South Africa to ease coronavirus restrictions: Live updates

President Cyril Ramaphosa announces relaxation of tough containment measures as infection rate falls.

A security guard stands outside a liquor store closed under the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown regulations in Cape Town
  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced announced that stringent coronavirus regulations would be eased on Monday as the country’s infection rate falls. 

  • Worldwide coronavirus cases surpassed 21.2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, while more than 13.2 million people have recovered. More than 767,000 people have died.

  • The French health ministry reported more than 2,500 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, setting a new post-lockdown daily high for the third day in a row, and taking the country’s cumulative total of cases to 249,611.

  • An Australian inquiry into the virus-infected Ruby Princess cruise ship said health officials made a “serious and material error” in allowing passengers to disembark from the vessel. 

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, August 15

23:05 GMT – France plans masks at work amid coronavirus resurgence

France is to propose that masks be worn in shared workspaces as the country grapples with a rebound in coronavirus cases that rose again in the past 24 hours to over 3,000, according to Reuters news agency.

The health ministry reported 3,310 new coronavirus infections, marking a post-lockdown high for the fourth day in a row.

The number of clusters being investigated increased by 17 to 252, it said in a website update.

The resurgence prompted Britain to impose a 14-day quarantine for people arriving from France, and led the authorities in Paris to expand zones in the capital where wearing a mask is mandatory outdoors.

20:00 GMT – Saudi Arabia plans distance learning for school as virus precaution 

Students at Saudi Arabia’s public schools will be educated via distance learning as a precaution against coronavirus for the first seven weeks of the new term, which begins on Aug. 30, the minister of education said.

During that time the situation for the rest of the term will be evaluated, Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al Shaikh said in remarks carried on state-run al-Ekhbariya TV.

University and technical schools will be online for theory-based curriculums and in person for practical curriculums, he added.

COVID-19 could force about 10 million kids out of school: Report (2:28)

19:35 GMT – Italy coronavirus cases top 600 for first time in three months 

Italy’s new coronavirus cases surged past 600 daily for the first time in three months. Tourists and vacationing people returning are considered major factors in rising caseloads. 

The Health Ministry registered 629 coronavirus cases Saturday in the previous 24 hours, increasing the confirmed total to more than 253,000. 

The last time the daily number was higher was 669 cases on May 23. Only a few weeks ago, Italy had daily cases numbers in the 200s. Italy’s confirmed deaths has exceeded 35,000.

German sniffer dogs show promise at detecting coronavirus (2:26)

18:35 GMT – South Africa to resume sale of alcohol, cigarettes  

South Africa will lift a coronavirus-linked ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products from Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.

“Restrictions on the sale of tobacco will be lifted, the suspension of the sale of alcohol will be lifted subject to certain restrictions,” Ramaphosa said, announcing the relaxation of several confinement measures. 

He said a fall in the infection rates, as well as people recovering, were “significantly reducing the pressure on our health facilities”, but he cautioned that cases could easily surge if people fail to maintain vigilance. Restrictions on international travel remained in place, he said.

South Africa has more than half a million cases, but the rate of infections has declined over the past two weeks.

Man living in complete isolation for 45 years (15:04)

18:20 GMT – Turkey coronavirus cases rise by 1,256 

Turkey’s new coronavirus cases rose to their highest since June at 1,256, with 21 deaths in the last 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.

The country has seen cases edge higher in recent weeks and has now recorded a total of 278,117, with 5,955 deaths. Turkey lifted a partial lockdown on June 1 and plans to re-open schools next month. 

18:15 GMT – France reports another post-lockdown peak in daily coronavirus cases

France’s Health Ministry has reported 3,310 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, setting a new post-lockdown high for the fourth day in a row and taking the country’s cumulative cases to 215,521.

A total of 252 clusters were being investigated, up 17 compared with 24 hours earlier, the ministry said in a website update.

17:35 GMT – Fresh spike in Irish COVID-19 cases deeply concerning: Health chief 

Ireland has reported 200 new COVID-19 cases arising from multiple clusters across the country, the highest daily amount since the beginning of May that the country’s chief medical officer described as “deeply concerning”.

Ireland has reopened its economy at a slower pace than most European Union countries but that did not stop a rise in cases over the last two weeks that led to the first localised reimposition of some restrictions last week.

“We now have multiple clusters with secondary spread of disease and rising numbers of cases in many parts of the country. This is deeply concerning. NPHET (Ireland’s public health team) will monitor this extremely closely over the coming days,” Ronan Glynn said in statement.

17:25 GMT – Kuwait reports 512 new coronavirus cases, four deaths 

The Kuwaiti health ministry reported 512 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 75,697. 

The ministry also confirmed four new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 498.

16:50 GMT – Dutch authorities issue travel warning for Spain, France, Belgium 

The Netherlands has issued new coronavirus-related warnings for people travelling to Spain, France and Belgium.

The ANP news agency reported that Dutch authorities were advising the public not to travel to places including Paris, the region surrounding Marseille, Brussels, Ibiza and Mallorca. 

The new travel warnings will go into effect at midnight (2200 GMT).

People travelling to the Netherlands from the three countries will required to undergo two-week quarantine at home, the report said. The warnings come as a response to new spikes in the number of coronavirus cases in those countries.

16:00 GMT – UK reports 1,012 new coronavirus cases 

The United Kingdom recorded 1,012 new positive tests for COVID-19, the government announced, the fifth day in a row there have been more than 1,000 infections reported in daily figures.

Britain has now recorded 317,379 COVID-19 cases. A further three people were reported to have died within 28 days after testing positive for the coronavirus.

COVID-19: Peru sees spike in number of hospitalised children (2:08)

14:50 GMT – South Korea coronavirus cases reach highest level in five months 

New coronavirus cases in South Korea have reached the highest level in five months, and authorities fear infections are getting out of control in the Seoul region, which is home to half the country’s 51 million people.

Officials reported 166 newly confirmed cases Saturday. That was the highest since March 11, when South Korea reported 242 amid an outbreak in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby towns.

With 103 new cases reported Friday, this is the first time since late March that the daily increase surpassed 100 two days in a row.

Officials say all but 11 of the new cases were local transmissions, and most were in the Seoul area.

14:10 GMT – Nearly half of Brazilians say Bolsonaro not to blame for coronavirus deaths

Almost half of Brazilians think President Jair Bolsonaro bears “no responsibility at all” for the country’s more than 100,000 dead from the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s second highest death toll, according to a new Datafolha poll.

The poll was published on Saturday in Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper and says 47 percent of Brazilians do not assign him any blame for the body count, whereas percent do.

Brazil has the world’s worst outbreak outside of the United States and Bolsonaro’s response to the pandemic has been widely condemned by health experts.

Right-wing Bolsonaro has pushed for the use of an unproven anti-malarial drug to fight the disease, replaced health ministers who opposed his agenda, encouraged Brazilians to oppose lockdown measures and shown indifference to the rising death toll. 

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Brasilia
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro holds a box of anti-malarial drug chloroquine outside of the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia [File: Adriano Machado/Reuters]

13:50 GMT – Indonesia records 2,354 new coronavirus cases, 50 deaths 

Indonesia has reported 2,345 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections to 137,468, according to data from Indonesia’s COVID-19 task force.

The data showed 50 more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 6,071.

Colombia economic slump: Fears 20 years of gains could be erased (2:32)

13:45 GMT – Vietnam reports 21 new coronavirus cases, 2 deaths 

Vietnam’s health ministry has reported 21 new coronavirus infections and two deaths, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 950, with 23 fatalities. 

More than 470 of the cases are linked to the central city of Danang, where a new outbreak began late last month. 

The ministry said 115,858 people are being quarantined, including 4,182 at hospitals, 25,952 at centralised quarantine centres and the rest at home.  

11:28 GMT – Qatar announces 277 new confirmed cases

Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) confirmed 277 new cases of coronavirus taking the country’s cumulative total of cases to 114,809.

The MOPH also reported 247 recoveries in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of people who recovered from the disease in the country to 111,505 cases. 

It also announced two new deaths. 

The number of new daily cases and hospital admissions is continuing to decline each week, the MOPH said in the statement.

10:50 GMT – Thousands of Britons return from France to avoid quarantine

Thousands of British tourists beat a hasty retreat from France, packing out planes, trains and ferries to return to the UK to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine at home.

UK: Complaints about British tourists ignoring COVID-19 measures

On Friday, many British travelers in the country opted to cut short their vacations to meet the Saturday deadline that had only been announced the night before.

Anyone arriving back from France from Saturday must stay at home for two weeks to make sure they cannot spread the coronavirus beyond their households if they have become infected.

10:05 GMT – Denmark to make face masks compulsory on public transport

Wearing face masks on public transport will be compulsory in Denmark from August 22 following a spike in numbers of new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.

In mid-April, Denmark became one the first European countries to ease its coronavirus lockdown as the epidemic appeared to be contained, but the reproduction rate at which it is spreading rose above 1.5 in the past week, the highest reading since early April.

Frederiksen said the surge also meant that plans to remove a limit on the size of public gatherings would be deferred, with the limit remaining at 100 people for the time being.

09:51 GMT – Croatia defends opening to tourists as COVID-19 numbers rise

Croatia launched additional restrictive measures to curb a COVID-19 outbreak.

The country – which presently has around 820,000 foreign tourists, including many Germans and Austrians holidaying on its Adriatic coast – reported 180 new infections on Thursday and another 208 on Friday.

Social Distancing: The Dos and Don’ts

Both were the highest figures to date, after staying around dozens daily until recently.

Since the outbreak, Croatia had by Friday reported 6,258 infections, with 163 deaths and 5,134 people recovered. However, 979 of the infections occurred over the past 14 days.

08:50 GMT – Russia starts production of COVID-19 vaccine

Russia has started manufacturing its new vaccine for COVID-19, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the health ministry.

Russia has said the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute and the first for the coronavirus to go into production, will be rolled out by the end of this month. Some scientists said they fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.

08:31 GMT – India set to mass produce COVID-19 vaccine

India is ready to mass produce COVID-19 vaccines when scientists give the go-ahead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his Independence Day speech on August 15, also launching a national project to roll out health identities for each citizen.

In annual celebrations held at the 17th-century Red Fort and scaled down due to the pandemic, Modi identified health and economic self-reliance as the key priorities for his government.

India''s Independence Day celebrations at the historic Red Fort in Delhi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets officers as he arrives to attend Independence Day celebrations at the historic Red Fort in Delhi, India, August 15, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

At the event, soldiers who ceremonially welcomed Modi had been under quarantine days before the event.

Only around 4,000 guests were allowed and made to sit six feet apart, while medical booths with ambulances were set up for any attendee showing COVID-19 symptoms during entry.

08:12 GMT – Russia reports more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases

Russia reported 5,061 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing its nationwide tally to 917,884, the fourth highest caseload in the world.

Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said 119 people had also died over the last 24 hours, pushing its official death toll to 15,617. It added that 729,411 people have recovered.

07:14 GMT – Ukraine sees new record daily high

Ukraine registered 1,847 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, officials said, a new daily record for infections in the country – which is seeing cases increase sharply following the easing of some COVID-19 restrictions.

The figure given by the national council of security and defence surpassed the previous single-day record of 1,732 reported on Friday.

Total cases reached 89,719, including 2,044 deaths.

Infections have risen since June as authorities have eased some restrictions, allowing cafes, churches and public transport to reopen.

06:12 GMT – India cases cross 2.5 million with another jump

India’s confirmed coronavirus cases have crossed 2.5 million with another biggest single-day spike of 65,002 in the past 24 hours.

India is behind the United States and Brazil in the number of cases.

The health ministry on Saturday also reported another 996 deaths for a total of 49,036.

India virus
India’s two-month lockdown imposed nationwide in late March kept infections low. But it has eased and is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas [Bikas Das/AP]

The average daily reported cases jumped from around 15,000 in the first week of July to more than 50,000 at the beginning of August.

The health ministry said the rise shows the extent of testing with 800,000 carried out in a single day. But experts say India needs to pursue testing more vigorously.

04:55 GMT – New Zealand’s outbreak grows

New Zealand reported seven new cases of COVID-19 as a lockdown in the country’s biggest city, Auckland, was extended in response to the Pacific nation’s first coronavirus outbreak in months.

Six of the seven new cases have been linked to the cluster responsible for all the previous community cases, while one case was being investigated, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a media briefing in Wellington.

The new cases bring New Zealand’s total infections since the start of the year to 1258, while the number of currently active cases stands at 56. Twenty-two people have died so far.

04:21 GMT – Latin America’s caseload exceeds 6 million

Coronavirus cases in Latin America have exceeded six million and are continuing to accelerate, according to a Reuters tally, as most of its nations begin to relax lockdown measures.

The region reached 6,000,005 confirmed cases by Friday evening and 237,360 deaths. That accounts for just under one-third of the world’s total caseload and a similar share of reported deaths from the pandemic.

The climb from five to six million cases took 11 days, one day less than it took to reach the previous million.

Latin America is the region of the world worst-affected by the pandemic, reporting an average of more than 86,000 daily infections and more than 2,600 deaths in the last seven days.

03:47 GMT – China reports 22 new cases

Health authorities in China reported 22 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for August 14, compared to 30 cases a day earlier.

Of the new infections, 14 were imported and the locally transmitted cases included seven in the far western region of Xinjiang and one in Guangdong province.

On Friday, a shopping centre in Shenzhen, a city in Guangdong, was sealed after a COVID-19 case was confirmed there. The Shenzhen health authority later that day said two positive cases had been found, both of whom had worked inside the mall at the Alibaba-owned supermarket Freshippo.

Freshippo said in a separate statement that it had suspended operations at 21 of its stores in Shenzhen to carry out disinfection work and nucleic acid tests for its employees.

Medical workers wearing protective suits are seen at a nucleic acid testing site outside the IBC Mall in Shenzhen
Medical workers wearing protective suits are seen at a nucleic acid testing site outside the IBC Mall in Shenzhen after a worker was confirmed to have COVID-19 [David Kirton/ Reuters]

03:13 GMT – Australia’s Victoria reports 303 new cases

The Australian state of Victoria continued to flatten the curve in its wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths, reporting four more fatalities and 303 new cases in the past 24 hours.

It was the second-lowest daily figure in Victoria this month after 278 cases on Thursday.

Victoria’s daily numbers are gradually decreasing, with the seven-day average down to 344 from 521 a week ago. But authorities warn more progress is needed before lockdown restrictions in the city of Melbourne can be eased.

“We could not conceive of opening up with 200 cases a day. We couldn’t do it with 100 cases a day. We have to head for the lowest possible number,” said Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.

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02:45 GMT – South Korea’s cases jump again

South Korea reported 166 newly confirmed case of the coronavirus, its highest daily jump in five months, amid fears transmissions were getting out of control in the greater capital area.

The figures announced by the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) brought the national caseload to 15,039, including 305 deaths.

The KCDC said 155 of the new infections were locally transmitted, mostly from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area where authorities scurried to shut down thousands of churches, which have emerged as a major source of COVID-19 cases. Many of them had failed to properly enforce preventive measures, allowing worshippers to take off their masks, sing in choirs or eat together in diners.

Other clusters have been tied to nursing homes, schools, restaurants, outdoor markets and door-to-door salespeople.

02:29 GMT – Top official says coronavirus has peaked in Mexico

Hugo Lopez-Gatell, Mexico’s point man for the coronavirus pandemic, said he thinks the country reached its peak of infections over the last three weeks.

“We have now had a maximum point in the curve,” the assistant health secretary said, while also predicting that second waves of infections would continue occurring around the world for some time.

“This is a phenomenon that is going to be with us in the whole world for several years,” he said.

Lopez-Gatell had previously wrongly predicted that infections would peak in May and June.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Mexico rose by 5,618 on Friday to reach 511,369. The health department reported 615 newly confirmed deaths from COVID-19, bringing the country’s total deaths to 55,908.

COVID-19 vaccine: Safety concerns as countries rush for cure (1:57)

01:37 GMT – Paris expands mask requirements for pedestrians

France’s capital, Paris, is expanding the areas of the city where pedestrians will be obliged to wear masks starting on Saturday morning.

The Champs-Elysees Avenue and the area around the Louvre Museum are among zones where masks will be mandatory, and police checks ensuring respect for mask-wearing in designated areas are to be reinforced.

Bars and restaurants could be ordered closed if distancing and other barriers to virus transmission are not respected, health officials said. 

00:20 GMT – California surpasses 600,000 cases, most in US

California became the first state in the United States to surpass 600,000 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, although Governor Gavin Newsom said he was encouraged to see that hospitalisations have declined 20 percent over the past two weeks and admissions to ICU wards were down 14 percent in the same period.

“The number that really matters to us is that positivity rate,” he said when asked about the state’s caseload. The positivity rate – the number of confirmed infections as a percentage of tests done – has declined from 7 percent to 6 percent statewide over the past 14 days, Newsom said.

“I’m not going to back off on more tests because I fear [more cases],” he said.

Karla Funderburk, artist and owner of Matter Studio Gallery, stands among some of the thousands of origami cranes hanging during an exhibition honouring the victims of COVID-19 in Los Angeles, the US on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 [Richard Vogel/ AP]

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 

For all the key developments from yesterday, August 14, go here

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies