Published: 10:22, September 30, 2020 | Updated: 15:46, June 5, 2023
Slovakia approves state of emergency amid virus spike
By Agencies

An aerial view shows the Maria-Valeria border bridge between Hungarian Esztergom (left) and the Slovakian Sturovo on Sept 3, 2020. (GERGELY BESENYEI / AFP)

BERLIN / MEXICO CITY / TORONTO / RIO DE JANEIRO / MINSK / LONDON / GENEVA / PARIS / TBILISI / LA PAZ / PRAGUE / KIEV / ADDIS ABABA / HARARE / BUENOS AIRES / NAIROBI / CARACAS / MOSCOW / MADRID / OSLO / BRUSSELS / VIENNA / WARSAW / PRAGUE - Slovakia’s government has approved a state of emergency, effective from Thursday, to help combat a spike in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Facebook on Wednesday.

The state of emergency, which should last 45 days, gives the government more powers to implement stricter measures but does not automatically mean a return to a strict lockdown such as that imposed at the outset of the pandemic.

Slovakia has reported 567 new coronavirus cases, the largest single-day tally since the COVID-19 pandemic started this year, health ministry data showed on Wednesday.

In this undated photo, a laboratory worker places a test tube containing a patient's COVID-19 sample into a box. (GEERT VANDEN WIJNGAERT / BLOOMBERG)

Virus test in Europe

Becton Dickinson and Co’s COVID-19 test that returns results in 15 minutes has been cleared for use in countries that accept Europe’s CE marking, the diagnostics maker said Wednesday.

The test is part of a new class of quicker screening tools named for the identifying proteins called antigens they detect on the surface of SARS-CoV-2. Becton Dickinson expects to begin selling the test, which runs on the company’s cellphone-sized BD Veritor Plus System, in European markets at the end of October. It will likely be used by emergency departments, general practitioners and pediatricians.

“It is really a game-changing introduction here in Europe,” said Fernand Goldblat, BD’s head of diagnostics for Europe. 

Becton Dickinson said its antigen assay is 93.5 percent sensitive, a measure of how often it correctly identifies infections, and 99.3 percent specific, the rate of correct negative tests. 

The test is already available in the US Becton Dickinson said it is on track to produce about 8 million each month by October across its global markets, and 12 million monthly by March 2021.

Regeneron's antibody cocktail

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said Tuesday its experimental two-antibody cocktail reduced viral levels and improved symptoms in non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients, enhancing its chances of becoming a treatment for the disease.

"We hope these data will support an EUA" (emergency use authorization) from the US Food and Drug Administration, Regeneron Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos said on a conference call.

In an early-stage clinical trial of 275 COVID-19 patients, those who received Regeneron’s experimental therapy had lower virus levels in the bloodstream seven days later compared with patients who received a placebo, the company said in a statement.

That suggests the treatment, REGN-COV2, could help patients whose own immune system is not strong enough to combat the virus, Regeneron said.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 33.6 million on Wednesday while deaths exceeded 1 million, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

Africa tally

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded across Africa reached 1,465,023 while the death toll hit 35,750 as of Tuesday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

A caretaker at the St. James Presbyterian Church in Bedfordview, Johannesburg, South Africa, ties a ribbon to a fence with other ribbons representing people who have died from COVID-19 in South Africa, Sept 29, 2020. (THEMBA HADEBE / AP)


World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that the one-million death toll is a "difficult moment for the world but there are glimmers of hope that encourage us now and in the near future."

He reaffirmed that the key lesson in combating the pandemic is the same -- "no matter where a country is in an outbreak, it is never too late to turn things around."

READ MORE: WHO: 1 million COVID-19 deaths ' very sad milestone'

"There are four essential steps that all countries, communities and individuals must focus on to take control of the epidemic," he said.

According to the WHO chief, the four steps are: preventing amplifying events; reducing deaths by protecting vulnerable groups; adhering to virus measures such as practicing social distancing and wearing a mask; and governments taking tailored actions to find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine contacts. 

Moderna's vaccine

Results from an early safety study of Moderna Inc's coronavirus vaccine candidate in older adults showed that it produced virus-neutralizing antibodies at levels similar to those seen in younger adults, with side effects roughly on par with high-dose flu shots, researchers said on Tuesday.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, offers a more complete picture of the vaccine's safety in older adults, a group at increased risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

Overall, the team found that in older adults who received two injections of the 100 microgram dose 28 days apart, the vaccine produced immune responses roughly in line with those seen in younger adults.

Side effects, which included headache, fatigue, body aches, chills and injection site pain, were deemed mainly mild to moderate. In at least two cases, however, volunteers had severe reactions.


Algeria reported 155 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the tally to 51,368, the Ministry of Health said.

Seven more deaths were also reported, taking the death toll to 1,726, the ministry said.

Earlier in the day, Riyad Mahyaoui, a member of Algerian Scientific Committee monitoring the spread of COVID-19, noted the favorable progress in the country's COVID-19 situation while warning against a possible second wave of the pandemic.


Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez launched on Tuesday a test-and-trace strategy to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak, and called on the people to fight "side by side" against the pandemic.

Under the so-called "Detect Plan", thousands of volunteers will be mobilized "to actively search for infected persons, identify close contacts for isolation and expand the testing strategy," according to a statement from the presidency's office.

Argentina has so far reported 723,132 confirmed cases and 16,113 deaths.


Austrian prosecutors said on Wednesday they have placed four people under investigation in connection with a quarantine and other restrictions imposed at the ski resort of Ischgl in March because of a massive coronavirus outbreak.

Thousands were infected at the resort that called itself the "Ibiza of the Alps", many of them foreign tourists who brought the virus home before the first case was detected there on March 7. Austria's public health agency believes the virus arrived there a month earlier, spreading in crowded bars.

Prosecutors in the provincial capital Innsbruck have been investigating whether anyone in Ischgl endangered others by, for example, failing to report a case before March 7. Instead, Wednesday's announcement appears to be in relation to the quarantine and other measures taken on March 13.

A spokesman for the prosecutors' office declined to elaborate on what the suspects were thought to have done.


Belarus reported 371 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, taking its total to 78,631, according to the country's health ministry.

Meanwhile, the past 24 hours saw 205 new recoveries, bringing the total to 74,525.

So far, 833 people have died of the disease in the country, including five over the past 24 hours, the ministry said.

As of Wednesday, 1,858,732 tests for the virus have been conducted across the country, including 17,028 over the past 24 hours, according to official figures.


A total of 10,001 people have died from COVID-19 in Belgium by Wednesday, according to figures released by the public health institute Sciensano.

The institute confirms the increase in the number of daily cases of infection observed throughout Belgium. During the last seven-day period, an average of 1550.6 COVID-19 daily cases were reported by Sciensano.

Belgium has recorded a total of 117,115 cases of COVID-19 infection since the beginning of the epidemic.


Bolivia will enter a new phase of "post-confinement" from Oct 1, Minister of the Presidency Yerko Nunez said on Tuesday.

The new phase, which seeks to continue to reactivate the economy in the midst of the pandemic, will extend permissions for the circulation of people and vehicles, and will include the resumption of commercial, sports, cultural, and religious activities while following the biosecurity measures established by the Ministry of Health.

According to the Ministry of Health, Bolivia had reported a total of 134,223 cases with 7,900 deaths as of Monday night.

Despite a decline in cases, the ministry is predicting a new outbreak of the virus in November or December, and officials are urging citizens to continue following biosecurity measures.


Brazil recorded 32,058 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 863 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Brazil has registered 4,777,522 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 142,921, according to ministry data.

People line up outside a COVID-19 walk-in clinic in Montreal, Canada, on Sept 29, 2020. (PAUL CHIASSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP)


Canada's federal authorities and its two biggest provinces promised new measures on Tuesday to combat a second COVID-19 wave.

Canada reported new 2,176 infections on Monday, taking the total to 155,301. The death toll rose by 10 to 9,278.

Canadian Government Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who chairs the cabinet's coronavirus committee, called the surge in infections "very worrying"

Government Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who chairs the cabinet's coronavirus committee, called the surge "very worrying".

Ontario, the most populous province, said it would limit visitors to long-term care homes for the elderly in areas with high community spread. In Quebec, the second most populous, Premier Francois Legault said financial support for businesses hurt by new virus restrictions would be announced soon.

In Ottawa, health officials said they expected to authorize new antigen tests for COVID-19, which can provide rapid results outside of a lab. 

Separately on Tuesday, the federal government said it had signed an agreement up to buy 7.9 million Abbott ID NOW rapid point of care tests, pending Health Canada approval. The ID NOW is not an antigen test, but the instruments used to analyze it can be run outside of a major lab, giving rapid results at a clinic or hospital.


Chile's daily COVID-19 positivity rate reached 5.61 percent in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health reported on Tuesday.

In the past 24 hours, tests detected 1,622 new infections and 27 more deaths were logged.

To date, a total of 461,300 confirmed cases had been registered in Chile, including 13,781 active cases, 12,725 deaths and 434,794 recoveries.

Czech Republic

The Czech government plans to declare a state of emergency from Monday, allowing it to put stricter limits on public gatherings and shut schools to stop the spread of the new coronavirus from overwhelming the health system.

The cabinet will meet on Wednesday afternoon to discus the state of emergency and the measures.

The state of emergency itself does not mean any draconic steps but gives the government more power to limit activities including businesses. 

The country of 10.7 million reported 1,965 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the fourth straight day below 2,000 after a recent surge, Health Ministry data showed on Wednesday.

