The coronavirus pandemic has now infected over 19.4 million people and has killed more than 720,000. Here are the latest updates for August 7:

A sign is pictured outside Pfizer Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, US, July 22, 2020.
A sign is pictured outside Pfizer Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, US, July 22, 2020. (Carlo Allegri / Reuters)

Friday, August 7, 2020

Pfizer signs agreement with Gilead Sciences

Pfizer Inc. has said it signed a multi-year agreement to make Covid-19 treatment remdesivir for developer Gilead Sciences Inc., which is under pressure to increase tight supplies of the antiviral drug.

Gilead is aiming to make enough of the drug by the end of the year to treat more than 2 million Covid-19 patients, and agreed to send nearly all of its remdesivir supply to the United States through September.

But hospital staffers and politicians have complained about difficulties in gaining access to the drug, which is one of only two to have demonstrated an ability to help hospitalised Covid-19 patients in formal clinical trials.

US records more than 160,000 deaths

More than 160,000 people have died from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, nearly a quarter of the global total. The country is now debating whether schools are ready to reopen in coming weeks.

The US recorded 160,003 deaths and 4.91 million cases, the highest caseload in the world, caused in part by lingering problems in making rapid testing widely available and resistance in some quarters to masks and social distancing measures.

Coronavirus deaths are rising in 23 states and cases are rising in 20 states, according to a Reuters analysis of data the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks.

Turkey sees more than 1,000 new cases

Turkey on confirms 1,185 additional cases of Covid-19, raising the tally to 238,450, according to the country's health minister.

"The rise in the number of cases continues. The number of recoveries from the virus is less than the number of new cases, as it was yesterday," Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.

The country has confirmed 1,028 more recoveries from the novel coronavirus, raising the total to 221,574.

The death toll stands at 5,813 after 15 people died over the past 24 hours.

Norway warns against travel abroad

Norwegians should avoid all travel abroad, even to countries with few Covid-19 cases, to prevent a resurgence in the coronavirus, the health minister said .

"There is still little contamination in Norway but we see increased contamination in countries that used to have control over their situations," Bent Hoie said.

While not a member of the European Union, Norway belongs to the passport-free Schengen travel zone. It had some of the strictest travel restrictions in Europe in the early phase of the pandemic before gradually lifting them from June.

In another move, bars and restaurants may no longer serve alcohol after midnight.

Iran sees 156 more deaths

As many as 156 new coronavirus-related fatalities have raised the death toll in Iran to 18,132, the health ministry said.

A total of 2,450 people tested positive for Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 322,567, according to ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari.

She said more than 279,000 patients have recovered so far, while 4,136 are still hospitalised in critical condition .

"Over 2.61 million tests have been conducted in Iran to date," Lari added.

Iraq reports 75 more deaths

The Iraqi Health Ministry report 75 additional fatalities from the coronavirus.

As many as 3,461 infections were registered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total count to 144,064 cases. The country has recorded 5,236 deaths and 103,197 recoveries so far.

Due to the upward trend in virus cases, the country has imposed a curfew from July 30 to August 9.

China, India conduct trials for Covid-19 vaccines

A coronavirus vaccine developed by German firm BioNTech, whose co-founder is Turkish scientist Dr Ugur Sahin, has started trials on humans in Chinaafter Germany and the US.

Meanwhile, India-based Zydus Cadila has launched Phase II clinical trials of locally produced ZyCoV-D vaccine.

The vaccine was found to be safe in the first phase and well-tolerated in healthy participants.

In the second phase, the vaccine is planned to be tried on 1,000 healthy adults. 

Russia sees more than 100 deaths in a day

Russia reports 5,241 new coronavirus cases and 119 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Malta bans mass gatherings

Malta bans mass gatherings and makes it mandatory to wear masks in public as new coronavirus cases surged after having been reduced to zero for a week early in July.

Health authorities reported 49 new infections on Friday, the second highest daily number since the first case was detected on March 7. Nine patients have died.

Prime Minister Robert Abela ordered restrictions on public gatherings and measures to limit direct access to people in nursing homes, with visitors required to remain behind Perspex screens.

France warns against dropping guard

French health ministry chief Jerome Salomon warned on Friday against countries letting down their guard, as there had been a clear uptick in coronavirus infections in France and Europe.

"The virus continues to circulate very actively worldwide. There is a very clear upwards trend in France and Europe," Salomon said.

"Even if the numbers are coming down in the Mayenne area, one must keep up the efforts," he said.

France's new Covid-19 infections rose by more than 1,600 over 24 hours for the second day running on Thursday, putting the country at levels not seen since late May, while the number of affected patients in intensive care units has also risen. 

Spain sees nearly 2,000 cases in one day

Spain reports 1,895 new coronavirus infections in the past day, mainly in the regions of the Basque Country, Catalonia and Aragon.

That compares with a 1,683 rise on Thursday, according to health ministry data.

The biggest rise was seen in the Basque Country where there were 428 cases in the past day, a 26 percent increase compared with Thursday, according to health ministry data.

Spain has seen a total of 314,362 cases of Covid-19 and recorded 28,503 deaths.

UK Covid-19 reproduction rate rises

The reproduction number of the coronavirus among people in the United Kingdom has risen to 0.8-1, Britain's health ministry said.

Last week, the R rate stood at 0.8-0.9, itself up from 0.7-0.9 the previous week.

"We are starting to see early indications that these values may be increasing," the health ministry said.

"This is not yet fully reflected in these estimates because the data used to calculate R and growth rate reflect the situation from a few weeks ago. It is also important to recognise that these are estimates, and there is a high degree of uncertainty with them."

Russia's cases surpass 875,000

Russian authorities reported 5,241 new cases of the novel coronavirus, pushing its national tally to 877,135, the fourth largest in the world.

The official death toll rose to 14,725 after officials said 119 people had died across the country during the past 24 hours. 

Germany closes two schools in new virus blow

Hundreds of children were sent home as Germany closed two schools over coronavirus infections in a new blow to hopes for a return to normality after the summer holidays.

Just days after schools in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania became the first to reopen full time after the break, some 800 students were forced to head home from the Goethe Gymnasium in Ludwigslust after a teacher tested positive for Covid-19.

The infected teacher has not given any lessons since the secondary school reopened on Monday, but all 55 teachers will now have to be tested for the virus.

The school will remain closed until at least Wednesday, said a statement issued by the district.

Russia offers to supply Philippines with vaccine

Russia is willing to supply a coronavirus vaccine to the Philippines, or team up with a local firm to mass produce it, its ambassador to Manila said, as infections in the Southeast Asian nation surge.

Russia is expecting regulatory approval for its first potential Covid-19 vaccine this month, with doses to be administered to frontline health workers first.

But the frenetic race globally to develop a Covid-19 vaccine is raising some concern that speed could compromise safety and that some countries could be putting national prestige before solid science.

New national lockdown ruled out in Poland

Poland reported 809 new Covid-19 cases, the sixth record daily rise in two weeks, but Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin ruled out a new nationwide lockdown.

According to the health ministry's Twitter account, most of the cases were in and around big cities, including the capital, Warsaw, Katowice and Krakow.

It said 259 of the new infections were in the Silesia coal mining region, where the main city is Katowice.

As of Friday 1,279 coal miners were now infected, mostly in state-run coal producer PGG, data cited by state news agency PAP showed.

But Sasin told state television before the latest figures were announced: "There is no way that we would impose a general lockdown again."

Poland has reported 50,324 Covid-19 cases overall and 1,787 deaths.

Rwandans sent to late-night lectures for breaking Covid rules

Rwandans caught breaking curfew or not wearing masks are being sent to stadiums in droves for all-night lectures on the dangers of coronavirus, as the country maintains a tough approach to stem its spread.

Since mid-July, official figures show that about 70,000 people accused of ignoring the 9:00 pm curfew or rules on mandatory face masks have been ordered by police to sit through hours of speeches at local arenas or detention centres.

Every evening, in stadiums across Rwanda, public health messaging is blared through loudspeakers to spectators seated at least a metre apart in the stands, imploring them to be ambassadors in the fight against the new virus.

Bangladesh national footballers test positive

Eleven players from the Bangladesh national football squad have tested positive for coronavirus, dealing a blow to their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The infections were confirmed after 24 of 36 players scheduled to join a training camp organised by the team's English coach Jamie Day were tested.

"None of them carried any symptoms before coming for the test," Bangladesh Football Federation General Secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag said.

Bangladesh has officially recorded just over 250,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 3,300 deaths from the illness.

Philippines defends virus response after soaring cases

The Philippines has seen a jump in coronavirus infections due to intensified testing, the presidential spokesman said, defending the country's response to the pandemic after overtaking Indonesia to record the most cases in Southeast Asia.

Infections have surged nearly seven-fold to more than 122,000, while deaths have more than doubled since a strict lockdown was lifted in June. It prompted authorities to reimpose a lockdown in and around Manila earlier this week.

The Philippines' health ministry reported 3,379 additional coronavirus cases in last 24-hours  and deaths had increased by 24 to 2,168.

The country now has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia and other parts of eastern Asia including China. 

Japan says in deal to purchase AstraZeneca's vaccine

Japan will buy 120 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc's experimental Covid-19 vaccine from early next year, its health minister said, adding that domestic pharmaceutical firms would help in supplying the drug.

The agreement with the British drugmaker comes after Japan announced a deal last week to buy 120 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE.

Japan is the latest country to sign up for AstraZeneca's vaccine, known as AZD1222, which is under development in partnership with the University of Oxford.

India's cases pass two million

India's official coronavirus case tally passed two million after a daily jump of more than 60,000.

The South Asian giant becomes only the third country to reach the figure, after the US and Brazil.

India logged its first one million infections just three weeks ago.

Official figures show the country has now recorded 2.03 million infections and 41,585 deaths. 

Many experts say the true numbers may be much higher among its 1.3 billion people, many of whom live in some of the world's most crowded cities.

Hong Kong to offer free testing for all residents

Hong Kong will offer free voluntary coronavirus testing for residents, leader Carrie Lam said, as the global financial hub races to contain a resurgence of the virus over the past month.

The plan, which will enable citywide testing for the first time, is likely to be implemented in two weeks at the earliest, Lam said.

The announcement comes less than a week after China sent a team of health officials to Hong Kong to carry out widespread testing for Covid-19.

Since January around 3,900 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 46 of whom have died.

Hong Kong reported 89 new coronavirus cases, of which 81 were locally transmitted.

Indonesia reports 2,473 new cases, 72 deaths

Indonesia reported 2,473 new coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the total tally in the country to 121,226, data from government's Covid-19 task force website showed.

The Southeast Asian country also added 72 new deaths, taking the total number to 5,593, the data showed.

Ukraine reports steady rise in cases, deaths

Ukraine has recorded a steady daily increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks and the health ministry is urging people to observe safety measures to stop the epidemic getting out of control.

The ministry said new cases had risen to 1,453 as of August 6, a new daily high since the start of epidemic. Ukraine reported 1,318 cases on August 5 and 1,271 on August 4. It also reported an increase in the death toll.

He said the total number of infections had reached 78,261, including 1,852 deaths and 43,055 recoveries. Most cases were recorded in western Ukraine and the capital, Kyiv.

Ukraine imposed tough restrictions in March, halting transport, closing cafes and restaurants and banning public events, but eased the curbs in May to allow the economy to recover from a lockdown-induced recession.

Switzerland signs agreement with Moderna for vaccine

The Swiss government has signed an agreement with Moderna to secure early access to the Covid-19 vaccine the US biotech company is developing, the government said.

Switzerland will get 4.5 million doses of the vaccine, enough to vaccinate 2.25 million people if as expected two doses are needed per patient.

The government is also talking to other vaccine companies and has allocated 300 million Swiss francs ($329 million) to the project.

UK's Hikma starts manufacturing Covid-19 treatment remdesivir for Gilead

Hikma Pharmaceuticals has started manufacturing remdesivir, an approved treatment for Covid-19 from US-based Gilead, for an undisclosed amount at its facility in Portugal, the British company's chief executive officer said.

The company will supply the first batches of the antiviral drug "soon," and Gilead is expected to distribute the treatment, which was the first to be greenlit for the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

Africa passes 1M confirmed virus cases

Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 1 million, but global health experts say the true toll is likely several times higher, reflecting the gaping lack of testing for the continent’s 1.3 billion people.

