Coronavirus: France to enforce mandatory wearing of masks

World round-up: Millions told to stay home in Catalonia amid record global increase in cases

A medical volunteer takes a temperature reading of a woman at a marriage hall, which is temporarily converted into a Covid-19 testing centre, in Mumbai on Friday. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

A medical volunteer takes a temperature reading of a woman at a marriage hall, which is temporarily converted into a Covid-19 testing centre, in Mumbai on Friday. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases for the second day in a row on Saturday, with the total rising by 259,848 in 24 hours.

The biggest increases reported on Saturday were from the US, Brazil, India and South Africa, according to a daily report.

The previous WHO record for new cases was 237,743 on Friday. Deaths rose by 7,360, the biggest one-day increase since May 10th. Deaths have been averaging 4,800 a day in July, up slightly from an average of 4,600 a day in June.

The WHO reported 71,484 new cases in the US, 45,403 in Brazil, 34,884 in India and 13,373 in South Africa.

More than 14.1 million cases of Covid-19 have now been recorded worldwide, with more than 602,650 deaths from the novel coronavirus, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

Finance officials from the G20 group of countries on Saturday called for all official bilateral creditors to implement fully a short-term debt freeze for the world’s poorest countries amid the pandemic, but stopped short of extending the initiative into next year.

Sources briefed on the G20 meeting on Saturday said there was strong support for extending the standstill beyond the end of 2020, given the severity of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, but the group’s final communique said only that the issue would be considered in the second half of 2020. It also said nothing about growing calls for cancelling – not just deferring – the debts of some of the poorest countries.

The following is a summary of the latest developments on the virus around the world:

US

Americans debated mask mandates and the reopening of schools during the coronavirus pandemic on Friday as state and local officials imposed conflicting orders and confirmed cases rose by more than 70,000 across the nation for the second day in a row.The US recorded a total of at least 70,674 new Covid-19 infections on Friday after new cases climbed by a record 77,499 a day earlier, the largest such increase posted by any country since the pandemic started, according to a Reuters tally. US deaths on Friday rose by at least 912, the fourth day in a row that fatalities have exceeded 900 a day.

In the state of Georgia, governor Brian Kemp sued Atlanta’s mayor to prevent her from mandating masks.

President Donald Trump said that while he supports the use of masks as protection against coronavirus he does not believe that wearing a face covering should be mandatory for the nation. “I want people to have a certain freedom,” Mr Trump said in an interview with Fox News, an excerpt of which was broadcast by the network ahead of its full airing on Sunday. Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, urged political leaders to “be as forceful as possible in getting your citizenry to wear masks”.

Texas and Arkansas reported a record number of deaths on Friday, while Kansas, Ohio, North Dakota and Puerto Rico reported record numbers of infections.

Mr Trump has urged a return to normal, stressing the importance of reigniting the economy. The Trump administration and some health experts have also argued that children are better off in classrooms for their development, and also to allow parents to return to work.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis said tests administered in his state on Friday that aimed to detect Covid-19 antibodies showed a 16.1 per cent positive rate. “That is a significant jump from where we were a month and a half ago,” Mr DeSantis said on Saturday during a press conference in St Augustine. “So there’s a bigger pool of people who have the antibody.”

The US leads with world in terms of infections, with more than 3.7 million cases.

Australia

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Saturday delayed the opening of parliament for several weeks as the new coronavirus continued spreading through the country’s two most populous states.

Mr Morrison asked the speaker of the parliament to cancel a two-week session due to start on August 4th, out of concern about the Covid-19 pandemic.

Politicians are to meet at the next planned session on August 24th.

Victoria state reported 217 new infections after a record 428 new cases on Friday. Neighbouring New South Wales, the most populous state, which has also been struggling to contain a new wave of infections, saw 15 new cases.Victoria forced nearly 5 million people into a partial lockdown for six weeks on July 9th, as expectations of harsher social-distancing restrictions were growing with the virus continuing to spread. Victoria premier Daniel Andrews left open the possibility of further curbs, urging people not to leave their houses except for work, exercise or essential shopping.

India

India became the third country in the world to record more than 1 million coronavirus cases on Friday. It has been grappling with an average of almost 30,000 new infections each day for the last week. Local governments continue to reimpose focused lockdowns in several parts of the country, only allowing essential food supplies and health services.

Brazil

One day after Brazil surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases, the WHO said the outbreak has reached a plateau in the country. “The rise in Brazil is no longer exponential,” WHO executive director Michael Ryan said in a press conference on Friday. “There is a plateau, there is an opportunity here now for Brazil to push the disease down, to suppress the transmission of the virus, to take control,” he said, adding that it will take “sustained, concerted action”.

The Latin American nation trails only the US in coronavirus infections and deaths globally, with almost 78,000 fatalities. The country’s response to the pandemic – no national guidelines, two health ministers who departed and a leader that has often belittled the disease – has been criticised by health experts and by the WHO itself.

Europe

France will enforce mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces including banks, shops and indoor markets from July 20th, French health minister Olivier Véran said on Saturday, as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of Covid-19 across the country. The French government has accelerated plans to make it compulsory to wear masks after a series of indicators have suggested the virus could be gaining momentum, especially in areas in western and southern France that had been relatively spared during the height of the outbreak in the country between March and May.

The reproduction rate of coronavirus in France’s Brittany region has risen sharply in less than a week.

Meanwhile, Catalonia has urged some 4 million people to stay home in response to surging virus cases in the region. Spain overall reported 628 new cases on Friday, its highest daily increase since the beginning of May, with Catalonia and neighbouring Aragon accounting for the bulk of the new clusters.

Belgium may be at the start of a second wave of coronavirus infections after reporting a 32 per cent increase in weekly cases, virologists said.

Czech authorities tightened restrictions in the northeast of the Czech Republic after a spike in infections.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 529 to 201,372 on Saturday, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The country’s reported death toll rose by one to 9,083, the tally showed.

Russia said cases there had risen by 0.8 per cent, the lowest daily increase since recording of data on the outbreak began in March. The 6,234 new confirmed infections in the past day bring the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 765,437, according to data from the Russian government’s virus response centre.

Iran

Some 25 million Iranians are estimated to have contracted coronavirus so far and up to 35 million more are at risk of being infected, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Saturday, citing a health ministry report. Iran has recorded nearly 13,800 deaths and 270,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since it detected its first case five months ago. Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the Middle East.

China

In China, the number of confirmed cases in a new Covid-19 outbreak in the far western region of Xinjiang has risen to 17. The country’s total Covid-19 death toll remains at 4,634.

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, confirmed cases surpassed 200,000, but experts say the number is much higher as the country lacks adequate labs for testing. Most people in rural areas have stopped wearing masks and are thronging shopping centres ahead of the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha later this month.

South Korea

South Korea approved an early stage clinical trial of Celltrion Inc’s experimental Covid-19 treatment drug, making it the country’s first such antibody drug to be tested on humans.

Japan

Tokyo saw a third straight day of more than 200 new cases. New infections totalled 290 on Saturday, public broadcaster NHK said, citing local government sources. That’s close to the record 293 cases reported a day earlier. Officials in Japan have so far resisted reimposing additional restrictions. – Guardian, PA, Reuters, Bloomberg