The coronavirus pandemic has now infected over 21 million people and has killed more than 765,000. Here are the updates for August 15:

Soldiers disinfect the Christ the Redeemer site, currently closed, to prepare for what tourism officials hope will be a surge in visitors in the upcoming weekend as health restrictions are eased amid the new coronavirus pandemic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.
Soldiers disinfect the Christ the Redeemer site, currently closed, to prepare for what tourism officials hope will be a surge in visitors in the upcoming weekend as health restrictions are eased amid the new coronavirus pandemic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (Silvia Izquierdo / AP)

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Nearly half of Brazilians say Bolsonaro not to blame for coronavirus death toll, poll says

Nearly half of Brazilians think President Jair Bolsonaro has "no responsibility at all" for the country's more than 100,000 dead due to the coronavirus pandemic, making it the world's second highest death toll. 

This comes after a new Datafolha poll published on Saturday in Brazil's Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, which says that while 47 per cent of Brazilians do not assign him any blame for the body count, only 11 per cent do.

Brazil has the world's worst outbreak outside of the United States and Bolsonaro's response to the pandemic has been widely condemned by health experts.
Right-wing Bolsonaro has pushed for the use of an unproven anti-malarial drug to fight the disease, replaced health ministers who opposed his agenda, encouraged Brazilians to oppose lockdown measures and shown indifference to the rising death toll.

German health minister warns against "party holidays"

In a strident warning, Germany's health minister told the nation that party holidays were irresponsible. This came on Saturday after a decision to declare all of Spain a coronavirus risk region following a  spike in cases there.

"I know how much the Germans love Spain ... But unfortunately the infection rates there are rising sharply, too sharply," said Jens Spahn.

"Whoever goes to Spain despite the warning should protect themselves and others while on holiday. Party holidays are irresponsible in this pandemic."

Vietnam reports new infections in growing second outbreak

Meanwhile, Vietnam's reports 21 new coronavirus infections and two deaths, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 950, with 23 fatalities.

More than 470 of the cases are linked to the central city of Danang, where a new outbreak began late last month.

The ministry said 115,858 people are under quarantine, including 4,182 at hospitals, 25,952 at centralised quarantine centres with the remainder at home.

Returning Brits begin quarantine as second virus wave threatens UK, Europe

British holidaymakers returning home from parts of Europe began having to quarantine on Saturday under new restrictions, as a second wave of virus infections threatened more disruption and economic chaos on the continent.

The United Kingdom recorded 1,012 new positive tests for COVID-19, the government said on Saturday, the fifth day in a row there have been more than 1,000 infections reported in daily figures.

Britain has now recorded 317,379 COVID-19 cases. A further three people were reported to have died within 28 days after testing positive for the coronavirus. 

The UK further opted to remove France, the Netherlands, Malta and several other countries from its list of places exempt from self-isolation rules, sparking a rush for plane, train and ferry tickets by Britons desperate to get back before 0300 GMT change.

All travellers arriving from the three countries, as well as Monaco, and Caribbean island states Turks & Caicos and Aruba, after the deadline must quarantine for 14 days.

Pressure grows in France to tighten mask rules

Pressure is growing on the French government to require masks in all workplaces and everywhere in public as infections resurge.

Paris police stepped up mask patrols Saturday as the French capital expanded the zones where face coverings are now required in public, including neighborhoods around the Louvre Museum and Champs-Elysees shopping district.

With cases in Paris rising particularly fast, police can now shut down cafes or any gathering of more than 10 people where distancing and other hygiene measures aren’t respected.

Masks are currently required outdoors in hundreds of French towns, but rules vary widely.

France’s High Council for Public Health published new guidances Friday recommending “the systematic use of masks in all enclosed collective places, public and private”, including workplaces. 

About half of France’s current virus clusters started in workplaces.

Vietnam reports 21 new cases

Vietnam's health ministry reported 21 new infections and two deaths on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the Southeast Asian country to 950, with 23 fatalities.

More than 470 of the cases are linked to the central city of Danang, where a new outbreak began late last month.

The ministry said 115,858 people are being quarantined, including 4,182 at hospitals, 25,952 at centralised quarantine centres and the rest at home

Russia begins mass production of its Covid-19 vaccine

Russia has started manufacturing its new vaccine, the Interfax news agency reported on Saturday, citing the health ministry.

Russia has said the vaccine, developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute and the first for the virus to go into production, will be rolled out by the end of this month. 

Some scientists said they fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety. 

India to invest $1.46 trillion to lift virus-hit economy

India’s prime minister has said that his country has done well in containing the pandemic and announced $1.46 trillion infrastructure projects to boost the sagging economy.

The key lesson India learnt from the pandemic is to become self-reliant in manufacturing and developing itself as a key supply chain destination for international companies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

"The coronavirus epidemic is a big crisis, but it can’t stall India’s economic progress,’’ Modi said in a speech from New Delhi’s 17th century Mughal-era Red Fort to mark 74 years of the country's independence from British rule.

The International Monetary Fund projected a contraction of 4.5 percent for the Indian economy in 2020, a “historic low,” but said the country is expected to bounce back in 2021.

Modi said the government has identified 7,000 infrastructure projects to offset the economic impact of the pandemic.

Denmark makes face masks compulsory on public transport

Wearing face masks on public transport will be compulsory in Denmark from August 22 following a spike in numbers of new cases, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Saturday.

In mid-April, Denmark became one of the first European countries to ease its lockdown as the epidemic appeared to be contained, but the reproduction rate at which it is spreading rose above 1.5 in the past week, the highest reading since early April.

Frederiksen said the surge also meant that plans to remove a limit on the size of public gatherings would be deferred, with the limit remaining at 100 people for the time being.

Indonesia reports 2,354 new cases, 50 more deaths

Indonesia has reported 2,345 new cases, taking the total number of infections to 137,468, according to data from Indonesia's task force.

The data showed 50 more virus-related deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 6,071.

India cases cross 2.5 million with another jump

India's confirmed virus cases have crossed 2.5 million with another biggest single-day spike of 65,002 in the past 24 hours.

India is behind the US and Brazil in the highest number of global cases.

The health ministry on Saturday also reported another 996 deaths for a total of 49,036.

The average daily reported cases jumped from around 15,000 in the first week of July to more than 50,000 at the beginning of August.

The health ministry said the rise shows the extent of testing with 800,000 carried out in a single day. 

But experts say India needs to pursue testing more vigorously.

India’s two-month lockdown imposed nationwide in late March kept infections low. 

But it has eased and is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas. 

The new cases spiked after India reopened shops and manufacturing and allowed hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to return to their homes from virus-hit regions.

Subways, schools and movie theatres remain closed.

Russia reports more than 5,000 new cases

Russia has reported 5,061 new infections, bringing its nationwide tally to 917,884, the fourth highest caseload in the world.

Russia's crisis response centre said 119 people had also died over the last 24 hours, pushing its official death toll to 15,617.

It added that 729,411 people have recovered.

South Korea announces new measures as cases spike

South Korea has announced stronger social distancing restrictions for its greater capital area where a surge in cases threatens to erase the hard-won gains against the pandemic.

The two-week measures starting Sunday will allow authorities in Seoul and towns in neighbouring Gyeonggi Province to shut down high-risk facilities such as nightclubs, karaoke rooms, movie theatres and buffet restaurants if they fail to properly enforce preventive measures, including distancing, temperatures checks, keeping customer lists and requiring masks.

Fans will once again be banned from professional baseball and football, just a few weeks after health authorities allowed teams to let in spectators for a portion of their seats in each game.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo revealed the steps hours after the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 166 newly confirmed cases, the country’s highest daily jump in five months.

Ukraine sees new record daily high of 1,847 cases

Ukraine has registered 1,847 new cases in the past 24 hours, a new daily record for infections in the country, which is seeing cases increase sharply following the easing of some restrictions.

The figure given by the national council of security and defence surpassed the previous single-day record of 1,732 reported on Friday. 

Total cases reached 89,719, including 2,044 deaths.

Infections have risen since June as authorities have eased some restrictions, allowing cafes, churches and public transport to reopen. 

Alibaba's Freshippo to test all Shenzhen employees 

Alibaba-owned supermarket chain Freshippo says that it has shut 21 of its Shenzhen stores and was requiring all its employees in the city to undergo tests for the novel coronavirus after three cases were found at one of its outlets there.

Freshippo said two brand promoters and one staff member who worked at its store in the IBC mall in Shenzhen's Luohu district had tested positive for the virus, citing findings made by the city's health authority.

The two other cases were asymptomatic, or currently do not show symptoms, the authority added.

It also said it would begin offering free nucleic acid tests to anyone who had visited the supermarket from July 24.

New Zealand reports 7 new cases

New Zealand has reported seven cases in the last 24 hours as a lockdown in the country's biggest city, Auckland, was extended on Friday in response to the country's first outbreak in months.

Six of the seven new cases have been linked to the cluster responsible for all the previous community cases, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a media briefing in Wellington.

The lockdown in Auckland, home to 1.7 million people, was extended for nearly two weeks, after New Zealand reported 12 confirmed cases on Friday.

Mexico's registers 511,369 cases

Mexico's health ministry reported 5,618 new confirmed cases of the virus and 615 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 511,369 cases and 55,908 deaths.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Brazil registers 50,644 new cases

Brazil reported 50,644 new cases of Covid-19 and 1,060 new deaths, the health ministry said.

Overall, Brazil has reported 3,275,520 confirmed cases and 106,523 deaths.

US CDC reports 5,228,817 cases in total

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 5,228,817 cases of the virus, an increase of 52,799 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 1,169 to 166,317.

Barca defender Umtiti tests positive 

Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti has tested positive for the virus, the club announced.

"After the PCR tests carried out on Thursday, the first team player Samuel Umtiti has tested positive for Covid-19. The players is asymptomatic, is in good health and is isolating at home," read a Barca statement.

"The club has informed the relevant sporting and health authorities as well as tracing all the people who have had contact with the player so that they can undergo the corresponding PCR tests."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies