The coronavirus pandemic has killed over 947,000 people and infected over 30 million worldwide. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for September 17:

A doctor checks a patient amid novel coronavirus pandemic in Ate, on the eastern outskirts of Lima, on September 10, 2020.
A doctor checks a patient amid novel coronavirus pandemic in Ate, on the eastern outskirts of Lima, on September 10, 2020. (AFP)

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Latin Americans seek more time to join WHO's vaccine facility

Several Latin American countries have informed the World Health Organization (WHO) they intend to request more time to sign up for its global Covid-19 vaccine facility known as COVAX, an official at the WHO's regional branch has said.

Countries have until midnight on Friday to formalise legally-binding commitments to COVAX, a mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of eventual vaccines. 

There quests for an extension to the deadline will be sent directly to the GAVI Alliance, the COVAX secretariat, the official at the Pan-American Health Organization said.

A representative for GAVI said by email that details of which nations joined COVAX will only be made public after the deadline.

France sees new 24-hour record of more than 10,000 cases

France has registered 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, setting anew daily record and pushing the cumulative number to 415,481, the Health Ministry reported.

The previous high was 10,561 new cases in a day, recorded on September 12. The sharp increase is a result of a higher infection rate but also of a massive increase in testing. The government has made Covid-19 testing free, resulting in long queues attesting centres in cities across France.

The number of people who have died from the virus in France increased by 50 to 31,095, the second-highest number in two months following the 80 deaths reported on September 11.

Turkey conducts nearly 9M coronavirus tests

Turkey has reported 1,648 more cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,143 recoveries while deaths rose by 66. 

The country's overall infection count now stands at 298,039, including 263,745 recoveries, according to data from the Health Ministry.

A total of 109,985 more coronavirus tests were conducted over the past 24 hours, pushing the total past 8.96 million.

The death toll from the outbreak in Turkey rose to 7,315, with 66 new fatalities.

The figures also showed that the number of patients in critical condition now stands at 1,372, while 7.1 percent suffer from pneumonia, showed the ministry figures.

France won't buy vaccines through COVAX scheme

France will provide funding for an initiative led by the World Health Organization to buy potential Covid-19 vaccines, but will not source shots through the programme, an official at the French Health Ministry said.

The decision by one of the UN agency's biggest supporters is a big blow to its strategy aimed at uniting governments around the world to fight the coronavirus pandemic together.

Instead of tapping the WHO's global vaccine project, known as COVAX, Paris will secure shots through a joint scheme arranged through the European Union, the official told Reuters.

More than 170 countries have joined the project, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, a day before a deadline for signing up to the facility.

UK reports 21 new deaths from virus

The United Kingdom has recorded 3,395 new positive cases of Covid-19, compared with 3,991 the day before, official statistics showed.

It has been the highest daily figure for new cases since May 8.

The country also recorded 21 further deaths from the disease up from 20 the day before.

Czechs struggling with record Covid-19 spike

The Czech Republic is struggling to stem a massive spike in coronavirus infections after clocking a record daily rate of infection on par with neighbouring Germany, which has a population that is eight times larger.

The EU country of 10.7 million people reported on Thursday that it had confirmed 2,139 cases over the last 24 hours.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech announced that the government would further tighten measures against the virus, it will close bars and clubs between midnight and 6am and introduce face masks in classrooms for pupils and students over 11.

The country has had more than 41,000 confirmed cases since the March outbreak, including 482 deaths, with 35 deaths in the past week alone.

Austria limits indoor events to 10 as virus spikes

Austria has announced that private indoor gatherings would be limited to 10 people in the battle to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Funerals will be exempt from the new rules and the limit for outdoors will remain at 100, with further exemptions for some cultural events.

Also from Monday, cafe and restaurant customers will have to wear a mask whenever they're not at their tables.

Previously only waiters and other staff had to wear a face covering.

Austria is recording several hundred new daily infections, with the one-day total reaching 882 on September 11, the second-highest of the whole crisis.

Dutch cases spike as test capacity seen at risk

The number of new coronavirus cases in the Netherlands hit a record high for the third consecutive day, the Health Ministry warned that test capacity was not nearly enough to deal with the wave of possible infections expected in the coming months.

Testing and lab capacity would have to be expanded from the current level of about 30,000 tests per day to 55,000 per day in November, up to 70,000 in December and 85,000 per day from February, the ministry said.

Testing capacity has already been severely strained in recent weeks, forcing people across the country to wait days for a test, as health authorities said too many people without clear Covid-19 symptoms were applying for one.

The daily rate of infections has surged in recent weeks, reaching a record level of 1,753, to a total of 88,073.

Israel closes schools again as cases surge

Israel has closed its schools, a day before entering a second national coronavirus lockdown, as daily infections topped 4,500.

The initial lockdown was imposed in late March and eased in May, when the number of new cases dropped to about 20 a day. Israeli leaders have acknowledged they lifted restrictions too soon, hoping to avoid further economic damage.

The new lockdown, due to last three weeks, coincides with the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, traditionally a time for large family gatherings.

Catching parents off-guard and trying to prevent further infections in schools, Israeli authorities decided late on Wednesday to close classrooms on Thursday, a day earlier than planned.

Ireland to quarantine people traveling from Greece, Italy

Ireland has added Greece and Italy to the list of countries from which travellers are required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, under new tighter travel restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

A new "Green List", which goes into effect on Monday, allows travelers arriving from just seven countries to avoid the quarantine: Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. 

Filming resumes on 'The Batman' movie after shutdown

Filming has resumed on the Warner Bros. movie "The Batman" after a two week shutdown caused by a member of the production testing positive for the coronavirus, Warner Bros. said.

"Following a hiatus for Covid-19 quarantine precautions, filming has now resumed on The Batman in the UK," a Warner Bros. spokesperson said in a statement.

The person who tested positive in early September was widely reported to be Robert Pattinson, the star of the superhero film, although the movie studio never confirmed or denied this.

Family & friends are major sources of infections in France

Gatherings of family are a major source of Covid-19 infections, French Health Minister Olivier Veran has said, adding the spread of the disease had accelerated in the last weeks.

"If everyone reduced his number of social contacts, this would help reduce the spread of the virus", he said during a press conference.

Five people out of 100 tested for Covid-19 are today positive, versus one in a 100 at start of summer, Veran also said. 

NYC delays again start of in-person learning

New York City has delayed again the planned start of in-person learning for most of the more than one million students in its public school system.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that most elementary school students will do remote-only learning until September 29. Middle and high schools will stay remote through October 1. The original in-school return date was September 21.

Pre-kindergarten students and some other special education students will resume in-person instruction on Monday as planned.

De Blasio and union leaders say the city needed more time to prepare for the safe return of students and staff to school buildings.

WHO warns of alarming virus transmission in Europe

The European chapter of the World Health Organization says it has seen "alarming rates of transmission" of Covid-19 across the region and warned countries against shortening quarantine periods.

"The September case numbers ... should serve as a wake-up call for all of us," the WHO's regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said. 

"Although these numbers reflect more comprehensive testing, it also shows alarming rates of transmission across the region," Kluge told a press conference, as the organisation said it was concerned about countries which had decided to shorten quarantine requirements.

Positive cases up 167 percent in England since end of August

There has been a 167 percent increase in the number of new people testing positive for Covid-19 in England, the National Health Service's Test and Trace scheme said.

The scheme said positive cases have been rising since the start of July and are now double the number recorded when Test and Trace launched in May.

Over 30M people infected with Covid-19

Covid-19 has now infected over 30 million people worldwide.

Worldometer tracker figures say more than 300,000,00 people have now contracted the disease, while over 945,000 died from it.

The disease originated in China's Wuhan and has spread around the world prompting a race for a vaccine by almost all major pharmaceutical companies.

WHO calls for consistent messaging on virus after Trump-CDC fallout

The emergencies chief of the World Health Organization has said that scientific disagreements over Covid-19 interventions, like masks and vaccines, shouldn’t be treated as “some kind of political football,” but acknowledged that “it isn’t easy for everyone to be on message all the time”.

Asked to respond to the open disagreements between US President Donald Trump and the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the effectiveness of masks and when a coronavirus vaccine might be available, Dr Michael Ryan said, "It is important that we have consistent messaging from all levels".

“This is complicated stuff,” Ryan said at a press briefing on Thursday. “What is important is that governments (and) scientific institutions step back, review the evidence and give us the most comprehensive, easy-to-understand ... information so that people can take the appropriate action.” He warned against turning scientific messaging into “some kind of political football”.

WHO has previously said it is possible there may be enough data from ongoing trials into coronavirus vaccines to know by the end of the year if one of the experimental shots is safe and effective enough to use globally.

On Wednesday, Trump predicted this could happen next month and that a mass vaccination campaign in the US could start shortly afterward. 

He called the US CDC director Dr Robert Redfield “confused” for projecting a longer timeline.

Indonesia reports 3,635 new infections, 122 deaths

Indonesia has reported 3,635 new infections, bringing the country's total number of cases to 232,628, the health ministry's website showed.

The ministry also reported 122 additional deaths from the virus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 9,222, the highest in Southeast Asia. 

ECB relaxes bank capital rules further due to pandemic

The European Central Bank has said it is offering additional temporary relief to banks to help them cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, easing requirements on the capital they are required to hold.

The ECB said that banks under its supervision will be able to exclude certain central bank exposures from their leverage ratio until June next year, given the "exceptional circumstances" created by the current pandemic.

The move means that banks do not have to include coins and banknotes, or deposits held at the central bank, in their leverage ratio calculations.

"The situation brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has affected all euro area economies in an unprecedented and profound way," the ECB said in a statement.

"This situation has resulted in an ongoing need for a high degree of monetary policy accommodation, which in turn requires the undeterred functioning of the bank-based transmission channel of monetary policy."

The leverage ratio, which measures a bank's core capital relative to its total assets, is designed to stop banks from taking on too much risk and is a key yardstick for investors.

India's cases jump by daily record of 97,894

India has reported another record jump in daily coronavirus infections with 97,894 cases in the last 24 hours, according to data from the health ministry.

With 5.12 million cases in all, India is the world's second-worst affected country.

Total fatalities from the disease have increased to 83,198 after 1,132 people died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.

Czech Republic's daily jump cases exceed 2,000

The Czech Republic has reported more than 2,000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day for the first time as it battles a surge in infections that is among the fastest in Europe.

The health ministry recorded 2,139 cases of the new coronavirus on Wednesday, up from a previous record 1,675 reported for the previous day.

Ukraine sets daily record with 3,584 new cases

Ukraine has set a daily record with 3,584 new coronavirus infections, the national security council said, up from a figure of 3,144 on September 11.

Ukraine has a total of 166,244 cases, with 3,400 deaths and 73,913 recoveries, the council added.

Cases in Germany rise to 265,857

The number of confirmed cases in Germany have increased by 2,194 to 265,857, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by three to 9,371, the tally showed.

WHO warns Latin America is reopening too soon

Latin America has begun a return to normal too soon, said World Health Organization Regional Director Carissa Etienne.

Etienne said coronavirus cases in Colombia’s border area with Venezuela have increased and death rates are climbing in parts of Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Argentina.

Latin America has recorded more than 8.4 million coronavirus cases and over 315,000 deaths, according to a running tally by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

Morocco confirms 38 more fatalities from virus

Morocco has reported 38 more deaths from Covid-19.

The Moroccan Health Ministry said in a statement that 1,692 new cases of the virus were recorded.

The total number of infections is now 92,016, including 1,686 deaths and 72,968 recoveries.

Algeria's infection tally rises to 48,966 

Algeria's Ministry of Health reported 232 new cases of the virus, 13 deaths and the recovery of 159 patients. 

The country’s infection tally is now 48,966, including 1,645 deaths and 34,517 recoveries.

Jordan registers 175 new infections

Jordan’s Ministry of Health has said that it registered 175 new cases, while 38 patients have recovered. 

The country’s case count has risen to 3,852, with 2,372 recoveries and 26 deaths.

South Africa to ease global travel restrictions 

South Africa announced late Wednesday that it will begin easing restrictions on international travel from October 1 amid a decline in coronavirus cases.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said business and leisure travel into and out of South Africa will be allowed in a televised address to the nation.

South Africa has the highest number of confirmed cases in Africa and is the eighth most affected country globally with more than 15,700 deaths and over 653,000 confirmed infections.

Mexico reports 4,444 new cases and 300 deaths

Mexico confirmed an additional 4,444 confirmed cases and 300 more deaths, bringing the totals to 680,931 cases and 71,978 deaths.

The government has said that the actual number of cases is likely higher.

New Zealand economy enters recession

New Zealand's economy posted a record fall in the June quarter, according to official data that also confirmed a Covid-19-induced recession as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern heads into next month's general election.

"The 12.2-percent fall in quarterly GDP is by far the largest on record in New Zealand," Statistics New Zealand said.

Kia Motors halts work at factories near Seoul 

Kia Motors has suspended production at all of its factories near Seoul after eight of its workers tested positive.

The factory produces Kia's Carnival SUV and Rio, among other models.

Kia Motors did not have an immediate comment.

Mainland China reports 9 new cases 

Mainland China reported nine new cases as of September 16, down from 12 reported a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Thursday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement all new cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas. 

The number of new asymptomatic patients also fell to 14 from 16 a day earlier, though China does not count these patients as confirmed cases.

Total of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 85,223, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634

Australia's Victoria state reports 28 new cases, eight deaths

Australia's Victoria state said the daily rise in infections eased further as the state began relaxing most restrictions outside its largest city of Melbourne after a steady drop in cases in recent days.

Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, reported 28 new cases and eight deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours. It reported 42 cases and eight deaths a day earlier.

Average cases in Melbourne, which is on an extended hard lockdown until September 28, was below 50 on Wednesday, the benchmark the state has set to start easing curbs.

Trump contradicts CDC director on vaccine, masks

President Donald Trump is contradicting the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the potential availability of a coronavirus vaccine to the general public and on mask-wearing.

Trump said that a vaccine will be available as early as October and in mass distribution soon afterward, much sooner than was projected in congressional testimony earlier in the day by Dr Robert Redfield.

Trump says Redfield “made a mistake” when he told lawmakers that any vaccine available in November or December would be in “very limited supply” and reserved for first responders and people most vulnerable to the virus.

Redfield estimated the shot wouldn’t be broadly available until the spring or summer of 2021.

After Trump’s comments, CDC officials claimed Redfield thought he was answering a question about when vaccination of all Americans will be completed.

Trump also disagreed with Redfield about the effectiveness of protective masks, which Redfield had said could be even more helpful in combating the coronavirus than a vaccine.

UN: Pandemic out of control with almost a million lives lost

United Nations chief says the pandemic remains “out of control”, with the world approaching “the grimmest of milestones: 1 million lives lost to the virus”.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres told a news conference on Wednesday that the coronavirus “is the number one global security threat in our world today,” posing a crisis that is “ unlike any in our lifetimes.”

He said that’s why he called for a global ceasefire on March 23 to tackle the pandemic.

And in his speech to world leaders at next Tuesday’s mainly virtual meeting of the UN General Assembly, Guterres said he will make “a strong appeal to the international community to mobilise all efforts for the global cease-fire to become a reality by the end of the year.”

The secretary-general urged the international community to come together to defeat the virus, stressing that a vaccine alone can’t solve the crisis.

Germany declares three EU cities as high-risk areas

Germany has declared three European capitals and several regions “risk areas” for coronavirus.

The Foreign Ministry said the Austrian capital Vienna, Budapest in Hungary and the Dutch region that includes Amsterdam were added to the risk list due to high numbers of infections there.

Also listed were several regions in France, Romania, Croatia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

Travellers arriving in Germany from those locations have to go into mandatory quarantine and take a coronavirus test.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies