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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Friday

U.K. imposes tougher lockdown conditions; Hong Kong delays elections due to spike in cases

The Associated Press · Posted: Jul 31, 2020

Graffiti covers a government poster advising members of the public on physical distancing in the town of Rochdale, greater Manchester, northwest England. Rochdale faces harsher lockdown measures after a spike in cases. (Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

Johnson said at a news conference that statistics show the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community is likely increasing, with an estimated 4,900 new infections every day, up from 2,000 a day at the end of June.

“We just can’t afford to ignore this evidence,” he said. “With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze [the] brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.”

He called off plans to allow venues, including casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, to open from Saturday, Aug. 1. Wedding receptions were also put on hold, along with plans to allow limited numbers of fans back into sports stadiums and audiences into theaters.

The decision came shortly after Britain imposed a tougher lockdown in swathes of northern England. Roughly four million people were ordered not to mix with other households in Greater Manchester, the biggest city in northern England, as well as parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire

Physical distancing signs are seen around Borough Market in Halifax, England, to enforce the government’s coronavirus restrictions on Friday. (Oli Scarff/AFPGetty Images)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced Friday that the government will postpone highly anticipated legislative elections by one year, citing a worsening coronavirus outbreak in the semi-autonomous Chinese region.

The Hong Kong government is invoking an emergency ordinance in delaying the elections. Lam said the government has the support of the Chinese government in making the decision to hold the elections on Sept. 5, 2021.

The postponement is a setback for the opposition, which was hoping to win a historic majority in the Legislative Council, where only half the seats are directly elected and the other half stacked with pro-Beijing figures.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on Friday. Lam said local elections planned for September would be postponed because coronavirus cases have surged in the international finance hub, a move that will infuriate democracy supporters. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

On the international stage, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the global outbreak is the sort of disaster whose effects will last far into the future, as most of the world’s population remains vulnerable to infection.

“The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come,” Tedros told a meeting of WHO’s emergency committee.

“Early results from serology [antibody] studies are painting a consistent picture: most of the world’s people remain susceptible to this virus, even in areas that have experienced severe outbreaks,” he said.

“Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths.” 

Meanwhile, with aid expiring in the United States, the White House offered a short-term extension Thursday of a $600 US weekly unemployment benefit that has helped keep families and the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats rejected it, saying U.S. President Donald Trump’s team failed to grasp the severity of the crisis.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Earlier in the day, Trump suggested in a tweet that November’s general election should be postponed, citing his unsubstantiated assertions of widespread voter fraud. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Democratic leaders panned the idea in late-night talks at the Capitol, opting to keep the pressure on for a more sweeping bill that would deliver aid to state and local governments, help for the poor and funding for schools and colleges to address the pandemic. Without action, the benefit runs out Friday.

Republicans have been fighting to trim back the benefit to $200 a month, but their resolve weakened with the looming expiration of the popular benefit — and as Trump indicated that he supports keeping the full $600 benefit for now. 

“We want a temporary extension of enhanced unemployment benefits,” Trump said at the White House. “This will provide a critical bridge for Americans who lost their jobs to the pandemic through no fault of their own.”

U.S. President Donald Trump seemingly tried to distract voters after stats showing the American economy shrank by a third between April and June. He suggested postponing the presidential election in November, which was quickly rejected even by Republicans. 2:04

Trump has also been facing a rare rebuke from his party after his suggestion Thursday that it might be necessary to delay the November presidential election — which would require congressional approval — because of the unfounded threat of voter fraud. 

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley was especially blunt: “All I can say is, it doesn’t matter what one individual in this country says. We still are a country based on the rule of law, and we want to follow the law.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu vowed his state would hold its November elections as scheduled: “End of story.” Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who leads the House Republican Conference, said, “The resistance to this idea among Republicans is overwhelming.”

The top Republicans in the House and Senate, who have spent the past four years championing Trump in Congress, also distanced themselves from the notion of a delayed election.


What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 11:00 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 115,935 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 101,030 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting indicates that 8,963 Canadians have died.

Canada’s economy expanded by 4.5 per cent in May, a strong bounce back from the low hit in April, but still 15 per cent below the level it was at in February, before COVID-19 hit.

