Covid-19 wrap | UK coronavirus quarantine 'confusion', New Zealand mourns new death

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Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis.

FOLLOW THE LIVE UPDATE | All the latest coronavirus and lockdown updates


Quarantine 'confusion' in the UK with different rules for England, Wales and Scotland

Travellers to the United Kingdom faced what the transport minister said was confusion on Friday as Wales and Scotland slapped a quarantine on arrivals from Portugal but England and Northern Ireland held back from restrictions.

"I do realise it creates confusion for people not to have a single rule (across the UK) but we do have this devolved approach throughout the United Kingdom and I can only be responsible for the English part of that," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News.

Asked about testing at airports, Shapps said there was no silver bullet as a day zero test was unlikely to work.

- Reuters


China's international schools struggle as teachers, students remain stuck abroad

China's international schools are reopening this month but will be short of key elements - teachers and pupils.

Schools across the world are grappling with disruptions, but the situation for international schools in China is particularly challenging as swathes of staff and students left the country for Lunar New Year holidays just as the coronavirus spread and many are still stranded overseas due to travel restrictions.

As many as 40% of teachers and students due to start the term this month remain abroad, according to the Association of China and Mongolia International Schools which represents 58 schools catering to mostly foreign nationals.

A survey of its member schools in China in early July found just over 3 000 teachers and their dependents were unable to enter China, and it estimated another 700 people from schools which did not respond could be in the same position.

"This is probably the biggest issue that we have faced as an organisation since SARS in 2003," said Tom Ulmet, executive director at the association, adding that schools were trying to cope with the lack of teachers by increasing class sizes and moving lessons online.

Authorities have begun processing visa applications for foreign staff in China, but flying into China is not easy due to a limited number of international flights. A number of foreigners including teachers have also had their applications for visas rejected, although the reasons behind the rejections and the proportion of visas rejected are unclear.

- Reuters


Latest on the worldwide spread of coronavirus

New infections have fallen in the United States for six weeks, while cases in India have surged in recent days as Asia's worst-hit country closes in on Brazil as the world's second-most affected nation from the virus.

EUROPE

* The weekly number of positive cases in England in late August was the highest since the end of May, the latest data from the test and trace scheme showed.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* South Korean doctors agreed to end a two-week strike which has complicated efforts to curb a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

* India reported a daily jump of 83 341 infections, taking its tally to 3.94 million, as Asia's worst-hit country closes in on Brazil as the world's second most affected nation from the virus.

* An Australian state reported a record 59 deaths, the highest ever daily total for the country.

* New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the current coronavirus restrictions would be retained until mid-September.

AMERICAS

* Brazil's national tally of infections surpassed four million.

* More health workers have died from the novel coronavirus in Mexico than any other country on the planet, Amnesty International said.

* British actor Robert Pattinson has tested positive for Covid-19, news media reported, halting production of The Batman and highlighting the industry's struggles to get back to business after months of a shutdown.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Israel will impose a partial national lockdown next week to battle a coronavirus infection surge, the head of its pandemic task force said on Thursday.

MEDICAL DEVELOPMENTS

* Drug maker Roche said it had received Emergency Use Authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for a test to quickly detect whether a patient has SARS-CoV-2 or one of two forms of influenza.

* Contact tracing apps can sharply reduce the spread of the virus even when only a few people use them, a study published by researchers at Google and Oxford University showed.

* Mexico said it plans to take part in stage 3 trials of the Russian coronavirus vaccine in October, part of the nation's efforts to secure supplies of possible future Covid-19 vaccines.

- Reuters


In Indonesia, shock coffin tactics nail coronavirus risks

Each day in Jakarta at 09:00 sharp, local government official Ricky Mulyana and three colleagues don full personal protective equipment, hoist a wooden coffin onto their shoulders, and set out on a "funeral" procession down busy city streets.

The coffin, wrapped in plastic, contains only an effigy.

But as Indonesia struggles to contain a surge in coronavirus cases, authorities are trying shock tactics to catch the public's attention and drive home crucial health messages in a country that has the highest virus death toll in Southeast Asia.

"It's a tiring job because people don't understand the danger of the Covid-19 disease," said Mulyana during a coffin procession along a street in Jakarta's southern Cilandak area, a sprawling suburb with business centres and both middle class and poorer districts.

Nearby, other officials held up placards and used loudhailers to urge residents to follow health protocols, including wearing masks and social distancing.

The alarming stunt is one of a string deployed amid desperate case numbers: Indonesia on Thursday recorded a record daily spike in coronavirus infections and now has more than 180 000 cases and at least 7 750 deaths.

Jakarta has been the epicentre of Indonesia's outbreak, accounting for nearly a quarter of cases in the world's fourth most populous country.

Elsewhere, tactics used to draw awareness to the virus have even included deploying a cast of "ghosts" to patrol streets of a village in Java, hoping an age-old superstition will keep people indoors.

"Until now people are still not aware that using a mask is very important," said Mulyana. He said he hoped seeing a coffin would make people realise the danger of the disease.

Some residents watching on said the coffin parade could help get the message across.

- Reuters


Australian PM wants internal borders open by Christmas, protests at virus restrictions grow

Australia's prime minister pressed states on Friday to reopen their borders by December and ease restrictions, as businesses and locked down households vented their frustration over deepening revenue and job losses.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country would look to bring more Australians home, raising the cap from 4 000 a week, and suggested an eventual travel bubble with New Zealand would boost tourism and help revive the economy, which has fallen into recession for the first time since 1991.

Seven of Australia's eight state and territory leaders agreed to map out a path to open borders by December, by coming up with a definition for "hot spots" to manage travel around the country, Morrison said following a National Cabinet meeting.

He said he had told New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that Australia would also look to apply the same hot spot approach to New Zealand.

"In the absence of a vaccine, we may have to live this way for years," Morrison told reporters.

Australia's biggest state Western Australia, which has not had a local transmission for 129 days and has no social or business restrictions, rejected the plan to re-open its border until the eastern states contain the coronavirus.

Western Australia state premier Mark McGowan said the desert borders which separate his state would stay closed to save lives and protect the nation's largest mining operations.

- Reuters


New Zealand records first Covid-19 death in over three months

New Zealand recorded its first Covid-19 death in more than three months on Friday when a man in his 50s succumbed to the virus.

Health officials said the man was part of a second-wave cluster of infections that emerged in Auckland last month, ending a spell of 102 days free of community transmission in the South Pacific nation.

The death at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital on Friday afternoon takes New Zealand's death toll from the virus to 23, with the most recent previous fatality on 24 May.

"I acknowledge the anxiety New Zealanders may be feeling about today's news, both in the wider community and also for the family and whanau (relatives) grieving over this death," health chief Ashley Bloomfield said in a statement.

"Our thoughts are with his family and community at this time of loss and grief."

The man was reportedly the youngest to die from Covid-19 in New Zealand.

Health authorities did not say whether he had a pre-existing medical condition.

The Auckland cluster emerged in a family of four and has since grown to 152, including three new cases recorded on Friday.

It has proved difficult to eliminate despite a two-and-a-half week lockdown in Auckland that ended on Sunday night.

- AFP


Indiana University sees 'alarming' spike in Covid-19 at frat, sorority houses

Indiana University at Bloomington on Thursday urged students living in fraternity and sorority houses to move out, citing an "alarming" rate of positive Covid-19 tests that marked the latest outbreak in the US Midwest and at a college campus.

The university said on Twitter that positive tests for coronavirus were exceeding 50% in some Greek houses, higher than in dorms, and told fraternity and sorority members to "re-evaluate their current living situation".

"Based on an increasingly alarming rate of positive test results from continued Covid-19 mitigation testing, IU Bloomington and its public health experts believe Greek houses are not safe given the pandemic conditions," the school tweeted.

Indiana University, a campus of some 40 000 students, said it lacked the authority to manage the privately owned houses, but hoped Greek organisations and landlords would work with students to help them make new arrangements.

Some students responding on social media accused the school of unfairly blaming the Greek system. Others said administrators should have expected outbreaks where a number of people were living in close quarters.

Major universities have grappled with thousands of students returning to campus for the fall semester, with some imposing online-only learning. New cases have spiked at some colleges that have allowed students to return to class.

- Reuters

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