Health officials have pleaded with the public to wear masks to limit the spread of the virus, but the issue has become politically divisive in the United States.
Seven months into the pandemic, President Donald Trump wore a mask for the first time in public when he visited a Washington DC-area military medical centre on Saturday. Trump had previously refused to wear a mask in public or ask Americans to wear face coverings.
Many Americans still refuse to wear a mask. Health experts agree masks help stop the transmission of the virus, which has killed more than 134,000 Americans.
Also on Sunday, it emerged that Trump has not spoken to his top infections disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, for more than a month.
Vaccine development moves forward in Thailand
Thai researchers plan to begin human trials of a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus in November and are preparing 10,000 doses, a senior official said on Sunday, aiming for a vaccine that could be ready for use by the end of next year.
Following favourable results in trials on primates, the next step is to manufacture doses for human trials, said Kiat Ruxrungtham, director of the Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University vaccine development program.
Facilities in San Diego and Vancouver will produce 10,000 doses for the trials for 5000 people. The first group, aged 18 to 60, will receive different doses of the vaccine, he said.
The trials would not proceed until clearance was received from the Thai Food and Drug Administration and an ethics committee, Kiat said.
Thai company BioNet-Asia is preparing its facilities for large-scale manufacturing if the trials prove successful.
Thailand on Sunday had a total of 3217 confirmed infections, with no local transmissions reported in over a month, and 58 COVID-19 deaths.
There are no approved vaccines for the virus that causes COVID-19, but 19 candidates are being tested in humans globally.
Rise in cases causes concern in Japan
Japan’s virus tsar, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, on Sunday said the number of cases with unclear contagion routes is increasing, straining public health care resources.
The country has seen a spike in cases over recent days, with Tokyo reporting more than 200 infections daily for the past three days.
On the Japanese island of Okinawa, the Governor sought tougher measures and more transparency from the US military after officials were told that more than 60 marines at two American bases had been infected over the past few days.
Fans return to football in France
For the first time since the coronavirus shut down sport, Neymar, Mbappe and other stars were back in front of thousands of fans on Sunday.
An exhibition match between Paris Saint-Germain’s star-studded squad and French Ligue 2 team Le Havre was set to be the first elite-level encounter in front of fans since the outbreak erupted.
Only 5000 tickets were issued for Le Havre’s 25,000-seat Stade Oceane, and spectators were told they would need face masks to guarantee entry. Social distancing rules were also in place.
Paris’ players were wearing “Tous unis” (“All united”) and “Merci” (“Thank you”) on their kit to thank health workers.
Football matches are blamed for having helped speed the initial spread of the pandemic across Europe. In Serbia, matches played in front of thousands of fans despite the pandemic were followed last month by players and the CEO of Red Star Belgrade testing positive for the coronavirus.
Germany finished its season without fans, but the league and clubs are exploring plans to play 2020-21 with fans. Play has resumed without fans in Spain, England and Italy.
France stopped its league and never resumed it in the wake of its outbreak. The return of fans comes as the country’s death toll this week surpassed 30,000 and amid growing concerns of a possible second wave of infections.
PSG will play in the finals of the French Cup and the League Cup later this month and in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in August.
South Africa considers tightening restrictions
Confronted by surging hospitalisations, South Africa is considering a return to tighter restrictions to combat the disease, which may soon overwhelm the country’s health system.
South Africa’s rapid increase in reported cases has made it one of the world’s COVID-19 epicentres – it is the ninth most affected country according to Johns Hopkins University.
The country has reported increases of more than 10,000 confirmed cases for several days and the latest daily increase was nearly 13,500. South Africa accounts for 40 per cent of all the confirmed cases in Africa, and has had 3971 deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Africa imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in April and May, including closing virtually all mines, factories and businesses, and a ban on sales of alcohol and cigarettes. The measures slowed the spread of the virus, but the economy – already in recession – contracted dramatically.
In June the country began relaxing restrictions, but cases climbed again within weeks. More than 30 per cent of cases are in the economic hub of Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria.
Africa’s 54 countries have reported 577,904 cases, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The continent’s confirmed cases are concentrated in four countries – South Africa, Egypt (81,158 cases), Nigeria (31,987 cases) and Algeria (18,712 cases), which together make up more than 65 per cent of the continent’s cases.
The number of actual cases in Africa is believed to be much higher, as the testing rate is very low in many countries.