Rio carnival delayed for first time in a century
Rio de Janeiro delayed its annual Carnival parade, saying Thursday night that the global spectacle cannot go ahead in February because of Brazil’s continued vulnerability to the pandemic, AP reports.
Rio’s League of Samba Schools, LIESA, announced that the spread of the coronavirus has made it impossible to safely hold the traditional parades that are a cultural mainstay and, for many, a source of livelihood.
Rio’s City Hall has yet to announce a decision about the Carnival street parties that also take place across the city. But its tourism promotion agency said in a statement to The Associated Press on 17 September that without a coronavirus vaccine, it is uncertain when large public events can resume.
Brazil’s first confirmed coronavirus case was 26 February, one day after this years Carnival ended. As the number of infections grew, the samba schools that participate in the glitzy annual parade halted preparations for the 2021 event. Thursdays announcement removed the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the city one of worst hit by the pandemic in Brazil.
In the US, all Midwest states except Ohio reported more cases in the past four weeks as compared with the prior four weeks, led by South Dakota and North Dakota. South Dakota had the biggest percentage increase at 166% with 8,129 new cases, while North Dakota’s new cases doubled to 8,752 as compared to 4,243 during the same time in August, Reuters reports.
Many cases in those two states have been linked to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, that annually attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.
According to a Reuters analysis, positive cases rose in half of the 50 US states this month. Ten states have reported a record one-day increase in Covid-19 cases in September.
New cases rose last week after falling for eight consecutive weeks. Health experts believe this spike was due to reopening schools and universities as well as parties over the recent Labor Day holiday.
A study by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Indiana University, the University of Washington and Davidson College said recent reopening of college and university campuses for in-person instruction during late summer this year could be associated with more than 3,000 additional cases of Covid-19 per day in the United States in recent weeks.
The US, with nearly 7m confirmed cases, has the highest number of infections in the world followed by India with 5.7 million cases and Brazil with 4.6 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The United states is currently averaging 40,000 new infections per day.
Top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he would like to see the number to fall below 10,000 per day before flu season starts in October.
Health officials and President Donald Trump have presented different views about the nation’s health crisis. Trump, who is seeking re-election to a second term on Nov. 3, early this month had claimed that the United States was “rounding the corner” on the crisis. Fauci contradicted the claim the next day, saying the statistics were disturbing.
More on the rally, from Reuters:
Trump campaigned in the battleground states of North Carolina and Florida on Thursday, saying the country’s economic prosperity was riding on the outcome of his 3 November showdown with Democrat Joe Biden.
“If you want to save America, you must get out and vote,” he told thousands of cheering supporters, most not wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic, at the outdoor airport rally in front of Air Force One in Jacksonville, Florida.
Trump criticised Biden as too far left for Americans and warned that the Democrat’s efforts to battle the coronavirus would endanger the economy.
Trump has been criticised for failing to lay out a national strategy to combat the pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States, the most deaths of any country from the virus.
He has pushed for rapid deployment of a vaccine once one is ready, and for a broad reopening of the economy after a lockdown in the spring that resulted in heavy job losses.
“Biden’s plan will crush Florida,” Trump said. “My plan will crush the virus.”
Here is a picture of the crowd at US President Donald Trump’s rally in Jacksonville, Florida. There are few masks and little, if any, social distancing:
Israel toughens restrictions
Israel toughened its coronavirus measures on Thursday as a second nationwide lockdown failed to bring down the world’s highest infection rate a week after it was imposed, AFP reports.
The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations.
“Saving lives is our priority – we are living in a moment of national crisis,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised news conference late Thursday, justifying the decision to reinforce restrictions.
“The State of Israel will overcome the epidemic and we will emerge stronger,” he added without detailing all the measures taken by his government.
The move comes as Israel is poised to enter the second week of a three-week lockdown imposed last Friday, which included the closure of schools and restrictions on work and leisure.
Under the new measures approved during a first reading by parliament on Thursday, only “essential” work will be permitted from 2.00 pm local time (1100 GMT) on Friday and synagogues will only be allowed to open on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday that begins Sunday afternoon.
At other times, only outdoor prayer with a maximum of 20 people in attendance will be allowed. The same restrictions have been applied to demonstrations.
A decision on whether to close Ben Gurion international airport outside Tel Aviv would be made later on Thursday, the government said.
“To save the lives of Israel’s citizens, we need to impose a full lockdown now for two weeks,” Netanyahu said earlier.
“This is also necessary for the economy. Whoever thinks we can work with a raging pandemic, with death and infections rising, without it affecting the economy, is wrong.”
Israel has the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate per capita, according to an AFP tally from the past fortnight – more than 200,000 infections have been recorded, out of a population of nine million.
Meanwhile The Telegraph has a report that suggests face masks are giving people a form of immunity from the virus.
The idea comes from research that suggests that the lower the amount of the virus your are exposed to when you are first infected, the higher your chances of survival: “Indeed, a large study published in the Lancet last month found that ‘viral load at diagnosis’ was an ‘independent predictor of mortality’ in hospital patients,” the Telegraph reports.
Wearing masks could therefore reduce the infectious dose that the wearer is exposed to and, subsequently, the impact of the disease, as masks filter out some virus-containing droplets.
If this theory bears out, researchers argue, then population-wide mask wearing might ensure that a higher proportion of Covid-19 infections are asymptomatic.
Better still, as data has emerged in recent weeks suggesting that there can be strong immune responses from even mild or asymptomatic coronavirus infection, researchers say that any public health strategy that helps reduce the severity of the virus – such as mask wearing – should increase population-wide immunity as well.
This is because even a low viral load can be enough to induce an immune response, which is effectively what a typical vaccine does.
More now on the the mutation of SARS-CoV-2, which US scientists believe may be making the virus more contagious.
The Washington Post reports that a genetic mutation has been detected on one of the spikes on on the virus – these are the spikes that give the virus it’s crown or “corona”, and which are an important part of how it is able to infect people so quickly.
Because the virus is so widespread, especially in the US, which has the highest number of infections worldwide, it has had “a lot of chances,” the author of the study told the Washington Post: “There is a huge population size out there right now.”
It is also important to note that while the virus may be more contagious, it does not appear to be deadlier. In other words, the scientists haven’t found a mutation that suggests the virus has become deadlier.
From the Post:
Like all coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 has a series of characteristic spikes surrounding its core. These spikes are what allow the virus to attach to human cells.
A mutation affecting the spike protein changed amino acid 614 from “D” (aspartic acid) to “G” (glycine). Research suggests that this small change — which affects three identical amino acid chains — might enhance the virus’s transmissibility.
Here is our story on the study:
Late on Thursday, the UK’s chancellor defended his decision to replace the government’s furlough scheme with a plan that will subsidise the wages of people in work. Workers will need to work at least a third of their normal hours to qualify for the new Job Support Scheme.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Rishi Sunak said the change was necessary to manage the long-term economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘We can’t continue to provide the same degree of support that we did at the beginning of this crisis,’ he told reporters. ‘It’s not sustainable for a prolonged period of time.’
Buckingham Palace is belt-tightening after a projected £35m double-whammy financial blow due to Covid-19, as royal accounts reveal the Sussexes’ flights to southern Africa cost nearly £250,000 and Prince Andrew took a £16,000 charter to a Northern Ireland golf tournament.
The palace also confirmed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made a “substantial contribution” for an undisclosed amount to the sovereign grant for Frogmore Cottage, their private Windsor residence refurbished with £2.4m in public money before the couple relocated to Los Angeles.
The one-off payment for a number of years’ rental is set at a commercial rate and takes into account the property’s enhanced value as a result of the refurbishment. A senior palace source indicated the private rental agreement would cover the £2.4m the couple agreed to repay to the sovereign grant. They want to retain the residence, and will be expected to make further rental payments in future years:
Global deaths pass 980,000
The global coronavirus death toll has passed another grim milestone as we near the toll of one million lives lost as a result of the virus in just nine months.
There are currently 980,299 deaths confirmed on the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data. The true toll is believed to be higher due to lags in reporting, differing definitions and testing rates and suspected underreporting in some countries.
These are the ten countries with the highest tolls worldwide:
- US: 202,728 deaths
- Brazil: 138,977 deaths
- India: 91,149 deaths
- Mexico: 74,949 deaths
- United Kingdom: 41,991 deaths
- Italy: 35,781 deaths
- Peru: 31,870 deaths
- France: 31,524 deaths
- Spain: 31,118 deaths
- Iran: 25,015 deaths
Brazil recorded 32,817 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 831 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.
South America’s largest country has registered more than 4.6 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, according to ministry data, ranking it as the third worst outbreak in the world after the United States and India.
Nearly 140,000 people have died of the disease in Brazil, which ranks second after the United States in coronavirus deaths.
The state of Victoria, Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, on Friday reported eight deaths from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours and 14 new infections as the state looks set to ease some tough restrictions during the weekend.
A day earlier the state reported two deaths from the virus and 12 new cases.
The two-week average of new infections in the city of Melbourne dropped below 26, well below the 30-50 level which the state has set as a precondition to ease curbs.
Londoners are increasingly looking for jobs outside the capital as the city’s economy stalls, one of the UK’s largest recruitment sites has found, raising the prospect of a wave of “reverse commuters” or a continued exodus of residents.
Figures from Indeed, based on millions of job adverts and searches, show that on 18 September, the number of posts advertised in London was down by 55% on the same date in 2019.
The sharp decline reflects the impact of closed offices and reduced hospitality services on the city’s jobs market:
Mental health experts have joined forces with nearly 2,000 family members bereaved by Covid-19 to warn of an impending crisis unless support services for grieving relatives are made available.
Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, together with organisations including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the National Bereavement Partnership, want the government to use the comprehensive spending review to fund measures addressing particularly traumatic forms of grief:
EU warns virus epidemic worsening, as restrictions ramp up
The European Union raised the alarm on Thursday over the coronavirus pandemic, saying it is worse now than at the March peak in several member countries, as governments in Europe and beyond reimpose drastic measures, AFP reports.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in “some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March”.
The death rate has not returned to the levels seen earlier this year but new infections are soaring once again, prompting the bloc’s disease control agency to flag seven countries of “high concern”.
The countries, including Spain and several of the EU’s eastern states, have “an increased proportion of hospitalised and severe cases” among older people and rising death notification rates.
Although France was not among those nations, it has tightened its measures – closing restaurants, workplaces and gyms as businesses already hammered by the earlier lockdown struggle to stay afloat.
Bars in Paris and 10 other cities will be forced to close early and the southern city of Marseille will see restaurants and bars close completely.
Local officials have reacted with anger and frustration.
France sees record new cases; virus may be becoming more contagious
The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious, as coronavirus cases in the US have started to rise once again, according to new research.
The new US study analyzed 5,000 genetic sequences of the virus, which has continued to mutate as it has spread through the population. The study did not find that mutations of the virus have made it more lethal or changed its effects, even as it may be becoming easier to catch, according to a report in the Washington Post, which noted that public health experts acknowledge all viruses have mutations, most of which are insignificant.
David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the new study should not be over-interpreted, but added that the virus could be responding to public health interventions such as social distancing.
“All those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” he said.
Morens noted that this could mean that the virus might continue to mutate even after a vaccine is available, meaning the vaccine will have to be tinkered with – just as the flu vaccine is altered each year:
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest from around the world for the next few hours.
Get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan or via email: [email protected]
The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, according to new research, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious. The study did not find that mutations of the virus have made it more lethal or changed its effects.
Meanwhile France set a new record for daily new Covid-19 cases, at more than 16,000. French health authorities reported 16,096 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, a significant increase on the previous record of 13,498 and setting a fourth all-time high of daily additional infections in eight days.
- Hundreds of thousands of students in Scotland banned from socialising. In a set of rules agreed by Scottish university leaders, students across the country were told they will not be allowed to socialise outside their households and must avoid bars, pubs and other venues.
- Genetic or immune defects may impair ability to fight Covid-19. A significant proportion of patients who develop life-threatening forms of Covid-19 have genetic or immunological defects that impair their ability to fight the virus, research has found.
- Coronavirus continuing to mutate, study finds. The Covid-19 virus is continuing to mutate throughout the course of the pandemic, with experts believing it is probably becoming more contagious, as coronavirus cases in the US have started to rise once again, according to new research.
- Italian president rebuts Johnson’s ‘freedom’ remarks over restrictions. Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, said its citizens “also love freedom, but we also care about seriousness”, responding to Boris Johnson’s suggestion that the UK’s rate of coronavirus infection was worse than both Italy and Germany’s because Britons loved their freedom more.
- Spain’s tally of confirmed coronavirus infections passed 700,000 as authorities warned of tougher times ahead in the region of Madrid, which accounts for over a third of hospital admissions.The number of cases now stands at 704,209, the highest in western Europe. “Tough weeks are coming in Madrid. We must act with resolve to bring the pandemic under control,” the health minister Salvador Illa said. Authorities in Madrid could announce further measures on Friday.
- The UK reported a record daily rise in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases. A further 6,634 lab-confirmed positive test results took the overall number to 416,363. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that there are more cases now than there were during the peak in the spring, as there was a lack of community testing at that time.
- Denmark, Slovakia, Iceland and Curaçao were removed from the UK government’s list of travel corridors. Travellers arriving in England from those countries after 4am on Saturday must self-isolate for 14 days, the transport secretary Grant Shapps said.
- Portugal has extended measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic until at least mid-October, the government announced.The country will remain under a state of contingency until 14 October, meaning gatherings continue to be limited to 10 people and commercial establishments must close between 8pm and 11pm.