Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 40 million people, claiming at least 1.1 million lives around the world. Here are updates for October 19:

A woman walks through an empty city centre shopping street as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, in Galway, Ireland, October 19, 2020.
A woman walks through an empty city centre shopping street as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, in Galway, Ireland, October 19, 2020. (Reuters)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Ireland is first EU country to re-enter lockdown

Ireland will be the first EU country to return to coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Micheal Martin has said while issuing a nationwide "stay at home" order but insisting schools will stay open.

Measures coming into effect for six weeks from midnight on Wednesday (2300 GMT) will see all non-essential retail businesses close and bars and restaurants limited to takeaway or delivery service only.

Health experts had recommended that Level 5 restrictions – the most severe – be introduced to halt a surge in Covid-19 infections in the country.

He added that the Irish government is aiming to return to Level 3 Covid-19 restrictions at the end of the six week period on the highest stage, Level 5.

In order to do so, the government will seek to consistently get the so-called "reproduction rate" or R number, that measures the number of people infected by someone who has tested positive below 1, Martin said. The R number currently stands at around 1.4.

Canada tops 200,000 cases

Canada, in the midst of a second wave of Covid-19 illnesses, has topped 200,000 cases and inched closer to 10,000 deaths, according to official data compiled by Canadian broadcasters CBC and CTV.

About 80 percent of these cases and more than 90 percent of the deaths were recorded in the country's two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, which has been the epicentre of the country's epidemic since it broke out in Canada last March.

As of Monday afternoon, Canada had 200,039 cases and 9,772 dead – with its two westernmost provinces still to report their updated tallies – according to public health data.

That amounts to 532 cases per 100,000 people in the country of 38 million, or five times fewer than in the United States.

Mexico City warns of tighter restrictions

Mexico City's mayor has warned tighter coronavirus curbs could come into effect later in the week as Covid-19 hospitalisations in the sprawling capital rose.

"We still have time to take preventative measures to keep (hospitalizations) from increasing in the coming weeks," Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum told reporters, noting that hospital beds for coronavirus patients are just under half-full.

Hospitalisations have ticked up for nearly 10 days, and officials are monitoring the trend this week to determine if it indicates an upswing of infections in Mexico's biggest urban hub - a metropolis of some 9 million people ringed by dense suburban sprawl.

Brazil reports 15,383 new cases, 271 deaths

Brazil recorded 15,383 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus during the past 24 hours, and 271 deaths from the disease, the country's Health Ministry said.

Brazil has registered more than 5.2 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 154,176, according to ministry data.

Belgium fears virus 'tsunami' 

Bars and restaurants across Belgium have shut down for a month and a night-time curfew has taken effect as health authorities warn of a possible "tsunami" of new virus cases in the hard-hit nation that hosts the headquarters of the European Union.

The new measures implemented on Monday aim to limit social interactions to slow down the exponential growth of the pandemic in the nation of 11.5 million people. 

“We are really very close to a tsunami,” Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told broadcaster RTL.

The new surge of cases has already prompted several hospitals to delay nonessential operations to focus on treating cases.

As of Monday, 2,485 patients were hospitalised in Belgium, including 412 in intensive care. The country reported 9,138 new cases and 21 new deaths.

Data collected by Johns Hopkins University shows Belgium recorded an average of 73.95 daily cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, the second-worst record in the EU behind the Czech Republic.

Britain records 18,804 new cases

Britain has recorded 18,804 new cases, daily government statistics showed, up from the 16,982 reported the previous day.
There were 80 deaths within 28 days of positive test, compared to 67 reported on Sunday.

It is unlikely a vaccine will be in widespread use in Britain before next spring, the government's chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said as speculation around the government's roll-out plan increases.

Turkey reports around 2,000 new patients

Turkey has registered 2,026 new coronavirus patients in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data.

The country’s overall tally now stands at 349,519, the ministry reported on Monday.

Some 1,424 more patients recovered over the past day, raising the count to 305,427, while the death toll rose by 75 to reach 9,371.

Around 116,249 more Covid-19 tests were carried out across the country, bringing the total to over 12.52 million.

Spain adds nearly 38,000 new cases

Spain's cumulative tally of infections has increased by 37,889 over the weekend, bringing the nationwide total to 974,449, health ministry data showed.

Total deaths from the virus increased by 217 to 33,992, according to the ministry.

In recent weeks, Spain has frequently reported more than 12,000 cases per day after hitting a record of more than 16,000 in mid-September.

Several Spanish regions toughened their restrictions, seeking to curb a second wave of contagion that looks set to drive the country with Western Europe's highest case load above one million infections this week.

France's new cases slow but deaths sharply up

French health authorities have reported 13,243 new infections over the past 24 hours, sharply down from Saturday's record of 32,427 and Sunday's 29,837.

The Monday figure tends to dip as there are fewer tests conducted on Sundays. T

he seven-day moving average of new infections, which averages out weekly data reporting irregularities, stood above the record 23,000 level for the second time in a row.

The number of people in France who have died from infections rose by 146 to 33,623, versus 85 on Sunday. 

The cumulative number of cases now totals 910,277, with the country becoming the eighth in the world to have more than 900,000 cases.

US's CDC reports 218,986 deaths

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 8,128,524 cases of the virus, an increase of 47,035 from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 475 to 218,986.

The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

Death toll in Africa nears 40,000

The death toll in Africa has reached 39,738, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The total number of confirmed cases have now crossed 1.64 million while more than 1.35 million patients have recovered.

Regionally, Southern Africa saw the most number of cases and deaths that have now stood at 776,000 and 19,900, respectively.

However, the region also has by far the largest number of recoveries that has now stood at 691,200.

North Africa recorded 430,200 cases, 12,400 deaths and 319,400 recoveries; East Africa 194,300 cases, 3,600 deaths and 121,900 recoveries; West Africa 185,000 cases, 2,700 deaths and 170,800 recoveries; and Central Africa 59,300 cases, 1,100 deaths and 52,800 recoveries.

UK shopper numbers fall again as restrictions tighten

Shopper numbers at British retail destinations have fallen for a fourth straight week following tougher government measures to stem a second wave of virus, market researcher Springboard said.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a tiered system of restrictions on parts of England, including shutting pubs in the worst affected areas, to curb an acceleration in infections.

Springboard said total shopper numbers, or footfall, fell 3.1 percent in the week to October 17 versus the previous week. It was down 2.8 percent on high streets, down 3 percent in retail parks and down 3.5 percent in shopping centres.

UN stockpiling billion syringes for vaccine

The United Nations said it would stockpile one billion syringes around the world by the end of 2021, to be used for the delivery of any future virus vaccine.

UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, said it aims to get 520 million syringes in its warehouses by the end of this year, to guarantee an initial supply in countries ahead of the vaccine.

"The world will need as many syringes as doses of vaccine," UNICEF said in a statement.

Cases increase in Bundesliga after international break

Players are returning to the Bundesliga from international duty, and they are bringing the virus with them.

Hoffenheim played Borussia Dortmund on Saturday without Andrej Kramaric and Kasim Adams after they tested positive following national team matches with Croatia and Ghana, respectively. Czech Republic defender Pavel Kaderabek was in quarantine because of a family member’s result.

Hoffenheim director of football Alexander Rosen said after the 1-0 loss that clubs would have to think about letting players leave again for international duty.

IMF calls for 'action' in MENA region

The IMF urged Middle East and North African countries to accelerate reforms and diversification efforts as the energy-rich region faces unprecedented challenges due to the virus and low oil prices.

In its latest regional economic outlook report, the International Monetary Fund projected the economies of the MENA region to shrink by five percent this year compared with a July estimate that they would contract by 5.7 percent.

The region – which includes all Arab countries and Iran – was expected to suffer its worst economic performance since 1978 when it was convulsed with unrest and shrank by 4.7 percent, according to World Bank data.

 Oxford University: Patients experience symptoms for months

Britain's Oxford University said initial findings from a study on the long term impact of virus has found that a large number of patients discharged from hospitals still experience symptoms of breathlessness, fatigue, anxiety and depression two to three months after contracting the virus.

The scientists also detected abnormalities in multiple organs and believe persistent inflammation may be a factor for virus survivors, the university said in a statement.

Iran breaks its single-day record for deaths

Iran recorded its worst day of new deaths since the start of the pandemic, with 337 confirmed dead.

The grim milestone represents a significant spike from the previous single-day death toll record of 279. The Health Ministry also announced 4,251 new infections, pushing the total count to 534,630.

Fatalities have soared in recent weeks, as authorities struggle to contain the virus’s spread months into the pandemic. Health officials say the capital, Tehran, has run out of intensive care beds.

The Islamic Republic has seen the worst outbreak in the Middle East with a death toll that topped 30,000 this week.

Tunisian PM orders nationwide curfew

Tunisia's Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi ordered a curfew starting from Tuesday in all regions of the country.

Virus cases have been surging in Tunisia, which had managed to contain the virus earlier in the year, and have now reached more than 40,000.

Malaysia reports 865 cases 

Malaysian health authorities reported 865 cases, raising the country's total to 21,363.

The Southeast Asian country, which imposed targeted lockdowns this month as infections surged, also recorded three new deaths, bringing its total number of fatalities to 190.

Austria introducing rule of six for indoor gatherings

Austria is limiting gatherings to a maximum of six people indoors and 12 people outdoors, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, as the country is struggling to stop the steady rise in daily infections.

Professionally organised events will have higher limits combined with requirements such as assigned seating, Kurz told a news conference. Austria's daily tally of confirmed virus cases hit a new record of 1,747 on Saturday. 

Slovenia declares epidemic as cases rise

Slovenia has formally declared an epidemic of the virus amid a major surge in infections.

The 30-day period starting today allows the government to impose further restrictions to combat the outbreak. It was not immediately clear what the measures will be.

So far, Slovenia has tightened face mask rules, curbed the work of bars and restaurants and switched most schoolchildren and university students from classroom to online teaching.

The country of 2 million people was the first in Europe in May to declare the end of the epidemic after the spring wave.

Dubai allows major social events to resume despite resurge

The city-state of Dubai is allowing weddings and major social events to resume at halls, hotels and homes after a months-long ban, even as the country’s virus infections reach new heights.

Dubai authorities say that starting this week, wedding halls will reopen for receptions with a maximum of 200 guests and strict conditions, including social distancing, masks and a four-hour time limit on festivities. Residents can now throw celebrations in their homes and outdoor tents for the first time since early March, with a maximum capacity of 30 people.

The city is loosening restrictions even as infections in the United Arab Emirates continue to climb, with over 1,000 new cases recorded daily amid an aggressive testing campaign.

The federation of seven sheikhdoms has reported more than 115,600 cases and 460 deaths.

Philips Q3 earnings boosted by healthcare demand

Dutch firm Philips said its third-quarter net profit rose sharply as its health arm got a boost from demand driven by the virus.

Net profit for the three months to September jumped more than 63 percent from a year earlier to $400 million while sales were up 10 percent at 5.87 billion dollars, said the company which has diversified out of its traditional electrical appliances business into health.

Philippines reports 2,638 more cases, 26 deaths

The Philippines recorded 2,638 new infections and 26 additional deaths.

The Southeast Asian country's total confirmed cases had climbed to 359,169, while its death toll had risen to 6,675, the health ministry said in a bulletin. Total recoveries had increased to 310,303, it said.

Russia's new cases hit new record high of 15,982

Russia's daily tally of cases surged to a new record high of 15,982, including 5,376 in the capital Moscow, pushing the national case total to 1,415,316 since the pandemic began.

Authorities reported 179 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 24,366. 

Finnish PM test comes back negative after EU summit

The Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin has tested negative, her office said, after she had left the European Union summit prematurely on Friday due to coming near people who later tested positive.

"The prime minister will continue her self-isolation and she will be tested again on Monday," the office said in a statement.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen abruptly left the two-day summit less than an hour after it started on Thursday, followed by Marin on Friday.

Marin's voluntary quarantine will end if the second test result proves negative, her office added. 

New restrictions as Europe surges past 250,000 deaths

Belgium imposed a nationwide overnight curfew as Switzerland made wearing face masks compulsory in indoor public spaces, the latest desperate measures by European governments to fight a powerful second wave.

More than 250,000 people have died of the virus in Europe but the deepening crisis there stands in contrast to Australia, where the nation's second-biggest city began easing a lockdown that kept millions of people largely confined to their homes for months.

Cafes and restaurants across Belgium were shuttered for four weeks as the country tackled its own infection spike, part of a continent-wide surge that has seen a 44 percent increase in cases across Europe in the past week.

France on the weekend imposed its own overnight curfew in nine cities including Paris, affecting 20 million people, as it announced a record 32,400 new infections on Saturday.

UK offers Manchester money to impose tougher lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government hopes to reach an agreement shortly with local leaders in Manchester to impose a stricter virus lockdown, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said.

Jenrick said the government had offered Manchester more money. "This does now need to be brought to a conclusion," he said.

The devolved Welsh government is due on Monday to announce a possible "fire break" set of additional measures to control the virus. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford is due to make a statement.

Total cases in Ukraine exceed 300,000 

The total number of virus cases in Ukraine has reached 303,638, while the death toll is at 5,673, the country's security council said.

Ukraine registered 4,766 new cases in the past 24 hours.

The country reported a record daily high of 6,410 new virus cases on Saturday.

The daily tally of virus infections spike prompted the government to extend lockdown measures until the end of 2020.

Poland to launch field hospital at national stadium in Warsaw

Poland plans to launch a field hospital at the national stadium in Warsaw, as it faces a spike in new virus cases and a health system overload, a government spokesman Piotr Muller told public television.

Muller added that the stadium's conference rooms will be transformed into the hospital with around 500 beds for virus patients.

Haircuts and golf as virus curbs ease in Melbourne

Residents of Australia's second-biggest city dashed back to salons and golf courses, as some of its three-month-old stay-at-home restrictions were further eased on falling infection rates.

Melbourne's five million people had been barred from leaving their homes with a few exceptions – including shopping for essentials, exercising, or going to work, and later to socialise outdoors in small groups.

They still face a litany of travel restrictions and tough-to-remember rules for even the most mundane activities, but will now be able to get a much-needed haircut and do more outdoor socially distanced activities.

Lagarde: Europe must not delay recovery fund

Europe must not delay the distribution of a 750 billion euro recovery fund for the pandemic-hit economy and should also debate creating a permanent fiscal tool for the bloc, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde told a French newspaper.

"The Commission’s aim is to be able to distribute these funds at the beginning of 2021, and this timeline must be kept," Lagarde was quoted in Le Monde as saying.

"I hope that there will also be a debate about a common budgetary tool for the euro area, and that it will be enriched by our current experience," she added. 

Diagnostics group Eurofins gets US approval for home-based tests

Laboratory testing and diagnostics company Eurofins said its new at-home virus nasal testing product had received 'Emergency Use Approval' (EUA) status from the US Food & Drug Administration regulatory body.

Eurofins said the EUA authorised self-collection kit gives consumers a convenient and quick option to test from the comfort of their home, with results reviewed by a licensed physician and provided via email within 24 hours of sample receipt.

India reports its lowest daily virus deaths in 3 months

India has reported 579 fatalities in the past 24 hours, the lowest increase in three months, driving its death toll to 114,610.

The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 55,722 new cases of coronavirus infection, raising India’s total to more than 7.5 million, second in the world behind the U.S.

A government-appointed committee of scientists said Sunday the epidemic may have peaked in India and the disease was likely to “run its course” by February 2021 if people used masks and adhered to physical distancing measures.

The number of new infections confirmed each day has declined for a month.

The committee said even if active cases increased during the upcoming festive season and cold weather, they were unlikely to surpass India's record daily high of 97,894 cases.

Mass testing in South Korea to prevent outbreaks at live-in facilities

South Korea on Monday began testing tens of thousands of employees of hospitals and nursing homes to prevent outbreaks at live-in facilities.

Fifteen of the 76 latest cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency were from Busan, where more than 70 infections have been linked to a hospital for the elderly. 

The disease caused by the coronavirus can be more serious in older people.

Health workers have been scrambling to track infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million people, as the virus spreads in a variety of places, including hospitals, churches, schools and workplaces.

From Monday, they will start a process to test 130,000 workers at hospitals, nursing homes and senior centres in the greater capital area. 

Officials will also test 30,000 patients who have visited and used these facilities, but will leave out hospitalised patients, who already receive tests when they are admitted.

Officials plan to complete the tests within October and could possibly expand the screening to other regions if needed.

Germany reports 4,325 cases

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 4,325 to 366,299, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 12 to 9,789, the tally showed.

New virus relief slipping past US election

US Congress is past the point at which it can deliver more virus relief before the election, with differences between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her Senate Republican rivals and President Donald Trump proving insurmountable despite the glaring needs of the country.

Trump’s GOP allies are reconvening the Senate this week to vote on a virus proposal, but it's a bill that failed once before, and that Trump himself now derides as too puny. The debate promises to bring a hefty dose of posturing and political gamesmanship, but little more.

China's economy accelerates as virus recovery gains strength

China's economy grew 4.9 percent on-year in the third quarter, sustaining its rebound from bruising virus lockdowns and moving closer to pre-pandemic levels, official data showed.

But the world's second-largest economy grew slightly below expectations in the July-September period, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data showed, which warned of uncertainty ahead as "the international environment is still complicated".

China's recovery has so far put it on track to be the only major economy expanding this year, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts, while nations around the world continue to struggle with lockdowns and new waves of infections.

Japan exports fall amid slow recovery from pandemic downturn

Japan's exports fell at a slower pace in September in a sign that trade damage from the virus pandemic is easing, according to Finance Ministry data released.

The report showed Japan’s exports in September declined 4.9 percent from the same month a year earlier, better than the nearly 15 percent drop in August.

The nation’s imports fell 17.2 percent overall, compared with 20.8 percent in August.

Mexico reports 4,119 new case, 108 new deaths

Mexico's health ministry has reported 4,119 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 108 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 851,227 and the death toll to 86,167.

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

South Korea increases hospital, nursing homes tests

South Korea has reported 76 new cases of the coronavirus as officials begin testing tens of thousands of employees at hospitals and nursing homes to prevent transmissions at live-in facilities.

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency brought the national caseload to 25,275, including 444 deaths.

Thirty-seven of the new cases were from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million people, where health workers have scrambled to track infections linked to various places and groups, including hospitals, churches, schools and workers.

Health officials will start a process from Monday to test 160,000 employees at hospitals, nursing homes and welfare centers for senior citizens in the greater capital area in part of efforts to prevent outbreaks at these facilities.

Australia's hotspot reports four new cases as restrictions ease

The Australian state of Victoria has reported four new Covid-19 cases.

Case numbers were up from just two on Sunday, but extended a run of single-digit daily increases to almost a week and is well down from a peak of more than 700 cases in a single day in early August.

After more than 100 days in a strict lockdown that allowed only for two hours of outdoor activity a day, the 5 million people living in Melbourne, Victoria's capital, will be able to spend as much time exercising outdoors as they wish.

Australia has recorded just over 27,300 Covid-19 infections, according to health ministry data, far fewer than many other developed countries. Victoria accounts for more than 90 percent of the 905 deaths nationally.

Mainland China reports 13 new cases

China has reported 13 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for October 18, the same as a day earlier, the health commission said.

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

China reported 33 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 34 a day earlier.

As of Sunday, mainland China had 85,685 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The country's death toll stands at 4,634.

Panama offers tests on arrival

Panama has become the latest country to offer travelers a Covid-19 test when they arrive at its main airport, a little less than a week after resuming international flights following a seven-month suspension due to the pandemic.

The Sofia SARS Antigen Fluorescent Immunoassay tests are meant to prevent the import of new cases. International flights resumed on Monday, October 12.

Since then, some 1,000 people were tested, said Yelitza Campos, an adviser at Jers Medical, the distributer of the tests in Panama. A Panamanian health official said of those tested, 20 people have come back positive for Covid-19 .

Panama has so far registered about 125,000 official cases and 2,500 deaths.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies