Coronavirus live news: US confirms 1m cases in a week; Boris Johnson self-isolating

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: US confirms 1m cases in a week; Boris Johnson self-isolating” was written by Ben Doherty(now) and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Monday 16th November 2020 05.33 UTC

Not content with emerging already from a recession (see earlier post), Japan is now deploying a vaguely anthropomorphic robot in a shop to make sure people are wearing masks and observing social distancing requirements…

His/her/its name is Robovie…

Young and previously healthy people with ongoing symptoms of Covid-19 are showing signs of damage to multiple organs four months after the initial infection, a study suggests.

The findings are a step towards unpicking the physical underpinnings and developing treatments for some of the strange and extensive symptoms experienced by people with “long Covid”, which is thought to affect more than 60,000 people in the UK. Fatigue, brain fog, breathlessness and pain are among the most frequently reported effects.

Japan’s economy grew at the fastest pace on record in the third quarter, rebounding sharply from its biggest postwar slump, as improved exports and consumption helped the country emerge from the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, analysts painted the sharp bounceback as a one-off from the depths of recession, and cautioned that any further rebound in the economy will be moderate as a resurgence in infections at home and abroad clouds the outlook.

The world’s third-largest economy expanded an annualised 21.4% in July-September, beating a median market forecast for an 18.9% gain and marking the first increase in four quarters, government data showed on Monday.

Shoppers wearing face masks walk in the Omotesando area of Tokyo, Japan.
Shoppers wearing face masks walk in the Omotesando area of Tokyo, Japan. Photograph: Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

It was the biggest increase since comparable data became available in 1980 and followed a 28.8% plunge in the second quarter, when consumption took a hit from lock-down measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The strong growth in July-September was likely a one-off rebound from an extraordinary contraction caused by the lock-down steps,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

“The economy may not fall off a cliff. But given uncertainty over the outlook, I would err on the side of caution in terms of the pace of any recovery,” he said.

The rebound was driven largely by a record 4.7% surge in private consumption, as households boosted spending on cars, leisure and restaurants, a government official told a briefing.

But capital expenditure fell 3.4%, shrinking for a second straight quarter in a worrying sign for policymakers hoping to revitalise the economy with private-sector spending.

Economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the economy still had over 30 trillion yen ($287 billion) of negative output gap, or spare capacity, part of which must be filled by a new stimulus package now in the works.

Without additional stimulus, Japan may experience a fiscal cliff next year as the effect of two big packages deployed earlier this year – worth a combined $2.2 trillion – peter out.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Photograph: Reuters

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has instructed his cabinet to come up with another package, which analysts say could be sized anywhere between 10-30 trillion yen.

Despite some signs of improvement in recent months, analysts expect the world’s third-largest economy to shrink 5.6% in the current fiscal year ending in March 2021 and say it could take years to return to pre-Covid levels.

Across the US, state governors are taking action to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus:

Michigan and Washington on Sunday joined several other states in announcing renewed efforts to combat the coronavirus as more than 11 million cases of Covid-19 have now been reported in the United States — with the most recent million coming in less than a week — and as many Americans prepare to observe a Thanksgiving holiday marked by the pandemic.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes, closed restaurants to indoor dining and suspended organized sports — including the football playoffs — in an attempt to curb the state’s spiking case numbers.

The order also restricts indoor and outdoor residential gatherings, closes some entertainment facilities and bans gyms from hosting group exercise classes.

The new rules, set to last three weeks, are extensive but not as sweeping the Democratic governor’s stay-at-home order this past spring, when she faced criticism from a Republican-led legislature that refused to extend the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration and authorised a lawsuit challenging Whitmer’s authority to combat the pandemic.

She faced pushback from those who opposed the decision to toughen rather than relax what already was one of the nation’s strictest stay-home orders.

“The situation has never been more dire,” Whitmer, who authorities say also was the target of a kidnapping plot spurred on by anger over her earlier virus measures, said at a Sunday evening news conference. “We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Photograph: AP

The directives from Michigan come on the same day that Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced the state would enforce new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next month as it, too, continued to combat a rising number of cases.

Starting Tuesday, gyms and some entertainment centres in Washington will be required to close their indoor services.

Retail stores, including grocery stores, will be ordered to limit indoor capacity and multiple-household, indoor social gatherings will be prohibited unless attendees have quarantined for 14 days or tested negative for Covid-19 and quarantined for a week. By Wednesday, restaurants and bars will again be limited to outdoor dining and to-go service.

The actions also follow grim milestones passed by Texas and California last week as the states each marked more than 1 million confirmed Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

In Texas, sporting events were canceled and at least one city added mobile morgues in anticipation of hospital-overwhelming virus deaths.

Meanwhile, in California, the nation’s most populous state and the first one to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, officials urged those planning holiday gatherings to take strict precautions, including keeping visits small, outdoors and under two hours long.

Thousands of people line up in cars in the Dodger Stadium carpark for Covid-19 tests.
Thousands of people line up in cars in the Dodger Stadium carpark for Covid-19 tests. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

And in North Dakota, a previously resistant Governor Doug Burgum ordered a statewide mask mandate and imposed several business restrictions late Friday in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has stressed the state’s hospital capacity.

The Republican heeded the advice of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to require face coverings. Bars, restaurants and other venues were also ordered to reduce capacity.

Covid-19 testing capacity in the UK to be more than doubled

Covid-19 testing capacity in the UK is to be more than doubled, with major new laboratories to open early next year in a sign the government is planning for the pandemic to persist despite hopes for a number of vaccine candidates.

The facilities, one in Leamington Spa and the other in an unidentified location in Scotland, will employ up to 4,000 people and increase the number of PCR tests – the gold-standard swab tests already used across the UK – that can be processed daily by 600,000, from 520,000 today.

Algeria imposed new coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, closing sport and cultural centres as well as beaches after a spike in infections.

The government called on Algerians to fight what it called a “concerning phase” of the pandemic.

Algeria has registered more than 68,000 infections and at least 2,100 deaths, according to the ministry of health, with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hospitalised in Germany with the virus last month.

Under the new restrictions, announced by the prime minister’s office, a curfew will be imposed overnight across much of the country.

Algerian Muslims gather at al-Falah Mosque to pray. The country has entered what the government describes as a “concerning phase” of Covid-19 spread.
Algerian Muslims gather at al-Falah Mosque to pray. The country has entered what the government describes as a “concerning phase” of Covid-19 spread. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Sports halls, recreational and leisure areas, beaches, youth and cultural centres will be shut for 15 days.

Businesses are required to close from 3pm, with cafes and restaurants limited to takeaway.

The government also reiterated there was a ban on large public gatherings, saying they help spread the virus.

Algeria has been rocked by large anti-government rallies, and an attempt to bury the movement with a referendum to revise the constitution flopped with record low turnout.

Updated

Six thousand British volunteers are to be injected with an experimental Covid vaccine modelled on an Ebola jab.

It is the third Covid vaccine to enter large-scale clinical trials in the UK. Pursuing multiple candidates is essential to guarantee UK supply and ensure that most effective vaccine is identified, researchers stressed.

Linda Geddes reports:

Trump under pressure to concede election, begin transition: Covid-19 infection rate surging

Ed Pilkington reports from New York:

The White House is coming under growing pressure from President-elect Joe Biden, as well as senior Republicans and health experts, to allow transition talks to begin amid a terrifying surge in coronavirus cases that is pushing hospital systems across the US to the brink of collapse.

Updated

Xinhua is reporting:

The Chinese mainland reported no new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the National Health Commission has reported.

A total of eight imported Covid-19 cases were reported across the mainland Sunday, the commission said in its daily report.

Sunday also saw one new suspected case recorded in Shanghai, who had arrived from outside the mainland.

No new deaths related to the disease were reported.

Across the Pacific:

The French Pacific territory of Wallis and Futuna has recorded just its second case of Covid-19.

The infected person arrived from France last month, and tested positive for the novel coronavirus at the end of the compulsory quarantine period.

Of France’s Pacific territories, Wallis and Futuna, and New Caledonia have largely escaped the virus, with few confirmed cases and no community transmission. French Polynesia however, having re-opened its borders in August, has recorded almost 12,000 cases.

A testing station in Papeete in French Polynesia.
A testing station in Papeete in French Polynesia. Photograph: Suliane Favennec/AFP/Getty Images

The US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands recorded another two cases at the weekend, both imported from Guam.

The container ship which brought Covid-19 into the port in American Samoa’s capital Pago Pago is back in the port, being unloaded.

When the Fesco Askold arrived from neighbouring Samoa last week, three crew members aboard tested positive for the novel coronavirus and the ship was sent back out to sea. It has finally returned to port where it is being unloaded by the ship’s crew, rather than stevedores on land.

Samoa remains Covid-free, American Samoa has recorded just three cases.

Australia has done a remarkable job in suppressing Covid-19, and reducing community transmission of the virus to single digit figures. But a new outbreak in the state of South Australia – now up to 17 confirmed cases – after a full seven months without a community case, has put the state back on high alert.

Melissa Davey reports.

Germany has warned its anti-coronavirus measures are likely to stay in place for several months.

The predictions came as the World Health Organization unveiled data showing a record daily number of 660,905 new Covid-19 cases over the weekend.

“We will have to live with considerable precautions and restrictions for at least the next four to five months,” Germany’s economy minister Peter Altmaier told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The government is to meet Monday to decide whether to extend new measures provisionally in place until month’s end and as neighbouring Austria revealed it is planning mass testing as a second lockdown comes into force.

A bust of the former composer Ludwig van Beethoven is decorated with a protective mask in a store window in Weimar, Germany.
A bust of the former composer Ludwig van Beethoven is decorated with a protective mask in a store window in Weimar, Germany. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

The race for a vaccine continues, as does the effort to establish a logistics chain to get it to people all over the world. The head of drug-maker Sanofi says: “we will need to have several winners at the end of this race”.

AFP reports:

The coronavirus vaccine being developed by Sanofi won’t need to be super-cooled and a normal refrigerator will suffice, the Paris-based drugmaker’s France chief Olivier Bogillot said Sunday.

His comments came days after American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced that their vaccine had proven 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials involving more than 40,000 people.

The companies said they expect to supply up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

However, Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit) or else it falls apart, well beyond the capability of most hospital freezers let alone domestic appliances.

Rachel Silverman, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, has already warned that maintaining the Pfizer vaccine’s “ultra-cold chain” from factory to patients’ arms constitutes “an enormous logistical challenge even in the West”.

“Our vaccine will be like the ‘flu vaccine, you can keep it in your refrigerator,” this avoiding the problem, Bogillot told the CNews channel.

“This will be an advantage for some countries,” he added.

The Sanofi vaccine, one of many in development, will be available for distribution next June, Bogillot added.

A researcher in the vaccine unit of French drugmaker Sanofi’s Pasteur plant in Marcy-l’Etoile, near Lyon, in France.
A researcher in the vaccine unit of French drugmaker Sanofi’s Pasteur plant in Marcy-l’Etoile, near Lyon, in France. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

The results of the Phase 2 tests, involving hundreds of people, will be made public in early December, he added. If those results are positive then Phase 3 trials involving thousands of people will begin, alongside mass production.

Eleven of the vaccines under development have already begun Phase 3 trials.

The Pfizer vaccine is “a little more advanced” in the development process, said Bogillot, but “one laboratory is not going to be able to supply the doses for the whole planet.

“We will need to have several winners at the end of this race.”

The Sanofi product will also be made avaiable at an “affordable” price he said, without giving details.

Some more detail here on the extraordinary news in the UK, that the prime minister Boris Johnson is back in isolation after potentially being exposed to Covid-19 again. Political editor Heather Stewart writes:

Boris Johnson was forced into self-isolation on Sunday night just as he embarked on a crucial week designed to restore calm and project an air of competence after a vicious No 10 turf war.

There were concerns that Covid-19 had returned to Downing Street as the result of a 35-minute meeting between the prime minister and a group of Tory MPs at No 10, one of whom subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Johnson was pictured standing next to Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, inside Downing Street on Thursday. The men appear to be less than 2 metres apart and neither is wearing a mask.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered a tightening of state emergency anti-coronavirus systems in the face of the worldwide pandemic, as he presided over a meeting of the politburo of the ruling Workers Party, state news agency KCNA said on Monday.

The meeting came amid economic and political uncertainty surrounding the global Covid-19 pandemic that is putting additional pressure on the North’s economy, already battered by international sanctions aimed at stopping its nuclear program.

Making his first public appearance in 27 days, Kim stressed the need for the country to stay on high alert for the virus and to intensify its anti-epidemic work, KCNA reported.

Kim Jong Un speaks in Pyongyang on Monday, his first public appearance in 27 days.
Kim Jong Un speaks in Pyongyang on Monday, his first public appearance in 27 days. Photograph: KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea had tested over 12,000 people and reported no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as of early November, according to the World Health Organization.

A total of 6,173 people, eight of whom were foreigners, were detected as suspected cases and 174 people were quarantined in the last week of October, the WHO said.

More than 54 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,315,881 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins hospital.

Kim had called on his country to embark on an 80-day campaign to attain its goals in every sector before a congress in January to decide a new five-year plan.

A shoe factory in Wonsan, Kangwon Province, North Korea. The country is staging an ‘80-day battle’, a productivity campaign to boost industries.
A shoe factory in Wonsan, Kangwon Province, North Korea. The country is staging an ‘80-day battle’, a productivity campaign to boost industries. Photograph: Jon Chol Jin/AP

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

This is the place to be for pandemic news from around the world and this is where you can contact me directly (and see a photo of a gremlin).

UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is self-isolating after coming into contact with an MP who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19, Downing Street said on Sunday.

The prime minister was present at a 35-minute meeting with a small group of Conservative MPs on Thursday morning. One of them, Lee Anderson, subsequently developed symptoms of Covid-19 and has tested positive.

Downing Street said the prime minister was “well” and insisted that No 10 was a Covid-secure workplace but that test and trace had advised the prime minister that, because of factors including the length of the meeting, he should self-isolate as a precaution.

Meanwhile the US has passed 11m coronavirus cases, just one week after confirming its ten-millionth case. More than a million cases were recorded in the country over the last week, which saw four days in a row of world record infection totals.

The current US total, according to Johns Hopkins University, is 11,003,469. At least 246,000 people have died in the country.

The global case total is 54m and the death toll stands at 1.3m.

ere are the other key developments from the last few hours:

  • The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has said that the country will follow in Slovakia’s footsteps by mass testing its population to get out of lockdown in time for Christmas.
  • The UK reported 24,962 new Covid cases on Sunday, down by 1,898 from Saturday’s 26,860.
  • Italy has reported 546 Covid-related deaths, up from 544 the day before, the health ministry said on Sunday. The country also registered 33,979 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, down from 37,255 on Saturday.
  • In a statement on Sunday, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, declared “the general mobilisation of the nation and the government” after health authorities announced the highest ever number of daily cases in the country.
  • India is expected to fly doctors in from other regions of the country to double its testing capacity in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus in the capital New Delhi.
  • The prime minister of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Ambrose Dlamini, has tested positive for Covid-19 but is asymptomatic.
  • France reports 302 deaths and 27,228 new cases in the last 24-hours, according to the French health ministry website.
  • WHO registers highest Covid-19 cases in one-day over the weekend, reports AFP. Saturday’s figures of 660,905 and Friday’s 645,410 both surpassed the previous set highest daily total of cases which was recorded at 614,013 on 7 November.

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