Slovakia reports highest daily cases
Covid deaths pass 10,000 in Belgium
Ukraine records daily cases high
New York introduces face mask fines as positivity rates climb
US children increasingly affected by coronavirus
60m Indians may have contracted Covid
Slovakia’s government has approved a state emergency to help combat a spike in new coronavirus cases.
Prime minister Igor Matovic said on Facebook the measure would be effective from Thursday.
The state of emergency, which is set to last 45 days, gives the government greater powers to implement stricter measures but does not automatically mean a return to a strict lockdown such as that imposed at the outset of the pandemic.
Oxford University is to trial the world’s best-selling prescription medicine, adalimumab, as a treatment for Covid-19 patients, in the latest effort to repurpose existing drugs as potential coronavirus therapies.
Adalimumab, sold by AbbVie under the brand name Humira, is a type of anti-inflammatory known as an anti-tumour necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drug.
Recent studies have shown that coronavirus patients already taking anti-TNF drugs for inflammatory bowel disease and inflammatory arthritis are less likely to be admitted to hospital, Oxford said in a statement.
The trial, called AVID-CC, will be aimed at treating people in the community, especially in care homes, the university said on Wednesday. It will enrol up to 750 patients from community care settings throughout the UK.
The availability of biosimilar versions of the medicine, used for over two decades as an anti-flammatory, would make it affordable and accessible if the trial is successful, it said.
Research has identified some treatments for hospitalised COVID-19 patients, including Gilead’s remdesivir as well as the generic steroid drug dexamethasone.
But there are not yet effective therapies for people who are not admitted to hospital. Care homes were particularly hard hit by the first wave of Covid-19 in the UK and other countries.
India’s longest spell of clean air on record came to an end this month as New Delhi, the world’s most polluted capital city, recorded a significant deterioration in air quality, partly due to crop waste burning by farmers.
Up until September, New Delhi and its satellite cities, which last year accounted for half of the dozen most-polluted cities worldwide, had enjoyed respite due to the strict nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
But a pick-up in economic activity and a slightly early start to crop waste burning, a significant source of pollution during the winter months, has made the air more toxic again.
“The gains which we had seen because of the lockdown are lost in September,” said Sachchida Nand Tripathi, a professor at the IIT Kanpur and a member of the National Clear Air Mission, a federal body.
In September, the concentration of poisonous PM2.5 particles in a cubic metre of air averaged at 47.64 micrograms, more than 17% higher from the same month last year, according to a Reuters analysis of government data, indicating a “poor” rating.
That is almost twice the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO), though it is still below the safety level of 60 micrograms set by Safar, India’s environment monitoring agency.
In Punjab state, to the north of New Delhi, there were about 70 crop fires in September, more than double the number in the same month last year, according to a study by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur in northern India.
Sri Lanka’s cricket Premier League tournament, due to feature some of the world’s best-known players, has been put off a second time due to strict quarantine rules for foreign players, the game’s national governing body said today.
The 23-match Lanka Premier League (LPL), originally due to start in August, was rescheduled for 14 November, but has now been delayed by one more week, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) said.
It said the shift was to “ensure that participating players have adequate time to meet quarantine requirements as per the government’s health regulations”.
Sri Lanka’s insistence on two weeks’ quarantine for any visitor to the country forced the Bangladesh national team to call off its three-Test tour of the island due to start next month.
The Tests in October-November were meant to mark the two nations’ return to international cricket after a months-long lockdown halted professional sports worldwide.
SLC said the auction of players for the LPL, which was due on Thursday, had also been postponed, to 9 October.
Five teams – named after the Sri Lankan cities of Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Dambulla and Jaffna – are due to take part in the tournament.
SLC said 30 foreigners, including Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy, Darren Bravo, Shahid Afridi and Shakib Al Hasan, would be available for the LPL.
International cricket came to a halt in Sri Lanka on 13 March. The visiting England team pulled out on the second day of a practice match ahead of their two-test series as the coronavirus pandemic spread.
Since then, South Africa has also cancelled a scheduled tour of Sri Lanka.
European Union nations should step up surveillance against possible outbreaks of avian flu among wild and domestic birds, the EU has warned today amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Bird flu is highly contagious for birds, but risks of transmission to humans are considered low, EU health and food agencies said in a report published as the continent battles a new spike of coronavirus infections. It said:
EU countries are being urged to step up surveillance and biosecurity measures to guard against possible new outbreaks of avian influenza this year.
The warning follows outbreaks over the past few months among wild and domestic birds in western Russia and Kazakhstan, which are on the autumn migration route for wild water birds heading to Europe.
Transmission to humans is rare, but has occurred in the past and can lead to death. The report said:
The risk of transmission of avian influenza viruses to the general public in Europe remains very low.
However, to minimise the risk of transmission to humans, people are advised not to not touch dead birds without wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.
Austrian prosecutors said today they have placed four people under investigation in connection with a quarantine and other restrictions imposed at the ski resort of Ischgl in March because of a massive coronavirus outbreak.
Thousands were infected at the resort that called itself the “Ibiza of the Alps”, many of them foreign tourists who brought the virus home before the first case was detected there on 7 March. Austria’s public health agency believes the virus arrived there a month earlier, spreading in crowded bars.
Prosecutors in the provincial capital Innsbruck have been investigating whether anyone in Ischgl endangered others by, for example, failing to report a case before 7 March. But today’s announcement appears to be in relation to the quarantine and other measures taken on 13 March.
The prosecutor’s office said in a statement:“In particular the implementation of decrees relating to traffic restrictions in Ischgl and the quarantine in the Paznaun Valley are being examined more closely. Four people are being investigated as suspects in relation to that.
A private consumer rights group has brought civil lawsuits against Austria, arguing the authorities should have acted sooner and more decisively to prevent the outbreak, which occurred before a national lockdown in mid-March.
Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced an immediate quarantine in Ischgl and its valley on 13 March, but tourists were allowed out in a hastily arranged process that the consumer rights group described as “chaotic”.
Officials in Tyrol, the province that includes Ischgl, say they acted appropriately given what was known at the time.
Slovakia reports highest daily cases
Slovakia has reported 567 new coronavirus cases, the largest single-day tally in the country since the Covid-19 pandemic started this year, health ministry data showed today.
The central European country of 5.5 million people has one of Europe’s lowest death tolls from the disease and kept case numbers low during an initial wave in March and April. But like other countries it has recently faced a spike in cases and has limited public events and taken other measures to fight the spread of the virus.
Indonesia has reported 4,284 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections to 287,008, data from the country’s Covid-19 task force showed.
There were also 139 additional coronavirus-related deaths reported, taking the total number of fatalities to 10,740.
Russia has reported 8,481 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, pushing the nationwide tally to 1,176,286.
Authorities said 177 people had died, bringing the official death toll to 20,722.
The UK economy’s record contraction in the second quarter was slightly less severe than first thought, but the 19.8% plunge still saw Britain suffer the worst slump of any major economy.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revised the second quarter figure from an earlier estimate of 20.4%, while updated figures also showed a steeper contraction of 2.5% between January and March. It previously estimated that GDP fell 2.2% in the first quarter.
Despite the revisions, the UK still tumbled into the largest recession since current records began and fared worse in the second quarter than any of its advanced economic counterparts.
The ONS said:
While it is still true that these early estimates are prone to revision, we prefer to focus on the magnitude of the contraction that has taken place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is clear that the UK is in the largest recession on record.
The latest estimates show that the UK economy is now 21.8% smaller than it was at the end of 2019, highlighting the unprecedented size of this contraction.
Since the nadir of the recession in April, GDP has grown for three months in a row but has only made up about half of the ground lost during the pandemic, according to the ONS.
There was a record-breaking 23.6% fall in household spending during the lockdown between April and June, which economist Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics said was “at the root of the UK’s underperformance”.
Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said it has agreed to supply 25m doses of its potential Covid-19 vaccine to Egypt via Pharco, which it described as one of the country’s leading pharmaceutical groups.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund has struck several deals to supply the Sputnik V vaccine abroad, including 100m doses to India where it also expects to hold clinical trials.
Covid deaths pass 10,000 in Belgium
Belgium, one of the European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, said today its death toll from the pandemic has surpassed 10,000.
The country, which has a population of 11.5 million, recorded 14 more deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the total to 10,001.
Reported infections rose to 117,115 from 115,353, the Sciensano research institute said.
Since the start of the pandemic seven months ago, Belgian authorities have included as wide a number of cases as possible in the toll, adding fatalities in hospitals and care homes, and those people whose deaths may have been caused by the virus but were not tested.
During the peak of the pandemic in April, Belgium recorded more than 250 deaths daily over about 10 days, according to Sciensano.
Since the summer, testing capacity has been stepped up, leading to a sharp rise in the number of positive cases recorded, particularly in September when people returned to work and school after the summer holidays.
The daily number of deaths has increased since the start of this month, going from three to an average of seven to eight in recent days, with the elderly and those in poor health increasingly among those infected.
Older people in about 1,500 care homes have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. These facilities have recorded around half of the deaths, according to official figures. This rises to around two-thirds if residents of care homes who died in hospital are included, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Israel’s parliament has today approved a law restricting demonstrations as part of a coronavirus-related state of emergency that critics say is aimed at silencing protests against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The law, which passed its final reading by 46 votes to 38, was meant to be part of a slew of measures approved by parliament on Friday tightening a second nationwide lockdown. But debate on the measure was put off as the government struggled to secure the necessary votes amid an opposition outcry and a protest outside parliament.
The lockdown, which went into force on 18 September, shuts the majority of workplaces, markets, places of worship, schools and cultural venues.
It also bans journeys of more than 0.6 miles (1km) from home, other than for essential purposes such as buying food and medicine or receiving medical treatment.
The new law gives the government powers to declare a “special emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic” for renewable periods of one week.
During that time, the 1-kilometre limit on travel will apply to demonstrations, and there will also be restrictions on numbers.
The state of emergency can be declared only during a lockdown. The government has yet to use those powers, but with more than 237,000 coronavirus infections and 1,528 deaths in a population of nine million, Israel currently has the world’s highest weekly infection rate per capita.
Meir Cohen of main opposition party Yesh Atid-Telem condemned the new controls on demonstrations as a “slippery slope”, while Yair Golan of the leftwing Meretz party warned that the new law “won’t stop the demonstrations”.
“The anger growing in the streets will find its way out,” he said.
In recent months, weekly protests have been held outside Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence demanding that he quit over his management of the pandemic and his ongoing trial on corruption charges.
Ukraine records daily cases high
Ukraine registered a record 4,027 cases of new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the national security council said today, up from a previous record of 3,833 new cases reported on Saturday.
When the daily tally of coronavirus infections spiked above 3,000 earlier this month, the government extended lockdown measures until the end of October.
The council said a total of 208,959 cases were registered in Ukraine as of today with 4,129 deaths.