Devastating economic data poured in Friday as nations counted the cost of efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, even as fresh spikes forced countries including Britain to put the brakes on a return to normality.
Six months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global emergency, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 17 million people and killed nearly 674,000, reports Agence France-Presse.
As global daily cases approach the 300,000 mark, the impact is being felt in every sphere of life, with elections postponed in Hong Kong – the latest blow to its democracy activists – and the annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia performed with radically reduced numbers.
In a sign of the trade-offs being forced on governments, Britain imposed new lockdowns in several northern counties Friday, just as Western Europe announced historic economic slumps that would have been nightmare scenarios at the start of the year.
France’s economy contracted by 13.8% in the April-June quarter, mirroring similar devastation in Spain (18.5 %), Portugal (14.1%) and Italy (12.4%).
Europe as a whole saw gross domestic product (GDP) fall by 12.1% in the eurozone and by 11.9% across the Union bloc.
Mexico surpasses UK as third-worst affected country
Mexico’s confirmed coronavirus deaths rose to 46,688 on Friday, health ministry data showed, placing the country’s death toll from the pandemic at third-highest in the world, overtaking Britain, Reuters reports.
The health ministry registered 8,458 new cases, a record for a single day, as well as 688 additional deaths, bringing the total to 424,637 cases and 46,688 fatalities.
The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
Workers spray disinfectant on public transport vehicles to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Mexico City. Photograph: Barcroft Media/Getty Images
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Residents of the Australian state of Queensland have been put on alert about a string of locations around greater Brisbane that a man visited before testing positive to Covid-19.
The 27-year-old Bellbird Park man is believed to have caught the virus when he ate at the same restaurant as an infected woman charged with illegally entering the state, reports AAP.
The man is a direct contact of one of three women returning from Melbourne who allegedly lied on their border passes.
He is believed to have caught the virus when dining with his family at the Madtongsan IV Korean restaurant at Sunnybank on 23 July.
A Queensland Health spokesperson said in a statement:
Along with five others who are being Covid-19 tested, they dined on a table adjacent to one of the recently identified cases who returned from Victoria.
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The premier of the Australian state of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, will hold a press conference at 11.30am local time.
Andrews will report the number of new infections and any deaths over the past 24 hours and he is also likely to be asked about plans for further restrictions in Melbourne.
Anaesthetists in the Australian state of Victoria are calling on the government to enforce ‘fit testing’ for personal protective equipment, citing concerns that not enough is being done to protect health workers from coronavirus.
Victoria reached 5743 active cases on Friday and deaths rose to 113, with three doctors among those reportedly in intensive care.
Anaesthetists are commonly called on to intubate patients needing help to breathe, and so they are among those face-to-face with the most severe Covid-19 cases, reports AAP.
The Australian Society of Anaesthetists says it has made “numerous approaches” to federal and state health departments asking that fit testing of PPE become mandatory in all hospitals.
ASA president Dr Suzi Nou said federal and state health authorities had not been receptive to her recommendations for mandatory fit testing, despite the practice being widespread in other states.
“They’d say we don’t have the resources,” Dr Nou said.
She likened the lack fit testing to former attitudes to seatbelts, which are now universal.
Guatemala’s congress has extended a state of calamity for 30 days in the Latin American country. The measures have been in place since March.
Guatemala has recorded 49,789 infections and 1,924 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
New restrictions under consideration in Australia
In Australia, the state of Victoria is mulling further restrictions to curb the rise in case numbers. The state has recorded more than 1,300 new infections over the past two days, including a record 732 cases from Thursday.
The state government is yet to announce new measures, but options could include the lockdown of certain industries where outbreaks among workers have been common, such as abattoirs, or a wider shutdown of all but essential industries, modelled on steps taken in New Zealand.
Cedar Meats, an abattoir in Melbourne linked to a major outbreak earlier in the pandemic, has placed all staff in isolation after an employee tested positive.
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, is scheduled to hold a press conference in the next few hours, though any new measures may not be announced for a few days.
In NSW, an exclusive members only venue, the Australian Club, was among the locations forced to close due to a positive case. The Bavarian, a popular pub on Sydney’s northern beaches, also shut following a hosting a Covid-infected patron. From 1am on Saturday, the Queensland border was shut to Greater Sydney.
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Two major drug companies will supply the US government with 100m doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, the Trump administration said on Friday, as the nation’s top health agency predicted that fatalities would rise in the coming weeks.
The agreement calls for the US government to pay French drug maker Sanofi and British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline up to $2.1bn to supply it with enough vaccines for 50 million people, with the option to buy another 500m doses.
The purchase falls under the Trump administration’s so-called Operation Warp Speed, intended to rush a Covid-19 vaccine to the market by the end of 2020, Reuters reports.
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‘Systematic racism’ putting minority health workers at risk: report
Researchers have raised fears that “systematic racism” in the provision of protective equipment is putting minority health workers at greater risk, as a study showed higher coronavirus infection rates among British and American medical staff.