The R number, showing how many people are likely to get infected by one person, has dropped to around 1.2, from about 1.6 earlier this month.

 As of Wednesday, there were 636 COVID-19 deaths, up 50 percent just in September. Of a total 67,843 cases, 34,448 remain active.


Ecuador's Minister of Health Juan Carlos Zevallos urged the country on Tuesday not to "lower its guard" in the fight against COVID-19 as infections continue to surge.

Ecuador reported Tuesday 784 new COVID-19 cases and 32 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the tally and the death toll to 135,749 and 7,509, respectively, after registering according to the Ministry of Health.


Egypt reported late on Tuesday 124 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 103,079, said the Egyptian Health Ministry.

In a statement, the ministry's spokesman, Khaled Megahed, said 13 more patients died in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 5,914.


The Ethiopian Ministry of Health said Tuesday 640 new COVID-19 cases were reported, taking the tally to 74,584.

Another 14 more deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 1,191, according to the ministry.


Finland unveiled new restrictions on restaurants and bars after the resurgence of the pandemic began to pick up pace.

Bars and restaurants will have to stop serving alcoholic drinks at midnight starting Oct 8, Krista Kiuru, minister for family affairs and social services, said on Tuesday.

Finland had about 20 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, according to Kiuru. Just under 10,000 people have been infected and about 350 have died since the pandemic began in March.

Overall, Finland has reported 9,892 confirmed cases and 345 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


French health authorities reported on Tuesday 8,051 new COVID-19 infections, up sharply from Monday's 4,070, while intensive care admissions were also on the rise.

The death toll rose by 85 to 31,893, versus 81 on Monday. The cumulative number of cases now totals 550,690.

As of Tuesday, a total of 6,500 people were hospitalized for a COVID-19 infection in France, 85 more over 24 hours. This included 1,204 patients in intensive care units, a rise of 40 since Monday.


Georgia reported a record 326 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest since the outbreak of the virus in the country, bringing its total to 6,192.

A total of 235 new cases were confirmed in the western Adjara region, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) said.

As of Wednesday, 3,120 of the 6,192 patients have recovered, while 37 others have died, said the center.

Georgia reported its first confirmed case on Feb 26.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that she wanted to do everything in her power to avoid another national lockdown as coronavirus infection numbers rise again in Europe's largest economy, expressing confidence the goal was achievable.

Germany reported 1,798 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a tally from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a national lockdown should be avoided "at all cost"

Merkel and the leaders of Germany's 16 states have agreed to restrict the size of gatherings and to fine anyone who flouts tracking rules in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus over autumn and winter.

The German leader said on Tuesday a national lockdown should be avoided "at all cost".

Merkel said a "hot spot strategy" would limit private parties to 25 people and public ones to 50 in areas where the infection rate hit 35 per 100,000 over seven days. If the rate hit 50 per 100,000, private celebrations would be restricted to 10 people and those in public to 25.

Merkel said other priorities were for schools and nurseries to stay open. People who gave false identities to restaurants would be fined 50 euros (US$59) and work would be done to improve ventilation in buildings over the winter.


Kenya ordered on Tuesday a phased resumption of learning in universities and all tertiary institutions from Oct 5.

Education cabinet secretary George Magoha said final year students in all universities and tertiary institutions will be expected to report back to class next week under a phased reopening.

The phased reopening of higher learning institutions comes amid a decline in the number of COVID-19 infections in the country.

Kenya has so far confirmed 38,378 COVID-19 cases, including 24,740 recoveries and 707 deaths, as of Tuesday. 


Libya reported 801 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 34,014.

The National Center for Disease Control of Libya also announced 384 new recoveries and 13 more deaths, raising the total recoveries in Libya to 18,902 and the death toll to 540.


Mexico's confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 738,163 on Tuesday, according to updated data from the health ministry, along with a total reported death toll of 77,163.

Authorities reported 4,446 new cases along with 560 deaths on Tuesday, but the true figures are likely significantly higher due to little testing.

Mexico should "not turn the page" on its steadily improving outbreak, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said earlier in the day at his usual morning press conference.

"We have not finished confronting the pandemic," the president said.


Morocco registered 2,076 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking the tally to 121,183, the health ministry said in a statement.

It also reported 39 additional deaths, raising the death toll to 2,152.


Norway will allow most amateur team sports to resume in mid-October and permit larger crowds at matches, as the government looks to ease nationwide restrictions enforced to contain the coronavirus epidemic.

The changes will take effect on Oct 12, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Wednesday, while warning that localised spikes in COVID-19 infections might require tighter restrictions on movement in some parts of the country.

Norway went into a national lockdown in mid-March and quickly saw a sharp fall in new cases that led to a gradual easing of restrictions from May. But cases have risen again, notably in Oslo and some other regions, in the past two months.

