Covid-19 wrap : WHO warns Europe virus surge of 'great concern', global death toll at 1 093 384

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Turkey identifies 1 693 new symptomatic cases of coronavirus in last 24 hours -ministry

Turkey identified 1 693 new symptomatic cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, data from the Health Ministry showed on Thursday, as Ankara continues to only report the number of those who show symptoms.

The total number of patients increased to 324 143 as of Thursday, while the death toll increased by 66 to 9 080.

An interview in the Hurriyet daily over the weekend with Health Minister Fahrettin Koca led to speculation that Ankara may start announcing the number of all those who test positive for the novel coronavirus.

A clarification issued by the columnist on Monday explained that Koca's comments that Ankara would share all positive cases referred only to cross-sectional studies that are conducted.

Koca said last month that Turkey had only been reporting symptomatic coronavirus cases, after doctors and politicians had expressed concern that cases in the country were underreported for months. After Koca's announcement, the WHO called for the reporting of Covid-19 data in line with WHO guidelines in order to harmonise data collection and response measures.

Turkey had been isolating all positive cases regardless of symptoms, the WHO said.

Turkey's top medical association and the main opposition party criticised the government's decision to only disclose the number of symptomatic patients.

President Tayyip Erdogan urged Turkey's parliament on Wednesday to legislate to curb the influence of medical associations and other institutions that have criticised his government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.


Poland announces partial lockdown amid record virus spike

Poland's prime minister on Thursday asked people to "stay home" if possible, as he announced a raft of restrictions in major cities to stem a record spike in coronavirus cases.

"Today we must go back to the basic recommendation that we know from the spring: stay home," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said via a video link.

Morawiecki advised "everyone who can to work remotely" as Poland recorded a new daily 24-hour record of 8 099 coronavirus cases.

New restrictions will come into force in Warsaw and other major cities from Saturday, which will now be considered part of a "red" zone.

All secondary schools in those areas will be shut and switch to distance learning.

Restaurants will close at 21:00, weddings will be banned and there will be stricter limits on the numbers of people allowed in shops and on public transport and at religious services.

"We will win this fight. But we will only win it if we approach these recommendations, the rigours we are implementing today, with solidarity and responsibility," Morawiecki said.


Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 38.64 million, death toll at 1 093 384

More than 38.64 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1 093 384 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.


WHO warns Europe virus surge of 'great concern'

European countries have unveiled tough new measures to try to curb a surge in coronavirus infections which the World Health Organisation warned Thursday is of "great concern".

Underscoring the disruption wrought by Covid-19 even in the corridors of power, US presidential candidate Joe Biden's running mate Kamala Harris suspended travel after a staffer contracted the disease and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen abruptly left a summit in Brussels for a similar reason.

And in France, police searched the home of the health minister as part of a probe into the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis.

As the disease marches on relentlessly, millions in England are facing tighter restrictions, including a ban on household mixing, while a curfew is to be imposed in Paris and eight other French cities and in Germany there are new limits on people gathering at events.

With nearly 1.1 million coronavirus deaths and close to 40 million cases worldwide, countries in many parts of the world are facing tough choices on how to control the disease without the economic and social devastation wrought by nationwide lockdowns.

In India, where the pandemic has upended a movie-mad culture, some cinemas were allowed to reopen Thursday to try to attract punters back to the cash-strapped big screen.

Israel, meanwhile, said it was lifting an unpopular ban on citizens flying out of the country in an easing of a second nationwide lockdown.

Collateral damage too much

At a press conference in Copenhagen, the WHO's regional director for Europe Hans Kluge told reporters it was time to "step up the measures" as rising case numbers on the continent were of "great concern."

But he said the situation was not as bad as the peak in March and April, and stressed that full-on lockdowns "where every corner of our society and economy has been halted" should be avoided.

"The collateral damage on the people was too much," he said, encouraging governments not to "hold back with relatively smaller actions".

People's mental health, the risk of domestic violence and children's education should all be taken into consideration, he added.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to do just that with a targeted, local three-tier alert system based on infection rates.

London was preparing to move into level two of the system at the weekend along with other areas as Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned "infection rates are on a steep upward path" in the capital.

Liverpool, in northwest England, is the only area in the top level, with strict limits on social mixing, including the closure of pubs.

In France, police searched the home of Health Minister Olivier Veran, one of several current or former ministers being probed following complaints by victims of Covid-19 that they were slow to act to check its spread.

The action came after France announced a virus shutdown between 21:00 and 06:00 in Paris and other hotspot cities that will remain for as long as six weeks.

In neighbouring Spain, bars and restaurants will close across the northeastern region of Catalonia for the next 15 days, while Germany said daily infections have reached levels not seen since the start of the pandemic.

Breaking with past practice, China has sought to avoid a major lockdown after an outbreak in the port of Qingdao.

With residents free to come and go as they please, authorities decided instead to test everyone in the city, with almost 10 million people already screened for the virus.

Countries across Africa - which accounts for just over four percent of global cases - have also eased lockdowns and travel curbs over the past month, but weekly cases and deaths have ticked up, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are at a pivotal moment in the pandemic in Africa. While the continent has experienced a downward trend in its epidemic curve during the past three months, this decline has plateaued," the WHO's Africa director Matshidiso Moeti warned.


11 million girls won't return to school after Covid-19: UNESCO

Eleven million girls face being unable to return to school even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted around the world, UNESCO head Audrey Azoulay said Thursday during a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"We worry that in many countries the closure of schools has unfortunately led to losses," Azoulay said as she visited a high school in the capital Kinshasa, three days after the country's 2020-21 school year began.

"We estimate that 11 million girls will be unable to go back to school around the world."

Accordingly, "we have launched an awareness campaign on the need for schools to go back to school," the former French culture minister said.

Education "unfortunately remains very unequal" for girls, Azoulay said, noting that their access to schooling is a priority for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Congolese Education Minister Willy Bakonga, accompanying Azoulay, urged her to support the country's programme of free public primary education launched by President Felix Tshisekedi in September last year.

He said the programme had allowed more than four million children to join or rejoin the education system in the poor but mineral-rich Central African country.

Hailing the reform as "very ambitious", Azoulay recognised the "enormous challenges" at hand in terms of infrastructure, teacher training and budgeting.

Urging girls to pursue their schooling "as long as possible", she said she would support the Congolese authorities in the "massive effort that must be made for the quality of teaching".

Experts estimate the annual cost of free primary education at $2.64 billion, a colossal sum for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As of 11 September, total state revenue was no more than $2.5 billion, according to the Central Bank of Congo.

But the World Bank has pledged $800 million to help pay for education in sub-Saharan Africa's biggest nation, where 73 percent of the population live in extreme poverty.


UK records 18 980 new Covid-19 cases, 138 deaths

The United Kingdom recorded 18 980 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday and 138 deaths of people who had tested positive for the virus within 28 days, government data showed.

The daily cases figure was down from 19 724 a day earlier, while the number of deaths was stable.


European Commission chief leaves EU summit after Covid-19 contact

European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen said she was leaving the European Union summit in Brussels, less than an hour after it started, because she had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 and would go into quarantine.

She said on Twitter that she had tested negative for the virus herself.

"I have just been informed that a member of my front office has tested positive to Covid-19 this morning," she said. "I myself have tested negative. However as a precaution I am immediately leaving the European Council to go into self-isolation."


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