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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Wednesday

Tokyo declares coronavirus ‘red’ alert, governor calls situation ‘rather severe’

The Associated Press · Posted: Jul 15, 2020

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike shows a banner reading ‘infection spread alert’ as she attends a news conference on the latest situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak in Japan’s capital. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Tokyo raised its coronavirus alert to the highest “red” level on Wednesday, alarmed by a recent spike in daily new cases to record highs, with Gov. Yuriko Koike describing the situation in Japan’s capital as “rather severe.”

In Tokyo, daily virus cases exceeded 200 in four of the past seven days, touching an all-time high of 243 last Friday as testing among nightclub workers in its red-light districts showed rising infections among people in their 20s and 30s. Health experts noted Tokyo hospitals were getting crowded as the number of patients doubled from the previous week.

“We are in a situation where we should issue warnings to citizens and businesses,” Koike told a press conference, urging residents to refrain from unnecessary travel. The infection rate in Tokyo is at stage “red,” the highest of four levels in the metropolis’s system, Koike said, citing the analysis by health experts who cautioned earlier in the day that infections were going up quite a bit and “exceeding peaks.”

Millions of people worldwide have been forced back into lockdown as COVID-19 cases soar in several countries, including India which is expected to hit one million cases this week. 2:00

She also pledged to step up testing for the virus by utilizing equipment at universities. “My understanding is that we’re in a rather severe situation now,” Koike said.

As of 10:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the global coronavirus case count stood at 13,357,992, with 579,509 deaths as a result of the virus and 7,441,331 cases considered recovered, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 10:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 108,486 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 72,170 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,836.

The rise of coronavirus cases in young people is a concern because they could pass it to people at higher risk of developing complications, says Dr. Samir Gupta. ‘Nobody truly lives in a bubble,’ he said. 5:48

The Bank of Canada held its key interest rate at 0.25 per cent in response to what it calls the “extremely uncertain” economic outlook from the COVID-19 pandemic, and plans to keep it there until the picture improves. In its updated outlook, the bank expects the economy to contract by 7.8 per cent this year.

A group of Ontario child-care operators is asking the province to allow the sector to fully reopen in September. The six operators said a government plan that restricts capacity could result in the closure of some centres.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said this week that the province was planning to expand the number of children allowed in daycare centres effective July 27, from the current cohorts of 10 to 15 children. The providers call the cohort numbers “arbitrary” and say they will reduce available child-care spaces for families.

Here’s what’s happening around the world

Levels of childhood immunizations against dangerous diseases such as measles, tetanus and diphtheria have dropped alarmingly during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting millions of children at risk, United Nations agencies said on Wednesday.

“The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a joint report with UNICEF.

Three-quarters of the 82 countries that responded to a survey for the report said they had suffered coronavirus-related disruptions to their immunization programs as of May 2020. Most problems were linked to a lack of sufficient personal protection equipment (PPE) for health workers, travel restrictions, and low health worker staffing levels — all of which led to immunization services being curbed or shut down.

In the United States, the White House said an opinion piece by its trade adviser that’s critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci is the adviser’s opinion “alone.” Alyssa Farah, White House director of strategic communications, tweeted Wednesday the piece by trade adviser Peter Navarro “didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes and is the opinion of Peter alone.”

Farah said U.S. President Donald Trump “values the expertise” of the medical professionals advising the administration. But Trump has also broken with Fauci and publicly accused him of making “mistakes” in his public guidance about combating the virus.

Conflicting messages from leadership are a big problem in the U.S., but most people she sees are acting responsibly when it comes to COVID-19, says a Winnipeg woman living in southern Florida.   6:11

USA Today published Navarro’s piece. It outlined the ways Navarro says he has disagreed with Fauci, who is the leading U.S. expert on infectious diseases and serves on the White House coronavirus task force.

Navarro had shared his views with some reporters and the column comes as allies of Trump, including others inside the White House, have been waging a campaign to discredit Fauci.

The U.S. is the worst-affected country in terms of infections, followed by Brazil and India. More than 136,000 people have died in the U.S. as a result of the virus, the highest of any country.

Bolivia’s government has been rocked by the novel coronavirus, with the president and at least seven of her cabinet ministers testing positive, straining the interim leadership and casting a shadow over a slated election rerun in under two months.

Conservative caretaker president Jeanine Áñez, who is also a candidate in the planned Sept. 6 ballot, tested positive for the virus last week, though she said she was doing well and would continue to work from isolation. The ministers for economy, foreign affairs, mining, health, hydrocarbons and the presidency are also infected, the most recent confirmed on Tuesday. Others include Senate leader Eva Copa, who has said she was stable, and dozens of junior officials.

Latin America has become a major hot spot for the virus with around a quarter of global cases and deaths despite only having around eight per cent of the world’s population. Cases and fatalities are still rising fast. A number of other political leaders in the region, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Venezuelan socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello have also tested positive.

In Bolivia, confirmed cases have topped 50,000, with the lowland city of Santa Cruz the hardest hit. The death toll stands near 1,900.

Stricter health checks went into effect at Greece’s border with Bulgaria following an increase in tourism-related COVID-19 cases. Starting Wednesday, all incoming travellers crossing the border are required to carry negative coronavirus test results issued in the previous 72 hours and translated into English.

The new rules saw a drop in arrivals compared to recent days early Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there will be an inquiry into the country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the future, but now is not the time as the battle to combat it is ongoing.

“We will seek to learn the lessons of this pandemic in the future and certainly we will have an independent inquiry into what happened,” he said on Wednesday.

France’s tourism industry received a further boost Wednesday with the partial reopening of Disneyland Paris and the opening up of the top floor of the Eiffel Tower.

Disneyland Paris, Europe’s most frequented theme park resort, will feature enhanced safety measures including managed attendance, reduced capacity to support physical distancing, and bolstered cleaning and disinfection of rides and spaces.

Eiffel Tower officials have said a maximum of 250 people will now be allowed at the top floor at a time to enjoy the panoramic views of the city.

Quebec’s move to impose mask wearing across the province while opening up more is a reasonable trade-off, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch. 6:01

Some 160,000 people in the Spanish region of Catalonia returned to confinement on Wednesday as authorities scrambled to control a fresh surge of coronavirus infections in the area, just weeks after a nationwide lockdown was lifted.

A judge finally approved the regional government’s stay-at-home order for residents of the city of Lleida and six nearby towns on Tuesday night after several days of legal wrangling and political tensions over the issue.

A health worker wearing a protective mask walks past a field hospital outside Arnau de Vilanova hospital in Lleida, Spain. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Zimbabwe has postponed the reopening of schools scheduled for the end of this month, citing rising numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government had insisted on a phased reopening of schools despite resistance from teachers’ unions, who argued the move would endanger pupils and teachers because of lack of adequate planning and personal protective gear such as face masks and sanitizers.

Also, physical distancing would be nearly impossible in many schools where up to 70 pupils are often crammed into small classrooms, the unions said. Many schools, like much of the country, have no running water, making it difficult for pupils, teachers and other school workers to practise hygiene methods such as handwashing.

The confirmed coronavirus cases reached 1,064 Wednesday and 20 deaths, up from seven at the end of June.

Residents of Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, were warned on Wednesday to comply with lockdown regulations or face tougher restrictions. Melbourne’s five million people and part of the city’s semi-rural surroundings are a week into a six-week lockdown to contain a new outbreak there.

“The time for warnings, the time for cutting people slack is over,” Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said. “Where we are is in a very serious and deadly position.”

Nationally, Australia has now recorded about 10,500 cases, while the death toll rose to 111 on Wednesday after a woman in her 90s died from the virus. Victoria reported another 238 cases in the past 24 hours.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews urged people in his state to abide by lockdown restrictions due to a growing coronavirus outbreak. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Indian authorities will impose lockdowns in high-risk areas in nearly a dozen states as the nation’s coronavirus caseload approaches one million. A two-week lockdown starting Thursday has been imposed in Bihar, a state in eastern India with 128 million people and a fragile health system. Since Saturday, Bihar has recorded over 1,000 cases each day despite limited testing.

India’s key southern technology hub, Bangalore, where the offices of Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are located, was put under a weeklong lockdown Wednesday. About a dozen other states, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam have also put high-risk areas in lockdown, allowing only essential food supplies and health services.

A woman gets a nasal swab sample taken to test for the coronavirus in Hyderabad, India. (Mahesh Kumar A./The Associated Press)

Renewed restrictions took effect in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with public gatherings limited to four people, restaurants restricted to takeout after 6 p.m., and a one-week closure for gyms, karaoke bars and selected other businesses. Masks also are mandated on public transit for the first time, with the non-compliant being fined.

Russian authorities have lifted mandatory two-week self-quarantine rules for those arriving as part of easing coronavirus restrictions. It’s one of several steps in an effort to reopen the country after health officials started reporting a slowdown in infections.

The country reported 6,422 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, pushing its confirmed national tally to 746,369, the fourth highest in the world. Officials said 156 people had died of the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 11,770.

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