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World clamps down as Covid-19 refuses to release its grip

Medical staff members treat a patient at the Covid-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Picture: Go Nakamura/Bloomberg

Medical staff members treat a patient at the Covid-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Picture: Go Nakamura/Bloomberg

Published Nov 14, 2020


The flaring virus is shutting down more of the globe. Austria announced tighter lockdown measures, while Greece cancelled school and Moscow closed bars and restaurants. Tehran will close non-essential businesses. Istanbul’s mayor called for a shutdown of two to three weeks.

New York City’s positive-test rate remained below the threshold set to close public schools. North Dakota, long reluctant to impose restrictions even as it became one of the hardest-hit states, will now require wearing masks. Other states toughened rules as the US reached almost 200 000 daily infections, another record.

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Hong Kong is imposing stricter social-distancing curbs and will require some mandatory testing.

UK Cases, Deaths Outpace Previous Seven Days

The UK reported new cases and deaths Saturday that were above the seven-day average. Another 26 860 cases were reported, compared to the weekly average of 24 430, and 462 fatalities compared with 404 over the previous seven days. New infections have stayed above 25 000 for three straight days.

Austria Toughens Lockdown as Soft Measures Fail

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Austria will shut down schools, most stores and services such as hairdressers starting Tuesday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, after attempts to rely on self-discipline and moderate restrictions failed to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

The new measures come two weeks after a soft lockdown similar to Germany’s was imposed that left large parts of the economy and society open. With Austria’s infections spiking, Kurz said he hoped to end the latest measures on Dec. 6 to allow some sort of Christmas celebrations.

“Don’t meet anybody,” Kurz said at a news conference from the chancellery in Vienna on Saturday. “Every social contact is one too many.”

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NYC Positive Rate Remains Below Level to Close Schools

New York City’s seven-day positivity average declined to 2.47%, from 2.83% the previous day. Mayor Bill de Blasio had warned parents yesterday to prepare for in-person schooling to close as soon as Monday. A seven-day positivity rate of 3% would trigger a shutdown, according to a threshold set by de Blasio. “We’re still below 3%, but that could change,” he said on Twitter. “We MUST fight back a second wave to keep our schools open.”

Istanbul Mayor Calls for Shutdown

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A shutdown of two to three weeks should be implemented in Istanbul as the city accounts for more than 50% of the coronavirus cases in Turkey, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said.

Imamoglu, who recently recovered from coronavirus himself, said that the city’s Science Advisory Board is recommending a shutdown followed by a controlled re-opening.

The mayor’s call comes after Turkey reported 3,045 new Covid-19 patients and 93 deaths, both the highest since the end of April.

Spain to Extend Grace Periods on State Loans

Spain plans to extend grace periods for credits from state lender ICO at its cabinet meeting next week, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said in an online forum. The positive news about Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine candidate will help remove uncertainty about the course of the pandemic that threatened to cloud the economic outlook, she said. Spain’s economy may shrink more than 11% in 2020.

North Dakota Imposes Mask Mandate

North Dakota, long reluctant to impose restrictions even as it became one of the hardest-hit states, will now require wearing masks.

Governor Doug Burgum announced the state-wide mandate along with other measures Friday night in a video, noting that hospital capacity was straining and that the state had crossed the “tragic milestone” of 700 deaths. Hours were limited for bars and restaurants, capacity for events was reduced and winter sports were paused.

Germany to Pay 22 Billion Euros in Relief Aid

Germany expects to pay out 22 billion euros ($26 billion) in coronavirus relief aid to companies and self-employed in the first half of 2021, Reuters reports, citing sources it doesn’t identify. A support package for this month is also going to be bigger than anticipated and amount to 14 billion euros after the country imposed new lockdown measures, according to the report. Despite spiraling costs of containing the crisis, Germany last week raised its forecast for tax revenue this year and next.

Separately, the country reported the smallest increase in the number of coronavirus cases in four days. That brought its total to 785 093. Accumulated deaths rose to 12 404, 188 more than on Friday.

Hungary Aids Home Study With Free Web Service

Prime Minister Viktor Orban decided to offer free Internet services for 30 days to students who were pushed into remote education earlier this week. The step was one of several curbs intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus as hospitals are filling up. Covid-19 deaths reported Saturday reached an earlier record of 107, with 4,836 new cases.

Croatia Orders Vaccine Doses from Astra, J&J, Pfizer

Croatia ordered 2.7 million C19 vaccine doses from AstraZeneca PCA, 900 000 shots from Johnson & Johnson and 1 million from Pfizer Inc., Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told reporters on Saturday. The country will get a share of the 300 million doses allocated for the European Union from Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline Plc, he said.

France Prepares Long-Term Anti-Virus Strategy

France is working on a strategy against Covid-19 to be used until next summer, as the nation needs to adopt long-term rules to live with the virus until a vaccine is found, French Prime Minister Jean Castex told daily Le Monde in an interview published on Saturday.

The strategy will be unveiled late this month and would not allow large gatherings in halls for “a long time,” Castex said.

Switzerland Advised to Close Bars, Restaurants

Switzerland’s academic expert group recommended the federal government close bars and restaurants, among other measures. The body said steps taken so far hadn’t caused a trend reversal in infections.

While the city of Geneva has shuttered swathes of activity, the Swiss government is pursuing a targeted approach to avoid shutting down the economy.

Poland’s New Daily Cases Drop From Week Earlier

Poland’s new cases rose about 6% to 25 571 in the last 24 hours. Compared with a week earlier, however, daily new infections registered a 5.5% drop.

New cases are below a threshold set by the government for full lockdown, which is when they rise 70-75 daily per 100 000 people over a 7-day period, or about 26 850 per day. Daily deaths increased by 548 to 10 045.

China’s Fifth Vaccine Candidate to Phase 3 Trial

China’s fifth Covid-19 vaccine candidate has entered a phase-3 trial, state media Xinhua reported, citing the Uzbek government. The vaccine was developed by China’s Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical and was delivered to Uzbekistan, where 5 000 local volunteers will take part for a year, according to local ministry.

The news marks another Chinese vaccine developer to join the forefront players of the global race, along with the country’s Sinopharm, Cansino, and Sinovac.

Greece Closes Schools for Two Weeks

Greece decided to close all schools that remained open for two weeks beginning Monday, except for those educating special-needs children. Secondary and high schools were closed on November 9.

The government has already put in place a national lockdown and a night curfew through November.

Iran to Close Non-essential Businesses in Tehran

Iran will close all non-essential businesses in the capital Tehran and some 100 other high-infection cities for two weeks. The mandate takes effect next Saturday.

Schools and universities in red zones will also be shut, religious gatherings will be banned and staff at workplaces will be reduced to one-third.

Separately, Iran has started the human trial of two home-grown vaccines for Covid-19, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Italy Extends ‘Red Zone’ to Florence, Naples

The country extended its soft lockdown to the regions of Florence and Naples as new cases continued soaring across the country. Health minister Roberto Speranza wrote in a Facebook post Friday evening that Campania and Tuscany will become “red zones,” where bars and restaurants are closed, and leaving home is only allowed for essential reasons.

The three-tier regional lockdown system will likely to continue for the entire winter, the deputy health minister said Friday. New cases jumped 8% to a record 40 902 Friday.

Hong Kong Tightens Restrictions

The Hong Kong government will tighten social-distancing restrictions and introduce mandatory testing for some groups after locally transmitted Covid-19 cases rose in the past week.

The new measures, which mostly affect bars and restaurants, will be in place from Monday until Nov. 26, the city’s Food and Health Secretary, Sophia Chan, said at a press conference.

Russia Records Record Number of New Cases

Russia reported a record 22 702 new Covid-19 infections in the past day, as Moscow closed bars and restaurants overnight to slow the spread of the virus. Nightlife venues were ordered to shut down from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Friday until mid-January.

Moscow, the pandemic’s epicentre in Russia, has moved students to online lessons and told employers to keep most workers at home. Still, the authorities have resisted a lockdown like the one put in place during the initial wave in the spring. Russia has recorded the fifth-most cases worldwide, with 1.9 million.

Belgium Hospitalizations Rise

Belgium reported more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 14,106. Another 513 people were admitted to hospital, up from 399 the day before.

The number of patients in intensive care rose to 1 457, an increase of 5. The 14-day virus incidence rate has been falling since the introduction of lockdown measures last month, down to 1 104 per 100 000.

Diwali Gold-Buying Frenzy Missing on Key Day for Indian Demand

Gold jewelry stores in India this year were less busy on the most auspicious day to buy the precious metal as higher prices and the impact of the coronavirus on incomes and fears of the pandemic kept consumers away.

Sales were expected to be about 65%-70% of last year’s levels, according to the All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council.

Greggs to Cut More Than 800 Jobs Amid Virus Lockdown

The UK bakery chain won’t be profitable as a business if sales continue at the rates they have been during the lockdown, Sky News reported, citing a statement on the company’s employee information website.

Operation Warp Speed Should Be Allowed Contact With Biden’s Team

Head of the Operation Warp Speed Initiative Moncef Slaoui asked the White House to allow contact with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team so that the project could continue during the transfer of power, the Financial Times reported.

Operation Warp Speed, which is overseeing the development of five potential vaccines, can’t reach out to the transition team without a green light from the White House, according to the report.

South Korea New Cases Top 200 for First Time Since September

South Korea reports 205 new coronavirus cases Saturday vs. 191 a day earlier, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. The number of total cases is 28 338.

There were 166 locally infected, with 63 new cases in Seoul and 46 in Gyeonggi province. Total deaths rose by four to 492.

US Infections Break Record Again

US cases rose by a record Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The tally was 190 059, and Friday was the ninth consecutive day with more than 100 000 cases. Deaths increased to 2 238, the most since late June.

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