7.31am BST

Ukraine cases continue to rise

Ukraine has reported 1,732 new coronavirus cases, a single-day record, the country’s national council of security and defence said.

Total cases reached 87,872, including 2,011 deaths, according to Reuters.

The number of infections has increased sharply since June as authorities have eased some restrictions, allowing cafes, churches and public transport links to reopen.

Data from the John Hopkins University tracker shows that the number of daily cases in Ukraine have tripled from just over 500 at the end of June.

7.24am BST

The extended lockdown in New Zealand is bad news for the country’s Super Rugby competition, which was one of the first top-class sports in the world to reopen to crowds of spectators in June.

The game against Blues and Crusaders, which was due to be played at Auckland’s Eden Park on Sunday, is officially off, while Saturday’s HighlandersHurricanes match at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium will be played in front of no crowds and at an earlier time.

In a statement, New Zealand Rugby said all community rugby activity in the Auckland region, including the playing of games, training and workshops, will be put on hold until further notice. It said all community rugby in the rest of the country can take place under Level 2 guidelines.

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7.19am BST

Thanks, Helen! It’s Josh here in Manchester, England, where a week-long heatwave appears to have come to an end overnight. Thankfully.

7.13am BST


That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan for today. Thank you for following along – and, as always, for the news tips and other messages. I’ll be on holiday for a week – looking forward to bringing you all the news that’s fit to blog when I return.

My colleague Josh Halliday will be taking you through the next few hours of pandemic news.

In the meantime, below is a summary of the key developments from the last few hours:

Global coronavirus deaths passed 750,000. The coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 750,000 people worldwide, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Almost half of the deaths reported worldwide were in the four worst hit countries: the United States (166,118), Brazil (104,201), Mexico (54,666) and India (47,033).
The UK government has quietly removed 1.3m coronavirus tests from its data because of double counting, raising fresh questions about the accuracy of the testing figures.In the government’s daily coronavirus update on Wednesday, it announced it had lowered the figure for “tests made available” by about 10% and discontinued the metric.
The UK government has confirmed that six countries, including France, will be removed from its travel corridor list, following a surge in Covid-19 cases. Arrivals into the UK from France, the Netherlands, Malta, Monaco, Aruba and Turks & Caicos will have to quarantine for 14 days on their return or face a fine, will come into effect at 4am on Saturday. The UK will be “ruthless” over quarantine, UK PM Boris Johnson said
France said the UK quarantine move will lead to reciprocal measures. France’s secretary of state for European affairs has responded to said the UK decision to add France to their quarantine list, saying the move would lead to “reciprocal measures” across the Channel. Clement Beaune tweeted: “A British decision which we regret and which will lead to reciprocal measures, all in hoping for a return for normal as soon as possible.”
France reported a new post-lockdown peak in daily Covid-19 cases. The French health ministry reported 2,669 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, setting a new post-lockdown daily high for the second day in a row and taking the country’s cumulative total of cases to 209,365.
New Zealand has reported 13 new cases of coronavirus and extended the lockdown in Auckland for 12 days. Two of the cases emerged far from Auckland, the original site of the country’s outbreak.The two cases were linked to the Auckland outbreak and occurred in the Waikato town of Tokoroa, 200km south of New Zealand’s biggest city, bringing the total size of the cluster to 30. One person was being treated in hospital.The development was described as concerning, with fears health services in the more rural area could come under strain.
A man in his 20s has died of coronavirus in Australia, the country’s youngest victim. He is among 14 people in the southern state of Victoria to have died from coronavirus in the past 24 hours, with the state recording 372 new cases in that time.The deaths take the state’s toll from the virus to 289 and the national toll to 375.
Peru passed 500,000 coronavirus cases and has the highest fatality rate in Latin America, according to health ministry data on Thursday, as the government struggles to contain a recent surge of infections. There have been 507,996 confirmed cases and 25,648 related deaths, vice health minister Luis Suarez said at a news conference. The Andean country has the highest coronavirus death rate in Latin America at 78.6 per 100,000 people, a Reuters tally shows, surpassing hard-hit regional neighbors Chile and Brazil.
The WHO on Thursday urged countries to invest billions of dollars in searching for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments – calling it a snip compared to the vast economic cost of the coronavirus crisis. The World Health Organization insisted it was a smarter bet than the trillions of dollars being thrown at handling the consequences of the global pandemic.
Germany admits delay in thousands of virus test results. The Bavarian premier, Markus Söder, has been forced to apologise over an embarrassing delay to thousands of coronavirus test results, just as Germany is seeing a new surge in virus cases.

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7.02am BST

Helen Sullivan here.

Thank you to the blog reader who alerted me to the fact that someone in New Zealand is selling a coronavirus-free bag of air.

The advertisement for the snack-sized Ziplock bag – for which the current bid is a measly NZ$5,150.00 – reads as follows:

The news of Level 2 lockdown came as shock to me. During my unnecessary panic, I decided to get a test. After testing negative, I figured I’d share my gift of Covid free air with the world.

Enjoy this free range, gluten free bag of air from the lungs of a 100% New Zealand made boy lol

Ad for Covid-free bag of air. Photograph: Handout

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7.02am BST

Ardern says her team is “evidence-based” and the goal is getting back to freedom faster. With that, we will leave the press conference.

6.52am BST

The prime minister says that genome testing hasn’t drawn a link between the current cases circulating in Auckland, and those tested and held in quarantine, which have arrived from overseas.

The source case, therefore, remains a mystery.

The cluster of cases around a west Auckland cool store means health authorities are still investigating if it was the source, and surfaces were somehow contaminated. The cool store handled freight from overseas.

The prime minister said they may never find out how the disease got back into New Zealand, but they had effectively ruled out that the flare-up was a “burning ember” from New Zealand’s previous March outbreak.

The PM says currently her team see “no reason” that the lockdown will be extended beyond August 26.

6.50am BST

“As we have said from the start, our overall Covid-19 strategy remains elimination. That means stamping out the virus whenever it comes back.”

“We have been world-leading in our Covid response – we can do all of that again. 1.5 million New Zealanders in our biggest city is carrying a heavy load for our team of 5 million right now.”

“We can once again pull together to eliminate Covid.”

“Stay safe, safe kind, and stay well everyone.”

The prime minister is now taking questions, and says an entire lockdown for all of the North Island was not considered or advised by the director-general of health.

6.41am BST

More now on the extension of the current alert levels in New Zealand:

“We know the incubation period for Covid-19, and our experience of the previous cluster means we can expect to see more cases as part of this cluster – it will grow before it slows,” Ardern said.

It will continue being linked to schools, workplaces and church events, the prime minister said.

“In keeping with our precautionary approach and New Zealand’s hard and early philosophy, the cabinet has agreed to maintain the current settings for a further 12 days.”

Auckland will remain at level 3, and the rest of the country will remain at level 2.
These alert levels will end on Wednesday 26th August, and the decision on alert levels will be reviewed on the 21st of August.

“There is nothing to suggest we need to move to a level 4 lockdown at this stage,” Ardern said, as there was so far only one cluster.

The prime minister reiterated this point, as she said many New Zealanders were nervous of a wider Level 4 lockdown.

The wage subsidy would be extended nationwide and will cover the period of time Level 3 restrictions remain in place.

6.38am BST

New Zealand to maintain current alert levels for further 12 days

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has just announced that the current levels will be maintained for another 12 days, until 11.59PM on the 26 August.

This means Auckland remains at level 3 and the rest of New Zealand at level 2.

“There is nothing to suggest we need to move to level 4 at this stage,” says Ardern.

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6.36am BST

It has been 53 hours since Auckland was moved to level 3, and the rest of the country to level 2, says New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

“We have identified 29 cases, all remaining linked to one cluster in Auckland. There is one other case likely linked to the cluster is still being investigated.”

More than 30,000 tests have been done in the last 48 hours.

“There are signs we have found this outbreak relatively early in its life,” Ardern said.
The PM said extensive testing and contact tracing has found the earliest case we have found to date is a cool store worker on the 31st July. It is the earliest sign of the re-emergence of the virus yet discovered.

There was as yet no clear links to the border or quarantine facilities. Genome testing also suggests it is a new strain of the virus to New Zealand – and not a dormant version lingering since New Zealand’s last outbreak.

6.31am BST

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern is about to address the media after a 3 pm meeting with her cabinet.

She will announce whether Auckland’s lockdown – set to expire at midnight – will be extended and whether the rest of the country will remain at level 2.

Follow the livestream of her press conference here. She will be accompanied by the Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield:

Ardern press conference.

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6.24am BST

UK holidaymakers in race to return from France before quarantine deadline

The UK’s airports and ports were braced for travel chaos on Friday as some of the hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers in France race to return home before new quarantine rules kick in.

Summer plans have been thrown into disarray after the government said on Thursday evening that, from 4am on Saturday, all arrivals from France would have to self-isolate for 14 days or face a fine.

The operators of the Channel Tunnel warned on Thursday night that Friday travel slots were “already pretty much fully booked” and that it would not be easy to return. “We just haven’t got the space to take everybody who might suddenly want to come up to the coast,” John Keefe, director of public affairs at Getlink told the BBC’s Newsnight:

6.01am BST

UK government quietly drops 1.3m Covid tests from England tally

Sarah Marsh and Caelainn Barr:

The government has quietly removed 1.3m coronavirus tests from its data because of double counting, raising fresh questions about the accuracy of the testing figures.

In the government’s daily coronavirus update on Wednesday, it announced it had lowered the figure for “tests made available” by about 10% and discontinued the metric.

An update on the page read: “An adjustment of -1,308,071 has been made to the historic data for the ‘tests made available’ metric. The adjustments have been made as a result of more accurate data collection and reporting processes recently being adopted within pillar 2.”

5.41am BST

In Australia, horrific footage of a 95-year-old woman left to languish in a Melbourne aged care facility struck by Covid-19 shows ants crawling from a wound on her leg, and the bandages around it crusted with blood.

The footage and photos, described by the federal aged care minister as “heartbreaking”, were taken inside Kalyna Care, a private residential home in Melbourne’s north-west, on Tuesday, some two weeks after the virus was first identified in one staff member.

The woman, known to her family as Milka, died on Friday morning of conditions unrelated to Covid-19:

5.29am BST

Asian markets drifted Friday as investors grew increasingly concerned about the stalemate in Washington on a new stimulus for the world’s top economy, AFP reports.

Hopes that Democrats and Republicans would cast aside their mutual animosity to stump up much-needed cash for struggling Americans have been key to supporting equities for weeks.

But they were dealt a blow Thursday when senators broke up for a summer recess, saying they would not return until early next month, while both sides continued to trade accusations over who was to blame for the impasse.

Democrats have called on Republicans and the White House to double their $1 trillion offer, having reduced their own proposal to $2 trillion from an initial $3.5 trillion.

But Senator Leader Mitch McConnell accused his opponents of pushing for several socialist measures to be introduced into the new bill, describing their tactics as “throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks”.

Still, the expectation remains that an agreement will at some point be found, particularly with an election just over two months away and millions of Americans in financial crisis.

“Congress’ political grandstanding delay is posing some risk for the global recovery,” said Stephen Innes at AxiCorp. “Still, there is no chance of this deal not going through for all the politically tarnishing Frugal Freddy reasons that have been alluded to.

“It is a matter of whether it is $1.5 trillion or $2 trillion, where bigger would be better.”

In early trade, Hong Kong dipped 0.1% and Shanghai was flat, while Tokyo ended the morning with small gains and Sydney added 0.5%.

Taipei was marginally higher but Seoul dropped more than one percent, while there were also losses in Singapore, Manila and Wellington.

5.13am BST

Spain sees coronavirus cases surge again

Applause and cheers rang out in May as Spain shut down its largest makeshift hospital – hastily erected in Madrid’s convention centre – in what was seen as a symbolic turning point in one of Europe’s deadliest battles with Covid-19.

Less than four months later, Spain’s military has again been dispatched to build a field hospital, this time in the north-eastern city of Zaragoza, as the country grapples with one of the highest rates of infection in western Europe.

“We’re at a critical moment,” said Helena Legido-Quigley, a Barcelona-born professor of public health at the National University of Singapore.

Some eight weeks after the country emerged from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, a surge of cases in north-east and central areas have resulted in Spain leading Europe in numbers of confirmed new cases.

The country’s 14-day infection rate stands at 100 per 100,000, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – behind only Luxembourg in Europe – and much higher than France’s rate of 32 or Italy’s 8.2 cases per 100,000:

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