Coronavirus: Global deaths pass 602,000 as Hong Kong tightens restrictions

World round-up: Texas records fifth straight day of cases over 10,000; masks mandatory in Melbourne

Authorities in Australia are stepping up their battle against coronavirus with the second biggest city of Melbourne announcing the introduction of mandatory face coverings from Wednesday. Video: Reuters

 

Global deaths from Covid-19 have surpassed 602,000 as the US, South Africa and Australia struggle to hold down rising rates of the infection.

The United States tops the list with 140,119 deaths, followed by 78,772 in Brazil, 45,358 in the United Kingdom and 38,888 in Mexico, where a surge in cases has frustrated plans to reopen the economy.

The number of confirmed infections worldwide has passed 14.2 million, of which 3.7 million are in the United States. Experts believe the true numbers around the world are higher because of testing shortages and data collection issues in some nations.

There are over 2,000,000 in Brazil and more than a million in India, while experts believe the true numbers around the world are higher because of testing shortages and data collection issues in some nations. While the US leads global infections, South Africa now ranks as the fifth worst-hit country in the pandemic with 350,879 cases — roughly half of all those confirmed on the African continent. Its struggles are a sign of trouble to come for nations with even fewer healthcare resources.

The World Health Organisation on Saturday again reported a single-day record of new infections with 259,848.

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

Hong Kong

Hong Kong tightened coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, with non-essential civil servants told to work from home from this week, as the global financial hub reported a record number of daily cases. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told a news conference the city recorded more than 100 cases in the past 24 hours, the most since the pandemic took hold in late January, taking the tally close to 2,000 patients, 12 of whom have died. “The situation is very serious and there is no sign of it coming under control,” Ms Lam said. Amusement parks, gyms and 10 other types of venues will remain closed for another seven days, while a requirement for restaurants to only provide takeaway after 6pm was extended. Face masks will be mandatory in indoor public areas.

Australia

People in Melbourne must now wear masks when leaving their homes as Victoria, Australia’s second most-populous state, marked two weeks of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus infections on Sunday. Melbournians not wearing face coverings will be fined A$200 (€122.50), said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews. Victoria, which has forced nearly 5 million people into a partial six-week lockdown on July 9th, reported 363 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, after 217 cases the previous day. “We’re going to be wearing masks in Victoria and potentially in other parts of the country for a very long time,” Mr Andrews told a televised briefing.

Australia has recorded about 11,800 coronavirus cases, a fraction of what has been seen in other countries or even some US states, but an outbreak of community transmission in Victoria has been growing, prompting authorities to impose stricter social distancing measures. Three deaths from the Covid-19 disease were reported in Victoria on Sunday, bringing the total to 38 and raising Australia’s death toll to 122. Victoria became the first state in Australia, a country of a loose federal system, to require masks for part of its population. New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state that had moved to relax its social distancing guidelines earlier this month, has since moved to restrict again some social mingling as cases have been growing. On Sunday, NSW reported 18 new infections, its highest in three months. The transmission rate in the state is higher than in Victoria, causing concerns.

South Africa

South Africa now trails the US, Brazil, and India — all far more populous countries — in the number of infections, surpassing Peru, after health authorities announced 13,285 new cases. South Africa’s new coronavirus epicentre, Gauteng province, hosts the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria and a quarter of the country’s population of 57 million, with many poor people living in crowded conditions in the middle of a frosty Southern Hemisphere winter.

“The simple fact is that many South Africans are sitting ducks because they cannot comply with World Health Organisation protocols on improved hygiene and social distancing,” the foundation of former South African archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah, warned in a statement.

US

Texas reported 10,158 new cases of Covid-19, its fifth straight day over 10,000. The state now has a total to 317,730 confirmed cases of the virus. The number of deaths rose by 130 to 3,865, the department of state health services said on its website, after reaching a record 174 the previous day. On Saturday, a federal appeals court ruled in favour of efforts by the Houston mayor to bar the state Republican Party from the city’s convention centre, where it planned to gather to choose its presidential electors. Pending appeal, the GOP is back to Plan B which is holding its conclave online. New cases in Florida dropped for a second day, as did deaths.

US deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 140,000 on Saturday as cases continued to rise in 43 out of 50 states over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters tally. America is losing about 5,000 people to the virus every week. By contrast, neighbouring Canada has reported total deaths of 8,800 since the pandemic started. Teams of military medics have been deployed in Texas and California to help hospitals deal with a deluge of patients who are flooding emergency rooms in parts of the US. Some patients are being moved into hallways to make room for the most seriously ill and nurses are working extra shifts to keep up with the surge. Patients struggling to breathe are being placed on ventilators in emergency wards since intensive care units are full, officials say. Patients are waiting “hours and hours” to get admitted, said Dr Alison Haddock of the Baylor College of Medicine in the state of Texas. More than 80 infants have tested positive for the virus in the state. Americans are debating mask mandates and the reopening of schools as 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.

Brazil

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro said on Saturday that lockdown measures used to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus “kill” and have “suffocated” the country’s economy. “Without salaries and jobs, people die,” he said referring to restrictions imposed by some states and municipalities. “Lockdown kills,” he added, saying that some politicians have suffocated the economy with forced curfews. The president’s statement comes as Brazil’s economy is expected to contract 6.4 per cent this year, hit by the pandemic. Mr Bolsonaro, who announced he tested positive for Covid-19 on July 7th, met his supporters in the grounds of his official residence, the Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia. The president was wearing a mask and kept some meters of distance from his supporters.

Mr Bolsonaro said he is feeling well, despite the virus, and again credited his health to the use of hydroxychloroquine to fight Covid-19, despite no scientific evidence. “I am a living proof (that the drug works),” he told supporters. Besides hydroxychloroquine, the far-right president said he is also taking an anti-parasite drug to fight coronavirus. Brazil registered 28,532 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 921 new deaths on Saturday, the health ministry said. Total cases in Brazil, the world’s second most affected country after the United States, have now risen to 2,074,860 while deaths totalled 78,772.

India

India on Sunday reported a 24-hour record surge of 38,902 new cases, taking the country’s total to 1,077,618. Local governments in India continued to reimpose focused lockdowns in several parts of the country following the surge in cases.

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.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 202 to 201,574, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose by 1 to 9,084, the tally showed.

In the Czech Republic, the tally of active cases of the new coronavirus has risen to 4,764, above the previous high of 4,737 seen in April, health ministry data showed on Sunday. On Saturday 113 new cases were identified, bringing the total since the beginning of March when first cases were found to 13,885. The central European country of 10.7 million has had 358 deaths from the Covid-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, far fewer than many western European nations

A further eight people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 29,181, NHS England said on Sunday. The patients were aged between 61 and 91 years old and all had known underlying conditions. The UK said on Saturday it was pausing its daily update of the death toll from coronavirus after the  government ordered a review into the calculation of the data over concerns the toll might have been exaggerated. The UK has been the European state worst hit by Covid-19, with an official death toll of more than 45,000.

In Spain, Catalonia urged some four million people to stay home in response to surging virus cases. Police in Barcelona are limiting access to some of the city’s beaches because sunbathers are ignoring regulations amid a resurgence of coronavirus.

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.

Russia on Sunday reported 6,109 new cases and 95 more deaths from the coronavirus. The nationwide tally of infections has risen to 771,546 cases, Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said. The death toll now stands at 12,342, and 550,344 people have recovered.

Authorities in Amsterdam in the Netherlands are urging people not to visit the city’s famous red light district and have closed off some of the historic district’s narrow streets because they are too busy.

China

China confirmed 13 new cases in the northwestern city of Urumqi. The outbreak is the latest to pop up since China largely contained the domestic spread of the virus in March. At least 30 people have been infected and authorities are conducting universal testing in communities where cases were discovered, later to be expanded to other parts of the city and major businesses.

South Korea

South Korean authorities are also struggling to suppress an uptick in local infections, with 34 additional cases, 21 of them domestic and 13 from overseas, raising the country’s total to 13,745 with 295 deaths. Both China and South Korea countries are mandating testing and enforcing two-week quarantines on all overseas arrivals.

Iran

In Iran, the president made the startling announcement that as many as 25 million Iranians could have been infected, the state-run IRNA news agency reported on Saturday. Hassan Rouhani cited a new Health Ministry study that has not been made public. Iran has the Middle East’s worst outbreak with more than 270,000 confirmed cases.–PA, Reuters, Guardian, Bloomberg