Commuters social distance while waiting for a train at the Fulton Street subway station and complex on July 7, 2020 in lower Manhattan of New York City.
AFP/Angela Weiss
Millions worldwide back in virus confinement, but hope on US vaccine
Issam Ahmed (Agence France-Presse) - July 15, 2020 - 9:35am

WASHINGTON, United States — Millions of people went into new lockdowns Tuesday as novel coronavirus cases surged, but in one sign of hope, a US firm said it would soon start final-stage human trials for a possible COVID-19 vaccine.

Massachusetts-based Moderna will begin the trials later this month after promising early results.

With countries and cities across the globe reimposing restrictions in the face of new outbreaks of the disease, infections in India have continued to soar.

The country of 1.3 billion people had been easing its lockdown to lessen the economic impact — particularly on vast numbers of poor Indians who lost their jobs.

Almost 24,000 Indian deaths have now been recorded, according to health ministry figures that many experts say underplay the severity of the situation.

Bangalore, home to more than 13 million people, has emerged as a new global hotspot.

Firms in the city's lifeblood IT sector handling the back-office operations of dozens of global corporations can continue operating, but with only half the staff allowed on premises.

Transport is banned except for emergencies, and only shops selling essential items are allowed to open.

"I do not want to take chances... I am stocking up for two weeks," said Mangala, a housewife, as she joined a long queue to buy provisions.

In the United States, the announcement of possible progress towards a vaccine came as results were published from the first stage of Moderna's vaccine trial, which showed the first 45 participants all developed antibodies to the virus.

Moderna is considered to be in a leading position in the race to find a vaccine against the coronavirus, which has infected more than 13.2 million people and killed 570,000.

The last-stage trials are scheduled to run through October 2022, with researchers expecting preliminary results well before then.

No return to 'normal'

But "there will be no return to the 'old normal' for the foreseeable future," World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday, warning that without governments adopting a comprehensive strategy, the situation would get "worse and worse and worse."

In England, face masks will become compulsory in shops and supermarkets from next week, the health secretary said Tuesday in a U-turn on previous policy.

Face masks have been mandatory on public transport across the country since June 15, and Scotland has already made the coverings compulsory for shoppers.

After overseeing drastically downscaled Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron also said he would like to make masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces.

"We have indications that (the outbreak) is accelerating a bit," he said.

Macron's comments come as doctors have warned of a potential second wave of infections, which could again overwhelm hospitals and require new lockdowns that could further hammer the economy.

But Disneyland Paris will begin a "phased reopening" on Wednesday, with visitor numbers limited via a new online reservation system to ensure social distancing.

In the United States on Tuesday, the hard-hit state of Florida posted a record number of deaths for a 24-hour period at 132.

Nationwide, more than 63,262 new infections and 850 deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours.

California has drastically rolled back its reopening plans and ordered all indoor restaurants, bars and cinemas to close again as cases soared across America's richest and most populous state.

Churches — as well as gyms, shopping malls, hair salons and non-essential offices — must also shut indoor operations in half of the Golden State's worst-hit and most densely populated counties, including Los Angeles.

Alarm bells

The bruising economic impact of the pandemic was stark in Singapore, where the economy shrank more than 40 percent in the second quarter, plunging the Southeast Asian financial and trading hub into recession for the first time in a decade.

"It's the worst-ever quarterly figure in Singapore's 55-year history," CIMB Private Banking regional economist Song Seng Wun told AFP on Tuesday.

The worse-than-expected figures will ring alarm bells for other economies reliant on trade.

Britain also saw its economy shrink by nearly a fifth in the three months to May compared with the previous quarter as the lockdown crippled activity.

Since the start of July, nearly 2.5 million new infections have been registered across the globe, with the number of cases doubling over the past six weeks, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Latin America on Monday recorded the world's second-highest regional death toll, declaring a total of 144,758 fatalities to pass the 144,023 recorded in the United States and Canada.

It now stands second only to Europe.

South Africa has reimposed a nationwide curfew to prevent a "coronavirus storm" from ravaging the continent's hardest-hit nation, where new infections have topped 12,000 a day.

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August 4, 2020 - 7:38am

Latin American and the Caribbean on Monday surpassed five million coronavirus cases, according to an AFP tally, more than half of which have been registered in Brazil.

Alongside the cases, there have been more than 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the region.

Brazil, a country of 210 million, has recorded 2.75 million infections and more than 94,000 deaths.

Only the United States with 4.8 million cases and almost 155,000 deaths has been worse affected than the South American giant. — AFP

August 3, 2020 - 4:23pm

The Department of Health reports 3,226 additional COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, pushing the country's total to 106,330.

The DOH also announces 275 recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries to 65,821. The national death toll is now at 2,104 with 46 new deaths.

"With 3,226 additional cases reported today, 2,543 (79%) cases occurred within the recent 14 days (July 21 to August 3). The top regions with cases in the recent two weeks were NCR (1,267 or 50%), Region 4A (445 or 17%) and Region 7 (353 or 14%)," the DOH says.

August 3, 2020 - 12:10pm

The United States has entered a "new phase" of the pandemic, White House coronavirus advisor Deborah Birx warns, with rural areas just as threatened as major cities.

Birx, who heads the White House coronavirus task force, toells CNN's "State of the Union" that local virus mitigation procedures were starting to work, but added that "what we are seeing today is different from March and April".

"It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas," she adds. "To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus."

"We are in a new phase," Birx says. — AFP

August 3, 2020 - 7:29am

The number of coronavirus cases recorded worldwide has passed 18 million, according to an AFP tally from official sources at 2240 GMT Sunday.

At least 18,011,763 cases have now been registered as the pandemic's rate of infection continues to accelerate. A million more cases have been detected in just the last four days.

More than half of the world's cases have been recorded in the United States and in Latin America and the Caribbean region. — AFP

August 2, 2020 - 5:08pm

For Gabriel Gordon and his wife Lena, the small restaurant they opened 14 years ago in the coastal California town of Seal Beach was a dream project and the cornerstone of their future success.

But this weekend, Beachwood BBQ, which had become a staple in the community, permanently shut down — yet another casualty of the carnage the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed on restaurants across the United States.

"This restaurant launched everything for us and allowed us to have a nice life," said Gordon, 43, who is now concentrating his efforts on another restaurant and three breweries he owns. "This is what allowed us to have a nice life and it's heartbreaking to see it close."

According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry — the second largest private sector employer in the US — is among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with losses projected to reach a staggering $240 billion by the end of the year. — AFP

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