A woman and child wearing protective face masks prepare to enter a decontamination chamber as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, at the entrance of Araucano Park in Las Condes borough of Santiago, Chile, July 29, 2020. (ESTEBAN FELIX / AP)
SAN JOSE / BUENOS AIRES / WASHINGTON / COPENHAGEN / MEXICO CITY / BRASILIA / RIO DE JANIERO / SOFIA / PARIS / LONDON / AMSTERDAM / MADRID / KIEV / BERLIN / MOSCOW / WARSAW - Global COVID-19 cases surpassed 17 million on Thursday, according to the latest tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The global death toll topped 667,000, according to the tally.
The United States is the worst-hit country, with more than 4.4 million cases and over 150,000 deaths, followed by Brazil which has tallied more than 2.5 million cases and over 90,000 deaths.
Countries with more than 300,000 cases also include India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Peru, Chile and Britain while countries with over 30,000 deaths include Britain, Mexico, Italy, India and France.
Germany recorded its biggest spike in new cases in six weeks, with 839 fresh cases, and the infection rate stayed above the key threshold of 1.0
Germany recorded the highest number of new coronavirus cases in about six weeks and the infection rate stayed above the key threshold of 1.0.
There were 839 new cases in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, bringing the tally to 208,546, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That compares with 595 the previous day and almost 7,000 at the peak of the pandemic in late March. There were four fatalities, taking the death toll to 9,135.
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The increase in cases this week is “very concerning,” Germany’s public health institute said in its latest report, warning that a further worsening of the situation must be avoided. That will only be possible if people follow hygiene and distancing rules, the institute said.
Germany’s reproduction factor - or R value - fell to 1.14 on Wednesday, according to the institute’s latest report.
Berlin's Tegel airport began large scale coronavirus testing on Wednesday, as airports across Germany prepared for the advent of free, compulsory testing for many passengers from next week.
People pass a new coronavirus test center at the airport in Munich, Germany, July 29, 2020. (MATTHIAS SCHRADER / AP)
Over 8.3m tests conducted in Africa
More than 8.3 million COVID-19 tests have been conducted across the African continent, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said on Wednesday.
In June, the Africa CDC revealed its plan to conduct 10 million COVID-19 tests over the next few months as part of the continental Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT).
According to Africa CDC, the number of confirmed cases in Africa on Wednesday reached 874,609, and the death toll rose to 18,507.
Albanian Minister of Health and Social Protection Ogerta Manastirliu said Wednesday at a Parliament session that the health authorities were preparing for the autumn and winter seasons.
"We must prepare for an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections ... We are working to further strengthen the national emergency medical teams in order to provide housing services to citizens who are or will be in need," Manastirliu said.
"We are also preparing medical teams for the opening of the third and fourth hospitals for COVID-19 patients, while we continue to increase testing capacities," she added.
Meanwhile, opposition member of the Albanian Parliament (MP) Halit Valteri asked Parliament Speaker Gramoz Ruci to have all his fellow MPs tested for COVID-19, after three MPs said they had tested positive for the virus.
Albania's health authorities reported Wednesday 108 new coronavirus cases and two deaths, bringing the tally to 5,105, with 2,830 recoveries and 150 fatalities.
Argentina has started clinical trials on treating COVID-19 using hyperimmune serum developed with antibodies from horses, authorities from the laboratory involved said on Wednesday.
The serum, produced by biotechnology company Inmunova, is obtained by injecting a SARS-CoV-2 protein, which causes the animal to generate a large amount of neutralizing antibodies. Plasma is then extracted from the horse, purified and processed.
After positive results in laboratory tests, the clinical trial to study the effectiveness of the serum will be carried out on 242 people diagnosed with the disease in moderate to severe conditions, the laboratory said.
Fernando Goldbaum, Inmunova's scientific director, said trials had started on Monday and the first results were expected between October and November.
Argentina has registered close to 175,000 confirmed cases, with around 3,200 fatalities.
A health official in Botswana on Wednesday issued a warning to the public as the number of active COVID-19 cases rose to 140 after local cases doubled in two weeks.
Malaki Tshipayagae, deputy coordinator of the presidential task force for COVID-19, said the taskforce was investigating the source of recently reported cases, including 22 children from one school in the capital Gaborone.
Before a holiday two weeks ago, the number of local cases stood at 70. According to Tshipayagae, the holiday might have contributed to the surge in infections as many cases of illegal gatherings were reported.
So far, two deaths have been reported in the country.
Tshipayagae warned that if the situation worsens, the authorities would be forced to undertake other measures to prevent further spread of the virus, including imposing a lockdown.
Brazil on Wednesday reopened international air travel to foreign tourists, which had been banned since March, even as the country's coronavirus outbreak ranks as the world's second worst.
Tourists from all countries may travel to Brazil as long as they have health insurance for the duration of their trip, the government said in a decree which did not explain the rationale for the decision.
Brazil set a daily record on Wednesday for both confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and related deaths, with 69,074 new cases and 1,595 fatalities, Health Ministry data showed.
Brazil has now registered more than 2.5 million confirmed cases of the virus and 90,134 deaths since the pandemic began, according to ministry data.
The Bulgarian Health Ministry on Thursday reported a record high of 13 new COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking its nationwide tally to 368.
According to the ministry, the number of confirmed infections has reached 11,155, an increase of 284 over Wednesday.
Meanwhile, 205 people have recovered from the disease in Bulgaria over the past 24 hours, raising the total number of recoveries to 5,971, the ministry said.
Currently 722 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized with 37 in intensive care units, it also said.
Bulgaria reported its first COVID-19 death on March 11.
Chile on Wednesday reported that the country has tallied a total of 351,575 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 9,278 have died from the disease.
According to the health ministry, 1,773 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours tests and another 38 deaths were reported.
Health officials said that 17,740 cases are considered active while 324,557 people have recovered.
The Costa Rican government will begin an economic reopening on Saturday in a bid to reverse a sharp coronavirus-induced slowdown, the president said on Wednesday, even though the official tally shows the COVID-19 caseload continuing to rise.
The government will allow businesses and restaurants to reopen during the first nine days of August, but will then pause the effort for the following 12 days and resume restrictions, according to President Carlos Alvarado's plan, who added that the cycle was expected to be repeated.
Some 16,800 cases have been confirmed in the country to date, along with at least 133 deaths attributable to COVID-19.
Tourist hotels have already been opened, and local airports from Saturday will begin receiving foreign travelers from Europe and Canada, but not yet from the United States.
The government's reopening plan still bans large gatherings, bars and nightclubs. Land borders with Nicaragua and Panama are still closed and schools remain suspended.
The number of coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic has surpassed 16,000 as a recent spike in infections continues, Health Ministry data showed on Thursday.
The ministry recorded 278 cases nationwide on Wednesday, the second highest daily rise in July. The seven-day average reached 216, the highest since April 10.
In total, the country has seen 16,093 cases since the outbreak started in March, with 11,429 recoveries so far and 374 deaths.
Despite the growth in daily cases, the number of those hospitalised was 120, well off April peaks above 400.
The ministry on Thursday unveiled plans to ramp up testing capacity, which Health Minister Adam Vojtech said was currently at around 17,000 daily. The country carried out 7,413 tests on Tuesday, the most since mid-May.
A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman at a COVID-19 testing center outside a municipal administration building in southern coastal city of Limassol, Cyprus, July 29, 2020. (PETROS KARADJIAS / AP)
Cyprus is seeing a rise in COVID-19 infections after the easing of restrictive rules, according to data released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Health.
The ministry said 13 new cases were detected in the last 24 hours, raising the tally to 1,080. New cases have gone up by 81 since the beginning of July, compared to an increase of 50 in June.
European Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides said after meeting Cypriot Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou in Nicosia that she is concerned over the increase of COVID-19 infections in the past few days.
Infections in Cyprus over the last 10 days centered in the southern city of Limassol, where several new hotspots were detected, including in a popular restaurant in the city's marina.
Egypt registered on Wednesday 409 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 93,356, said the health ministry.
The death toll rose to 4,728 after 37 more fatalities were added, spokesman for the ministry, Khaled Megahed, said in a statement.
The spokesman said that another 1,066 patients were discharged from hospitals in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 37,025.
A health counseling and COVID-19 testing point is being set up at the Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport in the city of Vantaa, the city announced on Wednesday.
The move is aimed at combatting the spread of COVID-19 at the borders by identifying carriers of the virus among air travelers, so as to prevent the disease from spreading to other parts of the country.
The city noted that not all passengers will be tested, but those with symptoms of COVID-19 or are suspected of being infected will be selected for testing.
Meanwhile, the Helsinki metropolitan area is planning to introduce testing points at the city's seaports in August, Sanna Isosomppi, chief physician from the City of Helsinki's Epidemiological Operations Unit, told Finnish national broadcaster Yle on Wednesday.
According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), as of Wednesday afternoon, Finland has reported 7,414 confirmed cases and 329 deaths.
The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 1,392 on Wednesday, the highest daily tally in a month and a figure likely to fuel fears of a second wave of the disease despite officials downplaying such a scenario.
The increase took France's total number of confirmed cases to 185,196. In a statement, health authorities said that, leaving aside the continuous decline of people in ICU units, all COVID-19 indicators showed "an increase of the viral circulation".
The reproduction rate, on an upward trend since the beginning of the month, is now "higher than 1.3", which marks a rise over 24 hours, they said.
There were also another 15 deaths linked to the disease, taking the death toll to 30,238. France has the seventh-highest death toll in the world.
The total number of people infected with the new coronavirus in Ghana has increased to 35,142, after 736 fresh cases were confirmed early Thursday, said the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
Recoveries rose by 665 to 31,286 while the death toll increased by seven to 175, the GHS said.
Currently there were 3,681 active cases according to the GHS.
In another development, Ghana's parliament has approved the use of 11.8 billion Ghana cedis (about US$2 billion ) to finance the government's increasing expenditure on the pandemic.
Iceland on Thursday reinstated restrictions on public gatherings after finding at least two new infection clusters in the country, the government said in a statement.
“The measures we are introducing now are intended to have the effect of sparing us the need for more drastic restrictions later,” said Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
The measures, which limit public gatherings to 100 people and reinstate a 2-metre social distancing rule, come just a week after the government announced further easing of restrictions, such as allowing gatherings of up to 1,000.
Iceland has had large success in curbing the coronavirus epidemic since March, due to an aggressive test and trace strategy and putting the volcanic island under a full lockdown.
In all, 1,872 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Iceland, of whom 39 are currently isolated with an active infection. Ten have died, according to the government.
The new measures will take effect on July 31, the government said.
The Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday to make the wearing of masks in public places mandatory again as of Saturday.
Masks will be mandatory on public transport and in indoor places except restaurants, bars, cafes, and sports and cultural venues.
"The situation is getting worse both in Lithuania and all over the world, the number of coronavirus cases is increasing. In order to protect the Lithuanian people from this dangerous virus and to protect our economy by sending a clear signal that businesses will not be shut down or restricted, we will ask and demand that people wear masks," Minister of Justice Elvinas Jankevicius was quoted by news website Lrt.lt.
According to the Ministry of Health, Lithuania has registered 2,043 confirmed cases by Wednesday morning, including 80 deaths and 1,634 recoveries.
Mexico saw 5,752 new known coronavirus cases and 485 additional deaths, bringing the nation's total to 408,449 cases and 45,361 fatalities, the health ministry reported on Wednesday.
Mexico has the fourth highest death tally worldwide.
