LIVE: Coronavirus stabilising in Brazil, WHO says

Israel virus tally crosses 100,000; Lebanon imposes partial lockdown; Spain daily infections rise to 3,650.

outside image - WHO
  • The coronavirus pandemic is stabilising in Brazil and any reversal of its rampant spread in the vast country would be “a success for the world”, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
  • India approached towards the three million mark for coronavirus cases, reporting 68,898 new infections in the last 24 hours.
  • More than 22.5 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 around the world, and more than 14.4 million have recovered. More than 790,500 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, August 21

23:55 GMT – Kentucky Derby to be held without fans

Organisers of the Kentucky Derby said no fans would be allowed to attend the horse race in the US city of Louisville on September 5.

“With the current significant increases in COVID-19 cases in Louisville as well as across the region, we needed to again revisit our planning,” Churchill Downs Inc said in a statement.

“We have made the difficult decision to hold this year’s Kentucky Derby on September 5 without fans.”

US outbreak: Border towns with poverty suffering the most (2:39)

23:41 GMT – Limited transmission found in US childcare study, CDC says

Transmission of COVID-19 from children or adults to other people in Rhode Island childcare programs occurred on only a limited basis, a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed.

CDC Director Robert Redfield told reporters on a call that the findings indicated that there is a path “to get these childcare programs to reopen, which are very important for our country”.

The CDC analysis found transmission in just four of the 666 childcare programs operating in the state during the period June 1 to July 31, with 17 people becoming infected. The transmission was identified mainly in the last two weeks of July, when community transmission in Rhode Island had increased, the researchers said.

The pandemic still had a major impact, with 853 children and staff members going into self-quarantine because an infected person had showed up at a facility.

20:30 GMT – Swedish PM defends COVID-19 strategy

Sweden has chosen the right strategy in fighting the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said, defending his government’s decision not to adopt a strict lockdown as many European countries have done.

More than 5,800 Swedes have died of COVID 19, a much higher death rate than in neighbouring Norway, Denmark and Finland which adopted much tougher measures than Sweden, leading many to question the government’s approach.

But Lofven said Sweden had made the correct choice.

“The strategy that we adopted, I believe is right – to protect individuals, limit the spread of the infection, etc,” he said in an interview in daily Dagens Nyheter.

20:00 GMT – South Africa’s COVID-19 infections breach 600,000 mark

South Africa’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have surpassed 600,000, the health ministry said, even though the number of new cases has been declining since a peak in July.

The country now has 603,338 confirmed cases of the virus and 12,843 people have died, the ministry said in a statement shortly after the figures were first posted by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Twitter.

19:40 GMT – WHO chief: ‘Hope to finish this pandemic in less than two years’

The WHO said it hopes the planet will be rid of the coronavirus pandemic in less than two years – faster than it took for the Spanish flu.

“We hope to finish this pandemic in less than two years,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters from the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, insisting that it should be possible to tame the novel coronavirus faster than the deadly 1918 pandemic.

Read more here.

19:20 GMT – Children over 12 should follow same mask rules as adults: WHO

The World Health Organization has recommended that children over 12 should wear masks in the same contexts as adults in the bid to rein in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UN health agency, in cooperation with UNICEF, published fresh guidance Friday on when it is appropriate for children to wear masks to impede the spread of the coronavirus crisis.

18:35 GMT – US CDC reports 173,490 deaths from coronavirus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the number of deaths due to the new coronavirus had risen by 1,074 to 173,490 and reported 5,551,793 cases, an increase of 44,864 cases from its previous count.

18:20 GMT – Germany extends Belgium travel warning to Brussels

Germany has warned against travel to Brussels because of the high rate of coronavirus infections in Belgian capital, which is also home to the main organs of the European Union, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Germany warned against non-essential travel to EU regions where there have been more than 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past week. Belgium’s province of Antwerp is already subject to a warning.

17:45 GMT – France reports 4,586 new COVID-19 infections

The French health ministry has reported 4,586 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours after the country reached a post-lockdown record the previous day.

The ministry also said the total for coronavirus deaths in the country had risen by 23 in the past 24 hours to 30,503.

The number of patients in intensive care units was down by 1 to 379, the ministry also said.

17:30 GMT – WHO chief brands virus protection gear graft ‘murder’

Corrupt practices around medical safety gear for COVID-19 health workers is tantamount to “murder”, the World Health Organization chief has said.

In strong remarks, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that corruption which deprives health workers of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) threatened not only their lives but also the lives of their patients suffering from the novel coronavirus.

