‘We stand together, or we fall apart’, warns UN chief, as world reaches 14 million cases

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres - MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

“We stand together, or we fall apart,” was just one of the stark warnings delivered by UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 2020 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, held online for the first time today.

The UN chief, who earlier this morning criticised global superpowers for failing to act together, called for further international solidarity and cooperation in the fight against Covid-19.

Discussing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, he said it has only exacerbated inequalities and exposed the myth that everyone is in the same boat. 

“While we are all floating on the same sea, it’s clear that some are in superyachts, while others are clinging to the floating debris,” Mr Guterres said.

The world, he concluded, is at breaking point, and it is time for leaders to decide which path to follow. The choice presented by Mr. Guterres, is between “chaos, division and inequality”, or righting the wrongs of the past and moving forward together, for the good of all.

The hard-hitting message comes just as the world logs almost 600,000 known-casualties against more than 14 million cases.

Coronavirus podcast newest episode
Coronavirus podcast newest episode

Follow the latest updates below.

04:31 PM

Coronavirus patients swamp emergency rooms in some US states

A fast-rising rising tide of new coronavirus cases is flooding emergency rooms in parts of the United States, with some patients moved into hallways and nurses working extra shifts to keep up with the surge.

Patients struggling to breathe are being placed on ventilators in emergency wards since intensive care units are full, officials say, and the near-constant care they require is overtaxing workers who also are treating more typical ER cases like chest pains, infections, and fractures.

In Texas, Dr. Alison Haddock of the Baylor College of Medicine told AP news agency that the current situation is worse than after Hurricane Harvey, which swamped Houston with floodwaters in 2017. The state reported a new daily record for virus deaths Friday and more than 10,000 confirmed cases for the fourth consecutive day.

“I’ve never seen anything like this Covid surge,” said Haddock, who has worked in emergency rooms since 2007. “We’re doing our best, but we’re not an ICU.”

Patients are waiting “hours and hours” to get admitted, she said, and the least sick people are lying in beds in halls to make room for most seriously ill.

04:21 PM

Barcelona back under lockdown as virus cases surge

Barcelona’s streets were largely empty on Saturday, with millions of people instructed to stay at home as new coronavirus restrictions came into effect following a spike in the number of infections in the region over the past week.

In an announcement on Friday, the Catalan regional government urged nearly four million residents of metropolitan Barcelona to stay home unless absolutely necessary, banning gatherings of over 10 people and shutting cinemas, theatres and nightclubs.

The new restrictions came barely four weeks after Spain ended its state of emergency where its 47 million residents were subjected to one of the world’s toughest lockdowns to slow the spread of a virus that has killed more than 28,400 people in the country.

04:10 PM

IMF exploring additional tools to provide aid to pandemic-hit countries

The International Monetary Fund is exploring additional tools to provide financing to the world’s poorest countries and others hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Saturday.

Georgieva told finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 major economies that they should consider extending a freeze in official bilateral debt service payments offered to the poorest countries beyond the end of the year, and work to promote greater private-sector participation.

Beyond that, she said there is a need to think about “more comprehensive debt relief for many countries,” given the severity of the crisis and the high debt levels already in place before the current crisis.

04:05 PM

Scotland records highest daily tests in last month

Scotland has recorded its highest daily positive coronavirus tests for almost a month.

Figures released by the Scottish Government show there were 21 confirmed results over a 24-hour period as of 2pm on Saturday.

It is the highest number since June 21, when there were 26 positive test results.

Deputy first minister John Sweeney warned the public of the ongoing threat of coronavirus, with the surge in positive cases coming after lockdown measures were eased on Wednesday.

He tweeted: “Thankfully another day of no deaths recorded due to £COVID. 21 positive cases however remind us of the danger still out there.”

04:03 PM

UK reports 40 new deaths despite data concerns

The UK has recorded 40 new deaths in the last 24 hours and confirmed 827 new infections through Covid-19 testing.

The latest figures were published on the government’s coronavirus dashboard despite concerns from Health Secretary Matt Hancock about the nature of the data provided by Public Health England.

Officials said the Department for Health and Social Care will no longer link to the dashboard on social media posts or update the figures on the department’s own coronavirus webpage while it conducts a review.

PHE confirmed that it may be recording deaths from coronavirus even if people have died months after a positive test. Other UK nations only include those who died within 28 days of testing positive.

But PHE said it will continue to make the figures available and update the dashboard.

04:02 PM

Bogotá’s ‘rotating lockdowns’ under fire as coronavirus spirals out of control in Colombia

Doctors in Bogotá have warned of catastrophe as Colombia looks set to become the latest Latin American country to lose control of the coronavirus pandemic – despite a set of unusual new lockdown measures.

A spike in coronavirus cases has forced many towns and cities that had been reopening — including Bogotá and Medellín — to issue new lockdown orders.

In an effort to curb the spread of the virus in the capital, local authorities declared strict, rolling two-week quarantines that rotate randomly around the city’s neighbourhoods.

Residents under lockdown can only leave their homes for trips to the pharmacy or a local shop. But the new quarantine measures are the latest in what doctors have called a trial and error approach from the city’s authorities, creating uncertainty and instability as officials try to contain the virus and stave off bankruptcy.

Mathew Charles has more on this here.

03:57 PM

Mandela’s words more important than ever, UN relief chief says

Words of wisdom spoken by Nelson Mandela during the Aids crisis of the 19080s, resonate with the fight against Covid-19 today, UN Relief chief Mark Lowcock has tweeted:

03:48 PM

G20 finance officials poised to recommend extension of debt freeze

Finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies are poised to recommend extending a freeze in official bilateral debt payments by the world’s poorest countries, according to sources briefed on a virtual G20 meeting taking place Saturday.

Multiple sources said there was strong support for extending the Debt Service Suspension Initiative agreed in April into 2021, but the move would not be finalized until later in the year, when G20 leaders are due to meet.

World Bank chief economist Carmen Reinhart told reporters on Friday that the move was “highly probable” since the novel coronavirus pandemic was more severe and taking longer to overcome than initially expected.

Top international officials, industry leaders and civil society groups have called for extending the debt freeze – which is intended to let the poorest nations focus on fighting the pandemic, not servicing their debts – and expanding it to include other countries hit by the crisis.

However, the debt standstill, which is due to expire at the end of 2020, has proven challenging to implement, with only 41 of 73 eligible countries expressing interest, while some official bilateral creditors like China have failed to participate fully.

The initiative would save $12 billion in service payments on official bilateral debt through the end of the year, but finance officials in developing countries say they will need far more help to weather the pandemic and its economic fallout.

03:39 PM

Coronavirus reveals ‘fragility of our world’, says UN chief

Coronavirus has revealed the “fragile skeleton” of societies and could push 100 million people into extreme poverty, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Saturday.

Speaking on the 102nd birthday anniversary of the late Nelson Mandela – South Africa’s first black president – Guterres said coronavirus was “shining a spotlight” on global injustice.

“We have been brought to our knees – by a microscopic virus. The pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of our world.”

“Entire regions that were making progress on eradicating poverty and narrowing inequality have been set back years, in a matter of months,” he warned at a virtual memorial lecture organised by the Johannesburg-based Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The economic fallout of the pandemic, which has infected more than 14 million and killed close to 600,000 people worldwide, is being disproportionately felt among informal workers, small businesses and women, Guterres said.

The coronavirus is an “x-ray” that has revealed “fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built”, he added, citing unequal healthcare provision, unpaid care work, income disparity and climate change as some of the concerns.

03:25 PM

French to enforce mask-wearing in banks and shops from July 20

France will enforce mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces including banks, shops and indoor markets from July 20, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday.

The government has accelerated plans to make it compulsory to wear masks after series of indicators have suggested the virus could be gaining momentum, especially in areas in western and southern France that had been relatively spared during the height of the outbreak between March and May.

“From Monday, mask-wearing will be mandatory in closed spaces,” Veran said on Twitter. “That concerns shops, buildings open to the public, covered markets and banks

03:17 PM

Should workers wear face coverings in the office?

After months of working from home, small numbers of white-collar workers across the country are beginning to trickle slowly back to the office.

But what kind of workplace will they find when they arrive, and will they be required to wear a face covering at their desk? 

Luke Mintz has the lowdown here.

03:05 PM

Scottish island asks visitors to stay away ‘for now’ 

The Scottish island of Eigg
The Scottish island of Eigg

The Scottish island of Eigg has closed all self-catering, hostel and guest house accommodation until August 31 to discourage visitors. 

A majority of locals were in favour of not opening up the island when Scottish tourism resumed on July 15, a vote revealed.

The 110-strong community-owned island in the Inner Hebrides said it has “agonised” over the decision, which was taken to protect vulnerable residents and because of limited capacity on ferries.

Scotland is marking its first weekend of the tourism sector reopening, and Nicola Sturgeon has urged people to not “drop their guard”.

Hoteliers in Scotland complained earlier this week that a growing number of English guests are calling to cancel their summer bookings amid ongoing uncertainty over quarantine rules.

The Scottish government had suggested it could impose a 14-day quarantine  on travellers from England. 

Follow all the latest travel news here.

02:41 PM

South Africa to join top five worst affected countries

South Africa is poised to join the top five countries most affected by the coronavirus.

The country of 57.78 million could join the U.S., Brazil, India and Russia as the most badly hit countries as its cases near 350,000, with current case trends showing it will surpass Peru.

The news comes as the world marks Mandela Day, remembering South Africa’s first Black president and his legacy of fighting inequality. The country, however, remains the world’s most unequal, and health officials have warned that the pandemic will lay that bare.

“The simple fact is that many South Africans are sitting ducks because they cannot comply with World Health Organization protocols on improved hygiene and social distancing,” the foundation of former South African archbishop and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah, said in a statement.

South Africa’s new epicenter, Gauteng province, is home to one-quarter of the country’s population, with many poor people living in crowded conditions in the middle of a frosty winter.

The country’s cases make up roughly half of all on the African continent. Yet its struggles are a sign of trouble to come for less-resourced nations there.

02:23 PM

What we know now…

 Just in case you were wondering where we stand, Professor Isabella Eckerle from the Geneva Centre for Emerging Viral Diseases has published a short and sweet summary of what Science now knows about the novel coronavirus:

02:08 PM

Today’s coronavirus news – in pictures

An employee of a funeral home plays the violin during at the cremation of coronavirus vicitim in Bogota, Columbia

An employee of a funeral home plays the violin during at the cremation of coronavirus vicitim in Bogota, Columbia - RAUL ARBOLEDA / AFP
An employee of a funeral home plays the violin during at the cremation of coronavirus vicitim in Bogota, Columbia – RAUL ARBOLEDA / AFP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel elbow bumps the President of the European Council Charles Michel during an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) elbow bumps the President of the European Council Charles Michel (R) during an EU summit on July 17, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium - Thierry Monasse / Getty
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) elbow bumps the President of the European Council Charles Michel (R) during an EU summit on July 17, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium – Thierry Monasse / Getty

Artist Adam Carnes, left and Gary Coulson place a mask on Buck Atom, the mascot of Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios Route 66 in Tulsa, US

Artist Adam Carnes, left and Gary Coulson place a mask on Buck Atom, the mascot of Buck Atom's Cosmic Curios Route 66 in Tulsa, US - Mike Simons / Tulsa World
Artist Adam Carnes, left and Gary Coulson place a mask on Buck Atom, the mascot of Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios Route 66 in Tulsa, US – Mike Simons / Tulsa World

01:44 PM

Further 13 people die in England as Scotland and Wales report zero casualties

A further 13 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 29,173, NHS England said on Saturday .

The patients were aged between 49 and 96 years old and all had known underlying conditions.

Scotland and Wales both reported no new deaths. Northern Ireland has not yet published its new figures.

The Department for Health and Social Care said on Friday it was “pausing” publication of daily death figures for the whole of the UK after Health Secretary Matt Hancock ordered a review into claims by researchers that there were “statistical flaws” in the way they are calculated.

01:42 PM

Scottish pub-goers warned not to ‘drop their guard’

Scots gearing up for their first weekend of indoor drinking in pubs since lockdown began have been warned not to ‘drop their guard’by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

She said “let’s not drop our guard”, adding that the nation’s “collective sacrifices” have helped to get the virus under control and urged the public to “keep it up”.

Scotland has only recorded one death from coronavirus in the last 10 days, with only 17 new cases recorded yesterday, too.

Pubs opened their beer gardens last weekend, but this is the first time they have been able to welcome customers inside since March.

Anti-virus precautions must be in place and customers are asked to provide their name and phone number for contact tracing.

01:31 PM

France watching Spain virus clusters closely, says PM

France is watching coronavirus clusters in neighbouring Spain very closely, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Saturday, less than a month after the border between the two countries was reopened.

Spanish health officials are monitoring more than 150 outbreaks across the country just weeks after they ended one of the world’s toughest lockdown regimes.

They are particularly alarmed at clusters popping up in Catalonia, one of the border regions, and on Friday asked more than four million people in regional capital Barcelona to stay at home except for necessary trips.

“We are monitoring this very closely, here in particular, because it is a real issue that we also need to discuss with the Spanish authorities,” Mr Castex said in response to a question about the possible closure of borders.

The frontier was reopened on June 21 after three months of strict confinement on the Spanish side to contain the pandemic.

But the upsurge in cases in Catalonia has already prompted the reimposition of lockdown in one area.

01:17 PM

Hundreds of Thais call for government resignation

 Hundreds of Thais protested on Saturday evening, demanding the resignation of the government and the dissolution of parliament, defying a coronavirus ban on big gatherings in one of the largest street demonstrations since a 2014 military coup.

Those at the student-led rally near Bangkok’s Democracy Monument cited a litany of complaints against the year-old government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief who ousted an elected government six years ago.

Organisers issued three demands: the dissolution of parliament, an end to harassment of government critics, and amendments to the military-written constitution that critics say virtually guaranteed victory for Prayuth’s party in elections last year.

“How can we be OK with the lack of democracy like this?” student activist Tattep Ruangprapaikit told the crowds.

Police were on standby but did not move to stop the protest. The monument was cordoned off with signs reading: “No entry without permission. Maintenance in progress.”

01:00 PM

More than 25 million Iranians could have contracted virus, president says

Iran’s president has estimated as many as 25 million Iranians could have been infected with the coronavirus since the outbreak began, as he urged the public to take the pandemic seriously, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

President Hassan Rouhani cited a new Iranian Health Ministry study in offering the unprecedentedly high number of 25 million infections.

Rouhani also said that he believes an additional 30 million to 35 million people could be infected in coming months, again without citing the basis for his estimate. Iran’s population is around 81 million people.

Iran has seen the worst outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 270,000 confirmed cases and at least 13,979 deaths.

The president’s remarks show that questions remain over the country’s official figures from the outbreak, even after the authorities publicly acknowledged its importance.

Iranians officials have not explained on what the report’s estimates are based. The study has so far not been made publicly available.

12:43 PM

Transport Sec becomes first UK minister to commit to holiday abroad

Grant Shapps has become the first senior politician to break ranks and declare he is taking a summer holiday abroad this year.

The Transport Secretary said he and his wife Belinda had decided to take advantage of the relaxation of Foreign Office guidance on non-essential overseas travel.

“My wife looked at all of these new changes that were made and has now booked a break for the first time for a couple of years,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Senior politicians had previously been queuing up to indicate they would be staying in the UK after the coronavirus pandemic threw international travel plans into disarray.

12:30 PM

 South Korea moves mud festival online

Children play in a mud pool during the Online Boryeong Mud Festival at their home during a live streaming event, in Gwangju - HEO RAN / Reuters
Children play in a mud pool during the Online Boryeong Mud Festival at their home during a live streaming event, in Gwangju – HEO RAN / Reuters

The popular Boryeong Mud Festival, halted this year because of Covid-19, instead became an online celebration of soil, with people from around the country enjoying mud pools and mud packs in their homes – and streaming the dirty results.

The annual mud extravaganza, in Boryeong on the coast 130 km (80 miles) southwest of the capital Seoul, is South Korea’s most popular festival for international visitors. They typically flock to the beach in their hundreds for mud slides, mud wrestling and other revelry.

This year the city set up a large screen in a studio streaming images of hundreds of people, some with mud kits consisting of a mini-pool, mud packs, mud soaps and colourful mud powders.

Some 3,000 people, including K-pop fans from overseas, watched the live event on YouTube.

Boryeong launched the festival on Daecheon Beach in 1998 to rejuvenate a local economy hit by the Asian financial crisis. The event promoted mud-based cosmetics said to be good for the skin – turning what is known as a dirty beach into one of South Korea’s biggest tourist attractions. 

12:11 PM

More than 140 offenders released from prison housed in hotels during lockdown

More than 140 offenders were housed in hotels and bed and breakfasts after they were released from prison during lockdown.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the move was “a last resort” to prevent offenders from becoming homeless and to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Of the 304 offenders who were due for release and provided with accommodation, 136 were housed in hotels or B&Bs after all other options were exhausted, the MoJ said.

Additionally, of the 172 offenders released under the End of Custody Temporary Release scheme – in which prisoners who are within two months of their release date are temporarily released from custody – six were housed in hotels.

An MoJ spokesman said: “All offenders due for release are thoroughly risk-assessed and hotels have only been used as a last resort to reduce any potential spread of coronavirus.

“These temporary measures are part of the unprecedented response to the pandemic which has helped protect the NHS and save lives.”

11:55 AM

Lunchtime round up

Good afternoon. If you’re just joining us, here’s everything you need to know from today: 

  • The UN secretary general has strongly criticised the world’s biggest powers for failing to act together. It comes as European Union leaders spend their Saturday hunting for compromises, as a summit to reach a deal on an unprecedented €1.85 trillion (£1.68tn) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund entered its second day with tensions running high.

  • Donald Trump has refused to order Americans to wear masks to limit the risk of coronavirus spreading in the USA.

  • Australia’s parliament will be suspended for two weeks over fears that politicians could bring coronavirus from outbreak hotspots to the country’s capital.

  • Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), has said he won’t be hugging his elderly relatives at Christmas as a return to Boris Johnson’s dream of a pre-lockdown normality is a “long way off.”

  • Britons who are issued refund credit notes for cancelled package holidays will get their money back even if a travel firm collapses, transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed today. 

  • A “backdoor” attempt to ban smoking outdoors in the wake of coronavirus has been backed by councils.

  • And the next pandemic may already have started, we just haven’t noticed yet.

11:39 AM

Chinese province launches emergency response after new cases

China launched mass health screenings in Xinjiang on Saturday after a spike in coronavirus cases raised fears of a fresh outbreak in the far western province.

The new cases illustrate the continuing difficulty China faces in stamping out the contagion, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year before spreading around the world.

The new testing regime comes a day after authorities curtailed most flights into regional capital Urumqi and shut down local subway and public transport services.

The city had recorded 17 new coronavirus infections as of Saturday, authorities said in a briefing.

Mass screening for the virus will begin in buildings which had reported new cases and eventually cover all of Urumqi, said local health commission chief Zhang Wei.

“The whole city has entered a ‘wartime state’, and will suspend all kinds of group activities,” an official said at the briefing, according to state media reports.

Urumqi residents were also urged not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary.

11:20 AM

How a little-known data scientist convinced the West to wear face masks

On America’s west coast, a little-known data scientist watched from his living room, scarcely believing his eyes. Donald Trump, who had long sneered at face coverings, was finally, belatedly, sporting one, and in public. And, with that black mask, embossed with the US Presidential seal, Jeremy Howard’s extraordinary mission had helped claim the most important scalp of all.

After a week in which the world – with the exception still of large swathes of the US – at last embraced face masks as a vital tool in the fight against the spread of coronavirus, Mr Howard’s almost accidental role in contributing to a shift in world opinion can be revealed as key. His supporters see him truly as the man behind the mask.

What did he do? Jennifer Rigby and John Mullin explain all here.

11:05 AM

Why the next pandemic may already have started

Imagine you are a smoker who drives for a living. Every day you throw burning cigarette butts from the car. It’s happened many thousands of times without incident. The smouldering stub lands, bounces and dies. Occasionally one may singe a clump of grass but nothing more. You drive on in blissful ignorance.

This analogy, say virologists, is a good way of thinking about zoonotic spillover events like the one which sparked the Sars-Cov-2 pandemic.

They are happening all the time but are seldom noticed. Only very rarely, when environmental conditions are just right, do they spark a violent wildfire which spreads exponentially.

Paul Nuki and  Sarah Newey spoke to the experts to find out what this means and why many think  the next pandemic may already have started. 

Read more here.

10:45 AM

EU leaders enter second day of ‘grumpy’ talks over €750bn Covid bailout fund

European Union leaders were hunting for compromises on Saturday as a summit to reach a deal on an unprecedented €1.85 trillion (£1.68tn) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund entered its second day with tensions running high.

A full day and night of discussions by the 27 leaders on Friday only added to the irritations over how the huge sums should be spent and what strings should be attached.

The atmosphere “was grumpier this evening than this afternoon,” Dutch Prime Minister Rutte told Dutch reporters after Friday’s marathon talks. “This is going to take a while, I think.”

The EU executive has proposed a €750bn fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the most needy countries. That comes on top of the seven-year 1-trillion-euro EU budget that leaders were fighting over when Covid-19 slammed their continent.

Though it remains to be seen if countries can reach agreement or will have to schedule another meeting.

Our foreign staff have more on this here.

10:35 AM

Jailed ex-minister dies of coronavirus

A former Algerian cabinet minister detained in a corruption case has died from Covid-19, a news website reported on Saturday.

Ex-telecom minister Moussa Benhamadi, 67, contracted the novel coronavirus earlier this month and died on Friday, his brother Hocine Benhamadi said.

“He contracted the virus on July 4 and was only transferred to hospital in Algiers on July 13,” the brother told the website of French-language daily Liberte.

Moussa Benhamadi had been held in pre-trial detention at El Harrach prison since September 2019 as part of an investigation into corruption involving the Algerian high-tech firm Condor Electronics.

Mr  Benhamadi was once close to once close to ex-president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to resign in April last year after losing the backing of the army amid massive street protests against his decision to seek a fifth term.

Following his departure, authorities launched a string of graft investigations into members of his entourage accused of abusing their power.

Mr Bouteflika’s powerful brother Said and two former intelligence chiefs have been jailed, as have powerful businessmen and former government ministers.

Benhamadi’s brother and head of Condor Electronics Abderahmane Benhamadi is also detained in a corruption case.

10:24 AM

Riot police sent to shut down Finsbury Park illegal rave

Riot police descended on north London to shut down an illegal rave on Friday night.

The Met Police said officers were called to an “unlicensed music event” after residents living near the Woodberry Down Estate alerted the force of the event.

One video from the scene in Finsbury Park, shows a line of officers in riot gear walk down a street to revellers:

10:15 AM

World reports record number of cases in 24 hour period

A record number of new cases were recorded yesterday, according to the World Health Organization tally.

A total of 237, 743 new infections were reported in the last 24 hours, the highest rate of new infections since the outbreak began.

A record number of new cases were recorded on 17 July
A record number of new cases were recorded on 17 July

The Americas made up the largest portion of new cases, with 137, 989 new infections and 3, 554 deaths reported on 17 July. 

Followed by South-East Asia, which recorded 39, 518 additional cases and 803 deaths.

09:53 AM

What will your post-Covid gym workout look like?

two women bounce on trampolines - Owen Harvey
two women bounce on trampolines – Owen Harvey

Ever since the announcement that gyms and swimming pools in England can finally reopen from 25 July, the fitness world has been busy behind the scenes ensuring it is ready.

So what will our old favourites look like?

Lucy Dunn has a list of some of the things you can expect here.

09:40 AM

Scientists identify six different types of coronavirus with increasing severity levels

Six distinct types of coronavirus have been identified by scientists in a breakthrough that promises to save lives by flagging the highest-risk patients.

Analysis of thousands of cases by artificial intelligence software has revealed different “clusters” of symptoms and ranked them in order of severity.

Headache and loss of smell are common to all six groupings, but the range of symptoms varies widely after that.

Scientists at King’s College London (KCL) found that patients with the sixth type of Covid-19 are nearly 10 times more likely to end up needing breathing support than patients in the first group.

This is significant because often patients only deteriorate to a critical stage several days after after showing symptoms.

It’s hopped that the new ranking system should flag up the highest-risk cases and give doctors the opportunity to intervene earlier.

Henry Bodkin has more on this here.

09:30 AM

UN chief condemns vaccine espionage

The head of the United Nations has condemned any attempt by countries to steal details of coronavirus vaccine research from their rivals.

Secretary-general Antonio Guterres said it was “very important” that the intellectual property rights of scientists seeking to develop a vaccine were protected.

At the same time he stressed it was essential that if a successful vaccine was produced, it was made available to “everybody, everywhere” around the world.

His warning came after Britain, the United States and Canada accused hackers linked to Russian intelligence of targeting vaccine researchers- including those in the UK – in an attempt to steal details of their work.

Moscow has strongly denied the allegations.

Mr Guterres told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme:

“Any espionage in relation to vaccines is to be condemned as we must condemn any policies that divide the world instead of conceiving the vaccine as a global public good, conceiving the vaccine as a people’s vaccine, that must be accessible to everybody, everywhere.

“Just to develop a vaccine for each country’s population and forget about the others is also something that is unacceptable.

“It is very important the intellectual property is protected, that nobody spies on anybody, but it is also important that a vaccine must be available to everybody, everywhere and affordable by everybody, everywhere.”

09:18 AM

Philippines cases surge by 2,000

The Philippines’ health ministry has reported 113 more new coronavirus deaths and 2,357 additional infections.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total deaths have increased to 1,773 while confirmed cases have reached 65,304, with the capital and Cebu City in central Philippines accounting for the bulk of the infections as the virus spreads.

09:11 AM

Donald Trump won’t order Americans to wear coronavirus masks

President Donald Trump, foreground left, wears a face mask as he walks with others down a hallway during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda - patrick Semansky / AP
President Donald Trump, foreground left, wears a face mask as he walks with others down a hallway during a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda – patrick Semansky / AP

Donald Trump has refused to order Americans to wear masks to limit the risk of coronavirus spreading in the USA.

People should have “a certain freedom”, the president, who was pictured last weekend wearing a mask for the first time, told Fox News on Friday. 

Earlier Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US expert on the pandemic, had called on state and local leaders to be as “forceful as possible” in getting people to wear masks. 

State and local officials imposed conflicting orders with a number of states, including those led by Republicans, ordering the mandatory wearing of masks outdoors.

Read more on this here.

09:00 AM

World’s biggest powers failing to act together, says UN head

The UN secretary general has said poor relations between countries, such as the United States and China have exacerbated the problems posed by the virus.

Speaking to the BBC today programme António Guterres strongly criticised the world’s biggest powers for failing to act together and said the relationship between the US, China and Russia had never been so dysfunctional:

“We are now in a world that is no longer bi-polar but it is not yet multi-polar. It is chaotic in many aspects. Unfortunately this lack of mutual understanding, this competition among the largest powers, is a major fragility for the UN, but I would say for the world in general.”

Guterres also called for the Security Council to find solutions to ease conflicts taking place around the globe, in Libya, Syrian, Yemen and Afghanistan. And he criticised rich countries for not doing enough to help out poorer nations during the pandemic.

He said the world’s nations should back a “people’s vaccine” made available and affordable to all. “We will not be safe in the pandemic if everybody is not safe.”

08:54 AM

British holidaymakers offered reassurance over cancelled trips

Britons who are issued refund credit notes for cancelled package holidays will get their money back even if a travel firm collapses, transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed today. 

The Government will underwrite credit notes for customers whose trips are, or have been, disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The protection will be backdated to March 10 and will extend to September 30. Travellers will be able to cash in or use their refunds up until September 30, 2021. 

British holidaymakers are owed as much as £4.6 billion as a result of coronavirus cancellations, down from a peak of around £7 billion.  

“This news provides much-needed clarity for consumers, who should now feel confident that their money is secure if they have chosen to accept a refund credit note for their cancelled ATOL-protected booking,” said Paul Smith, consumer director at the Civil Aviation Authority.   

By law, customers who book package holidays are entitled to receive a cash refund for any cancellations by the tour operator. To maintain cash flow during the pandemic, some travel companies offered refund credit notes in lieu of cash refunds.

Read more on our travel live blog here.

08:42 AM

Australia suspends parliament over virus fears

Australia’s parliament will be suspended for two weeks over fears that politicians could bring coronavirus from outbreak hotspots to the country’s capital, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday.

The postponement comes a day after the nation’s second-biggest city reported a record rise in COVID-19 infections.

Citing medical advice, Morrison said the government could not ignore the risk that legislators might spread the disease to Canberra.

“The risks posed by a parliamentary sitting are significantly higher and unlikely to be resolved in the next month,” he said.

Canberra and its surrounding Australian Capital Territory continue like much of the country to control the virus but cases have been on the rise in Sydney and Melbourne

08:33 AM

London ponders its future as pandemic turns capital into a ghost town

A plethora of live growth signals tracked by economists reveals central London has transformed from the country’s economic powerhouse to a ghost town devoid of activity. It is suffering a deeper downturn and slower recovery than all other towns and cities in the UK and capitals in Europe.

Last week footfall in central London was down 73pc compared to a year earlier, worse than anywhere in the UK, according to Springboard. The UK average was 52pc lower than last year, while outer London is down a more modest 38pc. Separate footfall data suggests it is also recovering slower than anywhere else.

Movement of people and vehicles in cities – a measure tracked by economists for hints of activity – is much lower in London than any other European capital, Citymapper data suggests, while restaurant bookings were down 82pc on Tuesday compared to 66pc lower in the UK as a whole and up 3pc in Germany, OpenTable reveals.

Now London ponders its future as the pandemic turns the capital into a ghost town. Tom Rees has more here.

08:19 AM

Local Government Association supports ‘backdoor’ attempt to ban smoking outdoors

A “backdoor” attempt to ban smoking outdoors in the wake of coronavirus has been backed by councils.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has thrown its support behind a House of Lords amendment which would make all pavement licences issued by councils subject to the condition that they are smoke-free.

The move has angered the hospitality industry, which has warned that banning smoking outdoors imposes unwelcome extra restrictions on already beleaguered pubs, bars and cafes. 

Camilla Tominey has more details here.

08:10 AM

Benefits of childhood vaccines outweigh risk of Covid-19 transmission, study finds

The long-term health benefits of maintaining essential childhood immunisation programmes in Africa far outweigh the risk of contracting Covid-19 when visiting vaccination clinics, a new study published in the Lancet Global Health journal has found.

According to the study, continuing with routine immunisation programmes may lead to 8,300 additional deaths from coronavirus because of infections picked up when visiting immunisation clinics. 

However, the suspension of such vaccination programmes to avoid excess coronavirus deaths could lead to a further 702,000 children on the continent dying from preventable diseases before the age of five.

Jordan Kelly-Linden has more on the study here.

07:59 AM

Don’t flood back too quickly, Transport Sec urges commuters

Speaking on BBC breakfast, Mr Shapps said there is capacity on public transport for more people to use it to go back to work, but that they shouldn’t flood back too quickly:

“We are quite close to full capacity but the usage of public transport is way down.

“We have been very careful to ask people not to flood back too quickly and they have not, and so we are seeing many cases of quite empty, for example, trains.

“There’s more capacity there, you can now return. Anyone, not just key workers, can use public transport.

“I would recommend trying to avoid the busier times of day, but as people return to work – and the Prime Minister asked employers and employees to look at doing that particularly from August 1 – the public transport is there.”

07:49 AM

So will we return to normal by Christmas?

Despite what epidemiologist Professor John Edmunds has said above, Transport Secretary Grant Shapp believes that it will be possible for the country to return to normality by Christmas.

He told BBC Breakfast the Prime Minister’s announcement was about giving people a “sense of direction”, adding:

It’s giving people a road map, really, so we can give people some hope whilst planning for the worst as well.

“We want to give people some sense of direction, because a lot of people are running businesses or rely on the Christmas period and need to know that if everything goes well that this is our intention.

“But you can’t get away from the fact that the virus is still, in many ways, a bit of an unknown, and of course it depends how millions of people respond and how good and alert we are in terms of all the things we know, like washing your hands and for the time being keeping that distance of one metre plus.”

So who’s right?

07:03 AM

PHE’s exaggerated death statistics are a scandal that has fed fear

Has Public Health England been exaggerating the Covid-19 daily death statistics?

It appears that PHE compiles “out of hospital” deaths by searching the NHS database for whether that person ever tested positive.

It then apparently fails to consider how long ago that person tested positive or their actual cause of death.

“By this PHE definition, no-one with Covid in England is allowed to ever recover from their illness,” Professors Yoon K Loke and Carl Heneghan, who discovered the statistical flaw, explain.

It is astonishing: under these terms, a person who tested positive a few months ago but then gets hit by a bus this week would be recorded as a Covid death.

Read Matthew Lesh’s comment in full

06:46 AM

Prayer during the pandemic in pictures

A a memorial service for the victims of coronavirus at Manchester Cathedral - Getty
A a memorial service for the victims of coronavirus at Manchester Cathedral – Getty
Muslim worshippers attend a sermon during the Friday prayers at a mosque in Kuwait City - AFP
Muslim worshippers attend a sermon during the Friday prayers at a mosque in Kuwait City – AFP
A Hindu priest holds a lamp as he gives blessing to devotees at a temple on the Tamil's holy month of Aadi during a lockdown in Chennai - AFP
A Hindu priest holds a lamp as he gives blessing to devotees at a temple on the Tamil’s holy month of Aadi during a lockdown in Chennai – AFP

06:28 AM

Councils support ‘backdoor’ attempt to ban smoking outdoors

A “backdoor” attempt to ban smoking outdoors in the wake of coronavirus has been backed by councils.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has thrown its support behind a House of Lords amendment which would make all pavement licences issued by councils subject to the condition that they are smoke-free.

The move has angered the hospitality industry, which has warned that banning smoking outdoors imposes unwelcome extra restrictions on already beleaguered pubs, bars and cafes. 

Read the full story

05:54 AM

India records another surge in cases

A surge of 34,884 new coronavirus cases took India’s tally to 1,038,716, as local governments continue to reimpose focused lockdowns in several parts of the country.

The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported 671 deaths in the past 24 hours for a total of 26,273. 

The actual numbers, like elsewhere in the world, are thought to be far higher due to a number of reasons including limited testing. Over 300,000 samples are being tested every day.

About a dozen states, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam, have put high-risk areas under lockdowns, only allowing essential food supplies and health services.

Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday to take concrete steps to contain the pandemic. He warned that the number of infections will double to 2 million by Aug. 10 at the current pace.

Experts say India is likely to witness a series of peaks as the infection spread in rural areas.

Relatives offer funeral prayers in New Delhi, India - Getty
Relatives offer funeral prayers in New Delhi, India – Getty

03:33 AM

Summary of news from around the world

  • Spain‘s Covid-19 death toll of 28,400 is one of Europe’s worst and the country has identified more than 150 new virus clusters across the country. 

  • India hit the million mark the day after virus cases in Brazil topped two million – although the World Health Organisation said on Friday that Brazil‘s contagion has “plateaued”. 

  • Mexico has registered 736 more deaths and 7,257 more confirmed cases – it now has more than 35,000 deaths from the pandemic.

  • Authorities in South Korea say most of the country’s cases are coming from abroad with at least 28 of 39 newly confirmed cases tied to people arriving from other countries.

  • In the US, the deadliest month of the pandemic in Texas continues, with state officials reporting 174 new deaths, the most in one day since the outbreak began.

  • The number of confirmed  cases in Germany increased by 529 to 201,372, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.

A health official takes a swab sample from a man at a testing point in Allahabad, India - AFP
A health official takes a swab sample from a man at a testing point in Allahabad, India – AFP

03:18 AM

China battling new outbreak in Xinjiang region

The number of confirmed cases in a new Covid-19 outbreak in China’s far west has risen to 17.

The National Health Commission said Saturday that 16 more cases were identified in the previous 24 hours in the Xinjiang region, on top of a first case.

The outbreak in the city of Urumqi is the latest to pop up since China largely contained the domestic spread of the virus in March. The largest was a recent outbreak in Beijing that infected more than 330 people.

Authorities in Urumqi have reduced subways, buses and taxis and closed off some residential communities, according to Chinese media reports. They also placed restrictions on people leaving the city, including a suspension of subway service to the airport.

People worship at the Buddhist Jing'an Temple in Shanghai as it reopens following the outbreak - Reuters
People worship at the Buddhist Jing’an Temple in Shanghai as it reopens following the outbreak – Reuters

02:36 AM

Parliament ‘too risky’, says Australian PM

Australia’s prime minister is seeking to to postpone the sitting of parliament, saying the increased community transmissions of the coronavirus in the country’s two most populous states have made it too risky.

Scott Morrison said he had consulted with the parliamentary opposition and had asked the Speaker to postpone the two-week session. Lawmakers are now expected to meet in Canberra on Aug 24.

“The government cannot ignore the risk to parliamentarians, their staff, the staff within the parliament and the broader community,” Mr Morrison said, adding he acted based on the advice of medical authorities.

On Saturday, Victoria reported 217 new cases of the coronavirus cases, after a record 428 cases on Friday. New South Wales said it was banning dancing, singing and mingling at weddings as authorities struggle to contain a new wave of infections.

Scott Morrison said there is a risk to parliamentarians - EPA
Scott Morrison said there is a risk to parliamentarians – EPA

01:43 AM

The six types of coronavirus

Six distinct types of coronavirus have been identified by scientists in a breakthrough that promises to save lives by flagging the highest-risk patients.

Analysis of thousands of cases by artificial intelligence software has revealed different “clusters” of symptoms and ranked them in order of severity.

Headache and loss of smell are common to all six groupings, but the range of symptoms varies widely after that.

The six types of coronavirus
The six types of coronavirus

Read more: Scientists hope six-tier system will save lives

01:17 AM

Record cases in US for third straight day

The United States marked a record number of coronavirus cases Friday for the third consecutive day, notching 77,638 new infections in 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The country also recorded 927 deaths in one day.

The US, the hardest-hit by the coronavirus in the world in absolute terms, has suffered 139,128 total fatalities out of 3.64 million confirmed cases.

Experts believe the US never emerged from its first wave of infections, and cases have been surging again in recent weeks, particularly across the south and west in states that pushed to lift lockdown restrictions early.

In California, Los Angeles County reported 4,592 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, a single-day record.

A refrigerated trailer outside of HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest. Texas officials are bringing in refrigerated trucks to cope with the body count - GETTY IMAGES
A refrigerated trailer outside of HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest. Texas officials are bringing in refrigerated trucks to cope with the body count – GETTY IMAGES

11:56 PM

EU leaders deadlocked over virus recovery plan

Divided European Union leaders appeared certain to head into a second day of marathon talks over a €750 billion rescue fund to kickstart the bloc’s economy  after the coronavirus pandemic on Friday. 

Heads of state and government of the remaining 27 member states were downbeat over their chances of striking a deal as they met in Brussels for their first face to face summit since the pandemic at 10am local time. By the evening, there was no sign of a breakthrough in negotiations over the unprecedented stimulus package.

Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, the bloc’s two most influential leaders, have thrown their weight behind a European Commission plan to give €500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans to countries worst-hit by the crisis.

They face strong opposition from the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark. The “frugal four” want stricter conditions on the cash, which they would prefer to be in loans, and balk at the bolstered €1.1 trillion EU Budget for the next seven years, which is also under negotiation.

Read more: EU leaders downbeat ahead of summit talks on €750 billion coronavirus rescue fund

Angela Merkel greets European Council President Charles Michel with an elbow bump, followed by Emmanuel Macron and Finland's Sanna Marin - EPA
Angela Merkel greets European Council President Charles Michel with an elbow bump, followed by Emmanuel Macron and Finland’s Sanna Marin – EPA

11:27 PM

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s incredible journey to a knighthood

When he set off down the garden path a few months ago to complete 100 laps of his garden in time for his 100th birthday, Captain Tom Moore could never have imagined that his fundraising walk for the NHS would lead him here, Joe Shute writes.

But on Friday, as he crossed the immaculate turf of Windsor Castle’s quadrangle, he took the final few steps in what has been a quite unbelievable journey.  

The Queen was there to present him with a knighthood in her first face-to-face Royal engagement with a member of the public since the coronavirus lockdown came into force in March.

Read more: The Queen has spoken of the resilience of her generation. Sir Tom Moore is the best of it

11:12 PM

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