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

 

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

12.15am BST

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

12.12am BST

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

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

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

11.19pm BST

Hi, Helen Sullivan joining you now.

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

11.13pm BST

Summary

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

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

Updated at 11.14pm BST

10.37pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.22pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.09pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 11.16pm BST

10.03pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.20pm BST

9.59pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.00pm BST

9.26pm BST

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

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

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

9.05pm BST

Summary

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

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

9.04pm BST

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

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

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

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

He told reporters at the White House:

Republicans should go back to school and learn.

I’m very good at real estate.

8.49pm BST

US coronavirus deaths top 150,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 10.46pm BST

8.36pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.31pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.16pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.49pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.31pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The government has warned people against violating public health measures.

7.22pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 8.22pm BST

7.14pm BST

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

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

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

Catalan president Quim Torra said:

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

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

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

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

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

7.06pm BST

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

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

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

6.56pm BST

Summary

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

6.47pm BST

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

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

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

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

5.54pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.12pm BST

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

Updated at 5.12pm BST

4.48pm BST

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

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

4.41pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 6.28pm BST

4.25pm BST

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

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

Updated at 4.27pm BST

4.06pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 4.30pm BST

4.03pm BST

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

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

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

Updated at 4.09pm BST

3.44pm BST

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

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

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

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

3.15pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.07pm BST

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

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

2.58pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.45pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.13pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

Get the full story here:

1.33pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.11pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.07pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12.51pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

12.31pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on this story here:

Updated at 12.49pm BST

12.05pm BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 12.50pm BST

11.44am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 11.48am BST

11.13am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 11.14am BST

11.02am BST

Summary

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

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

10.40am BST

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

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

10.02am BST

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

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

9.57am BST

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

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

9.36am BST

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

Updated at 10.00am BST

9.35am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.30am BST

Hong Kong elections could be delayed

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

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

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

9.05am BST

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

8.41am BST

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

8.40am BST

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

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

7.48am BST

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

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

Updated at 8.39am BST

7.20am BST

UK government signs vaccine deal

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 7.22am BST

7.15am BST

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

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

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

7.06am BST

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

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

6.51am BST

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

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

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

6.36am BST

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

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

6.15am BST

Hong Kong outbreak ‘overwhelming’ medical system says Carrie Lam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.57am BST

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

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

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

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

5.10am BST

More on Hong Kong:

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

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

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

Updated at 5.40am BST

4.55am BST

Strictest measures in Hong Kong so far begin

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

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

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

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

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

4.35am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.15am BST

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

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

4.06am BST

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

3.39am BST

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

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

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

Updated at 3.39am BST

3.17am BST

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

Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

3.09am BST

Active cases in the Victorian aged care sector top 800

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

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

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

3.07am BST

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

Updated at 3.09am BST

3.03am BST

Victoria records 295 new cases of coronavirus and nine more deaths

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

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

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

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

2.52am BST

China reports 101 cases, highest since mid-April

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.43am BST

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

The outbreak in Melbourne changed that.

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

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

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

2.39am BST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.32am BST

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

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

2.21am BST

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

2.15am BST

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

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

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

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

Updated at 2.17am BST

2.11am BST

New Zealand to start charging some travellers for hotel quarantine

Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 6.33am BST

1.56am BST

Australia facing “sustained community transmission” says Prime Minister

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

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

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

1.55am BST

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

Morrison said:

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

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

1.39am BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 1.41am BST

1.39am BST

Pilgrims quarantined in Mecca as Hajj begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.28am BST

Air New Zealand freezes ticket bookings to Australia until 28 August

Charlotte Graham-McLay reports for the Guardian:

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 1.44am BST

1.25am BST

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

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

Moderna was not immediately available for comment.

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

1.07am BST

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

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

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

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

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

Updated at 6.31am BST

12.51am BST

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

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

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

12.36am BST

Trump storms out of press conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar)July 28, 2020

12.25am BST

Trump blames US case surge on protestors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12.13am BST

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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