Covid-19 wrap: EU reaches vaccine deal, WHO says Europe can fight virus without lockdowns

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Covid-19 screening and testing programme.
Covid-19 screening and testing programme.
Sharon Seretlo, Gallo Images

UK records second-highest daily Covid cases since June

Britain recorded 1 182 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the second-highest daily total since 21 June, government figures showed.

Britain also reported a further six deaths of people who died within 28 days of receiving a positive coronavirus test result, taking the total number of fatalities on this measure to 41 403.


EU reaches virus vaccine deal with CureVac

The EU said Thursday it has concluded talks with German pharmaceutical firm CureVac, aiming to secure 225 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

It is the fourth agreement the bloc has reached with companies working on a potential vaccine against the virus, after deals with Sanofi-GSK, Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca.

"The envisaged contract with CureVac would provide for the possibility for all EU member states to purchase the vaccine," the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, said in a statement.

An agreement to buy the vaccine will come once it has been shown to be safe and effective, the commission said.


Airbnb bans parties in Covid-19 fight

No more parties and events in homes listed on Airbnb, the short-term home rental company said on Thursday as it tries to enforce strict social-distancing norms to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new rules include a cap on occupancy at 16, with hosts or guests who try to skirt the rules facing a ban from Airbnb's community and even legal action, the company said on Thursday.

"Instituting a global ban on parties and events is in the best interest of public health," Airbnb said in a statement, adding that the ban applies to all future bookings.

Airbnb said 73% of its listings globally already ban parties in their house rules, while some hosts allow small parties such as baby showers or birthday parties.

Last year, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on "party houses" or listings that create persistent neighbourhood nuisance.

Airbnb has also updated its policies in light of the pandemic, removing both the "event friendly" search filter and "parties and events allowed" house rules.

The global ban comes a day after Airbnb said it filed confidentially for an initial public offering with US regulators, setting the stage for one of 2020's marquee stock market debuts.

The potential IPO underscores a rebound in parts of the travel industry, which was battered this year by restrictions and shutdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

San Francisco-based Airbnb said in July that customers had booked more than 1 million nights in a single day for the first time since 2 March, in part as US travellers shy away from hotels and prefer to drive to local vacation rentals.

- Reuters

Germany and France continue to see infection rate rise

Germany and France recorded their worst daily infection rates in months with concerns growing that cases could spike in Europe as holidaymakers come home and children return to school.

Germany reported 1 707 new cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily toll since the peak of the pandemic in April.

And France records new cases at the fastest daily rate since May, with almost 3,800 infections confirmed in the past 24 hours.

The pandemic has killed at least 787 918 people worldwide since surfacing in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

More than 22.4 million cases have been registered.

The United States has recorded the most deaths with 173 193, followed by Brazil with 111 100, Mexico with 58 481, India with 53 866 and Britain with 41 397.


Millions likely infected by coronavirus in New Delhi, survey finds

Almost 30% of the population in India's capital of New Delhi likely have been infected by the novel coronavirus, according to a serological survey of 15 000 people conducted by the local government, a figure that indicates infection numbers are much higher than those recorded.

The survey, which tested a sample of the population for the presence of antibodies, was done in the national capital territory in the first week of August, its health minister Satyendra Jain told a news conference on Thursday.

"We found that 29.1% of the population of Delhi had antibodies, which means that they were infected and have been cured," Jain said.

Delhi has a population of 20 million and has recorded a total of 140 767 cases of Covid-19, out of India's total of 2.84 million.

The findings of the survey are in line with what other cities like Mumbai and Pune have discovered, that a significant number of their people have been infected.

India reported a record daily jump of 69 652 coronavirus infections on Thursday, data from the federal health ministry showed. Deaths rose by 977 to a total of 53 866.

India is the worst-hit country in Asia and globally third only behind the United States and Brazil in number of cases.

- Reuters

Europe can fight virus without lockdown: WHO

Europe can combat the new coronavirus without full lockdowns now that authorities are better prepared and have gained knowledge about how to fight it in recent months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.

"With the basic nationwide and additional targeted measures, we are in a much better position to stamp out these localised virus flare-ups," the head of the WHO's European branch, Hans Kluge, told reporters.

"We can manage the virus and keep the economy running and an education system in operation," he added.

Europe has seen a steady rise in the number of cases for the past two months, he said.

In the first week of August, 40 000 more cases were reported than in the first week of June when cases were at their lowest.

"But we are not in February, we can manage the virus differently now than we did when Covid-19 first emerged," Kluge said.

In addition to calling for good hand hygiene, social distancing measures and national testing and tracing programmes, the WHO recommended that additional measures be adopted locally when clusters arise.

On average, 26 000 new cases are being reported everyday in Europe, according to the WHO. Young people, who tend to experience milder symptoms and lower mortality rates, account for a growing share of cases.

However, Kluge stressed the importance of reopening schools as countries gradually return to normal, noting the negative consequences that school closures have had on children.

The WHO's European region, which covers 55 countries, has registered almost four million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 215 000 deaths linked to the virus, according to the organisation.


Nigeria considers using private firms for coronavirus tests after foreign flights resume

Nigeria is considering partnerships between state governments and private firms to ramp up testing and tracing of coronavirus cases after international flights resume this month, the head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said.

Nigeria will reopen its airports for international flights from 29 August. They have been closed since 23 March to all but essential overseas flights to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa's most populous country.

State governments are responsible for testing and tracing but the influx of travellers will increase the pressure on already stretched authorities in Nigeria, which has had 50 488 cases resulting in 985 deaths.

Lagos, Nigeria's largest state and epicentre of its outbreak, has 200 tracers for a population of 25 million - fewer than one per 100 000 people, compared with around 14 per 100 000 in Turkey for example.

NCDC Director General Chikwe Ihekweazu said talks had been held with private companies over possible partnerships on testing and tracing in some states.

"Private-public models are being looked at. Lagos and Abuja are the primary locations, and from that we'll learn what to do for the other three international airports," Ihekweazu told Reuters in a telephone interview. He did not disclose the companies involved.

He said arrivals may be expected to contribute financially towards their tests since they made a decision to travel.

International airports will reopen first in commercial hub Lagos and the capital Abuja, which have had the most cases, and later in the cities of Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu.

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