With 24,000 Australians stranded abroad, PM Scott Morrison moves to raise cap on number of people allowed in each week.
- More than 30 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and 943,515 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Some 20.4 million people have recovered.
- New Zealand reported no new cases of the coronavirus for the first time in five weeks as Australia’s hotspot of Victoria logged a rise in infections amid an ease in restrictions.
- Canada could lose its ability to manage the pandemic due to a spike in new COVID-19 cases, the country’s top medical officer warned, as the province of Ontario clamped down on parties, setting fines for people who hold social gatherings in defiance of new limits.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, September 18
23: 37 GMT – Hours after US-Canada border closure extension, Trump says it will open ‘pretty soon’
US President Donald Trump said border restrictions between Canada and the United States would be lifted “pretty soon”, just hours after the two countries confirmed they would remain in place until at least October 21.
“We’re looking at the border with Canada. Canada would like it opened and we want to get back to normal business,” Trump told reporters in Washington. “We’re going to be opening the borders pretty soon.”
There was no immediate explanation from the White House for the discrepancy or what Trump meant by “pretty soon”.
22:41 GMT – Colombia football match postponed after players, coaches test positive
A match planned to kick off Colombia‘s soccer league had to be postponed Friday after seven players and six members of the coaching staff on one of the teams tested positive for COVID-19, the country’s football association said.
Players and coaches from the Tolima football club, which leads the Colombian league with 16 points from eight matches, tested positive.
The team had already arrived in Medellin to compete against rival team Nacional at the Atanasio Girardot stadium on Friday night when the decision was announced.
“This is not the best way to start the league,” the president of Colombia‘s football association, Fernando Jaramillo, said in a virtual press conference.
22:30 GMT – Brazil reports over 850 new deaths linked to coronavirus
Brazil is reporting 858 new deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 135,793 since the pandemic began.
The country’s health ministry said on Friday that an additional 39,797 cases were recorded – for a total of over 4.4 million.
Meanwhile, officials in Rio de Janeiro said they intended to return about 100 beds to hospital intensive care units after they were dismantled in an effort to deal with COVID-19 patients. The city said Friday that ICU beds were at 85 percent capacity.
20:59 GMT – France’s economy minister tests positive for COVID-19
French economy minister Bruno Le Maire says he has tested positive for COVID-19 but has no symptoms and is working from home as cases soar again in France.
Le Maire, who is responsible for reviving a French economy battered by the months-long pandemic, is not the first member of President Emmanuel Macron’s government to have been diagnosed with the disease.
20:46 GMT – Canada Public Health Agency president resigns as COVID-19 cases spike
The president of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is stepping down only 18 months into the job, leaving the federal agency tasked with coordinating the country’s COVID-19 response without a seasoned leader.
Tina Namiesniowski said she would be stepping aside immediately to make way for a new president.
A spokesperson for Health Canada said the government expects to have a replacement for Namiesniowski by next week.
In a letter to staff, Namiesniowski, a long-serving bureaucrat, said she needs to “take a break” and “step aside so someone else can step up” to lead the agency as caseloads rise and testing times creep up in some parts of the country.
20:33 GMT – NYC tries $50 fines to get rule-breakers to don masks on subway
The agency that runs New York City’s subway and bus systems has implemented a $50 fine this week for the rule-breakers who, even in a region with more than 25,000 coronavirus deaths, refuse to follow rules requiring masks to be worn at all times on public transport.
20:10 GMT – Trump expects enough COVID-19 vaccines for every American by April
US President Donald Trump says he expects enough COVID-19 vaccines “for every American” to be produced by next April, and the first doses will be distributed immediately after approval later this year.
Claiming “historic progress” with three vaccines in the final stages of development and trials, he said at least 100 million doses would be manufactured by the end of the year.
19:26 GMT – T cell shortage linked to severe COVID-19 in elderly
A lower supply of a certain type of immune cell in older people that is critical to fighting foreign invaders may help explain their vulnerability to severe COVID-19, scientists say.
When germs enter the body, the initial “innate” immune response generates inflammation not specifically targeted at the bacteria or virus.
Within days, the more precise “adaptive” immune response starts generating antibodies against the invader along with T cells that either assist in antibody production or seek out and attack infected cells.
In a small study published on Wednesday in Cell, COVID-19 patients with milder symptoms had better adaptive immune responses, and in particular, stronger T cell responses to the coronavirus.
19:13 GMT – Coronavirus: UK now ‘seeing a second wave coming in’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it was inevitable the country would see a second wave of coronavirus infections and while he did not want a second national lockdown, the government may need to introduce new restrictions.
The United Kingdom was reported to be considering whether to impose a new lockdown across the country, after new COVID-19 cases almost doubled to 6,000 a day, hospital admissions rose and infection rates soared across parts of northern England and London.
Read more here.
18:53 GMT – CDC drops controversial testing advice that caused backlash
US health officials have dropped a controversial piece of coronavirus guidance and said anyone who has been in close contact with an infected person should get tested.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention essentially returned to its previous testing guidance, getting rid of language posted last month that said people did not need to get tested if they did not feel sick.
That change set off a rash of criticism from health experts who could not fathom why the nation’s top public health agency would say such a thing amid the pandemic.
17:50 GMT – French coronavirus cases jump to new daily record of more than 13,000
France has reported 13,215 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, a new daily record, after the number of cases on Thursday exceeded 10,000 for the second time in a week.
The health ministry also said the total number of deaths from COVID-19 increased to 31,249 from 31,095 on Thursday, an increase of 154 – that is a four-month high.
17:25 GMT – Greece tightens coronavirus curbs in Athens as infections surge
Greek authorities have tightened restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the greater Athens area, saying the pandemic was showing “steadily rising trends”.
Earlier, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government stood ready to impose further COVID-19 restrictions in Athens due to the surge in infections.
Effective from Monday and until October 4, authorities set a limit of nine people in all public gatherings outdoors and suspended indoor and outdoor concerts. They also set a limit of 20 people attending funerals, weddings and baptisms.
17:07 GMT – Guatemalan president tests positive for coronavirus
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he said.
“The coronavirus test result was positive,” he told a local radio station.
The 64-year-old president did not say whether he is experiencing any symptoms related to the virus.
16:59 GMT – US will extend border restrictions with Canada, Mexico
The United States and Canada have extended existing border restrictions until October 21 as authorities continue their efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, both nations said.
The month-long extension, which does not cover trade or travel by air, follows restrictions first imposed in March and rolled over several times. They were due to expire on September 21.
The United States has similar restrictions on the border with Mexico and these will also be in effect until October 21, said Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security.
Canadian officials confirmed the extension.
16:50 GMT – Ireland to tighten Dublin COVID-19 restrictions as cases surge
The Irish government has signed off on new, stricter COVID-19 restrictions for the capital, Dublin, including the closing of indoor restaurant dining, after a surge in cases in recent days, state broadcaster RTE reported.
A government spokeswoman declined to comment ahead of an official announcement of new measures due later on Friday.
16:43 GMT – Spanish capital region orders partial lockdown in some COVID-hit areas
The region including the Spanish capital, Madrid, will limit movement between and within areas badly affected by a new surge in coronavirus infections, which would affect more than 850,000 people, regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso said.
Ayuso said access to parks and public areas would be restricted, and gatherings will be limited to six people, but people would not be stopped from going to work in the hardest-hit region in Spain, which has the highest number of cases in Western Europe.
16:22 GMT – UK records highest daily number of COVID-19 since early May
The United Kingdom has recorded 4,322 new cases of COVID-19, an increase of nearly a thousand on Thursday’s tally and the highest since May 8, according to official statistics.
16:04 GMT – Moderna expects to make 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine candidate by end of 2020
Moderna Inc says it expects to produce 20 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.
The company continues to expect to make 500 million to one billion doses of the vaccine in 2021, Moderna said in a filing with the US securities regulator.
There are currently no COVID-19 vaccines approved by US regulators, although a handful are in late-stage trials to prove they are safe and effective.
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is among the furthest in development and the company had enrolled 25,296 participants out of a planned 30,000 in its late-stage study as of Wednesday.
15:34 GMT – COVID-19 ‘state of calamity’ extended by one year in Philippines
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended for one year a “state of calamity” imposed in the country at the start of a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, his spokesman said.
The proclamation extending the emergency measure until September 12, 2021 was signed on Wednesday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
The extension would give government officials “ample latitude to continue utilising appropriate funds … in their disaster preparedness and response efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19,” the proclamation said.
15:01 GMT – Almost all Jewish pilgrims leave Ukraine frontier
Most of the Jewish pilgrims that camped out on the Ukrainian border with Belarus for several days have left after Kyiv refused them entry, in line with its coronavirus rules.
