India crossed one million coronavirus cases on Friday, third only to the United States and Brazil, prompting concerns about its readiness to confront an inevitable surge that could overwhelm hospitals and test the country’s feeble health-care system.
A surge of 34.956 new cases in the past 24 hours took the national total to 1,003,832.
The grim milestone comes at a time when several Indian states are imposing focused lockdowns to stem the outbreak amid frantic efforts by local governments to protect the economy.
So far, three states — Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu — have accounted for more than half of total cases.
The India-based pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila plans to complete late-stage trials for its potential coronavirus vaccine in March 2021 and could produce up to 100 million doses a year if trials are successful, chairman Pankaj Patel said.
Cadila’s vaccine candidate, dubbed ZyCov-D, is one of dozens being developed around the world to fight the coronavirus.
In the United States, health officials reported more than 75,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a record daily increase for the seventh time this month, according to a Reuters tally.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert, has warned that cases could soon top 100,000 a day if Americans do not come together to take steps necessary to halt the spread of the virus.
Deaths reported in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas are largely the reason the U.S. has the highest death toll for COVID-19 of any country, a tally now exceeding 138,000.
Border restrictions until Aug. 20
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says Canada and the United States have agreed to extend their mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries until Aug. 20.
Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf tweeted on Thursday the decision, applying to both Canada and Mexico, was made after “close collaboration with our neighbours” to slow the travel-related spread of the virus.
The Canada-U.S. border has been closed to so-called “discretionary” travel like vacations and shopping trips since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the continent in mid-March, an agreement that had been set to expire July 21.
Two major U.S. retailers on Thursday joined the growing list of national chains that will require customers to wear face masks regardless of where cities or states stand on the issue.
Target’s mandatory face mask policy will go into effect Aug. 1, and all CVS drug stores will begin requiring them on Monday. More than 80 per cent of Target’s 1,800 stores already require customers to wear masks due to local and state regulations.
The announcements come one day after the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, said it would mandate face coverings for all customers starting Monday.
As of 5 a.m. ET on Friday, the global coronavirus case count stood at 13,818,963, with 590,213 deaths and 7,727,518 cases considered recovered, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are likely higher for various reasons, including limited testing.
Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
European Union leaders were meeting in Brussels on Friday for their first face-to-face talks since the pandemic hit. They have acknowledged they are far from reaching a deal on what would be an unprecedented 1.85 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion US) EU budget and virus recovery fund.
The stakes are high for the 27 EU heads with economies in free fall, and immediate relief measures like short-time work schemes (a reduction in working time and pay) running out this summer — paving the way for what some fear could be an autumn of deep economic malaise and social discontent.
Among other sticking points are when to make the recovery money available and for how long; how to repay debt to be acquired by the bloc’s executive European Commission to collect these extra funds; and how much should be channelled to green projects.
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In New York City, meanwhile, Manhattan’s elevated High Line Park reopened with limited capacity on Thursday after a four-month shutdown due to COVID-19. A few dozen New Yorkers wandered through the park, marvelling at the lush gardens, city views and lack of crowds.
The park, a 2.3-kilometre strip of green built on an old elevated railroad that runs along Manhattan’s West Side, was one of few city parks to close in March, in part because it was too narrow to permit proper social distancing, the Board of Directors said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said bars and restaurants in New York City that receive three “strikes” for failing to enforce physical distancing will be forced to close. Separately, an announcement on whether New York City would enter Phase 4 of reopening will be made at 4 p.m. ET on Friday, Cuomo said.
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What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday, Canada had 109,266 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 72,836 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,862.
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Many parts of Ontario will be moving to the next phase of the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan on Friday.
Stage 3 of the reopening effort takes effect across 24 out of 34 public health units, though the jurisdictions that will keep operating under Stage 2 rules are among the busiest in the province. Stage 3 rules allow restaurants to resume indoor service, and businesses such as bars, gyms and theatres can start welcoming patrons again.
Cineplex says it won’t be opening its theatres in Ontario just yet. The cinema chain confirmed on Friday that it has cut 130 jobs in the U.S. and Canada amid the pandemic, but says it has a “sustainable financial model” and will recover.
The latest rules for the province limit indoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 people, while as many as 100 people are allowed to congregate outdoors. The rules don’t yet apply in the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, the Niagara region and Windsor-Essex, all of which are still trying to reduce the numbers of local COVID-19 cases.
Saskatchewan announced 42 new cases on Thursday, its highest one-day increase.
Warren Kaeding, the minister for rural health, says the outbreak encompasses Hutterite colonies and a number of rural municipalities, including Maple Creek and Biggar, as well as the city of Swift Current.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday the federal government will provide $19 billion to the provinces and territories to help fund a “safe restart” of the Canadian economy.
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The direct transfers will help those governments cover some of their budgetary costs over the next six to eight months as they reopen and prepare for a possible second wave.
Trudeau said the money will focus on seven priority areas, including enhanced COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers and businesses, funding for municipalities, a national sick leave plan and child care so parents can get back to work.
Some of the money will go toward improving the state of long-term care, tackling homelessness and funding mental health services.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said he hopes the country will be “able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas.”
He also offered employers “more discretion” in bringing their employees back to work, starting in August.
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However, in unveiling the latest guidelines for a recovery strategy, he told reporters it’s possible the novel coronavirus could become more “virulent” over the winter months, meaning a return to the current restrictions.
Also in the U.K., a 100-year-old man who became a national hero in Britain by raising millions of pounds for health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, became “Sir Tom” on Friday when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Captain Tom Moore, a Second World War veteran, raised a record sum of 33 million pounds ($56.2 million Cdn) by walking 100 laps of his garden with the aid of a walking frame in April in the run-up to his landmark birthday.
Moore, who lives in the village of Marston Moretaine north of London, initially thought he would raise just 1,000 pounds ($1,700 Cdn) for a charity that supports hospitals, staff, volunteers and patients affected by the pandemic.
Australia has recorded just over 11,000 cases of COVID-19. The death toll rose to 116 after the deaths of three people in Victoria on Friday, still well below many other countries.
Victoria state reported a record daily increase in COVID-19 cases on Friday while neighbouring New South Wales said it was banning dancing, singing and mingling at weddings as authorities struggle to contain a new wave of infections.
Victoria, which has forced nearly 5 million people in the country’s second most populous state into a partial lockdown for more than a week, said it has found 428 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, most from community transmission.
The Victoria outbreak led to Australia posting its second biggest one-day rise in new COVID-19 infections, with 438 cases on Friday. It was largest 24-hour spike since late March, when most cases detected in Australia were people returning from overseas.
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Japan’s capital recorded a single-day record number of new coronavirus cases for a second straight day on Friday with 293. Tokyo was taken off a list of places around the country where discounts are offered under a government scheme to encourage domestic tourism.
Brazil hit a grim new marker on Friday as the health ministry reported the country had reached two million confirmed coronavirus cases.
The total number of cases now stands as 2,012,151, up from 1,966,748 the day before. The ministry reported that total deaths now stand at 76,688, up from 75,366. The country has recorded more than 1,000 daily COVID-19 deaths on average.
Israel imposed a new weekend shutdown on Friday and tightened a series of coronavirus curbs to lower infection rates.
People will be allowed to leave their homes this weekend, but malls, shops, pools, zoos and museums would shut from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, the government said in a statement.
Full weekend lockdowns that could confine people to their homes may be imposed by July 24, after the government gains parliamentary approval for that, Israel Radio reported.
Israel has reported more than 44,500 coronavirus cases and at least 380 deaths. On Thursday, it had a daily record of confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,898 new cases.
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Russia’s death toll from the novel coronavirus passed 12,000 on Friday, as the country reported 186 new deaths in the past 24 hours.
The country’s coronavirus crisis response centre registered 6,406 new cases, bringing its nationwide tally of infections to 759,203, the world’s fourth highest caseload.
The death toll now stands at 12,123. Russia says 539,373 people have recovered.