Israel to reimpose virus lockdown as European cases mount
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a briefing on coronavirus developments in Israel at his office in Jerusalem, on September 13, 2020. Israel's government announced it would impose a three-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to stem one of the world's highest novel coronavirus infection rates after a surge in cases.
AFP/Yoav Dudkevitch, Pool
Israel to reimpose virus lockdown as European cases mount
Jonah Mandel (Agence France-Presse) - September 14, 2020 - 7:46am

JERUSALEM, Undefined — Israel said Sunday it will reimpose a national lockdown after coronavirus cases soared, while European nations grappled with mounting infections against a backdrop of protests against restrictions aimed at reining in the pandemic.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the three-week lockdown, which will hold people to within 500 metres (yards) of their homes, will start on Friday and could be extended.

The plan prompted the resignation of ultra-Orthodox Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, who said the measures would prevent Jews from attending synagogue over the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays.

According to an AFP tally, Israel is second only to Bahrain for the world's highest coronavirus infection rate by population.

Britain, France, Austria and the Czech Republic were among European countries reporting surges, with new cases in the UK reaching more than 3,000 in 24 hours for the second day in a row on Saturday.

After a spate of local lockdowns this month, new government restrictions come into force across England on Monday, limiting social gatherings to no more than six people.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the country was already facing "the beginning of the second wave" as new daily infections climbed towards 1,000.

Kurz said the government would further restrict events and extend the areas where mask-wearing is mandatory to include all shops and public buildings.

The Czech Republic meanwhile registered 1,541 new cases on Saturday, posting a record growth for the third day in a row.

"If the epidemic keeps growing in this explosive way, we will get to the very limit of our hospital capacity," epidemiologist Roman Prymula told Czech Television on Sunday. 

France reported 10,000 new infections on Saturday, close to the peak of the first wave in April, however the number fell to 7,183 on Sunday.

Worldwide, 921,387 people have died of the virus from among 28.8 million cases.

'Aggressive' lockdown protest

However some countries were relaxing their anti-coronavirus restrictions.

In South Korea, authorities in Seoul said they would ease some infection control measures introduced in recent weeks after a spike in cases in the capital region, home to half the country's 52 million population.

Coffee shops, restaurants and bakeries will return to normal service while gyms and private crammer schools can reopen.

The country largely overcame an early Covid-19 surge with extensive tracing and testing, but it has seen triple-digit daily new cases since mid-August after weeks with numbers in the 30s and 40s.

And Saudi Arabia announced it would partially lift its suspension of international flights from September 15, six months after travel curbs were imposed.

Meanwhile, police arrested dozens of participants in an illegal anti-lockdown demonstration in the southern Australian city Melbourne on Sunday that drew around 250 people.

The protest -- the city's second in as many days -- saw the crowd defy stay-at-home orders to gather at the central Queen Victoria market, where they were met by a heavy police presence.

"Many protesters were aggressive and threatened violence towards officers," the Melbourne police said.

The Australia protest followed a number of demonstrations in Germany and Poland on Saturday at which thousands protested against anti-coronavirus measures.

Meanwhile Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden slammed incumbent Donald Trump as "reckless" for holding a packed rally Saturday in Reno, Nevada, where many attendees did not wear masks.

The Republican president is under pressure as the US toll continues to rise, nearing 6.5 million cases on Saturday with more than 193,000 deaths -- by far the most in either measure in the world.

In Latin America, which this week passed the milestone of eight million virus cases, the continent's worst-hit country Brazil charted more than 131,000 deaths from Covid-19 as of Saturday, the second-highest in the world behind the US.

Vaccine trials resume

In Britain, regulators gave pharma company AstraZeneca and Oxford University the all-clear for clinical trials to resume on one of the most advanced experimental Covid-19 vaccines.

Researchers had "voluntarily paused" their vaccine trial after a UK volunteer developed an unexplained illness.

Even during the pause, AstraZeneca said it remained hopeful that the vaccine could still be available "by the end of this year, early next year".

Any fashionistas hoping that New York Fashion Week would provide a distraction from the virus may be in for disappointment, as the event will open with almost no live audiences and few big names.

Regular heavy-hitters Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren will not attend the event, which will last only three days.

But organisers hope the shows can help support American design houses of all sizes, with many of them teetering on the brink.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 18, 2020 - 7:28pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

September 18, 2020 - 7:28pm

Israel imposes a second nationwide lockdown to tackle one of the world's highest coronavirus infection rates, hours before the Jewish holiday season begins.

The three-week shutdown from 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) started just hours before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, and will extend through other key religious holidays, including Yom Kippur and Sukkot. — AFP

September 18, 2020 - 6:41pm

Britain's government warns it could re-impose a national lockdown across England to counter the coronavirus pandemic, noting rates of hospitalisation are doubling every eight days.

"We want to avoid a national lockdown, but we're prepared to do it if we need to," Health Secretary Matt Hancock tells BBC television.

"We're prepared to do what it takes both to protect lives and to protect livelihoods," he says, warning of more local measures to come after restrictions were placed on swathes of northeast England from Friday. — AFP

September 18, 2020 - 4:17pm

The Department of Health registers 3,257 additional infections, bringing the national caseload to 279,526.

There are 47 new deaths and 733 new recoveries.


September 18, 2020 - 7:33am

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 941,473 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Thursday.

At least 29,914,290 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 20,131,400 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

September 17, 2020 - 8:57pm

India's total coronavirus cases passed five million on Wednesday, health ministry data showed, as the pandemic extends its grip on the vast country at an ever-faster rate.

With its latest one million cases recorded in just 11 days, a world record, India now has 5.02 million infections. Only the United States has more, with 6.59 million.

India has for some time been recording the world's biggest daily jumps in cases, and on Wednesday, the rise was just over 90,000 with a record 1,290 deaths.

While India took 167 days to reach one million cases, the next million came in just 21 days, faster than the US and Brazil, according to the Times of India. 

Just 29 days later, India became only the third country after the US and Brazil to post four million infections. India passed Brazil earlier this month. — AFP

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