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Monday, September 14, 2020, 23:13
EU countries pilot tech to link national COVID-19 tracing apps
By Agencies
Monday, September 14, 2020, 23:13 By Agencies

People crowd around a busking show in Leicester Square in London on Sept 13, 2020. (ALBERTO PEZZALI / AP)

RIO DE JANEIRO / MEXICO CITY / BRUSSELS / PARIS / CAIRO / NEW YORK / ADDIS ABABA / BERLIN / PRAGUE / MOSCOW / STOCKHOLM - A group of European countries, including Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, are testing technology that would enable their national COVID-19 tracing apps to work seamlessly across borders, an effort that could boost travel in the continent.

In a statement Monday, the European Commission said the so-called interoperability gateway service will allow for the backend servers of various national virus contact-tracing apps to share information. That means users will only need to install a single app but will still be able to report a positive infection test or receive an alert if they travel abroad.

Following the pilot test, the technology is due to be operational in October and will work for almost all apps in Europe with some exceptions like France’s, whose underlying infrastructure is incompatible. The move comes as flare-up in coronavirus infections threatens to disrupt European economies again after a brief summer respite.

The information exchanged between the servers is pseudonymised, encrypted, and only stored as long as it is necessary to trace back infections, the EU said, adding it would not allow for individuals to be identified.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 29 million on Monday while the global death toll topped 924,000, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

The United States is the worst-hit nation in this pandemic, with more than 6.5 million infections and 194,000 deaths, followed by India with more than 4.8 million cases, and Brazil with more than 4.3 million infections, according to the tally.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a record one-day increase in global coronavirus cases on Sunday, with the total rising by 307,930 in 24 hours.

The biggest increases were from India, the United States and Brazil, according to the WHO website

The biggest increases were from India, the United States and Brazil, according to the agency’s website. Deaths rose by 5,537 to a total of 917,417.

India reported 94,372 new cases, followed by the United States with 45,523 new infections and Brazil with 43,718.

Both the United States and India each reported over 1,000 new deaths and Brazil reported 874 lives lost in the past 24 hours.

The previous WHO record for new cases was 306,857 on Sept 6. The agency reported a record 12,430 deaths on April 17.

ALSO READ: AstraZeneca resumes UK trials of COVID-19 vaccine

Africa

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said that as of Sunday, more than 12 million COVID-19 tests have been conducted across the African continent with a 10 percent positivity rate.

According to the latest figures from the Africa CDC, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa has surged to 1,346,658 as of Sunday. 

The death toll stood at 32,502 while 1,083,438 people had recovered from COVID-19, according to the Africa CDC.

READ MORE: Falling infection rates bring hope in Africa

The Africa CDC has urged the African continent to augment COVID-19 testing capacity so as to effectively contain the spread of the virus across the continent. Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong had emphasized that as a continent, Africa needs to conduct about 15 million tests per month to be ahead of the pandemic.  

On vaccine development, Nkengasong told Xinhua that Africa was "making very good progress". "We are now developing a continental strategy for vaccine, a framework that will guide vaccine development and access efforts in Africa," Nkengasong said.

Vaccine supplies

There won’t be enough COVID-19 vaccines available for everyone in the world until the end of 2024 at the earliest, the chief of the world’s largest vaccine maker said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India, which has a partnership to produce AstraZeneca’s shot, said in the report that drug companies weren’t increasing production capacity quickly enough to vaccinate the global population in less time.

The forecast comes as others -- from US President Donald Trump to Pfizer Inc’s CEO -- have said a vaccine will be ready as early as this year, though manufacturing enough shots and getting them to all corners of the globe will take far longer. Governments have scrambled to make deals securing supplies, raising concerns that poorer developing nations will be last in line for administering shots.

Algeria

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad on Sunday said that the date for the start of the 2020-2021 school year would be decided based on the COVID-19 situation in the country, the official APS news agency reported.

Djerad told media that the scientific committee monitoring the spread of COVID-19 would provide its professional suggestion for the date of opening schools to the government.

He affirmed that the epidemiological situation in the country was stable now thanks to the respect of preventive health measures.

Algeria on Sunday reported 247 new COVID-19 cases and seven more fatalities, bringing the tally to 48,254 and the death toll to 1,612, said the Ministry of Health in a statement.

It was the lowest daily infection increase since June 29, according to the statement.

Protesters hold up placards during a demonstration of the health care sector in the center of Brussels on Sept 13, 2020. (OLIVIER MATTHYS / AP)

Belgium

Around 4,000 health workers demonstrated in Brussels on Sunday, calling for more spending on the healthcare system in a country that was badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Police estimated around 4,000 people took part in the protest.

The event was organized by health workers group La Santé en Lutte, who demand an end to the "commodification of care" and say the coronavirus crisis has exposed the fragility of Belgium's healthcare system, including a lack of adequate protection for staff and enough testing for the virus.

