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

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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
Instagram: sarah_marsh_journalist
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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