The World Health Organization reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases on Friday, with the total rising by 292,527.
The biggest increases were from the United States, Brazil, India and South Africa, according to a daily report. Deaths rose by 6,812. The four countries have dominated global headlines with large outbreaks.
The previous WHO record for new cases was 284,196 on July 24. Deaths rose by 9,753 on July 24, the second-largest one-day increase ever. Deaths have been averaging 5,200 a day in July, up from an average of 4,600 a day in June.
Nearly 40 countries have reported record single-day increases in coronavirus infections over the last week, around double the number that did so the previous week, according to a Reuters tally showing a pick-up in the pandemic in every region of the world.
Cases have been on the rise also in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Bolivia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Uzbekistan and Israel, among others.
Last week, cases in Latin America for the first time surpassed the combined infections in the United States and Canada, a Reuters tally showed. Infections are surging in Brazil, which is second in the world behind the United States in cases and deaths.
Globally there are over 17.4 million infections and nearly 675,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
China-US ties plunge further over Hong Kong sanctions
China on Saturday slammed the United States for imposing “barbarous” sanctions against Hong Kong officials, capping a dramatic week of deteriorating relations between the world’s two biggest economies.
In the toughest U.S. action on Hong Kong since China imposed a sweeping new security law on the territory, Washington on Friday sanctioned a group of Chinese and Hong Kong officials — including the city’s leader Carrie Lam.
The move came after President Donald Trump’s administration forced Chinese internet giants TikTok and WeChat to end all operations in the U.S., in a twin diplomatic-commercial offensive set to grow ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.
China on Saturday criticized the sanctions as “barbarous and rude”.
“The ill intentions of U.S. politicians to support people who are anti-China and messing up Hong Kong have been clearly revealed,” Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said in a statement.
The Treasury Department announced it was freezing the U.S. assets of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and ten other senior officials, including Luo Huining — the head of the Liaison Office.
It accused the sanctioned individuals of being “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies” in Hong Kong.
The move criminalizes any U.S. financial transactions with the sanctioned officials.
In a short statement, Luo said he welcomed the blacklisting.
“I have done what I should do for the country and for Hong Kong,” he said.
“I don’t have a dime’s worth in foreign assets.”
The Hong Kong government described the sanctions as “shameless and despicable”.
A city government spokesman said in a statement that Washington was using “Hong Kong as a pawn in its ploy to create troubles in China-US relationship”.
|Participants hold up their cellphone’s flash lights as they take part in a rally in Central district on June 9, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Photo: AFP|
Tensions spike ahead of election
Beijing’s security law was imposed in late June, following last year’s huge protests in Hong Kong, sending a political chill through the semi-autonomous city.
Since then, authorities have postponed elections, citing the coronavirus pandemic, issued arrest warrants for six exiled activists and launched a crackdown on other activists.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the security law violated promises made by China ahead of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover that the city could keep key freedoms and autonomy for 50 years.
“Today’s actions send a clear message that the Hong Kong authorities’ actions are unacceptable,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The U.S. measures come three months ahead of the November election in which Trump, who is behind his rival Joe Biden, is campaigning hard on an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message.
As public disapproval has grown for his handling of the pandemic, Trump has pivoted from his previous focus on striking a trade deal with China to blaming the country for the coronavirus crisis.
|U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 22, 2020. Photo: AFP|
Tik Tok, WeChat bans
On Thursday, Trump made good on previous threats against WeChat and TikTok — two Chinese-owned apps with major audiences that U.S. officials say pose a national security threat.
In an executive order, Trump gave Americans 45 days to stop doing business with the platforms, effectively setting a deadline for a potential, under-pressure sale of TikTok to Microsoft.
The move also threw into doubt the American operations of WeChat’s parent firm, Tencent, a powerful player in the video game industry and one of the world’s richest companies.
China condemned the move as “arbitrary political manipulation”.
The new restrictions sent Tencent shares tanking as much as ten percent at one point in Hong Kong trade on Friday, wiping almost US$50 billion off its market capitalization.
Trump’s order claimed TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage.
TikTok has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing.
WeChat is a messaging, social media and electronic payment platform and is reported to have more than a billion users, with many preferring it to email.
The latest U.S. actions follow a protracted battle over Huawei, the Chinese network and smartphone giant accused by the Trump administration of being a tool for espionage.
|In this photo illustration, the social media application logo, TikTok is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on an American flag background on August 3, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: AFP|
Fauci warns COVID-19 vaccine may be only partially effective, public health measures still needed
An approved coronavirus vaccine could end up being effective only 50-60% of the time, meaning public health measures will still be needed to keep the pandemic under control, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, said on Friday.
“We don’t know yet what the efficacy might be. We don’t know if it will be 50% or 60%. I’d like it to be 75% or more,” Fauci said in a webinar hosted by Brown University.
“But the chances of it being 98% effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach.”
The novel coronavirus has infected nearly five million people in the United States and killed more than 160,000.
Lockdown measures imposed to keep the virus from spreading have devastated the economy, which suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression in the second quarter, with gross domestic product dropping at its steepest pace in at least 73 years.
As infections have spiked around the country after states started to open up, public health experts, including Fauci, have stressed the importance of steps that each American can take, including social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks.
Fauci said on Friday that studies of Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine could produce definitive data in November or December of this year.
He told Reuters earlier this week that he expects tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to be available by early 2021, and a billion doses by the end of that year.
U.S. President Donald Trump has put forward a more optimistic forecast, saying on Thursday the country could have a coronavirus vaccine before the Nov. 3 election.
City in China’s Inner Mongolia issues warning after bubonic plague patient dies
BEIJING — Authorities in a city in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia issued a warning after a patient who had bubonic plague died of multiple organ failure, state media reported on Saturday.
Cases of plague are not uncommon in China, although outbreaks have become increasingly rare. From 2009 to 2018, China reported 26 cases and 11 deaths.
The patient was confirmed to have bubonic plague, the People’s Daily reported, citing an announcement from the health committee of the Bayan Nur city.
The bubonic plague, known as the “Black Death” in the Middle Ages, is a highly infectious and often fatal disease that is spread mostly by rodents.
The committee issued a third-level alert, the second lowest in a four-level system, effective Friday to the end of 2020 to prevent the spread of the disease, the People’s Daily reported.
This marks the second death of a plague patient reported this month in the Inner Mongolia region.
On Thursday, authorities in Baotou city, which is adjacent to Bayan Nur city, reported that a patient with an “intestinal-type plague” died of circulatory system failure.
Bayan Nur authorities have locked down the area where the dead patient lived and quarantined seven close contacts of the patient, who have tested negative for the disease so far and taken preventive medicines.
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