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Coronavirus digest: Severe Belgian cases double in a month

August 3, 2020

The number of intensive care patients in Belgium has spiked, and authorities say most new cases are young people. Catch up with this and other latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

People wearing medical face masks walk down a street in Brussels, Belgium
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Aydemir

New and noteworthy

Coronavirus patients in intensive care units have doubled within a month in Belgium, the country's health officials warned Monday, adding that younger people account for the bulk of new infections.  

"We can see that the virus is circulating intensively in our territory. The numbers continue to rise," federal virus taskforce spokeswoman Frederique Jacobs said.

"There are no less than 13 municipalities in which more than 100 people per 100,000 inhabitants have tested positive, that's one person in 1,000 infected as of last week."

The majority of new infections are among young adults, Jacobs said, but nevertheless, "The number of people admitted to intensive care has doubled since the beginning of July."

The rate of daily new cases in Belgium rose 68% since the last week of July. The daily number of hospitalizations has gone up by more than a third. A total of 69,849 cases have been recorded in Belgium.

With cases again on the rise, the country of 11 million is delaying plans to further ease anti-virus restrictions and authorities are imposing tougher controls in the port city of Antwerp.

Here's a roundup of the other major stories regarding coronavirus around the world:

Belgium: Love in the age of coronavirus


A body of lawyers in Hong Kong have said that their government's move to postpone Legislative Council elections may be unlawful.

There are "serious doubts about the legal and evidential basis of the government's decision," the Hong Kong's Bar Association said on Sunday.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Friday had announced that she was postponing an election planned for September 6 for one year due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the mandate of Hong Kong's current Legislative Council is due to expire. Lam asked China's parliament to resolve the issue.

The bar association said the local government was "effectively inviting" Beijing to "override the relevant provisions" of its mini-constitution.

Authorities in the Philippines said on Sunday they would reimpose a stricter lockdown in the capital, Manila, and nearby provinces on Tuesday, with restrictions remaining till August 18.

Under the lockdown, some businesses and public transport are expected to be shut down in the capital, and work and quarantine passes will be required. Currently, the city is under restrictions but of a less stringent nature.

The move, approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, comes after 80 local groups representing medical workers called for a reimposition of lockdown restrictions, saying the country was losing its battle against the pandemic.

The country experienced its largest daily rise in recorded infections on Sunday, with 5,032 new cases taking the confirmed total to 103,185. The death toll rose by 20 to 2,059.

The toll of infections and death is the second-highest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

Manila and other provinces were already subject to one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world for three months from mid-March. President Rodrigo Duterte began loosening the restrictions in June in a bid to revive the economy, which is facing its biggest slump in more than three decades.

Read more: COVID-19 in Philippines: Police deployed to implement fresh lockdowns

Australia's second-biggest city of Melbourne is under an overnight curfew, after a surge of infections in the state of which it is the capital, Victoria, caused authorities to declare a state of disaster.

Under newly imposed restrictions, Melbourne residents will be allowed to shop and exercise only within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of their homes, while students will return to learning at home. L

Less strict restrictions are in force in other regions of the state, which currently has 6,322 cases of active infection. The measures are to stay in place until at least September 13.

India's Interior Minister Amit Shah, 55, who heads the ministry that is mainly responsible for managing the epidemic in the country, has tested positive for COVID-19 and been admitted to hospital. He is the most senior politician in India to have contracted the disease.

Meanwhile, renowned veteran Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, who was taken to hospital on July 11 with his son Abhishek after testing positive for the disease, has been discharged from hospital in Mumbai. In a tweet, he thanked the staff at Nanavati Hospital for his recovery.

India has recorded its steepest spike of 57,118 new cases over the past day, taking its coronavirus caseload close to 1.7 million, with July alone accounting for nearly 1.1 million infections. Is public negligence causing a surge in cases? Read our full story here.

In the Philippines, coronavirus infections have passed the 100,000 mark after a record 5,032 cases were reported on Sunday. The total caseload is now 103,185, with the death toll also rising on Sunday by 20 to 2,059. Health care workers have called on the government to reimpose a lockdown in the capital, Manila, in a bid to curb the spread of the disease.


School children in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern went back to school on Monday, the first state in Germany where the academic year has started again following the summer holidays. For the first time since the coronavirus lockdown closed schools in mid-March, the state's 152,700 pupils and students will once again have daily classes.

Around 400 of the state's 13,000 teachers are considered at high risk for COVID-19 and will therefore work from home. Consequently, distance learning will continue to play a role this school year.

To minimize the risk of infection, pupils have been divided into set groups which are not to intermingle, though social-distancing within those groups is not required. Medical face masks are also required in the halls of the building.

Some islands in the northern state of Schleswig-Holsten also returned to school on Monday. The city of Hamburg will follow suit on Thursday, with schools in Berlin, the surrounding state of Brandenburg, as well as the western state of North Rhine Westphalia due to join next week.

Schools in northern Germany reopen after summer break

The northern English city of Manchester has declared a "major incident" to increase coordination and free resources to combat a rising number of coronavirus cases, a local official was quoted as saying by the Manchester Evening News.

"It allows the establishment of a central command structure to oversee the response and enables agencies involved to draw on extra resources," said the head of the city council, Richard Leese.

He said such a declaration was "standard practice" for situations where several agencies had to coordinate and that residents should not be alarmed.

Belgium is the latest European country to ban travel to some areas of Spain due to a surge in cases. The regions of Navarra and Aragon, along with the Catalan cities of Barcelona and Lleida are now prohibited for non-essential travel.

Belgium has also put areas in Bulgaria, Romania, central England, northern France and Switzerland on its red list, which means anyone returning from these locations must self-isolate.

From Saturday, arrivals into Belgium have to fill out forms stating where they have been over the past 14 days.

Around 20,000 protesters rallied in Germany's capital Berlin on Saturday, with many ignoring social distancing rules and labeling the pandemic a "false alarm." Police eventually broke up the demonstration and some people were forcibly removed by officers. Read more about the protests

Read more: Germany plans mandatory coronavirus tests for travelers from Luxembourg

Latin America

Rising death tolls in countries like Brazil and Mexico have cemented Latin America's status as one of the epicenters of the virus as cases in the region have doubled over the past month to more than 4.7 million infections.

The real number of infections is likely to be higher, as comparatively fewer people are being tested there.

North America

The coronavirus has been blamed for the decision to hold the vote to renominate Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for president in private. A spokeswoman for the Republican National Convention said the poll would take place without the presence of the media.

Trump called off the public components of the convention in Florida last month, citing spiking cases of the virus. However, 336 delegates are scheduled to gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 24 to formally vote to make Trump the GOP standard-bearer once more.

Nominating conventions are traditionally meant to be media frenzies, as political parties seek to leverage the attention the events draw to spread their message to as many voters as possible. 

Also in the US, Hurricane Isaias' imminent arrival forced the closure of some outdoor testing sites even as Florida reached a new daily high in deaths. 

Middle East

Muslims are marking the Eid al-Adha holiday despite restrictions due to the pandemic. The streets of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, have been largely empty due to a 10-day lockdown imposed by authorities to prevent further spread of the virus.

The last day of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia has been taking place with as few as 1,000 pilgrims compared to last year's 2.5 million.

Meanwhile, an Israeli Cabinet minister says he has tested positive for the coronavirus. Minister for Jerusalem and Heritage Rafi Peretz tweeted late Saturday that he received a positive result, but said he felt well.

Israel is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases after having largely contained an earlier outbreak in the spring.


South Africa has surpassed 500,000 confirmed cases, but President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday he sees "promising signs'" that the rapid growth of infections has stabilized.

South Africa has now tallied more than 50% of all recorded infections in Africa's 54 countries and has the fifth-highest number of cases in the world.

The country's hospitals have been stretched to the limit but in most provinces, they are succeeding in providing treatment to COVID-19 patients, Ramaphosa said.

Read more: Africa's Muslims woeful over scaled-down hajj

Catch up on the best DW content of the day

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Not all in Germany are in agreement with the restrictions imposed on their freedoms to curb the spread of the coronavirus. And many even deny that the pandemic is a dangerous reality. Saturday's protest in Berlin against the restrictions saw several violent incidents, in which a number of police officers were injured.

Read the full story here

In Germany, every second person surveyed feels psychologically burdened by the coronavirus pandemic. What are the social consequences of higher stress levels? Are people becoming more aggressive? Watch here to find out: 

This is an updated version of a previous article.

rc/mm (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)