Belgium has reported 9,923 fatalities from COVID-19, which puts it the third-highest in the world for deaths per 100,000 people - behind the tiny city state of San Marino and Peru. The government has said the high rate is explained by its decision to include in its tally deaths where COVID-19 is only suspected, not confirmed.

Brazil

Brazil registered 415 deaths from the novel coronavirus over the last 24 hours and 14,768 additional cases, the health ministry said on Sunday.

The nation has now registered 4,330,455 total confirmed coronavirus cases and 131,625 deaths.

In terms of total coronavirus deaths, Brazil trails only the United States. However, new cases and deaths have stabilized over the last several weeks in Latin America's largest country.

Chile

Chile’s Health Minister Enrique Paris said Sunday that he was concerned about the growing number of the COVID-19 infections in the past week in four southern regions.

The regions of Araucania, Aysen, Los Rios and Maule, all south of the capital city Santiago, have registered an increase in cases in the last seven days, he said.

The Ministry of Health said Sunday that the rate of testing positive for COVID-19 has dropped from 17 percent to 6 percent in the last 90 days nationwide, including Santiago.

In the past 24 hours, tests detected 2,082 new infections, taking the total caseload to 434,748, while 54 newly reported deaths pushed the death toll to 11,949.  

Colombia

Colombia reported 7,355 new COVID-19 cases and 190 more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally and death toll to 716,319 and 22,924, respectively, according to the Ministry of Health.

William Dau, mayor of the Caribbean city of Cartagena, said that Independence Day festivities on Nov 11 would be held virtually to avoid crowds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism Jose Manuel Restrepo presided over the reopening ceremony of a theme park in the west-central city of Pereira, which has closed for five months due to the pandemic.

"Next week our beaches will reopen with certain requirements," he said, including "control of entry and exit to each of the beaches to control capacity."

Czech Republic

If the growth rate of new cases remains at the current level, and no measures are taken to counter it, the Czech Republic’s hospitals may reach limits for caring for COVID -19 patients by the end of October, according to Roman Prymula, the government’s heath commissioner.

The Czech Republic recorded 792 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, a drop after five consecutive days with more than 1,000 cases each, Health Ministry's data showed on Monday.

The new cases brought the overall number of confirmed cases to 36,188.

Egypt

Egypt confirmed on Sunday 153 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total cases registered in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic to 101,009, said the Health Ministry.

Another 21 patients died, bringing the death toll to 5,648, while 900 others were cured and discharged from hospitals, taking the total recoveries to 84,161, the ministry's spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.

Total recoveries in Egypt currently exceed 83 percent of the total cases registered in the country.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia's Ministry of Health announced on Sunday that the number of COVID-19 related deaths in the country reached 1,013, after 17 more deaths were confirmed.

The total number of COVID-19 cases hit 64,301, after 413 new cases were registered, the ministry said.

The ministry also said that some 24,983 patients had recovered, including the 490 reported in the last 24-hour period.

According to the ministry, a total of 38,303 COVID-19 patients are still undergoing medical treatment, including 342 in severe condition.

France

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin criticized on Monday Olympique Marseille's (OM) fans for celebrating en masse on the streets of the city after Marseille beat Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), given the risks from the COVID-19 virus in France.

"One can only condemn the images that we are seeing," Darmanin told LCI television, when shown TV footage of hordes of Marseille supporters partying after the win in close proximity to one another, with many not wearing masks.

France's health authorities on Sunday reported 7,183 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, down from a record 10,561 new infections on Saturday.

In a daily website update, the French health ministry also reported the number of arrivals in hospital for COVID-19 over the past week had risen to 2,464 compared with 2,432 recorded on Saturday. These included 427 admissions to intensive care units over the past seven days, it said.

The death toll since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak this year in French hospitals and nursing homes had reached 30,916, with six deaths recorded in the past 24 hours, according to the health ministry.

ALSO READ: UN's Guterres calls for US$35b more for WHO vaccine program

Germany

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 927 to 260,355, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday.

The reported death toll rose by one to 9,350, the tally showed.

Ireland

Ireland plans to replace its current system of travel quarantines with the European Union's (EU) proposed coordinated system as soon as it is ready, Prime Minister Micheal Martin told RTE television on Saturday.

The European Commission earlier this month proposed a common traffic light system for EU member states to coordinate border controls and remedy the current, confusing patchwork of coronavirus restrictions on travellers across Europe.

Students gather outside the Visconti high school on the first day of the school's reopening, in Rome, Italy, Sept 14, 2020. (GREGORIO BORGIA / AP)

Italy

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi left hospital on Monday after recovering from the new coronavirus, saying he had survived “the most dangerous challenge” of his life.

Italy reopened most of its schools on Monday after a six-month shutdown, the longest in Europe. 

Schools in 13 of the country's 20 regions cautiously resumed face-to-face lessons, calling back 5.6 million students to their desks. The remaining seven regions have decided to delay for another week.

Also on Monday, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi left hospital on Monday after overcoming coronavirus, saying he had survived "the most dangerous challenge" of his life. 

Italy reported 1,458 new cases on Sunday, compared with 1,501 the previous day, with 72,143 daily tests.  There were seven additional deaths, higher than the six deaths reported on Saturday. 

The numbers remain distant from the pandemic’s peak of 6,557 new infections in a day on March 21. Total cases reported since February rose to 287,753.

Libya

The National Center for Disease Control of Libya on Sunday reported 433 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 22,791.

The center said in a statement that it received a total of 2,725 suspected samples, of which 433 tested positive, adding that 83 more patients have recovered while another eight people had died, raising the total number of recoveries to 12,183 and the death toll to 362.

Mexico

Mexico reported 4,408 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 217 additional fatalities on Sunday, bringing its totals to 668,381 infections and 70,821 deaths, according to updated Health Ministry data.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely to be significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Morocco

Morocco reported on Sunday 2,251 new COVID-19 infections, taking the tally to 86,686.

The number of recoveries increased by 1,661 to 67,528 while the death toll rose by 25 to 1,578, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Namibia

Namibia's COVID-19 death toll has risen to 101, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services Esther Muinjangue said Sunday.

She said the country recorded 115 newly confirmed coronavirus infections, 732 new cases of recovery and three more deaths.

In total, Namibia has recorded a total of 9,719 confirmed cases, with 6,543 recoveries.  

Norway

Norway’s infection rate has risen to 24.8 per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks, overtaking Sweden’s rate of 24.0, Aftenposten reported. That’s despite Norway introducing stricter restrictions than its neighbor.

The country has so far reported 12,154 confirmed cases and 265 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Portugal

Portugal reported 673 cases, bringing the tally to 63,983, the government said. 

The country has had more than 600 daily new confirmed coronavirus cases in three of the last five days, remaining at a level last recorded in April. The number of cases in intensive care units fell.

The government announced last week that from Sept 15 the limit on gatherings in Portugal will be tightened to 10 people from 20, aligning other regions with a rule that’s already in place for Lisbon.

Romania 

Romania reopened schools for 2.8 million children on Monday after a six-month closure to fight the coronavirus outbreak, ordering pupils to wear face masks as infections rise.

With 104,000 cases, and new infections jumping above 1,000 a day since July, millions of teachers, students and parents face a tough challenge to adapt after months of online teaching at home.

Russia

Russia reported 5,509 new coronavirus cases on Monday, pushing its national tally to 1,068,320, the fourth largest in the world.

Authorities said 57 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 18,635.

Sweden

Sweden on Monday took Britain off its red-list of countries it advises citizens not to travel to, despite a pick-up in new coronavirus cases and restrictions on public gatherings.

Swedes can now travel freely to most European destinations, though Finland, Ireland, the Baltic countries and Malta remainon the red-list.

Sweden has so far reported 86,505 confirmed cases and 5,846 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

UK

The United Kingdom has reported 3,330 confirmed new daily cases of COVID-19, according to government data published on Sunday, compared with 3,497 a day earlier.

The new cases pushed the tally to 368,504, according to the data.

It also reported a further five deaths from the disease, bringing the toll to 41,628, according to figures that show fatalities within 28 days of a first positive test.

Scotland reported 244 new cases, the most since May 6.

England is due to bring in a new ban on social gatherings on Monday that limits the number of people who can gather indoors or outdoors to six, in a bid to curb a rise in infections.

People sit in circles marked on the grass to aid in social distancing at Domino Park in New York, Sept 13, 2020. (MICHAEL NAGLE / XINHUA)

US

Coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 6.5 million on Sunday while the death toll topped 193,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

The US tally stood at 6,501,904, with the death toll at 193,843 as of 1:26 pm local time (1726 GMT), according to JHU data.

California is the hardest-hit state, with 759,437 cases, followed by Texas and Florida, which have both recorded more than 660,000 cases, the data showed.

READ MORE: Trump admits downplaying danger of virus

Pfizer Inc Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said it’s “likely” the US would deploy a COVID-19 vaccine to the public before year-end and that the company is prepared for that scenario, pushing back against more tepid expectations shared by health authorities.

Bourla said Sunday on CBS Face the Nation that he’s “quite comfortable” that the vaccine the company is developing in partnership with BioNTech SE is safe and that it could be available to Americans before 2021, contingent on an approval from US regulators at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Pfizer and BioNTech said in a statement Saturday that they expect to enroll the 30,000 patients they originally sought for its final-phase clinical trial this week. They are also expanding that target to 44,000 participants to include people as young as 16, and to allow those with HIV and Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.


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