8.59am BST

Czech Republic cases surge to record 2,139 a day

The Czech Republic has reported more than 2,000 new Covid cases in a single day for the first time as it battles a surge in infections that is among the fastest in Europe.

The health ministry recorded 2,139 cases of the new coronavirus on Wednesday, up from a previous record of 1,675 reported the previous day, Reuters reports.

The country of 10.7m has seen a spike in cases this month that has easily surpassed peaks seen during the first wave of the outbreak in March.

Due to the rise, the government has tightened mask wearing rules and restricted bars’ opening hours. On Wednesday, the health ministry said it would ban stand-up indoor events from Friday evening, also affecting bars and restaurants where customers cannot exceed seating capacity.

8.30am BST

The Solomon Islands is one of the few Covid-free countries in the world. But perhaps not for much longer.

Its prime minister Manasseh Sogavare has said it will repatriate more than 400 students – including 12 who have tested positive for coronavirus – who have been stranded in the Philippines since the island nation closed its borders in March.

Their return has become a headache for officials in one of the few Covid-zero countries in the world, AFP news agency reports, while the Philippines has recorded more than 260,000 cases.

“We look forward to seeing our students home soon, and be assured, the Solomon Islands is still Covid-19 free,” Sogavare said in a televised national address.

8.22am BST

Staying on the UK for a moment, the UK’s health minister Edward Argar has said the country is “not in a place” where it needs to consider nationwide restrictions despite a significant rise in cases and concerns over a lack of testing.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that local measures were working for now. Asked how long it would take to sort out the UK’s testing problem, Argar said there was a “clear target” of hitting 500,000 tests a day by the end of October. In the meantime, he said the UK was increasing capacity gradually.

8.04am BST

UK minister dismisses talk of two-week national lockdown

The UK health minister Edward Argar has played down reports that the government is considering a two-week national lockdown as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

It came after Anthony Costello, a former director at the World Health Organisation, tweeted on Wednesday that he had heard that Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, had advised prime minister Boris Johnson to impose such a measure to try curb the rise in infections.

Anthony Costello

I’m hearing from a well-connected person that government now thinks, in absence of testing, there are 38,000 infections per day. Chris Whitty is advising PM for a two week national lockdown.

September 16, 2020

But Argar has just told Sky News:

It is not something I have seen within the department. The Prime Minister has been very clear on this. He doesn’t want to see another national lockdown. He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work.

7.48am BST

Ukraine set a daily record with 3,584 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, country’s the national security council said. That’s up from a figure of 3,144 on 11 September.

Ukraine now has a total of 166,244 cases, with 3,400 deaths and 73,913 recoveries, the council added.

7.24am BST

Some positive news for our friends down under. Australia has recorded its lowest one-day rise in Covid cases in nearly three months, prompting hopes that restrictions in some areas will be eased.

Australia said 35 coronavirus cases had been detected in the past 24 hours on Thursday, the lowest one-day rise since 24 June.

Victoria state – Australia’s COVID-19 epicentre – accounted for the bulk of the new cases, with 28 people diagnosed with the virus in the past 24 hours.

“It is a fantastic outcome and a tribute to the hard work, sacrifice and contribution every single Victorian is making and I want to say thank you,” Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne, according to Reuters.

The result in Victoria will buoy hopes that residents in Melbourne will soon be granted additional freedoms after more than six weeks under a strict lockdown.

7.15am BST

Hello all. Josh Halliday here in Manchester, England. Thanks very much for following.

First, some news from slightly closer to home: some 1.5 million people in north-east England are due to be placed under coronavirus restrictions at midnight on Thursday for the first time since the UK entered full lockdown in March.

The new measures will include a strict 10pm curfew on businesses, including bars and pubs, and – more significantly – a total ban on mixing between households inside or outside. Visits to care homes will also be restricted to essential visitors only and use of public transport will be curbed.

It is the first time such a large swath of England has been placed under such strict measures since 31 July, when additional restrictions came into force in parts of north-west England. It reflects growing unease about the sharp rise in coronavirus cases across the country – they have doubled in the past three weeks – and an ever steeper rise in hotspots in the north-east.

