Doctor Jana du Plessis, left, helps Doctor Anele Mtanjana (R) preparing her overall before demonstrating how to use an intubox for worker safety designed at the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg on April 15, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)
LAGOS / BUCHAREST / BRUSSELS / BRASILIA / NEW YORK / PARIS / PRAGUE / CAIRO / GENEVA / MOSCOW - At least 10,000 health workers have been infected with the coronavirus in the 40 countries across Africa that have have reported cases, according to the World Health Organization.
“The growth we are seeing in COVID-19 cases in Africa is placing an ever-greater strain on health services across the continent,” the WHO’s regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in an emailed statement on Thursday. “In many African countries infection prevention and control measures aimed at preventing infections in health facilities are still not fully implemented.”
First responders account for more than 5 percent of cases in 14 sub-Saharan African countries, despite limited data on the morbidity and mortality of health workers on the continent. Health workers make up 10 percent of total cases globally. Active coronavirus cases on the continent are now more than 750,000, and 15,000 lives have succumbed to the disease, according to the WHO.
Researchers are making "good progress" in developing vaccines against COVID-19, with a handful in late-stage trials, but their first use cannot be expected until early 2021, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert said on Wednesday.
A man wearing a protective mask walks by a mural dedicated to medical personnel of the Sacco infectious diseases hospital that fought the COVID-19, created by the artist Cosimo Cheone in Milan, Italy, July 21, 2020. (CLAUDIO FURLAN / LAPRESSE VIA AP)
Italy’s government approved a proposal for 25 billion euros (US$29 billion) in extra spending as it battles to rescue an economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
A cabinet meeting Wednesday evening hosted by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte backed the demand to widen the budget deficit this year, which will go to parliament for approval. The extra money will be used to help businesses with temporary layoffs and liquidity, and provide subsidies to local and regional authorities, the government said.
The economy is set to contract by 11 percent this year, and Italy’s public debt was already projected to exceed 150 percent of its GDP this year even before the latest tranche of spending. The government had already approved two stimulus packages worth a total of 75 billion euros.
In another development, a new study has found that the earliest coronavirus strains spreading in Italy's Lombardy region did not come directly from China.
After analyzing more than 300 blood samples of COVID-19 patients from Lombardy between February and April, researchers found that the variant of the virus is observed frequently in European countries, such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and France, but seldom observed in China, according to a non-peer-reviewed paper published Monday on medRxiv.org, a preprint server for health sciences.
Italy has reported more than 245,000 confirmed cases and over 35,000 deaths.
Global confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 15 million on Wednesday, reaching 15,008,046 as of 12:35 pm (1635 GMT), according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
More than 617,000 people worldwide have died of the disease, according to the data.
The United States has suffered the most from the pandemic, with more than 3.9 million cases and over 143,000 fatalities, the tally shows.
Countries with more than 300,000 cases also include Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Peru, Mexico and Chile, according to the data.
The number of confirmed cases across Africa reached 749,492 on Wednesday while the death toll rose 15,726, the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.
Argentina registered a daily record of 5,782 newly confirmed cases on Wednesday, with the vast majority of them in and around the capital, Buenos Aires, taking the country's infection tally to 141,900.
The country has reported 2,588 deaths so far.
Brazil posted a record daily increase in coronavirus cases, registering 67,860 additional cases on Wednesday, along with 1,284 related deaths. That brought the total number of cases in Latin America's largest nation to 2,227,514, with the death toll rising to 82,771.
President Jair Bolsonaro has had another positive result for the novel coronavirus in the third test he has taken since falling ill on July 7, a secretariat of the Communications Ministry said on Wednesday.
"The test carried out on the president yesterday, on the 21st, showed a positive result," a statement said. "President Bolsonaro is still in good condition, accompanied by the presidency's medical team," it added.
Meanwhile, Aritana Yawalapiti, one of Brazil's most influential indigenous leaders, arrived at a hospital in the central city of Goiânia early on Wednesday to be treated at an intensive care unit for COVID-19. The hospitalization of Aritana, who is around 70 years old and leads the people of the Upper Xingu in central Brazil, is a powerful symbol of the threat to vulnerable indigenous communities in Brazil.
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, who is infected with COVID-19, wears a protective face mask as he greets supporters during a Brazilian flag retreat ceremony outside his official residence at the Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, July 22, 2020. (ERALDO PERES / AP)
Chile on Wednesday reported that the country's tally of COVID-19 cases has risen to 336,402 and the death toll reached 8,722, after 1,741 new cases and 45 deaths were registered in the past 24 hours.
Currently there were 18,439 active cases. So far, a total of 309,241 people have recovered.
A total of 68 people, including some football athletes, have been infected with COVID-19 as of Wednesday after attending a party at a music club in Prague on July 11, according to a local hygiene station in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic.
After receiving the report of one infection from the gathering, health officials conducted tests on another 17 people and found 15 of them infected with the coronavirus. Further tests then detected more infections among those who attended the party, according to Zdenka Jagrova, director of Prague Hygiene Station.
As of Wednesday night, the Czech Republic has recorded 14,448 confirmed cases and 364 deaths, as it sees a resurgence of the virus in the past several weeks.
Egypt reported on Wednesday 41 more deaths from COVID-19, the lowest in nearly six weeks, bringing the death toll to 4,440, said the Health Ministry.
A total of 667 new cases were confirmed, raising the overall tally of infections to 89,745, the ministry's spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.
Megahed said 602 more patients were cured and discharged from hospitals, taking the number of recoveries to 30,075.
Egypt has extended the operating hours of cafes and restaurants from 10:00 pm to midnight while allowing them to operate at 50 percent capacity starting July 26, the cabinet said in a statement on Wednesday. The operating hours of stores, including malls, were also extended until 10:00 pm, according to the statement .
A decision to focus its fiscal firepower on economic recovery has forced the European Union (EU) to sharply scale back plans to address chronic shortages of drugs, including COVID-19 treatments, by bringing back manufacturing capacity from Asia.
As part of a budget deal to relaunch the economy that they agreed early on Tuesday after a marathon summit, EU leaders cut planned healthcare expenditure to 2027 by 80 percent. The bloc has for years faced shortages of critical drugs, including vaccines and antibiotics, and now is struggling to buy medicines needed by COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
Shortages have worsened during the COVID-19 crisis, as supply chains were disrupted and drug exporting countries temporarily focused on their domestic markets. The bloc's exposure to drug shortages, despite its financial might, is currently laid bare by the difficulties it faces in buying the analgesics, anaesthetics and resuscitation drugs that are needed to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients.
However, advance purchase deals with makers of potential COVID-19 vaccines and other drugs in development are not affected by the budget cuts as they rely on emergency funds already available.
People wearing face masks walk near a beach in Biarritz, southwestern France, July 21, 2020. (BOB EDME / AP)
Samples of wastewater from the Paris sewage system have been showing traces of COVID-19 again since the end of June, having vanished when France imposed a lockdown, according to the head of the laboratory leading the research.
Infection rates in France are subsiding, but officials this week made the wearing of masks in enclosed public spaces compulsory after a series of localised flare-ups. To date COVID-19 has killed over 30,000 people in France.
Early studies by scientists in The Netherlands, France, Australia and elsewhere suggest sewage sampling for signs of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could help estimate the number of infections in a geographic area, without having to test every person.
Laurent Moulin, who heads the research laboratory run by public water utility company Eau de Paris, cautioned the findings on their own did not mean a resurgence of the virus in the population since France eased its lockdown restrictions.
But, said Moulin, when used in conjunction with other data it can be a useful early warning sign of the virus spreading, even before people feel sick enough to seek medical help.
France recorded 998 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours amid rising concerns about new flare-ups of the epidemic, according to the latest health ministry data released on Wednesday.
The number of confirmed cases now stands at 178,336, the ministry said. The number of people in hospitals with the virus was down to 6,366 from 6,482 a day earlier, and the number in intensive care was down to 445 from 455 a day earlier, the figures showed.
The death toll stood at 30,172 against 30,165 a day earlier.
Georgia reported 12 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, taking its infection tally to 1,085.
Five of the 12 new cases had been in contact with infected individuals, whereas two of the cases were from Gachiani in central Georgia and two other cases were imported, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) said, adding that the source of infection of the remaining three cases is untraceable.
As of Thursday, 911 of the country's 1,085 patients have recovered while 16 have died, the center said.
Germany's state health ministers have decided to conduct coronavirus testing at airports for inbound travelers from high-risk countries, local media reported Thursday.
The ministers, along with federal health minister Jens Spahn, agreed in principle on the mandatory tests during a conference call on Wednesday, though a formal decision has not been made, dpa said.
Arriving passengers from high-risk countries to Germany are currently required to self-quarantine for 14 days. People entering Germany from low-risk countries, such as France, Spain, Greece and most of the EU, would not have to submit to testing under the new rule.
Germany's coronavirus infections rose 569 to 203,368 while the reported death toll increased by six to 9,101, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday.
Ghana reported 683 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the nationwide tally to 29,672, according to health officials.
Another 759 patients were discharged from hospitals over the past 24 hours, taking the number of recoveries to 26,090.
The death toll stood at 153.
The National Center for Disease Control of Libya on Wednesday reported 88 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 2,176.
The new cases were detected after 1,732 suspected samples were received, according to a statement by the center.
Meanwhile, 10 more patients recovered and three more people died, raising the total recoveries and the death toll to 489 and 53, respectively, the center said.
Mexico's health ministry reported on Wednesday 6,019 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and 790 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 362,274 cases and 41,190 deaths.
The Mexican government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
People wearing face masks are walk at the Jemaa el-Fna Square in Marrakech, Morocco, on July 22, 2020. (CHADI / XINHUA)
Morocco registered 220 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, raising the tally in the North African country to 17,962, the health ministry said.
The number of recoveries increased by 247 to 15,636, said Mouad Mrabet, coordinator of the Moroccan Center for Public Health Operations at the health ministry, at a press briefing.
The death toll rose to 285 as five more fatalities were recorded in the past 24 hours.
Kayode Fayemi, the governor of Ekiti - a state in southwest Nigeria - announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
"I'm generally okay and I'm already self-isolating at home and receiving the best of care from my medical team," Fayemi said on his Twitter account, adding he has trusted critical tasks to his deputy but will continue routine duty from home.
According to local media, Nigeria has seen at least seven state governors who have tested positive for the virus since the country recorded the first confirmed case on Feb 27. Nigeria's Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama on Sunday confirmed he was COVID-19 positive.
Figures from the Nigerian Center for Disease Control show that the country on Tuesday night recorded 576 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the tally of total infections to 37,801, with 805 deaths.
Peru reported 4,463 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking its infection tally to 366,550, double the number at the start of June.
The country has the second-highest number of cases in Latin America behind Brazil.
Also on Wednesday, Peru also added 3,688 previously uncounted people to its death toll, taking fatalities to nearly 17,500.
Poland's health ministry on Wednesday reported three possible COVID-19 hotspots, including a convent, a hotel and a mine, a day after daily cases in the country hit over a one-month high.
The ministry reported 380 new cases on Wednesday, slightly down from Tuesday's 399, which was the highest daily increase seen in over a month. In total, the country has registered 41,162 infections and 1,642 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Eighteen nuns tested positive for COVID-19 in a convent in the southern city of Czestochowa, a week after another convent in the eastern city of Lublin reported that seven nuns had tested positive. Both convents have been placed under quarantine.
Another coronavirus hotspot is a hotel in southeastern Poland, where 29 attendees of a wedding were found to be infected.
Meanwhile, a privately-owned mine in the southern region of Silesia has conducted sweeping tests among 300 workers on Wednesday morning, after at least 80 miners were infected over the last three weeks. It is the third mine in a couple of days where the coronavirus resurfaced.
People stand apart from each other as they wait in line to get tested for COVID-19, outside a mobile diagnostic tent in San Gregorio Atlapulco in the Xochimilco district of Mexico City, July 22, 2020. (REBECCA BLACKWELL / AP)
Romania set a new record in both daily and total COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, reporting 1,030 new infections, taking the country's infection tally to 40,163.
The daily increase was more than four times higher than the average daily record of less than 200 in the second half of May, when the country entered its first phase in easing lockdown restrictions.
The death toll rose to 2,101 after another 27 fatalities were reported in the past 24 hours, according to the Strategic Communication Group (GCS), the official novel coronavirus communication task force.
Health Minister Nelu Tataru said on Wednesday that Romania is going through a difficult moment as a result of the multiplication of COVID-19 cases and that the situation was due to not respecting the rules or restriction measures.
Russia reported 5,848 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, pushing its national tally to 795,038, the fourth largest in the world.
In their daily readout, officials said 147 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing Russia's official death toll to 12,892.
South Africa reported a record 572 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, almost tripling the previous daily high.
The number of confirmed infections rose to 394,948 from 381,798 the day before, the Department of Health said in a statement. It gave no explanation for the surge in death numbers. So far 5,940 people have officially died from the virus in South Africa, according to the department.
The country also said that excess deaths, a measure of mortality exceeding historical averages, have surged as the pandemic worsens. Between May 6 and July 14 there were 17,090 more deaths from natural causes than would have been expected, the South African Medical Research Council said in a weekly report published on Wednesday.
“In the past weeks, the numbers have shown a relentless increase – by the second week of July, there were 59 percent more deaths from natural causes” than historical data would have predicted, the council said in a statement. “The timing and geographic pattern leaves no room to question whether this is associated with the COVID-19 epidemic.”
Boris Johnson’s administration had no economic plan for a pandemic as coronavirus hit the UK in an “astonishing” failure of governance, a cross-party panel of lawmakers said.
Ministers didn’t consider how to deal with the economic consequences of an outbreak, despite it being identified as a top risk “for years,” the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said in a report on Thursday.
The report adds to a slew of criticism over the UK's handling of the outbreak, including that it failed to get stocks of protective equipment to staff who needed it, went into lockdown too late, and had insufficient supplies of ventilators.
The government denied the allegations and said, with the crisis ongoing, it is not the right time to review its response to the virus. Johnson has said there will be an inquiry into the epidemic, though no date has been set.
The panel said the Treasury waited until mid-March -- just days before the government shuttered businesses nationwide -- to devise the economic support programs it then rolled out. It also criticized a failure to plan how schools and pupils would be supported in the event of closures.
The UK has reported more than 297,000 confirmed cases and over 45,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Ukraine's government on Wednesday extended a nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic until Aug 31, but it will allow separate regions to ease the regime if warranted.
There have been worryingly high levels of new infections in recent weeks, which authorities attribute to a reluctance to wear masks and observe social distancing.
Ukraine has recorded almost 61,000 coronavirus cases and 1,534 deaths.
United Nations (UN) agencies launched on Wednesday a database of laws that countries had implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help protect the health and well-being of individuals and communities.
The COVID-19 Law Lab initiative gathers and shares legal documents from over 190 countries across the world to help them establish and implement strong legal frameworks to manage the pandemic, according to a statement issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The database includes state of emergency declarations, quarantine measures, disease surveillance, legal measures relating to mask-wearing, social distancing, and access to medication and vaccines. It will continue to grow as more countries and themes are added.
The WHO said the initiative will also feature research on different legal frameworks for COVID-19, with the focus on human rights impacts of public health laws, which will help countries identify best practices to guide their immediate responses to COVID-19 and socioeconomic recovery efforts.
US coronavirus deaths rose by 1,101 on Wednesday, the second day in a row that more than 1,100 fatalities were recorded, including a record one-day rise in fatalities in Alabama, California, Nevada and Texas, according to a Reuters tally.
One hard-hit Texas county is storing bodies in refrigerated trucks after COVID-19 deaths doubled in the span of a week. Crematoriums in the Hidalgo county area have a wait list of two weeks, a local official said, forcing the county to use five refrigerated trucks that can hold 50 bodies each. Hidalgo county Judge Richard Cortez, a Democrat who serves as the top county official, issued a shelter-in-place order for residents, putting him at odds with Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who maintains that local officials do not have the authority to make residents stay home.
Two women and a child wait to take a coronavirus test at a mobile testing site at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, California, July 22, 2020. (MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ / AP)
Meanwhile, California reported a record 12,807 new confirmed cases, bringing the state’s total to 413,576. With the increase, the state surpassed New York as having the most cases.
COVID-19 cases in the US could be much greater than the official statistics, according to a new analysis released by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention on Tuesday. The CDC said that the number of infections was between two and 24 times the number of offical reported cases.
Minnesota and Ohio on Wednesday became the latest states to mandate facial coverings. Minnesotans will be required to wear a mask indoors and in some outdoor spaces beginning Saturday. In Ohio, residents over age 10 will be required to wear a mask in public starting Thursday. Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also issued an executive order that requires residents to wear masks outside their homes.
At the White House, a cafeteria employee who works in a building where some staffers have offices has tested positive for the coronavirus, an NBC News reporter said on Twitter on Wednesday. The White House is doing contact tracing after the worker in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is next to the White House, tested positive, NBC News reporter Josh Lederman said. The White House Medical Office has determined the risk of transmission of the virus is low, he said.
"Realistically it is going to be the first part of next year before we start seeing people getting vaccinated," Ryan said a public event on social media. In the meantime it is key to suppress the virus' spread, he said.
WHO is working to expand access to potential vaccines and to help scale-up production capacity, Ryan said.
Ryan also cautioned schools to be careful about re-opening until community transmission of COVID-19 is under control.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe has risen to 2,034 after 214 more people tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday.
Among the new cases, 124 were citizens who returned from South Africa and Zambia while 90 were local cases.
In an update Thursday morning, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said 22 more patients recovered from the disease, raising the country's tally of recoveries to 510 while active cases stood at 1,498.
The death toll remained at 26.
Belarus reported 167 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, taking its total to 66,688.
The Health Ministry also reported that there were 378 new recoveries in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 59,439.
So far, 519 people have died from the coronavirus pandemic in the country, including six over the past 24 hours, it said.
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