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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on August 2

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The latest:

  • Month of July alone has seen more than 1.1 million cases in India.
  • South Africa passes half a million COVID-19 cases.
  • New cases reported in Italy dipped below 300 for 1st time.
  • Norway says at least 40 onboard cruise ship test positive.
  • ‘Health restrictions’ mean no media at Trump renomination.

Surges of new coronavirus cases continued Sunday in India and the Philippines, which recorded another daily high to surpass 100,000 total infections, as officials across the globe considered stricter measures to stymie the spread of the pandemic.

A curfew was imposed on Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, following a spike in infections.

Countries including the United States, India and South Africa are struggling to rein in their first wave of infections while South Korea and others where the disease abated try to avert a second wave as curbs on travel and trade ease.

Governments worldwide have reported 679,000 deaths and 17.8 million cases, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

A person has their pulse checked by a health worker during a check up campaign for COVID-19 at a residential society in Mumbai on Sunday. (Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters)

India’s 54,735 new cases were down from the previous day’s record 57,118 but raised the total to 1.75 million. The month of July accounted for more than 1.1 million of those cases.

The major cities of New Delhi and Mumbai might have passed their peaks, said a government expert, Randeep Guleria. Subways, cinemas and other public facilities are closed until Aug. 31.

The Philippines reported 5,032 new cases, raising its total to 103,185, with 2,059 deaths.

On Saturday, leaders of Philippine medical organizations appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to reimpose a lockdown on the capital, Manila. They said the health system was in danger as personnel fall ill or quit due to fear or fatigue.

In Japan, the government reported 1,540 new cases, close to Friday’s record of 1,579. The spike in infections, most of them in their 20s and 30s, prompted warnings young people were letting their guard down.  Gov. Yuriko Koike of Tokyo, which has about one-third of the new infections, says she might declare an emergency to contain the outbreak.

People wearing face masks are seen in Tokyo on Sunday. (Kyodo News via AP)

In the U.S., authorities in Florida were trying to prepare storm shelters while enforcing social distancing as tropical storm Isaias churned toward the heavily populated state.

Florida reported 179 deaths on Saturday, raising its total to more than 7,000. The governor warned residents to expect power outages and said they should have a week’s supply of water and food.

The United States has the world’s biggest number of confirmed cases at 4.6 million, or one-quarter of the total, and 154,361 deaths.

WATCH | Fauci explains why the U.S. is not defeating coronavirus:

In an exchange with Rep. Jamie Raskin at a congressional hearing, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said U.S. states have not followed a unified approach to bringing COVID-19 under control. 1:32

White House coronavirus task force leader Dr. Deborah Birx said Sunday that the virus had entered a “new phase” in the U.S. as it has rapidly spread in rural and urban America.

“What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread,” Birx told CNN’s State of the Union as she urged Americans to wear face masks and observe social distancing measures.

In Australia, Premier Daniel Andrews of the southern state of Victoria announced a 8 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew on Melbourne, a city of 5 million people. Schools statewide are to return to home-based teaching and day care centres were closed.

People line up to enter a supermarket hours before a citywide curfew is introduced in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. (Erik Anderson/AAP Image via AP)

Andrews said there were seven deaths and 671 new cases since Saturday.

“If we don’t make these changes, we’re not going to get through this,” Andrews said.

China had 49 new confirmed cases, up from the previous day’s 45. Thirty were in Xinjiang in the northwest, where authorities are trying to contain an outbreak focused on the regional capital, Urumqi.

People wearing face masks are seen at a shopping mall in Beijing on Sunday. (Andy Wong/The Associated Press)

Three cases were found in students who returned from Russia to Wuhan, the southern Chinese city where the pandemic began in December. Most anti-disease controls were lifted there after the ruling Communist Party declared victory over the disease in March.

Hong Kong reported 125 new infections as authorities tried to find the source of its latest outbreak. The Chinese government said a team of seven virus testing experts was sent to the city to help.

On Saturday, South Africa reported 10,107 new cases, raising its total to 503,290.

WATCH | South Africa overwhelmed with rising coronavirus cases:

‘You end up choosing who to save,’ said a Johannesburg health-care worker, who complained of a ‘gross shortage of staff.’ 0:56

That put the country fifth behind the United States, Brazil, Russia and India in total cases, though its population of 58 million is much smaller than theirs.

In Europe, the number of new cases reported in Italy dipped below 300 for the first time.

Norwegian authorities say at least 40 passengers and crew from a luxury cruise liner have tested positive. Authorities are still trying to trace a number of passengers from two recent Arctic voyages.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had 116,884 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 101,574 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting indicates that 8,980 Canadians have died.

There were 116 new cases confirmed in Ontario on Sunday, while Quebec reported 141 new cases. The two provinces account for 95 per cent of the new cases in Canada.

People wear face masks as they commute by metro in Montreal on Sunday. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

A U.S. immigration lawyer whose office sits close to the Canadian border in Blaine, Wash., believes the Canada-U.S. land border could stay closed for another six months. 

“There’s really no reason why the Canadian government, at this point, would want to open it up and subject Canadians to an increased rate of COVID infections,” Len Saunders told CBC’s Sophia Harris.

The two countries have been reviewing their border closure agreement every 30 days since non-essential travel was barred on March 21.

Canada’s two main federal political parties took in less money from individual donations during the second quarter of this year compared with the same time in 2018 — the last non-election year — as the financial slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

WATCH | Federal, provincial governments outline back to work and school plans:

Our political panel discusses the plans outlined by the federal and provincial governments to get Canadians back to work and school in the fall, as new coronavirus hot spots continue to pop up. 6:47

According to financial returns released by Elections Canada this week, the Liberals and Conservatives together raised more than $6.2 million in donations between April and June of this year, which is almost $3 million less than they raised during the same period in 2018.

Donations are always highest during election years, so comparisons with 2019 would not be relevant.

WATCH | B.C. health officials give warning ahead of long weekend:

As B.C. prepares to enjoy a long weekend, health officials are bracing for the impact. The question across Canada — how to ensure late summer gatherings don’t lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases. 2:03

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Egypt’s parliamentary vote likely to tighten leader’s grip | World News

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CAIRO – Egyptians began voting Saturday in the first stage of parliamentary elections, a vote that is highly likely to produce a toothless lower chamber packed with supporters of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The elections are taking place as the Arab world’s most populous country faces a slight increase in coronavirus cases, with authorities warning that a second wave of the pandemic lies ahead.

Like the Senate elections in August, Egyptian election authorities said face masks would be handed out to voters for free and polling stations were disinfected.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly urged Egyptians to take part in the vote that he described as having a “democratic atmosphere,” as he cast his own ballot early in the morning in a Giza suburb.

Since coming to power in 2014, el-Sissi has presided over a rolling crackdown on dissent that has discouraged public criticism of the government. Security forces detained thousands following small, sporadic street protests against corruption last year.

Most Egyptian media are supportive of el-Sissi and regularly berate critics as traitors or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Islamist group that is officially designated as a terrorist organization.

“The previous parliament allowed the government to do what it wanted,” said voter Amr Abdel-Wahed while waiting to cast his ballot at a polling centre neat the Cairo University. He added that people were “tired” of a parliament that followed the government’s line so closely.

Egyptian officials push for people to turn out in high numbers for elections. Election authorities have reiterated previous warnings that those who boycott the vote could be fined up to 500 Egyptian pounds ($32). Some 63 million voters are eligible to vote in the two-stage election, with results announced in early December.

Only 14.23% of voters participated in the Senate elections in August. The government restored the upper chamber to the country’s constitution following a referendum last year that sought to extend the presidency’s powers and term limits.

A total of 568 seats in the lower chamber are up for grabs in this month’s polls, with over 4,000 candidates running as individuals competing for 50% of the seats. Prominent, wealthy government-affiliated power brokers have an advantage.

The other 50% of seats in the House of Representatives are reserved for over 1,100 candidates running on four party lists. El-Sissi will name 28 seats, or 5%, bringing the total number of seats in the lower chamber to 596.

The first stage of voting was taking place Saturday and Sunday in 14 of Egypt’s 27 provinces, including Giza and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. Egyptian expatriates abroad voted earlier this week.

Voting in the country’s 13 other provinces, including the capital Cairo and the two provinces in Sinai Peninsula, will take place on Nov. 7-8. Each stage of the vote will be followed by runoff elections.

Final results will be announced in December and the new chamber will hold its inaugural session shortly afterward.

In the run up to the election, Cairo and towns across the country have been awash with banners advertising candidates, mostly pro-government businessmen and politicians. In Giza, for example, the main front-runners are staunchly pro-government candidates including businessman Mohammed Abu el-Enein.

In Alexandria, lawmaker Haitham el-Hariri, who was one of the few opposition figures in the outgoing parliament, urged his supporters to vote. He said that he faces “a fierce battle” against what he called “candidates of political money,” in an apparent reference to businessmen loyal to the government who are running against him.

In recent years, authorities have ratcheted up their crackdown on dissent, targeting not only Islamist political opponents but also secular pro-democracy activists, journalists and online critics. The tactic has left the president and his supporters with no formal political opposition.

Last year, police arrested eight people, including former lawmaker and Social Democratic party member Zyad el-Elaimy, after they met with political parties and opposition lawmakers to hash out how to run in the 2020 parliamentary elections. The arrested were accused of spreading fake news and conspiring with an outlawed group to commit crimes, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.

El-Sissi’s government has also pushed through sweeping reforms and austerity measures to overhaul the country’s battered economy. The reforms, which included floating the currency and slashing key subsidies, won the Egyptian government praise from its key allies abroad and international financial institutions. But the economic overhaul dramatically hiked prices for everything from electricity to drinking water, squeezing the poor and middle class.

Critics say the 596-seat legislature will be like the previous one, which was little more than a rubber stamp for el-Sissi’s policies, leaving the general-turned president with almost unchecked power.

The pro-government Mustaqbal Watan, or “Nation’s Future,” party has the largest number of individual candidates, with 284 individual candidates in the two stages.

The election’s outcome is highly unlikely to produce a parliament that can form its own legislative agenda or hold the government accountable, according to Ahmed Abd Rabou, a visiting assistant professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.

“The coming Egyptian House of Representatives will just continue to remain a puppet in the hand of the government,” he said.

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TV reporter goes missing in southern Pakistan | World News

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ISLAMABAD – A reporter working for Pakistan’s leading Geo News television has gone missing in the southern port city of Karachi, family and colleagues said Saturday.

Geo bureau chief in Karachi, Fahim Siddiqi, said police registered the journalist’s disappearance as an “abduction” case without naming suspects.

Ali Imran Syed, 40, left home late Friday evening telling his wife that he would be back in half an hour but did not return.

Azhar Abbas, head of the Geo TV, said he has contacted provincial and federal authorities “to help trace the missing reporter” and “ensure his safety”.

Siddiqi said the reporter’s abduction may have been related to his work on recent political events, including the arrest of an opposition leader who is the son-in-law of former premier Nawaz Sharif.

Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said in a tweet no one should “disappear in a democracy”.

Pakistani media has been facing renewed pressure from state agencies that have sought to control the topics covered by the media and even restrict the selection of guests for TV talk shows.

Journalists and press freedom advocates often accuse the Pakistani military and security agencies of pressuring media outlets to prevent critical coverage.

In December last year, a Karachi based reporter with the Express Tribune newspaper, Bilal Farooqi, was arrested on charges of spreading hateful content against the country’s military on social media.

In July, Matiullah Jan was briefly detained. Jan is known for criticism of Pakistan’s military and security agencies.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Thai King’s Praise for Defiant Loyalist Draws Controversy | World News

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By Orathai Sriring and Patpicha Tanakasempipat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s praise for a man who held up a royal portrait at a protest site in Bangkok has drawn controversy in Thailand, winning acclaim from monarchists and scorn from protesters.

The king has not made any public comment on more than three months of protests, which have increasingly targeted the monarchy as well as the government.

But in video recorded on Friday evening as the king greeted well-wishers outside the Grand Palace, he is heard praising a monarchist who is introduced by Queen Suthida as the man who held up the royal portrait while others were protesting.

“Very brave, very brave, very good, thank you,” the king said.

The Royal Palace made no comment, as it has not since the start of anti-government protests in July that have increasingly targeted the monarchy as well. Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri declined to comment.

The video was posted on the royalist’s Facebook page along with several other videos of the event and pictures of him from Oct. 20 holding the portrait.

“Their majesties recognised me. This is the highest point of my life,” wrote the man, Thitiwat Tanagaroon.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the video. Several other people at the event recorded the encounter and posted videos online, but the king’s words were not clear amid the chanting.

The king’s comments drew a big response.

“Just seeing this picture, we are very touched,” royalist leader Warong Dechgitvigrom posted. “This is the Thai way and Thai society of caring, supporting and protecting. Today it’s considered that his institution has adapted to be very close to the people. That made the greatest impression.”

But also among the top trending hashtags on Twitter in Thailand, tweeted well over 500,000 times, was #23OctEyesOpened – used by protesters and their supporters saying the Palace had now made its position clear.

The hashtag #VeryBraveVeryGoodThankYou was also widely used – alongside sarcastic comments.

“Very brave, very brave, very good for such a clear expression,” read a comment from protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree. He has put less emphasis than others on calls for royal reform.

Another protest leader, Piyarat Chongthep, commented: “The king has not been above political problems but always sits at the heart of the problems.”

Protesters seek the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader they accuse of engineering an election last year to keep power. He denies the accusation.

The protests also seek changes to the constitution and to reduce the powers of the monarchy, which they say has helped enable decades of military domination.

Under Thailand’s constitution, the monarchy is “enthroned in a position of revered worship” but in principle it does not engage in politics – a point that the king himself underlined during elections last year.

James Buchanan, a lecturer at Bangkok’s Mahidol University International College, said the king’s comments marked his clearest intervention so far in Thailand’s crisis.

“I interpret it as signalling that the king acknowledges the challenge to his authority by the protests, but will not back down,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Panu Wongcha-Um; Writing by Matthew Tostevin)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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