The Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 41 million, claiming at least 1.12 million lives around the world. Here are updates for October 21:

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a graffiti in Barcelona, Spain on October 21, 2020.
A woman wearing a face mask walks past a graffiti in Barcelona, Spain on October 21, 2020. (AFP)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Spain becomes first EU nation to pass one million case

Spain has become the first European Union nation to surpass a million coronavirus infections as the government mulls fresh restrictions on public life to curb the spread of the disease.

The country recorded 16,973 confirmed cases over the past 24 hours, the health ministry announced, taking the total to 1,005,295 since its first case was diagnosed on January 31 on the remote island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands.

Of this number, 34,366 people have died, after 156 more deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours.

France's new cases above 25,000 again

France has reported 26,676 new infections, the sixth time in 12 days the daily tally stayed above the 25,000 threshold.

The number of people in France who have died was up by 163, at 34,048, and the cumulative number of cases now totals 957,421.

The resurgence of the pandemic is such that the government will likely announce a geographical extension of a curfew, at present imposed on Paris and eight other major cities.

Italy's daily virus cases soar to new daily record

Italy has registered 15,199 new cases over the past 24 hours, the highest daily tally since the start of the country's outbreak and up from a previous record of 11,705 posted on Sunday.

Tuesday saw 10,874 new cases of the highly contagious virus.

The ministry also reported 127 Covid-related deaths, up from 89 the day before but still far fewer than at the height of the pandemic in Italy in March and April, when a daily peak of more than 900 fatalities was reached.

German health minister tests positive

German Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive for the coronavirus and placed himself in home quarantine, the Health Ministry has said.

It said Spahn, 40, was suffering from cold-like symptoms and that people he had been in contact with were being informed.

Spahn had told Chancellor Angela Merkel of his diagnosis and she had wished him a swift recovery, a spokesman said.

Spahn attended a cabinet meeting earlier on Wednesday, but a government spokesman said other cabinet minis ters would not necessarily have to go into quarantine.

Turkey records 2,013 more virus cases

Turkey has reported 2,013 new patients and 68 deaths over the past 24 hours.

The country's overall tally now stands at 353,426 the country's ministry reported on Wednesday.

Some 1,512 more patients recovered over the past day, raising the count to 306,939, while the death toll rose to 9,445.

Around 117,943 more tests were carried out across the country, bringing the total to over 12.75 million.

Europe's hospitals under major stress

Europe's hospital systems are at risk of buckling under the strain of soaring virus numbers that have put the continent once again at the centre of the global pandemic.

With case numbers that were brought largely under control by the unprecedented lockdowns in March and April now resurging relentlessly, authorities in countries from Poland to Portugal have expressed mounting alarm at the renewed crisis confronting their health infrastructure.

Belgium, struggling with what its health minister called a "tsunami" of infections, is postponing all non-essential hospital procedures, and similar measures are looming in other countries where case numbers have been rising relentlessly.

Russia records hits daily record high of 317 deaths

Russia recorded 15,700 new virus infections as well as a daily record high of 317 deaths from the highly-contagious virus.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country of about 145 million people has recorded 1,447,335 infections and 24,952 deaths, the authorities said. 

Poland's total virus cases top 200,000

Poland's total number of coronavirus confirmed infections has doubled in less than three weeks and now exceeds 200,000.

The health ministry announced a new daily record of 10,040 new cases.

Government Covid-19 adviser Andrzej Horban said earlier on Wednesday that 10,000 cases a day is the upper limit of the health system's capacity.

Poland has 202,579 recorded cases and 3,851 deaths. It passed 100,000 infections on October 4.

As of Wednesday, patients occupied 9,439 hospital beds and were using 757 ventilators, compared with 8,962 and 725 respectively a day earlier, the ministry said. 

Poland's government is transforming the National Stadium in Warsaw into a field hospital to handle the surging number of people infected with the coronavirus, and expects it to be operational within days, officials said.

Bulgarian president tests negative

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has tested negative a second time for the coronavirus and expects his compulsory self-isolation to be lifted, his office said.

The 57-year-old former military pilot halted a visit to Estonia to return home on Tuesday after contact last week with a military officer who later tested positive.

Upon arrival at the Sofia airport, Radev said he was symptom-free and showed a negative result of a test he took in Estonia on Monday. Another test taken after his landing also came up negative on Wednesday, his office said.

Slovakia reports 2,202 new cases, highest daily tally

Slovakia reported 2,202 new virus cases for October 20, the highest daily tally to date, Health Ministry data showed.

The overall number of people infected since the start of the pandemic rose to 33,602 in the country of 5.5 million, and 98 people have died.

Indonesia reports 4,267 new infections, 123 deaths

Indonesia reported 4,267 new virus infections, taking the total to 373,109, data from the country's Covid-19 task force showed.

It also confirmed 123 new deaths, taking total fatalities to 12,857. Indonesia has the highest number of infections and deaths in the Southeast Asia region. 

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Hamacek tests positive 

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamacek, who is also the interior minister, has tested positive for Covid-19.

Hamacek, 41, is chief of the Social Democratic Party, junior partner in the ruling coalition and is also head of the crisis committee coordinating logistical efforts to counter the pandemic.

More of northern England put into highest lockdown tier

South Yorkshire in northern England will move into the very high lockdown tier on Saturday to tackle rising levels of virus infections, the mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis said.

The area has agreed to a funding package worth $53.5 million (41 million pounds) to support businesses that will have to close and for additional public health measures.

Regions in the north of England have been most severely affected by the second wave.

South Yorkshire will join Liverpool and Lancashire in the highest tier. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he would impose the same measures in Manchester after failing to agree a support package with local leaders.

Philippines reports 1,509 new cases, 60 more deaths

The Philippine health ministry confirmed 1,509 new infections, its lowest daily increase in cases in more than six weeks.

In a bulletin, the ministry said there were 60 additional deaths confirmed. Total cases have risen to 362,243 while deaths have reached 6,747. 

Ukraine reports record high deaths, new cases

The number of daily deaths in Ukraine jumped to 141 from the previous record of 113 deaths registered, the national security council said.

The council also reported a record 6,719 new virus cases registered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 315,826 cases with 5,927 deaths.

Czech Republic reports 11,984 new cases

The Czech Republic reported 11,984 new virus cases for October 20, the highest daily tally on record, as the country is struggling with a surge in recent weeks.

The number of people who died rose to 1,619 from 1,513 over the past 24 hours in the country of 10.7 million, Health Ministry data showed.

The data on casualties are being assigned to a number of previous days as reports come in with a delay.

The government is to meet at an extraordinary session at 0600 GMT to discuss the epidemiological situation. Health Minister Roman Prymula had hinted on Tuesday that tougher anti-epidemic measures were on the way. 

India's tally climbs to 7.65 million

India has recorded 54,044 new infections, taking its tally to 7.65 million, health ministry data showed.

The world's second-most populous nation also has the second-highest caseload, after the United States, which has a total of 8.2 million.

India's death toll from the virus stood at 115,914, with 717 deaths in the last 24 hours, the ministry said.

Infections in India have been on the decline since a September peak, but experts have warned there could be a surge as the festival season approaches.

Australia reports rare case of reinfection

Australian authorities say they're treating a case in the city of Melbourne as a rare reinfection.

The only case reported in the former hot spot of Victoria state had also tested positive in July.

Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said an expert panel had decided to classify the case as a reinfection rather than shedding viral remnants of the July infection.

Andrews says the classification reflected “an abundance of caution” rather than conclusive evidence. He assumed further testing would be conducted into the case in search of a definitive result.

Melbourne has been in lockdown since early July, but restrictions in Australia’s second-largest city are easing this week as daily infection tallies remain low.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 7,595 to 380,762

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 7,595 to 380,762, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 39 to 9,875, the tally showed.

Mexico asks cemeteries to close ahead of holiday, fearing rebound

Mexican authorities are calling on cemeteries to close to public visitors ahead of the Day of the Dead, a celebration that usually draws hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, as officials strive to avert another wave of infections.

The November 1-2 celebration blends Catholic rituals and the pre-Hispanic belief that the dead return once a year from the underworld, and believers throng cemeteries and public plazas on those days.

Ahead of the holiday, cemeteries will largely remain closed, as they could "become areas of high risk for contagion", Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell told reporters on Tuesday. "The recommendation is to avoid crowds."

An outbreak at a posh wedding in the northern border city of Mexicali this month was a reminder of the health risk of mass gatherings, with local officials saying that over one hundred people among the several hundred guests contracted the virus.

Officials said the event was too large, and videos of the celebration showed a packed dance floor of people without masks.

US aid talks imperilled amid Republican opposition

The White House and Democrats in the US Congress moved closer to an agreement on a new relief package as President Donald Trump said he was willing to accept a large aid bill despite opposition from his own Republican Party.

With just two weeks until the US presidential election, Trump signalled a willingness to go along with more than $2.2 trillion in new Covid-19 relief, a figure Democrats have been pushing for months.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, publicly said he would bring up a deal if one is reached by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and approved by the House of Representatives.

Brazil health minister ill with suspected case

Brazilian Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello has fallen ill with a suspected case, the ministry's press office said, as the country battles with the third-worst coronavirus outbreak globally, with nearly 5.3 million cases.

The ministry said Pazuello had a fever and would be tested for Covid-19. On Monday, the minister had missed a public event with President Jair Bolsonaro.

"He had a small indisposition and went to the hospital," Bolsonaro said at the event. The ministry said on Monday that Pazuello had been discharged and was at home.

Venezuela plans to use Russian and Chinese vaccines

Venezuela plans to vaccinate citizens with Russian and Chinese vaccines, which could arrive in the South American nation in December or January, President Nicolas Maduro said.

"It has been announced that the completed Russian and Chinese vaccines should arrive by December, January, December-January, and we are going to start vaccination," Maduro said during a live broadcast on state television.

He added that older people and those with existing diseases would take priority, but that all Venezuelans would be vaccinated.

The country received a first batch of the Russian "Sputnik-V" coronavirus vaccine in early October as part of phase three clinical trials and the government said about 2,000 volunteers would participate. The delivery was the first in Latin America.

Mexico reports 555 more deaths

Mexico's Ministry of Health has reported 5,788 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 555 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 860,714 and the death toll to 86,893.

Health officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

New Zealand reports two new community cases, 23 imported

New Zealand has reported two new cases of Covid-19 in the community linked to a port worker who tested positive over the weekend, and 23 imported cases.

Most of the imported cases are linked to a group of Russian and Ukrainian fishermen who were staying at a managed isolation facility in Christchurch, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.

This takes New Zealand's total confirmed cases to 1,556, he said.

Mainland China reports 11 new cases

China has reported 11 new coronavirus cases in the mainland on October 20, down from 19 a day earlier, the country's health authority said.

All of the new cases were imported, the National Health Commission said in its daily bulletin.

It also reported another 15 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases, down from 24 a day earlier.

China has now reported a total of 85,715 confirmed coronavirus cases since the outbreak began, with a death toll of 4,634.

South Africa records 164 new deaths

South Africa has reported 164 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed fatalities in the country to 18,656.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said 1,050 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 during the past 24 hours, pushing the number of confirmed cases nationwide to 706,304 infections.

Mkhize said nearly 4.6 million people have been tested for the virus since it was first detected seven months ago.

Meanwhile, more than 15,000 people were tested during the past 24 hours, he said.

He added that 639,568 people had recovered from the virus, which translates to a 90 percent recovery rate.

CDC says US has seen 300,000 more deaths than usual

A new government report has shown that since the coronavirus pandemic began, the US has seen 300,000 more deaths than it usually would.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking how many deaths have been reported and comparing them with counts seen in other years. Usually, between the beginning of February and the end of September, about 1.9 million deaths are reported. This year, it’s closer to 2.2 million – a 14.5 percent increase.

The CDC says the coronavirus was involved in about two-thirds of the excess deaths. CDC officials say it’s likely the virus was a factor in many other deaths too.

For example, someone with heart attack symptoms may have hesitated to go to a hospital that was busy with coronavirus patients.

The largest segment of the excess deaths, about 95,000, were in elderly people ages 75 to 84. That was 21.5 percent more than in a normal year. But the biggest relative increase, 26.5 percent, was in people ages 25 to 44. Deaths in people younger than 25 actually dropped slightly.

Deaths were up for different racial and ethnic groups, but the largest increase – 54 percent – was among Hispanic Americans.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies