Iraq’s health ministry has warned hospitals may “lose control” in the coming days as the country has recorded its highest single-day rise in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 until the middle of next year, a spokeswoman said, stressing the importance of rigorous checks on their effectiveness and safety.
Brazil’s caseload topped four million as Australia extended its ban on international travel for three more months and New Zealand announced it will retain current restrictions until mid-September as a precautionary measure.
More than 26.4 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and more than 870,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 17.5 million people have recovered.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, September 4
20:35 GMT – Liberia sacks top health official over coronavirus testing
Liberian president George Weah has sacked the country’s top health official over his handling of coronavirus testing.
Mososka Fallah, director general of the Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), was removed from his post for “breaches in the health and administrative protocols that guide the issuance of Covid-19 test results,” Weah’s office said in a statement.
The decision was made on the recommendation of a committee set up to investigate the matter.
The exact nature of allegations against Fallah was not revealed, but Weah promised to publish the committee’s report at a later date.
19:47 GMT – After highest increase in cases yet, Iraq warns it may ‘lose control’
Iraq has recorded its highest single-day rise in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, prompting authorities to warn hospitals may “lose control” in the coming days.
According to the Iraqi health ministry, 5,036 new coronavirus infections were confirmed bringing the total number of cases across the country to 252,075, with a death toll of 7,359.
The health ministry attributed the spike to recent “large gatherings” that took place without recommended safety measures, including mask-wearing or social distancing.
“The number of cases is expected to escalate further in the coming days, which we fear will lead our health institutions to lose control as they try to deal with these large numbers,” its statement said.
In June doctors had warned that a surge in cases is imminent and that the healthcare system is close to collapse.
Iraq infections: Doctors warn a surge in cases is imminent
19:30 GMT – Spain breaks single-day record for highest infections
Spain’s health ministry has confirmed 10,476 new coronavirus cases, the highest single-day jump since the pandemic began.
The previous daily record was set last Friday, with just under 9,800 new infections in a day.
The country also broke its post-lockdown record in terms of COVID-19 deaths. Another 184 people died, bringing the total number of deaths to 29,418.
17:52 GMT – France reports record of nearly 9,000 cases
France has registered nearly 9,000 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, the highest daily figure since the pandemic swept into the country last March, the country’s health agency has said.
The total of 8,975 reported infections from Thursday to Friday came as authorities have increased testing capacities nationwide, but the caseload was still sharply above the 7,000 seen in recent days.
As of September 1, France has registered 30,661 coronavirus deaths, according to the Sante Publique France health agency, which warned again on Thursday of an “exponential” increase in new cases.
COVID-19: The Beginning of a Pandemic | Between Us
17:06 GMT – Bahrain to allow entry to people from neighbouring Gulf countries, visa holders
Bahrain will now allow residents from neighbouring Gulf countries as well as holders of electronic visas and those eligible for visas on arrival, its airport authority has said.
A PCR test for the coronavirus is compulsory on arrival and at travellers’ expense, the airport said on its official Twitter account. Passengers would have to self-isolate until the results of the test are received and are negative.
16:12 GMT – Vaccine must be proven safe before mass rollout: WHO’s chief scientist
The World Health Organization’s chief scientist has said that no vaccine for the coronavirus should be approved for a worldwide rollout until it has undergone sufficient scrutiny and proved its safety and efficacy.
“No vaccine is going to be mass-deployed until regulators are confident, governments are confident, and the WHO is confident it has met the minimum standard of safety” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at a news briefing in Geneva.
15:48 GMT – ‘Vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic’: WHO’s Tedros
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for countries worldwide to combat the coronavirus together, saying that “vaccine nationalism” would only slow the response to the pandemic.
The WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance are leading a global vaccine allocation plan known as COVAX aimed at helping to buy and distribute vaccination shots fairly.
But some countries that have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the US, have said they will not join COVAX.
“Vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic,” Tedros told reporters at a WHO briefing in Geneva.
15:20 GMT – UK records 1,940 new cases, highest since May 30
The UK has recorded 1,940 new coronavirus cases, the highest since May 30, health officials have said.
Daily case numbers had been rising at about 1,000 a day for most of August, but have started to increase recently.
UK’s testing capacity has also increased since the peak of the first wave earlier this year.
UK dementia patients face challenges during lockdown
14:54 GMT – Italy’s Berlusconi has slight lung infection: doctor
Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is suffering a slight lung infection after coming down with coronavirus, but his condition is not worrying, his personal doctor Alberto Zangrillo has said.
Zangrillo told reporters he decided to hospitalise Berlusconi late on Thursday as a precautionary measure due to his age and previous health problems.
Berlusconi is 83 years old and underwent major heart surgery in 2016.
14:25 GMT – Iraq registers 5,036 new cases, a record single-day increase
Iraq has registered 5,036 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, its health ministry has said, a record single-day increase in the country.
The ministry said on Friday 84 people had died of the virus in that period.
Iraq, like many other countries, imposed a lockdown in March and suspended international flights in order to slow the spread of the virus.
However, case numbers have been increasing steadily since the government began to ease the restrictions in the following months.
13:45 GMT – Measures tighten in Czech capital
People will be required to wear protective masks in shops and shopping centres in the Czech capital Prague under moves announced on Friday following a rise in coronavirus cases.
Prague chief public health officer Zdenka Jagrova said that under the new restrictions, which come into effect on September 9, bars and clubs in Prague will have to close by midnight.
Children must wear masks in common areas in schools from September 14, she said.
13:38 GMT – UK PM Johnson says no doubt that transit will continue to be crucial
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that mass transit systems will remain crucial for the country’s economy for decades to come, rejecting the suggestion the coronavirus pandemic would permanently change work and travel patterns.
“I’ve got absolutely no doubt that mass transit and transport infrastructure is going to be crucial for our country, not just now, but in the decades ahead,” Johnson said on Friday, speaking to reporters from the site of a high speed railway project. __
Hello, this is Mersiha Gadzo in Toronto, Canada taking over the live updates from my colleague Tamila Varshalomidze in Doha, Qatar.
12:23 GMT – Japan to bear cost of coronavirus vaccines for populace
Japan’s government said it would bear the cost of providing coronavirus vaccines to the populace, as it aims for a comprehensive inoculation against the pandemic.
The government also said it planned to establish funds to compensate for possible side effects from vaccines.
The plans were outlined in documents distributed at a briefing by Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who also heads the coronavirus response.
11:40 GMT – Russia vaccine passes early trial test: Report
Patients involved in early tests of a Russian coronavirus vaccine developed antibodies with “no serious adverse events”, according to research published in The Lancet, but experts said the trials were too small to prove safety and effectiveness.
Russia announced last month that its vaccine, named “Sputnik V” after the Soviet-era satellite that was the first launched into space in 1957, had already received approval.
This raised concerns among Western scientists over a lack of safety data, with some warning that moving too quickly on a vaccine could be dangerous.
Read more here.
10:25 GMT – Madrid expands restrictions to indoor gatherings
The Madrid regional government is further restricting family reunions and social gatherings to curb a spike in coronavirus cases just as schools are set to reopen.
An existing ban on outdoor meetings of more than 10 people is now being extended indoors, after most new recent infections have been tied to gatherings at homes.
Funerals, burials, weddings and religious celebrations, as well as group visits to museums or guided tourism, will also be restricted starting Monday.
Teachers and non-academic personnel queue to undergo PCR tests at a school in Madrid [Senhan Bolelli/Anadolu]
10:15 GMT – Widespread COVID-19 vaccinations not expected until mid-2021
A WHO spokeswoman said the agency does not expect widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 until the middle of next year, underlining the significance of rigorous checks on their effectiveness and safety.
“We are not expecting to see widespread vaccination until the middle of next year,” she told journalists at a briefing in Geneva.
“This phase three must take longer because we need to see how truly protective the vaccine is and we also need to see how safe it is,” added Harris, referring to vaccine clinical trials.
07:15 GMT – Berlusconi hospitalised with bilateral pneumonia
Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, has been hospitalised “as a precaution”, according to a statement from his entourage.
It said the media tycoon was taken to San Raffaele hospital in Milan on Thursday night after suffering “certain symptoms”, but there was “no cause for concern”.
Later, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported that Berlusconi has early stage bilateral pneumonia.
Former Italian prime minister and leader of the Forza Italia party, Silvio Berlusconi, gestures during a rally ahead of a regional election in Emilia-Romagna, in Ravenna [Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters]
07:09 GMT – 22 schools closed in France due to coronavirus
French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said 22 schools were closed in France due to cases of COVID-19.
“In mainland France, there are currently 12 schools closed out of a total of over 60,000, which is a small figure. Adding 10 schools in La Reunion [island], that makes it 22,” Blanquer told Europe 1 radio.
As more than 12 million pupils returned to school in France on Tuesday, some parents and teachers’ unions have voiced concern at plans for reopening classrooms as the spread of the virus gathers renewed pace.
06:16 GMT – New Zealand records first COVID-19 death in over three months
New Zealand recorded its first coronavirus death in more than three months when a man in his 50s succumbed to the virus.
Health officials said the man was part of a second-wave cluster of infections that emerged in Auckland last month, ending a spell of 102 days free of community transmission in the South Pacific nation.
The death at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital on Friday afternoon takes New Zealand’s death toll from the virus to 23, with the most recent death on May 24.
Hello, this is Tamila Varshalomidze in Doha, Qatar, taking over the live updates from my colleague Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
05:03 GMT – India’s caseload nears four million
India reported a daily jump of 83,341 coronavirus infections, taking its tally to 3.94 million, health ministry data showed.
Asia’s worst-hit country is now closing in on Brazil as the world’s second most-affected nation from the virus. The ministry said 1,096 people died from COVID-19, taking India’s toll to 68,472.
A health official collects nasal and throat swab samples from a boy to test for COVID-19 at a primary health centre in Siliguri, India [Diptendu Dutta/ AFP]
04:42 GMT – Turkey extends layoff ban by two months
Turkey has extended by two months a layoff ban it introduced to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The presidential decision, which retains the ban until mid-November, was announced in the country’s official gazette on Friday.
The measure was first imposed in April for three months, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has the authority to extend it until July 2021.
04:24 GMT – Australia’s toll surges on historic deaths from aged care homes
Australian authorities have added 53 deaths at nursing homes from earlier this year to the country’s coronavirus death toll.
Those deaths plus six that officials reported on Friday for the previous 24 hours raises Australia’s toll from the pandemic to 737.
Victoria state officials say the 53 earlier deaths were determined from reconciling numbers from July and August. An outbreak in the city of Melbourne has raced through dozens of aged care homes, resulting in hundreds of deaths.
Australia’s economy goes down under with record, virus-led slump (2:24)
03:55 GMT – S Korea restrictions keep new cases under 200
The number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea has stayed below 200 for the second consecutive day amid toughened social distancing rules.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it confirmed 198 additional cases in the latest 24-hour period, taking the country’s total to 20,842, with 331 deaths. About 70 percent of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.
Authorities in the Seoul area have recently restricted dining at restaurants and ordered the shutdown of churches, night establishments and after-school academics.
03:11 GMT – New Zealand to maintain coronavirus curbs until mid-September
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that New Zealand would keep its current coronavirus restrictions in place until at least mid-September as a precaution.
Authorities had earlier lifted a lockdown in the city of Auckland following an outbreak there that began last month, but they continue to limit gathering sizes across the country and mandate that people wear masks on public transport.
“The best economic response remains a strong health response. If we get it right we will ultimately shake off restrictions faster and lessen the risk of bouncing around,” Ardern told a news conference.
New Zealand reported five new virus cases on Friday, two among returning travellers already in quarantine and three connected to the Auckland outbreak.
BETWEEN US | COVID-19: The Beginning of a Pandemic (4:38)
03:02 GMT – Australia extends international travel ban
Greg Hunt, the Australian health minister, extended restrictions on international travel and the entry of cruise ships until December 17 to protect the country against the spread of the coronavirus.
He cited the “unacceptable public health risk” posed by COVID-19 for the decision.
The restrictions on all international visitors were announced in March, with Australians and permanent residents also banned from leaving the country unless granted an exemption.
02:49 GMT – South Korean doctors expected to end strike
South Korean doctors have agreed to end a two-week strike which has hindered efforts to curb a new wave of coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, after overnight talks over the government’s medical reform plans.
Chung said the government, the ruling party and the Korean Medical Association that represents the industry have reached a “dramatic compromise” and he expects “they will sign an agreement today”.
A Korean Medical Association spokesman said an event to sign an agreement was expected but nothing was final until it actually takes place.
Some 16,000 intern and resident doctors have been on strike since August 21.
Medical residents and doctors attend a 24-hour strike amid to protest against the government’s medical reform plans [File: Heo Ran/ Reuters]
02:35 GMT – Virgin Atlantic to cut over 1,000 more jobs
Virgin Atlantic is preparing to cut more than 1,000 jobs after seeing a slower-than-expected recovery in international demand for air travel, Sky News reported.
The airline will announce the layoffs as soon as Friday, the report said, adding that the latest round of cuts, if confirmed, would mean that Virgin Atlantic’s workforce has almost halved from about 10,000 people before the coronavirus pandemic.
Virtual tours take off globally in times of coronavirus (2:34)
02:12 GMT – Three more PSG players positive for coronavirus
Three more Paris Saint-Germain players tested positive for the coronavirus, taking the number so far to six and throwing the club’s start to the new season into chaos.
PSG announced the positive tests, without giving the names of the players and only saying that they are “subject to the appropriate health protocol”.
Sports daily L’Equipe named them as defender Marquinhos, goalkeeper Keylor Navas and striker Mauro Icardi. The other three cases, confirmed by the club on Wednesday, reportedly are forward Neymar, winger Angel Di Maria and midfielder Leandro Paredes.
PSG was due to play their first game of the new season away to Lens on September 10. The French champion is also meant to face bitter rival Marseille at home three days afterwards, but both could yet be postponed because of health and safety protocols.
01:35 GMT – Brazil’s coronavirus cases top 4 million
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil has risen above four million, after health authorities logged 43,733 new infections at the end of Thursday.
Data from the health ministry also showed that the virus has caused nearly 125,000 deaths in Brazil.
Both totals are the second-highest for any country in the world, behind the US, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
01:19 GMT – 100 million discounted meals eaten in UK during August
Around 100 million discounted meals were eaten by British diners during August as part of a government drive to encourage nervous customers back to restaurants.
Under the so-called “Eat Out to Help Out” programme, sitting customers could receive a 50 percent discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks at participating restaurants between Monday and Wednesday up to 10 pounds ($13) per person.
Official figures show the programme for August cost more than envisioned, racking up a cost of 522 million pounds ($680m), 22 million pounds more than estimated.
Diners have lunch outside a restaurant in Manchester, UK, as the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme continues [File: Jason Cairnduff/ Reuters]
Critics said the scheme did not change the underlying dynamics facing the industry, but Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the programme helped protect the jobs of 1.8 million people working in the hospitality sector and boosted the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus-recession.
“From the get-go, our mission has been to protect jobs, and to do this we needed to be creative, brave and try things that no government has ever done before,” he said.
00:58 GMT – ‘The Batman’ shoot suspended after positive COVID-19 test
British actor Robert Pattinson has tested positive for COVID-19, news media reported, temporarily halting the production of “The Batman”.
Warner Bros said in a statement that “a member of The Batman production” in the United Kingdom had tested positive for the coronavirus, but did not give a name. Variety, the Hollywood Reporter and Vanity Fair all cited sources as saying the person who tested positive was Pattinson, the film’s star.
00:24 GMT – At least 7,000 health workers dead from coronavirus, Amnesty says
At least 7,000 health workers worldwide have died after being infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,300 in Mexico alone, the most for any country, according to Amnesty International.
“Every health worker has the right to be safe at work, and it is a scandal that so many are paying the ultimate price,” said Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty.
“Many months into the pandemic, health workers are still dying at horrific rates in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and the USA, while the rapid spread of infections in South Africa and India show the need for all states to take action.”
Other hard-hit countries include the US with 1,077 deaths among health workers, the UK with 649, Brazil with 634, Russia with 631 and India with 573.
Even these figures are likely to be “a significant underestimate,” as deaths may not have been officially registered in many countries, Amnesty said.
00:11 GMT – Tracing apps may stem COVID-19 spread even when only a few use them
Contact tracing apps can sharply reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus even when only a few people use them, according to a study published by researchers at Google and Oxford University.
An app used by 15 percent of the population together with a well-staffed contact-tracing workforce can lead to a 15 percent drop in infection rates and an 11 percent drop in COVID-19 deaths, according to statistical modelling by the Alphabet Inc unit and Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine.
With a 15 percent uptake of contact tracing apps alone, the researchers calculated an 8 percent reduction in infections and a 6 percent reduction in deaths.
The findings were based on data from a digital tracing system similar to one jointly developed by Google and Apple Inc.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives.
For key developments from yesterday, go here.