The pandemic has killed over 984,000 people and infected over 32.2 million worldwide. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for September 24:

Spectators wearing face masks and keeping social distance on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain, September 14, 2020.
Spectators wearing face masks and keeping social distance on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain, September 14, 2020. (AP)

Thursday, September 24, 2020

France reports another daily record cases

French health authorities have reported 16,096 new confirmed coronavirus cases, blowing away the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.

The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 infections was up by 52, at 31,511, and the cumulative number of cases now totals 497,237 as on Thursday.

Spain tops 700,000 cases, Madrid surges in spotlight

Spain's cumulative tally of confirmed coronavirus infections passed 700,000 on Thursday and authorities warned of tougher times ahead in the densely-populated virus hotspot region of Madrid, which accounts for over a third of hospital admissions.

The number of confirmed cases has spiked since the end of a nationwide lockdown in late June, adding 200,000 in less than a month, and now stands at 704,209, the highest in Western Europe.

The total number of Covid-19 fatalities rose by 84 to 31,118, including 13 deaths registered in the past 24 hours. Daily deaths are now around their highest levels since early May, but below the late March record of nearly 900.

Authorities in Madrid, which has the highest share of hospital capacity occupied by Covid-19 patients and about 500 people hospitalised a day this week, have imposed a partial lockdown in districts with high contagion rates, and could announce more measures on Friday, according to local officials.

Ireland cuts travel 'Green List' down to four countries

Ireland on Thursday removed Germany, Poland and Lithuania from its travel "green list", leaving just four countries exempt from a 14-day quarantine for arriving passengers.

Ireland, which has some of the tightest travel restrictions in Europe, is only allowing quarantine-free travel from countries with a Covid-19 infection rate of under 25 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days.

As a result, travellers arriving from all countries other than Cyprus, Finland, Latvia and Liechtenstein must go into quarantine for 14 days from Monday next week, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Three of those countries have restrictions on travellers from Ireland, which currently has a Covid-19 infection rate of 71 cases per 100,000 people, according to the European Centre for Disease Control.

The Irish government has said it will adopt a more liberal system of coordinated travel restrictions proposed by the European Commission once they are adopted in mid-October. 

Pfizer partner BioNTech sees no role for its vaccine in UK challenge trial

Pfizer's German development partner BioNTech on Thursday joined other leading Covid-19 vaccine developers in ruling out participation in British plans to test experimental inoculations by deliberately infecting trial volunteers.

"BioNTech's vaccine candidate is not part of this study," a spokeswoman said.

Britain is planning to host so-called "challenge trials", the Financial Times cited people involved in the project as saying. Britain said it was working with partners on t he potential for human challenge trials without commenting on a specific plan.

AstraZeneca and Sanofi and Moderna , among the leading vaccine developers, have said their vaccine candidates were not involved in the programme.

US biotech firm Inovio Pharmaceuticals also said it was not involved while Johnson & Johnson said it was evaluating the potential benefit of a human challenge trial but would not comment on the British plans.

The World Health Organisation was not involved in such studies, a spokesman said on Thursday.

If world handles climate like Covid-19, UN chief says: 'I fear the worst'

The United States, China and Russia fought on Thursday during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the coronavirus pandemic after UN chief Antonio Guterres had warned the body that if the climate crisis was approached with the "same disunity and disarray" of Covid-19, then: "I fear the worst."

Guterres said the coronavirus was out of control as the global death toll approaches 1 million, while more than 30 million have been infected. He blamed "a lack of global preparedness, cooperation, unity and solidarity."

"The pandemic is a clear test of international cooperation – a test we have essentially failed," he told the 15-member body.

UK sees record cases at 6,634

Britain recorded its highest number of daily cases of Covid-19 on Thursday at 6,634, according to government data, reflecting a second wave of infections sweeping through the country but also a much higher level of testing than during the first wave.

Thursday's number was up from 6,178 on Wednesday, itself a jump from 4,926 the previous day.

Earlier, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government estimated fewer than 10,000 people were becoming infected every day, as opposed to estimated numbers over 100,000 during the peak of the first wave.

"(At the peak), we estimate through surveys that over 100,000 people a day were catching the disease, but we only found about 6,000 of them and they tested positive," he said in an interview on Sky News.

"Now we estimate that it's under 10,000 people a day getting the disease. That's too high, but it's still much lower than in the peak."

Public Health England said there had also been 40 new deaths, up from 37 the day before. At the peak of the pandemic, Britain was reporting more than 1,000 deaths per day.

Britain has the highest death toll from Covid-19 in Europe, at 41,902.

Turkey reports 1,721 new cases

Turkish health authorities registered 1,721 more cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,241 recoveries in the past 24 hours.

The country's tally of Covid-19 infections reached 309,790, including 271,964 recoveries, according to the data released by the Health Ministry on Thursday.

With 74 more fatalities, the death toll climbed to 7,785 in Turkey, which entered the "new normal" period in June.

Over 113,310 additional coronavirus tests were conducted by health professionals, bringing the total to 9.72 million.

"The number of patients in critical condition rose to 1,573," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.

Koca noted that the pneumonia rate continued to decrease on Thursday, inching down to 6.6 percent.

Czech Republic says 19 died with coronavirus on Sept 23

Nineteen people died infected with the novel coronavirus died on September 23 in the Czech Republic, the highest daily count since the global pandemic reached the country in March, Health Ministry data showed on Thursday.

The country of 10.7 million people has so far reported 567 deaths connected with the related Covid-19 illness. 

England adds Denmark, Slovakia and Iceland to travel quarantine list

England will add Denmark, Slovakia and Iceland to its quarantine list, meaning passengers arriving from those countries will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

The new rules will apply to those arriving after 0300 GMT on Saturday, transport minister Grant Shapps said on Twitter.

Portugal extends measures to fight coronavirus until mid-October

Portugal has extended measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic until at least mid-October, the government announced on Thursday, at a time an increase in the number of daily cases in the country continues to worry authorities at home and abroad.

The whole country was put under a state of contingency on September 15 and it will remain under it until October 14, meaning gatherings continue to be limited to 10 people and commercial establishments must close between 8 pm and 11 pm.

Portugal, which has reported 71,156 cases so far, initially won praise for its response to the pandemic.

Now, cases have crept back up, with the health authority reporting 802 cases on Wednesday, one the worst days since the beginning of the pandemic.

Ibrahimovic shrugs off positive Covid-19 test

AC Milan's talismanic forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday and the 38-year-old responded in typically irreverent style, saying it was a bad idea for the virus to challenge him.

Milan said that Ibrahimovic, who will miss the Europa League match at home to Bodo/Glimt later on Thursday, was placed in quarantine at home and the health authorities had been informed.

The announcement came one day after his team mate Leo Duarte returned a positive test, however Milan said the rest of the squad, who were also tested, were negative.

Risk of 'twindemic' with flu, officials warn

A surge in Covid-19 cases in Europe risks becoming a deadly double epidemic of flu and coronavirus infections, EU health officials have warned as they urged Europeans and their governments not to let their guard down.

"It is abundantly clear that this crisis is not behind us. We are at a decisive moment," EU Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides told a media briefing on Thursday.

With winter approaching in the region, she warned of the risk of a potentially lethal "twindemic of Covid-19 and the flu" and urged governments to encourage people to get seasonal flu vaccines and adhere to social distancing measures to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus.

"This might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring," Kyriakides said.

Adults at high risk from flu are also most at risk from Covid-19. Research by scientists at Public Health England (PHE) released this week suggested the risk of death more than doubled for people who tested positive for both flu and Covid-19, compared to those with Covid-19 alone.

Dutch cases reach new daily high

The number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands hit a daily record at 2,544, data released by health authorities showed.

Coronavirus infections in the country have reached record levels almost everyday since mid-September. The previous high of 2,357 was reported on Wednesday when the total number of reported cases passed 100,000.

The health authorities reported on Thursday 16 new deaths related to Covid-19, taking the death toll up to 6,312.

France reports over 1,000 people in ICU due to coronavirus

The French health ministry has reported that the number of people in intensive care due to the coronavirus jumped over 1,000 for the first time since June 8.

The ministry also said that the number of people with Covid-19 in hospital was up by 136 to 5,932 as of Thursday.

Indonesia sees another daily record of new cases

Indonesia has reported its biggest daily rise of coronavirus cases for a second consecutive day as new clusters appeared, though epidemiologists said its low testing rates could be masking far greater infection numbers.

Indonesia has for months been battling its first wave of infections and has struggled to stem a rise in transmission, with 262,022 confirmed cases in total and a death toll of 10,105 that is Southeast Asia's highest.

The peak comes after Indonesia reported several days of over 4,000 new cases, with Thursday's 4,634 the highest so far.

The capital Jakarta is seeing infections rise sharply, and its governor on Thursday extended restrictions until October 11 to try to take the pressure off of hospitals.

Finland health authorities warn of pandemic's escalation

Finland's Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has warned that the Covid-19 pandemic was expanding again more rapidly in the country, after several months of relative calm.

Nevertheless, Finland's 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants remained among the lowest in Europe at 15.5, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data showed on Wednesday.

But Finnish authorities said it was "alarming" that the number of new cases over the latest two weeks until Sunday had doubled to 798 from 387 in the previous two weeks.

India reports 86,508 new cases

India has reported another 86,508 new coronavirus cases, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi sees little merit in imposing even short local lockdowns.

India now has confirmed more than 5.7 million cases, the second-most in the world. The Health Ministry also said on Thursday that 1,129 more people have died, for a total of 91,149.

India’s junior Railways Minister Suresh Angadi died on Wednesday, nearly two weeks after he was admitted to a New Delhi hospital with Covid-19. 

He was the first federal minister and the fourth Indian lawmaker to die from the disease.

Germany confirms 2,143 new cases

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 2,143 to 278,070, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 19 to 9,428, the tally showed.

Czech Republic reports 2,309 new cases in slight dip

The Czech Republic has recorded 2,309 new infections in its third-highest daily rise since the coronavirus pandemic began, but the figure was down slightly from 2,392 the previous day, health ministry data showed.

In the past two weeks, Czech infections have been rising at the second-fastest rate in Europe, for a tally of 55,464 cases since the first infections were detected in March.

Authorities have reinstated some measures to rein in the virus, such as mask-wearing and, from Thursday, stricter limits on opening hours for bars. 

Israel tightens lockdown as infections rise 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet has decided to tighten Israel's coronavirus lockdown after he voiced alarm that a surge in infections was pushing the nation to "the edge of the abyss".

Israel went back into lockdown, its second during the pandemic, on September18. 

But over the past week, the number of new cases has reached nearly 7,000 a day in a population of nine million, severely straining resources at some hospitals. 

UK says less than 10,000 people contracting virus

The British government estimates less than 10,000 people a day are contracting Covid-19, less than during the pandemic's peak, even as numbers testing positive have risen to similar levels.

"(At the peak), we estimate through surveys that over 100,000 people a day were catching disease but we only found around 6,000 of them, and they tested positive. Now we estimate that it's under 10,000 people a day getting the disease. That's too high, but it's still much lower than in the peak," he health minister Matt Hancock said on Thursday.

Britain reported 6,178 new daily cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday.

Hancock also said the proportion of people getting a so-called false positive test result is below 1 percent.

Britain finally launches virus app in England and Wales

The British government has finally launches its troubled smartphone app to help track the virus in England and Wales, four months behind schedule and with cases once again surging.

The revamped app, which had first been planned for late May, uses Bluetooth technology to alert users if they spend 15 minutes or more within two meters of another user who subsequently tests positive for Covid-19.

The tool, which will be available in numerous languages on Apple iPhones and various phone brands that use Android operating systems, offers other functionality including booking a test and checking into venues using QR codes.

It relies on software developed by US technology giants Apple and Google, and in a bid to assuage privacy concerns, holds all the data generated on people's phones and allows the information to be deleted easily.

The app is being released behind schedule following months of troubleshooting on the Isle of Wight, off the southern English coast, in an east London district, Newham, and among another set of volunteers.

