Merkel said European leaders must do everything to avoid further lockdowns and border closures as the region struggles with rising numbers of coronavirus infections.
UK records second-highest daily COVID-19 cases since June
Britain recorded 1182 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the second-highest daily total since June 21, government figures showed, in part reflecting the higher number of tests being processed.
Thursday’s official data showed 190,434 tests were processed, compared to 117,971 on June 21. Britain also reported a further six deaths of people who died within 28 days of receiving a positive coronavirus test result, taking the total number of fatalities on this measure to 41,403.
Britain also removed Portugal from its COVID-19 quarantine list, but said rising infections elsewhere meant travellers arriving from Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago would have to quarantine themselves for two weeks.
Transport minister Grant Shapps announced the changes on Twitter – the latest in a series of adjustments on quarantine policy as Britain tries to prevent importing new infections from hotspots overseas.
Shapps said Britain’s whole travel policy was constantly under review and could change quickly, warning that people should only travel if they were content to quarantine themselves should the rules change during their holiday.
Portugal, a popular tourist destination for Britons, has previously expressed frustration that Britain had refused to drop its quarantine requirements, something which has hit the tourism-dependent economy hard.
Johnson & Johnson to test vaccine on 60,000 volunteers
Johnson & Johnson aims to test its experimental coronavirus vaccine in up to 60,000 volunteers in a late-stage trial scheduled to start in September, according to a US government database of clinical trials.
The trial would be conducted in nearly 180 sites across the US and other countries, including Brazil and Mexico, according to the information posted online this month.
“We can confirm that planning and recruitment is under way for our Phase 3 program, which is subject to interim data of the Phase 1/2a trials and approval of regulators,” a Johnson & Johnson spokesman said.
“Our Phase 3 program is intended to be as robust as possible, could include up to 60,000 participants and will be conducted in places with high incidence rates.”
The spokesman said J&J was using epidemiological data to decide where studies should take place and would make a final decision soon. The phase 3 trial will likely lock off in late September, with the first vaccines available for use by early 2021, he said.
Rival coronavirus vaccine makers such as Moderna Inc and Pfizer are targeting recruitment of up to 30,000 volunteers for their late-stage studies.
J&J shares rose marginally on Thursday, paring early losses, after the Wall Street Journal first reported the trial size.
Italy posts highest daily infection numbers since May
Italy reported 845 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Thursday, marking the highest daily increase since May, when the government eased its rigid lockdown measures.
Italy, one of Europe’s worst-hit countries, managed to contain the outbreak after a peak in deaths and cases between March and April. However, it has seen a steady increase in infections over the past month, with experts blaming gatherings of people associated with holidays and nightlife.
Last time the country recorded a higher figure was May 16, with 875 cases, two days before restaurants, bars and shops were allowed to reopen after a 10-week lockdown.
Despite the rise in infections, daily death tallies remain low and are often in single figures. Thursday saw six fatalities compared to seven on Wednesday, health ministry data showed.
The numbers of new infections remain considerably lower than those recently registered in other large European countries, including Spain and France.
Italian cases are still mainly concentrated in the northern regions at the epicentre of the outbreak discovered in late February, with Lombardy and Veneto both above 150 on Thursday.
Lazio, around Rome, registered 115 cases of which 73 per cent were due to people returning from other Italian regions or from abroad, the regional government said.
Africa beginning to ‘bend the curve’ of coronavirus
Africa is beginning to slowly “bend the curve” of COVID-19 infections as measures like mask-wearing and social distancing slow down the spread of the pandemic on the continent, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
Although the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak was slow in Africa in the early stages of the pandemic, the rate of infection gradually accelerated especially in South Africa, which now accounts for more than half of its case load of more than 1.1 million.
On average, there were signs of a decline in new infections across Africa over the last two weeks, said John Nkengasong, head of Africa CDC.
“So I think that is really some sign of hope that we are beginning to bend the curve slowly. We take this news with cautious optimism,” he said.
“It’s very, very early, we’re dealing with a very delicate virus that spreads very quickly but it’s important to recognise those slight tendencies that are positive.”
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