Coronavirus update: UK worried about second wave as European infections grow
Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock says he would not hesitate to act to bring back quarantine measures if necessary to keep the United Kingdom safe as he voiced concerns about a second wave of coronavirus infection in Europe.
Meanwhile, pop icon Madonna has been flagged by Instagram for posting a video about a coronavirus conspiracy to her 15.4 million followers.
This story was last updated at 5:00pm on Thursday.
Thursday’s key moments:
UK concerned about coronavirus second wave
Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock says he is worried about a second wave of coronavirus infections in Europe and that the Government would not hesitate to act to bring back quarantine measures if necessary to keep the United Kingdom safe.
“I am worried about a second wave. I think you can see a second wave starting to roll across Europe, and we’ve got to do everything we can to prevent it from reaching these shores, and to tackle it,” Hancock said during an interview on Sky News.
“We have significant concerns about the second wave that is coming across Europe. And it’s not just Spain … but there are other countries too where the number of cases is rising. And we are absolutely determined to do everything that we can to keep this country safe,” he said.
Britain re-imposed a 14-day quarantine period on people arriving from Spain last week.
Other European countries favoured by British tourists for summer holidays, such as France, remain exempt from quarantine measures as things stand but have seen a rise in infections, leading to fears that they too would soon be subject to quarantine measures.
India sees record increase in new coronavirus cases
The number of new daily coronavirus cases in India has passed 50,000 for the first time.
India’s daily tally has been teetering just under 50,000 for the past week, but on Thursday set a new record with more than 52,000 confirmed cases.
It takes the country’s total infections to almost 1.6 million, a third of which are active.
While some of the worst-hit states — like Maharashtra — continue to rack up big numbers, there’s growing concern about the virus spreading in more remote areas where health services are poor.
Random blood tests carried out by authorities in India’s finance capital Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state, have shown that 57 per cent of people living in the city’s crowded slums have had the coronavirus.
India is also testing more than ever before, with 446,000 tests done on Wednesday.
Despite efforts to reopen parts of the country, schools, bars, metro trains and theatres remain shut.
India has the third-highest number of infections in the world, behind the United States and Brazil.
Hong Kong opens community centres after restaurant eating ban pushes people into the rain
Hong Kong authorities opened 19 community centres for residents to eat inside after a virus-induced ban on indoor dining at restaurants forced many workers to have their meals outside on pavements under sweltering heat and rain.
The restaurant ban, which took effect on Wednesday, barred any outlet from allowing dine-in patrons to curb the spread of COVID-19, an unprecedented move in the financial hub where hundreds of thousands depend on eating out for daily meals.
Construction and office workers were seen across the city trying to find shade as they ate their noodle and rice lunch boxes in temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius.
Others opted to eat inside storerooms or even toilets, public broadcaster RTHK said.
In a prompt reversal, the Government said it would partly relax its ban on restaurant dining, noting that it brought “inconvenience and difficulties” to many workers.
From Friday, outlets will be able to open during breakfast and lunch, provided they operate at 50 per cent capacity and ensure diners sit two to a table.
Madonna’s Instagram flagged for spreading misinformation
Pop icon Madonna has been flagged by Instagram for posting a video about a coronavirus conspiracy to her 15.4 million followers.
The singer shared a viral video featuring a group of doctors claiming a COVID-19 cure has already been found but is being withheld to “let the rich get richer”.
The video was also endorsed by US President Donald Trump, despite being at odds with the US Government’s own advice.
One of the featured doctors, Stella Immanuel, has previously claimed that alien DNA is used to make medicine, and that some health problems are caused by having sex with demons.
“This woman is my hero. Thank you Stella Immanuel,” Madonna wrote.
The social media platform blurred the video and added a label stating: “False Information”.
Instagram also directed users to a page debunking the claims in the video.
The video has now been deleted from Madonna’s page after thousands of commenters condemned her decision to share the post.
Madrid’s COVID-19 immunity passport plan scuppered after backlash
Authorities in the Spanish capital Madrid have backtracked over a highly criticised plan to give an immunity card to people testing positive for coronavirus antibodies so they can enjoy higher-risk areas like gyms, bars and museums.
Politicians, rights groups and epidemiologists condemned the project, announced by regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso, as potentially discriminatory and medically unsound.
But after a weekly cabinet meeting of the Madrid authority, her deputy, Ignacio Aguado, told a news conference that the controversial cards would not in fact be issued.
“This would be a registry of organised, updated information, only to be consulted by the health services so that they can take epidemiological decisions,” he said of the modified plans.
Ms Ayuso, who unveiled the program on Tuesday as a way of letting non-infectious people lead more normal lives while keeping vulnerable people under stricter measures, was not immediately available for comment.
The World Health Organization has discouraged the use of immunity passports because it says there is no proof antibodies provide complete protection.
A large Spanish study showed 14 per cent of participants with antibodies had lost them when tested again three months later.
Estonia began trialling digital immunity passports in May, while Germany, grappling with similar issues to Spain, referred a similar scheme to its national ethics council.
Vietnam bracing for nationwide outbreak
Vietnam, which was virus-free for months, is bracing for another wave of COVID-19 infections after state media reported new cases in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the Central Highlands linked to a recent outbreak in the central city of Da Nang.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the current wave of infections was different to a second wave Vietnam fought in March, and every province and city in the country was at risk, state broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV) reported.
Thanks to a centralised quarantine program and an aggressive contact tracing system, Vietnam had managed to keep its coronavirus tally to just 450 cases, despite sharing a border with China.
With over 95 million people, Vietnam is the most populous country in the world to have recorded no deaths from the virus, and until now no locally transmitted infections had been reported for months.
That record is now under threat following an outbreak last weekend in Da Nang, where at least 30 cases of COVID-19 have been detected.
On Tuesday the Government suspended all flights to and from Da Nang for 15 days.
About 18,000 tourists who had been in Da Nang have returned to the southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City.
The source of the infection in Da Nang remains unclear.
Over half of people in Mumbai’s slums likely infected with coronavirus
More than half the people living in Mumbai’s sprawling slums are probably infected with coronavirus, which suggests the metropolis could be heading toward herd immunity, a government official and a health expert said, citing a recent survey.
About 57 per cent of slum-dwellers have tested positive for antibodies for coronavirus, from a random sample of 7,000 people, according to the survey jointly conducted by Mumbai’s municipality government think tank.
Around 65 per cent of Mumbai’s 12 million people live in the cramped, airless slums, making for easy transmission of the disease.
The survey found that only 16 per cent of those living outside the slums had been exposed to the virus, the low proportion likely the result of social distancing and lockdowns.
An official at Mumbai’s civic body said the results of the serological survey showed that the city may be inching towards herd immunity.
“We are inching towards herd immunity, but we can’t let it go. We can’t predict the behaviour of this virus,” the official said.
Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, is the worst-affected Indian state, accounting for almost 400,000 out of India’s total of 1.5 million cases.
Bosnian minister dies of coronavirus at 53
The Bosnian minister for veterans’ affairs has died aged 53 after testing positive to COVID-19.
Salko Bukvarevic died on Wednesday in a COVID-19 hospital in Sarajevo, where he was admitted last week with pneumonia and breathing problems.
He had served in the government since 2015.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Prime Minister Fadil Novalic was also hospitalised with COVID-19, but was released this week following two weeks of treatment.
So far, Bosnia has tallied over 10,700 virus cases and 297 deaths.
Nearly 80 per cent of all cases in the country of 3.5 million have come since mid-May, when a strict coronavirus lockdown was lifted.
Cases rise in China’s Xinjiang region
China has reported more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 as it continues to battle an outbreak in Xinjiang.
The 101 new cases marked the country’s highest daily increase in weeks.
The north-western region of Xinjiang accounted for 89, with another eight in the north-eastern province of Liaoning and one in Beijing
Another three cases were brought from outside the country by returning Chinese citizens.
Xinjiang’s outbreak has centred on the region’s capital and largest city of Urumqi, where authorities have isolated some communities, restricted public transport and ordered widespread testing.
Outside Xinjiang, the virus has been largely contained.
China’s death toll from COVID-19 remains at 4,634, with 84,060 cases registered since the pandemic first emerged from the city of Wuhan late last year.
Highest daily jump in cases in Prague
The Czech capital has registered its highest day-to-day jump in COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 101 new cases on Tuesday.
Overall, the entire Czech Republic recorded 275 new cases on Tuesday.
Prague city bosses have reimposed mandatory masks at out-patient clinics and pharmacies.
Face coverings are also required in the city’s subway network and could be made mandatory in the entire public transport system.
The Czech Republic has had 15,827 confirmed cases with 373 deaths.