Country struggling with surge in infections; Moscow rejects concerns over safety; Germans told to keep guard up against virus
New Zealand begins mass testing as Australia records deadliest day
French and Dutch on alert over rise in cases
Lost on the frontline: the 900 US health workers who have died
UK economy plunges into deepest recession since records began
UK coronavirus updates – live
17:52 Peru extends lockdowns following surge in coronavirus cases
13:49 Spain reports nearly 1,700 new cases
13:30 Greece posts its highest daily number of virus cases
13:10 UK’s Covid-19 official death toll lowered by over 5,000 after methodology change
12:32 Coronavirus pushing much of the world into record slumps
12:00 Russia says first batch of Sputnik V vaccine ready in two weeks
11:00 WHO concerned about coronavirus in Lebanon, as it seeks $76m aid after Beirut blast
Peru extends lockdowns following surge in coronavirus cases
The Peruvian president Martín Vizcarra has banned family gatherings and extended lockdowns to five more regions of the country amid a fresh surge in cases of coronavirus.
Fifteen of Peru’s 25 regions were already covered by rolling lockdowns.
Vizcarra announced the return of a blanket Sunday curfew as figures revealed a 75% rise in infections among children and adolescents.
“Now those who are infecting us are the people we know, the relatives who come to visit us, the friends who get together to kick a ball around or enjoy a barbecue,” Vizcarra said in a speech broadcast from the Government Palace in Lima.
It is a problem that together we have to solve.
In recent days, the Andean country has registered a daily average of 7,000 confirmed infections and 200 deaths, according to official data.
There have been 489,680 confirmed cases while the dead totalled 21,501 by Tuesday, the ministry of health said.
The first case of Covid-19 appeared in Peru on 6 March and a week later the government imposed a strict quarantine, halting almost all productive activity in the world’s second-largest copper miner, whose economy is expected to contract this year by 12%, according to central bank projections.
In July, in a bid to stave off the worst economic performance in a century, the government began a staged reopening which included resumption of mining, industry and commerce, including restaurants and shops.
Brazil has registered 55,155 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,175 deaths, the health ministry said. The country now has 3,164,785 confirmed cases and 104,201 deaths.
As Australia wakes up, here are some of the key developments from the last few hours:
Italy has ordered travellers arriving from Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain to be tested for Covid-19 on and added Colombia to a list of countries under a complete travel ban amid growing concern over new infections. With the annual summer holiday reaching its peak, health services are bracing for a return of travellers from destinations where social distancing, face masks and other protective measures appear to have been widely ignored.
Francereported 2,524 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, a new post-lockdown daily record. Despite the rise in infections, the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 continued to fall and was down by 121 to 4,891, the first time it fell below 5,000 since 19 March.
Turkey is to delay the reopening of schools by almost a month. Students will return to classrooms in Turkey in late September, nearly a month after the start of the new academic year, the government announced, as daily coronavirus cases remain above 1,000. It will be a gradual transition, starting with online learning before transitioning to in-person education.
Chilewill lift one of the world’s longest lockdowns on Monday. The capital Santiago’s central business district and adjoining Central Station will move to a “transitional” stage under a “Step by Step” reopening. The mayor said citizens should remain indoors whenever possible, wear masks in public and wash their hands. People may leave their homes on weekdays without the previously required police permissions, and meet in small groups, while businesses can gradually reopen.
Italy has ordered travellers arriving from Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain to be tested for Covid-19 on and added Colombia to a list of countries under a complete travel ban amid growing concern over new infections.
Once the world’s worst-affected country, Italy has managed to bring down and contain the number of infections in recent weeks but officials are worried by a gradual resurgence.
On Wednesday, authorities recorded 481 new cases and 10 deaths, twice the levels regularly seen in June when tough lockdown measures imposed from March were being eased.
With the annual summer holiday reaching its peak, health services are bracing for a return of travellers from destinations where social distancing, face masks and other protective measures appear to have been widely ignored.
Health minister Roberto Speranza announced late on Wednesday he had signed an order requiring antibody or swab tests to be performed on all arrivals from the four countries and said there would be a ban on arrivals and transit passengers from Colombia.
“We must continue on a path of caution to defend the results we have obtained over the past months through sacrifices by everyone,” he said on Facebook.
Greece reported 262 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, its highest daily tally since the start of the outbreak, while Spain reported almost 1,700 new cases.
Malta, which had brought cases down to zero for a few days, last week reintroduced some controls after a jump.
Earlier this month, the Italian government extended until September a number of measures, including telling people to wear masks in closed public spaces and maintain distance of at least 1 metre while also recommending frequent hand washing.
France reported 2,524 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, a new post-lockdown daily record, but there was no strain on hospitals as the virus circulates mainly among younger people, the health minister said.
The country’s cumulative total of cases now stands at 206,696 and the seven-day moving average of new infections – which smoothes out daily data-reporting irregularities – increased to 1,810, the highest level since 24 April, when the epidemic was in full swing and France under strict lockdown.
Despite the rise in infections, the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 continued to fall and was down by 121 to 4,891, the first time it fell below 5,000 since 19 March. It had set a high of 32,292 on 14 April. The number of people in intensive care with coronavirus also continued its slide, down by 12 to 379.
Health minister Olivier Veran said that the number of infections that lead to serious complications was now much lower than in February-March.
“There are several explanations, notably the fact that patients diagnosed with Covid now are younger, 20 to 40, and less fragile, and because older people continue to protect themselves well,” Veran said on France 2 television.
He said the government would do all it could to avoid a new lockdown, and that schools are scheduled to open normally in September, albeit with the virus protection procedures.
The government will also gradually ramp up police checks to ensure people wear face masks where it is mandatory and respect social distancing.
The seven-day moving average of daily new infections – which topped at 4,537 on 1 April – has now been above 1,000 for two weeks, with the infection rate increasing as millions of French people travel and social distancing rules are not always respected in busy areas.
The daily death toll increased by 18 to 30,371 on Wednesday, compared to 14 on Tuesday and a seven-day average of nine.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 5,119,711 cases of coronavirus. That is an increase of 55,540 cases from its previous count. The CDC said the number of deaths in the United States had risen by 1,244 to 163,651.
The CDC reported its tally of Covid-19 as of 4pm ET on 11 August versus its previous report a day earlier.
The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.
Turkish schools will start to reopen on 21 September in a gradual transition to in-person education, the country’s education minister Ziya Selcuk said on Wednesday, delaying the reopening after a rise in coronavirus cases.
In a news conference after a meeting of Turkey’s science board to discuss measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, Selcuk said that distance learning will begin on 31 August, when schools had previously been set to open.
The science board recommended that education in schools should not begin for at least one more month, health minister Fahrettin Koca said.
In a written statement following the meeting, Koca said that face-to-face education will begin gradually and that online education will be conducted if necessary.
Ankara announced the initial closure of schools in mid-March after the emergence of the first coronavirus cases in the country.
Chile will lift one of the world’s longest lockdowns on Monday, moving the capital Santiago’s central business district and adjoining Central Station to a “transitional” stage under a “Step by Step” reopening.
“This is a very important announcement for us and one that gives us great satisfaction,” the health minister Enrique Paris told a press conference in Santiago on Wednesday.
Chile has faced one of Latin America’s fiercest coronavirus outbreaks, at one stage ranking only behind Qatar globally for cases per head of the population, but case and fatality rates have declined steadily over the last two months.
Santiago mayor, Felipe Alessandri, said the reopening did not give a “carte blanche” to citizens, who should remain indoors whenever possible, wear masks in public and wash their hands.
People may leave their homes on weekdays without the previously required police permissions, and meet in small groups, while businesses can gradually reopen.
The centre of Santiago has been under strict lockdown for 143 days since 26 March, shortly after the country’s first coronavirus case was confirmed. Central Station followed a month later.
The government started to reopen the capital city two weeks ago by lifting the lockdown in suburbs to the east and south.
It has been more cautious about reopening Santiago’s densely populated center, particularly the Alameda central thoroughfare and Plaza Italia, where massive and often violent social protests started in October over inequality.
Smaller, scattered protests over deepening poverty and inequality have sprung up despite the lockdown.
Here’s a quick look back at the latest coronavirus-related stories from the past few hours:
Coronavirus pushing much of the world into record financial slumps. The pandemic has pushed most of the world’s major economies into unprecedented contractions in the second quarter, except for China which escaped a recession.
WHO concerned about coronavirus in Lebanon as it seeks $76m aid after Beirut blast. The World Health Organization has appealed for $76m in aid for Lebanon after last week’s massive explosion in Beirut destroyed or damaged hospitals, clinics and medical supplies.
Russia says first batch of Sputnik V vaccine ready in two weeks. Russia said on Wednesday the first batch of its Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine would be ready within two weeks and rejected safety concerns over its rapid approval as ‘groundless’.
UK’s Covid-19 official death toll lowered by over 5,000 after methodology change. Britain’s official death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic has been lowered by to 41,329 as the government adopted a new way of counting fatalities, after concerns were raised that the old method overstated them.
Greece posts its highest daily number of virus cases. Greece has registered 262 new Covid-19 infections, the highest figure since the pandemic began and part of a steadily rising trend this month.
Germany: government says people must keep guard up as new infections hit three-month high. Germany’s government has urged citizens to keep their guard up and stick to public health guidelines, as new Covid-19 infections hit a three-month high and schools reopened in the country’s most populous state.
‘Archbishop’ of Florida church selling bleach ‘miracle cure’ arrested with son. The self-styled “archbishop” of a purported church in Florida that sells industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for Covid-19 has been arrested with his son in Colombia and faces extradition to the US.
That’s all from me for today, I’ll be handing over to my colleague Lucy Campbell for the next few hours.
Spain reports nearly 1,700 new cases
Coronavirus cases in Spain jumped by nearly 1,700 on Wednesday, part of a surge that has prompted the construction of a military field hospital in the hard-hit Aragon region and led authorities in Galicia to practically ban smoking in public places.
Health ministry data showed 1,690 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed in the 24 hours to Wednesday, up from the 1,418 reported on Tuesday and bringing the cumulative total to 329,784.
The new daily number excluded Madrid, which did not provide fresh data due to technical difficulties.
Since lifting its strict lockdown around six weeks ago Spain has struggled to keep a lid on new infections, with average daily cases rising from less than 150 in June to more than 1,500 in the first 12 days of August.
In scenes reminiscent of the epidemic’s March-April peak, TV footage showed air force personnel setting up dark green tents to serve as a field hospital in Zaragoza, Aragon’s regional capital in northeastern Spain.
Set to open on Friday, the facility attached to Zaragoza’s University Clinic hospital will be used as a triage centre and temporary ward, the air force said in a statement.
With 571 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, Aragon has the highest prevalence of the virus in Spain.
Navarre, with the second-highest rate, has just 159 cases per 100,000 people.
Despite having some of the lowest levels of the virus, northwestern Galicia issued a blanket ban on smoking on the street and on restaurant terraces when social-distancing cannot be guaranteed.
Under Spain’s decentralised government, each region is largely in charge of its own response to the virus, leading to a patchwork of different restrictions and preventative measures.
Wealthy northeastern Catalonia is set to expand a mass-testing program in the coming days to include several neighbourhoods of its capital, Barcelona.
The self-styled “archbishop” of a purported church in Florida that sells industrial bleach as a “miracle cure” for Covid-19 has been arrested with his son in Colombia and faces extradition to the US.
Video footage posted to the Twitter feed of Colombia’s top prosecutor showed Mark Grenon and his son Joseph Grenon, dressed in blue jump suits and masks, being led away by armed police.
The prosecutor’s office said the pair had been taken into custody on suspicion of selling a “miracle solution” that had caused the deaths of seven American citizens.
The Grenons’ apprehension comes a month after the “archbishop” of the Genesis II “church”, as well as three of his sons, were charged by federal authorities in Florida with dealing in a substance that has not been approved for medical use and could be life-threatening.
The substance, chlorine dioxide, is a powerful bleach used in textile manufacturing.
The Grenons market it as “miracle mineral solution” or MMS which they say when drunk as a dilution can cure almost all illnesses including Covid, cancer, HIV/Aids as well as the condition autism.
Greece posts its highest daily number of virus cases
Greece has registered 262 new Covid-19 infections, the highest figure since the pandemic began and part of a steadily rising trend this month.
The public health organisation also said two more people had died, bringing the total virus death toll to 216.
The number of patients under intensive care has nearly doubled, with 24 reported on Wednesday up from 13 last week.
Authorities have blamed the spike in infections on the flouting of social distancing rules in restaurants, bars and public gatherings.
Health minister Vassilis Kikilias said earlier the average age of those infected in August had dropped to 36 years old.
“It can happen even if you’re young and think you’re invulnerable,” Kikilias tweeted.
The Greek government on Monday announced a night curfew for restaurants and bars in some of its top tourist destinations.
Eateries and bars are closed from midnight to 7am in a dozen parts of the country, including the popular islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Rhodes and Crete.
The cities of Thessaloniki, Larissa, Volos and Katerini are also affected, as is the Halkidiki peninsula which is popular with Balkan visitors.
In addition, all passengers on flights from Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden arriving from 17 August must provide a negative Covid-19 result obtained up to 72 hours before entry, as must all land border arrivals.
The civil protection agency last week made masks compulsory in all indoor public areas.
The government has ruled out a general lockdown after gradually reopening the economy in May and starting to accept foreign arrivals in June to salvage part of the tourism season which is vital to the economy.
Only 10% of cases in Greece can be traced to foreign arrivals.
Venezuelan oil minister Tareck El Aissami said he has recovered from Covid-19, a month after he tested positive for the virus.
El Aissami, who is also the OPEC nation’s economic vice president, said on Twitter he had received a negative result on a rapid test for the virus.
“Thanks to President Nicolas Maduro and [first lady] Cilia Flores for all their support and strong prayers,” El Aissami wrote. “We have overcome.”
Venezuela, whose oil industry and economy have unraveled during Maduro’s six-year tenure, has reported 27,938 cases of the coronavirus and 238 deaths.
Besides El Aissami, the most prominent member of the ruling socialist party who has tested positive is Diosdado Cabello, who presides over the government-friendly National Constituent Assembly and is widely recognised as Maduro’s second-in-command.
Cabello has rarely been seen in public since testing positive in early July, though last week state-funded media outlets published images of him standing and waving outside a health clinic.
UK’s Covid-19 official death toll lowered by over 5,000 after methodology change
Britain’s official death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic has been lowered by over 5,000 as the government adopted a new way of counting fatalities, after concerns were raised that the old method overstated them.
The UK government and the devolved regional administrations agreed to publish the number of deaths that occurred within 28 days of a positive, lab-confirmed Covid-19 test result on a daily basis, the Department of Health said.
Previously, there was no cut-off time for deaths after a positive test.
Under the new method, Britain has an official Covid-19 death toll of 41,329 rather than the 46,706 recorded under the old methodology.
South Korea has opened a high-tech new front in the battle against coronavirus, fortifying bus shelters with temperature-checking doors and ultraviolet disinfection lamps.
Ten advanced facilities have been installed in a northeastern district of Seoul, offering protection from monsoon rains, summer heat, and Covid-19.
To enter, passengers must stand in front of an automated thermal-imaging camera, and the door will only slide open if their temperature is below 37.5 degrees.
A separate camera is installed lower down to test children.
Inside the glass-walled booths – which cost about 100m won ($84,000) each – the air-conditioning systems have ultraviolet lamps installed to kill viruses at the same time as cooling the air.
A dispenser provides hand sanitiser, and users are advised to wear face masks at all times, while keeping at least one metre apart from others.
“We have installed all the available anti-coronavirus measures we can think of into this booth,” Kim Hwang-yun, a district official in charge of the Smart Shelter project, told AFP.
Since they were installed last week each booth has been used by about 300 to 400 people a day, Kim said.
South Korea endured one of the worst early coronavirus outbreaks outside China but brought it broadly under control with an extensive “trace, test and treat” programme while never imposing a compulsory lockdown.
English authorities have reassured school pupils they would be graded fairly for exams missed because of the coronavirus, after the Scottish government was forced into a major U-turn on the issue.
As in many countries, British pupils were unable to sit exams as planned in April, May and June due to the Covid-19 lockdown, and instead will receive a moderated grade based on an assessment by their school or teacher.
But the publication of key results in Scotland last week caused uproar and demands for its education minister John Swinney to resign, amid complaints that the moderation process had caused the downgrading of grades for the poorest pupils.
Swinney on Tuesday bowed to pressure and announced that more than 70,000 Scottish pupils would have their results restored to their teachers’ original assessments.
In a bid to head off a similar row in England, which has a different school system, education minister Gavin Williamson announced a new policy.
Pupils aged 18 receiving A-Level results on Thursday will be able to accept their result, challenge it based on the preparatory mock exam results or sit new tests in the autumn.
“This triple lock system will help provide reassurance to students and ensure they are able to progress with the next stage of their lives,” he said.
Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer called the idea “deeply flawed”. He said:
Talking to teachers today, it’s obvious that they expect… young people will do better in the real exam than they’d done in the mock.
It’s not going to work, it’s not going to wash.
Students in Scotland had complained that the moderation process gave unfair weighting to the historical performance of the school and local area, disproportionately affecting poor students.
Pass rates for pupils in the most deprived areas were reduced by 15.2%, compared with 6.9% in more affluent areas.
The row rocked the devolved government of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has otherwise been riding high in the polls, including over her handling of coronavirus.