The state-run National Health Service (NHS), which has developed the tool in-house, abandoned its initial effort to create a more centralised data collection system after it was beset by issues.

The embarrassing U-turn followed warnings from tech experts it would be less effective and that it should have switched to the Apple-Google software earlier.

Australia's Victoria state reports 12 new cases, 2 deaths

Australia's hot spot of Victoria state on Thursday reported two deaths and 12 new cases, compared with five deaths and 15 cases a day earlier.

Victoria, which is on an extended hard lockdown until Sunday, may consider easing some tough restrictions sooner than previously flagged after new infections continued a steady downward trend in recent days.

The two-week average of new infections in the city of Melbourne dropped below 27 on Thursday. If average cases remain below 50 by Sunday, some restrictions may be relaxed. 

Trump may or may not approve stricter FDA rules for vaccine

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he may or may not approve potentially new, more stringent standards for an emergency authorisation of a vaccine by the US Food and Drug Administration, saying such a move would appear political.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday the FDA would issue the guidance to boost transparency and public trust as health experts have become increasingly concerned the Trump administration might be interfering in the approval process.

"That has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it," Trump told a White House news conference.

"That sounds like a political move."

Brazil reports over 33,000 daily cases

Brazil recorded 33,281 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as well as 869 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

Brazil has registered more than 4.6 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 138,977, according to ministry data.

Luxury Geneva hotels face 'life-threatening' corona crunch

Behind its deep-red awnings, Richemond's blinds have been closed since July, after the coronavirus pandemic left the usually bustling five-star Geneva hotel starved for high-paying customers.

Now, after a "catastrophic" summer, other luxury lodgings in the Swiss city – which boasts the highest hotel density in the world – are struggling to avoid the same fate.

"We are in a profession that is truly in intensive care, and the condition is life-threatening," a stoney-faced Thierry Lavalley, who heads the Geneva hotel association and runs the five-star Fairmont Grand Hotel, told AFP.

Before the pandemic hit, hotels in the city – a hub for diplomatic and international business activity – had been surfing on a wave of growth, with 3.2 million night stays annually for the past two years.

The sector was then struck by an "economic tsunami", Lavalley said.

Switzerland, which has counted 50,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 1,800 deaths, dodged strict confinement measures seen in neighbouring countries.

But travel restrictions, event cancellations and months-long closures of restaurants and museums have taken a serious toll.

By the end of July, Geneva hotels had booked just 693,000 night stays and they expect no more than 1.3 million by the end of the year.

That level was last seen in 1954 when the city counted half as many hotels as it does today.

Top advisor steps aside from FDA vaccine reviews over potential conflict

A physician who heads the influential US Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisory committee recused herself from the panel's review of vaccines because of her role overseeing a clinical trial for Moderna Inc's candidate.

Hana El Sahly, associate professor of virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, last year became chairwoman of the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee - the panel of outside experts that will make recommendations on whether coronavirus vaccines should be approved.

In July, however, El Sahly was named one of three lead investigators for Moderna's late-stage vaccine trial, creating a potential conflict of interest.

Moderna has said it could have enough data to show whether its vaccine is safe and effective as soon as November. 

That timeline would make it one of the first drugmakers to seek US approval.

Israel's Netanyahu calls for tough lockdown as virus rages

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday announced plans for a strict, two-week nationwide lockdown in a bid to slow a raging coronavirus outbreak.

In a video statement, Netanyahu said there would be a “full lockdown” beginning Friday that would run through Oct. 10. He said the lockdown would continue for at least another two weeks, albeit “hopefully” with some restrictions eased.

“The goal is to reduce the rate of infection, and the goal is literally to save many lives in Israel,” he said, without elaborating on the new restrictions.

Netanyahu announced his plan after two days of heated discussions inside his coronavirus Cabinet.

The measures still require approval by the full Cabinet, Israeli media reported. Netanyahu and his rivals have been bitterly divided over imposing restrictions on public gatherings, particularly large demonstrations by Netanyahu opponents calling on him to resign.

The looming lockdown amounts to an admission of failure by a prime minister who just a few months ago had boasted about being a world leader in responding to the global pandemic.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies