A man wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic rides a bike past the closed-down Tery's bar (centre) in the rural village of Dunmore, west of Ireland, on September 3, 2020. (PAUL FAITH / AFP)
RIO DE JANEIRO / PARIS / MILAN / LONDON / CHICAGO / COPENHAGEN / ADDIS ABABA / PRAGUE / ABUJA / STOCKHOLM / TBILISI / DUBLIN - Ireland on Tuesday set out new rules for its quarantine-free travel “green list”, saying visitors from a list of countries with a COVID-19 infection rate of under 25 cases per 100,000 over the past two weeks can skip a 14-day quarantine.
Previously the green list was made up of countries with lower infection rates than Ireland, but the government stopped updating the list when cases in Ireland surged to 45 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days.
Prime Minister Micheal Martin said that the government would soon publish a new list and would then adopt a coordinated EU system of travel restrictions that he said would be approved an EU General Affairs Council meeting on Oct 13.
AstraZeneca vaccine trial in US
A World Health Organization (WHO) official said Tuesday that the decision by AstraZeneca to pause global trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine after an unexplained illness showed the firm was prioritizing safety.
"This is what we want to see with trials, it is a well-run trial. Safety is always critical, it is crucial and they have looked at that in an appropriate manner," Margaret Harris told journalists in Geneva.
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial remains on hold in the US pending a US investigation into a serious side effect in Britain even as other trials of the vaccine resume, sources familiar with the details said
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial remains on hold in the United States pending a US investigation into a serious side effect in Britain even as other trials of the vaccine resume, sources familiar with the details told Reuters.
The drugmaker and its partner, the University of Oxford, restarted the UK trial of the vaccine on Saturday after it was halted on Sept 6. The UK Medicines Health Regulatory Authority recommended the study resume after an independent review of the safety data had triggered the pause.
READ MORE: AstraZeneca resumes UK trials of COVID-19 vaccine
Sources told Reuters that enrollment of new patients and other trial procedures for the pivotal US trial were being rescheduled until at least midweek and that it was not clear how long it would take for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to complete its probe.
AstraZeneca and the FDA didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The status of the South African and Indian trials remains unknown, but the trial in Brazil has also restarted. The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which is running the trials in Brazil, said in a statement that 4,600 of the planned 5,000 volunteers have been vaccinated in Brazil without any of them reporting any serious health issues.
Health ministers, high-level representatives of all 53 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region and partner organizations, as well as representatives from civil society, gathered online on Monday to discuss major health issues, pledging solidarity in response to COVID-19 crisis.
According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the average daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region is now higher than it was during the first peak in March. "Fortunately, the number of deaths appears to be remaining at a relatively low level, for now," he noted.
Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, reiterated: "We have stood next to WHO at every step of the way and we will continue to do so." Her comment was echoed by speakers from the WHO Regional Committee for Europe member states.
WHO Europe members and partners were unanimous in working together for a vaccine against COVID-19 and thanked the regional office for its COVID-19 response.
"We need to join forces. Whether it is in utilizing and promoting existing vaccines; fighting disinformation and vaccine hesitancy, or in our efforts to develop a vaccine to fight the coronavirus globally," Kyriakides said.
According to Kyriakides, the European Union (EU) has committed 400 million euros (about US$475 million) to COVAX Facility, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, to ensure vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
ALSO READ: EU countries pilot tech to link national COVID-19 tracing apps
An MTA employee, left, who volunteers with the MTA's "Mask Force", hands out free face masks to commuters at the Atlantic Avenue - Barclays Center station, in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Sept 14, 2020. (MARY ALTAFFER / AP)
Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 29.2 million on Tuesday while the global death toll topped 928,000, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded across the African continent has reached 1,353,283 while the death toll has risen to 32,625, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said on Monday.
A total of 1,090,676 people have recovered, the Africa CDC added.
Africa’s caseload represents about 5 percent of the global tally, according to the Africa CDC.
In terms of having the highest cumulative incidence of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in Africa, South Africa ranked first at 1,079, followed by Cabo Verde at 647 and Djibouti at 539.
The new 2020-2021 school year in Albania started on Monday with around 480,000 pre-university students returning to school.
Amid the pandemic, students, teachers and staff will have to follow special protocols, including the wearing of masks on school premises and daily temperature checks for students.
Schools with over 1,000 students will alternate classes in two, three or four shifts, and each class has no more than 20 students.
Health authorities reported 167 new coronavirus cases and four more deaths on Monday, bringing the tally to 11,520, including 6,615 recoveries and 338 fatalities.
Brazil registered 15,115 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, totalling 4,345,610, the health ministry said.
Deaths rose by 381 to 131,625.
Brazil’s chief justice has tested positive for COVID-19, less than a week after taking the top position on the country’s Supreme Court.
Luiz Fux will be isolated at home for 10 days, during which he “intends to conduct the session of the virtual plenary on Wednesday,” his press office said in a statement Monday. He may have contracted the virus at a family lunch, according to the statement.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bulgaria reached 18,061 after 143 new infections were reported in the last 24 hours, official figures showed on Tuesday morning.
Nine more patients died, bringing the nationwide toll to 729, while the number of recoveriesrose by 163 to 12,930, the health ministry said.
The number of infected medical workers stood at 1,009, it added.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday urged Canadians to remain vigilant or risk a second economic lockdown as COVID-19 cases grow across the country.
Daily COVID-19 case numbers have fluctuated across Canada in recent weeks. Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia are seeing a spike in infections. On Monday morning, Ontario reported 313 cases, the highest single-day increase in cases since June 7.
In total, Canada has recorded 136,659 confirmed cases, including 9,171 deaths, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. An average of 618 new cases were reported daily during the most recent seven days, according to the agency.
Canadian Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the current spread of COVID-19 is different from the first wave. She said the next two weeks will be an important indicator in where Canada is in the pandemic.
Chile announced on Monday that its COVID-19 death toll as risen to 12,013 after 64 more patients died in the previous 24 hours.
According to the Ministry of Health, 1,685 new infections were detected in the past 24 hours, pushing the total caseload to 436,433.
Deputy Minister of Public Health Paula Daza said officials have moved to improve tracing by stepping up their monitoring of confirmed active cases, including those who are asymptomatic, to "isolate them".
With the Sept 17 to 19 national holiday celebrations approaching, Daza urged citizens to maintain social distancing and safety measures. She said the capital Santiago and the metropolitan region will have 100 new inspectors on the lookout for banned parties.
Colombia reported 199 deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 23,123, the Health Ministry said on Monday.
Meanwhile, 5,573 new COVID-19 cases were registered, bringing the nationwide tally to 721,892, the ministry said.
A total of 606,925 patients have so far recovered from the disease, it said.
The Colombian Transplant Association warned that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, organ donation in the country has been substantially reduced and more patients on the waiting list are dying.
The reproduction 'R' rate of COVID-19 infections in the Czech Republic has risen to 1.59, the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (UZIS) said on Tuesday, showing the spread of the virus amid a spike in cases in the country.
UZIS said that although the figure can be influenced by a number of factors such as testing rates or local outbreaks, the indicator had risen to above 1 in all regions of the country. The estimate was from data up to Sept 12.
The Czech Republic reported 1,038 new cases of the virus on Monday, the sixth time in the past week the daily rise was above the 1,000 level, which it breached for the first time in September.
Of a total 37,222 cases reported since the first virus detection in March, 465 patients have died and 22,129 have recovered. Hospitalisations had risen to 305 as of Sunday, up from 172 on Sept 1.
A woman wearing a face mask and a face shield walks in downtown Quito, Ecuador, Sept 14, 2020. (DOLORES OCHOA / AP)
Ecuador on Monday lifted pandemic lockdown restrictions that were imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), including a nighttime curfew and ban on social gatherings.
The restrictions were lifted as a nationwide state of emergency that was imposed on Feb 29 expired at midnight. Safety and social distancing measures, such as the use of face masks and hand sanitizers, will remain in place.
As part of this "new normal" phase, local governments will be in charge of monitoring their outbreaks and adopting restrictions if there is a rise in infections.
The Ministry of Public Health on Monday said tests detected 317 new infections in the previous 24 hours and 19 more deaths, taking the tally to 118,911 and the death toll to 7,138.
Egypt recorded on Monday 168 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections in the country to 101,177, the health ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said 13 more deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 5,661, while another 808 patients had recovered, taking the total number of recoveries to 84,969.
France reported more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday, down from the previous day’s figure, as Bordeaux and Marseille announced stricter measures to control the pandemic.
Laboratory-confirmed cases rose by 6,158 to 387,252 in the past 24 hours, health authorities said on their website. Deaths rose by 34 to 30,950.
The hospitalizations figure shot up by 251 on Monday, the largest daily increase since April 14, while the number of people in intensive care units passed the 700 threshold for the first time since June 22 to stand at 712.
Amid the surge in cases, Bordeaux and Marseille both imposed stricter curbs, including lowering the the number of visitors allowed at care homes.
Bordeaux said the limit for outdoor public gatherings will be lowered to 1,000, while bars and restaurants will be shut down unless social-distancing rules are observed strictly.
In Marseille, single groups of more than 10 people sunbathing on beaches and parks are now banned, and school trips and student parties suspended, the head of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region said. The measures apply until Oct 1. A mandatory order to wear masks in public spaces indoors and outside in Marseille was also extended to 26 surrounding districts.
Georgia reported 170 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, its highest number since the outbreak of the virus in the country, bringing its total to 2,562.
A total of 124 of the 170 new cases were confirmed in the western Adjara region, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health said.
As of Tuesday, 1,381 of the 2,562 patients have recovered, while 19 others have died, said the center.
Georgia reported its first confirmed case on Feb. 26.
BioNTech SE will get as much as 375 million euros (US$445 million) from Germany to back its COVID-19 vaccine program, about half of the money the government set aside to accelerate development of immunizations.
The German biotech company is working with Pfizer Inc and Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co on what is expected to be one of the first vaccines to deliver results from late-stage human trials. Pfizer has repeatedly said data from a US study could be ready next month.
Germany is splitting its funding between BioNTech and rival vaccine developers CureVac NV and IDT Biologika GmbH. CureVac will get 230 million euros, while talks are still going on with IDT Biologika, Research Minister Anja Karliczek said in a press conference in Berlin. The other two companies are a bit behind BioNTech in the vaccine development timeline and haven’t yet started the large trials necessary to see whether their vaccines work.
German authorities cautioned against hasty use of vaccines in the wider public before careful testing in humans shows whether they’re safe and effective. Broad use of a vaccine against the virus will probably not come before the middle of next year, Karliczek said.
The government funding will help BioNTech build out manufacturing and development capacity in its home market, the Mainz-based company said. Pfizer will keep paying for its share of development costs for the experimental vaccine without public money.
The New York-traded depositary receipts of BioNTech rose 3.7 percent before US markets opened, while CureVac’s shares rose 1.9 percent in New York pre-market.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 1,407 to 261,762, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.
The death toll rose by 12 to 9,362, the tally showed.
Italy reported on Monday 1,008 new coronavirus infections. The country has now recorded at least 1,000 new infections for 20 out of the 24 days since Aug 22.
Fourteen more deaths were also reported, taking the toll to 35,624, while the number of recoveries totaled 213,950, up 316 from the previous day.
The number of patients in intensive care units was 197, four times the all-time low of 49 recorded in July and 10 patients more than Sunday.
The total number of active cases rose by 678 to 39,187, but has remained below 40,000 for the 105th consecutive day, starting June 1.
The government said the reopening of dance halls and the right of sports fans to attend games in person were still at least a month away. The government also delayed a decision on whether to allow trains to travel at 80 percent capacity compared with 50-percent under current rules.
A technical school in Mozambique's central province Manica closed on Monday, after two students tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a report from Radio Mozambique, health authorities have isolated the positive cases and collected samples of 65 students from the institute located in the district of Vanduzi, and the disinfection work of the school's infrastructure was already underway.
Meanwhile, the Mozambican Ministry of Health (MISAU) launched on Monday a new epidemiological survey to better understand the spread of the COVID-19 virus in Matola, the capital city of the southern Maputo province.
Mozambique has so far reported 5,482 confirmed cases and 35 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Morocco reported 1,517 new COVID-19 cases and 36 more deaths on Monday, bringing the tally to 88,203 and the death toll to 1,614.
The total number of recoveries rose by 1,442 to 68,970, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
Nigerian health workers demanding the payment of a hazard allowance for treating coronavirus patients have gone on strike only a week after doctors in Africa's most populous country staged a walk out.
The Joint Health Service Unions (JOHESU) - representing medical staff such as nurses, midwives and radiologists - said the strike, which began on Monday, would last for seven days. Doctors across the country however will continue to work.
The trade union's demands include life insurance for its members, full access to protective equipment and pay structure adjustments. The JOHESU said it would launch an indefinite strike if the demands are not met within the next week.
Health Minister Osagie Ehanire, in a statement issued late on Monday as part of a briefing by the government's task force on the new coronavirus, urged health workers to call off the stoppage.
Nigeria has a total of 56,388 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,083 deaths.
A student wearing a face mask disinfects his hands at Luis de Freitas Branco high school in Paco de Arcos, near Lisbon, Portugal, on Sept 14, 2020, the first day of the new school year. (PETRO PIUZA / XINHUA)
Portugal on Monday reported 613 new cases in a day, taking the total to 64,596, the government said. The country has had more than 600 daily new confirmed coronavirus cases in four of the last six days.
Of the new cases reported today, only 10 percent are people who are more than 70 years old, the age group in which there’s greater risk of complications from COVID-19, Secretary of State for Health Antonio Lacerda Sales said at a press conference in Lisbon on Monday.
Russia’s new cases and deaths rose the most since late July as the virus spread with the return of millions to school and work.
The government reported 5,529 new cases and 150 deaths, taking the tally to 1,073,849 and the toll to 18,785.
“Many people are coming back from vacations, schoolchildren and students started their studies -- several risk factors coincided at once,” Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Monday at a televised meeting of officials on the virus.
Moscow isn’t planning new restrictions to limit the spread in the city, according to Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.
A group of 15 scientists from five countries sent a formal letter to the Lancet on Monday outlining doubts about the accuracy of early data on Russia's COVID-19 vaccine, one of the authors told Reuters, adding further fuel to a dispute surrounding the "Sputnik-V" shot.
The official letter came days after a larger group of scientists - including the 15 - signed an open letter to the Lancet's editor, published on Bucci's personal blog, after the journal published the early-stage trial results from Moscow's Gamaleya Institute.
Slovakia said on Monday it would put the Czech Republic on its "red list" of high-risk countries, meaning travelers across the border would need a negative COVID-19 test or to go into five-day quarantine followed by a test.
Sweden will lift its ban on visits to care homes, the government said on Tuesday, as a result of a falling rate of new coronavirus infections and better routines to prevent new cases in old people’s homes.
A surge in cases and deaths in care homes forced the government to introduce the ban at the start of April and the current restriction lasts until the end of September.
“The national ban on visits to care homes has for many elderly and their relatives, been one of the most difficult restrictions during the pandemic,” Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren told reporters.
“The decrease in new infections across the population, the measures that have already been taken in care homes, together with new guidelines from authorities mean that the ban can be lifted.”
While many countries in Europe are seeing a rise in new cases, the number of new infections and deaths has been steady at a low level in Sweden in recent weeks.
However, the country has recorded far more deaths since the start of the outbreak - around 5,850 - in terms of its population than its Nordic neighbours. Many of the dead were residents in care homes.
Norway, with a population around half Sweden’s 10.2 million, has had around 265 deaths.
Boris Johnson’s government acknowledged its COVID-19 testing program is coming under strain, amid reports of tests being unavailable even where they’re most needed in the country’s biggest virus hot-spots.
“This is challenging,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told Times Radio on Tuesday. “There is no magic solution to say this is all going to be perfect.”
"The majority of tests are available within a 10 mile (16 km) radius," she told BBC TV separately, although she conceded that in some extreme cases people wouldn't be able to get a test locations within that radius.
Patel's remarks came a day after LBC Radio reported there were no walk-in, drive-through or home tests accessible online in the worst-affected virus areas, including Bolton, Salford, Blackburn and Manchester.
The UK reported 2,621 new positive cases on Monday, Public Health England said, taking the cumulative total number of cases to 371,125.
Public Health England also said nine additional deaths had been reported, taking the UK toll since the start of the pandemic to 41,637.
Researchers are beginning the first study of whether two of the UK’s experimental COVID-19 vaccines can be inhaled, a possible way of raising their ability to prevent the airborne infection. The study will compare vaccine candidates from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford delivered by inhalation through the mouth, according to a statement Monday. The hope is that targeting cells in the lining of the lungs will induce a more effective immune response.
Separately, researchers will start testing an antibody cocktail developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc in a key trial of possible COVID-19 treatments.
Coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 6.5 million on Monday as the death toll neared 195,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The COVID-19 positivity rate in Houston continued to drop, the city's Health Department said , with the rate at 6.1 percent as of Monday, down from 6.6 percent last week.
Meanwhile, Texas’s positivity rate slumped to 6.71 percent, the lowest since June 4, after the second-largest US state revamped its calculation methodology. The state made the changes Monday in response to growing criticism about wildly volatile ratios brought on by data-analysis glitches. The Texas Department of State Health Services said it was no longer accepting test results sent by laboratories via fax, and eliminating duplicate cases.
On virus relief aid, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will testify before the Senate Banking Committee on coronavirus relief, the committee said in a statement on Monday.
Zimbabwe's government on Monday further extended operating hours for businesses as it gradually reopens the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said that the operating hours for retail, wholesale and service businesses will start from 6:30 am to 6:30 p.m. with immediate effect.
Meanwhile, examination classes for the British-run Cambridge examinations opened on Monday while examination classes for the locally-run Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council will open on Sept 28.
As of Sunday, Zimbabwe had recorded 7,526 COVID-19 cases, including 5,678 recoveries and 224 deaths.
HONG KONG NEWS