The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 44 million people and claimed over 1.1 million lives. Here are the updates for October 28:

An employee gathers protective face masks from a production line conveyor at the KB MEDICA plant in Sartrouville, near Paris, on October 28, 2020.
An employee gathers protective face masks from a production line conveyor at the KB MEDICA plant in Sartrouville, near Paris, on October 28, 2020. (Reuters)

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

France brings new lockdown as infections surge 

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced tough new measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic.

"The virus is spreading across France at a speed that even the most pessimistic did not predict," Macron said in a highly anticipated television address.

He admitted that a curfew for Paris and other major cities imposed two weeks ago had failed to stop the second wave of cases that has sent the death toll in France to nearly 35,000.

"As elsewhere in Europe, we are overwhelmed by a second wave that will probably be more difficult and deadly than the first," Macron said.

"If we did nothing... within a few months we would have at least 400,000 additional deaths," he said. 

Turkey doesn't have problems obstructing health system

Turkey does not have problems that could obstruct the health system, the Health Minister has said, but he underlined that discipline is necessary for fighting the outbreak.

Fahrettin Koca said the Covid-19 in Turkey is currently being transmitted from one person to an average of three, urging the citizens to reduce movement and contact.

“If we don’t control the situation in Istanbul, the pandemic will no longer be manageable,” he said.

The minister called on the residents of Istanbul who have tested positive for the virus to accurately report their contacts to the filiation teams.

Meanwhile, the number of people dying after contracting coronavirus in Turkey has exceeded 10,000, Koca said.

Turkey recorded 77 new Covid-19 fatalities over the last 24 hours, bringing the toll to 10,027, said Koca after a meeting of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board in Istanbul.

The country also registered 2,305 new coronavirus patients, pushing the tally to 368,513, according to Health Ministry data.

Brazil authorises import of raw material to produce Chinese vaccine

Brazil's health regulator Anvisa has said it has authorised the import of raw materials from Chinese company Sinovac for the production of its Covid-19 vaccine.

Sao Paulo's biomedical institute Butantan plans to produce the vaccine.

Brazil recorded 510 new deaths and 28,629 new cases of coronavirus. Brazil has recorded nearly 5.5 million cases of the virus, with a total of 158,456 deaths, according to official data.

Germany orders new shutdowns

Germany has ordered a new round of shutdowns for the cultural, leisure as well as food and drink sectors, in a bid to halt a surge in new coronavirus infections.

German Chancellor Merkel said the coronavirus situation is very serious and the speed of its spread is extremely high.

The tough restrictions, which will kick in from Monday and last to the end of the month, will also limit the number of people gathering to a maximum of 10 individuals from two households. Schools and shops will, however, be allowed to stay open, said Merkel.

200M Covid vaccine doses pledged for 'equitable' use

Drugmakers Sanofi and GSK will set aside 200 million doses of a future coronavirus vaccine for a global initiative to ensure equitable distribution, including in poor countries.

There has been great concern about fair access to coronavirus vaccines as rich countries have bought up billions of doses long before a jab has even been approved.

The French and British drug giants said they had signed a statement of intent with the Gavi alliance which administers the Covax plan for fair vaccine distribution.

UK records 24,701 new cases and 310 deaths

The United Kingdom has recorded a further 24,701 new cases and 310 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, government data showed on Wednesday.

The daily case number compares with the 22,885 positive cases and 367 deaths recorded on Tuesday.

Number of patients hospitalised in Hungary reaches new high

The number of coronavirus patients being treated in hospitals in Hungary has risen above 3,000 for the first time, as the country prepared to hold a UEFA Champions League game in front of thousands of spectators later in the day.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government has refrained from imposing tight restrictions on mass events so far, with schools operating as normal and shops open. Football matches have been held with spectators in stadiums nationwide.

The government has raised fines for those violating rules on wearing masks as daily new infections and the death toll rise. But Orban is seeking to avoid a repeat of a spring lockdown that sent the economy crashing by 13.6 percent in the second quarter.

The total number of cases rose to 65,933 in the country of 10 million, with 43 new deaths taking the total toll to 1,578. There are 3,166 coronavirus patients in hospitals, with 263 on ventilators. 

Swiss enact new restrictions, mask rules to slow pandemic

Switzerland has tightened nationwide restrictions to contain the country's rising wave of cases, ordering dance clubs to be closed from Thursday, halting in-person university classes starting early next month, and placing new limits on sporting and leisure activities.

The duration of the new measures, which include the requirement to wear masks in all offices and secondary schools as well as outdoors where social distancing is difficult, is indefinite, the government in Bern said.

Swiss coronavirus infections have risen by 8,616 in a day. Total confirmed cases in Switzerland and tiny neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increased to 135,658 and the death toll rose by 24 to 1,954.

Over two million cases reported worldwide last week

The World Health Organization has said countries globally reported more than 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases last week — the shortest time ever for such an exponential increase since the pandemic began.

In a weekly analysis of Covid-19, WHO said for the second consecutive week, the European region accounted for the biggest proportion of new cases, with more than 1.3 million reported cases or about 46 percent of the worldwide total. 

The UN health agency said deaths were also on the rise in Europe, with about a 35 percent spike since the previous week.

The agency also noted that hospitalisations and ICU occupancy due to Covid-19 increased in 21 countries across Europe. It estimated about 18 percent of Covid-19 were hospitalised, with about 7 percent needing ICU support or breathing machines.

Globally, WHO said the countries reporting the highest numbers of cases remain unchanged as for the past three weeks: India, the US, France, Brazil, and the UK.

Iran reports single-day record 415 virus deaths

Iran has reported 415 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, the second daily record toll in a row in the Middle East's worst-hit country.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said the new fatalities, 69 above Tuesday's record toll, brought Iran's total virus deaths to 33,714.

Czech Republic reports 15,663 new cases, highest daily tally

The Czech Republic has reported 15,663 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily tally, health ministry data showed.

The total numer of cases rose to 284,033 while deaths climbed to 2,547. The country has been struggling with one of Europe's fastest-growing infection rates.

Pope says 'lady' Covid must be obeyed, forgoes mask

Pope Francis described the Covid-19 pandemic as a tough "lady" taskmaster who must be obeyed, but he and most close aides did not wear masks at his general audience.

At the start of the indoor audience, Francis apologised to people for not coming down from the marble stage.

"I will stay up here. I would very much like to come down and greet each of you but we have to keep our distances," he said to the crowd of several hundred, nearly all wearing masks.

"If I come down, immediately people will form groups ... and this is against the care, the precautions, we must have in the face of this lady named Covid, who is doing us much harm," he said.

The pope and most aides and translators on the stage did not wear masks. Swiss Guards and official photographers on the stage wore masks but bishops and priests who greeted the pope close up removed their masks as they approached him.

Thirteen Swiss Guards and a resident of the guest house where the pope lives have recently tested positive for Covid-19.

Indonesia coronavirus case tally tops 400,000

Indonesia's coronavirus infections have passed the 400,000 mark, with 4,029 new cases confirmed, according to health ministry data.

The Southeast Asian country has 400,483 cases. With the addition of 100 more deaths, it has recorded 13,612 fatalities.

Russia reports daily record high 346 deaths

Russia has recorded 16,202 new coronavirus cases and a record high 346 deaths during the last 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 26,935.

With 1,563,976 infections, the country of around 145 million has the world's fourth-largest number of cases, behind the United States, India and Brazil.

Poland reports record rise in daily cases and deaths

Poland has reported a record 18,820 new coronavirus infections and 236 deaths, the health ministry said, with the country facing hospitals overload while mass street protests against an abortion ruling continue.

The ministry said that as of Wednesday, Covid-19 patients occupied 13,931 hospital beds and were using 1,150 ventilators, compared with 13,291 and 1,078 respectively a day earlier.

Poland has seen widespread protests following a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal last Thursday that amounts to a near-total b an on abortion in the predominantly Catholic nation.

Europe struggles to contain virus

Several European countries have registered record numbers of Covid-19 infections in recent days as autumn turns to winter in the Northern Hemisphere and people socialise indoors where the risk of infection is higher.

The government in France, which is emerging as Europe's epicentre, has been exploring bringing in a national lockdown from midnight on Thursday, BFM TV reported as it reported the highest daily death toll since April 22.

The number of Covid-19 patients in French intensive care units could reach in two weeks the same level as during the peak of the first wave in April without new measures.

EU officials said only part of the European Union population can be inoculated against the virus before 2022 as the vaccines the bloc is securing may not prove effective or may not be manufactured in sufficient doses.

Dr Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, said on Tuesday the European Union's open borders might even need to be shut down again to “take the heat out of this phase of the pandemic.”

“There’s no question that the European region is an epicenter of disease right now,” he said.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said even more stringent measures should be applied to stop the virus.

“If it’s let go freely, it can create havoc, especially when we don’t have vaccines at hand," he said. “Governments should do their share and citizens should do their share ... we should not give up.”

Belgium's hot spot

This week, news struck that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control had recorded Belgium — shoehorned in between Germany, France and the Netherlands — as having the highest 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 citizens, just surpassing the Czech Republic.

At 1,390.9 per 100,000 people, it far outstrips even hotbeds like France or Spain.

Nearly 11,000 people have died so far, and experts say all such confirmed numbers undercount the true toll of the pandemic.

All this in a wealthy nation of 11.5 million people where no fewer than nine ministers — national and regional — have a say on health issues. The dictum “less is more" never reached the Belgian high echelons of power.

Ukraine reports record daily virus-related deaths

The number of daily coronavirus deaths in Ukraine jumped to 165 from the previous record of 141 fatalities registered on October 21, the national security council said.

The council said 7,474 new virus cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 363,075 cases with 6,755 deaths. 

India capital has its worst 1-day virus caseload

India's tally of coronavirus cases are now less than 10,000 away from the grim milestone of 8 million, after 43,893 new cases were reported during the last 24 hours, data from the federal health ministry showed.

Totalling 7.99 million, India has the second-most number of confirmed cases after the United States, which has a tally of 8.7 million.

The daily increase had been dipping in India since a peak in September, but health experts warn that the numbers could surge again during the ongoing Hindu religious festival season.

South Africa's Ramaphosa self-isolates after dinner guest gets virus

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has gone into quarantine after a guest at a charity dinner he attended tested positive for Covid-19, his office said.

Africa's most advanced economy has been the continent's worst hit, with more than 700,000 coronavirus infections and nearly 20,000 deaths, but new cases peaked in late July before falling sharply.

The reduction in new infections enabled Ramaphosa to ease what was one of the world's toughest lockdowns in September, and the following month South Africa opened its borders to international travellers after a six-month ban.

Merkel wants to close all bars, restaurants to halt virus spread

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to agree at a meeting with leaders of the states to close all restaurants and bars from November 4 in a bid to curb coronavirus infections but keep schools and nurseries open, newspaper Bild has reported.

It cited a draft resolution as saying Merkel wanted to agree with the 16 premiers of the states to close fitness studios, casinos and cinemas along with theatres, opera houses and concert venues but allow shops to remain open if they implement hygiene measures and limit customer numbers.

The report said the federal government wanted to provide financial aid to firms affected by closures, adding that a concept for this would be presented later on Wednesday.

Hawaii eases virus restrictions for Japanese nationals

Starting from November 6, Hawaii will allow visitors from Japan to bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine requirement if they test negative for the virus within 72 hours of departing for the islands.

But Japanese travellers will still have to spend two weeks in quarantine upon returning home, which will likely limit the number of people taking advantage of the plan.

Hawaii earlier this month implemented a similar testing program for travellers from other parts of the US.

Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy gets more travellers from Japan than any other foreign country. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the state would welcome about 5,000 visitors from Japan daily. Those numbers have dwindled to almost none.

UN appeals for aid to battle virus

The UN humanitarian chief is appealing for an additional $211 million to help Syria deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that the money is needed to maintain supply lines for health items, to improve water and sanitation in camps for people displaced by the war, and to make schools safe for returning students and teachers.

He says confirmed virus cases are overwhelmingly the result of community transmission, noting that 92 percent of officially confirmed infections can’t be traced to a known case.

Lowcock adds that as in many countries, “the scale of the outbreak is therefore likely to be far greater” in Syria than suggested by the current level of confirmed cases, about 13,500.

Early vaccines 'might not work for everyone'

UK Vaccines Taskforce Chair Kate Bingham has said that the first generation of vaccines "is likely to be imperfect" and that they "might not work for everyone."

"However, we do not know that we will ever have a vaccine at all. It is important to guard against complacency and over-optimism," Bingham wrote in a piece published in The Lancet medical journal.

"The first generation of vaccines is likely to be imperfect, and we should be prepared that they might not prevent infection but rather reduce symptoms, and, even then, might not work for everyone or for long," she added.

Melbourne reopens after months of hard lockdown

Australia's coronavirus hotspot of Victoria state has reported two new cases after posting no infections in the previous two days, as state capital Melbourne emerged from more than three months of a hard lockdown.

Restaurants and cafes in Melbourne, home to five million people, can reopen from Wednesday, and limits on social gatherings at homes have been eased, allowing two adults and dependents from one house to visit another household.

Melbourne, the Australian city most affected by the virus, was put into lockdown in early July after a second-wave outbreak that pushed daily case numbers to more than 700 in early August.

Australia has recorded just over 27,500 novel coronavirus infections, far fewer than many other developed countries.

Victoria, the second-most populous state, has accounted for more than 90 percent of the country's 907 deaths. It reported two deaths in the past 24 hours. 

Mainland China reports 42 new cases

Mainland China has reported 42 new cases, up sharply from 16 a day earlier as new cases were reported in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the country's health authority has said.

Of the new cases, 22 of them were locally transmitted infections in the area following an apparent mass infection in Kashgar. 

The region's health authority also reported 19 new asymptomatic infections, half of the total number of symptomless infections reported in mainland China for October 27.

The total number of confirmed infections in mainland China now stands at 85,868, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

UN in New York cancels in-person meetings

The United Nations has cancelled all in-person meetings at its New York headquarters for the rest of the week after five people in Niger's UN mission were infected with the novel coronavirus.

After largely operating virtually since New York became a global Covid-19 hotspot in March, the 193-member world body had been holding some in-person gatherings again, with precautions such as requiring diplomats to wear masks, social distancing, and restricting the number of people at meetings.

In a letter to UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that "out of an abundance of caution and following medical advice" all in-person meeting should be suspended for the rest of this week "to allow for a better understanding of the extent of the exposure and for full contact tracing."

Niger is part of the 15-member Security Council, which last met in person on Thursday. 

Diplomats said people who attended Thursday's meeting were being tested and an in-person meeting on Syria planned for Tuesday was instead held virtually.

English virus data patchy – researchers

There are significant problems with the availability and quality of Covid-19 data in England, British researchers have said as they launched a dashboard to help make sense of the patchwork of stats.

The Covid Response Evaluation Dashboard (Covid RED) presents available statistics from Public Health England (PHE), the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and the National Health Service (NHS) and also highlights where more data are needed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has introduced a three-tier system of local lockdowns for England in a bid to tackle local flare-ups in infections while avoiding a new national lockdown.

The researchers said there were gaps in information over whether confirmed cases were followed up, the number of people isolating with symptoms in England, and about the number of people needing or receiving support.

They added that often the best available data was up to two weeks old, adding that local lockdowns could only be informed by the most up-to-date information. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies