COVID-19 Apocalypse: U.K. records 18,980 new cases, HK Express’ flight to nowhere condemned by environmentalists, curfew in Paris


16th October 2020 – (Hong Kong) Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 38,947,112 with 1,099,629 deaths as of 12.30am today.


European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen said she was leaving the European Union summit in Brussels, less than an hour after it started, because she had been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and would go into quarantine.

The United Kingdom recorded 18,980 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 138 deaths of people who had tested positive for the virus within 28 days, government data showed. The daily cases figure was down from 19,724 a day earlier, while the number of deaths was stable.  London, the world’s international financial capital, will enter a tighter COVID-19 lockdown from midnight on Friday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson seeks to tackle a swiftly accelerating second coronavirus wave. Londoners will be banned from mixing with other households indoors from this weekend as tighter coronavirus restrictions are imposed in an attempt to curb a rise in cases in the capital.

 Queen Elizabeth II carried out her first major engagement since the United Kingdom’s coronavirus lockdown began in March, visiting the Porton Down military research facility on Thursday.

France imposed a curfew in Paris as Germany and Italy posted record increases in new infections, as Europe’s leaders intensified efforts to stem an unrelenting surge in coronavirus cases. President Emmanuel Macron will confine residents of nine of the country’s biggest cities to their homes between 9pm and 6am for four weeks starting on Saturday.

Clinical trials of an experimental vaccine against COVID-19 which is being developed by France’s Sanofi and US biotech firm Translate Bio are on track to begin before the end of the year after positive results in tests on animals.

The Czech Republic will start building capacity for COVID-19 patients outside of hospitals, officials said on Thursday, as the country faces the fastest rate of infections in Europe. Coronavirus cases have nearly doubled in October alone to a total of 139,290. The Health Ministry reported 9,544 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, its highest one-day tally. The country needs to start building alternative health-care facilities in places such as stadiums and spas as soon as this weekend to relieve hospitals facing the threat of being overrun with covid patients, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said.

Ronaldo could have violated Italian coronavirus measures by returning to Turin from Portugal after testing positive, Italy’s sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora said on Thursday. Ronaldo left the Portuguese team camp near Lisbon on Wednesday to fly back to northern Italy on his private jet.

Police raided the homes and offices of France’s health minister, its public health director and former prime minister on Thursday as part of a judicial investigation into the country’s response to the coronavirus crisis. The probe was launched in July following dozens of complaints by doctors, local authorities and nursing homes. It aims to establish whether those in charge at the start of the outbreak showed a “lack of will to fight a disaster”.

Italy’s cases reached a daily record on Thursday, rising to 8,804, compared with 7,332 the previous day. About 163,000 tests were carried out, and 83 deaths related to COVID-19 were reported, bringing the total to 36,372. Patients in intensive care units rose by 47 to 586.

Polish doctors have called on the government to provide more support to the country’s overwhelmed healthcare system as daily coronavirus cases soared to over 8,000 for the first time on Thursday, hitting a record for the second straight day. The nation reported a record 8,099 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 149,903. The death toll rose by 91 to 3,308, the Health Ministry said. The number of people hospitalized with the disease rose to 6,538 from 6,084 the previous day and up from 4,138 a week earlier.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands exceeded 200,000, doubling in less than a month, after 7,833 patients, a new daily record, were reported Thursday, Dutch news agency ANP said, citing health agency RIVM. Hospitals in the Netherlands on Thursday (Oct 15) said they would ask their German counterparts to take patients after the number of those hospitalised with the coronavirus doubled in the past week, to 1,526.

Portugal on Thursday reported the biggest daily increase in confirmed virus cases since the start of the outbreak. There were 2,101 new infections in a day, more than the previous record of 2,072 reported on Wednesday. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s top health official warned that the recent surge in coronavirus infections is threatening Germany’s ability to track cases and check the spread of the disease.

Austria reported a record 1,552 new infections on Thursday, bringing the 7-day incidence to 92 per 100,000 people. Capital Vienna, Tyrol and Salzburg all have an incidence of above 100.

U.S. and Canada

Oil prices slipped over 2% on Thursday as new restrictions to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections increased uncertainty over the outlook for economic growth and a recovery in fuel demand.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said a massive testing effort inside areas of increasing COVID-19 had shown a leveling off of new infections, but more must be done to stave off a second wave of the pandemic in the most populous US city.

The antibody cocktail U.S. President Donald Trump credited for his swift coronavirus recovery won’t become widely available because it’s impossible to make enough for everyone who might need it, according to the Swiss pharmaceutical giant working on scaling up production. “We’ll never be able to produce enough,” said Bill Anderson, drugs chief at Roche Holding AG, which is working together with U.S. biotech Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. on the project. 

China and Hong Kong

Singapore and Hong Kong will create a travel bubble that exempts people from both cities from quarantine, an agreement that will re-open links between Asia’s two premier financial hubs.

China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. may start COVID-19 vaccine trials in the Philippines before the end of the year, the chief of the Southeast Asian nation’s food and drug agency said.

Hong Kong’s budget carrier HK Express joined airlines offering “flight to nowhere” on Thursday with an inaugural journey filled with media and influencers, sparking criticism from environmentalists. Tom Ng, a campaigner from Greenpeace Hong Kong, criticised nowhere flights as “an unnecessary campaign that only does harm to the environment”. “These flights serve no actual purpose but only wasting energy. They run in the oppositive direction of environmental protection,” Ng said, calling for the airliner to call off the future flights.

Almost 10 million people in the Chinese city of Qingdao have now been screened for the coronavirus, officials said Thursday, as authorities rushed to quash an outbreak through an ambitious programme of mass testing.

Elsewhere in the world

Russia is going to miss its target of making 30 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine this year due to setbacks maintaining the serum’s stability while expanding production. “The main task is to scale up production,” Industry Minister Denis Manturov said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “To have 30 million doses by year-end is impossible, it is nonsense.”

Sinovac Biotech may start late-stage trials of its coronavirus vaccine in the Philippines as early as next month, its food and drugs agency chief said on Thursday, after it hurdled the initial stage of the country’s screening process.

Covid infections are rising again in parts of the Middle East, posing a fresh threat to the region’s economies already battered by the collapse in oil prices.

New coronavirus cases confirmed in Israel in a single day slipped below 2,000, one of the targets cited by officials for easing lockdown restrictions. 

Indonesia overtook the Philippines in the number of coronavirus cases, becoming the country with the largest outbreak in Southeast Asia. Indonesia added 4,411 new cases in the 24 hours to midday 15th October, bringing the total to 349,160, according to the health ministry.

India reported 67,708 additional coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the nation’s total to 7.31 million. 

Genting Cruise Lines said on Thursday (Oct 15) that it is recruiting Singaporeans to work on its ship World Dream, just weeks before the commencement of a pilot scheme allowing two cruise lines to resume services with enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols. 

More than 100 jobs will be available, covering all aspects of cruise ship operations, including marine officers, galley chefs, media technicians, as well as hospitality staff such as “cruise ambassadors” who will be in charge of guest relations. 

Three new COVID-19 cases were reported in Singapore as of noon on Thursday, with one dormitory infection and two imported cases. 

Information compiled from REUTERS, CNN, CNA and Bloomberg.