Economists had been expecting a rebound of about 3.5 per cent, so May’s numbers were better than expected. And the agency says preliminary data for June is even better, up five per cent from May’s level.

But the numbers underline just how long the road back from COVID-19 is for Canada’s economy. Output is still 15 per cent below where it was.

In Ontario, Toronto and Peel Region joined the rest of the province today in Stage 3 of their COVID-19 recovery plan. At the same time, the Ministry of Health reported an uptick in new daily cases.

The province confirmed an additional 134 cases of the illness this morning, after two straight days of fewer than 100. 


What’s happening in the rest of the world

Vietnamese state media reported on Friday the country’s first ever death of a person with the coronavirus as it struggles with a renewed outbreak after 99 days without any cases. 

The Thanh Nien newspaper said a 70-year-old man died after contracting the disease while being treated for a kidney illness at a hospital in Danang where more than 90 cases have been reported over the past week.

Dr. Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the country’s Administration of Medical Examination and Treatment, said there are at least six other elderly patients with COVID-19 currently in critical condition. All have other underlying illnesses, he said.

Medical specialists in protective suits work on blood samples collected for a coronavirus rapid test from people who recently returned from Danang City on Friday in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Linh Pham/Getty Images)

Vietnam had been seen as a global success story in combating the coronavirus with zero deaths and no cases of local transmission for 99 days. But a week ago an outbreak began at the Danang hospital. It has grown to 93 confirmed cases in six parts of the country, including three of the largest cities, and forced authorities to re-impose restrictions.

A record surge of 55,079 new cases in the past 24 hours took India‘s coronavirus caseload past 1.6 million, as the government decided to lift a nighttime curfew that has been in force since late March.

The country’s Health Ministry on Friday also reported 779 additional deaths, taking total fatalities to 35,747. The ministry said more than 1 million people have recovered from the virus at a rate of 64 per cent.

Health officials collect a nasal swab sample from a woman to test for coronavirus at a civil hospital in Amritsar, India on Friday. (Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)

The Philippines reported Southeast Asia’s biggest daily jump in new coronavirus cases for a second straight day on Friday, as its president extended restrictions in the capital to quell the spread, and promised normality would return in December.

The Philippines this month recorded the region’s largest daily rise in coronavirus deaths and on Friday its biggest daily jump in new cases for the second successive day, with 4,063 infections adding strain on inundated hospitals and front-line health-care workers.

The capital region, provinces south of it and some central cities remain subject to curbs on internal travel, restrictions on the elderly and children and some business operations.

South Africa‘s number of confirmed coronavirus cases is edging close to half a million, with the Health Ministry reporting 11,046 new cases overnight.

‘You end up choosing who to save,’ said a Johannesburg health-care worker, who complained of a ‘gross shortage of staff.’ 0:56

That brings the country’s caseload to 482,169, including 7,812 deaths.

Corruption in the country’s pandemic response is also a growing problem. On Thursday, the health minister in Gauteng province, the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, was forced to step down over corruption allegations related to government contracts for COVID-19 personal protective equipment.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that now, more than ever, South Africa’s persistent problem with widespread graft is endangering people’s lives. South Africa makes up well over half the cases on the African continent and has the world’s fifth-highest virus caseload.

A server waits for customers at a restaurant near Playa de Figueretas in Ibiza. The pandemic has dealt a major blow to Spain’s key tourism sector, which accounts for about 12 per cent of its economy. (Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images)

The coronavirus crisis has pulverized Spain’s economy, triggering its worst recession since the civil war, with collapsed tourism numbers boding ill for hopes of a swift rebound.

Its economy shrank 18.5 per cent in the second quarter, a drop so harsh it wiped out all the recovery achieved since the 2008 global financial crisis, figures from the National Statistics Institute showed on Friday.

The government had counted on tourism driving a third quarter recovery, but quarantines and travel advisories have dashed hopes as Spain battles with new localized outbreaks of COVID-19.

The country’s health ministry on Friday reported 1,525 new coronavirus cases, marking the biggest jump since a national lockdown was lifted in June and beating the previous day’s record rise.

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