16:55 GMT – Indonesia books 50 million vaccine doses from Sinovac

China’s Sinovac Biotech has committed to provide 50 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine candidate to Indonesia’s government from November to March, a minister and Indonesia’s state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma has said.

The Southeast Asian nation is seeking to secure a supply as cases rise unabated.

16:40 GMT – Governor of Brazil’s Sao Paulo state says no longer has coronavirus

The governor of Brazil’s Sao Paulo state, Joao Doria, has said he no longer had coronavirus, less than two weeks after announcing he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Doria told reporters he is still quarantined and that his wife, Bia Doria, who had also contracted the disease has now tested negative as well.

16:25 GMT – Scale of pandemic in Mexico “under-recognised”: WHO

The scale of the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico is “under-represented” and “under-recognised” and testing is limited, the World Health Organization’s Dr Mike Ryan has said.

He told a Geneva briefing that testing in Mexico worked out at about three people per 100,000, compared with about 150 tests per 100,000 people in the United States.

16:10 GMT – Spain daily coronavirus infections rise to 3,650

Spain diagnosed 3,650 coronavirus infections in past 24 hours, the health ministry has said, up from 3,349 cases it reported a day earlier and bringing the cumulative total to 386,054.

The ministry said 125 people had died from the virus over the past seven days. The seven-day death toll reported on Thursday was 122.

15:55 GMT – UK records 1,033 new COVID-19 cases

The United Kingdom has recorded 1,033 new positive cases of COVID-19, down from 1,182 on Thursday, government figures showed.

A further two people died after testing positive for the coronavirus within 28 days, down from six a day earlier.

The new cases were recorded as the government ramps up testing so it can suppress the spread of the virus and ease restrictions that have crippled its economy.

15:40 GMT –  Italy economy weathering coronavirus better than expected: minister

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said that Italy’s economy has held up better than expected in the face of the coronavirus and the third quarter would show “a very strong rebound” in growth.

In the second quarter Italian gross domestic product shrank by 12.4 percent from the previous three months, national statistics bureau ISTAT reported last month, the steepest drop on record but less severe than forecast.

15:25 GMT – Irish minister quits for ‘damaging national effort’ on COVID-19

Ireland’s agriculture minister resigned after he said he had damaged the national effort in fighting COVID-19 by attending a social event that could have breached health regulations.

Dara Calleary was among more than 80 guests at a hotel dinner hosted by the Irish parliament’s golf society, the night after he and his cabinet colleagues significantly tightened nationwide restrictions to try to rein in a rise in infections.

Dara Calleary
Dara Calleary was among more than 80 guests at a hotel dinner hosted by the Irish parliament’s golf society [File: Reuters]

15:10 GMT – Rugby player tests positive in latest Premiership COVID-19 tests

One player in the Premiership has tested positive for COVID-19 in testing after the first round of fixtures following the season’s restart, Premiership Rugby said.

The Premiership said 1,043 players and club staff had been tested – the highest number of tests they have carried out in a day since they began testing in early July.

14:55 GMT – Virus cases reported at 41 schools in Berlin

At least 41 schools in Berlin have reported students or teachers are infected with the coronavirus – not even two weeks after they reopened in the German capital.

The daily Berliner Zeitung published the numbers on Friday and the city’s senate for education confirmed them to The Associated Press.

Hundreds of students and teachers are in quarantine, the newspaper reported. Elementary schools, high schools and trade schools are affected. There are 825 schools in Berlin.

14:40 GMT – Tunisia imposes curfew in two southern towns

Tunisia has imposed a 5:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew in two southern towns to help contain a renewed coronavirus outbreak, the state news agency TAP said.

The North African nation is seeking to counter a second spread of COVID-19 evident since it reopened its borders on June 27 as part of steps to ease a lockdown and revive the economy, particularly the vital tourist industry.

Since then, however, Tunisia has recorded a major resurgence of infections, exceeding 100 per day over the last two weeks.

14:35 GMT

Hello, this is Elizabeth Melimopoulos taking over the live updates from my colleague Umut Uras in Doha.

12:45 GMT – Irish county to remain under lockdown, business body told

Ireland’s public health officials have recommended that strict COVID-19 restrictions should remain in place in one of the three counties where they were reimposed two weeks ago, the health minister was quoted as telling local businesses.

Ireland closed or limited business on August 7 in three of its 26 counties, Kildare, Laois and Offaly.

County Kildare Chamber Chief Executive Allan Shine told the Reuters news agency that he had spoken to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, who had made clear that an extension of controls in Kildare for two more weeks had been recommended.

The measures, that mean residents can only leave their county in limited circumstances, will be lifted in Laois and Offaly, he added.

12:15 GMT – Lebanon enforces new partial lockdown in effort to curb COVID-19

Lebanon imposed a partial lockdown for two weeks in an effort to counter COVID-19 infections which have spiralled since the catastrophic explosion at Beirut port.

The spread of COVID-19 is compounding the woes of a country still reeling from the August 4 explosion that killed at least 180 people and wounded some 6,000, and a financial meltdown that has devastated the economy since October.

Lebanon recorded its highest 24-hour tally of new infections on Thursday, with 613 new cases. The infections have spread in the aftermath of the blast as hospitals were flooded with the casualties, medics say.

11:55 GMT – Slovakia reports record number of new coronavirus cases

Slovakia reported 123 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily number since the global pandemic reached the country in March, data from the Health Ministry showed.

It was also the third time the country has reported more than 100 new cases in a day.

Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, has recorded very low numbers of the coronavirus compared with other European countries. It has confirmed 3,225 people infected with COVID-19 so far, out of whom 2,045 have recovered, and 33 died.

11:30 GMT – England’s small rise in COVID-19 cases levelled off: Statistics office

A small increase in the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in England in July appears to have levelled off, the UK’s statistics office said.

In the week of August 7-13, nearly one in 2,200 individuals tested positive in England, it said.

In late July, about one person in 1,500 tested positive, the ONS had previously said.

11:00 GMT – Sweden to ease some COVID-19 curbs on sports, gatherings

Sweden plans to ease pandemic rules to allow more spectators at cultural and sporting events, if they can be organised to prevent the risk of spreading the new coronavirus, the government said.

In March, Sweden limited public gatherings to 50 people to halt the spread of the virus, effectively preventing theatres, soccer clubs and concerts from being able to bring in revenues from the public.

However, with the number of new infections and COVID-19 deaths falling in Sweden, the government said it planned to introduce exceptions to the 50-person maximum for events where crowds could be seated two metres apart, from October 1.

Outside image - blog - 03 June - sweden headline
In March, Sweden limited public gatherings to 50 people to halt the spread of the virus [EPA]

10:20 GMT – Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine to complete clinical trial in September: Report

The clinical trial of a Russian COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the Siberian Vektor research centre is due to be completed in September, the RIA news agency said.

The agency cited Russia’s healthcare watchdog as its source for the report.

10:00 GMT – Poland reports new record in coronavirus new daily cases

Poland reported 903 new coronavirus cases, according to the Health Ministry’s Twitter account, the highest daily increase since the outbreak.

Poland has reported 60,281 cases in all, and 1,938 deaths.

09:10 GMT – Philippines reports 4,786 more coronavirus infections, 59 deaths

The Philippines recorded 4,786 new coronavirus infections, taking its total confirmed cases to 182,365 since the pandemic began, the highest in Southeast Asia.

In a bulletin, the health ministry also reported 59 more fatalities, bringing the country’s death toll to 2,940.

“The infectiousness has increased because the strain has evolved,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said at a webinar on Friday.

A boy wears a face shield while watching a simulation of an online learning class from a smartphone in his home, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Manila, Philippines,
A boy wears a face shield while watching an online learning class from a smartphone in Manila, Philippines [File: Reuters]

08:40 GMT – Irish minister to resign over COVID-19 breach: Reports

Irish Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary is resigning over his attendance this week at a social event with more than 80 people which may have breached COVID-19 regulations, a number of media outlets reported.

Calleary apologised “unreservedly” late on Thursday for attending a hotel dinner hosted by the Irish parliament’s golf society, a day after the government significantly tightened nationwide restrictions to try to rein in a spike in cases.

Ireland’s Newstalk radio station reported that the minister would resign. Calleary’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

07:45 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus case tally nears 950,000

Russia reported 4,870 new coronavirus cases, pushing its confirmed national tally to 946,976, the fourth-largest in the world.

Authorities said 90 people had died over the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 16,189.

Russia's coronavirus cases rise to 687,862
Russia says 110 people died over the last 24 hours, pushing its official death toll to 16,914 [File: Anadolu]

07:20 GMT – US unfreezing Venezuelan assets for fight against COVID-19: Guaido

Venezuela’s opposition said the United States has granted it access to millions of dollars of frozen Venezuelan government funds to support efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

The US Treasury Department had approved the release of the funds, the opposition said in a statement without specifying the total amount.

The statement said part of the released funds would go to pay some 62,000 health workers $300. During a live appearance on Twitter on Thursday night, opposition leader Juan Guaido said health workers could register accounts to receive payments of $100 a month starting Monday. Healthcare workers in Venezuela can earn as little as $5 a month.

06:55 GMT – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 1,427: RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,427 to 230,048, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by seven to 9,260, the tally showed.

Passengers stand in front of a Coronavirus test center for returnees from risk countries at the international airport in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 16 August 2020. A coronavirus test has become manda
Passengers stand in front of a coronavirus test centre at the international airport in Frankfurt am Main, Germany [EPA]

06:30 GMT – Hungary to tighten border crossing to curb spread of virus: PM Orban

Hungary will tighten border crossing rules from September 1 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the number of new infections is rising in neighbouring countries, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio.

Orban, a nationalist who has been in power for more than 10 years, also said the government would draft a two-year plan to boost the economy by the middle of next month, after a deeper-than-expected 13.6 percent plunge in second-quarter economic output.

06:00 GMT – UAE could reintroduce curfew in some areas: Official

The United Arab Emirates could reintroduce a de facto overnight curfew in some areas of the country in case of a high number of COVID-19 infections, a government official said.

The Gulf Arab state has seen the number of cases rise this week to more than 400 for the first time since mid-July, including 461 infections and two deaths in the 24 hours to Thursday.

Asked if the national sterilisation programme, which had included a night-time curfew, could again be enforced, National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) spokesman Seif al-Zahri told Emirates TV: “Yes, that’s possible in certain areas where we observe high infection cases.”

Hello, this is Umut Uras in Doha, taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.

05:24 GMT – S Korea urges more testing as outbreak threatens to spread

South Korea reported 324 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest single-day total since March 8, as the recent surge of COVID-19 in the greater capital area now appears to be spreading nationwide.

Friday was the eighth consecutive day that South Korea reported a triple-digit daily increase, for an eight-day total of 1,900 infections.

Most of the recent new cases have been in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region, but officials said the latest new infections were recorded in practically all major cities nationwide, including Busan, Gwangju, Daejeon, Sejong and Daegu. Some of the new cases included people who attended a rally by conservative political groups in Seoul last week.

Members of conservative civic groups take part in an anti-government protest, as concerns over a fresh wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases grow, in central Seoul
Members of conservative civic groups take part in an anti-government protest in central Seoul, South Korea, on August 15, 2020 [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

05:09 GMT – India cases surge to 2.9 million

India hurtled toward the 3 million mark for coronavirus cases, reporting 68,898 new infections in the last 24 hours.

The total number of cases in the country now stands at 2.9 million. Deaths in the same period jumped by 983, with the total now at 54,849.

04:27 GMT – Peru, Morocco to test China Sinopharm’s vaccine

Authorities in Peru and Morocco approved phase three clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), the company said late on Thursday.

Phase three trials, which usually involve several thousand participants, allow researchers to gather data on the efficacy of potential vaccines for final regulatory approvals.

The experimental vaccine of CNBG, a unit of state-owned pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), has entered a Phase 3 trial in the United Arab Emirates that has already recruited 15,000 volunteers.

It has also obtained approval to be tested in Bahrain in a phase three study designed to involve about 6,000 participants.

WHO COVID Debrief on global coronavirus vaccine efforts (4:08)

03:55 GMT – Stay-at-home order in Myanmar’s Sittwe

Health authorities ordered residents of Sittwe, the capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, to stay at home after detecting three more locally transmitted cases, according to the Myanmar Times newspaper.

A total of nine cases have been reported in Rakhine since August 16, when authorities detected Myanmar’s first locally transmitted case in nearly a month.

Buses and flights have suspended operations in and out of Sittwe starting on Thursday.

03:32 GMT – Biden says his top priority is to ‘get control of virus’

Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, said his “first step” if elected president of the United States would be to “get control of the virus that has ruined so many lives”.

Speaking at the Democratic National Convention, Biden said: “We will never get our economy back on track, we will never get our kids back in schools, we will never have our lives back until we deal with this virus.”

His plan to contain the pandemic included developing and deploying rapid tests, bolstering the supply of protective gear and instituting a national mandate for masks.

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination

03:12 GMT – New Zealand defers lockdown decision

New Zealand reported nine new locally transmitted coronavirus cases, and put off a decision about easing restrictions in its biggest city of Auckland to next week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would announce on Monday whether the government would ease alert level-three restrictions enforced in Auckland, and level-two measures in the rest of the country.

02:41 GMT – Germany to take on more debt in 2021

Germany will need to take on yet more debt in 2021 to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.

“Next year, we will continue to be forced to suspend the debt rule and spend considerable funds to protect the health of citizens and stabilise the economy,” Scholz said in an interview with the Funke media group, referring to Germany’s cherished policy of keeping a balanced budget.

Scholz already plans to borrow about 218 billion euros ($258bn) this year to help pay for a huge rescue package to steer the country through the coronavirus-induced downturn.

02:26 GMT – New virus cases in Australia’s Victoria hit five-week low

Australia’s Victoria reported its lowest number of new infections in five weeks, logging 179 new cases in the past 24 hours, compared with 240 a day earlier and down from about 700 two weeks ago.

The decline in cases comes after authorities introduced a nightly curfew and shut large swathes Victoria’s economy. The state reported nine deaths.

Despite the second wave of the outbreak in Victoria, Australia has largely avoided high casualties, with less than 24,500 infections and 450 deaths from the virus.

A man wearing a face mask crosses a quiet road in Melbourne’s Chinatown area on August 13, 2020 [William West/AFP]

02:11 GMT – Japan to ease re-entry curbs on foreign residents

Japan plans to ease its COVID-19 entry restrictions on foreign nationals with resident visas starting next month, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Re-entry will be permitted for visa holders, including permanent residents and exchange students, on condition that they undergo coronavirus testing and quarantine for 14 days, the same policy that applies to Japanese citizens re-entering the country, according to NHK.

01:58 GMT – Mexico to get 2,000 doses of Russian vaccine for testing

Mexico will receive at least 2,000 doses of Russia’s potential COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed Sputnik V, to test among its population, according to the Mexican foreign minister.

Marcelo Ebrard called the Russian offer “very good news”.

Mexico has already agreed to help manufacture a vaccine candidate being developed by UK’s AstraZeneca and Oxford University to supply the Latin American market. It is also preparing to carry out late-stage trials for US company Johnson & Johnson and two Chinese companies.

01:46 GMT – Extreme poverty ‘could surge by 100 million’

David Malpass, the president of the World Bank, warned that the coronavirus pandemic may drive as many as 100 million people back into extreme poverty.

The Washington-based development lender previously estimated that 60 million people would fall into extreme poverty due to COVID-19, but the new estimate puts the deterioration at 70 to 100 million, and Malpass told the AFP “that number could go higher” if the pandemic worsens or drags on.

The situation makes it “imperative” that creditors reduce the amount of debt held by poor countries at risk, going beyond the commitment to suspend debt payments, he added.

01:07 GMT – Morocco may reimpose full lockdown

King Mohammed VI warned that Morocco could return to a complete coronavirus lockdown amid a jump in infections that has strained health services and triggered protests by medical staff.

New cases nationally have surged to more than 1,000 a day since Morocco lifted a strict three-month-long lockdown in late June and hit a record high of 1,766 on August 15.

As of Thursday, Morocco had recorded a total 47,638 cases, including 775 deaths and 32,806 recoveries.

00:57 GMT – Canada extends emergency aid

Canada announced a four-week extension of emergency aid for people who lost work due to the pandemic, and an easing of rules on qualifying for unemployment benefits when that expires.

Officials estimated the cost of the new measures at 37 billion Canadian dollars ($28bn) over one year.

About 4.5 million Canadians, or 12 percent of the population, are currently receiving $2,000 a month in emergency support. That will now be in place until September 27.

Afterwards, claimants will be shifted to an unemployment benefits programme.

00:33 GMT – Peruvian, Argentine economies post huge falls

Peru’s year-on-year gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 30 percent in the second quarter of 2020 due to coronavirus containment measures, the government said.

In Peru, mandatory confinement was in place throughout the whole of the second quarter and was only lifted in most parts of the country on July 1.

In Argentina, official data showed the country’s economy contracted by almost 13 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period last year.

The year-on-year fall in GDP for June was 12.3 percent, although that was an improvement on April and May.

00:27 GMT – Latin America’s death toll passes 250,000

The number of COVID-19 deaths in Latin America surged past 250,000 on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally.

The grim milestone was passed as Brazil reported 1,204 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours.

Over the past week, the region has reported more than 3,000 deaths a day, while daily caseloads continue to rise in Peru, Colombia and Argentina.

00:16 GMT – Brazil’s cases top 3.5 million

Brazil reported 45,323 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,204 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.

Brazil has now registered 3,501,975 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 112,304, according to ministry data.

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

Go here for all the key developments from yesterday, August 20.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies