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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Thursday

Texas to halt elective surgeries, ‘pause’ aggressive reopening amid COVID-19 surge

The Associated Press · Posted: Jun 25, 2020

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday halted elective surgeries in the state’s biggest counties and said it would “pause” its aggressive reopening as it deals with a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that has made it one of the hotspots for the virus in the U.S.

The suspension of elective surgeries is designed to protect hospital space in the Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio areas. Statewide, the number of COVID-19 patients has more than doubled in two weeks. Texas has reported more than 11,000 new cases in the previous two days alone.

The pause on further reopenings does not roll back previous orders that already allowed much of the economy to reopen. But it would appear to slow down any planned expansion of occupancy levels at places like bars, restaurants and amusement parks and other venues.

“We are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheque to support their families,” Abbott said in a statement

. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”

Health-care workers process patient information at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site on Wednesday in Houston. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state is facing a ‘massive outbreak’ in the coronavirus pandemic and that some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients. (David J. Phillip/The Associated Press)

By reimposing a ban on elective surgeries, the Republican is returning to one of his first actions when the virus emerged in Texas in March. He later rescinded the order during an aggressive reopening of the state in May that lifted lockdown orders ahead of most of the U.S.

In Florida, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Wednesday at a virtual news conference that “surge teams” will be sent this weekend to areas where doctors are noticing an increase in new COVID-19 infections.

About 100 people will go into such hot spots as Little Havana and Homestead, an agricultural area with vegetable farms and nurseries. The teams will be knocking on doors and handing out kits with masks and hand sanitizers.

Gimenez said officials are noticing an increase in cases among farm workers and will be offering hotel rooms to those who are ill and live in small homes with several people so they don’t infect others. He said the county still has available beds, but certain hospitals are out of ICU beds and have had to transfer patients to other centres.

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak said the state will begin mandating the use of face coverings in public places in an effort to stem a rise in coronavirus cases four weeks after casinos, restaurants and other businesses started reopening.

Nevada has reported more than 14,300 coronavirus cases and 494 deaths from COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.

Miguel Regalado is seen cleaning a slot machine on June 3 as workers prepared for the June 4 reopening of The D Hotel and Casino, which was closed by the state of Nevada on March 18 as part of steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

The governor said Nevada residents must make face coverings “a routine part of our daily life” in order to keep businesses open and people safe.

Nevada joins several states, including California, Washington and North Carolina, in mandating face coverings.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, meanwhile, said that he will withhold $2.5 billion US in the upcoming state budget to penalize counties that fail to comply with state mandates on wearing masks, testing and other measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 cases and decrease hospitalizations.

A traveller is checked with a hand-held thermometer near a test system of thermal imaging cameras, which check body temperatures, at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday. The system is being tested in the international terminal and can flag passengers who have a fever, one of the symptoms of the novel coronavirus. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The money is intended to help local governments pay for services needed because of the pandemic. But it’s contingent upon counties following emergency orders to enforce the safety measures as they gradually reopen the economy.

Gov. Jay Inslee said on Wednesday that Washington was mistakenly included on a list of states from which travellers to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut would need to go into quarantine for 14 days because of COVID-19 concerns.

Inslee said people from Washington state won’t be subject to the restrictions announced earlier by three governors from the northeast. The quarantine applies to people coming from states with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents on a seven-day average, or with a 10 per cent or higher positive rate over seven days.

Washington state’s recent positive test rate was about six per cent.

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week, likely as hiring by reopening businesses is being partially offset by a second wave of layoffs, supporting the view that the labour market could take years to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of early Thursday morning, there were more than 9.4 million reported coronavirus cases worldwide, with almost 483,000 deaths, according to a tracking database maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. accounted for more than 2.3 million of the reported cases and almost 122,000 of the reported deaths. 

According to the university, the U.S. was trailed by:

  • Brazil, with more than 1.1 million reported cases and more than 53,000 reported deaths.
  • Russia, with more than 613,000 reported cases. Russia, one of several countries facing questions about its coronavirus tracking and counting, has reported nearly 8,600 deaths.
  • India, with more than 473,000 reported cases and nearly 15,000 reported deaths.

There are no proven treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Most people who are infected will experience mild to moderate disease. While health officials have said that the elderly and those with underlying health issues are most at risk of severe illness and death, they have cautioned that no age group is immune.

Authorities in Bournemouth, a popular beach town in southern England, declared a “major incident” on Thursday over what they called the irresponsible behaviour of crowds who had ignored public health guidance on coronavirus and badly overstretched local services.

The declaration came after visitors arrived in very large numbers in a spell of hot weather, resulting in gridlock on the roads, illegal overnight camping, excessive waste, anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled fights.

Beachgoers enjoy the sunshine as they sunbathe and play in the sea on Bournemouth beach in Bournemouth, southern England, on Thursday. (Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

“We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours,” Council Leader Vikki Slade said in a statement.

“The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe.”

Physical distancing measures have been in place in Britain since March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, although the rules in England are due to be significantly relaxed from July 4.

The number of coronavirus cases in the six Gulf Arab states has doubled in a month to over 400,000, as the region’s two biggest economies this week fully lifted curfews imposed to combat the virus.

Officials in India say they will carry out a massive survey for the coronavirus targeting the entire population in New Delhi of 29 million people.

Officials will go to each household to record each resident’s health details, and administer a test for the virus to those who show or report symptoms. The exercise will be completed by July 6, according to a plan issued by the government of New Delhi, the worst-hit city in the country with 70,390 confirmed cases.

A health worker takes a nasal sample of a woman for the COVID-19 rapid antigen test in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Manish Swarup/The Associated Press)

Police will be deployed to enforce physical distancing and prevent the mixing of the population inside more than 200 containment zones in the capital, where large clusters of cases have been confirmed. CCTV or drone monitoring will also be used.

Police will have to ensure strict perimeter control and “absolute restriction of outward and inward movement of the population,” the city government said.

Nepal is increasing quarantine facilities and testing at border points to prepare for the expected return of thousands of workers from neighbouring India.

Nepal has reported 11,162 cases and just 26 deaths in a population of 29 million. It was among the first countries in South Asia to report a case, but a lockdown imposed in March helped control the outbreak.

Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel said in an interview with The Associated Press that coronavirus cases are expected to increase as workers return home from India, where millions of Nepalese are believed to be employed and where coronavirus cases are surging.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Indonesia surpassed 50,000 on Thursday as the government allows businesses to reopen amid increasing economic pressure. Skepticism remains over the ability of the government to conduct enough tests to determine the true spread of the virus in the Southeast Asian nation of more than 270 million people living on thousands of islands.

What’s happening with COVID-19 in Canada

As of 12:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, there were 102,572 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases in Canada, with 65,361 of those listed by provinces and territories as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial data, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,539.

South Korea has reported 28 additional cases of the coronavirus, as the country is struggling to suppress a resurgence of the virus, mostly around the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area. The figures bring the country’s total to 12,563 cases, with 282 deaths.

Nearly 11,000 people have recovered while 1,307 are still quarantined. South Korea has seen an uptick in new infections since it eased strict physical distancing rules. But the daily increases haven’t reached a level of hundreds of cases that were reported between late February and early March.

Australian health workers will go door-to-door testing more than 100,000 residents in a coronavirus hot spot in suburban Melbourne that is threatening to undo the nation’s success in battling the virus.

Victoria state on Thursday reported 33 new cases, the highest daily number in more than two months.

Premier Daniel Andrews says the testing aims to collect samples from half of all residents in 10 suburbs. He says the goal is to test 10,000 people daily over 10 days. The tests are free and Andrews is urging people to see undergoing testing as a civic duty.

More than 1,000 military personnel are helping with the operation, while other states will help process the test results.

Australia has reported more than 7,500 cases of the virus, including 104 deaths.

Africa’s coronavirus cases have surged to more than 336,000, an increase of nearly 10,000 infections from Wednesday evening, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The jump is largely due to South Africa announcing its largest daily number of new cases: 5,688. The Africa CDC chief said the pandemic on the 54-nation continent “is picking up speed very quickly,” while shortages of testing materials and medical equipment remain severe in many countries.

High school students arrive for their first day back at school in Dakar on Thursday. Schools have been closed since early March due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in Senegal. (John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images)

More than four million tests for the virus have been conducted on the continent of 1.3 billion people, far short of the ideal.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has more than 22,000 cases amid concerns that many infections there and elsewhere might not be recorded.

Nigeria’s outbreak may push five million people into poverty as it triggers the worst recession in the African powerhouse since the 1980s, the World Bank said.

Senegalese President Macky Sall is quarantining for two weeks after coming into contact with someone who has since tested positive for the coronavirus, state television said on Thursday. The measure is precautionary as an initial COVID-19 test of Sall has come back negative, it said.

Moroccans are reuniting with friends and family, attending cafés and restaurants open the first time in three months amid an easing of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The Moroccan government allowed cafés, restaurants, gyms and salons to open with social distancing and at 50 per cent seating capacity.

People wearing face masks sit at a café in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, after the authorities eased lockdown measures in some cities. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

From the most reputable restaurants to the humblest small cafés in the Medina of Rabat, the social pulse of the capital is slowly beating back to life as customers return.

Mexico’s Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 947 new deaths from the coronavirus and 5,437 new cases. 

Top officials with the World Health Organization expressed concern about the pandemic in the Americas on Wednesday, saying that there are several countries that have not yet seen a peak in cases.

France is stepping up efforts to root out hidden clusters of coronavirus infections by offering tests to nearly 1.3 million people in the Paris region.

The expansion of France’s testing program was announced Thursday by Health Minister Olivier Veran in an interview with the newspaper Le Monde. Health authorities will send out coupons that people can exchange for a test.

Visitors wearing protective face masks walk up the stairs as they visit the Eiffel Tower during its partial reopening on Thursday in Paris. (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

“The aim is to identify any sleeping clusters. That’s to say, invisible concentrations of asymptomatic people,” Veran was quoted as saying.

The minister said France is also arming itself for the possibility of a second wave of infections, reconstituting its stocks of medicines and making plans to be able to treat 30,000 people in intensive care if necessary.

The health ministers of France and Germany say their countries are “fully aligned” in support of the World Health Organization both financially and politically.

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn says the country remains a “critical friend” of the World Health Organization and is donating more than €500 million (roughly $765 million Cdn) to the UN agency for various programs. Those include the response to the coronavirus pandemic, although some of those funds were already previously announced.

Spahn said “this comes with the clear expectation that remaining challenges are adequately addressed and needed reforms are pushed forward.”

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