This is not explicitly coronavirus news but it is significant nonetheless.
Saudi Arabia’s 84-year-old ruler, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, has been admitted to hospital in the capital Riyadh suffering from inflammation of the gall bladder, state news agency SPA said on Monday.
The king, who has ruled the world’s largest oil exporter and close US ally since 2015, is undergoing medical checks without giving details, Reuters reports.
The de facto ruler and next in line to the throne is the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, widely referred to as MbS, who has launched reforms to transform the kingdom’s economy and end its “addiction” to oil.
The 34-year-old prince’s reforms have been accompanied by a purge of top royals and businessmen on charges of corruption, and a costly war in Yemen, which have all unnerved some Western allies and investors.
His prestige also suffered a blow after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 at the hands of Saudi security personnel seen as close to him.
In the UK, the government has signed new deals which will provide more than 90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, according to multiple reports.
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and Sky News reported the government has secured an agreement for 30 million doses of a vaccine being developed – and currently at phase two trials – by BioNTech and German firm Pfizer.
There has also been an in-principle deal done for 60 million doses of a vaccine that is being developed by France’s Valneva, PA Media reports.
The figure of 90 million is in addition to the 100 million doses of vaccine that are being developed by Oxford University in partnership with AstraZeneca, as well as another at Imperial College London which started human trials in June.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the new agreements would “ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk”.
Global cases pass 14.5m
More than 14.5 million people have tested positive for coronavirus worldwide so far, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data.
The current total stands at 14,507,491. The death toll is 606,173.
Good morning (or afternoon, evening). It’s Josh Halliday here in Manchester, England, to steer you through the next few hours of pandemic news.
That is it for me Helen Sullivan – thanks for following along. I’ll be off tomorrow, as I plan to spend much of the day waving excitedly from the street at my husband, who will be in quarantine in a hotel room somewhere in Sydney, hopefully with a balcony. The pandemic has kept us apart for five months, but his plane lands tonight!
Here is today’s global report – my colleague Josh Halliday will be taking you through the next few hours of global coronavirus news:
A singer from the Japanese band AKB48 has tested positive for coronavirus, CGTN reports:
AKB48 announced on its official website on Monday that its 23-year-old Team B member, Takita Kayoko, has tested positive for coronavirus. At present, her symptoms are mild and likely to be hospitalised on July 20. She is the first COVID-19 confirmed case of AKB48.
Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
- Nearly 14.5 million people have been tested positive for coronavirus worldwide so far, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data.The current total stands at 14,457,916. The death toll is 605,205.
- China reported 22 new coronavirus cases, according to the People’s Daily, with 17 of these community transmission cases from Xinjiang. China launched mass health screenings in the western Xinjiang province late last week after a spike in cases raised fears of a fresh outbreak. “The whole city has entered a ‘wartime state’, and will suspend all kinds of group activities,” state media quoted an official giving a briefing.
- A record 100 new cases were confirmed in Hong Kong, the territory’s leader said on Sunday, as she tightened social distancing measures, including mandating the wearing of masks in public indoor spaces, to tackle the sudden rise in number of infections.
- Donald Trump is seeking to block billions of dollars in funding for coronavirus testing and contact tracing efforts as cases soar across the US, where around 70,000 people are testing positive each day.
- South Africa’s death toll from coronavirus passed the 5,000 mark, according to official figures released on Sunday. South Africa registered 85 new deaths from the virus in the previous 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 5,033. A total of 13,449 new infections were also officially diagnosed, taking the number to 364,328, figures released by the health ministry showed.
- The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, said on Sunday that he would postpone the second phase of the country’s economic reopening, slated to begin Tuesday, after evaluating inputs from experts and the Salvadoran health ministry.
- Papua New Guinea recorded its first Covid-19-related death – the first Pacific island fatality outside US territories and the first in Melanesia – as it seeks to contain an outbreak in the main hospital in its capital, Port Moresby.
- The United Nations has made an urgent appeal for $283m to help Sudan tackle the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences, as millions in the country face hunger. An official said the pandemic had worsened an economic crisis, hitting purchasing power, while movement restrictions had restricted people’s access to food, healthcare and basic services.
- France will issue €135 fines to people flouting new mask rules. The French government has announced that it will issue a €135-euro (£122) fine to people who flout its decree to wear a mask in indoor public spaces. onday in a bid to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections.
- NFL stars attack NFL for having ‘no clear plan’ over Covid-19. Some of the NFL’s biggest names took to social media on Sunday to express their concerns and anger over the lack of Covid-19 safety protocols as teams prepare to open training camps this week.
- The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has insisted he can avoid imposing another England-wide lockdown this winter, describing it as a “nuclear deterrent” that he hopes never to use.
- Authorities in Australia are stepping up their battle against coronavirus with the second biggest city of Melbourne announcing the introduction of mandatory face coverings from Wednesday when leaving the house.
Beijing, meanwhile, has gone 14 days without a case of local transmission, and city authorities on Sunday said they were downgrading the emergency response level from two to three. The move is largely symbolic, with measures including mandatory social distancing, temperature checks and 14-day quarantines for passengers arriving from abroad remaining in place, AP reports.
China also Monday reported 5,370 people had been arrested for pandemic-related crimes between January and June. More than 40% were charged with fraud, the state prosecutor’s office announced on its official microblog. Another 15% were charged with obstruction of law enforcement, with others accused of producing and selling fake and shoddy goods, creating public disturbances and transporting and selling endangered species.
China has strengthened protection for wild animals following the emergence of the virus, which may have originated in bats before jumping to humans via an intermediary species such as the anteater-like pangolin.
More now on China’s latest coronavirus outbreak spreading to a second city in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, from AP.
One of the 17 new cases reported on Monday was in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, the regional government said on its official microblog. The remainder were in the regional capital of Urumqi, where all other cases have been reported since the outbreak that has now infected at least 47 people emerged earlier this month.
Authorities in Urumqi have tried to prevent the spread by closing off communities and imposing travel restrictions.
Xinjiang is a vast, thinly populated region of mountains and deserts and had seen little impact from the pandemic that emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and was largely contained within China in March. Another five new cases reported Monday by the National Health Commission were imported.
HSBC, Standard Chartered and other banks in Hong Kong closed branches or curtailed their working hours on Monday after a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases in the Asian financial hub, Reuters reports.
Hong Kong banks shut scores of branches in late January when the first wave of the coronavirus cases hit the city. These later reopened as case numbers dropped.
Bank of China (Hong Kong) said in a statement on Monday it would suspend services at nine branches due to the spread of the virus. It had already suspended services at three branches, one of which reopened on Monday.
HSBC said in a separate statement it would temporarily close two business centres for commercial banking and three mobile branches operating from trucks, and shorten operating hours at all branches.
HSBC subsidiary Hang Seng Bank closed one branch for 14 days for deep cleaning after a member of staff preliminarily tested positive for Covid-19, it said on Sunday.
Standard Chartered and Bank of East Asia said they would shorten branch opening hours.
On Sunday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced tighter coronavirus restrictions with non-essential civil servants told to work from home.
Amusement parks, gyms and 10 other types of venues will remain closed for another seven days, while a requirement for restaurants to only provide takeaway after 6pm was extended. Face masks will be mandatory in indoor public areas.
Global cases near 14.5m
Nearly 14.5 million people have been tested positive for coronavirus worldwide so far, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, which relies on official government data.
The current total stands at 14,457,916. The death toll is 605,205.
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- By Arzu / August 1, 2020
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