Athens restrictions tightened as coronavirus spreads: Live news

New measures suspend operation of live music establishments and wearing of masks mandatory in all closed work spaces.

outside image - Athens
A student gets her temperature checked during the beginning of the new school year in Athens, Greece, 14 September 2020. EPA-EFE/PANTELIS SAITAS [EPA]
  • Greek authorities tightened restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the greater Athens area, saying the pandemic was showing “worrying signs of resilience”.
  • More than 29.3 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and 930,700 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 20 million have recovered.
  • The southwestern Chinese city of Ruili has been locked down, with all 200,000 residents to be tested for COVID-19 after two Myanmar nationals were diagnosed with the virus.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, September 15

20:46 GMT – COVID-19 exerts heavy toll on minority youths in US: study

Ethnic minorities accounted for more than three quarters of COVID-19 deaths in young people under the age of 21 in the US between February and July, according to the CDC.

Out of 121 deaths among under-21s, 45 percent were Hispanics, 29 percent were Black people and 4 percent were American Indians or Alaskan Natives, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found.

Together, these groups represent 41 percent of the country’s under-21 population. You can read more on that story here.

20:22 GMT – Crime fell as coronavirus swept US says FBI

Violent and property crime both plunged across the US in the first six months of 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak swept the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has reported.

Even though lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were inconsistent and non-existent in some areas, murders fell 14.8 percent from a year earlier and rapes dropped 17.8 percent, according to preliminary data compiled by the FBI.

Violent robbery fell 7.1 percent, and non-violent thefts and larceny fell by slightly more from the first half of 2019, the FBI said.

20:04 GMT – Leading US House Democrats say coronavirus relief plan from moderates ‘falls short’

Top Democrats in the US House of Representatives have said a coronavirus relief proposal offered by a group of moderates was inadequate and the only way to move forward would be through negotiations with President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.

19:45 GMT – Decision time for Europe as virus surges, WHO warns 

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Europe is facing decision time about tackling COVID-19 as case numbers hit record highs, children return to school and summer recedes.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said it was time to “stop looking for unicorns” and instead take hard decisions to protect those most vulnerable and keep youngsters in education – but inevitably see others lose out.

WHO Health Emergencies Programme head Michael Ryan attends a news conference in Geneva
WHO Health Emergencies Programme head Michael Ryan says take hard decisions to protect those most vulnerable [File: Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters]

19:21 GMT – Drop in foreign students bad omen for Canada’s labour market

Travel restrictions and a shift to online learning has dramatically cut the number of international students expected to attend Canadian universities and colleges this fall, and the decline will ripple through Canada’s labour market.

New study permits for foreign students issued by Canada fell by 22.3 percent in the second quarter of 2020 compared with the same period of 2019, amid strict COVID-19 border controls that have blocked many new foreign students from entering Canada.

While fall semester enrollment is not yet finalised, Canadian schools are expecting a “significant” drop in international students, according to their advocacy groups, which will slash billions from college and university revenues.

18:57 GMT – Fear of more coronavirus-like pandemics as land rights ‘under siege’

Governments’ failure to recognise the land rights of Indigenous communities and their role in protecting biodiversity could lead to more coronavirus-like pandemics, researchers have said.

A study of more than 40 countries found many local people’s land claims were being ignored, amid increasing deforestation and wildlife exploitation, which may be contributing to a rise in diseases, like COVID-19, that pass from animals to humans.

“Despite compelling evidence that indigenous peoples, local communities, and Afro-descendants protect most of the world’s remaining biodiversity, they are under siege from all sides,” said Andy White of the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

18:25 GMT – France’s new COVID-19 cases rise by more than 7,000

France’s health authorities have reported 7,852 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, rising from 6,158 new infections on Monday.

In a daily website update, the French health ministry also reported the number of arrivals in hospital for COVID-19 over the last seven days had risen to 2,713 compared with 2,561 recorded on Monday.

These included 479 admissions to intensive care units over the past seven days, up from 448 in Monday’s count, it said.

The number of people in France who have died from COVID-19 infections rose by 37 to 30,999. The cumulative number of cases now totals 395,104 [File: Charles Platiau/Reuters]

17:59 GMT – Zimbabwe eases COVID-19 restrictions as exam classes start

Zimbabwe has lifted a ban on inter-city travel and extended working hours as the government gradually reopens the economy by easing COVID-19 restrictions.

The Southern African nation went into a lockdown in March and President Emmerson Mnangagwa later imposed an overnight curfew to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The pandemic has battered Zimbabwe, which was already reeling under hyperinflation and a looming scarcity of basic amenities, before the pandemic struck. The country of 14 million people has seen 7,531 cases and 224 deaths so far, according to a Reuters tally.

17:31 GMT – Defying fatwa, Iraqis exhume dead from COVID-19 cemetery

It took Abu Haider and his relatives several hours to dig up his nephew’s grave and exhume the body at a cemetery in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf built especially for COVID-19 victims.

When they finished, they shrouded the body in white sheets, loaded it on to the back of a pick-up truck and set off to reinter it in Najaf’s old “Valley of Peace” graveyard, the traditional resting place for Iraq’s Shia Muslims.

In doing so, Abu Haider is not only reliving the pain of losing a loved one to the coronavirus pandemic that has infected nearly 300,000 Iraqis and killed more than 8,000.

He is also defying an order from religious leaders who consider the new cemetery to be a legitimate burial place.

17:13 GMT – Rising UK unemployment pressures minister to renew job support 

The UK’s unemployment rate has gone up for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began in March, prompting fresh calls for finance minister Rishi Sunak to extend a job subsidy programme which is due to expire next month.

The unemployment rate increased to 4.1 percent in the three months to July from the 3.9 percent level it had clung to since early 2020, in line with the average forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

Sunak’s coronavirus job subsidy scheme has shielded millions of workers, and the number of people in employment fell less than feared in the figures published.

Job losses are likely to accelerate in September and October when employers, many of whom are already worried about the prospect of a Brexit trade shock in the coming months, will have to pay more towards the cost of the furlough scheme.

London Tourism Hit Hard Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

17:59 GMT – Some back out of J&J COVID-19 vaccine trial in Spain after AstraZeneca scare

News of serious side effects in one participant of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial led some volunteers in Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trial in Spain to drop out, its lead investigator told the Reuters news agency.

Still, the trial had sufficient reserve volunteers to carry on as normal, lead investigator Alberto Borobia said.

This highlights the challenge for drugmakers in trialling potential vaccines to control the pandemic in enormous public scrutiny. 

17:42 GMT – Teachers, medics rally in Spain over poor COVID-19 planning

Teachers in the Spanish city of Bilbao staged a one-day strike to protest against their regional government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, while health workers in Madrid took to the streets to demand better working conditions.

Protesters are demanding more staff and support from authorities as the recent surge in cases, at a time when pupils are returning to schools, prompted concerns about further infections.

The number of cases was little changed from Monday’s in an apparent stabilisation after a steady surge that began in July and peaked at around 12,000 cases 11 days ago.

Protesters demand social structuring after pandemic in Madrid
Spain’s health ministry reported 3,022 new coronavirus infections and 19 deaths in the past 24 hours [File: Anadolu]

17:24 GMT – Canada border shutdown likely to extend through November 

The US and Canada are likely to extend border restrictions until at least the end of November as coronavirus cases spike in some states, according to well-placed Washington and Ottawa sources.

The sources also said Canadian officials were showing little enthusiasm for suggestions from US authorities about relaxing some of the measures in the near term.

The month-long ban, which does not cover trade or travel by air, was first imposed in March and has been rolled over several times. The current range of restrictions runs out on September 21.

