Corona Virus, Health, India, World

Coronavirus global report: ‘response fatigue’ fears as Mexico hits 9,000 daily cases

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus global report: ‘response fatigue’ fears as Mexico hits 9,000 daily cases” was written by Oliver Holmes, for The Guardian on Sunday 2nd August 2020 13.31 UTC

Mexico has recorded more than 9,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time, as the country overtook the UK with the world’s third-highest number of deaths from the pandemic after the US and Brazil.

The surging numbers were reported as the World Health Organization warned of “response fatigue” and a resurgence of cases in several countries that have lifted lockdowns.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO, said: “Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths.”

Mexico, which like many countries has lifted tight restrictions imposed earlier this year, reported 9,556 new cases on Saturday. It also announced 784 additional deaths, bringing its total to 47,472.

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An emergency WHO committee reviewing the pandemic noted the “anticipated lengthy duration of this Covid-19 outbreak” required a sustained response, according to a statement from the UN body released on Saturday.

It said “nuanced, pragmatic guidance” was needed to “reduce the risk of response fatigue in the context of socioeconomic pressure”.

Several countries attempting to reimpose coronavirus restrictions have been faced with domestic discontent, including from conspiracy theorists on the far left and far right. In Germany, police said 45 officers were injured in Berlin during the weekend “day of freedom” demonstrations. Many protesters were not wearing masks or social distancing.

There have been almost 17.8m confirmed cases around the world and more than 684,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

South Africa, which gradually loosened a strict lockdown imposed at the end of March, reported it had counted more than half a million cases at the weekend. The country is by far the hardest-hit in Africa and accounts for more than half of diagnosed infections.

So far, the number of fatalities stands at 8,153. However, local researchers have recorded a jump of nearly 60% in natural deaths in recent weeks, suggesting a much higher toll of coronavirus-related fatalities than officially registered.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday that South Africa’s case fatality rate stood at 1.6%, well below the global average. “While South Africa has the fifth-highest number of total Covid-19 cases globally, we have only the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population,” he said.

Meanwhile, India reported nearly 55,000 new coronavirus cases, down from the previous day’s record 57,118 but raising the country’s total to 1.75m. The month of July accounted for more than 1.1m of those cases.

The country’s interior minister, Amit Shah, said on Sunday he had tested positive for coronavirus and had been admitted to hospital. Shah, a close aide to Narendra Modi, the prime minister, heads a key ministry that has been at the forefront of managing India’s coronavirus outbreak.

The Australian state of Victoria has declared a state of disaster and placed Melbourne, the country’s second-biggest city, under night-time curfew as it grapples with hundreds of “mystery cases” of coronavirus.

Under the six-week so-called stage 4 lockdown, no one will be allowed to venture further than 5km (3.1 miles) from their home, only one person per household per day will be allowed to go shopping, and only one hour of exercise will be permitted.

Seven health officials from China were due to arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday, the first members of a 60-person team that will carry out widespread testing for Covid-19 in the territory as it races to halt a third wave of the illness.

In the Philippines, infections surged past 100,000 on Sunday, after medical groups declared that the country was waging a losing battle against the virus. The country said on Sunday it would reimpose a stricter lockdown in and around its capital for two weeks from midnight on 4 August.

The country has the second-highest number of cases in south-east Asia after Indonesia and has had more infections than China, where the pandemic began late last year.

President Rodrigo Duterte eased a severe virus lockdown in the capital, Manila, a city of more than 12 million people, on 1 June, after the economy shrank slightly in the first quarter, its first contraction in more than two decades.

France and Spain, two countries that imposed stringent lockdowns earlier this year, have both also experienced recent surges in cases, while in the UK, Boris Johnson was reportedly considering new lockdown measures in England.

In Israel, a steep rise in cases and the government’s bungled economic response has sparked increasingly large protests. On Saturday night, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to call for the resignation of the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also faces corruption allegations.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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Corona Virus, Health, World

‘We give patients their voices back’: the speech therapists on the Covid-19 frontline

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘We give patients their voices back’: the speech therapists on the Covid-19 frontline” was written by As told to Sarah Johnson, for theguardian.com on Thursday 30th July 2020 07.30 UTC

I lead a group of NHS speech and language therapists at St Thomas’ hospital in London. I decided to become a speech and language therapist because the job is so varied. But I never thought it would lead me to the centre of a pandemic.

My profession is often misunderstood and the name doesn’t do justice to everything we do. Our role in the response to Covid-19 has been vital; we have been in the thick of it, treating patients with coronavirus in intensive care units (ICUs).

We are there as patients are woken up after being ventilated. The look of terror in their eyes is easy to see. The tube that has been down their throat to keep them breathing has been replaced by another, a tracheostomy, and they can’t say anything. They are frightened. Often they don’t realise what is going on. They may have come in to hospital with coronavirus feeling a bit unwell and then gone downhill very quickly. There are no relatives with them and they’re surrounded by people in full personal protective equipment (PPE) who look like Martians.

Our job is to help patients in critical care who have difficulty swallowing and eating, and who need help weaning from tracheostomy tubes. The bread and butter of what my team does is helping people return to eating and drinking. A huge number of patients who are ventilated lose the ability to swallow safely. When that happens, food and drink go into lungs instead of the stomach; it’s a big cause of pneumonia and death.

We also help people to communicate and establish a voice. Sometimes when they wake up and have a tracheostomy tube in, we’ll give them a whiteboard to write things on, or we’ll use charts with letters and pictures they can point to. When the tube comes out, swelling in their throat or damage to the voice box means they can’t speak. We give people therapy to get their voice back.

We knew Covid-19 was coming, but it still seemed to happen overnight. In March, the first British super-spreader was treated at the hospital and within a couple of weeks, we were treating patient after patient with coronavirus. We had to respond very quickly and upskilled people to get them able to work with the patients we were seeing. Normally we would only see a few tracheostomy patients a week, but it didn’t take long before every patient we saw had one. We have a massive ICU and tripled our number of beds to meet the need. We were very busy.

I’m so proud of my team for their role in the coronavirus crisis. With the right care, a lot of patients have recovered quite quickly and have been eating and drinking within a few days. We’ve also been helping people have discussions with the wider healthcare team and their families. One of my team witnessed a marriage proposal over a video call, while others have been there when a patient has been able to talk to their partner for the first time since being sedated. That’s been possible because of the work my team has done.

But everyone is now facing burnout. Wearing PPE constantly is exhausting, hot and sweaty. At first, the adrenaline was pumping and people rallied round. Everyone felt buoyed by the clapping. Since then, the number of Covid-19 patients has declined but the virus is still around. We treat everyone as if they might have it and we have to be on alert for a second wave. That’s the hard bit. It feels like now should be the time when the B-team comes in and gives everyone time off to regroup but we all have to keep going. We’re in masks all day long. That’s our new reality and it’s really difficult.

We get trains home and see people who are not wearing masks or social distancing. Perhaps the public is fatigued from being on high alert and maybe it’s not realistic to expect people to live under the cloud of restrictions. We in the hospital still have to, however.

We’ve helped patients who could barely swallow their own saliva be able to go home, eat and drink and communicate with family. That is our achievement and we need to carry on. At the same time, it’s frightening because there are still deaths every day. We face going into winter knowing that we normally have an increase in patient referrals with winter bugs and Covid-19 will be added into that mix.

What I have really learned through this is the strength of the team I work in is everything. We have become a work family; our debriefing sessions and a wellbeing hour have been cathartic and we have had excellent support from our colleagues in psychology. As we can’t see where we’re going or know when it will end, maybe it’s about celebrating how far we have come.

If you would like to contribute to our Blood, sweat and tears series about experiences in healthcare during the coronavirus outbreak, get in touch by emailing sarah.johnson@theguardian.com

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World

Man on trial for blasphemy shot dead in court in Pakistan

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Man on trial for blasphemy shot dead in court in Pakistan” was written by Shah Meer Baloch and Emma Graham-Harrison, for The Guardian on Wednesday 29th July 2020 15.01 UTC

A Pakistani man on trial for blasphemy has been shot dead in a courtroom, in the latest violent incident connected with the country’s blasphemy laws.

Tahir Ahmed Naseem had been in prison since his arrest in 2018, allegedly after claiming he was a prophet. He is a member of the Ahmedi sect, which is persecuted in Pakistan where they have officially been declared non-Muslims.

The shooting took place at a high-security complex next to the Peshawar high court.

“I was sitting on my seat in the office around 11.30 when I heard the firing,” said Saeed Zaher, a lawyer, who rushed to the site of the attack, and said the victim appeared to have been shot once in the head. “The killer was caught by the police and the body was lying on a bench within the courtroom.”

Members of the public are allowed to observe trials, but for his attacker to smuggle in a weapon represents a serious security breach. “A person entering with a pistol and murdering someone within a courtroom is very disturbing,” Zaher added.

Footage circulating on social media appeared to show the alleged killer, sitting barefoot on a bench under police guard, claiming he had been ordered in a dream to kill Naseem. He also attacked judges who hear blasphemy cases.

Blasphemy is an enormously sensitive charge in Pakistan, a criminal offence that can carry the death penalty, yet which is sometimes used to settle personal scores, and has become extremely difficult for the justice system to handle.

Mere accusations have prompted mob violence and lynchings; lower-court judges feel unable to acquit defendants for fear of their lives; even a supreme court justice recused himself from a 2016 trial.

While the state has never executed anyone under blasphemy laws, at least 17 people convicted of blasphemy are on death row, and many others are serving life sentences for related offences.

The case of Asia Bibi, a Christian farm labourer who endured a decade-long ordeal over the accusation she had insulted the prophet Mohammed in a dispute with neighbours, drew international attention to the problem of the laws.

Bibi was originally sentenced to death in 2010, though that verdict was later overturned. In 2011, the governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, and the minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, were murdered after they spoke in defence of Bibi and called for reform of blasphemy laws.

She was eventually given asylum in Canada but still receives death threats.

Since 1990, vigilantes have been accused of murdering 65 people tied to blasphemy, according to research compiled by the Pakistani thinktank the Centre for Research and Security Studies.

There was no comment from the government, a silence that veteran activist Ibn Abdur Rehman said was damning.

“Religious fanaticism is becoming unbearable in Pakistan. People are being killed in the name of religion. There is no check and balance. The government is clearly silent on this matter. This silence makes the government the culprit,” said Rehman, honorary spokesman for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

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Corona Virus, Health, World

Coronavirus live news: US deaths near 150,000 as Hong Kong warns hospitals could collapse

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “France sees highest daily increase in cases for over a month – as it happened” was written by Helen Sullivan (now and earlier); Jessica Murray , Lucy Campbell, and Kevin Rawlinson, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 29th July 2020 23.20 UTC

12.15am BST

We’ve launched a new blog at the link below – head there for the latest:

12.12am BST

The scandal over Dominic Cummings’ trips to and around Durham during lockdown damaged trust and was a key factor in the breakdown of a sense of national unity amid the coronavirus pandemic, research suggests.

Revelations that Cummings and his family travelled to his parents’ farm despite ministers repeatedly imploring the public to stay at home – as exposed by the Guardian and the Daily Mirror in May – also crystallised distrust in politicians over the crisis, according to a report from the thinktank British Future.

The findings emerged in a series of surveys, diaries and interviews carried out over the first months of the pandemic as the public got to grips with profound changes to their habits, relationships and lifestyles:

11.19pm BST

Hi, Helen Sullivan joining you now.

I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next few hours – get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

11.13pm BST

Summary

Here’s a quick recap of the latest developments from the past few hours:

  • US coronavirus deaths passed 150,000. The death toll is higher than in any other country and is nearly a quarter of the world’s total. Of the 20 countries with the biggest outbreaks, the United States ranks sixth in deaths per capita, at 4.5 fatalities per 10,000 people, according to a Reuters tally.
  • Brazil confirmed nearly 70,000 coronavirus cases in new daily record. The country recorded 69,074 new confirmed cases and 1,595 related deaths, as the world’s second-worst outbreak accelerates toward the milestone of 100,000 lives cut short.
  • Guatemala is burying dozens of unidentified Covid-19 dead. Hospitals say they have had to bury dozens of Covid-19 victims who have never been identified, with one hospital creating archives in hopes that once the pandemic passes relatives will come looking for them.
  • Macron’s popularity shot up after an EU recovery deal. In an opinion poll half of respondents said they were confident in the president’s policies for France, only the second time since April 2018 he has reached the 50% mark.
  • France saw its highest daily increase in cases in more than a month. The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 1,392 on Wednesday, a figure likely to fuel fears of a second wave despite officials downplaying such a scenario.
  • The Catalan government eased lockdown in city of Lleida. 160,000 people had been ordered to stay home following a spike in infections.
  • Lebanon reported its highest single-day infection tally. The country reporter 182 new coronavirus cases, ahead of fresh lockdown measures that go into effect at midnight.

Updated at 11.14pm BST

10.37pm BST

Argentina has started clinical trials on treating Covid-19 using hyperimmune serum developed with antibodies from horses, authorities from the laboratory involved said.

The serum, produced by biotechnology company Inmunova, is obtained by injecting a SARS-CoV-2 protein, which causes the animal to generate a large amount of neutralizing antibodies.

Plasma is then extracted from the horse, purified and processed.

After positive results in laboratory tests, the clinical trial to study the effectiveness of the serum will be carried out on 242 people diagnosed with the disease in moderate to severe conditions, the laboratory said.

“If we can lower viral replication in the first days, not only are we going to lower the viral load of the disease and the referral of patients… but we think this neutralizing capacity will allow patients to develop their own immune response,” said Fernando Goldbaum, Inmunova’s scientific director.

Goldbaum said trials had started on Monday and the first results were expected between October and November.

Argentina has registered close to 175,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with around 3,200 fatalities.

10.22pm BST

Guatemalan hospitals say they have had to bury dozens of Covid-19 victims who have never been identified, and one hospital is creating archives in hopes that once the pandemic passes, their relatives will come looking for them.

Workers at one of the country’s largest public hospitals have started photographing patients who arrive alone and too ill to give their personal details.

Those who die unidentified are placed in body bags with transparent windows over the faces in case relatives do arrive.

Protocols that call for rapidly burying the dead during a pandemic only make the situation more difficult, officials say.

The government has reported more than 47,000 confirmed infections and more 1,800 deaths nationwide.

The first of 63 unidentified dead at the San Juan de Dios Hospital, one of the capital’s largest, died on 25 April. She was in her 20s and was buried the same day.

Paramedics carry a woman into the emergency area of the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Guatemala City.
Paramedics carry a woman into the emergency area of the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Guatemala City.
Photograph: Esteban Biba/EPA

Byron Fuentes, director of the health ministry’s Public Cemetery Administration, said that so far no one has come forward seeking any of the 41 men and 22 women they have buried, identified only as XX.

One death certificate viewed by The Associated Press showed the person identified only as XX XX, XX XX, with the gender and an estimated age. For cause of death it listed acute respiratory distress syndrome and Covid-19.

For now, the unidentified Covid-19 victims are buried in a designated area deep in the capital’s Verbena Cemetery.

Surrounded by trees and near a settlement of improvised housing, unadorned graves are simply marked with a number.

Freshly dug graves are seen at a section where Covid-19 victims are buried at La Verbena cemetery in Guatemala City.
Freshly dug graves are seen at a section where Covid-19 victims are buried at La Verbena cemetery in Guatemala City.
Photograph: Santiago Billy/AP

For relatives who may one day seek out their loved ones, there is little to go on.

Officials estimate an age, record the gender and the hospital where they arrived. Relatives would have to provide information to match those limited details, said Fuentes, the cemeteries chief. Even then confirmation would be complicated.

“The law establishes that when someone dies from a quarantined illness, they can’t be exhumed,” he said. “The same law gives us an exception, but it is on a judges order, the judge would be the one responsible.”

“Since we stated to bury, we have not received any requests from anyone looking for a relative,” Fuentes said.

10.09pm BST

Brazil confirms nearly 70,000 coronavirus cases in new national daily record

Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak set daily records on Wednesday with both 69,074 new confirmed cases and 1,595 related deaths, as the world’s second-worst outbreak accelerates toward the milestone of 100,000 lives cut short.

Brazil is the country worst hit by Covid-19 outside of the United States in both death toll and case count, with more than 2.5 million confirmed cases and 90,134 deaths since the pandemic began, according to ministry data.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous and hardest-hit state, has been working through a backlog of previously unregistered cases, reporting more than 26,000 cases on Wednesday alone.

President Jair Bolsonaro has pressed to reopen the Brazilian economy, with lockdowns lifting in many cities despite the toll of the disease continuing to rise.

In some cases, Brazilians have packed into bars and crowded public squares, often in defiance of local rules.

Bolsonaro himself has flouted social distancing guidelines by joining supporters at rallies around Brasilia, the capital, in recent months.

He fell ill with coronavirus this month, and spent weeks in partial isolation before recovering.

The right-wing populist has argued the economic damage from lockdowns is worse than the disease itself, which he has played down as “a little flu” that can be cured by unproven treatments, involving the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

Updated at 11.16pm BST

10.03pm BST

French president Emmanuel Macron’s popularity shot up by six points in July to reach the 50% threshold in an opinion poll, after clinching a deal with other European leaders on an economic recovery package and reshuffling his government.

In the Harris Interactive poll for LCI TV, half of respondents said they were confident in Macron’s policies for France, only the second time since April 2018 the French president reached the 50% mark.

The poll was taken on 21-23 July, shortly after the 27 EU leaders agreed on a €750bn stimulus that Macron said was “historic” and that should see France receive at least €40bn in grants to help recovery from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Macron also changed his prime minister in early July and reshuffled his government.

The new prime minister, Jean Castex, saw his first popularity rating stand at 56% in the same poll, higher than the 51% of his predecessor, Edouard Philippe.

Updated at 10.20pm BST

9.59pm BST

Texas Representative Louie Gohmert has tested positive for Covid-19, forcing him to abruptly cancel his plan to travel to his home state with president Donald Trump.

The Republican immediately faced criticism from colleagues for shunning masks on Capitol Hill, where face coverings are not mandatory and testing is sparse.

66-year-old Gohmert, one of the House’s most conservative and outspoken members, told a Texas news station that he tested positive at the White House and planned to self-quarantine.

He is at least the 10th member of Congress known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Republican Representative of Texas Louie Gohmert wears a face covering during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Republican Representative of Texas Louie Gohmert wears a face covering during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

The congressman’s positive test raised further questions about the lack of mask and testing requirements in the Capitol as members frequently fly back and forth from their hometowns and gather for votes, hearings and news conferences.

Several GOP senators said they were pushing for more regular testing in the Capitol.

Republican Missouri senator Roy Blunt, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said:

I think particularly for members of Congress who are going back and forth, they represent the perfect petri dish for how you spread a disease.

You send 535 people out to 535 different locations, on about 1,000 different airplanes, and bring them back and see what happens. It seems to me theres a better path forward.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi has tried to encourage mask use, and committees have rules requiring the wearing of face coverings in hearing rooms.

But there’s no mandate for lawmakers to wear masks in hallways or while voting on the floor, and no mechanism for enforcement.

Gohmert, who has questioned mask use for months, also went as far as to say that wearing a mask may have been how he contracted the virus.

Medical experts say masks are one of the best ways to prevent transmission of the virus, which is thought to mainly spread through people who are in close contact.

Updated at 10.00pm BST

9.26pm BST

From grim milestones to record unemployment rates and protests against stay-at-home orders, the pandemic has upended life across the US.

Mixed messages from Donald Trump and his administration have caused confusion over when or if Americans will return to life as usual. Squabbles between the president, governors and mayors have inspired headlines as critics assail missed chances to contain the virus.

As the country’s death toll surpasses 150,000, here’s a look back on the defining moments from the US under Covid-19 so far.

9.05pm BST

Summary

If you’re just joining us, here is quick summary of the latest global coronavirus developments from the last few hours:

  • US coronavirus deaths surpass 150,000. The death toll is higher than in any other country and nearly a quarter of the world’s total. Of the 20 countries with the biggest outbreaks, the US ranks sixth in deaths per capita, at 4.5 fatalities per 10,000 people, according to a Reuters tally.
  • France sees highest daily increase in cases in more than a month. The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 1,392 on Wednesday, a figure likely to fuel fears of a second wave despite officials downplaying such a scenario.
  • Lebanon reports its highest single-day infection tally. The country reporter 182 new coronavirus cases, ahead of fresh lockdown measures that go into effect at midnight.
  • Madrid has rowed back on controversial plans to introduce “immunity cards” for people who tested positive for Covid-19. They were intended as a way of letting non-infectious people lead more normal lives while keeping vulnerable people under stricter measures, but politicians, rights groups and epidemiologists condemned the project as potentially discriminatory and medically unsound.
  • Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, has ordered bars and pubs to shut and banned large gatherings from midnight. If follows a Covid-19 outbreak in the city of Danang.
  • Florida reported a record increase in new Covid-19 deaths for a second day in a row. The state reported 217 fatalities in the last 24 hours, bringing its total to 6,457. Another 9,446 cases were also recorded, bringing its total infections to over 451,000, the second highest in the country behind California.

9.04pm BST

US president Donald Trump has defended his push to use a coronavirus relief package to fund a new FBI headquarters near his Washington hotel despite opposition from fellow Republicans, citing his background as a real estate developer.

The bill is facing tense negotiations in the Senate, as multiple provisions aimed at helping Americans stave off financial losses amid the coronavirus pandemic expire on Friday.

The White House is at odds with both Democrats and Trump’s own Republicans, who control the chamber, over the package.

Trump at first did not directly answer a question about whether he would drop his demand for .8bn to fund a new FBI headquarters in downtown Washington, one block from Trump International Hotel. He later said the provision “should stay.”

He told reporters at the White House:

Republicans should go back to school and learn.

I’m very good at real estate.

8.49pm BST

US coronavirus deaths top 150,000

US deaths from Covid-19 have surpassed 150,000, a number higher than in any other country and nearly a quarter of the world’s total, according the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Of the 20 countries with the biggest outbreaks, the United States ranks sixth in deaths per capita, at 4.5 fatalities per 10,000 people, according to a Reuters tally.

The United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Peru and Chile have a higher per capita rate, the tally shows.

US deaths make up nearly 23% of the global total of just over 662,000.

The increase of 10,000 Covid-19 deaths in 11 days is the fastest in the United States since early June.

Medical staff treat a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
Medical staff treat a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
Photograph: Go Nakamura/Getty Images

The pace of infections has accelerated since the US death toll passed 100,000 on 27 May.

The centre of the outbreak has also moved, to the South and West from the area around New York, which still has by far the highest death toll for one state at more than 32,000.

Arkansas, California, Florida, Montana, Oregon and Texas each reported record spikes in fatalities on Tuesday.

The rising numbers have crushed early hopes the country was past the worst of an economic crisis that has decimated businesses and put millions of Americans out of work.

Health experts have been saying for months that the US outbreak could be brought under control if guidelines to maintain social distancing and wear masks in public were followed everywhere.

Such measures have become a hot partisan issue after president Donald Trump, who initially played down the seriousness of the health crisis, refused to wear a mask.

Trump has since come around to supporting masks but has still not imposed a national mandate requiring them.

On Wednesday, Florida reported another record increase, with 217 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to the state health department.

Updated at 10.46pm BST

8.36pm BST

Romania has adopted new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, including shortening working hours for bars and restaurants, and mandatory face masks in outdoor crowded spaces, after a surge in cases.

In the past eight days, the number of infections exceeded 1,000 new daily cases in Romania, bringing the total to over 48,000. The country also reported 2,269 deaths so far.

Masks are already mandatory in enclosed public spaces while restaurants and pubs can serve their clients only outdoors, with no more than four people at the same table.

Local authorities will decide exactly where it will be mandatory to wear masks in the open, prime minister Ludovic Orban explained, mentioning places like markets and train platforms.

All children over five years old will also have to wear a mask, according to the government.

“We are in a critical moment and measures to protect the population are very important right now”, president Klaus Iohannis told reporters.

The spike in numbers comes after the Constitutional Court ruled in June that mandatory hospitalisation violates human rights.

That decision has enabled thousands of infected people to discharge themselves from hospital.

Parliament adopted a new text this month that allows hospitals to keep people who test positive for the virus under observation for at least 48 hours, even if they have no symptoms.

“I’m confident that together we will manage to reasonably control this pandemic. I see re-entering the state of emergency as the last option,” said Iohannis.

8.31pm BST

An Israeli artist has mocked prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a re-enactment of The Last Supper installed in central Tel Aviv, a day after people protesting against him in the city were beaten.

Artist Itay Zalait said the piece in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, featuring a Netanyahu likeness perched over a long dining table and seated in front of a cake, represents “the last meal of Israeli democracy”.

Israeli artist Itay Zalait talks to journalists in front of his protest art installation depicting prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu sitting at a table for the “Last Supper”.
Israeli artist Itay Zalait talks to journalists in front of his protest art installation depicting prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu sitting at a table for the “Last Supper”.
Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Netanyahu is “the man who dined his heart (out) when the State of Israel beat a million unemployed people hungry for bread,” Zalait told reporters.

Protests have grown against the veteran premier over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the devastating economic crisis it has caused.

The prime minister has been accused of leading a chaotic virus containment strategy as cases have surged and economically painful restrictions have been reimposed.

Netanyahu says he has tried to strike a balance between protecting the economy and stemming transmission, a challenge faced by leaders across the world.

Crowds of thousands have gathered in Tel Aviv and outside the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence in recent weeks, with some demonstrators demanding Netanyahu’s resignation.

Tuesday’s rallies were smaller than previous demonstrations, but the one in Tel Aviv turned violent.

According to police and video taken at the scene, anti-Netanyahu protesters were beaten by unidentified individuals. A police investigation has been opened.

Mounted Israeli forces block the road as people stage a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding his resignation over corruption cases and a deterioration in economic conditions.
Mounted Israeli forces block the road as people stage a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding his resignation over corruption cases and a deterioration in economic conditions.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Responding to images of bloody demonstrators, alternate prime minister and defence minister Benny Gantz said: “A red line was crossed last night, when citizens exercising their right to protest were attacked.”

“I insist that the right to demonstrate be protected,” added Gantz, Netanyahu’s election rival who joined the premier in a centre-right coalition government.

“We must not allow the violence to go unanswered.”

8.16pm BST

Lebanon has reported 182 new coronavirus cases, its highest single-day infection tally, ahead of fresh lockdown measures that go into effect at midnight.

The new cases bring the total number of Covid-19 infections in Lebanon to 4,202, including 55 deaths, according to health ministry figures cited by the state-run National News Agency.

New nationwide lockdown measures were announced this week following a rise in cases after previous restrictions were gradually lifted.

To stem a larger outbreak, the government ordered a lockdown from 30 July through 3 August, coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The lockdown will then be suspended for two days, with restaurants and cafes allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. Nightclubs, bars, indoor pools and public parks will remain closed.

Restrictions will then go back into force for another five days, after which authorities will reassess whether stricter measures need to be imposed.

Lebanon had gradually lifted lockdown measures starting in May, and in early July it opened the Beirut airport to commercial flights after a closure of more than three months.

But new cases have increased since restaurants, bars, clubs and resorts reopened.

The pandemic struck as Lebanon was already mired in its worst economic crisis in decades, prompting fears that the country’s fragile health system could collapse.

The Lebanese pound, pegged at 1,500 to the dollar since 1997, now sells for more than 7,500 on the black market, sparking soaring inflation.

This has dealt a heavy blow to a country where more than 45% of the population lives below the poverty line and more than a third of the workforce is unemployed.

7.49pm BST

Cyprus health authorities have reported a three-month high of new Covid-19 infections, 13 cases, including seven from a cluster in the southern port city of Limassol.

The uptick came three days before the Mediterranean holiday island is set to re-open to tourists from Britain, its largest market.

The island’s outbreak had peaked in April with a high of 58 cases, but since the end of that month, daily infections had been in single figures.

Cyprus issued a commercial flight ban on 21 March as part of its lockdown measures, which along with rigorous testing had sent new cases as low as zero a day.

Health workers carry out coronavirus tests on people in the southern coastal city of Limassol in Cyprus.
Health workers carry out coronavirus tests on people in the southern coastal city of Limassol in Cyprus.
Photograph: Petros Karadjias/AP

The Republic of Cyprus, which earns more than 15% of its GDP from tourism and welcomed a record 3.97 million visitors last year, has promoted itself as a safe destination and lifted the flight ban on 9 June.

But many of those diagnosed recently had a travel history, the health ministry said.

Four of the cases reported were contacts of a Cypriot couple who returned to the island on 17 July from the Netherlands and later tested postive for the disease.

Among the Limassol cases were two who had returned from the UK and one from a Greek island.

7.31pm BST

Pakistan’s de facto health minister, Zafar Mirza, stepped down on Wednesday in the middle of the pandemic citing criticism towards government advisers who hold dual nationality.

The resignation has come at a time when Pakistan could see a spike in cases due to two major Muslim gatherings in coming weeks.

Mirza was among several special assistants to the prime minister, or SAPMs, who have faced criticism from opposition parties for being either a dual national or non-elected members of the parliament.

Another of the advisers, Tania Aidrus, resigned citing her dual citizenship. Mirza has not said he held any other nationality other than Pakistan in his asset declaration.

“Due to ongoing negative discussion about the role of SAPMs & criticism on the gov, I choose to resign,” he said in a statement he posted on Twitter. “I am satisfied that I leave at a time when Covid-19 has declined in Pakistan.”

Pakistan has lately seen a downward trend in Covid-19 cases, which critics say is due to low testing, bringing daily infections as low as 1,000 from over 5,000.

The country has registered 276,288 coronavirus infections and 5,892 deaths.

The World Health Organization has recommended Pakistan increase daily testing to above 50,000, but after peaking at 31,000 tests, the South Asian nation is now conducting around 20,000 a day.

Two main events – Eid al-Adha falling at the weekend and Ashura later in August – which see large Muslim gatherings could risk spikes in the virus spread.

The government has warned people against violating public health measures.

7.22pm BST

France sees highest daily increase in cases in more than a month

The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 1,392 on Wednesday, the highest daily tally in a month and a figure likely to fuel fears of a second wave despite officials downplaying such a scenario.

The increase took France’s total number of confirmed cases to 185,196.

In a statement, health authorities said that, leaving aside the continuous decline of people in ICU units, all Covid-19 indicators showed “an increase of the viral circulation”.

The reproduction rate, on an upward trend since the beginning of the month, is now “higher than 1.3”, which marks a rise over 24 hours, they said.

The figure for new cases, the highest since the 26 June total of 1,588, is above the past week’s daily average of 980 and almost double the 715 average seen in May, when France started to lift its lockdown.

Earlier in the day, French health minister Olivier Véran urged the country not to drop its guard against the disease, but said it was “not facing a second wave”.

There were also 15 new deaths linked to the disease, taking the total to 30,238, a figure higher than the daily average increase of nine seen over the last week.

France has the seventh-highest death toll in the world.

Updated at 8.22pm BST

7.14pm BST

Catalan officials have eased the lockdown in and around the northeastern city of Lleida where 160,000 people had been ordered to stay home following a spike in infections.

The city and six nearby municipalities, which lie 150km west of Barcelona, had first been subjected to restrictions at the start of the month after cases started to rise, with a strict stay-at-home order taking effect on 13 July.

But on Wednesday the restrictions were eased after the outbreak was brought under control, with residents now able to travel outside of the area for the first time since 4 July.

Catalan president Quim Torra said:

Measures adopted in recent weeks have reduced the reproduction number of Covid-19 in the Lleida area.. which shows that the outbreak is being brought under control.

Bars and restaurants can now reopen their terraces until midnight and shops can open to customers if they reduce capacity by half.

Spain, where the virus has claimed more than 28,400 lives, has been struggling to contain a surge in new infections, nearly half of them in Catalonia, with the regional government issuing a stay-at-home order to nearly four million residents of metropolitan Barcelona on 18 July.

The situation in Spain has sparked a flurry of travel warnings with France advising against travel to Catalonia and its hugely popular coastline, and Germany following suit, naming Catalonia and two other virus-hit regions.

Britain has gone even further, deciding to quarantine anyone arriving from Spain, in a major blow for the tourism industry.

7.06pm BST

Hi everyone, this is Jessica Murray taking over the coronavirus live blog for the next few hours.

Please do get in touch with any suggestions or story tips.

Email: jessica.murray@theguardian.com
Twitter: @journojess_

6.56pm BST

Summary

  • Madrid rowed back on controversial plans to introduce “immunity cards” for people who tested positive for Covid-19. This was intended to be a way of letting non-infectious people lead more normal lives while keeping vulnerable people under stricter measures, but politicians, rights groups and epidemiologists condemned the project as potentially discriminatory and medically unsound.
  • US deaths from Covid-19 are approaching 150,000, the highest level in the world and rising by 10,000 in 11 days, according to a Reuters tally. This is the fastest increase in fatalities since the United States went from 100,000 cases to 110,000 cases in 11 days in early June, according to the tally.
  • Florida reported a record increase in new Covid-19 deaths for a second day in a row. The state reported 217 fatalities in the last 24 hours, bringing its total to 6,457. Another 9,446 cases were also recorded, bringing its total infections to over 451,000, the second highest in the country behind California.
  • Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, has ordered bars and pubs to shut and banned large gatherings from midnight. If follows a Covid-19 outbreak in the city of Danang.
  • France extended its Covid-19 furlough scheme for workers in the hard-hit tourism sector. The scheme, known as “partial unemployment”, will be extended for those in the hotel, restaurant, travel, and events sector, “in principle until December”, the government said.

6.47pm BST

Health officials in Scotland have confirmed a cluster of eight new Covid-19 infections has been detected in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, linked to a number of businesses including a pharmacy in Inverclyde.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, disclosed earlier on Wednesday officials were trying to confirm whether the cases were linked. The small outbreak comes after a marked and steady decline in Covid-19 deaths and cases in Scotland, with only a trickle of new cases coming to light.

On Wednesday evening, an NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spokeswoman confirmed the eight cases were connected. She said a “thorough investigation is underway.” Contact tracing of the patients had identified the pharmacy and businesses, although all the cases so far involved mild symptoms.

“Close contacts are being advised to self-isolate and other identified contacts are being followed up and given appropriate advice,” she said. “To respect and maintain patient confidentiality no further details will be released at this time.”

5.54pm BST

Bolivia’s police forces in La Paz and El Alto have collected since April more than 3,300 bodies of people who died at home or in public places, about 80% of whom are suspected of having been infected with Covid-19, a police chief said.

With health systems overwhelmed, the police have taken on a frontline role collecting the dead, with the number increasing to around three per hour in the past week as infections spread in the landlocked Andean nation of about 11.5 million people.

“The health service and forensic institutes have collapsed due to a lack of personnel, because the number of corpses that are now being collected is very large,” Walter Sossa, director of the special crime force in El Alto, told Reuters.

A health worker sprays disinfectant near the bodies that officers of the Special Force Against Crime (FELCC) transported to the ‘Hospital de Clinicas’ in La Paz, Bolivia.
A health worker sprays disinfectant near the bodies that officers of the Special Force Against Crime (FELCC) transported to the ‘Hospital de Clinicas’ in La Paz, Bolivia.
Photograph: David Mercado/Reuters

Bolivia’s official tally of coronavirus infections stands at more than 72,000, with a death toll of 2,700, though as in many countries the actual number of fatalities is thought to be much higher.

Often with little protection, 527 police officers have been infected with the virus, Sossa said, meaning officers sometimes are carrying the bodies of colleagues. Some bodies have been collected on streets and a recent case involved confirming the death of an infant from the virus.

“We are human and we can be infected like any other person. We are also in the first line of work, and so we are more exposed than others,” said Sossa, adding that the bodies of three officers were retrieved on Tuesday.

5.12pm BST

Health workers arrive to Tacumbu prison to carry out Covid-19 tests in Asuncion. The Paraguayan justice minister, Cecilia Perez, reported that positive cases of Covid-19 were confirmed at the National Penitentiary in Tacumbu and were 40 inmates were isolated.
Health workers arrive to Tacumbu prison to carry out Covid-19 tests in Asuncion. The Paraguayan justice minister, Cecilia Perez, reported that positive cases of Covid-19 were confirmed at the National Penitentiary in Tacumbu and where 40 inmates were isolated.
Photograph: Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 5.12pm BST

4.48pm BST

Spain diagnosed another 1,153 coronavirus infections in the past day, the health ministry said on Wednesday, as the country continues to struggle with a rapidly accelerating surge of new cases.

The cumulative total rose to 282,641 cases, the ministry said. The figure was up 2,031 from the previous day, and includes results from antibody tests on people who may already have recovered.

4.41pm BST

Madrid officials row back after outrage over plans for ‘immunity cards’

Reuters is reporting that authorities in the Spanish capital Madrid backtracked on Wednesday over a highly-criticised plan to give an “immunity card” to people testing positive for coronavirus so they can enjoy higher-risk areas like gyms, bars and museums.

Politicians, rights groups and epidemiologists condemned the project, announced by regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso, as potentially discriminatory and medically unsound.

But after a weekly cabinet meeting of the Madrid authority, her deputy, Ignacio Aguado, told a news conference that the controversial cards would not in fact be issued.

“This would be a registry of organised, updated information, only to be consulted by the health services so that they can take epidemiological decisions,” he said of the modified plans.

Ayuso, who unveiled the programme on Tuesday as a way of letting non-infectious people lead more normal lives while keeping vulnerable people under stricter measures, was not immediately available for comment.

Madrid moved to make mask-wearing obligatory at all times in public as Spain grappled with the fallout from a surge in virus cases that has triggered several international travel warnings.
Madrid moved to make mask-wearing obligatory at all times in public as Spain grappled with the fallout from a surge in virus cases that has triggered several international travel warnings.
Photograph: Óscar del Pozo/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 6.28pm BST

4.25pm BST

The US attorney general William Barr will be tested for Covid-19, after coming in close contact with Texas Republican congressman Louie Gohmert on Tuesday when Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee, a Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters.

Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec added that Barr already faces routine testing for Covid-19 at the White House.

Updated at 4.27pm BST

4.06pm BST

Berlin’s Tegel airport began large-scale coronavirus testing on Wednesday, as airports across Germany prepared for the advent of free, compulsory testing for many passengers from next week.

Two rooms were set aside for tests, but an airport spokeswoman said a larger space was being prepared, indicating that authorities are preparing for testing to remain a fixture for a long time to come.

“These rooms are of course a bit small, as you can see,” said spokeswoman Sabine Deckwerth. “That is why the large Terminal D in Tegel is being prepared to host a bigger one.”