“Quick and efficient measures to stop local outbreaks is a condition for us to gradually ease the corona restrictions,” Solberg told a news conference.

Under the changes to sports events, lower-division football, handball, basketball and ice hockey will resume, and the maximum crowds at outdoors matches will rise to 600 from 200, she said.

Most bars will now be allowed to sell alcohol beyond midnight.

Norway, with a population of 5.4 million, reported 679 coronavirus cases last week, according to the Institute of Public Health (FHI). Overall as of Tuesday, it has recorded 13,788 cases and 274 coronavirus-linked deaths.

Oslo has registered 626 infections in the past two weeks according to the city government website, equivalent to around 90 per 100,000 inhabitants.


Poland reported 1,552 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, close to last week's record high, as it is imposing restrictions on bars and restaurants in its most affected regions.

For the past week Poland has seen more than 1,000 new cases per day. The authorities announced a record 1,587 new infections on Friday.

The biggest rise in cases was in southeast Poland, the health ministry said.

In total, the country has so far reported 91,514 infections and 2,513 deaths.

Poland announced new restrictions on Tuesday, saying restaurants and bars would have to close at 10 pm at the latest in areas worst affected by virus.


Russia has completed clinical trials of a second potential vaccine against COVID-19, developed by Siberia's Vector Institute, the RIA news agency cited Russian consumer safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor as saying on Wednesday.

The institute completed early-stage human trials, known as Phase II, earlier this month.

Earlier Wednesday, Russia's sovereign wealth fund, RDIF, said it had agreed to supply 25 million doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine to Egypt via Pharco, which it described as one of the country's leading pharmaceutical groups.

"The agreement between RDIF and Pharco will help Egypt obtain an efficient and safe vaccine, Sputnik V, for almost 25% of its population," RDIF chief executive Kirill Dmitriev said in a statement.


The town of Ibiza will go into partial lockdown from Friday after the coronavirus contagion has spread quickly there in the past weeks, the Balearic Island region said in a statement on Wednesday.

The restrictions on residents’ mobility and activities in the capital of the Balearic island will last 15 days.

The contagion rate in the town is three times as high as in the rest of the Balearic Islands.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a news conference on COVID-19 on Wednesday as he grapples with a swiftly spreading second wave of the coronavirus outbreak and growing anger in his own party over restrictions imposed on citizens.

The parliament could be given a say on new coronavirus rules, Business Minister Alok Sharma said.

The UK reported 7,143 new cases on Tuesday, the highest single figure to date, and 71 more deaths, the biggest daily toll since July. 

The new figures brought the tally and the number of deaths within 28 days of positive test to 446,156 and 42,072, respectively, according to government data.

ALSO READ: London added to potential hot spots as UK virus cases jump

The vast majority of the thousands of ventilators manufactured under an emergency UK program to treat COVID-19 patients have gone unused and are sitting in storage, the government’s public spending watchdog said in a new report. Only about 450 units of the 15,200 ventilators have been distributed.


Ukraine registered a record 4,027 cases of new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the national security council said on Wednesday, up from a previous record of 3,833 new cases reported on Sept 26.

The council said a total of 208,959 cases had been registered in Ukraine as of Sept 30, including 4,129 deaths.

Former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said in a statement on Facebook Tuesday he has contracted the coronavirus.

Students wearing face masks arrive for in-person classes outside Public School 188 The Island School, in the Manhattan borough of New York, on Sept 29, 2020. (JOHN MINCHILLO / AP)


New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will fine people up to US$1,000 for refusing to wear a mask in public, as the rate of positive tests for the novel coronavirus climbed above 3 percent for the first time in months.

Beyond New York state, 28 other states were seeing upticks in new coronavirus infections over the past two weeks, and COVID-19 hospitalizations were on the rise in several Midwestern states.

Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin have all reported record numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the past seven days. On Monday, North Dakota reported 105 hospitalizations and Wisconsin 640.

Overall, the US has so far reported more than 7.19 million confirmed cases and 205,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The COVID-19 infection rate among adolescents aged between 12 and 17 is "approximately double" that of younger children, according to a new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

ALSO READ: Virus: Disney to lay off about 28,000 parks unit employees


Venezuela has "succeeded in hitting the plateau stage" of its coronavirus curve, Venezuelan Health Minister Carlos Alvarado said Tuesday.

Alvarado said a three-phased plan "made it possible to strike a balance between gradually reactivating social and economic life and epidemiologically controlling COVID-19 in Venezuela".

In total, Venezuela has reported 74,363 confirmed cases and 621 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


The Zimbabwean government announced Tuesday that it will charge travelers showing COVID-19 symptoms to have COVID-19 tests done at ports of entry.

The announcement ahead of the resumption of international flights on Thursday after a six-month suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Domestic flights resumed in the middle of this month.

Zimbabwe has so far reported 7,837 confirmed cases and 228 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.