Coronavirus Global Updates: Over 30.35 million people are infected by the novel coronavirus across the world, and at least 947,400 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in over 210 countries since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
Here’s the top global Covid-19 news on September 19:
Pope urges vaccine access to poorest nations
Pope Francis is urging political leaders make sure coronavirus vaccines are available to the poorest nations. He says in many parts of the world, there is a “pharmacological marginalization” of those without access to health care.
Francis met Saturday with members of an Italian aid group that collects donated medicines from pharmaceutical companies and distributes them to clinics and centers helping the neediest. (AP)
COVID-19: China eases restrictions on theatres, entertainment venues
China has eased restrictions on performance venues, including film theatres, allowing them to fill 75 per cent of their operating capacity as the COVID-19 cases declined, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement on Saturday.
Moreover, commercial performances are now allowed in low-risk areas with the consent of local authorities, said the statement.
It said that large-scale commercial performances still require appropriate control of audience numbers based on the local epidemic containment situation, and the green light will be given first to events held outdoors. However, the ministry has recommended suspending commercial performances in high- or medium-risk areas. (PTI)
Coronavirus-wary Bavarians kick off toned-down Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest celebrations got underway Saturday in Munich with the traditional tapping of a keg and the cry of “O’zapft is!”, “It’s tapped!” but this year’s festival is very non-traditional and highly regulated due to coronavirus concerns.
The official Oktoberfest has been cancelled, so there’s no huge tents full of people or hundreds of stands selling food. Instead, 50 of the southern German city’s beer halls and other establishments are hosting their own, smaller parties that follow guidelines on mask wearing, social distancing and other restrictions. (AP)
Indonesia reports its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections
Indonesia reported its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections, with 4,168 new cases on Saturday, taking the total to 240,687, data from the country’s health ministry showed.
The data added 112 new deaths, taking the total to 9,448, the biggest death toll in Southeast Asia. (Reuters)
Virus spurs USD 7 bn tech push for German schools
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for massive upgrades of school technology around the country. Merkel said Saturday during her weekly video podcast that teachers were left scrambling to teach courses virtually when schools closed at the start of the country’s outbreak.
She says that underscored how important digital media and other tools are but also exposed widespread infrastructure failings.
The German leader said: “That is why we have to push ahead with the digitization of schools at full speed. We need this as an indispensable addition to face-to-face teaching.”
Merkel says the government is committing 6 billion euros (USD 7.1 billion) to support the development of digital learning and infrastructure in schools. She says all schools need high-speed internet access as soon as possible and teachers need computers suitable for providing digital lessons. (AP)
Britain may have to reimpose restrictions, says former advisor
Britain is likely to need to reintroduce some lockdown measures sooner rather than later, a former senior government health advisor said on Saturday. “I think some additional measures are likely to be needed sooner rather than later,” Neil Ferguson, a professor of epidemiology at London’s Imperial College, told the BBC.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Friday warned of a second wave of the coronvirus, on a day when the government recorded 4,322 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, the highest since early May. The country has a total of over 385,000 Covid-19 cases. “We are seeing it in France, Spain… across Europe. It has been absolutely, I’m afraid, inevitable we were going to see it in this country,” he was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.
An average of 6,000 people in England were estimated to have been infected by coronavirus between September 4 and 10, about double from the previous week, as per a weekly survey released Friday by the Office for National Statistics.
The United Kingdom recorded 27 additional deaths due to Covid-19 on Friday, taking the country’s toll to 41,732.
Australia’s Covid-19 hotspot Victoria records fewest cases since June
Victoria, the Australian state at the centre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, reported its lowest daily increase in infections in three months on Saturday, putting it on course to relax a hard lockdown by the end of the month, Reuters reported. Victoria is Australia’s second-most populous state, and is home to a quarter of its 25 million people. It recorded 21 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours ending Saturday morning, its lowest since June 24.
“Those numbers tell a powerful story of what can be achieved when you stay the course, when you don’t get sidetracked by some of the loudest voices, who I understand are hurting and want to open up,” state Premier Daniel Andrews said at a news conference.
“We would all like to open up as quickly as possible, but we won’t be open for very long if we don’t first get these numbers down to a low level,” he further added.
Australia has reported less than 26,900 infections so far, with at least 844 deaths.
Victoria’s capital Melbourne has been under one of the toughest lockdowns, including a night curfew, but the state government has said it will let construction sites, warehouses and childcare facilities reopen on September 28 if the increase in average daily cases stays below 50.
Philippines bans speaking, eating on public transport
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to retain a 1 metre (three feet) social distance requirement on public transport to reduce the transmission of the disease, rejecting moves to reduce it to 30 centimeters (12 inches), Reuters quoted his spokesman as saying on Saturday.
Health experts have warned that reducing gaps between passengers in trains, buses and jeepneys could result in a rise in infections in the Philippines, which has the highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia.
President Duterte decided to retain the 1 metre distancing requirement, including a ban on eating and speaking in public transport, presidential spokesman Harry Roque told state-run PTV4 network. Passengers still need to wear face shield and mask at all times, he added.
The Philippines has nearly 280,000 infections, more than a third of which have been reported in the past 30 days and 4,830 deaths, the second most in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.
Unemployment rate in California falls to 11.4%
California’s unemployment rate fell to 11.4 per cent in August, amid its slow recovery from the pandemic damage to the economy, AP reported. The Employment Development Department said the state added 101,900 jobs during the month. Most were government jobs, including temporary positions to carry out the US Census.
California lost over 2.6 million jobs in March and April because of the coronavirus pandemic, nearly a third of which the state has regained. Restaurants and other hospitality businesses have been the hardest hit. The sector lost 14,600 jobs in August with coronavirus restrictions in place across much of the state.
Public health authorities in Italy are warning that the average age of coronavirus patients is increasing as young people infect their parents and grandparents, risking new strain on the hospital system, reported AP.
The Superior Institute of Health issued its weekly monitoring report Friday as Italy recorded the highest number of new infections, 1,907, since May 1. Ten more fatalities pushed the country’s death toll to 35,668.
Italy hasn’t seen thousands of daily new infections unlike other European countries, but its caseload has risen steadily over the past seven weeks.
Initially most of the new cases were among people who had returned from vacation hotspots. The health institute Friday said the average age of positive cases last week was 41 as compared to the low 30s in August. It warned that while the health system isn’t overwhelmed, it risks further strain if Italians don’t follow mask mandates and social distancing norms rigorously.