A newly-arrived passenger uses a mobile phone to register to be tested for coronavirus at Tegel (TXL) airport in Berlin, Germany.
A newly arrived passenger uses a mobile phone to register to be tested for coronavirus at Tegel (TXL) airport in Berlin, Germany.
Photograph: Adam Berry/Getty Images

An increase in the number of infections across Europe has dashed the hopes of airlines and tourist destinations such as Spain for a relatively quick return to mass tourism after months of lockdown.

Airports such as Frankfurt, Germany’s busiest, have been offering tests over the previous weeks, but now preparations are gearing up across the country for the testing of passengers arriving from countries deemed high risk that is due to begin next week.

On Tuesday, Germany’s top public health official scolded the public for their lack of discipline in adhering to social distancing practices and wearing masks that can slow the spread of the highly contagious disease in the absence of a vaccine.

The number of daily new cases almost doubled on Tuesday to 633, with 684 added on Wednesday, giving a total of around 207,000 with just over 9,100 deaths.

Earlier on Wednesday, research minister Anja Karliczek warned the public not to expect a vaccine that could be deployed on a broad scale before the middle of next year.

Updated at 4.30pm BST

4.03pm BST

Florida reported a record increase in new Covid-19 deaths for a second day in a row on Wednesday, with 217 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to the state health department.

The state also reported 9,446 new cases, bringing its total infections to over 451,000, the second highest in the country behind California. Florida’s total death toll rose to 6,457, the eighth highest in the nation, according to a Reuters tally.

People are seen dining on Ocean Drive as Miami Dade County is mandating a daily 8pm to 6am curfew, as well as Florida reporting more than 9,243 new Covid-19 cases Tuesday and 191 deaths Florida’s Covid-19 numbers surge.
People dining on Ocean Drive as Miami Dade County mandates a daily 8pm to 6am curfew, as well as Florida reporting more than 9,243 new Covid-19 cases Tuesday and 191 deaths Florida’s Covid-19 numbers surge.
Photograph: Larry Marano/REX/Shutterstock

Updated at 4.09pm BST

3.44pm BST

Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, has ordered bars and pubs to shut and banned large gatherings from midnight because of a Covid-19 outbreak in the city of Danang, the head of the city’s administration said.

In a statement on the city’s website, Nguyen Duc Chung, Hanoi’s chairman, said in a statement on the city’s website.

We have to act now and act fast. All large gatherings will be banned until further notice..

Over 21,000 people returned to Hanoi from Danang will be closely monitored and will undergo rapid testing.

3.15pm BST

The EU is to reimpose travel restrictions on Algeria, diplomats said today, after a resurgence of coronavirus in the north African state, AFP reports.

Governments have restricted inbound travel from outside the EU in order to slow the spread of the epidemic, but on 1 July began reopening their borders to travellers from certain areas.

The bloc is expected to announce tomorrow that Algeria is being removed from a list of non-EU countries deemed to have the virus under relative control, a number of diplomats told AFP.

Though the final decision on who to admit rests with national governments, the move effectively bans travel from Algeria to the EU.

An EU diplomat said that Algeria’s neighbour Morocco would stay on the safe list but would be kept under close watch.

Algeria has seen a rise in coronavirus cases, with 675 infections – a daily record for the country – recorded on Friday.

The EU’s safe list – which is reviewed every two weeks – also includes Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The travel list is not binding on member states, and some – such as Hungary – have imposed tighter measures of their own.

3.07pm BST

This picture is a true sign of the times – France’s new 43-member cabinet posing for its official photograph in socially distanced fashion on the Elysee Palace’s lawn.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, centrE in the second row, and French Prime Minister Jean Castex, on the left of Macron, pose for a family photo with new Cabinet members after the last weekly cabinet meeting before summer holidays in Paris.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, centrE in the second row, and French Prime Minister Jean Castex, on the left of Macron, pose for a family photo with new Cabinet members after the last weekly cabinet meeting before summer holidays in Paris.
Photograph: Kamil Zihnioglu/AP

2.58pm BST

A government minister in Bosnia has died after contracting Covid-19, state television channel BHRT reported (via AFP).

Salko Bukvarevic, 53, held the cabinet post of minister for veterans’ affairs in Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat entity, one of the country’s two main administrative regions.

He had been hospitalised for health complications from the virus and was placed Monday on assisted ventilation, Sarajevo University clinic told BHRT.

The Balkan country of 3.5 million has reported around 11,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 300 fatalities.

It has faced a rampant resurgence of infections, with nearly 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, among the highest infection rates in Europe, the World Health Organization warned last week.

Fadil Novalic, 61, the prime minister of Bosnia’s Muslim-Croat federation, also suffered from an infection but has recovered and was released from the hospital last weekend.

2.45pm BST

The European Union’s executive said on Wednesday it had agreed to buy a limited supply of the Covid-19 medicine remdesivir from US drugmaker Gilead to address the short-term needs of European patients, and hoped to be able to order more later.

The anti-viral is the only drug so far authorised in the EU to treat patients with severe symptoms of Covid-19, but nearly all available supplies have already been bought by the United States.

The EU Commission has agreed to pay 63 million euros ( million) to buy enough doses to treat about 30,000 patients, it said in a statement.

The United States signed a deal with Gilead in June for more than 500,000 courses of treatment, which accounts for most of the company’s output through September.

The price paid by the EU appears to be in line with exchange rates at the end of June when Gilead set a ,340 price per patient for wealthier nations, although most patients in the United States are being charged a higher rate.

“This agreement is consistent with the previously announced pricing,” Gilead said in a statement.

The Commission said this batch would address “just immediate needs”, and that it was already working to secure new doses from October.

Most European countries have passed the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic but a rise in infections in recent days has pushed countries to reintroduce restrictions.

While the number of hospitalisations is on the rise in Europe, they remain far below the height of the outbreak in March and April, when many hospitals were overwhelmed.

2.13pm BST

Italy was the first European nation to be engulfed by coronavirus, but as the prospect of another lockdown looms in some of its neighbours, the country has managed to avoid a resurgence of infections. At least so far.

Three experts who spoke to the Guardian put this down to good surveillance and contact-tracing, as well as most of the population diligently following safety rules, with many people wearing face masks outside even though it is not mandatory.

“We have been particularly attentive,” Walter Ricciardi, an adviser to the Italian health ministry on the coronavirus outbreak, said.

We didn’t reopen schools, as they did in France … we’ve been attentive towards contact-tracing and managed to maintain a good chain of command and coordination to limit cluster outbreaks.

Italians take their health very seriously. If you look at the international data for mask wearers, 90% of people in Italy wear one, among the highest in the world, and this helps. We are reacting well because we are behaving well. So for now, we are succeeding, but the most important thing is to continue to pay close attention, especially to imported cases.

Get the full story here:

1.33pm BST

A plane carrying 129 Vietnamese nationals diagnosed with Covid-19 arrived in their homeland from Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday, with the patients immediately transferred to a hospital for treatment, the government said.

The patients, who were accompanied by a team of four doctors and nurses, were in stable condition after the 12-hour journey from Bata, the capital of the Central African country.

On a video aired by national broadcaster VTV, the patients, all in blue protective gear, are seen chanting Thank you Vietnam for bringing us home while the flight crew waves Vietnamese flags as they walk down from the plane to the tarmac at Hanoi’s airport.

A health worker disinfects arriving Vietnamese patients at the national hospital of tropical diseases in Hanoi, Vietnam. The 129 patients who were working in Equatorial Guinea were brought home in a repatriation flight for treatment for the coronavirus.
A health worker disinfects arriving Vietnamese patients at the national hospital of tropical diseases in Hanoi, Vietnam. The 129 patients who were working in Equatorial Guinea were brought home in a repatriation flight for treatment for the coronavirus.
Photograph: Bui Cuong Quyet/AP

The patients, who were serving as construction workers in Equatorial Guinea, were taken to a hospital for treatment, along with 100 other passengers and the flight crew, who will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Prior to the patients’ arrival, the hospital had cleared out its facility of 500 beds to treat the new cases, VTV said.

“We have moved all non-Covid-19 patients being treated at the hospital to other branches to avoid the risk of cross infections,” said the hospital director, Dr Pham Ngoc Thach.

1.11pm BST

France has extended its Covid-19 furlough scheme for workers in the hard-hit tourism sector. The scheme, known as “partial unemployment” was introduced during the strict two month lockdown to help companies hit by a drop or halt in business because of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the government announced the scheme would be extended for those in the hotel, restaurant, travel, and events sector, but gave no further details.

“Partial unemployment will continue under the same rules until September. It will be extended until December and we could see the rules adapted to how the particular sector is doing,” the tourism junior minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne announced, adding:

What is clear is that professionals working in tourism need long-term support. For some of them it will be a lost year. We will continue to support them.

We will see in September, but in principle it will continue until December.

Lemoyne said the government had put 18 million euros on the table in “support and investments” for the tourism sector. Tourism represents 8% of France’s GDP and employs around two million people.

France recorded 15 new deaths in hospitals from Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 30,223 since the start of the pandemic. There were 725 new cases confirmed in France, a lower increase than the 1,000 new cases per day at the end of last week. The current rate of positive tests is 1.4% and 135 clusters are being investigated.

The French prime minister Jean Castex and junior minister for tourism and francophonie Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, wearing face masks as they leave the last weekly cabinet meeting before summer vacation break, at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
The French prime minister Jean Castex and junior minister for tourism and francophonie Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, wearing face masks as they leave the last weekly cabinet meeting before summer vacation break, at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Photograph: Benoît Tessier/Reuters

1.07pm BST

Health experts, citizens’ rights groups and lawmakers lined up on Wednesday to criticise plans by Madrid authorities to give immunity passports to people who test positive for coronavirus antibodies, Reuters reports.

Dubbed ‘Covid cards’ by the regional government leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso, who wants to introduce them as a pilot project in September, they would identify holders as coronavirus-free, granting them access to high-risk infection zones including gyms, museums and bars.

“The key is letting people who are not infectious continue to live a normal life and focusing the precautions on the vulnerable,” Ayuso said on Tuesday.

We are asking for the card to be studied so we can identify who cannot infect or be infected right now.

Face masks will be mandatory in all public spaces in Madrid, including sidewalks and cafes, even when social distancing measures can be respected, from 30 July.
Face masks will be mandatory in all public spaces in Madrid, including sidewalks and cafes, even when social distancing measures can be respected, from 30 July.
Photograph: Jorge Sanz/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

However, at a time when countries are struggling to strike a balance between fighting the virus and respecting civil liberties, experts have questioned the scientific validity of such a system and say it could infringe on privacy rights.

“A positive Covid-19 antibody result does not necessarily mean you have ‘functional’ antibodies that will protect you from another infection,” Liverpool University epidemiologist Raquel Medialdea tweeted.

The World Health Organisation has discouraged the use of immunity passports on those grounds, and a large Spanish study into immunity showed 14% of participants with antibodies had lost them when tested again three months later.

The country has been gripped by a surge in new infections with 13,116 diagnosed in the last seven days, prompting some other regions to re-introduce curbs on movement and gatherings, and the UK government to impose a quarantine on returnees from Spain.

Madrid, which bore the brunt of the virus’s early April peak but has since managed to keep a lid on new infections, is the first Spanish region to consider a card system.

Ruben Sanchez, a spokesman for the FACUA consumer-rights group called the idea “ridiculous”, saying it would violate data-protection laws by obliging the bearer to hand over sensitive medical information.

Iñigo Errejon, leader of the left-wing Mas Madrid party, said Ayuso had failed to hire sufficient virus trackers and been slow to introduce mandatory mask use. He also criticised the card scheme, whose name Rocio Monasterio, a lawmaker with the far-right Vox party, said called to mind post-war ration books.

There was some support for Ayuso amid all the criticism. “An attempt at tracking and controlling the virus doesn’t seem bad to me,” Alberto Nunez Feijoo, head of the northern Galicia region, told RNE radio.

12.51pm BST

Vietnam late on Wednesday confirmed four new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 450, with no deaths.

The new cases include one in Hanoi, who had recently returned from Danang, where the Southeast Asian country last week detected its first locally transmitted infections in more than three months, the ministry of health said.

The other three cases include one from the Central Highlands and two in Ho Chi Minh City.

In a rare rescue flight, Vietnam repatriated 140 construction workers infected with Covid-19 from Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday, a state medical official told Reuters. The workers will be treated at a hospital outside Hanoi, the official said.

Vietnam’s health ministry has not yet added those cases to its coronavirus tally.

Women wearing face masks ride past a shop in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Women wearing face masks ride past a shop in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Photograph: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

12.31pm BST

The Covid-19 pandemic is unfolding in “one big wave” with no evidence that it follows seasonal variations common to influenza and other coronaviruses, such as the common cold, the World Health Organization has warned.

Amid continued debates over what constitutes a second wave, a resurgence or seasonal return of the disease, Margaret Harris, a WHO spokesperson, insisted these discussions are not a helpful way to understand the spread of the disease.

The reality is that the issue of second waves has been a contentious one, much talked about by politicians – including the UK’s prime minister Boris Johnsonand the media, but often very ill-defined.

With no agreed-upon scientific definition, the term “second wave” has been used to mean anything from localised spikes in infection to full-blown national crises, leading some experts to avoid it.

“‘Second wave’ isn’t a term that we would use [in epidemiology] at the current time, as the virus hasn’t gone away, it’s in our population, it has spread to 188 countries so far, and what we are seeing now is essentially localised spikes or a localised return of a large number of cases,” said Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh.

As Melissa Hawkins, a professor of health at American University, wrote in the Conversation, looking at the US situation, talking about second waves in countries where the disease has simply progressed unevenly is inappropriate.

“The US as a whole is not in a second wave because the first wave never really stopped. The virus is simply spreading into new populations or resurging in places that let down their guard too soon,” she wrote, a comment applicable to other countries that have seen resurgences.

More on this story here:

Updated at 12.49pm BST

12.05pm BST

Pilgrims, donning face masks and moving in small groups after days in isolation, began arriving to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca on Wednesday for the start of a historically unique and scaled-down hajj experience reshaped by the pandemic, the Associated Press reports.

Rather than standing and praying shoulder-to-shoulder in a sea of people, pilgrims are social distancing, standing apart and moving in small groups of 20 to limit exposure and the potential transmission of the coronavirus.

In this photo released by the Saudi Media Ministry, a limited numbers of pilgrims move several feet apart, circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in the first rituals of the hajj, as they keep social distancing.
In this photo released by the Saudi media ministry, a limited numbers of pilgrims move several feet apart, circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in the first rituals of the hajj.
Photograph: Ministry of Media/AP

Pilgrims are eating prepackaged meals alone in their hotel rooms and praying at a distance from one another. The Saudi government is covering all the pilgrims’ expenses of travel, accommodation, meals and healthcare.

While the experience is starkly different, it remains an opportunity for pilgrims to wipe clean past sins and deepen their faith.

Ammar Khaled, a 29-year-old Indian pilgrim who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, said although he’s alone on the hajj he’s praying for those he loves.

Words aren’t enough to explain how blessed I feel and how amazing the arrangements have been. They have taken every possible precaution.

Pilgrims circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in the first rituals of the hajj.
Pilgrims circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in the first rituals of the hajj.
Photograph: Ministry of Media/AP

For the first time in Saudi history, the government barred Muslims from abroad from entering to perform the hajj in order to limit exposure of the coronavirus.

Instead, anywhere between 1,000 to 10,000 people already residing in Saudi Arabia were selected to take part in the hajj. The government has not released a final figure, except to say that two-thirds are foreign residents from among the 160 different nationalities that would have normally been represented at the hajj. One-third are Saudi security personnel and medical staff.

A pilgrim receiving bottled water at the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca, at the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage.
A pilgrim receiving bottled water at the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca, at the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Those chosen for hajj this year were selected after applying through an online portal, and required to be between the ages of 20 and 50, with no terminal illnesses and showing no symptoms of the virus. Preference was given to those who have not performed the hajj before.

Mask-clad pilgrims began the annual hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage.
Mask-clad pilgrims began the annual hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Pilgrims were tested for the coronavirus, given wristbands that connect to their phones and monitor their movement and were required to quarantine at home and in their hotel rooms in Mecca ahead of Wednesday’s start of the hajj. They will also be required to quarantine for a week after the hajj concludes on Sunday.

Mecca was sealed off for months ahead of the hajj, and the smaller year-round Umrah pilgrimage was suspended.

International media were not permitted to cover this year’s hajj from Mecca. Instead, Saudi government broadcast live footage from the Grand Mosque on Wednesday showing limited numbers of pilgrims, moving several feet apart, circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in the first rituals of the hajj.

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.
The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

This year, pilgrims will only be able to drink water from this Zamzam well that is packaged in plastic bottles. Pebbles for casting away evil that are usually picked up by pilgrims along hajj routes will be sterilised and bagged ahead of time.

Pilgrims have also been given their own prayer rugs and special attire to wear during the hajj laced with silver nano technology that Saudi authorities say helps kill bacteria and makes clothes water resistant. They were also provided with umbrellas to shield them from the sun, towels, soaps, sanitisers and other essentials, as well as online sessions in different language about what to expect on the hajj and the regulations in place.

Hundreds of Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba in a socially distanced way.
Hundreds of Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba in a socially distanced way.
Photograph: AP

Updated at 12.50pm BST

11.44am BST

Vietnam, virus-free for months, was bracing for another wave of Covid-19 infections on Wednesday after state media reported new cases in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the Central Highlands linked to a recent outbreak in the central city of Danang.

The prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the current wave of infections was different to the second wave Vietnam fought in March and every province and city in the Southeast Asian country was at risk, state broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV) reported.

Thanks to a centralised quarantine programme and an aggressive contact-tracing system, Vietnam had managed to keep its coronavirus tally to just 446 cases, despite sharing a border with China.

With over 95 million people, Vietnam is the most populous country in the world to have recorded no deaths from the virus, and until now no locally transmitted infections had been reported for months.

That record is now under threat following an outbreak last weekend in Danang, where tens of thousands of domestic tourists were vacationing thanks to discounted travel deals.

A worker sprays disinfectant next to a restaurant where a worker tested positive with Covid-19 after travel from Da Nang, in Hanoi, Vietnam.
A worker sprays disinfectant next to a restaurant where a worker tested positive with Covid-19 after travel from Da Nang, in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Photograph: Luong Thai Linh/EPA

The government on Tuesday suspended all flights to and from Danang for 15 days. At least 30 cases of the coronavirus have been detected in or around the city.

About 18,000 tourists who had been in Danang have returned to the southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City, authorities said on Tuesday.

Hanoi authorities had earlier said they were expecting 15,000 to 20,000 to return from Danang.

Phuc said tourist hubs throughout the country had to step up vigilance, and that Danang must go under “strict lockdown”, VTV said.

In Hanoi, a worker at a pizza restaurant who had recently returned from Danang had tested positive for the coronavirus and authorities had closed the business for disinfection, state media reported.

Updated at 11.48am BST

11.13am BST

US deaths from Covid-19 are approaching 150,000, the highest level in the world and rising by 10,000 in 11 days, according to a Reuters tally.

This is the fastest increase in fatalities since the United States went from 100,000 cases to 110,000 cases in 11 days in early June, according to the tally.

Nationally, Covid-19 deaths have risen for three weeks in a row while the number of new cases week-over-week recently fell for the first time since June.

Medical staff treat a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations have surged since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.
Medical staff treat a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations have surged since Texas reopened, pushing intensive-care units to full capacity and sparking concerns about a surge in fatalities as the virus spreads.
Photograph: Go Nakamura/Getty Images

A rise in infections in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas this month has overwhelmed hospitals. The rise has forced states to make a U-turn on reopening economies that were restricted by lockdowns in March and April to slow the spread of the virus.

Texas has recorded the most fatalities, with nearly 4,000 deaths so far this month, followed by Florida with 2,690 and California, the most populous state, with 2,500. The Texas figure includes a backlog of hundreds of deaths after the state changed the way it counted Covid-19 deaths.

While deaths have rapidly risen in July in these three states, New York and New Jersey have still recorded the most total lives lost and deaths per capita, according to a Reuters tally.

Of the 20 countries with the biggest outbreak, the United States ranks sixth for deaths per capita, at 4.5 fatalities per 10,000 people. It is exceeded by the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Peru and Chile.

Updated at 11.14am BST

11.02am BST

Summary

Here’s a round-up of the latest developments:

  • Hong Kong outbreak ‘overwhelming’ medical system says Carrie Lam. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has sounded an alarming warning over the city’s health system. With the new wave of mostly locally transmitted infections, Hong Kong was “on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly”, she said. A statement on Monday from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Beijing’s senior presence in the city, said Hong Kong’s testing capacity could no longer meet demand, and “its medical system and quarantine facilities are being overwhelmed”.
  • That led to reports from the public broadcaster RTHK that planned elections could be postponed for a year. Such a move would represent a significant blow to Hong Kong’s opposition pro-democracy camp, which is aiming to win a historic majority.
  • Muslim pilgrims have begun the annual hajj in the holy city of Mecca in a dramatically downsized version as the hosts, Saudi Arabia, try to prevent any outbreaks of coronavirus during the five-day pilgrimage.
  • Hong Kong’s strictest anti-virus measures yet came into force today, as the city recorded its seventh consecutive day with case numbers in the triple figures, and the government faced backlash over its extensive quarantine exemptions.The exemptions have been blamed at least in part for the current outbreak, the worst that Hong Kong has seen during the pandemic and which health authorities are warning is posing an extraordinary risk.
  • The British government signed a deal for 60m doses of a potential vaccine. If it proves successful, the UK could begin to vaccinate priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased risk from coronavirus, as early as the first half of next year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy claimed.
  • China reported 101 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 28 July, the highest in over three and a half months, the health commission said on Wednesday. China has moved quickly to stamp out eruptions by contact tracing and re-shuttering the affected areas. Recently, many of the new infections have come from the far western region of Xinjiang, where 89 have been tallied for 28 July. One was recorded in Beijing, while three were imported cases, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.
  • Florida reported record one-day deaths as concerns grow for other states. Florida reported another record one-day rise in coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark, fueling fear that the United States is still not taking control of the outbreak and adding pressure on Congress to pass another massive economic aid package.
  • Victoria, Australia recorded 295 new cases of coronavirus and nine more deaths. The state has recorded 295 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24-hours, down 89 from yesterday’s figure of 384, which in turn was 150 fewer than were recorded in the record high numbers on Monday.Nine people have died, which is close to the national record ten deaths reported in the state last week.
  • New Zealand has recorded two new cases of Covid-19, both diagnosed in returning travellers to the country who are quarantined in managed isolation facilities. That’s the case for all of New Zealand’s 23 active cases of the coronavirus – there is no known community transmission.
  • New Zealand’s government announced it will start charging some travellers for the cost of their two-week stay in quarantine. But the fees – which have proved controversial here – won’t apply to returning New Zealanders, unless they left the country after the new rules are imposed, or are only visiting for a short stay.
  • New Zealand has recorded two new cases of Covid-19, both diagnosed in returning travellers to the country who are quarantined in managed isolation facilities. That’s the case for all of New Zealand’s 23 active cases of the coronavirus – there is no known community transmission.
  • New Zealand’s national airline, Air New Zealand, has frozen all new ticket bookings to Australia until 28 August. In a statement, the airline said the hold was due to Australian government restrictions on the number of passengers arriving in the country. Qantas, Australia’s national carrier, is not taking new trans-Tasman bookings until the end of October.
  • The WHO says Covid-19 pandemic is “one big wave”, not seasonal. It warned against complacency in the northern hemisphere summer since the infection does not share influenza’s tendency to follow seasons.
  • Air travel is not expected to recover until 2024. Global air travel is recovering more slowly than expected and it will take until 2024 to return to pre-pandemic levels, the trade association for the airline industry has said.
  • Italy extended its state of emergency until October. This means the prime minister will continue to have the power to impose a lockdown and other safety measures without needing the approval of parliament.
  • Over half people living in Mumbai slums have had Covid-19,according to a city-commissioned study. Blood tests on 6,936 randomly selected people found that 57% of slum-dwellers had virus antibodies.
  • Covid-19 infection rate higher among California Latinos. Latinos make up 39% of the population in the US state, but account for 56% of Covid-19 infections and 46% of deaths, prompting new outreach and data collection efforts as cases surge.
  • Spain insisted it was still a safe destination for tourists despite tackling 361 active outbreaks and more than 4,000 new cases. Several countries have nonetheless imposed quarantines on people returning from Spain, including its biggest tourist market, Britain.
  • An urgent track and trace operation is under way in Berlin after a couple tested positive for coronavirus after returning from Manchester. Fifty people who have had contact with the couple since their return are in quarantine, of whom 13 have so far tested positive.

10.40am BST

Researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine, with more than 140 candidate vaccines now tracked by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Vaccines normally require years of testing and additional time to produce at scale, but scientists are hoping to develop a coronavirus vaccine within 12 to 18 months. My colleagues Niko Kommenda and Frank Hulley-Jones have put together this tracker:

10.02am BST

The Philippine health ministry has reported 1,874 new infections and 16 additional deaths. The ministry said total deaths have increased to 1,962 while confirmed cases have reached 85,486.

More businesses are to be allowed to reopen, including gyms and sports facilities, internet cafes and pet shops, Reuters reports. Wednesday marked the 15th successive day of 1,000 or more new cases, which has pushed many hospitals nearer their patient capacity.

9.57am BST

Back to Hong Kong, where authorities have reported 118 new cases, including 113 that were locally transmitted, as strict new measures including a restriction of gatherings to two people and a ban on restaurant dining, take effect.

The measures, which are the toughest introduced since the outbreak, are to last for at least one week as Lam warned the city is on the brink of a large-scale outbreak. The global financial hub reported 106 new cases on Tuesday. Since late January, about 3,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 24 of whom have died.

9.36am BST

Indonesia has reported 2,381 new infections on Wednesday, taking the total to 104,432, data from the country’s Covid-19 task force showed. The south-east Asian nation also reported 74 new deaths, taking total fatalities to 4,975.

Updated at 10.00am BST

9.35am BST

Here’s a little more detail on those comments by the French health minister Olivier Véran, who has urged the country not to drop its guard.

France reported 14 new deaths on Tuesday, a figure twice as high as the daily average increase of seven seen over the previous week. A total of 30,223 have now died in the country, health authorities have reported. Véran told LCI television:

We are not facing a second wave, the epidemic is continuing… Some people do not respect the rules. We must not let down our guard.

We do not want to resort to another lockdown, we are examining the situation on a case-by-case basis. The war is not over… People must understand that we are going to live with this virus for a fairly long time.

He was asked whether he would advise against going on holiday in the Brittany resort of Quiberon after a Covid-19 cluster was reported there last week and local authorities ordered a night curfew for beaches.

On Quiberon, there is a cluster of about 50 people. We are looking at the situation. It will depending on the spread of the virus. If we need to take other measures, we will take them.

The prefecture later said there were now 72 confirmed cases, mostly people aged between 18 and 25 years.

9.30am BST

Hong Kong elections could be delayed

Hong Kong’s government could postpone a vote for seats in the city’s legislature by a year amid fears of a resurgence in cases, the public broadcaster RTHK has reported. The move would represent a blow for the opposition pro-democracy camp, which is aiming to win a historic majority.

The election is planned for 6 September and comes amid widespread resentment of Beijing’s imposition of a new security law widely criticised by Western countries as eroding citizens’ rights.

The RTHK report cited unidentified sources and did not give any more details. The office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Reuters news agency.

9.05am BST

Russia has reported 5,475 new cases, pushing its national tally to 828,990; the fourth largest in the world. In the daily readout, officials said 169 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 13,673.

8.41am BST

The Kazakh president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has extended his country’s lockdown for two more weeks until mid-August and said the restrictions will then be eased gradually, according to a Reuters report.

8.40am BST

Australians had been slowly emerging from lockdowns since the federal government announced a three-stage plan in May to ease restrictions across the country, but from 8 July the Melbourne metropolitan area and Mitchell shire immediately to the north returned to a stage three lockdown for six weeks.

Here we try to answer some of the most common questions people have about the laws, based on the information current as of 28 July.

7.48am BST

The closure of borders between European countries must be avoided as much as possible, the French junior European affairs minister Clément Beaune has said. He told France Inter that, while political responses to the pandemic are always prone to change, responses such as European border closures “were to be avoided”.

His colleague, the country’s health minister, Olivier Véran, denied France was in a second wave, though he acknowledged its epidemic is not over. Véran said France wants to avoid another lockdown, but that the efforts to deal with Covd-19 continue.

Updated at 8.39am BST

7.20am BST

UK government signs vaccine deal

The British government has signed a deal with the pharmaceutical firms GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur for 60m doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine.

If the vaccine proves successful, the UK could begin to vaccinate priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased risk from coronavirus, as early as the first half of next year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said.

Human clinical studies of the vaccine will begin in September followed by a phase 3 study in December. Ministers have signed deals for four different types of potential vaccines and a total of 250m doses. The business secretary Alok Sharma said:

Our scientists and researchers are racing to find a safe and effective vaccine at a speed and scale never seen before. While this progress is truly remarkable, the fact remains that there are no guarantees.

In the meantime, it is important that we secure early access to a diverse range of promising vaccine candidates, like GSK and Sanofi, to increase our chances of finding one that works so we can protect the public and save lives.

Updated at 7.22am BST

7.15am BST

In the UK, household food waste has increased by nearly a third as lockdown restrictions have been eased and could spiral further, new research warns.

The government’s waste advisory body, Wrap, said self-reported food waste was up by 30%, reversing progress made at the start of the pandemic as consumers threw away less food while confined to their homes.

While concerns about going to the shops and running out of food motivated people to waste less in April, their resolve appears to be weakening as restrictions have lifted.

7.06am BST

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today – thanks for following along. My colleague Kevin Rawlinson will be taking you through the latest pandemic news for the next few hours.

If (can it be?) you have time for some non-coronavirus news, I highly recommend this beautiful feature on life after the bushfires by my colleagues at Guardian Australia:

6.51am BST

Italy was the first European nation to be engulfed by coronavirus, but as the prospect of another lockdown looms in some of its neighbours, the country has managed to avoid a resurgence of infections. At least so far.

Three experts who spoke to the Guardian put this down to good surveillance and contact-tracing, as well as most of the population diligently following safety rules, with many people wearing face masks outside even though it is not mandatory.

On 4 May, when Italy began easing lockdown restrictions, more than 1,200 new cases were reported in a day. Since 1 July, the daily increase has been relatively static, reaching a high of 306 on 23 July, and falling to 181 on Tuesday. Several coronavirus clusters have emerged across the country, but this has mostly been due to infections imported from abroad:

6.36am BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Hong Kong outbreak ‘overwhelming’ medical system says Carrie Lam. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has sounded an alarming warning over the city’s health system. With the new wave of mostly locally transmitted infections, Hong Kong was “on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly”, she said. A statement on Monday from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Beijing’s senior presence in the city, said Hong Kong’s testing capacity could no longer meet demand, and “its medical system and quarantine facilities are being overwhelmed”.
  • Muslim pilgrims have begun the annual hajj in the holy city of Mecca in a dramatically downsized version as the hosts, Saudi Arabia, try to prevent any outbreaks of coronavirus during the five-day pilgrimage.
  • Hong Kong’s strictest anti-virus measures yet came into force today, as the city recorded its seventh consecutive day with case numbers in the triple figures, and the government faced backlash over its extensive quarantine exemptions.The exemptions have been blamed at least in part for the current outbreak, the worst that Hong Kong has seen during the pandemic and which health authorities are warning is posing an extraordinary risk.
  • China reported 101 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 28 July, the highest in over three and a half months, the health commission said on Wednesday. China has moved quickly to stamp out eruptions by contact tracing and re-shuttering the affected areas. Recently, many of the new infections have come from the far western region of Xinjiang, where 89 have been tallied for 28 July. One was recorded in Beijing, while three were imported cases, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.
  • Florida reported record one-day deaths as concerns grow for other states. Florida reported another record one-day rise in coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark, fueling fear that the United States is still not taking control of the outbreak and adding pressure on Congress to pass another massive economic aid package.
  • Victoria, Australia recorded 295 new cases of coronavirus and nine more deaths. The state has recorded 295 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24-hours, down 89 from yesterday’s figure of 384, which in turn was 150 fewer than were recorded in the record high numbers on Monday.Nine people have died, which is close to the national record ten deaths reported in the state last week.
  • New Zealand has recorded two new cases of Covid-19, both diagnosed in returning travellers to the country who are quarantined in managed isolation facilities. That’s the case for all of New Zealand’s 23 active cases of the coronavirus – there is no known community transmission.
  • New Zealand’s government announced it will start charging some travellers for the cost of their two-week stay in quarantine. But the fees – which have proved controversial here – won’t apply to returning New Zealanders, unless they left the country after the new rules are imposed, or are only visiting for a short stay.
  • New Zealand has recorded two new cases of Covid-19, both diagnosed in returning travellers to the country who are quarantined in managed isolation facilities. That’s the case for all of New Zealand’s 23 active cases of the coronavirus – there is no known community transmission.
  • New Zealand’s national airline, Air New Zealand, has frozen all new ticket bookings to Australia until 28 August. In a statement, the airline said the hold was due to Australian government restrictions on the number of passengers arriving in the country. Qantas, Australia’s national carrier, is not taking new trans-Tasman bookings until the end of October.
  • The WHO says Covid-19 pandemic is “one big wave”, not seasonal. It warned against complacency in the northern hemisphere summer since the infection does not share influenza’s tendency to follow seasons.
  • Air travel is not expected to recover until 2024. Global air travel is recovering more slowly than expected and it will take until 2024 to return to pre-pandemic levels, the trade association for the airline industry has said.
  • Italy extended its state of emergency until October. This means the prime minister will continue to have the power to impose a lockdown and other safety measures without needing the approval of parliament.
  • Over half people living in Mumbai slums have had Covid-19,according to a city-commissioned study. Blood tests on 6,936 randomly selected people found that 57% of slum-dwellers had virus antibodies.
  • Covid-19 infection rate higher among California Latinos. Latinos make up 39% of the population in the US state, but account for 56% of Covid-19 infections and 46% of deaths, prompting new outreach and data collection efforts as cases surge.
  • Spain insisted it was still a safe destination for tourists despite tackling 361 active outbreaks and more than 4,000 new cases. Several countries have nonetheless imposed quarantines on people returning from Spain, including its biggest tourist market, Britain.
  • An urgent track and trace operation is under way in Berlin after a couple tested positive for coronavirus after returning from Manchester. Fifty people who have had contact with the couple since their return are in quarantine, of whom 13 have so far tested positive.

6.15am BST

Hong Kong outbreak ‘overwhelming’ medical system says Carrie Lam

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has sounded an alarming warning over the city’s health system.

With the new wave of mostly locally transmitted infections, Hong Kong was “on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly”, she said.

Data from the Hospital Authority showed that as of midday Tuesday the city’s isolation rooms were just above 80% capacity, and individual beds at around 79%.

Last week the South China Morning Post reported 65% of the 1,012 isolation beds and 77% of its 534 isolation wards in the city’s public hospitals were occupied.

As of yesterday there were 1,099 confirmed patients hospitalised in 15 public hospitals and a community isolation facility, the Hospital Authority said.

“Anti-epidemic measures have caused difficulties and inconvenience, but in order to protect our loved ones, our healthcare staff and Hong Kong, I appeal to you to follow strictly the social distancing measures and stay at home as far as possible,” said Lam.

Lam asked for community cooperation as the government began enforcing its strictest ever measures and sought to enhance testing – with the help of Beijing.

A statement on Monday from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Beijing’s senior presence in the city, said Hong Kong’s testing capacity could no longer meet demand, and “its medical system and quarantine facilities are being overwhelmed”.

The Hong Kong government had therefore requested assistance from the Central Government.

It did not detail what the assistance entailed, but did accuse “a small number of people” of going out of their way to “churn out absurd accusations or even slanders and smears that are based on political bias or driven by political manipulation”.

5.57am BST

Global report: downsized hajj pilgrimage begins amid Covid-19 restrictions

Muslim pilgrims have begun the annual hajj in the holy city of Mecca in a dramatically downsized version as the hosts, Saudi Arabia, try to prevent any outbreaks of coronavirus during the five-day pilgrimage.

The hajj, one of the five pillars or most important practices of Islam and an obligation for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings as around 2.5 million people descend on the city from all over the world.

But this year attendance is being limited to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom as the authorities seek to control Covid-19. The disease has already infected more than 270,000 people in Saudi Arabia, placing it in the top 20 worst-affected countries:

5.10am BST

More on Hong Kong:

On Tuesday the centre for health protection reported the 23rd death of a Hongkonger from Covid-19, an 85-year-old man. There were eight new imported cases and 94 new locally transmitted cases, with almost half having no known source of infection. Outbreaks in aged care homes continued to expand, and a new cluster also emerged at a contracting company, adding to fear that the outbreak was not being brought under control.

It’s a far cry from just weeks ago. While other events – namely the imposition of national security laws by Beijing and massive crackdowns on pro-democracy groups – have dramatically altered life in the city, the threat from Covid-19 was beginning to seem more distant. Bars and restaurants and even Disneyland had reopened. There was talk of a safe travel bubble between Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province.

Among the imported cases were three ship crew members. Crew from air and sea passenger and cargo vessels, as well as an estimated 10,000 cross-border truck drivers, business executives and other handpicked individuals, were among the hundreds of thousands of personnel exempted from mandatory quarantine on arrival in the city. The Washington Post reported today government data showed a quarter of a million people arrived in Hong Kong with a get-out-of-quarantine free card. The government has maintained the exemptions were necessary to ensure the continuation of trade and deliveries. However amid widespread criticism last week they were withdrawn or tightened.

Updated at 5.40am BST

4.55am BST

Strictest measures in Hong Kong so far begin

Hong Kong’s strictest anti-virus measures yet came into force today, as the city recorded its seventh consecutive day with case numbers in the triple figures, and the government faced backlash over its extensive quarantine exemptions.

The exemptions have been blamed at least in part for the current outbreak, the worst that Hong Kong has seen during the pandemic and which health authorities are warning is posing an extraordinary risk.

In the middle of sweltering Summer, residents of the densely populated region have been banned from eating out at restaurants, going to the beach, swimming pools, sporting grounds and bars, and from gathering in groups larger than two.

The measures are causing huge financial problems for already struggling eateries, and have sparked concerns for people, especially families, living in the city’s notoriously small apartments.

The Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trade had previously forecast losses of HKbn in the sector for July, but that was when dining-in was only banned after 6pm. Restaurant sales had dropped 31.2% year on year in the first quarter of 202, South China Morning Post reported.

4.35am BST

China Southern on Tuesday became the latest Chinese airline to offer ultra-cheap, all-you-can-fly deals aimed at reigniting air travel following coronavirus lockdowns, AFP reports.

At least eight Chinese carriers have so far launched similar schemes which they hope will boost the ailing domestic aviation sector in the world’s second-largest economy.

Lucky Air, which unveiled offers for unlimited domestic flights on July 13, announced two days later that it had hit capacity for monthly and seasonal passes for individuals.

The deals, valid for anything between a month and a year, start at 1,588 yuan (7) for unlimited flights over 31 days per person. Lucky Air said it has plans to sell more of such packages in the future. Southern’s all-you-can-fly deal costs 3,699 yuan (8) and can be used until next January.

China’s economy has been recovering gradually since the coronavirus outbreak, and last Friday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said daily flights had returned to about 80 percent of pre-virus levels.

The country’s aviation industry lost 34.25 billion yuan (.89 billion) in the second quarter this year, the CAAC said this month, after Beijing took drastic moves to curb the spread of the coronavirus that first surfaced in the central Wuhan city.

4.15am BST

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 684 to 206,926, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.

The reported death toll rose by six to 9,128, the tally showed.

4.06am BST

In Australia, here is the full story on the women who returned to Queensland from Victoria without self-isolating and have now tested positive to coronavirus:

3.39am BST

The full story now on Donald Trump praising as “spectacular” a doctor who wrongly dismissed the use of face masks to combat the coronavirus as well as reportedly claiming that alien DNA is used in medical treatments and some gynecological problems are caused by people dreaming about having sex with demons.

A group of lab coat-wearing doctors posted an online video on Monday to make a string of inaccurate assertions about the coronavirus that contradicted official government guidelines. Among them was a woman who identified herself as Dr Stella Immanuel and said: “You don’t need masks. There is a cure.”

The US president tweeted a version of the video, which rapidly gained tens of thousands of views on Facebook and YouTube before both companies took it down for containing false public health information. The president’s son Donald Trump Jr had his Twitter account restricted by the company for 12 hours after calling the video a “must watch”.

Updated at 3.39am BST

3.17am BST

New Zealand reports two coronavirus cases, both in travellers in quarantine

Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian:

New Zealand has recorded two new cases of Covid-19, both diagnosed in returning travellers to the country who are quarantined in managed isolation facilities. That’s the case for all of New Zealand’s 23 active cases of the coronavirus – there is no known community transmission.

The latest two cases were arrivals from Afghanistan and the Philippines. Only New Zealanders, their families, and certain essential workers are allowed to enter the country, and they must spend two weeks in quarantine at designated hotels.

New Zealand’s government just announced a quarantine charge this afternoon for some of those returning — those planning to return for less than 90 days, or who leave the country and return after the new fees are imposed.

There have been 1,209 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand and 22 deaths.

3.09am BST

Active cases in the Victorian aged care sector top 800

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said there were now 804 cases connected to the aged care sector, both staff and residents, and 502 cases among healthcare workers.

There are 4,849 active cases of Covid-19 now, 9,304 in total since 1 January, and 195 of the active cases are in regional areas.

Andrews said further regional health teams have been stood up to respond to the regional cases and conduct contact tracing.

3.07am BST

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says there have been 29 instances of Australian Defence Force personnel knocking on doors to check on people who have been ordered to self-isolate at home where the people have not been there.

Updated at 3.09am BST

3.03am BST

Victoria records 295 new cases of coronavirus and nine more deaths

The Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is speaking now and says the state has recorded 295 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24-hours, down 89 from yesterday’s figure of 384, which in turn was 150 fewer than were recorded in the record high numbers on Monday.

Nine people have died, which is close to the national record ten deaths reported in the state last week.

The people who died were aged in their sixties to their 90s, and seven of the nine are connected to aged care.

There are now 307 Victorians in hospital, 41 in intensive care.

2.52am BST

China reports 101 cases, highest since mid-April

China reported 101 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 28 July, the highest in over three and a half months, the health commission said on Wednesday.

China has moved quickly to stamp out eruptions by contact tracing and re-shuttering the affected areas.

Recently, many of the new infections have come from the far western region of Xinjiang, where 89 have been tallied for 28 July. One was recorded in Beijing, while three were imported cases, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.

Worker measures the body temperature of a woman at the entrance to a residential compound in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China on 28 July 2020.
Worker measures the body temperature of a woman at the entrance to a residential compound in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China on 28 July 2020.
Photograph: Reuters

China also reported 27 new asymptomatic patients for 28 July, down from 34 a day earlier.

As of Tuesday, mainland China had 84,060 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 death toll remained at 4,634.

2.43am BST

Under the coronavirus recovery plan announced in late April, the federal government was hoping that Australia would be largely opened up by July.

The outbreak in Melbourne changed that.

Morrison said he can’t now guess when Australia might be in the position to fully open up again, but said he is “encouraged” by what he has seen in NSW tracking and tracing the outbreak there.

Basically, he is encouraged by every state and territory except Victoria.

I think once we get a better read on where these numbers are in Victoria and hopefully we will see better numbers from Victoria today, but we do not know.

2.39am BST

Still in Australia, two “reckless” teens who dodged quarantine after returning to the state of Queensland from Melbourne infected with coronavirus are being investigated by police for allegedly lying on their border declaration form, AAP reports.

The 19-year-old women, who flew back from Melbourne via Sydney on 21 July after travelling together, were active in the community for eight days before isolating.

Queensland shopping centres, restaurants, a school, and a church will shut while authorities scramble to conduct contact tracing.

Scores of the women’s contacts will be forced to isolate, and aged care facilities in the Metro South Health region will re-enter lock down as the state tries to avoid an outbreak.

“We need people to tell the truth. That’s all I can say. This has been done to protect yourself as an individual, your family and the community,” Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young told reporters on Wednesday.

“I’m very, very disappointed. I think it was reckless.”

“They’ve been out and about for eight days with symptoms.”

The pair, from Acacia Ridge and Logan, are being treated in the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Authorities are urging anyone on the south side of Brisbane with symptoms to be tested immediately.

2.32am BST

The Australian state of Queensland has announced that it is closing its border to Greater Sydney from 1am on Saturday, Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Twitter a short time ago:

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian is addressing the media and said she was given no prior notice of the border closure.

2.21am BST

The Australian state of New South Wales has recorded 19 new coronavirus cases overnight, two of which are among people staying in hotel quarantine. This is around average for the last fortnight.

2.15am BST

Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, says there are outbreaks in 77 of the 465 residential aged care facilities in Melbourne. That is 17% of the facilities.

To date, 49 people in aged care in Victoria have died after testing positive to Covid-19.

He says that given how widespread community transmission has been in Melbourne, “that in some respects shows just how well the others have done”.

Murphy said most of the 77 facilities only have “one or two small cases” and have been met with a “swift and prompt” public health response.

Updated at 2.17am BST

2.11am BST

New Zealand to start charging some travellers for hotel quarantine

Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian:

New Zealand’s government has announced it will start charging some travellers for the cost of their two-week stay in quarantine. But the fees – which have proved controversial here – won’t apply to returning New Zealanders, unless they left the country after the new rules are imposed, or are only visiting for a short stay.

Megan Woods, the minister of housing, is announcing the change at a news conference that’s starting now in Wellington.

Woods intends to introduce laws to parliament next week that would charge only New Zealanders who plan to enter the country temporarily — for less than 90 days — or those who chose to leave and return after the law passes. Temporary visa holders would also have to pay.

Quarantine will cost ,100 NZ per person in a room, 0 for each additional adult and 5 for each additional child sharing the room.

The government has been considering the change for weeks and had initially floated the idea of charging all arrivals to New Zealand – a move supported by the opposition – but have walked that back.

Only New Zealanders, their families, and certain temporary visa holders are permitted to enter New Zealand, and must spend two weeks in quarantine at government-managed hotels.

Updated at 6.33am BST

1.56am BST

Australia facing “sustained community transmission” says Prime Minister

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the country is now experiencing the same issues as every other country that has had “sustained community transmission,” as there is now in Victoria:

Where there is sustained community transmission, it is inevitable that this will find its way into aged care facilities. When it rains, everyone gets wet.

And that is what we’re seeing with broad-based community transmission in Victoria. As the [Victorian premier Daniel Andrews] rightly said, if you are ill, do not go to work. That is true if you work in a meat processing plant, it is true if you work in a chemist shop, it is true if you work in a restaurant, it is true if you’re a journalist, a politician, whoever you may be, an aged care worker especially.

1.55am BST

Speaking in Canberra about the aged care situation in Victoria, Australian Prime minister Scott Morrison has called the outbreak in aged care homes in Victoria “very distressing”. Almost 20% of aged care facilities in Victoria are affected by Covid-19 as the crisis deepens.

Morrison said:

The situation that we have been facing, particularly in recent days and weeks in Victoria for aged care has been very distressing. It is very distressing first and foremost to the families of those who have loved ones in aged care facilities.

Many years ago it was quite different, but these days, particularly with the in-home aged care options, more Australians are choosing to remain at home. But those who have moved into aged care facilities are often moved in at a much more advanced stage and all of us who have had to make those decisions in relation to loved ones understood that and so I think that attaches to it a particular sensitivity in the challenges we’re now facing.

1.39am BST

Back to the subject of vaccines, Pfizer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has said that other developed countries would not be able to pay less for its vaccine than the United States, Reuters reports.

The US government agreed to pay nearly bn to buy enough of a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech SE to inoculate 50 million people at a price of for a two-dose treatment course.

A man walks past a sign outside Pfizer HQ in New York.
A man walks past a sign outside Pfizer HQ in New York.
Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

But Pfizer boss Albert Bourla said on a conference call on Tuesday night: “All the countries that are developed right now will not receive a lower price for the same volume commitment than the US.”

Pfizer executives added said they expect people will need to receive continued vaccinations for a number of years to maintain herd immunity globally, either because immunity may diminish over time or the virus will mutate.

Updated at 1.41am BST

1.39am BST

Pilgrims quarantined in Mecca as Hajj begins

Pilgrims were quarantined Tuesday in the Muslim holy city of Mecca ahead of the dramatically downsized hajj as Saudi authorities strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage, AFP reports.

Up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in the annual ritual starting Wednesday, according to hajj officials, a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million international pilgrims that attended last year.

Those selected to take part in this year’s hajj were subject to temperature checks and placed in quarantine as they began trickling into Mecca at the weekend.

A woman wearing a mask stands on a ring delineating where worshippers be around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, due to the coronavirus pandemic at the almost empty Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, on 28 July 2020, ahead of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage.
A woman wearing a mask stands on a ring delineating where worshippers be around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, due to the coronavirus pandemic at the almost empty Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, on 28 July 2020, ahead of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

State media showed health workers sanitising their luggage, and some pilgrims reported being given electronic wristbands to allow authorities to monitor their whereabouts.

Workers, clutching brooms and disinfectant, were seen cleaning the area around the Kaaba, the structure at the centre of the Grand Mosque draped in gold-embroidered cloth towards which Muslims around the world pray.

Hajj authorities have cordoned the Kaaba this year, saying pilgrims will not be allowed to touch it, to limit the chances of infection.

They also reported setting up multiple health facilities, mobile clinics and ambulances to cater to the pilgrims, who will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing.

1.28am BST

Air New Zealand freezes ticket bookings to Australia until 28 August

Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian:

New Zealand’s national airline, Air New Zealand, has frozen all new ticket bookings to Australia until 28 August.

In a statement, the airline said the hold was due to Australian government restrictions on the number of passengers arriving in the country. The limits were introduced to alleviate pressure on quarantine facilities, and mean airports like Brisbane can only accept 70 passengers per day, while services bringing Australians back to Sydney are limited to as few as 30 travellers per flight.

International passenger arrivals into Melbourne are not permitted until 8 August.
Cam Wallace, a spokesman for the airline, said that while the Australian government restrictions are in place until 8 August, the airline is placing a longer freeze on future bookings to “help prevent disruptions” to travelers’ journeys should the restrictions be extended.

Air New Zealand’s current trans-Tasman flights are from Auckland to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, with flights to Melbourne only carrying cargo.

Qantas, Australia’s national carrier, is not taking new trans-Tasman bookings until the end of October.

Updated at 1.44am BST

1.25am BST

Moderna Inc is planning to price its coronavirus vaccine at US to per course higher than other vaccine makers have agreed to charge governments, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

The price would apply to the United States and other high-income countries, according to the report.

Moderna was not immediately available for comment.

You can see how close we are to a coronavirus vaccine with the Guardian’s tracker below:

1.07am BST

Florida reports record one-day deaths as concerns grow for other states

Florida reported another record one-day rise in coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark, fueling fear that the United States is still not taking control of the outbreak and adding pressure on Congress to pass another massive economic aid package.

Public health experts are becoming concerned about the levels of infection in states such as Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky, while the surge in Florida along with Texas, Arizona and California this month has strained many hospitals.

The increase in cases has forced a U-turn on steps to reopen economies after the end of lockdowns put in place in March and April to slow the spread of the virus.

Florida has had 191 coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest single-day rise since the start of the epidemic, the state health department said:

Updated at 6.31am BST

12.51am BST

US officials say Russian intelligence services are using a trio of English-language websites to spread disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, seeking to exploit a crisis that America is struggling to contain ahead of the presidential election in November.

Two Russians who have held senior roles in Moscow’s military intelligence service known as the GRU have been identified as responsible for a disinformation effort reaching American and western audiences, US government officials said on Tuesday. They spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The information had previously been classified, but officials said it had been downgraded so they could more freely discuss it. Officials said they were doing so now to sound the alarm about the particular websites and to expose what they say is a clear link between the sites and Russian intelligence:

12.36am BST

Trump storms out of press conference

Trump ended his press conference abruptly on Tuesday after sustained questioning from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins over a video he had shared by a doctor who said masks don’t work and that there is a cure for Covid-19.

In past videos, said Collins, the doctor has claimed that medicines are made from “alien DNA”.

“I thought she was very impressive,” Trump said of the woman in the disinformation video he promoted.

Here’s more background from colleagues Joan E Greve and Martin Pengelly:

The video in question featured Dr Stella Immanuel, a physician from Houston, Texas, speaking on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, surrounded by members of a rightwing doctors’ group.

Immanuel made baseless claims about coronavirus, including hailing hydroxychloroquine as a “cure”, even though the drug, which has been repeatedly touted by the president, has not been found to be an effective treatment.

The Houston doctor has also dismissed mounting evidence that face masks substantially help limit the spread of coronavirus.

Before Trump walked off, he said he did not know why Twitter and Facebook removed the hydroxychloroquine video he promoted:

.@kaitlancollins: The woman you say is a ‘great doctor’ said masks don’t work & doctors make medicine using DNA from aliens-

TRUMP: “I can tell you this: She was on air, along with many other doctors, & they were big fans of hydroxychloroquine. I thought she was very impressive” pic.twitter.com/nSui8DOLDL

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar)July 28, 2020

12.25am BST

Trump blames US case surge on protestors

At a White House Press briefing late on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump blamed surging infections on the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd Protests, despite epidemiologists not conclusively linking the protests following the police killing of George Floyd to the huge spike in cases, my colleague Maanvi Singh reports.

The surge in cases across the US came as cities reopened businesses and indoor venues, where the coronavirus transmits more effectively. Last week, Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force co-ordinator recently linked the surge in cases to the Memorial Day weekend, which saw businesses opening up and people travelling again.

US President Donald Trump arrives to speak during a press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, 28 Jul 2020.
US President Donald Trump arrives to speak during a press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, 28 Jul 2020.
Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Trump was also asked about the persistent absence of Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, at Donald Trump’s briefings.

In response, the president mused about his health official’s approval rating.

Fauci has “got a very good approval rating and I like that”, Trump told reporters. And Fauci was working with the administration, “so why don’t I have a very high approval rating?” the president wondered out loud.

“But nobody likes me,” Trump said. “It can only be my personality, that’s all.”

This morning, Fauci was asked about the coronavirus disinformation that Trump has promoted on social media during an interview with ABC. “I don’t tweet, I don’t even read them. I don’t really want to go there,” he told Good Morning America. “I just will continue to do my job, no matter what comes out, because I think it’s very important.”

12.13am BST

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s coronavirus liveblog. My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest news from around the world for the next few hours.

Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

More than 149,000 people have died of coronavirus in the US, according to the tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 4.3m cases of the virus have been recorded in the country, by far the highest number worldwide.

At a White House Press briefing late on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump blamed surging infections on the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd Protests, despite epidemiologists not conclusively linking the protests following the police killing of George Floyd to the huge spike in cases, my colleague Maanvi Singh reports.

The surge in cases across the US came as cities reopened businesses and indoor venues, where the coronavirus transmits more effectively. Last week, Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force co-ordinator recently linked the surge in cases to the Memorial Day weekend, which saw businesses opening up and people travelling again.

Meanwhile Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has extended the country’s state of emergency until October, meaning he will continue to have the power to impose a lockdown and other safety measures without needing the approval of parliament.

Conte told the Senate that the extension was “inevitable” despite the infection rate falling significantly.

  • The WHO says Covid-19 pandemic is “one big wave”, not seasonal. It warned against complacency in the northern hemisphere summer since the infection does not share influenza’s tendency to follow seasons.
  • Air travel is not expected to recover until 2024. Global air travel is recovering more slowly than expected and it will take until 2024 to return to pre-pandemic levels, the trade association for the airline industry has said.
  • Italy extended its state of emergency until October. This means the prime minister will continue to have the power to impose a lockdown and other safety measures without needing the approval of parliament.
  • Over half people living in Mumbai slums have had Covid-19, according to a city-commissioned study. Blood tests on 6,936 randomly selected people found that 57% of slum-dwellers had virus antibodies.
  • Covid-19 infection rate higher among California Latinos. Latinos make up 39% of the population in the US state, but account for 56% of Covid-19 infections and 46% of deaths, prompting new outreach and data collection efforts as cases surge.
  • Spain insisted it was still a safe destination for tourists despite tackling 361 active outbreaks and more than 4,000 new cases. Several countries have nonetheless imposed quarantines on people returning from Spain, including its biggest tourist market, Britain.
  • An urgent track and trace operation is under way in Berlin after a couple tested positive for coronavirus after returning from Manchester. Fifty people who have had contact with the couple since their return are in quarantine, of whom 13 have so far tested positive.

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Coronavirus live news: Belgium PM warns country could go into second ‘complete lockdown’

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Global death toll passes 650k as Belgian PM warns of total lockdown – as it happened” was written by Helen Sullivan (now and earlier), Jessica Murray , Damien Gayle, Kevin Rawlinson and Aamna Mohdin, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th July 2020 23.28 UTC

12.11am BST

We’ve launched a new blog at the link below – head there for the latest:

11.41pm BST

Amazon is under investigation in California for failing to protect its warehouse employees from the new coronavirus.

California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and the San Francisco Ddepartment of public health “have all opened investigations into Amazon’s practices” around the pandemic, San Francisco superior court judge Ethan Schulman wrote in a court filing on Monday.

Amazon and the government agencies did not immediately respond to requests for comment:

11.21pm BST

Summary

Here are the latest global coronavirus developments from the last few hours:

  • Global virus deaths passed 650,000 as new surges prompt fresh curbs. More than 100,000 deaths have been recorded since 9 July, and the global toll has doubled in just over two months.
  • Donald Trump wore a mask and talked up the possibility of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year in battleground state North Carolina. During a visit to a Fujifilm plant in Morrisville, the president wore a mask publicly for a second time and expressed confidence in the country’s economic recovery.
  • Spain’s PM said the UK quarantine decision not justified. Britain’s decision to impose a two-week quarantine on people travelling from Spain is unfair, Pedro Sánchez said. He added that the Spanish government is in touch with British authorities in a bid to get the country to reconsider its position.
  • Google employees will work from home until at least summer 2021. The company will keep its employees home until at least next July, the Wall Street Journal reported, marking the largest tech firm to commit to such a timeline in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Lebanon reimposed severe Covid-19 restrictions for the next two weeks. It has shut places of worship, cinemas, bars, nightclubs, sports events and popular markets, after a sharp rise in infections.
  • The International Monetary Fund approved .3bn in aid to South Africa to help it fight the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s finance minister, Tito Mboweni, in June predicted the economy would shrink 7.2% in 2020, its deepest slump in 90 years.
  • Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli issued scathing criticism of the Italian government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. He said he was humiliated by a recent lockdown, surprise comments as the 61-year-old superstar was a symbol of national unity at the height of the lockdown.

10.47pm BST

The British government has promised to build thousands of miles of new bike lanes to get people moving and healthy after months of coronavirus lockdown.

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge comes on the heels of a plan to force restaurants to display calories on menus as part of a broader effort to combat obesity.

Government data show two-thirds of UK adults are above a healthy weight. Some studies suggests that the virus is especially deadly to people who are obese. Johnson said:

To build a healthier, more active nation, we need the right infrastructure, training and support in place to give people the confidence to travel on two wheels.

That’s why now is the time to shift gears and press ahead with our biggest and boldest plans yet to boost active travel – so that everyone can feel the transformative benefits of cycling.

Johnson introduced a bike-sharing programme in London during his spell as the British capital’s mayor from 2008 to 2016.

But the so-called “Boris bikes” stood largely untouched during a months-long lockdown that still sees swathes of central London stand empty during working hours.

The government’s efforts to tease people out of lockdown and into their old spending habits that can give shops and restaurants a boost are complicated by Britain’s inability to safely reopen its schools.

Polls show people are also worried about using public transport. Many trains and buses are running half-empty during morning and evening commutes.

Johnson’s plan envisions more Briton’s biking and walking to work in the long term.

It promises to build “thousands of miles of protected cycle routes in towns and cities” as part of a £2bn (.6bn) “cycling and walking revolution”.

The government has also promised to start releasing the first batch of £50 “bike repair vouchers” to help people get old cycles fixed.

Britain’s official virus death toll of 45,759 is the highest in Europe.

Updated at 10.57pm BST

10.37pm BST

A trade association representing British airports called on the government to drop the need for holidaymakers to quarantine for two weeks after returning from Spain’s Balearic and Canary Islands, warning of a further hit to the beleaguered sector.

A total of 15% of flights leaving Britain in August last year were destined for the islands, carrying just under 2.4 million people, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) said on Monday.

AOA chief executive Karen Dee said:

The government must look urgently at introducing air bridges on a regional basis which would allow travel to islands such as Lanzarote, Majorca and Tenerife, where infection rates are lower, to continue.

UK airports have already lost around £2bn (.6bn) since the start of the pandemic and this announcement reinforces the fragile nature of the industry.

Last year, Britons made up over a fifth of foreign visitors to Spain, which relies heavily on tourism revenues, and the government there has said it is focussing its efforts on trying to persuade London to exclude the islands from its quarantine plans.

Britain has defended the decision as a response to a rise in infections.

Updated at 10.39pm BST

10.34pm BST

The death of an inmate suspected of having Covid-19 prompted rioting in four of the most populated prisons in Bolivia’s Cochabamba region over access to medical care, a government watchdog has said.

Local media showed images of inmates climbing to the roofs of the prisons, calling for medicine and access to doctors.

“We urge the entry of medical teams to do an evaluation inside the prison facilities to prevent more deaths,” said Cochabamba ombudsman Nelson Cox.

Eight inmates in total have died with symptoms of Covid-19, according to Cox, spiking concerns that the virus will spread throughout the prison population.

“There are no doctors, there are no medicines. They are dying inside,” said Susana, a relative of a prisoner in the San Sebastián prison who declined to give her last name. “It is not possible to let them die. We are human beings.”

Authorities have reported more than 60 deaths due to the coronavirus in Bolivia’s prison system, which is overcrowded at more than 240% capacity.

There have been several other deaths in recent months that were not confirmed as caused by the coronavirus due to a lack of testing.

10.32pm BST

President Donald Trump wore a mask and talked up the possibility of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year as he looked to show voters in the battleground state of North Carolina that he is responding to the pandemic.

Trump, whose approval ratings have dropped as many Americans believe he has handled the virus badly, sought for the second week to look in command after setting aside his hands-off approach. He said:

I trust all Americans to do the right thing but we strongly advise everyone to especially, especially focus on maintaining a social distance, maintain a rigorous hygiene, avoid crowded gatherings and indoor bars and wear masks when appropriate.

The Republican president spoke during a visit to a Fujifilm plant in Morrisville, North Carolina, where work on a vaccine is being carried out.

During a tour of the facility, he wore a mask publicly for a second time, the first being on a trip to Walter Reed Medical Center near Washington earlier this month.

Trump visits Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center in Morrrisville, North Carolina
Trump visits Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center in Morrrisville, North Carolina
Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

“I heard very positive things, but by the end of the year, we think we’re in very good shape to be doing that,” Trump said of a potential vaccine.

He expressed confidence in the economic recovery and said: “A lot of governors should be opening up states that they’re not opening.”

Infection rates have climbed since June in the United States, which is world leader in total numbers of deaths and cases.

National security adviser Robert O’Brien became the most senior official in Trump’s inner circle to test positive for the coronavirus, the White House said on Monday.

Trump, who is seeking re-election on 3 November, has his work cut out for him in North Carolina, a state he won narrowly in 2016 and where he had originally hoped to accept his nomination for a second term.

A new NBC News/Marist poll said Democrat Joe Biden led Trump by 7 points in North Carolina.

It said respondents by a 2-to-1 margin favored Democratic governor Roy Cooper’s opposition to a large Republican nominating convention event in Charlotte, North Carolina, in late August.

Cooper’s opposition prompted Trump to try to arrange a big event in Jacksonville, Florida, but that plan fell apart last week and now it is unclear where Trump will give his acceptance speech.

Republican delegates are still to meet in Charlotte in late August to conduct some convention business.

10.25pm BST

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli has issued a scathing criticism of the Italian government’s handling of the coronavirus, saying he was humiliated by a recent lockdown.

His surprise comments at a conference in Italy’s senate were remarkable because the 61-year-old superstar was a symbol of national unity at the height of the lockdown on Easter Sunday when he sang in an empty Milan cathedral in a live streamed solo performance called Music for Hope.

“I felt humiliated and offended. I could not leave the house even though I had committed no crime,” Bocelli said at the conference attended by opposition politicians including Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party who has attacked the government of prime minister Giuseppe Conte over the handling of the coronavrius crisis.

Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli rehearsing in an empty Duomo square on Easter Sunday ahead of a livestreamed concert inside the empty Duomo cathedral.
Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli rehearsing in an empty Duomo square on Easter Sunday ahead of a livestreamed concert inside the empty Duomo cathedral.
Photograph: Alex Fraser/Reuters

A national lockdown began in early March and was eased in stages over three months.

Bocelli confessed he disobeyed lockdown rules “because I did not think it was right or healthy to stay home at my age”.

He also said he believed the situation could not have been as serious as authorities were saying because he did not know anyone who had to go into intensive care.

“So what was all this sense of gravity for?” he said.

More than 35,000 Italians have died from the coronavirus.
Regulations regarding social distancing and wearing masks in indoor public places such as stores are still in effect and Bocelli seemed to encourage civil disobedience.

“Let’s refuse to follow this rule. Let’s read books, move around, get to know each other, talk, dialogue …” he said.

10.10pm BST

Quarantine for people arriving from Spain and other countries with high levels of Covid-19 will be cut to 10 days under plans being finalised by UK ministers, The Telegraph has reported.

The UK government will announce this week a new policy of testing arrivals from high-risk countries eight days after they land, it said.

If they test negative they will be allowed to come out of self-isolation two days later, reducing the mandatory quarantine period by four days, the report said.

A government spokesman told the Telegraph the 10-day quarantine period is under discussion but a final decision has not been made.

The government is also considering telling everyone who has come into the UK from Spain since 23 July, including returning holidaymakers, to take a coronavirus test, the report added.

Britain dealt a new blow to Spain on Monday by extending guidance advising against all non-essential travel, which already applied to mainland Spain, to include the Balearic and Canary Islands.

Updated at 10.39pm BST

9.56pm BST

The mayor of Medellín, Colombia’s second city, has sparked outrage by calling on Cuba to send brigades of doctors to help battle his city’s coronavirus outbreak.

Daniel Quintero, the mayor of the South American city, sent a letter earlier this month to Cuba’s communist government requesting personnel to man 600 intensive care units, as the city braced for climbing Covid-19 cases.

Colombia has confirmed 248,976 cases of Covid-19, with 8,525 deaths. Cases and deaths climbed Sunday evening by 8,181 and 256 respectively.

Antioquia, the province of which Medellín is the capital, has seen 24,143 cases.

Cuba has long sent its doctors and technicians abroad, as part of a medical mission founded in the wake of Fidel Castro’s communist revolution in the 60s.

Since March, when the coronavirus pandemic swept through Europe, the Caribbean nation has sent 1,500 medical professionals abroad. One brigade was well received by locals in Lombardy, The Guardian reported in May.

Cuba’s government, led by the Communist Party since 1965, claims to have sent 400,000 health workers to tackle crises around the world.

But the Cuban government, now led by Miguel Díaz-Canel, has received staunch criticism from rights groups over the conditions its overseas doctors face.

Health workers are prohibited from forming relationships with anyone “whose actions are not consistent with the principles and values of the Cuban society,” according to Cuban law.

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement last week:

Cuban doctors deployed to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic provide valuable services to many communities, but at the expense of their most basic freedoms.

Governments interested in receiving support from Cuban doctors should press the Cuban government to overhaul this Orwellian system that dictates with whom doctors can live, fall in love, or talk.

The Trump administration has also sought to undercut Cuba’s medical diplomacy, leading Bolivia and Brazil – both countries with new right wing leaders – to expel Cuban medical personnel.

Quintero, Medellín’s mayor, facing criticism for calling on support from one of conservative Colombia’s ideological and regional rivals, defended his decision to call for help on Sunday evening, after news of the letter was made public.

He tweeted:

We haven’t understood the message of the coronavirus. Beyond borders, races and ideologies, it was reminded as that as people we need each other.

He went on to say that his administration has also requested vaccines from the US and UK, tests from the United Arab Emirates, and personnel from span.

“Life has to come before politics,” Quintero said.

9.52pm BST

Dozens of people practice martial arts in front of the regional government headquarters in Barcelona, Spain, as a protest against the closure of gyms and martial arts centres in the region due to coronavirus
Dozens of people practice martial arts in front of the regional government headquarters in Barcelona, Spain, as a protest against the closure of gyms and martial arts centres in the region due to coronavirus
Photograph: Enric Fontcuberta/EPA

9.47pm BST

Nearly 200 federal healthcare workers have been deployed to California’s Central Valley, where hospitals are overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases as new infection rates soar, governor Gavin Newsom said.

The arrival over the past several days of Department of Defense personnel will help hospitals in the stricken region, where some hospitals and intensive care units are two-thirds full of Covid-19 patients.

That has left little room for people who are ill from other conditions and is putting immense pressure on doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers trained in providing care to the sickest patients.

To combat the virus’ spread, the state is committing m to the eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley, Newsom said.

The state is also dispatching strike teams of health care workers, employee safety specialists and business regulators to the San Joaquin Valley to educate and persuade residents and employers to adopt public health practices such as social distancing and wearing masks.

As many as 18% of those tested are showing to be infected with the coronavirus, more than twice the level as the state as a whole, Newsom said.

The spread is being driven by a number of factors, including community and family gatherings, work in close quarters in agricultural businesses, nursing homes and prisons, he said.

California is one of several US states that has become a hotspot for a second wave of coronavirus cases.

An average of 109 Californians have died daily over the past two weeks, Newsom said, and nearly 8% of those tested for the coronavirus are confirmed to have contracted it, he said.

The state has rolled back efforts to re-open its economy, closing bars, banning indoor restaurant dining and postponing the resumption of in-person school instruction in 37 counties that are home to 93% of Californians.

9.32pm BST

US senate Republicans will shortly introduce a new coronavirus relief programme to address health, economic assistance and schools, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said.

Speaking on the senate floor, McConnell said the package would include direct payments to Americans of ,200 each, and help for the unemployed.

It would also include “strong legal liability protection,” over 0bn for schools, more money for a small business program, and a programme to incentivise manufacturing of personal protective equipment in the United States.

9.30pm BST

An additional 61,795 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the US, according to the the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday, taking the total to 4,225,687.

It said the number of deaths had risen by 564 to 146,546.

The CDC reported its tally of Covid-19 cases s of 4pm ET on Sunday versus its previous report a day earlier.

The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

8.38pm BST

Spain’s PM says UK quarantine decision not justified

Britain’s decision to impose a quarantine on people travelling from Spain is unfair, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has said.

He added that the Spanish government is in touch with British authorities in a bid to get the country to reconsider its position.

Sanchez said the UK’s “error” was to consider the rate of coronavirus infection in Spain as a whole, when most regions have a lower rate than Britain’s.

8.20pm BST

The International Monetary Fund has approved .3bn in aid to South Africa to help it fight the coronavirus pandemic.

South Africa is the continent’s most-industrialised economy and has the largest number of detected Covid-19 cases, with more than 445,000 and 6,769 deaths as of Monday, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The South African finance minister, Tito Mboweni, in June predicted the economy would shrink 7.2% in 2020, its deepest slump in 90 years, and compared the ballooning public debt to a “hippopotamus … eating our children’s inheritance”.

The money from the IMF is the latest disbursement under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), which allows nations to circumvent the lengthy negotiations usually needed to secure a full economic assistance program – time most countries do not have as they struggle to cope with the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement, IMF deputy managing director, Geoffrey Okamoto, said “a deep economic recession is unfolding,” exacerbated by South Africa’s slow rates of growth, high unemployment and widening inequality.

The RFI money will specifically address “the fiscal pressures posed by the pandemic, limit regional spillovers and catalyse additional financing from other international financial institutions,” the IMF said.

Updated at 8.22pm BST

8.17pm BST

Long-haul operators will suffer worst from coronavirus rules that have hit the sector hard, writes the Guardian’s financial editor Nils Pratley.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has raged about “a badly managed overreaction” and, up to a point, one can sympathise: Spain is a big place and regional variations in travel policy ought to be possible.

O’Leary, though, should probably also count his blessings. Ryanair is better-capitalised than most of its peers; it has cut costs more quickly; and a few rivals, such as Flybe and Germanwings, have disappeared. Ryanair, when conditions eventually improve, ought to be well placed to recover.

It is harder, though, to glimpse much light for long-haul operators, such as the British Airways owner, IAG.

Transatlantic travel was always going to be slower to recover than the European version. Now the clock has been reset.

8.02pm BST

Google employees will work from home until at least summer 2021

Google will keep its employees home until at least next July, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, marking the largest tech firm to commit to such a timeline in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The chief executive officer of parent company Alphabet Inc, Sundar Pichai, made the decision himself last week after debate among an internal group of top executives that he chairs, according to the report, which cited unnamed insiders.

Google did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Google had earlier said it would begin reopening more offices globally as early as June this year, but most Google employees would probably work from home until the end of this year.

7.49pm BST

School closures in Malawi due to the coronavirus pandemic have led to an alarming increase in child marriages and early pregnancies, child rights activists and government officials have warned.

The Malawian government announced the closure of all schools on 20 March, even before a single coronavirus case had been reported in the landlocked country.

However, over the past four months, infections have surged with a total of 3,664 cases registered so far, including 99 deaths.

Benedicto Kondowe, director of the Civil Society Coalition on Education, told AFP the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the course of young women’s lives.

He pointed out that before the pandemic struck, Malawi already had one of the highest rates of child marriages in the world, but now “Covid-19 has led to a surge in underage unions”.

Kondowe’s organisation has reported 5,000 cases of teenage pregnancies in the southern Phalombe district, while over 500 girls have entered into early marriages since the onset of the pandemic.

“What the figures show is that girls lack the needed protection as they get plunged into the margin of life,” Kondowe said, adding that increases in gender-based violence, exploitation and other forms of abuse against adolescent girls had also been noted.

In an interview with local radio station Capital Radio, the district education officer for the southern town of Nsanje, Gleston Alindiamawo, said over 300 girls in the district were carrying unwanted pregnancies since schools closed.

In the eastern district of Mangochi, meanwhile, at least 7,274 teenage girls have become pregnant from January to June this year.

The figure is 1,039 more compared with those who became pregnant during the same period last year, the district’s youth health services coordinator Peter Malipa said.

That figure included 166 girls aged between 10 to 14 years old.

Habiba Osman, a United Nations Women specialist for the elimination of violence against women and girls, told AFP the long period of idleness as a result of coronavirus restrictions was resulting in pregnancies and child marriages across Malawi.

Osman called on community leaders to monitor and assist young people from engaging in “risky behaviours”.

7.43pm BST

Lebanon has reimposed severe Covid-19 restrictions for the next two weeks, shutting places of worship, cinemas, bars, nightclubs, sports events and popular markets, after a sharp rise in infections.

Shops, private companies, banks and educational institutions will be permitted to open, but only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with a near total lockdown in place Thursday through Monday until 10 August.

This week’s lockdown coincides with the Eid al-Adha holiday when Muslims normally hold large gatherings.

Officials said they were alarmed by a spike in cases in recent days, with at least 132 new infections and eight deaths confirmed in the last 24 hours.

Lebanon has recorded just 51 deaths from the coronavirus since February.

The minister of health, Hamad Hassan, was quoted in state media as saying:

We have to go back a step and work with determination as though the pandemic has now begun.

We have to work more seriously to avoid a medical humanitarian catastrophe.

Beirut’s airport, land border crossings with Syria and sea ports will be kept open, as well as medical institutions, industrial and agricultural firms and critical government functions.

Those arriving from high risk countries will be held in quarantine for 48 hours until they receive the results of a coronavirus test.

Those arriving from other areas will be expected to quarantine at home.

7.31pm BST

Latin America will emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic with higher poverty rates as efforts to control the virus lead to spikes in unemployment and debt, the Inter-American Development Bank president, Luis Alberto Moreno, said.

Latin America, where economic growth has already been slowing in recent years, is expected to see an economic contraction of 8-10% in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus and associated quarantine measures, Moreno said.

The pandemic “will impoverish not only Latin Americans, (but also) the world in general, but clearly Latin America is going to be hit much harder because we are an emerging (market) region.”

The IADB, which is Latin America’s largest regional lender, will this year approve nearly bn dollars in loans.

Around bn of those will go to governments to strengthen healthcare systems, he added.

Though the sharpest contraction in the region has been in Venezuela, Moreno said the IADB cannot provide any funding for the government of Nicolás Maduro because his administration is in default on some 0m in loans.

Venezuela has been in recession for six years and annualised inflation exceeds 3,500%, according to the opposition-run National Assembly, which calculates economic indicators due to delays in the release of official figures. Moreno said:

There is absolutely nothing we can do for Venezuela.

There’s no country in the history of humanity that has seen a contraction as deep as that of Venezuela without having had a war or a natural disaster or both.

Updated at 7.33pm BST

7.27pm BST

Ireland’s schools will reopen at the end of August as the nation navigates its way out of coronavirus lockdown, the prime minister, Micheal Martin, has said.

Ireland’s blueprint for reopening schools for the first time since mid-March includes 370m euros (£338m) in spending to ensure safety.

The package will allow schools to hire 1,000 more post-primary teachers to reduce class sizes and enable social distancing, the government said.

“There is no zero-risk scenario, but we can dramatically limit the risk of the spread of the virus through our schools,” Martin said.

The new money will also cover the costs of protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and make special provisions for those deemed vulnerable to Covid-19.

Psychologists and other forms of emotional support will also be mobilised. Martin said:

Major emergencies always lead to a much higher level of anxiety and other similar issues.

We fully understand that we can’t just declare that the schools are open and carry on as if nothing had happened.

Irish schools were shut on 12 March, two weeks before the nation entered a full lockdown.

Ireland has officially suffered 1,764 deaths from the virus, with a single-day peak of 77 in April.

In recent weeks there have been many days with no new deaths.

However, earlier this month the government delayed its plan to end lockdown early because of a surge of the number of cases and a rise in the infection rate.

Updated at 7.31pm BST

7.24pm BST

One of France’s most iconic cinemas is to shut its doors for the month of August because so few people want to risk seeing movies on the big screen.

Managers at the enormous Grand Rex in the centre of Paris – which remained open throughout World War II – said Hollywood studios were also to blame for holding back the release of so many summer blockbusters.

The exterior of the Grand Rex film theatre in Paris.
The exterior of the Grand Rex film theatre in Paris.
Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

The Federation of French Cinemas said on Monday the double whammy was crippling the industry as they demanded state aid to help them through the crisis.

The Grand Rex’s manager Alexandre Hellmann told AFP:

Between the drop in admissions (because of the coronavirus) and the lack of fresh American films that traditionally are a big summer draw, we have decided to close our doors from 3 August.

We will lose less money by closing than by staying open with this depressing box office.

With 2,700 seats, the seven-screen Grand Rex’s largest theatre is one of the biggest in Europe with a 300 square-metre screen.

Many French cinemas have been all but empty since they were allowed to reopen after an eight-week lockdown last month.

The cinema federation appealed to banks and landlords to give their members leeway, saying it was “absolutely necessary that the government also take urgent action to refinance” the sector.

Updated at 7.29pm BST

7.20pm BST

Global death toll passes 650,000

The global Covid-19 death toll has reached 650,029, with over 16 million cases now confirmed worldwide.

The disease has surged back at hotspots in Asia, Europe and the Americas, prompting renewed restrictions, targeted lockdowns and compulsory mask-wearing orders.

Australia has been rocked by its deadliest surge since the start of the pandemic, Hong Kong is experiencing record daily numbers and Spain’s caseload has tripled in the last fortnight.

The US is still ahead in cases and deaths, with 147,143 fatalities from the virus.

The number of cases is still rising rapidly around the country as it approaches 150,000 deaths.

The WHO said today that experts would meet this week to discuss downgrading Covid-19’s emergency status, six months after it was declared.

Updated at 7.24pm BST

7.09pm BST

Hi everyone, this is Jessica Murray, I’ll be taking over the coronavirus blog for the next few hours.

Please do get in touch with any story tips or suggestions.

Email: jessica.murray@theguardian.com
Twitter: @journojess_

7.00pm BST

Summary

Here are the top lines of our coronavirus world news coverage so far on Monday:

  • The coronavirus pandemic is the worst global health emergency the World Health Organisation has faced, its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said, according to Reuters. Only with strict adherence to health measures, from wearing masks to avoiding crowds, would the world beat it, Tedros told a virtual news briefing in Geneva.
  • The trade body representing Spain’s hotel industry has offered to pay for coronavirus tests for foreign visitors, in an effort to lure back visitors put off by a fresh wave of cases. The UK government on Saturday shocked hoteliers and holidaymakers with an unexpected 14-day quarantine on people returning from Spain. On Monday, the UK extended a travel warning to the Balearic and Canary islands.
  • The UK’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis could take 18 months longer than expected with hopes of a V-shaped recovery fading fast, according to a leading economic forecaster. Britain’s economic output is not expected to return to its 2019 level until the end of 2024, the EY Item Club said on Monday in its latest projections on the health of the UK economy.
  • Coronavirus has reached the high reaches of the US government, with Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, having tested positive. The White House confirmed that he had mild symptoms and said he “has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site.” Officials did not respond to questions about the last time the president and O’Brien had contact.
  • Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn has just announced he is planning to introduce obligatory testing for travellers returning from areas considered high risk because of their level of cases. “I will mandate obligatory testing for travellers from risk areas,” he said a few minutes ago. It is unclear when or how the regulation will come into force.
  • Belgium’s prime minister Sophie Wilmès has announced a series of further restrictive measures following a significant spike in coronavirus infections, warning that the country could be put into a second “complete lockdown”. “If we cannot reduce the coronavirus, it will be a collective failure,” Wilmès said at a press conference following a meeting of the country’s national security council.
  • A US biotechnology company has announced it has started a government-backed late-stage trial to assess its Covid-19 vaccine candidate. Moderna’s RNA-based vaccine will be given to about 30,000 adults who do not have the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. The US government is supporting Moderna’s vaccine project with nearly a billion dollars.
  • Indonesia confirmed has its 100,00th coronavirus case, as the Red Cross warned the that the pandemic in the vast archipelago risked “spiralling out of control”. The country – home to more than a quarter of a billion people – has been recording 1,000-plus new infections a day after relaxing movement restrictions this month. As of Monday, it had reported a total of 100,303 coronavirus cases and 4,838 deaths.
  • Vietnam is evacuating 80,00o people from the central city of Danang and has reimposed disease-prevention measures, after 11 local coronavirus cases were detected, the first to be recorded in the country for more than three months. The source of the new cases is not clear.
  • Chinese health authorities have announced they plan to test all six million plus residents of a northeastern city where a growing infection cluster has spread to seven other cities. Dalian, in Liaoning province, reported 12 new locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, and 14 asymptomatic cases. The first of the 24 cases confirmed so far was reported on Wednesday, in a 58-year-old man.

That’s it from me, Damien Gayle, for today.

6.34pm BST

The World Health Organization has called on Bosnia to step up its contact tracing and testing, with a rising number of coronavirus cases threatening the country’s health service, according to the Associated Press.

“We see a really sharp increase and concern is that this will lead to an overcrowding of hospitals,” said Victor Olsavszky, the head of the WHO office in Bosnia.

On several occasions over the past two weeks, major hospitals around Bosnia have warned that their Covid-19 care units were nearing capacity.

So far, the Balkan country of 3.5 million people has recorded almost 10,500 virus cases, with 294 deaths. Nearly 80% of all virus cases were registered since mid-May, when a strict, nearly two-month-long, coronavirus lockdown was lifted.

Masks on display outside a shop in Sarajevo’s main street on Monday.
Masks on display outside a shop in Sarajevo’s main street on Monday.
Photograph: Eldar Emric/AP

Olsavszky said the pandemic trajectory in Bosnia was similarly worrying in Western Balkan countries, singling out North Macedonia and Serbia as having even bigger surges.

Despite the mounting number of infections, people in Bosnia and around the Balkans appear to be bending or ignoring social distancing rules, increasingly gathering in uncomfortably close quarters and ditching protective face masks.

6.15pm BST

Spanish hotels offer to pay for guests’ coronavirus tests

The trade body representing Spain’s hotel industry has offered to pay for coronavirus tests for foreign, in an effort to lure back visitors put off by a fresh wave of cases, according to Reuters.

The UK government on Saturday shocked hoteliers and holidaymakers with an unexpected 14-day quarantine on people returning from Spain, in a major blow to a tourist season already hanging on by a thread. On Monday, the UK’s foreign office extended a travel warning for mainland Spain to the Balearic and Canary islands, both holiday hotspots.

“Not only is it unjust but it’s also totally illogical and lacking in rigour,” Spain’s main hotel association CEHAT said of the quarantine.

The association proposed a system of reciprocal testing across Europe that would provide greater safety for travellers, workers and people who live in tourist destinations.

“We are prepared to bear this cost,” CEHAT’s president, Jorge Marichal, said in a video posted on social media.

5.59pm BST

The Archbishop of Barcelona is to be investigated for possibly breaking hygiene rules by holding an unauthorised mass, the Associated Press reports.

Juan José Omella held a service Sunday at La Sagrada Familia Basilica in memory of victims of the coronavirus.

The Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, and priests leave after officiating a mass for victims of Covid-19 at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
The Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, and priests leave after officiating a mass for victims of Covid-19 at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
Photograph: Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images

Catalonia has implemented tight restrictions on gatherings as it tries to stem a growing outbreak of Covid-19. The region reported 133 new cases on Saturday, the second-highest increase across Spain.

The head of Catalonia’s regional government, Quim Torra, said on Monday that regional health authorities gave no prior permission for the ceremony, as required under the current rules.

5.43pm BST

The Spanish health ministry has reported 855 new Covid cases over the past 24 hours – 474 of them in the hard-hit Aragón region – down from 922 last Friday and 971 the day before that, writes Sam Jones, the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent.

A total of 6,361 cases were recorded over the weekend, bringing Spain’s total number of Covi-19 cases to 278,782.

When the pandemic was at its peak on 31 March, Spain had 9,222 new infections in a single day. According to the ministry, six people have died from the coronavirus in Spain over the past seven days.

5.26pm BST

Trump’s national security adviser tests positive

Coronavirus has reached the high reaches of the US government, with Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, having tested positive — the highest-ranking official known to have contracted the virus so far.

The Associated Press reported O’Brien’s positive diagnosis, citing two anonymous sources. The White House confirmed that O’Brien has mild symptoms and told the agency he “has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site.”

Officials did not respond to questions about the last time the president and O’Brien had contact, but the White House insisted that, “There is no risk of exposure to the president or the vice president” and that the “work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted.”

Donald Trump’s national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, in a file photo wearing a US government-branded face mask.
Donald Trump’s national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, in a file photo wearing a US government-branded face mask.
Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The news was first reported by Bloomberg News, which said O’Brien came down with the virus after a family event. The White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told reporters on Monday morning that O’Brien’s daughter also has the virus, and that that is how they think he got it.

O’Brien is the highest-ranking White House official known to have contracted the virus and the first since May, when a personal valet to the president and the vice president’s press secretary tested positive for coronavirus, which has now infected more than 4 million people across the country.

Numerous US Secret Service agents and Trump campaign staffers have also tested positive, including Kimberly Guilfoyle, the national finance chair, who is the girlfriend of Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

Senior White House staff and anyone who comes into close contact with the president and vice president are tested for the virus daily.

4.59pm BST

Travellers between Spain and the UK have expressed their shock at the UK government’s sudden decision to impose a two-week quarantine on Saturday 25 March.

Spain has said it is in talks over the potential removal of quarantine restrictions for travellers going to the UK from the Canaries and Balearics where the rate of infection is ‘well below’ that of the UK.

4.48pm BST

Kenya has banned the sale of alcohol in restaurants and extended a curfew in a bid to halt a steep rise in coronavirus infections, according to AFP.

In a stern lecture, the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, rebuked Kenyans for “reckless” behaviour that has seen cases triple in the past month to 17,975

So far, 285 have died.

Kenyatta said there was an “aggressive surge” among young people socialising “particularly in environments serving alcohol”, then in turn infecting their elders.

He ordered that a nationwide curfew from 9pm to 4am will remain in place for another 30 days and “there shall be no sale of alcoholic beverages or drinks in eateries and restaurants” over the same period.

Restaurants will also close from 7pm.

“All bars shall remain closed until further notice,” Kenyatta said.

Like many nations in East Africa, Kenya took swift action to combat the coronavirus, closing its borders on March 25 when it had only 25 cases, shutting schools and imposing a curfew while advising people to work from home.

However bars took advantage of the fact that restaurants were allowed to remain open and began selling food.

4.34pm BST

The UK’s caseload has exceeded 300,000, according to official figures. The latest UK government data show 685 new cases have been detected, taking the total to 300,111, while seven more people have died, meaning the country’s overall official death toll is 45,759.

4.27pm BST

Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn has just announced he is planning to introduce obligatory testing for travellers returning from areas considered high risk because of their level of cases.

“I will mandate obligatory testing for travellers from risk areas,” he said a few minutes ago. It is unclear when or how the regulation will come into force.

Obliging travellers to undergo a test will entail an emergency law change that lawmakers have already said will be complicated and could be problematic. Several airports have been running test centres for the past few weeks for travellers who have volunteered to have one, with at least two major airports charging for the service. Berlin Airport has introduced free testing from today for any incoming passenger who wants one.

This morning, Bavaria’s leader Markus Söder announced his state would introduce mobile testing at sea ports, airports, railway stations and road border crossings, and urged the federal government to make testing obligatory at all the country’s entry points.

4.09pm BST

The biotech group Biocad is discussing handling production of a potential Covid-19 vaccine in China, according to the St Petersburg-based company’s director.

The potential vaccine – based on the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) – is expected to enter clinical trials in mid-August, the Biocad chief executive Dmitry Morozov has told Reuters.

The vaccine is one of six vaccine prototypes Russia’s Vector state virology institute is developing, a World Health Organization list showed.

Biocad is gearing up to produce four to five million doses per month of the VSV-based vaccine by the end of this year, if early-stage trials prove it to be safe and effective, Morozov said.

Biocad plans to handle industrial scale production of the vaccine entirely in-house, from manufacturing the virus strain in its bioreactors to dealing with registration and packaging, Morozov said.

“We can do it all at our current facilities,” Morozov said, adding there was no need to expand their production capacity to meet output targets.

We have received requests about deliveries for export based on the potential success of this vaccine … on the level of countries as well as private companies.

He added that Biocad had received requests from Egypt, South Africa and Thailand.
It is in discussions about producing the Vector VSV vaccine in China, where it has a joint venture with Shanghai Pharma launched in September last year. Shanghai Pharma was not immediately available for comment.

3.33pm BST

Belgian PM outlines new restrictions

Belgium’s prime minister Sophie Wilmès has announced a series of further restrictive measures following a significant spike in coronavirus infections, warning that the country could be put into a second “complete lockdown”, writes Daniel Boffey, the Guardian’s Brussels bureau chief.

“If we cannot reduce the coronavirus, it will be a collective failure,” Wilmès said at a press conference following a meeting of the country’s national security council.

Sophie Wilmès, Belgium’s prime minister, arrives at a meeting of the national security council.
Sophie Wilmès, Belgium’s prime minister, arrives at a meeting of the national security council.
Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/EPA

The prime minister said she “very strongly recommended” the return of teleworking for those who are able to do so. She announced that for a period of four weeks from Wednesday each household may only have social contact with a further five people.

People must go shopping alone and they will need to restrict themselves to just 30 minutes in a shop. Group outings will be limited to ten people, except for children of 12 years of age or younger. The city of Antwerp will take extra measures to be announced later on Monday in an attempt to reduce the spread of the disease following a 500% week on week rise in infections.

Wilmès said:

We know that if we do not intervene drastically, even the start of the school year could be undermined. We are taking strong, difficult measures to avoid this [complete] lockdown. You can continue to confine, limit freedoms but we want to avoid the situation of March which was very trying on a human level, especially for the weakest among us …

Experts say it is possible to avoid another lockdown. But it must be remembered that the world’s leading scientists are incapable of knowing how the situation will develop. We must not frighten people, but neither should we abuse them by pretending to know everything.

Updated at 4.36pm BST

3.10pm BST

In Greece, mandatory mask-wearing may be extended beyond supermarkets to other enclosed spaces, the government warned today as coronavirus cases continued to rise in the country, writes Helena Smith, the Guardian’s Athens correspondent.

Addressing reporters earlier, the government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, alluded to it only being a matter of time before face-coverings were made obligatory in churches and other places where social distancing was otherwise difficult. Masks are already mandatory on all forms of public transport including ferries. Violators face fines of €150.

“The increase in cases worries us and perhaps it will be necessary for masks to become obligatory in churches and other enclosed spaces,” Petsas said. “The growth in incidents in urban centres, such as Attica and Thessaloniki, is a reminder that the virus continues to be here and to feed on our relaxation [in maintaining restrictions].”

Holidaymakers listen to a tourist guide in front of Athens’ cathedral.
Holidaymakers listen to a tourist guide in front of Athens’ cathedral.
Photograph: Helena Smith/The Guardian

The tourist-dependent country has seen a marked rise in infections since reopening its borders to foreign travellers on 1 July. Health officials say incidents of coronavirus have leapt from 4,017 in the week beginning 20 July to 4,193 today – a big jump in a nation that has otherwise managed to keep contain the pandemic. Two hundred and two people have died from Covid-19 to date in Greece.

A surge in infection rates among Balkan neighbours has prompted Greek authorities to increase monitoring and other preventative measures at land frontiers with Bulgaria and Albania as well as re-enforcing a ban on tourists from Serbia.

Petsas said as of tomorrow through to 4 August passengers flying in from Romania and Bulgaria would be required to have tested negative for the virus 72 hours prior to arrival. Entrants will have to carry a doctor’s certificate proving the negative molecular test for Covid-19 has been conducted within the required timeframe.

Tourists are beginning to arrive en masse in Greece with anecdotal reports on popular islands such as Paros of a steep rise in visitors – and those descending on beaches – even if the influx is but a pale imitation of that seen last year. For the first time ever, more than 15% of hotels nationwide have not opened for the season. In Athens, where bigger hotels opened this month, tourists have also begun to trickle with guided tours finally being spotted in the capital’s historic city centre.

Updated at 3.23pm BST

2.43pm BST

The World Health Organization has said that keeping borders closed to halt the spread of coronavirus is unsustainable, as the supranational health agencies urged governments to adopt strategies based on local knowledge of the virus’s spread.

Rising cases in a range of countries in Europe and elsewhere that had loosened measures after appearing to get their outbreaks under control have spurred discussions of possible fresh border closures.

But the UN health body warned that such measures can not be kept up indefinitely, and are also only useful when combined with a wide range of other measures to detect and break chains of transmission.

“Continuing to keep international borders sealed is not necessarily a sustainable strategy for the world’s economy, for the world’s poor, or for anybody else,” Michael Ryan, WHO emergencies director, told journalists in a virtual briefing.

“It is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future,” he said, pointing out that “economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume.”

He acknowledged that when it comes to Covid-19, it is impossible to have a “global one size fits all policy” because outbreaks are developing differently in different countries.

Updated at 3.24pm BST

2.34pm BST

The UK government has confirmed that a pet cat has been diagnosed with Covid-19, the first case of animal infection with coronavirus in the country, writes Jessica Elgot, the Guardian’s chief political correspondent.

The feline is believed to have caught the virus from its owners, all of whom have made a full recovery.

The animal, which is said to have only experienced mild symptoms, is not believed to been involved in transmitting the disease to its owners or other humans and animals.

2.11pm BST

People in Iran have been warned against holding wedding and funeral gatherings, as the latest update from the country’s health ministry reported another 212 deaths from coronavirus.

“Despite repeated calls to not hold weddings and mourning ceremonies, reports from across the country still indicate they are taking place,” said health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari, according to the French news agency AFP.

“The presence of people at these overcrowded events increases the risk of mass infection,” she added, in remarks broadcast on state television.

An man buys hand sanitiser from a woman at a metro station in Tehran.
An man buys hand sanitiser from a woman at a metro station in Tehran.
Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

While there is no nationwide ban on weddings and funerals, the venues in which they are staged have been ordered shut and authorities have repeatedly urged people to keep such gatherings small.

Lari said another 212 people had died of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s overall death toll to 15,912. She added that 2,434 new infections during the same period took the total number of confirmed cases since the virus was first detected in Iran in February to 293,606. Of those, 255,144 have recovered.

Virus-related deaths and infections in Iran have risen to record highs since hitting months-long lows in May. That has prompted authorities to make masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and reimpose restrictions in some areas.

1.54pm BST

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the actor, and her eight-year old daughter, Aaradhya, have recovered from Covid-19 and left hospital after a 10-day stay, her husband, Abhishek Bachchan, said on Twitter, according to Reuters.

Abhishek Bachchan, who is also an actor, and his father, the renowned actor Amitabh Bachchan, 77, are still recovering from the disease and remain in a Mumbai hospital.

The Bachchans have been the most high-profile of India’s growing number of Covid-19 cases.

Amitabh Bachchan and his son tested positive on 11 July. Rai and Aaradhya tested positive a day later, but were admitted to hospital only on 17 July, after they developed symptoms, local media reported.

Abhishek Bachchan, his wife actress Aishwarya Rai and their daughter Aaradhya.
Abhishek Bachchan, his wife actress Aishwarya Rai and their daughter Aaradhya.
Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

India, which has 1.3 billion people, has recorded more than 1.4 million new coronavirus cases, the third highest in the world after the US and Brazil. It has recorded nearly 33,000 deaths so far.

Cases in India have been rising rapidly, and the country on Monday reported a record number of 49,931 new cases.

1.36pm BST

In the US, more than 40 people were infected with the coronavirus after attending a multi-day revival event at a north Alabama Baptist church, the Associated Press reports.

“The whole church has got it, just about,” Al.com quoted pastor Daryl Ross of Warrior Creek Missionary Baptist church in Marshall County as saying.

The pastor says the churchgoers, including himself, tested positive after the congregation held a series of religious services featuring a guest pastor over the course of several days last week.

Ross said the services were shut down by Friday after learning that one of the members who attended had tested positive for the virus. The member presented no symptoms, but got tested when several of his coworkers received positive tests, according to the pastor.

Over the weekend, dozens more fell ill, Ross said, adding: “I’ve got church members sick everywhere.”

“We knew what we were getting into,” he said. “We knew the possibilities.”

1.16pm BST

My colleagues over in the US of A have launched their live blog, with coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, its election campaign, protests in Portland and other cities and a lot more besides.

Click the link below to follow their latest updates.

1.12pm BST

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have begun a deep clean of Mecca’s great mosque.

1.03pm BST

Moderna vaccine to be tested in 30,000 healthy people

A US biotechnology company has announced it has started a government-backed late-stage trial to assess its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Reuters reports.

Moderna’s RNA-based vaccine will be given to about 30,000 adults who do not have the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The trial, named COVE, is the first to be implemented under the US government’s Operation Warp Speed that aims to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19.

The US government is supporting Moderna’s vaccine project with nearly a billion dollars and has chosen it as one of the first to enter large-scale human trials.

The main goal of the study will be prevention of the symptomatic Covid-19 disease, the company said.

Updated at 1.51pm BST

12.59pm BST

Vietnam has now reported 11 new locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus, all linked to a hospital in the central province of Danang and including four healthcare workers, the country’s health ministry said.

Earlier we reported that the south east Asian country had detected four cases.

Vietnam, whose campaign against the coronavirus has so far been a success story, has registered a total of 431 cases, with no deaths. The country has carried out more than 430,000 tests and nearly 12,000 people are under quarantine.

12.47pm BST

The German state of Bavaria is spear-heading the mass roll-out of coronavirus testing facilities in the hope of reaching as many returning holiday makers as possible, writes Kate Connolly, the Guardian’s Berlin correspondent.

Airports, railway stations and main border crossings used by cars, are to be kitted out with mobile testing units, Markus Söder, the leader of the southern state announced this morning.

Hundreds of thousands of seasonal workers employed on farms across the state will also be offered tests after a big outbreak at a vegetable plantation in eastern Bavaria.

Particular attention will be paid to people returning from 130 areas considered high risk, by the government’s public health advisers. The number has risen from 100 regions last week, reflecting the global growth of the outbreak in recent days.

Söder has also increased fines for employers who contravene coronavirus health and safety regulations from 5000 to 25,000 Euros, in an effort to stem the virus’ spread.

Bavaria’s state premier, Markus Soeder, arrives for a press conference on Monday.
Bavaria’s state premier, Markus Soeder, arrives for a press conference on Monday.
Photograph: Peter Kneffel/AFP/Getty Images

Testing will initially be voluntary, and will be free to the person being tested, Söder said. But he has requested the federal government to investigate the legal hurdles which would need to be overcome in order to introduce an obligatory system.

“We need the federal government to ensure this becomes obligatory,” Söder said. “And this needs to happen as quickly as possible”.

There is growing political consensus across the parties that obligatory testing makes increasing sense amid a spike in cases of the virus both at home and abroad.

Helge Braun, chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, has said he will be looking into the legal requirements in conjunction with Jens Spahn, the health minister.

The leader of the pro-business FDP, Christian Lindner, said that people should be expected to pay for their own tests.

So far the German government is not considering a blanket quarantine requirement for returnees from Spain, as was introduced by the UK government for its citizens at the weekend.

But the northern state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern, itself highly dependent on tourism, has said it is examining the possibility of introducing stricter quarantine rules for those returning from areas considered high risk. Manuela Schwesig, the state leader, said anyone wishing to avoid a two-week quarantine would have to present health authorities with two negative coronavirus test results. Her government is expected to make an announcement tomorrow.

Bavaria is taking a particularly cautious approach because it has so far been one of the hardest hit regions in Germany. Its schools broke up for their six week summer break on Friday, so many of its 13 million citizens will be travelling further afield at a crucial time. Bavaria itself is also a popular tourist destination and heavily dependent on agriculture. Harvest workers are considered vulnerable targets for the illness.

“Corona is creeping back,” Söder said on Monday morning, “and unfortunately with all its might.

“Caution must be our top priority.”

Over the weekend, five hundred people were placed under quarantine in Mamming, eastern Bavaria, after 170 harvest workers on a vegetable plantation were tested positive for coronavirus.

In neighbouring Austria at the Wolfgangsee, a popular lakeside resort frequented by many German tourists, authorities there were tackling an outbreak of 53 cases thought to have been spread by young hotel staff, who were reportedly living in close quarters. Seven hotels, a pizzeria and two bars in St Wolfgang, the main town, are affected and have had to close.

Germany currently has around 6,100 active cases of the virus. But the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has expressed its concern in recent days that the number of cases was growing. However in the last 24 hours no one in Germany died from the disease, the RKI said on Monday morning.

Updated at 1.27pm BST

12.26pm BST

The coronavirus pandemic is the worst global health emergency the World Health Organisation has faced, its director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said, according to Reuters.

Only with strict adherence to health measures, from wearing masks to avoiding crowds, would the world beat it, Tedros told a virtual news briefing in Geneva. “Where these measures are followed, cases go down. Where they are not, cases go up,” he said, praising Canada, China, Germany and South Korea for controlling outbreaks.

The WHO emergencies programme head, Mike Ryan, said far more important than definitions of second waves, new peaks and localised clusters, was the need for nations around the world to keep up strict health restrictions such as physical distancing.

“What is clear is pressure on the virus pushes the numbers down. Release that pressure and cases creep back up,” he said, acknowledging, however, that it was virtually impossible for nations to keep borders shut for the foreseeable future.

Tedros emphasised the priority remained saving lives.

“We have to suppress transmission but at the same time we have to identify the vulnerable groups and save lives, keeping the death rates if possible to zero, if not to a minimum,” he said, praising Japan and Australia in that respect.

12.16pm BST

Spain is hoping that continuing negotiations with the British government will soon pave the way for Britons to visit the Canary and Balearic islands without having to self-quarantine on their return, writes Sam Jones, the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent.

At the moment, the UK government is advising against all non-essential travel to mainland Spain, but the Canaries and Balearics are exempt from the de facto travel ban. However, anyone visiting any part of Spain – including the islands – is currently required to self-isolate for a fortnight when they return to the UK.

Passengers arrive at Son Sant Joan airport on the Spanish Balearic island of Palma de Mallorca on Sunday.
Passengers arrive at Son Sant Joan airport on the Spanish Balearic island of Palma de Mallorca on Sunday.
Photograph: Joan Mateu/AP

“There have been conversations since the weekend with the British authorities about dropping quarantine for those visiting the islands as soon as possible,” Spain’s tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, said on Monday.

Maroto also said that the government was providing the UK with epidemiological updates about each of Spain’s 17 regions, adding that six of them were currently in a better epidemiological situation than the UK.

“We’ll be talking to all the Spanish regions to see what they propose, and any proposals will be brought to the British authorities,” she added.

The autonomous governments of Andalucía and Valencia have already asked for their regions to be included in the talks on lifting quarantine restrictions.

Maroto said Spain was trying to be as open and transparent as possible when it came to sharing information.

“We want to use that information to bring confidence and transparency when it comes to taking decisions,” she said.

“Our opposite numbers around Europe are doing the same thing and keeping us informed about the outbreaks, which are happening across all European countries and not just in Spain.

“We’re living alongside the virus but that doesn’t mean we can’t travel or enjoy some well-deserved holidays. But we need to be prudent and we need to respect the virus. But that doesn’t mean we can’t control it and enjoy a certain kind of daily life when living alongside it.”

12.04pm BST

Indonesia passes 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus

Indonesia confirmed has its 100,00th coronavirus case, as the Red Cross warned the that the pandemic in the vast archipelago risked “spiralling out of control”, according to AFP.

The country – home to more than a quarter of a billion people – has been recording 1,000-plus new infections a day after relaxing movement restrictions this month. As of Monday, it had reported a total of 100,303 coronavirus cases and 4,838 deaths.

Official figures are thought to understate the true extent of the outbreak.

Passengers wearing protective masks and face shields queue for a bus in Jakarta.
Passengers wearing protective masks and face shields queue for a bus in Jakarta.
Photograph: Willy Kurniawan/Reuters

The country of nearly 270 million is among the worst hit in Asia by the pandemic, with cases in all of its 34 provinces, including the remote Maluku islands and easternmost Papua.

Critics have blamed the government’s so-called “new normal” policy for discouraging Indonesians from remaining vigilant about the spread of the virus. They point to re-opening offices in the capital Jakarta as a major culprit in the surge, while restaurants, shopping malls and tourist attractions are also swinging open their doors around the country.

“We are intensifying our efforts to educate the public about the importance of changing their behaviour for good by physical distancing, wearing masks and practising good hygiene,” the Indonesian Red Cross said Monday, adding that it has enlisted some 7,000 volunteers nationwide.

“This calls for a unified, unprecedented, large-scale effort to reach all parts of society, in every corner of our country,” it added.

Updated at 12.07pm BST

11.49am BST

More than 16.1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus have so far been counted around the world, and more than 646,000 have died from, Covid-19, the respiratory disease is causes, according to statistics aggregated by Johns Hopkins university.

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Follow the link below to see a further breakdown of the statistics from around the world.

11.32am BST

The southern German state of Bavaria is to set up coronavirus testing sites at its two biggest railway stations and at key points on motorways, as fears grow that the virus could be spread by travellers on their way to summer getaways.

The tests will be offered at Munich and Nuremberg train stations, as well as on three major motorway routes near the border, the state premier, Markus Soeder, told a press conference, according to the French government-funded news agency AFP. Testing centres are already in place at the state’s airports.

“We cannot completely prevent corona, so the goal must be to detect it in time to stop it from spreading,” he said.

Compared with many other European countries, Germany has been successful in suppressing the virus, reporting just over 200,000 cases and 9,118 deaths to date, according to the Robert Koch Institute for disease control.

Updated at 11.33am BST

11.14am BST

Hi, this is Damien Gayle taking the reins on the live blog, with thanks to Aamna Mohdin for keeping things ticking over for the last few hours.

If you feel like dropping me a line with any comments, tips or suggestions for stories we could be covering, you can reach me via email at damien.gayle@theguardian.com, or via Twitter direct message to @damiengayle.

10.53am BST

The Irish government is facing accusations of discrimination for stopping pandemic unemployment payments to people who holiday abroad.

Opposition parties and civil rights advocates condemned the policy after it emerged that 104 people had their payments halted after authorities detected them leaving Ireland. Another 44 people had other welfare payments stopped after boarding flights.

Under the rules of the social welfare benefits people are supposed to avoid foreign travel in accordance with public health advice to curb the spread of Covid-19.

However, critics say last week’s publication of a “green list” of countries deemed relatively safe for travel has confused people and undermines the stay-home message.

Leo Varadkar, the tánaiste, told RTE on Sunday:

The Department of Social Protection gets information from the airports and if someone is not genuinely seeking work or is not genuinely living in the country any more, their welfare payments can be stopped.

Updated at 11.34am BST

10.51am BST

Belgium expected to tighten restrictions after a sharp increase of cases

Belgium’s government is expected to tighten restrictions designed to reduce the spread of Covid-19 after a sharp increase in the national number of infections and a 500% week-on-week spike in the city of Antwerp.

The country’s national security council (NSC), led by the prime minister, Sophie Wilmès, will meet on Monday to decide whether to to enact local lockdowns and reduce the permitted size of social bubbles in the face of a second wave of the disease.

Marc Van Ranst, a member of Belgium’s coronavirus advisory committee, said the meeting was “the most important … to be held since March”, when the national lockdown was imposed.

He added:

“We are acting earlier than during the first wave, we also want to stop [a new wave] earlier.

Updated at 11.17am BST

10.39am BST

French health minister Olivier Véran has warned youngsters to maintain coronavirus safety measures including keeping their distance, washing hands and wearing masks after a rise in the number of cases of Covid-19 among young people

Véran appealed for “vigilance”. The minister said at the weekend:

When we carry out mass testing we are seeing a lot of young patients … more youngsters than during the previous wave.

This is particularly the case in the Île-de-France (Paris) region where we are seeing young people who are infected without knowing how it happened. Clearly, older people are still being very careful, while young people are paying less attention.

The French government has announced that Covid-19 nasal tests will be fully reimbursed by the country’s health service even without a medical prescription. Until now, anyone wanting to be tested had to first consult their GP.

Véran told Le Parisien France was carrying out nearly 500,000 tests a week and the rate of positive results was 1.5%. “As we are testing more, we are finding more people invected,” he said.

Asked if he had a message for youngsters, Véron added:

I say to them that I completely understand their need to get out and breathe some air, but the virus is not taking a holiday. We haven’t yet won the war.

A total of 30,192 people are believed to have died in hospitals and care homes in France since the pandemic began, according to the latest figures on Friday. Last week, the number of new cases rose to more than 1,000 per 24 hours.The statistics are no longer given over the weekend but will be updated on Monday evening. The last figures from the public health authority suggests 1.2% of tests were found to be positive and 127 clusters are currently under investigation.

In Quiberon, in Brittany, which has seen a rise in coronavirus cases, the local authority closed the beaches from 9pm to 7am after 54 young people were diagnosed with Covid-19.

Officials have warned more bars and beaches will be shut to the public if the number of cases continues to rise.

Updated at 11.21am BST

9.14am BST

Catalonia may take stricter measures to limit coronavirus outbreak if situation does not improve

Spain’s Catalonia may take stricter measures to limit coronavirus outbreak if situation does not improve in the next 10 days, regional leader Quim Torra said on Monday.

PA reports:

Torra warned that in many parts of Catalonia the data was similar to the situation before Spain declared a national lockdown in March. He added his administration’s goal was to avoid taking as strict measures as the ones that were taken back then.

Catalan authorities on July 17 advised some four million people to remain home and leave only for essential trips, banned gatherings of more than ten people and limited the occupancy of bars and restaurants as the number of cases in the region is rising faster than in the rest of the country.

8.40am BST

Hong Kong announcing new measures to tackle growing outbreak

Hong Kong’s chief secretary, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, is announcing new measures for the city as it battles a growing outbreak. We earlier reported that Hong Kong has seen five consecutive days with figures in the triple figures. More than half of Hong Kong’s total case count in the pandemic has been in July, the vast majority of it community transmission.

Cheung has just told media.

The next two to three weeks will be critical. We need to prevent the further spread of the disease in the community,”

There is a high risk of a major outbreak in the community. That’s why the community as a whole and the govt must remain highly vigilant. The pandemic is worrying, there is no sign of any improvement.

The new measures will come into place from Wednesday:

  • Mask wearing is mandatory in all public places.
  • Apart from specified premises, all dine-in services are suspended. Take-away service can continue.
  • Sports venues, swimming pools will be included among businesses forced to close.
  • Group gatherings are restricted to no more than two people.

It’s going to be a grim Summer in Hong Kong.

Prof Sophie Chan, secretary for food and health, tells media the government is continually expanding its testing capability (widely reported to be under pressure despite being in numbers far below other countries – around 10,000/day).

They’ll concentrate on vulnerable groups, aged care homes, and taxi drivers, and they aren’t ruling out bringing in more private labs to reinforce government testing capacity.

Updated at 8.50am BST

8.38am BST

Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against Israel’s government in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against Israel’s government in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP

The wave of colorful and combative demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks have been dominated by young Israelis, AP reports.

The unprecedented economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, and a crisis of confidence in leadership, have spurred a younger generation of Israelis wary of their future to take on a more prominent role in the protests. Many of them have little or no history of political involvement.

7.57am BST

Ryanair said it suffered the “most challenging” quarter in its 35-year history after reporting a loss of 185 million euro (168 million). The low-cost airline said a second wave of the disease was now its “biggest fear”.

The company said:

The past quarter was the most challenging in Ryanair’s 35-year history.

Covid-19 grounded the group’s fleet for almost four months (from mid-March to end June) as EU governments imposed flight or travel bans and widespread population lockdowns.

During this time, group airlines repatriated customers and operated rescue flights for different EU governments, as well as flying a series of medical emergency/PPE flights across Europe.

7.46am BST

Hi, I’m Aamna Mohdin taking over the liveblog from Helen Sullivan. If you want to contact me, you can email me (aamna.mohdin@theguardian.com) or Tweet me (@aamnamohdin).

7.03am BST

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today. Thanks for following along – my colleague Aamna Mohdin will be bringing you the latest pandemic news from around the world for the next few hours.

7.01am BST

Vietnam is evacuating 80,000 people amid new Covid-19 cases in Danang

Vietnam is evacuating 80,00o people from the central city of Danang and reimposed disease-prevention measures, after four local coronavirus cases were detected, the first to be recorded in the country for more than three months.

The source of the new cases is not clear. Vietnamese media reported that the 57-year-old man, a retired grandfather, had not left the city in recent months, but had visited three healthcare facilities and had recently attended a wedding. He visited hospital with a cough and fever on 20 July and is reportedly in critical condition:

Updated at 8.40am BST

6.51am BST

South Korea says defector who fled to North ‘did not have’ Covid-19

South Korea has said that a defector who recently fled to the North does not appear to have contracted Covid-19, a day after Pyongyang imposed a lockdown near the border, claiming the man was its first recorded case of the illness.

North Korean state media reported on Sunday that the 24-year-old man, who was reportedly in quarantine, was displaying symptoms of coronavirus after returning to his homeland across the border separating the two Koreas last week.

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, declared a state of “maximum emergency” and ordered the border town of Kaesong, where the defector was discovered, to go into lockdown, the state-run KCNA news agency said.

But on Monday, health authorities in the South said there was no evidence that the defector had contracted the illness:

6.38am BST

Chinese authorities to test six million in Dalian

Chinese health authorities have announced they plan to test all six million plus residents of a northeastern city where a growing infection cluster has spread to seven other cities.

Dalian, in Liaoning province, reported 12 new locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, and 14 asymptomatic cases.

The first of the 24 cases confirmed so far was reported on Wednesday, in a 58-year-old man working at a seafood processing facility. All employees and close contacts are now under quarantine. The national health commission said cases in seven other cities had links to the Dalian outbreak.

Health workers carry out Covid-19 coronavirus tests in a shopping mall in Dalian, in China’s northeast Liaoning province.
Health workers carry out Covid-19 coronavirus tests in a shopping mall in Dalian, in China’s northeast Liaoning province.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Head of the commission, Ma Xiaowei, said Dalian should aim to have every resident tested within four days. The costs will all be covered by the Chinese government.

Ma said there were still uncertainties in the Dalian outbreak, and testing resources needed to be increased in nearby cities, China Daily reported.

As outbreaks pop up across mainland China, authorities are responding quickly with transport shut downs, building lockdowns, and city-wide testing on massive scales.

In May a resurgence of the virus in Wuhan saw city authorities directed to have all 11 million residents tested within 10 days.

6.33am BST

UK front pages, Monday 27 July 2020

Many of this morning’s papers lead with the quarantine measures for travellers returning to the UK from Spain. Metro and the Daily Record are winning in the pun stakes, with “The pain in Spain” and “Spain in the neck” respectively:

The Guardian’s headline is “Tourists may face more ‘handbrake restrictions’” – you can read that story here.

6.26am BST

The UK’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis could take 18 months longer than expected with hopes of a V-shaped recovery fading fast, according to a leading economic forecaster.

Britain’s economic output is not expected to return to its 2019 level until the end of 2024, the EY Item Club said on Monday in its latest projections on the health of the UK economy. It had previously expected GDP to match fourth-quarter 2019 size in early 2023.

EY is predicting that Britain’s economy will shrink by a record 20% in the April to June quarter, rather than 15% as it forecast last month. The economy expected to return to growth in the third quarter, with a quarterly expansion of around 12%:

5.54am BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Global deaths are nearing 650,000 as cases climb by over 250,000 for four straight days. The number people who have died in the pandemic so far is nearing 650,000 according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, with the total currently at 647,928. Cases are showing no sign of slowing, with the last four days seeing more than 250,000 cases reported worldwide each day. Three of the last four days saw more than 280,000 daily cases – a rate that would mean the global total would increase by 2m cases per week. There are over 16.2m cases worldwide.
  • Vietnam will evacuate 80,000 tourists from the city of Danang, the government announced in a statement, following the discovery of four locally transmitted coronavirus cases over the weekend – the first cases in the country for 99 days.The government has also reintroduced social distancing measures in the city.
  • China recorded 61 new coronavirus cases on Monday – the highest daily figure since April, propelled by clusters in three separate regions that have sparked fears of a fresh wave. The bulk of 57 new domestic cases were found in the far northwestern Xinjiang region, according to the National Health Commission, where a sudden outbreak in the regional capital of Urumqi occurred in mid-July.Fourteen domestic cases were also recorded in the northeastern province of Liaoning where a fresh cluster broke out in the city of Dalian last week.
  • India has for the first time recorded over 50,000 cases in one day. The Times of India reported that India’s one-day case total was higher than 50,000 for the first time on Sunday, taking the country’s total to 1.4m cases – the third highest worldwide.50,362 new cases were reported, toppling the previous one-day case record of 49,055.Last week was also India’s deadliest, the paper reports, “when total cases grew by 28% and the death toll jumped by 19%.”
  • Australia saw its highest one-day case increase of the pandemic so far, after the state of Victoria recorded 532 new cases, along with six more deaths of people aged in their 50s to 90s.
  • The Australian state of New South Wales recorded 17 new cases, about average for the last week. Of the new cases eight are international travellers in hotel quarantine. Another four are linked to the four are linked funeral gatherings cluster, three are household contacts of cases associated with Thai Rock Wetherill Park, and two are under investigation.
  • New Zealand reported another day with no new cases of Covid-19 – the third day in a row. All of the country’s 21 active cases of the virus were diagnosed in travellers returning to the country, all of whom are quarantined in government-managed isolation facilities.
  • Coronavirus cases in Papua New Guinea have nearly doubled in a weekend, with the emerging pandemic threatening to overwhelm the country’s already-fragile healthcare system. The pandemic has, so far, been largely suppressed in the archipelagic nation, with low infection rates and only one death – of an already seriously-ill patient – linked to Covid-19.But authorities fear persistent community transmission, particularly in the crowded capital Port Moresby, could soon see the virus running unchecked.
  • The US has recorded 5,000 deaths in five days. The US has suffered more than 1,000 deaths a day from Covid-19 for five days running, as cases surge in southern and western states, the national caseload nears 4.2m and the death toll approaches 150,000.
  • Dr Birx urged five US states to close bars and limit social gatherings. The co-ordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, Dr Deborah Birx, told reporters In Kentucky on Sunday that that federal health officials recommend that five US states – Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia – “close their bars, cut back indoor restaurant capacity and limit social gatherings to 10 people,” the Louisville Courier Journal reports, as well as recommending that “100%” of people wear masks when they are in public.
  • Pacific islanders living in the US are being hospitalised with Covid-19 at up to 10 times the rate of some other racial groups. In Washington state, rates of confirmed cases for Native Hawaiian or other Pacific islander people are nine times higher than those of white people, while hospitalisation rates are 10 times that of white people, according to department of health figures.
  • Morocco announced a new lockdown. Morocco will stop people entering and leaving some of its biggest cities from midnight to contain a surge in coronavirus cases, the interior and health ministries said on Sunday. On Sunday, the health ministry said 633 new Covid-19 cases were recorded, one of the biggest daily rises so far, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 20,278, with 313 deaths and 16,438 recoveries.
  • Some 500 workers are in quarantine on a large Bavarian farm to contain a mass coronavirus outbreak, German officials said, as they announced free Covid-19 tests for local residents. A total of 174 seasonal workers have tested positive for the virus since Friday.
  • The number of confirmed infections to Covid-19 has passed 36,000 in Afghanistan as the death toll in Kabul topped 500, amid raising concerns about a second wave of the pandemic over the upcoming Eid celebration. Coronavirus related deaths rose by 12 from the previous day to stand at 1,259 on Sunday.
  • Spain’s Covid-19 death toll could be 60% higher than the official figure. An investigation by Spanish newspaper El País, in which reporters counted regional statistics of suspected, as well as confirmed fatalities, reached a total of 44,868 deaths.
  • Spain is in talks with the UK about exempting the Canary and Balearic islands from strict quarantine rules. From midnight on Sunday, travellers returning from Spain to the UK have been forced to quarantine for 14 days, following a surge of cases in the country. The Spanish foreign minister said conversations between the countries were focussed on excluding the islands, which have seen far fewer Covid-19 infections and deaths, from the measures.
  • Vietnam has reintroduced social distancing measures in the city of Danang. The rules, reimposed by the government, follow the detection of four new locally-transmitted coronavirus cases in the country, after three months of no new infections.
  • North Korea has declared a state of emergency in a border town over a suspected coronavirus case. State news agency KCNA said leader Kim Jong Un also imposed a lockdown in Kaesong after a person who illegally crossed the border from South Korea displayed symptoms of the virus.

5.42am BST

Reuters is reporting that 80,000 tourists are being evacuated from the central city of Danang, the Vietnamese government announced in a statement, following the discovery of four locally transmitted coronavirus cases over the weekend – the first cases in the country for 99 days.

The government has also reintroduced social distancing measures in the city.

Updated at 6.57am BST

5.20am BST

‘People don’t want to fly’: Covid-19 reawakens Europe’s sleeper trains

For all their promise of romance and adventure, Europe’s sleeper trains had appeared to have reached the end of the line.

Cripplingly expensive to run and forsaken by travellers for budget airlines, a decision by the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn to terminate the service connecting Paris to Berlin six years ago ushered in the closure of routes across the continent including almost all of France’s network.

But as Europe continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, there are tentative signs of a new dawn for the couchettes and twin bunks, as the concerns of both governments and travellers’ over the environmental impact of short-haul flights are being complemented by a desire to avoid airport departure lounges and security queues:

5.00am BST

More on China from AFP: a second wave of mass testing was also launched in Xinjiang’s Urumqi on Sunday to detect residents who had previously tested false negative, reported the state-run Global Times, following a mass testing effort earlier this month.

More than 2.3 million people in the city of 3.5 million have been tested so far, according to a local press conference Friday.

The outbreaks come as the Chinese Super League football tournament kicked off its much-delayed season on Saturday.

Residential communities in both Dalian and Urumqi have been placed under lockdown, with authorities declaring a “wartime mode” to combat the virus.

Experts still have not confirmed the origin of the recent Xinjiang cluster, which has infected 178 people to date.

The fresh infections in Jilin were announced just days after President Xi Jinping concluded an inspection tour of the province last week.

The area announced four new asymptomatic cases on Sunday, after screening travellers returning from Dalian.

Another 302 asymptomatic cases in China are under medical observation, health authorities said Monday, and there are currently 331 people ill with COVID-19 across the country, 21 in a severe condition.

4.41am BST

China records highest new daily coronavirus case increase since April

China recorded 61 new coronavirus cases on Monday – the highest daily figure since April, AFP reports, propelled by clusters in three separate regions that have sparked fears of a fresh wave.

The bulk of 57 new domestic cases were found in the far northwestern Xinjiang region, according to the National Health Commission, where a sudden outbreak in the regional capital of Urumqi occurred in mid-July.

Fourteen domestic cases were also recorded in the northeastern province of Liaoning where a fresh cluster broke out in the city of Dalian last week.

Two more local cases were found in the neighbouring province of Jilin near the North Korean border – the first since late May. The last four infections confirmed on Monday were imported from overseas.

It is the highest daily tally of new virus cases since April 14, when 89 cases, mostly imported, were recorded.

Chinese authorities have rolled out mass testing for hundreds of thousands of people in the port city of Dalian.

4.34am BST

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 340 to 205,609, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Monday.

The reported deaths remained unchanged at 9,118.

4.22am BST

Here is the full story on the Australian state of Victoria reporting the highest number of Covid-19 identified in a 24-hour period in Australia to date, with 532 new cases, along with six more deaths of people aged in their 50s to 90s:

3.55am BST

Japan’s economy minister says the government will urge businesses to aim for 70% telecommuting and enhance other social distancing measures amid a rise in coronavirus cases among workers, some infected during after-work socialising, Reuters reports.

Though Japan has largely avoided the mass infections that have killed tens of thousands overseas, a record surge in cases during the past week in Tokyo and other major urban areas has experts worried the country face a second wave.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura late on Sunday called on business leaders to enhance anti-virus measures such as encouraging the level of telecommuting achieved during Japan’s state of emergency this year.

An employee wearing a protective face mask and face guard works on an automobile assembly line in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, Japan, 18 May 2020.
An employee wearing a protective face mask and face guard works on an automobile assembly line in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, Japan, 18 May 2020.
Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Tokyo last week reported a daily record of 366 cases, with 239 on Sunday. The southern city of Fukuoka reported a record 90 cases on Sunday, along with rising numbers in Osaka.

“At one point, commuter numbers were down by 70 to 80%, but now it’s only about 30%,” Nishimura said. “We really don’t want to backtrack on this, so we have to explore new ways of working and keep telecommuting high.”

He also called on companies to avoid large gatherings and to urge staggered shifts.
Nishimura said last week that concern was rising about clusters, specifically those involving host and hostess bars as well as others connected to workplaces and after-work socialising.

Though the number of serious cases remains relatively small, the government is also concerned about a rise in infections among people in their 40s and 50s. The rate of telecommuting has lagged in Japan because of a paper-driven culture and technological shortcomings, experts say.

More than 30,000 people in Japan have been infected and nearly 1,000 have died.

3.42am BST

Hi, Helen Sullivan here. I’ll still be bringing you the latest for the a few hours – your questions, suggestions and news tips are welcome.

Send them to me on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

3.32am BST

Coronavirus cases in Papua New Guinea double in days

Coronavirus cases in Papua New Guinea have nearly doubled in a weekend, with the emerging pandemic threatening to overwhelm the country’s already-fragile healthcare system.

The pandemic has, so far, been largely suppressed in the archipelagic nation, with low infection rates and only one death – of an already seriously-ill patient – linked to Covid-19.

But authorities fear persistent community transmission, particularly in the crowded capital Port Moresby, could soon see the virus running unchecked.

A fortnight ago, the country had recorded just 11 cases of Covid-19. This jumped to 32 by Friday last week, and to 62 by Sunday.

Now, 80% of PNG’s Covid cases have been recorded in the past 10 days:

3.22am BST

New Zealand reports zero new cases for third straight day

Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian:

New Zealand has reported another day with no new cases of Covid-19 – the third day in a row. All of the country’s 21 active cases of the virus were diagnosed in travellers returning to the country, all of whom are quarantined in government-managed isolation facilities.

Only New Zealanders, and essential workers given exemptions, are allowed to enter the country. All travellers spend two weeks in quarantine, during which they are tested twice for the coronavirus.

New Zealand has recorded 1,206 confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic began, with 22 deaths.

There is no known community transmission of the virus, widely attributed to a swift, early lockdown of the country. Health officials said on Monday that it had been 87 days since the last case of Covid-19 was acquired locally from an unknown source.

New Zealand now has no restrictions in place on daily life other than the border measures.

3.07am BST

The Hong Kong government is on the defensive over its extensive quarantine exemptions which have now been identified as driving much of the current outbreak. More than 1,400 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 this month – more than half of Hong Kong’s total infections in the coronavirus pandemic. Medical and testing systems in the city are overwhelmed.

Hong Kong has had strict entry bars on non-residents and mandatory quarantine for others coming into the city. However tens of thousands of individuals considered to be carrying out essential work were exempt – including about 10,000 cross-border truck drivers, as well as crew members of sea and air vessels.

In a statement released on Sunday the government defended the decision, saying the exemptions were “essential to ensure an uninterrupted supply of goods and daily necessities to maintain the economy”.

“Though exempted from mandatory 14-day quarantine, exempted persons are issued with medical surveillance notices by the Department of Health and are asked to comply with precautionary and personal hygiene measures including the wearing of masks.”

A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against coronavirus walks past a closed bar in Hong Kong.
A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against coronavirus walks past a closed bar in Hong Kong.
Photograph: May James/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

It said the exemption arrangements had “worked well in the past few months”, but in recognition of the recent rise in cases among air and sea crew personnel, some measures have been suspended or tightened.

Taking effect on Wednesday, the new measures include requiring all cargo ship crew members to stay on board while the ship is in Hong Kong waters. Incoming flight crews must possess a negative Covid-19 test from within 48 prior to their arrival. Airlines must also arrange point to point private transport for crew traveling between the airport and their accommodation, and ensure that the crew self-isolate.

On Sunday Hong Kong reported another 128 cases, the fifth straight day of results in the triple figures.

On Saturday Hong Kong confirmed a record 133 cases of Covid-19 were under investigation, all but seven of them locally transmitted.

It included one student living in a University of Hong Kong hall of residence. One roommate had returned a preliminary positive test result, and another with symptoms was waiting for a result.

“For the University of Hong Kong residential hall, because they are living on the same floor, they share bathrooms and toilets, there are around 10 to 20 students there, so we plan to put them under quarantine,” head of the centre for health protection, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan said.

3.02am BST

We’re leaving that press conference in Victoria now.

Here is a summary of the news from Victoria and New South Wales:

  • The state of Victoria has reported a record 532 cases – the highest one-day total for Australia over the course of the pandemic so far – and an additional six deaths.
  • There are 400 active cases among healthcare workers and 683 active cases connected to aged care facilities, said Premier Daniel Andrews. “The key message today for every single Victorian, regardless of where they work and regardless of where they live, you simply can’t go to work if you have symptoms,” he said.
  • New South Wales recorded 17 new cases of Covid-19 to 8pm last night, about average for the last week. Of those, eight are international travellers in hotel quarantine. Another four are linked to the four are linked funeral gatherings cluster, three are household contacts of cases associated with Thai Rock Wetherill Park, and two are under investigation. There are now 70 cases linked to the cluster at Thai Rock Wetherill Park.
  • More than one in five Victorians have been tested for coronavirus. The state has conducted more than 1.5m tests since January, which is one of the highest rates on the world, said Andrews.
  • Andrews said he will look at closing certain key industries if the workplace transmission of coronavirus is not slowed.But he said his health advisors have not recommend taking that step at this stage.He was asked the question specifically with regards to meat works.

2.53am BST

Back in Australia, Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said he will look at closing certain key industries if the workplace transmission of coronavirus is not slowed.

But he said his health advisors have not recommend taking that step at this stage.

He was asked the question specifically with regards to meat works.

If we were to continue to see outbreaks, if we were to continue to see people quite obviously attending work when they shouldn’t be, then every option becomes on the table. And that’s not the position at the moment and I’m very grateful to those employers and they’re not the only high-risk sites. We shouldn’t single them out to the exclusion of others. It’s not just cool stores, meat works, abattoirs, whatever you want to term them, it’s not just big warehouses, distribution, freight, logistic centres, there’s lot of different sites, aged care, healthcare, the list goes on.

But… You know, next steps may well have to include closing a number of these industries if we continue to see people attending work.

He added:

So employers have got, business owners have got, a really big stake in this also. We have to work together to keep anyone who’s got symptoms away from work. Otherwise businesses will have to close and the thing is this: When you have an outbreak, that business will shut, they’ll be the subject of deep-cleaning, they’ll be the subject of literally of hundreds of thousands of hours of public health team work, contact-tracing, testing, all of that.

There’s an economic cost to that, there’s a very significant public health cost also. So that work is not just me standing here asking people to do it. It’s got to be enterprise by enterprise workplace by workplace and I’m really confident that they are stepping up to do that work with us because they need to.

2.45am BST

India records over 50,000 cases in one day

The Times of India reports that India’s one-day case total was higher than 50,000 for the first time on Sunday, taking the country’s total to 1.4m cases – the third highest worldwide.

50,362 new cases were reported, toppling the previous one-day case record of 49,055.

Last week was also India’s deadliest, the paper reports, “when total cases grew by 28% and the death toll jumped by 19%.”

Coronavirus testing in Mumbai, India on 26 Jul 2020.
Coronavirus testing in Mumbai, India on 26 Jul 2020.
Photograph: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

2.40am BST

More than one in five Victorians have been tested for coronavirus

Back in the Australian state of Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews says that since January, more than one in five Victorians has been tested for coronavirus:

We don’t have capacity to do 100,000 tests a day. There are limits, and if you look at our average over the last three to four weeks, it’s certainly higher than 25,000.

[…]

We think we’re doing enough testing to find positive cases, we’re doing enough testing to have a good sense of where the virus is, but it’s a big and complex system. We have done – my notes tell me – we have done more than 1.5 million tests. In fact, we have done a total of 1,518,507 tests. That gives you a sense of how big a challenge that is. That’s since January one. That is one of the highest testing rates in the world up over one-in-five Victorians have been tested. That’s a massive, massive task.

2.35am BST

China records 57 new locally transmitted cases

To step away from Australia for a moment: China has reported 57 new locally transmitted cases today, with 41 of those in the Uighur Autonomous Region, according to the National Health Commission:

From 0-24 o’clock on July 26, 31 provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities) and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps reported 61 new confirmed cases, including 4 imported cases (2 in Inner Mongolia, 1 in Fujian, and 1 in Sichuan). There are 57 local cases (41 in Xinjiang, 14 in Liaoning, and 2 in Jilin); no new deaths; no new suspected cases.

2.32am BST

Australian state of New South Wales records 17 new cases

Stepping away from Victoria for a moment – the neighbouring Australian state of New South Wales recorded 17 new cases of Covid-19 to 8pm last night – that’s about average for the last week.

Of those, eight are international travellers in hotel quarantine. Another four are linked to the four are linked funeral gatherings cluster, three are household contacts of cases associated with Thai Rock Wetherill Park, and two are under investigation.

There are now 70 cases linked to the cluster at Thai Rock Wetherill Park. The Crossroads Hotel cluster, which did not record any new cases yesterday, is at 56.

Updated at 3.00am BST

2.19am BST

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton is speaking now. He breaks down the cases linked to aged are facilities, and says, “Where there are outbreaks in aged care, the mortality is extremely high”:

The aged care outbreaks are absolutely a consequence of community transmission, but they represent a tragedy for the families involved for some private aged care facilities, the numbers are disturbing. There are now 84 cases linked to St Basil’s Home for TheAged in Fawkner. 82 in Estia Healthcare, 77 in Epping GardensAged Care in Epping. 62 in men Rocklife aged care in Essendon, 53 in Glenndale aged care in Werribee. 57in Kirk Bray Presbyterian homes in Kilsyth and 50 in Estia aged care inHeidelberg.

It’s hard to read these out without considering the residents in these facilities will be people’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents and they are at significant risk of dying. That’s an inescapable fact in these settings. Where there are outbreaks in aged care, the mortality is extremely high.

2.10am BST

Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews says six more people have died overnight, a lower toll than yesterday’s 10 deaths.

The deaths are, says Andrews: “A female in her 90s, a female in her 80s, a man in his 80s, a female in her 70s, and a male in his 70s, and a male in his 50s. Five of those six deaths are connected to outbreaks in aged care.”

There are 400 active cases among healthcare workers and “683 active cases connected in someway to aged care,” says Andrews.

“The key message today for every single Victorian, regardless of where they work and regardless of where they live, you simply can’t go to work if you have symptoms,” he says.

“This is what is driving these numbers up and the lockdown will not end until people stop going to work with symptoms and instead go and get tested because they have symptoms.”

2.03am BST

Australian state of Victoria sees record case rise

In Australia, the state of Victoria, in which residents of Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are around half way through a six-week lockdown, has reported a national record 532 new cases in one day, Premier Daniel Andrews has announced at a press conference. The previous national record was 472 cases, most of them from Victoria, on 22 July.

Yesterday was Australia’s deadliest day over the course of the pandemic so far, with ten deaths – all of them in Victoria.

ADF personnel and Victorian police officers are seen patrolling the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Sunday, 26 July 2020.
ADF personnel and Victorian police officers are seen patrolling the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, Sunday, 26 July 2020.
Photograph: Daniel Pockett/AAP

The state is battling outbreaks in aged care facilities and among healthcare workers, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying on Monday that the outbreak in aged care in Melbourne, which by Sunday had grown to 560 cases across 71 residential and non-residential aged care facilities, was a reminder that when community transmission increases, people living in aged care are at risk.

There were 381 active infections in Victorian healthcare workers announced on Sunday – an extra 81 since Friday, the Guardian’s Melissa Davey reports. And that figure doesn’t include the hundreds of healthcare workers now furloughed while awaiting test results after being in close contact with a known case:

1.54am BST

Pacific Islanders in US hospitalised with Covid-19 at up to 10 times the rate of other groups

Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson reports for the Guardian:

Pacific islanders living in the US are being hospitalised with Covid-19 at up to 10 times the rate of some other racial groups.

The US is the most infected country on earth, with more than 4 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and nearly 150,000 deaths, and the 1.5 million Pacific islanders living there are massively overrepresented in infection and hospitalisation rates.

In Washington state, rates of confirmed cases for Native Hawaiian or other Pacific islander people are nine times higher than those of white people, while hospitalisation rates are 10 times that of white people, according to department of health figures.

The numbers are most dramatic in that state’s Spokane county. People from the Marshall Islands make up less than 1% of the county’s population but represent around 30% of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Across the country, states with significant islander populations are showing similar trends:

1.44am BST

Global deaths near 650,000 as cases climb by over 250,000 for four straight days

The number people who have died in the pandemic so far is nearing 650,000 according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, with the total currently at 647,784.

Cases are showing no sign of slowing, with the last four days seeing more than 250,000 cases reported worldwide each day. Three of the last four days sawmore than 280,000 daily cases – a rate that would mean the global total would increase by 2m cases per week.

There are 16,189,581 known coronavirus cases worldwide.

1.32am BST

Dr Birx urges five US states to close bars and limit social gatherings

The co-ordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, Dr Deborah Birx, told reporters In Kentucky on Sunday that that federal health officials recommend that five US states – Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia – “close their bars, cut back indoor restaurant capacity and limit social gatherings to 10 people,” the Louisville Courier Journal reports, as well as recommending that “100%” of people wear masks when they are in public.

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear, the paper reports, “said he is prepared to announce further restrictions Monday to try to control the coronavirus spread in Kentucky. He already has ordered people to wear masks, limit gatherings to 10 people or less and recommended avoiding travel to states with high rates of Covid-19.”

The New York Times reports that four US states – Four states set single-day case records — Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Alaska – reported record case rises on Sunday.

1.08am BST

US records 5,000 deaths in five days

The US has recorded more than 1,000 deaths a day from Covid-19 for five days running, as cases surge in southern and western states, the national caseload nears 4.2m and the death toll approaches 150,000.

In Washington, Senate Republicans and the White House continue talks over what to put in the next stimulus package, as Democrats fret over the imminent expiration of enhanced unemployment payments and evictions of those unable to make rent.

House Democrats passed a tn package, the Heroes Act, in May. On Sunday, key Republican negotiators said their proposals would be unveiled on Monday, with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell expected to outline a package priced at tn. They did not count out a need to pass short-term funding measures first:

12.54am BST

Spain’s Covid-19 death toll could be 60% higher than official figure

In case you missed it: Spain’s coronavirus death toll could be nearly 60% than the official total of 28,342, an investigation by Spanish daily newspaper El País has found.The country’s official death toll includes people who were formally diagnosed with coronavirus, not suspected cases who were never tested.A lack of widespread testing, particularly in the early stages of the outbreak, means the official count could underestimate the virus’ toll, like in many other countries.By counting regional statistics of all suspected and confirmed fatalities from the virus, El Pais reached a total of 44,868 deaths. If accurate, that would make Spain’s outbreak the second deadliest in Europe after the UK.

Spain’s health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.The El País figure is roughly in line with figures from the National Epidemiology Centre and National Statistics Centre (INE), which register excess mortality by comparing deaths across the country with historical averages.In June, the INE reported 43,945 more deaths in the first 21 weeks of 2020 than in the same period of 2019, though it could not say how many could be attributed to the pandemic.

12.30am BST

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next few hours and welcome your questions, suggestions and news tips.

Send them to me on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

The United States has recorded around 1,000 deaths per day for five days in a row, as the national caseload nears 4.2m and the death toll approaches 150,000. Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force co-ordinator, told reporters in Kentucky that federal health officials recommend that five US states – Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia – close their bars.

Here are the other key developments from the last few hours:

  • The health minister of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, has died nearly two weeks after being hospitalised with Covid-19. “I have no words to express all my feelings in this moment, except for profound sadness,” Chihuahua governor Javier Corral wrote on Facebook on Sunday morning of the minister, Dr. Jesus Grajeda.
  • Brazil death toll surpasses 87,000. The death toll from coronavirus in Brazil has reached 87,004, up from 86,449 yesterday, according to the country’s health ministry.The number of cases registered is at 2,419,091, compared to 2,394,513 yesterday.
  • Morocco announces new lockdown. Morocco will stop people entering and leaving some of its biggest cities from midnight to contain a surge in coronavirus cases, the interior and health ministries said on Sunday. On Sunday, the health ministry said 633 new Covid-19 cases were recorded, one of the biggest daily rises so far, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 20,278, with 313 deaths and 16,438 recoveries.
  • Some 500 workers are in quarantine on a large Bavarian farm to contain a mass coronavirus outbreak, German officials said, as they announced free Covid-19 tests for local residents. A total of 174 seasonal workers have tested positive for the virus since Friday.
  • The number of confirmed infections to Covid-19 has passed 36,000 in Afghanistan as death toll in Kabul topped 500, amid raising concerns about a second wave of the pandemic over the upcoming Eid celebration. Coronavirus related deaths rose by 12 from the previous day to stand at 1,259 on Sunday.
  • Spain’s Covid-19 death toll could be 60% higher than the official figure. An investigation by Spanish newspaper El País, in which reporters counted regional statistics of suspected, as well as confirmed fatalities, reached a total of 44,868 deaths.
  • Spain are in talks with the UK about exempting the Canary and Balearic islands from strict quarantine rules. From midnight on Sunday, travellers returning from Spain to the UK have been forced to quarantine for 14 days, following a surge of cases in the country. The Spanish foreign minister said conversations between the countries were focussed on excluding the islands, which have seen far fewer Covid-19 infections and deaths, from the measures.
  • Vietnam has reintroduced social distancing measures in the city of Danang. The rules, reimposed by the government, follow the detection of four new locally-transmitted coronavirus cases in the country, after three months of no new infections.
  • North Korea has declared a state of emergency in a border town over a suspected coronavirus case. State news agency KCNA said leader Kim Jong Un also imposed a lockdown in Kaesong after a person who illegally crossed the border from South Korea displayed symptoms of the virus.
  • India’s prime minister has warned citizens to be “extra vigilant” towards the ongoing threat of Covid-19. Narendra Modi’s comments come after the country recorded more than 48,000 cases in 24 hours. India’s total coronavirus caseload now stands at 1.4 million, while more than 30,000 people have died after contracting the disease.

Updated at 12.51am BST

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UK coronavirus live: Boris Johnson admits government could have handled crisis differently in early months

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Boris Johnson admits government could have handled crisis differently in early months – as it happened” was written by Lucy Campbell, Jessica Murray and Aamna Mohdin, for theguardian.com on Friday 24th July 2020 18.09 UTC

6.49pm BST

Evening summary

  • Boris Johnson admitted the government could have handled the UK’s coronavirus outbreak differently and there were lessons to be learned, including on the timing of the lockdown. One year on from taking office, the prime minister told BBC News the government had underestimated the extent of asymptomatic transmission and didn’t fully understand the coronavirus in the “first few weeks and months” of the pandemic. It marked a significant departure from his previous insistence that the government took “the right decisions at the right time” based on scientific advice.
  • A lack of PPE, inadequate testing, and discharging people from hospitals into care homes were the key mistakes made by the UK government in its approach to England, MPs were told. The responses, seen exclusively by the Guardian, were given as part of a major coronavirus inquiry. Older people were “catastrophically let down” and many died before their time, according to the Age UK charity, and the BMA said the government’s testing and tracing capabilities at the start of the crisis fell “far short” of what was needed and left the infection to “spread unchecked”. The Unite union doctors group said the government had been slow and had “squandered” weeks of valuable time.
  • The Office for National Statistics estimates that 27,700 people had coronavirus in England last week, suggesting cases have either remained stable over recent weeks or have potentially started to rise. In the latest report, published on Friday, the number of new infections in the week of 13 to 19 July were estimated at 2,800 per day, compared with 1,700 per day the week before.
  • Separately, the government published its latest estimates of the R number, which reflects the number of people each infected person passes the virus on to. In England, R stands at 0.8 to 1, meaning the pandemic is stable and potentially in decline. Growth rates published alongside the latest R values suggest infections are falling by 1% to 4% per day.
  • The UK government’s tally of Covid-associated deaths rose by 123 to 45,677.

That’s it from me from the UK side. Thank you for reading along and to everybody who got in touch throughout the day. If you would like to continue following the Guardian’s coronavirus coverage, head over to the global live blog for the worldwide picture.

Updated at 7.09pm BST

6.17pm BST

University students returning home at the end of term could risk spreading coronavirus across the country if there are outbreaks on campus, government scientific advisers have warned.

Students who go home after falling ill with Covid-19 to avoid having to quarantine alone could also create an “issue” when British universities reopen their campuses in September, they say.

In a document published by Sage, scientists advising the government said student migration at the end of term warrants more attention as universities could “act as amplifiers”.

They warned:

If there is an outbreak at a university (even if not widespread transmission), then students returning home could pose a risk for spread across the UK.

This will be further exacerbated if people return infected but asymptomatic. Students are also more likely to be integrated with the wider community at their home address.

Updated at 6.45pm BST

5.54pm BST

The deputy artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company has warned that the theatre world will become unable to support diverse communities if “the pain continues”.

Erica Whyman said there was “real risk” many theatre companies could close for a substantial length of time if they were not able to reopen before Christmas. She warned that young actors and those from diverse backgrounds would suffer most from the impact of theatre closures, especially in the regions.

Whyman told the PA news agency:

I think some we won’t see recover, that has to be said out loud.

There will be some that cannot find their way back from that crisis, because if they can’t get back open by Christmas that’s getting on for nine months they will be closed, and they will have lost the income from that critical Christmas period.

Last week, Boris Johnson announced that live indoor theatre and concerts would be able to resume with socially distanced audiences from 1 August – subject to the success of pilots.

Whyman added:

In the main we are charities – not all of us, some of us are in the commercial sector – but most of us are charities. We are driven by a mission to share theatre and theatre-making with the widest possible community. And we just won’t be fit to do that if the pain continues.

She said she was “very worried about the most diverse talent in our industry”, adding:

Younger generations in the main who are more diverse in a number of ways, in their socioeconomic background, ethnic background, artists who identify as deaf or disabled.

We have seen many more people come into the performing arts in the last decade and that has been a very good thing. And we know from research we have already conducted that they are the most likely to leave, to not feel they can stick out in this kind of economic climate.

The government has previously announced a £1.57bn support package for the arts, with music venues, theatres, museums, galleries, independent cinemas and heritage sites eligible for emergency grants and loans.

Whyman said:

We were very glad and relieved to hear about the package of money that will be distributed to the performing arts but at this moment it’s really important to say we still don’t know when that will be.

Updated at 6.14pm BST

5.44pm BST

Responding to the BBC interview, Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

At last Boris Johnson has admitted what we have all known for some time – this government made fundamental mistakes in their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

However, to try and minimise this as there were some things they could have done differently is not only an enormous understatement, but it is an insult to all those who tragically lost loved ones to the virus.

This interview has given people more questions than answers.

With no remorse for the catastrophic mistakes such as the failure to protect our care homes or a refusal to put a comprehensive plan in place for a second wave, it is clear the prime minister has learnt nothing over the course of the last few months.

Boris Johnson’s comments today prove why an immediate independent inquiry is so essential.

The prime minister and his government must be faced with the reality of where they went wrong, so that they can learn from their mistakes which have led to tragic consequences.

Updated at 5.58pm BST

5.32pm BST

The free flu vaccination programme in Wales will be extended to citizens over 50 and to households of shielded people – subject to confirmation from the UK government that there will be enough vaccine to go round.

The Welsh government said existing eligible groups including those aged over 65 years, pregnant women and people with medical conditions should be vaccinated first. Increasing uptake in health and social care workers will also be a key priority this winter.

The Welsh health minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

This winter more than ever we need to protect the most vulnerable in our community and continue to protect our NHS.

By extending the flu vaccine to more people than ever before we can help prevent people becoming ill and reduce pressure on the NHS this winter. I would urge anyone who is eligible to have the vaccine.

Updated at 5.57pm BST

5.26pm BST

Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, has said the prime minister “has finally admitted the government has mishandled its response to the coronavirus”.

Responding to Boris Johnson’s remarks in an interview with the BBC, he said:

This finally puts to bed the prime minister’s previous claim his government ‘took the right decisions at the right time’.

He added:

It was too slow to acknowledge the threat of the virus, too slow to enter lockdown and too slow to take this crisis seriously.

The threat of a second wave is still very real.

It is imperative the government learns the lessons of its mistakes so we can help to save lives.

Updated at 5.56pm BST

5.23pm BST

It’s significant that Boris Johnson has reflected and acknowledged that the government could have handled things differently in the early stages of the UK outbreak; ministers have previously uniformly insisted that they took “the right decisions at the right time” based on the scientific advice at the time.

On the first anniversary of his taking office, Johnson also promised to go “further” and “faster” in changing the country.

Last week the prime minister promised an “independent” inquiry into the UK’s approach during the pandemic, but there have yet to be any details released on its scope or timing.

Updated at 5.35pm BST

5.17pm BST

The prime minister said the country was “vulnerable” to a resurgence of coronavirus, particularly in the winter.

But he denied, under questioning from BBC News, that ministers had been too slow to act during the initial wave, saying:

No, on the contrary, no if you look at the timing of every single piece of advice that we got from our advisers, from Sage, you will find that whenever they said that we needed to take a particular step, actually, we stuck to that advice like glue.

On his winter warning, he added:

Collectively, this country has done an incredible thing to get the disease down to the levels it’s at. But we all know that it can come back.

And we can see what’s happening in other countries – I won’t name them – but you can see the resurgence that’s happening. We know that we’re vulnerable there.

So that’s why we’re getting on now with our preparations for the winter … a massive flu vaccination programme, stockpiling PPE, making sure that we ramp up test and trace, and making sure that people get tested if they have symptoms.

Updated at 5.32pm BST

5.16pm BST

Johnson also said there were things his government “could have done differently” during the handling of the pandemic.

Maybe there were things we could have done differently and of course there will be time to understand what exactly we could have done, or done differently.

When you listen to the scientists, the questions that you’ve asked are actually very open questions as far as they are concerned.

And there will be a time obviously to consider all those issues.

5.15pm BST

In an admittance that the government didn’t understand Covid-19 sufficiently in its “first few weeks and months”, the prime minister told the BBC:

We didn’t understand [the virus] in the way that we would have liked in the first few weeks and months.

And I think probably, the single thing that we didn’t see at the beginning was the extent to which it was being transmitted asymptomatically from person to person.

I think it’s fair to say that there are things that we need to learn about how we handled it in the early stages … there will be plenty of opportunities to learn the lessons of what happened.

Updated at 5.28pm BST

5.12pm BST

Boris Johnson has said he was “very lucky” to have survived his own brush with the virus, and said the UK needed to be serious about tackling “our national struggle with obesity”.

“Our great country tends to be a bit fatter than other countries in Europe,” he said. One of the lessons he drew from his own experience, he added, was that we all need to be fitter and healthier.

Updated at 5.28pm BST

5.09pm BST

Boris Johnson admits government could have done things differently in early months of pandemic

The prime minister has conceded that the government didn’t understand the coronavirus in the “first few weeks and months” of the UK’s outbreak, and admits there were things it could’ve done differently in its handling of the crisis.

In an interview with the BBC a year since he took office, Boris Johnson said there were “lessons to be learned” about how the virus was managed in the early stages of the outbreak. He also admitted there were “open questions” over whether the nationwide lockdown came too late.

The extent to which Covid-19 was being transmitted asymptomatically was underestimated at the time, he added.

Updated at 5.37pm BST

4.45pm BST

This is from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.

It’s expected that Boris Johnson has been reflecting on what went wrong in the early weeks of the coronavirus crisis.

Updated at 5.02pm BST

4.36pm BST

Public transport will not have room for the majority of children who rely on buses, trains and trams to get to school in September, government scientific advisers have warned.

The space needed for social distancing means that public transport in England will quickly be overwhelmed at either end of the school day, with the pressure expected to be particularly severe in London, they say.

The warning, which appears in a document released on Friday by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, Sage, highlights a difficulty many families may face under Boris Johnson’s plans for all children to return to school after the summer holidays.

Experts on the Children’s Task and Finish Group, a subgroup of Sage, raised their concerns after an assessment of public transport capacity by the Department for Transport (DfT). The document states:

Internal DfT modelling suggests that there is likely to only be capacity to accommodate a minority of children who use public transport to get to school in September, whilst maintaining social distancing.

The report suggests that separate transport for students, or staggered start times, could reduce the risk of infection on buses, trains and trams, but concedes this would require coordination with local employers. For those who live nearby, cycling and “walking buses”, both of which have health benefits, could be encouraged, though these may be less popular in the autumn and winter, it adds.

Travel surveys by the DfT show that about 5% of primary school children and nearly a third of secondary school children take the bus to school. While extra buses can be laid on fairly easily, students who use the train could face greater problems, the experts say.

The document urges schools to drop the term “bubbles” when referring to children who are allowed to mix together, amid concerns that it risks confusion with household bubbles. Instead, it says pupils should be “segmented” into smaller groups to reduce the risk of transmission, limit outbreak sizes, and make it easier to identify linked cases.

Updated at 4.58pm BST

4.21pm BST

This morning, the prime minister was promoting an expanded programme of flu jabs that ministers hope will ease pressure on the NHS if there is a second wave of coronavirus this winter.

The government is to expand the usual winter programme of free flu vaccinations this year to everyone over 50 to prevent a surge of flu cases coinciding with an increase of coronavirus cases.

Here is the moment Boris Johnson said anti-vaxxers were “nuts”.

4.10pm BST

UK death toll rises by 123 to 45,677

A further 123 deaths of people who tested positive for Covid-19 have been confirmed across all settings, bringing the UK government toll of Covid-associated deaths to 45,677.

Another 770 positive cases were also reported, bringing that total to 297,914.

You can read the full government data here.

Updated at 7.08pm BST

3.44pm BST

Grammar schools in England have been asked to delay this year’s 11-plus entry exams because of the impact of the coronavirus lockdown, the Department for Education said in new guidance that could create headaches for parents.

The exam for selective school entry is usually taken by year 6 pupils in September, to allow the results to be processed and families informed before state secondary school applications close at the end of October.

But the DfE said it now “strongly advised” authorities to delay 11+ exams until late October or November – meaning families will have to choose schools without knowing if their children have qualified for a grammar place.

The DfE guidance states:

No child is likely to perform to their utmost ability in a test at the beginning of September and all are likely to benefit from as much time back in education as possible before being assessed. The attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is likely to be magnified by their absence from school during the coronavirus outbreak.

To compensate for any confusion, the DfE said local authorities should allow families to name an additional school preference.

Where grammar school assessment results will not be provided until after 31 October, we recommend that local authorities advise parents to use their final preference for a local non-selective school.

Schools will also need to make special arrangements for some children, including those living in households where someone is clinically vulnerable, to take the exam in their own homes or another safe venue.

The DfE said:

In the interests of fairness, we also prompt admission authorities to identify any impact of the selection process which might prove a barrier to children from lower income backgrounds in light of the public health situation and take action to mitigate such impacts wherever possible.

Kent county council, one of the local authorities that retains a selective school system, has said it will delay its 11+ exams until mid-October. But Lincolnshire said it will only delay its exams by a week in September.

Updated at 4.34pm BST

3.41pm BST

From 28 July, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia and St Vincent and the Grenadines will be added to the travel corridors list, and passengers arriving from these countries will not be required to self-isolate when arriving in England.

The full list and more information is here.

3.37pm BST

Luton council has issued a new warning amid fears of a local lockdown following a rise in coronavirus cases.

The town has been designated an “intervention area” by the government, leading to people being warned to stay at home as much as possible.

The infection rate in Luton is among the 10 highest in England at 709.5 per 100,000.

Gyms, pools and leisure centres will not reopen on Saturday as planned due to the rise, play areas will remain closed, and there will be increased enforcement against businesses that are not compliant with guidelines or that fail to show they are Covid-19 safe.

Testing capacity is being increased across the town.

The council said people should not make social visits to other people’s homes, should only meet up with others outside, and should not gather outside in groups of more than six people.

Luton North MP Sarah Owen told ITV News:

I really hope we can avoid a local lockdown in Luton. As our rate of infection increases locally, people are worried and need reassurance from government. When we look to Leicester’s local lockdown, the right support from central government has not been in place for local people.

The council said the effectiveness of the measures would be continuously monitored and further steps may have to be taken if necessary.

Updated at 3.53pm BST

3.17pm BST

About a third of England’s public leisure centres will remain closed on Saturday as a widespread picture of financial distress among community leisure operators overshadows the long-awaited reopening of gyms and indoor swimming pools, Zoe Wood reports.

While privately owned chains such as PureGym, David Lloyd and Virgin Active are eager to proceed with opening plans, the charitable trusts behind the country’s 2,116 council-owned sites are being circumspect as coronavirus restrictions tip their finances into the red.

Updated at 3.51pm BST

2.49pm BST

A further 16 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,247.

Updated at 2.57pm BST

2.28pm BST

There have been no new deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, with the number remaining at 1,548, Public Health Wales said. The total number of cases there increased by 45, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 17,075.

Updated at 2.41pm BST

2.16pm BST

Scotland has recorded 22 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in a day, according to the latest Scottish government figures.

A total of 18,520 people have now tested positive for the virus north of the border, after two cases previously classified as positive were reclassified as negative.

No deaths of people who tested positive for Covid-19 have been recorded for eight consecutive days, meaning the toll remains at 2,491.

The percentage of people testing positive remains at 0.4%, the figures indicate, which is no change from Thursday.

Updated at 2.41pm BST

2.02pm BST

The Greater Manchester mayor, and former Labour health secretary, Andy Burnham, has told the BBC:

I think we are heading here for a winter without a [coronavirus] vaccine.

And I think we have all got to face up to what that means.

It will probably be the most difficult winter in the National Health Service that it has ever experienced.

Updated at 2.35pm BST

2.00pm BST

Should you wear a mask in a coffee shop? What about a takeaway? If you’re finding it confusing, there is one simple approach to follow, writes Guardian columnist Zoe Williams.

A friend runs a bar that also sells records, and explains patiently when people go in that if they’re having a beer, they don’t have to mask up; if they’re buying a record, they do.

If they’re drinking a beer while browsing for records, they can remain face-naked until they buy a record, then they have to put a mask on, unless they want another beer.

I can easily imagine people going there deliberately to make some kind of mask statement, but then my friend will sell more beer, so what’s the harm?

1.54pm BST

Health minister Lord Bethell has said a “major national campaign” on obesity will be launched next week.

Replying to a debate on coronavirus regulations, he told the House of Lords:

[Lord Holmes of Richmond] is absolutely right that obesity has been a key driver of illness.

As you’ll have read, we’re launching a major national campaign next week, which I am personally participating in, and this will be a long-term campaign to change the health outcomes of the nation.

Updated at 2.11pm BST

1.38pm BST

Lack of testing and PPE among key England Covid-19 mistakes, MPs told

A lack of protective equipment, inadequate testing, and discharging people from hospitals into care homes were the key mistakes made by the government in its approach to coronavirus in England, according to the first responses given to a major coronavirus inquiry seen exclusively by the Guardian.

Older people were “catastrophically let down” and many died before their time, according to a damning submission from the Age UK charity.

It also described the initial policy of discharging elderly people from hospital into care settings without a Covid-19 test as a “terrible mistake”.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the government’s testing and tracing capabilities at the start of the crisis fell “far short” of what was needed and left the infection to “spread unchecked”, while the Unite union doctors group said the government had been slow and had “squandered” weeks of valuable time.

Their perspectives on the government’s management of the crisis are among the first submissions to an inquiry run by the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, which has received 900 submissions from individuals, charities and public bodies in two weeks.

Updated at 2.00pm BST

1.35pm BST

ONS figures suggest cases in England stable or potentially rising

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 27,700 people had coronavirus in England last week, suggesting cases have either remained stable over recent weeks or have potentially started to rise.

Test results from the previous week pointed to about 24,000 total infections, but uncertainties in the data mean it is impossible to determine whether cases are flat or are starting to rise as a result of lockdown restrictions easing.

The estimates are based on test results from nearly 25,000 households across England and provide a weekly snapshot of the number of people who have Covid-19 and how many new infections are occurring each day.

In the latest report, published on Friday, the number of new infections in the week of 13 to 19 July were estimated at 2,800 per day compared with 1,700 per day the week before.

Prof Sarah Walker, who works on the survey at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield department of medicine, said the numbers were consistent with no change or a rise in cases, and that more data was needed to clarify the picture.

Separately, the government published its latest estimates of the R number, which reflects the number of people each infected person passes the virus on to.

In England, R stands at 0.8 to 1, meaning the pandemic is stable and potentially in decline.

Growth rates published alongside the latest R values suggest infections are falling by 1% to 4% per day.

Updated at 1.47pm BST

1.05pm BST

As the quest for a coronavirus vaccine continues, a UK-based endeavour has announced it is expanding testing in humans.

The Imperial College vaccine, developed by Prof Robin Shattock and his team, has yielded promising results in mice, and has so far been given to 92 people, and counting, out of a cohort of 120 at a west London facility.

Now the team have announced the trial is to expand to cover a further 200 adults aged 18-75 across six additional sites, including Chelsea and Westminster hospital NHS foundation rrust, St George’s University hospital NHS foundation rrust, and University College London NHS foundation trust. Each participant will be given two immunisations, four weeks apart.

Shattock said:

The early results from pre-clinical data have been promising, and the expansion of our trial to additional centres will provide further data on the safety of the vaccine, and the immune response.

The Imperial vaccine involves introducing into the body fat droplets containing the genetic instructions, as messenger RNA, that gives rise to the virus’s spike proteins – proteins found on the surface of the virus that help it to enter our cells. The vaccine is designed to trigger the production of these spike proteins by the body’s own cells.

The team hope this will stimulate an immune reaction so that, should the body subsequently encounter the virus itself, it will be primed to fight it off.

The Imperial vaccine is one of many currently under development around the world. In promising news this week a vaccine developed by a team at the University of Oxford was shown to trigger an immune response. This vaccine takes a different tack to the Imperial approach, incorporating genetic instructions for the coronavirus spike protein into the DNA of a harmless, non-replicating adenovirus.

But despite the positive news, there is a long way to go before a coronavirus vaccine is available: as experts have pointed out, it remains unclear what immune responses to these vaccines mean for immunity, how long any protection would last, and whether the vaccines will bring the same level of protection to older people as younger ones.

In the UK at least, it seems the government is hedging its bets. This week it was announced it is aiming to secure stocks of up to 12 different vaccines.

Updated at 1.45pm BST

12.57pm BST

Protect the NHS by getting a flu jab, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has urged the public to get a winter flu jab, saying it will help to protect the NHS.

The prime minister spoke as he promoted the expansion of the flu vaccination programme across England, in which up to 30 million people could receive the jab.

The government is aiming to double its winter flu vaccination programme, with free jabs for those aged 50 and over, and for 11-year-olds. This is on top of at-risk groups, such as people with asthma, heart disease and diabetes, and anyone living with somebody on the Covid-19 shielded list.

Johnson told Sky News:

We want everybody to get a flu jab in the run-up to this winter and that’s why we’re rolling out the biggest-ever programme of flu immunisation.

And we’re aiming first of all for schoolchildren up to year seven, for pregnant women, for people over 65, for people who are shielded, but then we will be extending it to people who are 50 to 65.

Now the reason for doing this is to protect the NHS in the winter months because obviously we have still got Covid, we have still got the threat of a second spike on Covid, and it’s vital therefore to keep that pressure off the NHS by everybody getting a flu jab and I really hope everybody will.

The British Medical Association said the expanded flu vaccination programme is “sensible given the current health climate” but said the government will need to “ensure vaccination supplies reach practices quickly and in sufficient quantities”.

Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, also welcomed the move but added:

It is likely that Covid-19 will present challenges to delivering the flu programme. We will need to take measures to ensure all patients are safe when they come to get their vaccination, and we will need to ensure people, particularly in at-risk groups, are confident in doing so. If a Covid-19 vaccination is available for use then this will also need to be factored in.

This morning, Dr Dylan Watkins, a GP in Totnes, Devon, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme his practice would struggle to administer the extra jabs.

The concern is that for our practice we’ve got 15,000 patients and the addition of the cohort of patients in the 50- to 64-year-old age group is going to approximately double the number of flu vaccines we’re going to be asked to provide this year.

[This is] at a time when we’re going to struggle to administer the vaccines effectively because of coronavirus limitations and we reckon with five clinical rooms running – each with administration staff with a nurse or doctor – that in a day we could probably administer 420 vaccines safely, according to the current guidelines. Add in an extra 2,000 patients for us that fall into this age category.

Let’s estimate, maybe half of them might decide to have a flu vaccine this year … we’re looking at the full two days’ extra work while we’re also trying to play catch up on the clinical work we’ve been missing because of the coronavirus situation.

He said it was a “huge guess” how many vaccines would be needed and who would take them up, adding that 2,000 extra vaccines “sat in the fridge gone off” would cost £15,000.

Updated at 1.43pm BST

12.46pm BST

The Scottish football club St Mirren is in lockdown after seven coaches and backroom staff tested positive for Covid-19.

Following the news, Scottish Premiership clubs have been ordered to revert to two coronavirus tests a week rather than one.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Rangers faces an investigation by the Scottish Football Association into whether the club breached testing protocols as it emerged that as many as nine of Steven Gerrard’s first-team squad played against Dundee United on Wednesday without having been given the mandatory all-clear in time.

The SFA has emphasised the importance of sticking to new testing and hygiene procedures ahead of the new season kicking off on 1 August.

Updated at 1.44pm BST

12.22pm BST

My colleague Jason Rodrigues has been on Oxford Street this morning in London, where enforcement of England’s new face coverings rule has been “patchy” and “surprisingly casual”.

11.58am BST

Major high street names including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Co-Op have said they will not enforce a new law making the wearing of face masks compulsory in shops in England, my colleague Zoe Wood reports.

The new rule carries a £100 fine for non-compliance. Police leaders are urging shops to refuse entry to people not wearing face coverings after the high street chains said they will not penalise customers who fail to do so.

Jo Whitfield, the chief executive of the Co-op, which has 2,600 grocery stores, said staff – who already received abuse from shoppers on a daily basis – would not challenge people who refused to toe the line.

We’ll have in-store signage on the new rules around face coverings but we are clear that shop workers should not enforce the new legislation.

On a daily basis they face abuse, threatening behaviour and even physical assault. Our own figures show that during the Covid-19 crisis such instances have risen and enforcing the wearing of face masks could be another flashpoint.

Sainsbury’s also tweeted that staff wouldn’t be challenging customers without a mask as they could be medically exempt:

Earlier this morning, the care minister Helen Whately told BBC Breakfast she doesn’t believe enforcement from the police will be needed to ensure people wear face coverings.

She also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that some people are exempt from the regulations due to health conditions and she expected people to be “reasonable” about this.

What we are saying is that we are not expecting people to carry proof that they are exempt. There are some people who are exempt from this. We are expecting people to be reasonable about this. And we don’t want to see members of the public accosted for not wearing a face mask. We absolutely want the vast majority of people to be wearing face masks when they are going into shops.

Updated at 12.14pm BST

11.49am BST

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its list of countries and territories exempt from advice against “all but essential” international travel. These destinations are no longer considered to pose an unacceptably high risk for British travellers. You can find the list here.

It is different to the list of countries you may be able to return from without self-isolation – travel corridors – for England. You can find that list here.

Updated at 12.01pm BST

11.21am BST

Boris Johnson has said people opposed to vaccinations are “nuts” as he promotes an expanded programme of flu jabs that ministers hope will ease pressure on the NHS if there is a second wave of coronavirus this winter.

It comes after several polls have suggested some Britons are feeling apprehensive about having a Covid-19 vaccine. A coronavirus jab is seen by many experts as a key route out of the pandemic. Last year, the World Health Organization identified “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top 10 health threats to the world.

Boris Johnson wears a face mask as he visits Tollgate medical centre in Beckton, London.
Boris Johnson wears a face mask as he visits Tollgate medical centre in Beckton, London.
Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

Our political correspondent Peter Walker reports that the prime minister added that while he was worried about a second wave of Covid-19, he believed the UK would be through the crisis by mid-2021.

The government is to expand the usual winter programme of free flu vaccinations this year to everyone over 50 in an attempt to reduce the level of flu infections and prevent the NHS potentially becoming overwhelmed if coronavirus returns more significantly.

You can read the full story here.

Updated at 12.02pm BST

11.17am BST

In the Liverpool One shopping complex on Friday, signs telling customers to wear masks were up in many of the stores and a vending machine selling face coverings had been installed, PA Media reports.

The machine had packs of five three-ply masks for £4.75, packets of two for £1.95 or fashion coverings for £5.95.

Susan Green, 57, from Liverpool, was wearing a clear visor, which she had bought from a nearby shop, as she waited for HMV to open. She told PA:

I think it is a little bit late to have introduced this and lots of people I’ve seen this morning are not even wearing one. It won’t put me off coming to the shops because I’ll be out anyway but it does seem a bit unnecessary.

Another shopper, Judith Molloy, 72, from St Helens, was wearing a mask as she did some shopping in Liverpool One but said she had started using a face covering to go to the shops some time ago.

I’m vulnerable and so is my husband. I think this should have started from day one. I was on the bus this morning and people were getting on with no masks. If you go into a shop without a mask I don’t think anyone is going to say anything. I think people are more relaxed now.

Loryn Fortune, a trainee department manager at the clothing store & Other Stories in Liverpool One, said people would not be asked to leave their shop if they weren’t wearing a face covering.

We have signage on the window, we’ve got signage up as you enter the shop and then it’s just a polite nudge from us at the door. We can’t enforce it and we don’t want to cause a big scene so we’ll just politely remind people. We’re also aware that people have invisible illnesses.

She said customers had been cooperative since the store reopened post-lockdown and around half of shoppers were already wearing coverings before today’s tighter guidance was introduced.

I’m sure we’ll have a few people who won’t want to wear them but I’m hoping people realise they have got to look after each other and not just themselves.

Updated at 12.04pm BST

11.11am BST

People wearing masks in Leicester city centre as face coverings become mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England.
People wearing masks in Leicester city centre as face coverings become mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England.
Photograph: Jacob King/PA

11.01am BST

Good morning! I’m Lucy Campbell, taking over the blog for the rest of the day. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have news tips and stories to share.

Email: lucy.campbell@theguardian.com
Twitter: @lucy_campbell_

Updated at 12.04pm BST

10.59am BST

The local neighbourhood in England with the highest number of deaths involving Covid-19 is still the area of Crabtree & Fir Vale in Sheffield, which has recorded a total of 67 deaths. These figures cover the four months from March to June.

It is followed by:

  • Bishop Auckland Central & West in County Durham (38 deaths),
  • Church End in Brent (36 deaths),
  • Nascot Wood in Watford (34 deaths), and
  • Cramlington Town & Beaconhill in Northumberland (34 deaths).

Last month, I did an in-depth report on Church End, a small, deprived estate in north Brent with a large British-Somali population. You can read more below.

Or listen to the Today in Focus podcast episode.

Updated at 12.11pm BST

10.53am BST

Boris Johnson said he wants people to “stop thinking of coronavirus as something that makes it impossible to do things”, as he outlined an ambition to speed up the running of government services, PA Media reports.

He told reporters:

There are aspects of the way government works, the whole of government, that really need to be faster and more responsive to the needs of the people.

And if you look at particularly what’s happening now, you’ve got this problem of ‘backlog Britain’. You’ve got people not getting their passports on time, their birth certificates, huge problems of backlogs, cases not going through the courts fast enough.

That’s something that I think that we as a country, with the fantastic civil servants that we have, now that’s something that we should really be bending our wills to solving.

I want to see a massive effort now by the country to psychologically, to stop thinking of coronavirus as something that makes it impossible to do things and start really looking at tackling the problems of the British people – how to get the things that they want in double time.

So that’s why we’ve set up Project Speed. So one of the things I’ve learnt is sometimes government can be slow and unresponsive and sometimes we need to go faster.

Updated at 12.12pm BST

10.33am BST

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has been doing the media rounds today. He has called on “everybody to get a flu jab in the run-up to this winter”.

Speaking to Sky News, he said:

We want everybody to get a flu jab in the run-up to this winter and that’s why we’re rolling out the biggest-ever programme of flu immunisation.

And we’re aiming first of all for school children up to year 7, for pregnant women, for people over 65, for people who are shielded, but then we will be extending it to people who are 50 to 65.

Now the reason for doing this is to protect the NHS in the winter months because obviously we have still got Covid, we have still got the threat of a second spike on Covid, and it’s vital therefore to keep that pressure off the NHS by everybody getting a flu jab, and I really hope everybody will.

Johnson said the length of time that social distancing measures will need to stay in place will depend on how well the UK manages to control the spread of Covid-19, PA Media reports.

Speaking to the media during a visit to a GP surgery, the prime minister said:

‘The use of face masks, the use of all the social distancing measures, really does depend on our ability collectively to get the pandemic right down and to keep it down.

‘I’m not going to make a prediction about when these various social distancing measures will come off.

‘Obviously we have been able to reduce some of them. We no longer ask people to stay at home, we’re trying to get back much closer to normal but our ability to dispense with the social distancing measures will depend on our continued ability to drive down the virus.’

Updated at 10.54am BST

10.28am BST

Ashford was local authority in England with highest Covid-19 mortality rate in June

The borough of Ashford, in Kent, was the local authority in England with the highest mortality rate involving Covid-19 in June, with a rate of 36.5 deaths per 100,000 people, PA Media reports. The rate was broadly unchanged from 36.7 in May.

It was followed by:

  • Tameside (23.9 in June, down from 38.1 in May)
  • Dover (21.7, down from 25.5)
  • Folkestone & Hythe (21.7, down from 31.9)
  • Nuneaton & Bedworth (19.9, down from 38.3)

The rate in Hull, the local authority that recorded the highest rate in May, dropped from 51.3 to 18.0 in June.

Updated at 10.56am BST

9.19am BST

Longstanding under-investment in the NHS will hamper its ability to tackle the backlog of tests and required treatments that built up during the Covid-19 pandemic, research shows.

A new 31-country study found patients in the UK will face long waits for care and the rationing of treatment because the health service has so few staff and beds.

The research, by the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, found that the UK is near the bottom of the league table for health resources – staff, equipment and buildings – on a list of comparable countries. Staff shortages in particular will lead to patients facing long delays for care, it said.

Ministers have insisted since May that, after coping with the peak of the pandemic, “the NHS is open” and ready to provide its usual full range of services, such as A&E and cancer care. However, hospital bosses have warned that it will take up to four years to again provide diagnostic tests and surgery within usual waiting times.

Updated at 9.31am BST

9.03am BST

A shopper wearing a face mask in a supermarket in east London as face coverings become mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England.
A shopper wearing a face mask in a supermarket in east London as face coverings become mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England.
Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

The national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales has urged shops to refuse entry to anyone not wearing a face covering, PA Media reports.

John Apter said:

As face coverings become a mandatory requirement in stores, police officers are yet again adapting to a new set of unprecedented laws and guidelines which they wouldn’t have even dreamed of before lockdown.

It is our members who are expected to police what is a new way of living and I would urge retail outlets to play their part in making the rules crystal clear: if you are not wearing a face covering then you are not coming in.

Officers will be there to help stores if needed – but only as a last resort, as we simply do not have the resources.

The vast majority of the public have complied with the lockdown rules so far and I would hope they will continue to do the right thing and wear face coverings in stores to help protect fellow citizens to minimise the spread of the virus.

Updated at 9.12am BST

8.58am BST

What kind of face mask gives the best protection against coronavirus? Here’s an explainer from science correspondent Hannah Devlin.

8.21am BST

Retailers saw a major boost in sales last month as spending rapidly rebounded after the coronavirus shutdown.

PA Media reports:

Sales volumes jumped by 13.9% in June compared with the month before, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It brings total sales across Britain close to the levels they were at this time last year, after two months of double-digit growth. An average of what analysts were predicting, compiled by Pantheon Macroeconomics, had expected an 8% rise.

However, all is not good news, as some types of shops were left behind by the apparent boom last month.

Richard Lim, the chief executive of Retail Economics, said:

“The retail sector bounced back as the reopening of shops released pent-up demand for some retailers.

“But the recovery is being felt unevenly across the sector, with clothing retailers remaining under significant pressure.

“Some consumers searching to break the monotony of being at home headed for the high street, but numbers remained considerably lower than pre-Covid levels.”

Updated at 9.03am BST

7.40am BST

Cinemas, museums and beauty salons to reopen from Monday in Wales

Cinemas, museums and beauty salons can reopen from Monday in Wales, the Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has confirmed.

Tourist accommodation with shared facilities, such as camping sites and all hotels will be able to reopen from tomorrow (25 July) as will underground tourist attractions.

New rules making it compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport, including taxis, will also come into effect on Monday (27 July).

The next review of the regulations and easing of lockdown restrictions will be next Friday (31 July).

Updated at 7.57am BST

7.34am BST

Scotland’s education secretary, John Swinney, told Holyrood yesterday that the final decision would would be announced next Thursday, giving parents limited time to prepare alternative work and childcare arrangements if there are further delays.

Johannah Bisset, an organiser for Us for Them Scotland, said: “Many parents need to plan shifts, organise childcare and plan their lives generally to accommodate whatever decision the Scottish government makes. These are decisions which should have been made already, and it’s disappointing that those parents will have to wait longer for certainty.

“We are also worried at the suggestion that some councils may not return to normal and instead go for the phased approach which was so heavily criticised before”.

Swinney also confirmed that, while primary school pupils will now not be required to socially distance at school, older pupils will be asked to take “practical” steps to avoid contact with others.

Updated at 7.57am BST

7.21am BST

Face coverings will be compulsory in takeaways, banks and post offices as well as shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres and stations in England from today.

The new guidelines state coverings, such as cloth masks or bandanas, must be worn when buying food and drink to take away, but if sitting down and consuming their purchase in the same premises, a customer can remove their face covering in order to eat and drink there.

Police will have powers to enforce the rules and those who do not do so could face fines of up to £100, in line with the rules for wearing face coverings public transport. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

While shoppers must wear face coverings, it will not be compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear them. The government only says “we strongly recommend that employers consider their use where appropriate”.

The rules say it will not be compulsory for customers to wear masks or similar coverings in hairdressers, gyms, dine-in restaurants and pubs or cinemas, concert halls or theatres.

You can read more on face masks below.

For those wondering how exactly these new regulation will affect you, here’s an informative Q&A by Sarah Butler.

Here’s the parliamentary schedule for today, from PA Media:

House of Commons

Not sitting.

House of Lords

  • 1100: Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020; Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020
  • A private notice question on Covid-19 lockdown: domestic abuse victims
  • Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2020
  • Insolvency Act 1986 Part A1 Moratorium (Eligibility of Private Registered Providers) Regulations 2020

Updated at 7.58am BST

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Corona Virus, Health, India, World

Coronavirus live news: Hong Kong and California see record daily cases; ‘huge discrepancy’ in South Africa death toll

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Brazil’s death toll tops 84,000 – as it happened” was written by Helen Sullivan (now and earlier), Nadeem Badshah,Amy Walker, Sarah Marsh andJessica Murray, for theguardian.com on Thursday 23rd July 2020 23.33 UTC

12.30am BST

We’ve launched a new blog at the link below – head there for the latest:

12.25am BST

Hi, Helen Sullivan with you now. I’ll be bringing you the latest from around the world for the next few hours. As always, suggestions, questions and news from where you live are welcome.

Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

11.54pm BST

Home-made face coverings need to be at least two layers and preferably three to curb the spread of Covid-19, new research suggests.

Experts found one layer of cotton T-shirt material is fairly effective as a barrier against droplets expelled during speaking, but two are “significantly better at reducing the droplet spread caused by coughing and sneezing”.

Three layers would be even better, the researchers said, and their study found surgical disposable masks offer the best protection of all.

In England, the Department of Health has published guidance for the public on how to make a home-made mask. It recommends “two or three 25cm x 25cm squares of cotton fabric” sewn together and attached to the ears with elastic.

The UK government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have been keen to advise people to make their own cloth face coverings in the hope surgical masks will be reserved for health workers.

For the new study, published in the journal Thorax, experts from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, tested three types of masks.

Their one-layer face covering was made using a cotton T-shirt material, the two-layer covering was prepared by sewing two strips together, and the third was a surgical mask.

A tailored LED lighting system and a high-speed camera were used to capture the light scattered by droplets and aerosols expelled during speaking, coughing and sneezing while wearing the different types of mask.

The volunteer who took part was healthy with no respiratory infection. Tissue paper was put up the nose to stimulate sneezing.

The researchers concluded: “From the captured video it can be observed that, for speaking, a single-layer cloth face covering reduced the droplet spread but a double-layer covering performed better.

“Even a single-layer face covering is better than no face covering.

“However, a double-layer cloth face covering was significantly better at reducing the droplet spread caused by coughing and sneezing.

“A surgical mask was the best among all the tested scenarios in preventing droplet spread from any respiratory emission.

“These visualisations show the value of using face masks and the difference between types of masks.”

11.44pm BST

Mothers who have Covid-19 infection are unlikely to pass the virus to their newborns if appropriate hygiene precautions are taken, a small study suggests.

The findings, which involved 120 babies and their mothers, suggest that mothers can breastfeed and stay in the same room as their newborns, if they use face coverings and follow infection control procedures.

The research is published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

Lead author Dr Christine M Salvatore, from the Weill Cornell Medicine-New York Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital in the US, said: “Data on the risk of Covid-19 transmission during pregnancy or while breastfeeding are limited to a small number of case studies.

“Consequently, guidelines for pregnant women and new mothers vary.

“We hope our study will provide some reassurance to new mothers that the risk of them passing Covid-19 to their babies is very low.

“However, larger studies are needed to better understand the risks of transmission from mother to child.”

11.33pm BST

Brazil’s death toll surpasses 84,000

The death toll in Brazil has risen to 84,082, compared to 82,771 yesterday, according to the country’s health ministry.

The country has registered 2,287,475 cases of the virus, up from 2,227,514 yesterday.

11.25pm BST

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair believes coronavirus will not be eliminated.

He urged the UK government to focus on containment measures to see the country through a second wave.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Blair described the crisis as “the biggest challenge logistically and practically” a government has ever faced, but criticised ministers for not yet putting in place an “infrastructure of containment”.

He said: “The reality is that we’re going to be living with Covid-19 – we’re not really going to be able to eliminate it.

“And when you look at what has been happening in other countries, as lockdown has been eased, then more and more problems have appeared and many countries, having gone into lockdown then easing it, are finding spikes in the disease.

“You can’t be sure of this but there’s at least a 50/50 chance that you have a resurgence of the disease in the autumn and that’s why it is absolutely essential now to prepare for that.

“And to put in place every single last bit of containment infrastructure that you possibly can to make sure that if that happens you are able to control the disease, because you’re not going to be able to go back into the lockdown that we endured in March, April and May.”

A new report by his think tank, the Tony Blair Institute, calls for public confidence to be rebuilt “on the knowledge that every possible step has been taken to mitigate risk” – requiring containment measures in the absence of a “game changer” vaccine or treatment.

It recommends the rollout of mass testing, mandated use of face masks in all enclosed public environments, and suggests introducing an individual risk categorisation – with A showing those most at risk, to people with low health risks and a low transmission risk in category D.

11.10pm BST

Trump also bragged that the US has conducted more coronavirus tests than any other country.

Here is some context on this from the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus resource center: “In order for governments to identify new cases and effectively respond to the pandemic through tracing and treatment, testing programs should be scaled to the size of their epidemic, not the size of the population.”

Part of the reason that US needs to conduct so much testing – even more than it is already doing – is because it has had more cases of coronavirus than anywhere else in the world.

The number of cases has reached 4,026,288, according to Johns Hopkins University.

11.00pm BST

During his press briefing in Washington, Trump has reiterated his call for schools in the US to reopen.

“Districts may need to delay reopening for a few weeks,” he said.

If public schools do not reopen, Trump said that funding should “follow” students to private and charter schools.

10.52pm BST

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have warned about the “lasting” mental health impact of Covid-19 as their foundation awarded almost £1.8 million to support frontline workers and others affected by the pandemic in the UK.

The Duchess said the couple are “in awe” of the efforts of frontline and emergency responders during the outbreak, as they spoke to some of the 10 UK organisations who have benefited from the grants.

The couple’s Royal Foundation Covid-19 Response Fund is helping a range of projects, from ensuring all emergency workers have access to individual grief trauma from Hospice UK, to helping early years charity Best Beginnings support an extra 20,000 new mothers.

Kate and William spoke privately earlier this week with two emergency responders and two mental health counsellors whose organisations are being supported by the fund.

During the open-air meeting at the Queen’s Sandringham estate, the duchess told them: “Over recent months we have all been in awe of the incredible work that frontline staff and emergency responders have been doing in response to Covid-19.

“But we know that for many of them, their families, and for thousands of others across the UK, the pandemic will have a lasting impact on their mental health.”

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.
Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

10.40pm BST

Donald Trump has called off the GOP National Convention in Florida, citing the “flare-up” of coronavirus but the North Carolina events will still take place to formally renominate him on August 24.

Trump said that it is “not the right time” for a big convention in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville, Florida residents filed a lawsuit against the city, the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign earlier this month to stop the convention in August over concerns that a big event would accelerate the spread of disease in a state that is already a coronavirus hotspot.

Updated at 10.47pm BST

10.35pm BST

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, left, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in Washington.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, left, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in Washington. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

10.24pm BST

US governors were priming for battle against coronavirus as early as February but Donald Trump’s lackadaisical approach to the spreading disease hindered a national response, according to Maryland governor Larry Hogan, chairman of the National Governors Association.

Trump initially was downplaying” the threat and saying this virus is going to disappear,” despite grave warnings from top national experts, Hogan told The Associated Press.

“All of the leaders in the administration, the experts and the public health doctors at the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), they were aware and providing this information. And yet it seemed as if the president was downplaying it and saying, you know, this virus is going to disappear,” Hogan said.

The biggest mistake in the first couple of months, the governor said, was not developing a national testing strategy.

“Throughout the pandemic, it (the federal government) was not assisting the states enough with testing and now as its spiking back up again and we have a resurgence of this virus all across the country, the number one thing we can do is to put more into testing and contact tracing to identify and stop the spread,” Hogan said.

10.14pm BST

There have been more than 915,000 new cases in last two weeks in the US.

As states continue to dial back reopening efforts, nearly every metric for tracking the coronavirus outbreak has shown a worsening spread.

“I don’t see this disappearing,” Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told tuberculosis researchers during a live stream on Wednesday.

“It is so efficient in its ability to transmit from human to human that I think we ultimately will get control of it. I don’t really see us eradicating it.”

More than 915,000 new cases have been confirmed in just the past two weeks, totaling more than the entire month of June. The US has now exceeded 140,000 deaths, with Texas alone reporting a state record 197 new fatalities on Wednesday.

10.00pm BST

Bolsonaro criticised for lack of distancing, despite positive test

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is again coming under fire after being caught on camera chatting with cleaners on the grounds of his official residence without a mask – despite testing positive for the coronavirus only yesterday.

The far-right populist, whose dismissive response to the pandemic has been globally condemned, first announced he had been diagnosed with Covid-19 in early July, when Brazil had suffered more than 65,000 deaths and 1.6m confirmed cases.

Since then Brazil’s death toll has risen to nearly 83,000 – the second highest in the world – and the number of cases to 2.2m, a record 67,860 of which were recorded yesterday.

Brazil’s president again tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday and has supposedly been in isolation since 6 July.

Despite that Bolsonaro – who has undermined social distancing efforts and repeatedly downplayed the illness as a “bit of a cold” – was on Thursday spotted by a Reuters photographer roaming the estate around Brasília’s Palácio da Alvorada on a motorbike and talking to cleaners without gear to protect them.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro talks to workers during a motorcycle ride at the Alvorada Palace
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro talks to workers during a motorcycle ride at the Alvorada Palace Photograph: Adriano Machado/Reuters

9.44pm BST

New York City has reached its goal of performing 50,000 coronavirus tests a day and its contact tracing effort has potentially prevented thousands of new infections, officials said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said four new clinics operated by the urgent care company MedRite will bring the total citywide daily testing capacity to 50,000.

“This is the number we’ve been wanting to get to for quite a while. We will now have that capacity,” he said.

Dr Ted Long, the head of the city’s contact tracing effort, said the average wait for test results citywide is now two days, down from more than double that a week ago, but he acknowledged that waits at some testing sites have been much longer.

9.33pm BST

The African Development Bank said it would provide 5 million in aid to Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad to help them fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The aid was being provided within the framework of a -billion Covid-19 response facility unveiled by the AfDB in April.

Niger would receive support of 8.8 million, Burkina Faso .6 million and Mali .9 million in both loans and grants, a statement said.

Chad would receive .2 million and Mauritania .2 million in the form of grants.

“The board of directors of the AfDB has approved budgetary support of 4.8 million to help the efforts of the Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad – in implementing their response plans to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic recovery,” the pan-African bank said.

The aid “is particularly important for the G5 Sahel countries which are already suffering from climate, humanitarian and security shocks,” said the bank’s director general for West Africa, Marie-Laure Akin Olugbade.

9.23pm BST

Bolivia’s general election will be pushed back until October 18 due to the pandemic.

The head of the electoral tribunal said on Thursday that the vote would be postponed from the previously scheduled September 6 date to ensure the safety of voters, with hospitals and cemeteries straining under the impact of the virus.

“This election requires the highest possible health security measures to protect the health of Bolivians,” tribunal President Salvador Romero told a news conference in La Paz.

The vote is key to the political future of the Andean nation of 11.5 million people after a fraught election last year sparked widespread protests and led to the resignation of the country’s long-term leftist president Evo Morales.

In a political vacuum and amid deadly conflicts on the street, right-wing lawmaker Jeanine Anez was ushered into power, pledging to hold quick new elections, originally planned for May before being delayed by the pandemic to September.

Anez is running in the election, while Morales is pulling the political strings from exile in Argentina with his Movement for Socialism party, whose candidate Luis Arce leads in some polls.
Morales wrote on Twitter the delay “will only harm the people” and blamed the interim government for its response to the pandemic. He added the move was unconstitutional and a tactic for his opponents to “gain more time.”

Anez said she would accept the new date.

“Whatever the date, the government calls for promoting economic revival, the fight against the virus and the consolidation of democracy,” she wrote on Twitter.

The new election schedule would see a second-round held on November 29 if there was no clear winner in the first-round vote.

9.14pm BST

It took only 15 days for the total number of coronavirus cases in the US to go from 3 million to 4 million.

In contrast, the number of US coronavirus cases surpassed 1 million 99 days after the country’s first case was confirmed.

The US currently accounts for about a quarter of all confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The US hit the grim milestone of four million cases a day after Fox News aired an interview with Trump in which the president argued coronavirus tests are “overrated.”

“To me, every time you test a case it gets reported in the news, we found more cases,” he said.

“If instead of 50 we did 25, we have half the number of cases. So I personally think it’s overrated, but I am totally willing to keep doing it.”

9.04pm BST

As the US passes 4 million coronavirus cases, Donald Trump is expected to address the media shortly in Washington.

Meanwhile, Florida, which reported a record one-day increase in Covid-19 deaths on Thursday with 173 lives lost, has been sued by a teachers union to stop schools reopening for in-person instruction, which the union says poses an imminent threat to the health, safety and welfare of children, staff and parents.

Florida’s commissioner said early in July that schools must reopen, but on Thursday Governor Ron DeSantis said parents and teachers had a choice.

“We need to provide all options,” DeSantis told a news conference.

Trump, who has threatened to withhold federal funding if schools do not reopen, told a press briefing on Wednesday the decision would ultimately be up to state governors.

Administration officials have said a quicker reopening is essential to get the cratering economy moving again, another central plank of Trump’s re-election campaign.

Updated at 9.13pm BST

8.59pm BST

A summary of today’s developments

  • The global death toll from coronavirus has passed the 625,000 mark, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. The figure stands at 625,852.
  • South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa says the country’s coronavirus cases have risen to over 400,000. Ramaphosa said the cabinet has decided that all public schools should be closed for the next four weeks from Monday with some exceptions.
  • Covid-19 cases in the US passed four million on Thursday according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker, the highest in the world. The US has confirmed 4,005,414 cases since the start of the pandemic.
  • Fresh coronavirus restrictions have been introduced in some areas of Spain amid surging infection rates. Murcia, in the south-east of Spain, sealed off 30,000 people in the town of Totana on Thursday, barring anyone from entering or leaving, while Madrid authorities have urged citizens to wear a mask even at home when they are with people they don’t live with.
  • A French hospital is trialling a breathalyser-style coronavirus test. The National Centre of Scientific Research at la Croix-Rousse hospital in Lyon is testing patients with the machine that enables them to breathe into a tube to see if they have the virus in a matter of seconds.
  • Global cases of Covid-19 have passed 15.2m. According to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus map, the total number of recorded global cases stands at 15,291,554, while global deaths total 624,742.
  • South Africa has recorded 60% more excess deaths than expected. The country saw about 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes – or 50% more than would normally be expected between early May and mid-July, scientists have said, suggesting many more people are dying of Covid-19 than shown in official figures.
  • Record 366 new coronavirus infections reported in Japan’s capital. Thursday’s figure took cumulative infections to more than 10,000 in Tokyo, topping a daily high of 293 cases last week, as the city’s government declared its highest alert against the disease.

8.48pm BST

US coronavirus cases surpass 4 million mark

The number of coronavirus cases in the US has now surpassed four million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The US has confirmed 4,005,414 cases since the start of the pandemic, the highest of any country.

Brazil has the second highest total in the world with around 2.23 million cases followed by India with 1.24 million.

8.38pm BST

Here are some more comments from the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation.

He said it is investigating dozens of alleged corruption cases involving theft or misappropriation of funds earmarked to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

A special investigating team had been set up to look into “allegations of corruption in areas such as the distribution of food parcels, social relief grants, the procurement of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies,” Ramaphosa said.

“At least 36 cases are currently at various stages of investigation and prosecution.”

In April, the government announced an unprecedented 500-billion-rand (.7bn) economic stimulus and social relief package to cushion the impact of coronavirus.

But some of those funds have been stolen, misused or relief food aid has been diverted from households in need.

Ramaphosa vowed that all alleged corruption cases would be “thoroughly investigated”, culprits prosecuted and the stolen money recovered.

Corruption involving state assets worsened during the nine-year tenure of the former president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma was forced to resign in February 2018 over graft scandals and Ramaphosa took over vowing to tackle corruption.

Updated at 9.14pm BST

8.27pm BST

Passengers go through security check at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq, July 23, 2020. The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority resumed regular international flights, even as the total number of Covid-19 infections in the country reached 102,226.
Passengers go through security check at Baghdad international airport in Iraq on Thursday. The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority resumed regular international flights, even as the total number of Covid-19 infections in the country reached 102,226. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated at 8.29pm BST

8.16pm BST

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said public schools will close again for a month from Monday to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The country has now recorded 408,052 coronavirus cases, the fifth-highest in the world. More than 6,000 people have died from the virus.

Rising infections have caused concern among teaching staff, with unions calling on the government to revoke its decision to reopen schools for certain grades in June.

“Cabinet has decided today that all public schools should take a break for the next four weeks,” Ramaphosa said during an address to the nation, adding that the academic year that is due to end in December would be extended.

Schools will be closed from 27 July and scheduled to reopen on 24 August.

“We have taken a deliberately cautious approach to keep schools closed during a period when the country is expected to experience its greatest increase in infections,” Ramaphosa said.

The president also announced a “historic” R500 billion (bn) social relief and economic support package to fund the health response and assist “those in greatest need”.

Updated at 8.30pm BST

8.05pm BST

The director general of the World Health Organization has criticised the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, for “untrue and unacceptable” allegations” about the health agency chief’s relationship with China.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said WHO was focused on saving lives as he condemned the reported comments by Pompeo at a closed-door event this week in London.

British newspapers reported that Pompeo claimed Tedros had been bought by the Chinese government.

“The comments are untrue and unacceptable, and without any foundation for that matter,” Tedros told reporters in Geneva.

“If there is one thing that really matters to us and which should matter to the entire international community, its saving lives. And WHO will not be distracted by these comments.”

Critics say the Trump administration has been trying to deflect attention from its own failings in managing the coronavirus outbreak in the US, which has the most confirmed cases and virus-related deaths in the world.

In recent months, the administration has repeatedly criticised WHO’s handling of the pandemic and its alleged deference to Beijing.

Donald Trump has ordered the US to withdraw next year from the agency it has bankrolled and supported for decades.

Updated at 8.31pm BST

7.54pm BST

The White House has released a readout from Donald Trump’s call today with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

“Today, President Donald J Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. President Trump and President Putin discussed efforts to defeat the coronavirus pandemic while continuing to reopen global economies,” the readout says.

“The two leaders also discussed critical bilateral and global issues. President Trump reiterated his hope of avoiding an expensive three-way arms race between China, Russia, and the United States and looked forward to progress on upcoming arms control negotiations in Vienna.”

The readout makes no mention of Trump pressing Putin on reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban insurgents to kill American troops.

The US president also does not appear to have asked his Russian counterpart about allegations that Kremlin-backed hackers targeted coronavirus vaccine researchers in the US, the UK and Canada.

Updated at 8.32pm BST

7.42pm BST

Volunteers prepare to feed local people during the weekly feeding scheme at the Heritage Baptist Church in Melville on the 118 day of lockdown in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Volunteers prepare to give food to people during a weekly scheme at the Heritage Baptist church in Melville on the 118th day of lockdown in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photograph: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

Updated at 7.44pm BST

7.30pm BST

South Africa’s coronavirus cases have risen to more than 400,000

South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, says the country’s coronavirus cases have risen above 400,000.

Ramaphosa said the cabinet had decided that all public schools should be closed for the next four weeks with some exceptions.

Updated at 7.45pm BST

7.20pm BST

This is an interesting finding. Covid-19 lockdowns worldwide led to the longest and most pronounced reduction in human-linked seismic vibrations ever recorded, sharpening scientists’ ability to hear earth’s natural signals and detect earthquakes according to a study.

In the research, published in the journal Science, scientists found that human-linked earth vibrations dropped by an average of 50% between March and May this year.

“The 2020 seismic noise quiet period is the longest and most prominent global anthropogenic seismic noise reduction on record,” they wrote.

Beginning in China in late January, and followed by Europe and the rest of the world in March to April, researchers saw “a wave of quietening” as worldwide lockdown measures to slow the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

The relative quiet allowed scientists to “listen in” in more detail on the earth’s natural vibrations, said Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at Imperial College London who co-led the work.

7.09pm BST

Global death toll passes 625,000

The global death toll from coronavirus has passed 625,000, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker.

The figure stands at 625,005 with the US having the most deaths, with 143,701.

Brazil has the second-highest number of deaths with 82,771 followed by the UK with about 45,000.

Updated at 7.46pm BST

6.59pm BST

France’s public health authority said on Thursday there had been a significant rise in new cases of people suffering from Covid-19, as the number of deaths in the country edged up.

The number of deaths in France from Covid-19 rose by 10 from the previous day to 30,182, the sixth highest toll in the world.

The number of confirmed cases rose by 1,000, as people adhered less to social distancing measures and increased testing led to the discovery of new clusters in parts of the country.

Updated at 7.51pm BST

6.57pm BST

Evening summary

  • Covid-19 cases in the US passed four million on Thursday. A Reuters tally showed the average number of new cases in the country is now rising by more than 2,600 every hour, the highest in the world.
  • Fresh coronavirus restrictions have been introduced in some areas of Spain amid surging infection rates. Murcia, in the south-east of Spain, sealed off 30,000 people in the town of Totana on Thursday, barring anyone from entering or leaving, while Madrid authorities have urged citizens to wear a mask even at home when they are with people they don’t live with.
  • A French hospital is trialling a breathalyser-style coronavirus test. The National Centre of Scientific Research at la Croix-Rousse hospital in Lyon is testing patients with the machine that enables them to breathe into a tube to see if they have the virus in a matter of seconds.
  • Global cases of Covid-19 have passed 15.2m. According to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus map, the total number of recorded global cases stands at 15,291,554, while global deaths total 624,742.
  • South Africa has recorded 60% more excess deaths than expected. The country saw about 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes – or 50% more than would normally be expected between early May and mid-July, scientists have said, suggesting many more people are dying of Covid-19 than shown in official figures.
  • Record 366 new coronavirus infections reported in Japan’s capital. Thursday’s figure took cumulative infections to more than 10,000 in Tokyo, topping a daily high of 293 cases last week, as the city’s government declared its highest alert against the disease.

Updated at 7.03pm BST

6.21pm BST

Berlin’s bondage studios and erotic massage parlours can reopen for business, after a court decided that appending them to a blanket closure of brothels to help contain the coronavirus pandemic was discriminatory.

Thursday’s ruling came after the owners of a parlour offering intimate massages and a BDSM studio sought an injunction to overturn a city-wide ban on all sex work.

The court agreed that the risk of spreading the virus in a brothel was far higher, and that the applicants’ businesses could reopen, provided they adhered to all sanitation rules, including the wearing of masks.

“In [their] case … there is no especially close contact between the service provider and the client,” the court said. “The service is strictly limited to contact by hand, ensuring greater distancing as a rule.”

Brothels were different for other reasons, the court added, including the fact that sex involved a dramatically elevated breathing rate, which increased the risk of spreading infection.

Last month, sex workers in the port of Hamburg demonstrated in protest against rules preventing them from working during the pandemic. The ban was discriminatory since other entertainment businesses had been allowed to reopen, they said.

Updated at 6.54pm BST

5.55pm BST

Kuwait will shorten its nightly curfew and reopen hotels and mosques next week in the latest relaxation of its coronavirus restrictions, the government said on Thursday.

The Gulf country said it would enter “phase three” of its coronavirus restrictions on 28 July, enabling taxis to operate and resorts as well as hotels to reopen.

In addition, all mosques would be open for Eid al-Adha prayers, the Center for Government Communication (CGC) said on Twitter. Muslims expect the holiday to begin on 31 July. Until now, only some mosques had been allowed to operate.

The curfew put in place to limit the spread of the virus will begin an hour later at 9pm (1800 GMT), and end two hours earlier at 3am (midnight GMT), it said. The decision will be reviewed by the cabinet after the Eid al-Adha break.

The cabinet also decided to end the isolation of the Farwaniya district on Sunday. It is the last isolated area in the country, which has recorded 61,872 coronavirus infections, and 421 deaths.

Updated at 6.17pm BST

5.26pm BST

Regional authorities across Spain have introduced fresh coronavirus restrictions aimed at stamping out a surge in infections that continues to defy efforts at containment and is damaging tourism.

New cases had slowed to a trickle in June, before a nationwide lockdown was lifted, but since then more than 280 clusters have been detected, with wealthy Catalonia the worst affected, leaving hotels largely empty and bars shutting down.

Health ministry data showed 2,615 new cases across Spain on Thursday, compared with a daily average of just 132 in June.

In Catalonia, nearly 8,000 cases were diagnosed in the last 14 days – almost half of the 16,410 detected throughout the country – despite guidelines for residents of regional capital Barcelona to stay at home.

Murcia, in the south east of Spain, sealed off 30,000 people in the town of Totana on Thursday, barring anyone from entering or leaving after 55 cases linked to a bar were detected there.

And, in a deepening spat between regional and central authorities, Madrid is pushing the central government to impose stricter controls on the city’s Barajas airport after more than 70 passengers landed in the capital while infected.

Madrid authorities also urged citizens to wear a mask even at home, when they are with people they don’t live with.

Promoting a similar message, the Canary Islands launched a graphic publicity campaign in which a family party turns into tragedy when the grandfather ends up lying unconscious on a hospital bed after contracting Covid-19. “A simple family gathering can bring you as a present 40 days in a coma, or even death,” the slogan reads.

Failing to bring the epidemic under control could spell disaster for Spain’s tourism sector, which accounts for some 12% of economic output and has begun a tentative reopening after hotel occupancy more than halved in the first six months of the year.

5.11pm BST

Fitbit and other wearable devices typically linked to exercise are being studied as ways to identify people who are potentially infected with Covid-19 before symptoms appear, when they can unknowingly spread the disease.

Changes in heart rate, respiratory rate, and other biometrics measured constantly by the devices may flag the early stages of virus infection, so an otherwise healthy-looking person knows to self-isolate and seek a coronavirus test, researchers say.

“When you get ill, even before you know it, your body starts changing, your heart rate goes up,” said Professor Michael Snyder of Stanford University School of Medicine.

Stanford researchers are among several groups examining whether wearable fitness devices such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch can provide an early warning. Snyder’s team enrolled 5,000 people in the study and studied historical smartwatch data from 31 users who tested positive for the virus.

Of those 31, all of their data indicated infection before symptoms appeared. Wearable devices picked up the signals of infection early – before symptoms appeared – in an average of three days.

In one case, the team found that a smartwatch was able to spot the first signal of potential Covid-19 infection nine days before more obvious symptoms were reported.

“We can tell when someone’s getting ill before symptoms. That’s super powerful,” Snyder said. “You can tell people to stay at home. Don’t go out, infect other people.”

Updated at 5.14pm BST

4.58pm BST

An influential former Chinese property executive and critic of Xi Jinping has been ousted from China’s ruling Communist party, a notice from the Beijing district government said on Thursday.

Ren Zhiqiang, the former chairman of the state-controlled property developer Huayuan Real Estate Group, called Xi a “clown” over a speech he made in February about government efforts to battle the coronavirus.

Ren went missing in March, three of his friends told Reuters at the time. Beijing’s municipal anti-corruption watchdog later said he was under investigation for a “serious disciplinary violation”.

Chinese real estate mogul Ren Zhiqiang poses for a photo in his office in Beijing in 2012. Ren, a prominent Communist party member who criticised Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, has been ousted from the party.
Ren Zhiqiang poses for a photo in his office in Beijing in 2012. Photograph: AP

In a notice on Thursday night, the watchdog said Ren had been ousted from the party because he was in “severe violation of discipline and law”.

It accused Ren of “losing faith”, “not being aligned with the party on important matters of principle”, “vilifying the image of party and country” and being disloyal and dishonest to the party.

According to the notice, Ren also used official funds on golf expenses, used office and residential spaces provided for free by businessmen, and unlawfully earned huge profits.

Ren’s “unlawful gains” have been confiscated and he will be charged in court, the notice said.

The notice made no mention of the article in which Ren also said a lack of free press and speech had prevented the coronavirus outbreak from being tackled sooner, causing the situation to worsen.

Updated at 5.13pm BST

4.55pm BST

The total number of coronavirus cases reported in the United States passed 4 million on Thursday, reflecting a rapid acceleration of infections detected in the country since the first case was recorded on 21 January, a Reuters tally of state totals has shown.

It took the country 98 days to reach 1 million cases, but just 16 days to go from 3 million to 4 million, according to the tally.

The average number of new US cases is now rising by more than 2,600 every hour, the highest rate in the world.

As the pandemic has spread widely over the country, moving from the early epicentre of New York to the south and west, federal, state and local officials have clashed over how to fight it, including over how and when to ease social and economic restrictions aimed at curbing the infection rate.

Whether to order the wearing of masks, a common practice in the rest of the world and recommended by the federal government’s own health experts, has become highly politicised, with some Republican governors in hard-hit states particularly resistant.

Donald Trump, who faces falling poll numbers over his handling of the health crisis ahead of an election in November, has long resisted wearing a mask but this week encouraged Americans to do so.

The Miami mayor, Francis Suarez, said on Thursday said he believed his city’s strict rule on mask-wearing is making a difference, citing improving numbers there.

“The remediation efforts that we’ve taken, including the mask in public rule, are working,” he told CNN.

Florida reported a record one-day increase in Covid-19 deaths on Thursday with 173 lives lost, according to the state health department.

On Wednesday, Covid-19 deaths rose by more than 1,100 for a second day in a row, including record single-day increases in fatalities in Alabama, California, Nevada and Texas.

The daily death tally is still well below levels seen in April, when on average 2,000 people a day died from the virus.

Updated at 5.09pm BST

4.45pm BST

The World Health Organisation is seeing “intense transmission” of Covid-19 in relatively few countries, director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the briefing.

“Two-thirds of all cases are from 10 countries. Almost half of all cases reported so far are from just three countries,” he said.

So far, there have been over 15 million recorded cases of the virus across the world, and 624,370 reported deaths.

According to John Hopkins University, the US has recorded the largest number of cases to date – at 3.9m – while Brazil has the second highest number at 2.2m, and India has the third, at 1.2m.

The other seven countries with the highest official coronavirus caseloads are as follows: Russia (793,720), South Africa (394,948), Peru (366,550), Mexico (362,274), Chile (334,683), United Kingdom (297,952), and Iran (284,034).

Updated at 4.51pm BST

4.43pm BST

The Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, and the former president Barack Obama blasted Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in a video aired on Thursday, as the Biden campaign tapped the star power of America’s first black president.

Obama and Biden, who served as his vice-president, sat down facing each other in chairs from across a room for a “socially distanced” conversation.

Both men released the video on Twitter, where Obama has 120.8 million followers, the most on the platform.

“Can you imagine standing up when you were president, saying: ‘It’s not my responsibility?’” Biden asked Obama, referring to Trump’s efforts to evade blame for the pandemic.

“Those words didn’t come out of our mouths when we were in office,” Obama replied.
The Trump campaign did not immediately comment.

With traditional campaigning still in limbo due to the pandemic, the video offered a glimpse of how Obama, still overwhelmingly popular among Democratic voters, may be deployed to build enthusiasm for November’s presidential election.

During their first in-person meeting since Biden became presumptive Democratic nominee, they spoke about the need to expand on the Affordable Care Act.

They noted that the Trump administration is trying to convince the US supreme court to invalidate the ACA, also known as “Obamacare”, their administration’s signature programme that vastly expanded US health insurance coverage.

Obama said:

It is hard to fathom anybody wanting to take away people’s health care in the middle of a major public health crisis.”

They also discussed Biden’s ability to empathise, a trait his campaign has stressed to contrast him with Trump. Biden said:

I don’t understand his inability to get a sense of what people are going through. He can’t relate in any way.”

Obama said: “It is a sign of leadership when you are willing to hear other people’s experiences.”

Updated at 4.48pm BST

4.38pm BST

“Just because cases might be at a low level where you live, that doesn’t make it safe to let down your guard. Don’t expect someone else to keep you safe,” WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus continued.

“We all have a part to play in protecting ourselves and one another. First, know your situation. Do you know how many cases were reported where you live yesterday? Do you know where to find that information?”

He added: “Second, do you know how to minimise your exposure? Are you being careful to keep at least one metre from others? Are you still cleaning your hands regularly? Are you following your authorities, no matter where you live, or how old you are?

“In recent years, we have seen young people leading grassroots movements for climate change and racial equality. Now, we need young people to start a global movement for health, for a world in which health is a human right, not a privilege.”

Updated at 4.40pm BST

4.25pm BST

The WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is now leading a virtual press conference on the coronavirus pandemic from its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The pandemic has already changed the way we live our lives. Part of adjusting to the new normal is finding ways to live safely,” he said, of the international measures taken to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“We’re asking everyone to treat the decisions about where they go, what they do, and who they meet as life and death decisions because they are. It may not be your life but your choices could be the difference between life and death for someone you love or for a complete stranger.”

“In recent weeks, we have seen outbreaks associated with nightclubs and other social gatherings, even in places where transmissions have been suppressed.

“We must remember that most people are still susceptible to this virus. As long as it’s circulating, everyone is at risk.”

Updated at 4.45pm BST

4.16pm BST

The Uzbek president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has agreed with his cabinet’s proposal to extend a nationwide lockdown beyond 1 August, his office said on Thursday.

Mirziyoyev’s office did not say by how long the Central Asian country would extend its second lockdown introduced after a surge in the Covid-19 cases.

The country has recorded 18,531 cases of coronavirus and 99 related deaths, according to the JohnJohns Hopkins University Covid-19 dashboard.

Updated at 4.34pm BST

3.50pm BST

The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has said he has lost some relatives to the novel coronavirus, which has so far claimed more lives in Mexico than in all but three other countries worldwide.

López Obrador, who has at times faced heavy criticism for his handling of the pandemic, was asked during a regular news conference on Thursday about media reports that one of his cousins was hospitalized after contracting coronavirus.

“Yes. Yes, I do have relatives who are ill. Unfortunately, relatives have also lost their lives,” he said.

López Obrador, who has upset critics with his reluctance to wear a face mask, did not say which of his relatives had died from Covid-19.

At the start of the pandemic, López Obrador downplayed its severity, encouraging people to hug each other and to keep going out.

He later changed tack, but critics fear the government is reopening the economy before it has the virus under control.

Mexico has reported more than 360,000 coronavirus infections, the seventh highest case count globally, and more than 41,000 deaths. It has the world’s fourth highest death toll, after the US, Brazil and Britain.

López Obrador has criticized news media for reporting Mexico’s rise up the ranks of the world’s most hard-hit countries, saying the death toll per capita is a more fair representation.

Updated at 4.02pm BST

3.35pm BST

The rate of occupancy in Spanish hotels more than halved in the first six months of the year, a study showed on Thursday, as a three-month coronavirus lockdown, travel bans, and quarantine rules hurt the tourism-dependent country.

With tourism accounting for around 12% of Spain’s economy, the 33% average occupancy rate of hotels from January to June – compared with 73% during the same period last year – was especially damaging.

An increase in domestic tourism as the lockdown eased has brought some relief, but with hotels slashing room rates to attract holidaymakers, the road to a more permanent recovery could take longer, said consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield and hotel benchmarking specialist STR, which conducted the study.

“Local holidaymakers’ demand, especially during weekends, is the first step towards recuperation,” said Javier Serrano of STR. “The sector is moving in the right direction to begin a recovery which will inevitably be slow.”

People stroll along the iconic Las Ramblas boulevard in downtown Barcelona, northeastern Spain, on Saturday.
People stroll along the iconic Las Ramblas boulevard in downtown Barcelona, northeastern Spain, on Saturday. Photograph: Alejandro García/EPA

The northeastern region of Catalonia, a leading tourist hotspot, saw hotel occupancy dive 58% in Barcelona, while the capital Madrid lost 46% of its 2019 levels.

Hotels in the Balearic Islands, a popular destination for German and British tourists, suffered the steepest drain on their visitors, losing 65.6% occupancy in the period despite having been spared the worst of the coronavirus outbreak.

The pandemic has hit the world’s second-most visited country hard, with 28,424 deaths so far.

On Wednesday, Spain’s Hospitality Industry Association said some 40,000 bars and restaurants had already shut down permanently as a result of the pandemic.

2.56pm BST

The Swedish unemployment rate jumped to its highest level since 1998 in June, at nearly 10%, due to the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus, Statistics Sweden said Thursday.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate among 16 to 64-year-olds, the statistics agency’s longest-running series, reached 9.4% last month, surpassing the 9% peak in early 2010 in the wake of the financial crisis.

The rise has been steep: in January unemployment was still at 7.2% and in May it hit 8.6.

The all-time high of the indicator dates back to June 1997 when it hit 11.7% at the end of the severe economic crisis that hit Sweden in the 1990s.

According to unadjusted seasonal data, Sweden had 557,000 job-seekers in June, about 150,000 more than a year earlier.

Particularly young people have been hit hard, and youth unemployment hit its highest levels since 1993.

Among 16 to 24-year-olds, seasonally adjusted unemployment reached 28%, compared with 20.4% in January.

About 173,000 young people under the age of 25 are registered as unemployed, 50,000 more than before the pandemic hit Sweden.

The rapid increase is primarily due to “those who have had temporary contracts and not gotten an extension,” according to David Samuelsson, a statistician at Statistics Sweden.

Samuelsson added that youth unemployment had also been hurt by “the number of summer jobs decreasing”.

In neighbouring Denmark, which had a much stricter lockdown but has not seen the same number of cases, the official unemployment rate reached its highest level since 2012 in May, the latest data available. It then stood at 5.6%, up from 3.7 in February.

In Norway, the unemployment rate was 4.9% in June compared with 3.8 in February, according to Statistics Norway.

The Scandinavian economies are expected to suffer deep recessions.

Updated at 3.06pm BST

2.51pm BST

A summary of the latest updates on the pandemic from around the world.

• The European commission extended until the end of October a waiver of customs duties and sales taxes on imported face masks and other medical gear to address shortages.

• Britain said it will provide £100m pounds (7m) of funding for a facility to scale up the manufacturing of vaccines against the coronavirus.

• Belgium will tighten coronavirus containment measures on 25 July after a rise in infections.

• Samples of wastewater from the Paris sewage system have been showing traces of the coronavirus since the end of June, the head of the laboratory leading the research said.

Americas

• In the US, the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said the White House is interested in getting a trillion-dollar coronavirus relief bill out quickly and will not include the payroll tax cut long sought by the US president, Donald Trump.

• China plans to provide a bn loan to make its coronavirus vaccine accessible for countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, the Mexican foreign ministry said.

• Brazil and Argentina registered daily records for confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, pushing the total number of cases in Latin America past 4 million.

Asia-pacific

• Hong Kong reported a daily record in new cases on Thursday.

• Japan’s capital has reported 366 new cases, a new daily record fuelling fears of a second round of infections.

• Australia reported its highest daily number of coronavirus-related deaths in three months as new infections continued to climb in its second most populous state.

• India reported a record jump of 45,720 in coronavirus infections on Wednesday, taking its total number of cases to 1.24 million, the health ministry said.

Middle East and Africa

• South Africa witnessed about 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes or 59% more than would normally be expected between early May and mid-July, scientists said, suggesting many more people are dying of Covid-19 than shown in official figures.

• Baghdad International Airport reopened for scheduled commercial flights after months of closure, as Iraq’s total number of infections passed 100,000.

• Israeli lawmakers empowered the government to order anti-coronavirus curbs with limited parliamentary oversight.

Economic fallout

• Stock markets rose on Thursday as better-than-expected corporate earnings in Europe offset worries about rising coronavirus cases and an escalation in tensions between the US and China.

• A temporary basic income for the world’s poorest 2.7 billion people in 132 developing countries could slow the spread by allowing them to stay home, a UN Development Programme (UNDP) report said.

• Australia reported its biggest budget deficit since the second world war as the coronavirus crisis knocks the country into its first recession in three decades.

Updated at 2.59pm BST

2.37pm BST

Hi everyone, I am taking over the live feed from Amy. Please do get touch if you want to share any comments or news tips via any of the channels below.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
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Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com

2.03pm BST

In England, the numbers of people testing positive for coronavirus reached by contact tracers and asked for details of those they have recently met are edging upwards, but are still short of the 80% scientists recommend to keep the pandemic under control.

The NHS Confederation said it was concerned the target was not being hit, risking a second wave in the winter as more virus circulates indoors.

“I’m glad to see improvements in the proportion of people with coronavirus whose close contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate, but we cannot ignore the fact that the benchmark for effectiveness, as recommended by the government’s independent scientific advisers, is still not being met,” said Dr Layla McCay, a director at the NHS Confederation.

The Guardian on Wednesday revealed that the numbers reached in more socio-economically deprived communities were lagging a long way below the national figure. In partially locked-down Leicester, 65% of people testing positive were reached and asked to provide their contacts. In Luton, with the sixth highest infection rate in England, the rate was only 47%.

“We are hearing that people in the hardest hit areas are not being reached,” said McCay.

“This is too important not to get right. Without a test and trace system that is consistently robust across the whole country and effective at reaching people where the disease is particularly prevalent in a timely manner, we risk a second peak that could seriously endanger public health and put the NHS in the path of a wave of infections that could overwhelm it.”

1.56pm BST

Belgium will tighten restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus on Saturday after a rise in infections.

The country’s prime minister, Sophie Wilmes, said the new measures include the use of face masks in crowded outdoor public spaces and tracing measures at restaurants and bars.

The home to the headquarters of the European Union and Nato imposed a lockdown on 18 March in an effort to contain the outbreak, which has claimed 9,808 lives in a country that has one of the world’s highest fatality rates per capita.

The government later eased the lockdown and had planned to loosen restrictions further on Thursday, but a series of localised outbreaks and a 91% surge in nationwide infections last week forced an about-turn.

“The latest figures should not throw us into panic but have to be taken seriously,” Wilmes told a news conference on Thursday.

Under the new measures, Belgians will have to wear a mask in public, including at outdoor markets, shopping streets and other crowded sites.

Tighter measures will also be imposed on bars and restaurants, where masks will become compulsory for those not seated.

Customers will also have to leave their contact details to facilitate tracing in case of localised outbreaks. Night shops will have to close by 10 pm.

Local authorities could also restore full lockdowns on communities if epidemiological data warrants them.

However, the government stopped short of imposing stricter restrictions, such as checks on all travellers returning from abroad or shortening opening hours for bars and restaurants.

Belgians will continue to be allowed to meet as many as 15 friends a week after the government decided against cutting the number to 10, Wilmes said.

She added that an easing of restrictions could be announced on 1 September, potentially allowing a resumption of trade fairs.

Updated at 2.17pm BST

1.46pm BST

The total number of Covid-19 infections in Iraq has passed 100,000, the country’s health ministry has said.

As of Thursday, 102,226 cases had been recorded, while at least 4,122 people have died from the virus in the country, it said in a statement.

Iraq has often recorded more than 2,000 new cases a day in recent weeks as the spread of the virus has accelerated.

1.25pm BST

Samples of wastewater from the Paris sewage system have been showing traces of Covid-19 since the end of June, having vanished when France imposed a lockdown, according to the head of the laboratory leading the research.

Infection rates in France are subsiding, but officials this week made the wearing of masks in enclosed public spaces compulsory after a series of localised flare-ups. To date, the coronavirus has killed more than 30,000 people in France.

Early studies by scientists in the Netherlands, France, Australia and elsewhere suggest sewage sampling for signs of the coronavirus could help estimate the number of infections in a geographic area, without having to test every person.

Laurent Moulin, who heads the research laboratory run by the public water utility company Eau de Paris, cautioned that the findings on their own did not mean a resurgence of the virus in the population since France eased its lockdown restrictions.

But, Moulin said, when used in conjunction with other data it can be a useful early warning sign of the virus spreading, even before people feel sick enough to seek medical help.

“We had the lockdown, which reduced the number of sick people, and then a little while later we saw a reduction of the concentration of Sars-CoV-2 in the waste water,” Moulin said, referring to the strain of virus behind the Covid-19 epidemic.

“What are we seeing since the end of June? We’ve seen some locations that were negative [for virus traces] becoming positive,” he said. Infection rates in Paris are declining in line with the national trend.

Updated at 1.36pm BST

12.50pm BST

European Union states have agreed on common hygiene standards, such as social distancing and wearing face masks on planes and at airports, to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus, the German transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, has said.

“I am pleased that the German proposal was accepted by my colleagues at the European level and that we could agree on these uniform standards,” Scheuer told a European aviation conference.

Measures agreed include mouth-and-nose protection for passengers from six years old and social distancing at airports during security checks and check-in. A high fresh-air quota in planes must be guaranteed and information must be available in several languages. However, a middle seat does not have to remain empty in aircraft.

The joint regulations meet at least some of the demands made by airlines, as varying standards had caused confusion.

The German transport ministry said agreement was reached by officials and had yet to be formally approved by ministers.

Updated at 12.56pm BST

12.38pm BST

French hospital trials breathalyser-style Covid-19 test

A hospital in the southern French city of Lyon is testing patients with a new machine that enables them to breathe into a tube to see whether they have Covid-19 in a matter of seconds.

The machine is entering a second trial phase after three months of use on dozens of people, among whom about 20 had the virus and the others did not. Unlike the uncomfortable standard PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, it is not invasive and provides an immediate result.

“It’s the same principle as a classic breathalyser test,” Christian George, director of research at the National Centre of Scientific Research at the la Croix-Rousse hospital, told Reuters. “The machine will register molecules in the exhaled air and then detects traces of the sickness.”

Jean-Christophe Richard, head of intensive care at the hospital, said the objective was to have the machine fully operational by the end of the year. He said:

This type of quick test means we will have the results straightaway and can then move the patient to the right area of the hospital. As we now have a few efficient treatments, the quicker we can diagnose the quicker we can treat them.”

Bruno Lina, an independent virus expert who has been consulted on the machine, said it was a step in the right direction, but at this stage was too expensive for widespread distribution in hospitals.

“If our hypothesis is proved correct, we could see second or third generation machines that cost less and that would specifically home in on the markers of the infection that we have identified,” said Lina, who heads the National Enterovirus and Parechovirus Reference Centre.

Updated at 1.40pm BST

12.30pm BST

The number of coronavirus infections in Romania rose by a record amount for a second consecutive day, the government said on Thursday, and local authorities said they could place dozens of small towns under localised quarantines.

Other countries in southern Europe and the Balkans saw spikes in new cases in recent days, raising alarm in the World Health Organization.

Romania announced 1,112 new cases, taking confirmed cases to 41,275 since the pandemic reached the country in late February. Some 2,126 people have died.

The European Union member has extended a state of alert until the middle of August and several European countries have reinstated travel restrictions for Romanians.

A legislative void that enabled thousands of infected people to walk out of hospitals or not be treated at all for most of July was in part responsible for the hike. The void has since been solved through a new parliamentary bill.

Another reason was a relative lack of compliance with social distancing rules and wearing protective masks in closed spaces.

On Wednesday, the health minister, Nelu Tătaru, criticised attempts to make light of the pandemic and to mislead people into not following the rules. He told reporters:

“We are going through a difficult moment. As long as we have these negationist trends, this slighting of the three-four months during which everybody followed the rules … it will remain difficult.”

Earlier this month, the former ruling Social Democrat party accused the government of failing to contain the pandemic.

Updated at 12.38pm BST

12.15pm BST

The US government has set a benchmark for Covid-19 vaccine pricing in a bn (£1.5bn) deal announced on Wednesday with Pfizer Inc and the German biotech firm BioNTech SE that will likely pressure other manufacturers to set similar prices, industry analysts have said.

The deal, which is contingent on an approvable product, secures enough vaccine to inoculate 50 million Americans for about a person, or about the cost of annual flu shots, and is the first to provide a direct window into likely pricing of successful Covid-19 vaccines.

It also allows for some drugmakers to profit from their efforts to protect people from the virus that has killed about 620,000 people worldwide, almost a quarter of those in the United States.

Unlike other vaccine deals signed by the government, Pfizer and BioNTech will not collect a payment until their vaccine proves to be safe and effective in a large pivotal clinical trial expected to start this month.

The US and other governments have previously struck deals to support Covid-19 vaccine development, some of which included guaranteed deliveries of doses. But this is the first deal to outline a specific price for finished products.

“The average price for a flu vaccine is around ,” Peter Pitts, president and co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, told Reuters. “It looks good with that comparison. It’s well within the ballpark of reasonableness.”

So far, the other major experimental vaccines have all displayed relatively similar data on safety and efficacy, suggesting that no one drugmaker would be able to charge dramatically more than its peers, said Mizuho biotechnology analyst Vamil Divan.

Updated at 12.19pm BST

11.56am BST

Giulio Gallera, the health councillor for Italy’s Lombardy region, has asked the health ministry to draw up new guidelines for people with Covid-19 who are still in quarantine two months after contracting the virus.

Of the almost 9,000 people who are currently infected with coronavirus in Lombardy, the region worst affected by the virus, 2,000 people, among them a four-year-old child, must stay indoors as they still test positive despite not presenting any symptoms. Some studies have shown that those with a weak viral load are not-contagious.

In Italy, a person must test negative twice in a row before being declared recovered.

“These prolonged periods of isolation are generating situations which in many cases are unsustainable, causing negative psychological implications on fragile individuals, especially the four-year-old girl,” Gallera said. “We all agree on the importance of ensuring people’s safety … but I hope that we are provided with updated guidelines, especially in light of the scientific studies that have shown these individuals have little chance of infecting.”

There were 282 new coronavirus cases registered in Italy on Wednesday, with most of the infections being imported from abroad, and nine deaths. Across the country, 12,322 people are currently positive, of whom 724 are recovering in hospital and 48 are in intensive care.

Updated at 12.20pm BST

11.43am BST

In his near-empty pub in the Algarve in southern Portugal, Samuel Tilley fumed that coronavirus regulations in his home country Britain are keeping tourists away, further jeopardising an already gloomy summer season.

Usually packed with tourists at this time of the year, Vilamoura is quiet, leaving bar staff at Tilley’s O’Neills pub without much to do but brood over Britain’s decision to leave Portugal off a list of more than 50 countries safe enough for travel without restrictions.

“It was very shocking. I don’t believe there’s any logic behind it,” Tilley said, while keeping an eye out for the rare thirsty customer walking in to have a refreshing pint by the harbour.

“There are some wonderful people here in the Algarve and beyond and I feel this decision by the British government really hurt them.”

A couple is seen next to empty hammocks during the coronavirus  pandemic in downtown Albufeira, Portugal July 20, 2020.
A couple is seen next to empty hammocks during the coronavirus pandemic in downtown Albufeira, Portugal July 20, 2020. Photograph: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Portugal initially won praise for its quick response to the pandemic but a persistent count of several hundred new cases per day concentrated in and around Lisbon in the past two months has worried authorities at home and abroad, leading Britain and other European nations to impose restrictions on travel from the southern European nation.

Last year, Portugal welcomed about 2 million Britons, with 64% of them heading to the sunny Algarve, famed for its sandy beaches and golf courses. So far in 2020, only 92,000 Britons have made it to the region.

Sunbeds are left empty and lonely waiters stand outside restaurants with menus in hand but no holidaymakers to speak to.

“It used to be so busy that you would stand shoulder to shoulder,” Welsh tourist Nadine said as she walked around nearly empty streets in nearby Albufeira.

Updated at 11.48am BST

11.08am BST

Coronavirus cases in the US approached 4 million on Thursday, with more than 2,600 new cases every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections in the United States have rapidly accelerated since the first case was detected on 21 January. It took the country 98 days to reach 1 million cases.

It took another 43 days to reach 2 million and then 27 days to reach 3 million. It has only taken 16 days to reach 4 million at a rate of 43 new cases a minute.

The federal government, state governors and city leaders have often clashed over the best way to tackle the pandemic, leading to a confusing patchwork of rules on issues such as mask wearing in public and when businesses can open.

President Donald Trump has recently shifted his tone. He had previously been reluctant to wear a mask but this week encouraged Americans to wear face coverings and recently appeared in public for the first time with one.

Of the 20 countries with the biggest outbreak, the United States ranks second for cases per capita, at 120 infections per 10,000 people, only exceeded by Chile.

With over 143,000 deaths, or 4.4 fatalities per 10,000 people, the US ranks sixth globally for the highest deaths per capita. It is exceeded by the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Chile and France.

Globally, the rate of new infections shows no sign of slowing, with the disease accelerating the fastest in the US and South America, according to the Reuters tally, based on official reports.

I’m Amy Walker, taking over the global coronavirus blog from my colleague Jessica Murray. I’ll be keeping you up-to-date with all the key developments throughout the rest of the day.

Updated at 11.50am BST

11.03am BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Global cases passed 15.2m. The number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 15.2m on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data. Known coronavirus deaths number 623,863.
  • Hong Kong reports new daily record of coronavirus cases. Hong Kong reported 118 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, including 111 that were locally transmitted, adding to a deluge of new cases that have hit the global financial hub over the past two weeks.
  • South Africa records 60% more excess deaths than expected. The country witnessed about 17,000 extra deaths from natural causes or 59% more than would normally be expected between early May and mid-July, scientists said, suggesting many more people are dying of Covid-19 than shown in official figures.
  • Record 366 new coronavirus infections reported in Japan’s capital. Thursday’s figure took cumulative infections to more than 10,000 in Tokyo, topping a daily high of 293 cases last week, as the city’s government declared its highest alert against the disease.
  • Russia’s coronavirus tally nears 800,000. Russia reported 5,848 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, pushing its national tally to 795,038, the fourth largest in the world.
  • Widow confronts Peru’s president over Covid-19 deaths. Celia Capira ran sobbing after a truck carrying the president, Martín Vizcarra, yelling for him to go and see for himself the grim conditions at the hospital, where her husband was fighting for his life.

11.01am BST

Everyone knew that reopening Greece to tourist markets would be a calculated risk, fraught with the danger of potentially importing coronavirus cases with the need to keep an economy overly dependent on tourism afloat.

As holidaymakers fly into the country, and trickle into the Greek capital, the extent to which the gambit has paid off is becoming ever clearer.

The data, say hoteliers, is disheartening at least thus far. Nationwide, the chamber of hoteliers of Greece has seen profits plunging by an unprecedented 5.6bn (£5bn) in 2020.

In Athens, where the Hilton and iconic Grande Bretagne only opened this month, occupancy rates are at an all-time low.

In June last year they reached 93%; in June this year they stood at 26%, with barely 5% of all hotel rooms in the capital occupied in April and May.

Losses in the region of Attica and the Argosaronic Gulf alone, are expected to exceed 300m through January to June.

Some myths have been busted. With Britain’s high contagion and fatality rates, industry figures worried that tourists flying in from the UK would pose a particular risk.

Mass testing of passengers arriving on flights from Britain ultimately proved exceptional for what it didn’t show: of the 3,000 tested for the virus, within 48 hours of airlinks being resumed, not one positive case was found.

Tourism officials now say the sector’s immediate future will depend on arrivals from the UK, Greece’s most lucrative market and after Germany by far the country’s biggest.

On Tuesday, Athens’ deputy civil protection minister, Nikos Hardalias, announced that 295 foreign travellers had tested positive for coronavirus between 1-19 July. Of that number, the vast majority were from neighbouring Balkan countries, with most from Serbia, he said.

The rise has alarmed epidemiologists in a country that, to date, has registered 200 Covid-19 deaths and 4,077 cases of coronavirus, far lower than its European neighbours.

10.45am BST

As the presidential motorcade pulled away from the main hospital in Peru’s second city – fleeing an angry protest by medical staff and relatives of Covid-19 patients – one woman broke away from the crowd.

Celia Capira ran sobbing after the truck carrying the president, Martín Vizcarra, yelling for him to go and see for himself the grim conditions at the hospital, where her husband was fighting for his life.

Footage of Capira’s futile pursuit on Sunday quickly came to symbolize official indifference as the pandemic continues to scourge Peru – now the sixth worst-hit in the world with 362,000 reported coronavirus cases and 13,579 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Capira’s 57-year-old husband, Adolfo Mamani, died Tuesday in Arequipa’s Honorio Delgado public hospital. And in his fate, many see a reflection of the tragic lottery facing Covid-19 patients inside Peru’s precarious public health system.

“[The government] killed him,” Capira sobbed in a video posted on social media. “He was OK. They told me he was stable.”

10.22am BST

The Philippines has reported 2,200 new coronavirus infections and 28 new deaths.

The health ministry said total deaths now stand at 1,871 and infections have risen to 74,390.

The south-east Asian nation’s coronavirus task force on Thursday reimposed a ban on non-essential outbound travel for Filipinos, two weeks after it lifted it.

Updated at 10.24am BST

10.18am BST

An Irish government “staycation” subsidy is expected to reimburse couples up to €250 (£228) on hotel and restaurant bills.

The scheme is part of a €7bn stimulus package of grants, tax cuts, capital spending, welfare and employment supports to be unveiled on Thursday.

In an effort to shore up the hospitality sector and encourage people to holiday in Ireland, the staycation voucher will offer consumers a tax refund of up to €125 per person when they spend about €600 on accommodation, food or non-alcoholic drinks.

The government is reportedly investigating whether the rebate could be claimed via an online system or app.

Authorities have published a “green list” of 15 countries deemed relatively safe for travel – it includes Italy, Greece, Greenland and Finland – but are still urging people to spend their holidays at home.

Ryanair, which wants to entice passengers to additional destinations, responded with scorn, calling the list useless, idiotic and on par with Father Ted.

10.09am BST

AstraZeneca and others should not own a lucrative patent on a medicine that is needed by poor as well as rich nations, write Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and Winnie Byanyima, UN undersecretary general.

Once a safe and effective vaccine is discovered, the only barrier to providing sufficient doses should be the world’s manufacturing capacity. But other artificial barriers stand in the way.

The intellectual property laws that grant pharmaceutical companies the exclusive rights to produce a particular medicine for a certain number of years are intended to reward investment and innovation into new medicines.

These intellectual property rights are often abused and create monopolies, and in the case of the Covid-19 vaccine they threaten to limit the supply, causing deadly shortages and unnecessary delays.

Updated at 10.24am BST

10.05am BST

France is to distribute 40m free reusable masks to its poorest citizens, the health minister Olivier Véran announced on Wednesday.

The announcement came after criticism the new rules that came into effect on Monday making it compulsory to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, including supermarkets, banks, places of worship and official buildings, was an additional expense for those living in precarious circumstances.

Many local town and city halls handed out free, washable fabric masks in May, but the masks will be posted out to those on low incomes who receive top-up health insurance.

Le Parisien newspaper worked out that a couple with two children over the age of 11 would have to spend €228 per month for disposable masks or €96 for washable masks.

Failure to wear a mask can lead to a €135 fine.

9.59am BST

Hong Kong reports new daily record of coronavirus cases

Hong Kong reported 118 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a daily record, including 111 that were locally transmitted, adding to a deluge of new cases that have hit the global financial hub over the past two weeks.

Hong Kong extended strict social distancing measures on Wednesday as authorities reported 105 locally transmitted infections.

Since late January, more than 2,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 14 of whom have died. Authorities have warned the city faces a critical period in containing the virus.

Meanwhile Indonesia reported 1,906 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing its total infections to 93,657.

The number of Covid-19 deaths in the south-east Asian nation rose by 117 on Thursday to bring the total to 4,576.

Updated at 10.01am BST

9.17am BST

Your questions answered on what type of mask to wear to cut the risk of getting Covid-19.

9.13am BST

Russia’s coronavirus tally nears 800,000

Russia reported 5,848 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, pushing its national tally to 795,038, the fourth largest in the world.

In their daily readout, officials said 147 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing Russia’s official death toll to 12,892.

8.48am BST

France expects economic growth of 8% for 2021, the country’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, has said.

Le Maire told the National Assembly that the government wanted economic activity to return to pre-crisis levels from 2022.

He also said that recent data was “satisfying but too fragile” to change forecasts for an economic contraction of 11% this year.

Updated at 9.11am BST

8.24am BST

South Africa records 60% more excess deaths than expected

South Africa has recorded nearly 60% more natural deaths than expected in recent weeks, suggesting a much higher toll of coronavirus-related fatalities than officially reported.

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said in a report released late on Wednesday:

In the past weeks, the numbers have shown a relentless increase – by the second week of July, there were 59% more deaths from natural causes than would have been expected based on historical data.

The report by the council, which is government-funded but an independent unit, came as the health ministry announced a record increase of 572 coronavirus deaths over the previous 24 hours.

The author of the report, Prof Debbie Bradshaw, said “the weekly death reports have revealed a huge discrepancy between the country’s confirmed Covid-19 deaths and number of excess natural deaths”.

South Africa is the worst-affected country in Africa and among the top five in the world in terms of confirmed cases, with 394,948 infections reported to date, including 5,940 deaths.

The mortality rate has remained low, however, at about 1.5% on Wednesday, according to the health ministry’s daily updates.

The SAMRC is charged with conducting research on disease trends and identifying the main causes of deaths in the country.

The council’s chief executive, Prof Glenda Gray, said:

The SAMRC has been tracking mortality for decades in South Africa, and this system has identified excess deaths associated with the Covid-19 epidemic.

These may be attributed to both Covid-19 deaths as well non-Covid-19 due to other diseases such as TB, HIV and non-communicable diseases, as health services are re-orientated to support this health crisis.

Updated at 9.57am BST

8.04am BST

Amid mounting calls for Israel’s government to appoint a dedicated coronavirus response coordinator, the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has named a public health professional to the post.

The job went to Ronni Gamzu, chief executive of Tel Aviv’s Sourasky medical complex. A statement said:

“Prof Gamzu has many years of administrative experience in the health field, including previous service as health ministry director-general.”

Public confidence in the government has been dented by a recent wave of contradictory emergency decrees opening, closing and reopening amenities, such as restaurants, public beaches and gyms.

Protests against economic fallout from the pandemic have spread across the country, with demonstrations outside Netanyahu’s official Jerusalem residence becoming a regular event.

Israelis protest against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s response to the financial fallout of the Covid-19 crisis in Jerusalem.
Israelis protest against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s response to the financial fallout of the Covid-19 crisis in Jerusalem. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

After his government curbed flights and imposed lockdown measures in March, Israel briefly reduced its daily tally of newly confirmed cases to single digits in early May, but in recent weeks new cases have regularly topped 1,000 per day, with a surge of 2,000 on Tuesday.

Netanyahu took responsibility for the hasty reopening of Israel’s economy between late April and June – measures widely seen as triggering the resurgence in cases.

The country of about 9 million people had recorded more than 56,000 confirmed cases by Wednesday evening, including 430 deaths.

Updated at 9.16am BST

7.20am BST

A diplomacy shaped around self-serving tittle-tattle now risks lives and undermines America’s standing in the world, writes the Guardian global development reporter Peter Beaumont.

The campaign by the Trump administration against the World Health Organization has often seemed faintly preposterous.

Over the months of the coronavirus pandemic its untruths and hyperbole have been dismissed by many as iterations of Trumpspeak, whose main purpose has been to distract from the US’s catastrophic response to Covid-19, which has claimed almost 140,000 lives and devastated the economy.

In recent weeks, however, the actions of the Trump administration have moved from dodgy dossiers and fake claims to a far more sinister agenda, and one with real-world consequences that may result in more lives lost, not least in the developing world.

Updated at 9.17am BST

7.15am BST

A record 366 new coronavirus infections have been reported in Japan’s capital of Tokyo, its governor said on Thursday, fuelling fears of a second round of infections.

As Japan began a four-day stretch of holidays, the city’s government declared its highest alert against the disease.

Thursday’s figure took cumulative infections to more than 10,000 in Tokyo, topping a daily high of 293 cases last week.

Pedestrians walk past event posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Pedestrians walk past event posters for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Meanwhile, China reported 22 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for 22 July, up from 14 cases a day earlier, the health commission said.

Of the new infections, 18 were in the far western region of Xinjiang and one was in Dalian city in the northeastern Liaoning province. The other three were imported cases.

The Dalian case involved a 58-year-old man working at a seafood processing company. Multiple samples collected from the company, including frozen food, processing workshop, canteen and office building also tested positive, state media said.

On Thursday, Dalian reported two new locally transmitted cases and 12 asymptomatic ones, all close contacts of the case from Wednesday, state media said citing Dalian government.

Earlier this month, customs in Dalian found the coronavirus in the packaging of frozen shrimps imported from Ecuador. China suspended imports from three Ecuadorean shrimp producers after detecting the virus.

Dalian, with a population of nearly 7 million, plans to conduct nucleic acid testing for 190,000 people in the city, state media said.

As of Wednesday, mainland China had 83,729 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 death toll remained at 4,634.

Updated at 9.19am BST

7.09am BST

Hello everyone, this is Jessica Murray, I’ll be steering the coronavirus blog for the next few hours.

Feel free to send across any story tips or suggestions.

Email: jessica.murray@theguardian.com
Twitter: @journojess_

Updated at 9.19am BST

7.05am BST

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan. Thanks for following along. I’m off to try catch a rat that has decided to start living in my kitchen.

My colleague Jessica Murray will bring you the latest coronavirus news for the next few hours.

6.40am BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Global cases passed 15.2m. The number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 15.2m on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data. Known coronavirus deaths number 623,443.
  • Trump tied climbing Covid-19 cases to Black Lives Matter protests. Donald Trump has cited Black Lives Matter protests against the police killing of George Floyd as among the likely causes of the recent surge in coronavirus cases.The US president did not blame the anti-racism demonstrations directly but suggested that they “presumably” led Americans to lower their guard against the pandemic.
  • Dr Deborah Birx said the current US crisis is ‘very different’ to March and April. Dr Deborah Birx, the chief medical officer on the White House’s coronavirus task force, has called the surge in infections across the United States, “a very different epidemic than we had in March and April”.Speaking on Fox news, Birx said that the the virus event across the South and West of the US really started after 10 June: “This was an event that we think can be traced to Memorial Day, opening up and people travelling again.”
  • South Korea has fallen into recession. South Korea’s economy recorded its worst performance in more than 20 years in the second quarter, the central bank said Thursday, as as the coronavirus pandemic hammered its exports.Asia’s fourth-largest economy contracted 2.9% year-on-year in the April-June period, the Bank of Korea said. It was the fastest decline since a 3.8% drop in the fourth quarter of 1998, in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Quarter-on-quarter, it shrank 3.3%, also the worst showing in more than 20 years.
  • South Africa reported a record number of daily virus deaths. South Africa on Wednesday announced a record 24-hour increase of 572 coronavirus deaths, bringing its total number of fatalities to 5,940, AFP reports.The country is the worst-affected in Africa and among the top five in the world in terms of confirmed cases, with 394,948 infections reported to date.
  • The Australian state of Victoria recorded 403 new cases, down from the day before. Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews says the state has recorded 403 new cases overnight, and five new deaths. The cases figure is down from yesterday’s record increase of 484.Four of the people who died were in aged care, Andrews said.
  • Hong Kong records 113 new cases. Hong Kong has reported a record 113 new cases for Wednesday, in a continuing third wave of Covid-19 infections, including a large proportion of which are unsourced. The government said the risk of large scale community outbreak was now the highest since the pandemic began.
  • Indian-administered Kashmir imposed a strict lockdown for a week, as authorities warned of rising coronavirus cases, one day after cancelling a major annual Hindu pilgrimage. Authorities said the Muslim-majority Himalayan valley, apart from one district, would go into lockdown until 29 July, when the restrictions would be reviewed.
  • The US state of California recorded its highest number of new cases in a single day, as the state surpasses New York for the greatest total of cases in the country. The state saw 12,807 confirmed cases on Tuesday, the governor, Gavin Newsom, announced on Wednesday. That figure brings the state’s total to more than 413,576 since the pandemic began, Newsom announced.
  • Australia to post biggest budget deficit since second world war.The government that went to the last federal election declaring it was “back in black” will on Thursday unveil the largest budget deficit since the second world war, reflecting the substantial fiscal support rolled out during the pandemic and a decline in revenue because of a contraction in activity.

6.13am BST

Global report: South Korea goes into recession as Australia flags huge deficit

The United States neared four million cases of coronavirus, and more than 143,000 deaths, as the pandemic surged in the south and west of the country.

President Trump held another coronavirus briefing on his own, at which he cited Black Lives Matter protests as among the likely cause of the recent surge in cases. He also pointed to Memorial Day, young people congregating and increased travel.

“Cases started to rise among young Americans shortly after demonstrations, which you know very well about, which presumably triggered a broader relaxation of mitigation efforts nationwide,” he said.

One of his key coronavirus task force members, Dr Deborah Birx, who has not appeared at the recently restarted briefings, told Fox News that opening up the country was also a factor.

“This is a very different epidemic that we had in March and April … and it will require additional tests. And so this surge and this degree of cases is so widespread compared to previously. It does have to be addressed,” Birx said:

5.55am BST

The Guardian’s Melissa Davey and Paul Karp report:

In the Australian state of Victoria, workers who cannot afford to take time off while waiting for a Covid-19 test result will now be eligible for an AU0 (US5) hardship payment, as the state announced a further 403 infections – its third worst day yet – and five deaths.

The premier, Daniel Andrews, said people going to work while symptomatic and awaiting a test result was one reason the state was struggling to contain the spread. He said the 0 payment for those who were unable to access sick leave meant people would no longer have an excuse not to isolate.

Applying for the payment would be simple, Andrews said:

5.25am BST

Even at the best of times, there is a wide scope for misunderstanding in modern international relations, says António Guterres, the UN secretary general. “When two diplomats meet”, he says, “there are at least six perceptions to manage: how the two perceive themselves, how they perceive each other – and how they think the other perceives them”.

Four months into the coronavirus epidemic and it is the worst of times – and the opportunities for misperception have multiplied. The virus has left the UN members talking past one another, and advocates of multilateralism increasingly looking anywhere but the security council to promote liberal democracy, seek compromise or campaign for accountability.

For Guterres, this is deeply frustrating. He was one of the first world leaders to grasp the seriousness of the pandemic, and saw an opportunity for the 15-strong UN security council to play a convening role:

4.53am BST

Germany’s coronavirus infections rose 569 to 203,368, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Thursday, with the tally of deaths up six to stand at 9,101.

4.29am BST

More on South Korea now from AFP:

South Korea’s economy recorded its worst performance in more than 20 years in the second quarter, the central bank said Thursday, as as the coronavirus pandemic hammered its exports.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy contracted 2.9% year-on-year in the April-June period, the Bank of Korea said. It was the fastest decline since a 3.8% drop in the fourth quarter of 1998, in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Quarter-on-quarter, it shrank 3.3%, also the worst showing in more than 20 years.

New Container Port at Busan, South Korea.
New Container Port at Busan, South Korea. Photograph: Ryu Seung-Il/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the coronavirus outside mainland China, and while it never imposed a compulsory lockdown, strict social distancing was widely observed from March until it started loosening restrictions in May.

But its economy has been unable to escape the global impact of the pandemic. The country is highly trade-dependent, and exports plunged 13.6% year-on-year in Q2 – the sharpest decline since 1974, in the wake of the OPEC oil crisis.

The decline was driven by “decreases in motor vehicles and coal & petroleum products”, the Bank of Korea said in a statement.

The BOK forecast in May that the economy will shrink 0.2% in 2020, a dramatic downgrade from its February forecast of 2.1% growth.

The International Monetary Fund last month also cut its growth forecast for South Korea, predicting it would shrink 2.1% this year – compared with an average 8.0% decline for the world’s advanced economies.

4.19am BST

South Korea falls into recession

The BBC reports that the coronavirus pandemic has pushed South Korea into a recession, with the country seeing a 2.9% fall in GDP:

South Korea has fallen into recession as the country reels from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy saw gross domestic product (GDP) fall by a worse-than-expected 2.9% in year-on-year terms, the steepest decline since 1998.

Exports, which account for nearly 40% of the economy, were the biggest drag as they fell by the most since 1963.

In recent weeks official figures have confirmed that both Japan and Singapore have also gone into recession.

But South Korea’s finance minister Hong Nam-ki remains optimistic that the economy will recover swiftly.

4.04am BST

China plans to provide a bn loan to make its coronavirus vaccine accessible for countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, the Mexican foreign ministry said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement that China had made the pledge in a virtual meeting between ministers from some Latin American and Caribbean countries.

3.52am BST

The ticket resale website Viagogo is refusing to refund fans who bought tickets for gigs and sporting events cancelled because of the pandemic, according to the consumer group Which?.

Hundreds of summer events have fallen victim to the coronavirus outbreak, with organisers offering to give fans their money back if they do not want to, or cannot, transfer their tickets to 2021.

But Viagogo, which has been criticised by the music industry, MPs and campaign groups over its treatment of customers and alliances with powerful ticket touts, is refusing to follow suit:

3.36am BST

Hong Kong records 113 new cases

Hong Kong has reported a record 113 new cases for Wednesday, in a continuing third wave of Covid-19 infections, including a large proportion of which are unsourced. The government said the risk of large scale community outbreak was now the highest since the pandemic began.

“New cases recorded during the period from July 15 to July 21 include 393 cases without travel history during the incubation period and 56 imported cases,” said a government statement.

“The recent emergence of local cases of unknown infection source indicates the existence of sustained silent transmission in the community.”

Of Wednesday’s 113 cases, just five were imported and 63 of the local transmissions did not have a known source. Restrictions have now been tightened again.

Janitors dressed in protective gear walk through an empty arcade in Hong Kong, 20 July 2020.
Janitors dressed in protective gear walk through an empty arcade in Hong Kong, 20 July 2020. Photograph: Liau Chung-ren/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Masks are mandatory at indoor public spaces and outdoor transport hubs, from today for 14 days. People have been largely wearing masks everywhere in the city since the pandemic began.

“Many indoor public places would be included, for example, shopping malls, supermarkets, markets, all the covered places, the shops and all that, even building lobbies,” said Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan.

Anyone arriving to Hong Kong from the US or Kazakhstan must now have proof of a negative Covid-19 test in the preceding 72 hours. The two countries join Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and South Africa, which were already on the list of high risk departure points.

The government also extended quarantine orders on arrivals. Hong Kong remains closed to non-residents.

3.26am BST

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Wednesday downplayed the importance of wearing face masks during the pandemic, calling his treasury secretary’s assertion that using them would be a factor in reactivating the economy “disproportionate”, AP reports.

López Obrador had never been seen publicly wearing a mask until he flew to Washington earlier this month to meet with President Donald Trump.

People, some wearing masks, walk in the central plaza of San Gregorio Atlapulco in the Xochimilco district of Mexico City, Wednesday, 22 July 2020.
People, some wearing masks, walk in the central plaza of San Gregorio Atlapulco in the Xochimilco district of Mexico City, Wednesday, 22 July 2020. Photograph: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

“If a mask was an option for the economy’s reactivation, Id put one on immediately,” López Obrador said Wednesday. “But it’s not like that. I follow the recommendations of the doctors, of the scientists.”

The World Health Organization recommends the wearing of masks among other measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. At age 66, López Obrador also falls into an at-risk group of people who should wear masks.

Mexico continued to report high transmission rates Wednesday, with 6,019 newly confirmed cases, for a cumulative total of 362,274 infections. The Health Department also reported 790 more deaths, bringing the total so far in the pandemic to 41,190, the fourth highest total behind the United Kingdom at 45,586.

3.04am BST

Chilean senators on Wednesday voted to approve a controversial bill that allows citizens to withdraw 10% of their pension savings to help ease the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports.

The bill, which polls suggest has widespread public support, has been staunchly opposed by the government of President Sebastian Pinera but was approved by 29 votes to 13 with one abstention.

Updated at 3.06am BST

2.49am BST

The European Union has granted Honduras €80m (m) in aid to help the impoverished Central American nation’s health system cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, an EU representative said on Wednesday.

Reuters reports that, despite strict measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, local hospitals have struggled to cope with the number of patients with respiratory illnesses in Honduras, which has registered 35,345 infections and 988 deaths from the virus.

A health worker reacts after the death of a patient allegedly from Covid-19 at a field hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on 22 July 2020.
A health worker reacts after the death of a patient allegedly from Covid-19 at a field hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on 22 July 2020. Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

“In Honduras, €80m will be allocated in the areas of health, early recovery, measures to aid economic recovery, jobs and human rights,” Alessandro Palmero, the EU’s representative to Honduras, told reporters. Analysts expect the pandemic to cause the Honduran economy to contract by between 2.9% and 3.9% this year and lose 500,000 jobs. Some 62% of the population already lives in poverty.

2.30am BST

Australian state of New South Wales records 19 new cases

NSW recorded 19 new cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours to 8pm yesterday. The number is around what we’ve seen in recent days, with 20 cases recorded on Sunday – at the time the highest one-day total for NSW in three months.

The 19 new cases are:

  • Three people associated with the Crossroads Hotel cluster
  • Nine people associated with the Thai Rock restaurant cluster
  • Three cases still under investigation
  • One south-western Sydney resident who acquired their infection in Victoria and has been self-isolating since arriving in NSW
  • Three returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

Updated at 2.36am BST

2.10am BST

Australian state of Victoria records 403 new cases, down from day before

In Australia, Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews says the state has recorded 403 new cases overnight, and five new deaths. The cases figure is down from yesterday’s record increase of 484.

Four of the people who died were in aged care, Andrews said.

2.07am BST

Trump ties climbing Covid-19 cases to Black Lives Matter protests

Donald Trump has cited Black Lives Matter protests against the police killing of George Floyd as among the likely causes of the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

The US president did not blame the anti-racism demonstrations directly but suggested that they “presumably” led Americans to lower their guard against the pandemic.

“There are likely a number of causes for the spike in infections cases,” Trump told reporters at his second briefing on the virus in two days following a three-month impasse. “Cases started to rise among young Americans shortly after demonstrations, which you know very well about, which presumably triggered a broader relaxation of mitigation efforts nationwide.”

Public health experts say there is little evidence that the protests spread Covid-19 in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington or other cities. They took place outdoors, where the virus spreads less easily, and most participants wore face masks, which Trump has conceded is an effective preventive measure:

2.04am BST

White House Cafeteria closes after worker tests positive for Covid-19

More on the White House Cafeteria closing, from NBC:

The White House is conducting contact tracing after a cafeteria worker tested positive for coronavirus, three Trump administration officials tell NBC News.

The cafeteria in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, or EEOB, was closed this week after the case was discovered, officials said. It was unclear how long the facility will remain closed, although some staffers were told it could remain shuttered for two weeks.

Part of the White House complex, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building sits just across West Executive Ave. from the West Wing. It houses the offices of much of the senior White House staff, including officials from the coronavirus task force, the vice president’s office, the National Security Council and several economic policy shops.

Updated at 7.00am BST

1.31am BST

A cafeteria employee who works in a building where some White House staffers have offices has tested positive for the coronavirus, NBC reports.

The White House is doing contact tracing after the worker in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is next to the White House, tested positive, NBC News reporter Josh Lederman said on Twitter. The White House Medical Office has determined the risk of transmission of the virus is low, he said.

Updated at 2.03am BST

1.16am BST

Mexico’s Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 6,019 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 790 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 362,274 cases and 41,190 deaths.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Earlier, Latin America exceeded the 4 million mark after Brazil reported a record number of cases.

12.54am BST

South Africa reports record number of daily virus deaths

South Africa on Wednesday announced a record 24-hour increase of 572 coronavirus deaths, bringing its total number of fatalities to 5,940, AFP reports.

The country is the worst-affected in Africa and among the top five in the world in terms of confirmed cases, with 394,948 infections reported to date.

“Regrettably we report 572 new Covid-19 related deaths. This brings the cumulative number of deaths to 5,940,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a daily statement.

An undertaker wearing personal protective equipment watches as an excavator fills the grave of a Covid-19 victim at the Westpark cemetery in Johannesburg, on 22 July 2020.
An undertaker wearing personal protective equipment watches as an excavator fills the grave of a Covid-19 victim at the Westpark cemetery in Johannesburg, on 22 July 2020. Photograph: Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images

Almost half the total number of deaths have been reported in the Western Cape province, while the majority of positive cases are in Gauteng – South Africa’s financial hub and epicentre of the outbreak.

The mortality rate has remained low, however, at around 1.5% on Wednesday.

Almost 60% of the country’s Covid-19 patients have recovered from the virus.

Updated at 12.54am BST

12.33am BST

Dr Deborah Birx says current US crisis ‘very different’ to March and April

Dr Deborah Birx, the chief medical officer on the White House’s coronavirus task force, has called the surge in infections across the United States, “a very different epidemic than we had in March and April”.

Speaking on Fox news, Birx said that the the virus event across the South and West of the US really started after 10 June: “This was an event that we think can be traced to Memorial Day, opening up and people travelling again.”

In late May, Memorial Day saw many Americans across the country abandon social distancing guidelines as they sunbathed on beaches and held pool parties for the holiday that traditionally marks the beginning of the US summer.

“The turnaround times [for testing] particularly across the south are too long. The most hardest hit state are having the longest turnaround times,” said Birx.

Birx explained that the delay in testing is related to the size of the current outbreak: “We have almost 70% of every parish in Louisiana with a test positive rate of 10%.”

12.28am BST

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

As always, questions, suggestions and news from your part of the world are welcome on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: helen.sullivan@theguardian.com.

The US state of California has recorded its highest number of new cases in a single day, as the state surpasses New York for the greatest total of cases in the country.

The state saw 12,807 confirmed cases on Tuesday, the governor, Gavin Newsom, announced on Wednesday. That figure brings the state’s total to more than 413,576 since the pandemic began.

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Global cases passed 15m. The number of coronavirus cases worldwide passed 15m on Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data. Known coronavirus deaths number 617,832.
  • Indian-administered Kashmir has imposed a strict lockdown for a week, as authorities warned of rising coronavirus cases, one day after cancelling a major annual Hindu pilgrimage. Authorities said the Muslim-majority Himalayan valley, apart from one district, would go into lockdown until 29 July, when the restrictions would be reviewed.
  • US daily coronavirus deaths surpass 1,000 for first time since June. The seven-day average for the number of deaths in the country has been slowly rising this month, according to multiple data analyses, and went past the 1,000 mark on Tuesday, taking US fatalities to more than 142,000.
  • The US state of California has recorded its highest number of new cases in a single day, as the state surpasses New York for the greatest total of cases in the country. The state saw 12,807 confirmed cases on Tuesday, the governor, Gavin Newsom, announced on Wednesday. That figure brings the state’s total to more than 413,576 since the pandemic began, Newsom announced.
  • Australia to post biggest budget deficit since second world war.The government that went to the last federal election declaring it was “back in black” will on Thursday unveil the largest budget deficit since the second world war, reflecting the substantial fiscal support rolled out during the pandemic and a decline in revenue because of a contraction in activity.
  • Africa’s confirmed Covid-19 cases exceed 750,000 – Reuters tally.The tally showed the continent had 751,151 cases, 15,721 deaths and 407,461 recoveries. Cases crossed the 500,000 mark on 8 July.
  • The UK government’s flagship test-and-trace system is failing to contact thousands of people in areas with the highest infection rates in England, raising further questions about the £10bn programme described by Boris Johnson as “world-beating”.
  • Female leaders have been better at tackling Covid-19, says ECB chief. The differences in policies and communication were “quite stunning” in countries led by women, said the European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde.
  • US agrees to pay Pfizer bn for Covid-19 vaccine doses by end of year. The Trump administration will pay Pfizer nearly bn for a December delivery of 100m doses of a Covid-19 vaccine the pharmaceutical company is developing. The agreement is part of a plan to ramp up manufacturing in the event a vaccine is approved.

Updated at 12.29am BST

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Trump may not respect the election. We need a Democratic Senate more than ever

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trump may not respect the election. We need a Democratic Senate more than ever” was written by Sidney Blumenthal, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 22nd July 2020 12.26 UTC

Donald Trump’s declaration that he might not accept the results of the 2020 election has fundamentally transformed the campaign, making plain what had previously only been suspected. No other president has ever made such a statement.

“I have to see,” said Trump in an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News on 19 July, after Wallace asked him if he would accept the election outcome. “No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.” Indeed, in 2016, Trump claimed that the election was being “rigged” against him.

“I will look at it at the time,” Trump said to Wallace. “I will keep you in suspense.”

Unlike last time, Trump is the president and has taken an oath to uphold the constitution. His refusal to accept the election results would be a clear violation of that oath and an impeachable offense. Indeed, simply by announcing he might reject the results by his own fiat, Trump has issued the most blatant desecration of the constitution’s values since the Confederate secession in 1860-61.

No one has proposed a more urgent and persuasive argument for the election of a Democratic-controlled Senate than Trump. America needs a Democratic-controlled Senate as a warning to Trump that if he attempts to overturn an election that goes against him he will face a second impeachment and a full and fair trial. If anything, Trump’s lawless contempt for the constitution is the strongest possible incentive to elect Democrats this fall. Remember what happened last time, in the absence of a Democratic-controlled Senate: Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for coercing the government of Ukraine to fabricate false information to damage Joe Biden, then, in the Senate, the case ran into Trump’s most powerful firewall, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. McConnell ensured that no witnesses were heard in the Senate and that Republican members were whipped into line to dismiss the evidence gathered by the House impeachment inquiry.

Trump has sought to subvert the 2020 election through every conceivable effort at voter suppression, including opposing mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing voters to put their lives potentially at risk by waiting in lengthy lines. Even if his tactics to thwart the vote fail, his comments to Wallace indicate that Trump may cause a constitutional crisis to deny the people’s judgment. He may, as he has in the past, incite violence, calling on his armed supporters to threaten state officials to prevent accurate ballot tabulations.

But whatever scenarios, gambits and tricks that Trump and his attorney general, William Barr, have up their sleeves, they should understand that the newly elected 117th Congress, especially if the Democrats have House and Senate majorities, could intervene to expose whatever they might do, beginning on the day the new Congress members are sworn in on 3 January 2021. Without McConnell staging a farce to maintain Trump in power, the House can immediately impeach a defiant Trump’s repudiation of constitutional democracy and the Senate can conduct a trial with witnesses, starting with Barr, in fulfillment of the voters’ verdict. If Senate Republicans, even after their election losses, maintain their phalanx to frustrate a two-thirds majority, their disgraceful identification with the utterly discredited Trump would be complete. And if it comes to this, Trump and the Republicans will have delivered the nation to an authoritarian regime that dispenses with the constitution.

In the meantime, Democrats in state legislatures should propose resolutions calling on the presidential candidates to accept the results of the election. Let every Republican be presented with an opportunity to stand for or against Trump’s disregard for democracy. The practice of passing such statements, even legislatures instructing elected federal office holders to adhere to certain policies, goes back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions to protest against the trampling of civil liberties imposed through the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

Trump’s statement that he may not accept the election result has only one precedent, the most glaring example of illegality and treason. According to the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, secession was compelled because of the election of Abraham Lincoln, “whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that ‘Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,’ and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.”

Lincoln answered the counter-revolution against democracy in a special message to the Congress on 4 July 1861. “It presents to the whole family of man,” he said, “the question of whether a constitutional republic or democracy – a government of the people, by the same people – can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether the discontented individuals – too few in numbers to control the administration, according to organic law, in any case – can always, upon the pretenses made in this case or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any pretense, break up the government and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth.”

It is hardly a surprise that Trump defends Confederate monuments and the Confederate battle flag. With his scorn for democracy and disdain for the constitution, Trump is preparing for the last battle of his own “Lost Cause”.

  • Sidney Blumenthal is the author of All the Powers of Earth, A Self-Made Man, and Wrestling with His Angel, the first three volumes in his five-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. He is a former assistant and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton. He has been a national staff reporter for the Washington Post, Washington editor and writer for the New Yorker and senior editor of the New Republic

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