The coronavirus pandemic has killed over 940,000 people and infected almost 30 million worldwide. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for September 16:

Police officers talk to a man while wearing protective face masks as precaution against the conoravirus at Tocadero plaza near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, September 14, 2020.
Police officers talk to a man while wearing protective face masks as precaution against the conoravirus at Tocadero plaza near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, September 14, 2020. (AP)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

French cases spike again, ICU figure at three-month high

The number of French people treated in intensive care units for Covid-19 rose for the 20th straight day to a three-month high of 803, while the number of new daily cases was the third-highest on record.

French health authorities reported 9,784 new infections, just below the 10,561 daily all-time high reached on Saturday, bringing the cumulative number of cases to 404,888, the second-highest tally in Western Europe behind Spain.

Speaking to journalists shortly after the arrival of the Tour de France's 17th stage in the Alps, French President Emmanuel Macron said the virus was circulating "quicker and quicker in certain parts of the country."

The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 infections rose by 46 to 31,045. That figure is higher than the seven-day moving average of 36, which itself is at its highest since the beginning of the month.

Turkey begins Phase III trials of Chinese vaccine

Turkey has begun final Phase III trials of an experimental Chinese coronavirus vaccine, the health minister said.

"The first administration of the Sinovac vaccine was started with three healthcare workers at Hacettepe University who volunteered to take part in the trials," Fahrettin Koca told a news conference.

The vaccine will be administered to between 1,200 and 1,300 health workers over 10 days and a second dose will be given 14 days after the first, broadcasters CNN Turk and Haberturk reported earlier.

Koca added that Turkey was continuing its own attempts at developing a vaccine.

Koca also said 63 more people had died from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, and that there were 1,771 new cases.

US CDC reports 195,053 deaths from coronavirus

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported 6,571,867 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 34,240 cases from its previous count, and said the number of deaths had risen by 961 to 195,053.

Irish modelling group warns of exponential increase in cases

The head of Ireland's Covid-19 modelling group has said he was more concerned about the rise in cases of the disease in the country than at any time since its first peak in April and warned of "exponential growth."

"Case numbers appear to be growing exponentially and are likely to double every 10 to 14 days if every one of us does not immediately act to break chains of transmission of the virus," Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modeling Advisory Group, told journalists.

Ireland's health service reported 254 new cases and three new Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 1,788. 

UK reports nearly 4,000 new cases

The United Kingdom recorded 3,991 new positive cases of Covid-19, compared with 3,105 the day before, official statistics showed.

It also reported a further 20 new deaths from the virus. 

More French schools closed after virus cases detected

More French schools have closed after multiple students tested positive for Covid-19 while a further 2,100 individual classes have also been called off, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said.

Early last week, just 28 schools were closed shortly after the school year resumed but that number has climbed to 81 over the past week.

"We have around 1,200 new Covid cases among students compared with last week," Blanquer told LCI television. "We shut down a class as soon as there are three cases."

He noted that the closures represent just a small fraction of the 60,000 schools across France, calling the beginning of the new school year "the best possible given the health crisis."

French officials have warned nonetheless that new restrictions might be required to stem a worrying increase in coronavirus cases since August.

Al Aqsa Mosque to shut for three weeks

Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque will be shut for three weeks due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf has announced.

“Worshippers and visitors will not be received at the mosque as of Friday for a three-week period due to the virus outbreak,” Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, told Anadolu Agency.

He, however, said the mosque will remain open for the prayer calls, mosque guards and staff.

According to Palestinian health authorities, the tally of virus infections in Jerusalem reached 8,000 since June.

The Al Aqsa Mosque was shut for two months in late March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Virus forces Jerusalem's Great Synagogue to close

Jerusalem's Great Synagogue will be closed for the first time over the Jewish New Year due to the virus, authorities said, as Israelis braced for a second lockdown.

Israel has registered the world's highest coronavirus infection rate over the past two weeks, according to an AFP tally. It is set to be the first country to enforce a second nationwide shutdown.

The measures announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come into force on Friday afternoon, hours before the start of the New Year festival known as Rosh Hashanah.

The three-week lockdown is set to remain in place over the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Sukkot, a period when synagogues are usually filled with worshippers.

Dutch cases jump by highest number on record

The number of new coronavirus infections in the Netherlands increased by 1,542, the biggest daily jump on record, data from health authorities showed.

The jump followed a record increase of 1,379 on the previous day and took the total number of confirmed infections in the Netherlands to 86,320.

Vietnam to resume international flights

Vietnam will resume international commercial flights to several Asian destinations from Friday, after a months-long shutdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The flights, however, are reserved for Vietnamese nationals, diplomats, experts, managers, skilled workers, investors and their families. They are not yet available for tourists.

According to a report on the government website, flights connecting Vietnam’s two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, to destinations in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan will operate on a weekly basis. Flights connecting the cities with Cambodia and Laos will resume next week.

To board a flight, passengers must hold a certificate showing they have tested negative for the coronavirus no more than five days before the departure date. Upon arrival, they will be tested and placed under quarantine, the report said.

Vietnam shut down international flights on April 1.

Myanmar races to build field hospital as surge stretches health system

Myanmar authorities are racing to build a field hospital in the commercial capital of Yangon to cope with a surge of coronavirus infections that doctors fear threatens to overwhelm the country's fragile health system.

The Southeast Asian nation reported 307 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, its highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic in March, and another 134 on Wednesday morning, taking the total to 3,636 cases and 39 deaths.

Myanmar had gone weeks without a case of local transmission before an outbreak in mid-August in the western region of Rakhine that has spread across the country.

Three hospitals in Yangon, the site of most of the cases and now under a second lockdown, have been repurposed to treat patients and the government is building a field hospital with 500 beds on a football pitch.

Decades of neglect by Myanmar's formerly ruling military junta led the health system to be ranked the worst in the world by the World Health Organization in 2000, the last time it published ratings. The health budget was around 0.3 percent of GDP prior to the start of democratic reforms in 2011.

As of March, the World Bank said Myanmar had just 383 ICU beds for a population of 51 million and 249 ventilators, compared with 6,000 beds and more than 10,000 ventilators in neighbouring Thailand, a country of 69 million.

Madrid mulls lockdown in virus-hit neighbourhoods

The local government of Madrid, the region of Spain hit hardest by the pandemic, said it was considering imposing lockdown measures in neighbourhoods recording the biggest rise in infections.

The region's deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero, said the restrictions would involve limitations on the size of gatherings and well as of people's movements and they will be announced by the end of the week.

Several working-class neighbourhoods in southern Madrid and satellite cities south of the Spanish capital have recorded in the last two weeks 700 cases or more per 100,000 inhabitants.

The densely populated Puente de Vallecas in southern Madrid has recorded 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

US outlines sweeping plan to provide free vaccines

The federal government outlined a sweeping plan to make vaccines available for free to all Americans, assuming a safe and effective shot is established and widely accepted though polls show scepticism remains across America.

In a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, federal health agencies and the Defense Department sketched out complex plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or even later this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a shot. The Pentagon is involved with the distribution of vaccines, but civilian health workers would be the ones giving shots.

Although President Donald Trump asserted on Tuesday in an ABC News town hall that a vaccine could be three to four weeks away, officials made it clear to reporters on a call that widespread availability would take months.

US plans to distribute vaccine immediately after authorisation

The US government said it will start distributing a vaccine within one day of regulatory authorisation as it plans for the possibility that a limited number of vaccine doses may be available at the end of the year.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense held a call with reporters and then released documents on the distribution plans that it is sending to the states and local public health officials.

"Our goal at Operation Warp Speed, is that 24 hours after (regulatory authorisation) is issued, we have vaccine moving to administration sites," one of the officials said.

The federal government will allocate vaccines for each state based on the critical populations recommended first for vaccination by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Britain will boost testing to 500,000 a day by end of October

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government was working hard to increase testing capacity to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, saying he aimed to be able to do 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

"We will be up at 500,000 per day by the end of October," Johnson told a parliamentary committee, adding that he hoped that would be enough to meet increasing demand. He repeated that the government would hold an inquiry into its handling of the coronavirus crisis, but did not give a time for it.

India surpasses 5 million cases

India’s confirmed virus cases have crossed 5 million, and continue to soar, testing the country’s feeble healthcare system in tens of thousands of impoverished towns and villages.

The Health Ministry reported 90,123 new cases in the past 24 hours, raising the nation’s confirmed total to 5,020,359, about 0.35 percent of its nearly 1.4 billion population. 

It said 1,290 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 82,066.

Meanwhile, India's drugs regulator has given approval to Serum Institute of India to resume local clinical trials of the potential vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, the Times of India reported, citing the Press Trust of India.

Russia to sell 100M vaccine doses to India

Russia's sovereign wealth fund has agreed to a deal to sell 100 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik-V, to a major listed pharmaceutical company in India, a source close to the deal said.

Clinical trials of the Russian vaccine in India are expected to follow and to be held jointly with this firm, the source said.

The trials and supply deal depend on domestic regulatory approval. 

Indonesia reports biggest daily rise in infections

Indonesia has reported its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections with 3,963 new cases, data from the country's health ministry showed.

Indonesia has now reported 228,993 infections.

The data added 135 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking the total to 9,100, the biggest death toll in Southeast Asia.

Philippines confirms 3,550 new infections, 69 deaths

The Philippines' health ministry has recorded 3,550 additional novel coronavirus infections and 69 more deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had risen to 272,934, the most in Southeast Asia, while confirmed deaths have reached 4,732.

Russia reports 5,670 new cases, 132 deaths

Russia has reported 5,670 new coronavirus cases, pushing its national tally to 1,079,519, the fourth largest in the world.

Authorities said 132 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 18,917.

WHO warns world still at beginning of pandemic

World Health Organization special envoy on Covid-19 Dr David Nabarro says it will take some time to work out how to deal with the pandemic which is "worse than any of the science fiction movie." 

"And we're beginning to see what damage it's going to cause the world. And it's getting nastier as we go into this particular phase in Europe of watching the thing come back again," Nabarro told the Foreign Affairs Committee according to a report from the Guardian. 

Nabarro also warned that the pandemic could ruin educational opportunities for children around the world.

Germany's virus cases rise to 263,663

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany has increased by 1,901 to 263,663.

The reported death toll rose by six to 9,368, the data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

Czech Republic reports 1,677 new cases

The Czech Republic's daily count of new cases has risen to 1,677, the highest on record, as the country has been struggling with the resurgent pandemic.

The overall number of confirmed cases rose to 38,896 as of the end of September 15 in the country of 10.7 million, data from the Health Ministry showed. 

Mainland China reports 12 new cases

Mainland China reported 12 new cases on September 15, up from eight a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Wednesday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that all of the new cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas. 

The number of new asymptomatic infections rose to16 from nine a day earlier, but China does not count them as confirmed cases.

Total number of confirmed cases in the mainland now stands at 85,214, while the death toll remained unchanged at4,634.

Trump says vaccine could be weeks away 

US President Donald Trump said a vaccine could be three or four weeks away, underscoring predictions made by US public health officials and Pfizer Inc earlier this month.

Trump, speaking at a town hall hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia, defended his handling of the coronavirus crisis, and said a vaccine could be ready for distribution soon.

"We're very close to having a vaccine," he said. 

"If you want to know the truth, the previous administration would have taken perhaps years to have a vaccine because of the FDA and all the approvals. And we're within weeks of getting it you know could be three weeks, four weeks."

Mexico's death toll rises to 71,678 

Mexico reported 4,771 new confirmed cases and 629 additional fatalities, bringing its totals to 676,487 infections and 71,678 deaths, according to updated Health Ministry data.

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

Australia's Victoria state reports 42 new cases, 8 deaths

Australia's hot spot of Victoria state on Wednesday said eight people died from in the last 24 hours and 42 new cases were confirmed.

Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, a day earlier reported no deaths for the first time in more than two months and logged 42 cases.

With daily infections falling to double digits over the last several days from highs of 700 in early August, Victoria state authorities have relaxed some lockdown restrictions put in place to contain the virus.

Brazil registers highest virus death toll in two weeks

Brazil on Tuesday registered 1,113 new coronavirus deaths, the health ministry said, the highest number since Sept 2.

Deaths now total 133,119. Cases rose by 36,653 to 4,382,263.

Brazil authorises additional 5,000 volunteers for AstraZeneca's vaccine

Brazil's health regulator Anvisa authorised AstraZeneca PLC to test its vaccine on an addition 5,000 volunteers in the country for clinical Phase III trials, the Sao Paulo university running the test said.

The increase, in addition to 5,000 volunteers already recruited and being vaccinated, will help provide more solid results on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, the Federal University of Sao Paulo said in a statement. 

It said volunteers over the age of 18 are being sought in the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Rio Grande do Sul, at opposite ends of Brazil.

Pfizer's vaccine study shows mostly mild-to-moderate side effects

Pfizer Inc said participants were showing mostly mild-to-moderate side effects when given either the company's experimental coronavirus vaccine or a placebo in an ongoing late-stage study.

The company said in a presentation to investors that side effects included fatigue, headache, chills and muscle pain. Some participants in the trial also developed fevers, including a few high fevers. The data is blinded, meaning Pfizer does not know which patients received the vaccine or a placebo.

Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer's head of vaccine research and development, stressed that the independent data monitoring committee "has access to unblinded data so they would notify us if they have any safety concerns and have not done so to date".

The company has enrolled more than 29,000 people in its 44,000-volunteer trial to test the experimental vaccine it is developing with German partner BioNTech.

Over 12,000 study participants had received a second dose of the vaccine, Pfizer executives said on an investor conference call.

Canada not ruling out lockdown amid surge 

Canada's health minister said she could not rule out another full lockdown if needed amid a surge in new cases, but added Ottawa was significantly more prepared to manage the virus than during the first wave.

Patty Hajdu's comments followed a pledge she made to take a "surgical approach" to tackling outbreaks. 

Canada reported 1,351 new cases on September 14, the highest single daily addition since May 1, amid school reopenings and flare-ups tied to group gatherings.

"We see those numbers rising, but a full economic shutdown would be very difficult for this country. Not to rule it out, because ... listen, we will protect the health of Canadians and we will do what it takes," Hajdu told reporters on Tuesday.

Canada's 10 provinces are responsible for introducing health restrictions, though the federal government could use emergency laws to impose a lockdown if deemed necessary.

China suspends poultry imports from second US plant over Covid-19

China has suspended imports from an OK Foods poultry plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, because of coronavirus cases among workers, the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council said on Tuesday.

China, the world's top meat importer, has blocked products from some plants in foreign countries as part of an all-out effort to control the spread of Covid-19.

The OK Foods plant is the second US poultry facility to be blocked because of an outbreak among employees, after Beijing suspended imports from a Tyson Foods Inc plant in June.

"We don't think that either one of these two are justified, especially considering the fact that the virus cannot be transmitted in poultry meat," said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

Chinese customs authority GACC suspended imports from the OK Foods facility, he said.

OK Foods, owned by Mexico's Industrias Bachoco, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Minnesota urges campaigns to follow virus rules

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz is urging the campaigns of President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden to abide by the state’s guidelines for slowing the spread when the candidates visit Minnesota on Friday.

In a letter to both campaigns Tuesday, the Democratic governor wrote “partner with us in the fight against Covid-19”.

Trump has an airport rally scheduled for Friday in the north-central Minnesota city of Bemidji. 

Biden’s campaign has not yet announced a city or venue for his visit.

Walz noted that Minnesota requires face masks inside public places and strongly encourages them for outdoor gatherings. 

Trump has largely shunned face masks, while Biden has encouraged their use.

The governor did not say in his letter how state and local officials will respond if either campaign fails to follow the guidelines for their events. 

Walz spokesperson Teddy Tschann said they hope to hear back from the campaigns soon, and that they’ll comply voluntarily.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies