Coronavirus digest: Finland in face mask U-turn, recommends usage | News | DW | 13.08.2020
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Coronavirus digest: Finland in face mask U-turn, recommends usage

Finnish health authorities have said citizens should wear face masks in public, after previously questioning the necessity. Find out more about the pandemic's latest major developments.

Finnish health authorities have backtracked on previous advice, and now urging people to wear face masks in public places.

The U-turn comes after months of claiming there was insufficient evidence to justify their use.

Mika Salminen, a director at Finland's public health body, said: "Evidence of masks' effectiveness is not particularly strong" but "even small additions to our range of available options are justified."

The number of cases in Finland is slowly increasing, with 219 new confirmed infections in the last two weeks.

Read more: Germany: Coronavirus widens the social divide

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the world will need to spend at least $100 billion (€84.6 billion) on new ways to fight the coronavirus, which has infected nearly than 20.7 million people globally and killed almost 750,000. A senior WHO adviser, Bruce Aylward, also said at a briefing in Geneva that the UN health agency did not have enough information to assess whether a new Russian vaccine should be used for mass inoculations. Russia on Tuesday become the world's first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, but the news has provoked skepticism among many health authorities worldwide, who are concerned that corners may have been cut in safety testing.

Europe

Spain reported a major jump in new cases of coronavirus infection on Thursday, with 2,935 positive diagnoses in the past 24 hours compared with 1,690 the day before. The total number of cases is now 337,334, with a death toll of 28,605, according to Health Ministry data. Spain's northwestern region of Galicia has imposed a ban on smoking in public spaces if social distancing cannot be guaranteed. The Spanish Society of Epidemiology last month had called for a ban on smoking, arguing that asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers "could release droplets" containing the virus when exhaling, "which put at risk the rest of the population."

Norway announced it is reimposing 10-day quarantine measures, effective Saturday, on travelers from Poland, Malta, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Denmark's Faroe Islands, and some parts of Sweden amid rising COVID-19 rates. The prime minister also urged Norwegians to avoid traveling abroad in a bid to stem new infections in the country. 

France has hit a new post-lockdown record for daily infections, tallying 2,524 new coronavirus cases. Despite the spike in infections, the Health Ministry has said there was no strain on hospitals — as the virus has circulated mainly among young people.

Kosovo's KF Drita soccer club was forced to forfeit its Champions League qualifier on Wednesday after two players became infected with the coronavirus. It marked the first time that UEFA, which organizes the elite football competition, had to make such a ruling during the pandemic. Northern Ireland's champion club Linfield advances to the next stage of the tournament's 2020-21 qualifying rounds.

Read moreCoronavirus: EU's COVID-19 hot spots push up infection rates

Americas

Ecuador's former President Abdala Bucaram has been arrested in an organized crime probe in connection with a scandal involving the suspected illegal sale of COVID-19 medical supplies. The 68-year-old's arrest is linked to an investigation into the murder of an Israeli man who was jailed for allegedly selling medical supplies illegally. Bucaram, known for his wild antics, was president for only about six months beginning in 1996 — but was removed from office after corruption allegations and mass protests. He went into exile in Panama for two decades.

Peru has banned family gatherings and reimposed a blanket ban on leaving the house on Sundays amid a fresh surge in coronavirus cases. Figures showed a 75% spike in infections among children and adolescents, according to Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra.

Read moreCoronavirus crisis: Airlines make it difficult to get refunds for canceled flights 

Watch video 12:06

The race for a vaccine

Asia

India registered another record daily rise in infections on Thursday, while the death toll exceeded 47,000. Infections increased by 66,999 from a day earlier to reach a total of 2.4 million to date, the health ministry announced. India has now recorded a jump of 50,000 cases or more each day for 15 consecutive days.

The Philippines plans to start clinical trials for a Russian coronavirus vaccine in October, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman said. Duterte is expected to be vaccinated as early as May 2021. The Southeast Asian country is set to run phase three clinical trials from October to March 2021, after experts complete a review on Russia's phase one and two trials in September, the spokesman said at a briefing.

Australia marked its lowest rise in new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks on Thursday, one day after the country recorded its deadliest day since the pandemic began. 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday said she expected the coronavirus cluster in the country to grow before it slows down. "As we all learnt from our first experience with COVID, once you identify a cluster, it grows before it slows. We should expect that to be the case here," Ardern said. Auckland — the country's largest city — went into lockdown after health authorities were unable to trace the origin of the virus that infected a family, ending New Zealand's highly touted run of 102 days without community transmission.

Watch video 13:50

Duterte on Russian vaccine: 'If it works on me, then it is good for everyone'

Middle East

Jordan is to close its northern border crossing with Syria for one week after a spike in COVID-19 cases, officials said Wednesday. The move came after a number of employees at the Jaber land crossing — the only open land crossing with Syria — became infected. 

stb, mvb, jsi/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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