The global coronavirus pandemic has infected over 42 million people and claimed over a million lives. Here are updates for October 23:

A woman wearing a protective face mask as a measure against the spread of the Covid-19, sits in a tramway in central-eastern France on October 22, 2020.
A woman wearing a protective face mask as a measure against the spread of the Covid-19, sits in a tramway in central-eastern France on October 22, 2020. (AFP)

Friday, October 23, 2020

Coronavirus cases in France passes one million

France has registered more than one million cases of coronavirus since the global pandemic began, with more than 40,000 new infections reported in the last 24 hours.

A total of 42,032 cases were reported, 410 more than a day earlier, a new record since widespread testing began, the public health agency said.

The death toll also increased, with 298 new fatalities registered in 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 34,500 since the pandemic started.

Faced with the alarming rise in cases, the government has expanded a nighttime curfew to cover more than two-thirds of the population, or 46 million people.

US faces half a million deaths by end-February

More than a half-million people in the US  could die from the virus by the end of February, but around 130,000 of those lives could be saved if everybody were to wear masks, according to estimates from a modelling study. 

The estimates by researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed that with few effective virus treatment options and no vaccines yet available, the US faces "a continued Covid-19 public health challenge through the winter."

The IHME study forecast that large, populous states such as California, Texas and Florida will likely face particularly high levels of illness, deaths and demands on hospital resources.

Turkey confirms 2,165 more patients

Turkey has confirmed 2,165 more patients over the past 24 hours, authorities announced, the third day in a row new patient numbers have topped 2,000.

The country's overall coronavirus patient count now stands at 357,693, according to Health Ministry data. 

Meanwhile, the virus-linked death toll in Turkey reached 9,658, with 74 new fatalities reported.

Turkey's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said that Turkey expects to have some 5 million doses of a vaccine – possibly one from China or from the drug company Pfizer – with few side effects ready by December.

Iran plans new restrictions in Tehran

Iran is planning new restrictions, including state employees working every other day in the capital Tehran, after a record surge in virus cases.

"One decision by the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce is for staff at state bodies to be cut by 50 percent next week, and coming to work every other day," taskforce head Al ireza Zali told state news agency IRNA.

He said authorities were also looking into having various job categories start work at different times to ease crowding and traffic.

The restrictions were expected to last for about a month in Tehran, where the coronavirus spread has been particularly alarming, Zali added.

AstraZeneca, Oxford allowed to resume vaccine trial in US

Federal health regulators have decided to allow the resumption of the US trial of a leading virus vaccine candidate from AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

A day before, Reuters reported that the US Food and Drug Administration had completed a review and that the trial was set to resume as early as this week, citing four sources familiar with the situation.

AstraZeneca, Oxford and US regulators were not immediately available for comment.

AstraZeneca's large, late-stage US trial has been on hold since September 6, after a participant in the company's UK trial fell ill with what was suspected to be a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.

Spain's cases estimated to top three million

The "real number" of virus cases in Spain is more than three million, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said in a televised address.

Earlier this week, Spain officially surpassed one million confirmed coronavirus infections but Sanchez said the actual figure was much higher because the number of cases detected at the start of the pandemic was very low.

Millions more head into UK virus lockdowns

Millions more people have headed into virus lockdowns in Britain as the government boosted a jobs support package but acknowledged failures in a hugely expensive testing programme.

Across Britain, more than 44,000 deaths have been linked to the disease and cases have been surging after a summer lull, especially in northern England.

Official figures released estimated a daily increase of 27,900-35,200 cases for the week ending October 16, giving a slightly reduced doubling time of around 21 days.

But the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted calls for a second national lockdown, arguing that its tiered system is better suited to target regions facing the biggest threat.

Dutch infections jump by nearly 10,000

The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands has jumped by nearly 10,000 in 24 hours, hitting a new record, data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) showed.

The government imposed partial lockdown measures to contain the spread on Oct 14, including the closure of all bars and restaurants in the country. 

Belgium tightens measures

Belgium has tightened restrictions on social contacts by banning fans from sports matches, limiting the number of people in cultural spaces and closing theme parks.

Belgium had already closed cafes, bars and restaurants and imposed a night curfew, and has Europe's second-highest infection rate per capita after the Czech Republic. New infections hit a peak of 10,500 on Thursday.

But the government has resisted calls from medical experts to order a new lockdown to avoid causing more economic pain.

The restrictions running until November 19 also include stricter social distancing. They are intended to avoid crowding on public transport and impose a limit of 200 people in theatres, concert halls and cinemas.

Poland curbs public gatherings

Poland will close restaurants and bars for two weeks and limit public gatherings to five people after virus infections hit a daily record of more than 13,600.

Officials said the aim of the new restrictions was to limit the growth of infections, and that without them daily cases could jump to as many as 25,000.

The Health Ministry reported 153 deaths, down from a record high of 168 a day earlier, taking the total toll to 4,172.

Over 42 million infected around the world

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has surged past the 42 million mark, according to a worldometer tally

Over 1.1 million people have died from the virus, while almost 31 million people have recovered.

The US is the hardest-hit country, followed by India and Brazil. 

Virus circulating more quickly than in spring - French epidemiologist

The virus is spreading more quickly than during its initial outbreak in the spring, French government scientific advisor Arnaud Fontanet said.

"The virus is circulating more quickly ... The resurgence of the pandemic started in August," Fontanet, an epidemiologist, told BMF TV, adding the fight against the disease would be a "marathon."

He added that people with blood group O are less likely to contract the virus, according to their research.

Poland plans curbs on restaurants to contain virus

Poland's government plans to limit restaurant activity to serving only takeaway food in order to contain the spread of the virus, the cabinet's top medical adviser said, after a series of daily infection records.

Andrzej Horban, the prime minister's adviser in charge of the fight against the pandemic, also told private Radio Zet that the government would recommend people in their 70s and older to stay at home.

According to the Wirtualna Polska internet portal, the government also plans to introduce a ban on gatherings of more than five people, and to allow children to leave their homes during the day only in the company of an adult.

The government's spokesperson was unavailable to comment on the report.

Russia's new cases surge to record high of 17,340

Russia's daily tally of new cases hit a record high of 17,340, including 5,478 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 1,480,646 since the pandemic began.

Authorities said 283 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 25,525. 

Philippines reports 1,923 new cases, 132 more deaths

The Philippines' Health Ministry recorded 1,923 new infections and 132 additional deaths, the largest daily increase in casualties in 15 days.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had increased to 365,799, while deaths had reached 6,915. The Philippines has the second-highest number of Infections and fatalities in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia. 

Slovakia hits record one-day case tally, imposes curfew

Slovakia registered a record one-day tally of 2,581 new cases, Prime Minister Igor Matovic was cited by TASR news agency as saying in parliament.

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic said the EU member would impose a partial curfew to battle a huge uptick in coronavirus cases.

During the rest of the day, Slovaks will only be permitted to leave the house for medical visits, errands, work, grocery-shopping, walks in nature or with pets and a few other exceptions. 

But no one will be required to show a document to prove why they are out and about, Interior Minister Roman Mikulec said. 

In several high-risk districts, residents will need a negative coronavirus test to leave the house during the day. 

The curfew will apply until November 1 but may be extended. 

250 allowed at MMA show as fans return in Singapore

Singapore will allow fans at a sports event for the first time in months when limited numbers attend a One Championship MMA fight card next week, organisers said.

Up to 250 mask-wearing fans will be allowed at next Friday's "One: Inside the Matrix" after undergoing antigen tests.

The screening is part of a government pilot programme that will see people tested for Covid-19 before large-scale events.

Antigen tests can identify at least 80 percent of infected people and provide results within 30 minutes, according to the government.

"One: Inside the Matrix," featuring six fights, will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, which holds up to 12,000 spectators. 

One Championship held a closed-door event in Singapore this month, its first major international show since the coronavirus brought sport to a halt worldwide.

Singapore has recorded nearly 58,000 cases and 28 deaths, but its outbreak has slowed markedly in recent weeks, allowing it to gradually ease curbs and travel restrictions.

Sweden sticks to its guns as cases rise

Sweden is seeing an uptick in infections and introducing targeted measures, but the country that famously refused to lock down is sticking to its guns and insisting coercive methods are not the way to go.

After two months of declining cases in July and August, Sweden has seen infections rise steadily since mid-September.

But while many European countries are again introducing draconian measures like partial lockdowns or curfews to curb the spread of the virus, Sweden, which has recorded 5,930 Covid-related deaths, one of Europe's highest per capita death tolls, is just adjusting its softer approach with targeted tweaks.

This week, it announced stricter local guidelines in Uppsala, a university town 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of Stockholm that has seen a spike in cases since students returned in the autumn. 

Among other things, locals have been advised to avoid public transport and in-person contact with people outside their own household until November 3.

On Thursday the country also introduced restrictions on nightclubs, with Prime Minister Stefan Lofven admonishing Swedes "that the party is over now in nightclubs, and it needs to stay that way for as long as necessary".

Yet Sweden remains one of the only countries in the world that still does not recommend face masks, arguing they provide a false sense of security that undermines social distancing efforts. 

Europe reports 200,000 daily cases for the first time

Europe's reported cases have more than doubled in 10 days, crossing 200,000 daily infections for the first time, according to a Reuters tally, with many Southern European countries reporting their highest single-day cases this week.

Europe reported 100,000 daily cases for the first time on October 12.

Europe has so far reported about 7.8 million total coronavirus cases and about 247,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

European countries Italy, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia reported their highest single-day coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Europe as a region is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the United States combined. The increase is partly explained by far more testing than was done in the first wave of the pandemic.

According to a Reuters tally, Wednesday saw the highest total of infections reported in a single day across the world, at 422,835.

As of now, Europe accounts for nearly 19 percent of global cases and about 22 percent of global deaths, according to Reuters tally.

New cases in India below 60,000 for fifth day

India has reported below 60,000 new cases for a fifth day as the promise of a free Covid-19 vaccine turned into a key state election issue.

The Health Ministry says 54,366 new cases have taken the overall tally past 7.7 million. It also reported 690 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 117,306.

India recorded a daily average of more than 61,000 cases last week. The ministry also said India’s active caseload was below 700,000.

A political row erupted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party promised free vaccination to people in eastern Bihar state where voting is scheduled to begin next week.

Bihar is India’s third largest state with a population of about 122 million people.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, releasing the party’s election manifesto, said every Bihar resident will be given free vaccination when it becomes available. She said at least three vaccines have reached the last trial stage and are on the cusp of production.

The promise angered the Congress and other opposition parties, which accused Modi’s party of politicizing the pandemic and playing on people’s fears.

Ukraine again reports record number of daily new cases

Ukraine registered a daily record of 7,517 cases, the national security council said, up from a previous record of 7,053.

The total number of cases climbed to 330,396.

The council said 121 new coronavirus-related deaths were registered in the past day. On Wednesday, the toll hit a record 141.

Ukraine has recorded over 5,000 new coronavirus cases almost every day since the start of October. The spike in infections has prompted the government to extend lockdown measures until end-2020.

Czech Republic reports 14,151 new cases; deaths rise by 106 to 1,845

The Czech Republic registered 14,151 new cases, down from a record of 14,968 the previous day, Health Ministry data showed.

The country, which is seeing Europe's biggest surge in new Covid-19 cases, has recorded 223,065 infections since March. Deaths have risen to 1,845 from 1,739 reported a day earlier, which includes 55 deaths on Thursday along with revisions to previous days. 

Philippines to allow foreign investors to enter country

The Philippines' coronavirus task force has approved the entry of foreign investors to the Southeast Asian nation starting from November 1, the presidential spokesman said.

Foreigners with investment visas from Philippine agencies would now be allowed entry, after the country imposed travel curbs in February to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a televised address.

The easing of travel restrictions is among a slew of relaxed rules announced on Friday to help the country 's battered economy recover from recession.

Japan coronavirus panel to call for longer New Year holidays -Kyodo

The Japanese government's expert panel to combat the pandemic plans to propose extending the New Year holidays by about a week to January 11, Kyodo News reported.

The proposal, to be made at a panel meeting, would urge Japanese companies to extend the holidays to reduce the rush among travellers visiting their home towns, Kyodo reported.

Lebanon security chief returns to Beirut after positive Covid-19 test in US

Top Lebanese security official Major-General Abbas Ibrahim returned to Beirut from the United States where he had tested positive, local media reported.

Ibrahim's positive test result, announced on Monday, had delayed his return from talks in Washington and forced him to cancel scheduled meetings in Paris.

"General Ibrahim will continue his work after the end of the necessary quarantine period due to him contracting corona," local broadcaster LBC said. There were no more details on the nature of his quar antine.

Ibrahim had met US national security adviser Robert O'Brien at the White House last week to discuss American citizens held in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Lebanon's directorate of General Security, which he heads, had said he was in good health when it announced his diagnosis on Monday. 

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 11,242

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 11,242 to 403,291, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 49 to 9,954, the tally showed. 

Philippines cancels 'Black Nazarene' parade as pandemic lingers

The Philippine capital Manila cancelled an annual procession of a centuries-old black wooden statue of Jesus Christ that draws millions of Roman Catholic devotees as the coronavirus pandemic continues to afflict the country.

The Philippines, renowned for its colourful religious rituals, has the second-highest number of novel coronavirus infections and deaths in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia.

The procession, a tradition in the former Spanish colony that goes back more than two centuries, usually lasts more than 20 hours.

Manila, the country's hotspot, is under partial quarantine restrictions until the end of October, with mass gatherings banned and social distancing measures imposed on public transport.

Cemeteries and columbaria have been ordered to close to prevent crowding during the All Saints' and All Souls' Day holidays starting in late October, while seating capacity in churches is currently capped at 30 percent.

The respiratory virus has infected 363,888 people and killed 6,783 in the Philippines.

Australia to lift cap on citizens returning as thousands left stranded

Australia will slightly lift the cap on the number of citizens and permanent residents allowed to return each week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, as local Covid-19 cases slow to single digits.

Australia has since July capped the number of locals allowed to return home each week in an attempt to reduce the threat of spreading Covid-19 once they enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine in hotels.

Morrison said the current cap will rise to 5,865 people in November, an increase of 290, after Western Australia and Queensland states said they would accommodate more locals.

The increase comes amid heightened pressure on Morrison's government to help some 26,000 Australians that registered their intention to come home.

Peru rejects AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine purchase deal

The Peruvian government said that it refused to sign a coronavirus vaccine purchase agreement with AstraZeneca PLC because it did not provide sufficient data from its studies and offered minimal amounts of inoculations.

Prime Minister Walter Martos said in a news conference that the government had asked AstraZeneca for data from its vaccine studies, but that the firm had not sent the information.

Brazil said Wednesday that a volunteer died in a clinical trial of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, but added that laboratory testing would continue.

Despite a slowdown in the number of new infections in Peru, a second wave of the pandemic in the country is possible, Martos said. AstraZeneca planned to conduct trials in Peru.

The rate of infections and deaths from Covid-19 in Peru has been slowing since September.

As of Tuesday, Covid-19 cases in Peru totaled 876,885, with 33,937 deaths. 

South Korean cases rise in hospitals, nursing homes

South Korea recorded its highest increase in cases in more than 40 days as more infections were reported at hospitals and nursing homes.

A nursing home in Namyangju, east of Seoul, was put under isolation after more than 30 workers and residents tested positive. Around 120 infections have been linked to a hospital in nearby Gwangju.

The 155 new cases announced by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency brought the national caseload to 25,698, including 455 deaths.

The agency said 138 of the new cases were local transmissions, most of them reported from the greater capital area.

At least 17 of the new cases were tied to international arrivals, including passengers coming from France, Kuwait, Nepal, Bangladesh and Japan.

The steady spread of the virus has caused concern in a country that eased its social distancing restrictions just last week to cope with a weak economy. High-risk businesses such as nightclubs and karaoke bars have reopened while fans returned to the stands in professional sports.

Spared by Covid-19, Seychelles suffers dearth of tourists

The Seychelles, with its idyllic white beaches and luxury resorts, has had only 149 cases, but the global crisis caused by the pandemic has ravaged its vital tourism industry.

The Indian Ocean island nation, famed as a honeymoon destination, took swift action against the virus in March, banning cruise ships and international flights and implementing a lockdown.

But even though the archipelago re-opened to tourists on August 1, the global downswing in travel and devastation wrought by the virus in major tourist-providing countries in Europe and elsewhere, has led to little improvement.

Most tourists to the Seychelles, a high-end destination, come from Europe which is facing a second wave of the virus, prompting new curfews, lockdowns and movement restrictions. 

Only travellers from a select list of countries are allowed to enter, with a Covid-19 certificate of less than 72 hours.

However since October 1, travellers from hard-hit countries like France, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, must now have a test less than 46 hours old, and must spend five days with restricted movement in a government-approved hotel.

Mexico reports 479 more deaths, total reaches 87,894

Mexico's health ministry has reported 6,612 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 479 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 874,171 and the death toll to 87,894.

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

China reports 18 new cases

China has reported 18 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for October 22, compared with 14 cases a day earlier, the health commission said.

All 18 of the new infections were imported, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.

China reported 11 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 25 a day earlier.

As of October 22, mainland China had 85,747 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 death toll remained at 4,634.

Brazil reports 33,862 new coronavirus cases, 497 deaths

Brazil has recorded 33,862 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 497 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has registered more than 5.3 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 155,900, according to ministry data.

FDA approves remdesivir for Covid-19 treatment

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug to treat Covid-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given through an IV for patients needing hospitalisation.

The drug, which California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. is calling Veklury, cut the time to recovery by five days – from 15 days to 10 on average – in a large study led by the US National Institutes of Health.

It had been authorised for use on an emergency basis since spring, and now has become the first drug to win full US approval for treating Covid-19. 

Gilead says Veklury is approved for people at least 12 years old and weighing at least 40 kilograms who need hospitalisation for their coronavirus infection. 

It works by inhibiting a substance the virus uses to make copies of itself.

UK boosts business aid to ease virus impact

UK Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is increasing subsidies for bars, pubs and restaurants hammered by strict new measures to slow the spread of Covid-19, amid criticism that the government has failed to protect small businesses and workers from the economic hardship caused by the pandemic.

The new funding, which could cost 13 billion pounds ($17 billion) over the next six months, is aimed at businesses that are struggling to attract customers because of restrictions on social interactions, even if the government doesn't order them to close.

It comes just a month after Sunak unveiled his “job protection" plan, which business owners said was so inadequate that it gave them an incentive to lay off workers rather than keep them on the payroll.

Britain is facing Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 44,000 confirmed deaths. While the pandemic eased during the summer months, infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths are now rising across the country.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies