Coronavirus has now infected over 15 million people and has killed more than 616,000. Here are the latest updates for July 21:

Doctors tend to a patient connected to a mechanical ventilator at the coronavirus disease Emergency Room in Manila, Philippines on June 26, 2020.
Doctors tend to a patient connected to a mechanical ventilator at the coronavirus disease Emergency Room in Manila, Philippines on June 26, 2020. (Reuters)

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Global Covid-19 infections top 15 million

Coronavirus has now infected over 15 million people and killed over 616,000, according to a tally by Worldometer.

The tally shows that over 9 million have recovered.

The top five countries with the highest number of infections are US, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa.

Pandemic 'showing no signs of slowing down' in Americas

The novel coronavirus pandemic is showing "no signs of slowing down" in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization's director Carissa Etienne said in a virtual meeting in Washington, with the virus landing in Guianese shield countries on the continent's northeastern coast and surges in Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

Some Central American nations were seeing their highest weekly increase of cases since the virus landed, and that because of the high burden of infectious diseases and chronic conditions in the Americas, three out of 10 people - 325 million - were at "increased risk" of developing complications from Covid- 19, Etienne added. 

She highlighted 900,000 new cases and nearly 22,000 deaths reported in the region over the past week, most of them in Brazil, Mexico and the US.

Turkey's virus recoveries hit over 204,000

Over 1,000 people in Turkey won the battle with the virus in the past day, bringing the total number of recoveries to 204,011, according to the country's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Turkey recorded 928 new cases of the virus, bringing the tally to 221,500, said Koca on Twitter.

Citing data, Koca also said the country's death toll from the disease rose to 5,526, with 18 new fatalities reported over the last day.

Nobel Prize banquet cancelled over virus

The Nobel Foundation, which manages the Nobel Prizes, cancelled its traditional December banquet because of the coronavirus pandemic and said the award ceremonies would be held in "new forms".

This is the first time since 1956 that the lavish banquet has been cancelled, according to the foundation.

The event traditionally marks the end of the so-called Nobel Week, when the year's prize-winners are invited to Swedish capital Stockholm for talks and the award ceremony.

France records 584 new cases in 24 hours

France has recorded 584 new confirmed Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest health ministry data released.

The number of confirmed cases now stands at 177,338, the ministry said. The number of people in hospitals with the virus was down 107, and the number in intensive care was down by 12, the figures showed.

The ministry revised down slightly its figure for the total death toll since the start of the outbreak, to 30,165 from 30,177 a day earlier. It did not immediately give a reason for the revision.

Zimbabwe tightens virus rules ahead of  protests

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his government would impose a night-time curfew and tighten other measures to tackle rising coronavirus infections, adding that anyone who challenged the rules faced severe punishment.

Critics and the opposition said the new steps were linked to anti-government protests planned for next week.

On Monday police arrested an opposition official and a journalist, accusing them of inciting violence ahead of July 31 demonstrations by activists who say government corruption has exacerbated economic hardship.

No certainty Oxford will rollout vaccine in 2020

The University of Oxford's possible Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out by the end of the year but there is no certainty, the lead developer of the vaccine has said. 

The experimental vaccine, which has been licensed to AstraZeneca, produced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials, data showed on Monday, preserving hopes it could be in use by the end of 2020.

Sarah Gilbert told BBC Radio that the vaccine needed to be shown to work in late-stage trials, large quantities needed to be manufactured and regulators had to agree quickly to license it for emergency use before large numbers of people could be vaccinated.

Iran hits record 229 deaths in past 24 hours

Iran has seen a record 229 deaths from the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, health ministry figures showed.

Iran, the Middle East country hardest hit by the pandemic, began relaxing its lockdown in mid-April.

China requires negative tests for arriving air passengers

Passengers of China-bound flights must provide negative Covid-19 test results before boarding, China's aviation authority has said.

Nucleic acid tests must be completed within five days of embarkation, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on its website. 

Tests should be conducted at facilities designated or recognised by Chinese embassies in host countries, it said.

The embassies will carefully assess the testing capacity of host countries and formulate travel procedures when testing conditions are met, CAAC said.

People more likely to contract Covid-19 at home - study

South Korean epidemiologists have found that people were more likely to contract the new coronavirus from members of their own households than from contacts outside the home.

A study published in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 16 looked in detail at 5,706 "index patients" who had tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 59,000 people who came into contact with them.

The findings showed just two out of 100 infected people had caught the virus from non-household contacts, while one in 10 had contracted the disease from their own families.

Austria reintroducing face mask in supermarkets, banks

Austria is reintroducing a requirement that face masks be worn in supermarkets, banks, and post offices because of an increase in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

Austria went into lockdown early in its outbreak in mid-March and began loosening its restrictions a month later, even scrapping the requirement to wear face masks in shops and schools on June 15.

Face masks are still required on public transport, in hospitals and pharmacies, and at hairdressers.

Pandemic could widen economic gender gap

The coronavirus pandemic could jeopardise the progress made by women over the last three decades in narrowing the economic gap between themselves and their male counterparts, the IMF said.

The health crisis, which will lead to a 4.9 percent contraction in global GDP, affects women more than men because they hold more jobs in the hardest-hit sectors, such as the service industry, retail, and hotels.

In the US, about 54 percent of women work in sectors where they cannot telework. 

In Brazil, 67 percent of women are unable to work remotely.

Testing urged in India as cases rise by 37,140

A surge of 37,140 new cases in the past 24 hours has taken India’s number of coronavirus infections to 1,155,191.

The health ministry also reported 587 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities to 28,084. The number of recoveries stand at 724,577.

India’s top medical research body, the Indian Council for Medical Research, has asked states to add more labs and increase testing capacity of the approved labs. A country of 1.4 billion people, India has been conducting nearly 10,000 tests per million population.

EU leaders agree on virus aid package 

European leaders agreed on a massive aid package for their pandemic-ravaged economies. 

After a fractious summit, European leaders agreed on a rescue package of $858 billion (750 billion euros) to try and pull their bloc out of a deep recession.

Australia extends job support

Australia will spend $11.8 billion (A$16.8 billion) to extend its wage subsidies for businesses hit by the pandemic, as a surge in new infections in the country's southeast threatens to keep the economy in recession.

The six-month extension of the programme allays fears a hard end to the current $49.3 billion (A$70 billion) scheme, originally scheduled for September 30, would prolong Australia's first recession in three decades.

The government will also increase stimulus spending on two income support programmes to around US$60 billion (Aus$86 billion).

However, subsidies will be reduced under the new programme, which runs through to March 31 and is expected to cover about 1 million workers, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison's conservative government seeks to wean the economy of fiscal support.

Ukraine cases exceed 60,000

The total number of cases in Ukraine has reached 60,166 and 1,518 people died, Ukrainian health minister Maksym Stepanov said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last week Ukrainians were fed up with the coronavirus lockdown and the government should be cautious about extending it.

Eight cases reported in China's Xinjiang

Numbers of new cases in China’s latest outbreak fell, with just eight reported in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Another three cases were brought from outside the country, according to the National Health Commission, bringing China’s total to 83,693 with 4,634 deaths.

Xinjiang cases have been concentrated in the regional capital and largest city of Urumqi, where around 50 people and possibly more have been infected.

South Korea cases resurge

South Korea’s new virus cases have bounced back to above 40, a day after it reported its smallest daily jump in local Covid-19 transmissions in two months.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has reported 45 additional coronavirus cases over a 24-hour period. It says the additional figures brought the country’s total to 13,816 with 296 deaths.

The agency says 20 of the newly recorded cases were locally infected patients while the rest 25 were associated with international arrivals.

Trump supports face masks

With no effective treatment yet, there are few options available to combat the spread of the virus, though they do include face masks – which US President Donald Trump and his political allies refused to encourage for months.

But he changed direction, tweeting a photo of himself wearing a mask with the message: "We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can't socially distance."

"There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!"

Philippines to ramp up testing

The Philippines said it would ramp up testing for the novel coronavirus amid a sharp rise in infections and deaths since a lockdown was eased in June, while President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to arrest anyone not wearing a mask.

The government aimed to test 32,000 to 40,000 people a day compared with the current 20,000 to 23,000, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in a televised meeting with Duterte.

The Philippines has tested nearly 1.1 million people so far, but Duque said the aim was for 10 million people – or nearly a tenth of the population – to be tested by the second quarter of next year.

More imported cases in Vietnam

Vietnam's health ministry reported 12 new infections, all among citizens held in quarantine after coming back from Russia.

The Southeast Asian country has not recorded any local transmission of the virus for more than three months after a successful programme to contain the outbreak.

Vietnam has registered no deaths related to coronavirus and a total of 396 cases, with around 90% of those infected having recovered

Australia's Victoria state reports 374 new cases

Australia's second-most populous state of Victoria reported three deaths and logged 374 daily cases of infections compared with 275 cases a day earlier.

A woman in her 100s, a woman in her 90s and a woman in her 80s have all died from the virus, Premier Daniel Andrews said in a media briefing in Melbourne.

The state so far has recorded just under 6,300 total confirmed cases of Covid-19, which is nearly half of the total infections in Australia.

Victoria's government has enforced a six-week partial lockdown in the city of Melbourne and asked residents to wear face masks when they step outside their houses or risk fines to contain a flare-up in infections.

Cases in Germany rise over 202,000

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 522 to 202,345, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by four to 9,090, the tally showed

Mexico struggling with rising numbers

Mexico's Health Ministry reported 5,172 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 301 additional fatalities, bringing the totals in the country to 349,396 cases and 39,485 deaths.

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

NFL, players agree on daily virus testing regime

NFL players will receive daily testing during the first two weeks of pre-season training camps after an agreement between the league and the players union.

Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, said players would be tested daily for two weeks until the positive test rate fell below five percent. Once that threshold was reached, testing would switch to every other day.

If the positive test rate remained higher than five percent, players would continue to receive daily testing.

Monday's agreement settles one of the thorniest issues that has dogged talks between the NFL and the NFL Players Association over safety protocols to be used during pre-season.

Puerto Rico to ban alcohol sales on Sundays amid pandemic

Alcohol sales will be banned across Puerto Rico on Sundays and nearly all businesses will remain closed that day to help control a rise in cases in the US territory, the governor announced Monday.

The changes are the newest measures implemented by Gov. Wanda Vazquez as Puerto Rico sees a spike in Covid-19 cases that forced rollbacks in recent days as more tourists visit the island.

“Things have gotten out of control on weekends,” she said. 

“Many people are forgetting that we still face an emergency because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The island of 3.2 million people reported at least 180 deaths, along with more than 4,000 confirmed cases and more than 8,400 probable ones.

Starting July 26, all businesses except pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants will have to close on Sundays. 

Vazquez noted that churches are allowed to remain open.

She said she might announce more closures next week.

Israel to track Covid-19 carriers via phones for rest of 2020

Israel’s parliament voted to allow the country’s domestic intelligence agency to track the phones of coronavirus carriers for the rest of the year amid a resurgence in new cases.

The Shin Bet's surveillance technology has been used on and off to track carriers since March, and the Knesset in a late decision approved the measure through January 20, 2021, the Knesset news agency reported.

The security agency tracks location data of confirmed carriers for 14 days before they were diagnosed. That data is used to identify anyone with whom they came into contact, which proponents say is crucial to infection chains.

The surveillance has drawn challenges from privacy watchdog groups, and the Supreme Court cited worries over dangers to individual liberty in demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government regulate the surveillance through legislation.

Colombia's coronavirus cases top 200,000

Colombia's confirmed cases of coronavirus topped 200,000, the health ministry said, while deaths from the disease reached 6,929 as the Andean country continues a months-long lockdown meant to stem infections.

Colombia now has a total of 204,005 cases, still well behind other Latin American countries like Brazil, Peru, Mexico and Chile, which are among the 10 countries worldwide with the most infections.

Colombia's government has estimated it will reach its peak of cases in August. Several cities, including the capital Bogota, are close to full occupation of beds in intensive care units.

The nationwide quarantine, declared at the end of March by President Ivan Duque, is set to last until August 1.

US National Zoo to reopen this week

The National Zoo will reopen to the public later this week with restrictions to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The Smithsonian, which runs the zoo, announced that it will reopen with limited hours starting Friday, July 24.

The National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, will also reopen, but the rest o f the museums in the Smithsonian network will remain closed.

All visitors will be required to obtain free, timed-entry passes in advance, and those over age six will be required to wear a face mask at all times, including outdoors.

"Satan’s electronic camp"

A Russian court has ordered a coronavirus-denying monk to pay a fine for “inciting hatred” through his sermons.

The court in the Ural Mountains region ruled that Father Sergiy should pay a fine of 18,000 rubles (about $250).

When the contagion engulfed Russia, Sergiy declared the coronavirus non-existent and denounced government efforts to stem the outbreak as “Satan’s electronic camp.”

In fiery sermons laden with anti-Semitic statements and vitriol against a masonic “world-government,” the monk has called vaccines being developed against Covid-19 part of a global plot to control the masses via chips.

Fauci tells US governors to stick to fundamentals

The United States’ top infectious disease expert says the best way to manage the surging coronavirus, and prevent future outbreaks, is by sticking to what he calls the “fundamentals.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci tells the nation’s governors that those include the universal wearing of face masks, shutting bars, limiting indoor dining, avoiding crowds and frequent hand-washing.

Fauci addressed governors via videoconference with members of the White House coronavirus task focus.

Task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx urged governors to watch for even the tiniest increase in the percentage of positive cases, saying it means an uptick is coming.

NY Governor visits Georgia amid pandemic

New York’s Democratic governor flew to Georgia, pledging to help the city of Savannah fight Covid-19, in a barely concealed rebuke to Georgia’s Republican leadership as virus cases continued to rise in the southern state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined to directly criticise Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, but warmly praised Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, a native New Yorker who has been a scorching critic of Kemp in recent days.

Cuomo said New York has to be interested in what’s happening in other parts of the country because infected people from other states are likely to spread virus cases in New York.

Johnson was the pacesetter in a revolt by local Georgia officials against Kemp’s refusal to allow local governments to order people to wear masks. Kemp eventually sued Atlanta’s mayor and city council, asking a judge to order local officials to stop taking actions at variance with his own executive orders on coronavirus.

Cuomo delivered masks, test kits, gowns, face shields and hand sanitiser. He said he would help Savannah set up two new public testing sites aimed at lower income people, and said he would share contact tracing expertise.

Kemp spokesperson Candace Broce declined to comment on Cuomo’s visit.

NBA says no positive tests since July 13

The NBA said that none of the 346 players who have been tested over the last week on its bubble-like campus at Disney World in Florida returned positive tests.

In the event that a player on the campus returns a confirmed positive test in the future, the NBA said he will be isolated until he clears the rules established by the league and union representing its players.

The NBA, which halted its season in March, will have 22 of its 30 teams play eight seeding games to determine a full 16-team playoff field that will follow the traditional post-season format with four best-of-seven series.

All games, practices and housing are at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex inside the Orlando resort, which has multiple hotels and arenas, and allows the league to limit outside exposure. 

Brazil virus death toll tops 80,000

Brazil registered 20,257 new confirmed cases and the death toll rose above 80,000, the health ministry said.

Total cases in the world's second most affected country after the US, have now risen to 2,118,646 while the 632 newly-recorded deaths brought the total number of fatalities to 80,120.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies