Covid-19 has infected more than 188 million people and killed more than 4 million. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for July 14:

A picture taken with a drone shows Palestinians burying the body of a man, who died after contracting the coronavirus, at a cemetery in the central Gaza, on April 6, 2021.
A picture taken with a drone shows Palestinians burying the body of a man, who died after contracting the coronavirus, at a cemetery in the central Gaza, on April 6, 2021. (Reuters Archive)

Wednesday, July 14:

Risk of 'catastrophic' coronavirus surge in Middle East

A surge of coronavirus cases in several Middle Eastern countries could have dire consequences, aggravated by the spread of the Delta variant and low vaccine availability, the World Health Organisation has said.

After a decline in cases and deaths in the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region for eight weeks, the agency said there had been significant increases in cases in Libya, Iran, Iraq and Tunisia, with sharp rises expected in Lebanon and Morocco. 

Next week countries across the region will mark the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, which traditionally includes religious and social gatherings where infections could spread.

"WHO is concerned that the current Covid-19 upsurge may continue to peak in the coming weeks, with catastrophic consequences," the agency's regional office said in a statement.

Cuban protests risk exacerbating Covid-19 spike - PAHO

Protests in Cuba will increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission because of an already high level of cases and the more contagious Delta variant, health officials said on Wednesday.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urged Cubans and tourists visiting the Caribbean nation to avoid crowds, wear masks and frequently wash hands.

"The gathering of individuals for protests... increases the risk of transmission, in particular in cases such as Cuba where you have active transmission in many areas over the last week and 34,244 new cases reported," said Dr. Ciro Ugarte, PAHO's director of health emergencies.

Spain's Catalonia to impose curfew as infections keep rising

The Spanish northeastern region of Catalonia, which has the highest coronavirus incidence rate in the country, said it would impose a night curfew in 158 cities and towns as infections have soared especially among young people.

The curfew, which needs t o be authorised by a court, would take place between 1 am and 6 am for a seven-day period in areas with over 5,000 inhabitants with a high incidence rate, including tourism hotspots Barcelona, Sitges, Salou and Lloret de Mar.

"The situation is very delicate, extremely fragile ... it is a necessary measure to try to ease the tension suffered by the health system," Catalonia's regional head of government Pere Aragones said in a televised address, adding that he hoped the curfew would come into force this weekend.

Spain, which lifted a nationwide curfew in early May, reported on Wednesday an increase of 26,390 cases compared to Tuesday, while the nationwide 14-day infection rate reached nearly 470 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday, up from 437 cases a day earlier.

Among 20- to 29-year-olds, that figure was 1,509 per 100,000, health ministry data showed.

Spain's tally of coronavirus cases rose by 26,390, after an increase of nearly 44,000 the previous day, driven by a surge of infections among unvaccinated young people, data showed.

Protests in France against 'health pass' rules

Police in Paris clashed with protesters railing against President Emmanuel Macron's plan to require a Covid-19 vaccine certificate or negative PCR test to gain entry to bars, restaurants and cinemas from next month.

Macron this week announced sweeping measures to fight a rapid surge in new coronavirus infections, including the mandatory vaccination of health workers and new health pass rules for the wider public.

In doing so, he went further than most other European nations have done as the highly contagious Delta variant fans a new wave of cases, and other governments are watching carefully to see how the French public responds.

The police fired tear gas on several occasions as pockets of protesters overturned garbage cans and set a mechanical digger alight. Some protesters away from the skirmishes wore badges saying: "No to the health pass".

Israel in talks with pharma companies about booster jab

Israel is discussing Covid-19 booster shots with drug companies, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said, as the country grapples with an outbreak of the fast-spreading Delta variant.

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday the Delta variant has been detected in at least 111 countries in the last two months, and was likely to become the dominant variant globally over the coming months. In Israel, it makes up about 90% of confirmed cases, according to the Health Ministry.

"We are in a dialogue with the pharma companies about the booster issue, whether a booster of the original shot or an adapted booster shot," Bennett told a news conference in Jerusalem, where he detailed his cabinet's strategy for curbing the Delta outbreak.

In Israel, about 60% of the 9.3 million population has received at least one dose of the vaccine produced by Pfizer and partner BioNtech. Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Delta variant ravages Indonesia's Java

Concerns are mounting in Indonesia over the ability of its regions to cope with a spike in cases, as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads quickly across the world's largest archipelago.

Indonesia is struggling to slow the pace of transmission, with record daily case numbers on six of the past 10 days, including 47,899 new infections on Tuesday, despite new containment measures.

The Delta variant first identified in India has been found in 11 areas outside of the densely populated Java island.

Java hospitals have been deluged in recent weeks, with many people struggling to get treatment. Most of the 550 people who have died in isolation since June were on Java.

As health experts warn Indonesia could be the next India, the government has scrambled to boost capacity and secure sufficient oxygen supply.

Government said oxygen supplies were well managed, with more than 1,500 oxygen generators expected to arrive from Singapore and China.

More than 2,000 newly graduated doctors and 20,000 nurses would soon be deployed to hospitals.

China to inoculate adolescents and teens

Several areas in China will start vaccinating teenagers this month, state media and local authorities said, as the country steps up its inoculation campaign.

China, which has managed to rein in domestic infections, has administered 1.4 billion vaccine doses, or two-fifths of the global total of 3.47 billion doses.

This month, the southwestern region of Guangxi and the city of Jingmen in the central province of Hubei will start vaccinating those aged between 15 and 17, and children between 12 and 14 in August, state media and local disease control officials said in reports on Tuesday.

By the end of October, authorities aim to have fully vaccinated all eligible in the age group of 12 to 17.

China has approved two domestically developed vaccines, one produced by Sinovac Biotech and the other produced by a Beijing firm affiliated with Sinopharm, for those aged between three and 17.

More virus deaths reported in Russia

Russia has reported 786 virus deaths, the most confirmed in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, and 23,827 new cases nationwide.

Russia faces a surge in cases that authorities have blamed on the more infectious Delta variant and a slow rate of vaccinations.

The government's coronavirus task force said the official national case tally now stood at 5,857,002. It said the national death toll had risen to 145,278.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and said Russia recorded around 290,000 deaths from April 2020 to May 2021. 

Record number of cases reported in Malaysia

Malaysia has reported 11,618 new cases on Wednesday, a second straight day of record case numbers.

Total cases hit 867,567, the health ministry said on Twitter.

Tourism not contributing to surge of infections in Greece

Tourism is not to blame for a surge of infections in Greece, the tourism minister said after the government reintroduced restrictions aimed at saving the summer season.

Greece, which relies on tourism for a fifth of its economy, kicked off the season in May, hoping that revenue would reach about half of the record it saw in 2019 when more than 30 million people visited the country.

"The opening of tourism was done very carefully, in the first 10 days of July just 74 out of 105,609 samples taken at the country's entry points were positive, just 0.07 percent," Haris Theoharis told a Greek hoteliers conference.

"Our country does not have a problem with the opening of its borders," he said. "The rise in infections is not related to tourism."

The government is betting on at least a partial revival of its tourism sector this summer, but is worried about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

About 41 percent of Greeks are fully vaccinated so far. Tourists need to show they have been vaccinated or present a negative PCR test to enter the country.

Thailand considers regulating its vaccine exports

Thailand is considering regulating the volume of locally manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines for export, a health official said on Wednesday, a move that could impact supplies to other Asian countries.

The health ministry will talk to AstraZeneca with the aim of securing a sufficient amount locally before issuing the order, said Nakorn Premsri, Director of the National Vaccine Institute.

"Right now we will talk with the vaccine manufacturer so they can deliver the vaccine to Thailand in a suitable manner that matches the outbreak situation in the country," Nakorn told reporters.

Thailand is suffering its worst outbreak yet, with more than 8,000 new cases reported on many days this month, putting a strain on healthcare and testing capacity in the densely populated capital Bangkok and surrounding provinces.

AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thailand considering regulating vaccine exports.

Thailand has been producing the AstraZeneca vaccine since June and will export it to several other countries in Southeast Asia, as well as Taiwan.

The Philippines and Malaysia are among countries that have experienced delays in delivery.

US virus cases are rising again, doubling over three weeks

The Covid-19 curve in the US is rising again after months of decline, with the number of new cases per day doubling over the past three weeks, driven by the fast-spreading delta variant, lagging vaccination rates and Fourth of July gatherings.

Confirmed infections climbed to an average of about 23,600 a day on Monday, up from 11,300 on June 23, according to Johns Hopkins University data. And all but two states — Maine and South Dakota — reported that case numbers have gone up over the past two weeks.

“It is certainly no coincidence that we are looking at exactly the time that we would expect cases to be occurring after the July Fourth weekend," said Dr Bill Powderly, co-director of the infectious-disease division at Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Brazil sees over 1,600 deaths in one day

Brazil has reported 1,605 new Covid-19 deaths and 45,022 fresh cases over the past 24 hours, according to data released by the country's health ministry.

Mexico reports biggest jump in cases since February

Mexico's health ministry has reported 11,137 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, the largest daily jump reported in the country since February, bringing its total to 2,604,711 infections.

It was not immediately clear why deaths jumped but the health ministry had previously said spikes were down to suspected cases becoming confirmed.

A Reuters tally showed the Tuesday data was the highest since Feb. 11.

After adding 219 more fatalities, Mexico's official death toll from Covid-19 stood at 235,277.

Spain surpasses 4M coronavirus cases

Spain surpassed 4 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began after adding 43,960 new cases, as the more contagious Delta variant drives a surge of infections among unvaccinated young people.

The nationwide 14-day infection rate reached nearly 437 cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday, up from 368 cases a day earlier, health ministry data showed. Among 20 to 29-year-olds, that figure was 1,421 per 100,000.

"With the end of the school year, increased mobility, greater social interaction and super-spreader events, the cumulative incidence curve has risen again," Spain's Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe targets 1M people in vaccine blitz

Zimbabwe is aiming to vaccinate one million people against Covid-19 in the next two weeks, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said as he extended tough lockdown measures by another 14 days.

Faced with rising infections and deaths, Mnangagwa on June 29 introduced tough lockdown measures that included a dusk to dawn curfew and curbs on inter-city travel.

Mnangagwa said infections were rising at "an alarming rate" as the more transmissible Delta variant spreads locally. He said the government would inoculate one million people during the extended lockdown period.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies