Covid-19 wrap : Global cases top 36.58 million, while WHO wants to avoid 'punishing' lockdowns

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Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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WHO says it wants to avoid 'punishing' coronavirus lockdowns

The World Health Organisation's top emergencies expert said on Friday that authorities should try to avoid "punishing" lockdowns, as many countries see a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 infections.

Mike Ryan was speaking at a briefing in Geneva, the day after the WHO reported a record one-day increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 338 779 in 24 hours led by a surge of infections in Europe.

"What we want to try to avoid - and sometimes it's unavoidable and we accept that - but what we want to try and avoid is these massive lockdowns that are so punishing to communities, to society and to everything else," he said.

-REUTERS


Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 36.58 million, death toll at 1 062 130

More than 36.58 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1 062 130 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

-REUTERS 


Ukraine to expand Covid hospitals as daily tally surpasses 5 000

Ukraine will open more hospitals to accept patients with the novel coronavirus infection amid a recent spike in new cases, the government said on Friday.

Ukraine registered a record 5 804 Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the national security council said on Friday, up from a previous record of 5 397 new cases reported on Thursday.

The government said in a statement that Prime Minister Denys Smygal had ordered Health Minister Maksym Stepanov to start preparation for expanding the number of hospitals for coronavirus cases because more than 20 000 out of 31 927 beds had been occupied already in the country.

The minister said at least 900 patients with confirmed coronavirus infections were admitted to hospitals daily, and in some regions medical capacity was full completely.

The daily tally in Ukraine climbed to a record level for the third day in a row, bringing the total number of cases of coronavirus infection to 250 538 with 4 779 deaths, including 89 in the past 24 hours.

A total number of patients who have recovered since the start of the pandemic stood at 110 650.

The government is also mulling ways to toughen lockdown measures, which have been gradually eased since June to help the economy that plunged 11.4% in the second quarter.

-REUTERS 


Trump plans return to campaign trail, awaits 'negative' Covid-19 test

Republican President Donald Trump prepared on Friday to return to the campaign trail with two potential rallies at the weekend after his Covid-19 diagnosis sidelined him for a week in the White House race against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

But questions remained about whether he was still contagious and whether his campaign, whose leadership has also been hit hard by the coronavirus, could put on the events at short notice.

Trump, who announced on 2 October he had the virus and spent three nights in a military hospital, said late on Thursday he was feeling "really good" and aimed to campaign in Florida on Saturday and in Pennsylvania on Sunday.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said on Friday the president was hard at work and ready to go as soon as he got the OK from his doctor.

"He wants to talk to the American people, and he wants to be out there. Logistically, whether tomorrow's possible, it would be tough. It'd be a decision up to the campaign," she told Fox News.

Representatives from the campaign did not respond immediately to a request for comment on its plans.

Opinion polls show Trump lagging Biden ahead of the 3 November election and the president's illness has kept him from crisscrossing the country to rally support and raise cash. A return to in-person events would aim to show voters he is healthy enough to campaign and to govern.

Trump and his administration have faced criticism for their broad handling of the pandemic, as well as for a lax approach to mask-wearing and social distancing in the White House and - in recent days - confusing messages about how ill the president has been.

White House physician Sean Conley said in a memo released on Thursday that Trump had completed his course of therapy for Covid-19, remained stable since returning home from the Walter Reed medical facility on Monday and could resume public engagements on Saturday.

"There are medical tests underway that will ensure that when the president is back out he will not be able to transmit the virus," McEnany said, adding Conley would lay out the details later. "He won't be out there if he can transmit the virus."

McEnany is one of a string of Trump aides, including his campaign manager, who have tested positive in an outbreak of the virus in the last week within the White House and Trump campaign.

On-air evaluation

Trump was scheduled to do an on-camera interview with Fox News on Friday night, his first since being diagnosed. Fittingly given he is a former reality television star, Fox said in a press release that Dr. Marc Siegel "will conduct a medical evaluation and interview during the program."

Trump told the network late on Thursday he was likely to be tested for the virus on Friday. The White House has declined to say when he last tested negative for the disease.

Guidelines issued by the US  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say people who are severely ill with Covid-19 might need to stay home for up to 20 days after symptoms first appear.

Trump, who has not appeared in public since his return from the hospital, worked from the Oval Office on Wednesday. The White House said officials with whom he came into contact, such as chief of staff Mark Meadows, wore personal protective gear.

Biden has continued to campaign during Trump's illness, with events scheduled on Friday in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The former vice president, who has sharply criticized Trump's handling of the pandemic, is leading in national polls although with a narrower advantage in some of the swing states that may determine the election outcome.

Sounding hoarse and occasionally pausing and clearing his throat, Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity in an interview on Thursday night that he was doing well.

The president is expected to host a "virtual rally" on Friday by taking part in conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh's radio program.

The Trump and Biden campaigns sparred on Thursday over a televised debate that had been planned for next week. Trump pulled out of the scheduled 15 October event after the nonpartisan debate commission said it would be held virtually, with the candidates in separate locations, because of safety concerns after Trump contracted Covid-19.

-REUTERS 


Italy tops 5 000 daily coronavirus cases for first time since March

Italy has registered 5 372 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Friday, the first time the country has exceeded 5 000 cases in a single day since March.

There were also 28 Covid-related deaths on Friday against 22 the day before - far fewer than at the height of the pandemic in Italy in March and April.

Italy was the first country in Europe to be slammed by Covid-19 and has the second-highest death toll in the continent, with 36 111 fatalities since the outbreak flared in February, according to official figures.

Thanks to one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, the government managed to get the contagion under control by the summer, but new infections have been picking up for the last three months and are now rising strongly, doubling in the last week.

Thursday was the first time the country had posted more than 4 000 daily cases since 12 April.

Nonetheless, Italy is still recording significantly fewer daily cases than several other large European countries, such as France, Spain and Britain.

The last time Italy saw more than 5 000 cases in a day was on was on 29 March, with 5 217 infections reported in the middle of a nationwide lockdown. On that same day, some 756 people died.

-REUTERS


Nearly 3 million migrants stranded by Covid-19 - UN report

Coronavirus border closures and restrictions have stranded nearly 3 million migrants around the world who want to return home but cannot, the UN migration agency said on Friday, adding some had been "warehoused" in unhygenic settings.

The International Organisation for Migration report is the most comprehensive to date on the issue, covering more than 100 countries. It includes only migrants who want to return but are unable to do so because of the Covid-19 restrictions - such as seafarers stuck on decommissioned ships, miners or construction workers.

"It should be clear that migrants can be returned home in a safe and dignified manner despite the constraints imposed by Covid-19," said Director General, António Vitorino in a statement, urging dialogue between countries.

Some stranded migrants have been confined in unclean quarters and where social distancing was impossible, placing them at risk of disease. Others face abuse, exploitation and neglect, the report said.

The worst region by far is the Middle East and North Africa which accounts for 1.275 million of the total of 2.75 million in the IOM tally. Second was Asia with nearly a million.

IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said that 648 000 stranded migrants were in the United Arab Emirates and were often construction labourers from East Africa and Asia, while 280 000 were stuck in Saudi Arabia.

Others are stuck on board idle cruise ships, often not even granted the opportunity to go above deck.

"It's a very dire situation to be trapped below deck for six months," he said, urging better treatment. "Migrants are key, they are central, to a robust global economy."

The IOM praised recent successes however, such as an agreement to allow 3 400 Mozambiquan miners cross back into South Africa after medical screenings, and a deal between the UAE and India on migrant workers.

-REUTERS


Europe records 100 000 daily coronavirus cases for first time

Europe surpassed 100 000 daily reported Covid-19 cases for the first time on Thursday, after countries such as Russia and United Kingdom saw no respite in the mounting number of infections every day in the past five days.

Cases throughout Europe have been steadily rising over the past week even as new infections in worst-affected countries such as India and Brazil have shown signs of slowing down.

The epicentre of the outbreak in the European region has moved to the United Kingdom, Russia, Spain and France which have reported at least over 10 000 cases each in the last three days.

Russia reported its highest daily coronavirus cases ever since the last record in May on Friday, prompting Moscow authorities to mull closing bars and nightclubs.

The United Kingdom recorded more than 17 000 cases on Thursday with the country's Health Minister Matt Hancock warning that the United Kingdom was at a "perilous moment".

Many parts of northern England, Wales and Scotland have introduced tougher restrictions on social interaction to try to curb the growing spread of the disease.

Britain has been reeling under a double whammy of coronavirus cases skyrocketing and an alarming case-to-fatality rate of 7%, among the highest in the world. More than six of every 10 000 people have died due to the virus in the country.

The country's fatality rate is in stark contrast to the United States at 2.8%, even though the United States has recorded more than four times the total number of deaths due to the virus compared to Britain.

Europe currently has recorded over 16% of total global coronavirus cases and nearly 22% of deaths worldwide due to the virus. On Thursday, when daily reported cases breached the 100,000 mark, Eastern Europe was the worst affected region with over 33,600 daily reported cases.

Among the 10 countries in the region, including Ukraine, Russia and the Czech Republic, eight posted record increases in cases in the past week.

In Northern Europe, Britain was the sole country with a mammoth caseload. New infections in the country have risen more than 2.5 times since the beginning of October showing no signs of slowing down.

Italy, in the southern region of Europe, recorded over 4,000 cases for the first time since April when the country was slammed by virus. The daily number of cases in the country has been consistently rising for three months.

The country has the second-highest death toll in the continent, with 36,083 dying since the outbreak erupted in February.

Spain's government invoked a state of emergency on Friday to impose a partial lockdown on Madrid. With 850 Covid-19 infections per 100 000 people, the Madrid area has Europe's highest infection rate.

In Western Europe, France recorded new daily Covid-19 infections above the record 18 000 threshold for two days in a row on Thursday, with hospitals moving to an emergency mode and its biggest cities closing down establishments to curtail further spread of the virus.

Belgium too enforced stricter controls on gatherings after new infections surged in the country. New coronavirus cases rose more than 2.6 times since the beginning of October. Covid-19 has already claimed over 10 000 lives in the country, which has a population of 11 million people.

In Europe, daily cases averaged around 78 000 cases for since the beginning of October, compared with an average of 47 500 cases in September.

-REUTERS 


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