Friday, February 26, 2021

Virus update: WHO says 10% of globe infected; Europe eyes curbs

Oct 05. 2020
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By Syndication The Washington Post,  Bloomberg · Bloomberg News 

Global infections surpassed 35 million as the focus remained on the health of President Donald Trump and potentially tighter curbs in parts of Europe.

Stocks climbed on the possibility Trump may leave the hospital as early as Monday. But the U.S. president's condition remains clouded, with his effort to show strength contradicted by conflicting accounts from doctors.

The World Health Organization estimated 10% of the global population may have been infected with covid-19, outstripping the official estimates from governments around the world. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned of a "very tough" winter as Europe faces rising infections. France plans to shut down bars in the Paris region, according to a report, while Ireland is debating a return to full lockdown.

In Germany, Berliners flouting rules on masks are helping fuel the pandemic, Germany's health minister said. Iran recorded its worst day yet, with cases surging.

New York City will close schools and non-essential businesses in nine hotspots.

The current best estimate is that some 10% of the world's population may have been infected with covid-19, according to Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization's emergencies program.

That leaves 90% of the world at risk, he said, speaking in a presentation to the WHO's executive board.

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- Iran reports worst day as cases hit record

Iran saw its worst day of the outbreak so far, with the biggest daily spike in cases and fatalities. The country reported 3,902 new infections in the past 24 hours, up from 3,653 a day earlier. The death toll rose by 235 overnight, equaling the country's deadliest day of the pandemic in July.

- Polish swearing in postponed as cases surge

Poland's government postponed Monday's swearing in ceremony for new cabinet ministers following a positive test result by the incoming education minister. The east European country registered a record number of new infections this weekend, raising concern that restrictions for areas such as Warsaw may be tightened.

- Berlin's mask-free nightlife fuels covid spread, minister says

Berliners flouting rules on masks and crowding into parties, restaurants and bars are fueling covid-19 hotspots, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

"They look at you as if you're from another planet for wearing a mask," Spahn said at a press conference on Monday, adding that instead of talking about new rules, the city must start applying the ones it already has. The virus is spreading faster in the German capital than in most other places in the country, with three central Berlin districts exceeding 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants last week.

- Irish leaders to consider lockdown call

Irish government ministers are set to meet health officials on Monday in Dublin after they recommended the nation should move to a level 5 lockdown. That's the highest level of shutdown, with most stores closed, household visits banned and limits placed on how far people can leave their homes. Most of the country is now at level 2, with Dublin at Level 3.

The surprise proposal is already running into resistence, amid concern that such a drastic step would devastate the nascent economic recovery.

- Russia has highest increase since May

Russia reported almost 11,000 new cases in the last day, the highest daily increase in almost five months. Moscow ordered schools closed for two weeks from Monday and top officials around the country have called on residents to wear masks and observe other precautions as hospital admissions have spiked.

- Cineworld stock plunges as shuts U.S., U.K. theaters

Cineworld said it will temporarily suspend operations at all its American and British movie theaters, with income from winter blockbusters pushed into 2021 by the pandemic. The world's second-biggest cinema chain will on Thursday close its 536 Regal theaters in the U.S. and its 127 British locations, hitting about 45,000 employees. The company's shares fell as much as 60%.

- EC's Von Der Leyen to self-isolate

"I've been informed that I participated in a meeting last Tuesday attended by a person who yesterday tested positive for COVID-19," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet. In accordance with regulations, she will self-isolate until Tuesday morning. Von der Leyen tested again on Monday after testing negative on Thursday.

- Singapore banks to extend debt relief for borrowers

Singapore banks will extend debt relief for individuals and small-to-midsize businesses beyond the end of the year to support borrowers hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The measures, set to expire Dec. 31, will now progressively end over 2021, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said in a statement. The extended program will be tiered so those businesses needing the most help -- such as aviation and tourism -- can defer 80% of their principal repayments for as long as June 30, the regulator said.

- 'New normality' to last into 2021: Germany's Scholz

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said "it will take time" to return to life as it was before the pandemic, even if more effective therapies and a vaccine are made available.

"We will be dealing with this 'new normality' and with the virus into next year," Scholz said in an interview with ARD state television late Sunday. "It's not gone, and it's a great danger for everyone around the world."

Germany recorded 1,546 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours through Monday morning, compared to 1,653 the day before. The country's estimated infection rate rose for the second day on Sunday, to 1.23 from 1.1 the previous day, and has been predominantly above the key threshold of 1.0 since the second week in September.

- Conte sees tighter Italy rules: Corriere

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned that Italians may have to give up some liberties to combat the renewed spread of the coronavirus, as his government prepares to introduce new rules on use of masks and limits to gatherings, Corriere della Sera reported.

The government is expected to require citizens to again use masks in all outdoor settings; several regions have already reintroduced the requirement. The current decree governing safety rules expires Wednesday.

- India's cases slow to less than 80,000 a day

India's covid-19 cases slowed to less than 80,000 for a third day in a row, though the South Asian nation is still expected to surpass the U.S. in coming weeks to become the world's worst-affected country.

India recorded 74,442 new infections for Monday, bringing its total to 6.62 million. India's death toll rose to 102,685, after topping 100,000 over the weekend, a milestone reached only by the U.S. and Brazil.

- Biden tests negative for coronavirus

Biden tested negative for the coronavirus on Sunday, marking the second time he has been screened and cleared in three days, his campaign announced.

The former vice president's campaign scrambled to get him and his wife tested on Friday morning after Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the virus. All four had attended Tuesday's debate in Cleveland and while they remained distanced, neither of the candidates wore masks on stage.

Biden is planning to travel to Florida on Monday for campaign stops and a town hall moderated by NBC News.

- Brazil reports fewest cases since May

Brazil reported 8,456 cases, the fewest since mid-May. That compares with almost 70,000 cases reported on July 29. Reporting over the weekend tends to be low, but the nation -- which has the third most cases after the U.S. and India -- just ended a week with the fewest cases since mid-June. Total cases are now 4,915,289, according to the Health Ministry.

Another 365 people died, for a total of 146,352 fatalities.

- President Trump drives by supporters outside hospital

President Donald Trump briefly left his hospital in a car to greet supporters gathered outside, after posting a video on Twitter saying he was about to make surprise visit.

"We're going to pay a little surprise to some of the great patriots that we have out on the street," he said in the video. "I'm about to make a little surprise visit so perhaps I will get there before you get to see me."

Trump also said he's learned "a lot" about covid-19 by going through it.

- U.K. to vaccinate less than half of population, FT says

Less than half the U.K.'s population can expect to be vaccinated against covid-19, the Financial Times reported, citing the head of the government's vaccine task force. People deemed at risk, such as those over 50 and health workers, will be the focus of the government's vaccination efforts, Kate Bingham told the newspaper. She said the government was aiming to vaccinate about 30 million people, out of the country's population of about 67 million.

- U.K. cases soar after reporting issue

The U.K. reported almost 23,000 new cases, a number it called "artificially high" after a reporting error that has since been resolved. It recorded 22,961 cases on Sunday evening, almost twice Saturday's tally and four times as many as Friday.

"An issue was identified overnight on Friday 2 October in the automated process that transfers positive cases data" to Public Health England. Figures for this weekend include 15,841 additional cases with specimen dates between Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, the government said on its website.

France to close Paris bars as cases spike

The French government is planning to shut down bars in the Paris region and impose other new restrictions in the area as the country struggles to contain a spike of new coronavirus cases and avoid a second nationwide lockdown, according to Agence France Presse.

Paris and its inner suburbs will be declared a maximum alert zone on Monday, then the measures will go into effect Tuesday to last 15 days, AFP reported late on Sunday, citing a statement from France's Prime Minister's Office.

- Trump doctors add steroid used in severe patients

President Trump's doctors added a steroid called dexamethasone to his treatment, a drug that's typically used in more severe covid-19 patients.

Dexamethasone can control the inflammatory and immune effects of the virus. Considered a potential breakthrough for patients whose covid-19 cases have gotten significantly worse, one study found that it helped significantly reduce the likelihood of death in those who need oxygen support or are on a ventilator.

Covid-19 is a two-phase infection, and often the most life-threatening symptoms come not from the virus itself, but when the immune system spirals out of control. The infection can persist for a week to 10 days before worsening.

- NYC plans to shut businesses, schools in hot spots

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he plans to close businesses and schools in nine neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens where there's been a surge in coronavirus infections.

Indoor and outdoor dining will also be closed in these areas. Houses of worship will stay opened with restrictions, he said. The state would have to approve the mayor's plan.

- New York to take over enforcement as cases rise

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state will directly take over enforcement in 20 hot spots that are rapidly driving infections to the highest levels since lockdown. That enforcement will include local businesses and schools, including private ones, he said.

Most of the hot spots are in New York City, in Brooklyn and Queens. Cuomo said the Orthodox Jewish communities in many of these hot spots have been cooperating with efforts to lower the numbers.

Cuomo reported 1,222 new cases on Sunday, the sixths consecutive day of infections of 1,000 or more.

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