Published: 10:43, September 11, 2020 | Updated: 17:39, June 5, 2023
Virus spreading exponentially in UK for first time since March
By Agencies

A woman wearing a mask to protect against coronavirus, leaves a store, a day after the county borough of Caerphilly began a local lockdown following a "significant rise" in coronavirus cases, in Caerphilly, South Wales, Sept 9, 2020. (BEN BIRCHALL / PA VIA AP)

BRASILIA / WASHINGTON / BOGOTA / PARIS / OTTAWA / MADRID / ATHENS / LONDON / ABUJA / BERLIN / PRAGUE / BUDAPEST / KIEV / MOSCOW / BUCHAREST / HELSINKI / ZURICH - Coronavirus is now spreading rapidly again across the UK for the first time since March, prompting ministers to urge the public to limit social activities.

Government figures put the so-called “R” rate -- the reproduction number that shows how fast the virus multiplies -- between 1.0 and 1.2, driven by a surge in cases among younger people. The virus is spreading exponentially when R is above 1.

A separate study by Imperial College of more than 150,000 people in England estimated the R number as 1.7 and found the virus is now doubling every seven to eight days.

The R value is the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to; cases grow exponentially when the number goes over 1. Government scientists believe the R rate was last above 1 in early March, just before the UK’s national lockdown.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it underlined the need for people to abide by the law and socialize in groups of no more than six.

“We’ve seen all across the world how a rise in cases, initially among younger people, leads to hospitalizations and fatalities,” he said. “The pandemic is not over, and everyone has a role to play to keep the virus at bay and avoid further restrictions.”

The study by Imperial College and Ipsos MORI estimated that 13 people per 10,000 were infected between Aug 22 and Sept 7, compared to four people per 10,000 between July 24 and Aug 11.

It said COVID-19 cases were no longer clustering in care homes, as seen in May and June, suggesting the virus is now spread more widely in the community. Infections are increasing across all adult age groups below the age of 65, with higher rates seen in people aged 18 to 24. Infections are highest in Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East and the North West.

“What we are seeing is evidence of an epidemic in the community and not a result of increased testing capacity,” Paul Elliott from Imperial College said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure from his own Conservative members of Parliament to rethink the “rule of six” law, which was unveiled this week.

“It’s time to move to a voluntary system, unless the government can demonstrate otherwise,” former minister Steve Baker told BBC Radio 4 on Friday. “It is time for us to start living like a free people.”

The government’ estimated R rate represents the average situation over the last few weeks, so does not fully reflect any recent changes in transmission that may have been caused by the reopening of schools and more people returning to work.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide on Thursday topped 28 million as Western Europe surpassed the US for new infections, re-emerging as a global hotspot.

Global COVID-19 deaths surpassed 907,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Africa tally

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded across the African continent reached 1,321,736 on Thursday while the death toll rose to 31,902, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

A man wearing a mask and a face shield to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus walks near a mural depicting the ruins of Machu Picchu, in Lima, Peru, Sept 10, 2020. (RODRIGO ABD / AP)

Latin America

The coronavirus tally passed the 8 million mark on Thursday in Latin America, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The region has the most infections in the world, although there were indications the virus was now spreading more slowly in some countries.

Over the past week, the daily average of cases in the region fell to 67,173 through Wednesday from 80,512 in the previous seven days, according to a Reuters tally, which is based on figures released by governments. 

Brazilian officials noted a decrease in infections in recent days, while the average number of cases also fell slightly in Peru, Colombia and Mexico, the countries with the most infections after Brazil.

Many Latin American leaders are grappling with how to minimize the economic impact of the pandemic, which has triggered in many countries the biggest financial downturns in living memory. The region's tourism sector alone is expected to lose about US$230 billion this year, hit by border closures and a sharp decline in global travel.

WHO: AstraZeneca trial halt 'good wake-up call'

AstraZeneca Plc’s halt of its vaccine trial after a patient became ill is a good wake-up call for everyone to recognize that there are ups and downs in research and clinical development, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at a briefing Thursday. 

She reiterated that "safety is the highest priority in any clinical trial".

Tthe WHO said there’s currently no way of predicting which vaccine candidates are going to be effective, but that the data from Phase 1 and 2 studies has been quite promising for most.

Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the "Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator" (ACT-Accelerator), a global collaboration led by the WHO to accelerate the development, production and equitable deployment of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, has received less than 10 percent of the overall needs.

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

To date, the WHO has registered around 180 vaccines that are in development, including 35 in human trials.

Study: Vaccine confidence volatile, vulnerable to misinformation

Political polarization and online misinformation are threatening vaccination programs worldwide, with public trust volatile and varying widely between countries, according to a global vaccine confidence study.

The study, which maps trends in vaccine confidence across 149 countries between 2015 and 2019, found that scepticism about the safety of vaccines tended to grow alongside political instability and religious extremism.

Published in the Lancet medical journal, the findings are based on data from more than 284,000 adults asked in 2019 whether they see vaccines as important, safe and effective.

The study’s results show that vaccine confidence in Europe is low compared to other regions of the world, such as Africa, with the proportion of people strongly agreeing that vaccines are safe ranging from 19 percent in Lithuania to 66 percent in Finland.

In Indonesia, Pakistan, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, the proportion of people strongly disagreeing that vaccines are safe had increased significantly. This, was linked to trends in political instability and religious extremism in these countries, said Heidi Larson, a professor at the London school of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who led the research.

Support has climbed in the US with more people speaking out against the anti-vaccine movement, according to Larson. 

ALSO READ: Pope warns against seeking political gain from pandemic

A man wearing a face mask makes his way past a mural on the side of Hideaway Pizza on Rockford Avenue in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sept 10, 2020. (MIKE SIMONS / TULSA WORLD VIA AP)


Algeria's Sports Ministry announced on Thursday that the Algerian government has authorized the gradual resumption of sports activities from Sept 15.

The ministry said in a statement that the government also agreed to reopen private sports halls, with strict sanitary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Algeria reported 272 new COVID-19 cases and 10 miore fatalities on Thursday, bringing the total tally to 47,488 and the death toll to 1,591, said the Ministry of Health in a statement.

Meanwhile, 183 more patients were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 33,562.


Austria is responding to an increase in coronavirus infections by making face-masks compulsory in more places including all shops and school corridors, and limiting the size of private events indoors to 50 people, the government said on Friday.

The Alpine nation quickly brought its first wave of infections under control with an early lockdown in mid-March that it began lifting a month later. However, daily cases have been rising since late June and hit their highest level since late March on Thursday.

Face masks, currently required on public transport and in shops considered essential such as supermarkets and post offices, will have to be worn in all shops and in schools but not in classrooms. Waiters will also be required to wear them, Kurz said. The new measures take effect from Monday.

Events without assigned seating, including private parties, will be limited to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.

Professionally organised events with assigned seating will be capped at 1,500 people indoors and 3,000 outdoors, slashing the current limits of 5,000 and 10,000.

“Our clear aim as a government is to avoid a second lockdown for Austria. We will, however, only succeed if everyone does their part,” Kurz said, adding that measures would be tightened further if infections keep rising.


Bolivia's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) on Thursday announced a series of measures to ensure citizens will be able to safely cast their votes in the Oct 18 general election amid the coronavirus pandemic.

To strengthen social distancing between people, officials will increase the number of voting stations from 5,134 to 5,368 and extended the voting day to nine hours, among other measures, TSE President Salvador Romero told reporters.

Voters' identity numbers will determine during which hours of the day they can vote to minimize crowding, he said.

Boliva has so far reported 124,205 confirmed cases and 7,193 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) will open its borders at 6 am on Sept 12 to all foreign citizens who present a negative COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test not older than 48 hours, the press officer of BiH's Council of Ministers Mirjana Micevska told Xinhua on Thursday.

To date, BiH has reported 22,544 cases and 680 deaths. Most of these were registered in the past two months, according to BiH's Ministry of Civil Affairs.

BiH closed its borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic in late March, and eased the restrictive measures gradually by allowing entry to the citizens of neighboring Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro on June 1, and to citizens of countries of the European Union (EU) and the Schengen area on July 16.


Brazil reported 40,557 cases, up from 35,816 the previous day, for a total of 4,238,446, according to the Health Ministry’s website. 

The death toll rose by 983 to 129,522, according to ministry data.

The Brazilian government has created an inter-ministerial working group to coordinate the procurement and distribution of vaccines against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to an announcement published in the government's Official Gazette on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the state of Bahia has signed an agreement to conduct Phase 3 clinical trials for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 and plans to buy 50 million doses to market in Brazil, officials said .

Governor Rui Costa said a confidentiality agreement was signed on Tuesday to undertake the trials and Bahia will receive an initial 500 doses as soon as Brazil's health regulator Anvisa approves the protocol for testing. The trials are expected to start in October, according to the state's health secretary Fabio Vilas-Boas.


Canada is "aggressively negotiating" with drugmakers on delivery schedules for potential COVID-19 vaccines and shipments would begin early in 2021 under existing deals, Canada's minister of public services and procurement told Reuters on Thursday.

The Canadian government has announced four vaccine purchase deals and is negotiating more, while also funding local projects that are less advanced, and building new vaccine manufacturing capacity at a facility in Montreal.

The exact timing of deliveries depends on the result of clinical trials, regulatory approvals and manufacturing capacity, the minister, Anita Anand, said. Should approvals come earlier than expected, the government will negotiate earlier deliveries, she added.

Canada has agreements with vaccine makers Moderna Inc , Pfizer Inc, Novavax Inc and Johnson & Johnson. Anand did not say which company was scheduled to deliver first, but the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine candidates are among the most advanced.

Canada has so far reported 136,956 confirmed cases and 9,213 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


Colombia will gradually reopen international flights from Sept 21, following a six-month period during which they were suspended to contain the spread of coronavirus, Minister of Transport Angela Maria Orozco said on Thursday.

The Health Ministry is drawing up security protocols that include requiring travelers to take a coronavirus tests and for their results to be negative, Orozco said.

The resumption of international flights will depend on destination countries, airport capacity, and the interest of the airlines, Orozco said.

Colombia has so far reported more than 694,000 confirmed cases of the disease and 22,275 deaths.

Czech Republic 

The Czech Republic reported 1,382 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest single-day tally to date, extending a renewed spike in infections that has led authorities to impose tighter face mask requirements.

The daily rise announced by the Health Ministry brought the total number of the central European country's infections to 32,413.

The country has so far reported 448 deaths connected with COVID-19, a fraction of the fatalities recorded in the worst-hit European countries.

The Czech government on Thursday ordered people to wear face masks inside buildings as the daily new case count topped 1,000 for the first time, but has so far opted to avoid bringing back other tough measures that would hurt businesses.


Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Thursday that despite recent increases in COVID-19 infections in the country, there were no plans to lock down the whole of society again.

Denmark registered 317 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, said Frederiksen in a speech to the Danish Chamber of Commerce anniversary meeting.

"We will do everything we can to avoid a shut down, as we did on March 11. It was the right thing to do then. It will not be the right thing to do again," Frederiksen said.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Denmark now stands at 18,924, while deaths rose by one to 629, according to the latest update of the SSI.  


Egypt reported on Thursday 154 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of infections in the country to 100,557, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

According to the statement, 13 more patients died in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 5,590, while another 908 patients were cured and discharged from hospitals, bringing the total recoveries to 81,597.


The Ethiopian Ministry of Health disclosed on Thursday that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 62,578, after  878 new cases were reported.

According to the ministry, the death toll has climbed to 974 while the number of recoveries increased by 586 to 23,640.


Finland will ease tight restrictions on entry as it tries to attract back business travellers and tourists ahead of winter, allowing arrivals from countries with higher rates of coronavirus infection including its neighbour Sweden.

Previously, Finland has barred arrivals from countries with more than 8-10 cases of coronavirus infection per 100,000 people, a threshold which excluded travellers from many European countries. The exclusion of Swedes was particularly disruptive, as the neighbours are close allies.

From Sept 19, the threshold for countries to gain unrestricted entry will rise to 25 cases per 100,000. Travellers from countries where the rate is higher will also be allowed in if they present a negative test result. They must then remain under self-quarantine, either for two weeks or until they produce a second negative test.

Finland’s incidence over the past two weeks stood at 7.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Thursday, among the lowest in Europe, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed.

Finland has so far reported 8,469 confirmed cases and 337 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


France recorded almost 10,000 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, its highest ever single-day total, a day before a cabinet meeting that might consider imposing fresh, local lockdowns to curb the spread of the disease.

Health authorities reported 9,843 newly confirmed coronavirus cases, beating by almost 900 the previous record of 8,975, set six days earlier.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is again trending upward, with an increase of 93 over the last 24 hours to 5,096, the highest total in more than a month.

The death toll increased by 19, to 30,813. France has the seventh-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world.

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet with his government Friday to discuss how to curb a surge in coronavirus infections without endangering a tentative economic recovery.

“We have to continue to be rigorous, realistic, without giving in to any kind of panic,” Macron said on a visit to Corsica. 

People wearing face masks wait for public transport at the Alexanderplatz train station in Berlin, Germany, Sept 10, 2020. (MARKUS SCHREIBER / AP)


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,484 to 256,850, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday.

The reported death toll rose by one to 9,342, the tally showed.


Georgia confirmed 87 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, a record high since the outbreak of the virus in the country, bringing its tally to 1,917.

Out of the 87 new cases, 39 were detected in the western Adjara region of Georgia, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) said.

As of Friday, 1,354 patients had recovered while 19 others had died, the center said.


Greece reported 372 new cases of COVID-19 infections on Thursday, its highest daily tally since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The latest jump in cases brought the total number of infections in Greece to 12,452 and 297 deaths since its first case surfaced in late February.

Of the new cases, 114 were due to an outbreak of COVID-19 infections at a food processing plant in northern Greece, with 133 recorded in the greater Athens area, health authorities said.


Hungary will not impose blanket school closures to curb the spread of the coronavirus but will aim to protect the most vulnerable elderly as the main goal is to keep the economy going, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on state radio on Friday.

Orban said that a mandatory wearing of masks on public transport must be enforced.

He also said the Visegrad states of the EU -- Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland -- will coordinate their measures to fight the second wave of the pandemic. Premiers of the four states will meet in Poland later in the day.

Hungary reported a record 718 new coronavirus cases on Friday, taking active cases to 6,264, more than doubling in the past week, according to data published by the government’s task force on Friday. An adviser to Orban has said the real case count may be up to 20 times that, taking into account Hungary’s relatively low rate of testing.

The country has reported 10,909 coronavirus cases with 631 deaths so far.


Italy's Ministry of Health on Thursday reported 974 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours.   

The death toll rose by 10 to 35,587 while the number of recoveries increased by 613 to 211,885, according to the ministry.

The latest data pushed the combined tally  of infections, recoveries, and fatalities in Italy to 283,180, up from 281,583 on Wednesday.

Health workers disinfect a public area in Khemisset, Morocco, on Sept 10, 2020. (CHADI / XINHUA)


Morocco reported 1,889 new COVID-19 cases and 38 deaths on Thursday, raising the tally of infections to 79,767 and the death toll to 1,491.

The total number of recoveries from COVID-19 in Morocco increased to 61,850 after 2,127 more patients were cured, said the Ministry of Health in a statement.


Nigerian resident doctors on Thursday suspended a strike to allow the government time to meet its demands over pay and working conditions amid the spread of the coronavirus, the head of the doctors' union said.

The National Association of Resident Doctors resolved to suspend the strike "to give government time to address our demands," said Aliyu Sokomba, president of the union, in a WhatsApp message to Reuters.

The strike began on Monday, and included 16,000 resident doctors out of a total of 42,000 doctors in the country, including those who worked in COVID-19 treatment centres, he had said earlier this week.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, has more than 55,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and more than 1,000 deaths.


Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced on Thursday new social distancing measures that will take effect on Sept 15, as the government aims to ensure a safe return to school and to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The measures announced by Costa include a countrywide limit on gatherings to "a maximum of ten people." In restaurants and cafes, groups of more than four people would not be allowed.

Commercial establishments will only be allowed to open from 10 am, and the mayors of the country's municipalities will be authorized to set closing times between 8 pm and 11 pm.

Costa said the distribution of personal protective equipment and compliance with sanitary rules will be guaranteed in all schools in Portugal. 

Portugal reported three more deaths and 585 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,852 and the infection tall to 62,126.


Romania’s total of coronavirus cases has passed 100,000, the government said on Friday and authorities are set to extend a state of alert by a month, with face masks mandatory in all indoor spaces.

There were 1,391 new cases recorded, taking the overall total to 101,075 cases, with a total death toll of 4,100.

President Klaus Iohannis ordered a strict lockdown in March, replacing that in May with a softer “alert mode”. The government plans to extend that by another 30 days from Sept 14.

But schools across the country of 20 million are set to open next Monday, with about 70 percent percent of facilities ready to start regular classes. Another 27% will hold classes in a hybrid online-regular class format and the rest will learn exclusively online.


Russia registered 5,504 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking its nationwide total to 1,051,874, the country's COVID-19 response center said in a statement Friday.

Meanwhile, 102 new deaths were reported, taking the death toll to 18,365, it said.

Moscow, the country's worst-hit region, reported 698 new cases, bringing its tally of infections to 269,777, the center said.


Switzerland has added the regions around Paris and Vienna to its list here of areas with high COVID-19 infection rates requiring incoming travellers to enter quarantine for 10 days.

The government said it was adopting a regional approach for neighbouring countries for the measures which will come into force on Sept 14. As part of this, it named Ile de France and the Vienna region in its list of areas with a raised risk of infection. Border regions are unaffected by the measures.


Authorities have shut a primary school in the Basque Country region of Spain after several teachers tested positive for COVID-19, the first to be closed entirely in the week classrooms reopened across the country.

The government has been criticized by teachers unions and parents groups for making health and safety plans at the last minute, but Education Minister Isabel Celaa said the reopening had gone very well, with cases detected in only a few dozen places.

"We have 28,600 schools...and as of yesterday we had incidents in 53," she told state broadcaster TVE. "This means that school management and administrative staff have done a spectacular job."

A handful of individual classes were sent home and small groups of teachers quarantined earlier this week, but the primary school in the Basque town of Zaldibar was closed entirely. A spokeswoman for the regional government could not confirm how many teachers had tested positive or how long they expected the school to remain closed for. All staff will be tested.

Spain recorded 4,137 new infections in the past 24 hours, taking its total cases to 554,143. Thirteen deaths were reported, taking the overall toll to 29,699.


Tunisia on Thursday recorded 465 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the tally to 5,882, said the Ministry of Health.

A total of 1,904 patients had recovered while 99 others had died, the ministry said in a statement.


Ukraine registered a record 3,144 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the national security council said on Friday, up from a previousrecord of 2,836 registered on Sept 5.

The council said a total of 148,756 cases were registered in Ukraine as of Friday, with 3,076 deaths and 67,005 recoveries.

A total of 115 school classes in Ukraine have been self-isolated due to COVID-19, the press service of the Health Ministry said Thursday.

According to Health Minister Maksym Stepanov, 168 students and 130 teachers have become ill with COVID-19 in Ukraine since Sept 1.


Drugmakers seeking an emergency authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine will have to meet a higher standard of efficacy than normally would be required for such a clearance, the head of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) office that handles vaccines said.

Typically, an emergency use authorization, or EUA, would require a company to show their product may be effective. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s biologics office, said Thursday that the agency will require more robust data about how well a coronavirus vaccine works before granting an emergency waiver -- something he called “EUA plus.”

READ MORE: Trump admits downplaying danger of virus

Meanwhile, the US Senate killed a Republican bill that would have provided around US$300 billion in new coronavirus aid, as Democrats seeking far more funding prevented it from advancing. 

So far, the coronavirus has led to the deaths of more than 191,000 people in the United States and infected nearly 6.4 million Americans.