The pandemic has killed over 967,000 people and infected over 31.4 million worldwide. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for September 21:

Dozens of vaccines are in testing for the coronavirus which has infected more than 31 million people globally and killed nearly one million.
Dozens of vaccines are in testing for the coronavirus which has infected more than 31 million people globally and killed nearly one million. (Reuters)

Monday, September 21, 2020

More than 150 nations join global vaccine plan 

Some 156 nations have joined a global scheme for fair distribution of future vaccines against Covid-19, an alliance led by the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday, but superpowers China and the United States did not sign up.

US President Donald Trump's government has already secured future supplies through bilateral deals, prompting accusations of selfish behaviour to the detriment of poor countries.

China, where the coronavirus began, was also missing on the list of 64 rich nations who joined the so-called COVAX plan to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses round the world by the end of 2021, prioritising healthcare workers and the vulnerable.

But alliance officials said dialogue continued with Beijing.

The scheme would account for about two-thirds of the world population, according to the WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance, which published the list of signatories after a deadline for binding commitments expired on Friday.

Dozens of vaccines are in testing for the coronavirus which has infected more than 31 million people globally and killed nearly one million, a fifth of those in the United States.

"COVAX will give the world the largest and most diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual briefing.

US CDC takes down virus airborne transmission guidance

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday took down its guidance warning on possible airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus, saying that the draft recommendation was posted in error.

The now-withdrawn guidance, posted on the agency's website on Friday, recommended that people use air purifiers to reduce airborne germs indoors to avoid the disease from spreading.

"CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted," the agency said.

The health agency had said that Covid-19 could spread through airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air and travel beyond six feet.

France reports 5,298 new daily cases

French health authorities reported 5,298 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Monday, down from the previous day's increase of 10,569, while intensive care admissions were on the rise.

There are traditionally fewer confirmed cases on Monday as less testing is carried out over the weekend.

The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 has risen by 53 to 31,338, the Health Ministry said. The cumulative number of cases stands at 458,061.

Tighter restrictions will be imposed in the French city of Lyon from Tuesday to counter a sharp increase in new coronavirus cases and a surge in intensive care admissions, local authorities said.

The new rules for Lyon, France's third largest city, follow similar measures in Marseille, Bordeaux and Nice as the coronavirus resurges across the country and the testing system buckles under heavy demand.

Over 1,200 recoveries, nearly 9.4M tests in Turkey

A total of 1,743 new coronavirus cases and 1,202 recoveries were reported in Turkey on Monday.

The country's overall case count now stands at 304,610, with 268,435 recoveries, according to data from the Health Ministry.

A total of 112,942 more coronavirus tests were conducted over the past 24 hours, pushing the total past 9.38 million.

The death toll from the outbreak in Turkey rose to 7,574, with 68 new fatalities.

The figures also showed that the number of patients in critical condition now stands at 1,491, while 6.8 percent suffer from pneumonia.

Spain reports 31,428 new cases since Friday

Spain has recorded 31,428 more coronavirus cases since Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 671,468, Health Ministry data showed on Monday.

The total number of Covid-19 fatalities has reached 30,663, the ministry also said, up from 30,495 on Friday.

Spain has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in western Europe and regional authorities have ordered a partial lockdown from Monday in some Madrid neighbourhoods where cases are rising fast. The partial lockdown has sparked protests.

The Spanish capital accounts for roughly one third of the country's Covid-19 cases.

UK public warned to get serious as Covid alarm bells ring

England is on track for about 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October and a surging death toll unless the public gets serious about preventive action, top UK advisers warned on Monday.

Rates of infection in England are replicating the strong resurgence of Covid-19 seen in France and Spain, roughly doubling every seven days, government chief medical officer Chris Whitty said.

"We are seeing a rate of increase across the great majority of the country," he told a media briefing, urging the public to respect stricter guidelines on social distancing.

"This is not someone else's problem. It's all of our problem."

Britain reported 4,368 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, compared to 3,899 on Sunday, the government reported on its website.

Myanmar rejects calls to postpone election

Myanmar plans to push ahead with a November general election despite calls from opposition parties to postpone it because of a surge in novel coronavirus cases, officials said.

The Southeast Asian country reported 671 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, its highest daily toll since the beginning of its outbreak in March, taking its total to 5,541 infections and 92 deaths.

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

Analysts say the November 8 election is a test of the extent of Myanmar's democratic reforms.

Czech minister resigns amid surge in cases

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech has submitted his resignation following criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the central European country sees a surge in cases.

The country has reported growth in coronavirus confirmed cases at Europe's second-fastest pace in recent weeks, behind Spain, after the country lifted just before summer almost all measures taken during the first wave of the pandemic.

In the past 14 days, the Czechs had 193 cases per 100,000 people, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Madrid in partial lockdown

A million people in and around the Spanish capital are under new "stay-at-home" orders to contain another coronavirus surge, as the US death toll neared 200,000.

The restrictions in Madrid will last for two weeks, affecting people living mainly in densely populated, low-income neighbourhoods who will be allowed only to travel for essential reasons such as work, medical care or taking children to school.

On Sunday, people took to the streets in some of the affected districts in protest against the new measures.

They sported placards reading "No to a class-based lockdown" or "They're destroying our district and now they're locking us up".

"We will still be able to go to work, and go into other areas that are not under lockdown, where we might be able to raise the infections and also still be vulnerable to infections in our own area," said nurse Bethania Perez, as hundreds protested against the measure.

Russia's new virus cases at highest since July 18

Russia has reported 6,196 new virus cases, the most recorded over 24 hours since July 18, pushing its national tally to 1,109,595, the fourth largest in the world.

Authorities also reported 71 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 19,489.

UK at critical moment as trend goes in wrong direction

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pondered additional Covid-19 restrictions as Britain is at a critical moment in the novel coronavirus outbreak with the trend going in the wrong direction.

"We're certainly at a very critical moment this morning," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky. "It is clear that we are just a few weeks behind what we're seeing elsewhere in Europe."

According to the UK government, the country in the last 24 hours has recorded 3,899 new cases and 18 new deaths.

Burials surge in Jakarta

Jakarta has been the epicentre of the outbreak in Indonesia, where authorities have struggled for months to contain the virus.

The country has reported nearly 245,000 cases, including 9,553 deaths, the highest levels in southeast Asia.

After an initial surge at the start of the pandemic, burials in Jakarta dropped to around 20 to 30 on average per day in July and August. But they shot up in September to between 50 and more than 60 per day, data from the city government showed.

Germany worried about neighbours

Rising new coronavirus infection numbers in countries like France, Austria or the Netherlands are worrying, German Health Minister Jens Spahn has said, adding that Germany will sooner or later import cases from there.

Countries like Spain have infection dynamics that are likely out of control, Spahn told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

Covid-19 report shows 'devastating' impact on people

The coronavirus pandemic has had a "devastating" impact on people displaced and affected by conflict, tipping many into hunger and homelessness, a new study by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) showed Monday.

The report, titled "Downward Spiral," is based on assessments and surveys in 14 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia and Yemen.

According to NRC, nearly three quarters the 1,400 people surveyed said they had seen a clear deterioration in their conditions since the pandemic broke out.

For instance, 70 percent "had to cut the number of meals for their household," 77 percent had lost a job or income from work, and 73 percent said they were less likely to send their children to school due to "economic hardship."

New Zealand to ease restrictions

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said restrictions in its biggest city Auckland will be eased, while all restrictions will be lifted in the rest of the country.

Auckland will move to alert level 2 from Thursday, Ardern said at a news conference on Monday, which will limit gatherings to 100 people.

The rest of the country will move to level 1 from midnight on Monday, she said.

Mainland China reports 12 new cases 

Mainland China reported 12 new cases, up from 10 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

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

It also reported 25 new asymptomatic infections, up from 21 a day earlier, though China does not classify these symptomless patients as confirmed cases.

The total number of confirmed infections in mainland China now stands at 85,291, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634

Brazil reports over 16,000 new daily cases

Brazil recorded 16,389 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, and 363 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said.

The figures do not include any new cases or deaths in the Brazilian states of Tocantins, Amapa and Roraima, as state authorities did not report updated statistics, the ministry said.

South America's largest country has registered more than 4.5 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, according to ministry data, ranking it as the third-worst outbreak in the world after the United States and India.

Nearly 137,000 people have died of the disease in Brazil, which ranks second after the United States in coronavirus deaths.

Australia's Victoria continues steady downward trend

Australia's hot spot of Victoria on Monday reported two deaths from Covid-19 and 11 cases, continuing a steady downward trend in daily cases and putting the state on course to ease more restrictions.

Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, on Sunday reported five deaths from the virus and 14 new cases, its lowest rise in daily infections in three months.

A hard lockdown in the city of Melbourne has brought daily cases down to double digits after it touched highs of 700 in early August.

Virus found on imported squid packaging in China

Authorities in China's northeastern Jilin province have found the virus on the packaging of imported squid.

Health authorities in the city of Fuyu on Sunday urged anyone who may have bought it to get themselves tested.

One of the packages had arrived in the city via the provincial capital Changchun, Fuyu city's health office said on its official WeChat account on Sunday.

It asked people who had bought and eaten imported squid at Sanjia Deda frozen seafood wholesale shop to report to authorities and seek a Covid-19 test.

The Changchun Covid-19 prevention office said the squid had been imported from Russia.

Chinese customs said on Friday they would suspend imports for a week if frozen food products tested positive for coronavirus and for a month if a supplier's products tested positive for a third time or more.

India reopens iconic Taj Mahal as cases soar

The Taj Mahal reopens to visitors in a symbolic business-as-usual gesture, even as India looks set to overtake the US as the global leader in infections.

India, home to 1.3 billion people and some of the world's most crowded cities, has recorded more than 5.4 million cases.

Around 100,000 new infections and over 1,000 deaths are reported daily.

The world-famous white marble mausoleum in the city of Agra south of New Delhi is India's most popular tourist site. It usually draws seven million visitors a year but has been closed since March.

Officials say that when it reopens, strict social distancing rules will be imposed and daily visitor numbers will be capped at 5,000, a quarter the normal rate. Tickets can only be bought online.

UK sees surge in pandemic

More than 40,000 people in Britain have died within 28 days of testing positive since the start of the pandemic in March, the highest number in Europe.

New cases fell rapidly due to an unprecedented three-month national lockdown, but have risen as the shuttered economy, schools and offices reopened. The government has been heavily criticised for a shortage of testing capacity.

Health minister Matt Hancock on Sunday warned the country was at a tipping point, saying that people must follow rules on self-isolating or face the imposition of further lockdown measures. The government announced large fines for non-compliance.

Hancock has refused to rule out another national lockdown and said officials were meeting to decide how best to handle the rising cases in London.

California tops 15,000 deaths; infection rate falls

California’s death count has surpassed 15,000 even as the state sees widespread improvement in infection levels.

A tally by Johns Hopkins University put California’s death toll at 15,027, the fourth-highest in the country. 

New York has suffered by far the most deaths, 33,087, followed by New Jersey, which has about half as many. Texas is third.

California has had the most confirmed virus cases in the country with about 775,000, but key indicators have fallen dramatically since a spike that started after Memorial Day weekend prompted statewide shutdowns of businesses.

The state’s infection rate has fallen to 3 percent in the last week, the lowest level since the first days of the pandemic.

Hospitalisations have dropped below 2,700, the lowest since early April, and the number of patients in the intensive care unit has dropped below 850.

With figures falling, California last month instituted a new four-tier system for counties to reopen more businesses and activities. Most counties remain in the most restrictive level but some could move to a lower level when the state updates the ratings on Tuesday.

Virus medical supplies for Yemen delayed after closure of airport

The UN said the suspension of flights since early this month at Sanaa International Airport has led to a delay in the arrival of 207 tonnes of medical aid for combating the novel coronavirus outbreak in Yemen.

On September 9, the Houthi rebel group announced that Sanaa International Airport was closed to UN and humanitarian flights due to a fuel shortage.

Prince Charles warns climate crisis will dwarf virus impact

Britain's Prince Charles warned that a climate change crisis will dwarf the impact of coronavirus, and urged the world to use the pandemic as an opportunity to act.

"Without swift and immediate action, at an unprecedented pace and scale, we will miss the window of opportunity to 'reset' for... a more sustainable and inclusive future," he said.

The comments will be included in a message to be played at the virtual opening of Climate Week in New York on Monday.

The heir to the British throne said the environmental "crisis has been with us for far too many years – decried, denigrated and denied".

"It is now rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic," he said.

The 71-year-old royal, who himself contracted coronavirus in March, has long been a champion for sustainability and action against climate change.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies