Coronavirus live news: China confirms 137 local cases as Spain enters state of emergency

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: China confirms 137 local cases as Spain enters state of emergency” was written by Damien Gayle (now), and Sarah Marsh and Helen Sullivan (before), for theguardian.com on Monday 26th October 2020 11.56 UTC

Merkel: “Germany on the verge of losing control of virus”

Angela Merkel has warned that Germany is on the verge of losing control of its fight against the coronavirus, reportedly telling colleagues from her Christian Democratic party this morning “the situation is threatening” and “every day counts”, writes Kate Connolly, the Guardian’s Berlin correspondent.

At the internal meeting of the CDU, details of which were leaked to the media by participants, the chancellor warned of “very, very difficult months ahead” and said that “every day counts” in terms of tackling the virus’s spread.

On Friday she is due to hold a meeting with the leaders of the 16 states where it is expected they will agree on tougher nationwide restrictions than those currently in place.

Merkel used her weekly podcast at the weekend to renew her insistence that people were not powerless to control the virus, and to appeal to them to “reduce contacts” as this was the most convincing measure to tackle it.

She said even though “people expect politicians to come up with new words” her message had not changed, and so she would simply go ahead and repeat her podcast from the previous week. The old podcast was promptly blended in.

Jens Spahn, the health minister, who is in quarantine having been diagnosed with coronavirus last week, appealed in a video message for people to stop believing those who were attempting to downplay the severity of the virus, adding that Germany’s health system was in danger of being overwhelmed if the number of new cases was not kept in check.

Meanwhile authorities in Berlin, which already for several weeks has been considered one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots, have said they will veer away from tracking and tracing those infected with coronavirus due to a lack of resources, and will rely instead on infected persons taking responsibility for themselves and going into isolation at home as well as taking the initiative in contacting people with whom they have been in touch.

The health authorities will switch their focus onto the vulnerable instead, including medical personnel, patients in hospitals and care homes as well as homeless people.

Berlin cases have been well over 100 per 100,000 for several days, over double the critical 50 per 100,000 marker.

Switzerland’s health minister has said that health restrictions expected to be announced this week to contain the spread of coronavirus are likely to be in place for a long time.

Alain Berset told a news conference in Lausanne: “What we’re preparing now will likely last a long time. We’re not making decisions on Wednesday for Friday, we’re making decisions for the next weeks and months.”

The Swiss interior and health minister, Alain Berset, pictured earlier this month.
The Swiss interior and health minister, Alain Berset, pictured earlier this month.
Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Berset’s comments came as Switzerland’s health authorities announced 17,440 new infections, 259 new hospital admissions, and 37 Covid-related deaths.

So far the Alpine country has recorded 121,093 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus, and a death toll of 1,914.

This is Damien Gayle taking the reins of the live blog now, with thanks to super Sarah Marsh for keeping things going all morning. If you want to get in touch with any comments, tips or suggestions for stories we could cover or update here on the blog (world news only, please) then drop me a line, either via email to damien.gayle@theguardian.com, or via Twitter direct message to @damiengayle.

Hello everyone, thanks for following the blog today. I will shortly be handing it over to a colleague who will keep you updated.

Authorities in Ireland have vowed to crack down on shops that circumvent lockdown rules and continue to sell clothes, toys and other non-essential goods.

The government imposed a 5km travel limit and ordered non-essential retail to close on 21 October for six weeks in some of Europe’s severest restrictions.

However, some clothing stores have remained open, citing their stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE), and some supermarkets continue to sell clothes and toys along with food.

Retailers need to abide by the rules and spirit of the rules, Leo Varadkar, the deputy prime minister, told RTE. “If you are a mixed retailer, you should separate your stock and only sell items that are essential. If you are a supermarket or a big store that has groceries and clothes, you should separate off the clothes and not sell them. If [shops] are selling PPE that is one thing. But if they’re trying to use PPE in order to sell other products, that is a very different thing.”

The government had been in contact with the police and the rules will be enforced, Varadkar said.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association said it opposed the closure of shops but that any restrictions they should be applied fairly and across the board. “We either have a rule or we don’t,” said Neil McDonnell, the group’s chief executive.

Updated

Bulgarian schools will be allowed to switch to online studies, the education ministry said on Monday, as the Balkan country struggles to contain a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.

Bulgaria, like most of the European Union, is reporting a sharp rise in infections, with the total number of confirmed cases almost doubling to 37,889 since the start of October. Prime minister Boyko Borissov himself tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday.

The ministry said school heads in areas with high numbers of infections, such as the capital, Sofia, could choose to switch to distance learning if they see a rising number of abstentions due either to infections or quarantines.

The ministry recommended switching to online learning first for high schools, saying online studies for primary pupils should be introduced only if absolutely necessary.

Updated

Hospitals in many Iranian provinces are running out of capacity to handle Covid-19 cases, health authorities say, with the coronavirus killing about 300 people a day.

