Women wearing face masks carry fruits on their heads after shopping at Mbare vegetable market in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Aug 5, 2020. (TSVANGIRAYI MUKWAZHI / AP)
JOHANNESBURG / MEXICO CITY / BRASILIA / NEW YORK / WASHINGTON / DUBLIN / LONDON / BERLIN / MOSCOW / KIEV / ZURICH / WARSAW - Cases in the continent have surpassed 1 million and the actual number of infections could be several times higher with a lack of testing, the Associated Press reported, citing global health experts.
The continent recorded 1,008,028 cases, with 22,063 death, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Thursday said that the continent's tally stood at 992,710.
Rolling out sufficient testing, vital to tracking outbreaks, has been a major problem. Experts said that low levels of testing in many countries mean Africa's infection rates are likely to be higher than reported
South Africa - which is the world's fifth worst-hit nation and makes up more than half of sub-Saharan Africa's case load - has recorded 538,184 cases since its first case on March 5, the health ministry said Thursday.
In South Africa, a study showed some 17,000 deaths above the normal rate, or a 60 percent excess, between early May and mid-July, suggesting more people are dying of COVID-19 than official figures reflect.
South Africa's experiences are a precursor for what is likely to happen across the continent, the World Health Organization's (WHO) top emergencies expert Mike Ryan warned last month. But few African nations have health services as advanced as South Africa's.
Rolling out sufficient testing, vital to tracking outbreaks, has been a major problem. Some countries have only one testing machine, AP said, and some have had fewer than 500 tests per million people.
Low levels of testing in many countries mean Africa's infection rates are likely to be higher than reported, experts said.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, it can take more than a week to get results, by which time patients may have already died, government officials said.
Global COVID-19 cases surpassed 19 million on Thursday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, the global death toll topped 713,000, according to the CSSE.
The United States is the worst-hit country in this pandemic, with the highest tally and toll, followed by Brazil.
Countries with more than 400,000 cases also include India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Peru, according to the CSSE.
Six COVID-19 vaccine candidates, including three from China, have entered phase-3 trials, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Thursday.
The three Chinese candidates are from Sinovac, Wuhan Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm and Beijing Institute of Biological Products/Sinopharm, said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, at a virtual briefing.
The other three are made by the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna/NIAID and BioNTech/Fosun Pharma/Pfizer, he added.
The vaccines will be injected into the general population for the first time in phase 3, after previous trials have focused on safety, immunogenicity and immune response in a small number of humans, said the WHO official. The phase-3 trial will test whether the vaccines can "protect large numbers of people over a prolonged period of time."
In total, 165 vaccine candidates have started some forms of trials, and 26 of them in clinical trials, according to WHO records.
A volunteer is injected with a coronavirus vaccine shot as part of an Imperial College vaccine trial, at a clinic in London, Aug 5, 2020. (KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AP)
Argentina on Thursday said it was extending COVID-19 treatment and isolation measures to those who have lived with a confirmed patient and showed two or more symptoms of the disease before test results are reported.
The goal is to tackle new cases and better contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the country's ministry of health said in a statement.
Prior to the decision, health authorities focused only on those whose diagnosis was confirmed by test results, Alejandro Costa, undersecretary of health strategies, told reporters at a news conference.
The new strategy targets probable cases in areas with community transmission presenting two or more symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, breathing difficulties, or vomiting.
Argentina has reported over 220,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 4,000 deaths so far.
Austria's foreign ministry on Thursday warned against trips to Spain except for the Balearic and Canary Islands, as concerns grow that holidaymakers could catch the coronavirus and spread it once they return.
The measure will take effect from Monday, and people returning to Austria will be required to present a negative test for COVID-19, the ministry said.
Austria has reported 21,689 COVID-19 cases and 719 deaths as of Thursday. It counted 148 new cases on Wednesday, the highest increase since July 30.
The country has travel warnings for Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia in place, as well as for European Union member states Bulgaria and Romania.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued a decree on Thursday that will set aside 1.9 billion reais (US$356 million) in funds to purchase and eventually produce the potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca PLC and Oxford University researchers.
Brazil's Acting Health Minister General Eduardo Pazuello said the vaccine could be available for Brazilians by December or January.
Pazuello said Brazil would initially receive 100 million doses, which would allow for the vaccination of half the country's population, and then produce the vaccine locally.
The development came as the health ministry reported 53,139 new cases and 1,237 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing Brazil's tally to nearly 3 million and the official death toll to over 98,000.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria topped 13,014 after 297 fresh infections were reported in the last 24 hours, official figures showed Friday morning.
The health ministry said 80 of the new cases were registered in the country's capital Sofia.
In the same period, another 11 deaths were reported, taking the death toll to 435, while the number of recoveries rose by 220 to 7,374, the ministry said.
The Chilean Ministry of Health reported on Thursday that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 366,671, with 9,889 deaths.
According to the ministry, 1,947 new cases and 97 more deaths were registered in the last 24 hours.
Colombia's Ministry of Health and Social Protection on Thursday said the country's COVID-19 caseload has risen to 357,710, with 11,939 deaths.
A total of 11,996 new infections and 315 more deaths were registered in the last 24 hours, according to health authorities.
Local authorities are ramping up efforts to prevent citizens from leaving the capital Bogota to go on vacations in neighboring towns.
"The call to all citizens is to stay at home and protect their lives and those of their families. These controls are essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially in municipalities that do not present cases of the disease, to limit the risks and the speed of contagion and to control the peak of the pandemic," authorities said in a statement.
Denmark is discouraging non-essential travel to Spain following a resurgence in cases of COVID-19.
The Foreign Ministry said Spain was added to a list that already includes the UK, Bulgaria and Romania because of a “marked increase” in infections there.
Back home, plans to allow bigger crowds to gather were dropped on Thursday after the Nordic country registered its biggest daily increase in cases in three months. Danes had been expecting the current cap of 100 to be raised to 200 this weekend.
The Danish Health Authority has also decided to halt the fourth stage of the reopening plan scheduled for Saturday, the Ministry of Health announced in a press release on Thursday. Under phase 4, nightclubs, discos, and educational facilities would be allowed to reopen.
Denmark has so far reported 14,306 cases and 617 deaths, according to health authorities.
Police, joined by soldiers, ask a street vendor to vacate the area as they work to thin out the number of people on the streets, in downtown Quito, Ecuador, Aug 6, 2020. (DOLORES OCHOA / AP)
Ecuador's Ministry of Public Health reported on Thursday 1,671 new cases of COVID-19 and 30 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally to 90,537 and the death toll to 5,877.
Additionally, the country registered another 3,530 deaths likely caused by the disease, but could not be confirmed due to lack of evidence.
Quito, the current epicenter of COVID-19 in Ecuador, continues to register a sustained growth in infections, with 14,857 confirmed cases.
Egypt confirmed on Thursday 131 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the tally to 95,006, said the Health Ministry.
Another 21 deaths were reported, raising the death toll in the country to 4,951, the ministry's spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.
Also Thursday, Egypt recorded its highest single-day recoveries, with 1,716 more patients discharged from hospitals after recovery, according to the spokesman.
Earlier in the day, the Egyptian cabinet decided to ban anyone from entering Egypt without a recent PCR test that proves they are free from COVID-19, except for tourists coming via direct flights to the airports of Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, Taba and Marsa Alam.
Ethiopia's confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 20,900 after 564 new cases were confirmed on Thursday, the Ministry of Health said.
The ministry said that nine more patients died, raising the death toll to 365, while 429 more patients have recovered, taking the number of recoveries to 9,027.
The Finnish government decided on Thursday to reimpose travel restrictions on the Netherlands, Belgium and Andorra as of Aug 10.
The number of COVID-19 cases in those countries has started increasing and exceeded the Finnish criteria, the government said in a press release.
Meanwhile, Kirsi Varhila, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, said at a press conference Thursday that a "road map" for upcoming anti-COVID-19 measures would be published next week, and it would also include the criteria for requiring the use of face masks.
According to Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland has to date so far confirmed a total of 7,532 COVID-19 infections, of which 20 were new cases. The death toll stood at 331 while an estimated 6,980 people have recovered.
France reported 1,604 new cases, marking the first time since April that the country has counted more than 1,600 infections on two consecutive days.
Another seven deaths raised the death toll to 30,312, according to the Health Ministry.
French authorities are increasingly ordering people to wear masks outdoors and indoors and warning of a pandemic resurgence as soon as September.
Georgia confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the tally to 1,213, the country's centre for disease control said.
Five of the seven new cases had contact with infected individuals while one case was imported. Authorities were unable to trace the source of infection for the remaining case, the center said.
As of Friday, 994 patients have recovered while 17 others have died, the center said.
The rise in coronavirus infections in Germany is a threat to the recovery in Europe’s biggest economy, according to a government minister.
The trend in new cases is going “in completely the wrong direction,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Friday, highlighting concern among officials in the ruling coalition about a resurgence of the disease.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,147 to 214,214, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday. The reported death toll rose by eight to 9,183, the tally showed.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the country recorded 926 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours through Friday morning, down from 1,285 the previous day, taking the tally to 215,039.
The infection rate edged up to 0.99 on Thursday, from 0.90 a day earlier, the latest report from RKI showed.
Data earlier Friday showed that industry output jumped almost 9 percent in June, suggesting that the economy may recover more quickly than European peers after a record second-quarter slump. Trade figures also signaled a revival.
Hungary has ordered close to 5 million vaccine doses for the novel coronavirus under a European Union scheme to provide potential COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.
The European Commission wants to strike deals with up to six drugmakers to buy promising COVID-19 vaccines in advance.
Hungary has so far reported 4,597 confirmed cases and 600 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
A rise in the COVID-19 infection rate in Ireland is a "serious concern" but the country has not yet seen a significant resurgence in infections outside of identified clusters, a leading health official said on Thursday.
The reproduction rate, or the number of people who become infected from each positive case, has increased to 1.8 from 1.3 a week ago, Professor Philip Nolan, the chairman of the country's Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said at a news briefing.
"A reproduction number of almost 2 is a serious concern, and although we have not yet seen a significant increase in community transmission, there is a significant risk this could develop over the coming days and weeks," Nolan said.
Ireland reported 69 cases on Thursday and the average infection rate has more than doubled in recent weeks to around 50 per day. It also reported five deaths on Thursday after six days with no deaths.
In total, the country has so far reported 26,372 confirmed cases and 1,768 deaths.
Italy is better off than most of the rest of the world in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Minister Roberto Speranza told the Senate in a report on Thursday.
He cited European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) data on the rate of incidence of the new coronavirus infection per 100,000 people in various European countries over the past 14 days -- Italy had 5.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, Germany 8.4, Britain 12.6, France 19, Croatia 25.3, Spain 53.6 and Romania 75.1.
On Thursday, there were 402 new cases of coronavirus infection in Italy in the past 24 hours, bringing the current total active cases to 12,694. The death toll rose by six to 35,187 while recoveries increased to 201,323, up from 200,976 the day before, data showed.
Overall, Italy has reported 249,204 cases including infections, recoveries, and fatalities, according to the Ministry of Health.
Speranza said that Italy has entered into an alliance to find a vaccine with Germany, France, and the Netherlands, and has signed a contract with AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company, whose vaccine candidate is being elaborated at Oxford University and looks very promising.
Kenya's total number of COVID-19 cases passed the 24,000 mark on Thursday after 538 more people tested positive in the last 24 hours, the Ministry of Health said.
Rashid Aman, chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of Health, told reporters that the east African nation now has 24,411 cases.
He said recoveries rose by 514 to 10,444 while the death toll reached 399 after another eight deaths were recorded.
The National Center for Disease Control of Libya on Friday reported 404 new COVID-19 cases, binging the tally to 4,879.
Up to 652 recoveries and 107 deaths from COVID-19 have so far been reported, the center said.
The UN-backed government on Thursday decided to extend its pandemic curfew by 10 days, and made it mandatory for people to wear face masks in public, adding that violators will be fined.
Malta banned mass gatherings and made it mandatory to wear masks in public on Friday as new coronavirus cases surged after having been reduced to zero for a week early in July.
Health authorities reported 49 new infections on Friday, the second highest daily number since the first case was detected on March 7. Nine patients have died.
Prime Minister Robert Abela ordered restrictions on public gatherings and measures to limit direct access to people in nursing homes, with visitors required to remain behind Perspex screens.
The decision to reimpose controls represents a sharp turnaround for Malta, which depends on tourism for a third of its GDP.
Mexico's health ministry on Thursday reported 6,590 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and 819 fatalities, bringing the country's totals to 462,690 cases and 50,517 deaths.
The virus is spreading quickly; just over two weeks ago, the health ministry reported 40,000 deaths.
Mexico has now the third highest death toll in the world, after Brazil, which is approaching 100,000, and the United States, which has more than 160,000 fatalities.
Health ministry officials have said that both the number of both cases and deaths in Mexico are likely significantly higher than reported.
Morocco registered 1,144 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising the tally to 29,644, the health ministry said.
Recoveries increased by 559 to 20,553 while the death toll rose by 14 to 449 in the last 24 hours, said Mouad Mrabet, coordinator of the Moroccan Center for Public Health Operations at the Ministry of Health, at a press briefing.
Earlier in the day, Moroccan government extended the state of medical emergency for another month until Sept 10 amid the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.
Face masks are offered to people in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Aug 5, 2020. (MIKE CORDER / AP)
Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the Dutch public Thursday that the country can “prevent a second lockdown if we don’t throw away the head start we achieved together.”
National measures may be required to rein in the virus, Rutte said on national television, after new cases almost doubled this week compared to the previous week.
The National Institute for Health (RIVM) reported 601 new cases on Thursday, from 426 a day earlier.
Rutte called on tourists to avoid busy parts of Amsterdam. The city's mayor Femke Halsema on Wednesday began mandating masks in areas including the central Red Light prostitution district, which is a magnet for foreign tourists.
Nigeria will reopen for international air travel in a matter of weeks, the aviation minister said on Thursday, without giving a specific date for the resumption after months of closure due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
"It will be in weeks rather than in months," Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika told a regular briefing in the capital Abuja on coronavirus.
Nigeria has 44,890 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 900 deaths, figures from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control show.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Thursday the Nordic country would put on hold a planned ease of existing coronavirus restrictions and reimpose others to prevent a full lockdown of society as experienced earlier this year.
The country of 5.4 million inhabitants has seen an uptick in the number of COVID-19 infections in recent days, with a total of 9,409 cases reported as of Thursday, up 12 cases from the day before.
Also on Thursday, Norway's public health institute said said the country will on Saturday reimpose a 10-day quarantine for all travellers from France, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in those countries.
Norway will also reimpose quarantine for people travelling from Monaco and from certain regions in neighboring Sweden while lifting quarantine for other regions.
Poland reported 809 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the sixth record daily rise in two weeks, but Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin ruled out a new nationwide lockdown.
According to the Health Ministry's Twitter account, most of the cases were in and around big cities including the capital Warsaw, Katowice and Krakow. It said 259 of the new infections were in the Silesia coal mining region, where the main city is Katowice. As of Friday 1,279 coal miners were now infected, data cited by state news agency PAP showed.
The increase in new infections was faster and higher than predicted by Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski on Thursday, when he saw the daily tally rising to up to 700 during and after the weekend.
But Sasin told state television before the latest figures were announced: "There is no way that we would impose a general lockdown again."
Separately, Deputy Health Minister Janusz Cieszynski said that there were no plans for further restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus in the country, despite the number of daily cases hitting record highs.
In total, Poland has reported 50,324 COVID-19 cases and 1,787 deaths.
Russian authorities reported 5,241 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, pushing its national tally to 877,135, the fourth largest in the world.
The official death toll rose to 14,725 after officials said 119 people had died across the country in the last 24 hours.
Russia is willing to supply a coronavirus vaccine to the Philippines, or team up with a local firm to mass produce it, its ambassador to Manila said on Friday, as infections in the Southeast Asian nation surge.
South African researchers started a study to see whether the plasma from donors who’ve had the coronavirus and developed antibodies can be used to treat those who are still sick.
Convalescent plasma treatment is part of the US government’s efforts to get drugs and preventatives against COVID-19 on the market. It was recently shown to reduce the death rate of hospitalized patients, according to Johns Hopkins University. The South African trial is a first on the continent.
“The hope is that antibodies in plasma will shorten and lessen the illness,” Karin van den Berg, head of translational research at the South African National Blood Service, said Wednesday.
The service has started collecting plasma - the liquid part of blood - from donors and is waiting for the health products regulator’s approval before it can begin a randomized control trial on 600 patients. Half of these will get plasma and the other half a placebo. Patients in the trial need to be hospitalized but can’t be so sick they are on mechanical ventilation.
Sweden reported no new deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, according to the National Health Agency.
Instead, the daily total was revised down by three to 5,763, while the number of new cases increased to 82,323. The reason for the downward revision was a result of “a region adjusting its numbers,” a health agency spokesperson said by telephone.
Switzerland has signed an agreement with Moderna to secure early access to the COVID-19 vaccine the US biotech company is developing, the government said on Friday.
Switzerland will get 4.5 million doses of the vaccine, enough to vaccinate 2.25 million people if as expected two doses are needed per patient.
The government is also talking to other vaccine companies and has allocated 300 million Swiss francs (US$329 million) to the project.
Meanwhile, the government said Thursday that Switzerland has amended its list of countries at risk from high rates of infection with the new coronavirus which covers all nations outside Europe's passport-free Schengen zone barring a score of exceptions. The amended list takes effect on Saturday.
The list covers countries from which tourists cannot enter for short stays. Exceptions include Australia, Ireland, Japan, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand.
Switzerland has so far reported 36,108 confirmed cases and 1,985 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The Tunisian Ministry of Health reported 41 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the tally to 1,642.
The ministry said in a statement that a total of 1,241 patients have recovered while 51 others have died.
On Wednesday, Nissaf Ben Alaya, director-general of the National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases, said that since June 27, when Tunisia reopened its borders to tourists, a total of 346 imported cases and 66 local cases had been identified across the country.
UK infections continued to decline in June and July, indicating no impact from the government’s decision to start easing lockdowns, according to the country’s largest such study.
The overall prevalence of infection in the community was about 0.08 percent, compared with 0.13 percent in May, according to the study by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori. About 150,000 people were tested between June 19 and July 8. Of those who tested positive, 81 percent said they had no symptoms.
Across the UK, more than 309,000 confirmed cases and over 46,000 deaths had been reported so far, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Passengers arriving into Britain from Belgium, The Bahamas and Andorra will need to quarantine for 14 days due to concerns over rising COVID-19 infection rates, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Thursday.
"If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days," Shapps wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, the British region halted its program of reopening pubs and ordered citizens to wear face masks indoors after reporting the highest number of daily cases of COVID-19 since May. There were 43 newly confirmed cases on Thursday compared to a total of 18 in the previous five days.
Ukraine has recorded a steady daily increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks and the health ministry is urging people to observe safety measures to stop the epidemic getting out of control.
The ministry said new cases had risen to 1,453 as of Thursday, a new daily high since the start of epidemic. Ukraine reported 1,318 cases on Wednesday and 1,271 on Tuesday. It also reported an increase in the death toll.
"The numbers are impressive and every day we set records. We have increasing numbers of complex cases, numbers of deaths. What numbers do we need to reach in order to think about compliance with the rules?" Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said at a televised briefing.
He said the total number of infections had reached 78,261, including 1,852 deaths and 43,055 recoveries. Most cases were recorded in western Ukraine and the capital, Kiev.
Travelers wearing face masks, center, get information leaflets from employees with the Mayor's Office of Public Engagement as they arrive at Amtrak's Penn Station in New York, Aug 6, 2020. (MARK LENNIHAN / AP)
Nearly 300,000 Americans could be dead from COVID-19 by Dec 1, University of Washington health experts forecast on Thursday, although they said 70,000 lives could be saved if people were scrupulous about wearing masks.
The prediction by the university's widely cited Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) comes as top White House infectious disease advisors warned that major US cities could erupt as new hot spots if officials there were not vigilant with countermeasures.
The US death toll stands at over 160,000, the most of any country in the world, with 4.88 million known cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, on Thursday said he had tested positive for the virus ahead of a planned meeting with President Donald Trump, but had experienced no symptoms of the illness. He later said a second test came back negative and his wife and staff members had likewise tested negative.
Meanwhile, the US State Department lifted a global Level 4 health advisory in effect since March 19 that counseled US citizens to avoid all international travel due to the pandemic.
“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others,” the department is returning to country-specific levels of travel advice, according to an emailed statement.
The department urged citizens on Thursday not to travel to Mexico, and warned of the rapid spread of coronavirus in the neighboring nation.
Parts of Europe, Africa and Asia as well as Mexico are now listed at Level 3, for “reconsider travel,” while New Zealand, which has essentially eradicated the virus, is listed at Level 2, for “exercise increased caution.”
Negotiations on a new US relief bill edged toward the brink of collapse after a meeting between White House officials and top congressional Democrats ended with each side accusing the other of being unwilling to compromise and the biggest issues far from resolved.
Venezuela reported a record 981 new cases on Thursday, increasing the country’s tally of infections to 23,280.
Seven deaths were recorded, bringing the fatalities to 202, Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez said in a Twitter post.
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