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Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien tests positive for coronavirus

O’Brien caught the virus while taking a few days off work, spending time with his family, according to people familiar with the matter. His daughter, who is college age, became ill first, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said.

O’Brien initially tested negative before receiving a positive result, they said. He hasn’t seen Trump since before his holiday.

Since his diagnosis, O’Brien has been isolating at home while still running the National Security Council, doing most of his work by phone, another person said. The people asked not to be named to discuss details that aren’t yet public.

O’Brien and senior staff on the NSC are tested daily for COVID-19. His office is near the Oval Office and Pence’s West Wing office.

O’Brien’s infection comes as the pandemic continues to surge with infections and deaths on the rise in many US states. Trump last week resumed regular briefings to reporters about the virus after polls showed voters increasingly disapprove of the President’s handling of the virus.

There have been 16.2 million cases of coronavirus worldwide since the pandemic began earlier this year, with deaths passing 648,000, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. In the US, there have been more than 4.2 million cases and 146,935 deaths, according to the data.

The President has changed his message in recent days on the virus.

Last week, Trump abruptly called off Republican National Convention activities set for August in Jacksonville, Florida, citing concerns over the outbreak. He began promoting use of masks after downplaying the need for them. Trump also said some public schools may not be able to open on time in virus hotspots, after earlier calling on them to restart.

NSC staff were not informed that O’Brien had tested positive, one person familiar with the matter said. Some found out through press reports, they said.

Experimental COVID-19 vaccine is put to its biggest test

The biggest test yet of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine got under way on Monday, US time, with the first of some 30,000 Americans rolling up their sleeves to receive shots created by the US government as part of the all-out global race to stop the outbreak.

Final-stage testing of the vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc, began with volunteers at various US sites given either a real shot or a dummy without being told which.

It will be months before results trickle in, and there is no guarantee the vaccine will ultimately work against the scourge.

In Binghamton, New York, nurse Melissa Harting received one of the first injections of the Moderna vaccine candidate, saying she was volunteering “to do my part to help out”.

Melissa Harting receives one of the first injections of the Moderna vaccine candidate.

Melissa Harting receives one of the first injections of the Moderna vaccine candidate.Credit:AP

“I’m excited,” Harting said. Especially with family members in front-line jobs that could expose them to the virus, she said, “doing our part to eradicate it is very important to me.”

After two doses, scientists will closely track which participants — those getting real shots, or a dummy — experience more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in hard-hit areas where the virus still is spreading. Testing is planned at close to 90 sites, officials said.

We’ll pay for tests, Spain’s hotels say, amid UK quarantine backlash

Spain’s hard-hit hotels on Monday offered to pay for foreign tourists to take coronavirus tests, in an effort to lure back visitors worried by a fresh wave of cases and put off by Britain’s sudden imposition of a two-week quarantine.

Britain on Saturday shocked hoteliers and holidaymakers with an unexpected 14-day quarantine on people returning from Spain, in a major blow to a tourist season already hanging on by a thread.

“Not only is it unjust but it’s also totally illogical and lacking in rigour,” Spain’s main hotel association CEHAT said of the quarantine.

Instead, the association proposed a system of reciprocal testing across Europe and said its members would cover the cost for tourists coming to Spain.

Since ending its nationwide lockdown a month ago, Spain has been grappling with a rapid proliferation of new cases.

The health ministry reported 6361 new cases over the weekend and said it was monitoring 361 clusters around the country.

With most new infections concentrated in Catalonia and Aragon and with several other regions having a lower infection ratio than Britain, the blanket quarantine has been criticised as disproportionate and impulsive.

Google extends remote work policy through to middle of 2021

Several tech firms have announced plans to let employees work from home until at least 2021, and Google has extended things even further.

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The search giant will keep workers remote through to July 2021 amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, which has continued to spread for longer than five months. Employees at the company got the news via an email from Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

According to a statement sent by Google, the email said: “To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office.”

The decision will affect roughly 200,000 full-time and contract employees, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news. And the plan was made to accommodate employees with families, so they can plan for uncertain school years ahead, the report said.

Bloomberg, AP, Reuters, McClatchy

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