Germany ‘optimistic’ for coronavirus vaccine in months: Live

  • UN chief Antonio Guterres warns the coronavirus pandemic not only threatens gains in fighting poverty and building peace, but also risks exacerbating old conflicts and generating new ones. 

  • President Vladimir Putin says Russia has developed the first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus, but the WHO says it does not have enough information to evaluate it. 

  • Worldwide coronavirus cases have surpassed 20.4 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University. More than 12.7 million have recovered, and more than 745,000 have died, 

Here are the latest updates:

Thursday, August 13

09:30 GMT – Malaysia jails Indian man linked to fresh virus outbreak

A Malaysian court jailed an Indian man for five months for violating a home quarantine order, leading to dozens of new coronavirus infections, the Bernama state news agency reported.

The 57-year-old, who resides in Malaysia and owns a restaurant in the northern state of Kedah, pleaded guilty to four charges of violating a mandated 14-day home quarantine order upon his return from India in July.

He was also fined 12,000 ringgit ($2,864) by the Alor Setar Magistrate’s Court, which held a special hearing at a Kedah hospital where the accused was undergoing treatment, Bernama reported.

09:00 GMT – Hong Kong reports 69 new coronavirus cases

Hong Kong reported 69 new coronavirus cases, of which 65 were locally transmitted, as authorities cautioned the global financial hub still faced a critical period to control the virus, which has seen a resurgence since early July.

Since late January, more than 4,200 people have been infected in Hong Kong, 65 of whom have died. Thursday’s figure was up slightly from Wednesday’s 62 cases.

Hong Kong

08:30 GMT – Nearly 6% of people in England may have had COVID-19

Nearly 6 percent of people in England were likely infected with COVID-19 during the peak of the pandemic, researchers studying the prevalence of infections said, millions more people than have tested positive for the disease.

A total of 313,798 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Britain, 270,971 of which have been in England, or just 0.5 percent of the English population.

However, a study that tested more than 100,000 people across England for antibodies to the coronavirus showed that nearly 6 percent of people had them, suggesting that 3.4 million people had previously contracted COVID-19 by the end of the June.

Prevalence of infections appeared to be be highest in London, where 13 percent of people had antibodies, while minority ethnic groups were two to three times as likely to have had COVID-19 compared to white people.

08:15 GMT – Philippines reports 4,002 more infections, 23 deaths

The Philippines’ health ministry reported 4,002 more novel coronavirus infections and 23 additional deaths in the country.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total number of confirmed cases in the Philippines had risen to 147,526, the highest in Southeast Asia, while confirmed deaths had reached 2,426.

The Philippines plans to launch clinical trials for a Russian coronavirus vaccine in October after Russia became the first country to grant regulatory approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, drawing safety concerns over the frantic pace of its development.

08:00 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus cases surpass 907,000

Russia reported 5,057 new cases of the novel coronavirus bringing its nationwide tally to 907,758, the fourth largest caseload in the world.

Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said 124 people had died over the last 24 hours, pushing its official death toll to 15,384.

The United States, Brazil, India, and Russia are currently the worst-hit countries in the world.

07:50 GMT – Thai scientists catch bats to trace virus origins

Researchers in Thailand have been trekking through the countryside to catch bats in their caves in an effort to help trace the origins of the coronavirus.

The closest match to the coronavirus has been found in horseshoe bats in Yunnan in southern China. Thailand has 19 species of horseshoe bats but researchers said they have not yet been tested for the new coronavirus.

The team from the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases-Health Science Center took saliva, blood, and stool samples from the bats before releasing them.

The team was headed by Supaporn Wacharapluesadee, the centre’s deputy chief, who has studied bats and diseases associated with them for more than 20 years. 

Supaporn said it is likely the researchers will find the same virus that causes COVID-19 in Thailand’s bats.

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07:25 GMT – Limited testing? Researchers in Rwanda have an idea

Like many countries, Rwanda is finding it impossible to test each of its citizens for the coronavirus amid shortages of supplies. But researchers there have created an approach that is drawing attention beyond the African continent.

They are using an algorithm to refine the process of pooled testing, which tests batches of samples from groups of people and then tests each person individually only if a certain batch comes back positive for COVID-19. Pooled testing conserves scarce testing materials.

Rwanda’s mathematical approach, researchers say, makes that process more efficient. That is an advantage for developing countries with limited resources, where some people must wait several days for results. Longer waits mean a greater chance of unknowingly spreading the virus.

Those behind the algorithm have expressed pride that a potential solution to a dogged problem in the global crisis is coming from Africa.

07:15 GMT – Brazil state signs deal to make Russian vaccine

The Brazilian state of Parana signed a deal to test and produce Russia’s new coronavirus vaccine, though officials stressed they would have to be sure of its safety and effectiveness first.

The vaccine would have to receive Brazilian regulatory approval and complete Phase 3 clinical trials, or large-scale testing in humans, before being produced in Brazil, said officials from the southern state.

Production, if it goes ahead, would likely only start in the second half of 2021, said Jorge Callado, head of the state-run Parana Technology Institute, which signed the deal with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

06:55 GMT – Germany: Optimistic we’ll have a vaccine in coming months 

German Health Minister Jens Spahn told ZDF television he expects there would be a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming months and definitely next year.

“I’m optimistic that in the next months, and certainly in the next year, there can be a vaccine,” Spahn said.

He declined to give a specific month and said it was not yet possible to say how often people would need to be vaccinated or how long-lasting the immunity it conferred would be.

“But one thing we can say is that thanks to us all working together – researchers, scientists, the public – we will probably have a vaccine faster than ever before in the history of humanity.”

06:25 GMT – India’s coronavirus cases jump by 67,000 in daily record

India reported another record daily rise in novel coronavirus infections, while the death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 47,000.

Infections grew by 66,999 on Thursday from a day earlier to reach a total of nearly 2.4 million to date, India’s health ministry said.

The country, with the world’s biggest case load behind the United States and Brazil, has now reported a jump of 50,000 cases or more each day for 15 straight days.

Coronavirus - India

06:00 GMT – Ukraine sees record daily high 1,592 new cases: security council

Ukraine recorded a record daily jump of 1,592 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the national council of security and defence said.

The number of infections has increased sharply in Ukraine in the past two months as authorities have eased some restrictions, allowing cafes, churches and public transport to reopen.

Hello, this is Umut Uras in Doha taking over from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed.

04:45 GMT – Passengers from mainland China to be allowed temporary transit through Hong Kong

Hong Kong International Airport said that passengers from mainland China would be able to transit through Hong Kong to other destinations from August 15 until October 15, in a boost for its dominant carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.

Transit in the other direction, inbound to mainland China, will remain banned at a time when China’s aviation regulator has severely limited the number of international flights due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

04:05 GMT – TUI agrees new 1.2 billion euro aid package

Tourism giant TUI and the German government have agreed to a second massive aid package to bolster the firm through its winter 2020/21 season.  

The Hanover-based company agreed to a 1.2 billion euro ($1.4bn) package with German public lender KfW on Wednesday. The new funds add to the 1.8 billion-euro government loan that the company agreed to in April. 

CEO Fritz Joussen said while the group had already introduced “massive” cost reductions, “no one knows when a vaccine or medication will be available and what effects the pandemic will have in individual markets in the coming months”.

“Therefore it is right and important to take further precautions together with the German government.” 

03:21 GMT – Close adviser to Venezuela’s president has coronavirus

Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuela’s communications minister and close adviser to President Nicolas Maduro said he has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

“Even though I am in good general condition, I must comply with the isolation measures and the necessary care in order to overcome the virus,” Rodriguez said on Twitter.

Venezuela's Communications and Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez

02:49 GMT – Argentina, Mexico to produce AstraZeneca vaccine

Argentina and Mexico will produce the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for most of Latin America, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez after a meeting with company executives involved in the project.

An agreement signed between British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the biotechnology company mAbxience of the INSUD Group includes transfer of technology to initially produce 150 million doses of the vaccine to supply all of Latin America with the exception of Brazil, according to the Argentine government.

“Latin American production will be handled in Argentina and Mexico and that will allow timely and efficient access for all countries in the region,” Fernandez said.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said later on Twitter that the deal had been pushed by Fernandez and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He said output of the vaccine could extend to 250 million doses.

02:17 GMT – NFL Union, league agree to daily testing through September 5

National Football League (NFL) players in the US can expect daily COVID-19 testing through September 5, the players’ union said in advance of the season kick-off next month.

The league has conducted 109,075 COVID-19 tests among players, staff and coaches since the start of training camps through Tuesday, NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills told reporters, with an overall positive rate 0.46 percent and a positive rate among players of 0.81 percent.

A total of 53 new positives were confirmed among players upon their intake into training camp last month.

“Our goal is all the same: to have the safest possible environment for everyone,” said Sills. “We want to try to ensure that there’s no one – player, coach, staff member, official, anyone – who steps onto a field with an active COVID infection.”

02:04 GMT – New Zealand logs 14 new cases

New Zealand reported 14 new COVID-19 cases, of which 13 were locally transmitted infections, as officials scrambled to trace the source of the country’s first outbreak in more than 100 days.

There are now a total of 36 active cases in the country.

“We can see the seriousness of the situation we are in,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a televised media conference, noting that experience showed “things will get worse before they get better”.

More cases were likely to be reported in coming days, she said.

Officials said all of the 13 locally transmitted infections were linked to the four Auckland family members in whom the latest outbreak was first detected. Three of the new cases were at a refrigerator storage facility, where one of the family members worked.


01:48 GMT – Disney World actors ready to work after testing dispute resolved

Walt Disney World actors, who argued that the US theme park’s proposed coronavirus safeguards were inadequate to protect them, have resolved a dispute about COVID-19 testing, according to a union statement.

The Actors’ Equity Association had called on Walt Disney Co to provide regular coronavirus testing for its members, who cannot wear protective masks while performing as other park employees do.

Disney said on Wednesday that it would provide space just outside Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for a testing site run by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The site will be open to Disney employees, known as cast members, and the public.

01:35 GMT – Australia on course for lowest one-day rise in three weeks

Australia was poised to post its lowest one-day rise in new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks on Thursday, stoking hopes that a second wave of new infections gripping Victoria state is finally being brought under control.

Victoria reported 278 new infections in the past 24 hours, down from 410 a day earlier.

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales reported 12 new cases, while Queensland state said it had found no new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours.

Barring a large rise in cases from states that have effectively eliminated the virus, that means Australia’s total of 290 cases would be the lowest one-day rise in new coronavirus cases since July 20.

Australian authorities cautiously welcomed the decline.

“I think we have to wait and see what happens over the coming week just to make sure that downward slope continues over the days ahead,” Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told Australia’s Channel 9.

Melbourne lockdown

01:19 GMT – Mexico’s confirmed cases almost at 500,000

Mexico’s health ministry reported 5,858 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 737 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 498,380 cases and 54,666 deaths.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

00:58 GMT – UN chief says pandemic threatens peace and risks new conflicts

Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic not only threatens gains in fighting global poverty and building peace but risks exacerbating existing conflicts and “fomenting new ones”.

The UN chief told a Security Council meeting a number of warring parties took steps to de-escalate and stop fighting following his March 23 call for an immediate ceasefire in conflicts around the world to tackle the coronavirus.

“Yet, regrettably, in many instances, the pandemic did not move the parties to suspend hostilities or agree to a permanent ceasefire,” Guterres said.

The pandemic has also raised growing questions about the effectiveness of health systems, social services, trust in institutions and systems of governance, he said.

“All of this means that our commitment to sustaining peace is more urgent than ever.”

The UN chief also warned that “without concerted action, inequalities, global poverty and the potential for instability and violence could grow for years”.

00:37 GMT – Peru to return to total curfew on Sundays

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced the return of a total curfew on Sundays in response to a new surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

“We want and think that it is better to go back one step so that we are all responsible again for recovering the conditions that we would all like to have,” he said.

The national curfew will prohibit gatherings of family and friends.

Peru’s government has reported more than 489,000 infections, with an average of more than 7,000 new cases per day, and the highest death rate per million in the Americas, above Chile, the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

00:24 GMT – England’s revamped contact-tracing app to begin public trials

A revamped coronavirus contact-tracing app for England will begin its public trials on Thursday, according to the BBC.

The software will be modelled after Apple and Google’s privacy-centric method of one smartphone detecting another, BBC said, adding that engineers were still trying to reduce how often the Bluetooth-based tech wrongly flags people as being within two metres (6.6ft) of each other. 

The app will also let people scan barcode-like QR codes to log venue visits.

FILE PHOTO: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London

00:14 GMT – White House, Democrats trade blame over aid deadlock

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, one of President Donald Trump’s top negotiators with Democrats on US coronavirus aid, tried to shift blame for a five-day lapse in talks back on House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mnuchin disputed a statement from Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that said Republicans had invited more talks but refused to budge from their initial offer of a $1 trillion response.

He said Pelosi “made clear that she was unwilling to meet to continue negotiations unless we agreed in advance to her proposal, costing at least $2 trillion”.

Sticking points between the two sides include the size of an extended unemployment benefit, aid to state and local governments, money for schools to reopen and other issues.

Congress has already approved about $3 trillion in assistance for families, hospitals, healthcare workers, state and local governments, vaccine research and testing.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday found that Americans divide blame pretty evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 

For all the key developments from yesterday, August 12, go here

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