The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the number of confirmed cases.
Morocco's health ministry on Wednesday said 826 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the nation's tally to 22,213.
The death toll rose by seven to 334 while recoveries increased by 59 to 17,125, according to Mouad Mrabet, coordinator of the Moroccan Center for Public Health Operations at the ministry.
Also Wednesday, Moroccan King Mohammed VI announced the injection of US$13 billion into the local economy, as part of a stimulus plan to tackle the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dutch government on Wednesday said it will not advise the public to wear masks to slow the spread of coronavirus, asserting that their effectiveness has not been proven.
The government will instead seek better adherence to social distancing rules after a surge in coronavirus cases in the country this week, Minister for Medical Care Tamara van Ark said at a press conference in The Hague.
The National Institute for Health (RIVM) chief, Jaap van Dissel, said that the organization was aware of studies that show masks help slow the spread of disease but it was not convinced they will help during the current outbreak in the Netherlands.
He argued wearing masks incorrectly, together with worse adherence to social distancing rules, could increase the risk of transmitting the disease.
The decision followed a meeting of health and government officials after new coronavirus cases in the country rose to 1,329 in the past week, an increase of more than a third.
Poland reported on Thursday its highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 615 new infections, and said it may impose quarantine measures for people returning home from some countries.
The health ministry also said on its Twitter account that the number of documented deaths had risen by 15 to 1,709 so far.
Poland was considered one of the countries that had managed the pandemic relatively well, with a total of 45,031 infections so far. But in recent days the number of new infections has climbed higher. The health ministry blamed outbreaks in coal mines and said it expects the numbers to fall to around 300 a day next week after the planned isolation of sick people.
Quarantine may be reinstated for people returning from some countries, government spokesman Piotr Muller said on Thursday, citing Spain and France as countries triggering concerns about the coronavirus. "We are considering introducing a quarantine for particular countries from the European Union and from outside of the European Union," Muller told private broadcaster Polsat News.
New infections were detected mainly in two regions, including the coal mining region of Silesia, said health ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz. He also told private broadcaster TVN24 that a "high number of new infections" may occur in the coming days.
Russia reported 5,509 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, pushing its national tally to 834,499, the world's fourth largest caseload.
Officials said 129 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 13,802.
The Rwandan Cabinet on Wednesday called on the public to limit unnecessary movements, including visits to friends and family, as the number of COVID-19 infections in Rwanda approaches 2,000.
While the central African nation had announced the reopening of airports for commercial flights from Aug 1, the Cabinet decided to keep land borders closed, except for goods and cargo as well as returning Rwandan citizens and legal residents until the measures against COVID-19 are reviewed again after 15 days upon a health assessment, according to a statement on Cabinet decisions made at the meeting.
The Cabinet also maintained a curfew imposed since May 4, preventing people from going out from 9 pm to 5 am local time.
The decision came as the health ministry reported 37 new cases and 31 recoveries, bringing the nation's tally to 1,963 and the number of recoveries 1,036.
Tourists wearing face masks walk in the town of Sóller in the Balearic Island of Mallorca, Spain, July 29, 2020. (JOAN MATEU / AP)
Spain diagnosed 1,153 new coronavirus infections in the past day, the health ministry said on Wednesday, as the country continues to struggle with a rapidly accelerating surge of new cases.
The cumulative total rose to 282,641 cases, the ministry said. The figure was up 2,031 from the previous day, and includes results from antibody tests on people who may already have recovered.
Gambian Vice-President Isatou Touray has tested positive for COVID-19 and President Adama Barrow will be in self-isolation, authorities said on Wednesday.
"The Office of the President informs the public that Her Excellency, the Vice President, Dr. Isatou Touray, has been tested positive of COVID-19. Consequently, the President, Adama Barrow, will be on self-isolation with immediate effect for two weeks," the presidency said in a statement.
Touray was the country's health minister before being appointed as vice-president. She also chairs the cabinet's special committee leading the fight against the pandemic.
The Gambia has so far reported 326 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including eight deaths and 66 recoveries.
The British government announced Thursday that with immediate effect, anyone who tests positive or shows symptoms for COVID-19 in Britain will have to self-isolate for 10 days instead of the previous seven, based on a low but tangible possibility that people could remain infectious for longer.
Ahead of the announcement, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the British authorities were worried about a second wave of coronavirus infections in Europe and will not hesitate to bring back more quarantine measures, possibly within the next few days.
Hancock stopped short of naming other European countries that might also end up back on the UK quarantine list, but cited France as an example of one where infections have lately risen.
Hancock also said the British authorities were working on possible ways to shorten the quarantine period for people coming from Spain, but no change was imminent.
Meanwhile, he also said that in Britain, the number of coronavirus cases had stopped falling and was at best flat, which was a result of increased social contact as lockdown measures have gradually been eased. He urged people to keep following social distancing guidelines.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, there were 301,455 confirmed cases as of Wednesday morning, after a daily increase of 763 new cases.
Almost 10,000 people in the UK have been given an experimental vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, a key step toward finding a shot that will help control the pandemic.
Ukraine reported a record daily high of 1,197 new coronavirus cases on July 29, the country's council of security and defense said on Thursday.
The new figures brought the total number of cases rose to 68,794, including 1,673 deaths and 38,154 recoveries.
The number of new daily infections has increased sharply in the past two months following the gradual lifting of restrictions that began in late-May.
Health Minister Maxym Stepanov said 248 people had been admitted to hospital over the past day that also was a record high number.
"We can impose any restrictions, we can talk about the rules and establish them, but they are worthless if we don't follow them," Stepanov said in a televised briefing.
A cafe owner (right) offers hand sanitizer to customers as they enter the cafe, in Miami Beach, Florida, July 29, 2020. (LYNNE SLADKY / AP)
The United States' COVID-19 death toll surpassed 150,000 Wednesday, the highest official toll in the world and another grim milestone in a pandemic that’s still raging in many parts of the country. California, Texas and Florida each reported record daily fatalities.
Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admitted that the US failed to recognize the coronavirus threat from Europe in time. Sequences of the earliest positive coronavirus specimens in New York City resembled those circulating in Europe, according to a CDC report released in mid-July.
Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, who steadfastly refused to wear a mask during the pandemic, said he has tested positive for COVID-19, leading at least three of his colleagues to say they would self-quarantine
Texas recorded another 313 deaths, pushing the cumulative fatalities to 6,190, according to state health department figures. Total cases rose by 2.3 percent to surpass 400,000.
In California, there were 197 newly reported deaths, exceeding the 14-day average of 109 and bringing its toll to 8,715. Los Angeles, the most populous county in the United States, reported the largest increase in confirmed cases and deaths, with 4,825 new cases and 91 fatalities.
Florida reported 216 additional deaths among residents, for a total of 6,333.
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US top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci warned that several states, including Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana, should be vigilant to avoid virus surges experienced in the southern and western parts of the country.
In Washington, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that members and staff would be required to wear masks in the House of Representatives during the coronavirus pandemic.
The request came as Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, who steadfastly refused to wear a mask during the pandemic, said he has tested positive for COVID-19.
Republican Representatives Mike Johnson and Kay Granger and Democratic lawmaker Raúl Grijalva said they would self-quarantine after being in contact with Gohmert, according to statements from their offices or media reports.
Democratic House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he would consider having all House members tested as a result of Gohmert's testing positive.
Zimbabwe recorded 62 new COVID-19 cases and one death on Wednesday, bringing the country's tally to 2,879 and the death toll to 41.
Out of 2,879 confirmed cases, 1,837 were local cases while 1,042 were imported ones.
Also on Wednesday, the country also recorded a big increase of 283 new recoveries, raising the number of recoveries from 604 to 887.
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