While experts say infection tolls in richer nations can be significant undercounts, large numbers of undetected cases are a greater danger for Africa, with many of the world’s weakest health systems. More than 22,000 people have died of Covid-19.

The World Health Organization calls the milestone a “pivotal point” for Africa as infections in several countries are surging.

Pakistan easing restrictions as cases drop

Pakistan’s daily infection rate has stayed under 1,000 for more than three weeks, occasionally dropping to 300 and prompting the government to further ease restrictions with restaurants, parks and even gyms opening next week.

Pakistan recorded 782 new cases during the past 24 hours and 17 deaths.

In all, Pakistan has reported 282,642 confirmed cases and 6,052 deaths.

The government credits the consistently low numbers for the last few weeks to a strategy of smart lockdowns, where businesses and residential areas were shut and quarantined after recording spikes in cases.

Number of cases on Norwegian ship rises to 62

The number of people on a Norwegian cruise ship who have tested positive for the coronavirus has risen to 62.

Following the outbreak on the MS Roald Amundsen, the ship’s owner halted all cruises on Monday and Norway closed its ports to cruise ships for two weeks.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that during its two journeys last month, a total of 41 crew members and 21 passengers have tested positive. All the infected passengers are registered as living in Norway.

Germany tightens up on testing as infections rise

Travellers returning to Germany from risk regions will face mandatory coronavirus tests from Saturday, Health Minister Jens Spahn said, warning that the accelerating pace of new infections was a cause for concern.

Speaking after daily cases rose above 1,000 for the first time since May, Spahn said that while authorities could manage the current rate of new infections, the trajectory was a worry.

He blamed both the impact of travellers returning from abroad and people's flagging adherence to social distancing guidelines for the increase, although he conceded that increased testing was also responsible for part of the increase.

S.Korean doctors strike over plan to boost medical student numbers

Hundreds of South Korean trainee doctors went on strike to protest a government plan to boost the number of medical students in the country, arguing it would be a poor use of additional funding for the sector.

The government said its goal to increase the number of medical students by 4,000 over the next 10 years is necessary to better prepare for public health crises like the coronavirus pandemic.

The student doctors, however, say that funding would be better spent improving the salaries of existing trainees, which would encourage them to move out of Seoul to rural areas where more professionals are needed.

US records 2,000 dead in a day 

The US has recorded more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, the highest number of daily fatalities in three months.

The country, which has seen a major resurgence in coronavirus since the end of June, added 2,060 deaths in one day as well as more than 58,000 new cases, the Johns Hopkins University's real-time tally showed.

The last time the US recorded more than 2,000 deaths in 24 hours was on May 7.

Australia's Victoria state reports 450 new cases

Australia's second-most populous state of Victoria has reported 11 coronavirus-related deaths and 450 new infections in the last 24 hours, compared with eight fatalities and 471 cases a day earlier.

The state began a six-week total lockdown on Thursday, closing down shops and businesses to contain a second wave of infections requiring its five million residents to stay home.

Facebook extends remote working policy to July 2021

Facebook Inc will allow employees to work from home until July 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak and will give them $1,000 for home office needs.

The company joins other big technology firms that have taken similar steps recently.

Late in July, Alphabet Inc’s Google said it would allow employees who do not need to be in the office to work from home until the end of June 2021, while Twitter Inc had proposed remote work indefinitely for some of its employees.

Japan to agree supply deal soon for AstraZeneca's vaccine

The Japanese government will soon agree on a supply deal for more than 100 million doses of a virus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca Plc. 

The British drugmaker has been in talks with Japan, Russia, Brazil and others about supply deals for its potential coronavirus vaccine, known as AZD1222.

Mexico's coronavirus death toll passes 50,000

Mourners at a Mexico City cemetery have lamented a lack of stricter measures to control the novel coronavirus which allowed it to spread fast and claim more than 50,000 lives in their country.

Latin American countries have found it hard to enforce strict lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19, in part because a large proportion of its population is poor and works in the informal economy.

China record 37 new cases in mainland

China has reported 37 new virus cases in the mainland as of the end of August 6, same as the day earlier.

Of the new cases, 10 were imported infections involving travellers from overseas compared with seven such cases reported a day earlier, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

Total number of infections in mainland China now stands at 84,565, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies