The US state of Florida surpassed its daily record for coronavirus deaths amid rising global worries of a resurgence, even as researchers announced that the first vaccine tested in the US had worked to boost patients’ immune systems.
Florida’s 132 additional deaths topped a state mark set just last week.
The figure likely includes deaths from the past weekend that had not been previously reported.
It comes as more than 13.2 million people have been reported to be infected by coronavirus globally and 573,462 have died, according to a Reuters tally
The worrisome figures were released just hours before the news about the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc.
“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, said.
Key final testing of the vaccine will start around July 27th, tracking 30,000 people to prove if the shots really work in preventing infection.
Tuesday’s announcement focused on findings since March in 45 volunteers.
With the virus spreading quickly in the southern and western US, one of the country’s top public health officials offered conflicting theories about what is driving the outbreak.
“We tried to give states guidance on how to reopen safely ... If you look critically, few states actually followed that guidance,” Dr Robert Redfield, the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday in a livestream interview with the editor of the Journal Of The American Medical Association.
Dr Redfield said people in many states did not adopt social distancing and other measures because they had not previously experienced an outbreak.
But he went on to say, without explanation, that he did not believe the way those states handled reopening was necessarily behind the explosive rise in virus cases.
He offered a theory that infected travellers from elsewhere in the country might have brought the virus with them around Memorial Day.
Doctors in Florida have predicted more deaths as daily reported cases have surged from about 2,000 a day a month ago to a daily average of about 11,000, including a record 15,000 on Sunday.
The state recorded 9,194 new cases on Tuesday.
Marlyn Hoilette, a nurse who spent four months working in the Covid-19 unit of her Florida hospital until testing positive recently, said hospitals are so desperate for staff to return to work they are not following guidelines that call for two negative tests first.
“Nurses are getting sick, nursing assistants are getting sick and my biggest fear is that it seems we want to return folks to work even without a negative test,” said Ms Hoilette, who works at Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee, Florida.
“It’s just a matter of time before you wipe the other staff out if you’re contagious, so that is a big problem.”
Authorities have confirmed 36 more coronavirus infections at Camp Hansen on Japan’s Okinawa, taking to 136 the tally at U.S. military bases on the island, Kyodo News said on Wednesday.
The outbreak emerged at the weekend, provoking the anger of the prefecture’s governor, who has called into question the U.S. military’s virus prevention measures.
Meanwhile, Tokyo is considering raising its alert for coronavirus infections to the highest of four levels, officials said on Wednesday, after a spike in cases to record numbers in the Japanese capital.
Fearing a second wave of infections spreading from the capital, local municipalities and opposition lawmakers also urged the central government to suspend a major campaign aimed at boosting domestic tourism.
Economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, however, said on Wednesday the government would proceed with the so-called ‘Go To’ travel aid campaign, which includes offers such as discounts for shopping and food, but move cautiously.
“Obviously we will consider the thoughts of many of our people, while monitoring the situation ahead,” Mr Nishimura, who leads the government’s coronavirus policy, told parliament.
In Tokyo, daily coronavirus cases exceeded 200 in four of the last six days, touching an all-time high of 243 cases last Friday as testing among workers in the metropolis’s red-light districts turned up infections among young people in their 20s and 30s.
Australia’s most populous states will impose harsher restrictions on movement if a Covid-19 outbreak is not quickly bought under control, state premiers said on Wednesday.
Australia has been heralded as a global leader in containing Covid-19, but in the last week it has seen a surge in new cases.
Desperate to contain the outbreak, Victoria state last week forced about five million people into a six-week lockdown. Still, Victoria said it has found another 238 cases in the last 24 hours.
Nationally, Australia has now recorded about 10,500 cases, while the death toll rose to 111 on Wednesday after a woman in her 90s died from the virus.
Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews singled out a minority of people for defying lockdown orders – which require people to stay home except for a small number of permissible activities - warning restrictions could be extended.
“If, however, people do not do the right thing then we will have to move to additional restrictions being put in place and potentially prolong ... these restrictions,” Mr Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
In New South Wales, which has seen several dozen Covid-19 cases in the past week, premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state will likely need new restrictions. She ruled out a blanket lockdown, however, citing the economic damage.
Australia’s remote Northern Territory said it would keep its borders closed to New South Wales and Victoria.
The possibility of new restrictions is a blow to Australia’s hopes of a speedy economic recovery as curbs implemented to slow the spread of Covid-19 push the country to its first recession in nearly three decades. – AP/Reuters