People wearing protective masks walk across the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan on Oct 17, 2020, amid the pandemic. (PHOTO / AFP)
OTTAWA / PRAGUE / VATICAN CITY - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will announce on Sunday another set of measures to counter the new wave of COVID-19 cases, his office said, after the country registered a new daily record in infections on Saturday.
Conte’s office said the government is discussing new restrictions with local and health authorities, aiming to stem contagion while limiting the impact on individuals and businesses.
Italy was the first major European country to be hit by COVID-19 and had managed to get the outbreak under control by the summer thanks to a rigid two-month lockdown on business and people’s movement. But infections have soared in recent weeks.
The country posted 10,925 new infections on Saturday, according to the health ministry, its highest daily tally so far, up from the previous record of 10,010 cases posted on Friday.
Government ministers have ruled out a repeat of the lockdown imposed at the start of the crisis but officials have looked at a range of alternative measures to reduce social contact.
The head of the northwestern region of Liguria, Giovanni Toti, said on Facebook the government would urge schools to alternate between online and in-person lessons and tell companies to increase remote working.
The government has already toughened restrictions twice in 10 days, making wearing masks mandatory outside the home and imposing limitations on public gatherings, restaurants, sports, and some school activities.
According to Italian newspapers, the new restrictions could also target non-essential activities including gyms, pools and amateur sporting events.
Italy has the second highest death toll in Europe after Britain, with 36,474 deaths since the outbreak flared in February, according to official figures.
Free masks were given to travellers who didn't have one with them at the Lionel Groulx station on July 13, 2020 as face coverings and masks become compulsory in all public transports in the Quebec province in Montreal, Quebec. (PHOTO / AFP)
Global coronavirus cases
Global coronavirus cases rose by more than 400,000 for the first time late on Friday, a record one-day increase as much of Europe enacts new restrictions to curb the outbreak.
Europe, which successfully tamped down the first surge of infections, has emerged as the new coronavirus epicentre in recent weeks and is reporting on average 140,000 cases a day over the past week.
As a region, Europe is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the United States combined.
Of every 100 infections reported around the world, 34 were from European countries, according to a Reuters analysis. The region is currently reporting a million new infections about every nine days and has reported more than 6.3 million cases since the pandemic began.
Major European countries - United Kingdom, France, Russia, Netherlands and Spain -- accounted for about half of Europe’s new cases in the week to Oct 18, according to Reuters tally.
Canada's COVID-19 cases continue to surge on Saturday as the two populous provinces Quebec and Ontario recorded a single-day surge of new infections respectively.
Quebec reported 1,279 new cases on Saturday, more than any single day since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in February. The previous high mark was Oct. 2, when 1,161 people tested positive.
The province's government urged Quebecers to shrink their social circles even further as the province reported another 1,055 new cases on Friday.
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 805 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday after four days of cases numbers in the 700s.
As of Saturday noon, Canada reported a total of 193,581 cases of COVID-19 and 9,721 deaths, according to CTV.
The total could be more as some provinces and territories in the country do not report new cases over the weekend.
As of Friday, an average of 2,310 cases were being reported daily across Canada over a seven-day period, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada on Satuday.
The Czech Republic
The daily new COVID-19 cases exceeded 10,000 for the first time in the Czech Republic on Friday when 11,105 infections were confirmed, according to latest Health Ministry data on Saturday.
Since the pandemic outbreak in the Czech Republic in March, 160,112 people have got infected, including 92,736 current active cases.
Most of the infected have mild or no symptoms at all. However, the number of the hospitalized has been rising in the past weeks. According to the ministry's latest data, 3,120 patients are now hospitalized.
Health Minister Roman Prymula said earlier that he expected the number of the infected to keep rising for ten days up to two weeks. To deal with possible shortage of hospital beds in the near future, the government has decided to build temporary or field hospitals like what China had done during the spring outbreak in Wuhan.
Tightened anti-pandemic measures have been adopted in the country this week to curb the rapid spread of the infection.
Public gatherings are limited to six people, all schools except for kindergartens must apply distance learning only. Restaurants, bars and clubs are closed and can only provide take-away sales. Cultural and sports events are suspended and alcohol drinking prohibited in public places.
Prymula said on Friday that no further restrictive measures would be taken in the following few days.
A man living in the same Vatican residence as Pope Francis has tested positive for COVID-19 and gone into isolation, the Vatican said on Saturday.
The man, who was not identified and did not have symptoms of the illness, left the Santa Marta residence and went into isolation along with others with whom he had had direct contact, a statement said.
Someone else living in the residence - which has about 130 rooms and suites - tested positive for the coronavirus when the pandemic hit Italy in March.
Pope Francis, who had part of one lung removed during an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina, is tested regularly for COVID-19.
He had a normal schedule on Saturday, receiving three people in separate private audiences and addressing a large group of Italian police.
The Vatican, a tiny city-state surrounded by Rome, has been only lightly affected by the coronavirus, with about two dozen confirmed cases in total.
Three Vatican residents who tested positive recently have recovered, Saturday’s statement added.
Four members of the Swiss Guard, the elite and colourfully dressed corps that protects the pope, tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
Brazil reported 24,062 cases, ending a week with the fewest new infections in five months, according to the nation’s Health Ministry. Total cases are 5,224,362. Another 461 people died for a total of 153,675. The week’s toll was the least deadly since the beginning of May, according to the ministry website.
The number of US cases increased for the fourth consecutive day and was the highest since July 29, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.
The Friday data, 9 percent higher than the previous day’s, underscores rising COVID-19 cases in most parts of the country less than three weeks before the election in which President Donald Trump’s handling of the outbreak is a central issue.
Florida, hit hard this summer, reported the most cases since August. California and Texas both neared 17,000 fatalities. Ohio, a swing state, broke a record for new cases Saturday, the fourth straight day reporting more than 2,000 daily infections.
Indiana broke a record for new infections for the second day in a row, amid an unrelenting surge of cases in the Midwest. Total cases, rising since mid-September, are now 145,977 and deaths 3,685.
France reported a record 32,427 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours as tighter restrictions went into effect in the country’s major cities to try to check the outbreak.
The government has put in place a curfew effective Saturday in the Paris region and eight other metropolitan areas, confining people to their homes between 9 pm and 6 am for four weeks.
The number of new cases surpassed the previous record of 30,621, set Thursday, according to statistics on the website France’s national health agency.
Ireland recorded 1,276 new infections on Saturday, among the highest levels since April. The new figures came as senior government members met to consider a recommendation from health authorities that Ireland move to a Level 5 lockdown, the strictest, for six weeks. The nation is mostly at Level 3, with some border areas at Level 4.
Cyprus imposed new measures to contain the virus across the country, while it decided to close all restaurants, bars and cafes from 10:30 pm in Limassol, the second-largest city of the small Mediterranean island.
The government decided to take further action after a week in which Cyprus broke case records on three days. Cyprus reported another high on Saturday, with 202 new confirmed cases.
The UK reported another 16,171 cases of coronavirus on Saturday and 150 deaths. The country has added more than 100,000 cases since Sunday, almost 15 percent of the cumulative total of 705,428. London and suburban Essex were among the locations to move to increased restrictions today, with people banned from meeting indoors with people outside their households.
Belgian foreign minister and former prime minister Sophie Wilmes said she had tested positive for coronavirus. The infection probably occurred within her family circle, she said in a Tweet.
Belgium is one of the countries most affected by the pandemic’s resurgence in Europe. The country’s 14-day running Covid-19 incidence rate is still rising and jumped to 621 per 100,000 population.
Prime Minister Alexander de Croo had announced new stricter measures to control the pandemic on Friday evening, introducing a curfew, restricting close contacts further and closing restaurants and cafes for four weeks.
Honduras has registered over 2,500 deaths from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) so far, the National Risk Management System (Sinager) reported on Saturday.
The organization stated that as of Friday night, 2,556 deaths and 86,691 cases have been registered in the country, and 34,546 people have recovered so far.
Additionally, 701 people are currently hospitalized, with 551 in stable condition, 124 in serious condition, and 26 in intensive care units.
The Central American country has managed to slow the spread of the pandemic by installing primary care centers throughout the country, known as "triages," and sending medical brigades to look for cases house-to-house in the most affected areas.
Tunisian Health Ministry on Saturday night reported 5,752 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 40,542 including 626 deaths in the country.
The ministry recorded 901 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, said a ministry statement.
A total of 297,513 lab tests have been carried out by Oct. 16, of which 13.6 percent proved positive, according to the statistical document of the ministry.
Several provinces in the country have declared a nighttime curfew to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Morocco on Saturday reported 3,763 new COVID-19 cases, the biggest single-day increase so far, taking the number of infections in the country since March 2 to 170,911.
The total number of recoveries from COVID-19 in Morocco increased to 141,381 after 2,393 new ones were added, the ministry of health said in a statement.
The death toll rose to 2,878 with 60 new fatalities reported during the last 24 hours, while 523 people are in intensive care units.
Casablanca remains the worst-hit region in the country with 1,809 newly confirmed cases and 30 deaths during the last 24 hours.
Egypt officially reopened on Saturday tens of thousands of schools for millions of students across the country to start the new academic year while implementing precautionary measures against the COVID-19.
The plan of the Ministry of Education for the 2020/2021 academic year is based on maintaining social distancing, sufficient ventilation and regular disinfection at schools, while raising awareness of students and parents about the pandemic and necessary precautions.
There will be also temperature checks for students, teachers and visitors before entering schools.
Egypt has about 23 million students in over 56,000 public schools nationwide. Students of each grade will attend school for a specific number of days only, not the whole week.
"Precautionary measures are observed at schools, social distancing is maintained and students of different grades are scheduled to attend in different days," Reda Hegazy, deputy education minister for teachers affairs, told Xinhua at one of the preparatory schools in Giza.
He explained that there is a new official TV channel to provide classes to students, while teachers at schools will complete the process side by side with the TV classes.
At the gate of a high school near Cairo University, the temperatures of students were checked before they headed to the morning assembly at the school yard, where all students and teachers were seen with medical face masks on.
Nasser Shaaban Shehata, head of South Giza Education Department, said that the new schedule system specifies fewer days for students of each grade to maintain social distancing.
"So, there are more available classrooms and teachers so that each class will not have more than 25 students," he pointed out.
"Schools also have isolation rooms and some have health inspectors and doctors," the official told Xinhua, reassuring that the situation is under the ministry's control.
Schools have been suspended in Egypt since mid-March over COVID-19 concerns.
Amid declining COVID-19 infections and deaths, the country has been easing relevant restrictions over the past three months as part of a coexistence plan to maintain anti-coronavirus precautionary measures while resuming economic activities.
Until Friday night, Egypt has registered 105,159 COVID-19 cases, including 6,099 deaths and 98,089 recoveries.
Russia registered 15,099 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, slightly down from the all-time high of 15,150 reported Friday, the country's COVID-19 response center said Sunday.
Russia's cumulative number of coronavirus cases has grown to 1,399,334, including 24,187 deaths and 1,070,576 recoveries, the center said in a statement.
Moscow has seen a spike in COVID-19 infections, tallying 4,610 new cases over the past day, bringing the city's total to 362,253.
Along with many other European countries, Russia has been witnessing a steep growth in COVID-19 cases over the past weeks, after many restrictions were lifted and people gathered in large groups during the summer.
HONG KONG NEWS