Coronavirus update: Vietnam sees largest single-day increase in cases as South-East Asia faces ‘socio-economic crisis’
While Vietnam is yet to report any deaths from COVID-19, its cases are creeping up after an outbreak in the tourist city of Da Nang.
The United Nations, meanwhile, has warned South-East Asia faces “socio-economic crisis” as the livelihoods of 218 million informal workers are threatened by the economic consequences of the pandemic.
Countries should gradually lift international travel measures based on a thorough risk assessment and must prioritise essential travel for emergencies, the World Health Organization says.
The WHO recommended that priority should be given to essential travel for emergencies, humanitarian work, transport of essential personnel, and repatriation.
Meanwhile, the United States economy has suffered its worst quarterly drop, plunging almost 33 per cent and leaving tens of millions of people unemployed.
This story will be updated throughout Friday and was last updated at 4:00pm.
Friday’s key moments:
Vietnam records largest jump in cases
Vietnam on Friday reported 45 new coronavirus infections in the city of Da Nang, marking the country’s biggest single-day jump in cases, as the health ministry sent more health experts to the central city in a bid to combat the outbreak.
The new patients, aged between 27 and 87, are linked to three hospitals and two clinics in Da Nang, a tourism hot spot where Vietnam last week detected its first locally transmitted infections in more than three months, the ministry said in a statement.
Vietnam started mass coronavirus testing in the capital Hanoi and urged tens of thousands of domestic travellers to report to authorities as the country scrambled to contain the new spread of the virus.
The ministry overnight sent a special task force of health experts, along with more than 1,000 health workers, to Da Nang to help handle the deteriorating situation there, it said.
The task force includes 65 health experts who had previously helped fight coronavirus at other epicentres in Vietnam, the ministry said.
The newly confirmed cases in Da Nang have brought up the total number of cases in Vietnam to 509, with no deaths.
Some experts say Vietnam could be paying for complacency after its initial success stopping the virus, with normal service quickly resuming, facemasks used less and domestic travel activity surging.
Da Nang had been inundated with visitors taking advantage of promotions to revitalise a tourism sector hurt by border closures and international flight bans designed to keep the virus out.
Coronavirus hinders South-East Asia’s poverty reduction
The United Nations has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought South-East Asia to the brink of a “socio-economic crisis”.
“The crisis threatens to destroy the livelihoods of South-East Asia’s 218 million informal workers,” a UN policy brief said.
“Without alternative income, formal social protection systems or savings to buffer these shocks, workers and their families will be pushed into poverty, reversing decades of poverty reduction.”
The region’s economy was expected to contract by 0.4 per cent in 2020, it said, while remittances from South-East Asians working abroad were likely to fall by 13 per cent or US$10 billion ($13.8 billion).
As well as boosting social welfare payments, South-East Asian nations should prioritise higher health spending, said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, head of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
Six of the 11 countries in the region — including its two biggest nations, Indonesia and the Philippines — received the lowest rating for health spending on the UN’s five-tier human development index.
The report covered the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia and Timor-Leste.
WHO urges countries to prioritise essential international travel
The World Health Organization has said countries should gradually lift international travel measures based on a thorough risk assessment, prioritising essential travel for emergencies, humanitarian work, transport of essential personnel, and repatriation.
A surge of new infections in many parts of the world has forced many countries to reimpose some travel restrictions.
In its latest travel advisory, the WHO said countries must take into account the local epidemiology and transmission patterns, and the national health and social measures already in place.
Should countries choose to quarantine all travellers on arrival, they must do so after assessing such risks and consider local circumstances, WHO said, adding there was no “zero risk” when considering the potential importation or exportation of cases in international travel.
Earlier this week, the WHO said bans on international travel cannot stay in place indefinitely, and countries are going to have to do more to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus within their borders.
The WHO has now urged each country to conduct a risk-benefit analysis of its own and decide on its priorities, before resuming international travel.
Coronavirus smashes US economy
The US economy shrank at a dizzying 32.9 per cent annual rate in the April–June quarter.
The Commerce Department’s estimate of the second-quarter decline in the gross domestic product marked the sharpest such drop, according to records dating back to 1947.
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown tens of millions of people out of work and sent unemployment surging to 14.7 per cent.
The previous worst quarterly contraction, a 10 per cent drop, occurred in 1958.
Last quarter’s drop followed a 5 per cent fall in the January–March quarter, during which the economy officially entered a recession triggered by coronavirus, ending an 11-year economic expansion, the longest on record in the United States.
The contraction last quarter was driven by a 34.6 per cent pullback in consumer spending, which would normally account for about 70 per cent of economic activity.
Business investment and residential housing also suffered sharp declines, with investment spending sinking 27 per cent and the residential housing market plunging 38.7 per cent.
The job market, the most important pillar of the economy, has been severely damaged.
Tens of millions of jobs have vanished in the recession.
The news came as President Donald Trump raised the idea of delaying the November 3 US election and again made unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting could result in fraud.
US passes 150,000 deaths as outbreak picks up in Midwest
Coronavirus infections appear to be picking up in the US Midwest, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force says.
Deborah Birx’s comments came as Ohio reported a record day of cases and Wisconsin’s Governor mandated the use of masks.
Ms Birx told Fox News the coronavirus outbreak was “moving up” into Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska from the south “because of vacations and other reasons of travel.”
Ohio’s health department said the state had its highest single-day increase in cases since the pandemic started in January, which Governor Mike DeWine told a news conference was “certainly not good news.”
The United States remains the country most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, surpassing a death toll of 150,000 on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Florida reported a record increase in new COVID-19 deaths for a third consecutive day, according to the state health department, while Arizona also reported a record increase in fatalities.
The two states had been hotspots with major outbreaks, but new cases have recently slowed in both, according to a Reuters tally.
Spanish infections continue to rise as fears of second wave grow
Spain reported 1,229 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, topping 1,000 for the second day in a row and marking the biggest rise since a national lockdown was lifted on June 21, health ministry data showed.
The cumulative total rose to 285,430, up 2,789 on the previous day, and included results from antibody tests on people who may have already recovered.
The new wave of cases in Spain includes a large number in the Catalonia region, which includes Barcelona.
Napoli football club president Aurelio De Laurentiis raised concerns about his club travelling there to face Barcelona in the Champions League.
“What does it take to say, ‘Don’t go to Barcelona but rather go to Portugal, Germany or Geneva?'”
The Barcelona-Napoli game is scheduled for August 8.
F1 star isolating as he awaits COVID-19 test
Formula One driver Sergio Perez is in isolation at the British Grand Prix after returning an inconclusive coronavirus test.
The Racing Point driver has since been retested and is awaiting the outcome.
The Mexican was absent from his scheduled media duties at the Silverstone circuit in central England.
The race on Sunday will be the fourth in the pandemic-affected season.
The season was first put on hiatus in March, when the season-opening Australian Grand Prix was cancelled.
Brazil’s first lady tests positive for COVID-19
Brazil’s first lady and a fifth member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s Cabinet have both tested positive for COVID-19.
Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes wrote on Twitter that he tested positive after experiencing flu-like symptoms and headaches.
The 57-year-old is now in isolation.
The presidency’s press office later said in a statement that Michelle Bolsonaro, 38, also tested positive.
The statement said she appeared to be in good health, but would follow established protocols.
Mr Bolsonaro told reporters on July 7 he had been diagnosed with the coronavirus and was then confined to the presidential palace in the capital Brasilia for more than two weeks.
He announced he tested negative on Saturday.
New lockdown in northern England
COVID-19 lockdown rules in parts of northern England are being tightened, owing to an increasing rate of transmission in these areas.
People in Greater Manchester, parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire will not be allowed to meet members of other households indoors from midnight on Thursday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
Britain reported its highest number of new COVID-19 infections in more than a month on Thursday, as ministers fretted about a second wave of cases in Europe and warned more quarantine restrictions were possible.
Reflecting rising cases in some European countries, Britain has already reimposed a 14-day quarantine period on people arriving from Spain, a move that caused havoc with the reopening of the continent for tourism in the summer high season.
Official data on Thursday showed 846 new positive tests in Britain, the highest number of daily infections since June 28.