Beijing on Thursday banned foreign arrivals from France and a host of other countries, the latest in a growing number of entry bans as China closes itself off from a world still battling the coronavirus pandemic.
AFP: Covid-19 first emerged in central China late last year, but Beijing has largely brought its outbreak under control through tight travel restrictions and stringent health measures for anyone entering the country.
In March, as the virus ripped across the world, China shut its borders to all foreign nationals, although it had gradually eased the restrictions in recent months.
But in a sharp about-turn, Chinese embassies in countries including Britain, Belgium, India and the Philippines said this week that Beijing had decided to “temporarily suspend” entries by non-Chinese nationals.
France was the latest to join that list, with a statement on the Chinese embassy website dated Thursday saying non-Chinese arrivals would be barred from entering the country.
Chinese embassies in Russia, Italy and Ethiopia also announced similar measures.
Beijing defended the new restrictions on Thursday as “reasonable and fair” and said it was “drawing on the practices of many countries”.
China has also recently tightened requirements for travellers from several other countries, making entry much more difficult and sparking complaints that the strict new rules represent an effective ban on entry.
In France, officials are hoping a new coronavirus lockdown will bring down soaring numbers of infections, with new daily cases topping 40,000 over the past week, while Italy has imposed strict new restrictions on freedom of movement in four regions.
Russia has listed a total of nearly 1.7 million infections and more than 29,000 deaths.
The World Health Organization is facing renewed pleas to allow Taiwan to participate in a key international meeting amid fears its exclusion could jeopardise efforts to rein in the coronavirus pandemic, AFP reports.
As many parts of the world are reeling from surging numbers of Covid-19 infections and deaths, the WHO is due Monday to resume its main annual meeting, which was cut short in May.
But while the World Health Assembly (WHA) is expected to focus heavily on international coordination of the pandemic response, one international actor will not be present.
Taiwan has been excluded from the WHO and a number of other international organisations amid pressure from China, which regards the self-ruled democratic island of 23 million people as its own territory.
But critics insist this does not make sense.
They point to the territory’s remarkable success in combatting Covid-19, with only seven deaths and fewer than 600 infections since the start of the pandemic.
The World Medical Association (WMA), a confederation of national medical associations that jointly represent more than 10 million physicians, called Thursday for that to change.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is proof that cooperation for and with all health care systems in the world is necessary,” WMA chairman Frank Montgomery said in an open letter to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“We believe it is both cynical and counterproductive to continue excluding the health representatives from Taiwan from participating in the World Health Assembly.”
I don’t mean to besmirch this blog’s good name with US election content too often, but in case you’re wondering, this is when we just might know the result (Georgia might be called on Thursday night in the US – if Biden manages to overtake Trump’s narrow margin, we could have a winner):
Five states have yet to be called: Alaska, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Several news organizations, including the Associated Press and Fox News’ decision desk, have called Arizona for Joe Biden. The Trump campaign is arguing, however, that call was made too early.
Alaska will end up in the Republican column with near certainty.
The race is extremely tight in Georgia, and could be called on Thursday night. As of 11 pm ET, Trump was leading by just 1,902 votes, meaning both candidates were virtually tied in the state, at 49.4% each. There were an estimated 16,000 votes left to count.
The Democratic challenger is ahead in Nevada, with only Democratic-leaning late postal ballots left to tally. But by state law, ballots postmarked on election day can be counted as long as they are received by 5pm on 10 November, which means counting in the state could continue through the weekend.
In North Carolina, while Trump is the clear favourite, the state accepts postal ballots until 12 November – although that is expected to make little difference.
Also at 11 pm ET, there were about 250,000 ballots left to count in Pennsylvania, where Biden is trailing by just under 49,000 votes. He’s been winning the mail-in ballot counts by huge margins, and could very well take the state. Pennsylvania officials say they expect most votes will be counted by Friday.
Greece will go back into lockdown from Saturday for three weeks to battle a second wave of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced.
AFP: “It was a difficult decision” but “measures must be taken for three weeks to overcome this second wave”, he told a videoconference on Thursday.
Under the measures, Greeks can only leave their homes if they make an official request via mobile phone and then receive authorisation.
Only “essential shops” including supermarkets and pharmacies can stay open when the lockdown starts at 6am (0400 GMT) on Saturday, Mitsotakis said.
Unlike the previous six-week lockdown that began in late March, he said kindergartens and primary schools will remain open.
Secondary school pupils will be taught remotely, something university students are already doing under recent measures.
“Travellers arriving in Greece, by land and air, will now have to submit a negative PCR test, carried out 48 hours before entering Greek territory,” civil protection deputy minister Nikos Hardalias added Thursday evening.
The new lockdown comes as the daily tally of coronavirus cases continues to grow.
A total of 2,646 new infections and 18 deaths were recorded on Wednesday, up sharply from last week. The virus has killed 673 people in Greece among almost 47,000 infected.
But it is the number of people in intensive care that worries authorities most of all.
The number of patients hospitalised on ventilators has more than doubled in a month, from 82 on 4 October to 169 on Wednesday.
The full story on Denmark being removed from the UK’s travel corridor now:
AFP is reporting, citing Johns Hopkins, that the United States will again break the global high for cases reported in 24 hours on Thursday, beating its own Wednesday record by 20,000 cases, with 123,085 new infections confirmed.
Johns Hopkins has not yet updated the total in its list of total new daily cases, but it currently lists the US total as 9.6m.
At this rate the US, the worst-affected country worldwide in terms of its infection total and number of deaths, is around 4 days away from having 10m cases.
A protest against Slovenia’s coronavirus shutdown sparked some of the most violent scenes the country has seen in years, AFP reports, as police moved in with teargas and water cannons to disperse the crowd.
The rally in the capital Ljubljana, organised by activists calling themselves the Slovenian branch of cyber group Anonymous, started late in the afternoon and led to several injuries and arrests as the protesters clashed with police.
Several hundred people gathered in front of the Slovenian parliament building, with some attacking police officers who warned them that public gatherings were banned due to the coronavirus shutdown.
The demonstrators threw bottles, firecrackers, stones and smoke bombs at anti-riot police who responded with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannon.
While Slovenia was relatively unscathed by the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, last month the government ordered a second shutdown to try to halt a surge in infections which has seen the total number of cases pass 41,000 in the country of two million.
The measures include a curfew, restrictions on travel and the closure of schools and non-essential shops.
Thursday’s protest was the most violent in Slovenia since a series of demonstrations in Ljubljana and Slovenia’s second city Maribor in 2012-2013 against local and state authorities, who the protesters blamed for an economic crisis in the tiny eurozone state.
The UK’s secretary of state for transport, Grant Schapps, has removed Demnark from the country’s “travel corridor”, which means all arrivals from Denmark will need to self-isolate for 14 days, starting at 4am Friday morning.
The reason for the removal is the spread of coronavirus to people from an outbreak among mink on mink farms in the country, Shapps wrote in a statement:
I have taken the swift decision to urgently remove Denmark from the government’s travel corridor list as a precautionary measure given recent developments
I understand that this will be concerning for both people currently in Denmark and the wider UK public, which is why we have moved quickly to protect our country and prevent the spread of the virus to the UK.
Health authorities in Denmark have reported widespread outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19) in mink farms, with a variant strain of the virus spreading to some local communities. The Chief Medical Officer has therefore recommended that, as precautionary measure, all those returning from Denmark should self-isolate for 14 days.
The World Health Organization in Europe on Thursday said it was seeing an “explosion” of coronavirus cases in the region and warned of a “tough time” ahead as mortality rates rose.
“We do see an explosion…. in the sense it only takes a couple of days to have over the European region an increase of one million cases,” WHO’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told AFP.
Kluge, who was wearing a mask even as he was interviewed over a webcam meeting, also said the mortality rate could be seen rising “little by little.”
“It’s going to be a little bit of a tough time, we need to be honest on that,” he said.
In spite of the rapidly rising cases, Kluge cautioned that closing schools should be seen as a last resort, especially in light of there being “no reasons to say that schools are a main driver of the transmission.”
“We need to keep the schools open really until last because we cannot afford a Covid-19 lost generation,” Kluge said.
However the regional director also said that the “status quo is not an option” and called for “proportionate targeted measures,” which could be scaled up.
Kluge stressed that governments should take into account two things: “coherence, so people see that we don’t flip-flop, and… predictability, so people know if this threshold is being reached, this is what is going to happen.”
He also called for the widespread use of face masks.
“With general mask wearing and strict control of social gatherings we can save 266,000 lives by February in the whole European region,” Kluge said.
Our new US Elections blog is live, helmed by the incredible Maanvi Singh:
Billions of pounds worth of trade with the European Union will face “significant disruption” on 1 January, regardless of whether a trade deal is agreed, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has concluded.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said crucial IT systems have yet to be tested and transit areas for lorries are not ready as the government attempts to prepare new border controls for the end of the Brexit transition period. The planned controls, which had already been rated “high risk”, have been further hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released today:
It looks Thursday will again see the US break the global record for daily coronavirus cases – for the third time in eight days – with a possible 116,000 new cases reported in 24 hours (beating its own previous record by 14,000 cases).
This is from the Covid-tracking project – the Guardian relies on Johns Hopkins University, which updates a little later, so we’ll have confirmation then. But the two trackers are usually fairly aligned.
Meanwhile over at the US elections, where Trump has just made repeated false claims about the election in his first public address since the early hours of Wednesday morning:
Uber Technologies Inc said on Thursday demand for its food-delivery service exploded in the latest quarter, but recovery in its global rides business is being held back by its most important market, the United States, Reuters reports.
Uber’s recovery will depend much on the course of the pandemic, with a resurgence in virus infections threatening to keep customers wary about returning outside or planning frequent trips far into 2021.
Ride bookings were dragged down by a slow recovery particularly on the US West Coast, while Europe and the Middle East recovered more steadily, down only 36% from last year.
Uber shares were down 2% in after-hours trading as an adjusted third-quarter EBITDA loss of $625 million was wider than analyst expectations of a $597 million loss, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Non-adjusted earnings per share came in at a loss of 62 cents, compared with a 65-cent loss estimated by analysts.
Gross bookings at Uber’s rides mobility unit recovered from their massive drop in April, but remained down 50% from last year on a constant currency basis. But unlike Uber’s other units, the rides segment delivered adjusted EBITDA of $245 million.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
My name is Helen Sullivan and if you’re looking for Covid-19 news as it happens, you’re in the right place.
You can also find me on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
Today is one of the saddest of the pandemic so far.
The United States recorded more cases in 24 hours than any country over the course of the pandemic, with 102,000 infections confirmed for Wednesday 4 October, the most recent one day total on Johns Hopkins (there is always a lag in reporting). The country also recorded more than 1,000 deaths for the third time this week, with 1,097 people reported dead in the last 24 hours. The previous record for cases, also held by the US, was 99,321 on 30 October.
Globally, the world suffered the highest total one-day death toll of the pandemic so far, with 11,447 people lost in the last day. It also recorded more cases than ever before, partly as a result of rising cases in the US, but also because of Europe’s second wave, and more than 50,000 infections being recorded in India for the first time in 10 days.
The global case total was 700,000, taking the world closer to 50m cases – a devastating milestone that we are likely to cross by the end of the week. Cases currently stand at 48,541,340.
- The UK death toll from coronavirus rose by 378, taking the tally of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 to 48,120, government data showed. As of 9am GMT on Thursday, there had been a further 24,141 lab-confirmed cases in the UK, taking the cumulative total of confirmed infections to 1,123,197.
- Colombia’s lower house abruptly ended its session on and asked lawmakers to quarantine after a member tested positive for Covid-19. At least 150 lawmakers could potentially have been exposed, the chamber’s press office said. They have been told to avoid travel to their home regions and remain in Bogota while they wait 72 hours from potential exposure to have a test.
- A dozen US states reported record one-day increases in Covid-19 cases, a day after the country set a record with nearly 105,000 new infections reported on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally. The outbreak is spreading in every region of the country but is hitting the Midwest the hardest, based on new cases per capita. Illinois reported nearly 10,000 new cases and along with Texas is leading the nation in the most cases reported in the last seven days.Other Midwestern states with record increases in cases on Thursday were Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Ohio. Arkansas, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah and West Virginia also set records for rises in new infections.
- Ireland is on track to get its second wave of Covid-19 infections under control by the end of November when the government hopes to ease some of the strictest restrictions in Europe, a senior public health official said. “The way case numbers are behaving would suggest that case numbers are declining rapidly and that we are on target for the sort of end position we want to be in at the end of the six weeks,” on 1 December, Philip Nolan, the chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, told a press briefing.