Global pandemic has now infected over 17 million people and has killed more than 666,000. Here are the latest updates for July 29:

Patrons wait in line for the auto tag agency to open in Deerfield Beach, Florida, US on  July 2, 2020.
Patrons wait in line for the auto tag agency to open in Deerfield Beach, Florida, US on July 2, 2020. (AP)

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Florida reports record increase in Covid-19 deaths 

Florida reports a record increase in new Covid-19 deaths for a second day in a row , with 217 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to the state health department.

Florida also reported 9,446 new cases, bringing its total infections to over 451,000, the second highest in the country behind California. Florida's total death toll rose to 6,457, the eighth highest in the nation. 

Total US deaths surpassed 150,000, the highest level in the world and rising at the fastest rate since early June.

Turkey reports 14 new fatalities

The total number of deaths in Turkey caused by the disease rises to 5,659 with 14 new fatalities, according to the country's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. 

Citing the ministry data, Koca said a total of 942 people contracted with the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 228,924.

Meanwhile, Koca has said that the accuracy rate of Covid-19 testing kits was over 90 percent in the country.

Addressing a news conference following a meeting of the country's Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board, he said the number of fresh cases dropped 15 percent in the 10 days after Eid al Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, due to strict restrictions in place.

"We need to make use of the time well and pass to the second wave of the virus that the world is anticipating," he said, stressing that the risk continues.

France sees highest daily rise in cases

French health authorities have reported 1,392 additional confirmed cases of the virus, at 185,196, the highest daily increase since more than a month.

There were also 15 new deaths linked to the disease, taking the total to 30,238, a figure higher the daily average increase of nine seen over the last week.

In a statement, authorities said the number of people in hospital for the virus went down again, pursuing a two-month downward trend. 

Germany to introduce mandatory tests for travellers

New rules for mandatory virus  tests for travellers entering Germany from countries designated as risk areas are due to come into effect next week, a spokeswoman for the country’s health ministry said said. 

Germany announced plans on Monday for free, mandatory coronavirus tests for holidaymakers returning from high-risk countries in order to slow the spread of infections as the holiday season kicks into high gear.

Portugal slams some EU members over freedom of movement

Portugal’s foreign ministry has said some member states in the EU have broken a pact to reinstate freedom of movement inside the bloc after coronavirus lockdowns were lifted.

The ministry’s comments came after Britain - which left the EU in January but is observing its trade and travel regulations until the end of the year - decided on Friday to persist with a quarantine regime for travellers from Portugal.

Hong Kong could postpone election due to virus

Hong Kong's government could postpone by a year a vote for seats in the city's legislature scheduled for September 6 amid fears of a resurgence in novel coronavirus cases.

A report by public broadcaster RTHK on Wednesday cited unidentified sources and did not give any more details.

A postponement would be a blow for the opposition pro-democracy camp's attempt to win a historic majority in the city's assembly after Beijing imposed a new security law widely criticised by Western countries as eroding citizens' rights.

The Legislative Council, or Legco, election would be the first vote in the former British colony since the introduction of the national security legislation in the semiautonomous city.

Hong Kong has reported about 3,000 coronavirus cases since January and more than 20 deaths, far lower than in other major cities around the world.

But the government has warned of a new surge of infections in the community and has banned dining in restaurants and limited group gatherings to two people.

Australia battles worst virus outbreak in aged homes

Australia has sent defence and emergency medical teams, usually deployed to disaster zones, to aged care homes in the city of Melbourne to help contain the country's worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

Another hotspot, in inner-city Sydney, forced a senior adviser to Prime Minister Scott Morrison into self-isolation, but the prime minister has been cleared to continue working.

Aged care homes are at the centre of Victoria's outbreak, with 804 active Covid-19 cases linked to the homes, including workers, state Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The government has sent 1,400 military personnel and five emergency teams to Melbourne to help deal with the aged care issues, including contact tracing.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said while infections in aged care made up only 7 percent of new cases in Victoria since July 1, all efforts were focused on reining in those outbreaks as the elderly are the "most vulnerable".

Germany: vaccine unlikely to be widely available before mid-2021

Germany has said that a coronavirus vaccine was unlikely to be widely available before the middle of next year.

"We must continue to assume that vaccines for the broader population will only be available from the middle of next year at the earliest," Research Minister Anja Karliczek said on Wednesday at a news conference.

Russia's cases near 830,000

Russia has reported5,475 new cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing its national tally to 828,990, the fourth largest in the world.

In the daily readout, officials said 169 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 13,673.

Kazakhstan extends lockdown until mid-August

Kazakhstan has extended its lockdown for two more weeks until mid-August.

The restrictions will be eased gradually at the end of the extended lockdown, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said.  

Japan's virus surge fills isolation facilities

As Japan battles a surge in coronavirus cases, some areas may be running out of isolation facilities to monitor infected people.

The health ministry reported 981 new cases and three more deaths, raising the cumulative toll to 1,000 people. Most of the new cases were domestic, while 13 were found at airports from incoming flights, it said.

Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga acknowledged some areas may be running out of room at places like hotels, where infected people can be housed and monitored away from other people and prevent the spread of the virus.

The national government stood ready to help regional governments to make sure people can stay in such facilities, to prevent Covid-19 spreading in homes, and to make sure the sick get immediate treatment if symptoms worsen, said Suga.

New Zealand moves to charge some for quarantine

New Zealand’s government says it will rush through new laws to allow some people to be charged for their border quarantine costs.

New Zealand hasn’t had any community transmission of the virus for three months, and everybody who enters the country is required to spend two weeks isolated at a hotel. The cost of that is currently picked up by taxpayers and has already amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Under the new law, adults who leave or enter the country for short holidays or business trips will be required to pay about 3,100 New Zealand dollars ($2,100) towards their quarantine costs.

But there will be many exceptions to the new fees, and officials acknowledge it will affect less than 10 percent of travellers.

Minister Megan Woods said the government was carefully balancing the payments against the rights of New Zealanders to return home permanently.

Hong Kong implements tough restrictions

Hong Kong is on the verge of a "large-scale" coronavirus outbreak that could overwhelm hospitals, its leader warned, as authorities implemented their toughest social distancing measures yet.

From Wednesday all residents in the densely packed city of 7.5 million must wear masks when they leave their homes while restaurants can only serve takeaway meals.

No more than two people from different households can gather in public with fines of up to HK$5,000 ($625) for those who breach the new emergency rules.

The latest measures are a bid to reverse a sudden spike in coronavirus cases that has upended the city's otherwise enviable battle against the deadly disease.

More than 1,000 infections have been confirmed since early July, more than 40 percent of the total since the virus first hit the city in late January.

New daily infections have been above 100 for the past six days.

South Korea sees upticks in cases

South Korea reported 48 additional cases, maintaining an uptick in new infections.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the additional figures took the country’s total to 14,251 with 300 deaths. Fourteen of the new patients were locally infected while the rest 34 came from overseas.

 South Korea has been reporting roughly 20-60 new cases every day since it eased its strict social distancing rules in early May.

Britain signs supply deal for Sanofi/GSK vaccine

Britain on Wednesday said it had signed a supply deal for up to 60 million doses of a possible Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, the fourth such deal it has struck

Britain's business ministry said that priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased health risk, could be vaccinated as soon as summer 2021 if the vaccine was shown to work in human studies.

Vietnam warns capital to brace for new outbreak

Vietnam, virus-free for months, was bracing for another wave of infections after local media reported a case in the capital, Hanoi, linked to a recent outbreak in the central city of Danang.

Hanoi should prepare medical equipment and materials for another "fight against Covid-19", the Southeast Asian country's government said in a statement, which made no mention of the case reported in media.

Thanks to a centralised quarantine programme and an aggressive contact-tracing system, Vietnam had managed to keep its coronavirus tally to just 446 cases, despite sharing a long and porous border with China.

Vietnam, with over 95 million people, is the most populous country in the world to have recorded no deaths from the virus.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 684 to 206,926

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 684 to 206,926, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by six to 9,128, the tally showed. 

Australia's Victoria reports dip in daily cases

Australia's second most populous state of Victoria said the total daily cases fell below 300 for the first time in more than a week.

The state reported nine deaths over the last 24 hours with seven casualties linked to aged care facilities, Premier Daniel Andrews said in a media conference inMelbourne.

The southeast state saw a flare-up in infections over the last several weeks and authorities have sent an emergency medical team to aged care homes, which are at the centre of the outbreak.

Victoria reported 295 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, compared with 384 a day earlier.

China reports highest number of cases since mid-April

China reported 101 new cases in the mainland for July 28, the highest in over three and a half months.

China has moved quickly to stamp out eruptions by contact tracing and re-shuttering the affected areas.

Recently, many of the new infections have come from the far western region of Xinjiang, where 89 have been tallied for July 28. One was recorded in Beijing, while three were imported cases, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.

China also reported 27 new asymptomatic patients for July 28, down from 34 a day earlier.

Mainland China has 84,060 confirmed cases and the death toll remained at 4,634.

Mexico reports almost 1,000 daily deaths

Mexico has 7,208 new known cases and 854 additional deaths, bringing the nation's total to 402,697 cases and 44,876 fatalities, the health ministry reported.

Mexico has the fourth highest death tally worldwide.

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

Moderna pitches virus vaccine at around $50-$60 per course

Moderna Inc is planning to price its coronavirus vaccine at $50 to $60 per course, higher than other vaccine makers have agreed to charge governments, the Financial Times reported.

The price would apply to the US and other high-income countries, according to the report.

A Moderna spokesperson said the company was in discussions with governments about potential supply of mRNA-1273, but did not give any details on pricing "given the confidential nature of the discussions and contracts".

Moderna's proposed price of $50 to $60 for a course, or $25 to $30 per dose, is higher than that pitched by Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech in a $2 billion deal with the US government at $39 for a course, or $19.5 per dose.

Pfizer, Moderna and Merck & Co have said they plan to sell their vaccines at a profit, while some drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson, have announced plans to price their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis.

US: Russia behind spread of virus disinformation

Russian intelligence services are using a trio of English-language websites to spread disinformation about the pandemic, seeking to exploit a crisis that America is struggling to contain ahead of the presidential election in November, US officials said.

Two Russians who have held senior roles in Moscow’s military intelligence service known as the GRU have been identified as responsible for a disinformation effort reaching American and Western audiences, US government officials said. 

Though US officials have warned before about the spread of disinformation tied to the pandemic, they went further by singling out a particular information agency that is registered in Russia, InfoRos and that operates a series of websites, InfoRos.ru, Infobrics.org and OneWorld.press, that have leveraged the pandemic to promote anti-Western objectives and to spread disinformation.

Brazil records over 40,000 cases in last 24 hours

Brazil recorded 40,816 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, as well as 921 deaths from the disease, the health ministry said.

Brazil has registered nearly 2.5 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 88,539, according to ministry data.

Travel advisory issued for three US states, capital and Puerto Rico

Three more states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been added to the list of places whose residents traveling to New Jersey must quarantine for two weeks.

Democratic Governor Phil Murphy said Illinois, Kentucky and Minnesota, along with the capital and the Caribbean island bring the total list of affected states and territories to 36.

The travel advisory calls for travellers from those places to quarantine for 14 days and applies to states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or those with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.

New Jersey’s positivity rate has been hovering around 2 percent or lower and has seen new hospitalisations fall 40 percent from two weeks ago, according to the governor’s office. New hospitalisations since the virus’s peak in April are down 97 percent. The state has 4.5 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, ranking 44th in the country, according to Murphy’s office.

Biden says he hasn't been tested for virus

US democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he personally had not been tested for the virus, but did not elaborate on why he hasn’t sought such a screening protectively.

Speaking to reporters after giving a speech in his hometown of Wilmington, Biden also said President Donald Trump needs to appoint a federal official in charge of equitably distributing a vaccine when one is available, adding “the president should have put someone in charge” of that “three months ago”.

Biden used the speech to lay out how he will rebuild the economy in a way that promotes racial equality.

He also accused the Trump administration of using coronavirus relief funds to allow large banks to enrich themselves through loans while “closing the door” on small businesses, especially those owned by African Americans.

“A change of ‘tone’ over a few days does not change the facts of the last four years,” Biden said, referring to the past few days, when Trump spoke about the coronavirus in somber terms. “Donald Trump fails the basic threshold test of being president, the duty to care about the entire country, not just himself. He has shown that he can’t beat the pandemic to keep you safe.”

Chile eases lockdown measures in capital

Chile’s government has eased lockdown orders on more than a million people in the greater Santiago region despite criticism from some health experts.

The order means residents in seven of the metropolitan region’s 32 districts can leave home without seeking permission from Monday through Friday, open small businesses and go to work, so long as their workplace is in an area where the restrictions have been eased.

Large businesses, restaurants, theaters and cafes remain closed and a curfew is in force from 0200GMT to 0900GMT.

Metropolitan Santiago as a whole holds 8 million of the country’s 19 million people. The downtown district itself remains under lockdown.

Chile ranks eighth in the world in confirmed cases per capita, with 350,000 cases and more than 13,000 deaths.

Private think tank Espacio Publico complained that the government was easing the restrictions contrary to advice from experts.

Kosovo reimposes lockdown

Kosovo's government imposed most of the previous lockdown measures, such as banning religious ceremonies and other activities, in an effort to prevent an alarming escalation of coronavirus cases.

The government ordered that public gatherings, including family traditional ceremonies and mass gathering of more than five people, are banned in squares or parks. Restaurants, cafes, night clubs cannot operate during 2030GMT to 0300GMT.

Citizens from neighbouring Western Balkan countries, where new virus cases have risen too, need to test negative to enter the country.

Citizens are advised to wear the mask in all closed buildings or spaces and institutions and companies should create the proper social distancing environment for the employees.

Kosovo has reported 7,652 confirmed virus cases and 192 deaths so far.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies