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Coronavirus latest: Global infections top 15 million

July 23, 2020

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has passed 15 million, a quarter of which are in the US. Meanwhile, Germany may soon begin mandatory testing at airports for arrivals from risk countries. Follow DW for the latest.

People walking in Brazil with face masks
Image: picture-alliance/F. Souza
  • More than 15 million people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide
  • South Africa has reported a record daily death toll, while Brazil saw its highest single-day increase in cases
  • Infections in Latin America have passed the 4-million mark
  • Travelers arriving in Germany from countries considered high-risk may soon face mandatory testing at airports

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)

22:30 US President Donald Trump has said states that are currently experiencing a surge in cases of the novel coronavirus may need to delay reopening schools by a "few weeks."

The comments were a step back from threats Trump made to withhold federal funding to states if they did not reopen schools on time.

Trump noted on Thursday that eventually "they have to open." He also proposed redirecting federal funding for public schools towards "parents' choice" programs, in which funding for schooling follows a child regardless of whether they attend a public or private educational institution.

The president left the decision to state governors on whether to reopen schools.

The US has struggled to contain its outbreak of the novel coronavirus. It is currently the epicenter of the pandemic with more than four million confirmed cases and 626,000 deaths. Critics have accused the White House of fumbling the initial response and politicizing the outbreak.

20:58 Bolivia has postponed its national elections until October 18, the electoral authority has announced, as the country's outbreak shows no signs of easing up.

The national news agency ABI quoted the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) as assuring there will be "better conditions" on October 18 than on September 6, when the poll had been scheduled to take place. 

It is the second time the ballot has been delayed after an original date in May was postponed by four months due to the coronavirus.

Bolivia's case toll shot up 1,778 in 24 hours on Wednesday, bringing its caseload to 64,135. A total of 2,328 people in the South American country have died from the novel virus.

Interim President Jeanine Anez and nearly a third of her Cabinet have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak began. The health care system is also nearing a breaking point and the burial of the country's dead has come under immense strain.

17:20 The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that remarks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, questioning his independence, were unfounded and would not undermine the health body's efforts in fighting the coronavirus.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has faced criticism from US President Donald Trump and Pompeo, who have accused him of having a pro-China bias. As a result, the United States has withdrawn its WHO funding.

But Tedros has hit back at the accusations, saying that Pompeo's "comments are untrue and unacceptable and without any foundation."

"Our sole focus, and the focus of the entire organization, is on saving lives. And the WHO will not be distracted by these comments. We don't want the international community also to be distracted."

The WHO chief condemned those trying to politicize the pandemic.

"COVID-19 does not respect borders, ideologies or political parties," he said, warning that "politics and partisanship have made things worse. COVID politics should be quarantined."

Meanwhile, Tedros said that citizens should not become complacent, even in countries where the number of cases is falling, while adding that people should keep themselves abreast of current information.

"Know your situation — do you know how many cases were reported where you live yesterday? Do you know how to find that information? Do you know how to minimize your exposure?"

16:12 Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has revealed he has had family members die from the coronavirus.

The president was asked during a press conference about media reports that one of his cousins was in the hospital after contracting the virus and he said: "Yes. Yes, I do have relatives who are ill. Unfortunately, relatives have also lost their lives," he said.

Mexico has had more fatalities from COVID-19 than in all but three other countries worldwide and Lopez Obrador has faced heavy criticism for his handling of the pandemic.

The president faced criticism for his reluctance to wear a face mask. At the start of the pandemic, he downplayed its severity, encouraging people to embrace each other and to keep going out.

He counters that focusing on Mexico's total death toll is unfair and that the figure relative to population is more enlightening. The UK's population, for instance, is roughly half the size of Mexico's. A similar principle applies to Italy, France and Spain, also not far adrift of Mexico in terms of confirmed deaths.

15:55 Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has announced an extension to a nationwide lockdown beyond its planned termination date of August 1.

Mirziyoyev's office did not say by how long Uzbekistan's second lockdown would be extended but that said the extension was necessary because the COVID-19 situation remained "serious."

Uzbekistan has so far confirmed 18,703 cases, resulting in 105 deaths, figures which jumped in June and early July when the country reopened after its first lockdown ended. As a result, a second lockdown was implemented on July 10.

15:30 An outbreak in the Czech Republic stemming from a bar in its capital city now stands at 98 positive cases, including players from a number of Prague-based football clubs, public health officials have announced.

The cluster is one of several across the country of some 10.7 million people. As a result, authorities have reimposed restrictive measures on public activities in some regions, including the industrial north-eastern part of the country that is home to 10% of the population. The Czech Republic reported 247 new cases on Wednesday.

Authorities suspect one asymptomatic person was the source of the infections at the downtown Prague Techtle Mechtle club.

The Prague Public Health Authority said 68 visitors to the dance and cocktail bar, seven employees, and 23 family members and contacts have contracted the virus. Another 273 people have been placed in quarantine.

13:40 German actors can now again kiss and fight in film or TV scenes without having to previously self-isolate, according to the BG ETEM trade association, which provides accident insurance to the media branch in Germany.

The quarantine requirements imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus were no longer in place, BG ETEM told the dpa news agency. It said hygiene rules had been eased in view of current risk analysis from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease control agency, and other medical recommendations made by an alliance of producers.

11:55 European Union member states have agreed on common hygiene standards for air travel, German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said.

"I am pleased that the German proposal was accepted by my colleagues at the European level and that we could agree on these uniform standards," Scheuer said at a European aviation conference.

The standards include a face mask requirement for passengers over six years old in planes and airports, and social distancing during security checks and check-in. A high fresh-air quota in planes must also be guaranteed and information must be available in several languages.

However, middle seats will not have to remain free in aircraft. The regulations meet some of the demands made by airlines, as varying and conflicting standards have caused confusion.

The German transport ministry said that the agreement was reached by officials and had yet to be formally approved by the ministers.

Read more:How is coronavirus changing air travel? 

11:27 Iraqi airports reopened to commercial flights after four months of lockdown. Airports including Baghdad International Airport, as well as hubs in Najaf and Basra, south of the capital, saw some of their first commercial flights take off on Thursday, with planes destined for Lebanon and Turkey.

Those in Arbil and Sulaimaniyah, in the northern Kurdish region, are set to reopen on August 1.

The country began lifting other restrictions earlier this month, allowing malls and shops to reopen and extending overnight curfews to 9:30 p.m. (18:30 UTC). Some experts fear, however, that a return to normal life could spur another surge in cases in a country with overwhelmed and poorly funded hospitals.

Iraq has recorded nearly 100,000 cases of the virus and over 4,000 deaths.

10:52 The South African Medical Research Council has reported a "huge discrepancy" between the country's confirmed COVID-19 deaths and the number of excess deaths from natural causes, indicating that the actual number of virus-related deaths could be much higher than official figures show.

The new report reveals more than 17,000 excess deaths between May 6 and July 14, compared to data from the past two years.

"In the past weeks, the numbers have shown a relentless increase — by the second week of July, there were 59% more deaths from natural causes than would have been expected based on historical data," the report said.

The council's president, Glenda Gray, says the deaths could be attributed to COVID-19 as well as other diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis, whose treatments might be suffering as resources are redirected to manage the pandemic.

Additionally, some people might be staying away from health facilities altogether over virus fears.

South Africa has officially reported nearly 400,000 cases and 5,940 deaths from COVID-19.

Going to school in a pandemic

09:24 Hong Kong reported a new daily record of 118 cases, including 111 locally transmitted cases, adding to a surge in new infections that have hit the city over the past two weeks.

Hong Kong extended strict social distancing measures on Wednesday after authorities reported 105 locally transmitted infections.

The city has recorded just over 2,000 infections and 14 deaths, but authorities are warning that the city is facing a critical period in containing the virus.

Authorities also extended the period that all non-essential civil servants would work from home, until Aug. 2.

"As the local epidemic situation remains severe, it is necessary for the government to continue to take measures to significantly reduce the flow of people and social contacts in order to stop COVID-19 from further spreading in the community," a government spokesman said.

08:43 A United Nations body has called for a temporary basic income to help nearly 3 billion of the world's poorest people amid the pandemic.

As infection numbers surge in developing countries, measures to protect vulnerable populations are "urgently needed," according to a report released by the UN Development Program (UNDP).

Funding of $199 billion (€172 billion) per month would provide 2.7 billion people with a temporary basic income and the "means to buy food and pay for health and education expenses," said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.

Read more:United Nations hikes coronavirus aid demand for third time 

"Unprecedented times call for unprecedented social and economic measures," said Steiner. "Bailouts and recovery plans cannot only focus on big markets and big business."

The UN has warned that the virus could kill 1.67 million people in 30 low-income countries.

"A temporary basic income might enable governments to give people in lockdown a financial lifeline," said Steiner.

08:08 The pandemic is expected to cost Australia AU$184 billion (€113 billion, $131 billion), and send the government's budget AU$85.8 billion into the red in the last fiscal year, triggering the nation's biggest deficit since World War II, figures from the Treasury showed.

"Coronavirus has had a significant impact on the budget bottom line,'' said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. "There is significant uncertainty which means that it would not be possible at this point to make credible forecasts and projections beyond what we present to you today."

Australia has been in a recession through 2020, partly due to drought and wildfires that preceded the pandemic. The government has spent AU$289 billion in pandemic relief measures to save jobs and businesses.

The government had been scheduled to release in May its economic plans for the current fiscal year which started on July 1. But because of the economic turmoil, the release of that plan was delayed until Oct. 6.

Australia has reported over 13,300 cases and a death toll of 133.

Australia: First bushfires, then coronavirus

07:56 France expects economic growth to increase by 8% in 2021, Finance Minister Bruno Le Mair said told the National Assembly. The government wants economic activity to return to pre-crisis levels from 2022, he said, adding that recent data was "satisfying but too fragile" to change forecasts for an economic contraction of 11% this year.

Additionally, the country is set to help its state-owned railway company SNCF by providing several billion euros, Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told daily Le Figaro.

The government would help the company through a capital hike or an additional debt buy-back, he added.

"SNCF has no cash flow problem. However, the state will help it by several billion euros," Djebbari said, but the government would expect in return a "high-level of economic, environmental and social performance," from the company.

France has reported nearly 216,000 infections and over 30,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.  

A TGV train
SNCF will get billions of euros in state supportImage: picture-alliance/abaca/V. Feuray

07:26 Italy said it would run a higher deficit this year, raising borrowing by another €25 billion ($29 billion) to fund economic stimulus measures.

During two votes in March and April, lawmakers already approved government requests to expand borrowing in 2020 by up to €75 billion.

As a result of the latest budget move, the government said the public deficit for 2020 would ride to 11.9% of gross domestic product, from 1.6% last year.

Following this week's EU summit deal, Italy is also expecting to receive more than €200 billion of European Union loans and grants to support its post-virus recovery, starting from 2021.

Italy, one of the hardest-hit by the pandemic in Europe, has reported over 245,000 cases and more than 35,000 deaths.

07:12 Japan's capital city of Tokyo reported a record daily high for new infections after the city confirmed 300 new cases. The figure topped the previous high of 293 cases reported last week, Kyodo news agency said.

Around 38 million people live in the city, including the greater Tokyo metro area. So far, Japan has recorded over 27,000 infections and 990 deaths from the virus.

Read moreOkinawa shocked at cluster of coronavirus cases on US military bases

07:11 Papua New Guinea asked the World Health Organization for assistance after a new outbreak started spreading rapidly throughout the small Pacific island nation.

Having mostly avoided the pandemic until now, the country reported that it had detected three new cases within 24 hours, bringing the total to 30, up from just 11 on Sunday.

With limited testing and many of the cases being found in health workers, experts fear that the virus may be spreading beyond the confirmed cases.

National pandemic response controller David Manning expressed "serious concerns on the alarming rate of increase of COVID-19 cases in Port Moresby and the likely spread to the other provinces," saying there was a "high likelihood of expanded community transmission."

Papua New Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the Pacific and struggles with an already-underfunded health care system. The country has, however, not yet recorded a single death due to COVID-19.

06:56 India has set another daily record after the Health Ministry reported 45,720 new cases over the last 24 hours.

India also recorded 685 virus deaths in the past 24 hours, as well as 444 previously unreported fatalities.

The total number of infections in the country now stands at 1,238,635 — the third highest in the world after the US and Brazil. Its nationwide death toll from the pandemic is 29,861.

Many states in India have begun reimposing lockdowns in a bid to gain control over the virus. Late Wednesday, the Himalayan region of Kashmir announced a five-day complete lockdown in areas that have been categorized as red zones. A two-day complete lockdown also started Thursday in West Bengal state.

06:51 Over 2,100 coronavirus infections have been linked to the outbreak at the Tönnies-owned meat processing plant near Gütersloh, Germany.

"The authorities responsible have so far classified 2,119 cases as relating to the Tönnies outbreak," reported the regional newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, citing North-Rhine Westphalia Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann.

A further 67 infections in the region in western Germany are suspected to have Tönnies links, said Laumann. No deaths have been connected with the outbreak.

In the article, Laumann repeated a previous statement that the temporary closure of the slaughterhouse was legal and that Tönnies was, therefore, not entitled to any reimbursement of wage costs.

The slaughterhouse had already drawn criticism from Germany's agriculture minister for applying to have its workers' wages reimbursed by the state, following its closure.

Meat workers in Germany: Exploited and infected

Read moreBrief reprieve for German pigs as COVID-19 shuts slaughterhouses

06:37 Brazil has reported a record number of new cases, with 67,860 new infections confirmed within a 24-hour period, the Health Ministry in the capital Brasilia said.

Brazil, Latin America's largest and most populous country, has over 2.2 million confirmed infections and a death toll of 82,771. The country has the second-highest number of confirmed infections in the world, behind only the United States, but Brazil's real figures are believed to be far higher due to insufficient testing.

Brazil's far-right populist president, Jair Bolsonaro, initially downplayed the virus as a "little flu," and rebuffed calls extensive preventive measures. On Wednesday, however, the Ministry of Communications confirmed that Bolsonaro, 65, tested positive for the virus for a second time. Bolsonaro has no fever and his breathing, heartbeat and blood pressure are normal, CNN Brazil reported.

Several of his ministers have also been diagnosed with COVID-19.

06:20 The US reported more than 1,100 new deaths for a second day in a row on Wednesday, including a record one-day rise in fatalities in the states of Alabama, California, Nevada and Texas.

The US has not seen back-to-back days of so many fatalities since late May. Deaths rose by 1,101 on Wednesday to a total of over 143,000, after increasing by 1,141 on Tuesday. The states with the highest death tolls on Wednesday were Texas with 197, California at 159, Florida at 140 and Ohio at 106.

While deaths are rising in the United States for a second week in a row, they remain well below levels seen in April, when on average 2,000 people a day died from the virus.

The US — the country with the highest number of both deaths and confirmed cases — has reported 143,190 deaths and nearly 4 million cases.

03:50 South Korea has fallen into a recession after the coronavirus pandemic caused its worst economic performance in more than 20 years. 

Asia’s fourth-largest economy shrank by 2.9% year-on-year in the second quarter, the country's central bank said, the biggest fall since 1998. The country’s exports, which account for 40% of its GDP, fell 16.6%  on-quarter, the sharpest drop since 1963. 

"It’s possible for us to see China-style rebound in the third quarter as the pandemic slows and activity in overseas production, schools, and hospitals resume," said Hong Nam-ki, South Korea’s Finance Minister.

03:46 Germany has registered 569 more cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), bringing total infections in the country to 203,368.

The death toll rose by six to 9,101. 

03:35 The EU has approved €80 million ($93 million) in aid for Honduras to help the impoverished Central American country's health system manage the coronavirus pandemic, an EU representative has confirmed.

Despite instituting measures to slow the spread of the virus, local hospitals have struggled to keep up with the growing number of coronavirus patients there. Honduras has recorded 35,345 cases of COVID-19 and 988 fatalities.

"In Honduras, €80 million will be allocated in the areas of health, early recovery, measures to aid economic recovery, jobs and human rights," said Alessandro Palmero, the EU's representative to Honduras.

The Honduran economy is expected to contract by as much as 3.9% this year, with 500,000 jobs lost. Around 62% of the country's population already lives in poverty.

03:21 Senators in Chile have voted through a controversial bill allowing citizens to withdraw 10% of their pension savings in order to provide economic relief from the coronavirus crisis.

The government of President Sebastian Pinera is strongly opposed to the bill, though polls suggest it holds widespread public support. It was approved by 29 votes to 13 with one abstention.

The bill's swift passage as well as surprise cross-party support has pushed Pinera's center-right government to the verge of collapse.  It also ushered in concerns of dire economic straits ahead.

Senators will now debate amendments to the bill before passing it onto Congress for approval. If passed, Pinera could then choose to veto it, but such a move would likely reignite the protests over income inequality and living conditions that took place in Chile last year.

The government has argued that its proposed coronavirus rescue package — equal to nearly 12% of the country's gross domestic product — will be enough to help Chileans left unemployed or impoverished by the four-month coronavirus shutdown.

Pinera's government argues that pulling funds from the country's pension fund will reduce already-low pension payouts, causing a shock to the local economy.

A poll published last week showed 86% of respondents supporting the pension withdrawals, with 82% saying they would take advantage of the offer.

03:01 Mexico's foreign ministry has announced that China plans to provide a $1 billion loan to make its coronavirus vaccine available to countries across Latin America and the Caribbean.

China made the pledge in a virtual meeting between ministers from some Latin American and Caribbean countries, Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement.

01:37 World leaders will not be gathering in New York for the UN General Assembly in September due to the coronavirus pandemic, news agency Reuters reports. The 193-member General Assembly agreed that they will instead send video statements.

"Each Member State, observer State, and the European Union can submit a pre-recorded statement of its Head of State, Vice-President, Crown Prince or Princess, Head of Government, Minister or Vice-Minister, which will be played in the General Assembly Hall … after an introduction by their representative who is physically present," according to the decision.

Read more:  Life after lockdown: Virtual events could be here to stay

01:13 More than 4 million people have been infected with the coronavirus in Latin America and the Caribbean. The region is the worst-hit in the world, with Brazil alone accounting for over half the confirmed cases.

Mexico, another hard-hit nation, has reported 6,019 new cases and 790 additional fatalities, taking the country's total to 362,274 infections and 41,190 deaths. The Mexican government, however, has said the actual numbers are significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

00:52 A cafeteria employee who works in the same building as some White House staffers has tested positive for the coronavirus, an NBC News reporter has confirmed on Twitter.

The White House is currently identifying people who may have come in contact with the employee at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is located next to the White House, NBC News reporter Josh Lederman said. The White House Medical Office has determined that the risk of virus transmission is low, he said.

00:18 South Africa has reported 572 coronavirus-related fatalities, a record single-day increase, taking the total number of deaths to 5,940. With almost 395,000 confirmed cases, the country is the worst-hit in Africa and among the top five globally.

Most of the cases have been concentrated in the provinces of Gauteng and the Western Cape. 

Read moreAfrica facing coronavirus 'acceleration,' WHO warns

The African Development Bank on Wednesday approved a $288 million (€249 million) loan to South Africa to help the country deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Uncertain future

00:11 Brazil has reported a new record increase in daily coronavirus cases as the country struggles to bring the outbreak under control. The Health Ministry confirmed 67,860 new infections and 1,284 new deaths in the past 24 hours.

Read moreBrazil's favelas forced to fight coronavirus alone

Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the third time since July 7, when he first announced he had contracted the disease. His office said he would extend his two-week quarantine and suspend upcoming travel plans.

"President Jair Bolsonaro's health continues to improve, under the treatment of the presidential medical team," his office said in a statement. The far-right leader has often been criticized for downplaying the pandemic, comparing the infection to a "little flu."

With more than 2.2 million cases, Brazil has the second-biggest outbreak in the world after the US.

00:00 Catch up on Wednesday's coronavirus news here.

Brazil - Denial on a pandemic scale

In reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, unless otherwise specified, DW uses figures provided by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Coronavirus Resource Center in the United States. JHU updates figures in real-time, collating data from world health organizations, state and national governments, and other public official sources, all of whom have their own systems for compiling information.

Germany's national statistics are compiled by its public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). These figures depend on data transmission from state and local levels and are updated around once a day, which can lead to deviation from JHU.

adi/nm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)