Covid wrap | England limits gatherings to 6, halt in vaccine trial not a setback - UK minister

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  • AstraZeneca Plc said it has paused global trials of its experimental coronavirus vaccine because of an unexplained illness in a study participant.
  • Mainstream Christian figure have criticised South Korea's churches for spreading fake news, aggravating the Covid-19 outbreak and depleting public resources.
  • The Czech government will order the wearing of face masks inside buildings across the country from Thursday.

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

FOLLOW LIVE | SA's Covid-19 death toll hits 15 086, with the number of confirmed cases now at 640 441

Pause in AstraZeneca vaccine trial not necessarily a setback, says UK health minister

Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday that AstraZeneca's decision to pause its coronavirus vaccine trials was a challenge but would not necessarily set back efforts to develop a vaccine.

AstraZeneca Plc said it had paused global trials, including large late-stage trials, of its experimental coronavirus vaccine due to an unexplained illness in a study participant.

"It is obviously a challenge to this particular vaccine trial," Hancock said on Sky News when asked about the pause in the trial. "It's not actually the first time this has happened to the Oxford vaccine."

Asked whether it would set back the vaccine development process, he said: "Not necessarily, it depends on what they find when they do the investigation."


England limits gatherings to six amid coronavirus resurgence

Tough new lockdown restrictions on social gatherings across England have been announced on Wednesday as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to control a resurgence of coronavirus infections.

From 14 September, gatherings will be limited to no more than six people with fines for those who fail to comply, Johnson is expected to announce.

ALSO READ | England bans social gatherings with more than 6 people, and those who violate it will have to pay up

The number of cases in the United Kingdom has begun to rise sharply again in recent days.

There were 2 460 new infections reported on Tuesday, 2 948 on Monday and 2 988 on Sunday - a sharp rise from levels of around 1 000 per day in August and attributed to high levels of transmission among young people.


South Korea's defiant churches face backlash for hampering Covid-19 response

South Korea's latest Covid-19 outbreak has triggered a public backlash against conservative Christian churches for defying government orders aimed at preventing the disease's spread.

At least a third of the 4 500 Covid-19 cases confirmed in the greater Seoul area over the past three weeks have been traced to church members and others who attended a 15 August anti-government rally, the country's largest cluster in months.

Authorities said quelling the outbreak was hampered by some 650 church members and 7,700 protesters avoiding or refusing testing as of Tuesday, and more than 300 congregations breaching a ban on in-person gatherings.

Mainstream Christian figures and conservative opposition lawmakers have criticised the Sarang Jeil Church at the centre of the latest Covid-19 outbreak and other churches for spreading fake news, aggravating the Covid-19 outbreak and depleting public resources.


Thailand tests nearly 600 people exposed to mystery coronavirus case

Thailand said on Wednesday it had tested nearly 600 people potentially exposed to the country's first domestic coronavirus case in over three months, but has so far found no new infections.

The man, 37, had worked as a nightclub DJ at three different venues in the capital Bangkok in the two weeks before he tested positive on arrival in prison, following his recent conviction for a drugs-related offence.

Individuals deemed at risk across 12 venues including the court where he appeared, nightclubs and supermarkets were tracked down and 569 tests were administered, the Public Health Ministry said.

So far, all tests have come back negative and 32 individuals were awaiting results. Authorities have asked 400 other individuals considered low-risk to self-quarantine for 14 days.

How the man became infected remains a mystery, with all of Thailand's recent cases, typically less than a handful each day, detected in state quarantine among people returning from abroad.


Czech government orders wearing of face masks indoors as cases spike

The Czech government will order the wearing of face masks inside buildings across the country from Thursday, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said on Twitter, after the daily increase in infections spiked to a record 1 164 on Tuesday.

"We agreed with experts that we will introduce the obligation to wear a face mask inside buildings in the entire Czech Republic," he said.


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