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Monday, October 19, 2020, 22:30
Wales announces 2-week virus lockdown starting Friday
By Agencies
Monday, October 19, 2020, 22:30 By Agencies

Shoppers wearing PPE, of a face masks or coverings as a precautionary measure against spreading COVID-19, pose for a selfie photograph as they queue to enter a Zara clothing store in Cardiff on June 22, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)

PANAMA CITY / MEXICO CITY / BRASILIA / CAPE TOWN / MILAN / PARIS / PRAGUE / WARSAW / LONDON / DUBLIN / AMSTERDAM / ZURICH / NEW YORK / TRIPOLI / SANTIAGO / OTTAWA / SKOPJE / RABAT / KIEV / BERLIN / MOSCOW / HELSINKI / VIENNA / TUNIS / SARAJEVO - The government of Wales announced a two-week lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted he doesn’t want similar measures across the border in England.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said everyone in Wales will be required to stay at home between Oct. 23 and Nov. 9, and all pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail outlets will be closed.

Primary schools will reopen after the half-term break and secondary schools will open again only for children in years seven and eight, Drakeford said in a televised statement on Monday.

Northern Ireland has already ordered schools to close for the next two weeks, with most businesses facing tough restrictions for a month.

But James Slack, the prime minister’s official spokesman, said Johnson prefers a “balanced regional approach” for England.

Global COVID-19 cases

The global COVID-19 caseload surpassed 40 million on Monday, according to a tally by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The global death toll exceeded 1.1 million, the tally showed.

The United States is the worst-hit country with more than 8.15 million case and 219,000 deaths, according to the tally. Countries with more than 1,000,000 cases also include India, Brazil and Russia.

Record numbers of infections are rolling across Europe while the US and India are averaging more than 50,000 cases a day.

Millions of Europeans are facing tighter restrictions on movement, with London and Paris enforcing stricter curbs and Ireland preparing some of the region’s toughest measures.

WHO's guidance on remdesivir 

The World Health Organization (WHO) will revise its guidance on the use of remdesivir in coming weeks following the results of the Solidarity trial in which it was found not to reduce the risk of death, Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at a briefing in Geneva. 

The review will take into account all studies on the drug.

The WHO will only give recommendations on vaccines once it has Phase 3 data about them, Swaminathan said when asked about Russian health authorities approving a second vaccine for public use.

ALSO READ: Divided world is failing COVID-19 test, says frustrated UN chief

Africa tally

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded across the African continent reached 1,636,748 while the death toll hit 39,559 as of Sunday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.


Austria is limiting gatherings to a maximum of six people indoors and 12 outside, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday, to battle a steady rise in coronavirus infections.

Kurz said at a news conference that infections were doubling roughly every three weeks.

The new rules take effect on Friday and will be different for professionally organized events, which will be capped at 1,500 people outdoors and 1,000 indoors. The one exception for private gatherings is for funerals, but Kurz conceded that police would not generally be checking private homes either.

Shops, restaurants, bars and theaters remain open.


Brazil reported 10,982 new cases, the fifth-lowest daily increase since the early days of the pandemic last spring, according to Health Ministry data released Sunday. 

Daily deaths rose by 230, the second-fewest since late April. 

The South American country has now registered 5,235,344 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 153,905, according to ministry data.


Bulgaria will not need to impose a full lockdown to contain the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic if it follows protective measures like mask-wearing and social distancing, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said.

The country has so far reported 29,503 confirmed cases and 986 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


Canada's COVID-19 tally is expected to surpass the 200,000 mark on Monday.

As of Sunday afternoon, Canada has reported a total of 198,124 cases and 9,760 deaths, according to CTV.

The country reported 1,803 new cases Sunday noon. Quebec province accounted for 1,094 of the new cases, marking the third day in a row the province had more than 1,000 new cases.

Ontario province reported the second-highest number of new cases with 658 infections. Manitoba province had 44.


New cases of the novel coronavirus declined in 11 regions in Chile over the past week, Health Minister Enrique Paris said on Sunday.

Nationwide, newly confirmed cases fell 7 percent in the past week and 10 percent in the past 14 days, according to Paris.

The minister said 1,759 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, 26 percent of which were detected through an active case search, which involved teams of experts and volunteers visiting communities to carry out tests.

To date, 491,760 people have tested positive for the coronavirus since the outbreak began in Chile.

In the past 24 hours, 47 more patients have died, raising the death toll to 13,635. 

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic, which has the highest coronavirus infection rate in Europe, will wait at least two weeks before deciding whether to order a full lockdown to stem its epidemic, Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlicek said on Sunday.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said it had registered 828 cases per 100,000 population in the last two weeks, more than 10 times the rate in neighbouring Germany.

Since schools reopened in September, the cumulative number of cases has risen almost seven times.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on CNN Prima's Sunday show the new measures should cut the R number by 30 percent to 40 percent. The current rate is estimated at around 1.4.

The Czech Fire Rescue Service said it had sent a formal request through European Union channels for ventilators.


Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has tested negative for coronavirus, her office said on Monday, after she had left the European Union summit prematurely on Friday due to coming near people who later tested positive.

"The prime minister will continue her self-isolation and she will be tested again on Monday," the office said in a statement.

Marin's voluntary quarantine will end if the second test result proves negative, her office added.


The French health ministry reported 29,837 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday after reporting 32,427 on Saturday and 85 additional deaths after 90 the previous day.

The total number of infections since the start of the year now stands at 897,034 while the death toll stands at 33,477.


Georgia reported 1,186 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing its tally to 18,663.

A total of 469 of the 1,186 new cases were confirmed in the capital city of Tbilisi, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) said.

As of Monday, 8,338 of the 18,663 patients have recovered while 143 others have died, said the center.

A woman wearing a face mask passes by the Old Opera in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct 18, 2020. (MICHAEL PROBST / AP)


Coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 4,325 to 366,299 while the death toll rose by 12 to 9,789, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday.


Ireland will bring in "decisive" nationwide COVID-19 restrictions on Monday but will stop short of reintroducing the kind of lockdown imposed earlier this year, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said on Sunday.

The cabinet is due to meet Monday to finalize the restrictions.

"Tomorrow we will have to bring in more restrictions. Level 3 has not worked ... I don't want to be pedantic about the phrase lockdown but I don't think that's exactly where we're going but there will certainly be more restrictions," Harris said.

 Under Level 4, only essential retail can stay open, although the government has broadened that category since March. Under level 5, people would be asked to stay at home, other than to exercise within 5 km, and restaurants can only operate a take away and delivery service.


Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave mayors the power to shut public squares from 9 pm to halt gatherings as he unveiled a further package of measures on Sunday to try to halt a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.

Daily COVID-19 cases in Italy hit a new record of 11,705 on Sunday

As daily cases in Italy hit a new record of 11,705 on Sunday, Conte said the situation had become critical but his government has been determined to avoid a repeat of the lockdown imposed at the start of the crisis in March.

COVID-related deaths on Sunday increased to 69, up from 47 the day before, the ministry said.

READ MORE: EU leaders to hold almost weekly videoconferences on COVID-19

As well as ordering betting shops to close from 9 pm and halting amateur sporting competitions and local fairs, he said the government would consider closing gyms and swimming pools after further checks on security protocols this week.

Restaurants and other food shop will be allowed to remain open until midnight but will be able to serve only seated customers after 6 pm.

As a part of a new 40 billion euros stimulus package the government approved in its 2021 budget, Rome will set up a 4 billion euro fund to compensate companies which have been worst hit by coronavirus restrictions.


The National Center for Disease Control of Libya on Sunday reported 945 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's tally to 48,790.

The center said in a statement that 26 more patients have died, taking the death toll to 725, while the nationwide recoveries totaled 26,889, up by 827.

On the same day, the center launched a telemedical consultation program that would link Libyan medical consultants in the United States with medical consultants at quarantine centers in Libya regarding the treatment of severe COVID-19 cases.

The center also said it plans to introduce a medical telelearning program that will organize training courses for doctors in Libya, while similar programs are expected to be introduced with specialists from other countries.


Mexico's health ministry reported on Sunday 4,119 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 108 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 851,227 and the death toll to 86,167.

Earlier on Sunday, the head of Mexico's navy, Jose Rafael Ojeda, said he has tested positive for COVID-19 but was asymptomatic and working from home.

Ojeda is the latest high-ranking member of the Mexican government to test positive.


Morocco announced on Sunday 2,721 new COVID-19 infections, taking the tally to 173,632.

The number of recoveries increased by 2,591 to 143,972 while the death toll rose by 50 to 2,928, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The Netherlands

Hundreds of Dutch worshippers from a deeply conservative branch of Protestantism gathered in churches across the Netherlands on Sunday, defying government instructions to limit indoor groups to 30 to try to contain surging coronavirus infections.

Reformed Protestant churches in what is known as the Dutch Bible Belt had made it clear they would continue to receive considerably more than 30 faithful at a time, despite the heavy criticism.

The main Reformed Protestant church in Staphorst, in the north of the Netherlands, which can normally accommodate about 2,000 people, said it would allow 150 people per service this Sunday, and they would space themselves at least 3 meters apart.

A large church in Barneveld in the centre of the country said it would welcome around 250 people at each of its three services on Sunday.

North Macedonia

Police fined 702 citizens in North Macedonia in the last 24 hours for not complying with the measure of using personal protective equipment such as face masks, a mandatory measure imposed by the authorities in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.

Over the past week, the number of new infections in North Macedonia has continued to rise.

On Sunday, the Health Ministry reported 428 new cases and 10 COVID-19 related deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 23,628, along with 17,239 recoveries and 834 fatalities.   


Panama is the latest country to offer travelers a COVID-19 test when they arrive at its main airport, a little less than a week after resuming international flights following a seven-month suspension due to the pandemic.

The Sofia SARS Antigen Fluorescent Immunoassay tests are meant to prevent the import of new cases at a time when parts of Europe and the United States are seeing a resurgence.

READ MORE: Airlines working with WHO on testing to replace quarantine

International flights to and from Panama, a regional transportation hub, resumed on Oct 12. Since then, some 1,000 people were tested, said Yelitza Campos, an adviser at Jers Medical, the distributer of the tests in Panama.  

A Panamanian health official said of those tested, about 20 people have come back positive for COVID-19.

Panama has so far registered about 125,000 official cases and 2,500 deaths.


Poland plans to launch a field hospital at the national stadium in Warsaw, as it faces a spike in new coronavirus cases and a health system overload, government spokesman Piotr Muller told public television on Monday.

Local media reported on Sunday evening that construction on the hospital has started at the National Stadium of Poland.

The hospital, which will initially have 500 beds, is expected to be built within a week. The decision whether to build more similar hospitals in several provinces is to be made in the coming days, according to Polish Press Agency.

The Ministry of Health said on Sunday morning that Poland's number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased since Saturday by 8,536 to reach 175,766. Another 49 persons have died, bringing the death toll to 3,573.

Dworczyk said Monday other regions were also working on opening temporary hospitals.


Russia's daily tally of coronavirus cases surged to a new record high of 15,982 on Monday, including 5,376 in the capital Moscow, pushing the national case total to 1,415,316 since the pandemic began.

Authorities reported 179 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 24,366.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said there were signs last week that authorities were getting the outbreak under control and that he saw no need to impose tougher restrictions than those already in place.


The Slovak government on Sunday approved plans to use up to 8,000 armed forces personnel to support mass testing of the population for COVID-19 as it battles a surge of infections.

The country of 5.5 million wants to test people over the age of 10 over two weekends from Oct 30 using so-called antigen tests, although it is still undecided whether the tests will be mandatory.

The government will launch a pilot phase in the most affected regions on Oct 23, and it has ordered around 13 million antigen tests, which produce faster results but are often less accurate than standard PCR tests.

Slovakia has so far reported 29,835 confirmed cases, almost triple the amount seen in late September. COVID-related deaths have grown by 44 so far in October, to 92.


Slovenia's government on Monday declared a 30-day state of emergency after cases of COVID-19 more than doubled in the past week from the previous week.

The government banned the movement between regions that have been most affected by the pandemic and introduced a curfew from 9 pm to 6 am starting Monday, Interior Minister Ales Hojs said at a news conference.

Hojs said that all public and religious events would be banned and the number of people allowed to gather reduced to six from 10.

Slovenia, which has not been gravely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic so far, reported 4,845 coronavirus cases in the past week, a spike from 2,255 cases reported in the week before.

South Africa

South Africa's Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19, his office said late on Sunday.

"I am now in quarantine at home and both my wife and I remain optimistic that we will fully recover from this virus," Mkhize was quoted as saying in the statement.

Mkhize was tested on Saturday after showing mild symptoms.

According to the latest government data released on Saturday, South Africa had detected 1,928 new cases to push the total confirmed cases to just over 700,000 and 18,408 deaths.


Data from Switzerland's public health agency showed on Monday the number of new coronavirus infections rose by 8,737 over the weekend.

The agency reported a total of 83,159 confirmed cases in Switzerland and tiny neighboring principality Liechtenstein. The death toll rose by 14 to 1,837.

Masks will now be required in public indoor spaces including airports and train stations, Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga said at a press conference Sunday. 

Spontaneous public gatherings of more than 15 people will be forbidden and private gatherings exceeding that number will require masks.

The government also advised people to work from home whenever possible. “The second wave is here,” said Interior Minister Alain Berset.

Sommaruga said the government was prepared to impose more drastic restrictions if the new ones did not work.


Tunisia's Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Monday ordered a curfew starting from Tuesday in all regions of the country.

Coronavirus cases have been surging in Tunisia, which had managed to contain the virus earlier in the year, and have now reached more than 40,000.


Uganda's aviation health authorities on Sunday arrested 24 travelers with fake COVID-19 certificates at Entebbe International Airport, an aviation spokesperson said.

Vianney Luggya, communications officer of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, told Xinhua by telephone that the passengers were arrested after presenting forged Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test certificates while checking in at the airport to depart to different destinations.

A woman wearing a face mask walks in Manchester, England, on Oct 19, 2020.  (PETER BYRNE / PA VIA AP)


Around 6 million people in the United Kingdom face tougher COVID-19 lockdowns in coming days as Wales and Manchester, the country's third largest city, mull additional restrictions as the novel coronavirus outbreak accelerates.

The UK recorded 16,982 new daily cases of COVID-19 in the space of 24 hours, according to government data issued on Sunday, up from 16,717 the previous day.

The number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test was 67, down from 150 the previous day.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said Monday a lockdown could be imposed in Manchester within days. Jenrick said the government had offered Manchester more money, with newspapers reporting that tens of millions of pounds were on offer to help businesses cope with the lockdown measures.

The devolved Welsh government is due on Monday to announce a possible ‘fire break’ set of additional measures to control the virus. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford is due to make a statement.


The total number of coronavirus cases in Ukraine has reached 303,638, while the death toll is at 5,673, the country's security council said on Monday.

Ukraine registered 4,766 new cases in the past 24 hours.


Coronavirus cases in the United States on Sunday surpassed 8.15 million while deaths neared 220,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The National Governors Association (NGA) sent a list of questions to the Trump administration seeking clarification on how the federal government will most effectively distribute and administer a COVID-19 vaccine.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said healthcare workers and high-risk populations, including some long-term care residents, would get priority in his state to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is approved and available. Cuomo said the state had sent a drafted plan for New York’s vaccine administration program to the federal government, along with questions on what funding the federal government would provide for the effort.

On virus aid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set a Tuesday deadline for more progress with the White House on a fiscal stimulus deal before the Nov 3 election, while President Donald Trump renewed his offer to go beyond the dollar amounts now on the table.

Pelosi said that while differences remained with Trump's administration on a wide-ranging coronavirus relief package, she was optimistic legislation could be pushed through before Election Day.


Laboratory testing and diagnostics company Eurofins said its new at-home COVID-19 nasal testing product had received 'Emergency Use Approval' (EUA) status from the US Food & Drug Administration regulatory body.

Eurofins said the EUA authorized self-collection kit gives consumers a convenient and quick option to test from the comfort of their home, with results reviewed by a licensed physician and provided via email within 24 hours of sample receipt.


German biotech company Evotec said on Monday it had received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help identify and develop potential monoclonal antibody (mAbS) drugs for the prevention of severe COVID-19.

Evotec said the grant would enable its Seattle-based subsidiary Just to use its software, called Abacus, to analyze several lead candidate sequences of potent mAbs, which have been provided to the foundation by academic medical centres around the world. 

Evotec did not disclose the size of the grant. It said it would also perform cell line development for two lead molecules.


The Latvian National Opera and Ballet (LNOB) has been closed until Nov 1 after a cluster of COVID-19 cases was reported in the opera choir, its director Egils Silins said Monday.

According to Silins, the infections have been found in the opera choir and to break the chain of infections, the administration has decided to cancel all performances and close the opera house until November.

Performances at the LNOB had been cancelled since Oct. 17 after one chorister was reported to have the infection a day earlier. On Monday, Culture Minister Nauris Puntulis informed about three more cases in the opera choir.

So far, COVID-19 cases have only been reported among choristers and there are no reports of any cases in opera soloists or ballet dancers.

Silins said that after testing the choir, orchestra, ballet troupe and most of the administration, around 300 more employees of the LNOB have yet to be tested for COVID-19.


The number of COVID-19 infections in The Netherlands rose by 8,015 since Sunday, slightly lower than the 8,177 cases reported the previous day, according to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) on Monday.

An average of 7,827 confirmed cases per day was reported for the past seven days, compared to 5,861 one week earlier, RIVM was quoted as saying by NOS, a Dutch media company. 

A total of 17 COVID-19 patients passed away in the Netherlands from Sunday to Monday, compared to 15 from Saturday to Sunday. On average 25 people died from COVID-19 in the Netherlands over the past seven days, compared to 19 a week before.

Last week the Dutch government announced a "partial lockdown" to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Cafes and restaurants would be closed for one month.

As the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries across the globe  are racing to find a vaccine.


Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday morning that a maximum of six people will be allowed for private indoor gatherings starting from Friday midnight to curb the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 12 adults, Kurz said at a press conference, adding "That applies everywhere. It affects the restaurant as well as the yoga class."

The only exceptions to the new rule will be professional events, such as Bundesliga (Austria's professional football league) games or the operas, where only 1,500 visitors will be admitted outdoors, and 1,000 people indoors, with mask-wearing mandatory during the whole event, according to Kurz.

He described the current pandemic situation as "very serious," warning that if the trend continues, "we will have up to 6,000 new infections per day in December."

The next few months would be a "show of strength" for the Austrians, said the chancellor. "The better we stick together, the better everyone participates, the better we will get through the situation."

Over the past 24 hours, 1,121 new infections have been registered, said Health Minister Rudolf Anschober at the press conference, noting that the 7 percent rate of positive tests is an indicator of a high number of unreported cases.

The number of confirmed cases climbed to 65,927 on Monday in the Alpine country with a population of nearly 9 million. Among the confirmed cases, 904 people died, 799 patients are hospitalized, with 145 of them needing intensive care.


A set of new and tougher measures for COVID-19 prevention and control decided last week by authorities entered into force in Belgium on Monday.

Under the new rules, cafes, bars and restaurants will have to remain closed for four weeks from Monday.

A nationwide 12 midnight to 5 a.m. curfew has also been ordered, prohibiting people from leaving their homes for non-essential reasons, with exceptions for urgent medical reasons and professional commutes.

The so-called "social contact bubble" is now limited to one person outside the family. Private and public gatherings are limited to four people each.

Teleworking is now mandatory when possible. All night shops must close at 10 p.m. However, food markets can stay open. Christmas markets and flea markets are prohibited.

As of Monday, all the country's higher education institutions will move to "code orange," which means that 20 percent of students will be allowed to attend classes in auditoriums, while 80 percent will be taking distance learning courses.

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