Talking of collateral damage, the virus has wrecked the usual pattern of the school year in many countries across the world, especially by preventing exams taking place.
The impact has been particularly disastrous in England where many students taking A-levels – the exams you need to do before going to university – have seen their results set by an algorithm which turned out to favour children at private schools over those from state-run schools. Cue a humiliating climbdown by the government. You can hear all about it at out our excellent daily podcast here:
The US-China trade deal has been part of the collateral damage of the coronavirus as Donald Trump has tried to use Beijing’s alleged poor handling of the outbreak to excuse his government’s own failures.
Trump said late on Tuesday that he had cancelled trade talks with China. “I canceled talks with China,” Trump said in Yuma, Arizona. “I don’t want to talk to China right now.”
In echoes of the on-off nature of the long negotaitions that secured an initial agreement between the two countries back in December, officials in Washington tried to clarify the situation as the president’s entourage flew back to Washington on Air Force One.
No high-level talks were scheduled, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said, but US trade representative Robert Lighthizer remained in regular contact with his counterparts in China about its commitments under the trade agreement.
Asian shares at seven-month high
Shares in Asia have hit a seven-month high on Wednesday thanks to the record close for the S&P 500 on Wall Street on Tuesday night.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan rose 0.3%, up for a third straight day to 570.80 points, a level not seen since late January, Reuters reports.
Stocks in Australia were up more than 1% helped by a number of companies such as the biotech success story CSL and Domino’s Pizza reporting dividends. The Kospi in South Korea saw a leap of 0.6%.
Daily Traders Report
Earnings season heats up as the ASX200 jumps higher – https://t.co/IlJYRaq6mv pic.twitter.com/xZFxdoZmzH
August 19, 2020
The S&P 500 passed an all-time peak set in February just before the onset of the pandemic, which sent the benchmark index to lows on 23 March. The index has surged about 55% since then helped by enormous government and central bank stimulus.
It took over 3 years for the S&P 500 to get from 2,200 to just under 3400 in the previous approach. The 2020 version took just 5 months. pic.twitter.com/gjUJjpsTzi
August 19, 2020
According to Tapas Strickland, economist at Melbourne-based National Australia Bank, that represents the “fastest-ever” recovery from a bear market at 126 days from trough to peak. In layman’s terms that the period from the most recent low back to the previous top.
at 3.56am BST
We can at last stop calling Joe Biden the US Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee. The former vice president will officially be the candidate to take on Donald Trump in November when the incumbent’s handling of the pandemic could be the decisive issue.
You can read all about how the nomination went down here:
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,510 to 226,914, data just released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases shows.
The reported death toll rose by seven to 9,243, the tally showed.
South Korea rocked by new outbreak
South Korea is struggling to contain an outbreak of the virus in the capital, Seoul, after the country reported the highest daily rise in coronavirus cases since early March on Wednesday.
New cases rose by 297, including 283 local infections, raising the total to 16,058, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), the news agency Yonhap reports.
A health official wearing protective gear sprays disinfectant at a market near the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul. Photograph: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images
New daily cases have been running in three figures for a week, forcing renewed social distancing measures and the closure nightclubs, bars and cafes.
Some 150 cases were reported from Seoul, and 94 from the surrounding Gyeonggi province.
Cases linked to the Sarang Jeil Church spiked to 457 as of Tuesday, according to the health authorities. People aged over 60 and above accounted for nearly 40%.
The latest outbreak has echoes of the country’s initial outbreak where members of a doomsday sect were particularly affected.
at 3.20am BST
Virus mutation ‘may be more infectious but less deadly’ – expert
A leading expert on infectious diseases says that an increasingly common mutation of the coronavirus found in Europe, North America and parts of Asia may be more infectious but less deadly than previous versions.
Paul Tambyah, senior consultant at Singapore’s National University Hospital and president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, has told Reuters that evidence suggests the proliferation of the so-called D614G mutation in some parts of the world has coincided with a drop in death rates, suggesting it is less lethal.
A Covid-19 cell under a microscope. Photograph: Natchavakorn Songpracone/Alamy Stock Photo
“Maybe that’s a good thing to have a virus that is more infectious but less deadly,” he says, adding that most viruses tend to become less virulent as they mutate.
“It is in the virus’ interest to infect more people but not to kill them because a virus depends on the host for food and for shelter,” he said.
The mutation was discovered as early as February and it has circulated in Europe and the Americas. Our science team have written this explainer about the significance of mutations of the virus:
More from our correspondent in New Zealand, Eleanor Ainge Roy:
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has announced a small health team to assist the government and work across multiple ministries. She is also boosting security at quarantine hotels.
Around 500 extra defence force personnel will be deployed to quarantine hotels, making the total of defence force personnel 1200.
“This boost in staff will be progressively rolled out over six weeks… by scaling up our defence force staff we can stop using private security contractors, and replace them with defence force staff.”
Ardern said it was “unrealistic” to expect the border controls to be “perfect”.
at 2.35am BST