Novel coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 191.9 million people and killed at least 4.1million around the world. Here are updates for July 20:

An Iranian woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a shuttered Bank Mehr branch in downtown Tehran on July 20, 2021.
An Iranian woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a shuttered Bank Mehr branch in downtown Tehran on July 20, 2021. (AFP)

Tuesday, July 20:

Iran orders week-long shutdown in Tehran amid fifth Covid wave

Iran has imposed a one-week lockdown in the capital and a nearby province as daily Covid-19 caseloads hit a record high amid a fifth wave of the pandemic, state television has reported.

The lockdown affects Tehran and Alborz provinces, with only essential businesses allowed to stay open. Most offices, theatres and sports facilities must shut down in an effort to prevent the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, the TV said.

Tunisian PM sacks health minister amid criticism on coronavirus crisis

The Tunisian prime minister has sacked the Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi, amid an exchange of accusations over performance in the fight against a Covid surge and the slow pace of the vaccination campaign.

A government statement said the minister of social affairs will serve as an acting minister of health.

Nine airport workers in Nanjing, China, test positive for Covid-19

Nine airport workers in Nanjing, capital of China's Jiangsu province, have tested positive for Covid-19, state media reported.

Positive results were found during the routine nucleic acid testing for airport workers carried out by local health authorities, the Xinhua news agency reported, adding that more samples were being tested.

Italy reports 10 deaths, 3,558 new cases

Italy has reported 10 coronavirus-related deaths against seven the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections increased to 3,558 from 2,072.

Italy has registered 127,884 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 1,194 on Tuesday, up from 1,188 a day earlier.

There were 11 new admissions to intensive care units against16 on Monday. The total number of intensive care patients rose to 165 from a previous 162.

Some 218,705 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 89,089, the health ministry said.

Britain's cases up by nearly 41% over past week

Britain has reported 46,558 new cases of Covid-19, government data has showed, meaning the rise in cases between July 14 and July 20 stood at 40.7 percent compared with the previous seven days.

A further 96 people were reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19.

A total of 46.35 million people had received a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus by July 19 and 36.24 million people had received a second dose. 

South Africa back in training after week of isolation

South Africa’s rugby sevens team, whose Olympic preparations have been hard hit by Covid-19, were able to train for the first time since arriving in Japan one week ago, SA Rugby has said in a statement.

The Springbok Sevens are among the gold medal favourites but were forced into isolation on arrival in Japan because a passenger on the same plane tested positive and they were deemed close contacts.

Their coach Neil Powell has since tested positive for the novel coronavirus and will miss the Olympic men’s competition from July 26-28.

French Covid cases rising at unprecedented rate: health minister

French Health Minister Olivier Veran has said that new Covid-19 infections were increasing at an unprecedented rate due to the Delta variant, after 18,000 cases were reported for the previous 24 hours.

Referring to the latest figures while speaking in parliament, Veran said: "That means we have an increase in the spread of the virus of around 150 percent in the last week: we've never seen that, neither with Covid [the original form], nor the British variant, nor the South African or the Brazilian one."

The level of infections is the highest since mid-May, when the country was emerging from a third nationwide lockdown.

France, which is bracing for a fourth wave of infections because of the spread of the Delta variant, has been racing to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

Peru strikes deal to purchase 20 mln doses of Sputnik V vaccine

Peru has signed a deal to purchase 20 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, the Health Ministry has said, a move to shore up the hard-hit Andean nation's defences over fears of a potential third wave of coronavirus.

Officials said the agreement, signed with the Russian Fund for Direct Investment, would ensure the arrival of the vaccines within "the next few months."

Peru is among the most battered countries in Latin America by the pandemic, a predicament that has left its hospitals near collapse and often outstripped the availability of oxygen tanks.

UK PM resisted 2nd lockdown as 'most dying over 80': ex-aide

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to avoid a second lockdown last autumn, arguing that most of those dying were over 80, according to his former aide-turned bitter foe Dominic Cummings.

In a BBC interview airing on Tuesday, the mastermind of Johnson's anti-EU Brexit campaign said his former boss "put his own political interests ahead of people's lives".

Cummings resigned as chief Downing Street advisor in November after an internal power struggle. In the latest of a series of attacks on the government, he shared WhatsApp messages apparently from Johnson.

In one message shown by Cummings to the BBC, the prime minister allegedly wrote in October that most people were dying from the virus at a ripe old age.

"The median age is 82-81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and Live longer," Johnson was said to have written in the text message.

The prime minister also apparently downplayed the pandemic's impact on the National Health Service (NHS), despite himself receiving intensive care treatment for Covid last spring.

CDC: Delta variant accounts for 83% of US cases

Health officials have said the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to surge and accounts for an estimated 83 percent of US Covid-19 cases.

That’s a dramatic increase from the week of July 3, when the variant accounted for about 50 percent of genetically sequenced coronavirus cases.

“The best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 variants is to prevent the spread of disease, and vaccination is the most powerful tool we have,” said Dr Rochelle Walensky, director if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a US Senate hearing on Tuesday.

US agencies report rising number of unruly airline passengers

US federal agencies are dealing with a rising number of unruly airline passengers, including thousands who have refused to wear masks.

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday that since January 1 it has received 3,509 unruly passenger reports, including 2,605 refusing to wear a mask. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told a US House panel on Tuesday that since that start of the Covid-19 pandemic there have been over 85 physical assaults on TSA officers. 

Bhutan restarts vaccinations after flood of donations

Bhutan has rolled out second doses of its vaccine programme following a lightning-fast first phase that saw most of its eligible adult population inoculated in two weeks.

The tiny Himalayan kingdom, which has a population of 770,000, was forced to wait more than three months to revive its mass vaccination drive after neighbouring India halted exports to meet local demand during a massive surge in infections.

Bhutan had pleaded for more shots after using up most of the 550,000 AstraZeneca doses donated by India when it inoculated 60 percent of the population – most of the country's adults – with first doses in late March and early April.

Mexico detects fake remdesivir at hospital, for sale on web

Authorities in Mexico say they have found fake doses of the Covid-19 drug remdesivir offered for sale on the internet and at a private hospital near the US border.

The federal medical safety commission said late on Monday that the fake antiviral drug, which it called “a health risk,” was found at a hospital in the Gulf coast city of Tampico, in the border state of Tamaulipas.

The commission said the doses had been purchased in an “irregular manner” on the internet, but did not say whether the medication had been used there.

Covid hospitals in Pakistan's largest city reaching capacity

The spread of the coronavirus Delta variant is reaching alarming levels in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi on the eve of the Eid al Adha Muslim holiday as public and some private sector hospitals are reaching capacity and have started refusing patients, medical officials have said.

The Sindh provincial government said on Monday that the Covid-19 situation in the city is becoming serious, and warned people that ignoring precautionary measures during the holiday could make matters worse.

During the past 24 hours, the coronavirus positivity rate in the Sindh capital increased to 25.7%, nearly five times the national rate of 5.25%.

Government hospitals have reached saturation point, something not witnessed during previous waves, and even some private hospitals are refusing patients, said Dr Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association.

Zimbabwe orders Covid-19 vaccination for all civil servants

Zimbabwe's government has ordered that all its workers should receive a Covid-19 vaccine and only 10% of civil servants report for duty, with the rest working from home in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic.

The head of the public commission, Jonathan Wutawunashe, said in a circular to government departments that all civil servants - about 250,000 - were considered frontline workers who should get Covid-19 shots.

More than 1.1 million people have received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Zimbabwe has recorded 85,732 infections, a quarter of them since end of June and 2,697 deaths to date.

Indonesia extends coronavirus curbs to July 25 - president

Indonesia will extend its restrictions on movement until July 25 and aim to ease them gradually from July 26 if the number of Covid-19 infections drops, President Joko Widodo has said in a virtual address.

Two-thirds of Indians have coronavirus antibodies, survey shows

Two-thirds of India's population have antibodies against the coronavirus, according to data released on Tuesday from a survey of 29,000 people across the nation conducted in June and July.

The fourth national blood serum survey which tests for antibodies, known as a sero survey, included 8,691 children aged 6-17 years for the first time. Half of them were seropositive.

The survey showed 67.6% of adults were seropositive, while more than 62% of adults were unvaccinated. As of July, just over 8% of eligible adult Indians had received two vaccine doses.

About 400 million of India's 1.4 billion people did not have antibodies, the survey showed.

Czech coach tests positive for Covid in Olympic Village

Czech beach volleyball coach Simon Nausch has tested positive for Covid-19 in the Tokyo Olympic Village, officials have said, a day after one of the players also tested positive.

"At least we know that regular testing works and catches positive cases right from the start. It's unpleasant for us but we'll deal with it," Czech Olympic team head Martin Doktor said in a statement.

The team said Nausch had left the Olympic Village for isolation and that any close contacts would self-isolate.

It is the fifth Covid case in the Village. Two South African footballers and a video analyst had previously tested positive.

Iran registers record daily Covid caseload

Iran has registered a new daily Covid caseload record, the health ministry has announced, as strict limitations to curb its spread went into effect in the capital Tehran.

In the past 24 hours, the country registered a record 27,444 new infections to bring its total number of positive cases to 3,576,148.

It also recorded an additional 250 coronavirus-related deaths, taking the total to 87,624, the ministry said.

Authorities have previously admitted that the official figures do not account for all cases but those numbers still make Iran the harded-hit country in the Middle East.

Jailed senior adviser to ousted Myanmar leader dies from Covid-19, party says

Myanmar politician Nyan Win, a senior adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, died in hospital after becoming infected with Covid-19 in jail, his party has said, as the Southeast Asian country struggles with an exponential rise in infections.

Nyan Win, 78, who had been held in Yangon's Insein prison after being arrested when the army seized power on February 1, was transferred to hospital last week, the National League for Democracy (NLD) said in a statement.

Reuters was unable to reach the health ministry or a junta spokesman for comment.

Russia reports 23,770 new cases, 784 deaths

Russia registered 23,770 new Covid-19 cases, authorities have said, pushing the total number of infections past 6 million.

The number of active cases in Russia has reached 474,401, according to the country’s coronavirus emergency task force.

Some 784 people died of the virus over the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide death toll to 149,922. At least 22,218 more patients recovered, taking the total number of recoveries to 5.38 million.

Meanwhile, efforts by the Moscow authorities bore fruits and the situation in the Russian capital has started improving as the number of daily cases reduced almost by half from 6,000-7,000 per day to 3,000-4,000 per day.

UK court rules government acted lawfully over Covid travel rules

London's High Court has ruled Britain did not act unlawfully over its so-called traffic lights system for travellers entering Britain in a case brought by Manchester Airports Group (MAG), backed by a number of airlines.

While the court accepted part of the argument against the government, it did not find that the transport minister had acted unlawfully, and the government will not have to disclose more information on how it reaches decisions over its travel rules.

The litigation was backed by airlines Ryanair, easyJet, British Airways-owner IAG, TUI UK and Virgin Atlantic.

Airports and airlines have criticised the traffic light system of classifying countries based on their Covid-19 risk, arguing decisions are not based on data, and slamming last minute changes which have hurt bookings.

India's deaths during pandemic ten times official toll – research

India's excess deaths during the pandemic could be a staggering 10 times the official Covid-19 toll, likely making it modern India’s worst human tragedy, according to the most comprehensive research yet on the ravages of the virus in the south Asian country.

Most experts believe India's official toll of more than 414,000 dead is a vast undercount, but the government has dismissed those concerns as exaggerated and misleading.

The report released estimated excess deaths – the gap between those recorded and those that would have been expected – to be between 3 million to 4.7 million between January 2020 and June 2021. 

It said an accurate figure may “prove elusive” but the true death toll “is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count.”

The report, published by Arvind Subramanian, the Indian government’s former chief economic adviser, and two other researchers at the Center for Global Development and Harvard University, said the count could have missed deaths occurring in overwhelmed hospitals or while health care was delayed or disrupted, especially during the devastating peak surge earlier this year.

“True deaths are likely to be in the several millions not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since Partition and independence,” the report said.

The Partition of the British-ruled Indian subcontinent into independent India and Pakistan in 1947 led to the killing of up to 1 million people as gangs of Hindus and Muslims slaughtered each other.

Vietnam agrees to tech transfers on Russian, US vaccines

Vietnam has reached agreements on technology transfers for Russian and US vaccines, the government said in a statement, without elaborating.

The Southeast Asian country is keen to boost its vaccine capacity and the World Health Organization said in May it was reviewing a proposal by an unidentified manufacturer in Vietnam to become an mRNA-based vaccine technology hub.

Vietnam's health ministry was also in talks with Russia to produce the Sputnik V vaccine, media has reported.

Olympic Village infection bubble already 'broken' – health expert

The so-called bubble to control infections at the Olympic Athlete's Village in Tokyo is already "broken" and poses a risk of spreading infections to the general populace, a prominent public health expert said.

Games officials on Sunday reported the first virus case among competitors in the athletes' village in Tokyo where 11,000 athletes are expected to stay. Since July 2, Tokyo 2020 organisers have reported 58 positive cases among athletes, officials and journalists.

Myanmar targets higher vaccinations as cases soar

Myanmar's military-controlled health ministry expects half of the population to be vaccinated against the virus this year, state media reported, a day after authorities announced a record tally of virus deaths.

The inoculation target comes as the Southeast Asian nation's effort to contain an exponential rise in infections has been thrown into chaos by the turmoil since the military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported that only about 1.6 million people had been inoculated out of a population of 54 million, but said "vaccines are constantly being imported to ensure that 100 percent of the population is fully vaccinated".

Adelaide becomes latest Australian city to enter lockdown

Adelaide will become the latest in a string of Australian cities to lock down as the largely unvaccinated nation struggles to contain a rapidly spreading virus outbreak.

The state of South Australia, of which Adelaide is the capital, said it would join Sydney and Melbourne in locking down after five local cases were detected.

The decision means more than 14 million Australians are now under orders to stay at home.

South Korea apologises over virus-stricken destroyer

South Korea’s prime minister apologised for “failing to carefully take care of the health” of hundreds of sailors who contracted the coronavirus on a navy ship taking part in an anti-piracy mission off East Africa.

The outbreak aboard the destroyer Munmu the Great is the largest cluster South Korea's military has seen. 

A total of 247 of the ship's 301 crew have tested positive for the virus in recent days and two military planes had to be dispatched to fly them all home.

Total cases rise to 71 at Tokyo Olympics

A US gymnast and a Czech beach volleyball player were added to the tally of people accredited for the Tokyo Olympics who have tested positive for the virus this month.

Tokyo Olympics organisers said 71 people have now tested positive. The total includes 31 people among the tens of thousands of international visitors expected in Japan to compete or work at the Games, which open Friday.

Fewer women than men to regain employment during recovery: ILO

Inequalities between women and men in the job market that have been exacerbated due to the pandemic will persist and there will be 13 million fewer women employed in 2021 than in 2019, while men’s employment will have succeeded in recovering, an International Labor Organization (ILO) report projected Monday.

“Even though the projected jobs growth in 2021 for women exceeds that of men, it will, nonetheless, be insufficient to bring women back to pre-pandemic employment levels,” the ILO report says.

Two Mexico team members test positive 

Two members of Mexico's Olympic baseball team have tested positive for the virus at the team hotel before their departure for the Tokyo Olympics, the federation said.

The athletes, Hector Velazquez and Sammy Solis, who tested positive on July 18, have been isolated, as have all team members pending results of more tests, it said.

"It was decided to isolate the two players immediately in their rooms of the national team hotel, as well as all the players and team coaching staff, until the medical laboratory delivers the PCR tests," it said in a statement.

Germany's confirmed virus cases rise by 1,183 

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 1,183 to 3,746,410, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 34 to 91,397, the tally showed.

Twitter temporarily blocks US Republican Greene for virus posts

Twitter on said it temporarily suspended Republican US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene's account for tweets that violated the social media's misinformation policy on the virus.

Greene posted that the coronavirus is not dangerous for non-obese people under 65, and that organisations should not force "non-FDA" approved vaccines or masks. These tweets have been labelled as "misleading" by the platform.

The United States is using vaccines made by Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson under Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorisation.

Australia's Victoria extends lockdown 

Australia's Victoria state has extended its Covid-19 lockdown by seven days until July 27 as officials sought more time to quell an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant that has now reached more than 80 cases in a week.

A five-day snap lockdown was imposed in Victoria last week, restricting the state's near seven million residents to their homes after a growing number of new infections were traced back to large gatherings, including a rugby match between Australia and France.

The tough curbs had been due to end midnight on Tuesday.

Melbourne, Australia's second largest city and the state capital of Victoria, spent about third of last year under tough restrictions as the epicentre of the country's initial outbreak, suffering most of Australia's 31,900 cases and 915 deaths to date.

China reports 65 new cases

China has reported the highest daily tally of new confirmed Covid-19 cases since January, driven by a surge in imported infections in southwestern Yunnan province, which shares a border with Myanmar.

China reported 65 new Covid-19 cases in the mainland on July 19 compared to 31 a day earlier, the country's health authority said.

Of the new cases, 57 originated overseas, and eight were local transmissions, the National Health Commission said in its daily bulletin. All of the local cases were in the southwestern border province of Yunnan, it added.

Another 19 asymptomatic coronavirus cases were detected on the mainland on July 19, compared to 17 a day earlier. China does not count asymptomatic infections as confirmed cases.

China's total accumulated Covid-19 cases has now reached 92,342, with deaths unchanged at 4,636.

Canada to open border to vaccinated Americans on August 9

Fully vaccinated US citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to cross the border into Canada for non-essential travel from August 9 without any quarantine requirements, the government in Ottawa has said.

Canada will then reopen its borders to all vaccinated foreign travellers from September 7.

The US-Canadian land border, the world's longest, and the air border have been closed to non-essential travel since mid-March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Canadian government data released Monday, 75 percent of those living in Canada have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.

Half are fully vaccinated.

US warns against traveling to Britain, Indonesia

The United States has upgraded its travel warnings for Britain, Indonesia and three other destinations, advising Americans not to travel there due to a surge in coronavirus cases.

The CDC and the State Department issued revised advice to US travellers alerting them to the increased risk of contracting Covid-19 in Britain, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Fiji and the British Virgin Islands. Previously, all had been covered by a less severe advisory to “reconsider travel.”

The advisories are recommendations that are constantly under review and are not binding, although they may affect group tours and insurance rates.

The warning for Britain, for example, has fluctuated between Level 3, or “reconsider travel,” and Level 4, or “do not travel,” several times this year already.

Mexico reports 5,307 new cases, 138 more deaths

Mexico's health ministry has reported 5,307 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 138 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,664,444 infections and 236,469 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll could be 60 percent more than the official count.

Brazil reports 15,271 new cases, 542 deaths

Brazil has registered 15,271 new cases of coronavirus and 542 new deaths during the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies