- Russia rejects allegations it sought to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine.
- WHO reported a single-day record of new infections on Saturday with 259,848.
- Global death toll from the virus surges past 600,000.
- Canada has 109,995 coronavirus infections, including 96,819 recoveries, 8,882 deaths.
- Wearing a mask is mandatory in Quebec as of Saturday.
- How close are we to a vaccine for COVID-19?
Countries from the U.S. to South Africa to India were struggling to hold down rising rates of the coronavirus, as global deaths from COVID-19 surged past 600,000 in a sign of how far off the world remains from a return to normalcy.
While the U.S. leads global infections, South Africa now ranks as the fifth worst-hit country in the pandemic with 350,879 cases — roughly half of all those confirmed on the African continent. Its struggles are a sign of trouble to come for nations with even fewer health care resources.
The World Health Organization on Saturday again reported a single-day record of new infections with 259,848.
Global COVID-19 deaths have hit 601,549, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The United States tops the list with 140,119 deaths, followed by 78,772 in Brazil and 45,358 in the United Kingdom and 38,888 in Mexico, where a surge in cases have frustrated plans to reopen the economy.
WATCH | U.S. states and cities at odds on COVID-19 protocols:
The number of confirmed infections worldwide has passed 14.2 million, out of which 3.7 million are in the United States. There are over 2 million in Brazil and more than 1 million in India. Experts believe the true numbers around the world are higher because of testing shortages and data collection issues in some nations.
Scientists, meanwhile, poured cold water on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hope that the country may return to normal by Christmas, saying that, without a vaccine, normal life was a long way off.
In a separate development, Russia’s ambassador to Britain has rejected allegations that his country’s intelligence services sought to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine.
Andrei Kelin said in a BBC interview broadcast Sunday that there was “no sense” in the allegations made last week by the United States, Britain and Canada.
“I don’t believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it,” he said when asked about the allegations. “I learned about their (the hackers) existence from British media. In this world, to attribute any kind of computer hackers to any country, it is impossible.”
WATCH | COVID-19 research targeted by hackers:
Intelligence agencies in the U.S., Britain and Canada on Thursday accused the hacking group APT29 — also known as Cozy Bear and believed to be part of Russian intelligence — of using malicious software to attack academic and pharmaceutical research institutions involved in COVID-19 vaccine development. It was unclear whether any useful information was stolen.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
The federal government has said it’s not OK for the Blue Jays to play ball in Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ottawa informed the team of the decision on Saturday, citing concerns over the public health risks associated with Major League Baseball’s plan for a 60-game season.
Marco Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, told CBC News Network that the circumstances did not warrant a border-crossing exemption, particularly in light of the amount of cross-border travel needed and the risks that remained. The plan called for the Blue Jays and visiting teams to cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly.
WATCH | ‘We’re taking decisions on the basis of evidence,’ Immigration minister says:
As of 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had 111,001 coronavirus infections. Provinces and territories listed 96,912 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 8,881, lower than Friday because Ontario retracted a reported death.
Ontario added 166 new cases on Saturday for a total of 37,440. The province also logged 132 new recoveries for a total of 33,294.
Quebec announced on Saturday that masks are now mandatory in indoor public spaces across the province. The new measure is kicking in as the province witnesses a slow but steady increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“It’s better to wear a mask than to be confined at home,” Premier François Legault said as he made the announcement last Monday. “It’s not fun wearing a mask, but it’s essential.”
The new directive, which applies to people aged 12 and older, coincided with tens of thousands of Quebecers spanning out on vacation with the beginning of the traditional two-week construction holiday.
WATCH | Quebec’s new mandatory mask rule is in effect:
Quebec is the first province to mandate face-covering, despite criticism from some who say the government shouldn’t have a blanket policy when most regions outside Montreal weren’t deeply affected by COVID-19.
Quebec added 158 new cases on Saturday for a total of 57,300, including 50,027 recoveries.
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador logged no new infections on Saturday.
WATCH | Labour lawyer cautions enforcing mask policies is likely to cause some conflict:
Here’s what’s happening around the world
In the U.S., infections are soaring in U.S. states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, fuelled by the haphazard lifting of lockdowns and the resistance of some Americans to wearing masks.
Teams of military medics have been deployed in Texas and California to help hospitals deal with a deluge of patients who are flooding emergency rooms in parts of the U.S. Some patients are being moved into hallways to make room for the most seriously ill and nurses are working extra shifts to keep up with the surge.
WATCH | British PM hoping for ‘significant return to normality’ by Christmas:
Patients struggling to breathe are being placed on ventilators in emergency wards since intensive care units are full, officials say. Patients are waiting “hours and hours” to get admitted, said Dr. Alison Haddock of the Baylor College of Medicine in the state of Texas, which reported a new daily record for virus deaths Friday and more than 10,000 confirmed cases for the fourth consecutive day.
More than 80 infants have tested positive for the virus in the state. “I’ve never seen anything like this COVID surge,” said Haddock, who has worked in emergency rooms since 2007. “We’re doing our best, but we’re not an ICU.”
The surge of infections means that millions of American children are unlikely to return to classrooms full time in the fall.
India on Sunday reported a 24-hour record surge of 38,902 new cases, taking the country’s total to 1,077,618. Elsewhere in Asia, China confirmed 13 new cases in the northwestern city of Urumqi while South Korea reported less than 40 additional cases for a second straight day.
South Africa now trails the U.S., Brazil, India — all far more populous countries — in the number of infections, surpassing Peru, after health authorities announced 13,285 new cases.
South Africa’s new coronavirus epicentre, Gauteng province, hosts the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria and one-quarter of the country’s population of 57 million, with many poor people living in crowded conditions in the middle of a frosty Southern Hemisphere winter.
European Union leaders are searching for compromises on Saturday as a summit to reach a deal on an unprecedented 1.85 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion US) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund enters its second day with tensions running high. A full day and night of discussions by the 27 leaders on Friday only added to the irritations over how the huge sums should be spent and what strings should be attached. The atmosphere “was grumpier this evening than this afternoon,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Dutch reporters after Friday’s marathon talks. “This is going to take a while, I think.”
China’s capital Beijing will lower the emergency response level of the coronavirus outbreak to Level III from level II, an official from the municipal government told a press briefing on Sunday. The city issued the second level response on June 16 after several infections of the new coronavirus were found to be linked to a major wholesale food market.
Syrians headed to polling stations in government-held parts of the war-torn country on Sunday to elect a new parliament amid strict health measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus amid an increase of cases in recent days.
The vote is the third to take place in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011. It has killed more than 400,000, displaced half the country’s population and sent more than five million as refugees mostly into neighbouring countries. As in previous votes in Syria, the vote will produce a rubber-stamp body loyal to the president.
Syria, that had a pre-war population of 22 million, has reported 496 cases of infections and 25 deaths because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. However, the actual numbers are likely far higher.
South Korean authorities also struggling to suppress an uptick in local infections, with 34 additional cases, 21 of them domestic and 13 from overseas, raising the country’s total to 13,745 with 295 deaths.
In Bangladesh, confirmed cases surpassed 200,000 but experts say the number is much higher as the country lacks adequate labs for testing. Most people in rural areas have stopped wearing masks and are thronging shopping centres ahead of the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha this month
In Australia, after a one-day respite, COVID-19 cases in the state of Victoria rose again, prompting a move to make masks mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne and the nearby shire of Mitchell. Health officials on Sunday recorded 363 new cases in the past 24 hours. Two men and a woman in their 90s died, taking the national death toll from COVID-19 to 122.
WATCH | Manhattan’s High Line park reopens with limited capacity:
Russia on Sunday reported 6,109 new cases and 95 more deaths from the coronavirus. The nationwide tally of infections has risen to 771,546 cases, Russia’s coronavirus crisis response centre said. The death toll now stands at 12,342, and 550,344 people have recovered.
Iran’s president on Saturday estimated as many as 25 million Iranians could have been infected with the coronavirus since the outbreak’s beginning, as he urged the public to take the pandemic seriously, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday. Hassan Rouhani cited a new Iranian Health Ministry study in offering the unprecedentedly high numbers. Rouhani also said about 30 million to 35 million Iranians will be infected to the virus in the coming months.