Disease spreading rapidly in country threatening health system, after problems with testing and limited contact tracing.
The French health ministry has reported 4,711 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, a new post-lockdown record and a level last seen during the height of the epidemic in France.
Germany confirmed 1,707 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily toll since April, official figures showed.
Brazil has expressed cautious optimism that the country’s coronavirus outbreak could be about to slow down, with cases and deaths on a weekly basis falling from their late July peaks.
South Korea has reported a seventh day of triple-digit cases with infections growing outside Seoul.
More than 22 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 around the world, and more than 14 million have recovered. More than 787,600 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, August 20
23:41 GMT – Ireland’s EU commissioner, minister under fire for attending golf event
An Irish Cabinet minister apologised “unreservedly” for attending a social event with more than 80 people – reported to have included European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan – which may have breached COVID-19 regulations.
Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary and Cabinet colleagues significantly tightened nationwide coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday, including limiting indoor gatherings to just six people. The next night, 81 people, including current and former politicians, attended a dinner hosted by the Irish parliament’s golf society in a hotel, according to the Irish Examiner.
Calleary said in a statement that in light of the updated public health guidance, he should not have attended the event.
“I wish to apologise unreservedly to everyone. We are asking quite a lot from everyone at this difficult time. I also offer this apology and my sincere regret to my government colleagues,” he said.
20:50 GMT – Trump calls on Pennsylvania governor to reopen state amid pandemic
President Donald Trump has called on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to reopen the state, telling a rally of supporters the Democrat would wait until the day after the November 3 election to do so.
“He’s got to open this state up,” Trump said during a speech in Old Forge, Pennsylvania. “What is he doing? What is he doing? So the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we’re going to get it open. And I know when he’s going to do it. You know when it is? November 4.”
20:25 GMT – One in five US nursing home short on PPE, staff: Study
One in five US nursing homes faced severe shortages of protective gear like N95 masks this summer even as the Trump administration pledged to help, according to a study released Thursday that finds facilities in areas hard-hit by COVID 19 also struggled to keep staff.
Significantly, there was no improvement from May to July in the shortages of personal protective equipment, known as PPE, or in the staffing shortfalls, according to the analysis of federal data by academic researchers. The summer has seen the coronavirus surge across the South, and much of the West and Midwest.
People living in long-term care facilities represent less than 1 percent of the US population, but account for 43 percent of coronavirus deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Similar glaring disparities have been seen with nursing home residents in other countries, but in the US the issue has become politically sensitive for President Donald Trump, who is trying to hang on to support from older voters in his reelection bid.
“A study that shows that 1 in 5 nursing homes has a severe shortage of PPE and a shortage of staff, and that it did not change from May to July, should be a massive read flag,” said Terry Fulmer, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, a nonprofit that works to improve care for older adults. “We have had no coherent federal response,” added Fulmer, who was not involved in the research.
19:50 GMT – Spain’s emergency chief admits virus fight not going well
Spain’s emergencies director has warned that “things are not going well” in his country’s fight to ramp down COVID-19 transmission as cases keep rising.
Fernando Simon, the health ministry’s emergencies director, urged social media influencers to help make young people in particular aware of the ongoing danger of contamination.
“Nobody should be in any doubt, things are not going well… We cannot let the situation elude us again,” Simon told a press conference, warning of the dangers of a rebound in cases which Spain has seen in recent weeks.
Many of the new cases are asymptomatic with the number of hospitalised sufferers as well as fatalities well down on the spring peaks.
19:10 GMT – Kuwait to end coronavirus curfew
Kuwait will end a curfew imposed due to the cornavirus in all regions of the country on Sunday, August 30 at 3:00 am local time, the cabinet announced in a statement.
19:05 GMT – UK records second-highest daily COVID-19 cases since June as testing expands
Britain has recorded 1,182 new coronavirus cases, the second-highest daily total since June 21, government figures showed, in part reflecting the higher number of tests being processed.
Thursday’s official data showed 190,434 tests were processed, compared to 117,971 on June 21.
Britain also reported a further six deaths of people who died within 28 days of receiving a positive coronavirus test result, taking the total number of fatalities on this measure to 41,403.
18:40 GMT – France reports 4,771 new coronavirus cases
France reported 4,771 new coronavirus cases over 24 hours on Thursday, 1,000 more than Wednesday, health authorities said.
The spike in new cases marked the first jump of more than 4,000 in a day since May, although the number of new patients hospitalised at 149 was down on 162 for Wednesday, the DGS public health directorate said.
During lockdown, France saw a peak of 7,578 infections per day on March 31, but since then, there have been only a few days with the number of new infections per day rising above 4,500.
18:00 GMT – Nigeria to deny entry to countries that bar Nigerians
Nigeria will bar entry to citizens of countries that do not allow in Nigerians due to coronavirus restrictions, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika has announced.
“The principle of reciprocity will be applied,” Sirika told reporters. “If you ban us from coming to your country, the same will apply the other way.”
Nigeria earlier this week announced plans to resume international flights on August 29. All but essential international flights were halted in late March in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.
The resumption will begin with four flights daily to both Lagos and Abuja, but Sirika said that initially the number of passengers would be limited to 1,280 a day.
17:30 GMT – Northern Ireland tightens COVID rules
Northern Ireland has tightened restrictions on the size of gatherings as it faces a rise in new cases of COVID-19.
Outdoor gatherings will from next week be limited to 15 people, reduced from 30, while indoor gatherings in private dwellings are now limited to six individuals from two households, from 10 previously.
Events such as weddings, church services and sporting events can be bigger if there is strict social distancing.
17:15 GMT – Surging coronavirus deepening Libya crisis: Red Cross
Coronavirus cases have skyrocketed 15-fold in Libya since June, the Red Cross said, warning this was further deepening the dire humanitarian crisis in the conflict-ravaged country.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said known COVID-19 cases in Libya had soared from 571 in June to more than 9,000 on Thursday.
Families bombed out of their homes.
Health care facilities destroyed.
…now over 9,000 COVID-19 cases.
After 9 years of conflict, over half a million people in Libya need health care.
— ICRC (@ICRC) August 20, 2020
17:00 GMT – Johnson & Johnson to test vaccine in 60,000 volunteers
Johnson & Johnson aims to test its experimental coronavirus vaccine in up to 60,000 volunteers in a late-stage trial scheduled to start in September, according to a US government database of clinical trials.
The trial would be conducted in nearly 180 sites across the United States and other countries including Brazil and Mexico.
16:45 GMT – Italy sees 845 new COVID-19 cases
Italy has reported 845 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, marking the highest daily increase since May, when the government eased its rigid lockdown measures.
Italy, one of Europe’s worst-hit countries, managed to contain the outbreak after a peak in deaths and cases between March and April. However, it has seen a steady increase in infections over the last month, with experts blaming gatherings of people associated with holidays and nightlife.
16:30 GMT – Republic of Congo to reopen air borders on Monday
The Republic of Congo next Monday will reopen air borders that it closed in late March to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, officials have said.
Land, river and sea borders will remain closed, except for the transport of cargo, which has been authorised.
15:45 GMT – Sweden signs on to EU’s AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine
Sweden said it has agreed to take part in the European Union’s deal with pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca to secure a supply of a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is discovered.
The deal means Sweden, a country of 10.3 million people, would get around six million doses of the vaccine in an initial phase and two million more in a later phase.
“Within two weeks we will have three more (vaccine) agreements to consider, and after that there will be another three or four in a month or two. We are negotiating with everyone to make sure we are covered,” Sweden’s national vaccine coordinator Richard Bergstrom told reporters.
AstraZeneca said in July that its vaccine, developed together with the University of Oxford, should be available by the end of the year.
15:15 GMT – Morocco imposes restrictions on movement to contain coronavirus
Moroccan authorities has imposed tight controls on movement in Casablanca and Marrakesh, the North African country’s economic and touristic capitals, following a spike in coronavirus cases.
Several districts of the two cities were to be sealed off, and opening hours shortened for restaurants, coffee houses, businesses and public parks. Several beaches were closed in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city with 3.3 million inhabitants, following similar measures imposed on Tuesday near the capital, Rabat.
Partial lockdowns were ordered on Tuesday in Rabat and the port city of Tangiers, with armoured vehicles deployed on the streets and police manning checkpoints. COVID-19 infections have been on the rise since the start of August, reaching a rate of 1,000 new cases a day in the country of 35 million.
Wednesday’s tally was more than 1,500 cases and 29 deaths. Morocco has confirmed a total of more than 46,000 cases of novel coronavirus, including more than 740 deaths.
14:30 GMT – Germany can cope with rising number of infections for now – RKI
Germany’s health authorities can cope with the rising number of infections at present, the deputy director of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases told Reuters news agency, but urged people to do everything to help reverse the trend.
“At the moment, the numbers are rising a little slower than in spring – that’s good – but as long as they are rising this is of course not a pleasant development,” RKI deputy director Lars Schaade said.
“The growth is still there and we hope of course that the growth will start to slow down in the next few days. Everyone can help,” he said, urging people not to travel to high-risk countries and to stick to social distancing and hygiene rules.
He said Germany’s health authorities were currently in a good position to carry out contact tracing, despite the growing number of infections, but said at a certain level they might need to concentrate on just large outbreaks.
14:05 GMT – Nigeria considers using private firms for coronavirus tests after foreign flights resume
Nigeria is considering partnerships between state governments and private firms to ramp up testing and tracing of coronavirus cases after international flights resume this month, the head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said.
Nigeria will reopen its airports for international flights from August 29. They have been closed since March 23 to all but essential overseas flights to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa’s most populous country.
State governments are responsible for testing and tracing but the influx of travellers will increase the pressure on already stretched authorities in Nigeria, which has had 50,488 cases resulting in 985 deaths.
Lagos, Nigeria’s largest state and the epicentre of its outbreak, has 200 tracers for a population of 25 million – fewer than one per 100,000 people, compared with around 14 per 100,000 in Turkey for example.
13:45 GMT – Survey: Majority of Japanese firms oppose Olympics next year
A majority of Japanese companies among almost 13,000 surveyed oppose holding the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year, according to an online study published Thursday.
The survey by a Japanese research company, published by the Kyodo news agency, showed 27.8 percent want the games to be cancelled, and 25.8 percent said they should be postponed again. The Olympics were originally planned for this year but were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Japanese organisers and the International Olympic Committee have said if the Olympics cannot be held next year, they will be cancelled.
In the survey, 46.2 percent said they wanted the games to go ahead in some form and open on July 23, 2021. The survey was conducted by Tokyo Shoko Research and covered 12,857 companies, Kyodo said.
13:40 GMT – Proportion of contacts reached by English COVID-19 tracing scheme falls
England’s test and trace scheme reached 71.3 percent of identified contacts of new COVID-19 cases in the past week, Britain’s health ministry has announced, a fall on the previous week.
In the week to August 12, 4,803 people were transferred to the test and trace system following a positive COVID-19 test, of whom 78.8 percent were reached and asked to provide contacts.
Of the 16,897 contacts identified, 71.3 percent were reached and asked to self isolate, down from 74.2 percent in the previous week.
13:25 GMT – Russia’s ‘Sputnik V’ COVID-19 vaccine to be tested on 40,000 people
Mass testing of Russia’s first potential COVID-19 vaccine to get domestic regulatory approval will involve more than 40,000 people, the TASS news agency cited the vaccine’s developer as saying.
The vaccine, called “Sputnik V” in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has been hailed as safe and effective by Russian authorities and scientists following two months of small-scale human trials, the results of which have not yet been made public.
12:35 GMT – Vietnam’s coronavirus infections pass 1,000 mark
Vietnam’s tally of coronavirus infections since January passed the 1,000 mark on Thursday, after 14 new cases were reported.
More than half of the total confirmed cases are linked to a new outbreak that began late last month in the central coastal city of Da Nang, the health ministry said.
The ministry said 86,644 people are currently undergoing quarantine, most in their homes.
11:50 GMT – EU, CureVac in talks on 225 milion doses of potential vaccine
The European Commission said on Thursday it had concluded exploratory talks with CureVac regarding the purchase of 225 million doses of the German biotech firm’s potential COVID-19 vaccine.
“Today we concluded talks with the European company CureVac to increase the chances of finding an effective coronavirus vaccine,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said.
The EU will now begin talks on a contract with CureVac aimed at securing the supply of its potential vaccine for all 27 EU member states should the shot prove safe and effective against COVID-19.
11:10 GMT – Germany records highest daily infection toll since April
Germany confirmed 1,707 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily toll since April, official figures showed on Thursday.
The latest figures, from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, bring to 228,621 the number of infections in the country since the start of the pandemic.
The daily record of new cases in Germany is just over 6,000, registered in early April. Ten new deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 9,253.
10:35 GMT – Germany adds parts of Croatia to list of coronavirus risk areas
Germany’s public health agency on Thursday declared the Croatian counties of Sibenik-Knin and Split-Dalmatia, which are popular with tourists, coronavirus risk regions.
Croatia is the country with the third-highest number of infections among people returning to Germany, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), after Kosovo and Turkey.
The RKI also added the Valcea region of Romania to its coronavirus risk list, having previously designated several other parts of Romania as high-risk.
10:00 GMT – Emirates to serve all ‘network destinations’ by summer 2021
Dubai-based airline Emirates expects to resume flights to all “network destinations” by summer 2021, its chief operating officer said, after the coronavirus pandemic halted most global air travel.
The Middle East’s largest carrier, which has a fleet of 270 wide-bodied aircraft, halted operations in late March. Shortly afterwards, it resumed limited passenger flights focused on repatriations and has since been gradually expanding its network after Dubai eased travel restrictions to revive its tourism industry.
“I think we can easily say by summer 2021, we’ll be serving 100 percent of our network destinations,” Adel al-Redha told CNBC.
09:30 GMT – Philippines confirms 4,339 more cases, 88 deaths
The Philippine health ministry on Thursday reported 4,339 new coronavirus infections and 88 additional deaths.
It said total confirmed infections have risen to 178,022 while deaths have reached 2,883.
The Philippines has reported the most COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia and the region’s second-highest death toll, after Indonesia.
08:50 GMT – Indonesia sees 2,266 new infections, 72 deaths
Indonesia reported 2,266 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 147,211.
Data from the health ministry showed an additional 72 deaths, taking total fatalities to 6,418.
08:15 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus death toll passes 16,000
Russia’s death toll from the novel coronavirus passed 16,000 on Thursday, as the country reported 110 new deaths in the past 24 hours.
The country’s coronavirus crisis response centre registered 4,785 new cases, bringing its nationwide tally of infections to 942,106, the world’s fourth highest caseload.
The death toll now stands at 16,099.
07:30 GMT – Nigeria reports more than 590 new cases
Nigerian health authorities confirmed on Thursday 593 new infections, pushing the national tally to 50,488.
At least four people died from the virus in the past 24 hours, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reported, taking the total number of fatalities to 985.
07:00 GMT – Ukraine registers record daily high of 2,134 new cases
Ukraine registered 2,134 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a new daily record for infections in the country, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said.
Stepanov said the new data surpassed the previous record of 1,967 reported the previous day.
The total number of cases has reached 98,537, including 2,134 deaths.
06:45 GMT – Coronavirus: What did they get wrong? | Start Here
More than eight months after its first international transmission, the pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down.
We have learned a lot about the virus but there have also been mistakes.
So why has it been so tough to get our heads around COVID-19? And when are we likely to get the virus under control?
Start Here looks back at what went wrong and what we might expect.
06:15 GMT –
Hello, I’m Hamza Mohamed in Doha taking over from my colleague Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.
05:30 GMT – Germany reports highest number of daily cases since April
Germany has recorded 1,707 cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the highest since April.
Official figures from the Robert Koch Institute show Germany with a total of 228,621 confirmed cases. An additional 10 people died from the disease, COVID-19.
04:15 GMT – India reports record daily jump in coronavirus cases
India has reported a record jump in coronavirus cases.
The Health Ministry confirmed 69,652 cases on Thursday, and also reported 997 more deaths.
India’s caseload is the third highest in the world after the US and Brazil.
03:50 GMT – Indonesia infection rate highest in Southeast Asia
Indonesia has officially reported 6,346 deaths from COVID-19, the highest toll in Southeast Asia, but the Reuters news agency reports that including people who died with acute COVID-19 symptoms but were not tested, the death toll is three times higher.
In a comprehensive report on the situation in the archipelago, the news agency says problems with testing as well as a lack of contact tracing has contributed to the rapid spread of the disease.
“This virus has already spread all over Indonesia. What we are doing is basically herd immunity,” Prijo Sidipratomo, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the National Veterans Development University in Jakarta told Reuters. “So, we should just dig many, many graves.”
You can read the story here.
03:30 GMT – China reports fourth day with no local transmission of coronavirus
China has reported its fourth day in a row without any local transmission of coronavirus. The seven cases announced on Thursday were all imported from overseas, according to state media.
Chinese mainland reports 7 new #COVID19 cases, all from overseas, the fourth consecutive day with no new domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases.
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) August 20, 2020
03:00 GMT – Australia’s Victoria reports 240 new cases, 13 deaths
The Australian state of Victoria has reported 240 new cases of coronavirus over the past 24 hours, up slightly on the 216 announced on Wednesday.
It also reported 13 deaths.
The state is the epicentre of a new wave of the outbreak in Australia and its capital city, Melbourne, has been locked down with a curfew imposed.
#COVID19VicData for 20 August 2020. 240 new cases of #coronavirus (#COVID19) were detected in Victoria yesterday. Sadly we report 13 deaths from the virus. More information later today. pic.twitter.com/fiQChvG3Oh
— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) August 19, 2020
01:55 GMT – South Korea reports seventh day of triple-digit cases
South Korea has reported its seventh consecutive day of triple-digit cases, with the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirming 288 cases – 276 locally acquired – in the past 24 hours.
Many of the cases have been traced to churches in Seoul, but an increasing number are appearing elsewhere in the country, including in the cities of Busan, Daejeon and Gwangju.
The largest cluster is linked to the Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul.
01:40 GMT – China state media defends Wuhan pool party
China’s state media has come to the defence of a theme park in Wuhan which hosted a massive music festival and pool party over the weekend and raised concern about COVID-19 when pictures and videos were widely shared overseas.
The Global Times said the packed event was a sign of life returning to normal in a city that spent 76 days in lockdown and accused critics of “sour grapes”. The virus first appeared in Wuhan late last year.
Criticizing #Wuhan residents for having fun at water park music festival shows foreign sour grapes. People should reflect on why their countries' epidemic control failed rather than smear Wuhan people and their hard-won victory over #coronavirus https://t.co/NJVBmxLiHk https://t.co/BRQBJvZtoe
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 19, 2020
VIDEO: 🇨🇳 Crowds packed out a water park over the weekend in the central Chinese city of #Wuhan, where the #coronavirus first emerged late last year, keen to party as the city edges back to normal life pic.twitter.com/SJFBmx5sU8
— AFP news agency (@AFP) August 17, 2020
01:15 GMT – Qantas posts $1.4bn loss amid pandemic restructuring
Australian airline Qantas says it had a loss of 1.96 billion Australian dollars ($1.4bn) in the financial year ended June 30, as a result of restructuring and accounting charges linked to the pandemic.
Chief Executive Alan Joyce said business conditions were the worst in the carrier’s 100-year history with international flights suspended and domestic routes hampered by border closures within Australia.
Joyce added that international flights were unlikely to resume until a vaccine was widely available, which might not be until late next year.
00:30 GMT – Harris says Trump ‘failure’ on coronavirus cost US lives
Kamala Harris will accuse US President Donald Trump of a “failure of leadership” during the coronavirus pandemic that has cost countless lives and jobs, when she accepts the Democratic Party’s nomination to be their candidate for vice president at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night (US time).
Harris will also attack Trump’s abilities and character, according to excerpts released to news agencies.
Trump’s “incompetence makes us feel afraid [and] the callousness makes us feel alone.”
The US has recorded the most cases and the most deaths from coronavirus of any country in the world.
You can keep up-to-date with all the developments from the convention, which is being held online, here.
00:15 GMT – Trump touts convalescent plasma as coronavirus treatment
US President Donald Trump is touting the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment for coronavirus, saying he has “heard fantastic things” about it.
Trump made his comments after the New York Times reported that the Food and Drug Administration had put on hold emergency approval for the treatment because of concerns the data on plasma use was too weak.
The president, who is facing re-election in November, claimed the decision could be political.
“You have a lot of people over there that don’t want to rush things because they want to do it after November 3,” Trump said, referring to the election.
“I’ve heard numbers way over 50 percent success. And people are dying and we should have it approved if it’s good and I’m hearing it’s good. I hear from people at the FDA it’s good.”
The blood plasma of people who recover from COVID-19 contains antibodies that were created to fight off the infection. It has been used in some countries including China to help other patients battling the disease.
00:00 GMT – Cautious optimism in Brazil as study shows transmission rate below one
Brazil’s Health Ministry says there are signs the coronavirus outbreak in the country – the world’s second-worst – could be about to slow down.
The number of confirmed cases dropped to 304,684 last week, compared with a peak of 319,653 in the week ending July 25. The number of deaths reported on a weekly basis has also fallen to 6,755 from a peak of 7,677 in the last week of July.
A study by Imperial College London also shows Brazil’s transmission rate has fallen below one, according to local media. That means each person diagnosed with the disease will infect fewer than one person, which will slow the outbreak.
“In a way, it is a trend. We have to see how the disease behaves in the next two weeks to see if there is a significant drop,” Arnaldo Medeiros, Secretary of Health Surveillance, told reporters on Wednesday.
Daily figures continue to show a steady rise in cases and deaths with the country registering a total of 3,456,652 cases of the disease and 111,100 deaths.
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 19) here.