Coronavirus live news: Hong Kong and California see record daily cases; 'huge discrepancy' in South Africa dea

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European Union states have agreed on common hygiene standards, su..... approved.

European Union states have agreed on common hygiene standards, such as social distancing and wearing face masks on planes and at airports, to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus, the German transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, has said.

“I am pleased that the German proposal was accepted by my colleagues at the European level and that we could agree on these uniform standards,” Scheuer told a European aviation conference.

Measures agreed include mouth-and-nose protection for passengers from six years old and social distancing at airports during security checks and check-in. A high fresh-air quota in planes must be guaranteed and information must be available in several languages. However, a middle seat does not have to remain empty in aircraft.

The joint regulations meet at least some of the demands made by airlines, as varying standards had caused confusion.

The German transport ministry said agreement was reached by officials and had yet to be formally approved by ministers.

Updated

A hospital in the southern French city of Lyon is testing patients with a new machine that enables them to breathe into a tube to see whether they have Covid-19 in a matter of seconds.

The machine is entering a second trial phase after three months of use on dozens of people, among whom about 20 had the virus and the others did not. Unlike the uncomfortable standard PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, it is not invasive and provides an immediate result.

“It’s the same principle as a classic breathalyser test,” Christian George, director of research at the National Centre of Scientific Research at the la Croix-Rousse hospital, told Reuters. “The machine will register molecules in the exhaled air and then detects traces of the sickness.”

Jean-Christophe Richard, head of intensive care at the hospital, said the objective was to have the machine fully operational by the end of the year. He said:

This type of quick test means we will have the results straightaway and can then move the patient to the right area of the hospital. As we now have a few efficient treatments, the quicker we can diagnose the quicker we can treat them.”

Bruno Lina, an independent virus expert who has been consulted on the machine, said it was a step in the right direction, but at this stage was too expensive for widespread distribution in hospitals.

“If our hypothesis is proved correct, we could see second or third generation machines that cost less and that would specifically home in on the markers of the infection that we have identified,” said Lina, who heads the National Enterovirus and Parechovirus Reference Centre.

Updated

The number of coronavirus infections in Romania rose by a record amount for a second consecutive day, the government said on Thursday, and local authorities said they could place dozens of small towns under localised quarantines.

Other countries in southern Europe and the Balkans saw spikes in new cases in recent days, raising alarm in the World Health Organization.

Romania announced 1,112 new cases, taking confirmed cases to 41,275 since the pandemic reached the country in late February. Some 2,126 people have died.

The European Union member has extended a state of alert until the middle of August and several European countries have reinstated travel restrictions for Romanians.

A legislative void that enabled thousands of infected people to walk out of hospitals or not be treated at all for most of July was in part responsible for the hike. The void has since been solved through a new parliamentary bill.

Another reason was a relative lack of compliance with social distancing rules and wearing protective masks in closed spaces.

On Wednesday, the health minister, Nelu Tătaru, criticised attempts to make light of the pandemic and to mislead people into not following the rules. He told reporters:

“We are going through a difficult moment. As long as we have these negationist trends, this slighting of the three-four months during which everybody followed the rules ... it will remain difficult.”

Earlier this month, the former ruling Social Democrat party accused the government of failing to contain the pandemic.

Updated

The US government has set a benchmark for Covid-19 vaccine pricing in a $2bn (£1.5bn) deal announced on Wednesday with Pfizer Inc and the German biotech firm BioNTech SE that will likely pressure other manufacturers to set similar prices, industry analysts have said.

The deal, which is contingent on an approvable product, secures enough vaccine to inoculate 50 million Americans for about $40 a person, or about the cost of annual flu shots, and is the first to provide a direct window into likely pricing of successful Covid-19 vaccines.

It also allows for some drugmakers to profit from their efforts to protect people from the virus that has killed about 620,000 people worldwide, almost a quarter of those in the United States.

Unlike other vaccine deals signed by the government, Pfizer and BioNTech will not collect a payment until their vaccine proves to be safe and effective in a large pivotal clinical trial expected to start this month.

The US and other governments have previously struck deals to support Covid-19 vaccine development, some of which included guaranteed deliveries of doses. But this is the first deal to outline a specific price for finished products.

“The average price for a flu vaccine is around $40,” Peter Pitts, president and co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, told Reuters. “It looks good with that comparison. It’s well within the ballpark of reasonableness.”

So far, the other major experimental vaccines have all displayed relatively similar data on safety and efficacy, suggesting that no one drugmaker would be able to charge dramatically more than its peers, said Mizuho biotechnology analyst Vamil Divan.

Updated

Giulio Gallera, the health councillor for Italy’s Lombardy region, has asked the health ministry to draw up new guidelines for people with Covid-19 who are still in quarantine two months after contracting the virus.

Of the almost 9,000 people who are currently infected with coronavirus in Lombardy, the region worst affected by the virus, 2,000 people, among them a four-year-old child, must stay indoors as they still test positive despite not presenting any symptoms. Some studies have shown that those with a weak viral load are not-contagious.

In Italy, a person must test negative twice in a row before being declared recovered.

“These prolonged periods of isolation are generating situations which in many cases are unsustainable, causing negative psychological implications on fragile individuals, especially the four-year-old girl,” Gallera said. “We all agree on the importance of ensuring people’s safety … but I hope that we are provided with updated guidelines, especially in light of the scientific studies that have shown these individuals have little chance of infecting.”

There were 282 new coronavirus cases registered in Italy on Wednesday, with most of the infections being imported from abroad, and nine deaths. Across the country, 12,322 people are currently positive, of whom 724 are recovering in hospital and 48 are in intensive care.

Updated

In his near-empty pub in the Algarve in southern Portugal, Samuel Tilley fumed that coronavirus regulations in his home country Britain are keeping tourists away, further jeopardising an already gloomy summer season.

Usually packed with tourists at this time of the year, Vilamoura is quiet, leaving bar staff at Tilley’s O’Neills pub without much to do but brood over Britain’s decision to leave Portugal off a list of more than 50 countries safe enough for travel without restrictions.

“It was very shocking. I don’t believe there’s any logic behind it,” Tilley said, while keeping an eye out for the rare thirsty customer walking in to have a refreshing pint by the harbour.

“There are some wonderful people here in the Algarve and beyond and I feel this decision by the British government really hurt them.”

A couple is seen next to empty hammocks during the coronavirus  pandemic in downtown Albufeira, Portugal July 20, 2020.
A couple is seen next to empty hammocks during the coronavirus pandemic in downtown Albufeira, Portugal July 20, 2020. Photograph: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Portugal initially won praise for its quick response to the pandemic but a persistent count of several hundred new cases per day concentrated in and around Lisbon in the past two months has worried authorities at home and abroad, leading Britain and other European nations to impose restrictions on travel from the southern European nation.

Last year, Portugal welcomed about 2 million Britons, with 64% of them heading to the sunny Algarve, famed for its sandy beaches and golf courses. So far in 2020, only 92,000 Britons have made it to the region.

Sunbeds are left empty and lonely waiters stand outside restaurants with menus in hand but no holidaymakers to speak to.

“It used to be so busy that you would stand shoulder to shoulder,” Welsh tourist Nadine said as she walked around nearly empty streets in nearby Albufeira.

Updated

Coronavirus cases in the US approached 4 million on Thursday, with more than 2,600 new cases every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections in the United States have rapidly accelerated since the first case was detected on 21 January. It took the country 98 days to reach 1 million cases.

It took another 43 days to reach 2 million and then 27 days to reach 3 million. It has only taken 16 days to reach 4 million at a rate of 43 new cases a minute.

The federal government, state governors and city leaders have often clashed over the best way to tackle the pandemic, leading to a confusing patchwork of rules on issues such as mask wearing in public and when businesses can open.

President Donald Trump has recently shifted his tone. He had previously been reluctant to wear a mask but this week encouraged Americans to wear face coverings and recently appeared in public for the first time with one.

Of the 20 countries with the biggest outbreak, the United States ranks second for cases per capita, at 120 infections per 10,000 people, only exceeded by Chile.

With over 143,000 deaths, or 4.4 fatalities per 10,000 people, the US ranks sixth globally for the highest deaths per capita. It is exceeded by the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Chile and France.

Globally, the rate of new infections shows no sign of slowing, with the disease accelerating the fastest in the US and South America, according to the Reuters tally, based on official reports.

I’m Amy Walker, taking over the global coronavirus blog from my colleague Jessica Murray. I’ll be keeping you up-to-date with all the key developments throughout the rest of the day.

Updated

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Global cases passed 15.2m. The number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 15.2m on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data. Known coronavirus deaths number 623,863.
  • Hong Kong reports new daily record of coronavirus cases. Hong Kong reported 118 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, including 111 that were locally transmitted, adding to a deluge of new cases that have hit the global financial hub over the past two weeks.
  • South Africa records 60% more excess deaths than expected. The country witnessed about 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes or 59% more than would normally be expected between early May and mid-July, scientists said, suggesting many more people are dying of Covid-19 than shown in official figures.
  • Record 366 new coronavirus infections reported in Japan’s capital. Thursday’s figure took cumulative infections to more than 10,000 in Tokyo, topping a daily high of 293 cases last week, as the city’s government declared its highest alert against the disease.
  • Russia’s coronavirus tally nears 800,000. Russia reported 5,848 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, pushing its national tally to 795,038, the fourth largest in the world.
  • Widow confronts Peru’s president over Covid-19 deaths. Celia Capira ran sobbing after a truck carrying the president, Martín Vizcarra, yelling for him to go and see for himself the grim conditions at the hospital, where her husband was fighting for his life.

Everyone knew that reopening Greece to tourist markets would be a calculated risk, fraught with the danger of potentially importing coronavirus cases with the need to keep an economy overly dependent on tourism afloat.

As holidaymakers fly into the country, and trickle into the Greek capital, the extent to which the gambit has paid off is becoming ever clearer.

The data, say hoteliers, is disheartening at least thus far. Nationwide, the chamber of hoteliers of Greece has seen profits plunging by an unprecedented 5.6bn (£5bn) in 2020.

In Athens, where the Hilton and iconic Grande Bretagne only opened this month, occupancy rates are at an all-time low.

In June last year they reached 93%; in June this year they stood at 26%, with barely 5% of all hotel rooms in the capital occupied in April and May.

Losses in the region of Attica and the Argosaronic Gulf alone, are expected to exceed 300m through January to June.

Some myths have been busted. With Britain’s high contagion and fatality rates, industry figures worried that tourists flying in from the UK would pose a particular risk.

Mass testing of passengers arriving on flights from Britain ultimately proved exceptional for what it didn’t show: of the 3,000 tested for the virus, within 48 hours of airlinks being resumed, not one positive case was found.

Tourism officials now say the sector’s immediate future will depend on arrivals from the UK, Greece’s most lucrative market and after Germany by far the country’s biggest.

On Tuesday, Athens’ deputy civil protection minister, Nikos Hardalias, announced that 295 foreign travellers had tested positive for coronavirus between 1-19 July. Of that number, the vast majority were from neighbouring Balkan countries, with most from Serbia, he said.

The rise has alarmed epidemiologists in a country that, to date, has registered 200 Covid-19 deaths and 4,077 cases of coronavirus, far lower than its European neighbours.

As the presidential motorcade pulled away from the main hospital in Peru’s second city – fleeing an angry protest by medical staff and relatives of Covid-19 patients – one woman broke away from the crowd.

Celia Capira ran sobbing after the truck carrying the president, Martín Vizcarra, yelling for him to go and see for himself the grim conditions at the hospital, where her husband was fighting for his life.

Footage of Capira’s futile pursuit on Sunday quickly came to symbolize official indifference as the pandemic continues to scourge Peru – now the sixth worst-hit in the world with 362,000 reported coronavirus cases and 13,579 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Capira’s 57-year-old husband, Adolfo Mamani, died Tuesday in Arequipa’s Honorio Delgado public hospital. And in his fate, many see a reflection of the tragic lottery facing Covid-19 patients inside Peru’s precarious public health system.

“[The government] killed him,” Capira sobbed in a video posted on social media. “He was OK. They told me he was stable.”

The Philippines has reported 2,200 new coronavirus infections and 28 new deaths.

The health ministry said total deaths now stand at 1,871 and infections have risen to 74,390.

The south-east Asian nation’s coronavirus task force on Thursday reimposed a ban on non-essential outbound travel for Filipinos, two weeks after it lifted it.

Updated

An Irish government “staycation” subsidy is expected to reimburse couples up to €250 (£228) on hotel and restaurant bills.

The scheme is part of a €7bn stimulus package of grants, tax cuts, capital spending, welfare and employment supports to be unveiled on Thursday.

In an effort to shore up the hospitality sector and encourage people to holiday in Ireland, the staycation voucher will offer consumers a tax refund of up to €125 per person when they spend about €600 on accommodation, food or non-alcoholic drinks.

The government is reportedly investigating whether the rebate could be claimed via an online system or app.

Authorities have published a “green list” of 15 countries deemed relatively safe for travel – it includes Italy, Greece, Greenland and Finland – but are still urging people to spend their holidays at home.

Ryanair, which wants to entice passengers to additional destinations, responded with scorn, calling the list useless, idiotic and on par with Father Ted.

AstraZeneca and others should not own a lucrative patent on a medicine that is needed by poor as well as rich nations, write Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and Winnie Byanyima, UN undersecretary general.

Once a safe and effective vaccine is discovered, the only barrier to providing sufficient doses should be the world’s manufacturing capacity. But other artificial barriers stand in the way.

The intellectual property laws that grant pharmaceutical companies the exclusive rights to produce a particular medicine for a certain number of years are intended to reward investment and innovation into new medicines.

These intellectual property rights are often abused and create monopolies, and in the case of the Covid-19 vaccine they threaten to limit the supply, causing deadly shortages and unnecessary delays.

Updated

France is to distribute 40m free reusable masks to its poorest citizens, the health minister Olivier Véran announced on Wednesday.

The announcement came after criticism the new rules that came into effect on Monday making it compulsory to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, including supermarkets, banks, places of worship and official buildings, was an additional expense for those living in precarious circumstances.

Many local town and city halls handed out free, washable fabric masks in May, but the masks will be posted out to those on low incomes who receive top-up health insurance.

Le Parisien newspaper worked out that a couple with two children over the age of 11 would have to spend €228 per month for disposable masks or €96 for washable masks.

Failure to wear a mask can lead to a €135 fine.

Hong Kong reports new daily record of coronavirus cases

Hong Kong reported 118 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a daily record, including 111 that were locally transmitted, adding to a deluge of new cases that have hit the global financial hub over the past two weeks.

Hong Kong extended strict social distancing measures on Wednesday as authorities reported 105 locally transmitted infections.

Since late January, more than 2,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 14 of whom have died. Authorities have warned the city faces a critical period in containing the virus.

Meanwhile Indonesia reported 1,906 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing its total infections to 93,657.

The number of Covid-19 deaths in the south-east Asian nation rose by 117 on Thursday to bring the total to 4,576.

Updated

Your questions answered on what type of mask to wear to cut the risk of getting Covid-19.

Russia's coronavirus tally nears 800,000

Russia reported 5,848 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, pushing its national tally to 795,038, the fourth largest in the world.

In their daily readout, officials said 147 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing Russia’s official death toll to 12,892.

France expects economic growth of 8% for 2021, the country’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, has said.

Le Maire told the National Assembly that the government wanted economic activity to return to pre-crisis levels from 2022.

He also said that recent data was “satisfying but too fragile” to change forecasts for an economic contraction of 11% this year.

Updated

South Africa records 60% more excess deaths than expected

South Africa has recorded nearly 60% more natural deaths than expected in recent weeks, suggesting a much higher toll of coronavirus-related fatalities than officially reported.

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said in a report released late on Wednesday:

In the past weeks, the numbers have shown a relentless increase – by the second week of July, there were 59% more deaths from natural causes than would have been expected based on historical data.

The report by the council, which is government-funded but an independent unit, came as the health ministry announced a record increase of 572 coronavirus deaths over the previous 24 hours.

The author of the report, Prof Debbie Bradshaw, said “the weekly death reports have revealed a huge discrepancy between the country’s confirmed Covid-19 deaths and number of excess natural deaths”.

South Africa is the worst-affected country in Africa and among the top five in the world in terms of confirmed cases, with 394,948 infections reported to date, including 5,940 deaths.

The mortality rate has remained low, however, at about 1.5% on Wednesday, according to the health ministry’s daily updates.

The SAMRC is charged with conducting research on disease trends and identifying the main causes of deaths in the country.

The council’s chief executive, Prof Glenda Gray, said:

The SAMRC has been tracking mortality for decades in South Africa, and this system has identified excess deaths associated with the Covid-19 epidemic.

These may be attributed to both Covid-19 deaths as well non-Covid-19 due to other diseases such as TB, HIV and non-communicable diseases, as health services are re-orientated to support this health crisis.

Updated

Amid mounting calls for Israel’s government to appoint a dedicated coronavirus response coordinator, the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has named a public health professional to the post.

The job went to Ronni Gamzu, chief executive of Tel Aviv’s Sourasky medical complex. A statement said:

“Prof Gamzu has many years of administrative experience in the health field, including previous service as health ministry director-general.”

Public confidence in the government has been dented by a recent wave of contradictory emergency decrees opening, closing and reopening amenities, such as restaurants, public beaches and gyms.

Protests against economic fallout from the pandemic have spread across the country, with demonstrations outside Netanyahu’s official Jerusalem residence becoming a regular event.

Israelis protest against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s response to the financial fallout of the Covid-19 crisis in Jerusalem.
Israelis protest against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s response to the financial fallout of the Covid-19 crisis in Jerusalem. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

After his government curbed flights and imposed lockdown measures in March, Israel briefly reduced its daily tally of newly confirmed cases to single digits in early May, but in recent weeks new cases have regularly topped 1,000 per day, with a surge of 2,000 on Tuesday.

Netanyahu took responsibility for the hasty reopening of Israel’s economy between late April and June – measures widely seen as triggering the resurgence in cases.

The country of about 9 million people had recorded more than 56,000 confirmed cases by Wednesday evening, including 430 deaths.

Updated

A diplomacy shaped around self-serving tittle-tattle now risks lives and undermines America’s standing in the world, writes the Guardian global development reporter Peter Beaumont.

The campaign by the Trump administration against the World Health Organization has often seemed faintly preposterous.

Over the months of the coronavirus pandemic its untruths and hyperbole have been dismissed by many as iterations of Trumpspeak, whose main purpose has been to distract from the US’s catastrophic response to Covid-19, which has claimed almost 140,000 lives and devastated the economy.

In recent weeks, however, the actions of the Trump administration have moved from dodgy dossiers and fake claims to a far more sinister agenda, and one with real-world consequences that may result in more lives lost, not least in the developing world.

Updated

A record 366 new coronavirus infections have been reported in Japan’s capital of Tokyo, its governor said on Thursday, fuelling fears of a second round of infections.

As Japan began a four-day stretch of holidays, the city’s government declared its highest alert against the disease.

Thursday’s figure took cumulative infections to more than 10,000 in Tokyo, topping a daily high of 293 cases last week.

Pedestrians walk past event posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Pedestrians walk past event posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Meanwhile, China reported 22 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 22 July, up from 14 cases a day earlier, the health commission said.

Of the new infections, 18 were in the far western region of Xinjiang and one was in Dalian city in the northeastern Liaoning province. The other three were imported cases.

The Dalian case involved a 58-year-old man working at a seafood processing company. Multiple samples collected from the company, including frozen food, processing workshop, canteen and office building also tested positive, state media said.

On Thursday, Dalian reported two new locally transmitted cases and 12 asymptomatic ones, all close contacts of the case from Wednesday, state media said citing Dalian government.

Earlier this month, customs in Dalian found the coronavirus in the packaging of frozen shrimps imported from Ecuador. China suspended imports from three Ecuadorean shrimp producers after detecting the virus.

Dalian, with a population of nearly 7 million, plans to conduct nucleic acid testing for 190,000 people in the city, state media said.

As of Wednesday, mainland China had 83,729 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 death toll remained at 4,634.

Updated

Hello everyone, this is Jessica Murray, I’ll be steering the coronavirus blog for the next few hours.

Feel free to send across any story tips or suggestions.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @journojess_

Updated

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan. Thanks for following along. I’m off to try catch a rat that has decided to start living in my kitchen.

My colleague Jessica Murray will bring you the latest coronavirus news for the next few hours.

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Global cases passed 15.2m. The number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 15.2m on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data. Known coronavirus deaths number 623,443.
  • Trump tied climbing Covid-19 cases to Black Lives Matter protests. Donald Trump has cited Black Lives Matter protests against the police killing of George Floyd as among the likely causes of the recent surge in coronavirus cases.The US president did not blame the anti-racism demonstrations directly but suggested that they “presumably” led Americans to lower their guard against the pandemic.
  • Dr Deborah Birx said the current US crisis is ‘very different’ to March and April. Dr Deborah Birx, the chief medical officer on the White House’s coronavirus task force, has called the surge in infections across the United States, “a very different epidemic than we had in March and April”.Speaking on Fox news, Birx said that the the virus event across the South and West of the US really started after 10 June: “This was an event that we think can be traced to Memorial Day, opening up and people travelling again.”
  • South Korea has fallen into recession. South Korea’s economy recorded its worst performance in more than 20 years in the second quarter, the central bank said Thursday, as as the coronavirus pandemic hammered its exports.Asia’s fourth-largest economy contracted 2.9% year-on-year in the April-June period, the Bank of Korea said. It was the fastest decline since a 3.8% drop in the fourth quarter of 1998, in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Quarter-on-quarter, it shrank 3.3%, also the worst showing in more than 20 years.
  • South Africa reported a record number of daily virus deaths. South Africa on Wednesday announced a record 24-hour increase of 572 coronavirus deaths, bringing its total number of fatalities to 5,940, AFP reports.The country is the worst-affected in Africa and among the top five in the world in terms of confirmed cases, with 394,948 infections reported to date.
  • The Australian state of Victoria recorded 403 new cases, down from the day before. Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews says the state has recorded 403 new cases overnight, and five new deaths. The cases figure is down from yesterday’s record increase of 484.Four of the people who died were in aged care, Andrews said.
  • Hong Kong records 113 new cases. Hong Kong has reported a record 113 new cases for Wednesday, in a continuing third wave of Covid-19 infections, including a large proportion of which are unsourced. The government said the risk of large scale community outbreak was now the highest since the pandemic began.
  • Indian-administered Kashmir imposed a strict lockdown for a week, as authorities warned of rising coronavirus cases, one day after cancelling a major annual Hindu pilgrimage. Authorities said the Muslim-majority Himalayan valley, apart from one district, would go into lockdown until 29 July, when the restrictions would be reviewed.
  • The US state of California recorded its highest number of new cases in a single day, as the state surpasses New York for the greatest total of cases in the country. The state saw 12,807 confirmed cases on Tuesday, the governor, Gavin Newsom, announced on Wednesday. That figure brings the state’s total to more than 413,576 since the pandemic began, Newsom announced.
  • Australia to post biggest budget deficit since second world war.The government that went to the last federal election declaring it was “back in black” will on Thursday unveil the largest budget deficit since the second world war, reflecting the substantial fiscal support rolled out during the pandemic and a decline in revenue because of a contraction in activity.

Global report: South Korea goes into recession as Australia flags huge deficit

The United States neared four million cases of coronavirus, and more than 143,000 deaths, as the pandemic surged in the south and west of the country.

President Trump held another coronavirus briefing on his own, at which he cited Black Lives Matter protests as among the likely cause of the recent surge in cases. He also pointed to Memorial Day, young people congregating and increased travel.

“Cases started to rise among young Americans shortly after demonstrations, which you know very well about, which presumably triggered a broader relaxation of mitigation efforts nationwide,” he said.

One of his key coronavirus task force members, Dr Deborah Birx, who has not appeared at the recently restarted briefings, told Fox News that opening up the country was also a factor.

“This is a very different epidemic that we had in March and April ... and it will require additional tests. And so this surge and this degree of cases is so widespread compared to previously. It does have to be addressed,” Birx said:

The Guardian’s Melissa Davey and Paul Karp report:

In the Australian state of Victoria, workers who cannot afford to take time off while waiting for a Covid-19 test result will now be eligible for an AU$300 (US$215) hardship payment, as the state announced a further 403 infections – its third worst day yet – and five deaths.

The premier, Daniel Andrews, said people going to work while symptomatic and awaiting a test result was one reason the state was struggling to contain the spread. He said the $300 payment for those who were unable to access sick leave meant people would no longer have an excuse not to isolate.

Applying for the payment would be simple, Andrews said:

Even at the best of times, there is a wide scope for misunderstanding in modern international relations, says António Guterres, the UN secretary general. “When two diplomats meet”, he says, “there are at least six perceptions to manage: how the two perceive themselves, how they perceive each other – and how they think the other perceives them”.

Four months into the coronavirus epidemic and it is the worst of times – and the opportunities for misperception have multiplied. The virus has left the UN members talking past one another, and advocates of multilateralism increasingly looking anywhere but the security council to promote liberal democracy, seek compromise or campaign for accountability.

For Guterres, this is deeply frustrating. He was one of the first world leaders to grasp the seriousness of the pandemic, and saw an opportunity for the 15-strong UN security council to play a convening role:

Germany’s coronavirus infections rose 569 to 203,368, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Thursday, with the tally of deaths up six to stand at 9,101.

More on South Korea now from AFP:

South Korea’s economy recorded its worst performance in more than 20 years in the second quarter, the central bank said Thursday, as as the coronavirus pandemic hammered its exports.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy contracted 2.9% year-on-year in the April-June period, the Bank of Korea said. It was the fastest decline since a 3.8% drop in the fourth quarter of 1998, in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Quarter-on-quarter, it shrank 3.3%, also the worst showing in more than 20 years.

New Container Port at Busan, South Korea.
New Container Port at Busan, South Korea. Photograph: Ryu Seung-Il/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the coronavirus outside mainland China, and while it never imposed a compulsory lockdown, strict social distancing was widely observed from March until it started loosening restrictions in May.

But its economy has been unable to escape the global impact of the pandemic. The country is highly trade-dependent, and exports plunged 13.6% year-on-year in Q2 - the sharpest decline since 1974, in the wake of the OPEC oil crisis.

The decline was driven by “decreases in motor vehicles and coal & petroleum products”, the Bank of Korea said in a statement.

The BOK forecast in May that the economy will shrink 0.2% in 2020, a dramatic downgrade from its February forecast of 2.1% growth.

The International Monetary Fund last month also cut its growth forecast for South Korea, predicting it would shrink 2.1% this year - compared with an average 8.0% decline for the world’s advanced economies.

South Korea falls into recession

The BBC reports that the coronavirus pandemic has pushed South Korea into a recession, with the country seeing a 2.9% fall in GDP:

South Korea has fallen into recession as the country reels from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy saw gross domestic product (GDP) fall by a worse-than-expected 2.9% in year-on-year terms, the steepest decline since 1998.

Exports, which account for nearly 40% of the economy, were the biggest drag as they fell by the most since 1963.

In recent weeks official figures have confirmed that both Japan and Singapore have also gone into recession.

But South Korea’s finance minister Hong Nam-ki remains optimistic that the economy will recover swiftly.

China plans to provide a $1bn loan to make its coronavirus vaccine accessible for countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, the Mexican foreign ministry said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement that China had made the pledge in a virtual meeting between ministers from some Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The ticket resale website Viagogo is refusing to refund fans who bought tickets for gigs and sporting events cancelled because of the pandemic, according to the consumer group Which?.

Hundreds of summer events have fallen victim to the coronavirus outbreak, with organisers offering to give fans their money back if they do not want to, or cannot, transfer their tickets to 2021.

But Viagogo, which has been criticised by the music industry, MPs and campaign groups over its treatment of customers and alliances with powerful ticket touts, is refusing to follow suit:

Hong Kong records 113 new cases

Hong Kong has reported a record 113 new cases for Wednesday, in a continuing third wave of Covid-19 infections, including a large proportion of which are unsourced. The government said the risk of large scale community outbreak was now the highest since the pandemic began.

“New cases recorded during the period from July 15 to July 21 include 393 cases without travel history during the incubation period and 56 imported cases,” said a government statement.

“The recent emergence of local cases of unknown infection source indicates the existence of sustained silent transmission in the community.”

Of Wednesday’s 113 cases, just five were imported and 63 of the local transmissions did not have a known source. Restrictions have now been tightened again.

Janitors dressed in protective gear walk through an empty arcade in Hong Kong, 20 July 2020.
Janitors dressed in protective gear walk through an empty arcade in Hong Kong, 20 July 2020. Photograph: Liau Chung-ren/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Masks are mandatory at indoor public spaces and outdoor transport hubs, from today for 14 days. People have been largely wearing masks everywhere in the city since the pandemic began.

“Many indoor public places would be included, for example, shopping malls, supermarkets, markets, all the covered places, the shops and all that, even building lobbies,” said Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan.

Anyone arriving to Hong Kong from the US or Kazakhstan must now have proof of a negative Covid-19 test in the preceding 72 hours. The two countries join Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and South Africa, which were already on the list of high risk departure points.

The government also extended quarantine orders on arrivals. Hong Kong remains closed to non-residents.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Wednesday downplayed the importance of wearing face masks during the pandemic, calling his treasury secretary’s assertion that using them would be a factor in reactivating the economy “disproportionate”, AP reports.

López Obrador had never been seen publicly wearing a mask until he flew to Washington earlier this month to meet with President Donald Trump.

People, some wearing masks, walk in the central plaza of San Gregorio Atlapulco in the Xochimilco district of Mexico City, Wednesday, 22 July 2020.
People, some wearing masks, walk in the central plaza of San Gregorio Atlapulco in the Xochimilco district of Mexico City, Wednesday, 22 July 2020. Photograph: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

“If a mask was an option for the economy’s reactivation, Id put one on immediately,” López Obrador said Wednesday. “But it’s not like that. I follow the recommendations of the doctors, of the scientists.”

The World Health Organization recommends the wearing of masks among other measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. At age 66, López Obrador also falls into an at-risk group of people who should wear masks.

Mexico continued to report high transmission rates Wednesday, with 6,019 newly confirmed cases, for a cumulative total of 362,274 infections. The Health Department also reported 790 more deaths, bringing the total so far in the pandemic to 41,190, the fourth highest total behind the United Kingdom at 45,586.

Chilean senators on Wednesday voted to approve a controversial bill that allows citizens to withdraw 10% of their pension savings to help ease the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports.

The bill, which polls suggest has widespread public support, has been staunchly opposed by the government of President Sebastian Pinera but was approved by 29 votes to 13 with one abstention.

Updated

The European Union has granted Honduras €80m ($93m) in aid to help the impoverished Central American nation’s health system cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, an EU representative said on Wednesday.

Reuters reports that, despite strict measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, local hospitals have struggled to cope with the number of patients with respiratory illnesses in Honduras, which has registered 35,345 infections and 988 deaths from the virus.

A health worker reacts after the death of a patient allegedly from Covid-19 at a field hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on 22 July 2020.
A health worker reacts after the death of a patient allegedly from Covid-19 at a field hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on 22 July 2020. Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

“In Honduras, €80m will be allocated in the areas of health, early recovery, measures to aid economic recovery, jobs and human rights,” Alessandro Palmero, the EU’s representative to Honduras, told reporters. Analysts expect the pandemic to cause the Honduran economy to contract by between 2.9% and 3.9% this year and lose 500,000 jobs. Some 62% of the population already lives in poverty.

Australian state of New South Wales records 19 new cases

NSW recorded 19 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours to 8pm yesterday. The number is around what we’ve seen in recent days, with 20 cases recorded on Sunday – at the time the highest one-day total for NSW in three months.

The 19 new cases are:

  • Three people associated with the Crossroads Hotel cluster
  • Nine people associated with the Thai Rock restaurant cluster
  • Three cases still under investigation
  • One south-western Sydney resident who acquired their infection in Victoria and has been self-isolating since arriving in NSW
  • Three returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

Updated

Australian state of Victoria records 403 new cases, down from day before

In Australia, Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews says the state has recorded 403 new cases overnight, and five new deaths. The cases figure is down from yesterday’s record increase of 484.

Four of the people who died were in aged care, Andrews said.

Trump ties climbing Covid-19 cases to Black Lives Matter protests

Donald Trump has cited Black Lives Matter protests against the police killing of George Floyd as among the likely causes of the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

The US president did not blame the anti-racism demonstrations directly but suggested that they “presumably” led Americans to lower their guard against the pandemic.

“There are likely a number of causes for the spike in infections cases,” Trump told reporters at his second briefing on the virus in two days following a three-month impasse. “Cases started to rise among young Americans shortly after demonstrations, which you know very well about, which presumably triggered a broader relaxation of mitigation efforts nationwide.”

Public health experts say there is little evidence that the protests spread Covid-19 in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington or other cities. They took place outdoors, where the virus spreads less easily, and most participants wore face masks, which Trump has conceded is an effective preventive measure:

White House Cafeteria closes after worker tests positive for Covid-19

More on the White House Cafeteria closing, from NBC:

The White House is conducting contact tracing after a cafeteria worker tested positive for coronavirus, three Trump administration officials tell NBC News.

The cafeteria in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, or EEOB, was closed this week after the case was discovered, officials said. It was unclear how long the facility will remain closed, although some staffers were told it could remain shuttered for two weeks.

Part of the White House complex, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building sits just across West Executive Ave. from the West Wing. It houses the offices of much of the senior White House staff, including officials from the coronavirus task force, the vice president’s office, the National Security Council and several economic policy shops.

Updated

A cafeteria employee who works in a building where some White House staffers have offices has tested positive for the coronavirus, NBC reports.

The White House is doing contact tracing after the worker in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is next to the White House, tested positive, NBC News reporter Josh Lederman said on Twitter. The White House Medical Office has determined the risk of transmission of the virus is low, he said.

Updated

Mexico’s Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 6,019 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 790 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 362,274 cases and 41,190 deaths.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Earlier, Latin America exceeded the 4 million mark after Brazil reported a record number of cases.

South Africa reports record number of daily virus deaths

South Africa on Wednesday announced a record 24-hour increase of 572 coronavirus deaths, bringing its total number of fatalities to 5,940, AFP reports.

The country is the worst-affected in Africa and among the top five in the world in terms of confirmed cases, with 394,948 infections reported to date.

“Regrettably we report 572 new Covid-19 related deaths. This brings the cumulative number of deaths to 5,940,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a daily statement.

An undertaker wearing personal protective equipment watches as an excavator fills the grave of a Covid-19 victim at the Westpark cemetery in Johannesburg, on 22 July 2020.
An undertaker wearing personal protective equipment watches as an excavator fills the grave of a Covid-19 victim at the Westpark cemetery in Johannesburg, on 22 July 2020. Photograph: Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images

Almost half the total number of deaths have been reported in the Western Cape province, while the majority of positive cases are in Gauteng - South Africa’s financial hub and epicentre of the outbreak.

The mortality rate has remained low, however, at around 1.5% on Wednesday.

Almost 60% of the country’s Covid-19 patients have recovered from the virus.

Updated

Dr Deborah Birx says current US crisis 'very different' to March and April

Dr Deborah Birx, the chief medical officer on the White House’s coronavirus task force, has called the surge in infections across the United States, “a very different epidemic than we had in March and April”.

Speaking on Fox news, Birx said that the the virus event across the South and West of the US really started after 10 June: “This was an event that we think can be traced to Memorial Day, opening up and people travelling again.”

In late May, Memorial Day saw many Americans across the country abandon social distancing guidelines as they sunbathed on beaches and held pool parties for the holiday that traditionally marks the beginning of the US summer.

“The turnaround times [for testing] particularly across the south are too long. The most hardest hit state are having the longest turnaround times,” said Birx.

Birx explained that the delay in testing is related to the size of the current outbreak: “We have almost 70% of every parish in Louisiana with a test positive rate of 10%.”

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

As always, questions, suggestions and news from your part of the world are welcome on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: [email protected]

The US state of California has recorded its highest number of new cases in a single day, as the state surpasses New York for the greatest total of cases in the country.

The state saw 12,807 confirmed cases on Tuesday, the governor, Gavin Newsom, announced on Wednesday. That figure brings the state’s total to more than 413,576 since the pandemic began.

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Global cases passed 15m. The number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 15m on Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data. Known coronavirus deaths number 617,832.
  • Indian-administered Kashmir has imposed a strict lockdown for a week, as authorities warned of rising coronavirus cases, one day after cancelling a major annual Hindu pilgrimage. Authorities said the Muslim-majority Himalayan valley, apart from one district, would go into lockdown until 29 July, when the restrictions would be reviewed.
  • US daily coronavirus deaths surpass 1,000 for first time since June. The seven-day average for the number of deaths in the country has been slowly rising this month, according to multiple data analyses, and went past the 1,000 mark on Tuesday, taking US fatalities to more than 142,000.
  • The US state of California has recorded its highest number of new cases in a single day, as the state surpasses New York for the greatest total of cases in the country. The state saw 12,807 confirmed cases on Tuesday, the governor, Gavin Newsom, announced on Wednesday. That figure brings the state’s total to more than 413,576 since the pandemic began, Newsom announced.
  • Australia to post biggest budget deficit since second world war.The government that went to the last federal election declaring it was “back in black” will on Thursday unveil the largest budget deficit since the second world war, reflecting the substantial fiscal support rolled out during the pandemic and a decline in revenue because of a contraction in activity.
  • Africa’s confirmed Covid-19 cases exceed 750,000 - Reuters tally.The tally showed the continent had 751,151 cases, 15,721 deaths and 407,461 recoveries. Cases crossed the 500,000 mark on 8 July.
  • The UK government’s flagship test-and-trace system is failing to contact thousands of people in areas with the highest infection rates in England, raising further questions about the £10bn programme described by Boris Johnson as “world-beating”.
  • Female leaders have been better at tackling Covid-19, says ECB chief. The differences in policies and communication were “quite stunning” in countries led by women, said the European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde.
  • US agrees to pay Pfizer $2bn for Covid-19 vaccine doses by end of year. The Trump administration will pay Pfizer nearly $2bn for a December delivery of 100m doses of a Covid-19 vaccine the pharmaceutical company is developing. The agreement is part of a plan to ramp up manufacturing in the event a vaccine is approved.

Updated

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