Authorities have complained of poor social distancing, and the deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, said the pandemic could cause 600 daily deaths in coming weeks if Iranians failed to respect health protocols in the Middle East’s worst-affected country.

A caption that ran on state television news said an Iranian died of novel coronavirus every five minutes, a rate that corresponds to daily death tallies reported by the authorities of just above or below 300 over the past 20 days.

Health ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV on Sunday that 32,616 people had died of the disease and the number of confirmed cases had reached 568,896.

Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls. A report by the Iranian parliament’s research centre in April suggested the coronavirus tolls might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry.

Updated

European leaders warned of difficult months ahead as the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic forced authorities to impose new restrictions to try to curb the spread of the disease.

Word that a vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc produced immune responses in both elderly and young people offered some positive news.

However, the British health secretary, Matt Hancock, cautioned that the vaccine would not be widely available until next year and said: “We’re not there yet”.

Elsewhere, the picture was unrelentingly grim as a string of countries reported record increases, led by France, which posted more than 50,000 daily cases for the first time on Sunday, while the continent passed the threshold of 250,000 deaths.

Governments have been desperate to avoid the lockdowns that curbed the disease at the start of the year at the cost of shutting down their entire economies. But the steady rise in new cases has forced them to ratchet up controls steadily.

“We are facing very, very difficult months ahead,” the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, told a meeting of leaders from her Christian Democrat party, according to daily Bild.

Although Germany has fared relatively well compared with other countries in Europe, it too has seen a sharp rise in cases and the closely watched Ifo business climate index fell on Monday, reflecting the worries over the virus.

The gloom around the resurgent virus weighed on financial markets, where oil prices dropped on concerns of another slide in demand and stock markets also fell.

In Spain, which has had more than 1m cases of the disease, prime minister Pedro Sanchez warned the country was facing an “extreme” situation as he announced a new state of emergency on Sunday, imposing local nighttime curfews and banning travel between regions in some cases.

Italy, the country worst hit in the early stages of the crisis in March, also imposed new curbs, ordering restaurants and bars to close from 6pm and shutting down cinemas, and gyms and imposing local curfews in several regions.

Street clashes with small groups of protestors over the weekend and angry criticism from restaurant owners and business groups about the impact of the measures underlined the increasingly tense climate facing prime minister Giuseppe Conte.

Updated

Hi all. I will update you on all the news as it comes in from across the globe. I hope everyone is well today, please do email me if you want to share any thoughts, news tips or comments.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
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Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com

The Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford produces a similar immune response in both older and younger adults, and adverse responses were lower among the elderly, British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc said on Monday.

A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, hammered the global economy and shuttered normal life across the world.

“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the Covid-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesman told Reuters.

“The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222,” the spokesman said, referring to the technical name of the vaccine.

The news that older people get an immune response from the vaccine is positive because the immune system weakens with age and older people are those most at risk of dying from the virus.

The Financial Times reported earlier that the vaccine, being developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca, triggers protective antibodies and T-cells in older age groups – among those most at risk from the virus.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate.

If it works, a vaccine would allow the world to return to some measure of normality after the tumult of the pandemic.

Immunogenicity blood tests carried out on a subset of older participants echo data released in July which showed the vaccine generated “robust immune responses” in a group of healthy adults aged between 18 and 55, the Financial Times reported.

Updated

Hello everyone. Welcome to the Guardian’s live feed on coronavirus where I will update you on all the news as it comes in from across the globe. I hope everyone is well today, please do email me if you want to share any thoughts, news tips or comments. I’ve also done a short explainer on liveblogging on my Instagram today for anyone who is interested.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
Instagram: sarah_marsh_journalist
Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com

Updated

Thousands of free meals will be provided to children in England by businesses, local authorities and community groups on the first day of half-term as the government faces a damaging revolt on the issue.

Dozens of people from a range of organisations have stepped in to help, with health secretary Matt Hancock hailing them as “absolutely wonderful” while insisting that millions has already been provided to councils to help their communities.

A petition from the Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, who has been spearheading demands for free meals to be extended in England over the school holidays, has passed 800,000 signatures, piling further pressure on the government to act.

Hancock said he agrees “very strongly” with “the purpose” of Rashford’s campaign, telling Sky News: “I think we’re all inspired by the way that he’s led that campaign. And the purpose is that no child should go hungry, and that’s right.”

He said Universal Credit had been increased by £20 a week while £63m has already been provided by central government to local authorities so that they can support people.

Updated

Wales’ health minister has said that supermarkets in the country can sell non-essential items during the firebreak lockdown in “exceptional circumstances”.

The Welsh government is due to discuss the ban, which has been heavily criticised over the weekend, with supermarkets on Monday.

“We’re looking to have that clarity so you don’t see cards, for example, sealed up in one shop but available in another,” Vaughan Gething told Sky News.

“We want the clarity on the principle that if there really are exceptional circumstances when someone needs what would otherwise be a non-essential item, that can happen as well.

“We want that clarity because this potentially overshadows the much bigger issue of having a firebreak to save people’s lives.”

Updated

UK health secretary says tier 4 restrictions can’t be ruled out

The UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the government would “rule nothing out” on the prospect of a new fourth tier of measures, a fortnight after it brought in a three-tiered coronavirus restrictions system.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve always said all along that we take nothing off the table. Having said that, we have seen the rise in the number of cases has slowed a bit.

“The problem is it’s still going up, and while it’s still going up we’ve got to act to get it under control. We rule nothing out but at the moment the three-tier system is what we’re working to and it’s effective in slowing the growth of this virus but it hasn’t brought this curve to a halt.”

Updated

Russia’s daily tally of new coronavirus cases surged to a record high of 17,347 on Monday, including 5,224 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 1,531,224.

Authorities said 219 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 26,269.

The UK pharmacy chain Boots is set to unveil a new asymptomatic coronavirus testing service it says can return results from swab tests in just 12 minutes.

Boots said the LumiraDx devices, which are able to quickly process swab tests to give customers same-day results, will be rolled out in selected stores over the next few weeks.

It has also launched a 48-hour testing service which is available in 10 stores across London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with plans to extend the programme to more than 50 outlets across the nation.

The service is available as a private pre-flight test for customers who require one before travelling abroad, or as a solution for those who would prefer peace of mind before seeing friends and family. The in-store service will cost £120 per test.

Customers who are not displaying symptoms will be able to book an in-store coronavirus test at Boots.
Customers who are not displaying symptoms will be able to book an in-store coronavirus test at Boots.
Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Seb James, managing director of Boots UK and ROI, said the programme was being implemented as a way to help ease the pressure on the nation’s health services.

“Boots has supported the government’s Covid-19 testing programme from the very start and offering this new in-store service is the next step in our efforts to fight against the pandemic,” he said.

“We hope that by offering this testing option in local community stores, Boots can help ease pressure on the NHS and the government by providing additional access to testing and crucial reassurances for people across the UK.

Customers who are not displaying any Covid-19 symptoms can book an in-store test through the company’s website.

Updated

France may be experiencing 100,000 new Covid cases a day

France may be experiencing 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day – two times more than the latest figures – Prof Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the pandemic, told RTL radio on Monday.

“There is probably more than 50,000 cases per day. We estimate, on the scientific committee, that we are more in the region of 100,000 cases per day,” said Delfraissy.

France registered a record 52,010 new confirmed coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said in a statement on Sunday, as a second wave of cases surges through Europe.

The new cases took the French total to 1,138,507, with France ahead of Argentina and Spain to register the world’s fifth highest number of cases after the US, India, Brazil and Russia.

Updated

The Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca produces a robust immune response in elderly people, the group at highest risk, the Financial Times has reported.

The vaccine triggers protective antibodies and T-cells in older age groups, the FT said said, citing two people familiar with the finding, encouraging researchers as they seek evidence that it will spare those in later life from serious illness or death from the virus.

Details of the finding are expected to be published shortly in a clinical journal, the FT said, without naming the publication.

A Covid-19 vaccine trial by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has produced encouraging results in elderly people.
A Covid-19 vaccine trial by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has produced encouraging results in elderly people.
Photograph: Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

The findings echo data released in July that showed the vaccine generated “robust immune responses” in a group of healthy adults aged between 18 and 55, the newspaper reported, citing people aware of the results from so-called immunogenicity blood tests.

But it cautioned that positive immunogenicity tests do not guarantee that the vaccine will ultimately prove safe and effective in older people.

AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine with Oxford University researchers, is seen as a frontrunner in the race to produce a vaccine to protect against Covid-19.

Oxford and AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comments.

One of the world’s leading coronavirus vaccine candidates, called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, was developed by Oxford University scientists and licensed to AstraZeneca in April, which took on the task of scaling trials and production.

Updated

In the UK, the main opposition Labour party has hit out at the government’s decision to allow the temporary suspension of VAT on personal protective equipment (PPE) to expire, calling the move “unbelievable”.

The Treasury cut VAT on PPE to 0% in May, with the cut applying to items such as face masks and aprons purchased by care homes, businesses, charities and individuals to protect against the virus.

It was initially due to return to 20% in August, but was extended until 31 October at the estimated cost of around £255m for the six-month period.

Labour says the Treasury has confirmed the suspension will not be extended, with shadow financial secretary to the Treasury James Murray calling the decision “the last thing” families need.

He said:

It’s unbelievable that the government wants to introduce a mask tax in the middle of a pandemic.

“With Covid cases on the rise across the country, the government should be doing all it can to help people follow its own guidance to wear a mask, not ramping up the cost of buying one.

“Families across the country are already struggling financially as a result of the crisis. The last thing they need is to be penalised for doing the right thing.”

Updated

That’s it from me for today. Thanks for following along – Amy Walker will be with you for the next few hours of pandemic news.

The news was greeted with tears, cheers and, at the afternoon school pick-up, a spontaneous concert of parents honking car horns in celebration.

In Australia, as the state of Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, announced at 3.30pm on Monday that Melbourne’s months-long lockdown would (largely) come to an end, residents rejoiced.

From midnight on Tuesday cafes, restaurants, bars and beauty services will reopen, subject to patron limits, and people will be able to leave their home for any reason.

It was a moment of high anticipation.

With the US election just over a week away, millions of Americans have been heading to the polls this fall with healthcare and drug prices as their top voting issue.

The United States’ massive, largely private and very expensive health industry has ranked as a top voter concern for years, and helped drive Democrats to victory in the midterm elections of 2018, when the party took control of the House of Representatives.

While over the last six months of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 Americans, Covid-19 eclipsed healthcare as the top issue of the election, many health voters argue the two are inseparable:

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • China has detected 137 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases in Kashgar in the north-western region of Xinjiang, after one person was found to have the virus the previous day – the first new local cases for 10 days in mainland China.All the cases detected on Sunday were linked to a garment factory where the parents of a 17-year-old girl who was found on Saturday to have the virus – but showed no symptoms – worked, a Xinjiang health commission official told a press briefing.
  • The United States saw 83,718 new cases reported nationally on Saturday, nearly matching the record 83,757 infections reported on Friday, as US Vice President Mike Pence announced that he will continue campaigning on Sunday, despite his chief of staff and four other top aides having tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, declared a new nationwide state of emergency on Sunday – including a curfew – in the hope of stemming a resurgence in coronavirus infections. The Socialist leader told the nation in a televised address that the extraordinary measure will go into effect on Sunday from 11pm to 6am.
  • Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria on Monday reported zero cases of coronavirus for the first time since June, and the premier, Daniel Andrews, announced that restrictions would be easyed – among these are that hospitality and beauty businesses could reopen.
  • Five aides to US Vice President Mike Pence tested positive. The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the White House itself, with the chief of staff to Mike Pence and four othersin the vice-president’s inner circle having tested positive. Despite Pence being exposed to the disease, he planned to continue an aggressive campaign schedule in the final nine days of the race. The vice-president was scheduled to hold a rally on Sunday afternoon in Kinston, North Carolina.
  • India’s total coronavirus infections stood at 7.91 million on Monday, having risen by 45,148 cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed. India recorded its lowest death toll in about four months on Monday with 480 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 119,014.
  • Mexican health authorities acknowledged Sunday that the country’s true death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is far higher than thought, saying there were 193,170 “excess” deaths in the year up to 26 September, with 139,153 of those judged to be attributable to Covid-19. That is about 50,000 more deaths than Mexico’s official, test-confirmed death toll of about 89,000, and about 56% higher than the previous estimate of 103,882 pandemic deaths.
  • Malaysia’s king on Sunday rejected a proposal by embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to declare a state of emergency to fight a new outbreak of the coronavirus. The plan by Muhyiddin, which involves suspending Parliament, has sparked national outrage, with critics slamming the move as an undemocratic means for him to hang on to power amid challenges to his leadership.
  • Israel will begin its first clinical trials of a novel coronavirus vaccine next month, authorities said Sunday, as the country grapples with a second wave of infections.
  • The World Health Organization’s coronavirus dashboard showed a third consecutive daily record high in the number of new confirmed cases. Nearly half of Saturday’s new cases were registered in the WHO’s Europe region, which logged a one-day record high of 221,898 cases.
  • The WHO chief warned against “vaccine nationalism”, calling for global solidarity in the rollout of any future coronavirus vaccine, as the number of cases soared across the world. In a video address at the opening of the three-day World Health Summit in Berlin, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged leaders to choose to, “vaccinate some people in all countries rather than all people in some countries.”
  • Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria on Monday reported zero cases of coronavirus for the first time since June,a day after the state delayed the easing of restrictions because of a fresh outbreak in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
  • France registered 52,010 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, following a record 45,422 on Saturday, the health ministry said in a statement on Sunday. It also said that 116 people had died from coronavirus infection over the past 24 hours, compared to from 137 on Saturday, taking the total confirmed death toll to 34,761.
  • An official from China’s Xinjiang health commission said that 137 new asymptomatic cases have been detected in the region. All of the new cases were linked to a garment factory.
  • The prime minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte announced a raft of new restrictions and warned that the country’s escalating coronavirus infection rate was already having a worrying impact on hospitals. Italy reported a new daily record of 21,273 coronavirus cases with 128 deaths, health ministry figures showed on Sunday, up from the 19,644 new infections reported on Saturday.

Australia’s lockdown prevented about 400 deaths from other illnesses – research paper

Social distancing and lockdowns in Australia not only slowed the spread of Cpvid-19, they saved the lives of about 400 people who would have been expected to die in June from respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, a research paper published on Monday showed.

Reuters: Examining Australia’s most recent official fatality data, the Actuaries Institute said there was a shortfall between verified deaths and the number expected during the mid-winter month, which it concluded was due to a decline in respiratory illnesses.

“It is clear that lockdowns and other Covid-19 control measures have created great hardship for many in Australia,” said Jennifer Lang, Convenor of the Actuaries Institute’s Covid-19 Working Group.

“These measures have not only saved very many Australians from Covid-19 disease and death, they have also reduced deaths from a number of other causes.”

Updated

South Korea urged citizens to get vaccinated against influenza and reduce the chances of an outbreak that coincides with the battle against the coronavirus, as it kicked off free inoculations for the last eligible group, Reuters reports.

Public anxiety over the safety of flu vaccines has surged after at least 48 people died this month following vaccinations.

Authorities have said they found no direct link between the deaths and the flu shots and have sought to reassure South Koreans about the safety of the vaccines against flu, a disease that kills at least 3,000 each year.

However, last month, about 5 million doses had to be disposed of after not being stored at recommended temperatures.

Singapore has temporarily halted the use of two influenza vaccines as a precaution after these deaths, becoming among the first countries to publicly announce a halt of the vaccines’ usage. Singapore has reported no deaths linked to flu vaccinations.

India sees lowest deaths in four months

India’s total coronavirus infections stood at 7.91 million on Monday, having risen by 45,148 cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed.

The world’s second-most populous country also has the second-highest number of infections after the United States, which has around 8.1 million.

However, India recorded its lowest death toll in about four months on Monday with 480 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 119,014.

Updated

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 8,685 to 437,866, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Monday.

The reported death toll rose by 24 to 10,056.

Restrictions eased further in Australian state of Victoria after zero new cases reported

Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria on Monday reported zero cases of coronavirus for the first time since June,a day after the state delayed the easing of restrictions because of a fresh outbreak in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Now, the state Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that restrictions will be significantly eased.

From my colleague Amy Remeikis on the Australian live blog:

Melbourne, take a bow – you did it. From tomorrow – all retail opens. Hospitality reopens. Beauty reopens. You can leave your house.

Daniel Andrews:

But the most important thing today is to acknowledge that with zero cases and so much testing over the weekend, not just in the north but across the whole state, we are able to say that now is the time to open up. Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course.

Now is the time to thank every single Victorian family for being guided by the data, the science and the doctors. Not letting our frustration get the better of us but, instead, proving equal to this wicked enemy.

In other holiday news – South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports that there are fears that Halloween crowds this weekend could contribute to a resurgence of the virus in Seoul:

The number of COVID-19 cases in the capital area has increased since the government eased its social distancing rules two weeks ago, posing an ongoing challenge to health authorities ahead of possibly large crowds this Halloween weekend.

The government took coronavirus restrictions down to the lowest Level 1 on Oct. 12, citing falling new cases and “public fatigue” over various restrictions on dining in, gathering in large crowds and other measures meant to stop the spread of the virus.

But in the two weeks since, domestic infections have increased daily by numbers ranging from 41 to 138, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

One of the more surprising Sunday headlines came from the Wall Street Journal: Health Agency Halts Coronavirus Ad Campaign, Leaving Santa Claus in the Cold.

The WSJ reports that the Trump administration offered Santa Claus performers a deal: if they agreed to promote a Covid-19 vaccine, they would get early access to it. The story says that performers playing Mrs Claus or elves would also have been included. But the plan has now been called off.

The article continues:

Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, called the news “extremely disappointing”, adding: “this was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen.”

You can read more of this belter at the Wall Street Journal (although it’s behind a paywall).

Nearly 1 billion Indians will soon celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, and the country’s biggest. Socializing is key part of the most highly anticipated event of the year, with malls and markets buzzing with shoppers. It also traditionally brings in a massive increase in consumer spending across India, AP reports.

Even though the government is expecting the festival to help resuscitate the ailing economy, it is also worried about people packing together, foregoing social distancing and masks.

Such concerns prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the nation in a televised speech earlier this week, warning people of “any laxity” during the festive season that “could strain India’s health system.”

Workers prepare firecrackers at Sonic Fireworks in Vaanch village, some 20 kms from Ahmedabad on 23 October 2020, ahead of the Hindu ‘Diwali’ festival or the Festival of Lights.
Workers prepare firecrackers at Sonic Fireworks in Vaanch village, some 20 kms from Ahmedabad on 23 October 2020, ahead of the Hindu ‘Diwali’ festival or the Festival of Lights.
Photograph: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

India is second to the United States with the largest coronavirus outbreak. Last month, the country hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily infections have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third.

Some experts say the decline in cases suggests the virus may have finally reached a plateau but others question the testing methods. India’s testing rate has remained constant but it is relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests.

Even as the reasons behind the decline are not fully clear, India is still clocking more than 50,000 cases a day, making any new surge all the more important.

Mexico reports 193,170 ‘excess’ deaths

Mexican health authorities acknowledged Sunday that the country’s true death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is far higher than thought, saying there were 193,170 “excess” deaths in the year up to 26 September, with 139,153 of those judged to be attributable to Covid-19, AP reports.

That is about 50,000 more deaths than Mexico’s official, test-confirmed death toll of about 89,000, and about 56% higher than the previous estimate of 103,882 pandemic deaths.

Mexico has an extremely low testing rate, and officials had previously acknowledged that many people didn’t get tested or their tests were mishandled. Authorities had earlier presented the estimated Covid-19 death toll of 103,882 after taking into account mishandled tests and some other factors.

This file aerial photo taken on July 28, 2020 shows a view of graves at the special area for Covid-19 victims of the Municipal Pantheon of Valle de Chalco, State of Mexico.
This file aerial photo taken on July 28, 2020 shows a view of graves at the special area for Covid-19 victims of the Municipal Pantheon of Valle de Chalco, State of Mexico.
Photograph: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images

But the Health Department said experts had now analyzed databases of death certificates up to late September — the latest date for which complete data was available – to come up with the latest figure of 139,153. The analysis picked up symptoms related to Covid-19 mentioned on death certificates even if they weren’t listed as the cause of death.

Excess deaths are calculated by comparing the expected number of deaths from an average of previous years to those in 2020.

The department did not explain the other 54,000 “excess” deaths, but experts in other countries have suggested that more people may have died from non-coronavirus causes simply because hospitals were crowded with Covid-19 patients, or people were wary of seeking medical attention for other illnesses because they feared getting infected.

Mexico has a policy of testing only people who show serious symptoms of coronavirus infection, as well as a tiny sample of the wider population.

North Dakota officials voted to repurpose US$221m in federal coronavirus aid to various state agencies, including a $16m grant to oil companies in support of the fracking process, AP reports.

The North Dakota Emergency Commission approved the plan Friday, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

The money comes from the $1.25bn awarded to the state through the Coronavirus Relief Fund established by the federal CARES Act.

The Oil and Gas Division plans to award the $16m grant to oil companies for acquiring and disposing of water used in the hydraulic fracturing process, in which water, sand and chemicals are injected underground to crack rock and release oil.

The full story on China’s new outbreak now:

China has detected 137 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases in Kashgar in the north-western region of Xinjiang after one person was found to have the virus the previous day – the first new local cases for 10 days in mainland China.

All the cases detected on Sunday were linked to a garment factory where the parents of a 17-year-old girl who was found on Saturday to have the virus – but showed no symptoms – worked, a Xinjiang health commission official told a press briefing.

The new cases marked mainland China’s first local infections since 14 October, when one was detected in Qingdao. Xinjiang was the site of a local cluster in August, which prompted a “wartime state” of lockdown in the capital Urumqi, but no new cases had been found in the region since 15 August.

Residents reported confusion on Saturday afternoon as flights in and out of Kashgar were suddenly cancelled, and police authorities posted and then deleted a social media message reminding people to wear masks and “not believe or spread rumours”:

Updated

In the US, these voters in Philadelphia have broken the monotony of the long voting lines by breaking into dance – while wearing face masks – to the Cha Cha Slide by DJ Casper:

 

South Korea’s Celltrion Inc said on Monday it has received emergency use authorisation (EUA) from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for its rapid COVID-19 testing kit Sampinute, which boosted shares of the company and its affiliates.

Reuters: Celltrion said Sampinute delivers coronavirus test results within 10 minutes, with a sensitivity of around 94%.

The authorisation came three months after requesting approval in late July and the product has already been launched in the United States in August, according to the company statement.

“[The company] is planning to supply Sampinute across the United States through local wholesalers as it believes the demand for rapid diagnosis kits will be high, mainly among large businesses and government agencies that are about to return to work after telecommuting,” it said in a statement.

Shares of Celltrion Inc surged as much as 4.6%, while Celltrion Pharm and Celltrion Healthcare jumped 4.6% and 1.6%, respectively. Broader KOSPI, however, was trading down 0.1% as of 0208 GMT.

Malaysia’s king rejects PM’s proposal to declare emergency

Malaysia’s king on Sunday rejected a proposal by embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to declare a state of emergency to fight a new outbreak of the coronavirus, AP reports.

The plan by Muhyiddin, which involves suspending Parliament, has sparked national outrage, with critics slamming the move as an undemocratic means for him to hang on to power amid challenges to his leadership.

The palace said in a statement that Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah “is of the opinion that there is currently no need for His Majesty to declare a state of emergency in this country or any part of Malaysia.”

Hours later, Muhyiddin said the Cabinet took note of the king’s decision and will further discuss the decree.

Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah waves as he leaves National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, 25 October 2020.
Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah waves as he leaves National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, 25 October 2020.
Photograph: Vincent Thian/AP

“The priority of the Cabinet and the government at this time is to protect citizens from the Covid-19 disease,” he said in a brief statement. He also welcomed the king’s advice to ensure his government’s stability. Local media said the Cabinet is expected to meet later Monday.

Sultan Abdullah, who earlier Sunday conferred with other royal households on the emergency proposal, said the government has handled the pandemic well and believes Muhyiddin is capable of implementing measures to cope with the crisis. But the monarch called for a halt to “all politicking” that could disrupt the government’s stability.

Malaysia’s coronavirus cases doubled to more than 26,000 in just three weeks following a new outbreak, mainly in Sabah state on Borneo island.

Israel to begin first vaccine clinical trials next month

Israel will begin its first clinical trials of a novel coronavirus vaccine next month, authorities said Sunday, as the country grapples with a second wave of infections, AFP reports.

Early in the pandemic, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tasked the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) with developing a vaccine against the virus.

Covid-19 has killed over 2,370 people in the Jewish state since the start of the outbreak there, and has infected more than 300,000, according to official figures.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray in a separation nylon capsules at the Jewish Quarter, in Jerusalem’s Old City, 25 October 2020.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews pray in a separation nylon capsules at the Jewish Quarter, in Jerusalem’s Old City, 25 October 2020.
Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA

On Sunday, authorities announced that the first clinical trials of the “BriLife” vaccine would begin on November 1, as a spokesperson for the defence ministry said the “necessary approvals” had been granted. The trials will be conducted over several months.

“Our final goal is 15 million rations for the residents of the state of Israel and for our close neighbours,” IIBR head Shmuel Shapira was quoted as saying in a statement.

Scientists around the world are racing to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, which has killed over 1.1 million people.

Several dozen vaccine candidates are currently being tested in clinical trials, ten of which are in the most advanced “phase 3” stage involving tens of thousands of volunteers.

Mexico’s health ministry reported on Sunday 4,360 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 181 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 891,160 and the death toll to 88,924.

Health officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump played host Sunday to hundreds of superheroes, unicorns, skeletons and even a miniature version of themselves as part of a Halloween celebration at the White House.

From AP: In years past, the president and first lady personally handed out candy to the costume-clad kids. This year, the treats were provided separately as participants walked along a path on the South Lawn.

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump host a Halloween event at the White House in Washington, US, 25 October 2020.
US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump host a Halloween event at the White House in Washington, US, 25 October 2020.
Photograph: Ken Cedeno/Reuters

The kids still briefly met the president and first lady, who waved and offered words of encouragement from a safe distance about how much they liked the costumes. Trump and the first lady have both recently recovered from Covid-19.

Trump was particularly pleased with a young boy with a distinctly Trump head of hair and a partner who did her best Mrs. Trump impersonation. The president motioned for them to turn and pose for the cameras, and they happily agreed.

Children dressed as US President Donald Trump and US first lady Melania Trump attend a Halloween event hosted by President Trump and the first lady at the White House in Washington, US, 25 October 2020.
Children dressed as US President Donald Trump and US first lady Melania Trump attend a Halloween event hosted by President Trump and the first lady at the White House in Washington, US, 25 October 2020.
Photograph: Ken Cedeno/Reuters

The spooky celebration was changed up a bit as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Guests older than 2 were required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. The same went for all White House personnel working the event, while any staff giving out candy also wore gloves.

Updated

China reports 161 new asymptomatic cases

China reported 20 new confirmed and 161 new asymptomatic Covid-19 cases on 25 October, the national health authority said on Monday, following a surge in symptomless infections in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that all new confirmed cases were imported infections originating from overseas. Of the 161 new symptomless infections, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, 138 were locally transmitted. It did not clarify how many of the infections occured in Xinjiang.

Volunteers disinfect and sterilize amid a new coronavirus outbreak in Urumchi, Xinjiang, China in August.
Volunteers disinfect and sterilize amid a new coronavirus outbreak in Urumchi, Xinjiang, China in August.
Photograph: Top Photo Corporation/REX/Shutterstock

Kashgar in Xinjiang region on Saturday started testing its 4.75 million people after detecting an asymptomatic patient at a garment factory. Another 137 asymptomatic cases have been reported on25 October due to the tests being conducted.

A total of 85,810 confirmed Covid-19 cases have been reported in mainland China to date, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,634.

Updated

The global aerospace industry has endured its worst quarter ever with record low orders for new aircraft and 12,000 UK jobs already lost or at risk because of the collapse in travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Aircraft manufacturers received only 13 orders in July and August, according to the aerospace and defence lobby group ADS. No orders were placed in September. That compares with 152 in the same period in 2019.

More than a 10th of the jobs in the UK’s aerospace industry could go as the plane manufacturers Airbus and Boeing and their suppliers adjust to lower demand, according to separate figures shown to the Guardian.

At least 12,000 aerospace workers are either being made redundant or are at risk of losing their jobs, according to legally required notices of possible redundancies received by the Unite union. There were 111,000 workers in the aerospace manufacturing and maintenance sectors in 2019, according to ADS:

Five aides to US Vice President Mike Pence test positive

The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the White House itself, with the chief of staff to Mike Pence and four others in the vice-president’s inner circle having tested positive.

Despite Pence being exposed to the disease, he planned to continue an aggressive campaign schedule in the final nine days of the race. The vice-president was scheduled to hold a rally on Sunday afternoon in Kinston, North Carolina.

Such unbroken travel plans amounted to a breach of the recommendations of the Trump administration’s own public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They would require the vice-president to be in quarantine for 14 days and always to wear a mask around other people. Pence has frequently been seen maskless in public.

Such blatant disregard for the administration’s own health standards is doubly awkward given that Pence has led the White House coronavirus taskforce since late February. Dr Anthony Fauci, the most senior public health expert on the taskforce, said on Friday meetings had dwindled and Trump had not attended one in months.

The White House said Pence was not required to follow the quarantine rule because he is deemed “essential personnel”. Asked why electioneering was classed “essential”, Meadows said the-vice president continued to do his official work in between campaign stops.

Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University in Virginia, called Pence’s decision to travel “grossly negligent”:

US sees new case highs

A day after the US set a daily record for new coronavirus infections, it came very close to doing it again.

Data published by Johns Hopkins University showed that 83,718 new cases were reported nationally on Saturday, nearly matching the 83,757 reported on Friday. Before that, the most cases reported in the US on a single day was 77,362 on 16 July.

Close to 8.6 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and about 225,000 have died. Both statistics are the world’s highest. India has more than 7.8m infections but its daily numbers have been declining.

The new figures came as the Trump administration made the extraordinary admission that it had abandoned all pretence of trying to conquer the crisis

“We are not going to control the pandemic,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas”:

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next few hours.

Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

The United States saw 83,718 new cases reported nationally on Saturday, nearly matching the record 83,757 infections reported on Friday, as US Vice President Mike Pence announced that he will continue campaigning on Sunday, despite his chief of staff and four other top aides having tested positive for coronavirus.

Meanwhile Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, declared a new nationwide state of emergency on Sunday – including a curfew – in the hope of stemming a resurgence in coronavirus infections. The Socialist leader told the nation in a televised address that the extraordinary measure will go into effect on Sunday from 11pm to 6am.

  • The World Health Organization’s coronavirus dashboard showed a third consecutive daily record high in the number of new confirmed cases. Nearly half of Saturday’s new cases were registered in the WHO’s Europe region, which logged a one-day record high of 221,898 cases.
  • The WHO chief warned against “vaccine nationalism”, calling for global solidarity in the rollout of any future coronavirus vaccine, as the number of cases soared across the world. In a video address at the opening of the three-day World Health Summit in Berlin, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,“It is natural that countries want to protect their own citizens first but if and when we have an effective vaccine, we must also use it effectively. And the best way to do that is to vaccinate some people in all countries rather than all people in some countries.”
  • Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria on Monday reported zero cases of coronavirus for the first time since June, a day after the state delayed the easing of restrictions because of a fresh outbreak in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
  • France registered 52,010 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, following a record 45,422 on Saturday, the health ministry said in a statement on Sunday. It also said that 116 people had died from coronavirus infection over the past 24 hours, compared to from 137 on Saturday, taking the total confirmed death toll to 34,761.
  • An official from China’s Xinjiang health commission said that 137 new asymptomatic cases have been detected in the region. All of the new cases were linked to a garment factory.
  • The prime minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte announced a raft of new restrictions and warned that the country’s escalating coronavirus infection rate was already having a worrying impact on hospitals. Italy reported a new daily record of 21,273 coronavirus cases with 128 deaths, health ministry figures showed on Sunday, up from the 19,644 new infections reported on Saturday.
  • Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez has declared a new nationwide state of emergency in the hope of stemming a resurgence in coronavirus infections. He said: “The reality is that Europe and Spain are immersed in a second wave of the pandemic.”
  • The number of new coronavirus cases in the Netherlands has risen by more than 10,000 in 24 hours, according to newly released official data.
  • The US’s top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci told the BBC that he expected news on whether a vaccine is safe and effective by December, but noted that a wide rollout was unlikely “until the second or third quarter of [next] year”. He also acknowledged that Donald Trump’s public statements on several key issues had not “followed the science”.
  • In Indonesia, the health ministry reported 3,732 new coronavirus infections, and 94 deaths, bringing the totals to 389,712 cases and 13,299 deaths – the highest totals in south-east Asia.
  • In Hungary, there were 3,149 new cases of coronavirus reported on Sunday, the highest single-day tally and jumping above 3,000 for the first time.
  • The Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas in the United States said it was “extremely disappointed” after the Trump administration pulled out of a deal offering the Christmas legends early access to a Covid-19 vaccine in exchange for promoting it.

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