Coronavirus live news: Melbourne locks down as global cases pass 12m

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Fears as first Covid-19 case reported in rebel-held Syrian camps – as it happened” was written by Helen Sullivan (now and earlier) , Damien Gayle ,Sarah Marsh , Amy Walkerand Nadeem Badshah, for theguardian.com on Thursday 9th July 2020 23.45 UTC

12.39am BST

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12.05am BST

South Africa announces record one-day case increase

South Africa announced Thursday its highest daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 13,674.

Africas most developed country is now a hot spot in the global pandemic with 238,339 total confirmed cases. Gauteng province, which contains Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, is home to more than a third of the total cases.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said South Africa could run out of available hospital beds within the month.

The African continent has more than 523,000 confirmed virus cases after having passed the half-million mark on Wednesday. But shortages in testing materials mean the true number is unknown.

11.48pm BST

Here is more on those two top politicians in Latin America testing positive for coronavirus:

Venezuela’s second-most powerful man and Bolivia’s interim president have both announced they have tested positive for Covid-19 – the latest top Latin American politicians to fall victim to a pandemic that has claimed more than 120,000 lives in the region.

Diosdado Cabello, Venezuela’s number two official, announced his diagnosis on social media on Thursday evening and said he was in self-isolation.

“We will prevail!!” the highly-influential Chavista tweeted.

Diosdado Cabello in Caracas, Venezuela in January.
Diosdado Cabello in Caracas, Venezuela in January.
Photograph: Matias Delacroix/AP

Jeanine Añez, Bolivia’s right-wing interim leader, said she had received the same diagnosis.
“I’ve tested positive for Covid-19,” tweetedAñez, who took power after Evo Morales was forced from the country last year. “I’m OK, I will work in isolation. Together, we will get through this.”

Interim Bolivian President Anez on 14 June.
Interim Bolivian President Anez on 14 June.
Photograph: EPA

The news comes after Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, announced on Tuesday that he had tested positive for coronavirus.

Cabello’s announcement came amid growing concern over Covid-19’s advance in Venezuela and the potential for its already collapsed health service to be overwhelmed by the pandemic.

Venezuela’s official Covid-19 figures – which many question – have so far been far lower than those of other countries in the region. While Brazil has recorded more than 68,000 deaths,Venezuelahas officially suffered just 75.

Venezuela has registered 8,010 confirmed cases while in Brazil there have been at least 1.7 million.

But on Wednesday, Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, warned the South American country was now witnessing the “real outbreak”.

Another top Chavista official, the governor of the western state of Zulia, also confirmed he had tested positive on Thursday night. “We are in battle and stable,” Omar Prieto tweeted.

Bolivia has so far recorded 1,577 Covid-19 deaths and nearly 43,000 cases.

Updated at 11.49pm BST

11.34pm BST

Venezuela socialist party boss tests positive for Covid-19

Venezuelan socialist party chief Diosdado Cabello has announced that he is sick with Covid-19.

The man considered the second-most powerful person in Venezuela after President Nicolás Maduro shared the news Thursday on Twitter.

Cabello said, “Dear colleagues, I comply with informing that after having undergone the corresponding tests, I have been positive in Covid 19, since now I am isolated, complying with the indicated treatment, thanks for your good wishes, with high morale. We will win!!”

Venezuela has had fewer officially registered cases of the virus than much of Latin America, though the numbers have increased in recent weeks.

The nation is considered one of the least prepared countries in the world to confront the pandemic. Hospitals are routinely short on critical supplies like water, electricity and medicine.

11.24pm BST

Interim Bolivian president tests positive for Covid-19

The interim president of Bolivia, Jeanine Añez has just announced on Twitter that she has tested positive for coronavirus.

“I have tested positive for Covid19, I am fine, I will work from my isolation. Together, let’s get ahead,” she wrote:

Bolivia, with a population of 11.35m people, has 42,984 known cases of coronavirus and 1,577 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official figures.

Updated at 11.32pm BST

11.20pm BST

Hi, Helen Sullivan with you now. I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next few hours – get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

11.12pm BST

The British government has decided not to join a European Union coronavirus vaccine scheme because of concerns there could be costly delays in securing the vaccines, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph.

The European Commission is expected to be notified on Friday, the newspaper said.

UK business minister Alok Sharma is believed to have withdrawn from the plan after failing to get “sufficient assurance” that it would receive the number of vaccines it needs on time.

The officials believed that signing up to the scheme could delay the rollout of a successful vaccine in the UK by up to six months as talks on distribution took place, according to government sources.

The decision comes a week after officials in London and Brussels said Britain was in discussions with the EU about whether it would join a plan by the bloc to secure supplies of potential vaccines against Covid-19.

11.02pm BST

People watch marionette dolls at a concert in the Puppet Theater at El-Sawy Culture Wheel, Cairo, Egypt. Today, El-Sawy Culture Wheel resumed its cultural events with a puppet show and announced that the concert complies with the precautionary measures against coronavirus.
People watch marionette dolls at a concert in the Puppet Theater at El-Sawy Culture Wheel, Cairo, Egypt. Today, El-Sawy Culture Wheel resumed its cultural events with a puppet show and announced that the concert complies with the precautionary measures against coronavirus.
Photograph: Mohamed Hossam/EPA

11.00pm BST

People sing after a rally against the government’s lockdown measures, amid the spread of coronavirus, in front of the parliament in Belgrade, Serbia.
People sing after a rally against the government’s lockdown measures, amid the spread of coronavirus, in front of the parliament in Belgrade, Serbia.
Photograph: Marko Đurica/Reuters

10.51pm BST

The front page of Friday’s UK edition of The Guardian.

10.44pm BST

Friday’s Daily Telegraph.

10.42pm BST

A selection of Friday’s UK newspapers now, starting with The Times.

10.34pm BST

Brazil’s death toll passes 69,000

Brazil’s death toll from Covid-19 has risen to 69,184 on Thursday, from 67,964 the previous day, the country’s health ministry said.

The country has registered 1,755,779 confirmed cases of the virus, up from 1,713,160 on Wednesday.

10.27pm BST

Quebec, Canada’s hardest-hit province from the coronavirus pandemic, said on Thursday it would crack down on bar crowding, following a recent outbreak at a suburban Montreal pub and reports of overcrowded nightclub floors.

Its health minister Christian Dubé said the province would now require bars to stop selling alcohol at midnight. Closing time is moved up to 1 a.m. from 3 a.m. Nightclub dance floors must remain free of dancers and bars will only be allowed to admit half capacity, he said.

The new requirements, which take effect on Friday, followed reports on social media of crowding in Montreal pubs after Quebec started easing restrictions last month.

The province accounts for more than half of Canada*s 106,434 cases and 8,737 deaths from the virus.

10.15pm BST

Bolsonaro in ‘good health’, two days after coronavirus diagnosis

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is in “good health” after testing positive for coronavirus earlier this week, his press office said.

“President Jair Bolsonaro, diagnosed with Covid-19 on (July) 7, is getting on well, without complications,” the statement said.

“He is in good health and continues to be monitored routinely by the medical team of the Presidency of the Republic.”

10.09pm BST

In Los Angeles County, deaths from coronavirus have risen by 50, bringing the total to 3,689 on Thursday, according to the county health department.

It has also seen the number of cases soar by 1,777 with the total now at 124,738.

10.03pm BST

Coronavirus deaths in Texas have risen by 105 to bring the total to 2,918, according to the state health department.

The number of cases increased by 9,782 on Thursday, with the total now at 230,346.

9.51pm BST

President Trump has signed an executive order establishing the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative in the Rose Garden.

In his remarks before signing the order, the president reiterated his demand that US schools reopen next month, despite concerns about the spread of coronavirus once in-person instruction restarts.

“We have to open our schools,” Trump said.

“Open our schools. Stop this nonsense.”

Earlier, Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said the president supports reopening all US schools, even those located in coronavirus hot spots where hospitalizations are on the rise.

After signing the order, the president left the Rose Garden without taking any questions from reporters.

9.44pm BST

A health worker in full protective gear and with a face shield with text that reads in Spanish “God is my shield and my strength,” attends an official act by local authorities as they hand over hospital beds to the Del Norte Hospital, which is treating COVID-19 patients exclusively, in El Alto, Bolivia.
A health worker in full protective gear and with a face shield with text that reads in Spanish “God is my shield and my strength,” attends an official act by local authorities as they hand over hospital beds to the Del Norte Hospital, which is treating COVID-19 patients exclusively, in El Alto, Bolivia.
Photograph: Juan Karita/AP

Updated at 9.44pm BST

9.37pm BST

As coronavirus cases surge in Florida, scepticism is growing that Republican National Convention organisers will be able to pull off the grand party President Donald Trump promised for his renomination.

Wealthy donors are reluctant to bankroll an event besieged by uncertainty and possible bad optics if large crowds are later linked to a rash of new infections, according to interviews with six Republican Party sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Organisers are considering moving the convention from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, to one of two nearby outdoor stadiums to address concerns about the rapid spread of the virus indoors, two of the sources who are familiar with the planning told Reuters.

Trump himself has been reaching out to top campaign officials in recent days to seek advice on whether they think the August 24-27 convention can go forward as envisioned, according to two of the sources familiar with the calls.

“It’s like building a plane while trying to take off,” one official said of the planning scramble.

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee declined to comment.

9.02pm BST

A summary of today’s developments

  • President Trump continues to see malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a promising drug to prevent infection from the coronavirus, the White House said. This is despite the US Food and Drug Administration saying its efficacy and safety were unproven.
  • A first case of coronavirus was recorded in northwest Syria on Thursday, an opposition official said, reviving fears of disaster if the pandemic reached the rebel bastion’s displacement camps.
  • Hundreds of coronavirus patients in Romania have discharged themselves from hospital after a court ruling that mandatory admittance of those with no or mild symptoms was a breach of human rights. A total of 624 patients, who tested positive for the virus, had asked to leave hospital and now risked transmitting the disease in their communities, the health minister, Nelu Tataru, said on television on Wednesday evening.
  • Greek authorities say they are ready to re-impose public and travel restrictions next week, warning that safety guidance for the coronavirus is being frequently flouted. Stelios Petsas, the government spokesman, said authorities were “determined to protect the majority from the frivolous few,” adding that the government was likely to announce new restrictions if needed on Monday.
  • The health system in El Salvador is in the brink of collapse as a result of added pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières has warned. In a press release on Thursday, the international health organisation said an increasing number of people in the country were dying from Covid-19 and other illnesses at home before they could receive medical care.
  • Another 1.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment. While the number of new unemployment filings has decreased significantly since it peaked in April at 6 million people filing in one week, it has remained above a million each week since forced shutdowns began.
  • Five million people in Melbourne, Australia, have begun a new lockdown, with residents told to stay at home for six weeks as the city grapples with a resurgence of cases. The state of Victoria announced a further 165 new cases and has been effectively sealed off in an effort to preserve the rest of Australia’s success in curbing the virus.
  • The World Health Organization director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said a divided planet cannot conquer the pandemic. “Together is the solution unless we want to give the advantage to the enemy, to the virus that has taken the world hostage,” he said at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.
  • The Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, accused “criminal hooligans” of driving violence in protests that have erupted in Belgrade and other cities over his government’s handling of the pandemic. The interior minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, said 10 officers were injured during a second night of clashes in the capital.
  • The pandemic has killed at least 549,701 people worldwide as of 11am GMT on Thursday, according to an AFP tally based on official sources. More than 12 million cases have been registered in 196 countries and territories. The US is the hardest-hit country with 132,309 deaths, followed by Brazil on 67,964, Britain on 44,517, Italy on 34,914 and Mexico on 32,796 fatalities.
  • The WHO says it has launched an independent pandemic response panel headed by the former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to provide understanding on its handling of the crisis.
  • The UN chief, Antonio Guterres, has urged world leaders to favour clean energy solutions as they pour money into their virus-hit economies. Governments should exit coal, stop subsidising other fossil fuels, and pressure polluting industries to clean up their act in exchange for bailing them out, the UN secretary general told an International Energy Agency conference by video link.
  • Bulgaria has banned football fans from stadiums and shut clubs and bars just weeks after they had reopened, as the country reported a daily record of 240 new infections.