As the UK stares at an imminent second wave, this feels like the first significant government intervention ahead of what could be a very long autumn and winter.

7.02am BST

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. Thanks for following along.

My colleague Josh Halliday will be taking you through the next few hours of pandemic news. In the meantime, here is our global report:

6.40am BST


Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

India reported another global record jump in daily coronavirus infections with 97,894 cases in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday. Coronavirus infections in India surged past 5 million on Wednesday, piling pressure on hospitals grappling with unreliable supplies of oxygen that they need to treat tens of thousands of critical patients.
China has locked down a city on its border with Myanmar and launched a campaign to test the city’s entire population of more than 200,000 people. Officials in Ruili in Yunnan province said the city had entered a state of “wartime” defences against Covid-19 after two new cases emerged among travellers from Myanmar. Residents have been ordered to stay at home and authorities have set up checkpoints to prevent anyone entering or leaving Ruili and restricting access to border areas nearby. Most businesses have been closed.
The World Health Organization warned Latin American countries not to reopen too fast. WHO regional director Carissa Etienne said on Wednesday that Latin America had started to resume normal social and public life at a time when the pandemic still required major control interventions.
New Zealand saw its GDP fall by 12.2% in the June quarter, the largest quarterly fall since such records began in 1987, as Covid restrictions affected economic activity, Stats NZ said today.
The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 2,194 to 265,857 on Thursday, the second-highest daily total since April.
The director of the US CDC said it will take one year before a coronavirus vaccine will be “generally available to the American public”. That estimation contrasts with recent bullish messaging by Donald Trump, who on Tuesday repeated his assertion that “we’re going to have a vaccine in a matter of weeks” even though a successful vaccine has yet to be unveiled from ongoing US trials, and attacked the CDC director on Wednesday as “confused” about the timeline.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is to furlough himself and his staff for a week in order to close a $7bn budget shortfall created by the pandemic.
The average age of people infected with Covid-19 is coming down, according to a World Health Organization expert Dr Maria Van Kerkhove. She told a Q&A that incidences of hospitalisation among those aged 15 to 49 years are increasing and said it was possible for the same person to be infected with influenza and Covid-19.
South Africa will reopen its borders to most countries next month, the president said on Wednesday, part of a wider easing of measures announced as figures continue to improve.

6.27am BST

India reports world record one-day case total

India reported another global record jump in daily coronavirus infections with 97,894 cases in the last 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday. Deaths are also showing a rise, with the country recording more than 1,000 deaths every day for the last two weeks, Reuters reports.

Coronavirus infections in India surged past 5 million on Wednesday, piling pressure on hospitals grappling with unreliable supplies of oxygen that they need to treat tens of thousands of critical patients.

In the big states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, some of the areas worst affected by the virus, demand for oxygen has more than tripled, doctors and government officials said, prompting urgent calls for help.

at 6.28am BST

6.18am BST

Paul Karp and Daniel Hurst report:

Australia’s employment rebounded with 111,000 more jobs in August compared with July, but more Victorians are out of work due to the state’s second wave of Covid-19 and Melbourne’s stage-four lockdown.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force data, released on Thursday, confirms Australia’s two-speed economy, with unemployment falling overall by 0.7% to 6.8% but rising in Victoria to 7.1% after the loss of 42,400 jobs.

The treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra that although the figures show Australia’s economy is “remarkably resilient” and “fighting back”, the road to recovery will still be “long, hard and bumpy”.

The effective unemployment rate – including those who had left the labour market or worked zero hours – fell from 9.8% to 9.3% but “still remains high”, he said:

5.46am BST

Covid-19 ethics: should we deliberately infect volunteers in the name of science? Podcast Part 2

Teams around the world are hard at work developing Covid-19 vaccines. While any potential candidate will need to be tested on thousands of volunteers to prove its safety and efficacy, some scientists have argued that the race to the finish line could be sped up by human challenge trials — where participants are infected with a special strain of the virus.

Ian Sample delves into some of the misconceptions and hurdles inherent in this kind of research. In the second of two episodes, Ian explores the importance of rescue treatments, what happens if something goes wrong, and whether it would ever be morally permissible to deliberately infect those most at risk of Covid-19, like volunteer octogenarians:

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