COVID-19 Apocalypse : Record high 2,968 cases reported in Iraq, highest daily increase in new cases recorded in Peru, Russia may register first vaccine by August


29th July 2020 – (Hong Kong)  Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 16,973,205 with 665,021 deaths as of 11.30pm today.

COVID-19 is spreading in “one big wave” and is not affected by seasonal trends, according to World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Margaret Harris.


The European Commission has signed a €63 million (US$74 million) contract with pharmaceutical company Gilead, to secure doses of antiviral drug remdesivir, the first medicine authorised by the EU for treating coronavirus.  

The European Union backtracked further on a plan to let in more foreign travelers amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases around the world, according to officials familiar with the matter. EU envoys in Brussels on Wednesday recommended removing Algeria from a list of 13 states whose residents have the green light to visit the bloc, the officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because deliberations were confidential.

 Britain does not yet have a viable alternative to imposing a 14-day quarantine on travellers returning from countries deemed to have a high risk of coronavirus, culture minister Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday. The British government has signed a supply deal to secure up to 60 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine currently being developed by pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline.  London Heathrow airport will aim to introduce Covid-19 testing for arriving passengers by September if it can secure official U.K. approval for the move. There has been more engagement from the government over testing in the last few days, Heathrow Chief Executive Officer John Holland-Kaye said in an interview. The possibility that Britain could repeat its reimposition of quarantine on people arriving from Spain for other countries has helped to energize the discussion, he said.

Travel company TUI UK said it had cancelled holidays to the Balearics and Canary Islands until August 4 after Britain advised against all non-essential travel to the islands due to its assessment of COVID-19 risks in Spain.

Spanish airport operator AENA has noticed a decline in traffic since British authorities announced a quarantine on travellers from Spain last weekend.

A player in Sevilla’s first team squad has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of their Europa League last-16 tie against AS Roma, the La Liga club announced on Wednesday.

Portugal’s foreign ministry said some member states in the European Union have broken a pact to reinstate freedom of movement inside the bloc after coronavirus lockdowns were lifted.

Germany currently has the capacity to carry out coronavirus tests on all travellers returning to the country from abroad, Teresa Nauber, a spokesperson for the health ministry, said Wednesday.  

Austria’s government agreed to extend its furlough program for another six months to protect jobs as the coronavirus ravages European economies. The new plan, agreed with unions and employers is similar to an existing program in force since March, but with small changes. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the deal on a new furlough together with the heads of unions and chamber of commerce ahead of a government meeting in Vienna.

A coronavirus vaccine may not be available until the middle of next year, Germany’s minister for research Anja Karliczek warned Wednesday, as she announced further government funding to help accelerate the research and development process. 

The French government has announced that it will extend its “partial unemployment” scheme for people working in the tourism sector. The scheme supports those unable to work during the pandemic, with those enrolled receiving up to 84% of their after-tax salary from the state. French police on Wednesday evacuated about 1,500 migrants from a camp north of Paris where crowded living conditions and a lack of water and sanitation exposed them to a high risk of coronavirus infection.

U.S. and Canada

 United States deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 150,000 on Wednesday, the highest level in the world and rising by 10,000 in 11 days, according to a Reuters tally.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued Wednesday that if stimulus negotiations fail, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will be to blame, accusing them of potentially sabotaging negotiations to protect their own “political chances.”

The United States must get control of the coronavirus pandemic or risk seeing deaths skyrocket “well into the multiple hundreds of thousands,” the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) warned as it released a new “roadmap” on how to contain and end the pandemic.

President Trump signalled he may be interested in a short-term bill as negotiations on Capitol Hill have largely stalled. As the US nears 150,000 coronavirus deaths, President Trump is travelling to Texas today, one of the country’s virus hotspots.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services Deputy Director of Policy Joseph Edlow kicked off his testimony Wednesday before a House panel underscoring the agency’s budget shortfall, which has resulted in nearly 70% of its workforce receiving furlough notices.

New York City saw a slight uptick in the Covid-19 infection rate across the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. The city’s COVID-19 infection rate is up to 2% which is a rise from the 1% previously reported earlier this week.

The state of Florida reported 216 additional deaths on Wednesday, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health. That breaks the previous record of 186 deaths which was recorded just yesterday. Florida is reporting 9,446 new cases of COVID-19. In Florida, at least 54 hospitals have reached capacity in their intensive care units and show zero ICU beds available, according to data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). 

Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who has refused to wear a mask, has tested positive for the coronavirus, Politico reported. Gohmert tested positive in a screening at the White House ahead of a scheduled flight to Texas with President Donald Trump, Politico said, citing multiple people it didn’t identify. Gohmert told CNN last month that he wasn’t wearing a mask because he was being regularly tested, Politico said.

In the last 7 days, Memorial Healthcare System hospitals in Broward County have seen on average 37% of hospitalized Covid-19 patients come from northwest Miami-Dade County, according to Aurelio M. Fernández, III, president and CEO of Memorial Healthcare System.

A failure to extend enhanced unemployment benefits in the next stimulus package could be devastating for millions of Americans, and Latina women  — and their families — could especially be hard-hit across the country. 

GlaxoSmithKline said its 2020 earnings forecast is at risk if routine vaccination rates fail to recover after lockdowns. Its vaccines unit was hit especially hard as the crisis hindered visits to health workers. Glaxo said its forecast depends on rates returning in the U.S.

Toronto will move into the third stage of its economic reopening on Friday, the Ontario provincial government announced on Wednesday, paving the way for the majority of businesses in Canada’s most populous city to resume operations after a four-month lockdown to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Central and Latin America

Peru reported its highest daily increase in new COVID-19 cases with at least 5,288 in the last 24 hours, according to data released by the Health Ministry on Tuesday evening. The increase is the highest the country has recorded since June 12.  The total number of coronavirus cases in the country stands at 395,005, according to the same data, while the death toll reached 18,612 with 194 new deaths.

China and Hong Kong

Hong Kong continues to struggle with a fresh coronavirus outbreak, as officials reported 118 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours.

Elsewhere in the world

Russia claims that its own coronavirus vaccine is already undergoing the registration process, state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday. In a government meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin, deputy prime minister of Russia Tatyana Golikova, who is overseeing the Russian coronavirus response, said the country plans to start producing two vaccines in September and October.  Russia has released no scientific data on its vaccine testing and there are wide concerns that the human testing stage of the vaccine is incomplete. Russia reported 5,475 new cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing its national tally to 828,990, the fourth-largest in the world.

Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, has ordered bars and pubs to shut and banned large gatherings from midnight on Wednesday because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Danang, the head of the city’s administration said. Hanoi on Wednesday has registered its first case of COVID-19 linked to the Danang outbreak.

Japan found a record 1,002 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, broadcaster NHK reported, with surging infections in Osaka bringing the western prefecture close to surpassing Tokyo as the nation’s biggest hot spot. The day’s tally brings the total number of cases in Japan above 33,000, as the nation grapples with a new surge of infections two months after a state of emergency was lifted.

India’s Ministry of Home Affairs issued a fresh set of guidelines on Wednesday as part of a third phase of easing restrictions in the country. The easing comes as coronavirus cases in India crossed 1.5 million cases, with the country adding half a million cases in almost two weeks, according to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. More than half of residents living in Mumbai’s crowded slums may have contracted coronavirus and are likely being infected at a much higher rate than those not living in slum areas, a new study has found. The Indian state of West Bengal has extended its lockdown until 31st August, its Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Pakistan is at risk for another wave of virus infections during the upcoming Eid holidays as millions travel to their home towns and mingle at family and religious gatherings. The South Asian nation — with the second highest number of infections in Asia — has had some respite over the last few weeks with the rate of new infections slowing. But experts warn the chances of a resurgence are high, with Friday marking the start of the religious holiday. They added that the testing rate remains one of the lowest in the world, making it difficult to assess the path of the epidemic.

Iran has recorded 2,636 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 298,909. Iran plans to allow annual university entrance exams and mass religious mourning ceremonies to take place this summer even as the coronavirus kills record numbers of people and cases continue to surge. President Hassan Rouhani said ritual public mourning processions, due at the end of August during the Shia holy month of Muharram, will go ahead “while implementing complete health protocols,” according to Iranian state media.

Iraq’s Ministry of Health reported at least 2,968 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. This is a new record in daily cases. The total number of cases in Iraq now stands at 118,300.

The Health Ministry is planning to allow Israeli citizens returning from “green” countries to enter without being required to take a coronavirus test and enter quarantine, Itamar Grotto, deputy director-general of the ministry, said in a Knesset committee meeting.

Muslims started their first pilgrimage ritual for Hajj during the pandemic inside Mecca’s Grand Mosque on Wednesday, with “safety bubbles” and social distancing procedures heavily enforced to further protect worshippers from the spread of the coronavirus, the Saudi health ministry told CNN. 

Australian biotechnology company Vaxine Pty Ltd expects to start Phase II trials of its potential COVID-19 vaccine in the next few weeks after “positive” results from the first stage human study, chairman Nikolai Petrovsky said on Wednesday.

The US military has increased restrictions on its personnel in Okinawa to stop the spread of COVID-19, the top American military official in Japan said in a virtual press conference Wednesday. 

South Korea is imposing tighter controls on Russian crew members intending to dock in its ports from 3rd August, according to the country’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Gambian President Adama Barrow started to self-isolate Wednesday for two weeks after his deputy contracted the coronavirus. Vice President Isatou Touray, 65, tested positive for COVID-19, the presidency said in a Twitter post. A presidential spokeswoman couldn’t say if Barrow, 55, had been tested for the virus, when reached by phone in the capital, Banjul. The West African country, which shut its air borders since 23rd March, reported 246 cases, including eight deaths as of Tuesday.

Thailand’s Cabinet extended the country’s state of emergency for a fourth time, by one month through 31st August, an expected decision aimed at keeping the country’s COVID-19 count to one of the lowest in Asia, according to a government spokeswoman. The country hasn’t detected any new coronavirus cases from local transmission for about two months. Overall, it has reported 3,298 cases and 58 deaths from the virus, but officials said they are wary as new outbreaks have occurred in other places, including Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Indonesia reported 2,381 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, taking its total to 104,432, data from the country’s COVID-19 task force showed.