8.57pm BST

Television soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful has resumed filming in the US and has introduced a wave of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

This includes employing actors’ real-life partners as smooching stand-ins and for more limited purposes, using a mannequin to eliminate the risk of breaching a co-star’s infection safety zone.

“We feel almost like television pioneers all these years later because were the first ones out, blazing new ways of producing the shows with the current safety standards, and were getting the job done. Its very exciting,” said Bradley Bell, executive producer of the programme, which debuted in 1987.

Another safety measure is an actor reciting lines as their on-camera scene partner responds in a low, intimate voice and engages in eye contact with an off-camera doll, Bell said.

8.47pm BST

Doctors and nurses in Algeria say they have paid a heavy price in the country’s coronavirus response and have warned of worse to come, urging respect and enforcement of hygiene rules.

“We’re working non-stop. We’re totally exhausted. Some (medics) are dead, may they rest in peace, and several members of my team have been infected,” said Dr Mohamed Yousfi, head of infectiology at the Boufarik hospital near Algiers.

Boufarik was the first town in the North African country to register cases of the Covid-19 illness in February, after Algerians returned from France and attended a wedding and infected an entire family.

“The epidemic started here, and it’s getting out of hand. The hospital is full,” Yousfi said.

Some staff are so tired they have fainted or had car accidents, he said.

Doctors and nurses have been particularly at risk since the outbreak in February.

Local media report that 31 medical workers have died – including four since the start of the week.

Professor Abdelkrim Soukehal, a member of the National Scientific Committee, said some 1,700 doctors, nurses and other medical workers have been infected.

Some doctors have taken to social media to voice anger and desperation, among them a doctor from second city Oran.

The doctor, signing with the initials M.A., tweeted about his pride for “my team, who were giving it their all” but also anger “at all those ignorant people who pay the price for their foolishness.”

Others bemoaned the lack of ventilators and personal protective equipment, demanding more help from the state.

After peaking for a first time in April, coronavirus infections were markedly down during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

But after it finished in late May, authorities began easing strict lockdown measures – and the caseload surged again in hospitals across the country.

Yousfi said his hospital was full and that dozens of people, sometimes entire families, arrive each day with COVID-19 symptoms. Around half are declared positive.

“We’re heading for disaster. Cases keep increasing,” Yousfi said.

8.21pm BST

Slovenia has approved the use of a coronavirus contact tracking app which will be obligatory to use for those who are infected or who are in quarantine. The country’s parliament endorsed the use of the app by 50 votes to 23.

The centre-right government led by the prime minister, Janez Jansa, says the app is necessary to curb the spread of the infection as the number of new cases escalated in July. The country has so far reported 1,776 coronavirus cases and 111 deaths with 13 new cases confirmed on Wednesday.

“The installation and use of the mobile application will be voluntary and free, except in cases where a person tests positive or is ordered to stay in obligatory quarantine,” the labour minister, Janez Cigler Kralj, told parliament on Thursday, before the vote. The app will be introduced in the coming weeks.

At present Slovenia enforces a 14-day quarantine on people who have been in countries with a large number of infections or who have been in contact with an infected person.

Updated at 8.23pm BST

8.16pm BST

First coronavirus case recorded in northwest Syria

A first case of coronavirus was recorded in northwest Syria on Thursday, an opposition official said, reviving fears of disaster if the pandemic reached the rebel bastion’s displacement camps.

“We regret today to announce the first case of coronavirus in a health worker at one of the hospitals” in the north-western province of Idlib, said opposition health official Maram al-Sheikh.

The head of WHO’s office in Turkey’s Gaziantep, Mahmoud Daher, said the patient was a male Syrian doctor in his 30s who had been working in a hospital in the town of Bab al-Hawa on the Syrian-Turkish border.

“He suspected that he might have contracted Covid-19,” and a test came back positive on Thursday, he said.

“There have been no cases so far in north-west Syria until this morning,” Daher said, confirming it was the first case.

Sheikh said: “The hospital has been closed, as have its living quarters.”

Updated at 10.11pm BST

8.06pm BST

Ireland’s Covid-19 reproduction number, which measures the number of people who become infected from each positive case, has increased in the past week and is now around 1, a senior Irish health official said.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of reported cases over the last 2 weeks and the R-number is now at or above 1,” up from between 0.6 and 1.0 a week ago”, Philip Nolan, chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, told journalists.

7.57pm BST

Trump still believes malaria drug can be used to treat coronavirus

President Trump continues to see malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a promising drug to prevent infection from the coronavirus, the White House said.

This is despite the US Food and Drug Administration saying its efficacy and safety were unproven.

“The president has always said that he sees hydroxychloroquine as a very promising prophylactic but that every person should not take it unless they get a prescription from their doctor,” White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said at a news conference.

Trump told reporters in May he had started taking hydroxychloroquine after two White House staffers tested positive for the virus.

His doctor said last month that Trump had suffered from no side effects after a two-week course of the malaria drug, which can cause heart problems.

Earlier this week, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, said he had tested positive for the virus and was taking hydroxychloroquine.

Updated at 8.07pm BST

7.46pm BST

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced a new welfare package on Thursday for those who have lost livelihoods due to coronavirus, saying the measures would provide an economic safety net for the coming year.

A surge in contagion prompted the government to reimpose closures on businesses this week, dashing hopes of a recovery from a record 21% unemployment and stoking anger at the slow payout of bn in aid previously pledged by the state.

Netanyahu said Israel would make those who lost jobs to the crisis eligible for welfare through to mid-2021, provide retraining for “coronavirus-era professions” and expedite grants for ailing businesses.

“We want to arrive at a situation where people know how we will manage to live over the coming year,” he said.

“It would cover all of the losses, but we have to provide a security net.”

Updated at 8.01pm BST

7.34pm BST

7.33pm BST

The World Health Organization has tweeted on the potential risks of contracting the virus from being in crowded indoor spaces.

7.24pm BST

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is holding a briefing and she opened it by pushing for the reopening of America’s schools.

Echoing President Trump, McEnany said it was vital that students return to school, despite concerns about the spread of coronavirus in classrooms.

“Sustained school closures hurt students with fewer resources the most,” McEnany said, describing Trump as “the most vocal advocate for reopening”.

The president has been criticised in recent days for pressuring schools to reopen and threatening their funding while simultaneously disparaging guidelines for safe reopenings.

Updated at 8.02pm BST

7.18pm BST

Morocco has extended an emergency decree until 10 August giving local authorities leeway in taking restrictive measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The cabinet maintained the decree in force to allow for restoring lockdowns on a region-by-region basis depending on the coronavirus developments.

Morocco has unlocked most of the economy since 25 June, allowing cafes, restaurants, sports clubs and other services and entertainment businesses to resume activity at half capacity, except in the provinces where infections remain higher such as Tangier, Marrakech and Safi.

Domestic travel has resumed, while borders are set to reopen on 14 July to nationals in addition to foreign residents and their families.

By Thursday evening, Morocco had recorded 15,079 cases, including 242 deaths and 11,447 recoveries with total tests rising to 835,264.

Updated at 7.33pm BST

7.10pm BST

Global wildlife monitoring needs to be stepped up to reduce the risk of future pandemics, experts have warned.

Scientists from the Wildlife Disease Surveillance Focus Group want improvements on the testing and tracking of organisms that cause disease, known as pathogens, in wildlife to help avoid another worldwide outbreak.

Previous outbreaks of new diseases such as SARS and MERS were caused by the crossover of pathogens from animals to humans.
SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for Covid-19, is thought to have originated in bats and moved into other wildlife hosts before crossing over into humans.

The lack of knowledge about how the step between animals and humans happened highlights the need for improved surveillance, the group said.

To avoid a repeat of Covid-19, wildlife must be tested closer to areas of risk, better use should be made of technology and greater oversight introduced for the international wildlife trade, the group said in an article published in the journal Science.

Currently, there is no wildlife trade pathogen screening, including of animals or their products that are eaten, transported or hunted as game.

The group said this lack of oversight is concerning, pointing out some 89% of known RNA viruses – the class of viruses that SARS-CoV-2, MERS coronavirus and Ebola belong to – that have the potential to cause harm to humans could cross over from animals.

It outlines recommendations including an increase in laboratory testing capacity at or near locations where humans and wildlife interact.

7.03pm BST

Summary

  • Hundreds of coronavirus patients in Romania have discharged themselves from hospital after a court ruling that mandatory admittance of those with no or mild symptoms was a breach of human rights. A total of 624 patients, who tested positive for the virus, had asked to leave hospital and now risked transmitting the disease in their communities, the health minister, Nelu Tataru, said on television on Wednesday evening.
  • Greek authorities say they are ready to re-impose public and travel restrictions next week, warning that safety guidance for the coronavirus is being frequently flouted. Stelios Petsas, the government spokesman, said authorities were “determined to protect the majority from the frivolous few,” adding that the government was likely to announce new restrictions if needed on Monday.
  • The health system in El Salvador is in the brink of collapse as a result of added pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières has warned. In a press release on Thursday, the international health organisation said an increasing number of people in the country were dying from Covid-19 and other illnesses at home before they could receive medical care.
  • Another 1.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment. While the number of new unemployment filings has decreased significantly since it peaked in April at 6 million people filing in one week, it has remained above a million each week since forced shutdowns began.
  • Five million people in Melbourne, Australia, have begun a new lockdown, with residents told to stay at home for six weeks as the city grapples with a resurgence of cases. The state of Victoria announced a further 165 new cases and has been effectively sealed off in an effort to preserve the rest of Australia’s success in curbing the virus.
  • The World Health Organization director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said a divided planet cannot conquer the pandemic. “Together is the solution unless we want to give the advantage to the enemy, to the virus that has taken the world hostage,” he said at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.
  • The Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, accused “criminal hooligans” of driving violence in protests that have erupted in Belgrade and other cities over his government’s handling of the pandemic. The interior minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, said 10 officers were injured during a second night of clashes in the capital.
  • The pandemic has killed at least 549,701 people worldwide as of 11am GMT on Thursday, according to an AFP tally based on official sources. More than 12 million cases have been registered in 196 countries and territories. The US is the hardest-hit country with 132,309 deaths, followed by Brazil on 67,964, Britain on 44,517, Italy on 34,914 and Mexico on 32,796 fatalities.
  • The WHO says it has launched an independent pandemic response panel headed by the former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to provide understanding on its handling of the crisis.
  • The UN chief, Antonio Guterres, has urged world leaders to favour clean energy solutions as they pour money into their virus-hit economies. Governments should exit coal, stop subsidising other fossil fuels, and pressure polluting industries to clean up their act in exchange for bailing them out, the UN secretary general told an International Energy Agency conference by video link.
  • Bulgaria has banned football fans from stadiums and shut clubs and bars just weeks after they had reopened, as the country reported a daily record of 240 new infections.

Updated at 7.39pm BST

6.48pm BST

The Africa Centres for Disease Control has said that member states must carry out more coronavirus testing and impose mandatory use of masks, as the number of cases across the continent passed 500,000, according to Reuters.

New cases in Africa were up 24% over the past week, with data from governments and the World Health Organization showing it had 512,499 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 11,930 deaths.

“The pandemic is gaining full momentum,” John Nkengasong, head of the Africa CDC, told a virtual news briefing from Addis Ababa. He said African countries, many of which do not have reliable data, must adopt an aggressive approach to encourage the wearing of face masks and ramp up testing and tracing.

“This will save lives and save (the) economy.”

Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Algeria account for 71% of infections on the continent, Nkengasong said. He said it was inevitable that as cases rise, hospitals will become overwhelmed. “That is something that is happening already. We will continue to see it as the pandemic expands,” he added.

The African Union commission said on Thursday it had launched a consortium for vaccine clinical trials to be headed by the Africa CDC, which aimed to secure more than 10 late stage vaccine clinical trials as early as possible.

South Africa and Egypt are already running human trials for a potential vaccine.

6.35pm BST

A Yemeni girl gets a free food ration from a charity group in Sana’a.
A Yemeni girl gets a free food ration from a charity group in Sana’a.
Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA

6.25pm BST

A dozen countries including the US, UK and Singapore agreed on Thursday to speed up efforts to get hundreds of thousands of stranded merchant sailors home after they had been at sea for many months due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to Reuters.

Some 200,000 seafarers are affected, with Covid-19 travel restrictions making it almost impossible to rotate crews, according to the UN’s International Maritime Organization. Many have been at sea for longer than an 11-month limit laid out in a maritime labour convention

Shipping industry officials say many sailors are at breaking point, in a situation the United Nations has described as a “humanitarian crisis”. Maritime welfare charities have warned of an increase in suicides.

In a virtual summit hosted by the UK, representatives agreed to open up foreign borders for seafarers and increase the number of commercial flights to speed up repatriation efforts, a UK government statement said. They also committed to designate seafarers as “key workers” and encouraged other countries to follow.

About 90% of world trade is transported by sea, and coronavirus restrictions in some jurisdictions are still affecting supply chains despite an easing of lockdown in many parts of the world.

Guy Platten, secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping association, said the countries who had agreed to open up borders must now act on their commitments.

“Governments must now use this summit as a catalyst to implement the solutions the shipping industry has provided, applying the political will needed to put them into practice,” he said.

Updated at 6.30pm BST

6.14pm BST

Greek authorities could reimpose travel restrictions as cases creep up

Greek authorities say they are ready to re-impose public and travel restrictions next week, warning that safety guidance for the coronavirus is being frequently flouted, the Associated Press reports.

Stelios Petsas, the government spokesman, said authorities were “determined to protect the majority from the frivolous few,” adding that the government was likely to announce new restrictions if needed on Monday.

Greece, which imposed strict lockdown measures, has kept infection rates low. But cases have crept up since restrictions were lifted and international travel resumed in recent weeks.

Petsas said authorities were focused on the rising number of cases in nearby Balkan countries and tourists who travelled to Greece over the land border with Bulgaria, at the single crossing point that has been opened to non-essential travel.

Members of the communist-affiliated trade union PAME attend a demonstration against government plans to regulate street protests, in front of the parliament building in Athens.
Trade union members attend a demonstration against government plans to regulate street protests, in front of the parliament building in Athens.
Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Updated at 6.31pm BST

6.01pm BST

The PGA Tour has deployed its first Covid-19 threeball after confirming a trio of players who returned positive tests would remain in the field for the Workday Charity Open, writes Ewan Murray for the Guardian’s sports desk.

The Tour has cited guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) as key to allowing Dylan Frittelli, Denny McCarthy and Nick Watney to play in Ohio but the move is known to have raised eyebrows among fellow competitors. Late on Wednesday evening, just hours before round one was due to get under way, Frittelli, McCarthy and Watney were removed from their existing tee groupings and placed together.

In a statement, the Tour confirmed:

Dylan Frittelli, Denny McCarthy and Nick Watney will follow the symptom-based model, as they have continued to return positive tests but meet the CDC guidelines for return to work.

The Tour’s medical advisers and the CDC have indicated that PCR tests have shown a possibility of detecting viral RNA even after the infectious virus is no longer present. This would potentially become a persistent positive test result, despite the individual not being contagious.

Out of an abundance of caution, however, any player or caddie who meets the above criteria but continues to return a positive Covid-19 test will either compete as a single in competition or be grouped with players under the same situation, and he will also have no access to indoor facilities on site.

5.52pm BST

Officials in South Africa were trying to calm fears over the coronavirus outbreak after the country’s most-populated province said it was ready to bury more than a million people, AFP reports.

Excavators have this week sprung into action to dig long rows of graves in cemeteries throughout Gauteng, which includes the cities of Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, for possible mass burials. After inspecting cemeteries in Pretoria, the provincial head of health, Bandile Masuku, said on Wednesday that Gauteng was preparing over 1.5m graves.

“All our municipalities have been putting up capacity and acquiring more in terms of the land that they’ll need for burial,” Masuku said.

His announcement triggered a wave of anxiety in the province, which has so far recorded 75,015 coronavirus cases and 478 deaths, overtaking the Western Cape province as the centre of the virus in South Africa.

A worker walks past freshly-dug graves at the Honingnestkrans cemetery, north of Pretoria, South Africa.
A worker walks past freshly-dug graves at the Honingnestkrans cemetery, north of Pretoria, South Africa.
Photograph: Shiraaz Mohamed/AP

Authorities have since been scrambling to ease public fears that the province could see such an explosion in coronavirus-related deaths.

“The province does not have over a million already open, dug graves,” the provincial health department said in a statement released on Thursday.

“The [figure of] over a million graves refers to the collective capacity municipalities can take,” it said.

After the easing of a strict lockdown imposed in late March, the tally of coronavirus contaminations and deaths has begun to rise. More than 8,800 cases and 100 deaths were recorded on Wednesday. With more than 220,000 total infections and 3,600 deaths, South Africa is the most-affected country on the continent.

“The storm that we have consistently warned South Africans about is now arriving,” the health minister, Zweli Mkhize, told parliament on Wednesday.

“We are now at a point where it’s our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, close friends and comrades that are infected,” he said.

Despite field hospitals deployed by the military or NGOs, “bed capacity is still expected to be breached or overwhelmed in all the provinces”, Mkhize said.

Updated at 5.56pm BST

5.35pm BST

Romania: hundreds of Covid-19 patients discharge themselves from hospital

Hundreds of coronavirus patients in Romania have discharged themselves from hospital after a court ruling that mandatory admittance of those with no or mild symptoms was a breach of human rights, according to AFP.

A total of 624 patients, who tested positive for the virus, had asked to leave hospital and now risked transmitting the disease in their communities, the health minister, Nelu Tataru, said on television on Wednesday evening.

Tataru also said that more than half of 50,000 people, undergoing mandatory self-isolation after returning from abroad, had left their homes in defiance of doctors’ recommendations.

His announcements come as Romania, one of the EU’s poorest members, reported 614 new infections on Thursday, the biggest daily increase since the pandemic started.

The total number of infections in the country of some 20 million people reached 30,789, while 1,834 people have died.

Romania had so far escaped the brunt of the health crisis while enforcing a two-months lockdown until mid-May and strict mandatory quarantine rules.

But in a decision, which came into force last week, the Constitutional court ruled that hospitalising and quarantining people without or with just mild Covid-19 symptoms violated fundamental rights and so could not be imposed by a government decree.

Trying to reverse the consequences of the court ruling, the liberal government has proposed new legislation to more clearly spell out when people must be hospitalised or quarantine themselves at home. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the legislation later Thursday.

Updated at 5.39pm BST

5.21pm BST

Health authorities in Denmark have recommended that people wear face masks in certain circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic, AFP reports.

“Masks can be used to protect others in certain situations, when other tools to prevent the spread are not enough,” the deputy director of the Danish health authority, Helene Probst, said in a statement.

Situations in which the wearing of face masks is now recommended include hospital visits for virus testing, transport from a risk area to an airport and when caring for relatives with Covid-19.

“Our most important recommendation is that if you are infected or could be infected with Covid-19 you should isolate yourself,” Probst added.

However, the health authority maintains that the most effective measures in curbing the spread are still isolating those infected, social distancing and scrupulous hygiene routines.

Denmark, which was one of the first countries in Europe to impose semi-confinement and also the first to reopen its schools, has received praise for its management of the crisis.

Its strict coronavirus laws include a provision for mandatory vaccinations and prosecutions for people who refuse to be tested for the virus.

5.00pm BST

The NGO Médecins Sans Frontières is warning that the health system in El Salvador is in the brink of collapse as a result of added pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press release on Thursday, the international health organisation said an increasing number of people of people in the country were dying from Covid-19 and other illnesses at home before they could receive medical care.

Luis Romero Pineda, MSF project coordinator in El Salvador, said increasing numbers of people were dying before ambulances could reach them. “Admitting patients to hospitals has also become more difficult,” he said. “Worryingly, community leaders are reporting deaths in their communities, some of them related to the suspension of primary health care.”

Medics visit residents during a health day in the municipality of Soyapango, El Salvador, on Wednesday.
Medics visit residents during a health day in the municipality of Soyapango, El Salvador, on Wednesday.
Photograph: Rodrigo Sura/EPA

The Salvadorian government declared a state of emergency on 20 March, suspending primary care services and imposing an absolute lockdown. Movement restrictions have since been lifted but outpatient consultations at hospitals and health units remain suspended, MSF said.

“In many instances the patient had already died when we arrived at their house,” said Angel Sermeño, MSF’s medical activity manager in El Salvador. “In 2019, this happened to [our teams] 11 times from January to June. In the same period this year, it has happened 37 times – 18 times in June alone.”

Wendy, a doctor working for MSF’s ambulance service, said that some patients die while waiting to be transferred to a hospital. “We have to wait for authorisation from the public health system to be able to move patients to a care centre, since we cannot transfer the patient from [their] home without prior coordination and authorisation from the public health system,” she said.

Updated at 5.07pm BST

4.43pm BST

The coronavirus pandemic is being used as a pretext for a crackdown on human rights and environment activists in Cambodia, two leading watchdogs have said, according to AFP.

Rights activists, labour leaders and journalists have all faced increased violence, intimidation, detention and judicial harassment in the southeast Asian nation since a crackdown was launched ahead of the July 2018 general election, a new report said.

“Since March 2020, the novel coronavirus pandemic provided the government with a set of additional arguments and tools to further crack down on dissent in Cambodia,” said the report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

A new law drawn up in the context of Covid-19 and promulgated on 29 April allows the government to declare a state of emergency whenever Cambodia faces “danger” and “a great risk” such as a pandemic.

The law’s terms are “ill-defined” and give the government sweeping powers to restrict movement, rights to freedom of expression and association as soon as the state deems a situation “dangerous”, the report said.

Cambodia has not released updated statistics on its coronavirus outbreak since 28 June, according to the Worldometers website, which tallies official data from around the world. So far the country has reported 141 cases of coronavirus and no deaths.

Cambodia’s law on the State of Emergency “risks violating the right to privacy, silencing free speech and criminalising peaceful assembly,” the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia said on 17 April.

Rights group Human Rights Watch last month also accused authorities of using the pandemic as a pretext to arrest opposition supporters and critics who had questioned the government’s handling of the coronavirus.

“The accusations of fake news linked to the pandemic have increased in recent months. More than 40 people have been arrested since the beginning of the pandemic for posts related to posts on Covid-19,” said Hugo Gabbero, who coordinated the FIDH and OMCT report.

“The accusation of fake news silences all criticism, particularly through arrests which create ripple effect of fear through the rest of civil society,” Gabbero told AFP.

He asked the international community to apply pressure to the Cambodian government to ensure the law isn’t applied.

4.25pm BST

The Guardian’s video team has prepared this video report of the protests taking place in Belgrade over the past two nights.

4.15pm BST

Tunisia has moved the UK from its amber list to its green list, despite a large disparity in coronavirus infection rates between the two countries, writes Simon Speakerman Cordall, a journalist in Tunis.

Tunisia has three lists, green amber and red, which determine restrictions upon movement once in Tunisia or, in the case of the red list, whether entry will be granted at all.

Public sector workers shout slogans in a protest demanding better work conditions next to the government palace in Tunis.
Public sector workers shout slogans in a protest demanding better work conditions next to the government palace in Tunis.
Photograph: Mohamed Messara/EPA

Travellers from countries on the amber list are required to present the results of a coronavirus test upon entry and are subject to quarantine thereafter. Those on the green list are allowed free entry and movement.

Tunisia has long been a favourite of British holidaymakers, with tourism making up an estimated 8% of the country’s GDP and supporting 400,000 jobs.

Updated at 4.26pm BST

4.10pm BST

Nicolás Maduro has warned Venezuela is witnessing the “real outbreak” of coronavirus amid growing fears over the impact Covid-19 could have on the economically devastated country, writes Tom Phillips, the Guardian’s Latin America correspondent.

Speaking on Wednesday, Maduro admitted the “dreadful pandemic” was making increasing inroads into Venezuela.

“[This is] the outbreak of the pandemic in Venezuela, the real outbreak,” Maduro said according to the news agency EFE. “Before we had seen the pandemic’s arrival – now we are seeing the outbreak.”

Venezuela’s official Covid-19 figures have so far been far lower than those of other countries in the region. While Brazil has recorded more than 68,000 deaths, Venezuela has officially suffered just 75. Venezuela has registered 8,010 confirmed cases while in Brazil there have been at least 1.7 million.

People in Maracaibo, Zulia state, Venezuela, in a photograph taken last week.
People in Maracaibo, Zulia state, Venezuela, in a photograph taken last week.
Photograph: Luis Bravo/AFP/Getty Images

But many doubt the accuracy of the Venezuelan government’s numbers. Juan Pablo Guanipa, a prominent opposition politician who has played a leading role in efforts to force Maduro from power, told the Guardian he believed the true situation was far worse than his authoritarian regime was admitting.

“I’m certain these figures bear no relation to reality. The reality is utterly overwhelming,” Guanipa said.

Guanipa is from the western state of Zulia, which appears to be one of the worst affected parts of Venezuela. 1661 of Venezuela’s 8,010 officially confirmed cases have been recorded there.

On Thursday, Reuters reported that the state’s pro-Maduro governor, Omar Prieto, had been taken to a private clinic with breathing difficulties.

Guanipa said he had heard reports of at least six doctors and one nurse who had died in Zulia, and said the university hospital in the capital, Maracaibo, had “totally collapsed”.

3.43pm BST

3.33pm BST

Gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, after two nights of violence on the streets as police cracked down on protests against coronavirus restrictions, the Associated Press reports.

Serbia’s government crisis team said following the clashes, where social distancing was barely observed and only a minority of people wore face masks, that the restriction is intended to prevent the further spread of the virus following the clashes.

In addition to limiting gatherings, businesses in closed spaces, such as cafes, shopping malls or shops, have been ordered to operate shorter hours.

“The health system in Belgrade is close to breaking up,” the prime minister, Ana Brnabić, said. “That is why I can’t understand what we saw last night and the night before.”

The US embassy said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned” by the violence.

“We condemn all violence, including what appeared to us to be coordinated attacks on police seemingly intended to provoke overreactions as well as what appeared to be the use of excessive force by police,” it said.

Videos that appeared on social networks appeared to show police severely beating up protesters. One piece of footage purported to show a protester being hit and kicked by several officers and dumped to the side of the road, seemingly unconscious, so that police vehicles could pass. The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.

The clashes followed an announcement earlier this week from the president, Aleksandar Vučić, that further lockdown measures were likely as the outbreak in the country has intensified.

According to Reuters, the demonstrations were at first driven by anger and frustration over economically-stifling measures to contain the pandemic but evolved quickly into anti-government rallies with participants demanding Vučić’s resignation. There is a perception in the country that authorities were dishonest about the true scale of the coronavirus outbreak in order to ease restrictions enough to allow an election in which Vučić was reelected, according to social media posts.

Serbia, a country of 7 million, has so far reported 17,076 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 341 deaths. Health authorities say hospitals are running at full capacity and staff are exhausted. The number of new infections rose to 357 on Wednesday from 299 on Tuesday.

Updated at 4.03pm BST

3.12pm BST

As Covid-19 cases continue to surge in states throughout the US, another 1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, highlighting the grim reality that any type of economic recovery may be far off, writes Lauren Aratani for Guardian US.

While the number of new unemployment filings has decreased significantly since it peaked in April at 6 million people filing in one week, it has remained above a million each week since forced shutdowns began.

Last week nearly 100,000 fewer people filed for unemployment compared to the week before, continuing a 15-week decrease in the number of new filings.

Most states began to experiment with different reopening plans in May and June, allowing businesses to reopen, often under strict guidelines. Last week the Department of Labor’s monthly jobs report revealed 4.8 million jobs came back in June, the highest number since the pandemic began. The unemployment rate was 11.1%, down from its peak of 13.3% in May.

Updated at 3.14pm BST

2.35pm BST

Summary

Here’s a roundup of the key global coronavirus developments so far:

  • Five million people in Melbourne, Australia, have begun a new lockdown, with residents told to stay at home for six weeks as the city grapples with a resurgence of cases. The state of Victoria announced a further 165 new cases and has been effectively sealed off in an effort to preserve the rest of Australia’s success in curbing the virus.
  • World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said a divided planet cannot conquer the pandemic. “Together is the solution unless we want to give the advantage to the enemy, to the virus that has taken the world hostage,” he said at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.
  • Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic accused “criminal hooligans” of driving violence in protests that have erupted in Belgrade and other cities over his government’s handling of the pandemic. The interior minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said 10 officers were injured during a second night of clashes in the capital.
  • The pandemic has killed at least 549,701 people worldwide as of 11am GMT on Thursday, according to an AFP tally based on official sources. More than 12 million cases have been registered in 196 countries and territories. The US is the hardest-hit country with 132,309 deaths, followed by Brazil on 67,964, Britain on 44,517, Italy on 34,914 and Mexico on 32,796 fatalities.
  • The WHO says it has launched an independent pandemic response panel headed by the former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to provide understanding on its handling of the crisis.
  • The UN chief Antonio Guterres had urged world leaders to favour clean energy solutions as they pour money into their virus-hit economies. Governments should exit coal, stop subsidising other fossil fuels, and pressure polluting industries to clean up their act in exchange for bailing them out, the UN secretary general told an International Energy Agency conference by video link.
  • Bulgaria has banned football fans from stadiums and shut clubs and bars just weeks after they had reopened, as the country reported a daily record of 240 new infections.

Updated at 3.12pm BST

2.27pm BST

The UK’s death toll from confirmed cases of Covid-19 rose to 44,602 on Thursday, up 85 on the previous day, the government said.

Updated at 3.06pm BST

2.19pm BST

The World Health Organization, which faced fierce US criticism over its handling of the coronavirus crisis, launched an independent panel on Thursday to review its response to the pandemic.

The Independent panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response will be headed by the former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

“Through you, the world will understand the truth of what happened and also the solutions to build our future better as one humanity,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the UN agency’s headquarters in Geneva.

Updated at 3.06pm BST

2.09pm BST

Hello everyone. I am looking after the Guardian’s live feed while my colleague Damien Gayle takes a lunch break. Please get in touch via any of the channels below to share with me news tips, comments and more.

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

1.48pm BST

Peter Beaumont, senior reporter on the Guardian’s global development desk, has written his take on the World Health Organization’s press conference earlier:

The World Health Organization has announced an “independent” and “honest” review of how nations and the UN global health body handled the flawed international response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, gave details of the review during a downbeat press conference in which he painted a grim picture of the escalating trajectory of the pandemic.

“We know that when countries take a comprehensive approach based on fundamental public health measures … the Covid-19 outbreak can be brought under control,” Tedros said. “But in most of the world the virus is not under control. It is getting worse … more than 544,000 lives have been lost. The pandemic is still accelerating. The total number of cases has doubled in the last six weeks.”

The review panel will be co-chaired by Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Nobel peace prize laureate and former president of Liberia.

As global confirmed cases approach 12 million, the WHO has found itself in the crosshairs of the Trump administration, which has announced its withdrawal from the body as it fends off what critics have described as its own botched response to the pandemic

1.37pm BST

Schools and universities in Moscow are to reopen next week, as the city advances to the next stage in its lifting of coronavirus restrictions amid a slowing of the spread of the virus, Reuters reports.

The Russian capital has so far recorded more than 227,000 coronavirus infections, with 568 more reported on Thursday. Authorities last month began to lift restrictions to slow the spread of the virus in place since March, staggering the reopening of businesses and lifting of other measures.

Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor, said on Thursday that schools, universities, summer camps and cultural centres could reopen starting next week. From the same time, residents of the city of nearly 13 million will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors, he said. But masks will remain mandatory in shops, medical facilities and on public transport.

Sobyanin said the lifting of Moscow’s lockdown was a success as the number of new cases recorded on a daily basis in the city was falling. “Of course every phase of lifting restrictions contains elements of unpredictability and risk,” he wrote on his website. “But life has shown that the situation has remained manageable and that the risk was justified.”

Russia on Thursday reported 6,509 new cases of the coronavirus, pushing its official nationwide tally to 707,301, the fourth largest in the world. It has reported 10,843 deaths.

Updated at 1.44pm BST

1.21pm BST

Half of Indonesia’s new coronavirus cases on Thursday came from one military training centre, as the world’s fourth most populous country reported its biggest single daily rise in infections, Reuters reports.

Indonesia has recorded 70,736 cases so far. There were 58 new coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, bringing the official total to 3,417, a health ministry official, Achmad Yurianto, told a news conference. He said a significant new cluster had emerged at a military training centre in West Java, where 1,262 cadets and trainers have tested positive for the disease.

A schoolboy gets his temperature measured on the first day of reopening schools in Medan, Indonesia.
A schoolboy gets his temperature measured on the first day of reopening schools in Medan, Indonesia.
Photograph: Dedi Sinuhaji/EPA

Public health researchers suspect that due to the limited scope of testing, the actual case total could be far higher. Partial data for 20 of Indonesia’s 35 provinces gathered by a volunteer group, Kawal Covid-19, from local government websites shows there were a further 6,847 deaths of people who had not been tested but showed acute symptoms.

The central government does not include such cases, as untested patients could have died from other causes.

Yurianto attributed the increasing new cases to people not wearing masks as Indonesia eased lockdowns to help revive the economy.

Updated at 1.27pm BST

1.09pm BST

Nightclubs in Tokyo will be paid subsidies to stay closed under plans unveiled by city authorities, as new coronavirus infections in the Japanese capital hit a single-day record, according to the French news agency AFP.

Under the plan, the Tokyo metropolitan government will give 500,000 yen (US,660) to nightclubs and other venues – including so-called host and hostess bars – if they close for more than 10 days, local media reported.

Kaori Kohga, the head of the industry association representing hostesses and clubs, gave the announcement a lukewarm reception.

People walk through the Shinbashi nightclub district in Tokyo in March.
People walk through the Shinbashi nightclub district in Tokyo in March.
Photograph: Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

“It’s a good start,” she told AFP, “but 500,000 yen per club is not sufficient to curb the cases in these districts.”

“Money may only go to clubs, not individual hostesses,” she added. “I’m afraid that the effect of the proposed subsidies may be limited.”

There has been a fresh surge in coronavirus cases in Tokyo, particularly in the major commercial and entertainment districts including famed Shinjuku.

Tokyo said the number of new coronavirus infections reached a single-day record of 224 on Thursday.

Updated at 1.18pm BST

12.42pm BST

WHO appoints committee to evaluate response to Covid-19 crisis

To recap on what was just announced by the World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the UN health body is appointing a committee to evaluate the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and make recommendations for an enhanced system of global health governance.

The WHO is yet to publish any further details on what this evaluation committee, to be led by Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, is supposed to be about.

From what I can gather from the contents of Tedros’s speech, its aim is to evaluate “national surveillance and response systems, how we shared information with our communities, and whether we earned their trust, how we governed, and whether our global health architecture is fit for purpose.”

It comes off the back of a resolution passed in during the World Health Assembly in May, where the WHO’s 194 member states (which no longer include the US, of course) agreed to “recognise the role of the the leadership role of WHO and the role of the UN system in coordinating the comprehensive global response” to coronavirus and other global pandemics.

“It called on member states to implement a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to ensure a more coherent, fairer and effective global response [and] it called for the fair distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics,” Tedros said.

He said the panel’s terms of reference were yet to be developed, and the remaining members of the panel would be selected by the two co-chairs from candidates proposed by member states.

It is due to present an interim report in November and a full report in May. Tedros’s comments suggest its goal is to design a model for global health governance that will coordinate responses to future outbreaks and other challenges such as antimicrobial resistance, inequality and the climate crisis.

He added: “This cannot be another blue-ribbon panel that issues a report that goes up on the bookshelf. We must come together in a global conversation, to take these hard-won lessons and turn them into action.

“My friends, make no mistake. The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself. Rather, it is the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels. We cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world.”

Updated at 1.22pm BST

12.21pm BST

The former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and the former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have been appointed as co-chairs of a committee to evaluate the global response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Sirleaf said:

I’m honoured to join prime minister Helen Clark to undertake this important and challenging assignment. I thank you for this opportunity and look forward to doing all we can to respond to these challenges that have prevented us from being united in moving forward not only to address the effects of Covid-19 but to ensure a better health system for all nations of the world.

Updated at 1.21pm BST

12.12pm BST

Pandemic ‘still accelerating’ and ‘not under control’ – WHO

The spread of the coronavirus pandemic is “still accelerating” and most countries have not yet managed to get it under control, the head of the World Health Organization has said.

Speaking at the weekly member states information session, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more than 11.8 million cases of coronavirus had been reported to the UN’s health agency, half of them in the past six weeks.

He said the outbreak had exposed global and national inequalities both in health systems and in wider societies, and that its impact had “unravelled gains” previously made in the fight against diseases. Tedros said:

It is often said that disease knows no borders. It does not care about our political differences, and it disregards the distinctions we draw between health and economy, lives and livelihoods. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted them all.

It has exploited the inequalities in our health systems and the schisms in our societies. It has exposed existing inequities, widening and deepening the cracks between us.

The virus has upended health systems in some of the world’s wealthiest nations, while some countries that have mounted a successful response have been of modest means.

But in most of the world the virus is not under control. It is getting worse. 11.8+m cases of Covid-19 have now been reported to WHO. More than 544,000 lives have been lost. The pandemic is still accelerating. The total number of cases has doubled in the last six weeks.

Updated at 1.20pm BST

11.53am BST

Iran records new record one-day death toll

Iran has reported a record one-day coronavirus death toll of 221, as the number of cases confirmed in the country since its outbreak began in February passed 250,000.

In its latest update, the health ministry said the number of people who had tested positive for the virus in Iran had reached 250,458, an increase of 2,079 on the day before. So far 212,176 patients have recovered.

The death toll from the outbreak now stands at 12,305, said the ministry’s spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari. Of those who tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours 995 were admitted to hospital. Currently 3,324 patients are in a critical condition and being treated in intensive care units.

Iran has been facing a sharp rise in the number of daily infections and deaths in past weeks as lockdown measures have eased.

Updated at 12.07pm BST

11.37am BST

Serbia considers new lockdown after second night of riots

Authorities in Serbia are deciding on measures to try to curb the spread of coronavirus, after a second night of clashes between police and people protesting against a second lockdown.

The country’s crisis team is expected to ban gatherings in the capital, Belgrade, and limit the operations of cafes and nightclubs following a rise in infections that they say threatens the health system.

It is not clear whether officials will reintroduce a weekend curfew, the initial announcement of which triggered the violent protests in Belgrade and three other cities.

On Wednesday night 10 police officers were injured during a second night of clashes in Belgrade. Dozens of protesters were injured in clashes there and in other cities.

Protesters clash with police in front of Serbia’s national assembly building in Belgrade.
Protesters clash with police in front of Serbia’s national assembly building in Belgrade.
Photograph: Andrej Isaković/AFP/Getty Images
On Wednesday night 10 police officers were injured during a second night of clashes in Belgrade.
On Wednesday night 10 police officers were injured during a second night of clashes in Belgrade.
Photograph: Oliver Bunic/AFP/Getty Images

Clouds of teargas and smoke filled downtown Belgrade on Wednesday evening after a peaceful gathering descended into tense confrontations between protesters and police.

The interior minister, Nebojša Stefanović, said that among the police officers injured on Wednesday evening was one who suffered two broken legs.

Similar protests were held in the cities of Novi Sad, Niš and Kragujevac, where the premises of President Aleksandar Vučić’s ruling Serbian Progressive party (SNS) were vandalised.

Riot police advance on protesters gathered in front of the Serbian parliament.
Riot police advance on protesters gathered in front of the Serbian parliament.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

On both nights, scenes of police brutality were captured on camera, including an incident on Tuesday in which officers used batons to beat three men sitting peacefully on a bench.

The local Beta news agency reported that one of its journalists was beaten by police.

Serbia has confirmed more than 17,000 cases of coronavirus, and 341 people have died. A few hundred new infections are being reported daily.

Daily infections have shot up over the past few weeks, overwhelming hospitals. Critics accuse the Serbian authorities of under-reporting the death toll and hastily lifting almost all virus restrictions before a national election in late June.

The poll, which was boycotted by much of the opposition, cemented Vučić’s grip on power.

Updated at 12.05pm BST

11.09am BST

Hello, this is Damien Gayle taking the reins on the blog now for the next eight hours, bringing you the latest updates and headlines in the coronavirus outbreak from around the world. If you want to drop me a line you can do so, either via email to damien.gayle@theguardian.com, or via Twitter direct message to @damiengayle.

10.59am BST

The intensive care unit at the main hospital in Bergamo, the Italian province worst affected by coronavirus, is Covid-free for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic in Italy in February.

The virus was first detected in the province on 23 February, two days after Italy’s first local transmission was confirmed, and went on to kill an estimated 6,000 people.

“Victory has come,” said Luca Lorini, the director of the emergency unit at the hospital, where staff on Monday gave a “liberating” applause and dedicated a minute of silence to those who died.

At the height of the emergency, the intensive care unit at Papa Giovanni XXII hospital was treating up to 100 patients.

Maria Beatrice Stasi, the hospital’s general manager, told La Stampa: “Today we see our staff finally dressed in their normal uniforms.”

At a national level, there were 899 people in hospital with Covid-19 and 71 in intensive care as of Wednesday. Italy recorded 15 more coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total to 34,914, and 193 new infections.

Updated at 11.22am BST

10.58am BST

Summary

Here’s a roundup of the key global coronavirus developments so far:

  • Police in New Zealand will patrol quarantine hotels after a number of people escaped the facilities. In two separate incidents in Auckland hotels, guests in isolation left, with one woman escaping over a hedge and another man over a small fence.
  • China has lashed out at the US for withdrawing from the World Health Organization. The foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the move was another demonstration of the US pursuing unilateralism.
  • Tokyo recorded 224 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, its highest single-day tally. Despite the rise in infections, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said there was no need to impose a new state of emergency on the capital.
  • Melbourne will relax restrictions on many of the 3,000 people locked down in nine public housing towers. Eight of the high-rise buildings, where residents have been confined to their homes since Saturday, will now be subject to the same rules in force throughout the state of Victoria in Australia.
  • African countries have been urged to urgently scale up Covid-19 testing and the use of face masks. John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said new cases were up 24% in Africa in the past week.

That’s it from me, Amy Walker. I’ll now be handing over to Damien Gayle, who will steer you through the rest of the day’s global coronavirus updates.

Updated at 1.30pm BST

10.25am BST

Indonesia has reported its biggest single-day rise in coronavirus cases.

The country’s case total has risen by 2,657 to 70,736.

A health ministry official said there were 58 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 3,417.

Updated at 10.35am BST

10.08am BST

African countries need to urgently scale up coronavirus testing and the use of face masks, a regional disease control body has said, as the crisis gains traction across the continent with confirmed cases topping 500,000.

John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said new cases were up 24% in Africa in the past week.

“The pandemic is gaining full momentum,” he told a virtual news conference from Addis Ababa. “We must adopt an aggressive and bold approach: #maskonallfaces, ramp up test, trace and treat, strengthen community response. This will save lives and save [the] economy,” he added on Twitter.

Data from governments and the World Health Organization shows that as of Thursday, 512,039 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Africa, with 11,915 deaths.

Five countries account for 71% of infections, Nkengasong said: Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Algeria.

Updated at 10.16am BST

10.04am BST

The regional government of Spain’s Balearic islands is set to follow Catalonia’s lead by making the wearing of face masks compulsory in public areas even when the required 1.5-metre social distancing can be observed, according to Spanish media reports.

Quoting sources in the islands’ health department, the news agency Efe reports that an official order mandating the increased use of masks is due to be published on Friday or Saturday.

Efe says there will be exceptions for beaches, swimming pools, playing sport, eating and drinking, and playing wind instruments. The regional government could also reintroduce a limit on the number of people allowed to gather in one place.

The regional health minister, Patricia Gómez, said the government was still looking at possible fines and sanctions for those breaking the proposed rule.

“We’re looking into fine amounts and sanction systems,” she told Spain’s Cadena Ser radio. “When it comes to not wearing a mask, the fine won’t be more than €100, but we’re looking at other punishments.”

Spain has since June ordered the use of masks indoors and outside where 1.5 metres of social distancing cannot be maintained.

On Wednesday the Catalan government announced that people not wearing a mask from Thursday would be fined €100.

Its spokeswoman Meritxell Budó said: “We understand we should go a little further and enforce mask-wearing regardless of the physical distance between people. It is very important to protect ourselves and others.”

A renewed outbreak of coronavirus around Lleida has forced a new lockdown for 200,000 inhabitants and pushed hospitals to the brink.

On Wednesday, Spanish health authorities said the daily Covid-19 infection count had doubled over the past 24 hours following dozens of small outbreaks.

On Thursday, Spain’s health minister, Salvador Illa, confirmed that there were 73 active outbreaks across the country, but said they were “normal” and to be expected following the end of the strict lockdown period.”The measures that have been taken are sufficient and are working,” he told Antena 3 TV.

Updated at 10.20am BST

9.54am BST

Authorities in Italy have seized a boat operated by a German NGO that last month rescued more than 200 people stranded at sea, saying it did not comply with safety rules.

Migrant rescue ships are banned from docking in Italian ports until 31 July because of the coronavirus pandemic. People saved at sea are now transferred on to large ferries that must wait off the country’s coast.

Sea-Watch 3 had moored in the port of Porto Empedocle. The 200 passengers, who were mainly African, were moved to the Italian ferry Moby Zaza, where 28 tested positive for coronavirus.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the coastguard said an inspection of the boat had found a number of irregularities that threatened the safety of those onboard which had to be fixed before operations could resume.

Updated at 10.13am BST

9.36am BST

More than a million people in Ireland – a fifth of the population – have downloaded the country’s Covid-19 tracker app since its launch on Tuesday.

Paul Reid, the head of the Health Service Executive, hailed the response. “By far the most successful launch of this app anywhere in the world. Well done Ireland. Please keep it going and protect everyone by downloading it now,” he tweeted.

Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, called the response an act of solidarity and urged more people to download the app.

Developed by an Irish company, Nearform, the app uses Apple and Google software and requires Bluetooth. It is designed to facilitate contact tracing and symptom tracking, and to enhance, not replace, the existing testing-and-tracking service.

The app does not tell you whether you have tested positive for coronavirus, but if you do test positive you can give the app permission to notify people with whom you have been in close contact.

Officials said the app respected privacy, with users in control of their own data, the information anonymised, and no centralised database.

Sceptics question whether Ireland will reach the 60% take-up needed for critical mass, and say glitches may hinder the Bluetooth technology.

Updated at 9.44am BST

9.08am BST

Melbourne to relax restrictions on many in nine public housing towers

Melbourne will relax restrictions on many of the 3,000 people locked down in nine public housing towers despite surging numbers of Covid-19 cases, Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews has said.

On Saturday, residents of the towers in Australia’s second most populated city were confined to their homes.

Andrews said that after testing all residents, those living in eight of the high-rise buildings would be allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons, the same rules in force throughout the state.

Of the tower that will remain in lockdown, Andrews said: “There are such numbers of positive cases, together with known close contacts, that the assumption has got to be that everybody in that tower is a close contact of someone who is positive.”

The relaxation of rules in the other blocks relieved residents, many of whom said they had been left without sufficient food and supplies.

“I can’t keep my kids any more inside. I can’t, whether they shoot me or not. I don’t think I can stay any more here, not allowed even an hour to play outside,” said Amina Yussuf, an Australian citizen of Somali descent who lives with her seven children in a two-bedroom apartment in one of the towers.

Updated at 9.47am BST

8.41am BST

Russia has reported 6,509 new cases of Covid-19, pushing its official nationwide total to 707,301 – the fourth largest in the world.

The national coronavirus taskforce said 176 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the recorded death toll to 10,843.

Updated at 8.59am BST

8.18am BST

More on Tokyo’s record daily total of new coronavirus cases.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said 224 new cases were recorded in the country’s capital on Thursday.

The total surpasses the previous record of 206 on April 17 when Tokyo and other major cities were under a state of emergency.

However, Suga said there was no need to reintroduce a state of emergency, adding that it was not possible to reduce infection risks to zero after measures were lifted in May.

Positive cases of Covid-19 in the city have risen in recent weeks as health authorities stepped up targeted testing among workers in the entertainment districts of Shinjuku and Ikebukuro.

Nationally, Japan has had more than 20,000 confirmed infections and 980 deaths from coronavirus.

Updated at 8.51am BST

7.50am BST

Pubs in Ireland face the risk of prosecution and losing their licences over potential breaches of health regulations brought in to curb the spread of coronavirus, Irish police have said.

The 26 pubs found to be in potential breach of guidelines represent 1% of the 2,785 premises which reopened last weekend, when bars serving food were allowed to trade again as part of the country’s gradual easing of lockdown.

In many of the venues, police found customers consuming alcohol but no evidence of food also being consumed and evidence of receipts to show that food had been sold.

Behind the bar at the Trinity Bar in Dublin.
Behind the bar at the Trinity Bar in Dublin.
Photograph: Johnny Savage/The Guardian

Officers also observed a lack of adherence to public health advice, such as large groups being allowed to sit at one table, little to no social distancing, no advisory signage and no Covid-19 contact tracing information being recorded.

Police have since submitted a file to the director of public prosecutions for direction as to how to proceed.

Prime minister Micheál Martin warned on Monday that the government could delay the full reopening of pubs on July 20 after “very worrying” scenes of packed crowds of drinkers outside some bars over the weekend.

I’m Amy Walker, taking over the global coronavirus blog for the next few hours.

Updated at 7.52am BST

7.00am BST

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today. I would say I’m off to practice keeping my screams inside, but who among us is not an expert at that by now?

6.59am BST

Coronavirus report: global cases pass 12m as US daily tally breaks world record

Here is a roundup of the key developments from around the world for the last few hours in our global coronavirus report:

6.55am BST

‘Keep your screams inside’: rollercoaster fans told to be quiet to help Japan Covid-19 fight

Gavin Blair reports for the Guardian from Tokyo:

Visitors to Japan’s amusement parks are being asked not to scream when riding rollercoasters so as to help prevent spreading the coronavirus, while the limited numbers of football fans allowed into stadiums this weekend will have to support their teams without singing, clapping or waving scarves.

When the Fuji-Q Highland theme park reopened on 1 June after a three-month closure due to the pandemic, it asked visitors to follow the recommendations of the amusement park association and not to shout or scream.

Some customers complained it was impossible to stay quiet on rides, particularly the two-kilometre-long Fujiyama rollercoaster, which reaches speeds of 130km/h and drops 70 metres at one point. Named after nearby Moun Fuji, the rollercoaster was the fastest and tallest in the world when it opened in 1996.

In response, the park released a video of two stony-faced senior executives riding Fujiyama without uttering a peep, urging visitors to imitate them and “Keep your screams inside.”

6.35am BST

How to stop your glasses steaming up – and 19 other essential facts about face masks

A mask, says Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, is a “means of reducing the propensity of someone who has got Covid-19 to spread it to others. We’re not talking about protecting yourself by wearing one, but about reducing the risk to other people.”

Wearing a mask is just one measure, along with handwashing and social distancing, to try to contain Covid-19, and seems particularly useful for stopping people who have unwittingly contracted the virus, but who are not showing symptoms, from spreading (if you do have symptoms, you should be self-isolating, not going out wearing a mask).

“What you’re doing,” McKee says, “is catching all the little droplets that are coming out of your mouth before they can get into the atmosphere, when they can dry out and become very small and float around as an aerosol. There is still stuff that is going to get out, but you are reducing that risk.”

With so many of us still coming to terms with this “new normal”, we asked McKee and other experts to answer some common questions.

6.24am BST

Tokyo reports record 220 new cases in one day

Fuji News Network reports that 220 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Tokyo – marking a record one-day increase for the city.

FNN reports (this is a Google translation):

It was discovered that more than 220 people were newly infected with the new coronavirus in Tokyo on the 9th.

The number of infected people per day in Tokyo is the highest ever.

The number of infected people in Tokyo has continued to be 100 or more since this month, but yesterday was 75.

6.16am BST

Doctors warn of overcrowding in Victoria, Australia hospitals

Public hospitals in the Australian state of Victoria have been advised to remain at 75% levels of elective surgery as senior doctors warn that there are not enough hospital beds to meet a surge in demand, and that conditions are placing health workers at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19.

Guardian Australia understands work is under way to deliver equipment needed to treat extra coronavirus patients in hospitals, and it is hoped a further 400 ICU and critical care beds can be added throughout the state.

Almost two dozen healthcare workers and patients have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in recent weeks in Victoria, including doctors, nurses and paramedics. During the “first wave” of the virus that prompted a national lockdown in March, non-urgent elective surgery was put on hold to make room for suspected and known Covid-19 patients.

But because it seemed Australia had Covid-19 under control by early June, hospitals began filling up again with other patients and some wards and beds put aside for Covid-19 were reallocated to general patients.

Now, a senior doctor working in one Victorian hospital has told Guardian Australia that “there is no free, or surge bed capacity, at the moment”.

5.59am BST

Australian state of Victoria reports 165 new cases

Victoria has recorded 165 new cases of coronavirus since yesterday, with the total number of cases now at 3,098.

The overall total has increased by 156, after nine cases were reclassified – largely due to duplication.

No cases new cases have been detected in returned travellers in hotel quarantine and there have been no deaths reported since yesterday. To date, 22 people have died from coronavirus in the state.

5.34am BST

China defends World Health Organization

China has defended the World Health Organization and lashed out at the US decision to withdraw from the UN body, AP reports, adding to a litany of disputes between the world’s largest economies and increasing geopolitical rivals.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the move was another demonstration of the US pursuing unilateralism, withdrawing from groups and breaking contracts.

The WHO is the most authoritative and professional international institution in the field of global public health security, Zhao said at a briefing Wednesday, adding that the US departure would particularly hurt developing countries in need of international support.

The WHO plans to send a team to China to investigate the source of the virus, which was first detected in the central city of Wuhan last year. China has said it remains unclear where the virus originated and has rejected an independent probe, but reiterated this week that it is working closely with WHO.

President Donald Trump has harshly criticized WHO over its response to the coronavirus pandemic and accused it of bowing to Chinese influence. Trump said in a White House announcement that Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to WHO and pressured the organisation to mislead the public about an outbreak that has now killed more than 130,000 Americans.

In comments Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Beijing’s response to the virus outbreak showed the ruling Communist Party has an enormous credibility problem” and that its actions fitted a pattern of behaviour that threatens freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

5.23am BST

The Guardian’s Matilda Boseley and Melissa Davey report:

Calls from residents in the Australian state of Victoria to mental health support services have doubled in the past fortnight as Melburnians re-enter a six-week lockdown, the chief executive of Beyond Blue has said.

Victorians now make up half of all calls to the organisation, evidence that residents are under increased strain as Covid-19 case numbers rise.

4.55am BST

Asian equity markets ground higher as investors tried to look past gathering China-US tension and renewed coronavirus lockdowns to upcoming company earnings, hoping that global stimulus efforts will yield upbeat outlooks, Reuters reports.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.6% and touched a 20-week high as Chinese stocks extended their extraordinary rally. Japan’s Nikkei edged ahead by 0.2%.

The Chinese yuan rose to a four-month high of 6.9872 per dollar and the greenback sat near a one-month low against a basket of currencies .

China was hit first and so is emerging first from the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, fiscal stimulus, heavy government borrowing driving up bond yields, and a state-media editorial extolling strong fundamentals have stoked euphoria.

China’s blue-chip index rose for an eighth straight session in early trade on Thursday, gaining 0.6% to touch a five-year high. The Shanghai Composite was up by the same margin and at its highest level since early 2018.

Both have added about 15% this month, and the rally continued in spite of a more circumspect take in Chinese media, which carried a commentary reminding investors about the 2015 crash and suggesting a rational approach to risk-taking.

The mood lifted Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 1%, though New Zealand’s benchmark fell nearly 2% after a Rio Tinto plan to close an aluminium smelter hit energy stocks.

US stock futures eased 0.1%, following another session of gains on Wall Street overnight. The yield on benchmark US 10-year Treasuries remained under pressure at 0.6562% and gold sat above ,800 an ounce.

Updated at 5.09am BST

4.44am BST

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose 442 to 197,783, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Thursday, with the reported death toll up 12 at 9,048.

4.30am BST

In Australia, New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian has said the New South Wales government will ask to lower the cap on numbers of people arriving in Australia and could begin to charge international arrivals – including Australians returning home – for hotel quarantine.

The comments herald a wider push from state and territory leaders at national cabinet on Friday to limit arrivals to prevent hotel quarantine becoming overrun, as Victoria battles a second wave of Covid-19 infections and has diverted all international flights.

On Thursday Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney that NSW had so far welcomed back between 30,000 and 35,000 Australians, about two-thirds of who were NSW residents but at least one-third were residents of other states in transit.

Some 70,000 Australians have returned through the two-week compulsory hotel quarantine since the measure was agreed by national cabinet on 27 March.

Berejiklian said the government is “seriously considering” charging international arrivals and it was “extremely valid” to question why Australians hadn’t returned when they were urged in March:

4.20am BST

In other news of daring New Zealand escapes (possibly): a specialist search and recovery team has been deployed to recapture the last remaining survivors of a flock of endangered birds that absconded from a predator-free island in New Zealand during coronavirus lockdown.

Shore plovers are endemic to New Zealand and renowned for their “attitude and friendliness” – traits which alongside their ground nests make them highly vulnerable to predators.

Mana Island off the coast of the North Island’s Kapiti coast was a successful home to an introduced colony of plovers in 2007. But a few short years after being introduced a single rat wiped out half the population, with the rest dying shortly later due to “complications”.

After the 2007 devastation conservationists avoided reintroducing the plover until the pest situation was resolved.

But in April and May they again took the plunge, transporting 29 young birds to the island, some of whom required ministerial approval to travel during the Covid-19 lockdown.

4.08am BST

New Zealand police to patrol quarantine hotels after breakouts

Police officers will patrol New Zealand’s quarantine hotels around-the-clock after a number of people – including a man who tested positive for coronavirus – escaped the managed isolation facilities.

In two separate incidents in Auckland hotels guests in isolation left their quarantine hotels, with one woman escaping over a hedge, and another man over a small fence.

The 32-year-old man – who was away for 70 minutes and visited a busy inner-city supermarket – tested positive for Covid-19. He has since been charged under new public health legislation. He faces a large fine or six months in prison.

Government minister Megan Woods said on Thursday “the abscondees are a new phenomenon” and that their carelessness put the health of the whole country at risk. New Zealand has in effect eliminated the virus after a six-week lockdown, with ongoing tight border controls.

3.54am BST

School tudents in Melbourne to receive daily temperature checks

Following the advice of Victoria’s chief health officer, the Victorian government has today announced that students at government schools in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will receive a temperature check every morning, with thermometers also provided to all non-government schools.

More than 14,000 non-contact infrared thermometers will be given to government, independent and Catholic schools in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, and to schools in neighbouring areas who need to undertake
testing.

The government will also provide thermometers to those early childhood education and care services who require them.

3.41am BST

29 Mississippi legislators test positive for Coronavirus

At least 26 legislators and 10 others who work at Mississippi’s Capitol have tested positive for the coronavirus, a public health official said Wednesday, as the governor implored residents to take precautions amid a rapid rise in confirmed cases statewide, AP reports.

The 174-member Legislature ended its annual session 1 July, and many people in the Capitol did not wear masks or maintain distance between themselves and others during the last few weeks. Lieutenant-governor Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn are among those who publicly acknowledge testing positive for Covid-19. They are now quarantined at home.

Members of the Mississippi Health Response Team take down medical information from people potentially affected by coronavirus at the Mississippi Legislature at the Capitol in Jackson on Monday, 6 July 2020.
Members of the Mississippi Health Response Team take down medical information from people potentially affected by coronavirus at the Mississippi Legislature at the Capitol in Jackson on Monday, 6 July 2020.
Photograph: Rogelio V Solis/AP

The number of people infected at the Capitol could actually be higher. The reported number only reflects those who were tested recently in Jackson, said the state’s top public health official, Dr. Thomas Dobbs. Some legislators have also been tested since returning to their hometowns.

Republican Governor Tate Reeves who has tested negative said he will not issue a statewide order for people to wear masks, as some other governors have done. But, he hinted that he could restore some restrictions on bars or other places if people don’t stop congregating in large groups.

Reeves said some hospitals are at or near capacity for intensive care beds. The state is limiting elective surgeries in a few counties to keep hospital beds open for Covid-19 patients.

3.23am BST

Podcast: The Leicester garment factories exposed by Covid-19

A spike in cases of Covid-19 in Leicester has led Guardian reporter Archie Bland to its garment factories. He discusses a story that goes beyond the pandemic and into workers’ rights, appalling factory conditions and the ethics of fast fashion:

3.01am BST

Hi, Helen Sullivan with you today. I’m be bringing you the latest news from around the world for the next few hours.

Please do get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email – helen.sullivan@theguardian.com – with news, questions, tips, suggestions, shocking confessions.

Thank you to those who have taken the time to get in touch today with helpful suggestions!

Updated at 3.14am BST

2.43am BST

Cases worldwide pass 12 million

The number of known coronavirus cases globally passed 12 million on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data.

There have been 548,799 deaths so far and 12,007,327 cases.

The US, which passed 3m cases on Thursday, accounts for quarter of all cases and just under one in four deaths.

Updated at 2.54am BST

2.26am BST

Gilead Sciences Inc said on Wednesday it has started an early-stage study of its antiviral Covid-19 treatment remdesivir that can be inhaled, for use outside of hospitals.

The company said the trial, which will enrol about 60 healthy Americans aged between 18 and 45, will test the drug particularly in those cases where the disease has not progressed to require hospitalisation.

The drug is currently used intravenously and an inhaled formulation would be given through a nebuliser, which could potentially allow for easier administration outside hospitals.

Remdesivir was granted emergency use authorisation in the United States to treat severe cases of COVID-19 in patients who are hospitalised.

Gilead is hoping to target the disease at the onset with the inhaled form of remdesivir, by delivering the drug directly to the primary site of infection.

Remdesivir is believed to be at the forefront in the fight against the coronavirus after the drug helped shorten hospital recovery times in a clinical trial.

Gilead also plans to start additional clinical trials to evaluate remdesivir when used in combination with anti-inflammatory medicines.

2.00am BST

Mexico on Wednesday posted a record for new coronavirus cases reported on a single day, with 6,995 cases, bringing its overall tally of infections to 275,003, health ministry data showed.

The country also recorded 782 additional fatalities, bringing its overall death toll to 32,796.

Mexico’s previous one-day record was last week on Thursday when 6,741 new cases were registered.

A man digs a grave at the Xico cemetery, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, in Valle de Chalco, Mexico 29 June 2020.
A man digs a grave at the Xico cemetery, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, in Valle de Chalco, Mexico 29 June 2020.
Photograph: Carlos Jasso/Reuters

1.45am BST

A Texas inmate received lethal injection Wednesday evening for fatally shooting an 82-year-old man nearly three decades ago, ending a five-month delay of executions in the state because of the coronavirus pandemic, AP reports.

Billy Joe Wardlow was put to death at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the June 1993 killing of Carl Cole at his home in Cason, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) east of Dallas in the East Texas piney woods, near the Louisiana and Arkansas borders.

The US Supreme Court declined to stop the 45-year-old man’s execution.

Wardlow was the first inmate in Texas to receive a lethal injection since 6 February and the second in the US since the nation began reopening following pandemic-related shutdowns.

1.27am BST

Russia has approved a new antiviral drug, Coronavir, to treat Civud-19 patients, its developer R-Pharm said on Wednesday, as Russia’s tally of infections hit 700,000.

It said a clinical trial involving mild or medium-level cases had shown the drug to be highly effective in inhibiting replication of the new coronavirus.

“Coronavir is one of the first drugs in Russia and in the world that does not tackle the complications caused by SARS-CoV-2, but battles the virus itself,” the company’s statement said.

It said a clinical study showed improvement in 55% of outpatient cases on the seventh day of treatment with Coronavir, against 20% of those with standard etiotropic therapy – meaning treatment of cause rather than symptoms. R-Pharm said there was also a significant difference at 14 days.

By the fifth day of treatment, the novel coronavirus had been eliminated in 77.5% of patients who took the drug, R-Pharm said.

Testing began in late May and over 110 outpatients have now received the treatment, the head of clinical trials at Russia’s Central Research Institute of Epidemiology, Tatyana Ryzhentsova, was cited as saying.

The drug is the third registered in Russia to treat the new coronavirus. The first, Avifavir, has been given to patients since June 11.

The health ministry gave its approval for Avifavir’s use under an accelerated process while clinical trials, held over a shorter period and with fewer people than in many other countries, were still under way.

Russia’s official nationwide case tally stood at 700,792 as of Wednesday, with 10,667 deaths.

Updated at 1.27am BST

1.15am BST

A record 40.5% of all 18-year-olds in the UK have applied to go to university, with numbers rising significantly during lockdown, according to the university admissions service Ucas.

It is the first time that more than four out of 10 students (40.5%) had applied by 30 June to go to university and the figures will offer some comfort to universities bracing themselves for the Covid-19 aftershock.

At the same point in the admissions cycle last year, the figure was 38.9%, and Ucas points out that between mid-March and the end of June, when the pandemic was at its height in the UK, applications rose by 17%.

Applications for nursing are up 15% year on year, and Ucas says that for the first time more than a quarter (25.4%) of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds had applied to university or college by 30 June, the final deadline to apply for up to five courses simultaneously.

1.03am BST

Nearly 3,000 miners infected in Chile

Unions at Chile’s Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said on Wednesday that nearly 3,000 workers had been infected with the coronavirus, prompting renewed calls for more safety measures at the company’s sprawling operations.

Patricio Elgueta, president of the Federation of Copper Workers, an umbrella group for the company’s unions, told Reuters it had tallied 2,843 coronavirus infections among workers as of 5 July. Codelco did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the figure.

Some unions and social groups have called on Codelco and other miners to halt operations around the mining hub of Calama, a desert city surrounded by some of Chile’s largest copper deposits.

People wearing masks line up to collect state bonds or loans to face the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic on July 8, 2020 in Santiago, Chile.
People wearing masks line up to collect state bonds or loans to face the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic on July 8, 2020 in Santiago, Chile.
Photograph: Marcelo Hernández/Getty Images

Chile will begin easing lockdown measures in two southern regions on Monday with 800,000 people able to resume some of their activities and those over 75 able to go out once a day.

Restaurants, cinemas, theaters and cafes will be allowed to open at 25% capacity. Sporting activities can be carried out without an audience and can include up to 10 people in enclosed spaces and 50 in the open.

The new measures will apply in the Los Ríos and Aysén regions in the countrys south. If a new outbreak occurs in either region, the government said tighter restrictions will be considered.

The number of people with confirmed infections of the new coronavirus surpassed 300,000 in the South American country, the sixth highest figure in the world.

12.53am BST

Cases worldwide near 12 million

The number of confirmed infections worldwide over the course of the pandemic so gar is nearing 12 million, according the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data, with 11,982,883 currently confirmed.

The US, the worst-affected country worldwide in terms of number of cases and deaths, accounts for a quarter of the world’s cases, and just under one in four coronavirus-related deaths globally.

There have been 547,722 deaths over the course of the pandemic so far.

The true case and death figures are likely to be higher, due to delays in reporting, differing definitions and testing rates, and suspected underreporting in some countries.

Here are the countries worldwide with more than 200,000 known infections:

  1. US: 3,040,957 (deaths: 132,095)
  2. Brazil: 1,713,160 (deaths: 67,964)
  3. India: 742,417 (deaths: 20,642)
  4. Russia: 699,749 (deaths: 10,650)
  5. Peru: 312,911 (deaths:11,133 )
  6. Chile: 303,083 (deaths: 6,573)
  7. United Kingdom: 288,510 (deaths: 44,602)
  8. Mexico: 268,008 (deaths: 32,014)
  9. Spain: 252,513 (deaths: 28,396)
  10. Iran: 248,379 (deaths: 12,084)
  11. Italy: 242,149 (deaths: 34,914)
  12. Pakistan: 237,489 (deaths: 4,922)
  13. South Africa: 224,665 (deaths: 3,602)
  14. Saudi Arabia: 220,144 (deaths: 2,059)
  15. Turkey: 208,938 (deaths: 5,282)
  16. France: 206,072 (deaths: 29,936)

Updated at 2.58am BST

12.40am BST

Trump’s Tulsa rally ‘likely contributed’ to city’s surge in cases

US President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa in late June that drew thousands of participants and large protests “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday.

Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday. By comparison, during the week before the June 20 Trump rally, there were 76 cases on Monday and 96 on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump speaks at BOK Center during his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on 20 June 2020. The head of the Tulsa-County Health Department says Trump’s campaign rally in late June “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases there.
President Donald Trump speaks at BOK Center during his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on 20 June 2020. The head of the Tulsa-County Health Department says Trump’s campaign rally in late June “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases there.
Photograph: Stephen Pingry/AP

Although the health department’s policy is to not publicly identify individual settings where people may have contracted the virus, Dart said those large gatherings “more than likely” contributed to the spike.

“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said.

Trump’s Tulsa rally, his first since the coronavirus pandemic hit the US, attracted thousands of people from around the country. About 6,200 people gathered inside the 19,000-seat BOK Center arena far fewer than was expected.

Dart had urged the campaign to consider pushing back the date of the rally, fearing a potential surge in the number of coronavirus cases.

Although masks were provided to rally goers, there was no requirement that participants wear them, and most didn’t, AP reports.

Updated at 12.40am BST

12.33am BST

Australian city of Melbourne re-enters lockdown

Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, has re-entered lockdown, as the state of Victoria struggles to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has seen daily cases rise by over 100 for several days.

The curve has flattened, bent, and bounced back up. The jigsaw puzzles have all been completed, and children who were prepared to go along with the first seven-week lockdown being a fun adventure are now anxious. Holidays were cancelled, again.

The return to lockdown, announced after Victoria recorded its highest daily increase in cases of the pandemic so far, was met with a mixture of resignation and relief; fury and sadness.

The stage three stay-at-home orders that will apply across greater Melbourne and the Mitchell shire ban anyone from leaving their home except for essential shopping, work or school that cannot be done remotely, caregiving and medical appointments, and exercise.

12.30am BST

US cases rise by world record 60,000 in one day

The US has reported the highest one-day rise in new coronavirus for any country since the start if the pandemic, with more than 60,000 new cases recorded in a single day, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official figures, as 35 states see growing numbers of new cases from last week.

ICUs at 56 hospitals in Florida have reached capacity. California hospitalisations are at an all-time high, and Texas hospitalisations have broken state records for the tenth say in a row, according to the health department.

Updated at 4.56am BST

12.24am BST

Summary

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

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

Please do get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email – helen.sullivan@theguardian.com – with news, questions, tips and suggestions.

The US has reported the highest one-day rise in new coronavirus for any country since the start if the pandemic, with 60,000 new cases recorded in a single day, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official figures, as 35 states see growing numbers of new cases from last week.

ICUs at 56 hospitals in Florida have reached capacity. California hospitalisations are at an all-time high, and Texas hospitalisations have broken state records for the tenth say in a row, according to the health department.

  • Cases worldwide are nearing 12 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, with 11,982,883 currently confirmed. There have been 547,722 deaths over the course of the pandemic so far.
  • Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, has re-entered lockdown, as the state of Victoria struggles to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has seen daily cases rise by over 100 for several days.
  • The US has surpassed three million confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. It said there have been 131,960 deaths among the total of 3,022,899 cases.
  • US President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said. Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday. The rally drew thousands of people in June.
  • Vice President Mike Pence urged schools to reopen despite the pandemic, echoing comments from Trump. During a White House coronavirus task force briefing at the US department of education, Pence said, “It’s time for us to get our kids back to school.” But many school officials are expressing doubts about their ability to safely reopen their doors.
  • Trump threatened to withhold funding from schools that don’t reopen. The president also criticised the school reopening guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “very tough” and “expensive.”
  • Jair Bolsonaro vetoed provisions of a law requiring government to provide drinking water, disinfectants and guaranteed hospital beds to indigenous communities amid the pandemic. The Brazilian President, who has tested positive for coronavirus, vetoed 16 parts of the law on efforts to address the coronavirus threat to the indigenous population, but still allowed for provisions on adequate testing, ambulance services and medical equipment.
  • Argentina posted a daily record of cases. Argentina has posted a daily record of 3,604 confirmed cases of Covid-19.The sharp rise, the first time daily cases have surpassed 3,000, took the total number to 87,030, fivefold the number at the start of June, though still well below case loads in Brazil, Chile and Peru.Argentina’s center-left government imposed a strict lockdown in mid-March, which has been loosened in most of the country but was extended and reinforced last month in and around Buenos Aires due to a spike in cases.The country’s death toll from the pandemic stands at 1,694.
  • The Australian city of Melbourne has begun a new lockdown after a surge of infections. Among the restrictions are that visits to other people’s homes are limited to if you are giving or receiving care or if you are in an “intimate personal relationship”.
  • Italian authorities stopped 125 Bangladeshi people from entering the country today after they landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on a flight from Qatar. Yesterday, Italy suspended flights from Bangladesh for a week after 36 people who arrived in Rome on board a flight the day before tested positive for coronavirus.
  • The number of coronavirus cases has passed the 301,000 mark in Chile, according to the Johns-Hopkins University tracker. The figure is currently 301,019, which is the sixth highest in the world after the US, Brazil, India, Russia, and Peru.
  • Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel has warned the European Union not to waste time in agreeing a recovery plan to pull the continent out of a historic recession caused by the coronavirus lockdown. Merkel said she hoped to see a deal before the summer break on a proposed €750bn recovery plan.
  • Austria’s government has announced travel restrictions for fellow EU members Romania and Bulgaria after a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in both countries. Greece, which like Austria, has had a low number of infections and deaths compared with other European nations, has also expressed concern about imported cases from the Balkans.
  • Iran’s coronavirus death toll exceeded 12,000 on Wednesday, the health ministry said, with 153 deaths in the past 24 hours, amid a sharp rise in the number of daily infections and deaths in the past week as lockdown measures have eased.

Updated at 5.15am BST

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