Coronavirus plunges Brazil into recession: Live news

Latin America’s biggest economy contracts by a record 9.7 percent in the second quarter of 2020, official figures show.

ouside image - brazil recession
  • Brazil’s economy contracted by a record 9.7 percent in the second quarter of 2020, plunging into recession as coronavirus lockdowns hit home, the official statistics agency said.

  • Europe can live with COVID-19 without a vaccine by managing outbreaks with localised lockdowns, the World Health Organization’s director for the region said, adding he did not expect a return to full national-level restrictions.

  • Hong Kong has started mass testing for coronavirus in an initiative that has been undermined by suspicions of China and concerns about privacy.

  • Nearly 25.5 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 851,352 people have died. Some 16.8 million people have recovered.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, September 1

20:35 GMT – White House slams WHO over criticism of push for COVID vaccine

The White House on Tuesday pushed back on concerns expressed by the World Health Organization after a US health official said a coronavirus vaccine might be approved without completing full trials.

“The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

“This President will spare no expense to ensure that any new vaccine maintains our own FDA’s gold standard for safety and efficacy, is thoroughly tested, and saves lives,” he said.

19:55 GMT – Cuba closes off Havana to stamp out spread of coronavirus

Cuban authorities ordered a strict 15-day lockdown of Havana on Tuesday seeking to stamp out the low-level but persistent spread of coronavirus in the capital.

Aggressive anti-virus measures including closing down air travel have virtually eliminated COVID-19 in Cuba with the exception of Havana, where cases have surged from a handful a day to dozens daily over the last month.

Starting Tuesday, Havana is under a 7pm to 5am curfew. Most stores are barred from selling to shoppers from outside the immediate neighborhood in order to discourage people from moving around the city.

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]

19:25 GMT – Colombia lifts lockdown after five months, reopens airports

Colombia on Tuesday lifted one of Latin America’s longest lockdowns, scrapping most restrictions after being under quarantine for over five months.

Several airports reopened, buses started travelling between cities nationwide, while restaurants, gyms and hotels welcomed or were preparing to welcome clients.

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bogota

President Ivan Duque’s government had already been gradually reactivating the economy in the country which has confirmed more than 615,000 infections, the third-largest number in Latin America. 

But unemployment was 20 per cent in July, and the economy shrank by 15.7 percent in the second quarter year-on-year, mounting pressure on the government to fully reopen the economy.

18:50 GMT – UAE reports over 500 new cases for second consecutive day

The United Arab Emirates recorded over 500 new COVID-19 infections for the second successive day on Tuesday after a rise in cases in the Middle East financial hub.

The government’s communications office said on Twitter there had been 574 new infections but no deaths in the previous 24 hours, following 541 new infections and two deaths reported a day earlier.

Schools in the UAE reopened this week, though some will continue with only remote learning after suspected cases among employees, state news agency WAM reported, citing the education ministry.

The UAE Adjusts To Life Under The Coronavirus Pandemic
The UAE has recorded 70,805 infections and 384 deaths from coronavirus [Francois Nel/Getty]

18:15 GMT – France reports nearly 5,000 new cases

The French health ministry reported 4,982 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, up on the 3,082 reported on Monday, but below the highs of nearly 7,400 seen last week.

The number of people who have died from COVID-19 infections increased by 26 to 30,661, and the cumulative number of cases now totals 286,007.

17:40 GMT – US panel says health workers, first responders should be first to get COVID-19 vaccines

A panel of experts set up to advise the United States on how best to allocate COVID-19 vaccines said on Tuesday that high risk workers in healthcare facilities and first responders should get them firm as part of a recommended four-phase rollout plan.

The plan was suggested by a special committee of experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Academy of Medicine, an independent advisory body.

The directors of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health charged the panel with devising the plan in late June.

17:15 GMT – UK records 1,295 new coronavirus cases

The United Kingdom recorded 1,295 daily confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to government data published on Tuesday, down from 1,406 a day earlier.

Three people died within 28 days of testing positive for the disease, the daily statistics release said, bringing the total death toll under that measure to 41,504.

Uk swab test
In Europe, only Russia and Spain have recorded more cases than UK [Carl Recine/Reuters]

17:05 GMT – Bhutan to gradually lift coronavirus lockdown

Bhutan, the remote Himalayan kingdom famous for measuring gross national happiness, on Tuesday took the first steps to lift its coronavirus lockdown, saying there was limited community transmission.

“Experiences in many countries reveal a surge in Covid-19 cases, mostly detected in the second week of post-lockdown,” Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, a doctor who continues to practise on weekends, said in a television address late Monday.

“Which is why our re-opening strategies should be gradual.”

The country of 750,000 people between India and China – one of the few nations in the world that have yet to register a virus death – has so far recorded 225 infections.

16:40 GMT – White House public tours to resume September 12 with COVID rules

Public tours of the White House, halted nearly six months ago due to the coronavirus outbreak, are set to resume later this month with new health and safety policies in place.

Tours will resume September 12, for two days a week instead of five, and for just a few hours a day, the first lady’s office announced Tuesday. The number of visitors will also be capped.

“In order to ensure the safety and health of all visitors, there have been new policies implemented that align with the guidance issued by Federal, State, and local officials,” the White House said.

All guests over the age of two years will be required to wear a face covering and practice social distancing.

16:00 GMT – South African state firms seek coronavirus crisis bailouts

South African state companies have asked for billions of rand in government funding to help them through the coronavirus crisis, a finance ministry presentation to parliament on Tuesday showed.

Loss-making state firms have been a long-term drain on Africa’s most industrialised economy, requiring bailouts that have strained public finances at a time of weak economic growth, helping to tip its sovereign credit to a “junk” rating.

The South African Post Office (SAPO) has requested 4.9bn rand ($293m) in support, while broadcaster SABC is seeking 1.5bn (90.1m) and airports operator ACSA has applied for an equity injection of 3.5bn (210.2m), the presentation showed.

South Africa

15:25 GMT – UK plans media campaign to get workers back into workplaces

Britain will later this week launch a media campaign to encourage employees to return to their workplaces.

“The next stage we’ll look at is specifically the guidance on how to get back to work safely and we expect to see that later this week,” Johnson’s spokesman said, commenting on the government’s ongoing public information campaign.

Johnson’s message is that returning to work will help stimulate the economy, the spokesman said.

Boris new podium - reuters
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is looking to limit the damage to the economy from the coronavirus-enforced lockdown [Reuters]

15:00 GMT – Virgin Atlantic, eyeing approval of rescue deal, restarts more routes

Virgin Atlantic will resume flying to Delhi, Tel Aviv, Atlanta, Mumbai and Lagos from London in September as travel restrictions ease, the airline said on Tuesday, as it eyes the completion of its restructuring plan.

Virgin Atlantic is seeking court approval for a rescue deal on Wednesday after creditors overwhelmingly backed the deal last week.

The airline, which has already restarted flights to New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Barbados and Miami, said further routes would be added throughout 2020.

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manchester
In April, Virgin Atlantic filed for bankruptcy in the US [Phil Noble/Reuters]

14:45 GMT – Workers on Spain’s furlough scheme down to 620,000 from 3 million in April

The number of workers enrolled on Spain’s coronavirus furlough scheme has fallen to around 620,000 from a peak of 3 million at the pandemic’s height in April, government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero told a news conference on Tuesday.

Around 5,000 people per day are coming out of the program, with most of the remaining workers involved in hard-hit industries linked to tourism, she added.

The government is considering expanding the scheme beyond the end of September when it is currently due to tend.

14:25 GMT – Senate Republicans likely to take up COVID-19 bill next week: Meadows

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said he expects Senate Republicans to bring up a targeted COVID-19 relief bill next week and that the Trump administration may take executive action to assist US airlines.

In an interview on CNBC, Meadows said he expected Republicans’ legislation would be “more targeted” than House Democrats’ offer and include about $500 bn in additional financial aid.

14:00 GMT – Coronavirus plunges Brazil into recession

Brazil’s economy contracted by a record 9.7 percent in the second quarter of 2020, plunging into recession as coronavirus lockdowns hit home, the official statistics agency.

“GDP is now at the same level as late 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis,” the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) said in a statement.

It was the biggest drop since the current system of records began in 1996, it said.

outside image - brazil recession
Brazil has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the second-highest number of infections and deaths worldwide after the United States [Eraldo Peres/AP]

13:55 GMT – 

Hello, I’m Hamza Mohamed in Doha taking over from my colleague Elizabeth Melimopoulos.

12:30 GMT – Guatemala’s international airport to resume flights on September 18

Guatemala’s Aurora international airport will reopen to commercial flights on September 18, the government has announced, as the Central American country relaxes its coronavirus lockdown.

Guatemala registered more than 74,000 coronavirus infections and 2,760 deaths during the pandemic. The airport has been shut since mid-March.

12:10 GMT – Mexican president gains popularity during pandemic: Poll

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s approval rating has risen during the coronavirus pandemic, with a majority of surveyed voters applauding his campaign to crack down on political corruption, an opinion poll showed.

Lopez Obrador now holds a 65 percent approval rate, according to a nationwide survey of 1,000 voters in face-to-face interviews conducted by pollster Parametria from August 26-30.

The rate rose from 54 percent in March, just as the coronavirus crisis took hold in Latin America’s second-largest economy. Lopez Obrador will give a state of the nation address on Tuesday, as Mexico stands in fourth-place globally for most lives lost to the pandemic.

11:50 GMT – Coronavirus cases to peak this month in Indonesia, says president

Indonesia’s coronavirus outbreak will likely peak this month, President Joko Widodo has said, adding he was “very confident” about access to a safe and effective vaccine by the end of this year.

The upbeat assessment came as Indonesia – which has one of the world’s lowest per-capita testing rates – saw record new cases on three successive days last week, when 11 percent of its total 177,571 infections were recorded.

Its 7,505 COVID-19 deaths are the most in Southeast Asia.

11:20 GMT – 900,000 in Finland download virus tracing app

Finnish health authorities say some 900,000 people have downloaded a coronavirus tracing app a day after it was launched.

The Koronavilkku app is aimed at finding out whether a person has been exposed to the coronavirus, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare said, adding that the free-of-charge application was created to help break infection chains.

App users send a randomly generated code via Bluetooth to others when in close contact.

10:50 GMT – Germany sees economy recovering faster than expected in 2020

Germany expects the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to be less severe than originally feared this year, but it sees a weaker rebound for Europe’s largest economy next year due to sluggish foreign demand.

Presenting the government’s updated forecasts, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said the economy was doing better than expected and was recovering quickly from the coronavirus shock thanks to a strong response from the state.

10:30 GMT – Spain PM concerned at Madrid spike in virus infections

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said his government is concerned about a spike in coronavirus infections in the capital Madrid.

Spain was one of the hardest-hit countries when the coronavirus struck Europe this year before a strict lockdown helped reduce the outbreak’s spread.

But infections have surged since the lockdown measures were fully removed at the end of June, especially in Madrid, with the rise in infections often linked to the return of nightlife and social gatherings.

10:15 GMT – South African state firms request bailouts over COVID-19

South African state companies have requested billions of rand in funding from the government to help them weather the effect of the coronavirus crisis, a finance ministry presentation to parliament showed.

Loss-making state companies have long been an Achilles’ heel for Africa’s most industrialised economy, requiring bailouts that have placed its public finances under huge strain at a time of weak economic growth and helped push its sovereign credit rating to “junk” status.

10:05 GMT – Poland bans direct flights from Spain, Israel due to coronavirus fears

Poland is banning from Wednesday direct flights from 44 countries including Spain, Israel and Romania in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the Central European country, the government has said.

The United States, Malta, Montenegro, Mexico, Brasil, Argentina and India are also on the list of countries, but local media reported that Russia and China had been removed from it.

The move follows measures to reintroduce restrictions on public life in the worst affected parts of the country, as the government tries to tackle the spread of the virus without resorting to a complete lockdown.

09:50 GMT – Philippines raises limits on attendance at religious services

Philippine authorities have raised the limit on attendance at religious services in the capital to 10 percent of a venue’s capacity, up from just 10 people since June.

The new rules allow Catholic churches and other places of worship to be filled up to 10 percent of their capacity in the Metro Manila region, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

09:25 GMT – Children in Wuhan return to school

Children have returned to school in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic that underwent months of lockdown but which has not seen new cases of local transmission for weeks.

State media reported 1.4 million children in the city reported to 2,842 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools as part of a nationwide return to classes.

09:10 GMT – Malaysia to bar long-term pass holders from India, Indonesia, Philippines

Malaysia has said it will bar entry of long-term immigration pass holders from India, Indonesia and the Philippines from September 7, in a bid to curtail imported coronavirus cases amid a spate of new clusters in the country.

Health authorities in Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy have recorded more than 9,300 cases as of Tuesday, and 128 deaths, with new cases found in clusters detected in at least four states.

08:50 GMT – French children head back to school

Millions of French children have started going back to school despite a recent rise in virus infections, in a nationwide experiment aimed at bridging inequalities and reviving the economy.

“The virus is still there, and you have to protect yourself,” President Emmanuel Macron said in an Instagram video aimed at France’s more than 12 million schoolchildren on their first day back.

08:30 GMT – Philippines confirms 3,483 more coronavirus cases, 39 deaths

The Philippines’ health ministry has reported 3,483 additional novel coronavirus infections and 39 more deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed infections had reached 224,264, more than half of which were reported in the past 30 days, while deaths had increased to 3,597.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday kept partial restrictions in and around the capital for another month until end-September to stem the continuous rise in infections.

08:15 GMT – Indonesia reports 2,775 new coronavirus cases, 88 deaths

Indonesia has reported 2,775 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total tally to 177,571, data from the country’s COVID-19 taskforce showed.

The Southeast Asian country also added 88 new deaths on Tuesday, taking the total number to 7,505, the highest coronavirus death toll in Southeast Asia. 

08:00 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus case tally passes one million mark

The total number of coronavirus cases in Russia have passed the one million mark after 4,729 new infections were reported.

That brought the country’s total tally to 1,000,048. Russia’s coronavirus crisis centre said 123 new deaths had been confirmed in the last 24 hours. 

07:30 GMT – India’s case surge eases slightly as millions take exams

India’s tally of coronavirus infections have surged to nearly 3.7 million, as millions of masked students sat for college admission exams after the government refused to defer them.

India, the world’s third most affected country by the pandemic after the United States and Brazil, reported 69,921 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the lowest in six days.

07:15 GMT Ghana to reopen international airport after five months

Ghana will reopen its international airport but with new regulations in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the president has announced.

Kotoka International Airport, located outside the capital Accra, was closed in March along with other border points in a bid to contain the virus in the west African country.

“I am glad to announce that Kotoka International Airport will reopen and resume operations from Tuesday, September 1, 2020,” President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a nationwide broadcast. He said land borders would remain closed.

06:55 GMT – Chinese students begin full return to school

Chinese students began a full return to regular classes following two weeks without new cases of local transmission in the country.

Reports said students had their temperatures checked on arrival but rules on social distancing and mask wearing varied depending on the region.

Inside Story: What is China’s post-coronavirus strategy? (25:00)

06:40 GMT – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 1,218

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany have increased by 1,218 to 243,599, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 4 to 9,302, the tally showed. 

06:05 GMT – Hungary reopens borders to some eastern neighbours

Hungary has decided to let tourists from its three East European neighbours, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia enter the country with a fresh negative coronavirus test, just as a lockdown on its borders took effect.

Last week Hungary said it would close its borders to foreigners from Tuesday to curb a rise in coronavirus cases. Returning Hungarian citizens can leave a 14-day quarantine only if they provide two negative COVID tests.

Hi, this is Elizabeth Melimopoulos in Doha taking over the live updates from my colleague Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

05:20 GMT – Sanofi says arthritis drug failure as COVID-19 treatment

French drugmaker Sanofi says its rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara does not work as a treatment for coronavirus. 

With Kevzara’s failure to meet the main goals of a US study testing it among the most critically-ill COVID-19 patients, Sanofi and Regeneron do not anticipate any further clinical studies for the drug in relation to the disease, Sanofi added.

“Although this trial did not yield the results we hoped for, we are proud of the work that was achieved by the team to further our understanding of the potential use of Kevzara for the treatment of COVID-19,” said Sanofi’s Global Head of Research and Development John Reed.

04:20 GMT – Students return to school after months of home learning

Children in Europe and parts of Asia are returning to school this week after months away from their classrooms.

China’s state-run media showed pictures of primary and middle school children returning to class – with physical distancing and other measures in force – in Shanghai.

Students in France and Belgium are also due to resume classes on Tuesday after the summer break, with pupils in England and Wales returning later in the week after six months away.

Regulations differ in each country, but most children over the age of 12, as well as all staff are required to wear face masks. Physical distancing and regular handwashing have also been made part of the new routine. 

03:40 GMT – More than 10,000 tested in first two hours of Hong Kong’s universal testing

The South China Morning Post is reporting that more than 10,000 people were tested for coronavirus in the first two hours after the territory’s controversial mass testing programme began.

Testing centres opened at 8am local time (00:00 GMT), and small queues formed outside some, the newspaper said. Hong Kong chief executive was among a number of government officials and health experts who took the test.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong began a voluntary mass-testing programme for coronavirus as part of a strategy to break the chain of transmission in the city’s third outbreak [Kin Cheung/AP Photo]

03:15 GMT – Researchers find COVID-19 has disrupted cancer care in US, Australia

Researchers from the University of Sydney and Duke University in the US studying the impact of COVID-19 on cancer treatments say the pandemic has fuelled a shift towards online consultations, forced the suspension of research and clinical trials and required doctors to assess the risks of administering standard treatments given patients’ vulnerability to COVID-19.

“In light of physical distancing restrictions due to COVID-19, standard cancer procedures are being altered or delayed, including surveillance imaging; non-emergency surgical procedures; and clinical trials,” said Professor Alex Broom, health sociologist and the lead Sydney researcher.

“The suspension of clinical trials is especially detrimental for patients with rare cancers. For them, enrolling in a clinical trial for a promising new therapy may be the best option.”

However, the team noted that as a result of the pandemic there was also increased identification of non-essential drugs and better identification of treatments which did not offer significant improvements to quality or quantity of life. The findings were published in Clinical Cancer Research.

02:50 GMT – Cases, deaths ease in Victoria

The Australian state of Victoria has been releasing its latest coronavirus numbers and the picture seems more encouraging.

The number of deaths – 5 – was the lowest in two weeks, while the number of new cases – 70 – was the lowest in more than eight weeks. All the deaths were linked to homes for the elderly. 

With active cases in rural Victoria lower than in the state capital Melbourne, state premier Dan Andrews plans to unveil two separate roadmaps out of lockdown, local media reported. The details will be released on Sunday.

02:00 GMT – Coronavirus fuels ‘Kannywood’ boom in Nigeria

Kannywood, the film industry named after the city of Kano in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria, is booming even with coronavirus.

The industry has 502 production firms and employs 30,000 people, and Northflix, its fledgling streaming platform has seen subscribers double and revenue triple since lockdowns were imposed in March.

“Coronavirus has been a blessing to us business-wise, despite the disruptions caused to the global economy,” CEO and co-founder Jamil Abdussalam told AFP. Northflix switched to a flat rate subscription model charging the equivalent of $4 a month as the pandemic deepened and Nigerians looked online for entertainment. 

Kannywood films cover themes of love, revenge and betrayal but follow strict Islamic rules.

00:15 GMT – Hong Kong begins mass testing programme 

Hong Kong begins mass testing for coronavirus this morning, with the assistance of 60 experts from China.

This is the first time Chinese health officials have provided direct help to Hong Kong in the pandemic, and the move has fuelled concerns about privacy among members of the pro-democracy movement following China’s imposition of national security legislation at the end of June. Activists have urged the territory’s 7.5 million people to boycott the initiative.

Still, the government said that, as of 6pm (10:00 GMT) on Monday just over 500,000 had registered for the programme via its online booking system, and 97 of the 141 community testing centres were fully booked for September 1.

The programme aims to “identify asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, and to cut the transmission chain on the community,” the government said in a statement. 

23:30 GMT – Coronavirus disrupts healthcare in 90 percent of countries

A World Health Organization survey of 105 countries shows that 90 percent have experienced disruption to their health services as a result of the coronavirus, with low- and middle-income countries the most affected.

Up to 70 percent of service interruptions have been for essential services including routine immunisation, diagnosis and treatment for non-communicable diseases, family planning and contraception, treatment for mental health disorders and cancer diagnosis and treatment, the United Nations health agency said.


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 31) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies