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Coronavirus latest: EU urges people to get flu shots early

  • July 15, 2020

– The European Commission advised member states to start flu vaccinations soon to stop hospitals being hit with flu and COVID-19 patients

– The US reports 63,262 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours

– Tokyo increases alert to highest level as cases rise

– Infections in Germany near 200,000

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

11:15 Employees at supermarkets and drug stores in Germany aren’t becoming infected with the coronavirus as quickly as was initially feared, a report by German newspaper “die Zeit” has revealed. The percent of infections among supermarket and drug store employees is lower than the national average, said the report, which was based on self-reported figures from big German retailers. 

The drugstore company dm said 0.1% of its 41,000 employees had tested positive for COVID-19, while competitor Rossman reported 36 cases among its 33,400 workers. The supermarket chains Rewe and Kaufland said the percentage of their employees infected employees was below the national average.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, an average of 239 people per 100,000 inhabitants have become infected with COVID-19 since the outbreak began.

11:10 Greece is allowing flights from hard-hit Britain and is planning to allow flights from Sweden from next Wednesday, reported state broadcaster ERT.

The first charters from the UK have landed in Rhodes, Crete and Athens.

Britain has the third-highest coronavirus death toll in the world at 45,053 and the ninth highest total number of cases at 292,931.

Sweden stood out with its controversial coronavirus strategy, choosing to impose very few coronavirus measures.

Read more: Sweden starts to doubt its outlier coronavirus strategy

Greece has kept virus infections low, but the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Greece’s tourism industry hard.

The Greek government has been pushing to lift COVID-19 travel restrictions and welcome back tourists as soon as possible. Germans are the country’s most numerous visitors, followed by Britons.

Only half of the hotels are open, and bookings for August are at 15% from the corresponding month in 2019, reported the German press agency.

10:35 European Union member states should launch their flu vaccination programs earlier this year and target more people, advised the European Commission.

“Simultaneous outbreaks of seasonal influenza and COVID-19, would place a considerable strain on health systems,” the Commission said in a document that lists actions needed to prepare for a possible large second wave of COVID-19.

The paper called on EU governments to bring forward flu vaccines to the summer. People in Europe usually get their annual flu shots in fall.

The Commission also called on states to test more people for coronavirus infections and set up efficient contact tracing systems.

10:15 Airlines are “on their knees” asking passengers for help over reimbursements for flights canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac said on French TV and radio station BFM Business.

Under EU law, airlines operating flights to and from Europe are meant to reimburse passengers for canceled flights within two weeks.  

But airline companies are making customers wait much longer to receive cash or are offering them vouchers instead.

The European Commission and consumer rights groups have opened a case against 10 EU member states, including France, for failing to enforce the EU reimbursement regulations.

The airline industry was still trying to convince the European Commission to allow it to use vouchers or give it more time to reimburse passengers, said de Juniac.

“Why are we asking for this? Not for fun. Our business is more to pamper passengers than to pose problems for them, in particular financial problems,” he said.

But “the cash flow of airlines is in an apocalyptic situation,” he added.

IATA said last month it expected the world’s airlines to suffer $84 billion (€73.5 billion) in losses this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A row of planes parked away from terminals (Imago/M. Koch)

Far fewer flights have been taking off, leaving airlines with a major drop in revenue

09:45 Copper and cobalt mining companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have one month to stop confining workers on site, the country’s labor minister said in an open letter.

Workers have been kept away from their families by companies that want to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Company managers told employees to either stay and work or lose their jobs, civil society organizations said last month.

Mining companies must provide healthcare for workers and their families, as well as decent housing and a healthy diet for confined workers, Labor Minister Nene Ilunga Nkula said in a letter, dated July 13, that she shared on Twitter on Tuesday.

Congo is Africa’s top copper producer and the world’s main source of cobalt, accounting for two-thirds of global supplies of the metal used in smartphones and electric car batteries.

Mines Minister Willy Kitobo Samsoni has said full mine shutdowns would trigger a catastrophic economic and social crisis in the country.

Six workers at Glencore’s Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) mine in Lualaba province have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, KCC announced a week ago.

Latest figures for the DRC show 8,135 cases and 190 deaths from the virus.

08:15 Some 160,000 people in Spain’s Catalonia returned to lockdown conditions as authorities work to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the region. The move comes just weeks after a nationwide lockdown was lifted.

Under the new rules, people may only leave their homes for essential activities like working or buying supplies, while hotels, restaurants and bars will close except for food pick-up or delivery.

Authorities have also asked residents of three neighborhoods near Barcelona to stay home but did not issue a mandatory order for the area.

After more than 28,000 deaths due to COVID-19, the Spanish government ended a national lockdown on June 21, saying it had dealt with the worst of the virus.

However, since then, more than 170 clusters have emerged around the country, prompting authorities to impose a patchwork of local restrictions that have left residents and business owners confused about what was permitted.

06:26 A hospital owner in Bangladesh has been arrested for allegedly helping to produce thousands of fake test reports, at his private health facilities in the capital Dhaka, police said.

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) police unit arrested Mohammad Shahed, chairman of Regent Hospital Limited, at a remote village in a district bordering India as he was trying to cross the border, said RAB spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ashique Billah.

Shahed had been on the run since his hospital was sealed off on July 7, and the facility’s permission to carry out coronavirus tests was revoked, said Billah.

Nine of Shahed’s employees had earlier been arrested after investigators found that over 6,000 false reports had been issued. The reports included both false positives and false negatives. Additionally, the facilities in question had collected huge fees from patients, despite an agreement with the government to treat the virus at no cost.

Bangladesh, which has a population of 161 million, has reported over 190,000 cases of COVID-1ß and a death toll of 2,424.

Read more: Coronavirus: Economy down, poverty up in Bangladesh

05:13 The Australian state of Victoria has threatened harsher coronavirus restrictions if a recent outbreak is not quickly brought under control.

Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, last week imposed a six-week lockdown for about five million people following a surge in local cases. Despite the measures, officials said they had found 238 more cases in the last 24 hours.

Australia has been hailed as a global leader in coronavirus containment, but it has struggled in recent weeks. Nationally, the country has reported around 10,500 cases and 111 deaths.

Daniel Andrews, the premier of the state of Victoria, called out a minority of people for defying lockdown orders, which require people to stay at home with the exception of essential activities, and said restrictions could be extended.

“If, however, people do not do the right thing then we will have to move to additional restrictions being put in place and potentially prolong … these restrictions,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.

Read more: How to get from Europe to Australia without flying

Over 500 people have been fined for violating the lockdown, including two men caught driving around playing the 2016 mobile video game Pokemon GO.

Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian said the state will likely also need fresh restrictions, citing several dozen new cases in the past week. However, the state premier ruled out a blanket lockdown, saying the economic damage would be too great.

The country’s remote Northern Territory said its borders would remained closed to visitors from Victoria and New South Wales. 

04:55 Hong Kong’s Food and Health Bureau has said it will roll out large-scale testing for COVID-19 for high-risk groups following a mysterious surge in new local cases.

The testing will target around 400,000 people, including employees at residential care and nursing homes for the elderly, the disabled, taxi drivers, restaurant employees, and staff from the property management sector.

Hong Kong implemented extensive social-distancing measures earlier this week after 52 new cases emerged. The Health Bureau has characterized the new outbreak as “out of control.”

The new measures include requiring face masks on public transportation, a ban on evening dining in restaurants, and re-closures of gyms and entertainment premises.

Public gatherings have once again be limited to four people, down from 50.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has expressed her concern over the unknown origin of 54 of the 182 local cases recorded since July 6.

Hong Kong has registered 1,570 cases of coronavirus, including eight deaths.  

03:51 Mexico has reported a near-record number of daily deaths as coronavirus cases soar.

The country registered 836 fatalities and 7,051 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, totaling 36,327 deaths and 311,486 infections since the beginning of the pandemic, the Mexican Ministry of Health said.

In addition to the 36,327 deaths recorded, Mexican authorities said that there are still 2,373 deaths awaiting the outcome of laboratory studies, some of which have been pending since April.

The new cluster of infections has interfered with the government’s plan to announce weekly updates of business re-openings. 

Mexico currently limits the number of people allowed into hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Bars, nightclubs and concert venues are yet to reopen.

Read more: In Mexico, coronavirus floods food banks with demand

03:36 Chilean police are training dogs to detect people infected with coronavirus, by sniffing their sweat.

The dogs — three golden retrievers and a Labrador — are used to detecting drugs, explosives and lost people. Their training began a month ago, and they are expected to be out in the field by August.

“The virus has no smell, but rather the infection generates metabolic changes” which in turn lead to the release of a particular type of sweat “which is what the dog would detect,” said Fernando Mardones, a Universidad Catolica professor of veterinary epidemiology.

The UK, France and Germany have also employed canines to detect coronavirus.

03:25 Germany’s total coronavirus infections neared 200,000 on Wednesday, the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases has shown.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 351 to 199,726 and the reported death toll rose by three to 9,071.

02:15 Migrants in Yemen face stigmatization as carriers of COVID-19. Over 14,500 migrants in the country, mostly Ethiopian, have been hounded, rounded up, and sent packing to different provinces, the United Nations migration agency reported.

“For nearly six years, Yemen has been an extremely unsafe place to be a migrant,” said Paul Dillon from the International Organization for Migration. “COVID-19 has made this situation worse; migrants are scapegoated as carriers of the virus and as a result, suffer exclusion and violence.”

Although the number of cases and deaths in Yemen is very low at 1,516 and 429 respectively, experts warn that these numbers do not reflect the reality of the pandemic in the country.

Dillon said that migrants, who often live outdoors, in abandoned buildings, or in detention centers, are particularly vulnerable to the virus. ”There’s no access to some of the basics that one would need to address public health concerns such as COVID-19,” he said.

Read more: Yemen’s dead and injured children haunt Saudi-led war

01:47 US Biotech company Moderna said that its COVID-19 vaccine will enter the final stage of human trials on July 27. Early results suggested that the vaccine was safe and triggered the generation of antibodies.

Moderna said the trial vaccine was “generally safe and well-tolerated, with no serious adverse events reported through Day 57. Adverse events were generally transient and mild to moderate in severity.”

The vaccine, known as mRNA-1273 is being produced by Moderna in collaboration with the US government. In the first phase, the injection was administered to 45 participants between the ages of 18 and 55. Phase two went on to include participants above the age of 55. The phase three trial plans to test 30,000 people later this month.

Read more: Coronavirus: Antibodies, immunity low after recovery

00:50 Tokyo announced that it will raise the alert to the highest of four levels, after a recent spike in cases, according to the Asahi newspaper. Cases exceeded 200 in four of the last six days. Testing in the city’s red -ight districts showed a rise in the number of cases among people in their 20s and 30s.

Read more: Okinawa shocked at cluster of coronavirus cases on US military bases

00:07 Cases are surging across the US, even among some states that were the first to ease lockdown restrictions.

Nevada saw a record rise in the number of coronavirus cases. More than 1,100 new infections were reported statewide, bringing the total to 30,000. Authorities attributed the spike to people failing to wear masks and keep distances during the Independence Day holiday. The rise in hospitalizations continued less than a week after restaurants and bars were shut in the Las Vegas and Reno areas.

Florida, which has become the new epicenter of the outbreak, reported a daily record 133 new COVID-19 fatalities on Tuesday, raising the state’s death toll to more than 4,500. Alabama and North Carolina, too, reported a spike in deaths, at 40 and 35 respectively.

President Donald Trump criticized plans to close schools in the fall due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, Anthony Fauci, said that decisions on reopening schools in different regions of the country should be left to local officials.

00:00 Catch up on yesterday’s coronavirus news here

In reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, unless otherwise specified, DW uses figures provided by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Coronavirus Resource Center in the United States. JHU updates figures in real-time, collating data from world health organizations, state and national governments, and other public official sources, all of whom have their own systems for compiling information.

Germany’s national statistics are compiled by its public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). These figures depend on data transmission from state and local levels and are updated around once a day, which can lead to deviation from JHU.

kmm,tg/sms  (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

Article source: https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-latest-eu-urges-people-to-get-flu-shots-early/a-54180419?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

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