Los Angeles County recorded an “alarming” one-day spike of nearly 3,000 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, taking its total to more than 100,000 cases, public health officials said, warning that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed.
Los Angeles and neighboring counties have become a new epicenter in the pandemic as cases and hospitalizations have surged there despite California governor Gavin Newsom’s strict order last week requiring masks in nearly all public spaces.
“The alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and hospitalisations signals that we, as a community, need to take immediate action to slow the spread of Covid-19,” Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for Los Angeles County, said in a statement announcing the sharp upswing.
“Otherwise, we are quickly moving toward overwhelming our healthcare system and seeing even more devastating illness and death,” Ferrer said.
The county reported a single-day record of 2,903 new cases.
California, which on Sunday ordered bars in Los Angeles and six other counties to close, is among several US states including Florida, Texas and Arizona battling a new wave of infections as the nation emerges from weeks of clamp-downs on residents and businesses.
Mexico is in talks with the Chinese government and private Chinese laboratories, as well as the University of Oxford and company AstraZeneca about trialing an experimental Covid-19 vaccine, a senior Mexican official said on Monday.
The Mexican deputy foreign minister said the country was analysing public and private capacities to mass produce a vaccine, and was in talks about phase 3 coronavirus vaccine trials but had not yet reached a decision, Reuters reports.
Kansas governor Laura Kelly on Monday said that she will sign an executive order requiring that most state residents must wear a mask in public in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Under the order that will go into effect on Friday, most Kansans must wear masks in stores and shops, and in any place where social distancing of 6 feet (1.83m) cannot be maintained, including outside, her office said in a statement.
Venezuelan medical personnel face increasing risks of being infected with coronavirus due to a lack of protective equipment, an opposition legislator and a health-focused non-government organization said on Monday.
The OPEC nation, which has been in quarantine since 17 March, is struggling under a hyperinflationary economic crisis that weakened basic services including running water and left many hospitals without basic sanitation.
“In four months of quarantine, hospitals did not receive materials, medical equipment was not repaired, beds were not acquired, ventilators were not installed,” Jose Manuel Olivares, a lawmaker and doctor, said in an online press conference.
Health workers have died “for want of a mask … for want of gloves,” he said, adding that hospitals have “no water, no power, no medicine.”
The country’s opposition-run congress and Doctors United for Venezuela say six doctors died of Covid-19 between 19 and 28 June in the western state of Zulia, which has emerged as a hot spot for Covid-19.
Doctors United for Venezuela says a nurse also died of the disease during that period.
Official statistics show 5,297 cases and 44 deaths, Reuters reports.
Groups including the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights Watch have expressed doubts about the official figures and the scope of the tests conducted.
Senegal lifts state of emergency to protect economy
Senegalese president Macky Sall on Monday said he had decided to lift a state of emergency over Covid-19 to support the struggling economy, which he warned could grow less than 1.1% this year due to fallout from the epidemic.
As recently as January, growth was forecast at 6.8% in 2020, but business activity plummeted after borders closed and a curfew and social distancing rules were imposed to curb the virus, which has infected over 6,600 and killed 108.
“This is the challenge we must now face: to fight to preserve our lives and our health, and to resume all our productive activities to get our economy back on track,” Sall said in a speech to the nation.
The state of emergency and a night-time curfew will be lifted as of Tuesday 2300 local time, and air borders will open from 15 July under certain conditions, he said.
The authorities have already loosened the curfew and allowed inter-regional travel in response to street protests against the measures earlier in June.
Sall said the government was working on an economic support programme to kickstart recovery, Reuters reports.
The British government on Monday imposed a lockdown on the city of Leicester, which has a much higher Covid-19 infection rate than anywhere else in the country, in its first major attempt to curb an outbreak with local rather than national measures.
The United Kingdom is in the process of gradually easing its national lockdown, with non-essential shops now open and further relaxation of rules due on 4 July, but Leicester and the surrounding area were told to go into reverse.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the seven-day infection rate in Leicester was 135 cases per 100,000 people, three times higher than the next highest city, and that Leicester accounted for 10% of all positive cases in the country in the past week.
“Given the growing outbreak in Leicester, we cannot recommend that the easing of the national lockdown due to take place on the 4th of July happens in Leicester,” Hancock said in a statement to parliament.
“From tomorrow, non-essential retail will have to close, and as children have been particularly impacted by this outbreak, schools will also need to close from Thursday,” he said. He said children remained at low risk, but were likely to be spreading the disease.
Hancock urged people to avoid all non-essential travel to and from Leicester and within the city, which is in central England.
Canada is over the worst of the coronavirus outbreak but a spike in cases in the United States and elsewhere shows Canadians must remain vigilant as the economy reopens, prime minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.
“After a very challenging spring things are continuing to move in the right direction,” Trudeau told a daily briefing.
By contrast, some southern US states are reporting huge jumps in daily cases. Authorities in Mexico, Brazil and Russia are also struggling to control outbreaks.
“What the situation we’re seeing in the United States and elsewhere highlights for us is that even as our economy is reopening, we need to make sure we are continuing to remain vigilant,” Trudeau said.
The province of Alberta, home to the world*s third-largest oil reserves, said it would accelerate a corporate tax cut and invest C$10 billion ($7.31 billion) in infrastructure projects to jump-start its spluttering economy.
Canadian medical officials released their latest forecasts on Monday, showing the number of overall deaths could be between 8,545 and 8,865 by 12 July. The current death toll is 8,522.
The United States and Canada have banned non-essential travel between the two nations. The measures are due to expire on 21 July, and Trudeau said discussions were taking place about what to do next.
He also said Ottawa had the fiscal room to respond if a second wave of the coronavirus struck later this year.
The number of reported new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland has begun to increase in a “worrying” trend, the chief medical officer warned, which could halt plans for further easing of restrictions.
At least six fresh diagnoses were associated with international travel, the government’s top health advisers said, as they reiterated warnings against encouraging overseas tourism too soon.
Some new clusters have been established, and one in the north west of the Republic involved travel links with Iraq, said Tony Holohan, the doctor leading the state’s pandemic response.
“We are starting to see a worrying trend, with the number of reported cases increasing, and some new clusters,” he said.
More than 1.1 million cases were reported globally last week.
The Republic had driven down the number of infections but medical experts have warned against non-essential travel and cautioned young people against ignoring lockdown restrictions or thinking coronavirus was defeated.
There were no new deaths reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Monday.
Ireland has recorded 1,735 Covid-19 related deaths.
Mexico’s finance ministry on Monday announced the extension of several financial sector and housing measures aimed at supporting people and companies hurt by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, finance minister Arturo Herrera said Mexican banks would offer clients deals to defer interest payments and principal on loans. He added that the bank regulator, the CNBV, would give regulatory leeway to banks so they can focus on helping people.
Starting this week Mexico City is allowing the reopening of shops, street markets and sport complexes with limited capacity and hours.
Hotels and restaurants in the capital will reopen at about 30% seating capacity.
Geneva’s auto show was cancelled this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, and organisers said Monday they were also scrapping the 2021 edition as the auto sector reels from the crisis.
The executive committee of the foundation that runs the Geneva International Motor Show, a major event on the auto industry calendar, said that after polling exhibitors, it had given up the idea to organise a 2021 edition, Agence France-Presse reports.
“A majority of exhibitors have said they probably will not participate in a 2021 edition and that they would prefer taking part in a 2022 edition,” a statement said.
The GIMS Foundation noted the auto sector was “currently facing a major crisis, and the exhibitors need time to be able to invest in the show.”
Abu Dhabi will allow people to enter the emirate if they have tested negative for coronavirus in the previous 48 hours, the local government media office said on Monday.
Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest member of the United Arab Emirates federation, has had a ban on people entering since 2 June.
It eased some restrictions a week ago to allow movement between its cities for residents.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates will partially reopen mosques across the country starting 1 July, with a reduced capacity of 30%, the spokesperson of the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority said on Monday.
Saif Al Dhaheri said that mosques will remain closed for Friday prayers, but some will be open at other times while those located in industrial areas, shopping malls and public parks will stay closed for now, Reuters reports.
The government has drawn up a list of 20 councils facing the worst coronavirus outbreaks in England, with Bradford, Sheffield and Kirklees identified as areas needing “enhanced support”, according to a classified document leaked to the Observer and the Guardian.
As evidence mounts that the relaxation of lockdown rules is leading to a resurgence of Covid-19 in some of England’s most deprived and ethnically mixed areas, officials have ordered the army to deploy extra mobile testing units, which will be sent into a series of hotspots around the country from this weekend.
Public Health England (PHE), the country’s lead infection control agency, briefed local government health chiefs last week that ministers were considering publishing a ranking of the 10 councils most affected by new outbreaks, which could be released within days. Councils fear the data will be used to enforce more local lockdowns of the kind imposed in Leicester, where all but essential shops must stay shut, schoolchildren have been sent home, and pubs and restaurants remain closed.
The top 10 ranking is likely to be based on a document circulated to local health chiefs on Thursday, headed “official sensitive”. The chart, compiled by PHE and reproduced below, ranks the 20 councils with the highest proportion of positive cases. Leicester remains at its head, with 5.7% of individuals who underwent a test found to have the virus. Kirklees, in West Yorkshire, was not far behind, with a 5% rate. Bradford, and Blackburn with Darwen in Lancashire, were the next highest.
Titled “local authority areas of interest”, the table is based on testing between 21 June and 4 July. It identifies six areas of “concern”. More serious cases are labelled as needing “enhanced support”, with three councils in this category. One – Leicester – is listed as requiring “intervention”.
The document states “these areas are currently under investigation by the local public health protection teams”. “Testing access is being increased in areas including Bradford”, it says, and the areas listed are “associated with workplace outbreaks which have contributed to the increase in infection rates”.
Last month, 164 workers at a meat factory in Kirklees tested positive, and at the beginning of July, a bed factory in Batley, which is administered by Kirklees Council, was closed after eight workers were found to have the virus.The communities most affected have several factors in common: poverty, poor health and a high proportion of non-white residents. “Those on the list are going to be characterised by higher deprivation, higher black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and denser housing,” said a public health director briefed on the plans.
“Some are going to be in the list for the whole period of the pandemic. The drivers are structural and demographic, so the pattern of spread will reflect the inequalities that already existed. Some of the most strapped-for-cash councils are going to be dealing with some of the worst outbreaks.”
Areas with large south Asian populations, particularly where several generations may share a home and live in crowded conditions, are among those emerging as particularly at risk.
Bradford has the highest proportion of people of Pakistani origin in England.
The council has today deployed testing units, staffed by the armed forces, to its Bowling and Keighley districts. Residents will be able to be tested without an appointment. Similar units will be deployed in Blackburn and Sheffield.
“Bradford has a higher infection rate than most but it’s coming down due to action we’ve taken,” said council leader Susan Hinchcliffe. “We welcome the dialogue with government. We’re already doing more testing than any other authority in the region, but want to do more.”
Bradford has asked for its own mobile testing units, more environmental health officers, support to pay full wages to low-paid workers having to self-isolate, and funding to develop its own local test-and-trace system.
Officials have not yet outlined what metrics will be used to impose further lockdowns, but it is understood a system based on the German model is under discussion. This would involve a threshold of 50 weekly positive tests per 100,000 of the population in any given council. Once that is breached, special measures could be triggered.
Data made public on Thursday shows Leicester is currently on 116 new cases per 100,000 of population per week, down from 140 two weeks ago.
Rochdale is in second place, with nearly 33 cases, down from over 50 three weeks ago. Kirklees is also suffering high rates, as are Bradford, Blackburn with Darwen, Rotherham and Bedford.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced the UK’s first local lockdown on 29 June as Leicester reported 944 new cases in a fortnight. Non-essential shops and schools were shut, and pubs and restaurants were unable to reopen. Legislation to enforce the restrictions was pushed through parliament.
Desperate to avoid Leicester’s fate, councils are lobbying for a “graded response”, the local public health director said, with a rolling back of some elements of lockdown, such as larger gatherings, rather than closure of whole sectors. “What we want to avoid is the secretary of state making clumsy, unhelpful interventions, so we are getting ahead of the curve, understanding what our problem is and acting to address it. But we are hampered by slow reporting of data and absence of data,” they added.
Councils have only just begun to receive a breakdown of new cases by postcode, and this is arriving weekly. Health chiefs say they need the information daily if they are to spot outbreaks in time to stop them spreading.
The plans to publish a top 10 were discussed on a regional call with Public Health England, two public health directors confirmed. “They seem to be intent on putting it into the public domain,” said one of those on the call. “We have expressed some concerns over how they do it, as the data does need to be interpreted. Nonetheless, I welcome transparency.”
The classified list of 20 at-risk councils uses six metrics including number of cases per 100,000 of population per week and per day, percentage of individuals testing positive as a proportion of all tests, and “exceedances”. This is where councils are issued with a red light because they consistently have more positive cases than forecast by a government algorithm. A slightly lower number of exceedances leads to an amber light.
The chart also shows the number of community outbreaks per council over the last week. Outbreaks are classed as two or more positive tests in a single setting, such as a workplace, school or prison.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it did not have a set trigger, but would use a range of data to decide where and how to act, stating: “We have been transparent about our response to coronavirus and are always looking to improve the data we publish, including the way we update testing statistics.
“The list of the 10 local authorities with the highest weekly incidence of coronavirus is already publicly available in PHE’s weekly surveillance report.
“All councils in England now have the ability to access testing data, right down to an individual and postcode level. If councils feel they require more assistance with data, of course, PHE is able to help them.”
Kirklees and Sheffield councils were approached for comment.
Serbian police have detained 71 people after clashes during a fourth night of anti-government protests that were initially sparked by the announcement of a new coronavirus lockdown, a senior police official has said.
Fourteen police officers were injured when hundreds of demonstrators tried to storm the parliament building in downtown Belgrade on Friday evening, the police director, Vladimir Rebic, said. Several reporters were also hurt.
Protesters defying a ban on gatherings because of the pandemic, threw bottles, rocks and flares at police who were guarding the parliament building, and police responded with teargas to disperse them.
Similar clashes broke out twice earlier this week. The protests began when the populist president, Aleksandar Vucic, announced a strict curfew for this weekend to curb a surge in new coronavirus cases.
Vucic later scrapped the curfew and authorities instead banned gatherings of more than 10 people in Belgrade, the capital, and shortened the working hours of indoor businesses.
Many in Serbia have accused the increasingly authoritarian Vucic and his government of allowing the crisis to get out of control by holding a paralimentary election on 21 June that tightened the ruling party’s grip on power.
Vucic has denied this, although authorities had relaxed the rules before the vote, allowing large crowds at soccer games, weddings and other events.
On Friday, the Serbian prime minister announced the highest daily number of deaths, 18, since the start of the pandemic in the Balkan country. Authorities reported 12 new deaths on Saturday and 354 new infections.
The country has had more than 18,000 confirmed infections and 382 deaths since March and health authorities have said hospitals are almost full due to the latest rise in cases.
Vucic has claimed the involvement of unspecified foreign security services in the unrest and said he will not be toppled in the streets. Some opposition leaders, meanwhile, are blaming the rioting on groups they say are controlled by the government and sent out to discredit peaceful protests.