Coronavirus: Global deaths pass 600,000 as Melbourne make face masks compulsory.

Global deaths from Covid-19 have surpassed 600,000 as the US, South Africa and Australia struggle to hold down rising rates of the infection.

The United States tops the list with 140,119 deaths according to data from Johns Hopkins University, followed by 78,772 in Brazil and 45,358 in the United Kingdom and 38,888 in Mexico, where a surge in cases have frustrated plans to reopen the economy.

The number of confirmed infections worldwide has passed 14.2 million, of which 3.7 million are in the United States.

There are over 2,000,000 in Brazil and more than a million in India, while experts believe the true numbers around the world are higher because of testing shortages and data collection issues in some nations.

The World Health Organisation on Saturday again reported a single-day record of new infections with 259,848.

The following is a summary of the latest developments on the virus around the world:

Australia

People in Melbourne must now wear masks when leaving their homes as Victoria, Australia’s second most-populous state, marked two weeks of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus infections on Sunday. Melbournians not wearing face coverings will be fined A$200 (€122.50), said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews. Victoria, which has forced nearly 5 million people into a partial six-week lockdown on July 9th, reported 363 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, after 217 cases the previous day. “We’re going to be wearing masks in Victoria and potentially in other parts of the country for a very long time,” Mr Andrews told a televised briefing. Australia has recorded about 11,800 coronavirus cases, a fraction of what has been seen in other countries or even some US states, but an outbreak of community transmission in Victoria has been growing, prompting authorities to impose stricter social distancing measures. Three deaths from the Covid-19 disease were reported in Victoria on Sunday, bringing the total to 38 and raising Australia’s death toll to 122. Victoria became the first state in Australia, a country of a loose federal system, to require masks for part of its population. New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state that had moved to relax its social distancing guidelines earlier this month, has since moved to restrict again some social mingling as cases have been growing. On Sunday, NSW reported 18 new infections, its highest in three months. The transmission rate in the state is higher than in Victoria, causing concerns.

South Africa

South Africa now trails the US, Brazil, and India — all far more populous countries — in the number of infections, surpassing Peru, after health authorities announced 13,285 new cases. South Africa’s new coronavirus epicentre, Gauteng province, hosts the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria and a quarter of the country’s population of 57 million, with many poor people living in crowded conditions in the middle of a frosty Southern Hemisphere winter.

“The simple fact is that many South Africans are sitting ducks because they cannot comply with World Health Organisation protocols on improved hygiene and social distancing,” the foundation of former South African archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah, warned in a statement.

US

US deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 140,000 on Saturday as cases continued to rise in 43 out of 50 states over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters tally. Since late June, the United States has seen a resurgence in new cases and now, six weeks later, deaths have also begun rising, according to a weekly Reuters analysis of state and county data. America is losing about 5,000 people to the virus every week. By contrast, neighbouring Canada has reported total deaths of 8,800 since the pandemic started. In just one week, the United States records about as many deaths as the 5,600 lives Sweden has lost since the pandemic began earlier this year. In the hardest-hit US counties, officials are running out of places to store bodies as their morgues fill up. Arizona’s Maricopa County, home to the state’s largest city, Phoenix, is bringing in 14 coolers to hold up to 280 bodies and more than double morgue capacity ahead of an expected surge in coronavirus fatalities, officials said on Thursday. In Texas, the city of San Antonio and Bexar County have acquired five refrigerated trailers to store up to 180 bodies. The appearance of such mobile morgues has fed the sense in some Southern states that the pandemic appears to be spinning out of control. Texas marked its fifth consecutive day of new virus cases over 10,000, and Arizona reported record deaths. Americans are debating mask mandates and the reopening of schools as president Donald Trump said that while he supports the use of masks as protection against coronavirus he does not believe that wearing a face covering should be mandatory for the nation.

Brazil

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro said on Saturday that lockdown measures used to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus “kill” and have “suffocated” the country’s economy. “Without salaries and jobs, people die,” he said referring to restrictions imposed by some states and municipalities. “Lockdown kills,” he added, saying that some politicians have suffocated the economy with forced curfews. The president’s statement comes as Brazil’s economy is expected to contract 6.4 per cent this year, hit by the pandemic. Mr Bolsonaro, who announced he tested positive for Covid-19 on July 7th, met his supporters in the grounds of his official residence, the Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia. The president was wearing a mask and kept some meters of distance from his supporters. Mr Bolsonaro said he is feeling well, despite the virus, and again credited his health to the use of hydroxychloroquine to fight Covid-19, despite no scientific evidence. “I am a living proof (that the drug works),” he told supporters. Besides hydroxychloroquine, the far-right president said he is also taking an anti-parasite drug to fight coronavirus. Brazil registered 28,532 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 921 new deaths on Saturday, the health ministry said. Total cases in Brazil, the world’s second most affected country after the United States, have now risen to 2,074,860 while deaths totalled 78,772.

India

India became the third country in the world to record more than 1 million coronavirus cases on Friday. It has been grappling with an average of almost 30,000 new infections each day for the last week. Local governments continue to reimpose focused lockdowns in several parts of the country, only allowing essential food supplies and health services.

Europe

France will enforce mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces including banks, shops and indoor markets from July 20th, French health minister Olivier Véran said on Saturday, as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of Covid-19 across the country. The French government has accelerated plans to make it compulsory to wear masks after a series of indicators have suggested the virus could be gaining momentum, especially in areas in western and southern France that had been relatively spared during the height of the outbreak in the country between March and May. The reproduction rate of coronavirus in France’s Brittany region has risen sharply in less than a week.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 202 to 201,574, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose by 1 to 9,084, the tally showed.

In the Czech Republic, the tally of active cases of the new coronavirus has risen to 4,764, above the previous high of 4,737 seen in April, health ministry data showed on Sunday. On Saturday 113 new cases were identified, bringing the total since the beginning of March when first cases were found to 13,885. The central European country of 10.7 million has had 358 deaths from the Covid-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, far fewer than many western European nations.

The UK said on Saturday it was pausing its daily update of the death toll from coronavirus after the UK government ordered a review into the calculation of the data over concerns the toll might have been exaggerated. The UK has been the European state worst hit by Covid-19, with an official death toll of more than 45,000. The news comes as Scotland has recorded its largest daily increase in positive coronavirus tests for almost a month.

In Spain, Catalonia urged some four million people to stay home in response to surging virus cases.

Belgium may be at the start of a second wave of coronavirus infections after reporting a 32 per cent increase in weekly cases, virologists said.

China

Mainland China reported 16 new cases of the novel coronavirus as of the end of July 18, up from 22 reported a day earlier, the Chinese national health authority said on Sunday. Of the new infections, 13 were found in Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western region of Xinjiang. The other three, recorded in the southern province of Guangdong and eastern province of Shandong, were imported infection involving travellers from overseas, according to the National Health Commission and Xinjiang local health commission. The confirmed case in Shandong was an employee from state oil company China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec, working in Kuwait, the Qingdao Municipal Health Commission in Shandong said on Sunday. Another eight Sinopec employees travelling from Kuwait on Friday were also diagnosed as asymptomatic patients by the Qingdao health authority. On Saturday, mainland China recorded a total of 42 new asymptomatic cases, including 18 new asymptomatic patients in Urumqi. The far western city went into “wartime mode” on Saturday, launching an emergency response plan after the city reported a spike in new coronavirus cases. As of Saturday, mainland China had 83,660 confirmed coronavirus cases, the national health authority said. The death toll remained at 4,634.

Iran

President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that some 25 million Iranians may have been infected with coronavirus, as Iran reimposed restrictions in the capital and elsewhere. The figure, from a report Mr Rouhani cited in a televised speech, was far higher than Saturday’s official figure for infections of 271,606, and corresponds to more than 30 per cent of Iran’s 80 million population. Mr Rouhani’s office said the number of infections was based on an “estimated scenario” from a health ministry research report. Iran has been the Middle East country hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with infections and deaths rising sharply since restrictions were eased, beginning in mid-April.–PA, Reuters, Guardian, Bloomberg

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