Spikes in novel coronavirus infections in the Asia-Pacific region have dispelled any notion that the worst may be over, with Australia, India and Hong Kong reporting record daily cases, Vietnam testing thousands and North Korea urging vigilance.
“We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters.
Australia for one recorded its deadliest day with at least 13 deaths and more than 700 new infections, mostly in the second-most populous state of Victoria, where the government ordered all residents to wear face coverings outside.
More than half of the country’s confirmed cases are in Victoria and its capital Melbourne, which is under a new lockdown.
Further restrictions on movement would deal a blow to the economy, already in its first recession in 30 years, but failure to control the outbreaks would do more economic harm in the long run, Morrison said.
The U.S. economy also faces a dim outlook. It shrank at a dizzying 33 per cent annual rate in the April-June quarter — by far the worst quarterly plunge ever — when the viral outbreak shut down businesses, throwing tens of millions out of work and sending unemployment surging to 14.7 per cent, the government said Thursday.
The job market, the most important pillar of the economy, has been severely damaged. Tens of millions of jobs vanished in the recession. More than one million laid-off people have applied for unemployment benefits for 19 straight weeks — including 1.4 million last week. So far, about one-third of the lost jobs have been recovered, but the resurgent virus will likely slow further gains in the job market.
Later, U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time floated a “delay” to November’s presidential election on Twitter, along with unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting will result in fraud.
The dates of presidential elections — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November every four years — are enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change. The Constitution makes no provisions for a delay to the Jan. 20, 2021, presidential inauguration.
A spokesperson for Trump later said Trump was “just raising a question” with the tweet, while multiple conservative lawmakers — including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell — pushed back against the suggestion.
Also Thursday, former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain died after battling the coronavirus. He was 74.
A post on Cain’s Twitter account on Thursday announced the death. Cain had been ill with the virus for several weeks. It’s not clear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalized less than two weeks after attending Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oka., in June.
British authorities meanwhile, are worried about a second wave of coronavirus infections in Europe and will not hesitate to bring back more quarantine measures, possibly within the next few days, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday.
“I am worried about a second wave. I think you can see a second wave starting to roll across Europe, and we’ve got to do everything we can to prevent it from reaching these shores and to tackle it,” Hancock said during an interview on Sky News.
WATCH | What could happen when COVID-19 collides with flu season:
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 3:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 115,619 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 100,631 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting indicates that 8,957 Canadians have died.
For many health specialists in Montreal, a second wave of coronavirus infections isn’t a matter of if but when — and how bad it will be.
And some epidemiologists believe the second wave may already be underway.
Those observations are based on the answers that 170 medical doctors, epidemiologists, public health experts and medical researchers provided to CBC Montreal in an informal survey circulated earlier this month.
WATCH | Infectious disease specialist on coronavirus vaccines, back-to-school plans:
Of the 170 who answered, two-thirds indicated that a second wave was “very likely.” A further 24 per cent said it was “somewhat likely.”
Other experts were more reluctant to offer predictions. They stress that because the virus is new, there is a lack of data allowing them to anticipate infection patterns.
WATCH | Elementary students in Ontario returning to class full time this fall:
In Ontario, the provincial government announced Thursday that elementary students will be heading back to school full time come September, while most high school students will split their time between the classroom and online learning.
Students in grades 4 through 12 will be required to wear a non-medical mask or cloth face covering while at school. Younger children will be encouraged, but not required, to do so. Medical masks will be provided for teachers and other staff.
What’s happening in the rest of the world
In the United Kingdom, scientists at Imperial College London say they are immunizing hundreds of people with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in an early trial after seeing no worrying safety problems in a small number vaccinated so far.
Dr. Robin Shattock told The Associated Press that he and colleagues have finished a very slow process of testing the vaccine at a low dose in the initial participants and would now expand the trial to about 300 people.
Earlier this week, the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccine study started in the United States. Several other vaccines made by China and by Britain’s Oxford University began smaller final-stage tests in Brazil and other hard-hit countries this month.
Germany‘s economy, Europe’s largest, took a massive hit during pandemic shutdowns, shrinking by 10.1 per cent during the April-June period from the previous quarter, the official statistics agency said Thursday.
It was the biggest drop since quarterly growth statistics began being compiled in 1970. The plunge far exceeded the previous worst-ever recorded performance, a fall of 4.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2009 during the global financial crisis.
South Africa‘s confirmed coronavirus cases are now above 471,000 as the country with the world’s fifth-largest confirmed caseload makes up well over half the recorded infections on the African continent.
Africa’s 54 countries have a total of more than 891,000 cases as local transmission of the virus is underway in many countries. Severe testing shortages mean the real number of cases is likely much higher. South Africa is also seeing far more “excess deaths” than in recent years.
India has registered more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours for the first time.
The record surge of 52,123 reported cases took the national total to 1,583,792 on Thursday. The health ministry also reported another 775 deaths in the past 24 hours, driving total fatalities up to 34,968.
India has reported the third-most coronavirus cases in the world after the U.S. and Brazil. The reported deaths from the virus in India, however, mark a far lower fatality rate than in the other two countries.
Brazil’s first lady and a fifth member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Thursday.
Science and Technology Minister Marcos Pontes wrote on Twitter that he tested positive after experiencing flu-like symptoms and headache. The 57-year-old is now in isolation.
The presidency’s press office said in a statement later that Michelle Bolsonaro, 38, also tested positive. The statement said she appeared to be in good health but would follow established protocols.
President Bolsonaro told reporters on July 7 he had been diagnosed with the coronavirus and was then confined to the presidential palace in the capital, Brasilia, for more than two weeks. He announced he tested negative on Saturday.
Poland may have to reimpose quarantine for travellers from countries such as Spain to contain the coronavirus, its prime minister said on Thursday, after the country reported 615 new cases, its highest daily number of infections so far.
Poland started lifting a lockdown in May and eased quarantine restrictions last month.
New infections were detected mainly in two regions, including the coal mining region of Silesia, health ministry spokesperson Wojciech Andrusiewicz said.
Andrusiewicz also told private broadcaster TVN24 that there may be a “high number of new infections” in the coming days. The ministry expects 150 to 200 new cases a day in the coming days in Silesia, as tests continue in three coal mines.
Vietnam began mass coronavirus testing in the capital, Hanoi, banned gatherings in its economic hub and urged tens of thousands of domestic travellers to report to authorities on Thursday, as the country scrambled to contain its first outbreak in 100 days.
Text messages were sent to all cellphones used by the country’s 95 million people, urging anyone who visited the popular coastal city of Danang in July to come forward, after a new wave of the virus spread to six cities and provinces in as many days, with 47 positive cases.
China is stepping up testing for the coronavirus in an attempt to get a handle on new outbreaks that have defied the country’s considerable success in containing the virus that was first detected in Wuhan late last year.
In the northeastern city of Dalian, local authorities have issued a letter to citizens urging all 5.6 million of them to be tested following consecutive days of new cases being reported, largely in the single digits.
In isolated North Korea, which currently says it has had no domestic cases, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper warned against carelessness. “A moment of inattention could cause a fatal crisis,” it said.
Earlier this week, the country’s state-run television network released a video of Pyongyang workers disinfecting the city as the state introduced tougher curbs against the coronavirus. That came after the town of Kaesong was locked down following reports of a person who defected to South Korea returning with potential symptoms of COVID-19.
Japan is bracing for a surge in the number of coronavirus infections after new daily cases exceeded 1,000 for a second straight day, a week after the start of a national travel campaign to revive the tourism industry.
The country had 1,266 new cases on Thursday, according to a tally by national broadcaster NHK, surpassing the previous record of 1,264, with infections spreading rapidly not only in Tokyo but in other regions, including remote islands.
Spain reported 1,229 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, topping 1,000 for the second day in a row and marking the biggest rise since a national lockdown was lifted on June 21, health ministry data showed.
The cumulative total rose to 285,430. That figure was up 2,789 on the previous day and includes results from antibody tests on people who may have already recovered.