests in Serbia, initially sparked by the announcement of a new coronavirus lockdown amid a surge in new cases.
The updated list, which will be published in coming hours or days, is only a recommendation and not all of the 27 EU member countries are applying its provisions.
After the exclusion of Serbia and Montenegro, 13 countries remain on the EU list: Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
Despite China being on the list, travel from there will be allowed only if Chinese authorities also allow in EU visitors. The reciprocity requirement is not applied in the case of the other listed countries.
“China has no intention to open its borders to the EU,” an EU diplomat said with respect to discussions with Beijing.
Moderna Inc, one of several organisations racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine, said today that it plans to start late stage clinical trials for its candidate on or around 27, according to its listing for the phase 3 study at clinicaltrials.gov.
Moderna said it will conduct the trial at 87 study locations, all in the US. Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate was the first to enter clinical trials, just eight weeks after the genetic sequence for Covid-19 was published in January.
Some good news! Saudi Arabian officials have said that the kingdom has seen a decrease in the number of new coronavirus cases over the past seven days.
The kingdom recorded 2,692 new infections on Tuesday, the fourth day in a row the numbers have stayed below 3,000. Saudi Arabia has recorded a total of 237,803 cases with 2,283 deaths.
The number of new daily infections had reached their highest point of 4,919 on 16 June, but those numbers have been steadily declining since early July, falling below 3,000 for the first time on 10 July.
“We’ve noticed a decrease in the number of cases, and in particular the number of critical cases,” Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Abdelali told a news conference.
“We’ve noticed a stabilisation of the numbers of cases we’re monitoring and a decline in the curve.”
Spain’s Catalonia region issued a new order to place around 160,000 residents of the Lleida area under confinement to stem a surge in coronavirus infections, defying a judge’s ruling that such a step was unlawful.
The new restrictions, which still need to be approved by another judge after the conflicting orders provoked confusion among residents, would come into force in the city of Lleida and seven towns around it on Wednesday and last for 15 days, Catalan government spokeswoman Meritxell Budo said.
The regional government was confident the judge would approve the new decree issued as it gives Catalan authorities a stronger legal footing in tackling outbreaks, she said.
The new restrictions would only allow people to leave their homes for specific activities like working, buying groceries or exercising. Gatherings of more than 10 people would be banned, she said.
Hotels would be closed, as well as restaurants and bars except for food pick-up or delivery.
Residents of Lleida, which lies about 180 km (110 miles) west of Barcelona, have been blocked from leaving the area since 4 July amid a surge in coronavirus infections.
As cases continued to rise, the regional government on Sunday attempted to confine citizens to their homes but a local judge struck down the order, spreading confusion among residents and further uncertainty among local businesses.
Initially one of Europe’s worst hit countries by the pandemic and more than 28,400 people have died, Spain brought the crisis largely under control through a tough national lockdown that was lifted on 21 June.
However, more than 170 localised outbreaks have been recorded since then, with 120 still active and with the Lleida region at the centre.
Louisiana has emerged as a hotspot for the virus in the United States only months after seeming to contain its outbreak.
The Republican vice president, Mike Pence, was scheduled to meet with Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, members of the congressional delegation and state health officials to talk about the states response to the disease.
Pence’s visit comes as Louisiana’s confirmed virus cases surged worrying public health experts about the level of virus spread in a state that previously appeared successful in combating its outbreak.
In response to the spike in virus cases and hospitalisations, Edwards enacted a statewide mask mandate for anyone aged over eight.
He also returned bars to take-out and delivery only. Restaurants, casinos, gyms, salons and other businesses remain open with occupancy restrictions.
Iran reports 179 new virus death as authorities announced a decision to once more shutter some businesses in the capital to contain the virus’ resurgence.
The reimposition of restrictive measures comes after the government had progressively lifted them from April to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.
The one-week measure in Tehran includes the closure of gyms, pools, zoos and cafes.
“Holding any social, cultural and religious events and conferences is banned from today for a week,” deputy Tehran governor Hamidreza Goudarzi said.
The Islamic republic has been struggling to contain the virus since announcing its first cases in mid-February.
It has refrained from enforcing full lockdowns to stop the pandemic’s spread and resorted to closing schools, cancelling public events and banning movement between provinces in March before lifting them.
Official figures have shown an upward trajectory in new confirmed cases since early May, when Iran hit a near two-month low in daily recorded infections.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari raised the country’s overall Covid-19 death toll to 13,211 with the 179 fatalities recorded on Tuesday.
She added that 2,521 people had tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total cases confirmed to 262,173.
The rising toll has prompted authorities to make masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and to allow the hardest-hit provinces to reimpose restrictive measures, with Tehran being one of the latest.
Masks will become mandatory in all enclosed public spaces in France within the next few weeks, President Emmanuel Macron has said in a major Bastille Day interview.
Masks were already obligatory on public transport and recommended in shops, with many store owners refusing to welcome customers not wearing them.
Macron said there were “signs that the virus is returning somewhat here and there”, with localised outbreaks causing concern among experts and fears of a further uptick as people leave for their summer holidays.
Macron also said France was carrying out about 370,000 Covid-19 tests a week and had the capacity to do twice as many. Testing will soon be available to all without prescription, he said.
A pattern emerging here. The northern Indian state of Bihar, which has a population of about 125 million people, will go into a 15-day lockdown to combat coronavirus, its deputy chief minister said on Tuesday.
“Bihar government has decided on a 15-day lockdown from 16 July to 31 July. All city municipalities, district headquarters, block headquarters will stay under lockdown. The guidelines are being finalised,” Sushil Kumar Modi tweeted.
The announcement came a few hours before the southern city and IT hub Bangalore was due to go into a week-long lockdown. Other states and cities have also imposed restrictions as India’s caseload nears 1 million.
On Tuesday, Bihar reported a record 1,432 cases, the third consecutive day with more than 1,000 new infections, taking the impoverished state’s total to almost 19,000 with 134 deaths according to the local health authorities.
“There is no medicine or vaccine for corona. We have to ensure that we cover our faces with masks, handkerchiefs or towels,” the deputy chief minister said.
After imposing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in late March, India has been steadily easing rules to lessen the huge economic impact, particularly on hundreds of millions of poor Indians who lost their jobs.
But infections have continued to soar, passing 900,000 on Monday with almost 24,000 deaths, according to health ministry figures that many experts say underplay the severity of the situation.
Thailand has suspended all inbound flights after an Egyptian soldier skipped self-quarantine and went to a shopping mall before testing positive for coronavirus.
The kingdom has not recorded a domestic case of the virus for 50 days, winning praise for its strict lockdown which has so far controlled infections.
The country had been gingerly reopening its airspace, hoping to use the low virus rates to tease back visitors to an economy flatlined by the collapse of tourism.
But all inbound flights will be stopped after a group of Egyptian soldiers entered via the military-controlled U-Tapao airport, in Rayong province, without any virus screening.
They were meant to self-quarantine at a hotel before flying out the next day but instead went to a nearby shopping mall. One soldier in the group later tested positive for the disease.
Authorities are scrambling to trace about 1,700 people at the mall and the surrounding area.
Prime minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said he took “all responsibility” for the oversight and issued a rare apology for undermining the public’s “confidence and safety”.
“It happened because people did not respect the rules,” he said during a televised address. “All inbound flights are halted – there are no more approvals until we can solve the problem.”
The Egyptian man arrived on a military flight with 30 other officers on 10 July after a 24-hour round trip to Chengdu, China. They departed for Egypt the following morning.
After this incident, a health ministry official said eight Egyptian military flights approved to travel through the kingdom later this month had been cancelled.
India puts Bangalore back into lockdown
India’s IT hub Bangalore was set to go into a new week-long lockdown on Tuesday as the number of coronavirus cases surged.
After imposing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in late March, India had been steadily easing rules to lessen the huge economic impact.
But infections have continued to soar, passing 900,000 on Monday with almost 24,000 deaths, according to health ministry figures that many experts say underplay the severity of the situation.
Bangalore, home to more than 13 million people, has emerged as a new hotspot and a seven-day lockdown in the southern city is set to begin today.
Transport will be banned except for emergencies and only shops selling essential items allowed to open.
Firms in Bangalore’s lifeblood IT sector handling the back-office operations of global corporations can operate, but with only 50 percent of staff allowed on premises at any one time.
The western city of Pune has imposed a fresh lockdown after reporting a record 1,333 new infections on Monday and other states, including Uttar Pradesh, home to 200 million people, have also introduced new restrictions.
Chinese authorities have pressed criminal charges against 23 people for illegal building alterations that led to the collapse of a quarantine hotel in which 29 people died and 42 were injured in March, state media reported Tuesday.
The 66-room Xinjia Hotel in southern China’s Quanzhou city collapsed on 7 March, burying dozens of people who had been made to quarantine there because of their recent travel to regions hard hit by Covid-19.
An official investigation found three floors had been added illegally to the hotel’s original four-story structure, and safety assessors had colluded with the hotel’s owner to produce false reports about the building, state broadcaster CCTV said.
“Criminal enforcement measures” have been taken against 23 people involved with the construction, while local officials are being investigated for possible corruption connected to the collapse, according to CCTV.
Quanzhou’s mayor, Wang Yongli, has been reprimanded for dereliction of duty, along with dozens of other civil servants, Fujian province’s official corruption watchdog said in a statement on Tuesday.
The first floor of the hotel had been undergoing renovation since before the lunar new year holiday in January, and authorities in March said construction workers called the hotel’s owner minutes before the collapse to report a deformed pillar.
China is no stranger to building collapses and deadly construction accidents that are typically blamed on the country’s rapid growth leading to builders cutting corners and the widespread flouting of safety rules.
This report from France by our science editor, Ian Sample, looks into a French study of a baby boy infected with coronavirus in the womb
This is believed to be first such confirmed case but doctors say infant has made good recovery.
Read more here:
Hello, I’m taking over the global blog for the next few hours. As ever, if you have any stories, tips or things you think we should be covering please email me: [email protected] or send follow me on Twitter @NParveenG to send me a DM.
While this is a British story, it feels like one with profound global resonance: terrible online shopping errors of the coronavirus era. Tim Clark spent £193 on pants, Sue Frezza bought 16kg of flour by mistake, and Sue Nicholson “had not envisaged the reality of 60 loo rolls” (which, to be honest, is on you, Sue!).
More to enjoy here:
I’m handing over to esteemed colleague Nazia Parveen now.
A new cluster of coronavirus cases in Tokyo has been traced to a boy-band musical, prompting authorities in the city to appeal for more than 800 theatregoers to get tested.
The Tokyo government said it was focussing on a 190-seat theatre in Shinjuku, a busy entertainment area and home to one of Asia’s biggest red-light districts which has been the centre of a recent spike in infections.
The latest cluster has been traced to Theatre Moliere, which staged a play for six days starring mainly up-and-coming boy-band members earlier this month.
The Tokyo government said it learned of the first infection among a cast member on July 6, after which testing found 20 related cases by late Monday. It called on all audience members who attended the performance to get tested.
The producers of the play, “Werewolf”, released a statement on Monday also asking audience members to seek health advice.
Good news from Pakistan, where officials say a polio vaccination programme will resume next week. The programme had been suspended because the country’s health system was overwhelmed by coronavirus.
The anti-polio campaign would last three days, from next Monday, with the plan to have about 800,000 children vaccinated, AP reported the officials as saying. Police departments have received requests to ensure the safety of the polio workers.
Polio vaccination teams and security escorts are routinely attacked by the Taliban and other militants who claim that the anti-polio drive is a Western conspiracy to sterilise children or collect intelligence.
Pakistan had hoped to eliminate the disease by 2018, when only 12 cases were reported. But there was a surge in new cases the following year. Since January, Pakistan has reported 58 new polio cases from various parts of the country, including the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistan has had more than 253,000 cases of the coronavirus, including 5,320 deaths, since the first infection was detected in February.
In Buenos Aires, Uki Goñi reports that political factions that were briefly united in efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are at loggerheads again:
On one side, the Perónist administration of the president, Alberto Fernández, is struggling to keep its coronavirus lockdown in place after Argentina passed the 100,000 cases on Sunday – a four-fold increase from a month ago. On the other, an increasingly rebellious opposition and a defiant grassroots movement have been pressing for the end of quarantine rules...
“We have seen a government that has tried during the pandemic to undermine freedom of expression, justice, independence of the branches of government and private property,” Macri said in a video posted on Twitter last week. “This has generated an active and strong reaction from society, which has mobilised to express itself against these actions.”
There are also sharp divides between Buenos Aires, where 95% of the country’s cases are and which remains in hard lockdown, and the rest of the country, where the virus has so far been controlled:
With zero deaths and only 126 cases so far, Corrientes enjoys freedoms Buenos Aires residents can only dream of. “We can hold social gatherings of up to 10 people and restaurants are open,” says Martín Barrionuevo, a Perónist senator in the legislature of the province of Corrientes.
Fearful of the spread of the pandemic, the provinces are monitoring the transport of merchandise from Buenos Aires. “We have control posts on every highway, we test every truck driver,” Raúl Jalil, the governor of the northern province of Catamarca, said.
You can read the rest of Uki’s excellent piece here.
Coronavirus has interrupted the education of around 10 million children in Afghanistan, leaving many without alternative learning options, the charity Save the Children has estimated.
The charity’s assessment comes as the number of Covid-19 deaths surges in Kabul, even as violence rages on across the country.
Save the Children said in a statement that the inability of attending school in addition to the job losses for many Afghan families “means that their children are having to work in the streets or marry early in order to support their families. Children must be studying safely in their homes through the most appropriate means.”
Milan Dinic, Save the Children’s Afghanistan country director, said that while many countries seem to be bringing Covid-19 under control, the situation in Afghanistan is worsening.
“The indirect impacts of Covid-19 on the lives of millions of children in Afghanistan cannot be ignored,” Dinic said. “Ten million have had their education interrupted while they see their parents and neighbours, struggling to cope with job losses and soaring food prices. Support is urgently needed across all areas – from income support for families to alternative education options for children.”
The number of deaths from Covid-19 has risen by 24 from the previous day to stand at 1,062. In its latest update, the health ministry said the number of people who had tested positive for the virus had reached 34,740, an increase of 135 on the day before. There have been 21,454 recoveries.
The number of daily infections has been dropping in recent days but the war-ravaged country’s capital is seeing a surge in the number of deaths. Kabul reported 19 deaths today. Kabul has been the country’s worst affected area, with 370 deaths.
AFP reports that in Turkmenistan, passenger trains have been halted from 16 July amid coronavirus fears – even though the country is yet to declare any cases.
While the central Asian country is officially corona-free, the news follows Monday’s announcement that masks should be worn because of “high concentrations of dust” and pathogens in the air.
A WHO delegation that has been in the country since last week will report its findings on Wednesday – which, you suspect, may contradict the governmental position.
The AFP story goes on:
A statement on the state-run railway’s website this week said that local passenger train travel would be suspended for a week from July 16 to July 23, but gave no reason for the stoppage.
Turkmenistan – a tightly controlled, oil-rich ex-Soviet state – is one of the few countries in the world yet to declare any coronavirus cases.
Its foreign ministry last month dismissed as “fake news” a US embassy health alert warning Americans over potential coronavirus cases in Turkmenistan.
On Monday, some people told an AFP journalist that they were being stopped by police for not wearing masks – a stark contrast to the government’s policy of discouraging the practice in recent months.
An announcement by the health ministry carried by the state information agency on Monday recommended mask-wearing because of a “high concentrations of dust” and pathogens in the air.
The return of restrictions in California and a global rise in cases to more than 13m were among the factors in faltering stock prices on Tuesday.
With fears persisting of a second spike and the news that the Singapore economy – a regional powerhouse – had contracted by 41% in a quarter, stocks in Asia led the decline. Meanwhile, Russian stocks fell 1.8% as gas producer Gazprom declined after reporting a first-quarter net loss of 116bn roubles ($1.64bn).
There was also disappointing economic news in the UK, where hopes for a rapid ‘V-shaped’ recovery looked faint with just 1.8% growth in May (after a 20.3% contraction in April). You can follow that story on Business Live, and read Philip Inman’s take on it here:
6,000 new coronavirus cases in Russia
Russia has reported 6,248 new cases on Tuesday, and 175 deaths in the last 24 hours.
That means the confirmed national tally is 739,947, the fourth highest in the world, and the official death toll is 11,614. But the number of cases in Moscow has dropped in recent weeks, and from yesterday rules requiring residents to wear masks outside were relaxed.
Here’s an interesting piece from the Moscow Times which raises accusations that the authorities have underplayed the crisis:
Critics have cast doubt on Russia’s low official mortality rate and accused authorities of under-reporting to play down the scale of the crisis.
Russia attributes its lower virus death figures to mass testing which has identified many cases with mild or no coronavirus symptoms.
The Health Ministry is now adjusting how it reports numbers to include all deaths believed to be related to the virus even if the direct cause of death was another condition or the patient tested negative.
In the US, my colleague Kenya Evelyn has written about the many ways in which health experts say racial bias shapes our collective response to coronavirus, whether in terms of policy or public reaction. Among the many interesting details she notes is this point about why many white people are blasé about abiding by lockdown rules:
[Dr Mary T Bassett, director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University] argued that framing racial disparities as inevitable or normal is “rooted in bias”, allowing less-affected communities to see the outbreak as more distant, prompting them to grow more restless, and reckless.
“When people see themselves as less connected to affected demographics, it influences how they respond to healthcare guidance,” Bassett said. “That ability to dismiss calls to wear a mask or maintain a social distance as ‘other people’s problem’ is steeped in privilege.”
While 88% of respondents said they avoided public and crowded places in May, that figure dropped to 69% in June.
You can read Kenya’s piece here.
As the UK’s relationship with China comes under strain over telecoms company Huawei’s role in 5G and broadband networks, Japan is sounding a cautionary note of its own, AP reports. The Tokyo government’s new defence white paper warns that Beijing is using propaganda tied to the coronavirus pandemic to assert strategic superiority in the region.
“The Covid-19 pandemic may expose and intensify strategic competition among countries intending to create international and regional orders more preferable to themselves and to expand their influence,” the report said.
As evidence, AP cited a Japanese defence ministry official who said that a Chinese foreign ministry official had posted on Twitter in March accusing the US military of spreading the coronavirus in Wuhan and that Chinese media has touted herbal medicine as effective Covid-19 treatments.
It’s 14 July, which means it’s Bastille Day, and France has recalibrated its traditional celebrations to suit the times, with a focus on medical heroes rather than the military figures who are typically celebrated.
AP reports that at the main ceremony on Paris’s Place de la Concorde on Tuesday:
… instead of world leaders or other dignitaries, the guests will be nurses, doctors, supermarket and nursing home workers, mask makers, lab technicians and others who kept France going during its strict nationwide lockdown. Families of medical workers who died with the virus also have a place in the stands.
“Exceptionally, this year, our armies … will cede the primary place to the women and men in hospital coats who fought the virus and who remain at the ramparts in the crisis,” Macron said.
Elsewhere in the French capital, though, protesters will be out on Bastille plaza, with medical workers expect to be among those highlighting what they see as French failures to prepare adequately for the spread of the virus.
With much attention in recent days on the relationship between antibodies and immunity, the Science Weekly podcast speaks to professor of immunology and infectious disease Eleanor Riley about the most effective antibody tests – and whether they’re the only thing we should be looking for. Listen here:
Hello - it’s Archie Bland here, picking up the global coronavirus blog. If there’s anything you think we should be covering or any heinous errors that need pointing out you can reach me at [email protected]
We reported earlier that California governor Gavin Newsom has ordered all bars in the US state to close and restaurants, cinemas and museums to halt indoor operations. But Hollywood is heading in the opposite direction, Reuters reports, with film crews tentatively returning to set after a hiatus.
One of the first productions to get the green light from US acting union SAG-AFTRA is 7th & Union, a low-budget drama about a former boxer. Entertainment Weekly reported on Friday that Jurassic World: Dominion had meanwhile officially returned to filming – although that’s being filmed at the UK’s Pinewood studios – despite unconfirmed reports of coronavirus cases on set. So if movies about dinosaurs or people who’ve been hit in the head a lot are your bag, panic over.
That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today – I’m passing the baton to my esteemed colleague Archie Bland, who will bring you the latest pandemic news from around the world for the next few hours.
French president Emmanuel Macron will host Tuesday a Bastille Day ceremony scaled-down because of the coronavirus pandemic and also address the French in a rare television interview as fears grow over a potential second wave of infections.
For the first time since 1945, authorities have called off the annual military parade along the Champs-Elysees in Paris that marks the 14 July 1789, storming of the Bastille fortress that launched the French Revolution, AFP reports.
Just 2,000 soldiers – half the usual number– will gather at the Place de la Concorde.
Prominent doctors urged this week that face masks be mandatory indoors, while authorities have warned the virus appears to spreading faster in several areas as people let down their guard during summer holidays.
And despite billions of euros pledged to minimise the economic damage, questions remain over how the government will foster recovery from a recession expected to destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The second lockdown in the Australian city of Melbourne will be key to getting contact tracing to a manageable level, an epidemiologist has said, as Victoria struggles to cope with around 5,000 contacts of people who tested positive for coronavirus in the second spike.
Victoria state has seen over a week of triple-digit daily case numbers of coronavirus reported, largely in the Melbourne and Mitchell shire areas.
The state has around 1,000 contact tracers working to identify those who people who have tested positive have been in contact with. Now with more than 1,800 active cases as of Tuesday, it becomes much harder for contact tracers to track down large numbers of contacts, Prof Catherine Bennett, the chair in epidemiology at Deakin University, told Guardian Australia.
Health authorities in Thailand are seeking to trace the contacts of two recent foreign arrivals in the country who were infected with the coronavirus and may have violated quarantine rules.
The two cases, an Egyptian military officer and the 9-year-old child of a diplomat from Africa, surfaced as Thailand marked seven weeks with no local transmissions of the coronavirus. With few foreigners allowed to legally enter the country, all other recent cases have involved Thai nationals repatriated from abroad.
That recently arrived foreigners were cleared for entry despite testing and quarantine procedures meant to keep them isolated has caused concern as Thailand considers how and when to reopen on a larger scale to foreign tourists.
Speaking of entertainment, now that UK theatres have been given the green light to reopen, with their share of a £1.5bn support fund in the offing, how on earth can these historic venues adapt to a socially distanced post-Covid future?
For Cameron Mackintosh, the hit musical producer and owner of eight historic theatres in London’s West End, it’s an impossible prospect. “Until social distancing doesn’t exist any more, we can’t even plan to reopen,” he said in June, when he announced that all of his venues would remain shuttered until at least 2021. For an industry that relies on packing people in as tightly as possible to create an electric atmosphere, social distancing is surely its death-knell.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been bitten by a rhea, a large bird native to Brazil, while trying to feed it:
Here are the key global developments in the coronavirus pandemic from the last few hours:
- Cities and states around the world returned to tighter coronavirus restrictions to battle recurring outbreaks, as global infections passed 13 million and the World Health Organization warned there were “no shortcuts out of the pandemic”.
- Hong Kong will impose strict new social distancing measures from midnight on Tuesday, the most stringent there since the start of the pandemic, as authorities warned the risk of a large-scale outbreak was extremely high.
- In the Philippines, a quarter of a million people in Manila will return to lockdown in an attempt to stall the infection rate there. With just over 57,000 cases, the Philippines has the second highest number of infections in south-east Asia. Nearly 1,600 people have died in the country over the course of the pandemic so far.
- In the US, California’s governor ordered all bars to close statewide and all restaurants, cinemas and museums to halt indoor operations, in a dramatic rolling back of reopening efforts as cases continue to surge. The US has reported roughly 60,000 new cases a day for almost a week, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.
- The New York Times reported that about 5.4 million Americans lost health insurance in the pandemic, more than have ever lost coverage through job losses in a year, according to a new study, as the Trump administration ramped up its war with Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top public health expert, over the handling of the crisis.
- As Australia’s cases passed 10,000 on Tuesday, the state of New South Wales also introduced restrictions on bars. The measures are partly in response to a new cluster at a Sydney pub called The Crossroads. New South Wales recorded 13 new cases as of Monday evening, in addition to 10 cases connected to the pub.
- In the Australian state of Victoria, 270 new cases of the virus were identified overnight. Staff from the private sector including airlines, telecommunications companies and banks, as well as 1,000 additional Australian defence force personnel, will be deployed to help efforts to contain Covid-19 in the state.
- Health officials in Tokyo, Japan, appealed on Tuesday for more than 800 theatregoers to get tested after a production starring a Japanese boy band was found to be the source of at least 20 cases.
- Britain must start “intense preparations” for a second wave of coronavirus that has the potential to kill as many as 120,000 hospital patients in a worst case scenario, experts have warned.
- Face masks will become mandatory in shops across England, ministers are to announce on Tuesday, following mixed messages, a cabinet split and mounting pressure on the country’s prime minister Boris Johnson to change public advice.
- More than 880 employees of private contractors running US immigration detention centres have tested positive, according to congressional testimony given by company executives.
- An entire hospital in Mexico’s southern Oaxaca state has been put in quarantine, after 68% of its remaining staff tested positive.
Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian from Wellington:
In New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern’s government expressed its unhappiness this week about Australia resuming deportations of New Zealanders during the Covid-19 pandemic – but at least one motorcycle gang boss has pledged that he and his associates will adhere perfectly to quarantine rules for returning travellers.
“The guys here in Melbourne, we’ve had a good chat, and we know that there’re rules in quarantine that we’ve got to follow and we also know that we’ve got to stick by ... you know, you’ve got to obey the law there,” Raymond Elise, a former president of the Rebels motorcycle gang’s Victoria branch, told the news outlet Stuff.
Elise was scheduled for deportation on Tuesday, along with eight others in detention in Melbourne, the Australian city that has been hardest hit by coronavirus.
“Our boys know that what we do there could potentially slow the process for the boys coming after us,” he said.
The move comes amid rancour at New Zealanders returning home only to abscond from isolation hotels over fences and through windows on trips to the supermarket or liquor store:
Podcast: the relationship between antibodies and immunity
With antibodies having implications for both our understanding of previous coronavirus infections and potential future immunity, Nicola Davis talks to Prof Eleanor Riley about how best to test for them and asks whether antibodies are the only thing we should be looking for:
New Zealand and Cook Islands work on 'travel bridge' to beat tourism slump
New Zealand’s first travel bubble could be on its way after the Cook Islands’ deputy prime minister said his country was ready to welcome tourist flights as early as next week.
The Cook Islands is a self-governing archipelago in the Pacific, in “free association” with New Zealand.
It has recorded no cases of coronavirus, while New Zealand has in effect eliminated the disease; having recorded no community spread for more than 70 days, meaning any active cases have been limited to arrivals in quarantine.
The Cook Islands is a favourite holiday destination for New Zealanders, and more than 80,000 Cook Islanders live permanently in New Zealand.
Tokyo health officials appealed on Tuesday for more than 800 theatregoers to get tested for the novel coronavirus after a production starring Japanese boy-band members was found to be the source of at least 20 cases.
As the number of virus infections continues to rise in Japan’s capital city, the Tokyo government said it was focussing on a 190-seat theatre in the Shinjuku entertainment district, where infections have also been traced to cabaret clubs.
Japan is pushing ahead with opening up parts of the country, with plans to reopen a runway at one of the country’s biggest airports, even as infections persist in major cities, rural areas and US military bases.
The latest cluster has been traced to Theatre Moliere, near Tokyo’s red-light district, which staged a play for six days starring mainly up-and-coming boy-band members earlier this month.
The Tokyo government said it learned of the first infection among a cast member on July 6, after which testing found 20 related cases by late Monday. It called on all audience members who attended the performance to get tested.
Tokyo reported 119 new cases of coronavirus infections on Monday following a four-day run when the daily tally exceeded 200. Overall, Japan has reported around 23,000 infections, and nearly 1,000 related deaths.
In Australia, staff from the private sector including airlines, telecommunications companies and banks, as well as 1,000 additional Australian defence force personnel, will be deployed to help Victoria’s efforts to contain Covid-19 after 270 new cases of the virus were identified overnight.
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, on Tuesday outlined the “comprehensive response” required to stay a step ahead of the “wicked enemy” over the coming weeks, including ensuring hospitals are prepared, given that there are 1,803 active cases of the virus in the state.
“That is incredibly challenging when we see the number of cases presenting each day,” Andrews said.
“A bigger team [is needed]. This is a wicked enemy. It is so wildly infectious. It moves so fast. It’s cunning in some respects where people can be infectious for quite some time and not know it – not have symptoms or, if they have symptoms, they’re so mild.”
The state’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said the health system was preparing for an additional 200 hospital patients in coming weeks.
Asian stock markets slipped on Tuesday, oil sagged and a safety bid supported the dollar as simmering China-US tensions and fresh coronavirus restrictions in California kept a lid on investor optimism as earnings season gets underway, Reuters reports.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.2%. Japan’s Nikkei retreated from a one-month high touched on Monday, dropping 0.8%. A firm dollar put pressure on the Aussie and kiwi.
The moves came after a selloff on Wall Street that followed reopening rollbacks in California, where Governor Gavin Newsom ordered bars closed and restaurants and movie theatres to cease indoor operations.
S&P 500 futures were flat in Asia after the index lost 0.9% on Monday.
California’s return to restrictions also has markets on edge about whether the virus can wreak more economic harm, as total infections surged by a million in five days and now top 13 million.
Oil prices, a proxy for global energy consumption and therefore growth expectations, reflected the growing worries. U.S crude futures fell 2% to $39.23 per barrel and Brent futures fell 1.8% to $41.94 per barrel.
Trump aides seek to discredit Fauci over coronavirus crisis as cases surge
The Trump administration is increasingly at war with Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top public health expert, over the handling of the coronavirus crisis, as the US continues to report around 60,000 new cases a day.
On Monday Donald Trump once again sought to downplay the outbreak and erroneously blame extra testing for high numbers of cases, adding that the US was doing a “great job”, while Fauci, in an online talk with a Stanford University expert, said: “We have let the local public health infrastructure in our country really go into tatters.”
Fauci also warned that some states, in rushing to reopen before coronavirus was under control and on the decline, went “from shutdown to completely throwing caution to the wind” and were part of the surge in numbers.
In what had appeared to be a concerted effort to discredit the infectious diseases expert, Trump aides told news outlets over the weekend Fauci, who has become the public face of the government’s response, had made a series of “mistakes” in his predictions.
Singapore plunged into recession in the second quarter as growth fell 41.2% quarter-on-quarter with the trade-dependent economy hammered by the coronavirus, preliminary data showed Tuesday, AFP reports.
Year-on-year, the economy shrank 12.6% between April and June, according to the data from the trade ministry, as strict curbs were imposed to fight the virus.
It marks the second consecutive quarter of contraction, meaning that the city state - which has one of the world’s most open economies - has entered a recession for the first time in more than a decade.
The massive second-quarter drop in GDP was due to “measures that were implemented from 7 April to 1 June to slow the spread of COVID-19, which included the suspension of non-essential services and closure of most workplace premises,” the ministry said in a statement.
It also attributed to the contraction to “weak external demand amidst a global economic downturn”.
Tiny Singapore, viewed as a barometer for the health of global trade, is highly sensitive to external shocks, and the gloomy figures are another ominous sign for the global economy.
Australia records more than 10,000 coronavirus cases
The Australian state of Victoria has recorded 270 new cases of coronavirus, which brings the national total to about 10,250.
The state of New South Wales has recorded 13 new cases of coronavirus to 8pm last night. Of those, two are returned travellers in hotel quarantine, and one is a known close contact of a previous overseas case who was isolated prior to becoming infectious.
Ten other cases are connected to a cluster at the Crossroads pub. Three of the cases attended the venue, and the remaining seven are close contacts.
That brings the number of cases associated with the Crossroads Hotel cluster to 28, NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said.
Hong Kong reimposes social distancing measures
Here’s the latest from Hong Kong, which will impose strict new social distancing measures from midnight Tuesday, the most stringent in the Asian financial hub since the coronavirus broke out, as authorities warn the risk of a large-scale outbreak is extremely high.
The measures dictate that face masks will be mandatory for people using public transport and restaurants will no longer provide dine in services and only offer takeaway after 6pm, Reuters reports.
Both are new rules that were not implemented during the city’s first and second coronavirus waves earlier this year. If a person does not wear a mask on public transport, they face a fine of HK$5,000 ($645).
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday the government would limit group gatherings to four people from 50 - a measure last seen during a second wave in March. Twelve types of establishments including gyms and places of amusement must shut for a week.
“The recent emergence of local cases of unknown infection source indicates the existence of sustained silent transmission in the community,” the government said in a statement late on Monday.
The Chinese-ruled city recorded 52 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, including 41 that were locally transmitted, health authorities said.
Lam said the measures were the result of a three-way tug of war between considerations related to public health, economic impact and social acceptability and that the city may need to co-exist with the virus for a period of time.
Mexico’s Health Ministry on Monday reported 4,685 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 485 additional fatalities, bringing the country’s totals to 304,435 cases and 35,491 deaths.
The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian:
International arrivals to New Zealand in May fell to their lowest in 61 years as stringent border restrictions that bar anyone except New Zealanders, their families, and certain essential workers from entering the country took hold.
There were 5,600 arrivals to New Zealand in May, according to the country’s statistics agency, compared to nearly 1m last May.
It’s the lowest number since May 1959, when 4,700 people arrived in New Zealand.
May was the second month of New Zealand’s border closure, which was implemented to quell the spread of Covid-19. The country has no known community transmission and 25 active cases – all of them returning travellers in government-managed quarantine.
No one is in hospital with the virus. There have been 1,195 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New Zealand, with 22 deaths.
California orders closure of bars and indoor operations of restaurants and theaters
California’s governor has ordered all bars to close statewide and all restaurants, movie theaters and museums to halt indoor operations, in a dramatic rolling back of reopening efforts as coronavirus cases continue to surge.
In addition to the statewide closures, the 30 counties on the state’s monitoring list must also shut down indoor operations at places of worship, fitness centers, hair salons, barbershops and malls.
California is contending with a rapidly growing caseload; the state has seen an average of 8,211 daily cases over the past week, an uptick from the 7,876 average from the week before. The positivity rate has increased to 7.4%, up from 6.1% a few weeks prior.
“It’s incumbent on all of us to recognize, soberly, that Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon,” said Gavin Newsom, California’s governor.
Australian agricultural exporters are reassessing their dependence on the China market after previously viewing financial benefits of such trade as being worth the risk, a senior public servant has said.
A range of agricultural groups and industry bodies will today give evidence to a parliamentary inquiry looking into the need to diversify Australia’s trade and investment profile.The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has told the inquiry the impact of Covid-19 had “highlighted the vulnerabilities from reduced demand and disruptions to global supply chains” and it warned that trade concentration could “sharpen” the consequences of a disruption in a key market.
In a submission, the department says exports to China accounted for 29% of the total value of Australia’s agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports in 2018-19, up from 21% four years earlier.
David Hazlehurst, the acting secretary of the department, was asked to explain the claim in the department’s submission that the “likelihood of a targeted trade disruption is reduced where there is mutual dependence, such as Australia’s live cattle exports to Indonesia and Vietnam or in the case of a range of Australia’s exports to China”.
The chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth, George Christensen, likened it to “mutually assured destruction” theory from during the Cold War.Hazlehurst replied that countries would operate in a way that they perceived to be in their own interests.
Explaining what had driven Australian exporters to focus on China, Hazelhurst said:
Particularly as many have observed in relation to China, the price premium for many agricultural products is so high that it’s led to many agribusinesses making the judgments that the risk is worth taking. Now those judgements may be being recalculated by those businesses over time, but the judgement they made at the time was that that premium was worth taking that risk.”
China reported on Tuesday five new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 13 July, compared with eight cases a day earlier, the health authority said.
All of the new infections were imported cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement. There were no new deaths.
China also reported five new asymptomatic patients, down from six a day earlier. As of 13 July, mainland China had a total of 83,605 confirmed coronavirus cases, it said.
China’s death toll from the coronavirus remained unchanged at 4,634.
Nearly 10 million people were unable to attend the funeral of someone they knew during lockdown, according to a new study from the UK’s largest undertaker, which warned that the nation is heading towards a national grief “pandemic”.
In its report, Co-op Funeralcare found Covid-19 restrictions meant that 9.7 million mourners had to stay away from cremations and burials. The figure is based on an estimate that 243,000 funerals went ahead in the UK during lockdown with an average of 10 attendees due to coronavirus rules, compared with 50 in normal times.
Warning of the long-term psychological impact of being unable to grieve properly, the study said the UK could experience a prolonged period of mourning for months, or even years, to come.
Delta Air Lines may be able to avoid involuntary furloughs in the fall after receiving interest from more than 15,000 employees for early exit deals, one person with knowledge of the matter said.
The person said Delta was also looking at extending reduced work hours for employees past September in an effort to save costs as the coronavirus pandemic continues to whip the airline industry.
Delta declined to comment.
UK experts fear up to 120,000 Covid-19 deaths this winter
Britain must start “intense preparations” for a second wave of coronavirus that has the potential to kill as many as 120,000 hospital patients in a worst case scenario, experts have warned.
Senior doctors and scientists convened by the Academy of Medical Sciences said on Tuesday that, without urgent action, a resurgence of cases this winter could overwhelm the NHS when services are already stretched because of flu and other seasonal pressures.
The experts were commissioned by Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, to model a “reasonable worst case scenario” for Covid-19 this winter. Their report, which has been shared with ministers and local health authorities, calls for immediate efforts to prepare for a second wave.
Take note, mortals:
Hong Kong Disneyland Park to close again
Hong Kong Disneyland is closing temporarily following the city’s decision to ban public gatherings of more than four people because of the pandemic.
Disney officials posted on the resort’s website that the Hong Kong park was closing on Wednesday until further notice. The resort’s hotels will remain open with adjusted levels of service.
Hong Kong announced new coronavirus-related restrictions on Monday.
The Hong Kong park and Shanghai Disneyland closed in January. Tokyo Disneyland closed the following month and Disney parks in the United States and Europe shut their doors in March.
Shanghai Disneyland reopened in May, as did Hong Kong Disneyland Park last month.
Two of Walt Disney World’s theme parks in Florida reopened last Saturday, despite a spike in coronavirus cases in Florida.
Disneyland Paris also is welcoming back visitors this week for the first time since March. The reopening of Disney’s California parks was postponed pending the issuance of state guidelines.
5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance during the pandemic
The New York Times reports that, “about 5.4 million Americans lost health insurance in the pandemic, more than have ever lost coverage through job losses in a year,” according to a new study:
The study, to be released Tuesday by the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families USA, found that the estimated increase in uninsured laid-off workers over the three-month period was nearly 40% higher than the highest previous increase, which occurred during the recession of 2008 and 2009. In that period, 3.9 million adults lost insurance.
WHO chief warns against 'shortcuts'
The WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that there would be “no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future”, adding: “There are no short cuts out of this pandemic.”
Speaking critically of leaders in countries where “mixed messages” have led to a breakdown in trust, he said that if this approach is taken, matters are going to get “worse and worse”.
“I know that many leaders are working in difficult circumstances”, he said, but that nonetheless, “There are no short cuts out of this pandemic,” he adds.
Global cases pass 13m
There are more than 13 million coronavirus cases worldwide, an increase of 1m cases in 5 days, Johns Hopkins University data show.
The current total is 13,026,225. There have been 570,924 known deaths so far.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.
As global cases passed 13 million, rising by 1m in just five days – compared to the 1m per week for the last few weeks – WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that there would be “no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future”, warning that “There are no short cuts out of this pandemic.”
A number of countries, cities and regions have seen lockdown or social distancing measures reimposed. Hong Kong reimposed social distancing measures after a sudden spike in coronavirus infections, banning public gatherings of more than four people. In the US state of California governor Gavin Newsom ordering bars to close and banning indoor restaurant dining, among other measures.
About 250,000 people in Manila in the Philippines will return to lockdown in an attempt to stall the infection rate there.
Here is a roundup of the key developments from the last few hours:
- There are more than 13 million coronavirus cases worldwide, an increase of 1m cases in 5 days, Johns Hopkins University data show. The current total is 13,026,225. There have been 570,924 known deaths so far.
- The WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that there would be “no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future”, adding: “There are no short cuts out of this pandemic.”
- China has stepped up a travel warning to Australia, telling its citizens of a risk of being searched “arbitrarily” by law enforcement authorities. Apart from warning of discrimination recently, China’s culture and tourism ministry advised against travelling to Australia last month due to increasing racism linked to the virus.
- More than 880 employees of private contractors running US immigration detention centres have tested positive for coronavirus, according to congressional testimony given by company executives.
- An entire hospital in Mexico’s southern Oaxaca state has been put in quarantine after 68% of its remaining staff tested positive for Covid-19. Doctors and nurses at the Macedonio Benítez Fuentes hospital in the town of Juchitán de Zaragoza held protests last week, calling for a lockdown after 120 of their colleagues were put under isolation after positive tests.
- Face masks will become mandatory in shops across England, UK government ministers are to announce on Tuesday, following mixed messages, a cabinet split and mounting pressure on the country’s prime minister Boris Johnson to change public advice.
- Hong Kong reimposed social distancing measures after a sudden spike in coronavirus infections, banning public gatherings of more than four people.
- The US state of California did similar, closing down many businesses recently allowed to reopen. Its governor Gavin Newsom ordered bars to close and banned indoor restaurant dining, among other measures.
- A new UN report said that coronavirus could mean an additional 130m people going hungry this year. It added that “after steadily declining for decades, chronic hunger slowly began to rise in 2014 and continues to do so”.
- Angela Merkel warned that a special EU summit might not be able to agree a deal on a coronavirus recovery fund, with some countries nervous that the €750bn proposals were too extravagant.
- The death toll in Latin America has reached 144,758, taking it past that in the US and Canada, and leaving the region second only to Europe. A Reuters tally meanwhile found that the global number of infections has risen by 1m in five days.
- In the US, the Trump administration came under fire for its apparent attempt to sideline infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci for disagreeing with the president.
- About 250,000 people in Manila will return to lockdown in an attempt to stall the infection rate there. The Philippines has the second highest number of infections in south-east Asia.