17:10 GMT – Irish government to self-isolate after health minister falls ill

Ireland’s parliament has been suspended for a week and cabinet ministers have been told to self-isolate after Health Minister Stephen Donnelly fell ill, the speaker of parliament has said.

State broadcaster RTE reported that Donnelly had requested a COVID-19 test on Tuesday afternoon. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

16:54 GMT – Greece tightens restrictions in Athens as COVID-19 spreads

Greek authorities have tightened restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the greater Athens area, saying the pandemic was showing “worrying signs of resilience”.

Health authorities reported 310 new confirmed COVID-19 infections and three deaths, bringing the total number since the first coronavirus case was detected on February 25 to 13,730 and deaths to 313.

The new measures will suspend the operation of live music establishments for 14 days and make the wearing of masks mandatory in all closed workspaces, private and public.

Masks will also be required in open-air spaces in the greater Athens area, where about one third of the country’s population lives [Hanassis Stavrakis/The Associated Press]

16:42 GMT – Canada not ruling out lockdown amid COVID-19 surge 

Canada’s health minister says she could not rule out another full lockdown if needed amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases, adding the government is significantly more prepared to manage the virus than during the first wave.

Patty Hajdu’s comments followed a pledge she made late on Monday to take a “surgical approach” to tackling outbreaks.

Canada reported 1,351 new cases on September 14, the highest single daily addition since May 1, amid school reopenings and flare-ups tied to group gatherings.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Pickering.
Canada’s health minister said the country made ‘significant improvements’ in the healthcare system, and is better prepared with equipment and supplies than it was during the first wave in the spring [File: Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

16:25 GMT – Brazil authorises additional 5,000 volunteers for AstraZeneca vaccine

Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa authorised AstraZeneca PLC to test its COVID-19 vaccine on an addition 5,000 volunteers in the country for clinical phase three trials, the Sao Paulo university running the test said.

The increase, in addition to 5,000 volunteers already recruited and being vaccinated, will help provide more solid results on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, the Federal University of Sao Paulo said in a statement.

It said volunteers over the age of 18 are being sought in the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Rio Grande do Sul, at opposite ends of Brazil.

Workers of the mAbxience laboratory, chosen by AstraZeneca for the production in Latin America of the vaccine against COVID-19, carry out tasks in the plant that the company owns in Garin, in the prov
AstraZeneca resumed COVID-19 vaccine trials in South Africa, more than a week after tests were paused due to serious side effects [File: Juan Ignacio Roncoroni/EPA]

16:14 GMT – UK’s creaking COVID-19 test system puts health services at risk 

The UK’s testing system for COVID-19 was creaking as a bottleneck prevented people including medics from getting a test in a potential threat to key health services, with the government saying it may take weeks to resolve the problem.

Phil Sands, a medical engineer who builds and repairs medical equipment at University College Hospital in London, told Reuters he had been off work for the last two days after one of his daughters developed a cold over the weekend.

Sands said he tried more than 50 times to log on to the government’s website to book a test, but each time it either said there are none available or the system crashes.

16:01 GMT – UK records more than 3,000 new daily coronavirus cases

The UK has recorded 27 new deaths and 3,105 positive cases of COVID-19, up from 2,621 the day before, official statistics showed.

Cases of the coronavirus have been steadily rising in the UK since the beginning of September, forcing the government to bring in tough new restrictions on public gatherings to prevent the virus from spreading further.

The 27 deaths take the death toll within 28 days of testing positive to 41,664, one of the highest tolls in the world.

15:52 GMT – Myanmar reports highest COVID-19 daily toll, with 307 new cases

Myanmar has reported 307 new cases of COVID-19, its highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic in March, as the country battles a second wave of infections.

The health ministry did not say immediately where the new cases were found. Most recent infections have been in the commercial city of Yangon and in Sittwe, the capital of conflict-torn Rakhine state.

Myanmar has so far reported a total 3,502 COVID-19 cases and 35 deaths. Infections have quadrupled over the last month after the coronavirus resurfaced in the western state of Rakhine, following weeks without a confirmed domestic case.

15:33 GMT – AstraZeneca resumes COVID-19 vaccine trials in South Africa

AstraZeneca has resumed COVID-19 vaccine trials in South Africa, more than a week after tests were paused due to serious side effects in a participant in the UK, an official at the country’s Department of Health told Reuters.

The move, confirmed to Reuters by director of affordable medicines in the health department, Khadija Jamaloodien, comes after the British drugmaker on Saturday got the go-ahead to restart trials in the UK, prompting Brazil to follow suit.

The Serum Institute of India said it would restart its trials once it had permission from the Drugs Controller General of India.

AstraZeneca logo [Bloomberg]
Tests remain on hold in the United States pending an investigation [File: Jason Alden/Bloomberg]

15:24 GMT – Pelosi: US legislators committed to stay until reaching coronavirus relief deal

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi says legislators are committed to reaching a deal on sending economic aid to those hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, despite the failure of Republicans and Democrats to find a compromise for many weeks.

“I just got off a call with my colleagues. We are committed to staying here until we have an agreement – an agreement that meets the needs of the American people,” Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a CNBC interview.

15:10 GMT – Ireland delays reopening of Dublin bars as COVID-19 case numbers climb 

The Irish government has delayed the planned reopening of all pubs in Dublin following a surge in COVID-19 cases in the capital, but bars across the rest of the country will be allowed to open next Monday.

Ireland is moving to wind down some of the most cautious COVID-19 restrictions in Europe, but a seven-fold increase in infections since the start of August has prompted the government to delay some measures.

Bars that serve food have been allowed to open since the end of June, but so-called “wet bars” – that just serve drinks – remain closed.

14:45 GMT – Coronavirus erased 25 years of vaccine progress in 25 weeks: Report

The effect of the new coronavirus has led to “devastating” reversals of global gains in education, poverty eradication, vaccinations, and maternal and child health, according to the findings from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual Goalkeepers report, reported Axios.

“Basically, eight months of COVID reversed gains in almost every category that had been made steadily over the last couple of decades,” Melinda Gates said in an interview for “Axios on HBO.”

14:30 GMT – Hasidic Jewish pilgrims stuck on Belarus-Ukraine border 

Hundreds of Hasidic Jews who set off on a pilgrimage to Ukraine despite coronavirus restrictions are stuck at a border crossing after Belarusian border guards let them through and those in Ukraine would not let them in.

A video posted by Ukrainian border guards showed people, including children, in traditional dress, carrying suitcases and walking along a highway between parked trucks. They sang songs and some danced.

By early afternoon some three dozen waiting trucks had moved through and more than a hundred police and national guardsmen were setting up tents for the night.

14:15 GMT – Dutch government boosts spending to support jobs during pandemic

The Dutch government will maintain heavy spending in an effort to counter the effects of the coronavirus pandemic despite a rapid deterioration of the state finances, its draft budget for 2021 showed.

The budget deficit is set to balloon to 7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and 5.5 percent in 2021, while national debt is expected to hit 62 percent of GDP next year, as support for workers and companies struck by the pandemic is extended well into 2021.

13:40 GMT – Netherlands hits new high for daily coronavirus cases

The Netherlands has recorded a daily record number of new coronavirus infections, an increase of 1,379 in 24 hours, the Volkskrant newspaper reported, citing national health authorities.

The previous record was 1,335 in early April.

The new rise took the increase over the past week to 9,194, 85 percent more than in the first week of September, the National Institute for Health (RIVM) said.

People wearing yellow vests hand out masks and information brochures where to wear the mandatory masks in the busiest streets of the city, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak,
The Dutch government will maintain heavy spending in an effort to counter the effects of the coronavirus pandemic [File: Eva Plevier/Reuters]

Hello, this is Arwa Ibrahim, taking over our live updates on the coronavirus pandemic from my colleague, Ramy Allahoum. 

13:00 GMT – Trump says not pressing US gov’t for coronavirus vaccine for political reasons

President Trump has told Fox News he is not pressuring the US government for a vaccine against the deadly coronavirus for political reasons.

“I’m not doing it for political reasons. I want the vaccine fast,” said Trump, whose chances of a re-election in November hinge on his response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

12:55 GMT – First vaccine approval could come at end of 2020: German vaccine regulator 

The first approvals for a vaccine against COVID-19 could be granted at the end of 2020 or in early 2021, the head of Germany’s vaccine regulator has said.

Klaus Cichutek, head of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, said regulators would not be less thorough than usual when evaluating applications for approval for COVID-19 vaccines. 

12:00 GMT – Scotland says concerned by UK COVID-19 testing backlog

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is concerned by a backlog in the UK’s novel coronavirus testing system.

“I do have a concern about the capacity constraints right now in the UK-wide system,” Sturgeon said, adding the issue in Scotland was not about access to testing slots, but of sufficient laboratory processing. 

11:15 GMT – Denmark tells Copenhagen restaurants to close at 10pm local time

The Danish government has announced it is imposing a closing time of 10pm for restaurants, bars and cafes in the capital, Copenhagen, after seeing a rise in new coronavirus infections.

The reproduction rate, which indicates how many people one infected person on average transmits the virus to, is currently at 1.5 across the country, health minister Magnus Heunicke told a news conference.

Heunicke said 334 new coronavirus infections had been registered in the last 24 hours. 

10:55 GMT – Germany will not take risky short-cuts on COVID-19 vaccines: Minister 

Germany will not take risky shortcuts when developing a vaccine against COVID-19, Research Minister Anja Karliczek has said.

“Even when the world is waiting for a vaccine – we won’t take risky short-cuts here,” Karliczek told a news conference in Berlin

“We will not deviate from this line in Germany or in Europe. And I also believe that all countries should proceed in this way globally.”

She repeated her assertion from July that she does not expect that a vaccine will be broadly available until the middle of 2021. 

10:40 GMT – WHO praises AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial pause 

A WHO official has said the decision by AstraZeneca to pause global trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine after an unexplained illness showed the firm was prioritising safety.

“This is what we want to see with trials, it is a well-run trial. Safety is always critical, it is crucial and they have looked at that in an appropriate manner,” Margaret Harris told journalists in Geneva.

Asked to react to experimental COVID-19 vaccine use in China and Russia, she said: “The WHO would like to see vaccines go head to head so we can have clear information and to see these results against each other.”


10:05 GMT – India: 17 members of Parliament infected with coronavirus as cases near five million 

At least 17 members of the Indian parliament have tested positive for the coronavirus, government officials said on Tuesday, underlining the widening spread of infections set to cross five million cases soon.

The legislators were screened ahead of the reopening of parliament on Monday after six months. Those cleared by the tests wore masks, occupied seats with glass enclosures and worked for shorter hours.

Twelve of the 17 infected people were from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to a government official who had a list of the politicians. All 17 were members of the 545-member lower house of Parliament, or Lok Sabha.

Read more here

10:00 GMT – Pakistani students return to school as coronavirus caseload drops 

Tens of thousands of students in Pakistan have returned to educational institutions after a six-month break, as the country’s new coronavirus caseload continues to decline.

Universities and colleges reopened and school classes for the ninth and 10th grade restarted in the first of a three-phase plan announced by the government earlier this month.

School classes for younger pupils were set to resume by the end of September, education minister Shafqat Mahmood said.

A sharp decline in new coronavirus infections since July has encouraged authorities to reopen educational institutions under strict guidelines for teachers and students, including the wearing of face masks.

09:45 GMT – EasyJet CEO chides EU states over fragmented travel policies 

European governments should focus on developing coherent air travel policies as airlines struggle to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than shielding national carriers, easyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren has said.

Speaking at an online event with industry CEOs and EU policymakers, Lundgren blamed some of the slump in traffic on “tremendous confusion” over differing restrictions and quarantine measures.

“There needs to be a common approach when it comes to the things that have to do with testing (and) quarantine,” Lundgren said during the event hosted by Brussels-based industry group Airlines For Europe (A4E). 

09:15 GMT – Global coronavirus caseload exceeds 29.2 million 

The total number of coronavirus cases around the world has reached to 29,287,422, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University. 

Meanwhile, the death toll rose to 928, 576 while recoveries stood at 19,870,431. 

08:45 GMT – Bosnian Serb war criminal dies of coronavirus 

A Bosnian Serb political leader who was jailed for 20 years by a UN court for his role in Bosnia’s 1990s war died on Tuesday of COVID-19, state media reported. 

Momcilo Krajisnik, a former key ally of the Bosnian Serbs’ wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic, passed away in a hospital in the northern town of Banja Luka, the hospital said in a statement quoted by the public RTRS television.

During Bosnia’s 1992-1995 conflict Krajisnik, a hardline Serb nationalist who was fiercely anti-Muslim, served as speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament.

The 75-year-old was taken to hospital in late August as his health deteriorated.

08:35 GMT – Indonesia coronavirus cases rise by 3,507 to 225,030 

Indonesia has reported 3,507 new coronavirus infections, taking the country’s total tally to 225,030, health ministry data showed.

The number of deaths rose by 124 to 8,965, the highest number of fatalities in Southeast Asia.

08:30 GMT – Oil demand set for slow recovery from virus: IEA 

With novel coronavirus cases surging in many parts of the world and more people working from home, the recovery in global oil demand is likely to be slow in the coming months, the IEA has said, as it lowered its forecasts.

Oil demand quickly recovered part of the lost ground from April when much of the world was in lockdown to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

But the International Energy Agency said in its latest monthly report it expected the recovery in demand “to decelerate markedly in the second half of 2020, with most of the easy gains already achieved”.

08:10 GMT – Philippines reports 3,544 new coronavirus cases, 34 deaths 

The Philippines’ health ministry has confirmed 3,544 new coronavirus infections and 34 more deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total infections had increased to 269,407, the highest in Southeast Asia, while confirmed deaths have reached 4,663. 

08:05 GMT – Russia reports 5,529 new coronavirus cases, 150 deaths 

Russia has reported 5,529 new coronavirus cases, pushing its national tally to 1,073,849, the fourth largest in the world.

Authorities said 150 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 18,785. 

07:50 GMT – Most people can get COVID-19 tests locally: UK interior minister 

The UK’s interior minister Priti Patel has said COVID-19 tests were available for people in their local areas, amid reports that those living in virus hot-spots and staff at hospitals and care homes were struggling to get tested.

“The majority of tests are available within a 10 mile (16 km) radius,” she told BBC TV, although she conceded that in some extreme cases people would not be able to get a test location within that radius.

07:45 GMT – Party next door? Call the police, says UK interior minister 

The British interior minister, Priti Patel has said she would call the police if neighbours had a party because it was right to report people who might be spreading COVID-19 by disregarding new restrictions on gatherings of more than six people.

“If I saw something that I thought was inappropriate, then quite frankly I would effectively call the police,” she told Sky News.

07:35 GMT – S Korea to secure coronavirus vaccines for 60 percent of population: PM Chung

South Korea will secure early supply of coronavirus vaccines from international organisations and overseas drug makers for 30 million people, or 60 percent of its population, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a cabinet meeting.

07:20 GMT – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 1,407 to 261,762

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 1,407 to 261,762, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The death toll rose by 12 to 9,362, the tally showed. 

07:00 GMT – Fifteen scientists launch critique of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine data 

A group of scientists has sent a formal letter to the Lancet outlining doubts about the accuracy of early data on Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, one of the authors said, adding further fuel to a dispute surrounding the “Sputnik-V” shot.

