That’s it from me. My colleagues in London will be taking over shortly to keep you up to date with the latest. Stay safe and well.
- Australia has recorded 17 new deaths and 284 new cases. 16 deaths and 279 cases were in Victoria. Despite a “positive” trend downwards, Victoria’s state of emergency and its accompanying restrictions have been extended by four weeks to 13 September.
- Australia’s federal health minister Greg Hunt is cautiously optimistic that a vaccine to conquer the coronavirus will be available next year. Hunt says the government is close to striking a deal which would permit the production of a vaccine in Australia.
- New Zealand has reported 13 new cases in Auckland, where authorities are dealing with a renewed outbreak after 102 days without a single case of community transmission. Opposition politicians have joined to call on PM Jacinda Ardern to delay the country’s election, scheduled for next month.
- South Korea reported 279 new cases, the most cases since early March.All but 12 were locally transmitted cases, mostly in Seoul and surrounding areas.
- The outbreak in the Xinjiang region of China appears to be waning, after authorities reported just four locally transmitted cases in the region. The rest of mainland China’s 19 cases were all imported.
- Britain’s health secretary Matt Hancock will announce this week that Public Health England (PHE) will be scrapped and replaced by a new body.
- Algeria started reopening its mosques, cafes, beaches and parks on Saturday for the first time in five months, gradually relaxing one of the world’s longer virus confinement periods.
- South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday that all indications were that South Africa had reached the peak of Covid-19 infections, as he announced a sweeping removal of lockdown restrictions on the economy.
- Students in Saudi Arabian public schools will be educated via distance learning for the first seven weeks of the new school year.
- The French health ministry on Saturday reported 3,310 new coronavirus infections in France over the past 24 hours, setting a new post-lockdown high for the fourth day in a row.
- Ireland reported a “deeply concerning” 200 new Covid-19 cases arising from multiple clusters across the country on Saturday, the highest daily amount since the beginning of May.
- Turkey confirmed 1,256 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest daily rise in infections since June, while Malta posted its highest ever daily-on-day rise, and Greek authorities have announced 230 new coronavirus cases on Friday, 27 from international arrivals.
Northern Ireland’s chief scientific adviser has warned of the risks of complacency after Covid-19 cases in the region increased rapidly last week. Professor Ian Young said it was “inevitable” that there would be a significant increase in coronavirus cases if people stopped following social-distancing rules designed to prevent the spread of the disease.
The reproduction rate of the virus is estimated at between 1.2 and 2.0, according to Northern Ireland’s Department of Health. There were 242 cases last week, with 74 positive tests announced on Friday alone – only 237 people tested positive during the whole of July.
“We’ve just had probably two months with very little evidence of the virus,” said Young, who also sits on the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. “No deaths for maybe 18, 20 days in a row; very few patients in hospitals. In that setting, it’s really hard for people to remember the importance of [social-distancing] behaviours. People relax, and they go back to what we still think of as normal. And if that happens, then it’s inevitable that we will see a further surge or significant increase.”
Read the full report from the Guardian’s James Tapper and Henry McDonald here:
Parts of Malaysia’s Penang island are back under strict movement control orders, after more than 100 days dubbed “Covid-free bliss”, the Straits Times is reporting.
It comes after a 58-year-old woman was diagnosed with the virus on Friday, and two new cases were reported on Saturday.
According to the article, roadside hawkers can only serve takeaways, and while restaurants and coffee shops are allowed to have dine-in patrons they must strictly observe operating procedures.
No form of crowding is allowed.
Ms Nor Fazila Jaafar, 33, who works at a Malay food shop near the walk-up flats where the 58-year-old woman lives, said she was told on Saturday morning that they had to stop allowing dine-in.
“Business was so bad. We cooked less, but we still only sold 30 per cent of the food all morning and afternoon,” she said.
“We discovered that our rice comes from the sundry shop where the Covid-19 patient’s daughter works.”
More on the confusion in US schools, from Reuters in Nebraska, where a school district said on Saturday it had canceled classes after staff members tested positive for the new coronavirus, the latest state to see instruction disrupted after resuming in-person learning.
Three staff members have the virus that causes Covid-19 and 24 more are in quarantine for exposure in the Broken Bow School District about 190 miles (300 km) west of Omaha, superintendent Darren Tobey said in a statement.
Preschool and grade 6 to 12 classes are canceled until 24 August.
President Donald Trump has made reopening schools a re-election campaign issue, threatening to pull federal funding if institutions fail to do so, but resumption of classroom teaching ran into trouble in several states this week.
There is no national plan for school reopening, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has urged districts to resume in-person classes when they consider it safe.
That has led to a patchwork of policies, ranging from Republican Governor Pete Ricketts saying it was safe to resume in-person learning in Nebraska to Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham delaying classes until 8 September in New Mexico.
The Australian shadow government services minister, Bill Shorten, has taken aim at the profit-driven focus of the nation’s privatised aged care homes, while blaming the federal government for failing in its duty to oversee the system during the pandemic.
The former Labor leader asked how privatised centres were able to “serve two masters” – profit and care – given the cost of properly caring for elderly people, particularly those with health issues such as dementia, was not insignificant.
“This is the problem,” he told the ABC. “Looking after elderly people with diagnosis of dementia is not cheap. So if we want to make a profit, and you want to look after people, then you create faultlines in the system.
“Covid-19 right across Australian society has revealed things which have been glossed over. And if you’re a worker in the system, and they’re doing the hard and the tough work, they have to work at multiple centres just to make a living.”
Sydney Girls High School will be closed for cleaning on Monday after a student tested positive for Covid-19. Trial HSC exams scheduled for tomorrow will be postponed, the school said in a Facebook post.
“The school will be non-operational tomorrow for the on-site attendance of staff and students to allow time for the school to complete contact tracing and have the school cleaned. All staff and students are asked to self-isolate while contact tracing occurs.”
In the US an Arizona public school district was forced to cancel its plans to reopen on Monday after more than 100 teachers and other staff members called in sick.
“We have received an overwhelming response from staff indicating that they do not feel safe returning to classrooms with students,” Gregory Wyman, district superintendent, said in a statement on Friday.
Now some activists in Arizona, which saw a high-profile teachers’ strike in 2018, said they hope teachers across America will adopt a similar strategy to keep educators safe, as some parents and politicians continue to push for schools in the US to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’d love to see a nationwide sickout,” Kelley Fisher, an Arizona kindergarten teacher who has led protests in the state, told Reuters on Friday.
A Victoria police officer fired his gun this morning in Melbourne during an attempt to stop a driver breaching curfew.
Police said the 64-year-old man pulled into a service station bay at Altona Meadows around 1.40am. The statement said the man ignored a direction to turn off his car, and drove towards police.
“An approaching police officer had to take evasive action and discharged his firearm,” it said.
The car was pursued for a short time before the man was arrested.
The man was not injured, police said.
He is currently under police guard in hospital due to a medical condition.
Have you tried to adopt an iso-pet? You’re not alone.
Dog shelters across Australia have been emptied after a huge surge in demand for a rescued companion during the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing some desperate prospective dog owners to wait months.
Matilda Bosely and Calla Wahlquist report that animals are leaving the shelter in half the time this year; the average stay in the RSPCA Victoria’s adoption shelters is down to less than four days.
“Waiting for pets to be adopted can often be the biggest bottleneck in the system,” said Tegan McPherson, head of operations at RSPCA Victoria. “At the moment that’s certainly not proving to be the case.”
The United States and South Korea will begin a scaled-back annual joint military exercises this week, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday. But a spreading coronavirus outbreak has apparently forced the allies to scale back an already low-key training program mainly involving computer-simulated war scenarios.
The two militaries had canceled their springtime drills following a Covid-19 outbreak in the southern city of Daegu and nearby towns that was stabilised by April. But South Korea is now dealing with a virus resurgence in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region, home to half of the country’s 51 million people.
There have been around 150 infections among US troops stationed in South Korea since February, which prompted Gyeonggi Province near Seoul last month to openly call for the cancellation of the August drills
The 10-day drills from Tuesday could still irk North Korea, which portrays the allies training as invasion rehearsals and has threatened to abandon stalled nuclear talks if Washington persists with what it perceives as hostile policies toward Pyongyang. The North reacted to last years summertime drills by ramping up its short-range missile tests and unleashing verbal vitriol toward South Korea, which had lobbied hard to revive nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
From AAP: Four men were fined after trying to dodge border restrictions by sailing a houseboat from NSW to Cairns.
The four were intercepted aboard the 14-metre catamaran in Gold Coast waters on Friday after leaving Coffs Harbour on Wednesday.
They were allegedly trying to make the more than 2000km journey to return to their homes and are currently undergoing hotel quarantine at their own expense.
New Zealand’s deputy prime minister Winston Peters has sided with the opposition to ask Jacinda Ardern to postpone the country’s election because of the Auckland outbreak.
Ardern is due to announce her decision at 10am tomorrow on whether she will delay the election scheduled for 19 September.
On Sunday afternoon, Peters revealed he wrote to Ardern on Friday, saying he held “real concerns about the state of preparedness of the Electoral Commission”.
“Our health response must come first and politics second. That remains our view as the case numbers rise each day,” Peters said.
He also said that a 19 September election would give candidates only about six days to campaign, and there was no ability to conduct a free and fair election on the short timeline.
“New Zealand First believes we risk undermining the legitimacy of the election result, creating an awful precedent which could be abused by the Prime Minister’s successors.”
Together, the opposition National party and Ms Ardern’s coalition partners New Zealand First, amounts to a parliamentary majority, which could force Ms Ardern’s hand.
AAP: The AFL has apologised to Western Australia’s premier after Sydney player Elijah Taylor was banned for the rest of the season for breaching the state’s quarantine rules.
Taylor’s partner entered the Swans’ Covid-19 hub accommodation in Perth when she was not authorised to do so.
The Swans have been fined $50,000 for the breach, with $25,000 suspended and $25,000 included in their 2021 soft cap.
WA Police are continuing to investigate the breach and Premier Mark McGowan says both Taylor and his partner could face charges.
“it’s very disappointing,” he said on Sunday.
“The AFL gave us every assurance this wouldn’t happen. The Swans have let us down, the AFL has let us down. We’re disappointed in both organisations.
“I received an apology from the AFL this morning. I appreciate that but … they promised us this wouldn’t happen and they let us down.”
WA Police have notified Sydney that 19-year-old Taylor can continue his quarantine with the team, while his partner will also be required to quarantine for 14 days.
Both the AFL and the Swans have said there are no excuses for the breach.
Mr McGowan said he remained open to the state hosting the grand final if teams complied with quarantine requirements.
But he said he had no intention of WA bidding to host the showcase event, which is increasingly likely to be played in Brisbane.
All but one of New Zealand’s 13 new cases reported in the last 24 hours were from community transmission and appeared to be linked to a cluster in Auckland where the most recent outbreak started, said Ashley Bloomfield, the New Zealand director general of Health, today. The 13th was a traveller who returned from abroad and was in managed quarantine.
New Zealand is battling its second outbreak of infections and a lockdown is in place over Auckland. Eleanor Ainge-Roy has written this feature on Auckland’s lockdown after 102 days of the country being Covid-free.
This is exactly the type of outbreak we were worried about, and in fact it’s exactly what happened,” said Professor Shaun Hendy, who works modelling the progression of the disease for the government.
“We’ve been looking at different ways it [coronavirus] could come back and they’re all low-likelihood ways, but this was very much one of the scenarios we considered. For a while we were hoping it was a drill.”
Australian health minister Greg Hunt believes Victoria is seeing the early signs of flattening the curve.
Hunt said on the best medical advice he had received, Victoria is on a path to progressive reduction.
“There is a long way to go. There will be good days, there will be bad days. There will be days when the numbers are up and days when the numbers are down,” he told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
“But the signs now are that the trend is of progressive reduction.”
He said the most important thing now is contact tracing to make sure each new case in Victoria is followed up.
But Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid believes there are just too many people with the virus for contact tracers to keep up.
“Once you get hundreds and hundreds of cases a day, you’ve then got to find 10 to 20 to 50 to 100 people per case,” Khorshid told the Nine Network’s Weekend Today program.
“It’s just impossible for contact tracers, and it’s why it’s so important that the general lockdowns are in place.”
South Korea on Sunday reported 279 cases of the new coronavirus, the most cases since early March, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
Out those, 267 were locally transmitted cases, mostly in Seoul and surrounding areas.
The new cases bring the country’s tally to 15,318 infections, and 305 deaths, as of Saturday midnight.