LIVE: European nations step up coronavirus measures as cases rise | News

Ultimate Lead Gen
    • The United Kingdom says all arrivals from France and the Netherlands will be subject to a 14-day quarantine starting on Saturday, prompting Paris to warn of a “reciprocal measure”.

       

 

    • An inquiry report into the virus-infected Ruby Princess cruise ship allowed to disembark in Sydney found Australian health officials made a “serious and material error”.

       

 

    • Worldwide coronavirus cases surpass 20.9 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 12.9 million people have recovered, and more than 759,000 have died.

       

 

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, August 14

18:15 GMT – UK secures 90 mn more doses of potential virus vaccine

The United Kingdom has secured access to 90 million doses of two “promising” coronavirus vaccines, the government said, taking its total orders of potential COVID-19 vaccines to nearly 350 million doses.

The country has struck agreements to buy 60 million doses from US biotech firm Novavax, and another 30 million doses from Janssen pharmaceuticals, which is part of US giant Johnson & Johnson.

“Since we don’t know if any of these vaccines are going to work, we think it’s important to have a spread of risk across the different types,” Kate Bingham, Head of the UK Vaccines Task Force, told AFP.

18:00 GMT – Virus lockdown gives South Africa ‘crime holiday’: minister

Crime-plagued South Africa posted a drastic drop in criminal offences, including sexual assaults, during the first three months of its coronavirus lockdown, the police minister has said.

The latest quarterly statistics showed crime dropping by up to 40 percent between April and June, when the country was placed under strict stay-home restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.

“These statistics show major decreases in all crime categories compared to the same comparative period last year,” said Police Minister Bheki Cele.

17:45 GMT – Trump says ready to push out coronavirus aid, blames Democrats for holdup

President Donald Trump has said he is ready to act to pump stimulus money into a US economy hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, a week after his negotiating team failed to reach a deal with congressional Democrats.

The Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House of Representatives have gone into an informal recess after last week’s talks ended with the parties $2tn apart. However, the leaders of both parties said they could recall their members with 24 hours notice if a deal emerged.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Trump said he was prepared to take unilateral action, this time to provide Americans with direct payments as well as money for small businesses and state and local governments. “DEMOCRATS ARE HOLDING THIS UP!” the president wrote repeatedly in the series of tweets.

17:30 GMT – Oman ends ban on night movement starting August 15

Oman will end the ban on night movement starting from August 15, at 09:00 GMT, Oman’s supreme committee for dealing with COVID-19 announced on twitter.

Oman has recorded 82,743 coronavirus cases, including 557 deaths and 77,427 recoveries.

16:45 GMT – Canada says ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ of coronavirus would swamp healthcare system

Canada is planning for a “reasonable worst case scenario” in which new waves of the coronavirus would intermittently swamp the public health system, officials have said.

Under the scenario, there would be a large peak later this year followed by a number of smaller peaks and valleys stretching to January 2022. Each of the peaks would exceed the health system’s capacity.

Several of Canada’s 10 provinces have reported higher numbers of COVID-19 infections as the economy restarts and restrictions on social gathering are relaxed.

 

Why is the mortality rate for covid-19 lower in some countries?

 

16:30 GMT – Austria warns against travel to Croatia

Austria’s foreign ministry has joined Italy in warning against travel to Croatia, as concerns grow that vacationers could catch the coronavirus and spread it once they return.

The warning, which comes after Austria recorded 57 new cases among people returning from Croatia within the last 24 hours, is effective from August 17, the ministry said.

Nearly a quarter of the people whose infections were reported within the past seven days show no symptoms, health minister Rudolf Anschober said. The average age of infected Austrians was 33.7 years.

16:00 GMT – US, Canada, Mexico COVID-19 travel ban extended

The US Department of Homeland Security has said that a COVID-19 ban on non-essential travel through border crossings with Canada and Mexico was being extended until September 21.

The reciprocal travel ban aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus was first imposed in March and has been extended several times since then.

15:45 GMT – Germany puts all Spain except Canaries on quarantine list

Germany has added all of Spain, excluding the Canary Islands, to its list of high-risk coronavirus areas, the health ministry said, in a major blow to top tourist destinations like Mallorca.

The decision means travellers returning from mainland Spain or the Balearic Islands must submit to a free mandatory Covid-19 test and face a period of quarantine.

“A very dynamic outbreak is evident in Spain. The number of cases is continuing to rise,” a health ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

15:30 GMT – Aberdeen players fined for COVID-19 protocol breach

The eight Aberdeen players who breached COVID-19 protocols and prompted three league matches to be postponed have been severely reprimanded and heavily fined, the Scottish Premiership club said.

Media reported that the players had visited a bar on August 1 in breach of their own COVID-19 protocols and government guidance, following their opening 1-0 defeat by Rangers.

“As a result of our investigation, these players have been severely reprimanded and fined heavily,” said club chairman Dave Cormack in a statement.

“Contractually, the specifics must remain confidential between the club and each player but, rest assured, the financial fines are in line with the severity of the consequences of their actions,” he added.

15:15 GMT – Albanians rush to enter Greece as virus rules change

Thousands of Albanians formed an enormous queue of cars at the Greek border as they rushed to re-enter the country for work ahead of new virus rules, police said.

The changes came as thousands of Albanians who live and work in Greece, mainly in the agriculture sector, were preparing to return after summer holidays at home.

Under Athens’ new rules, daily arrivals from Albania will be capped at 750 after August 16.

15:00 GMT – Greece rolls out more restrictions to fight rising COVID infections

Greece has set a temporary 50-person limit on public gatherings and said restaurants and bars in Athens and other areas must close by midnight, as the country seeks to contain a recent spike in COVID-19 infections.

The deputy civil protection minister said the limit on public gatherings would last until August 24 and be imposed in parts of the country where infection numbers have risen.

Earlier, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged young people to wear masks, reminding them that they are not invulnerable to the novel coronavirus and could unwittingly infect their own families.

14:45 GMT – Brazil’s Bolsonaro approval rating at highest despite coronavirus: poll

The approval rating of Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, is at its highest since he took office last year despite the country’s 105,000 deaths from the world’s second-worst coronavirus outbreak, a new poll showed.

The Datafolha poll found that 37 percent of those surveyed viewed his government as great or good, compared with 32 percent in June, while his rejection rate has dropped 10 points to 34 percent who see his government as bad or terrible.

Bolsonaro has faced criticism for rejecting social distancing and lockdowns to curb the pandemic, which has yet to reach its peak in Brazil.

14:30 GMT – US eyes controversial human challenge trials for COVID-19 vaccine

US government scientists have begun efforts to manufacture a strain of the novel coronavirus that could be used in human challenge trials of vaccines, a controversial type of study in which healthy volunteers would be vaccinated and then intentionally infected with the virus, according to the Reuters news agency.

The work is preliminary and such trials would not replace large-scale, phase-three trials such as those now under way in the United States testing experimental COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc, according to a statement emailed to Reuters by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Read more here.

Lab technicians load filled vials of investigational coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences facility in La Verne, California, U.S. March 18, 2020.

Lab technicians load filled vials of investigational coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences facility in La Verne, California [Reuters]


14:25 GMT

Hello, this is Elizabeth Melimopoulos taking over the live updates from my colleague  Saba Aziz  in Doha.


11:45 GMT – Spain shuts nightclubs, bans outdoor smoking

All Spanish regions have agreed to order the closure of nightclubs and to ban smoking in outdoor areas when keeping a safe distance is impossible, among other measures aimed at curbing a rise in coronavirus infections, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

Illa also advised against meetings of more than 10 people, and warned young people specifically not to gather outside to drink alcohol.

Infections have spiked in recent days, bringing the total as of Thursday to 337,334 since the pandemic began.

Spain

The regional government of the Canary Islands imposed a smoking ban on Thursday [Borja Suarez/Reuters]

10:45 GMT – Philippines bans chicken imports from Brazil over virus scare

The Philippines has imposed a temporary ban on poultry meat imports from Brazil after two cities in China found traces of the new coronavirus in cargoes of imported frozen food, including chicken wings from the South American country.

Shenzhen city authorities identified the chicken as originating from a plant owned by Aurora, Brazil’s third-largest poultry and pork exporter.

Coronavirus outbreak in Manila

A meat vendor rests at a public market where wearing face masks and face shields is mandatory, in Taytay, Rizal province, Philippines [File: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday it saw no evidence of coronavirus being spread by food or packaging and urged people not to be afraid of the virus entering the food chain.

10:40 GMT – Dutch economy shrinks by record 8.5 percent

The Dutch economy took its biggest-ever hit from the global coronavirus pandemic as lockdowns brought activity in the country to a standstill, data showed.

The EU’s fifth-biggest economy shrank by 8.5 percent in the period from April to June compared with the preceding three months, the central statistics office CBS said.

“Never before has such a shrinkage been measured,” CBS said in a statement.

More than half of the contraction was due to a sharp fall in household consumption, the statisticians explained.

10:30 GMT – Britons rush home from France to beat quarantine rules

Britons rushed to get back from summer holidays in France after their government said it would soon impose a 14-day quarantine on travellers from across the Channel due to rising coronavirus infections.

The British government announced late on Thursday that it would impose a quarantine from 03:00 GMT on Saturday on arrivals from France, giving an estimated 160,000 UK holidaymakers there just more than 24 hours to get home to avoid isolating.

The sudden rule change dealt a fresh blow to tourists, airlines and tour operators, all hoping for holidays after the pandemic, which has left many travel groups cash-strapped and facing an uncertain future.

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London

Passengers wearing protective face masks arrive from Paris at Eurostar terminal at St Pancras station [Peter Nicholls/Reuters]

10:15 GMT – EU reaches deal for 300 million vaccine doses

The European Commission has reached a deal with British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca for the purchase of at least 300 million doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The EU’s executive arm, which is negotiating on behalf of the 27 EU states, said the deal also included an option to buy 100 million more doses should the vaccine prove safe and effective.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is being developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of Oxford.

10:00 GMT – UK lines up more potential COVID-19 vaccine supplies

The UK will buy potential COVID-19 vaccines from US drugmakers Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc, the companies said, boosting the number of deals it has with drugmakers as the global vaccine race rages on.

The UK and the United States are in the lead with six vaccine deals with drugmakers each, as companies and governments worldwide work overtime to find a vaccine.

The latest agreements bring the UK’s total number of doses secured to 362 million for a population of 66 million.

09:30 GMT – Which countries have not reported any COVID-19 cases?

Coronavirus has been labelled a pandemic and reported in at least 188 countries and territories.

Check out here to find out the few countries that have not reported any cases of the coronavirus so far.

09:00 GMT – One-fifth of inmates in Kashmir’s largest jail test positive

One in five prisoners at the largest jail in Indian-administered Kashmir has tested positive for the coronavirus, authorities said, as the health ministry reported a daily nationwide rise of more than 60,000 cases for the third straight day.

Authorities at the central jail in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar said they were preparing to shift some prisoners after 102 of the 480 tested positive.

“We are taking extra care and all new entrants are being tested and then quarantined for two weeks,” VK Singh, Kashmir’s additional director general of prisons, told Reuters news agency.

India Impose Restrictions As Coronavirus Cases Continue To Spike

The Kashmir Valley has reported more than 20,000 cases, of which nearly 5,500 people currently remain infected [Yawar Nazir/Getty Images]

08:30 GMT – Philippines delays start of schools to October

The Philippine government has further delayed the opening of schools across the country to allow for more preparations for distance learning amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the opening of classes to be deferred to October 5, according to a memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

School classes in the Philippines traditionally start in June, but authorities had pushed the opening to August 24. Duterte has ruled out allowing face-to-face classes until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Learning will instead be at home – either online, via television, radio or printed materials.

08:15 GMT – Australian officials slammed by inquiry into virus cruise ship

An inquiry into how thousands of passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney from the virus-infected cruise ship Ruby Princess has slammed health and border officials.

The inquiry report released on Friday found it was “inexplicable and unjustifiable” that health officials made a “serious and material error” on March 19 when it rated the cruise ship as “low risk” and allowed 2,700 passengers to leave without waiting for checks for the coronavirus.

It was the mistake that spread COVID-19 across the country as 700 passengers were later found to be infected and spread the virus to friends and relatives around the country.

Watch Al Jazeera’s 101 East documentary below.

08:00 GMT – Belgian hospitals stock up for possible second wave

Belgian hospitals are stockpiling drugs and protective kits and putting in place contingency plans amid a continuing spike in new COVID-19 infections that has forced the capital Brussels to make face masks compulsory in public spaces.

With nearly 10,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus so far, Belgium with a population of 11 million has one of the world’s highest death rates from COVID-19 per head.

Belgium

A laboratory worker checks the coronavirus tests at the CHIREC Delta Hospital in Brussels [Yves Herman/Reuters]

In March and April, when the pandemic accelerated, Belgian hospitals struggled with a shortage of equipment and with administrative hurdles.

“We have stocked up on curare, anaesthetics and antibiotics that allow us to last for two or three months during any second wave that might arise,” chief physician Michel Dewever at the Delta Hospital in Brussels, told Reuters.

07:45 GMT – Paris declared ‘red’ zone again

The French government has declared Paris and the Bouches-du-Rhone area around Marseille on the Mediterranean coast as “red” zones with a high coronavirus infection risk, according to a new government decree.

The decree gives local authorities the power to limit the circulation of people and vehicles, to restrict the access to public transport and air travel, to limit the access to public buildings and to close some establishments where there is a high risk of infection.

The measure follows a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections over the past two weeks.

Paris Bicycle Culture As Corona Powers Commuters To Pedal

Cyclists ride past the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France [Kiran Ridley/Getty Images]

07:30 GMT – Latest coronavirus figures

Indonesia: 135,123 cases (2,307), 6,021 deaths (53)

Philippines: 153,660 cases (6,216), 2,442 deaths (16)

Russia: 912,823 cases (5,056), 15,498 deaths (114)

Ukraine: 87,872 cases (1,732), 2,011 deaths (0)


Hello, this is Saba Aziz in Doha, Qatar, taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.


06:45 GMT – UK says it has no choice over quarantine for French arrivals

The UK had no choice but to impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France from Saturday to protect public health domestically, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said.

“It’s a dynamic situation, and I don’t think that anybody … would want us to do anything other than protect public health and public safety,” Shapps told Sky News.

“That does mean where we see countries breach a certain level of cases … then we have no real choice but to act,” he added.

06:35 GMT – New Zealand extends Auckland virus lockdown by 12 days

New Zealand extended a lockdown of its largest city Auckland by at least 12 days, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced, as authorities struggled with a growing new coronavirus outbreak.

“Cabinet has agreed to maintain our current settings for an additional 12 days, bringing us to a full two weeks in total,” Ardern said.

Since four people tested positive on Tuesday – the first cases of community transmission in 102 days – New Zealand has detected a cluster of 30 cases.

Most of those cases have been found around Auckland, a city of 1.5 million people who have been asked to stay at home.

Authorities are still struggling to find out how the virus returned to New Zealand, which had earned global praise for its handling of the crisis.

06:15 GMT – Vietnam to buy Russian COVID-19 vaccine

Vietnam’s health ministry has registered to buy a Russian COVID-19 vaccine as the Southeast Asian country fights a new outbreak following months of no local cases.

Russia said the first batch of the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine would be rolled out within two weeks, rejecting as “groundless” the safety concerns aired by some experts over Moscow’s rapid approval of the drug.

“In the meantime, Vietnam will still continue developing the country’s own COVID-19 vaccine,” state broadcaster Vietnam Television said, citing Vietnam’s Ministry of Health.

The ministry did not say how many doses of the Russian vaccine it had ordered, or when it expected to receive them. Vietnam’s home-grown vaccine will be available by the end of 2021, the ministry said last month.

04:54 GMT – India’s death toll now world’s fourth highest

India’s coronavirus death toll overtook the United Kingdom’s to become the fourth-highest in the world as authorities reported another single-day record increase in infections.

According to the health ministry, India reported 1,007 deaths in the past 24 hours. Its total rose to 48,040 deaths, behind the US, Brazil and Mexico.

India’s confirmed cases reached 2,461,190 with a one-day spike of 64,553 cases reported in the past 24 hours, the ministry said. The South Asian country reported 66,999 cases on Thursday.

03:53 GMT – New Zealand virus outbreak spreads beyond Auckland

New Zealand’s Health Minister Chris Hipkins said two of the 13 new infections reported on Friday were found in the North Island town of Tokoroa, about 210km (130 miles) south of Auckland, the site of the country’s latest outbreak.

But Hipkins played down fears the virus could now be rampant elsewhere.

“All of the cases so far are connected, they are all part of one Auckland-based cluster, that’s good news,” he said, adding that the Tokoroa cases were identified quickly.

NZEALAND - HEALTH - VIRUS

Police and military personnel check vehicles leaving Auckland at a COVID-19 checkpoint outside the city [David Rowland/ AFP]

03:19 GMT – New Zealand reports 13 new cases

Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director general of health, said the country recorded 12 new confirmed cases and another “probable” case of the coronavirus.

All but one of the cases had been linked to an existing cluster of cases in Auckland, while the 13th was still under investigation.

“We are now asking that all positive cases and, where relevant, their family members or household members, transfer to the quarantine Auckland facility in Auckland for those Auckland based cases,” Bloomfield said.

02:40 GMT – S Korea logs biggest one-day jump in local cases since March-end

South Korea reported 103 new coronavirus cases, of which 85 were locally transmitted.

The figure marks the highest one-day jump in domestic cases since the end of March, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said authorities will be forced to consider elevating social distancing measures in the Seoul metropolitan area – something policymakers had been reluctant to do over economic concerns – if transmissions continue to rise. Eighty-three of the new cases were logged in the capital.

A general view of apartment complexes in Seoul

The vast majority of Friday’s cases were reported in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area [Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

He pleaded for citizen vigilance during a three-day holiday that continues through Monday and criticised plans by some activist groups to hold rallies in Seoul on the weekend despite the city’s ban.

02:00 GMT – North Korea lifts virus lockdown in border town

Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, has lifted a lockdown in a city near the border with South Korea where thousands had been quarantined for weeks over coronavirus worries, according to state media.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim made the decision at a party meeting on Thursday. The North Korean leader said it was clear after three weeks that the virus situation in Kaesong was stable and expressed gratitude to residents for cooperating with the lockdown.

Kim also insisted the country will keep its borders shut and rejected any outside help as Pyongyang carries out an aggressive anti-virus campaign and rebuilds thousands of houses, roads and bridges damaged by heavy rain and floods in recent weeks.

Read more here.

01:45 GMT – Peru surpasses 500,000 cases

Peru surpassed half a million coronavirus cases on Thursday and now has Latin America’s highest death rate, according to health ministry data.

The Andean country has 507,996 confirmed cases and 25,648 related fatalities. Peru’s death rate stands at 78.6 per 100,000 people, according to a Reuters tally, a number higher than hard-hit regional neighbours Chile and Brazil.

President Martin Vizcarra blamed the recent spike in infections on an uptick in social and sporting events and a lax attitude by the public.

“There has been too much confidence on the part of the population,” Vizcarra said. “Let’s learn from history, correct mistakes and now we are united despite the discrepancies in some of the decisions that are made.”

Vizcarra on Wednesday banned family gatherings, reinstated a blanket Sunday curfew and extended lockdowns to five more regions of the country as figures revealed a 75 percent surge in infections among children and adolescents.

PERU - HEALTH - VIRUS - DOCTORS - TRIBUTE

Images of the 125 doctors who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic in Peru are displayed outside Peru’s Medical College (CMP) in Lima on August 13, 2020 [Ernesto Benavides/AFP]

PERU - HEALTH - VIRUS - INDIGENOUS - FUNERAL

Funerary employees in protective suits prepare to lower the coffin into the ground during the burial of a COVID-19 patient at the local cemetery in the remote Aymara highland village of Acora, close to the border with Bolivia, on August 9, 2020 [File: Carlos Mamani/AFP]

01:37 GMT – Mexico’s caseload tops 500,000

Mexico’s health ministry reported 7,371 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and 627 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 505,751 cases and 55,293 deaths.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

01:10 GMT – Governor of Venezuela’s capital district dies of COVID-19

Dario Vivas, the governor of Venezuela’s Caracas capital district and strong ally of President Nicolas Maduro, died on Thursday of COVID-19, officials said.

Vivas, 70, a senior member of the ruling socialist party, had said on Twitter on July 19 that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was going into self-isolation.

“He died in combat … taking care of his health and all of us in this difficult battle against the Covid-19 pandemic,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez wrote on Twitter.

Vivas is the first top-level Venezuelan government official to die of the virus, though several have tested positive.

FILES - VENEZUELA - HEALTH - VIRUS - VIVAS - OBIT

Dario Viva, right, died on Thursday, almost a month after testing positive for COVID-19, according to officials [Federico Parra/AFP]

00:48 GMT – France warns of ‘reciprocal measure’ over UK quarantine move

Clement Beaune, French junior minister for European affairs, said the United Kingdom’s decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France was one that “we regret and which will lead to a reciprocal measure”.

France “hoped for a return to normal as soon as possible”, Beaune said on Twitter.

On Thursday, France recorded 2,669 new infections, its highest daily number since May.

00:32 GMT – France, Netherlands added to UK quarantine list

The UK will impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France, the Netherlands, Malta and three other countries, transport minister Grant Shapps said.

“Data shows we need to remove France, the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos & Aruba from our list of #coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN,” Shapps said on Twitter.

“If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.”

00:18 GMT – Trump attacks Biden on call for mask mandate

US President Donald Trump attacked his rival, Joe Biden, for calling on governors to mandate face coverings in public for the next three months.

“We do not need to bring the full weight of the federal government down on law-abiding Americans to accomplish this goal. Americans must have their freedoms,” said Trump.

“I trust the American people and their governors very much. I trust the American people. And the governors want to do the right thing to make the smart decisions. And Joe doesn’t.”

Earlier on Thursday, Biden, the presumptive presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, called for a nationwide mask mandate, citing health experts’ predictions that this could save 40,000 lives over the next three months.

 

Meltdowns over masks amid coronavirus outbreak go viral (1:27)

 


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.

For all the key developments from yesterday, August 13, go here.

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