Brazil approached 5 million confirmed Covid-19 cases on Wednesday as it neared 150,000 deaths in the second most deadly coronavirus outbreak outside the United States.
Though the number of cases has come down from a peak in July, public health experts warn that Brazil is ignoring social distancing precautions and faces the danger of a second wave by returning to normal everyday life too quickly.
The health ministry reported on Tuesday 41,906 new cases, raising the total to 4,969,141, and 819 death, bringing the toll to 147,494 dead.
The rolling daily average for last week was 658 deaths a day, down from 1,073 deaths per day in the last week of July. Average new cases were 26,140 day, almost half the rate of late July.
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro epidemiologist Roberto Medronho cautioned that the numbers could be much higher if testing for Covid-19 was more widespread. He told Reuters:
Soon we will reach 150,0000 deaths, a frightening number. We are seeing the authorities easing social distancing more and more despite the number of cases.
Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has played down the gravity of the virus, even though he was infected and had to isolate for two weeks. Bolsonaro has opposed lockdowns and encourage Brazilians to get back to their normal lives so the economy can recover from what is expected to be its deepest annual slump on record.
As winter ends and tropical temperatures rise, Brazilians are gathering on crowded beaches and in bars and restaurants without taking precautions, Medronho warned.
I fear we’ll have a second wave like in Europe, which is a big concern for public health officials.
The French president Emmanuel Macron has said there will be new restrictions to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, as the country reported a new all-time high, at almost 19,000, of new infections of the disease.
“In places where the disease is circulating too quickly (…) there will be new restrictions”, Macron said during an interview aired on France’s two main television channels.
There will be more on this as we get it.
The US state of Wisconsin will open a field hospital outside of Milwaukee to deal with the surge in Covid-19 cases that have overwhelmed hospitals across the state, the governor Tony Evers said on Wednesday.
The hospital will open within the next week after hospitalisations across the state nearly tripled over the last month. There were 853 patients hospitalised with Covid-19 as of Tuesday, an increase of 71 from the day before, Evers said in a statement.
French health authorities reported 18,746 new confirmed Covid-19 cases over 24 hours on Wednesday, a new all-time daily high, and almost double of Tuesday’s tally of 10,489.
The number of people who have died from Covid-19 was up by 80, at 32,445, and the cumulative number of cases now totals 653,509.
The French government has put in place restrictions all over the country – including bars in Paris being ordered to close at 10pm – to contain the second wave of the disease and prevent the hospital system from being overwhelmed.
Here’s a quick recap of the latest coronavirus developments across the globe from the last few hours.
- France Covid-19 hospitalisations at a three-month high. French health authorities said more than 7,500 patients are being treated in hospital for Covid-19, marking a three-month high and an increase of more than 65% versus a 29 August low point of 4,530.
- Brussels closes cafes and bars in new virus curbs. All bars, cafes and event halls in Brussels have been told they must shut down for at least a month as of 7am on Thursday as the Belgian capital went beyond recently tightened national restrictions in Belgium.
- Top US immunologist quits health role over Trump Covid response. The ousted director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine has quit his post at the National Institutes of Health, charging that the Trump administration “ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists”.
- Scotland’s pubs banned from serving alcohol inside for 16 days. First minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a nationwide ban on drinking indoors in licensed premises in Scotland for more than two weeks, with a full shutdown of all premises across the central belt where infection rates are accelerating most rapidly
- Berlin nightlife given first curfew in 70 years as Covid cases surge. Berlin’s nightlife is facing a closing time for the first time in 70 years as the party-loving German capital seeks to contain spiralling coronavirus infection rates.
- Italy tops 3,000 daily coronavirus cases for first time since April. Italy’s coronavirus infections jumped by 1,000 to 3,678 on Wednesday – the highest daily tally since the middle of April. There were 31 new fatalities, bringing the total to 36,061. The country made it mandatory to wear face masks outdoors nationwide.
- Singapore to offer baby bonus as people put plans on hold in Covid crisis. Singapore plans to offer a one-off payment to encourage couples to have a baby during the coronavirus pandemic, fearing that the economic impact of the outbreak is worsening the city state’s already low birth rate.
That’s it from me today, I’m now handing over to my colleague Lucy Campbell.
Leading Irish health officials have warned that all indicators of the spread of Covid-19 are deteriorating, and that a surge in hospitalisations could become a very significant challenge to Irish society in the coming weeks.
Ireland has reported an average of 493 cases over the past seven days, up from an average of 359 cases per day the previous week, and that could reach 1,100-1,500 by 7 November if growth continues, the National Public Health Emergency Team said in a statement.
“Covid-19 is spreading in our community in a very worrying manner. We have to break these chains of transmission,” chief medical officer Tony Holohan said.
Germany declared the whole of Georgia, Jordan, Romania and Tunisia to be coronavirus risk regions, meaning returnees from there will have to enter quarantine pending a negative coronavirus test.
The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases published the latest assessment on its website on Wednesday.
Regions of other countries were also added to the quarantine list, including in the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary.
The French island of Corsica was removed from the list.
Germany declares regions to be risky when the number of coronavirus infections exceeds 50 per 100,000 inhabitants over seven days.
French health authorities said more than 7,500 patients are being treated in hospital for Covid-19, marking a three-month high and an increase of more than 65% versus a 29 August low point of 4,530.
The government has put in place restrictions all over the country – including bars in Paris being ordered to close at 10pm – to contain the second wave of the disease and prevent the hospital system from being overwhelmed.
Britain is urgently looking at ways to reduce the 14-day quarantine period which applies to some arriving passengers, transport minister Grant Shapps has said, adding that a mix of Covid-19 testing and self-isolation was promising.
Arrivals from countries like France, Spain and the US must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Britain, a restriction which airlines say is crushing travel demand.
Shapps said he was setting up a Global Travel Taskforce to open up international travel.
“The overall aim of the Taskforce will be to consider what steps the government can take… to enable the safe and sustainable recovery of international travel,” he added in a statement.
It would report back no later than early November.
In July, Britain changed its policy from a blanket quarantine to one which established “travel corridors” to countries with low infection rates.
But with cases on the rise in several places, the list of countries on the quarantine exemption list is dwindling, and the travel industry has warned it faces an existential crisis unless the policy is changed again.
“My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed that a regime, based on a single test, provided by the private sector and at the cost of the passenger after a period of self-isolation, could achieve our objective,” Shapps said.
Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, London’s Heathrow airport and Manchester Airports Group said that a test of a passenger after five days should be the starting point of proposals in a joint statement.
But airline body IATA said that 80% of travellers said they would not fly at all if any quarantine were in place.
“The proposals on the table do not go as far as we had hoped,” IATA said. “A reduction in the length of quarantine is the very minimum needed to restart travel demand.”
Germany’s states have agreed that residents of domestic coronavirus risk areas should not be allowed to stay in hotels in other parts of the country to curb surging numbers of new infections, a government document showed.
The news, which means residents of Berlin will only be able to take domestic holidays if they have a new negative coronavirus test, comes just days before about half of Germany’s federal states start two weeks of school holidays.
Coronavirus infections have climbed steadily in Germany over the last two months. The capital Berlin announced a late-night curfew on restaurants and bars on Tuesday.
“The Federal and State governments call on all citizens to avoid all non-essential travel into or out of regions where there have been 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past seven days,” ministers said in a joint statement.
Four out of 12 Berlin districts have already reached or exceeded that level, meaning they are classified as risk areas. Berlin added in a protocol that the measures would apply to the entire city.
Schleswig-Holstein and Rhineland-Palatinate had already designated such districts risk areas, and insist people returning from them quarantine for 14 days or show a negative coronavirus test.
According to the document, tourists from risk areas will only be allowed to stay the night if they can show a negative coronavirus test less than 48 hours old.
Several states said they reserved the right to impose still stricter versions of the new regulation, while Lower Saxony said it was not yet sure if it would be able to implement it given the short notice given.
At least 27 people across Donald Trump’s White House, election campaign and military leaders have now tested positive for coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Stephen Miller, the controversial policy adviser to the US president, became the latest to confirm that he has Covid-19 and will enter quarantine. Miller has become the latest in a lengthy list of people connected to the White House to contract the virus in recent days.
This group is headed by Trump himself, who left the Walter Reed hospital on Monday after receiving state-of-the-art medical treatment for the virus.
Trump, who has routinely downplayed the virus and disparaged the wearing of masks, posed for cameras without a mask after returning to the White House and tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”
Public health experts have criticised Trump’s comments, noting that people with the virus can still spread it to others for around 10 days after becoming infected.
Economists warned the US economy was facing a “watershed moment” as Donald Trump vacillated on agreeing to a new round of stimulus cash for people and businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump pulled the plug on the fractious and lengthy discussions over more aid on Tuesday. “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Stock markets fell, and on Tuesday evening Trump’s position appeared to soften and the president tweeted he was prepared to sign off on more aid for the US’s troubled airline industries and “a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now.”
That money would represent a fraction of the $2.2trn support which the Democrats are pushing for. And on Wednesday, senior Trump officials added to the confusion as they appeared to pour cold water on the idea of a major new stimulus deal being agreed ahead of the election.
Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, told reporters: “The stimulus negotiations are off.”
US and UK markets rose after Trump’s apparent volte-face, but the situation remains volatile.