Kathmandu August 21:
Russia’s COVID-19 tally nears 950,000 as Hong Kong orders mass testing to begin September 1 with mainland help.by Zaheena Rasheed & Umut Uras12 minutes ago
12:15 GMT – Lebanon enforces new partial lockdown in effort to curb COVID-19
Lebanon imposed a partial lockdown for two weeks starting in an effort to counter COVID-19 infections which have spiralled since the catastrophic explosion at Beirut port.
The spread of COVID-19 is compounding the woes of a country still reeling from the August 4 blast that killed at least 179 people and wounded some 6,000, and a financial meltdown that has devastated the economy since October.
Lebanon recorded its highest 24-hour tally of new infections on Thursday, with 613 new cases. The infections have spread in the aftermath of the blast as hospitals were flooded with the casualties, medics say.
11:55 GMT – Slovakia reports record number of new coronavirus cases
Slovakia reported 123 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest daily number since the global pandemic reached the country in March, data from the Health Ministry showed.
It was also the third time the country has reported more than 100 new cases in a single day.
Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, has recorded very low numbers of the coronavirus compared with other European countries. It has confirmed 3,225 people infected with COVID-19 so far, out of whom 2,045 have recovered, and 33 deaths.
11:30 GMT – England’s small rise in COVID cases levelled off – statistics office
A small increase in the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in England in July appears to have levelled off, Britain’s statistics office said.
In the week of Aug. 7 to Aug. 13, around one in 2,200 individuals tested positive in England, it said.
In late July, around one person in 1,500 tested positive, the ONS had previously said.
11:00 GMT – Sweden to ease some COVID-19 curbs on sports, gatherings
Sweden plans to ease pandemic rules to allow more spectators at cultural and sporting events, if they can be organised to prevent the risk of spreading the new coronavirus, the government said.
In March, Sweden limited public gatherings to 50 people to halt the spread of the virus, effectively preventing theatres, soccer clubs and concerts from being able to bring in revenues from the public.
However, with the number of new infections and COVID-19 deaths falling in Sweden, the government said it planned to introduce exceptions to the 50-person maximum for events where crowds could be seated two meters apart from each other, from October 1.
In March, Sweden limited public gatherings to 50 people to halt the spread of the virus [EPA]
10:20 GMT – Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine to complete clinical trial in September: report
The clinical trial of a Russian COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the Siberian Vektor research centre is due to be completed in September, the RIA news agency said.
The agency cited Russia’s healthcare watchdog as its source for the report.
10:00 GMT – Poland reports new record in coronavirus new daily cases
Poland reported 903 new coronavirus cases, according to the Health Ministry’s Twitter account, the highest daily increase since the pandemic outbreak.
Poland has reported 60,281 cases in all, and 1,938 deaths.
09:10 GMT – Philippines reports 4,786 more coronavirus infections, 59 deaths
The Philippines recorded 4,786 new coronavirus infections, taking its total confirmed cases to 182,365 since the pandemic began, the highest in Southeast Asia.
In a bulletin, the health ministry also reported 59 more fatalities, bringing the country’s death toll to 2,940.
“The infectiousness has increased because the strain has evolved,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said at a webinar on Friday.
A boy wears a face shield while watching a simulation of an online learning class from a smartphone in Manila [Reuters]
08:40 GMT – Irish minister to resign over COVID-19 breach: reports
Irish Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary is resigning over his attendance this week at a social event with more than 80 people which may have breached COVID-19 regulations, a number of media outlets reported.
Calleary apologised “unreservedly” late on Thursday for attending a hotel dinner hosted by the Irish parliament’s golf society, a day after the government significantly tightened nationwide restrictions to try to rein in a spike in cases.
Ireland’s Newstalk radio station were first to report that the minister would resign. Calleary’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
08:10 GMT – India coronavirus cases approach three million
India hurtled toward the three million mark for coronavirus cases, reporting 68,898 new infections in the last 24 hours, data from the federal health ministry showed.
The total number of cases in the country now stands at 2.9 million.
Deaths in the same period jumped by 983, with the total now at 54,849. India is the worst-hit country in Asia, and third behind the United States and Brazil in terms of total cases of the coronavirus.
07:45 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus case tally nears 950,000
Russia reported 4,870 new coronavirus cases, pushing its confirmed national tally to 946,976, the fourth largest in the world.
Authorities said 90 people had died over the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 16,189.
Ninety people died over the last 24 hours in Russia due to the virus, bringing the official death toll to 16,189.[Anadolu]
07:20 GMT – US unfreezing Venezualan assets for fight against COVID-19: Guaido
Venezuela’s opposition said the United States has granted it access to millions of dollars of frozen Venezuelan government funds to support efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
The US Treasury Department had approved the release of the funds, the opposition said in a statement without specifying the total amount.
The statement said part of the released funds would go to pay some 62,000 health workers $300. During a live appearance on Twitter on Thursday night, opposition leader Juan Guaido said health workers could register accounts to receive payments of $100 a month starting Monday. Healthcare workers in Venezuela can earn as little as $5 a month.
06:55 GMT – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 1,427: RKI
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,427 to 230,048, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.
The reported death toll rose by seven to 9,260, the tally showed.
Passengers stand in front of a coronavirus test centerat the international airport in Frankfurt am Main, Germany [EPA]
06:30 GMT – Hungary to tighten border crossing to curb spread of virus: PM Orban
Hungary will tighten border crossing rules from September 1 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the number of new infections is rising in neighbouring countries, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio.
Orban, a nationalist who has been in power for more than a decade, also said the government would draft a two-year plan to boost the economy by the middle of next month, after a deeper-than-expected 13.6 percent plunge in second-quarter economic output.
06:00 GMT – UAE could reintroduce curfew in some areas: official
The United Arab Emirates could reintroduce a de-facto overnight curfew in some areas of the country if there are a high number of COVID-19 infections there, a government official said.
The Gulf Arab state has seen the number of cases rise this week to over 400 for the first time since mid-July, including 461 infections and two deaths in the 24 hours to Thursday.
Asked if the national sterilisation programme, which had included a night time curfew, could again be enforced, National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) spokesman Seif al-Zahri told Emirates TV: “Yes, that’s possible in certain areas where we observe high infection cases.”
Hello, this is Umut Uras in Doha taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.
05:24 GMT – S Korea urges more testing as outbreak threatens to spread
South Korea reported 324 new cases of the coronavirus, its highest single day total since March 8, as the recent surge of COVID-19 in the greater capital area now appears to be spreading nationwide.
Friday was the eighth consecutive day that South Korea reported a triple-digit daily increase, for an eight-day total of 1,900 infections.
Most of the recent new cases have been in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region, but officials said the latest new infections were recorded in practically all major cities nationwide, including Busan, Gwangju, Daejeon, Sejong and Daegu. Some of the new cases included people who attended a rally by conservative political groups in Seoul last week.
“This is a very serious situation,” Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip told a briefing, urging people to come forward and be tested. “The risk of nationwide virus spread is increasing.”
The government is now trying gather the names of thousands of people who attended the rally, as well as the names of the drivers who drove attendees from the provinces, he said.
Members of conservative civic groups take part in an anti-government protest in central Seoul, South Korea, on August 15, 2020 [Kim Hong-Ji/ Reuters]
05:09 GMT – India cases surge to 2.9 million
India hurtled toward the 3 million mark for coronavirus cases, reporting 68,898 new infections in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases in the country now stands at 2.9 million. Deaths in the same period jumped by 983, with the total now at 54,849.
04:27 GMT – Peru, Morocco to test China Sinopharm’s vaccine
Authorities in Peru and Morocco approved Phase 3 clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), the company said late on Thursday.
Phase 3 trials, which usually involve several thousand participants, allow researchers to gather data on the efficacy of potential vaccines for final regulatory approvals.
The experimental vaccine of CNBG, a unit of state-owned pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), has entered a Phase 3 trial in the United Arab Emirates that has already recruited 15,000 volunteers.
It has also obtained approval to be tested in Bahrain in a Phase 3 study designed to involve around 6,000 participants.
03:55 GMT – Stay-at-home order in Myanmar’s Sittwe
Health authorities ordered residents of Sittwe, the capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, to stay at home after detecting three more locally transmitted cases, according to the Myanmar Times newspaper.
A total of nine cases have been reported in Rakhine since August 16, when authorities detected Myanmar’s first locally transmitted case in nearly a month.
Buses and flights have suspended operations in and out of Sittwe starting on Thursday.
For years now, Rakhine has been mired in conflict between the military and ethnic groups seeking greater autonomy. The restive state is also home to the Rohingya, a persecuted mostly Muslim minority, many of whom now live in camps for displaced people.
03:32 GMT – Biden says his top priority is to ‘get control of virus’
Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, said his “first step” if elected president of the United States would be to “get control of the virus that has ruined so many lives”.
Speaking at the Democratic National Convention, Biden said: “We will never get our economy back on track, we will never get our kids back in schools, we will never have our lives back until we deal with this virus.”
His plan to contain the pandemic included developing and deploying rapid tests, bolstering the supply of protective gear and instituting a national mandate for masks.
Biden also offered a withering assessment of Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic: “Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation: he has failed to protect us.”
Joe Biden accepts the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination during a speech delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, US, August 20, 2020 [Kevin Lamarque/ Reuters]
03:12 GMT – New Zealand defers lockdown decision
New Zealand reported nine new locally transmitted coronavirus cases, and put off a decision about easing restrictions in its biggest city of Auckland to next week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would announce on Monday whether the government would ease alert level 3 restrictions enforced in Auckland, and level 2 measures in the rest of the country.
02:41 GMT – Germany to take on more debt in 2021
Germany will need to take on yet more debt in 2021 to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.
“Next year we will continue to be forced to suspend the debt rule and spend considerable funds to protect the health of citizens and stabilise the economy,” Scholz said in an interview with the Funke media group, referring to Germany’s cherished policy of keeping a balanced budget.
Scholz already plans to borrow around 218 billion euros ($258bn) this year to help pay for a huge rescue package to steer the country through the coronavirus-induced downturn.
The minister said he was expecting the German economy to have recovered from the virus shock and returned to pre-crisis levels “by the end of next year or the beginning of 2022”.
02:26 GMT – New virus cases in Australia’s Victoria hit five-week low
Australia’s Victoria reported its lowest number of new infections in five weeks, logging 179 new cases in the past 24 hours, compared with 240 a day earlier and down from over 700 two weeks ago.
The decline in cases comes after authorities introduced a nightly curfew and shut large swathes Victoria’s economy. The state reported nine deaths.
Despite the second wave outbreak in Victoria, Australia has largely avoided the high casualties of other nations with just under 24,500 infections and 450 deaths from the virus.
02:11 GMT – Japan to ease re-entry curbs on foreign residents
Japan plans to ease its COVID-19 entry restrictions on foreign nationals with resident visas starting next month, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Re-entry will be permitted for visa holders, including permanent residents and exchange students, on condition that they undergo coronavirus testing and quarantine for 14 days, the same policy that applies to Japanese citizens re-entering the country, according to NHK.
01:58 GMT – Mexico to get 2,000 doses of Russian vaccine for testing
Mexico will receive at least 2,000 doses of Russia’s potential COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed ‘Sputnik V’, to test among its population, according to the Mexican foreign minister.
Marcelo Ebrard called the Russian offer “very good news”.
Mexico has already agreed to help manufacture a vaccine candidate being developed by Britain’s AstraZeneca and Oxford University to supply the Latin American market. It is also preparing to carry out late-stage trials for US company Johnson & Johnson and two Chinese companies.
01:46 GMT – Extreme poverty ‘could surge by 100 million’
David Malpass, the president of the World Bank, warned that the coronavirus pandemic may drive as many as 100 million people back into extreme poverty.
The Washington-based development lender previously estimated that 60 million people would fall into extreme poverty due to COVID-19, but the new estimate puts the deterioration at 70 to 100 million, and Malpass told the AFP news agency “that number could go higher” if the pandemic worsens or drags on.
The situation makes it “imperative” that creditors reduce the amount of debt held by poor countries at risk, going beyond the commitment to suspend debt payments, he added.
01:07 GMT – Morocco may reimpose full lockdown
King Mohammed VI warned that Morocco could return to a complete coronavirus lockdown amid a jump in infections that has strained health services and triggered protests by medical staff.
New cases nationally have surged to more than 1,000 a day since Morocco lifted a strict three-month-long lockdown in late June and hit a record high of 1,766 on August 15.
“If figures continue to increase, the COVID-19 Scientific Committee may recommend another lockdown, perhaps with even tighter restrictions,” the king said in a speech.
As of Thursday, Morocco had recorded a total 47,638 cases, including 775 deaths and 32,806 recoveries.
00:57 GMT – Canada extends emergency aid
Canada announced a four-week extension of emergency aid for people who lost work due to the pandemic, and an easing of rules on qualifying for unemployment benefits when that expires.
Officials estimated the cost of the new measures at 37 billion Canadian dollars ($28bn) over one year.
About 4.5 million Canadians, or 12 percent of the population, are currently receiving $2,000 a month in emergency support. That will now be in place until September 27.
Afterwards, claimants will be shifted to an unemployment benefits programme.
00:33 GMT – Peruvian, Argentine economies post huge falls
Peru’s year-on-year gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 30 percent in the second quarter of 2020 due to coronavirus containment measures, the government said.
In Peru, mandatory confinement was in place throughout the whole of the second quarter and was only lifted in the majority of the country on July 1. The worst-hit sectors of the economy were mining, down by 20.9 percent; processing, down by 44.5 percent; and services, down by 28.3 percent, the state statistics and information institute said.
In Argentina, official data showed the country’s economy contracted by almost 13 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year.
The year-on-year fall in GDP for June was 12.3 percent, although that was an improvement on April and May.
00:27 GMT – Latin America’s death toll passes 250,000
The number of COVID-19 deaths in Latin America surged past 250,000 on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally.
The grim milestone was passed as Brazil reported 1,204 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours.
Over the past week, the region has reported more than 3,000 deaths a day, while daily caseloads continue to rise in Peru, Colombia and Argentina.
00:16 GMT – Brazil’s cases top 3.5 million
Brazil reported 45,323 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,204 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.
Brazil has now registered 3,501,975 cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 112,304, according to ministry data.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
Go here for all the key developments from yesterday, August 20.