- India to hold national college tests amid concerns about surging virus infections.
- Quebec won’t use COVID-19 Alert notification app for now.
- Ontario premier says COVID-19 back-to-school ad campaign will continue despite criticism.
- Berlin bans weekend protests against anti-virus measures.
- Gaza man dies of coronavirus as enclave clamps down on outbreak.
- Japanese researchers say ozone effective in neutralizing coronavirus.
- Former Maldives president Gayoom tests positive for COVID-19.
- Myanmar shuts schools after biggest daily climb in coronavirus cases.
More than two million Indian students will sit for admission tests to medical and engineering schools next week, the government said on Wednesday, despite growing concern that the move could fuel a jump in coronavirus infections.
India has been recording more than 60,000 new infections per day for the last two weeks, reaching a peak of 69,652 cases on Aug. 19. With 3.2 million cases, it ranks after the United States and Brazil, though its 59,449 deaths are far fewer.
Now the government is pushing for a return to normalcy to lessen the economic pain, after having imposed a strict early lockdown of India’s 1.3 billion people in March.
“We are very mindful of the safety of our students; we will take full precautions,” Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal told state radio, adding that the tests had to be held to ensure students did not lose a year.
Already twice postponed this year, the tests will be spread over several days and held at more centres than usual, to ensure there is no crowding.
But many students have to travel long distances and there was a risk of infections, said the All-India Students’ Union, a leftist group that represents university students.
It urged students to wear black armbands and join online protests to put pressure on the government to delay the tests until infections fall.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thurnberg also waded into the dispute on Twitter, urging a postponement in light of the pandemic and as parts of eastern India struggle with floods caused by annual monsoon rains.
It’s deeply unfair that students of India are asked to sit national exams during the Covid-19 pandemic and while millions have also been impacted by the extreme floods. I stand with their call to <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/PostponeJEE_NEETinCOVID?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#PostponeJEE_NEETinCOVID</a>
Meanwhile, Indian plans to double coronavirus testing in New Delhi as the Indian capital’s caseload has started rising again, with experts warning against complacency and a resurgence of the outbreak.
State Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Wednesday that the capital was conducting 20,000 tests every day and the capacity would be increased to 40,000.
New Delhi was the first major hot spot in the country to have successfully reined in the outbreak last month, but cases have been climbing recently.
India has reported more than 67,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours. The number of infections has risen by 1.5 million since the start of the month.
The country’s health ministry on Wednesday also reported 1,059 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities from the pandemic to 59,449.
The ministry said India’s recovery rate was now around 76 per cent with a fatality rate of 1.84 per cent.
Even though the country has been slowly opening up to heal the economy, areas identified as most affected by the virus continue to remain under lockdown.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 7:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 125,969 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 112,050 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,126.
Quebec won’t use a smartphone application to notify the public about potential exposure to COVID-19 for now, arguing its testing and contact-tracing capability are sufficient at this stage of the pandemic.
While the province is not closing the door on using an app in the future, Premier François Legault said he would rather use one that was developed in Quebec.
“We would prefer a Quebec company, but I don’t think this is our main argument,” Legault said Tuesday afternoon in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que.
WATCH | Canadians urged to use COVID Alert app:
He said there is a lack of broad support for such an app in the province, due to privacy concerns.
“Maybe in six months we will come to another decision,” he said.
The decision puzzled the federal health ministry. Thierry Bélair, a spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu, pointed out that the app offered by the federal government, COVID Alert, does not track a user’s location nor collect any other personally identifiable information.
“It’s also an additional tool we can use as we prepare for a possible increase in cases this fall. So why not make it available now in Quebec?” said Bélair.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford said the province’s advertising blitz touting its back-to-school plan will continue despite opposition calls to redirect the campaign costs toward keeping students safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
WATCH | Ford says Ontario ‘far ahead’ in handling COVID-19:
“Imagine if we didn’t have any ads and nobody knew what was going on? That would be terrible,” Ford said at his daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday afternoon.
He did not say how much the the newly released radio, online and print ads are expected to cost, but said they were necessary to keep parents informed about the school reopening plans.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 23.9 million. More than 820,000 people have died, while 15.6 million have recovered.
Authorities in Germany’s capital on Wednesday banned several protests planned for the weekend against coronavirus pandemic measures. The protests have drawn support from the German far right.
Officials said that those protesting in Berlin would likely have breached rules on social distancing designed to stop the spread of the virus. Germany has seen an upswing in infections in recent weeks and the government is considering whether to impose fresh restrictions again.
Authorities in the capital cited a rally against COVID-19 restrictions on Aug. 1 during which participants ignored mask-wearing and distancing rules and other conditions imposed on the protest.
German coalition parties agreed on Tuesday to extend measures to cushion the effects of the coronavirus crisis on Europe’s biggest economy at a cost of up to 10 billion euros ($15.6 billion Cdn), including prolonging a short-time work scheme and freezing insolvency rules.
The French government will unveil its 100-billion euro ($155.7-billion Cdn) economic recovery plan on Sept. 3, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday, as it looks to revive activity in the wake of the pandemic.
Castex told France Inter radio that the package would include 2 billion euros ($3.1 billion) to support the arts and culture.
He also said the authorities would do all they could to avoid a new lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19, while noting that the virus has not gone down in terms of its virulence.
A 61-year-old man has died in the Gaza Strip after contracting the coronavirus, Palestinian authorities said on Wednesday as they clamped down on an outbreak in the enclave.
The man had suffered previous illnesses and had been on a respirator, the health ministry said. It was the first death among the general population since an infected woman died at a quarantine centre in March.
Health officials said nine more cases were discovered on Wednesday. Six of them were in the isolated Maghazi refugee camp, where the territory’s first four cases had been confirmed on Monday, prompting Gaza’s Hamas authorities to impose a full lockdown.
The three other cases were in northern Gaza Strip, indicating the virus has begun to spread into different areas of the enclave of two million people.
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Wednesday the country was at risk of losing its control over the country’s coronavirus outbreak after a spike in the number of cases following the massive explosion in Beirut on Aug 4.
“The number of cases is increasing greatly, and if this continues, we will lose control of this epidemic,” Diab was cited as saying in a statement issued by the Supreme Defence Council.
Lebanon registered 525 new COVID-19 infections and 12 deaths on Tuesday. Cases doubled in the two weeks following the blast at the start of the month, as infections spread in hospitals where victims were being treated, medics say.
Japanese researchers said on Wednesday that low concentrations of ozone can neutralize coronavirus particles, potentially providing a way for hospitals to disinfect examination rooms and waiting areas.
Scientists at Fujita Health University told a news conference they had proven that ozone gas in concentrations of 0.05 to 0.1 parts per million (ppm), levels considered harmless to humans, could kill the virus.
The experiment used an ozone generator in a sealed chamber with a sample of coronavirus. The potency of the virus declined by more than 90 per cent when subjected to low-level ozone for 10 hours.
WATCH | Belgium grocery stores use UV zapper to disinfect carts:
The former president of the Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, said he had tested positive for COVID-19, as the tourist-dependent island nation reports a pickup in cases since reopening its borders last month.
“I have tested positive for COVID-19. May Almighty Allah bless me and all other sick people with a speedy recovery and good health,” Gayoom, 81, said in a tweet on Tuesday night.
According to a family source, the former autocrat was tested for COVID-19 following a medical consultation on Tuesday morning, after he developed a fever on Monday night. The source said Gayoom is doing well and is expected to be admitted to the newly built Dharumavantha Hospital in the capital, Malé.
Myanmar ordered all schools to close after reporting 70 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, its biggest daily rise, as authorities try to tackle a resurgence of the virus following weeks without confirmed domestic transmission.
All but one of the new cases announced on Wednesday were in the western state of Rakhine, found in nine different locations, each linked to an outbreak in the state capital Sittwe, where a lockdown and curfew were imposed last week.
Myanmar’s outbreaks has been relatively small compared with other countries in the region, with just six deaths and 574 infections in total, but an increase in COVID-19 cases by nearly 35 per cent in just over a week is causing some concern.