- Vietnam says every city, province now at risk of virus infection.
- Bosnian minister dies after testing positive for coronavirus.
- Spike of cases in Hong Kong introduces risk of large-scale outbreak.
- Doubts emerge about U.S. dollar’s place as a reserve currency as pandemic batters economy.
- U.S. Democrats, Republicans to resume discussions around coronavirus aid bill.
- COVID-19 deaths in America approaching 150,000.
With reopening efforts taking place around the world, coronavirus infections continue to rise along with them — prompting the possibility of renewed lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Hong Kong reported 118 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, including 113 that were locally transmitted, as strict new measures, including a restriction on gatherings to two people and a ban on restaurant dining, took effect.
The measures, which are the toughest introduced since the outbreak, are to last for at least one week as leader Carrie Lam warned the region is on the brink of a large-scale outbreak.
The global financial hub reported 106 new cases on Tuesday. Since late January, about 3,000 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 24 of whom have died.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s health commissioner says there’s concern over an upswing of new coronavirus infections in several European countries caused primarily by “complacency and laxity” among the public that isn’t strictly adhering to personal hygiene rules.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Stella Kyriakides said of her native Cyprus that there’s also concern over a localized spike in coronavirus infections whose source authorities haven’t so far been able to trace.
She says this shows that a section of the population isn’t following health and safety protocols and that a renewed surge of infections can be avoided if people remain vigilant at all times.
Kyriakides also briefed Cypriot Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou on efforts to supply all EU states with the drug remdesivir.
She said all countries belonging to the 27-member bloc have submitted requests for the drug and that the procurement process will proceed immediately.
Medical officials have said that treatment with remdesivir has been shown to reduce illness severity and mortality in some patients with COVID-19. Health Canada recently authorized the drug for patients with severe COVID-19, though supply is limited.
In a briefing late Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued a stout defence of a disproved use of a malaria drug as a treatment for the coronavirus, hours after social media companies moved to take down videos promoting its use as potentially harmful misinformation.
The president had earlier taken to Twitter to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the virus, and to amplify criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. In the briefing, Trump defended his decision to promote a viral video of a group of doctors promoting the use of the drug Monday, even though his own administration withdrew emergency authorization for its use against the coronavirus.
That video was later removed by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for spreading misinformation. Donald Trump Jr., President Trump’s son, had his Twitter account restricted for 12 hours for sharing the video.
Later Wednesday, top members of the Trump administration and Democratic congressional leaders will try to narrow their stark differences over a coronavirus aid bill. Senate Republican leaders are pushing for around $1 trillion US in new aid, on top of more than $3 trillion enacted since early this year. Democrats see a far greater need as they back $3 trillion in new spending.
An hour-long meeting of the four broke up late on Tuesday afternoon amid no sign of progress. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows were expected to resume negotiations with the two senior Democrats in Congress — House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
One of the key points Democrats are looking for is to extend a $600 weekly unemployment benefit, set to expire on Friday. Republicans, arguing that it discourages some workers who had lower-paying jobs from seeking employment, have proposed temporarily reducing the federal payment to $200 a week, on top of state unemployment benefits.
The United States’ coronavirus death toll stood at 149,260 as of Wednesday morning. Deaths have risen there for three weeks in a row, while a spike in infections in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas this month has overwhelmed hospitals.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 7:45 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 114,994 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 100,134 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting indicates that 8,946 Canadians have died.
What’s happening in the rest of the world
As Japan battles a surge in coronavirus cases, some areas may be running out of isolation facilities to monitor infected people.
The health ministry reported 981 new cases Tuesday and three more deaths from COVID-19, raising the cumulative toll to 1,000 people. Most of the new cases were domestic, while 13 were found at airports from incoming flights, it said.
Chief government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga acknowledged some areas may be running out of room at places like hotels, where infected people can be housed and monitored away from other people and prevent the spread of the virus.
The national government stood ready to help regional governments make sure people can stay in such facilities to prevent coronavirus spreading in homes, and to make sure the sick get immediate treatment if symptoms worsen, said Suga.
The British government has signed a deal with GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur for 60 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine that could start to be rolled out in the first half of next year.
Britain’s GSK and France’s Sanofi have the largest vaccine manufacturing capability in the world. The government said that if the vaccine proves successful, then priority groups, such as health- and social-care workers, could be given the first doses.
This is the fourth deal the British government has signed for potential coronavirus vaccines, worth a combined 250 million doses.
The minister for veteran affairs in the government of one of Bosnia‘s two highly independent regions has died at the age of 53, a week after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Salko Bukvarevic died Wednesday in a COVID-19 hospital in Sarajevo, where he was admitted last week with pneumonia and breathing problems.
He had served in the government of Bosniak-Croat Federation since 2015. The region’s prime minister, Fadil Novalic, was also hospitalized with COVID-19, but was released Tuesday following two weeks of treatment.
So far, Bosnia, the Balkan country of 3.5 million people, has tallied over 10,700 virus cases, with 297 deaths.
Nearly 80 per cent of all cases were registered since mid-May, when a strict, nearly two-month-long coronavirus lockdown was lifted.
Vietnam, virus-free for months, was bracing for another wave of coronavirus infections on Wednesday after state media reported new cases in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the Central Highlands linked to a recent outbreak in the central city of Danang.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the current wave of infections was different from the second wave Vietnam fought in March, and every province and city in the Southeast Asian country was at risk, state broadcaster Vietnam Television reported.
The government on Tuesday suspended all flights to and from Danang for 15 days. At least 30 cases of the novel coronavirus have been detected in or around the city.
About 18,000 tourists who had been in Danang have returned to the southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City, authorities said on Tuesday.