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Coronavirus digest: WHO seeks end to pandemic in two years

August 22, 2020

The WHO says it hopes the planet will be rid of the pandemic in less than two years. A prominent German politician is calling for nationwide fines for those who contravene mask rules. Catch up with the latest.

Venezuela Coronavirus
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Cubillos

The World Health Organization is hopeful the pandemic will be over "in less than two years," the UN health body's chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said.

Tedros told reporters that the pandemic should be under control in less time than it took to deal with the Spanish flu of 1918. This could be achieved by "utilizing the available tools to the maximum and hoping that we can have additional tools like vaccines," Tedros said.

Compared to 1918, the world today is at a disadvantage due to its "globalization, closeness, connectedness," which has undermined efforts at controlling the virus, Tedros acknowledged. But nowadays the world has the benefit of far better technology, he said.


Germany's number of coronavirus infections increased by 2,034 to 232,082, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll rose by 7 to 9,267.

The last time the number of COVID-19 cases was higher was on April 25, when 2,055 new infections were reported. According to the RKI, there has been a large number of smaller outbreaks throughout the country, which are connected to events, including large family gatherings and holidaymakers returning from abroad.

Ukraine reported a record daily high of 2,328 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the country's council of security and defense said. The tally surpassed the previous single-day record of 2,134. Ukraine has a total of 102,971 COVID-19 cases with 2,244 deaths.

A map of Europe showing coronavirus risk areas in Europe as defined by Germany's Robert Koch Institute
Those areas in blue are the regions or countries Germany's Robert Koch Institute has deemed high risk

Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder is seeking Germany-wide fines for those violating face mask rules. Söder has also called for a more consistent approach to regulations regarding the wearing of masks across the country.

Brussels has been added to Germany's list of "high risk" places to visit. The travel warning means visitors to the Belgian capital have to take a coronavirus test upon their return to Germany and must enter quarantine until testing negative. The Belgian province of Antwerp is already subject to a warning.

Meanwhile, German travelers arriving in Latvia will now be required to go into a 14-day quarantine, the German Foreign Office said in its travel and security warnings on Saturday. The move follows a recent spike in Germany's coronavirus caseload.

French schoolchildren over the age of 11 will be required to wear face masks when they return to school in just over a week, the country's education minister has announced.

Spain has reported its highest number of infections for a 24-hour period since May. The Iberian nation's Health Ministry said 3,650 cases had been registered in the last 24 hours.

Read more:'We are not afraid': Young partygoers defy coronavirus rules for Berlin nightlife


South Africa has recorded over 600,000 infections, the Health Ministry has announced, although the number of new cases has been falling in Africa's hardest-hit country since peaking in July.

Tunisian authorities have reinstated a curfew in El Hamma after a surge in COVID-19 cases, the mayor said, as rail links servicing the town were brought to a halt. The curfew in El Hamma, home to some 100,000 people, will be imposed daily from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. for one week.

Read moreCoronavirus trend: The pandemic is far from over


The transmission of the virus is stabilizing in Brazil and any reversal of its spread in the country would be viewed as "a success for the world," the WHO has said. The organization's emergencies director, Michael Ryan, added there was a "clear downward trend in many parts of Brazil."

Arizona, in the United States, has reported a 20% increase in fatalities during the first seven months of 2020. Public health experts in the state said not all of the deaths were directly linked to COVID-19, but that some may be from overdoses and suicides by those struggling with isolation or unemployment during lockdown.


South Korea is closing nightclubs, bars and churches as well as banning large gatherings and attendance at sports events. The new measures were announced by Health Minister Park Neung-hoo on Saturday, following the ninth consecutive day of triple-digit case increase.

Hong Kong will offer free coronavirus tests to its citizens as of September 1 as it grapples with its worst outbreak since the pandemic emerged in the region, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced.

jsi/nm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)