COVID-19 Apocalypse : Irish cabinet members self-isolate, AstraZeneca to test its vaccine on 5,000 more Brazilians, worldwide cases reach 29.6m


16th September 2020 – (Hong Kong)  Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 29,605,180 with 925,861 deaths as of 1am today.

A World Health Organization official has said that the decision by AstraZeneca to pause global trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine after an unexplained illness showed the firm was prioritising safety.


Greek authorities tightened restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the greater Athens area, saying the pandemic was showing “worrying signs of resilience”. Health authorities reported 310 new confirmed COVID-19 infections and three deaths, bringing the total number since the first coronavirus case was detected on 25th February to 13,730 and deaths to 313.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl, the speaker of the Dáil in Ireland, has announced that all Irish cabinet members are now self-isolating. Ireland’s parliament has been suspended for a week and cabinet ministers have been told to self-isolate after Health Minister Stephen Donnelly fell ill, the speaker of parliament said. The Irish government delayed the planned reopening of all pubs in Dublin following a surge in COVID-19 cases in the capital, but bars across the rest of the country will be allowed to open next Monday.

The United Kingdom recorded 27 new deaths and 3,105 positive cases of COVID-19, up from 2,621 the day before, official statistics showed. British interior minister Priti Patel has said that she would call the police if neighbours had a party because it was right to report people who might be spreading COVID-19 by disregarding new restrictions on gatherings of more than six people.

Britain’s testing system for COVID-19 was creaking as a bottleneck prevented people including medics from getting a test in a potential threat to key health services, with the government saying it may take weeks to resolve the problem.

It is “unacceptable” that some people in the UK have reportedly been asked to wait weeks, or travel hundreds of miles, for a coronavirus test, the country’s Home Secretary said on Tuesday.

Boris Johnson’s government closed a coronavirus testing facility so the site can be made available to handle customs checks after the U.K. leaves the European Union’s single market and customs union. Britain has lost almost 700,000 jobs to the coronavirus crisis, a blow to the economy that will heap further pressure on the government to extend its wage-support programs.

Germany’s Education and Research minister does not expect a coronavirus vaccine to be broadly available before mid-2021. The first approvals for a vaccine against COVID-19 could be granted at the end of 2020 or in early 2021, the head of Germany’s vaccine regulator has said. Confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 1,407 to 261,762, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

Austria has reported a moderate rise in cases in parts of the country, including the capital Vienna.

A total of 8,265 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the Netherlands in the past week, up from the 5,427 cases reported in the seven days before that, the RIVM Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said on Tuesday. In the same period, 27 confirmed COVID-19 patients died. 

Starting next month, Swedes will be able to visit elderly care homes for the first time since April as the spread of Covid infections continues to slow down. State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell described the move as “completely reasonable since transmission has decreased radically recently, and it’s obvious that knowledge and routines have improved greatly.”

Bars, restaurants and cafes in Denmark’s capital will have to shut at 10pm and customers will need to wear face masks, according to new restrictions being introduced following a fresh spike in coronavirus cases. The tightening will take place from Thursday and will apply for two weeks.

Siemens Healthineers AG has joined U.S. and European health officials to create an international standard for coronavirus antibody tests, a key step toward knowing who needs a future vaccine or booster shot.

The Dutch government will maintain heavy spending in an effort to counter the effects of the coronavirus pandemic despite a rapid deterioration of the state finances, its draft budget for 2021 showed.

The Danish government has announced that it was limiting opening hours for restaurants, bars and cafes in the capital Copenhagen to 10 PM after seeing a rise in new coronavirus infections.

The Netherlands recorded a daily record number of new coronavirus infections, an increase of 1,379 in 24 hours, the Volkskrant newspaper reported, citing national health authorities.

U.S. and Canada

Dr. Anthony Fauci said a national mask mandate “probably would not work.” Speaking during a news conference with Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, Fauci said, “There is such a degree of variability of accepting mandates throughout the country.”

New York University has instructed all residents and employees in one of their dormitories to quarantine until at least Tuesday night, following a diagnosis of six positive cases out of roughly 400 students living in the building.

At least 422,190 students in the New York City Public School System have requested the entirely remotely learning option for the fall, according to data provided by the city’s Department of Education — a little more than 40% of the total 1 million plus students enrolled in the nation’s largest public school system. 

The daily COVID-19 indicators are all under desired thresholds, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called the US response to Covid-19 “shocking” and “mismanaged” in an interview published on Monday in Stat.

SeaWorld has laid off at least 1,896 employees, due to “significant and sustained” effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, Kyle Miller, Park President of SeaWorld Orlando said in a letter to the State of Florida.

Philanthropist Bill Gates said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that the US Food and Drug Administration has lost credibility during the coronavirus pandemic.

Delta Air Lines says most employees will not be furloughed when restrictions attached to pandemic bailout funds expire on 1st October.

Citigroup Inc. will resume job cuts this week, joining rivals such as Wells Fargo & Co. in ending an earlier pledge to pause staff reductions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Canada’s health minister said she could not rule out another full lockdown if needed amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases, but added that the government was significantly more prepared to manage the virus than during the first wave.

Central and Latin America

Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa authorized AstraZeneca PLC to test its COVID-19 vaccine on an addition 5,000 volunteers in the country for clinical Phase III trials, the Sao Paulo university running the test said.

China and Hong Kong

A COVID-19 vaccine may be available for “ordinary Chinese” as soon as November or early December following a Phase III trial that “went very smoothly,” the Global Times said in a tweet, citing the Chinese CDC’s chief biosafety expert.

Hong Kong’s government said Tuesday said it had detected 38 fresh cases after examining 1.78 million people during a two-week city-wide mass coronavirus testing drive.  Hong Kong reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases or the first time since 7th July, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in the world

AstraZeneca has resumed COVID-19 vaccine trials in South Africa, more than a week after tests were paused due to serious side effects in a participant in Britain, an official at the country’s Department of Health told Reuters.

India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has announced that 155 health workers have died after contracting COVID-19 since March.

Russia’s new cases and deaths rose the most since late July as the virus spread with the return of millions to school and work. The government reported 5,529 new cases and 150 deaths.

The number of new cases in Iran climbed for a second day to 2,705, the highest in six weeks, taking the total to 407,353. The death toll reached 23,453 with 140 more fatalities, down from a four-week high of 156 the previous day, Health Ministry data showed.

Israel smashed its daily coronavirus record with 4,973 cases diagnosed on Monday, according to the Ministry of Health, surging past the previous record of 4,217 set last week. Israel is also seeing new highs in the number of severe cases with 533 serious cases and 140 patients on ventilators.

Thailand will start issuing special visas to foreign tourists starting in October, easing a more than five-month-old ban on visitors to revive the nation’s ailing tourism-reliant economy.

Myanmar authorities are rushing to manage a growing number of infections in the country’s largest city, Yangon. Three government rapid-response teams arrived early Tuesday to support the treatment of patients in the city, where only one of 44 townships remains virus free.

Indonesia has reported 3,507 new coronavirus infections, taking the country’s total tally to 225,030, health ministry data showed.

Singapore reported 34 new COVID-19 cases as of noon on Tuesday, including six imported infections.  

Information compiled from CNN, Bloomberg and Aljazeera