Coronavirus digest: South Korean capital struggles to contain new outbreak | News | DW | 19.08.2020
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Coronavirus digest: South Korean capital struggles to contain new outbreak

South Korea's densely populated capital Seoul has seen a daily rise in triple digits all week. Church gatherings, as well as nightclubs, bars and cafes in the region have been shut down. All the latest from DW here.

South Korean authorities are struggling to control an outbreak of COVID-19 in the capital city Seoul. The Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 288 new cases on Wednesday, as the number of daily increases stayed in triple digits.

The latest outbreak in Seoul and surrounding areas has been driven by a church gathering. South Korea banned in-person church meetings this week, and has also ordered closure of high-risk locations such as bars, cafes, nightclubs and buffets.

The country seemed to have previously contained the outbreak through contact tracing and testing, but there has been a resurgence in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan region. If cases continue to rise at current rates, authorities have said they would enforce a strict lockdown and impose a high level of social distancing rules.

Catch up on Tuesday's developments here: Coronavirus digest: Younger people driving COVID-19 spread


Sweden saw its highest death tally for 150 years in the first six months of 2020, the country's statistics office has announced. Coronavirus had claimed around 4,500 lives in Sweden by the end of June, representing a much higher proportion of the population than in neighboring Nordic countries.

Overall, 51,405 people died between in the January to June period, the highest number since an 1869 famine. The death count is around 10% higher than the average over the last five years. This is still less of an increase than those seen by the UK and Spain.

The country has been widely criticized for the limited restrictions put in place during the worst period of the pandemic. The death tally has since risen to over 5,800.

Croatia has set a new record for the highest number of daily cases, with 219 new cases in the last 24 hours. Croatia appealed against European tourists from arriving after Slovenia re-introduced quarantine measures for all those returning from Croatia. Some 800,000 tourists, many of them Germans, are currently in Croatia.

Norway announced Wednesday it intends to impose a 10-dayquarantineonallpeoplearrivingfromthe UK, Austria,GreeceandIrelandfromAugust 22because of risingnumbers ofCOVID-19casesinthosecountries. It also extended its advisories, warning Norwegians against non-essential travel to those four countries as well as Andorra, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and "certain regions in Sweden and Denmark."

France has unveiled plans to make masks wearing in most workplaces mandatory, in response to climbing infection numbers. The new rule is set to come into force on September 1. Until now, France has advised wearing face masks at work when social distancing is not possible.

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Berlin clubs fight for survival

Germany has logged its highest number of new cases since May, the latest in a sustained increase of figures. There were 1,510 new cases in the past 24 hours, reported the country's public health body, the Robert Koch Institute. The number was last higher on May 1, with over 1,600 new infections.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed the rise on increased mobility, including summer travel, and more contact between people. She called on Germans to stick to regulations to stop figures rising.

So far, the country has logged at total of over 228,000 cases and 9,246 deaths.

Half of the 1.1 million jobs in Germany's aviation industry are at risk due to the crisis brought on by the pandemic, according to the German Aviation Association (BDL). The BDL estimates that German airports saw 66% fewer travelers passing through in the first half of 2020 while major cargo airports in Frankfurt, Leipzig and Cologne also saw operations fall by 10%.

Woman getting COVID-19 test

Germany has introduced test centers at most train stations and airports

German Health Minister Jens Spahn has said that carnival, the popular German street festival celebrated mainly in February/March, but with some events normally starting from November 11, most likely won't be going ahead this year. 

"I simply can't imagine carnival this winter in the middle of a pandemic. It's a shame, but it's true," the carnival enthusiast said.

Greek authorities imposed a new set of restrictions on two popular tourist destinations amid growing case numbers. Parties on the island of Mykonos and in the region of Halkidiki will be banned from Friday for 10 days, along with open-air markets and religious ceremonies.

Infections in Ukraine set a new daily record, after the country registered 1,967 cases in the past 24 hours, officials said. Infections have risen sharply in August, prompting authorities to reimpose some restrictions. So far, the country has a total of 96,653 cases and 2,180 deaths.

Read more: UK sees depression rate nearly double amid lockdown

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United States President Donald Trump has tweeted an apparent response to those calling for an easier process for mail-in ballots in the US. Supporters say mail-in ballots will allow more people to vote without putting themselves at risk of infection in the November presidential election.

"IF YOU CAN PROTEST IN PERSON, YOU CAN VOTE IN PERSON!" the president wrote, seeming to allude to nationwide mass protests against racial injustice and police brutality.


India's death toll has grown by 1,092 in the past 24 hours. Health officials reported over 64,000 infections in the past 24 hours – the country now has the third-highest caseload worldwide with over 2.7 million cases.

Japan's exports plunged 19.2% in July from a year earlier, as the coronavirus pandemic sapped global demand for goods from the third largest economy. Exports to the US fell 19.5% last month, including on plastic goods, iron, steel and computer parts. But Japan recorded its first trade surplus in four months on the back of a recovery in China.

Nepal has temporarily banned public and religious gatherings along with most transportation in Kathmandu and surrounding areas, urging residents to stay home as infections surge in the capital city. The restrictions will be in place for a week in the Kathmandu Valley, but could be extended, the government said. Those that transgress will be hit with a $5 fine and could face up to three months in prison.

South Korea has reported its biggest daily increase since March with 297 cases. The rise comes as officials attempt to trace cases linked to an outbreak at a church in capital city, Seoul. So far, a total of 623 infections have been traced to members of the Sarang Jeil Church. Police are trying to contact a further 600 church members.

Watch video 01:58

South Korea tightens restrictions as infections rise


On World Humanitarian Day, the UN paid tribute to humanitarian workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic. "This year, humanitarian workers are stretched like never before," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He called them the "unsung heroes of the pandemic response," noting that they often risk their own lives to save others.


Australia has announced a deal with AstraZeneca to secure its supply of the vaccine developed by Oxford University in the UK. If proven successful, the government said it plans to manufacture and distribute the vaccine immediately. The vaccine will be free for every Australian.

The vaccine should be mandatory but some Australian's could be exempt on medical grounds, added Morrison.

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Read more: Cuba joins the race for a vaccine against the coronavirus

Middle East

Iran's death toll has surpassed 200,000, according to health officials. It's the highest number confirmed by any country in the Middle East so far. The country has confirmed 350,200 cases in total. The figures come as the Islamic Republic confirmed it was pushing ahead with university entrance examinations for 1.4 million students that usually see large groups of applicants sitting in big testing centers for long periods of time.

Lebanon will go into a two-week lockdown starting on Friday to slow the spread of the virus, after officials reported a record high of 456 new cases at the start of the week. The lockdown will last until September 7, in addition to a nightly curfew. The government says this will not affect the clean-up, reconstruction and aid efforts in areas that were hit by the deadly Beirut port explosion on August 4.

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Coronavirus pandemic hits Thailand's sex workers hard

ed,kmm/ng (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)

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