- U.S. reports more than 58,000 new COVID-19 cases, Trump pushes for schools to reopen.
- Canada’s public health agency warns threat of COVID-19 resurgence in Canada ‘not just hypothetical.’
- The resort island of Bali, Indonesia, reopens after three-month virus lockdown.
- Federal government delivers grim economic forecast to Canadians in its “fiscal snapshot.”
- Tokyo confirms over 220 new cases, exceeds record daily increase from mid-April.
- South Africa prepares 1.5 million graves for potential coronavirus victims.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark will head a new panel tasked with giving “an honest assessment” of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, whose agency is facing a U.S. pullout following Trump administration complaints about its early handling of the virus emergency, announced the appointments to the newly created Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
“I cannot imagine two more strong-minded, independent leaders to help guide us through this critical learning process to help us understand what happened — an honest assessment — and to help us understand also what we should do to prevent such a tragedy in the future,” he said.
Tedros reiterated his calls for global unity and decried a general lack of leadership, but he made no reference to the Trump administration giving the formal one-year notice this week of its intent to withdraw the United States from the UN health agency.
The U.S. is WHO’s biggest donor, contributing $400-$500 million US annually in recent years.
“My friends, make no mistake: The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself. Rather, it’s the lack of leadership and solidarity at the global and national levels,” Tedros said at a weekly meeting of member states, which unusually was made public for the announcement of the panel appointments.
WATCH | WHO panel to review handling of COVID-19 pandemic:
He said he would convene a special meeting of WHO’s executive board in September, before hosting the assembly of its 194 member states in November. The World Health Assembly, usually held in May, was cut short and held online this year due to the pandemic.
“We must be readying ourselves for future global outbreaks and the many other challenges of our time, such as anti-microbial resistance, inequality and the climate crisis,” Tedros said. “COVID-19 has taken so much from us. But it’s also giving us an opportunity to break with the past — and build back better.”
The assembly in May called for a comprehensive evaluation of WHO’s and the world’s response to the outbreak, and after repeated Trump administration criticism of the UN health agency over its handling of the pandemic and alleged deference to China, where COVID-19 first emerged.
Tedros said the panel would have an independent administration, update member states regularly on its progress and hold monthly meetings.
“This cannot be another blue-ribbon panel that issues a report that goes up on the bookshelf,” he said. “We must come together in a global conversation to take these hard-won lessons and turn them into action.”
“My hope is that the defining crisis of our age will likewise remind all people that the best way forward and all the only way forward is together.”
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of noon ET on Thursday, Canada had 106,743 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 70,503 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,783.
WATCH | Bill Morneau on $343B deficit, post-pandemic recovery:
The federal government delivered Wednesday a grim economic forecast to Canadians in its “fiscal snapshot.”
The pandemic has sent the deficit soaring to a historic $343.2 billion, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said.
Nearly two million Canadian workers could remain unemployed this year.
Morneau said one of his priorities is to fix the social and economic gaps that left women, young people and racialized Canadians to suffer the biggest economic blows from the coronavirus crisis.
Here’s what’s happening around the world
According to John Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases was at 12.09 million as of noon ET on Thursday. Over 550,000 people have died, while 6.6 million have recovered. The U.S. and Brazil lead case numbers, with a combined total of more than 4.7 million.
As the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States rose to a single-day record, fresh government data on Thursday showed another 1.3 million Americans filed for jobless benefits, highlighting the pandemic’s devastating impact on the economy.
More than 60,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported on Wednesday, and U.S. deaths rose by more than 900 for the second straight day, the highest since early June.
The number of confirmed cases in the country has passed three million — meaning nearly one in every 100 people has been confirmed as infected — and the number of deaths is more than 132,000.
Florida on Thursday announced nearly 9,000 new cases and 120 new deaths, a record daily increase in lives lost. Positive test rates reached a new daily high of 18 per cent, up from 12 to 13 per cent two weeks ago. California and Texas, the most populous states, announced record increases in COVID deaths on Wednesday.
The grim U.S. numbers come on top of extraordinarily high jobless figures, although they came in lower than economists had forecast.
Initial unemployment claims hit a historic peak of nearly 6.9 million in late March. Although they have gradually fallen, claims remain roughly double their highest point during the 2007-09 Great Recession.
With coronavirus cases rising in 41 of 50 U.S. states over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis, many states have had to halt and roll back plans to reopen businesses and lift restrictions. From California to Florida, beaches and bars have been ordered to close. Restaurants in Texas have been told they can have fewer diners.
While cases soar across the country, U.S. President Donald Trump remains determined to reopen America’s schools despite worries about the virus and on Wednesday, threatened to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall. He complained that his own public health officials’ safety guidelines are impractical and too expensive.
WATCH | Infection control specialist on importance of wearing mask to limit coronavirus spread:
Despite Trump’s pressure, New York City announced that most of its students would return to classrooms only two or three days a week and would learn online in between.
“Most schools will not be able to have all their kids in school at the same time,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
India reported nearly 25,000 new coronavirus infections Thursday, and its transmission rate is increasing for the first time since March.
The new cases bring the total in the world’s third worst-affected country to 767,296. India’s health ministry said the COVID-19 death toll had risen to 21,129.
Research by the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai showed that India’s virus reproduction rate ticked up in the first week of July to 1.19 after steadily falling from peak transmission of 1.83 in March. The rate needs to be below one for new cases to start falling.
India’s infection numbers have skyrocketed since lockdown restrictions were eased. At the same time, testing has ramped up to more than 200,000 samples a day, compared to just a few hundred in March.
In Australia, which had initial success containing the outbreak, authorities on Thursday reported 179 new cases, most of them in the city of Melbourne, where authorities are battling a resurgence and have imposed a new six-week lockdown.
Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said six new cases were from a Melbourne high school that has become the state’s largest known cluster, with 113 people infected. More than 2,000 students and hundreds of staff are in quarantine.
WATCH | Indian cook creates flatbreads shaped like masks to raise awareness about coronavirus:
Tokyo confirmed more than 220 new cases Thursday, exceeding its record daily increase from mid-April and prompting concerns of widening infections. Tokyo’s more than 7,000 cases are about one-third of the nation’s total.
Experts on Tokyo’s virus task force said the majority of recent cases were linked to nightclubs, but rising infections from households, workplaces and parties raised concerns the virus is spreading in the wider community.
Serbian police fired tear gas to disperse rock-throwing protesters in the capital as violence erupted for a second day during demonstrations against the president’s handling of the outbreak.
President Aleksandar Vucic backtracked on reinstating a lockdown in Belgrade this week, but demonstrations in front of parliament turned violent, with protesters firing flares and throwing stones while trying to storm the downtown parliament building.
A number of people were injured. Critics of the autocratic Vucic say his lifting of the previous lockdown measures contributed to the current surge in cases and was done for political reasons.
The resort island of Bali in Indonesia reopened Thursday after a three-month virus lockdown, allowing local people and stranded foreign tourists to resume public activities before foreign arrivals resume in September.
Beaches and streets on the island emptied in early April except for special patrols to ensure virus-containment protocols were observed. Authorities restricted public activities, closed the airport and shut down shops, restaurants and many other places.
The move comes as infections continue to surge in Indonesia. The nation reported a record of nearly 2,000 new infections in its latest daily update.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is turning himself into a test case for hydroxychloroquine live before millions as he swallows pills on social media and encourages others to do the same.
Bolsonaro said this week that he tested positive for the virus but already felt better thanks to the unproven anti-malaria drug. Hours later, he shared a video of himself gulping down what he said was his third dose.
He was again extolling the drug’s benefits on Facebook and claimed that his political opponents were rooting against it.
A string of studies in the United Kingdom and the U.S., as well as by WHO have found chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine ineffective against COVID-19 and sometimes deadly because of their adverse side effects on the heart. Several studies were cancelled early because of adverse effects.
The COVID-19 pandemic in Africa is reaching “full speed,” the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention chief said Thursday, while an official said a province in South Africa is preparing 1.5 million graves.
Just a day after confirmed coronavirus cases across the continent surpassed the half-million milestone, the total was over 522,000 and climbing, with more than 12,000 deaths. With testing levels low, the real numbers are unknown.
South Africa has the most confirmed cases with over 224,000, and for the first time Gauteng province — home to Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria — has the country’s most cases with over 75,000, or 33 per cent.
Provincial official Bandile Masuku, a medical doctor, startled South Africans when he told reporters Wednesday that Gauteng is preparing over 1.5 million graves.
“It’s a reality that we need to deal with,” he said, and it’s the public’s responsibility “to make sure that we don’t get there.”
Modelling has shown that South Africa will have nowhere close to that many deaths in the months ahead. Several models forecast between 40,000 and 80,000 by the end of the year.