Fifteen scientists from five countries signed the letter presenting their concerns to the international medical journal, Enrico Bucci, biologist adjunct professor at Philadelphia’s Temple University, told Reuters news agency.

The move nonetheless highlights growing concern among scientists about the safety and efficacy of the Sputnik-V vaccine, which the government approved for use before completing full human trials.

The official letter came days after a larger group of scientists – including the 15 – signed an open letter to the Lancet’s editor, published on Bucci’s personal blog, after the journal published the early-stage trial results from Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute.

06:50 GMT – India reports lowest daily coronavirus increase in a week 

India has reported its lowest daily jump in new coronavirus infections in a week, logging another 83,809 infections in the past 24 hours.

The health ministry also reported 1,054 deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities up to 80,776 since the pandemic began.

With 4.93 million confirmed infections, India has reported the second most cases in the world behind the United States. India also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The country’s recovery rate stands at 77.8 percent and nearly 3.8 million people have recovered from the virus so far, according to the Health Ministry.

Counting the Cost: Coronavirus and the economy: Can the world cope with more debt? (25:56)

06:40 GMT – UK jobless rate rises for first time since COVID-19 lockdown 

The UK’s unemployment rate rose for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began in March but official data published on Tuesday also showed a less severe fall in employment than feared.

The unemployment rate increased to 4.1 percent in the three months to July from 3.9 percent in the April-June period, the Office for National Statistics said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected the unemployment rate to rise to 4.1 percent.

However, the fall in the number of people in employment was a relatively small 12,000 compared with a median forecast for a fall of 125,000 in the Reuters poll.

06: 30 GMT – Jordan to suspend schools, close places of worship, public markets 

Jordan will suspend schools for two weeks from Thursday and close places of worship, restaurants and public markets as part of renewed restrictions after a record spike in cases in the last few days.

Health authorities have so far recorded 3,528 coronavirus infections, including 26 deaths. 

06:20 GMT – Australia’s Victoria state reports 42 new coronavirus cases 

Australia’s Victoria state, at the centre of the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak, has reported 42 new cases, compared with 35 a day earlier.

Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, said no deaths from the virus were reported in the last 24 hours.

Melbourne, the southeastern state’s capital, is on an extended hard lockdown until September 28. Those curbs have helped to bring down the daily rise in cases in the state to double digits after it touched highs of more than 700. 

04:55 GMT – Badminton’s top events postponed because of COVID-19

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) says this year’s Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in Denmark have been postponed until 2021. 

South Korea and Indonesia pulled out of the biennial championship on Saturday, joining Australia, Taiwan and Thailand.

The finals were originally scheduled for May but were first postponed to August because of COVID-19 and then October.

04:50 GMT – Secondary schools, colleges to reopen in Pakistan 

Universities, colleges and secondary schools will reopen in Pakistan for the first time in six months on Tuesday.

It is the first phase of the country’s plan to resume education, and there will be strict protocols in place to reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading. 

Pakistan registered 404 new cases of the coronavirus and six deaths on Monday.

04:30 GMT – Hong Kong’s Lam claims success with mass testing

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has described the territory’s mass screening for COVID-19 as a success, even though less than a quarter of the 7.5 million population has taken part.

“To have 1.78 million voluntarily take part in a massive testing programme is a very good result,” Lam said, according to public broadcaster RTHK, adding the tests would help the authorities identify asymptomatic cases and fine-tune their pandemic response.

“Now with a relatively low rate – I think the rate is perhaps two cases per 100,000 situation – that provides a very good epidemiological picture of what is happening in Hong Kong.”

04:05 GMT – Main opposition party wants Myanmar election postponed

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Myanmar’s main opposition party, and a number of smaller parties, are calling for elections due in November to be postponed after a surge in coronavirus cases.

The parties say coronavirus restrictions have hobbled campaigning, which began last week, giving the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) an unfair advantage.

Myanmar has confirmed more than 3,000 cases of coronavirus and 32 deaths after a sudden resurgence in the pandemic in the middle of last month.

03:40 GMT – COVID-19 boosts healthy eating, plant-based foods in China

Chinese companies are betting on a bright future for plant-based protein products as people take their health more seriously in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and other health scares.

Beijing-based startup Zhenmeat, whose products include plant-based meatballs, steak, pork loin, crayfish and dumplings, is one of many small Chinese companies entering the market, and its “meatballs” – made of pea and soy protein – are now available on a trial basis at a Beijing store of Chinese hot-pot chain Hope Tree.

Zhenmeat founder and CEO Vince Lu told Reuters sales were “up considerably” since June.

03:20 GMT – China vaccines may be ready as early as November: Official

An official with the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has told state television the coronavirus vaccines the country is developing could be ready for use by the general public as early as November.

Phase three clinical trials were going smoothly and the vaccines could be ready for the general public in November or December, CDC chief biosafety expert Guizhen Wu said in an interview with state TV late on Monday.

Wu took an experimental vaccine herself in April and said she has experienced no abnormal symptoms, but did not specify which vaccines she was referring to. China has four vaccines in the final stage of clinical trials, and at least three have already been offered to essential workers under an emergency use programme launched in July.

02:30 GMT – Asia’s economies to contract in 2020 for first time since the 60s 

The economies of developing Asia – from the Cook Islands in the Pacific to Kazakhstan in Central Asia – are expected to contract in 2020 for the first time in nearly 60 years, throwing tens of millions of people into poverty, according to the Asian Development Bank.

The 0.7 percent drop in gross domestic product compares with the ADB’s previous estimate made in June for 0.1 percent growth, and marks “the first regional GDP contraction since the early 1960s”, the bank said.

The ADB says the region should return to growth in 2021, forecasting expansion of 6.8 percent, but the coronavirus will be key. 

02:20 GMT – South Korea to secure vaccines for 60 percent of population

South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun says the country plans to secure a supply of coronavirus vaccines for 30 million people or 60 percent of the country’s population.

02:15 GMT – US official accused scientists of ‘sedition’: New York Times

The top communications official at the US department in charge of combating the coronavirus told his followers in a Facebook Live session that government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic, according to the New York Times.

Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claimed, without evidence, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was harbouring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Donald Trump, the newspaper said.

Caputo is a former adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign. 

01:15 GMT – Test rate positivity down in California

Only 3.5 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive in California over the last seven days, the lowest rate since the state began reporting the data in March, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. 

The newspaper says its analysis of the data also shows new confirmed cases at the lowest since mid-June and hospitalisations at the lowest since the start of April.

00:15 GMT – Judge in US rules Pennsylvania restrictions ‘unconstitutional’

A federal judge in the US state of Pennsylvania has ruled that lockdown measures imposed in March to curb the spread of COVID-19 are “unconstitutional”.

The measures, including the closure of businesses and a limit on the size of gatherings, were challenged in court by several Republican lawmakers and small business owners, who argued the restrictions put their enterprises at risk.

Judge William Stickman ruled in their favour, and said even if the state’s governor acted with “good intention of addressing a public health emergency”, he did not have the right to infringe on citizens’ fundamental freedoms.

00:00 GMT – Border city in China’s southwest to start mass testing

The Chinese city of Ruili, which lies on the border with Myanmar, will begin nucleic acid testing of all residents after two people were discovered to have COVID-19 on Sunday. 

The two patients are both from Myanmar and entered China illegally, according to state broadcaster CGTN. They have been isolated in hospital along with five others. Some 190 close contacts of the two have also been put in isolation.

A citywide lockdown has been imposed in Ruili and all residents told to stay at home.

China Ruili
The Chinese city of Ruili lies just across the river from Myanmar’s Shan State. Two Myanmar nationals who crossed into China illegally have been found to have COVID-19 [Ye Aung Thu/AFP]


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 (September 14) here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies