The coronavirus pandemic has now infected over 20 million people and has killed more than 746,000. Here are the latest updates for August 12:

A waiter wears a protective face mask as he works in a bar, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Athens, Greece. August 1, 2020.
A waiter wears a protective face mask as he works in a bar, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Athens, Greece. August 1, 2020. (Costas Baltas / Reuters)

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Greece reports highest daily cases

Greece has reported 262 new cases of Covid-19, its highest daily tally since the start of the outbreak in the country, health authorities said.

The latest jump in cases brings the total number of infections in the country to 6,177 since its first infection surfaced in late February. There have been 216 deaths recorded.

The increase in infections in recent weeks has prompted authorities to gradually introduce more restrictions during the peak of the tourism season.

Turkey confirms more than 1,000 new cases

Turkey has confirmed 1,212 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the tally to 244,392, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

The country also confirmed 934 more recoveries, pushing the total to 227,089, said Koca.

Meanwhile, 18 more people lost their lives to the virus that has claimed 5,891 lives in Turkey.

Health care professionals conducted more than 67,200 tests to diagnose the disease over the past day – the highest number since March 2 – taking the tally to over 5.45 million.

Turkey's schools to reopen in September

Turkish schools have scheduled to start reopening on September 21 in a gradual transition to in-person education, the country's Education Minister Ziya Selcuk said, delaying the reopening after a rise in coronavirus cases.

In a news conference after a meeting of the country's science board to discuss measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Selcuk said that distance learning will begin on August 31, when schools had previously been set to open.

UK has highest death toll in Europe

Britain's official death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic has been lowered by more than 5,000, because the government adopted a new way of counting fatalities after concerns were raised that the old method overstated them.

From now on, the authorities will publish on a daily basis the number of deaths that occurred within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test result, the Department of Health said.

Under the new method, Britain has an official Covid-19 death toll of 41,329 rather than the 46,706 recorded under the old system.

The toll is still the highest in Europe, ahead of Italy on about 35,000.

WHO to review Russian vaccine

The World Health Organization has said that it is looking forward to reviewing clinical trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine developed in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin declared Russia the first country to approve a vaccine on Tuesday, even though final stage testing involving more than 2,000 people was only due to start on Wednesday.

The WHO says 28 of more than 150 potential vaccines are currently being actively tested on humans, among which six have reached Phase 3, the final stage when candidate drugs are tested on large groups of people.

France cases see new daily record

The French health ministry has reported 2,524 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, setting a new post-lockdown daily record and taking the country's cumulative total of cases to 206,696.

The seven-day moving average of new infections, which averages out weekly data reporting irregularities, increased to 1,810, the highest level since April 24, when the epidemic was in full swing.

Argentina skirting restrictions

In Argentina's capital, authorities have closed a bar after customers were seen drinking beer on the sidewalk in violation of pandemic lockdown measures. Some Buenos Aires stores flouted a ban to stay shut, saying online sales are inadequate.

Tired of months of quarantine, an Olympic rower broke the rules and trained alone on a river. He cried with joy and a sense of release once back on the water.

People are on edge in Argentina, where the number of new coronavirus cases is surging despite nearly five months of strict limits on movement and activities in the Buenos Aires area, home to about two-thirds of the country's population.

NBA reports zero cases

The NBA has reported zero positive Covid-19 cases for the fourth consecutive week, in the latest round of testing carried out at the league's "bubble" in Orlando, Florida.

The league said that of all 342 players tested for Covid-19 on the NBA campus at Disney World since last Wednesday, none returned confirmed positive tests.

Since players began entering the NBA "bubble" at Orlando, none have tested positive for the virus.

Two players tested positive upon arrival in Florida last month, but neither had fully cleared quarantine for admittance into the NBA's safe zone.

US struggles to launch online learning

In the US state of Georgia, the largest school district struggled on Wednesday to launch online learning for its 180,000 students, as parents complained that they and their students repeatedly tried and failed to log in to Gwinnett County's online system.

And the largest district in Georgia that's currently trying to offer face-to-face classes has now quarantined more than 1,110 students, a one-day increase of more than 300 children, because of possible coronavirus exposure since classes resumed last week in Cherokee County.

Gwinnett County is among the large metro Atlanta districts that have chosen to offer virtual classes to all of its students at the beginning of the year.

Germany's RKI says vaccine could be available in autumn

Germany's leading infectious disease institute has said that a first vaccine against the coronavirus could be available as early as autumn but warned that it may take longer to control the pandemic.

"Preliminary projections make the availability of one or several vaccines seem possible by autumn 2020," the Robert KochInstitute said in a statement on its website, citing a global effort to bring immunisations to market.

"It would be dangerous at this point to trust that a vaccination from autumn 2020 can control the pandemic," it cautioned.

The impact of any vaccine could be tempered by viral mutations or by the resulting immunity only lasting a short time, the institute added.

Coronavirus found on Ecuador shrimps in China

A city in China's eastern Anhui province has found the novel coronavirus on the packaging of shrimps from Ecuador, according to state media, in the latest instance of the virus being detected on imported products.

The coronavirus was found on the outer packaging of frozen shrimps bought by a restaurant in Wuhu city when local authorities carried out a routine inspection, CCTV, China's state television, said.

The news broke a day after a port city in eastern Shandong province said it found the virus on the packaging of imported frozen seafood, although it did not say where it originated.

Since July, several other Chinese cities have also reported cases, including the port cities of Xiamen and Dalian, prompting China to suspend imports from three Ecuadorean shrimp producers.

CCTV said on Wednesday the Wuhu restaurant had stored the contaminated products in a freezer since purchase and that all related products in the city had been sealed off.

Norway to quarantine more travellers as cases rise

Norway has decided to reimpose quarantine measures on travellers from more foreign countries and reiterated its advice that Norwegians should avoid going abroad amid a jump in the number of new coronavirus cases.

Norway last week put on hold a plan to further reopen society and urged its citizens to refrain from foreign travel.

While not a member of the European Union, Norway belongs to the passport-free Schengen travel zone. It had some of the strictest travel restrictions in Europe in the early phase of the pandemic before gradually lifting them from June.

It will now reimpose 10-day quarantines from Saturday for all travellers from Poland, Malta, Iceland, Cyprus and the Netherlands, as well as the Faroe Islands and some Danish and Swedish regions.

Norway has already reintroduced similar constraints for Spain, France, Switzerland and several others, and has put on hold a plan to permit leisure travel from some non-European countries, which has been banned since March.

The recommendation not to go abroad will remain in place until October 1.

With a population of 5.4 million, Norway had reported a total of 9,750 cases as of Wednesday, with 256 deaths.

Nigeria's foreign minister recovers from coronavirus

Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama has recovered after testing positive for Covid-19.

Onyeama took to Twitter on Wednesday to announce that his latest Covid-19 test result came back negative after three weeks of isolation ''by the very special grace of God".

Onyeama tested positive for Covid-19 in July.

Nigeria has confirmed 423 more cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 47,290.

Philippines talking to Russian vaccine maker on trials

Philippine scientists are set to meet representatives of the Russian state research facility that developed a coronavirus vaccine, to discuss participation in clinical trials and access to its research data.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lauded the Russian vaccine and offered to be "injected in public", to allay public fears about its safety.

Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said Philippine experts would meet representatives of research facility Gamaleya to discuss trials and would request a "complete dossier" on the vaccine.

The Philippines has among Asia's highest coronavirus case numbers, which rose to 143,749 on Wednesday, two days after hitting a daily record of 6,958 infections. 

A strict lockdown has been re-imposed in and around the capital.

Jordan to close border with Syria after spike cases

Jordan will close its land trade border crossing with Syria for a week after a spike in Covid-19 cases coming from its northern neighbour.

Officials said the interior minister's decision to close the Jaber crossing would come into effect on Thursday morning.

The move, which also puts officials working at the crossing under quarantine, comes after 12 cases were reported on Wednesday in addition to 13 on Tuesday in the first such surge for several weeks.

Vietnam PM says next 10 days 'critical' in virus fight

Vietnam's Prime Minister has said that the next 10 days would be critical in the Southeast Asian country's fight against a new coronavirus outbreak, which resurfaced late last month after three months of no domestic cases. 

Vietnam was lauded for suppressing an earlier contagion through aggressive testing, contact-tracing and quarantining, but it is now racing to control infections in multiple locations linked to the popular holiday city of Danang, where a new outbreak was detected on July 25.

Vietnam reported 17 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, taking its total cases to 880, with 17 deaths.

Cases in India top 2.3 million

India’s virus caseload has topped 2.3 million after reporting 60,963 new infections in the last 24 hours.

India also confirmed a total of 46,091 deaths. 

The Asian nation has the third-highest caseload after US and Brazil, but only the fifth-highest death toll.

Authorities say the fatality rate has dropped below 2 percent for the first time.

Indonesia reports 1,942 virus cases

Indonesia reported 1,942 virus cases, bringing the total number of confirmed infections in the country to 130,718, data from the government's health ministry website showed.

The Southeast Asian country also added 79 new deaths, taking the total number to 5,903, the highest pandemic death toll in Southeast Asia.

Russia says medics to get anti-virus shots in two weeks

Russia said the first batch of its virus vaccine would be ready for some medics within two weeks and rejected as "groundless" safety concerns aired by some experts over Moscow's rapid approval of the drug.

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a virus vaccine, after less than two months of human testing.

The vaccine has not yet completed its final trials. Only about 10 percent of clinical trials are successful and some scientists fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.

Developing a virus vaccine is “not a race to be first”

US Health Secretary Alex Azar says the push to develop a virus vaccine is “not a race to be first.”

Azar’s comments during a visit to Taiwan follow Putin’s announcement that his country was the first to approve a coronavirus vaccine, prompting doubts about the science and safety behind that purported achievement.

Azar says the US is combining the powers of its government, economy and biopharmaceutical industry to “deliver as quickly as we can for the benefit of the US citizens, but also for the people of the world, safe and effective vaccines”.

Russia's case tally tops 900,000

Russia's confirmed virus case tally, the fourth largest in the world, rose to 902,701 after officials reported 5,102 new infections.

Authorities said 129 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 15,260.

Singapore sees 61 cases, lowest daily count in 4 months

Singapore reported 61virus cases, its lowest daily count in more than four months.

The city-state went into a lockdown in mid-April after mass outbreaks in cramped migrant worker dormitories pushed its caseload to one of the highest in Asia.

Last week, it said it had cleared infections from all of the dormitories – housing around 300,000 workers – barring some blocks which continue to serve as isolation zones.

Singapore’s government says most foreign workers can now resume work as their dormitories have been cleared of the pandemic after months of lockdown and virus testing.

Brussels makes face masks compulsory in all public spaces

Wearing a face mask became compulsory in all public places in Brussels as the number of  virus infections rose to a government alert level that puts the city among the worst affected in Europe.

The Belgian capital, which hosts the headquarters of the EU and NATO, recorded on average 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants daily over the last week.

Everybody in the city, which has a population of 1.2 million, now has to wear a face mask when in parks, on streets or in any other public sites, as well as in private space accessible to the public, the regional government said.

UK economy slumps 20 percent in Q2

Britain's economy shrank by a record 20.4 percent between April and June when the virus lockdown was tightest, the largest contraction reported by any major economy so far, with a wave of job losses set to hit later in 2020.

Official figures published also showed the world's sixth-biggest economy entered a recession as it shrank for a second quarter in a row.

There were signs of a recovery in the month of June when output grew by 8.7 percent from May, the Office for National Statistics said, just above economists' average expectation in a Reuters poll for an eight percent rise.

Germany is skeptical about Russian vaccine

German Health Minister Jens Spahnon said he's skeptical about Russia becoming the first country to grant regulatory approval to a virus vaccine, saying it was key to have a safe, tested product rather than just being first.

Russia's vaccine, named Sputnik V, in homage to the world's first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has not yet completed its final trials. 

Its regulatory approval came after less than two months of human testing.

China's domestic virus caseload hits single digits

Domestic transmitted cases in China fell into the single digits, while Hong Kong saw another 33 cases of infection.

The National Health Commission said all nine new cases were found in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, whose capital Urumqi has been at the centre of China’s latest major outbreak.

Another 25 cases were brought by Chinese travellers arriving from abroad.

The government has recorded 4,634 deaths from the pandemic among 84,737 cases. 

Hong Kong, a densely populated semi-autonomous southern Chinese city, also recorded another six deaths to bring its total to 58 among 4,181 cases.

South Korea reports 54 cases

South Korea has reported 54 cases as health authorities scramble to stem transmissions amid increased social and leisure activities.

The figures announced by South Korea’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the national caseload to 14,714 infections, including 305 deaths.

New Zealand could delay election after virus return

New Zealand's looming general election could be delayed, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned, as the shock re-emergence of the pandemic sent the country's largest city into lockdown and forced nursing homes nationwide to shut their doors.

Ardern said authorities were scrambling to trace anyone who had been in contact with four Auckland residents whose positive tests on Tuesday ended the country's envied run of 102 days without community transmission.

A three-day stay-at-home order for Auckland – a city of 1.5 million people – went into force at lunchtime on Wednesday, ending weeks of near normality, when thousands had flocked to restaurants and filled rugby stadiums.

Germany logs 1,226 cases

The number of virus cases in Germany increased by 1,226 to 218,519, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 6 to 9,207, the tally showed.

Brazil's coronavirus deaths now total 103,026 

Brazil has registered 1,274 new coronavirus deaths, bringing the total death toll to 103,026, the health ministry said.

Overall, confirmed cases rose by 52,160 to 3,109,630.

Mexico reports 926 more fatalities

Mexico's health ministry has reported 6,686 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 926 additional fatalities, bringing the totals in the country to 492,522 infections and 53,929 deaths.

Australia's Victoria sees deadliest day

Australia's second-most populous state of Victoria has reported its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic with 21 fatalities in the last 24 hours and 410 new daily cases.

The state reported 19 deaths from the coronavirus, its previous one-day high in casualties, on Tuesday and Monday. It logged 331 cases a day earlier.

A cluster of infections in Melbourne, the Victorian capital and Australia's second-largest city, forced authorities last week to impose a night curfew, tighten restrictions on people's daily movements and order large parts of state economy to close.

New Zealand delays election process

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed a key step toward next month's general election, as the country was plunged back into lockdown after the discovery of the first Covid-19 cases in more than three months.

Ardern said on Wednesday she was suspending the dissolution of parliament, which was due to make way for an election scheduled to take place on September 19, until Monday. No decision had yet been made on delaying the actual poll, she added.

"It's too early to make decisions but there is a bit of flexibility to move the election date if required," Ardern told a televised media conference, adding any date before November 21 can be chosen for the election.

Argentina's death toll tops 5,000

Argentina's death toll has topped 5,000, the government has said, as cases have skyrocketed in recent weeks, pushing the South American nation up in the global charts despite months of lockdown and a promising start.

Argentina has been under quarantine since March 20, although officials previously relaxed restrictions in many parts of the nation, a move blamed for the recent spike in cases.

The country recorded 7,043 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, pushing the total confirmed infections to 260,911, surpassing the total caseload in Italy.
The latest government data on Tuesday shows 5,004 people have died from the disease.

Over 900 students, staff in Georgia district quarantining

A Georgia school district has quarantined more than 900 students and staff members because of possible exposure to the coronavirus since classes resumed last week.

Authorities said on Tuesday they will temporarily shut down a hard-hit high school in which a widely shared photo showed dozens of students standing shoulder to shoulder in crowded hallways. 

None of the students in the photos wore masks.

The quarantine figures from the Cherokee County School District include at least 826 students, according to data the district posted online. Located about 58 kilometres north of Atlanta, the district serves more than 42,000 students and started the new school year on August 3. 

The quarantines have affected at least 19 schools in the district.

Fifty-nine students, teachers and staff members in the Cherokee County School District have tested positive for the virus so far, he said, though it’s not clear whether any of them were infected at school.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies