COVID-19 Apocalypse: Worldwide cases exceed 40m, Czech Republic to wait two weeks before ordering full lockdown, mask mandate in Switzerland


18th October 2020 – (Hong Kong) Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 40,056,558 with 1,115,899 deaths as of 10.15pm today.


Cities in the UK, France, Spain are resisting centralized efforts to impose tighter regulations, with days of tense negotiations ongoing as infections increase. London and Paris enforced tighter curbs.

Wales could go into a lockdown starting next Friday 6 p.m. London time, the Confederation of Passenger Transport said in a letter to its members. All but essential retail would have to close. The Welsh government may announce the measures on Monday, it said. A Welsh government spokesperson told Sky that “no decisions have been made.”

The Czech Republic, which has the highest coronavirus infection rate in Europe, will wait at least two weeks before deciding whether to order a full lockdown to stem its epidemic, Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlicek said on Sunday. In the past week, bars and restaurants have been ordered to close except for takeout orders, and schools have been shifted to distance learning. Sport and fitness clubs, theatres and cinemas had already been shut, but shops have remained open. The Czech Republic recorded 8,713 new coronavirus cases, the highest number ever reported during the weekend since the pandemic began. It’s almost double of what was reported last Saturday. There is less testing on weekends. The total death toll rose to 1,352 on Saturday, making the country the worst-hit in Europe when adjusted for population.

 Switzerland announced tighter restrictions on Sunday to tackle the recent spike in coronavirus cases, including a national obligation to wear masks and a ban on large scale public gatherings. Switzerland announced on Sunday a series of measures including a mask mandate to curb the spread of COVID-19, to go into effect on Monday.

Ireland will bring in “decisive” nationwide COVID-19 restrictions on Monday but will stop short of reintroducing the kind of lockdown imposed earlier this year, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said on Sunday. The government rejected a recommendation by health chiefs two weeks ago to jump Level 5, the highest level of COVID-19 curbs, and instead tightened restrictions in a varied regional approach that Harris said was no longer sufficient.

Hit by a plunge in turnover after foreign tourists vanished, Michelin-starred Hungarian restaurant Costes has staged a skyline dining event on the Budapest Eye ferris wheel to generate sales in a coronavirus-proof environment. Costes owner Karoly Gerendai said that turnover at one of his reopened restaurants is down to about a tenth of pre-lockdown levels, forcing him to look for new ways to do business.

A resident at Casa Santa Marta, the building in the Vatican that houses the Pope and other clergy, has tested positive for COVID-19.  

Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic announced plans Saturday to test everyone aged 10 years and over in the country for COVID-19, Slovakian news agency TASR reported. After seeing a recent surge of infections across Slovakia, Matovic explained that it was his belief the only way to contain the outbreak is through mass testing.   According to TASR, Matovic said “testing will be free-of-charge” for the population of 5.4 million. The campaign is expected to take place over two weekends starting at the end of October. 

Belgium reported a rising 14-day COVID-19 incident rate, 691 per 100,000, even as new cases grew less than in recent days. The government has boosted measures to battle the virus, introducing a night curfew and ordering all restaurants to close from Monday.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is readying new measures to stem the coronavirus resurgence as millions across Europe face tighter restrictions on movement.

The curfew that began this weekend in Paris and eight other French cities should help curb the coronavirus outbreak without the damage that comes from a national lockdown, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in an interview in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.“The challenge is to face up to it without resorting to a broad lockdown, across the whole country and for a long time,” Castex told the paper. “I want to avoid it.” France reported a record 32,427 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier entered quarantine after a bodyguard tested positive for the virus Saturday, a spokeswoman said. Steinmeier’s first test result was negative but he will be tested again.

Poland registered 8,536 new coronavirus cases and the death toll continued to climb. The country had 649 respirators in use, compared with 383 a week earlier.

U.S. and Canada

According to CNN, there is nearly no place in America where COVID-19 case counts are trending in the right direction as the country heads into what health experts say will be the most challenging months of the pandemic.The US is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day,up more than 60% since a mid-September dip and experts say the country is in the midst of the dreaded fall surge. On Friday, the US reported the most infections in a single day since July. As of Saturday, more than 8.1 million cases of the virus had been reported in the US and 219,286 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Health Secretary Alex Azar blamed a rise in US coronavirus cases on “mitigation fatigue,” and he said he wished more seniors had worn masks at an indoor event President Trump held in Fort Myers, Florida, on Friday.  

Twitter has removed a tweet from White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Scott Atlas that sought to undermine the importance of face masks because it was in violation of the platform’s COVID-19 Misleading Information Policy, a spokesman for the company confirmed on Sunday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin must reach an agreement within 48 hours if they want to pass a stimulus bill before Election Day. 

The US state of New Mexico is experiencing a 101% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations so far this month, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a tweet Saturday. 

China and Hong Kong

 Thailand reported three additional locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, a day after reporting its first local infections in more than a month. Only 4 cases reported in Hong Kong today.

Elsewhere in the world

Thailand reported five new local virus transmissions in two days from the Tak province, which borders Myanmar, including that of a 1-year-old child. The patients are related and are citizens of Myanmar.

Israel has begun easing some of the restrictions imposed last month during the country’s second general lockdown, as the number of daily coronavirus cases continues to fall.

Australia’s state of Victoria, the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, will see more freedom of movement as of Monday after months-long restrictions, but retailers and restaurants must wait longer, making some of the owners unhappy.

India reported 61,871 new cases in a day, while deaths reached 114,031, the third highest in the world.Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked officials to prepare for speedy distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.

An Auckland man tested positive for the virus Saturday, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield. People the man had contact with when he may have been infectious have been placed in isolation.

 Thailand reported three additional locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, a day after reporting its first local infections in more than a month.

Singapore reported seven new COVID-19 cases as of noon on Sunday, bringing the national total to 57,911.

Malaysian health authorities reported 871 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.

Information compiled from REUTERS, CNN, CNA and Bloomberg.