Only “a few pilgrims” remained at the Novi Yarylovychi crossing, Ukrainian border guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko told AFP, compared to more than 1,000 on Thursday, while the Belarus border service said fewer than a dozen people were still attempting to cross.
14:25 GMT- Iran on coronavirus red alert due to rise in deaths
A senior Iranian health official has declared a coronavirus red alert covering the entire country as daily deaths and cases increase at an alarming rate, Iranian state TV reported.
Iran, one of the Middle Eastern countries hardest hit by the pandemic, has been divided into white, orange/yellow and red regions based on the number of infections and deaths.
The death toll rose by 144 to 23,952 on Friday, while the total number of identified cases rose by 3,049 to 416,198, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on television.
14:01 GMT – Dutch register new 24-hour record in coronavirus cases
There were 1,972 new coronavirus cases registered by Dutch health authorities in the past 24 hours, according to data published by health authorities, marking the fourth consecutive day of all-time highs in the country.
Case data is submitted by local health authorities across the Netherlands and published daily by the National Institute for Health (RIVM).
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government is expected to announce regional measures such as bans on large gatherings and early closures for bars and restaurants later on Friday in response to the rise in cases.
13:30 GMT – UK COVID-19 ‘R’ rate rises
The reproduction “R” rate of COVID-19 infections in the UK has risen to a range of 1.1-1.4 from last week’s figure of 1.0-1.2, the government said.
“An R number between 1.1 and 1.4 means that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 11 and 14 other people,” it said. It added that the number of new infections was growing by 2 percent to 7 percent every day.
Hello, this is Arwa Ibrahim, taking over our live updates on the coronavirus pandemic from my colleague, Virginia Petriomarchi.
11:31 GMT – Iceland orders pubs to close for fours days
Iceland has ordered the closure of entertainment venues and pubs in the capital area for four days – September 18-21 – in order to counteract the spread of COVID-19, the government said in a statement.
10:50 GMT – EU endorses dexamethasone for patients on oxygen therapy
The European health regulator endorsed the use of widely known steroid dexamethasone in the treatment of COVID-19 patients on oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said based on its review of results of a study by UK researchers, it concluded that dexamethasone – a commonly used drug against a range of inflammatory conditions – can be considered a treatment option in adults and adolescents needing oxygen therapy.
The recommended dose in adults and adolescents, from 12 years of age and weighing at least 40kg, is six milligrams once a day for up to 10 days, the EMA said.
10:30 GMT – Russia’s R-Pharm secures approval for Coronavir
Russia has approved R-Pharm’s Coronavir treatment for outpatients with mild to moderate COVID-19 infections and the antiviral drug could be rolled out to pharmacies in the country as soon as next week, said the company.
Coronavir’s approval follows the green light for another Russian COVID-19 drug, Avifavir, in May. Both are based on favipiravir, which was developed in Japan and is widely used as the basis for viral treatments.
R-Pharm’s announcement is another sign Russia is pushing hard to take a global lead in the race against the virus. It is already exporting its COVID-19 tests and has clinched several international deals for supplies of its Sputnik V vaccine.
9:55 GMT – French city tightens restrictions as cases soar
The city of Nice on the French Riviera will ban gatherings of more than 10 people in public spaces and tighten rules on alcohol consumption outdoors as it seeks to curb COVID-19 infections that are soaring in the region, according to local authorities.
France registered a record 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the health ministry data showed on Thursday, the country’s highest single-day count since the pandemic began.
09:25 GMT – US CDC testing guidance published against objections: Report
US President Donald Trump’s administration posted controversial recommendations on coronavirus testing to the website of the country’s health agency against the objections of its scientists, according to a report by The New York Times citing people familiar with the matter and internal documents.
The guidelines, which said testing was not necessary for people who were exposed to COVID-19 but not displaying symptoms, were criticised when they were issued last month.
To know more, read the full story here.
08:57 GMT – Czech Republic’s daily cases surpass 3,000
A surge in COVID-19 infections in the Czech Republic accelerated, with more than 3,000 cases reported in a day for the first time, a day after the daily tally first exceeded 2,000.
The country has seen one of the biggest increases in new coronavirus infections in Europe, with daily case numbers quickly growing from the hundreds into the thousands.
The government has reacted by tightening measures, including limiting bars’ opening hours from Friday, banning stand-up indoor events and widening mask use in schools.
08:35 GMT – Australia to ease border limits, allow more citizens home
Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia, has said his government will increase the number of citizens allowed to return home each week to 6,000 people.
Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting on Friday, Morrison said states have agreed to boost quarantine capacity and that the cap on the number of people allowed into Australia each week will increase by 2,000 by mid-October.
The country’s weekly limit is currently set at 4,000 people.
Read the full story here.
07:59 GMT – Israel enforces second lockdown
Israel is about to enter a second nationwide lockdown at the onset of the Jewish holiday season, forcing residents to stay mostly at home amid a resurgence in new coronavirus cases.
The new lockdown, which is due to begin at 2pm local time (11:00 GMT) and will last three weeks, coincides with the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, traditionally a time for large family gatherings and group prayer.
Under the new rules, Israelis must stay within 500 metres (546 yards) of home, with exceptions for activities such as commuting to work, shopping for essentials and walking outdoors for exercise. Workplaces will operate on a limited basis.
Social distancing and limits on the number of worshippers will go into effect at synagogues, usually packed for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement that begins at sunset on September 27.
07:45 GMT – Countries’ latest figures
Russia: 1,091,186 cases (+ 5,905), 19,195 deaths (+134)
Indonesia: 236,519 cases (+ 3,891), 9,336 deaths (+114)
07:27 GMT – Thailand reports first death in 100 days
Thailand reported its first coronavirus death in more than 100 days, a health official said, after an infected Thai citizen had returned from abroad earlier this month.
The 54-year-old man, who was an interpreter based in Saudi Arabia working for the Thai labour ministry, had been treated in a Bangkok hospital for two weeks and died on Friday, Somsak Akksilp, head of the Department of Medical Services, told Reuters.
06:45 GMT – COVID-19 admissions doubling every 8 days in UK
The coronavirus is accelerating across the country with hospital admissions doubling every eight days, said the British health minister, adding that he is unable to answer whether another national lockdown would be imposed next month.
Asked repeatedly by Sky News about the prospect of a second national lockdown next month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said lockdown was a last resort but that the government would do whatever it takes to tackle the virus.
“The number of people in hospital is doubling every eight days or so … we will do what it takes to keep people safe,” Hancock said. “We keep these things under review.”
06:20 GMT – Work from home still highly recommended: French minister
Working from home remains highly recommended, said French employment minister, Elisabeth Borne, as President Emmanuel Macron’s government battles to contain a likely second wave of the COVID-19 virus.
“It remains a practice that is highly recommended,” Borne told local radio.
The comments were made after France registered a record 10,593 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours. The death toll also rose by 50 to 31,095, the second-highest daily number of deaths in two months.
05:05 GMT – India logs another daily jump of more than 96,000 infections
India’s coronavirus cases jumped by another 96,424 infections in the past 24 hours, showing little sign of levelling.
The health ministry on Friday raised the nation’s total past 5.21 million, 0.37 percent of its nearly 1.4 billion people. It said 1,174 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 84,372 fatalities.
India is expected to have the highest national total of confirmed cases within weeks, surpassing the United States, where more than 6.67 million people have been infected.
04:46 GMT – EU travel industry steps up quarantine pushback
Leaders of Europe’s coronavirus-stricken travel and tourism industries have appealed to the EU’s chief executive to press governments to end quarantine requirements and instead embrace coordinated restrictions and testing.
“This chaotic situation requires your immediate personal involvement,” a broad ad-hoc group of more than 20 industry groups including airline body IATA told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a letter seen by Reuters.
The appeal came as data from airports’ group ACI Europe, one of the signatories to the September 17 letter, pointed to a “double-dip” air traffic slump, with passenger numbers down 73 percent in the first two weeks of September, after a 65 percent decline in August.
04:16 GMT – Australia looks set to ease border limits and allow more citizens home
The Australian government is expected to announce an increase in the number of citizens able to return home after a National Cabinet meeting later on Friday, where states will be asked to boost quarantine capacity.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking to raise the cap on the number of people allowed into Australia each week by 2,000 from next Friday.
The country’s weekly limit is currently set at 4,000 people but there are an estimated 25,000 stranded Australians wanting to return home which the government has pledged to facilitate before Christmas.
03:50 GMT – First case-free day for New Zealand in five weeks
New Zealand has reported no new confirmed cases of the coronavirus for the first time in more than five weeks as hopes rise that an outbreak discovered in Auckland last month has been stamped out.
Friday’s report also marked the fourth consecutive day without any cases of community transmission. All recent cases have been found among quarantined travellers returning from abroad.
Authorities have still not pinpointed the origin of the August outbreak, which they believe was imported. New Zealand has reported a total of just over 1,800 cases and 25 deaths.
03:30 GMT – US House condemns racism against Asian Americans
The United States House of Representatives has voted to condemn racism against Asian Americans tied to the coronavirus outbreak, approving a Democratic resolution on a mostly party-line vote.
Republicans called the legislation an election-year effort to criticise President Donald Trump and “woke culture on steroids”.
The resolution, approved 243-164, calls on all public officials to condemn anti-Asian sentiment and to investigate hate crimes after a rise in aggression and violence from those blaming people of Asian descent for the pandemic.
The measure does not name Trump but notes inflammatory terms used by him and other Republicans – including “Chinese Virus,” “Wuhan Virus,” and “Kung flu” – and says they have perpetuated an anti-Asian stigma.
2:56 GMT – Serbia sets new rule for arrivals from high-risk areas
Serbia will require all travellers returning from areas it considers high-risk for COVID-19 to fill in an online form ahead of time.
The measure will help authorities quickly trace returnees who develop symptoms of the coronavirus, Serbian media reported. It comes into effect at 6pm local time on Friday.
Returnees will not be required to enter quarantine or produce a negative test at the border.
02:42 GMT – China reports 32 new cases, all imported
Health authorities in mainland China have reported 32 new COVID-19 cases, all imported cases, marking the highest daily increase in more than a month and up sharply from nine cases reported a day earlier.
Although the latest increase still remains well below the peaks seen at the height of the outbreak in China early this year, it is the biggest since August 10 and suggests continued COVID-19 risks stemming from overseas travellers coming into the country as the pandemic rages on in other parts of the world.
Mainland China has not reported any local COVID-19 infections since mid-August.
02:26 GMT – Biden slams Trump over ‘close to criminal’ COVID-19 response
US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden attacked President Donald Trump for disregarding the risks of the coronavirus, blaming him for thousands of unnecessary American deaths and vowing to mount a coordinated national response if elected.
“He knew it – he knew it and did nothing,” Biden told a CNN town hall. “It’s close to criminal.”
01:41 GMT – Australia’s Victoria state reports 45 new cases
Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria has reported its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections in more than a week as the state began relaxing lockdown restrictions.
Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, reported five deaths from COVID-19 and 45 cases in the last 24 hours. The state reported eight deaths and 28 cases a day earlier, its lowest daily rise in infections in nearly three months.
The southeastern state started easing curbs this week after a hard lockdown helped bring down the daily rise in infections to double-digits after it touched highs of more than 700 in early August.
01:12 GMT – California requires workers compensation for virus infection
Companies in the US state of California must compensate any workers who contract the coronavirus while on the job and must warn employees of any potential exposure to the virus under two laws that Governor Gavin Newsom signed on Thursday.
Business groups have criticised the measures as “unworkable”.
The law on informing employees requires that businesses tell workers whenever they have been exposed to someone who has either tested positive, been ordered to isolate or died because of the virus.
00:43 GMT – Ontario clamps down on parties
Ontario, Canada’s largest province, will fine people who hold social gatherings in defiance of new limits amid a rise in cases in the cities of Toronto and Ottawa, as well as a region just outside Toronto.
Starting on Friday in those three areas, only 10 people will be allowed to gather indoors – down from the current limit of 25. The number for outdoor gatherings will drop to 25 from 100.
The penalty for organisers of events that violate the limits will be 10,000 Canadian dollars ($7,600). People attending the gatherings will be fined 750 Canadian dollars.
00:33 GMT – Global coronavirus cases surpass 30 million
Global confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed have 30 million, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University, as the number of deaths from COVID-19 neared one million.
The US remains the worst-hit country in the world, logging more than 6.7 million cases. India and Brazil had 5.1 million and 4.4 million cases, respectively.
Some 20.4 million people have recovered from the disease worldwide.
00:03 GMT – Rise in virus cases among refugees on Lesbos
Greece has reported 135 cases of coronavirus infections among migrants and refugees made homeless by a fire at a large refugee on the island of Lesbos.
Notis Mitarachi, the migration affairs minister, said the infections were discovered after some 5,000 migrants were escorted by police to a temporary new site and given rapid tests for the coronavirus.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
For all the key developments from yesterday, September 17, go here.