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WHO warns partying youngsters are partly driving COVID-19 spike

Spain reported 1229 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, topping 1000 for the second day in a row and marking the biggest rise since a national lockdown was lifted on June 21, health ministry data showed.

The leader of the north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia on Monday warned young people to stop partying to help halt a surge in new cases or local authorities may have to reimpose harsh restrictions.

Britain and several other European countries have placed restrictions on travel to Spain.

Maria Van Kerkhove, a top WHO epidemiologist, told the same briefing that nightclubs were “amplifiers of transmission”.

“The majority of young people infected tend to have more mild disease. But that’s not always consistent,” she said.

The WHO this month urged travellers to wear masks on planes and keep themselves informed as COVID-19 cases surge again in some countries.

The WHO had said in June that it would update its travel guidelines ahead of the northern hemisphere summer holidays, but has not yet done so.

Its previous guidance for travellers has included common-sense advice applicable to other settings such as social distancing, washing hands and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Flicker of good news in the US

While deaths from the coronavirus in the US are mounting rapidly, public health experts are seeing a flicker of good news: The second surge of confirmed cases appears to be levelling off.

Scientists aren’t celebrating by any means, warning that the trend is driven by four big, hard-hit places — Arizona, California, Florida and Texas — and that cases are rising in close to 30 states in all, with the outbreak’s centre of gravity seemingly shifting from the Sun Belt toward the Midwest.

Some experts wonder whether the apparent caseload improvements will endure. Nor is it clear when deaths will start coming down. COVID-19 deaths do not move in perfect lockstep with the infection curve, for the simple reason that it can take weeks to get sick and die from the virus.

The future? “I think it’s very difficult to predict,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious-disease expert.

The virus has claimed more than 150,000 lives in the US, by far the highest death toll in the world, plus more than half a million others around the globe.

Over the past week, the average number of deaths per day in the US has climbed more than 25 per cent, from 843 to 1057. Florida on Thursday reported 253 more deaths, setting its third straight single-day record. The number of confirmed infections nationwide has topped 4.4 million.


US President Donald Trump for the first time on Thursday floated a “delay” to November’s presidential election, as he made unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting will result in fraud.

Trump tweeted on Thursday: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

In other developments, the collateral damage from the virus mounted, with the US economy shrinking at a dizzying 32.9 per cent annual rate in the April-June quarter — by far the worst quarterly plunge on records dating to 1947. And more than 1.4 million laid-off Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, further evidence that employers are still shedding jobs five months into the crisis.

UK worries about second COVID-19 wave in Europe

British authorities are worried about a second wave of coronavirus infections in Europe and will not hesitate to bring back more quarantine measures, possibly within the next few days, as they did with Spain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said COVID-19 was under some measure of control in Britain, but a resurgence in some European countries showed the pandemic was not over.

“It is absolutely vital as a country that we continue to keep our focus and our discipline, and that we don’t delude ourselves that somehow we are out of the woods or that that is all over, because it isn’t all over,” he said.

Last weekend Britain re-imposed a 14-day quarantine period on people arriving from Spain, a move that caused havoc with the reopening of the continent for tourism in the summer high season.

On Thursday Scotland’s devolved government, which sets its quarantine policy independently of Johnson’s administration, said arrivals from Luxembourg would need to quarantine for 14-days due to rising COVID-19 cases.

Brazil’s first lady, another cabinet minister infected

Brazil’s first lady and a fifth member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said on Thursday.

Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes wrote on Twitter that he tested positive after experiencing flu-like symptoms and headaches. The 57-year-old is now in isolation.

The presidency’s press office said in a statement later that Michelle Bolsonaro, 38, also tested positive.

Michelle Bolsonaro, wife of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, has tested positive for coronavirus.

Michelle Bolsonaro, wife of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, has tested positive for coronavirus. Credit:Getty Images

The statement said she appeared to be in good health, but would follow established protocols.

President Bolsonaro told reporters on July 7 he had been diagnosed with the coronavirus and was then confined to the presidential palace in capital Brasilia for more than two weeks. He announced he tested negative on Saturday.

He participated in his first public event on Wednesday, to recognise rural women workers, along with his wife. They were joined by Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina and the minister of women, family and human rights, Damares Alves.

Herman Cain dies from coronavirus

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has died after battling the coronavirus. He was 74.


A post on Cain’s Twitter account announced the death on Thursday morning, US time. Cain had been ill with the virus for several weeks and was hospitalised in Atlanta earlier this month.

It was not clear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalised less than two weeks after attending President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June.

Mexico deaths point to cases in the millions

In a day or two, Mexico will overtake the UK as the hotspot with the third-highest number of COVID-19 deaths globally. In a nation with relatively low reported infections, that’s a major red flag.

Based on official tallies, one out of every nine people diagnosed with the disease in Mexico dies. According to Amesh A Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security, that would mean either the virus is far deadlier in Mexico than elsewhere — and there’s no reason to think that’s the case — or the reported number of infections is a gross under-count.


With the data available worldwide, as imperfect as it may be, Adalja says it’s fair to estimate an average mortality rate of 0.6 per cent for the disease. Applying that ratio to Mexico’s fatality figures, the actual case count may be closer to 7.1 million. Although many of those would likely be mild or asymptomatic, they could still be contagious, he said.

Mexico’s deaths from the virus totals 44,876, half that of Brazil’s, which has over six times as many cases. Mexican infections stand at just 402,697 versus 2.48 million in Brazil.

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Reuters, AP, Bloomberg

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