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England brings in more local restrictions as COVID-19 rate soars

According to a government-backed surveillance project, the infection rate is rising across all age groups, apart from those over 65, and cases are no longer clustering in hospitals or care homes as they were a few months ago.

The researchers at Imperial College calculated the reproduction “R” number of COVID-19 infections in England, which measures how many people an infected person will pass the disease to, is at 1.7, indicating the epidemic is growing.

The government’s official R estimate for the whole of the United Kingdom released on Friday is between 1 and 1.2.

The United Kingdom reported 3539 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, up by one-fifth from Thursday’s figure, and the highest level since mid-May.

“This is a massive blow to the government’s strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19,” said Simon Clarke, an expert in cellular microbiology at Britain’s University of Reading. “It’s likely that the coronavirus is circulating more freely out in the community again, meaning we are likely to need greater restrictions on our lives to push the transmission rate back.”

The signs of a new wave of infections emerged at the end of the summer as people began resuming parts of their pre-coronavirus lives, travelling overseas and socialising in cafes, restaurants and parks.

Some people, especially the young, have been accused of relaxing their vigilance and not following rules on social distancing.

Matt Hancock, the health minister, urged people not to jeopardise hard-won gains made against the virus during a two-month lockdown earlier this year.

“The pandemic is not over, and everyone has a role to play to keep the virus at bay and avoid further restrictions,” he said. “We’ve seen all across the world how a rise in cases, initially among younger people, leads to hospitalisations and fatalities.”

The United Kingdom has suffered more than 65,000 excess deaths from coronavirus, according to the government’s statistics office, with a surge that lasted longer and spread to more places than those in other hard-hit European nations like Italy and Spain.

French PM: no new lockdown over COVID-19 resurgence

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday his government was not planning a new, nationwide lockdown to contain a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, but would instead implement a raft of less radical measures.

He said these would include fast-tracked COVID-19 testing for priority cases, and giving local authorities the power to make some businesses reduce opening hours.

France's Prime Minister Jean Castex said there would not be a new lockdown following a surge in virus cases.

France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex said there would not be a new lockdown following a surge in virus cases.Credit:AP

The number of new, confirmed COVID-19 cases in France rose by 9406 over the last 24 hours, the country’s health ministry said on Friday, to stand at a total of 363,350.

The number of COVID-19 deaths also climbed by 40 over the last 24 hours, to reach a total of 30,893 casualties.

France’s has the seventh-highest COVID death toll in the world.

In March, France imposed a strict lockdown that succeeded in preventing the hospital system from being overwhelmed by COVID cases, but also dealt a severe blow to the economy. That lockdown was relaxed towards the start of May.

Daily US virus deaths decline, but trend may reverse in autumn

The number of daily US deaths from the coronavirus is declining again after peaking in early August, but scientists warn that a new bout with the disease this autumn could claim more lives.

The arrival of cooler weather and the likelihood of more indoor gatherings will add to the importance of everyday safety precautions, experts say.

“We have to change the way we live until we have a vaccine,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. In other words: Wear a mask. Stay home. Wash your hands.

The US has seen two distinct peaks in daily deaths. The nation’s summertime surge crested at about half the size of the first deadly wave in April.

Deaths first peaked on April 24 at an average of 2240 each day as the disease romped through the dense cities of the north-east. Then, over the summer, outbreaks in Texas, California and Florida drove daily deaths to a second peak of 1138 on August 1.

Some states – Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada and California – suffered more deaths during the summer wave than during their first milder run-in with the virus in the spring. Others – Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Colorado – definitely saw two spikes in infections but suffered fewer deaths the second time around.

Now about 700 Americans are dying of the virus each day. That’s down about 25 per cent from two weeks ago but still not low enough to match the early July low of about 500 daily deaths, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The number of people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals in the summertime hotspots of Florida and Texas has been on a steady downward trend since July.

UAE daily coronavirus cases surge to near peak level

The United Arab Emirates health ministry reported on Friday 931 new daily cases of the coronavirus following a recent surge in infections that are near the highest since the pandemic broke out.

Until last month, there had been a generally falling trend since the UAE’s new daily cases peaked at 994 in May, but numbers have surged from 164 cases on August 3.

The Gulf Arab state has recorded 77,842 infections and 398 deaths from COVID-19. The government does not disclose where in the country of seven emirates the infections or deaths occurred. About 10 million people, mostly foreigners, live in the UAE.

A health ministry official on Thursday asked the public to adhere to social distancing and avoid gatherings and mixing with people known to have the virus, which she said accounted for about 88 per cent of cases.

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The UAE had earlier enforced strict measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, including locking down tourism hub Dubai for a month and months-long evening curfews nationwide.

Most business and public venues have now reopened with some restrictions, and people must wear a mask outside homes.

Dubai reopened to foreign visitors in July, although airports in the rest of the country remain closed to visitors.

Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital and the largest and richest emirate, has restricted movement into the area to those with a negative COVID-19 test.

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