Covid-19 wrap: Hong Kong 'on brink of' outbreak, 50% of Mumbai's slum residents had virus - study

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  • Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has warned the city is on the brink of a "large-scale" coronavirus outbreak that could overwhelm hospitals.
  • Over half the people living in the slums of Mumbai have had the coronavirus, according to a city-commissioned study released.
  • Mask-clad Muslim pilgrims on Wednesday began the annual hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.


Hong Kong 'on brink of large-scale' coronavirus outbreak

Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has warned the city is on the brink of a "large-scale" coronavirus outbreak that could overwhelm hospitals, urging people to stay indoors as much as possible as strict new measures to curb the disease's spread have taken effect.

From Wednesday, all residents in the densely packed city of 7.5 million must wear masks when they leave their homes while restaurants can only serve take-out meals.

No more than two people from different households can gather in public with fines of up to $625 for those who breach the new rules, which mark the toughest introduced in the city since its outbreak began.

The government has also tightened testing and quarantine arrangements for sea and aircrew members.

"We are on the verge of a large-scale community outbreak, which may lead to a collapse of our hospital system and cost lives, especially of the elderly," Lam said in a statement.

"In order to protect our loved ones, our healthcare staff and Hong Kong, I appeal to you to follow strictly the social distancing measures and stay at home as far as possible."

Al Jazeera


Half of Mumbai's slum residents have had coronavirus: study

Over half the people living in the slums of Mumbai have had the coronavirus, according to a city-commissioned study released on Tuesday that raises fresh doubts about India's official case numbers.

Blood tests on 6 36 randomly selected people conducted by Mumbai's city authorities found that 57 percent of slum-dwellers and 16 percent of non-slum residents had virus antibodies.

Mumbai, where about 40 percent of the population lives in slums, has reported just over 110 000 infections and more than 6 000 deaths so far.

The western city of 20 million people is home to India's largest slum Dharavi, where an estimated one million people live.

The survey results suggested asymptomatic infections were "likely to be a high proportion of all infections" and also indicated the virus death rate was likely to be "very low", the study said.

AFP


Germany: Coronavirus vaccine unlikely to be widely available before mid-2021     

Germany awarded three biotech companies grants to help them speed up the development of coronavirus vaccine candidates, but Research Minister Anja Karliczek said any vaccine was unlikely to be widely available before the middle of next year.

Europe's largest economy has reported a rise in infections in recent days, with the head of Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases blaming negligence and saying it was unclear if a second wave was underway.

"We should not expect a miracle," Karliczek told a news conference, calling for people to maintain social distancing and mask-wearing to avoid jeopardising what Germany had achieved in recent weeks in terms of bringing the pandemic under control.

"We must continue to assume that vaccines for the broader population will only be available from the middle of next year at the earliest."

Reuters


Muslims begin downsized hajj amid pandemic   

Mask-clad Muslim pilgrims on Wednesday began the annual hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage.

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

But this year only up to 10 000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in the ritual, a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world that attended last year.

Pilgrims will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing during a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in the holy city of Mecca and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.

Hajj authorities have cordoned off the Kaaba this year, saying pilgrims will not be allowed to touch it, to limit the chances of infection.

The hajj and the year-round umrah pilgrimages normally rake in some $12 billion a year.

AFP


Britain has no alternative to quarantine yet, minister says

Britain does not yet have a viable alternative to imposing a 14-day quarantine on travelers returning from countries deemed to have a high risk of coronavirus, culture minister Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday.

Britain slapped a quarantine order on travellers from Spain at the weekend, sparking chaos for airlines and travel companies at the height of the summer holiday season.

"We cannot risk importing it again from other countries where incidences are rising, that's why we imposed the restrictions on Spain," he told BBC Radio.

"We are reviewing all options because what we want to do is to minimise the disruption ... I have to just caution in respect of testing (at airports), it is not the case that testing provides a silver bullet."

Reuters


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