The report, published in the Lancet Public Health journal, found that frontline healthcare workers were over three times more likely to test positive than the general population early in the pandemic, with the rate rising to five times for ethnic minority medical staff.
Researchers from the US looked at data from almost 100,000 healthcare workers in Britain and the United States taken from self-reported information on the Covid Symptoms Study smartphone app between 24 March and 23 April, Reuters reports.
They found that the prevalence of infection among frontline care workers was 2,747 per 100,000 app users, compared with 242 per 100,000 in the general community, Agence France-Presse reports.
When they took into account the health workers’ greater access to testing, the researchers estimated that frontline medical workers were around 3.4 times more likely to test positive for Covid-19 than app users in the wider population.
After accounting for pre-existing medical conditions, researchers estimated that healthcare workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were almost five times more likely to report a positive Covid-19 result than somebody from the general community.
The study also found that frontline healthcare workers who said they did not have sufficient protective equipment – such as masks, gloves and gowns – were 1.3 times more likely to test positive than those who said they had the proper equipment.
A medical worker collects a sample at a coronavirus testing centre in Newark, New Jersey. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP
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US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said talks with the White House on a coronavirus aid bill were far from a deal on Friday, as federal unemployment benefits that have been an essential lifeline for millions of Americans expired.
Asked why she rejected a proposal from president Donald Trump’s administration for a one-week extension of the $600 weekly jobless payment, Pelosi said a short-term fix would be appropriate “if you are on a path” towards a deal.
“We’re not,” Pelosi told a news conference.
Negotiations were to continue on Saturday between White House officials and congressional Democrats, reports Reuters. Pelosi will host a meeting with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, an aide familiar with the planning said.
Pelosi, the nation’s top elected Democrat, said she thought Congress and the White House would eventually come together on legislation,but gave no timetable.
Referring to the mounting cases and deaths from Covid-19, Pelosi said:
This is a freight train that is picking up steam. … It must be stopped.
In some of her toughest criticisms so far, she said Republican delays on legislation and “distortions” about the pandemic “has caused death unnecessarily”.
White House officials took their own hard partisan line, accusing Democrats of refusing Trump’s proposals to extend the jobless benefit that expired on Friday and a moratorium on evictions that ended last week.
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Vietnam records 12 new cases
Vietnam’s health ministry has reported 12 new local coronavirus cases linked to the recent outbreak in the central city of Danang, taking total infections to 116 since the virus resurfaced last week.
The new patients, with ages from two to 78, are linked to Danang hospital, the ministry said on Saturday in a statement reported by Reuters.
Vietnam has registered a total of 558 coronavirus cases and recorded its first two deaths on Friday after months of successful curbs.
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Peru extends state of emergency
Peru’s housing minister, Carlos Lozada, said on Friday the government will extend the country’s state of emergency and quarantine measures until 31 August after infections rose, according to Europa Press.
The ministry of health said on Thursday there were 6,809 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Peru has so far seen 407,492 people test positive to Covid-19, including 19,021 deaths. The country has been in lockdown since March.
Plans to ease restrictions in England paused
The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has put a scheduled easing of coronavirus restrictions on hold in England, as he also raised the prospect of a second lockdown.
At a hastily arranged press conference at Downing Street on Friday, Johnson said he was pausing the reopening of leisure businesses, such as casinos and bowling alleys, and preventing beauty salons resuming close-up treatments, for at least two weeks.
Rules on face coverings would also be extended for indoor venues such as museums, galleries and cinemas from 8 August.
You can read a full report on the surprise announcement at the link below.
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Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the continuing coronavirus pandemic, with me, Luke Henriques-Gomes. If you’d like to get in touch, you can do so by email via firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lukehgomes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases on Friday, with the total rising by 292,527. WHO warned the pandemic’s effects would be felt for decades as its emergency committee assessed the situation six months after sounding its top alarm over the outbreak.
The death toll globally from coronavirus has surpassed 675,000, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. The figure is now at 675,167, with the US having the most deaths at 152,074, followed by Brazil with 91,263.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, has told Congress he is “cautiously optimistic” that a “safe and effective” coronavirus vaccine will be available to the public by the end of 2020 during a hearing in Washington marked by testy exchanges between Fauci and senior Republicans loyal to Donald Trump.
Brazil’s death toll has reached a total of 92,475, compared with 91,263 yesterday, according to the country’s health ministry. The country has registered 2,662,485 confirmed cases of the virus, up from 2,610,102 yesterday. Jair Bolsanaro, who has previously tested positive to Covid019, said he was taking antibiotics for a lung infection.
Health authorities in France reported 1,346 new confirmed coronavirus infections on Friday, which took the total to 187,919. New cases are above 1,300 per day for the third day in a row, the highest since late April.
In Australia, authorities are mulling further restrictions in the state of Victoria, which has recorded more than 1,300 new infections over the past two days.
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