Covid-19 wrap | US deaths surpass 190 000, Indonesia capital to reimpose social restrictions

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A health official takes a swab sample from a woman to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a testing site in Karachi.
A health official takes a swab sample from a woman to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a testing site in Karachi.
Rizwan Tabassum, AFP

US Covid-19 deaths surpass 190 000, Iowa and South Dakota emerge as new hotspots

Coronavirus deaths in the United States topped 190 000 on Wednesday along with a spike in new cases in the US Midwest with states like Iowa and South Dakota emerging as the new hotspots in the past few weeks.

Iowa currently has one of the highest rates of infection in the nation, with 15% of tests last week coming back positive. Nearby South Dakota has a positive test rate of 19% and North Dakota is at 18%, according to a Reuters analysis.

The surge in Iowa and South Dakota is being linked to colleges reopening in Iowa and an annual motorcycle rally last month in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Kansas, Idaho and Missouri are also among the top 10 states for positive test rates.

New coronavirus infections have fallen for seven weeks in a row for the United States with a death rate of about 6 100 per week from Covid-19 in the last month.

On a per capita basis, the United States ranks 12th in the world for the number of deaths, with 58 deaths per 100 000 people, and 11th in the world for cases, with 1 933 cases per 100 000 residents, according to a Reuters analysis.

US confirmed cases are highest in the world with now over 6.3 million followed by India with 4.4 million cases and Brazil with 4.2 million. The US death toll is also the highest in the world.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had forecast last month that the US death toll will reach 200 000 to 211 000 by 26 September.

The University of Washington's health institute last week forecasted that the US deaths from the coronavirus will reach 410 000 by the end of the year.


Indonesia capital to reimpose wide-scale social restrictions - governor

Indonesia's capital will reinstate wide-scale social restrictions as novel coronavirus cases and deaths increase and as hospitals fill up, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan said on Wednesday.

Jakarta will introduce the restrictions again "as soon as possible", Anies told a virtual press briefing, adding that beds in intensive care units will be full as soon as of 15 September even if 20% more beds are added.

The social restrictions will be introduced in stages, and starting on 14 September non-essential work must be done from home.


Portugal reports 646 new coronavirus cases, record since April 20

Portugal reported 646 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the highest daily toll since 20 April, with transmission primarily occurring in family households, health secretary of state Jamila Madeira told a news conference.

New cases fell to around 100 a day at the beginning of August but have crept back up since then, worrying the tourism industry as it waits to hear whether it will taken back out of the UK's air bridge list.

Stricter measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak will be introduced across Portugal from mid-September as students return to schools and many workers go back to the office, although details have yet to be announced.

Most new cases were split between the northern region and Greater Lisbon, health ministry data showed.


Spanish police arrest virus-infected surfer

Spanish police said Wednesday they had arrested a woman who went surfing when she should have been in quarantine after testing positive for the new coronavirus.

Gloved officers in white hazmat suits marched the handcuffed woman off the beach in the northern city of San Sebastian as sunbathers looked on, a video posted to Twitter showed Monday - quickly becoming a viral hit.

The woman, reportedly a lifeguard, could be seen in the video initially ignoring appeals from police for her to get out of the water before she finally returned to land and argued with officers.

"We were informed that this person had tested positive (for Covid-19) and was on sick leave and that she still went surfing," a spokeswoman for local police told AFP.

As in other European nations, Spaniards infected with the coronavirus must self-quarantine at home until they are cured to prevent spreading the disease or face hefty fines.

Spain this week become the first country in Western Europe to pass 500 000 coronavirus infections. The disease has killed nearly 30 000 people, one of the highest tolls in the world.


Madrid bar and restaurants call for help as Covid crisis hits

Holding banners reading "Help!" and "We are not the problem", Spanish bar, restaurant and nightclub owners gathered in central Madrid on Wednesday to ask the government for tax cuts and support to survive the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Nightclubs are closed in Madrid and usually bustling restaurants and bars are back to only being allowed to open at a reduced capacity to stem a rebound in Covid-19 cases in a country with a strong tradition of eating out.

"With the capacity they have assigned, taking steps backwards, this is an impossible situation," said Pepa Munoz, owner and chef of "El Quenco de Pepa" restaurant in Madrid.

With few clients and scarce tourists, these businesses brace for an even tougher autumn and winter.

"We are hanging on thanks to terraces, but their days are numbered," she said, dreading the cold winter days. Serving just about half her usual number of meals, she fears for the future of her 34 employees.

"Mister politicians, more help and less restrictions," one banner read, while another said: "Six months closed. Help!". The main hospitality business lobby has warned 85 000 businesses were in jeopardy this year..

"We are not earning any money at the business but we are still paying (taxes). We can only survive for a short time, maybe two or three months, I don't think we could last longer," said Jose Manuel del Moral, who works at his husband's drinks bar "Zarpa" in Madrid.

The government has rolled out plans to help businesses but has so far ruled out a cut to value added tax.

Spain, which before the pandemic had the highest density of bars in the world with one for every 175 residents, according to a study by Nielsen consultancy, has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus and on Monday became the first Western European country to pass 500 000 cases.

Its economy shrank a record 18.5% in April-June, the sharpest drop among European Union member states.


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