Spain sets new post-lockdown coronavirus cases record: Live

Iran death toll passes 20,000; Finland reimposes travel restrictions; Australia PM say vaccine must be compulsory.

A medical team prepare to administer PCR tests to residents of the Basque town of Azpeitia, Spain, amid a localised outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Vincent Wes
A medical team prepare to administer PCR tests to residents of the Basque town of Azpeitia, Spain, amid a localised outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Vincent West [Reuters]
  • Spain reported 3,715 coronavirus infections, the highest since the lockdown in the country was lifted in late June.

  • Australia has signed a deal to secure a COVID vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca should it pass clinical trials. Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the vaccine should be compulsory for all 25 million Australians.

  • Iran death toll from COVID-19 passed 20,000, the highest in the Middle East.

  • More than 22 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 around the world now, some 14 million people have recovered, and more than 782,000 have died, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

Here are the latest updates:

Wednesday, August 19

20:50 GMT – NFL considering playoff bubble amid COVID-19

The US National Football League, which will kick off its season in three weeks, has not ruled out the idea of creating a restricted postseason bubble to keep teams safe from COVID-19 as they vie for a Super Bowl berth.

NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said the idea of holding playoff games in a so-called bubble was originally brought up by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.

“The concept was discussed on our last competition committee call,” Vincent said on a conference call with reporters. “Is it something that we are considering? All things are on the table, frankly, at this juncture during this fluid environment.”

20:31 GMT – How coronavirus is affecting Pakistan’s extravagant weddings

Weddings are usually extravagant affairs in Pakistan but a ban on large public gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic has forced many to opt for smaller ceremonies. 

Pakistan, which has reported more than 290,000 cases of the new coronavirus, removed nearly all of its restrictions as part of a partial lockdown last week. 

Restaurants, cinemas and gyms have been reopened but educational institutions and wedding venues will remain closed until September 15.

Read more here.

How COVID-19 has affected Pakistan’s wedding industry

19:53 GMT – COVID-19 vaccine won’t be mandatory in US, says Fauci

Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious diseases official, said the government wouldn’t make any future COVID-19 vaccine obligatory for the general public – though local jurisdictions could make it mandatory for some groups, like children.

“You don’t want to mandate and try and force anyone to take a vaccine. We’ve never done that,” said Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, during a video talk organied by George Washington University.

“You can mandate for certain groups of people like health workers, but for the general population you can’t” he added, citing the example of the National Institutes of Health, where health workers can’t treat patients without a flu shot.

Fauci Washington Nationals mask
Fauci said mandatory immunization program would be ‘unforceable’ [File: Al Drago/Pool/Reuters]

19:15 GMT – Bahrain cancels home self-isolation protocol for those entering the country

Bahrain announced it would cancel the home self-isolation protocol for all people entering the country, but would continue conducting the laboratory examination for coronavirus, state TV reported on Twitter.

The gulf state has recorded 3,482 coronavirus cases and 178 deaths.

18:47 GMT – Cuba to start clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccine

Cuba kicks off clinical trials next week of a potential coronavirus vaccine called “Soberana 01” (“Sovereign 01”) developed by its state-run Finlay Institute, with results due in February, state-run media said.

The potential coronovirus vaccine will be delivered in two injections during the trials that will involve 676 people aged between 19 and 80 years and conclude on January 11.

The Communist-run island prides itself on its biopharmaceutical industry, begun by former revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, which is also an important hard currency earner and already produces several vaccines.

Cuba Castro
The island of 11 million people has reported slightly more than 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with fewer than 100 deaths, one of the lowest rates in the region during the pandemic [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]

18:18 GMT – Zambia’s vice president tests positive for COVID-19

Zambia’s vice president Inonge Mutukwa tested positive for the coronavirus, the presidency said in a statement, which also said her condition was stable and she was in self isolation at home.

“The vice president has some mild symptoms that are being managed appropriately … She is in high spirits and working virtually …” the statement said.

17:54 GMT – Ethiopia sees 80 percent spike in virus cases

Ethiopia on Wednesday announced an 80 percent increase in the number of people confirmed positive for coronavirus over the past 12 hours.

With the new figures, COVID-19 cases in Ethiopia to date hit 32,700 with 572 deaths and 12,900 recoveries.

17:17 GMT – Norway adds Britain, Greece, Austria and Ireland to quarantine list

Norway said it will impose a 10-day quarantine on all people arriving from Britain, Austria, Greece and Ireland from August 22 due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in those countries.

Similar restrictions will also be imposed on those coming from the Danish capital Copenhagen, the Norwegian foreign ministry said in a statement.

To try to prevent a domestic resurgence of the coronavirus, Norway quarantines all travellers from countries with more than 20 confirmed new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population during the past two weeks.

Holiday queue at City Hall Quay
Norway has 10,315 cases to date, and 262 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University [File: Stian Lysberg Solum/Reuters]

16:51 GMT – As White House pushes ‘skinny’ COVID-19 bill, Democrat sees September action

The White House pushed for Congress to take up a narrow coronavirus economic relief bill that Democrats have long rejected, while a leading Senate Democrat said real action may come soon after the Sept. 7 US Labor Day holiday.

With the breakdown of talks between the White House and top congressional Democrats now in its 12th day, Senate Republicans are floating a “skinny” version of the $1 trillion bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a possible vote in the Republican-led chamber.

16:18 GMT – Egypt says from September travelers must show coronavirus test results

Egypt will require all visitors to the country to present Polymerase Chain Reaction test results for the new coronavirus on arrival from Sept. 1, the prime minister said in a televised address.

Egypt will also allow Friday prayers to resume in mosques from Aug. 28 under strict health and safety protocols to be issued by the Ministry of Endowments, Mostafa Madbouly added.

Palestinians wait to cross to the Egyptian side of Rafah border crossing after months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 11, 2020. (Photo by SAID KHATIB /
Palestinians in Gaza wait to cross to the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing [Said Khatib/AFP]

15:50 GMT – Spain reports record 3,715 new coronavirus cases since end of lockdown

Spain reported 3,715 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, marking a new daily record since the country came out of a strict lockdown in late June.

Cumulative cases, which include antibody tests on patients who may have already recovered, rose by 6,671 to 370,867, the ministry said. EU data show Spain has the highest number of cases in western Europe.

15:22 GMT – One in four Indians could have been infected with the coronavirus, lab head says

At least one in four people in India may have been infected with the coronavirus – a much higher number than official government figures suggest, the head of leading private laboratory says.

Dr. A. Velumani said an analysis of 270,000 antibody tests conducted by his company Thyrocare across India showed the presence of antibodies in an average of 26 percent of the people, indicating they had already been exposed to the coronavirus.

“This is a much higher percentage than we had expected. The presence of antibodies is uniform across all age groups, including children,” Velumani told Reuters.

School handwashing

14:50 GMT – FDA’s emergency approval of blood plasma as COVID-19 treatment on hold- NYT

The emergency approval of blood plasma as a potential COVID-19 treatment by the US Food and Drug Administration has now been put on hold, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing two senior administration officials.

A group of top federal health officials including Anthony Fauci have argued that the emerging data on the treatment was too weak, the report said, adding that an emergency approval could still be granted in the near future.

14:25 GMT – Slovenia’s government warns against travel to Croatia

Slovenia is urging its citizens to return from Croatia by the end of the week or face an obligatory two-week quarantine after the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise there, a government spokesman said.

“The situation is so bad that we have no choice but to urge citizens to return from the dangerous country as soon as possible,” Jelko Kacin said.

Slovenian holidaymakers already in Croatia will be able to return freely until the end of this week, while those travelling to the neighbouring country from Aug. 21 onwards will have to go into quarantine when they come back, Kacin said.

13:55 GMT – Croatia sets new coronavirus record

Croatia’s attempts to appeal to European tourists hoping to escape COVID-19 worries took another hit on 
due to new data showing the country’s own virus outbreak still building momentum, with a record 219 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Furthermore, those new results were based on only 1,653 tests, hinting at a relatively high rate of infection. 
The 4.19-million-population country now has 1,520 active cases, the coronavirus crisis headquarters said.

Women walk past ruins of a building following an earthquake, in Zagreb, Croatia March 22, 2020. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
Women walk past ruins of a building following an earthquake, in Zagreb, Croatia [File: Antonio Bronic/Reuters]

13:40 GMT – Greece imposes restrictions on two tourist regions as virus cases surge

Greek authorities imposed a new set of restrictions on the Aegean tourist island of Mykonos and the northern region of Halkidiki following a spike in coronavirus infections.

The measures will take effect on Friday for at least 10 days.

Parties, open-air markets and religious ceremonies are now all banned in the affected regions, while restaurants will not be allowed to seat more than four people per table unless the patrons are members
of a single family.

This is Usaid Siddiqui in Doha taking over from my colleague Shereena Qazi.

12:20 GMT – Scotland says not yet safe to lift COVID-19 restrictions in Aberdeen

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says it is not yet safe to lift additional COVID-19 restrictions in Aberdeen following an outbreak there, but the situation in the city is improving.

“While the situation is undoubtedly improving, and I don’t want to lose sight of that point, we are not yet in a position to say that this outbreak is over, or completely under control,” Sturgeon said.

She said she hoped some of the additional restrictions imposed on the city could begin being lifted next Wednesday.

11:40 GMT – Czechs will not take part in WHO’s coronavirus vaccine programme, prefer European plan

The Czech Republic will not take part in the World Health Organization-led COVAX plan to develop and distribute a vaccine against COVID-19, Health Minister Adam Vojtech has said.

“We will not join the WHO initiative for various reasons, the rules are less favourable for us than being part of the European initiative,” he told reporters.

“We are going with the initiative by the European Commission, which is negotiating with producers, and the negotiations are very advanced, we will very soon take part in (an agreement) with AstraZeneca.”

10:19 GMT – Iran coronavirus death toll passes 20,000

Iran surpassed 20,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, the health ministry said – the highest death toll for any Middle East country so far in the pandemic.

The announcement came as the country, which has been struggling with both the region’s largest outbreak and the highest number of deaths, went ahead with university entrance exams for more than one million students.

Iran is also preparing for mass Shia commemorations later this month. 

Iran suffered the region’s first major outbreak, seeing top politicians, health officials and religious leaders diagnosed with the virus.

Read more here

09:15 GMT – Singapore says migrant dorms free of coronavirus after outbreak

A network of crowded dormitories where coronavirus transmissions flourished among migrant workers has been declared virus-free by Singaporean authorities.


Eighty-six percent of the migrant workers living in the affected dormitories have been cleared to return to work, the ministry said, though it warned small outbreaks remain likely.

About 300,000 male migrant workers live in crowded dormitories, facilitating easy transmission of the highly-contagious coronavirus.

08:50 GMT – Musician with albinism says coronavirus raises risk of attack

The coronavirus pandemic has left people with albinism in fear of attack and murder in parts of Africa where their body parts are used for lucky charms, a Zambian musician with the condition has said.

John Chiti, 35, said there had already been one murder in Zambia since the virus emerged and the grave of a person with albinism had been dug up and body parts stolen.

Another man was reportedly attacked in the capital Lusaka last week.

In West Africa, Chiti said people with albinism had also been blamed for COVID-19.

Albinism – a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes – affects up to one in 15,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations.

07:32 GMT – Finland imposes ‘Europe’s tightest’ border restrictions

Finland has removed most EU countries from its “green travel list”, with only arrivals from a handful of states now able to enter the country without restrictions, the government announced.

The tougher rules, aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus, mean only people coming from Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia and Lithuania will now be allowed into Finland without proving they have a valid reason for travel and self-isolating for two weeks.

Arrivals from a number of non-EU countries including Georgia, Rwanda and South Korea continue to be freely permitted under the measures which will come into force next Monday.

Since June, the government has said it will allow arrivals from countries with fewer than eight new coronavirus cases per 100,000 population in the last two weeks, although ministers have now made exceptions for countries with less than 10 cases.

06:22 GMT – UK expands COVID-19 national testing study

The British government has said it will expand its COVID-19 national testing study, with an aim of reaching 400,000 people to provide weekly data on the spread of the infection and better locate future local outbreaks.

The Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement it would initially test 150,000 people in England every two weeks by October, up from 28,000 people now, aiming to eventually reach 400,000 across the United Kingdom.

The testing survey, undertaken by the Office for National Statistics, would also be extended to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

04:40 GMT – China and US to double flights between the two countries

After curbing travel between the two countries because of the coronavirus pandemic, China and the United States are beginning to ease restrictions.

The US Department of Transportation says it will allow the four Chinese passenger airlines currently flying to the US to double flights to eight weekly round-trips, as China agrees to allow US carriers to double their flights to China.

US carriers voluntarily halted flights to China after the coronavirus outbreak. President Donald Trump, on January 31, barred nearly all non-US citizens from travelling to the US from China.

You can read more on that story on AJ Impact.

China airlines
Chinese carriers at Hongqiao International Airport in Shanghai in June. The US and China have agreed to allow more flights between the two countries [Aly Song/Reuters]

03:20 GMT – Brazil gives nod to final-stage trials for Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Brazil’s health regulator has approved final-stage trials for Johnson & Johnson’s experimental coronavirus vaccine – the fourth to get the nod for testing in the country.

The vaccine will be tested on 7,000 volunteers across seven states, Anvisa, the health regulator, said in a statement.

Brazil has the world’s second-biggest caseload for COVID-19 and has recorded nearly 110,000 deaths from the disease.

02:50 GMT – Indigenous protesters resume Amazon roadblock

Indigenous protesters have resumed a roadblock of a key highway through the Amazon rainforest despite a judge ordering them to dismantle the blockade.

The protesters from the Kayapo Mekranoti ethnic group want help to fight the coronavirus and an end to illegal mining and deforestation.

Indigenous people have been among the groups worst affected by the coronavirus in Brazil with at least 21,000 diagnosed with the disease and 618 related deaths reported.

Brazil Indigenous
A member of the Kayapo at the roadblock along the BR163 highway in the Amazon [Joao Laet/AFP]

02:45 GMT – Australia PM says COVID-19 vaccine should be compulsory

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the coronavirus vaccine should be compulsory for all Australians with only limited medical exceptions.

He told local radio station 3AW the vaccine should be “as mandatory as you can possibly make it” and the stakes were too high to allow the disease to continue to spread.

01:40 GMT – Global caseload exceeds 22 million

More than 22 million cases of the novel coronavirus have now been reported around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The first cases were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

The US has now confirmed the most cases, followed by Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. The US has also recorded the most deaths.

Coronavirus cases

  1. US – 5,481,557
  2. Brazil – 3,407,354
  3. India – 2,702,742
  4. Russia – 930,276
  5. South Africa – 592,144

Coronavirus deaths

  1. US – 171,687
  2. Brazil – 109,888
  3. Mexico – 57,023
  4. India – 51,797
  5. UK – 41,466
A colourised scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (purple) captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in the US [Handout National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases via AFP]

01:30 GMT – New cases in South Korea reach five-month high

South Korea has reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases since March, many traced to churches in Seoul.

The country added 297 cases – including 283 that were locally transmitted – the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. That is the most since March 8, according to Yonhap news agency.

The spike prompted authorities to tighten restrictions. Outdoor gatherings are now limited to 100 people and indoor ones to 50 and venues seen as high-risk, including karaoke lounges and nightclubs, have been closed. Churches in Seoul and surrounding areas have been told to stop in-person services.

00:05 GMT – Australia’s Victoria reports 216 new coronavirus cases, 12 deaths

Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria says 12 people have died from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours and reported 216 new cases.

Victoria reported 222 cases a day earlier, its lowest one-day rise in a month, and 17 deaths.

The state is the epicentre of Australia’s latest COVID-19 outbreak, but cases appear to have slowed in recent days. 

00:00 GMT – Australia secures vaccine deal

Australia has signed a deal with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to secure a potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed with Oxford University.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the vaccine is one of the most promising and advanced of the drugs currently in development.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

Read all the updates from yesterday (August 18) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies