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UK PM urges public to ‘be cautious’ as economy reopens

Covid-19 has infected over 190 million people and killed more than 4 million. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for July 18:

People wear face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus during the morning rush hour at Waterloo train station in London, on July 14, 2021.
People wear face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus during the morning rush hour at Waterloo train station in London, on July 14, 2021. (AP)

Sunday, July 18:

UK’s PM urges public to ‘be cautious’ as economy reopens

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the public to remain prudent against Covid on the eve of lifting pandemic curbs in England, as he confirmed he is self-isolating until July 26.

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“Please, please, please be cautious, and go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people, and the risks that the disease continues to present,” he said.

Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak were required to isolate after Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Saturday he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Initially, a Downing Street spokesperson said both Johnson and Sunak were taking part in a government pilot that enables them to continue working from their offices, while self-isolating outside of work.

But in an update after an outcry over the announcement, the spokesperson reversed position and said neither official was participating in the pilot, and would conduct business remotely.

Accused by opposition politicians of carving out special rules for himself, Johnson urged everyone to respect a national tracing system as infection rates soar.

He also stands accused by the opposition and by scientists of proceeding recklessly with Monday’s reopening in England despite the rapid spread of the Delta coronavirus variant.

But the prime minister defended the plan.

“If we don’t do it now, then we’ll be opening up in the autumn, the winter months, when the virus has the advantage of the cold weather. We lose the precious firebreak that we get with the school holidays,” he said.

“If we don’t do it now, we’ve got to ask ourselves, when will we ever do it? So this is the right moment, but we’ve got to do it cautiously.”

Italy reports three deaths, 3,127 cases

Italy has reported just three coronavirus-related deaths against 13 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections edged up to 3,127 from 3,121.

Italy has registered 127,867 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.29 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 1,136 on Sunday, up from 1,111 a day earlier.

There were three new admissions to intensive care units against nine on Saturday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 156 from a previous 162.

Some 165,269 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 244,797, the health ministry said.

Hanoi tightens restrictions as Covid clusters spread in Vietnam

Vietnam’s capital Hanoi has urged its citizens to stay at home from Monday and ordered a halt to all non-essential services due to new clusters of Covid-19 infections in recent days, the authorities said.

The city, which had already halted indoor restaurant service and closed salons as well as gyms, also stopped rail and bus passenger services to and from provinces in the south which have seen the biggest increases.

Hanoi has seen only over 400 cases since May, compared with more than 50,000 across the country, but authorities had already imposed restrictions on several parts of the city after the discovery of new outbreaks.

Vietnam has managed to keep coronavirus cases relatively low due to targeted mass testing and strict contact tracing, border controls and quarantine measures, but new clusters of infections in recent weeks have triggered concern among health officials.

Vietnam’s daily Covid-19 cases hit new record of 5,926 infections, raising its total cases to 53,830.

The Southeast Asia country also registered an extra 29 deaths from July 4-17, raising its total death toll due to Covid-19 to 254.

Thailand to halt local flights in Covid-risk areas

Domestic flights to and from Bangkok and other provinces classified by the Thai government as high risk from Covid-19 will be suspended starting July 21, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) said.

Exceptions are being made for medical flights, emergency landing aircraft and flights in connection with the government’s tourism reopening programs, the announcement said.

Other domestic fights can only fly at 50 percent capacity.

Nigeria puts six states on red alert as cases rise

Nigeria has put six states on red alert after seeing a “worrisome” rise in infections, a government official said, urging people to curb gatherings and hold prayers outside mosques during this week’s Muslim festival of Eid al Adha.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is like most parts of the continent now facing a third wave after detecting the more transmissible Delta variant.

The head of the presidential steering committee on virus, Boss Mustapha, said Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory had been placed on red alert as part of preventive measures against the pandemic.

British PM ditches new quarantine plan

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak will both self-isolate in line with national guidance, abandoning heavily criticised plans to take part in a pilot scheme that would have allowed them to continue working.

“He will not be taking part in the testing pilot,” a spokesman from Johnson’s office said.

“He will continue to conduct meetings with ministers remotely. The Chancellor (Sunak) has also been contacted and will also isolate as required and will not be taking part in the pilot.”

Mykonos falls silent under new rules

There was no music and no dancing on Greece’s famed party island Mykonos as new rules to contain the spread of the virus pushed tourists to cancel holidays and left business owners fuming.

Tourism accounts for a fifth of the Greek economy and the country desperately needs a strong season this year following a collapse in visitor numbers and revenues to record lows in 2020.

Mykonos is one of its most popular destinations, attracting more than a million visitors each summer, among them Hollywood stars, models and world-famous athletes.

India administers over 400M doses of vaccines

India has administered more than 400 million doses of vaccines so far, according to official figures.

The Health Ministry data showed that around 420 million doses have been provided to states and union territories so far, and a further of 1.6 million doses are in the pipeline.

More than 25 million vaccine doses are still available with states and union territories, and private hospitals to be administered, said the data.

The new phase of vaccination drive for access for all started in India on June 21.

Tunisia puts military on vaccination duty as cases soar

Soldiers hold rifles to guard the health center in the traditional Tunisian village of Kesra, while inside, military medics use other weapons to combat the virus: vaccines.

Tunisia is facing its worst coronavirus surge since the pandemic began, further stressing the North African country’s already crowded hospitals and health system. That has forced some regions to go back into lockdown and prompted waves of donations of vaccines or medical aid from China, France, Turkey, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria.

Tunisia’s government decided to deploy the armed forces to vaccinate people in the regions with the worst infection rates and in areas with particularly low vaccination rates.

South Africa football team at the Olympics report three cases

South Africa have confirmed three positive virus cases in their football squad to take part at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, including players Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi.

Video Analyst Mario Masha also tested positive on arrival in Tokyo as the team prepares to face hosts Japan on Thursday.

South Korea to expand curbs on private gatherings beyond Seoul

South Korea will expand tougher restrictions on private gatherings to outside the Seoul metropolitan area, as the country struggles to contain its worst outbreak, its prime minister said.

“It’s been a week since the toughest level of distancing curbs have been imposed in the metropolitan area but the number of confirmed (virus) cases is rarely decreasing … Pre-emptive measures are needed for now,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told a meeting with health officials.

Russia reports 25,018 cases

Russia reported 25,018 new virus cases, including 4,357 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,958,133.

The government virus task force said 764 people had died of virus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 148,419.

Australia training camp locked down after virus scare

Australia’s entire athletics team for the Tokyo Olympics was quarantined in their rooms on Saturday at their pre-Games training camp in Cairns following a virus scare.

An inconclusive test had been returned by an unnamed official who travelled from Melbourne but subsequent tests have so far been negative, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) confirmed on Sunday.

Athletes have since been permitted to compete in a warm-up event after being kept in their rooms from around midday on Saturday until late that evening.

Adults in Britain offered vaccines ahead of reopening

Every adult in the United Kingdom has been offered a first dose of vaccine, the health ministry said on Sunday, ahead of the end of legal restrictions in England on Monday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s target was for every adult who wanted to a shot to be able to get one by July 19.

So far, 87.8% of adults have received a first shot, with the government also meeting a target to give two-thirds of adults two doses of vaccine by Monday.

Johnson is proceeding with the full reopening of the economy despite a fresh surge of cases fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant. New infections are running at their highest level since January.

Some scientists have expressed concern about the reopening given the high case rates, the substantial proportion of the population which is not yet fully vaccinated and the projected increases in hospitalisations and deaths.

Johnson’s health ministe r, Sajid Javid, on Saturday said he had tested positive and was self-isolating.

Johnson argues that the vaccine rollout has substantially weakened the link between cases and deaths, and that summer is the best time to reopen the economy since pressures on the health service are lower

More Olympic athletes test positive ahead of Games

Tokyo Olympics organisers on Sunday reported more cases among competitors residing in the athletes’ village, as its population swells ahead of the start of the pandemic-hit Games next week.

Two athletes from the same country and competing in the same sport staying in the village in the Harumi waterfront district tested positive, organisers said without providing further details.

Organisers on Sunday reported 10 new cases connected to the Olympics including a third athlete who was not staying in the village and down from 15 new cases a day earlier.

An International Olympic Committee member from South Korea tested positive upon on landing in Tokyo.

Ryu Seung-min, a former Olympic athlete, is vaccinated, reflecting the infection risk even from vaccinated attendees.

Infection rates are climbing among the general population of the capital, topping 1,000 new cases for four consecutive days.

Polls show many Japanese oppose holding the Games with the influx of overseas visitors it entails.

Australia reports slight dip in cases

Australia’s two largest states on Sunday reported slight declines in new infections, prompting authorities to say it could be days before tough lockdown measures showed progress in containing the spread of the Delta variant.

The country’s most populous city, Sydney, and all of Victoria state, totaling nearly half the country’s 25 million population, are under stay-home orders after a flare-up of the highly infectious virus strain began last month.

New South Wales (NSW) state, of which Sydney is the capital, reported 105 new cases in the previous day, down from 111 the day before, while Victoria logged 16 new cases, down from 19.

NSW also recorded an additional death from the virus, taking the total to four since the start of the year and the national total to 914 since the pandemic began.

Vietnam puts southern region in lockdown as surge grows

Vietnam put its entire southern region in a two-week lockdown starting midnight Sunday, as confirmed cases exceeded 3,000 for the third day in a row.

The lockdown order includes the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City metropolis, the country’s financial and economic hub with over 35 million people, nearly a third of Vietnam’s population.

Officials say they have to act as the number of infections reached nearly 50,000 since the outbreak reemerged at the end of April after several months of no cases being recorded.

Most of the 225 dead, 190 of them, have occurred since April.

South Korea to airlift troops from virus-stricken ship

South Korea will airlift all troops from a ship on anti-piracy patrol in the Middle East, the Ministry of Defense said on Sunday, while a replacement team will steer the vessel back home after dozens of soldiers on board tested positive.

South Korea, once cited as a success story for keeping the virus under control, is battling record infections as the more transmissible Delta variant spreads throughout the country after prompting a semi-lockdown in the Seoul area.

Two aerial tankers will depart for the Middle East later on Sunday, the ministry said, confirming that 61 additional troops on the ship had tested positive following media reports of seven cases.

The government had said on Thursday it would send a medical team to address the outbreak on the vessel.

EU says vaccine rate higher than in US

European Union leaders have celebrated their vaccination programme reaching a higher proportion of its people than in the US, which had outpaced the bloc for months.

“We promised it and it’s done. The EU this week overtook the US as the continent with the most first doses in the world,” Commissioner Thierry Breton wrote on Twitter.

Citing statistics website Our World in Data, France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune wrote that the EU had now given 55.5 percent of people a first dose, compared with 55.4 across the Atlantic.

Thailand reports daily record cases

Thailand has reported a record 11,397 new cases, the third consecutive day that the Southeast Asian country has registered record numbers.

The country’s virus taskforce also reported 101 new deaths, bringing the total number to 3,341 fatalities and 403,386 cases since the pandemic started last year.

Mexico’s deaths, cases sur

Mexico’s health ministry has reported 12,631 new confirmed cases in the country and 225 more fatalities, bringing the total to 2,654,699 infections and 236,240 deaths.

The number of daily new infections has surged this past week to levels not seen since February.

Brazil registers 868 new deaths

Brazil registered 868 new deaths and 34,339 additional cases, according to data released by the country’s Health Ministry.

Brazil has now registered a total of 541,266 deaths and 19,342,448 total confirmed cases.

Czech Olympic team staff member tests positive

A Czech Olympic team staff member has tested positive after arriving in Tokyo on a charter flight from Prague, Czech Olympic officials said, adding that all the athletes were fine and in the Olympic Village.

The staff member – who had two negative PCR tests before departure and had no symptoms – is now in isolation along with several close contacts from the plane, team officials said in a statement. They did not name the staff member.

“Within two hours we implemented an action plan and we prepared individual rooms for all athletes and members of the escort from the plane who arrived in the village,” Martin Doktor, sports director of the Czech Olympic Committee said.

“In any case, the training activities and plans of the athletes are not limited in any way.”

Senegal’s bus operator suspends intercity services

Senegal’s national bus operator has announced that it will suspend intercity transport due to a recent surge in infections in the West African country.

Bus routes between cities will stop running from Sunday, operator Dakar Dem Dikk said in a statement.

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