Coronavirus: Disease centre warns of ‘apocalyptic’ infection in major US cities.

More than 9.6 million cases of coronavirus have been recorded worldwide with more than 489,300 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it expects global infections to pass 10 million by the end of the week.

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

US

US state health departments reported a total of over 37,000 new cases on Thursday, led by Florida, Texas, California and Arizona. At least 27 states reported increases in the number of daily cases being recorded.

Texas confirmed a record 5,996 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, just one day after beating its previous record with Wednesday’s 5,551 cases, causing Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott to put a hold on any further steps to reopen. Mr Abbott also reimposed a ban on elective surgeries in some areas to preserve hospital space, after the number of patients statewide more than doubled in two weeks while Houston’s intensive-care wards reached capacity.

US vice president Mike Pence will hold the first coronavirus task force press briefing in weeks on Friday, CNN reported.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned that they believe the US actually has had 10 times the number of known infections over the course of the pandemic so far, or 20 million cases. The CDC warned that there was a risk of “apocalyptic” infection in major cities. In a Fox News town hall on Tuesday, US president Donald Trump repeated claims that US cases were higher as a result of more testing, comparing the situation in the US to that in Germany, and saying Germany had much lower testing (Germany performs 65 tests per 1,000 people, while in the US it is 86). However, in the US, 8.2 per cent of tests are returned positive, while in Germany that figure is 3.5 per cent . The confirmed cases per million people in the US are 7,194.39 versus 2,292.55 in Germany. In the US, 124,355 people have died so far. In Germany, 8,940 people have died.

Arizona’s 3,056 additional infections reported on Thursday marked the fourth day in a week with a increase of more than 3,000. Transmissions have spiked following Republican governor Doug Ducey’s decision to lift stay-at-home restrictions in May. Twenty-three per cent of tests conducted in the state over the past seven days have been positive, nearly triple the national average, and a record 415 patients were on ventilators. The numbers “continue to go in the wrong direction”, said Mr Ducey, who confirmed that the state has postponed further efforts to reopen.

Brazil

New cases continue to surge above 30,000 a day in Brazil which is second only to the US in deaths and cases from the pandemic. The country confirmed 39,483 coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the national total to 1,228,114 known infections. The number of deaths in the country is nearing 55,000, with 54,971 fatalities confirmed. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro said he believes he’s already had the coronavirus, after denying he’d had it and months spent downplaying its seriousness as he mingled with supporters without a facemask. The 65-year-old president made the unexpected announcement during a live webcast on Facebook Thursday evening. “I can take a test to see if I have antibodies,” he added. Suspicions that Mr Bolsonaro had been infected arose shortly after a number of aides who accompanied him on a March trip to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Mr Trump tested positive. At the time, Mr Bolsonaro denied that he had the virus, emphasizing his strength as a reason for why he had not caught it. He also fought to keep his exam results private, though months later they would be revealed and show that he tested negative. Earlier in the week, a federal judge ordered president to wear a face mask while out in Brasilia.

Australia

Australian supermarkets have reintroduced national rationing of essential groceries after panic buying resumed in some states, provoked by a rise in cases in Victoria. The southern state reported its 10th straight day of new cases in double digits on Friday. Thirty new cases were reported after what premier Daniel Andrews called a “suburban testing blitz”in hotspot suburbs, involving ambulances and mobile test centres.

In response to panic buying, which earlier in the pandemic saw shelves emptied of toilet paper, pasta, disinfectant and other staples, the Woolworths grocery store chain announced it would reintroduce countrywide buying limits on toilet paper. Woolworths initially brought in limits in Victoria alone on Wednesday. Customers were restricted to just two items of toilet paper, hand sanitiser, paper towel, flour, sugar, pasta, mince, long-life milk, eggs and rice. Coles, another supermarket chain, also brought in limits on buying hand sanitiser, flour, eggs, other groceries and toilet paper. Despite the spike in infections, Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison said on Friday he would stick with plans to further ease coronavirus restrictions.“There will be outbreaks and what matters is that we continue to build our capability to deal with those outbreaks,” Morrison told a media briefing in Canberra.

Europe

Coronavirus cases are resurging in Europe as countries ease restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the disease, the WHO has warned. “For weeks I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures. In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality,” WHO director for Europe Dr Hans Kluge said in his weekly briefing to media. Across the WHO’s European region, which covers 54 countries, roughly 20,000 new coronavirus cases and 700 deaths are currently being reported daily.

“Last week, Europe saw an increase in weekly cases for the first time in months,” Dr Kluge said. “Thirty countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks. In 11 of these countries, accelerated transmission has led to very significant resurgence that if left unchecked will push health systems to the brink once again in Europe.”

Sweden

In Sweden, people are losing trust in authorities’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the man behind the country’s light-touch approach called lockdowns a form of madness and political parties demanded the Swedish strategy be reviewed before the next election in 2022.

UK

UK health secretary Matt Hancock threatened to close beaches, after tens of thousands of people descended in droves on beaches in Bournemouth and other stretches of the Dorset coast. Hancock said on TalkRadio he had the power to close the beaches if people did not respect social-distancing rules.

Spain

The official in charge of Spain’s response to Covid-19 said imported infections are a growing source of concern as the continent readies to welcome more visitors. Epidemiologist Fernando Simon said on Thursday that 54 people who had contracted the disease in the past week have been linked to recently arrived visitors in Spain. He suggested that controls should be strict and that regional and local governments should be ready to apply localised isolation to avoid spreading the disease.

Germany

Germany’s coronavirus infection rate fell to the lowest in three weeks, while the number of new cases remained well below the level at the height of the outbreak. The reproduction factor, or R value, dropped to 0.59 on Thursday from 0.72 the previous day, according to the latest estimate by the country’s health body, the Robert Koch Institute. The estimate means that out of 100 people who get infected, a further 59 people are likely to contract the virus. The government is trying to keep the value below 1.0 to prevent exponential growth in infections. There were 500 new cases in the 24 hours through Friday morning, up from 391 the previous day and bringing the total to 193,371, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That compares with almost 7,000 at the peak of the pandemic in late March. Fatalities increased by 12 to 8,940. During the past week, the infection rate had been lifted as high as 2.88, driven up by local outbreaks, including in two municipalities in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In the district of Guetersloh, more than 2,000 people were infected, most of them working at a local meat plant and the area was put back into lockdown.

Russia

Russia on Friday reported 6,800 new coronavirus cases, the first daily rise below 7,000 since late April, taking its nationwide tally to 620,794. The country’s coronavirus response centre said 176 people had died of the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 8,781.

South Africa

South Africa, which accounts for about half of the infections on the African continent with 118,375, reported a record 6,579 new cases, as transmissions increased after it loosened what had been one of the world’s strictest lockdowns earlier this month.

China

China reported 13 new cases, 11 in Beijing. Eleven were in Beijing, where mass testing has been carried out following an outbreak that appears to have been largely brought under control. The other two cases were brought by Chinese travellers from overseas, according to the National Health Commission.

South Korea

South Korea reported 39 new cases, mostly from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area where officials have been struggling to stem transmissions amid increased public activity and eased attitudes on social distancing.

India and Indonesia

India, which has the world’s second-largest population, has seen regular record daily increases. The 24-hour spike of 17,296 new infections reported on Friday raised the national caseload past 490,000, including 15,301 fatalities. Indian Railways delayed the resumption of regular train services by more than a month, until August 12th. In India and in neighbouring Pakistan, government leaders have resisted new restrictions, citing economic concerns. The world’s fourth-most populous country, Indonesia, passed 50,000 cases on Thursday, with at least 2,620 deaths, the highest number of cases and fatalities in southeast Asia. That’s up from just two positive cases in early March.

Japan

Japan’s Covid-19 contact-tracing app has been downloaded more than 4 million times since its launch a week ago as the government seeks to head off a second wave of infections now that businesses and schools have reopened. Health ministry official Yasuyuki Sahara said while there was no target number for downloads, “we want to make as many people as possible to use this app”. Apps such as this may be able to halt an epidemic if usage reaches 60 per cent of the population, according to an Oxford University study. Japan lifted a state of emergency in late May. It has weathered the epidemic better than most developed countries, with almost 18,000 infections and 969 deaths. The app, named COCOA for Contact-Confirming Application uses Bluetooth signals to detect contact with nearby users lasting 15 minutes or more. If a user later tests positive for the virus, their contacts can be traced and notified through the programme.

Mexico

Mexico pushed past a total of 25,000 deaths and 200,000 confirmed cases. The country’s finance minister, Arturo Herrera Gutiérrez, tested positive but is experiencing only “minor” symptoms, he said.

New Zealand

New Zealand reported one new case of Covid-19. Like all of the country’s active cases it was diagnosed during the routine testing of quarantined travellers.

Study

A Europe-wide study shows child virus deaths are “extremely rare”. Fewer than one in 100 children who test positive die, although a small but significant percentage develop severe illness, the study showed.–Guardian, Bloomberg

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